Tagged: AL East

And So It Begins, Yankees-Red Sox…

Photo Credit: Jim Davis-The Boston Globe

First Tune-up Between the AL East Elite…

Finally, the Yankees are playing today! It might just be a meaningless exhibition game and the biggest of the team’s stars stayed behind in Tampa, but the Yankees take the field later today (1 pm EST) at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL. Woohoo! Let’s get this party started!

Here are the scheduled lineups for today’s game.

YANKEES

CF Aaron Hicks

2B Gleyber Torres

3B Miguel Andujar

1B Greg Bird

LF Clint Frazier

DH Mike Ford

C Kyle Higashioka

SS Tyler Wade

RF Matt Lipka

SP Nestor Cortes, Jr

RED SOX

LFGorkys Hernandez

C Sandy Leon

DH Rafael Devers

CF Rusney Castillo

RF Bryce Brentz

3B Michael Chavis

2B Tzu-Wei Lin

1B Josh Ockimey

SS C.J Chatham

SP Josh A. Smith

Who will be the next Yankees Captain? I’ve seen more than a few people say that Aaron Judge needs to win a few championships before he is appointed as the next Captain. Why? I think the guy is the clear leader of this team and he sets the standard both on and off the field. If you are a proponent for the role of a Captain, there is no one more deserving than Judge.

Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When Thurman Munson was named the Yankees Captain in 1976, it was the first captain of the team since Lou Gehrig. At the time, the Yankees had not won a championship during Munson’s tenure with the team. They won the 1976 American League Championship in his first year as Captain but fell to the Cincinnati Reds in a four-game sweep in the World Series despite Captain Munson’s heroic efforts. Under Munson’s leadership, the Yankees won the next two World Series in 1977 and 1978. His captaincy was ended prematurely with his tragic death on August 2, 1979.

The next Captains were products of those 1977-78 World Champions. Graig Nettles held the title from 1982 until March 1984 when he was traded to the San Diego Padres. Willie Randolph and Ron Guidry served as Co-Captains from 1986 to 1988.  Randolph left the Yankees in December 1988 through free agency, signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Guidry retired.

Don Mattingly, with no championships on his resume, was appointed the Captain in 1991 and he held it until his retirement following the 1995 season after the disappointing loss to Randy Johnson and the Seattle Mariners in the playoffs. Still, he helped usher in the new era of Yankees baseball which collected multiple championships in the late 1990’s and 2000.

When Derek Jeter was appointed Captain in 2003, he held four championships. This was more than any of his predecessors since Lou Gehrig who had four under his belt at the time of his appointment in 1935.

I guess you could argue the Yankees don’t need a Captain. I think it is a good honorary role that has served the Yankees well over the years. I really wish Mattingly could have enjoyed winning a World Series in New York but his back was not cooperative. Yet, I still view Mattingly as a champion even if he didn’t get the ring.

I do know that Aaron Judge has earned the right to stand in the same conversation with the previous Captains. He sets the example for his teammates and he represents the Yankees as well as anyone has since Jeter retired. He is worthy of being the Captain and probably for the most part he is currently recognized as the team’s unofficial Captain. Maybe eventually the honor will come to Judge but I believe it should happen sooner rather than later. He’s a great Yankee despite his youth. If the Yankees win the World Series in the next couple of years, there’s no doubt Judge will be at the forefront, leading the charge.

Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported yesterday that among his various positions on the field, D.J. LeMahieu could also serve as the backup first baseman. This leads to the conclusion that either Luke Voit or Greg Bird will head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the start of the season depending upon who wins the job this Spring. It seems odd to put such a great defensive middle infielder at first base, but he’s athletic enough to make the transition. Still, it seems to carry risk since LeMahieu has only played four games in first base in his Major League career with no appearances there since 2014. I had really wanted someone who could play both left field and first base which is why I liked Marwin Gonzalez so much. I think the Minnesota Twins grabbed a good player at a decent price when they signed Gonzalez this week for two years at $21 million ($3 million less than the Yankees are paying LeMahieu over the same time frame). But I do recognize that if LeMahieu can successfully add first base to accompany his skills at second and third bases, it helps to potentially open the door for Clint Frazier which is not a bad thing if Frazier has a good Spring.

I remain concerned about going into the season with Brett Gardner as the starting left fielder. If Aaron Hicks gets hurt, then Gardy is the starting center fielder. This seems like such a huge risk to me.  I am not trying to diminish what Gardy has meant to the Yankees but he seems best suited for part-time duty as the team’s fourth outfielder at this stage of his career. Frazier seems ticketed for Triple A given how much time he lost last year, but I really hope he is ready soon. Meanwhile, we really need Brett Gardner to have a career renaissance. I think the 2019 Yankees are an improved team over the one that lost to the Boston Red Sox last October, but I am concerned about how left field will play out. Giancarlo Stanton made 72 starts in the outfield last year. As it stands, he’ll need to make more this season.  The team’s physical trainers had better take special care of the big guy. We really need him to stay healthy.

Today’s game will be a battle of no-names after the first couple of innings but at least baseball is here. Beating the Red Sox under any circumstances always feels good. Bring home the “W”, guys!

As always, Go Yankees!

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Red Sox Celebrate on Sacred Ground…

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Photo Credit: AP (Julio Cortez)

Boston wins third consecutive AL East Championship in the Bronx…

I am not going to lie…I am pissed.  We allowed the Boston Red Sox to celebrate on Yankee Stadium soil and that should have never happened.  The Yankees won two of three games from the 2018 AL East Champions, and I can’t find any joy because they mailed in the third game after winning the first two to give the Red Sox the win they needed to claim the division championship.  I was happy they pinned the 49th loss of the season on Boston after Wednesday’s win (to prevent any chance of the Sox matching the win total of the 1998 Yankees), but they really could have swept this series and forced Boston to ship the champagne to their next destination.

Everybody is so quick to talk about how awful the Red Sox bullpen is but in last night’s bullpen matchup, Boston had the difference-maker in Steven Wright with three innings of scoreless relief.  The Yankees helped eject Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez out of the game in the fourth inning after he had thrown 100 pitches.  Red Sox reliever Heath Hembree relieved Rodriguez and was greeted by Giancarlo Stanton’s grand slam which temporarily gave the Yankees a 6-4 lead, but from there, the Yankees could only get two more hits and were unable to put any further runs on the board against Wright, Ryan Brasier, and Craig Kimbrel.  Meanwhile, the Sox teed off on Chad Green, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.  I can’t really blame Green or Betances.  They are the guys I probably would have brought in during those situations, but I think it was very foolish to bring in a rusty Aroldis Chapman with the Yankees trailing by only two runs.  The three-run homer by Mookie Betts off Chapman in the eighth inning pretty much iced the game for the Red Sox and prepared the champagne bottles for uncorking.

I disagreed with manager Aaron Boone’s decision to bring in Justus Sheffield during Wednesday night’s game too.  Sure, Top Sheff evaded a self-created bases-loaded jam to end the game, but the Yankees were playing MLB’s winningest baseball team and the psychology of the game and beating Boston is important.  If you bring anybody in when you are leading by nine runs, it should have been Chapman and not Sheffield.  I would have eased Chapman back into the fold before placing him into a high leverage situation.  I was not surprised that Betts clubbed the homer off Chappy. Just like Aaron Judge is currently only producing hard outs and missing the mistake pitches, it takes time to get back up to speed.  Baseball is not a forgiving sport.

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media (Andrew Mills)

I am still supportive of Aaron Boone despite my frustrations with his decisions over the last few days so I know I am just venting.  I would have played last night’s game to win which means that Chapman would not have made an appearance, nor would have any of the rookies currently on the staff.  After Betances, I would have lived or died with Zach Britton to the end.

What really made yesterday so disappointing was the other primary Wild Card contender, the Oakland A’s, crushed their opponent.  GM Billy Eppler’s Los Angeles Angels must have felt they were playing the Los Angeles Rams after the A’s decisive 21-3 thrashing.  The Yankees hold a slim 1 ½ game lead on the A’s after yesterday’s results, but the scary part is the Yankees now face a losing team that they seemingly cannot beat (the Baltimore Orioles), the high-flying Tampa Bay Rays, and a rematch with the Red Sox at Fenway Park for the final ten games of the regular season.  I am not saying they have it easy, but the A’s play weaker opponents.  Three games in Oakland against the disappointing Minnesota Twins, three games in Seattle against the fading Mariners, and three games in Anaheim against the team they just drubbed by 18 runs in yesterday’s game.  In my opinion, it is Advantage A’s.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Thearon W Henderson)

A ‘one and done’ Wild Card game in Oakland. From my perspective, that’s where the Yankees stand right now with the way things are unfolding in the American League.  Well, at least CC Sabathia can catch up with friends and family in the area before he heads home to clean out his locker at Yankee Stadium for perhaps the final time.

As always, I hope the team proves me wrong.  But as I’ve said before, that’s on them, not me.  I want the Yankees to win but I am just not feeling it right now.  I am not convinced the Yankees can beat the A’s and I am certainly not convinced the team can beat the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians or Boston Red Sox should they advance.  They certainly have the talent, but for a team that has been average at best for an extended period, they can’t just flip a switch to turn it on.  The Yankees need to make the next ten games count and carry momentum into the Wild Card game.  Otherwise, we’ll be watching the final season of Game of Thrones before the Yankees have another chance for the crown.

Hopefully the team can return to its winning ways tonight against Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  This series represents perhaps the final time that we’ll see the former Yankees manager in the O’s dugout.  For as much as I’ve disliked Buck at times during his post-Yankees career, I am a little saddened about the way the 2018 season has treated him.  To reach 50 wins, Buck’s team needs to win six of its final ten games.  That’s a tall order for the 108-loss team, but then again, they have three games against a team they’ve fared well against.  You know that Buck would like nothing better than to beat the Yankees for his farewell song.

As the saying goes, sometimes the best trade is the one that you don’t make.  Last off-season, everybody was clamoring for the Yankees to acquire Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers.  Fulmer had a disastrous 2018 season.  He was 3-12 with 4.69 ERA in 132 1/3 innings.  He gave up 128 hits and career-high 19 home runs.  Done for the season, Fulmer was diagnosed with meniscus damage in his right knee on Monday and underwent surgery yesterday.  He is still a young, controllable pitcher but unless the Yankees can get him at a severe discount, it would not be worth the investment.  If the Yankees had paid Detroit’s asking price last winter, we’d have nothing to show for it today.  Fulmer is expected to be ready for Spring Training but Detroit’s best move would be to wait for Fulmer to rebuild his trade value before considering any offers.

It’s up to CC Sabathia (7-7, 3.80 ERA) to get the Baltimore series off to the right start tonight.  He’ll be opposed by former Yankees prospect Yefry Ramirez (1-6, 5.50 ERA).  This is a winnable game.  Boone, make the right decisions.  Gary Sanchez, hold the door…hold the door!  Luke Voit, just keep on doing what you are doing, chest hair and all.  Let’s do this.

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Go Yankees!

Sweet Home Yankee Stadium…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Adam Hunger)

Yanks kick off final regular season home stand with an easy win…

For all of the struggles by the Yankees this month, last night was fun.  The Yankees were in charge from the start and never looked back en route to the 11-0 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays behind the stellar pitching of restored staff ace Masahiro Tanaka.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

After a disappointing nine-game road trip that saw the Yankees drop series in Oakland and Minneapolis to finish 4-5, allowing the A’s to close the gap in the AL Wild Card standings, the Yankees needed a strong game with contributions across the roster.  I suppose it was a good sign when it was announced Aaron Judge had been activated off the disabled list prior to the game, even if his bat wasn’t activated with him.  Judge will serve as a pinch runner and defensive specialist until it is time to take a few swings in simulated games in Tampa before he gets an opportunity to seek his 27th home run for the Bombers.  Given that Judge is the obvious heart and soul of this team (and its future Captain if the Yankees do what’s right), I am glad to see him on the active roster even with his limitations.

I am resigned to the fact that this has been a special season for the Boston Red Sox.  I hope they fail in the post-season (like the 2001 Seattle Mariners) but there’s been no doubt they’ve owned the regular season.  Unlike the Yankees, they’ve been able to limit the slumps and no opposing lead seems safe against J.D. Martinez and Company.  I remain hopeful that they’ll fail in the post-season with their questionable bullpen but at the moment they are the best Red Sox team of my lifetime (well, anybody’s lifetime for that matter).  I hate the Houston Astros but if the AL Championship comes down to the Astros and the Red Sox, I’d have to pull for a repeat World Series appearance for the defending champs.

There’s been so much talk about which pitcher should get the call in the inevitable Wild Card game against the Oakland A’s.  Right now, it would seem that Tanaka is the man of the hour.  Many have mentioned J.A. Happ as a possibility but as good as he has been as a Yankee, I really think the choice should be limited to Tanaka or Luis Severino.  I guess I can still remember the times when the Yankees had their way with Happ when he was wearing a Blue Jays uniform.  In his last game against the Yankees in July, he was pounded for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in Toronto’s 10-5 loss to the Yanks.  Although Severino has been struggling for awhile, he pitched much better in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins when the Yankees didn’t get their first hit until the eighth inning.  He held the Twins to only one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings and didn’t walk anybody in the tough luck loss.  He struck out five.  It’s a start, both literally and figuratively.

As the Yankees begin their final home stand, it is a little sad that it could be the last regular season games at Yankee Stadium for a few of the guys.  Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, and David Robertson are the names that stick out the most to me.  Several guys, like Sonny Gray and maybe even Greg Bird, may have played themselves off the roster after the season.  It’s doubtful the Yankees will re-sign Andrew McCutchen or Zach Britton so their brief Pinstriped careers could soon be coming to an end and there is no certainty the Yankees will re-sign J.A. Happ. MLB Trade Rumors speculated this morning that Happ could earn more than a guaranteed $40 million for three years on his next deal when he becomes a free agent after the season.  That’s a lot of money for a guy who turns 36 next month. Hopefully the Yankees hang on to their Wild Card lead so that there is at least one more game at Yankee Stadium  for the impending departees after the current home stand ends.

I am not sure how I feel about the Yankees’ chances for October.  If they play like the team we’ve seen in recent weeks, it will be ‘one and done’ in the Wild Card game.  If they can capitalize on the momentum of last night’s game and propel themselves into the playoffs on a roll, anything can happen.  We know this team is capable of beating anybody including the Red Sox.  But we also know that the bats can go into silent mode with runners in scoring position at times (more often than I would like).  I guess I could say that while I am hopeful for the best, I am braced for the worst.  I do know the Yankees need a healthy Aaron Judge and Aroldis Chapman before we play the final regular season series in Boston at the end of the month.  We need both guys firing on all cylinders for the team’s hopes to advance deep into October.

Like many Yankee fans, I am very pleased with the production and energy that we’ve seen from first baseman Luke Voit.  I certainly never dreamed that GM Brian Cashman would be able to flip relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos for a guy who has become such a big part of the Yankees offense.  I don’t know what the future holds for Voit but I am enjoying the current ride.  I think the Yankees will look to upgrade the position in the off-season but Voit has certainly earned the right to battle Greg Bird for the starting position next Spring.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

I’ve seen so many people call for the head of Aaron Boone.  Sure, he’s made his share of rookie mistakes in his first year as Yankees manager but I think he’ll be stronger for it in 2019.  There’s not anybody out there I would prefer to see as the team’s manager at this point and I am certainly not pining for the return of Joe Girardi.  When Boone was announced as the Yankees manager last off-season, I had been hopeful that he’d select a veteran manager as his bench coach.  So I was a little disappointed when he went with Josh Bard who has not managed at any level.  Bard may be smart and confident, but I really preferred a battle tested veteran manager in the role as lead consultant for Boone.  Boone does have managerial experience on his staff with Larry Rothschild who was the original manager for the Tampa Bay Rays (then Devil Rays) when they entered the American League.  Third base coach Phil Nevin has minor league managerial experience. But that’s not the same as your right hand guy. The best case scenario would have been for the Yankees to have retained former bench coach Rob Thomson who now serves in the same role for the Philadelphia Phillies and their infant manager, Gabe Kapler.  Another veteran manager who left the organization last off-season will most likely be coaching first base for the Yankees’ Wild Card opponent.  Al Pedrique, the former manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, is presently first base coach for the Oakland A’s.  In my opinion, Thomson or Pedrique would have been much better options to sit (or rather stand) beside Boone in the Yankees dugout than Bard.

Speaking of Joe Girardi, I am not sure where he’ll get his next opportunity.  I had thought St Louis was an obvious destination but the Cardinals have committed to their interim manager, Mike Shildt, by dropping the interim tag. Shildt has made the Cardinals relevant again after their disappointing performance under former manager Mike Matheny. I thought Washington might be another possibility but it sounds like first-year manager Dave Martinez will get another shot in 2019 even if the team will be Bryce Harper-less.  The Toronto Blue Jays have been mentioned as a possibility given the speculation that their manager, John Gibbons, is managing his final games in a Blue Jays uniform.  It would be weird to see Girardi in the AL East with another team. But when you look at teams with great young prospects on the horizon, the Blue Jays would be near the top of the list with the highly rated sons of former Major Leaguers Vladimir Guerrero, Dante Bichette, and Craig Biggio among others. All things considered, I am hopeful Girardi likes his job with MLB Network well enough to wait for a Chicago job to open at some point in the future.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders beat the heavily favored Durham Bulls last night to send the International League’s Governors’ Cup Finals to the winner-take-all Game Five to be played in Moosic, PA later today.  Domingo German will start for the RailRiders against Durham’s Kyle Bird (part of the Bulls planned bullpen day). The Bulls are the defending IL champs, while the RailRiders were the Wild Card entrant and last year’s championship series loser.  Win or lose, this has been a great season for the Yankees’ top farm team.  The Bulls have been at a disadvantage for the series since all of the games have been played at PNC Field in Moosic due to the weather conditions in the Carolinas.

Entering play today, the magic number for the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East championship is six games.  The Yankees (91-56) currently trail the Red Sox by 9 1/2 games so at this point it is only a matter of time until the Red Sox are sipping champagne.  My hope is that they do not do it next week on Yankee Stadium soil.  The Yankees lead the AL Wild Card by a game and a half over the Oakland A’s but hold the tie-breaker.  The Seattle Mariners trail the A’s by 8 1/2 games so barring any miracle comebacks, the AL Wild Card will be Yankees-A’s with location being the only question.

For today’s game, the Yankees send CC Sabathia (7-6, 3.54 ERA) to the mound.  He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Sean Reid-Foley (1-3, 6.86 ERA).  Sabathia has not looked good in his recent outings and he really needs to step his game soon.  Hopefully today is the start.  We want a win, we need a win, let’s get a win.  Go Yankees!

An Unforgettable Day in the Yankees Universe…

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I’d Like to Forget Yesterday’s Game but Thurman Munson was a bigger loss…

This is always a tough day as I am sure it is for any Yankees fan who grew up with the Bronx Zoo Yankees.  It has been 39 years since the death of my favorite Yankee, a day that I can still so vividly remember. One of those ‘you know exactly where you were’ moments in life.  I’ve had many favorite ball players over the years but none have matched the intensity and passion that drove Yankees Captain and star catcher Thurman Munson. It’s not to say that guys like Jorge Posada or Don Mattingly or Derek Jeter weren’t passionate or intense, they were, but there was something about Thurman that set him apart. Looking back, the early George Steinbrenner Era was so chaotic.  It’s what I grew up with so changing managers every year was the norm. Signing the most glamorous superstars in the off-season was expected. The polarization of players like Reggie Jackson was simply daily life in the Bronx. The one constant was the strength (mentally and physically) of the team’s legendary catcher. I loved that guy and miss him to this day.

My first Yankees jersey was number 15. I wish I still had it even if it had been a child’s size.

My biggest fear in the late ‘70’s was the eventual departure of Munson from the Yankees. I remember the days when he was talking more and more like a guy who wanted to play for the Cleveland Indians so that he could be closer to home. It was clear how much family meant to him. I selfishly wanted him to stay but in retrospect, I would have gladly taken his presence on the Indians roster for the later years of his career over his early demise.

Thurman, we are thinking of you. We miss you. Your spirit and memory continue to run strong through the fabric of Yankee Stadium even if the current one was not yet built in 1979. I remain forever grateful that you were and always will be a Yankee. You stand tall among the Yankee Legends.

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How do you transition from ‘GREAT’ to, as Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues would put it, not so ‘GRAYT’? Sadly, that’s what comparing today to yesterday brings when talking about certain players (specifically excluding the tragic death of one of the most beloved Yankees).

I am done with Sonny Gray.  He had already reached ‘Sonny Gray Sucks!’ status for me earlier this year, but I foolishly bought into the last couple of starts which were somewhat decent.  I had been hopeful that he was finally turning the corner and headed down the path of promise we once felt he was destined for.  Then he blows up against one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball. By the time Lance Lynn entered the game to calm the troops, the damage had been done.  Gleyber Torres tried to bring the team back with his two home runs but an inability of others to create opportunities when the bases were loaded was too much.  Lots of negatives in the game.  Gleyber’s fielding, the whiffs with run scoring opportunities, the third base coach going off on the team in the dugout for their lackadaisical effort, etc. It was not a good game from any aspect, but at the heart was the pathetic performance delivered by one Sonny Douglas Gray. His smile walking off the mound (regardless of his explanation) was horrific.  Ed Whitson couldn’t pitch in the Bronx, nor could Javier Vazquez. A.J. Burnett flamed out. Following in their footsteps is Gray. I firmly believe that Gray would thrive in a place like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee, but he’ll never be the man in the Bronx. He is incapable of rising to the occasion on Major League Baseball’s Main Stage.  He prefers to be a less pressurized side show in a small community theater.

The Yankees shouldn’t give up Gray for nothing but they should try to do the humane thing and re-home him to a family that can love and support him. If he stays in the Bronx, I am in favor of euthanasia. Alright, that might be a little harsh, but he’s reached the end of the line for rotation opportunities in my mind. I know the Yankees need to try to rebuild some value before he is traded away (Brian Cashman should have flipped him at this year’s trading deadline), but the time to live or die with Sonny Gray in the starting rotation is over for this season.  I wasn’t excited about the addition of Lance Lynn, but I firmly believe that Lynn should be the starter over Gray for the duration of the season. Make Gray the rotation’s sixth man, with an occasional spot start. Even that scares me to a degree. He’s become the guy I’d want pitching with a ten-run lead but of course he’d still have me pacing the room.

Too bad the Oakland A’s do not have a return policy for defective merchandise. I’d like my money back. Heck, I’d gladly take Dustin Fowler (demoted to Triple A yesterday by the A’s) back in exchange for Gray.  Let them keep James Kaprielian and Jorge Mateo as “profit”.

For today’s game in Boston, we know that first baseman Luke Voit and Luis Cessa have been called up.  While outfielder Shane Robinson goes down for Voit, there hasn’t been word yet this morning about who’s spot Cessa will take. The obvious solution is the placement of J.A. Happ, currently battling Noah Syndergaard disease, on the 10-day DL retroactive to three days ago. I’d argue the demotion of Sonny Gray (according to Roster Resource, he has two options left). Losing Gray makes more sense to me than Happ who should be healthy again within a few days.

I kind of feel bad for Luke Voit.  He was a hometown St Louis kid fighting to reach his Major League Dream with his favorite childhood team, but it was extinguished when he was dealt to the Yankees, along with international bonus pool money, in the trade that sent relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the Gateway City. Of course there are worse places to go than the Bronx and I am hopeful that the history and the tradition of the organization appeal to the Missouri kid. Maybe we can get Tino Martinez to stop by and express the advantages of playing for the Yankees over the Cardinals. Seriously, I hope Voit thrives in New York and becomes Brian Cashman’s latest gem. This is a great opportunity for him even if he is destined to return to Moosic, PA in the not-so-distant future. With no offense to Robinson, I am much happier with Voit on the Major League roster.

This is a big series for the Yankees.  Four games against Boston in the very heart of Red Sox Nation. Mike Francesa tweeted this morning, “We are all going to learn something about this Yankee team this weekend”.  No doubt.  If they play like they did yesterday, the Red Sox will be clearing shelf space for their 2018 AL East Championship trophy. The Yankees need to make a statement and take at least three of four from the AL East leaders. They have the talent to do it. We’ll soon see if they have the heart. They certainly did not yesterday. Red Sox fans are loving life today.  If they are feeling miserable and uncomfortable on Sunday, it will have been a successful weekend.

Thank God Sonny Gray will not be pitching.

Pinstripers, your mission should you choose to accept it…  Let’s do this. Time to make noise in the AL East.

Go Yankees!

Mother Nature Beats Yankees Again…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Ninth Postponement of the Season…

Friday brought another weather-related postponement for our favorite baseball team. It was the ninth of the season. The Yankees and the Kansas City Royals will play two today as a result with a day/night double-header. In one of the most used phrases ever in the Yankees Universe, ‘it’s not what you want’.

I guess if there is a positive, the Yankees opponent today will be a little weaker. They lost significant power with last night’s trade of Mike Moustakas to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers, who aggressively lost out on Manny Machado, presumably will move third baseman, and former Red Sock, Travis Shaw to second to make room at third for Moose Tacos. I am a little disappointed the Yankees were unable to acquire Moose. His left-handed bat would have played nicely at Yankee Stadium, and his power would have helped compensate for the temporary losses of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. I don’t really see any other options on the market that would appeal to me as greatly as Moustakas, who was batting .249/.309/.468, .778 OPS, with 20 homers and 62 RBIs.

I was a little surprised to see him end up with Milwaukee. Earlier in the day, it had been reported the Brewers were in heavy talks with the Baltimore Orioles for second baseman Jonathan Schoop and possibly RHP Kevin Gausman. They must have pivoted to the Royals over a failure to make any headway with Orioles GM Dan Duquette or whomever is running the show for the O’s these days (surprise, surprise).

I keep hearing Curtis Granderson’s name as a possibility. I enjoyed his time in Pinstripes but at this stage of his career, I am not really interested in a reunion. He is 37 years old and is no longer the player he once was. The Grandy Man is batting .231/.334/.421, .756 OPS, with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs in 288 plate appearances. No thanks. I’d rather get Clint Frazier healthy although admittedly I don’t know how long that will take. Oh man, my head hurts. No wait, that’s Frazier, not me.

Another name that seems to come up frequently is Jose Martinez of the St Louis Cardinals. The Aaron Judge-sized first baseman/outfielder has put up some good numbers this year (.295/.358/.463, 13 homers, 58 RBIs) but he is losing playing time because of his poor defensive skills. I am not interested in a guy who can only DH. Any acquisition the Yankees make would need to be someone who can continue to help the team after Judge and Sanchez return in late August or early September.

I guess it’s not the end of the world for the Yankees to roll with what they currently have. I may not be Neil Walker’s greatest fan but I recognize he plays better with regular playing time. Using DH as a rotation between Walker and Neil Walker is certainly passable for a few weeks. I thought Tyler Austin would be the one to get the call when Aaron Judge was placed on the disabled list but the Yankees went with Tyler Wade instead. From a defensive perspective, Wade makes more sense. He can field the corner outfield positions better than Austin, making him a more useful fourth outfielder-type. But he can also spell relief at second and short, something Austin obviously cannot do. The only guy on the roster who doesn’t make sense to me right now, excluding Chasen Shreve, is outfielder Shane Robinson but he is expected to be demoted today to make room for J.A. Happ.

The month of August is filled with winnable series. The only playoff contender they face is the Boston Red Sox with a four-game series starting Thursday, August 2nd. They won’t see a potential playoff team again until Labor Day (Monday, September 3rd) when they travel to Oakland, CA to take on Dustin Fowler and the Athletics. My concern is the difficulty the Yankees have had with losing teams this year. Boston is winning the games they are supposed to and as it stands right now, it is why they are the first place club in the AL East. Last night, they blew a lead in the ninth inning but still came back to tie it to push the game into extra innings where they won it on a walk-off home run by Mookie Betts. They are finding ways to beat the losing clubs. Sorry, Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Yankees are struggling against those teams. Well, maybe not against the Twins, but the other losing teams. The Twins, who apparently have given up on the season (they are 12 1/2 games out in the Wild Card chase), are a weaker team today after trading infielder Eduardo Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday and reliever Ryan Pressly to the Houston Astros last night. I am sure the Red Sox are salivating although they probably could have used Pressly themselves if only Dave Dombrowski had not stripped the cupboards of quality prospects.

Apparently the weather is impacting J.A. Happ’s ability to get to New York City. His flight was cancelled yesterday so he has yet to join the team.  He is expected to arrive today. I am always curious about numbers since there is such a limited selection with so many retired numbers. Happ will take number 34, a number previously worn by A.J. Burnett and Brian McCann. With Zach Britton getting Phil Nevin’s #53, the third base coach will flip the numbers to grab 35. Happ is expected to get the start in the series finale with the Royals tomorrow although we’ll see if Happ’s late arrival alters those plans.

The Yankees received some good news for Sonny Gray. Assuming he is not traded, Gray will make his next start as planned. X-rays on his thumb were negative and he’s feeling much better after the come-backer off his right hand during Thursday’s game.

For today’s double-header, Luis Severino will get the start for the day game. Sevy (14-3, 2.63 ERA) looks to get back on track after a couple of bumpy starts. He’ll be opposed by Brad Keller (3-4, 3.20 ERA). For the night game, yesterday’s scheduled starter, CC Sabathia, will take the mound. CC (6-4, 3.51 ERA) will face Heath Fillmyer (0-1, 2.82 ERA). The Yankees enter the day five games behind the Boston Red Sox. A perfect day would find the Yankees trailing the Sox by only 3 1/2 games when the clock strikes midnight tonight. It’s a great day for two wins and a Red Sox loss. Let’s do this.

Go Yankees!

Keep Rolling With It…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Yankees Roll Past Red Sox, 8-1…

The title of the post is courtesy of Greg Bird’s words after the game as he finally contributed  to the Yankees offense in a big way. His two home runs helped power the Yankees past Boston in the first game of the three-game set at Yankee Stadium.

Gleyber Torres set the tone early when he stretched a double into a triple leading off the second inning. Thanks to a drawn-in infield, Miguel Andujar’s bloop fly fell in between four Red Sox defenders in shallow center, scoring Torres with the game’s first run. It may not have been pretty but whatever it takes. Advantage, Yanks.

The fourth inning proved to be fruitful for the Yankees against Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez.  Rodriguez entered the game with a 9-2 record, tied for the team lead for wins with Rick Porcello and David Price. Down 0-2, Giancarlo Stanton worked a walk off Rodriguez to open the fourth. Didi Gregorius followed with a deep fly to right center which one-hopped off the warning track up against the wall for a double to put runners at second and third with no outs. Gleyber Torres hit a fly to Andrew Benintendi in left which allowed Stanton to tag and score. Next, the Yankees got back-to-back home runs from Miguel Andujar and Greg Bird to increase their lead to 5-0. I thought it was funny how Paul O’Neill of the YES Network was describing how Bird’s swing was slow to come around as Bird’s ball flew over the left field wall. A quick correction in words made by O’Neill. Nice audible, Paulie!

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Red Sox finally got their first (and only) run off CC Sabathia in the fifth inning. The dangerous Mookie Betts hit a two-out double to left center and scored when Andrew Benintendi followed with a double to the right field wall. Benintendi stole third but was stranded on the second inning-ending fly out of the night with runners in scoring position by J.D. Martinez. It was a really nice job by Sabathia and later Chad Green to contain the red hot Martinez who finished 0-for-4. If Martinez had gotten a couple of huge hits, the game would have looked very differently.

It was a great start for CC Sabathia who took the team into the seventh inning rather than his usual five. Sabathia enters his 38th month of July tomorrow but he didn’t show any signs of age on this night. After recording the first two outs of the seventh, Jackie Bradley Jr was hit by a pitch to bring the always lethal Mookie Betts to the plate. It probably would have been a good spot for Aaron Boone to make a pitching change, but he stayed with the crafty veteran.  CC, showing some athleticism, took a grounder from Betts on his 97th pitch to flip it to Greg Bird for the final out. Time for the showers for Sabathia but it was a job well done. Seven solid innings, six hits, the lone fifth inning run, a walk and five strikeouts. You could not have asked for a better performance.

In the bottom of the seventh, with Red Sox reliever Justin Haley in for Rodriguez, the Yankees picked up a couple more runs on Aaron Judge’s home run to right after Aaron Hicks had singled. It had been a battle of Fresno State alumnus but Judge was the better Bulldog this time around (as expected of course).

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (Andrew Mills)

The Yankees scored their final run in the bottom of the eighth inning with Haley still on the mound for the Sox. It might have been more but Miguel Andujar was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double before Greg Bird came to the plate. With the bases empty, Bird blasted a homer to right for his second dinger of the game. 8-1, Yankees.

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Chad Green had pitched a clean eighth inning for the Yankees, but I am always sweating bullets when the unreliable Chasen Shreve enters a game. Despite a seven-run lead, it was not easy watching Shreve take the mound for the ninth. He retired the three batters he faced, including the last two by strikeout to end the game so there was no cause for alarm. I guess that’s why they pay Aaron Boone to make these decisions and not me.

With the win, the Yankees (53-26) are back in a first-place tie with the Red Sox. It is amazing how the two teams have battled neck-and-neck for the past month with no more than a two-game separation. No MLB teams have better winning percentages than the Yankees (.671) and Red Sox (.663). The Tampa Bay Rays, fourteen games out in the AL East, would only be 4 1/2 games out if they played in the AL Central.

It was nice to see Brandon Drury in the Yankees dugout even if he didn’t get to play on Friday night.There’s no doubt we’ll see him sometime this weekend. It’s funny how Greg Bird answered Drury’s arrival with two home runs. Felt kind of like the effect Clint Frazier has on Aaron Hicks when Red Thunder pulls on the pinstripes. Still, I expect Drury to play a big role in the march to October and hope he’s up with the big league club for the long haul.

Great credit goes to the rookies (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar) for this game. Neither player is intimidated by playing in Baseball’s biggest rivalry on its largest stage. I can’t imagine playing with that type of pressure at such a young age. But time and again, they come up with the plays to ignite the Yankees offense. I was one who wanted the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier in the off-season and if that had happened, the Yankees might be trailing the Red Sox in the standings. Frazier is only batting .219/.305/.373 with 8 homers and 29 RBI’s, while Andujar is delivering .283/.309/.521 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI’s. The Toddfather has 15 extra base hits, Andujar has 39. Wow. A big disparity in numbers…and age.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (Andrew Mills)

Friday night was a very good night for all things-Yankees as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders took down the top Red Sox affiliate, Pawtucket, 7-4, behind the arm of Chance Adams who yielded only one run over five innings for the win.

The Yankees send Sonny Gray to the mound today to face Chris Sale. Of the three games this weekend, this is the one that I have the least confidence for despite the Yankees history of success against Sale. I’d probably feel better if it was anyone other than Gray on the mound.  Well, not anyone, I’d hate to see Luis Cessa in this spot. Maybe Gray can surprise me like Shreve did last night. I hope so.

Go Yankees!

Boston’s Loss is Our Gain…

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Photo Credit: Boston Herald (Christopher Evans)

Yankees Take Sole Possession of First Place…

The Yankees had the day off on Monday and captured sole possession of first place in the American League East while they are resting. Sweet. Credit to Oakland’s Sean Manaea, sporting Sonny Gray’s old number, for keeping the Red Sox offense in check.

 Oakland Athletics v Boston Red Sox
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Maddie Meyer)

Rafael Devers got a seventh inning home run off Manaea and J.D. Martinez took the A’s bullpen deep, but after nine innings of play, Boston had one less run than Oakland. Too bad, so sad. Sucks to be Boston. Greatest start in Red Sox history and all they have to show for it is second place. Get used to it, RSN.

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Now, the Yankees have to hold their thin ½ game AL East lead while playing one of the best teams in the National League. I know, the Washington Nationals currently trail both the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, but there’s no doubt the Nats (24-18) will be firmly entrenched on top of the NL East by the time October rolls around. Atlanta is a nice story and of course no one is going to root against former Yankees bench coach (now Phillies bench coach) Rob Thomson but it is inevitable the Braves and Phillies will fall hard at some point.

With the Yankees in the Nation’s Capital to face the Nationals, it brings the topic of Bryce Harper to the forefront. I like Giancarlo Stanton, don’t get me wrong, but realistically, given a choice, I’d prefer Harper. At the moment, there’s not a great difference in their stats.

Harper:  .236/.400/.543, .943 OPS, 13 HR, 30 RBI

Stanton:  .252/.339/.516, .855 OPS, 10 HR, 26 RBI

I feel that the best AL pitchers in October will expose the flaws in Stanton’s swing, whereas Harper seems to have the “it” quality for playoff superstardom. There are no stats to back up those assumptions on my part (total gut feelings) and honestly I am fine moving forward with Stanton for the long-term.  I am just saying that if I had my chance, I’d take the 25 year old Harper over the 28 year old Stanton and age has nothing to do with it.

I am not really trying to rip Stanton and I have not been dissatisfied with his short time in Pinstripes despite some struggles. I suppose it’s not outside of the realm of possibility the Yankees could feature an outfield of Aaron Judge, Harper and Stanton, but that would have been more likely under George Steinbrenner than Hal Steinbrenner.
The way the season is going for the Los Angeles Dodgers (16-24), they’ll be looking to make some impactful moves in the off-season. I am sure they’ll be big game hunting for Harper themselves, but if I was GM Brian Cashman, I’d find a way to move LA-native Stanton to Chavez Ravine and bring Harper to New York.

While I would want Harper on my team, the realist in me knows the off-season money will be better spent on the pitching staff. I think Patrick Corbin would make for a very nice lefty replacement for CC Sabathia. CC’s been a great Yankee, but the end of the line is near. The downside to spending big on pitching is the fragile overall health of top pitchers (case in point, Clayton Kershaw, who seems to enjoy the DL as much as Jacoby Ellsbury). The Yankees will face an ace that could have been theirs tomorrow evening when Max Scherzer takes the hill for the Nats against Sabathia. When Scherzer signed his free agent deal with the Nationals in January 2015, the Yankees had been one of the early favorites to sign the former Tiger ace. If George Steinbrenner was still alive, I am convinced Scherzer would have been a Yankee today.

Perhaps the Yankees make a big pitching move in July. After a couple of promising starts, Sonny Gray Sucks! returned after his dismal performance against his former team last Friday night. I keep hoping that Gray can recapture the elite pitcher status he held while wearing green and gold but so far, he has seemed like just another guy that couldn’t handle New York. My feelings about Gray are starting to turn Javier Vazquez-like. I loved what Vazquez did as a member of the Montreal Expos, but his time in Pinstripes (both times) was very pedestrian.  Every start, I keep hoping Gray will prove me wrong. But we’re just a couple months shy of a year since his acquisition and I’ve not been impressed. During the recent A’s series, it was weird listening to veteran A’s beat reporter Susan Slusser talk about how great Gray pitched for Oakland.  We haven’t seen that guy.

I am not really trying to bash the Yankees today but it seems kind of like I have. Please accept my apology. They hold the best record in Major League Baseball and have a cohesive team that simply refuses to lose. Things haven’t gone perfectly but the same can be said for all other MLB teams. Some teams with playoff aspirations (like the Dodgers) probably wish they could take a mulligan and start the season over. The Yankees have no such thoughts.  28-12, .700 winning percentage, first place in the AL East, and of course the best record in MLB. They overcame the blistering 17-2 start by the Boston Red Sox. I think Yankees fans will gladly take the current state of MLB’s greatest franchise.  So, don’t mind me while I dream of what Bryce Harper might look like in Pinstripes.  It’s just a dream that will never come to fruition.

harper-monument-park

That’s fine.  Let’s go win a World Series.

Go Yankees!