Tagged: AL East

The Baseball Season Did Not End July 31st…

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Destination: World Series Championship is alive and well…

Admittedly, I was very disappointed with the trading deadline. I felt it was a missed opportunity to provide enhancements for the team. The Houston Astros are a very good team from top to bottom, and they are led by a very smart manager. I know I will not underestimate them nor will I compare them to a rotation-strong Tiger team that couldn’t win when it mattered. Nevertheless, Houston did not secure a guarantee of October success with their moves.

I do wish I had better confidence with the return the injured Yankee players. It’s being reported that Luis Severino will finally return to the mound next Friday as he begins his rehab back to the Major Leagues for possibly September. Honestly, he is a setback away from not pitching for the club at all this year. I am trying to keep my expectations low, but at best, he appears to be help for the bullpen barring no further setbacks. There does not appear to be sufficient time to get him stretched out for a starting role, or if he comes back to start, he’ll be like one of the starting pitchers who miss Spring Training and then struggle mightily. Still, I’d rather have Sevy on the post-season roster than not.

Photo Credit: Severino40 on Instagram

Maybe Dellin Betances can come back and recapture his 2018 effectiveness. It does not exactly feel like a sure bet. I probably have more confidence in Dellin at this point than Sevy but we’ll see. The Yankees really need both if they are to win the 2019 World Series. It’s not impossible but it would clearly help.

I am not even sure what to think about Giancarlo Stanton. If he hasn’t even begun baseball activities, I don’t see his return anytime soon. And when he does come back, there is the inevitable struggle to recapture his timing. In other words, we’re looking at some painful at-bats until he becomes the Giancarlo we all know and love.

It’s not great news the Yankees could be without Luke Voit for up to six weeks, a certainty if he does have surgery for his sports hernia. But at least the Yankees have Edwin Encarnacion and DJ LeMahieu to cover first base, and Mike Ford waiting in the wings at Scranton for support. When I saw the San Francisco Giants had designated Tyler Austin for assignment yesterday, my immediate thought was potential help for the Yankees. But I think that was just a sentimental feeling. While I think some team with a higher priority claim will take a shot at the former Yank, I don’t care for Austin’s splits and although he has some power, I think the Yankees have better options in-house. I really thought a trade for Justin Smoak at the trading deadline made sense, but if you truly believe the injured guys will be back, there’s not necessarily any long term room on the roster.

Oh well, the Yankees didn’t get the needed help for the rotation. It sucks but it is what it is. Time for the starters we do have to step it up. Domingo German has certainly earned his standing among the top five. After allowing the first-inning  two-run homer to JD Martinez last night, James Paxton pitched like we know he can in holding the Red Sox to two hits and those two runs over six innings. This is the Pax we need down the stretch. If only he can overcome those first inning jitters. First innings with Paxton are becoming very painful to watch. I still have hope that Paxton can come up big in October. Despite his struggles, I do not believe this to be a ‘Sonny Gray-like’ situation. I think Pax will have his huge moments in Pinstripes. The talent and the desire are there. Pax just needs to find the answer within himself and I am confident he will.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

J.A. Happ continues to concern me. I think it was his spot in the rotation that I wanted to see upgraded. His three-year contract is starting to worry me a bit. Technically, it is a two-year deal with an option, but the third year vests with 165 innings pitched or 27 games started in 2020, which, if he stays in the rotation, should be easily achievable. Frankly, I hope the Yankees can find a way to move Happ in the off-season and find a better option, but they’ll have to send a few Benjamin Franklins with him to find a taker.  But for now, Happ needs to find what he had last year at this time. Currently out on paternity leave, hopefully the newly born Happ will help J.A.’s rebirth as an effective Yankees starter.

With CC Sabathia on the Injured List for his knee, a deadline starter would have been ideal but I guess we’ll have to continue with Chad Green, Opener. Green and Nestor Cortes Jr have proven to be a reliable tandem so it’s not the end of the World they have to provide the necessary support. When CC returns, I am not going to go against him. He is a crafty veteran and the final starts of his career will have a very strong impact on him in terms of the desire to go out on his own terms. I am confident he’ll have his magical moment before this is said and done.

It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Masahiro Tanaka, but like the great Andy Pettitte, Masa has a way of raising the bar in October. I have no doubt he’ll be very effective when it matters, even if he continues to give up those annoying obligatory dingers.

For those who think Deivi Garcia is the next Great Savior, my take is not this year. While it has been said he’d be in the bullpen if he does get the call up in September, I doubt he makes a significant difference until 2020 at the earliest. I am not resting any hopes on him. The kid is only 20 and he’s struggled with the promotion to Triple A. I don’t blame him for those struggles. They were inevitable. Rare is the player who can immediately master every level of the minor leagues from the start. I think he’ll be a very good pitcher one day, just not this year. At least not at the big league level. I have no doubt he’ll be frustrating International League hitters by season’s end.

I’ve always liked Aroldis Chapman, but if he opts out of his contract in the off-season, let him go. I am not interested in a renegotiation of his contract. I know Yankee fans either love or hate Zach Britton, but he’d be my choice to take over the closing duties. Not sure if the Yankees will re-sign Dellin Betances, but he’s better suited for setup. He’d be the only other name I’d consider for closer even though I’ve never been a fan of using him in that role despite his limited success. I also think Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle are better in their current roles. The Colorado Rockies tried Otto as closer a couple of years ago without success, but I realize that was before Otto rediscovered himself in his makeshift NYC pitching studio. Still, Otto’s propensity for walks when he doesn’t have his control does not play well in the ninth inning.

I keep reading there’s no way the Yankees sign Gerrit Cole in the off-season and perhaps that’s true. There will be teams like the Los Angeles Angels that will be desperate for starting pitching, particularly for someone with Cole’s resume. I think any chance Houston would re-sign Cole was eliminated when they acquired Zach Greinke and his contract. So, if anything, it gives me some hope the Yankees will be contenders for Cole’s services. We’ll see. Hopefully he doesn’t end the Yankees’ season before we get there.

I was very appreciative of the first inning grand slam by Gleyber Torres last night to answer the home run by JD Martinez and fortunately it held up to give the Yankees a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. Last year at this time, the Yankees started a four-game series in Boston on the exact same date (August 2nd, the anniversary of the death of Yankee great Thurman Munson). The Yankees entered the series in much better position than the Red Sox are in now, trailing the then-AL East leaders by only 5 1/2 games. Boston swept the four-game series which effectively ended the Yankees’ hopes of winning the division. I am really hoping the Yankees can do the same to the Red Sox this year. I remember the defeated feeling I had last year after that series. It’s a feeling the Boston fans should experience this year, in my opinion. I am not really expecting a sweep but taking 3 of 4, especially after last weekend’s disaster in Boston, would be huge. It would also leave the Red Sox severely wounded with their playoff aspirations and three good teams ahead of them in the AL Wild Card hunt.

Since the Tampa Bay Rays had the night off, the Yankees were able to increase their AL East lead to 7 1/2 games. The Red Sox are back to 11 1/2 games behind our favorite team. Too bad, so sad. I’d really enjoy it if the Red Sox players have to make non-baseball plans for October. Time to go for the jugular and race to the AL East title crown. If it happens, I will be so glad the Yankees do not have to play a one-game ‘do or die’ playoff this year. But no Boston baseball in October would almost be as exciting.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

The Yankees play two today. The afternoon game will pit Domingo German, searching for his 14th win, against Chris Sale. It’s been a very disappointing year for Boston’s ace so hopefully the disappointment continues today. In the night cap, Chad Green-Opener will face lefty Brian Johnson. Johnson was activated off the Injured List earlier today. He has been out since June 27th with an intestinal issue. A sweep by the Yankees would obviously leave the entire Red Sox team with intestinal issues.

Before I go and despite the disappointment experienced a few days ago, I am glad the Trading Deadline has come and gone. I was tired of the endless speculation and the ridiculous trade proposals in the minds of many Yankee fans. Next year, I’ll be in favor of moving the trade deadline to August 15th to help teams better decide if they are buyers or sellers. However, on August 3, 2019, this is our team and this is THE team that can take us to the promised land. To hell with the Astros and anybody else, the Yankees have the players capable of delivering champagne in the final MLB game of the year. Let’s do this.

Go Yankees!

Advertisements

A Savage Week Shows These Yankees Are Special…

Credit: Sarah Stier, Getty Images

Aaron Boone’s Defining Moment…

Thanks to noted podcaster @Jomboy of Talkin’ Yanks, the words of Yankees manager Aaron Boone to young home plate umpire Brennan Miller were immortalized on Thursday afternoon.

“My guys are fucking savages in that fucking box and you’re having a piece of shit start to this game. I feel bad for you, but fucking get better. That guy is a good pitcher, but our guys are fucking savages in that box, our guys are fucking savages in the fucking box, tighten it up right now.”  

The words, certain to become 2019’s rallying cry for the Yankees, almost immediately began showing up on t-shirts as they went viral thanks to social media. I loved every minute of it. I’ve been a Boone supporter since the day he was hired. I think at the time, my top choice had been San Francisco Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens but when the Yankees named Boone as the manager, I was on board with the choice. I liked Joe Girardi but I never once pined for his return after the decision was made to let him go upon the expiration of his contract following the 2017 season.

I knew there would be a learning curve for Boone. Every manager has to start some time. Joe Torre had his own early bumps with the Mets when he first started his managerial career. Boone’s mistakes last season were magnified, thanks to the New York media, and many fans were unforgiving. But as this season has progressed, the growth in Boone as a manager has been evident. It didn’t take his words this week to prove he had gotten better, it’s been on display for weeks, perhaps months. However, Thursday’s tirade showed the World that Aaron Boone has his players’ backs. He is an excellent leader and he has the full respect and command of the clubhouse. I think the ‘next man up’ mentality of the 2019 Yankees is fueled by Boone’s leadership style.

Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

Since the brim of Boone’s cap touched the brim of home plate umpire Brennan Miller’s cap during the post-ejection rant (seriously?), he was suspended for one game and served it last night against the Colorado Rockies. Bench coach Josh Bard, a graduate of Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado (a suburb of Denver), served as Yankees manager against his once-hometown Rockies.

Boone’s words aside, this has been a memorable week for the Bronx Savages. The four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t start well when Mets cast-off Travis d’Arnaud homered three times including the game-winner, a three-run shot off Aroldis Chapman in the top of the ninth inning on Monday night when the Yankees were just a strike away from victory. It was a tough loss to accept (harder than most), but the Yankees rebounded and took the next three games to win the series, leaving the Rays a distant eight games behind in the AL East standings. The Yankees have won 12 of 17 games from the Rays this year, and it’s been the difference-maker in the standings.

Despite the successful Tampa Bay series, I was a little worried going into last night’s game with the Rockies. It kind of felt like one of those series where the team, coming off an emotional series with the Rays and looking ahead to a road trip next week that takes the Yankees to Minneapolis and Boston to play AL contenders, could let up a little. But if Friday night’s game is any indication, it is still ‘pedal to the metal’. After falling behind 2-0, the Yankees coasted to the 8-2 victory after Edwin Encarnacion blasted his ‘walk-the-parrot’ grand slam to take the lead in the bottom of the third. With three hits and some excellent defensive play, many were referring to this as Mike Tauchman’s game. That’s what I’m Tauchin’ about! The former Colorado Rockie, who was never really given a shot to play in the Mile High City, showed his former team they may have erred in trading him away earlier this year. Tauchman has double the plate appearances with the Yankees this season than he had in two years with the Rockies (shuttling back and forth from the minors). Former Coloradan players DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino, instrumental to the Rockies’ success of the past few seasons, also had a role in the decisive victory. Le Machine had two RBIs and Otto struck out the side in the top of the sixth inning. A friend, who is a die-hard Rockies fan, said she loves to see LeMahieu and Ottavino do well but “just not against us”.

The Yankees’ win, combined with losses by both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox last night, leaves the Yanks nine games up in the AL East standings. They are 30 games over .500 for the first time this season at 63-33, and have 11 fewer losses than the second-place Rays. I am always fearful of a swoon that could erase the large lead, but you have to like where the Yankees sit entering play on July 20th. YES Network analyst David Cone had some great words after last night’s game:

“If you don’t like the Yankees, I mean if you are a Yankee hater, this has gotta be a really obnoxious year for you.”

Since trading deadline deals generally start popping up the week prior to the deadline, this coming week could be very active with the hard July 31st deadline just around the corner. The Yankees have been great so far this season despite the injury challenges, but the Houston Astros, with just one less win than the Yankees, could substantially improve their starting rotation in the next eleven days if they successfully land one of the top starting pitchers on the market to slot in behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. In other words, there is room for the Yankees to get better and they have to in order to ensure October success.

The Yankees had Jim Hendry, special assistant to Brian Cashman, and others in Detroit last night to watch Toronto’s Marcus Stroman. There were a number of other teams in attendance to watch the New York native shut out the lowly Tigers on six hits over seven innings, with five strikeouts and no walks. For Stroman, a trade to the Yankees would represent the elimination of a 27 1/2 game deficit in a single day.  It think that would energize him, as it would any of the names that have been connected to the Yankees in recent weeks. I think my only hangup with acquiring Stroman is sending quality talent to an AL East rival. In many ways, I’d prefer to see someone like Clint Frazier or Estevan Florial or Albert Abreu head to Cleveland or San Francisco for no other reason than they are not AL East teams. But I am very intrigued with the idea of having the talented Stroman in the starting rotation.

As much as I like Madison Bumgarner, I don’t really expect him to show up in the Bronx. He could find his way to Houston, Minneapolis, or Atlanta which wouldn’t be ideal but there’s not much we can do about it except beat him when the time comes. Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks continues to be a name to watch but the D-Backs are only a game out of the NL Wild Card hunt. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers have lost five in a row to push them 5 1/2 games out in the AL Wild Card chase, which could potentially increase chances that Mike Minor is dealt.

For all the names that have been mentioned, I still half-expect Brian Cashman to land a solid starter that no one has mentioned. For as much as I like Luis Severino and Dellin Betances, I am taking the approach they’ll provide nothing this year. The Yankees have played 99 games without them and it’s hard to envision them making a significant contribution with the 63 games remaining in the regular season. Maybe they become solid bullpen options by October but realistically I am not counting on it. It seems like there have been too many setbacks for both so I am not pinning any hopes on them.

I keep seeing Yankee fans saying the team shouldn’t trade Deivi Garcia or Estevan Florial or other top prospects in the organization. I am sorry but if the payoff is a World Series championship this year, NO ONE is untouchable. I guarantee the Chicago Cubs have never regretted their decision to trade Gleyber Torres in 2016. They might regret the 2017 trade of Eloy Jimenez but not Torres because it meant the first World Series championship in a century for them. It hasn’t been a century for the Yankees, but it has been ten long years and several Red Sox championships since the Yankees last hoisted the trophy. We need to keep an open mind and let Brian Cashman do his magic. He lives for these hot, humid July days and I am confident that he’ll make this exciting, fun and very special Yankee team even better in the coming days. Our goal is to take the World Series championship away from the Boston Red Sox. Anything less is unacceptable. I don’t want another ALDS or ALCS exit. The window of opportunity is now. There may be pain along the way, but we need to persevere. Like Buck Showalter said the other day, “prospects are just prospects”. I want guys who can make a difference in three months, not three years.

The Yankees released catcher Ryan Lavarnway from his minor league contract this week and in his first game with the Cincinnati Reds, the team that picked him up, he hits two home runs and drives in six RBIs. Of course he does. I know, he’ll never sustain it and will prove to be the journeyman catcher that he is, but it’s funny how guys prosper outside of Pinstripes when they land in low pressure environments.  Not exactly people that you’d want in the trenches with you but good for them.

The Baby Savages (DSL Yankees) are at it again. After scoring the most runs in professional baseball with their 38-2 thrashing of the Twins’ affiliate earlier this month, they scored 19 runs in the second inning of last night’s game with the DSL Angels en route to a 23-10 victory. They brought 23 men to the plate during the highly productive inning. They are only following the lead of the big league club.

As always, Go Yankees!

Grabbing the “W” for 2nd Half Opener…

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Always love hearing, The Yankees Win

The Yankees won the first half but now the real Show begins. Forget the AL East standings, there’s going to be a dogfight to the end of September. Sure, I’d rather be up 6 1/2 games up on the second place team like the Yankees are but no one should count the Boston Red Sox out of this despite their current view, 9 games behind the AL East Leaders. A slump by the Yankees, a red hot streak by the Beantowners and a large lead could evaporate quickly. Bottom line, take nothing for granted and never, ever let up on the gas pedal.

Last night’s game between the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays was a terrific way to open the second half of the long season. A great pitching performance by Domingo German, solid bullpen work by Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green, and the bat of Edwin Encarnacion who almost walked the Parrot with his bases loaded (and clearing) double in the bottom of the fifth inning were key to the Yankees’ 4-0 victory. Credit also to Brett Gardner, who I continually write off and who keeps proving me wrong, for putting himself in position to score the game’s first run when he tripled to lead off the fifth. The Machine, aka DJ LeMahieu, brought Gardy home with a ground out before the Yanks filled the bases for EE.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

With the news about Giancarlo Stanton continuing to be negative (still rehabbing and has not yet begun baseball activities), Gardner simply continues to play at a level where the Yankees have not missed the thunderous bat of Stanton. As many have said, Gardy has played himself into consideration for another one-year deal in the off-season. I still think he should be the fourth outfielder heading into next season but conversely I am certainly fine with his desire to continually prove me wrong. We know we won’t see Stanton in July but I am starting to wonder if August is out too. If he does not return prior to September, I can’t really see him being much of a factor as he’ll need to regain his timing and the playoffs, should the Yankees get there, are not a time for patience. I hope that it plays out so that Stanton is primed and ready for October but I guess we’ll see…eventually.

Starting pitching remains the Yankees’ primary concern. I continue to read those who say the Yankees will get a huge boost when Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery return. At this point, I think it is best to assume they will not so that anything we can get from them is icing on the cake. I am most concerned about Sevy. Obviously as the team’s ace, he means so much to the starting rotation if healthy but like Stanton, if he doesn’t return until late August or September, how much of a factor will he be? Returning from last year’s Tommy John surgery, I am not expecting anything much at all from Montgomery. I think he’ll be stronger next year but even so, he is not a front-of-the-rotation starter. I certainly wouldn’t let Monty keep me from trying to upgrade the rotation. Every one is getting excited about pitching prospect Deivi Garcia, 20, who was just promoted to Triple A. I think he’ll get a September call up perhaps (he has to be placed on the 40-man roster before this Fall’s Rule 5 Draft anyway) but it’s too soon to consider him a savior.

The pitching trade rumors, lately, seem to be focusing on Arizona’s Robbie Ray.  He’s not an elite starter but he’s a good pitcher. He was masterful last night in beating the St Louis Cardinals, pitching 6 1/3 innings of two-hit, one-run ball. He struck out 8 Cardinals while issuing two free passes. He could help the Yankees but I think they need more. Ray, a lefty, is under team control for one more year. The 6’2” pitcher, 27, was originally a 12th round selection in the 2010 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals. In December 2013, he was sent to the Detroit Tigers in a deal for former Major Leaguer Doug Fister. Two years later, the Tigers sent him to Arizona in the deal that brought shortstop Didi Gregorius to New York and sent former Yankees pitcher Shane Greene to Detroit. It’s kind of funny that now both Ray and Greene could be arms of interest for the Yankees this month. I think Ray’s walk rate (4.54 BB/9, 56 walks in 111 innings) concerns me the most but if the Yankees’ analytics team sees something in him that they can correct, I’d be supportive of his acquisition.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart, USA TODAY Sports

Of all the other names out there, Trevor Bauer is probably the most appealing to me but the Cleveland Indians currently hold the second Wild Card slot so it’s doubtful the Indians deal away one of their best starters unless they go into a massive tailspin between now and the end of the month. I like Marcus Stroman but the health concerns and the inconsistency of past years are red flags for me. I think the New Yorker would thrive on the Main Stage but I’d describe my interest in him as cautious at best. I also do not want to see more good prospects go to Toronto. I guess the Blue Jays will get good prospects from someone for Stroman but I’d hate to see former Yankee prospects thrive in the AL East against the Yankees.

Nevertheless, despite all the names that have been mentioned, GM Brian Cashman is notorious for operating in stealth mode and he’ll most likely surprise us all with his deadline acquisition(s) this month. As they say, In Cashman We Trust.

A moment to pay tribute to late Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs who died unexpectedly in Texas earlier this month. The Angels played their first home game in Anaheim, CA last night since Skaggs died. There was a makeshift memorial for the fans as they entered Angel Stadium and the presence of Skaggs was felt everywhere through images and the players’ decision for everyone to wear #45 in honor of their fallen teammate.

Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

Mike Trout had a first-pitch two run homer in the bottom of the first inning, and went 3-for-4 in the game with 6 RBIs. Two Angels pitchers, meanwhile, combined on a no-hitter as the Angels defeated the Seattle Mariners, 13-0. The 13 runs (and 13 hits) were significant as today, July 13th, would have been Tyler’s 28th birthday. Per Angels Manager Brad Ausmus, “That was partly Skaggsy’s no-hitter”.

Hollywood could not have scripted this any better. For me, it brought back memories of August 6, 1979 when Bobby Murcer drove in 5 late runs with a three-run homer in the seventh inning and a dramatic walk-off two-run single in the bottom of the 9th as the Yankees overcome a four-run deficit to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 5-4. The Yankees had attended the funeral of legendary catcher Thurman Munson in Canton, Ohio earlier in the day before returning to the Bronx for the game with eyes still swollen from the tears. Murcer, one of Thurman’s best friends, gave a performance that I’ll never forget in this lifetime. I am doubtful I’ll forget the play of Mike Trout and his teammates anytime soon.

Welcome back, Luke Voit! The Yankees are activating the Yankees first baseman today from the Injured List. I am glad to get him back and hopefully he can recapture his play from earlier this season. Like Aaron Judge, I appreciate the intangibles that Voit brings to this team through his personality and infectious energy and positivity. The homers, complete with the home plate hop, are a nice bonus. Breyvic Valera (We hardly knew ye!) was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for the Yankees’ #45.

Happy 31st Birthday to The Machine! Like Tyler Skaggs, today is DJ LeMahieu’s birthday. Hopefully this is the first of many birthday celebrations for DJ in the Bronx.

Lastly, welcome back to the emoji tweets from Sir Didi Gregorius! When Didi returned from the Injured List, he didn’t bring the after-game tweets with him and no explanation was given. Yet, last night, the below tweet appeared and I couldn’t have been happier.

As always, Go Yankees!

Winning Yankees Baseball is the Best…

Photo Credit: Steve Nesius, AP

Yanks win 3rd Straight…

For most of the season, I’d describe the Yankees as a Romantic Comedy. We love this team through the highs and lows although there has been more emphasis on the former while we do nothing more than laugh off the numerous injuries that have afflicted the team. Yet, the last couple of games have truly been Thrillers. Two extra inning affairs that led to final innings of bludgeoning by the Yankees bats, followed by roller coaster rides in the bottom of the final frames while the Yankees closed out the wins. This is clearly the best show in town right now.

Photo Credit: Noah K Murray, USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays, despite two consecutive 8-4 losses, were in position for walk-off wins in both games so the final scores were deceiving if you weren’t watching the games. The Yankees increased their lead in the AL East to 8 1/2 games so even if they lose the next two games, they’ll be at least 6 1/2 games up heading into the All-Star Break. If the Yankees keep winning, they could potentially have a double-digit lead to open the second half. Incredible. But as they say, there is long way to go and so much can happen between now and the end of September, but all things considered, I like where the Yankees are.

If the Yankees win today, the Rays (50-39) will reach 40 losses before the Yankees  (57-29) suffer 30. FanGraphs projects the Yankees with 91.8% chance of winning the AL East. Although the Los Angeles Dodgers (60-30) have the best record in MLB, the Yankees have the fewest losses and the best record in the American League. This is a fun and exciting team despite the many injury challenges more severe than any year I can recall in my Yankees fandom.

I keep writing off Brett Gardner and he keeps proving me wrong. I still think he should be no more than the team’s fourth outfielder yet there’s no denying his  three-run home run in last night’s game was much-needed insurance after Aaron Judge had given the Yankees a one-run lead in the top of eleventh inning with his second dinger of the game. I think when Aroldis Chapman walked Travis d’Arnaud in the bottom of the 11th to load the bases, Tommy Pham may have taken a different approach at the plate needing only a run to tie it instead of trying to crush the ball which led to the liner directly at first baseman D.J. LeMahieu to end the game. Needing only a run to tie it versus trying to erase a four-run deficit with two outs are two entirely different approaches (obviously). Gardy is putting himself in position for another one-year contract this coming November. I just hope that it doesn’t prevent the team from upgrading left field next season, assuming Giancarlo Stanton slides back over to DH. I’d like it to be Clint Frazier, but let’s see if Frazier is still a Yankee after the end of this month. He was 0-for-3 in the first game of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s double-header with Ronald Torreyes and the Rochester Red Wings, striking out twice in the 4-2 loss.  He didn’t play the second game which the RailRiders won, 7-6. Two games does not a career (or season) make, but unless Frazier makes substantial defensive improvement, I don’t see him as part of the team’s future. I am really hoping that he plays well enough for me to eat those words.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nolan, Scranton Times Tribune

I am glad that Gleyber Torres was named to the AL All-Star Team after Tampa Bay’s Brandon Lowe had to withdraw following an injury that led to his placement on the 10-Day IL. But, seriously, I was okay with Torres not making the team and didn’t quite understand the uproar prior to his selection. Torres is a great player, and will perhaps soon be the Yankees’ best player, but I view the All-Star Break as a few days off and much-deserved rest for the players not scheduled to travel to Cleveland. I was perfectly fine with Gleyber re-energizing for the second half. We know how valuable he is and that’s all that matters. Still, he deserves his spot among baseball’s finest and I will enjoy watching him at the All-Star Game.

Speaking of the All-Star Game, I was excited to hear yesterday that Major League Baseball has invited CC Sabathia for special recognition at the game.  He is not part of the AL Roster but he’ll be honored at the site of his original team for “his contributions to the game and his longtime service to the community prior to the 90th Midsummer Classic” (according to the Commissioner’s release). Sabathia is such a great ambassador for Baseball and he’s certainly had a Hall of Fame career. I think the recognition is very fitting. I really hope the Yankees can find a spot in the organization for Sabathia once the season is over. He should be a Yankee for life.

Photo Credit: Scott Audette, AP

There’s been so much talk about the starters the Yankees should acquire but I am fearful of the guys that the Houston Astros could potentially acquire. The Yankees have yet to prove they can win in Houston and I’d really hate to see Madison Bumgarner or Marcus Stroman joining Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole for an October run. As strongly as I believe the Yankees will upgrade their starting rotation this month, there’s no question the Astros will do the same. The only question will be which team gets the better upgrade. It could prove to be the difference when all the chips are on the line.

The Boston Red Sox may be 11 games behind the Yankees but they are far from done. I fully expect the Sox to finally land a true closer this month. Who knows, it could be former Yankee Shane Greene but I think they’ll land someone who will help stabilize the sieve known as the Red Sox bullpen. I know the Red Sox, and primarily Dave Dombrowski, have been ignoring the pen since the end of the World Series last year, but this has to be the month they finally do something…I think. The magic seems to be off the Red Sox this year, but honestly it is nothing a ten-game winning streak couldn’t cure. I refuse to believe Boston is out until the fat lady sings. But despite their troubles, they are only two games out in the AL Wild Card hunt and I feel they are a better team than any of the three teams ahead of them (Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians, and Oakland A’s). The Texas Rangers may be hanging with Boston, but the separation will begin in the second half. If the Red Sox capture the Wild Card and win the single-game elimination, they’ll be a significant threat in October regardless of how many wins separate the Yankees and Red Sox in the regular season.

Congratulations to the Yankees for signing top international prospect Jasson Dominguez, a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic. I hate to see the comparisons to Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout but you certainly like to see the tremendous and perhaps even unprecedented potential of the talented outfielder. I am not going to get too hyped up (maybe) about a kid born the year Aaron Boone hit is dramatic home run to beat the Red Sox in the ALCS. Too many factors outside the player’s control can derail progress. But, if he fulfills his lofty promise, he’ll be a great addition to the Yankee outfield in a few years. Granted, he won’t start his minor league career until next year but it wouldn’t surprise me if he breaks into the Majors by the time he is 20. According to Donny Rowland, the Yankees’ director of international scouting, while commenting on the Yankees signing as many as 50 international players every year but opting to go mostly all-in on one player this year, said “…but in this case, every now and then, the right player comes along, this one was worth it. To a man, everyone on my staff agreed.” Here’s hoping tremendous success for Jasson as he begins his Pinstriped journey.

Lost amid the signing of Dominguez is the signing of outfielder Jhon Diaz, the eighteenth-ranked international prospect according to MLB.com. The left-handed 16-year old, also from the Dominican Republic, also has the potential to be something special.  Diaz is only 5’11” (an inch taller than Dominguez) but according to MLB.com, “Don’t be fooled by Diaz’s stature, this teen can play, and he has power now with the potential for more in the future. Among his biggest assets are his approach at the plate and his good bat speed through the strike zone. He consistently makes hard contact and drives the ball to all fields. Scouts praise his smooth swing and hitting mechanics.” Sounds like he’ll fit into Yankee Stadium nicely one day.

The Yankees also signed (in no particular order except for age):

    • CF Felixander Severino, 19, Dominican Republic
    • RHP Gerardo Abrego, 18, Panama
    • RHP Angel Sanchez, 18, Venezuela
    • RHP Geralmi Santana, 18, Dominican Republic
    • 2B Jeison Anillo, 17, Colombia
    • RHP Jose Bernabe, 17, Dominican Republic
    • C Jesus Bravo, 17, Colombia
    • LHP Miguel Pozo, 17, Dominican Republic
    • RHP Yordi Pichardo, 16, Dominican Republic
    • LHP Luis Urbano, 16, Venezuela

As Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes would say, WELCOME TO THE YANKEES FAMILY!

With an estimated $5.1 million of the $5.4 million allotment for the Yankees going to Dominguez, nicknamed “El Marciano” or “The Martian” since he is ‘out of this world’, they’ll need to acquire more international bonus pool money to make room for the signing. Diaz, alone, signed for $1.2 million, pushing the Yankees past the allotment so we will be seeing some trades soon. The only downside the Yankees have to acquire additional pool money which gives other teams leverage. In Cashman We Trust…

MLB Trade Rumors reported this morning that Cleveland Indians ace pitcher Carlos Carrasco has been diagnosed with leukemia. Carrasco, currently on the Injured List for the past month, hopes to return to pitch again this season. I wish him the very best for his recovery and the road back to full and complete health. I look forward to the day when he is back on a Major League mound, ready to throw his next pitch. He has beaten many odds in his life and I hope leukemia is another one that goes down in defeat. Our thoughts and prayers are with Carlos and his family.

One last thought. I take offense at the Yankee fans who attack Aroldis Chapman and long for the days of Mariano Rivera. Sure, I get it, Rivera is a legendary player who became Baseball’s first unanimous Hall of Famer this year and is the all-time leader in saves. He was my favorite Yankee during his playing days (sorry Derek Jeter fans) but people act like he was perfect. He may have been the perfect closer for the Yankees but he was not immune from blown saves. I am very glad that Aroldis Chapman is the current closer for the New York Yankees. He has my support despite some recent struggles. I do not long for players of the past. Chapman is certainly not the only closer encountering bumps in the road this season. Last year, Blake Treinen and Edwin Diaz were hailed as the AL Elite, yet both are on the verge of losing their closing jobs this season with the Oakland A’s and New York Mets, respectively. Of all the closers in Major League Baseball, I am perfectly content with Chapman.

Best wishes for speedy recoveries for the TV and Radio voices of the Yankees, Michael Kay and John Sterling. The YES Network broadcast booth, despite the fine job by Ken Singleton and others, is just not the same without Michael, and same with the radio booth although Ryan Ruocco has done excellent work. Kay will be out at least a month after vocal cord surgery which is scheduled for the upcoming week. Sterling, who ended a streak of 5,060 consecutive games earlier this week, will only be away for a few games. I am hopeful that Sterling’s WFAN career continues for years to come so actually breaking the streak may be a good thing in the long run for the 81-year-old. The man has earned the right to take some rest  now and then without  the pressure to extend the streak. Ruocco is expected to sub for Kay on the YES Network telecasts after Sterling returns to the radio booth with Suzyn Waldman. Ryan is the next man up, and like so many Yankee players this season, he’ll do an outstanding job.

As always, Go Yankees!

CC Sabathia and the Hall of Fame…

cc-sabathia-2
Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, NY Post

Resume now includes 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts…

Many of us fans were getting discouraged with the June Yankees after the May Yankees had made baseball fun again, but it’s funny how a nice little five-game win streak quickly changes one’s perspective.  I was a little late tuning into yesterday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, and it was already 6-0 in the first inning and the Rays were on their second pitcher after AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell had been pulled after one out and 39 pitches. Yikes! That’s the Yankee Juggernaut this team is capable of.

Congratulations to CC Sabathia for the achievement of his 250th Major League victory with the 12-1 win.  I know it took a few tries and CC was more worried about getting the Yankees their 46th win this year than the 250th of his career, but it’s an amazing achievement for the big guy from Vallejo, California.  With a career record of 250-157, 3.71 ERA, and 3,043 strikeouts, he seems like a shoo-in for Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  As an eleven-year member of the team, it seems natural that he should go into the Hall as a Yankee despite his early years in Cleveland.  I suspect in five years, CC will need to make travel arrangements for Cooperstown, New York. He’s been a great Yankee.

cooperstown

The sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t have come at a better time.  Entering the series, the Yankees held a slim ½ game lead over the Rays and had been scuffling for a few series until they finally won the last two games of the four-game set in Chicago with the White Sox to earn a split.  Now, three days later, the Yankees have a more comfortable 3 ½ game margin on the Rays and barring another tailspin should enter the month of the July atop the AL East Standings.

Now the challenging part. The Houston Astros are in the Bronx for a four-game series starting this evening. Yes, the Cincinnati Reds just swept the Astros and Houston is on a four-game losing streak but they still have the second-best record in the American League behind the Minnesota Twins at 48-27 (two wins more than the Yankees but the same number of losses).  Regardless of what happened in Cincinnati, playing in Yankee Stadium will energize the Astros and it will almost certainly be a playoff-like atmosphere. I expect it to be a very tough series, more challenging than the last three days.  Not taking anything away from the Rays, they are a very good team, but in my mind, the Astros, who many predict to advance to the World Series this year, are the team to beat.  They are boosted by the return of second baseman Jose Altuve who was activated off the IL yesterday. Similarly, the Yankees benefit from the returns of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge (the latter played his last rehab game for the RailRiders last night and should be activated for Friday night’s game).  It feels like the Yankees are catching the Astros at the right time, and I am glad the series is in New York and not Houston.  If the Yankees continue to get the pitching performances they’ve seen the last few games, I like the Yankees’ chances of taking at least three of four from the Astros.  After getting swept in Houston earlier this season, it would be fun if the Yankees could return the favor.

The pitching matchups are set:

Thursday:  Houston’s Framber Valdez (3-2, 2.77 ERA) vs Chad Green, Opener (1-2, 7.54 ERA) who will most likely be followed by Nestor Cortes Jr (1-0, 3.79 ERA).

Friday: Houston’s Brad Peacock (6-4, 3.67 ERA) vs James Paxton (4-3, 3.93 ERA)

Saturday: Houston’s Wade Miley (6-4, 3.30 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.23 ERA)

Sunday: Houston’s Justin Verlander (9-3, 2.59 ERA) vs J.A. Happ (7-3, 4.59 ERA)

I am kind of glad the Yankees will be missing future Yank Gerrit Cole this series.  I think the only matchup that truly concerns me is Verlander-Happ.  Hopefully Happ can go toe-to-toe (or maybe I should say arm-to-arm) with Verlander with the Yankees’ offense providing the difference.

The Cameron Maybin decision. I agree with those who say the best course of action after tonight’s game is to option Cortes Jr to Triple A to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Aaron Judge.  If Cortes Jr can pitch at least five innings tonight, he won’t be ready to pitch again for five days so it buys more time for Maybin on the Yankees roster.  Sadly, if Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge stay healthy, I do not see room on the roster for Maybin.  It sucks because I think he’s been a fantastic addition and he fits so well into the clubhouse, but inevitably, the Yankees will need his roster spot.  Brett Gardner will provide the necessary outfield insurance so at that point, Maybin becomes a redundant part and one not likely to play much.  Hopefully Brian Cashman can work his magic and get a little something for Maybin rather than just lose him on waivers.  Of course, an injury could change this in a heartbeat.  I do not wish injury upon anyone, but I am in favor of buying as much time with Maybin as we possibly can before the inevitable guillotine falls.  That’s why I feel the Yankees should drop to a 12-man pitching staff at least temporarily.

I really do not get the adverse reaction Giancarlo Stanton has gotten from Yankee fans.  I feel it is unrealistic to expect players who have missed so much time to immediately hit to normal standards.  Recapturing one’s timing is a process. Facing Triple-A pitchers is not the same as MLB pitching.  Stanton missed 68 games until he was activated earlier this week.  I had absolutely no problem with Aaron Boone’s decision to rest Stanton yesterday. If Boone wants to take his time working Stanton back into form, he certainly knows more about the situation (where Stanton is physically and mentally) and it’s his right to make those decisions.  I know Stanton will eventually hit and I am not going to get on him for every strikeout until it happens. He deserves our patience and support, not our abuse.  I am glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee and if the Yankees win the World Series this year, I have no doubts Stanton will be a huge reason why.  If you choose to boo him, I don’t consider you to be real fans anyway.

The Yankees had a couple of minor league transactions of note yesterday.  Pitchers Drew Hutchison and Danny Farquhar were released.  I never really expected Hutchison to last in the organization.  He wasn’t going to get a chance at the Big League level and apparently he had an opt-out in his minor league contract.  There was a time when I thought the one-time Blue Jay had potential but that time passed years ago.  Farquhar is the sadder story.  After his life-threatening brain aneurysm with the Chicago White Sox last year, he was the feel-good story of the Spring as he attempted his comeback with the Yankees.  While I didn’t think he’d crack the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen, there was a part of me that kind of hoped he would.  I wish him nothing but the best as he continues his journey back to the Major Leagues.  I hope he has better luck with his next organization and I look forward to the day he stands on a Major League mound again.

Lastly, a quick note on the starting pitching speculations for our favorite team.  As much as I would love to have Max Scherzer and there’s probably no untouchable prospects to get him (in my mind), he will never be a Yankee.  Primarily, I don’t think the Washington Nationals will trade him.  They’ve won 16 of 23 games and are only 4 games out in the NL Wild Card hunt.  Sure, much can happen between now and July 31st, but I don’t see the Nationals in seller’s mode (at least not as far as Scherzer is concerned).  But even if the Nats were willing to trade him, I honestly do not feel the Yankees would take the contract, even if Washington was willing to include a few dollars in the deal.  I know Hal Steinbrenner is on record saying that he’d be willing to surpass the highest luxury tax threshold if necessary to improve pitching but what he says and what he does are often two different things.  There always seems to be the eye on the bottom line and truthfully Scherzer is probably the only pitcher worth paying the highest tax but I don’t see it happening.  I guess you can never say never, but as much as I like Max Scherzer, I don’t think we’ll ever see him calling Yankee Stadium home.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Continue to Beat “Bad” Teams…

Aaron Hicks / Photo Credit: UPI

Red Sox Hardly Resemble Last October’s Champions…

Maybe Jared Carrabis is right and the Yankees can only beat bad teams. Case in point, the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the punchless Boston Red Sox. Seriously, I continue to be amazed by a team missing its top stars like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, Didi Gregorius and Miguel Andujar. If you removed a half-dozen of their very best players, I am not sure the Minnesota Twins or the Houston Astros, the league leaders with 38 wins, would be where they are today. The Yankees sit one game back in wins at 37, and the second best overall record (winning percentage) behind the Twins.

Gary Sanchez and Aroldis Chapman / Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP

I can’t say enough great things about DJ LeMahieu. As much as I wanted Manny Machado last winter, I never complained about the Yankees’ signing of LeMahieu. Living in Denver, I was able to see, day in and day out, how great LeMahieu is. He’s not a vocal guy and simply lets his play do his talking for him. Game after game in Denver, you’d hear DJ’s teammates with the Rockies talk about how much he meant to the them. When Colorado’s best players, such as Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, talked about how special LeMahieu was, you knew what you saw with your own eyes was the truth. The guy can play baseball. I am not saying LeMahieu is as good as or better than Machado, but LeMahieu is exactly what this team needs.  I had really felt bad for LeMahieu in the off-season when so many Yankee fans were trashing him and most felt he was a product of Coors Field. Sorry, altitude does not improve the ability to hit. It may help balls carry but that’s never been DJ’s game. I am sure that sliders don’t slide or cutters don’t cut like they would at sea level but it still comes down to hand/eye coordination. In 51 games and 221 plate appearances for everybody’s favorite team, I believe LeMahieu has proven he can hit outside of the Mile High City. He is batting .317/.368/.462 with .355 wOBA and 121 wRC+. He has hit 6 home runs (a figure he has only exceeded twice in his career with 11 in 2016, the year he won the NL batting title, and 15 last year). Last night against the Red Sox, LeMahieu was 2-for-4 with a run-scoring double in the bottom of the third and a home run, a solo shot in the fifth, both off Red Sox starter Chris Sale, for two RBIs. He was dazzling with the leather too.

DJ LeMahieu / Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes was among the very first, if not the first, to suggest last Winter that LeMahieu to the Yanks made sense. I was unable to find the post or I would link it here. I am sure that Yankees special consultant Jim Hendry, the man responsible for originally drafting LeMahieu when he was the Chicago Cubs GM, already had his eyes on his former pupil. But Daniel had great vision for a fan, with no professional affiliation to the team, to see how nicely LeMahieu would fit into the Yankees’ lineup.

LeMahieu certainly has my vote for Yankees MVP at this point in the season. I am not trying to minimize the contributions Domingo German and Giovanny Urshela have made, or the resurrection of The Kraken in the Bronx. LeMahieu has helped solve last year’s problem with runners in scoring position. He has helped those guys who would have been stranded last year step on home plate on their way back to the dugout this season.

After the game last night, Manager Aaron Boone said “He’s out there to rip your heart out” after prefacing it by saying not to be fooled by DJ’s quiet demeanor. When asked about Boone’s comment, DJ just smiled and said “I don’t know about that”. I mentioned it to a friend, a die-hard Rockies fan, and she said “That’s DJ…quiet and mighty. He is pretty humble guy”. Humble or not, I’d hate to think where this team would be without LeMahieu.

With Didi Gregorius set to rejoin the Yankees soon, DJ’s role will change since Gleyber Torres will slide from shortstop to second base, but there’s no way the Yankees can remove DJ’s name from the lineup card. I think he’ll see most of his time at third base, but his versatility allows the Yankees to put him at first and drop Louis Linwood Voit III in at DH. Based on this, Kendrys Morales would be the guy I’d cut to make room for Didi. Use the DH as a revolving door for starters to keep a spot open for LeMahieu. I am sure Didi will see a fair share amount of time at DH as he works his way back although it’s incredible to think how great the Yankees will be defensively on the left side with Didi at short and either Gio Urshela or LeMahieu at third. Not trying to take anything away from the brilliant job Torres has done at short, but Didi is my shortstop…until he’s not. I really hope the Yankees move to sign him to an extension now that he’s healthy. The potential for a lack of motivation by the Yankees exists given how well Torres and LeMahieu performed as the keystone combo. I am not complaining about how well they played but I really do not want to lose Didi after this season.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre “Red Barons” Shortstop 5-31-19 / Photo Credit: Jason Farmer, The Citizen’s Voice

With the calendar page turning to June, the talk about Dallas Keuchel should intensify. Well, it’s been intensifying for weeks but now that the MLB Draft is upon us in a couple of days and the drop of the qualifying offer/draft pick compensation attached to Keuchel, Keuchel’s market should finally form since the only cost will be money. If you believe Keuchel’s agent, Scott Boras, Keuchel is nearly in plug-and-play condition and would not require much time to get ready. Boras would never lead us astray, would he? Honestly, I’ve never been too excited about Keuchel and feel he is regressed from that pitcher that used to absolutely dominate the Yankees.  But, there’s no denying he is still a good pitcher and could help. If the Yankees don’t sign him, I could easily see the Tampa Bay Rays or Boston Red Sox make the move. I’d rather have Keuchel pitch for us than against us.  If you told me that I could have either Madison Bumgarner, for prospects, or Keuchel, for money, I’d take the latter. The Yankees need rotation help as there are still too many questions with the current rotation. I’d take Max Scherzer, with the high cost in prospects, above all, but that’s a topic for next month’s trade deadline.

Everyone has been talking about how the Yankees blew it by not signing Patrick Corbin last winter. I recognize that he started off very well in Washington, but last night’s line was very ugly.  65 pitches in 2 2/3rd innings which led to 11 hits for the Cincinnati Reds and 8 runs (6 earned). Corbin still has a decent overall ERA at 3.46 but it’s not as nice as it was entering the game. I know, there’s no pitcher immune from a bad game but it’s reinforcement about how fickle pitching can be. We saw it yesterday in pushing perennial Cy Young candidate Chris Sale’s record to 1-7 despite Sale’s 10 strikeouts. @Eric_M888 had the best tweet after the game: “Can’t spell saLLLLLLLe without 7 L’s”.

Sandy Leon and Chris SaLLLLLLLe / Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP

This is not a game recap but I’d be remiss for not calling out the great throw by Gary Sanchez with two outs and two on to nail former Yank Eduardo Nunez off second base for the final out in the top of the fifth. The Red Sox could have done some damage with the bat in the hands of Andrew Benintendi, who likes Yankee Stadium dingers, but it was not to be. It was simply a fantastic play by Sanchez, showing off his brilliant arm, but give equal credit to Gleyber Torres for the across the bag swipe of Nunez a split second before his hand reached the bag. The reaction by Torres was priceless and I am sure it will be a highlight replayed again and again as the season progresses. I felt that was the true turning point of the game.

Gary Sanchez / Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Thanks to the win and a Rays loss (5-3 to the Minnesota Twins), the Yankees (37-19) moved up to a game and a half lead over the Rays in the AL East. The Red Sox are 8 1/2 games back. The Yankees’ record in May (20-7) was the best since their magical 1998 season. A successful June can start today with a win.  Domingo German (9-1, 3.43 ERA) goes for his tenth win after failing last week against the Kansas City Royals. He’ll be opposed by Rick Porcello (4-4, 4.41 ERA). I’d really like to see German nail down that tenth win but as long as the Yankees emerge victorious, I will be happy.

As always, Go Yankees!

By Royal Decree, the Yankees are Awesome!…

Photo Credit: Jamie Squire, Getty Images

Yanks Take Two from the KC Royals…

The Yankees made Saturday quite the enjoyable day with two wins in the day/night doubleheader although they had to hold on for dear life in the second game after building an early five-run lead. No matter, a 6-5 win counts the same as 6-1. The Yankees won the first game, 7-3, which had represented a comeback after the Royals had tied the game at 3 in the sixth inning with, surprise, a three-run homer off J.A. Happ. Actually, to Happ’s defense, he pitched better than that and was able to walk away from the game with a win thanks to the power of Luke Voit and good ‘penmanship’ by Adam Ottavino and Luis Cessa.

At 34-17, the Yankees are one game better than they were last year after 51 games. A year ago, at 33-18, they trailed the Boston Red Sox by 2 1/2 games after dropping a 5-1 game to Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros. Their lone run was a homer off the bat of the legendary Greg Bird. The loser that day was Domingo German. He was still in search of his first win as his record fell to 0-3 to go with his 5.45 ERA. What a difference a year makes. This year, the Yankees lead the AL East by 3 games over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays won yesterday but the Yankees were able to gain ground, thanks to the doubleheader sweep. Meanwhile, it was the Boston Red Sox losing to the Astros this year. After a two-run single by Christian Vasquez to tie the game for Boston in the top of the ninth inning, the Astros walked it off in the bottom of the ninth, courtesy of a bases-loaded single by Carlos Correa. The Red Sox are 27-25, and 7 1/2 games behind the Yankees.

Nice two-run bomb by Luke Voit in the seventh inning of the first game to break the tie. After the ball had landed beyond left field fence, YES Network announcer David Cone called the distance, 470 feet, after commenting that former Royals outfielder Bo Jackson had once hit one into the same area. For the Yankees, it was the longest team home run since Aaron Judge (remember him?) hit one 471 feet in Texas against the Rangers on May 23, 2018. Well, Louis Linwood Voit III is a Missouri native and the state’s motto is “Show-Me”. There’s no question he showed us.

Photo Credit: Charlie Riedel, AP

I was impressed with the job done by Chance Adams in the second game in relief of “opener” Chad Green. While the final line for Adams was not impressive due to defensive miscues in the outfield that were surprisingly not called errors, he held his own and did not buckle under pressure. He gave the Yankees four solid innings despite the three ‘earned’ (yeah, right) runs. Often criticized during his minor league career for a lack of control, he walked only one batter, throwing 45 strikes in 66 pitches. He was attacking the strike zone. It was enough to give Adams his first Major League win. I should add a much deserved win. Up only as the 26-man for the doubleheader, Adams has to return to Triple A. He was previously optioned to Triple A on May 19th so he has a few more days until he is eligible for recall to the big league roster. In my opinion, he should be recalled as soon as he is eligible. He’s earned the right to be on the Major League roster.

Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi, The New York Post

Listening to the Royals announcers talk, I think the one thing that bothered me was their comments the Yankees “paid” for their depth. That makes it sound like they went out and paid millions for replacement players, grabbing an All-Star at every turn. It could not be further from the truth.

Based on the active 25-man roster as it stands right now, these are the currently active so-called “replacement” players. The adjusted salaries are provided by spotrac.com.

PITCHERS

Jake Barrett

Barrett signed a one-year deal for $555,000 guaranteed (MLB’s minimum salary for 2019) with the Pittsburgh Pirates in March 2019 after he had been claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants. The Yankees claimed him on waivers from the Pirates on April 4, 2019. His adjusted salary for the Yankees is $411,792.

Nestor Cortes Jr

Cortes Jr was originally drafted by the Yankees in the 36th round of the 2013 amateur draft. He is also signed for a one-year, minimum salary deal. His adjusted salary with the big league club is $420,744.

David Hale

Hale re-signed with the Yankees in January 2019 for the minimum one-year, $555,000 in guaranteed money. He had played in South Korea following his release by the Yankees in May 2018. His adjusted salary with the big league club is $393,888.

INFIELD

Thairo Estrada

Estrada was signed as an international amateur free agent on August 2, 2012. Signed to a one-year minimum salary contract, his adjusted salary with the big league club is $489,376.

Gio Urshela

Urshela was originally acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays on August 4, 2018 for cash and spent the duration of the 2018 season in Triple A. He was re-signed by the Yankees as a minor league free agent in the off-season and is currently working under the one-year minimum salary contract. His adjusted salary for the Yankees is $528,168.

OUTFIELD

Clint Frazier

I am only calling Frazier a replacement player because he wasn’t on the Opening Day roster, but he’s obviously more than just a replacement. Frazier was acquired, along with J.P. Feyereisen, Ben Heller, and Justus Sheffield, on July 31, 2016 in the deadline deal that sent Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians. Frazier had been picked in the first round, fifth choice overall, of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Indians. For this season, he signed a one-year, $563,300 deal with the Yankees. His adjusted salary for the big league club is $551,096.

Cameron Maybin

Maybin is playing with his third team this year alone. He was signed for the MLB minimum salary by the San Francisco Giants in March 2019. He was released by the Giants about a week before the end of Spring Training, and subsequently signed with the Cleveland Indians where he was toiling in the minor leagues when the Yankees acquired him for cash on April 25, 2019. His adjusted salary with the Yankees is $471,472.

DH

Kendrys Morales

Morales is in the last year of a three-year deal originally signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. When he was acquired by the Oakland A’s on March 27, 2019, the Blue Jays agreed to pay all but $2 million of the $12 million he was owed for the final year of the contract. When the A’s dealt Morales, after designating him for assignment, to the Yankees on May 13th, they included an undisclosed amount of cash which covers the majority of the $9 million is owed for the remainder of the year. According to Spotrac, Morales’s adjusted salary with the Yankees is $1,494,624.

According to my math, that’s a total of $4,761,160. If the Royals announcers want to say the Yankees paid for their depth, I guess you could say the Yankees made a helluva investment for barely more than the Royals are paying Reds castoff Billy Hamilton ($4.25 million). Even with the money being paid to Kendrys Morales, the average adjusted salary for the above listed replacements is $595,145.  What were the Yankees supposed to do when the truckload of Yankee stars were sent to the Injured List? Call up a bunch of Single A players to cover? I take exception to the comments that the Yankees paid their way to this success. They are winning despite NOT foolishly throwing money away. As I see it, there’s nothing greedy about the Yankees’ approach to treading water until the big boys return. Actually, they are doing more than just treading water, they are lapping the pool with smart, economical decisions.

After I finished writing the above section, it was announced that Jake Barrett had been optioned to Triple A and placed on the Injured List with right elbow inflammation. His spot on the active roster was taken by reliever Joe Harvey who carries an adjusted salary of $477,440 which doesn’t really change the scope of my analysis, except the total payout increases to $4,826,808 when you drop Barrett and add Harvey, or an average of $603,351. Regardless of how you look at it, the Yankees are not spending an overabundance of cash to find fill-in players.

It was great to see the clips of Didi Gregorius playing for the Single-A Tampa Tarpons last night. He may have been 0-for-3, but he made a few sparkling defensive plays. At the plate, he had a couple of groundouts and a fly out but it was so great to see a bat in his hands again. I can’t wait for him to get his timing down.  All hail Sir Didi! Soon, very soon, we’ll see #18 in Pinstripes again. I can’t wait.

Photo Credit: Chris O’Meara, AP

Hopefully the Yankees can sweep the KC series today with a win as Domingo German goes for his tenth win (it’s still May, by the way). Some great KC barbecue and a trio of wins would make for a fantastic weekend in the Greater Kansas City Area for the Bronx Bombers. Get a win and head for Yankee Stadium. Sounds like a wonderful plan to me.

As always, Go Yankees!