Tagged: Aroldis Chapman

The Cuban Missile Fails to Launch…

Photo Credit: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Chapman Agrees to Extension w/Yanks…

Aroldis Chapman had the right to opt out of his contract on Saturday night but in the end, he agreed to a one-year extension worth $18 million (in addition to the remaining 2 years/$30 million left on his current contract). So, the opt out did not happen and the Cuban Missile, thankfully, did not launch into Free Agency.

As I wrote yesterday, I was prepared for Chapman to leave. I felt the Yankees would be fine with or without him but you can argue the Yankees would be better served by using Chapman’s money toward a frontline starter. Prior to the news of Chapman’s extension, word spread that Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg had opted out of his contract. Strasburg gives the Free Agency Market two top starters and frankly, I’ll be disappointed if the Yankees do not try to sign either Strasburg or Gerrit Cole.

Honestly, the realist in me knows that the Yankees will not sign either Strasburg or Cole, and the Chapman extension has nothing to do with it. But until they sign, I’ll carry hope that one of them is a Yankee before the next season starts. Supposedly, agent Scott Boras and the Nationals are set to begin negotiations today but we’ll see. The Lerner family is capable of making Strasburg a very rich man but the question is will they? I thought they’d do what it takes to keep Bryce Harper last year rather than let him walk away to a division rival but I was wrong. Granted, they didn’t need Harper to win the World Series, but in Strasburg’s case, he is one of the game’s best and as we know too well, pitchers do not grow on trees.

Photo Credit: Thomas B Shea, USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Yankees lost out on Patrick Corbin because their offer was blown out of the water by the Nats. It would be very ironic (and poetic) if the Yankees snatched Strasburg away from Washington. Pitcher to pitcher, I’d much rather have Strasburg over Corbin. So it is possible that this could work out to the best possible case scenario for everyone who wanted the Yankees to sign Corbin last year.

Anyway, sorry for the digression, let’s get back to Aroldis Chapman. I am glad he’s a Yankee today. I don’t blame him for the ALCS exit on the walk-off homer by Jose Altuve. Losses never come down to a single play. There are plenty of other things the Yankees could have done differently to change the outcome. You can’t pin the blame on one guy. Even the great Mariano Rivera was human at times. Chapman turns 32 in February so he’ll be a free agent again at age 35. I suspect that’s when the Yankees and Chapman part ways but for now, he’s the team’s closer and I am happy about the outcome. In a way, I do feel bad for Zack Britton who deserves the opportunity to close but he represents great insurance for the health of Chapman. Chapman, to go with Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, and Chad Green, ensures the Yankees will have a top bullpen in 2020.

Welcome back, Chappy! We’re glad you decided to stay with us for another run or two or three at October.

Stephen James Strasburg turns 32 in July. In 2019, he was 18-6 for the Nationals with 3.32 ERA. His K/9 was 10.81, HR/9 1.03, and WAR 5.7. He made 33 starts, good for 209 innings of work. It’s easy to salivate about a potential starting rotation of Strasburg, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery (sorry J.A. Happ, don’t let the door hit you on the way out).

I probably still want Gerrit Cole over Strasburg. He’s a little younger (won’t turn 30 until September). He had a brilliant 2019, going 20-5 with 2.50 ERA which should pay off with the AL Cy Young Award. His K/9 was a career best 13.82, HR/9 1.23 and he had the higher WAR at 7.4. The number of starts and innings were similar to Strasburg’s totals…same number of starts with 3 1/3 more innings. But regardless of whether it is Cole or Strasburg, either would look fantastic in Pinstripes.

All of this just means that I should probably begin looking for my Zack Wheeler Yankees jersey.

Photo Credit: Twitter via @Wheelerpro45

There’s a name that Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes has been pushing for months. German Marquez. He’ll only be 25 heading into next season and he has a wealth of talent and potential. He regressed in 2019 (like the entire Rockies team) but remains arguably the best pitcher on Colorado’s starting staff. I’ve long admired Jon Gray but at this point, there’s no question Marquez is the better pitcher.  He was 12-5 last season with 4.06 ERA (give the guy a break, he pitches at Coors Field). His K/9 was 9.05, HR/9 1.50 (again, Coors Field), and WAR 3.4. This guy is on clear path to replicating the numbers produced by Cole and Strasburg, and he’s five years younger than Cole. I didn’t think the Rockies would be willing to part with their young ace, but after a very disappointing season in the Mile High City, they need more than just help in the rotation.  The Yankees have the pieces that could help a Rockies rebuild and Marquez would fit nicely in the Bronx. Rumor has it that former Rockies do very well in the Bronx. If the Yankees do acquire Marquez, Van Dusen deserves much credit for continuing to shout his name. Marquez is one of a select very few number of pitchers that I’d consider giving up Deivi Garcia for. Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds is another.

If the Yankees are looking to add to the bullpen, particularly if Dellin Betances leaves (I hope not), it won’t include Tony Watson, who has long been a Cashman target. Watson exercised his player option with the San Francisco Giants yesterday which will most likely keep him in the City by the Bay for another year.  Granted, he had a disappointing 2019 season but he remains one of the better lefty relievers around. I know, he’s 34 and he’s recovering from a broken wrist suffered in September but he’s a good guy to have in the pen.

On the same day that Strasburg opted out of his contract, the Nationals dropped the hammer on two guys that helped bring the first World Series championship to Washington since 1924 yesterday (the same day as their victory parade). The team declined the options for first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and catcher Yan Gomes. While Zimmerman was expected (he’s simply not a $20 million/year player anymore), I was a little surprised about Gomes even if he didn’t have a great season statistically-speaking.  I’ve seen more than a few people suggest the Yankees should go after him to back up Gary Sanchez. While I am comfortable going into 2020 with Kyle Higashioka as the backup, I’ll admit that it would be intriguing to have Gomes. He did very well with the great pitching staffs in Cleveland. As much as I want Gary Sanchez to have a healthy, monster season next year, the hard truth is that whomever backs him up will see plenty of playing time. Gomes should be given consideration, in my opinion, if the price is right.

Are the Mets really considering their former manager, Terry Collins, as Carlos Beltran’s bench coach? That’s funny. No disrespect to Collins, who I think is an excellent baseball guy, but it just seems odd that he’d take a coaching position with the Mets after being fired as their manager a couple of years ago. Carlos Beltran recently said that Collins was the best manager he had played for, a group that includes Joe Girardi, Bruce Bochy, and A.J. Hinch.

The five-day exclusive negotiating period for teams and their own free agents will officially end tomorrow so let the Hot Stove League begin! For Yankee fans, we’ll see the names of Cole and Strasburg ad nauseam until we don’t (meaning they sign somewhere).

Buckle up, this should be fun.

As always, Go Yankees!

Baseball is Over…Now What?…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Hot Stove League is open for business…

The 2019-20 Baseball Off-Season or rather the Hot Stove League has officially begun. While the Washington Nationals and their fans celebrate the World Series championship, the rest of us are left to wonder what could have been. For years, we pointed to 2019 as our championship year.  It’s disappointing it did not happen but on the bright side, the window has not closed and the Yankees will be back in 2020 to make noise in October.

I don’t have an off-season plan. I’ve already read plenty of great ones so no need for me to develop a fictional wish list that has no bearing on what Brian Cashman will actually do. My views are more what I’d like to see in the coming months.

But first, I’d like to extend a birthday wish to Daniel Burch, the Co-Founder and Head Writer of The Greedy Pinstripes blog. Happy Birthday, Daniel! I hope it’s a tremendous day for you, KariAnn, and your family. Enjoy, my friend! Speaking of Daniel, if you haven’t already, you should read his response to Hal Steinbrenner’s recent remarks and his off-season plan that was posted yesterday. It’s an excellent read and right on point. It followed a great off-season plan presented by the other Co-Founder of The Greedy Pinstripes, Bryan Van Dusen.

Now back to baseball. I always head into the off-season with great anticipation and optimism. It’s the chance to add enhancements to the team for its run next year. I do not believe in complacency and feel that you should constantly be looking for ways to improve the roster. We saw what complacency delivered for the Boston Red Sox last year. Granted, a number of their guys had career years the year before so a fall was inevitable but it certainly didn’t help that they made no effort to better their defense of their championship. It resulted in a disappointing, lost year for Boston. Not that I didn’t enjoy seeing Boston down and their fans quiet, but my point is simply that complacency never wins.

I know that going into 2020, I do not want a staff of starters capable of only going five or six innings, with a few bullpen games mixed in. We saw the results of a tired pen in October, even with the rest they were given in the regular season’s final month. Like many fans, I want the Yankees to sign Gerrit Cole (or Stephen Strasburg if he opts out). But realistically, I doubt the Yankees sign either. Unlike last year, when I was very hopeful the Yankees would sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, I do not hold the same belief about this year’s premier free agents.  Not that I don’t want them, just rather I think the Yankees stick to their current business model and show financial constraint. As a Plan B, I’ve certainly warmed to the idea of someone like Zack Wheeler. I’ve long admired Madison Bumgarner but I share the belief that he’ll probably end up with the Atlanta Braves. I think someone like Hyun-Jin Ryu would be a tremendous addition but I can’t believe the Los Angeles Dodgers will let him get away. But then again, I never thought former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda would finish his MLB career as a Yankee.

Regardless of who the Yankees add to the starting rotation (correction, IF they add), there’s no room for J.A. Happ in my opinion. If there’s a move I am very hopeful for, it’s the ability to trade Happ and his contract, even if the team has to cover part of the salary and attach a prospect or two, to another team before the season starts. Last year was a very disappointing one for Happ and at 37 years old, he’s not going to get any better. The Yankees also cannot rely upon Domingo German, who remains on administrative leave for domestic violence. It’s likely he’ll serve a significant suspension next season and even then, I am not so sure I want the man, if the domestic violence accusations are true, on the roster regardless of his 18 wins. I reserve judgment until we know more about his case but at this point, German does not have my support. I know, I was able to forgive Aroldis Chapman and maybe that turns out to be the case with German once we know more. We’ll see but he’s not someone we can count on as we know it today.

I think it is more probable the Yankees will acquire another starter in trade rather than through free agency. I don’t know who they should target. I’ve certainly seen the name of Lucas Giolito come up plenty and I’d be glad to have him, but we’ll have to see how this plays out over the course of the off-season. Personally, I think the Chicago White Sox would be foolish to part with their young ace given the burgeoning young talent in their system. No doubt Brian Cashman and his analytics team have uncovered multiple names they’d love to target.

Photo Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast, AP

As of this writing, the following Yankees are free agents: Edwin Encarnacion, Austin Romine, Didi Gregorius, Cory Gearrin, Dellin Betances, CC Sabathia (retired), Brett Gardner and Cameron Maybin.

I’ve seen many people say that Dellin will be back. While I don’t think he’ll let the ridiculous words of Yankees President Randy Levine from a few years ago influence his decision, the fact remains as long as he is free to choose, it’s very possible that he goes elsewhere. I’d hate to see the Bronx native leave and he’s been such a huge part of the bullpen in recent years despite the lost 2019 season. I had assumed he’d sign a one- or two-year deal with the Yankees to rebuild value, but that may not be the case if another team offers him the right amount of money. This morning, Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com made his predictions for likely landing spots and he has Betances signing with the Houston Astros. Honestly, that makes me sick to the stomach. I really do not want to see Dellin in Houston or Boston. I suppose if he must leave, I’d prefer he goes to Philly to join up with Joe Girardi. But of the above-listed free agents, the one I want back the most is Dellin. I hope he and the Yankees are able to come together on a deal to keep him at home in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

I think Brett Gardner will be back on another one-year deal. At this point in his career, he’s not getting anything more than one-year deals from the Yankees. If another team were to offer him a multi-year contract, I’d support the Yankees’ decision to let him walk away. I don’t want to de-value what Gardy meant to the Yankees in 2019, but my stance on all players is that I’d rather cut bait a year early than a year too late. But none of it really matters as I expect Gardy to be back in 2020.

Didi Gregorius is a tough one. I love the guy. His personality matches his strong defensive ability and I think, a year removed from Tommy John surgery, his bat will rebound next season to its previous form. It’s hard to envision Didi not with the Yankees. He has meant so much to them since Derek Jeter retired. However, I can easily see the Yankees making Gleyber Torres the everyday shortstop and giving D.J. LeMahieu a permanent spot at second base, his strongest position.  It would allow the Yankees to reallocate the money it would take to re-sign Didi to other needs. If the money is re-directed to sign a guy like Gerrit Cole, it would be hard to argue keeping Gregorius in Pinstripes. If he leaves to sign with the rumored favorites, the Milwaukee Brewers or Cincinnati Reds, I’ll be sad but life goes on. Didi has been a great Yankee and as they say, change is inevitable and nothing lasts forever.

Randy Miller has Austin Romine going to the Los Angeles Angels. I can easily see that one coming true. It makes sense for the Southern CA native to go home, and there’s some excitement building in Orange County with Joe Maddon’s appointment as the team’s manager. If the Angels can sign Gerrit Cole and GM Billy Eppler is able to make a few other moves to bring in more talent to support Mike Trout, there’s some reason for optimism for the Angels. I don’t expect the Angels to be competing for the World Series next year, but they’ll be a fun team. I’ll hate to lose Romine but his loss is inevitable, especially if he is given the opportunity to start elsewhere. I’ve enjoyed Romine as the backup catcher but I don’t see him coming back under any circumstances. It’s a great opportunity for Kyle Higashioka and hopefully he’s doing everything possible this winter to prepare himself for the backup role behind Gary Sanchez. Eventually Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux will be making noise, but for now, Higgy is the best option.

I can see Cameron Maybin coming back on a reasonable, cost-effective deal. I doubt the Yankees try to bring back Cody Gearrin or Edwin Encarnacion (after paying the $5 million buyout rather than $20 million salary for next season). CC, as we all know, is now content to wait for the call to the Hall of Fame.

I had assumed the Yankees would try to sign D.J. LeMahieu to an extension this off-season but upon further thought, I agree with the assessment that LeMahieu holds the overwhelming advantage in negotiations after his brilliant 2019 debut in Pinstripes. The Yankees are better off waiting to see how he performs in 2020. The risk is that he’ll be a free agent after the season but the current Yankees business model looks at the long-term view and will not overpay players like they once did with Jacoby Ellsbury. I know I’d like to see LeMahieu stay in Pinstripes beyond next season but for now, we’ll have to wait.

I don’t think the Yankees need to lock up Gleyber Torres on an extension this off-season but it should be a priority in the next couple of off-seasons. The prime extension target this off-season should be Aaron Judge. Do what it takes. Keep this man in Pinstripes for the duration of his career. Say what you will about the injuries but when healthy, the guy is one of the best in the game.

Today is the day we find out whether or not Aroldis Chapman opts out of his contract. It is assumed that he’ll opt out if he and the Yankees are unable to agree upon an extension. I’ve said all along that I am prepared for Chapman to leave. I’d love to have him back as the team’s closer next year but the Yankees are paying him top dollar. If it is not good enough and they are unable to agree on the dollars for additional year(s), then let him go. Zack Britton is certainly a capable closer who has proven to be the best in the game when fully healthy. I’d have no reservations about him being the Yankees’ closer.  The Yankees would need to add other parts to the bullpen, like signing free agent reliever Will Smith, but I am confident the Yankees will be fine with or without Chappy.

Congratulations to Carlos Beltran. For as much as I hated to see him leave his job as a special advisor for the Yankees, I am happy he’ll get his first managerial gig with the New York Mets. Granted, not crazy it’s the Mets, but there are only so many managerial jobs and you have to start somewhere. I had hoped the San Francisco Giants, one of his former teams, would show interest, but it’s clear Beltran has an East Coast preference for family reasons. It’s kind of funny that Beltran will be butting heads with Don Mattingly and Joe Girardi in the NL East. When Beltran didn’t get the manager job with the Yankees, I had hoped he would be a part of the coaching staff. It obviously didn’t happen but Beltran was still able to bring his influence to the team. I wish him the best of luck in Queens and I hope everything works out for him despite the Wilpon family.

I miss Yankees baseball. Is it February yet?…

As always, Go Yankees!

The End of the Road…

Photo Credit: Matt Slocum, AP

Yankees lose another ALCS to Astros…

The end of a baseball season, unless you are the last team standing, always ends in disappointment. Not to take away from so many positives during the season but it’s no fun to suddenly and harshly see the season end on a walk-off two run homer. There’s no doubt the Yankees could have won this series and many will continue to dissect what went wrong in the coming days and weeks, but at this point, the only option is to look ahead.

I really hope the Yankees can find the elusive ace in the upcoming off-season. It remains to be seen if the Yankees will pay for a top free agent pitcher like Gerrit Cole or acquire one through trade. If Cole has a successful World Series, I am sure it will boost his already sky-rocketing value as the best available pitcher. Regardless of whether the Yankees sign Cole or if they go in another direction to save some pain on Hal Steinbrenner’s wallet, they need “the guy” who puts fear in the opposition. Maybe Luis Severino can be that guy next year. This season was lost for him due to injury, and his October version was just a fraction of what he is and can be. James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka had some fantastic October moments, but neither pitcher is going to strike fear in the hearts of the opposition. I had my hopes up for Patrick Corbin last season, only to see the disappointment of watching him sign with the Washington Nationals. For Corbin, it was the perfect scenario. He got the most money and a trip to the World Series.  I am not sure he would have been a difference maker for the Yankees, but it only underscores the need for a better starting rotation. It’s amazing the Yankees were once considered the frontrunners for the services of multiple 2019 World Series pitchers (Cole, Corbin, and Max Scherzer). We’ll never know but just one of those pitchers in Pinstripes could have ensured the continuance of the Yankees’ 2019 season.  

It’s not a coincidence that the two teams in the World Series have the game’s best pitching staffs.  I’ll give the edge to the Astros, but it would not surprise me if the Nationals shut down the high-flying ‘Stros. The Nationals are riding great momentum right now and they can give Houston a fight. I am sure their pitchers were watching how the Yankee pitchers, for the most part, kept Astros hitters off-balance. If they can avoid the Yankees’ mistakes, the Nats could be soon sipping champagne.  

So, the primary goal for Brian Cashman should be to get an ace (finally) and make Luis Severino and James Paxton the second and third starters.  

I was a little disappointed with the lack of support of certain players by the Yankees fan base over the last few weeks. You certainly cannot blame Giancarlo Stanton for the injuries that derailed his season and left him largely ineffective and often sitting out games in the playoffs. I think he’ll be back stronger than ever in 2020. Why criticize the man? He’s here for the long haul and we need to support the man and help him become the best he can be, not tear him down. Love him or hate him, the man wants to win for the Yankees. Other players often criticized were Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Luke Voit, and lately, Adam Ottavino. For me, I want all of these guys on the 2020 roster when the Yankees attempt to make a deeper October run.  

Admittedly, I shut off Twitter for much of the last week. I was tired of the negativity and I wanted to focus on the Yankees, keeping an open and positive mind about the players.  

It’s sad that CC Sabathia had to say goodbye by walking off the mound in ALCS Game 5 after a shoulder injury brought his Hall of Fame career to an end. There was no Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter moment for him, but I know that I appreciate his efforts just as much. He may not be the first ballot Hall of Famer like Mo or Jeter, but he’ll join them soon enough. There’s no doubt in my mind CC deserves a spot in Cooperstown.

Photo Credit: AP

I really hope the Yankees find a way to keep Sabathia in the organization in a non-playing position. Not a token consultant role, but a more meaningful capacity to keep his presence, attitude and leadership around the Yankees. Maybe not a coach, but I am sure there’s a beneficial spot for Sabathia that would be mutually rewarding for all of us. A great baseball pitcher, and an even better man. Thanks, CC, for everything you’ve done for the Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman will take a lot of heat for giving up the fateful walk-off homer to Jose Altuve last night, but I am not going to criticize him. Even the great Mariano Rivera had a couple of October moments like that. Yet, if Chapman does decide to opt out of his contract this off-season, I am prepared for the Yankees to walk away. I do not feel they should attempt to re-sign him to a new deal. Closers have a short shelf life. Rivera was an aberration. I think the Yankees would be better served using Chapman’s money to make a starting rotation upgrade. The Astros proved you don’t have to spend top dollar to have a very successful bullpen. Last night didn’t factor into my feeling that the Yankees should let Chappy walk if he opts out. I felt that way before the game and have for the last couple of months. I think Zack Britton is more than capable of being a championship caliber closer.   

When I look at the 40-man roster, I think these guys are gone or should be gone.

Chance Adams

Enough is enough…time for a change of scenery.

Jake Barrett

Presently on the 60-day IL, there’s no way the Yankees open a spot on the 40-man roster for Barrett with the need to protect certain prospects in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. 

Cody Gearrin

I thought Gearrin did a decent job overall, but he gets squeezed out in the 40-man roster crunch.

J.A. Happ

This probably falls more into the ‘should be gone’ category as I don’t believe he’s going anywhere with another year on his contract (and an option for 2021). I really hope Brian Cashman is able to make a move to send Happ elsewhere. It’s his spot in the rotation that direly needs to be upgraded. You could say Jordan Montgomery is that man, but I think of Montgomery as Sabathia’s replacement. Monty, as a fifth starter, should be as effective as Sabathia was in recent years, if not potentially better. He’ll never be a frontline pitcher like Sabathia, and that’s okay. Happ’s spot is the one that HAS TO BE better. Michael King and Deivi Garcia represent hope but the Yankees need a true ace and Happ, at this point in his career, is a liability.  

Jonathan Holder

I always liked Holder but no doubt 2019 was a major disappointment with performance and injuries. If Holder goes, it is purely the roster crunch that forces the move. I’d like to have Holder back but I am not certain it will happen.  

Tyler Lyons

Tyler did fine in limited appearances but ultimately his 40-man spot is too valuable to hold him. I don’t see him as a long term option and never did. He is just a journeyman pitcher that will be searching for his next team in the off-season.

Austin Romine

I don’t think that Romine should go, but I think as a free agent, he’ll get offers that potentially include the ability to compete for a starting job. He’s done everything anyone could ask of a backup catcher and he’ll help a team in 2020. I just don’t think it will be with the Yankees. I do think Kyle Higashioka is ready to step in as the backup for Gary Sanchez which helps ease the loss of Romine.

Greg Bird

Presently on the 60-day IL, the Yankees will have to open a spot on the 40-man for him. In light of years of injuries and unfulfilled promise, I think it’s time to cut bait.  If there’s a guy I would love to prove me wrong, it’s Bird. But he’s had so many chances and here we are…the proverbial fork in the road. Instead of more chances, I think the Yankees simply move on.

Edwin Encarnacion

The Parrott Ride was fun while it lasted and it’s too bad that Edwin didn’t make much noise in the ALCS, but there was never a chance the Yankees are going to pick up his $20 million option for 2020. The Yankees need that money to make other upgrades. Regardless of what just happened, the Steinbrenner Family is not suddenly going to go on a spending spree. Assuming that 2019 was not fluke for Gio Urshela’s hitting ability, I think he’ll be the starting third baseman heading into next season. The Yankees have to make room for Miguel Andujar and I think he takes Edwin’s roster spot, and competes for time at first base, third base, DH, and potentially, if he works on it during Spring Training, some corner outfield play.  

Didi Gregorius 

I want to be clear that I love Didi as a Yankee. I love his attitude and his play, both offensively and defensively. I know that 2019 was not a stellar offensive campaign for him but c’mon, the dude just came off Tommy John surgery last off-season. If the Yankees sign the impending free agent to a new contract, I think he’ll be more like the Didi of old in 2020. But that’s the question. Do the Yankees sign him to a new contract with Gleyber Torres able to man shortstop at an All-Star level, making DJ LeMahieu the starting second baseman instead of an infield rover. No doubt Hal Steinbrenner watches the bottom line very closely and unfortunately I think Didi could be an off-season casualty. If so, I will miss him greatly. He’s been an excellent Yankee.  

Jacoby Ellsbury

If ‘enough is enough’ is the case for Chance Adams, Ellsbury has proven that time and again. Everyone knows the only reason that Ellsbury is still technically a Yankee is his contract and the financial assistance offered by insurance to help mitigate the cost for the years he has been unable to play. Currently on the 60-man IL, I wouldn’t give Ellsbury a spot on the 40-man roster. Ellsbury has one year left on his contract ($21,142,857) and a team option for 2021 that will no doubt be bought out for $5 million. I think this is the end for Ellsbury. Time for the Yankees to move on, and take the financial hit. The 40-man roster spot is too valuable to waste it on Ellsbury.

Clint Frazier

The guy is just not a Yankee. I think he can be a good player, but not for the Yankees. If the Yankees re-sign Brett Gardner to another one year deal, there’s no way Frazier sticks around with the more versatile Mike Tauchman on the roster. It’s almost laughable the Yankees probably could have had Gerrit Cole a couple of years ago for Frazier, Adams and another top prospect or two. What a difference that would have made (with the benefit of hindsight, of course)!  

Brett Gardner

Despite Brett’s highly successful 2019 season, there’s still question whether the Yankees re-sign the longtime Yankee. Nothing against Brett, but age is a factor. At some point, the younger guys have to play. Gardy will be forced out at some point in the future, and it could very well be this off-season. I am all for bringing him back to be the fourth or fifth outfielder (active rosters expand from 25 to 26 next season), but I think there is reasonable doubt about whether or not the Yankees bring him back so it is very possible we’ve seen the last of Gardy in Pinstripes. He’s wore the Pinstripes very proudly and I’ll cherish his time as a Yankee. 

Cameron Maybin

I like Cameron but he was just a 2019 ‘fill-in’ due to the massive number of injuries. He wasn’t brought in to be part of the future. Purely a “now” in-season acquisition, I don’t think he’ll be back.

Larry Rothschild

I hate to be critical of pitching coach Larry Rothschild because we do not see him “behind the scenes” and how truly valuable he has been for the Yankees, but if the Yankees could get someone like David Cone as pitching coach, you have to do it. I also like Andy Pettitte. I think both Cone and Pettitte would be better pitching coaches from the outside, looking in. I think Cone is the more likely option as Pettitte seems to be enjoying the low-stress life in Texas with family and high school coaching. Like Don Mattingly before him, he’ll eventually get the itch to get back into the game but I don’t think we’re quite there yet with him. So, David Cone would be my choice for pitching coach. I think he’d be tremendous in the role and would help the pitching staff to over-achieve.  

Strength & Conditioning Team

You’re all fired!  

This season has been so much fun for the Yankees and their fans (well, up until this past week and last night in particular). We’ll forever remember it as the Year of the Savages and the entire #NextManUp attitude. I was really hoping for CC Sabathia to leave with “book end” championships for his Yankees career, but it wasn’t meant to be. Hard to believe that we’ve completed the first decade of no Yankees appearances in the World Series for the past century. Hopefully the streak starts again when the new decade rolls in. I think the younger players on the team will take the current disappointment to fuel greater heights next year. Get ready for the constant “he’s only 23” for Gleyber Torres. This is not the closure of a window but rather the upward pressure on raising the window. We have every reason to believe the Yankees will win in 2020. The pressure is on Brian Cashman to make the right moves this off-season to enhance the team’s chances as we move forward. No doubt he saw what we saw and he’ll make the right moves. We just have to be patient for the next 3-4 months. Let’s see how this plays out. I have faith and confidence in the Yankees pursuit of a championship.  

As for baseball, I am done. I am not interested in a Nationals-Astros World Series. At this point, I just want the World Series to be over so that we can begin the latest off-season, with the usual excitement and anticipation for possible enhancements to the roster. I hope the Yankees can sign DJ LeMahieu to an extension with just one year left on his contract. I am sure the Yankees will be looking for another addition that can have the type of impact on the team like LeMahieu did this year. A great under-the-radar signing that yields tremendous fruit. I don’t know who or what position, but the quest every year is to ensure the best possible player or pitcher at every position. Team chemistry plays very strongly into the equation so it’s up to Cashman and his analytics team to show why they are considered among the best in the game. Attitude and talent, the formula is simple. Finding the ingredients is difficult but the Yankees have a great, still young core. The recipe doesn’t need to be changed, just the garnishments. Just like I was disappointed after the 1995 season, the future is bright. There is hope for 2020 and I am very excited about the future. We’ve not heard the last from this team. They’ll be back and stronger than ever.

Photo Credit: EPA  

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!

Yankees Win, Always a Good Thing…

Credit: Getty Images

CC Sabathia Relishes the Role of Stopper…

Well, the last week didn’t go exactly as planned. I didn’t think the Yankees would win the three-game series in Houston but I had hoped for at least one win. They played well enough to win all three games if not for the lack of bullpen support. After Friday night’s rain-shortened loss to Eloy Jimenez and the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees had lost four consecutive games and could have been overtaken in the AL East Standings on Saturday by the Boston Red Sox, a team that has seemingly gotten off to a much worse start than our favorite team, if the Sox had won and the Yankees had not. Fortunately, CC Sabathia represented the Cavalry, arriving to save the day, while the highly paid hitless wonder known as Chris Davis helped power Baltimore past the struggling Red Sox.

It is funny how the World looks so much better after a Yankees win. Life as a Yankee fan is such a roller coaster ride at times. It was hard watching Eloy Jimenez (first two home runs of his young career) and the White Sox crush Yankee pitching during Friday night’s rain-shortened seven innings loss. Although I am sure CC Sabathia would have liked to have stayed in yesterday’s game a little longer, he combined with Domingo German, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman to shut out the White Sox, 4-0, giving the Pinstripers a very much-needed victory. Honestly, I was unsure what Sabathia would bring in his first start of his final season. Delayed by December’s Angioplasty that placed a stent in a heart valve, a five-game suspension, and a trip to the Injured List as he worked his way back into prime form, it was vintage Sabathia on Saturday. He held the White Sox to a meaningless single by second baseman Jose Rondon in the top of the third inning. It was the first and only hit the Sox would get on this day.

Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Sabathia looked strong when he struck out Wellington Castilllo looking to end the top of the fifth inning but the pitch, his 62nd, would be his last. The TV cameras showed a disappointed Sabathia in the dugout as Manager Aaron Boone informed him his day was finished. I don’t blame Boone. No reason to push Sabathia this early. His 62 pitches for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A) in a rehab start last Sunday were his season high. He probably would have been good for a few more pitches but why risk it. We need the big guy in the weeks and months ahead. With an off-day last Thursday and another tomorrow, the Yankees were able to skip the fifth spot in the rotation, making Domingo German available to provide back up support for Sabathia. It was the perfect formula. German, continued his brilliant 2019 performance with two innings of hitless relief and four strikeouts. If you looked at stats alone without names, you’d think his line belonged to the team’s ace. 3-0, 1.38 ERA, 9.69 K/9, and 1.03 BABIP. Not that Luis Severino is coming back anytime soon but if he were to return today, you’d have to argue that J.A. Happ, not German, should be the loser of a rotation spot.

Zack Britton finally delivered a relief outing that we expect to see. Three-up, three down in the top of the eighth. I know, it was just the White Sox but you would have thought they were the second coming of Harvey’s Wallbangers after Friday night. Britton had to start somewhere with a solid appearance. Saturday was as good a day as any. Now if we could just get Chad Green and Jonathan Holder back on track. I’d really like to see this so-called Super Bullpen that everyone has been talking about. I know, Dellin Betances is a major cog and his absence hurts, but the other guys need to pick up the slack. They are certainly capable of so much more.

I know I was feeling much better about Aroldis Chapman from his first pitch in the top of the ninth when the radar gun clocked his strike to Adam Engel at 99 MPH. In throwing nine pitches to finish off the game, Chappy hit 100 MPH four times. He is trending in the right direction for those fearing his loss of velocity. It was not a save situation but Chapman needed the work and he did not disappoint.

Credit: Paul J Bereswill/NY Post

Credit to White Sox starter and former Yankee Ivan Nova. Back in the stadium he was raised, he delivered as well as he could have. He faced one batter in the top of the seventh, giving up a single to Gleyber Torres. Pulled at that point, Torres would eventually score the first run for the Yankees when Luke Voit singled with the bases loaded. It was almost unfair for Nova to be charged a run on this day, but he was, thus taking the tough luck loss despite holding the Yanks to only four hits, and no runs while he was standing on the mound, over six innings and the one batter faced in the seventh. No doubt he’ll look back on the day proud that he was able to compete exceptionally well with his one-time mentor as Sabathia prepares for his ride to the Sunset and eventual placement in MLB’s Hall of Fame.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

With such a great pitching performance by the Yankees, the team’s offense was almost an afterthought. The Yankees needed the runs, of course, to win the game but for inning after inning, they were unable to mount any serious threat against Nova. When Nova gave up that single to Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the seventh and departed the game, it opened the door for the Yankees. It took a little luck when Greg Bird hit into a fielder’s choice at second against White Sox reliever Jace Fry. An error by Yolmer Sanchez, booting a potential double play ball, left both runners safe at first and second. After another pitching change, Clint Frazier singled to right off reliever Ryan Burr to load the bases. Luke Voit keep it going with a broken bat single past the outstretched glove of the shortstop, scoring Torres.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Kyle Higashioka, getting the start at catcher in place of Austin Romine, hit a long sacrifice fly to right which brought Bird home with the second run. Tyler Wade displayed his athleticism with a rare squeeze bunt toward third that easily allowed Frazier to score. The Yankees were up, 3-0.

Aaron Judge accounted for the final Yankees run when he led off the bottom of the eighth with a short home run (a 335’ shot that took full advantage of the right field porch). Hey, a homer is a homer. Sure, we love the homers that reach the second deck, especially when Judge is at the plate, but I’ll take the short fly that lands into the first row of the right field porch any day.

Hopefully the win helps the Yankees “turn the corner” (as Aaron Boone would say). A win today to take the series against the White Sox would be ideal, considering the other Sox come to town on Tuesday. Nothing like changing our Sox on a positive note. The Houston Astros got hot at the right time last week to sweep the Yankees in their home park. It would be nice for the Yankees to do the same to the visiting Red Sox for the brief two-game series.

Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 1.47 ERA) gets the ball in the White Sox finale this afternoon. He’ll be opposed by the talented Carlos Rodon (1-2, 3.38 ERA) in what should be a great pitching matchup. I kind of wish Tanaka was pitching against the Red Sox this week, but if he can deliver a win today, that’s all we can ask.  Tuesday’s game will feature James Paxton against Chris Sale, two pitchers with high expectations who have, so far, delivered uninspiring results. Wednesday is the battle of 8.00+ ERA pitchers with J.A. Happ going against former Yank Nathan Eovaldi. I really hope Paxton and Happ were watching Sabathia pitch yesterday. They need to follow his lead. Get on a roll and the team’s slow start will be nothing but a distant memory. A nice ten-game winning streak would help warm things up for the summer ahead.

Stephen Tarpley was the loser of a spot on the 25-man roster when he was optioned to Triple A to make room for Sabathia. It meant that Joe Harvey’s stay in the Bronx will last awhile longer and rightfully so. He has only appeared in one game (one of the losses to the Astros last week) but he did his job when called upon (unlike Green and Holder). I’d like to see what he can do with an extended stay in the Show. Tarpley, on the other hand, is not quite ready. He’ll benefit from a little more seasoning in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

As always, Go Yankees…and, please, stay healthy!

Opportunity Calls, Clint Frazier Answers…

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

Yankees Overcome O’s, thanks to the long ball…

We knew it was only a matter of time until Aaron Judge began his monstrous assault on MLB baseballs, but it was Clint Frazier’s lightning quick three-run homer in the top of the eighth inning that allowed the Yankees to overtake the Baltimore Orioles in the 6-4 win at Camden Yards.

Frazier needed this moment. Frankly, the Yankees should have never put themselves in the position of needing Frazier’s big hit but they did. They had a golden opportunity to break the game open in the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with no outs against arguably MLB’s worst team. Frazier entered the game, pinching hitting for left fielder Mike Tauchman, but the inning unraveled from there. Gary Sanchez, on third, was picked off by O’s catcher Pedro Severino. Frazier struck out swinging for the second out, and Giovanny Urshela, in his first at-bat as a Yankee and pinch-hitting for Tyler Wade, grounded out to second to end the scoreless threat.

I didn’t really get Aaron Boone’s decision to keep Jonathan Holder in the game for the bottom of the seventh inning. He had entered the game in the fifth, in relief of starter J.A. Happ with only one out. He gave up a single to the second man he faced, Renato Nunez, in the bottom of the fifth, which scored a run for Baltimore (charged to Happ) to make it a one-run game at 3-2. I know Holder had an easy three-up, three-down inning in the sixth, but that’s as far as I would have pushed him. Instead, Boone left him in to start the seventh (why?). He hit the lead-off hitter, Cedric Mullins, and then gave up a single to right off the bat of Jonathan Villar which put runners at the corners.  Boone finally made a move, bringing Adam Ottavino into the game. Unfortunately, Greg Bird misplayed a grounder to first by Chris Davis. He bobbled the ball, didn’t step on first and then threw high to home. Mullins scored and Davis was safe at first. After Villar stole third, pinch-hitter Rio Ruiz, batting for Nunez, lofted a fly to center to score Villar with the go-ahead run.

It looked like the Yankees were going to go down quietly in the eighth. Greg Bird led off the inning against Orioles reliever Paul Fry with a fly-out to left. A pitching change brought reliever Miguel Castro into the game to face Gary Sanchez who flied out to right. But in the face of defeat for the Yankees, Castro struggled with his control and lost Gleyber Torres on balls to put a runner at first. Then, D.J. LeMahieu did what he does best. He singled to right, his third hit of the game, and the Yankees had runners at the corners. Enter Clint Frazier. With the count at 2-2, Castro threw a slider that was meant for the low outside corner. Fortunately for The Wildling and much to the dismay of Orioles catcher Pedro Severino, the ball came in over the juicy part of the plate and Frazier didn’t miss his opportunity. With the rapid fire of his bat, the ball went screaming out of the park. The Yankees were up, 6-4.

Adam Ottavino walked Hanser Alberto, briefly a Yankee this past Winter, to lead off the eighth but got the next two outs with his insane pitches. With Alberto on second, Aaron Boone took the ball from Ottavino and brought in Chad Green. Greeny hit the shirt of Cedric Mullins to put a runner at first. The next batter, Jonathan Villar, hit an infield grounder to D.J. LeMahieu, who had slid over to second base from third when Giovanny Urshela entered the game. LeMahieu had an uncharacteristic bobble of the ball and Villar beat D.J.’s throw to Gleyber Torres standing on second base. The bases were loaded, giving the Orioles a golden opportunity to recapture the lead. Thankfully, it was only Chris Davis at the plate. He rapped a hard single to first base which Greg Bird easily handled, stepping on first ahead of Davis running down the line. Inning over, with the two-run lead intact.

Aroldis Chapman finished off the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth. Despite giving up a one-out single to pinch-hitter Jesus Sucre, he easily recorded the next two outs to gain his second save of the season even if his fastball couldn’t find triple digits.

The win went to Adam Ottavino (1-0) despite giving up the lead in the bottom of the seventh on runs charged to Jonathan Holder. Ha, they should have charged those runs to Aaron Boone!

And, oh, did I mention that Aaron Judge had two massive home runs earlier in the game. I knew it was time for a Judgian blast and had even commented on my post yesterday that it was a good day for an Aaron Judge home run. I was wrong, I should have said home runs. Judge’s first homer (and first of the season) came in the top of the first after Brett Gardner had struck out to lead off the game. The ball carried 412 feet over the center field wall. Trey Mancini had answered Judge’s solo homer with one of his own in the bottom of the first to tie the game. After Brett Gardner doubled with one out in the top of the third, Judge hit another ‘no doubt about it’ homer to center, giving him total yardage of 830 feet, with the two bombs. That was it for Judge in this game, he recorded outs in his next three at-bats which included two by strikeout. But the Yankees wouldn’t have been in position to win this game without Judge. Every day is a good day for Aaron Judge home runs.

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

I know it’s too early to watch or care about the AL East Standings, but the Yankees (4-4) did move into a tie for second place with the Orioles. The Tampa Bay Rays lost 6-4 to the San Francisco Giants so the Yankees are 1 1/2 games back. The Boston Red Sox dropped another game, 5-4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, to fall to 2-8. I know it’s only a matter of time until the Red Sox find their groove, but it is fun to watch them in the AL East Cellar while it lasts. It couldn’t possibly happen to a better team than the Red Sux.

The Yankees can sweep the series at Camden Yards today before they hop on a plane bound for Houston, Texas. Domingo German (1-0, 0.00 ERA) faces David Hess (1-0, 0.00 ERA). In his last start against the Toronto Blue Jays, Hess no-hit the Blue Jays until he was lifted with one out in the seventh (the bullpen blew his no-no). German, on the same day, held the Detroit Tigers to only one hit and unearned run, in five innings. It would be great for the Yankees to sweep after losing their first two series of the season. And it would provide a joyful mood for the long flight down to South Texas.

I was a little surprised to see the call-up of Giovanny “Gio” Urshela before yesterday’s game. It was funny how it unfolded. Urshela posted an airplane pic on Social Media and clever fans deduced it was the same type of plane departing from Buffalo’s airport (where the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are playing) and headed to Baltimore’s BWI Marshall Airport. While I enjoyed the brief one game call-up of Thairo Estrada who didn’t get to see any playing time, Urshela is in better position to help right now. No doubt Estrada will be the better utility player in the long run, but Urshela, who has a superior third base glove, provides better support for interim third baseman D.J. LeMahieu. Urshela doesn’t have much of a bat but that’s not why he is on the 25-man roster now even if he had a couple of strong offensive performances for the RailRiders to start the season. I can still easily remember some of the spectacular defensive plays Urshela made against the Yankees when he was playing for the Cleveland Indians. Not that LeMahieu needs any glove help but the occasional breather is welcomed. To make room for Urshela on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved Didi Gregorius to the 60-day Injured List. Speaking of Sir Didi, damn, I miss those after-game emoji’s.

I know the season is early and stats, either good or bad, don’t really mean much given the small sample sizes. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how good D.J. LeMahieu has been for the Yankees. Expected to be a “floating” starter with time at first, second and third, LeMahieu was forced into full-time duty at third base when Miguel Andujar, with a small labrum tear, was placed on the IL.  LeMahieu is 11-for-24, batting .458/.536/.542 with 1.077 OPS. His eighth inning single last night set the stage for Clint Frazier’s heroics but it almost provided a game-tying opportunity by getting Gleyber Torres to third. A ball got away from Orioles catcher Pedro Severino and Torres most likely could have scored if he had immediately broke for home but hesitation kept the budding superstar at third. LeMahieu is not a flashy player and is not known for dingers but he does the little things right. Living in Denver, I’d routinely hear Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon talk about how much LeMahieu meant to their team. It’s easy to see why they held such high praise. The guy can hit, field and win. I am glad he is a Yankee.

CC Sabathia makes a rehabilitation start for the High-A Tampa Tarpons today. The Tarpons are hosting the Lakeland Flying Tigers in Tampa. Hopefully all goes well for CC who should soon be back in Pinstripes for his final go-around. Hope everything goes well today, CC. We miss you and look forward to your return.

As always, Go Yankees!

Opening Day Success for Tanaka & Company…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yankees Roll behind Tanaka and Voit…

I know, I am late to the party with writing about Opening Day but it was a very exciting day. Great weather, the wonderful presence of unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera throwing out the first pitch (I loved watching #42 fire one from the Yankee Stadium pitching mound), solid pitching by Masahiro Tanaka despite not having his best stuff, a villainous bullpen and a couple of home runs from people not named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It was an awesome day in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/The New York Post

The 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles felt like it could not have been better scripted. It was a great start to the highly anticipated 2019 season by the Yankees. There’s obviously a long ways to go, with 161 more games on the schedule, but it’s better to start with a win than not.

I was around some non-Yankee fans watching the game who took delight when Tanaka gave up a couple of hits in the first inning even if the second infield single hit the lead runner for the final out. They were predicting doom and gloom for Tanaka and the Pinstripers. I know the Yankees were playing MLB’s worst team but I knew Tanaka would persevere. Despite a lackluster Opening Day history, Tanaka seems locked in this year. I certainly wasn’t going to give up hope after a couple of meaningless hits. Tanaka shook off the first inning and never looked back. I think this will be a big season for him.

The Yankees didn’t have to wait long for their first home run of the season. The easy picks would have been Judge or Stanton, but it was Luke Voit who kicked off the 2019 chase to beat the Yankees’ 2018 record of 267 home runs. Granted, the Yankees would end the day six home runs behind the Los Angeles Dodgers but there’s no doubt many balls are going to leave Yankee Stadium this year for the home team. When Luke hit that ball in the bottom of the first inning with Judge and Stanton on base, I wasn’t sure if it was hit hard enough to go out but with his classic hop at the plate, I felt a sense of assurance it did have the necessary distance. Thankfully it easily carried over the center field wall into Monument Park for a 3-0 lead. Miguel Andujar almost made it a four-run game when his fly ball took left fielder Dwight Smith, Jr to the wall but it fell short of clearing the fence.  As many said, that ball would have easily carried out in the heat of August. In cool, crisp March, the ball decided to find Smith’s glove instead.

Aaron Judge may not have hit the first Yankee home run of the season but he did score the first run thanks to Voit’s homer. It was a great game for Judge, who went 2-for-3 with a couple of walks and three runs scored. He only struck out once, showing a very patient eye. Despite the presence of so many great offensive forces in the Yankees’ lineup, Judge is clearly the conductor and the heart and soul of the team’s engine.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

Great game for Luke Voit who also picked up another RBI in the bottom of the fifth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Voit finished with one official at-bat, the three-run homer, with the HBP and two walks. While I didn’t think last year was a fluke for Luke, he still has a long way to go to prove it was not but this was a very good way to start. I have no desire to underestimate the Yankees’ very talented baseball analytics team. The Chasen Shreve/Giovanny Gallegos trade for the former Cardinals minor leaguer, with minimal Big League opportunities, was/is a steal.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

In a game Luis Severino had been slated to start until rotator cuff inflammation forced a change in plans, Tanaka pitched very well. He lasted until the sixth inning when a two-out run scoring double by Trey Mancini (one of the few recognizable names in Baltimore’s lineup) ended his day. 5 2/3 innings pitched, scattering six hits, yielding a couple of runs with only one earned and striking out five was a good day. From there, the Yankees used a bullpen formula we’ll see frequently this year. Adam Ottavino, who ended the sixth inning threat with a seven-pitch strikeout, to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman. I know there was concern with Chapman’s velocity (he was off his usual velocity by 3 to 5 mph) but it’s early. Not time to sound the alarms yet. I’ll go with those who attribute the reduced velocity to the cooler weather and Chapman’s age-induced work to transition from a hard thrower to more of a pitcher. I remain convinced we’ll see triple digits when the warmer weather returns.

Credit to Greg Bird for answering Voit’s home run with a solo dinger in the eighth after three strikeouts.  Bird got the start at first base over Voit, forcing the latter to DH. I really like Voit as the team’s first baseman but I am certainly not going to complain if Bird finally has the year we’ve long waited for. I love Bird’s swing when his bat is happy and healthy.

Although I would have really enjoyed to see David Robertson return to the Yankees for this season, I’ve been excited about the addition of Adam Ottavino since the day he was signed. He had a great Yankees debut with 1 1/3 innings pitched and three strikeouts.  His pitches are wicked. When he’s on, the batters have no chance. If D-Rob has re-signed, the Yankees most likely would not have signed AO. So I am pleased the way things turned out despite how much I liked Robertson.

I think my only disappointment with Opening Day was D.J. LeMahieu sitting on the bench through game’s end. It’s tough being a starter without a position. He is capable of so much more. Hopefully Aaron Boone figures out a good way to keep LeMahieu on the field, with his incredible glove, this season and his productive bat  in the order to help keep runners moving around the bases. LeMahieu is potentially a huge answer to the team’s RISP problem from last season.

Opening Day was a great success particularly considering every AL East team, except for the Yankees, lost. Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox were bludgeoned in Seattle, although they did claw back and win last night’s game after trailing Seattle by two runs in the ninth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Mitch Moreland off the M’s new closer, Hunter Strickland. Bummer that the Mariners traded their great young closer, Edwin Diaz, to the New York Mets in the off-season. If Diaz had been pitching, the Red Sox most likely would have lost their second consecutive game.

It stunk there was no Bronx baseball yesterday but the Yankees and O’s resume their series today. Woohoo! James Paxton will take the ball for his Yankees debut wearing the Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium for the first time. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Nate Karns, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray. I am looking forward to watching Paxton on our side. Hopefully this will be a much better outing than his last Yankee stadium appearance. Last season, on June 21st, he surrendered two first-inning home runs to Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar and lost a 4-3 decision to Luis Severino and the Yankees. On the bright side, the Big Maple won’t have to pitch to Judge and Andujar today since those guys will be playing behind him.

Poor Chasen Shreve. After being designated for assignment by the St Louis Cardinals, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to Memphis. Shreve may get another chance with the Cardinals if the injury bug hits their bullpen (very possible with the presence of injury-beleaguered Andrew Miller) but I am sure this is not how Shreve had planned for this season to play out. I was a little surprised that no team took a chance on Shreve but his stock has certainly fallen. He’s a good guy so I am hopeful he gets another chance but the game is clearly evolving away from lefty specialists. So if he can’t prove he is capable of more, his future is not bright.

Ronald Torreyes also failed to make the cut with the Twins. With an option left, Toe was assigned to Minnesota’s Triple A team in Rochester. The few times I saw him in Spring Training, I thought he looked good and had a chance to make the MLB roster. Hopefully he’ll get his chance to call Target Field home at some point this season. Former Yankees Tyler Austin, Jake Cave and Michael Pineda were all part of Minnesota’s Opening Day roster. Austin’s spot seems to be the most tenuous as he’ll be the odd man out when Miguel Sano is activated off the Injured List. With no options left, Austin’s future looks murky. The Twins have C.J. Cron at first and Nelson Cruz at DH. Both spots can be backed by Marwin Gonzalez so Austin represents a luxury with no real spot once Sano is back at third. These things have a way of working themselves out so hopefully Austin carves out a significant role with the Twins. If not, he’ll be packing his bags and moving on to the next city.

Bryan Mitchell was another ex-Yank to get the guillotine. Sent to the San Diego Padres in the salary-dump trade involving Chase Headley, Mitchell had been expected to be part of San Diego’s starting rotation this year. He was designated for assignment a couple of days ago and now awaits his fate. Ex-Yank Jose Pirela, a part of the Padres’ MLB roster the last few years, was optioned to El Paso. Nobody ever watches Padres games so I’m not sure anybody will notice. Hopefully Mitchell gets an opportunity with another organization to fulfill the promise he once held as a Yankees prospect. If not, he’ll be catching up with Pirela in West Texas for some Margaritas.

Keeping on track with the ex-Yankees theme, I was glad to see Melky Cabrera get another chance. In camp as a non-roster invitee with the Pirates, he was added to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster when outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the injured list. I can still remember those great victory celebrations when Melky was a Yankee but Cabrera has traveled through many cities since that time. Hopefully he’ll get to spend some meaningful time in the Steel City. Former Yankees seem to do well in Pittsburgh.

One-time Yankees’ top prospect Mason Williams also gets another chance. After playing with the Cincinnati Reds organization the last couple of seasons, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday after being cut by the Reds a couple of weeks ago. He’ll report to Baltimore’s top farm team in Norfolk, VA. It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were hoping for great things in Pinstripes for Williams. I guess if you want an opportunity to play, signing with a talent-devoid organization is the way to go. No doubt he’ll find his way to Camden Yards at some point this year if he proves himself in Triple A.

I continue to be amazed no team has signed either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel. I really thought they’d be signed before the start of the season. I had fully expected the Milwaukee Brewers to grab Kimbrel after it was announced closer Corey Knebel would need Tommy John surgery but I guess the presence of premier bullpen shutdown artist Josh Hader lessens the need.  Keuchel can help almost any team win more games. I kept expecting him to be a late training camp sign by his former team, the Houston Astros, but it never happened. The Astros still seem like his best option but for now, he has to throw every five days on his own dime. If I was the GM of the Atlanta Braves, I’d be all over Keuchel to help with the highly competitive NL East. Maybe the baseball analytics are right about the regression of Keuchel, but I have to believe he can still help somebody.

I am very glad the baseball season is back. It’s been a long off-season. Spring training is nice but it gets old after awhile. It’s awesome to see games that count once again. I am hopeful these games lead to an AL East championship and a highly successful October for the Yankees. We’ve waited a very long time for this year. As they say, time will tell but I like our chances.

As always, Go Yankees!