Commissioner proves his ineptness, again…
It’s been awhile since I’ve sat down to write a post so I guess I should get to it. Admittedly, with the stay at home orders in effect for the COVID-19 Pandemic and the absence of Major League Baseball, there’s a general sense of disconnection with our favorite sport, at least for me.
Since the COVID-19 Pandemic began, I’ve relocated 1,100 miles from Denver, Colorado to the warmer confines of Orange County, California. I know, not the best time to make a cross-country move. Three weeks ago, I endured cold temps and a snowstorm as I was preparing to leave Colorado. Yesterday, the temperature reading outside was 99. Winter to Summer faster than DJ LeMahieu can scoop up a hard grounder off the bat of Xander Bogaerts. Oh well, it only means that I’ve seen my last snowfall and that’s a good thing.
The news of the week was obviously the commissioner’s announcement of the penalties (very loose use of the word, sorry) handed down to the Boston Red Sox for their involvement with cheating activities during the 2018 season. Frankly, I expected the punishment to be very light. Like many, I’ve reached the conclusion that Rob Manfred is a weak commissioner and I didn’t expect him to take a stand against the Red Sox. Even if we felt Houston got off easy, I didn’t think MLB would come close to the penalties assessed on the Astros for Boston. Unfortunately, I was right. Probably my biggest surprise was how easy former Red Sox manager Alex Cora emerged from the penalty phase despite dishonest tactics that contributed to World Series championships in two consecutive years for him. Since it was so light (he was basically penalized for 2017 but not 2018), I fully expect him to return as Red Sox manager at some point. I know Boston removed the “interim” tag from current Manager Ron Roenicke, but I think his tenure will be short. The surprise for me will be if Cora does not return as Red Sox manager.
|Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports|
As frustrating as it may be that Boston was only forced to forfeit a second round draft pick (and the video replay-operator was suspended), I am glad to put the entire cheating scandals behind us. If the Red Sox cheated, I never felt they did it as openly and dishonestly as the Astros. I am not trying to condone what the Red Sox did but I am ready to move the game forward in a positive light and put the misdealing’s of two Major League clubs in the archives. I hope, if those two teams, or any teams, are subsequently found to be guilty of further incidents of trying to cheat to win, the penalties and will be swift and severe. Granted, the hammer should fall harder on the Astros and Red Sox with multiple offenses to their record, but really no team should get off as easily as the Red Sox did.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone pretty much echoed those words in a recent interview which appeared in The New York Post:
“I’m glad that we’re kind of through those situations,’’ Boone said. “Hopefully, as I’ve said all along and I do believe this, hopefully just as a sport we’ll be better moving forward knowing that you mess around and they’re coming for you. And I think that’s a good thing.”
I saw some criticism of Boone for his words, but I get it. We need to move on. I think the toughest part for any of us is wondering when that may be since it is all contingent upon when MLB play can be resumed. Shortened season, no fans in the stands, limiting games to certain states…we’ve seen plenty of alternative options discussed but realistically the cancellation of the entire season remains in play. I don’t think anyone wants to see the season wiped away, particularly not the owners and their need for greed. But until clear vision for how to restart the season emerges, the possibility of no season exists.
I am saddened that we could potentially lose one of Gerrit Cole’s prime years. There’s little question he’ll be much less effective in the latter half of his contract so the worth of his huge contract is literally dependent upon his successes in the early years, much like CC Sabathia a decade ago.
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II-AP|
On the bright side, there is probably a good chance that both Giancarlo Stanton and James Paxton (and possibly even Aaron Hicks) will be ready depending upon when/if the season is resumed.
It’s been good to have the NFL Draft the last couple of days to give us some degree of Sports in our universe. My TV has tuned into ESPN for the first time in a long time. I had to figure out what channel it was even on since I hadn’t ever watched it during my very short time in Southern California.
Still wondering if the Los Angeles Angels will refund me for the tickets I bought for the Yankees’ three-game series in Anaheim over Memorial Day Weekend or if they’ll just apply them to future games. In advance of my move, I had bought tickets to multiple baseball games and two concerts over the summer and there’s a chance none come to fruition. Wasted money at this point.
As much as I want the World to return to some sense of normalcy, I am concerned about doing too much, too soon, and bringing the arc of the coronavirus back up. I miss baseball and the distraction it creates for our daily lives (a much needed and therapeutic distraction, I should add). I look forward to watching baseball games on TV and in person. I know we’ve been given many options to watch games of years gone by but it’s not the same. I want to see Giancarlo Stanton smash a massive home run far into the outfield crowd or depending where the games are played, far over the outer reaches of the ballparks…in real time. I want to watch Gerrit Cole dominant his opponents, and see him annihilate his former Houston teammates. One day, some day…
I hope everyone is healthy and safe. For those of you who have been adversely impacted by the deadly coronavirus, we stand with you and keep you in our thoughts and prayers. We’ll make it through this, and we will stand united again in our love of baseball and the Yankees.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP
Happ, turning back the clock, turns back the Sox…
I’ll admit that J.A. Happ has surprised me the last couple of starts. I had written the guy off a few weeks ago and I didn’t want him anywhere near a post-season start but I think I am starting to soften on that position. His terrific performance yesterday, holding the Boston Red Sox to two hits and no runs over 6 1/3 innings, was an illustration why the Yankees re-signed Happ in the off-season and not Lance Lynn. Behind his latest great start, the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 5-1, to even the four-game series with two to play.
Photo Credit: AP
Happ has historically been a good pitcher against the Red Sox which, as we know, is why the Yankees acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays last summer. He may not be facing Boston this post-season but this is exactly the Happ we need to show up for the big games in a few weeks.
It’s great that both Happ and James Paxton are rounding into form at the right time. The Tampa Bay Rays, currently 8 1/2 games back, are on fire right now. The Rays have won 9 of their last 10 games, and one of their top injured pitchers, Tyler Glasnow, was activated today to start later this afternoon. With last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Blake Snell, nearing his return from the Injured List, the Rays are getting reinforcements at exactly the right time for them. I don’t expect the Yankees to blow a 8 1/2 game lead but conversely, the Rays do not appear to be going away.
Fortunately, for the Yankees, they’ll be getting some reinforcements with Luis Severino and Dellin Betances in the not-so-distant future. I am not sure how Sevy will used, but just having him on the pitching staff will be significant. Early on, it appeared he’d probably be used as either an opener or out of the bullpen, but lately, there appears to be some optimism he can start. Regardless of how Manager Aaron Boone decides to deploy him, the Yankees are a better team with Sevy on the active roster.
Severino could make his 2019 season debut soon. After Sevy’s second rehab start for the Trenton Thunder (AA) on Friday, Boone told The New York Post, “Overall, it was pretty successful. We’ll talk about whether one more (rehab start) is beneficial or [if he will] come with us.”
|Photo Credit: Staton Rabin, AP|
Betances needs more time in the minors before he’s ready but, if all goes well, we should see him within the next few weeks. A pending free agent, Betances has much to prove to ensure a big pay day after the season. Not that I think Betances needs added incentive to pitch well for the Yankees but it can’t hurt.
A setback by Aaron Hicks has seemed to stall any hopes he’ll be able to help the team anytime soon. Aaron Boone said yesterday that “He’s not feeling quite right.” It’s unfortunate but at least the Yankees have a reinvigorated Brett Gardner and the surprisingly successful Mike Tauchman to provide the necessary coverage in center field.
Now if we could just get Giancarlo Stanton back, all would be good on this roster. Yes, I want Stanton in big moments next month. Regardless of how other guys are playing, Stanton remains a huge threat and I think he’ll have his defining Yankee moment next month. And no, it won’t be swinging and missing at a low outside pitch. This guy remains a game-changer with one swing of his bat.
|Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images|
Was there really a report this week that the long-forgotten Jacoby Ellsbury has begun indoor activities? Now there’s a guy I never expect to wear the Pinstripes again. If he reaches full health after several years of inactivity, I think the Yankees should just cut bait and eat the remainder of his contract. There’s no scenario I want to see Ellsbury take a roster spot over more deserving guys. Troy Tulowitzski proved how effective an aging veteran can be after missing a few seasons. I wouldn’t expect any better from Ellsbury. At least Tulo showed some heart and still failed. There’s no apparent evidence Ellsbury has any heart.
The season is over for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The Tampa Bay Rays were able to grab scoreboard with their Triple A affiliate, the Durham Bulls. The Bulls swept the RailRiders in the opening round of the International League’s Governor’s Cup playoffs, pounding the RailRiders, 17-2, in Game 3 last night. I’m sure this how the Rays envision their future against the Yankees, as early as this October. Hopefully the big league team fares better against the Rays.
RailRiders reliever Ben Heller is expected to join the Yankees later today. Since he is not currently on the active Major League roster (60-day IL), he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster before he can join the team. Personally, I’d cut Ryan Dull who has no future with this team beyond 2019. Heller has been my dark-horse favorite for a role in the bullpen as he further distances himself from last year’s Tommy John surgery. I like the guy and I think he can be an effective arm among the quality relievers currently in the Yankees’ bullpen (unlike the much-travelled Dull). Heller was the only effective pitcher in yesterday’s blow-out loss to the Bulls with two innings of hitless/scoreless relief, a walk, and five strikeouts.
Everyone expects Deivi Garcia to get the call but I don’t think he’s ready. His line yesterday against the Bulls was very forgettable. One inning, two hits (including a homer), four walks, and five runs. Bring the 20-year-old to Spring Training, but I wouldn’t call him up now. I am not basing that on yesterday’s performance but rather his overall time at Triple A. He finished 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and 5.77 FIP. He did have 45 strikeouts in 40.0 innings, but issued 20 free passes and hit four batters. I know the Yankees have a seemingly comfortable lead in the AL East but the team is still battling for best record in the AL (currently tied with the Houston Astros at 93-50). Every game matters. I think Garcia will have a long Major League career but let’s pump the brakes until he is truly ready.
Getting back to the Boston Red Sox, their season hangs on the balance. After last night’s loss, they are 7 games out in the AL Wild Card hunt. The Rays and the Oakland A’s hold the top two spots, with the Cleveland Indians hanging in, 1 1/2 games back. With just 20 games to play, the Red Sox literally need two of the three teams ahead of them to collapse. Maybe the Indians fade, but I don’t see the Rays or the A’s relinquishing their current positions. It will be a fun day when I hear the Red Sox have been eliminated from playoff contention. Until then, regardless of the odds, they have a chance. Hopefully the Yanks can take the next two games from Boston to help drive a few nails into their coffin.
Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP
Don’t look now but the Atlanta Braves could be making a move for the best record in Major League Baseball. All season, everyone has talked about how the Los Angeles Dodgers have run away with the NL but suddenly they have the Braves nipping at their heels. Entering play today, the Dodgers are 92-52 after losing two in a row to the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Braves, who have won 9 consecutive games, are 89-54. They are within striking distance of Yankees, Astros and Dodgers for MLB’s best record. They say the playoffs are not about the best team but the team that gets hot at the right moment. At this point, you’d have to say that the Rays and Braves are Baseball’s hottest teams. Much can change between now and October, but these two teams are intent on making noise in the coming weeks. Time for Team Pinstripes to put ‘the pedal to the metal’.
The Yankees have announced a few moves today but none featured Ben Heller. I remain optimistic he’ll get the call, but here’s the day’s transaction per the Yankees:
- Reinstated Gio Urshela from the 10-day IL
- Returned Thairo Estrada from rehab and reinstated him from the 10-day IL
- Recalled Kyle Higashioka and Breyvic Valera from the RailRiders
I am glad to see Urshela back on the field. DJ LeMahieu does a great job at third, but having flexibility with him, helps the team. These moves were simple paper transactions, whereas, Heller will require some maneuvering so perhaps there will be more transactions announced later today. For Heller’s sake, I hope so.
|Photo Credit: Rich Gagnon, AP|
I was surprised to see former Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda receive a 60-game ban yesterday for taking a diuretic. Pineda, who has been the Twins’ best pitcher the last few weeks, said in a statement that he took an over-the-counter medication to help control his weight, but it contained hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic that can mask other substances. The ban was initially 80 games, but Pineda was able to get it reduced to 60 games on appeal after making a compelling case he was not attempting to mask performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t think Pineda had an intent to deceive but it’s an unfortunate situation for the one-time Yank and it certainly hurts Minnesota’s chances for October success.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP|
Exam against top AL Wild Card challenger not going well…
Just when I was starting to feel good about the Yankees again after the recent three-game sweep by the A’s in Oakland, the Yankees get clobbered by the A’s again in the Bronx, falling 8-2 on Friday night. I was hoping the Yankees would sweep the A’s as payback but it was not to be. Now, I can only hope the Yankees take two of three.
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP|
I know, it’s not the end of the World. The Yankees haven’t been ousted from the playoffs. They haven’t lost their grip on the AL East. They still hold the best record in the AL East (88-48), tied with the Houston Astros, and the teams share the best record in MLB overall, with the Los Angeles Dodgers (88-49) a 1/2 game back. They won five of six games on the road in Los Angeles and Seattle. The Tampa Bay Rays, despite their win last night over the Wild Card leading Cleveland Indians, remain 10 games behind the AL East leaders.
I keep hearing people say the Yankees are better than the A’s and they’ll beat Oakland when it matters in October. Maybe so, but a few wins now would be much appreciated. The A’s are getting into the Yankees’ heads and it’s time to make a statement. Hopefully, the statement is made today with 17-game winner Domingo German taking the mound. Homer “Freakin’” Bailey will get the chance to see if he can dominate the Yankees in two consecutive games for the A’s. Hopefully he’ll be exposed for the fraud he is, and he’ll see multiple pitches deposited into the outfield bleachers later today.
I don’t know what to think about CC Sabathia. I know some on Social Media were declaring the end of the road for the future Hall of Famer when he was pulled after three innings due to pain in the troublesome right knee. He apparently re-aggravated the knee issue last weekend in Los Angeles while batting. Maybe it’s premature to declare it the end, but the days are numbered and any extended time on the Injured List at this point would make it very hard for a comeback. I think we’ll see Sabathia again in a few weeks (he was placed on the 10-day Injured List today) but unfortunately it does not excite me.
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP|
I’d love for Sabathia to have the tremendous walk off the field moment like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera before him, but sadly, there’s a chance it does not happen. With a 5-8 record, 4.93 ERA and 5.97 FIP in 100 1/3 innings pitched, it is unlikely Sabathia will play a meaningful role in October even if they can solve the pain in his knee.
I wasn’t surprised when the Yankees placed third baseman Gio Urshela on the 10-day Injured List on Friday in order to activate first baseman Luke Voit. With the bothersome groin injury, Urshela was going to need a few days off at the very least. I had thought the Yankees might want until tomorrow, when rosters expand, to activate Voit but once Urshula was pulled from the final game in Seattle, it seemed that a trip to the Injured List was inevitable. Frankly, I like it because it forces Urshela to rest and recover. We need him at full strength in a month so I’d rather play it very cautious with him now. Manager Aaron Boone said as much yesterday, “…just the time of year it is, he’s a little banged up anyway, so it’s probably the best thing for him and for us to do this now and make sure this doesn’t become a lingering issue.” Agreed. Third base is in good hands with DJ LeMahieu so I am not worried. Still, the placement of Urshela on the Injured List gave the Yankees the Major League record for most players added to the list in a single season…not exactly a record that I held aspirations for.
With the growing questions about CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ, I am getting a little excited for the returns of Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino. I always temper my expectations for Monty because he’s trying to come back from Tommy John surgery (I don’t expect him to be at his best until 2020) and he’s never been more than a back end of the rotation type of starter but that’s exactly what the Yankees could use right now. I doubt he’ll start any games for the Yankees this late in the year, but he can provide a couple of effective innings here and there when he is potentially ready to activated within the next few weeks. Same with Luis Severino, although he retains his ace status. Might not be stretched out enough to start, but he’ll be fire out of the bullpen and I mean that in a great, non-Tyler Clippard, kind of way. Dellin Betances is also moving closer to a return so if the Yankees get all three of these guys back by mid-September, life will truly be good. I’ll gladly buy into the claims that their returns compensate for the failure to add at the trading deadline. Add in the returns of Edwin Encarnacion and Giancarlo Stanton next month and I’ll be feeling good about the team’s chances in October. The playoffs are a crap shoot anyway, so no team is unbeatable. Not the Astros, not the Dodgers, and contrary to current illusion, not the A’s.
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I’ve been a critic of Clint Frazier and I had fully expected him to be dealt at the trading deadline, but I am looking forward to his promotion to the Major League roster, most likely tomorrow when rosters expand to 40 men for the final time (next year, the cap will be 28 on September 1st). I am not sure how much Frazier will play but I do think he has worked hard on his defense and is deserving of another opportunity to prove himself. Maybe he just becomes an observer with a great view from the bench, but I’d love to see him excel when he does get the chance to play the field. I am also looking forward to the Major League debut of temporary reliever Deivi Garcia. Watching Cory Gearrin pitch last night, I couldn’t help but think how much more I would have valued Garcia in that spot. Maybe he’s not ready for MLB hitters yet but we’ll soon find out. Everyone has to be a MLB beginner at some point in their careers.
As much as I would love to declare the Boston Red Sox are dead, the fact is they are not. The Red Sox have won three games in a row, including a 15-inning thriller last night against the Angels in Anaheim, and with a record of 73-62, they are just 5 1/2 games out of the Wild Card chase.
|Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, AP|
It’s tough to make up those games with just a month left but it’s not impossible. Until Boston is mathematically eliminated, I will not dance on their grave. I continue to hold some fear of the team despite their lackluster 2019 season. They remain a dangerous team that could do damage in a short series, even with their pitching limitations. I expect the Red Sox to be ready to play when the Yankees go to Fenway Park for a four-game series starting next Friday. Boston’s season might depend on those games so no doubt they’ll be playing like a wounded dog. A sweep by the Yankees or losing three of four could be a death knell for them.
It was horrifying this week to learn about the tragedy that befell Tampa Bay Rays prospect Blake Bivens. His wife, young infant son, and mother-in-law were killed in a triple murder on Tuesday by his wife’s 18-year-old brother. I hadn’t heard the news until Bivens made his social media post in the aftermath of the slayings.
There have been so many incidents of senseless tragedy and loss of life this year. I am sickened by all of it, and have a very heavy heart for Blake Bivens. I cannot imagine anything worse that losing the loves of your life in such an awful way. I hope he can find comfort in the coming days, weeks and years, but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll ever be able to overcome this. I can only hope that he is able to find some peace and the ability to move forward. So very sad.
As always, Go Yankees!
|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.
|Photo Credit: Frank Augstein, AP|
Yankees-Red Sox Live from Across the Pond…
The title is the first line from the song by The Clash but it seems appropriate on this Saturday morning.
I am unsure of how I feel about the London Series that begins in a few hours in London. The Yankees were playing so well and had just completed a highly successful home stand (winning 9 of 10 games). Then, two days of nothing while the Yankees made their way to London and participation in subsequent events upon their arrival. The Tampa Bay Rays had a chance to make up a game on the Yankees over the last two days but fortunately their loss to the Texas Rangers last night dropped them back to 7 games behind the Yankees. The Yankees should go into the All-Star Break holding the lead in the AL East but I hope the disruptive travel schedule doesn’t sidetrack momentum.
The next 8 games, including these two in jolly ol’ England, are not exactly a cake-walk. The Boston Red Sox may be trailing the Yankees by 9 games, but they are still the defending World Series champions and they have the talent to make a second half run despite their World Series hangover. I am not sure what is going on over in Queens but even at their worst, the New York Mets, the Yankees’ next opponent, always seem to bring their “A” game against the Yankees in the fight for the intra-city championship. Then, the Yankees conclude the first half with four games in St Petersburg, FL against the second place Tampa Bay Rays. I really dislike that warehouse of a stadium and all those empty seats yet it won’t stop the Rays from being a thorn in the Yankees’ side.
But for now, the focus is the Boston Red Sox. With Masahiro Tanaka set to take the mound later today, I am a little worried that the dimensions of London Stadium (330’ from home plate to the foul poles and 385’ to center field with 16’ fence) will cause Tanaka to give up more than just his usual obligatory home run. Of course, Boston pitching is faced with the same dilemma and last time I heard, the Yankees have a few mashers in their lineup even with Giancarlo Stanton sidelined. I’ve heard the air is heavier, but I guess we’ll see whether or not these games turn into slugfests like hot summer nights at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado.
If the Yankees can sweep the two-game series, the Red Sox will be 11 games behind in the AL East, making it much harder for them to overcome in the second half for their defense of the AL East championship. At the very least, I’d like to see the Yankees win at least one of two before they return stateside. A sweep by the Red Sox would be awful and no doubt our social media feeds would be filled with Jared Carrabis tweets.
I really wish people would lay off Giancarlo Stanton. I’ve seen so much hate directed at him for his latest injury that has potentially sidelined him until August. Some people are already calling his contract the worst in Yankees’ history. Did everyone forget that Stanton slugged 38 home runs and drove in 100 runs last year when Aaron Judge missed so much time, helping the team win 100 games? Injuries happen. It sucks but it is not Stanton’s fault that he is currently unable to play. I guess if he would just strike out every bat, he’d save his body from harm. Get real. The guy is a great player and he’ll be back. This is not Jacoby Ellsbury revisited.
Like many, I was surprised the Yankees called up outfielder Mike Tauchman to replace Stanton on the roster instead of Clint Frazier. I get that you’d prefer to have Tauchman’s ability to play all three outfield spots with above average defense, while Frazier is a roller coaster with the glove. The Yankees used the defensive advantage as the reason Tauchman was called up, but that’s the easy answer. There seems to be more at play. Maybe it’s nothing and the Yankees just wanted Frazier to continue playing every day with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. I guess , as the saying goes, time will tell as it often does. The Yankees would be foolish to trade Frazier for a “rental” and they’ve indicated they will not. I also have a hard time believing they’d trade him to an AL East rival. It appears the relationship between Frazier and the Yankees is fractured but honestly we don’t really know. Nobody has given us a seat at the table with Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and other Yankees brass so we don’t know what they are thinking.
Personally, I’d really like for Frazier to be the starting left fielder in 2020. Brett Gardner has been a great Yankee and we’ve been saying it for several seasons now, but he should really be no more than a fourth outfielder at this stage of his career. If Gardner wants to continue his career beyond this season, I have doubts it will be in Pinstripes. I do not expect Edwin Encarnacion to return next season. I think the Yankees will pay the $5 million buyout versus paying the $20 million salary. The Yankees, after all, have to save those pennies to make a run at Gerrit Cole in the off-season. So, Giancarlo Stanton will move back into the full-time DH slot. I hopeful that the Yankees and Frazier can repair their relationship for the good of the organization. Or if the relationship is not broken, they can change the perception that it is.
If the Detroit Tigers are leading off by asking for Gleyber Torres in trade talks for lefty Matthew Boyd, I’d call it game over. On one hand, if I was the Tigers GM, I’d shoot for the moon too and then work my way back down to reality. On the other hand, if the Tigers remain steadfast in their demand for a King’s Ransom, then the Yankees should pursue other options. It’s great the Yankees could have Luis Severino back in the second half, but there’s no denying they need more than just the returns of Severino and Domingo German to make a deep run into October. We continually hear the names of Madison Bumgarner, Max Scherzer, Marcus Stroman, and lately, Luis Castillo, but inevitably, Brian Cashman will make a move that we never saw coming. I don’t really want to lose top prospects but Casey Stern’s line of “Prospects are Cool, Parades are Cooler” is so true. If the move(s) Brian Cashman makes over the next four weeks pay off in October, it will have all been worth it.
I thought it was funny this week when the Chicago White Sox designated first baseman Yonder Alonso for assignment. Not funny for Alonso, but given the fact it was perceived the White Sox had acquired Alonso last off-season to give them an edge to sign Alonso’s brother-in-law, Manny Machado, the situation is a little humorous. Alonso’s performance (slash line of .178/.275/.301 with 7 homers and 27 RBIs) led to the move, but this would have been very awkward had Machado signed with Chicago. I hope Alonso can rebound. He’s a former Padre so perhaps he can find his way back to San Diego to back up Eric Hosmer and join up with his sister’s hubby.
Congratulations to Gary Sanchez and D.J. LeMahieu for winning the votes as starters to represent the American League in the All-Star Game at catcher and second base, respectively. Hopefully, the other Yankees in the final voting (Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit and Aaron Judge) can make the All-Star team as backups. Of the three, I feel most strongly about Torres. He should be a fixture at All-Star games for years to come. Not that Judge shouldn’t be too, but Judge has missed too much time this season, in my opinion. I believe All-Star recognition should be about performance this year and not be based on past performance or simply be a popularity contest.
As great as LeMahieu has been this year, I read that the majority of his votes came from the Colorado market. I guess you could put me in that category since I live in Denver even though I am not a Rockies fan. My friends who are Rockies fans absolutely hate me talking about how great LeMahieu is. I can’t help his play every game excites me. I don’t care what anybody says…the quiet infielder has been the greatest free agent signing of last off-season. I truly hope LeMahieu is as excited to be Yankee as we are that he is.
|Photo Credit: Noah K Murray, USA TODAY Sports|
As always, Go Yankees!
|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!
|Photo Credit: Jim Davis-The Boston Globe|
First Tune-up Between the AL East Elite…
Finally, the Yankees are playing today! It might just be a meaningless exhibition game and the biggest of the team’s stars stayed behind in Tampa, but the Yankees take the field later today (1 pm EST) at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL. Woohoo! Let’s get this party started!
Here are the scheduled lineups for today’s game.
CF Aaron Hicks
2B Gleyber Torres
3B Miguel Andujar
1B Greg Bird
LF Clint Frazier
DH Mike Ford
C Kyle Higashioka
SS Tyler Wade
RF Matt Lipka
SP Nestor Cortes, Jr
C Sandy Leon
DH Rafael Devers
CF Rusney Castillo
RF Bryce Brentz
3B Michael Chavis
2B Tzu-Wei Lin
1B Josh Ockimey
SS C.J Chatham
SP Josh A. Smith
Who will be the next Yankees Captain? I’ve seen more than a few people say that Aaron Judge needs to win a few championships before he is appointed as the next Captain. Why? I think the guy is the clear leader of this team and he sets the standard both on and off the field. If you are a proponent for the role of a Captain, there is no one more deserving than Judge.
|Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports|
When Thurman Munson was named the Yankees Captain in 1976, it was the first captain of the team since Lou Gehrig. At the time, the Yankees had not won a championship during Munson’s tenure with the team. They won the 1976 American League Championship in his first year as Captain but fell to the Cincinnati Reds in a four-game sweep in the World Series despite Captain Munson’s heroic efforts. Under Munson’s leadership, the Yankees won the next two World Series in 1977 and 1978. His captaincy was ended prematurely with his tragic death on August 2, 1979.
The next Captains were products of those 1977-78 World Champions. Graig Nettles held the title from 1982 until March 1984 when he was traded to the San Diego Padres. Willie Randolph and Ron Guidry served as Co-Captains from 1986 to 1988. Randolph left the Yankees in December 1988 through free agency, signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Guidry retired.
Don Mattingly, with no championships on his resume, was appointed the Captain in 1991 and he held it until his retirement following the 1995 season after the disappointing loss to Randy Johnson and the Seattle Mariners in the playoffs. Still, he helped usher in the new era of Yankees baseball which collected multiple championships in the late 1990’s and 2000.
When Derek Jeter was appointed Captain in 2003, he held four championships. This was more than any of his predecessors since Lou Gehrig who had four under his belt at the time of his appointment in 1935.
I guess you could argue the Yankees don’t need a Captain. I think it is a good honorary role that has served the Yankees well over the years. I really wish Mattingly could have enjoyed winning a World Series in New York but his back was not cooperative. Yet, I still view Mattingly as a champion even if he didn’t get the ring.
I do know that Aaron Judge has earned the right to stand in the same conversation with the previous Captains. He sets the example for his teammates and he represents the Yankees as well as anyone has since Jeter retired. He is worthy of being the Captain and probably for the most part he is currently recognized as the team’s unofficial Captain. Maybe eventually the honor will come to Judge but I believe it should happen sooner rather than later. He’s a great Yankee despite his youth. If the Yankees win the World Series in the next couple of years, there’s no doubt Judge will be at the forefront, leading the charge.
Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported yesterday that among his various positions on the field, D.J. LeMahieu could also serve as the backup first baseman. This leads to the conclusion that either Luke Voit or Greg Bird will head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the start of the season depending upon who wins the job this Spring. It seems odd to put such a great defensive middle infielder at first base, but he’s athletic enough to make the transition. Still, it seems to carry risk since LeMahieu has only played four games in first base in his Major League career with no appearances there since 2014. I had really wanted someone who could play both left field and first base which is why I liked Marwin Gonzalez so much. I think the Minnesota Twins grabbed a good player at a decent price when they signed Gonzalez this week for two years at $21 million ($3 million less than the Yankees are paying LeMahieu over the same time frame). But I do recognize that if LeMahieu can successfully add first base to accompany his skills at second and third bases, it helps to potentially open the door for Clint Frazier which is not a bad thing if Frazier has a good Spring.
I remain concerned about going into the season with Brett Gardner as the starting left fielder. If Aaron Hicks gets hurt, then Gardy is the starting center fielder. This seems like such a huge risk to me. I am not trying to diminish what Gardy has meant to the Yankees but he seems best suited for part-time duty as the team’s fourth outfielder at this stage of his career. Frazier seems ticketed for Triple A given how much time he lost last year, but I really hope he is ready soon. Meanwhile, we really need Brett Gardner to have a career renaissance. I think the 2019 Yankees are an improved team over the one that lost to the Boston Red Sox last October, but I am concerned about how left field will play out. Giancarlo Stanton made 72 starts in the outfield last year. As it stands, he’ll need to make more this season. The team’s physical trainers had better take special care of the big guy. We really need him to stay healthy.
Today’s game will be a battle of no-names after the first couple of innings but at least baseball is here. Beating the Red Sox under any circumstances always feels good. Bring home the “W”, guys!
As always, Go Yankees!
One of America’s Best MLB Writers Gone Too Soon…
I know this is a Yankees blog but we have to give a hat tip to the late Nick Cafardo, a baseball columnist for The Boston Globe. Cafardo died yesterday of an embolism at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida while covering Red Sox Spring Training. He was not scheduled to work yet there he was covering the game he loved.
Although I did not know Cafardo personally, I am very heartbroken over his passing. Every weekend, I made time in my day to read his Sunday Baseball Notes. For me, it was required reading. Cafardo may have been a lifelong Red Sox fan but I always felt that he never sugarcoated the Red Sox and he never unfairly discredited the Yankees. If the term ‘Yankees Suck’ was part of his vocabulary, it never appeared in any written form that I saw. I didn’t read the Sunday Baseball Notes column because I wanted insight on the Yankees’ primary rival — I read it because I wanted insight on Major League Baseball through the passionate eyes of a true baseball fan who understood the game better than most. I can count on one hand the number of professional MLB writers I hold in very high regard but Cafardo was one. Through so many of his colleagues, a common theme of Cafardo’s superior professionalism and high value of his friendship resonates. I know Boston is hurting over his loss, but his impact reached a Nation (United States, not just the RSN) and perhaps beyond.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Nick Carfardo, 62, began his employment with the Globe in 1989. Prior to joining the Globe, he worked for The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, MA. He covered the Red Sox until 2001 when he switched to the NFL’s New England Patriots. It coincided with the first Super Bowl Championship for Head Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady. Cafardo has been back on the baseball beat for the last 15 years. I am not sure when I first started reading Cafardo’s work, or how I even became aware of him, but he’s been a staple for me for many years. I appreciated and valued his insight as told through an objective and impartial lens.
The Red Sox released the following statement:
We are saddened by the sudden loss of long-time baseball reporter, Nick Cafardo. For over three decades, Nick was a fixture at Fenway Park and throughout ballparks across the country. His coverage was as consistent as the game itself. His opinions on the Red Sox and the most pressing issues facing Major League Baseball were a constant, particularly through the prominent Sunday baseball notes column in the Boston Globe.
The Cafardo family will always be a part of the Boston baseball family, and the Red Sox will honor Nicks’ legacy at the appropriate time.
Boston mayor Marty Walsh probably said it best, “Nick Cafardo was a man who talent, enthusiasm, and contribution to Boston’s sports coverage was incomparable and something that I always enjoyed reading”. Me too, Marty. Even though I didn’t know him outside of his words, there’s a huge void in my life today. I am sure many feel the same way.
Cafardo is survived by his wife, Leeanne, and two children, Emilee and Ben. Ben is a communications director for ESPN.
He will be missed.
As for the Yankees, the first Spring Game is nearly here. The Yankees travel to Fort Myers to play the Red Sox tomorrow. Nestor Cortes, a non-roster invitee, gets the opening nod to start the game. Cortes, attending his first Yankees MLB Camp, was wearing a Baltimore Orioles spring jersey this time last year as a Rule 5 Draft selection. I remember a few of his starts last March for Baltimore and I am excited that he’ll be doing it for the Yankees this Spring. I know he’s not a top prospect but I’ve always liked the lefty. I doubt he ever gets an opportunity in the Bronx unless injuries force the Yankees’ hand. Most likely, he’ll need to go to another team to get his shot. Hopefully with his performance tomorrow and over the next few weeks, he can open some eyes even if they don’t belong to Yankee scouts.
Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com reported that Miguel Andujar, Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks, and Gleyber Torres will be making the trip to JetBlue Park. It’s also been reported that Clint Frazier, Kyle Higashioka and Estevan Florial will be there. Otherwise, I expect to see the lower end of the 40-man roster and the non-roster invitees on the field in the first meeting of the two AL East Superpowers. Go Trey Amburgey, Phillip Diehl and Billy Burns! Despite who may or may not be on the field for the Yankees, I know I’ll be watching and look forward to the first organized, albeit unofficial, game of the year for America’s best team (the visitors, not the home team). The soon-to-be dethroned World Champions play their first game today against Northeastern University.
I know it’s way too early to get excited but I loved seeing that Adam Ottavino struck out the four batters he faced yesterday, including Tyler Wade twice. Afterwards, Wade said, “Think about how nasty he is in highlights. Then times that by a lot.” I had wanted the Yankees to re-sign David Robertson but I’ve never once been disappointed that they signed Otto (and re-signed Zack Britton) instead of bringing back D-Rob. I think Otto is going to be one of my favorite relievers this year. I am glad he’s a Yankee.
Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky-The Associated Press
Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com had a nice column today about Miguel Andujar. In it, he quotes Willie Randolph saying, “I think he (Andujar) can be above average at third base.” Randolph added, “Listen, if you give me average defense, I’ll take that because the way he can hit. I think he’s going to be a batting champion one day.” Nice job by Randy and good read for Andujar naysayers. I know that I am hopeful we’ll be seeing Andujar dancing at third base this year.
As always, Go Yankees!
Shortage: Available Yankee Jersey Numbers…
The Yankees announced a few number assignments and reassignments yesterday so I thought I’d take the liberty of putting all the numbers together on one list.
I thought it was interesting that Greg Bird’s number is shared with Billy Burns, a non-roster invitee, assuming the information on the Yankees website is correct. There are a few other duplications but Bird stood out the most. I don’t think it means anything but it is a message to Bird that he had better bring his “A” game to Spring Training if he intends to keep the number.
Not that it is our concern but I worry about how many numbers will be available a hundred or two hundred years down the road. Personally, I think they should make it mandatory for coaches to wear numbers in the eighties to free up the lower numbers for players. Phil Nevin and I seem to be in agreement on this topic although his choice of numbers makes me think of Dallas Cowboys’ greats Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin (even though I am not a Cowboys fan).
I am assuming 35 is out of circulation for Mike Mussina due to his recent induction into the MLB Hall of Fame. The number has been assigned out since Moose’s retirement, primarily held by Michael Pineda during his stay. I think Phil Nevin wore it last year after he gave up 53 to Zach Britton. But there are other retired numbers that were worn by subsequent players, like Graig Nettles with 9 or Chris Chambliss with 10, before they were taken out of circulation. A couple of other numbers are open but not in circulation (13 for Alex Rodriguez and 21 for Paul O’Neill). If, by chance, Manny Machado were to become a Yankee (unlikely), it would be interesting to see if A-Rod would consent to giving up his number. I think he would but the way the market is playing out, we may never know.
Frankly, I am not a big fan of retired numbers. I think it becomes more of a popularity contest and numbers get retired for good, not great, players when retiring numbers should be reserved for those truly special once-in-a-lifetime players like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig.
|0||Adam Ottavino, LHP||50||Reggie Willits, First Base Coach|
|1||Billy Martin||51||Bernie Williams|
|2||Derek Jeter||52||CC Sabathia, LHP|
|3||Babe Ruth||53||Zach Britton, LHP|
|4||Lou Gehrig||54||Aroldis Chapman, LHP|
|5||Joe DiMaggio||55||Rex Brothers, LHP (NRI)|
|6||Joe Torre||56||Jonathan Holder, RHP|
|7||Mickey Mantle||57||Chad Green, RHP|
|58||Larry Rothschild, Pitching Coach|
|9||Roger Maris||59||Josh Bard, Bench Coach|
|10||Phil Rizzuto||60||Mike Harkey, Bullpen Coach|
|11||Brett Gardner, LF||61||Ben Heller, RHP|
|12||Troy Tulowitzki, SS||62||Danny Coulombe, LHP (NRI)
Marcus Thames, Hitting Coach
|13||Open||63||Domingo German, RHP
P.J. Pilittere, Asst Hitting Coach
|14||Tyler Wade, 2B/SS||64||Carlos Mendoza, QC Coach/Infield Instructor|
|15||Thurman Munson||65||James Paxton, LHP|
|16||Whitey Ford||66||Kyle Higashioka, C|
|17||Aaron Boone, Manager||67||Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP|
|18||Didi Gregorius, SS||68||Dellin Betances, RHP|
|19||Masahiro Tanaka, RHP||69||No Comment|
|20||Jorge Posada||70||Giovanny Urshela, 3B (NRI)|
|21||Open||71||Stephen Tarpley, LHP|
|22||Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||72||Kyle Holder, SS (NRI)|
|24||Gary Sanchez, C||74||Joe Harvey, RHP|
|25||Gleyber Torres, 2B||75||David Hale, RHP (NRI)|
|26||DJ LeMahieu, 2B||76||Nestor Cortes, Jr, LHP (NRI)|
|27||Giancarlo Stanton, DH/OF||77||Clint Frazier, LF|
|28||Austin Romine, C||78||Kellin Deglan, C (NRI)|
|29||Open||79||Francisco Diaz, C (NRI)|
|30||Ryan Lavarnway, C (NRI)||80||Jorge Saez, C (NRI)|
|31||Aaron Hicks, CF||81||Open|
|33||Greg Bird, 1B
Billy Burns, OF (NRI)
|34||J.A. Happ, LHP||84||Brady Lail, RHP (NRI)|
|35||Open||85||Luis Cessa, RHP|
|36||Danny Farquhar, RHP (NRI)||86||Domingo Acevedo, RHP|
|37||Casey Stengel||87||Albert Abreu, RHP|
|38||Open||88||Phil Nevin, Third Base Coach|
|39||Drew Hutchison, RHP (NRI)||89||Open|
|40||Luis Severino, RHP||90||Thairo Estrada, 2B/SS|
|41||Miguel Andujar, 3B||91||Cale Coshow, LHP (NRI)|
|92||Estevan Florial, CF (NRI)|
|43||Chance Adams, RHP||93||Michael King, RHP (NRI)|
|44||Reggie Jackson||94||Trey Amburgey, OF (NRI)|
|45||Luke Voit, 1B||95||Mike Ford, 1B (NRI)|
|46||Andy Pettitte||96||Matt Lipka, OF (NRI)|
|47||Jordan Montgomery, LHP||97||Open|
|48||Tommy Kahnle, RHP||98||Raynel Espinal, RHP (NRI)|
|49||Ron Guidry||99||Aaron Judge, RF|
Bold/Italicized = Retired Numbers
NRI = Non-Roster Invitee
The Boston Red Sox seem to be scavenger hunting for bullpen help. In the last couple of days, they’ve added RHP Brian Ellington and LHP Dan Runzler. Who? Exactly…
The ping pong match between the Chicago Cubs and White Sox with former Yankees prospect LHP Ian Clarkin has finally come to an end. One team would place the player on waivers and the other would claim him. It started when the White Sox placed him on waivers this off-season, claimed by the Cubs, waivers and claimed by the White Sox, waivers and reclaimed by the Cubs. He was placed on waivers again by the Cubs but went unclaimed and was sent outright yesterday to Triple A Iowa. I’ve always liked Clarkin and hope he can find success in Chicago (one park or the other). I would love to see Clarkin back in the Yankees organization but not at the expense of a 40-man roster spot.
It is Groundhog’s Day but this is one day that I’d never want to repeat. This off-season has been brutal and I would not want to extend it one more day. February 13th, when pitchers and catchers report, cannot get here fast enough. The first workout for the pitchers and catchers will be Valentine’s Day, while the position players must show up by Monday, February 18th. Full squad workout the next day, and then the first exhibition game on Saturday, February 23rd when the Yankees travel to Fort Myers, FL to play the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park.
I am so ready to talk about the players on the field and not the hypotheticals about certain 26-year-old free agent superstars. Soon, very soon…
As always, Go Yankees!
Equates to VICTORY for Julia, not me…
I am writing this as a result of a lost bet with a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan named Julia (@werbiefitz). During the recent World Series, I took the side of my favorite National League team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Julia stayed with the team she has stood with since her childhood, the Boston Red Sox. The loser of the bet (which turned out to be me) was forced to read a book chosen by the winner. Upon completion of reading the book, the loser was required to write an essay about the ten things they learned from the book. Not a book review, that wasn’t really the point of the exercise, but rather how did the book affect you.
The Red Sox won the 2018 World Series in five games to cap an incredible season which saw the team win a franchise high 108 games during the regular season. It represented the fourth World Series Championship for Julia since the Curse of the Bambino was broken in 2004. For me, it was a tough post-season. My favorite team, the New York Yankees, won 100 games but were eliminated in the ALDS by the Red Sox. Then, my favorite NL team gave me second life. A renewed opportunity to take down the mighty Red Sox. It was not meant to be and I suffered two heart-breaking series losses to Boston in the same October. Victory to Julia, and some book reading and an essay for me. I also had to change my FaceBook cover photo to one showing the Red Sox celebration for one week upon conclusion of the World Series.
The book Julia chose for me was Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant. At first glance, it would be easy to find the negatives in the book about the city of Boston and the Red Sox franchise, but admittedly, I found this a story of redemption.
I was shocked almost from the start when I found out the Red Sox had the first opportunity in Major League Baseball to sign the great Jackie Robinson on April 16, 1945 but passed due in large part to racism that existed within the fabric of the franchise. I didn’t know former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey but I do know that he hired his drinking buddies to hold key executive positions within the franchise and their racist beliefs prevented potential Red Sox teams that could have featured Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Ted Williams in the same lineup. It’s scary to think what the trio would have been capable of together. They certainly would have had a say in the great Yankees Dynasty of the 1950’s.
I qualify this book as focused on the Red Sox but to believe that racism did not occur within the halls of other MLB organizations, including the New York Yankees, would be very wrong. Even the Dodgers organization, as the first team to feature a black player on its roster in 1947, was later marred by the racist words of their former General Manager, Al Campanis, who was fired in 1987. The book briefly mentioned Elston Howard, who was the first and sadly only black player on the Yankee rosters for years during the 1950’s. Howard later played for the Red Sox.
Tom Yawkey purchased the Red Sox in 1933. Yawkey had admired Eddie Collins, a former second baseman with the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox, and appointed him as the team’s vice president and general manager when he took over control of the team. Collins had been with the White Sox during the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919 when they threw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds but Collins had been cleared of any wrongdoing. In 1935, Yawkey traded for Washington Nationals shortstop Joe Cronin, developing close friendships with both Collins and Cronin. From basically 1933 through 1958, Collins and/or Cronin controlled all player movement within the Red Sox organization. With these two men, I believe, Yawkey tarnished his legacy. Whether he was racist or not is not really the point, he allowed racism to exist to the detriment of the city and the franchise and that makes him responsible.
After passing on Jackie Robinson in 1945, the Red Sox had a unique opportunity to sign Willie Mays four years later due to an exclusive lease arrangement that existed between a Red Sox affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, and the Negro League’s Black Barons. Cronin, by that time the GM for the Red Sox, had been tipped off about the incredible talents of the 18-year-old Mays and he sent a reluctant and racist scout to Alabama to watch Mays. According to stories, it rained for three days and the scout sent the Red Sox front office a negative review, perhaps without ever laying eyes on the legendary Say Hey Kid. It was another missed opportunity for the Red Sox, although I am sure the New York/San Francisco Giants didn’t mind.
The Red Sox were the last Major League Baseball team to add a black player to its roster. While the rest of the Major League teams were slowly starting to integrate, it would take the Red Sox over a decade before they would finally add a person of color to their team. Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, Jr. was born in Richmond, CA (East Bay near Oakland) in 1935. His brother, Cornell, someone I’ve been aware of since my childhood, was a star defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys. However, I never knew who Pumpsie Green was until reading the book. Fighting through racism within the organization and at the team’s training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, Green believed that he was going to open the 1959 season as the first black player for the Red Sox. At the eleventh hour, one of the noted racists within the Red Sox organization, manager Mike “Pinky” Higgins demoted Green to the minor leagues. Fortunately, it would prove to be a temporary decision. Higgins was fired 73 games into the ’59 season and replaced by Bill Jurges. By that time, Eddie Collins was dead and Joe Cronin had left the Red Sox to become President of the American League. Green finally got the call to join the Red Sox later during the summer and on July 21, 1959, Pumpsie became the first African American player to take the field for the Red Sox when he was inserted as a pinch-runner for Vic Wertz and stayed in the game to play shortstop in Boston’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. After the game, Green wept in the clubhouse. I cannot begin to imagine the emotions he must have felt that day.
On a side note about Pumpsie Green, Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams routinely warmed up with Green before games. It became a superstition for Ted but for Pumpsie, he remembered Williams as one of few who treated him both as a ballplayer and a man. I personally haven’t followed Red Sox history, but the way Williams approached Green gives me newfound respect for the Hall of Famer.
Pitcher Earl Wilson might have been the first African American player for the Red Sox if not for a two-year military commitment. Originally drafted as a catcher, Wilson blossomed as a hard-throwing pitcher and roomed with Pumpsie Green for a time. But for Wilson, the Red Sox years were hard ones. After the ’59 season was over, Tom Yawkey fired Billy Jurges and restored the racist Pinky Higgins as manager. As their careers moved into the early 1960’s, Green’s career was quietly coming to a close (the lack of consistent playing time prevented him from realizing his potential) while Wilson was becoming more prominent. In 1962, Wilson (12-8, 3.90 ERA) threw a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels.
When Yawkey fired Higgins as manager in 1962, Wilson felt Yawkey was finally opening his eyes to what a divisive man Higgins had been. Unfortunately, Yawkey surprised everyone by making Higgins his general manager. Higgins was the GM in June 1965 when the Red Sox traded Earl Wilson to the Detroit Tigers along with Joe Christopher for Don Demeter and Julio Navarro. Wilson won 22 games for the 1967 Tigers, although the Tigers finished a game behind The Impossible Dream Red Sox that year, and he accumulated 338 victories overall for his career. Although Wilson lost Game 3 of the Series, he celebrated a World Series Championship with the Tigers in 1968. It’s sad that a pitcher primed for tremendous MLB success in Boston saw his greatest days in Detroit.
In a twist of irony, Tom Yawkey fired Pinky Higgins as GM on September 16, 1965, the same day Red Sox pitcher Dave Morehead tossed a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. After his firing, while in Louisiana, Higgins drove his car into a group of black highway workers. He killed one man, a white World War II veteran and injured three others. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and sentenced to four years. However, he was paroled after serving only two months in 1969. But just two days after his release, Higgins dropped dead from a heart attack. As Earl Wilson would say while in Detroit when asked to comment on his former manager, “Good things happen to some people”.
I was appalled to learn that The Elks Club, as recently as the 1980’s, condoned racism. The Elks Club in Winter Haven, FL, the site of Red Sox spring training at the time would issue invitations to white players, but not the blacks. Growing up in the Midwest in the 70’s, my step father was an active member of The Elks Club and served as the Exalted Ruler for the local chapter in my hometown in 1978. I was unaware the organization condoned racism and I am deeply saddened to have been connected to such a pitiful organization. I may have been a kid but I feel a responsibility that I should have known better. I only hope that my step-father’s chapter did not practice racism like the Winter Haven chapter did. My mother and step-father have passed away so it is not a discussion I can have with them.
To back up a little, I vividly recall when Jim Rice and Fred Lynn burst onto the Major League scene for Boston in the mid-70’s. They were great players from the start. Living far away in the Midwest, I didn’t see how the players were treated differently in their own city. Jim Rice, backed by his superior talent, had the power to be a major voice for the black community but it wasn’t his personality. He was introspective and to the media, he was unfriendly and considered sullen. I know Rice has gotten into tiffs with Derek Jeter and CC Sabathia over the years for whatever reasons, but I am not trying to indict the man. He was an incredible ball player. In a career spent entirely in Boston, Rice hit 382 home runs and drove in 1,451 runs. His career batting average was a healthy .298 and he had 2,452 hits in a career that spanned from 1974 to 1989. He was an eight-time All Star, AL MVP in the Bucky “F**king” Dent year of 1978, a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, three-time AL home run leader, and two-time AL RBI leader. Yet, his number (14) was not retired by the Red Sox until two days after his Hall of Fame induction in July 2009. No one wore the number after his retirement but still, Rice is among the Red Sox Legends and deserved better treatment. Rice was charitable and a humanitarian. I think he is misunderstood because of his personality and I’d like to think he could have done more to help pave the way for black players in Boston, but there is no denying the man was one of the best in the history of the Red Sox to pick up a glove, bat and ball. Noted baseball columnist Peter Gammons believed history would have been significantly different had Rice taken an active role in voicing his thoughts about the climate and culture of the Red Sox organization. To Rice’s defense, I’ll use this quote from the book’s author: “Had Rice been white, he would have been lauded as a modern-day Gil Hodges: strong, silent, important. Being black, though, meant Rice was moody, arrogant and distant.” These words prove to me that I have absolutely no idea what it was like to walk in Jim Rice’s shoes.
The next great superstar in the Red Sox organization was slugger Mo Vaughn. He was drafted in Rice’s last year in 1989. For an organization that had featured so many outsiders over the years, Vaughn was a New Englander. He was from Norwalk, CT and had frequently visited Boston while growing up. He was hailed as the first local Red Sox star since Carlton Fisk. As a Yankees fan, I despised Vaughn coming to the plate, much like how I’d later feel about David “Big Papi” Ortiz or more recently, Mookie Betts. These men knew/know how to use Fenway Park to their full advantage.
Vaughn was the AL Most Valuable Player in 1995. The city of Boston accepted Vaughn as their own and he was able to transcend the issue of race in his city. Vaughn loved the city of Boston and wanted to spend his entire career there. The GM at the time, Dan Duquette, brought an era of diversity to the Red Sox. He corrected many of the wrongs committed by previous regimes and reconnected with former black players like Tommy Harper, Dave Henderson, Reggie Smith, and Jim Rice. But for all his positives, Duquette had his faults. He had a reputation of being difficult to work with and he frustrated those who worked for him. The relationship between Duquette and Vaughn became irreparable in 1998 when Vaughn was led to believe that he would be offered four-year contract for approximately $42 million (Peter Gammons believed they had reached agreement). Yet, when the offer came, it was only two years for $17 million. Using the media, the Red Sox orchestrated a smear campaign on the popular Vaughn. Vaughn had put together six monster years for the Red Sox, but on November 25, 1998 as a free agent, he left the team to sign a six-year, $80 million contract with the Anaheim Angels. It was a sad day for Boston and for Baseball in general. Vaughn was not a So-Cal kind of guy. He was a New Englander who should have called Fenway Park home for his entire career. I certainly do not feel that Dan Duquette is a racist but this might have been one of the saddest stories while reading the book.
On February 22, 2002, the legacy of Tom Yawkey was ended when John Harrington sold the club to an ownership group led by John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. It brought much needed closure for the Yawkey Era, and it set the Red Sox on a path that has yielded four World Series championships in fourteen years. Before reading the book, I am not sure that I fully understood the huge impact John Henry has had on the Red Sox organization and how he has, through actions and not just words, rebranded the Red Sox organization into an exemplary model of professionalism and class. Well, maybe not for Yankee fans like me, but the current ownership group should be applauded for making a difference.
As Julia pointed out to me, while the history of the Red Sox organization wasn’t always pretty, the other Boston sports franchises were ground-breakers with integration. Willie O’Ree is referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of ice hockey” (the first black player in the NHL). He made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958. Chuck Cooper became the first black player drafted in the NBA when he was selected with the first pick in the second round of the 1950 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. Legendary Celtics coach/executive Red Auerbach put together the NBA’s first all-black starting five in 1964. In the inaugural American Football League draft in 1960, the Boston Patriots selected running back Ron Burton in the first round as their first-ever pick. Rommie Loudd became the AFL’s first black coach when he was named linebackers coach for the Patriots in 1966. Loudd later became the first black top executive in major league sports as the owner of the World Football League’s Florida Blazers in 1974.
There is so much more to the book than I’ve touched on with this short essay. Racism continues to be a big part of our everyday life in 2018 and it must stop. We’ve made some progress, but we are not where we need to be. We live in a current climate of hatred and blame which allows racism to survive. If I have one wish, it is a hope and prayer I live to see the end of racism as we know it. Even this week, there were reports out of the Seattle Mariners organization that their former Director of High Performance, Dr. Lorena Martin, has made allegations of derogatory comments made by GM Jerry DiPoto, Manager Scott Servais, and Director of Player Development Andy McKay with racial and sexist overtones. Maybe it is a case of a disgruntled former employee, but maybe it is not. Where there’s smoke, there’s generally fire. If true, this is unacceptable behavior that cannot be tolerated. I think all of us want a better tomorrow for our children and their children. The work to make it happen starts here. No looking back, the focus should be on now and the future, and how we can help each other be successful and live meaningful, rewarding lives. As they say, none of us are getting out of here alive. We should live these days to the best of our ability and to share love and happiness around the World.
That’s a wrap. While I wish that I had won the bet with Julia, I learned a great deal from the book and hopefully I can be a better person as a result. Enjoy your World Series championship, Julia. Your team earned it. But rest assured, the New York Yankees will be back, stronger than ever in 2019. Until next time…