Tagged: Boston

Sweet Home Yankee Stadium…

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

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

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

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

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

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

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An Unforgettable Day in the Yankees Universe…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank God Sonny Gray will not be pitching.

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

Go Yankees!

Who Wants to Join the Yankees?…

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Trading Deadline May Bring More New Faces…

I am not sure which time is more important today…4 pm Eastern when the Non-Waiver Trading Deadline ends or 7:05 pm Eastern when the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles get after it on the Yankee Stadium turf.  This is always one of my favorite days of the year and there is generally a flurry of activity.  Whether or not our favorite team decides to play remains to be seen but I am sure it will be thrilling to the finish.  Then, let’s go out and beat the Orioles.

Friggin’ Boston won last night, unfortunately.  The Philadelphia Phillies took the Red Sox into extra innings before Blake Swihart won it with a walk-off ground rule double in the bottom of the 13th inning, scoring Eduardo Nunez with the winning run.  So, the Yankees begin play tonight six games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.  Boston also plugged a hole at second base last night when they acquired the hard-nosed Ian Kinsler from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to fill in for the injured Dustin Pedroia.  Thanks for nothing, Billy Eppler.

I was very surprised with yesterday’s moves by the Yankees.  After the dust settled, the Yankees had replaced reliever Adam Warren with a better swingman pitcher, Lance Lynn, and they were able to do it without adding payroll.  The news of Adam Warren’s trade to the Seattle Mariners struck first.  Maybe I am not so surprised that Warren was traded (we eventually have to make room for Tommy Kahnle, and A.J.Cole, though seldom used, has proven valuable in long relief). However, I was surprised the Yankees traded him to the Seattle Mariners, a team the Yankees are likely to face in a Wild Card elimination game if they are unsuccessful in catching the Red Sox.  The Yankees seem to be on a mission to rebuild the bullpens for both the Orioles and the Mariners.  Warren, a free agent after the season, will join former Yankee James Pazos in the Mariners pen.  David Phelps is also a Mariner but he’s on the disabled list after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this year. To the Yankees’ credit, they didn’t trade Phelps to the Mariners but Pazos and outfielder Ben Gamel were ‘roster-crunch’ deliveries to the Great Northwest.  Warren was not flashy but it always seemed like the guy did his job.  I will miss his consistency in the pen.  For Warren, the Yankees acquired more international bonus pool money.  You can’t blame GM Brian Cashman for looking ahead to the future while making his ‘right now’ moves.

Later, the Warren trade became clearer when the Yankees swung a deal with the Minnesota Twins for starter Lance Lynn.  The cost was first baseman Tyler Austin (which explains why the Yankees acquired first baseman Luke Voit from the St Louis Cardinals) and minor league pitcher Luis Rijo.  Lynn (7-8, 5.10 ERA) does not excite me as a starter but I recognize he fills a void as the rotation’s sixth man.  Lynn has also started two games against the Boston Red Sox this year and fared well both times.  In his most recent game last Friday, Lynn held Boston to two runs over six innings but did not factor into the decision (a game the Twins lost 4-3).  On June 20th, Lynn was the winner when he held the Sox to only one run (none earned) and three hits with five innings of work.  Lynn walks too many guys (62 batters in 102 1/3 innings or 1.632 WHIP, Yikes!) but maybe Cashman is right that Lynn’s stuff plays up in the bullpen.  We’ll see.  I am a little sad to see Tyler Austin go.  The guy loved being a Yankee and I had felt he should have been the one to get the call when Aaron Judge was placed on the DL.  I will miss his attitude on the team even if he never really delivered the results that warranted his place on the roster. Maybe he was never given enough of a chance.  Regardless, I hope he prospers in Minneapolis when he gets his opportunities. A good guy that I am sorry to see leave.

I am not sure what today will bring.  With the Yankees so close to the luxury tax threshold, I honestly do not see any major moves of significance.  If the Yankees do make a trade or two, they’ll most likely have to shed some payroll as the team needs money for September callups and any other necessary roster additions between now and the end of the season.  So, as much as Yankees fans would love it, there’s no scenario where I see the Yankees making the bold decision to shed high level prospects for the great Bryce Harper.  If there’s anything about this afternoon’s deadline that excites me, it is the end of the ‘Harper to the Yanks’ rumors.  Team Hal is not going to pay (prospects or money) to bring Harper to New York regardless of how we may feel.

I do think the Yankees will pick up a bat today.  I was sorry to see the Cincinnati Reds trade outfielder Adam Duvall to the Atlanta Braves because I thought Duvall would have fit nicely in the Bronx.  More than likely, we’ll see a reunion with someone like former Yankee Curtis Granderson, which clearly does not exactly excite me.  He is a wonderful character guy, one of the best, great for the clubhouse.  But the skills have faded with age.  I’d prefer to see a player with a greater ceiling added.

I am keeping my expectations low for today.  I’d love for Brian Cashman to shock the World but I don’t think it is going to be that kind of day.  I think 2 pm will come and go quietly for the Yankees.

The Yankees acquired RHP Sonny Gray a year ago today.  It will be interesting to see if he is still a Yankee at the conclusion of the day.  Happy Anniversary…don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  If the Yankees do somehow pry Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays (improbable if you ask me), I think it is a certainty Gray will be wearing a different uniform tomorrow.

As for other transactions, the acquisition of closer Roberto Osuna by the Houston Astros was shocking to say the least.  Osuna has been a brilliant closer (the Yankees certainly have not been able to hit against him), but for a team that is so concerned about character, the addition of a player who has missed the majority of the season due to a 75-game suspension for violating MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy, it is alarming.  I was saddened to see Ken Giles leave Houston since the Yankees seem to do so well against him but I guess we’ll have better opportunities now with the Blue Jays pen.  From a talent-standpoint, Osuna was probably a great addition for Houston but you wonder what it will do to clubhouse chemistry.  Osuna is eligible to return next week.

Okay, I will go ahead and dream a little…

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It’s not going to happen but like Manny Machado, it is certainly fun to think about.

If anything, the flurry of Yankees activity over the past week has freed up some good numbers.  26, 29, 43, 45. Lately it has seemed like the last guy on the roster always gets 38. If I was A.J. Cole, I’d trade in 67 quickly before a newcomer snags one of the lower numbers.  Or I wouldn’t blame Miguel Andujar for cashing in his pitcher’s number 41 for a more appealing one like 26.  Chasen Shreve was unable to keep his number 45 with the St Louis Cardinals, thanks to some guy named Bob Gibson.  Shreve opted for Luis Severino’s number.  I had to wonder if it was a nod to Sevy.

To go off topic, I am very glad to see the Minnesota Vikings re-sign wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the recipient of the Minneapolis Miracle catch last fall in the play-off game against the New Orleans Saints.  When the Vikings paid huge money in the off-season to free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, I was fearful there would be severe ramifications on other spots on the roster.  Since then, the Vikings have signed key players to extensions like LB Eric Kendricks and DE Danielle Hunter, among others.  The Vikings still need to find a way to secure LB Anthony Barr, but the nucleus of the its core is in place.  A few years ago, wide receiver was such a troublesome spot for the Vikings.  They failed miserably a few with former first round pick Cordarrelle Patterson and there were no apparent bright spots on the horizon.  Now, Diggs and Adam Thielen have developed to give the Vikings a great catching duo, one of the best in the NFL, for Cousins, and the three will be in place at least through the 2020 season.  Vikings EVP-Football Operations Rob Brzezinski is a master with the salary cap. He doesn’t get enough credit and recognition for his value to the Vikings.  Diggs’ five-year extension is expected to be worth around $14 million per year.  I am very glad to see the Maryland product back in the fold. Like the Yankees, the Vikings are a good, young team with lots of promise.

Let’s see what this day and Brian Cashman have in store for us.  Wins both on and off the field would be nice.  We don’t want much.  Total domination and annihilation of the American League is fine.

Go Yankees!

The Calm Before The Storm…

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A Day Off and the O’s Before the Big Weekend…

The Yankees begin the new week with a day off in advance of a couple of games with Zach Britton’s old team, the Baltimore Orioles. But it is hard not to look ahead. A four-game showdown with the Boston Red Sox is looming right around the corner with the first game in Boston on Thursday, August 2nd, the 39th anniversary of the death of the late great Thurman Munson.

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First, kudos to J.A. Happ for his impressive Yankees debut. I thoroughly enjoyed how calm and controlled he was on the mound. His experience and leadership should prove invaluable for the Yankees over the coming weeks. It was hard not to compare Happ’s debut with Nathan Eovaldi’s first game as a Red Sock. Nasty Nate pitched a shutout, but I’ll gladly take Happ’s six innings of three hit, one run ball. With the 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, the Yankees took three of four for their first series win since taking two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays in early July.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

The Yankees (67-37) kept pace with the Red Sox and are 5 ½ games back in the AL East. The Red Sox host the Philadelphia Phillies for two games at Fenway Park starting tonight. They’ll have Wednesday off before the Yankees come to town. Hopefully the Yankees at least capture a split of the series in Boston, but of course three of four or a sweep would be even better. My primary goal this week is for the Yankees to not lose any further ground to the Red Sox and hopefully pick up a game or two.

Hats off to GM Brian Cashman for putting in some overtime this weekend. After Saturday night’s trade that sent relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the St Louis Cardinals for first baseman Luke Voit and $1 million in international bonus pool money, Cash sent minor league lefty Caleb Frare to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday for an additional $1.5 million in international bonus pool money. This has been a breakout year for Frare at Double-A but unfortunately it came in the same year as his Rule 5 eligibility. So, you can’t fault Cashman for moving Frare for something rather than risk losing him for nothing. Frare, who turned 25 earlier this month, struggled with control earlier in his career after lost time due to Tommy John surgery a few years ago. Last year, he walked 52 batters in 62 2/3 innings for High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. This year, with 44 2/3 inning pitched (primarily for Trenton), he has only walked 15.  At Double-A, Frare held hitters to 27 hits and 4 earned runs over 43 2/3 innings with 57 strikeouts. This was good for an 0.62 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.  Frare made a believer of Trenton manager Jay Bell who, last month, said, “He does so many things well”. Tough to lose a quality left-hander but it’s the price to pay for a stocked farm system and roster crunch in advance of this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December.

 

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)

The next couple of days should be interesting to say the least. I am not really expecting Brian Cashman to make any bold moves, but you can never underestimate the Wizard. The Yankees continue to be linked to Chris Archer but if the price is Justus Sheffield, no thanks. I think the Yankees will pick up a bat, but it won’t be a big name. You never know, a reunion with Curtis Granderson is certainly possible. The Grandy Man is not going to scare anyone at this stage of his career, but he is certainly capable of helping to hold the ship until Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge are back in action. An interesting name to me is slugger Hunter Renfroe of the San Diego Padres. The 26-year-old is only hitting .233 this year (lifetime .239 hitter) with 7 dingers and 26 RBIs but he did swat 26 home runs last year for the Padres. Another name that has come up is San Francisco Giants (and former Pittsburgh Pirate) outfielder Andrew McCutcheon. I don’t see that one happening unless the Giants pay down his contract and they are a team looking for salary relief, so it doesn’t seem to make sense. Nearly every Yankees fan would love to see Bryce Harper in pinstripes by tomorrow but that’s another move that will not happen. I expect any moves made to be fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. I do not envision the trades of Sheffield, Albert Abreu, Estevan Florial or Clint Frazier. We’ll see. Brian Cashman is certainly capable of shocking the World…or standing pat. With a portion of the international bonus pool money received, the Yankees yesterday signed 16-year-old RHP Osiel Rodriguez from Cuba. The Yankees had been linked to Rodriguez since the current signing period opened earlier this month and they finally signed him for $600,000. Despite his youth, Rodriguez is already 6’3” and 205 lbs. Per MLB.com, “One of the top pitchers on the international market this year, Rodriguez is the latest in a long line of Cuban stars chasing the big league dream. The right-hander’s fastball has been clocked at 97 mph and the pitch usually hovers in the low- to mid-90’s. There is some concern about a drop in velocity at times, but evaluators attribute the decrease to normal fatigue or being overworked on the showcase circuit. A strike-thrower, Rodriguez has a good mound presence and demeanor. He changes his arm slot and throws several different pitches at different angles, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse as far as scouts are concerned. Evaluators love his “big arm”, but the club that signs him might ask the teenager to refine his approach and focus on only three pitches. He has an unorthodox – sometimes described as a ‘violent’ – delivery, but it has not impacted his pitchability.” Welcome to the Yankees Family, Osiel! We’re very pleased to have you on our side.

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Lastly, my condolences to the friends and family of Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano who died last week at age 56. The Vikings are a young and exciting team and I had been looking forward to Sparano’s leadership of the offensive line to provide support for new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Sparano, to me, had seemed overqualified to be an assistant coach but I was so grateful that he was part of Coach Mike Zimmer’s staff. The Vikings replaced Sparano in-house by moving Tight Ends coach Clancy Barone to the O-Line as Co-Offensive Line Coach along with Andrew Janocko, who was elevated from his role as Assistant Offensive Line Coach. Senior Offensive Assistant Todd Downing, the former Raiders offensive coordinator who joined the Vikings in February, will take over tight ends. I think Mike Zimmer made the best possible moves for his staff but clearly there is no replacing what Tony Sparano meant to the Vikings. He will be missed. God Speed, Coach Sparano.  May you rest in peace.

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It will be a tough day today with no Yankees baseball, but enjoy it anyway.  As always, Go Yankees!

Operation: Take Down Boston…

2nd Best Winning % in MLB but 2nd in the AL East…

It’s Friday and Baseball is back! Thanks to the All-Star Break, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Yankees on the field. Okay, any one not named Aaron Judge or Luis Severino. They’re back in the Bronx and ready to take on the not-so-high flyin’ Mets. One thing is sure, we’ll be seeing plenty of ink about Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom and their potential connection to the Yankees over the next few days.  

Syndergaard takes the mound tonight against Domingo German, while deGrom matches up against Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday. As much as I’d love to have either pitcher, the realist in me knows that the likelihood either pitcher is traded to the Yankees is non-existent. The Mets are not going to send any of their top players to the Yankees regardless of the return.  

The Yankees begin the second half four-and-a-half games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.  Hats off to the Red Sox for their brilliant first half.  They beat the teams they were supposed to. Mookie Betts has showed why he is one of the best players in Major League Baseball, and J.D. Martinez has proven to be the best off-season addition for any team (sorry, Giancarlo).  But it’s a new day and plenty of time for the Yankees to catch the Red Sox and put them in their rearview mirror.  The Yankees have 67 games remaining or three more than the Red Sox.  I think as long as the Yankees can keep winning series, they’ll be in great shape come September, or better yet, October.  The Red Sox have an easy start to the second half with the Detroit Tigers and Manny Machado-less Baltimore Orioles, a team that they already owned this season winning nine of ten games played.  However, there’s a big showdown with the Yankees at Fenway Park looming the first week of August.  This is a great chance for the Yankees to keep it close for the next couple of weeks and then make a huge statement in Boston with hopefully a win of the four-game series.  

I think it was tough for Yankees fans to see Manny Machado traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers this week. Many of us, myself included, envisioned what it would look like to see Manny in pinstripes. I know, it was a ‘want’ and not a ‘need’ but how beautiful would it have looked to insert Machado’s name into the Yankees lineup? It may still come to fruition after the season when Manny hits the open market, but of course that doesn’t help us today. The best part about Manny going to Los Angeles is that Yankees pitchers won’t have to face him again unless the Yankees and Dodgers meet in the World Series (a very nice problem to have). Manny destroyed the Yankees this year with six home runs. It’ll be nice to play the Baltimore Orioles for the remainder of the year without the  threat of Manny at bat. Hopefully the next home run he hits at Yankee Stadium will be while wearing Pinstripes. We’ll see.

Nice job by Machado in picking his new number for the Dodgers. His beloved #13 was already taken by this year’s breakout player, Max Muncy. Closer Kenley Jansen offered to pay Muncy to relinquish the number, but in the end, Manny chose a different number. Like Don Mattingly, who took #8 as a tribute for Yogi Berra when he joined the Dodgers coaching staff under Joe Torre a few years ago and later served as their manager, Machado has acquired the same number in honor of Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. A very classy move by Machado and a gesture I am sure the heartbroken O’s fans appreciate.  

The Yankees lost another trade target yesterday when the Cleveland Indians abruptly acquired San Diego closer Brad Hand yesterday. I was surprised at the high cost the Indians paid (top catching prospect Francisco Mejia) but Cleveland’s bullpen was a mess. Once they get Andrew Miller back on the field, the Indians bullpen, with Hand, Miller, closer Cody Allen, and newcomer Adam Cimber, appears to be very formidable, especially in the post-season. Former Yankees pitcher, and now Padres reliever, Phil Hughes had the best Twitter quote following the Hand trade:  “Just a few more trades and I’ll be the closer. Too soon?”  Former Yankee Kirby Yates is expected to take Hand’s place as San Diego’s closer, but even he has been the subject of trade speculation. Hughes, while clearly jesting, may in fact get his wish.  

Photo Credit: The San Diego Union-Tribune (K.C. Alfred)

Yankees fans are growing impatient but we’re still eleven days away from the non-waiver trading deadline. There’s time. GM Brian Cashman and his staff are working diligently behind the scenes. At this point, I am not really expecting a big splash but I do fully anticipate reinforcements in the not-so-distant future.  It was a year ago yesterday the Yankees acquired relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and third baseman Todd Frazier from the Chicago White Sox. If I had my wish, I’d probably prefer the acquisition of Orioles reliever Zach Britton who seems to be rounding back into form after his recovery from injuries. It’s not that I don’t feel the Yankees shouldn’t acquire a starter but the names of Michael Fulmer, J.A. Happ, and Cole Hamels are not inspiring to me. Dan O’Dowd of the MLB Network feels that Hamels would be re-energized with the chance to play in a pennant race, but c’mon, he clearly is not the pitcher he once was. The Yankees had scouts at Wrigley Field in Chicago yesterday to watch St Louis Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez. I’d love to have Martinez, 26, but his Yankees audition didn’t go so well as he took the loss against the Cubs, giving up six runs (five earned) over five innings, in the 9-6 defeat. Still, Martinez would be an upgrade if the Yankees can entice the Cardinals to part with the talented righty.

Photo Credit: AP (Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Yankees may have lost a valuable trading chip yesterday when outfielder Clint Frazier was pulled from a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre game for possible concussion symptoms after a failed diving attempt to catch a fly ball in the first inning. Frazier’s concussion in Spring Training cost him the first couple months of the season.

There will be one “newcomer” when the Yankees take the field tonight. Well, he is not quite a newcomer but Gary Sanchez will be back in  action behind the plate following his activation off the disabled list yesterday. If El Gary starts to hit like he did last summer, it’s scary to think what the Yankees offense is capable of. With no offense to either Austin Romine or Kyle Higashioka, Sanchez’s presence improves the team. Higgy was optioned to Triple A to make room for Sanchez. Now, we just need to get Gleyber Torres back.

ESPN’s Keith Law released his Mid-Season Top 50 Prospect Update yesterday and has Yankees LHP Justus Sheffield listed at #12.  I loved his last line about Top Sheff:  “He’s very close to major league-ready, however, has all the elements of a future No. 2 starter”.  I wouldn’t want to put the pressure of a pennant chase on Sheff as a starter for the Yankees this year plus he’ll be nearing an innings limit at some point, but you gotta love the thought of Sheffield pitching out of the pen, perhaps as soon as next month or September at the latest.  

Well, let’s begin Operation Beat Boston.  Yankees, welcome back.  We’ve missed you.  Let’s make this a victorious Friday.  Send Thor to the showers early, and bring us a win.  

Go Yankees!

Weird Win is a Win, I’ll Take It…

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

Yankees survive Tribe on odd play and stellar bullpen…

If it takes a little league homer to beat the Cleveland Indians, so be it. A day after a Yankees rally fell short by one run against the Tribe, I had no issue with the deciding run in yesterday’s tilt being decided on Austin Romine’s lead-off double in the seventh inning that resulted in a run thanks to a couple of errors. Romine’s hit to the gap in the right center was bobbled by Brandon Guyer for the first error as Romine slid safely into third. The relay throw ended up bouncing past Jose Ramirez at third and Mike Clevinger back up the play into the dugout and the umpiring crew awarded Romine home plate for the go-ahead and eventual winning run.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (David Maxwell)

 

For two teams with great hitters and defenders, it was an odd way for a game to be decided. The win allowed the Yankees to go up two games to one in the current series, putting them in position to take the series today before most of the players head for their homes and families for a few days of rest and relaxation.

It wasn’t the greatest outing for CC Sabathia, giving up four runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings against his original team but credit him for keeping it close. Didi Gregorius had staked CC to an early lead with his three-run homer in the first inning. It was Didi’s 17th home run of the year.

The Indians chipped away at the Yankees’ lead, tying the game at four in the bottom of the sixth when Brandon Guyer, who entered the game with a .162 batting average, hit a two-out infield single to third to score runners at second and third. Miguel Andujar’s wide throw pulled Greg Bird off the bag at first to allow Guyer to reach base safely and Bird’s subsequent throw home glanced off the glove of Austin Romine, allowing the second and tying run to score. The hit chased Sabathia, but David Robertson came in to restore order. He walked the first batter he faced but then struck out Yan Gomes to end the inning.

D-Rob pitched a clean seventh inning and Dellin Betances did the same in the eighth.

The ninth inning was filled with a bit of drama. It started when Brandon Guyer led off the bottom of the inning with a pop up in foul territory. Austin Romine went back for the ball and Miguel Andujar came charging in and neither player came up with the ball, with an error charged on Andujar. It looked like it should have been Romine’s ball but the ball drifted toward Andjuar who couldn’t get out of the way.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

It didn’t matter when Guyer grounded out to short, but then Aroldis Chapman walked Cleveland’s top prospect Francisco Mejia, who represented the tying run. Mejia had just been recalled earlier in the day to make his 2018 MLB season debut.  After striking out Yan Gomes, it set up a rematch of the 2016 World Series with Chapman facing Rajai Davis. As the announcing crew reminded us again and again, Davis had homered off Chapman to tie that game, the seventh and deciding game, although the Chicago Cubs eventually won it and the series with Chappy picking up the win. There would be no Davis home run this time around. His fly out to right field ended the game, giving the save to Chapman, his 26th of the season, and the win to David Robertson (7-3). With seven wins, D-Rob has as many wins as Masahiro Tanaka and more than any other Yankees pitcher not named Luis Severino.

Greg Bird continued his recent hot hitting with a sixth inning solo blast off Indians starter Mike Clevinger that had briefly given the Yankees and Sabathia a two-run cushion. It was Bird’s eighth home run of the year.

The game also featured the ejection of Manager Aaron Boone who showed some fire in the top of the sixth inning. After Giancarlo took a called third strike on a ball that hit his hands as he swung, Boone argued that the ball should have been ruled foul but to no avail. The umps were right but it was fun to see Boone fired up. It was Boonie’s second ejection of the season.

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

There was some good defensive play by second baseman Tyler Wade in the game (can we DFA Neil Walker already?) although he was unable to make a difficult play in the bottom of the sixth that led to the first baserunner who would eventually score on Brandon Guyer’s two-run single.

The Yankees (62-32) remained 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays took the Red Sox into extra innings before losing the game in the 10th on a walk-off grand slam home run by Xander Bogaerts.

With the Manny Machado rumors subsiding, it appears most likely that he’ll be traded to a National League team which, all things considered, is probably for the best. The rumors involving the Philadelphia Phillies seem the most fervent at the moment, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers remain in the chase. It does seem odd to me that some teams would be willing to part with top prospects for a player they may have no chance to re-sign in the off-season. But then again, if you think you have a chance for the World Series, it might be worth it if you feel that Machado is the difference-maker. I am sure the Dodgers would hate to see Machado end up in Philly. My biggest fear is Machado being traded to the Red Sox so I am anxious for the O’s to send their star shortstop to the NL as soon as possible. Given how much Orioles owner Peter Angelos hates the Yankees, I could see him sending Machado to Boston just to spite the Yankees even if the return for their team was less.

We may soon see Joe Girardi back in a dugout. The St Louis Cardinals surprisingly fired their manager, Mike Matheny, yesterday. Matheny was expected to be dismissed in the off-season but apparently the Cardinals organization became impatient (an uncharacteristic trait for them) as Matheny seemingly lost control of his clubhouse. Joe Girardi has emerged as a favorite to replace Matheny. The Cardinals are currently 47-46 and 7 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and six games behind the second-place Milwaukee Brewers. they are just four games out in the Wild Card hunt. The last time the Cardinals fired a manager during the season was Joe Torre in 1995. I’ve seen the names of Jose Oquendo, Carlos Beltran, and even Jason Giambi mentioned, but Girardi would seem to make the most sense for a team trying to rebound from first half turbulence. Mike Shildt, the Cardinals bench coach, has been named interim manager. Girardi has some connection to the team as he finished his playing career in 2003 with the Cards.

While I realize the sexy names like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner, and Blake Snell are beyond reach for the Yankees, the most likely names that are available just plain scare me (not in a good way). Michael Fulmer, a name that has been connected to the Yankees for months, has been awful this year. I’ve tried to rationalize his performance by the fact that he plays for a bad team, but he was hit hard by the Houston Astros yesterday.  He failed to complete five innings, giving up ten hits and seven runs, as his season record fell to 3-9. There’s no way that I’d want to see the Yankees give up Clint Frazier and/or other top prospects for Fulmer despite his youth, potential and cost-controlled status. Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ have been awful. TGP’s Daniel Burch cites Zack Wheeler as a possibility but that one doesn’t excite me. Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney of the Los Angeles Angels are the most recent names mentioned. There is a very real possibility that the Yankees are unable to find a match for a top starter or two. Other teams are willing to overpay but the Yankees are not. I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I want to see Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Estevan Florial thrive as Yankees, but on the other hand, something needs to give if the Yankees intend to catch the Red Sox in the second half. Boston shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Hopefully the Yankees can win today to send us into the All-Star Break on a positive note. Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.68 ERA) makes the start against Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.23 ERA). It should be a good game and a great day for a victory.

Go Yankees!

Losing the Battle of Baltimore…

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Photo Credit: The Baltimore Sun/TNS (Karl Merton Ferron)

Splitting the Series is better than losing it but…

Why is it that the Yankees waited until the final game of the series in Baltimore to play like they are supposed to against Baseball’s worst professional team? Okay, I’ll give you the Luis Cessa game but realistically, the Yankees should have taken three of four or all four of the games in B-more.

Sonny Gray was great last night, but honestly, I still do not trust the pitcher. He has a long way to go before I’ll have confidence in his starts. One game does not a season make.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Scott Taetsch)

If the Yankees lose the AL East, the deciding factor will be the Battle of Baltimore. The Boston Red Sox have beaten the O’s nine times out of ten, while the Yanks and Orioles have split ten games. If the Yankees had matched Boston’s record against the woeful O’s, the Yankees would have had a better winning percentage than the Red Sox even though the Sox have currently won nine games in a row.

The Yankees face a tough challenge starting tonight with a four-game set against the Cleveland Indians.  The pitching matchup for the opener doesn’t get any better than the marquee event pitting Luis Severino (14-2, 2.12 ERA) against Corey Kluber (12-4, 2.49 ERA). The Yankees swept the Indians in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium in early May but it took two walk-off performances. In the latest series, the Indians will have last at-bat. The Indians (50-41) currently hold an 8 ½ game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. Cleveland’s had some bullpen issues but they remain a very dangerous team. I learned long ago to never underestimate Cleveland manager Terry Francona.

The Yankees (60-31) have fallen 3 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East after no more than a two-game separation in June.  Boston is on a historic run for their organization. There’s still plenty of time for the Yankees to catch Boston but hats off to them for their refusal to lose. Earlier in the season, I was a bit frustrated by Boston’s cream puff schedule (seemed like they were mostly playing losing teams) but the truth is they know how to beat those teams better than the Yankees. For the Yankees to have a better record against winning teams than the losers, it makes no sense to me. They really need to stop playing down to the level of their opponents and start playing more like last night’s game.

I am not sure what to think about the Manny Machado rumors which have been running rampant the last couple of days. I’d love to have Manny in Pinstripes. But acquiring Manny only seems to make sense if the Yankees already have a plan in place to acquire an upper echelon starting pitcher, they are fearful the Red Sox might swoop in and grab him, or if they see the pitching market as a collection of Sonny Grays and feel that making further enhancements to the team’s potent offense is the way to go.

I am intrigued by the idea of having Manny on my team. He is one of the best players in the game today.  Probably the only deal-killer for me is if he continues to insist on playing shortstop. I have no desire to replace Didi Gregorius. But if Miguel Andujar is included in a deal for a top starting pitcher or if the Yankees decide to move Andujar to first base to make room for Manny at third, I am on board. I know Greg Bird has hit home runs in the last couple of games including a grand slam yesterday, but health-wise and production-wise, I have more faith in Andujar than I do Bird. I could be very wrong on this given Bird’s history as a clutch performer in the Minor Leagues, but conversely, I am all about doing whatever is necessary to make the Yankees a better team. There’s no guarantee the Yankees re-sign Machado after the season so that’s certainly the risk of trading top prospects to Baltimore who could potentially become Yankee killers. Growing up, it bothered me to see Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez and Rick Dempsey thrive in Baltimore after starting their careers with the Yankees. Not that they were great players (although McGregor did win 20 games for the O’s in 1980) but it’s hard to see your team’s prospects thrive elsewhere, particularly for teams in the AL East. I’d like to think that Manny would enjoy his time in the Bronx and would aggressively work to stay. I don’t think the Yankees would make the move to acquire Machado unless they felt they had a strong chance to sign him to a new contract after the season. Not that I think he’d give the Yankees any type of discount (in fact, it might the opposite given the high cost of living in America’s largest city), but it would be better than him going to Los Angeles and developing a love for Dodger Blue or becoming a Beer King in Milwaukee.

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So, my vote is to acquire Machado now. Realistically, I don’t think he ends up in New York, at least not yet but it’s fun to think about.

I enjoyed hearing that Justus Sheffield would not be part of any trade for Machado but I would absolutely include Top Sheff in a deal for an ace like Jacob deGrom, Blake Snell or Madison Bumgarner. I wouldn’t do it for one of the lesser caliber pitchers including Michael Fulmer. The Yankees have a wealth of talented young arms in the system. There’s simply no way every one of them will reach the Majors with the Yankees. If Sheffield leaves, other young, talented pitchers will ascend to the top of the prospect lists.  Luis Medina was drawn much praise this season, and Luis Gil, acquired from the Minnesota Twins, is drawing accolades in the lower level of the farm system.  I still have very high hopes for Albert Abreu and Domingo Acevedo but you keep hearing great things about guys like Trevor Stephan, Nick Nelson, Garrett Whitlock and others. The top pitching prospects tend to be mostly right-handers (unlike Sheffield) but I would trade a potential ace for a proven ace any day of the week, especially considering the team is prepared to win now.

I want the Yankees to capture the World Series THIS year, not next year or the year after (well, actually I want all of the above but for now, let’s take the 2018 World Series). I don’t want to see the team play a one-game Wild Card ‘do-or-die’ playoff to determine their fate. Even a five-game series is not a true test of the best team, but that’s better than ending the season because of one off-night. So I am in favor of whatever GM Brian Cashman wants to do to improve the Yankees and their chances for October. There will be painful losses. As they say, you have to give up quality to get quality. The Chicago Cubs felt it was the right thing to do to give up their top prospect a couple of years ago for a chance to win the 2016 World Series. The Yankees were the beneficiary of that decision but now they are the team with the great opportunity to win it all.  We’ve had trust in Cashman’s decisions up to this point so there’s no reason to believe that he’s going to go ‘George Steinbrenner-style’ and start trading away premier prospects for aging veterans who have seen their better days. I always trust Cash with the vision to simultaneously look at today and tomorrow. He has not led us astray yet.

I am kind of glad that Giancarlo Stanton is not going to this year’s All-Star Game. He’s heating up and I’d prefer to see him take some rest days next week. I am really glad that he opted to pass on the Home Run Derby even though it means no Yankees will be represented. We need Giancarlo humming through October and I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks with him. Hopefully AL Manager A.J. Hinch opts to replace Aaron Judge sooner rather than later in right field and Luis Severino doesn’t pitch more than an inning. We need a rested and ready team for the second half.

I don’t envy Brian Cashman. He has some very tough decisions to make in the coming days and weeks leading up to the non-waiver trading deadline at the end of the month. Even if he does nothing, the Yankees still have a very good team. We need starting pitching but that’s been a known fact for a very long time. When opportunity presents itself, guys step up. Either Cashman believes in the guys we have or he sees opportunity with players currently wearing other uniforms. Regardless, he has my faith and confidence. He’ll do the right thing, and we’ll be enjoying some great baseball in October.  Life is good.

Go Yankees!