|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Al Bello and Christian Petersen), via CBS New York|
Trading January for February…
It was another quiet week in the Yankees Universe, but fortunately, it puts us one week closer to Spring Training.
Many feel that the Yankees are good with the present makeup of the 40-man roster as the gates of Steinbrenner Field prepare to open but I remain convinced that the Yankees will add either a strong starting pitcher or a veteran to solidify third base. It would be great to add both but I don’t see how that’s economically feasible for a team trying so hard to stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold.
I thought the Washington Nationals have done a tremendous job with their infield bench. First, they signed first baseman Matt Adams, the long-time Cardinal who spent most of last year in Atlanta, to back up first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Then, they re-signed 2B/3B Howie Kendrick who can plug into a corner outfield position as well. Either one of these players would have been useful for the Yankees. I like the idea of pairing a veteran with the youthful Miguel Andujar at third. Granted, I would love to see the return of Todd Frazier or even the signing of Mike Moustakas, but the Yankees can afford to lower their sights for another guy that could help Andujar with his transition to the MLB level. Eduardo Nunez is probably not the answer, due to his questionable defense and injury history, but there are other guys that could fit the bill without blowing the budget. Josh Harrison, carrying a cap hit of $10.25 million, is probably the guy that comes to mind but his acquisition would probably prevent the addition of a starting pitcher who is better than any of the current starting five.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images North America (Joe Sargent)|
The Toronto Blue Jays have been fairly active in trying to rebuild their post-Jose Bautista outfield. Earlier this week, they signed former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson to fill a platoon role. Then, yesterday, they traded for St Louis Cardinals outfielder Randall Grichuk who became expendable when the Cardinals acquired former Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, particularly given the breakthrough of outfielder Tommy Pham for the Cards last year. Grichuk has some thump in his bat, even if he hasn’t been consistent. He is expected to be the starter in right field, replacing Bautista. I don’t know much about the younger pitching prospect that the Blue Jays sent to St Louis (Connor Greene), but I am glad to see reliever Dominic Leone depart the AL East. In a setup role for the Blue Jays last year, Leone stranded 42 of 54 base runners which ranked fourth among AL relievers. He held righties to .211 batting average and was even stingier with lefties at .183. The Grandy Man may not be the player he once was, but he is still one of the game’s best gentlemen. I’m sure that he’ll be a positive influence on the young Jays. He didn’t do much for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year after the late season acquisition (.161 batting average with 7 home runs in 112 at-bats), but he can still provide occasional pop. I can still remember his grand slam against the Yankees last August in what would prove to be his last at-bat for the New York Mets.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)|
It’s inevitable that the Boston Red Sox and free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez come together at some point this off-season. I find it highly unlikely that the Arizona Diamondbacks bring back Martinez due to monetary constraints and there doesn’t seem to be much competition with Boston for the outfielder’s services. The latest reports indicate the Red Sox have offered 5 years at $125 million but agent Scott Boras is on record seeking a 6 or 7 year deal for his client. Teams have wised up and understand how detrimental the latter years can be for extended length contracts given to thirty-something players. If the Red Sox are truly offering $25 million per year, I think Martinez would be smart to consider it. At a winter function for the Red Sox yesterday, former Red Sox great Pedro Martinez explained, “The main reason why Mookie (Betts) and those guys miss (David Ortiz) more is because they were getting better pitches to hit on an earlier count because of his presence. Everybody knew they wanted to attack Mookie and those guys to get them out early before they get to David because David was one of those guys who was really special.” Martinez could be that guy for the Red Sox, which is why I feel that Boston will eventually get the deal done even if it gives them a $200+ million payroll.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)|
The most talked about situation for the Yankees is Jacoby Ellsbury and his contract. By all indications, Ellsbury has no desire to waive his no-trade clause and is focused on competing with Aaron Hicks for the starting center field role. Many Yankees fans, including myself, feel that it would be best for Ellsbury to drop the NTC and allow a trade. The pro-Ellsbury fans attack us, saying that Ellsbury is a better player than we are giving him credit for. I don’t think anyone disputes that Ellsbury is still a good player. He just doesn’t fit the 2018 Yankees. At this point, it is clear that Aaron Hicks has the upper hand and it would take an injury to Hicks (always a possibility) to clear a path to consistent playing time for Ellsbury. But even then, he’d have to fight Brett Gardner for time and Gardy probably has the edge. It does not make sense to pay a fourth or fifth outfielder $22 million per year. If the Yankees were successful in getting another team to take on half of what’s left of Ellsbury’s deal, that’s still significant money that could go toward a starting pitcher and/or veteran third baseman. That’s why I think it is best to move Ellsbury if you can. He can be a very useful player for another team. Seattle was mentioned as the primary trade target until they acquired second baseman Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins with the intent to convert him to center field. Then, the San Francisco Giants were heavily mentioned by Yankees fans. But they acquired Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh PIrates and are bumping up against the luxury tax threshold themselves. Some have mentioned the Colorado Rockies in a trade of bad contracts for IF/OF Ian Desmond, but I don’t think the Rockies are as down on Desmond as Yankees fans would like to think. A trade to a Cactus League team seems to make the most sense given that Ellsbury makes his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Personally, I think the Yankees will be stuck with Ellsbury until the dollars left on his contract reach a point that Hal Steinbrenner is comfortable cutting bait. That means at least another season or two. It stinks because it will most likely keep Clint Frazier at Triple A if he is not traded for a starting pitcher. I am a fan of Red Thunder and I’d like to see him in the Bronx, not Moosic, PA. He’s ready, even if it means that team leader Brett Gardner is the odd man out.
|Photo Credit: SI.com|
Maybe next week is finally the week we get some actual news in the Yankees Universe. Yeah, right…probably not. Oh well, Spring Training will soon be here. I am ready and anxious to see 1 Steinbrenner Drive thriving with Yankees fans in the stands watching Yankees greats on the field.
Prize Fight between Betances and Levine called off…
The Yankees avoided an off-the-field fight yesterday when they signed all of their arbitration-eligible players to one-year, non-guaranteed contracts, including Dellin Betances who lost his fight at the arbitration table last year. It sparked angry (and, in my opinion, unnecessary and ridiculous) words from Yankees Team President Randy Levine. This year, Betances gets the $5 million he sought a year ago when Levine said that “five million dollars goes to elite closers, people who pitch the ninth inning and have a lot, a lot and a lot of saves.” Personally, I think Betances will rediscover the magic and will resume his role as one of the elite setup artists in baseball. He is worth the money, regardless of what Levine may think.
|Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi, New York Post|
I was glad to see the Yankees stayed a couple of dollars shy of the $29.4 million total projected by MLB Trade Rumors. Not that MLB Trade Rumors is the foremost authority, but they were fairly accurate in their projections.
Here are the actual one-year settlements for the arbitration-eligible players:
Didi Gregorius, $8.25 million
Sonny Gray, $6.5 million
Dellin Betances, $5.1 million
Adam Warren, $3.315 million
Aaron Hicks, $2.825 million
Tommy Kahnle, $1.3125 million
Austin Romine, $1.1 million
Chasen Shreve, $825,000
Total: $29.2275 million
Gregorius accepting $750,000 less than his projected amount of $9 million was the difference-maker in bringing the total for all players under $29.4 million. Gregorius has one more year of arbitration before he hits free agency. I really hope the Yankees look to lock him up on a new long-term deal next off-season rather than wait for him to hit the free market. Same with Sonny Gray.
Yu had me at…
Following the Yankees’ ‘did they or didn’t they’ make an offer to free agent pitcher Yu Darvish is funny. Earlier in the week, Michael Kay reported on his show the Yankees had offered Darvish a 7-year contract for $160 million. On Twitter, Darvish responded “They don’t give me offer yet”. Darvish subsequently clarified his position with “Sorry guys. My mistake. Actually they did make offer the numbers are not correct.”
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
Nothing against Darvish, I like the pitcher, but I wouldn’t want to devote in excess of $20 million per year to the pitcher even if the Yankees could somehow find a way to move Jacoby Ellsbury and his heavy contract or trade someone like Brett Gardner or David Robertson. Yesterday, Dodgers Nation posed a question to their fan base if they wanted the Dodgers to re-sign Darvish. The immediate reaction was negative, with many lingering feelings of disappointment and resentment over the awful World Series performance given by Darvish. Not that I feel a couple of poor (very poor) starts should define Darvish, but the October Stage is not made for everyone. It was a red flag that Darvish might not be a guy who can elevate his game when the stakes are at their highest. If money was no object, then I’d gladly be willing to accept Darvish on the team. But in the grand scheme of things for a team trying to stay under $197 million, the money is better served in other areas.
Please Keep Numbers 29 and 77 Ready…
We are now only a month away before pitchers and catchers report to training camp in Tampa, Florida. With so many free agents still available, it would seem that we’ll be playing exhibition games before some big names know what jerseys they’ll be pulling on. I continue to preach for the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier to a two-year deal to take third base and provide backup support at first for Greg Bird. Of course, I’d also trade Brett Gardner despite his leadership qualities and status as the most tenured Yankee to open up a significant role for Clint Frazier. So, my views are obviously ‘Up goes Frazier(s)’.
|Photo Credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters|
I thought we’d see more baseball activity last week than we did. Admittedly, it seems like I feel that way every week yet we continue to hear crickets. Yes, the Mets re-signed Jay Bruce but the off-season continues to move along very slowly. I don’t believe owners are guilty of collusion. I think this year has been a wakeup for owners who do not want to give extended contracts to guys and end up with ‘Jacoby Ellsbury-like’ situations on your hands. Plus, you have the added factor that MLB’s two biggest spenders are furiously trying to keep payroll under $197 million. I am hopeful the current sluggish market conditions bring quality third base help to the Yankees.
R.I.P. to a Legendary Sportcaster…
I am very sad to hear the news of the passing of retired sportscaster Keith Jackson. Growing up in the 70’s, he was the premier voice of College Football and so many other top sporting events to me. His style and grace were legendary qualities. So many times in my life I’ve said “Whoa, Nellie!”, thanks to Jackson. He passed away Friday night in the Los Angeles area, where he made his home. Farewell, Keith. May you rest in peace. Heaven has gained a tremendous Angel and we will miss you.
|Photo Credit: LA Times|
Have a great long weekend, Yankees family! Go Yankees!
The Cole Hard Truth…
I wish the Yankees would put the Gerrit Cole rumors to rest. Yesterday, it was reported that the Houston Astros had interest in Cole as a possible acquisition target. Fine, let the ‘Stros pay the high price for the talented but inconsistent starter. But no, the New York Daily News had to run a story that ‘Gerrit Cole to Yankees seems inevitable’ despite the interest from Houston.
For me, the ship has sailed. I was once enamored with the idea of adding Cole, but as time has passed, I see greater value with Jordan Montgomery in the starting rotation and guys like Clint Frazier and Chance Adams part of the organization. I would still like to see the Yankees create an opening for Frazier through the trade of either Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury (somebody take Ellsbury, please!) but Red Thunder can play a huge role on the 2018 Yankees if given the opportunity.
The Yankees have the money to add a proven third baseman and move forward to training camp with a solid starting five of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery. Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, and Albert Abreu headline the list of talented pitching prospects that can be plugged in if necessary at some point during the season but there are other arms in the organization that can help. Chad Green was told to report to training camp as a starter. He’s certainly an option (although my preference is to keep him in the ‘pen), and Adam Warren is always on standby. Let’s keep any bullets for a trade to use in July when the team assesses its needs for the duration of the season without having to further deplete the great farm system that Cashman and Company have built.
Speaking of a proven third baseman…
I know that Todd Frazier just wants to play baseball and would like to know where he is going to spend the upcoming season. But his words to the New York Post yesterday read like a veiled plea to the Yankees. According to the Post article written by Kevin Kernan, Frazier said “It’s going to be a new, revitalized me. I want to prove that I’m worth it. I want to be prepared and be the leader I can be on the field. I know whatever team I do fit with, they’re going to get the best Todd Frazier they are ever going to have because I want to play better. I want to get my average up. I have a lot of goals set for myself. Whenever we figure out what team we are going to go with, it’s going to be a lot of fun because I’m going to get these guys going as much as I am going to get myself going.”
It’s that last sentence “…I’m going to get these guys going…” that strikes a chord with Frazier’s leadership qualities and the strong influence he plays in the clubhouse.
In the Post article, Frazier goes on to say “We’ve had contact with the Yankees, my agent, Brodie (Van Wagenen) has done a great job. I love playing for the Yankees. It was such a fun time for me. We just came up short. We had a really good squad, and they are going to be really good again.” Reading between the lines, he is clearly saying that he can help the Yankees get to the next level. Of course, the article also implies that Frazier would gladly join the New York Mets for the right opportunity, but clearly Frazier recognizes that this is a great time to be a New York Yankee.
“I would love a multi-year deal, but I am not closing the door on anything. I’m prepared for anything.” Brian Cashman, that’s a message for you.
Can Van Wagenen and Cashman find common ground to bring the Toddfather back to the Bronx? I can’t speak for others, but I would love to see it. There are no guarantees that Manny Machado will be wearing pinstripes in 2019. Josh Donaldson is on the wrong side of his prime. Granted, Frazier is only a year younger than Donaldson, but Frazier has shown that he can excel as a Yankee. I would really like to see what Todd could do with an entire season at Yankee Stadium. I remain hopeful that the Yankees can find a way to bring Frazier back.
Goodbye, Home Run Derby…
I’ve never been a Trenton Thunder game so I’ve never had the good fortune watch Derby, a 9-year-old Golden Retriever, in action retrieving baseball bats. Yesterday, the Yankees Family was greatly saddened to learn the news that Derby had died over the weekend from cancer.
The Trenton Thunder will celebrate Derby Day on Friday, January 26th, which would have been Derby’s tenth birthday. They’ll share a special tribute video and are encouraging fans to participate through social media.
Derby was the son of the late Thunder Bat Dog, Chase That Golden Thunder, who passed away from cancer in 2013. Derby’s son, Rookie, began full-time bat retrieving duties for the Thunder in 2016. So, the spirit of Derby and his father Chase will live on through Rookie at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, NJ.
Farewell, Derby. Thanks for a job well done! You’ve left a piece of yourself in the heart of the Yankees Universe.
Oakland Athletics with Pinstripes showing…
Former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders manager Al Pedrique, now first base coach for the Oakland A’s, will see a number of familiar faces in Arizona next month. Of course, he’ll see the guys involved in the Sonny Gray trade…Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian. But he’ll also see former Yankees first-round pick Slade Heathcott, who signed as a minor league free agent. Heathcott spent last year in the Giants organization. Injuries and an inability to hit with success in the upper levels of the minor leagues have plagued Heathcott, now 27. Hopefully, the clean slate in Oakland works to his advantage.
Go Yankees! Speaking of training camp, I read yesterday that Evan Longoria has already reported to the San Francisco Giants training facility in Scottsdale, AZ. Wow, baseball will be back before we know it. Pitchers and catchers have a little more than a month before they have to report to Tampa. We’ve been treated to the training videos of Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, but I am looking forward to watching these guys in action at Steinbrenner Field. Soon, young Grasshopper…
Please do not D-ROB Peter to pay Paul…
More and more people are clamoring for David Robertson to be traded to free up salary room to make a big splash to reel in Yu Darvish or Mike Moustakas (on top of the huge acquisition to add slugger Giancarlo Stanton). For the record, I am not in favor of trading D-Rob.
I get it. Robertson will cost $11.5 million for luxury tax purposes but the guy is such a huge part of the Yankees bullpen. I was so glad when the Yankees reacquired Robertson last summer. I haven’t felt that type of excitement since Andy Pettitte came back from three years in Houston. One of my favorite Yankees coming home. D-Rob carries the Andrew Miller attitude…whatever it takes. Both men value the team ahead of the individual and are willing to pitch whenever, wherever. I trust Robertson more than any other member of the bullpen to close on the days that Aroldis Chapman is not available.
Dellin Betances can be the most devastating reliever in the game, but as we’ve seen, his 6’8” frame can also get out of whack, making him very hittable. The last couple of years, he has faded down the stretch. D-Rob may not always win, but he’s a strong competitor every time he takes the mound.
I am bummed that we are in the last year of D-Rob’s contract. I am hopeful the Yankees either re-sign Robertson after the season or make a huge play to bring back Andrew Miller, who will also be a free agent after the 2018 season.
But for the 2018 season, I cannot imagine the Yankees bullpen without David Robertson.
To me, it makes more sense to trade Brett Gardner. But every pro-trade Robertson article I’ve read, talks about how invaluable Gardy is to the clubhouse. I understand those intangibles, but time and again, the Yankees have had to replace strong clubhouse leaders. Team leadership did not dry up when Derek Jeter walked out of the Stadium for the final time. If Gardy leaves, another guy (or guys) will step up to fill the void. From purely a player aspect, D-Rob is more valuable to the bullpen than Gardy is to the outfield given the plethora of other younger outfield options.
The enigma on the current roster construction is Jacoby Ellsbury and his suffocating contract. The New York Post speculates that the Yankees might have to include as much as $50 million on the contract to move Ellsbury once the current market depletes itself of better outfield options. It’s not like Ellsbury suddenly became Pablo Sandoval. He is still a good player, but he doesn’t fit on the 2018 Yankees. Hopefully GM Brian Cashman will astound us all by finding a way to move Ellsbury’s contract sooner rather than later.
This situation bears watching over the next few weeks but hopefully when the team takes the field for the 2018 season, #30 is on the Yankees roster.
|Photo Credit: MLB.com|
A familiar Foe…
The Toronto Blue Jays grabbed a potential infield option for the Yankees yesterday when they acquired former Yankee Yangervis Solarte from the San Diego Padres. Solarte lost his job at third base when the Padres reacquired Chase Headley. With an ability to play both second and third, Solarte would have been a good option for the Yankees to back the Gleyber Torres/Miguel Andujar youth movement.
|Photo Credit: Lenny Ignelzi-AP|
Mayans MC, Opening Soon at a TV near you…
In a bit of non-baseball news, I have to plug an upcoming TV series. FX announced this past week that they’ve given a 10-episode series order for Mayans MC. Mayans MC, a spin-off of the highly successful Sons of Anarchy, is “set in a post-Jax Teller world, where EZ Reyes (JD Pardo), fresh out of prison, is a prospect in the Mayan MC charter on the Cali/Mexi border. Now EZ must carve out his new outlaw identity in a town where he once was the golden boy who had the American Dream within his grasp.” The new series, which is set to premiere either this summer or late fall, is co-created by Kurt Sutter and Elgin James. The show will feature an almost all-Latino cast. Sons of Anarchy star Emilio Rivera (reprising the role of Mayans MC President Marcus Alvarez) headlines the strong cast that also features Pardo and Edward James Olmos.
I am very excited about the potential of the new TV series, and look forward to Sutter’s latest vision. Also, hats off to Glendale Harley-Davidson of Glendale, CA. They have been instrumental in helping the cast members of the new show. I bought my own Harley at Glendale H-D a few years ago and I very proud of this dealership.
Steinbrenner Field, Opening Sooner…
In theory, the upcoming week should bring more baseball news to the table. The holidays are over, and training camps open in a little more than a month. I expect to see in increase in free agents signings which should loosen up the trade market. It’s been 20 years since the Yankees won 125 games enroute to the 1998 World Series championship. I am not saying that the 2018 team will be as great, but this team has the potential to be something special if Brian Cashman continues to make the right moves. It’s time to bring the championship back to the Bronx!
|Credit: Phil Long-AP|
American League Division Series, Game 5
Yankees Win Series, 3-2
Yankees 5, Indians 2…
CC Sabathia pitched tremendously before handing it over to the bullpen and the bats of Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner provided the offense as the Yankees surprised the Cleveland Indians and the Baseball World to advance to the American League Championship Series.
Going into the final game of the ALDS, none of the experts were giving the Yankees a chance going against likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in his home ballpark. But thanks in very large part to Gregorius, Kluber didn’t stay around too long. His two home runs ensured that Kluber was watching the game from the dugout by the end of the 4th inning. I am sure that’s not the game plan that Tribe manager Terry Francona had envisioned. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird were a combined 0-for-13 with ten strikeouts, but with Didi Gregorius playing one of the greatest games in Yankee shortstop history, it did not matter.
The game started with Corey Kluber in control. Brett Gardner opened with a failed bunt attempt on the first pitch to record an out. Aaron Judge struck out for the first of four strikeouts on the night for the second out. But then Didi Gregorius, who entered the game with just one hit in the series, blasted a drive into the right field seats for the game’s first run. Kluber came right back and struck out Gary Sanchez and was seemingly in control despite the misplaced pitch to Didi.
The Yankees had a runner in scoring position in the 2nd inning when Aaron Hicks took a two-out walk and Jacoby Ellsbury reached first on, surprise, catcher’s interference (bat hit the top of the catcher’s glove). Todd Frazier flied out to end the inning and leave the runners stranded, but the Yankees were showing activity against Kluber. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia was facing the minimum number of batters with four strikeouts through the first two innings.
Brett Gardner led off the top of the 3rd inning with a sharp single to right. After Judge whiffed again, Didi Gregorius jumped on another Kluber pitch and ensured it was a fan souvenir in the right field seats again. The Yankees were up, 3-0.
|Credit: Jason Miller-Getty Images|
The bottom of the inning was another three-up, three-down performance for Sabathia, with two more strikeouts.
In the top of the 4th inning, Kluber retired the first two hitters but had reached three balls with both before getting a strikeout and a line out. When he walked Jacoby Ellsbury on five pitches, it was Miller Time in Cleveland. Terry Francona pulled Kluber, who left with a 12.79 ERA in this series, in favor of Andrew Miller. Miller struck out Todd Frazier to get the Tribe out of the inning but it was very surprising to see Kluber’s exit before the conclusion of four full innings. I certainly was not complaining.
CC Sabathia finally gave up his first hit in the bottom of the 4th when Francisco Lindor led off with a single through the hole into left field. Sabathia came back strong, retiring the next three batters, two by strikeout, and remained in control. He looked good starting the bottom of the 5th when he struck out Carlos Santana, but then four successive singles brought home two runs to make it a one-run game. Manager Joe Girardi wasn’t taking any chances at that point and went to the pen to bring in David Robertson to face Francisco Lindor with runners at first and second.
|Credit: Getty Images|
On his second pitch, Lindor hit a grounder to Didi who stepped on second and threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play. A huge defensive play by Didi to ensure that his glove was as loud as his bat. CC Sabathia may not have survived the 5th inning, but still, giving up only two runs and striking out nine batters was a tremendous effort despite the slim lead.
|Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports|
It became a dueling battle of the bullpens as both teams put up scoreless frames through the eighth inning. The Tribe brought in their closer, Cody Allen, with two outs in the 8th (who proceeded to strike out Greg Bird), but I was very surprised…and a little uneasy…when the Yankees brought in Aroldis Chapman to start the bottom of the 8th. With so many other options available in the bullpen, I was fearful that Girardi had gone to Chapman too prematurely. Fortunately, Girardi proved why he is the Yankees manager and I am just a blogger on this site, when Chapman recorded three quick outs on thirteen pitches.
|Credit: Getty Images|
In the top of the 9th, with Cody Allen still on the mound, Starlin Castro struck out for the first out. Next up, Aaron Hicks singled to left. A fielding error by Austin Jackson, the ball rolled under his glove, allowed Hicks to move to second. Allen got Chase Headley to pop out, but then he walked Todd Frazier. Brett Gardner’s single to right, just past the glove of second baseman Jose Ramirez, cleared the bases to give the Yankees two very huge insurance runs. Frazier was able to score the second run when the throw from right fielder Jay Bruce into second got past Francisco Lindor and the Toddfather was able to slide into home ahead of the throw to the plate. Gardy advanced to second on a throwing error. It was a legendary at-bat for Gardy, who battled Allen through 12 pitches before getting the key hit (the longest at-bat of the post-season). Francona made another pitching move and pulled his closer in favor of Joe Smith. Smith got Aaron Judge to ground out to third, but no matter, the Yankees had increased their lead to 5-2. A little breathing room.
Going into the bottom of the 9th with a three-run lead made me feel so much better about the return of Aroldis Chapman for a second inning of work. But I did feel some tension when Chapman walked the first batter (Jose Ramirez). Chapman allowed me to exhale slightly when he struck out Edwin Encarnacion. Carlos Santana hit a ball to second for the force out of Ramirez. Two outs. The only man standing between the Yankees and a date in the ALCS with the Houston Astros was one-time Yankees prospect Austin Jackson. Carlos Santana took second on defensive indifference, but Gardy’s insurance runs ensured that Santana was inconsequential. Chapman’s job was simple…leave the potential tying run standing on deck without a chance to come to the plate. You could feel the excitement emerging when Chapman blew a fastball past Jackson for the called third strike to end the game. The Yankees win!
|Credit: Gregory Shamus-Getty Images|
I blamed Joe Girardi for the second game loss, but this game completed his redemption. It’s amazing how many people wrote off the Yankees when they lost the first two games of the ALDS in Cleveland. Even after they tied the series in New York, I didn’t hear many voices giving the Yankees any chance for Game 5 in Cleveland except for maybe Alex Rodriguez. The Indians were arguably the best team in the American League, with 104 wins on the season including the two wins in the ALDS. Their season included the historic 22-game winning streak and they were nearly everyone’s favorite, excluding Yankees fans, to win the World Series after their loss last year to the Chicago Cubs. But in the end, they will not have the opportunity to make a repeat appearance in the Fall Classic.
If Corey Kluber could have figured out an answer for Didi Gregorius, the results may have been very different and the Yankees might have been left wondering what could have been. Instead, the magic and the ‘never-say-die’ resiliency of the 2017 Yankees continues. The Yankees will get a rematch of their 2015 Wild Card Game loss to Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS. This time, we get seven games to show the World that heart, determination and desire, combined with a little talent, can make a difference.
Congratulations to the New York Yankees! Goodbye, Cleveland…hello, Houston!
|Credit: David Dermer-AP|
Have a great Thursday! Friday the 13th, here we come! Go Yankees!
American League Division Series, Game 4
Yankees 7, Indians 3…
Riding the arm of Luis Severino, who atoned for his Wild Card Game disaster, the Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians to send the series back to Cleveland, Ohio for the series finale and the right to advance to the American League Championship Series.
This game featured the legendary Mariano Rivera on the mound. Mo tossed the honorary first pitch, looking as great as ever. It was a sign of good things to come.
Once the game started, it was three up and three down for Luis Severino, showing no signs of the jitters that brought about his collapse against the Minnesota Twins in his previous start.
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
When Jay Bruce led off the top of the 2nd inning with a line drive single to right over the outstretched glove of Starlin Castro, Twitter bemoaned the break-up of Sevy’s “perfect game”. But no fear, Sevy retired the next three hitters, including the last two by strikeout, to ensure that Bruce got nothing more than a conversation with Greg Bird at first base for his effort.
The breaks started going the Yankees’ way in the bottom of the 2nd. Trevor Bauer, pitching on short rest (he started Game 1 last Thursday), has been dominant against the Yankees this year. But on Monday, those famed dancers, Mystique and Aura, came out in full force. Greg Bird started things off by grounding out at second. That didn’t start right, let’s try this again. Starlin Castro hit a hard grounder to third that third baseman Giovanny Urshela knocked down but it rolled away and Castro was safe at first. Chase Headley struck out for the second out, and it looked like Castro might suffer the same fate as Jay Bruce had in the top of the inning. With Todd Frazier batting, a Bauer pitch popped out of the glove of catcher Roberto Perez for a passed ball, allowing Castro to move to second. Todd Frazier, who had expressed prior to the game how much he enjoys playing in the post-season with the Yankees, doubled to to the left field corner to score Castro with the game’s first run. The Toddfather! Aaron Hicks kept it going with a single to the gap in center, scoring Frazier. 2-0, Yankees. Brett Gardner followed suit with a roller up the middle into center field, moving Hicks to third. A steal by Gardner put both runners in scoring position for Aaron Judge. Judge hit a fly to left that hit the warning track and bounced off the wall for a bases-clearing double. The Yankees had increased their lead to 4-0.
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
After an intentional walk of Didi Gregorius, Tribe manager Terry Francona decided to move to Plan B and pulled Bauer in favor of reliever Joe Smith. Smith got Gary Sanchez to pop out to first in foul territory for the final out, but it had been a very big inning for the Yankees with four unearned runs.
Severino easily breezed through the Indians lineup in the top of the 3rd to bring the Yankees to bat once again. Reliever Mike Clevinger took over for Joe Smith and walked Greg Bird to start the Yankees’ half of the inning. Starlin Castro doubled to center off the wall to advance Bird to third. After Chase Headley struck out (not a great game for the Headster), Todd Frazier walked to load the bases. Aaron Hicks grounded into a force out to first baseman Carlos Santana who quickly threw home to retire Bird for the second out. Brett Gardner followed with a grounder to third, but the normally reliable Giovanny Urshela, after a slight hesitation, threw the ball high to first which pulled Santana off the bag for his second error of the game. Gardy safe at first. It allowed Starlin Castro to score on the play. Another call to the bullpen brought in Danny Salazar who struck out Aaron Judge to get the Indians out of the inning. The Yankees had a five-run lead and things were feeling very good in the Bronx.
The top of the 4th seemed to be going Severino’s way when he recorded two quick outs but then he walked Jay Bruce. Carlos Santana made Sevy pay for it with a two-run homer to center into Monument Park to cut the lead to 5-2. A coaching visit to the mound by pitching coach Larry Rothschild, which often prove to be unsuccessful, worked this time as Sevy was able to retire Michael Brantley on a line out to center.
The Indians closed the gap to two runs in the top of the 5th when Roberto Perez hit a one-out home run into the right field seats, making it 5-3. Despite the home runs, Severino had seven strikeouts up to that point.
In the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees added an insurance run. Todd Frazier led off with a slow roller back toward the pitcher. Danny Salazar’s throw to first hit the ground and sailed past the first baseman, allowing Frazier to race to second. A ground out to first by Aaron Hicks moved Frazier to third. Francona came out and signaled for his lefty, Tyler Olson, to replace Salazar to face Brett Gardner. Gardy hit a fly to shallow center that didn’t look like it would be deep enough, but Frazier challenged the arm of center fielder Jason Kipnis (normally the team’s second baseman) and won, scoring on the sacrifice.
|Credit: Kathy Willens-AP|
Another pitching change, this time bringing in Bryan Shaw, saw another strikeout of Aaron Judge to end the inning.
Gary Sanchez padded the lead with his one-out home run to right, barely missing the second deck, in the bottom of the 6th. The Sanchino! The four-run lead gave the team much needed breathing room.
|Credit: Getty Images|
With Sevy still going strong, the Yankees had an opportunity for more runs in the bottom of the 7th. The Indians inserted their closer Cody Allen a little early (the benefit of having the very versatile Andrew Miller on the roster). Things didn’t go Allen’s way when Aaron Hicks reached second base, thanks to a one-out fielding error by first baseman Carlos Santana (hard grounder bounced off his glove into right field). Brett Gardner singled to right, moving Hicksie to third. Gardy took second on the high throw in from the outfield. But they would not advance any further when Aaron Judge struck out and Didi Gregorius popped out to short to leave the runners stranded.
Dellin Betances took over for Severino in the top of the 8th and unfortunately things did not go well for the tall right-hander. He walked Yan Gomes (after nearly taking his head off with one errant pitch), bringing pitching coach Larry Rothschild to the mound. Like it usually happens when Rothschild visits, it didn’t work. The inconsistent Betances walked Francisco Lindor on four straight pitches which ended his latest appearance. It was very disappointing to see Betances continue his struggles with control, which makes him very unreliable moving forward.
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
Tommy Kahnle came into the game, and did the job Betances was once so good at…he retired the three batters he faced, two by strikeout.
Josh Tomlin took over for Cody Allen in the bottom of the 8th and easily discharged the Yankees to push the game to the 9th. Tommy Kahnle returned to the mound to face Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kahnle rose to the challenge and struck out the side with Chisenhall missing on his swing for the final out. The Yankees win!
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
Nice job by Luis Severino who finished with nine strikeouts in seven innings of work. Four hits, three runs (on the two homers), and one walk. It wasn’t perfect but he held the Indians down while the Yankees took advantage of the three Cleveland errors to score six of their seven runs. Granted, Cleveland’s lineup is not the same without Edwin Encarnacion but they are more than capable of erasing leads quickly. Sevy did not allow it to happen. Dellin Betances tried but Tommy Kahnle saved him from himself.
Chase Headley’s performance (0-for-4 with three strikeouts) has me wondering if it might not be time for Matt Holliday’s name to be penciled in at DH. Aaron Judge’s first hit of the series was a big one with the two RBI’s in the second inning, while Gary Sanchez’s homer seemed to help suck the life out of the Tribe.
The series now moves to the decisive Game 5 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Prior to yesterday’s game, Joe Girardi announced that CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA) would be the starter, not Sonny Gray. Sabathia returns to the site where it all began for him so many years ago. Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA) will be seeking redemption in front of his home fans after giving up six runs in his last start. The Yankees have a huge challenge before them, but the pay off is a road trip to Houston, Texas for the ALCS. Win or lose, this has been a great year for the Yankees. The team has heart and they do not quit.
|Credit: Amanda Rabinowitz-WKSU|
The Houston Astros overcame the Boston Red Sox, 5-4, to win their ALDS, three games to one. There was some satisfaction when former Yankee Carlos Beltran provided what would prove to be the winning run when he delivered an RBI double in the top of the 9th. Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers had an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 9th but it was not enough as the Astros overcame both Chris Sale (in relief) and Craig Kimbrel for the win.
Odds & Ends…
I figured there would be defections from the Yankees organization to join Derek Jeter in Miami but I didn’t think they would happen so quickly. George A King III of the New York Post reported yesterday, via Twitter, that it was Gary Denbo’s last day with the Yankees. The former VP of Player Development will become the director of player development and scouting for the Marlins. A self-avowed non-fan of Derek Jeter, I am starting to actually dislike the guy. This was certainly one of the risks when Jeter’s group won the bid for the Marlins and Denbo’s defection may not be the last. If for whatever reason the Yankees do not ink GM Brian Cashman and/or Manager Joe Girardi to new deals, the Yankees front office could have have substantially different look in 2018. I thought it was very poor taste for Denbo to leave prior to the conclusion of the post-season but then again, if he didn’t want to be here, good riddance.
Former Yankee pitching prospect Rookie Davis underwent hip surgery on his right hip to repair the labrum and remove a bone spur. It is a significant procedure and Davis will not be ready by the time training camp opens next spring. Davis was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, along with Eric Jagielo, Caleb Cotham and Tony Renda, in the 2015 trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees. Only Davis and Jagielo remain in the Reds organization. Cotham retired in March and Renda was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in July. We send best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Davis.
Have a great Tuesday! We have a day to enjoy and get ready for Game 5! Thumbs down! Let’s do this. Go Yankees!
|Credit: Frank Franklin II-AP|
American League Wild Card Game
Yankees 8, Twins 4…
Eventually, the Minnesota Twins will find the answer for their struggles in the Bronx but this will not be one of those years. Admittedly, I was not feeling too good after Luis Severino had given up three runs on two homers in the opening inning and the Twins were threatening for more with only one out. But exit Severino and enter the stellar Yankees bullpen, plus a few timely home runs, and the Yankees found themselves with a date with the Indians in Cleveland for the American League Division Series.
For Luis Severino, it was a game to forget. Whether it was his youth and/or his lack of post-season experience, he was overwhelmed and unable to find any of his pitches. He needs to have another talk with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, this time about life in October. It was a learning experience for the youngster and I am sure that he’ll be stronger for it as we move forward.
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
The Twins quickly took the lead when Brian Dozier led off the game with a home run that landed in the first row of the left field stands, bouncing off a fan’s hands and back onto the field. Still, I thought that it was something that Sevy could overcome. He got the next batter, Joe Mauer, to pop up which Todd Frazier caught in foul territory for the first out. But then Sevy was unable to put away Jorge Polanco and walked him. Eddie Rosario hit a line drive to right that carried out, and it was 3-0 Twins. Manager Joe Girardi picked up the phone to get the bullpen ready. Eduardo Escobar singled to left center, and Max Kepler followed with a double to right, moving Escobar to third. Unfortunately, it was evident, by then, that Severino was not going to overcome the jitters. Girardi made the call to the bullpen and brought in Chad Green. Using Girardi’s words, it’s not what you want. But the decision to go to Green paid off with two huge strikeouts of Byron Buxton and Jason Castro to hold the game to a three-run deficit. There’s no question that the Twins could have easily escalated it to five runs or more. Holding the Twins to only three runs was tremendous, and the set the stage for the events to follow.
The game was billed as a battle of Dominican Republic pitchers. Ervin Santana, the Twins ace, was born about 70 miles away from Severino’s hometown. Santana, carrying an 0-5 record in six starts at Yankee Stadium, had been asked how many wins he had at Yankee Stadium earlier this week and he responded that Tuesday would be one. Tuesday has passed and he’s still looking for that first win.
Handed a three-run lead, Santana walked Brett Gardner to start the bottom of the first inning. Aaron Judge battled Santana before finally hitting a single to center to put runners at the corners. Gary Sanchez popped up to the catcher for the first out. It brought Didi Gregorius to the plate. Didi has been nothing short of spectacular this season and he came through in a big way. On a full count, he got a hold of a Santana pitch to deposit it into the right field seats. Suddenly, with a swing of the bat, the game was tied.
After Chad Green easily retired the Twins in the top of the 2nd including two by strikeout, Brett Gardner hit a two-out solo homer into the second deck of the right field stands in the bottom of the inning to give the Yankees their first lead, 4-3.
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
However, with Green still pitching, the Twins charged right back in the top of the 3rd. Perhaps overstaying his welcome, the Twins loaded the bases when Jorge Polanco led off with a single to right and Green walked two of the next three hitters to load the bases with only one out. Despite two starters in the bullpen, Girardi pulled Green and brought in David Robertson. Byron Buxton grounded into a force out at second but Polanco scored on the play when the Yankees were unable to turn the double play to re-tie the game. D-Rob struck out Jason Castro to end the inning and prevent any further damage. That was a huge spot for D-Rob and he came up big holding the Twins to only one run when they could have easily scored more.
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
In the bottom of the 3rd, Ervin Santana was gone, replaced by young Twins starter Jose Berrios. Gary Sanchez led off the inning with a double to the left field wall. When Berrios struck out the next two batters, it looked like he might be able to get out of the inning without Sanchez coming home to score. Greg Bird had other ideas as he lined a single to right bringing Sanchez around for the go-ahead run. 5-4, Yankees. Aaron Hicks singled on a soft grounder to third to put runners at the corners, but the Yankees couldn’t capitalize when Jacoby Ellsbury, starting at DH over Chase Headley and Matt Holliday, popped out to third to end the inning.
The Twins made a defensive substitution in the bottom of the 4th inning. Byron Buxton, who had hit the wall to catch a Todd Frazier fly in the 2nd inning, was removed due to lingering effects of back tightness and replaced by New York native Zack Granite. With the Twins’ best player, Miguel Sano, off the playoff roster dealing with his prior shin injury, losing Buxton, their next best great player was tough for the Twins. Nothing against Granite, but he’s not the player Buxton is. I hope that Buxton is okay and you never want to see a player leave through injury. But that one hurt the Twins (no pun intended). Todd Frazier struck out for the first out but Brett Gardner followed with a single to left on a fly dropped in front of the left fielder. Aaron Judge stepped up (literally and figuratively) and hit one of his shorter home runs to left. I was unsure for a moment if it was a home run but the ball had indeed hit above the fence line before bouncing back on the field. Judge, showing the most emotion I’ve seen from him as he rounded first base, circled the bases to give the Yankees a 7-4 lead.
David Robertson was still pitching in the 6th inning, making one of his longest appearances. Zack Granite led off with a single to right on a ball that got under Starlin Castro’s glove. D-Rob struck out Jason Castro and Robbie Grossman for two outs, but that final out would prove elusive. With Brian Dozier at the plate, a wild pitch allowed Granite to easily move to second. Dozier subsequently walked to bring the tying run to the plate. Girardi signaled for the bullpen and brought in Tommy Kahnle to replace D-Rob. Joe Mauer hit a long fly to left and for a moment I couldn’t tell if it was in or out when the TV crew switched cameras as the ball was falling. Fortunately, Brett Gardner made the catch on the warning track for the final out. Another huge spot with success for the Yankees.
Kahnle easily retired the Twins in the 7th inning. In the bottom of the inning with Twins reliever Trevor Hildenberger on the mound, Aaron Judge got things started by taking a walk. I thought it was an excellent at-bat for Judge as he avoided chasing any pitches. Gary Sanchez hit a ball through the hole on the left side into the outfield. Judge advanced to third. The throw from the outfield sailed over the third baseman’s head (they probably could have nailed Judge at third had the throw been accurate) so Sanchez was able to move to second. With no outs and two runners in scoring position, the Twins elected to intentionally walk Didi Gregorius. Great strategy to open up the potential for the double play or a force out at home, but it left no margin for error. Starlin Castro had the first crack at the potential scoring opportunity but he flied out to right. With Greg Bird up next, the Twins brought in reliever Taylor Rogers, a lefty, for an all-Denver, Colorado battle (Bird is from Aurora, CO while Rogers hails from Littleton, CO). Rogers won the battle when he struck out Bird for the second out. The Twins made another call to the bullpen and brought in Alan Busenitz to face former Twin Aaron Hicks. Busenitz couldn’t throw strikes and walked A-A-Ron on four pitches to bring Judge home. The Yankees had increased their lead to 8-4. Jacoby Ellsbury flied out to leave the bases full, but the Yankees added an important insurance run.
Tommy Kahnle came back out for the 8th inning and retired the Twins in order. The Twins nearly had a base runner with one out but Zack Granite ran over first base without touching the bag on a grounder to first. Bird tossed the ball to Kahnle who dropped the ball but Starlin Castro alertly picked up the ball to tag Granite out before he could get back. I didn’t expect to see Dellin Betances given his struggles in September so I was very glad to see Kahnle continuing to pitch very strongly to get the game into the 9th inning and into the hands of Aroldis Chapman. Chapman gave up a two-out single to Joe Mauer but the inning was never in doubt as Chapman easily shut down the Twins, striking out Jorge Polanco to end the game. The Yankees win!
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
I am still not a fan of the single-game elimination but the Yankees persevered and head for Cleveland to face the Indians for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday. Now I can say that I am very joyous about the Yankees being in the post-season. It is so hard to be excited about a potential ‘one and done’ situation and I was very uneasy coming into the game. It didn’t help when Luis Severino had nothing and gave the Twins the strong early lead. You’d think that the Law of Averages would eventually tilt in Minnesota’s favor given the Yankees long-standing history of dominance over the Twins. I was very pleased that Tuesday was not their night. They’ll eventually get a key victory in the Bronx but it won’t be this year.
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
Congratulations to the New York Yankees for moving to the next round! I have very proud of this team and their accomplishments this year. They may not win the next round but the Yankees have shown the world their future is bright. This team has the potential to surprise but if not, there’s no doubt this will be a stronger team when they take the field next season.
Chasen Shreve threw out the first pitch. The Las Vegas native symbolized representation for his home city after this week’s senseless tragedy that claimed 58 lives and injured more than 500 people. There was a moment of silence observed for the victims.
|Credit: Paul J Bereswill-NY Post|
Earlier this season, Chase Headley took one near the family jewels. The same fate was bestowed upon Gary Sanchez when a foul ball hit the catcher where the sun doesn’t shine causing Sanchez to roll on the ground in pain while David Robertson was still on the mound. Ouch! Fortunately, he was able to continue. That was a painful experience to watch. It would not have been fun to be the recipient.
Have a great Wednesday! We have a day to enjoy and then the work begins on Thursday. Go Yankees!