Tagged: Brian Cashman

Another Day of “Trading Manny” Speculation…

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Machado prepares to say goodbye to his O’s uniform…

It’s the All-Star Break and Manny Machado is still a Baltimore Oriole. A few more days anyway. If you believe the reports, the Philadelphia Phillies would seem to be the frontrunner, closely followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers. I’ve seen one (most likely fictitious) report that has the Phillies sending third baseman Maikel Franco, shortstop J.P. Crawford, and top pitching prospect Adonis Medina to Baltimore. If that’s the level of talent on the table for Manny, I don’t see why the Yankees can’t beat it. I don’t think they will, but any way you look at it, Manny would make any team’s offense and defense better. For the Yankees, it only works if he is willing to move back to third base, but I’d gladly take the legitimate superstar over the young rookie at third (with no offense to Miguel Andujar who has done a fine job).

It is exciting to think about Manny Machado as a Yankee. The images of him wearing Pinstripes have been tremendous and then there was yesterday’s Instagram pic posted by Aroldis Chapman showing Manny sitting among Chappy, Luis Severino and Gleyber Torres.

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I continue to believe that the Orioles will not trade with the Yankees (even though we routinely seem give them quality arms with guys like Richard Bleier and Yefry Ramirez). But for all the excitement about Machado, it will be a letdown if the July trading deadline passes and we end up with only a pedestrian rental like J.A. Happ or Cole Hamels.

If he does not come to the Bronx, I’d like to see Machado end up with the Dodgers. Play him at short this year to free up Chris Taylor to roam positions again. The Dodgers would have a great chance to re-sign Manny if he likes LA. He can hang out with LeBron. Next year, if they are successful in signing him, the Dodgers could move him to third when Corey Seager returns, push Justin Turner to first base, play Max Muncy at second, and keep Cody Bellinger in the outfield.  I certainly feel the Dodgers would have a much better chance at signing Manny to a long-term deal than either the Phillies or the Brewers. I’d still rather see Manny with the Yankees, but having him on the Dodgers would be a nice consolation prize (for me anyway). Sorry, it’s not about you, it’s all about me. Kidding…

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The Boston Red Sox may hold a 4 ½ game advantage on the Yankees, but the Yankees have the farm system to make significantly greater moves than the Red Sox can make. Boston has the much weaker farm system and as baseball’s top spender, they are maxed out on salary unless they want to encroach into the highest tax penalty category. If we do nothing, it will be a lost opportunity.  Same if we come away with an arm that has difficulty keeping runners off home plate. We already have one of those with Sonny Gray.  We don’t need to add to our collection.

Probably the only moves that would be more meaningful to me than Manny Machado would be a frontline starter like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Blake Snell, or Madison Bumgarner. Unfortunately, I think the chances of landing one of those guys is about as good as Peter Angelos warming up to the Yankees.

So, this leaves me with the opinion that I am going be disappointed come July 31st. Whether it will be a lot or just a little, I don’t know but I sense that disappointment is headed my way. If there was ever a time for GM Brian Cashman to deliver one of his golden stealth moves, now is the time.

The Yankees have played 95 games so there are only 67 games left. I am excited about the impending returns of both Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres which provide immediate upgrades, especially if El Gary can start hitting like we know he can. He has homered the last couple of games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders so hopefully his timing is coming around quickly.

The next couple of weeks will be very crucial for the Yankees as they attempt to chase down the Red Sox. They don’t have to be in first place by August 1st but they need to make the necessary moves now to ensure that they are properly positioned for the impending sprint to the finish line.  Don’t let us down, Cash. This is your time.

Congratulations to Bryce Harper for the hometown Home Run Derby championship over Kyle Schwarber at Nationals Park last evening, but I must admit that I didn’t watch. There was just no drama or intrigue for me with this year’s participants.  I admire Rhys Hoskins and I think Mad Max Muncy is a great story but something was missing without Pinstripes.  I don’t blame Aaron Judge for passing on it, but without any Yankees, there was simply no motivation for me to watch.  I don’t really expect Harper to sign with the Yankees in the off-season so I didn’t have the urge to watch him take swings. Maybe if Manny Machado had been a participant, it would have carried a little more significance. Or even the great Mike Trout. Oh well, next year.

It’s been great to see the pics of Gleyber Torres at the All-Star Game festivities. I’ve missed that guy. I look forward to having his energy back in the Yankees lineup very soon.

Don’t look now, but LHP Nestor Cortes, who spent spring training with the Orioles, is a man on fire. In yesterday’s 5-0 win by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders over the Toledo Mud Hens, Cortes (4-3, 3.11 ERA) threw a one-hitter over six innings while striking out ten. Over his last 38 1/3 innings, Cortes has only allowed three earned runs. This is how I wish Chance Adams was pitching but sadly it is not.

Here’s another shameless plug for Kurt Sutter’s new TV show Mayans MC which makes its premiere on Tuesday, September 4th. The first season (set in a post-Jax Teller/Sons of Anarchy world) will feature ten episodes and tells the story of young Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes, played by JD Pardo. Reyes is fresh out of prison and a prospect in the Santo Padre charter of the Mayans MC, located on the Cali/Mexi border. According to the storyline, EZ must carve out his new identity in a town where he was once the golden boy with the American Dream in his grasp. The show also stars Clayton Cardenas, Edward James Olmos, Sarah Bolger, Michael Irby, Carla Baratta, Antonio Jaramillo, Raoul Max Trujillo, Richard Cabral and Danny Pino. Sons of Anarchy star Emilio Rivera returns as Marcus Alvarez, El Padrino of the Mayans MC.  I am looking forward to the ride.

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We are still a few days away from the next Yankees game (Friday night at Yankee Stadium against the cross-town Mets) but at least we’ll get to see Luis Severino and Aaron Judge in action tonight (and maybe some shots of Aroldis Chapman and Gleyber Torres as spectators).

As always, Go Yankees!

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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!

Hey Cash, Omar’s on Line 1…

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‘Tis the Season to Make Trades…

I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of July and the excitement of the non-waiver trading deadline at the end of the month. It’s my favorite time of the year except for when the Yankees are playing in the Fall Classic. We know that GM Brian Cashman has openly talked about adding starting pitching since last winter. Yet, admittedly, I am starting to feel like a bit of a prospect-hugger.

I’ve seen the names of Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ and have dreamed what they might look like in Pinstripes, but the more I think about it, the more I think they are not worth the price of admission.

Here are the top ten Yankees prospects according to MLB.com:

Outfielder Estevan Florial

LHP Justus Sheffield

RHP Albert Abreu

RHP Chance Adams

RHP Luis Medina

RHP Freicer Perez

RHP Domingo Acevedo

SS/2B Thairo Estrada

RHP Dillon Tate

RHP Matt Sauer

Perez is out for the year after surgery last month to clean up bone spurs in his right shoulder, but I know the Yankees are very high on him.  There’s not a name that I would want to sacrifice for a “rental”. I would absolutely hate to see the Yankees send someone like Albert Abreu to Toronto for a couple of months of J.A. Happ. Happ is not going to be a difference-maker in October and Abreu has the potential to haunt the Yankees for years.  That’s not worth it to me.

If the Yankees are going to send talented, high-ranked prospects out of the organization, it needs to be for frontline players. I know it’s unlikely the Yankees will pry Jacob deGrom from the New York Mets, but that’s how high the Yankees need to set their sights.  Otherwise, we’re just throwing talent away.

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I think the Yankees will have another starting pitcher by the end of the month, but I hope that it’s not an overpay situation. I would like to see an upgrade for Chasen Shreve’s spot in the bullpen even if the pitcher’s last couple of outings have been decent.  I am sure that Cashman is burning the midnight oil and is making daily phone calls to his buddies around both leagues. My hope is that he surprises us with a significant upgrade. He has done it before and there’s no reason he can’t do it again.  He has 26 days counting today. No pressure, Cash, the eyes of the Yankees Universe are upon you.

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The Boston Red Sox are rumored to be looking at Tampa Bay’s Nathan Eovaldi. I wouldn’t really want Nasty Nate back in Pinstripes but I can’t say that I’d be too excited to see him in Boston. I’d rather see him go someplace like Atlanta if he is moved as expected.

It’s sounding increasingly like the Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado. There’s no real chance the Yankees are in play nor should they be. He’s another player that I’d hate to see end up in Boston, although I don’t think the Red Sox have the prospects to entice the O’s to trade within the division (or least I hope hot).  For the sake of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I hope Machado does not go to Brandon Drury’s old team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. I’ve heard the Philadelphia Phillies mentioned but I think the Philly market is too close to Baltimore. It would be hard for the Angelos family to watch Manny thrive in the Delaware Valley. The St Louis Cardinals make perfect sense to me as a possible destination. Last off-season, it felt like Manny would be an eventual Yankee but now I am not so sure. There’s also a chance that Manny goes someplace that he really likes and decides to stay for his next contract (like the NBA’s Paul George just did in opting to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder after it had been rumored for months, even years, that the Palmdale, CA native was destined to play for the Los Angeles Lakers). I am a little miffed about George although I have my new LeBron James shirt to pacify me.

The Los Angeles Dodgers failure to sign their first round pick in the recent MLB Draft showed me how fortunate the Yankees were to lock up young high school catcher Anthony Seigler. Prior to the draft, Seigler had committed and signed to play for the University of Florida. He bypassed that opportunity when he signed with the Yankees, and admittedly, it was a huge sacrifice on his part despite the dollars he received from the Yankees. There are no guarantees that he’ll make the Major Leagues but a college education is forever. It’s always a wakeup call for how much these guys sacrifice to play the game we all love. So very few ever make the millions and millions that await guys like Machado and Bryce Harper. For the Dodgers, they lost J.T. Ginn, a hard-throwing high school pitcher from Mississippi who announced that he’ll attend Mississippi State instead of signing with the them. The Dodgers had taken Ginn with the 30th pick in last month’s draft. They also lost another first-rounder four years ago when Louisville pitcher Kyle Funkhouser opted to stay in school for an additional year. You certainly cannot blame these young men for trying to better their lives as they see fit. But conversely, it underscores the risk of trying to sign young players. I wish everyone who tried could succeed but unfortunately life doesn’t work that way and there are not enough opportunities to go around. So, we make the best we can do, one day at a time.

As expected, infielder Tyler Wade will be promoted to the active roster today to replace Gleyber Torres who was placed on the 10-day DL on Wednesday. I had been quietly hoping for the promotion of Clint Frazier but the presence of Wade makes more sense in terms of roster makeup. I’d really prefer to see Wade and Brandon Drury get the opportunities at second over Neil Walker. Walker remains my preferred DFA candidate. After it had been announced that Wade would be called up before today’s game in Toronto, all Clint Frazier did was hit two home runs and drive in four runs in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s 9-6 win over the Buffalo Bisons. Clint, we miss you.

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Lastly, Jon Paul Morosi wrote on MLB.com earlier today that the Yankees have considered trading for Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas with the intent to play him at first base. Nothing against Moose Tacos. I like him well enough but he has less experience at first base than Brandon Drury. I remain hopeful that Greg Bird will start hitting like we know he can. If he does, Moustakas is better off going to Atlanta. If there is any truth to the rumor, I guess it at least shows that Brian Cashman is thinking outside the box.

After a day of no Yankees baseball, our team will soon take the field against at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario. It’s a wonderful day for a Yankees win. Oh crap, Sonny Gray is on the mound. On the bright side, at least the game is not being played at Yankee Stadium. Time for #55 to start showing us he is a reliable part of the rotation.

Go Yankees!

The Rivalry Resumes Tonight in the Bronx…

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Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry, sorry Dodgers-Giants, is back…

Yankees-Red Sox.  It doesn’t get any better than this. The two teams open tonight for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium in the continuing battles for the AL East. The season series is currently tied at three games apiece. The Sox took two of three at Fenway Park in April, and the Yanks countered with two of three in the Bronx during May. After this series, the teams will meet ten more times with the next series a four-game set in Boston which starts on the 39th anniversary of the death of legendary Yankees catcher Thurman Munson (August 2nd). I still miss Munson’s intensity in these Yankees-Red Sox games.

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I am disappointed in former Yankees Assistant General Manager Billy Eppler. The Los Angeles Angels GM has arguably the best baseball player in the World on his team and he can’t put other guys talented enough around Mike Trout to beat the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox enter tonight’s series in the Bronx with a one-game advantage on the Yankees in the AL East. Boston swept their six-game season series with the Halos, thanks to a 4-2 win at Fenway Park yesterday. If the Angels could have taken just one of those games, the Yankees and Red Sox would be tied atop the AL East. I know, it’s still June. Don’t get worked up about the Standings. But, hey Billy, thanks for nothing. That’s literally what you gave us.

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I don’t know what I was more disappointed about. The lack of effort by the Angels against the Red Sox or the “throwaway game” that Aaron Boone served up on Wednesday when he started the underwhelming Luis Cessa against the Philadelphia and inserted the legendary hitless bat of Kyle Higashioka in place of the much better Austin Romine and also sat Aaron Judge even though the Yankees had Thursday off with a very short commute from Philly back to New York. I know that Cessa only let one hitter beat him but the three-run homer by Rhys Hoskins was all the Phillies needed to take down the Yankees on a night the offense was a no-show. In my opinion, Cessa is better used in limited relief appearances. I really wish the Yankees would quit giving him spot start assignments. He is no Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga and never will be.

I get wanting to push CC Sabathia back so that he could open the Boston series tonight but with Cessa’s loss, it didn’t really seem worth it. Sabathia draws a tough opposing pitcher this evening in the form of Eduardo Rodriguez who brings a 9-2 record into the game with a 3.86 ERA. It doesn’t get any easier for the Yankees tomorrow when they’ll throw out Sonny Gray (Sucks!) against Boston ace Chris Sale. The only pitching match-up that favors the Yankees this weekend is Sunday when Luis Severino (12-2, 2.10 ERA) takes on David Price (9-5, 3.66 ERA).

After Wednesday’s game, the Yankees optioned Cessa to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will be recalling Brandon Drury today. Yay! I am very excited to see the Triple-A All-Star back in the Bronx. I like the options to use both Drury and Miguel Andujar at third and move Drury around the infield bags. I hope Drury is here to stay but I think he has at least one more trip to Scranton before he finishes his minor league career. If it was up to me, I’d pat Neil Walker on the back, thank him for his efforts, and send him on his way with bags in hand. Drury has greater long-term value for the Yankees and can easily meet or exceed current production.

The Boston Red Sox have baseball’s highest payroll and a decimated farm system thanks to Dave Dombrowski trades but it didn’t stop the Sox from trying to get better yesterday. They made a deal to acquire 35-year-old infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce from the Toronto Blue Jays for an infield prospect (Santiago Espinal) and cash considerations.  Toronto is apparently contributing $1.66 million toward Pearce’s contract to keep the Red Sox from entering the top tier of tax penalties. Pearce is effective when healthy, but health has been the issue. He has only played 26 games for the Blue Jays this season.  He had a memorable 2017 season when he blasted two walk-off grand slams within a week. He also provided the Jays with a walk-off homer against the Angels earlier this season. When Pearce puts on the Red Sox uniform, he will have worn the uniform for every AL East team  (he appeared in a dozen games for the Yankees early in the 2012 season). Everyone keeps saying the Yankees have the advantage over the Red Sox with a much deeper farm system to deal from, but it doesn’t seem to be holding back the Red Sox. Brian Cashman, your move.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)

There’s talk that the Texas Rangers could move Cole Hamels before the All-Star Game which will be held on Tuesday, July 17th, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Yankees continue to be mentioned as a possible destination, along with Hamels’ old team, the Philadelphia Phillies. I think I still prefer J.A. Happ but I certainly would not complain if Cashman drops Hamels into the Yankees rotation. I know the Yankees have long been connected to Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers but despite the youth and controllable years for the former Rookie of the Year, Fulmer just does not excite me. The Yankees had a scout present for his last start yesterday in Detroit against the Oakland A’s. Fulmer took the loss, pitching eight innings, giving up nine hits and four runs, in the A’s 4-2 victory. For the season, Fulmer is 3-7 with a 4.20 ERA for the 36-46 Tigers. Detroit is apparently asking for the moon and the stars in any trade for Fulmer. I do not feel that he is worth the price of Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Albert Abreu and others. I am okay with short-term options to buy time for the young arms in the system to mature. I’d make an exception for Jacob deGrom but despite the noise that the Yankees and Mets are talking, I don’t think they’ll make a deal. It would be very hard for the Mets to watch their ace excel in the Bronx without getting top flight, Major League-ready talent in return.

Okay, Yankees. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to win at least two of the next three games this weekend, and start next week in a dead heat with the Red Sox. If you want to sweep the Sox, please, by all means, go ahead. Good pitching and good hitting (plus some solid D). Let’s bring it. All I want to hear this weekend is Michael Kay yelling, “There it goes…see ya!” and to watch Aroldis Chapman shake hands with Austin Romine at the end of the games.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Go Yankees!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wish: To Beat Justin Verlander..

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Eventually, the Wish will become Reality…

I was not too confident about the Yankees’ chances against Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander yesterday and unfortunately I was right as the Bombers fell to the Astros, 5-1. As if the cold bats against Verlander weren’t bad enough, the sight of him walking off the field while tipping his cap to the jeers from the Yankee Stadium crowd was sickening. When I think of Verlander, I can still see his ugly mug in the midst of the brawl in Detroit last summer.

I don’t like Justin Verlander. I’ll just get that out there. I do not wish the Yankees had been the team to acquire him last summer regardless of what he has done wearing an Astros uniform. I don’t want him on my team. I want my team to beat him, to crush him like an ant. If the Yankees can beat Verlander in the post-season, a regular season loss to him will mean absolutely nothing. So, for now, I’ll take solace in the fact the Yankees are watching and learning. The day will come when they tee off on Verlander and he’ll look like the aging pitcher he was in the final days of wearing Detroit Tigers gear. I look forward to our next meeting with Verlander which could very well happen in October.

The next two games against the Astros will be tough. Whatever it is about pitching in Houston, Charlie Morton is drinking the water. An average starter at best in Pittsburgh, he’s become a different man in Houston and has pitched very well against the Yankees. Morton is undefeated this season (7-0), carrying a low ERA of 2.04 (which of course is high compared to Verlander’s 1.11). I wish I felt more confident with CC Sabathia on the mound. Frankly, I don’t know what we are going to get today with CC (2-1, 3.55 ERA). I guess my philosophy is the same as yesterday. Try to keep it close and get the game into the hands of the bullpen. Bullpen to bullpen, I like the Yankees’ chances.

Tomorrow, for the series finale, the Astros will have proven Yankee-killer Dallas Keuchel on the mound. If there is a silver lining, this has been a down year for Keuchel (3-6, 3.39 ERA) which also happens to be his walk year. We’ll throw the best we’ve got (Luis Severino, 7-1, 2.28 ERA) at Houston but down year or not, I expect Keuchel to be on his game. It should be a classic pitching duel.

One positive from yesterday’s game (at least for me)…Greg Bird’s swing is a thing of beauty.

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

I know there were positives in Domingo German’s performance yesterday with the number of whiffs (he did record seven strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings) but a loss is a loss. I know, he’s learning and it is part of the process. The Astros fans were probably very confident yesterday knowing who was pitching for them. I want that kind of guy. Again, not Verlander (for me), but a pitcher who instills confidence the way he does for his team. It’s not Sabathia, it’s not Masahiro Tanaka nor German, and it sure the hell isn’t Sonny Gray. I am getting a little tired of the usual suspects with rumored potential trade candidates. Michael Fulmer is 2-3 with 4.08 ERA and 1.273 WHIP. He may be young and controllable but his numbers are trending in the wrong direction. Same with Chris Archer. He is 3-3 with 4.29 ERA and 1.304 WHIP. To Archer’s defense, outside of a poor start against the Baltimore Orioles on May 12th when he gave up six runs in a loss, he has pitched much better in May than he did in April. At the end of April, Archer had a 6.61 ERA so even with the dog start against the O’s, he has lowered his ERA by more than two runs in a month. Fulmer is probably the better option since he’s younger and maybe his numbers help make his price tag more affordable. I don’t know. I can’t see either pitcher being “the guy” in October.

Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman uncovers a gem (or two) prior to this year’s trading deadline. Go ahead, surprise us with a true ace. An improved pitching staff to go with the team’s offense would be the catalyst for the Yankees to overcome the Boston Red Sox and charge into October with significant momentum. I want another shot at Justin Verlander.  Only next time, I expect to win.

So, the Cleveland Indians have promoted Justin Bieber to start this week. Oh sorry, make that Shane Bieber. Bieber was taken in the MLB Draft two years after the Indians selected Justus Sheffield and three rounds later. Bieber is a year older than Top Sheff and has blazed through the Indians system. I think we’ll see Sheff in a couple of months. Not really trying to draw a comparison between the two given Bieber was a college pitcher and much closer to the Majors than Sheffield was when he was taken in the first round of the 2014 Draft. But the emergence of rookie starters for contenders is heightening the excitement of Sheff’s impending arrival even if we have to wait awhile longer. Josh Rogers (4-3, 2.80 ERA) is scheduled to pitch today for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He is quietly inserting his name above Chance Adams as another arm that could make his Major League debut for the Yankees in the not-so-distant future.

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Josh Rogers / Photo Credit: Scranton Times-Tribune

Despite the home run he allowed to Jose Altuve yesterday, I’d probably give German’s next start to A.J. Cole.  I remained intrigued with the pitcher. I know, he’s not the answer and he was never more than a borderline Number 5 starter for the Washington Nationals. But I’d still like to see what he could do with a spot start. At one time, Nats fans thought Cole could be dominant but it never materialized. After originally being drafted by the Nationals in 2010, he did spend a year in the Oakland A’s farm system, but was reacquired by the Nats in 2013. The optimist in me tries to see Cole as a late bloomer (tapping on the potential that Washington scouts once saw) but the realist in me knows that he is a future DFA candidate. I’d just like to see what we have before he goes.

Today is a new day. As the Mariano Duncan quote goes, “We play today. We win today.” Let’s do it. Go Yankees!

Yankees Dominate Twins in Series Opener…

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Solid Hitting, Pitching and Defense…

 The World always seems to be a better place the day after a Yankees win. Even better when the Yankees’ vaunted offense goes ‘Postal’ on the Minnesota Twins en route to the convincing 14-1 win. So much for Minnesota’s plans for the revenge game following their loss in last year’s Wild Card game to the Yankees. As a Vikings fan, I generally have a soft spot for Twins fans since we share a common alliance in football but all bets are off when they play the Yankees.

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Photo Credit: Pioneer Press (Richard Marshall)

Miguel Andujar continued his consecutive game streak with extra-base hits to rub shoulders with none other than Mickey Mantle and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. The trio of two Hall of Famers and a rookie are the only Yankees under the age of 24 to have an extra-base hit in at least seven consecutive games. When the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury to be their third baseman during Spring Training, I was solidly in Camp Drury. But when Drury returns from the DL, there’s no way the Yankees can sit Andujar. With no offense to Todd Frazier (a player I loved as a Yankee), third base is in better hands with Andujar and Drury than it was Frazier and Chase Headley. The dilemma for Manager Aaron Boone will be how to make room on the roster for guys like Drury, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clint Frazier and Greg Bird when they are healthy. Actually, it’s GM Brian Cashman’s job but still, there are some difficult decisions awaiting the team on down the road.

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The first major league hit is in the books for young future star Gleyber Torres. His single in the bottom of the eighth inning off Twins reliever Tyler Kinley halted an 0-for-7 skid to start his Major League career. Now that the first one is out of the way, Torres can settle in and play the game his way. I don’t know what was more exciting…Gleyber getting his first hit or Giancarlo Stanton’s 4-for-4 night with a home run, three runs scored and two RBI’s. Or the grand salami courtesy of The Shredder’s non-Top Ten shortstop, Didi Gregorius who continues to elevate his game to heights previously unimaginable.

Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks…so many Yankees that contributed to last night’s big win. And, oh by the way, Masahiro Tanaka did not suck. He held the Twins to three hits and a single run over 6 2/3 innings and 91 pitches. He struck out five Twinkies while walking only two. Not bad for a day’s work. Chad Green and David Hale finished off the game, keeping the Twins from adding any further runs.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The Yankees are now 12-9 and have pushed themselves back to five games behind the division leading Boston Red Sox. They trail the second place Toronto Blue Jays by just a game. A few consecutive wins and everything looks rosy again. Of course, if they lose tonight against the Twins, it will be doom and gloom all over again. But for now, I am enjoying the win streak and hope it continues for the foreseeable future. I’ve always been a huge fan of ten-game winning streaks and there’s no time like the present to achieve one.

After holding the Twins scoreless over the final two innings last night despite allowing three hits, David Hale found himself in DFA limbo after the game. His roster spot was taken by former Washington Nationals right-hander A.J. Cole whom the Yankees acquired for cash considerations. All winter I wanted Brian Cashman to acquire RHP Cole. I guess I should have been more specific. Cole, 26, a former fourth-round pick, has been an occasional spot starter for the Nats and was scheduled to be their fifth starter this year until his performance forced the Nationals to replace him with veteran starter Jeremy Hellickson. His season line is horrific. He has given up 16 hits and 15 runs (including six homers) over 10 1/3 innings. He has walked six while striking out ten. It’s kind of funny. In his last appearance for the Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Hale gave up 12 hits and 6 runs. It earned him a promotion to the Bronx, where he gets his walking papers after pitching two scoreless innings. He is replaced by a guy who has been arguably worse. I guess the Yankees want Sonny Gray to feel like he isn’t the worst pitcher on the staff. To Cole’s defense, he has greater upside than Hale so I don’t necessarily have a problem with the move. But I hope pitching coach Larry Rothschild can fix whatever ails Cole’s pitches. At this point, he looks like a worse version of Bryan Mitchell, but who knows, maybe the Yankees see something in Cole that is not outwardly visible to the rest of us. Or maybe he’s just the next DFA candidate. I’d like to see Cole succeed. He’s still young enough to figure this thing out.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Matt Slocum)

Tonight’s game features the Twins’ very talented young righty Jose Berrios (2-1, 1.63 ERA) pitching against crafty veteran CC Sabathia (0-0, 2.70 ERA).  In his last start, Berrios held the Cleveland Indians scoreless with seven innings of work, allowing only three hits. In fact, he’s held three of his four opponents to three hits and no runs. The only blemish was an April 7th start against the Seattle Mariners when he was roughed up for five runs in 4 2/3 innings. It will be a tough game for the Yankees hitters but conversely it’s not going to be an easy one for Berrios.

Go Yankees!

Opening Day at Yankee Stadium (Not Today)…

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Greg Joyce)

Frosty the Snowman punches out the Yankees…

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As I type this post, it is in the low 30’s and snowing in New York for today’s now-postponed Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Snow and baseball do not mix. I love baseball at Yankee Stadium but admittedly it would be more enjoyable facing the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida right now. The game has been re-scheduled for Tuesday. Tomorrow will be a little warmer…temps in the 40’s…but rain is expected in the afternoon (there is a 95% chance at the expected 4 pm Eastern game time, according to Weather.com). April in New York, you gotta love it…

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I was really hoping the Yankees could have won three of four heading back to the Bronx, but it was not meant to be. I am not ready to crucify Manager Aaron Boone but the same could not be said about the Yankees Universe on Twitter. You would have thought Boone burned Derek Jeter’s famed #2 jersey after yesterday’s loss. Give Boonie a break. He’s going to make mistakes. Outside of Giancarlo Stanton’s two home runs last Thursday, the Blue Jays did a great job shutting down our best hitters. Credit to them for a job well done. When we are forced to rely upon the bats at the bottom of the lineup, we put ourselves into situations where the bullpen has no safety net.

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Four games into the season, I know two facts. The bullpen is going to perform better than this and the big sluggers are going to hit. Aaron Boone is a smart man and I think he grows stronger by the day. I don’t want the return of Joe Girardi even if it was possible. That ship has sailed and Girardi awaits his next managerial gig in Chicago or St Louis. For better or worse, I am behind Boone as the manager of this team. The last two losses were agonizing, to say the least, but there are better days ahead. In the coming weeks and months, Boone will prove himself to be a master strategist and will be a worthy foe to the game’s best.

The next seven games will be at home against the Rays and the Baltimore Orioles.These are the games to win. The Yankees need to take both series before heading to Boston a week from tomorrow. The O’s series will be a big test for Boone as he’ll be going against one of the greater managerial minds in the game. Buck Showalter may not have the talent on the field to match the Yankees but one must never underestimate the power of the former Yankees manager. This will be a series of the student against the master. One game at a time. I am confident that Boone will use these games as building blocks for his managerial greatness.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mark Brown)

Until further notice, I’d like to avoid hearing the Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball. At the moment, the only trustworthy guy appears to be Chad Green. Regardless, I am convinced the bullpen will be dominant but it gets old to continually hear they are the best, followed by another implosion. The most disappointing aspect of yesterday’s game for me was the inability of Sonny Gray to get out of the fifth inning. It put too much pressure on the pen, after several days of early starter departures. The bullpen will get better and Boone will make stronger choices. The current mood of disappointment can easily be swept away by a nice seven-game winning streak.

I know that many of you were glad GM Brian Cashman didn’t blink during  the  failed off-season trade talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates and RHP Gerrit Cole ended up moving to Houston to play for the World champions. I was in favor of the trade even if it meant losing Clint Frazier and a top pitching prospect so it was kind of tough to see Cole’s strong debut for the Astros yesterday. He was the winning pitcher in Houston’s 8-2 win over the Texas Rangers.  He pitched seven strong innings, allowing only two hits and a run.  He walked three and struck out eleven. His only mistake pitch was a slider to the second batter he faced to start the game, Joey Gallo. Gallo homered to left on Cole’s second pitch to give the Rangers an early lead, but former Pirate and childhood Yankees fan was dominant from there. I suspect that there will be more than a few AL pitchers who watch their offerings deposited into the outfield seats by Gallo, including a few Yankee pitchers, before this season is done. Now let’s see if Cole can continue to pitch at this level, particularly as AL hitters gain familiarity. The verdict is still out on that one, but for one day, Cole pitched like an ace and would have looked awfully nice in Pinstripes.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

Let’s hope that the Weather Gods decide to smile upon New York tomorrow so that we can get Opening Day at the Stadium underway. Rain, rain, go away, come again when we’re on the road. I know, that doesn’t rhyme but I never said I was a poet.  I just want to watch some Pinstriped Baseball.

Enjoy the snowy day.  Go Yankees!