Tagged: Brian Cashman

Hey Red Sox Fans, But the Game’s Not Over…

‘Stros Send the RSN Home Early in Game 1…

I wasn’t going to watch Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, but I got sucked into it when the Houston Astros took a one-run lead off on the Boston Red Sox, with everybody’s favorite…Joe Kelly…on the mound, in the top of the sixth inning. It was awesome in the top of the ninth when one-time Red Sock Josh Reddick blasted a solo shot against his former team to make it a two-run game. When Yuli Gurriel parked a three-run homer into the right field stands, the Red Sox fans were exiting Fenway Park in droves and their team had yet to take their final swings in the bottom of the ninth. It was such a beautiful sight!

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

The Astros won the game, 7-2, to ensure they’ll head to Houston with no less than a split pending the outcome of today’s game. They could sweep the games at Fenway Park before jumping on a Texas-bound plane and they do have the good fortune of facing Yankees punching bag David Price later today. Hopefully the Astro bats will enjoy hitting off Price as much as the Yankees do.

Photo Credit: Boston Globe

Gerrit Cole draws the Game 2 pitching assignment for Houston. It is easy to look back to last winter and say the Yankees should have been more aggressive in their pursuit of Cole. Ken Davidoff wrote a great piece in The New York Post today regarding the Yankees and Cole. The Yankees were willing to package a deal centered on outfielder Clint Frazier, but the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted the inclusion of Miguel Andujar as a centerpiece too. In retrospect, despite the lost season for Frazier, it’s hard to find fault with the Yankees’ decision to hold onto Andujar even if the Yankees desperately need pitching. Also, there was no guarantee Cole would have pitched as well in New York as he did in Houston. Maybe Andujar eventually gets moved for another frontline starter. Oh well, I am not going to look back and criticize the Yankees for their failure to acquire Cole. The Pirates chose to accept an inferior package from the Astros. It was their decision; not ours. There’s nothing we can do about it. Cole is a good pitcher, but he’s not worth handing over the farm system for. Now if we are talking about Jacob deGrom, that’s a different story.

Many Yankee fans were offended when Alex Rodriguez lost a bet to David “Big Papi” Ortiz and had to wear Red Sox gear on Fox TV, thanks to Boston’s win over the Yankees in the ALDS.  Honestly, I could care less. It would have hurt if the player had been one of the core Yankees, but A-Rod’s not in that category. I know he’s done much to rehabilitate his image, but I truly wish the Yankees would have never acquired him. I would have been fine with him wearing a Red Sox uniform for real in 2004. I think A-Rod has done a fine job on the broadcasting side and I know he continues to preach the Yankees are his favorite team, but it doesn’t mean that I have to like him. The fact remains he tarnished the game and he lied to the fans. But aside from that, I’ve lost bets and had to wear Red Sox jerseys or hats before so to me it was no big deal.

Photo Credit: FS1

I saw a funny Twitter post yesterday that said Milwaukee Brewers reliever Brandon Woodruff has more postseason homers than Boston’s Mookie Betts. Woodruff hit what would prove to be the eventual difference-maker in Milwaukee’s NLCS Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night off the great Clayton Kershaw. So far in the 2018 post-season, Betts only has 4 hits in 20 at-bats, with no homers and a couple of RBI’s. Betts is a great player but he is not immune to the post-season blues.

Everyone is making their predictions for which pending free agents the Yankees should re-sign or let walk. I hate to say it, but I don’t see the Yankees bringing Brett Gardner back. They’d be foolish to exercise the $12 million option and while declining the option and re-signing him to a lower one-year deal is possible, I am convinced the presence of a healthy Clint Frazier and, ugh!, Jacoby Ellsbury will force the Yankees to move on.

If the Yankees sign free agent Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks (as many expect) and re-sign J.A. Happ, I also do not see the Yankees bringing back CC Sabathia. So, the Yankees could be on the verge of losing their top two veteran leaders. I have no doubt other guys will pick up the void but I am appreciative of the Yankee careers for both Gardner and Sabathia. They’ve worn the Pinstripes proudly and will be missed.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

The Yankees face big decisions in the bullpen. With both David Robertson and Zach Britton ready to hit the free market, the Yankees have to decide whether to try and bring both back, just one, or let them both go elsewhere to the highest bidder. I’d love to see both return and I feel that having a super bullpen is so critical. Unless Luis Severino can make major adjustments this winter, the Yankees lack a true ace and signing Corbin does not change that fact. A super bullpen compensates for the deficiencies in the starting rotation. I love D-Rob’s heart, but if I had to make a choice for only one, I’d go with Britton. Unfortunately, I think Britton will get an insane offer from some other bullpen deficient team to be their closer, so it’s probably more likely the Yankees bring back Robertson. I’d really hate to see both leave.

While I think it is possible the Yankees go over the luxury tax threshold next year, the realist in me knows that Managing General Partner will give GM Brian Cashman a defined budget that may not include paying luxury tax penalties. I think some fans are expecting a 2009-like splurge with great young free agent superstars like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but there’s a very good chance the Yankees pass on any extended nearly half a billion dollar contracts. I see many fans predicting both Machado and Harper in the 2019 Yankees lineup and that’s simply not happening.

It’s amazing to think former Yankees third base coach Joe Espada might get a managing job before his former boss, Joe Girardi. Espada, currently bench coach for the Houston Astros, is emerging as one of the favorites for the job in Anaheim which was vacated when long-time Angels manager Mike Scioscia stepped down. Angels GM Billy Eppler knows Espada well from their time together in New York. Espada may be living the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ dream, but his run of consecutive championship series will end if he becomes skipper of the Halos.

I wonder if there are any Yankee fans that are actually pulling for the Red Sox over the Astros? None that I am aware of, but I am sure there are a few fair weather fans out there.

Let’s hurry up and fast-forward through the World Series so that we can get the Hot Stove League started. I am ready for the off-season planning to begin.  Nothing better than getting Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and other key executives together in one room to map out strategy for 2019. We can speculate. They can decide. But one thing’s for sure, we are united in our desire for a World Series championship next year.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Premature End to Promising Season for Yankees…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

On the bright side, greater things await the team next year…

It was a disappointing end to a promising season. I know, we should be grateful for a season that saw the Pinstripers win 100 games and advance through the Wild Card game to the AL Divisional Series. Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox were the better team. They won 108 games over the course of the season, and did not run into the roller coaster ride that we felt at times as Yankee fans. I did feel the Yankees had the talent to beat the Red Sox but, for whatever reasons, it was not meant to be. So, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and their fans.

The days following the ALDS loss have been difficult. I couldn’t bring myself to watch or listen to the MLB Network or ESPN the next day. It’s always hard when your favorite team’s season is abruptly ended. But if there is a takeaway, I hope that the bitterness of the loss motivates Yankees leadership to make the necessary enhancements to turn this team from very good to great. For several years, we’ve looked at 2019 as the arrival of the latest and greatest edition of Yankees championship baseball. 2017 was a little premature but it gave us a glimpse of what this team could do. Maybe it set expectations for 2018 higher than they should have been, but at this point, 2018 is water under the bridge. Time to look ahead and get excited about the future which will very soon be the present.

Everybody is writing posts about what the Yankees should do. Ultimately, those are the decisions that Hal Steinbrenner, the Steinbrenner Family, and the Yankees executive management team must make. We can say what we’d like for them to do, but if any of us feel that we could do a better job than Brian Cashman and Company, we’re delusional. I can say what I think the Yankees should do and will below, but these are really just personal wishes that may or may not come true. I trust Brian Cashman to make the right decisions.

We know going into the 2019 season the starting pitching staff will be led by Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. I fully expect Severino to make the necessary adjustments this winter to ensure greater consistency next season. I don’t think Sevy wants to settle for being a good pitcher. He wants to be one of the best in the game. I’ve been saying for months the Yankees should part ways with CC Sabathia, but now that the season is over and I’ve had time to re-think the position, the Yankees should try to sign CC on a one-year deal to bring him back as their fifth starter. There are some young, talented pitchers in the organization, like Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, Mike King, Albert Abreu, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German, but let them battle for the sixth man position. We know that the five-man rotation you start the season with is rarely the rotation you have at the end. I think the chance of injury increases significantly each year with Sabathia, but his value in the clubhouse cannot be dismissed. I think one or more of those young pitchers will have their opportunity to shine at some point next season, but let’s break camp with the ball in CC’s hand at the back end of the rotation. For the other two spots, I’ve held the third position, like many Yankee fans, for lefty Patrick Corbin. He seems destined for the Bronx. It will be a major disappointment if the Yankees are unable to sign him. For the fourth position, I’d try to re-sign J.A. Happ. We should get Jordan Montgomery back sometime in mid-2019, but these rotation “problems” (i.e., too many starting pitchers) have a tendency of working themselves out. Clearly, Corbin is a higher priority than Happ so if I can only have one, I’ll take the Arizona Diamondback.

In the bullpen, we may be potentially losing both Zach Britton and David Robertson. Sentimentally, I’d like to see the Yankees re-sign Robertson. I hated the years he was away with the Chicago White Sox. I really enjoyed getting him back into Pinstripes. There’s no doubt Aroldis Chapman is the undisputed Closer for the Yankees, but it’s nice to have a proven top closer in reserve for those times when/if Chappy goes down or not available. I’ve never been a fan of Dellin Betances closing games, despite his late season success. I prefer to keep the big guy in the primary setup role where he excels. If both Britton and Robertson leave, there’s no doubt Chad Green moves into a later inning role unless the Yankees sign a guy like Andrew Miller (which, as much as I hate to say it because I love the guy, would be a mistake given Miller’s recent history of injury struggles and ineffectiveness). I really liked having Britton on the team. Down the stretch, he was great. I have as much confidence in him closing games as I do Chapman or Robertson. Unfortunately, I think some team will throw too much money at him to be their primary closer so I think the odds of Britton’s return are very slim to non-existent.

I don’t want to trash Giancarlo Stanton and don’t feel that he should be judged solely on his performance in the ALDS, but if I could trade Stanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers and sign Bryce Harper, I’d do it. Realistically, I don’t think it will happen and I am convinced Stanton is here for the long haul regardless of the opt-clause in his contract. I think Stanton will be better next year after a year in the Bronx.

Miguel Andujar is everybody’s choice for AL Rookie of the Year. Well, at least among the Yankees Universe any way. No offense but the Yankees need to improve their defense at third. Many have called for moving Andujar to left. I’d support it. He has a very strong arm and I think his defensive flaws would not be as exposed in left as they are at third. Moving Andujar to left opens a spot in the lineup for everybody’s favorite free agent, Manny Machado. Not only is Machado a great young superstar, but his bat in the lineup would go a long way toward helping to solve the Yankees’ ongoing RISP problems. For the year (with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers), Manny hit .297/.367/.538 with .905 OPS. He slugged 37 homers and drove in 107 runs. It is assumed that he’d be willing to move back to third for the Yankees, and he’d greatly improve the team’s defense at the position. Unfortunately, I think the Philadelphia Phillies will be very aggressive in trying to sign Machado so if the Yankees want him, they’ll have to work hard to make it happen.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Gary A Vasquez)

I am not ready to give up on Gary Sanchez. I have no interest in the ‘dump Sanchez, trade for J.T. Realmuto’ arguments. I fully expect El Gary to work on his game during the off-season and come back much stronger, with a chip on his shoulder, next season. We know what his bat is capable of when it’s right. I think he will be improved defensively as well. I would not make any changes with the catching position. I am fully in favor of Austin Romine returning as El Gary’s caddy.

I really enjoyed the late season work of Luke Voit at first base. But there’s no way I’d go into training camp next Spring simply handing Voit the job. Greg Bird, while he didn’t deserve to start after his demotion, should be given every opportunity to compete with Voit. If the Yankees encounter a surprising chance to upgrade the position (someone like Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt), they should do it. In the end, I think Voit will be the team’s first baseman but until the regular season starts, I think it should be open competition to decide.

Right field, second base, and shortstop are firmly set so the only other position that could be potentially upgraded, excluding those I’ve mentioned above, would be center field. To trade or not to trade Aaron Hicks. That is the question. I don’t have a center field solution. Estevan Florial is not ready yet. I’d probably prefer to see Hicks stay, but I’d have no problem if the Yankees decide to trade him to improve other areas so long as they identify a strong option to replace him.

Brett Gardner has been a great Yankee but the team should not exercise his option. Some have mentioned declining the option and then re-signing him for less money, but he is a fourth outfielder at best at the stage of his career. I guess it really boils down to whether or not the Yankees think Clint Frazier can stay healthy. Plus, the albatross contract (Jacoby Ellsbury) should be back next year ready and, gulp, healthy. If there is one player that I’d love to see the Yankees dump regardless of the dollars lost, it would be the King of the DL. Sadly, I think we’re stuck with him for now and his presence could very well spell the end of Gardner’s time in Pinstripes.

Photo Credit:  USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

When Aaron Boone was named manager of the Yankees, I had really wanted him to hire an experienced bench coach. I would have loved to have seen Rob Thomson stay in the role, but I get his reasons for leaving after he was passed over for the manager’s job after years of service in the organization. Given Boone’s inexperience, I had really felt that he would have benefited from a seasoned manager serving as his bench coach (much like the role Ron Roenicke played for Boston’s Alex Cora). Boone opted for “smart and confident”, foregoing experience, when he went with Josh Bard. Bard is working his name to the short list for potential managers and he may very well turn out to be one of the game’s best eventually, but I think an experienced bench coach would have been better for Boone this past season. Next season, both Boone and Bard will be stronger for this season’s experience so maybe there’s no need to make any changes with the coaching staff. I trust Boone enough to know that he’ll reflect upon this season and identify areas of improvement to make the necessary corrections. There’s no doubt that Brian Cashman and his team will be working with Boone in the off-season too. I don’t think we’ll see the same level of bullpen management (or if you will, mismanagement) next season. Boone continues to have my support.

I am anxious to see what Brian Cashman has in store for us. He knows that this team is very capable of being great and does not need too many tweaks to position themselves among MLB’s elite. I am sure that we’ll feel a sense of loss for those players who depart via free agency or trade, but when the 2019 season rolls around, the Yankees will be ready to play. I am excited and I think the team is well positioned to go deep into October next year. I am convinced the Yankees will be improved while the Red Sox, after career years from multiple players, will regress.

I am looking forward to hearing what Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman have to say in their press conferences later today. I am so ready for the Hot Stove League to begin. But first, we still have some baseball left even if the beloved Yankees are at home with their families. Nonetheless, I am anxious to hear the first words for the 2019 blueprint when Boonie and Cash took the podium at Yankee Stadium. Then we have to wait a couple of weeks before Operation Win 2019 World Series begins with full steam.

For now, it is the NL and AL Championship Series, with the NL kicking things off tonight. The only team left in the playoffs that interests me are the Los Angeles Dodgers. If the Dodgers lose the NLCS to the Milwaukee Brewers, I probably won’t be watching the World Series. Credit to the Brewers for acquiring the most valuable outfielder from the Miami Marlins (Christian Yelich) last off-season. It’s been a magical season for them. I think the Dodgers will prevail but the Brewers certainly have a good chance for altering the outcome. I really hate the Houston Astros but I am hopeful they are the AL representative in the Fall Classic. I am so ready for the end of Boston’s season now, not later. So, my picks for the World Series are a repeat performance by last year’s participants, the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the Houston Astros, with the same outcome.

As always, Go Yankees!

A Win is a Win…

 

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Photo Credit: Miami Herald (David Santiago)

Yankees Survive the Marlins in Extra Innings…

Beat the teams you are supposed to beat. It does get frustrating when the Yankees struggle against Major League Baseball’s worst teams. I thought it was game over twice last night when the Miami Marlins loaded the bases with no outs in the bottoms of the ninth and eleventh innings against Chad Green and A.J. Cole, respectively. Somehow, the Yankees miraculously survived both innings and finally punched across the winning run in the top of the twelfth, thanks to a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by everybody’s Rookie of the Year, Miguel Andujar.

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Photo Credit: AP (Lynne Sladky)

I guess it does not really matter how you win so long as you do win.

On a night the Boston Red Sox were losing…again…it was nice to pick up a game in the standings. With the 2-1 win over the Marlins, the Yankees now trail Boston by eight games (seven in the loss column) in the AL East. The Sox dropped their second straight game to the AL Central leading Cleveland Indians, 6-3. It was Boston’s third consecutive loss overall.  Bummer, I feel so sad when that happens. Um, not really.

I’ve always felt that as long as you are within six games on September 1st, you have a chance to win the division. Mathematically, you can obviously be further out and still take the division crown but I’ve seen many six game leads erased over the years, the number has stuck in my head as the benchmark to ensure that you trail by no more than six when the calendar page rips to the ninth month of the year. Now, I don’t really expect the Red Sox to crater despite their current losing streak but it is fun to see the Yankees cut into their large lead.  Boston’s losing pitcher last night was Nathan Eovaldi. Nasty Nate hasn’t pitched a quality start for the Red Sox since they beat the Yankees on August 4th. For all those Yankee fans who wanted Eovaldi over J.A. Happ, be glad that your dreams did not come true.

I am worried about Aroldis Chapman. Brought in to close out last night’s win, he was unable to find the strike zone, walking the leadoff hitter in the twelfth inning. After six pitches, he signaled for the dugout and the decision was made to pull him due to his troublesome left knee. While Chapman has been trying to play through the knee tendonitis, this is the worst it has been so far. The Yankees plan further tests today to determine if something else is going on.

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Photo Credit: AP (Lynne Sladky)

Either way, it does not look good for the Yankees closer. David Robertson has missed a few games with minor soreness in the shoulder, so, to me, Zach Britton looks like the best option to close. I wouldn’t want to mess with Dellin Betances. He is much better in a setup role. Chad Green hasn’t been as reliable this year as he was in 2017. Britton, if he is right, is the best man for the job. He knows and understands the pressure of the ninth inning and he has proven in the past he is among the league’s elite. I know he’s had his share of struggles in Pinstripes, but he would be my first option to replace Chapman if Chappy is forced to miss any time. Work and knowing his role would help Britton elevate his game to previous levels of dominance.

Tommy Kahnle picked up his first save of the season in relief of Chapman but he is not a closing option for an extended period of time. The Yankees have been concerned about his drop in velocity and he is fortunate that the team he faced last night was the Marlins and not a stronger team like the Oakland A’s, a team we will see in early September. Khris Davis or Matt Olson would feast on Kahnle’s offerings.

As expected, Didi Gregorius landed on the disabled list prior to yesterday’s game due to his injured heel.  Hopefully, he’ll only miss the minimum amount of time (ten days). It’s fortunate the Yankees have a true shortstop in Gleyber Torres to slide him over to cover for Didi and hand the second base job to a proven second baseman in Neil Walker. It hurts to lose Didi but on paper, he is an easier guy to replace than Aaron Judge. I guess it is good and bad with Walker at second, considering that it opens more potential playing time for Shane Robinson in right field. Yuck!

It hurts me to look at the list of Yankees that have hit the disabled list this year. You could nearly field a playoff contender with the DL guys alone.  Baseball is about opportunity. When one goes down, another has to step up. Credit to those Yankees who have performed when asked. Hopefully the team can withstand the latest run of injuries to put the team in good position for the final weeks of the season and when some of the injured guys like Judge and Gary Sanchez can rejoin the active roster.

I am really surprised GM Brian Cashman has done nothing about right field. There’s no question I am not a fan of Shane Robinson. I know the Yankees are trying to navigate the treacherous waters beneath the luxury tax threshold, but there are too many other better outfield options available for the Yankees. I would have preferred the Yankees recalled Tyler Wade yesterday instead of first baseman Luke Voit. Manager Aaron Boone wanted Voit’s bat since they are playing a couple of games in a National League park, but despite whatever hitting success Voit has enjoyed at Triple A, it has yet to translate to the MLB level. Wade is capable of playing some corner outfield. Or make a spot on the 40-man roster for first baseman Ryan McBroom. McBroom is also capable of playing in the outfield and has had a very good year between Double and Triple A. I certainly like McBroom or Wade over Robinson.

Tyler Austin’s dad, Chris, has taken much heat for his tweets which basically trashed Greg Bird while promoting his son’s success with the Minnesota Twins. Personally, I don’t have a problem with Chris. My father passed away when I was a small child. Man, I wish I had a dad that loved me as passionately as Chris does Tyler. It’s wonderful that Tyler is enjoying success with the Twins. He deserves it. It is unfortunate Greg Bird took the unfair criticism but Bird has it within his power to change the results. If Tyler had been the first baseman the Yankees kept and Bird was the guy traded to Minneapolis, I am sure Yankee fans would not have minded Chris’s tweets promoting his son over Bird. Tyler, for the record, was embarrassed by his father’s tweets and asked him to take them down. He apologized for his father’s actions and expressed the intent to reach out to Bird.  I think the whole situation was overblown. I didn’t take offense when I first saw Chris’s tweet and figured it was his right as a father. In retrospect, it probably should not have come at Greg Bird’s expense but again Bird can change the results. I hope Tyler prospers and thrives as a member of the Twins and Greg Bird goes on to have a very good Yankees career.

I really hope that Giancarlo Stanton can get his 300th career home run tonight at Marlins Park in Miami.  It seems so appropriate for the long-time Marlin to snag the milestone homer in what was once his home ballpark. Hitting number 300 at Camden Yards in Baltimore does not have the same honor or prestige for the Marlins’ all-time leading home run hitter. The positive reaction the crowd gave Stanton last night was very moving as was his gesture that they had his heart. A sweet, tender moment with the Marlins fans. Now, crush their hearts with a long, dramatic home run for #300.

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Photo Credit: AP (Lynne Sladky)

The Washington Nationals were busy yesterday. They traded a Daniel Burch-favorite, second baseman Daniel Murphy, to the Chicago Cubs and let first baseman Matt Adams go on waivers to the St Louis Cardinals. Outfielder Bryce Harper was apparently claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers but the Nats pulled him back off revocable waivers ensuring that he’ll end the season with Washington in what could be his final days as a Nat. As much as I would like for Bryce to play for the Yankees next year, I think the Philadelphia Phillies are the most likely destination for the free agent-to-be. With slightly more than a week left before the waiver trading deadline, teams will probably start making moves like we saw yesterday. Hopefully Brian Cashman can snag some help to offset the rash of injuries. Aside from the return to health for the key guys on the DL, the biggest September move might be the promotion of Justus Sheffield to serve in the Yankees bullpen. Regardless of how he gets to the Bronx, I am anxious to see the Yankees best pitching prospect finally get his opportunity. Top Sheff, it’s nearly your time.

Today is a good day for a win and a great day for a Stanton home run. Let’s Go Yankees! Please feel free to shave another game off Boston’s lead. We certainly do not mind.

InCESSAnt Behavior…

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Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)

Yanks Ride Luis Cessa to Loss…

Sorry Cessa, not a fan…

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Luis Cessa may be a great guy and one of the ‘boys’ in the clubhouse, but he isn’t a pitcher I want in the starting rotation for a team driving for a shot in the post-season. I realize that Cessa had a couple of good starts in July, but in two August starts totaling seven innings, he has given up fourteen hits and ten runs.  In three seasons with the Yankees, he is 5-10 with 4.71 ERA in 133 2/3 innings. He has given up 129 hits. This is who he is. If you’re lucky, he is not going to give up more than 4-5 runs before the game is halfway over. We need better.

I am not sure why the Yankees have such an infatuation with Cessa. I think he’s better served pitching in the bullpen.  That’s not a slam.  Bullpens are filled with failed starters. I’d gladly take Cessa as the long man in the pen over A.J. Cole. Cessa is better in short non-starting spurts than he is starting games. Cole would be better served pitching elsewhere.

To Cessa’s defense, any of the Yankees starting pitchers were going to lose yesterday if the offense could only push one run across the plate in the 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Still, it felt like it was going to be a loss before the first pitch was thrown. Maybe his teammates have full faith and confidence in his ability, but for me, it was a psychological downer knowing Cessa would be on the mound.  It’s hard to be at your best when you are not mentally in the game. I can’t really see what Cessa has done to inspire any confidence.

After the game, Cessa was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so A.J. Cole lives to see another day. He remains my latest preferred DFA candidate unless he can somehow survive the next 15 days. George Kontos, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. I am not really sure why the Yankees acquired Kontos. They paid cash to the Cleveland Indians on August 4th for the former San Francisco Giants reliever and one-time Yankees prospect. It was kind of a nice story about the former Yankees farmhand coming home.  They placed him at Triple A for a week and promoted him to the active roster on August 13th. He pitched an inning and two-thirds against the New York Mets on the day of his promotion, limiting the Mets to a hit and no runs while striking out two. Yesterday, he was designated for assignment to make room for Cessa’s start. There was a reason Kontos was available. His velocity is down significantly from last year, but I am not sure why the Yankees even bothered to acquire him. To create a spot on the 40-man roster to pitch him for less than two innings seems curious at best. It’s not like he pitched Sonny Gray-style in his one and only appearance. Maybe he clears waivers and is outrighted to Triple A, but I’d be surprised if another team doesn’t place a claim. Everyone could use bullpen help.  Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Photo Credit: AP (Mark J Terrill)

Frankly, I am a little tired of people who keep promoting GM Brian Cashman as the greatest genius in the sport and the Ninja Master. There’s no doubt he has had his share of successes but his closet is littered with failures.  I shouldn’t be bitter the Yankees have the second best record in Major League Baseball, but I am frustrated that the team could have been better if not for questionable Cashman moves and the overall inexperience of manager Aaron Boone. Boone’s a good man and I think he’ll eventually be a good manager but there have been and will continue be bumps along the way. Cashman and his analytic team making the lineup decisions is befuddling at times. I guess we should say that Michael Fishman, VP, Assistant General Manager and head of the Analytics Department, is the true manager of the Yankees.  Sometimes, the answers are not in the numbers.

When it was mentioned that Aaron Judge was only going to be out for three weeks for his injured right wrist, I felt the timetable was probably a little over-aggressive. So, the latest word that Judge will need more time and we may not see him until September is not surprising.  This is why I felt the Yankees should have acquired another outfielder in lieu of promoting one of the few healthy outfielders at Triple A, Shane Robinson, earlier in the month. I’ve mentioned Curtis Granderson.  I know that will bring ire from TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen. I get that Grandy has seen his better days and he was such a disappointment down the stretch last year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, compared to Shane Robinson, Grandy still looks appealing to me. Of course, he hit a grand slam last night for the Toronto Blue Jays so it’s easy to say when the player is performing.  I really wish that Clint Frazier was healthy. This would have been his opportunity to shine and his chance to prove to the Yankees he represents the future of the outfield.  It was not meant to be, unfortunately, so I feel that Cashman and Company should have turned quickly to Plan B. “B” standing for ‘better than Shane Robinson’.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

It was funny yesterday when first baseman Ryan McBroom was pulled from the lineup in the double-header between the Indianapolis Indians and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Moosic, PA. Yankees Twitter blew up with the usual ‘trade or call up’ speculation. Subsequent word was that he was scratched due to a stiff back that tightened up on him during Tuesday’s game. He is expected to be available today for the RailRiders. Despite his good year at Triple A, he doesn’t seem like a prospect that is going to warrant much consideration from the Front Office.

To replace Luis Cessa on the active roster, it appears reliever Tommy Kahnle will be returning to the Bronx.  He cleared out his locker at Triple A last night, after not appearing in the double-header. I am hopeful Kahnle is back for good. Of course he has to pitch like we know he can to keep the spot but that’s on him. Welcome back, Tommy! The Philadelphia Eagles suck but we are happy you are back.

Speaking of the RailRiders’ double-header, the first game was not very kind for top Yankees prospect Justus Sheffield. He only lasted an inning and two-thirds after getting tagged for four hits and four runs, while mixing in five walks in the short outing. Not exactly a stellar start for Top Sheff. He took the loss as the RailRiders were unable to rally against the Indians. He held Indianapolis scoreless in the first inning despite leaving two runners stranded after a hit and a walk. But it unraveled for him in the second inning.  The Indians scored three of four runs that inning  after Sheff had recorded two outs, and he was pulled with the bases loaded. J.P. Feyereisen struck out Wyatt Mathisen to end the inning so the damage to Sheffield’s final pitching line could have been much worse if not for Feyereisen’s K. Nevertheless, it was just a blip. Sheffield has not become the second incarnation of Luis Cessa. It happens to the best of pitchers. He’ll be back strong next start, I am sure. Brian Cashman has indicated we’ll see Sheffield at some point this season so I fully expect his arrival when rosters expand in September.

I guess at this point the AL East standings do not really matter, however, the Yankees lost an opportunity to pick up a game on the Boston Red Sox yesterday. The Sox suffered a rare loss against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday while the Yankees were losing to the Rays. The Yankees (75-45) stayed ten games behind Boston. They also maintained their slim 3 ½ game lead in the Wild Card standings over the Oakland A’s. The A’s lost to the other Wild Card contender, the Seattle Mariners. The M’s are 2 ½ games behind Oakland.

The Yankees conclude their series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium today. They’ll send Masahiro Tanaka (9-3, 4.08 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Rays ace Blake Snell (13-5, 2.18 ERA). I am hopeful that we’ll see a much better Tanaka than we did last start. Regardless, the Yankees offense needs to chip in some runs today if we are to be successful. I am sure that a few balls will leave the yard today but hopefully the majority of the culprits will be wearing pinstripes.

Go Yankees!

Setting Our Sights for the Wild Card…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Sadly, Boston shows no signs of slowing down…

Just when you think you might be able to trust Masahiro Tanaka, you can’t. Since his return from the disabled list in early July, Tanaka had given up no more than three runs in any start and had only allowed a grand total of six runs in five starts. Yet, on Friday night, he was hammered for six runs including three home runs in the Yankees’ 12-7 loss to the Texas Rangers. When you score seven runs against losing teams, you should win games, not lose them.

Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox overcame an 8-3 deficit to crush the Baltimore Orioles, 19-12.  Boston, 82-35, is on pace to match the Yankees’ historic 1998 season when they won 114 games in the regular season. At their current winning percentage, the Red Sox project to 113 wins. This is not 1978 and the Red Sox are not going to collapse.

Photo Credit: AP (Patrick Semansky)

With Boston’s nine game lead in the AL East, the Yankees are headed for the one-and-out Wild Card playoff game. At the moment, their only competition for the Wild Card is the resurgent Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners. The A’s are only 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees, while the Mariners sit 6 games back.

Oakland has been very aggressive in rebuilding their bullpen in recent weeks. Their closer, former Washington National Blake Treinen, has had a breakout season. He currently has 29 saves to go with a 0.93 ERA in 48 games.  Behind Treinen, the A’s have added former New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia, former Yankees/Nationals reliever Shaun Kelley, and former Minnesota Twins closer Fernando Rodney. For the starting rotation, they’ve added former Detroit Tigers starter Mike Fiers, a target Yankee fans love to hate. None of the names shake fear but it shows the A’s are serious about their Wild Card run. There’s no question they have the talent to beat the Yankees in a one-game do-or-die playoff game.

I wish I could say that I am not worried like The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch can, but I am worried. Sorry Daniel. We knew in the off-season the Yankees needed to add a quality starting pitcher and it didn’t happen. So, the team had to scramble in July to add Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ. Both guys have done fine jobs but neither is going to make a difference when the chips are on the line. When Aaron Judge was lost with the minor bone fracture, it was evident the Yankees needed to add a short-term bat for the outfield. But instead, the decision was made to roll with one of the few healthy outfielders in the system, journeyman Shane Robinson. The Yankees could have easily added a guy like former Yankee Curtis Granderson who would have filled a valuable void. His bat likes Yankee Stadium and has the track record to show it. He may not be the player he was during his Yankee days thanks to the terminal affliction known as aging but he is more than capable of giving the Yankees a supportive bat and a valuable bench player when Judge returns.

The Mariners strengthened their bullpen with the addition of Adam Warren, a guy the Yankees certainly could have used the last couple of games. Warren was the winning pitcher in the M’s 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros last night. The Mariners also benefit from the return of Robinson Cano in a few days. Cano may not be eligible for the post-season but he’ll certainly help the Mariners make the push for October. He’s a valuable late season addition for Seattle. We’ll see if there is rust to shake off but I suspect that Cano will be ready to go.

Photo Credit:  The Herald, Everett, WA (Kevin Clark)

Please do not get me wrong. I like the 2018 New York Yankees. No one expected a historic season from the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees, despite their struggles, have won more games in Major League Baseball than any team other than the Red Sox and the Houston Astros. It is very possible they’ll go into a potential Wild Card game with over 100 wins. My only concern is that GM Brian Cashman could have done a better job (if that is possible). Everyone is so quick to give him credit for his genius but standing back, he’s had his share of misses. I like manager Aaron Boone but there’s no question we’ve paid a price for his inexperience.

I am anxious for the returns of Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, but the Yankees need to take care of business now. August is filled with losing teams on the schedule. The Yankees have the potential to have a very successful month despite starting it with a four-game sweep by the Red Sox but they can’t let 52 win teams like the Rangers crush them. Rookie Ronald Guzman looks like the greatest player who ever lived when he feasts on Yankees pitching, having accumulated six home runs already this season. Half of his season total are against the Pinstripers. He was the first rookie to hit three home runs in a game last night against the Yankees. That’s covering many years and players and is the strongest rookie performance against the Yankees since the A’s Reggie Jackson slugged six homers against his future team in 1968. This cannot happen if the Yankees expect to be successful. Ronald Guzman is no Reggie Jackson and the rest of the American League knows it. Apparently, the Yankees pitching staff didn’t get the memo.  To digress slightly, why is A.J. Cole on the MLB roster and Justus Sheffield is not?  Time to add Top Sheff to the 40-man and open a spot on the active roster by punting Cole.

It sounds like we can add Neil Walker to the list of wounded. After last night’s game, Aaron Boone said that Walker tweaked his neck and was dealing with illness. I had wondered why he wasn’t in the lineup or why he wasn’t used to pinch hit but that explains it. As Joe Girardi would say, it’s not what you want. Fortunately, Walker is penciled into today’s lineup (outfield, no less) so hopefully his physical ailments were minor.

I could care less if Jacoby Ellsbury is going to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery for a torn hip labrum. I had not counted on the player and did not want to see his return potentially cost another player a valuable roster spot. As much as I would love for the Yankees to cut bait, the truth is they won’t as long as they can collect insurance on his salary. I get it. I am just ready for the day when the Yankees can finally give him his walking papers.

I was very glad to hear that YES Network analyst Ken Singleton will return for another season after he had announced that 2018 would be his last. There is something so calming and reassuring about Singleton’s voice and his stories are so great to listen to. I’ve long been amazed that a former Yankees enemy (courtesy of his days in Baltimore) could excel calling Yankee games with no bitterness or regret.  He has exuded class and professionalism from the start and I’m glad he’ll be back in 2019 even if he will be carrying a much lighter load. In a season that has seen Michael Kay’s stock drop and Ryan Ruocco’s elevate, Singleton was been a voice of consistency.

I was sorry to see Phil Hughes designated for assignment yesterday by the San Diego Padres. I had hoped the former Yankee would fare better in his native sunny Southern California but it was not meant to be. I’ve always liked the guy and I am hopeful that he can find a good home to make a difference even if it is in relief. I don’t really see a fit with the Yankees, but there are plenty of teams in need of help. I am not ready to see the end of Hughes career so hopefully this is just the next chapter in his book.

I’ll be headed to see Manny Machado and the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Colorado Rockies on Sunday at Coors Field in Denver. It should be a fun game. Former Yankee Rich Hill will get the start for the Dodgers. I was in LA last weekend and didn’t get the chance to see the Dodgers play the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium so this is a good consolation prize. Manny remains a guy that I’d love to see the Yankees pursue in the off-season (dump Greg Bird and move Miguel Andujar to first to open third for Machado) and I’ll certainly be cheering for him on Sunday.

Well, time for my voice of pessimism to close. Time for a new Yankees winning streak to start. Can we get another quality start from Lance Lynn? We’ll find out in a few hours. In Rangers starter Drew Hutchison’s last game, he gave up six runs in three innings to the Baltimore Orioles. We can do better.

Go Yankees!

Who Wants to Join the Yankees?…

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Trading Deadline May Bring More New Faces…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, I will go ahead and dream a little…

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

The Calm Before The Storm…

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

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

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

 

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)

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

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

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