Tagged: CC Sabathia

Now Available, Number 55…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)

Yankee Fans await the departure of Sonny Gray…

If you listen to the so-called Yankee GM’s on Twitter, the end of the road could be near for Sonny Gray. We know he’ll be gone by the time the guys pick up their bags to head to Tampa, Florida for Spring Training in February, but the only question is when, where and for whom.

When Sonny’s college pitching coach was on the Milwaukee Brewers coaching staff, there were lots of trade speculation with the Brewers. Now that the coach (Derek Johnson, formerly pitching coach of Vanderbilt) has moved on to the Cincinnati Reds in the same capacity, the Reds have become the “favored” trade target for the Twitter GM’s. I am sure Yankees GM Brian Cashman is talking to the Reds, as reported by the real insiders, but he’s talking with other teams too. I have no doubt Sonny Gray will perform better in a less-pressurized environment. We’ve seen it with the guys traded to Pittsburgh in recent years (most notably A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova).

When the Reds are mentioned as a Gray destination, the name of Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett repeatedly comes up. If the Yankees are successful in acquiring the left-handed bat of Gennett, it is going to take more than Sonny Gray to make it happen. Gennett is only 28 years old, and has had great numbers the last two years, but he is a free agent after the 2019 season. I’ve heard people nix the thought of trading for Arizona’s premier first baseman Paul Goldschmidt because of his impending free agency next off-season. Not sure why you’d trade a talented Gray for short-term assets. Gennett’s productive bat would slot nicely into the Yankees lineup, but I just don’t think he is part of a Gray trade unless the team is willing to let go of some top prospects too.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jamie Sabau)

One writer mentioned 2B/SS Jeter Downs as an option but young Downs is only 20 years old and while drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft (32nd pick), he has not played higher than Single A and is not ready to help in the immediate future. But, of course, you’ve got to like the name considering he was named for the Yankees future Hall of Fame shortstop. Still, I don’t see the Reds parting with one of their top prospects for Gray unless the Yankees sweeten the pot on their end.

The Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres are other teams mentioned, but there are others. While some have speculated Cashman’s return for Gray could be better than expected, I am anticipating it will be for minor league names that may or may not have heard of before. When you try to sell an asset, it’s generally not a good idea to tell the world how poorly it performs. I know that Cashman sells Gray’s upside in phone conversations with other GM’s, but he certainly has not avoided negative comments in his talks with the media. Nothing like giving a player a chip on his shoulder.

I am trying to keep expectations low for Gray’s return. I’d prefer not to see him go to a team the Yankees could potentially see in the playoffs, such as the A’s. I fully expect Gray to become the pitcher he once was when he exits the main stage in New York. He’ll also be a pitcher with an axe to grind given the disparaging words by our own general manager. While I don’t think Gray is a pitcher for the Big Apple, I won’t easily dismiss him when he is playing in another uniform. He will be a formidable foe in the future. There were some jokes that the Yankees should trade Gray to Oakland for Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian. Regardless of where he goes, we have to be prepared that he’ll pitch more like the ace he once was in Oakland.

The next milestone date for Major League Baseball is Tuesday when MLB 40-man rosters must be set in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. After November 20th, additions to the 40-man roster can only be made through trades and free agent acquisitions. With Tuesday’s roster deadline, there will be a flurry of activity as teams move to protect their best Rule 5-eligible prospects. The Rule 5 Draft is held on the Thursday (final day) of the Baseball Winter Meetings which will be December 13th in Las Vegas, NV this year.

Most people are speculating the Yankees will trade Gray before they begin aggressive pursuit of other pitching options like Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, James Paxton or Nathan Eovaldi. With its potential impact on the 40-man roster, it’s possible we could see Gray moved within the next couple of days. Otherwise, I think we’re going to have to be a little more patient and may not see anything until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

On the bright side for whomever pulls on #55 next, the most recent guy to wear it is former Yankees great Hideki Matsui. Godzilla wore the number on the recently completed MLB All-Star Series in Japan as first base coach for MLB All-Star Team Manager Don Mattingly.

Photo Credit: AP (Toru Takahashi)

Speaking of pitching, MLB.com posted a column this week about the potential 2019 rookies of the year for each team. For the Yankees, Justus Sheffield was the choice. Per the column written by Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum for MLB.com, “The Yankees’ greatest need is starting pitching, and Sheffield should crack the Opening Day rotation.  His fastball, slider and changeup all can be three plus pitches, so it won’t be a shock if he’s New York’s second-best starter after Luis Severino”.  That’s probably a little more aggressive than my expectation heading into the new season. So long as he’s not included in a trade for a top starting pitcher, I don’t think Sheffield grabs a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training. I think CC Sabathia is holding the spot Sheffield will take when he’s ready. My expectation is the Yankees will acquire at least two starting pitchers this winter which will delay Top Sheff’s arrival. I hope Sheffield comes to Spring Training and absolutely dominates but I don not really think it will happen…yet. For the top four spots in the rotation, the Yankees need certainty and reliability. It’s great that CC Sabathia is back, but the team should not pin its 2019 hopes on his arm or his bum knee. He’ll be a year older and closer to the inevitable end of the line. I know it’s his last year, but there are no guarantees he’ll pitch like he did last season. He’ll be 39 next summer and he is not exactly in “Mariano Rivera-like” condition. Maybe he pitches solidly throughout the year, but then again, the end could come suddenly and without warning. The Yankees do not need more than one question mark in the rotation if they intend to de-throne the Champions.

Former Yankees managerial candidate Chris Woodward, recently named as the new manager for the Texas Rangers, has appointed a new pitching coach for the Rangers who has Yankee roots. Julio Rangel, most recently a minor league pitching coordinator for the San Francisco Giants, spent six years in the Yankees farm system from 1994 through 2000 but only made it as high as Double A. Still, he’s a Yankee by birth and I wish him the best for his first job as a Major League pitching coach.

I think November is probably my least favorite month as a blog writer. There really isn’t much happening and just lots of speculation, ranging reasonable to absolute ridiculousness. But it is the calm before the storm as we are only a few weeks away from all hell breaking loose with the Baseball Winter Meetings. January tends to be quiet but at least by that time, we’ll have shiny new toys on the roster we can talk about and get excited about the approaching call of Spring Training.

There are two MAJOR free agents available right now…genuine superstars and potential future Hall of Famers…but frankly, I am tired of hearing their names and refuse to write them with this post. If the Yankees sign one of them, great. If not, life goes on. I know one thing for sure, the Yankees roster in January will be much stronger than it is today. Until then, let’s enjoy some turkey and gravy, and spend quality time with our families.

As always, Go Yankees!

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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!

Facing Partial Season Without Emojis…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Star Shortstop to undergo TJ surgery on his elbow…

My words yesterday morning didn’t age very well. I had said that shortstop was firmly set, yet here we sit today searching for Plan B at the position. I was as surprised as anyone to hear yesterday after my post that Didi Gregorius needed Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm after an apparent injury suffered during the recent ALDS against Boston. When Didi was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks, he apparently had a partial tear in the elbow that was asymptomatic. In a way, we’ve probably been living on borrowed time, much like we are with Masahiro Tanaka. While Gleyber Torres was able to bounce back fairly quickly from the same surgery, his surgery was on his non-throwing arm so the rehab for Didi will be longer than it was for Gleyber. Some have said that Didi could be out until after the All-Star Break. Plus, there are no guarantees with the surgery.

For those of us still trying to recover from the disappointment of losing the ALDS, these were not the words we wanted to hear. The immediate option is to slide Gleyber to short and play someone like Tyler Wade at second or re-sign Neil Walker to do it. Daniel Burch, the fearless leader of The Greedy Pinstripes, has cited second baseman D.J. LeMahieu as someone the Yankees could pursue. LeMahieu, who helped the Colorado Rockies reach the NLDS before their ouster by the Milwaukee Brewers, will be a free agent after the season. I think most Rockies fans would prefer for him to stay in the Mile High City. Some have mentioned him as a possible solution at third for the inevitable departure of the Rockies’ great third baseman Nolan Arenado, who will be a free agent after the 2019 season. I like LeMahieu but I am not sure he’s the best solution for the Yankees. Sometimes it takes a while for an idea to warm up for me, so if the Yankees do sign LeMahieu, maybe I’ll come around. Credit to Daniel for his “outside the box” thinking.

The obvious answer, for me, is to sign Manny Machado to play short until Didi can return, then slide him to third, pushing Miguel Andujar to left (or trade Andujar for much-needed pitching). I wanted Manny before the announcement of Didi’s surgery yesterday so this only reinforces the desire. Manny was 2-for-4 and had a homer and 3 RBI’s last night for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their 6-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. Manny was the lone star on a night Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal tried to do his best Gary Sanchez impersonation with two passed balls and a couple of errors.

I am worried about the future of Didi Gregorius. He is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the 2019 season. Facing a potentially lost season, it’s not outside the realm of possibility the Yankees decide to move on. I personally hope the surgery does not prevent the team from looking into a long-term deal for the Yankees shortstop. I wouldn’t wait until next November to discuss dollars with Didi’s agent. The time is now. I would prefer Didi is not facing the pressure of playing for a new contract when he returns next June or July.

It was funny when GM Brian Cashman mentioned Sonny Gray during yesterday’s press conference. I didn’t reference Gray at all in my post yesterday which shows how much I’ve moved on from the guy. I’ve been absolutely convinced that he cannot pitch under the pressure of New York, and Cashman reaffirmed it when he said that “probably to maximize his abilities would be more likely best somewhere else”. Cashman had to back-pedal a little but it was only because he needs to protect potential trade value for Gray. Gray is as good as gone, and I am glad. I think he’ll prosper someplace like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee or even back in Oakland. But he was never going to be “the man” in New York. It happens. Just ask Ed Whitson or Javier Vazquez. New York is not for everybody. I do not wish any ill will toward Gray. I hope he goes on to have a very fine career…in a different uniform.

It was also revealed CC Sabathia had surgery on his right knee, but realistically this is just an annual thing with Sabathia at this stage of his career. It should have no  bearing on whether or not the Yankees try to lock up CC on another one-year deal. Sabathia is expected to be ready next Spring, regardless of whether he is in Tampa, FL for training camp or elsewhere.

Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi interviewed with the Texas Rangers yesterday for their open managerial position. I could see Girardi in Dallas/Fort Worth. I’d probably prefer to see him resume his managerial career in the National League but if he was to go anywhere, the Rangers are fine. It’s better than seeing Girardi show up in the AL East with Baltimore or Toronto.

While I wish Girardi the best, I don’t look back and wish he was still the Yankees manager. In an interview yesterday, Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said that the decision to move on from Girardi was years in the making. I trust Yankees Leadership for the reasons they felt a change was necessary. I remain supportive of Manager Aaron Boone, but I am slightly disappointed that the team intends to stand pat with the coaching staff. I think Josh Bard will be an improved Bench Coach in 2019 unless he snags a managerial gig before then, but probably the one position I’d look closely at is pitching coach. Larry Rothschild is revered as one of the best pitching coaches in the game, yet when a Yankees pitcher makes an adjustment that results in success, the player compliments are generally directed at other guys like Pedro Martinez or Andy Pettitte. I’ll use Hal Steinbrenner’s words from yesterday, “look, I am not a baseball guy”, but from afar I really haven’t been all that impressed with Rothschild. It’s very possible that I don’t know “shit from Shinola” on this topic but it’s just a casual observation from a fan. I can’t really recall a time when I heard a pitcher say that their success is attributable to Larry. Maybe it’s been said and I just haven’t heard it.  Whatever. When Mel Stottlemyre, Sr was the Yankees pitching coach, you clearly knew the impact he had on the pitching staff. I just don’t have that same confidence with Rothschild.

Adeiny Hechavarria is a pending free agent, but I hope the Yankees find a way to bring him (and his glove) back. I know that everyone loves Ronald Torreyes, but I’d prefer the defensive wizard in Hechavarria over Toe even if it means the team parts ways with Aaron Judge’s little buddy. With Didi shelved, the Yankees could certainly use the defense lost with his absence.

I guess the Yankees will be giving us blog writers plenty to write about this winter. Never a dull moment in the Bronx. As long as it culminates in a World Series championship next year, all is good.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Yanks are a Wild Card…

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

New York secures one-game ‘do-or-die’ playoff…

As expected, the Yankees secured a post-season berth on Saturday when the Tampa Bay Rays lost followed by the extra-innings win by the Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles.

The only thing that seems weird to me is breaking champagne as if you had just won the division. I think I read that 120 bottles of Moet & Chandon met their fate. I guess I should appreciate the Yankees have extended their season by one game and if they can win that one, they’ll move on to join the division winners for the divisional playoffs. Once they are in the divisional playoffs, anything can happen. We know the Yankees can beat any team if they are playing to their abilities. I know that it was not officially a Wild Card game (which didn’t exist back then), but I am sure the 1978 Yankees and Red Sox did not pop bubbly at the end of the regular season when they finished in a tie for the AL East and had to play the memorable Bucky “F——ing” Dent tie-breaker at Fenway Park. I know, there are ten other teams in the American League that wish their season wasn’t ending a week from today and would be very excited to play one game for the right to advance. So, congratulations to the Yankees for giving themselves a chance.

I have a more business-like approach. Let’s secure the home position for the Wild Card and focus on winning the single game elimination. When it is over and if the Yankees emerge victorious, that’s truly cause for celebration.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Right now, my primary concern for the Yankees is to hold off the Oakland A’s for the top spot in the Wild Card standings. After the Yankees game had ended, I watched the end of the A’s matchup against the Minnesota Twins. The A’s loaded the bases against the Twins in the bottom of the ninth with the game deadlocked at two. Mark Canha battled Twins closer Trevor Hildenberger in an 11-pitch at-bat before striking out for the second out. It looked like the Twins might get out of the jam with one more out, but on the very next pitch to Matt Chapman, Hildenberger threw a wild pitch past catcher Willians Astudillo to basically gift wrap the victory for the A’s as Stephen Piscotty easily raced home for the winning run. That moment was very disheartening. So, the Yankees maintained their 1 1/2 game lead over Oakland (two in the loss column and the Yankees hold the tie breaker).

The A’s can clinch the second Wild Card spot today with a Rays loss or an A’s win. If the Rays are eliminated, I think they’ll still be very motivated to beat the Yankees in the upcoming series because it will be their “playoff” even if they aren’t going anywhere. Hats off to Kevin Cash and his Rays. I know I certainly did not expect them to have 86 wins on September 23rd.

For those of you who follow Twitter (some very begrudgingly like Bryan Van Dusen), you probably saw this tweet. Courtesy of the twitter account of Brendan Kuty, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (@BrendanKutyNJ):

Judge said he pulled aside Luke Voit during the celebration. “We wouldn’t be in this position right now if it wasn’t for you. You coming over here, I know it was a slow start, but you picked it up and you picked us up and when we needed the big hit, you came through for us.”

Big words from a big man, and words very well deserved for Luke Voit. Voit launched his 11th home run for the Yankees yesterday with a solo blast in the second inning. It eventually ensured the game would go into extra innings for the Yankees to win it. For those counting at home, Voit has 11 homers and 25 RBIs for the Yankees and his batting line is .314/.385/.648 with 1.032 OPS. The guy’s been incredible and he has made Greg Bird irrelevant.

Photo Credit: Getty Imaes (Mike Stobe)

As for Aaron Judge, his return to the active roster has been huge. I know he was a presence in the dugout during his lengthy stay on the disabled list, cheering on his teammates, but this is a different team when he is in the lineup. I’ve felt all season that he is the heartbeat of the team and this month has proven it to be so true. I really think Judge should be the next Captain for the Yankees. He is the team’s MVP and clearly its leader, a role that will continue to grow for him. The “fun” is returning to the team and it is no doubt directly tied to Aaron Judge. He is a worthy successor for future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.

Hopefully Aaron Hicks was not hurt too badly when he fouled the pitch off his ankle in the bottom of the eleventh yesterday before he hit the game-winning double. Tests after the game were negative but that foul looked so painful. There’s no doubt we’ll see Hicks in shin guards moving forward.  I heard he had the ankle heavily taped after yesterday’s game. My hope is that he is feeling much better today without too much swelling. Hicks is the unsung hero for this team and they cannot afford to lose him for any extended time.

Yesterday, it was reported CC Sabathia intends to play another season. Sadly, I do not feel it should be with the Yankees despite how much Sabathia has done and meant for the organization over the years. He has been a great Yankee and I’ll always be appreciative of his time in Pinstripes. But the Yankees can do better for the fifth spot in the rotation even if that just means re-signing J.A. Happ in the off-season. I expect the Yankees to upgrade the starting rotation (Patrick Corbin, please) and at this point in his career, Sabathia is not going to get better and will only regress. Age sucks but it is a terminal affliction for all of us.

The Yankees should also not pick up the $12.5 million club option for Brett Gardner and should go with the $2 million buyout. Another great Yankee but it is time to move on.  Regardless of what happens for the rest of 2018, I have very high expectations for the 2019 New York Yankees. It is time to end the AL East reign of the Boston Red Sox and I think the ’19 Yankees will be the team to do it.  It will be weird to see Sabathia in a different uniform but even stranger to see Gardy in other colors after a career isolated to Pinstripes. There are tough decisions ahead for the Yankees. I suppose it’s possible the Yankees could re-sign Gardy to a lower salary, but I am hopeful for the future of Clint Frazier and would like to see Red Thunder given every opportunity to break camp with the big league club next year. Or sign Bryce Harper, that works too.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reports the Yankees would like to have Andrew McCutchen back next year if they “can cut a reasonable deal”. I would support his return, but of course Cafardo also threatens “And yes, Jacoby Ellsbury could return in 2019”. Now, that’s one guy I do not want to see in a Yankees uniform next year. I am done with DL’s-bury. Time to cut bait with Ellsbury if he is healthy. If Cafardo is to be believed, the Yankees will rekindle talks with the San Francisco Giants in the off-season about Madison Bumgarner so that’s one to keep an eye on.

With heavy speculation J.A. Happ will be the starter for the Yankees on October 3rd against the Oakland A’s (sorry Rays fans, you’re not catching them), today is a big day. Happ  (16-6, 3.62 ERA) takes the mound against Alex Cobb (5-15, 4.90 ERA) and the Orioles. If Happ dominates Baltimore, he’ll solidify his chances to be “the man” in the Wild Card game. If not, Yankees Twitter will be announcing the end of the World by late afternoon.

A win today would be a beautiful thing. Let’s get this sweep. Go Yankees!

Boonie & The Bullpen Blunders…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yanks hang on for narrow win over O’s…

Maybe I am just a realist but I am struggling to find great positives with the 2018 New York Yankees and their ability to go deep into the playoffs. Time and again, manager Aaron Boone shows an inability to make the right bullpen decisions.  Sure, I could have blind love and just take the approach that the team is going to plow through October opponents until proven otherwise, but that’s not me.

John O’Connell, @jacko2323 on Twitter, posted this comment last night:

Every Yankees postgame interview is “Look out for us!  We’re about to break loose!  Our offense will explode in the playoffs.”  It’s September 21st.  The Red Sox have already clinched the AL East and your struggling to beat the Orioles.

I agree with this statement.  Jack-O went on to tweet:

The A’s are going to beat the Yankees like a drum in the Wildcard game and Boone and every Yankee will give a postgame interview talking about how close they are to breaking out.

Again, I agree.  I know that Jack-O is a disillusioned Yankees fan.  He is a friend of Bill Simmons, a noted Red Sox fan, and frequently appears on his podcasts, but I find truth in Jack-O’s words even if many Yankees fans take offense.  Just because the Yankees made it to the seventh game of the ALCS last year and seemingly have a better team this year does not mean they are going to the World Series.  Other teams got better too including the Boston Red Sox despite their leaky bullpen.  The players have talked about how great this team will be when it gets on a roll but, after the early season run, we have yet to see it.  And it is now September 22nd.

The Yankees should have easily beat the Baltimore Orioles last night.  Unfortunately, they had to hold on for the 10-8 victory after more foolish bullpen decisions by Aaron Boone.  I am not sure why A.J. Cole is still on the Yankees roster, other than the September roster expansion.  When the Yankees need to make off-season roster decisions, making room for the guys on the 60-day DL and the Rule 5 eligible prospects worth keeping, Cole has to go. There’s no doubt Cole should be left off the playoff roster.

The Yankees have yet to show me they are cranking on all cylinders.  Sure, there’s still time but the days are going by fast.  The end of the regular season is a week from Sunday.  It seems like every time the Yankees take two steps forward, they take a step back.  Meanwhile, The Red Sox and Astros are cruising to the finish line.  Honestly, the Yankees are lucky that the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t start heating up earlier in the season.  The Yankees’ magic number to secure a Wild Card spot is only two games but right now the Rays are playing better than the Yankees.  The upcoming series in Tampa will be difficult.  The Rays probably will have no chance of catching the Yankees by then and might be out of it altogether, but I am sure those are going to be tough games.  If the Rays do not make the playoffs, beating the Yankees in their final regular season series between the two teams will be their “playoff” even if the prize is only bragging rights for Rays players and fans.

I guess it could be worse.  The Los Angeles Dodgers recaptured first place in the NL West with their sweep of the Colorado Rockies earlier this week only to lose last night to the 92-loss San Diego Padres.  The Dodgers still hold a slim 1 1/2 game lead (same as the Yankees’ lead over the Oakland A’s for the top WC slot) so both teams need to win the majority of these final games.  I guess the stakes may be higher for the Dodgers.  If they lose the division, they most likely lose out on making the playoffs.  Their record presently matches the St Louis Cardinals for the second WC in the National League behind the Milwaukee Brewers so they cannot afford to lose.

If the Yankees win the AL Wild Card game, it will be a new season. But until then, I will have my doubts about this team’s ability to rise to the challenge.  I am tired of seeing poor decisions made every game.  Could I do better than Boone?  Hell no, but I don’t get paid to make the right decisions nor do I have the experience in the game like he does.  Aaron Boone and Company are the ones depositing the Steinbrenner family’s money into their bank accounts.  I like Aaron Boone but he has to do better.  The 2018 season depends upon it.

The best thing the Yankees can do is make me eat my words.  I am okay with that.

I’ve felt that Orioles manager Buck Showalter would be dismissed at the end of the season for a couple of months but the words I read yesterday seem to indicate it is nearly guaranteed he will be fired.  For as much as I have disliked Buck at times during his post-Yankees career, I am feeling so saddened this may be the end of the line for the former Yankees manager.  I can’t really explain why I feel that way.  It’s unfortunate that Buck was unable to guide a team to a championship during his managerial career.  Other managers benefited from his path in both New York and Arizona.  In this day and age of young, amiable (press-friendly), inexperienced, and analytics-driven managers, it seems improbable that Buck will get another opportunity.  It really does not seem that long ago that Buck was playing first base and the outfield for the Yankees’ then Double A farm team in Nashville. I can still remember a few of his games so vividly.

Whatever happens with Buck, I wish him the best as life moves forward.  Now, if he wants to lose the next two games, that’s fine by me.

I know it’s a little early to make free agent predictions, but Bleacher Report ran a column on Thursday to take an early look at one realistic free agent for each team.  The reason it bothered me is the writer (Jacob Shafer) has the Yankees signing Dallas Keuchel, with Patrick Corbin going to the Milwaukee Brewers.  Ugh!  I do not want Keuchel on the Yankees.  I am hopeful the Yankees make an all-out attempt to bring Corbin to the Bronx.  The writer also has the Boston Red Sox signing David Robertson which is also something I’d really hate to see.  I love David Cone but there’s a part of me that is still bothered by the fact he wore a Red Sox uniform at the end of his career.  Same with David Wells.  I hope D-Rob does not go down that path.  The writer predicts J.A. Happ will sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a replacement for Corbin.  I think Happ has done enough to warrant a new contract in Pinstripes.  Sorry CC, but for a few million more, Happ makes so much more sense for the 2019 Yankees.  Sabathia is predicted by B/R to sign with the Oakland A’s.  That’s a move I would not be opposed to since Sabathia grew up in nearby Vallejo, CA and he’d be able to exit the game in front of his hometown friends and family.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Speaking of Happ, the Yankees seem to be lining him up to pitch the Wild Card game on October 3rd.  He’ll make the start against the O’s tomorrow.  I had thought I wanted Masahiro Tanaka to pitch the Wild Card game but his start against the Red Sox eroded some of my confidence.  Luis Severino is pitching better but I am still not convinced he is the man to face the bruising A’s lineup.  Happ makes as much sense as any of them.  In a do-or-die one game playoff, everybody needs to be ready to contribute.  The only question is whether Aaron Boone will make the right bullpen choices.  I guess we’ll find out on October 3rd.

Hopefully we’ll have a less stressful game and a Yankees win later today.  The opposing pitcher is 3-10 with 5.22 ERA (David Hess).  We should not lose this game.  Hopefully, the gritty Lance Lynn (9-10, 4.90 ERA) ensures that it does not happen.

Go Yankees!

Red Sox Celebrate on Sacred Ground…

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Photo Credit: AP (Julio Cortez)

Boston wins third consecutive AL East Championship in the Bronx…

I am not going to lie…I am pissed.  We allowed the Boston Red Sox to celebrate on Yankee Stadium soil and that should have never happened.  The Yankees won two of three games from the 2018 AL East Champions, and I can’t find any joy because they mailed in the third game after winning the first two to give the Red Sox the win they needed to claim the division championship.  I was happy they pinned the 49th loss of the season on Boston after Wednesday’s win (to prevent any chance of the Sox matching the win total of the 1998 Yankees), but they really could have swept this series and forced Boston to ship the champagne to their next destination.

Everybody is so quick to talk about how awful the Red Sox bullpen is but in last night’s bullpen matchup, Boston had the difference-maker in Steven Wright with three innings of scoreless relief.  The Yankees helped eject Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez out of the game in the fourth inning after he had thrown 100 pitches.  Red Sox reliever Heath Hembree relieved Rodriguez and was greeted by Giancarlo Stanton’s grand slam which temporarily gave the Yankees a 6-4 lead, but from there, the Yankees could only get two more hits and were unable to put any further runs on the board against Wright, Ryan Brasier, and Craig Kimbrel.  Meanwhile, the Sox teed off on Chad Green, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.  I can’t really blame Green or Betances.  They are the guys I probably would have brought in during those situations, but I think it was very foolish to bring in a rusty Aroldis Chapman with the Yankees trailing by only two runs.  The three-run homer by Mookie Betts off Chapman in the eighth inning pretty much iced the game for the Red Sox and prepared the champagne bottles for uncorking.

I disagreed with manager Aaron Boone’s decision to bring in Justus Sheffield during Wednesday night’s game too.  Sure, Top Sheff evaded a self-created bases-loaded jam to end the game, but the Yankees were playing MLB’s winningest baseball team and the psychology of the game and beating Boston is important.  If you bring anybody in when you are leading by nine runs, it should have been Chapman and not Sheffield.  I would have eased Chapman back into the fold before placing him into a high leverage situation.  I was not surprised that Betts clubbed the homer off Chappy. Just like Aaron Judge is currently only producing hard outs and missing the mistake pitches, it takes time to get back up to speed.  Baseball is not a forgiving sport.

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media (Andrew Mills)

I am still supportive of Aaron Boone despite my frustrations with his decisions over the last few days so I know I am just venting.  I would have played last night’s game to win which means that Chapman would not have made an appearance, nor would have any of the rookies currently on the staff.  After Betances, I would have lived or died with Zach Britton to the end.

What really made yesterday so disappointing was the other primary Wild Card contender, the Oakland A’s, crushed their opponent.  GM Billy Eppler’s Los Angeles Angels must have felt they were playing the Los Angeles Rams after the A’s decisive 21-3 thrashing.  The Yankees hold a slim 1 ½ game lead on the A’s after yesterday’s results, but the scary part is the Yankees now face a losing team that they seemingly cannot beat (the Baltimore Orioles), the high-flying Tampa Bay Rays, and a rematch with the Red Sox at Fenway Park for the final ten games of the regular season.  I am not saying they have it easy, but the A’s play weaker opponents.  Three games in Oakland against the disappointing Minnesota Twins, three games in Seattle against the fading Mariners, and three games in Anaheim against the team they just drubbed by 18 runs in yesterday’s game.  In my opinion, it is Advantage A’s.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Thearon W Henderson)

A ‘one and done’ Wild Card game in Oakland. From my perspective, that’s where the Yankees stand right now with the way things are unfolding in the American League.  Well, at least CC Sabathia can catch up with friends and family in the area before he heads home to clean out his locker at Yankee Stadium for perhaps the final time.

As always, I hope the team proves me wrong.  But as I’ve said before, that’s on them, not me.  I want the Yankees to win but I am just not feeling it right now.  I am not convinced the Yankees can beat the A’s and I am certainly not convinced the team can beat the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians or Boston Red Sox should they advance.  They certainly have the talent, but for a team that has been average at best for an extended period, they can’t just flip a switch to turn it on.  The Yankees need to make the next ten games count and carry momentum into the Wild Card game.  Otherwise, we’ll be watching the final season of Game of Thrones before the Yankees have another chance for the crown.

Hopefully the team can return to its winning ways tonight against Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  This series represents perhaps the final time that we’ll see the former Yankees manager in the O’s dugout.  For as much as I’ve disliked Buck at times during his post-Yankees career, I am a little saddened about the way the 2018 season has treated him.  To reach 50 wins, Buck’s team needs to win six of its final ten games.  That’s a tall order for the 108-loss team, but then again, they have three games against a team they’ve fared well against.  You know that Buck would like nothing better than to beat the Yankees for his farewell song.

As the saying goes, sometimes the best trade is the one that you don’t make.  Last off-season, everybody was clamoring for the Yankees to acquire Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers.  Fulmer had a disastrous 2018 season.  He was 3-12 with 4.69 ERA in 132 1/3 innings.  He gave up 128 hits and career-high 19 home runs.  Done for the season, Fulmer was diagnosed with meniscus damage in his right knee on Monday and underwent surgery yesterday.  He is still a young, controllable pitcher but unless the Yankees can get him at a severe discount, it would not be worth the investment.  If the Yankees had paid Detroit’s asking price last winter, we’d have nothing to show for it today.  Fulmer is expected to be ready for Spring Training but Detroit’s best move would be to wait for Fulmer to rebuild his trade value before considering any offers.

It’s up to CC Sabathia (7-7, 3.80 ERA) to get the Baltimore series off to the right start tonight.  He’ll be opposed by former Yankees prospect Yefry Ramirez (1-6, 5.50 ERA).  This is a winnable game.  Boone, make the right decisions.  Gary Sanchez, hold the door…hold the door!  Luke Voit, just keep on doing what you are doing, chest hair and all.  Let’s do this.

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Go Yankees!

On a Wing (Voit) and a Prayer (Britton)…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)

Yanks Use Unlikely Heroes to Thwart the O’s…

When the lineup was posted prior to the game, Luke Voit’s name at first base was about as exciting as getting teeth pulled despite Greg Bird’s struggles with the bat. After the game was over, Voit had ensured he could be the beneficiary of more playing time at Bird’s expense.  His two home runs were huge. The first tied the game in the early stages and the latter provided the necessary insurance for the win. The muscled kid from St Louis came up big for the Pinstripes with 4 RBI’s in the 7-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Zach Britton picked up his first save for the Yankees, his fifth of the year. He was treated rudely by former teammate Chris Davis who blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the tenth, but thanks to Voit’s two-run shot after the Yankees had taken a one-run lead in the top of the tenth, Britton withstood the Davis home run trot to preserve the win. Things might have looked differently had Britton not gotten Trey Mancini, the batter before Davis, to hit into a double play. Whatever it takes, it was a win and the Yankees finally have a winning season record against the O’s at 7-6.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Orioles got on the board first. After the Yankees had threatened in the top of the first inning (but failed), the O’s grabbed the early lead with a two-run single by Chris Davis in the bottom of the inning off Yankees starter CC Sabathia. Davis entered the game batting .163 on the season but apparently Yankees pitching didn’t get the memo.

Orioles starter Alex Cobb, who has enjoyed a resurgent second half following a 2-12 record leading up to the All-Star Game, was tough on the Yankees lineup. After escaping the first inning scoring opportunity, he blanked the Yankees over the  next two innings, allowing just a couple of meaningless walks. It looked like he was going to have his way in the top of the fourth inning when he struck out Miguel Andujar to start the frame. Neil Walker singled to center, but Gleyber Torres flied out to right for the second out. Up to the plate strolled Luke Voit who had hit into a double play in the second inning for his first at-bat. Voit crushed the Cobb offering over the wall in left center to tie the game at two. It looked weird to see Chasen Shreve’s #45 circling the bases.

CC Sabathia got the Yankees through six innings with the game knotted at two. The ball was turned over to David Robertson for the seventh but unfortunately he ran into a bit of bad luck. The first hitter, John Andreoli (a recent cast-off from the Seattle Mariners), reached base on a fielding error by interim shortstop Gleyber Torres (the ball rolled up his arm off his wrist and dropped into shallow left field). Torres was in pain but stayed in the game. D-Rob was able to retire the next two hitters but then Jonathan Villar, the former Milwaukee Brewer, took Robertson deep to left center, giving the O’s a 4-2 lead. I hate to say it, but I don’t really see the Yankees re-signing D-Rob, one of my favorite Yankees over the years, after the season.

The Yankees answered in the top of the eighth. With only one out, they loaded the bases against two Orioles relievers. The third O’s pitcher of the inning, Mychal Givens, came in to face Gleyber Torres and was greeted with a two-run single to right. The O’s had a play at the plate for the second runner, Miguel Andujar, on a strong throw by Adam Jones, but the ball came loose on the collision at home. Papa was safe and the game was tied again. The Yanks re-loaded the bases after Luke Voit had struck out for the second out, but Ronald Torreyes left the runners stranded with a pop out to first.

Dellin Betances, sporting yellow shoes, pitched the bottom of the eighth. He got into a little trouble with a couple of singles but was able to get out of the inning with a couple of swinging strikeouts.

The Yankees had a chance in the ninth when Brett Gardner opened the inning with a single, but after Giancarlo Stanton flied out, Aaron Hicks hit the ball directly into Chris Davis’ glove, standing on first base, for an inning-ending double play. Three up and three down for Chad Green in the bottom of the ninth, and it was off to extra innings we went.

With former Yankees prospect Cody Carroll pitching, Neil Walker homered to right center with one out to give the Yankees their first lead of the game. Neil, please accept my apology for any disparaging words I may have used about you earlier in the season. Gleyber Torres followed with a walk. He stole second and then advanced to third on a throwing error by the O’s catcher. Luke Voit, who obviously enjoyed the fourth inning home run, decided to re-live the experience with another two-run blast, this time to right center.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Patrick Semansky)

The Yankees took the three-run lead into the bottom of the tenth, bringing in former Orioles closer Zach Britton to finish off his ex-teammates. Adam Jones singled to right to open the inning for the Orioles, but Trey Mancini, in the midst of a down year for him, grounded into a double play. So Chris Davis came to the plate with the bases empty and two outs. His homer to center, traveling 430 feet, cut the Yanks’ lead to two. Fortunately, Tim Beckham grounded out to first to end the game. It was a struggle but the Yankees persevered to pull out the victory. Britton walked off the Orioles mound with another save in his illustrious Camden Yards career, but the first in opposing gear.

The win, the Yankees’ 80th of the year, helped them to cut the gap to 8 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox dropped a 10-3 game to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees are just the second team in MLB to reach 80 wins, but of course the Red Sox became the first to 90 earlier this week. The Yankees hold a four-game lead on the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card standings and eight games over Adam Warren and the Seattle Mariners.

Nice job by CC Sabathia, fresh off the 10-day DL, to give the Yankees some length after the first inning difficulties. He mixed in a couple of eight-pitch innings. He may not have gotten the decision but he put his team in position for the win. As they say, wins are a worthless statistic to prove a pitcher’s worth. The Yankees would not have won this game without CC’s strong performance.

Gary Sanchez began a rehab assignment in Florida (Gulf Coast League) today so it sounds like we’ll be getting one of the wounded soldiers back soon. Sanchez will move up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after today’s game before rejoins the team, hopefully next week. I really hope that El Gary brings some of the hustle I’ve seen with the rehab workout videos. We could really use the pre-2018 version of Sanchez for the regular season’s final month.

The Yankees and the Orioles play two today. RHP Luis Cessa has been called up as the 26th man for the day/night double-header. The first game, at 1:00 pm ET, features J.A. Happ (14-6, 3.84 ERA) against Jimmy Yacabonis (0-1, 6.75 ERA). Luke Voit hit his last Triple A homer, prior to his call-up, against Yacabonis. Sure enough, on the lineup just posted for today’s game, Voit is playing first base. The second game, 7:05 pm ET, will pit the beleaguered Sonny Gray (9-8, 5.34 ERA) against Andrew Cashner (4-11, 4.84 ERA). Despite his record, Cashner always seems to pitch well against the Yankees. If Gray wants to pitch any meaningful games for the Yankees down the stretch, he needs to show up tonight. No pressure. Somehow I suspect he’ll fail miserably to maintain his grip on the Sonny Gray Sucks! tag line. Sonny, dammit, prove me wrong.

Hopefully last night’s win provides some momentum for the Yankees against the pesky O’s. Why win just one game, when you can take two?  Let’s do this. Go Yankees!