Tagged: Cody Bellinger

Astros Sorry They Got Caught…

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY

Fake Remorse by the Cheaters…

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is trash.

It’s no wonder the Astros players resorted to a cheating system that included beating on trash cans to signal stolen pitching signs. Crane set the example from the top of the organization and the trash rolled downhill.

I was angered after listening to the Astros’ poorly organized press conference this week. Despite their preparation a day before, I knew there probably was not anything the Astros could have said or done to gain forgiveness but I felt the entire charade was botched. From the canned brief statements from cheating leaders Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve to Crane’s use of new manager Dusty Baker as a shield, it was truly a clown show. It was absurd when Crane said the cheating did not impact the 2017 ALCS against the Yankees and then turned around less than a minute later to say he never said those words. Huh?

I’ll give the players after the press conference some credit. Carlos Correa, in particular, sounded much better and more remorseful than his teammates.

I think Major League Baseball butchered this by not taking away the deceitfully-gained 2017 World Series championship from the Houston Astros. At this point, you can’t give it to the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Yankees, but, in my opinion, the championship should be vacated. I don’t care there is no precedent for this. Considering we did not personally experience the great Black Sox Scandal a century ago when eight players were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, this is the worst stain of the game in our lifetimes. The players were granted immunity. They should not be allowed to represent themselves as champions.

I am ready to close the book on the Astros and move on. MLB is not going to do anything further to the Astros organization and we can only look forward at this point. However, I do think there will be some residual anger and frustration as players gather in Arizona and Florida.

Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers was very hard on the Astros yesterday when interviewed at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers’ spring training home in Arizona. Per the LA Times, Bellinger said, “I thought the apologies were whatever. I thought Jim Crane’s was weak. I thought Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving them immunity. I mean these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from (Aaron) Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”

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Photo Credit: ESPN

Despite the Astros’ claims the cheating was isolated to 2017 and a small part of ’18, Bellinger feels the cheating extended into the 2019 post-season. Bellinger probably said it best, “I know I personally lost respect for those guys. I think I would say everyone in the show, in the big leagues, lost respect for those guys.” I’ll take it further and say baseball fans everywhere, except perhaps for those in Houston, have lost respect for the Houston Astros.

I am not sure we’ll ever get over this, but we do need to move forward. However, I know I’ll enjoy watching the reception the Astros get when they visit different cities this season. They deserve everything headed their way. I am not endorsing physical harm, but let the verbal abuse begin. They created this mess and now they must face the music. I can’t wait for the Yankee Stadium reaction in September when the Cheaters come to the Bronx for a four-game series.

The Houston Asterisks, the Houston Cheaters, the Houston Asstros, the Houston Trashtros, whatever you want to call the worthless collection of scum, are coming to a city near you. Let the booing begin…

Moving on to other topics. The long awaited trade of Mookie Betts and David Price was finally made official this week after the Dodgers had to re-structure the deal. I still feel it wasn’t so much about the medical records of former Twins reliever Brusdar Graterol but more about Boston’s knee-jerk reaction to the poor reception over trading their homegrown superstar and getting minimal in return, thanks to the salary dump of Price. In the restructured trades, the Dodgers kept Graterol, who will fit nicely into the Dodgers’ bullpen with his 100 mph heat, after sending starting pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Twins. Replacing Graterol in the trade to Boston, the Dodgers added prospects Jeter Downs, a childhood Yankee fan named after a recently named Hall of Fame player, and catcher Connor Wong, to accompany the previously agreed upon outfielder Alex Verdugo. Downs, a shortstop/second baseman, was blocked in LA with Corey Seager at short and highly ranked prospect Gavin Lux in line to take over at second. Wong profiles as a backup catcher and the Dodgers have stronger catching prospects in Keibert Ruiz and Diego Cartaya.

I am sure Verdugo and Downs will have their moments against the Yankees in upcoming seasons, but I am glad to see Mookie Betts out of the division. Yankee fans have been moaning how they’ll miss beating up on Price, but I actually think the move to the NL West will be good for him. Regardless of how you feel about him, David Price is a good pitcher. If healthy, I think he has a chance to be much better for the Dodgers. Although Price was a reason the Red Sox celebrated a World Series championship in 2018, his overall tenure in Boston was not favorable. I don’t really buy into the Yankee fans who say they can’t wait to face Price in the 2020 World Series. First, we need to get to the World Series and there is a long road between now and then, but if we are fortunate enough to get there and face the Dodgers, it’s not a guarantee the Yankees would dominate Price. Just because they’ve enjoyed past success against him does not mean that they’ll forever own him. Price is a quality Major League pitcher and he’s motivated to improve. Therefore, you’ll find no disparaging words from me about him. As for Mookie, I am excited that I can finally root for the supremely talented outfielder. I appreciate his play and by all accounts, he is a fantastic person both on and off the field. I have no idea if Betts will be a Dodger for only one season or if he’ll re-sign with them when he hits the free market next off-season, but for now, I look forward to going to Dodger Stadium this season to see two great players sharing the outfield for the Dodgers.

There’s no question the Red Sox are a weaker team today than they were last week.  I think they realize they can’t compete with the Yankees or even the Tampa Bay Rays at the top of the division but I’d say they remain a dangerous team that can make some noise. They need many things to go right, but I wouldn’t totally discount Boston’s ability to snag a Wild Card spot. Once in the playoffs, anything can happen (as long as you aren’t cheating).

This week has been fun, as far as the Yankees go. It was great to see Gerrit Cole wearing Yankees gear, throwing to Gary Sanchez. I love the perfectionist on the mound and it’s clear he is a notch above anything we’ve seen in recent times with no disrespect to Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton or Luis Severino. I thought his words during the Thursday press conference were exemplary, as usual. Cole is quickly becoming one of my favorite players to listen to. No doubt he’s already there with his pitching.

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Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

As one who preached all winter for the Yankees to trade J.A. Happ, it was good to hear Happ say this week that he wanted to stay with the Yankees when he heard the trade rumors. He recognizes his shortcomings in last year’s juiced ball environment and he has been working on making the necessary adjustments. Given we need Happ with Paxton on the shelf for the first couple of months of the season, I’ve warmed up to the idea of keeping Happ for now. It’s possible he’ll be stronger this year than last. I still think he’s a trade candidate at some point depending upon how it goes with Jordan Montgomery, in addition to the eventual return of the suspended Domingo German and maybe a breakout by Deivi Garcia at some point. But as long as he is in pinstripes, I’ll cheer for him. As long as he puts the Yankees in position to win every fifth day, life will be good.

Gary Sanchez’s comment that you could rip his pants off if he hit a homer to send the Yankees to the World Series was priceless with its statement clearly direct at Jose Altuve’s obvious attempt to protect his jersey after last fall’s homer off Aroldis Chapman to end the ALCS.

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The Spring has brought a few more number changes. In addition to J.A. Happ’s recent switch from 34 to 33, Mike Ford dropped 36 in favor of 72 and Thairo Estrada took the departed Stephen Tarpley’s 71. With Luke Voit now wearing 59, the Yankees have a linebacker and an offensive lineman at first base. Probably because of David Cone, 36 seems more like a pitcher’s number to me so I am glad to see Ford grab a power number.

It was funny to see Greg Bird and Austin Romine, in Rangers and Tigers camps, respectively, sporting beards. It seems like the first thing players do when they leave the Yankees is toss the razor.

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Photo Credit: Smiley N Pool, The Dallas Morning News

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Photo Credit: Kimberly P Mitchell, Detroit Free Press

Now that pitchers and catchers are in camp, we anxiously await the arrival of all position players on Monday. Most are already in Tampa, but the band will officially be together again when President’s Day rolls around. I am looking forward to the first of the exhibition games until the monotony sets in a few weeks from now.  On the bright side, the regular season will soon be here as March 26th is not really that far away anymore. My expectations for the upcoming season are reasonable…total domination and obliteration of the American League (and the NL’s October representative)  by the Yankees will suffice.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Settle All Arbitration-Eligible Cases…

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New deals for the 9 Arb-Eligible Yankees…

ESPN MLB Insider Jeff Passan set the stage for the chaotic day yesterday when he tweeted: “Your Twitter feeds are going to be deluged today. Between now and this afternoon, 155 arbitration-eligible players will either agree upon salaries for the 2020 season or exchange desired salary numbers with teams. It’s always an extraordinarily hectic day for players and teams.” He was right. When the dust settled, all but 20 players had agreed to salary deals. Fortunately, none of those guys were Yankees as all nine players settled with the team.

With visions of Yankees Team President Randy Levine spiking a figurative football a few years ago when the Yankees beat Dellin Betances in arbitration, I am glad the team avoided the ugly confrontation with their players again this year.

For the arb-eligible Yankees, here are the results. The figures in parentheses are the projections per MLB Trade Rumors:

  • James Paxton, $12.5 million ($12.9M)
  • Aaron Judge, $8.5 million ($6.4M)
  • Gary Sanchez, $5 million ($5.6M)
  • Tommy Kahnle, $2.65 million ($3.0M)
  • Gio Urshela, $2.475 million ($2.2M)
  • Chad Green, $1.275 million ($1.4M)
  • Luis Cessa, $895,000 ($1.1M)
  • Jordan Montgomery, $805,000 ($1.2M)
  • Jonathan Holder, $750,000 ($800K)

I’d say the Yankees did a very good job bringing resolution to these cases. The only player who made significantly more than his projection was Aaron Judge and there’s no doubt he is worth the money, if not more. No doubt he would have made much more on the agreement if he had not missed so much time last year. Not sure he would have matched Cody Bellinger’s record first-year arbitration salary of $11.5 million considering Cody’s MVP year, but he would have been close as arguably the Yankees’ best position player.

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Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

Jeff Passan also reported the following players did not settle and, barring agreements between now and then, are expected to go to arbitration hearings:

  • Jesus Aguilar
  • Nick Ahmed
  • Pedro Baez
  • Andrew Benintendi
  • Jose Berrios
  • Archie Bradley
  • Aledmys Diaz
  • Brian Goodwin
  • Shane Greene
  • Josh Hader
  • Max Muncy
  • Hector Neris
  • Joc Pederson
  • J.T. Realmuto
  • Eduardo Rodriguez
  • George Springer
  • Trevor Story
  • Brent Suter
  • Chris Taylor
  • Tony Wolters

The Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that historically settles with their arb-eligible players, really stick out on this list. So do the Boston Red Sox who did settle with much rumored trade candidate Mookie Betts for $27 million. It really makes me appreciate the Yankees for ensuring agreements with all of their players. Happy Yankees make for happy Yankee fans.

No big news for the Yankees so far in the new year, player-wise anyway. They did sign former Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta this week to a minor league deal with the presumed Spring Training invitation. Iannetta was released by the Rockies last August. He’s clearly a depth signing as I hold no expectation he’ll beat out Kyle Higashioka for backup catching duties but he does help to provide support if either Gary Sanchez or Higgy go down with injuries. I like the thought of Iannetta better than the recently re-signed Erik Kratz.

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Iannetta, who will be 37 shortly after the start of the season, has clearly seen his better days. Steamer projects him to play 60 games with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs, batting .218/.314/.402, .304 wOBA and 88 wRC+. In other words, pray for good health behind the plate.

There was a part of me hoping for a reunion with catcher John Ryan Murphy despite his underwhelming performance with the bat since he left the Yankees. He is no longer an option after signing a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday. Hard to believe that Murphy is still only 28. Pittsburgh is probably a good place for him to land since the Pirates seem to have a way of resurrecting former Yankee backup catchers.

The Yankees also signed former Los Angeles Angels starter Nick Tropeano, a Long Island native, to a minor league deal. Tropeano, 29, a righty, is presumably depth for Triple A. While he showed promise for the Angels a few years ago, he’s never been the same since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2016. Last year, he gave up 15 runs in 13 2/3 innings at the Major League level for the Halos. He took his only loss last July in a dreadful start against the Baltimore Orioles when he was hammered for 7 runs in five innings. Here’s hoping for greater success with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He does carry an infamous stat. He’s the only pitcher to record a one-pitch strikeout.  He was pitching in Double A for the Houston Astros affiliate in August 2013. In the sixth inning of a game against the A’s affiliate, the batter, Vinnie Catricala, took a pitch he thought was outside. When the ump called strike, Catricala stepped out of the batter’s box to protest the call. The umpire, Ron Teague, invoking a little known rule, called an automatic strike. When Catricala didn’t step back into the box as instructed by Teague, the ump called him out by strikeout. Tropeano, with one pitch, observed the strikeout while standing on the pitching mound.  It’s something the game may never see again. For Catricala, the total of 9.4 seconds out of the batter’s box combined with his arguing, earned him an ejection from the game.

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While I still expect the Yankees to trade RHP J.A. Happ and most, if not all, of his contract, Happ who wore #33 in Toronto with the Blue Jays, dropped #34 this week to take Greg Bird’s vacated number. The Yankees still need to clear room on the 40-man roster once the Brett Gardner deal becomes official. Not sure what is taking so long. At first, I thought the holidays were the obstacle but at this point, it must be about clearing space on the roster. Who knows. I am sure it will be official before Gardy has to report to Tampa next month. If the Yankees had to drop someone right now, my vote would be for Stephen Tarpley. But for luxury tax purposes, the best case scenario is to move Happ’s money to open a spot for Gardy. I have full confidence in Jordan Montgomery as the team’s fifth starter.

I think the Yankees will continue to look for clever minor league signings (the low cost/high reward variety). Although they’ve been heavily criticized this off-season for their inactivity, I liked the Los Angeles Dodgers signing of former Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson. Granted, Nelson may never be the pitcher he once was, but I thought it was a good risk to take. There was a time that Nelson represented the hope of the Brewers starting rotation until he was derailed by injuries. Nelson is only 30 and he’s someone that I’d take a chance on. I’d like to see the Yankees find that type of deal with a pitcher who could presumably offer more than say a guy like Tropeano. As for Nelson, he is probably better suited for the bullpen at this point of his career, but he always made me think of CC Sabathia for no other reason than he wore the same number with the Brewers as CC did (#52) and is the same heighth (6’6”). For the Sabathia Stans, I am not comparing their stats or implying any close relationship.

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I fully expect to hear reports of Yankees GM Brian Cashman rummaging through dumpsters between now and February 12th. There will be no Josh Hader or Nolan Arenado sightings in Tampa next month but there could be a few recognizable names ready to compete for roles with the team.

For those of you arguing between Miguel Andujar and Gio Urshela, both players can co-exist on the Yankees roster. I am glad to have both and looking forward to their respective contributions. I have no desire to pick one over the other. Ultimately, Aaron Boone and his staff will make the right choices about who to play and where. I can easily see scenarios with both players in the lineup, producing and helping the Yankees in their drive to dominate the American League.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Power of Pitching and Power…

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, Associated Press

Yanks End 4-Game Skid…

As Michael Kay of the YES Network said after the game, the Yankees used pitching and power, after three lackluster games in Oakland, to halt their four-game losing streak in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. But then again, we didn’t need to hear Michael say those words. The arm of James Paxton and the bats of Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and others spoke very loudly during the game, which the Yankees won, 10-2.

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times

I have to admit I was a little shocked when Paxton had a clean 1-2-3 inning to start the game. I have grown to really despise First Inning Paxton regardless of how much I still like the pitcher (I do). But for this game, First Inning Pax looked nothing like previous versions. Maybe someone told him it was the second inning and that he must have blacked out the first. Seriously, whatever it took, I am glad that Paxton stepped up his game against the best team in the National League. We need Paxton to be successful in October and this was a great step in the right direction.

Photo Credit: Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG

Thanks to Paxton, the Yankees didn’t have to dip too deeply into the bullpen.  Excellent job by Nestor Cortes, Jr to finish off the game with a big lead. The big boys, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Chad Green, enjoyed a night of rest to ready them for the weekend.

Cody Bellinger leads the National League with 42 home runs (tied for the MLB lead with Mike Trout), but on this night, he was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. With no offense to former Yank Clay Bellinger, I am glad his son was unable to launch a Belli-Bomb in the first game of the series. I want Bellinger to stay ahead of Christian Yelich in the race to NL MVP but I am okay if he wants to take the next two games off.

Photo Credit: John McCoy, Getty Images

After his first couple of at-bats, I certainly didn’t think Didi Gregorius had a multi-homer night in store for him. His two home runs which included a grand salami in the fifth and five RBIs ensured the the Dodgers would not be making one of their patented late inning walk-offs this game.

Photo Credit: Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG

Congratulations to Gary Sanchez for his 100th career home run. His third inning shot off Hyun-Jin Ryu (a tremendous lower body power shot that brought his knee to the ground) allowed him to reach one hundred faster than any player not named Ryan Howard. For those worried about El Gary, I think he’s doing just fine. I’ve never doubted the player, even through those difficult slumps. I am glad he’s the Yankee catcher and there isn’t anyone that I’d rather have. Well, I’d take 1970’s Thurman Munson but that’s not an option.

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, Associated Press

I was a little bummed the Yankees fared so poorly in Oakland. West Coast games are tough since they start so late, and then to have every result end in defeat is harder to take. I jumped off the J.A. Happ bandwagon long ago. He was the guy I wanted the Yankees to replace at the trading deadline. I say this knowing how ineffective CC Sabathia has been at times. I’d rather have Sabathia in the rotation as the fifth starter over Happ, but Happ has pitched so poorly, he is the rotation’s weakest link, moving Sabathia up in the pecking order which admittedly is “not what you want”. I am really hoping that Luis Severino can come back next month to at least form a multi-inning opener tandem with Happ. With another year committed to Happ, I really hope the Yankees can find a way to move him this off-season. I’d be fearful of Happ reaching the milestones to trigger a third year in his contract if he stays in the rotation.

I am not a big fan of the Players Weekend uniforms with the white and black themes. It reminds me of the old Spy vs Spy comics.

I actually liked the refusal of Jon Lester to wear a black cap, instead donning the traditional Cubs hat in their home game against the Washington Nationals. The pitchers wearing the home white uniforms had to wear black caps instead of the white ones worn by the rest of the players to ensure hitters had no difficulty with seeing pitches. Lester’s action was adopted by his entire team who wore the traditional Cubs caps. That was/is much better than those funky white and black caps, in my opinion. The Dodgers, as I’ve said before, are my favorite NL team, and I would have preferred the classic Dodger white with blue lettered and red numbered uniforms against the traditional Yankee road grays. I like the weekend of player individuality but this year’s theme is not a favorite.

Photo Credit: Stacey Wescott, The Chicago Tribune

I love Dodger Stadium so I really enjoy these games at Chavez Ravine. When I lived in Los Angeles, I lived near Dodger Stadium (two miles away) so I frequently drove by the stadium when not there for games. I certainly hold affection for the stadium and the area despite my love of the Yankees.

It was a surprise yesterday to see the Yankees release former top prospect RHP Domingo Acevedo when they claimed Seattle Mariners reliever Cory Gearrin.

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

I know, the bloom is off Acevedo as a prized prospect, but I thought there are other guys who were better candidates to go (like Ryan Dull or, in my opinion, Luis Cessa). I still have hope Acevedo can become a late-blooming relief option but it appears that he’ll do it elsewhere unless he re-signs a minor league deal with the Yankees. Whatever happens, I wish him the best of luck. It’s kind of funny that Gearrin has become a Yankee because of former Yankee prospect Justus Sheffield. Gearrin was the casualty when the Mariners decided to recall Top Sheff to the Majors this week. I don’t really see a long-term future in the Yankees’ organization for Gearrin. He’ll no doubt be one of the casualties when the Yankees begin to activate some of the guys off the 60-day Injured List, like Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Giancarlo Stanton and Jacoby Ellsbury. Ha-ha, the last name was just thrown on there to see if you are awake! Ellsbury is never coming back or at least I hope not.

Speaking of Sheffield, he made his Major League starting debut last night against the Toronto Blue Jays but received a no-decision in the M’s 7-4 victory. He went four innings, throwing 86 pitches, giving up seven hits and three runs. He both walked and struck out three. His first inning was Paxton-like, 37 pitches and two runs but he persevered. Hopefully for him, his next start goes better. I’d like to see him fulfill his promise even if he doesn’t wear the Pinstripes anymore (so long as he doesn’t do it against the Yankees).

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

The Yankees should soon see the return of first baseman Luke Voit. Voit has begun his minor league rehab assignment and is expected to be activated in time for next Friday’s game against the Oakland A’s at Yankee Stadium. Voit made his first appearance last night with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, going 0-for-3, with a walk and run scored, in the RailRiders’ 11-4 victory over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Hopefully Voit can begin ramping up his play (i.e., recapture his timing) over the next few days so that he can make a good contribution to the Yankees again when he returns. He is a vital part of this team’s potential post-season success.

The calendar page soon turns to the final month of the regular season so it’s nearing time to finish off those pesky Tampa Bay Rays to win the AL East and ensure a one-game do-or-die Wild Card game will not be played the Bronx this year. Although I didn’t experience it firsthand, the long ago story of the collapse of the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies (the “Phoid of ’64’”) has stuck with me since I first heard about it as a child. The Phillies looked like a World Series team through the summer of ’64, and held a 5 1/2 game lead over the Cincinnati Reds on September 1st. They went 12-9 for the month and held a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 games to play. But when the regular season reached its end, the Phillies were a game behind the St Louis Cardinals and their season was over. While I don’t expect the Yankees to have that type of collapse, I can’t shake the belief it can happen because it has. There’s no doubt a four-game losing streak can leave me thinking the worst, like many Yankee fans, so I am just glad the Yankees took care of business last night on a night that both the Rays and the distant Boston Red Sox also won. Today is a wonderful day to start a winning streak.

As always, Go Yankees!

World Series: Dodgers vs Red Sox…

LA wins NLCS to advance to Fall Classic…

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite National League team and now they represent my final hope for ending Boston’s season without a championship. The Yankees couldn’t stop the Red Sox and neither could the defending Champion Houston Astros. I wasn’t too confident heading into Game 7 of the NLCS, especially with the game being played in Milwaukee, but the Dodgers showed the resiliency they’ve had all season to win the game in convincing fashion and propel themselves into the World Series for the second consecutive year.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Nothing against the Milwaukee Brewers. I think they’re a fine baseball team and I have much respect for former Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and former Yankees Erik Kratz and Curtis Granderson, but as a Minnesota Vikings fan, the thought of a World Series between the fan bases for both the Red Sox and Green Bay Packers was a bit too much for me. I am glad the Dodgers bailed me out. I guess I should also thank former Yankee Clay Bellinger and his wife for giving birth to Cody and setting the stage for young Bellinger’s go-ahead two-run homer last night.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Stacy Revere)

I wish the Dodgers had a more formidable bullpen outside of closer Kenley Jansen but the Red Sox proved you don’t need a great bullpen to make it to the World Series. I doubt we’ll see Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw closing out games in the World Series like he did Game 7 of the NLCS. But down the stretch, the Dodgers pen performed about as well as you could so I think I’ll take my chances with Dodger Blue over the course of the next four to seven games. The Dodgers have the bats to get into Boston’s bullpen and I think that will finally be the Achilles Heel for the Red Sox.

It will be fun to see Manny Machado back in Boston. Like Manny’s response last night while celebrating when asked if the win was sweet after the boos from the crowd. He said “what do you think?” and took a swig of champagne. Perfect! There is no love lost between Machado and the Red Sox from his days in Baltimore, and I am sure much will be written in the coming days about his villainess in the city. No doubt the boo birds will show up in full force on Tuesday night. I’d love to see Machado to emerge as one of the heroes of this World Series. It makes a nice segue for his future as a Yankee.

As previously written on this blog, I have finalized the wager with my long-time friend, Boston-area native/resident and die-hard Red Sox fan, Julia (@werbiefitz on Twitter). We have had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and Red Sox. It was not meant to be (for me) this year so I am jumping on the Dodgers bandwagon for the latest wager. Well, it’s not really ‘bandwagon jumping’ since the Dodgers have long been my NL team and that wouldn’t have changed even if they had lost 115 games this year like the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees are still my primary team, but for the rest of October, I am bleeding Dodger Blue.

For our wager, the loser must change her (okay, his/her) cover photo on FaceBook to a picture of the winning team celebrating their World Series championship for seven days at the conclusion of the 2018 World Series. The loser must also read a book chosen by the winner, and then post a minimum 500-word essay about the ten things they learned reading the book. Not a book review, but rather information that he/she did not previously know about the winning organization. The essay must then be posted on Social Media for all to see.

For Julia, since the Dodgers are going to win, I’ve chosen Brothers in Arms:  Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman.

Should I lose, which is obviously not going to happen, Julia has chosen Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant.

We’ve had fun with these wagers over the years. I’ve had to take pics of myself wearing Red Sox hats, including a pink one, and Julia, a Red Sox fan from birth, has had to wear a Yankee hat…in public…in Boston. Since I don’t live in the New York City area, I’ve been fortunate I haven’t had to wear a Red Sox cap in the Bronx, but I am sure it is inevitable if we keep up these wagers.

Game On, Julia! I am ready. My beloved Yankees may not have been able to take down the Red Sox this year, but I get a second chance with the Dodgers. 2018 has been a year of resiliency for the Dodgers who were once ten games below .500 (16-26) during the regular season.  They’ve battled back a few times, with their backs to the wall, and have always prevailed. They may have lost the 2017 World Series to the Houston Astros but this is a year of redemption. You’ll always have your 108 regular season wins, but sorry, my friend, your season will end on a down note. You may want to go ahead and buy the book in advance so that you are ready to start reading.

My prediction:  Dodgers in Six (with hat tip to former Yankees and Dodgers manager Joe Torre).

My apologies, I now return you to Yankees Baseball…

After celebrating Mickey Mantle’s birthday yesterday, today’s “Birthday Boy” is alive and well at age 90.  Happy Birthday to the Chairman of the Board, Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford!

Whitey was born on October 21, 1928 in New York City. A lifetime Yankee, Whitey pitched for the Pinstripers in 1950, served two years in the U.S. Army during the Korean War (thank you for your service!), and resumed his career in the Bronx from 1953 through 1967. Ford was 236-106, 2.75 ERA, and had 1,956 strikeouts for the Yankees. He was a ten-time MLB All-Star and he won six World Series championships. In 1961, he was the AL Cy Young Award winner and World Series MVP. Andy Pettitte may have surpassed Ford for most wins by a lefty in franchise history if not for Andy’s three years in Houston. Pettitte, who won 256 games overall, finished 17 wins behind Ford while wearing the famed Pinstripes. It is very appropriate for Ford to remain at the top of the list, closely followed by Pettitte, another former Yankee I hold in very high regard.

I get excited to see Whitey Ford every year on Old Timer’s Day. His health is in decay (I know, it happens to the best of us) and there will be a day when he is no longer able to take part in the Yankee Stadium festivities. Like Mantle, he was a great, great Yankee, and perhaps the greatest living one. I am so proud he is among the greatest of Yankee Legends.

I’ve seen a few Yankee fans say the team should sign Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, and Nathan Eovaldi for the starting rotation next year. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote this morning in his Sunday Baseball Notes that Eovaldi, currently part of Boston’s World Series roster, should command a deal comparable to the one that Alex Cobb signed late last off-season with the Baltimore Orioles (4 years at $57 million). If the Yankees are successful in signing Corbin and retaining Happ, that’s probably too much for the Yankees to sign Eovaldi as well, especially with young guys like Justus Sheffield, Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu and Domingo German waiting in the wings. If the Yanks lose out on Happ, I’d have no problem with an Eovaldi reunion but I am not really expecting it to happen.

As for Corbin, Cafardo notes the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Atlanta Braves will also be vying for his services. Here’s hoping “blood” is thicker than water. Assuming all dollars are fairly equal, I hope Corbin chooses his Yankee family roots. While Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado would be nice free agent signings (or in the words of TGP’s Daniel Burch, “luxuries”), Corbin is clearly the one I want and the one the team needs. Patrick, we’re waiting for ya, bud! Come join the Party in the Bronx! We will be spilling champagne in 2019!

After previously withdrawing his name from consideration for the managerial gig with the Cincinnati Reds, Joe Girardi has withdrawn his name from consideration in Texas for the Rangers job. I am a little surprised but I have always felt Girardi’s dream job is with the Chicago Cubs. I can’t see Joe Maddon staying with the Cubs too many more years so maybe that’s what Girardi is waiting for. Who knows. Maybe he is starting to understand the reasons he is no longer Yankees manager. As for the Reds, they’ll name David Bell as their new manager on Monday. Bell, like Yankees manager Aaron Boone, comes from a baseball family.  His grandfather, Gus, and his father, Buddy, were both Major Leaguers. Boonie is creating a new trend…analytics AND baseball in the blood.

Lastly, a shout out to Didi Gregorius! He was sharing his million-dollar smile last night at the Knicks game. It didn’t help the Knicks win (they lost by two to Boston) but the pic put a smile on my face. It was a reality check to see his heavily wrapped elbow but the dude can light up any room with his effervescent personality. I can’t wait to see him back on the playing field, starting at shortstop, next summer.

As always, Go Yankees!

Houston Astros, 2017 World Series Champions…

Credit:  Wally Skalij — LA Times

2017 World Series

Astros 5, Dodgers 1…

Astros Win Series, 4-3

In the words of the former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want. Sadly for me and those who were pulling for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was a very long night. From the second consecutive horrific start by Yu Darvish to Cody Bellinger shattering Aaron Judge’s post-season strikeout record, it was a forgettable night for the Dodger Blue as the Houston Astros claimed their first ever World Series Championship.

Credit:  Robert Gauthier – LA Times

This should have been a special and magical season for the Dodgers. Their start to the season created much talk about surpassing the tremendous accomplishments of the 1998 Yankees, then came the extended losing streak. They rebounded but in the end, they were just another World Series loser. It was a good Dodgers club, but not quite good enough.

As for me, I am kind of tired of the Houston Astros after losing two seven-game series in a row to them…first the Yankees in the ALCS and now the Dodgers in the World Series. Plus, word started popping last night that Yankees third base coach Joe Espada has decided to join the Astros as their new bench coach (replacing Alex Cora who will become the new manager for the Boston Red Sox). I guess it was just adding salt in the wound.

Nevertheless, congratulations to the Astros for the championship! It was a hard-fought win for them and the city of Houston.

The Astros controlled the game from the start. It took three pitches for Houston’s George Springer, leading off the game, to double into the left field corner off Dodgers starter Yu Darvish. Alex Bregman reached base on an error, making it to second on first baseman Cody Bellinger’s throwing error. Bellinger had moved toward second in front of the second baseman in shallow right to scoop up the grounder, but his throw back to first sailed past Darvish. It probably would have been easier for second baseman Logan Forsythe to make that play. 

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

While Bregman advanced to second, Springer scored the game’s first run. Bregman stole third to put himself in prime scoring position.  It played to perfection when Jose Altuve grounded out to first, with Bregman racing home to score the second run for the Astros. Darvish settled down and retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning and finally bring the Dodgers to bat.

The Dodgers looked like they were going to answer the bell in the bottom of the 1st. Chris Taylor led off for the Dodgers with a double to deep right center. Corey Seager struck out swinging, but there was still hope with the heart of the Dodgers batting order coming up. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch when he took a ball off his forearm, the first of four batters that Astros starter Lance McCullers, Jr would plunk. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out. Yasiel Puig was next and he, like Turner, was hit by a pitch, on the arm, to load the bases. The reinvigorated Joc Pederson came to the plate, flashing a smile, with the chance to bring momentum back to the Dodgers. Unfortunately, he grounded out to second baseman Jose Altuve for the final out.  No runs for the Dodgers. A missed opportunity for them.  In retrospect, one of the game’s key moments.

Yu Darvish was back out on the mound for the 2nd inning but he would not survive.  He started the inning by walking Brian McCann. Marwin Gonzalez doubled to the right field wall, with the slow-footed McCann moving to third. Josh Reddick grounded out to second for the first out. Then, in one of the game’s critical moments, McCullers, who should have been an easy out, hit a slow grounder between first and second. The only play for the Dodgers was to throw out McCullers at first. McCann was able to easily jog (sorry, it is hard to use the word “run” when it comes to the former Yankees catcher) home to pick up an RBI for McCullers. George Springer was next and he put an exclamation point on the Astros’ early performance with a two-run homer high over the center field wall. The Astros led, 5-0. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts came out and pulled Darvish in favor of Brandon Morrow. It may have been the final Dodger appearance for Darvish, a free agent to be. Morrow struck out Alex Bregman to end the inning but using one of your best relievers in the second inning is not exactly a blue print for success.

The Dodgers looked like they had another opportunity in the bottom of the 2nd. Logan Forsythe started things with a single to left. Austin Barnes grounded out to third (great defensive play and throw by third baseman Alex Bregman), but Forsythe was able to advance to second to put himself in scoring position. Kike Hernandez pinch hit for Morrow and was hit by a pitch (ball grazed his shirt but it would have been Ball 4 anyway). Runners at first and second. But it was not the Dodgers’ night. Chris Taylor lined a shot directly to shortstop Carlos Correa and the Astros were able to double Forsythe off second to complete the double play. Again, no runs for the Dodgers and yet another missed opportunity.

Clayton Kershaw took over for the Dodgers in the top of the 3rd inning. Kind of makes you wonder why the Dodgers didn’t go to Kershaw sooner but he did his job, retiring the Astros in order. There was still time for the Dodgers to claw their way back into the game. In the bottom of the inning, Corey Seager led off with a single to center over Jose Altuve’s head. I tried to think of a humorous line about that but I came up short. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch for the second time, this time under his left shoulder blade, and the fourth hit batter by McCullers. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

After McCullers struck out Cody Bellinger, Astros manager A.J. Hinch removed him and brought in Brad Peacock. Yasiel Puig flied out to center but Seager was able to tag and move to third. Two outs for Joc Pederson with a runner just 90 feet away. Pederson went down swinging.  Still no runs for the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, with Kershaw pitching strongly, the Dodgers had their next chance in the 5th. Corey Seager took a one-out walk and moved to second when Justin Turner singled to left. Alex Bregman dove for the ball and knocked it away from Carlos Correa, allowing the ball to roll into left field. The Astros pulled Brad Peacock and brought in Francisco Liriano. Cody Bellinger hit a fielder’s choice to Jose Altuve and the Astros were able to force Turner out at second with Seager moving to third. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Another pitching change which brought Chris Devenski in to face Yasiel Puig. Devenski won the battle when Puig lined out to first for the final out.

The Astros were able to load the bases in the top of the 6th against Kershaw on only one hit but Kershaw was able to get out of the jam unscathed.

In the bottom of the 6th with Charlie Morton taking over the mound for the Astros, Joc Pederson singled to center…a hit that would have been more useful in his earlier at-bats. Logan Forsythe walked and the Dodgers looked like they might be in business. After Austin Barnes popped out to Carlos Correa in shallow left for the first out, Andre Ethier, pinch-hitting for Kershaw, singled to right on a roller past Jose Altuve, scoring Pederson. Forsythe moved to second.  A home run now, and it would have been a one-run game. Unfortunately, like the earlier innings, the Dodgers couldn’t move the runners. Chris Taylor struck out and Corey Seager grounded out to short. It had seemed like it might be a big inning for the Dodgers but all they had to show for it was a single run. 5-1, Astros.

From there, Morton shut down the Dodgers, retiring the next nine batters in order. When Corey Seager hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve who, in turn, threw the ball to first baseman Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the 9th, the Houston Astros were World Series Champions.  

Credit:  Luis Sinco – LA Times

I am happy for Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. For them, it was good to see the elusive World Series championship come their way.  It might be the final hour for Beltran’s career so if it is the end, he gets to go out the right way.

Credit:  Jason O Watson, Getty Images North America

George Springer was rightfully named the Series MVP.  His five home runs tied a World Series record and he was seemingly at the heart of every big Astros rally in this series.

Credit:  Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

For as much as I ripped Yuli Gurriel for his offensive gestures directed at Yu Darvish and his subsequent 2018 suspension for same, it was a very nice touch by Gurriel to tip his cap to Darvish when he came to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning.

Credit:  John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

The first pitches for the game were thrown by Dodgers legends Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe, with Steve Garvey and Rick Monday on the receiving ends, respectively. It was a very nice moment for the Dodgers and their fans.

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Now, the MLB season is over and the Hot Stove League begins. Time for the Yankees to find a new manager and begin preparations for the path that hopefully leads to the 2018 World Series championship.

Odds & Ends…

Now that the World Series has ended, Masahiro Tanaka has three days to decide if he’ll opt out of his contract. So, we’ll know by Saturday where we stand with the right-hander. I am hopeful that either he decides not to opt out or that he and the Yankees are able to come together for an extension. I would prefer to see Tanaka stay.

Credit:  Anthony Causi, New York Post

It looks like the Yankees have found their replacement for former VP of Player Development, Gary Denbo, who recently departed to join Derek Jeter in Miami. Kevin Reese, most recently Director of Professional Scouting for the Yankees, will apparently take Denbo’s former role. There has not been an official announcement yet by the Yankees but it is expected shortly.

The New York Mets did not retain hitting coach Kevin Long when Long’s contract expired so there are rumors that Long could return to his former role as hitting coach for the Yankees. Nothing against Alan Cockrell or Marcus Thames, but I’d like to see Long back in Pinstripes. He is one of the many rumored names for potential Yankees manager. I do not really want to see him as the manager, but as part of the coaching staff, he’d be a great fit.

The coming days should be interesting for the Yankees and the managerial search. I find it very hard to believe that they did not have a specific choice or choices in mind when they made the decision not to retain Joe Girardi. So I don’t buy they are in the process of gathering names. I think they’ll go with an outsider rather than someone with immediate Yankee connections but we’ll see. Things should become more transparent as we move forward.  I would not be at all surprised if the new manager is Jerry Hairston, Jr.  

Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Have a great Thursday! It was a wonderful season and a successful one for the Pinstripers.  They are only going to get better.  Go Yankees!

The Empire Strikes Back, Dodgers-Style…

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

2017 World Series

Dodgers 6, Astros 2…

Series Tied, 2-2

The Dodgers ensured that the World Series will begin and end in Los Angeles with their victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night. They may not win but Dodger Stadium will be the site of the next World Series Champions.  

This has been a very good World Series and Saturday’s game certainly added to the collection of classics. Dodgers starter Alex Wood carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. When he gave up a hit, albeit a home run, he was gone and it was time for the Dodgers bullpen. Similarly, Houston’s Charlie Morton picked up where he left off against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS. The former Pirates starter, whom I always viewed…maybe unfairly…as very average, was magnificent with a three-hitter of his own. Neither starter figured in the outcome of the game which was decided in the ninth inning battle of Closers.  

The Dodgers started the game right when Chris Taylor led off with a single to center. Corey Seager struck out and Justin Turner got under a pitch to pop out to short. Then, with Cody Bellinger at bat, Taylor tried to do a delayed steal against catcher Brian McCann. Wrong move. McCann to shortstop Carlos Correa at second easily erased Taylor and ended the inning.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Wood and Morton battled through the early part of the game in a very good pitching duel. While Wood was still pitching his no-hitter, the Dodgers had their first real chance for runs in the top of the 6th. Austin Barnes, leading off, was hit by a pitch on the right forearm. After Joc Pederson flied out to left, Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez singled into right center field to put runners at the corners. Chris Taylor hit a grounder to third and Barnes broke for home. Third baseman Alex Bregman took the grounder and threw it to Brian McCann to nail Barnes before he could reach safely reach the plate. 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Hernandez moved to second but he would stay there when Corey Seager flied out to left to end the threat with no runs for Blue.  

In the bottom of the 6th, Wood kept his no-no intact for the first two hitters. Marwin Gonzalez grounded out to third (nice recovery by third baseman Justin Turner after knocking down the ball) and Brian McCann struck out. It brought George Springer to the plate. Three successive balls and a strike put Springer in a very favorable hitter’s count. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Wood tried to place an 82 mph curveball over the plate. Springer got all of the ball to send it airmail high over the left field wall.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

End of Wood’s no-hitter, end of Wood’s scoreless outing, and end of Wood. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, taking no chances, went to the pen and brought in Brandon Morrow. Morrow finished off Alex Bregman by getting him to ground out to third, but the Astros led, 1-0.

The Dodgers tied the game in the top of the 7th inning. With Charlie Morton still on the mound, Cody Bellinger’s bat woke up (0-for-13 with eight strikeouts) when he rapped a one-out double to deep left into one of those weird angles in Minute Maid Park.  

Credit:  AP – David J Phillip

Astros manager A.J. Hinch came out, removing Morton after a brief talk, and brought in reliever Will Harris. Yasiel Puig flied out to right for the second out to bring former Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe to the plate. Forsythe came up with perhaps the biggest hit of his career when he singled to left center, with Bellinger racing around third to easily score. Austin Barnes hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Forsythe at second, ending the inning, but at least the Dodgers had made it a tie game.

After a quiet 8th inning for both teams, the game moved into the 9th. The Astros brought closer Ken Giles into the game, replacing Chris Devenski. Corey Seager singled to right center, past a diving Jose Altuve, and the Dodgers were in business. Justin Turner worked a walk to put runners at first and second.  Cody Bellinger, with renewed confidence after his hit in the 7th, doubled to  left center to score Seager. Turner held up at third.  Hinch pulled his closer at that point and brought in Joe Musgrove. The Dodgers also replaced Turner at third with Charlie Culberson. After Musgrove struck out Yasiel Puig, Logan Forsythe was intentionally walked to load the bases and create the potential double play opportunity. Austin Barnes lofted a sacrifice fly to right, deep enough to easily score Culberson. The Dodgers were up, 3-1. Next up was Joc Pederson, who struggled during the 2017 regular season including time in the minors. Redemption was delivered in the form of a 408 feet shot to right for a three-run homer.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

The Dodgers had taken a commanding 6-1 lead. Meanwhile, closer Kenley Jansen was continuing to warm in the Dodgers bullpen. Kiké Hernandez flied out to left to send the game to the bottom of the 9th with the Dodgers holding the five-run lead.

Time for Kenley Jansen. Brian McCann had the first shot.  He laid down a bunt on the left side but Carlos Correa reacted quickly and his throw to first beat the slow-footed McCann. George Springer struck out and the Dodgers were just one out away from victory. Alex Bregman had other ideas and his shot to the short wall in left gave the Astros their second run of the game. The last lick (term courtesy of Michael Kay) was made by Jose Altuve who flied out to center to end the game. Dodgers win, 6-2!

It was great to see Cody Bellinger finally erupt. No home runs from the young slugger but his doubles were instrumental in the victory. As the Aaron Judge of the Dodgers, Bellinger is the key for Blue. After the win, Bellinger said, “It’s a beautiful game”. Yes, it is.

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

There were plenty of comments after the game that referred to Astros closer Ken Giles as Houston’s version of Dellin Betances. Ouch. Dellin has some image rehabilitation to do. There’s one way to do that…performance.

After team congratulations on the field, I liked the way Clayton Kershaw, by himself, walked to the pitcher’s mound and looked down toward home plate for a preview of Sunday night. The tall Texan has a chance to put the Dodgers ahead in the World Series tonight on his native Lone Star turf. Whichever team grabs the win today will hold a tremendous advantage when the series resumes on Tuesday in Chavez Ravine.mLike the games before it, it should be an outstanding game and another classic.  

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends…

I think it was Ken Rosenthal who mentioned it first, but the hottest name bubbling on the rumor mill yesterday for Yankees manager was Jerry Hairston, Jr. J-Hair has been a Dodgers broadcaster since he retired in 2013. I like Hairston but the lack of managerial experience, or more importantly coaching experience, is troublesome. I’d love to have a guy like Hairston on the coaching staff but I think manager is a bit of a reach at this point.  

It was awesome to see Yankees Legend Mariano Rivera, the greatest Closer of All-Time, at the World Series, along with Trevor Hoffman, as they participated in the Reliever of the Year Awards for Kenley Jansen (NL) and Craig Kimbrel (AL).  

Credit:  AP – David J Phillip

I really didn’t expect Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel to lose time in the World Series for his offensive gestures directed at Dodgers starter Yu Darvish, but I thought the five game suspension with no pay to start the 2018 season was weak. His racial insensitivity was not acceptable and MLB should have made a bigger statement.  

Have a great Sunday! Missing the Pinstripes. Go Yankees!

Sunday’s Recurring Theme: If Only…

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

Brewers 5, Yankees 3…

I guess three positive starts by Masahiro Tanaka was not enough to prove that the right-hander was back.  He followed up those three starts with another disappointing performance on a beautiful day in the Bronx as the Yankees fell to the Brew Crew.  Tanaka (7-8) lasted just 4 1/3 innings and 83 pitches, giving up 6 hits, 5 runs (including two home runs), and a walk.  He struck out 5 in the loss.  He didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday but he also didn’t receive much help.  If only…

Saturday’s hero, Clint Frazier, tried.  He had another homer but the big bats of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez were a combined 2-for-9 with no homers or RBI’s and 5 strikeouts.  

The Brewers jumped on Tanaka right away with three runs in the first.  Jonathan Villar opened the game with a single.   Eric Thames singled to right to put runners at the corners.  After Domingo Santana struck out, former Red Sox third baseman Travis Shaw pummeled a Tanaka pitch over the bullpen in right to give the Brewers a 3-0 lead.  I wonder how much Boston wishes they still had Shaw (19 HR and 65 RBI) instead of Pablo Sandoval and fill-ins at third base.  The guy they traded for (former Brewers closer Tyler Thornburg) underwent season-ending surgery last month.  

The Brewers added another run in the top of the 2nd inning when Stephen Vogt, formerly of the Oakland A’s, opened with a solo shot to center which dropped into the bullpen.  4-0, Brewers.

The Yankees offense finally got something going in the 4th.  With two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury singled to left and subsequently stole second.  Headley singled to left, which scored Ellsbury with the Yankees’ first run.  Clint Frazier followed with his third homer as a Yankee, to right center, which brought the Yankees within one run, 4-3.  

Credit:  Seth Wenig-AP

After Tanaka gave up two one-out singles in the top of the 5th, his day was done.  Chasen Shreve was brought in and he lost the battle to the only batter he faced when Travis Shaw collected his 4th RBI of the day with a run-scoring single.  Adam Warren should be called The Cleaner because he’s always the one that has to clean up the mess.  He struck out both batters to get out of the inning without any further damage.  

The Yankees had a runner in scoring position in every inning from the 5th inning through the 9th but all were left stranded.  For a moment, it seemed as though the Yankees had taken a 6-5 lead on an apparent 3-run home run by Chase Headley in the 6th inning, but appeal and further review clearly showed the ball sailed just to the right of the right field foul pole so the homer was erased…yes, if only.  Headley subsequently went down swinging. It was another lost opportunity in a day of lost opportunities.  Brett Gardner was on second in the bottom of the 9th after he walked and stole a base, but Gary Sanchez took a called third strike to end the game.  Gary, Dude…if only.  The Brewers escaped with the 5-3 win.  

Credit:  UPI

I got my pre-game wish.  More Red Thunder and no Tyler Clippard.  But it was not enough.  If only we had won…

With the loss, the Yankees (45-41) dropped into a second place tie with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Both teams are 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox, who fell to the Rays, 5-3, on Sunday.  It was a very disappointing finish to the first half for the Yankees who had started the season so strongly.  I have no clue if the Yankees will be buyers or sellers at the end of the month, but I am in agreement with those who believe the Yankees are not yet a World Series contender.  I know that GM Brian Cashman feels a return to good health and a few enhancements could be the difference-maker but I’d hate to see the team make moves this year that might steal from 2018 or 2019 when the Yankees really will be World Series contenders.  But I admit, we do need a  new first baseman.

Odds & Ends…

Matt Holliday played DH for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Sunday in their 5-2 loss to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.  His lone hit in four at-bats was a run-scoring single.

The Home Run Derby is tonight.  I have already completed my bracket and have Aaron Judge emerging as the victor over Giancarlo Stanton but I do think that Gary Sanchez could get on a roll to steal this one.  It’s unfortunate that he drew Stanton as his first round opponent.  Former Yankee Clay Bellinger will serve as the Derby pitcher for his son, Cody.  I am sure Yankee fans will be paying close attention to Aaron Judge’s first round opponent given the trade rumors swirling about the potential trade of Justin Bour to the Yankees.

Have a great Monday!  Let’s Go Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge!  Enjoy the HR Derby!

A Win is a Win…

Credit:  Nuccio DiNuzzo-Chicago Tribune

Yankees 6, White Sox 5…

Moral of the story…never take anything for granted.  The Yankees took a comfortable five run lead into the bottom of the 9th inning but it was an edge of your seat, nail-biter at the end.  A three-run homer and a run-scoring double made it interesting but the Yankees were able to hold on for the win over the Chicago White Sox.

There were a few stars in this game, but credit first has to go to starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery who has proven to be the stopper in the absence of CC Sabathia.  Montgomery  (6-4) held the White Sox to one run on five hits over seven innings while striking out eight.  He issued just one free pass.  Montgomery gave up his only run in the second inning when speculated trade target Todd Frazier opened with a solo shot to left center.  From there, Monty kept the White Sox off the board while the Yankees built what appeared to be a comfortable lead.

Credit:  AP

A fielding error by Frazier in the fourth allowed Gary Sanchez to reach base.  Aaron Judge, who had opened the inning with a walk, moved to third.  Tyler Austin lofted a sacrifice fly to right which scored Judge, tying the game.  Jacoby Ellsbury, fresh off the DL, singled to move Sanchez into scoring position.  Chase Headley singled, scoring Sanchez.  Following a walk by Austin Romine to load the bases, Ronald Torreyes hit into a double-play but Ellsbury was able to score before the White Sox completed the final out, catching Headley between second and third, to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.  

With one out in the sixth, Tyler Austin gave the Yankees what they were missing from first base with a line drive homer to left or as Michael Kay called it, “a bullet”.  Ellsbury reached base on a fielding error by White Sox starting pitcher David Holmberg and Headley followed with a double to move Ells to third.  The White Sox made a pitching change and Austin Romine greeted reliever Juan Minaya with a sac fly to center, scoring Ellsbury.  A passed ball moved Headley to third.  Ronald Torreyes hit a grounder that should have been the final out, but an error by first baseman Matt Davidson, the third White Sox error of the game, allowed Torreyes to reach first while Headley scored, making it 6-1 Yankees.

The Yankees got into some trouble in the 8th when Jonathan Holder replaced Montgomery to start the inning.  He struck out the first batter but a single by former Yankee Melky Cabrera and a walk to Jose Abreu put Cabrera in scoring position.  Avisail Garcia hit into a force out that erased Abreu at second, moving Cabrera to third.  Holder was pulled and replaced by Dellin Betances who subsequently walked Frazier to load the bases.  In what would prove to be one of the plays of the game, Betances struck out Davidson to end the threat.  

Unable to tack on any further insurance runs, the Yankees took the 6-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th.  Chasen Shreve was brought in to pitch in relief of Betances and secured the first out on  a grounder by Yolmer Sanchez. But Kevan Smith and Adam Engel followed with singles to put runners at first and second.  Tim Anderson punched a fly ball over the center field wall to pull the White Sox within two runs, 6-4.  A frustrated Shreve was pulled for Aroldis Chapman but the White Sox kept the rally going with a single by Melky Cabrera.  Fellow Cuban Jose Abreu doubled off Chapman, scoring Cabrera, and it was 6-5 Yankees.  Fortunately, Chapman got Avisail Garcia on a ground out and Todd Frazier flied out to left to secure the save.  

A little too close for comfort but the final result was a much-needed win.  The Yankees (41-33) kept pace with the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings.  The Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins, 4-1, earlier in the evening.  The Tampa Bay Rays were idle and slipped to 3 games back.

The game wasn’t without its bad news.  Second baseman Starlin Castro left the game in the third inning after straining his right hamstring while trying to run out a grounder.  He was replaced by Rob Refsnyder.  Castro will have a MRI today while the Yankees decide whether or not to place him on the DL.  The initial word is the Yankees will call up infield prospect Tyler Wade.  Wade has 5 HR’s and 25 RBI’s for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  His slash line is .313/.390/.444.  In 71 games, he led the RailRiders with 13 errors but has stolen 24 bags.  Wade, expected to be the utility-man of the future, will now get his first taste of the Bigs.  He’ll back up Ronald Torreyes at second until Castro is able to resume play.  

Credit:  Jon Durr-Getty Images

Odds & Ends…

The Yankees were busy Monday on the transactions wire.  They placed Aaron Hicks, as expected, on the 10-Day DL with a right oblique strain.  Jacoby Ellsbury, who had been expected to continue his rehab with Double A Trenton was instead activated to replace Hicks.  Healthy, there’s no question I prefer Hicks over Ellsbury, but since that’s not an option, I am hopeful the Yankees can get something…anything…out of first base for production.  If so, it will help offset the loss of Hicks.  The Yankees also sent LHP Tyler Webb and OF Mason Williams to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  I was sorry to see Webb go after just two Major League appearances, but hopefully, he’ll be back.  RHP Ronald Herrera and IB/OF Rob Refsnyder were recalled to replace Webb and Williams.  Refsnyder will provide corner outfield relief and help at first base if necessary.  Herrera had been scheduled to start last night’s game for the RailRiders so he represents a rotation insurance arm.

Matt Holliday was unavailable for the second straight day with his condition as a result of the allergic reaction suffered in Oakland.  He had some medical tests ran yesterday but hopefully everything comes back good.  The Yankees can ill afford to lose his productive bat for any extended period of time.

I do not want to detract from the great rookie season Aaron Judge is having, but Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger is amazing.  He had his sixth multi-homer game on Sunday and now has 24 homers on the year.  With a delayed start (he wasn’t promoted to the Dodgers until April 25th), he has the most home runs of any NL rookie in the first half since the All-Star Game debuted in 1933.  The Dodgers have been steamrolling their opponents since he arrived.  At his current pace, the son of a former Yankees utility player may catch and surpass Judge for most home runs in MLB.  Bellinger and the Dodgers certainly have the mojo working right now.

Credit:  Chris Carlson-AP

Have a great Tuesday!  Hopefully it’s a two-for Tuesday as the Yankees attempt to secure their second win against the White Sox.  Let’s Go Yankees!

Wanted: Good News For A Change…

Credit:  MLB.com

A Collective Groan in the Yankees Universe…

On the tail of a six-game losing streak, how can things go from bad to worse?  Losing top prospect Gleyber Torres to Tommy John surgery certainly qualifies.  Thought to have only a hyperextended elbow, consultation with Yankees team physician Christopher Ahmad revealed that Torres has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.  Many were expecting the July call-up of Torres to the Major Leagues as a potential replacement for third baseman Chase Headley.  Now, Torres will undergo surgery, with eyes for Spring Training 2018.  Ouch, this one hurts. Well, him more than me but still, losing both the top pitching and the top hitting prospects to Tommy John surgery in the same year is difficult.  I suppose the news would have been much worse if Torres had injured his throwing arm (longer recuperation and rehabilitation period).  So, we should be grateful that this was not worse than it was.  Good things never happen with headfirst slides.

Like the ascension of Chance Adams to top pitching prospect status, Clint Frazier becomes the de facto top prospect in the organization pending Gleyber’s successful return to good health.  As I try to comprehend this depressing news, I didn’t really think that Torres was ready for the Big Leagues yet.  I had already viewed his timetable as next Spring.  With immediate projections that he’ll be ready for Spring Training, nothing really changes except he’ll lose valuable time learning the nuances of third base over the course of the next few months.  Manager Joe Girardi is already on record saying that if there is an infield need at second/short on the MLB roster, Tyler Wade would be the guy.  

Where do we go from here?  With first base surfacing as the greatest need, this probably enhances the chances for Chase Headley to remain as the third base starter (regardless of the consequences) unless the Yankees swing a less expensive deal for a guy like Howie Kendrick of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Without Major League ready third basemen in the Minor Leagues and greater needs at first base and left-handed relief in the bullpen, there’s probably not much that can be done to upgrade third base at this point without costing an arm and leg (a few arms and legs, in fact).  Even the guy the Yankees traded to the San Diego Padres for Headley (Yangervis Solarte) would be a better option today in a side-by-side comparison. 

Credit:  Associated Press

The Yankees are competing against the Houston Astros in the pitching market and for third base, they face stiff competition from the Boston Red Sox who appear ready to flush the Pablo Sandoval disaster.  I believe this makes the possibility of Mike Moustakas calling Fenway Park “home” the more likely outcome.  This year’s July Trading Deadline figures to be a very expensive one for the many teams looking to upgrade. 

The Yankees elevated 3B Miguel Andujar to AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Torres.  He was 1-for-4 last night in the RailRiders’ 6-1 victory over the Syracuse Chiefs.  He also scored two runs.  The heroes of the game were Dustin Fowler, who had a two-run home run, and Brady Lail, who pitched 6 2/3 innings, surrendering only the one run and four hits, for the win.  Andujar is probably the best true third baseman right now but he’s not close to taking his game to the next level yet.

In case you were sleeping last night…

Despite the day off, the Yankees are back in sole possession of first place in the AL East.  The Boston Red Sox lost to the Kansas City Royals, 4-2, to fall a 1/2 game off the pace.  Having played three more games than the Yankees, the Red Sox are two games behind in the loss column.  The third place Tampa Bay Rays slid to 4 games back, thanks to their loss to the Cincinnati Reds, 7-3.   The Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles sit 5 games back entering play today.  The Jays beat the Texas Rangers, 7-6, while the Orioles were de-feathered by the Cleveland Indians, 12-0.  

Preview of Upcoming Angels-Yankees Series:

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups for the series with the Los Angeles Angels which begins tonight at Yankee Stadium:

Tuesday, June 20th

Angels:  Parker Bridwell (1-0, 2.79 ERA)

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (7-3, 3.71 ERA)

Wednesday, June 21st

Angels:  Ricky Nolasco (2-8, 5.01 ERA)

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (4-4, 3.78 ERA)

Thursday, June 22nd

Angels:  Jesse Chavez (5-7, 4.85 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Severino (5-2, 2.99 ERA)

Odds & Ends…

Yankees RHP Matt Marsh, 25, has been suspended for 50 games for a second violation of Baseball’s Minor League Drug Policy.  Marsh, a relief pitcher, has appeared in 15 games for High-A Tampa and AA-Trenton.  He is 3-2 with 2.49 ERA, and has held batters to .190 batting average while striking out 28 in 21 2/3 innings.  He did not allow a run in 7 innings pitched for Tampa.  Marsh was signed by the Yankees as an undrafted free agent in 2014.

Credit:  Josh Lefkowitz-Getty Images

Move over, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.  Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers is now the hottest young home run hitter in baseball.  Bellinger hit two more homers last night against Zack Wheeler and the New York Mets and now has 21 in 51 games.  It is the fifth multi-homer game for Bellinger.  He is just the fourth player 21 years or younger with 20 homers by the All-Star Break (joining Eddie Matthews, Albert Pujols, and Miguel Cabrera).  Do the Dodgers miss injured first baseman Adrian Gonzalez?  I think not…

Credit:  Harry How-Getty Images

Have a great Tuesday!  It’s time to put the losing streak in the rearview mirror!

No Fight in this “Dog”…

Credit:  Tony Avelar-Associated Press

A’s 5, Yankees 2…

A funny thing happened on our way to a fun and exciting season.  We got our butts kicked by the American League’s worst team. The season-high losing streak has now reached five games (three in a row to the lowly A’s) as the agony on the West Coast continues.  

After the return of the “batting practice” pitcher (Masahiro Tanaka), the Yankees thrust a Triple A pitcher into the role of stopper later today.  It’s going to be a very long flight back to New York for the Yankees if they can’t at least salvage the final game of the four game series.

Masahiro Tanaka’s performance yesterday showed me that I really hope that he opts out of his contract at the end of the year.  But unfortunately, the worse he pitches, the more foolish he’d walk away from guaranteed money that he’d be unable to top on the open market.  Tanaka is no ace and I am becoming very pessimistic about his chances to reclaim any resemblance of a top of the rotation guy.

Tanaka did strike out 10 batters, when the A’s weren’t sending the pitches out of the park (three home runs in the first four innings).  In fact, Tanaka is the only pitcher in the last 100 years to strike out at least ten while allowing three homers in four innings or less.  It’s not exactly a record that I’d be proud of.

After the Yankees failed to score any runs in the top of the first inning despite a runner in scoring position, the A’s Matt Joyce hopped on the first pitch thrown by Tanaka and homered to right-center.  Tanaka struck out the next 3 batters to end the first (giving the false illusion that the homer was an aberration).  

The next inning, the Yankees took a 2-1 lead when they scored two runs on three successive singles and a sac fly against A’s starter Jesse Hahn.  But it was temporary.  In the bottom of the 2nd, Ryon Healy blasted a shot to left center to tie the game.  Like the inning before, Tanaka subsequently recorded all three outs by strikeout, leaving runners at first and second through a double and a walk which followed the homer.  Tanaka faced the minimum of three batters in the third (one by strikeout), but Ryon Healy opened the fourth with his second home run of the game.  The A’s had the lead for good, 3-2.  It was another inning of all three outs recorded by strikeout, but sadly they were mixed in with four singles that produced two more runs.  5-2, A’s.

Credit:  Getty Images

Tanaka (5-7, 6.34 ERA) didn’t come back for the fifth inning, and he was replaced by Domingo German who finished up the game (protecting the other tired arms in the bullpen).  German did an admirable job with four scoreless innings (6 strikeouts of his own) but the Yankees offense was silent for the remainder of the game.  Swinging strikeouts in the 9th by Chris Carter, Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine ended the game (leaving Ronald Torreyes, who had singled and taken second on defensive indifference, stranded).  

The Boston Red Sox missed out on an opportunity to tie the Yankees (38-28) for the AL East lead and they remain one game back thanks to their 7-1 loss to the Houston Astros.  The Red Sox seem to be having their own Tanaka-like problems with last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello (3-9, 5.05 ERA).  The Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles both won so they are 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 games behind, respectively.  

Luis Cessa will be on the mound for the Yankees later today, making his season debut.  The Yankees bullpen will be at its strongest for the first time in a long time with the expected activation of closer Aroldis Chapman.  I am hopeful that the return of Tyler Clippard to the 7th inning allows him to be more effective with the pressurized latter innings under the control of Dellin Betances and Chapman.  

Odds & Ends…

Since his elevation to the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 28th, first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger, son of former Yankees pitcher Clay Bellinger, has been on a home-run tear.  He already has four multi-homer games, and his 19th home run yesterday matched Gary Sanchez’s MLB record for most home runs in a player’s first 49 games.  The Dodger Days for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, currently on the DL with a degenerative disc in his lower back, appear to be numbered.

Credit:  Jeff Roberson-Associated Press

The Yankees received a scare yesterday when top prospect Gleyber Torres was pulled from the game with an injury suffered on a headfirst slide at home plate.  He has been diagnosed with a hyperextended elbow.  X-rays performed after the game were negative.  He’ll undergo further medical evaluation before returning to Scranton.  Hopefully all is well except for a few days of rest.

I hadn’t really seen a list yet, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported this weekend that the Yankees must place the following players on the 40-man roster between now and November 20th or risk losing them in the Rule 5 draft:  Gleyber Torres, Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, Tyler Wade, Zack Littell, Thairo Estrada, Clint Frazier, Dustin Fowler, Ian Clarkin, Billy McKinney and J.P. Feyereisen.  It would seem that the abundance of talented prospects requiring protection will be a factor in the days leading up the trading deadline next month.  

Happy Father’s Day to all dads in the Yankees Universe!  I hope it’s a tremendous day for you, complete with a Yankees victory!  Enjoy!