Photo Credit: Associated Press
Our favorite pastime is sorely missed…
We continue to sit and wait to see if the 2020 MLB baseball season will start or even happen. Unfortunately, the coronavirus continues to increase its grip on the country and many of us wait this out at our homes, with minimal external trips for necessities. We’ve seen the passing of many people who could not overcome the deadly effects of the virus and can only hope things begin to turn around soon.
It was good to see MLB and the Players Union come together for compromise regarding the shortened or possibly lost season. The players maintain service time but that’s certainly the least of the concerns from my perspective as a fan. At the present time, there is a possibility that Mookie Betts never plays a regular season game for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I continue to be cautiously optimistic for a shortened season and do want to see Mookie in Dodger Blue for meaningful games (although simply watching the Yankee pinstripes on a baseball field is more desirable).
Photo Credit: Ray Stubblebine, Reuters
At this point, I don’t think anyone really knows what the 2020 MLB season will look like. I’d like to see them play at least 120 games if possible. The idea of using many double-headers to get in as many games as they can seems to be an invitation to injury in my opinion. There’s talk the rosters will be expanded beyond 26 players, at least at the start of the season, as a hedge against injury but that’s not enough. If they expand to say 28 or 29 players, that’s not really going to help in the long run. I am hopeful for as many games as can be played but mostly within the confines of single games per day.
I know Los Angeles was looking forward to hosting this year’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium but it does appear the All-Star Break will be one of the sacrifices in an altered, reduced schedule.
I’ve seen the talk about a two-week mini-Spring Training if/when baseball resumes, but I share Yankee manager Aaron Boone’s opinion teams need more time than that (3 to 4 weeks is more realistic). Where we sit today, it seems June would be the earliest we could potentially see regular season baseball again and that’s assuming things with COVID-19 start to improve soon.
The Yankees were scheduled to play 60 total games from March 26th through the end of May. To get in 120 games would require creative scheduling or an extension of the season deeper into October, possibly pushing the playoffs into November. The thought of Yankees baseball in the Bronx after Halloween is a scary thought if for no other reason than the colder temps. There’s talk of neutral sites. Does that mean we could see the Yankees play “home” games at the Tin Can they call Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, FL? It does make more sense for the Yankees to play alternate home games near their Spring Training home and minor league headquarters than other cities if they can’t play in New York City.
Photo Credit: Reinhold Matay, AP
At this point, anything is purely speculation so we continue to wait and hopefully all of us stay healthy in the meantime.
There was some transaction activity until MLB froze transactions temporarily with this week’s agreement. The Yankees optioned fifth starter candidate Michael King, along with reliever Ben Heller, starter Deivi Garcia and infielder Thairo Estrada to the minors. All, except Garcia who went to Double A Trenton, were assigned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
Not surprised at any of the names, but Estrada’s demotion does point to the success of Tyler Wade making the club as its backup infielder (and on some occasions, outfielder) and maybe even non-roster invitee Rosell Herrera, who opened a few eyes before Spring Training was shut down. I have thought this could be a big breakout year for the speedy Wade so time will tell if he gets the chance. Garcia is clearly not ready yet although his arrival looms on the horizon. King and Heller are two guys that I thought had legitimate chances to make the Opening Day roster. But the longer the delay goes on, the better the chance James Paxton is ready to join the starting rotation. Under that scenario, Jordan Montgomery moves from fourth to fifth starter which eliminates the immediate need for King. I’ve long admired Heller but I know, like Monty, he is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and it probably makes more sense to have him continue his work at Triple A until he proves he is ready to be an answer in the bullpen. Realistically, I think we’ll see all four of these players at the Major League level at some point during the season but that’s not exactly a bold prediction.
With starting pitchers Chris Sale and Noah Syndergaard opting for Tommy John surgery, it makes you wonder who is next. Granted, I am not a fan of the Red Sox or the Mets, but I hope both guys have successful surgeries with full recovery to good health. I respect both pitchers and I look forward to their respective returns to top form.
Moving off-topic to football, it is going to be very weird to see Tom Brady performing as the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I don’t like the New England Patriots but the thought of Brady in anything other than a Patriots uniform seems wrong. As a Vikings fan, I got to see hated rival Brett Favre suit up in purple and gold but that’s not the same since Favre, a great quarterback, is not on the same level as Brady who will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the position, if not the greatest. I am not convinced Brady will see the same level of success with the Bucs and it’s kind of sad to see him go out as anything but the best. I had hoped he would come to Los Angeles to play for the Chargers, but the Californian opted for the “home” city of the Yankees, playing next to Steinbrenner Field.
NFL free agency has not been kind to my team, the Minnesota Vikings. The defensive backfield has been decimated by the departures of Xavier Rhodes (Colts), Trae Waynes (Bengals) and Mackenzie Alexander (Bengals). He is not the player he once was but the Cleveland Browns signed Andrew Sendejo. The Vikings placed the franchise tag on Anthony Harris, but his name continues to come up in potential trades. The defensive backfield is going to look substantially different this year, although I am glad All-Star safety Harrison Smith remains in place. He’ll need Holton Hill, Mike Hughes, and Kris Boyd to step up and whomever else the Vikings decide to bring in through free agency and the draft.
The Vikings’ receiving corps will also look different with the trade of Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. While I will miss the talent Diggs brought to the field, I won’t miss the drama that came with him. He’ll forever be immortalized in Minnesota for the famed Minneapolis Miracle catch a few seasons ago against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs, but life moves on. Former Tennessee Titans wide receiver Tajaé Sharpe joins the team in a bid to secure the second receiver role behind the team’s premier receiver, Adam Thielen. The 25-year-old New Jersey native had 25 catches last year for the Titans, accumulating 329 yards and scoring four touchdowns. I didn’t know much about him prior to this year, but I am excited for him to compete with the other young receivers on the Vikings roster. Ironically, Sharpe made his NFL debut in 2016 against the Vikings, grabbing 7 passes for 76 yards. Fortunately, the Vikings won the game, but I’m fine if Sharpe wants to keep up that production when there are Vikings on the field.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports
Although the decision for the NFL Draft to proceed as scheduled next month is highly controversial, I am glad they’ll do it. We need the distraction and the return of Sports in any capacity is much appreciated.
I thought I had seen my last snow in Colorado but it was not to be. The ground, as I type this post, is covered with the white stuff. This, I think, is the last. I know Colorado weather is so fickle but it does appear temps will be slightly better for the coming days. Still not crazy about moving during this crazy (and unhealthy) time but I will do my best to stay safe. I am looking forward to my new home and the end to Winter as I presently know it. Kind of funny to think that today I need a heavy coat to go outside but will be wearing shorts in a couple of weeks.
Stay safe and healthy.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP
Happ, turning back the clock, turns back the Sox…
I’ll admit that J.A. Happ has surprised me the last couple of starts. I had written the guy off a few weeks ago and I didn’t want him anywhere near a post-season start but I think I am starting to soften on that position. His terrific performance yesterday, holding the Boston Red Sox to two hits and no runs over 6 1/3 innings, was an illustration why the Yankees re-signed Happ in the off-season and not Lance Lynn. Behind his latest great start, the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 5-1, to even the four-game series with two to play.
Photo Credit: AP
Happ has historically been a good pitcher against the Red Sox which, as we know, is why the Yankees acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays last summer. He may not be facing Boston this post-season but this is exactly the Happ we need to show up for the big games in a few weeks.
It’s great that both Happ and James Paxton are rounding into form at the right time. The Tampa Bay Rays, currently 8 1/2 games back, are on fire right now. The Rays have won 9 of their last 10 games, and one of their top injured pitchers, Tyler Glasnow, was activated today to start later this afternoon. With last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Blake Snell, nearing his return from the Injured List, the Rays are getting reinforcements at exactly the right time for them. I don’t expect the Yankees to blow a 8 1/2 game lead but conversely, the Rays do not appear to be going away.
Fortunately, for the Yankees, they’ll be getting some reinforcements with Luis Severino and Dellin Betances in the not-so-distant future. I am not sure how Sevy will used, but just having him on the pitching staff will be significant. Early on, it appeared he’d probably be used as either an opener or out of the bullpen, but lately, there appears to be some optimism he can start. Regardless of how Manager Aaron Boone decides to deploy him, the Yankees are a better team with Sevy on the active roster.
Severino could make his 2019 season debut soon. After Sevy’s second rehab start for the Trenton Thunder (AA) on Friday, Boone told The New York Post, “Overall, it was pretty successful. We’ll talk about whether one more (rehab start) is beneficial or [if he will] come with us.”
|Photo Credit: Staton Rabin, AP|
Betances needs more time in the minors before he’s ready but, if all goes well, we should see him within the next few weeks. A pending free agent, Betances has much to prove to ensure a big pay day after the season. Not that I think Betances needs added incentive to pitch well for the Yankees but it can’t hurt.
A setback by Aaron Hicks has seemed to stall any hopes he’ll be able to help the team anytime soon. Aaron Boone said yesterday that “He’s not feeling quite right.” It’s unfortunate but at least the Yankees have a reinvigorated Brett Gardner and the surprisingly successful Mike Tauchman to provide the necessary coverage in center field.
Now if we could just get Giancarlo Stanton back, all would be good on this roster. Yes, I want Stanton in big moments next month. Regardless of how other guys are playing, Stanton remains a huge threat and I think he’ll have his defining Yankee moment next month. And no, it won’t be swinging and missing at a low outside pitch. This guy remains a game-changer with one swing of his bat.
|Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images|
Was there really a report this week that the long-forgotten Jacoby Ellsbury has begun indoor activities? Now there’s a guy I never expect to wear the Pinstripes again. If he reaches full health after several years of inactivity, I think the Yankees should just cut bait and eat the remainder of his contract. There’s no scenario I want to see Ellsbury take a roster spot over more deserving guys. Troy Tulowitzski proved how effective an aging veteran can be after missing a few seasons. I wouldn’t expect any better from Ellsbury. At least Tulo showed some heart and still failed. There’s no apparent evidence Ellsbury has any heart.
The season is over for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The Tampa Bay Rays were able to grab scoreboard with their Triple A affiliate, the Durham Bulls. The Bulls swept the RailRiders in the opening round of the International League’s Governor’s Cup playoffs, pounding the RailRiders, 17-2, in Game 3 last night. I’m sure this how the Rays envision their future against the Yankees, as early as this October. Hopefully the big league team fares better against the Rays.
RailRiders reliever Ben Heller is expected to join the Yankees later today. Since he is not currently on the active Major League roster (60-day IL), he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster before he can join the team. Personally, I’d cut Ryan Dull who has no future with this team beyond 2019. Heller has been my dark-horse favorite for a role in the bullpen as he further distances himself from last year’s Tommy John surgery. I like the guy and I think he can be an effective arm among the quality relievers currently in the Yankees’ bullpen (unlike the much-travelled Dull). Heller was the only effective pitcher in yesterday’s blow-out loss to the Bulls with two innings of hitless/scoreless relief, a walk, and five strikeouts.
Everyone expects Deivi Garcia to get the call but I don’t think he’s ready. His line yesterday against the Bulls was very forgettable. One inning, two hits (including a homer), four walks, and five runs. Bring the 20-year-old to Spring Training, but I wouldn’t call him up now. I am not basing that on yesterday’s performance but rather his overall time at Triple A. He finished 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and 5.77 FIP. He did have 45 strikeouts in 40.0 innings, but issued 20 free passes and hit four batters. I know the Yankees have a seemingly comfortable lead in the AL East but the team is still battling for best record in the AL (currently tied with the Houston Astros at 93-50). Every game matters. I think Garcia will have a long Major League career but let’s pump the brakes until he is truly ready.
Getting back to the Boston Red Sox, their season hangs on the balance. After last night’s loss, they are 7 games out in the AL Wild Card hunt. The Rays and the Oakland A’s hold the top two spots, with the Cleveland Indians hanging in, 1 1/2 games back. With just 20 games to play, the Red Sox literally need two of the three teams ahead of them to collapse. Maybe the Indians fade, but I don’t see the Rays or the A’s relinquishing their current positions. It will be a fun day when I hear the Red Sox have been eliminated from playoff contention. Until then, regardless of the odds, they have a chance. Hopefully the Yanks can take the next two games from Boston to help drive a few nails into their coffin.
Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP
Don’t look now but the Atlanta Braves could be making a move for the best record in Major League Baseball. All season, everyone has talked about how the Los Angeles Dodgers have run away with the NL but suddenly they have the Braves nipping at their heels. Entering play today, the Dodgers are 92-52 after losing two in a row to the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Braves, who have won 9 consecutive games, are 89-54. They are within striking distance of Yankees, Astros and Dodgers for MLB’s best record. They say the playoffs are not about the best team but the team that gets hot at the right moment. At this point, you’d have to say that the Rays and Braves are Baseball’s hottest teams. Much can change between now and October, but these two teams are intent on making noise in the coming weeks. Time for Team Pinstripes to put ‘the pedal to the metal’.
The Yankees have announced a few moves today but none featured Ben Heller. I remain optimistic he’ll get the call, but here’s the day’s transaction per the Yankees:
- Reinstated Gio Urshela from the 10-day IL
- Returned Thairo Estrada from rehab and reinstated him from the 10-day IL
- Recalled Kyle Higashioka and Breyvic Valera from the RailRiders
I am glad to see Urshela back on the field. DJ LeMahieu does a great job at third, but having flexibility with him, helps the team. These moves were simple paper transactions, whereas, Heller will require some maneuvering so perhaps there will be more transactions announced later today. For Heller’s sake, I hope so.
|Photo Credit: Rich Gagnon, AP|
I was surprised to see former Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda receive a 60-game ban yesterday for taking a diuretic. Pineda, who has been the Twins’ best pitcher the last few weeks, said in a statement that he took an over-the-counter medication to help control his weight, but it contained hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic that can mask other substances. The ban was initially 80 games, but Pineda was able to get it reduced to 60 games on appeal after making a compelling case he was not attempting to mask performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t think Pineda had an intent to deceive but it’s an unfortunate situation for the one-time Yank and it certainly hurts Minnesota’s chances for October success.
As always, Go Yankees!