Tagged: Derek Jeter

The Journey Has Only Begun…

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, New York Post

AL East Championship is Step 1…

The Yankees may have won the AL Eastern Division Championship, but the road ahead is full of challenges. I am not holding my breath the Yankees will nail down home field advantage. The Yankees did pick up a game on the Houston Astros last night, and trail the AL Leaders by only a half-game but realistically it is a game and a half advantage for the Astros since they won the season series between the two teams. With only six regular season games left for the Yankees and a soft schedule for Houston (Mariners and Angels), it will be difficult to overcome the difference.

So, at this point, I am assuming that the Yankees will finish with the second best record in the AL and will host the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS. While having home field advantage would be nice with a potential playoff series against the Astros looming if both teams can advance to the American League Championship Series, you could argue that facing the Twins, a team the Yankees have historically matched up well against, is preferred over facing the potential Wild Card winning Oakland A’s who have been among baseball’s hottest teams recently.  Honestly, I don’t really care who the Yankees face. ‘To be the best you have to beat the best’ so however this plays out is fine with me. Either the Yankees can win or they can’t.  If they can’t, they are not deserving of advancing to the World Series. If the Yankees need the benefit of where the games are played, it was not meant to be. I think this team is good enough to beat anybody, anywhere.

I have no issue with Manager Aaron Boone’s decision to rest players in preparation for October.

Photo Credit: AP

The Yankees got good news yesterday on second baseman Gleyber Torres when the results of his MRI came back negative. He is one guy the Yankees could ill afford to lose if they intend to go deep into October. I’d love to see him reach 40 home runs (he only needs two more) but honestly the most important thing is his health. He’ll sit out again today and will likely return to the field when the Yankees play Tuesday night at Tropicana Field against the Wild Card contending Tampa Bay Rays. Two consecutive extra-inning walk-off’s by the Rays against the post-season eliminated Boston Red Sox have put them in the second Wild Card spot, a game ahead of the Cleveland Indians. Adam Ottavino seems like another guy that needs plenty of rest this month if he is to rediscover his earlier season magic.

To say I am disappointed with Domingo Germán is an understatement. Domestic violence can never be condoned and if he is guilty of the accusations, I believe he deserves significant punishment, including a long suspension and fine. His alleged actions were detrimental to the team and to the player individually. As a surprise 18-game winner this year, Germán had positioned himself to be a valuable member of the pitching staff heading into the playoffs and he was securing a long-term position going forward. With his selfish and appalling actions, he has jeopardized his future, potentially costing himself millions. Germán needs to find help to ensure this never happens again. His future literally depends upon it. 

Germán’s loss is softened by the return of Luis Severino, but that’s not really the point. Until the investigation is completed and Germán has served any subsequent penalties, he should not be allowed to play. The fact that he is the winningest pitcher on this year’s squad is irrelevant. He did this, not us.  

As far as replacements for Germán on the post-season roster, I like the idea of Jonathan Loaisiga who appears poised to be a breakout star in the bullpen.  

It was so good to see the brief return of Dellin Betances but so very sad to see his season end with an achilles tear. Thankfully two medical opinions determined that surgery is not necessary, but his start to the 2020 season could be delayed. Nevertheless, I am hopeful the Yankees and Betances can come together on a one-year deal to allow the impending free agent to rebuild value and position himself for the huge payday he had been destined for prior to the injury-marred 2019 season. If that means applying a qualifying offer to Betances, I am hopeful they do it. I am not ready to see Betances leave and hope this is not the end of his Yankee career.

We may not have Betances but, knock on wood, we do have Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton. I am glad to have both of them back and despite his health challenges this year (and poor results last October), I am glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee. He can make a difference for this team and I am glad he’s here, healthy and ready to contribute. Stanton takes such an undeserved beating on Social Media. I hope his bat shuts up the naysayers in the coming weeks. I’d rather have Stanton in left field over Clint Frazier, Cameron Maybin, or Tyler Wade. Not bashing Wade, who has made me a believer he should be on the post-season roster with his versatility and speed, but Stanton is clearly the best left field option available. That would be the case even if other guys like Mike Tauchman and Aaron Hicks (which would push Brett Gardner back into the left field conversation) were healthy.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Speaking of healthy, the Yankees are expected to get Edwin Encarnación back this week, most likely when the team travels to Arlington, Texas to take on the Texas Rangers for the regular season’s final series next weekend. Glad to see the Parrot will ride again. Speaking of Texas, it is sad the series will close out Globe Life Park in Arlington, at least in terms of baseball. 

I lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area when the stadium opened in 1994. I remember watching so many games at the old Arlington Stadium (Don Mattingly loved hitting there), but the new stadium helped usher in the new era of retro baseball stadiums. Camden Yards stands out as the park that broke the mold, but Globe Life Park followed in support. It was known by many names over the years. I knew it as The Ballpark in Arlington and can remember how majestic it looked the first time I walked up to it. The stadium had subsequent names like Ameriquest Field and Rangers Ballpark before receiving its current name in 2014. After the final baseball game is played, the current stadium will be re-configured for football, becoming the home of the upcoming XFL Dallas Renegades. The Rangers will open their new park, Globe Life Field, which is adjacent to the current stadium, next season.

The health news for Gary Sanchez has been favorable and if the Yankees do not get him back in Texas, he should be ready for the ALDS which is good thing. I think Austin Romine has done a fine job but going to war, I want El Gary in the trenches.

Heading into October, I wish the Yankees were playing as hotly as the Oakland A’s and the Milwaukee Brewers but there’s time. Just as Masahiro Tanaka elevates his game when the stakes are increased, so goes the 2019 New York Yankees. When October play begins, I have no doubt the Yankees will be prepared and ready to prove supremacy. Whether they are successful remains to be seen, but it won’t be for lack of trying. This team is on a mission to prove they are the best.

I was a little surprised yesterday when the San Diego Padres announced they had relieved manager Andy Green of his duties. I guess if I had been following the Padres closely, I would have seen the handwriting on the wall. Green can probably relate to how Buck Showalter felt when he was fired by the Yankees after the 1995 season or how Joe Girardi felt when his Yankees contract was not renewed after the 2017 season. The next manager of the Padres is going to inherit a talented ball club with a very strong farm system ready to bear fruit. It seems more likely Joe Girardi would go to Chicago, if there’s an opening after the season, or possibly to the crosstown Mets, but I think San Diego would be a golden opportunity for Girardi if there’s mutual interest. With such great potential in San Diego, the Padres should have plenty of strong candidates for their opening. The pressure is on Padres GM A.J. Preller. He has to get this one right.

I thought it might be the end of the road for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly but CEO Derek Jeter and company extended Donnie Baseball with a two-year contract and a mutual option for 2022. It is believed that Mattingly took a pay cut to stay with the cost-conscious Marlins. Record-wise, Mattingly hasn’t fared any better than the above-mentioned Andy Green, but he’ll get a chance to oversee the growth of the Marlins and their improving farm system (under the direction of former Yankee executive Gary Denbo). The prospects for the Marlins may not be as great as the Padres in the near future but Mattingly has long been one of my favorites and I think he’ll do a good job with the young talent posed to flow through Miami. As for this season, Mattingly helmed a club that lost 100 games (the Marlins are 53-101 as I type this post). After the “teardown” that followed Jeter’s arrival, it is not unexpected. But from here, I suspect Jeter will do what it takes to restore the Marlins to prominence. As much as I hate to see Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mattingly outside of the Yankees organization, I do wish them good luck with the rebuild.

Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky, AP

Well, as pesky as the Toronto Blue Jays have been for the Yankees, I am hopeful the Yankees can end the season series today with a win. It’s exciting to see what Luis Severino has in store for his second game of the 2019 season. Hopefully he goes deep into the game to build up his endurance and puts the team in position for their 102nd victory. A front three of James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and Sevy is very exciting as the calendar page prepares to turn.

As always, Go Yankees!

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7 Days to Yankee Stadium…

Capture
(Photo: John G Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated)

Season Opener is a week away…

Finally, we can see real baseball on the horizon. Well, if you are an early bird, I suppose you’ve been up to watch the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s play the last two days in Tokyo for an early preview of the regular season. But, c’mon, we all know that real baseball doesn’t start until the New York Yankees take the field.

The Yankees officially announced the signing of LHP Gio Gonzalez yesterday. Initially, it was reported to be a $3 million contract if Gio makes the Major League roster, but subsequently we learned it also includes an incentive of $300,000 per start up to 30 starts so the deal could be worth as much as $12 million. I’ve seen more than one Yankee fan say the team should use an opener before bringing Gio in so that he technically does not get credit for a “start” but seriously that’s not the way the Yankees operate.  You may feel that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is a tight-wad but I firmly believe even if the Yankees used an opener like Jonathan Holder for an inning before bringing in Gio to cover the next five or six innings, the team would honor the performance as a start. They wouldn’t use an opener solely for avoidance of paying the incentive. Say what you will about the Yankees’ Front Office but the Yankees have proven, time and again, they take care of their own.

It was a little weird seeing the pics of Gio without his beard. Like James Paxton, going beardless makes him look so much younger.

Gio

Hey, maybe it will make his arm look younger too.  Oh well, wishful thinking on my part. I do hope that Gio gets an opportunity to join the Yankees with this 30-day trial.  If not Opening Day (which seems unrealistic from a timing standpoint), a few weeks into the season. I really hope it doesn’t come down to April 20th with us wondering whether Gio will be added to the MLB roster or if he’ll exercise his opt-out if he doesn’t. If the Yankees were truly the only team offering him a contract this month, it’s not like teams will be lined up for his services on April 20th unless there is an epidemic of arm injuries around both leagues.

Wednesday also saw Yankees RHP Luis Severino toss twenty-five pitches from 60 feet on flat ground with his resumption of baseball activity after two weeks of rest. Sevy reported a little rust from the time off, but overall felt good about the workout. There were no reports of pain or discomfort in the right shoulder/rotator cuff.  Sevy plans to toss twenty-five pitches at 60 feet again today on his path to hopefully return in early May. I don’t want to say the season is lost without Severino but he is such a huge part of the mission to dethrone the Boston Red Sox and bring the World Series championship back to New York. Hopefully there are no setbacks on his road to recovery. We need this man and his right arm.

I didn’t realistically think Ichiro Suzuki would be a Mariner after the two-game series in Japan but he made it official when he announced that he would retire at the conclusion of this morning’s game. What a career! The future Hall of Famer will leave the game with 3,089 hits (or 4,367 hits counting his time in Nippon Professional Baseball). I had really hoped he would pick up one final hit in the games in Japan but it was not meant to be. In his final at-bat in the 8th inning this morning, the crowd yelled “Ich-Eee-Ro” as he prepared for the first pitch. After a lengthy at-bat, he hit an infield roller to short and the throw just beat Ichiro to first base. Bummer, I was so hopeful for a safe sign from the first base umpire. Ichiro took the field in the top of the 9th but once all of the players were in position, Mariners manager Scott Servais pulled everyone off the field. Ichiro, the last man on the field, slowly walked off where he was greeted with hugs from his teammates and coaches. The scene was especially emotional for Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi who made his Major League debut in the game. He bowed his head as he hugged Ichiro and it was evident tears were flowing down his cheeks. One Japanese career begins, another ends. A very touching moment. Congratulations with your retirement, Ichiro!  It was our privilege and pleasure to watch you perform for so many years. We wish you the very best with your post-playing career. No doubt Ichiro will forever be a Seattle Mariner but I am grateful for his 360 games as a Yankee after his acquisition from the Mariners on July 23, 2012 for Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell. I really wish that Ichiro could have had a farewell game like Derek Jeter did, but there’s no doubt this one was every bit as emotional.  I am sad we bring closure to such a fantastic career.  It’s time but it doesn’t make it any easier.  Thank you, Ichiro. We’ll see you in Cooperstown, New York in five years.

Ichiro
(Photo: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Since I am dishing out congratulations, I should throw some towards Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the best player in the game today. His contract extension, 12-years at $426.5 million including the money he was already owed in 2019 and 2020, is official. I think it’s only right he stays in an Angels uniform for the duration of his career. Many thought he’d join Bryce Harper in Philadelphia, including Bryce, and I am sure there are more than a few Yankee fans that had hoped he would find a way to the Bronx. As much as I would have loved Trout as a Yankee, he belongs in an Angels uniform and should stay there. He is such an amazing, selfless player who is head and shoulders above everyone else in MLB. Unlike Bryce Harper, Trout deserved to be paid like the best player in Baseball because he is.

Trout

I know the Yankees had been hoping Trout would fall to them in the 2009 MLB Draft but the Angels thwarted those plans when they chose Trout with the 25th pick of the draft (ironically, a compensation pick for losing free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Yankees). With Trout off the board, the Yankees regrettably selected outfielder Slade Heathcott, no longer in the game, with the 29th pick. Dang, so close, yet so far away.  Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, there were 24 foolish picks before Trout in that draft. With no offense to top pick Stephen Strasburg, there is nobody on that list who comes close to Trout. Now if the Angels could just settle their stadium situation. I know they’ve talked with the city of Long Beach but I really hope the team stays in Orange County. I love Long Beach (one of my favorite cities) but it feels like Dodgers country to me. Maybe that’s just because the Dodgers are my NL team. Long Beach is located in Los Angeles County and is just a short 45-minute train ride south of downtown LA.  Mike Trout belongs to the Angels like the Angels belong in Orange County.  I hope they can get this figured out now that they no longer have to worry about Trout.

I don’t know about you but I am ready for Yankees baseball. One week, just one week. I can smell those hot dogs and beers outside of Yankee Stadium already.

As always, Go Yankees!

And So It Begins, Yankees-Red Sox…

Photo Credit: Jim Davis-The Boston Globe

First Tune-up Between the AL East Elite…

Finally, the Yankees are playing today! It might just be a meaningless exhibition game and the biggest of the team’s stars stayed behind in Tampa, but the Yankees take the field later today (1 pm EST) at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL. Woohoo! Let’s get this party started!

Here are the scheduled lineups for today’s game.

YANKEES

CF Aaron Hicks

2B Gleyber Torres

3B Miguel Andujar

1B Greg Bird

LF Clint Frazier

DH Mike Ford

C Kyle Higashioka

SS Tyler Wade

RF Matt Lipka

SP Nestor Cortes, Jr

RED SOX

LFGorkys Hernandez

C Sandy Leon

DH Rafael Devers

CF Rusney Castillo

RF Bryce Brentz

3B Michael Chavis

2B Tzu-Wei Lin

1B Josh Ockimey

SS C.J Chatham

SP Josh A. Smith

Who will be the next Yankees Captain? I’ve seen more than a few people say that Aaron Judge needs to win a few championships before he is appointed as the next Captain. Why? I think the guy is the clear leader of this team and he sets the standard both on and off the field. If you are a proponent for the role of a Captain, there is no one more deserving than Judge.

Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When Thurman Munson was named the Yankees Captain in 1976, it was the first captain of the team since Lou Gehrig. At the time, the Yankees had not won a championship during Munson’s tenure with the team. They won the 1976 American League Championship in his first year as Captain but fell to the Cincinnati Reds in a four-game sweep in the World Series despite Captain Munson’s heroic efforts. Under Munson’s leadership, the Yankees won the next two World Series in 1977 and 1978. His captaincy was ended prematurely with his tragic death on August 2, 1979.

The next Captains were products of those 1977-78 World Champions. Graig Nettles held the title from 1982 until March 1984 when he was traded to the San Diego Padres. Willie Randolph and Ron Guidry served as Co-Captains from 1986 to 1988.  Randolph left the Yankees in December 1988 through free agency, signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Guidry retired.

Don Mattingly, with no championships on his resume, was appointed the Captain in 1991 and he held it until his retirement following the 1995 season after the disappointing loss to Randy Johnson and the Seattle Mariners in the playoffs. Still, he helped usher in the new era of Yankees baseball which collected multiple championships in the late 1990’s and 2000.

When Derek Jeter was appointed Captain in 2003, he held four championships. This was more than any of his predecessors since Lou Gehrig who had four under his belt at the time of his appointment in 1935.

I guess you could argue the Yankees don’t need a Captain. I think it is a good honorary role that has served the Yankees well over the years. I really wish Mattingly could have enjoyed winning a World Series in New York but his back was not cooperative. Yet, I still view Mattingly as a champion even if he didn’t get the ring.

I do know that Aaron Judge has earned the right to stand in the same conversation with the previous Captains. He sets the example for his teammates and he represents the Yankees as well as anyone has since Jeter retired. He is worthy of being the Captain and probably for the most part he is currently recognized as the team’s unofficial Captain. Maybe eventually the honor will come to Judge but I believe it should happen sooner rather than later. He’s a great Yankee despite his youth. If the Yankees win the World Series in the next couple of years, there’s no doubt Judge will be at the forefront, leading the charge.

Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported yesterday that among his various positions on the field, D.J. LeMahieu could also serve as the backup first baseman. This leads to the conclusion that either Luke Voit or Greg Bird will head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the start of the season depending upon who wins the job this Spring. It seems odd to put such a great defensive middle infielder at first base, but he’s athletic enough to make the transition. Still, it seems to carry risk since LeMahieu has only played four games in first base in his Major League career with no appearances there since 2014. I had really wanted someone who could play both left field and first base which is why I liked Marwin Gonzalez so much. I think the Minnesota Twins grabbed a good player at a decent price when they signed Gonzalez this week for two years at $21 million ($3 million less than the Yankees are paying LeMahieu over the same time frame). But I do recognize that if LeMahieu can successfully add first base to accompany his skills at second and third bases, it helps to potentially open the door for Clint Frazier which is not a bad thing if Frazier has a good Spring.

I remain concerned about going into the season with Brett Gardner as the starting left fielder. If Aaron Hicks gets hurt, then Gardy is the starting center fielder. This seems like such a huge risk to me.  I am not trying to diminish what Gardy has meant to the Yankees but he seems best suited for part-time duty as the team’s fourth outfielder at this stage of his career. Frazier seems ticketed for Triple A given how much time he lost last year, but I really hope he is ready soon. Meanwhile, we really need Brett Gardner to have a career renaissance. I think the 2019 Yankees are an improved team over the one that lost to the Boston Red Sox last October, but I am concerned about how left field will play out. Giancarlo Stanton made 72 starts in the outfield last year. As it stands, he’ll need to make more this season.  The team’s physical trainers had better take special care of the big guy. We really need him to stay healthy.

Today’s game will be a battle of no-names after the first couple of innings but at least baseball is here. Beating the Red Sox under any circumstances always feels good. Bring home the “W”, guys!

As always, Go Yankees!

2019 MLB Hall of Fame & The Right to Vote…

Regardless of %, Mariano Rivera is a Hall of Famer…

Bill Ballou of the Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette caused a furor over the weekend when he, as a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), wrote his intention to not to cast a Hall of Fame vote for former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera, the all-time saves leader, is in his first year of eligibility and has been on all ballots cast so far although it’s still very early in the process (according to Ryan Thibodaux, Rivera has appeared on all 88 known ballots out of 412 total to be cast, or 21.4%).

I am not trying to condone or defend Mr Ballou but I respect his rights as a qualified voter for MLB’s Hall of Fame. It’s possible he is taking his stand against saves as an entry qualifier into the Hall as an act of moral conscious or perhaps he’s just looking for clicks on Social Media. Regardless of his reasons, good or bad, it is his right.  For the record, he has indicated that he does not intend to vote this year so it won’t be his vote that keeps Mariano Rivera from being unanimously selected. My opinion is it does not really matter.  I could really care less how Mr Ballou does or does not vote.

I know this, Mariano Rivera is a Hall of Famer. He is a Yankees legend and he left the game as the greatest closer it has known. My concern is for Rivera to get at least the required minimum (75% of the ballots cast) to gain entry. Other than that, I really do not care what the final percentage is. There is no added prestige for getting 100% of the vote versus 75%. If you’re in, you’re in. I bet if you asked Rivera himself, he’d only be grateful for the opportunity to be considered.

Photo Credit: SI.com

 

For those getting worked up because Rivera may not be the first unanimously selected player to gain entry into the Hall of Fame is flawed logic because it’s a flawed process. People bring personal biases into the voting, we’re all human, and it’s nearly impossible to get 412 people to agree on anything. So, I’ve never once thought Rivera should be an unanimous choice. Maybe he deserves it but there are plenty of other guys in the Hall who weren’t unanimous selections but should have been. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter. Babe Ruth and others are Hall of Famers. Ty Cobb, who by all accounts was a despicable human being and played the game dirty, made the HOF with 98.2% of the vote, yet Babe Ruth only received 95.1%. Does that make Cobb a better baseball player than Ruth? No, it does not. The waiting period was waived for Lou Gehrig in 1939 after his career ended prematurely due to ALS. Although the results of the vote are not known, it still would have been a major surprise to me if he had been unanimously selected and he was, in my mind, the greatest player to ever play the game.

Photo Credit: Charles Conlon/National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

So Bill Ballou is not going to vote for Mariano Rivera. No worries. It is not going to detract from or prevent Mo’s presence in Cooperstown, New York next summer.

I’m sure we’ll probably go through this again next year with Derek Jeter and I’ll feel the same way. As long as he receives at least 75% of the vote (which he will), I’ll be very happy and proud of the former Yankee and look forward to his induction ceremony in the summer of 2020.

On to some current Yankee thoughts…

It’s been very quiet in the Yankees Universe while we await Manny Machado’s decision after the first of the year. The Yankees signed a couple of pitchers, LHP’s Rex Brothers and Danny Coulombe, to minor league deals. Nothing earth shattering. They also lost Parker Bridwell on waivers to the Los Angeles Angels. Bridwell had been claimed on waivers by the Yankees in November (from the Angels) in a move that had cost utilityman Ronald Torreyes his job with the Yankees. Not sure why the Yankees ever put in the claim for Bridwell since he lost his spot when the Yankees re-signed J.A. Happ. I probably would have sent A.J. Cole packing.

The Yankees also announced they’ve hired Carlos Beltran as a special adviser to GM Brian Cashman. Beltran had interviewed last year in the managerial interviews that led to the hiring of Aaron Boone as Joe Girardi’s replacement. After not getting selected as manager, Beltran rebuffed any front office appointments with the desire to take a year off following the completion of his playing career. The year’s up so Beltran has resumed his career in a non-playing capacity. He participated in last week’s dinner in Manhattan for Manny Machado and his wife, and their shared agent, Dan Lozano. Perfect timing for Beltran but I think his addition to the Yankees’ front office would have happened regardless of where the team stood in its chase of Machado. I see Beltran as an eventual manager. Maybe not with the Yankees, but this is a start for him. Glad to see him back in the game.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

With Machado looming as an early 2019 decision, I’d really like the Yankees to pursue their bullpen options. They have two major holes to fill, and I really want one of David Robertson, Adam Ottavino or Zach Britton locked up by year’s end. I’ve been saying this for awhile but I’ll keep saying it until it happens. The Yankees cannot shortchange the pen given the questions with the health of the starting rotation. Another super bullpen is a must.

I have no idea how the Manny Machado sweepstakes will turn out. I know the Yankees want him, but I think the likelihood they don’t make an offer if another team goes all-in crazy like the Washington Nationals did with Patrick Corbin is strong. If that proves to be the case, I hope there are still good potential Plan B options on the market, like free agent Marwin Gonzalez or others who can help man the ship during the absence of shortstop Didi Gregorius.

Have a very happy and safe Christmas Eve and the very merriest of Christmases!

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Achieve 100th Win of the Year…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Omar Rawlings)

For a meaningless game, Saturday’s game featured huge milestones…

Congratulations to the 2018 New York Yankees for their achievement of 100 victories. It is something they have not done since the championship year of 2009 and it is not something that many teams do each year. It usually means that you win the division but the Boston Red Sox were just a little better this time around.

The Yankees also busted the MLB record yesterday for Team Home Runs. When Gleyber Torres hit his two-run shot in the 4th inning off Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, it gave the Yankees one more than the previous record of 264 set by the Seattle Mariners. Giancarlo Stanton added the 266th of the year with his 38th dinger in the 7th inning. For Stanton, he also had two RBI’s to give him 100 for his new team, matching the team’s win total when the Yankees closed out the 8-5 victory.  But I have to give a big…

RED SOX SUCK! 

…for their fan who threw Stanton’s home run ball back onto the field and hit Giancarlo as he rounded second.

Miguel Andujar set the new Yankees’ rookie record for doubles with two yesterday to increase his season total to 46, eclipsing the old mark of 44 set by Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio back in 1936.That’s special company when you can rub shoulders with Yankee legends. If Shohei Ohtani wins the AL Rookie of the Year, it won’t detract from the brilliant season Andujar has enjoyed. He deserves the hardware as much as Ohtani, but all things considered, I’d rather have a World Series trophy. Andujar has a chance, Ohtani does not.

In taking the first two games of the three-game series with the Red Sox, the Yankees have prevented Boston from reaching 110 victories which I personally appreciated. Today’s game is probably about as meaningless as a spring training game, but it is a day the Yankees can enjoy and get ready for Wednesday’s Wild Card Game in the Bronx against the Oakland A’s.

I look back to Boston’s sweep of the Yankees in early August as the defining moment for the AL East. It gave the Sox the momentum and the separation they needed from the Yankees to propel them to the AL East championship. If the Yankees could have at least split that series, I think the race to the finish would have been much tighter.

Within the last couple of weeks, I had my doubts if the Yankees would be able to hold the lead in the Wild Card standings and thought they could potentially lose home field advantage for the game to the hard charging Oakland A’s. I apologize for the ‘glass is half empty’ approach. Thankfully, the Yankees have picked up some momentum over the last week and grabbed the pole position earlier this week. The A’s did pick up their 97th win of the year yesterday against the Los Angeles Angels, 5-2, which boggles my mind. They are truly a team that came out of nowhere but are loaded with lethal bats and a deadly bullpen. The A’s have a chance to avenge the famous Derek Jeter “Flip Play” which erased the A’s Jeremy Giambi in the 2001 ALDS.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I like the 2018 Yankees and their chances but I’ll temper any excitement until the conclusion of Wednesday’s game. Anybody can win one game. Heck, the Baltimore Orioles, even with 115 losses, could beat the Boston Red Sox in one game. I know, the stakes are much higher in the post-season and guys elevate their game, but in the span of nine innings, anything can happen. If the Yankees can beat the A’s, then I feel they have a great shot moving forward. It will mean a quick return to Boston for the next round if it happens.

I honestly do not know which pitcher I’d go with to start Wednesday’s game. I like the job J.A. Happ has done since he joined the Yankees. I look at his last game against the Red Sox when he gave up four runs as really just a bad pitch to Steve Pearce who didn’t miss it for a grand slam. I am sure that Aaron Boone would have pitched that inning differently in the playoffs and Happ would not have faced Pearce. On recent performance, I’d have to go with Happ, but I can’t discount the argument David Cone made on yesterday’s FOX telecast of the game, “Severino is your Ferrari”, “you can’t keep your Ferrari in the garage”. Sevy has been the ace for the last couple of years and despite his stretch of struggles this summer, he’s still the leader of the staff. So, I’d probably go with Sevy but I can’t really argue against Happ if Boone decides to go that direction. I thought Masahiro Tanaka might the one rounding into form for the one-game ‘do or die’ playoff but his last start showed me that we don’t need his propensity for allowing home runs in a game against a team filled with sluggers like the A’s. Khris Davis hit his 48th of the year yesterday, proving that if you throw him a mistake, the ball will go very, very far. I’d prefer not seeing Tanaka face guys like Davis, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty. So, in my mind, Tanaka is not an option when your season is on the line. Nevertheless, the Wild Card game is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation so any signs of trouble for the starter should be a quick signal to the pen.

I was a little disappointed with the forgettable performance of Yankees reliever Jonathan Holder yesterday. This has been a breakout year for Holder who has been relied upon as one of the bullpen’s key performers. Holder was given the ninth to finish off the game, in relief of Sonny Gray who had done a fine job for a couple of innings. The Yankees had a comfortable 8-3 lead, but Tzu-Wei Lin walloped Holder’s first pitch for a ground rule double to left. Brock Holt followed with a homer to right to close the gap with the Yankees to three runs. Sam Travis was next and he singled to center. With Aroldis Chapman warming in the pen, Holder finally got the first out when he struck out the past-his-prime Brandon Phillips. Chapman had to come in and close out the game, picking up his 32nd save in a game that should not have been a save situation. Hopefully this was just an isolated poor outing for Holder. The Yankees need him for middle relief in October if the team advances beyond the Wild Card. Chapman did walk a batter to bring the tying run to the plate, but I am glad to see the Cuban Missile is rounding back into form. He is still not where he needs to be, but I like the insurance card (Zach Britton). A combo of a healthy Chapman and an elite closer like Britton is a solid recipe for success.

Credit to the Yankees for their accomplishments this year. To win 100 games for a team that seemed to struggle for extended periods this year shows that they are a very talented group when healthy. In looking at the National League, it’s not easy to make the playoffs, let alone win 100 games. There are two dead heats entering the last day of the season with ties atop the NL Central and NL West. The NL Central co-leaders, the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, have the most wins in the NL at 94. For the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies, today’s games could either mean winning the division or heading to Los Angeles for a tie-breaker game tomorrow. The loser of the tie-breaker would then head to Milwaukee or Chicago depending upon who loses the NL Central. The Brewers and Cubs would play a potential tie-breaker Monday in Chicago. Very complicated. I am glad the Yankees don’t enter the final regular season game with so much uncertainty and potentially chaotic travel schedule over the next couple of days.

 

Buck Showalter probably manages his last game today. His team has lost three consecutive games and stands at 46-115. They’re facing the Houston Astros at Camden Yards so today they’ll probably see Houston’s backups and minor leaguers. Hopefully it means one final victory for Buck before he goes. His managerial record is 1550-1517-1 for a .505 winning percentage. In my mind, he helped prepare the 90’s Yankees for its run of success even if he never saw the fruits of his labor. Farewell, Buck. I hope this is not the end of the road, but just the closure of another chapter before a new one begins. Maybe the Angelos Family surprises me and decides to keep Buck around but I seriously doubt it.

Also, farewell to David Wright of the New York Mets. I don’t care for the Mets but I recognize Wright was a special player and it’s too bad his final years were filled with injuries. He is one of the game’s better ambassadors and I am hopeful he stays in the game for his post-playing career. Major League Baseball needs more guys like David Wright.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the Yankees were just assembling in Tampa in Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers in camp, awaiting the arrival of the position players including new Yankee Giancarlo Stanton.This has been a very fast year. Although the bullpen management has driven me nuts at times, I think Aaron Boone has done a good job as the team’s manager. So many of those bullpen decisions are driven by Brian Cashman’s analytics team so it’s hard to place all of the blame on Boonie. I like the calming effect his personality has on the clubhouse, not too much unlike former Yankees manager Joe Torre. I know that many Yankees fans have anointed the team’s former manager as Saint Girardi, forgetting his faults. But entering Wednesday’s game, win or lose, I am glad Aaron Boone is the manager of the New York Yankees.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

A loss on Wednesday does not end the hopes of this team. They’ll be back, stronger than ever, in 2019, and I think they’ll overtake the Boston Red Sox next year. The Sox benefited from career years from multiple players but I don’t think they’ll catch lightning in a bottle again next year. The Yankees can have a say in ending Boston’s highly successful season with a win on October 3rd. A perfect ending and a beautiful beginning for the Yankees if they can survive the Wild Card game and defeat the Red Sox. The Yankees, right now, can beat anybody. That’s not a boast, but a fact. Let’s prove it on the field.

Go Yankees!

Sonny Gray Sucks…

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Despite team win, another dismal performance by Gray…

The Yankees are winning and I am mad.

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Deeply disappointed might be a better description. Sonny Gray was supposed to be an upper rotation arm capable of delivering ace-like starts. To borrow an overused line from Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, “Sonny was not Gray-t”. Sadly, we’re saying that after every not-so-Sonny start.

Based on five starts this season, he averages barely more than four innings per start, and has given up 18 runs in 21 innings. Sure, he lowered his ERA with yesterday’s start if you want to call 8.27 to 7.71 an improvement. He has walked 16 batters including five more last night.

I know that TGP’s Daniel Burch is a huge Sonny Gray fan but I can say…right now…I am not.  He has yet to deliver a start that has made me say “Wow!”. Yet, every other member in the starting rotation has. Even the Yankees’ nearly 38 year old over-weight veteran with bad knees who has already lost time on the 10-day DL has delivered impressively.

Gray should have gotten the win in last night’s 7-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins after the Yankees had staked him to a 5-3 lead but he couldn’t get out of the fifth inning so the victory went to his replacement (Chad Green). For 14 outs, Gray threw 104 pitches with only 60 for strikes. You can’t blame this one on Gary Sanchez since it was Austin Romine behind the plate.

For his Yankees career, Gray is 5-8 with 4.69 ERA. He has given up 84 hits and 49 runs in 86 1/3 innings. His WHIP is an unsightly 1.471. He has been nowhere near the pitcher for the Yankees that he was with the Oakland Athletics. He is starting to feel a little too Javier Vazquez-ish for my comfort. A guy who pitches great in a low pressurized environment but has the ‘deer in the headlights’ look with the bright lights of the big city. Gray would probably be an ace for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Until he can prove otherwise, he is “Sonny Gray Sucks” to me.

Meanwhile, the two pitchers connected to the Yankees in rumors during the off-season have gotten off to tremendous starts. Patrick Corbin, a lifetime Yankees fan, is currently 4-0 with a 1.89 ERA and a miniscule 0.66 WHIP (6 walks to 48 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings). Daniel Burch did a great piece on Corbin yesterday and the Arizona Diamondbacks lefty should be on the Yankees radar when he becomes a free agent after the season. He’s a terrific potential replacement for CC Sabathia in the rotation. Gerrit Cole, whom I would have loved to have seen as a Yankee while many scoffed, is 2-1 with 1.29 ERA. His WHIP is slightly higher than Corbin’s at 0.771 but it is still very good. Cole has only walked 8 batters while striking out 49 in 35 innings.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Mike Stone)

I want Gray to succeed as a Yankee. I really do. But I am getting tired of these pedestrian starts and his inability to throw strikes. His next start will be in Houston against the World Series Champions. He really needs to “man-up” and deliver like we know he can.

Okay, I’ll let it go for now.

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As for the Yankees, I am very pleased with the overall performance of the team in recent days. With Didi Gregorius playing at All-World level, the Yankees have won five consecutive games to improve their season mark to 14-9. The Boston Red Sox won yesterday to stop their three-game losing skid, but the win dropped the Toronto Blue Jays into a second place tie with the Yankees in the AL East. Both are teams trail the Red Sox by four games. The standings certainly look much better today than they did a week ago.

I hate to see the current series with the Minnesota Twins end later today. Even if the Yankees lose, they will have won three of four before jumping a plane bound for Orange County, California. I’d prefer to keep the winning streak alive as the Yankees invade So-Cal. My love for ten-game winning streaks is only five games from fruition. Of course, if the Yankees win the next four games, it will pit Sonny Gray against Charlie Morton for the tenth win. Dammit.

Before I go, I do have to say that I think Logan Morrison really, really sucks. For him, I’ll borrow Derek Jeter’s words from his recent interview with Bryant Gumbel on HBO’s Real Sports. But unlike DJ, my use of the words is not light-hearted. Morrison is “mentally weak”. I know that the off-season was tough for all free agents, but there’s a reason it was hard for Morrison to find a job. The Tampa Bay Rays made no attempt to bring back a bat that slugged 38 home runs last year. Sure, money played into it but if Morrison was ‘all that and a bag of chips’, the Rays would have found a way to bring him back like the Kansas City Royals did in re-signing their 38 home run slugger, Mike Moustakas. Morrison’s comment about Yankees fans that “you can’t fix stupid” was actually a self-analysis on his own part. The guy’s a jerk. The Minnesota Twins are a classy organization and having such a degenerate on their roster is out of character for them.

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I have no desire to see Morrison walk off the Yankee Stadium field a winner today. So, hopefully, Jordan Montgomery and company keep the winning streak alive. As long as Didi Gregorius is in the lineup, life is good.

Go Yankees!

Making Easy Things Hard…

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

Yankees Able to Overcome Betances…

The Yankees won their game on Friday night but it was not without unnecessary drama. The Yankees thoroughly dominated the Detroit Tigers in all phases of the game, yet the Tigers had the go-ahead run at the plate in the bottom of the eighth, thanks to a mess created by Dellin Betances. Although he was able to get two outs in the inning, it was not before the Tigers had gotten five hits and three runs off him. Mercifully, Chad Green came in to get the final out against his former team, leaving two runners stranded, to help propel the Yankees to the 8-6 victory.

After the game, Manager Aaron Boone was very supportive of Betances. Betances felt he was throwing good pitches but the Tigers were hitting everything. Betances made the comment that if he picked up the rosin bag and threw it, it was going to be hit. If the delivery is correct and both the fastball and breaking pitches are working, we can only hope good results are right around the corner. We’ll see. It’s troublesome to watch the All-Star reliever struggle in key spots. Fortunately, it didn’t cost the Yankees a game last night, but Boone had to burn Chad Green on a night he didn’t want to.

Nice job by Aroldis Chapman who struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to earn his second save of the season.

The game was a much stronger outing for starter Jordan Montgomery. He pitched better than his final line, 6 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, no walks and 4 strikeouts, in picking up his first victory of the season.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)

The star of the game was Aaron Hicks. It was so fun to watch his inside-the-park home run in the second inning off Tigers starter and former Astro Mike Fiers. The ball hit by Hicks to right-center looked like it had the distance to go yard, but it careened off the wall and away from the Tigers outfielders. Gary Sanchez, who had doubled in the preceding at-bat, scored on the play, while Hicks came around and slid headfirst into home plate ahead of the throw with a huge grin on his face.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Gregory Shamus)

Hicks added a traditional home run in the sixth inning to become the fifth Yankee hitter with a multi-home run game this year. This is an incredible accomplishment considering only fourteen games have been played. Plus, Aaron Judge has yet to join the multi-HR parade and you know it is only a matter of time. The way this season is going, Ronald Torreyes will probably be the next hitter to have a two home run game.

This weekend’s games against the Tigers are looking very questionable right now. The weather forecast calls for rain on both Saturday and Sunday. The Yankees do not make any further trips to Detroit this season so if either one of the next two games are postponed, it will create a schedule challenge for the makeup. Hopefully it doesn’t lead to a double-header tomorrow before the Yankees head for home.

I am not excited about the anticipated start today (weather-permitting) by Luis Cessa. I really prefer to see Cessa in limited relief appearances.  But I guess the hand-writing was on the wall that he’d be the spot starter in place of the injured CC Sabathia when Domingo German pitched three innings in relief of Sonny Gray (very effectively, I might add) on Thursday. Hopefully, if they get the game in, Cessa will pitch much better than I expect.  I’d love to see him prove me wrong. Sadly, he never seems to but today is a new day.

I hate to dwell on what could have been, but reading this morning’s sports page shows that Todd Frazier hit two home runs last night to help the New York Mets improve their record to 11-1 and Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros struck out 14 batters for his third consecutive game with 10+ strikeouts. Cole would look really good in the Yankees rotation right now but it was not meant to be. I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman will deliver us something better by the trading deadline but the early results do not look good.

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

If the Yankees decide to promote top prospect Gleyber Torres next Thursday, they have very difficult roster decisions to make. The obvious move is to option Tyler Wade to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. At the start of the season, I thought that Ronald Torreyes was the most vulnerable potential roster casualty but the guy simply performs every time he is called upon. His versatility and ability to come into games with effective results after sitting on the bench for days makes him too valuable to lose. The only way I can see Torres and Wade on the active roster together would be through a trade of an active roster member (but who?). As I’ve said before, I’ll gladly take Torres over Wade any day of the week. It’s not that I don’t think Wade will be a good player, I just feel Gleyber will be a star. Not right away, but I am ready for the maturation process in the Majors for the young superstar-in-waiting.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (John Raoux)

It’s not my money but I’d cut bait with Jacoby Ellsbury. I know, that’s a lot of money down the drain but Ellsbury’s presence, when he comes back from the DL, is a hindrance. I know that he’s still a good player but I’d prefer to see him play elsewhere. Let him go back to Boston, even if we are paying the freight. I don’t really care at this point. I am done with Ellsbury.

Jace Peterson cleared waivers yesterday and was sent outright to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders so we may not have seen the last of the former Padre/Brave second baseman.

Another former Yankee made his return to the Yankees organization when Rule 5 draftee Nestor Cortes, Jr was offered back to the Yankees by the Baltimore Orioles. The return of Cortes means that none of the players drafted from the Yankees in the Major League phase of last December’s Rule 5 Draft stuck with their new teams. I saw a story a few days ago that blamed misuse of Cortes by Orioles manager Buck Showalter for putting the young left-hander in a no-win situation. Cortes had yielded two grand slams within a week. Showalter said “If we could have gotten a little deeper into our games with starting pitching, I think I could have protected him more. But, we were forced into some things. I still think he’s got a chance to be a good pitcher.” When Baltimore had selected Cortes, they had high hopes that he’d make the starting rotation and felt that they had “stolen one” from the Yankees. It didn’t work out but we’re glad to see Cortes back in the Yankees family. Cortes will be assigned to Double-A Trenton where he’ll join the other Orioles Rule 5 returnee Jose Mesa, Jr.

Tyler Austin has appealed his five-game suspension. The appeal will most likely be heard early next week but the downside is that once Austin begins serving his suspension, he can’t be replaced on the roster so the Yankees will be a man down.  Neil Walker would be the full-time starter at first, backed by Austin Romine. That’s dangerously thin for the Yankees, particuarly considering the team will soon embark on a very difficult stretch on the schedule.

Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will not be coming to Yankee Stadium for the two game series between the Yankees and the Miami Marlins which starts on Monday. Jeter will make the trip to New York, but won’t travel to the Bronx to see the games in person at Yankee Stadium.  Jeter told ESPN, “I went to a spring training game when we played New York, but it would be an awkward situation for me to actually go to Yankee Stadium. I’m just being honest with you guys, so that’s why I’m not going.” I saw a great twitter line yesterday that said Jeter decided to send Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees as his representative. Works for me.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Michael Reaves)

Well, let’s hope the Rain Gods allow us to get in today’s game. Never a better time for a win than today.

Go Yankees!