Tagged: DJ LeMahieu

A Savage Week Shows These Yankees Are Special…

Credit: Sarah Stier, Getty Images

Aaron Boone’s Defining Moment…

Thanks to noted podcaster @Jomboy of Talkin’ Yanks, the words of Yankees manager Aaron Boone to young home plate umpire Brennan Miller were immortalized on Thursday afternoon.

“My guys are fucking savages in that fucking box and you’re having a piece of shit start to this game. I feel bad for you, but fucking get better. That guy is a good pitcher, but our guys are fucking savages in that box, our guys are fucking savages in the fucking box, tighten it up right now.”  

The words, certain to become 2019’s rallying cry for the Yankees, almost immediately began showing up on t-shirts as they went viral thanks to social media. I loved every minute of it. I’ve been a Boone supporter since the day he was hired. I think at the time, my top choice had been San Francisco Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens but when the Yankees named Boone as the manager, I was on board with the choice. I liked Joe Girardi but I never once pined for his return after the decision was made to let him go upon the expiration of his contract following the 2017 season.

I knew there would be a learning curve for Boone. Every manager has to start some time. Joe Torre had his own early bumps with the Mets when he first started his managerial career. Boone’s mistakes last season were magnified, thanks to the New York media, and many fans were unforgiving. But as this season has progressed, the growth in Boone as a manager has been evident. It didn’t take his words this week to prove he had gotten better, it’s been on display for weeks, perhaps months. However, Thursday’s tirade showed the World that Aaron Boone has his players’ backs. He is an excellent leader and he has the full respect and command of the clubhouse. I think the ‘next man up’ mentality of the 2019 Yankees is fueled by Boone’s leadership style.

Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

Since the brim of Boone’s cap touched the brim of home plate umpire Brennan Miller’s cap during the post-ejection rant (seriously?), he was suspended for one game and served it last night against the Colorado Rockies. Bench coach Josh Bard, a graduate of Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado (a suburb of Denver), served as Yankees manager against his once-hometown Rockies.

Boone’s words aside, this has been a memorable week for the Bronx Savages. The four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t start well when Mets cast-off Travis d’Arnaud homered three times including the game-winner, a three-run shot off Aroldis Chapman in the top of the ninth inning on Monday night when the Yankees were just a strike away from victory. It was a tough loss to accept (harder than most), but the Yankees rebounded and took the next three games to win the series, leaving the Rays a distant eight games behind in the AL East standings. The Yankees have won 12 of 17 games from the Rays this year, and it’s been the difference-maker in the standings.

Despite the successful Tampa Bay series, I was a little worried going into last night’s game with the Rockies. It kind of felt like one of those series where the team, coming off an emotional series with the Rays and looking ahead to a road trip next week that takes the Yankees to Minneapolis and Boston to play AL contenders, could let up a little. But if Friday night’s game is any indication, it is still ‘pedal to the metal’. After falling behind 2-0, the Yankees coasted to the 8-2 victory after Edwin Encarnacion blasted his ‘walk-the-parrot’ grand slam to take the lead in the bottom of the third. With three hits and some excellent defensive play, many were referring to this as Mike Tauchman’s game. That’s what I’m Tauchin’ about! The former Colorado Rockie, who was never really given a shot to play in the Mile High City, showed his former team they may have erred in trading him away earlier this year. Tauchman has double the plate appearances with the Yankees this season than he had in two years with the Rockies (shuttling back and forth from the minors). Former Coloradan players DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino, instrumental to the Rockies’ success of the past few seasons, also had a role in the decisive victory. Le Machine had two RBIs and Otto struck out the side in the top of the sixth inning. A friend, who is a die-hard Rockies fan, said she loves to see LeMahieu and Ottavino do well but “just not against us”.

The Yankees’ win, combined with losses by both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox last night, leaves the Yanks nine games up in the AL East standings. They are 30 games over .500 for the first time this season at 63-33, and have 11 fewer losses than the second-place Rays. I am always fearful of a swoon that could erase the large lead, but you have to like where the Yankees sit entering play on July 20th. YES Network analyst David Cone had some great words after last night’s game:

“If you don’t like the Yankees, I mean if you are a Yankee hater, this has gotta be a really obnoxious year for you.”

Since trading deadline deals generally start popping up the week prior to the deadline, this coming week could be very active with the hard July 31st deadline just around the corner. The Yankees have been great so far this season despite the injury challenges, but the Houston Astros, with just one less win than the Yankees, could substantially improve their starting rotation in the next eleven days if they successfully land one of the top starting pitchers on the market to slot in behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. In other words, there is room for the Yankees to get better and they have to in order to ensure October success.

The Yankees had Jim Hendry, special assistant to Brian Cashman, and others in Detroit last night to watch Toronto’s Marcus Stroman. There were a number of other teams in attendance to watch the New York native shut out the lowly Tigers on six hits over seven innings, with five strikeouts and no walks. For Stroman, a trade to the Yankees would represent the elimination of a 27 1/2 game deficit in a single day.  It think that would energize him, as it would any of the names that have been connected to the Yankees in recent weeks. I think my only hangup with acquiring Stroman is sending quality talent to an AL East rival. In many ways, I’d prefer to see someone like Clint Frazier or Estevan Florial or Albert Abreu head to Cleveland or San Francisco for no other reason than they are not AL East teams. But I am very intrigued with the idea of having the talented Stroman in the starting rotation.

As much as I like Madison Bumgarner, I don’t really expect him to show up in the Bronx. He could find his way to Houston, Minneapolis, or Atlanta which wouldn’t be ideal but there’s not much we can do about it except beat him when the time comes. Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks continues to be a name to watch but the D-Backs are only a game out of the NL Wild Card hunt. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers have lost five in a row to push them 5 1/2 games out in the AL Wild Card chase, which could potentially increase chances that Mike Minor is dealt.

For all the names that have been mentioned, I still half-expect Brian Cashman to land a solid starter that no one has mentioned. For as much as I like Luis Severino and Dellin Betances, I am taking the approach they’ll provide nothing this year. The Yankees have played 99 games without them and it’s hard to envision them making a significant contribution with the 63 games remaining in the regular season. Maybe they become solid bullpen options by October but realistically I am not counting on it. It seems like there have been too many setbacks for both so I am not pinning any hopes on them.

I keep seeing Yankee fans saying the team shouldn’t trade Deivi Garcia or Estevan Florial or other top prospects in the organization. I am sorry but if the payoff is a World Series championship this year, NO ONE is untouchable. I guarantee the Chicago Cubs have never regretted their decision to trade Gleyber Torres in 2016. They might regret the 2017 trade of Eloy Jimenez but not Torres because it meant the first World Series championship in a century for them. It hasn’t been a century for the Yankees, but it has been ten long years and several Red Sox championships since the Yankees last hoisted the trophy. We need to keep an open mind and let Brian Cashman do his magic. He lives for these hot, humid July days and I am confident that he’ll make this exciting, fun and very special Yankee team even better in the coming days. Our goal is to take the World Series championship away from the Boston Red Sox. Anything less is unacceptable. I don’t want another ALDS or ALCS exit. The window of opportunity is now. There may be pain along the way, but we need to persevere. Like Buck Showalter said the other day, “prospects are just prospects”. I want guys who can make a difference in three months, not three years.

The Yankees released catcher Ryan Lavarnway from his minor league contract this week and in his first game with the Cincinnati Reds, the team that picked him up, he hits two home runs and drives in six RBIs. Of course he does. I know, he’ll never sustain it and will prove to be the journeyman catcher that he is, but it’s funny how guys prosper outside of Pinstripes when they land in low pressure environments.  Not exactly people that you’d want in the trenches with you but good for them.

The Baby Savages (DSL Yankees) are at it again. After scoring the most runs in professional baseball with their 38-2 thrashing of the Twins’ affiliate earlier this month, they scored 19 runs in the second inning of last night’s game with the DSL Angels en route to a 23-10 victory. They brought 23 men to the plate during the highly productive inning. They are only following the lead of the big league club.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Grabbing the “W” for 2nd Half Opener…

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Always love hearing, The Yankees Win

The Yankees won the first half but now the real Show begins. Forget the AL East standings, there’s going to be a dogfight to the end of September. Sure, I’d rather be up 6 1/2 games up on the second place team like the Yankees are but no one should count the Boston Red Sox out of this despite their current view, 9 games behind the AL East Leaders. A slump by the Yankees, a red hot streak by the Beantowners and a large lead could evaporate quickly. Bottom line, take nothing for granted and never, ever let up on the gas pedal.

Last night’s game between the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays was a terrific way to open the second half of the long season. A great pitching performance by Domingo German, solid bullpen work by Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green, and the bat of Edwin Encarnacion who almost walked the Parrot with his bases loaded (and clearing) double in the bottom of the fifth inning were key to the Yankees’ 4-0 victory. Credit also to Brett Gardner, who I continually write off and who keeps proving me wrong, for putting himself in position to score the game’s first run when he tripled to lead off the fifth. The Machine, aka DJ LeMahieu, brought Gardy home with a ground out before the Yanks filled the bases for EE.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

With the news about Giancarlo Stanton continuing to be negative (still rehabbing and has not yet begun baseball activities), Gardner simply continues to play at a level where the Yankees have not missed the thunderous bat of Stanton. As many have said, Gardy has played himself into consideration for another one-year deal in the off-season. I still think he should be the fourth outfielder heading into next season but conversely I am certainly fine with his desire to continually prove me wrong. We know we won’t see Stanton in July but I am starting to wonder if August is out too. If he does not return prior to September, I can’t really see him being much of a factor as he’ll need to regain his timing and the playoffs, should the Yankees get there, are not a time for patience. I hope that it plays out so that Stanton is primed and ready for October but I guess we’ll see…eventually.

Starting pitching remains the Yankees’ primary concern. I continue to read those who say the Yankees will get a huge boost when Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery return. At this point, I think it is best to assume they will not so that anything we can get from them is icing on the cake. I am most concerned about Sevy. Obviously as the team’s ace, he means so much to the starting rotation if healthy but like Stanton, if he doesn’t return until late August or September, how much of a factor will he be? Returning from last year’s Tommy John surgery, I am not expecting anything much at all from Montgomery. I think he’ll be stronger next year but even so, he is not a front-of-the-rotation starter. I certainly wouldn’t let Monty keep me from trying to upgrade the rotation. Every one is getting excited about pitching prospect Deivi Garcia, 20, who was just promoted to Triple A. I think he’ll get a September call up perhaps (he has to be placed on the 40-man roster before this Fall’s Rule 5 Draft anyway) but it’s too soon to consider him a savior.

The pitching trade rumors, lately, seem to be focusing on Arizona’s Robbie Ray.  He’s not an elite starter but he’s a good pitcher. He was masterful last night in beating the St Louis Cardinals, pitching 6 1/3 innings of two-hit, one-run ball. He struck out 8 Cardinals while issuing two free passes. He could help the Yankees but I think they need more. Ray, a lefty, is under team control for one more year. The 6’2” pitcher, 27, was originally a 12th round selection in the 2010 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals. In December 2013, he was sent to the Detroit Tigers in a deal for former Major Leaguer Doug Fister. Two years later, the Tigers sent him to Arizona in the deal that brought shortstop Didi Gregorius to New York and sent former Yankees pitcher Shane Greene to Detroit. It’s kind of funny that now both Ray and Greene could be arms of interest for the Yankees this month. I think Ray’s walk rate (4.54 BB/9, 56 walks in 111 innings) concerns me the most but if the Yankees’ analytics team sees something in him that they can correct, I’d be supportive of his acquisition.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart, USA TODAY Sports

Of all the other names out there, Trevor Bauer is probably the most appealing to me but the Cleveland Indians currently hold the second Wild Card slot so it’s doubtful the Indians deal away one of their best starters unless they go into a massive tailspin between now and the end of the month. I like Marcus Stroman but the health concerns and the inconsistency of past years are red flags for me. I think the New Yorker would thrive on the Main Stage but I’d describe my interest in him as cautious at best. I also do not want to see more good prospects go to Toronto. I guess the Blue Jays will get good prospects from someone for Stroman but I’d hate to see former Yankee prospects thrive in the AL East against the Yankees.

Nevertheless, despite all the names that have been mentioned, GM Brian Cashman is notorious for operating in stealth mode and he’ll most likely surprise us all with his deadline acquisition(s) this month. As they say, In Cashman We Trust.

A moment to pay tribute to late Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs who died unexpectedly in Texas earlier this month. The Angels played their first home game in Anaheim, CA last night since Skaggs died. There was a makeshift memorial for the fans as they entered Angel Stadium and the presence of Skaggs was felt everywhere through images and the players’ decision for everyone to wear #45 in honor of their fallen teammate.

Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

Mike Trout had a first-pitch two run homer in the bottom of the first inning, and went 3-for-4 in the game with 6 RBIs. Two Angels pitchers, meanwhile, combined on a no-hitter as the Angels defeated the Seattle Mariners, 13-0. The 13 runs (and 13 hits) were significant as today, July 13th, would have been Tyler’s 28th birthday. Per Angels Manager Brad Ausmus, “That was partly Skaggsy’s no-hitter”.

Hollywood could not have scripted this any better. For me, it brought back memories of August 6, 1979 when Bobby Murcer drove in 5 late runs with a three-run homer in the seventh inning and a dramatic walk-off two-run single in the bottom of the 9th as the Yankees overcome a four-run deficit to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 5-4. The Yankees had attended the funeral of legendary catcher Thurman Munson in Canton, Ohio earlier in the day before returning to the Bronx for the game with eyes still swollen from the tears. Murcer, one of Thurman’s best friends, gave a performance that I’ll never forget in this lifetime. I am doubtful I’ll forget the play of Mike Trout and his teammates anytime soon.

Welcome back, Luke Voit! The Yankees are activating the Yankees first baseman today from the Injured List. I am glad to get him back and hopefully he can recapture his play from earlier this season. Like Aaron Judge, I appreciate the intangibles that Voit brings to this team through his personality and infectious energy and positivity. The homers, complete with the home plate hop, are a nice bonus. Breyvic Valera (We hardly knew ye!) was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for the Yankees’ #45.

Happy 31st Birthday to The Machine! Like Tyler Skaggs, today is DJ LeMahieu’s birthday. Hopefully this is the first of many birthday celebrations for DJ in the Bronx.

Lastly, welcome back to the emoji tweets from Sir Didi Gregorius! When Didi returned from the Injured List, he didn’t bring the after-game tweets with him and no explanation was given. Yet, last night, the below tweet appeared and I couldn’t have been happier.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Continue to Beat “Bad” Teams…

Aaron Hicks / Photo Credit: UPI

Red Sox Hardly Resemble Last October’s Champions…

Maybe Jared Carrabis is right and the Yankees can only beat bad teams. Case in point, the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the punchless Boston Red Sox. Seriously, I continue to be amazed by a team missing its top stars like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, Didi Gregorius and Miguel Andujar. If you removed a half-dozen of their very best players, I am not sure the Minnesota Twins or the Houston Astros, the league leaders with 38 wins, would be where they are today. The Yankees sit one game back in wins at 37, and the second best overall record (winning percentage) behind the Twins.

Gary Sanchez and Aroldis Chapman / Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP

I can’t say enough great things about DJ LeMahieu. As much as I wanted Manny Machado last winter, I never complained about the Yankees’ signing of LeMahieu. Living in Denver, I was able to see, day in and day out, how great LeMahieu is. He’s not a vocal guy and simply lets his play do his talking for him. Game after game in Denver, you’d hear DJ’s teammates with the Rockies talk about how much he meant to the them. When Colorado’s best players, such as Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, talked about how special LeMahieu was, you knew what you saw with your own eyes was the truth. The guy can play baseball. I am not saying LeMahieu is as good as or better than Machado, but LeMahieu is exactly what this team needs.  I had really felt bad for LeMahieu in the off-season when so many Yankee fans were trashing him and most felt he was a product of Coors Field. Sorry, altitude does not improve the ability to hit. It may help balls carry but that’s never been DJ’s game. I am sure that sliders don’t slide or cutters don’t cut like they would at sea level but it still comes down to hand/eye coordination. In 51 games and 221 plate appearances for everybody’s favorite team, I believe LeMahieu has proven he can hit outside of the Mile High City. He is batting .317/.368/.462 with .355 wOBA and 121 wRC+. He has hit 6 home runs (a figure he has only exceeded twice in his career with 11 in 2016, the year he won the NL batting title, and 15 last year). Last night against the Red Sox, LeMahieu was 2-for-4 with a run-scoring double in the bottom of the third and a home run, a solo shot in the fifth, both off Red Sox starter Chris Sale, for two RBIs. He was dazzling with the leather too.

DJ LeMahieu / Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes was among the very first, if not the first, to suggest last Winter that LeMahieu to the Yanks made sense. I was unable to find the post or I would link it here. I am sure that Yankees special consultant Jim Hendry, the man responsible for originally drafting LeMahieu when he was the Chicago Cubs GM, already had his eyes on his former pupil. But Daniel had great vision for a fan, with no professional affiliation to the team, to see how nicely LeMahieu would fit into the Yankees’ lineup.

LeMahieu certainly has my vote for Yankees MVP at this point in the season. I am not trying to minimize the contributions Domingo German and Giovanny Urshela have made, or the resurrection of The Kraken in the Bronx. LeMahieu has helped solve last year’s problem with runners in scoring position. He has helped those guys who would have been stranded last year step on home plate on their way back to the dugout this season.

After the game last night, Manager Aaron Boone said “He’s out there to rip your heart out” after prefacing it by saying not to be fooled by DJ’s quiet demeanor. When asked about Boone’s comment, DJ just smiled and said “I don’t know about that”. I mentioned it to a friend, a die-hard Rockies fan, and she said “That’s DJ…quiet and mighty. He is pretty humble guy”. Humble or not, I’d hate to think where this team would be without LeMahieu.

With Didi Gregorius set to rejoin the Yankees soon, DJ’s role will change since Gleyber Torres will slide from shortstop to second base, but there’s no way the Yankees can remove DJ’s name from the lineup card. I think he’ll see most of his time at third base, but his versatility allows the Yankees to put him at first and drop Louis Linwood Voit III in at DH. Based on this, Kendrys Morales would be the guy I’d cut to make room for Didi. Use the DH as a revolving door for starters to keep a spot open for LeMahieu. I am sure Didi will see a fair share amount of time at DH as he works his way back although it’s incredible to think how great the Yankees will be defensively on the left side with Didi at short and either Gio Urshela or LeMahieu at third. Not trying to take anything away from the brilliant job Torres has done at short, but Didi is my shortstop…until he’s not. I really hope the Yankees move to sign him to an extension now that he’s healthy. The potential for a lack of motivation by the Yankees exists given how well Torres and LeMahieu performed as the keystone combo. I am not complaining about how well they played but I really do not want to lose Didi after this season.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre “Red Barons” Shortstop 5-31-19 / Photo Credit: Jason Farmer, The Citizen’s Voice

With the calendar page turning to June, the talk about Dallas Keuchel should intensify. Well, it’s been intensifying for weeks but now that the MLB Draft is upon us in a couple of days and the drop of the qualifying offer/draft pick compensation attached to Keuchel, Keuchel’s market should finally form since the only cost will be money. If you believe Keuchel’s agent, Scott Boras, Keuchel is nearly in plug-and-play condition and would not require much time to get ready. Boras would never lead us astray, would he? Honestly, I’ve never been too excited about Keuchel and feel he is regressed from that pitcher that used to absolutely dominate the Yankees.  But, there’s no denying he is still a good pitcher and could help. If the Yankees don’t sign him, I could easily see the Tampa Bay Rays or Boston Red Sox make the move. I’d rather have Keuchel pitch for us than against us.  If you told me that I could have either Madison Bumgarner, for prospects, or Keuchel, for money, I’d take the latter. The Yankees need rotation help as there are still too many questions with the current rotation. I’d take Max Scherzer, with the high cost in prospects, above all, but that’s a topic for next month’s trade deadline.

Everyone has been talking about how the Yankees blew it by not signing Patrick Corbin last winter. I recognize that he started off very well in Washington, but last night’s line was very ugly.  65 pitches in 2 2/3rd innings which led to 11 hits for the Cincinnati Reds and 8 runs (6 earned). Corbin still has a decent overall ERA at 3.46 but it’s not as nice as it was entering the game. I know, there’s no pitcher immune from a bad game but it’s reinforcement about how fickle pitching can be. We saw it yesterday in pushing perennial Cy Young candidate Chris Sale’s record to 1-7 despite Sale’s 10 strikeouts. @Eric_M888 had the best tweet after the game: “Can’t spell saLLLLLLLe without 7 L’s”.

Sandy Leon and Chris SaLLLLLLLe / Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP

This is not a game recap but I’d be remiss for not calling out the great throw by Gary Sanchez with two outs and two on to nail former Yank Eduardo Nunez off second base for the final out in the top of the fifth. The Red Sox could have done some damage with the bat in the hands of Andrew Benintendi, who likes Yankee Stadium dingers, but it was not to be. It was simply a fantastic play by Sanchez, showing off his brilliant arm, but give equal credit to Gleyber Torres for the across the bag swipe of Nunez a split second before his hand reached the bag. The reaction by Torres was priceless and I am sure it will be a highlight replayed again and again as the season progresses. I felt that was the true turning point of the game.

Gary Sanchez / Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Thanks to the win and a Rays loss (5-3 to the Minnesota Twins), the Yankees (37-19) moved up to a game and a half lead over the Rays in the AL East. The Red Sox are 8 1/2 games back. The Yankees’ record in May (20-7) was the best since their magical 1998 season. A successful June can start today with a win.  Domingo German (9-1, 3.43 ERA) goes for his tenth win after failing last week against the Kansas City Royals. He’ll be opposed by Rick Porcello (4-4, 4.41 ERA). I’d really like to see German nail down that tenth win but as long as the Yankees emerge victorious, I will be happy.

As always, Go Yankees!

Despite Win, Yankees Lose…

Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP

Aaron Judge becomes latest Casualty…

There was immediate concern when Aaron Judge arrived at first base after his single in the bottom of the sixth and you could tell he was in pain. Even as Head Trainer Steve Donahue came out and they removed Judge from the game, there was hope it was only a precautionary move with a fairly comfortable lead over the Kansas City Royals. But when Judge dropped the F bomb as he walked through the dugout, it signaled this was worst case scenario. Although no timetables have been given, the left oblique injury will keep Judge away for awhile.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Of all the injuries the Yankees have suffered this year, I had felt that Aaron Judge was the guy the team could least afford to lose. Gleyber Torres probably runs a close second, but Judge is the ideal right fielder for this team and its heart and soul. It was no fun last summer when we lost Judge for an extended period as a result of the fractured wrist, courtesy of a Jakob Junis pitch.  But at time, at least the team had Giancarlo Stanton to step into right. As the team prepares to play today, there are only three outfielders on the team. Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Clint Frazier. The role of the fourth outfielder will be filled by infielder Tyler Wade, who has not exactly set the World on fire with his bat this season.

With the placement of Judge on the Injured List today, there will be an unlucky 13 players on the list. Fortunately, Gary Sanchez will back soon. He is expected to play a minor league rehab game on Monday before being activated on Wednesday. The Yankees head for Anaheim, California to begin a four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels tomorrow so Sanchez should be ready by the third game. Giancarlo Stanton is expected to return sometime during the upcoming road trip but he’s a little further out than Sanchez. The road trip concludes in Phoenix, Arizona on May 1st. The sooner, the better but we need to make sure that Stanton is 100% ready to go to avoid any setbacks.

The Yankees have very limited outfield depth in the system. Everyone knows that top prospect Estevan Florial fractured his wrist in Spring Training and is still recovering so he’s not even a thought (not that he should have been…yet…anyway). The five outfielders listed on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster are Trey Amburgey, Billy Burns, Omar Carrizales (who?), Matt Lipka, and Zack Zehner. Available free agents include Jose Bautista, Matt Holliday, Austin Jackson, Denard Span, Danny Valencia and Chris Young. In other words, there is no help on the horizon other than the return to good health for those on the IL. The only other option is trade, but most teams are reluctant to trade this early in the season. I keep hearing Justin Smoak’s name. No doubt he’d provide a productive bat to pair with Luke Voit at first base and DH, but the Toronto Blue Jays are only a game behind the Yankees and they certainly smell the blood in the water. Not that the Jays have World Series aspirations this year and they’ve already parted with Kevin Pillar (traded to San Francisco on April 2nd) but I don’t think they’d actively help the Yankees at this point even if the teams have been receptive to inter-division trades in the past.

I am not sure what to think at this point. You can only hope the team treads water until the injured stars begin their return to the active roster. It’s hard to look at the current roster and say, ‘Oh yeah, this team is winning the World Series this year’. I am glad that Clint Frazier and recently Mike Tauchman have stepped up but it’s going to take more from the other replacement players. I can’t say that I am overly optimistic. The Yankees can simply not afford to lose any more players at this point. They are stretched as far as they can without outside help. It is imperative that the injured players come back soon but the risk is rushing them back too soon. I guess these are the times that GM Brian Cashman and his staff truly earn their paychecks. With so much bad news lately, I could really use some good news about now. At least we have the NFL Draft later in the week.

With Judge’s injury, yesterday’s 9-2 win over the Royals actually felt like a loss.  There was certainly no joy after the game. I was glad the team evened its record at 10-10 but sadly the future, at this moment in time, seems hazy. The Boston Red Sox elevated themselves out of the AL East Cellar yesterday with their second consecutive victory over the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. With such uncertainty surrounding the Yankees, I’d hate to see the Red Sox go on a roll. There’s no doubt the rash of injuries should make for a reliable battle-tested bench later in the season but that’s hardly any consolation on the 21st day of April. The coming days and weeks will go a long way toward determining how this season will play out. If there was ever a time for the team to unite and persevere through adversity, this is it. At the moment, Yankee Stadium feels a little like Winterfell as the Night King and his Army of the Dead close in for the kill.

To talk a moment about Saturday’s game, it is unfortunate that a Yankee fan interfered with the fly ball to left by Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the third inning. Initially ruled a home run, the call was overturned upon review and Torres was ruled out due to the interference. I agree the fan leaned over the wall so clearly by definition it was interference, but I honestly do not feel Royals outfielder Alex Gordon would have caught the ball. Replay seemed to show the ball just an inch or two beyond his reach. Fortunately, the Yankees didn’t need the three-run homer but I feel bad for Gleyber in losing a home run courtesy of a fan. On the other hand, the fan probably didn’t appreciate the free escort out of the stadium by Security. Tough situation since I feel I probably would have reached for the ball without thinking, like most of us, in that  situation too. Aaron Judge hit his fifth home run before he was lost to us. The Yankees also got homers from Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, and with his first as a Yankee, DJ LeMahieu. It was a great bounce-back game for Masahiro Tanaka who lost on a grand slam last Sunday. Tanaka went seven innings, giving up only four hits and a run. He walked three and struck out seven to improve his record to 2-1. I thought his ability to leave the lightning quick Billy Hamilton stranded at third after Hamilton’s lead off triple in the top of the third inning (a ball that went under the glove of the defensively-challenged Luke Voit at first) was huge.

The Yankees conclude their four-game series with the Royals today. They’ll send James Paxton (2-2, 3.91 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Jorge Lopez (0-2, 4.30 ERA). The Yankees could really use a series win as they embark on the nine-game West Coast trip to Anaheim, San Francisco and Phoenix. Hopefully the remaining healthy players can provide Paxton with the necessary support for his third win of the season.

As expected, Gio Gonzalez exercised the opt-out in his minor league contract. The Yankees have until tomorrow to either elect to promote Gonzalez to the Major League roster or let him go. I fully expect the latter. No doubt he’ll get a big league job soon but it won’t be in the Bronx. Too bad he can’t play the outfield.

As always, Go Yankees! And please, stay healthy.

Nolan Arenado and the Fictitious Pinstriped Dream…

Atlanta Braves v Colorado Rockies
The Denver Post

Arenado, As Expected, Signs Extension to Stay in Colorado…

Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is no longer an option for the Yankees now that he has signed an eight-year, $260 million extension to remain in Denver, Colorado. Honestly, I think the Yankees’ rumored interest in Arenado was either a media-creation for clicks or a plant by the Yankees Front Office to deflect criticism for the team’s lackluster run at Manny Machado.

A sample of yesterday’s headlines:

IF THE YANKEES WANT NOLAN ARENADO THEY HAVE TO WAIT AS ROCKIES INK THIRD BASEMAN TO 8-YEAR, $260M DEAL

– The New York Daily News

NOLAN ARENADO’S $260M IS YANKEES BLOW AND BRYCE HARPER TARGET 

– The New York Post

MLB RUMORS: YANKEES WHIFF ON ROCKIES’ NOLAN ARENADO, WHO GETS RECORD-SETTING CONTRACT TO SKIP FREE AGENCY 

– NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

While I thought it was inevitable the Colorado Rockies would pony up for their best player, I do not believe for a second the Yankees decided to pass on Machado to wait for Arenado. In the present environment where players are amenable to team-friendly extensions (see Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino), I never really thought Arenado would test the free agency waters. As soon as Nolan previously signed the arbitration offer of $26 million for 2019 from the Rockies, it felt there was sufficient momentum to keep Nolan 5,280 feet above sea level for the duration of his career. If Nolan had chosen to go the route of free agency, I felt there was a stronger chance he’d to return to his native Southern California to play for either the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have a clear need for a third baseman, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have a good but aging third baseman in Justin Turner (he’ll be 35 in November). I just never saw the Yankees as the primary destination for Arenado. If the Yankees chose not to make competitive offers for the three best free agents this off-season, including two 26-year-old’s on Hall of Fame paths, there is nothing that would lead me to believe they would be willing to spend this Fall regardless of how good Arenado is.  He is fifteen months older than Machado and carries the Coors Field Effect label. While I think he’s a great player regardless of where he plays, I am not convinced the Yankees were seriously targeting him.

At this point, it is obvious the Yankees are committed to Miguel Andujar at third base. As a hit machine, he carries a very valuable bat in an otherwise loaded lineup. Defensively, the Yankees are expecting improvement. The bat can certainly compensate for some of the challenges in the field, but if Andujar can raise the level of his fielding to at least league average, I think everyone would be very happy. It’s tough watching the brilliant defensive plays made at third by Machado and Arenado and wonder what could have been, but that ship sailed. Machado has 300 million reasons to believe San Diego is the most beautiful city in the U.S. and the Yankees, in my opinion, were never players for Arenado.

Andujar is our third baseman and he deserves our trust and support. There’s no question he wants to improve and he probably works harder than most of the guys on the team. I doubt you’ll ever see any ‘Johnny Hustle’ comments about Andujar’s play because he does hustle and clearly wants to be the best.  Whether or not we believe Andujar can improve his defensive game is irrelevant as long as he believes he can. If he fails for whatever reason(s), I have no doubt GM Brian Cashman will find another alternative via trade (not through high-priced free agency). A young under-valued player with great potential seems to be Cashman’s preferred player these days. Personally, I am not betting against Miguel Andujar. I feel he has the drive and desire to succeed, matched with the necessary tools. Enough with the Andujar bashing. His name has taken a beating in Social Media. It’s not his fault the Yankees chose not to pursue Machado.  Well, I guess you could say it is his fault because they see the talent and commitment to win in Miggy. If we ran the Yankees and it was our money, I have no doubt we would have come to the same conclusion. Make decisions for the good of the organization and not short-sighted moves to make bloggers like me happy. Embrace Andujar, embrace the 2019 New York Yankees. This is our team. They have a championship to capture and they need our support for every man on the roster…well maybe not Jacoby Ellsbury. We have the team to strip the Championship belt from the Boston Red Sox and we should be proud.

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Getty Images

Speaking of Manny Machado, he couldn’t help but take a shot at the Baltimore Orioles. In an interview, Machado is quoted as saying, “The Dodgers last year, they showed me some love. The Orioles drafted me. I did a lot for that community, I did a lot for the state, they didn’t show me a little bit of love. It is what it is. But going over to L.A., L.A giving up a lot of prospects for me, that kind of shows you what I meant to them, which is amazing.” Needless to say, he has ruffled some feathers in Birdland.  By comparison, former Oriole Zack Britton has been respectful and appreciative of his time in Baltimore. Take the high road, Manny. You have your money and apparently the love you sought. Isn’t that enough?

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I thought it was fair yesterday when Manager Aaron Boone announced outfielder Clint Frazier will begin the year in Triple A.  After missing so much time last year following his concussion, Frazier needs consistent playing time to get himself back on a roll. I think it was wise for Boone to let Frazier know that he is not up for consideration in making the Opening Day Roster. It will take some pressure off Frazier and allow him to ramp up his game at his pace rather than an accelerated one thinking he has a shot to overtake Brett Gardner. I am not crazy about entering the season with Gardy as the starting left-fielder but I do think we’ll see Stanton out there more often. I’d prefer Stanton to stay at DH to help keep the big man healthy but there’s no question the team is better when Stanton plays the field. It frees up DH for some roster rotation to keep other guys fresh. If Frazier crushes Triple A, he’ll force the Yankees’ hand. I expect Frazier to be the starting left-fielder by season’s end. If not, I am sure Brian Cashman will provide other options as he always does. On the bright side, Sugar Shane Robinson is a Phillie so he won’t be starting any games in the Bronx this year.

I was a bit disappointed with yesterday’s rainout of the Spring game between the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. DJ LeMahieu was scheduled to play third base and I was curious to watch. Unfortunately, the next few games will not be televised so we won’t be able to get our Yankees fix until Sunday.  They should be able to get in today’s game in Lakeland, Florida against the Detroit Tigers.  There is a chance of scattered thunderstorms but not until late afternoon so the game should be fine. Chance Adams will get the start over previously announced starter Albert Abreu. Abreu is expected to pitch in relief. LeMahieu is expected to start at second base today and will make his Yankees debut at third for his next start. But since the game is not televised, we’ll be unable to see any of it. Bummer.

It’s been a few days since the official announcement but I was glad to see the Yankees sign Aaron Hicks to an extension. I was shocked at the number of years (seven) but the overall value of the deal, $70 million, is team-friendly. Hicks has the potential to fully earn those dollars within the first few years of the deal, making the back half of the contract negligible if performance does not warrant a starting position by the time the 29-year old Hicks nears his mid-30’s. Estevan Florial is still a few years away and he is far from a “sure thing”. The free agent market looked very slim for center fielders after the season (Leonys Martin appeared to be the best potential available target). In-house, Brett Gardner and the guy I don’t really expect to ever don the Pinstripes again, Jacoby Ellsbury, represented the top options had Hicks left via free agency. So, instead, the Yankees keep a player that Manager Aaron Boone has called baseball’s most underrated player and I am happy about it. Attention now turns to the two other primary pending free agents, Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius. I’d love to see both players return so hopefully the Yankees can lock up one or both before the season starts. They can worry about a big extension for Aaron Judge next off-season. Regardless of how Troy Tulowitzki plays, I want Didi Gregorius as this team’s starting shortstop as soon as he is cleared to play and for the immediate seasons in the future. Similarly, if I had to choose between Betances and Aroldis Chapman, if the latter decides to opt out of his contract after the season, I’d take Betances. Under that scenario, Zack Britton would become my closer of choice but Betances is so invaluable in his setup role, with or without Chapman. I’d love for Betances to stay as a lifetime Yank.

As always, Go Yankees!

Happy Reporting Day for Yankee Pitchers and Catchers…

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Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

The Dawn of the 2019 MLB Season…

After a painfully long off-season filled with too many rumors and rampant speculation, Yankee pitchers and catchers officially report to training camp in Tampa, FL today to begin preparations for the upcoming season. Granted, many of the Yankee players are already in Tampa, working out informally, but Spring Training officially gets underway today with the first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers tomorrow.

Meanwhile, position players can spend Valentine’s Day with their loved ones although many, like Aaron Judge, Troy Tulowitzki, Didi Gregorius, Clint Frazier and others, are already in camp in advance of Monday’s reporting date. The first full team workout will be next Tuesday.

I really thought there would be movement with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this week. Of course, I’ve been thinking that every week since the start of the new year.  At this point, I don’t really know when they’ll sign. I still think they’ll be in some team’s camp, either in Florida or Arizona, before Opening Day but who knows. I feel so bad for the other guys. The free agents not named Machado or Harper. So many guys who can make a difference on a Major League roster, like Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, and they can’t find work. Clearly something has to change. For the Yankees, they appear to have the guys who will compete for the Opening Day roster barring any last-minute additions. Even if the Yankees didn’t sign Machado or Harper, they’ve been one of the more active teams this off-season.

The biggest battle to watch this Spring is the first base competition between Luke Voit and Greg Bird. By the way, Happy Birthday to Luke!  He is 28 years old today. DJ LeMahieu will apparently also see time at first in his role as the utility player for the team (which makes no sense to me). I’d like to see Voit win the job outright, continuing his late season run from last year.  I like his energy and excitement.  It’s infectious and spreads to his teammates. I would love to see Greg Bird hit the way we know he can but, like many people, I am tired of waiting. My guess is Bird goes to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to find himself if Voit wins the job. Bird’s sweet left-handed swing would look beautiful in Yankee Stadium but I am losing confidence we’ll ever see it consistently. For as much as I want Voit to win the job, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Bird killed it this Spring to reclaim the position for himself. That would be a great problem to have.

I just can’t wrap my head around the thought that Troy Tulowitzki is the starting shortstop. In my mind, he’s done. If he shows anything in camp, great, but realistically, I am not expecting anything from him. Team defense, in my opinion, is better served with Gleyber Torres at short and DJ LeMahieu, and his gold glove, at second until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Tulo is such a Wild Card at the moment. He could make the Opening Day roster and be the starting shortstop or he could by cut by the end of March when the team identifies its best 25 players. Honestly, neither would surprise me. But I think LeMahieu is the better player at this point and the Yankees have a greater investment in him. I find it very hard to believe that LeMahieu is simply the new Ronald Torreyes. He is better and deserves better.

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Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Out in left field, dependence on Brett Gardner as the starter is flawed logic. A fourth outfielder at best at this stage of his career, it would be better for Clint Frazier to win the job (unlikely) or put Giancarlo Stanton in left more often which is always a risk since he carried the injury-risk label until his monster 2017 season when he won the NL MVP Award for the Miami Marlins. DH is the best way to keep Stanton healthy and hitting the way he did during his MVP year. Jacoby Ellsbury, if healthy, looms as a threat to take a roster spot away from Frazier for Opening Day. I anxiously look forward to the day when Ellsbury and the Yankees part ways. While I don’t expect him on the field Opening Day, the possibility exists he is there if healthy.  The problem with Ellsbury is even if he is healthy, it won’t stay that way. The King of the DL will become the King of the new IL (“Injured List”). Let those insurance checks keep rolling in for Team Hal.

The only other real competition will be the last spots in the bullpen. Tommy Kahnle is expected to take one of the jobs, assuming he can pitch like he did in 2017. I really hope that the last man in the pen is not Luis Cessa. That’s another guy I’d like to see leave. I would prefer the last spot go to either Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga as the swing man/spot starter assuming the Yankees do not bring anyone else into Camp.  Let German and Lasagna duke it out in the Spring with the best arm heading north to the Bronx in late March. Danny Farquhar probably looms as a sentimental favorite for many after last year’s brain hemorrhage. If Kahnle fails to win a job and Farquhar proves he should be one of the bullpen finalists, I’d like to see him get it.

It’s an exciting time in the Yankees Universe. We have one of the best teams in Baseball right now. If this team can perform to its expectations, we should be watching Yankees baseball deep into October. Hopefully, this season will not see the Boston Red Sox spilling champagne on Yankee Stadium soil. It would be much better for the Yankees to return the favor with celebrations at Fenway Park while sounds of New York, New York reverberate through its halls. I know, it would be better for the Yankees to celebrate at home, in front of Yankee fans, but there’s a part of me that wants to see the Yankees in googles and bubbly in the very heart of the Red Sox Nation.

I was a little disappointed to see Jorge Posada is joining the Miami Marlins organization as a special adviser.  I know, it was destined to be considering Jorge’s close relationship with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter but it’s still tough now that it is actually happening.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

It’s difficult to watch 50% of the Core Four representing another MLB organization. Plus, a third Yankees retired number currently manages the team. I guess we should be thankful the Marlins are in the National League so the Yankees do not play them very often. Credit to Alex Rodriguez for maintaining his alliance with the Yankees after the end of his playing career.  I know part of it was the renegotiation of his playing contract into special services for Hal Steinbrenner, but A-Rod could have severed ties as he pursued his broadcast career with FOX and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Posada’s move makes me very thankful for Mariano Rivera, my favorite member of the Core Four. Rivera recently announced his intention to be a pitching consultant for the Yankees (teaching pitching in the organization in a to-be-determined role).  I’d really like to see the Yankees get Andy Pettitte back in the family. I’ve always thought he’d be a tremendous pitching coach and I’d love to see him transition back into pro coaching as an eventual successor for Larry Rothschild. We may have lost Jeter and Posada for now, but I don’t want to lose either Rivera or Pettitte. Eventually Don Mattingly will get fired.  Not that I want him to lose his job, but when the inevitable parting of the ways occurs, I am hopeful that Mattingly can find his way home.  Maybe not as a manager, but I look forward to the day when Donnie Baseball is a frequent visitor to Yankee Stadium again even if it is only for Spring Training and Old Timer’s Day.

It’s exciting to see the images of Spring Training. I am glad we’re getting the band together again and look forward to the first exhibition game a week from Saturday in Fort Myers, FL against the hated Boston Red Sox. This is the year we take them down. AL East Championship, American League Championship, World Series Championship. The time is now. Let’s end Boston’s reign.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Sights and Sounds of Steinbrenner Field…

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Pitchers and Catchers Report on Wednesday…

Here we are. The final weekend before pitchers and catchers report and Major League Baseball officially kicks off preparations for the 2019 season. Many players have already made their way to Tampa and have been seen in their informal workouts on the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field and signing autographs as they depart the hallowed grounds of 1 Steinbrenner Drive.

Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

I always enjoy the opening of Spring Training. So much excitement for the new season, everyone’s healthy (for the most part), and after no Major League baseball since last October, the gang’s back together again to make another run at the American League championship and the ultimate goal of winning the World Series. Of course, the feeling starts to fade in a couple of weeks when we are anxiously  and impatiently awaiting the start of the regular season but for now it’s a thrilling experience.

The past week saw another round of rumors surrounding Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While both young superstars remain unsigned, there is continued speculation the Yankees could make a play for one of the players if the price falls into their comfort zone. The words of Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner this week while attending the owner’s meeting in Orlando did not dispel the rumors. I know, he can’t say the Yankees are out because of the CBA, but he somewhat flamed the rumors by not counting the Yankees out on any moves they might make in the coming days.

Steinbrenner made the comment, “If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, that’s just false”. In my opinion, the Yankees have not been cheap. If anything, my frustration is simply the allocation of dollars that have been spent. I like DJ LeMahieu but with all honesty, the team would have been better with Manny Machado than LeMahieu. There’s been word (no official confirmation) the Yankees floated a concept of 7 or 8 years for around $220 million when they met with Machado in December. If true, Machado’s agent should have used it as a starting point for more serious negotiations. It didn’t happen, and the team quickly pivoted to LeMahieu. I don’t feel Steinbrenner is being cheap but conversely I don’t feel that he’s putting the best possible team on the field. Maybe signing Machado is not meant to be or if he really wanted to be a Yankee, he would be one by now. Regardless of events, I can’t help feel a little disappointment that neither Machado nor Harper are making flight plans for Tampa.

At various points of the off-season, the Yankees have called Brett Gardner the starting leftfielder and Troy Tulowitzki the starting shortstop. I don’t buy either claim. At this point in his career, Gardy helps this team the best as its fourth outfielder. He is not the player he once was. Age happens to all of us, except for maybe Tom Brady or Mariano Rivera. Perhaps Clint “The Wildling” Frazier proves the injuries and concussions are behind him and he finally fulfills the promise he’s held for a few years now. I have no problem rolling out Frazier as the starter if he proves in Tampa over the next few weeks that he is ready. Personally, I’d prefer it if Frazier can take the job from Gardner because it means he has proven he can be better.

As for Tulo, I just can’t shake the feeling he is done. Realistically, I am not expecting much from him. I think he’ll be very rusty in Spring Training, and I don’t see him as an every day starter once the team moves north to the Bronx. It feels too much like trying to “catch lightning in a bottle”. The infield is much stronger, in my opinion, with current two-year consecutive Wilson Defensive Player of the Year DJ LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres sliding to shortstop until the great Didi Gregorius is ready to return.

Photo Credit: Didi Gregorius via Instagram

But despite Plan B’s that make sense with the current roster and invitees, the Yankees can be a better team with Harper or Machado. Of the two, Harper makes the most sense. Aside from the left-handed bat that he’d bring to the lineup, he represents a great option for left field, keeping Giancarlo Stanton in the healthier role as DH, and Harper could potentially develop as a first baseman. I know, you don’t pay a guy hundreds of millions of dollars to see if he can play a new position but Bryce would represent such a great resource for the Yankees in their drive to dethrone the Boston Red Sox. For Hal, Harper will increase tickets sales, both at home and on the road. If the Yankees are successful in reacquiring controlling interest in the YES Network, Harper would be a primary face and draw attraction for the team. He is a popular player, perhaps one of the most popular in the game outside of Mike Trout. This is not meant as a slam to Aaron Judge who I feel is one of the greatest players in the game, but Harper unquestionably has more fans outside of the Yankees Universe.

Photo Credit: USATSI

I am still a major fan of Manny Machado but I recognize that his presence would adversely impact Miguel Andujar. Nevertheless, the Yankees should not decide to pursue Machado because of Andujar because Machado is clearly the better overall player. But under that scenario, the Yankees would need to move Andujar to left field or first base or trade him for top starting pitching as we’ve talked about ad nauseam this off-season. Putting Harper in left keeps Andujar at third with the potential to see if he has improved his defensive game and allowing LeMahieu to slide over to the corner for support if necessary.

My desire to add either Harper or Machado will not die until the players sign somewhere, anywhere.  Once that happens and if it is not in the Bronx, we’ll move on. The 2019 New York Yankees will be a very good team with or without Harp-Chado. If the Yankees do not sign either player, I’ll undoubtedly look at it as  missed opportunity (the “missed” chance to turn the team from very good to great) but I’ll support the current roster with full force and vigor as we all will.

I am really enjoying Adam Ottavino as a Yankee. His ‘This or That’ videos on Instagram with his wife feeding him questions from off-screen have been stellar. Given he is a lifelong Yankee fan like us makes him so relatable, outside of the fact that he’s 6’5”, ruggedly handsome, throws a nasty slider, lives in a beautiful Manhattan apartment with an overview of the city, has an adorable wife and family, and makes millions of dollars per year.

I like that Otto’s first pic upon arriving in Tampa this week was to take a picture of the famed George Steinbrenner statue outside of Steinbrenner Field.

Photo Credit: Adam Ottavino via Instagram

Ottavino understands the history of the franchise better than most through his childhood fandom. He recently mentioned that his favorite Yankee hitter was Bernie Williams and fave pitcher was Jimmy Key. There’s probably guys on the team who don’t even know who Jimmy Key is. I respect both of those choices.

After being known for years as Zach Britton, I was surprised the reliever formally announced that he’d be known by the proper “Zack” going forward. Not so much the correction of his name to match how he uses it and the name which appears on his birth certificate but rather why it took so many years for him to do it. I am sure that I’ll type Zach a time or two this season. Personally, with no offense to any Zack’s reading this, but I prefer the “ch” version of the name. It sounds more sophisticated, IMO. But hey, it’s not my name.  Britton has the right to call himself whatever he wants. If he wants to go by “Fluffy”, that’s fine by me. I guess I’ll get used to the new spelling in time. Speaking of Britton, I didn’t realize that his brother Buck was a manager in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system. Buck Britton managed the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds to a 68-66 record in 2018. For this season, he’s been elevated to manager of the Double-A Bowie Baysox. Not that I expect Zack to ever get over his love for Birdland, but his brother’s presence in the Orioles organization continues to give him ties to his former roots.

I mention it every year but I’ll continue to do it until there are changes. The Yankees need to revisit their facial hair policy. I don’t want to see the uncontrolled beards like Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers wears each season or Johnny Damon’s “Caveman” look during his days in Boston, but with controlled guidelines, there’s no reason guys like Luis Severino should not be allowed to wear beards like this:

Photo Credit: YES Network

I know the Yankees stick to the policy out of respect for the late George Steinbrenner but times have changed. I do not feel that short, trimmed facial hair detracts from the brand. It seems like all of the Yankee players are sporting some type of facial hair during the off-season. And very often when Yankee players are traded elsewhere, the first thing they do is grow a beard. I saw a pic of Ronald Torreyes, now playing for the Minnesota Twins, sporting a cool goatee this week.

Photo Credit: Ronald Torreyes via Instagram

Players should be allowed a certain degree of self-expression. I get the history and tradition of Baseball’s most storied and prestigious franchise but wearing a groomed short beard is not exactly like slapping last names on the back of the famed Pinstriped jersey. Loosen up the facial policy rules, Hal. It’s your team, set your own standard.

This has been a tough year watching Boston win championships in both MLB and NFL. I am tired of Boston fans celebrating and want to see the fans of New York rejoice. The Yankees have a huge opportunity to make plans for a parade in late October. Let’s not screw this up. The dawn of the 28th World Championship is upon us.

As always, Go Yankees!