Tagged: Don Mattingly

The April Roller Coaster Ride…

Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi/NY Post

Up and Down Start Continues…

It was an uneven week to say the least. Sure, it was great to sweep the two-game series in the Bronx against the dreaded Boston Red Sox but to follow up with lackluster play in the first game of the Kansas City Royals series was disappointing. It’s easy to blame the high number of injuries for the slow start but there’s no excuse for not playing hard every game. Fortunately, the Yankees rebounded last night to beat the Royals, 6-2, behind CC Sabathia (1-0), the bullpen and a couple of dingers.

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

I’ll admit it. I was one who didn’t feel the Yankees should have re-signed Sabathia this past off-season. For as much as Sabathia has meant to the Yankees over the years and his invaluable role as team leader/mentor, I thought his spot in the rotation could be improved upon. I was wrong and that’s perfectly okay. Sabathia has continued to surprise me with his late career renaissance. When he encountered the knee problems a few years ago, I didn’t think he would be able to reinvent himself as a pitcher, yet he did. I am enjoying Sabathia’s final ride and pleased he’ll do it in Pinstripes. I don’t know his post-career plans but I am hopeful the Yankees find a role for him. I am not sure he can continue to pitch like he has in his first couple of starts but there’s no doubt he’ll give his team a chance to win every time he takes the hill.

We came into the season with such high hopes. For a few years now, we’ve looked at 2019 as the year the Yankees would arrive to capture their 28th World Series Championship. Then, player after player found his way to the now-massive Injured List and the team has struggled out of the gate. Someone asked Mike Axisa on his River Ave Blues chat yesterday how many wins this Yankees team (as currently constructed without the return of any of the men on the Injured List) could achieve and he responded with 84. He’s not wrong. You can’t lose so many superstars without an adverse impact. The big question is who would step up to take advantage of opportunity due to the missing stars.

So far, the award for best replacement player has to be Clint Frazier. There are many who still feel that Frazier’s future lies outside of Pinstripes but I am glad to see him potentially have his breakout year. I’ve been a critic and not exactly an admirer of his social media skills. But we’re starting to see the player GM Brian Cashman saw a few years ago when he sent reliever Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians. In fifteen games covering 57 plate appearances, he has 4 homers, 12 RBIs, and is hitting .327/.351/.577 with a great 145 wRC+. His arm was on display last night in right field when he fired a 95 mph throw to catcher Kyle Higashioka on the third base line to nail Martin Maldonado who had tried to score after tagging up at third in the third inning. For as much as Brett Gardner has done to help the Yankees win this week, there’s no question the future of left field should reside with Frazier. When Giancarlo Stanton returns to take DH and Aaron Hicks is back in center field, it should be time for Gardy to move to the bench. Maybe Frazier is just rebuilding his stock for an inevitable trade for starting pitching but I honestly I hope not. I’d like to see him thrive in the Bronx. His time is now.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

While there won’t be room for him on the big league roster when Stanton and Hicks return, it’s nice to see left fielder Mike Tauchman hit a couple of home runs this week. It’s amazing that he was never able to launch one at Coors Field in his young career. I know, he was only given limited opportunities with the Rox but there’s no question his swing would have played well at 5,280 feet if he had been given more chances. With the Rockies running into their own string of injuries, I can’t help but wonder if they wished they had held onto Tauchman.

I fully expect the Yankees to let pitcher Gio Gonzalez walk when he formally opts out of his minor league contract this weekend. While I’d prefer the experienced Gonzalez over Domingo German for the long haul, German has certainly pitched well enough to retain his spot in the rotation despite his rocky start last Thursday. I think my biggest concern in the rotation right now (aside of Luis Severino’s absence) is the performance of J.A. Happ. It’s unfortunate the Yankees do not have more time with Gonzalez to keep him available if Happ continues to struggle. I don’t see Gonzalez extending his minor league contract with the Yankees and I do not see the Yankees bringing him up only to serve as a long man out of the pen.  I think there are starting opportunities for him with other teams (like the New York Mets who just placed the great Jacob deGrom on the Injured List). He’ll get a starting gig somewhere.  So, Gio, thanks for the memories. Sorry you didn’t the chance to wear Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium but it’s probably best the Yankees didn’t need you during your short stay.

Speaking of minor league contracts, I am not sure what I think about the Yankees signing first baseman Logan Morrison to a minors deal yesterday. It’s hard to let go of his comments from the past. I know Gary Sanchez has moved on with his comments yesterday that the Home Run Derby (when LoMo questioned the choice of Sanchez over him) was two years ago. But LoMo attacked Yankee fans with his infamous “you can’t fix stupid” remark. I don’t think I am as forgiving as El Gary. I am not sure LoMo will ever get a chance to wear the Pinstripes (he has a July 1st opt-out) but if he does, he owes an apology to the Yankees fan base and to the team for his ill-advised prior comments. It’s hard to criticize LoMo for his poor 2018 with the Minnesota Twins which ended with hip surgery but he is only a season removed from 38 jacks. If he could be that guy, he would certainly be an improvement over Mike Ford as backup first baseman.

With the impending return of Gary Sanchez in the next few days and hopefully Giancarlo Stanton by the end of the month, I am hopeful the Yankees can get on a roll. Today, the Yankees will send Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 3.22 ERA) to the mound.  He’ll be opposed by RHP Heath Fillmyer (0-0, 9.00 ERA). Tanaka will look to erase memories of that grand slam that did him in last Sunday in the 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox. We keep saying it but so far the Yankees have failed to capitalize, they need to beat teams like the Royals. Handed a soft schedule to start the year, I never dreamed that we’d still be chasing a .500 mark nearly a month into the season. But all things considered, it’s nothing that a nice 10-game winning streak can’t cure.

I just saw the news that the Miami Marlins fired their hitting coach, former Yankees third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, after their game last night. I hate to say it, but I think the days are numbered for Marlins manager Don Mattingly. Despite his Yankee connections, I think Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will move to get his own guy in the dugout at some point. In my humble opinion, odds are greater Jorge Posada will be Marlins manager next year over Mattingly. It’s unfortunate because Mattingly was my favorite Yankee during his playing career, and I’ve been a fan since those days ended. To replace Pags as hitting coach, the Marlins appointed Jeff Livesey as his replacement. Livesey is son of former Yankees executive Bill Livesey. Livesey will be assisted by one-time Yankees top prospect Eric Duncan.

Okay Yankees, we need a win today. Please bring home the “W” to even your record at 10-10. We want this, you want this. Make it happen.

As always, Go Yankees!

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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!

Fishing Is Not For Everyone…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Giancarlo Stanton takes a pass…

Although the Yankees clobbered the Miami Marlins, 12-1, on Monday night at Yankee Stadium, it is probably not a game Giancarlo Stanton will want to remember. He was the only regular without a hit against the Fish although he did score a run after being hit by a pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning, thanks to a Gregoriusly beautiful home run by the Yankees shortstop.

 yankees
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Stanton is used to being “The Man” but here he is being picked up by his teammates on nearly a daily basis, much to the dissatisfaction of the Yankee Stadium crowd. He had two more strikeouts with his ‘O-fer’ night. The one thing I learned about Yankees fans, they’ll boo their own players when they passionately care. Yes, they’ll boo for players who suck too but everyone wants Stanton to succeed. The home crowd has yet to see the real Gone-carlo. There’s no doubt he will achieve great success in the Bronx but the journey in Pinstripes is not an easy one.

It’s way too early to say Stanton is not meant for New York. As Marlins manager Don Mattingly said about playing in NYC, “You struggle, you pay, that’s all there is to it. It’s a day-in, day-out place. It doesn’t matter what you did last year. I’m not surprised by it, but also in the same sense, I know it changes once he gets his feel and stuff like that.”

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While everyone focused on Stanton’s performance against his old team, poor Starlin Castro went under the radar with his 0-for-3 night. I am sure it was a tough and emotional evening for All-Starlin who most likely would have preferred being in the opposing dugout with his former mates.

It would be nice for Giancarlo go yard tonight against the Fish but it won’t be the end of the World if he doesn’t. He’ll have another shot at his friends and former teammates when the Yankees travel to Miami in late August. I am sure playing in front of the Miami fans will carry much deeper meaning for Stanton. Hopefully by then, Stanton will be crushing pitchers like we know he can.

What can you say about Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius? In one word, spectacular. Aaron Judge’s home run in the second inning was his fourth of the year and 60th in 197 games (the fastest player in MLB history to record sixty career homers). Didi’s two home runs were his second multi-homer game of the season, and the sixth time in fifteen games that a Yankee player has hit two home runs in a game. Didi now leads the Yankees with five home runs on the season. Where is that flawed hitter the Yankees acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks a few years ago? The only flaw these days are rainouts which keep the Yankees great shortstop off the field. Didi continues to amaze…and get better.

I know Manny Machado is a great player and younger than Didi Gregorius but I’d rather lock up #18 on an extension and use resources in the off-season to strengthen starting pitching and the bullpen. Well, if Stanton continues to struggle, I’d trade him to Los Angeles after the season and sign Bryce Harper but that’s beside the point. The Yankees do not need Machado if his heart is set on playing short for the immediate future and I do not feel that Gregorius should be asked to move to another position to make room. I am still hopeful that either Miguel Andujar or Brandon Drury provide the long-term answer at third but as it stands, third base would be the only spot I’d keep for Machado. Didi is the Yankees shortstop…period and end of story.

 Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees
Photo Credit: SI.com

The Yankees made a surprise move yesterday when they re-signed Jace Peterson to a major league contract. He was in uniform last night and was a late inning replacement. The Yankees had an open spot on the active roster when they optioned Luis Cessa to Triple A on Sunday and did not immediately make a corresponding move. The spot of the 40-man roster was open when the Yankees waived Shane Robinson after his brief appearance with the big league club.  Robinson was subsequently sent outright to Triple A. The Yankees had waived Peterson when Robinson was added to the 25-man roster but after clearing waivers, Peterson elected free agency over minor league reassignment. So, his re-signing caught me by surprise. Eventually, Peterson will be the odd man out and will lose his seat at the table, perhaps for good as a Yankee, if/when the guys on the DL return to good health.

Congratulations to the great Gleyber Torres! He has been recognized as the International League Player of the Week (the first weekly award of the young season). In his first ten games with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Torres batted .385 (15-for-39) with a homer and ten RBI’s.

Gleyber caused a stir last night when he was pulled from the RailRiders game due to “stiffness”. I am sure there are a few jokes that could be driven from that term (e.g., his girlfriend didn’t mind), but from what I’ve been able to determine, the removal from the game was primarily caution-driven.  It was a cold night and there was no reason to risk the health of one of baseball’s top prospects. Gleyber will be re-evaluated today but at this point there does not seem to be any cause for concern or at the very least I hope not. The Gleyber Torres to the Bronx Watch will become magnified after tonight’s game as any MLB service time will extend free agency by a year.

Jacoby Ellsbury has yet another ailment? Seriously? I guess now he has a sore heel  in addition to the injured hip. I honestly cannot keep up with his current maladies. Wasn’t there something else prior to the hip injury?  Who knows?  Who cares. When can we cut bait and move on? The biggest hope I have for Ellsbury at this point is the honor to place the word “former” in front of the word “Yankee” when describing the brittle outfielder.

the-Seriously-injured-dog

Hopefully today will be a new and better day for Giancarlo Stanton. Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 5.19 ERA) takes the mound looking for better results than his last outing when he gave up six runs to the Boston Red Sox despite grabbing the win. Tanaka will be opposed by Miami’s Jarlin Garcia (0-0, 1.13 ERA). Garcia should change his name to Jarlin Castro to make things interesting.

Never a better time to have a Fish fry in the Bronx than tonight…Go Yankees!

All Talk But No Action…

Waiting for Santa Claus in the Yankees Universe…

My thoughts that this could be a busy week took a hit yesterday when it was very quiet in the Yankees Universe and around baseball.

One of The Greedy Pinstripes co-owners (Bryan Van Dusen) took it as an opportunity to make a compelling argument for the acquisition of Danny Duffy of the Kansas City Royals. I personally do not feel that the Kansas City Royals will trade Duffy. The organization actually received somewhat good news on Monday when the Boston Red Sox re-signed first baseman Mitch Moreland to a two-year, $13 million deal. The signing presumably removes the Red Sox from the first base market (they had been rumored as the favored destination for Royals free agent Eric Hosmer). There is now actually optimism in Kansas City that the Royals could re-sign Hosmer. The San Diego Padres have been mentioned as a possibility for Hosmer but they would have to move Wil Myers back to the outfield (defensively-speaking, Myers has been better at first than in the outfield) and they’d give up a second round draft pick as compensation since Hosmer received a qualifying offer from the Royals. The New York Mets and the St Louis Cardinals remain possibilities for Hosmer too, but if the Royals are successful in bringing Hosmer back to KC, they are not going to “tank it” for a major rebuild. This means they are not going to give up one of their best young pitchers in Duffy who is under team control for the next four years.  Duffy is also on record saying “Bury me a Royal” on Twitter in response to trade rumors. There’s no reason for the Royals to trade Duffy at the moment. Once they do trade Duffy, if they do, it will be a signal the team is ready to lose for the short term.  I don’t think they are at that point yet so I don’t see Duffy as a present alternative for the Yankees.

The other TGP owner, Daniel Burch, has repeatedly said that the longer trade rumors persist about the Yankees acquiring Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the less likely it will actually happen. I agree with that assessment as GM Brian Cashman has a reputation for striking quickly in stealth mode. Hence, the Ninja reputation.

Michael Fulmer does not presently appear to be an option since the Detroit Tigers are not motivated to make a deal. I am sure that every call between Tigers GM Al Avila and Cashman begins with “Are you ready to deal Gleyber Torres?” which abruptly ends the conversation.

So, at the moment, the frontrunner for rotation help appears to be Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The D-Backs would love to re-sign outfielder J.D. Martinez (who remains the primary target for the Red Sox) but they would need to move some salary to make it happen. It’s funny how every Yankees move is somehow tied to the Red Sox.  Corbin is arbitration eligible for his final year before free agency. He will get more expensive so now is the time for the D-Backs to make a move to ensure they do not lose the pitcher for nothing next off-season. He made a hair under $4 million last season. The D-Backs have a number of arbitration eligible players this off-season so moving Corbin would help control escalating costs while bringing back quality prospects. Corbin was terrific after the All-Star Break last year when he went 8-4 with a 3.26 ERA in his final 15 starts. MLB Trade Rumors is projecting that Corbin’s 2018 salary will be $8.3 million. The 28-year-old lefty would certainly represent an upgrade for the Yankees rotation and the cost shouldn’t involve the team’s best prospects. 2B/3B Brandon Drury has been frequently mentioned with Corbin’s name and he’d provide some help for the Yankees at those positions. Drury made $559,300 last season and is not arbitration eligible until 2019. The 25-year-old righty hit .267 with 13 HR and 63 RBI in 445 AB’s in 2017.

However, this trade rumor has been hanging out there since the Baseball Winter Meetings so the “Burch Rule” is probably in play (less likely to happen with each passing day).

As for third base options, I keep hoping that the Yankees can find a way to bring back Todd Frazier. A one-year contract with an option for one or two more years seems like the best team fit, but the player may feel that he can get more years elsewhere. Buster Olney floated the idea on Twitter yesterday that the Yankees would be a great fit for Mike Moustakas on a one-year deal which of course was met with laughter that Moose Tacos would actually accept one year (his agent is Scott Boras after all). But in theory, I love the idea for the player to build more value in the stacked Yankees lineup and an opportunity to exploit the right field porch before hitting the free agent market next off-season. It will never happen but it’s fun to think about.

Last Star out of Miami, Please Turn Out the Lights…

I feel bad for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly who remains one of my favorite people in baseball. After the Giancarlo Stanton trade, he publicly made comments about his excitement for the youth movement in Miami. The Marlins have since traded Marcell Ozuna to the St Louis Cardinals and a couple of their remaining young stars (Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto) have expressed desires to leave. Mattingly will soon be fielding a team of minor leaguers at the Major League level. He deserves better. It’s a tough situation for the former Yankees captain regardless of the smile and positive words that he gives publicly.

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Well, let’s see what today brings. Go Yankees!

Early November in the Yankees Universe…

Mr Cashman will see you now…

The Hot Stove League has been open for a few days but for the most part, it’s been all quiet on the Eastern Front (a/k/a The Bronx).

The managerial interviews have begun with Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson taking the first at-bat. He must have fouled off a bunch of pitches because he apparently met with GM Brian Cashman for six hours this week. I should be fully supportive of Thomson for manager. He’s a company man who has been with the Yankees organization for 28 years. He brings promises of communication and trust in the players and has tried to give assurances that he would not be “more of the same”. Yet, for some reason, I cannot fully embrace his candidacy. I’d like to see him stay in the organization and I am certainly not opposed to his inclusion on the coaching staff for the eventual new manager. But he’s not really my ideal choice for manager.

Credit:  Associated Press

A new name surfaced yesterday in former Yankee Aaron Boone. It’s unknown when/if he will interview with Cashman. Given that I’ve been supportive of other broadcasters getting the job, like Jerry Hairston, Jr and Mark DeRosa, you’d think I would support the possibility of an ex-Yankee. Yet, I was ‘ho-hum’ when I saw his name. I am appreciative of his home run to win the 2003 American League Championship Series, but he’s not really someone that I can envision in the job. Perhaps he is someone I would grow with in time if he is the one. We’ll see.

David Cone and John Flaherty are also names that received heavy ink in New York publications this week. Between the two, Coney would be the better option to me with no offense to Flaherty.

The Miami Marlins have confirmed that manager Don Mattingly will return for the 2018 season so that effectively removes his name from consideration. As a huge Mattingly fan, even today, I did not really want to see Mattingly back in the Yankees organization as its manager. Managers are so heavily second-guessed and I didn’t want to see Mattingly tarnish his great Yankees legacy in any way.

I think the best tweet I saw about the managerial search yesterday came from MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand: “Something to keep in mind re: Yankees managerial search.  This is a chance for Cashman to interview several people to get a feel for them in a different role. Many will interview, only one will get the job. Don’t get caught up in any one name.”  So, as the saying goes, trust the process. I have the trust in Brian Cashman that he’ll make the right decision. His legacy is heavily invested in the next hire with the Yankees on the cusp of something great. Gene Michael was widely recognized as the chief architect of the 90’s dynasty but this potential run belongs solely to Cashman and his chief lieutenants (backed by the Steinbrenner family, of course). All things considered, Cashman can’t afford to make the wrong choice.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Ohtani!…

I have been trying to avoid getting excited about the possibility of adding Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani but the ‘Ohtani to America’ (or should we just call it the ‘Ohtani to Pinstripes’) movement took another step in the right direction. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported that Japanese news reports are stating the Nippon-Ham Fighters have announced they will post Ohtani this off-season. All I want for Christmas is Ohtani in the Bronx! I am still trying to be cautiously optimistic but it would be very exciting to have him join the strong cast of Baby Bombers.

The Yankees can offer Ohtani the second highest signing bonus at $3.25 million. They trail only the Texas Rangers who can offer $285,000 more than the Yankees. The Rangers can also offer no state income tax. But I am hopeful the promotional opportunities will be greater for Ohtani in New York. He stands to make a great deal of his income through endorsement deals. Also, when you look long-term, the Yankees can offer more lucrative dollars and stability for future contracts. Faced with the impending free agency of Japanese ace Yu Darvish last summer, the Rangers chose to deal Darvish to the Dodgers rather than make a strong effort to re-sign him. Granted, Darvish didn’t exactly have a stellar finish to his season but it reinforced to me that if you want long-term security, New York is a better place to be than Texas. Plus, the Yankees have the legacy of Japanese greats Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka.

Shohei Ohtani (top right) / Credit:  Koji Watanbe, Getty Images

Farewell to a Pitcher and a Catcher…

It was tough to see the loss of former Blue Jays and Phillies great Roy Halladay this week to the tragic plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, FL. When he played, he was the definition of “the” true ace for me. I had always hoped the Yankees would find a way to acquire him when he played for the Blue Jays but recognized that intra-division trades of superstars rarely happen. Still, he was marvel to watch pitch despite his domination of the Yankees. His loss was felt and I am deeply saddened by his untimely departure.

A lesser known baseball player also died this week but it was equally as sad. 17-year-old Daniel Flores, a catcher out of Venezuela the Boston Red Sox had signed in last year’s International Draft for $3.1 million signing bonus, succumbed to cancer in Boston. Flores was rated as the fifth best prospect in the Red Sox system according to MLB.com. Prior to the draft last year, Flores was ranked as the second best International prospect behind shortstop Wander Franco (who signed with the Tampa Bay Rays). By comparison, the Yankees top signing, outfielder Everson Pereira, was ranked fourth. According to scouting reports, Flores would have been a brilliant defensive whiz behind the plate. It’s unfortunate he is unable to reach his dream to play at Fenway Park but hopefully his signing bonus provides long-term security for his family and loved ones.

May both men rest in peace.

No Gold Glove Awards but a few Silver Sluggers…

Congratulations to Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez for winning their first Silver Slugger Awards. These were easy calls and it would have been a great travesty if either player had been omitted. Now, we await the results of AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP which should bring more hardware in Judge’s direction. Individual awards are nice but we really need to get these guys a World Series championship!

Today is Veteran’s Day. For all veterans everywhere, thank you for your service. We remember you today and always…

In closing, as always, Go Yankees!

Better Late Than Never…

Credit:  Mike Stobe-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Red Sox 4…

And thus endeth the Red Sox eight-game winning streak.  For seven innings, it looked like the Yankees offense was still MIA.  But then the 8th inning happened.  It got a little dicey in the 9th with Aroldis Chapman on the mound but in the end he got the job done with a huge assist from Aaron Hicks and Todd Frazier.  The Yankees emerged with the victory in the first game of a three game set with the Boston Red Sox.
Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg-NY Post

The Red Sox jumped on the board first.  In the top of the first inning, with Mookie Betts on first after a walk, Yankees starter Jaime Garcia decided to challenge Hanley Ramirez with an inside fastball on a 3-1 count.  Bad idea.  Ramirez deposited the ball over the left center wall into the bullpen, and the Red Sox had the early 2-0 lead.  In the bottom of the first, walks to Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge had a runner in scoring position with only one out.  But like the struggles in Toronto on Wednesday night, the Yankees failed to advance the runners.  Admittedly, it felt like it was going to be another one of those games.

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-The Associated Press

It seemed Red Sox were going to blow the game open in the 3rd inning.  Mookie Betts singled to left with one out  Great stop by Aaron Hicks that prevented a double.  He was followed by Andrew Benintendi who laced a soft line drive single to center.  Betts moved to third on the hit, with Benintendi advancing to second on Jacoby Ellsbury’s late throw to third.  Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked, loading the bases.  Jaime Garcia, in one of the keys to the game, struck out former Yankee Chris Young and got Xander Bogarts to ground out to escape the inning unscathed.

Bottom of the third, another Yankee (Aaron Hicks) was left stranded at second after he had hit a one-out double to center past a lunging Mookie Betts.  The RISP struggle continued.

Boston added another run in the top of the 5th.  With Garcia still pitching, Andrew Benintendi homered to right with two outs, a solo shot into the second deck.  Garcia got into a little further trouble when the next batter (Hanley Ramirez) doubled off the center field wall and Chris Young walked, but, after a talk with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, he was able to get Xander Bogarts to hit a fly to right for the third out.

Ronald Torreyes doubled to left off the wall with one out in the bottom of the 5th, but like Hicks in the 3rd, he could go no further.  Another failed scoring opportunity.

The Red Sox had a chance to add to their lead in the 6th.  Garcia struck out Red Sox rookie Rafael Devers but Christian Vazquez got on base with a single up the middle.  Jackie Bradley, Jr hit a grounder to short which erased Vazquez at second but the Yankees couldn’t turn the double play.  With JBJ at first and Eduardo Nunez coming to bat, Manager Joe Girardi pulled Garcia and replaced him with Adam Warren.  Nunez stroked a single to right, with JBJ taking second.  The dangerous Mookie Betts came up but Warren got him on a fly out to right.  Whew!  Evading trouble in that spot was huge.  

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez did not return for the 7th inning.  It was good to see him leave the game.  Six innings, two hits, no runs, seven strikeouts.  But the Yankees didn’t fare much better against Sox reliever Matt Barnes in the bottom of the 7th.  After he walked Todd Frazier, he easily set down the next three batters.

Hats off to Adam Warren.  He had shut down the Sox in the 7th and did the same in the 8th.  He was as responsible as anyone for the setting the stage for the bottom of the 8th dramatics.  If he had not held the Red Sox at bay, the hole might have been too large to overcome.  

Brett Gardner led off the bottom of the 8th against former New York Mets reliever Addison Reed.  Gardner reached first when he was hit by a pitch on his front foot (a call made after a replay challenge by the Yankees).  A-A-Ron Hicks, in his second game back from the DL, blasted Reed’s slider into the right field stands just inside the foul pole to make it a 3-2 game.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-The Associated Press

Continuing the inning, Gary Sanchez singled to left and took second on a wild pitch by Reed.  Aaron Judge patiently accepted a walk, and Reed was pulled in favor of Joe Kelly.  Didi Gregorius singled to left, scoring Sanchez to tie the game.  Judge moved to third.  Todd Frazier joined the party with a single to left that dropped in front of Andrew Benintendi to score Judge with the go-ahead run.  The Yankees loaded the bases when Jacoby Ellsbury, the $153 million man, singled to right after Chase Headley had struck out.  Ronald Torreyes, the little man with a big stick, hit a sacrifice fly to left which was deep enough to score Gregorius with what would prove to be a HUGE insurance run.  It was 5-3 Yankees.  Brett Gardner walked to re-load the bases, but the Sox replaced Kelly with Fernando Abad who retired Aaron Hicks, coming to bat for the second time in the inning, on a pop out to end the inning.  

Credit:  Frank Franklin II-The Associated Press

The 9th inning brought Aroldis Chapman into the game.  Unfortunately, this season has seen Chapman struggle with too much rest or too much use.  This time it was too much rust as he hadn’t pitched since last Saturday.  He walked the first three batters to load the bases (while I was losing my mind).  Girardi was much more patient than I would have been.  I would have pulled Chapman after he walked the second batter to replace him with David Robertson…the luxury of having proven closers in the pen behind Chapman.  But Girardi’s patience with Chapman paid off.  Even though the Red Sox scored a run with the next batter, Andrew Benintendi, the Yankees probably would have been unable to hold the lead without the sequence of events.  Benintendi hit a deep fly to left.  Aaron Hicks noticed that his former teammate with the Minnesota Twins, Eduardo Nunez, was breaking for third, and he fired a shot to Todd Frazier who grazed the sliding Nunez with the tag before he was able to reach third.  The Red Sox challenged the play (admittedly very close) but lost the appeal.  The double play thwarted the Red Sox momentum.  The next batter, Mitch Moreland, flied out to center to end the game.  If the Yankees had not thrown Nunez out, he most likely would have scored the game tying run when Moreland lofted his fly ball.  The  Yankees win, 5-4, and stop the Red Sox winning streak.

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

Adam Warren (3-2) was the winner in relief of Jaime Garcia.  New acquisitions Garcia and Sonny Gray can’t seem to get any runs from the Yankees offense.  Garcia’s final line was respectable…5 2/3 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 3 walks, and 6 strikeouts.  It was a ‘bend but not break’ performance that kept the Yankees in the game.  A-A-Ron Hicks was the clear MVP of the game with his home run and the brilliant throw to nail Nunez.  

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg-NY Post

The Yankees (61-53) moved back to 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East Standings after it had felt like they might fall a season high 5 1/2 games back.  The Cleveland Indians shut out the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-0, to push the Rays 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees.  The Baltimore Orioles fell 5 games behind the Yanks with their 5-4 loss to the Oakland A’s.    

Aaron Judge struck out for his 28th consecutive game.  He was 0-for-2 with two walks and a run scored plus the strikeout.  

Odds & Ends…

It sounds like Derek Jeter is finally going to be Don Mattingly’s boss after months of rumors and speculation.  Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has accepted a bid to sell the team to a group headed by New York businessman Bruce Sherman and Jeter for $1.2 billion.  Apparently, Sherman will be the “control person” (the Hal Steinbrenner of the group) and Jeter will run baseball and business operations.  The investment group headed by Sherman and Jeter includes NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan.  The sale, which must be approved by MLB owners, is expected to close in October.  

Credit:  Andrew Savulich-New York Daily News

As expected, the Yankees placed LHP CC Sabathia (right knee inflammation) on the 10-Day DL and recalled LHP Jordan Montgomery.  Montgomery is expected to start on Sunday against Boston’s Chris Sale.  1B Tyler Austin was reinstated from the DL and optioned to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  I am sure that Garrett Cooper’s recent performance had a strong say in that decision.

Friday night featured a great match-up between Chance Adams of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and Ryan Yarbrough of the Durham Bulls (Triple A team for the Tampa Bay Rays).  Yarbrough may not be a top pitching prospect for the Rays (he is #23 on their top prospect list according to MLB.com) but he entered the game with 12 wins, tied for the International League lead, or four more than Adams.  The RailRiders tagged Yarbrough with his sixth loss in the 6-2 victory as Adams (9-3) picked up the win.  I was very pleased to see that he walked only one batter.  Adams threw 101 pitches (69 for strikes) over six innings.  He only allowed four hits and two runs (one earned) while striking out six.  His season ERA stands at 2.31.  Soon, Young Grasshopper…

Have a great Saturday!  Let’s take down the Sox again this afternoon!  Go Yankees!

Solution: 15 K’s & Red Thunder…

Credit:  Al Bello-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Brewers 3…

Finally!  A fun and dramatic game.  Clint Frazier was the man of the hour with three hits.  The first hit broke up a no-hitter by Milwaukee starter Brent Suter in the fifth inning.  The second hit brought the Yankees within a run when the ball landed on top of the Stub Hub sign in left for a triple to score two runs.  The third hit was a game-winning walk-off home run to left as the Yankees overcame the Brewers on Saturday afternoon.

The first inning didn’t get started on the right foot.  After Eric Thames looped a double to right field, Travis Shaw was awarded first base in a controversial “hit by pitch”.  The umpire didn’t react until Shaw said something which caused the ump to send Shaw to first base, drawing the ire of Manager Joe Girardi.  Girardi could be overheard saying “He called it, you didn’t call it”.  The TV replays, to me, were inconclusive.  If the ball hit Shaw, it was fabric only but even then, the jersey didn’t move as the ball passed through to the catcher’s mitt.

Credit:  Julio Cortez-AP

Domingo Santana followed with a fly ball just over the right field wall which gave the Brewers an early 3-0 lead.

Credit:  Getty Images

For the Brewers, it would be the end of their offensive show for the day.  Luis Severino made the necessary adjustments (I hope you were watching, Michael Pineda!) and shut the Brewers down for the next six innings.  By the time he departed, he had pitched 7 innings, allowing 6 hits and the 3 runs allowed via the first inning home run.  He walked two, both in the 6th inning, while striking out 10.  It was a no-decision for him but the Yankees do not win this game without Severino’s performance.

Credit:  Julio Cortez-AP

The Yankees had a scoring opportunity in the 2nd inning when Didi Gregorius lofted a fly ball to center.  Four Brewers converged at the same time and the ball fell between them for an error on Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia.  But the Yankees were subsequently caught with awful base-running. Chase Headley hit a come-backer to the pitcher and the Brewers had Didi caught between second and third.  Didi didn’t try to extend the rundown and the Brewers were able to tag Didi out and nail Headley off first base for the double play.  If Didi had tried to evade the tag, it would have given Headley the time to get back to first.

The Yankee bats were silent until the fifth inning when Clint Frazier finally collected the Yankees’ first hit off Brent Suter, a two-out single to right.  The Yankees weren’t able to do anything with it but it was a start.

After Luis Severino struck out Eric Thames with a runner in scoring position to end the top of the 7th, the Yankees finally got some runs on the board.  Chase Headley hit a one-out ground rule double to center.  Jacoby Ellsbury singled to move Headley to third.  A failed pick-off attempt at first allowed Headley to score while Ellsbury moved to third.  Clint Frazier hit a fly ball that momentarily looked to be a home run but it bounced off the lower part of the left field wall for a triple which scored Ellsbury.  The Yankees had closed the gap to 3-2.  Ji-Man Choi, pinch hitting for Austin Romine, and Ronald Torreyes were unable to bring Frazier home.

Onto the 8th inning and it was time for the Yankees bullpen which has been an Achilles Heel in recent days.  Dellin Betances took the mound in relief of Severino.  It was a ‘hold your breath’ moment until Betances proved to be the All-Star that he is, allowing everyone to exhale.  He induced Ryan Braun to ground out and then struck out both Travis Shaw and Domingo Santana.  Whew…Welcome back, Dellin!

Credit:  Corey Sipkin-New York Post

The Yankees were unable to generate any offense in the bottom of the 8th.  Moving to the top of the 9th, Aroldis Chapman replaced Betances.  Chapman has struggled with his command in recent games, but not yesterday. Three strikeouts later, it was off the bottom of the 9th with the Yankees still trailing by one run.  The Brewers brought in their strong closer, Corey Knebel, who has been a very pleasant surprise for the Brewers this year.  Knebel has struck out 72 batters in 41 innings while saving 13 games for Milwaukee.  He came into the game having only allowed 5 runs in 41 games.  The only knock against him is a tendency to walk too many batters. The weakness appeared right away as Didi Gregorius walked to open the inning on four straight balls.  Chase Headley went down swinging but Jacoby Ellsbury, like Didi, also walked on four straight balls as Knebel continued to struggle with his control.  So, the Yankees had runners at first and second with one-out when Red Thunder strolled to the plate.  After a ball in the dirt, Knebel grooved a 97 mph four-seam fastball down the middle.  With his blazing bat speed, Frazier quickly blasted a shot into the left field stands for the game-winning three-run home run as the Yankees won the game, 5-3.

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Aroldis Chapman (2-0) was the winner.  The Yankees (45-40) were able to pick up a game on the Boston Red Sox so they are 3.5 games out in the AL East.  The Tampa Bay Rays remain a game behind the Yankees, courtesy of their 1-0 victory over the Red Sox.

Credit:  Julio Cortez-AP

The Yankees conclude the first half today when Masahiro Tanaka (7-7, 5.25 ERA) takes the mound against Milwaukee’s Jimmy Nelson (7-4, 3.20 ERA).  Hopefully, yesterday’s dramatic win and stellar bullpen work provide the momentum for a new surge by the home team.

Odds & Ends…

The rumor mill is certainly heating up.  Within the last 24 hours, it has been reported the Yankees have heavy interest in first baseman Justin Bour of the Miami Marlins and reliever Brad Hand of the San Diego Padres.  I am always a little suspect of the trade rumors you openly hear about as GM Brian Cashman generally plays his cards close to the vest.  The more likely trades are the ones that you never hear about in advance. I would love to have Hand in the bullpen but the issue is cost.  I’d hate to lose Chance Adams or Miguel Andujar (a couple of the names that have been mentioned). There would be a bit of irony with the Marlins (which includes Manager Don Mattingly) sending Bour to New York to be the Yankees first baseman.  Bour hit his 20th homer of the year yesterday in Miami’s 5-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants.  There’s no doubt he’d be an upgrade over Ji-Man Choi.

Credit:  Ben Margot-AP

The YES Network’s Michael Kay mentioned an interesting stat during the telecast.  Yesterday was the 17-year anniversary of the Yankees’ double-header sweep over the New York Mets which featured games at both home parks.  Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens were the winning pitchers in the subway double-header.  It’s hard to believe that it has been 17 years as I can clearly remember that day well.  It was a preview of the memorable Fall Classic that would pit the two teams against each other.

Matt Holliday was 2-for-4, both singles, with two runs scored in his rehab assignment for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.  The RailRiders won the game, 8-1, over the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.  Jake Cave was 3-for-3 with 2 HR’s and 5 RBI’s.  Miguel Andujar also chipped in a home run.

Have a great Sunday!  I am looking forward to more Red Thunder! But, please, no Tyler Clippard. Let’s Go Yankees!