Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, Associated Press
Starting Rotation missing its spots…
Silly me. I had hoped the “Next Man Up” tag line was the theme of the 2019 Yankees, not this year.
Credit: Randy Glasbergen
The Yankees are not off to a great start in 2020 with the injuries that have surfaced. James Paxton is not expected back until May at the earliest, possibly June, after recent back surgery, Aaron Judge is being held back over caution with his shoulder, and Luis Severino is headed to New York for further tests regarding the forearm tightness he experienced this week.
I am not ready to throw in the towel and concede the AL East to the Tampa Bay Rays, but no doubt the Rays see blood in the water. The Yankees didn’t have Severino for most of last season and they still won 103 games so it’s not like they’ll fold without him. I am very thankful the Yankees were successful in signing Gerrit Cole last December and the team’s offense, even without Judge at 100%, remains one of the best in the game.
I went from wanting J.A. Happ traded after his disappointing performance last season (primarily to eliminate his $17 million contract and his potential for reaching the milestones to trigger another $17 million for 2021) to the realization that he is a major cog in the starting rotation, at least for now. With the absences of Paxton and Sevy, Tanaka becomes the second to Cole, and Happ is your third starter. It does not exactly instill confidence (at least not for me).Yet, I am hopeful we’ll see Happ’s return to be a stable and consistent force in the rotation like he was in the latter half of the 2018 season. Although nobody has handed him anything, Jordan Montgomery is expected to be the fourth starter. From there, it is anybody’s guess.
If GM Brian Cashman knew about Paxton’s troublesome back and some potential concern with Sevy’s forearm (if it has been bothering him since the playoffs last year this past off-season, I am surprised the best pitching options brought in from the outside were former Angels starter Nick Tropeano and former Rockies starter/reliever Chad Bettis. In retrospect, it seems like Cashman had the time to bring in a potentially stronger hedge for the starting rotation.
Most likely, the fifth starter role will be filled either by an opener or we’ll see one of the young guys (like Deivi Garcia or Michael King) step forward. There’s been a lot of hype for Clarke Schmidt but asking him to jump from Double A seems to be a big leap. Then, there’s the usual suspects, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa. I am not trying to be critical of them but I see both as better arms for the pen. As much as we may like Loaisiga’s arm, he always seems to be an injury waiting to happen. I think the Yankees are better using Chad Green as a late inning bullpen specialist, especially after the departure of Dellin Betances and despite Green’s success as an opener last year.
It’s always possible the Yankees swing a trade for a starter but teams are less motivated to trade in March than they will be in July when they know whether or not October is in their future.
I’d love to see one of the young guys grab the starting spot and run with it. Maybe that’s what the Yankees see. If it were my team, I’d probably be less willing to gamble with the fifth spot when there are questions with the third and fourth starters. But Cashman and his team know much more than I ever will and I trust them to make the right decisions. The Yankees have heavily invested in the 2020 season and they’re not going to throw it away now. Championship windows are not open for long and the Yankees know it. Trust the process.
Photo Credit: Andrew Mills, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
I am glad we’ll have Yankees Baseball back on TV today when the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. Or if you are fortunate enough to be in Tampa, all the better. J.A. Happ takes the pitching mound for the Yankees in their Spring debut. The game will also see Michael King, Luis Cessa and Nick Tropeano with turns behind Happ. We won’t have the joy of Troy Tulowitzki’s homer off his former team last Spring (the career highlight of his brief time in Pinstripes), but maybe Gio Urshela, the scheduled third base starter, can deposit a pitch over the outfield wall while facing some of his ex-teammates. Gerrit Cole, in a non-televised game, will make his debut on Monday against his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bummer, I would have really enjoyed to see Cole facing live opposing hitters. The first few Spring games are always fun until the monotony sets in during the upcoming weeks. While I am anxious and excited for the March 26th opener in Baltimore, I am hopeful we’ll have greater confidence in the starting rotation behind Cole and Tanaka when the season starts. So I want the regular season to start soon, but not too soon. May the best possible 26 men head north to the great state of Maryland next month.
I think the inner George Steinbrenner in me wants the Yankees to grab whatever star players they can (Nolan Arenado, Josh Hader, etc.) so they can crush the World, but I know the Yankees have the healthy guys in camp right now that can bring home the “piece of metal” by season’s end. I was probably a little envious of the Los Angeles Dodgers fan base and how energized they became with the trade that brought Mookie Betts to their team. They seem to be beating their chests about this being “the year”. There’s still a lot of baseball to played between now and October, but I’ll happily take my chances with this collection of Yankees and how they stack up against the Dodgers assuming the teams are fortunate enough to advance to this year’s World Series.
MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days will feature the Yankees on Tuesday, March 3rd. I always enjoy the exclusivity of interviews with the Yankees players and coaches but those shows always seem like the fastest hour in Sports or at least the player interview segments seem too short. The YES Network is good about the Hot Stove shows early in the off-season but there’s always a sense of loss when the shows come to an end. It’s too bad they can’t have weekly shows from Tampa to give us insight into the players. I guess there’s Yankees Magazine but it doesn’t have the same real time effect like the Hot Stove shows.
They are saying Greg Bird has a legitimate shot to earn the starting first base job with the Texas Rangers as they break in their new stadium this season. I have to say it will suck if Bird has a happy and healthy season for the Rangers. I know, I shouldn’t say that. I do not regret the Yankees’ decision to cut Bird loose, but after so much false hope each season with Bird, it would be disappointing to see him give Texas what he never gave the Yankees (good health). I guess I turn the page on ex-Yankees faster than I should. I loved Didi Gregorius as a Yankee but now I find the fans who are still posting comments about how much they miss him to be annoying. I couldn’t care less about the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager. I feel the same about Bird and former Yank Todd Frazier (I see him as more of an ex-Met these days) in Texas. I am not going to root for them just because they once played for the Yankees. Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly is the lone exception to my personal rule.
Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press
I’ve tried to avoid talking about the cheating scandal for this post but I want to say I feel David Ortiz is wrong for calling Mike Fiers a “snitch”.
Photo Credit: The New York Post
I respect Big Papi but Fiers, a guy none of us are enamored with as Yankee fans, did the right thing to bring attention to the Houston cheaters. While I understand Papi’s criticism that Fiers should have said something while a member of the Astros, I also get team camaraderie holding players back from being divisive forces in the clubhouse and the fact Fiers tried to follow proper channels through the Oakland A’s and the MLB office before stepping forward on the public stage. I support Fiers for his critical role in bringing to light the shame and scandal of the Houston Asterisks. I still do not like Fiers the pitcher, but I will always respect him for stepping forward and revealing the unethical play of the Astros.
Let’s enjoy some baseball today.
As always, Go Yankees!
Off-Season Prep for 2020 is Underway…
I think I can speak for the entire Yankees fanbase when I say that we miss Yankees Baseball. We are in the part of the off-season where there is talk and speculation but not much action. Things should start warming up next week. Not that there will be signings and trades, but the General Manager meetings will be held Monday through Thursday in Scottsdale, Arizona. The groundwork for the future trades could be laid and of course there could be finalization of the new deal for Brett Gardner. When you get all the GM’s together in one place, anything can happen. Let the alcohol flow! After a couple of shots, maybe Jacoby Ellsbury would look attractive to somebody. I’d love for a rival GM to wake up from a drunken stupor one morning, screaming “WTF! How did we end up with Ellsbury???!!!” Sadly, it won’t be that easy to get rid of Jacoby but I’ll always hold out hope. Fortunately, we are only one season away from the $5 million buyout and the end of Ellsbury’s time in New York.
The biggest news for the Yankees this week was the appointment of Matt Blake as the new pitching coach, replacing the fired Larry Rothschild. Blake, 33, had been promoted last Tuesday to Director of Pitching Development for the Cleveland Indians. Two days later, he was the newest member of Aaron Boone’s staff. Blake has been with the Indians for four seasons and was, prior to his promotion, the Assistant Director of Player Development. Before joining the Indians in late 2015, Blake was a pitching coordinator for Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. He began his career as a pitching coach for a Boston area high school (Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, MA) in 2009. In 2010, he served as an area scout for the Yankees before moving on to Cressey. He served as the pitching coach in 2015 for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, a collegiate summer baseball team in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Blake is a native of Concord, New Hampshire and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with degrees in psychology and philosophy. He was on the Holy Cross baseball team for all four years.
While I think we have to recognize that most of us are not qualified to assess who is or is not a good pitching coach, I like the hire. I know everybody wanted the sexy pick of David Cone. Me too. I thought Cone or Andy Pettitte would be good choices, but conversely, I know that just because Cone was a very good pitcher and a great broadcaster does not mean that he would have been a terrific pitching coach. Also, the pitching coach job would have required Cone to take a pay cut. Frankly, I am glad that we’ll continue to hear Coney on YES Network broadcasts with Michael Key. I suppose he could always pursue coaching jobs elsewhere if he is so inclined but for now, I like his presence on my TV screen for games.
The Yankees have evolved into one of Baseball’s most advanced analytic teams. They’ve sunk huge costs into acquiring some of the best available analytic minds to support VP, Assistant General Manager Michael Fishman and his team of analysts. The word is Blake is very good at taking analytics and breaking it down into laymen’s terms for pitchers to understand and how to apply them. I know the Yankees didn’t wake up one morning and say ‘hey, let’s steal Blake from the Indians!’. They did their research, and multiple members within the Yankees organization had the opportunity to meet with Blake. The consensus of the greatest minds in the organization was the hiring of Blake as the next pitching coach. That’s good enough for me.
I do think the Yankees should join the recent trend in MLB to hire an assistant pitching coach. The unknown about Blake is that he has never played or coached at the Major League level. I am not saying he can’t do it, but I think two voices on the coaching staff for the pitchers is smart. I personally like RailRiders pitching coach Tommy Phelps. He has good knowledge and experience with many of the high level prospects and we know that he has done good work with the Major League pitchers sent down for additional instruction, with Chad Green representing the most recent example. Who knows if Green’s rebound was because of Phelps or was based on a plan developed by Larry Rothschild, but I do know that Phelps is highly respected and would make a good partner for Blake.
Speaking of Larry Rothschild, it didn’t take him long to find new employment. One day after the Yankees hired Blake, the San Diego Padres announced their had re-assigned their pitching coach of 17 years, Darren Balsey, to other duties within the organization and had hired Rothschild to be their next pitching coach. I think everyone expected Larry to follow Joe Girardi to Philadelphia, but all things considered, I think landing in San Diego is an ideal opportunity for him. I was a little surprised when Girardi went with Bryan Price as his pitching coach. Not that I think Price is a bad coach, but as a recent manager, I am sure he has aspirations to manage again, and I can’t help but think there could be potential for conflict with Girardi who we know can be hard-headed at times. Maybe I am reading too much into that, but at this state of his career, Rothschild is content with serving as a pitching coach until retirement calls his name. He’ll now get his opportunity to help break in another rookie manager (Jayce Tingler) and will be charged to help develop one of the best pitching prospects in the game in MacKenzie Gore. I don’t get the hate directed at Rothschild by Yankee fans. While I think it was time for the Yankees and Rothschild to part ways, I realize that Larry did many things right and there was much we were unable to see from the outside looking in. I am appreciative for the years he gave the Yankees. The Padres are a young, analytics-driven team, and they chose to go with experience. Good for Larry. I wish him the best for his new opportunity.
It was reported the Yankees and Brett Gardner’s camp are talking and it should result in a new deal soon. I am in favor of bringing Gardy back, however, I do not feel the Yankees should spend more than $8-$10 million on a one-year contract. Maybe throw in some incentives for a couple more million. But to expect Gardy to replicate his 2019 season (enhanced by the alleged juiced baseball) is asking too much. The Yankees need a starting center fielder next year and I hate seeing Gardner’s name automatically written in while Aaron Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery. The guy will be 37 in August. I think he is best served as the team’s fourth outfielder with random starts rather than every day. The Yankees need to field the best players in 2020, not swim in sentimental waters. I’ve seen some Yankee fans suggest Gardy’s number should be retired when his playing days are finished. Sorry, while he has been a good Yankee for a long-time, he is not a Hall of Fame level player and never has been. I value Gardy’s leadership but I believe he is overrated in the eyes of many fans. I am not sure if the center field should be Mike Tauchman or maybe someone who is not in the organization right now, but I think the Yankees will go with the best man for the job and not simply pay for past performance.
I know the Yankees will be okay if Didi Gregorius leaves, but I’ll be sad. I like his left-handed bat and I think he’ll rebound for a stronger 2020 season as he gets further away from TJ surgery. The Yankees are still a championship-level team with Gleyber Torres at short and D.J. LeMahieu at second, but I think Didi still has much left in the tank. I know, I am making these statements after saying the Yankees shouldn’t stay with Gardy for sentimental reasons. But unlike Gardy, I think the best years can still be ahead for Didi. There’s growing speculation that Didi’s original team, the Cincinnati Reds, are interested in bringing him back. I guess if Didi does leave, I’d rather see him go to the National League so the Reds would probably be best-case scenario. But minus his bat, the Yankees will need to find another left-handed hitter to sandwich between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. I am not sure if lefties like Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, or (gasp!) Greg Bird can be that guy or if Brian Cashman will have to go for outside help. Also, unless the Yankees sign LeMahieu to an extension, there could be an infield void after next season. I’d hate to go back to rolling out guys like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew to fill in at second base like we did when Robinson Cano left. If you say Tyler Wade, then we obviously have differing opinions about the player.
A much speculated target for shortstop has been Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor. Granted, he is not a left-handed bat but clearly he’s one of the best players in the game today. He is only 25 and would fit nicely into the Yankees lineup as a replacement for Gregorius. If the Indians move Lindor, it will only be for a huge haul so we’d have to expect to lose some very talented and promising players. Another suggestion is Corey Seager if the Los Angeles Dodgers acquire Lindor. I’d be fine with either Lindor or Seager at shortstop (using Aaron Boone’s favorite word, “obviously”). But honestly, I wish the Yankees would just re-sign Gregorius and save the trade bullets for an ace. A package of Lindor and Corey Kluber would be awesome, but the price tag would be outrageous. Nevertheless, I am sure you’ll be able to see Cashman in conversation with Chris Antonetti, Cleveland’s President of Baseball Operations, and/or Mike Chernoff, the Tribe’s GM, next week. You never know what can happen in Baseball.
I am cautiously optimistic about Thurman Munson’s presence on the 2020 Modern Era Committee ballot for Hall of Fame consideration. The results will be announced on December 8th. I’ve always said that Jim “Catfish” Hunter is the reason I became a Yankee fan, but it didn’t take long for Thurman to become my favorite player. The others on the ballot are Don Mattingly, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Lou Whitaker, and former MLBPA head Marvin Miller. Mattingly was my favorite player after Munson. While I think both players are Hall of Fame-worthy, if I had to pick one, I’d say it is time for Thurman to get his deserved recognition as one of the game’s all-time greats. I loved the passion and intensity of that guy. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1970 and the AL MVP in 1976. Even though the Yankees were swept in the World Series that year, it was not because of Munson who hit .529 (9 for 17) in the series. He was the heart and soul of two World Series championship teams in 1977 and 1978. Thurman’s death in 1979 remains one of those “I know exactly where I was when I heard the news” moments in my life. I was devastated and it’s sad that we didn’t get to see what Thurman could have done past age 32. I know there was speculation at the time about Thurman’s desire to get closer to home and perhaps sign with the Cleveland Indians, but it would have been hard to see him in anything other than Pinstripes. He was truly one of the Yankee Legends despite his premature departure and deserves his place among the other greats. I hope this is the year.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, New York Post|
AL East Championship is Step 1…
The Yankees may have won the AL Eastern Division Championship, but the road ahead is full of challenges. I am not holding my breath the Yankees will nail down home field advantage. The Yankees did pick up a game on the Houston Astros last night, and trail the AL Leaders by only a half-game but realistically it is a game and a half advantage for the Astros since they won the season series between the two teams. With only six regular season games left for the Yankees and a soft schedule for Houston (Mariners and Angels), it will be difficult to overcome the difference.
So, at this point, I am assuming that the Yankees will finish with the second best record in the AL and will host the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS. While having home field advantage would be nice with a potential playoff series against the Astros looming if both teams can advance to the American League Championship Series, you could argue that facing the Twins, a team the Yankees have historically matched up well against, is preferred over facing the potential Wild Card winning Oakland A’s who have been among baseball’s hottest teams recently. Honestly, I don’t really care who the Yankees face. ‘To be the best you have to beat the best’ so however this plays out is fine with me. Either the Yankees can win or they can’t. If they can’t, they are not deserving of advancing to the World Series. If the Yankees need the benefit of where the games are played, it was not meant to be. I think this team is good enough to beat anybody, anywhere.
I have no issue with Manager Aaron Boone’s decision to rest players in preparation for October.
|Photo Credit: AP|
The Yankees got good news yesterday on second baseman Gleyber Torres when the results of his MRI came back negative. He is one guy the Yankees could ill afford to lose if they intend to go deep into October. I’d love to see him reach 40 home runs (he only needs two more) but honestly the most important thing is his health. He’ll sit out again today and will likely return to the field when the Yankees play Tuesday night at Tropicana Field against the Wild Card contending Tampa Bay Rays. Two consecutive extra-inning walk-off’s by the Rays against the post-season eliminated Boston Red Sox have put them in the second Wild Card spot, a game ahead of the Cleveland Indians. Adam Ottavino seems like another guy that needs plenty of rest this month if he is to rediscover his earlier season magic.
To say I am disappointed with Domingo Germán is an understatement. Domestic violence can never be condoned and if he is guilty of the accusations, I believe he deserves significant punishment, including a long suspension and fine. His alleged actions were detrimental to the team and to the player individually. As a surprise 18-game winner this year, Germán had positioned himself to be a valuable member of the pitching staff heading into the playoffs and he was securing a long-term position going forward. With his selfish and appalling actions, he has jeopardized his future, potentially costing himself millions. Germán needs to find help to ensure this never happens again. His future literally depends upon it.
Germán’s loss is softened by the return of Luis Severino, but that’s not really the point. Until the investigation is completed and Germán has served any subsequent penalties, he should not be allowed to play. The fact that he is the winningest pitcher on this year’s squad is irrelevant. He did this, not us.
As far as replacements for Germán on the post-season roster, I like the idea of Jonathan Loaisiga who appears poised to be a breakout star in the bullpen.
It was so good to see the brief return of Dellin Betances but so very sad to see his season end with an achilles tear. Thankfully two medical opinions determined that surgery is not necessary, but his start to the 2020 season could be delayed. Nevertheless, I am hopeful the Yankees and Betances can come together on a one-year deal to allow the impending free agent to rebuild value and position himself for the huge payday he had been destined for prior to the injury-marred 2019 season. If that means applying a qualifying offer to Betances, I am hopeful they do it. I am not ready to see Betances leave and hope this is not the end of his Yankee career.
We may not have Betances but, knock on wood, we do have Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton. I am glad to have both of them back and despite his health challenges this year (and poor results last October), I am glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee. He can make a difference for this team and I am glad he’s here, healthy and ready to contribute. Stanton takes such an undeserved beating on Social Media. I hope his bat shuts up the naysayers in the coming weeks. I’d rather have Stanton in left field over Clint Frazier, Cameron Maybin, or Tyler Wade. Not bashing Wade, who has made me a believer he should be on the post-season roster with his versatility and speed, but Stanton is clearly the best left field option available. That would be the case even if other guys like Mike Tauchman and Aaron Hicks (which would push Brett Gardner back into the left field conversation) were healthy.
|Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images|
Speaking of healthy, the Yankees are expected to get Edwin Encarnación back this week, most likely when the team travels to Arlington, Texas to take on the Texas Rangers for the regular season’s final series next weekend. Glad to see the Parrot will ride again. Speaking of Texas, it is sad the series will close out Globe Life Park in Arlington, at least in terms of baseball.
I lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area when the stadium opened in 1994. I remember watching so many games at the old Arlington Stadium (Don Mattingly loved hitting there), but the new stadium helped usher in the new era of retro baseball stadiums. Camden Yards stands out as the park that broke the mold, but Globe Life Park followed in support. It was known by many names over the years. I knew it as The Ballpark in Arlington and can remember how majestic it looked the first time I walked up to it. The stadium had subsequent names like Ameriquest Field and Rangers Ballpark before receiving its current name in 2014. After the final baseball game is played, the current stadium will be re-configured for football, becoming the home of the upcoming XFL Dallas Renegades. The Rangers will open their new park, Globe Life Field, which is adjacent to the current stadium, next season.
The health news for Gary Sanchez has been favorable and if the Yankees do not get him back in Texas, he should be ready for the ALDS which is good thing. I think Austin Romine has done a fine job but going to war, I want El Gary in the trenches.
Heading into October, I wish the Yankees were playing as hotly as the Oakland A’s and the Milwaukee Brewers but there’s time. Just as Masahiro Tanaka elevates his game when the stakes are increased, so goes the 2019 New York Yankees. When October play begins, I have no doubt the Yankees will be prepared and ready to prove supremacy. Whether they are successful remains to be seen, but it won’t be for lack of trying. This team is on a mission to prove they are the best.
I was a little surprised yesterday when the San Diego Padres announced they had relieved manager Andy Green of his duties. I guess if I had been following the Padres closely, I would have seen the handwriting on the wall. Green can probably relate to how Buck Showalter felt when he was fired by the Yankees after the 1995 season or how Joe Girardi felt when his Yankees contract was not renewed after the 2017 season. The next manager of the Padres is going to inherit a talented ball club with a very strong farm system ready to bear fruit. It seems more likely Joe Girardi would go to Chicago, if there’s an opening after the season, or possibly to the crosstown Mets, but I think San Diego would be a golden opportunity for Girardi if there’s mutual interest. With such great potential in San Diego, the Padres should have plenty of strong candidates for their opening. The pressure is on Padres GM A.J. Preller. He has to get this one right.
I thought it might be the end of the road for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly but CEO Derek Jeter and company extended Donnie Baseball with a two-year contract and a mutual option for 2022. It is believed that Mattingly took a pay cut to stay with the cost-conscious Marlins. Record-wise, Mattingly hasn’t fared any better than the above-mentioned Andy Green, but he’ll get a chance to oversee the growth of the Marlins and their improving farm system (under the direction of former Yankee executive Gary Denbo). The prospects for the Marlins may not be as great as the Padres in the near future but Mattingly has long been one of my favorites and I think he’ll do a good job with the young talent posed to flow through Miami. As for this season, Mattingly helmed a club that lost 100 games (the Marlins are 53-101 as I type this post). After the “teardown” that followed Jeter’s arrival, it is not unexpected. But from here, I suspect Jeter will do what it takes to restore the Marlins to prominence. As much as I hate to see Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mattingly outside of the Yankees organization, I do wish them good luck with the rebuild.
|Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky, AP|
Well, as pesky as the Toronto Blue Jays have been for the Yankees, I am hopeful the Yankees can end the season series today with a win. It’s exciting to see what Luis Severino has in store for his second game of the 2019 season. Hopefully he goes deep into the game to build up his endurance and puts the team in position for their 102nd victory. A front three of James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and Sevy is very exciting as the calendar page prepares to turn.
As always, Go Yankees!
|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!
|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.
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
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
|Credit: Mike Stobe-Getty Images|
Yankees 5, Red Sox 4…
|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.
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!
|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!