Tagged: Don Mattingly

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!

Michael, a Few Home Runs and Instant Replay…

Credit:  Bill Kostroun

Yankees 4, Royals 2…

In a season when Masahiro Tanaka has forgotten how to throw his splitter and slider, only to see his fastball regularly deposited into outfield bleachers, Michael Pineda has stepped up to be “the man”.  Down early 2-0 to the Kansas City Royals, it would have been the point where Pineda collapsed like a cheap suit in years past.  But these are not years past and Michael Pineda no longer contributes to an avalanche parade.  

When Brett Gardner homered in the bottom of the third, it felt like everything was under control even though the Yanks still trailed by one.  With one on in the fourth, Didi Gregorius decided it was much better to lead than follow, launching a homer to right center to put the Yanks in front.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

Pineda made it into the seventh inning.  After striking out Jorge Bonifacio, who had homered for the Royals earlier in the game, Pineda gave up a single to former Cub Jorge Soler.  It was the end of Pineda’s night.  

With Adam Warren on the mound, Soler took second on a wild pitch.  Following a flyout by Whit Merrifield, the Royals appeared to tie the game at 3 when Alcides Escobar hit a grounder to Starlin Castro.  Escobar was ruled safe at first, beating an off-balance throw from Castro.  Soler scored on the play.  The Yankees challenged the call and the Baseball Gods were smiling favorably on the Pinstripes.  The decision at first was overturned, the inning was over, and the run scored by Soler was erased.  All I can say it was incredibly close.

Leading off the bottom of the seventh, Chris Carter boldly let his bat say, “This is why you hired me” with a blast to left-center.  So, instead of a 3-3 game just minutes earlier, the score was suddenly 4-2.  A nice reversal of fortune.  

From there, the Yankees bullpen shut the Royals down.  Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances each delivered a scoreless inning of relief, and Betances struck out Jorge Soler to end the game, picking up his third save.

For the game, Pineda (5-2) pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and two runs, while walking one and striking out six.  It wasn’t a clean start but it was the continuation of the strong, consistent version of the Michael Pineda that we’ve literally been waiting years to see.  

The win allowed the Yankees (26-16) to move a game and a half in front of the Baltimore Orioles who were throttled 14-7 at Camden Yards by the Minnesota Twins in a 21-hit attack.  The Boston Red Sox had the night off so they slipped four and half games back.  

Bronx Fury, South Beach Version…

A pair of ex-Yankees squared off on Friday night in Miami.  Marlins manager Don Mattingly took offense to something Los Angeles Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren yelled to Marlins closer A.J. Ramos.  “If he is going to yell and scream at our guys, the he is going to have to go through me”, said Mattingly, who was ejected in the bench-clearing stand-off.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times

Mattingly and Geren were Yankees teammates from 1988 to 1991.  

Credit:  Getty Images

I feel badly for Mattingly.  He is in the midst of a very poor season in Miami and he was facing the team that he once managed.  I am not sure that Mattingly will survive the season and he is probably gone if the sale of the Marlins goes through (even if one of the potential new owners is Derek Jeter) unless he can turn things around very quickly.  Mattingly remains my favorite manager but these are not the best of times.

Umm, no, thank you…

Yesterday, Joe Giglio of NJ Advance Media, quoting an article that appeared on SportsNet.ca, floated the possibility of the Yankees as suitors for third baseman Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays.  I do not dispute that Donaldson is a great player but it doesn’t make sense to me.  Donaldson is 31 and the Yankees, regardless of the great start this year, are still one to two years away from true World Series contention.  Sure, crazier things have happened, but it doesn’t make sense to me to part with talented young prospects for a guy that is on the wrong side of 30.  

Manny Machado should remain the target.  I am not enamored with Chase Headley covering third until if/when we can get Machado but I don’t think the Yankees are either.  With the call-up of infielder Gleyber Torres to AAA, he is positioning himself for an appearance in the Bronx later this year or at the latest, next spring.  I’d gladly take Starlin Castro at third (over Headley) to make room for Torres at second.  The path to Machado will be costly in terms of dollars but it retains the wealth of prospects within the organization.  If the Yankees lose out on Machado, then they’ll need to look at Plan B.  I am still optimistic that Miguel Andujar can be a solution within the next couple of years.  Let the Boston Red Sox further deplete their farm system for Donaldson and add another player that will be ready for social security in a couple of years.

So, count me out if trying to decide whether or not to bring Donaldson to the Yankees.

All Rise, now entering Right Field, the Honorable Judge, Aaron…

The Yankees have climbed aboard the Judge Train with the rest of us.  They’ve unveiled a new area wrapped around the three rows in the back of Section 104 in right field aptly named “The Judge’s Chambers”.  Selected fans, with preference to those wearing Aaron Judge jerseys, will temporarily be given black robes adorned by #99 on the back while sitting the special area during games.  I guess it beats having a bad tasting candy bar named after you…

Credit:  Ben Walker/AP

Have a great Tuesday!  Let’s keep this winning feeling going!

Guilty of Playing Favorites…

There have been better Yankees than Derek Jeter.  Yes, I said it…

I know I should not say any disparaging words about Jeter but for as many fans as he had during his playing days, he was just not one of my favorites.  Sorry guys and more importantly, gals.  I liked the player and enjoyed his time, but probably more so in the earlier part of his career.  When everyone was wearing #2 jerseys, I was just not feeling it.  Throughout the last Yankees dynasty, my favorite player was Mariano Rivera.  So, basically from the time he started until he walked off the field for the final time, Mo was my favorite Yankee.  Well, I guess I should say that he didn’t technically become my favorite until 1996 when he zinging bullets in front of closer John Wetteland.  Up to 1995, my favorite was Donnie Baseball.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed watching Jeter’s final days and the memorable last game at Yankee Stadium.  I’ll watch on Sunday with interest as the Yankees retire #2 to Monument Park.  I’ll be thankful for his time in pinstripes, and he’ll not be forgotten.  He just wasn’t one of my favorites, that’s all.  Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte…loved those guys when they wore pinstripes.  I can’t put a finger on it but I’ve never  felt the same way about Jeter.  For all his faults, I even loved Darryl Strawberry.  His home run swing is still one of my all-time favorites.  Maybe this is why it is easier for me to accept the fact that Jeter might be part of the ownership and management team for the Miami Marlins.  At that point, he’ll just be another dude.  No different than Brian Sabean, Dick Tidrow and Dave Righetti in San Francisco except that he’ll have an ownership stake in his team.  I am sure that Jeter will pull for the Yankees as long as they are not playing the Marlins but you know if they do meet, Jeter will be pulling out every stop to beat Baseball’s most storied franchise.  

I was glad when Jeter was finally out of the way and we were able to upgrade, first defensively and later offensively, with Didi Gregorius.  It was time for change.  I am sure the day will come when I’ll be glad to see Didi’s replacement. Unfortunately, all of us are adversely afflicted with aging.  Well, except for maybe Betty White.

I am not trying to offend anyone.  It’s simply a case that all of us are entitled to our own opinions.

I’ve been aware of Jeter since he was an 18-year-old from Kalamazoo, Michigan, picked 6th overall in the 1992 MLB Draft.  It was a great long successful career.  But there is nothing in the Yankees Fan Rule Book that says he had to be one of my favorites.  I always thought the crowds Jeter would draw at baseball games were somewhat humorous.  Women swooned in his presence and maybe a few guys.  He now lives a life in a mansion in Florida and is married to one of the most beautiful women in the world.  He obviously has excess cash to spend as part of the ownership group seeking to purchase the Marlins.  He lives in a world that I’ll never know or understand.  Pardon me, but I’d rather cheer for Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez on Sunday.  Enjoy your day, Derek.  Lou Gehrig had it wrong.  You’re the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

Since I seem to be on a negative roll today, I’ll go ahead and include Carlos Beltran.  Despite Beltran’s interest in returning to the Yankees in the off-season, I am thankful that he opted to grab the one-year, $16 million deal from the Houston Astros.  Beltran did a fine job as a Yankee and he was arguably our best hitter the first part of last year, but I strongly prefer Aaron Judge in right field (the obvious no-brainer) and Matt Holliday at DH.  I have absolutely no issue with the Yankees for not engaging Beltran in talks during his free agency period last November-December.  His present team might be one of our biggest roadblocks to October but I had/have no interest in a reunion tour with Beltran.

The Yankees fell to the Houston Astros 3-2 last night in the first game of a four game set.  This series is one of the major tests to determine if the Yankees are for real.  I knew, looking at the pitching matchup, this was going to be the hardest one with Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel on the mound.  In picking up his sixth win of the year, Keuchel dominated the Yankees as he always does.  In 50 2/3 innings, he has only allowed seven Yankees to cross home plate.  CC Sabathia would let teams do that every game if Joe Girardi allowed him to go deeper into games.  For the game, Keuchel went six innings.  He only gave up 5 hits and allowed an unearned run.  He walked one and struck out nine.  As tough as Keuchel was, the Yankees had their chances.

It didn’t help that the Astros jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning before many people had even gotten to their seats.  The first hit of the game was a double by Josh Reddick that fell between Didi Gregorius and Jacoby Ellsbury.  It was a play that Ellsbury should have called but didn’t, leading Didi to attempt a failed catch with his back turned.  With two outs, Carlos Correa homered to center, scoring Reddick.  The Yankees were never able to recover.

I certainly do not place any blame with Michael Pineda.  He did his job.  He gave up three runs over 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and a walk.  He struck out seven.  

With the bases loaded in the fifth and two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury was credited with an RBI on catcher’s interference (his bat hit Brian McCann’s glove).  It was the 28th catcher’s inference that Ellsbury has accumulated over his career, trailing Pete Rose by one.  Gary Sanchez grounded out to end the threat, leaving the bases loaded (one of the game’s missed opportunities).

The Yankees couldn’t get anything going against Chris Devenski, who replaced Keuchel in the seventh inning.  Devenski has been one of Baseball’s best setup men so far this young season.  But opportunity presented itself in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Yankees trailing 3-1.  With two outs, the Yankees had runners at second (Ellsbury) and third (Aaron Hicks) against Astros closer Ken Giles.  Gary Sanchez hit a single to left, scoring Hicks.  Third base coach Joe Espada also sent Ellsbury, but a perfect strike from left fielder Jake Marisnick to Brian McCann nailed Ells at the plate to end the game.

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees fell to 21-11, allowing the Baltimore Orioles to re-take sole possession of first place in the AL East by a half-game (the O’s were off).  On the bright side, we won’t be seeing Keuchel again this series.  Tonight’s matchup will be tough as young Lance McCullers, Jr has performed well so far this year (2-1, 3.40 ERA).  The Yankees counter with Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 3.81 ERA).  

Have a great Friday!  Time to show the Astros that we are for real!

3 Minus 1 Equals 2…

Credit:  Globe Staff/John Tlumacki

Impressive math skills, huh?  With Tuesday’s rain-out, the 2017 opening Yankees-Red Sox series becomes a two game affair.  It plays havoc with a wager I hold every year with a die-hard Red Sox fan.  Years ago, when we were both bloggers, we started making bets on every series.  Over the years, I’ve had to wear Red Sox caps in photos (including a pink one one year), write long posts about past and present Red Sox players, and sport Red Sox-related profile pics through social media.  My friend no longer blogs so the current bets tend to revolve around FaceBook profile and cover pics.  With only two games, a split means the win goes to the team with the most runs scored.  The loser has to use a Red Sox player as their FaceBook profile pic for three days under the current bet.  So, I have a vested interest in the Yankees to take this series.  Yes, it’s all about me.

The rained out game will be made up on Sunday, July 16th as part of a day-night double-header.   The scheduled starters are pushed back a day so Luis Severino takes the mound today against AL Cy Young Award Winner Rick “Justin Verlander Deserved It More” Porcello while Masahiro Tanaka, in the series marquee matchup, faces Chris Sale on Thursday.  CC Sabathia becomes an observer for this series, with a probable early flight back to New York for Friday’s start against the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles.

It’s raining again today in Boston but hopefully the rain gods will make way for the 7:10 pm EDT start time to allow a few hours of clear skies.  Oh yeah, this is Yankees-Red Sox, better make that four hours of clear skies.

I am not sure what I think about the possibility of Derek Jeter becoming an owner in Major League Baseball.  As Bloomberg reported yesterday, the group led by former Presidential candidate and Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Jeter won the auction for exclusive negotiating rights to buy the Miami Marlins.  The sides still have to hammer out a formal written agreement that must be approved by MLB owners, but I do not see any roadblocks to the eventual sale.  

I suppose that all things considered, it would have been worse for Jeter to buy his local Tampa Bay Rays.  Under that scenario, the Yankees would have had to face a Jeter-owned team 19 times a year in the fight for the American League East.  With Jeter owning a National League team, the Yankees won’t face the Marlins except for every few years in inter-league play.  There’s the possibility that the Yankees could face the Jeter-owned Marlins in the World Series at some point.  But for the most part, they won’t step foot on the same field at the same time.  So, this is probably the best situation for Jeter’s dream to be a Major League owner, particularly considering the Steinbrenner Family has no interest in selling the Yankees.  

It was tough to watch Don Mattingly, a lifetime Yankee, put on another team’s jersey.  If I have a second favorite or National League favorite team, it is probably the Los Angeles Dodgers (okay, not probably, it is).  Mattingly as an assistant coach for Joe Torre in Los Angeles and then later the manager was very palatable.  I was fortunate to live in Los Angeles during the Mattingly regime and I enjoyed having a long-time favorite player as manager of the local team.  I remain a fan of Mattingly’s even though he now calls Miami home, but it’s weird.  I am hopeful that he finds his way back home to Yankee Stadium one day.  I do not know Jeter’s intended ownership percentage or how active he will be as the face of the organization.  Unlike Mattingly, he won’t be putting on a Marlins uniform so technically the Yankees uniform should remain his only one.  Magic Johnson is one of the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers but activity-wise, he is a bigger part of the Los Angeles Lakers.  Will Jeter take that type of passive ownership role or will he be the front man for the team like Denver Broncos non-owner John Elway?  I can’t really see Jeb Bush taking a backseat to Jeter unless Jeter has the greater ownership interest.  These are the things that will shake themselves out in the course of the coming days, weeks and months.  Congrats to Jeter for apparent achievement of his lifelong dream.  I hope he still finds time to visit the old stomping grounds on occasion.  

Credit:  Getty Images

I saw an article today on the YES Network asking if the Yankees should protect James Kaprielian on the 40-man roster next year in advance of the 2018 Rule 5 Draft.  I want to say now, they had better make room.  This should not even be a discussion.  I will be very upset if the Yankees do not add him to the 40-man next year and risk losing him.  I was mad about the sequence of events that led to Jacob Lindgren signing with the Atlanta Braves.  I hope we do not have a repeat situation with Kaprielian.  I know that he has been plagued by injuries and his body of work in the minor leagues is fairly slim, but he is a top talent.  If, I know…ifs and buts…, if he can stay healthy, I really feel that he’ll be a high end starter in the rotation.  I am steadfastly a fan of Kaprielian’s and I look forward to the day he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium.

The San Diego Padres, who had been carrying three catchers including Rule 5 draftee Luis Torrens (from the Yankees), demoted one of the catchers to AAA.  Starter Austin Hedges has played very well this year.  The catcher sent to AAA, Christian Bethancourt, was attempting to be a combo pitcher/catcher.  The demotion leaves the soon-to-be 21 year-old Torrens as the primary backup for Hedges.  In reality, Torrens should be no higher than A or AA so I am optimistic that events will force the Padres to upgrade backup catching to more seasoned talent to pave the way for the return of Torrens to New York.   But as each month goes by, the chances decrease.  Time will tell.

Have a great Wednesday!  I hope it’s a dry one!

The March to Opening Day…

How will the Yankees “manage” potential change?…

Will Joe Girardi be the Yankees manager this time next year?  As the manager enters the final year of his contract, the expectation is that he’ll re-sign with the Yankees in October or November.  But anything is possible.  The Steinbrenner family might have a change of heart and decide that a change is needed.  Girardi has held the job for a long time (this will be his 10th season as Yankees skipper).

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Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

I get frustrated with Girardi at times.  He’s never been one of my favorite managers.  I had greater confidence in Joe Torre’s ability to lead.  Among current managers, I hold Don Mattingly and Terry “Tito” Francona in highest regard.

Mattingly was my favorite player so sentimentally that’s probably why he is my favorite manager.  In 2008, when the Yankees hired Girardi over Mattingly, I did think it was the right decision given Mattingly’s lack of managerial experience at the time.  Mattingly was not able to succeed in Los Angeles for the Dodgers, but I’ve felt he has continually improved each year.  Today, I’d easily take Mattingly over Girardi.  My only reservation with hiring Mattingly as Yankees manager (assuming the Yankees could pry him from Miami) is preservation of his Yankees legacy.  Managers are hired to be fired or so the saying goes.  I wouldn’t want my final memory of Mattingly in pinstripes to be him walking away after being fired.

I have admired Francona since he was manager of the Boston Red Sox.  I had great respect for the champions he built and of course he was responsible for ending The Curse of the Bambino, along with then general manager Theo Epstein.  I doubt that Francona would ever leave the Cleveland Indians (by his own choice).  The Yankees could have hired him after he was fired in Boston but they did not express any interest.  Francona has history with the Cleveland Indians franchise (pre-dating his time in Boston), and after taking the team to the World Series last year, he is very beloved in the city.

If the Yankees do decide to make a managerial change at the end of the season, I just don’t see any overwhelming candidates who could do a better job.  Mattingly would be great, but he is under contract, so it would take a trade to make it happen.  I am not enthused by simply elevating one of the coaches (Rob Thomson or Tony Pena).

This situation bears watching over the course of the season.  I think the odds are much better that GM Brian Cashman, also in the final year of a contract, re-signs with the Yankees than Girardi.  Time will tell.

Let the competition be Judged…

The Yankees have various degrees of competition at certain positions this spring.  The most obvious is the two open spots in the pitching rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.  The early leaders, in my opinion, are Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  But there is still time for Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and perhaps Adam Warren to state their case.  I am anxious and excited for Jordan Montgomery and James Kaprielian but it does not appear to be their times yet.  Kaprielian has the higher ceiling but he won’t make an appearance at Yankee Stadium, barring injuries, until September at the earliest.  Montgomery could show up sooner and might be the first or second option if someone gets hurt.

MONTGOMERY

The competition at first base evaporated somewhat when Tyler Austin broke his foot.  Greg Bird clearly holds the advantage over Chris Carter despite the latter’s 41 home runs last season.  Unlike Carter, Bird is good defensively (even if he’s not on par with former first baseman Mark Teixeira’s glove) and hits for average.  As Bird has shown this spring, he still has his power following last year’s injury.

Right field was also a speculated position of competition.  Most assume that Aaron Judge will get the job, but technically, he is in competition with Aaron Hicks.  Judge has a much greater upside, but he did strike out 42 out of 84 times late last season.  If he is not able to make the necessary adjustments at the big league level, it could open the door for Hicks to take the job.  I personally hope it does not happen.  I am hopeful that Judge figures it out at this level like he has at every level thus far.

The flaming red hair is left on the barbershop floor…

Kudos to OF Clint Frazier for cutting his bushy red hair this week.  While I personally feel that the Yankees current hair policy is outdated, I thought it was a good move by Frazier to cut his hair after a talk with Manager Joe Girardi.  Girardi felt that the hair had become a distraction.  It was a mature statement by Frazier in saying that he loved playing for the organization more than his hair.

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Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Frazier won’t break camp with the Yankees, but he’ll be there soon enough.  This is all part of his maturation into a dynamic young future star outfielder for the Pinstripers.

There’s other baseball on TV…

I should probably watch the WBC more but I’ve never been into it.  Still, I fully understand the importance of placing Baseball on the World Stage and should reconsider my complacency.  I guess I am just get tired of seeing the Dominican Republic or Japan always win the competition.

Regardless, it was fun to see the USA defeat Columbia, 3-2, on a run-scoring single by Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles.  Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard picked up the win.  The game featured a very strong start by Jose Quintana for Columbia.  The rumors continue to swirl about Quintana’s future and the Yankees remain one of the potential destinations.  His WBC performance yesterday did nothing to dispel those rumors.

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Credit:  Logan Bowles, USA TODAY Sports

Have a great weekend, everyone!

—Scott

If at First you don’t succeed…

He has swing and miss ability!…

My first thought hearing the news (allegedly, as there has been no official announcement yet) that the Yankees signed free agent first baseman Chris Carter was the team had captured last year’s strikeout leader.  Great if the signing was for a pitcher, but not so great when it is a hitter.

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Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Still, for a team with questions at first base, the signing makes some sense.  It’s not a given that Greg Bird will pick up where he left off in 2015 given that he missed most of last year due to injury (playing only in the Arizona Fall League).

The other first base candidate (Tyler Austin) was completely off the Yankees’ radar last off-season.  He had a surprisingly good year to recapture prospect status and came up with some big hits in the Bronx at the end of the year.  But he is not the second coming of Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi or Mark Teixeira.

Carter will end many innings with strikeouts, but the potential for the big smash to win games is there.  He provides help from the bench if Bird captures first with a strong Spring performance or is there for a platoon if necessary.  He also provides insurance at DH for Matt Holliday who has spent a fair amount of time on the DL over the last few years.

For only $3.5 million (and one year), Carter is a good investment.  He can play his way into a new contract with the Yankees or the parties can decide to part ways at the end of the year which fits with Hal Steinbrenner’s desire to get under the luxury tax threshold next year.

We’ve been spoiled by great first basemen over the years, but I didn’t enjoy the various Teixeira ailments that plagued the team in recent years.  I am hopeful that Bird grabs the position and runs with it.  Carter will be there for insurance.

 

Wanted:  Starting Pitchers…

I had been hopeful the Yankees would sign a veteran pitcher to bring to camp but it doesn’t look like it will happen.  Jason Hammel had been my choice, but he recently signed with the Kansas City Royals as they attempt to recover from the devastating passing of Yordano Ventura.  Doug Fister is still out there, but I don’t think he’ll be coming in for the Yankees.  So, it looks like the Yankees will fill the two open spots in the rotation with in-house candidates.  Clearly, they have to be hoping for a rebound by Luis Severino who failed miserably as a starter last year (finding success only in the bullpen).  But with off-season work with Pedro Martinez, maybe Sevy can show he is capable of becoming a good starter at the major league level.

I would love for James Kaprielian to take the other spot, but I recognize that he is not ready yet.  He’ll need more time in the minors and might get a chance later in the year.  Luis Cessa and Chad Green will be given every opportunity, but Jordan Montgomery is quickly becoming my favorite.  Last year, he pitched to a 2.95 ERA in 19 starts with AA Trenton, and then 0.97 in just 6 starts with AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre.  At 6-6, he is a formidable presence on the mound with the pitches to match.  His time may be now.  Severino and Montgomery have the potential to make the back end of the Yankees rotation quite strong, which would certainly help the question marks that exist in the front end.

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Credit:  Jason Farmer/Scranton Times Tribune

It’s exciting that baseball is almost back.  Pitchers and catchers will report on Valentine’s Day (that must have made a bunch of wives and girlfriends very happy) so we’re only days away.  It seems like it wasn’t that long ago Aroldis Chapman was on the mound winning a World Series.  It will be good to see him back in blue (well, a darker shade of blue than we last saw him in).  The excitement of spring training and the limitless possibilities it brings is fun.

Welcome back, Yankees!

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Sad Day for Detroit and all of Major League Baseball…

On a final note, my deepest sympathy and condolences to the Detroit Tigers, their fans, and the family of their late owner Mike Ilitch who passed away yesterday.  He was great for the Tigers and for the city of Detroit.  He will be missed.  It’s unfortunate that he was unable to see a Tigers championship or the opening of the new Little Caesars Arena for his other team, the Detroit Red Wings.

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Credit:  MLB.com

—Scott

Waiting patiently for the Cavalry…

A week’s worth of crickets…

For excited as I was for the Baseball Winter Meetings, it was a very unfulfilling time for Yankees fans.  The AL East got stronger as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays made significant improvements, and the Baltimore Orioles, while they didn’t make a move, are still a better team on paper.

Losing David Robertson hurt.  I fully recognize that not even the Yankees should be paying multiple guys in the pen $12+ million per year so I understand the decision to let Robertson walk after signing last year’s prized lefty Andrew Miller.  Still, when I saw those words, “White Sox to sign David Robertson”, it was a painful sight to see.

David Robertson mug

USA Today Sports

Part of me, for a few days, imagined a bullpen with Robertson, Betances, and Miller for manager Joe Girardi and the limitless possibilities.  After watching the Kansas City Royals and their stellar pen, it was hard not to dream of a similar equation for the Yankees.  With so many question marks in the rotation, a ‘lights out’ bullpen is a must.  With Robertson gone, there’s no reason why the Yankees still can’t have a superior bullpen.  But losing Robertson does show that we care about our tenured players.  Well, except when their name is Alex Rodriguez.

I am in favor of naming Dellin Betances as the team’s closer in spring training.  I think Miller will be great as the primary setup guy and the earlier innings are in great hands with Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and others.  A year ago, there were questions about Robertson’s ability to close.  His attempt to close in 2012 when Mariano Rivera got hurt was unsuccessful.  The team ultimately went to Rafael Soriano who held the role for the duration of the season.

Mariano Rivera was an exception.  Most guys are unable to pitch at the level required to close for an extended period of time.  The days of Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are over.  From a financial standpoint, it makes the most sense to have a shorter term view when it comes to a closer so that you don’t get locked into a bad contract (a la Jonathan Papelbon) as the closer ages and naturally deteriorates.  Robertson may still be playing at a very high level in four years, but equally, there’s a chance that he is not.  He always seems to pitch in and out of trouble, but as he ages, his ability to get out of those jams may not quite be there.  He’ll evolve as a pitcher and I am sure that he’ll make the necessary adjustments, but at the end of the day, the Yankees are better off not being locked into Robertson for four years at $48 million.  Betances showed that he is the team’s future closer.  Next year may be a bit premature, but it was inevitable.

The most important thing for the Yankees is to now re-invest the $12 million per year savings into other areas.  Bring back Chase Headley.  Possibly sign a short term closing alternative like Jason Grilli.  Make a run for Max Scherzer.  But the key is to do something.  The Yankees, as they presently stand, will not win in October.

 

How much?  See ya…

Speaking of bad contracts, I was blown away by the commitment the Los Angeles Dodgers made to Brandon McCarthy.  I thought McCarthy was a great pickup last season and hoped the Yankees could re-sign him to a team friendly deal.  But like Robertson, I am glad the Yankees did not commit those years and dollars to McCarthy.  He is a huge injury risk and in the Dodgers case, McCarthy failed last year in the NL West when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  While I hope McCarthy has a great Dodgers career, my fear is that he and the team’s DL list will become good buddies.  I hope I’m wrong but baseball generally proves ‘past performance equals future results’…

Slowly but surely…

The week preceding the Baseball Winter Meetings was good.  The Yankees acquired their 2015 shortstop with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius and the aforementioned lefty artist Andrew Miller, dominant against both righties and lefties.  It was a good start but the team obviously still has much work to do before spring.

I hear so many Yankees fans say that Gregorius is not Derek Jeter.  Nothing against Jeter, but I’d rather see a 24 year old Gregorius starting at short over a 41 year old Jeter.  Gregorius may not be the player Jeter was in his prime, but Jeter wasn’t in his prime anymore and the Yankees had to do something to improve following Jeter’s retirement.  So, to me, Gregorius is his own man in the position.  It is up to him to succeed or fail, without regard to Jeter.  I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, but I gave Tino Martinez a chance from his first at-bat and his early struggles did not waver my support.  Tino turned out to be one of my most beloved players over the years and I never compared him to Mattingly.

It is possible that Gregorius fails.  If so, the Yankees move on to another option.  ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’.  But at this point in time, it is his time.  Let’s give him a chance…

Paul Ruhter/Gazette Staff

All I want for Christmas is…

Now if we could just send A-Rod anyway.  I know, it’s not that easy.  The most expensive DH/bench player in baseball history.  It’s too bad those dollars can’t be re-directed to a guy like Max Scherzer.  Maybe some challenges are too much for even the Yankees to overcome.  But I’d love to have the money the Yankees have probably spent trying to find a way.

–Scott