|Photo Credit: The New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
Pitchers and Catchers Report on Wednesday…
Here we are. The final weekend before pitchers and catchers report and Major League Baseball officially kicks off preparations for the 2019 season. Many players have already made their way to Tampa and have been seen in their informal workouts on the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field and signing autographs as they depart the hallowed grounds of 1 Steinbrenner Drive.
|Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram|
I always enjoy the opening of Spring Training. So much excitement for the new season, everyone’s healthy (for the most part), and after no Major League baseball since last October, the gang’s back together again to make another run at the American League championship and the ultimate goal of winning the World Series. Of course, the feeling starts to fade in a couple of weeks when we are anxiously and impatiently awaiting the start of the regular season but for now it’s a thrilling experience.
The past week saw another round of rumors surrounding Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While both young superstars remain unsigned, there is continued speculation the Yankees could make a play for one of the players if the price falls into their comfort zone. The words of Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner this week while attending the owner’s meeting in Orlando did not dispel the rumors. I know, he can’t say the Yankees are out because of the CBA, but he somewhat flamed the rumors by not counting the Yankees out on any moves they might make in the coming days.
Steinbrenner made the comment, “If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, that’s just false”. In my opinion, the Yankees have not been cheap. If anything, my frustration is simply the allocation of dollars that have been spent. I like DJ LeMahieu but with all honesty, the team would have been better with Manny Machado than LeMahieu. There’s been word (no official confirmation) the Yankees floated a concept of 7 or 8 years for around $220 million when they met with Machado in December. If true, Machado’s agent should have used it as a starting point for more serious negotiations. It didn’t happen, and the team quickly pivoted to LeMahieu. I don’t feel Steinbrenner is being cheap but conversely I don’t feel that he’s putting the best possible team on the field. Maybe signing Machado is not meant to be or if he really wanted to be a Yankee, he would be one by now. Regardless of events, I can’t help feel a little disappointment that neither Machado nor Harper are making flight plans for Tampa.
At various points of the off-season, the Yankees have called Brett Gardner the starting leftfielder and Troy Tulowitzki the starting shortstop. I don’t buy either claim. At this point in his career, Gardy helps this team the best as its fourth outfielder. He is not the player he once was. Age happens to all of us, except for maybe Tom Brady or Mariano Rivera. Perhaps Clint “The Wildling” Frazier proves the injuries and concussions are behind him and he finally fulfills the promise he’s held for a few years now. I have no problem rolling out Frazier as the starter if he proves in Tampa over the next few weeks that he is ready. Personally, I’d prefer it if Frazier can take the job from Gardner because it means he has proven he can be better.
As for Tulo, I just can’t shake the feeling he is done. Realistically, I am not expecting much from him. I think he’ll be very rusty in Spring Training, and I don’t see him as an every day starter once the team moves north to the Bronx. It feels too much like trying to “catch lightning in a bottle”. The infield is much stronger, in my opinion, with current two-year consecutive Wilson Defensive Player of the Year DJ LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres sliding to shortstop until the great Didi Gregorius is ready to return.
|Photo Credit: Didi Gregorius via Instagram|
But despite Plan B’s that make sense with the current roster and invitees, the Yankees can be a better team with Harper or Machado. Of the two, Harper makes the most sense. Aside from the left-handed bat that he’d bring to the lineup, he represents a great option for left field, keeping Giancarlo Stanton in the healthier role as DH, and Harper could potentially develop as a first baseman. I know, you don’t pay a guy hundreds of millions of dollars to see if he can play a new position but Bryce would represent such a great resource for the Yankees in their drive to dethrone the Boston Red Sox. For Hal, Harper will increase tickets sales, both at home and on the road. If the Yankees are successful in reacquiring controlling interest in the YES Network, Harper would be a primary face and draw attraction for the team. He is a popular player, perhaps one of the most popular in the game outside of Mike Trout. This is not meant as a slam to Aaron Judge who I feel is one of the greatest players in the game, but Harper unquestionably has more fans outside of the Yankees Universe.
|Photo Credit: USATSI|
I am still a major fan of Manny Machado but I recognize that his presence would adversely impact Miguel Andujar. Nevertheless, the Yankees should not decide to pursue Machado because of Andujar because Machado is clearly the better overall player. But under that scenario, the Yankees would need to move Andujar to left field or first base or trade him for top starting pitching as we’ve talked about ad nauseam this off-season. Putting Harper in left keeps Andujar at third with the potential to see if he has improved his defensive game and allowing LeMahieu to slide over to the corner for support if necessary.
My desire to add either Harper or Machado will not die until the players sign somewhere, anywhere. Once that happens and if it is not in the Bronx, we’ll move on. The 2019 New York Yankees will be a very good team with or without Harp-Chado. If the Yankees do not sign either player, I’ll undoubtedly look at it as missed opportunity (the “missed” chance to turn the team from very good to great) but I’ll support the current roster with full force and vigor as we all will.
I am really enjoying Adam Ottavino as a Yankee. His ‘This or That’ videos on Instagram with his wife feeding him questions from off-screen have been stellar. Given he is a lifelong Yankee fan like us makes him so relatable, outside of the fact that he’s 6’5”, ruggedly handsome, throws a nasty slider, lives in a beautiful Manhattan apartment with an overview of the city, has an adorable wife and family, and makes millions of dollars per year.
I like that Otto’s first pic upon arriving in Tampa this week was to take a picture of the famed George Steinbrenner statue outside of Steinbrenner Field.
|Photo Credit: Adam Ottavino via Instagram|
Ottavino understands the history of the franchise better than most through his childhood fandom. He recently mentioned that his favorite Yankee hitter was Bernie Williams and fave pitcher was Jimmy Key. There’s probably guys on the team who don’t even know who Jimmy Key is. I respect both of those choices.
After being known for years as Zach Britton, I was surprised the reliever formally announced that he’d be known by the proper “Zack” going forward. Not so much the correction of his name to match how he uses it and the name which appears on his birth certificate but rather why it took so many years for him to do it. I am sure that I’ll type Zach a time or two this season. Personally, with no offense to any Zack’s reading this, but I prefer the “ch” version of the name. It sounds more sophisticated, IMO. But hey, it’s not my name. Britton has the right to call himself whatever he wants. If he wants to go by “Fluffy”, that’s fine by me. I guess I’ll get used to the new spelling in time. Speaking of Britton, I didn’t realize that his brother Buck was a manager in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system. Buck Britton managed the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds to a 68-66 record in 2018. For this season, he’s been elevated to manager of the Double-A Bowie Baysox. Not that I expect Zack to ever get over his love for Birdland, but his brother’s presence in the Orioles organization continues to give him ties to his former roots.
I mention it every year but I’ll continue to do it until there are changes. The Yankees need to revisit their facial hair policy. I don’t want to see the uncontrolled beards like Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers wears each season or Johnny Damon’s “Caveman” look during his days in Boston, but with controlled guidelines, there’s no reason guys like Luis Severino should not be allowed to wear beards like this:
|Photo Credit: YES Network|
I know the Yankees stick to the policy out of respect for the late George Steinbrenner but times have changed. I do not feel that short, trimmed facial hair detracts from the brand. It seems like all of the Yankee players are sporting some type of facial hair during the off-season. And very often when Yankee players are traded elsewhere, the first thing they do is grow a beard. I saw a pic of Ronald Torreyes, now playing for the Minnesota Twins, sporting a cool goatee this week.
|Photo Credit: Ronald Torreyes via Instagram|
Players should be allowed a certain degree of self-expression. I get the history and tradition of Baseball’s most storied and prestigious franchise but wearing a groomed short beard is not exactly like slapping last names on the back of the famed Pinstriped jersey. Loosen up the facial policy rules, Hal. It’s your team, set your own standard.
This has been a tough year watching Boston win championships in both MLB and NFL. I am tired of Boston fans celebrating and want to see the fans of New York rejoice. The Yankees have a huge opportunity to make plans for a parade in late October. Let’s not screw this up. The dawn of the 28th World Championship is upon us.
As always, Go Yankees!
I’d Like to Forget Yesterday’s Game but Thurman Munson was a bigger loss…
This is always a tough day as I am sure it is for any Yankees fan who grew up with the Bronx Zoo Yankees. It has been 39 years since the death of my favorite Yankee, a day that I can still so vividly remember. One of those ‘you know exactly where you were’ moments in life. I’ve had many favorite ball players over the years but none have matched the intensity and passion that drove Yankees Captain and star catcher Thurman Munson. It’s not to say that guys like Jorge Posada or Don Mattingly or Derek Jeter weren’t passionate or intense, they were, but there was something about Thurman that set him apart. Looking back, the early George Steinbrenner Era was so chaotic. It’s what I grew up with so changing managers every year was the norm. Signing the most glamorous superstars in the off-season was expected. The polarization of players like Reggie Jackson was simply daily life in the Bronx. The one constant was the strength (mentally and physically) of the team’s legendary catcher. I loved that guy and miss him to this day.
My first Yankees jersey was number 15. I wish I still had it even if it had been a child’s size.
My biggest fear in the late ‘70’s was the eventual departure of Munson from the Yankees. I remember the days when he was talking more and more like a guy who wanted to play for the Cleveland Indians so that he could be closer to home. It was clear how much family meant to him. I selfishly wanted him to stay but in retrospect, I would have gladly taken his presence on the Indians roster for the later years of his career over his early demise.
Thurman, we are thinking of you. We miss you. Your spirit and memory continue to run strong through the fabric of Yankee Stadium even if the current one was not yet built in 1979. I remain forever grateful that you were and always will be a Yankee. You stand tall among the Yankee Legends.
How do you transition from ‘GREAT’ to, as Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues would put it, not so ‘GRAYT’? Sadly, that’s what comparing today to yesterday brings when talking about certain players (specifically excluding the tragic death of one of the most beloved Yankees).
I am done with Sonny Gray. He had already reached ‘Sonny Gray Sucks!’ status for me earlier this year, but I foolishly bought into the last couple of starts which were somewhat decent. I had been hopeful that he was finally turning the corner and headed down the path of promise we once felt he was destined for. Then he blows up against one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball. By the time Lance Lynn entered the game to calm the troops, the damage had been done. Gleyber Torres tried to bring the team back with his two home runs but an inability of others to create opportunities when the bases were loaded was too much. Lots of negatives in the game. Gleyber’s fielding, the whiffs with run scoring opportunities, the third base coach going off on the team in the dugout for their lackadaisical effort, etc. It was not a good game from any aspect, but at the heart was the pathetic performance delivered by one Sonny Douglas Gray. His smile walking off the mound (regardless of his explanation) was horrific. Ed Whitson couldn’t pitch in the Bronx, nor could Javier Vazquez. A.J. Burnett flamed out. Following in their footsteps is Gray. I firmly believe that Gray would thrive in a place like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee, but he’ll never be the man in the Bronx. He is incapable of rising to the occasion on Major League Baseball’s Main Stage. He prefers to be a less pressurized side show in a small community theater.
The Yankees shouldn’t give up Gray for nothing but they should try to do the humane thing and re-home him to a family that can love and support him. If he stays in the Bronx, I am in favor of euthanasia. Alright, that might be a little harsh, but he’s reached the end of the line for rotation opportunities in my mind. I know the Yankees need to try to rebuild some value before he is traded away (Brian Cashman should have flipped him at this year’s trading deadline), but the time to live or die with Sonny Gray in the starting rotation is over for this season. I wasn’t excited about the addition of Lance Lynn, but I firmly believe that Lynn should be the starter over Gray for the duration of the season. Make Gray the rotation’s sixth man, with an occasional spot start. Even that scares me to a degree. He’s become the guy I’d want pitching with a ten-run lead but of course he’d still have me pacing the room.
Too bad the Oakland A’s do not have a return policy for defective merchandise. I’d like my money back. Heck, I’d gladly take Dustin Fowler (demoted to Triple A yesterday by the A’s) back in exchange for Gray. Let them keep James Kaprielian and Jorge Mateo as “profit”.
For today’s game in Boston, we know that first baseman Luke Voit and Luis Cessa have been called up. While outfielder Shane Robinson goes down for Voit, there hasn’t been word yet this morning about who’s spot Cessa will take. The obvious solution is the placement of J.A. Happ, currently battling Noah Syndergaard disease, on the 10-day DL retroactive to three days ago. I’d argue the demotion of Sonny Gray (according to Roster Resource, he has two options left). Losing Gray makes more sense to me than Happ who should be healthy again within a few days.
I kind of feel bad for Luke Voit. He was a hometown St Louis kid fighting to reach his Major League Dream with his favorite childhood team, but it was extinguished when he was dealt to the Yankees, along with international bonus pool money, in the trade that sent relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the Gateway City. Of course there are worse places to go than the Bronx and I am hopeful that the history and the tradition of the organization appeal to the Missouri kid. Maybe we can get Tino Martinez to stop by and express the advantages of playing for the Yankees over the Cardinals. Seriously, I hope Voit thrives in New York and becomes Brian Cashman’s latest gem. This is a great opportunity for him even if he is destined to return to Moosic, PA in the not-so-distant future. With no offense to Robinson, I am much happier with Voit on the Major League roster.
This is a big series for the Yankees. Four games against Boston in the very heart of Red Sox Nation. Mike Francesa tweeted this morning, “We are all going to learn something about this Yankee team this weekend”. No doubt. If they play like they did yesterday, the Red Sox will be clearing shelf space for their 2018 AL East Championship trophy. The Yankees need to make a statement and take at least three of four from the AL East leaders. They have the talent to do it. We’ll soon see if they have the heart. They certainly did not yesterday. Red Sox fans are loving life today. If they are feeling miserable and uncomfortable on Sunday, it will have been a successful weekend.
Thank God Sonny Gray will not be pitching.
Pinstripers, your mission should you choose to accept it… Let’s do this. Time to make noise in the AL East.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)|
The Sky is Falling…
Unlike TGP’s fearless leader, Daniel Burch, I did not wake up in a happy, cheerful and loving mood. Sorry. I know, all things considered, things could be worse. But the last couple of days have not been enjoyable. We’re Yankees fans. We want and expect nothing less than complete dominance and success. The 2018 Yankees have a roster capable of playing, hit-for-hit and pitch-for-pitch, with the best teams in Major League Baseball. But while other teams revel in early success, the Yankees are getting off to a sluggish start.
I get it…we’re only eight games into the season and there are still 154 games to play (or the length of the regular season games when Babe Ruth and his friends played). It’s not the end of the World and there are many, many games before the AL East is decided.
The Yankees lost a heart-breaker last night in extra innings. The Baltimore Orioles took the second game of the series, thanks to a grand slam by catcher Caleb Joseph in the top of fourteenth inning, winning 7-3. Despite fighting back to tie the game multiple times, the home team could never take the lead and were inches from victory in the bottom of the eleventh when Orioles reliever Mychal Givens threw a wild pitch and Didi tried to score from third. Givens came sliding across the plate to block Didi and take the throw from catcher Caleb Joseph to tag the out.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)|
For those of you who feel Aaron Judge owns the Orioles, I’d have to counter Buck Showalter owns the Yankees…at least for the first two games of the season series. George Steinbrenner is probably rolling over in his grave.
The Yankees fell to 4-4 and trail the Boston Red Sox by 2 1/2 games in the AL East. The Red Sox are on a roll, winners of six straight while they ride their cream puff schedule. The Toronto Blue Jays are a game ahead of the Yankees. It’s early but so far the Red Sox and the Houston Astros appear to be the early class of the AL. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have also started the season strong (Shohei Otani homered for the third consecutive game) and the improved Minnesota Twins, as expected, lead their division.
Last night’s loss was more costly than just the score. Four Yankees were pulled from the game for various ailments. CC Sabathia exited after four innings with a right hip strain, Brandon Drury was replaced by pinch-hitter Ronald Torreyes in the bottom of the sixth (Toe stayed in the game at third; we later learned Drury is suffering from migraine headaches and blurred vision), Neil Walker slid over to second base from first in the top of the ninth to replace Tyler Wade (suffering from the flu), and Gary Sanchez left the game during the fateful fourteenth inning with a leg cramp.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
The Yankees also checked on the health of closer Aroldis Chapman during a ninth inning visit by when it was observed that the Cuban Missile’s velocity was down. Chapman blamed it on a cold night.
An MRI after the game revealed no issues for Sabathia, however, the Yankees placed him on the 10-day DL earlier today. Drury was also placed on the disabled list. Jonathan Holder, the reliever on the mound when Caleb Joseph hit the game-winning grand slam for the Orioles last night, was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. RHPs Domingo German and Luis Cessa (ugh!) were promoted to the big league club. Also, the Yankees signed IF/OF Jace Peterson to a Major League contract. Peterson was 1-for-4 with a strikeout in the RailRiders’ season-opening win last night. Peterson’s time with the Yankees appears to be over when Drury comes back since he’ll most likely be placed on waivers (rather than kept on the 40-man roster). It could end sooner given the expected return of OF Aaron Hicks in a few days.
Sabathia is only expected to miss one start. As for Drury, we won’t really know anything until Monday when he undergoes testing to determine the cause of the migraine headaches. An avowed Minnesota Vikings fan, it was frustrating for years when former Viking Percy Harvin struggled with migraines. I hope Drury’s problem is not as severe as the one that afflicted the very talented Harvin.
I haven’t figured out how this impacts the 40-man roster yet. The Yankees recently moved reliever Ben Heller to the 60-day DL which freed up a spot but the Yankees acquired third baseman Cody Asche. Even though Asche was optioned to Triple A, MLB.com is showing Asche on the 40-man roster. It would seem that something’s got to give to make room on the active roster for Peterson. I could be looking at this wrong. I’ve seen comments that the 40th spot was opened when the Yankees waived Trayce Thompson, who briefly took Heller’s spot, but that does not account for why MLB.com and the RailRiders website are showing Asche on the 40-man roster. Maybe Asche was never truly on the 40-man and the sites are in error. Who knows? The Yankees and MLB have this figured out so I don’t need to.
I am not happy about Cessa on the big league roster. He’s been my ideal DFA candidate for some time. I truly hope the Yankees use German over Cessa to make CC’s next start (which should be next Saturday). I’ve seen enough of Cessa to know that he is not a reliable starting pitcher. Let’s see how his stuff plays in limited spots in the bullpen. I’d rather take that chance over giving opposing teams multiple looks at the pedestrian pitcher when he is on the mound. German won me over with a very strong Spring so I’d like to see him get his first audition in the rotation.
Peterson, playing left field today, is not going to scare anybody with his bat.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
In the off-season, everybody (except maybe me) wanted Miguel Andujar as the starting third baseman for the Pinstripers. I wanted the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier and was subsequently supportive of the Drury acquisition. Well, here we are. Andujar is now your starting third baseman. This season, Andujar is 0-for-12 with no walks and four strikeouts. He is on the fast track to reach Kyle Higashioka’s 0-for-18 performance from last year. At least Higashioka managed to mix in a couple of walks and runs. I know, Andujar WILL hit. But obviously I’d prefer sooner than later. Never a better time to start than today.
Hopefully the Yankees can get into a groove and starting winning games. There are still two games to salvage at least a tie in the series with the O’s. Things will look much better if the Yankees can emerge from the weekend with a 6-4 record.
Here’s to hoping that today is a better day. Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: SI.com (Kristyn Ulanday)|
Opening the Gates of Steinbrenner Field…
As the saying goes, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Or as I prefer to call it, the first day of the 2018 New York Yankees. Welcome, Pitchers and Catchers! Your host, Aaron Boone, and his staff are eager and ready to serve you.
I am excited and anxious to hear Boone’s kickoff press conference today at 12:00 pm ET. We’ve heard Boonie talk over the winter but now he’s officially in uniform and ready to lead Baseball’s most storied franchise to the Promised Land. It’ll be cool to get a glimpse inside his mind as he begins his Pinstriped Journey in earnest. Sure, he’s had the conference calls with his coaches and shared text messages, a few rounds of golf or dinner with his players, but today it gets real. It’s a very exciting time in the Yankees Universe. After meeting with the press today, Boone will lead the first official workout tomorrow on Valentine’s Day. Very appropriate given how much we love these Yankees.
My most recent fear was averted yesterday when it was the Texas Rangers (and not that the Yankees) that gave a minor league contract with training camp invite to free agent third baseman Trevor Plouffe. I was starting to get worried that we’d see him in Tampa, but alas, the Rangers saved the day.
There’s still time for new faces to appear but at the moment, the starting rotation returns intact from top to bottom and the leading contenders for second and third bases are Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, respectively. The next few days will feature many bullpen sessions and we’ll get our first images of the new season.
I am ready for Yankees baseball.
The Freak is back…
Speaking of reclamation projects, the Yankees will send a scout to watch Tim Lincecum’s showcase in Seattle on Thursday according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Admittedly, when I first heard the 34-year-old was attempting another comeback, I scoffed. Two years ago, he signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels after providing an open tryout in front of scouts. He failed miserably, going 2-6 with 9.16 ERA in nine games pitched. His WHIP was an unsightly 2.374. Maybe there’s nothing left, but then again, maybe there is.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images, via Men’s Fitness (Joe Robbins, Otto Greule, Jr)|
People scoffed at Bartolo Colon when he made a comeback with the Yankees a few years ago, yet he continues to pitch and it is likely he’ll find another Major League contract somewhere this year. I am not saying that Lincecum is Colon, but at one time, Lincecum was a very good pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. I seriously doubt he’ll ever be anything close to that level again but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Why not take a shot? If he shows nothing, you help him pack his bags and send him on his way. He certainly won’t be cost prohibitive at this point in his career. I’d sign him if he shows anything on Thursday. He wouldn’t unseat any current starters in the rotation regardless of how well he throws but he could be a better option as a replacement starter than Luis Cessa if he has anything left. I am sure some team will take a chance on The Freak through a minor league deal to see if he can help.
Stick a fork in him, he’s done…
I am so very disappointed in Rich “Goose” Gossage. At one time, the guy was my favorite player. I loved to watch him come into games throwing heat and shutting down the opposition. It was tough to watch Goose leave the Yankees when he signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres in January 1984. Even tougher watching the Padres in the World Series that year, who also featured former Yankee Graig Nettles at third base, even if they lost to the Detroit Tigers. I was excited when he played for a couple of months with the Yankees at the end of the 1989 season despite being in the twilight of his career. I was proud when he was named to MLB’s Hall of Fame in 2008. Unfortunately, his behavior since that time has been anything but professional.
Last year, he took shots at Hall of Famer-to-be Mariano Rivera, one of my all-time favorite Yankees over the course of my lifetime, which I did not appreciate nor respect. When I heard the Yankees had not extended an invitation to Spring Training for Goose this year, I felt it was the right thing. The Yankees did not need the unwanted attention and distraction for a new manager and coaching staff. Yet, the New York Daily News beat writers had to reach to Goose to get comment about the spurned invitation and he chose to use it as a forum to go off on GM Brian Cashman.
Frankly, I don’t care if Gossage ever sets foot in Yankee Stadium again. He comes across as an angry old man to me. I am tired of his “back in my day” rants. He played in a different era but it doesn’t mean that it was better. The game has changed. Sadly, Gossage has not. There is no place for him with today’s game and no place for him in the Yankees Universe. Let him go play Old Timer’s games with the Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s or Seattle Mariners. What? Those teams do not hold their former players in same high regard as the Yankees? Sucks for him. Good riddance…
Rest in peace, facial hair…
We also say goodbye to CC Sabathia’s beard.
While I personally feel that the Yankees should change the long-standing team policy that prohibits facial hair outside of “porn star” mustaches, it’s too bad that they can’t at least open Spring Training to a relaxed hair policy before the team heads north to put on the famed pinstriped jerseys. Sabathia had a very cool beard this winter, as did a number of other players. It would be nice to see them with a tougher look, if only for the exhibition games at Steinbrenner Field. Some guys, like Jordan Montgomery, could seriously stand an edgier look instead of the choir boy approach. I know, the hair policy will never change. The Steinbrenner Family will always preserve George’s wishes as long as they own the team. I get the professionalism aspect to the policy but I am also a believer in self-expression. I am not crazy about Justin Turner’s flowing red hair and beard with the Los Angeles Dodgers but it is who he is and I would not want to change him. If it works for the player, it works for me.
The baseball offseason is over. It is time to get to work…
|Photo Credit: Newsday (J Conrad Williams, Jr)|
October Baseball On Our Minds…
Everyone is talking like the New York Yankees are already in the World Series but I do not view (potentially) two games in Houston against the Astros to be a cakewalk. Tonight, the Yankees send their best (Luis Severino) against crafty veteran Justin Verlander who is very clearly a big game pitcher. If the Astros win tonight, they have to be viewed as the favorite for Game 7 in Minute Maid Park. We’re not in the Bronx anymore. But the Yankees have already defeated the best team in the American League in a best-of-five series and they are a single game away from reaching the Fall Classic. This Yankees team has incredible heart and a ‘no-quit’ drive like none other.
Regardless of what happens, I am very proud of the 2017 Yankees. Going into the season, it seemed like the experts were forecasting a .500 season at best. It was unclear if Aaron Judge or Aaron Hicks would win the right field job. Questions were abound about whether Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia had seen their better days. Or if Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius could continue their development in the middle infield. I was one of many uncertain if Luis Severino’s stronger future was in the starting rotation or the bullpen. The Yankees answered those questions (and more) and now stand one game away from the World Series. There is nothing that the Houston Astros can do to take away from the huge accomplishments achieved by the Yankees. This is a young team that is only going to get better. As the saying goes, ‘the future is so bright, I’ve got to wear shades!’
If the Yankees do make it to the World Series, they’ll be heading to Los Angeles next week. The Los Angeles Dodgers dethroned the Chicago Cubs last night to win the NLCS, 4 games to 1. The Dodgers throttled the Cubs, 11-1, behind the power of their utility outfielder. Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez put his name into the history books with three home runs and seven RBI’s as the Dodgers coasted to the victory behind the three-hit, one-run pitching of the great Clayton Kershaw over seven innings and three innings of scoreless relief from the bullpen. Kenley Jansen, the closer, is a stud, but where did Brandon Morrow come from? The one-time former closer of the Seattle Mariners and ex-Blue Jay has been ‘lights out’ for the Dodgers. He was 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 45 games this year, and in 4 games against the Cubs in the NLCS, he allowed only one hit, a walk, and no runs over 4 2/3 innings while striking out seven. There won’t be too many late inning rallies against the Dodgers.
For the Dodgers, their ten consecutive appearances in the post-season without a championship is the longest streak in MLB history. During that time, the Dodgers have been defeated in the NLCS four times, including last year on the very field they spilled champagne last night. This makes their eleventh appearance in post-season play since they defeated the Oakland A’s in the 1988 World Series.
The Managerial Musical Chairs…
Growing up watching the Yankees-Dodgers World Series (three times over five years from 1977 to 1981), it is very exciting and intriguing to think the Yankees might finally have the chance to avenge their loss in the 1981 World Series. Ironically, the 1981 Dodgers also had to get past the Houston Astros (in the NLDS) to reach the World Series. They defeated the Montreal Expos in the NLCS that year. The 1981 World Series was also the time when Owner George Steinbrenner allegedly got into an altercation with two Dodgers fans in the elevator of a Los Angeles hotel. Steinbrenner told reporters, “I clocked them. There are two guys in this town looking for their teeth and two guys who will probably sue me”. Steinbrenner was not sued and the two guys were never identified. Who knows if Steinbrenner really faced anyone in that elevator but the Yankees finally have the chance for redemption in the City of Angels if they can win one more game against the Astros (just one, let’s do it!). I am sure that the Boss would be very pleased.
The MLB Post-Season has certainly not stopped other teams from taking action, or at the very least, talking action.
The Detroit Tigers are expected to announce former Twins manager and current Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire as their manager later today (replacing the fired Brad Ausmus).
Ausmus remains a candidate for the job to replace John Farrell in Boston as the Red Sox manager, however, all reports indicate that current Astros bench coach Alex Cora is the likely choice. Cora is certainly getting a firsthand view of what he may be facing next year.
I personally think that it is a shame for current Chicago Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez hasn’t gotten stronger consideration for managerial openings.No word on the open jobs with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets, but former Yankees and current Mets hitting coach Kevin Long has emerged as a favorite for the post in Queens.
It remains to be seen if Yankees manager Joe Girardi returns next year. While one would think that it is a foregone conclusion that Girardi will be back with a new agreement in hand, it is also possible that family considerations could cause Girardi to walk away. I think the latter is a greater possibility if the Yankees lose the ALCS to the Astros. I continue to hope that Girardi and the Steinbrenner family come together on a new deal. I honestly do not see a better alternative currently available.
Have a great Friday! Like last night, let’s hope the road team is pouring champagne in the visitor’s clubhouse after the game. Go Yankees!
Credit: Rich Schultz-Getty Images
Blue Jays 4, Yankees 1…
The 4th of July is a great time for America as it celebrates the birth of our country. Sadly, the Yankees were unable to provide any fireworks as they fell quietly to the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.
The game marked the return of CC Sabathia. Before the game, Manager Joe Girardi was hoping for 5 or 6 innings from Sabathia. Unfortunately, it would prove to be something comparable to me hoping for winning PowerBall numbers. In retrospect, maybe CC should have taken a rehab assignment.
The first inning went well enough as Sabathia retired the first three batters on fly outs to center, although he had Jacoby Ellsbury running hard for several of them. The 2nd inning saw another three up, three down pass through the Jays lineup. So far, so good.
Then, the 3rd inning happened. The first two batters…no problem. Steve Pearce flied out to left and Kevin Pillar struck out swinging. Then, with two outs, Darwin Barney walked. A wild pitch by Sabathia moved Barney to second. Joey Bats followed with a single to right, scoring Barney. Russell Martin singled and Josh Donaldson walked to load the bases. Adam Warren got up in the bullpen to begin warming up. On a 3-2 count, Sabathia threw Ball 4, high and outside, to Justin Smoak, which scored Bautista. Kendrys Morales stepped up and lined a single to left through the hole, which scored Martin and Donaldson. 4-0 Blue Jays and it was shower time for Sabathia. Warren came in to record the final out but the damage was done. 63 pitches by Sabathia (39 in the 3rd inning alone) and he was clearly laboring at the end. He finished with 3 hits and 4 runs in 2 2/3 innings, walking 3 and striking out just 1. Sabathia (7-3) saw his season ERA inflate to 3.81.
Credit: Kathy Willens-AP
The Yankees’ lone highlight came in the bottom of the 4th when All-Star Aaron Judge crushed a J.A. Happ pitch 456 feet to center, a line drive, for his 28th home run of the year. The Statcast exit velocity of the ball was measured at 118.4 mph. One more home run and Judge will match the Yankees rookie season HR record held by Joe DiMaggio.
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
From there, the Yankees could not muster any further offense against Happ or the Jays bullpen. Happ, a 20-game winner in 2016, picked up only his 3rd win of the year with six strong innings, holding the Yankees to four hits and the lone run. The Jays pen held the Yankees hitless for the duration of the game. It was a nice job by the Yankees bullpen too, most notably the 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief provided by Luis Cessa.
The Yankees will attempt to take the series today with a win before the Jays leave town. Tomorrow represents an off day (finally). In their final series before the All-Star Break, the Yankees will host the Milwaukee Brewers for three games beginning Friday.
The Yankees (44-38) slid four games behind Boston as the Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers, 11-4. Boston’s on a roll now with their sixth consecutive victory. The Tampa Bay Rays are quietly sneaking up on the Yankees for second place as they are now just 1 1/2 games in back of the Pinstripers. The Rays beat their former manager Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs yesterday, 6-5.
It would have been great if the Yankees could have won on the birthdays of the United States and late owner George Steinbrenner but it was not meant to be. We can only hope that the winning magic will return today. Michael Pineda can make it happen.
Odds & Ends…
After yesterday’s game, the Yankees dumped Chris Carter again. It’s time for Carter to seek employment elsewhere. In his final game for the Yankees, Carter was 0-for-2 and dropped a ball from Didi Gregorius in the 7th that was scored a hit for Joey Bats. Fortunately for us, the Yankees decided it was time to pull the plug on Chris Carter Experiment II and have promoted first baseman Ji-Man Choi from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take his place. In 55 games for the RailRiders, Choi, formerly of the Los Angeles Angels, hit 8 HR’s and 41 RBI’s while batting .286. Choi is not the answer but at this point, he’s better than the man he replaced. Choi will be available for today’s game.
Credit: J Conrad Williams Jr-Newsday
The Yankees’ decision to send Bryan Mitchell to Triple A on Tuesday rather than Luis Cessa was based on the desire for Mitchell to continue working as a starter for potential help in the rotation later in the season if necessary.
Credit: J Conrad Williams Jr-Newsday
Logan Morrison, shut up. The Rays first baseman called out Gary Sanchez on Tuesday when he said the Yankees catcher did not deserve to participate in next week’s Home Run Derby. In the midst of a career season, Morrison said “I remember when I had 14 home runs (Sanchez currently has 13). That was a month and a half ago.” Morrison was not selected for the All-Star Game and is currently one of five listed on the AL Final Vote ballot, along with Didi Gregorius and Mike Moustakas. Even if Morrison somehow won the Final Vote, I seriously doubt that baseball fans would want to see him over Sanchez in the Home Run Derby. Morrison can go spend next week in Tampa or Kansas City or wherever he’s from while Sanchez heads for Miami.
Have a great Wednesday! I prefer to see this as Winnin’ Wednesday. Let’s Go Yankees!
Credit: Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press
Team Prospect-Hugger could get a new look the last two weeks of July. In an interview, Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner indicated that he’ll look at any deal that crosses his desk during the final two weeks of July. He’ll read the scouting reports, talk to GM Brian Cashman and the Scouting Department and tap into other resources to determine the best moves for the Yankees organization moving forward. He said that he’ll divert all of his attention to any one deal that comes across his desk as he has always done in the couple of weeks leading up to the trading deadline. It doesn’t mean that he’ll approve a deal but he’ll certainly give more than a passing thought to any deal that makes sense.
Steinbrenner sees the value in holding onto the team’s prospects as they have done for the last three or four years.
With significant dollars coming off the payroll at the end of the year ($59 million alone with the expiring contracts of CC Sabathia, Matt Holliday, and Alex Rodriguez), Steinbrenner feels the Yankees will be active in the free agent market. “To what degree, and in what areas remains to be seen”, said Steinbrenner, in talking with reporters.
I am probably somewhere in between Hal and his father, George. I’d be more inclined to make moves to strengthen weaker areas. But I’d also be trying to find ways to unload dead weight off the roster. Spending $46 million for CC Sabathia’s unreliable performances and Alex Rodriguez’s “consulting services” is a bad return on investment in a statement of the obvious. Why don’t they just increase it to $47 million and toss me the difference? I would certainly have a more company-aligned outlook and they would be no worse for the wear. I am looking forward to next year when a greater percentage of the payroll goes to active, contributing members of the team’s 25-man roster.
Even though Steinbrenner may not be open to considering any deals until mid-July, there’s no doubt that Cashman and Company have already begin dialing other teams to open dialogue for potential trades involving targeted players. If the Yankees do prove that they are for real this year, it should be a very fun and active July. I am certainly not expecting a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado type trade, but reinforcements to stay the upward course would be very much appreciated.
I am glad to hear that one of my favorite prospects, pitcher Albert Abreu, will be coming off the DL for High-A Tampa on Friday. Abreu has been on the DL since May 2nd with elbow inflammation. Abreu will start in Friday’s game against the Dayton Tortugas in place of Domingo Acevedo, who was promoted to AA-Trenton.
Last summer, the two best outfield prospects in the Cleveland Indians organization were Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer. Zimmer received his call to join the Show this week, and looks to be a long-term fixture in Cleveland as an Andrew Miller teammate. On Wednesday, with his parents in attendance, Zimmer had a run-scoring double and a home run. Zimmer, two years older than Frazier, looks to be one of the game’s superior talents for years to come. I know it’s not Yankees-related but it is great to see good young players flourish in the Major Leagues. There’s no doubt he received a congratulatory text from Frazier.
The Yankees were victorious in baseball action last night with an 11-7 victory over the Kansas City Royals. With the final game of the series to be played today, the Yankees have already taken the series by winning the first two games of the three-game set.
Of the three Royals pitchers that we would be facing, I was most concerned about Jason Vargas. The veteran pitcher had gotten off to a great start at 5-1 with a 1.01 ERA. But four innings and six runs later, the ERA had more than doubled to 2.03. Michael Pineda (4-2) was the winner, but he did give up two home runs. For six innings of work, he gave up six hits, four runs (three earned), and two walks. He also registered 5 K’s. I would have liked to have seen better work but with the Yankees racing out to a 10-2 lead by the fifth inning, Pineda was guilty somewhat of letting up on the gas.
Every Yankee in the starting lineup got a hit in the 16-hit attack. Aaron Hicks, filling in for Jacoby Ellsbury, hit a three run homer in the fourth inning on a 2-for-4 night.
|Credit: John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS|
The Royals scored three runs with two outs in the ninth inning against Yankees reliever Giovanny Gallegos. With two runners on base and the potential tying run on deck, Dellin Betances came in for one out, a soft grounder back to the pitcher, to end the game, recording his first save of the season with just four pitches.
The Yankees (24-13) took advantage of a loss by the Baltimore Orioles to move 1 1/2 games up in the AL East. The O’s lost to the Detroit Tigers in a close game, 5-4. Former Yankee Justin Wilson, recently named closer for the Tigers, picked up his third save. It could have been a great night but the Boston Red Sox pulled out a 5-4 win in 13 innings against the St Louis Cardinals.
Have a great Thursday! Hopefully the Yankees grab another “W” before racing to Kansas City International Airport for the flight to Tampa later this evening.