Tagged: Gio Gonzalez

Despite Win, Yankees Lose…

Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP

Aaron Judge becomes latest Casualty…

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

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The April Roller Coaster Ride…

Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi/NY Post

Up and Down Start Continues…

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

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, Go Yankees!

7 Days to Yankee Stadium…

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(Photo: John G Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated)

Season Opener is a week away…

Finally, we can see real baseball on the horizon. Well, if you are an early bird, I suppose you’ve been up to watch the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s play the last two days in Tokyo for an early preview of the regular season. But, c’mon, we all know that real baseball doesn’t start until the New York Yankees take the field.

The Yankees officially announced the signing of LHP Gio Gonzalez yesterday. Initially, it was reported to be a $3 million contract if Gio makes the Major League roster, but subsequently we learned it also includes an incentive of $300,000 per start up to 30 starts so the deal could be worth as much as $12 million. I’ve seen more than one Yankee fan say the team should use an opener before bringing Gio in so that he technically does not get credit for a “start” but seriously that’s not the way the Yankees operate.  You may feel that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is a tight-wad but I firmly believe even if the Yankees used an opener like Jonathan Holder for an inning before bringing in Gio to cover the next five or six innings, the team would honor the performance as a start. They wouldn’t use an opener solely for avoidance of paying the incentive. Say what you will about the Yankees’ Front Office but the Yankees have proven, time and again, they take care of their own.

It was a little weird seeing the pics of Gio without his beard. Like James Paxton, going beardless makes him look so much younger.

Gio

Hey, maybe it will make his arm look younger too.  Oh well, wishful thinking on my part. I do hope that Gio gets an opportunity to join the Yankees with this 30-day trial.  If not Opening Day (which seems unrealistic from a timing standpoint), a few weeks into the season. I really hope it doesn’t come down to April 20th with us wondering whether Gio will be added to the MLB roster or if he’ll exercise his opt-out if he doesn’t. If the Yankees were truly the only team offering him a contract this month, it’s not like teams will be lined up for his services on April 20th unless there is an epidemic of arm injuries around both leagues.

Wednesday also saw Yankees RHP Luis Severino toss twenty-five pitches from 60 feet on flat ground with his resumption of baseball activity after two weeks of rest. Sevy reported a little rust from the time off, but overall felt good about the workout. There were no reports of pain or discomfort in the right shoulder/rotator cuff.  Sevy plans to toss twenty-five pitches at 60 feet again today on his path to hopefully return in early May. I don’t want to say the season is lost without Severino but he is such a huge part of the mission to dethrone the Boston Red Sox and bring the World Series championship back to New York. Hopefully there are no setbacks on his road to recovery. We need this man and his right arm.

I didn’t realistically think Ichiro Suzuki would be a Mariner after the two-game series in Japan but he made it official when he announced that he would retire at the conclusion of this morning’s game. What a career! The future Hall of Famer will leave the game with 3,089 hits (or 4,367 hits counting his time in Nippon Professional Baseball). I had really hoped he would pick up one final hit in the games in Japan but it was not meant to be. In his final at-bat in the 8th inning this morning, the crowd yelled “Ich-Eee-Ro” as he prepared for the first pitch. After a lengthy at-bat, he hit an infield roller to short and the throw just beat Ichiro to first base. Bummer, I was so hopeful for a safe sign from the first base umpire. Ichiro took the field in the top of the 9th but once all of the players were in position, Mariners manager Scott Servais pulled everyone off the field. Ichiro, the last man on the field, slowly walked off where he was greeted with hugs from his teammates and coaches. The scene was especially emotional for Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi who made his Major League debut in the game. He bowed his head as he hugged Ichiro and it was evident tears were flowing down his cheeks. One Japanese career begins, another ends. A very touching moment. Congratulations with your retirement, Ichiro!  It was our privilege and pleasure to watch you perform for so many years. We wish you the very best with your post-playing career. No doubt Ichiro will forever be a Seattle Mariner but I am grateful for his 360 games as a Yankee after his acquisition from the Mariners on July 23, 2012 for Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell. I really wish that Ichiro could have had a farewell game like Derek Jeter did, but there’s no doubt this one was every bit as emotional.  I am sad we bring closure to such a fantastic career.  It’s time but it doesn’t make it any easier.  Thank you, Ichiro. We’ll see you in Cooperstown, New York in five years.

Ichiro
(Photo: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Since I am dishing out congratulations, I should throw some towards Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the best player in the game today. His contract extension, 12-years at $426.5 million including the money he was already owed in 2019 and 2020, is official. I think it’s only right he stays in an Angels uniform for the duration of his career. Many thought he’d join Bryce Harper in Philadelphia, including Bryce, and I am sure there are more than a few Yankee fans that had hoped he would find a way to the Bronx. As much as I would have loved Trout as a Yankee, he belongs in an Angels uniform and should stay there. He is such an amazing, selfless player who is head and shoulders above everyone else in MLB. Unlike Bryce Harper, Trout deserved to be paid like the best player in Baseball because he is.

Trout

I know the Yankees had been hoping Trout would fall to them in the 2009 MLB Draft but the Angels thwarted those plans when they chose Trout with the 25th pick of the draft (ironically, a compensation pick for losing free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Yankees). With Trout off the board, the Yankees regrettably selected outfielder Slade Heathcott, no longer in the game, with the 29th pick. Dang, so close, yet so far away.  Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, there were 24 foolish picks before Trout in that draft. With no offense to top pick Stephen Strasburg, there is nobody on that list who comes close to Trout. Now if the Angels could just settle their stadium situation. I know they’ve talked with the city of Long Beach but I really hope the team stays in Orange County. I love Long Beach (one of my favorite cities) but it feels like Dodgers country to me. Maybe that’s just because the Dodgers are my NL team. Long Beach is located in Los Angeles County and is just a short 45-minute train ride south of downtown LA.  Mike Trout belongs to the Angels like the Angels belong in Orange County.  I hope they can get this figured out now that they no longer have to worry about Trout.

I don’t know about you but I am ready for Yankees baseball. One week, just one week. I can smell those hot dogs and beers outside of Yankee Stadium already.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Sign LHP Gio Gonzalez…

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(Photo: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Athletic-National-Brewer Signs Minor League Deal w/Yanks…

So, the Yankees signed LHP Gio Gonzalez to a very short-term minor league deal. So what? I’ve seen so many negative comments on Social Media and I don’t get it. This late in Spring Training, the top replacement starters for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia appear to be Luis Cessa and Domingo German. After I trashed him in my last post, Jonathan Loaisiga pitched very well on Sunday. Nothing changes with the Gonzalez signing.

I know Gonzales is not a savior. Heck, he’s not even a very good starting pitcher anymore. His signing prompted many to ask why the Yankees aren’t trying to sign Dallas Keuchel. It’s an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison. If Gonzalez makes the Major League roster, he’ll get paid $3 million. If not, he can opt out of the contract on April 20th.  He basically has a month to prepare on the Yankees’ dime. It will either get him a roster spot on everybody’s favorite team or he opens eyes in another organization who may be seeking starting pitching. No sooner than the word of the verbal agreement between Gonzalez and the Yankees had been reported, the Texas Rangers lost a starting pitcher (Yohander Mendez), who was diagnosed with a UCL sprain in his throwing arm. Shit happens and you need to be prepared. I think best-case scenario is we never see Gio in Pinstripes. It will mean that two of Cessa, German and Loaisiga are doing well. However, if one falters, Gio will be ready to step in assuming he proves he is ready. It’s really a no-lose situation for the Yankees. Dallas Keuchel, despite it being so late in Spring Training, is still going to cost you a lot of money and years. He’s not taking a minor league deal for chump change. There’s also the small issue of draft pick compensation tied to Keuchel since he received a qualifying offer from the Houston Astros. I have no problems with the Yankees’ decision to pass on Keuchel and to roll the dice the Gonzalez.

Gonzalez is far removed from his 21-win season of 2012 or even his 15 wins two years ago. At age 33, his fastball velocity is down, strikeout rate is falling, and WHIP is increasing. The degradation of his curveball has been noted and per Fangraphs, “Without that big hook in his back pocket, it will be tough for Gonzalez to return quality innings with a sub 90 mph fastball and middling changeup and we may see Gonzalez go the way of James Shields and Ubaldo Jimenez shortly.”

Nevertheless, Gonzalez has been a very consistent pitcher over the years even if he is on the downward slide. After his August 31st trade from the Washington Nationals to the Milwaukee Brewers last summer, Gio was 3-0 in five starts with a 2.13 ERA. He pitched 25 1/3 innings, giving up 14 hits and 6 earned runs. He walked 10 and struck out 22.  Steamer projects Gonzalez at 6-7 with 4.40 ERA in 19 starts in 2019.  K/9 of 7.80 and BB/9 of 3.72, with fWAR of 1.1. With so much pressure on the young pitchers to perform, I like the idea of a veteran insurance policy.  We’re not looking at him to be the J.A. Happ of 2019.  He may never find a spot on the 25-man roster. But I much prefer having him as a safety net as opposed to other young arms in the farm system that might not be ready should Cessa, German, and/or Loaisiga falter.

Luis Severino is expected to resume light throwing this week in anticipation of being ready in May assuming there are no further setbacks, but the Yankees needed a contingency plan. There are too many health-related questions in the starting rotation to hook your wagon exclusively on prospects and internal options. Do we really want to see another David Hale start? To sign Gonzalez now in no way prevents the Yankees from improving the pitching staff in July if necessary.

So, welcome to the Yankees family, Gio!  We’re glad you’re here. We hope like hell we don’t need you but still, make yourself at home. You’re one of us for at least the next 30 days. If anything, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids one day that you were a Yankee for a month.

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I really enjoyed Ken Davidoff’s piece in the The New York Post this morning entitled “Jacoby Ellsbury reveals firststeps of plan that’s impossible to embrace”.  I honestly cannot think of any Yankee player I’ve ever been less excited about seeing return than Jacoby Ellsbury. I honestly never thought we’d see Ellsbury in Pinstripes again, and maybe we won’t. We are at the point the Yankees could decide to cut bait with Ellsbury if he’s too healthy to collect insurance payments but not good enough to resume his Yankees career. Despite owing Ellsbury nearly $50 million on his remaining contract, the loss would hurt the Yankees less than it did for the Toronto Blue Jays when they swallowed $38 million to set Troy Tulowitzki free.  The Yankees are in much better position to absorb that type of loss.  I’ve always felt cutting Ellsbury would be addition by subtraction, but as Davidoff notes in his closing paragraph: “Stay pessimistic, Yankees fans. Let Ellsbury surprise you with a positive outcome. And if this goes the same way as the bulk of his time in pinstripes, then you’ll have no reason to feel disappointed.” Point taken, Ken. I agree. If Ellsbury can play, let him play. If not, don’t let the door hit him on the way out.

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(Photo: Edward Linsmier-The New York Times)

So much has been made of the Yankees’ Super Bullpen but I continue to hold the belief the Bullpen may not be as great as we imagine while the maligned Boston Red Sox pen could be better than expected.  Too many fans are relishing the fact the Yankees sit atop the Grapefruit League standings while the Red Sox hold the cellar. The standings mean absolutely nothing. When the Yankees and Red Sox begin play on March 28th, they’ll both be 0-0.  The Yankees don’t get bonus points because they had a better Spring and it certainly does not guarantee a spot in the American League Championship Series.  The Red Sox are the champions until proven otherwise. I am optimistic heading into the regular season but I will never underestimate the Red Sox. You may not like their bullpen (for good reason) but they still have a very good team capable of winning its second consecutive World Series.  Our job, or that of the Yankees, is to ensure it does not happen. For those of you who feel the need to boast about superiority, let’s win a few games that count first.

It is kind of weird there will be games that do matter this week when the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s open the 2019 MLB Season in Japan. I love it that former Yankee Ichiro Suzuki will be in Seattle’s starting lineup for the opener tomorrow in Tokyo. No doubt the end of Ichiro’s career is near but he’s obviously a future Hall of Famer who is very beloved in his home county. At age 45, Ichiro will probably not be part of Seattle’s roster when they return to the United States. For the trip to Japan, the teams were authorized expanded 28-man rosters which will reduce to 25 when they come home after the two-game series. I would love to see Ichiro get one more hit before he says sayonara to his lengthy and amazing playing career.  He currently stands at 3,089 hits in Major League Baseball.

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(Photo: Masterpress/Getty Images)

On Thursday, Mariners lefty starter Yusei Kikuchi will make his MLB debut in his native country against the A’s. Very cool.

A reminder that the Yankees will be featured on the MLB Network this evening at 7 pm Eastern as part of MLB Tonight’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

As always, Go Yankees!

Shouldering the Arm of Discontent…

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Credit: Charles Wenzelberg – The New York Post

Rotator Cuff Inflammation Derails Luis Severino for 2 Weeks…

Spring Training threw us its first curve ball yesterday with the news that ace Luis Severino was pulled from his scheduled start against the Atlanta Braves due to pain in his right shoulder. With the words made famous by former professional boxer Roberto Duran in his 1980 bout with Sugar Ray Leonard, “No Mas!”, Severino let pitching coach Larry Rothschild know that something was wrong during his pre-game bullpen session. A subsequent trip to the hospital for an MRI revealed inflammation in the rotator cuff but thankfully, knock on wood, no indications of a possible tear.  You certainly worry about high velocity guys like Sevy and concerns that ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’. Hopefully this proves to be nothing that a little rest cannot cure.

The Yankees will shut down Sevy for two weeks. Assuming there are no further setbacks or recurrence of pain, he’ll resume throwing again around the first day of Spring (March 20th). Unfortunately, due to the injury, Severino has been scratched as the Opening Day starter. While Masahiro Tanaka is probably the sentimental favorite to start Opening Day, his history to open the regular season has not been great. In his last Opening Day start, Tanaka was dreadful. On April 2, 2017, for Manager Joe Girardi, Tanaka gave up seven runs on eight hits over 2 2/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. He walked two and gave up home runs to Logan Morrison and Evan Longoria in the 7-3 loss. As Girardi probably said that day, it’s not what you want. Tanaka’s start was the shortest on Opening Day since Ron Guidry was pulled after 2 2/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners in 1983. Severino started Opening Day last year, a 6-1 victory over current teammate J.A. Happ and the Toronto Blue Jays. Personally, I’d probably roll with the new guy, James Paxton, but it would be hard to argue with Tanaka despite the lack of success the last time around for no other reason than his tenure as a Yankee.

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Credit: Lynne Sladky – AP

When the news broke about Severino, many Yankee fans were immediately clamoring for the Front Office to sign free agent starter Dallas Keuchel. As much as I’d like to see Keuchel as part of the starting rotation, the truth is it will never happen. Keuchel, despite being unsigned this late in March, will still command a multi-year deal for as much as $20 million annually. He also carries draft pick compensation for the Houston Astros since he received and rejected a qualifying offer. I just don’t see the Yankees making that type of financial commitment for rotation insurance. Gio Gonzalez, as many have said, represents the most logical choice on the free agent market. After that, we’re talking about guys like “Big Game” James Shields who hasn’t seen a big game in years and has pitched like it. The Yankees could stay in-house and simply use guys like Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, and, ugh, Luis Cessa. I guess I am in favor of bringing in an experienced arm so I’d take Gonzalez. The Yankees head into the season with only three of five starters healthy and ready to go. CC Sabathia is behind the other starters after his angioplasty in December and resulting late start to Camp so he’ll begin the season on the Injured List. He also has to serve the five-game suspension from last season once he’s activated. In all likelihood, the Yankees will not see either Severino or Sabathia until the latter part of April (after series against the two of the best teams in the American League, Houston and Boston). I’d rather have a proven, dependable starter that can keep the team in games to help bridge the gap to full health. Keep Loaisiga and German in limited spot starts until they prove they are ready for more. The ship with Cessa as a starter has sailed for me. I’d rather keep him in a relief role so that he is not overexposed. He becomes more hittable the second and third time through lineups as the hitters gain familiarity. I’d rather keep him as a mystery in the pen facing a minimal number of batters.

Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes made a very compelling argument this morning for why the Yankees should avoid Gonzalez based on his stats in American League parks. I do not dispute Daniel’s opinion even if I may not agree. For a team with aspirations to win the World Series, a little experience goes a long way. I know that Gonzalez is not going to pitch like the second coming of Max Scherzer but, conversely, he is much better than his other former Washington Nationals teammate, A.J. Cole, whom we got to know too well last season.  Inevitably, the Yankees need to prepare for the worst-case scenario. What if Sevy’s shoulder becomes more problematic than something two weeks of rest can cure? I guess with the other questions in the starting rotation, I am not ready to pin our hopes heavily upon Loaisiga and German.  Ease them in, yes. Throw them into the fire, no way. So, while I respect Daniel’s opinion, I’d rather go with the arm of experience.

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Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Hopefully the Yankees can avoid any further injuries in the remaining three weeks of Spring Training.  Center fielder Aaron Hicks has missed a few games with back stiffness but it does not seem too severe.  In their first nine games of the regular season, the Yankees play the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, two teams that collectively only won eleven more games than the Yankees did last year. The Yankees need to take advantage of those teams to get off to a good start this year which means we need everyone healthy. A season is not lost in April, but as the Boston Red Sox showed last year, a great start can help propel a team to tremendous accomplishments.

I am not sure why Aaron Judge was issued a warning by MLB for telling Manny Machado last year that he’d look good in pinstripes, but Bryce Harper can go on the radio saying, “But if you don’t think I’m not gonna call Mike Trout in 2020 to have him come to Philly, you’re crazy” without retribution. Harper’s words carry much stronger implications of tampering than Judge’s innocent words did. Hopefully, MLB, at the very least, issues the same type of warning to Harper as they did Judge.  In my mind, Harper’s words are premeditated as he has been saying for days that he intends to recruit players to come to Philadelphia to play. Judge’s comments seemed to be a random, spur of the moment thing.

Not sure what I think about Sonny Gray’s comments yesterday. In large part, I think his interview with Eno Sarris of The Athletic was taken out of context. Still, Gray was a little harsh in his words when he said the Yankees “love sliders” and added “Sliders are a great pitch. The numbers say slider is a good pitch, but you might not realize how many shitty counts you’re getting in while throwing all those sliders. They wanted me to be (Masahiro) Tanaka and I’m way different from him.” In describing his lack of command with his slider, Gray said, “When I try to throw sliders for a strike, I get around it and it’s just a shitty spinning pitch. I don’t know how people throw sliders for strikes that are still tight, good pitches. I’m at 2-0 and I’m throwing a slider, and either I’m throwing a shitty slider in the zone, or I’m yanking it into the direct and it’s 3-0 and I’m screwed either way.” Frankly, these words make me question Gray’s decisions on the mound.  He is in control of the pitches he throws.

I thought Manager Aaron Boone responded well when asked about Gray’s “shitty” comments. “We tried as best we could to try to get him to be successful,” Boone conveyed.  “I think we all kind of shared in the frustration at times. I know he was frustrated. We were. But we just tried to get him to be the best he could be and as successful as he could be.” Regarding the slider, Boone added “I don’t know if I’d characterize it as we pushed him to throw sliders. He throws a slider.”

I am glad that Sonny is a Cincinnati Red and not a New York Yankee. Some guys just aren’t made for the Pinstripes and Gray was not. I wish him the best in Cincinnati but I hope he takes the high road moving forward. It didn’t work out for him in New York. It happens. New York is not Oakland nor is it Cincinnati. The Big Apple is not for everyone. He has a clean slate in his new city to rewrite his accomplishments. Have at it. As for the past, it’s just water under the bridge.

Gray’s comments also brought around a new round of hate directed at Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. While I may not be a big fan of Rothschild, I recognize the Yankees have great faith and trust in the man and he is recognized, right or wrong, as one of the best pitching coaches in the business.  I also know the Yankees know more about Yankee players and coaches than I do. As long as they believe in Rothschild, I will too.  As for Aaron Boone, I really believe we’ll see an improved version in 2019 now that he has a season under his belt. There is an inevitable learning curve for any first-time manager. The Yankees knew it when they made the decision to go with Boone prior to last season. To expect him to manage a game, at the beginning of his managerial career, as well as Terry Francona or even Alex Cora, who had a year as a bench coach on a World Series championship team, is foolish and set false expectations. I think Boone will be better this year as I expect he’ll be even better in 2020. Contrary to what some may believe, the Yankees can win a World Series with Aaron Boone as the manager. He is universally liked by the players, the Front Office and the Steinbrenner Family. I am probably less concerned about the last two but as long as Boone has control of the clubhouse, all is good. As they say, analytics drive decisions these days anyway. I do not feel that either Boone or Rothschild will hold this team back from achieving its destiny if the team believes it can.

As always, Go Yankees!

Did Santa skip Yankee Stadium this year?…

 

The Bear is sleeping…

With the Yankees in hibernation for the winter, there’s not much for us Yankee fans to talk about.  The latest speculation centers on catcher Jorge Posada and where he might end up.  Of the three teams mentioned (Rays, Phillies, and Orioles), I don’t see Jorge as a good fit.

In Tampa, he’d back up his former back up, Jose Molina.  I suppose that he could earn additional starting time by the virtue of his superior bat, but why tarnish a great Yankees legacy by playing for a key divisional rival.  Same goes for the Orioles.  I think there’s a strong chance for Jorge to get pushed aside in either organization for younger, cheaper talent.  Neither the O’s or the Rays would be beholden to Posada as he didn’t carve out a borderline Hall of Fame career in their uniforms.  As for the Phillies, it would probably be a good way for one last shot at the World Series, but the Phillies have emerged as a chief rival for the Yankees.  He wouldn’t start for the Phillies, and his pinch-hitting opportunities and DH duty in interleague play would be limited with Jim Thome on the roster.

I would still like to see Jorge go to the Miami Marlins as a best-case scenario if he decides to continue playing.  He lives in Miami, and the team is in the opposing league.  They are not a natural rival by geography, and he wouldn’t tarnish his Yankees legacy.  But as Nick Cafardo said in his Boston Globe column yesterday, “Hope Jorge Posada retires as a Yankee”.

Short-term rental looks better every day…

With the list of prospective pitchers dwindling, I am in favor of a short term signing (such as Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson).  The recent trades of Mat Latos to the Reds and Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals has shown that the price is sky high for young, talented pitchers.  Giving up Jesus Montero and Manuel Banuelos in any trade would be a mistake.  I am not sure if this is akin to 1995 when Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera may have been considered potential prospect trade bait, but still, I’d rather see what the future holds with Montero and Banuelos than without.  I think that either Oswalt or Jackson would be a better option than either Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia, and would allow the Yankees more time to work on a more equitable trade or seek potential help in the 2012 free agent market.

Strengthening your team with ex-Yankees…

I really do not want to see the Boston Red Sox weaken the Yankees’ bench by signing Andruw Jones.  The Yankees had a great fourth outfielder in 2011, and they need to make his return a priority.  This is an area that I’ve been greatly disappointed by the continued silence.  I really do not feel that Justin Maxwell, Chris Dickerson or Melky Mesa can fill Andruw’s shoes.

Just like the Los Angeles Angels crept up and became the star of the Winter Meetings (overtaking the Miami Marlins), I keep expecting the Red Sox, who have been very dormant this winter despite their acquisition of former Yankees reliever Mark Melancon, to make a big splash to improve their 2012 team for new manager Bobby Valentine.  It could be the signing of Hiroki Kuroda (whom the Yankees are also interested in) or a trade for the Cubs’ Matt Garza, but if they do improve, it will be difficult for the Yankees to adjust.

The Winter of (Y)our Discontent…

I never thought I’d feel bad for the New York Mets, but it has to be tough for their fans to watch their team move into rebuilding mode when every other team in the division has gotten better.  The Mets would appear to have a stranglehold on fifth place in their division, with no competition.  There is no great joy in watching the Mets as a defeated organization.

Don’t wake the Beast…

It’s hard to believe that pitchers and catchers report in less than two months.  Of course, I am in Minnesota and it’s sunny with an expected high today of nearly 50 degrees.  Nothing is what you expect, or I suppose you could say what it seems.  There’s a winter beast that will soon be awakened in Minnesota.  Does the same hold true for The Bronx?…

 

–Scott

Aren’t the Yankees supposed to rule the Winter Meetings?…

Wow…

After more than a year of speculation and news about the Albert Pujols contract negotiations, he shocks the world and accepts Arte Moreno’s $250 million to go to Anaheim.  I guess you can blame the Yankees for this one.  Don’t they always get the blame?  If the Yanks hadn’t gone on a spending binge several years to secure the services of then-Angels first baseman Mark Texeira, the Los Angeles Angels would not have been in the market for a top shelf first baseman.  Albert, of course, is more than top shelf, he is THE top shelf.  Still, I was surprised by the move.  The Angels have Mark Trumbo returning, a player they control, and a healthy Kendrys Morales.  I am sure that there are other areas of the team that could have used upgrades.

The Angels did follow up immediately with the signing of top free agent pitcher C.J. Wilson.  I had a feeling that Wilson would be headed to the West Coast despite the Miami Marlins pursuit of the former Texas Ranger.  He leaves the top of the rotation for perhaps the #3 or #4 slot with the Angels.  The Philadelphia Phillies have been recognized for the best rotation, but the Angels cannot be too far behind with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and now Wilson leading the rotation.  I don’t know who the #5 starter is for the Angels off the top of my head, but does it really matter?  You could probably go grab Mark Langston out of retirement and throw him in the rotation…it wouldn’t matter.

This has to be a reactionary move by owner Arte Moreno.  The Los Angeles Dodgers are primed to re-capture the LA market once a reputable, financially-sound owner or ownership group takes control of the team.  After being considered the class of the AL West for years, the Angels have become an understudy for the Texas Rangers.  Today’s moves clearly re-establish the Angels as the class of the AL West, and perhaps of the American League.

I do feel bad for the St Louis Cardinals and their fans.  As an iconic player, the fans deserved to see Albert play his entire career in St Louis.  Stan “The Man” Musial is beloved to this day, and Albert is the first Cardinals player that could have rivaled Musial after his playing days are over.  Now, Albert will never be automatically thought of as a Cardinal.  He’ll carve out a legacy as an Angel, and will give us reasons to remember him in Anaheim.  A very disappointing day for the Cardinals.  No offense to Lance Berkman, but that’s a big drop-off from Albert.

The Miami Marlins had looked like the crown prince of the Winter Meetings with their acquisitions of Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle, but they were torched on the last day by the Angels.  It’s been a good off-season for the Angels, who earlier picked up a new backstop in Chris Iannetta.

Meanwhile, I can hear crickets at Yankee Stadium…

A little bit of nothing…

The Yankees did win the posting for Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima, but based on the reports I’ve read, the Yankees will have difficulty signing him.  The leading speculation is that he’ll return to Japan for another season and then sign with the Boston Red Sox next winter.  That would really stink if the Yankees lost a prospect to their bitter rival.  But from Nakajima’s perspective, Boston could offer him a starting role at shortstop (something the Yankees could not do) and their manager has tremendous experience with Japanese players.  The posting I want the Yankees to win is for pitcher Yu Darvish, but reports indicate the Yankees interest is lukewarm.  Of course, that could always be a ploy to help keep posting bids down, but the lukewarm comments certainly proved to be accurate for the Yankees interest in C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle.

I remain hopeful that the Yankees have started the groundwork for a successful acquisition of a pitcher like Gio Gonzalez, John Danks, or Kyle Drabek.  Brian Cashman may feel that he doesn’t need to do anything with a 97-win team, but I heard a GM on MLB Radio say that if you’re standing pat, you are getting worse.  I agree that you need to consistently seek upgrades and for the most part, the Yankees stood pat last season.  Catcher Russell Martin was huge, but at the time of the signing, it was very low key.  Same with the signings of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.  It’s been a very long time since Yankees fans have had a reason to feel great excitement and joy for a player acquisition like the Angels experienced today.  Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are getting older and certainly not better…

I know, we’re Yankees fans, we want it all…

Go New York!…

Now that the NBA is back, I am at the crossroads.  I’ve been a Los Angeles Lakers fan in recent years, primarily because of my appreciation for Kobe Bryant as a player.  But as funny as this sounds as a Yankees fan, I am tired of backing a team that is always expected to win and often does.  I want a team that has suffered so that when the team does win, there is greater satisfaction.  As a result, I am switching my allegiance to a team that has my favorite player, Amare Stoudemire as well as my second favorite player, Carmelo Anthony…the New York Knicks.

First year in Minnesota, worst year in the history of the franchise…

Despite my relocation to Minnesota, I remain committed in my support of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.  And despite their 2-10 record, I am still a Vikings fan.  On the bright side as a Vikings fan, I won’t have to wait long to find out who the Vikings select in the NFL Draft in April 2012.  At this point in the season, you’re pulling for losses, hoping the team can overtake the Indianapolis Colts for the worst record.  But of course, that’s a moot issue if the Colts can’t win a game. This is probably one of the first years ever that I’ve accepted and embraced that the Green Bay Packers will win the Super Bowl.  It’s easier to say that when your team was left for dead long ago.

I need one of my teams to step forward and win a championship.  It’s been a drought since 2009, and I need something to cheer about!

–Scott