Tagged: Houston

The End of the Road…

Photo Credit: Matt Slocum, AP

Yankees lose another ALCS to Astros…

The end of a baseball season, unless you are the last team standing, always ends in disappointment. Not to take away from so many positives during the season but it’s no fun to suddenly and harshly see the season end on a walk-off two run homer. There’s no doubt the Yankees could have won this series and many will continue to dissect what went wrong in the coming days and weeks, but at this point, the only option is to look ahead.

I really hope the Yankees can find the elusive ace in the upcoming off-season. It remains to be seen if the Yankees will pay for a top free agent pitcher like Gerrit Cole or acquire one through trade. If Cole has a successful World Series, I am sure it will boost his already sky-rocketing value as the best available pitcher. Regardless of whether the Yankees sign Cole or if they go in another direction to save some pain on Hal Steinbrenner’s wallet, they need “the guy” who puts fear in the opposition. Maybe Luis Severino can be that guy next year. This season was lost for him due to injury, and his October version was just a fraction of what he is and can be. James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka had some fantastic October moments, but neither pitcher is going to strike fear in the hearts of the opposition. I had my hopes up for Patrick Corbin last season, only to see the disappointment of watching him sign with the Washington Nationals. For Corbin, it was the perfect scenario. He got the most money and a trip to the World Series.  I am not sure he would have been a difference maker for the Yankees, but it only underscores the need for a better starting rotation. It’s amazing the Yankees were once considered the frontrunners for the services of multiple 2019 World Series pitchers (Cole, Corbin, and Max Scherzer). We’ll never know but just one of those pitchers in Pinstripes could have ensured the continuance of the Yankees’ 2019 season.  

It’s not a coincidence that the two teams in the World Series have the game’s best pitching staffs.  I’ll give the edge to the Astros, but it would not surprise me if the Nationals shut down the high-flying ‘Stros. The Nationals are riding great momentum right now and they can give Houston a fight. I am sure their pitchers were watching how the Yankee pitchers, for the most part, kept Astros hitters off-balance. If they can avoid the Yankees’ mistakes, the Nats could be soon sipping champagne.  

So, the primary goal for Brian Cashman should be to get an ace (finally) and make Luis Severino and James Paxton the second and third starters.  

I was a little disappointed with the lack of support of certain players by the Yankees fan base over the last few weeks. You certainly cannot blame Giancarlo Stanton for the injuries that derailed his season and left him largely ineffective and often sitting out games in the playoffs. I think he’ll be back stronger than ever in 2020. Why criticize the man? He’s here for the long haul and we need to support the man and help him become the best he can be, not tear him down. Love him or hate him, the man wants to win for the Yankees. Other players often criticized were Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Luke Voit, and lately, Adam Ottavino. For me, I want all of these guys on the 2020 roster when the Yankees attempt to make a deeper October run.  

Admittedly, I shut off Twitter for much of the last week. I was tired of the negativity and I wanted to focus on the Yankees, keeping an open and positive mind about the players.  

It’s sad that CC Sabathia had to say goodbye by walking off the mound in ALCS Game 5 after a shoulder injury brought his Hall of Fame career to an end. There was no Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter moment for him, but I know that I appreciate his efforts just as much. He may not be the first ballot Hall of Famer like Mo or Jeter, but he’ll join them soon enough. There’s no doubt in my mind CC deserves a spot in Cooperstown.

Photo Credit: AP

I really hope the Yankees find a way to keep Sabathia in the organization in a non-playing position. Not a token consultant role, but a more meaningful capacity to keep his presence, attitude and leadership around the Yankees. Maybe not a coach, but I am sure there’s a beneficial spot for Sabathia that would be mutually rewarding for all of us. A great baseball pitcher, and an even better man. Thanks, CC, for everything you’ve done for the Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman will take a lot of heat for giving up the fateful walk-off homer to Jose Altuve last night, but I am not going to criticize him. Even the great Mariano Rivera had a couple of October moments like that. Yet, if Chapman does decide to opt out of his contract this off-season, I am prepared for the Yankees to walk away. I do not feel they should attempt to re-sign him to a new deal. Closers have a short shelf life. Rivera was an aberration. I think the Yankees would be better served using Chapman’s money to make a starting rotation upgrade. The Astros proved you don’t have to spend top dollar to have a very successful bullpen. Last night didn’t factor into my feeling that the Yankees should let Chappy walk if he opts out. I felt that way before the game and have for the last couple of months. I think Zack Britton is more than capable of being a championship caliber closer.   

When I look at the 40-man roster, I think these guys are gone or should be gone.

Chance Adams

Enough is enough…time for a change of scenery.

Jake Barrett

Presently on the 60-day IL, there’s no way the Yankees open a spot on the 40-man roster for Barrett with the need to protect certain prospects in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. 

Cody Gearrin

I thought Gearrin did a decent job overall, but he gets squeezed out in the 40-man roster crunch.

J.A. Happ

This probably falls more into the ‘should be gone’ category as I don’t believe he’s going anywhere with another year on his contract (and an option for 2021). I really hope Brian Cashman is able to make a move to send Happ elsewhere. It’s his spot in the rotation that direly needs to be upgraded. You could say Jordan Montgomery is that man, but I think of Montgomery as Sabathia’s replacement. Monty, as a fifth starter, should be as effective as Sabathia was in recent years, if not potentially better. He’ll never be a frontline pitcher like Sabathia, and that’s okay. Happ’s spot is the one that HAS TO BE better. Michael King and Deivi Garcia represent hope but the Yankees need a true ace and Happ, at this point in his career, is a liability.  

Jonathan Holder

I always liked Holder but no doubt 2019 was a major disappointment with performance and injuries. If Holder goes, it is purely the roster crunch that forces the move. I’d like to have Holder back but I am not certain it will happen.  

Tyler Lyons

Tyler did fine in limited appearances but ultimately his 40-man spot is too valuable to hold him. I don’t see him as a long term option and never did. He is just a journeyman pitcher that will be searching for his next team in the off-season.

Austin Romine

I don’t think that Romine should go, but I think as a free agent, he’ll get offers that potentially include the ability to compete for a starting job. He’s done everything anyone could ask of a backup catcher and he’ll help a team in 2020. I just don’t think it will be with the Yankees. I do think Kyle Higashioka is ready to step in as the backup for Gary Sanchez which helps ease the loss of Romine.

Greg Bird

Presently on the 60-day IL, the Yankees will have to open a spot on the 40-man for him. In light of years of injuries and unfulfilled promise, I think it’s time to cut bait.  If there’s a guy I would love to prove me wrong, it’s Bird. But he’s had so many chances and here we are…the proverbial fork in the road. Instead of more chances, I think the Yankees simply move on.

Edwin Encarnacion

The Parrott Ride was fun while it lasted and it’s too bad that Edwin didn’t make much noise in the ALCS, but there was never a chance the Yankees are going to pick up his $20 million option for 2020. The Yankees need that money to make other upgrades. Regardless of what just happened, the Steinbrenner Family is not suddenly going to go on a spending spree. Assuming that 2019 was not fluke for Gio Urshela’s hitting ability, I think he’ll be the starting third baseman heading into next season. The Yankees have to make room for Miguel Andujar and I think he takes Edwin’s roster spot, and competes for time at first base, third base, DH, and potentially, if he works on it during Spring Training, some corner outfield play.  

Didi Gregorius 

I want to be clear that I love Didi as a Yankee. I love his attitude and his play, both offensively and defensively. I know that 2019 was not a stellar offensive campaign for him but c’mon, the dude just came off Tommy John surgery last off-season. If the Yankees sign the impending free agent to a new contract, I think he’ll be more like the Didi of old in 2020. But that’s the question. Do the Yankees sign him to a new contract with Gleyber Torres able to man shortstop at an All-Star level, making DJ LeMahieu the starting second baseman instead of an infield rover. No doubt Hal Steinbrenner watches the bottom line very closely and unfortunately I think Didi could be an off-season casualty. If so, I will miss him greatly. He’s been an excellent Yankee.  

Jacoby Ellsbury

If ‘enough is enough’ is the case for Chance Adams, Ellsbury has proven that time and again. Everyone knows the only reason that Ellsbury is still technically a Yankee is his contract and the financial assistance offered by insurance to help mitigate the cost for the years he has been unable to play. Currently on the 60-man IL, I wouldn’t give Ellsbury a spot on the 40-man roster. Ellsbury has one year left on his contract ($21,142,857) and a team option for 2021 that will no doubt be bought out for $5 million. I think this is the end for Ellsbury. Time for the Yankees to move on, and take the financial hit. The 40-man roster spot is too valuable to waste it on Ellsbury.

Clint Frazier

The guy is just not a Yankee. I think he can be a good player, but not for the Yankees. If the Yankees re-sign Brett Gardner to another one year deal, there’s no way Frazier sticks around with the more versatile Mike Tauchman on the roster. It’s almost laughable the Yankees probably could have had Gerrit Cole a couple of years ago for Frazier, Adams and another top prospect or two. What a difference that would have made (with the benefit of hindsight, of course)!  

Brett Gardner

Despite Brett’s highly successful 2019 season, there’s still question whether the Yankees re-sign the longtime Yankee. Nothing against Brett, but age is a factor. At some point, the younger guys have to play. Gardy will be forced out at some point in the future, and it could very well be this off-season. I am all for bringing him back to be the fourth or fifth outfielder (active rosters expand from 25 to 26 next season), but I think there is reasonable doubt about whether or not the Yankees bring him back so it is very possible we’ve seen the last of Gardy in Pinstripes. He’s wore the Pinstripes very proudly and I’ll cherish his time as a Yankee. 

Cameron Maybin

I like Cameron but he was just a 2019 ‘fill-in’ due to the massive number of injuries. He wasn’t brought in to be part of the future. Purely a “now” in-season acquisition, I don’t think he’ll be back.

Larry Rothschild

I hate to be critical of pitching coach Larry Rothschild because we do not see him “behind the scenes” and how truly valuable he has been for the Yankees, but if the Yankees could get someone like David Cone as pitching coach, you have to do it. I also like Andy Pettitte. I think both Cone and Pettitte would be better pitching coaches from the outside, looking in. I think Cone is the more likely option as Pettitte seems to be enjoying the low-stress life in Texas with family and high school coaching. Like Don Mattingly before him, he’ll eventually get the itch to get back into the game but I don’t think we’re quite there yet with him. So, David Cone would be my choice for pitching coach. I think he’d be tremendous in the role and would help the pitching staff to over-achieve.  

Strength & Conditioning Team

You’re all fired!  

This season has been so much fun for the Yankees and their fans (well, up until this past week and last night in particular). We’ll forever remember it as the Year of the Savages and the entire #NextManUp attitude. I was really hoping for CC Sabathia to leave with “book end” championships for his Yankees career, but it wasn’t meant to be. Hard to believe that we’ve completed the first decade of no Yankees appearances in the World Series for the past century. Hopefully the streak starts again when the new decade rolls in. I think the younger players on the team will take the current disappointment to fuel greater heights next year. Get ready for the constant “he’s only 23” for Gleyber Torres. This is not the closure of a window but rather the upward pressure on raising the window. We have every reason to believe the Yankees will win in 2020. The pressure is on Brian Cashman to make the right moves this off-season to enhance the team’s chances as we move forward. No doubt he saw what we saw and he’ll make the right moves. We just have to be patient for the next 3-4 months. Let’s see how this plays out. I have faith and confidence in the Yankees pursuit of a championship.  

As for baseball, I am done. I am not interested in a Nationals-Astros World Series. At this point, I just want the World Series to be over so that we can begin the latest off-season, with the usual excitement and anticipation for possible enhancements to the roster. I hope the Yankees can sign DJ LeMahieu to an extension with just one year left on his contract. I am sure the Yankees will be looking for another addition that can have the type of impact on the team like LeMahieu did this year. A great under-the-radar signing that yields tremendous fruit. I don’t know who or what position, but the quest every year is to ensure the best possible player or pitcher at every position. Team chemistry plays very strongly into the equation so it’s up to Cashman and his analytics team to show why they are considered among the best in the game. Attitude and talent, the formula is simple. Finding the ingredients is difficult but the Yankees have a great, still young core. The recipe doesn’t need to be changed, just the garnishments. Just like I was disappointed after the 1995 season, the future is bright. There is hope for 2020 and I am very excited about the future. We’ve not heard the last from this team. They’ll be back and stronger than ever.

Photo Credit: EPA  

As always, Go Yankees!   

The Joy of Winning…

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

Yankees On 7-Game Roll…

The “fun” is back in the New York Yankees. After a highly successful May, June just didn’t start like it would be enjoyable but now the team is on a seven-game winning streak after last night’s 4-1 victory over the Houston Astros and the ‘fun’ is certainly back in style around Yankee Stadium.

When the Friday night lineup was posted featuring Aaron Judge atop the order, there were so many dissenting fans. Since it was a scheduled game off for early season MVP D.J. LeMahieu, I had no problem with Aaron Boone’s decision to put Judge in the leadoff spot. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ as the saying goes. Boone could literally put all the names in a bag and shake them up to determine the lineup order and he wouldn’t be wrong. From top to bottom, even on days when Luke Voit and D.J. LeMahieu take a blow, the Yankees are scary good.

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton may have been a combined 0-for-8 last night with five strikeouts, but the one thing that stood out to me is how incredibly talented Gleyber Torres is. It’s not like it was a revelation yesterday but I continue to be amazed by the play of the 22-year-old.  He homered for the third consecutive game (a feat matched by Gary Sanchez, making them the first Yankee teammates to hit home runs together for at least three straight games) but the cherry on top was the incredible glove flip in the top of the 8th inning which started an inning-ending double play when it looked like the Astros were in position to add a few runs against Zack Britton. I’ve seen a few Yankee fans post on Social Media that the Yankees should include Torres in a trade to acquire an ace like Max Scherzer.  No, thank you. Torres, I hope, will be a Yankee for the rest of his career. To me, he is in the same untouchable category as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino. I don’t realistically think GM Brian Cashman would ever trade him, but it’s foolish there are fans who believe he should.

Photo Credit: Paul J Bereswill, The New York Post

I think if there is an infielder I am worried about, it is Didi Gregorius. A free agent at the end of the year, I could see the Yankees letting him walk and inserting Torres as the team’s starting shortstop. D.J. LeMahieu provides a superior bat and glove at second base and the role of super-sub could certainly be filled by Thairo Estrada. I don’t want to see Gregorius leave and I’d like to see the team lock him up on an extension but until it happens, there is a chance Sir Didi could be moving on after the season. Didi’s throws don’t seem to have the same zip as they once did. It could just be a time process as he further distances himself from last fall’s Tommy John surgery but I don’t like any potential excuses that might allow Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner to save a few pennies.

Our happiness that Cameron Maybin’s roster spot was safe with the activation of Aaron Judge and the demotion of a pitcher (Nestor Cortes Jr) instead of Maybin sure was short-lived. After suffering a calf strain last night while running around third base on Gary Sanchez’s homer, Maybin has been placed on the Injured List. After the game, Aaron Boone said that his stay on the IL could be awhile. Bummer. He’s been playing so well for the Yankees and I like how he mixed into the team’s chemistry. Although the Yankees have not announced who will be taking Maybin’s spot as I type this post, it is expected to be outfielder Mike Tauchman (not Clint Frazier) for defensive purposes. Nothing against Tauchman, but it’s a huge drop-off from Maybin to him if for no other reason than clubhouse presence.

Photo Credit: Al Bello, Getty Images

I am a little worried about Aaron Hicks’ shoulder. He was forced to play center field last night after Maybin left the game. After having a couple of games off for inflammation in his right shoulder, Aaron Boone hadn’t planned to insert Hicks back into the lineup until today. Hopefully the cortisone shot helps and the inflammation is not indicative of greater problems. It’s been such a challenge to keep Hicks on the field this year (even if he’s played more than Stanton or Judge).

Six Yankees have moved into the final voting phase for the MLB All-Star Game which will be held on Wednesday and Thursday.

First Base: Luke Voit

Second Base: D.J. LeMahieu

Shortstop: Gleyber Torres

Third Base: Gio Urshela

Catcher: Gary Sanchez

Outfield: Aaron Judge

While I think Gary is a shoo-in, I really hope that Voit, LeMahieu and Torres are named American League starters. I like the job Urshela has done but I honestly cannot say he is the best third baseman in the league. Judge, to me, has missed too much time this year. All-Star recognition should be based on this year’s performance and not merely be a popularity contest. So, as much as I love Aaron Judge, he is not one of the three best outfielders in the league this year (so far anyway).

I think I am officially tired of the Max Scherzer trade rumors. The Washington Nationals and the Lerner family are not going to trade their ace. It simply is not happening. The Nationals have won five games in a row and are currently 2 1/2 games out in the NL Wild Card chase. Even if the Nats were to fall out of contention, I feel Scherzer will remain a Nat. He will not be a Yankee. In my opinion, the more likely trade targets are Matthew Boyd of the Detroit Tigers or Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are only 1 1/2 games out in the AL Wild Card chase so Boyd, to me, stands as the most probable target. I can’t say that he is the pitcher I want most, but he’s the one I feel could be trying on the Pinstripes within the next month.

In 16 starts, Boyd, a lefty, is 5-5 for the lowly Tigers. His K/9 is 11.22 (striking out 118 batters in 94 2/3 innings), with 3.61 ERA and 3.36 FIP.  He is currently carrying the best WAR of his career at 2.6. Boyd, 28, was acquired by the Tigers in the 2015 trading deadline deal that sent David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays. I know that we went a few years with speculation the Yankees would acquire another Tigers starter (Michael Fulmer, currently recovering from Tommy John surgery) and that has turned out to be the best trade never made, but I think the odds are greater the Yankees can consummate a Boyd deal.

I like Toronto’s Marcus Stroman but I don’t want the Yankees to keep sending talented prospects to the Blue Jays to supplement the great young talent they have already accumulated. I guess it’s inevitable somebody will, but I’d rather not see multiple former Yankees helping the Blue Jays become a beast in the AL East.

It was reported yesterday that former Yankees manager Buck Showalter is in talks with the YES Network for a “fill-in” analyst role that could lead to a permanent gig next season. I went through my years where I despised Showalter but I’ve grown to have an appreciation of him over the last few years. I think I realized that Showalter’s intense desire to beat the Yankees was driven by his “love” for the organization. He knows and understands Yankees history as well as anyone, and I think he’d be a good voice in the booth for Yankees telecasts. Willie Randolph is also expected to be a guest analyst before the end of the season. Of the fill-in’s we’ve seen so far, I think David Wells has been my favorite. With the loss of Al Leiter who left YES earlier this season and Ken Singleton’s winding down of his broadcast career, the YES Network lineup could certainly use new blood. I like the names we’re hearing and I hope that one or more join the broadcast team.

I think it would be awesome if the Yankees can win at least one of the next two games against the Astros. A sweep would be incredible but I will set expectations at a more realistic level. The Astros, despite their current six-game losing streak, remain one of the AL’s best teams. They’ve fought back in both of the past two games and put themselves in position to tie or win those games. The Astros are simply too good to keep losing. Nevertheless, I hope their losing streak is extended for at least one more game today. It is a great day to see Edwin Encarnación walk the parrot and/or for Aaron Judge to give the Judge’s Chambers reason to exuberantly wave their gavels. If the Yankees get a homer today, they will match the team record of homers in 25 consecutive games set by the 1941 New York Yankees who were led by a trio of thirty-homer plus outfielders, Charlie Keller (33), Tommy Henrich (31) and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio (30). It could be a history making kind of day…another great story for baseball’s most storied franchise.

As always, Go Yankees!

CC Sabathia and the Hall of Fame…

cc-sabathia-2
Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, NY Post

Resume now includes 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts…

Many of us fans were getting discouraged with the June Yankees after the May Yankees had made baseball fun again, but it’s funny how a nice little five-game win streak quickly changes one’s perspective.  I was a little late tuning into yesterday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, and it was already 6-0 in the first inning and the Rays were on their second pitcher after AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell had been pulled after one out and 39 pitches. Yikes! That’s the Yankee Juggernaut this team is capable of.

Congratulations to CC Sabathia for the achievement of his 250th Major League victory with the 12-1 win.  I know it took a few tries and CC was more worried about getting the Yankees their 46th win this year than the 250th of his career, but it’s an amazing achievement for the big guy from Vallejo, California.  With a career record of 250-157, 3.71 ERA, and 3,043 strikeouts, he seems like a shoo-in for Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  As an eleven-year member of the team, it seems natural that he should go into the Hall as a Yankee despite his early years in Cleveland.  I suspect in five years, CC will need to make travel arrangements for Cooperstown, New York. He’s been a great Yankee.

cooperstown

The sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t have come at a better time.  Entering the series, the Yankees held a slim ½ game lead over the Rays and had been scuffling for a few series until they finally won the last two games of the four-game set in Chicago with the White Sox to earn a split.  Now, three days later, the Yankees have a more comfortable 3 ½ game margin on the Rays and barring another tailspin should enter the month of the July atop the AL East Standings.

Now the challenging part. The Houston Astros are in the Bronx for a four-game series starting this evening. Yes, the Cincinnati Reds just swept the Astros and Houston is on a four-game losing streak but they still have the second-best record in the American League behind the Minnesota Twins at 48-27 (two wins more than the Yankees but the same number of losses).  Regardless of what happened in Cincinnati, playing in Yankee Stadium will energize the Astros and it will almost certainly be a playoff-like atmosphere. I expect it to be a very tough series, more challenging than the last three days.  Not taking anything away from the Rays, they are a very good team, but in my mind, the Astros, who many predict to advance to the World Series this year, are the team to beat.  They are boosted by the return of second baseman Jose Altuve who was activated off the IL yesterday. Similarly, the Yankees benefit from the returns of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge (the latter played his last rehab game for the RailRiders last night and should be activated for Friday night’s game).  It feels like the Yankees are catching the Astros at the right time, and I am glad the series is in New York and not Houston.  If the Yankees continue to get the pitching performances they’ve seen the last few games, I like the Yankees’ chances of taking at least three of four from the Astros.  After getting swept in Houston earlier this season, it would be fun if the Yankees could return the favor.

The pitching matchups are set:

Thursday:  Houston’s Framber Valdez (3-2, 2.77 ERA) vs Chad Green, Opener (1-2, 7.54 ERA) who will most likely be followed by Nestor Cortes Jr (1-0, 3.79 ERA).

Friday: Houston’s Brad Peacock (6-4, 3.67 ERA) vs James Paxton (4-3, 3.93 ERA)

Saturday: Houston’s Wade Miley (6-4, 3.30 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.23 ERA)

Sunday: Houston’s Justin Verlander (9-3, 2.59 ERA) vs J.A. Happ (7-3, 4.59 ERA)

I am kind of glad the Yankees will be missing future Yank Gerrit Cole this series.  I think the only matchup that truly concerns me is Verlander-Happ.  Hopefully Happ can go toe-to-toe (or maybe I should say arm-to-arm) with Verlander with the Yankees’ offense providing the difference.

The Cameron Maybin decision. I agree with those who say the best course of action after tonight’s game is to option Cortes Jr to Triple A to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Aaron Judge.  If Cortes Jr can pitch at least five innings tonight, he won’t be ready to pitch again for five days so it buys more time for Maybin on the Yankees roster.  Sadly, if Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge stay healthy, I do not see room on the roster for Maybin.  It sucks because I think he’s been a fantastic addition and he fits so well into the clubhouse, but inevitably, the Yankees will need his roster spot.  Brett Gardner will provide the necessary outfield insurance so at that point, Maybin becomes a redundant part and one not likely to play much.  Hopefully Brian Cashman can work his magic and get a little something for Maybin rather than just lose him on waivers.  Of course, an injury could change this in a heartbeat.  I do not wish injury upon anyone, but I am in favor of buying as much time with Maybin as we possibly can before the inevitable guillotine falls.  That’s why I feel the Yankees should drop to a 12-man pitching staff at least temporarily.

I really do not get the adverse reaction Giancarlo Stanton has gotten from Yankee fans.  I feel it is unrealistic to expect players who have missed so much time to immediately hit to normal standards.  Recapturing one’s timing is a process. Facing Triple-A pitchers is not the same as MLB pitching.  Stanton missed 68 games until he was activated earlier this week.  I had absolutely no problem with Aaron Boone’s decision to rest Stanton yesterday. If Boone wants to take his time working Stanton back into form, he certainly knows more about the situation (where Stanton is physically and mentally) and it’s his right to make those decisions.  I know Stanton will eventually hit and I am not going to get on him for every strikeout until it happens. He deserves our patience and support, not our abuse.  I am glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee and if the Yankees win the World Series this year, I have no doubts Stanton will be a huge reason why.  If you choose to boo him, I don’t consider you to be real fans anyway.

The Yankees had a couple of minor league transactions of note yesterday.  Pitchers Drew Hutchison and Danny Farquhar were released.  I never really expected Hutchison to last in the organization.  He wasn’t going to get a chance at the Big League level and apparently he had an opt-out in his minor league contract.  There was a time when I thought the one-time Blue Jay had potential but that time passed years ago.  Farquhar is the sadder story.  After his life-threatening brain aneurysm with the Chicago White Sox last year, he was the feel-good story of the Spring as he attempted his comeback with the Yankees.  While I didn’t think he’d crack the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen, there was a part of me that kind of hoped he would.  I wish him nothing but the best as he continues his journey back to the Major Leagues.  I hope he has better luck with his next organization and I look forward to the day he stands on a Major League mound again.

Lastly, a quick note on the starting pitching speculations for our favorite team.  As much as I would love to have Max Scherzer and there’s probably no untouchable prospects to get him (in my mind), he will never be a Yankee.  Primarily, I don’t think the Washington Nationals will trade him.  They’ve won 16 of 23 games and are only 4 games out in the NL Wild Card hunt.  Sure, much can happen between now and July 31st, but I don’t see the Nationals in seller’s mode (at least not as far as Scherzer is concerned).  But even if the Nats were willing to trade him, I honestly do not feel the Yankees would take the contract, even if Washington was willing to include a few dollars in the deal.  I know Hal Steinbrenner is on record saying that he’d be willing to surpass the highest luxury tax threshold if necessary to improve pitching but what he says and what he does are often two different things.  There always seems to be the eye on the bottom line and truthfully Scherzer is probably the only pitcher worth paying the highest tax but I don’t see it happening.  I guess you can never say never, but as much as I like Max Scherzer, I don’t think we’ll ever see him calling Yankee Stadium home.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Bidding for James Paxton Begins…

Photo Credit: The Canadian Press (Fred Thornhill)

Will Paxton join Gerrit Cole in Houston?…

Last year, the Yankees missed an opportunity to acquire top starting pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Astros swooped in to grab the talented righty. It’s possible that the Yankees could be outdone by the Astros for the second consecutive year. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted this morning that Houston is in on the potential trade  talks for James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners along with the Yankees and other clubs.

I wanted Cole last winter although a number of Yankee fans did not. Honestly, it’s unlikely Cole would have pitched as well in the Bronx as he did in Houston so perhaps the opposing fans were right. This is a new year, and now the trade speculation is on Paxton, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. My initial desire is to place Kluber at the top of the list, but the more you think about it, the less likely you feel the Cleveland Indians would actually move their aces. The Indians remain a contending team so unless it is a serious overpay, the Tribe is not going to part with Kluber or Carrasco. So it leaves Paxton as potentially the best available trade target assuming the Mariners decide to move him. Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto is, of course, very unpredictable but the Yankees and Mariners have matched up for lesser deals in recent years so there is history of successful negotiations. I have no doubt DiPoto would trade within division for the right mix of players so Houston is a serious threat for the Yankees if they identify Paxton as the guy they want. The Astros may lose Charlie Morton to free agency and they’ve already lost Lance McCullers, Jr for the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. So the Astros are just as motivated to add top starters as the Yankees.

As much as I like Paxton, he is not someone I would trade Miguel Andujar for (or Estevan Florial or Justus Sheffield for that matter).  Kluber or Carrasco, yes, but not Paxton. Paxton carries much greater risk with his inability to stay healthy. So, as much as I would hate to get punked by the Astros again and as much as I’d like Paxton on the staff, there is a price I’d draw a line. If Houston wants to overpay, let them.  If GM Brian Cashman can get Paxton at his price, great. I’ll be excited to see Paxton join the Yankees starting rotation…with Miguel Andujar continuing to field grounders at third in Yankee Stadium.

A pic of a shaved Dallas Keuchel has been floating the Internet with talk about how the “beardless” one would look in the Bronx.

With no offense to Keuchel, I don’t really want to see him in the Bronx. I know he’s been tough on the Yankees over the years but I cannot find myself with the desire to root for him.  Keuchel will only be 31 when the season begins, however, I think Keuchel and Patrick Corbin are on opposite trajectories for their 30’s. Corbin, like fine wine, stands a much better chance of aging well. If the Yankees miss out on Corbin and others, it is possible they have to make a run at Keuchel but I really hope that’s a potential option which never comes to fruition. Bring me Corbin and J.A. Happ and I’ll be happy.

Trying to brace myself for the possibility the Yankees pass on the big ticket purchases this winter, I think Marwin Gonzalez and Jurickson Profar represent the best options for the infield to help cover for the loss of Didi Gregorius. I’ve liked Daniel Murphy in the past but I don’t feel he really fits the Yankees at this stage in his career. Both Gonzalez and Profar have positional diversity which makes them very valuable with the current group of Yankees. Who knows, maybe this is the year Tyler Wade puts it together to launch his Major League career in full force. It’s not really a bet I’d make but it is not my team or my money. Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is on record that he is tired of lining the pockets of other owners and it’s his right to make the financial decisions in the best interests of the Steinbrenner Family. I think most of us thought the Yankees were positioning themselves for a big splash into the 2018-19 free agent market but the reality is that we need to be prepared for Team Fiscal Restraint. I am hopeful Hal sees the potential salary relief when guys like Jacoby Ellsbury come off the books in just a couple of years but we’ll see.

It was tough in years past to see the Yankees pass on the big name free agents. Max Scherzer stands out as one. At the time of his free agency, the Yankees were cited as one of the favorites to sign him. They didn’t and Scherzer moved from Detroit to Washington and has continued to pitch at an elite level. Even if the Yankees weren’t ready to add an elite pitcher at the time of Scherzer’s availability, he’d certainly look fantastic in the starting rotation today. The price would have meant the inability to bring payroll under the luxury tax threshold this year so the decision to pass on Scherzer remains debatable. It’s amazing how the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury has haunted the Yankees for so many years. I guess that’s a strong argument for not going hog wild in the current free agent market.

Before I close, I’d like to send out our prayers and thoughts to all those affected by the wildfires in Northern and Southern California. For some, there will never be recovery. I hope the fires are brought under control soon and we suffer no further loss of life. For those of you in California, please stay safe.

View of Malibu from Santa Monica Pier

Lastly, Happy Veteran’s Day! We can never forget those who served and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to maintain our freedom. Today, and every day, we honor you.

As always, Go Yankees!

Winning Ugly…

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Yanks overcome mistakes and Astros…

There have been a few games the Yankees have lost this year that they should have won, but Tuesday’s game probably should have been a loss. Sure, the Yankees got fourteen hits, but they struck out seventeen freakin’ times and committed an incredulous five errors. Charlie Morton, Clark Kent in Pittsburgh but Superman in Houston, struck out ten Yankees in six innings of work. He did allow three runs to inflate his season ERA to 2.26 but he was in line for the victory with a 5-3 lead when he departed.

CC Sabathia did not look great but credit to him for holding the Astros to only five runs (three earned) on eight hits before departing after five innings and turning the game over to the bullpen. If Sabathia would have given up any more runs, there most likely would have been no dramatic comebacks on this night. ‘Keep it close and get the game into the hands of the bullpen’ is something I’ve been saying from the start of this series. There’s no doubt I’d prefer to take my chances with the Yankees pen over the Astros’ mess. Houston may have the best five starters in the game right now, but their bullpen is about as bad as Roseanne Barr on Twitter.

Every game, I am amazed about the play of Gleyber Torres. Considering he had two of the five errors, he had every reason to clunk this game. But there he was in the bottom of the tenth inning with the winning run on second. A ball that was generously called a strike by the home plate umpire aggravated Torres, but perhaps with an assist from third base coach Phil Nevin, Torres was able to shake it off and wait for his pitch. On a 2-2 count, he drove Brad Peacock’s two-seam fastball into right field, easily allowing Miguel Andujar to race home well ahead of the off-line throw from the outfield, scoring the walk-off winning run. 9 home runs, 26 RBI’s, .321 batting average. The guy has only had 117 plates appearances in the Major Leagues.  The dude is only 21 years old. When Charlie Hayes caught the pop-up to end the 1996 World Series, Gleyber was still marinating in his mother’s stomach. How is this possible? Amazing, simply amazing and something quite special.

The heroics by Torres were made possible by none other than the ancient Brett Gardner. I know, 34 is not old but on a team of twenty-somethings, he’d be the gray-haired man (if he had hair). Not one but two home runs by Gardy put the Yankees in position to win. The second home run, a two-run bomb off Houston’s Chris Devenski in the bottom of the ninth, tied the game to send it into extra innings.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Frank Franklin II)

It figures that Miguel Andujar played a key role in both the tying and winning moments. His walk to open the ninth set the stage for Gardy’s home run to tie it, and his double in the tenth, laced into left with the fury like ABC used to cancel Roseanne’s show, put him in position to score the walk-off run.

Also, mention must go to the spectacular play by Gary Sanchez to end the top of the tenth inning. With Houston’s Tony Kemp on second base and two outs, closer Aroldis Chapman’s 100 mph fastball sailed above El Gary’s head to the backstop. The sheer force and velocity of the pitch ricocheted the ball back to Gary who, in turn, fired a strike to third base to nail the sliding Tony Kemp. There was the pesky Miguel Andujar again, applying the tag for the final out.

The Yankees (34-17) won the game 6-5 and remain two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Sox, winners of eight of their last ten and two in a row, thumped the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-3. The Yankees and Red Sox have the equal number of losses (17), but Boston has four more wins.

On a side note about the seventeen strikeouts, every batter in the Yankees lineup struck out at least once and three guys (Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Hicks) struck out three times. I am getting a little tired of watching Hicks take meatballs down the center of the plate with his bat on his shoulder. Count me among those who’d prefer to see what Red Thunder could do in center.

Despite two strikeouts of his own and the previously mentioned couple of errors, I am so proud to have Gleyber Torres on this team. He has given me a sense of confidence about second base that I haven’t felt since Robinson Cano patrolled these parts (I’d like to think drug-free, but who knows). Nothing against Giancarlo Stanton, but I feel Torres has been the most valuable new addition to the team this year. Maybe when Stanton starts crushing massive home runs every day with one of his typical monster tears I’ll feel differently but for now, I’ll just sit back and enjoy watching young Gleyber play…and win.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Al Bello)

Yesterday, I mentioned Josh Rogers as a potential callup for the Yankees. The 23-year-old lefty delivered a dominating performance on the road Tuesday for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders against the Louisville Bats. Rogers, who went to the University of Louisville and grew up nearby, pitched a five-hit shutout for seven innings. He walked two and struck out three while lowering his season ERA from 2.80 to 2.48 in the RailRiders’ 4-0 win. Rogers, unlike Chance Adams, is pitching like he wants a free ride to the Bronx. If he keeps this up, he’ll get it.

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Photo Credit: Todd Hiller

The Yankees conclude their season series with the Astros tonight. Noted Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel is on the mound but he’ll be going against our best, Luis Severino. I am sure we’ll see Keuchel again in October. Nothing better than sending him away with a loss to think about for the next few months. I gotta admit I have wondered what Keuchel would look like without that beard if he decides to try on pinstripes over the upcoming winter.

Go Yankees!

A Wish: To Beat Justin Verlander..

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Eventually, the Wish will become Reality…

I was not too confident about the Yankees’ chances against Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander yesterday and unfortunately I was right as the Bombers fell to the Astros, 5-1. As if the cold bats against Verlander weren’t bad enough, the sight of him walking off the field while tipping his cap to the jeers from the Yankee Stadium crowd was sickening. When I think of Verlander, I can still see his ugly mug in the midst of the brawl in Detroit last summer.

I don’t like Justin Verlander. I’ll just get that out there. I do not wish the Yankees had been the team to acquire him last summer regardless of what he has done wearing an Astros uniform. I don’t want him on my team. I want my team to beat him, to crush him like an ant. If the Yankees can beat Verlander in the post-season, a regular season loss to him will mean absolutely nothing. So, for now, I’ll take solace in the fact the Yankees are watching and learning. The day will come when they tee off on Verlander and he’ll look like the aging pitcher he was in the final days of wearing Detroit Tigers gear. I look forward to our next meeting with Verlander which could very well happen in October.

The next two games against the Astros will be tough. Whatever it is about pitching in Houston, Charlie Morton is drinking the water. An average starter at best in Pittsburgh, he’s become a different man in Houston and has pitched very well against the Yankees. Morton is undefeated this season (7-0), carrying a low ERA of 2.04 (which of course is high compared to Verlander’s 1.11). I wish I felt more confident with CC Sabathia on the mound. Frankly, I don’t know what we are going to get today with CC (2-1, 3.55 ERA). I guess my philosophy is the same as yesterday. Try to keep it close and get the game into the hands of the bullpen. Bullpen to bullpen, I like the Yankees’ chances.

Tomorrow, for the series finale, the Astros will have proven Yankee-killer Dallas Keuchel on the mound. If there is a silver lining, this has been a down year for Keuchel (3-6, 3.39 ERA) which also happens to be his walk year. We’ll throw the best we’ve got (Luis Severino, 7-1, 2.28 ERA) at Houston but down year or not, I expect Keuchel to be on his game. It should be a classic pitching duel.

One positive from yesterday’s game (at least for me)…Greg Bird’s swing is a thing of beauty.

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

I know there were positives in Domingo German’s performance yesterday with the number of whiffs (he did record seven strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings) but a loss is a loss. I know, he’s learning and it is part of the process. The Astros fans were probably very confident yesterday knowing who was pitching for them. I want that kind of guy. Again, not Verlander (for me), but a pitcher who instills confidence the way he does for his team. It’s not Sabathia, it’s not Masahiro Tanaka nor German, and it sure the hell isn’t Sonny Gray. I am getting a little tired of the usual suspects with rumored potential trade candidates. Michael Fulmer is 2-3 with 4.08 ERA and 1.273 WHIP. He may be young and controllable but his numbers are trending in the wrong direction. Same with Chris Archer. He is 3-3 with 4.29 ERA and 1.304 WHIP. To Archer’s defense, outside of a poor start against the Baltimore Orioles on May 12th when he gave up six runs in a loss, he has pitched much better in May than he did in April. At the end of April, Archer had a 6.61 ERA so even with the dog start against the O’s, he has lowered his ERA by more than two runs in a month. Fulmer is probably the better option since he’s younger and maybe his numbers help make his price tag more affordable. I don’t know. I can’t see either pitcher being “the guy” in October.

Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman uncovers a gem (or two) prior to this year’s trading deadline. Go ahead, surprise us with a true ace. An improved pitching staff to go with the team’s offense would be the catalyst for the Yankees to overcome the Boston Red Sox and charge into October with significant momentum. I want another shot at Justin Verlander.  Only next time, I expect to win.

So, the Cleveland Indians have promoted Justin Bieber to start this week. Oh sorry, make that Shane Bieber. Bieber was taken in the MLB Draft two years after the Indians selected Justus Sheffield and three rounds later. Bieber is a year older than Top Sheff and has blazed through the Indians system. I think we’ll see Sheff in a couple of months. Not really trying to draw a comparison between the two given Bieber was a college pitcher and much closer to the Majors than Sheffield was when he was taken in the first round of the 2014 Draft. But the emergence of rookie starters for contenders is heightening the excitement of Sheff’s impending arrival even if we have to wait awhile longer. Josh Rogers (4-3, 2.80 ERA) is scheduled to pitch today for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He is quietly inserting his name above Chance Adams as another arm that could make his Major League debut for the Yankees in the not-so-distant future.

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Josh Rogers / Photo Credit: Scranton Times-Tribune

Despite the home run he allowed to Jose Altuve yesterday, I’d probably give German’s next start to A.J. Cole.  I remained intrigued with the pitcher. I know, he’s not the answer and he was never more than a borderline Number 5 starter for the Washington Nationals. But I’d still like to see what he could do with a spot start. At one time, Nats fans thought Cole could be dominant but it never materialized. After originally being drafted by the Nationals in 2010, he did spend a year in the Oakland A’s farm system, but was reacquired by the Nats in 2013. The optimist in me tries to see Cole as a late bloomer (tapping on the potential that Washington scouts once saw) but the realist in me knows that he is a future DFA candidate. I’d just like to see what we have before he goes.

Today is a new day. As the Mariano Duncan quote goes, “We play today. We win today.” Let’s do it. Go Yankees!

Houston, We Have No Problems…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)

Yankees win again…

I have to admit the Yankees are playing better against the Houston Astros than I thought they would. It was a miserable start to current series when Houston’s Charlie Morton dominated the Yankees to take the first game, but since then, the Yankees have held the Astros scoreless for 22 innings and have limited them to two runs overall for three games. Houston is bound to score runs and it most likely will occur today but it’s been a fun ride.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

The Astros clearly have the best starting rotation but the Yankees have the better bullpen.  While we had early concerns about certain guys in the pen, the unit appears to be coming together and Aroldis Chapman looks great (even if he wasn’t needed last night). It is very nice to see Dellin Betances pitching like the All-Star version again. Chad Green, David Robertson…I am grateful for these guys every day.

Last night’s pitching performance by Luis Severino was magnificent. A day after Justin Verlander pitched a three-hit shutout for eight innings, striking out fourteen, only to walk away with a no-decision when Astros closer Ken Giles coughed up the game-winning home run to Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino took his gem to the finish line with a complete game, five-hit shutout. He also reached double-digits with strikeouts (ten).  If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.  It paid off for Sevy as he picked up his fifth win of the young season. Personally, I probably would have called it a night for Severino after eight innings and 98 pitches but thankfully they pay Aaron Boone to make those decisions, not me.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

It was only a matter of time until Giancarlo Stanton starting hitting like the NL MVP he is. Prior to yesterday’s game, I lost count of how many times I was reminded that Dallas Keuchel has never yielded any home runs to the Yankees. So, it was only fitting that the newcomer took Keuchel deep, not once but twice. I am really anxious for Stanton to have a game like this at Yankee Stadium. He has awed crowds in Toronto and Houston but I would love nothing better than for Stanton to take a curtain call in the Bronx.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Bob Levey)

I’ll borrow a term currently used on the TV show Supergirl. When they are hitting, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are “World Killers”. Yes, I watch Supergirl. C’mon, Melissa Benoist is hot. But with all sincerity, when the World Killers are on, the Yankees are unstoppable.

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I was as disappointed as any Yankees fan with the news that Jordan Montgomery will miss the next several months. While I am glad that the immediate prognosis does not involve Tommy John surgery, I recognize that anything is possible until Monty is healthy enough to pitch again. Hopefully rest over the next three weeks allows Montgomery to begin his path toward building arm strength once again. In the interim, I am looking forward to watching Domingo German. In Spring Training, I was so on Team German over Team Cessa as the Yankees’ long reliever/spot starter.  It’s unfortunate that it took an injury to Luis Cessa to open the door for German but I am glad he’s here. The Yankees certainly need to explore potential Plan B’s but for now, let’s see what the kid can do.  In my mind, A.J. Cole probably represents the next option. I’d prefer to see him over recent returnee David Hale.

When word spread that Monty had left Tuesday’s game after seven pitches, Yankees Twitter started clamoring for Chance Adams. While admittedly I am one of those who believe Adams is destined for the bullpen in a long-term view, his numbers at Triple A this year simply do not support an argument for his promotion. So far this season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Adams is 0-2 in five starts. He has given up 24 hits in 24 2/3 innings and 14 earned runs (including four home runs). His ERA is an unsightly 5.11 and his WHIP is the highest it has ever been (1.42).  He is not ready. Justus Sheffield is the Yankees best pitching prospect (in my opinion) and he is killing it in Double A. Okay, “killing it” might be a bit too strong at 1-2, but he’s struck out 39 guys in 28 innings. Only one batter has connected for a home run off Top Sheff and he’s limited teams to seven total earned runs for 2.25 ERA. I think Sheffield has earned a promotion to Triple A, but he’s not ready for The Show just yet. My personal favorite pitching prospect is Albert Abreu but he’s further away (has only made one start in High A after returning from injury).

We’re probably a good month and a half to two months away from teams legitimately talking trades for starting pitchers. Some have speculated the Yankees should go after Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. MadBum is currently on the DL but when healthy, he’s one of the best when the calendar turns to October. I’d love to have the guy on the Yankees. I just don’t think the Giants will trade their best pitcher who has meant so much to the organization. But if he could be pried loose, I’d have to problem giving up guys like Clint Frazier and Chance Adams for him.

For now, I hope Domingo German takes the job as fifth starter and runs with it. I don’t expect him to be as good as Monty but as long as he keeps the Yankees in games, life will be good.

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Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)

The Yankees play an afternoon matinee today in the final game of their four-game set with the Houston Astros. Win or lose, this has been a great road trip for the Yankees. Worst case, they had back to the Bronx with a 5-2 record for the latest travel. But to win six of seven would be fantastic. Lance McCullers, Jr always seems to rise to the occasion against his father’s former team, but as the Yankees showed Dallas Keuchel yesterday, no one is invincible. I am looking for Masahiro Tanaka to continue the string of outstanding pitching performances in this series. A few homers from Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez would not hurt. If it involves another implosion by Ken Giles, all the better.

Go Yankees!