Tagged: J.A. Happ

Opportunity Calls, Clint Frazier Answers…

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

Yankees Overcome O’s, thanks to the long ball…

We knew it was only a matter of time until Aaron Judge began his monstrous assault on MLB baseballs, but it was Clint Frazier’s lightning quick three-run homer in the top of the eighth inning that allowed the Yankees to overtake the Baltimore Orioles in the 6-4 win at Camden Yards.

Frazier needed this moment. Frankly, the Yankees should have never put themselves in the position of needing Frazier’s big hit but they did. They had a golden opportunity to break the game open in the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with no outs against arguably MLB’s worst team. Frazier entered the game, pinching hitting for left fielder Mike Tauchman, but the inning unraveled from there. Gary Sanchez, on third, was picked off by O’s catcher Pedro Severino. Frazier struck out swinging for the second out, and Giovanny Urshela, in his first at-bat as a Yankee and pinch-hitting for Tyler Wade, grounded out to second to end the scoreless threat.

I didn’t really get Aaron Boone’s decision to keep Jonathan Holder in the game for the bottom of the seventh inning. He had entered the game in the fifth, in relief of starter J.A. Happ with only one out. He gave up a single to the second man he faced, Renato Nunez, in the bottom of the fifth, which scored a run for Baltimore (charged to Happ) to make it a one-run game at 3-2. I know Holder had an easy three-up, three-down inning in the sixth, but that’s as far as I would have pushed him. Instead, Boone left him in to start the seventh (why?). He hit the lead-off hitter, Cedric Mullins, and then gave up a single to right off the bat of Jonathan Villar which put runners at the corners.  Boone finally made a move, bringing Adam Ottavino into the game. Unfortunately, Greg Bird misplayed a grounder to first by Chris Davis. He bobbled the ball, didn’t step on first and then threw high to home. Mullins scored and Davis was safe at first. After Villar stole third, pinch-hitter Rio Ruiz, batting for Nunez, lofted a fly to center to score Villar with the go-ahead run.

It looked like the Yankees were going to go down quietly in the eighth. Greg Bird led off the inning against Orioles reliever Paul Fry with a fly-out to left. A pitching change brought reliever Miguel Castro into the game to face Gary Sanchez who flied out to right. But in the face of defeat for the Yankees, Castro struggled with his control and lost Gleyber Torres on balls to put a runner at first. Then, D.J. LeMahieu did what he does best. He singled to right, his third hit of the game, and the Yankees had runners at the corners. Enter Clint Frazier. With the count at 2-2, Castro threw a slider that was meant for the low outside corner. Fortunately for The Wildling and much to the dismay of Orioles catcher Pedro Severino, the ball came in over the juicy part of the plate and Frazier didn’t miss his opportunity. With the rapid fire of his bat, the ball went screaming out of the park. The Yankees were up, 6-4.

Adam Ottavino walked Hanser Alberto, briefly a Yankee this past Winter, to lead off the eighth but got the next two outs with his insane pitches. With Alberto on second, Aaron Boone took the ball from Ottavino and brought in Chad Green. Greeny hit the shirt of Cedric Mullins to put a runner at first. The next batter, Jonathan Villar, hit an infield grounder to D.J. LeMahieu, who had slid over to second base from third when Giovanny Urshela entered the game. LeMahieu had an uncharacteristic bobble of the ball and Villar beat D.J.’s throw to Gleyber Torres standing on second base. The bases were loaded, giving the Orioles a golden opportunity to recapture the lead. Thankfully, it was only Chris Davis at the plate. He rapped a hard single to first base which Greg Bird easily handled, stepping on first ahead of Davis running down the line. Inning over, with the two-run lead intact.

Aroldis Chapman finished off the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth. Despite giving up a one-out single to pinch-hitter Jesus Sucre, he easily recorded the next two outs to gain his second save of the season even if his fastball couldn’t find triple digits.

The win went to Adam Ottavino (1-0) despite giving up the lead in the bottom of the seventh on runs charged to Jonathan Holder. Ha, they should have charged those runs to Aaron Boone!

And, oh, did I mention that Aaron Judge had two massive home runs earlier in the game. I knew it was time for a Judgian blast and had even commented on my post yesterday that it was a good day for an Aaron Judge home run. I was wrong, I should have said home runs. Judge’s first homer (and first of the season) came in the top of the first after Brett Gardner had struck out to lead off the game. The ball carried 412 feet over the center field wall. Trey Mancini had answered Judge’s solo homer with one of his own in the bottom of the first to tie the game. After Brett Gardner doubled with one out in the top of the third, Judge hit another ‘no doubt about it’ homer to center, giving him total yardage of 830 feet, with the two bombs. That was it for Judge in this game, he recorded outs in his next three at-bats which included two by strikeout. But the Yankees wouldn’t have been in position to win this game without Judge. Every day is a good day for Aaron Judge home runs.

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

I know it’s too early to watch or care about the AL East Standings, but the Yankees (4-4) did move into a tie for second place with the Orioles. The Tampa Bay Rays lost 6-4 to the San Francisco Giants so the Yankees are 1 1/2 games back. The Boston Red Sox dropped another game, 5-4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, to fall to 2-8. I know it’s only a matter of time until the Red Sox find their groove, but it is fun to watch them in the AL East Cellar while it lasts. It couldn’t possibly happen to a better team than the Red Sux.

The Yankees can sweep the series at Camden Yards today before they hop on a plane bound for Houston, Texas. Domingo German (1-0, 0.00 ERA) faces David Hess (1-0, 0.00 ERA). In his last start against the Toronto Blue Jays, Hess no-hit the Blue Jays until he was lifted with one out in the seventh (the bullpen blew his no-no). German, on the same day, held the Detroit Tigers to only one hit and unearned run, in five innings. It would be great for the Yankees to sweep after losing their first two series of the season. And it would provide a joyful mood for the long flight down to South Texas.

I was a little surprised to see the call-up of Giovanny “Gio” Urshela before yesterday’s game. It was funny how it unfolded. Urshela posted an airplane pic on Social Media and clever fans deduced it was the same type of plane departing from Buffalo’s airport (where the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are playing) and headed to Baltimore’s BWI Marshall Airport. While I enjoyed the brief one game call-up of Thairo Estrada who didn’t get to see any playing time, Urshela is in better position to help right now. No doubt Estrada will be the better utility player in the long run, but Urshela, who has a superior third base glove, provides better support for interim third baseman D.J. LeMahieu. Urshela doesn’t have much of a bat but that’s not why he is on the 25-man roster now even if he had a couple of strong offensive performances for the RailRiders to start the season. I can still easily remember some of the spectacular defensive plays Urshela made against the Yankees when he was playing for the Cleveland Indians. Not that LeMahieu needs any glove help but the occasional breather is welcomed. To make room for Urshela on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved Didi Gregorius to the 60-day Injured List. Speaking of Sir Didi, damn, I miss those after-game emoji’s.

I know the season is early and stats, either good or bad, don’t really mean much given the small sample sizes. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how good D.J. LeMahieu has been for the Yankees. Expected to be a “floating” starter with time at first, second and third, LeMahieu was forced into full-time duty at third base when Miguel Andujar, with a small labrum tear, was placed on the IL.  LeMahieu is 11-for-24, batting .458/.536/.542 with 1.077 OPS. His eighth inning single last night set the stage for Clint Frazier’s heroics but it almost provided a game-tying opportunity by getting Gleyber Torres to third. A ball got away from Orioles catcher Pedro Severino and Torres most likely could have scored if he had immediately broke for home but hesitation kept the budding superstar at third. LeMahieu is not a flashy player and is not known for dingers but he does the little things right. Living in Denver, I’d routinely hear Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon talk about how much LeMahieu meant to their team. It’s easy to see why they held such high praise. The guy can hit, field and win. I am glad he is a Yankee.

CC Sabathia makes a rehabilitation start for the High-A Tampa Tarpons today. The Tarpons are hosting the Lakeland Flying Tigers in Tampa. Hopefully all goes well for CC who should soon be back in Pinstripes for his final go-around. Hope everything goes well today, CC. We miss you and look forward to your return.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Missing the Yankees…

Photo Credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images

A Rare and Odd Day-Off for the Pinstripers…

I can’t really say that I like Fridays with no Yankees baseball. I guess, ultimately, it’s no different than if heavy rain had hit Inner Harbor, forcing the postponement of a game but regardless, yesterday felt a little empty when everybody else was playing. I’ve grown accustomed to Mondays and/or Thursdays as days off over the years, but weekend games, starting Friday night, are the best for the working stiffs of the World like me. Nothing quite like watching the Yankees after a long, hard week at work. I am glad they are back in action today even if we have to wait until this evening.

Putting the Yankees aside for a moment, Friday was made much sadder with the announcement by Mike Axisa that he is shutting down the famed River Ave Blues blog. 

Photo Credit: CBSSports.com

With no offense to our blog site, River Ave Blues has been the standard every blog site hopes to achieve. It was the best Yankees Blog in my opinion, and Mike Axisa has been tireless in his quest to provide quality content every day. Ultimately, it was probably his relentless, unyielding drive that led to his decision to shutter the Blog (it would be tough to keep up his pace for a season, let alone twelve years) and while I fully understand his reasons, it is a huge loss for Yankee fans. In his announcement, Axisa said April 29th will be the final day for his nationally recognized Blog. Mike mentioned the possibility of a weekly newsletter/mailing list with his “thoughts”. I really hope he follows through with this brilliant idea. Mike, I’ll pay a few dollars a month to get your continued thoughts about MLB’s best team. I have appreciated Mike’s honest assessments of the Yankees over the years, along with those of the other great RAB writers. There are many good writers but Axisa is one of the very few with a brilliant writing style and an amazing and very objective perspective. I can probably count on one hand the baseball writers I hold in such high regard as Axisa. You can include the late Red Sox writer Nick Cafardo in that group, but clearly, it is not a crowded room. Thanks to Mike Axisa and the entire RAB staff for making our lives a little better each and every day. We appreciate you, @RiverAveBlues. Thank you for the incredible twelve years you have given us. To say you will be missed is an understatement.

Credit: YESNetwork.com

I could feel many Yankee fans starting to grip about the team’s slow start and the buildup of so many injuries, but it’s funny how Thursday’s win in Baltimore calmed down so many fears. I wish I had a dime for every time a Yankee fan replayed video of Gleyber’s homers. I was a little worried when the Yankees fell into an early hole, but I know those Yankees-Mariners games last year when James Paxton gave up early runs to the Yankees, he held strong and pitched effectively for five or six more innings. I didn’t doubt his perseverance on Thursday and he rewarded us with a much-needed win, thanks in large part to the two home runs by Gleyber Torres and the insurance provided by the three-run bomb from Luke Voit in the ninth inning. Unlike pitchers like Sonny Gray, where a few early runs meant the opening of the floodgates, Paxton battled and was ultimately reward with his first Pinstriped (Road Gray?) victory. I am glad he is a Yankee.

Photo Credit: Nick Wass/AP

The Yankees resume their series at Camden Yards in Baltimore today at 7:05 pm ET. J.A. Happ, looking to overcome his horrendous first start of the season, takes the mound for the Yankees.  He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy. With a win, the Yankees can tie the Orioles for second place in the AL East with matching 4-4 records. The Yankees trail the Tampa Bay Rays by two and a half games. Granted, the Orioles will soon be in the rearview mirror but the Rays aren’t going away. I think the Boston Red Sox will right the ship even if Yankee fans are loving their 2-7 start. Soon it will be the Yankees-Rays-Red Sox battling for the top. With a trip to Houston around the corner, the Yankees need to continue building momentum in Maryland before catching a Texas-bound flight.   

The Yankees made several minor moves this week, primarily for depth purposes. First, they claimed right-handed reliever Jake Barrett off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and assigned him to Triple A. Then, they signed 34-year-old infielder Cliff Pennington, who was recently released by the Oakland A’s after signing a minor league deal in February. At least Pennington was able to see Japan with the A’s in late March but I doubt he sees any time with the Yankees unless things go horribly wrong (worse than they already have). The defensive-minded Pennington was assigned to Triple A. Both the Trenton Thunder and the Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders have been depleted by the promotions of Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada and Clint Frazier, and the resulting chain reaction it caused to fill the holes.  Welcome to the Yankees Family, Jake and Cliff, but honestly, I hope we do not see you in the Bronx. Sorry, but we have higher expectations and hope the recently promoted guys prosper with the opportunities they’ve been given.   

Living in Denver, I probably should have gone to the Colorado Rockies home opener yesterday. I had thought about it but the weather in Colorado is so unpredictable. Last year’s Rockies home opener saw temps dip into the 20’s. Unfortunately for me, the weather was beautiful yesterday with sunny skies and temps reaching the 70’s and the Rockies were playing my favorite NL team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers won, 10-6, so that would have made it even better for me. I settled for watching the game on TV. In watching the opening roll call, there was a part of me that didn’t like Daniel Murphy wearing D.J. LeMahieu’s former number (9).  Not that the Rockies have reason to retire D.J.’s number or set it aside but after watching LeMahieu wear the number for so many years, it just seemed wrong to see Murphy wearing it. Don’t get me wrong, I am so glad LeMahieu wears #26 for the Yankees these days. He’s been invaluable with this rash of injuries.  But it’s hard to deny that LeMahieu was a great Rockie during his time in the Mile High City. I couldn’t help but wonder if both LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino were watching the Rockies-Dodgers game since they had the day off. It would be hard to play so many years in one city and not have continued emotional ties to their former team.  

I am not a New York Jets fan but I don’t get the hate the new uniforms have gotten from their fan base. I personally never cared for the Jets’ old uniform and feel the new colors are very stylish. I like the new helmet and the overall look.  If I had grown up in New York City, I’d probably be a Jets fan over the Giants (sorry to those of you who are Giants fans). I grew up in Iowa so I’ve been a lifelong (and long-suffering) Minnesota Vikings fan. I am a little bitter the Jets stole the Vikings’ backup QB (Trevor Siemian) and almost signed away linebacker Anthony Barr until he had a change of heart but I still prefer the Jets over the Giants. As for Siemian, I do have high confidence in third-string QB Kyle Sloter for the Vikings and feel that he is ready to ascend to the backup spot behind starter Kirk Cousins. But while Siemian may never been a great quarterback in the NFL, he is tried and true vet that can help in pinch. He’ll provide good support and mentorship for Sam Darnold.  Siemian and the Jets will look very good when they take the field this Fall, in my opinion. Hopefully for Jets fans, the play matches the look. It’s really time for somebody to do something about the reign of the New England Patriots. I’ve grown so tired of Tom Brady, Bill Belechick and Boston area fans.

Today seems like a very good day for an Aaron Judge home run.  

As always, Go Yankees!

Doom & Gloom in The Bronx…

(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)

OK, it wasn’t quite that bad…

The Yankees got a great pitching performance from new Yankee James Paxton…and lose. It wasn’t exactly how it was planned to go down. I guess Sonny Gray left behind his lack of run support and they assigned to the Big Maple. The Yankees tried to make a comeback but those two insurance runs the Baltimore Orioles tacked on in the top of the ninth were too much to overcome as the Yankees dropped their first game of the season, 5-3.

The range of emotions from Yankee fans were from ‘big deal, it’s the second game of the season’ to ‘OMG, the season is lost!’. I guess you could put me somewhere in the middle. I simply hate to lose winnable games. When the season is done, the Baltimore will most likely have the most losses of any team in either league. Yet, if they win today, they win their first series of the season against a team expected to make noise in October. The Yankees need to win these games. Yes, it is only one game but these types of games can accumulate to a significant amount over the course of a 162-game schedule. I don’t like to lose. I know, I had better learn to deal with 60 losses, give or take, over the course of the summer but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. But after all these years, losing doesn’t get any easier when you are a Yankee fan.

Credit to the Orioles for using an Opener to keep the Yankee bats at bay. Nate Karns started his first game since 2017 and pitched the first two innings. The Yankees had him on the ropes with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning with only one out, but Miguel Andujar hit into an inning-ending double play.

(Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/NY Post)

New Jersey’s own Jimmy Yacabonis pitched the next three innings, giving up only a run, to earn the win for the O’s.

Meanwhile, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder failed to keep the Orioles off the scoreboard in the later innings and despite the two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees walked off the field wondering what could have been. So much for the shutdown bullpen that’s going to end games early.

Troy Tulowitzki hit the only Yankee homer, a solo shot in the ninth off former Yank Richard Bleier.

I thought it was a great game for D.J. LeMahieu, who started at third base with Miguel Andujar taking over DH duties. LeMahieu was 2-for-4 with one RBI and a run scored. He flashed his superior leather more than a few times at third, and looked like a veteran at the position. I was in a Denver, Colorado retail shop late yesterday afternoon wearing my Yankee cap, and the clerk commented to me he couldn’t believe the Yankees paid LeMahieu all that money to be a utility player. I agree.  With no offense to Troy Tulowitzki, the greater commitment should be for LeMahieu, even if it pushes Gleyber Torres to shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns. A home run by Tulo is not going to change my opinion. I do like LeMahieu at third and Andujar at DH so I hope that’s a frequent option although Giancarlo Stanton needs his time at DH as well. Although LeMahieu has not played much third in the Majors, it was his most frequent position in the Minors so it’s not like he has rarely played there. It’s just been a few years. He’ll shake off the rust.

The Yankees committed three costly errors in the game. Gary Sanchez bounced a throw past Gleyber Torres covering second base in the sixth inning which allowed a run to score. D.J. LeMahieu bounced a throw to Luke Voit at first base which Voit couldn’t handle, for a throwing error, in the top of the ninth inning, allowing Joey Rickard, leading off the inning, to reach second base. He would eventually score an unearned run. Voit had a throwing error earlier in the game (top of the 2nd) which didn’t cause any damage. After tagging first base on a grounder by Rio Ruiz, Voit tried to make an off-balance throw to second to complete the double play but the ball sailed widely to the left, allowing the baserunner, Joey Rickard, to race to third.  Fortunately, that was as far as Rickard would get.

James Paxton (0-1) took the tough luck loss. His final line was 5 2/3 innings, four hits, two runs (one earned), a walk and five strikeouts. He threw 82 pitches, one less than Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday and worked at a very quick and efficient pace. He certainly deserved to win and on most days he would have. He’ll get that first Yankee win soon with pitching performances like this.

(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP)

Okay, I’ll let the game go. It was just one game. I get it. The Yankees (1-1) complete the series today with the Orioles. J.A. Happ takes the ball for the Pinstripers while he’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy. Hopefully, Happ continues his win streak as a Yankee for at least one more game.

I followed the score of the Red Sox-Mariners game last night and was pleased when Seattle extended their lead to 6-2 on a three-run homer by Jay Bruce in the fifth inning. Then, in the 9th, it all fall apart for the M’s with three errors by third baseman Dylan Moore, filling in for the injured Kyle Seager. The Sox rallied for three runs and had the tying run at third base and go-ahead run at first with two outs, but former Yankee prospect Nick Rumbelow struck out Xander Bogaerts to end the game and preserve Seattle’s victory. Whew! Boston was almost gifted another win. Seattle’s defense looked like the Keystone Cops in that final inning.

(Photo Credit: Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)

Today is a good day for a Pinstriped victory.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Sights and Sounds of Steinbrenner Field…

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Pitchers and Catchers Report on Wednesday…

Here we are. The final weekend before pitchers and catchers report and Major League Baseball officially kicks off preparations for the 2019 season. Many players have already made their way to Tampa and have been seen in their informal workouts on the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field and signing autographs as they depart the hallowed grounds of 1 Steinbrenner Drive.

Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

I always enjoy the opening of Spring Training. So much excitement for the new season, everyone’s healthy (for the most part), and after no Major League baseball since last October, the gang’s back together again to make another run at the American League championship and the ultimate goal of winning the World Series. Of course, the feeling starts to fade in a couple of weeks when we are anxiously  and impatiently awaiting the start of the regular season but for now it’s a thrilling experience.

The past week saw another round of rumors surrounding Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While both young superstars remain unsigned, there is continued speculation the Yankees could make a play for one of the players if the price falls into their comfort zone. The words of Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner this week while attending the owner’s meeting in Orlando did not dispel the rumors. I know, he can’t say the Yankees are out because of the CBA, but he somewhat flamed the rumors by not counting the Yankees out on any moves they might make in the coming days.

Steinbrenner made the comment, “If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, that’s just false”. In my opinion, the Yankees have not been cheap. If anything, my frustration is simply the allocation of dollars that have been spent. I like DJ LeMahieu but with all honesty, the team would have been better with Manny Machado than LeMahieu. There’s been word (no official confirmation) the Yankees floated a concept of 7 or 8 years for around $220 million when they met with Machado in December. If true, Machado’s agent should have used it as a starting point for more serious negotiations. It didn’t happen, and the team quickly pivoted to LeMahieu. I don’t feel Steinbrenner is being cheap but conversely I don’t feel that he’s putting the best possible team on the field. Maybe signing Machado is not meant to be or if he really wanted to be a Yankee, he would be one by now. Regardless of events, I can’t help feel a little disappointment that neither Machado nor Harper are making flight plans for Tampa.

At various points of the off-season, the Yankees have called Brett Gardner the starting leftfielder and Troy Tulowitzki the starting shortstop. I don’t buy either claim. At this point in his career, Gardy helps this team the best as its fourth outfielder. He is not the player he once was. Age happens to all of us, except for maybe Tom Brady or Mariano Rivera. Perhaps Clint “The Wildling” Frazier proves the injuries and concussions are behind him and he finally fulfills the promise he’s held for a few years now. I have no problem rolling out Frazier as the starter if he proves in Tampa over the next few weeks that he is ready. Personally, I’d prefer it if Frazier can take the job from Gardner because it means he has proven he can be better.

As for Tulo, I just can’t shake the feeling he is done. Realistically, I am not expecting much from him. I think he’ll be very rusty in Spring Training, and I don’t see him as an every day starter once the team moves north to the Bronx. It feels too much like trying to “catch lightning in a bottle”. The infield is much stronger, in my opinion, with current two-year consecutive Wilson Defensive Player of the Year DJ LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres sliding to shortstop until the great Didi Gregorius is ready to return.

Photo Credit: Didi Gregorius via Instagram

But despite Plan B’s that make sense with the current roster and invitees, the Yankees can be a better team with Harper or Machado. Of the two, Harper makes the most sense. Aside from the left-handed bat that he’d bring to the lineup, he represents a great option for left field, keeping Giancarlo Stanton in the healthier role as DH, and Harper could potentially develop as a first baseman. I know, you don’t pay a guy hundreds of millions of dollars to see if he can play a new position but Bryce would represent such a great resource for the Yankees in their drive to dethrone the Boston Red Sox. For Hal, Harper will increase tickets sales, both at home and on the road. If the Yankees are successful in reacquiring controlling interest in the YES Network, Harper would be a primary face and draw attraction for the team. He is a popular player, perhaps one of the most popular in the game outside of Mike Trout. This is not meant as a slam to Aaron Judge who I feel is one of the greatest players in the game, but Harper unquestionably has more fans outside of the Yankees Universe.

Photo Credit: USATSI

I am still a major fan of Manny Machado but I recognize that his presence would adversely impact Miguel Andujar. Nevertheless, the Yankees should not decide to pursue Machado because of Andujar because Machado is clearly the better overall player. But under that scenario, the Yankees would need to move Andujar to left field or first base or trade him for top starting pitching as we’ve talked about ad nauseam this off-season. Putting Harper in left keeps Andujar at third with the potential to see if he has improved his defensive game and allowing LeMahieu to slide over to the corner for support if necessary.

My desire to add either Harper or Machado will not die until the players sign somewhere, anywhere.  Once that happens and if it is not in the Bronx, we’ll move on. The 2019 New York Yankees will be a very good team with or without Harp-Chado. If the Yankees do not sign either player, I’ll undoubtedly look at it as  missed opportunity (the “missed” chance to turn the team from very good to great) but I’ll support the current roster with full force and vigor as we all will.

I am really enjoying Adam Ottavino as a Yankee. His ‘This or That’ videos on Instagram with his wife feeding him questions from off-screen have been stellar. Given he is a lifelong Yankee fan like us makes him so relatable, outside of the fact that he’s 6’5”, ruggedly handsome, throws a nasty slider, lives in a beautiful Manhattan apartment with an overview of the city, has an adorable wife and family, and makes millions of dollars per year.

I like that Otto’s first pic upon arriving in Tampa this week was to take a picture of the famed George Steinbrenner statue outside of Steinbrenner Field.

Photo Credit: Adam Ottavino via Instagram

Ottavino understands the history of the franchise better than most through his childhood fandom. He recently mentioned that his favorite Yankee hitter was Bernie Williams and fave pitcher was Jimmy Key. There’s probably guys on the team who don’t even know who Jimmy Key is. I respect both of those choices.

After being known for years as Zach Britton, I was surprised the reliever formally announced that he’d be known by the proper “Zack” going forward. Not so much the correction of his name to match how he uses it and the name which appears on his birth certificate but rather why it took so many years for him to do it. I am sure that I’ll type Zach a time or two this season. Personally, with no offense to any Zack’s reading this, but I prefer the “ch” version of the name. It sounds more sophisticated, IMO. But hey, it’s not my name.  Britton has the right to call himself whatever he wants. If he wants to go by “Fluffy”, that’s fine by me. I guess I’ll get used to the new spelling in time. Speaking of Britton, I didn’t realize that his brother Buck was a manager in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system. Buck Britton managed the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds to a 68-66 record in 2018. For this season, he’s been elevated to manager of the Double-A Bowie Baysox. Not that I expect Zack to ever get over his love for Birdland, but his brother’s presence in the Orioles organization continues to give him ties to his former roots.

I mention it every year but I’ll continue to do it until there are changes. The Yankees need to revisit their facial hair policy. I don’t want to see the uncontrolled beards like Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers wears each season or Johnny Damon’s “Caveman” look during his days in Boston, but with controlled guidelines, there’s no reason guys like Luis Severino should not be allowed to wear beards like this:

Photo Credit: YES Network

I know the Yankees stick to the policy out of respect for the late George Steinbrenner but times have changed. I do not feel that short, trimmed facial hair detracts from the brand. It seems like all of the Yankee players are sporting some type of facial hair during the off-season. And very often when Yankee players are traded elsewhere, the first thing they do is grow a beard. I saw a pic of Ronald Torreyes, now playing for the Minnesota Twins, sporting a cool goatee this week.

Photo Credit: Ronald Torreyes via Instagram

Players should be allowed a certain degree of self-expression. I get the history and tradition of Baseball’s most storied and prestigious franchise but wearing a groomed short beard is not exactly like slapping last names on the back of the famed Pinstriped jersey. Loosen up the facial policy rules, Hal. It’s your team, set your own standard.

This has been a tough year watching Boston win championships in both MLB and NFL. I am tired of Boston fans celebrating and want to see the fans of New York rejoice. The Yankees have a huge opportunity to make plans for a parade in late October. Let’s not screw this up. The dawn of the 28th World Championship is upon us.

As always, Go Yankees!

A Headline 4 or 5 Years Too Late…

tulo-and-jeter-625
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Yankees Sign Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki…

I went to bed early last night and missed the news the Yankees had signed veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. So, I woke up to the flurry of news this morning the Yankees had signed the one-time superstar. What does it mean? Nothing, nothing at all. A few years ago, this would have been major news but not today. The 34-year-old Tulo is a shell of his former self. But to his defense, it kind of reminds me of the old Toby Keith song, As Good As I Once Was, which goes on to say “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once, as I ever was”.

This is simply another “dumpster dive” by GM Brian Cashman.  He gets a player he coveted in years past for pennies on the dollar. The Yankees will only be responsible for paying the Major League minimum of $555,000 while the Toronto Blue Jays pay Tulo $38 million to wear the famed Pinstripes. I don’t think anyone has expectations or illusions Tulo will be ‘the man’ at shortstop during the absence of Didi Gregorius. If he plays, it is a bonus. A shot worth taking. Worst case, Tulo can’t make it back from the variety of ailments that have afflicted him over the last few years and the Yankees cut him. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  If he performs, there is the potential Cashman flips him at the trading deadline in July if Didi is back and healthy (assuming Tulo plays well enough to warrant a prospect or two) or they keep him around as a depth piece. For Tulo, it is an opportunity to rebuild value on Baseball’s biggest stage. I’m sure he’s talked to former teammates J.A. Happ and Matt Holliday about what it is like to play for the Yankees.

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Tulowitzki, as we all know, was a huge fan of Derek Jeter growing up as we’ve been constantly reminded about over the years. Tulo has only worn the number 2 at the Major League level with the Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays but he’ll have to pick out a new number in the Bronx assuming he makes the Opening Day roster. My vote is for Number 12. Tyler Wade has not done anything of significance with the number and he seems like the best candidate for number re-assignment. Or I’d take Number 72 as representation for both Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter.

I wish Tulo the best as he tries to make his comeback. I hope he’s successful. If he is, that means he outperformed guys like Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and Hanser Alberto in spring training. But there’s no way anyone should be counting on Tulo as a savior for the drive to World Championship #28. He is a roll of the dice for pocket change. That’s all.

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As for the real shortstop target, we should have resolution on Manny Machado this week…hopefully. I don’t know what I think at this point. I’ve seen the positive news such as Dan Clark’s infamous Twitter declaration that Machado will be a Yankee and other miscellaneous reports such as an alleged house hunting excursion in Westchester County to look at Phil Jackson’s old place. It’s no secret I am on Team Machado. I want the Yankees to sign him and I know that I’ll be disappointed if it does not happen. I did see a tweet by baseball writer Bob Klapisch this week who put the odds for Machado signing with the Yankees at 60/40. He mentioned Yankees ownership and front office are split on Machado. It seems like it could give the Philadelphia Phillies an opportunity to slip in with a revised significantly greater offer to snag the generational talent away from the Yankees. I know there are many Yankee fans that won’t be disappointed if Machado goes elsewhere. This is about as divided as I’ve ever seen the Yankees Universe or at least in recent years. Regardless of the guys who show up in Tampa next month, I hope the Yankees fan base will unite and support the players who break camp as the Opening Day roster even if neither Machado nor Harper are on the team. I think they will, but we’ll have to deal with the division a little bit longer until all of this plays out.

Even if the Yankees redirect and go after Bryce Harper instead of Machado, I’d still expect them to bring in another shortstop or second baseman to help fill the Gregorius void. Adeiny Hechavarria, Freddy Galvis, Jose Iglesias, I don’t care but I’d want other options besides Tulowitzki and holdover Tyler Wade. My preference has been to keep Gleyber Torres at second base but, in my opinion, he remains the best shortstop option despite the Tulo signing.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t express best wishes and congratulations to TGP Leader Daniel Burch. Today, Daniel and his lovely fiancée, Kari Ann, will finally say “I do” to become Mr and Mrs Greedy Pinstripes.  As we’ve seen from his posts for a long time, Daniel has been so incredibly excited for this day to arrive (as I am sure Kari Ann has been too). We are equally as excited about their future together and wish them much love, extraordinary happiness and overwhelming success! Congratulations Daniel and Kari Ann!

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Time for me to go back into Waiting for Machado mode. Hopefully we’ll hear something by the end of the week. I don’t think I could possibly stand this dragging into next week.

As always, Go Yankees! But today and better yet, Go Daniel and Kari Ann!

Daniel

Ready, Set, Wait at Winter Meetings…

Photo Credit: Las Vegas Review-Journal (Chase Stevens)

Talk the Talk, but Not Walk the Walk…

All dressed up and nowhere to go. That’s kind of how the Baseball Winter Meetings felt this past week.  Lots of talk, not much action. I know, they say the groundwork laid this week will lead to fruit later. I guess we’ll see. There’s talk they should implement a trading deadline in December to spur action (some sort of moratorium against trades for a certain period of time before spring training). Not so sure I am in agreement, but I would have liked to have seen some high flying wheeling and dealing over the past few days rather than much talk about nothing.

While I wanted a bigger piece for the starting rotation, I am happy the Yankees at least came away with J.A. Happ on a two-year contract despite the third year option. In the two year deal presumably worth an estimated $34 million, Happ can trigger the third year for $17 million by pitching at least 27 starts or 165 innings in the second year. At the beginning of the off-season, I preferred re-signing Happ over CC Sabathia and wanted an upgrade for the fourth spot in the rotation. Yes, the Yankees got better by adding LHP James Paxton but he brings additional questions to an already question-filled staff. I was looking for more certainty.  Maybe Happ can provide that certainty. He’s been consistent and is a much better pitcher today than he was years ago as a Philadelphia Phillie. We all know how well Happ pitched down the stretch for the Yankees (7-0 with 2.69 ERA in eleven starts). Overall for the season, he was 17-6, 3.65 ERA, 3.4 WAR in thirty-one starts). If the Yankees can get that type of production out of Happ in his age 36 year, I am sure all of us will be pleased. Realistically, I am expecting some regression.

After missing out on Patrick Corbin and failing to land a top starter among the rumored trades swirling over the last couple of weeks, I was concerned when I saw that Happ was getting close to signing with the Phillies. I didn’t want to be stuck with a guy like Lance Lynn for the open rotation spot. So, when it came out Happ was going to re-sign with the Yankees, I felt a tremendous sense of relief.

I am hopeful GM Brian Cashman continues to press for a top, front of the rotation  type of starter but at least he is no longer in a position of desperation to fill out the staff.

I was excited when the rumors circulated about a possible three-way trade with the Mets and Marlins that would have brought Noah Syndergaard to the Yankees. But honestly, I don’t see the Mets trading any of their stars to their cross-town rivals regardless of the return. Maybe it’s a new world order with new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen but last time I checked the Wilpons still own the team. The latest rumors about that potential three-way trade involve the San Diego Padres as the third team instead of the Yankees. Maybe Cashman should cut a side deal with the Padres for Syndergaard if they pull off the trade that would send Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Mets. That’s the only way I could see Thor pulling on the Pinstripes. They won’t get him directly from the Mets.

I really thought we’d see more free agent signing this past week. I guess Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are holding up the market. After the run on relief pitchers last year, the market for firemen has been lukewarm this year. My biggest fear is David Robertson signing with the Red Sox to pitch close to his Rhode Island home. The Sox have lost “Tyler Austin punching bag” Joe Kelly to the Los Angeles Dodgers and free agent closer Craig Kimbrel is not expected to return. Unfortunately, it increases the odds the Red Sox sign a former Yankee (Robertson, Zach Britton or Andrew Miller) for their pen. I hope not.

I think my favorites to sign are Robertson and Adam Ottavino although I would not be disappointed with D-Rob and Miller or Britton or some combination thereof.

We could see movement with Manny Machado before Christmas. He apparently has visits with up to six teams next week, including the Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies.  The White Sox acquired Machado’s brother-in-law Yonder Alonso from the Cleveland Indians last night but I don’t think Manny would make a huge financial decision based on where his bro-in-law plays. I’ve been surprised about the number of Yankee fans who want no part of either Machado or Bryce Harper. It’s so rare to get young twenty-something superstars for only money. Yes, it’s a helluva lot of money, no doubt, but the best years are ahead for both players and they’ve already been great. Great but getting better is a combination I like. These are guys who will still be producing at the end of 8-10 year contracts.

It feels so underwhelming when we hear names like Freddy Galvis as potential infield options to bridge the gap to the return of Didi Gregorius late next summer. I certainly want no part of the risk associated with free agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki who was recently let go by the Toronto Blue Jays with $38 million left on his contract. I know Tulo would come cheap for the team that picks him up but the guy can’t stay healthy. That’s not a bet I would want to make for a team with World Series aspirations. I think the San Jose, CA area native should go back to the Bay Area in an attempt to rekindle his career with either the San Francisco Giants or Oakland A’s.

The Yankees family has taken a hit over the last couple of days. Yesterday, we received word that George Steinbrenner’s widow, Joan, had passed away in her Tampa, FL home, surrounded by her family. Joan, 83, was Vice Chairperson of the Yankees, along with her two daughters. In a statement released by the Steinbrenner family, “Joan was a compassionate and caring matriarch who profound love for her family and those in the community always inspired us. Her elegance and grace touched everyone around her, and we know her spirit will live on through her legacy of good works. We are grateful to have had her in our lives, and she will be deeply missed.”  May Mrs Boss rest in peace…

Photo Credit: AP (Charlie Neibergall)

I was also surprised and saddened to hear that Catfish Hunter’s daughter, Kim Hunter Daugherty, only 45, had passed away on Thursday at Hertford Grammar School in North Carolina where she was a teacher. She died of complications related to a pulmonary embolism. Her father died in 1999 at the age of 53 of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Very sad to see their lives cut so short.

I was hopeful the end of this week would have seen some resolution for the Yankees bullpen but it was not to be. Hopefully we’ll have some answers before Santa Claus invades our homes in ten days. I am still looking for that magical gift  or gifts to make the Yankees better. Yes, they’re good now, but there’s so much potential for this team if it can continue to make the right decisions for additional pieces to fill out the roster. I will be happy when I can look at the roster and find the names of Sonny Gray, Luis Cessa and A.J. Cole nowhere to be found.

As always, Go Yankees…

Mr Corbin Goes to Washington…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Matt York)

Yankees Search for Another Starter Continues…

I was probably leading the parade for Patrick Corbin and there’s no doubt I was disappointed when the Washington Nationals signed him earlier this week. After days and weeks of anticipation, it is a letdown when a player you thought you could get goes with another team but I am not going to rip Corbin. He had to make the best decision for his family. So many people posted that the Yankees whiffed out on Corbin or that he snubbed the team. Neither of these are true.

God Bless the Washington Nationals for giving Corbin $140 million over six years. Pay him like he is an elite pitcher even though he isn’t.  His family is set for the rest of their lives.  It’s been reported the Yankees were willing to go 5 years and $100 million, maybe slightly more if they had felt the player was seriously considering them, but no formal offer was ever made. Not quite sure how that means the Yankees “whiffed” or that by accepting $40 million more dollars, Corbin “snubbed” the team. No offense to the Yankees but if another team offered to pay me $1 million to be their fan, I’m gone. $1 million times 40? Where do I sign? I’ll drive to you.

The Corbin ordeal shows that we, as fans, placed greater value on Corbin than the Yankees, and their analytics department, did. I am not sure it was the “shiny new toy” that has been described. I liked the idea of inserting Corbin and James Paxton into the starting rotation with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. Quality lefty who induces groundballs would have been a nice fit in Yankee Stadium. But I also know Red Sox fans were excited about potentially feasting on Corbin if he came to the AL East so there are differing opinions for how he would have fared in the competitive AL East. So, Corbin goes to Washington, I lose out on the guy I wanted most, and life moves on.

I like J.A. Happ and I thought he did a very fine job for the Yankees down the stretch, but I am not in favor of giving him a three-year deal at age 36. If he can get three years from the Philadelphia Phillies, one of his former teams, good for him. Let him go hang out at the Liberty Bell.  For a promising young team like the Yankees, adding another aging veteran with no real upside at this point does not appeal to me. We have CC Sabathia so I’d prefer to keep only one rotation spot for an age-challenged pitcher. I am not trying to discriminate against the elderly, but the fact is Happ has already been the best he is ever going to be. At this point, he’ll only get worse with age. He brings consistency but there’s a greater chance he begins the downward slide that comes with age. Maybe he is the thin version of Bartolo Colon and can keep going like the Energizer Bunny. But for me, there are still too many other (and better options) available.

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Another pitcher the Yankees apparently “whiffed” on was former Yank Nathan Eovaldi who signed a four-year deal for $68 million with the Boston Red Sox. How do you whiff if you never take a swing? By all accounts, there was no way the Yankees were going to offer Eovaldi four years. I am glad they did not. I like Nasty Nate and, overall, I enjoyed his time with the Yankees. But for a guy who has had two Tommy John surgeries and throws with maximum velocity, the risk is too great for the arm to blow out again. Maybe he stays healthy for Boston over the next four years. Fine, I hope he plays out best case scenario for them. Not that I want Boston to win more championships, but I am not going to wish any ill will toward Eovaldi. Nevertheless, I am glad the risk is on the Red Sox and not the Yankees. It’s like Jacoby Ellsbury in reverse. Let the injury risk reside in Boston this time around.

At the moment, the best free agent options appear to Happ, Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel. If the Yankees are unsuccessful in trading for another starting pitcher, I suppose that’s the order I would rank them for my preference. Now that the Cleveland Indians have locked up Carlos Carrasco on an extension, the talk they will trade either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer is escalating again. There’s no doubt either Kluber or Bauer would be better options than Happ, Morton or Keuchel. Kluber would give the Yankees a top of the rotation ace but he’s a little older (will be 33 in early April). Bauer will be 28 next month and really took his game to the next level last season before a comebacker fractured his leg.  For Bauer, there’s no doubt his best years are ahead. There’s also something about the mental toughness of Bauer that I like which would probably make him my preference even though Kluber is the more accomplished pitcher of the two at this moment in time. But regardless, if the Yankees can get either Kluber or Bauer, they WILL be a better team. I really hope GM Brian Cashman can put together a package with Cleveland to grab one of their aces. No prospect hugging for me.  If it takes Estevan Florial, among other highly rated prospects, to make this happen, do it. I’d move quickly to extend Aaron Hicks as a result but there are options. Hey, we have Jacoby Ellsbury coming back for center field, right? Yikes! Throw that one away, but seriously, how fantastic would a rotation of Severino, Kluber/Bauer, Paxton, Tanaka, and Sabathia look? World Series-quality to me.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

I suspect Brian Cashman has been working hard behind the scenes and we’ll soon see the fruits of his labor. So many people have ripped the Yankees for their off-season work so far despite the acquisition of one of the American League’s best lefties but we really need to see how this month plays out. By Christmas, we should have a solid handle on what the 2019 Yankees will look like. Another starter, a couple of late inning bullpen options to help Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, and a solution to cover the months we’ll be missing Didi Gregorius as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. All of these questions should be answered over the course of the next couple of weeks.  Dammit Hal, GET GREEDY!  Now is the time to strike!

I was saddened to wake up to the news that former Major Leaguers Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo were killed overnight in a car accident in Venezuela. It was just a couple of years ago I thought Valbuena would have been a great third base option for the Yankees (back during the frustrating Chase Headley days). Valbuena was released by the Los Angeles Angels in August, but at 33, he still had time to find his way back. I am sorry for the loss of both men and the devastating effect it will have on their families. May they rest in peace.

I think the Minnesota Twins have figured out if you can’t beat them, join them. By joining “them”, I mean adding former Yankee players to their team in the on-going attempt to find a way to finally beat the Yankees. Yesterday, when news broke the Twins had signed a one-year deal with former Baltimore/Milwaukee second baseman Jonathan Schoop, it was almost immediately announced they had also signed former Yankee utilityman Ronald Torreyes. Aaron Judge’s little buddy was recently non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs shortly after his acquisition from the Yankees. Toe should have opportunities for playing time in Minnesota. Good for him.  He’ll join a variety of former Yankees…Michael Pineda, Tyler Austin and Jake Cave. Former Yankee prospect Zack Littell, acquired last year in the deal that brought Jaime Garcia to New York, is also on Minnesota’s 40-man roster.

Congratulations to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders!  The Yankees’ top affiliate, in conjunction of the International and Pacific Coast Leagues, announced last night that they will host the 2020 Triple-A All Star Game at PNC Field in Moosic, PA. The game will be played on July 15, 2020.

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Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins announced their coaching staff for 2019 under manager, and former Yankee great, Don Mattingly.  There are clearly a few very strong Yankee connections on the staff.  Mike Pagliarulo returns as the team’s hitting coach and he’ll be assisted by Jeff Livesey, son of former Yankee executive and scout Bill Livesey. Trey Hillman, a former minor league manager in the Yankees farm system and a member of Joe Torre’s staff in 2004, was named the First Base/Infield Coach. The pitching coach will be Mel Stottlemyre, Jr., son of the former Yankee pitcher and later pitching coach under Joe Torre.

It’s hard to believe the Winter Meetings are almost upon us. Everybody has been waiting for the action to start.  We’ve certainly seen it this week with the Corbin and Eovaldi signings, along with a couple others, and the trade of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the St Louis Cardinals but the party is just getting started. It looks like we are in for one helluva ride in the coming days. Who wants to be a Yankee?  Let’s do this.

As always, Go Yankees!