Tagged: Joe Girardi

Is the World Series over yet?…

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Preparing for the 2019-20 Hot Stove League…

While many continue to watch the World Series, except for an occasional check-in, the 2019 MLB season ended for me last weekend with the ALCS. It’s hard to get enthused about either the Houston Astros or the Washington Nationals. Sure, the Nationals as a first time participant are a nice story but I don’t really care to see either team win the World Series so let’s just get this over so that we can move on to the Hot Stove League.

It’s hard to not wonder what could have been if the Yankees had taken a better hitting approach against the Astros. Oh well, it was not meant to be. Time to move on and hope the Yankees make a stronger run in 2020. The window remains wide open. This is certainly not the last we’ve heard from this core group of Yankees.

Photo Credit: The New York Post

As much as I would like Gerrit Cole leading the Yankees’ starting rotation next season, the reality is it will never happen. Cole’s agent, none other than the infamous Scott Boras, will ensure that his client becomes very wealthy this winter. I just don’t see Hal Steinbrenner’s willingness to write a blank check. It seems as though this will end like the Patrick Corbin negotiations. The Yankees will host Cole for a visit at Yankee Stadium, they’ll toss him a token offer, and he’ll leave empty handed. Some team is going to throw stupid money at him and it won’t be the Yankees. You can talk all day about how the Yankees can afford it, but that’s not the point. The Yankees are not going to devote so many dollars to one player. They have in-house financial decisions to make. Last off-season they locked up Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks. Granted, both players missed considerable time during the regular season so you can question the wisdom of the moves, but in Severino’s case in particular, he still represents the future. An extension for Aaron Judge seems appropriate this off-season.  I feel Gleyber Torres too but I think the Yankees will wait a season or two before securing the long-time services of the young burgeoning superstar. Judge can be a free agent after the 2022 season so the urgency is beginning to develop for him. Torres can’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season.

The Yankees need an ace. I think Sevy can be that guy, but last year showed you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. James Paxton has shown at times he can be an ace but he needs to show sustained excellence over the course of a long season. I think a very strong #1 starter, followed by Sevy, Big Maple, and Masahiro Tanaka would make for a championship caliber rotation. The question is who the #1 starter would be. Names will develop in the coming weeks. I keep seeing Yankee fans pining for Lucas Giolito but there’s no way the Chicago White Sox, with their abundance of blossoming young talent, will part with their young ace. If they did, they’d need quality, major league-ready talent in return, not prospects years away from the Show. I think there’s a better chance the Yankees could get the Cincinnati Reds to part with Luis Castillo, but even then the price tag will be very high. On the free agent front, Madison Bumgarner certainly represents an option. I am intrigued what he could do on a highly competitive team. I really feel the Yankees would re-energize him so I’d be happy if they were able to land him. I don’t know where Cashman’s search for starting pitching will lead. None of us do. Inevitably, he’ll surprise us.  I just don’t want another season of missed opportunity and Cashman’s statements that he tried. Love or hate Houston, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, has shown the willingness to pull the trigger when it matters. He has two World Series appearances in the last three years to show for it. It’s not that I want Brian Cashman to make stupid decisions or saddle the Yankees with another Jacoby Ellsbury contract albatross. But there are times you have to spend more than you want to get what you need.

The news that Aaron Hicks will miss the next 8-10 months due to Tommy John surgery left me wondering why the Yankees ever brought him back for the ALCS. Sure, the home run was great but in the end, it didn’t matter. I would have preferred to have Hicks for the majority of the 2020 season if he could have had the inevitable surgery earlier.  The news about Hicks brought immediate speculation the Yankees have to re-sign Brett Gardner. I felt the Yankees and Gardner would come together on another one-year deal before the Hicks news and I still feel the same, but I don’t think the vision that he’ll be no more than the fourth outfielder has changed. I think Mike Tauchman has a better chance to be the regular starting option in center field with the possibility that it could be someone not currently on the roster. I really wish Estevan Florial was closer to readiness, but he’s not. I am sure the Yankees’ analytics team is at work trying to discover the next Mike Tauchman, a centerfielder who is undervalued in his current organization but blossoming with hidden talent.  

I am not sure what I think about the “reports” that the Yankees could move Giancarlo Stanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers or Angels, if they can find the right mix of dollars to part with the slugger. I like Stanton and I feel he’s received unfair treatment from the Yankees fan base. Maybe there’s some validity to the criticisms he has received, but I still think he has the Dave Winfield-like ability to carry a team on his back. I’d like to see him stay with the Yankees, and have the opportunity to show he’s “the man” in October. I like Mike Tauchman but there’s no way in the World I’d take him over Stanton in left field.  Stanton needs our support, not the unfair hate directed his way. If he does get traded, I’ll be disappointed, but I will enjoy watching baseball in sunny Southern CA with the Angelino kid crushing pitches in front of his hometown fans. 

Photo Credit: UPI.com

Not that I think reunions are in store, but two former Yankees quietly became free agents in recent weeks. Chasen Shreve, part of the deal that brought Luke Voit to New York, is a free agent. Giovanny Gallegos has blossomed in the St Louis Cardinals’ bullpen so I doubt the Cards regret their decision to part with Voit, but I do feel bad it didn’t work out for Shreve. Same in San Diego with former Yankees prospect Bryan Mitchell. He was the prospect attached to Chase Headley in the successful contract unload a few years ago. I always liked Mitchell and had really hoped he would thrive in San Diego. He didn’t, and now he’s a free agent. Both are young enough (28 and 29, respectively) to be reclamation projects. Hopefully, for both, they’ll find better success with their next organizations.

Speaking of former Yanks, it was a surprise to see Joe Girardi land in Philadelphia. Granted, all signs started pointing in that direction over the last week or so, but before the Phillies fired manager Gabe Kapler, I felt strongly that Girardi would be the next manager for either the New York Mets or the Chicago Cubs. I never saw him as a Philly guy. I do think he’ll be better for that team than Kapler (okay, that was a statement of the obvious). It’s cool that his bench coach, Rob Thomson, is already in place. There’s been some speculation if he’ll take any of the current Yankee coaches who served under him (bullpen coach Mike Harkey, a close friend, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild). I think Rothschild gets unfair criticism but I’ve long wanted David Cone as the pitching coach so I’d be okay with Rothschild’s departure if it meant getting Coney back in the pinstripes. My absolute favorite for pitching coach is Andy Pettitte but I am not convinced he is ready to leave Texas yet. A dark horse hope for pitching coach would be former San Francisco Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti. He was the pitching coach for three World Series champions over the past decade and he oversaw Madison Bumgarner’s greatest days as a Giant. Anyway, back to Girardi, I think he’ll do well for the Phillies. He’ll have to learn the NL style of play. I know, he has one year of NL managing under his belt but that was a long time ago. For Girardi’s sake, it is a good thing that his former and future bench coach, Thomson, had a one year head start. I am glad that Girardi avoided the mess known as the Wilpon’s.  

Good hire by the Boston Red Sox when they named former Tampa Bay Rays executive Chaim Bloom as their new head of operations. Assistant GM Brian O’Halloran will be promoted to GM to work under Bloom’s leadership. I wish I could criticize this move by Boston but I think they made the best possible hire if Bloom is allowed to truly run the show. I feel the New York Mets erred when they selected Brodie Van Wagenen as their GM over Bloom last year. It seems as if more and more teams are going the “chief baseball officer” route. I really wish the Yankees would promote Brian Cashman to chief baseball officer, and promote Tim Naehring to GM. Love him or hate him, Cash deserves the promotion in my opinion.

It’s funny. Last season, I could hardly wait for the World Series to be over and for the free agency period to open in November. I won’t hide the fact that I wanted either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper and was so anxious to see if the Yankees would sign one of the talented young superstars, or grab the best free agent starter in Patrick Corbin. It was a long winter that led to none of the above in Pinstripes. This season, I think I am more passive. I am not really looking forward to free agency this year like I was last year. I am very interested in seeing the moves that Brian Cashman and company will make, but not with the same excitement. What will be will be. I was never against the DJ LeMahieu signing (I knew he was better than advertised) but I never dreamed he’d be as valuable to the Yankees as he was. It only shows that we need to allow any moves time to marinate. We don’t need big splashes. We need a clubhouse full of the right mix of players to bring the 28th World Championship to the Bronx.  

As always, Go Yankees!

World Series: Dodgers vs Red Sox…

LA wins NLCS to advance to Fall Classic…

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite National League team and now they represent my final hope for ending Boston’s season without a championship. The Yankees couldn’t stop the Red Sox and neither could the defending Champion Houston Astros. I wasn’t too confident heading into Game 7 of the NLCS, especially with the game being played in Milwaukee, but the Dodgers showed the resiliency they’ve had all season to win the game in convincing fashion and propel themselves into the World Series for the second consecutive year.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Nothing against the Milwaukee Brewers. I think they’re a fine baseball team and I have much respect for former Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and former Yankees Erik Kratz and Curtis Granderson, but as a Minnesota Vikings fan, the thought of a World Series between the fan bases for both the Red Sox and Green Bay Packers was a bit too much for me. I am glad the Dodgers bailed me out. I guess I should also thank former Yankee Clay Bellinger and his wife for giving birth to Cody and setting the stage for young Bellinger’s go-ahead two-run homer last night.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Stacy Revere)

I wish the Dodgers had a more formidable bullpen outside of closer Kenley Jansen but the Red Sox proved you don’t need a great bullpen to make it to the World Series. I doubt we’ll see Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw closing out games in the World Series like he did Game 7 of the NLCS. But down the stretch, the Dodgers pen performed about as well as you could so I think I’ll take my chances with Dodger Blue over the course of the next four to seven games. The Dodgers have the bats to get into Boston’s bullpen and I think that will finally be the Achilles Heel for the Red Sox.

It will be fun to see Manny Machado back in Boston. Like Manny’s response last night while celebrating when asked if the win was sweet after the boos from the crowd. He said “what do you think?” and took a swig of champagne. Perfect! There is no love lost between Machado and the Red Sox from his days in Baltimore, and I am sure much will be written in the coming days about his villainess in the city. No doubt the boo birds will show up in full force on Tuesday night. I’d love to see Machado to emerge as one of the heroes of this World Series. It makes a nice segue for his future as a Yankee.

As previously written on this blog, I have finalized the wager with my long-time friend, Boston-area native/resident and die-hard Red Sox fan, Julia (@werbiefitz on Twitter). We have had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and Red Sox. It was not meant to be (for me) this year so I am jumping on the Dodgers bandwagon for the latest wager. Well, it’s not really ‘bandwagon jumping’ since the Dodgers have long been my NL team and that wouldn’t have changed even if they had lost 115 games this year like the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees are still my primary team, but for the rest of October, I am bleeding Dodger Blue.

For our wager, the loser must change her (okay, his/her) cover photo on FaceBook to a picture of the winning team celebrating their World Series championship for seven days at the conclusion of the 2018 World Series. The loser must also read a book chosen by the winner, and then post a minimum 500-word essay about the ten things they learned reading the book. Not a book review, but rather information that he/she did not previously know about the winning organization. The essay must then be posted on Social Media for all to see.

For Julia, since the Dodgers are going to win, I’ve chosen Brothers in Arms:  Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman.

Should I lose, which is obviously not going to happen, Julia has chosen Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant.

We’ve had fun with these wagers over the years. I’ve had to take pics of myself wearing Red Sox hats, including a pink one, and Julia, a Red Sox fan from birth, has had to wear a Yankee hat…in public…in Boston. Since I don’t live in the New York City area, I’ve been fortunate I haven’t had to wear a Red Sox cap in the Bronx, but I am sure it is inevitable if we keep up these wagers.

Game On, Julia! I am ready. My beloved Yankees may not have been able to take down the Red Sox this year, but I get a second chance with the Dodgers. 2018 has been a year of resiliency for the Dodgers who were once ten games below .500 (16-26) during the regular season.  They’ve battled back a few times, with their backs to the wall, and have always prevailed. They may have lost the 2017 World Series to the Houston Astros but this is a year of redemption. You’ll always have your 108 regular season wins, but sorry, my friend, your season will end on a down note. You may want to go ahead and buy the book in advance so that you are ready to start reading.

My prediction:  Dodgers in Six (with hat tip to former Yankees and Dodgers manager Joe Torre).

My apologies, I now return you to Yankees Baseball…

After celebrating Mickey Mantle’s birthday yesterday, today’s “Birthday Boy” is alive and well at age 90.  Happy Birthday to the Chairman of the Board, Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford!

Whitey was born on October 21, 1928 in New York City. A lifetime Yankee, Whitey pitched for the Pinstripers in 1950, served two years in the U.S. Army during the Korean War (thank you for your service!), and resumed his career in the Bronx from 1953 through 1967. Ford was 236-106, 2.75 ERA, and had 1,956 strikeouts for the Yankees. He was a ten-time MLB All-Star and he won six World Series championships. In 1961, he was the AL Cy Young Award winner and World Series MVP. Andy Pettitte may have surpassed Ford for most wins by a lefty in franchise history if not for Andy’s three years in Houston. Pettitte, who won 256 games overall, finished 17 wins behind Ford while wearing the famed Pinstripes. It is very appropriate for Ford to remain at the top of the list, closely followed by Pettitte, another former Yankee I hold in very high regard.

I get excited to see Whitey Ford every year on Old Timer’s Day. His health is in decay (I know, it happens to the best of us) and there will be a day when he is no longer able to take part in the Yankee Stadium festivities. Like Mantle, he was a great, great Yankee, and perhaps the greatest living one. I am so proud he is among the greatest of Yankee Legends.

I’ve seen a few Yankee fans say the team should sign Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, and Nathan Eovaldi for the starting rotation next year. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote this morning in his Sunday Baseball Notes that Eovaldi, currently part of Boston’s World Series roster, should command a deal comparable to the one that Alex Cobb signed late last off-season with the Baltimore Orioles (4 years at $57 million). If the Yankees are successful in signing Corbin and retaining Happ, that’s probably too much for the Yankees to sign Eovaldi as well, especially with young guys like Justus Sheffield, Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu and Domingo German waiting in the wings. If the Yanks lose out on Happ, I’d have no problem with an Eovaldi reunion but I am not really expecting it to happen.

As for Corbin, Cafardo notes the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Atlanta Braves will also be vying for his services. Here’s hoping “blood” is thicker than water. Assuming all dollars are fairly equal, I hope Corbin chooses his Yankee family roots. While Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado would be nice free agent signings (or in the words of TGP’s Daniel Burch, “luxuries”), Corbin is clearly the one I want and the one the team needs. Patrick, we’re waiting for ya, bud! Come join the Party in the Bronx! We will be spilling champagne in 2019!

After previously withdrawing his name from consideration for the managerial gig with the Cincinnati Reds, Joe Girardi has withdrawn his name from consideration in Texas for the Rangers job. I am a little surprised but I have always felt Girardi’s dream job is with the Chicago Cubs. I can’t see Joe Maddon staying with the Cubs too many more years so maybe that’s what Girardi is waiting for. Who knows. Maybe he is starting to understand the reasons he is no longer Yankees manager. As for the Reds, they’ll name David Bell as their new manager on Monday. Bell, like Yankees manager Aaron Boone, comes from a baseball family.  His grandfather, Gus, and his father, Buddy, were both Major Leaguers. Boonie is creating a new trend…analytics AND baseball in the blood.

Lastly, a shout out to Didi Gregorius! He was sharing his million-dollar smile last night at the Knicks game. It didn’t help the Knicks win (they lost by two to Boston) but the pic put a smile on my face. It was a reality check to see his heavily wrapped elbow but the dude can light up any room with his effervescent personality. I can’t wait to see him back on the playing field, starting at shortstop, next summer.

As always, Go Yankees!

Happy Birthday to Mickey Mantle!…

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Yankees Legend would have turned 87 today…

Mickey Mantle was born October 20, 1931 in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, a town with a population of 437 (according to 2010 census) in Northeast OK. He died August 13, 1995 in Dallas, Texas at the age of 63. Mickey was taken from us too soon but he’ll never be forgotten. I remember following the news of his liver cancer and other ailments, subsequent transplant, and finally his death, and even attended his funeral in Dallas. My earliest memories of Mantle were late in his career so I didn’t get to see the great Yankees Legend at his best but you didn’t have to be there to know that he was one of the finest Yankees in the history of the organization. He had his faults, but that’s true of us all. Mantle, the  baseball player, was one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

A funny thing happened to the Los Angeles Dodgers on their way to the World Series. I’ll have to give Game 6 of the NLCS to the Milwaukee Brewers and especially their fans for getting inside the heads of the Dodgers and Manny Machado. Many on Social Media were referring to the fans as the Milwaukee Booers and there’s no doubt it played a huge role. It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers rebound today for their final chance to win a trip to Boston, Massachusetts to play the Red Sox starting Tuesday night. If the Dodgers lose, I am finished with baseball for 2018 as I have no interest in Brewers/Red Sox even if there are a few former Yankees involved.

I was surprised to see Joe Girardi remove his name from consideration for the Cincinnati Reds managerial vacancy. Girardi apparently had been a frontrunner for the job, in competition with former Detroit Tigers manager, current Los Angeles Angels special assistant and one-time Yankees prospect Brad Ausmus and David Bell, currently VP/Player Development for the San Francisco Giants. I wonder if Girardi has a preference for the American League or if he wants to hold out for a Chicago job should one of the jobs open within the next year or so. Girardi is apparently still under consideration for the job with the Texas Rangers. With no offense to Cincinnatians, I know that I’d prefer to call Dallas/Fort Worth home but that’s me. For now, Girardi will continue his work with The MLB Network. Regardless of what he does, I suspect he doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from.

I know the Yankees don’t need a superstar at every position. Erik Kratz is proving that you can be one game away from the World Series with a marginal catcher. But the more I think about it, why wouldn’t you want to drop Bryce Harper in the Yankees lineup between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton? I know, money. But I am confident money is not an issue for the Yankees organization. Sure, I believe you don’t need to spend $200 million to win a World Series, but I also believe in putting the best players on the field. TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen made a great correlation earlier this year about how success = money for those who think Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t want to spend money. I don’t just want to beat the Boston Red Sox next year, I want to crush them.  Having Judge-Harper-Stanton in the heart of the Yankees order, with so many great bats elsewhere in the lineup would truly be the modern Murderer’s Row. Harper can’t pitch, it’s true, but I fully expect the Yankees to bring in reinforcements to help Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka in the starting rotation regardless of any run for Harper.

The Yankees are apparently going to buy back controlling interest in the YES Network according to reports. The Yankees sold 80% of the network, retaining 20%, in separate deals completed in 2014 to 21st Century Fox.  The YES Network, at the time, was valued at $3.8 billion. If the Yankees have the money to buy back the YES Network, they have the money to sign Bryce Harper. Another superstar for YES Network subscribers? Makes sense to me. Remember, Success = Money.

Photo Credit:  New York Daily News Illustration

If the Yankees were headed for the World Series, non-Yankee fans would be in an uproar about how they are the best team money can buy, yet nobody is saying a word about the nearly $240 million payroll-bloated Red Sox.

After a lost season for Yankees prospect Thairo Estrada (he was shot in the hip during a robbery attempt in Venezuela in late January, missed Spring Training, and then was lost for the season in June due to the hip and a back injury), it’s good to see his participation in the Arizona Fall League. The numbers aren’t there (4-for-25, with no extra base hits and a lone RBI) but at least he’s back on the playing field. Here’s hoping 2019 will be much more productive for the talented shortstop. He still has the bullet lodged in his hip but hopefully he is back stronger than ever next year.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Didi Gregorius.  As most of us know, he had successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Wednesday morning in Manhattan. At this point, we don’t know when we’ll see Sir Didi again as some reports say he may be out until August, but I wish him much success and a quick return to good health with his post-surgery rehabilitation. I really hope the Yankees move to lock up Didi long-term and don’t allow the surgery, and subsequent lost time, as a reason to non-tender the player. I’d prefer to see the Yankees find shortstop alternatives to hold them over until Didi’s return, keeping Gleyber Torres at second, rather than moving Torres back to his natural shortstop position and bringing in a name second baseman like Joe Panik or D.J. LeMahieu. I love having Didi Gregorius as this team’s shortstop and I don’t want that to change anytime soon. Get well, Didi!

I am anxious to get the playoffs and World Series over so that we can begin the Hot Stove League season. I am excited to see what presents Santa Cashman has in store for us this year. Fans of the Red Sox, Brewers and Dodgers may think differently, but I am ready to begin building the 2019 New York Yankees and starting their run for the Championship. Pinstripes for you, Pinstripes for everyone. Climb aboard the 2019 Victory Train!

Go Yankees!

Sweet Home Yankee Stadium…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Adam Hunger)

Yanks kick off final regular season home stand with an easy win…

For all of the struggles by the Yankees this month, last night was fun.  The Yankees were in charge from the start and never looked back en route to the 11-0 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays behind the stellar pitching of restored staff ace Masahiro Tanaka.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

After a disappointing nine-game road trip that saw the Yankees drop series in Oakland and Minneapolis to finish 4-5, allowing the A’s to close the gap in the AL Wild Card standings, the Yankees needed a strong game with contributions across the roster.  I suppose it was a good sign when it was announced Aaron Judge had been activated off the disabled list prior to the game, even if his bat wasn’t activated with him.  Judge will serve as a pinch runner and defensive specialist until it is time to take a few swings in simulated games in Tampa before he gets an opportunity to seek his 27th home run for the Bombers.  Given that Judge is the obvious heart and soul of this team (and its future Captain if the Yankees do what’s right), I am glad to see him on the active roster even with his limitations.

I am resigned to the fact that this has been a special season for the Boston Red Sox.  I hope they fail in the post-season (like the 2001 Seattle Mariners) but there’s been no doubt they’ve owned the regular season.  Unlike the Yankees, they’ve been able to limit the slumps and no opposing lead seems safe against J.D. Martinez and Company.  I remain hopeful that they’ll fail in the post-season with their questionable bullpen but at the moment they are the best Red Sox team of my lifetime (well, anybody’s lifetime for that matter).  I hate the Houston Astros but if the AL Championship comes down to the Astros and the Red Sox, I’d have to pull for a repeat World Series appearance for the defending champs.

There’s been so much talk about which pitcher should get the call in the inevitable Wild Card game against the Oakland A’s.  Right now, it would seem that Tanaka is the man of the hour.  Many have mentioned J.A. Happ as a possibility but as good as he has been as a Yankee, I really think the choice should be limited to Tanaka or Luis Severino.  I guess I can still remember the times when the Yankees had their way with Happ when he was wearing a Blue Jays uniform.  In his last game against the Yankees in July, he was pounded for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in Toronto’s 10-5 loss to the Yanks.  Although Severino has been struggling for awhile, he pitched much better in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins when the Yankees didn’t get their first hit until the eighth inning.  He held the Twins to only one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings and didn’t walk anybody in the tough luck loss.  He struck out five.  It’s a start, both literally and figuratively.

As the Yankees begin their final home stand, it is a little sad that it could be the last regular season games at Yankee Stadium for a few of the guys.  Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, and David Robertson are the names that stick out the most to me.  Several guys, like Sonny Gray and maybe even Greg Bird, may have played themselves off the roster after the season.  It’s doubtful the Yankees will re-sign Andrew McCutchen or Zach Britton so their brief Pinstriped careers could soon be coming to an end and there is no certainty the Yankees will re-sign J.A. Happ. MLB Trade Rumors speculated this morning that Happ could earn more than a guaranteed $40 million for three years on his next deal when he becomes a free agent after the season.  That’s a lot of money for a guy who turns 36 next month. Hopefully the Yankees hang on to their Wild Card lead so that there is at least one more game at Yankee Stadium  for the impending departees after the current home stand ends.

I am not sure how I feel about the Yankees’ chances for October.  If they play like the team we’ve seen in recent weeks, it will be ‘one and done’ in the Wild Card game.  If they can capitalize on the momentum of last night’s game and propel themselves into the playoffs on a roll, anything can happen.  We know this team is capable of beating anybody including the Red Sox.  But we also know that the bats can go into silent mode with runners in scoring position at times (more often than I would like).  I guess I could say that while I am hopeful for the best, I am braced for the worst.  I do know the Yankees need a healthy Aaron Judge and Aroldis Chapman before we play the final regular season series in Boston at the end of the month.  We need both guys firing on all cylinders for the team’s hopes to advance deep into October.

Like many Yankee fans, I am very pleased with the production and energy that we’ve seen from first baseman Luke Voit.  I certainly never dreamed that GM Brian Cashman would be able to flip relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos for a guy who has become such a big part of the Yankees offense.  I don’t know what the future holds for Voit but I am enjoying the current ride.  I think the Yankees will look to upgrade the position in the off-season but Voit has certainly earned the right to battle Greg Bird for the starting position next Spring.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

I’ve seen so many people call for the head of Aaron Boone.  Sure, he’s made his share of rookie mistakes in his first year as Yankees manager but I think he’ll be stronger for it in 2019.  There’s not anybody out there I would prefer to see as the team’s manager at this point and I am certainly not pining for the return of Joe Girardi.  When Boone was announced as the Yankees manager last off-season, I had been hopeful that he’d select a veteran manager as his bench coach.  So I was a little disappointed when he went with Josh Bard who has not managed at any level.  Bard may be smart and confident, but I really preferred a battle tested veteran manager in the role as lead consultant for Boone.  Boone does have managerial experience on his staff with Larry Rothschild who was the original manager for the Tampa Bay Rays (then Devil Rays) when they entered the American League.  Third base coach Phil Nevin has minor league managerial experience. But that’s not the same as your right hand guy. The best case scenario would have been for the Yankees to have retained former bench coach Rob Thomson who now serves in the same role for the Philadelphia Phillies and their infant manager, Gabe Kapler.  Another veteran manager who left the organization last off-season will most likely be coaching first base for the Yankees’ Wild Card opponent.  Al Pedrique, the former manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, is presently first base coach for the Oakland A’s.  In my opinion, Thomson or Pedrique would have been much better options to sit (or rather stand) beside Boone in the Yankees dugout than Bard.

Speaking of Joe Girardi, I am not sure where he’ll get his next opportunity.  I had thought St Louis was an obvious destination but the Cardinals have committed to their interim manager, Mike Shildt, by dropping the interim tag. Shildt has made the Cardinals relevant again after their disappointing performance under former manager Mike Matheny. I thought Washington might be another possibility but it sounds like first-year manager Dave Martinez will get another shot in 2019 even if the team will be Bryce Harper-less.  The Toronto Blue Jays have been mentioned as a possibility given the speculation that their manager, John Gibbons, is managing his final games in a Blue Jays uniform.  It would be weird to see Girardi in the AL East with another team. But when you look at teams with great young prospects on the horizon, the Blue Jays would be near the top of the list with the highly rated sons of former Major Leaguers Vladimir Guerrero, Dante Bichette, and Craig Biggio among others. All things considered, I am hopeful Girardi likes his job with MLB Network well enough to wait for a Chicago job to open at some point in the future.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders beat the heavily favored Durham Bulls last night to send the International League’s Governors’ Cup Finals to the winner-take-all Game Five to be played in Moosic, PA later today.  Domingo German will start for the RailRiders against Durham’s Kyle Bird (part of the Bulls planned bullpen day). The Bulls are the defending IL champs, while the RailRiders were the Wild Card entrant and last year’s championship series loser.  Win or lose, this has been a great season for the Yankees’ top farm team.  The Bulls have been at a disadvantage for the series since all of the games have been played at PNC Field in Moosic due to the weather conditions in the Carolinas.

Entering play today, the magic number for the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East championship is six games.  The Yankees (91-56) currently trail the Red Sox by 9 1/2 games so at this point it is only a matter of time until the Red Sox are sipping champagne.  My hope is that they do not do it next week on Yankee Stadium soil.  The Yankees lead the AL Wild Card by a game and a half over the Oakland A’s but hold the tie-breaker.  The Seattle Mariners trail the A’s by 8 1/2 games so barring any miracle comebacks, the AL Wild Card will be Yankees-A’s with location being the only question.

For today’s game, the Yankees send CC Sabathia (7-6, 3.54 ERA) to the mound.  He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Sean Reid-Foley (1-3, 6.86 ERA).  Sabathia has not looked good in his recent outings and he really needs to step his game soon.  Hopefully today is the start.  We want a win, we need a win, let’s get a win.  Go Yankees!

Weird Win is a Win, I’ll Take It…

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

Yankees survive Tribe on odd play and stellar bullpen…

If it takes a little league homer to beat the Cleveland Indians, so be it. A day after a Yankees rally fell short by one run against the Tribe, I had no issue with the deciding run in yesterday’s tilt being decided on Austin Romine’s lead-off double in the seventh inning that resulted in a run thanks to a couple of errors. Romine’s hit to the gap in the right center was bobbled by Brandon Guyer for the first error as Romine slid safely into third. The relay throw ended up bouncing past Jose Ramirez at third and Mike Clevinger back up the play into the dugout and the umpiring crew awarded Romine home plate for the go-ahead and eventual winning run.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (David Maxwell)

 

For two teams with great hitters and defenders, it was an odd way for a game to be decided. The win allowed the Yankees to go up two games to one in the current series, putting them in position to take the series today before most of the players head for their homes and families for a few days of rest and relaxation.

It wasn’t the greatest outing for CC Sabathia, giving up four runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings against his original team but credit him for keeping it close. Didi Gregorius had staked CC to an early lead with his three-run homer in the first inning. It was Didi’s 17th home run of the year.

The Indians chipped away at the Yankees’ lead, tying the game at four in the bottom of the sixth when Brandon Guyer, who entered the game with a .162 batting average, hit a two-out infield single to third to score runners at second and third. Miguel Andujar’s wide throw pulled Greg Bird off the bag at first to allow Guyer to reach base safely and Bird’s subsequent throw home glanced off the glove of Austin Romine, allowing the second and tying run to score. The hit chased Sabathia, but David Robertson came in to restore order. He walked the first batter he faced but then struck out Yan Gomes to end the inning.

D-Rob pitched a clean seventh inning and Dellin Betances did the same in the eighth.

The ninth inning was filled with a bit of drama. It started when Brandon Guyer led off the bottom of the inning with a pop up in foul territory. Austin Romine went back for the ball and Miguel Andujar came charging in and neither player came up with the ball, with an error charged on Andujar. It looked like it should have been Romine’s ball but the ball drifted toward Andjuar who couldn’t get out of the way.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

It didn’t matter when Guyer grounded out to short, but then Aroldis Chapman walked Cleveland’s top prospect Francisco Mejia, who represented the tying run. Mejia had just been recalled earlier in the day to make his 2018 MLB season debut.  After striking out Yan Gomes, it set up a rematch of the 2016 World Series with Chapman facing Rajai Davis. As the announcing crew reminded us again and again, Davis had homered off Chapman to tie that game, the seventh and deciding game, although the Chicago Cubs eventually won it and the series with Chappy picking up the win. There would be no Davis home run this time around. His fly out to right field ended the game, giving the save to Chapman, his 26th of the season, and the win to David Robertson (7-3). With seven wins, D-Rob has as many wins as Masahiro Tanaka and more than any other Yankees pitcher not named Luis Severino.

Greg Bird continued his recent hot hitting with a sixth inning solo blast off Indians starter Mike Clevinger that had briefly given the Yankees and Sabathia a two-run cushion. It was Bird’s eighth home run of the year.

The game also featured the ejection of Manager Aaron Boone who showed some fire in the top of the sixth inning. After Giancarlo took a called third strike on a ball that hit his hands as he swung, Boone argued that the ball should have been ruled foul but to no avail. The umps were right but it was fun to see Boone fired up. It was Boonie’s second ejection of the season.

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

There was some good defensive play by second baseman Tyler Wade in the game (can we DFA Neil Walker already?) although he was unable to make a difficult play in the bottom of the sixth that led to the first baserunner who would eventually score on Brandon Guyer’s two-run single.

The Yankees (62-32) remained 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays took the Red Sox into extra innings before losing the game in the 10th on a walk-off grand slam home run by Xander Bogaerts.

With the Manny Machado rumors subsiding, it appears most likely that he’ll be traded to a National League team which, all things considered, is probably for the best. The rumors involving the Philadelphia Phillies seem the most fervent at the moment, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers remain in the chase. It does seem odd to me that some teams would be willing to part with top prospects for a player they may have no chance to re-sign in the off-season. But then again, if you think you have a chance for the World Series, it might be worth it if you feel that Machado is the difference-maker. I am sure the Dodgers would hate to see Machado end up in Philly. My biggest fear is Machado being traded to the Red Sox so I am anxious for the O’s to send their star shortstop to the NL as soon as possible. Given how much Orioles owner Peter Angelos hates the Yankees, I could see him sending Machado to Boston just to spite the Yankees even if the return for their team was less.

We may soon see Joe Girardi back in a dugout. The St Louis Cardinals surprisingly fired their manager, Mike Matheny, yesterday. Matheny was expected to be dismissed in the off-season but apparently the Cardinals organization became impatient (an uncharacteristic trait for them) as Matheny seemingly lost control of his clubhouse. Joe Girardi has emerged as a favorite to replace Matheny. The Cardinals are currently 47-46 and 7 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and six games behind the second-place Milwaukee Brewers. they are just four games out in the Wild Card hunt. The last time the Cardinals fired a manager during the season was Joe Torre in 1995. I’ve seen the names of Jose Oquendo, Carlos Beltran, and even Jason Giambi mentioned, but Girardi would seem to make the most sense for a team trying to rebound from first half turbulence. Mike Shildt, the Cardinals bench coach, has been named interim manager. Girardi has some connection to the team as he finished his playing career in 2003 with the Cards.

While I realize the sexy names like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner, and Blake Snell are beyond reach for the Yankees, the most likely names that are available just plain scare me (not in a good way). Michael Fulmer, a name that has been connected to the Yankees for months, has been awful this year. I’ve tried to rationalize his performance by the fact that he plays for a bad team, but he was hit hard by the Houston Astros yesterday.  He failed to complete five innings, giving up ten hits and seven runs, as his season record fell to 3-9. There’s no way that I’d want to see the Yankees give up Clint Frazier and/or other top prospects for Fulmer despite his youth, potential and cost-controlled status. Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ have been awful. TGP’s Daniel Burch cites Zack Wheeler as a possibility but that one doesn’t excite me. Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney of the Los Angeles Angels are the most recent names mentioned. There is a very real possibility that the Yankees are unable to find a match for a top starter or two. Other teams are willing to overpay but the Yankees are not. I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I want to see Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Estevan Florial thrive as Yankees, but on the other hand, something needs to give if the Yankees intend to catch the Red Sox in the second half. Boston shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Hopefully the Yankees can win today to send us into the All-Star Break on a positive note. Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.68 ERA) makes the start against Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.23 ERA). It should be a good game and a great day for a victory.

Go Yankees!

Opening Day at Yankee Stadium (Not Today)…

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Greg Joyce)

Frosty the Snowman punches out the Yankees…

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As I type this post, it is in the low 30’s and snowing in New York for today’s now-postponed Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Snow and baseball do not mix. I love baseball at Yankee Stadium but admittedly it would be more enjoyable facing the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida right now. The game has been re-scheduled for Tuesday. Tomorrow will be a little warmer…temps in the 40’s…but rain is expected in the afternoon (there is a 95% chance at the expected 4 pm Eastern game time, according to Weather.com). April in New York, you gotta love it…

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I was really hoping the Yankees could have won three of four heading back to the Bronx, but it was not meant to be. I am not ready to crucify Manager Aaron Boone but the same could not be said about the Yankees Universe on Twitter. You would have thought Boone burned Derek Jeter’s famed #2 jersey after yesterday’s loss. Give Boonie a break. He’s going to make mistakes. Outside of Giancarlo Stanton’s two home runs last Thursday, the Blue Jays did a great job shutting down our best hitters. Credit to them for a job well done. When we are forced to rely upon the bats at the bottom of the lineup, we put ourselves into situations where the bullpen has no safety net.

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Four games into the season, I know two facts. The bullpen is going to perform better than this and the big sluggers are going to hit. Aaron Boone is a smart man and I think he grows stronger by the day. I don’t want the return of Joe Girardi even if it was possible. That ship has sailed and Girardi awaits his next managerial gig in Chicago or St Louis. For better or worse, I am behind Boone as the manager of this team. The last two losses were agonizing, to say the least, but there are better days ahead. In the coming weeks and months, Boone will prove himself to be a master strategist and will be a worthy foe to the game’s best.

The next seven games will be at home against the Rays and the Baltimore Orioles.These are the games to win. The Yankees need to take both series before heading to Boston a week from tomorrow. The O’s series will be a big test for Boone as he’ll be going against one of the greater managerial minds in the game. Buck Showalter may not have the talent on the field to match the Yankees but one must never underestimate the power of the former Yankees manager. This will be a series of the student against the master. One game at a time. I am confident that Boone will use these games as building blocks for his managerial greatness.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mark Brown)

Until further notice, I’d like to avoid hearing the Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball. At the moment, the only trustworthy guy appears to be Chad Green. Regardless, I am convinced the bullpen will be dominant but it gets old to continually hear they are the best, followed by another implosion. The most disappointing aspect of yesterday’s game for me was the inability of Sonny Gray to get out of the fifth inning. It put too much pressure on the pen, after several days of early starter departures. The bullpen will get better and Boone will make stronger choices. The current mood of disappointment can easily be swept away by a nice seven-game winning streak.

I know that many of you were glad GM Brian Cashman didn’t blink during  the  failed off-season trade talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates and RHP Gerrit Cole ended up moving to Houston to play for the World champions. I was in favor of the trade even if it meant losing Clint Frazier and a top pitching prospect so it was kind of tough to see Cole’s strong debut for the Astros yesterday. He was the winning pitcher in Houston’s 8-2 win over the Texas Rangers.  He pitched seven strong innings, allowing only two hits and a run.  He walked three and struck out eleven. His only mistake pitch was a slider to the second batter he faced to start the game, Joey Gallo. Gallo homered to left on Cole’s second pitch to give the Rangers an early lead, but former Pirate and childhood Yankees fan was dominant from there. I suspect that there will be more than a few AL pitchers who watch their offerings deposited into the outfield seats by Gallo, including a few Yankee pitchers, before this season is done. Now let’s see if Cole can continue to pitch at this level, particularly as AL hitters gain familiarity. The verdict is still out on that one, but for one day, Cole pitched like an ace and would have looked awfully nice in Pinstripes.

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Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

Let’s hope that the Weather Gods decide to smile upon New York tomorrow so that we can get Opening Day at the Stadium underway. Rain, rain, go away, come again when we’re on the road. I know, that doesn’t rhyme but I never said I was a poet.  I just want to watch some Pinstriped Baseball.

Enjoy the snowy day.  Go Yankees!

Fun Times at Steinbrenner Field…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)

Shhh, the Yankees are playing…

The primary takeaways from Friday’s exhibition opener at Steinbrenner Field which saw the Yankees defeat the Detroit Tigers, 3-1, were how great Giancarlo Stanton looks in pinstripes and how comfortably Aaron Boone fits into the manager’s chair. Sure, I was carefully watching Gleyber Torres and I held my breath when he laid out for the first inning grounder he was unable to handle, but overall he was solid for his five innings of work after missing so much time last year following Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Stanton didn’t really do anything with the bat in the meaningless game but he has such a presence at the plate. You get the sense that when the games matter, this guy is going to be such a huge part of the team’s offense (in a classic statement of the obvious on my part). I watched parts of the Miami Marlins home game against the St Louis Cardinals later in the day and there is clearly a major difference in the vibe and energy generated by the home crowds (Tampa versus Jupiter). Starlin Castro hit a solid single to right before he was lifted for a pinch-runner in the Marlins game but maybe because I have no interest in the Marlins or the Cardinals, the overall mood of the game felt lethargic. Steinbrenner Field, by comparison, was buzzing with enthusiasm.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)

I couldn’t help but think of Joe Girardi when Austin Romine was batting, wearing Girardi’s #28 jersey. I am sure in time Romine will make it his number but for as much as I like Aaron Boone, I did sentimentally think of Girardi and what he meant to the team for ten years.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jeff Zelevansky)

The pitcher I am watching closely this Spring is Ben Heller. I think he’s capable of being the breakout reliever of the year for the Yankees. The right-hander is 26 (27 in August) and was 5-4 with 2.88 ERA last season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He struck out 82 batters in 40 games covering 56 1/3 innings. He spent limited time with the big league club, striking out 9 batters in 11 innings, while giving up only 5 hits and 1 run. In yesterday’s game, Heller followed starter Luis Cessa and gave up 2 hits but no runs in 2 innings of work, while striking out 3. Heller is a high character guy and I am really pulling for him to succeed with the big league club this year. He was acquired in 2016, along with Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and J.P. Feyereisen, from the Cleveland Indians in the deal that sent Andrew Miller to the Tribe. He may not break camp with the Yankees when they head north in late March but I am sure that we’ll be hearing his name frequently this season.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Kathy Willens)

Waiting for J.D. Martinez and Scott Boras…

I haven’t been closely following the situation with J.D. Martinez in Fort Myers, FL with the Boston Red Sox but it’s funny that the team hasn’t announced the contract signing yet. Martinez took his physical on Wednesday but there’s been no word, good or bad. It is causing angst in the Red Sox Nation. I’ve heard things like the delay is normal in the off-season for free agent signings and that the team’s doctors are in Boston and not Fort Myers where Martinez had the physical. Manager Alex Cora has made comments that he is not concerned and I still fully expect Martinez to be in the heart of the Red Sox lineup this year but the drama surrounding his signing is enjoyable from afar. For the record, I find no humor in any potential physical issues that may be causing the delay. I do hope this works out for Martinez.

Help Wanted: Baseball Players to play for alleged MLB team in St Petersburg…

I really feel badly for the Tampa Bay Rays and their fans. It’s become worse than the Marlins situation as they continue to unload their best players. Days after being designated for assignment, the Rays traded their lone 2017 All-Star representative, outfielder Corey Dickerson, to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dickerson will help make up for the loss of offense when the Pirates traded star Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants. The Rays received reliever Daniel Hudson, a minor league prospect and cash considerations from the Pirates for Dickerson. The Rays will also be without the services of top pitching prospect Brett Honeywell, one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, after it was revealed he has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and will require Tommy John surgery. Looks like the Rays will be leaning very heavily on Chris Archer and “Nasty Nate”, Nathan Eovaldi, this season.

Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times

Spring Training, Game 2…

The Yankees take on the Pittsburgh Pirates today at 1:05 pm for their second exhibition game. They’ll be at Lecom Park in Bradenton, FL. The lineup for today’s game is:

Tyler Wade, 2B

Brandon Drury, 3B

Tyler Austin, 1B

Clint Frazier, LF

Danny Espinosa, DH

Ronald Torreyes, SS

Estevan Florial, CF

Erik Kratz, C

Shane Robinson, RF

The starting pitcher will be Domingo German.

Credit to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com for this Aaron Boone quote, “I want us to be obsessed with controlling the strike zone. That’s one of our bumper stickers.”

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Hats off to the Yankees and Major League Baseball for the very classy decision to wear the Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps to honor the victims of the senseless tragedy in Parkland, Florida for the exhibition openers.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)

It’s fun to watch the Yankees back on the field against live pitching even if the games mean absolutely nothing. Good times.

Go Yankees!