The slump is over.
On a night the Yankees completed their seventh consecutive win (sixth straight at home for the first time since 1998), thanks largely to another good pitching performance by Michael Pineda, the star of the game, for me, was first baseman Greg Bird.
After Aaron Judge’s apparent home run in the second inning was ruled a triple due to fan interference, Bird smashed a ‘no-doubt-about-it’ 444 foot homer to right, scoring Judge. The Baseball Gods smiled. Mystique and Aura were alive and well, and dancing throughout the Stadium.
Bird was 3-for-3 for the game with two runs scored and the two RBI’s courtesy of the long homer. He raised his batting average by 100 points (from .038 to .138). It was a beautiful sight to see. Bird’s bat is instrumental to the long term success for the team so it was great to see the strong offensive explosion. Maybe he did take my slump-busting advice after all (reference to Mark Grace’s infamous slump buster quote).
A week ago Saturday, when the Yankees stood at 1-4, it was hard to be optimistic. Now, at 8-4 and just a half-game behind the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles, the glass is half full once again. If not for the Orioles (8-3 in one less game), the Yankees would be tied for the best record in all of Baseball.
Michael Pineda delivered a very solid pitching performance, allowing only two runs in seven innings of work. He did allow six hits (including Yadier Molina’s home run in the seventh) but he walked only one and struck out six. I was thinking to myself that the Yankees pitchers, excluding Masahiro Tanaka (so far), seem to be playing a game of ‘one-up-manship’. But then I came across a Jordan Montgomery quote. “Yeah, well every staff I’ve been a part of, (when we) get rolling like this, we’re all just trying to beat the last guy that were out there. Kind of one-up him, and one-up and then one-up.” Yep, he one-upped me. Now, if Masahiro Tanaka could join the One-Up Party.
Hats off to Ronald Torreyes. He was not my choice for starting shortstop when Didi Gregorius but the so-called “Toe” has been a great fill-in. He drove in two with a ground rule double in the eighth inning to push his team-leading season RBI total to ten (two more than the Aarons who both have eight). I am looking forward to the return of Gregorius, but Torreyes has impressed. He’s doing his best to ensure that Ruben Tejada never puts on the Yankee pinstripes at Yankee Stadium.
I hate to say that I was nervous with a 9-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning but I gotta admit that Bryan Mitchell had me a little worried. The inning did not start well with a double by Eric Fryer. A wild pitch advanced Fryer to third, and Mitchell ended up walking the next batter (Jedd Gyorko) on four pitches. Randal Grichuk then hit a ball toward third which Torreyes made a great stop but then hurriedly threw the ball to second baseman Starlin Castro for a force out attempt. The throw was too low and Castro couldn’t come up with it, and Torreyes was charged with the throwing error. Fryer scored on the play. A home run at that point could have brought the score to 9-6 (too close for comfort). Fortunately, Mitchell settled down and got the next three batters out by strikeout and two fly balls, and it was game over.
I felt bad for Matt Holliday as he missed his second game with the lower back stiffness. So it wasn’t much of a reunion for Holliday with his old mates, and he finished the series with his Friday night performance (0-for-4, three strikeouts). Per Manager Joe Girardi, he was available to pinch-hit so hopefully that means he’ll be back in the saddle tonight against the Chicago White Sox. Of all the things I want to see with the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury as the clean-up hitter has not been one of them. Hopefully, Girardi is able to pencil in #17 for the clean-up spot tonight.
Playing the Chicago White Sox brings a few former Yankees back to the Bronx. Starting pitcher Jose Quintana, Closer David Robertson, relievers Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak, and outfielder Melky Cabrera. Friday night, in a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins, the White Sox made “Garcia” history when every starting outfielder was named Garcia. Willy in left, Leury in center, and Avisail in right. Quintana pitched on Saturday in a 6-0 loss to the Twins and will not be available this series. I’ve already read a few ‘trade for Quintana’ articles this morning. Stop it. Forget Quintana and move on with life.
Have an awesome Monday! Eight would be great!
How will the Yankees “manage” potential change?…
Will Joe Girardi be the Yankees manager this time next year? As the manager enters the final year of his contract, the expectation is that he’ll re-sign with the Yankees in October or November. But anything is possible. The Steinbrenner family might have a change of heart and decide that a change is needed. Girardi has held the job for a long time (this will be his 10th season as Yankees skipper).
Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
I get frustrated with Girardi at times. He’s never been one of my favorite managers. I had greater confidence in Joe Torre’s ability to lead. Among current managers, I hold Don Mattingly and Terry “Tito” Francona in highest regard.
Mattingly was my favorite player so sentimentally that’s probably why he is my favorite manager. In 2008, when the Yankees hired Girardi over Mattingly, I did think it was the right decision given Mattingly’s lack of managerial experience at the time. Mattingly was not able to succeed in Los Angeles for the Dodgers, but I’ve felt he has continually improved each year. Today, I’d easily take Mattingly over Girardi. My only reservation with hiring Mattingly as Yankees manager (assuming the Yankees could pry him from Miami) is preservation of his Yankees legacy. Managers are hired to be fired or so the saying goes. I wouldn’t want my final memory of Mattingly in pinstripes to be him walking away after being fired.
I have admired Francona since he was manager of the Boston Red Sox. I had great respect for the champions he built and of course he was responsible for ending The Curse of the Bambino, along with then general manager Theo Epstein. I doubt that Francona would ever leave the Cleveland Indians (by his own choice). The Yankees could have hired him after he was fired in Boston but they did not express any interest. Francona has history with the Cleveland Indians franchise (pre-dating his time in Boston), and after taking the team to the World Series last year, he is very beloved in the city.
If the Yankees do decide to make a managerial change at the end of the season, I just don’t see any overwhelming candidates who could do a better job. Mattingly would be great, but he is under contract, so it would take a trade to make it happen. I am not enthused by simply elevating one of the coaches (Rob Thomson or Tony Pena).
This situation bears watching over the course of the season. I think the odds are much better that GM Brian Cashman, also in the final year of a contract, re-signs with the Yankees than Girardi. Time will tell.
Let the competition be Judged…
The Yankees have various degrees of competition at certain positions this spring. The most obvious is the two open spots in the pitching rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. The early leaders, in my opinion, are Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell. But there is still time for Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and perhaps Adam Warren to state their case. I am anxious and excited for Jordan Montgomery and James Kaprielian but it does not appear to be their times yet. Kaprielian has the higher ceiling but he won’t make an appearance at Yankee Stadium, barring injuries, until September at the earliest. Montgomery could show up sooner and might be the first or second option if someone gets hurt.
The competition at first base evaporated somewhat when Tyler Austin broke his foot. Greg Bird clearly holds the advantage over Chris Carter despite the latter’s 41 home runs last season. Unlike Carter, Bird is good defensively (even if he’s not on par with former first baseman Mark Teixeira’s glove) and hits for average. As Bird has shown this spring, he still has his power following last year’s injury.
Right field was also a speculated position of competition. Most assume that Aaron Judge will get the job, but technically, he is in competition with Aaron Hicks. Judge has a much greater upside, but he did strike out 42 out of 84 times late last season. If he is not able to make the necessary adjustments at the big league level, it could open the door for Hicks to take the job. I personally hope it does not happen. I am hopeful that Judge figures it out at this level like he has at every level thus far.
The flaming red hair is left on the barbershop floor…
Kudos to OF Clint Frazier for cutting his bushy red hair this week. While I personally feel that the Yankees current hair policy is outdated, I thought it was a good move by Frazier to cut his hair after a talk with Manager Joe Girardi. Girardi felt that the hair had become a distraction. It was a mature statement by Frazier in saying that he loved playing for the organization more than his hair.
Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Frazier won’t break camp with the Yankees, but he’ll be there soon enough. This is all part of his maturation into a dynamic young future star outfielder for the Pinstripers.
There’s other baseball on TV…
I should probably watch the WBC more but I’ve never been into it. Still, I fully understand the importance of placing Baseball on the World Stage and should reconsider my complacency. I guess I am just get tired of seeing the Dominican Republic or Japan always win the competition.
Regardless, it was fun to see the USA defeat Columbia, 3-2, on a run-scoring single by Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles. Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard picked up the win. The game featured a very strong start by Jose Quintana for Columbia. The rumors continue to swirl about Quintana’s future and the Yankees remain one of the potential destinations. His WBC performance yesterday did nothing to dispel those rumors.
Credit: Logan Bowles, USA TODAY Sports
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Waiting for Spring…
This is the time of year when there is not much activity in the way of baseball news.
Soon, MLB teams will be preparing for the journeys to Florida and Arizona (ala the Boston Red Sox infamous “Truck Day”). There is still a number of free agents searching for new homes, but the Yankees have not engaged any players in known, substantive talks.
I remain convinced the Yankees need to bring in a veteran arm to compete with the young talent that will be auditioning for the two open spots in the rotation. Jason Hammel remains available and that’s the arm I feel the Yankees should bring to camp. But there are others. I know that he’s not the pitcher he was earlier in the decade, but I liked San Diego’s move to sign Trevor Cahill. A reliever for the Chicago Cubs, Cahill will get an opportunity to start again for the Padres. Who knows if he’ll be successful or will ever be the starter that he once was, but the Padres are taking the chance.
Regardless of who the Yankees bring in, it’s a certainty that there will be a Scranton/Wilkes Barre shuttle for starters as well as relievers. I have no doubt that names like Jordan Montgomery and Chance Adams will make their major league debuts in 2017. The likelihood of Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia staying healthy all season long is remote. This is why I feel that it is a very good idea to bring in a stable, consistent veteran influence like Hammel.
GM Brian Cashman would make the trade for Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox today if the price was right, but odds are it will be too high for the Yankees (leading to Cashman’s statement that it is 99% the Yankees will not be adding a pitcher before heading to Tampa). I still expect the Houston Astros to pony up the prospects necessary to pry Quintana from the White Sox. There’s no doubt Quintana would great in the Yankees rotation, but the time is not right.
There is a genuine concern that Masahiro Tanaka will have a great season and opt out of his deal next fall. Without Tanaka, the Yankees rotation is looking very scary unless the young arms make major advancements during the season.
Here’s how the Top 3 rotations currently stack up in the AL East:
Baltimore Orioles: Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy
Boston Red Sox: Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello
New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia
Tampa Bay Rays: Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, and Jake Odorizzi
Toronto Blue Jays: Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman
Clearly, Boston is the class of the division, with the Blue Jays not far behind. There’s talent with the Orioles and Rays rotations. The Yankees clearly hold the most questions heading into the season. This is even more reason to shore up the back end of the rotation.
It’s tough thinking about giving up top prospects to bring in a much needed top starter. The Yankees need an ace to pair with, or potentially replace, Tanaka. 2B/SS prospect Gleyber Torres seems to have that “It” factor that separates the great players from the good ones. OF prospect Clint Frazier is guaranteed to be a hit in the Bronx if he gets the opportunity with a huge personality that matches the talent.
Hard decisions will need to be made as the team prepares for World Series contention within the next couple of years. For now, Cashman needs to ensure that he gives Manager Joe Girardi the best possible arms for 2017. It may be the best move is no move, or it may be bringing in a veteran arm or two to compete. Either decision is a hard one. It is time for the young guys to step up their game…
When is there too much youth?…
The Yankees continue to be linked to the Chicago White and their latest ace-in-waiting Jose Quintana in the rumor mill but like many, I do not expect, nor want, the Yankees to give up the top prospects it would take to bring him back to New York. At the risk of being a “prospect-hugger”, I want to see Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, James Kaprielian and others succeed in the Bronx.
Without getting into the analytics for why the Yankees should or should not pursue a particular pitcher, I think the best move would be to sign one of the remaining free agent pitchers (why not roll the dice, it’s only money). Or perhaps GM Brian Cashman should focus on an ‘under the radar’ trade for an arm with potential that doesn’t carry the current media focus like Quintana.
Of the remaining free agents, I would pursue either Jason Hammel or Doug Fister. Neither pitcher is flashy and both slot in at the back end of the rotation but both are capable of delivering 10+ wins which, for a #4 or #5 starter, is not bad. Fister has been the model of mediocrity for a couple of seasons and Hammel benefited from being part of a World Series caliber staff to garner his highest career victory total last year. For the back end, I want starters who can keep the team in games. Watching Luis Severino go winless in his starts was brutal. I’d easily take the dependablity and reliability of Hammel or Fister over another ‘0-fer’ performance by Sevy.
If Severino shows in spring training that he is capable of making the necessary adjustments and can be the 2015 starter version versus the 2016 bullpen-only guy, great, put him in the rotation. But that’s not a bet I’d take in Vegas.
I want to limit the ‘see if they can grow into the role’ opportunities in the rotation to no more than one. The certainties in the rotation are Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. After that, it is a plethora of young arms. I’d prefer to see Luis Cessa succeed because I admire his attitude on the mound so he’s my favorite to add. But the stress is much greater if we have to rely upon Cessa AND Severino, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell or Adam Warren without a strong backup plan.
If Pineda continues to struggle or if Sabathia gets hurt or further regresses, the rotation will collapse if they have to be carried by unproven prospects. I want nothing more than to see Jordan Montgomery, Dietrich Enns, Chance Adams, and Justus Sheffield get their chances. I also think Albert Albreu was a great addition. But none of those quality arms will be ready in April 2017.
It is imperative for the Yankees to bring stabilization to the rotation. If healthy, Hammel or Fister would help provide it. What is the risk in bringing in a proven veteran to compete with the kids?…
All Quiet on the Eastern Front…
It has been a very quiet end of the year for the Yankees. There were rumors of the Yankees talking with the Chicago White Sox about Jose Quintana and David Robertson but they quickly lost legs. While the Yankees need starting pitching, I agree that it is best not to raid the newly stocked farm system. It is a risk to bet on prospects over an established major leaguer, but while Jose Quintana is a good pitcher, he’s not Chris Sale. Given Chicago’s desire for top prospects in return, it just does not make sense. Quintana will not be a 2017 difference maker.
Credit: Kevin Jairaj, USA Today Sports
I still believe the Yankees are better served by identifying an undervalued young starter with potential. Sure, that’s every team’s wish but the Yankees have the scouts and resources to uncover the hidden gems. It is harder to pitch in New York than it is in, say, Pittsburgh, but for some guys, the main stage brings out their full potential.
The New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard was once just a prospect included in a trade (when the Mets dealt knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays). I think that trade has worked out very well in favor of the Mets. It also brought them starting catcher Travis D’Arnaud. The 2012 trade was a risk for the Mets given Dickey was the reigning NL Cy Young winner, but he has never been as good as he was in 2011 and the other guys sent to Toronto are after thoughts (Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas).
The Yankees are not going to win the World Series in 2017. The current blueprint puts the Yankees on the path to World Series contention in two to three years. They have the time to develop frontline starters so why not take a chance on some other team’s “Jake Arrieta”. The Chicago Cubs saw something in the former Baltimore Orioles hurler and it has paid off quite handsomely for them.
I have high hopes for the Yankees young pitching prospects. James Kaprielian heads the list, but I haven’t forgotten or given up hope for Ian Clarkin. Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns are other homegrown prospects that come to mind. The first young starters that will be given the chance to crack the rotation next season are the obvious ones…Luis Cessa and Chad Green. There’s also the hope that Luis Severino restores the promise that he showed in 2015 and is not just another failed starter that succeeds in the pen. Trade acquisitions Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and Albert Abreu also hold promise.
If Severino is successful and just one of the young prospects stands out in the Spring, the rotation that already includes Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia does not look so bad. It might not be ‘Chris Sale-David Price-Rick Porcello-Eduardo Rodriguez’ worthy, but the foundation is being laid for future success. It will be imperative for the Yankees to re-sign Tanaka should he opt out of his contract following the season, but Sabathia’s departure as he plays out the final year of his contract will continue to create opportunity for the young prospects. Michael Pineda is a case by himself. He is either a really great starter or a disaster. If he can ever hold the focus on the former, the pitching staff will be significantly improved.
Next season, young players like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and Greg Bird will play prominent roles for the Yankees. If any are not successful, there is another wave of young players waiting for their opportunities at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or Trenton. It is inevitable that we’ll see outfielder Clint Frazier at some point in the season, even if it is just a September call-up. I don’t want to lose this talent in the farm system for the chance on a pitcher which always seems to be the biggest risk in baseball. Gleyber Torres has already shown that he has that “it” factor even if he is still a few years away from the Bronx. Stay the course. GM Brian Cashman’s blue print so far has been successful. He has turned what was one of the worst farm systems a few years ago to one of the best. They have the talent and depth in the system to make quiet but effective trades without sacrificing the organization’s best.
2017 may not be a banner year for the team but clearly the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. Now is not the time for the Ghost of Steinbrenner Past to raise its ugly head. Young Hal seems to have a plan and one that will soon yield fruit. Patience. Stick to the plan…