Tagged: Justus Sheffield

The Power of Pitching and Power…

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, Associated Press

Yanks End 4-Game Skid…

As Michael Kay of the YES Network said after the game, the Yankees used pitching and power, after three lackluster games in Oakland, to halt their four-game losing streak in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. But then again, we didn’t need to hear Michael say those words. The arm of James Paxton and the bats of Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and others spoke very loudly during the game, which the Yankees won, 10-2.

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times

I have to admit I was a little shocked when Paxton had a clean 1-2-3 inning to start the game. I have grown to really despise First Inning Paxton regardless of how much I still like the pitcher (I do). But for this game, First Inning Pax looked nothing like previous versions. Maybe someone told him it was the second inning and that he must have blacked out the first. Seriously, whatever it took, I am glad that Paxton stepped up his game against the best team in the National League. We need Paxton to be successful in October and this was a great step in the right direction.

Photo Credit: Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG

Thanks to Paxton, the Yankees didn’t have to dip too deeply into the bullpen.  Excellent job by Nestor Cortes, Jr to finish off the game with a big lead. The big boys, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Chad Green, enjoyed a night of rest to ready them for the weekend.

Cody Bellinger leads the National League with 42 home runs (tied for the MLB lead with Mike Trout), but on this night, he was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. With no offense to former Yank Clay Bellinger, I am glad his son was unable to launch a Belli-Bomb in the first game of the series. I want Bellinger to stay ahead of Christian Yelich in the race to NL MVP but I am okay if he wants to take the next two games off.

Photo Credit: John McCoy, Getty Images

After his first couple of at-bats, I certainly didn’t think Didi Gregorius had a multi-homer night in store for him. His two home runs which included a grand salami in the fifth and five RBIs ensured the the Dodgers would not be making one of their patented late inning walk-offs this game.

Photo Credit: Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG

Congratulations to Gary Sanchez for his 100th career home run. His third inning shot off Hyun-Jin Ryu (a tremendous lower body power shot that brought his knee to the ground) allowed him to reach one hundred faster than any player not named Ryan Howard. For those worried about El Gary, I think he’s doing just fine. I’ve never doubted the player, even through those difficult slumps. I am glad he’s the Yankee catcher and there isn’t anyone that I’d rather have. Well, I’d take 1970’s Thurman Munson but that’s not an option.

Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, Associated Press

I was a little bummed the Yankees fared so poorly in Oakland. West Coast games are tough since they start so late, and then to have every result end in defeat is harder to take. I jumped off the J.A. Happ bandwagon long ago. He was the guy I wanted the Yankees to replace at the trading deadline. I say this knowing how ineffective CC Sabathia has been at times. I’d rather have Sabathia in the rotation as the fifth starter over Happ, but Happ has pitched so poorly, he is the rotation’s weakest link, moving Sabathia up in the pecking order which admittedly is “not what you want”. I am really hoping that Luis Severino can come back next month to at least form a multi-inning opener tandem with Happ. With another year committed to Happ, I really hope the Yankees can find a way to move him this off-season. I’d be fearful of Happ reaching the milestones to trigger a third year in his contract if he stays in the rotation.

I am not a big fan of the Players Weekend uniforms with the white and black themes. It reminds me of the old Spy vs Spy comics.

I actually liked the refusal of Jon Lester to wear a black cap, instead donning the traditional Cubs hat in their home game against the Washington Nationals. The pitchers wearing the home white uniforms had to wear black caps instead of the white ones worn by the rest of the players to ensure hitters had no difficulty with seeing pitches. Lester’s action was adopted by his entire team who wore the traditional Cubs caps. That was/is much better than those funky white and black caps, in my opinion. The Dodgers, as I’ve said before, are my favorite NL team, and I would have preferred the classic Dodger white with blue lettered and red numbered uniforms against the traditional Yankee road grays. I like the weekend of player individuality but this year’s theme is not a favorite.

Photo Credit: Stacey Wescott, The Chicago Tribune

I love Dodger Stadium so I really enjoy these games at Chavez Ravine. When I lived in Los Angeles, I lived near Dodger Stadium (two miles away) so I frequently drove by the stadium when not there for games. I certainly hold affection for the stadium and the area despite my love of the Yankees.

It was a surprise yesterday to see the Yankees release former top prospect RHP Domingo Acevedo when they claimed Seattle Mariners reliever Cory Gearrin.

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

I know, the bloom is off Acevedo as a prized prospect, but I thought there are other guys who were better candidates to go (like Ryan Dull or, in my opinion, Luis Cessa). I still have hope Acevedo can become a late-blooming relief option but it appears that he’ll do it elsewhere unless he re-signs a minor league deal with the Yankees. Whatever happens, I wish him the best of luck. It’s kind of funny that Gearrin has become a Yankee because of former Yankee prospect Justus Sheffield. Gearrin was the casualty when the Mariners decided to recall Top Sheff to the Majors this week. I don’t really see a long-term future in the Yankees’ organization for Gearrin. He’ll no doubt be one of the casualties when the Yankees begin to activate some of the guys off the 60-day Injured List, like Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Giancarlo Stanton and Jacoby Ellsbury. Ha-ha, the last name was just thrown on there to see if you are awake! Ellsbury is never coming back or at least I hope not.

Speaking of Sheffield, he made his Major League starting debut last night against the Toronto Blue Jays but received a no-decision in the M’s 7-4 victory. He went four innings, throwing 86 pitches, giving up seven hits and three runs. He both walked and struck out three. His first inning was Paxton-like, 37 pitches and two runs but he persevered. Hopefully for him, his next start goes better. I’d like to see him fulfill his promise even if he doesn’t wear the Pinstripes anymore (so long as he doesn’t do it against the Yankees).

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

The Yankees should soon see the return of first baseman Luke Voit. Voit has begun his minor league rehab assignment and is expected to be activated in time for next Friday’s game against the Oakland A’s at Yankee Stadium. Voit made his first appearance last night with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, going 0-for-3, with a walk and run scored, in the RailRiders’ 11-4 victory over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Hopefully Voit can begin ramping up his play (i.e., recapture his timing) over the next few days so that he can make a good contribution to the Yankees again when he returns. He is a vital part of this team’s potential post-season success.

The calendar page soon turns to the final month of the regular season so it’s nearing time to finish off those pesky Tampa Bay Rays to win the AL East and ensure a one-game do-or-die Wild Card game will not be played the Bronx this year. Although I didn’t experience it firsthand, the long ago story of the collapse of the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies (the “Phoid of ’64’”) has stuck with me since I first heard about it as a child. The Phillies looked like a World Series team through the summer of ’64, and held a 5 1/2 game lead over the Cincinnati Reds on September 1st. They went 12-9 for the month and held a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 games to play. But when the regular season reached its end, the Phillies were a game behind the St Louis Cardinals and their season was over. While I don’t expect the Yankees to have that type of collapse, I can’t shake the belief it can happen because it has. There’s no doubt a four-game losing streak can leave me thinking the worst, like many Yankee fans, so I am just glad the Yankees took care of business last night on a night that both the Rays and the distant Boston Red Sox also won. Today is a wonderful day to start a winning streak.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Acquire James Paxton…

Photo by Christian Petersen

Top Prospect Justus Sheffield joins the ranks of “former” Yankees…

The news broke suddenly yesterday afternoon. After a fairly quiet November (up to that point, the only significant MLB trade had been Seattle’s catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays as the start of Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto’s “re-imagining” of his roster), reports came hard and fast like a James Paxton four-seam fastball that the Yankees had acquired the talented lefty from Seattle.

My initial reaction was ‘it’s a start, but we need more’. I didn’t expect the Yankees to lose Miguel Andujar in a trade for the much talked about trade speculation involving the 6’4” Big Maple and fortunately he was not involved. For a frontline ace like Corey Kluber, you’d part with the young third baseman but not for Paxton.

Photo by Al Bello, Getty Images

When it was announced the Yankees had sent top prospect Justus Sheffield, breakout minor league starter Erik Swanson, and rising minor league outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams to Seattle for Paxton, Yankee fans were immediately trying to find flaws in the prospects sent to the Northwest. I am not going to join the crowd and trash Sheffield. The fact remains he is only 22 and still has an excellent chance to be a difference-maker. For a team that is prepared to win in 2019, this is a trade that makes sense. Paxton makes the Yankees better when they step back on the grounds of Yankee Stadium next year. Sheffield is probably a few seasons away from reaching his potential. This is totally a ‘win now’ move.

The Yankees also needed to make room on the 40-man roster for Swanson or he would have been eligible for next month’s Rule 5 Draft so this saves a spot for someone else.

So where do we go from here? I really hope the Yankees continue their pursuit of free agent lefty Patrick Corbin. He was and continues to be my top choice. I’d love to have Corey Kluber but I don’t really expect the Cleveland Indians to trade their ace without asking for a King’s ransom. Admittedly, I will be disappointed if the Yankees sign J.A. Happ to fill the last spot in the rotation. Happ was great during his short time as a Yankee last year, but as a long-term piece, let’s say I would be a little underwhelmed. I would have been fine with Happ to go with Corbin, but not paired with Paxton who carries injury risk. I know, all pitchers carry injury risk. It’s the nature of the beast, but Paxton has consistently missed time over the last few years.

If the Yankees are successful in signing Corbin, the newcomers, along with Masahiro Tanaka, will certainly ease some pressure off Luis Severino to be “the man”.  I suppose it’s not out of the question for the Yankees to sign both Corbin and Happ. Last year proved, once again, you can never have too many starters.  Personally, I preferred signing Happ over long-time Yank CC Sabathia for the back end of the rotation. But regardless, you know that one or more starters in the rotation will miss time for various ailments and the Yankees need to be prepared. I really hope we’re not facing more rollouts of Luis Cessa to fill those spots. Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga and Chance Adams will have every opportunity to help, I am sure, but I hope we’re not leaning on those guys in multiple spots like we were at times last season.

Seattle fans seem to be taking the trade in stride. I think they realized that their team was mired in mediocrity in a division with some very strong teams. They have a few players with bloated contracts like Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, and Kyle Seager. I have always loved Cano but the back half of his huge contract is not going to be pretty for the 36-year old. I am glad the Yankees were able to acquire Paxton without having to take on any of unmovable contracts. The M’s can use the young pieces received in the Zunino and Paxton trades to position themselves for 2021 or so. I read one Seattle columnist who said Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto basically had the choice of getting punched in the mouth or hit by a truck. He chose the former.

I fully expect Domingo German to give up #65 for Paxton. It’s not exactly like German is married to the number. I believe Jonathan Holder was wearing the number at the start of last season until he opted for a lower number in the 50’s.  The number still reminds me of Phil Hughes but no doubt, in time, Paxton can make it his own.

There may be minor moves made today as teams finalize their 40-man rosters for Rule 5 eligibility next month. I doubt we’ll see anything as major as the Paxton trade, but there’s always a chance for the inevitable Sonny Gray trade now that his spot in the rotation has been filled. Otherwise, I expect the remainder of the week to be fairly quiet with no significant moves until we get past the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend.

Paxton is the first step toward the enhancement of the 2019 Yankees (if you don’t count the re-signings of Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia). Multiple moves remain necessary before this team is ready to take down the Boston Red Sox. Another starter, at least two more for the bullpen, and an interim solution at shortstop. Yet, my excitement for February is building. It only gets better from here.

As always, Go Yankees!

Now Available, Number 55…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)

Yankee Fans await the departure of Sonny Gray…

If you listen to the so-called Yankee GM’s on Twitter, the end of the road could be near for Sonny Gray. We know he’ll be gone by the time the guys pick up their bags to head to Tampa, Florida for Spring Training in February, but the only question is when, where and for whom.

When Sonny’s college pitching coach was on the Milwaukee Brewers coaching staff, there were lots of trade speculation with the Brewers. Now that the coach (Derek Johnson, formerly pitching coach of Vanderbilt) has moved on to the Cincinnati Reds in the same capacity, the Reds have become the “favored” trade target for the Twitter GM’s. I am sure Yankees GM Brian Cashman is talking to the Reds, as reported by the real insiders, but he’s talking with other teams too. I have no doubt Sonny Gray will perform better in a less-pressurized environment. We’ve seen it with the guys traded to Pittsburgh in recent years (most notably A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova).

When the Reds are mentioned as a Gray destination, the name of Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett repeatedly comes up. If the Yankees are successful in acquiring the left-handed bat of Gennett, it is going to take more than Sonny Gray to make it happen. Gennett is only 28 years old, and has had great numbers the last two years, but he is a free agent after the 2019 season. I’ve heard people nix the thought of trading for Arizona’s premier first baseman Paul Goldschmidt because of his impending free agency next off-season. Not sure why you’d trade a talented Gray for short-term assets. Gennett’s productive bat would slot nicely into the Yankees lineup, but I just don’t think he is part of a Gray trade unless the team is willing to let go of some top prospects too.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jamie Sabau)

One writer mentioned 2B/SS Jeter Downs as an option but young Downs is only 20 years old and while drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft (32nd pick), he has not played higher than Single A and is not ready to help in the immediate future. But, of course, you’ve got to like the name considering he was named for the Yankees future Hall of Fame shortstop. Still, I don’t see the Reds parting with one of their top prospects for Gray unless the Yankees sweeten the pot on their end.

The Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres are other teams mentioned, but there are others. While some have speculated Cashman’s return for Gray could be better than expected, I am anticipating it will be for minor league names that may or may not have heard of before. When you try to sell an asset, it’s generally not a good idea to tell the world how poorly it performs. I know that Cashman sells Gray’s upside in phone conversations with other GM’s, but he certainly has not avoided negative comments in his talks with the media. Nothing like giving a player a chip on his shoulder.

I am trying to keep expectations low for Gray’s return. I’d prefer not to see him go to a team the Yankees could potentially see in the playoffs, such as the A’s. I fully expect Gray to become the pitcher he once was when he exits the main stage in New York. He’ll also be a pitcher with an axe to grind given the disparaging words by our own general manager. While I don’t think Gray is a pitcher for the Big Apple, I won’t easily dismiss him when he is playing in another uniform. He will be a formidable foe in the future. There were some jokes that the Yankees should trade Gray to Oakland for Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian. Regardless of where he goes, we have to be prepared that he’ll pitch more like the ace he once was in Oakland.

The next milestone date for Major League Baseball is Tuesday when MLB 40-man rosters must be set in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. After November 20th, additions to the 40-man roster can only be made through trades and free agent acquisitions. With Tuesday’s roster deadline, there will be a flurry of activity as teams move to protect their best Rule 5-eligible prospects. The Rule 5 Draft is held on the Thursday (final day) of the Baseball Winter Meetings which will be December 13th in Las Vegas, NV this year.

Most people are speculating the Yankees will trade Gray before they begin aggressive pursuit of other pitching options like Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, James Paxton or Nathan Eovaldi. With its potential impact on the 40-man roster, it’s possible we could see Gray moved within the next couple of days. Otherwise, I think we’re going to have to be a little more patient and may not see anything until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

On the bright side for whomever pulls on #55 next, the most recent guy to wear it is former Yankees great Hideki Matsui. Godzilla wore the number on the recently completed MLB All-Star Series in Japan as first base coach for MLB All-Star Team Manager Don Mattingly.

Photo Credit: AP (Toru Takahashi)

Speaking of pitching, MLB.com posted a column this week about the potential 2019 rookies of the year for each team. For the Yankees, Justus Sheffield was the choice. Per the column written by Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum for MLB.com, “The Yankees’ greatest need is starting pitching, and Sheffield should crack the Opening Day rotation.  His fastball, slider and changeup all can be three plus pitches, so it won’t be a shock if he’s New York’s second-best starter after Luis Severino”.  That’s probably a little more aggressive than my expectation heading into the new season. So long as he’s not included in a trade for a top starting pitcher, I don’t think Sheffield grabs a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training. I think CC Sabathia is holding the spot Sheffield will take when he’s ready. My expectation is the Yankees will acquire at least two starting pitchers this winter which will delay Top Sheff’s arrival. I hope Sheffield comes to Spring Training and absolutely dominates but I don not really think it will happen…yet. For the top four spots in the rotation, the Yankees need certainty and reliability. It’s great that CC Sabathia is back, but the team should not pin its 2019 hopes on his arm or his bum knee. He’ll be a year older and closer to the inevitable end of the line. I know it’s his last year, but there are no guarantees he’ll pitch like he did last season. He’ll be 39 next summer and he is not exactly in “Mariano Rivera-like” condition. Maybe he pitches solidly throughout the year, but then again, the end could come suddenly and without warning. The Yankees do not need more than one question mark in the rotation if they intend to de-throne the Champions.

Former Yankees managerial candidate Chris Woodward, recently named as the new manager for the Texas Rangers, has appointed a new pitching coach for the Rangers who has Yankee roots. Julio Rangel, most recently a minor league pitching coordinator for the San Francisco Giants, spent six years in the Yankees farm system from 1994 through 2000 but only made it as high as Double A. Still, he’s a Yankee by birth and I wish him the best for his first job as a Major League pitching coach.

I think November is probably my least favorite month as a blog writer. There really isn’t much happening and just lots of speculation, ranging reasonable to absolute ridiculousness. But it is the calm before the storm as we are only a few weeks away from all hell breaking loose with the Baseball Winter Meetings. January tends to be quiet but at least by that time, we’ll have shiny new toys on the roster we can talk about and get excited about the approaching call of Spring Training.

There are two MAJOR free agents available right now…genuine superstars and potential future Hall of Famers…but frankly, I am tired of hearing their names and refuse to write them with this post. If the Yankees sign one of them, great. If not, life goes on. I know one thing for sure, the Yankees roster in January will be much stronger than it is today. Until then, let’s enjoy some turkey and gravy, and spend quality time with our families.

As always, Go Yankees!

Red Sox Celebrate on Sacred Ground…

Red Sox Yankees Baseball
Photo Credit: AP (Julio Cortez)

Boston wins third consecutive AL East Championship in the Bronx…

I am not going to lie…I am pissed.  We allowed the Boston Red Sox to celebrate on Yankee Stadium soil and that should have never happened.  The Yankees won two of three games from the 2018 AL East Champions, and I can’t find any joy because they mailed in the third game after winning the first two to give the Red Sox the win they needed to claim the division championship.  I was happy they pinned the 49th loss of the season on Boston after Wednesday’s win (to prevent any chance of the Sox matching the win total of the 1998 Yankees), but they really could have swept this series and forced Boston to ship the champagne to their next destination.

Everybody is so quick to talk about how awful the Red Sox bullpen is but in last night’s bullpen matchup, Boston had the difference-maker in Steven Wright with three innings of scoreless relief.  The Yankees helped eject Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez out of the game in the fourth inning after he had thrown 100 pitches.  Red Sox reliever Heath Hembree relieved Rodriguez and was greeted by Giancarlo Stanton’s grand slam which temporarily gave the Yankees a 6-4 lead, but from there, the Yankees could only get two more hits and were unable to put any further runs on the board against Wright, Ryan Brasier, and Craig Kimbrel.  Meanwhile, the Sox teed off on Chad Green, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.  I can’t really blame Green or Betances.  They are the guys I probably would have brought in during those situations, but I think it was very foolish to bring in a rusty Aroldis Chapman with the Yankees trailing by only two runs.  The three-run homer by Mookie Betts off Chapman in the eighth inning pretty much iced the game for the Red Sox and prepared the champagne bottles for uncorking.

I disagreed with manager Aaron Boone’s decision to bring in Justus Sheffield during Wednesday night’s game too.  Sure, Top Sheff evaded a self-created bases-loaded jam to end the game, but the Yankees were playing MLB’s winningest baseball team and the psychology of the game and beating Boston is important.  If you bring anybody in when you are leading by nine runs, it should have been Chapman and not Sheffield.  I would have eased Chapman back into the fold before placing him into a high leverage situation.  I was not surprised that Betts clubbed the homer off Chappy. Just like Aaron Judge is currently only producing hard outs and missing the mistake pitches, it takes time to get back up to speed.  Baseball is not a forgiving sport.

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media (Andrew Mills)

I am still supportive of Aaron Boone despite my frustrations with his decisions over the last few days so I know I am just venting.  I would have played last night’s game to win which means that Chapman would not have made an appearance, nor would have any of the rookies currently on the staff.  After Betances, I would have lived or died with Zach Britton to the end.

What really made yesterday so disappointing was the other primary Wild Card contender, the Oakland A’s, crushed their opponent.  GM Billy Eppler’s Los Angeles Angels must have felt they were playing the Los Angeles Rams after the A’s decisive 21-3 thrashing.  The Yankees hold a slim 1 ½ game lead on the A’s after yesterday’s results, but the scary part is the Yankees now face a losing team that they seemingly cannot beat (the Baltimore Orioles), the high-flying Tampa Bay Rays, and a rematch with the Red Sox at Fenway Park for the final ten games of the regular season.  I am not saying they have it easy, but the A’s play weaker opponents.  Three games in Oakland against the disappointing Minnesota Twins, three games in Seattle against the fading Mariners, and three games in Anaheim against the team they just drubbed by 18 runs in yesterday’s game.  In my opinion, it is Advantage A’s.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Thearon W Henderson)

A ‘one and done’ Wild Card game in Oakland. From my perspective, that’s where the Yankees stand right now with the way things are unfolding in the American League.  Well, at least CC Sabathia can catch up with friends and family in the area before he heads home to clean out his locker at Yankee Stadium for perhaps the final time.

As always, I hope the team proves me wrong.  But as I’ve said before, that’s on them, not me.  I want the Yankees to win but I am just not feeling it right now.  I am not convinced the Yankees can beat the A’s and I am certainly not convinced the team can beat the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians or Boston Red Sox should they advance.  They certainly have the talent, but for a team that has been average at best for an extended period, they can’t just flip a switch to turn it on.  The Yankees need to make the next ten games count and carry momentum into the Wild Card game.  Otherwise, we’ll be watching the final season of Game of Thrones before the Yankees have another chance for the crown.

Hopefully the team can return to its winning ways tonight against Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  This series represents perhaps the final time that we’ll see the former Yankees manager in the O’s dugout.  For as much as I’ve disliked Buck at times during his post-Yankees career, I am a little saddened about the way the 2018 season has treated him.  To reach 50 wins, Buck’s team needs to win six of its final ten games.  That’s a tall order for the 108-loss team, but then again, they have three games against a team they’ve fared well against.  You know that Buck would like nothing better than to beat the Yankees for his farewell song.

As the saying goes, sometimes the best trade is the one that you don’t make.  Last off-season, everybody was clamoring for the Yankees to acquire Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers.  Fulmer had a disastrous 2018 season.  He was 3-12 with 4.69 ERA in 132 1/3 innings.  He gave up 128 hits and career-high 19 home runs.  Done for the season, Fulmer was diagnosed with meniscus damage in his right knee on Monday and underwent surgery yesterday.  He is still a young, controllable pitcher but unless the Yankees can get him at a severe discount, it would not be worth the investment.  If the Yankees had paid Detroit’s asking price last winter, we’d have nothing to show for it today.  Fulmer is expected to be ready for Spring Training but Detroit’s best move would be to wait for Fulmer to rebuild his trade value before considering any offers.

It’s up to CC Sabathia (7-7, 3.80 ERA) to get the Baltimore series off to the right start tonight.  He’ll be opposed by former Yankees prospect Yefry Ramirez (1-6, 5.50 ERA).  This is a winnable game.  Boone, make the right decisions.  Gary Sanchez, hold the door…hold the door!  Luke Voit, just keep on doing what you are doing, chest hair and all.  Let’s do this.

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Go Yankees!

A Win is a Win…

 

500 Yankees v Marlins DS
Photo Credit: Miami Herald (David Santiago)

Yankees Survive the Marlins in Extra Innings…

Beat the teams you are supposed to beat. It does get frustrating when the Yankees struggle against Major League Baseball’s worst teams. I thought it was game over twice last night when the Miami Marlins loaded the bases with no outs in the bottoms of the ninth and eleventh innings against Chad Green and A.J. Cole, respectively. Somehow, the Yankees miraculously survived both innings and finally punched across the winning run in the top of the twelfth, thanks to a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by everybody’s Rookie of the Year, Miguel Andujar.

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Photo Credit: AP (Lynne Sladky)

I guess it does not really matter how you win so long as you do win.

On a night the Boston Red Sox were losing…again…it was nice to pick up a game in the standings. With the 2-1 win over the Marlins, the Yankees now trail Boston by eight games (seven in the loss column) in the AL East. The Sox dropped their second straight game to the AL Central leading Cleveland Indians, 6-3. It was Boston’s third consecutive loss overall.  Bummer, I feel so sad when that happens. Um, not really.

I’ve always felt that as long as you are within six games on September 1st, you have a chance to win the division. Mathematically, you can obviously be further out and still take the division crown but I’ve seen many six game leads erased over the years, the number has stuck in my head as the benchmark to ensure that you trail by no more than six when the calendar page rips to the ninth month of the year. Now, I don’t really expect the Red Sox to crater despite their current losing streak but it is fun to see the Yankees cut into their large lead.  Boston’s losing pitcher last night was Nathan Eovaldi. Nasty Nate hasn’t pitched a quality start for the Red Sox since they beat the Yankees on August 4th. For all those Yankee fans who wanted Eovaldi over J.A. Happ, be glad that your dreams did not come true.

I am worried about Aroldis Chapman. Brought in to close out last night’s win, he was unable to find the strike zone, walking the leadoff hitter in the twelfth inning. After six pitches, he signaled for the dugout and the decision was made to pull him due to his troublesome left knee. While Chapman has been trying to play through the knee tendonitis, this is the worst it has been so far. The Yankees plan further tests today to determine if something else is going on.

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Photo Credit: AP (Lynne Sladky)

Either way, it does not look good for the Yankees closer. David Robertson has missed a few games with minor soreness in the shoulder, so, to me, Zach Britton looks like the best option to close. I wouldn’t want to mess with Dellin Betances. He is much better in a setup role. Chad Green hasn’t been as reliable this year as he was in 2017. Britton, if he is right, is the best man for the job. He knows and understands the pressure of the ninth inning and he has proven in the past he is among the league’s elite. I know he’s had his share of struggles in Pinstripes, but he would be my first option to replace Chapman if Chappy is forced to miss any time. Work and knowing his role would help Britton elevate his game to previous levels of dominance.

Tommy Kahnle picked up his first save of the season in relief of Chapman but he is not a closing option for an extended period of time. The Yankees have been concerned about his drop in velocity and he is fortunate that the team he faced last night was the Marlins and not a stronger team like the Oakland A’s, a team we will see in early September. Khris Davis or Matt Olson would feast on Kahnle’s offerings.

As expected, Didi Gregorius landed on the disabled list prior to yesterday’s game due to his injured heel.  Hopefully, he’ll only miss the minimum amount of time (ten days). It’s fortunate the Yankees have a true shortstop in Gleyber Torres to slide him over to cover for Didi and hand the second base job to a proven second baseman in Neil Walker. It hurts to lose Didi but on paper, he is an easier guy to replace than Aaron Judge. I guess it is good and bad with Walker at second, considering that it opens more potential playing time for Shane Robinson in right field. Yuck!

It hurts me to look at the list of Yankees that have hit the disabled list this year. You could nearly field a playoff contender with the DL guys alone.  Baseball is about opportunity. When one goes down, another has to step up. Credit to those Yankees who have performed when asked. Hopefully the team can withstand the latest run of injuries to put the team in good position for the final weeks of the season and when some of the injured guys like Judge and Gary Sanchez can rejoin the active roster.

I am really surprised GM Brian Cashman has done nothing about right field. There’s no question I am not a fan of Shane Robinson. I know the Yankees are trying to navigate the treacherous waters beneath the luxury tax threshold, but there are too many other better outfield options available for the Yankees. I would have preferred the Yankees recalled Tyler Wade yesterday instead of first baseman Luke Voit. Manager Aaron Boone wanted Voit’s bat since they are playing a couple of games in a National League park, but despite whatever hitting success Voit has enjoyed at Triple A, it has yet to translate to the MLB level. Wade is capable of playing some corner outfield. Or make a spot on the 40-man roster for first baseman Ryan McBroom. McBroom is also capable of playing in the outfield and has had a very good year between Double and Triple A. I certainly like McBroom or Wade over Robinson.

Tyler Austin’s dad, Chris, has taken much heat for his tweets which basically trashed Greg Bird while promoting his son’s success with the Minnesota Twins. Personally, I don’t have a problem with Chris. My father passed away when I was a small child. Man, I wish I had a dad that loved me as passionately as Chris does Tyler. It’s wonderful that Tyler is enjoying success with the Twins. He deserves it. It is unfortunate Greg Bird took the unfair criticism but Bird has it within his power to change the results. If Tyler had been the first baseman the Yankees kept and Bird was the guy traded to Minneapolis, I am sure Yankee fans would not have minded Chris’s tweets promoting his son over Bird. Tyler, for the record, was embarrassed by his father’s tweets and asked him to take them down. He apologized for his father’s actions and expressed the intent to reach out to Bird.  I think the whole situation was overblown. I didn’t take offense when I first saw Chris’s tweet and figured it was his right as a father. In retrospect, it probably should not have come at Greg Bird’s expense but again Bird can change the results. I hope Tyler prospers and thrives as a member of the Twins and Greg Bird goes on to have a very good Yankees career.

I really hope that Giancarlo Stanton can get his 300th career home run tonight at Marlins Park in Miami.  It seems so appropriate for the long-time Marlin to snag the milestone homer in what was once his home ballpark. Hitting number 300 at Camden Yards in Baltimore does not have the same honor or prestige for the Marlins’ all-time leading home run hitter. The positive reaction the crowd gave Stanton last night was very moving as was his gesture that they had his heart. A sweet, tender moment with the Marlins fans. Now, crush their hearts with a long, dramatic home run for #300.

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Photo Credit: AP (Lynne Sladky)

The Washington Nationals were busy yesterday. They traded a Daniel Burch-favorite, second baseman Daniel Murphy, to the Chicago Cubs and let first baseman Matt Adams go on waivers to the St Louis Cardinals. Outfielder Bryce Harper was apparently claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers but the Nats pulled him back off revocable waivers ensuring that he’ll end the season with Washington in what could be his final days as a Nat. As much as I would like for Bryce to play for the Yankees next year, I think the Philadelphia Phillies are the most likely destination for the free agent-to-be. With slightly more than a week left before the waiver trading deadline, teams will probably start making moves like we saw yesterday. Hopefully Brian Cashman can snag some help to offset the rash of injuries. Aside from the return to health for the key guys on the DL, the biggest September move might be the promotion of Justus Sheffield to serve in the Yankees bullpen. Regardless of how he gets to the Bronx, I am anxious to see the Yankees best pitching prospect finally get his opportunity. Top Sheff, it’s nearly your time.

Today is a good day for a win and a great day for a Stanton home run. Let’s Go Yankees! Please feel free to shave another game off Boston’s lead. We certainly do not mind.

InCESSAnt Behavior…

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Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)

Yanks Ride Luis Cessa to Loss…

Sorry Cessa, not a fan…

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Luis Cessa may be a great guy and one of the ‘boys’ in the clubhouse, but he isn’t a pitcher I want in the starting rotation for a team driving for a shot in the post-season. I realize that Cessa had a couple of good starts in July, but in two August starts totaling seven innings, he has given up fourteen hits and ten runs.  In three seasons with the Yankees, he is 5-10 with 4.71 ERA in 133 2/3 innings. He has given up 129 hits. This is who he is. If you’re lucky, he is not going to give up more than 4-5 runs before the game is halfway over. We need better.

I am not sure why the Yankees have such an infatuation with Cessa. I think he’s better served pitching in the bullpen.  That’s not a slam.  Bullpens are filled with failed starters. I’d gladly take Cessa as the long man in the pen over A.J. Cole. Cessa is better in short non-starting spurts than he is starting games. Cole would be better served pitching elsewhere.

To Cessa’s defense, any of the Yankees starting pitchers were going to lose yesterday if the offense could only push one run across the plate in the 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Still, it felt like it was going to be a loss before the first pitch was thrown. Maybe his teammates have full faith and confidence in his ability, but for me, it was a psychological downer knowing Cessa would be on the mound.  It’s hard to be at your best when you are not mentally in the game. I can’t really see what Cessa has done to inspire any confidence.

After the game, Cessa was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so A.J. Cole lives to see another day. He remains my latest preferred DFA candidate unless he can somehow survive the next 15 days. George Kontos, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. I am not really sure why the Yankees acquired Kontos. They paid cash to the Cleveland Indians on August 4th for the former San Francisco Giants reliever and one-time Yankees prospect. It was kind of a nice story about the former Yankees farmhand coming home.  They placed him at Triple A for a week and promoted him to the active roster on August 13th. He pitched an inning and two-thirds against the New York Mets on the day of his promotion, limiting the Mets to a hit and no runs while striking out two. Yesterday, he was designated for assignment to make room for Cessa’s start. There was a reason Kontos was available. His velocity is down significantly from last year, but I am not sure why the Yankees even bothered to acquire him. To create a spot on the 40-man roster to pitch him for less than two innings seems curious at best. It’s not like he pitched Sonny Gray-style in his one and only appearance. Maybe he clears waivers and is outrighted to Triple A, but I’d be surprised if another team doesn’t place a claim. Everyone could use bullpen help.  Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Photo Credit: AP (Mark J Terrill)

Frankly, I am a little tired of people who keep promoting GM Brian Cashman as the greatest genius in the sport and the Ninja Master. There’s no doubt he has had his share of successes but his closet is littered with failures.  I shouldn’t be bitter the Yankees have the second best record in Major League Baseball, but I am frustrated that the team could have been better if not for questionable Cashman moves and the overall inexperience of manager Aaron Boone. Boone’s a good man and I think he’ll eventually be a good manager but there have been and will continue be bumps along the way. Cashman and his analytic team making the lineup decisions is befuddling at times. I guess we should say that Michael Fishman, VP, Assistant General Manager and head of the Analytics Department, is the true manager of the Yankees.  Sometimes, the answers are not in the numbers.

When it was mentioned that Aaron Judge was only going to be out for three weeks for his injured right wrist, I felt the timetable was probably a little over-aggressive. So, the latest word that Judge will need more time and we may not see him until September is not surprising.  This is why I felt the Yankees should have acquired another outfielder in lieu of promoting one of the few healthy outfielders at Triple A, Shane Robinson, earlier in the month. I’ve mentioned Curtis Granderson.  I know that will bring ire from TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen. I get that Grandy has seen his better days and he was such a disappointment down the stretch last year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, compared to Shane Robinson, Grandy still looks appealing to me. Of course, he hit a grand slam last night for the Toronto Blue Jays so it’s easy to say when the player is performing.  I really wish that Clint Frazier was healthy. This would have been his opportunity to shine and his chance to prove to the Yankees he represents the future of the outfield.  It was not meant to be, unfortunately, so I feel that Cashman and Company should have turned quickly to Plan B. “B” standing for ‘better than Shane Robinson’.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

It was funny yesterday when first baseman Ryan McBroom was pulled from the lineup in the double-header between the Indianapolis Indians and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Moosic, PA. Yankees Twitter blew up with the usual ‘trade or call up’ speculation. Subsequent word was that he was scratched due to a stiff back that tightened up on him during Tuesday’s game. He is expected to be available today for the RailRiders. Despite his good year at Triple A, he doesn’t seem like a prospect that is going to warrant much consideration from the Front Office.

To replace Luis Cessa on the active roster, it appears reliever Tommy Kahnle will be returning to the Bronx.  He cleared out his locker at Triple A last night, after not appearing in the double-header. I am hopeful Kahnle is back for good. Of course he has to pitch like we know he can to keep the spot but that’s on him. Welcome back, Tommy! The Philadelphia Eagles suck but we are happy you are back.

Speaking of the RailRiders’ double-header, the first game was not very kind for top Yankees prospect Justus Sheffield. He only lasted an inning and two-thirds after getting tagged for four hits and four runs, while mixing in five walks in the short outing. Not exactly a stellar start for Top Sheff. He took the loss as the RailRiders were unable to rally against the Indians. He held Indianapolis scoreless in the first inning despite leaving two runners stranded after a hit and a walk. But it unraveled for him in the second inning.  The Indians scored three of four runs that inning  after Sheff had recorded two outs, and he was pulled with the bases loaded. J.P. Feyereisen struck out Wyatt Mathisen to end the inning so the damage to Sheffield’s final pitching line could have been much worse if not for Feyereisen’s K. Nevertheless, it was just a blip. Sheffield has not become the second incarnation of Luis Cessa. It happens to the best of pitchers. He’ll be back strong next start, I am sure. Brian Cashman has indicated we’ll see Sheffield at some point this season so I fully expect his arrival when rosters expand in September.

I guess at this point the AL East standings do not really matter, however, the Yankees lost an opportunity to pick up a game on the Boston Red Sox yesterday. The Sox suffered a rare loss against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday while the Yankees were losing to the Rays. The Yankees (75-45) stayed ten games behind Boston. They also maintained their slim 3 ½ game lead in the Wild Card standings over the Oakland A’s. The A’s lost to the other Wild Card contender, the Seattle Mariners. The M’s are 2 ½ games behind Oakland.

The Yankees conclude their series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium today. They’ll send Masahiro Tanaka (9-3, 4.08 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Rays ace Blake Snell (13-5, 2.18 ERA). I am hopeful that we’ll see a much better Tanaka than we did last start. Regardless, the Yankees offense needs to chip in some runs today if we are to be successful. I am sure that a few balls will leave the yard today but hopefully the majority of the culprits will be wearing pinstripes.

Go Yankees!

If You Squint, They Look Like Dodgers…

Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star via AP (John Sleezer)

Yanks Continue Struggles with Losing Teams…

The Yankees do know these are the Kansas City Royals, right? Maybe they’d fare better if they thought they were playing Manny Machado and the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was an awful feeling when the Royals, on the fast track for 100 losses, throttled Luis Severino and later David Robertson en route to the 10-5 victory in the first game of Saturday’s day/night double-header. I am concerned, very concerned, about Severino. Despite the rotation pitching woes earlier this season, the one constant was strong performances by Severino who was pitching at Chris Sale-Corey Kluber level as he raced to fourteen wins. Yesterday, Sevy was gone before the end of the fifth inning, after coughing up eight hits and six runs. For his last four starts, Severino has given up 19 runs in 19 1/3 innings. His ERA, below 2.00 not long ago, is now a run higher. Not good. The Yankees need to get him with Pedro Martinez again soon. I jest on that part, but Sevy does need to figure this out. The sooner, the better.

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

I thought the Yankees were going to climb back into the game after Sevy’s departure and a 6-0 deficit when they scored five runs  to make it a one-run game but the bullpen was not up to the task. David Robertson continues to pitch like a guy playing his final two months in Pinstripes. The 2018 version of D-Rob has not been as trustworthy as the 2017 version and it is sad to see. He’s been one of my favorites but it seems inevitable that we’ll have a second parting of the ways in a few months. Is there such a thing as too much quality in the bullpen, leading to a lack of work and rusty performances? Hopefully the pen gels with the latest moves and provides us with a stretch run to remember.

I was fearful the Royals were going to sweep the day when they forged ahead of the Yankees in the nightcap while new reliever Zach Britton, hearing the boos so familiar when he pitched as a visitor, was on the mound in the seventh, but Greg Bird, Neil Walker and Aaron Hicks saved the day. Bird’s homer in the bottom of the eighth tied the game. Walker followed with a double to deep right center, and advanced to third on a bunt single by Austin Romine (loved the Twitter comments  of “Yankees catcher sprints to first” which is not something we are accustomed to when Gary Sanchez is playing). Aaron Hicks flied out to left, but Walker tagged and scored the go-ahead run. I was hopeful the Yankees could pick up a few more runs in the situation, but Brett Gardner grounded out and Giancarlo Stanton went down swinging to strand two runners in scoring position.

From there, the game was placed into the hands of Aroldis Chapman who had the major meltdown in his last appearance before being saved by Chasen Shreve. It didn’t start well when the first batter, Adalberto Mondesi (I liked the name ‘Raul Mondesi, Jr’ better), led off the ninth with a single to center. Chappy got the next two batters but then he walked the potential go-ahead run. Mondesi stole third to put runners at the corners for the pesky Whit Merrifield. I can’t say I was feeling too good at that point, but Chapman struck him out on four pitches to end the game. Whew! A struggle to win one of two games from a team that has only won 32 games this season. We should be crushing these teams like the Red Sox do.

Boston hammered the Minnesota Twins, 10-4, so they were able to increase their lead in the AL East to five and a half games. Despite the struggles, the Yankees (66-37) can take three of four from the Royals with a win today. It is going to be very disheartening if they end up splitting the series with one of baseball’s worst teams.

Who am I going to complain about now? The Yankees traded LHP Chasen Shreve to the St Louis Cardinals last night so I no longer have a bullpen punching bag. After labeling Shreve as a DFA candidate for months, he wasn’t DFA’d and to my surprise, the Yankees packaged him with RHP Giovanny Gallegos to pick up a bag of donuts and some coin for the international market. Okay, first baseman Luke Voit is not a bag of donuts (is he?) but the guy is not exactly a prospect at 27. The Missouri native played 67 games at Triple A this year, and hit .299/.391/.500, .891 OPS, with 9 homers and 36 RBIs. He has drawn 31 walks. Voit has played in 8 games with eleven plate appearances at the Major League level this season. He is 2-for-11 with a homer and 3 RBIs.

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry

Voit will most likely head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but first base is not exactly a position of need compared to the outfield or catching for the Rail Riders. They have Tyler Austin, Mike Ford and Ryan McBroom. McBroom’s numbers at Triple A this season are nearly identical to Voit’s. In 73 games, McBroom, acquired a couple of seasons ago for Rob Refsnyder, is batting .297 with 9 homers and 32 RBIs. With the glut of first-base types, McBroom, was recently sent to Double A. It certainly wasn’t because of performance. Poor Mike Ford, who had a brief taste of the big leagues in his Rule 5 spring training with the Seattle Mariners, is never going to see the light of day at Yankee Stadium. Ford, batting .240, has 12 home runs and 36 ribbies in 67 games for the RailRiders.

For as much as I’ve wanted to see Shreve go, it was still a sad moment when it actually happened. He was a Yankee for four years and there were good times to go with the bad. Listening to his post-game interview was extremely difficult while Shreve expressed his love for his teammates. I wish the Las Vegas native the best as he moves to the Gateway to the West. The Cardinals have a strong history of tradition and success even if 2018 is not one of their better years. The Cardinals are only four games out of the NL Wild Card chase so Shreve does have an opportunity to help his new team reach October. For Gallegos, it means the end of the Scranton/Bronx Shuttle. Hopefully he’ll have a much better time sticking in the bigs with the Cardinals.

The trade opens a spot on the 25-man roster for today’s starter, J.A. Happ. Happ had been added as the 26th man prior to the start of the second game of yesterday’s double-header after his delayed arrival so the Yankees needed to clear room on the active roster for him. I had expected it to be outfielder Shane Robinson who homered in yesterday’s second game but he presumably lives to see another day in Pinstripes. His spot is the one that clearly needs to be upgraded before the trading deadline unless we can get some positive news about Clint Frazier soon.

Yesterday brought rumors the Yankees are one of the teams aggressively pursuing Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, although the San Diego Padres continue to be seen as the favorites. A report at the end of the day indicated that the Rays had two scouts watching Justus Sheffield’s start for the RailRiders last evening. I like Archer but not well enough to trade the organization’s top prospect for him. There are only a few guys the Yankees should consider trading Sheffield for and Archer is not one of them.  Blake Snell, maybe, but he’s currently on the DL.

The Yankees may be hurt by injuries, but the Houston Astros are having problems of their own. They already had star shortstop Carlos Correa on the disabled list and yesterday the 2017 AL MVP, Jose Altuve, hit the DL for the first time in his career. Altuve has lingering soreness in his right knee.

I was watching a little of the Los Angeles Angels game last night and it’s incredible what former Yankees prospect Francisco Arcia is doing for the Halos in his Major League debut. In two games and eight at-bats, the 28-year-old Arcia, a catcher, has two homers and ten RBIs. The Yankees could certainly use Arcia now but who would have known the career minor leaguer was capable of this type of performance. Okay, apparently former Yankees Assistant GM and now Angels GM Billy Eppler knew. It’s not sustainable but it is a great story. One of the Angels announcers made the comment that this is the time of year you need a player to come along and give the team a jolt. Yeah, we could use one of those guys about now.

I will be curious to see how J.A. Happ performs today. He has faced the Kansas City Royals once already this year. In Toronto’s 15-5 victory on April 18th, Happ pitched six innings, allowing five hits and four runs, to pick up the win for the Blue Jays. He walked a couple of batters and struck out eight. The way the Yankees offense is performing, he’ll need to do better than that today. Sure, the Yankees should score 15 runs on a team like KC but not the .500 club that we’ve been seeing in recent weeks. I am hopeful the excitement of a pennant race will reinvigorate Happ. After Sevy’s pitiful performance yesterday and CC Sabathia’s short outing, we could use a strong show from the rotation. We need a “jolt” and this team needs to get on a roll. Make Yankees Baseball fun again! Otherwise, the Red Sox will be waltzing to the finish line.

I’d like to see the Yankees add a bat before Tuesday’s trading deadline, but I am not expecting any earth-shattering moves. The cost of starting pitching seems too high, and I am not really interested in overpaying for another league-average starter. Maybe it is time to bring Justus Sheffield up to the Show to see what he can do out of the bullpen for the duration of the season. I am also looking forward to Jonathan Loaisiga’s return to good health.

Hopefully the Yankees simply take care of business today. We need a win. Please make it HAPPen.

Go Yankees!