Tagged: Los Angeles

Open Letter to Major League Baseball (MLB) — The Plan for the 2020 Season

MLB 2020 Arizona Regional Plan

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As it pertains to COVID-19, the 2020 Plan and all aspects contain herein will serve to provide a roadmap for starting the season as expeditiously as possible and a built-in contingency plan for scheduling games to be played outside of Arizona as well.

The Plan isn’t just a patchwork of other plans thrown around, but takes the positives of Arizona and combines them with the potential to not only take advantage of low-to-non-risk areas (regions) of the country as the COVID-19 risk wanes itself out potentially. 2020 would also serve positively as a one-year test pilot for other hot button items that had already been in the works for possible league rollout. The schedule itself would allow for maximum flexibility with respect to the virus. The Plan will only really cover the game itself, and not hotels, disinfection, logistics, player travel etc., so here we go…

The season calls for the use of 11 stadiums in the Phoenix area. Chief among them is Chase Field. The slate of games scheduled is for 100 games per club over a 15-week schedule. Games would be scheduled throughout the day Tuesday through Sunday at Chase Field, with any needed make-up games (i.e. stadium issues or other reasons not related to weather) on Mondays. Mondays would also be used for the same at the ST stadiums in the area where the other 20 teams would play. Each division would travel to Chase together (OK, maybe not together) for a week of games. Two divisions a week would play, for a total of 10 teams playing 6 games each. Each team would play round robin divisional play plus two out-of-division games. 8am, 11:30, 3pm, 6:30 and 10pm would be the game times, equaling 5 games X 6 days for a total of 30 games.

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Meanwhile, at the other stadiums teams would play 7 games in a week, so that would involve one double-header per week when not at the featured Chase Field. Games should start either early in the morning or at night, as good lighting systems are readily available, and night games are something that translate well for league revenue and would also provide a fun break for the teams. Night games would be a great way to space out a twin bill as well. So, with Monday always set aside for make-ups (also rain possibility without roof), each team would play earlier morning games 5-6 times a week with the extra 1-2 games (7 total) being played under the stars. There are twenty teams playing each week with this schedule, making a total of 70 games played per each.

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This may or may not seem like anything new for the discussion, but its about to get interesting as we look into an aspect that will allow for an interesting Postseason and also the flexibility to play games in other areas of the country as COVID-19 permits. This introduces the aspect of Regions. The MLB Region is something on slate only for 2020, yet there may be other benefits to applying it in the future (e.g. coat containment, less travel).

Using the Chase Field weekly paradigm, 3 of the 5 weeks that each division will be scheduled there will be with its corresponding division from the other league. For example, to begin we may have the NL Central and the AL Central. The second week, we’d have the NL East with the AL East, and then week 3 would feature the NL West and the AL West. Apart from providing a cornerstone for a cohesive 2020 schedule, it creates a “regional” aspect that will later serve us.

Here’s how: if COVID-19 allows certain cities (see MLB’s extensive regional virus figures when available) to re-open, some will, but some will not. Penciling in geographic “cold spots” around the country, where games could be played in front of fans, it would allow the game to be played in many cities. Imagine both western divisions playing September, or even August games in Los Angeles or San Diego. MLB could have both East divisions playing in Toronto and its retractable roof, or Miami. The Central could play in any city opened up from the virus as well. There could be many stadiums open for fans. “Regional play” would guarantee the greatest amount of flexibility by back-loading regional match-ups in addition to divisional games, which are already scheduled that way in a playoff chase.

Therefore, the secret to the season is front-loading “non-regional” games. This begs the question, “WTH is a non-regional game?” A non-regional game is played against a team with a different division designation (East, Central, West). In the Spring Training ballparks, the majority of those games would be interleague games and “intraleague” games, but where the West doesn’t play the West and the Central doesn’t play against the Central. Those matchups can happen later, and hopefully in front of fans. But if nothing else, Arizona would always be in perpetual place as a plan B should COVID-19 continue throughout the regular season.

For sake of the following graphic, let’s set some terms. Divisional games we understand – games played within a team’s division (e.g. Padres vs. Dodgers).

Regional games are both divisional games and Interleague games played within the same divisional designation (e.g. Yankees vs. Mets). Non-Regional games are both Interleague and Intraleague games that are played with teams having a different divisional designation. Examples of this would be Red Sox vs. White Sox or Red Sox versus Cubs. So… crucial to The Plan is creating a regional aspect. We can frontload the season in Arizona with non-regional games. In this way, we can open up the game to the fans in real time providing favourable conditions they may come to exist.

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SAMPLE SCHEDULING CHASE FIELD

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This example shows each regional grouping 3 times each. This means AL West and NL West comprise the ten teams that play at Chase Field in 3 of the 15 weeks. The Central teams and the East teams do the same respectively. By swapping weeks 7 through 9 with 10 through 12, the schedule becomes even more flexible with respect to the potential for playing games in front of fans within their respective regions. Imagine the possibility of the last month and a half of games all being played across the country with fans in the stands. The money and well being of the country would be absolutely maximized. This is the real strength of The Plan. With its flexible nature, the schedule could mirror the unpredictable path of COVID-19.

PLAYOFFS (This is where it gets Fun)

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In order to preserve the integrity of the American and National leagues, the winningest team in both leagues will be given BYEs for the Wild Card Regional Round. The WCRR would involve in each league the two other Division winners, 3 Wild Card teams and special respect given to 2020’s unique regional format in way of a Regional Wild Card team. Before you roll your eyes, the team that has the best regional record (i.e. best record against teams within its divisional designation) that doesn’t otherwise qualify for the playoffs will get in.

It would provide a fourth WC team for each league and lowest seed. It would also provide the slightest of hedges against high-powered offensive teams pushing back their ace and rolling out a AAA player to face the Marlins. No disrespect to them or their 2 World Series championships…just an example. But say the Marlins win that regional game, and many others similar to it. There will be a couple teams that significantly outperform other teams where it comes to playing other teams in their respective regions.

Games played against other divisions and interleague games already count in division standings, like in any sport. But this would be a great way to stimulate the league and make it more fun for everybody. The regional wild card (RWC, hereafter) would face off in the Regional Wild Card round against the top-seeded division winner, or team with best record. The RWC round would be a best of 5 series.

The 3rd-ranked WC team would play against the other division winner and the top two WC teams would face each other. The three advancing teams would then join the BYE team in the Divisional Series, also best of 5 as usual. The BYE team would have already won the right to face the lowest seed, also per norm. The rest of the playoffs would be carried out as normal with ALCS/NLCS and World Series all being best of 7.

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OK, that is really not a good image. Zoom it and we should be good. Onward…

SAFE SPACE

The only area as far as the game being played that should be changed is how we determines strikes and balls. The home plate umpire would need to be moved so far behind the catcher that calling balls and strikes wouldn’t work. For this reason an electronic strike zone would be encouraged. The home plate umpire could hold a device that shows the reading so the umpire would still “call” balls and strikes, despite it really being reporting them. Plays at the plate, like the other umpires on the field would still be called as usual.

The electronic strike zone would be another thing that could be live-tested. This has been talked about for a few years now, anyway. There is no better opportunity to live-test this.

TIME OF GAMES

There are two main issues here: lots of games (especially at Chase) to be squeezed in, and length of play, which has multiple potential negative effects.
There wouldn’t be a time limit to the games, as the nature of a few changes would naturally bring them down to between 2 and 2.5 hours maximum. The new “3 batter rule” is one way to bring down game time. Also floated around is the idea of having no mound visits or simply limiting “mound chat”. The Plan calls for the ability to send out the manager or pitching coach only when a pitcher is being pulled. Catcher visits are limited to one per inning. Umpires usually chase away these conversations after a few seconds. Say what you need to and get out, basically. Other infielders would be prohibited from mound visits unless in case of a pitcher substitution.

7-Inning double-headers are an idea that The Plan rejects as unnecessary. A shortened game compromises the game itself. It has been a long time since a game has been called final due to rain after at least 5 complete, but arbitrarily saying “we can play more games if we do some 7-inning games” is not good for the game. Teams would just go to a 3-man rotation and use openers for any games scheduled to go only 7. This is not a good idea.

The killer in baseball (at least it would be in 2020) is going extras. Extra-inning games would still exist, but only an extra inning. If a game is extended due to a tie, if it doesn’t get settled in the 10th, it’s a TIE. Yes, TIE games would be part of The Plan. This, like the electronic strike zone, represents an area that could actually be embraced going forward beyond 2020. Again, this is the year to try out the things that MLB has been kicking around.

The Plan provides a comprehensive solution that offers great potential for salvaging the 2020 MLB season. Major League Baseball, its teams, players and fans alike want the best possible solution to make it all happen. This might not be the best solution, but it makes great financial and logistical sense along with a few twists to make the game more interesting in terms of appeal. Baseball is America’s favorite pastime. It is an avenue to a better life amid changing and uncertain times. The world is watching. It would be so much better if we were watching baseball.

Note: This post was written by John Patterson. He originally posted it on Steemit (jp17) and I am re-posting it with his permission. John is a good friend who loves baseball as much as you and I. He is a die-hard Dodgers fan who currently lives in Italy. Despite his loyalty to Dodger Blue, John has always held great respect for the Yankees over their storied history and was an admirer of the Yankees’ championship run under Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, et al. This post is not about the Yankees or the Dodgers (specifically), but it is genuine plea for how we can get baseball back on the field. I am in full agreement with John and my hope is to see the Yankees back on the field sooner than later, but under the most safest and healthiest options available.  Nice job, John!

Nolan Arenado and the Yankees…

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Photo Credit: SI.com

The lovely Rumor Mill is churning hard…

The dream was like any other but it stood out as one so vivid and exciting. I picked up my cell phone on a cool, crisp February evening, logged into Twitter, and was incredibly amazed to find the Yankees had acquired veteran third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies.

Arenado, who turns 29 a few weeks after Opening Day, hit 41 home runs in 2019, driving in 118 runs. His batting line was .315/.379/.583 with .392 wOBA and 128 wRC+. This has basically been Arenado’s consistent production for the past five years.  A .300 hitter who will give you 40 bombs and drive in more than 110 RBIs every season, and play tremendous defense. Unsurprisingly, Steamer provides these projections for Nolan’s 2020 season…40 HR, 114 RBIs, .296/.370/.571. So, in other words, more of the same for the foreseeable future.

Late last February, the Colorado Rockies and Arenado agreed to an eight-year contract extension worth $260 million. The contract includes a player opt-out provision following the 2021 season and has full no-trade protection. At the time, Arenado and the Rockies were all smiles. “I think the future is brighter in Colorado than it’s been in the past,” Nolan said at the time. “That excites me and makes me very aware of what’s going on here.” Fast forward to 2020, after the Rockies finished 71-9 last season, good for fourth place in the NL West, a game ahead of the rising San Diego Padres. Nolan’s words now read, “I really don’t care what’s being said. I just know that I feel disrespected over there.” What a difference a year…and losing…makes.

Trevor Story signed a two year extension with the Rockies yesterday that provides the talented shortstop with $27.5 million. On the surface, it looks like the Rockies are trying to retain their core talent. But in reality, this was an extension that covers Story’s final two years of arbitration eligibility and sets the expected dollar cost with certainty for the Rockies. It does not touch any of Story’s free agent years, and as one Rockies blogger noted, sets the price for Story’s final two years with the Rockies before he hits the free agent trail. Colorado’s big free agent acquisition this winter, on a minor league deal, has been former Arizona infielder Chris Owings who spent time late last season with Boston.

For Nolan, the sad decline of the Rockies almost ensures that he’ll exercise the opt-out after the 2021 season. Some would question walking away from $35 million per year, but if Nolan performs like he always has, the money will be there. For the Rockies, trading Nolan, with his permission, makes the most sense this off-season. He carries greater value with two years of control versus just one next off-season.

So, how did Arenado end up with the Yankees? He did not. It was just a dream.

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The Yankees third basemen today, Gio Urshela and Miguel Andujar, are the same players that will be part of the Yankees team that shows up at Camden Yards on March 26th. I’d love for the Yankees to acquire Nolan and I’d like to think he’d gladly waive his no-trade to join his buddy D.J. LeMahieu in the bright lights of the Big Apple. But realistically, it will never happen. Fun to think about, sure, but like Power Ball, a near impossibility. I’d say the odds are 70 million to 1, or the dollars on Nolan’s contract before the opt-out. I am not getting my hopes up about this one, and wish the rumors would die. Let’s be happy about the guys on the roster and recognize the Yankees will field a very good team in 2020.

I’d be remiss if I did not mention how difficult this week has been. Sunday morning, we woke up to the horrible news that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, CA. As a Lakers fan, I know how much Kobe means to the City of Los Angeles and surrounding area. This week, we found out how much the entire country cares about the Lakers legend. Just this past December, we all saw the video clip of Kobe talking to his daughter, Gianna, at a basketball game, a scene that is now painful to watch, knowing we lost both young lives.

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The victims of the tragic crash:

  • Kobe Bryant
  • Gianna “Gigi” Bryant
  • John Altobelli
  • Keri Altobelli
  • Alyssa Altobelli
  • Christina Mauser
  • Sarah Chester
  • Payton Chester
  • Ara Zobayan

This one hurts. I’ve seen people make comparisons to the tragic death of Thurman Munson on August 2, 1979. I am not sure I can make a comparison. My perspective is different. When Thurman died, I was a kid and it was devastating to lose my favorite player so suddenly. It does not mean that the loss of the above nine people was not equally devastating (or probably more so because of the loss of so many lives). My heart is heavy and I am deeply saddened the young girls, in particular, had their lives end before they really even started. Gigi, born in 2006, had already showed us that she was proudly walking in the footsteps of her father and I have no doubt she would have been a force in basketball in the years ahead. I always enjoyed watching Kobe on talk shows, bringing his Mamba Mentality to his words of wisdom.

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On a morning when the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded their helicopters because of the weather conditions, I wish Kobe and his pilot would have made the same decision. They are gone too soon and we were clearly not ready for their departure. May all nine Rest in Peace and know this World loves them, today, tomorrow and forever-more.

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Stepping back to Baseball, there is only one open managerial position (Boston Red Sox) with Houston’s hiring of veteran manager Dusty Baker. Good for Dusty. I never really understood Washington’s decision to part ways with Baker a couple of years ago. He might not have a World Series ring for his efforts, but he has been a winning manager. I know the current trend is to hire young, analytics-driven managers and Dusty represents the last of the old guard, but he seems like the right guy for the right time in Houston. Most likely the stay is short and that’s fine. Dusty brings structure, credibility, and discipline back to the Astros clubhouse. You know the Astros will play the game the right way this season. I’d be surprised if Dusty is the Astros manager in two years but I am sure when he leaves, the franchise will be better for it.

Selfishly, I was glad Buck Showalter did not get the job. I enjoyed Buck’s return to the Yankees family late last season with his appearances on the YES Network and I’d like to see more as we move forward. There’s a chance he could get the job in Boston, which I’d really hate to see, but hopefully we can keep Buck on our side.

As for the Red Sox job, I liked Terry Cushman’s words yesterday on Twitter. Cushman, a Red Sox blogger/podcaster, said “Tomorrow is February. The same month the Red Sox will report to spring training with their ‘manager to be named later’. Nobody has literally ever uttered those words.” It does seem strange the calendar page has turned to February, with players heading to Arizona and Florida, and Boston’s leadership role sits vacant.

Farewell to former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, who announced his retirement yesterday. His stay in the Bronx was brief but enjoyable. The likeable Grandy Man has been good for baseball and I hope he stays in the game in some capacity. Here’s hoping his post-playing career is as successful as his playing days. A good baseball player, a better man.

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Photo Credit: Michael L Stein, US Presswire

It’s Super Bowl weekend. I lost my horse in this race when the San Francisco 49ers made mince-meat out of my Minnesota Vikings a few weeks ago  but I am pulling for the Niners to bring home another Super Bowl championship to the Bay Area. During a year when the Raiders closed up shop in Oakland for their relocation to Las Vegas, it would be great to see the Niners ring the championship bell for the entire Bay Area, including the East Bay. I respect Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes as one of the great young talents in the game but I cannot bring myself to cheer for Kansas City.

As always, Go Yankees!

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!

The Warmth of Baseball on a Chilly New York Day…

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Soon, The Yankees Head for Tampa…

Welcome to February! That can only mean one thing…it’s time for BASEBALL!  Sorry New England fans (hopefully there aren’t any in here…the combo of Yankees/Patriots fan seems like such an odd pairing) but the most important sport is not happening on Sunday…it’s the opening of Spring Training for all 30 Major League teams in less than two weeks although we all know there is only one team that really matters. This is a Yankees blog and we love our Yankees! February 13th is the day Yankee pitchers and catchers must report, a day we’ve been impatiently awaiting. There is nothing as exciting this month as the Yankees taking over Steinbrenner Field on 1 Steinbrenner Drive in Tampa, Florida. Super Bowl or no Super Bowl.

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It is the first of February yet, as we painfully know, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have not signed. Well, maybe they have an idea where they’ll be spending their summers and just haven’t let us in on the secret. Regardless, I am resigned to the fact that neither 26-year-old superstar will be wearing the famed Pinstripes this season. I know, it’s not my money but I think it is a huge mistake to pass on potential future Hall of Famers, entering their primes (when the best is yet to come). Two young superior players who can be acquired for only a boatload of Benjamins, keeping all top prospects in the farm system. It kind of bugs me the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox are in on Harper and Machado (at least by public reports) and the Yankees are not. Sure, the Yankees can never be counted out until Harper and Machado are hoisting up jerseys at press conferences held by other teams but it does seem unlikely there will be any surprise last minute signings by Team Hal.

It looks like the guys who will be on the 2019 Opening Day Roster for the Yankees have already been signed and invited to Major League Camp, barring last minute trades or signings. The reports lately focus on adding another starter, such as Gio Gonzalez or Ervin Santana, as the team’s only remaining need. I agree the Yankees need a hedge for the starting rotation. CC Sabathia, regardless of how healthy he is right now, had a stent placed in a heart artery just a couple of months ago. He’ll be on a short leash. I wouldn’t really want Gio or Santana as part of the starting five, but they’d certainly be better and more reliable options than someone like Luis Cessa should the Yankees need a guy to temporarily step into the rotation. Gio may not be the pitcher he once was for the Oakland A’s and Washington Nationals, but he could help in a swing role. Santana does not appear to be a fit based on his negative words about Yankee Stadium in the past. In 2015, after a game in which Greg Bird hit two home runs, Santana made a comment about the second dinger, “I know, probably in another park that’s a double. But here, it’s a joke.” The Yankees lost another option yesterday when Wade Miley signed with the Houston Astros.  Miley, who has reinvented himself with a cutter, pitched effectively for the Milwaukee Brewers last season and might have represented a solid choice for the Yankees. It has been reported the Yankees did not reach out to Miley before he signed with the Astros so it’s possible the team decides to stay in-house. James Shields is available but it’s been a few years since he was “Big Game James”. Francisco Liriano, Brett Anderson, Jeremy Hellickson and Clay Buchholz are other names out there (or in other words, the pickings are rather slim). I think most of us expect to see Michael King at some point this season although nobody predicts he’ll break camp with the team. The best case scenario if the Yankees do go with internal options is a healthy Jonathan Loaisiga. Unfortunately, “healthy” is a fleeting trait for the young Johnny Lasagna. I am very hopeful this is the year he proves the critics wrong. We know he has a Major League arm and it would be great if we could finally see it on a consistent basis.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Heading into camp, I know the Yankees need to find a way to get DJ LeMathieu on the field. Play him at second with Gleyber Torres at shortstop, or put DJ at third, with Troy Tulowitzki at short and Gleyber staying at second. The latter situation would force the Yankees to move Miguel Andujar to DH and Giancarlo Stanton to left field. Not ideal, but it would be a mistake to leave DJ’s glove on the bench. He needs to play every day. I really hope that Troy Tulowitzki proves me wrong but his presence does not excite me. He has not been a top performer since his days in Colorado. I saw MLB Network Analyst Jim Bowden say recently that while he hopes Tulo is successful, he feels that the player is done. Sadly, that’s where I am at.  If he is finished, it’s no loss for the Yankees. They can just cut Tulo  without any significant financial ramifications. DJ should never be sacrificed for Tulo as a starting option with the infield configuration except for rest. It’s the plan for what happens if Tulo doesn’t make the cut that concerns me.  Torres would have to be the regular starting shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns which makes LeMathieu the every day second baseman for now. Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada would be leaned upon heavily if that happens, barring any veteran signings in the next few weeks. I’d still like to see Adeiny Hechevarria return but I haven’t seen any signs the Yankees are interested. Then again, Brian Cashman doesn’t have me on speed dial so who really knows.

While I’d love for the Boston Red Sox to open the season with their current bullpen, it remains my opinion closer Craig Kimbrel will slip back into their price range. It would be great if the Atlanta Braves signed their former closer or if the Philadelphia Phillies signed him to push David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez into ‘Dellin Betances/Zach Britton’ type of setup roles. But the realist in me knows the Sox won’t shortchange themselves despite current appearances. I saw one Red Sox fan who posted that their best reliever would be no better than fifth best in the Yankees bullpen. He’s right. I just can’t see the Red Sox sabotaging their chances to repeat by failing to address the needs of the pen. Last year, the Red Sox didn’t sign J.D. Martinez until February 26th. He proved to be the key to their success. I see something similar this year and I expect Kimbrel to be the late add. If not Kimbrel, then I bet Boston acquires another arm via trade. Boston is not going away and don’t sleep on the Tampa Bay Rays, especially if they are able to acquire Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. I expect the AL East to be extremely competitive this year…while the Baltimore Orioles watch, of course.

It’s always fun when the guys start showing up in Tampa for Spring Training. I look forward to the player interviews and seeing video of the new guys like Adam Ottavino, DJ LeMahieu, and Troy Tulowitzki meeting their teammates for the first time or just AO and DJ reconnecting after their disappointing exit together as members of the Colorado Rockies, walking off Coors Field on October 7, 2018 following the NLDS sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s going to be very fun and exciting to see James Paxton wearing a Yankees cap. The Big Maple is going to be a featured attracton. I am anxious to see him throwing bullpen sessions with Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, while Aaron Boone and Larry Rothschild watch.   All eyes will be on Miguel Andujar to see if he’s improved his defensive play. I know regardless of the results, we won’t be able to fault the effort.  I have no doubts Andujar has worked very hard this winter to improve his defense and find better positioning to aid his reactionary time. The Luke Voit-Greg Bird battle at first base will be must-watch, even if everyone expects the energetic Voit to emerge the winner. There are just so many interesting stories to keep an eye on this Spring. I am so glad baseball is almost here. The dawn of the 2019 New York Yankees. It’s a great year to be alive!

I look forward to the annual predictions by TGP’s Daniel Burch before the start of the new season and this year should be very fun. The Yankees are a World Series-caliber team ready to take the season as deep into October as possible, to be the last team standing. The goal is simple. Play the final game of the World Series and walk off the field to the spray of champagne. Anything less will be a disappointment. Mariano Duncan’s words that inspired the 1996 World Series champions echo through the halls of Yankee Stadium many years later, “We play today. We win today. Das it!” It started a roll of championships for the Core 4 and here we are again with a new Core and a new era of Yankees Baseball. I am sure Daniel will have the Yankees as the World Series favorite. He will not be wrong. This is our year. We see it, we feel it, we know it.  We just need the team to do it.

For the final weekend without baseball activity, I guess we’ll have to pause for some football. Here’s hoping Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams return the City of Angels to the NFL Championship. I was so excited when the Rams returned to Los Angeles (lived there at the time) after their years away in St Louis and now the franchise is in the Super Bowl against this century’s most dominant NFL team led by a quarterback who might be the greatest of all-time. I personally think it is Joe Montana, but whatever. It would be very exciting for a Rams victory and a Patriots loss. The secondary prize would be disappointment for the Red Sox-Patriots fans. Too bad, so sad. A nice way to start the new baseball year!

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 Go Rams! But as always and more importantly, 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!

Yet Another Unofficial World Series…

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees

Red Sox Advance to Fall Classic to Play Dodgers or Brewers…

Sadly, the Boston Red Sox are returning to the World Series. I was hopeful that the defending champion Houston Astros would end their season, but unfortunately, the Astros were a no-show. I still feel the Yankees and the Astros were the better teams, but for whatever reason(s), fate sided with Boston. The Red Sox, from April forward, have consistently found ways to win, en route to 108 victories over the course of the long season. They are not in the World Series by some fluke. Growing up as a kid with the Curse of the Bambino alive and well, it does kind of suck that the Red Sox have played in and have won more World Series than the Yankees this century.

Speaking of my childhood, I have never forgotten an illustrator for The Des Moines (Iowa) Register by the name of Frank Miller who used to say that it wasn’t an official World Series if the Yankees weren’t playing in it.  I know it’s something that I’ve mentioned on this site before, but I think about it every year so my apologies for the regression.

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I am already lining up a wager with a long-time friend and die-hard Red Sox fan. We’ve had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and the Red Sox, but this year, since the Yankees are home for the holidays, I am riding the Los Angeles Dodgers (assuming they can get past the Milwaukee Brewers, of course). If the Dodgers make it to the World Series, the bet is on. The loser must post a picture of the winning team’s celebration as their cover photo on Facebook for seven days following the World Series, and the loser must read a book about the winning organization (as selected by the winner) and write a 500-word essay about the ten things they learned about the winning organization they did not know before. The essay must be posted on Social Media.  For my friend, I have chosen Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman should the Dodgers win the World Series.

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My friend will choose a Red Sox book for me to read if Boston wins the World Series. Of course, if the Dodgers stumble in Milwaukee and end their season prematurely, the wager is moot. I have no interest in a Brewers-Red Sox World Series and my baseball season will be officially done.  I wanted to pick a Yankees book for my friend to read, but Boston beat the Yankees fair and square in the ALDS, proving that, for this year anyway, they are the better team. Dodgers, please do not let me down. You’re my last hope for bringing down the mighty Red Sox.

I know that Manny Machado has taken much heat over the past week for not hustling and dirty play but I have not wavered in my desire for the Yankees to sign him in free agency after the season. He remains a young, special and talented superstar player who will help any team that he plays for. He has a desire to play in New York and he can handle New York.  He’s hated in Boston which is perfectly fine by me. Nothing Machado has done has deterred my wish for seeing him in Pinstripes. If the Yankees go after Bryce Harper instead, that’s fine.  I’d be stoked to have Harper as a Yankee. If Cashman and Company decide neither player is worth the investment, then so be it. Clearly, the greatest need is finding help for the starting rotation and filling in the potential holes in the bullpen. If the Yankees do nothing in the off-season but focus on pitching, I’m fine with it. But regardless, I wanted to get it out there that I continue to support Manny Machado and he’ll continue to be one of my favorite players next season, no matter what uniform he is wearing. Well, if he signs with Boston, that might hurt.

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Photo Credit: AP (Matt Slocum)

I really wish the Yankees could find a way to unload Jacoby Ellsbury. I am dreading the thought of his presence at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL next Spring. I know, when healthy, he’s a decent player.  But his history has proven he cannot be relied upon. He may be healthy in March, but, no doubt, it will not be an injury-free year. The certainties of life…death, taxes, and Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list. I am tired of the guy and I wish he’d resume his career elsewhere.

Has Sonny Gray been traded yet? Another player that I am anxiously awaiting to see place the word “former” in front of “Yankee”. I like the suggestions of Gray to Arizona in a package to get Arizona’s Robbie Ray or Paul Goldschmidt or to San Francisco for second baseman Joe Panik. I am sure that Gray will prosper in a less pressurized environment and I am confident GM Brian Cashman will get the best possible return despite Gray’s struggles in the Big Apple. Now if he could just do something about Ellsbury, too.

For those who say that Houston’s Marwin Gonzalez fits in with the Yankees, I agree. If the Yankees decide to pass on the big ticket purchases in free agency, I think Gonzalez could help this team. Or even if they do sign Machado or Harper, I think Gonzalez would be a good Yankee. I don’t like the Astros but I do like Marwin and his versatility. I know 2018 was a bit of a down year for him, or maybe it is his norm and 2017 was an unusual year, but either way, I like the character of the guy and the winning attitude he exudes. He certainly helps fill some holes with the ability to play first base, shortstop and left field.

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Photo Credit: AP (David J Phillip)

Here’s hoping the Dodgers take care of business tonight in Milwaukee. Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97 ERA in 15 regular season games), one of the Dodgers’ best starters down the stretch, gets the ball.  He’ll be opposed by the resurgent one-time Red Sock Wade Miley (5-2, 2.57 ERA). Miley lost 15 games for the Baltimore Orioles last season and now he’s charged with extending the post-season for the Brewers, probably throwing to former Yankee Erik Kratz. Life is funny. No offense to those guys, but I hope their season ends tonight. The Dodgers have a date with the Red Sox and I don’t want anything to mess it up.

Tonight (and possibly tomorrow), it’s Go Dodgers.

But as always (and a lot more), Go Yankees!

Tanaka Time: Home Sweet Home…

Photo Credit: Instagram (masahiro_tanaka.official)

Strong pitching carries Yanks past Angels…

The Yankees needed a strong effort by Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and they got it. He gave up his obligatory home run but it didn’t matter as the Yankees used a three-run third inning to cruise past the Halos, 3-1.

The highlight of the game, not for its meaning to the final outcome but rather the drama of the moment, was Tanaka’s strikeout of fellow Japanese countryman Shohei Ohtani to end the first inning. Tanaka fell behind Ohtani on a 3-1 count but two swinging strikes sent Ohtani to the bench, much to the delight of the Yankee Stadium crowd. For the game, Ohtani was 0-for-2 against Tanaka, with a walk and two strikeouts. Mike Trout, who had a career day on Saturday, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Tanaka. Simple formula: Hold Ohtani and Trout in check and good things happen.

Tanaka’s terrific day was done after the sixth inning and 104 pitches. He held the Angels to only three hits and the isolated run on Andrelton Simmons’ solo homer in the sixth. Tanaka (6-2) walked three and struck out eight. THIS is the Masa we need for the summer’s pennant chase.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)

With six strong from Tanaka, Manager Aaron Boone was able to effectively lay out David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman for three innings of scoreless relief. Very nice play by Didi Gregorius to stop a hard hit grounder by Martin Maldonado, throwing the Angels catcher out at first to end the game and hand Chapman his eleventh save.

The Yankees (33-16) ended up taking two of three from the Angels after Saturday night’s debacle when Sonny Gray (Sucks!) and the Yankees bullpen were hammered by Mike Trout and the Angels in an 11-4 loss. Fortunately, the Boston Red Sox finally lost yesterday against the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, 7-1. The Braves victory was especially sweet as they gave Chris Sale an early exit (4 1/3 innings) by scoring six runs off Boston’s prized left-hander. The Red Sox lead over the Yankees in the AL East is back to one game.

The schedule, which has been Boston’s friend so far this season, continues to benefit the Red Sox. The Atlanta Braves were one of the rare winning teams the Red Sox has faced so far this year. They return to playing sub .500 teams today with the arrival of the Toronto Blue Jays (25-28) at Fenway Park. Meanwhile, the Yankees draw the defending World Champions, the Houston Astros, for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. Yes, the Yankees did sweep the Astros in Houston at the beginning of the month, but the team was on a roll at the time. I can’t say I am too confident with today’s matchup (Domingo German, 0-2, 5.59 ERA vs Justin Verlander, 6-2, 1.08 ERA). But if the Yankees can keep it close, I like the Yankees’ chances against the Houston bullpen. Yesterday, with closer Ken Giles on the mound, the Astros blew an 8-3 ninth inning lead in their fourteen-inning loss to the Cleveland Indians.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jason Miller)

The Yankees need pitching help but it doesn’t look like Chance Adams wants to play. The RailRiders game had barely started yesterday when Adams was pulled. With an inability to find the strike zone, Adams departed in the first inning after recording only two outs. He had given up only one hit, but three walks and a hit batter gave the Syracuse Chiefs an early 3-0 lead. The RailRiders came back to win the game, 7-4, so Adams wasn’t saddled with the loss but it was a pathetic performance. His season ERA is an unsightly 5.93 and he leads the team with 22 walks. It doesn’t sound like Adams wants to join his former RailRiders teammates in the Bronx, at least if he continues to pitch like the second coming of Sonny Gray. Hopefully he figures this thing out and restores the bloom of his potential. I still think his future lies in the bullpen but regardless, he is a guy I hope reaches Pinstriped glory.

I was surprised as anyone when the Yankees optioned popular utility man Ronald Torreyes to Triple A to make room for the activation of first baseman Greg Bird. I had fully expected either Tyler Austin or a pitcher to go down. Neil Walker has proven his worth to the organization so the team wasn’t go to eliminate his roster spot. I also think the Yankees are intrigued with A.J. Cole and haven’t seen enough to make a decision about him yet. The YES Network’s Michael Kay noted yesterday that Toe’s locker has not been cleaned out. It is expected he’ll be back when his ten days are up or shortly thereafter. An injury to someone (I hope not) will accelerate the timetable. In the grand scheme of things, I fully expect Torreyes to have a longer Yankees career than Tyler Austin. I could see Austin as part of a trade in the days leading up to this year’s trading deadline when the Yankees attempt to seek upgrades for their pitching staff.

He was only a Yankee for 33 games in 2008 but it is enough to qualify Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez as a member of the Yankees family. I am sure that Pudge is very excited today as the San Francisco Giants have selected the contract of his son, Dereck, from their Triple A affiliate. Dereck started his professional career in 2011 as an outfielder in the Minnesota Twins farm system but was converted to pitching in 2013. He signed with the Giants organization as a minor league free agent during the off-season. A starter in the minor leagues, Rodriguez is expected to provide long relief for the Giants. I hope Rodriguez pitches so well the Giants decide to trade Madison Bumgarner to the Yankees. C’mon, a guy can dream, can’t he?  Seriously, congratulations to Dereck for the realization of his own dream.

Photo Credit: Instagram (drod_31)

Speaking of former Yankees, Phil Hughes has found a new home. The Minnesota Twins had designated the pitcher for assignment earlier in the week. On Sunday, the Twins sent Hughes and a compensatory draft pick (74th overall) to the San Diego Padres for a minor league catcher. The incentive for the Padres is the competitive balance draft pick. The Twins will send money to pay down the contract owed to Hughes to lessen the financial commitment for the Padres. For now, Hughes will be inserted into the Padres bullpen, joining former Yankees Bryan Mitchell and Tyler Webb. I am not sure if this is the eventual end of the line for Hughes, who has undergone multiple surgeries for thoracic outlet syndrome, or if he will be able to resurrect his career in sunny Southern CA, but I wish the veteran 31-year-old righty the very best in his latest comeback attempt.

It’s Memorial Day so we pay tribute to those who have fallen in defense of our Country. Of course, we think about those individuals every day of the year, not just this day, and are grateful for their service and sacrifice to defend our liberty and freedom. We can never repay them or their families. We carry the memory of the slain men and women who have served this great Nation today and always.

Go Yankees!

Now Playing: The Gleyber Torres Story…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Frank Franklin II)

Gleybering their way to Victory…

Last night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim can be summed up in two words:

Gleyber Torres

Photo Credit: Twitter (sirdidig18)

Okay, credit to Luis Severino for bending but not breaking and to the bullpen for getting the game into the capable hands of closer Aroldis Chapman for the 2-1 win. But seriously, the Man of the Hour continues to be the 21-year-old rookie.

Shohei Ohtani may be the odds-on favorite for AL Rookie of the Year but on this night, Torres was the man among boys. His run-scoring single and solo home run provided all the offense the Yankees would need to take the first game of the three-game series with the Angels. Mike Trout was able to rip one off Severino but at least there was no one on base at the time and the rest of the Angels were unable to find their way home. Homeless Angels…so sad. Um, not really.

With no offense to Giancarlo Stanton, Torres has been the most significant addition for the 2018 Yankees. I am sure that Stanton will eventually go on one of his monster tears but clearly Torres is more valuable to his position (second base) than Stanton is to the outfield or DH. If Didi Gregorius was the Player of the Month for April, Torres, for now, can take Dave Winfield’s famed title of Mr May. I don’t mean that as a slight since as the canvas has yet to be painted for the months of June through October in the historic young career of the latest Yankees superstar. He is the youngest player to hit home runs in four consecutive games and he’s just getting started. Remember back when we were projecting Tyler Wade as our second baseman?  Me neither.

Okay, honorable mention for the game goes to Aaron Judge. His throw from right field, at 100.5 mph, to nail Kole Calhoun at the plate in the top of the 3rd inning which stifled an Angels threat was the stuff of legends.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Congratulations to the Yankees for the win and to Aaron Boone for one of his best managerial jobs to date.

Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox used the long ball to maintain their one game lead over the Yankees (32-15) in the AL East. The Sox (35-16) hit four home runs to turn back the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, 6-2, including homers by league leaders Mookie Betts (17) and J.D. Martinez (16). The homer Trout hit off Sevy was also his 16th so the trio sit atop the leaderboard in AL homers.

You can’t mention Boston without bringing up the topic of Hanley Ramirez. When it was announced yesterday that Boston had designated Hanley for assignment, it caught the Baseball World by surprise. My Red Sox friends were shocked. Granted, there was no way the Red Sox were going to exercise the 2019 option on Han-Ram’s contract ($22 million). The contract option would have vested if Ramirez had reached 1,050 plate appearances between last year and the current season (he stood at 748, which included 195 PAs this season). The Sox needed to open a spot for the activation of 2B Dustin Pedroia off the DL but it had been speculated that the under-utilized Blake Swihart would be traded to make room. Regardless of the reasons for his dismissal, I won’t miss Ramirez in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. Even when he wasn’t hitting, he always managed, it seemed, to blast a massive home run against the Yankees in clutch moments. I can’t really see another team willing to pick up Hanley’s contract in full so it’s probable that he’ll be released. I guess he can get together with the unemployed Chase Headley to talk about the good old days. I am sure that we have not heard the last of Ramirez but at least it won’t be part of Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry.

Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire (Kevin Sousa)

Yesterday was also an active day for transactions with the Yankees. After reliever Ryan Bollinger was returned to Double A-Trenton, RHP Tommy Kahnle was activated off the DL.  Catcher Erik Kratz, who spent the season at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers designated their backup catcher (Jeff Bandy) to make room for Kratz. I am glad to see the 37-year-old get the Major League opportunity that eluded him with the Yankees. To take his place at Triple A, the Yankees signed 33-year-old Wilkin Castillo (he turns 34 next week) out of the independent leagues. Castillo had spent time with the RailRiders (and Thunder) last year.

RailRiders first baseman Adam Lind was given his walking papers for the second time by the Yankees. There was no chance Lind was going to see the light of day at Yankee Stadium so he’ll presumably get a chance to find an organization with a clearer path to a Major League job. His departure also clears the way for the potential demotion of Tyler Austin to Triple A. The Yankees need to make room for Greg Bird who will be activated today and while no word has been made about the corresponding roster move, I continue to believe it will be Austin over one of the arms in the bullpen. Could be wrong but unfortunately Austin makes the most sense since he still has options available.

Former Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi is expected to make his regular season debut for the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday. It’s been a long, difficult road for the hard-throwing Eovaldi since undergoing his second Tommy John surgery. I wish him the best of luck with the Rays, except for when he faces his old teammates again. But if he wants to beat Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore, that’s fine with me.

Today is Sonny Gray Day. His last start was one of the best in his short Pinstriped career. Can he keep it going or will he revert to Sonny Gray Sucks! status? I truly hope he’s turned the corner and can re-establish himself as one of the best young arms in the American League. Gray will be facing Angels starter Jaime Barria (3-1, 2.13 ERA) who, frankly, I have never heard of. Unknown rookie starters always concern me with the Yankees as they seem to struggle against those guys. But then again, we have Gleyber Torres. Life is good.

Go Yankees!

The Washington Washout…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mitchell Layton)

Rain sweeps the Yankees away to Kansas City…

I guess we have Tyler Austin to thank for the last couple of days not being a total loss. Without his heroics (3 RBI’s), the Yankees would have lost Tuesday’s game which was ultimately suspended after 5 ½ innings with the score tied at 3. The Nats would have won the game if Austin hadn’t tied the score with the sac fly after his earlier home run. When the game is resumed, the Yankees will have nine outs to twelve for the Nationals so the odds favor the Nats. Nevertheless, credit goes to Austin for helping to avert a rain-shortened loss.

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Photo Credit: AP (Pablo Martinez Monsivais) via BTA

With rain sweeping away the resumption of the suspended game and Wednesday night’s scheduled game, the Yankees have a couple of days off until they take the field in Kansas City tomorrow night for the first game of a three game weekend series.

I saw a good tweet on Twitter earlier this week that angrily asked why Robinson Cano got suspended for 80 games but the Yankees were only suspended for one. I see no association between Cano’s situation and the Yankees (he hasn’t worn pinstripes since 2013) but it was a good comeback for a day that saw both Cano and the Yankees get suspended (obviously for quite different reasons).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

As for Cano, I am disappointed. I don’t know all the facts of his case, but I am glad the Yankees didn’t try to match the huge offer the Seattle Mariners made to Cano after the 2013 season. I was not in favor of a ten year deal then, and this incident only reaffirms what can go wrong with inflated extended deals (I know, we have our own ‘Jacoby Ellsbury’ to bear). I always liked Robbie even if I did get frustrated at times with his lack of hustle. But as we stand here today, I’d much rather have Gleyber Torres as the Yankees starting second baseman than Robinson Cano, even if he hadn’t fractured a bone in his hand or was not currently serving a suspension for banned substances. The only injustice I saw about Cano’s suspension is he gets to begin serving it while he is on the disabled list. So, the actual playing time he’ll miss as a result of the 80-game suspension will be much less since the bulk of the time will be spent recovering and rehabbing from the surgery on his hand. I am glad he was ruled ineligible for post-season play, should the Mariners make the playoffs. It’s very convenient (and fortunate) for the Mariners that they have another All-Star second baseman on the roster with Dee Gordon who was serving as a first-time starting center fielder for the M’s prior to Cano’s injury and subsequent suspension.  The M’s will still, no doubt, miss Cano in their lineup.

I do hope for Cano’s sake, he is able to put this behind him and he has no further acts of indiscretion for the duration of his playing career. I will continue to root for and support the former Yankee.

Poor David Hale. He’s been DFA’d three times this year (twice by the Yankees and once by the Minnesota Twins). Honestly, I am not really sure why the Yankees picked him up a second time. I’d rather see him cut this time rather than going to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on an outright assignment if he clears waivers. There’s nothing special in Hale’s arm and I’d rather see a young, hungry pitcher get his opportunity. I wish Hale the best in his future non-Yankee endeavors.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

The latest DFA for Hale cleared a temporary spot for Clint Frazier. It was speculated his latest time with the big league club would be limited to the Nationals series (to provide an extra bat off the bench for the National League-style of play) but with the rainouts, Frazier traveled with the team to KC and will hopefully get some time in the outfield with Aaron Judge and company before he gets the inevitable call to head back to Pennsylvania. It would be great if Red Thunder and his bat make it very difficult to demote him. Admittedly, I am growing tired of Aaron Hicks in center. Hicks may be the better defender and the more “true” center fielder, but I think Frazier has the better promise and potential for the now and in the future. Hicks is too inconsistent for me. I only wish that Estevan Florial was more advanced in his development and maturity. Dude, hurry up and age, will ya??!!

To sidetrack for a moment, I do have to say I’d gladly put Frazier in a trade package if it meant the Yankees could pry LHP Madison Bumgarner from the San Francisco Giants. I know Mad Bum has suffered some fluke injuries in recent years and has as much familiarity with the DL as Jacoby Ellsbury and Clayton Kershaw but when healthy, he’s a gamer. I’d love to roll with Luis Severino and Bumgarner as my top two pitchers heading into October. However, if Frazier is not traded, I hope he gets his chance to stay with the Pinstripes even if it comes at the expense of Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Shanna Lockwood)

Back to the Yankees and Nationals, the makeup day will be Monday, June 18th at 5:05 pm Eastern. It is going to make for a very long night for the Yankees with at least 12 innings of baseball. They finish a series against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx on the preceding Sunday afternoon, and then after the game and a half on Monday night in the Nation’s Capital, they quickly head back to Yankee Stadium to begin a series against the Cano-less Mariners the next day.

Despite the washout in Washington, the Yankees (28-12) are currently a ½ game ahead of the Boston Red Sox (29-14) in the AL East Standings.  Boston plays tonight at Fenway Park against the lowly Baltimore Orioles so it’s possible the Yankees and Red Sox could be tied entering play tomorrow. But then again, the spineless David Price is on the mound for the Sox so I’ll gladly take my chances with Greg Bird’s high school buddy Kevin Gausman and the O’s.

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Photo Credit: The Aurora Sentinel (Heather Longway)

I really feel bad for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans. I am a known Dodgers sympathizer (they’re my NL team) and this has been an awful start to the year for the defending National League champs. Entering the season, many had them making the World Series for the second year in a row, but after another loss to the Miami Marlins last night, the Dodgers are 16-26 and have fallen into last place in the NL West.  Well, technically they are tied with the San Diego Padres, but the Padres have the slight advantage in winning percentage.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

Injuries have been tough but there were so many parallels between the Yankees and the Dodgers at the start of the season. Both are big market teams trying to reset luxury tax penalties with strong, young teams. But the similarities end there. The Dodgers had to let valuable role players like Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson walk in the off-season to keep payroll down and they’ve lost superstar players like Corey Seager (out for the year) and Clayton Kershaw to injury. This is Justin Turner’s first week back after his DL stint to start the year. The Dodgers face a lost season or they need to quickly spend to bring in strong reinforcements if they hope to salvage the season. The Dodgers have a strong farm system (okay, not as strong as the Yankees) but it is not ready to help.  They’re already leaning on young guys like Walker Buehler in the starting rotation.  Manny Machado’s name keeps coming up as an option for the Dodger Blue but he’d probably eliminate any chance of the Dodgers staying under the luxury tax threshold. Plus, they’d have to find a position for him if they have any hopes of signing him after the season since Seager will be back next year to reclaim shortstop. The Dodgers situation shows how much luck plays into strategy when it comes to navigating the treacherous waters of payroll. The Yankees and Dodgers are clearly trending in opposite directions.

I have tickets to two upcoming Dodgers games. Sounds like I’ll probably have a more enjoyable time watching the out of town scoreboard to see how the Yankees are doing.

To the Yankees and all of us fans, enjoy your day off. We look forward to watching the road team step up to the plate at Kaufman Stadium on Friday night.

Go Yankees!

Boston’s Loss is Our Gain…

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Photo Credit: Boston Herald (Christopher Evans)

Yankees Take Sole Possession of First Place…

The Yankees had the day off on Monday and captured sole possession of first place in the American League East while they are resting. Sweet. Credit to Oakland’s Sean Manaea, sporting Sonny Gray’s old number, for keeping the Red Sox offense in check.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Maddie Meyer)

Rafael Devers got a seventh inning home run off Manaea and J.D. Martinez took the A’s bullpen deep, but after nine innings of play, Boston had one less run than Oakland. Too bad, so sad. Sucks to be Boston. Greatest start in Red Sox history and all they have to show for it is second place. Get used to it, RSN.

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Now, the Yankees have to hold their thin ½ game AL East lead while playing one of the best teams in the National League. I know, the Washington Nationals currently trail both the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, but there’s no doubt the Nats (24-18) will be firmly entrenched on top of the NL East by the time October rolls around. Atlanta is a nice story and of course no one is going to root against former Yankees bench coach (now Phillies bench coach) Rob Thomson but it is inevitable the Braves and Phillies will fall hard at some point.

With the Yankees in the Nation’s Capital to face the Nationals, it brings the topic of Bryce Harper to the forefront. I like Giancarlo Stanton, don’t get me wrong, but realistically, given a choice, I’d prefer Harper. At the moment, there’s not a great difference in their stats.

Harper:  .236/.400/.543, .943 OPS, 13 HR, 30 RBI

Stanton:  .252/.339/.516, .855 OPS, 10 HR, 26 RBI

I feel that the best AL pitchers in October will expose the flaws in Stanton’s swing, whereas Harper seems to have the “it” quality for playoff superstardom. There are no stats to back up those assumptions on my part (total gut feelings) and honestly I am fine moving forward with Stanton for the long-term.  I am just saying that if I had my chance, I’d take the 25 year old Harper over the 28 year old Stanton and age has nothing to do with it.

I am not really trying to rip Stanton and I have not been dissatisfied with his short time in Pinstripes despite some struggles. I suppose it’s not outside of the realm of possibility the Yankees could feature an outfield of Aaron Judge, Harper and Stanton, but that would have been more likely under George Steinbrenner than Hal Steinbrenner.
The way the season is going for the Los Angeles Dodgers (16-24), they’ll be looking to make some impactful moves in the off-season. I am sure they’ll be big game hunting for Harper themselves, but if I was GM Brian Cashman, I’d find a way to move LA-native Stanton to Chavez Ravine and bring Harper to New York.

While I would want Harper on my team, the realist in me knows the off-season money will be better spent on the pitching staff. I think Patrick Corbin would make for a very nice lefty replacement for CC Sabathia. CC’s been a great Yankee, but the end of the line is near. The downside to spending big on pitching is the fragile overall health of top pitchers (case in point, Clayton Kershaw, who seems to enjoy the DL as much as Jacoby Ellsbury). The Yankees will face an ace that could have been theirs tomorrow evening when Max Scherzer takes the hill for the Nats against Sabathia. When Scherzer signed his free agent deal with the Nationals in January 2015, the Yankees had been one of the early favorites to sign the former Tiger ace. If George Steinbrenner was still alive, I am convinced Scherzer would have been a Yankee today.

Perhaps the Yankees make a big pitching move in July. After a couple of promising starts, Sonny Gray Sucks! returned after his dismal performance against his former team last Friday night. I keep hoping that Gray can recapture the elite pitcher status he held while wearing green and gold but so far, he has seemed like just another guy that couldn’t handle New York. My feelings about Gray are starting to turn Javier Vazquez-like. I loved what Vazquez did as a member of the Montreal Expos, but his time in Pinstripes (both times) was very pedestrian.  Every start, I keep hoping Gray will prove me wrong. But we’re just a couple months shy of a year since his acquisition and I’ve not been impressed. During the recent A’s series, it was weird listening to veteran A’s beat reporter Susan Slusser talk about how great Gray pitched for Oakland.  We haven’t seen that guy.

I am not really trying to bash the Yankees today but it seems kind of like I have. Please accept my apology. They hold the best record in Major League Baseball and have a cohesive team that simply refuses to lose. Things haven’t gone perfectly but the same can be said for all other MLB teams. Some teams with playoff aspirations (like the Dodgers) probably wish they could take a mulligan and start the season over. The Yankees have no such thoughts.  28-12, .700 winning percentage, first place in the AL East, and of course the best record in MLB. They overcame the blistering 17-2 start by the Boston Red Sox. I think Yankees fans will gladly take the current state of MLB’s greatest franchise.  So, don’t mind me while I dream of what Bryce Harper might look like in Pinstripes.  It’s just a dream that will never come to fruition.

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That’s fine.  Let’s go win a World Series.

Go Yankees!