Tagged: Luke Voit

Opening Day Success for Tanaka & Company…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yankees Roll behind Tanaka and Voit…

I know, I am late to the party with writing about Opening Day but it was a very exciting day. Great weather, the wonderful presence of unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera throwing out the first pitch (I loved watching #42 fire one from the Yankee Stadium pitching mound), solid pitching by Masahiro Tanaka despite not having his best stuff, a villainous bullpen and a couple of home runs from people not named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It was an awesome day in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/The New York Post

The 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles felt like it could not have been better scripted. It was a great start to the highly anticipated 2019 season by the Yankees. There’s obviously a long ways to go, with 161 more games on the schedule, but it’s better to start with a win than not.

I was around some non-Yankee fans watching the game who took delight when Tanaka gave up a couple of hits in the first inning even if the second infield single hit the lead runner for the final out. They were predicting doom and gloom for Tanaka and the Pinstripers. I know the Yankees were playing MLB’s worst team but I knew Tanaka would persevere. Despite a lackluster Opening Day history, Tanaka seems locked in this year. I certainly wasn’t going to give up hope after a couple of meaningless hits. Tanaka shook off the first inning and never looked back. I think this will be a big season for him.

The Yankees didn’t have to wait long for their first home run of the season. The easy picks would have been Judge or Stanton, but it was Luke Voit who kicked off the 2019 chase to beat the Yankees’ 2018 record of 267 home runs. Granted, the Yankees would end the day six home runs behind the Los Angeles Dodgers but there’s no doubt many balls are going to leave Yankee Stadium this year for the home team. When Luke hit that ball in the bottom of the first inning with Judge and Stanton on base, I wasn’t sure if it was hit hard enough to go out but with his classic hop at the plate, I felt a sense of assurance it did have the necessary distance. Thankfully it easily carried over the center field wall into Monument Park for a 3-0 lead. Miguel Andujar almost made it a four-run game when his fly ball took left fielder Dwight Smith, Jr to the wall but it fell short of clearing the fence.  As many said, that ball would have easily carried out in the heat of August. In cool, crisp March, the ball decided to find Smith’s glove instead.

Aaron Judge may not have hit the first Yankee home run of the season but he did score the first run thanks to Voit’s homer. It was a great game for Judge, who went 2-for-3 with a couple of walks and three runs scored. He only struck out once, showing a very patient eye. Despite the presence of so many great offensive forces in the Yankees’ lineup, Judge is clearly the conductor and the heart and soul of the team’s engine.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

Great game for Luke Voit who also picked up another RBI in the bottom of the fifth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Voit finished with one official at-bat, the three-run homer, with the HBP and two walks. While I didn’t think last year was a fluke for Luke, he still has a long way to go to prove it was not but this was a very good way to start. I have no desire to underestimate the Yankees’ very talented baseball analytics team. The Chasen Shreve/Giovanny Gallegos trade for the former Cardinals minor leaguer, with minimal Big League opportunities, was/is a steal.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

In a game Luis Severino had been slated to start until rotator cuff inflammation forced a change in plans, Tanaka pitched very well. He lasted until the sixth inning when a two-out run scoring double by Trey Mancini (one of the few recognizable names in Baltimore’s lineup) ended his day. 5 2/3 innings pitched, scattering six hits, yielding a couple of runs with only one earned and striking out five was a good day. From there, the Yankees used a bullpen formula we’ll see frequently this year. Adam Ottavino, who ended the sixth inning threat with a seven-pitch strikeout, to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman. I know there was concern with Chapman’s velocity (he was off his usual velocity by 3 to 5 mph) but it’s early. Not time to sound the alarms yet. I’ll go with those who attribute the reduced velocity to the cooler weather and Chapman’s age-induced work to transition from a hard thrower to more of a pitcher. I remain convinced we’ll see triple digits when the warmer weather returns.

Credit to Greg Bird for answering Voit’s home run with a solo dinger in the eighth after three strikeouts.  Bird got the start at first base over Voit, forcing the latter to DH. I really like Voit as the team’s first baseman but I am certainly not going to complain if Bird finally has the year we’ve long waited for. I love Bird’s swing when his bat is happy and healthy.

Although I would have really enjoyed to see David Robertson return to the Yankees for this season, I’ve been excited about the addition of Adam Ottavino since the day he was signed. He had a great Yankees debut with 1 1/3 innings pitched and three strikeouts.  His pitches are wicked. When he’s on, the batters have no chance. If D-Rob has re-signed, the Yankees most likely would not have signed AO. So I am pleased the way things turned out despite how much I liked Robertson.

I think my only disappointment with Opening Day was D.J. LeMahieu sitting on the bench through game’s end. It’s tough being a starter without a position. He is capable of so much more. Hopefully Aaron Boone figures out a good way to keep LeMahieu on the field, with his incredible glove, this season and his productive bat  in the order to help keep runners moving around the bases. LeMahieu is potentially a huge answer to the team’s RISP problem from last season.

Opening Day was a great success particularly considering every AL East team, except for the Yankees, lost. Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox were bludgeoned in Seattle, although they did claw back and win last night’s game after trailing Seattle by two runs in the ninth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Mitch Moreland off the M’s new closer, Hunter Strickland. Bummer that the Mariners traded their great young closer, Edwin Diaz, to the New York Mets in the off-season. If Diaz had been pitching, the Red Sox most likely would have lost their second consecutive game.

It stunk there was no Bronx baseball yesterday but the Yankees and O’s resume their series today. Woohoo! James Paxton will take the ball for his Yankees debut wearing the Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium for the first time. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Nate Karns, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray. I am looking forward to watching Paxton on our side. Hopefully this will be a much better outing than his last Yankee stadium appearance. Last season, on June 21st, he surrendered two first-inning home runs to Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar and lost a 4-3 decision to Luis Severino and the Yankees. On the bright side, the Big Maple won’t have to pitch to Judge and Andujar today since those guys will be playing behind him.

Poor Chasen Shreve. After being designated for assignment by the St Louis Cardinals, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to Memphis. Shreve may get another chance with the Cardinals if the injury bug hits their bullpen (very possible with the presence of injury-beleaguered Andrew Miller) but I am sure this is not how Shreve had planned for this season to play out. I was a little surprised that no team took a chance on Shreve but his stock has certainly fallen. He’s a good guy so I am hopeful he gets another chance but the game is clearly evolving away from lefty specialists. So if he can’t prove he is capable of more, his future is not bright.

Ronald Torreyes also failed to make the cut with the Twins. With an option left, Toe was assigned to Minnesota’s Triple A team in Rochester. The few times I saw him in Spring Training, I thought he looked good and had a chance to make the MLB roster. Hopefully he’ll get his chance to call Target Field home at some point this season. Former Yankees Tyler Austin, Jake Cave and Michael Pineda were all part of Minnesota’s Opening Day roster. Austin’s spot seems to be the most tenuous as he’ll be the odd man out when Miguel Sano is activated off the Injured List. With no options left, Austin’s future looks murky. The Twins have C.J. Cron at first and Nelson Cruz at DH. Both spots can be backed by Marwin Gonzalez so Austin represents a luxury with no real spot once Sano is back at third. These things have a way of working themselves out so hopefully Austin carves out a significant role with the Twins. If not, he’ll be packing his bags and moving on to the next city.

Bryan Mitchell was another ex-Yank to get the guillotine. Sent to the San Diego Padres in the salary-dump trade involving Chase Headley, Mitchell had been expected to be part of San Diego’s starting rotation this year. He was designated for assignment a couple of days ago and now awaits his fate. Ex-Yank Jose Pirela, a part of the Padres’ MLB roster the last few years, was optioned to El Paso. Nobody ever watches Padres games so I’m not sure anybody will notice. Hopefully Mitchell gets an opportunity with another organization to fulfill the promise he once held as a Yankees prospect. If not, he’ll be catching up with Pirela in West Texas for some Margaritas.

Keeping on track with the ex-Yankees theme, I was glad to see Melky Cabrera get another chance. In camp as a non-roster invitee with the Pirates, he was added to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster when outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the injured list. I can still remember those great victory celebrations when Melky was a Yankee but Cabrera has traveled through many cities since that time. Hopefully he’ll get to spend some meaningful time in the Steel City. Former Yankees seem to do well in Pittsburgh.

One-time Yankees’ top prospect Mason Williams also gets another chance. After playing with the Cincinnati Reds organization the last couple of seasons, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday after being cut by the Reds a couple of weeks ago. He’ll report to Baltimore’s top farm team in Norfolk, VA. It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were hoping for great things in Pinstripes for Williams. I guess if you want an opportunity to play, signing with a talent-devoid organization is the way to go. No doubt he’ll find his way to Camden Yards at some point this year if he proves himself in Triple A.

I continue to be amazed no team has signed either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel. I really thought they’d be signed before the start of the season. I had fully expected the Milwaukee Brewers to grab Kimbrel after it was announced closer Corey Knebel would need Tommy John surgery but I guess the presence of premier bullpen shutdown artist Josh Hader lessens the need.  Keuchel can help almost any team win more games. I kept expecting him to be a late training camp sign by his former team, the Houston Astros, but it never happened. The Astros still seem like his best option but for now, he has to throw every five days on his own dime. If I was the GM of the Atlanta Braves, I’d be all over Keuchel to help with the highly competitive NL East. Maybe the baseball analytics are right about the regression of Keuchel, but I have to believe he can still help somebody.

I am very glad the baseball season is back. It’s been a long off-season. Spring training is nice but it gets old after awhile. It’s awesome to see games that count once again. I am hopeful these games lead to an AL East championship and a highly successful October for the Yankees. We’ve waited a very long time for this year. As they say, time will tell but I like our chances.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Tired of Wading for the Outfield…

Yanks Acquire, Surprise!, Another Colorado Rockie…

The Yankees acquired outfielder Mike Tauchman from the Colorado Rockies on Saturday for reliever Phillip Diehl. Diehl had opened some eyes with his performance in Yankees camp this Spring but as a lefty specialist, he did not have a clear path to the Bronx (especially with next year’s minimum three-batter rule). Hopefully he develops into something more for the Rockies.   

Not sure why The New York Post ran with a photo of Los Angeles Angels minor league second baseman Luis Rengifo as their representation of Tauchman but to their defense, both guys do wear beards.

Granted, I don’t know Tauchman personally but I think he looks more like this:

Either way, lose the beard, Mr Tauchman.

I was surprised the Yankees made the trade. I had felt the team was comfortable moving forward with Tyler Wade acting as the team’s fourth outfielder since Aaron Hicks will begin the year on the Injured List. It would have forced Giancarlo Stanton to play more left field than the team would have liked so maybe that was the motivation behind Tauchman’s acquisition.  

Tauchman does not have much history at the game’s highest level. Despite making his Major League debut in 2017, he has only accumulated 59 at-bats in 69 plate appearances over 52 games for the Colorado Rockies. He only has nine hits, including a double and triple, and has driven in a couple of runs. That’s it in a very small sample size. Not even worth showing his batting line. Yet, the 28-year-old left-handed swinger has had very good success at Triple A. Granted, he played last year in a hitter’s friendly park for the Albuquerque Isotopes but he did manage to hit .323/.408/.571, with .978 OPS, in 403 at-bats over 112 games.  He hit 20 home runs and drove in 81 RBIs for the Isotopes. Sure, it feels a little like Garrett Cooper’s stats for Milwaukee’s top farm team in Colorado Springs, CO when the Yankees acquired him a couple years ago (inflated by the mountain air). But this also has similarities to Luke Voit. A potentially under-valued player who has not been afforded sufficient big league opportunity due to a plethora of players at his position.  

The Rockies also seem to have a glut of outfielders. Last year, their starters from left to right were Gerardo Parra, Charlie Blackmon, and Carlos Gonzalez. Parra now resides in San Francisco and CarGo is in camp with the Cleveland Indians on a minor league contract, but the Rockies still have outfield surplus. Blackmon has moved from center to right, Ian Desmond takes over in center after being pushed off first base by Daniel Murphy’s signing, and David Dahl, finally healthy, eyes a breakout year in left. Raimel Tapia, with an ability to play all three outfield spots, is the fourth outfielder. So, the Rockies outfield was still crowded and the team needed to make room for non-roster invitee first baseman Mark Reynolds. Tauchman was the odd man out and now becomes the Tauch of the Town for the Yankees.  

I feel bad for Tyler Wade. It seemed like this was finally his year. However, he was optioned to Triple A this morning which presumably opens a spot for Tauchman to join the team for its travel to New York City. D.J. LeMahieu represents the bench strength for the infield, even if he’ll play nearly every day. The Yankees will employ an infield rotation reminiscent of Dave Roberts and the Los Angeles Dodgers to keep guys fresh and LeMahieu on the field, but realistically Wade was a luxury at that point for the infield with limited experience playing the outfield. Tauchman, meanwhile, a true outfielder, can play all three outfield spots, making him a more desirable fourth outfielder. It’s not like Wade has hit at the MLB level so this appears to be another analytics-driven move and those have generally worked out well for the Yankees. It does kind of make me wonder if Wade will ever get a legitimate shot with the Yankees or if he’ll need to move to another organization for his breakout chance. At this point, injuries seem to be the only way Wade will wear the famed Pinstripes in the foreseeable future, and I’d prefer everyone to stay healthy. The Yankees cleared room on the 40-man roster for Tauchman by placing LHP Jordan Montgomery on the 60-day Injured List (expected since Gumby continues to recover from last year’s Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready to help until probably August at the earliest).

Tauchman is 6’2″ and 220 lbs. He was taken in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. The Palatine, IL native made his Major League debut in June 27, 2017. Pinch-hitting for the pitcher, he grounded out in the 12th inning of 4-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants. D.J. LeMahieu was pulled in the fourth inning of that game with a right groin cramp. Former Yankee Chad Qualls took the loss for the Rockies. The Rockies scored all of their runs on a 6th inning homer by former Yank Mark Reynolds.  

Welcome to the Yankees family, Mike! We hope, like Luke Voit, this is the opportunity you’ve waited a lifetime for. We’d love nothing more than for you to become a household name in the Yankees Universe. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to prove Brian Cashman and his Analytics Team are truly the Modern Day geniuses in Major League Baseball.

The Yankees are in Fort Meyers, FL today to play the Minnesota Twins for their final exhibition game in Florida. It will be a good opportunity to catch up with old friends Tyler Austin, Ronald Torreyes, Michael Pineda, Blake Parker and Jake Cave. The Yankees will begin the journey home tomorrow when they play their final Spring game in Washington, D.C. at Nationals Park against the Bryce Harper-less Nats. Opening Day is close, very close.  Is it Thursday yet?… 

CC Sabathia, as expected, will be on the Opening Day Roster (although he’ll be suspended for the first five games of the season). He won’t be allowed in the dugout with the team during the game, but he’ll be able to experience the final Opening Day festivities of his glorious career. For CC, I am happy he’ll be a part of Opening Day even if he’ll have to watch the game from Hal Steinbrenner’s luxury suite. Since the Yankees will open the season with only 24 active players, I am glad that they are facing the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers for the first five short-handed games, and will be back at full strength for the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros in mid-April. Jonathan Loaisiga was optioned to Triple A, but he’ll return once CC finishes his suspension and is placed on the 10-day Injured List.

Congratulations to LHP reliever Stephen Tarpley for winning the James P. Dawson Award as the best rookie in camp this Spring. Looking forward to seeing what Tarpley can do for the Yankees this year. He is part of perhaps the greatest bullpen in history. No pressure.

As always, Go Yankees!

Tanaka vs Cobb, Let’s Get This Party Started…

In two weeks, the doors of Yankee Stadium will open…

Ready or not, Opening Day is a scant fourteen days away. On Thursday, March 28th, at 1:05 pm EDT, Masahiro Tanaka will fire the first official 2019 pitch at Yankee Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles and we’ll be off to the races for 162 games PLUS (heavy emphasis on the ‘plus’). The Orioles have announced RHP Alex Cobb will get the Opening Day nod over Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner.

Cobb signed with Baltimore as a free agent in late March last year and it showed with disastrous April results. He lost his first three starts with 13.11 ERA and 2.83 WHIP.  A 6.03 K/9 pitcher for the year, he was unable to strike anyone out in two of those first three games. With the benefit of a full training camp, Cobb should be more prepared for his second season in Birdland. Steamer projects a 9-13 record in 31 starts with 4.89 ERA (4.50 xFIP) and 1.6 fWAR. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long to hear Michael Kay’s first “There it goes! See ya!” of the new season. I don’t think any of the Orioles pitchers strike fear in the hearts of the Yankees, and it should be a good opportunity to get the season started on the right foot.

It was reported this week the MLB Players Association and MLB have agreed upon the elimination of the waiver trading deadline in August which makes the July non-waivers deadline a hard date for player trades. This year’s trading deadline is Wednesday, July 31st. In theory, it should spark more trade activity in July than in years past and will force teams to make earlier decisions about whether they are buyers and sellers. I am probably most concerned about potential injuries in August and the need to fill unplanned vacancies from within the organization. Depth at certain positions can be weak so it will force organizations to work harder to cover depth at all positions in the off-season which I suppose is an intended consequence.  The change is effective this year.

Another change is the expansion of roster size from 25 to 26 players in 2020 with a maximum of 13 pitchers. On September 1st of 2020, the expansion of rosters will be reduced from 40 to 28 players and no more than 14 pitchers. At face value, I am glad to see the addition of a bench spot for another position player. The transition of the game to deeper bullpens has left bench roles perilously thin. Hopefully the addition of a player will help keep guys fresher for the long season. While the change is not effective this year, the potential 26th men at the present time are Clint Frazier and the expected loser of the first base competition, Greg Bird.

The new MLB-MLBPA deal is expected to be announced today.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, other changes include the three-batter minimum for pitchers although a start of a new inning would allow a pitching substitution. I think back a couple of years and wonder what it would have been like if the Yankees had been forced to use Tyler Clippard for at least three consecutive batters on days when he simply didn’t have it. I can see a pitcher coming into a game with an inability to throw strikes and suddenly the bases are loaded…or worse. I get the pace of play implications but I guess the traditionalist in me would like to see the game decisions in the hands of the managers. Silly me. There’s also a new $1 million bonus for the winner of the All-Star Home Run Derby. Makes me wonder if it will influence a lower paid guy like Aaron Judge to participate. I know Judge makes most of his money through endorsements right now but I am sure that a way to pick up an extra mil is enticing for some.

It was a bummer that last night’s Spring Training game against the Philadelphia Phillies was not televised. Although the game ended in a 5-5 tie, it was Bryce Harper’s first Phillies start against the Yankees.  If for no other reason, I am looking forward to the regular season so that every game is televised. Harper was booed  unmercifully by the Yankee fans at Steinbrenner Field or so they say since I didn’t actually see it. I don’t really get it. It’s not Bryce’s fault that he is not a Yankee.  The Yankees chose not to pursue him in free agency despite the wishes of the fans. Bryce is on record saying the Yankees never reached out to him despite his childhood love for the Pinstripes. If Bryce historically crushed Yankee pitching, then maybe that’s a reason to boo him but he has been largely ineffective in his short body of work facing the Yankees. I would have liked for the Yankees to sign Harper but they didn’t and we must move on. I know I am very excited to see what Year 2 brings for Giancarlo Stanton. Regardless of whether you preferred Harper over Stanton, I think Stanton is going to be more relaxed this year and will more closely resemble the player that dominated baseball in 2017 for the Miami Marlins.

Back to the first base competition, I thought it was funny when it was reported yesterday that Aaron Boone was wearing a Luke Voit t-shirt in the clubhouse. Boone also commented that Voit batting cleanup (as he did last night) could carry into the season, adding that he could see Voit anywhere from third to sixth in the order. In other words, it is Greg Bird and not Voit who should be making living accommodations in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.

Jose Canseco, shut up! Your fifteen minutes of fame came and went. Let it go, Cheater. Alex Rodriguez owes you nothing.

Credit: Getty Images

For those of you who are New York Jets fans, my apologies for the Anthony Barr situation but I am glad it worked out the way it did. Granted, Barr, a linebacker, is not a superstar level player but I like his role in Minnesota’s defense. I’ve been a lifelong Vikings fan. I think Barr is capable of so much more and I hope the Vikings use Barr as an edge rusher like the Jets intended to do. For those of you not following, Barr had agreed to a free agent deal with the Jets on Monday, only to renege the next morning and subsequently sign an extension to stay in Minneapolis. I had been dreading NFL free agency, fearful of losing Barr. The Vikings had done a good job of signing their young core players despite the massive overpay for QB Kirk Cousins, but Barr had remained unsigned. With salary cap implications, it appeared Barr would be wearing a different uniform this Fall. For a few hours earlier this week, the Jets fans thought he’d be wearing hunter green and white.  For all of Minnesota’s free agents, Barr was the one I wanted to keep. Jets fans were unhappy about his change of heart but I was truly grateful. It kind of reminded me of the time David Wells had a change of heart after agreeing to a two-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and signed with the Yankees on a napkin. There may not have been a napkin involved with Barr but the impact is the same. Glad he’s on my team.

As always, Go Yankees!

Bryce Harper and the Unlucky 13 in Philadelphia…

harper_phillies_site
Credit: Sports Illustrated

In the End, Money Wins…

So, Bryce Harper will never wear Pinstripes. Well, not the right color of Pinstripes, that is. After the long and at times excruciating wait, Bryce will call Philadelphia home for the next thirteen years. $330 million ensured that if Bryce had any misgivings about the City of Brotherly Love or if he wasn’t exactly enamored with the personality of the Phillies manager, Gabe Kapler, it wasn’t something that money could not overcome. I guess you could say that Philadelphia’s own Benjamin Franklin had a say in the matter.

Franklin-in-the-100-bill

I am disappointed, for sure. When the off-season began, I had hoped the Yankees would sign either Harper or Manny Machado. In fact, I felt sure they would grab one of those guys. While the Yankees had some lukewarm interest in Machado, they were never players for Harper. Oh well, what are you going to do – boycott the team? That’s foolish. The 2019 New York Yankees are a very good team. This is certainly the best team since 2009 and we know how that one ended. In many ways, you could say this team is better than the 2009 World Champions.

Jake Story, one of the co-leaders of the Talkin’ Yanks Podcast, tweeted this yesterday after the Harper announcement:

Talkin Jake

I saw so many reactions to Harper’s contract with Philadelphia but I felt Jake accurately and uniquely summed up exactly how I felt.

I really thought Harper or Machado would provide the Yankees’ with clear separation from the Boston Red Sox. Last year, the Red Sox were eight games better than the Yankees and they rolled past us in the AL Division Playoffs on their way to the World Series championship. I know, you can claim many of the Sox players had career years or that they have no bullpen this season. From my perspective, they are, sadly, the MLB Champs until proven otherwise. I didn’t want to beat the Red Sox this year…I wanted to crush them. Probably my biggest fear as we head into the new season is saying “I wish we had signed Harper or Machado” in October.

But Jake’s correct. We must have hope GM Brian Cashman is right about this team. He knows far more about the Yankees than we ever will. For Yankee fans to trash the Steinbrenner family or threaten to boycott games makes absolutely no sense to me. You can count on one hand the number of teams that tried to improve themselves as hard as the Yankees did this past off-season. The Boston Red Sox did nothing. They re-signed Nasty Nate (Nathan Eovaldi) but you and I know that carries a huge risk on a long-term deal. He’s a great guy but he is a two-time Tommy John recipient that throws incredibly hard. They let their top setup man, Joe Kelly, depart via free agency, and their closer, Craig Kimbrel, remains unsigned with Boston seemingly disinterested in a reunion due to the financial impact. The Yankees have the better bullpen, no question, but I do stand by the belief the Yankees bullpen will not be as great as the fans’ expectations and the Red Sox bullpen won’t be as horrific as Yankee fans seem to think. You know there will be bumps in the road for the greatest of bullpens. Relief arms can be so fickle at times. So, to simply believe we are going to beat Boston because of the respective bullpens is flawed thinking. They still have some very good baseball players on that team. While I think the Yankees will win the AL East this year, it would be very frustrating if we head into October as a Wild Card team again for the one game ‘do-or-die’. We may have won the last two Wild Card games, but inevitably the law of averages will bite us in the butt. I’d rather head into the playoffs with a five-game series and take our chances.

I can’t blame the Yankees for not wanting to make a ten to thirteen-year commitment for one player. Bryce Harper is not the best player in baseball even if he is paid like it. I know that the Phillies went thirteen years to drive down the AAV for luxury tax purposes but that’s a huge commitment regardless of the dollars involved. I thought the rumored offer by the Los Angeles Dodgers (four years for $168 million) made all the sense in the World. Bryce would have gotten more than enough money to live with the highest AAV in the game and the opportunity to test the free agent market again at age 30. However, I get Bryce’s desire to play in one city for the rest of his career. He is concerned about his legacy and playing in a stadium that gives him 40+ home run potential every year will allow him to pad his stats more than he might have accomplished at Dodger Stadium or Oracle Park in San Francisco. I am sure this was very enticing to him. He would have looked great in Yankee Stadium (building a greater legacy playing for Baseball’s most storied franchise) but I recognize by not signing Harper, the chances the Yankees spend big money to retain Didi Gregorius are increased.  I don’t want to lose Gregorius so maybe this off-season’s ‘Harpchado’ fiasco is a silver lining when all is said and done. Like they say, sometimes the best trade is the one not made at all. So, the best signing for Yankees might be the no signings of Harper and Machado.

Capture

It’s a bummer we are in a stretch of non-televised Spring games. Gary Sanchez makes his Spring debut later today and we cannot watch unless we are at Steinbrenner Field. The next televised game (YES Network) is Sunday’s split squad game in Tampa against the uninspiring Detroit Tigers.

Troy Tulowitzski hit his second game of the Spring in yesterday’s 8-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates or so I read since I couldn’t watch the game with my own eyes.  It’s a little too early to get excited about Tulo but for as much as I’ve been down on the signing, I am intrigued by the energy and excitement he is bringing to games.  I am hoping he stays healthy and doesn’t go Ellsbury on us. If he can maintain his current physical condition, he might be able to help this season as long as Manager Aaron Boone does not overuse him. I know the plan is to give him frequent breaks, with Gleyber Torres sliding over from second base to spell him a few times per week, until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Hopefully the Yankees can stick to the plan and not be forced into a situation where we are dependent upon Tulo every day.  I have the same concerns about Brett Gardner but I digress. I am cautiously optimistic for a successful rebound season for the former Rockie/Blue Jay and hope he allays my fears. If it doesn’t work, the Yankees cut bait and move on but I sincerely hope he’s better than that.

The first base battle has been fun to watch so far this Spring. Both Luke Voit and Greg Bird are, pardon the cliché, ‘in it to win it’. Bird has played four games, with five hits in eight at-bats, a homer, two doubles and three RBIs.  Voit, the favorite entering Camp according to Boone, has played two games, with two hits in four at-bats, a homer and four RBIs. Small sample sizes, yes, but the guys are trying hard to impress. Love the effort. As down as I’ve been on Bird, it would be awesome for him to finally unlock his potential, staying healthy, with that beautiful left-handed swing in Yankee Stadium. If not, I hope Voit grabs the job and doesn’t let go. If the Yankees are not looking for a new first baseman in July, life will be good.

I don’t know why but there’s a part of me that would like to see the Yankees re-sign reliever Adam Warren. After being shipped away twice, I am not sure why Warren would want to come back to the Bronx or if there is even room in the bullpen for him, but I guess I’d rather see Warren as a Yankee than watch him end up in a place like Boston or Tampa. That’s just one of those sentimental, non-analytical feelings that serves absolutely no place in today’s game.

As a residual effect of the Bryce Harper signing, GM Brian Cashman should call Phillies GM Matt Klentak to find out what it would take to acquire left fielder Nick Williams. Williams is the player most directly impacted by Harper’s presence. He has underperformed in Philly but the 25-year-old lefty has some game.  Per Fangraphs, “These days prospects are supposed to offer instant gratification. With just one win above replacement through his first 791 plate appearances, Nick Williams has fallen short of expectations. Even though his offensive numbers technically declined between 2017 and 2018, extreme good fortune (a .375 BABIP) helped to fuel his rookie campaign. His peripherals improved last season including a seven-point drop in his swinging strike rate. His walk and strikeout rates moved in the right directions in large part due to massive gains to his plate discipline. As a hitter, Williams still has kinks. A trade of ground balls for more fly balls would better fit his sweet lefty swing if it can be achieved without more strikeouts. Despite above average speed, Williams shows no proclivity to run on the bases, and he’s posted bafflingly bad defensive marks. There’s a good chance time and experience will fix his ill-adventures in the outfield.” Williams, in my opinion, could be a good ‘buy low/high reward’ candidate. Exactly the type of player Cashman likes to accumulate. If the Yankees do not want to over-expose Giancarlo Stanton in left field, Williams could be a good platoon partner for Brett Gardner if the organization is down on Clint Frazier.

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Credit: USA TODAY Sports

For as much as we laugh about the Miami Marlins, I am really digging their new uniforms. Hats off to Marlins CEO Derek Jeter for bringing the new look to his franchise. Or maybe we should say, hats on.

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Credit: AP

I feel sorry for the Marlins this year as they are going to get their clocks cleaned by the Mets, Nationals, Braves, and Phillies in the highly competitive NL East but at least they’ll be look cool as they walk off the field with another loss.

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March has arrived so we’ve entered the month of true Yankees baseball…finally. With Opening Day just four weeks from yesterday, we’ll see the players ramping up over the next couple of weeks. The Boston Red Sox rode a hot start last April to the most successful season in franchise history. I am not expecting a similar historic start for the Yankees this year, but it would be nice for them to jump out of the gate strong. With the first nine games against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, both expected to have losing seasons, there’s no reason the Yankees can’t build an early division lead before they go head-to-head with the AL Elite Red Sox and Astros in early to mid-April. Exciting times. Let’s make this a Championship year!

As always, Go Yankees!

Happy Reporting Day for Yankee Pitchers and Catchers…

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Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

The Dawn of the 2019 MLB Season…

After a painfully long off-season filled with too many rumors and rampant speculation, Yankee pitchers and catchers officially report to training camp in Tampa, FL today to begin preparations for the upcoming season. Granted, many of the Yankee players are already in Tampa, working out informally, but Spring Training officially gets underway today with the first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers tomorrow.

Meanwhile, position players can spend Valentine’s Day with their loved ones although many, like Aaron Judge, Troy Tulowitzki, Didi Gregorius, Clint Frazier and others, are already in camp in advance of Monday’s reporting date. The first full team workout will be next Tuesday.

I really thought there would be movement with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this week. Of course, I’ve been thinking that every week since the start of the new year.  At this point, I don’t really know when they’ll sign. I still think they’ll be in some team’s camp, either in Florida or Arizona, before Opening Day but who knows. I feel so bad for the other guys. The free agents not named Machado or Harper. So many guys who can make a difference on a Major League roster, like Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, and they can’t find work. Clearly something has to change. For the Yankees, they appear to have the guys who will compete for the Opening Day roster barring any last-minute additions. Even if the Yankees didn’t sign Machado or Harper, they’ve been one of the more active teams this off-season.

The biggest battle to watch this Spring is the first base competition between Luke Voit and Greg Bird. By the way, Happy Birthday to Luke!  He is 28 years old today. DJ LeMahieu will apparently also see time at first in his role as the utility player for the team (which makes no sense to me). I’d like to see Voit win the job outright, continuing his late season run from last year.  I like his energy and excitement.  It’s infectious and spreads to his teammates. I would love to see Greg Bird hit the way we know he can but, like many people, I am tired of waiting. My guess is Bird goes to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to find himself if Voit wins the job. Bird’s sweet left-handed swing would look beautiful in Yankee Stadium but I am losing confidence we’ll ever see it consistently. For as much as I want Voit to win the job, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Bird killed it this Spring to reclaim the position for himself. That would be a great problem to have.

I just can’t wrap my head around the thought that Troy Tulowitzki is the starting shortstop. In my mind, he’s done. If he shows anything in camp, great, but realistically, I am not expecting anything from him. Team defense, in my opinion, is better served with Gleyber Torres at short and DJ LeMahieu, and his gold glove, at second until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Tulo is such a Wild Card at the moment. He could make the Opening Day roster and be the starting shortstop or he could by cut by the end of March when the team identifies its best 25 players. Honestly, neither would surprise me. But I think LeMahieu is the better player at this point and the Yankees have a greater investment in him. I find it very hard to believe that LeMahieu is simply the new Ronald Torreyes. He is better and deserves better.

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Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Out in left field, dependence on Brett Gardner as the starter is flawed logic. A fourth outfielder at best at this stage of his career, it would be better for Clint Frazier to win the job (unlikely) or put Giancarlo Stanton in left more often which is always a risk since he carried the injury-risk label until his monster 2017 season when he won the NL MVP Award for the Miami Marlins. DH is the best way to keep Stanton healthy and hitting the way he did during his MVP year. Jacoby Ellsbury, if healthy, looms as a threat to take a roster spot away from Frazier for Opening Day. I anxiously look forward to the day when Ellsbury and the Yankees part ways. While I don’t expect him on the field Opening Day, the possibility exists he is there if healthy.  The problem with Ellsbury is even if he is healthy, it won’t stay that way. The King of the DL will become the King of the new IL (“Injured List”). Let those insurance checks keep rolling in for Team Hal.

The only other real competition will be the last spots in the bullpen. Tommy Kahnle is expected to take one of the jobs, assuming he can pitch like he did in 2017. I really hope that the last man in the pen is not Luis Cessa. That’s another guy I’d like to see leave. I would prefer the last spot go to either Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga as the swing man/spot starter assuming the Yankees do not bring anyone else into Camp.  Let German and Lasagna duke it out in the Spring with the best arm heading north to the Bronx in late March. Danny Farquhar probably looms as a sentimental favorite for many after last year’s brain hemorrhage. If Kahnle fails to win a job and Farquhar proves he should be one of the bullpen finalists, I’d like to see him get it.

It’s an exciting time in the Yankees Universe. We have one of the best teams in Baseball right now. If this team can perform to its expectations, we should be watching Yankees baseball deep into October. Hopefully, this season will not see the Boston Red Sox spilling champagne on Yankee Stadium soil. It would be much better for the Yankees to return the favor with celebrations at Fenway Park while sounds of New York, New York reverberate through its halls. I know, it would be better for the Yankees to celebrate at home, in front of Yankee fans, but there’s a part of me that wants to see the Yankees in googles and bubbly in the very heart of the Red Sox Nation.

I was a little disappointed to see Jorge Posada is joining the Miami Marlins organization as a special adviser.  I know, it was destined to be considering Jorge’s close relationship with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter but it’s still tough now that it is actually happening.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

It’s difficult to watch 50% of the Core Four representing another MLB organization. Plus, a third Yankees retired number currently manages the team. I guess we should be thankful the Marlins are in the National League so the Yankees do not play them very often. Credit to Alex Rodriguez for maintaining his alliance with the Yankees after the end of his playing career.  I know part of it was the renegotiation of his playing contract into special services for Hal Steinbrenner, but A-Rod could have severed ties as he pursued his broadcast career with FOX and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Posada’s move makes me very thankful for Mariano Rivera, my favorite member of the Core Four. Rivera recently announced his intention to be a pitching consultant for the Yankees (teaching pitching in the organization in a to-be-determined role).  I’d really like to see the Yankees get Andy Pettitte back in the family. I’ve always thought he’d be a tremendous pitching coach and I’d love to see him transition back into pro coaching as an eventual successor for Larry Rothschild. We may have lost Jeter and Posada for now, but I don’t want to lose either Rivera or Pettitte. Eventually Don Mattingly will get fired.  Not that I want him to lose his job, but when the inevitable parting of the ways occurs, I am hopeful that Mattingly can find his way home.  Maybe not as a manager, but I look forward to the day when Donnie Baseball is a frequent visitor to Yankee Stadium again even if it is only for Spring Training and Old Timer’s Day.

It’s exciting to see the images of Spring Training. I am glad we’re getting the band together again and look forward to the first exhibition game a week from Saturday in Fort Myers, FL against the hated Boston Red Sox. This is the year we take them down. AL East Championship, American League Championship, World Series Championship. The time is now. Let’s end Boston’s reign.

As always, Go Yankees!

Zach in the New York Groove…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)

Yankees to re-sign LHP Zach Britton…

The old Ace Frehley song seems so appropriate. With some slight alteration, …Zach’s back, back in the New York groove!

I was very pleased to see last night’s news. I don’t know who broke the news first, but it was a Jeff Passan/ESPN tweet that caught my attention. It’s always fun to see a story break on Twitter. First, it’s a random tweet or two and then it’s an avalanche. I wasn’t really expecting major news on a Saturday night but I’ll gladly take it.

The Yankees and Britton’s agent, Scott Boras, were able to get creative with the structure of the deal. It is essentially a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year. The Yankees must guarantee the fourth year after the completion of the 2020 season. If they do not, Britton has the right to opt-out  or he can choose to complete the third year. The contract pays $13 million per year, which guarantees Britton $39 million if he does not opt out. The fourth year, if exercised, would pay $14 million, bringing the total value to $53 million. If Britton is traded during the contract, he’ll get an assignment bonus of $1 million according to Ken Rosenthal.

I am excited to know Britton will be returning to join Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances at the back end of the Yankees bullpen. I’ve heard the complaints about his control but he got progressively better after the deadline trade that brought him to the Bronx from Baltimore. I think with a full spring training (he was unable to participate last year with the Orioles) and the further distance from the surgery on his right Achilles tendon in December 2017, he’ll be much closer to the elite reliever we saw in 2016 when he was electric for the Birds. In ’16, he was 2-1, 0.54 ERA in 69 games, converting all 47 save chances he was given. Britton set an American League record with 60 consecutive saves from October 1, 2015 through August 21, 2017.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Carr)

After joining the Yankees last summer, Britton was 1-0 with 2.88 ERA in 25 games, with 21 strikeouts. Although he got a late start to the 2018 season, he had the best groundball rate for any pitcher in MLB with at least 40 innings (73.0%).

The off-season assumption had been Britton would leave for a closing opportunity despite his late season comments about wanting to win more than collecting saves. Early in the off-season, he was connected to the St Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox, but surprisingly in the end, the Yankees’ primary rival for Britton’s services was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Brian Cashman was able to beat his former chief lieutenant, Angels GM Billy Eppler, by offering more guaranteed money. The Cardinals took themselves out of the running by signing Andrew Miller and the Phillies, as we know, snagged David Robertson. The Red Sox are feeling the pain of high payroll and are waiting for prices to fall. I think eventually Craig Kimbrel’s asking price will come back into their range. There’s no way he is going to get $100 million regardless of his track record.

When season ended, I had wanted the Yankees to get one of Britton, Robertson or Adam Ottavino. After D-Rob moved on, I was hopeful for at least Britton or Ottavino but now that Britton is back in the fold, I want Ottavino too. I am excited about the potential of guys like Tommy Kahnle (if he can return to 2017 form), Stephen Tarpley, Domingo Acevedo, Chance Adams and others, but Ottavino would truly cap a return to a super bullpen, perhaps the best in Major League Baseball. With continued questions in the starting rotation, this is a must.

With no further moves, the 2019 Yankees are looking very good. Still need a strong defensive shortstop to back up Troy Tulowitzki. Adeiny Hechavarria or Jose Iglesias, come on down! Actually, this could be a great opportunity for Hanser Alberto to make the Show. But imagine this team if they can sign Manny Machado and Adam Ottavino. I’d call that a very successful off-season. Regardless of what happens, I feel better about the team today than I did yesterday morning. I was worried that the holes in the bullpen would be filled with lesser talent. I guess one should never underestimate Brian Cashman and his ability to get Hal Steinbrenner to loosen the grip on his wallet.

Photo Credit: ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Once Britton takes his physical and the contract is finalized, the Yankees will have to make another roster decision. RHP A.J. Cole lost his seat at the table with Tulo’s signing. Next up appears to be Luis Cessa, Ben Heller or Joe Harvey if the Yankees can find a suitable trade partner as those guys have some value. Heller, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April, might be the most vulnerable despite my preference to see Cessa go. Tim Locastro appears safe for now but things could change if Machado signs with the Yankees.

There’s been some talk about first base and the Yankees’ intent to go into Spring Training with Luke Voit as the starter. I don’t mind first base competition between Voit and Greg Bird. I know a few of us are getting tired of Bird’s inability to take advantage of opportunities due to a variety of injuries but I also know I am not ready to give up on Bird’s talents (apparently neither are the Yankees). I liked the energy Voit brought to the team but conversely I enjoy Bird’s sweet swing. My only hope is the better player gets the job and the other backs him up. At this point, I can’t say if it should be Voit or Bird. The competition begins in earnest next month so we’ll soon see. First base is a position I’ll be watching closely when the Grapefruit League games begin but I am cautiously optimistic we’ll be pleased with the outcome, whatever it may be. May the best man win.  Ready, set, go…

Photo Credit: AP, via NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

As always, Go Yankees!

The Yanks are a Wild Card…

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

New York secures one-game ‘do-or-die’ playoff…

As expected, the Yankees secured a post-season berth on Saturday when the Tampa Bay Rays lost followed by the extra-innings win by the Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles.

The only thing that seems weird to me is breaking champagne as if you had just won the division. I think I read that 120 bottles of Moet & Chandon met their fate. I guess I should appreciate the Yankees have extended their season by one game and if they can win that one, they’ll move on to join the division winners for the divisional playoffs. Once they are in the divisional playoffs, anything can happen. We know the Yankees can beat any team if they are playing to their abilities. I know that it was not officially a Wild Card game (which didn’t exist back then), but I am sure the 1978 Yankees and Red Sox did not pop bubbly at the end of the regular season when they finished in a tie for the AL East and had to play the memorable Bucky “F——ing” Dent tie-breaker at Fenway Park. I know, there are ten other teams in the American League that wish their season wasn’t ending a week from today and would be very excited to play one game for the right to advance. So, congratulations to the Yankees for giving themselves a chance.

I have a more business-like approach. Let’s secure the home position for the Wild Card and focus on winning the single game elimination. When it is over and if the Yankees emerge victorious, that’s truly cause for celebration.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Right now, my primary concern for the Yankees is to hold off the Oakland A’s for the top spot in the Wild Card standings. After the Yankees game had ended, I watched the end of the A’s matchup against the Minnesota Twins. The A’s loaded the bases against the Twins in the bottom of the ninth with the game deadlocked at two. Mark Canha battled Twins closer Trevor Hildenberger in an 11-pitch at-bat before striking out for the second out. It looked like the Twins might get out of the jam with one more out, but on the very next pitch to Matt Chapman, Hildenberger threw a wild pitch past catcher Willians Astudillo to basically gift wrap the victory for the A’s as Stephen Piscotty easily raced home for the winning run. That moment was very disheartening. So, the Yankees maintained their 1 1/2 game lead over Oakland (two in the loss column and the Yankees hold the tie breaker).

The A’s can clinch the second Wild Card spot today with a Rays loss or an A’s win. If the Rays are eliminated, I think they’ll still be very motivated to beat the Yankees in the upcoming series because it will be their “playoff” even if they aren’t going anywhere. Hats off to Kevin Cash and his Rays. I know I certainly did not expect them to have 86 wins on September 23rd.

For those of you who follow Twitter (some very begrudgingly like Bryan Van Dusen), you probably saw this tweet. Courtesy of the twitter account of Brendan Kuty, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (@BrendanKutyNJ):

Judge said he pulled aside Luke Voit during the celebration. “We wouldn’t be in this position right now if it wasn’t for you. You coming over here, I know it was a slow start, but you picked it up and you picked us up and when we needed the big hit, you came through for us.”

Big words from a big man, and words very well deserved for Luke Voit. Voit launched his 11th home run for the Yankees yesterday with a solo blast in the second inning. It eventually ensured the game would go into extra innings for the Yankees to win it. For those counting at home, Voit has 11 homers and 25 RBIs for the Yankees and his batting line is .314/.385/.648 with 1.032 OPS. The guy’s been incredible and he has made Greg Bird irrelevant.

Photo Credit: Getty Imaes (Mike Stobe)

As for Aaron Judge, his return to the active roster has been huge. I know he was a presence in the dugout during his lengthy stay on the disabled list, cheering on his teammates, but this is a different team when he is in the lineup. I’ve felt all season that he is the heartbeat of the team and this month has proven it to be so true. I really think Judge should be the next Captain for the Yankees. He is the team’s MVP and clearly its leader, a role that will continue to grow for him. The “fun” is returning to the team and it is no doubt directly tied to Aaron Judge. He is a worthy successor for future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.

Hopefully Aaron Hicks was not hurt too badly when he fouled the pitch off his ankle in the bottom of the eleventh yesterday before he hit the game-winning double. Tests after the game were negative but that foul looked so painful. There’s no doubt we’ll see Hicks in shin guards moving forward.  I heard he had the ankle heavily taped after yesterday’s game. My hope is that he is feeling much better today without too much swelling. Hicks is the unsung hero for this team and they cannot afford to lose him for any extended time.

Yesterday, it was reported CC Sabathia intends to play another season. Sadly, I do not feel it should be with the Yankees despite how much Sabathia has done and meant for the organization over the years. He has been a great Yankee and I’ll always be appreciative of his time in Pinstripes. But the Yankees can do better for the fifth spot in the rotation even if that just means re-signing J.A. Happ in the off-season. I expect the Yankees to upgrade the starting rotation (Patrick Corbin, please) and at this point in his career, Sabathia is not going to get better and will only regress. Age sucks but it is a terminal affliction for all of us.

The Yankees should also not pick up the $12.5 million club option for Brett Gardner and should go with the $2 million buyout. Another great Yankee but it is time to move on.  Regardless of what happens for the rest of 2018, I have very high expectations for the 2019 New York Yankees. It is time to end the AL East reign of the Boston Red Sox and I think the ’19 Yankees will be the team to do it.  It will be weird to see Sabathia in a different uniform but even stranger to see Gardy in other colors after a career isolated to Pinstripes. There are tough decisions ahead for the Yankees. I suppose it’s possible the Yankees could re-sign Gardy to a lower salary, but I am hopeful for the future of Clint Frazier and would like to see Red Thunder given every opportunity to break camp with the big league club next year. Or sign Bryce Harper, that works too.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reports the Yankees would like to have Andrew McCutchen back next year if they “can cut a reasonable deal”. I would support his return, but of course Cafardo also threatens “And yes, Jacoby Ellsbury could return in 2019”. Now, that’s one guy I do not want to see in a Yankees uniform next year. I am done with DL’s-bury. Time to cut bait with Ellsbury if he is healthy. If Cafardo is to be believed, the Yankees will rekindle talks with the San Francisco Giants in the off-season about Madison Bumgarner so that’s one to keep an eye on.

With heavy speculation J.A. Happ will be the starter for the Yankees on October 3rd against the Oakland A’s (sorry Rays fans, you’re not catching them), today is a big day. Happ  (16-6, 3.62 ERA) takes the mound against Alex Cobb (5-15, 4.90 ERA) and the Orioles. If Happ dominates Baltimore, he’ll solidify his chances to be “the man” in the Wild Card game. If not, Yankees Twitter will be announcing the end of the World by late afternoon.

A win today would be a beautiful thing. Let’s get this sweep. Go Yankees!