Tagged: Manny Machado

Setting Our Sights for the Wild Card…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Sadly, Boston shows no signs of slowing down…

Just when you think you might be able to trust Masahiro Tanaka, you can’t. Since his return from the disabled list in early July, Tanaka had given up no more than three runs in any start and had only allowed a grand total of six runs in five starts. Yet, on Friday night, he was hammered for six runs including three home runs in the Yankees’ 12-7 loss to the Texas Rangers. When you score seven runs against losing teams, you should win games, not lose them.

Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox overcame an 8-3 deficit to crush the Baltimore Orioles, 19-12.  Boston, 82-35, is on pace to match the Yankees’ historic 1998 season when they won 114 games in the regular season. At their current winning percentage, the Red Sox project to 113 wins. This is not 1978 and the Red Sox are not going to collapse.

Photo Credit: AP (Patrick Semansky)

With Boston’s nine game lead in the AL East, the Yankees are headed for the one-and-out Wild Card playoff game. At the moment, their only competition for the Wild Card is the resurgent Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners. The A’s are only 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees, while the Mariners sit 6 games back.

Oakland has been very aggressive in rebuilding their bullpen in recent weeks. Their closer, former Washington National Blake Treinen, has had a breakout season. He currently has 29 saves to go with a 0.93 ERA in 48 games.  Behind Treinen, the A’s have added former New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia, former Yankees/Nationals reliever Shaun Kelley, and former Minnesota Twins closer Fernando Rodney. For the starting rotation, they’ve added former Detroit Tigers starter Mike Fiers, a target Yankee fans love to hate. None of the names shake fear but it shows the A’s are serious about their Wild Card run. There’s no question they have the talent to beat the Yankees in a one-game do-or-die playoff game.

I wish I could say that I am not worried like The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch can, but I am worried. Sorry Daniel. We knew in the off-season the Yankees needed to add a quality starting pitcher and it didn’t happen. So, the team had to scramble in July to add Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ. Both guys have done fine jobs but neither is going to make a difference when the chips are on the line. When Aaron Judge was lost with the minor bone fracture, it was evident the Yankees needed to add a short-term bat for the outfield. But instead, the decision was made to roll with one of the few healthy outfielders in the system, journeyman Shane Robinson. The Yankees could have easily added a guy like former Yankee Curtis Granderson who would have filled a valuable void. His bat likes Yankee Stadium and has the track record to show it. He may not be the player he was during his Yankee days thanks to the terminal affliction known as aging but he is more than capable of giving the Yankees a supportive bat and a valuable bench player when Judge returns.

The Mariners strengthened their bullpen with the addition of Adam Warren, a guy the Yankees certainly could have used the last couple of games. Warren was the winning pitcher in the M’s 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros last night. The Mariners also benefit from the return of Robinson Cano in a few days. Cano may not be eligible for the post-season but he’ll certainly help the Mariners make the push for October. He’s a valuable late season addition for Seattle. We’ll see if there is rust to shake off but I suspect that Cano will be ready to go.

Photo Credit:  The Herald, Everett, WA (Kevin Clark)

Please do not get me wrong. I like the 2018 New York Yankees. No one expected a historic season from the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees, despite their struggles, have won more games in Major League Baseball than any team other than the Red Sox and the Houston Astros. It is very possible they’ll go into a potential Wild Card game with over 100 wins. My only concern is that GM Brian Cashman could have done a better job (if that is possible). Everyone is so quick to give him credit for his genius but standing back, he’s had his share of misses. I like manager Aaron Boone but there’s no question we’ve paid a price for his inexperience.

I am anxious for the returns of Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, but the Yankees need to take care of business now. August is filled with losing teams on the schedule. The Yankees have the potential to have a very successful month despite starting it with a four-game sweep by the Red Sox but they can’t let 52 win teams like the Rangers crush them. Rookie Ronald Guzman looks like the greatest player who ever lived when he feasts on Yankees pitching, having accumulated six home runs already this season. Half of his season total are against the Pinstripers. He was the first rookie to hit three home runs in a game last night against the Yankees. That’s covering many years and players and is the strongest rookie performance against the Yankees since the A’s Reggie Jackson slugged six homers against his future team in 1968. This cannot happen if the Yankees expect to be successful. Ronald Guzman is no Reggie Jackson and the rest of the American League knows it. Apparently, the Yankees pitching staff didn’t get the memo.  To digress slightly, why is A.J. Cole on the MLB roster and Justus Sheffield is not?  Time to add Top Sheff to the 40-man and open a spot on the active roster by punting Cole.

It sounds like we can add Neil Walker to the list of wounded. After last night’s game, Aaron Boone said that Walker tweaked his neck and was dealing with illness. I had wondered why he wasn’t in the lineup or why he wasn’t used to pinch hit but that explains it. As Joe Girardi would say, it’s not what you want. Fortunately, Walker is penciled into today’s lineup (outfield, no less) so hopefully his physical ailments were minor.

I could care less if Jacoby Ellsbury is going to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery for a torn hip labrum. I had not counted on the player and did not want to see his return potentially cost another player a valuable roster spot. As much as I would love for the Yankees to cut bait, the truth is they won’t as long as they can collect insurance on his salary. I get it. I am just ready for the day when the Yankees can finally give him his walking papers.

I was very glad to hear that YES Network analyst Ken Singleton will return for another season after he had announced that 2018 would be his last. There is something so calming and reassuring about Singleton’s voice and his stories are so great to listen to. I’ve long been amazed that a former Yankees enemy (courtesy of his days in Baltimore) could excel calling Yankee games with no bitterness or regret.  He has exuded class and professionalism from the start and I’m glad he’ll be back in 2019 even if he will be carrying a much lighter load. In a season that has seen Michael Kay’s stock drop and Ryan Ruocco’s elevate, Singleton was been a voice of consistency.

I was sorry to see Phil Hughes designated for assignment yesterday by the San Diego Padres. I had hoped the former Yankee would fare better in his native sunny Southern California but it was not meant to be. I’ve always liked the guy and I am hopeful that he can find a good home to make a difference even if it is in relief. I don’t really see a fit with the Yankees, but there are plenty of teams in need of help. I am not ready to see the end of Hughes career so hopefully this is just the next chapter in his book.

I’ll be headed to see Manny Machado and the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Colorado Rockies on Sunday at Coors Field in Denver. It should be a fun game. Former Yankee Rich Hill will get the start for the Dodgers. I was in LA last weekend and didn’t get the chance to see the Dodgers play the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium so this is a good consolation prize. Manny remains a guy that I’d love to see the Yankees pursue in the off-season (dump Greg Bird and move Miguel Andujar to first to open third for Machado) and I’ll certainly be cheering for him on Sunday.

Well, time for my voice of pessimism to close. Time for a new Yankees winning streak to start. Can we get another quality start from Lance Lynn? We’ll find out in a few hours. In Rangers starter Drew Hutchison’s last game, he gave up six runs in three innings to the Baltimore Orioles. We can do better.

Go Yankees!

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Thud! Starts the Second Half…

Yankees fall to the lowly Mets in Series Opener…

Well, that was disappointing. I can’t say I met the news the Yankees would start Domingo German and Sonny Gray to open the second half with great optimism. Still, I had hoped for a better performance from German on Friday but it was not to be. From the time German walked the lead-off hitter with four consecutive balls to start the game, it felt like it wasn’t going to be his night.

The Mets had a 3-0 lead before the Yankees had even come to bat, and German was headed for the showers after 3 2/3 innings and four runs. He somehow made the pathetic Mets offense look like a juggernaut. The Yankees tried to rally but the hole dug by German and reliever Adam Warren was too great as the Yankees fell to the Mets, 7-5. German’s season record dropped to 2-6 with the loss, paired with a 5.68 ERA. After the game, German was given a ticket to catch up with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in Columbus, Ohio to work on his mechanics. I can’t say that I am sorry to see him go.

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

This really underscores the inability of GM Brian Cashman to secure much-needed reinforcements for the starting rotation. We’ve known for a long time the team needed help. I know Jordan Montgomery’s Tommy John surgery was unforeseen but Cashman was openly talking about the need for another quality starter last winter (an obvious need that everyone saw). German and Jonathan Loaisiga may turn out to be great middle-of-the-rotation arms but for a team in contention, we don’t have the luxury of learning with their bumps and bruises. Last start excluded, I don’t think anyone thought Sonny Gray would be this bad and that has magnified Cashman’s inability to find adequate help. If the deal-breaker to acquire former Pittsburgh Pirate Gerrit Cole last winter was Clint Frazier, it was a huge error on Cashman’s part.  Cole (10-2, 2.52 ERA for the Houston Astros) would look great in the Yankees rotation right now.

After last night’s game when German was demoted, manager Aaron Boone said Luis Cessa would make German’s next start. The Yankees were expected to temporarily call up a reliever until it was time for Cessa to make his start and today they promoted Domingo Acevedo to take German’s spot. Acevedo, a starter for Double-A Trenton, is expected to provide long relief for the Yankees until it is time for Cessa to make his start. He provides Boone with another power arm in the pen for now. I think Acevedo’s long term future is the bullpen so this is his moment to impress.

Photo Credit: Martin Griff

Cessa pitched fine his last time out for the Yankees but I am starting to join the crowd that wants to see top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield. I don’t think Sheffield will be a starter for a pennant-chasing team as we head toward the stretch run, at least not this year particularly given he’ll be bumping up against an innings limit, but I am intrigued to see what he can do.  It can’t be any worse than German has already given us. The downside with the promotion of Sheffield is the need to create room on the 40-man roster, which is not a factor for either Cessa or Acevedo. The Yanks have to place Sheff on the 40-man roster prior to December’s Rule 5 Draft, but that’s a move for later.

Prior to yesterday’s game, the Yankees recalled infielder Brandon Drury to fill the spot vacated when they optioned Clint Frazier to Triple A prior to the All-Star break. By spend ing more time in the Minors, the Yankees secured an extra year of control on Drury. I hope he’s here to stay. It remains my opinion that I’d be very comfortable with Drury at third should the Yankees find it necessary to include Miguel Andujar for a top starting pitcher. Andujar is a very nice young player but there’s no doubt this team’s greater need is starting pitching.

The Yankees apparently lost out on reliever Brad Hand when they refused to include Andujar in a potential trade with the San Diego Padres before he was dealt to the Cleveland Indians. As much as I would have liked to have given the bullpen a Hand, I agree if Andujar is moved, it should be for a top starter (not guys like Cole Hamels or J.A. Happ) and certainly not for relievers. I really like Baltimore’s Zach Britton but Andujar should not be part of the discussion despite the O’s obvious need for a third baseman now that Tim Beckham has moved back to short.

Drury is penciled in to play second base today against the Mets and Steven Matz. The two ribbies last night by Neil Walker was nice but I’ll gladly take Drury over Walker any day of the week. “Yankees DFA Walker” remains the headline that I am most anxious to see. Well, maybe “Yankees acquire elite starting pitcher…” but the elimination of Walker is not far behind.

The most painful aspect of last night’s loss was the win by the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox made a solo first inning run hold up in the 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers behind former Tiger David Price. The win allowed the Red Sox to increase their lead in the AL East to 5 1/2 games. If the Yankees can’t shake this tailspin, the Red Sox are going to run away with the division as they’ve shown no signs of losing anytime soon. The Red Sox continue to show that they can do what the Yankees cannot, beat the teams you are supposed to.

Gary Sanchez, who struck out to end the eighth inning last night with the bases loaded, remains a disappointment.  His batting line stands at .191/.289/.428. Entering the season, I felt Sanchez was the Yankees best hitter but clearly I was wrong. I saw one random Twitter post suggest the Yankees should include Sanchez in a trade for Jacob deGrom and then swing a deal with the Miami Marlins for their catcher, J.T. Realmuto. A few months ago, I would have laughed at the thought but today it is one that gives you pause. I remain hopeful that El Gary starts hitting like 2017 and there’s still time. We need his bat.

Manny Machado’s debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers was a successful one. He singled in his first at bat against the Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee, and finished the game with two hits and a couple of walks. The Dodgers used a three-run homer by Kike Hernandez to hold off the Brewers for a 6-4 win to make Machado’s first game as a Dodger a winning one. Machado was met with boos from the Milwaukee crowd. Milwaukee had fallen short in their quest to acquire Machado. As if it was Manny’s fault Orioles GM Dan Duquette made the decision to send him to sunny LA rather than the Beer Capital of the World. I enjoyed how seamlessly Manny fit in with the Dodgers on his first day, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I hope he doesn’t like it well enough to prevent him from signing with the Yankees in the off-season.

When it was speculated that Manny had chosen #8 with the Dodgers out of respect for Orioles great Cal Ripken, Jr, he should have run with it even if it wasn’t the case.

During his press conference for his Dodgers introduction, he stated that he was a fan of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant (even has a dog named after him) and chose the number for Kobe. I know that Kobe won more titles with #8, but I tend to remember him as #24. Machado also stated the number 8 was symbolic of “new beginnings”. Orioles fans are grieving about the loss of Machado and I think it would have been very soothing for them to hear that he had chosen the number for Ripken rather than Bryant. But on the other hand, you can’t blame Manny for wanting to turn the page. Hopefully he’ll be turning the page on the Dodgers in a few months and making plans for finding a new home in Manhattan.

I remain hopeful Brian Cashman surprises us all with a golden stealth move to strengthen starting pitching and help give the Yankees the necessary weapons to take down the Boston Red Sox. We’re ten days away from the non-waiver trading deadline so there’s time. Personally, I am feeling the urgency, especially considering starts like German last night, but I am optimistic that Cash will not let us down. There is too much potential for the 2018 Yankees to let it slip away.

Sonny Gray, please man up today. I know you’re pitching at Yankee Stadium, a venue you do not seem to appreciate if your pitching stats are any indication, but today is a new day. And these are the Mets. Just win, that’s all I ask.

Go Yankees!

Operation: Take Down Boston…

2nd Best Winning % in MLB but 2nd in the AL East…

It’s Friday and Baseball is back! Thanks to the All-Star Break, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Yankees on the field. Okay, any one not named Aaron Judge or Luis Severino. They’re back in the Bronx and ready to take on the not-so-high flyin’ Mets. One thing is sure, we’ll be seeing plenty of ink about Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom and their potential connection to the Yankees over the next few days.  

Syndergaard takes the mound tonight against Domingo German, while deGrom matches up against Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday. As much as I’d love to have either pitcher, the realist in me knows that the likelihood either pitcher is traded to the Yankees is non-existent. The Mets are not going to send any of their top players to the Yankees regardless of the return.  

The Yankees begin the second half four-and-a-half games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.  Hats off to the Red Sox for their brilliant first half.  They beat the teams they were supposed to. Mookie Betts has showed why he is one of the best players in Major League Baseball, and J.D. Martinez has proven to be the best off-season addition for any team (sorry, Giancarlo).  But it’s a new day and plenty of time for the Yankees to catch the Red Sox and put them in their rearview mirror.  The Yankees have 67 games remaining or three more than the Red Sox.  I think as long as the Yankees can keep winning series, they’ll be in great shape come September, or better yet, October.  The Red Sox have an easy start to the second half with the Detroit Tigers and Manny Machado-less Baltimore Orioles, a team that they already owned this season winning nine of ten games played.  However, there’s a big showdown with the Yankees at Fenway Park looming the first week of August.  This is a great chance for the Yankees to keep it close for the next couple of weeks and then make a huge statement in Boston with hopefully a win of the four-game series.  

I think it was tough for Yankees fans to see Manny Machado traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers this week. Many of us, myself included, envisioned what it would look like to see Manny in pinstripes. I know, it was a ‘want’ and not a ‘need’ but how beautiful would it have looked to insert Machado’s name into the Yankees lineup? It may still come to fruition after the season when Manny hits the open market, but of course that doesn’t help us today. The best part about Manny going to Los Angeles is that Yankees pitchers won’t have to face him again unless the Yankees and Dodgers meet in the World Series (a very nice problem to have). Manny destroyed the Yankees this year with six home runs. It’ll be nice to play the Baltimore Orioles for the remainder of the year without the  threat of Manny at bat. Hopefully the next home run he hits at Yankee Stadium will be while wearing Pinstripes. We’ll see.

Nice job by Machado in picking his new number for the Dodgers. His beloved #13 was already taken by this year’s breakout player, Max Muncy. Closer Kenley Jansen offered to pay Muncy to relinquish the number, but in the end, Manny chose a different number. Like Don Mattingly, who took #8 as a tribute for Yogi Berra when he joined the Dodgers coaching staff under Joe Torre a few years ago and later served as their manager, Machado has acquired the same number in honor of Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. A very classy move by Machado and a gesture I am sure the heartbroken O’s fans appreciate.  

The Yankees lost another trade target yesterday when the Cleveland Indians abruptly acquired San Diego closer Brad Hand yesterday. I was surprised at the high cost the Indians paid (top catching prospect Francisco Mejia) but Cleveland’s bullpen was a mess. Once they get Andrew Miller back on the field, the Indians bullpen, with Hand, Miller, closer Cody Allen, and newcomer Adam Cimber, appears to be very formidable, especially in the post-season. Former Yankees pitcher, and now Padres reliever, Phil Hughes had the best Twitter quote following the Hand trade:  “Just a few more trades and I’ll be the closer. Too soon?”  Former Yankee Kirby Yates is expected to take Hand’s place as San Diego’s closer, but even he has been the subject of trade speculation. Hughes, while clearly jesting, may in fact get his wish.  

Photo Credit: The San Diego Union-Tribune (K.C. Alfred)

Yankees fans are growing impatient but we’re still eleven days away from the non-waiver trading deadline. There’s time. GM Brian Cashman and his staff are working diligently behind the scenes. At this point, I am not really expecting a big splash but I do fully anticipate reinforcements in the not-so-distant future.  It was a year ago yesterday the Yankees acquired relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and third baseman Todd Frazier from the Chicago White Sox. If I had my wish, I’d probably prefer the acquisition of Orioles reliever Zach Britton who seems to be rounding back into form after his recovery from injuries. It’s not that I don’t feel the Yankees shouldn’t acquire a starter but the names of Michael Fulmer, J.A. Happ, and Cole Hamels are not inspiring to me. Dan O’Dowd of the MLB Network feels that Hamels would be re-energized with the chance to play in a pennant race, but c’mon, he clearly is not the pitcher he once was. The Yankees had scouts at Wrigley Field in Chicago yesterday to watch St Louis Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez. I’d love to have Martinez, 26, but his Yankees audition didn’t go so well as he took the loss against the Cubs, giving up six runs (five earned) over five innings, in the 9-6 defeat. Still, Martinez would be an upgrade if the Yankees can entice the Cardinals to part with the talented righty.

Photo Credit: AP (Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Yankees may have lost a valuable trading chip yesterday when outfielder Clint Frazier was pulled from a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre game for possible concussion symptoms after a failed diving attempt to catch a fly ball in the first inning. Frazier’s concussion in Spring Training cost him the first couple months of the season.

There will be one “newcomer” when the Yankees take the field tonight. Well, he is not quite a newcomer but Gary Sanchez will be back in  action behind the plate following his activation off the disabled list yesterday. If El Gary starts to hit like he did last summer, it’s scary to think what the Yankees offense is capable of. With no offense to either Austin Romine or Kyle Higashioka, Sanchez’s presence improves the team. Higgy was optioned to Triple A to make room for Sanchez. Now, we just need to get Gleyber Torres back.

ESPN’s Keith Law released his Mid-Season Top 50 Prospect Update yesterday and has Yankees LHP Justus Sheffield listed at #12.  I loved his last line about Top Sheff:  “He’s very close to major league-ready, however, has all the elements of a future No. 2 starter”.  I wouldn’t want to put the pressure of a pennant chase on Sheff as a starter for the Yankees this year plus he’ll be nearing an innings limit at some point, but you gotta love the thought of Sheffield pitching out of the pen, perhaps as soon as next month or September at the latest.  

Well, let’s begin Operation Beat Boston.  Yankees, welcome back.  We’ve missed you.  Let’s make this a victorious Friday.  Send Thor to the showers early, and bring us a win.  

Go Yankees!

Another Day of “Trading Manny” Speculation…

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Machado prepares to say goodbye to his O’s uniform…

It’s the All-Star Break and Manny Machado is still a Baltimore Oriole. A few more days anyway. If you believe the reports, the Philadelphia Phillies would seem to be the frontrunner, closely followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers. I’ve seen one (most likely fictitious) report that has the Phillies sending third baseman Maikel Franco, shortstop J.P. Crawford, and top pitching prospect Adonis Medina to Baltimore. If that’s the level of talent on the table for Manny, I don’t see why the Yankees can’t beat it. I don’t think they will, but any way you look at it, Manny would make any team’s offense and defense better. For the Yankees, it only works if he is willing to move back to third base, but I’d gladly take the legitimate superstar over the young rookie at third (with no offense to Miguel Andujar who has done a fine job).

It is exciting to think about Manny Machado as a Yankee. The images of him wearing Pinstripes have been tremendous and then there was yesterday’s Instagram pic posted by Aroldis Chapman showing Manny sitting among Chappy, Luis Severino and Gleyber Torres.

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I continue to believe that the Orioles will not trade with the Yankees (even though we routinely seem give them quality arms with guys like Richard Bleier and Yefry Ramirez). But for all the excitement about Machado, it will be a letdown if the July trading deadline passes and we end up with only a pedestrian rental like J.A. Happ or Cole Hamels.

If he does not come to the Bronx, I’d like to see Machado end up with the Dodgers. Play him at short this year to free up Chris Taylor to roam positions again. The Dodgers would have a great chance to re-sign Manny if he likes LA. He can hang out with LeBron. Next year, if they are successful in signing him, the Dodgers could move him to third when Corey Seager returns, push Justin Turner to first base, play Max Muncy at second, and keep Cody Bellinger in the outfield.  I certainly feel the Dodgers would have a much better chance at signing Manny to a long-term deal than either the Phillies or the Brewers. I’d still rather see Manny with the Yankees, but having him on the Dodgers would be a nice consolation prize (for me anyway). Sorry, it’s not about you, it’s all about me. Kidding…

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The Boston Red Sox may hold a 4 ½ game advantage on the Yankees, but the Yankees have the farm system to make significantly greater moves than the Red Sox can make. Boston has the much weaker farm system and as baseball’s top spender, they are maxed out on salary unless they want to encroach into the highest tax penalty category. If we do nothing, it will be a lost opportunity.  Same if we come away with an arm that has difficulty keeping runners off home plate. We already have one of those with Sonny Gray.  We don’t need to add to our collection.

Probably the only moves that would be more meaningful to me than Manny Machado would be a frontline starter like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Blake Snell, or Madison Bumgarner. Unfortunately, I think the chances of landing one of those guys is about as good as Peter Angelos warming up to the Yankees.

So, this leaves me with the opinion that I am going be disappointed come July 31st. Whether it will be a lot or just a little, I don’t know but I sense that disappointment is headed my way. If there was ever a time for GM Brian Cashman to deliver one of his golden stealth moves, now is the time.

The Yankees have played 95 games so there are only 67 games left. I am excited about the impending returns of both Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres which provide immediate upgrades, especially if El Gary can start hitting like we know he can. He has homered the last couple of games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders so hopefully his timing is coming around quickly.

The next couple of weeks will be very crucial for the Yankees as they attempt to chase down the Red Sox. They don’t have to be in first place by August 1st but they need to make the necessary moves now to ensure that they are properly positioned for the impending sprint to the finish line.  Don’t let us down, Cash. This is your time.

Congratulations to Bryce Harper for the hometown Home Run Derby championship over Kyle Schwarber at Nationals Park last evening, but I must admit that I didn’t watch. There was just no drama or intrigue for me with this year’s participants.  I admire Rhys Hoskins and I think Mad Max Muncy is a great story but something was missing without Pinstripes.  I don’t blame Aaron Judge for passing on it, but without any Yankees, there was simply no motivation for me to watch.  I don’t really expect Harper to sign with the Yankees in the off-season so I didn’t have the urge to watch him take swings. Maybe if Manny Machado had been a participant, it would have carried a little more significance. Or even the great Mike Trout. Oh well, next year.

It’s been great to see the pics of Gleyber Torres at the All-Star Game festivities. I’ve missed that guy. I look forward to having his energy back in the Yankees lineup very soon.

Don’t look now, but LHP Nestor Cortes, who spent spring training with the Orioles, is a man on fire. In yesterday’s 5-0 win by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders over the Toledo Mud Hens, Cortes (4-3, 3.11 ERA) threw a one-hitter over six innings while striking out ten. Over his last 38 1/3 innings, Cortes has only allowed three earned runs. This is how I wish Chance Adams was pitching but sadly it is not.

Here’s another shameless plug for Kurt Sutter’s new TV show Mayans MC which makes its premiere on Tuesday, September 4th. The first season (set in a post-Jax Teller/Sons of Anarchy world) will feature ten episodes and tells the story of young Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes, played by JD Pardo. Reyes is fresh out of prison and a prospect in the Santo Padre charter of the Mayans MC, located on the Cali/Mexi border. According to the storyline, EZ must carve out his new identity in a town where he was once the golden boy with the American Dream in his grasp. The show also stars Clayton Cardenas, Edward James Olmos, Sarah Bolger, Michael Irby, Carla Baratta, Antonio Jaramillo, Raoul Max Trujillo, Richard Cabral and Danny Pino. Sons of Anarchy star Emilio Rivera returns as Marcus Alvarez, El Padrino of the Mayans MC.  I am looking forward to the ride.

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We are still a few days away from the next Yankees game (Friday night at Yankee Stadium against the cross-town Mets) but at least we’ll get to see Luis Severino and Aaron Judge in action tonight (and maybe some shots of Aroldis Chapman and Gleyber Torres as spectators).

As always, Go Yankees!

Weird Win is a Win, I’ll Take It…

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

Yankees survive Tribe on odd play and stellar bullpen…

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images (David Maxwell)

 

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

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

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

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

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!

Losing the Battle of Baltimore…

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Photo Credit: The Baltimore Sun/TNS (Karl Merton Ferron)

Splitting the Series is better than losing it but…

Why is it that the Yankees waited until the final game of the series in Baltimore to play like they are supposed to against Baseball’s worst professional team? Okay, I’ll give you the Luis Cessa game but realistically, the Yankees should have taken three of four or all four of the games in B-more.

Sonny Gray was great last night, but honestly, I still do not trust the pitcher. He has a long way to go before I’ll have confidence in his starts. One game does not a season make.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Scott Taetsch)

If the Yankees lose the AL East, the deciding factor will be the Battle of Baltimore. The Boston Red Sox have beaten the O’s nine times out of ten, while the Yanks and Orioles have split ten games. If the Yankees had matched Boston’s record against the woeful O’s, the Yankees would have had a better winning percentage than the Red Sox even though the Sox have currently won nine games in a row.

The Yankees face a tough challenge starting tonight with a four-game set against the Cleveland Indians.  The pitching matchup for the opener doesn’t get any better than the marquee event pitting Luis Severino (14-2, 2.12 ERA) against Corey Kluber (12-4, 2.49 ERA). The Yankees swept the Indians in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium in early May but it took two walk-off performances. In the latest series, the Indians will have last at-bat. The Indians (50-41) currently hold an 8 ½ game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. Cleveland’s had some bullpen issues but they remain a very dangerous team. I learned long ago to never underestimate Cleveland manager Terry Francona.

The Yankees (60-31) have fallen 3 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East after no more than a two-game separation in June.  Boston is on a historic run for their organization. There’s still plenty of time for the Yankees to catch Boston but hats off to them for their refusal to lose. Earlier in the season, I was a bit frustrated by Boston’s cream puff schedule (seemed like they were mostly playing losing teams) but the truth is they know how to beat those teams better than the Yankees. For the Yankees to have a better record against winning teams than the losers, it makes no sense to me. They really need to stop playing down to the level of their opponents and start playing more like last night’s game.

I am not sure what to think about the Manny Machado rumors which have been running rampant the last couple of days. I’d love to have Manny in Pinstripes. But acquiring Manny only seems to make sense if the Yankees already have a plan in place to acquire an upper echelon starting pitcher, they are fearful the Red Sox might swoop in and grab him, or if they see the pitching market as a collection of Sonny Grays and feel that making further enhancements to the team’s potent offense is the way to go.

I am intrigued by the idea of having Manny on my team. He is one of the best players in the game today.  Probably the only deal-killer for me is if he continues to insist on playing shortstop. I have no desire to replace Didi Gregorius. But if Miguel Andujar is included in a deal for a top starting pitcher or if the Yankees decide to move Andujar to first base to make room for Manny at third, I am on board. I know Greg Bird has hit home runs in the last couple of games including a grand slam yesterday, but health-wise and production-wise, I have more faith in Andujar than I do Bird. I could be very wrong on this given Bird’s history as a clutch performer in the Minor Leagues, but conversely, I am all about doing whatever is necessary to make the Yankees a better team. There’s no guarantee the Yankees re-sign Machado after the season so that’s certainly the risk of trading top prospects to Baltimore who could potentially become Yankee killers. Growing up, it bothered me to see Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez and Rick Dempsey thrive in Baltimore after starting their careers with the Yankees. Not that they were great players (although McGregor did win 20 games for the O’s in 1980) but it’s hard to see your team’s prospects thrive elsewhere, particularly for teams in the AL East. I’d like to think that Manny would enjoy his time in the Bronx and would aggressively work to stay. I don’t think the Yankees would make the move to acquire Machado unless they felt they had a strong chance to sign him to a new contract after the season. Not that I think he’d give the Yankees any type of discount (in fact, it might the opposite given the high cost of living in America’s largest city), but it would be better than him going to Los Angeles and developing a love for Dodger Blue or becoming a Beer King in Milwaukee.

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So, my vote is to acquire Machado now. Realistically, I don’t think he ends up in New York, at least not yet but it’s fun to think about.

I enjoyed hearing that Justus Sheffield would not be part of any trade for Machado but I would absolutely include Top Sheff in a deal for an ace like Jacob deGrom, Blake Snell or Madison Bumgarner. I wouldn’t do it for one of the lesser caliber pitchers including Michael Fulmer. The Yankees have a wealth of talented young arms in the system. There’s simply no way every one of them will reach the Majors with the Yankees. If Sheffield leaves, other young, talented pitchers will ascend to the top of the prospect lists.  Luis Medina was drawn much praise this season, and Luis Gil, acquired from the Minnesota Twins, is drawing accolades in the lower level of the farm system.  I still have very high hopes for Albert Abreu and Domingo Acevedo but you keep hearing great things about guys like Trevor Stephan, Nick Nelson, Garrett Whitlock and others. The top pitching prospects tend to be mostly right-handers (unlike Sheffield) but I would trade a potential ace for a proven ace any day of the week, especially considering the team is prepared to win now.

I want the Yankees to capture the World Series THIS year, not next year or the year after (well, actually I want all of the above but for now, let’s take the 2018 World Series). I don’t want to see the team play a one-game Wild Card ‘do-or-die’ playoff to determine their fate. Even a five-game series is not a true test of the best team, but that’s better than ending the season because of one off-night. So I am in favor of whatever GM Brian Cashman wants to do to improve the Yankees and their chances for October. There will be painful losses. As they say, you have to give up quality to get quality. The Chicago Cubs felt it was the right thing to do to give up their top prospect a couple of years ago for a chance to win the 2016 World Series. The Yankees were the beneficiary of that decision but now they are the team with the great opportunity to win it all.  We’ve had trust in Cashman’s decisions up to this point so there’s no reason to believe that he’s going to go ‘George Steinbrenner-style’ and start trading away premier prospects for aging veterans who have seen their better days. I always trust Cash with the vision to simultaneously look at today and tomorrow. He has not led us astray yet.

I am kind of glad that Giancarlo Stanton is not going to this year’s All-Star Game. He’s heating up and I’d prefer to see him take some rest days next week. I am really glad that he opted to pass on the Home Run Derby even though it means no Yankees will be represented. We need Giancarlo humming through October and I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks with him. Hopefully AL Manager A.J. Hinch opts to replace Aaron Judge sooner rather than later in right field and Luis Severino doesn’t pitch more than an inning. We need a rested and ready team for the second half.

I don’t envy Brian Cashman. He has some very tough decisions to make in the coming days and weeks leading up to the non-waiver trading deadline at the end of the month. Even if he does nothing, the Yankees still have a very good team. We need starting pitching but that’s been a known fact for a very long time. When opportunity presents itself, guys step up. Either Cashman believes in the guys we have or he sees opportunity with players currently wearing other uniforms. Regardless, he has my faith and confidence. He’ll do the right thing, and we’ll be enjoying some great baseball in October.  Life is good.

Go Yankees!

Hey Cash, Omar’s on Line 1…

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‘Tis the Season to Make Trades…

I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of July and the excitement of the non-waiver trading deadline at the end of the month. It’s my favorite time of the year except for when the Yankees are playing in the Fall Classic. We know that GM Brian Cashman has openly talked about adding starting pitching since last winter. Yet, admittedly, I am starting to feel like a bit of a prospect-hugger.

I’ve seen the names of Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ and have dreamed what they might look like in Pinstripes, but the more I think about it, the more I think they are not worth the price of admission.

Here are the top ten Yankees prospects according to MLB.com:

Outfielder Estevan Florial

LHP Justus Sheffield

RHP Albert Abreu

RHP Chance Adams

RHP Luis Medina

RHP Freicer Perez

RHP Domingo Acevedo

SS/2B Thairo Estrada

RHP Dillon Tate

RHP Matt Sauer

Perez is out for the year after surgery last month to clean up bone spurs in his right shoulder, but I know the Yankees are very high on him.  There’s not a name that I would want to sacrifice for a “rental”. I would absolutely hate to see the Yankees send someone like Albert Abreu to Toronto for a couple of months of J.A. Happ. Happ is not going to be a difference-maker in October and Abreu has the potential to haunt the Yankees for years.  That’s not worth it to me.

If the Yankees are going to send talented, high-ranked prospects out of the organization, it needs to be for frontline players. I know it’s unlikely the Yankees will pry Jacob deGrom from the New York Mets, but that’s how high the Yankees need to set their sights.  Otherwise, we’re just throwing talent away.

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I think the Yankees will have another starting pitcher by the end of the month, but I hope that it’s not an overpay situation. I would like to see an upgrade for Chasen Shreve’s spot in the bullpen even if the pitcher’s last couple of outings have been decent.  I am sure that Cashman is burning the midnight oil and is making daily phone calls to his buddies around both leagues. My hope is that he surprises us with a significant upgrade. He has done it before and there’s no reason he can’t do it again.  He has 26 days counting today. No pressure, Cash, the eyes of the Yankees Universe are upon you.

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The Boston Red Sox are rumored to be looking at Tampa Bay’s Nathan Eovaldi. I wouldn’t really want Nasty Nate back in Pinstripes but I can’t say that I’d be too excited to see him in Boston. I’d rather see him go someplace like Atlanta if he is moved as expected.

It’s sounding increasingly like the Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado. There’s no real chance the Yankees are in play nor should they be. He’s another player that I’d hate to see end up in Boston, although I don’t think the Red Sox have the prospects to entice the O’s to trade within the division (or least I hope hot).  For the sake of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I hope Machado does not go to Brandon Drury’s old team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. I’ve heard the Philadelphia Phillies mentioned but I think the Philly market is too close to Baltimore. It would be hard for the Angelos family to watch Manny thrive in the Delaware Valley. The St Louis Cardinals make perfect sense to me as a possible destination. Last off-season, it felt like Manny would be an eventual Yankee but now I am not so sure. There’s also a chance that Manny goes someplace that he really likes and decides to stay for his next contract (like the NBA’s Paul George just did in opting to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder after it had been rumored for months, even years, that the Palmdale, CA native was destined to play for the Los Angeles Lakers). I am a little miffed about George although I have my new LeBron James shirt to pacify me.

The Los Angeles Dodgers failure to sign their first round pick in the recent MLB Draft showed me how fortunate the Yankees were to lock up young high school catcher Anthony Seigler. Prior to the draft, Seigler had committed and signed to play for the University of Florida. He bypassed that opportunity when he signed with the Yankees, and admittedly, it was a huge sacrifice on his part despite the dollars he received from the Yankees. There are no guarantees that he’ll make the Major Leagues but a college education is forever. It’s always a wakeup call for how much these guys sacrifice to play the game we all love. So very few ever make the millions and millions that await guys like Machado and Bryce Harper. For the Dodgers, they lost J.T. Ginn, a hard-throwing high school pitcher from Mississippi who announced that he’ll attend Mississippi State instead of signing with the them. The Dodgers had taken Ginn with the 30th pick in last month’s draft. They also lost another first-rounder four years ago when Louisville pitcher Kyle Funkhouser opted to stay in school for an additional year. You certainly cannot blame these young men for trying to better their lives as they see fit. But conversely, it underscores the risk of trying to sign young players. I wish everyone who tried could succeed but unfortunately life doesn’t work that way and there are not enough opportunities to go around. So, we make the best we can do, one day at a time.

As expected, infielder Tyler Wade will be promoted to the active roster today to replace Gleyber Torres who was placed on the 10-day DL on Wednesday. I had been quietly hoping for the promotion of Clint Frazier but the presence of Wade makes more sense in terms of roster makeup. I’d really prefer to see Wade and Brandon Drury get the opportunities at second over Neil Walker. Walker remains my preferred DFA candidate. After it had been announced that Wade would be called up before today’s game in Toronto, all Clint Frazier did was hit two home runs and drive in four runs in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s 9-6 win over the Buffalo Bisons. Clint, we miss you.

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Lastly, Jon Paul Morosi wrote on MLB.com earlier today that the Yankees have considered trading for Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas with the intent to play him at first base. Nothing against Moose Tacos. I like him well enough but he has less experience at first base than Brandon Drury. I remain hopeful that Greg Bird will start hitting like we know he can. If he does, Moustakas is better off going to Atlanta. If there is any truth to the rumor, I guess it at least shows that Brian Cashman is thinking outside the box.

After a day of no Yankees baseball, our team will soon take the field against at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario. It’s a wonderful day for a Yankees win. Oh crap, Sonny Gray is on the mound. On the bright side, at least the game is not being played at Yankee Stadium. Time for #55 to start showing us he is a reliable part of the rotation.

Go Yankees!