2020 Spring Training II may soon be a reality…
For the first time in a long time, this feels like this will be a critical week for Major League Baseball. The MLB owners are expected to present a proposal to the Players Association for revenue and finance modifications, in addition to health and safety protocols, in preparation for a proposed shortened season. It still seems like we are in for the continuation of back and forth moves but realistically time is running out, literally, if there is to be a 2020 season. If the season is as foggy next weekend as it is now, optimism for a successful launch of the season will start to fade (if it hasn’t already). I am hopeful the groundwork is laid to give us baseball soon.
All I know is I want baseball. I’ve seen people writing the negatives about a potential 82 game season (increased likelihood of a player hitting .400?) but there’s no doubt this season will carry the proverbial asterisk for whatever happens. I have reconciled with myself that we will not see a traditional version of professional baseball until 2021 at the earliest. Even next year, with a full slate of 162 games, might still feel a little off with the residual effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Still, I’d rather have baseball this year than no baseball. We’re in the prime of Gerrit Cole’s career and I don’t want to miss another minute (or pitch). Who knows what challenges an 82 game season will present, but I am willing to endure the pain to experience the joy. The deeper we go without the return of America’s favorite pastime, more potential games are eliminated. To go less than 82 games does start to seem like ‘why bother?’ as it would reward teams with hot starts regardless of the quality of their clubs to succeed over better and more deserving clubs. So, as much as I want baseball back, there is probably a line in the sand and we’re getting close to it. That’s why I am hopeful for optimistic news this week. But that darn realist in me keeps trying to pour water on my party. At least we’re talking baseball again. It has to start somewhere.
As the injured Yankees return to good health, it made me wonder if there has been a player to have off-season Tommy John surgery and yet be ready and available for Opening Day. I didn’t look it up to see if it has ever happened before but it could be the case for Aaron Hicks as he was expected back in June or July. I know, it’s not the same as a pitcher, but still, it will be incredible if Hicks is your starting centerfielder when the games resume. A welcome sight, no doubt, but credit to him for the hard work he’s put in since undergoing surgery to put himself in position to be ready.
|Photo Credit: @ahicks31 via Instagram|
James Paxton and Giancarlo Stanton seem to be other players who will be ready, much to the disappointment of hopefuls for their spots (led by Jonathan Loaisiga, Deivi Garcia, and Clint Frazier, among others). I feel bad for Frazier. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. If Frazier is earmarked for another season in Triple A, the Yankees should trade him to create MLB opportunity for the promising player. I do not see any purpose gained by another year in the minors regardless of how much Frazier needs to work on his defense. The only way, at this point, for Frazier to get better for the Major Leagues is to play in the Major Leagues. I’d like to see him succeed with the Yankees. Brett Gardner played very well last year, but with each passing year, he’ll lose a little bit more. It happens to the best of us. You cannot slow down Father Time, especially when you are in your late 30’s. Even in a shortened season, I see the Yankees leaning more heavily on guys like Mike Tauchman as the need to keep Gardy healthy will be stronger than it ever has been. It could create opportunity for Frazier, but then again, maybe not. This will be interesting to watch in the coming months. It would be fun to watch Frazier grab opportunity with both hands and ride it to a very productive MLB season.
|Photo Credit: @clintfrazierr via Instagram|
I am sure the opportunity will be there for the younger pitchers. It’s not like Cole and company will be pitching nine innings (or at least seven) an outing right out of the gate, especially with an abbreviated re-start to Spring Training. Those middle innings need to be filled and expanded rosters will help the younger arms gain exposure. I guess Spring Training this year should be called Summer Training…if it happens. Florida may be nice in March but it’s not exactly where I would want to train in June or July. Yet, veterans and rookies alike will be pitching for success and it will create memorable moments for all of us in whatever form the season takes.
This will be a big year for Paxton. An impending free agent, his performance, even with a proposed shortened season, sets the stage for his next contract. Teams will be watching to see if he can stay healthy which, up to this point, has been a challenge. I like Paxton and I hope this is not his final year in Pinstripes. Yet, with Masahiro Tanaka heading into free agency, it seems like the Yankees will lose at least one. I’d probably like to see Tanaka finish his career in the Bronx, even with the annual threat of Tommy John surgery looming over his elbow. I get frustrated with those obligatory regular season home runs, but Masa turns up the volume in the post-season and you need guys like that to be the last team standing. The Andy Pettitte Effect. So, I guess the question is who would you rather have? Paxton or Tanaka. That’s a tough one. I think Paxton could be a very effective pitcher in his 30’s if he could overcome the injury label, but Masa has been a very good Yankee from Day One and knows how to pitch effectively despite any limitations or obstacles. I know I didn’t really answer the question about which pitcher I would prefer to keep but I’d like to see both Yankee careers continue. I just don’t think it is possible, especially in a year that has seen such a cut in team finances.
I think one of the biggest downsides to the MLB delay this season is the dilution of focus on the Houston cheating scandal. Maybe it will re-surface when the games resume but if the games are played in empty stadiums, the only boos will come from opposing dugouts. Not quite the same as having packed stadium crowds laying it on thick. Jim Crane and his roster of cheaters, in my opinion, will be getting off easy. I really hope I am wrong about this. The Astros disrespected the game we love and it’s unfortunate they will not see the full wrath of penalties and punishment they deserve.
Ready for baseball. MLB, Players Association…the ball is in your hands. Let’s do this.
|Photo Credit: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports|
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, The New York Post|
Despite delay, MLB could be back within 60 days…
As we continue to wait for the return of America’s favorite pastime, at least there is a growing sense of optimism for a 2020 MLB season in some shape or form. I miss baseball and I miss the New York Yankees. The career of a baseball player is so short, relatively-speaking, and it is sad to miss what could have been the best year for some. Still, it is more likely than not we’ll see 23-year-old Gleyber Torres making spectacular plays on the field or Gerrit Cole dominating hitters while wearing the famed Pinstripes. We just don’t know where…or when. For now, I’ll take hope as an option and maybe it will yield fruit for all of us.
I think Major League Baseball did the right thing postponing Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame induction to the summer of 2021. With a record crowd expected, it makes no sense to put lives at risk. Jeter is a Hall of Famer and waiting a little longer for the official induction does not change anything. He’ll have his moment in the sun. There just might be a few more guys joining Jeter…and Ted Simmons, Larry Walker, and Marvin Miller…with the future announcement of the Class of 2021. Oh well, hopefully by then, we can once again say, “the more, the merrier”.
I called the Los Angeles Angels a couple of days ago to request refund of the tickets I had purchased for the weekend series in Anaheim over Memorial Day Weekend against the Yankees. I had expected some difficulty, however, there was none. With the uncertainty of the season (and schedule if/when play resumes), I didn’t just want a credit against future games. I’d prefer to make the choices when games resume and opponents are known. I had been excited to see the Yankees this year after four years of living in a National League city, but like Derek Jeter, I may have to wait until 2021 to watch America’s favorite team take the field.
I feel bad for the Cleveland Indians. Last off-season, as we all know, they traded Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers for what seemed like a light return: outfielder Delino DeShields and hard-throwing reliever Emmanuel Clase. I wonder if they’d like to undo that trade with word Clase has been suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a banned PED, Boldenone. Clase is young enough to rebound from this, but he is certainly not starting his Indians career on the right foot. Speaking of suspensions, it is probably unlikely we see Domingo German this year as we continue to wait for the start of his penalty. Seems a little unfair that the penalty box time has already started for disgraced former managers Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch but not for German who must wait until the games start to serve his suspension since his sentence is number of games and not simply for the year.
On a sad note, I heard today that former Oakland A’s pitcher Matt Keough, 64, died on Friday. I remember him being a big part of the A’s under the early 80’s leadership of the great Billy Martin and the famed Billy Ball Era in the East Bay. I think I had forgotten he pitched for the Yankees in 12 games during the 1983 season. He compiled a 3-4 record, with an unsightly 5.17 ERA, in the dozen Pinstriped games. Unfortunately, despite his youth at that time, 27, he was never the same pitcher he had been in his earlier 20’s with the A’s. I can now recollect wanting him to succeed (I always liked him when he was with Oakland) but it was not meant to be. I didn’t follow his career closely but I do remember the talk of people at the time who felt Billy had overused his arm in those early days with the A’s. I have not seen the cause of death (it was not released when the A’s made the announcement on Saturday), but 64 is too young. May he rest in peace…
I have seen a few posts that cite tomorrow as the two-year anniversary for the Cleveland Indians’ release of Gio Urshela. I’ve also seen non-Yankee fans who act like we think our scouting department is better than everybody else for picking up Gio. Well, we are better than everybody else but that’s besides the point. I don’t think the Yankees knew Gio would blossom in New York. When they picked him up from the Toronto Blue Jays in August 2018, Gio spent the remainder of the year in the minors, they needed the depth, and he became a minor league free agent that winter before re-signing with the Yankees. If the Yankees had known he would flourish in 2019, they wouldn’t have let him become a free agent, in my opinion. It remains to be seen if Gio can have the same level of success in 2020, assuming there is a season or at least a truncated version thereof, as he did in 2019. I like Gio and I want him as the starting third baseman, with no disrespect to Miguel Andujar. I value strong defense at the position and I feel despite his occasional miscues, Gio is the superior defender. If Gio regresses back to one-dimensional play, I’d be among the first of Gio’s supporters calling for Andjuar’s return. Gio needs to keep hitting to keep the job. If he does, great. I’ll be very excited and happy for him. I’ll never view this as something the Yankees saw that no one else did. They rolled the dice and won. There have been plenty of times when it hasn’t worked out for those types of decisions.
|Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP|
Back to the game itself, the talk lately seems to be centered on a shortened 100-game season that would conclude in late November. The teams broken up into three 10-team divisions, perhaps with geographical restrictions where the games are played, and keeping regular season games within each division. The season could potentially start in late June or early July. Honestly, I don’t really care what format they decide upon. I recognize that all traditions, as we know them, are out the window this year. I’d rather have some form of Major League Baseball, whatever it looks like, rather than no professional baseball until the 2021 season.
If the season does start and the World Series is not played until around Thanksgiving, this is going to be the strangest off-season in recent memory. The regular season may be truncated but so will the off-season. I guess that’s a good thing to help expedite off-season trades and free agent signings. Decisions will have to be made very quickly. I just hope the Yankees keep the eye on the ball and make sure they get DJ LeMahieu’s signature on the dotted line and don’t let him slip away. It feels like we’re going to lose one or both of Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton. If he could ever stay healthy, Paxton offers the most upside, in my opinion, but Tanaka has been a very good Yankee for the duration of his career. I’d hate to see him go elsewhere, such as Seattle, and give other fans reason to cheer. Well, not that I wouldn’t want him to be supported wherever he may go, but I’d just prefer the Yankees keep him as our own. If the Yankees do lose one or both, they’ll really need some of the young pitchers in the organization to step up. We’ve heard years of promise with the young arms but it’s nearing showtime for their prime opportunities. It’s possible GM Brian Cashman swings a deal for a proven young arm or two next off-season but those type of transactions seem to be more fiction than fact. Dipping into the free agent pool for replacements seems kind of counter-productive (why not just re-sign Tanaka and Paxton?). The Yankees have a window of opportunity for a championship right now but there are decisions ahead for the organization which can certainly make or break those dreams. No pressure, Cash.
According to reports last week, we could start to see the return of some Yankees to Tampa this week. I haven’t heard or seen anything the last couple of days, but it will be good to see players return to Steinbrenner Field and allow us to actually watch some current baseball activity as opposed to the endless replay of games past. My TV was on SportsNet LA earlier today and it was amazing how the Dodgers just kept winning their games in walk-off fashion, game after game. No doubt the Yankees are similarly undefeated so far this year on the YES Network (I wouldn’t know since I no longer have access to the channel with my move to LA).
Stay safe, be safe.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, Associated Press
Starting Rotation missing its spots…
Silly me. I had hoped the “Next Man Up” tag line was the theme of the 2019 Yankees, not this year.
Credit: Randy Glasbergen
The Yankees are not off to a great start in 2020 with the injuries that have surfaced. James Paxton is not expected back until May at the earliest, possibly June, after recent back surgery, Aaron Judge is being held back over caution with his shoulder, and Luis Severino is headed to New York for further tests regarding the forearm tightness he experienced this week.
I am not ready to throw in the towel and concede the AL East to the Tampa Bay Rays, but no doubt the Rays see blood in the water. The Yankees didn’t have Severino for most of last season and they still won 103 games so it’s not like they’ll fold without him. I am very thankful the Yankees were successful in signing Gerrit Cole last December and the team’s offense, even without Judge at 100%, remains one of the best in the game.
I went from wanting J.A. Happ traded after his disappointing performance last season (primarily to eliminate his $17 million contract and his potential for reaching the milestones to trigger another $17 million for 2021) to the realization that he is a major cog in the starting rotation, at least for now. With the absences of Paxton and Sevy, Tanaka becomes the second to Cole, and Happ is your third starter. It does not exactly instill confidence (at least not for me).Yet, I am hopeful we’ll see Happ’s return to be a stable and consistent force in the rotation like he was in the latter half of the 2018 season. Although nobody has handed him anything, Jordan Montgomery is expected to be the fourth starter. From there, it is anybody’s guess.
If GM Brian Cashman knew about Paxton’s troublesome back and some potential concern with Sevy’s forearm (if it has been bothering him since the playoffs last year this past off-season, I am surprised the best pitching options brought in from the outside were former Angels starter Nick Tropeano and former Rockies starter/reliever Chad Bettis. In retrospect, it seems like Cashman had the time to bring in a potentially stronger hedge for the starting rotation.
Most likely, the fifth starter role will be filled either by an opener or we’ll see one of the young guys (like Deivi Garcia or Michael King) step forward. There’s been a lot of hype for Clarke Schmidt but asking him to jump from Double A seems to be a big leap. Then, there’s the usual suspects, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa. I am not trying to be critical of them but I see both as better arms for the pen. As much as we may like Loaisiga’s arm, he always seems to be an injury waiting to happen. I think the Yankees are better using Chad Green as a late inning bullpen specialist, especially after the departure of Dellin Betances and despite Green’s success as an opener last year.
It’s always possible the Yankees swing a trade for a starter but teams are less motivated to trade in March than they will be in July when they know whether or not October is in their future.
I’d love to see one of the young guys grab the starting spot and run with it. Maybe that’s what the Yankees see. If it were my team, I’d probably be less willing to gamble with the fifth spot when there are questions with the third and fourth starters. But Cashman and his team know much more than I ever will and I trust them to make the right decisions. The Yankees have heavily invested in the 2020 season and they’re not going to throw it away now. Championship windows are not open for long and the Yankees know it. Trust the process.
Photo Credit: Andrew Mills, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
I am glad we’ll have Yankees Baseball back on TV today when the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. Or if you are fortunate enough to be in Tampa, all the better. J.A. Happ takes the pitching mound for the Yankees in their Spring debut. The game will also see Michael King, Luis Cessa and Nick Tropeano with turns behind Happ. We won’t have the joy of Troy Tulowitzki’s homer off his former team last Spring (the career highlight of his brief time in Pinstripes), but maybe Gio Urshela, the scheduled third base starter, can deposit a pitch over the outfield wall while facing some of his ex-teammates. Gerrit Cole, in a non-televised game, will make his debut on Monday against his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bummer, I would have really enjoyed to see Cole facing live opposing hitters. The first few Spring games are always fun until the monotony sets in during the upcoming weeks. While I am anxious and excited for the March 26th opener in Baltimore, I am hopeful we’ll have greater confidence in the starting rotation behind Cole and Tanaka when the season starts. So I want the regular season to start soon, but not too soon. May the best possible 26 men head north to the great state of Maryland next month.
I think the inner George Steinbrenner in me wants the Yankees to grab whatever star players they can (Nolan Arenado, Josh Hader, etc.) so they can crush the World, but I know the Yankees have the healthy guys in camp right now that can bring home the “piece of metal” by season’s end. I was probably a little envious of the Los Angeles Dodgers fan base and how energized they became with the trade that brought Mookie Betts to their team. They seem to be beating their chests about this being “the year”. There’s still a lot of baseball to played between now and October, but I’ll happily take my chances with this collection of Yankees and how they stack up against the Dodgers assuming the teams are fortunate enough to advance to this year’s World Series.
MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days will feature the Yankees on Tuesday, March 3rd. I always enjoy the exclusivity of interviews with the Yankees players and coaches but those shows always seem like the fastest hour in Sports or at least the player interview segments seem too short. The YES Network is good about the Hot Stove shows early in the off-season but there’s always a sense of loss when the shows come to an end. It’s too bad they can’t have weekly shows from Tampa to give us insight into the players. I guess there’s Yankees Magazine but it doesn’t have the same real time effect like the Hot Stove shows.
They are saying Greg Bird has a legitimate shot to earn the starting first base job with the Texas Rangers as they break in their new stadium this season. I have to say it will suck if Bird has a happy and healthy season for the Rangers. I know, I shouldn’t say that. I do not regret the Yankees’ decision to cut Bird loose, but after so much false hope each season with Bird, it would be disappointing to see him give Texas what he never gave the Yankees (good health). I guess I turn the page on ex-Yankees faster than I should. I loved Didi Gregorius as a Yankee but now I find the fans who are still posting comments about how much they miss him to be annoying. I couldn’t care less about the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager. I feel the same about Bird and former Yank Todd Frazier (I see him as more of an ex-Met these days) in Texas. I am not going to root for them just because they once played for the Yankees. Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly is the lone exception to my personal rule.
Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press
I’ve tried to avoid talking about the cheating scandal for this post but I want to say I feel David Ortiz is wrong for calling Mike Fiers a “snitch”.
Photo Credit: The New York Post
I respect Big Papi but Fiers, a guy none of us are enamored with as Yankee fans, did the right thing to bring attention to the Houston cheaters. While I understand Papi’s criticism that Fiers should have said something while a member of the Astros, I also get team camaraderie holding players back from being divisive forces in the clubhouse and the fact Fiers tried to follow proper channels through the Oakland A’s and the MLB office before stepping forward on the public stage. I support Fiers for his critical role in bringing to light the shame and scandal of the Houston Asterisks. I still do not like Fiers the pitcher, but I will always respect him for stepping forward and revealing the unethical play of the Astros.
Let’s enjoy some baseball today.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Getty Images
New Decade: Great Hope for Pinstripes…
It’s been an interesting year. When January opened, many of us (okay, namely me) wanted the Yankees to sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. The thought of ‘excite the Fan Base, Hal Steinbrenner’ keep reverberating through my head. On January 14th, the Yankees signed free agent second baseman D.J. LeMahieu, and the Yankees, for all intents and purposes, were out of the Harp-Chado Sweepstakes. The signing of the former Colorado Rockies second baseman was met with general indifference from the Yankees fan base, but it would prove to be a much bigger acquisition than Machado would be for San Diego or Harper for Philly. Both of those teams did so well with their new $300+ million men that they fired their managers. LeMahieu’s manager wasn’t the AL Manager of the Year but he should have been.
Photo Credit: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports
By now, we know the Yankees won 103 games during the regular season despite a historic number of men (30) who found their way to the Injured List. The ALDS was a success against the homer happy Minnesota Twins, but the season came to an abrupt end in the ALCS playing against a team that subscribes to the theory ‘if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying’. Okay, that’s a Jim Rome quote but it fits the eventual AL Champions and then some. Someone bang on a garage can for the Houston Astros.
I keep hearing the reason the Yankees failed in the ALCS was because of the hitters. In the playoffs, you face the best of the best. No team is throwing a #5 starter at you to see if they can beat you. With Houston, they had three aces. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke. There’s a reason the Yankees couldn’t buy a hit when they needed it. Fortunately, the Yankees, after the season was over, recognized the primary goal of this off-season was to get an ace.
James Paxton, after a rough start (it seemed like the first inning was never his friend for the longest time), settled into his role as the best Yankees pitcher. I like Paxton a lot but he is not an ace. While he can be, he is more of a #2. I’ve seen countless people post on Social Media that Luis Severino is an ace. He’s not but can be (maybe even more so than Paxton). Sevy needs to prove it over the course of a long season. Consistency and good health are the two primary ingredients needed before Sevy can call himself an ace. The potential is there but it has yet to be realized. Masahiro Tanaka can be very good but he’s not an ace. The regular season is filled with those dang obligatory homers. Once the playoffs start, he pitches with laser-like focus and like Andy Pettitte, is a man you want on the mound in October. Three very good pitchers, but no current ace among them.
The problem was solved on December 18th, ten days ago, when the Yankees officially signed Gerrit Cole to the largest pitching contract in MLB history (9 years for $324 million). If the opt out after 5 years is exercised, the Yankees can add an additional year to the deal, making it worth $360 million. I’d say that Hal Steinbrenner has excited the Yankees fan base. With an ace, the Yankees suddenly have one of the best starting rotations in baseball after seasons where the rotation was viewed as the primary weakness. Weakening the lying, cheating Houston Astros was an added bonus.
Photo Credit: AP
The cautionary tale is the Boston Red Sox. A couple of years ago, Sox fans were beating their chests over a starting rotation headlined by Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello. Porcello is now a Met, Price’s name is regularly among trade rumors as a potential salary dump and Sale can’t stay healthy. If the Yankees have an advantage over the Red Sox, it is a much deeper farm system with talented young pitching prospects to provide a hedge. The Cleveland Indians have proven an ability to grow aces on trees, and of course, the Yankees now have one of those architects on the coaching staff with Matt Blake as the new pitching coach. To Boston’s credit, they have a World Series championship to show for their collection of starters and the Yankees have not. But if I had to place a bet on which team would win more World Series in the next five years, I can assure you it would not be Boston. If the Yankees can bring the World Series championship total to at least 30 over the next decade, I’d call Cole’s contract a smashing success and those Red Sox championships of 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018 will be nothing but a forgotten memory.
Even though 2019 did not bring a championship to the Bronx, it has set the stage for a very strong Yankees squad in 2020. A more complete team that is ready to take the next step. Even though 2010-19 is the first decade in a century that did not feature at least one World Series appearance by the Yankees, it figures to change in 2020-29 with restoration of appearances AND victories.
I look forward to 2020 with great optimism and I know it will be a great year for the Yankees and all their fans.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
In other news, the fan-created trade speculation for Josh Hader continues. Yet, not one reputable baseball writer with genuine sources has indicated the Yankees are close on any trades. Miguel Andujar’s name keeps getting mentioned by fans as expendable. As much as I love Gio Urshela’s glove at third base, I am fearful about a regression in Gio’s offense after last year’s breakout. The Yankees need Andujar. I know his defense is often criticized, but moving D.J. LeMahieu from second to third would force the Yankees to use Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada at second. I’d rather keep LeMahieu, an elite defender, at second, and use Andujar at third if Gio fails. I wouldn’t be so quick to trade him. Andujar also has the potential to see some time at first and perhaps in left field with additional work in the Spring. He is trying to get better defensively and his workout videos show a man who is trying to improve his game. Personally, I wouldn’t trade Andujar for a reliever regardless of how good the reliever is. Third base is simply not a position of strength in the farm system and Urshela, as I’ve mentioned, is no sure thing.
The latest name circulating among the Twitter GM’s is Nick Castellanos. Castellanos may be a good hitter but where does he fit on the Yankees? The Detroit Tigers moved him off third base because of subpar defensive skills. I’d rather have Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Garder, and Mike Tauchman in left field. Castanellos, who became a right fielder, cannot play center and he’s certainly not going to take Aaron Judge’s spot in right. Make him a DH? It wouldn’t allow the Yankees to maximize the potential of the DH slot with the rotation of great hitters already on the team. I see no fit for Castanellos on the Yankees roster. The bat’s nice but it is not enough to make his addition a roster upgrade. In fact, you could argue it would be a detriment because of the lineup inflexibility it would cause. Personally, I like Joc Pederson, a left-handed hitter, and think he’d fit better on the roster if the Yankees could swing a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’d love to see Joc taking his shots at Yankee Stadium’s short right porch. He may be a platoon bat to face right-handed pitching but he’d mesh well with the other Yankee outfielders or at least better than Castellanos would. Steamer has projected Joc to hit 31 home runs and 76 RBIs in 2020 with .255/.345/.537 batting line and .364 wOBA and 129 wRC+ in approximately 500 plate appearances. Unlike Castanellos, Pederson is a solid defender.
It’s always nice to see the calendar page turn to January. The last full month with no Yankees baseball. There could still be a surprise addition or two before pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 12th. It continues to be speculation the Yankees will unload J.A. Happ’s contract (all or part) to reduce luxury tax penalties. I, for one, look forward to seeing how Jordan Montgomery will do in Spring Training even if he’ll be on an innings limitation this year. With no expectation to be more than the fifth starter, I think Monty could serve the role well. I think we’ll begin to see the work of Sam Briend, Director of Pitching for the Yankees, come to fruition. With guys like Briend and Matt Blake, the organization’s great young pitching talent will only get better. Soon, we’ll be growing our own Mike Clevingers and Shane Biebers.
Happy New Year, Everybody! From all of us to all of you, we hope this is your (our) best year yet. Hopefully this time next year we’ll be relishing in the Yankees’ 28th World Series Championship.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Frank Augstein, AP|
Yankees-Red Sox Live from Across the Pond…
The title is the first line from the song by The Clash but it seems appropriate on this Saturday morning.
I am unsure of how I feel about the London Series that begins in a few hours in London. The Yankees were playing so well and had just completed a highly successful home stand (winning 9 of 10 games). Then, two days of nothing while the Yankees made their way to London and participation in subsequent events upon their arrival. The Tampa Bay Rays had a chance to make up a game on the Yankees over the last two days but fortunately their loss to the Texas Rangers last night dropped them back to 7 games behind the Yankees. The Yankees should go into the All-Star Break holding the lead in the AL East but I hope the disruptive travel schedule doesn’t sidetrack momentum.
The next 8 games, including these two in jolly ol’ England, are not exactly a cake-walk. The Boston Red Sox may be trailing the Yankees by 9 games, but they are still the defending World Series champions and they have the talent to make a second half run despite their World Series hangover. I am not sure what is going on over in Queens but even at their worst, the New York Mets, the Yankees’ next opponent, always seem to bring their “A” game against the Yankees in the fight for the intra-city championship. Then, the Yankees conclude the first half with four games in St Petersburg, FL against the second place Tampa Bay Rays. I really dislike that warehouse of a stadium and all those empty seats yet it won’t stop the Rays from being a thorn in the Yankees’ side.
But for now, the focus is the Boston Red Sox. With Masahiro Tanaka set to take the mound later today, I am a little worried that the dimensions of London Stadium (330’ from home plate to the foul poles and 385’ to center field with 16’ fence) will cause Tanaka to give up more than just his usual obligatory home run. Of course, Boston pitching is faced with the same dilemma and last time I heard, the Yankees have a few mashers in their lineup even with Giancarlo Stanton sidelined. I’ve heard the air is heavier, but I guess we’ll see whether or not these games turn into slugfests like hot summer nights at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado.
If the Yankees can sweep the two-game series, the Red Sox will be 11 games behind in the AL East, making it much harder for them to overcome in the second half for their defense of the AL East championship. At the very least, I’d like to see the Yankees win at least one of two before they return stateside. A sweep by the Red Sox would be awful and no doubt our social media feeds would be filled with Jared Carrabis tweets.
I really wish people would lay off Giancarlo Stanton. I’ve seen so much hate directed at him for his latest injury that has potentially sidelined him until August. Some people are already calling his contract the worst in Yankees’ history. Did everyone forget that Stanton slugged 38 home runs and drove in 100 runs last year when Aaron Judge missed so much time, helping the team win 100 games? Injuries happen. It sucks but it is not Stanton’s fault that he is currently unable to play. I guess if he would just strike out every bat, he’d save his body from harm. Get real. The guy is a great player and he’ll be back. This is not Jacoby Ellsbury revisited.
Like many, I was surprised the Yankees called up outfielder Mike Tauchman to replace Stanton on the roster instead of Clint Frazier. I get that you’d prefer to have Tauchman’s ability to play all three outfield spots with above average defense, while Frazier is a roller coaster with the glove. The Yankees used the defensive advantage as the reason Tauchman was called up, but that’s the easy answer. There seems to be more at play. Maybe it’s nothing and the Yankees just wanted Frazier to continue playing every day with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. I guess , as the saying goes, time will tell as it often does. The Yankees would be foolish to trade Frazier for a “rental” and they’ve indicated they will not. I also have a hard time believing they’d trade him to an AL East rival. It appears the relationship between Frazier and the Yankees is fractured but honestly we don’t really know. Nobody has given us a seat at the table with Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and other Yankees brass so we don’t know what they are thinking.
Personally, I’d really like for Frazier to be the starting left fielder in 2020. Brett Gardner has been a great Yankee and we’ve been saying it for several seasons now, but he should really be no more than a fourth outfielder at this stage of his career. If Gardner wants to continue his career beyond this season, I have doubts it will be in Pinstripes. I do not expect Edwin Encarnacion to return next season. I think the Yankees will pay the $5 million buyout versus paying the $20 million salary. The Yankees, after all, have to save those pennies to make a run at Gerrit Cole in the off-season. So, Giancarlo Stanton will move back into the full-time DH slot. I hopeful that the Yankees and Frazier can repair their relationship for the good of the organization. Or if the relationship is not broken, they can change the perception that it is.
If the Detroit Tigers are leading off by asking for Gleyber Torres in trade talks for lefty Matthew Boyd, I’d call it game over. On one hand, if I was the Tigers GM, I’d shoot for the moon too and then work my way back down to reality. On the other hand, if the Tigers remain steadfast in their demand for a King’s Ransom, then the Yankees should pursue other options. It’s great the Yankees could have Luis Severino back in the second half, but there’s no denying they need more than just the returns of Severino and Domingo German to make a deep run into October. We continually hear the names of Madison Bumgarner, Max Scherzer, Marcus Stroman, and lately, Luis Castillo, but inevitably, Brian Cashman will make a move that we never saw coming. I don’t really want to lose top prospects but Casey Stern’s line of “Prospects are Cool, Parades are Cooler” is so true. If the move(s) Brian Cashman makes over the next four weeks pay off in October, it will have all been worth it.
I thought it was funny this week when the Chicago White Sox designated first baseman Yonder Alonso for assignment. Not funny for Alonso, but given the fact it was perceived the White Sox had acquired Alonso last off-season to give them an edge to sign Alonso’s brother-in-law, Manny Machado, the situation is a little humorous. Alonso’s performance (slash line of .178/.275/.301 with 7 homers and 27 RBIs) led to the move, but this would have been very awkward had Machado signed with Chicago. I hope Alonso can rebound. He’s a former Padre so perhaps he can find his way back to San Diego to back up Eric Hosmer and join up with his sister’s hubby.
Congratulations to Gary Sanchez and D.J. LeMahieu for winning the votes as starters to represent the American League in the All-Star Game at catcher and second base, respectively. Hopefully, the other Yankees in the final voting (Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit and Aaron Judge) can make the All-Star team as backups. Of the three, I feel most strongly about Torres. He should be a fixture at All-Star games for years to come. Not that Judge shouldn’t be too, but Judge has missed too much time this season, in my opinion. I believe All-Star recognition should be about performance this year and not be based on past performance or simply be a popularity contest.
As great as LeMahieu has been this year, I read that the majority of his votes came from the Colorado market. I guess you could put me in that category since I live in Denver even though I am not a Rockies fan. My friends who are Rockies fans absolutely hate me talking about how great LeMahieu is. I can’t help his play every game excites me. I don’t care what anybody says…the quiet infielder has been the greatest free agent signing of last off-season. I truly hope LeMahieu is as excited to be Yankee as we are that he is.
|Photo Credit: Noah K Murray, USA TODAY Sports|
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP|
Aaron Judge becomes latest Casualty…
There was immediate concern when Aaron Judge arrived at first base after his single in the bottom of the sixth and you could tell he was in pain. Even as Head Trainer Steve Donahue came out and they removed Judge from the game, there was hope it was only a precautionary move with a fairly comfortable lead over the Kansas City Royals. But when Judge dropped the F bomb as he walked through the dugout, it signaled this was worst case scenario. Although no timetables have been given, the left oblique injury will keep Judge away for awhile.
|Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images|
Of all the injuries the Yankees have suffered this year, I had felt that Aaron Judge was the guy the team could least afford to lose. Gleyber Torres probably runs a close second, but Judge is the ideal right fielder for this team and its heart and soul. It was no fun last summer when we lost Judge for an extended period as a result of the fractured wrist, courtesy of a Jakob Junis pitch. But at time, at least the team had Giancarlo Stanton to step into right. As the team prepares to play today, there are only three outfielders on the team. Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Clint Frazier. The role of the fourth outfielder will be filled by infielder Tyler Wade, who has not exactly set the World on fire with his bat this season.
With the placement of Judge on the Injured List today, there will be an unlucky 13 players on the list. Fortunately, Gary Sanchez will back soon. He is expected to play a minor league rehab game on Monday before being activated on Wednesday. The Yankees head for Anaheim, California to begin a four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels tomorrow so Sanchez should be ready by the third game. Giancarlo Stanton is expected to return sometime during the upcoming road trip but he’s a little further out than Sanchez. The road trip concludes in Phoenix, Arizona on May 1st. The sooner, the better but we need to make sure that Stanton is 100% ready to go to avoid any setbacks.
The Yankees have very limited outfield depth in the system. Everyone knows that top prospect Estevan Florial fractured his wrist in Spring Training and is still recovering so he’s not even a thought (not that he should have been…yet…anyway). The five outfielders listed on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster are Trey Amburgey, Billy Burns, Omar Carrizales (who?), Matt Lipka, and Zack Zehner. Available free agents include Jose Bautista, Matt Holliday, Austin Jackson, Denard Span, Danny Valencia and Chris Young. In other words, there is no help on the horizon other than the return to good health for those on the IL. The only other option is trade, but most teams are reluctant to trade this early in the season. I keep hearing Justin Smoak’s name. No doubt he’d provide a productive bat to pair with Luke Voit at first base and DH, but the Toronto Blue Jays are only a game behind the Yankees and they certainly smell the blood in the water. Not that the Jays have World Series aspirations this year and they’ve already parted with Kevin Pillar (traded to San Francisco on April 2nd) but I don’t think they’d actively help the Yankees at this point even if the teams have been receptive to inter-division trades in the past.
I am not sure what to think at this point. You can only hope the team treads water until the injured stars begin their return to the active roster. It’s hard to look at the current roster and say, ‘Oh yeah, this team is winning the World Series this year’. I am glad that Clint Frazier and recently Mike Tauchman have stepped up but it’s going to take more from the other replacement players. I can’t say that I am overly optimistic. The Yankees can simply not afford to lose any more players at this point. They are stretched as far as they can without outside help. It is imperative that the injured players come back soon but the risk is rushing them back too soon. I guess these are the times that GM Brian Cashman and his staff truly earn their paychecks. With so much bad news lately, I could really use some good news about now. At least we have the NFL Draft later in the week.
With Judge’s injury, yesterday’s 9-2 win over the Royals actually felt like a loss. There was certainly no joy after the game. I was glad the team evened its record at 10-10 but sadly the future, at this moment in time, seems hazy. The Boston Red Sox elevated themselves out of the AL East Cellar yesterday with their second consecutive victory over the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. With such uncertainty surrounding the Yankees, I’d hate to see the Red Sox go on a roll. There’s no doubt the rash of injuries should make for a reliable battle-tested bench later in the season but that’s hardly any consolation on the 21st day of April. The coming days and weeks will go a long way toward determining how this season will play out. If there was ever a time for the team to unite and persevere through adversity, this is it. At the moment, Yankee Stadium feels a little like Winterfell as the Night King and his Army of the Dead close in for the kill.
To talk a moment about Saturday’s game, it is unfortunate that a Yankee fan interfered with the fly ball to left by Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the third inning. Initially ruled a home run, the call was overturned upon review and Torres was ruled out due to the interference. I agree the fan leaned over the wall so clearly by definition it was interference, but I honestly do not feel Royals outfielder Alex Gordon would have caught the ball. Replay seemed to show the ball just an inch or two beyond his reach. Fortunately, the Yankees didn’t need the three-run homer but I feel bad for Gleyber in losing a home run courtesy of a fan. On the other hand, the fan probably didn’t appreciate the free escort out of the stadium by Security. Tough situation since I feel I probably would have reached for the ball without thinking, like most of us, in that situation too. Aaron Judge hit his fifth home run before he was lost to us. The Yankees also got homers from Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, and with his first as a Yankee, DJ LeMahieu. It was a great bounce-back game for Masahiro Tanaka who lost on a grand slam last Sunday. Tanaka went seven innings, giving up only four hits and a run. He walked three and struck out seven to improve his record to 2-1. I thought his ability to leave the lightning quick Billy Hamilton stranded at third after Hamilton’s lead off triple in the top of the third inning (a ball that went under the glove of the defensively-challenged Luke Voit at first) was huge.
The Yankees conclude their four-game series with the Royals today. They’ll send James Paxton (2-2, 3.91 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Jorge Lopez (0-2, 4.30 ERA). The Yankees could really use a series win as they embark on the nine-game West Coast trip to Anaheim, San Francisco and Phoenix. Hopefully the remaining healthy players can provide Paxton with the necessary support for his third win of the season.
As expected, Gio Gonzalez exercised the opt-out in his minor league contract. The Yankees have until tomorrow to either elect to promote Gonzalez to the Major League roster or let him go. I fully expect the latter. No doubt he’ll get a big league job soon but it won’t be in the Bronx. Too bad he can’t play the outfield.
As always, Go Yankees! And please, stay healthy.
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!