|Photo by Christian Petersen|
Top Prospect Justus Sheffield joins the ranks of “former” Yankees…
The news broke suddenly yesterday afternoon. After a fairly quiet November (up to that point, the only significant MLB trade had been Seattle’s catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays as the start of Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto’s “re-imagining” of his roster), reports came hard and fast like a James Paxton four-seam fastball that the Yankees had acquired the talented lefty from Seattle.
My initial reaction was ‘it’s a start, but we need more’. I didn’t expect the Yankees to lose Miguel Andujar in a trade for the much talked about trade speculation involving the 6’4” Big Maple and fortunately he was not involved. For a frontline ace like Corey Kluber, you’d part with the young third baseman but not for Paxton.
|Photo by Al Bello, Getty Images|
When it was announced the Yankees had sent top prospect Justus Sheffield, breakout minor league starter Erik Swanson, and rising minor league outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams to Seattle for Paxton, Yankee fans were immediately trying to find flaws in the prospects sent to the Northwest. I am not going to join the crowd and trash Sheffield. The fact remains he is only 22 and still has an excellent chance to be a difference-maker. For a team that is prepared to win in 2019, this is a trade that makes sense. Paxton makes the Yankees better when they step back on the grounds of Yankee Stadium next year. Sheffield is probably a few seasons away from reaching his potential. This is totally a ‘win now’ move.
The Yankees also needed to make room on the 40-man roster for Swanson or he would have been eligible for next month’s Rule 5 Draft so this saves a spot for someone else.
So where do we go from here? I really hope the Yankees continue their pursuit of free agent lefty Patrick Corbin. He was and continues to be my top choice. I’d love to have Corey Kluber but I don’t really expect the Cleveland Indians to trade their ace without asking for a King’s ransom. Admittedly, I will be disappointed if the Yankees sign J.A. Happ to fill the last spot in the rotation. Happ was great during his short time as a Yankee last year, but as a long-term piece, let’s say I would be a little underwhelmed. I would have been fine with Happ to go with Corbin, but not paired with Paxton who carries injury risk. I know, all pitchers carry injury risk. It’s the nature of the beast, but Paxton has consistently missed time over the last few years.
If the Yankees are successful in signing Corbin, the newcomers, along with Masahiro Tanaka, will certainly ease some pressure off Luis Severino to be “the man”. I suppose it’s not out of the question for the Yankees to sign both Corbin and Happ. Last year proved, once again, you can never have too many starters. Personally, I preferred signing Happ over long-time Yank CC Sabathia for the back end of the rotation. But regardless, you know that one or more starters in the rotation will miss time for various ailments and the Yankees need to be prepared. I really hope we’re not facing more rollouts of Luis Cessa to fill those spots. Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga and Chance Adams will have every opportunity to help, I am sure, but I hope we’re not leaning on those guys in multiple spots like we were at times last season.
Seattle fans seem to be taking the trade in stride. I think they realized that their team was mired in mediocrity in a division with some very strong teams. They have a few players with bloated contracts like Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, and Kyle Seager. I have always loved Cano but the back half of his huge contract is not going to be pretty for the 36-year old. I am glad the Yankees were able to acquire Paxton without having to take on any of unmovable contracts. The M’s can use the young pieces received in the Zunino and Paxton trades to position themselves for 2021 or so. I read one Seattle columnist who said Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto basically had the choice of getting punched in the mouth or hit by a truck. He chose the former.
I fully expect Domingo German to give up #65 for Paxton. It’s not exactly like German is married to the number. I believe Jonathan Holder was wearing the number at the start of last season until he opted for a lower number in the 50’s. The number still reminds me of Phil Hughes but no doubt, in time, Paxton can make it his own.
There may be minor moves made today as teams finalize their 40-man rosters for Rule 5 eligibility next month. I doubt we’ll see anything as major as the Paxton trade, but there’s always a chance for the inevitable Sonny Gray trade now that his spot in the rotation has been filled. Otherwise, I expect the remainder of the week to be fairly quiet with no significant moves until we get past the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend.
Paxton is the first step toward the enhancement of the 2019 Yankees (if you don’t count the re-signings of Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia). Multiple moves remain necessary before this team is ready to take down the Boston Red Sox. Another starter, at least two more for the bullpen, and an interim solution at shortstop. Yet, my excitement for February is building. It only gets better from here.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: The Canadian Press (Fred Thornhill)|
Will Paxton join Gerrit Cole in Houston?…
Last year, the Yankees missed an opportunity to acquire top starting pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Astros swooped in to grab the talented righty. It’s possible that the Yankees could be outdone by the Astros for the second consecutive year. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted this morning that Houston is in on the potential trade talks for James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners along with the Yankees and other clubs.
I wanted Cole last winter although a number of Yankee fans did not. Honestly, it’s unlikely Cole would have pitched as well in the Bronx as he did in Houston so perhaps the opposing fans were right. This is a new year, and now the trade speculation is on Paxton, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. My initial desire is to place Kluber at the top of the list, but the more you think about it, the less likely you feel the Cleveland Indians would actually move their aces. The Indians remain a contending team so unless it is a serious overpay, the Tribe is not going to part with Kluber or Carrasco. So it leaves Paxton as potentially the best available trade target assuming the Mariners decide to move him. Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto is, of course, very unpredictable but the Yankees and Mariners have matched up for lesser deals in recent years so there is history of successful negotiations. I have no doubt DiPoto would trade within division for the right mix of players so Houston is a serious threat for the Yankees if they identify Paxton as the guy they want. The Astros may lose Charlie Morton to free agency and they’ve already lost Lance McCullers, Jr for the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. So the Astros are just as motivated to add top starters as the Yankees.
As much as I like Paxton, he is not someone I would trade Miguel Andujar for (or Estevan Florial or Justus Sheffield for that matter). Kluber or Carrasco, yes, but not Paxton. Paxton carries much greater risk with his inability to stay healthy. So, as much as I would hate to get punked by the Astros again and as much as I’d like Paxton on the staff, there is a price I’d draw a line. If Houston wants to overpay, let them. If GM Brian Cashman can get Paxton at his price, great. I’ll be excited to see Paxton join the Yankees starting rotation…with Miguel Andujar continuing to field grounders at third in Yankee Stadium.
A pic of a shaved Dallas Keuchel has been floating the Internet with talk about how the “beardless” one would look in the Bronx.
With no offense to Keuchel, I don’t really want to see him in the Bronx. I know he’s been tough on the Yankees over the years but I cannot find myself with the desire to root for him. Keuchel will only be 31 when the season begins, however, I think Keuchel and Patrick Corbin are on opposite trajectories for their 30’s. Corbin, like fine wine, stands a much better chance of aging well. If the Yankees miss out on Corbin and others, it is possible they have to make a run at Keuchel but I really hope that’s a potential option which never comes to fruition. Bring me Corbin and J.A. Happ and I’ll be happy.
Trying to brace myself for the possibility the Yankees pass on the big ticket purchases this winter, I think Marwin Gonzalez and Jurickson Profar represent the best options for the infield to help cover for the loss of Didi Gregorius. I’ve liked Daniel Murphy in the past but I don’t feel he really fits the Yankees at this stage in his career. Both Gonzalez and Profar have positional diversity which makes them very valuable with the current group of Yankees. Who knows, maybe this is the year Tyler Wade puts it together to launch his Major League career in full force. It’s not really a bet I’d make but it is not my team or my money. Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is on record that he is tired of lining the pockets of other owners and it’s his right to make the financial decisions in the best interests of the Steinbrenner Family. I think most of us thought the Yankees were positioning themselves for a big splash into the 2018-19 free agent market but the reality is that we need to be prepared for Team Fiscal Restraint. I am hopeful Hal sees the potential salary relief when guys like Jacoby Ellsbury come off the books in just a couple of years but we’ll see.
It was tough in years past to see the Yankees pass on the big name free agents. Max Scherzer stands out as one. At the time of his free agency, the Yankees were cited as one of the favorites to sign him. They didn’t and Scherzer moved from Detroit to Washington and has continued to pitch at an elite level. Even if the Yankees weren’t ready to add an elite pitcher at the time of Scherzer’s availability, he’d certainly look fantastic in the starting rotation today. The price would have meant the inability to bring payroll under the luxury tax threshold this year so the decision to pass on Scherzer remains debatable. It’s amazing how the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury has haunted the Yankees for so many years. I guess that’s a strong argument for not going hog wild in the current free agent market.
Before I close, I’d like to send out our prayers and thoughts to all those affected by the wildfires in Northern and Southern California. For some, there will never be recovery. I hope the fires are brought under control soon and we suffer no further loss of life. For those of you in California, please stay safe.
|View of Malibu from Santa Monica Pier|
Lastly, Happy Veteran’s Day! We can never forget those who served and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to maintain our freedom. Today, and every day, we honor you.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)
On the bright side, greater things await the team next year…
It was a disappointing end to a promising season. I know, we should be grateful for a season that saw the Pinstripers win 100 games and advance through the Wild Card game to the AL Divisional Series. Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox were the better team. They won 108 games over the course of the season, and did not run into the roller coaster ride that we felt at times as Yankee fans. I did feel the Yankees had the talent to beat the Red Sox but, for whatever reasons, it was not meant to be. So, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and their fans.
The days following the ALDS loss have been difficult. I couldn’t bring myself to watch or listen to the MLB Network or ESPN the next day. It’s always hard when your favorite team’s season is abruptly ended. But if there is a takeaway, I hope that the bitterness of the loss motivates Yankees leadership to make the necessary enhancements to turn this team from very good to great. For several years, we’ve looked at 2019 as the arrival of the latest and greatest edition of Yankees championship baseball. 2017 was a little premature but it gave us a glimpse of what this team could do. Maybe it set expectations for 2018 higher than they should have been, but at this point, 2018 is water under the bridge. Time to look ahead and get excited about the future which will very soon be the present.
Everybody is writing posts about what the Yankees should do. Ultimately, those are the decisions that Hal Steinbrenner, the Steinbrenner Family, and the Yankees executive management team must make. We can say what we’d like for them to do, but if any of us feel that we could do a better job than Brian Cashman and Company, we’re delusional. I can say what I think the Yankees should do and will below, but these are really just personal wishes that may or may not come true. I trust Brian Cashman to make the right decisions.
We know going into the 2019 season the starting pitching staff will be led by Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. I fully expect Severino to make the necessary adjustments this winter to ensure greater consistency next season. I don’t think Sevy wants to settle for being a good pitcher. He wants to be one of the best in the game. I’ve been saying for months the Yankees should part ways with CC Sabathia, but now that the season is over and I’ve had time to re-think the position, the Yankees should try to sign CC on a one-year deal to bring him back as their fifth starter. There are some young, talented pitchers in the organization, like Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, Mike King, Albert Abreu, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German, but let them battle for the sixth man position. We know that the five-man rotation you start the season with is rarely the rotation you have at the end. I think the chance of injury increases significantly each year with Sabathia, but his value in the clubhouse cannot be dismissed. I think one or more of those young pitchers will have their opportunity to shine at some point next season, but let’s break camp with the ball in CC’s hand at the back end of the rotation. For the other two spots, I’ve held the third position, like many Yankee fans, for lefty Patrick Corbin. He seems destined for the Bronx. It will be a major disappointment if the Yankees are unable to sign him. For the fourth position, I’d try to re-sign J.A. Happ. We should get Jordan Montgomery back sometime in mid-2019, but these rotation “problems” (i.e., too many starting pitchers) have a tendency of working themselves out. Clearly, Corbin is a higher priority than Happ so if I can only have one, I’ll take the Arizona Diamondback.
In the bullpen, we may be potentially losing both Zach Britton and David Robertson. Sentimentally, I’d like to see the Yankees re-sign Robertson. I hated the years he was away with the Chicago White Sox. I really enjoyed getting him back into Pinstripes. There’s no doubt Aroldis Chapman is the undisputed Closer for the Yankees, but it’s nice to have a proven top closer in reserve for those times when/if Chappy goes down or not available. I’ve never been a fan of Dellin Betances closing games, despite his late season success. I prefer to keep the big guy in the primary setup role where he excels. If both Britton and Robertson leave, there’s no doubt Chad Green moves into a later inning role unless the Yankees sign a guy like Andrew Miller (which, as much as I hate to say it because I love the guy, would be a mistake given Miller’s recent history of injury struggles and ineffectiveness). I really liked having Britton on the team. Down the stretch, he was great. I have as much confidence in him closing games as I do Chapman or Robertson. Unfortunately, I think some team will throw too much money at him to be their primary closer so I think the odds of Britton’s return are very slim to non-existent.
I don’t want to trash Giancarlo Stanton and don’t feel that he should be judged solely on his performance in the ALDS, but if I could trade Stanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers and sign Bryce Harper, I’d do it. Realistically, I don’t think it will happen and I am convinced Stanton is here for the long haul regardless of the opt-clause in his contract. I think Stanton will be better next year after a year in the Bronx.
Miguel Andujar is everybody’s choice for AL Rookie of the Year. Well, at least among the Yankees Universe any way. No offense but the Yankees need to improve their defense at third. Many have called for moving Andujar to left. I’d support it. He has a very strong arm and I think his defensive flaws would not be as exposed in left as they are at third. Moving Andujar to left opens a spot in the lineup for everybody’s favorite free agent, Manny Machado. Not only is Machado a great young superstar, but his bat in the lineup would go a long way toward helping to solve the Yankees’ ongoing RISP problems. For the year (with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers), Manny hit .297/.367/.538 with .905 OPS. He slugged 37 homers and drove in 107 runs. It is assumed that he’d be willing to move back to third for the Yankees, and he’d greatly improve the team’s defense at the position. Unfortunately, I think the Philadelphia Phillies will be very aggressive in trying to sign Machado so if the Yankees want him, they’ll have to work hard to make it happen.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Gary A Vasquez)
I am not ready to give up on Gary Sanchez. I have no interest in the ‘dump Sanchez, trade for J.T. Realmuto’ arguments. I fully expect El Gary to work on his game during the off-season and come back much stronger, with a chip on his shoulder, next season. We know what his bat is capable of when it’s right. I think he will be improved defensively as well. I would not make any changes with the catching position. I am fully in favor of Austin Romine returning as El Gary’s caddy.
I really enjoyed the late season work of Luke Voit at first base. But there’s no way I’d go into training camp next Spring simply handing Voit the job. Greg Bird, while he didn’t deserve to start after his demotion, should be given every opportunity to compete with Voit. If the Yankees encounter a surprising chance to upgrade the position (someone like Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt), they should do it. In the end, I think Voit will be the team’s first baseman but until the regular season starts, I think it should be open competition to decide.
Right field, second base, and shortstop are firmly set so the only other position that could be potentially upgraded, excluding those I’ve mentioned above, would be center field. To trade or not to trade Aaron Hicks. That is the question. I don’t have a center field solution. Estevan Florial is not ready yet. I’d probably prefer to see Hicks stay, but I’d have no problem if the Yankees decide to trade him to improve other areas so long as they identify a strong option to replace him.
Brett Gardner has been a great Yankee but the team should not exercise his option. Some have mentioned declining the option and then re-signing him for less money, but he is a fourth outfielder at best at the stage of his career. I guess it really boils down to whether or not the Yankees think Clint Frazier can stay healthy. Plus, the albatross contract (Jacoby Ellsbury) should be back next year ready and, gulp, healthy. If there is one player that I’d love to see the Yankees dump regardless of the dollars lost, it would be the King of the DL. Sadly, I think we’re stuck with him for now and his presence could very well spell the end of Gardner’s time in Pinstripes.
When Aaron Boone was named manager of the Yankees, I had really wanted him to hire an experienced bench coach. I would have loved to have seen Rob Thomson stay in the role, but I get his reasons for leaving after he was passed over for the manager’s job after years of service in the organization. Given Boone’s inexperience, I had really felt that he would have benefited from a seasoned manager serving as his bench coach (much like the role Ron Roenicke played for Boston’s Alex Cora). Boone opted for “smart and confident”, foregoing experience, when he went with Josh Bard. Bard is working his name to the short list for potential managers and he may very well turn out to be one of the game’s best eventually, but I think an experienced bench coach would have been better for Boone this past season. Next season, both Boone and Bard will be stronger for this season’s experience so maybe there’s no need to make any changes with the coaching staff. I trust Boone enough to know that he’ll reflect upon this season and identify areas of improvement to make the necessary corrections. There’s no doubt that Brian Cashman and his team will be working with Boone in the off-season too. I don’t think we’ll see the same level of bullpen management (or if you will, mismanagement) next season. Boone continues to have my support.
I am anxious to see what Brian Cashman has in store for us. He knows that this team is very capable of being great and does not need too many tweaks to position themselves among MLB’s elite. I am sure that we’ll feel a sense of loss for those players who depart via free agency or trade, but when the 2019 season rolls around, the Yankees will be ready to play. I am excited and I think the team is well positioned to go deep into October next year. I am convinced the Yankees will be improved while the Red Sox, after career years from multiple players, will regress.
I am looking forward to hearing what Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman have to say in their press conferences later today. I am so ready for the Hot Stove League to begin. But first, we still have some baseball left even if the beloved Yankees are at home with their families. Nonetheless, I am anxious to hear the first words for the 2019 blueprint when Boonie and Cash took the podium at Yankee Stadium. Then we have to wait a couple of weeks before Operation Win 2019 World Series begins with full steam.
For now, it is the NL and AL Championship Series, with the NL kicking things off tonight. The only team left in the playoffs that interests me are the Los Angeles Dodgers. If the Dodgers lose the NLCS to the Milwaukee Brewers, I probably won’t be watching the World Series. Credit to the Brewers for acquiring the most valuable outfielder from the Miami Marlins (Christian Yelich) last off-season. It’s been a magical season for them. I think the Dodgers will prevail but the Brewers certainly have a good chance for altering the outcome. I really hate the Houston Astros but I am hopeful they are the AL representative in the Fall Classic. I am so ready for the end of Boston’s season now, not later. So, my picks for the World Series are a repeat performance by last year’s participants, the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the Houston Astros, with the same outcome.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Omar Rawlings)|
For a meaningless game, Saturday’s game featured huge milestones…
Congratulations to the 2018 New York Yankees for their achievement of 100 victories. It is something they have not done since the championship year of 2009 and it is not something that many teams do each year. It usually means that you win the division but the Boston Red Sox were just a little better this time around.
The Yankees also busted the MLB record yesterday for Team Home Runs. When Gleyber Torres hit his two-run shot in the 4th inning off Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, it gave the Yankees one more than the previous record of 264 set by the Seattle Mariners. Giancarlo Stanton added the 266th of the year with his 38th dinger in the 7th inning. For Stanton, he also had two RBI’s to give him 100 for his new team, matching the team’s win total when the Yankees closed out the 8-5 victory. But I have to give a big…
RED SOX SUCK!
…for their fan who threw Stanton’s home run ball back onto the field and hit Giancarlo as he rounded second.
Miguel Andujar set the new Yankees’ rookie record for doubles with two yesterday to increase his season total to 46, eclipsing the old mark of 44 set by Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio back in 1936.That’s special company when you can rub shoulders with Yankee legends. If Shohei Ohtani wins the AL Rookie of the Year, it won’t detract from the brilliant season Andujar has enjoyed. He deserves the hardware as much as Ohtani, but all things considered, I’d rather have a World Series trophy. Andujar has a chance, Ohtani does not.
In taking the first two games of the three-game series with the Red Sox, the Yankees have prevented Boston from reaching 110 victories which I personally appreciated. Today’s game is probably about as meaningless as a spring training game, but it is a day the Yankees can enjoy and get ready for Wednesday’s Wild Card Game in the Bronx against the Oakland A’s.
I look back to Boston’s sweep of the Yankees in early August as the defining moment for the AL East. It gave the Sox the momentum and the separation they needed from the Yankees to propel them to the AL East championship. If the Yankees could have at least split that series, I think the race to the finish would have been much tighter.
Within the last couple of weeks, I had my doubts if the Yankees would be able to hold the lead in the Wild Card standings and thought they could potentially lose home field advantage for the game to the hard charging Oakland A’s. I apologize for the ‘glass is half empty’ approach. Thankfully, the Yankees have picked up some momentum over the last week and grabbed the pole position earlier this week. The A’s did pick up their 97th win of the year yesterday against the Los Angeles Angels, 5-2, which boggles my mind. They are truly a team that came out of nowhere but are loaded with lethal bats and a deadly bullpen. The A’s have a chance to avenge the famous Derek Jeter “Flip Play” which erased the A’s Jeremy Giambi in the 2001 ALDS.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
I like the 2018 Yankees and their chances but I’ll temper any excitement until the conclusion of Wednesday’s game. Anybody can win one game. Heck, the Baltimore Orioles, even with 115 losses, could beat the Boston Red Sox in one game. I know, the stakes are much higher in the post-season and guys elevate their game, but in the span of nine innings, anything can happen. If the Yankees can beat the A’s, then I feel they have a great shot moving forward. It will mean a quick return to Boston for the next round if it happens.
I honestly do not know which pitcher I’d go with to start Wednesday’s game. I like the job J.A. Happ has done since he joined the Yankees. I look at his last game against the Red Sox when he gave up four runs as really just a bad pitch to Steve Pearce who didn’t miss it for a grand slam. I am sure that Aaron Boone would have pitched that inning differently in the playoffs and Happ would not have faced Pearce. On recent performance, I’d have to go with Happ, but I can’t discount the argument David Cone made on yesterday’s FOX telecast of the game, “Severino is your Ferrari”, “you can’t keep your Ferrari in the garage”. Sevy has been the ace for the last couple of years and despite his stretch of struggles this summer, he’s still the leader of the staff. So, I’d probably go with Sevy but I can’t really argue against Happ if Boone decides to go that direction. I thought Masahiro Tanaka might the one rounding into form for the one-game ‘do or die’ playoff but his last start showed me that we don’t need his propensity for allowing home runs in a game against a team filled with sluggers like the A’s. Khris Davis hit his 48th of the year yesterday, proving that if you throw him a mistake, the ball will go very, very far. I’d prefer not seeing Tanaka face guys like Davis, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty. So, in my mind, Tanaka is not an option when your season is on the line. Nevertheless, the Wild Card game is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation so any signs of trouble for the starter should be a quick signal to the pen.
I was a little disappointed with the forgettable performance of Yankees reliever Jonathan Holder yesterday. This has been a breakout year for Holder who has been relied upon as one of the bullpen’s key performers. Holder was given the ninth to finish off the game, in relief of Sonny Gray who had done a fine job for a couple of innings. The Yankees had a comfortable 8-3 lead, but Tzu-Wei Lin walloped Holder’s first pitch for a ground rule double to left. Brock Holt followed with a homer to right to close the gap with the Yankees to three runs. Sam Travis was next and he singled to center. With Aroldis Chapman warming in the pen, Holder finally got the first out when he struck out the past-his-prime Brandon Phillips. Chapman had to come in and close out the game, picking up his 32nd save in a game that should not have been a save situation. Hopefully this was just an isolated poor outing for Holder. The Yankees need him for middle relief in October if the team advances beyond the Wild Card. Chapman did walk a batter to bring the tying run to the plate, but I am glad to see the Cuban Missile is rounding back into form. He is still not where he needs to be, but I like the insurance card (Zach Britton). A combo of a healthy Chapman and an elite closer like Britton is a solid recipe for success.
Credit to the Yankees for their accomplishments this year. To win 100 games for a team that seemed to struggle for extended periods this year shows that they are a very talented group when healthy. In looking at the National League, it’s not easy to make the playoffs, let alone win 100 games. There are two dead heats entering the last day of the season with ties atop the NL Central and NL West. The NL Central co-leaders, the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, have the most wins in the NL at 94. For the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies, today’s games could either mean winning the division or heading to Los Angeles for a tie-breaker game tomorrow. The loser of the tie-breaker would then head to Milwaukee or Chicago depending upon who loses the NL Central. The Brewers and Cubs would play a potential tie-breaker Monday in Chicago. Very complicated. I am glad the Yankees don’t enter the final regular season game with so much uncertainty and potentially chaotic travel schedule over the next couple of days.
Buck Showalter probably manages his last game today. His team has lost three consecutive games and stands at 46-115. They’re facing the Houston Astros at Camden Yards so today they’ll probably see Houston’s backups and minor leaguers. Hopefully it means one final victory for Buck before he goes. His managerial record is 1550-1517-1 for a .505 winning percentage. In my mind, he helped prepare the 90’s Yankees for its run of success even if he never saw the fruits of his labor. Farewell, Buck. I hope this is not the end of the road, but just the closure of another chapter before a new one begins. Maybe the Angelos Family surprises me and decides to keep Buck around but I seriously doubt it.
Also, farewell to David Wright of the New York Mets. I don’t care for the Mets but I recognize Wright was a special player and it’s too bad his final years were filled with injuries. He is one of the game’s better ambassadors and I am hopeful he stays in the game for his post-playing career. Major League Baseball needs more guys like David Wright.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)|
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the Yankees were just assembling in Tampa in Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers in camp, awaiting the arrival of the position players including new Yankee Giancarlo Stanton.This has been a very fast year. Although the bullpen management has driven me nuts at times, I think Aaron Boone has done a good job as the team’s manager. So many of those bullpen decisions are driven by Brian Cashman’s analytics team so it’s hard to place all of the blame on Boonie. I like the calming effect his personality has on the clubhouse, not too much unlike former Yankees manager Joe Torre. I know that many Yankees fans have anointed the team’s former manager as Saint Girardi, forgetting his faults. But entering Wednesday’s game, win or lose, I am glad Aaron Boone is the manager of the New York Yankees.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
A loss on Wednesday does not end the hopes of this team. They’ll be back, stronger than ever, in 2019, and I think they’ll overtake the Boston Red Sox next year. The Sox benefited from career years from multiple players but I don’t think they’ll catch lightning in a bottle again next year. The Yankees can have a say in ending Boston’s highly successful season with a win on October 3rd. A perfect ending and a beautiful beginning for the Yankees if they can survive the Wild Card game and defeat the Red Sox. The Yankees, right now, can beat anybody. That’s not a boast, but a fact. Let’s prove it on the field.
|Photo Credit: The New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)|
Yanks Beat Tigers, 2-1…
Normally, I’d be very bummed the Yankees were only able to get two hits off Tigers pitching on Saturday but thanks to Masahiro Tanaka, that’s all the offense he needed en route to the one-run victory.
The way the game started, it looked like Tanaka was going to need significantly more offense than he eventually required. The Tigers scored first with a run in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez. It looked like they might get more with only one out, but Tanaka worked himself out of trouble by striking out Niko Goodrum and getting Ronny Rodriguez to fly out to left.
Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the first for his first appearance as a New York Yankee. It is so weird seeing Cutch in Pinstripes. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but is still a strange sight. When I think of Cutch, I think of the long dreadlocks and the beard but now both are nothing but a distant memory. I do have to say that the beardless look makes him look younger. It wasn’t the best of times for the former NL MVP as he struck out looking in his Yankees debut at-bat. He finished the game without a hit, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. However, McCutchen was not the only Yankee hitter to struggle against Tigers starter Daniel Norris. Through four innings, Norris held the Yankees hitless and had faced the minimum of twelve batters.
|Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)|
Miguel Andujar finally became the first Yankee baserunner when he walked to lead off the fifth inning. Gary Sanchez had first shot to move Andujar but he flied out to left. Next up, Gleyber Torres. The Rookie of the Year candidate made the most of his opportunity with the first Yankees hit of the game, a homer to left, which gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. After walking the next batter, Luke Voit, Norris left the game with an apparent injury (later diagnosed as a leg cramp) but the Yankees didn’t fare any better against the Tigers bullpen.
|Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)|
The only other hit by the Yankees was an infield single by Aaron Hicks in the sixth inning but he was erased on an inning-ending double play.
Tanaka navigated his way through the biggest challenge in the seventh inning. Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner led off with a double to right field. JaCoby Jones followed with a single, moving Greiner to third. Jones subsequently stole second to give the Tigers two runners in scoring position with no outs. I would have pulled Tanaka at that point but manager Aaron Boone stayed with his right-hander and was rewarded. A ground out and two strikeouts left the two Detroit runners stranded and the Yankees still holding the slim one-run advantage.
Tanaka didn’t return but it was a great start. He evaded potential big innings for the Tigers in the first and seventh, finishing with seven hits scattered over seven innings. He limited the Tigers to the isolated first inning run, walking one and striking out six on 96 pitches. With the continued struggles of Luis Severino, Tanaka is pitching like a guy who wants the ball for the inevitable single-game elimination Wild Card playoff.
From there, it was up to the Yankees bullpen. Jonathan Holder took the eighth, and to my surprise, Dellin Betances got the call in the ninth. Personally, I would not be comfortable with Betances as my closer (he proved to me long ago that he is better in setup) but Boone showed confidence in Betances, who was only two games removed from the disaster on Thursday night when he gave up two ninth inning home runs to blow the first game of the series to the Tigers. This time, there were no late game heroics for the Tigers. Betances struck out the first batter, Jeimer Candelario, for his 100th strikeout of the season (the fifth consecutive season he has hit the milestone, a record for a reliever). The Tigers did get a runner on base but he didn’t go anywhere. A couple of ground outs and it was game over. A save for Betances, his second of the season, and a win for Tanaka (10-5) and the Yankees.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)|
The Boston Red Sox won (6-1 over the Chicago White Sox) so the Yankees (86-50) remain 7 1/2 games behind the AL East leaders. The Yankees did pick up a game in the Wild Card standings over the Oakland A’s. The Athletics lost to the Seattle Mariners and slid 5 1/2 games behind the Yankees. The M’s, ten games behind the Yankees, trail the A’s by 4 1/2 games.
Like Andrew McCutchen, Gary Sanchez took an ‘O-fer’ this game. He was 0-for-4. He almost beat out an infield hit in the second inning but instant replay sent him to the bench. His season batting average dropped to .185 but then again, he wasn’t alone in his search for a hit in this game.
The Yankees conclude their four-game series with Detroit today at 1:05 pm ET. Lance Lynn (8-9, 4.84 ERA) gets the call against Detroit’s talented lefty, Matthew Boyd (8-12, 4.22 ERA). The Yankees will be managed by Bench Coach Josh Bard since Manager Aaron Boone gets the day off, thanks to a one-game suspension for the catching instruction he gave to the home plate umpire on Friday night. Giancarlo Stanton also gets a much-needed day off. Gary Sanchez will slide into the DH role. Sanchy, please feel free to mix in a hit or two…or three.
Saturday, with the expansion of rosters, was a busy day for the home team. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, acquired Friday night, was added to the active roster and assigned #29, in addition to the activation of Gary Sanchez off the 10-day DL. Shortstop Tyler Wade and RHP Luis Cessa were recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and the Yankees purchased the contract of LHP Stephen Tarpley from SWB. Tarpley was assigned #71 and will be making his Major League debut whenever he gets the call from Aaron Boone (or if today, Bard). To make room for Tarpley, the Yankees designated outfielder Shane Robinson for assignment. It remains to be seen if LHP Justus Sheffield will get the call or pinch-runner extraordinaire Quintin Berry for that matter. For either of those guys to be added, someone will have to be voted off the island. A.J. Cole, you might want to start packing your bags, Dude.
This morning, the Yankees recalled RHP Jonathan Loaisiga from Double-A Trenton.
When the Yankees acquired Andrew McCutchen, I knew immediately that it would be a reunion with a long-time teammate (Neil Walker) but I had forgotten that Adeiny Hechavarria was the starting shortstop for the Miami Marlins for a few years before his subsequent stops in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. So, he had his own little reunion with Giancarlo Stanton.
Despite the Thursday night disaster, the Yankees have a chance to take the series today with the Tigers. With a cross-country flight to the Bay Area awaiting them, it would be great for the team to take a winning feeling with them.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)
Starting the New Month with Reinforcements…
It’s September 1st and it is truly a new day, a new month for the New York Yankees today. I am very excited to see the addition of one player today. Yes, Andrew McCutchen is a Yankee and so is, very unexpectedly, Adeiny Hechavarria, but the player I am talking about is Gary Sanchez. I know this has not been the best of seasons for the Yankees catcher and he’s missed significant time with several DL stints but by all indications, he’s in his best shape of the year and is ready to help the Yankees in the push for October.
|Photo Credit: AP (Noah K Murray)|
For all of the Yankees problems, they still have the second best record in Major League Baseball. It’s unfortunate that the team with the best record resides in the AL East but it is what it is. While the pesky Oakland A’s are only 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card standings, the Seattle Mariners, armed with the addition of Robinson Cano from his 80-game suspension a few weeks ago, have fallen off the pace and sit ten games behind the Yanks. Barring a total collapse (unlikely), the Yankees are headed for the Wild Card game.
While the Yankees picked up a game on the Boston Red Sox last night and are just 7 1/2 games out, the realistic view is that we are headed for a one-game Wild Card playoff game at Yankee Stadium against the A’s. We need Gary Sanchez to play like we know he can. Forget his stats from earlier this year. This is a new season, and based on the effort he put into his rehab, I think El Gary “gets it” and is ready to contribute. This is certainly not an indictment of Austin Romine who has done a fine job. But Romine is simply not the player Sanchez is and never will be. So, welcome back, Gary, we’re glad to have you.
I thought Bryan Van Dusen wrote a great piece the other day about the Yankees’ acquisition of outfielder Andrew McCutchen. It’s hard for me to write anything about the arrival of Cutch that hasn’t already been said. Suffice it to say, I was surprised about the trade. I had gone to bed Thursday night immediately after the game so I didn’t hear the news of the trade until the next morning. Bryan said his reaction to the trade was “oh no” and I have to admit that I had a similar reaction. My biggest fear was the luxury tax threshold, but it was a non-issue as the Giants included cash and the Yankees had the room under the threshold to fit the one-time NL MVP. The biggest frustration about the deal is that the Yankees waited more than a month to get outfield help after the injury to Aaron Judge. Sure, they originally expected Judge back in three weeks but it was tough to live a month with Shane Robinson’s name frequently written into the lineup card in right during the month of August.
McCutchen’s here now and will start his first game for the Yankees later today. Like Sanchez, I am glad he is here and the Yankees lineup will certainly have a much different look today.
I think McCutchen will be revitalized by the insertion into a pennant chase. His old team, the San Francisco Giants, weren’t out of it. In fact, they were closer to first place in their division than the Yankees are, but the truth was the .500 Giants were not going to be playing October baseball. Cutch will also benefit from the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. But as his spray chart for 2018 shows, Cutch has the ability to use the entire field and will enjoy using the dimensions of Yankee Stadium to his full advantage.
I was on record saying I wanted Curtis Granderson. Nevertheless, I admit that McCutchen is a much better option. The Grandy Man did get moved yesterday, joining the Milwaukee Brewers, but his ineffectiveness last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers in their failed quest to win the World Series did stick with me. Therefore, I am glad McCutchen is a Yankee and Granderson is not.
I know this is just my dislike for Jacoby Ellsbury kicking in, but I think the Yankees should have ripped #22 off his back to give the number to McCutchen. Instead, Cutch will inherit Tyler Austin’s old #26. I wonder if Chris Austin, Tyler’s dad, will have anything to say, considering he probably feels his son’s number should be hanging in Monument Park. Granted, McCutchen’s Yankee career will probably not extend beyond this year but he is far more deserving of 22 than Ellsbury is. I know that Ellsbury is a Yankee as long as insurance is covering his salary, but I can’t wait for the day when he is Yankee no more.
I had wondered if the Yankees would make any more acquisitions prior to the waiver trading deadline last night but I was still surprised to hear the Yankees had acquired former Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Pittsburgh Pirates. I guess you can never have too many former Pirates on the roster. I thought if any move was made, it would have been for another reliever. Hechavarria is mostly known for his glove so I get the reasons to bring him to the Bronx, but the loser, to me, appears to be Tyler Wade. Hechavarria is not much of a hitter, but he used to drive me nuts with the occasional base knocks against the Yankees at the worst possible times while he was a Ray.
I thought Wade would get the call up today as rosters expand and provide support at short behind Gleyber Torres while Didi Gregorius is on the mend. Maybe it still happens, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing a strong defensive option into the mix. To make room for Hechavarria, the Yankees designated minor league reliever Ryan Bollinger for assignment. The surprise here is that Bollinger’s spot was not used for Justus Sheffield. But if the Yankees do subsequently decide to bring up Top Sheff sometime this month, I have no problem waving goodbye to A.J. Cole. At this point, my guess is that we won’t see Sheffield at all this month and he’ll arrive in Spring Training next year for his first real opportunity to pull on the famed Pinstripes.
There was a part of me that wanted the Yankees to acquire Josh Donaldson from the Toronto Blue Jays for the stretch run. He ended up in Cleveland but that’s okay. The guy hasn’t played since May and his remaining salary, without any help from the Blue Jays, would have been problematic. If he can prove he is finally healthy, the Indians made a great move. But the risk, a high one, is that he is not able to make it back to full strength. Better the Indians play the odds than the Yankees. I’d just hate to be playing the seventh game of a playoff series in Cleveland with the game tied and Donaldson at bat in the bottom of the ninth. I guess we’ll just worry about that if/when the time comes.
The Yankees did play a game yesterday and they won. After being no-hit for the majority of the game by the Detroit Tigers and Jordan Zimmerman, the Yankees used the long ball to overcome the Tigers. With goose eggs still showing on the scoreboard for the Yankees in the bottom of the sixth and three runs in for the Tigers, Austin Romine led off and reached base on an error. After Ronald Torreyes took Romine’s place at first on a fielder’s choice that erased the lead runner, Brett Gardner, whose slump was one reason the Yankees acquired McCutchen, homered to right for the Yankees’ first hit. Giancarlo Stanton flied out for the second out (even Stanton’s fly balls draw ‘oohs and ahs’ from the Yankee Stadium crowd), but Aaron Hicks and Miguel Andujar followed with back-to-back, or as John Sterling says, belly-to-belly home runs. The Yankees had a 4-3 lead.
It was a little unsettling when the Tigers came back to tie the game at four on Mikie Mahtook’s RBI single in the seventh inning. Worse yet when the Tigers took a one-run lead in the eighth on a sacrifice fly. It was starting to feel like the Yankees were going to lose another close one to the lowly Tigers.
In the bottom of the eighth, with the bases loaded and two outs, Gleyber Torres lined a sharp single to left that bounced up and off the left fielder to score two runs. 6-5, Yankees. Luke Voit advanced to third and Gleyber took second on the late throw in to the plate. Neil Walker was intentionally walked which re-loaded the bases. Austin Romine reached base on an infield hit which scored Voit and the Yankees had the same lead, 7-5, heading into the ninth that they held the night before when the Tigers belted two home runs off Dellin Betances to win 8-7. This time, it was David Robertson in for the ninth and not Betances. I was starting to sweat bullets when the Tigers had two men on base and only one out but D-Rob rose to the challenge and struck out the last two hitters to end the game. Yankees win! The Yankees win!
Prior to the game, the YES Network analysts talked about how Luis Severino struggles in the mid-innings and this game was no exception. The fifth inning has been his bugaboo and he yielded two runs on three hits in the inning last night. Sevy needs to get this figured out sooner rather than later. It was a no-decision for Sevy, who had ten strikeouts in six innings, so he’ll have to wait for his eighteenth win. The victory went to Zach Britton (2-0) who hardly looked invincible during his outing, giving up three hits and the Tigers’ final run in an inning and a third.
But setting aside the dramatic comeback homers or the go-ahead Gleyber Day Weekend hit, the play of the game was a non-play. It was the eruption of manager Aaron Boone onto the field after the Tigers had scored their third run in the top of the fifth to argue balls and strikes with the home plate umpire. His characterization of the Tigers catcher at the plate was an all-time classic (up there with the best of Billy Martin).
Photo Credit: AP (Bill Kostroun)
The Yankee hitters certainly came alive after Boone’s performance, which resulted in his ejection, so say what you will, it served as motivation for the home team. I loved seeing that fire from Boonie. Josh Bard managed the remainder of the game in Boone’s absence.
August is over, September has begun. Let’s start this day with a win for the new guy in right and the returnee behind the plate. Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
Yanks Get Double Treat on Saturday…
The Yankees swept the day/night doubleheader in Baltimore on Saturday, and find themselves only seven games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East (just six games back in the loss column). The Yankees took the day game by a score of 10-3 behind the pitching of J.A. “Happer” Happ, his fifth consecutive Yankees victory, and then swept the doubleheader by defeating the O’s 5-1 in the nightcap, a win delivered courtesy of Sonny “Pickles” Gray.
Granted, Gray was facing the worst team in Major League Baseball and they weren’t playing at Yankee Stadium so he had the right conditions for a stellar game. The last time “Pickles” had faced Baltimore, he was pounded for seven runs in only 2 2/3 innings (a 5-7 loss to the O’s on August 1st but that game was in the Bronx. He pitched six scoreless innings of three-hit ball against the Orioles at Camden Yards on July 11th and has only given up one run to Baltimore in three Camden Yards starts this year. He clearly likes pitching in Baltimore even if he can’t pitch anywhere else so I temper Saturday night’s performance. Still, it was a win and that’s what matters most. Gray threw 79 pitches in 6 1/3 innings, limiting Baltimore to three hits and no runs. He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter until the final guy he faced in the bottom of the 7th inning.
After the game, Gray proclaimed himself as “one of the best starting pitchers in this league” which I thought was a bit much. Maybe he was saying it for the benefit of O’s GM Dan Duquette (future trade possibilities), given his propensity for ‘elite-like’ games in Baltimore. His statement could not have been meant for Yankee fans because we know better. Good for Gray to have confidence, but he shouldn’t rush out to buy shelf space for a Cy Young Award.
Perhaps the disappointment of the night game was the inability of reliever Tommy Kahnle to preserve the shutout for “Pickles”. It was a messy bottom of the ninth as Kahnle gave up three hits, the last one a single by Yankees castoff Jace Peterson which scored Trey Mancini with Baltimore’s only run. Manager Aaron Boone was forced to bring in Dellin “El Acido” Betances to get the final out with two runners on base. Fortunately, he struck out Caleb Joseph on five pitches to prevent an Orioles rally and gained his first save of the season. There’s no way that should have ever been a save situation and it reinforces why Tommy Kahnle has a long way to go before he can be a trusted member of the bullpen again.
In the day game, I was a little worried when J.A. Happ gave up two runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning which gave the O’s a one-run lead. He has pitched so well for the Yankees since his acquisition in July and it is inevitable that the wheels will fall off. Happ is exactly the type of trading deadline deal you want to make. Acquire a guy who outperforms his time with his previous club and just wins down the stretch. The Yankees other lefty July trade target, Cole Hamels, is doing a tremendous job for the Chicago Cubs, but I agree that Happ was the right choice given his AL East experience. Happ ended up with yet another quality start, holding the O’s to just those two runs on five hits over six innings for his 15th win of he year. Happ (15-6) walked a batter and struck out nine and is only a win behind Luis Severino. Luis Cessa, the 26th man, finished up the final three innings for his first save despite the blowout.
Miguel “Papá ” Andujar, who has become everybody’s favorite choice for AL Rookie of the Year, hit his 21st home run in the first game with 4 RBI’s to pace the Yankees. Aaron “Hicksie” Hicks had three hits and 2 RBI’s. Luke “Louis” Voit got the start in the first game over Greg Bird, and delivered a run-scoring single. Brett “Gardner” Gardner also chipped in a couple of RBI’s and Gleyber “GT” Torres, with two hits, had an RBI as well.
In the night game, Gardy, Hicks, and Giancarlo “G” Stanton all contributed an RBI, and Austin “Ro” Romine smacked an insurance-providing solo homer in the top of the ninth. Greg “Bird” Bird finally got the start after two successive starts by Luke Voit. He responded to the challenge for his position by going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
The Yankees (82-47) play the Boston Red Sox six more times with three games in New York and three in Boston. The New York series is Tuesday, September 18th through Thursday, September 20th, while the Boston series finishes the regular season on Friday, September 28th to Sunday, September 30th. It’s still an uphill battle but the division title remains within reach if the cards fall right for the Yankees. Getting everybody healthy is the first course of business.
Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe had some interesting comments about the Yankees in his weekly Sunday Baseball Notes. He stated the Indians and the Yankees “were exploring the possibility of (Andrew) McCutchen, who has cleared waivers and can be traded anywhere”. I find it hard to believe the Yankees would add McCutchen due to the luxury tax threshold limitations but I guess you can never underestimate GM Brian Cashman. I wouldn’t mind seeing McCutchen in pinstripes but then again, he’s a redundant luxury once Aaron Judge returns to good health. Cutch does have that “it” factor and could be capable of delivering huge hits when it matters the most even if he is no longer the player he once was for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cafardo also said the Yankees were in the hunt for Giants lefthander Madison Bumgarner at the July trading deadline but found the price too high. Bummer, I would have loved Mad-Bum on the Yankees. Of course, I have no idea what the Giants asked for. Handing over our ten best prospects probably would not have been a good idea. LOL! I doubt that was the cost but it probably wasn’t too far off.
Congrats to former Yankee Matt Holliday for his return to the Majors with his original team, the Colorado Rockies. Holliday was unable to wear his original number (5) since it now belongs to long-time Rockie Carlos Gonzalez and the number he wore with the Yankees (17) is retired in honor of Rockies great Todd Helton. So Holliday opted for number 7 which of course is a hallowed number around here. Holliday went hitless in his Rockies debut on Friday after an absence of ten years in a Colorado uniform but he delivered a pinch hit homer yesterday against another one of his former teams, the St Louis Cardinals.
The Yankees conclude their series at Camden Yards today. Luis Severino (16-6, 3.28 ERA) will face Dylan Bundy (7-12, 5.31 ERA) tonight at 8 pm ET before the team heads home (sleep? who needs stinkin’ sleep!). It would be great if Sevy could pitch like he did in the first half. We need THAT guy hitting all cylinders for the sprint to the finish. Baltimore is going to lose 100 games this season with or without our help. We might as well move them one game closer. With the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers on tap for the seven-game homestand starting Monday, the Yankees must continue to put the pressure on the Beantown Bunch. These are the games that we can and should win before we face the Wild Card contending Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners on the the last West Coast trip of the regular season starting on Labor Day.