Tagged: Mike Axisa

Baseball’s Back…or is it?

MLB Season slowly makes its return…

So, we will finally have some baseball soon. After the painful back and forth between the MLB Owners and the MLBPA which cast doubt on a potential season, I am glad they finally found a way to make it happen even if it wasn’t the product of an amiable agreement. 

Coronavirus continues to present itself as a factor which could create havoc for the restructured shortened season. Friday saw the largest single day increase of the virus (with over 45,000 new cases) as states continue reopening. The numbers since this pandemic started have been staggering. 2.4 million cases reported and over 125,000 deaths. Notable baseball players, such as Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies, have been diagnosed with the virus. I heard a news report that for every person diagnosed, there are ten undiagnosed people who have been infected which shows the reason for fear.

SNY’s Andy Martino reported this week about the amended language added to the March agreement the MLB Owners executed and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred placed into force that gives the Commissioner the right to stop the season if necessary. Based on Manfred’s decisions in the Commissioner’s office up to this point, this type of power does not exactly inspire confidence. Per Martino, this paragraph was added:

“The Commissioner retains the right to suspend or cancel the 2020 championship season or postseason, or any games therein, in the event that (i) restrictions on travel throughout the United States are imposed; (ii) there is a material change in circumstances such that the Commissioner determines, after consultation with recognized medical experts and the Players Association, that it poses an unreasonable health and safety risk to players or staff to stage those games, even without fans in attendance; or (III) The number of players who are unavailable to perform services due to COVID-19 is so great that the competitive integrity of the season is undermined.”

Martino referenced the first two covenants were agreed to by the two parties during their back and forth negotiations. The third covenant is the newly added wording that empowers Manfred to throw in the towel if the coronavirus threatens the integrity of the season. No doubt, while we hope for the best, we need to prepare for the worst. 

Setting the threat of doom and gloom aside, I am happy there soon will be baseball activity. Next  week we’ll see the players begin reporting to their home stadiums for the start of “summer” training. The images of players throwing, catching and hitting will be a very welcome sight. I still find it humorous Aaron Hicks will be ready for the rescheduled Opening Day after his off-season Tommy John surgery. While I do not know if that’s ever happened before (I don’t think it has), it’s certainly a first for the Yankees. Listening to the R2C2 podcast this week, I enjoyed CC Sabathia’s observation that if you beat Hicks in a game, he wants to keep playing until he figures out how to beat you. The perfect mindset for a Major League baseball player.

I am not sure what to think about the 60-game schedule which will see the Yankees play 10 games against each of their division rivals, and unbalanced games against NL East teams for the remaining 20 games (making the Mets the most frequent opponent for those games). It will be a season of reunions with Dellin Betances (Mets), Didi Gregorius (Phillies), Starlin Castro (Nationals), and Joe Girardi (Phillies manager), among others. I get keeping the Yankees in the Eastern time zone to limit travel. It’s kind of nice there will be no West Coast games and their late starts but I am a little saddened it also means there will be no visit to the Bronx by the Houston Cheaters…at least not until October if the paths of the two teams cross. I am glad the Astros will have to play in Los Angeles against the Dodgers but a Bronx crowd would be harder on Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and company than the laid-back, seventh-inning departing sunny Southern CA crowd…if fans are even allowed to come into the stadiums. For the Astros, the coronavirus is probably the best thing that could have happened for them to deflect the deserved Bronx cheer they undoubtedly would have experienced across the country from normal, fan-filled stadiums. At least the Red Sox have to come to New York, but it’s not quite the same since their level of cheating didn’t broach the heights of the Astros scandal. 

Although the MLB trading deadline will be pushed to August 31st, it is doubtful there will be much trading activity this year. There’s a part of me that kind of hopes the game stoppage has impacted the Cleveland Indians to the point that they need to unload shortstop Francisco Lindor. I know, that’s mean. Sorry Terry Francona. But Lindor would look awfully good in Pinstripes. 

Photo Credit: Al Bello, Getty Images


I like the new extra inning rule, even if it is temporary, that puts a runner on second (the last out of the ninth inning or a designated runner) to start the tenth inning of extra inning games. Hello Tyler Wade. I am not a fan of those long extended inning games and prefer conclusion sooner rather than later. The obvious downside is giving the visiting team the advantage as it forces the home team to play catch-up if the runner scores. Mike Axisa mentioned the likelihood teams would sacrifice the runner to third and the next batter would be potentially walked to create the double-play possibility. Axisa’s suggestion was to cut to the chase, eliminate the extra time, and simply put runners at the corners. Makes sense to me. Axisa also mentioned the home team should bat first to gain the advantage. Another strong point. I am kind of hoping there is some success with the interim rule so that we’ll see some permanent form in the future.  Baseball is not meant to be played at midnight or 1 am, in my opinion.

Congratulations to the newest Yank, catcher Austin Wells, the first round selection of the Yankees in the recent shortened MLB draft. I was getting a little concerned when so much time had passed without news of his signing while other teams were locking up multiple draft picks. Fortunately, the Yankees finally got the signature of the former Boston Red Sox fan on the dotted line by paying him slightly more than the $2,493,900 recommended slot value. 

I haven’t seen any news about the other two draftees, Trevor Hauver and Beck May, but hopefully they’ll sign soon.

I’ve watched as people moan about the Yankees taking another catcher (they took two high level catchers in the 2018 draft, the year Wells was selected in the 35th round, in Anthony Seigler and Josh Breaux). According to MLB.com, Seigler is currently ranked as the 15th best prospect in the Yankees organization and Breaux comes in at 23. 2018 international free agent signee Antonio Gomez, only 18, sits a spot ahead of Breaux, which gives the Yankees three catchers in their top 25. Heck, I still miss Luis Torrens, the young catcher the Yankees lost to the San Diego Padres a few years ago in the Rule 5 draft. 

Primarily, I believe you can never have enough good catchers. Not every one will pan out and catching tends to be a high position of need for many teams, creating valuable trade chips.  There is no assurance Wells will even remain at the position. His bat will play regardless of position and there has been talk he is a future first baseman or left fielder. Regardless of what the future holds, I am glad the Bishop Gorman high school product (Las Vegas) and University of Arizona Wildcat is a Yankee. Homers are always welcome and Wells’ bat intends to be heard. Welcome to the Yankees family, Austin!

Spring training participant Chad Bettis, the former Colorado Rockies hurler and cancer survivor, has retired. I was doubtful he would make the Yankees but it’s hard not to root for a guy like him. There was a time when he was among the best starting pitchers with the Rockies but it’s been a tough road for him the last several years. The Yankees released him from his minor league contract after the retirement announcement. I do wish Bettis the best for whatever the future holds for him and I hope it is a happy and healthy life moving forward. 

I am fearful Gerrit Cole will decide to opt out of the season as a high risk athlete with a pregnant wife at home. His recent workouts at Yankee Stadium seem to imply he is “all in” but until he’s officially wearing Pinstripes, staring down Major League hitting opponents, nothing’s for sure. If he opted out, I would be very disappointed, as I am sure you would be too, but conversely, it would be hard to find fault with his decision. He has to do what makes the most sense for him and his family. If that means no baseball in 2020, I’d respect his decision (while quietly crying inside). 

I’d love to see some positive news about the health of Aaron Judge. I guess we’ll soon see when training camp resumes but Judge has clearly been the off-season mystery at least from a health perspective. Nothing against Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, or even Giancarlo Stanton, but I want to see Judge in right field on Opening Day.  Hopefully I am not asking for too much.

I am glad we can start talking about baseball again. This has been a very trying and painful year for so many reasons. The Yankees give us an exciting distraction from the brutal realities of life.  Who knows how this year will conclude but early predictions have the Yankees emerging as the World Series champion. A weird year to win a championship, sure, but ultimately a championship is a championship and I’d gladly embrace it without a caveat. 

As always, Go Yankees!

KC Rain 1, Yankees 0…

Photo Credit: USA Today

Rainout forces Day/Night Doubleheader Today…

Although the rain clouds seem to have followed the team on their trip to the Midwest, not much else has dampened the excitement of the 2019 New York Yankees. The unprecedented rash of multiple injuries that has landed so many guys on the 10-day/60-day Injured Lists has not seemed to slow down this fun and exciting team. In the long run, the team will be better off when Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, and others return, but for now, I am certainly enjoying the ride.

We were given some great news yesterday when Manager Aaron Boone announced that shortstop Didi Gregorius will begin a rehab assignment in Tampa on Saturday.  With a maximum of 20 days allowed for rehab, we’re less than three weeks away from Sir Didi’s return. It could be sooner than later since Didi probably does not need the full 20 days to get Major League ready. This feels like a great, great mid-season pickup. I don’t want to take away from the tremendous job done by Gleyber Torres during Didi’s absence. Gleyber and DJ LeMahieu have been outstanding working together at shortstop and second. Once Didi reclaims short, Gleyber will slide back over to second and LeMahieu will most likely be redeployed at third base, moving Giovanny Urshela, who has also done a brilliant job, into the utility role. I love the job Gio has done and his glove is special but you can’t take LeMahieu out of the lineup. He’ll probably see time at first base too on the days Luke Voit handles DH. The potential losers, to me, appear to be Kendrys Morales and Troy Tulowitzki.  Tulo has expressed willingness to play other positions but seriously I’d rather have Gio and Thairo Estrada than Tulo on the Major League Roster. Estrada will probably lose out since he has options but it’s too bad because he has proven he belongs. There’s no scenario I see Tulo with the Yankees next year.

When Didi had his Tommy John surgery last year, I thought it was ridiculous of those who said he could be back by May or June. I honestly felt that has an overly aggressive timetable, yet here we are.  We’re very fortunate Didi has not dealt with the setbacks encountered by other injured team players like Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton. For Didi, everything has seemed to go according to plan from the first day following the surgery. It is a credit to the man Didi is, mixed with a little luck, I am sure. For as great a player Didi is, I’ve missed his infectious personality despite how fun the 2019 Yankees have been. While I feel bad for those who will lose playing time, I am excited about Didi’s return and the team is better with his presence. I know my Twitter account is looking forward to seeing Didi’s post-game Emoji tweets.

Credit: @sirdidig18 on Instagram

I thought Giancarlo Stanton would be back before Gregorius but it does not appear to be the case. Hopefully the current rest for Stanton puts him back on track when he returns to baseball activities within the next couple of weeks. I’m all for limiting Brett Gardner’s play in left field and putting Stanton in right until Aaron Judge returns would go a long way toward making Gardy the valuable bench player he should be at this stage of his career.

I am not going to lie, I am worried about James Paxton. The reports of continued pain in his balky knee are troubling.  Everyone is holding their collective breath for how Paxton feels today. Pitching four innings in extended Spring Training yesterday, there is concern how the knee will react to the workload today. I know my knee would be saying “F**k this s**t!” Paxton has expressed the desire to pitch through the pain but that’s hardly comforting. As much as I like Paxton as a starter, there’s no denying that him and the Injured List are fond of each other. To be fair, I am sure Paxton doesn’t want to be on the Injured List. It is what it is. I am not going to overreact to say the Yankees need to sign Dallas Keuchel now or after the June draft to avoid draft pick compensation, but there’s no question the Yankees will need to do something to reinforce the starting rotation.

I don’t really think Keuchel is the answer. If he was, other teams would be rushing to sign him yet there has been nothing but crickets surrounding the pitcher who was clearly on the downward slope of career regression last season. If Keuchel was all that and a bag of chips, the Houston Astros would have resigned him long ago. I probably feel the same way about Madison Bumgarner. The guy continues to live off a World Series reputation from five years ago but doesn’t have the current stats to justify ace status or his post-season aura. I think there are better options and trust that GM Brian Cashman and staff will uncover the right arm to add. There’s no reason to overpay for pitchers that have seen their better days. Yankees Twitter seems to be implying that a deal for Max Scherzer is imminent (I highly doubt it) but that’s the type of arm I’d like to see in July. Scherzer remains among the best in Baseball and his team, the Washington Nationals, are going nowhere. A couple of bad games have inflated his ERA and his win/loss total is more reflective of the team he plays for, but generally speaking Max will give you seven innings every outing, limiting the opponent to two or fewer runs. He’s a workhorse and would significantly improve the Yankees rotation and help keep the bullpen fresh. I am sure a pennant chase would energize him. I thought Scherzer would have been a perfect Yankee when he was a free agent a couple of years ago when the Yankees were mentioned as the favorite to sign him. It didn’t happen but Scherzer has done nothing to sway my high opinion of him. The cost to get him is another matter, but that’s a problem for Brian Cashman to figure out.

Photo Credit: Hunter Martin, Getty Images

Manny Machado makes his first return to Yankee Stadium this week when the San Diego Padres arrive in the Bronx on Monday for a three-game series. It will be Manny’s first appearance there since he played for the Baltimore Orioles last season. No doubt, good or bad, he’ll receive a reaction from the Bronx crowd, more so than any other Padre who takes the field. Sorry, Adam Warren. Machado has already made the Los Angeles Dodgers pay for their decision not to resign him. In five games against his former team, he has hit 4 home runs and has driven in 7 RBIs. He is batting .368/.429/1.105, with 1.534 OPS in those games. I am sure he’ll be as motivated against the Yankees as he was with the Dodgers. While I wanted the Yankees to sign Machado last winter, that ship sailed and I am not going to cry over spilt milk. I just hope Yankee pitching is up for the task and is able to keep Machado’s bat relatively quiet for the three games. Let him take out his frustrations on the Orioles when they play next month.

Photo Credit: KC Alfred, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Don’t look now, but the Yankees’ home record of 267 team homers last year is in jeopardy. Before the season, we thought the 2019 Yankees might be the team to assault last year’s record but it is the Minnesota Twins who are currently leading the pack. Through 50 games, the Twins have slugged 101 homers and are on pace for 327 round-trippers. Although they have yet to be acknowledged as one of the AL’s best teams, they possess the best record in MLB at 34-16 (.680 winning percentage). Things seem to be going right for first-year Manager Rocco Baldelli in the Twin Cities. I kind of feel badly for Tyler Austin who was shipped from the Twins to the San Francisco Giants earlier this season. The Giants have settled in to the NL West Cellar and will undoubtedly camp out there for the duration of the year. At least Tyler is getting some great pics in San Francisco.

Photo Credit: @taustin2121 on Instagram

Speaking of San Francisco, the Giants are calling up outfielder Mike Yastrzemski according to Jon Heyman. I know, why talk about a young player with a direct bloodline to a former Red Sox great (grandson of Carl Yastrzemski), but I’ve been following young Yaz since he was a baby prospect in the Baltimore Orioles organization. I lived in Frederick, MD when he played for the Single A Frederick Keys. He didn’t succeed for the O’s but he is enjoying second life in the Giants organization (a team that, it seems, is annually in search of outfielders). At 28, he’s no longer a “prospect” but I wish him the very best as he finally arrives in The Show.

If you haven’t signed up to subscribe to Mike Axisa’s twice-weekly newsletter (https://www.patreon.com/RABthoughts), you are missing out. For the low price of $3 per month, Axisa continues to deliver the outstanding commentary, backed by  his deep insight, thoughts, and statistics, we grew accustomed to with the late River Ave Blues blog. Axisa remains one of my favorites, if not the favorite, and he’s so much better than many of the professional (allegedly) Yankee beat writers. Trust me, you look forward to Tuesdays and Fridays when Axisa’s Patreon email lands in your inbox.

Credit to Max Wildstein (@MaxWildstein on Twitter) for this one: “Domingo Germán is 9-1. Chris Sale is 1-6.” Baseball is funny or as John Sterling says, “Well, Suzyn, you know, you just can’t predict baseball”. But it reinforces why 2019 is so much more enjoyable than 2018.

The Yanks play two today, thanks to yesterday’s rainout. I couldn’t ask for a better scenario than last night when both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox lost while the Yankees watched the rain fall in Kansas City. Today would be an awesome day for two NYY victories.

As always, Go Yankees!

The April Roller Coaster Ride…

Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi/NY Post

Up and Down Start Continues…

It was an uneven week to say the least. Sure, it was great to sweep the two-game series in the Bronx against the dreaded Boston Red Sox but to follow up with lackluster play in the first game of the Kansas City Royals series was disappointing. It’s easy to blame the high number of injuries for the slow start but there’s no excuse for not playing hard every game. Fortunately, the Yankees rebounded last night to beat the Royals, 6-2, behind CC Sabathia (1-0), the bullpen and a couple of dingers.

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

I’ll admit it. I was one who didn’t feel the Yankees should have re-signed Sabathia this past off-season. For as much as Sabathia has meant to the Yankees over the years and his invaluable role as team leader/mentor, I thought his spot in the rotation could be improved upon. I was wrong and that’s perfectly okay. Sabathia has continued to surprise me with his late career renaissance. When he encountered the knee problems a few years ago, I didn’t think he would be able to reinvent himself as a pitcher, yet he did. I am enjoying Sabathia’s final ride and pleased he’ll do it in Pinstripes. I don’t know his post-career plans but I am hopeful the Yankees find a role for him. I am not sure he can continue to pitch like he has in his first couple of starts but there’s no doubt he’ll give his team a chance to win every time he takes the hill.

We came into the season with such high hopes. For a few years now, we’ve looked at 2019 as the year the Yankees would arrive to capture their 28th World Series Championship. Then, player after player found his way to the now-massive Injured List and the team has struggled out of the gate. Someone asked Mike Axisa on his River Ave Blues chat yesterday how many wins this Yankees team (as currently constructed without the return of any of the men on the Injured List) could achieve and he responded with 84. He’s not wrong. You can’t lose so many superstars without an adverse impact. The big question is who would step up to take advantage of opportunity due to the missing stars.

So far, the award for best replacement player has to be Clint Frazier. There are many who still feel that Frazier’s future lies outside of Pinstripes but I am glad to see him potentially have his breakout year. I’ve been a critic and not exactly an admirer of his social media skills. But we’re starting to see the player GM Brian Cashman saw a few years ago when he sent reliever Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians. In fifteen games covering 57 plate appearances, he has 4 homers, 12 RBIs, and is hitting .327/.351/.577 with a great 145 wRC+. His arm was on display last night in right field when he fired a 95 mph throw to catcher Kyle Higashioka on the third base line to nail Martin Maldonado who had tried to score after tagging up at third in the third inning. For as much as Brett Gardner has done to help the Yankees win this week, there’s no question the future of left field should reside with Frazier. When Giancarlo Stanton returns to take DH and Aaron Hicks is back in center field, it should be time for Gardy to move to the bench. Maybe Frazier is just rebuilding his stock for an inevitable trade for starting pitching but I honestly I hope not. I’d like to see him thrive in the Bronx. His time is now.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

While there won’t be room for him on the big league roster when Stanton and Hicks return, it’s nice to see left fielder Mike Tauchman hit a couple of home runs this week. It’s amazing that he was never able to launch one at Coors Field in his young career. I know, he was only given limited opportunities with the Rox but there’s no question his swing would have played well at 5,280 feet if he had been given more chances. With the Rockies running into their own string of injuries, I can’t help but wonder if they wished they had held onto Tauchman.

I fully expect the Yankees to let pitcher Gio Gonzalez walk when he formally opts out of his minor league contract this weekend. While I’d prefer the experienced Gonzalez over Domingo German for the long haul, German has certainly pitched well enough to retain his spot in the rotation despite his rocky start last Thursday. I think my biggest concern in the rotation right now (aside of Luis Severino’s absence) is the performance of J.A. Happ. It’s unfortunate the Yankees do not have more time with Gonzalez to keep him available if Happ continues to struggle. I don’t see Gonzalez extending his minor league contract with the Yankees and I do not see the Yankees bringing him up only to serve as a long man out of the pen.  I think there are starting opportunities for him with other teams (like the New York Mets who just placed the great Jacob deGrom on the Injured List). He’ll get a starting gig somewhere.  So, Gio, thanks for the memories. Sorry you didn’t the chance to wear Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium but it’s probably best the Yankees didn’t need you during your short stay.

Speaking of minor league contracts, I am not sure what I think about the Yankees signing first baseman Logan Morrison to a minors deal yesterday. It’s hard to let go of his comments from the past. I know Gary Sanchez has moved on with his comments yesterday that the Home Run Derby (when LoMo questioned the choice of Sanchez over him) was two years ago. But LoMo attacked Yankee fans with his infamous “you can’t fix stupid” remark. I don’t think I am as forgiving as El Gary. I am not sure LoMo will ever get a chance to wear the Pinstripes (he has a July 1st opt-out) but if he does, he owes an apology to the Yankees fan base and to the team for his ill-advised prior comments. It’s hard to criticize LoMo for his poor 2018 with the Minnesota Twins which ended with hip surgery but he is only a season removed from 38 jacks. If he could be that guy, he would certainly be an improvement over Mike Ford as backup first baseman.

With the impending return of Gary Sanchez in the next few days and hopefully Giancarlo Stanton by the end of the month, I am hopeful the Yankees can get on a roll. Today, the Yankees will send Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 3.22 ERA) to the mound.  He’ll be opposed by RHP Heath Fillmyer (0-0, 9.00 ERA). Tanaka will look to erase memories of that grand slam that did him in last Sunday in the 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox. We keep saying it but so far the Yankees have failed to capitalize, they need to beat teams like the Royals. Handed a soft schedule to start the year, I never dreamed that we’d still be chasing a .500 mark nearly a month into the season. But all things considered, it’s nothing that a nice 10-game winning streak can’t cure.

I just saw the news that the Miami Marlins fired their hitting coach, former Yankees third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, after their game last night. I hate to say it, but I think the days are numbered for Marlins manager Don Mattingly. Despite his Yankee connections, I think Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will move to get his own guy in the dugout at some point. In my humble opinion, odds are greater Jorge Posada will be Marlins manager next year over Mattingly. It’s unfortunate because Mattingly was my favorite Yankee during his playing career, and I’ve been a fan since those days ended. To replace Pags as hitting coach, the Marlins appointed Jeff Livesey as his replacement. Livesey is son of former Yankees executive Bill Livesey. Livesey will be assisted by one-time Yankees top prospect Eric Duncan.

Okay Yankees, we need a win today. Please bring home the “W” to even your record at 10-10. We want this, you want this. Make it happen.

As always, Go Yankees!

Missing the Yankees…

Photo Credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images

A Rare and Odd Day-Off for the Pinstripers…

I can’t really say that I like Fridays with no Yankees baseball. I guess, ultimately, it’s no different than if heavy rain had hit Inner Harbor, forcing the postponement of a game but regardless, yesterday felt a little empty when everybody else was playing. I’ve grown accustomed to Mondays and/or Thursdays as days off over the years, but weekend games, starting Friday night, are the best for the working stiffs of the World like me. Nothing quite like watching the Yankees after a long, hard week at work. I am glad they are back in action today even if we have to wait until this evening.

Putting the Yankees aside for a moment, Friday was made much sadder with the announcement by Mike Axisa that he is shutting down the famed River Ave Blues blog. 

Photo Credit: CBSSports.com

With no offense to our blog site, River Ave Blues has been the standard every blog site hopes to achieve. It was the best Yankees Blog in my opinion, and Mike Axisa has been tireless in his quest to provide quality content every day. Ultimately, it was probably his relentless, unyielding drive that led to his decision to shutter the Blog (it would be tough to keep up his pace for a season, let alone twelve years) and while I fully understand his reasons, it is a huge loss for Yankee fans. In his announcement, Axisa said April 29th will be the final day for his nationally recognized Blog. Mike mentioned the possibility of a weekly newsletter/mailing list with his “thoughts”. I really hope he follows through with this brilliant idea. Mike, I’ll pay a few dollars a month to get your continued thoughts about MLB’s best team. I have appreciated Mike’s honest assessments of the Yankees over the years, along with those of the other great RAB writers. There are many good writers but Axisa is one of the very few with a brilliant writing style and an amazing and very objective perspective. I can probably count on one hand the baseball writers I hold in such high regard as Axisa. You can include the late Red Sox writer Nick Cafardo in that group, but clearly, it is not a crowded room. Thanks to Mike Axisa and the entire RAB staff for making our lives a little better each and every day. We appreciate you, @RiverAveBlues. Thank you for the incredible twelve years you have given us. To say you will be missed is an understatement.

Credit: YESNetwork.com

I could feel many Yankee fans starting to grip about the team’s slow start and the buildup of so many injuries, but it’s funny how Thursday’s win in Baltimore calmed down so many fears. I wish I had a dime for every time a Yankee fan replayed video of Gleyber’s homers. I was a little worried when the Yankees fell into an early hole, but I know those Yankees-Mariners games last year when James Paxton gave up early runs to the Yankees, he held strong and pitched effectively for five or six more innings. I didn’t doubt his perseverance on Thursday and he rewarded us with a much-needed win, thanks in large part to the two home runs by Gleyber Torres and the insurance provided by the three-run bomb from Luke Voit in the ninth inning. Unlike pitchers like Sonny Gray, where a few early runs meant the opening of the floodgates, Paxton battled and was ultimately reward with his first Pinstriped (Road Gray?) victory. I am glad he is a Yankee.

Photo Credit: Nick Wass/AP

The Yankees resume their series at Camden Yards in Baltimore today at 7:05 pm ET. J.A. Happ, looking to overcome his horrendous first start of the season, takes the mound for the Yankees.  He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy. With a win, the Yankees can tie the Orioles for second place in the AL East with matching 4-4 records. The Yankees trail the Tampa Bay Rays by two and a half games. Granted, the Orioles will soon be in the rearview mirror but the Rays aren’t going away. I think the Boston Red Sox will right the ship even if Yankee fans are loving their 2-7 start. Soon it will be the Yankees-Rays-Red Sox battling for the top. With a trip to Houston around the corner, the Yankees need to continue building momentum in Maryland before catching a Texas-bound flight.   

The Yankees made several minor moves this week, primarily for depth purposes. First, they claimed right-handed reliever Jake Barrett off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and assigned him to Triple A. Then, they signed 34-year-old infielder Cliff Pennington, who was recently released by the Oakland A’s after signing a minor league deal in February. At least Pennington was able to see Japan with the A’s in late March but I doubt he sees any time with the Yankees unless things go horribly wrong (worse than they already have). The defensive-minded Pennington was assigned to Triple A. Both the Trenton Thunder and the Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders have been depleted by the promotions of Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada and Clint Frazier, and the resulting chain reaction it caused to fill the holes.  Welcome to the Yankees Family, Jake and Cliff, but honestly, I hope we do not see you in the Bronx. Sorry, but we have higher expectations and hope the recently promoted guys prosper with the opportunities they’ve been given.   

Living in Denver, I probably should have gone to the Colorado Rockies home opener yesterday. I had thought about it but the weather in Colorado is so unpredictable. Last year’s Rockies home opener saw temps dip into the 20’s. Unfortunately for me, the weather was beautiful yesterday with sunny skies and temps reaching the 70’s and the Rockies were playing my favorite NL team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers won, 10-6, so that would have made it even better for me. I settled for watching the game on TV. In watching the opening roll call, there was a part of me that didn’t like Daniel Murphy wearing D.J. LeMahieu’s former number (9).  Not that the Rockies have reason to retire D.J.’s number or set it aside but after watching LeMahieu wear the number for so many years, it just seemed wrong to see Murphy wearing it. Don’t get me wrong, I am so glad LeMahieu wears #26 for the Yankees these days. He’s been invaluable with this rash of injuries.  But it’s hard to deny that LeMahieu was a great Rockie during his time in the Mile High City. I couldn’t help but wonder if both LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino were watching the Rockies-Dodgers game since they had the day off. It would be hard to play so many years in one city and not have continued emotional ties to their former team.  

I am not a New York Jets fan but I don’t get the hate the new uniforms have gotten from their fan base. I personally never cared for the Jets’ old uniform and feel the new colors are very stylish. I like the new helmet and the overall look.  If I had grown up in New York City, I’d probably be a Jets fan over the Giants (sorry to those of you who are Giants fans). I grew up in Iowa so I’ve been a lifelong (and long-suffering) Minnesota Vikings fan. I am a little bitter the Jets stole the Vikings’ backup QB (Trevor Siemian) and almost signed away linebacker Anthony Barr until he had a change of heart but I still prefer the Jets over the Giants. As for Siemian, I do have high confidence in third-string QB Kyle Sloter for the Vikings and feel that he is ready to ascend to the backup spot behind starter Kirk Cousins. But while Siemian may never been a great quarterback in the NFL, he is tried and true vet that can help in pinch. He’ll provide good support and mentorship for Sam Darnold.  Siemian and the Jets will look very good when they take the field this Fall, in my opinion. Hopefully for Jets fans, the play matches the look. It’s really time for somebody to do something about the reign of the New England Patriots. I’ve grown so tired of Tom Brady, Bill Belechick and Boston area fans.

Today seems like a very good day for an Aaron Judge home run.  

As always, Go Yankees!

Patrick Corbin Day at Yankee Stadium…

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Photo Credit: ESPN

Corbin’s Free Agent Tour continues with a stop in NYC…

Today’s the day. Patrick Corbin makes his much-anticipated visit in the Bronx to talk with the Yankees after tours through Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. While it is possible the Yankees extend an offer to Corbin, it’s more probable that he leaves Yankee Stadium with no decisions made.

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This is where I love the mindset and structure of NFL free agency. When a top free agent you desire visits your city, you don’t let him leave without his signature on the dotted line. As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I couldn’t help but think back to when the Vikings signed free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins last off-season. It was a big deal when it was announced Cousins was in Minneapolis and he was spotted at a steakhouse that night with GM Rick Spielman, Head Coach Mike Zimmer and I believe star wide receiver Adam Thielen among others. By the next morning, it was reported that Cousins had agreed to a 3-year, $84 million deal. I loved the rapid-fire sequence of events to land a much needed player. I recognize that you, as a Giants or Jets fan, may not think it was a wise decision by the Vikings but personally I loved it. Later, it was reported that during the Super Bowl last January in Minneapolis, Cousins had been in town and he spent a considerable amount of time checking out the city. It is possible the player picked the city before the team picked him.

Which leads me back to Patrick Corbin. We’ve all heard how Corbin grew up near Syracuse, New York with a family dominated by Yankee fans. I didn’t grow up in New York, yet I’ve been a lifelong die-hard Yankee fan. I think much of my early admiration of the team was developed through a love of the history and tradition of the Yankees. As a kid, I loved reading books about Yankee greats like Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle. Corbin has been exposed to these names and no doubt has a similar admiration for the team’s history. With no offense to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia or Nationals Park in D.C., there is nothing quite walking into the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium. Even though the majority of the Yankee legends played across the street where the old Yankee Stadium once stood, the omnipresent mystique and aura echoes through the halls of the new Yankee Stadium. The legends are alive in the new ballpark and you still feel it today. I can’t help but think Corbin is going to be seduced by the lure of pinstripes. It’s been mentioned Corbin’s camp wants to make a fairly quick decision so hopefully it means he’ll decide by the end of the week. My feeling is the Yankees should strike quickly since they hold the upper hand with other teams based on the player’s sentiments. Make a fair offer that is competitive with the Phillies and Nationals, and all things considered, the scale is tipped to the Yankees’ advantage.

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Actor Michael J Fox told a story years ago in an interview. He had wanted to buy a new house in Los Angeles but wanted to play coy to ensure that he find a home at his price. When he walked into the home he liked, he threw down his keys and said something like, “I want this house!”. That’s how I am hoping Corbin plays it with the Yankees. He has a chance to join Baseball’s most storied franchise that possesses a team ready to contend for the World Series right now.

I’d give Corbin six years if that’s what it takes. It’s not my money. The fans who scream about the money and years kill me. It’s not their money either. I am sure the Yankees will make a good offer that they are comfortable with and one that fits what they are trying to accomplish this off-season. Face it, it is not really a question of whether they can afford it. We all know they can. Will it be good enough? Time will tell as it often does.

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Ronald Torreyes was a fun guy to have around the Yankees dugout and clubhouse but the anger over his trade to the Chicago Cubs yesterday was a little ridiculous. Suzie Pinstripe, Managing Editor for Bleeding Yankee Blue, wrote a very nice piece about “Our Kindof Guys” or OKG’s. While I do not dismiss the value of Torreyes as ‘our kind of guy’ and the importance to team chemistry, I do not fault the Yankees for their decision. Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues is probably one of my favorites because he simply tells it like it is. This paragraph from a post Axisa did yesterday sums up exactly how I feel about the decision to move Torreyes: “The 26-year-old Torreyes is projected to make $900,000 through arbitration next season and the Yankees are loaded with utility infielder types (Hanser Alberto, Thairo Estrada, Tim Locastro, Tyler Wade), so the most expensive (and least tooled up) of the bunch got the heave-ho when a 40-man roster spot was needed. Sucks, but that’s the business.” Well said, Mike.

I wish Toe the very best in Chicago. Given the uncertainty with their starting shortstop, Addison Russell, his prospects for playing time at Wrigley Field are much greater than they would have been with the Yankees. Team chemistry is different every year. Familiar faces leave, new ones arrive. The synergy of new personalities meshing with the current players. After a couple of weeks next season, Torreyes will be nothing but a past memory and we’ll be relishing the interaction and play of the current roster.

I am a little tired of David Robertson taking so much heat for the team decision to exclude Assistant Hitting Coach P.J. Pilittere and a traveling member of the analytics team, Zac Fieroh, from postseason shares of playoff ticket sales. The player pool for the Yankees turned out to be $2.866 million. The value of one share was slightly more than $43,000. The team issued 45 full shares, plus 21.47 partial shares and a couple of cash awards, but both Pilittere and Fieroh were excluded. Bill Madden of the New York Daily News also reported the team did not award any shares to the entire support staff, trainers, clubhouse attendants and batting practice pitchers. Blame has single-handedly been placed on D-Rob as the leader who organized the vote. Regardless of whether he led the vote, Robertson had one vote. While it seems unfair that deserving guys were unfairly omitted, it was a team decision. Other players didn’t cast their votes based on what Robertson told them to do. They made their own decisions. So, if you’re going to blame Robertson, blame beloved Yankees like Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Luis Severino too. They were part of the vote. I am probably more pissed that Jacoby Ellsbury got a full share. I’ve seen so many Yankee fans say the team should not re-sign D-Rob because of the postseason shares which makes absolutely no sense to me. The Yankee should re-sign D-Rob, and I wish they’d hurry up and get it over with so that we can focus on the big ticket items.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

I said it before the latest hullabaloo about Robinson Cano but I’ll say it again: I want no part of his contract. Love the player but 5 years and $120 million for a 36-year-old does not look good today, let alone what it would look like in 2-3 years. Even if it was a way to unload Jacoby Ellsbury (someone I’ve wanted gone from this team for a long time), I wouldn’t do it. If the Mets want to take on Cano’s contract, even if Seattle is willing to send suitcases full of cash with him as well as their closer, Edwin Diaz, that’s fine. Let the Mets have him. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have Edwin Diaz on my team but not at that cost. Cano is on the fast track to becoming a full-time DH. Last time I checked, the Yankees had one of those and I’ve heard he does a fairly good job (well, outside of Yankee Twitter of course).

By the way, I haven’t had a chance to welcome Parker Bridwell to the Yankees yet. His stats do not amaze me despite a solid 2017 season but he has a great attitude and is excited about being a Yankee. I can’t find fault with those points. There’s always a chance the Yankees see something they can correct to make Bridwell a quality Major League pitcher, whether it is spot starting or long relief. At this point, I’d gladly prefer to give him a shot over guys like Luis Cessa and A.J. Cole. So, welcome to the Yankees family, Parker!

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Winslow Townson)

It’s Corbin Day. Very exciting for Yankee fans. Let’s see what this day has in store for us.

As always, Go Yankees!

An Unforgettable Day in the Yankees Universe…

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I’d Like to Forget Yesterday’s Game but Thurman Munson was a bigger loss…

This is always a tough day as I am sure it is for any Yankees fan who grew up with the Bronx Zoo Yankees.  It has been 39 years since the death of my favorite Yankee, a day that I can still so vividly remember. One of those ‘you know exactly where you were’ moments in life.  I’ve had many favorite ball players over the years but none have matched the intensity and passion that drove Yankees Captain and star catcher Thurman Munson. It’s not to say that guys like Jorge Posada or Don Mattingly or Derek Jeter weren’t passionate or intense, they were, but there was something about Thurman that set him apart. Looking back, the early George Steinbrenner Era was so chaotic.  It’s what I grew up with so changing managers every year was the norm. Signing the most glamorous superstars in the off-season was expected. The polarization of players like Reggie Jackson was simply daily life in the Bronx. The one constant was the strength (mentally and physically) of the team’s legendary catcher. I loved that guy and miss him to this day.

My first Yankees jersey was number 15. I wish I still had it even if it had been a child’s size.

My biggest fear in the late ‘70’s was the eventual departure of Munson from the Yankees. I remember the days when he was talking more and more like a guy who wanted to play for the Cleveland Indians so that he could be closer to home. It was clear how much family meant to him. I selfishly wanted him to stay but in retrospect, I would have gladly taken his presence on the Indians roster for the later years of his career over his early demise.

Thurman, we are thinking of you. We miss you. Your spirit and memory continue to run strong through the fabric of Yankee Stadium even if the current one was not yet built in 1979. I remain forever grateful that you were and always will be a Yankee. You stand tall among the Yankee Legends.

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How do you transition from ‘GREAT’ to, as Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues would put it, not so ‘GRAYT’? Sadly, that’s what comparing today to yesterday brings when talking about certain players (specifically excluding the tragic death of one of the most beloved Yankees).

I am done with Sonny Gray.  He had already reached ‘Sonny Gray Sucks!’ status for me earlier this year, but I foolishly bought into the last couple of starts which were somewhat decent.  I had been hopeful that he was finally turning the corner and headed down the path of promise we once felt he was destined for.  Then he blows up against one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball. By the time Lance Lynn entered the game to calm the troops, the damage had been done.  Gleyber Torres tried to bring the team back with his two home runs but an inability of others to create opportunities when the bases were loaded was too much.  Lots of negatives in the game.  Gleyber’s fielding, the whiffs with run scoring opportunities, the third base coach going off on the team in the dugout for their lackadaisical effort, etc. It was not a good game from any aspect, but at the heart was the pathetic performance delivered by one Sonny Douglas Gray. His smile walking off the mound (regardless of his explanation) was horrific.  Ed Whitson couldn’t pitch in the Bronx, nor could Javier Vazquez. A.J. Burnett flamed out. Following in their footsteps is Gray. I firmly believe that Gray would thrive in a place like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee, but he’ll never be the man in the Bronx. He is incapable of rising to the occasion on Major League Baseball’s Main Stage.  He prefers to be a less pressurized side show in a small community theater.

The Yankees shouldn’t give up Gray for nothing but they should try to do the humane thing and re-home him to a family that can love and support him. If he stays in the Bronx, I am in favor of euthanasia. Alright, that might be a little harsh, but he’s reached the end of the line for rotation opportunities in my mind. I know the Yankees need to try to rebuild some value before he is traded away (Brian Cashman should have flipped him at this year’s trading deadline), but the time to live or die with Sonny Gray in the starting rotation is over for this season.  I wasn’t excited about the addition of Lance Lynn, but I firmly believe that Lynn should be the starter over Gray for the duration of the season. Make Gray the rotation’s sixth man, with an occasional spot start. Even that scares me to a degree. He’s become the guy I’d want pitching with a ten-run lead but of course he’d still have me pacing the room.

Too bad the Oakland A’s do not have a return policy for defective merchandise. I’d like my money back. Heck, I’d gladly take Dustin Fowler (demoted to Triple A yesterday by the A’s) back in exchange for Gray.  Let them keep James Kaprielian and Jorge Mateo as “profit”.

For today’s game in Boston, we know that first baseman Luke Voit and Luis Cessa have been called up.  While outfielder Shane Robinson goes down for Voit, there hasn’t been word yet this morning about who’s spot Cessa will take. The obvious solution is the placement of J.A. Happ, currently battling Noah Syndergaard disease, on the 10-day DL retroactive to three days ago. I’d argue the demotion of Sonny Gray (according to Roster Resource, he has two options left). Losing Gray makes more sense to me than Happ who should be healthy again within a few days.

I kind of feel bad for Luke Voit.  He was a hometown St Louis kid fighting to reach his Major League Dream with his favorite childhood team, but it was extinguished when he was dealt to the Yankees, along with international bonus pool money, in the trade that sent relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the Gateway City. Of course there are worse places to go than the Bronx and I am hopeful that the history and the tradition of the organization appeal to the Missouri kid. Maybe we can get Tino Martinez to stop by and express the advantages of playing for the Yankees over the Cardinals. Seriously, I hope Voit thrives in New York and becomes Brian Cashman’s latest gem. This is a great opportunity for him even if he is destined to return to Moosic, PA in the not-so-distant future. With no offense to Robinson, I am much happier with Voit on the Major League roster.

This is a big series for the Yankees.  Four games against Boston in the very heart of Red Sox Nation. Mike Francesa tweeted this morning, “We are all going to learn something about this Yankee team this weekend”.  No doubt.  If they play like they did yesterday, the Red Sox will be clearing shelf space for their 2018 AL East Championship trophy. The Yankees need to make a statement and take at least three of four from the AL East leaders. They have the talent to do it. We’ll soon see if they have the heart. They certainly did not yesterday. Red Sox fans are loving life today.  If they are feeling miserable and uncomfortable on Sunday, it will have been a successful weekend.

Thank God Sonny Gray will not be pitching.

Pinstripers, your mission should you choose to accept it…  Let’s do this. Time to make noise in the AL East.

Go Yankees!

Good Hitting or Good Pitching? I’ll Take Both, Please…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Yankees win again behind German…

The Yankees got off to a good start with their three-game series against the Seattle Mariners last night with a 7-2 win at Yankee Stadium.

Very nice pitching performance by young Domingo German. I wish Sonny Gray could take notes on how to pitch in the Bronx. The veteran could learn a thing or two from the rookie. German could have broken in the first inning when the Mariners had runners at the corners and no outs following a double and an error by Didi Gregorius. Sure, the M’s picked up a run on Mitch Haniger’s fielder’s choice to short but German shook it off and struck out Corey Seager’s brother Kyle to end the threat. From there, German shut down the Mariners, retiring 18 in a row, until Nelson Cruz did what he does best in the seventh inning, a dinger to left. You can’t really blame German for that one. Cruz does it to the best of ’em.

German’s final pitching line was something Sonny Gray can only dream about at Yankee Stadium. Seven very strong innings, two hits, two runs but only one earned, zero walks, and nine strikeouts.  German is pitching like he doesn’t want GM Brian Cashman to make any pitching acquisitions at the trading deadline. While I’d leave German in the rotation, I would still make a trade for a proven veteran starter. Nothing against Jonathan Loaisiga but I’d rather limit the rookies in the rotation for the stretch run to only one (German).

I liked the tag line used by Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues:  Dominant Domingo and the Dingers. It was a very good description of the game. I can’t wait for the movie.

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Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

With German easing the Yankees’ desperation for starting pitching help, I hope it opens the possibility for a trade to acquire a shutdown arm for the bullpen. None better than San Diego’s LHP Brad Hand which would allow the Yankees to dump Chasen Shreve. I think it was Sweeny Murti who said the other day that he’d like for the Yankees to acquire the Padres closer for no other reason than to be able to say “Aloha, Mr Hand!”. Yes, that’s true. Good point. But Hand is also the most highly sought-after reliever now that former Kansas City Royals closer Kelvin Herrera resides in Washington, D.C. and he has drawn attention from many teams including the Boston Red Sox. I really would not want to see Hand go to Boston to help shore up their bullpen deficiencies. The move to acquire him by the Yankees would not be all about keeping him out Boston but rather give us a deadly bullpen that can shut down anyone, anytime, anywhere.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Denis Poroy)

If the Yankees make no moves for starting pitching, they should most certainly look to add additional bullpen pieces. I really don’t want to see Shreve as the top lefty come October. He’s too inconsistent for me and a few others on this site.

It was good to see the Yankees offense come to life last night. Marco Gonzales has pitched very well for the Mariners this year and he entered the game with a 7-3 record. I thought well enough of him to add him to my fantasy baseball team a few weeks ago. He killed my team last night with six runs allowed, including three home runs. But hey, it was worth it. I cut him after the game but there’s no way I can be disappointed with his dismal performance.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Seth Wenig)

The homers were really fun to watch. Giancarlo Stanton’s shot to center in the first inning to tie the game, Miguel Andujar’s two-run homer to left in the bottom of the fifth to give the Yankees their first lead, Aaron Hicks’ two-run blast to left in the fifth after Clint Frazier had singled to increase the Yankees’ lead to 5-1, and the eighth inning ‘tack-on’ homer to left by Gleyber Torres off former Yankees reliever Nick Rumbelow. If you saw only the homer and not the batter, you would have sworn that Gleyber’s shot was courtesy of Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It was certainly worthy of the words “All Rise” or “a Stantonian blast” if it had been hit by #99 or #27 rather than #25. The ball traveled 446 feet, easily the longest hit of the night. After Torres hit his homer, I saw one Yankees tweet say only 38 more to go to the rookie record. Very funny even if impossible.  Still, I don’t think anyone in their wildest dreams could have forecasted 14 home runs, 35 RBI’s, and a slash line of .291/.346/.566 for Gleyber Torres on June 19th. The guy is such a joy to watch game after game. Sure, he’ll have to continue to make adjustments as pitchers adjust but he’s shown us enough to be confident he will.

Oh yeah, Aaron Judge had an RBI on single to left in the bottom of the seventh off Rumbelow with the run charged to Gonzales. A single. How pedestrian! Seriously, I love what Aaron Judge means to this team and how he is continually a difference-maker with both bat and glove.

I was hopeful that Gary Sanchez was breaking out of his slump but he was 0-for-4 with a strikeout, dropping his season batting average back down to .191.

It was a fun game. The Mariners are a very good club and this series could easily be a preview of October if the M’s continue to play well. They are currently 46-27 and sit just two games behind the World Champions in the AL West. I don’t expect the Yankees to sweep the series but I am hopeful they capture at least one of the next two games before hopping on a plane bound for Tampa, Florida.

The Boston Red Sox, despite having their ace, Chris Sale, on the mound, lost 6-2 to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN so the Yankees (48-22) increased their AL East lead to one game. Credit to the third-place Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees’ next opponent. They used Blake Snell (a pitcher that I’d love to see Brian Cashman acquire) to beat the Astros and Justin Verlander, snapping Houston’s 12-game winning streak.

Congratulations to Brandon Drury for winning International League Player of the Week honors. The Major League player, who deserves better than Triple A, hit .471 with one home run and 11 RBI’s during the week of June 11th through 17th. He had 16 hits, 25 total bases, and 11 runs scored. In last night’s 7-5 loss by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (love that name!), Drury was 0-for-5 with a couple of strikeouts. It doesn’t deter me. I still want Drury back in Pinstripes where he belongs. With Ryan McBroom’s demotion to Double-A, I saw a quote by RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell that the plan is to play Drury at first periodically. Operation Dump Neil Walker; Promote Brandon Drury is well underway. I liked Mitchell’s quote about Drury earlier this week: “He’s a big leaguer, you know? Just happens to be with us. He can play for a lot of teams, obviously, and even ours if they needed him.”

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Photo Credit: Todd Hiller

As for Chance Adams (the loser in the game), he is stepping dangerously into “Chance Adams Sucks!” Territory. Once considered the top pitching prospect in the organization, Adams gave up six runs in four innings (four earned) yesterday.  He walked four batters while striking out only one. Control continues to be his Achilles Heel. Suffice it to say that I don’t think we’ll be seeing Mr Adams (2-3, 5.21 ERA) in the Bronx anytime soon.

It’s Wednesday and an awesome day for Lasagna! It will be Old versus Young today as 32-year-old “King” Felix Hernandez takes on rookie 23-year-old Jonathan Loaisiga who was phenomenal in his debut appearance. When I looked up Hernandez, I was thinking he was older than he really is.  He seems to have aged prematurely and is certainly not the ace he once was. This season, he is 6-6 with 5.44 ERA and an unsightly 1.38 WHIP. For all the years the Yankees were linked to him in trade rumors, I am glad it was a trade never consummated.  Let’s get a win and take this series.

Go Yankees!

How Do You Spell Relief?…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

For one night, the answer is not G-R-E-E-N…

Well, so much for the thought (my thought anyway) that Chad Green is the lone bright spot in the Yankees bullpen. I know, that’s not fair to Aroldis Chapman, who has had very limited opportunities, or Dellin Betances, who actually was the best reliever last night. The Yankees held the lead in the game until the seventh inning when Masahiro Tanaka started to tire and gave up a two-run blast to Adam Jones. Tanaka stayed in the game, retiring Chris Davis on a grounder to third, but Tim Beckham ended his night with a single to right. If the Yankees bullpen could have held it from there, the Yankees might have been able to dig out of the one-run hole.

Alas, it was not meant to be. I guess you can chalk it up to ‘one of those nights’. Manager Aaron Boone brought in the usually reliable Chad Green. He did strike out two batters to get out of the inning but not before the Orioles hit a single, run-scoring double and two-run single to push three more runs across the plate.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Julie Jacobson)

The Yankees had their chances but could not erase the large deficit. They picked up a run in the bottom of the seventh on a run-scoring single by Neil Walker after Didi Gregorius had doubled, but Miguel Andujar popped out with two men on and two outs to end the threat. The next inning, the Yankees had the bases juiced with two outs for Neil Walker, thanks to a walk and two batters hit by pitches. Unfortunately, Walker grounded out to the pitcher to eliminate the last serious threat.  Sadly, the Yankees dropped the contest, 5-2, to fall to 4-3 and two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings.

I was pleased to see the strong work by Dellin Betances in the top of the ninth inning when he struck out three batters despite allowing a meaningless walk.

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Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Love or hate Buck Showalter, but he schooled Aaron Boone on the fine art of managing. I know, you can’t blame Boone for this loss but Showalter is the wise grandmaster in terms of the depth of managerial experience. You’ll never beat Showalter by out-managing him.

I always enjoy the work of Mike Axisa over at River Ave Blues. He had great perspective this morning. He said “Every team is going to win 50 games and lose 50 games each year. It’s what they do in the other 62 games that determines their fate. This is one of those 50 losses.”  I agree with his assessment (as usual) but it is tough to take a loss on a night when the Boston Red Sox win.

Boston kills me. They have such a ‘cream puff’ schedule to start the year. They won their home opener yesterday against the Tampa Bay Rays, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with two runs and then scoring the game winner in the bottom of the 12th. The Rays featured a starting pitcher that I’ve never heard of, Yonny Chirinos. He did a decent job, along with the subsequent relievers until closer Alex Colome took the bump. The Rays almost lost the game in regulation when second baseman Daniel Robertson took a grounder with a runner on first, bypassing the obvious and easy force out at second, to barely beat the runner to first. The play was challenged but the throw beat the runner by a split-second, sending the game into extra innings before the Rays ultimately lost. The takeaway for me is that other teams like to hand gifts to the Red Sox.

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Photo Credit: Boston Herald (Christopher Evans)

Right now, Boston wins the games when they do not play well and the Yankees do not. I fully expect the Yankees to gel as a team but seven games into the season, we’re not there yet. I am not going to panic. There are still 155 games to play. Nobody is handing the Red Sox the AL East championship in April.

The Yankees look to rebound tonight when CC Sabathia takes the mound. He’ll face Greg Bird’s Colorado high school buddy, Kevin Gausman. Last year, CC was the man following a Yankees loss so hopefully the trend continues.

I was sad to see Trayce Thompson’s time with the Yankees was so short. I really like the guy even if he hasn’t put up the numbers to earn such support. Thompson was out of options when the Yankees claimed him on waivers earlier this week but they tipped their hand when Aaron Boone said that he’d start out in the minors. Thompson couldn’t go to the minors without clearing waivers and the Oakland A’s jumped at the chance to bring the brother of Klay Thompson, a star with Oakland’s Golden State Warriors to the Bay Area. Nice attempt by the Yankees to try to slide him through waivers but it failed like it did for the Dodgers. It’s nice for Klay who picks up a roommate to help pay bills (like he really needs the help). I wish Trayce the very best for success in Oakland, however, I think we’ll see him again soon on the waiver wire. For his sake, I hope not. I’d like to see him succeed.

The Yankees also made a depth move this week to acquire third baseman Cody Asche from the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

Asche will take over third base for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders while Miguel Andujar toils in the Bronx. I really wanted the Yankees to acquire Asche several years ago. I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill (I guess I can modify it to say the next Didi Gregorius). I thought Asche had potential when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies as a young third baseman. Asche, 27, is a career .234 hitter in 390 MLB games so he clearly has not become the player I thought he would be. There’s no chance he’ll ever leap-frog over Andujar or Brandon Drury so for now he becomes a Triple A performer waiting to help in the event of injuries at the position for the big league club. No offense, Cody, but I hope we never see you in the Bronx. It’s not because we don’t like you…we simply prefer good health for Andujar and Drury.

Lastly, I am going to borrow the words of TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen: In summary, the 2018 New York Yankees are still a World Series contender. If you want to jump off the Yankees’ bandwagon, be my guest. There are still plenty more on board.

Go Yankees!

Slamming the Door, The Tale of Tanaka to Chapman…

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 0…

I ripped Masahiro Tanaka for his last start and he looked at me and said “F-U!” with his latest performance. I love it! Outside of Dellin Betances, I liked everything about this game as the Yankees took down the Jays for their 90th win of the season on Friday afternoon.

While many people were speculating about whether this was Masahiro Tanaka’s final regular season start wearing a Yankees uniform, Masa-hero came out strong. I always like to use the first inning as a barometer and Tanaka was firing on all cylinders, striking out the side on thirteen pitches.

In the bottom of the first, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a one-out single through the hole to shallow left field off Blue Jays starter Joe Biagini. With Aaron Judge at the plate, Ellsbury stole second for his 22nd stolen base of the year. Judge ended up taking a walk anyway. Didi Gregorius was next and he singled to right on a looper that dropped in front of right fielder Michael Saunders to load the bases.  Starlin Castro hit a soft grounder between third and the pitching mound, and Biagini had no play by the time he got to the ball. Ellsbury scored on the play.  Greg Bird’s sacrifice fly to deep center scored Judge. It was the seventh consecutive game with a RBI for Greg Bird who has gone from a season afterthought to one of its prime performers in a matter of just a few weeks since he returned from the disabled list.  

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Headley struck out to end the inning but the Yankees had a 2-0 lead.  

Tanaka held the Blue Jays hitless through two outs in the top of the 5th inning, when Ezequiel Carrera hit a grounder to second. Starlin Castro went hard after the ball, crashing his knee against the ground, but his throw was not in time to get Carrera at first. With Raffy Lopez batting, Carrera stole second. However, Tanaka got out of the inning when he turned to fire a perfect strike to Didi Gregorius at second to nail Carrera who was trying to dive back to the base. 

Austin Romine led off the bottom of the 5th with a single over the second baseman’s head into right center. Romine was forced out at second when Aaron Hicks hit a grounder to second but Hicks was safe at first. With Jacoby Ellsbury at bat, Hicks stole second. Jacoby Ellsbury lined out to first for the second out.  Aaron Judge followed with a single to left, scoring Hicks. Blue Jays catcher was up the line for the outfield throw so there was no play at the plate but they got Judge between first and second for the final out.  

Ryan Goins picked up the Blue Jays’ second hit off Tanaka in the 6th, a single to center that dropped in front of Jacoby Ellsbury, but Tanaka was still mowing hitters down so Goins didn’t go anywhere when Tanaka struck out the side again. Thirteen strikeouts through six innings for Tanaka.  Incredible.  

Matt Dermody replaced Biagini in the bottom of the 6th inning. Didi Gregorius led off with a single to left. With Starlin Castro batting, Didi Gregorius stole second on what appeared to be third strike on Castro. However, Joe Girardi came out with the argument that it was a foul tip. The umps agreed with Girardi, and Didi returned to first base with Castro coming back to the plate.    Two pitches later, the outcome was the same. Castro swung at the third strike but Didi successfully stole second. Next, Greg Bird (rapidly becoming one of the Yankees best post-trading deadline “acquisitions”) drilled a line drive single off the wall in the right field corner to score Gregorius. Danny Barnes entered the game in relief of Dermody and induced Chase Headley to hit into an inning-ending double play, but no matter, the Yankees had increased their lead to 4-0.

Tanaka allowed one more hit, a double down the line into the left field corner by Josh Donaldson in the top of the 7th, for a total of three. Donaldson got as far as third on a ground out, but Tanaka retired the next three batters in order including two by strikeout to end the inning and his time in the game. He finished with fifteen strikeouts to go with no hits, no runs, and no walks.  It was simply an outstanding performance by Tanaka. If this was his final regular season start as a Yankee, thank you very much. It was a masterpiece to remember.

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP

David Robertson pitched the 8th inning. It started with the first walk by a Yankees pitcher in the game, but the runner was erased on a beautiful double play. Raffy Lopez hit a grounder to Greg Bird at first. Bird threw to Didi Gregorius for the force at second. Didi’s throw back to first hooked out but Bird sprawled out on the ground for the catch with his right foot still on the bag.  Excellent defensive play by Bird. D-Rob struck out Ryan Goins to end the inning.  

The 9th inning was not quite as much fun…at least not at the start. Dellin Betances came in with a chance to prove he has finally righted the ship. Richard Urena had other ideas and led off with a single to right, a one hop off the wall.  With Teoscar Hernandez at the plate, a Betances pitch went off Austin Romine’s glove for a passed ball on the catcher. Urena moved to second. Betances ended up walking Hernandez and all you could do was shake your head. End of Betances, who is running out of time to prove that he can be trusted with late inning relief again. I hate to say it, given my disdain for the man, but Dellin is proving Yankees president Randy Levine was right for his critical comments about Betances after the reliever’s arbitration hearing in the off-season.  

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Enter Aroldis Chapman. Man, oh, Man, I am so happy this guy is the Missile again. He struck out Josh Donaldson on three pitches for the first out. Jose Bautista hit a grounder to short and the Yankees were able to force Hernandez out at second but they couldn’t turn the double play when the ball went over Greg Bird’s head. The ball bounced back so Urena had to hold at third. With Rob Refsnyder batting, Bautista took second on defensive indifference. Chapman laid three 100+ mph fastballs across the plate for Refsnyder, with the last pitch hitting 102 mph. Three swings and misses by the former Yankee. Game over. Yankees win!

The Yankees (90-70) looked like a playoff team in this game. They picked up a game on the Boston Red Sox, who lost 3-2 to the Houston Astros at Fenway Park. The Yankees trail the Sox by two games with two to play. I don’t expect the Yankees to catch the Red Sox but they’ve certainly made it interesting these final days of the season.  

Mike Axisa had a great tweet after the game about Tanaka pitching on seven days rest: “One day it will be acknowledged that Tanaka does not actually pitch better on extra rest. Today is not that day.”

Odds & Ends…

Brad Ausmus became the first managerial casualty when it was announced earlier this week that he would not be retained after the season by the Detroit Tigers. I can still remember being disappointed when the Colorado Rockies chose Ausmus, a catcher, in the 1992 Expansion Draft out of the Yankees farm system. Of course, I didn’t really know anything about a guy named Jorge Posada at the time. The latest non-returnee is Pete Mackanin of the Philadelphia Phillies. After the season, Mackanin will become a special assistant to Phillies GM Matt Klentak. As a rebuilding team, I thought that Mackanin would be back but apparently the Phillies leadership team felt otherwise. Two managerial job openings and counting although it’s been widely speculated that Terry Collins of the Mets will not return. So make it three…

The Minnesota Twins have activated their best hitter, 3B Miguel Sano, off the disabled list. Sano was placed on the DL in August when he fouled a ball off his left shin. Sano will have the weekend to get ready for next Tuesday’s Wild Card game.

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Tonight, I will be at Coors Field to watch Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Colorado Rockies. It will be Kershaw’s final appearance of the regular season as he tunes up for his NLDS Game 1 start next week. This will be the first time I get to see Cody Bellinger play in person.  It should be a great game. As a former Los Angeles resident, I have so missed the ability to go to Dodger Stadium on a regular basis.  

Have a great Saturday! My only request for today is a Pinstriped victory! Go Yankees!

Recipe for Success: Just Add Hicks to the Mix…

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-NY Post

Yankees 4, Mets 2…

A day after a disappointing one-run loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees bullpen backed homers by Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Gary Sanchez to give the Yankees the victory over the New York Mets in the opener of their four-game series.  

Normally, I hate solo home runs.  Stronger preference (obviously) for round-trippers with men on base, but in this game, three solo shots were enough to power the Yankees to the win despite two home runs by the Mets (also of the solo variety).  

The Mets scored their runs in the third inning against Yankees starter Luis Cessa.  The Grandy Man, Curtis Granderson, showing how much he misses the right field porch, parked one there down the right field line.  One out later, Yoenis Cespedes sent one that bounced off the right field wall for a homer, just missed by Aaron Judge, and the Mets led 2-0.

The Yankees had a chance for a big inning in the 4th against Mets starter Rafael Montero.  Aaron Hicks singled to center, a soft liner, with one out.  Aaron Judge followed with a walk on four pitches.  A wild pitch by Montero advanced the runners to second and third, but it didn’t really matter as the next batter, Didi Gregorius, walked on a full count to load the bases.  Gary Sanchez hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Hicks (who came in just ahead of the tag), but that’s all the Yankees would get as Chase Headley flied out to right.  The Mets still led, 2-1.  

While pitching to Rene Rivera to open the 5th, Luis Cessa apparently felt discomfort in his back which brought Manager Joe Girardi to the mound.  Cessa convinced Girardi to let him stay.  He was able to retire Rivera on a ground out, but the next batter, Juan Lagares, singled to center, a roller up the middle.  After making his second trip to the mound, Girardi pulled Cessa and replaced him with Chad Green.  After the game, Girardi said the medical staff does not believe the injury, a right rhomboid muscle issue, is serious, however, Cessa will undergo an MRI this morning.  

Credit:  Rich Schultz-The Associated Press

Back to the game, Lagares attempted to steal second but was erased on Gary Sanchez’s brilliant throw to shortstop Tyler Wade.  Green then struck out Curtis Granderson to get out of the inning.

Aaron Judge, showing signs of breaking out of his recent extended slump, homered to open the 6th inning to tie the game at two.  The ball landed near the Modell’s sign in right.  It was Judge’s 36th of the season.

Credit:  Rich Schultz-The Associated Press

Outstanding pitching performance by Chad Green who continued to shut the Mets down through the seventh inning.  He kept the Mets off the board for 2 2/3 innings of hitless relief, walking one batter and striking out four.  

Credit:  Charles Wenzelberg-NY Post

David Robertson continued the bullpen mastery in the 8th when he struck out the side, with the only flaw a two-out walk to Asdrubal Cabrera.  

Aaron Hicks, leading off the bottom of the 8th inning, broke the tie when he belted a pitch from Mets reliever Hansel Robles deep into the right center stands.  

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

After Robles struck out Aaron Judge, the Mets brought in lefty reliever Jerry Blevins to retire Didi Gregorius on a ground out, and then made another switch to bring in righty Erik Goeddel to face Gary Sanchez.  As Julia Roberts said in the movie Pretty Woman, “Big mistake”.  A blast to right center by Sanchez, near where Judge had parked his shot, and it was 4-2 Yankees.  Unlike Sunday night, the Yankees had their insurance run although they wouldn’t need it.

Dellin Betances entered the game in the 9th due to Aroldis Chapman’s unavailability (he had thrown 26 pitches over nearly two innings of work during Sunday’s loss).  Betances, unlike Chapman, got the job done.  He allowed a two-out single to Mets rookie Dominic Smith when Tyler Wade, at short, was unable to make an accurate throw after a bare-handed grab.  Smith moved to second on defensive indifference but was left stranded when Betances struck out Amed Rosario to end the game.  The Yankees win!

The Yankees (62-55) were able to pick up a game they had lost over the weekend to the Boston Red Sox with the victory.  The Red Sox, despite two home runs by Sunday night’s hero…Rafael Devers, fell to the Cleveland Indians, 7-3, at Fenway Park.  So, the Yankees are back to 4 1/2 games behind the Sox.  The Baltimore Orioles took sole possession of third place in the AL East with their 11-3 victory over the sliding Seattle Mariners.  They are four games behind the Yankees.  The Tampa Bay Rays, dropping to fourth, lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-1.  The Rays trail the Yankees by 4 1/2 games and are just a game away from the AL East cellar.  

I have to admit that it took me a minute to get Mike Axisa’s tweet during the game about the great pitching performances of Luis Cessa and Chad Green.  One of the night’s best tweets…

Aaron Judge extended his consecutive game streak with a strikeout (excluding pitchers) to 31 games.  He now trails Adam Dunn’s record by only one game.  But to Judge’s defense, he did hit his 40th career home run.  Gary Sanchez’s shot was also his 40th career HR.  

David Robertson (6-2) was the beneficiary of the home run by Aaron Hicks as he took the victory.  The save was the seventh of the season for Dellin Betances.  

Odds & Ends…

To make yesterday’s start, RHP Luis Cessa was recalled from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with LHP Caleb Smith, called up this past weekend, going the other way without tossing a pitch.  

I know that Aroldis Chapman’s pitch on Sunday to Rafael Devers came in hot (103 mph) and Devers’ swing was as perfect as it could be to make the home run the product of the hitter and not the pitcher, but count me among those who feel that Chapman is still not right.  It’s going to take a few shutdown performances (Kenley Jansen-style) before I am going to believe that Chapman is the man for the 9th.  I like Chapman a lot and I was excited when the Yankees re-signed him, but at this moment in time, I feel that David Robertson and Dellin Betances represent stronger closing options.  That opinion dissipates when The Missile can show me he is once again the man for the job.  That’s on him…not on me.

Credit:  Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Have a great Tuesday!  Last day at Yankee Stadium before the road trip.  Let’s rock the house!  Go Yankees!