Tagged: Mike Trout

7 Days to Yankee Stadium…

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(Photo: John G Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated)

Season Opener is a week away…

Finally, we can see real baseball on the horizon. Well, if you are an early bird, I suppose you’ve been up to watch the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s play the last two days in Tokyo for an early preview of the regular season. But, c’mon, we all know that real baseball doesn’t start until the New York Yankees take the field.

The Yankees officially announced the signing of LHP Gio Gonzalez yesterday. Initially, it was reported to be a $3 million contract if Gio makes the Major League roster, but subsequently we learned it also includes an incentive of $300,000 per start up to 30 starts so the deal could be worth as much as $12 million. I’ve seen more than one Yankee fan say the team should use an opener before bringing Gio in so that he technically does not get credit for a “start” but seriously that’s not the way the Yankees operate.  You may feel that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is a tight-wad but I firmly believe even if the Yankees used an opener like Jonathan Holder for an inning before bringing in Gio to cover the next five or six innings, the team would honor the performance as a start. They wouldn’t use an opener solely for avoidance of paying the incentive. Say what you will about the Yankees’ Front Office but the Yankees have proven, time and again, they take care of their own.

It was a little weird seeing the pics of Gio without his beard. Like James Paxton, going beardless makes him look so much younger.

Gio

Hey, maybe it will make his arm look younger too.  Oh well, wishful thinking on my part. I do hope that Gio gets an opportunity to join the Yankees with this 30-day trial.  If not Opening Day (which seems unrealistic from a timing standpoint), a few weeks into the season. I really hope it doesn’t come down to April 20th with us wondering whether Gio will be added to the MLB roster or if he’ll exercise his opt-out if he doesn’t. If the Yankees were truly the only team offering him a contract this month, it’s not like teams will be lined up for his services on April 20th unless there is an epidemic of arm injuries around both leagues.

Wednesday also saw Yankees RHP Luis Severino toss twenty-five pitches from 60 feet on flat ground with his resumption of baseball activity after two weeks of rest. Sevy reported a little rust from the time off, but overall felt good about the workout. There were no reports of pain or discomfort in the right shoulder/rotator cuff.  Sevy plans to toss twenty-five pitches at 60 feet again today on his path to hopefully return in early May. I don’t want to say the season is lost without Severino but he is such a huge part of the mission to dethrone the Boston Red Sox and bring the World Series championship back to New York. Hopefully there are no setbacks on his road to recovery. We need this man and his right arm.

I didn’t realistically think Ichiro Suzuki would be a Mariner after the two-game series in Japan but he made it official when he announced that he would retire at the conclusion of this morning’s game. What a career! The future Hall of Famer will leave the game with 3,089 hits (or 4,367 hits counting his time in Nippon Professional Baseball). I had really hoped he would pick up one final hit in the games in Japan but it was not meant to be. In his final at-bat in the 8th inning this morning, the crowd yelled “Ich-Eee-Ro” as he prepared for the first pitch. After a lengthy at-bat, he hit an infield roller to short and the throw just beat Ichiro to first base. Bummer, I was so hopeful for a safe sign from the first base umpire. Ichiro took the field in the top of the 9th but once all of the players were in position, Mariners manager Scott Servais pulled everyone off the field. Ichiro, the last man on the field, slowly walked off where he was greeted with hugs from his teammates and coaches. The scene was especially emotional for Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi who made his Major League debut in the game. He bowed his head as he hugged Ichiro and it was evident tears were flowing down his cheeks. One Japanese career begins, another ends. A very touching moment. Congratulations with your retirement, Ichiro!  It was our privilege and pleasure to watch you perform for so many years. We wish you the very best with your post-playing career. No doubt Ichiro will forever be a Seattle Mariner but I am grateful for his 360 games as a Yankee after his acquisition from the Mariners on July 23, 2012 for Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell. I really wish that Ichiro could have had a farewell game like Derek Jeter did, but there’s no doubt this one was every bit as emotional.  I am sad we bring closure to such a fantastic career.  It’s time but it doesn’t make it any easier.  Thank you, Ichiro. We’ll see you in Cooperstown, New York in five years.

Ichiro
(Photo: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Since I am dishing out congratulations, I should throw some towards Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the best player in the game today. His contract extension, 12-years at $426.5 million including the money he was already owed in 2019 and 2020, is official. I think it’s only right he stays in an Angels uniform for the duration of his career. Many thought he’d join Bryce Harper in Philadelphia, including Bryce, and I am sure there are more than a few Yankee fans that had hoped he would find a way to the Bronx. As much as I would have loved Trout as a Yankee, he belongs in an Angels uniform and should stay there. He is such an amazing, selfless player who is head and shoulders above everyone else in MLB. Unlike Bryce Harper, Trout deserved to be paid like the best player in Baseball because he is.

Trout

I know the Yankees had been hoping Trout would fall to them in the 2009 MLB Draft but the Angels thwarted those plans when they chose Trout with the 25th pick of the draft (ironically, a compensation pick for losing free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Yankees). With Trout off the board, the Yankees regrettably selected outfielder Slade Heathcott, no longer in the game, with the 29th pick. Dang, so close, yet so far away.  Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, there were 24 foolish picks before Trout in that draft. With no offense to top pick Stephen Strasburg, there is nobody on that list who comes close to Trout. Now if the Angels could just settle their stadium situation. I know they’ve talked with the city of Long Beach but I really hope the team stays in Orange County. I love Long Beach (one of my favorite cities) but it feels like Dodgers country to me. Maybe that’s just because the Dodgers are my NL team. Long Beach is located in Los Angeles County and is just a short 45-minute train ride south of downtown LA.  Mike Trout belongs to the Angels like the Angels belong in Orange County.  I hope they can get this figured out now that they no longer have to worry about Trout.

I don’t know about you but I am ready for Yankees baseball. One week, just one week. I can smell those hot dogs and beers outside of Yankee Stadium already.

As always, Go Yankees!

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The Dawn of New Yankees Year…

The 2019 New York Yankees…

Happy New Year!  

Well almost, a few more hours to go…

From a sports perspective, I am not sorry to see 2018 exit the Main Stage. The Yankees were the most successful of my favorite professional teams during the year, making the ALDS before bowing out to the eventual World Series champions (who shall remain nameless). My football season came to end with a thud yesterday when the Minnesota Vikings, controllers of their own destiny, could not close the deal with the Chicago Bears, losing 24-10, and allowing the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to slide into the playoffs in their place. I know, please feel free  to insert your best Kirk Cousins jokes. I am sure Tommy Kahnle…and Mike Trout…are very happy today. If you are a Giants or Jets fan, I am sure that you share my misery this morning although you have much better draft position.

Nevertheless, this is a Yankees blog so let’s talk baseball.

In March 2014, the Los Angeles Angels did the right thing and signed Superstar outfielder Mike Trout to a six-year, $144.5 million contract. Trout opted to sign the extension early, thereby skipping his arbitration-eligible years which would have left him eligible for free agency this off-season to join Manny Machado and Bryce Harper in the battle for $300 million contracts. Instead, he’ll gladly accept $34.083 million per year for the next two seasons before hitting the open market after the 2020 season. I mention this not for the reason the Yankees should eyeball Trout’s future free agency, but rather they should follow suit and offer the same kind of deal to Aaron Judge, the face of the Yankees franchise.

Photo Credit: Rolling Stone (Theo Wenner)

I know Judge is under team control for one more year and begins the arbitration phase in 2020, but I’d like to see the Yankees take care of him. TGP’s Daniel Burch did a very nice breakdown of team salaries this weekend to show the Yankees can afford both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.  Honestly, I’d rather see more dollars go to Judge. Sure, I hope the Yankees can sign either Machado or Harper but they don’t need both regardless of whether or not they can afford it (they can, as Daniel so elegantly illustrated). Making Aaron Judge play for barely more than “minimum” wage is wrong. Okay, the $622,300 he made last year is far more than most of us will make in any given year, but there’s something awful in a World where Judge makes less than 3% of the annual compensation provided to the bag of dead weight otherwise known as Jacoby Ellsbury. I know it’s the way the system works but Judge has outperformed the majority of his peers and deserves better. He is already recognized as the unofficial Captain of the team by the Yankees fan base and despite adding other superstar players like Giancarlo Stanton and potentially Machado (or Harper), Judge is arguably the most popular Yankee and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Hal, PLEASE pay the man.

Photo Credit: AP (LM Otero)

I really thought the Yankees would have added at least one major bullpen arm by year’s end. I guess there’s still some time for it to happen but it’s not looking very promising. I thought “Waiting for Manny” would have been a great time to focus on the pen. It seems like everyone is waiting for Craig Kimbrel to sign before the relief market moves, at least at the upper echelon of arms. I expect once Kimbrel decides where he’ll spend the Summer of ‘19, the pieces will move very quickly. Hopefully the Yankees are prepared to pounce on at least one of David Robertson, Zach Britton or Adam Ottavino. I’d really hate to lose out altogether on those three. The importance of a super-bullpen cannot be understated, particularly for a starting rotation that continues to carry so many questions. Even the current “sixth man” (Jonathan Loaisiga) has health concerns. I like some of the young arms in the system but I want “tried and true” to go with Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Jonathan Holder and Chad Green. No objections to breaking camp with Stephen Tarpley but we need a strong “closer-in-waiting” as a hedge for Chapman. I know Chapman’s workout photos this winter show him in peak condition but after last season, I don’t trust his knee and pitchers, generally-speaking, are fragile.

via Instagram: _thecubanmissile54

CBS Sports, behind writer Dayn Perry, wrote their 50 MLB predictions for 2019 a few days ago. Surprise, another writer who predicts Manny Machado will be a Yankee. Perry projects Machado to sign the third-most lucrative deal in Major League history behind the free agent contract to be given to Bryce Harper (which, eventually, when it is signed, should rate as the largest) and Giancarlo Stanton.  Perry also has the Yankees winning the AL East, on a second consecutive 100-win season, over the Boston Red Sox (the defending champs are projected as a Wild Card team). He sees the Yankees taking the Fall Classic in five games over the Washington Nationals. Perry must be having visions of Pinstripes dancing in his head because he has Luis Severino winning the AL Cy Young Award and CC Sabathia reaching 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts. Lastly, he projects Mister Underpaid (Aaron Judge) with 44 home runs. I think all of us have envisioned 2019 as “the” year. Glad to see CBS Sports has jumped on the bandwagon.

This could be (should be) the week we finally hear about Manny Machado’s long-awaited decision. Even Jim Leyritz (@therealjleyritz) tweeted this yesterday when asked about Machado: “If I was a betting man. I’d say it’s all but done. Not sure as I was with Stanton deal last year. Being able to break that news doesn’t happen every year. Lol. But from what I’ve heard. All but the signature is needed. Stay tuned. Would be a good way to ring in the New Year.”

Regardless of what happens, I hope the Yankees retain Miguel Andújar. I don’t see a trade for an elite pitcher between now and spring training. and that’s the only way I could justify moving Andújar. I think the team is better served keeping him on the roster.  The guy is a hit machine and can help this team solve its RISP problem. Maybe he’s moved at the trading deadline if the team happens to have another third baseman in place with the initials of MM, but I’d really like to see what Miggy can do in Year 2 of his Bronx story. Let’s mix him in at first base and left field during spring training and see what he is capable of or if Manny decides to go to Philly or Chicago, let Andújar continue to develop at third and work to refine his defensive skills. We’d need to ensure shortstop is strong-defensively until Didi Gregorius returns but let’s quit pushing the ‘trade Andújar’ movement. The Yankees are better with him.

via Instagram: miguelandujar_02

I hope Brian Cashman has enjoyed his “time off”. I know, that’s just what it looks like from the outside looking in. Regardless, I hope the New Year brings a focused GM on a mission to field the best possible team when the regular season opens in a few months. We’re good but we can get so much better. Let’s not miss this opportunity. It’s time to bring a championship back to New York.

Happy New Year to you, your family and everyone! Well, everyone except the Red Sox…definitely not the Red Sox.

As always, Go Yankees!

Tanaka Time: Home Sweet Home…

Photo Credit: Instagram (masahiro_tanaka.official)

Strong pitching carries Yanks past Angels…

The Yankees needed a strong effort by Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and they got it. He gave up his obligatory home run but it didn’t matter as the Yankees used a three-run third inning to cruise past the Halos, 3-1.

The highlight of the game, not for its meaning to the final outcome but rather the drama of the moment, was Tanaka’s strikeout of fellow Japanese countryman Shohei Ohtani to end the first inning. Tanaka fell behind Ohtani on a 3-1 count but two swinging strikes sent Ohtani to the bench, much to the delight of the Yankee Stadium crowd. For the game, Ohtani was 0-for-2 against Tanaka, with a walk and two strikeouts. Mike Trout, who had a career day on Saturday, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Tanaka. Simple formula: Hold Ohtani and Trout in check and good things happen.

Tanaka’s terrific day was done after the sixth inning and 104 pitches. He held the Angels to only three hits and the isolated run on Andrelton Simmons’ solo homer in the sixth. Tanaka (6-2) walked three and struck out eight. THIS is the Masa we need for the summer’s pennant chase.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)

With six strong from Tanaka, Manager Aaron Boone was able to effectively lay out David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman for three innings of scoreless relief. Very nice play by Didi Gregorius to stop a hard hit grounder by Martin Maldonado, throwing the Angels catcher out at first to end the game and hand Chapman his eleventh save.

The Yankees (33-16) ended up taking two of three from the Angels after Saturday night’s debacle when Sonny Gray (Sucks!) and the Yankees bullpen were hammered by Mike Trout and the Angels in an 11-4 loss. Fortunately, the Boston Red Sox finally lost yesterday against the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, 7-1. The Braves victory was especially sweet as they gave Chris Sale an early exit (4 1/3 innings) by scoring six runs off Boston’s prized left-hander. The Red Sox lead over the Yankees in the AL East is back to one game.

The schedule, which has been Boston’s friend so far this season, continues to benefit the Red Sox. The Atlanta Braves were one of the rare winning teams the Red Sox has faced so far this year. They return to playing sub .500 teams today with the arrival of the Toronto Blue Jays (25-28) at Fenway Park. Meanwhile, the Yankees draw the defending World Champions, the Houston Astros, for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. Yes, the Yankees did sweep the Astros in Houston at the beginning of the month, but the team was on a roll at the time. I can’t say I am too confident with today’s matchup (Domingo German, 0-2, 5.59 ERA vs Justin Verlander, 6-2, 1.08 ERA). But if the Yankees can keep it close, I like the Yankees’ chances against the Houston bullpen. Yesterday, with closer Ken Giles on the mound, the Astros blew an 8-3 ninth inning lead in their fourteen-inning loss to the Cleveland Indians.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jason Miller)

The Yankees need pitching help but it doesn’t look like Chance Adams wants to play. The RailRiders game had barely started yesterday when Adams was pulled. With an inability to find the strike zone, Adams departed in the first inning after recording only two outs. He had given up only one hit, but three walks and a hit batter gave the Syracuse Chiefs an early 3-0 lead. The RailRiders came back to win the game, 7-4, so Adams wasn’t saddled with the loss but it was a pathetic performance. His season ERA is an unsightly 5.93 and he leads the team with 22 walks. It doesn’t sound like Adams wants to join his former RailRiders teammates in the Bronx, at least if he continues to pitch like the second coming of Sonny Gray. Hopefully he figures this thing out and restores the bloom of his potential. I still think his future lies in the bullpen but regardless, he is a guy I hope reaches Pinstriped glory.

I was surprised as anyone when the Yankees optioned popular utility man Ronald Torreyes to Triple A to make room for the activation of first baseman Greg Bird. I had fully expected either Tyler Austin or a pitcher to go down. Neil Walker has proven his worth to the organization so the team wasn’t go to eliminate his roster spot. I also think the Yankees are intrigued with A.J. Cole and haven’t seen enough to make a decision about him yet. The YES Network’s Michael Kay noted yesterday that Toe’s locker has not been cleaned out. It is expected he’ll be back when his ten days are up or shortly thereafter. An injury to someone (I hope not) will accelerate the timetable. In the grand scheme of things, I fully expect Torreyes to have a longer Yankees career than Tyler Austin. I could see Austin as part of a trade in the days leading up to this year’s trading deadline when the Yankees attempt to seek upgrades for their pitching staff.

He was only a Yankee for 33 games in 2008 but it is enough to qualify Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez as a member of the Yankees family. I am sure that Pudge is very excited today as the San Francisco Giants have selected the contract of his son, Dereck, from their Triple A affiliate. Dereck started his professional career in 2011 as an outfielder in the Minnesota Twins farm system but was converted to pitching in 2013. He signed with the Giants organization as a minor league free agent during the off-season. A starter in the minor leagues, Rodriguez is expected to provide long relief for the Giants. I hope Rodriguez pitches so well the Giants decide to trade Madison Bumgarner to the Yankees. C’mon, a guy can dream, can’t he?  Seriously, congratulations to Dereck for the realization of his own dream.

Photo Credit: Instagram (drod_31)

Speaking of former Yankees, Phil Hughes has found a new home. The Minnesota Twins had designated the pitcher for assignment earlier in the week. On Sunday, the Twins sent Hughes and a compensatory draft pick (74th overall) to the San Diego Padres for a minor league catcher. The incentive for the Padres is the competitive balance draft pick. The Twins will send money to pay down the contract owed to Hughes to lessen the financial commitment for the Padres. For now, Hughes will be inserted into the Padres bullpen, joining former Yankees Bryan Mitchell and Tyler Webb. I am not sure if this is the eventual end of the line for Hughes, who has undergone multiple surgeries for thoracic outlet syndrome, or if he will be able to resurrect his career in sunny Southern CA, but I wish the veteran 31-year-old righty the very best in his latest comeback attempt.

It’s Memorial Day so we pay tribute to those who have fallen in defense of our Country. Of course, we think about those individuals every day of the year, not just this day, and are grateful for their service and sacrifice to defend our liberty and freedom. We can never repay them or their families. We carry the memory of the slain men and women who have served this great Nation today and always.

Go Yankees!

Take 2 Runs and Call Me in the Morning…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

Yanks win on two-run homer by El Gary…

A deep drive by Gary Sanchez and some stellar pitching were the right ingredients for the Yankees on Sunday night as the winning streak continues. The Yankees won their ninth consecutive game with the 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

With a runner in scoring position (former Yankee Chris Young at second) in the bottom of the ninth and two outs, the showdown between Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler was electrifying. As we are continually reminded, “Baseball’s greatest player” (Mike Trout…why do I always want to call him Steve?) was standing in the on-deck circle, putting increased pressure on Chapman to end the game with Kinsler. The seven pitch at-bat concluded with a swinging strike for the final out.  Mike Trout could only stand and watch as the Yankees congratulated each other on the field for the series sweep, his bat resting to await the arrival of the Baltimore Orioles.

CC Sabathia pitched much better than I expected him to and the Yankees were, no doubt, the beneficiaries. The Yankees lose this game without CC’s exemplary start. Sabathia shirked the notion that he has become a five-inning pitcher (well, not really) by delivering seven strong.  He held the Halos to five hits and one run, while walking one and striking out four. The run came courtesy of a wild pitch in the sixth inning after Justin Upton had reached base on an infield single and Albert Pujols singled, his 2,996th career hit, to advance Upton to third. It was vintage Sabathia and the Yankees needed every bit of it on this night.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Mark J Terrill)

Credit to Angels starter Tyler Skaggs for holding the Yankees offense in check. When Giancarlo Stanton doubled in the top of the fourth inning, it was the first hit for the Yankees.  Gary Sanchez followed with a home run to left, a shot that traveled 447 feet to give the Yankees a two-run advantage.  Skaggs departed in the sixth inning due to a high pitch count, but those two hits in the fourth and an infield single by Gleyber Torres in the fifth were the only hits Skaggs allowed. He struck out eight Yankees over 5 1/3 innings and only walked two.  He pitched well enough to win but, thanks to Gary Sanchez and CC Sabathia, he did not.

The Yankees (18-9) kept pace with the AL East division-leading Boston Red Sox. The Sox ended the Tampa Bay Rays’ eight-game winning streak on Sunday in a battle of bullpens which saw Rays closer Alex Colome cough up the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. Craig Kimbrel closed out the win for Boston.  Bummer, I was really enjoying Boston’s losing streak and was pulling for the Rays to sweep. Sadly, all good things must end. The Yankees remain two games behind the Red Sox as we enter play on the final day of April.

Today the Yankees are in Houston, Texas to face the defending World Series champions and the site of last year’s heart-breaking Game 7 of the AL Championship Series that ended the Yankees’ season. I am sure that all Yankees fans on the East Coast are delighted the Yankees are in the Central Time Zone and no longer three hours away in the Pacific Time Zone.

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I suspect the Yankees winning streak will end while the team is in Houston, but it would be nice for them to get at least ten in a row before it is over. I love ten-game winning streaks and we are so very close.

ESPN staff writer Coley Harvey posted this Giancarlo Stanton quote. “We can all click even more. So we’re getting the timely hitting, the things we need to win ballgames, and if it stays hot like that where it’s a different guy every night contributing, then we’ll be tough, tough to beat.”  I agree but it is going to take solid pitching too.  Sonny Gray takes the mound tonight and admittedly that scares me. Right now, I have the least amount of confidence in Gray among the Yankees starters. I never thought I’d say this but I want Gray to pitch like former Yankee Caleb Smith did yesterday. Smith picked up his first win of the season, going seven innings against the Colorado Rockies. He held the Rockies to two hits and no runs, walking only one batter while striking out nine. I’d love for Gray to deliver that type of performance for the Yankees. I seem to be losing faith in Gray with each start so selfishly speaking, I’d like to see him reverse the trend. I’d really like to see Gray pitch like he did in Oakland one of these days.

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The Yankees will miss Gerrit Cole this series but they’ll face every other Astros starter since we are playing four games this week.

Here are the scheduled starters:

Monday, April 30th

Yankees:  Sonny Gray (1-1, 7.71 ERA)

Astros:  Charlie Morton (3-0, 1.86 ERA)

Tuesday, May 1st

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 3.76 ERA)

Astros:  Justin Verlander (4-0, 1.36 ERA)

Wednesday, May 2nd

Yankees:  Luis Severino (4-1, 2.61 ERA)

Astros:  Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 4.00 ERA)

Thursday, May 3rd

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.37 ERA)

Astros:  Lance McCullers, Jr (4-1, 3.71 ERA)

This will be a tough series. Although the Yankees currently have a better winning percentage (.667 to .655), the Astros have the second highest win total in the American League with 19 wins (one behind Boston). The Astros have shown no World Series hangover and it is clear they’ll be a force to be reckoned with come October. The first test begins tonight. I just wish we were leading with our best foot forward (in other words, not Sonny Gray).

I am ready to win a game (or better yet, games) in Houston. Tonight does seem like a good time to start. C’mon, Sonny, don’t let me down.

Go Yankees!

Two Little, Too Late…

Credit:  Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

Orioles 3, Yankees 2…

Admittedly, I had wished the Baltimore Orioles had won on Sunday (when they lost to the Houston Astros, 8-4).  Coming into the series with the Yankees, the O’s were on a seven-game losing streak but were returning home to Camden Yards for the Memorial Day showdown (a wounded dog ready to bite).  The Orioles were due and unfortunately it came at the expense of the Yankees.

It was a winnable game, but you need offense to win.  Dylan Bundy, who has been Baltimore’s best pitcher so far this year, was good but you can’t say great.  He scattered seven hits over seven innings and held the Yanks to only two runs.  Bundy was the beneficiary of three double-plays.  It was hard to say if it was simply great Bundy pitching or anemic Yankee bats.  Outside of the Aarons, the Yankees couldn’t generate any runs.  Aaron Hicks had an early sac fly, scoring Starlin Castro to tie the game at one in the second inning, and Aaron Judge had a solo homer in the seventh (his 17th of the year).  

Credit:  Randy Miller/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The two runs were not enough to overcome Mark Trumbo’s run-scoring single in the first and Jonathan Scoop’s two-run double in the third.

Jordan Montgomery (2-4) reopened long term concerns about his spot in the rotation.  He threw 100 pitches just to get into the fifth inning.  After allowing two one-out singles in the fifth, Montgomery was finished.  For 4 1/3 innings of work, he had allowed eight hits and three runs (only one earned, thanks to Starlin Castro’s fielding error in the third).  He walked one and struck out five.  He is pitching well enough to earn his next start, but if the Yankees do make a trade for a starter within the next couple of months, Montgomery could be the odd man out.  

Both Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve pitched well in relief of Montgomery as they combined for 3 2/3 innings of hitless, scoreless relief and six strikeouts.  The only blemish was Shreve’s insignificant walk of Mark Trumbo in the seventh.

Aaron Judge had one final shot in the ninth inning to try and tie the game, but he struck out against interim O’s closer Brad Brach.  Brach, hardly a clone of injured O’s elite closer Zach Britton, also struck out Didi Gregorius to end the game.

Credit:  Ulysses Munoz/Baltimore Sun

Chris Carter was miserable.  He had an 0-for-3 day with two strikeouts.  Overall, he is 0-for-12 for his last five games and has been punched out in half of those at-bats.  Carter is batting .188 on the season.  When both Tyler Austin and Greg Bird are healthy, Carter is going to be in a very precarious situation if he doesn’t find the swing that drilled 41 homers last year.  

Chase Headley, after a two game rest, was 1-for-2 with a walk.  It kind of makes me wonder what the pesky Ronald Torreyes could have done against Bundy.  But alas, we’ll never know.  The Orioles won this game, and pulled back to within 3 1/2 games of the Yankees (29-19) in the AL East.  Fortunately, the Chicago White Sox rallied against the Red Sox bullpen to beat Boston 5-4 in a game saved by former Yankee closer David Robertson.  So, the Red Sox remain 3 games behind the Yankees.  

Credit:  Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune

Better luck to the Baby Bombers today.  It is more fun to write about wins than losses.  

Player Updates…

It doesn’t sound like Jacoby Ellsbury will be back anytime soon.  As of Sunday, he still had a headache and continues to deal with the neck sprain so he has not resumed baseball activities.  The presence of Aaron Hicks makes Ellsbury’s absence a non-factor unless Brett Gardner or Aaron Judge get hurt.

Aroldis Chapman was able to throw again prior to yesterday’s game against Baltimore but still no word when he’ll be ready for a rehab assignment.  He’ll take today off before resuming light throwing tomorrow.

Tyler Austin was 1-for-4 (single) in his latest rehab assignment as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders fell to the Toledo Mud Hens, 5-0.

The Yankees will miss Los Angeles Angels slugger Mike Trout in a couple of weeks when they make their West Coast road trip.  Trout had surgery yesterday on a torn ulnar ligament in his left thumb and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.  Trout injured the thumb on Sunday with a head first slide in Miami. 

Have a great Tuesday!  Twelve games left against the AL East in the current stretch…let’s make the most of it.  A win today would be a good start…

Baseball and bad decisions…

 

A swing and a miss, another miss, yet another miss…

This morning, I saw a post on the MLB Trade Rumors website (http://www.MLBTradeRumors.com) that asked the poll question of which MLB team had the best draft in 2002?  Of all the examples shown, no Yankees were anywhere to be found.  For a draft that started with Bryan Bullington and B.J. Upton, there was some great talent uncovered in the 2002 draft.  Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Joey Votto and a guy who would eventually find his way to the Bronx, Brian McCann, were among the great choices by their respective teams.  But sadly, not a single Yankee selection stuck that year.

Number 26 selection Phil Coke is a major leaguer but with the Detroit Tigers.  He had his moments in the Bronx but was never anything special and was sent to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson-Austin Jackson trade.

But removing Coke, there are 50 rounds of names that Yankee Stadium never heard from.  I really do not recognize any of the names outside of the first round selection and that’s only because he was later the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns (Brandon Weeden).

I know that there are many sad tales among the 2002 draft picks, like 2nd round pick Alan Bomer, a pitcher, who reinjured his shoulder after a previous injury several years earlier, bringing an end to his major league hopes.

But it’s also a testament to the drafting ability of major league teams and 2002 was clearly not a good vintage for the Yankees.  I know the team’s re-focus on the minor league system didn’t occur until a few years later but hopefully barren draft years like 2002 are a thing of the past.  But looking ahead a few years, it’s not too pretty.

2003 really wasn’t much better with top pick third baseman Eric Duncan long gone from baseball.  The only name that stands out to me from that draft is Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard.

2004 was the year the Yankees selected pitcher Phil Hughes and can only wonder what could have been.  Time will tell if he can fulfill his promise in the Twin Cities or if he was simply one of the most overhyped young players of our time.

For the Yankees, solid draft picks do not appear until 2005 which Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson were chosen.  Interestingly enough, the Yankees also chose pitcher Doug Fister that year but he opted to return to college for his final year, and was taken by the Seattle Mariners the next year.  Granted, Fister is currently on the Nationals’ DL, but he’d certainly look good in the Yankees rotation about now.

In 2006, the Yankees made some good choices, but it’s rather humorous that the first round pick went to Joba Chamberlain, a journeyman reliever for the Detroit Tigers, while current Yankees closer, David Robertson was selected in the 17th round.  Ian Kennedy and Zach McAllister were both chosen after Chamberlain, and they are solid starting pitchers for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians, respectively.  Dellin Betances was also taken that year and after years of hype, he’s finally contributing as a force in the Yankees bullpen.  Mark Melancon, currently the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates due to Jason Grilli’s injury, was also a draft selection.

Of the decisions the Yankees made regarding trades, the one I didn’t like was dumping McAllister.  He went to Cleveland in 2010 for Austin Kearns who only stayed in the Bronx for the remainder of the season.  That trade felt like the foolish ones that we had grown accustomed to in the 1970’s and 80’s.  McAllister is having a very solid year for the Indians and is another guy who would have looked great in the Yankees rotation.

I will never find fault with the decision to trade Ian Kennedy even though he almost won the Cy Young after leaving the Yankees.  I just never found him to be a good fit in New York.

2007 was another disappointing draft year as the Yankees really only have catcher Austin Romine, currently at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, to show for it.  Top pick Andrew Brackman was coming off a major injury at the time of the selection and was never able to find his way back.

As I advance to 2008, it’s disappointing to see how poor, outside of 2006, the draft has been for the Yankees.  Atop the list in ’08 is a pitcher the Yankees were unable to sign and who is now entrenched in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole.  Talk about another guy who would have been a brilliant option for the Yankees rotation.  What could have been…

This really shows how incredibly difficult it is to determine those who will be able to achieve results and success at the Major League level.  It also shows how many people fail to find their way for whatever reasons.

It’s a small wonder that the Yankees have had to spend so much in the free agent market to ensure the team remains competitive.  In a statement of the obvious, the Yankees would be smart to improve the quality of their scouting and development to ensure that the older players are replaced by younger, cheaper talent with high ceilings.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals are solid teams because of their drafting ability.  For the Yankees, they are successful despite it.  I get why owner Hal Steinbrenner believes in the power of the farm system.  This is not rocket science.  Sustainability will only be maintained through youth and controlling costs.

Stupid is as stupid does…

The fans of the Boston Red Sox took great delight when Michael Pineda was tossed from a Yankees-Red Sox game last week due to the blatant smear of pine tar on his neck.  After the fiasco caused during his previous start against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium (“brown dirt”), he had to have known he would be under the magnifying glass.  Yet, he risked detection by continuing the use of pine tar and ended up applying a more generous amount than he had intended to.  So, Boston manager John Farrell had absolutely no choice but to call out Pineda.  This is one instance where I felt the Red Sox were 100% correct in a controversial decision involving the Yankees.  Pineda’s 10-game suspension hurts the Yankees, at a time when they’ve already lost starter Ivan Nova for the season due to an elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery.

For a rotation that looked so strong and full of promise for a few starts, the Yankees now have to replace both Nova and Pineda, plus the top of the rotation has been questionable at times with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.  The only source of consistency has been Masahiro Tanaka, who faces an incredibly difficult challenge today against the Los Angeles Angels and the likes of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. 

Baseball is a team-first sport and Pineda made a “me-first” decision.  I hope that he learns a valuable lesson during his suspension and comes back with choices that are for the good of the team.

For the record, I do believe that Major League Baseball should allow pine tar to some degree for gripping purposes only in colder temps.  But until the rules are changed, it’s a violation and should be handled accordingly.  Baseball has been tolerant of discreet behavior regarding its use, but to blatantly violate the policy warrants the appropriate punishment until such a time the rules are changed.

 

–Scott

 

An Interesting Day…

Where do we go from here?…

December 6th.  For years, this has been the anniversary of my graduation from Air Force Basic Training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas.  But on December 6, 2013, it may have been the most tumultuous day in Yankees history in terms of arrivals and departures…or at least in recent memory. 

The day started with news that talks had broken down between Robinson Cano and the Seattle Mariners.  It stirred renewed hope that Cano would find his way back to the Bronx, but as quickly as the reports had come about the Mariners’ CEO blowing a gasket at salary demands from the Cano Camp and ending talks, the reports came that Cano had accepted a ten year deal from the Mariners for $240 million.  Cano never called the Yankees before taking the offer, but it was a given they would not match. 

It’s hard to watch your team’s best player walk away for nothing.  But in this situation, I think the Yankees made the right call.  After the fiasco of the Alex Rodriguez contract and what an albatross it has become, it is clear that extended contracts are not good for baseball.  I saw one writer yesterday who wrote that the only player worth a ten year deal, right now, would be 22-year-old Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout.  I think that’s a fairly accurate statement.

When the Yankees signed CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira to long-term deals in 2009, both of those players were significantly better players than they are today.  They can continue to perform at a high level but at this point, it is equally possible for them to continue performance regression. 

I can remember how painful Jason Giambi’s had become by the end.  Even David Winfield’s ten year contract, regardless of how great the player was, had been a mistake as the player and the owner were bitter enemies by the time the contract expired. 

I thought the Yankees’ offer of 7 years for $175 million was fair.  If the Cano Camp (Team Jay Z or rather, CAA) had been more sensible in their meetings with the Yankees, I am sure that Cano probably could have squeezed out an additional year.  However, Cano was dead set on getting a ten year contract, so that clearly nailed the coffin on his Yankees career.  Of the two organizations, the Yankees and the Mariners, I feel strongly that the former would be more willing to take care of Cano at the end of the contract.  In other words, at the end of 7 years, if the player was continuing to play at a high level, the Yankees would pay a new contract commensurate to performance with a premium paid for past accomplishments such as they’ve done with Derek Jeter.  I know the Jeter negotiations were very tense a couple of years ago but this off-season’s re-signing was at a higher dollar amount than any other team would have paid.  As for the Mariners, I highly doubt that Cano will be in Seattle at the end of the ten years.  When he begins the eventual downward trend as he ages, Seattle will be looking to move the contract, even if they have to pay cash, to cut their losses.  The odds that Cano would have been in New York at the end of 7 years would have been substantially greater. 

I am not sure that Cano has fully comprehended how he has trashed his Yankee legacy.  I personally have no desire to ever see the player honored in Memorial Park and have absolutely no qualms with the team re-issuing #24 to another player.  Maybe time will heal the feelings, but Cano showed no loyalty or respect for the fans of New York and simply took the money and ran. He was a good Yankee, but he was not a great one.  For a player who enjoyed being a star in New York City, it will be interesting to see how he adapts to being out of the spotlight.  The crowds attending Seattle away games will be smaller and will have far fewer “home team” fans in attendance.  With the Yankees, it’s like being a rock star as Jason Giambi once said.  Nothing against Seattle, it is a beautiful city and a great ballpark, but it is a team that is, and will continue to be, inferior to the much stronger Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, and Oakland A’s.  They do not have a history and tradition of winning and I do not expect that to change.  Cano has his money.  Good for him.  But his days of playing for an organization that wants to win every year and considers missing the play-offs to be a disaster are over.

With Friday’s flurry of activity, it was almost an afterthought that the Yankees also lost outfielder Curtis Granderson.  Grandy has a good player for most of his Yankees career, but of course, he missed the majority of the 2013 season due to injuries.  He leaves the Yankees for a tougher park to hit with the New York Mets.  Maybe his game will play well for the Mets, or maybe he becomes the next Jason Bay.  The Yankees did not show a strong desire for Grandy’s return after he rejected the team’s qualifying offer and had more preference for guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, or even the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp.  At the moment, with the signings of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, there wouldn’t have been any room in the crowded outfield for Granderson.  While the Yankees have stated they intend to keep Brett Gardner and move him to left field (pushing Alfonso Soriano to DH), I still suspect that Gardner will be expendable in the team’s pursuit of quality starting pitching.  I see the DH role being better utilized for guys like Derek Jeter and Brian McCann as ways to rest them than moving the admittedly defensively challenged Soriano there on a full-time basis.  My feelings about Granderson’s departure are significantly different than those of Cano.  I felt that Granderson made the best decision for him both personally and professionally.  I am thankful he was a Yankee and I wish him well with his new team.  I am sure that he has a few more productive years ahead of him.

Friday also saw the return of starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and the addition of outfielder Carlos Beltran.  It’s apparent that Beltran’s arrival is tied to Cano’s departure since the team finally acquiesced to Beltran’s desire for a third year, but both signings are essential for the 2014 Yankees.  With only CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova holding down spots in the starting rotation, Kuroda is a key anchor for the rotation.  He may be no more than a #3 starter next year, but he is a strong stabilizing force.  The Yankees still need more starting pitching besides the hope that Michael Pineda and/or some of the Triple A arms will be able to take spots.

I really was unsure if Kuroda would return.  It has been said that he wants to play a final year in Japan before he retires, and there was talk that he might be interested in returning to Southern California since his family still lives there.  But Kuroda is an honorable man, and it was so telling in his final year with the Los Angeles Dodgers when he didn’t want to be traded because the Dodgers were the team he started the season with and he didn’t want to go elsewhere.  I did wonder if the pull off the Dodgers, assuming they were interested, would have been too much.  But I think Kuroda has enjoyed playing for the Yankees and his sense of loyalty led him back to the team for one more year.  It’s a pleasure to have him back in the fold.

Welcome to the Bronx, Carlos Beltran!  Granted, the Yankees have more to do if they want to return to October baseball, but Beltran is one of the post-season greats.  Some guys thrive when the pressure is on (unlike Alex Rodriguez) and Beltran is a leader in that category.  It has always been said that he wanted to play in the Bronx and had been willing to sign for a discount when he ultimately signed with the Mets.  He finally gets the chance at the latter stages of his career.  He is an offensive upgrade over Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells, and helps to offset the loss of Cano’s production. 

It is interesting that the 2014 Yankee outfield will be comprised of two guys who played for the opposing teams in the 2013 World Series.  One with a ring and one without.  At the moment, they’ll be joined in the outfield by Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano although, as previously stated above, I think Gardner will be moved for pitching help. 

December 6th will long be remembered as the day the Yankees lost Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, but brought in Hiroki Kuroda and Carlos Beltran.  There is much work yet to do with Cano’s loss, but the arrivals of Beltran, Brian McCann, and Jacoby Ellsbury bring guys with something to prove.  Kelly Johnson is also a Yankee and the starting second baseman at the moment, although I do think he’ll be the super-sub by the time the team breaks camp next spring.  I do not know who will be the second baseman in 2014 but the Yankees will figure it out.  As David Robertson said, they always do. 

From Beantown to the Bronx…

I have heard many Yankee fans voice frustration about Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract (primarily the length, not the dollars).  I know that he has had his health challenges, but I like the move.  I respected Ellsbury during his days in Boston and I like the elements of his game.  It can be argued that he is Brett Gardner, but he is a better version.  As a player who once said that he’d never play for the Yankees, it is nice to see that the history and tradition of the organization were overriding factors, in addition to the monetary reasons.  The Red Sox weren’t going to extend the years to Ellsbury so it was inevitable that he’d leave.  There is a sting with the Red Sox Nation that he went with the Yankees, and there are probably parallels to the Cano situation (dollars over loyalty), but at the end of the day, I am glad that Ells is a Yank. 

And then there’s next week…

As the baseball winter meetings loom on the immediate horizon, there should be more activity for Yankees fans.  This winter is so dramatically different than last year’s status quo approach.  After missing the play-offs and the retirement of a few players, there were more holes to fill.  Brian McCann solidifies the catching position, and Francisco Cervelli will return, after now that he’s completed his 50-game suspension and is healthy, to be McCann’s caddy.  McCann gives the Yankees a better catcher than they had in 2012 starter, Russell Martin, and the strongest offensive threat at the position since the retired Jorge Posada. 

Jacoby Ellsbury gives the Yankees options.  He strengthens the team up the middle, and like McCann, has a swing that tailored for Yankee Stadium.  He may not hit a lot of home runs, but he’ll be a terror on the bases.  His presence, despite what the team says publicly, makes Brett Gardner expendable.  For a team with weak prospects at the upper levels, it will take a Brett Gardner to bring a quality return.  The Yankees need better starting pitching, a second baseman, and some help in the bullpen.  They also need to cover for the expected absence of the Loser, Alex Rodriguez.  So, if there are any certainties, it is that the Yankees will be active next week.  I am sure that the website, MLB Trade Rumors, will be busier than Grand Central Station over the holidays.

Ala The Walking Dead, let’s say goodbye to those that we’ve lost…

  • Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
  • Curtis Granderson, New York Mets
  • Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins
  • Chris Stewart, Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Mike Harkey, bullpen coach, now pitching coach, Arizona Diamondbacks

Thanks for the memories, but rest assured, we’ll be okay. 

Go Yankees!

–Scott