Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP
Happ, turning back the clock, turns back the Sox…
I’ll admit that J.A. Happ has surprised me the last couple of starts. I had written the guy off a few weeks ago and I didn’t want him anywhere near a post-season start but I think I am starting to soften on that position. His terrific performance yesterday, holding the Boston Red Sox to two hits and no runs over 6 1/3 innings, was an illustration why the Yankees re-signed Happ in the off-season and not Lance Lynn. Behind his latest great start, the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 5-1, to even the four-game series with two to play.
Photo Credit: AP
Happ has historically been a good pitcher against the Red Sox which, as we know, is why the Yankees acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays last summer. He may not be facing Boston this post-season but this is exactly the Happ we need to show up for the big games in a few weeks.
It’s great that both Happ and James Paxton are rounding into form at the right time. The Tampa Bay Rays, currently 8 1/2 games back, are on fire right now. The Rays have won 9 of their last 10 games, and one of their top injured pitchers, Tyler Glasnow, was activated today to start later this afternoon. With last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Blake Snell, nearing his return from the Injured List, the Rays are getting reinforcements at exactly the right time for them. I don’t expect the Yankees to blow a 8 1/2 game lead but conversely, the Rays do not appear to be going away.
Fortunately, for the Yankees, they’ll be getting some reinforcements with Luis Severino and Dellin Betances in the not-so-distant future. I am not sure how Sevy will used, but just having him on the pitching staff will be significant. Early on, it appeared he’d probably be used as either an opener or out of the bullpen, but lately, there appears to be some optimism he can start. Regardless of how Manager Aaron Boone decides to deploy him, the Yankees are a better team with Sevy on the active roster.
Severino could make his 2019 season debut soon. After Sevy’s second rehab start for the Trenton Thunder (AA) on Friday, Boone told The New York Post, “Overall, it was pretty successful. We’ll talk about whether one more (rehab start) is beneficial or [if he will] come with us.”
|Photo Credit: Staton Rabin, AP|
Betances needs more time in the minors before he’s ready but, if all goes well, we should see him within the next few weeks. A pending free agent, Betances has much to prove to ensure a big pay day after the season. Not that I think Betances needs added incentive to pitch well for the Yankees but it can’t hurt.
A setback by Aaron Hicks has seemed to stall any hopes he’ll be able to help the team anytime soon. Aaron Boone said yesterday that “He’s not feeling quite right.” It’s unfortunate but at least the Yankees have a reinvigorated Brett Gardner and the surprisingly successful Mike Tauchman to provide the necessary coverage in center field.
Now if we could just get Giancarlo Stanton back, all would be good on this roster. Yes, I want Stanton in big moments next month. Regardless of how other guys are playing, Stanton remains a huge threat and I think he’ll have his defining Yankee moment next month. And no, it won’t be swinging and missing at a low outside pitch. This guy remains a game-changer with one swing of his bat.
|Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images|
Was there really a report this week that the long-forgotten Jacoby Ellsbury has begun indoor activities? Now there’s a guy I never expect to wear the Pinstripes again. If he reaches full health after several years of inactivity, I think the Yankees should just cut bait and eat the remainder of his contract. There’s no scenario I want to see Ellsbury take a roster spot over more deserving guys. Troy Tulowitzski proved how effective an aging veteran can be after missing a few seasons. I wouldn’t expect any better from Ellsbury. At least Tulo showed some heart and still failed. There’s no apparent evidence Ellsbury has any heart.
The season is over for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The Tampa Bay Rays were able to grab scoreboard with their Triple A affiliate, the Durham Bulls. The Bulls swept the RailRiders in the opening round of the International League’s Governor’s Cup playoffs, pounding the RailRiders, 17-2, in Game 3 last night. I’m sure this how the Rays envision their future against the Yankees, as early as this October. Hopefully the big league team fares better against the Rays.
RailRiders reliever Ben Heller is expected to join the Yankees later today. Since he is not currently on the active Major League roster (60-day IL), he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster before he can join the team. Personally, I’d cut Ryan Dull who has no future with this team beyond 2019. Heller has been my dark-horse favorite for a role in the bullpen as he further distances himself from last year’s Tommy John surgery. I like the guy and I think he can be an effective arm among the quality relievers currently in the Yankees’ bullpen (unlike the much-travelled Dull). Heller was the only effective pitcher in yesterday’s blow-out loss to the Bulls with two innings of hitless/scoreless relief, a walk, and five strikeouts.
Everyone expects Deivi Garcia to get the call but I don’t think he’s ready. His line yesterday against the Bulls was very forgettable. One inning, two hits (including a homer), four walks, and five runs. Bring the 20-year-old to Spring Training, but I wouldn’t call him up now. I am not basing that on yesterday’s performance but rather his overall time at Triple A. He finished 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and 5.77 FIP. He did have 45 strikeouts in 40.0 innings, but issued 20 free passes and hit four batters. I know the Yankees have a seemingly comfortable lead in the AL East but the team is still battling for best record in the AL (currently tied with the Houston Astros at 93-50). Every game matters. I think Garcia will have a long Major League career but let’s pump the brakes until he is truly ready.
Getting back to the Boston Red Sox, their season hangs on the balance. After last night’s loss, they are 7 games out in the AL Wild Card hunt. The Rays and the Oakland A’s hold the top two spots, with the Cleveland Indians hanging in, 1 1/2 games back. With just 20 games to play, the Red Sox literally need two of the three teams ahead of them to collapse. Maybe the Indians fade, but I don’t see the Rays or the A’s relinquishing their current positions. It will be a fun day when I hear the Red Sox have been eliminated from playoff contention. Until then, regardless of the odds, they have a chance. Hopefully the Yanks can take the next two games from Boston to help drive a few nails into their coffin.
Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP
Don’t look now but the Atlanta Braves could be making a move for the best record in Major League Baseball. All season, everyone has talked about how the Los Angeles Dodgers have run away with the NL but suddenly they have the Braves nipping at their heels. Entering play today, the Dodgers are 92-52 after losing two in a row to the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Braves, who have won 9 consecutive games, are 89-54. They are within striking distance of Yankees, Astros and Dodgers for MLB’s best record. They say the playoffs are not about the best team but the team that gets hot at the right moment. At this point, you’d have to say that the Rays and Braves are Baseball’s hottest teams. Much can change between now and October, but these two teams are intent on making noise in the coming weeks. Time for Team Pinstripes to put ‘the pedal to the metal’.
The Yankees have announced a few moves today but none featured Ben Heller. I remain optimistic he’ll get the call, but here’s the day’s transaction per the Yankees:
- Reinstated Gio Urshela from the 10-day IL
- Returned Thairo Estrada from rehab and reinstated him from the 10-day IL
- Recalled Kyle Higashioka and Breyvic Valera from the RailRiders
I am glad to see Urshela back on the field. DJ LeMahieu does a great job at third, but having flexibility with him, helps the team. These moves were simple paper transactions, whereas, Heller will require some maneuvering so perhaps there will be more transactions announced later today. For Heller’s sake, I hope so.
|Photo Credit: Rich Gagnon, AP|
I was surprised to see former Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda receive a 60-game ban yesterday for taking a diuretic. Pineda, who has been the Twins’ best pitcher the last few weeks, said in a statement that he took an over-the-counter medication to help control his weight, but it contained hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic that can mask other substances. The ban was initially 80 games, but Pineda was able to get it reduced to 60 games on appeal after making a compelling case he was not attempting to mask performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t think Pineda had an intent to deceive but it’s an unfortunate situation for the one-time Yank and it certainly hurts Minnesota’s chances for October success.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP|
Exam against top AL Wild Card challenger not going well…
Just when I was starting to feel good about the Yankees again after the recent three-game sweep by the A’s in Oakland, the Yankees get clobbered by the A’s again in the Bronx, falling 8-2 on Friday night. I was hoping the Yankees would sweep the A’s as payback but it was not to be. Now, I can only hope the Yankees take two of three.
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP|
I know, it’s not the end of the World. The Yankees haven’t been ousted from the playoffs. They haven’t lost their grip on the AL East. They still hold the best record in the AL East (88-48), tied with the Houston Astros, and the teams share the best record in MLB overall, with the Los Angeles Dodgers (88-49) a 1/2 game back. They won five of six games on the road in Los Angeles and Seattle. The Tampa Bay Rays, despite their win last night over the Wild Card leading Cleveland Indians, remain 10 games behind the AL East leaders.
I keep hearing people say the Yankees are better than the A’s and they’ll beat Oakland when it matters in October. Maybe so, but a few wins now would be much appreciated. The A’s are getting into the Yankees’ heads and it’s time to make a statement. Hopefully, the statement is made today with 17-game winner Domingo German taking the mound. Homer “Freakin’” Bailey will get the chance to see if he can dominate the Yankees in two consecutive games for the A’s. Hopefully he’ll be exposed for the fraud he is, and he’ll see multiple pitches deposited into the outfield bleachers later today.
I don’t know what to think about CC Sabathia. I know some on Social Media were declaring the end of the road for the future Hall of Famer when he was pulled after three innings due to pain in the troublesome right knee. He apparently re-aggravated the knee issue last weekend in Los Angeles while batting. Maybe it’s premature to declare it the end, but the days are numbered and any extended time on the Injured List at this point would make it very hard for a comeback. I think we’ll see Sabathia again in a few weeks (he was placed on the 10-day Injured List today) but unfortunately it does not excite me.
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP|
I’d love for Sabathia to have the tremendous walk off the field moment like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera before him, but sadly, there’s a chance it does not happen. With a 5-8 record, 4.93 ERA and 5.97 FIP in 100 1/3 innings pitched, it is unlikely Sabathia will play a meaningful role in October even if they can solve the pain in his knee.
I wasn’t surprised when the Yankees placed third baseman Gio Urshela on the 10-day Injured List on Friday in order to activate first baseman Luke Voit. With the bothersome groin injury, Urshela was going to need a few days off at the very least. I had thought the Yankees might want until tomorrow, when rosters expand, to activate Voit but once Urshula was pulled from the final game in Seattle, it seemed that a trip to the Injured List was inevitable. Frankly, I like it because it forces Urshela to rest and recover. We need him at full strength in a month so I’d rather play it very cautious with him now. Manager Aaron Boone said as much yesterday, “…just the time of year it is, he’s a little banged up anyway, so it’s probably the best thing for him and for us to do this now and make sure this doesn’t become a lingering issue.” Agreed. Third base is in good hands with DJ LeMahieu so I am not worried. Still, the placement of Urshela on the Injured List gave the Yankees the Major League record for most players added to the list in a single season…not exactly a record that I held aspirations for.
With the growing questions about CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ, I am getting a little excited for the returns of Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino. I always temper my expectations for Monty because he’s trying to come back from Tommy John surgery (I don’t expect him to be at his best until 2020) and he’s never been more than a back end of the rotation type of starter but that’s exactly what the Yankees could use right now. I doubt he’ll start any games for the Yankees this late in the year, but he can provide a couple of effective innings here and there when he is potentially ready to activated within the next few weeks. Same with Luis Severino, although he retains his ace status. Might not be stretched out enough to start, but he’ll be fire out of the bullpen and I mean that in a great, non-Tyler Clippard, kind of way. Dellin Betances is also moving closer to a return so if the Yankees get all three of these guys back by mid-September, life will truly be good. I’ll gladly buy into the claims that their returns compensate for the failure to add at the trading deadline. Add in the returns of Edwin Encarnacion and Giancarlo Stanton next month and I’ll be feeling good about the team’s chances in October. The playoffs are a crap shoot anyway, so no team is unbeatable. Not the Astros, not the Dodgers, and contrary to current illusion, not the A’s.
|Photo Credit: Elsa, Getty Images|
I’ve been a critic of Clint Frazier and I had fully expected him to be dealt at the trading deadline, but I am looking forward to his promotion to the Major League roster, most likely tomorrow when rosters expand to 40 men for the final time (next year, the cap will be 28 on September 1st). I am not sure how much Frazier will play but I do think he has worked hard on his defense and is deserving of another opportunity to prove himself. Maybe he just becomes an observer with a great view from the bench, but I’d love to see him excel when he does get the chance to play the field. I am also looking forward to the Major League debut of temporary reliever Deivi Garcia. Watching Cory Gearrin pitch last night, I couldn’t help but think how much more I would have valued Garcia in that spot. Maybe he’s not ready for MLB hitters yet but we’ll soon find out. Everyone has to be a MLB beginner at some point in their careers.
As much as I would love to declare the Boston Red Sox are dead, the fact is they are not. The Red Sox have won three games in a row, including a 15-inning thriller last night against the Angels in Anaheim, and with a record of 73-62, they are just 5 1/2 games out of the Wild Card chase.
|Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill, AP|
It’s tough to make up those games with just a month left but it’s not impossible. Until Boston is mathematically eliminated, I will not dance on their grave. I continue to hold some fear of the team despite their lackluster 2019 season. They remain a dangerous team that could do damage in a short series, even with their pitching limitations. I expect the Red Sox to be ready to play when the Yankees go to Fenway Park for a four-game series starting next Friday. Boston’s season might depend on those games so no doubt they’ll be playing like a wounded dog. A sweep by the Yankees or losing three of four could be a death knell for them.
It was horrifying this week to learn about the tragedy that befell Tampa Bay Rays prospect Blake Bivens. His wife, young infant son, and mother-in-law were killed in a triple murder on Tuesday by his wife’s 18-year-old brother. I hadn’t heard the news until Bivens made his social media post in the aftermath of the slayings.
There have been so many incidents of senseless tragedy and loss of life this year. I am sickened by all of it, and have a very heavy heart for Blake Bivens. I cannot imagine anything worse that losing the loves of your life in such an awful way. I hope he can find comfort in the coming days, weeks and years, but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll ever be able to overcome this. I can only hope that he is able to find some peace and the ability to move forward. So very sad.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Credit: Sarah Stier, Getty Images|
Aaron Boone’s Defining Moment…
Thanks to noted podcaster @Jomboy of Talkin’ Yanks, the words of Yankees manager Aaron Boone to young home plate umpire Brennan Miller were immortalized on Thursday afternoon.
“My guys are fucking savages in that fucking box and you’re having a piece of shit start to this game. I feel bad for you, but fucking get better. That guy is a good pitcher, but our guys are fucking savages in that box, our guys are fucking savages in the fucking box, tighten it up right now.”
The words, certain to become 2019’s rallying cry for the Yankees, almost immediately began showing up on t-shirts as they went viral thanks to social media. I loved every minute of it. I’ve been a Boone supporter since the day he was hired. I think at the time, my top choice had been San Francisco Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens but when the Yankees named Boone as the manager, I was on board with the choice. I liked Joe Girardi but I never once pined for his return after the decision was made to let him go upon the expiration of his contract following the 2017 season.
I knew there would be a learning curve for Boone. Every manager has to start some time. Joe Torre had his own early bumps with the Mets when he first started his managerial career. Boone’s mistakes last season were magnified, thanks to the New York media, and many fans were unforgiving. But as this season has progressed, the growth in Boone as a manager has been evident. It didn’t take his words this week to prove he had gotten better, it’s been on display for weeks, perhaps months. However, Thursday’s tirade showed the World that Aaron Boone has his players’ backs. He is an excellent leader and he has the full respect and command of the clubhouse. I think the ‘next man up’ mentality of the 2019 Yankees is fueled by Boone’s leadership style.
|Credit: Kathy Willens, AP|
Since the brim of Boone’s cap touched the brim of home plate umpire Brennan Miller’s cap during the post-ejection rant (seriously?), he was suspended for one game and served it last night against the Colorado Rockies. Bench coach Josh Bard, a graduate of Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado (a suburb of Denver), served as Yankees manager against his once-hometown Rockies.
Boone’s words aside, this has been a memorable week for the Bronx Savages. The four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t start well when Mets cast-off Travis d’Arnaud homered three times including the game-winner, a three-run shot off Aroldis Chapman in the top of the ninth inning on Monday night when the Yankees were just a strike away from victory. It was a tough loss to accept (harder than most), but the Yankees rebounded and took the next three games to win the series, leaving the Rays a distant eight games behind in the AL East standings. The Yankees have won 12 of 17 games from the Rays this year, and it’s been the difference-maker in the standings.
Despite the successful Tampa Bay series, I was a little worried going into last night’s game with the Rockies. It kind of felt like one of those series where the team, coming off an emotional series with the Rays and looking ahead to a road trip next week that takes the Yankees to Minneapolis and Boston to play AL contenders, could let up a little. But if Friday night’s game is any indication, it is still ‘pedal to the metal’. After falling behind 2-0, the Yankees coasted to the 8-2 victory after Edwin Encarnacion blasted his ‘walk-the-parrot’ grand slam to take the lead in the bottom of the third. With three hits and some excellent defensive play, many were referring to this as Mike Tauchman’s game. That’s what I’m Tauchin’ about! The former Colorado Rockie, who was never really given a shot to play in the Mile High City, showed his former team they may have erred in trading him away earlier this year. Tauchman has double the plate appearances with the Yankees this season than he had in two years with the Rockies (shuttling back and forth from the minors). Former Coloradan players DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino, instrumental to the Rockies’ success of the past few seasons, also had a role in the decisive victory. Le Machine had two RBIs and Otto struck out the side in the top of the sixth inning. A friend, who is a die-hard Rockies fan, said she loves to see LeMahieu and Ottavino do well but “just not against us”.
The Yankees’ win, combined with losses by both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox last night, leaves the Yanks nine games up in the AL East standings. They are 30 games over .500 for the first time this season at 63-33, and have 11 fewer losses than the second-place Rays. I am always fearful of a swoon that could erase the large lead, but you have to like where the Yankees sit entering play on July 20th. YES Network analyst David Cone had some great words after last night’s game:
“If you don’t like the Yankees, I mean if you are a Yankee hater, this has gotta be a really obnoxious year for you.”
Since trading deadline deals generally start popping up the week prior to the deadline, this coming week could be very active with the hard July 31st deadline just around the corner. The Yankees have been great so far this season despite the injury challenges, but the Houston Astros, with just one less win than the Yankees, could substantially improve their starting rotation in the next eleven days if they successfully land one of the top starting pitchers on the market to slot in behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. In other words, there is room for the Yankees to get better and they have to in order to ensure October success.
The Yankees had Jim Hendry, special assistant to Brian Cashman, and others in Detroit last night to watch Toronto’s Marcus Stroman. There were a number of other teams in attendance to watch the New York native shut out the lowly Tigers on six hits over seven innings, with five strikeouts and no walks. For Stroman, a trade to the Yankees would represent the elimination of a 27 1/2 game deficit in a single day. It think that would energize him, as it would any of the names that have been connected to the Yankees in recent weeks. I think my only hangup with acquiring Stroman is sending quality talent to an AL East rival. In many ways, I’d prefer to see someone like Clint Frazier or Estevan Florial or Albert Abreu head to Cleveland or San Francisco for no other reason than they are not AL East teams. But I am very intrigued with the idea of having the talented Stroman in the starting rotation.
As much as I like Madison Bumgarner, I don’t really expect him to show up in the Bronx. He could find his way to Houston, Minneapolis, or Atlanta which wouldn’t be ideal but there’s not much we can do about it except beat him when the time comes. Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks continues to be a name to watch but the D-Backs are only a game out of the NL Wild Card hunt. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers have lost five in a row to push them 5 1/2 games out in the AL Wild Card chase, which could potentially increase chances that Mike Minor is dealt.
For all the names that have been mentioned, I still half-expect Brian Cashman to land a solid starter that no one has mentioned. For as much as I like Luis Severino and Dellin Betances, I am taking the approach they’ll provide nothing this year. The Yankees have played 99 games without them and it’s hard to envision them making a significant contribution with the 63 games remaining in the regular season. Maybe they become solid bullpen options by October but realistically I am not counting on it. It seems like there have been too many setbacks for both so I am not pinning any hopes on them.
I keep seeing Yankee fans saying the team shouldn’t trade Deivi Garcia or Estevan Florial or other top prospects in the organization. I am sorry but if the payoff is a World Series championship this year, NO ONE is untouchable. I guarantee the Chicago Cubs have never regretted their decision to trade Gleyber Torres in 2016. They might regret the 2017 trade of Eloy Jimenez but not Torres because it meant the first World Series championship in a century for them. It hasn’t been a century for the Yankees, but it has been ten long years and several Red Sox championships since the Yankees last hoisted the trophy. We need to keep an open mind and let Brian Cashman do his magic. He lives for these hot, humid July days and I am confident that he’ll make this exciting, fun and very special Yankee team even better in the coming days. Our goal is to take the World Series championship away from the Boston Red Sox. Anything less is unacceptable. I don’t want another ALDS or ALCS exit. The window of opportunity is now. There may be pain along the way, but we need to persevere. Like Buck Showalter said the other day, “prospects are just prospects”. I want guys who can make a difference in three months, not three years.
The Yankees released catcher Ryan Lavarnway from his minor league contract this week and in his first game with the Cincinnati Reds, the team that picked him up, he hits two home runs and drives in six RBIs. Of course he does. I know, he’ll never sustain it and will prove to be the journeyman catcher that he is, but it’s funny how guys prosper outside of Pinstripes when they land in low pressure environments. Not exactly people that you’d want in the trenches with you but good for them.
The Baby Savages (DSL Yankees) are at it again. After scoring the most runs in professional baseball with their 38-2 thrashing of the Twins’ affiliate earlier this month, they scored 19 runs in the second inning of last night’s game with the DSL Angels en route to a 23-10 victory. They brought 23 men to the plate during the highly productive inning. They are only following the lead of the big league club.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Steve Nesius, AP|
Yanks win 3rd Straight…
For most of the season, I’d describe the Yankees as a Romantic Comedy. We love this team through the highs and lows although there has been more emphasis on the former while we do nothing more than laugh off the numerous injuries that have afflicted the team. Yet, the last couple of games have truly been Thrillers. Two extra inning affairs that led to final innings of bludgeoning by the Yankees bats, followed by roller coaster rides in the bottom of the final frames while the Yankees closed out the wins. This is clearly the best show in town right now.
|Photo Credit: Noah K Murray, USA TODAY Sports|
The Tampa Bay Rays, despite two consecutive 8-4 losses, were in position for walk-off wins in both games so the final scores were deceiving if you weren’t watching the games. The Yankees increased their lead in the AL East to 8 1/2 games so even if they lose the next two games, they’ll be at least 6 1/2 games up heading into the All-Star Break. If the Yankees keep winning, they could potentially have a double-digit lead to open the second half. Incredible. But as they say, there is long way to go and so much can happen between now and the end of September, but all things considered, I like where the Yankees are.
If the Yankees win today, the Rays (50-39) will reach 40 losses before the Yankees (57-29) suffer 30. FanGraphs projects the Yankees with 91.8% chance of winning the AL East. Although the Los Angeles Dodgers (60-30) have the best record in MLB, the Yankees have the fewest losses and the best record in the American League. This is a fun and exciting team despite the many injury challenges more severe than any year I can recall in my Yankees fandom.
I keep writing off Brett Gardner and he keeps proving me wrong. I still think he should be no more than the team’s fourth outfielder yet there’s no denying his three-run home run in last night’s game was much-needed insurance after Aaron Judge had given the Yankees a one-run lead in the top of eleventh inning with his second dinger of the game. I think when Aroldis Chapman walked Travis d’Arnaud in the bottom of the 11th to load the bases, Tommy Pham may have taken a different approach at the plate needing only a run to tie it instead of trying to crush the ball which led to the liner directly at first baseman D.J. LeMahieu to end the game. Needing only a run to tie it versus trying to erase a four-run deficit with two outs are two entirely different approaches (obviously). Gardy is putting himself in position for another one-year contract this coming November. I just hope that it doesn’t prevent the team from upgrading left field next season, assuming Giancarlo Stanton slides back over to DH. I’d like it to be Clint Frazier, but let’s see if Frazier is still a Yankee after the end of this month. He was 0-for-3 in the first game of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s double-header with Ronald Torreyes and the Rochester Red Wings, striking out twice in the 4-2 loss. He didn’t play the second game which the RailRiders won, 7-6. Two games does not a career (or season) make, but unless Frazier makes substantial defensive improvement, I don’t see him as part of the team’s future. I am really hoping that he plays well enough for me to eat those words.
|Photo Credit: Christopher Nolan, Scranton Times Tribune|
I am glad that Gleyber Torres was named to the AL All-Star Team after Tampa Bay’s Brandon Lowe had to withdraw following an injury that led to his placement on the 10-Day IL. But, seriously, I was okay with Torres not making the team and didn’t quite understand the uproar prior to his selection. Torres is a great player, and will perhaps soon be the Yankees’ best player, but I view the All-Star Break as a few days off and much-deserved rest for the players not scheduled to travel to Cleveland. I was perfectly fine with Gleyber re-energizing for the second half. We know how valuable he is and that’s all that matters. Still, he deserves his spot among baseball’s finest and I will enjoy watching him at the All-Star Game.
Speaking of the All-Star Game, I was excited to hear yesterday that Major League Baseball has invited CC Sabathia for special recognition at the game. He is not part of the AL Roster but he’ll be honored at the site of his original team for “his contributions to the game and his longtime service to the community prior to the 90th Midsummer Classic” (according to the Commissioner’s release). Sabathia is such a great ambassador for Baseball and he’s certainly had a Hall of Fame career. I think the recognition is very fitting. I really hope the Yankees can find a spot in the organization for Sabathia once the season is over. He should be a Yankee for life.
|Photo Credit: Scott Audette, AP|
There’s been so much talk about the starters the Yankees should acquire but I am fearful of the guys that the Houston Astros could potentially acquire. The Yankees have yet to prove they can win in Houston and I’d really hate to see Madison Bumgarner or Marcus Stroman joining Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole for an October run. As strongly as I believe the Yankees will upgrade their starting rotation this month, there’s no question the Astros will do the same. The only question will be which team gets the better upgrade. It could prove to be the difference when all the chips are on the line.
The Boston Red Sox may be 11 games behind the Yankees but they are far from done. I fully expect the Sox to finally land a true closer this month. Who knows, it could be former Yankee Shane Greene but I think they’ll land someone who will help stabilize the sieve known as the Red Sox bullpen. I know the Red Sox, and primarily Dave Dombrowski, have been ignoring the pen since the end of the World Series last year, but this has to be the month they finally do something…I think. The magic seems to be off the Red Sox this year, but honestly it is nothing a ten-game winning streak couldn’t cure. I refuse to believe Boston is out until the fat lady sings. But despite their troubles, they are only two games out in the AL Wild Card hunt and I feel they are a better team than any of the three teams ahead of them (Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians, and Oakland A’s). The Texas Rangers may be hanging with Boston, but the separation will begin in the second half. If the Red Sox capture the Wild Card and win the single-game elimination, they’ll be a significant threat in October regardless of how many wins separate the Yankees and Red Sox in the regular season.
Congratulations to the Yankees for signing top international prospect Jasson Dominguez, a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic. I hate to see the comparisons to Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout but you certainly like to see the tremendous and perhaps even unprecedented potential of the talented outfielder. I am not going to get too hyped up (maybe) about a kid born the year Aaron Boone hit is dramatic home run to beat the Red Sox in the ALCS. Too many factors outside the player’s control can derail progress. But, if he fulfills his lofty promise, he’ll be a great addition to the Yankee outfield in a few years. Granted, he won’t start his minor league career until next year but it wouldn’t surprise me if he breaks into the Majors by the time he is 20. According to Donny Rowland, the Yankees’ director of international scouting, while commenting on the Yankees signing as many as 50 international players every year but opting to go mostly all-in on one player this year, said “…but in this case, every now and then, the right player comes along, this one was worth it. To a man, everyone on my staff agreed.” Here’s hoping tremendous success for Jasson as he begins his Pinstriped journey.
Lost amid the signing of Dominguez is the signing of outfielder Jhon Diaz, the eighteenth-ranked international prospect according to MLB.com. The left-handed 16-year old, also from the Dominican Republic, also has the potential to be something special. Diaz is only 5’11” (an inch taller than Dominguez) but according to MLB.com, “Don’t be fooled by Diaz’s stature, this teen can play, and he has power now with the potential for more in the future. Among his biggest assets are his approach at the plate and his good bat speed through the strike zone. He consistently makes hard contact and drives the ball to all fields. Scouts praise his smooth swing and hitting mechanics.” Sounds like he’ll fit into Yankee Stadium nicely one day.
The Yankees also signed (in no particular order except for age):
- CF Felixander Severino, 19, Dominican Republic
- RHP Gerardo Abrego, 18, Panama
- RHP Angel Sanchez, 18, Venezuela
- RHP Geralmi Santana, 18, Dominican Republic
- 2B Jeison Anillo, 17, Colombia
- RHP Jose Bernabe, 17, Dominican Republic
- C Jesus Bravo, 17, Colombia
- LHP Miguel Pozo, 17, Dominican Republic
- RHP Yordi Pichardo, 16, Dominican Republic
- LHP Luis Urbano, 16, Venezuela
As Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes would say, WELCOME TO THE YANKEES FAMILY!
With an estimated $5.1 million of the $5.4 million allotment for the Yankees going to Dominguez, nicknamed “El Marciano” or “The Martian” since he is ‘out of this world’, they’ll need to acquire more international bonus pool money to make room for the signing. Diaz, alone, signed for $1.2 million, pushing the Yankees past the allotment so we will be seeing some trades soon. The only downside the Yankees have to acquire additional pool money which gives other teams leverage. In Cashman We Trust…
MLB Trade Rumors reported this morning that Cleveland Indians ace pitcher Carlos Carrasco has been diagnosed with leukemia. Carrasco, currently on the Injured List for the past month, hopes to return to pitch again this season. I wish him the very best for his recovery and the road back to full and complete health. I look forward to the day when he is back on a Major League mound, ready to throw his next pitch. He has beaten many odds in his life and I hope leukemia is another one that goes down in defeat. Our thoughts and prayers are with Carlos and his family.
One last thought. I take offense at the Yankee fans who attack Aroldis Chapman and long for the days of Mariano Rivera. Sure, I get it, Rivera is a legendary player who became Baseball’s first unanimous Hall of Famer this year and is the all-time leader in saves. He was my favorite Yankee during his playing days (sorry Derek Jeter fans) but people act like he was perfect. He may have been the perfect closer for the Yankees but he was not immune from blown saves. I am very glad that Aroldis Chapman is the current closer for the New York Yankees. He has my support despite some recent struggles. I do not long for players of the past. Chapman is certainly not the only closer encountering bumps in the road this season. Last year, Blake Treinen and Edwin Diaz were hailed as the AL Elite, yet both are on the verge of losing their closing jobs this season with the Oakland A’s and New York Mets, respectively. Of all the closers in Major League Baseball, I am perfectly content with Chapman.
Best wishes for speedy recoveries for the TV and Radio voices of the Yankees, Michael Kay and John Sterling. The YES Network broadcast booth, despite the fine job by Ken Singleton and others, is just not the same without Michael, and same with the radio booth although Ryan Ruocco has done excellent work. Kay will be out at least a month after vocal cord surgery which is scheduled for the upcoming week. Sterling, who ended a streak of 5,060 consecutive games earlier this week, will only be away for a few games. I am hopeful that Sterling’s WFAN career continues for years to come so actually breaking the streak may be a good thing in the long run for the 81-year-old. The man has earned the right to take some rest now and then without the pressure to extend the streak. Ruocco is expected to sub for Kay on the YES Network telecasts after Sterling returns to the radio booth with Suzyn Waldman. Ryan is the next man up, and like so many Yankee players this season, he’ll do an outstanding job.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, NY Post
Resume now includes 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts…
Many of us fans were getting discouraged with the June Yankees after the May Yankees had made baseball fun again, but it’s funny how a nice little five-game win streak quickly changes one’s perspective. I was a little late tuning into yesterday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, and it was already 6-0 in the first inning and the Rays were on their second pitcher after AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell had been pulled after one out and 39 pitches. Yikes! That’s the Yankee Juggernaut this team is capable of.
Congratulations to CC Sabathia for the achievement of his 250th Major League victory with the 12-1 win. I know it took a few tries and CC was more worried about getting the Yankees their 46th win this year than the 250th of his career, but it’s an amazing achievement for the big guy from Vallejo, California. With a career record of 250-157, 3.71 ERA, and 3,043 strikeouts, he seems like a shoo-in for Baseball’s Hall of Fame. As an eleven-year member of the team, it seems natural that he should go into the Hall as a Yankee despite his early years in Cleveland. I suspect in five years, CC will need to make travel arrangements for Cooperstown, New York. He’s been a great Yankee.
The sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t have come at a better time. Entering the series, the Yankees held a slim ½ game lead over the Rays and had been scuffling for a few series until they finally won the last two games of the four-game set in Chicago with the White Sox to earn a split. Now, three days later, the Yankees have a more comfortable 3 ½ game margin on the Rays and barring another tailspin should enter the month of the July atop the AL East Standings.
Now the challenging part. The Houston Astros are in the Bronx for a four-game series starting this evening. Yes, the Cincinnati Reds just swept the Astros and Houston is on a four-game losing streak but they still have the second-best record in the American League behind the Minnesota Twins at 48-27 (two wins more than the Yankees but the same number of losses). Regardless of what happened in Cincinnati, playing in Yankee Stadium will energize the Astros and it will almost certainly be a playoff-like atmosphere. I expect it to be a very tough series, more challenging than the last three days. Not taking anything away from the Rays, they are a very good team, but in my mind, the Astros, who many predict to advance to the World Series this year, are the team to beat. They are boosted by the return of second baseman Jose Altuve who was activated off the IL yesterday. Similarly, the Yankees benefit from the returns of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge (the latter played his last rehab game for the RailRiders last night and should be activated for Friday night’s game). It feels like the Yankees are catching the Astros at the right time, and I am glad the series is in New York and not Houston. If the Yankees continue to get the pitching performances they’ve seen the last few games, I like the Yankees’ chances of taking at least three of four from the Astros. After getting swept in Houston earlier this season, it would be fun if the Yankees could return the favor.
The pitching matchups are set:
Thursday: Houston’s Framber Valdez (3-2, 2.77 ERA) vs Chad Green, Opener (1-2, 7.54 ERA) who will most likely be followed by Nestor Cortes Jr (1-0, 3.79 ERA).
Friday: Houston’s Brad Peacock (6-4, 3.67 ERA) vs James Paxton (4-3, 3.93 ERA)
Saturday: Houston’s Wade Miley (6-4, 3.30 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.23 ERA)
Sunday: Houston’s Justin Verlander (9-3, 2.59 ERA) vs J.A. Happ (7-3, 4.59 ERA)
I am kind of glad the Yankees will be missing future Yank Gerrit Cole this series. I think the only matchup that truly concerns me is Verlander-Happ. Hopefully Happ can go toe-to-toe (or maybe I should say arm-to-arm) with Verlander with the Yankees’ offense providing the difference.
The Cameron Maybin decision. I agree with those who say the best course of action after tonight’s game is to option Cortes Jr to Triple A to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Aaron Judge. If Cortes Jr can pitch at least five innings tonight, he won’t be ready to pitch again for five days so it buys more time for Maybin on the Yankees roster. Sadly, if Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge stay healthy, I do not see room on the roster for Maybin. It sucks because I think he’s been a fantastic addition and he fits so well into the clubhouse, but inevitably, the Yankees will need his roster spot. Brett Gardner will provide the necessary outfield insurance so at that point, Maybin becomes a redundant part and one not likely to play much. Hopefully Brian Cashman can work his magic and get a little something for Maybin rather than just lose him on waivers. Of course, an injury could change this in a heartbeat. I do not wish injury upon anyone, but I am in favor of buying as much time with Maybin as we possibly can before the inevitable guillotine falls. That’s why I feel the Yankees should drop to a 12-man pitching staff at least temporarily.
I really do not get the adverse reaction Giancarlo Stanton has gotten from Yankee fans. I feel it is unrealistic to expect players who have missed so much time to immediately hit to normal standards. Recapturing one’s timing is a process. Facing Triple-A pitchers is not the same as MLB pitching. Stanton missed 68 games until he was activated earlier this week. I had absolutely no problem with Aaron Boone’s decision to rest Stanton yesterday. If Boone wants to take his time working Stanton back into form, he certainly knows more about the situation (where Stanton is physically and mentally) and it’s his right to make those decisions. I know Stanton will eventually hit and I am not going to get on him for every strikeout until it happens. He deserves our patience and support, not our abuse. I am glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee and if the Yankees win the World Series this year, I have no doubts Stanton will be a huge reason why. If you choose to boo him, I don’t consider you to be real fans anyway.
The Yankees had a couple of minor league transactions of note yesterday. Pitchers Drew Hutchison and Danny Farquhar were released. I never really expected Hutchison to last in the organization. He wasn’t going to get a chance at the Big League level and apparently he had an opt-out in his minor league contract. There was a time when I thought the one-time Blue Jay had potential but that time passed years ago. Farquhar is the sadder story. After his life-threatening brain aneurysm with the Chicago White Sox last year, he was the feel-good story of the Spring as he attempted his comeback with the Yankees. While I didn’t think he’d crack the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen, there was a part of me that kind of hoped he would. I wish him nothing but the best as he continues his journey back to the Major Leagues. I hope he has better luck with his next organization and I look forward to the day he stands on a Major League mound again.
Lastly, a quick note on the starting pitching speculations for our favorite team. As much as I would love to have Max Scherzer and there’s probably no untouchable prospects to get him (in my mind), he will never be a Yankee. Primarily, I don’t think the Washington Nationals will trade him. They’ve won 16 of 23 games and are only 4 games out in the NL Wild Card hunt. Sure, much can happen between now and July 31st, but I don’t see the Nationals in seller’s mode (at least not as far as Scherzer is concerned). But even if the Nats were willing to trade him, I honestly do not feel the Yankees would take the contract, even if Washington was willing to include a few dollars in the deal. I know Hal Steinbrenner is on record saying that he’d be willing to surpass the highest luxury tax threshold if necessary to improve pitching but what he says and what he does are often two different things. There always seems to be the eye on the bottom line and truthfully Scherzer is probably the only pitcher worth paying the highest tax but I don’t see it happening. I guess you can never say never, but as much as I like Max Scherzer, I don’t think we’ll ever see him calling Yankee Stadium home.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP|
Comeback Win Vaults Yankees Past Rays in AL East…
Okay, it’s just mid-May and like Aaron Boone alluded to last night after the game, it’s a long season ahead. Yet, it is satisfying to sit atop the AL East even if it is only temporary depending upon the outcome of today’s game. Standings will become more important in the months ahead but I continue to be amazed at the resiliency of this team.
Gio Urshela’s run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth inning to win it last night may have been his game-winning hit, but it’s a microcosm of this season and how well the replacement Yankees have stepped up to support the team in the wake of injuries to multiple major team stars. I was kind of hoping Kendrys Morales would have his signature Yankee moment in his second game with a home run in the bottom of the ninth, which would have been his second of the game, to win it but it was not meant to be. Kendrys was probably wishing too hard for a homer too and that’s why he struck out. Oh well, Gio was there to pick him up.
To answer your question, yes Michael Kay, the Yankees had a rally in their bones.
Credit Luke Voit for the home run to open the bottom of the ninth to cut it to a one-run deficit. Perhaps the Yankees were destined to win it anyway but the homer changed the mood in the air. As a TV viewer, I know I was feeling a lift even if the Yankees were still trailing at that point after only putting up one run (the Morales homer in the bottom of the second) the prior eight innings.
|Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post|
I’ve seen many jump on Aaron Boone for pitching Chad Green in the eighth inning when the Rays put two runs on the board to break the 1-1 tie. I had no problem with the move. After the game, Boone indicated that the decision was to avoid Zack Britton this game since he had thrown 31 pitches in Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. Aroldis Chapman would have only entered in a save situation. But even without his explanation for not using Britton (or Chapman), I had no problem with Boone’s decision to bring Green into the high leverage situation. I’m sure Green would have liked a mulligan on the sixth pitch to Brandon Lowe, which Lowe ripped to deep center for a run-scoring double, but otherwise, I thought he pitched very effectively. The unearned run on the errant throw to first base by Gleyber Torres which allowed another run to score was not Green’s fault. The bullpen has been pitching so well lately, I guess the fans have come to expect zeros every time a Yankee reliever takes the mound but guess what, shit happens. I want Chad Green to be a big part of this bullpen and I hope Boone keeps rolling him out in high leverage spots. I am convinced he rediscovered himself with his brief stay in Scranton a couple of weeks ago and the results, over a broader span, will prove it. Say what you will, but I think Aaron Boone has improved as a manager over the course of two seasons.
Great job by CC Sabathia. Outside of the fourth inning solo dinger by Willy Adames which tied the game, Sabathia was excellent. It was his longest start of the season at six innings, with an economical 84 pitches. He only walked two batters, while striking out four, and lowered his season ERA to 2.97 with the single earned run on the Adames homer. The four K’s pushed the future Hall of Famer’s career strikeout total to 3,013.
|Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images|
This is a strange season. I am excited about how well the Yankees have done despite missing so many huge parts of the team. On the other hand, I keep wondering when the shoe is going to drop. I really hope the replacements can keep this up until we start to get the big guns back.
Before the Yankees completed their comeback win, the Houston Astros exerted their position as the best team in the American League, right now, with their 3-1 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Despite their sluggish start, the Red Sox have been very strong lately as they have charged back into AL East relevance (which I had fully expected, hence, the reason I never talked smack when the Red Sox were down). The Red Sox loss and the Yankee win leaves the Sox 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees…not that it matters at this point. I didn’t watch the Astros-Red Sox game but I did see enough to shake my head and say that Alex Bregman is incredible. He didn’t do anything with his bat (1-for-4, a meaningless first inning single) but his defense play was, as usual, outstanding. Such a great all-around player. It really makes me appreciate Gio Urshela as the Yankees’ third baseman in Miguel Andujar’s absence. A great glove at third cannot be underestimated. After the Rays game, CC Sabathia was asked if he had ever played with anyone as good defensively as Urshela, and CC couldn’t come up with a name.
Last winter, I had wanted the Yankees to sign Manny Machado for his all-around play. Who knows if he can keep it up, but at this point, Urshela has provided everything I wanted from Machado at a fraction of the cost. Manny is batting .268/.346/.470 with .347 wOBA and 120 wRC+ (1.4 WAR) in 44 games. He has 9 homers and 23 RBIs. In 10 fewer games, Urshela is batting .347/.398/.500 with .384 wOBA and 142 wRC+ (1.0 WAR). He has 2 home runs and 16 RBIs. Granted, Machado has more power but Urshela has more than fulfilled expectations. I am not saying that Urshela will ever be the player Machado is, but I really hope that he is able to keep this up to prevent GM Brian Cashman from going outside to get further help at third base. It would be awesome if this is truly Urshela’s breakout year. Not sure how this plays out when Didi Gregorius returns to take shortstop, creating an infield crowd. But that’s a problem for another day. Today, I’ll gladly watch Urshela with amazement, play after play, day after day.
I guess it was in the back of all of our minds but it was rough hearing Carlos Beltran say that Aaron Judge will not fully recover from the oblique injury this season. I know, it’s a core muscle and anyone who has had a similar injury knows how difficult it is to let the muscle rest. In other words, you can’t. Hopefully Judge is able to get healthy enough to help the team at some point in the not-so-distant future although he hasn’t resumed baseball activities yet. I’d rather he waits until he is truly ready, even though he won’t be 100%, and not try to come back too soon. We need Judge when the summer months get here.
|Photo Credit: Paul J Bereswill/NY Post|
It’s a new day. Let’s hope the Yankees magic continues today (and tomorrow and the next day…). As with The Three Musketeers, same with The Twenty-Five New York Yankees, “all for one and one for all”.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Al Bello, Getty Images|
Yankees take 2 from the lowly O’s…
After a couple of rainy days and no Yankees baseball, everybody’s favorite team returned yesterday with a sweep of the doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles to salvage two of the three scheduled games of the series. The third game, Tuesday’s rainout, will be played as part of another doubleheader on August 12th.
The two wins, by scores of 5-3 and 3-1, put the Yankees a half-game behind the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays, who won a 1-0 pitching duel with the Miami Marlins, entering this weekend’s AL East Showdown between the Yankees and Rays. I really wish that Donnie Baseball’s team could have put up a couple of runs against Tampa. A Rays blowout would have been easier to take than a one-run victory.
A common phrase during this injury-challenged year is ‘where would we be without (insert player name)?’ Yesterday, the man was Gleyber Torres. His three home runs (two in the first game and one in the second) represented the first time a Yankee at age 22 or younger, had homered three times in one day since Joe DiMaggio homered three times during a game in 1937. Joltin’ Joe actually did it twice with three homers during a 1936 doubleheader, but still, anytime you can put your name with DiMaggio, you’re doing something right.
Domingo German (8-1, 2.41 ERA) continues to amaze. Entering the season, it was a question if he’d even make the MLB roster and if so, a swing role probably represented his best opportunity. Asked to step in for the injured Luis Severino, German has never looked back. His eight wins, one more than Houston’s Justin Verlander, lead Major League Baseball. If he continues to pitch like this, there’s no doubt he’ll be at Progressive Field in Cleveland on July 9th for the All-Star Game. Yesterday, he pitched seven innings in the second game, yielding only a single run although he did have to escape a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh inning. He struck out eight. His emotion in getting the final out on a groundout to third by Joey Rickard told the story. He was great this game. Despite the struggles in his final inning, he pitched very efficiently with only 85 pitches, walking just one (the next to last batter he faced).
When James Paxton and Luis Severino return, the Yankees will have an interesting decision to make. Of course, this is one of those situations where you worry about it when it happens, but there’s no way the Yankees can pull German from the starting rotation if he continues to pitch like this. I can easily see J.A. Happ as the odd man out, but then the question is what do you do with Happ. Signed to a two year deal, with vesting option for a third year, in the off-season, Happ seems to be coming around despite the two homers he allowed yesterday. His vesting option is not impacted by innings or starts in 2019 so he seemingly is a candidate to move into the bullpen as the long man if necessary.
|Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post|
Seems a bit of a waste of a proven Major League starter but honestly who else are you going to pull from the starting rotation? Tanaka is not going anywhere and CC Sabathia, in his final season, has earned the right to start to season’s end. These things usually work themselves out and while I don’t want to see any more injuries, it is inevitable somebody will go down beyond the present list of injured players. If Happ gets on a summer-time roll or pitches like he did down the stretch last year for the Yankees, it will be hard to remove him from the rotation but I honestly see no other alternatives and do not feel the Yankees would move to a six-man rotation. Oh well, that’s a problem to think about if/when it happens. I’d much prefer having guys Domingo German and Gio Urshela take strangleholds on their positions and forcing the hard decisions by Brian Cashman and his team.
Speaking of Urshela, his long-term future with the Yankees for the season was solidified with the somber news that Miguel Andujar has opted for season-ending surgery to repair the torn labrum in his right shoulder. While Miggy was contemplating whether or not to have the surgery, I felt it was the right move from the start. He tried rest and rehab and it didn’t work. Rather than gamble with continued rest and potential setbacks, get the problem fixed and come back healthy and strong. It may mean 9-12 months lost, but that’s better than trying to play deeper into the 2019 season with unsuccessful results and potentially losing all of next year. Hopefully Andujar comes back as good as new and enjoys a Didi Gregorius-like road to recovery.
Someone mentioned the Yankees should make a trade for Toronto’s Brandon Drury for third base. No question he is a good player, the Yankees liked him and he only lost out with the team because of Andujar’s stellar play. However, I think the Yankees are in good hands with Urshela and DJ LeMahieu. I really liked Drury during his brief Yankees career but once Didi comes back, Torres will take back second base. You have to keep LeMahieu in the lineup so I think you’ll see him spend the majority of his time at third when Didi and Gleyber are on the field. Regardless of whether it is Gio or DJ at third, you know great glove work will be in play. No offense to Andujar but I love above-average defense at third base.
I am not sure what I think about the Yankees’ acquisition of Kendrys Morales. I don’t necessarily look at him as a feared hitter but he always seemed to have the annoying knack of clobbering home runs at the worst times against the Yankees. At least he can’t do that anymore since his dingers will only help the team. I guess i’s a good, cheap move. The Yankees have no long-term commitments to Morales and he can help now. I think his body of work in 2019 with the Oakland A’s was too limited to draw any conclusions, and feel he’ll be closer to the guy he was last year in Toronto. He is what he is. He’s a .250 hitter that will potentially give you 20 bombs. Nothing special but he can help until the Yankees get the big bats back in the lineup. When Morales was at first base three times during yesterday’s second game (two walks and a single), I couldn’t help but think it was a reunion of sorts for Morales and first base coach Reggie Willits. Willits is only two years older than Morales and they were teammates on the Los Angeles Angels for a few years, as recently as 2011 (Willits’ final year as an active player). If Morales helps, great. If not, GM Brian Cashman will be on to his next “discovery”. I have confidence this will work out. But no doubt I’ll sleep better once Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are back in the everyday lineup. I doubt Morales is on the team by season’s end but if he is, it means his bat made the difference.
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP|
I am proud of the 2019 New York Yankees. They’ve faced more adversity than most teams, yet they are 26-16. If you had told me during Spring Training the Yankees would be ten games above .500 by mid-May without Severino, Betances, Judge, Stanton, Gregorius and others, I would have laughed at you. I would have been thinking about division battles for positioning with the Baltimore Orioles, not the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. I am not sure how this season will play out if we don’t start getting some of the big guns back but I am sure the ‘never quit’ mentality will persevere. It’s a little early to say the team has the “it” quality to it this year, but they are on their way of proving the point.
After no Yankees baseball in two of the last three days, it’s another off-day today. At least we have yesterday’s wins to carry us into the AL East Showdown that starts tomorrow night in the Bronx. Thank God we don’t have to play at the horrific Tropicana Field this series. Not that I mind road games, but man, I hate that empty warehouse posing as a Major League park.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)
Yanks Ride Luis Cessa to Loss…
Sorry Cessa, not a fan…
Luis Cessa may be a great guy and one of the ‘boys’ in the clubhouse, but he isn’t a pitcher I want in the starting rotation for a team driving for a shot in the post-season. I realize that Cessa had a couple of good starts in July, but in two August starts totaling seven innings, he has given up fourteen hits and ten runs. In three seasons with the Yankees, he is 5-10 with 4.71 ERA in 133 2/3 innings. He has given up 129 hits. This is who he is. If you’re lucky, he is not going to give up more than 4-5 runs before the game is halfway over. We need better.
I am not sure why the Yankees have such an infatuation with Cessa. I think he’s better served pitching in the bullpen. That’s not a slam. Bullpens are filled with failed starters. I’d gladly take Cessa as the long man in the pen over A.J. Cole. Cessa is better in short non-starting spurts than he is starting games. Cole would be better served pitching elsewhere.
To Cessa’s defense, any of the Yankees starting pitchers were going to lose yesterday if the offense could only push one run across the plate in the 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Still, it felt like it was going to be a loss before the first pitch was thrown. Maybe his teammates have full faith and confidence in his ability, but for me, it was a psychological downer knowing Cessa would be on the mound. It’s hard to be at your best when you are not mentally in the game. I can’t really see what Cessa has done to inspire any confidence.
After the game, Cessa was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so A.J. Cole lives to see another day. He remains my latest preferred DFA candidate unless he can somehow survive the next 15 days. George Kontos, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. I am not really sure why the Yankees acquired Kontos. They paid cash to the Cleveland Indians on August 4th for the former San Francisco Giants reliever and one-time Yankees prospect. It was kind of a nice story about the former Yankees farmhand coming home. They placed him at Triple A for a week and promoted him to the active roster on August 13th. He pitched an inning and two-thirds against the New York Mets on the day of his promotion, limiting the Mets to a hit and no runs while striking out two. Yesterday, he was designated for assignment to make room for Cessa’s start. There was a reason Kontos was available. His velocity is down significantly from last year, but I am not sure why the Yankees even bothered to acquire him. To create a spot on the 40-man roster to pitch him for less than two innings seems curious at best. It’s not like he pitched Sonny Gray-style in his one and only appearance. Maybe he clears waivers and is outrighted to Triple A, but I’d be surprised if another team doesn’t place a claim. Everyone could use bullpen help. Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Photo Credit: AP (Mark J Terrill)
Frankly, I am a little tired of people who keep promoting GM Brian Cashman as the greatest genius in the sport and the Ninja Master. There’s no doubt he has had his share of successes but his closet is littered with failures. I shouldn’t be bitter the Yankees have the second best record in Major League Baseball, but I am frustrated that the team could have been better if not for questionable Cashman moves and the overall inexperience of manager Aaron Boone. Boone’s a good man and I think he’ll eventually be a good manager but there have been and will continue be bumps along the way. Cashman and his analytic team making the lineup decisions is befuddling at times. I guess we should say that Michael Fishman, VP, Assistant General Manager and head of the Analytics Department, is the true manager of the Yankees. Sometimes, the answers are not in the numbers.
When it was mentioned that Aaron Judge was only going to be out for three weeks for his injured right wrist, I felt the timetable was probably a little over-aggressive. So, the latest word that Judge will need more time and we may not see him until September is not surprising. This is why I felt the Yankees should have acquired another outfielder in lieu of promoting one of the few healthy outfielders at Triple A, Shane Robinson, earlier in the month. I’ve mentioned Curtis Granderson. I know that will bring ire from TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen. I get that Grandy has seen his better days and he was such a disappointment down the stretch last year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, compared to Shane Robinson, Grandy still looks appealing to me. Of course, he hit a grand slam last night for the Toronto Blue Jays so it’s easy to say when the player is performing. I really wish that Clint Frazier was healthy. This would have been his opportunity to shine and his chance to prove to the Yankees he represents the future of the outfield. It was not meant to be, unfortunately, so I feel that Cashman and Company should have turned quickly to Plan B. “B” standing for ‘better than Shane Robinson’.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)
It was funny yesterday when first baseman Ryan McBroom was pulled from the lineup in the double-header between the Indianapolis Indians and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Moosic, PA. Yankees Twitter blew up with the usual ‘trade or call up’ speculation. Subsequent word was that he was scratched due to a stiff back that tightened up on him during Tuesday’s game. He is expected to be available today for the RailRiders. Despite his good year at Triple A, he doesn’t seem like a prospect that is going to warrant much consideration from the Front Office.
To replace Luis Cessa on the active roster, it appears reliever Tommy Kahnle will be returning to the Bronx. He cleared out his locker at Triple A last night, after not appearing in the double-header. I am hopeful Kahnle is back for good. Of course he has to pitch like we know he can to keep the spot but that’s on him. Welcome back, Tommy! The Philadelphia Eagles suck but we are happy you are back.
Speaking of the RailRiders’ double-header, the first game was not very kind for top Yankees prospect Justus Sheffield. He only lasted an inning and two-thirds after getting tagged for four hits and four runs, while mixing in five walks in the short outing. Not exactly a stellar start for Top Sheff. He took the loss as the RailRiders were unable to rally against the Indians. He held Indianapolis scoreless in the first inning despite leaving two runners stranded after a hit and a walk. But it unraveled for him in the second inning. The Indians scored three of four runs that inning after Sheff had recorded two outs, and he was pulled with the bases loaded. J.P. Feyereisen struck out Wyatt Mathisen to end the inning so the damage to Sheffield’s final pitching line could have been much worse if not for Feyereisen’s K. Nevertheless, it was just a blip. Sheffield has not become the second incarnation of Luis Cessa. It happens to the best of pitchers. He’ll be back strong next start, I am sure. Brian Cashman has indicated we’ll see Sheffield at some point this season so I fully expect his arrival when rosters expand in September.
I guess at this point the AL East standings do not really matter, however, the Yankees lost an opportunity to pick up a game on the Boston Red Sox yesterday. The Sox suffered a rare loss against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday while the Yankees were losing to the Rays. The Yankees (75-45) stayed ten games behind Boston. They also maintained their slim 3 ½ game lead in the Wild Card standings over the Oakland A’s. The A’s lost to the other Wild Card contender, the Seattle Mariners. The M’s are 2 ½ games behind Oakland.
The Yankees conclude their series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium today. They’ll send Masahiro Tanaka (9-3, 4.08 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Rays ace Blake Snell (13-5, 2.18 ERA). I am hopeful that we’ll see a much better Tanaka than we did last start. Regardless, the Yankees offense needs to chip in some runs today if we are to be successful. I am sure that a few balls will leave the yard today but hopefully the majority of the culprits will be wearing pinstripes.
Yanks acquire elite Reliever for Stretch Run…
I am not sure how I felt when I first heard that trade negotiations were heating up between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. In 2016, there was not a more dominant reliever in baseball than Zach Britton. He was 2-1 with 47 saves and was virtually unhittable with 0.54 ERA (giving up only four earned runs in 67 innings pitched). He struck out 74 batters and was only touched for one home run. He thrust his name in the arena of elite closers, but then the last couple of years have been injury-filled. After accumulating 120 saves between 2014 and 2016, he has only 19 this year and last. By comparison, the interim closer for the O’s, Brad Brach, has 29 saves for 2017 and YTD 2018.
When healthy, there are not too many pitchers better than Britton. Plus, he’s a lefty so that’s huge plus for Yankee Stadium. Hopefully this means that Chasen Shreve’s days are numbered. When Britton returned from the DL, he was generally effective although his ERA was torched by a bad outing in Atlanta on June 22nd when he gave up 4 runs on 5 hits while recording only a single out. But in July, he’s been his dominant self, allowing no runs over 7 innings and striking out 13. He shut down the Yankees for an inning on July 10th (the two-homer game by former Oriole Manny Machado), picking up the win on the walk-off single by Jonathan Schoop. He struck out the last two Yankees he faced (Miguel Andujar and Greg Bird).
I am in favor of the Britton trade, but I think I was as grateful he wasn’t traded to the Houston Astros or the Boston Red Sox as I was with the thought of him restoring the three-headed beast in the bullpen that has been missing since the Yankees traded away Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in 2016 (with no offense to David Robertson, who remains one of my favorite Yankees).
Yesterday must have been weird for Britton. His team was playing the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards in Baltimore. When the game started, Britton and the Orioles were 42 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East Standings. By the time the rain-delayed game ended, Britton had gained 37 ½ games on the Red Sox, thanks to his new Pinstripes. Britton first became aware of the potential Yankees trade during the rain delay when he was met with countless messages and texts on his cell phone so it must have been bittersweet for him to watch his teammates defeat the Red Sox when play resumed. Part of me wished that the O’s had brought Britton out one last time (nothing better than to see him defeat the Red Sox), but the Orioles were not going to risk potential injury to jeopardize the trade. So Brad Brach came in to close it out and nearly blew the game in the rain-marred 9th inning. But in the end, he left the game-tying and -winning runs stranded on base by inducing the great Mookie Betts to hit into a game-ending double play. The win allowed Britton to walk away from Camden Yards on a positive note.
So, welcome to the New York Yankees, Zach Britton! Whether your stay is only for a few months or long-term should you decide to sign with the Yankees in the off-season, we are glad to have you. With Chapman’s knee issues, I am sure that there will be save opportunities for you. Looking forward to watching you send AL hitters home frustrated with that deadly sinker.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)
As for the guys the Yankees gave up, the one I probably hated to see leave the most was Cody Carroll. I’ve liked the reliever for the last few years but the loaded Yankees pen has kept him at Triple A. Although he has been assigned to the O’s Triple A club in Norfolk, there’s no doubt he’ll soon be making his Major League debut for his new club. Former Yanks like Richard Bleier and Yefry Ramirez (the winner pitcher in Baltimore’s win over the Red Sox yesterday) have done very well for the Orioles and I expect no less from Carroll. The headliner was Dillon Tate who has restored his stock as a quality prospect this year after once being selected fourth overall in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. Tate, acquired in the trading deadline deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers two years ago, may turn out to be a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter or a good setup reliever but he was never going to get that opportunity in New York. There are too many better guys in front of him. Josh Rogers has been a nice left-handed starter for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but I agree with one Yankees beat writer that labeled him as a “poor man’s Jordan Montgomery”. With so many players needing protection from the Rule 5 Draft in December, I have no problem clearing the board of some of the fringe prospects. The fact the Yankees got an elite reliever without giving up a player from the cream of their prospects is incredible. The Yankees paid more for Britton than the A’s paid for Mets closer Jeurys Familia but it was worth it. Casey Stern’s famous quote (“Prospects are cool…Parades are cooler”) is very appropriate in this situation. If the Yankees win the World Series, I am not going to worry about future damage that Tate, Carroll and Rogers may do to the Yankees just like Cubs fans do not regret the trade that sent the very talented young Gleyber Torres to the Yankees.
There’s now less than a week to go to the non-waivers trading deadline next Tuesday. I still fully anticipate a trade for a proven starter although I do not feel the Yankees will be making any surprise stealth moves to acquire premium starters like Jacob deGrom or Madison Bumgarner. At this point, I probably feel more strongly than ever that J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays has a future in the Bronx. Given the Yankees are responsible for the full pro-rated balance of Britton’s one-year deal, I think they’ll tread lightly for luxury tax avoidance purposes. So, Happ makes more sense to me than Cole Hamels even though the latter has the better post-season resume. Although Happ has generally been awful for his last few starts, he held the Orioles to 1 run on 4 hits over 5 innings in his most recent start, striking out 9. He has shown the ability to beat the Astros and Red Sox so I’d have no qualms about adding him to the rotation. Zach Britton represents huge insurance and protection for Happ’s addition.
Lost in the Britton trade was the dominating performance of Masahiro Tanaka last night as the Yankees took down the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-0. Tanaka pitched a complete game shut-out, giving up only three hits and avoiding his usual obligatory home runs. He walked a batter and struck out 9 while throwing 105 pitches and lowering his season ERA to 4.09. After watching Luis Severino fall down against the Rays the night before, the Yankees needed a solid effort from Tanaka and they got it.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Ehrmann)
The win allowed the Yankees (64-35) to pick up a game on the Red Sox (71-32). The Yankees are 5 games behind the Red Sox entering play today and they are 5 games up on the Seattle Mariners in the AL Wild Card Standings.
I haven’t heard yet when Britton will join his new team but I think it would be foolish to make him travel to Tampa, Florida for today’s game, particularly given its early start time. The Yankees bullpen is rested and they can afford to wait a day for Britton’s arrival. Therefore, I’d send Britton to New York in anticipation of Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. It would give Britton a breather to adjust to the change and to make temporary living accommodations. I’ve wondered if third base coach Phil Nevin will give up #53 for Britton. It’s not like he is married to the number. I guess we’ll soon find out.
Luis Cessa (1-1, 3.00 ERA) makes his return to the Yankees today for the start in the series finale with the Rays. He’ll be opposed by former (and maybe future?) Yank Nathan Eovaldi (3-4, 4.26 ERA). The Yankees are expected to activate Gleyber Torres before today’s game. It will be interesting to see the roster move made to open a spot for Torres. Cessa’s spot was opened by last night’s demotion of Giovanny Gallegos to Triple A. The most likely guy to join him with the RailRiders is Tyler Wade although Brandon Drury could certainly be an option if he needs a stint on the DL following his hand injury yesterday. Test results on the hand were negative but Drury’s hand is bruised and he could miss a few days. A short stint on the DL might be good for him. Inevitably, I see the road coming to an end for Neil Walker but I don’t expect to see his name on the transactions wire today. Getting Torres back might be the single greatest “acquisition” the Yankees make this month. The Yankees have done a much better job winning with Gleyber’s name in the lineup than not so his presence is tremendous for the team.
Today is a great day for a Yankees victory. Cessa, please make it happen. Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)|
Tampa’s Best Resident treated rudely by the St Pete Rays…
The last couple of days have not been fun.
I was afraid after the Yankees finished off the sweep of the surging Seattle Mariners, the Yankees might struggle against a losing team. I know, every team goes through mini-slumps and it is inevitable the Yankees will lose from time to time as difficult as it may be for Yankees fans. They’ll eventually lose around sixty games (give or take) by the time the season is finished so Loss #24 on June 23rd is not the end of the World. Winning 116 games in the regular season does not guarantee anything. Just ask the Mariners. The goal is to win the division, not to see if the Yankees can top the 114 victories by the 1998 Yankees.
I think the toughest part of Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays was the inability of the Yankees to score runs off the Rays rotation by bullpen. Trailing 2-0 in the 7th inning, Aaron Judge delivered a run-scoring single off one-time brief Yankee Chaz Roe and had the Yankees set up in scoring position with Brett Gardner at second and Judge at first and only one out. But both Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorious both grounded out to end the Yankees best chance to tie the game. Otherwise, it was a very quiet night.
On the same night as the Yankees were floundering in St Petersburg, the Boston Red Sox overcame deficits of 0-5 and 5-10 to defeat the Seattle Mariners by a score of 14-10. The Yankees couldn’t squeeze out one more run while the Red Sox had no problem erasing not one but two five-run deficits.
Yesterday’s loss might have been easier to take for no other reason than the Red Sox finally lost. The Mariners snapped their five-game losing skid with a 7-2 victory over Boston and nine-game winner Edwin Rodriguez.
There were not very many positives with Saturday’s game as the Rays bullpen held the Yankees scoreless on four hits en route to the 4-0 win over the Yanks. Sonny Gray gave up three runs in the first two innings to put the Yankees in a hole and the last hitter he faced in the bottom of the 7th, rookie Willy Adames, took him yard. Credit Gray for the stretch of hitters when he retired 15 Rays in a row, but ultimately it was just another loss for the disappointing Gray (5-5, 4.93 ERA).
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
I do not understand Wilmer Font’s mastery of the Yankees. Font lost jobs earlier this year with the Los Angeles Dodgers (11.32 ERA) and Oakland A’s (14.85 ERA) but against the Yankees, Font is 1-0 and has limited the team to only 2 runs over 11 1/3 innings with 9 strikeouts. The Yankees have almost single-handedly revived Font’s career.
The most painful at-bat for me yesterday was Giancarlo Stanton’s strikeout (against Rays reliever and Friday night’s “opener” Ryne Stanek) to end the top of the 6th inning, leaving Aaron Judge stranded at third. Leaving runners in scoring position has plagued the Yankees in both losses and the last couple of weeks. Friday night, they were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and they left nine men on base. Yesterday, they were 1-for-8 (Didi Gregorius advanced Judge from second to third prior to Stanton’s swinging strikeout) but couldn’t get anyone home.
The Yankees offense really hasn’t done anything since the two-homer outburst in the first inning of the series finale with the Mariners last Thursday.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)|
The Yankees (50-24) hold a slim one-game lead over the Red Sox (51-27) in the AL East. After helping the Rays climb closer to .500, the Yankees have a tough week ahead. When today’s game is over, they’ll hop on a plane bound for Philadelphia to play a three-game set against the Phillies. The Phillies currently have a better record than the Washington Nationals and sit just a game and a half behind the surprising Atlanta Braves in the NL East. There’s no doubt they’ll be ready to play when the Yankees come to town. The Phillies are riding a three-game winning streak entering play today. After a much-needed day off on Thursday, the Yankees return home to face the Boston Red Sox for three games next weekend. The Braves follow the Red Sox so the Yankees have clearly missed an opportunity to beat up on a losing team before another difficult stretch. Time to get the team’s offense going. Today is better than tomorrow. I’ve really missed Michael Kay’s “See ya!” calls.
I was going to rip on Chasen Shreve but the Yankees did it for me. Shreve relieved Sonny Gray yesterday after the homer by Willy Adames and he had the Rays set up for more runs with a couple of walks and a hit to load the bases. Fortunately he struck out Wilson Ramos to leave the bases full, but it appears this may have been his final Yankees appearance. The Yankees designated Shreve for assignment today, recalling Tommy Kahnle from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. As a lefty who has experienced some success at the MLB level, I doubt Shreve clears waivers so thus endeth his Yankees career. The Yankees need another lefty for the pen but I am not sad to see Shreve go. He was the bullpen’s weakest link.
Welcome back, Tommy Kahnle! The Philadelphia Eagles fan was 1-1 with 3.12 ERA in eight games for the RailRiders. He struck out 15 batters in 14 innings and yielded only 3 walks. I am glad to have Kahnle back even if his 7th inning role has been supplanted by Jonathan Holder. He gives Aaron Boone a few choices before he pulls the Dellin Betances-Aroldis Chapman card late in games.
I cannot talk about the RailRiders without mentioning Brandon Drury. Drury’s two-run homer yesterday was the difference-maker in the RailRiders’ 4-2 win over the Rochester Red Wings. Drury continues to be an on-base machine even if he was only 1-for-4 in the game. For a big league club that’s struggling to advance base runners, Drury could help. At this point, I’d be ready to eat the balance of Neil Walker’s contract to open a spot for Drury. Walker has done a fine job supporting first base, but the athletic Drury can be equally as effective (if not more so).
Very nice job on Saturday by Yankees pitching prospect Garrett Whitlock for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A). Whitlock, 22, picked up the win over the Jupiter Hammerheads with a three-hit shutout. He beat former Yankees prospect Jorge Guzman (the hard-thrower who went to Miami in the Giancarlo Stanton trade), striking out eleven Hammerheads over seven innings while only walking one. Whitlock was drafted in the 18th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He is currently rated as the 26th best Yankees prospect by MLB.com. He is exceeding expectations (5-3, 1.41 ERA in combined A ball, with 81 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 70 innings) and should advance his stature within one of baseball’s best farm systems with his breakout season. Whitlock has only given up one homer this year (only the second of his minor league career) and none for the Tarpons. I suspect that we’ll be hearing more and more about Whitlock in the coming months.
|Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio|
Hard to believe that the calendar will soon turn to July. Trade talks should be heating up in the coming weeks. That should spark some good Bryan Van Dusen posts. It will be a fun month, made even better if the Yankees can put some distance between themselves and the Red Sox.
Never a better day to start winning than today. Go Yankees!
Update: Sounds like the DFA of Chasen Shreve was fake news or just my wishful thinking. Bummer. I am ready for the guy to go and for Tommy Kahnle to rejoin the Yanks.