Tagged: Red Sox

2018 World Series Champions: The Boston Red Sox…

Equates to VICTORY for Julia, not me…

I am writing this as a result of a lost bet with a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan named Julia (@werbiefitz). During the recent World Series, I took the side of my favorite National League team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Julia stayed with the team she has stood with since her childhood, the Boston Red Sox. The loser of the bet (which turned out to be me) was forced to read a book chosen by the winner. Upon completion of reading the book, the loser was required to write an essay about the ten things they learned from the book. Not a book review, that wasn’t really the point of the exercise, but rather how did the book affect you.

The Red Sox won the 2018 World Series in five games to cap an incredible season which saw the team win a franchise high 108 games during the regular season. It represented the fourth World Series Championship for Julia since the Curse of the Bambino was broken in 2004. For me, it was a tough post-season. My favorite team, the New York Yankees, won 100 games but were eliminated in the ALDS by the Red Sox. Then, my favorite NL team gave me second life. A renewed opportunity to take down the mighty Red Sox. It was not meant to be and I suffered two heart-breaking series losses to Boston in the same October. Victory to Julia, and some book reading and an essay for me. I also had to change my FaceBook cover photo to one showing the Red Sox celebration for one week upon conclusion of the World Series.

The book Julia chose for me was Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant. At first glance, it would be easy to find the negatives in the book about the city of Boston and the Red Sox franchise, but admittedly, I found this a story of redemption.

I was shocked almost from the start when I found out the Red Sox had the first opportunity in Major League Baseball to sign the great Jackie Robinson on April 16, 1945 but passed due in large part to racism that existed within the fabric of the franchise. I didn’t know former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey but I do know that he hired his drinking buddies to hold key executive positions within the franchise and their racist beliefs prevented potential Red Sox teams that could have featured Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Ted Williams in the same lineup. It’s scary to think what the trio would have been capable of together. They certainly would have had a say in the great Yankees Dynasty of the 1950’s.

I qualify this book as focused on the Red Sox but to believe that racism did not occur within the halls of other MLB organizations, including the New York Yankees, would be very wrong. Even the Dodgers organization, as the first team to feature a black player on its roster in 1947, was later marred by the racist words of their former General Manager, Al Campanis, who was fired in 1987.  The book briefly mentioned Elston Howard, who was the first and sadly only black player on the Yankee rosters for years during the 1950’s. Howard later played for the Red Sox.

Tom Yawkey purchased the Red Sox in 1933. Yawkey had admired Eddie Collins, a former second baseman with the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox, and appointed him as the team’s vice president and general manager when he took over control of the team. Collins had been with the White Sox during the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919 when they threw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds but Collins had been cleared of any wrongdoing. In 1935, Yawkey traded for Washington Nationals shortstop Joe Cronin, developing close friendships with both Collins and Cronin. From basically 1933 through 1958, Collins and/or Cronin controlled all player movement within the Red Sox organization. With these two men, I believe, Yawkey tarnished his legacy. Whether he was racist or not is not really the point, he allowed racism to exist to the detriment of the city and the franchise and that makes him responsible.

After passing on Jackie Robinson in 1945, the Red Sox had a unique opportunity to sign Willie Mays four years later due to an exclusive lease arrangement that existed between a Red Sox affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, and the Negro League’s Black Barons. Cronin, by that time the GM for the Red Sox, had been tipped off about the incredible talents of the 18-year-old Mays and he sent a reluctant and racist scout to Alabama to watch Mays. According to stories, it rained for three days and the scout sent the Red Sox front office a negative review, perhaps without ever laying eyes on the legendary Say Hey Kid. It was another missed opportunity for the Red Sox, although I am sure the New York/San Francisco Giants didn’t mind.

The Red Sox were the last Major League Baseball team to add a black player to its roster. While the rest of the Major League teams were slowly starting to integrate, it would take the Red Sox over a decade before they would finally add a person of color to their team. Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, Jr. was born in Richmond, CA (East Bay near Oakland) in 1935. His brother, Cornell, someone I’ve been aware of since my childhood, was a star defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys. However, I never knew who Pumpsie Green was until reading the book. Fighting through racism within the organization and at the team’s training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, Green believed that he was going to open the 1959 season as the first black player for the Red Sox. At the eleventh hour, one of the noted racists within the Red Sox organization, manager Mike “Pinky” Higgins demoted Green to the minor leagues. Fortunately, it would prove to be a temporary decision. Higgins was fired 73 games into the ’59 season and replaced by Bill Jurges.  By that time, Eddie Collins was dead and Joe Cronin had left the Red Sox to become President of the American League. Green finally got the call to join the Red Sox later during the summer and on July 21, 1959, Pumpsie became the first African American player to take the field for the Red Sox when he was inserted as a pinch-runner for Vic Wertz and stayed in the game to play shortstop in Boston’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. After the game, Green wept in the clubhouse. I cannot begin to imagine the emotions he must have felt that day.

On a side note about Pumpsie Green, Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams routinely warmed up with Green before games. It became a superstition for Ted but for Pumpsie, he remembered Williams as one of few who treated him both as a ballplayer and a man. I personally haven’t followed Red Sox history, but the way Williams approached Green gives me newfound respect for the Hall of Famer.

Pitcher Earl Wilson might have been the first African American player for the Red Sox if not for a two-year military commitment. Originally drafted as a catcher, Wilson blossomed as a hard-throwing pitcher and roomed with Pumpsie Green for a time. But for Wilson, the Red Sox years were hard ones. After the ’59 season was over, Tom Yawkey fired Billy Jurges and restored the racist Pinky Higgins as manager. As their careers moved into the early 1960’s, Green’s career was quietly coming to a close (the lack of consistent playing time prevented him from realizing his potential) while Wilson was becoming more prominent. In 1962, Wilson (12-8, 3.90 ERA) threw a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels.

When Yawkey fired Higgins as manager in 1962, Wilson felt Yawkey was finally opening his eyes to what a divisive man Higgins had been. Unfortunately, Yawkey surprised everyone by making Higgins his general manager.  Higgins was the GM in June 1965 when the Red Sox traded Earl Wilson to the Detroit Tigers along with Joe Christopher for Don Demeter and Julio Navarro. Wilson won 22 games for the 1967 Tigers, although the Tigers finished a game behind The Impossible Dream Red Sox that year, and he accumulated 338 victories overall for his career. Although Wilson lost Game 3 of the Series, he celebrated a World Series Championship with the Tigers in 1968. It’s sad that a pitcher primed for tremendous MLB success in Boston saw his greatest days in Detroit.

In a twist of irony, Tom Yawkey fired Pinky Higgins as GM on September 16, 1965, the same day Red Sox pitcher Dave Morehead tossed a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. After his firing, while in Louisiana, Higgins drove his car into a group of black highway workers. He killed one man, a white World War II veteran and injured three others. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and sentenced to four years. However, he was paroled after serving only two months in 1969. But just two days after his release, Higgins dropped dead from a heart attack. As Earl Wilson would say while in Detroit when asked to comment on his former manager, “Good things happen to some people”.

I was appalled to learn that The Elks Club, as recently as the 1980’s, condoned racism. The Elks Club in Winter Haven, FL, the site of Red Sox spring training at the time would issue invitations to white players, but not the blacks. Growing up in the Midwest in the 70’s, my step father was an active member of The Elks Club and served as the Exalted Ruler for the local chapter in my hometown in 1978. I was unaware the organization condoned racism and I am deeply saddened to have been connected to such a pitiful organization. I may have been a kid but I feel a responsibility that I should have known better. I only hope that my step-father’s chapter did not practice racism like the Winter Haven chapter did. My mother and step-father have passed away so it is not a discussion I can have with them.

To back up a little, I vividly recall when Jim Rice and Fred Lynn burst onto the Major League scene for Boston in the mid-70’s. They were great players from the start.  Living far away in the Midwest, I didn’t see how the players were treated differently in their own city. Jim Rice, backed by his superior talent, had the power to be a major voice for the black community but it wasn’t his personality.  He was introspective and to the media, he was unfriendly and considered sullen. I know Rice has gotten into tiffs with Derek Jeter and CC Sabathia over the years for whatever reasons, but I am not trying to indict the man. He was an incredible ball player. In a career spent entirely in Boston, Rice hit 382 home runs and drove in 1,451 runs. His career batting average was a healthy .298 and he had 2,452 hits in a career that spanned from 1974 to 1989. He was an eight-time All Star, AL MVP in the Bucky “F**king” Dent year of 1978, a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, three-time AL home run leader, and two-time AL RBI leader. Yet, his number (14) was not retired by the Red Sox until two days after his Hall of Fame induction in July 2009. No one wore the number after his retirement but still, Rice is among the Red Sox Legends and deserved better treatment. Rice was charitable and a humanitarian. I think he is misunderstood because of his personality and I’d like to think he could have done more to help pave the way for black players in Boston, but there is no denying the man was one of the best in the history of the Red Sox to pick up a glove, bat and ball.  Noted baseball columnist Peter Gammons believed history would have been significantly different had Rice taken an active role in voicing his thoughts about the climate and culture of the Red Sox organization. To Rice’s defense, I’ll use this quote from the book’s author: “Had Rice been white, he would have been lauded as a modern-day Gil Hodges: strong, silent, important. Being black, though, meant Rice was moody, arrogant and distant.”  These words prove to me that I have absolutely no idea what it was like to walk in Jim Rice’s shoes.

The next great superstar in the Red Sox organization was slugger Mo Vaughn. He was drafted in Rice’s last year in 1989. For an organization that had featured so many outsiders over the years, Vaughn was a New Englander. He was from Norwalk, CT and had frequently visited Boston while growing up.  He was hailed as the first local Red Sox star since Carlton Fisk. As a Yankees fan, I despised Vaughn coming to the plate, much like how I’d later feel about David “Big Papi” Ortiz or more recently, Mookie Betts. These men knew/know how to use Fenway Park to their full advantage.

Vaughn was the AL Most Valuable Player in 1995.  The city of Boston accepted Vaughn as their own and he was able to transcend the issue of race in his city.  Vaughn loved the city of Boston and wanted to spend his entire career there. The GM at the time, Dan Duquette, brought an era of diversity to the Red Sox. He corrected many of the wrongs committed by previous regimes and reconnected with former black players like Tommy Harper, Dave Henderson, Reggie Smith, and Jim Rice. But for all his positives, Duquette had his faults. He had a reputation of being difficult to work with and he frustrated those who worked for him. The relationship between Duquette and Vaughn became irreparable in 1998 when Vaughn was led to believe that he would be offered four-year contract for approximately $42 million (Peter Gammons believed they had reached agreement). Yet, when the offer came, it was only two years for $17 million. Using the media, the Red Sox orchestrated a smear campaign on the popular Vaughn. Vaughn had put together six monster years for the Red Sox, but on November 25, 1998 as a free agent, he left the team to sign a six-year, $80 million contract with the Anaheim Angels. It was a sad day for Boston and for Baseball in general. Vaughn was not a So-Cal kind of guy. He was a New Englander who should have called Fenway Park home for his entire career. I certainly do not feel that Dan Duquette is a racist but this might have been one of the saddest stories while reading the book.

On February 22, 2002, the legacy of Tom Yawkey was ended when John Harrington sold the club to an ownership group led by John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. It brought much needed closure for the Yawkey Era, and it set the Red Sox on a path that has yielded four World Series championships in fourteen years. Before reading the book, I am not sure that I fully understood the huge impact John Henry has had on the Red Sox organization and how he has, through actions and not just words, rebranded the Red Sox organization into an exemplary model of professionalism and class. Well, maybe not for Yankee fans like me, but the current ownership group should be applauded for making a difference.

As Julia pointed out to me, while the history of the Red Sox organization wasn’t always pretty, the other Boston sports franchises were ground-breakers with integration. Willie O’Ree is referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of ice hockey” (the first black player in the NHL). He made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958. Chuck Cooper became the first black player drafted in the NBA when he was selected with the first pick in the second round of the 1950 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. Legendary Celtics coach/executive Red Auerbach put together the NBA’s first all-black starting five in 1964. In the inaugural American Football League draft in 1960, the Boston Patriots selected running back Ron Burton in the first round as their first-ever pick. Rommie Loudd became the AFL’s first black coach when he was named linebackers coach for the Patriots in 1966. Loudd later became the first black top executive in major league sports as the owner of the World Football League’s Florida Blazers in 1974.

There is so much more to the book than I’ve touched on with this short essay. Racism continues to be a big part of our everyday life in 2018 and it must stop. We’ve made some progress, but we are not where we need to be. We live in a current climate of hatred and blame which allows racism to survive. If I have one wish, it is a hope and prayer I live to see the end of racism as we know it. Even this week, there were reports out of the Seattle Mariners organization that their former Director of High Performance, Dr. Lorena Martin, has made allegations of derogatory comments made by GM Jerry DiPoto, Manager Scott Servais, and Director of Player Development Andy McKay with racial and sexist overtones. Maybe it is a case of a disgruntled former employee, but maybe it is not. Where there’s smoke, there’s generally fire. If true, this is unacceptable behavior that cannot be tolerated. I think all of us want a better tomorrow for our children and their children. The work to make it happen starts here.  No looking back, the focus should be on now and the future, and how we can help each other be successful and live meaningful, rewarding lives.  As they say, none of us are getting out of here alive.  We should live these days to the best of our ability and to share love and happiness around the World.

That’s a wrap. While I wish that I had won the bet with Julia, I learned a great deal from the book and hopefully I can be a better person as a result. Enjoy your World Series championship, Julia. Your team earned it. But rest assured, the New York Yankees will be back, stronger than ever in 2019.  Until next time…

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World Series: Dodgers vs Red Sox…

LA wins NLCS to advance to Fall Classic…

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite National League team and now they represent my final hope for ending Boston’s season without a championship. The Yankees couldn’t stop the Red Sox and neither could the defending Champion Houston Astros. I wasn’t too confident heading into Game 7 of the NLCS, especially with the game being played in Milwaukee, but the Dodgers showed the resiliency they’ve had all season to win the game in convincing fashion and propel themselves into the World Series for the second consecutive year.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Nothing against the Milwaukee Brewers. I think they’re a fine baseball team and I have much respect for former Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and former Yankees Erik Kratz and Curtis Granderson, but as a Minnesota Vikings fan, the thought of a World Series between the fan bases for both the Red Sox and Green Bay Packers was a bit too much for me. I am glad the Dodgers bailed me out. I guess I should also thank former Yankee Clay Bellinger and his wife for giving birth to Cody and setting the stage for young Bellinger’s go-ahead two-run homer last night.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Stacy Revere)

I wish the Dodgers had a more formidable bullpen outside of closer Kenley Jansen but the Red Sox proved you don’t need a great bullpen to make it to the World Series. I doubt we’ll see Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw closing out games in the World Series like he did Game 7 of the NLCS. But down the stretch, the Dodgers pen performed about as well as you could so I think I’ll take my chances with Dodger Blue over the course of the next four to seven games. The Dodgers have the bats to get into Boston’s bullpen and I think that will finally be the Achilles Heel for the Red Sox.

It will be fun to see Manny Machado back in Boston. Like Manny’s response last night while celebrating when asked if the win was sweet after the boos from the crowd. He said “what do you think?” and took a swig of champagne. Perfect! There is no love lost between Machado and the Red Sox from his days in Baltimore, and I am sure much will be written in the coming days about his villainess in the city. No doubt the boo birds will show up in full force on Tuesday night. I’d love to see Machado to emerge as one of the heroes of this World Series. It makes a nice segue for his future as a Yankee.

As previously written on this blog, I have finalized the wager with my long-time friend, Boston-area native/resident and die-hard Red Sox fan, Julia (@werbiefitz on Twitter). We have had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and Red Sox. It was not meant to be (for me) this year so I am jumping on the Dodgers bandwagon for the latest wager. Well, it’s not really ‘bandwagon jumping’ since the Dodgers have long been my NL team and that wouldn’t have changed even if they had lost 115 games this year like the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees are still my primary team, but for the rest of October, I am bleeding Dodger Blue.

For our wager, the loser must change her (okay, his/her) cover photo on FaceBook to a picture of the winning team celebrating their World Series championship for seven days at the conclusion of the 2018 World Series. The loser must also read a book chosen by the winner, and then post a minimum 500-word essay about the ten things they learned reading the book. Not a book review, but rather information that he/she did not previously know about the winning organization. The essay must then be posted on Social Media for all to see.

For Julia, since the Dodgers are going to win, I’ve chosen Brothers in Arms:  Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman.

Should I lose, which is obviously not going to happen, Julia has chosen Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant.

We’ve had fun with these wagers over the years. I’ve had to take pics of myself wearing Red Sox hats, including a pink one, and Julia, a Red Sox fan from birth, has had to wear a Yankee hat…in public…in Boston. Since I don’t live in the New York City area, I’ve been fortunate I haven’t had to wear a Red Sox cap in the Bronx, but I am sure it is inevitable if we keep up these wagers.

Game On, Julia! I am ready. My beloved Yankees may not have been able to take down the Red Sox this year, but I get a second chance with the Dodgers. 2018 has been a year of resiliency for the Dodgers who were once ten games below .500 (16-26) during the regular season.  They’ve battled back a few times, with their backs to the wall, and have always prevailed. They may have lost the 2017 World Series to the Houston Astros but this is a year of redemption. You’ll always have your 108 regular season wins, but sorry, my friend, your season will end on a down note. You may want to go ahead and buy the book in advance so that you are ready to start reading.

My prediction:  Dodgers in Six (with hat tip to former Yankees and Dodgers manager Joe Torre).

My apologies, I now return you to Yankees Baseball…

After celebrating Mickey Mantle’s birthday yesterday, today’s “Birthday Boy” is alive and well at age 90.  Happy Birthday to the Chairman of the Board, Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford!

Whitey was born on October 21, 1928 in New York City. A lifetime Yankee, Whitey pitched for the Pinstripers in 1950, served two years in the U.S. Army during the Korean War (thank you for your service!), and resumed his career in the Bronx from 1953 through 1967. Ford was 236-106, 2.75 ERA, and had 1,956 strikeouts for the Yankees. He was a ten-time MLB All-Star and he won six World Series championships. In 1961, he was the AL Cy Young Award winner and World Series MVP. Andy Pettitte may have surpassed Ford for most wins by a lefty in franchise history if not for Andy’s three years in Houston. Pettitte, who won 256 games overall, finished 17 wins behind Ford while wearing the famed Pinstripes. It is very appropriate for Ford to remain at the top of the list, closely followed by Pettitte, another former Yankee I hold in very high regard.

I get excited to see Whitey Ford every year on Old Timer’s Day. His health is in decay (I know, it happens to the best of us) and there will be a day when he is no longer able to take part in the Yankee Stadium festivities. Like Mantle, he was a great, great Yankee, and perhaps the greatest living one. I am so proud he is among the greatest of Yankee Legends.

I’ve seen a few Yankee fans say the team should sign Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, and Nathan Eovaldi for the starting rotation next year. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote this morning in his Sunday Baseball Notes that Eovaldi, currently part of Boston’s World Series roster, should command a deal comparable to the one that Alex Cobb signed late last off-season with the Baltimore Orioles (4 years at $57 million). If the Yankees are successful in signing Corbin and retaining Happ, that’s probably too much for the Yankees to sign Eovaldi as well, especially with young guys like Justus Sheffield, Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu and Domingo German waiting in the wings. If the Yanks lose out on Happ, I’d have no problem with an Eovaldi reunion but I am not really expecting it to happen.

As for Corbin, Cafardo notes the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Atlanta Braves will also be vying for his services. Here’s hoping “blood” is thicker than water. Assuming all dollars are fairly equal, I hope Corbin chooses his Yankee family roots. While Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado would be nice free agent signings (or in the words of TGP’s Daniel Burch, “luxuries”), Corbin is clearly the one I want and the one the team needs. Patrick, we’re waiting for ya, bud! Come join the Party in the Bronx! We will be spilling champagne in 2019!

After previously withdrawing his name from consideration for the managerial gig with the Cincinnati Reds, Joe Girardi has withdrawn his name from consideration in Texas for the Rangers job. I am a little surprised but I have always felt Girardi’s dream job is with the Chicago Cubs. I can’t see Joe Maddon staying with the Cubs too many more years so maybe that’s what Girardi is waiting for. Who knows. Maybe he is starting to understand the reasons he is no longer Yankees manager. As for the Reds, they’ll name David Bell as their new manager on Monday. Bell, like Yankees manager Aaron Boone, comes from a baseball family.  His grandfather, Gus, and his father, Buddy, were both Major Leaguers. Boonie is creating a new trend…analytics AND baseball in the blood.

Lastly, a shout out to Didi Gregorius! He was sharing his million-dollar smile last night at the Knicks game. It didn’t help the Knicks win (they lost by two to Boston) but the pic put a smile on my face. It was a reality check to see his heavily wrapped elbow but the dude can light up any room with his effervescent personality. I can’t wait to see him back on the playing field, starting at shortstop, next summer.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yet Another Unofficial World Series…

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees

Red Sox Advance to Fall Classic to Play Dodgers or Brewers…

Sadly, the Boston Red Sox are returning to the World Series. I was hopeful that the defending champion Houston Astros would end their season, but unfortunately, the Astros were a no-show. I still feel the Yankees and the Astros were the better teams, but for whatever reason(s), fate sided with Boston. The Red Sox, from April forward, have consistently found ways to win, en route to 108 victories over the course of the long season. They are not in the World Series by some fluke. Growing up as a kid with the Curse of the Bambino alive and well, it does kind of suck that the Red Sox have played in and have won more World Series than the Yankees this century.

Speaking of my childhood, I have never forgotten an illustrator for The Des Moines (Iowa) Register by the name of Frank Miller who used to say that it wasn’t an official World Series if the Yankees weren’t playing in it.  I know it’s something that I’ve mentioned on this site before, but I think about it every year so my apologies for the regression.

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I am already lining up a wager with a long-time friend and die-hard Red Sox fan. We’ve had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and the Red Sox, but this year, since the Yankees are home for the holidays, I am riding the Los Angeles Dodgers (assuming they can get past the Milwaukee Brewers, of course). If the Dodgers make it to the World Series, the bet is on. The loser must post a picture of the winning team’s celebration as their cover photo on Facebook for seven days following the World Series, and the loser must read a book about the winning organization (as selected by the winner) and write a 500-word essay about the ten things they learned about the winning organization they did not know before. The essay must be posted on Social Media.  For my friend, I have chosen Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman should the Dodgers win the World Series.

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My friend will choose a Red Sox book for me to read if Boston wins the World Series. Of course, if the Dodgers stumble in Milwaukee and end their season prematurely, the wager is moot. I have no interest in a Brewers-Red Sox World Series and my baseball season will be officially done.  I wanted to pick a Yankees book for my friend to read, but Boston beat the Yankees fair and square in the ALDS, proving that, for this year anyway, they are the better team. Dodgers, please do not let me down. You’re my last hope for bringing down the mighty Red Sox.

I know that Manny Machado has taken much heat over the past week for not hustling and dirty play but I have not wavered in my desire for the Yankees to sign him in free agency after the season. He remains a young, special and talented superstar player who will help any team that he plays for. He has a desire to play in New York and he can handle New York.  He’s hated in Boston which is perfectly fine by me. Nothing Machado has done has deterred my wish for seeing him in Pinstripes. If the Yankees go after Bryce Harper instead, that’s fine.  I’d be stoked to have Harper as a Yankee. If Cashman and Company decide neither player is worth the investment, then so be it. Clearly, the greatest need is finding help for the starting rotation and filling in the potential holes in the bullpen. If the Yankees do nothing in the off-season but focus on pitching, I’m fine with it. But regardless, I wanted to get it out there that I continue to support Manny Machado and he’ll continue to be one of my favorite players next season, no matter what uniform he is wearing. Well, if he signs with Boston, that might hurt.

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Photo Credit: AP (Matt Slocum)

I really wish the Yankees could find a way to unload Jacoby Ellsbury. I am dreading the thought of his presence at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL next Spring. I know, when healthy, he’s a decent player.  But his history has proven he cannot be relied upon. He may be healthy in March, but, no doubt, it will not be an injury-free year. The certainties of life…death, taxes, and Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list. I am tired of the guy and I wish he’d resume his career elsewhere.

Has Sonny Gray been traded yet? Another player that I am anxiously awaiting to see place the word “former” in front of “Yankee”. I like the suggestions of Gray to Arizona in a package to get Arizona’s Robbie Ray or Paul Goldschmidt or to San Francisco for second baseman Joe Panik. I am sure that Gray will prosper in a less pressurized environment and I am confident GM Brian Cashman will get the best possible return despite Gray’s struggles in the Big Apple. Now if he could just do something about Ellsbury, too.

For those who say that Houston’s Marwin Gonzalez fits in with the Yankees, I agree. If the Yankees decide to pass on the big ticket purchases in free agency, I think Gonzalez could help this team. Or even if they do sign Machado or Harper, I think Gonzalez would be a good Yankee. I don’t like the Astros but I do like Marwin and his versatility. I know 2018 was a bit of a down year for him, or maybe it is his norm and 2017 was an unusual year, but either way, I like the character of the guy and the winning attitude he exudes. He certainly helps fill some holes with the ability to play first base, shortstop and left field.

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Photo Credit: AP (David J Phillip)

Here’s hoping the Dodgers take care of business tonight in Milwaukee. Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97 ERA in 15 regular season games), one of the Dodgers’ best starters down the stretch, gets the ball.  He’ll be opposed by the resurgent one-time Red Sock Wade Miley (5-2, 2.57 ERA). Miley lost 15 games for the Baltimore Orioles last season and now he’s charged with extending the post-season for the Brewers, probably throwing to former Yankee Erik Kratz. Life is funny. No offense to those guys, but I hope their season ends tonight. The Dodgers have a date with the Red Sox and I don’t want anything to mess it up.

Tonight (and possibly tomorrow), it’s Go Dodgers.

But as always (and a lot more), Go Yankees!

Hey Red Sox Fans, But the Game’s Not Over…

‘Stros Send the RSN Home Early in Game 1…

I wasn’t going to watch Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, but I got sucked into it when the Houston Astros took a one-run lead off on the Boston Red Sox, with everybody’s favorite…Joe Kelly…on the mound, in the top of the sixth inning. It was awesome in the top of the ninth when one-time Red Sock Josh Reddick blasted a solo shot against his former team to make it a two-run game. When Yuli Gurriel parked a three-run homer into the right field stands, the Red Sox fans were exiting Fenway Park in droves and their team had yet to take their final swings in the bottom of the ninth. It was such a beautiful sight!

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

The Astros won the game, 7-2, to ensure they’ll head to Houston with no less than a split pending the outcome of today’s game. They could sweep the games at Fenway Park before jumping on a Texas-bound plane and they do have the good fortune of facing Yankees punching bag David Price later today. Hopefully the Astro bats will enjoy hitting off Price as much as the Yankees do.

Photo Credit: Boston Globe

Gerrit Cole draws the Game 2 pitching assignment for Houston. It is easy to look back to last winter and say the Yankees should have been more aggressive in their pursuit of Cole. Ken Davidoff wrote a great piece in The New York Post today regarding the Yankees and Cole. The Yankees were willing to package a deal centered on outfielder Clint Frazier, but the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted the inclusion of Miguel Andujar as a centerpiece too. In retrospect, despite the lost season for Frazier, it’s hard to find fault with the Yankees’ decision to hold onto Andujar even if the Yankees desperately need pitching. Also, there was no guarantee Cole would have pitched as well in New York as he did in Houston. Maybe Andujar eventually gets moved for another frontline starter. Oh well, I am not going to look back and criticize the Yankees for their failure to acquire Cole. The Pirates chose to accept an inferior package from the Astros. It was their decision; not ours. There’s nothing we can do about it. Cole is a good pitcher, but he’s not worth handing over the farm system for. Now if we are talking about Jacob deGrom, that’s a different story.

Many Yankee fans were offended when Alex Rodriguez lost a bet to David “Big Papi” Ortiz and had to wear Red Sox gear on Fox TV, thanks to Boston’s win over the Yankees in the ALDS.  Honestly, I could care less. It would have hurt if the player had been one of the core Yankees, but A-Rod’s not in that category. I know he’s done much to rehabilitate his image, but I truly wish the Yankees would have never acquired him. I would have been fine with him wearing a Red Sox uniform for real in 2004. I think A-Rod has done a fine job on the broadcasting side and I know he continues to preach the Yankees are his favorite team, but it doesn’t mean that I have to like him. The fact remains he tarnished the game and he lied to the fans. But aside from that, I’ve lost bets and had to wear Red Sox jerseys or hats before so to me it was no big deal.

Photo Credit: FS1

I saw a funny Twitter post yesterday that said Milwaukee Brewers reliever Brandon Woodruff has more postseason homers than Boston’s Mookie Betts. Woodruff hit what would prove to be the eventual difference-maker in Milwaukee’s NLCS Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night off the great Clayton Kershaw. So far in the 2018 post-season, Betts only has 4 hits in 20 at-bats, with no homers and a couple of RBI’s. Betts is a great player but he is not immune to the post-season blues.

Everyone is making their predictions for which pending free agents the Yankees should re-sign or let walk. I hate to say it, but I don’t see the Yankees bringing Brett Gardner back. They’d be foolish to exercise the $12 million option and while declining the option and re-signing him to a lower one-year deal is possible, I am convinced the presence of a healthy Clint Frazier and, ugh!, Jacoby Ellsbury will force the Yankees to move on.

If the Yankees sign free agent Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks (as many expect) and re-sign J.A. Happ, I also do not see the Yankees bringing back CC Sabathia. So, the Yankees could be on the verge of losing their top two veteran leaders. I have no doubt other guys will pick up the void but I am appreciative of the Yankee careers for both Gardner and Sabathia. They’ve worn the Pinstripes proudly and will be missed.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

The Yankees face big decisions in the bullpen. With both David Robertson and Zach Britton ready to hit the free market, the Yankees have to decide whether to try and bring both back, just one, or let them both go elsewhere to the highest bidder. I’d love to see both return and I feel that having a super bullpen is so critical. Unless Luis Severino can make major adjustments this winter, the Yankees lack a true ace and signing Corbin does not change that fact. A super bullpen compensates for the deficiencies in the starting rotation. I love D-Rob’s heart, but if I had to make a choice for only one, I’d go with Britton. Unfortunately, I think Britton will get an insane offer from some other bullpen deficient team to be their closer, so it’s probably more likely the Yankees bring back Robertson. I’d really hate to see both leave.

While I think it is possible the Yankees go over the luxury tax threshold next year, the realist in me knows that Managing General Partner will give GM Brian Cashman a defined budget that may not include paying luxury tax penalties. I think some fans are expecting a 2009-like splurge with great young free agent superstars like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but there’s a very good chance the Yankees pass on any extended nearly half a billion dollar contracts. I see many fans predicting both Machado and Harper in the 2019 Yankees lineup and that’s simply not happening.

It’s amazing to think former Yankees third base coach Joe Espada might get a managing job before his former boss, Joe Girardi. Espada, currently bench coach for the Houston Astros, is emerging as one of the favorites for the job in Anaheim which was vacated when long-time Angels manager Mike Scioscia stepped down. Angels GM Billy Eppler knows Espada well from their time together in New York. Espada may be living the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ dream, but his run of consecutive championship series will end if he becomes skipper of the Halos.

I wonder if there are any Yankee fans that are actually pulling for the Red Sox over the Astros? None that I am aware of, but I am sure there are a few fair weather fans out there.

Let’s hurry up and fast-forward through the World Series so that we can get the Hot Stove League started. I am ready for the off-season planning to begin.  Nothing better than getting Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and other key executives together in one room to map out strategy for 2019. We can speculate. They can decide. But one thing’s for sure, we are united in our desire for a World Series championship next year.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Achieve 100th Win of the Year…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Omar Rawlings)

For a meaningless game, Saturday’s game featured huge milestones…

Congratulations to the 2018 New York Yankees for their achievement of 100 victories. It is something they have not done since the championship year of 2009 and it is not something that many teams do each year. It usually means that you win the division but the Boston Red Sox were just a little better this time around.

The Yankees also busted the MLB record yesterday for Team Home Runs. When Gleyber Torres hit his two-run shot in the 4th inning off Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, it gave the Yankees one more than the previous record of 264 set by the Seattle Mariners. Giancarlo Stanton added the 266th of the year with his 38th dinger in the 7th inning. For Stanton, he also had two RBI’s to give him 100 for his new team, matching the team’s win total when the Yankees closed out the 8-5 victory.  But I have to give a big…

RED SOX SUCK! 

…for their fan who threw Stanton’s home run ball back onto the field and hit Giancarlo as he rounded second.

Miguel Andujar set the new Yankees’ rookie record for doubles with two yesterday to increase his season total to 46, eclipsing the old mark of 44 set by Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio back in 1936.That’s special company when you can rub shoulders with Yankee legends. If Shohei Ohtani wins the AL Rookie of the Year, it won’t detract from the brilliant season Andujar has enjoyed. He deserves the hardware as much as Ohtani, but all things considered, I’d rather have a World Series trophy. Andujar has a chance, Ohtani does not.

In taking the first two games of the three-game series with the Red Sox, the Yankees have prevented Boston from reaching 110 victories which I personally appreciated. Today’s game is probably about as meaningless as a spring training game, but it is a day the Yankees can enjoy and get ready for Wednesday’s Wild Card Game in the Bronx against the Oakland A’s.

I look back to Boston’s sweep of the Yankees in early August as the defining moment for the AL East. It gave the Sox the momentum and the separation they needed from the Yankees to propel them to the AL East championship. If the Yankees could have at least split that series, I think the race to the finish would have been much tighter.

Within the last couple of weeks, I had my doubts if the Yankees would be able to hold the lead in the Wild Card standings and thought they could potentially lose home field advantage for the game to the hard charging Oakland A’s. I apologize for the ‘glass is half empty’ approach. Thankfully, the Yankees have picked up some momentum over the last week and grabbed the pole position earlier this week. The A’s did pick up their 97th win of the year yesterday against the Los Angeles Angels, 5-2, which boggles my mind. They are truly a team that came out of nowhere but are loaded with lethal bats and a deadly bullpen. The A’s have a chance to avenge the famous Derek Jeter “Flip Play” which erased the A’s Jeremy Giambi in the 2001 ALDS.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I like the 2018 Yankees and their chances but I’ll temper any excitement until the conclusion of Wednesday’s game. Anybody can win one game. Heck, the Baltimore Orioles, even with 115 losses, could beat the Boston Red Sox in one game. I know, the stakes are much higher in the post-season and guys elevate their game, but in the span of nine innings, anything can happen. If the Yankees can beat the A’s, then I feel they have a great shot moving forward. It will mean a quick return to Boston for the next round if it happens.

I honestly do not know which pitcher I’d go with to start Wednesday’s game. I like the job J.A. Happ has done since he joined the Yankees. I look at his last game against the Red Sox when he gave up four runs as really just a bad pitch to Steve Pearce who didn’t miss it for a grand slam. I am sure that Aaron Boone would have pitched that inning differently in the playoffs and Happ would not have faced Pearce. On recent performance, I’d have to go with Happ, but I can’t discount the argument David Cone made on yesterday’s FOX telecast of the game, “Severino is your Ferrari”, “you can’t keep your Ferrari in the garage”. Sevy has been the ace for the last couple of years and despite his stretch of struggles this summer, he’s still the leader of the staff. So, I’d probably go with Sevy but I can’t really argue against Happ if Boone decides to go that direction. I thought Masahiro Tanaka might the one rounding into form for the one-game ‘do or die’ playoff but his last start showed me that we don’t need his propensity for allowing home runs in a game against a team filled with sluggers like the A’s. Khris Davis hit his 48th of the year yesterday, proving that if you throw him a mistake, the ball will go very, very far. I’d prefer not seeing Tanaka face guys like Davis, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty. So, in my mind, Tanaka is not an option when your season is on the line. Nevertheless, the Wild Card game is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation so any signs of trouble for the starter should be a quick signal to the pen.

I was a little disappointed with the forgettable performance of Yankees reliever Jonathan Holder yesterday. This has been a breakout year for Holder who has been relied upon as one of the bullpen’s key performers. Holder was given the ninth to finish off the game, in relief of Sonny Gray who had done a fine job for a couple of innings. The Yankees had a comfortable 8-3 lead, but Tzu-Wei Lin walloped Holder’s first pitch for a ground rule double to left. Brock Holt followed with a homer to right to close the gap with the Yankees to three runs. Sam Travis was next and he singled to center. With Aroldis Chapman warming in the pen, Holder finally got the first out when he struck out the past-his-prime Brandon Phillips. Chapman had to come in and close out the game, picking up his 32nd save in a game that should not have been a save situation. Hopefully this was just an isolated poor outing for Holder. The Yankees need him for middle relief in October if the team advances beyond the Wild Card. Chapman did walk a batter to bring the tying run to the plate, but I am glad to see the Cuban Missile is rounding back into form. He is still not where he needs to be, but I like the insurance card (Zach Britton). A combo of a healthy Chapman and an elite closer like Britton is a solid recipe for success.

Credit to the Yankees for their accomplishments this year. To win 100 games for a team that seemed to struggle for extended periods this year shows that they are a very talented group when healthy. In looking at the National League, it’s not easy to make the playoffs, let alone win 100 games. There are two dead heats entering the last day of the season with ties atop the NL Central and NL West. The NL Central co-leaders, the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, have the most wins in the NL at 94. For the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies, today’s games could either mean winning the division or heading to Los Angeles for a tie-breaker game tomorrow. The loser of the tie-breaker would then head to Milwaukee or Chicago depending upon who loses the NL Central. The Brewers and Cubs would play a potential tie-breaker Monday in Chicago. Very complicated. I am glad the Yankees don’t enter the final regular season game with so much uncertainty and potentially chaotic travel schedule over the next couple of days.

 

Buck Showalter probably manages his last game today. His team has lost three consecutive games and stands at 46-115. They’re facing the Houston Astros at Camden Yards so today they’ll probably see Houston’s backups and minor leaguers. Hopefully it means one final victory for Buck before he goes. His managerial record is 1550-1517-1 for a .505 winning percentage. In my mind, he helped prepare the 90’s Yankees for its run of success even if he never saw the fruits of his labor. Farewell, Buck. I hope this is not the end of the road, but just the closure of another chapter before a new one begins. Maybe the Angelos Family surprises me and decides to keep Buck around but I seriously doubt it.

Also, farewell to David Wright of the New York Mets. I don’t care for the Mets but I recognize Wright was a special player and it’s too bad his final years were filled with injuries. He is one of the game’s better ambassadors and I am hopeful he stays in the game for his post-playing career. Major League Baseball needs more guys like David Wright.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the Yankees were just assembling in Tampa in Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers in camp, awaiting the arrival of the position players including new Yankee Giancarlo Stanton.This has been a very fast year. Although the bullpen management has driven me nuts at times, I think Aaron Boone has done a good job as the team’s manager. So many of those bullpen decisions are driven by Brian Cashman’s analytics team so it’s hard to place all of the blame on Boonie. I like the calming effect his personality has on the clubhouse, not too much unlike former Yankees manager Joe Torre. I know that many Yankees fans have anointed the team’s former manager as Saint Girardi, forgetting his faults. But entering Wednesday’s game, win or lose, I am glad Aaron Boone is the manager of the New York Yankees.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

A loss on Wednesday does not end the hopes of this team. They’ll be back, stronger than ever, in 2019, and I think they’ll overtake the Boston Red Sox next year. The Sox benefited from career years from multiple players but I don’t think they’ll catch lightning in a bottle again next year. The Yankees can have a say in ending Boston’s highly successful season with a win on October 3rd. A perfect ending and a beautiful beginning for the Yankees if they can survive the Wild Card game and defeat the Red Sox. The Yankees, right now, can beat anybody. That’s not a boast, but a fact. Let’s prove it on the field.

Go Yankees!

Boonie & The Bullpen Blunders…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yanks hang on for narrow win over O’s…

Maybe I am just a realist but I am struggling to find great positives with the 2018 New York Yankees and their ability to go deep into the playoffs. Time and again, manager Aaron Boone shows an inability to make the right bullpen decisions.  Sure, I could have blind love and just take the approach that the team is going to plow through October opponents until proven otherwise, but that’s not me.

John O’Connell, @jacko2323 on Twitter, posted this comment last night:

Every Yankees postgame interview is “Look out for us!  We’re about to break loose!  Our offense will explode in the playoffs.”  It’s September 21st.  The Red Sox have already clinched the AL East and your struggling to beat the Orioles.

I agree with this statement.  Jack-O went on to tweet:

The A’s are going to beat the Yankees like a drum in the Wildcard game and Boone and every Yankee will give a postgame interview talking about how close they are to breaking out.

Again, I agree.  I know that Jack-O is a disillusioned Yankees fan.  He is a friend of Bill Simmons, a noted Red Sox fan, and frequently appears on his podcasts, but I find truth in Jack-O’s words even if many Yankees fans take offense.  Just because the Yankees made it to the seventh game of the ALCS last year and seemingly have a better team this year does not mean they are going to the World Series.  Other teams got better too including the Boston Red Sox despite their leaky bullpen.  The players have talked about how great this team will be when it gets on a roll but, after the early season run, we have yet to see it.  And it is now September 22nd.

The Yankees should have easily beat the Baltimore Orioles last night.  Unfortunately, they had to hold on for the 10-8 victory after more foolish bullpen decisions by Aaron Boone.  I am not sure why A.J. Cole is still on the Yankees roster, other than the September roster expansion.  When the Yankees need to make off-season roster decisions, making room for the guys on the 60-day DL and the Rule 5 eligible prospects worth keeping, Cole has to go. There’s no doubt Cole should be left off the playoff roster.

The Yankees have yet to show me they are cranking on all cylinders.  Sure, there’s still time but the days are going by fast.  The end of the regular season is a week from Sunday.  It seems like every time the Yankees take two steps forward, they take a step back.  Meanwhile, The Red Sox and Astros are cruising to the finish line.  Honestly, the Yankees are lucky that the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t start heating up earlier in the season.  The Yankees’ magic number to secure a Wild Card spot is only two games but right now the Rays are playing better than the Yankees.  The upcoming series in Tampa will be difficult.  The Rays probably will have no chance of catching the Yankees by then and might be out of it altogether, but I am sure those are going to be tough games.  If the Rays do not make the playoffs, beating the Yankees in their final regular season series between the two teams will be their “playoff” even if the prize is only bragging rights for Rays players and fans.

I guess it could be worse.  The Los Angeles Dodgers recaptured first place in the NL West with their sweep of the Colorado Rockies earlier this week only to lose last night to the 92-loss San Diego Padres.  The Dodgers still hold a slim 1 1/2 game lead (same as the Yankees’ lead over the Oakland A’s for the top WC slot) so both teams need to win the majority of these final games.  I guess the stakes may be higher for the Dodgers.  If they lose the division, they most likely lose out on making the playoffs.  Their record presently matches the St Louis Cardinals for the second WC in the National League behind the Milwaukee Brewers so they cannot afford to lose.

If the Yankees win the AL Wild Card game, it will be a new season. But until then, I will have my doubts about this team’s ability to rise to the challenge.  I am tired of seeing poor decisions made every game.  Could I do better than Boone?  Hell no, but I don’t get paid to make the right decisions nor do I have the experience in the game like he does.  Aaron Boone and Company are the ones depositing the Steinbrenner family’s money into their bank accounts.  I like Aaron Boone but he has to do better.  The 2018 season depends upon it.

The best thing the Yankees can do is make me eat my words.  I am okay with that.

I’ve felt that Orioles manager Buck Showalter would be dismissed at the end of the season for a couple of months but the words I read yesterday seem to indicate it is nearly guaranteed he will be fired.  For as much as I have disliked Buck at times during his post-Yankees career, I am feeling so saddened this may be the end of the line for the former Yankees manager.  I can’t really explain why I feel that way.  It’s unfortunate that Buck was unable to guide a team to a championship during his managerial career.  Other managers benefited from his path in both New York and Arizona.  In this day and age of young, amiable (press-friendly), inexperienced, and analytics-driven managers, it seems improbable that Buck will get another opportunity.  It really does not seem that long ago that Buck was playing first base and the outfield for the Yankees’ then Double A farm team in Nashville. I can still remember a few of his games so vividly.

Whatever happens with Buck, I wish him the best as life moves forward.  Now, if he wants to lose the next two games, that’s fine by me.

I know it’s a little early to make free agent predictions, but Bleacher Report ran a column on Thursday to take an early look at one realistic free agent for each team.  The reason it bothered me is the writer (Jacob Shafer) has the Yankees signing Dallas Keuchel, with Patrick Corbin going to the Milwaukee Brewers.  Ugh!  I do not want Keuchel on the Yankees.  I am hopeful the Yankees make an all-out attempt to bring Corbin to the Bronx.  The writer also has the Boston Red Sox signing David Robertson which is also something I’d really hate to see.  I love David Cone but there’s a part of me that is still bothered by the fact he wore a Red Sox uniform at the end of his career.  Same with David Wells.  I hope D-Rob does not go down that path.  The writer predicts J.A. Happ will sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a replacement for Corbin.  I think Happ has done enough to warrant a new contract in Pinstripes.  Sorry CC, but for a few million more, Happ makes so much more sense for the 2019 Yankees.  Sabathia is predicted by B/R to sign with the Oakland A’s.  That’s a move I would not be opposed to since Sabathia grew up in nearby Vallejo, CA and he’d be able to exit the game in front of his hometown friends and family.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Speaking of Happ, the Yankees seem to be lining him up to pitch the Wild Card game on October 3rd.  He’ll make the start against the O’s tomorrow.  I had thought I wanted Masahiro Tanaka to pitch the Wild Card game but his start against the Red Sox eroded some of my confidence.  Luis Severino is pitching better but I am still not convinced he is the man to face the bruising A’s lineup.  Happ makes as much sense as any of them.  In a do-or-die one game playoff, everybody needs to be ready to contribute.  The only question is whether Aaron Boone will make the right bullpen choices.  I guess we’ll find out on October 3rd.

Hopefully we’ll have a less stressful game and a Yankees win later today.  The opposing pitcher is 3-10 with 5.22 ERA (David Hess).  We should not lose this game.  Hopefully, the gritty Lance Lynn (9-10, 4.90 ERA) ensures that it does not happen.

Go Yankees!

Red Sox Celebrate on Sacred Ground…

Red Sox Yankees Baseball
Photo Credit: AP (Julio Cortez)

Boston wins third consecutive AL East Championship in the Bronx…

I am not going to lie…I am pissed.  We allowed the Boston Red Sox to celebrate on Yankee Stadium soil and that should have never happened.  The Yankees won two of three games from the 2018 AL East Champions, and I can’t find any joy because they mailed in the third game after winning the first two to give the Red Sox the win they needed to claim the division championship.  I was happy they pinned the 49th loss of the season on Boston after Wednesday’s win (to prevent any chance of the Sox matching the win total of the 1998 Yankees), but they really could have swept this series and forced Boston to ship the champagne to their next destination.

Everybody is so quick to talk about how awful the Red Sox bullpen is but in last night’s bullpen matchup, Boston had the difference-maker in Steven Wright with three innings of scoreless relief.  The Yankees helped eject Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez out of the game in the fourth inning after he had thrown 100 pitches.  Red Sox reliever Heath Hembree relieved Rodriguez and was greeted by Giancarlo Stanton’s grand slam which temporarily gave the Yankees a 6-4 lead, but from there, the Yankees could only get two more hits and were unable to put any further runs on the board against Wright, Ryan Brasier, and Craig Kimbrel.  Meanwhile, the Sox teed off on Chad Green, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.  I can’t really blame Green or Betances.  They are the guys I probably would have brought in during those situations, but I think it was very foolish to bring in a rusty Aroldis Chapman with the Yankees trailing by only two runs.  The three-run homer by Mookie Betts off Chapman in the eighth inning pretty much iced the game for the Red Sox and prepared the champagne bottles for uncorking.

I disagreed with manager Aaron Boone’s decision to bring in Justus Sheffield during Wednesday night’s game too.  Sure, Top Sheff evaded a self-created bases-loaded jam to end the game, but the Yankees were playing MLB’s winningest baseball team and the psychology of the game and beating Boston is important.  If you bring anybody in when you are leading by nine runs, it should have been Chapman and not Sheffield.  I would have eased Chapman back into the fold before placing him into a high leverage situation.  I was not surprised that Betts clubbed the homer off Chappy. Just like Aaron Judge is currently only producing hard outs and missing the mistake pitches, it takes time to get back up to speed.  Baseball is not a forgiving sport.

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Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media (Andrew Mills)

I am still supportive of Aaron Boone despite my frustrations with his decisions over the last few days so I know I am just venting.  I would have played last night’s game to win which means that Chapman would not have made an appearance, nor would have any of the rookies currently on the staff.  After Betances, I would have lived or died with Zach Britton to the end.

What really made yesterday so disappointing was the other primary Wild Card contender, the Oakland A’s, crushed their opponent.  GM Billy Eppler’s Los Angeles Angels must have felt they were playing the Los Angeles Rams after the A’s decisive 21-3 thrashing.  The Yankees hold a slim 1 ½ game lead on the A’s after yesterday’s results, but the scary part is the Yankees now face a losing team that they seemingly cannot beat (the Baltimore Orioles), the high-flying Tampa Bay Rays, and a rematch with the Red Sox at Fenway Park for the final ten games of the regular season.  I am not saying they have it easy, but the A’s play weaker opponents.  Three games in Oakland against the disappointing Minnesota Twins, three games in Seattle against the fading Mariners, and three games in Anaheim against the team they just drubbed by 18 runs in yesterday’s game.  In my opinion, it is Advantage A’s.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Thearon W Henderson)

A ‘one and done’ Wild Card game in Oakland. From my perspective, that’s where the Yankees stand right now with the way things are unfolding in the American League.  Well, at least CC Sabathia can catch up with friends and family in the area before he heads home to clean out his locker at Yankee Stadium for perhaps the final time.

As always, I hope the team proves me wrong.  But as I’ve said before, that’s on them, not me.  I want the Yankees to win but I am just not feeling it right now.  I am not convinced the Yankees can beat the A’s and I am certainly not convinced the team can beat the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians or Boston Red Sox should they advance.  They certainly have the talent, but for a team that has been average at best for an extended period, they can’t just flip a switch to turn it on.  The Yankees need to make the next ten games count and carry momentum into the Wild Card game.  Otherwise, we’ll be watching the final season of Game of Thrones before the Yankees have another chance for the crown.

Hopefully the team can return to its winning ways tonight against Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  This series represents perhaps the final time that we’ll see the former Yankees manager in the O’s dugout.  For as much as I’ve disliked Buck at times during his post-Yankees career, I am a little saddened about the way the 2018 season has treated him.  To reach 50 wins, Buck’s team needs to win six of its final ten games.  That’s a tall order for the 108-loss team, but then again, they have three games against a team they’ve fared well against.  You know that Buck would like nothing better than to beat the Yankees for his farewell song.

As the saying goes, sometimes the best trade is the one that you don’t make.  Last off-season, everybody was clamoring for the Yankees to acquire Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers.  Fulmer had a disastrous 2018 season.  He was 3-12 with 4.69 ERA in 132 1/3 innings.  He gave up 128 hits and career-high 19 home runs.  Done for the season, Fulmer was diagnosed with meniscus damage in his right knee on Monday and underwent surgery yesterday.  He is still a young, controllable pitcher but unless the Yankees can get him at a severe discount, it would not be worth the investment.  If the Yankees had paid Detroit’s asking price last winter, we’d have nothing to show for it today.  Fulmer is expected to be ready for Spring Training but Detroit’s best move would be to wait for Fulmer to rebuild his trade value before considering any offers.

It’s up to CC Sabathia (7-7, 3.80 ERA) to get the Baltimore series off to the right start tonight.  He’ll be opposed by former Yankees prospect Yefry Ramirez (1-6, 5.50 ERA).  This is a winnable game.  Boone, make the right decisions.  Gary Sanchez, hold the door…hold the door!  Luke Voit, just keep on doing what you are doing, chest hair and all.  Let’s do this.

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Go Yankees!