Tagged: Red Sox

Dear Astros, Please STFU…

truck_yard_sign.0

Someone, please, take out the trash…

I am tired of the Astros cheating scandal and I am ready to move on.

Borrowing from an old lawyer joke, how do you know when an Astros player is lying? His lips are moving.

After giving some praise to Carlos Correa in my last post, he subsequently opened his mouth in front of a camera in an interview with Ken Rosenthal and let the trash continue to spew. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has proven to be a very weak leader in the face of this adversity, and the entire ordeal, in my opinion, is a farce.

The players will never admit to anything that is not in the Commissioner’s report and the Commissioner does not have the power his predecessors may have had. He’s basically an employee of the owners and there was no way Jim Crane, despite his role into turning the Astros into a trashy organization, was ever going to be implicated. He was given the perfect way out by making GM Jeffrey Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch the scapegoats when he fired them.

I don’t want to belabor the issue. What’s done is done. The Commissioner has taken action, regardless of how we may feel was too light, and need to move on. The Astros players have had their time to talk but I wish they’d just shut their pie holes because no good is coming from their words. MLB needs to closely monitor teams to ensure this never happens again with the Astros, the Boston Red Sox or any other team in Major League Baseball. I am frustrated the Astros weren’t forced to vacate their fraudulently earned 2017 World Series championship but the time for proper penalty, unfortunately, has passed.

There is word we’ll hear about the Red Sox investigation by the end of the week. Although the Sox were led to the 2018 World Series championship by Cheat Leader Alex Cora, I have yet to see anything that leads me to believe any possible violations by their organization were on par with the schemes in Houston. As such, I expect any penalties to be very light relative to the penalties received by the Astros.  It’s possible there will be revelations that we have not heard  and it may change the situation but at this point, I think the Red Sox disciplinary action will be minimal and fairly quiet compared to the experience of the last few weeks. I am not defending the Red Sox but conversely I am not going to crucify them without cause.

My greatest hope for the 2020 MLB season is the game is played honestly and ethically. Let the chips fall as they may. Maybe the Yankees win a championship, maybe they do not. But in the end, we can hopefully say no one was cheating behind the scenes to change the outcome.

Moving on to other topics, it was announced today the Atlanta Braves promoted their GM, Alex Anthopoulos, to President of Baseball Operations. Not that I care about the Braves (although I have long respected Anthopoulos), the only point I raise by saying this is I continue to feel strongly the Yankees should do the same for GM Brian Cashman. As the long-tenured general manager for our favorite club, he is more deserving of the title of President of Baseball Operations than most of the guys who now hold it for their respective clubs.  Cash should be the President of Baseball Operations (or Executive Vice President, as long as he holds the top Baseball Operations position), and they should promote Tim Naehring to GM. I’d say Jean Afterman but I know that she has no interest in a greater role, particularly after her move to the Wine Country in Northern CA. That makes Naehring the next best candidate to step up. Perhaps you can say Cashman already holds the role despite his title and maybe that’s true. But for the optics, I’d like to see the title match the authority. I’ve been critical of Cashman at times, but there is no one more qualified to lead the baseball side of the house than him. Keep Randy Levine on the business side (or lock him in a closet, I don’t care).

The Yankees announced this week they have signed former Colorado Rockies RHP Chad Bettis to a minor league contract with invitation to Spring Training. I was a little surprised. It’s not that I don’t think Bettis can pitch, I just feel the opportunity is better elsewhere. Then again, if you want to get noticed, play for the Yankees (even if it is only Spring Training). If he doesn’t make the Yankees, perhaps another team sees enough to reach out to him.

imrs
Photo Credit: Chris Carlson, Associated Press

It’s easy to look at Chad’s 2019 numbers and scoff. Pitching mostly out of the bullpen, the former starter had a 1-6 record with 6.08 ERA in 63 2/3 innings. Those numbers won’t inspire confidence in anyone except opposing hitters, but Bettis has had a very hard road. Bettis, who will be 31 on April 26th, was 14-8 with 4.79 ERA in 186 innings in 2016 before a diagnosis of testicular cancer which he successfully defeated. Last season, he was converted to the bullpen after three starts, and was one of the Rockies’ most effective relievers in May (tied a franchise record for five consecutive scoreless outings, pitching more than an inning in each appearance without yielding any runs despite calling Coors Field home). Subsequently, a right hip impingement that eventually became a torn labrum ended his season and resulted in bilateral surgery in late August. The Colorado Rockies subsequently cut him loose after the season.

Last fall, Bettis was quoted as saying, “I’m going to build up again to being the best reliever that I can possibly be”. I don’t know where his road in Pinstripes will lead but I know that I will be cheering for him. If he doesn’t make the Yankees, I hope another team sees value and brings him to their active MLB roster for the season. Life has dealt Bettis a difficult hand and yet he has continued to overcome the obstacles and I don’t see that stopping now. Here’s to you, Chad. Our wish for much success with your continued MLB journey!

I thought it was great Yankees ace Gerrit Cole received a standing ovation yesterday after throwing to live hitters for the first time this Spring yesterday. This is just a prelude to what we’ll experience when Cole takes the mound in real game action. Very exciting times in the Yankees Universe and suffice it to say we’re all very happy Gerrit Cole is a Yankee. I know, there will be a complete Yankee fan meltdown the first time Cole gives up a homer, but, man, I love our chances for October with Cole leading the charge.

EQ6LnF9XsAI2Qfx
Photo Credit: Twitter, via @ByKristieAckert

I think James Paxton should keep the mustache. After his scruffy look in Seattle, I didn’t think the shaved version last season fit him very well.  While I am not generally a fan of “porn star” ‘staches, I think it gives the Big Maple some character and he should stay with it.

cut
Photo Credit: SNY

Sadly, the Yankees Universe lost a one-time member of the family when former Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez, 57, died this past weekend. He fought polycystic kidney disease since 2017 and had suffered a stroke earlier this month. Fernandez played in 108 games for the Yankees in 1995. He was the starting shortstop entering Spring Training in 1996 when a broken elbow opened the door for Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame career. Rest in Peace, Tony. Your time with us was too short but we are glad you are no longer in pain.

gettyimages-51974172-1024x1024

As always, Go Yankees!

Astros Sorry They Got Caught…

usatsi_14034989_138566172_lowres
Photo Credit: USA TODAY

Fake Remorse by the Cheaters…

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is trash.

It’s no wonder the Astros players resorted to a cheating system that included beating on trash cans to signal stolen pitching signs. Crane set the example from the top of the organization and the trash rolled downhill.

I was angered after listening to the Astros’ poorly organized press conference this week. Despite their preparation a day before, I knew there probably was not anything the Astros could have said or done to gain forgiveness but I felt the entire charade was botched. From the canned brief statements from cheating leaders Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve to Crane’s use of new manager Dusty Baker as a shield, it was truly a clown show. It was absurd when Crane said the cheating did not impact the 2017 ALCS against the Yankees and then turned around less than a minute later to say he never said those words. Huh?

I’ll give the players after the press conference some credit. Carlos Correa, in particular, sounded much better and more remorseful than his teammates.

I think Major League Baseball butchered this by not taking away the deceitfully-gained 2017 World Series championship from the Houston Astros. At this point, you can’t give it to the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Yankees, but, in my opinion, the championship should be vacated. I don’t care there is no precedent for this. Considering we did not personally experience the great Black Sox Scandal a century ago when eight players were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, this is the worst stain of the game in our lifetimes. The players were granted immunity. They should not be allowed to represent themselves as champions.

I am ready to close the book on the Astros and move on. MLB is not going to do anything further to the Astros organization and we can only look forward at this point. However, I do think there will be some residual anger and frustration as players gather in Arizona and Florida.

Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers was very hard on the Astros yesterday when interviewed at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers’ spring training home in Arizona. Per the LA Times, Bellinger said, “I thought the apologies were whatever. I thought Jim Crane’s was weak. I thought Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving them immunity. I mean these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from (Aaron) Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”

38f447cb8bee42bf95e5158f3d199743_xl
Photo Credit: ESPN

Despite the Astros’ claims the cheating was isolated to 2017 and a small part of ’18, Bellinger feels the cheating extended into the 2019 post-season. Bellinger probably said it best, “I know I personally lost respect for those guys. I think I would say everyone in the show, in the big leagues, lost respect for those guys.” I’ll take it further and say baseball fans everywhere, except perhaps for those in Houston, have lost respect for the Houston Astros.

I am not sure we’ll ever get over this, but we do need to move forward. However, I know I’ll enjoy watching the reception the Astros get when they visit different cities this season. They deserve everything headed their way. I am not endorsing physical harm, but let the verbal abuse begin. They created this mess and now they must face the music. I can’t wait for the Yankee Stadium reaction in September when the Cheaters come to the Bronx for a four-game series.

The Houston Asterisks, the Houston Cheaters, the Houston Asstros, the Houston Trashtros, whatever you want to call the worthless collection of scum, are coming to a city near you. Let the booing begin…

Moving on to other topics. The long awaited trade of Mookie Betts and David Price was finally made official this week after the Dodgers had to re-structure the deal. I still feel it wasn’t so much about the medical records of former Twins reliever Brusdar Graterol but more about Boston’s knee-jerk reaction to the poor reception over trading their homegrown superstar and getting minimal in return, thanks to the salary dump of Price. In the restructured trades, the Dodgers kept Graterol, who will fit nicely into the Dodgers’ bullpen with his 100 mph heat, after sending starting pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Twins. Replacing Graterol in the trade to Boston, the Dodgers added prospects Jeter Downs, a childhood Yankee fan named after a recently named Hall of Fame player, and catcher Connor Wong, to accompany the previously agreed upon outfielder Alex Verdugo. Downs, a shortstop/second baseman, was blocked in LA with Corey Seager at short and highly ranked prospect Gavin Lux in line to take over at second. Wong profiles as a backup catcher and the Dodgers have stronger catching prospects in Keibert Ruiz and Diego Cartaya.

I am sure Verdugo and Downs will have their moments against the Yankees in upcoming seasons, but I am glad to see Mookie Betts out of the division. Yankee fans have been moaning how they’ll miss beating up on Price, but I actually think the move to the NL West will be good for him. Regardless of how you feel about him, David Price is a good pitcher. If healthy, I think he has a chance to be much better for the Dodgers. Although Price was a reason the Red Sox celebrated a World Series championship in 2018, his overall tenure in Boston was not favorable. I don’t really buy into the Yankee fans who say they can’t wait to face Price in the 2020 World Series. First, we need to get to the World Series and there is a long road between now and then, but if we are fortunate enough to get there and face the Dodgers, it’s not a guarantee the Yankees would dominate Price. Just because they’ve enjoyed past success against him does not mean that they’ll forever own him. Price is a quality Major League pitcher and he’s motivated to improve. Therefore, you’ll find no disparaging words from me about him. As for Mookie, I am excited that I can finally root for the supremely talented outfielder. I appreciate his play and by all accounts, he is a fantastic person both on and off the field. I have no idea if Betts will be a Dodger for only one season or if he’ll re-sign with them when he hits the free market next off-season, but for now, I look forward to going to Dodger Stadium this season to see two great players sharing the outfield for the Dodgers.

There’s no question the Red Sox are a weaker team today than they were last week.  I think they realize they can’t compete with the Yankees or even the Tampa Bay Rays at the top of the division but I’d say they remain a dangerous team that can make some noise. They need many things to go right, but I wouldn’t totally discount Boston’s ability to snag a Wild Card spot. Once in the playoffs, anything can happen (as long as you aren’t cheating).

This week has been fun, as far as the Yankees go. It was great to see Gerrit Cole wearing Yankees gear, throwing to Gary Sanchez. I love the perfectionist on the mound and it’s clear he is a notch above anything we’ve seen in recent times with no disrespect to Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton or Luis Severino. I thought his words during the Thursday press conference were exemplary, as usual. Cole is quickly becoming one of my favorite players to listen to. No doubt he’s already there with his pitching.

Screen Shot 2020-02-15 at 7.10.27 AM
Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

As one who preached all winter for the Yankees to trade J.A. Happ, it was good to hear Happ say this week that he wanted to stay with the Yankees when he heard the trade rumors. He recognizes his shortcomings in last year’s juiced ball environment and he has been working on making the necessary adjustments. Given we need Happ with Paxton on the shelf for the first couple of months of the season, I’ve warmed up to the idea of keeping Happ for now. It’s possible he’ll be stronger this year than last. I still think he’s a trade candidate at some point depending upon how it goes with Jordan Montgomery, in addition to the eventual return of the suspended Domingo German and maybe a breakout by Deivi Garcia at some point. But as long as he is in pinstripes, I’ll cheer for him. As long as he puts the Yankees in position to win every fifth day, life will be good.

Gary Sanchez’s comment that you could rip his pants off if he hit a homer to send the Yankees to the World Series was priceless with its statement clearly direct at Jose Altuve’s obvious attempt to protect his jersey after last fall’s homer off Aroldis Chapman to end the ALCS.

Screen Shot 2020-02-13 at 4.53.40 AM

The Spring has brought a few more number changes. In addition to J.A. Happ’s recent switch from 34 to 33, Mike Ford dropped 36 in favor of 72 and Thairo Estrada took the departed Stephen Tarpley’s 71. With Luke Voit now wearing 59, the Yankees have a linebacker and an offensive lineman at first base. Probably because of David Cone, 36 seems more like a pitcher’s number to me so I am glad to see Ford grab a power number.

It was funny to see Greg Bird and Austin Romine, in Rangers and Tigers camps, respectively, sporting beards. It seems like the first thing players do when they leave the Yankees is toss the razor.

Z2UGDF5WMVHETKBQGS3UROBPMQ
Photo Credit: Smiley N Pool, The Dallas Morning News

e34ad56d-c5e7-456a-af25-1a2ff7af59cd-tigersautograph_012520_kpm_70
Photo Credit: Kimberly P Mitchell, Detroit Free Press

Now that pitchers and catchers are in camp, we anxiously await the arrival of all position players on Monday. Most are already in Tampa, but the band will officially be together again when President’s Day rolls around. I am looking forward to the first of the exhibition games until the monotony sets in a few weeks from now.  On the bright side, the regular season will soon be here as March 26th is not really that far away anymore. My expectations for the upcoming season are reasonable…total domination and obliteration of the American League (and the NL’s October representative)  by the Yankees will suffice.

As always, Go Yankees!

A Hinch In Our Step…

aj-hinch-020720-getty-ftrjpg_cks183x0gtlt1j2nj7bz3kcn4
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hinch makes first public appearance…

A.J. Hinch will get another opportunity to manage in Major League Baseball.

This is not an endorsement or a belief he said the right things during his interview by Tom Verducci of the MLB Network. In fact, the interview might have raised more questions than answers but I do feel it was the critical first step for Hinch as he tries to rebuild his image and position himself for a job in 2021.

download

There is no doubt Hinch is still very protective of his Astros players even though he is no longer their leader. On one hand, it’s an admirable trait that he’s willing to be the sacrificial lamb for his guys but on the other, his players showed no respect for their manager when they continued their deceitful and illegal practices despite Hinch’s displeasure as evidenced by his use of a baseball bat to two monitors. Hinch should have said something, done something (beyond taking batting practice on the monitors), but I am glad to know he was not in favor of the cheating. His inaction to stop the cheating is not an honorable quality.

I am not really trying to dissect Hinch’s interview. I’ve never been a big fan of his and the perspectives of the fans will be based on our own individual biases. When I think of the smug answers he gave at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS last fall, it does infuriate me. Yet, on a human level, it’s hard to watch a man stripped of the game he loves. I don’t know if he has the proper remorse. He said the things he needed to say to take responsibility and accountability, which I appreciate. However, there are many unresolved questions. Ultimately, it comes across as ‘I am sorry I (we) got caught’.

The 2017 World Series Championship is forever tainted. There is nothing that can be said or done that will absolve the Astros of the sins they committed to take away a potential championship from two teams that, as far as we know, played the game the right way…the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Championships are very hard to come by and we were deprived of the joy and excitement of potentially winning the World Series in 2017.

When the one year suspension is over, I am confident Hinch will be given consideration for a MLB job. Maybe he has to serve as a bench coach first but eventually he’ll be given a managerial post again. I’ve wondered if the opportunity could present itself with the team that fired him, the Houston Astros. There is nothing in the rule book that says he can’t manage the Astros again. Dusty Baker may be the current manager but there’s really no doubt he does not represent the long-term future as the team’s leader. He’s on the last stop of his long career, armed with only a one-year contract. He serves a purpose today, but it could open the door for Hinch’s return. The upcoming season gives owner Jim Crane a year to say they did the right thing by parting ways with Hinch and GM Jeffrey Luhnow but a year from now, there will be talk about how Hinch has served his punishment and his time away has given him the necessary introspection and redemption to resume his role as the Astros manager. If the Astros have a winning season this year without the trash can banging and other illegal practices, it helps Hinch’s case to return. I am not defending Hinch. This is just the reality of the situation. I firmly believe that he’ll see a Major League dugout again regardless of what we think or feel.

I want to see the Astros players take accountability. So far, only former Astros Mike Fiers, the whistleblower, and Dallas Keuchel have stepped forward. Houston pitchers report to Spring Training next Thursday, and the players (the heart of the conspirators) report a week from Monday. We’ll be watching closely as the players are asked about their involvement and I think it behooves the Astros organization to hold a press conference with key team players to address the elephant in the room sooner than later.

The Astros play their first Spring game on Saturday, February 22nd in West Palm Beach, FL against the team they share FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, the defending World Champion Washington Nationals. It will be interesting to see what type of reception they receive from the crowd. It’s too bad the Astros don’t come to Steinbrenner Field for any games during the exhibition season. The first regular season road crowd the Astros will face is the Oakland A’s on Monday, March 30th (they open the season at home against the Los Angeles Angels). I really hope the Oakland crowd, not one to hold back their feelings, lets the Astros players have it with their vocal displeasure.

gallery_medium
Photo Credit: Scott Strazzante, San Francisco Chronicle

Baseball continues to sit in limbo with the Mookie Betts trade. I feel badly for the players involved. Spring Training opens this coming week and Mookie has no idea if he needs to head for Arizona or Florida. On Tuesday night, it was reported the Boston Red Sox had agreed to send Betts, a free agent next off-season, and part of David Price’s contract (with the pitcher attached to it) to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Red Sox would receive young Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo and Minnesota Twins pitcher Brusdar Graterol. For Graterol, the Dodgers dealt pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Twins. Standing behind this pending trade is the Dodgers’ pending trade of outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Ross Stripling to the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo and prospects.  Four days later and the trades have yet to be finalized due to Boston’s concerns about Graterol’s health. The Dodgers got to go to arbitration to make their negative arguments against Pederson on Thursday, winning the case, so it’s hard to think Joc has warm, fuzzy feelings about his present/former team after a week of limbo and negativity.

The Red Sox, based on Graterol’s medical evaluation, are pushing for additional compensation. The Twins are resisting and the Dodgers do not seem willing to send any of their prospects to close the deal. It seems like the deal will eventually go through, perhaps as soon as today with the Player’s Union and agent Scott Boras coming out publicly to demand closure. So long as the Twins did not “hide” any medical knowledge about Graterol, I think the Dodgers should step up and send a quality prospect to Boston if they truly want Betts.  In no way should they send a top prospect like second baseman Gavin Lux, catcher Keibert Ruiz, or pitcher Dustin May, or even the well-named infielder Jeter Downs, for only a year of Mookie.  But a prospect with some potential makes sense.

When the trade finally goes down, the Red Sox, for the short-term, will be worse. Perhaps they’ll be stronger for the long run. The elimination of a significant chunk of Price’s contract and the money owed to Betts for the 2020 season will allow them to reset luxury tax penalties.  For me, it’s hard to fathom trading one of the game’s best players. I get the fear of losing a top player to free agency without a quality return but you have to look no further than the Washington Nationals to see a team that kept star players through the end of their contracts in two successive years, only to watch them leave (Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon). For the Nats, it paid off with the latter who helped deliver a World Series championship to the Capitol City.  Not that the Red Sox are a legitimate World Series contender this year, with or without Mookie, but it does seem odd when a big city team screams small market poverty.

There’s a chance the Betts trade could fall apart altogether. I doubt it and it would be very awkward if Mookie and Price have to show up in Fort Myers, FL.  Hopefully the trade gets done today or tomorrow at the latest.

Mookie-Betts-trade-reaction

Based on MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s words this week, we should expect news of the Red Sox investigation before teams start reporting to camp on Thursday.  I am not expecting much in the way of penalties against Boston but I hope their former manager Alex Cora receives no less than a two-year suspension. A lifetime ban would be better. Unlike Hinch who did not support the cheating but did nothing about it, Cora was an active conspirator with the players, perhaps its ring leader, and the proven liar should receive harsher treatment than Hinch. How the Commissioner handles Cora’s involvement as an active participant in the cheating scandal sets the tone for MLB’s future tolerance of dishonest play. Be a man, Manfred. Eliminate the game’s cancer.

I guess I should touch on the Yankees since this is a Yankees blog. Like all of you, I was disappointed to hear the news about James Paxton and how the lower back surgery to remove a cyst will keep him out of action until late May or early June. It certainly shows why J.A. Happ, now sporting number 33, has remained on the Yankees roster. I had expected Happ to be traded before Opening Day but at this point, he will accompany the team to Baltimore for the March 26th opener.  I have my doubts whether he’ll end the season as a Yankee.  I can’t see the Yankees allowing him to reach the milestone to kick in the 2021 option on his contract (165 innings pitched or 27 games started). I also can’t see the Yankees sitting Happ to keep him from reaching those milestones. I think they’ll find a way to move Happ at some point without sacrificing his ability to trigger the 2021 option. It makes too much sense to eliminate all or part of the money owed to Happ to create opportunity for younger, cheaper arms.

For the short-term, keeping Happ is fine. It opens the door for Jordan Montgomery to grab a spot in the rotation. If everyone was healthy and Happ still on the roster, it most likely would have meant a trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for Monty. But now, he seems to be the odds-on favorite to head north with the big league club. While it is possible that we’ll see Deivi Garcia, Michael King, and/or Clarke Schmidt make their Major League debuts this season, I feel their time will come later in the summer.

I do hate the talk that James Paxton (and the suspended Domingo German) will be like ‘trade deadline acquisitions’. The team will be better when they return but they are not deadline acquisitions…just like Gleyber Torres is no longer 22. The downside or risk is potential injury to other starters before or when Paxton and German return, making them replacements instead of additional starters.  Paxton will easily slide back into the rotation (obviously), but German’s future probably depends upon how well Montgomery does. I am hoping Monty grabs his rotation spot and does not let go.

L3YO67ELQVC5VGYQROJQFM7ZAM
Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky, AP

As teams are scurrying to bring in veteran players on minor league deals, I thought the Yankees would be more active than they have been. The latest veteran receiving a MiLB deal from the Yankees with Spring Training invitation is former Cleveland Indians reliever Dan Otero. Not exactly a name to get excited about. With Paxton headed to the 60-day Injured List to start the season, it seems like now would be a good time to ink Taijuan Walker or Aaron Sanchez to a minor league deal. The bloom is off both pitchers but they once held great promise and are still young. Both are summer of ’92 babies, making them 27 years old to start the season. I like the upside potential, especially if they come to camp on a minor league contract. As The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch likes to say, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal.

It was great to see Gary Sanchez, Adam Ottavino and Gio Urshela on The Michael Kay Show yesterday. I am ready to see our favorite Pinstriped players voice their words and thoughts from the grounds of Steinbrenner Field in Tampa and watch them prepare for the championship 2020 season. And, oh yeah, Gerrit Cole is a Yankee.

MLB: New York Yankees-Gerrit Cole Press Conference
Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran, USA TODAY

As always, Go Yankees!

Help Wanted: Managers for Houston, Boston, and Queens…

3847573_whoshiringtn

Managerial Dismissals in Triplicate…

This has been quite the week in the Major League Baseball. I thought Januarys were for the ‘quiet calm’ before players begin heading to their respective Spring Training homes in Florida and Arizona next month.

In the span of four days this week, three Major League managers had lost their jobs.

Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros, fired manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow almost immediately after MLB announced the penalties on Monday against the Astros for their involvement with the electronic sign stealing cheating scandal. Like New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, who sat out the 2012 NFL Season as punishment for his role in the infamous bounty scandal, I thought Hinch would have a one-year vacation and return to the dugout in 2021. Fortunately, Crane stepped up to do the right thing. Sever ties. I have no doubt Hinch is a good manager, but he allowed cheating on his watch and that’s inexcusable. Perhaps he’ll get another shot to manage one day but for now, it’s time to pay the piper.

AJ-Hinch
Photo Credit: David Zalubowski, AP

On Tuesday, before MLB has completed their investigation of the Boston Red Sox for cheating allegations, the team announced they had mutually agreed to part ways with manager Alex Cora. Credit to the Red Sox for getting in front of this. Based on the MLB report, Cora was a ringleader for the electronic cheating conspiracy. Unlike Hinch, who simply knew about it and did nothing, Cora’s fingerprints were all over the ideas and actions that led to the cheating schemes. I will be very disappointed if Cora’s suspension does not exceed the one year suspension given to Hinch. Many are calling for a lifetime ban. I might not go that far but it should be for multiple years.  We do not yet know the details of how he implemented his dishonest policies with the Red Sox during their championship run in 2018 but clearly Cora has brought great shame to the game of Baseball. Say what you will about Red Sox owner John Henry but like Crane, I am glad he took action against a guy who was very popular with the Boston players and fans. Singling Cora out, his actions are worse than anything Pete Rose ever did and we know that Pete received a lifetime ban. I think Rose is a miserable human being but I guess if Cora does not receive a lifetime ban, MLB should perhaps reconsider their ban on Rose. Personally, I am okay if Rose, one of the best players I’ve seen play, does not make the Hall of Fame until the year after his death, but maybe this whole electronic cheating scandal is causing me to soften on my hardline stance against Rose. Cora is clearly the worst of the two.

R62CPDRWIMI6VEESX3J35UQMDM
Photo Credit: Jim Davis, Boston Globe Staff

For a couple of days, there was speculation about whether or not New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran would retain his job. Holding the position for only two months, I am sure Beltran had been so excited to go to Spring Training with the Mets as their new manager, achieving a huge professional goal for his post-playing career. By Thursday, it was over. In another “mutual” decision, the Mets and Beltran parted ways. Some believe that Beltran could have kept his job if he had come out publicly to explain his role in the cheating scandal and to plead for contrition and absolution. As much as I had admired Beltran, the player, I felt it was impossible for Beltran to continue in a leadership role. As the only player identified in the MLB report, he was heavily involved with Cora in developing the schemes that have compromised the integrity of the game. If a manager cannot uphold trust and integrity, there’s no place in the game for him. As such, I felt Beltran had to go. I am glad the Mets reached the same conclusion even if they somewhat bungled their telephone press conference in making the announcement.The Mets will be the Mets. On one hand, you do feel bad for Beltran who was stripped of a dream of a lifetime, but on the other hand, he is responsible for his own actions.

1185521575.jpg.0
Photo Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images

The biggest losers of this mess might be the Mets. The Mets organization was not an active participant in the cheating scandal like the Astros and Red Sox. During the off-season, they had a chance to get a good manager in former Yankees manager Joe Girardi who preferred to stay in New York. But for whatever reason, they opted to take a chance on the inexperienced Beltran and now they’ve paid dearly for it. I’d like to see Mets bench coach Hensley Meulens finally get his managerial opportunity but Buck Showalter would be a great choice too. While I am 100% on Team Aaron Boone now, Meulens was the guy I had wanted for Yankees manager when it was announced after the 2017 season that Girardi and the Yankees would be parting ways. In retrospect, particularly with how this off-season has played out, I am so very glad that Aaron Boone is manager of the New York Yankees. But I digress. Meulens is a great baseball man and deserves an opportunity. I think he would be very good for the Mets or any other MLB team as their leader.

cut (1)

While I look back at 2017 as water under the bridge at this point, I totally get the fans who feel the Houston Astros should be forced to vacate their World Series championship. At this point, there’s no way to say the Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers should be anointed champions. It would be very hollow at this point. I feel bad for the guys who lost chances for a legitimate championship like CC Sabathia and Clayton Kershaw. Even Todd Frazier expressed regret this week for what could have been with the 2017 Yankees. But over two years later, there’s no way to settle a debate about who should have been the champions. At the very least, MLB should have taken the championship away from the Astros since it was dishonestly achieved. I know there is not a precedent in MLB for the removal of a championship, but this is a special circumstance that showed the Astros used an unfair advantage to claim the crown.

I will be glad when MLB completes its investigation of the Red Sox and we can move on. I am hopeful MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred makes it clear that future violations will not be tolerated and will automatically result in lifetime bans. It is very important to bring the trust, confidence, and integrity back into the game. No man, no team is bigger than the sport. This has been the darkest chapter of Major League Baseball in my lifetime which is significant considering many of us lived through the era of PEDs and steroids. Baseball is better than this, and we shall overcome.

In other news, the report about the possible renaming of East 161st Street for the one block in front of Yankee Stadium to Jeter Street received some buzz this week before all hell broke loose about the cheating scandal.  I am not sure what I think about this. There have been so many great Yankees. I know Derek Jeter ranks among the greatest Yankee legends but he’s not bigger than a few of the names. I also see him as the CEO of the Miami Marlins. I don’t really care to name a street after the CEO of another team regardless of what he did for us.  Jeter is going into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee.  His number is retired by the Yankees and he has his place in Memorial Park. It should be enough, in my opinion.

I still have my doubts that Jeter will be an unanimous selection like Mariano Rivera last year. He may be leading the vote with 100% right now, but I think the final votes will bring at least one voter opting to exclude Jeter. Sure, I get the decision to re-name River Ave after Rivera. He was the greatest closer in MLB history and the first unanimous Hall of Fame selection. However, let’s face it, Jeter was not the greatest to ever play his position. We owe him very much for the great years he gave us and what he meant to so many Yankee teams and championships, but I don’t feel that it extends to naming the street by Yankee Stadium after him. I know, I was never Jeter’s biggest fan and most of you feel that he is a God, but I simply feel the Yankees are more important than any single player. Jeter was great but today we have Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge who both have chances to chisel their names alongside the great legends who have worn pinstripes. I appreciate what they mean today and can do for the Yankees going forward.  Are we going to name future streets after them when all is said and done? Where does it end? I already think the Yankees have retired too many numbers.

Outside of signing Gerrit Cole and bringing back Brett Gardner, it’s been a very quiet off-season for the Yankees. LHP Stephen Tarpley is the latest ex-Yankee after he was designated for assignment when Gardy’s deal was officially announced and subsequently dealt to the Miami Marlins for third baseman James Nelson. Nelson has had a few disappointing years in minor league ball since opening some eyes in 2017. Last year, he hit .228/.279/.296 with four homers and 36 RBIs for the Marlins’ Class-A affiliate in Jupiter, FL. He may never amount to anything but the guy is only 22. I am interested to see if the Yankee instructors can help him tap into some of the potential he showed a few years ago. It’s not like the Yankee Farm System is overflowing with great third base prospects. I’d love for Nelson to achieve success with the Yankees. The organization has certainly been good for former Marlins prospect Michael King. I’d include Domingo German but for obvious reasons, I will abstain.

NelsonPOY1.3-640x320

Nelson was Miami’s 2017 Minor League Player of the Year but hasn’t been the same since he suffered a meniscus injury prior to the 2018 season. Nelson has ties to a former Yankee. He is the nephew of Chris Nelson who played 10 games at third base for the Yankees in May 2013.

The Yankees get credit for the first full-time woman coach when they brought in minor league hitting coach Rachel Balkovec, but the San Francisco Giants one-upped them they announced the hiring of Alyssa Nakken as the first full-time female coach at the Major League level. Nakken and Mark Hallberg, who also was promoted by the Giants to MLB assistant, will not be in the dugout during games, but they’ll assist the other coaches during pre-game and will help foster “a clubhouse culture that promotes high performance through, among other attributes, a deep sense of collaboration and team”, according to Giants manager Gabe Kapler. Congrats to Alyssa and I look forward to the day that she is in uniform during games as part of Kapler’s staff if she proves to be successful in her role.

090g7x86fyx5vua2

As for former Giants player Aubrey Huff who criticized the team for Nakken’s promotion, STFU. I think this is a great step forward for MLB and I am excited to see what groundbreakers Balkovec and Nakken can do and hopefully open doors for others through their achievements.

As always, Go Yankees!

Better Pitching Equals Better Results…

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!

The Failure to Get A’s…

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!

The Baseball Season Did Not End July 31st…

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Destination: World Series Championship is alive and well…

Admittedly, I was very disappointed with the trading deadline. I felt it was a missed opportunity to provide enhancements for the team. The Houston Astros are a very good team from top to bottom, and they are led by a very smart manager. I know I will not underestimate them nor will I compare them to a rotation-strong Tiger team that couldn’t win when it mattered. Nevertheless, Houston did not secure a guarantee of October success with their moves.

I do wish I had better confidence with the return the injured Yankee players. It’s being reported that Luis Severino will finally return to the mound next Friday as he begins his rehab back to the Major Leagues for possibly September. Honestly, he is a setback away from not pitching for the club at all this year. I am trying to keep my expectations low, but at best, he appears to be help for the bullpen barring no further setbacks. There does not appear to be sufficient time to get him stretched out for a starting role, or if he comes back to start, he’ll be like one of the starting pitchers who miss Spring Training and then struggle mightily. Still, I’d rather have Sevy on the post-season roster than not.

Photo Credit: Severino40 on Instagram

Maybe Dellin Betances can come back and recapture his 2018 effectiveness. It does not exactly feel like a sure bet. I probably have more confidence in Dellin at this point than Sevy but we’ll see. The Yankees really need both if they are to win the 2019 World Series. It’s not impossible but it would clearly help.

I am not even sure what to think about Giancarlo Stanton. If he hasn’t even begun baseball activities, I don’t see his return anytime soon. And when he does come back, there is the inevitable struggle to recapture his timing. In other words, we’re looking at some painful at-bats until he becomes the Giancarlo we all know and love.

It’s not great news the Yankees could be without Luke Voit for up to six weeks, a certainty if he does have surgery for his sports hernia. But at least the Yankees have Edwin Encarnacion and DJ LeMahieu to cover first base, and Mike Ford waiting in the wings at Scranton for support. When I saw the San Francisco Giants had designated Tyler Austin for assignment yesterday, my immediate thought was potential help for the Yankees. But I think that was just a sentimental feeling. While I think some team with a higher priority claim will take a shot at the former Yank, I don’t care for Austin’s splits and although he has some power, I think the Yankees have better options in-house. I really thought a trade for Justin Smoak at the trading deadline made sense, but if you truly believe the injured guys will be back, there’s not necessarily any long term room on the roster.

Oh well, the Yankees didn’t get the needed help for the rotation. It sucks but it is what it is. Time for the starters we do have to step it up. Domingo German has certainly earned his standing among the top five. After allowing the first-inning  two-run homer to JD Martinez last night, James Paxton pitched like we know he can in holding the Red Sox to two hits and those two runs over six innings. This is the Pax we need down the stretch. If only he can overcome those first inning jitters. First innings with Paxton are becoming very painful to watch. I still have hope that Paxton can come up big in October. Despite his struggles, I do not believe this to be a ‘Sonny Gray-like’ situation. I think Pax will have his huge moments in Pinstripes. The talent and the desire are there. Pax just needs to find the answer within himself and I am confident he will.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

J.A. Happ continues to concern me. I think it was his spot in the rotation that I wanted to see upgraded. His three-year contract is starting to worry me a bit. Technically, it is a two-year deal with an option, but the third year vests with 165 innings pitched or 27 games started in 2020, which, if he stays in the rotation, should be easily achievable. Frankly, I hope the Yankees can find a way to move Happ in the off-season and find a better option, but they’ll have to send a few Benjamin Franklins with him to find a taker.  But for now, Happ needs to find what he had last year at this time. Currently out on paternity leave, hopefully the newly born Happ will help J.A.’s rebirth as an effective Yankees starter.

With CC Sabathia on the Injured List for his knee, a deadline starter would have been ideal but I guess we’ll have to continue with Chad Green, Opener. Green and Nestor Cortes Jr have proven to be a reliable tandem so it’s not the end of the World they have to provide the necessary support. When CC returns, I am not going to go against him. He is a crafty veteran and the final starts of his career will have a very strong impact on him in terms of the desire to go out on his own terms. I am confident he’ll have his magical moment before this is said and done.

It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Masahiro Tanaka, but like the great Andy Pettitte, Masa has a way of raising the bar in October. I have no doubt he’ll be very effective when it matters, even if he continues to give up those annoying obligatory dingers.

For those who think Deivi Garcia is the next Great Savior, my take is not this year. While it has been said he’d be in the bullpen if he does get the call up in September, I doubt he makes a significant difference until 2020 at the earliest. I am not resting any hopes on him. The kid is only 20 and he’s struggled with the promotion to Triple A. I don’t blame him for those struggles. They were inevitable. Rare is the player who can immediately master every level of the minor leagues from the start. I think he’ll be a very good pitcher one day, just not this year. At least not at the big league level. I have no doubt he’ll be frustrating International League hitters by season’s end.

I’ve always liked Aroldis Chapman, but if he opts out of his contract in the off-season, let him go. I am not interested in a renegotiation of his contract. I know Yankee fans either love or hate Zach Britton, but he’d be my choice to take over the closing duties. Not sure if the Yankees will re-sign Dellin Betances, but he’s better suited for setup. He’d be the only other name I’d consider for closer even though I’ve never been a fan of using him in that role despite his limited success. I also think Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle are better in their current roles. The Colorado Rockies tried Otto as closer a couple of years ago without success, but I realize that was before Otto rediscovered himself in his makeshift NYC pitching studio. Still, Otto’s propensity for walks when he doesn’t have his control does not play well in the ninth inning.

I keep reading there’s no way the Yankees sign Gerrit Cole in the off-season and perhaps that’s true. There will be teams like the Los Angeles Angels that will be desperate for starting pitching, particularly for someone with Cole’s resume. I think any chance Houston would re-sign Cole was eliminated when they acquired Zach Greinke and his contract. So, if anything, it gives me some hope the Yankees will be contenders for Cole’s services. We’ll see. Hopefully he doesn’t end the Yankees’ season before we get there.

I was very appreciative of the first inning grand slam by Gleyber Torres last night to answer the home run by JD Martinez and fortunately it held up to give the Yankees a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. Last year at this time, the Yankees started a four-game series in Boston on the exact same date (August 2nd, the anniversary of the death of Yankee great Thurman Munson). The Yankees entered the series in much better position than the Red Sox are in now, trailing the then-AL East leaders by only 5 1/2 games. Boston swept the four-game series which effectively ended the Yankees’ hopes of winning the division. I am really hoping the Yankees can do the same to the Red Sox this year. I remember the defeated feeling I had last year after that series. It’s a feeling the Boston fans should experience this year, in my opinion. I am not really expecting a sweep but taking 3 of 4, especially after last weekend’s disaster in Boston, would be huge. It would also leave the Red Sox severely wounded with their playoff aspirations and three good teams ahead of them in the AL Wild Card hunt.

Since the Tampa Bay Rays had the night off, the Yankees were able to increase their AL East lead to 7 1/2 games. The Red Sox are back to 11 1/2 games behind our favorite team. Too bad, so sad. I’d really enjoy it if the Red Sox players have to make non-baseball plans for October. Time to go for the jugular and race to the AL East title crown. If it happens, I will be so glad the Yankees do not have to play a one-game ‘do or die’ playoff this year. But no Boston baseball in October would almost be as exciting.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

The Yankees play two today. The afternoon game will pit Domingo German, searching for his 14th win, against Chris Sale. It’s been a very disappointing year for Boston’s ace so hopefully the disappointment continues today. In the night cap, Chad Green-Opener will face lefty Brian Johnson. Johnson was activated off the Injured List earlier today. He has been out since June 27th with an intestinal issue. A sweep by the Yankees would obviously leave the entire Red Sox team with intestinal issues.

Before I go and despite the disappointment experienced a few days ago, I am glad the Trading Deadline has come and gone. I was tired of the endless speculation and the ridiculous trade proposals in the minds of many Yankee fans. Next year, I’ll be in favor of moving the trade deadline to August 15th to help teams better decide if they are buyers or sellers. However, on August 3, 2019, this is our team and this is THE team that can take us to the promised land. To hell with the Astros and anybody else, the Yankees have the players capable of delivering champagne in the final MLB game of the year. Let’s do this.

Go Yankees!