Tagged: Reggie Jackson

The Dog Days of Spring…

Less Than 3 Weeks to Opening Day…

I always love the arrival of pitchers and catchers in early February, followed shortly thereafter by the position players. The first images of Spring Training are always a welcome sight after a long, cold winter. The first glimpses of the players on the practice fields near Steinbrenner Field, the popping of catcher’s mitts and the sounds of bats as balls leave the yard. But gradually, the excitement fades and the arrival of Opening Day can’t get here fast enough. We’re here now. I am starting to lose interest in watching guys like Trey Amburgey and Isiah Gilliam playing games and want to see the MLB regulars consistently through game’s end.

Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

For the Yankees, hopefully there will be no further injuries this Spring. We know at least three players are headed for the Injured List to start the season. Luis Severino, Jacoby Ellsbury, and CC Sabathia. Sevy is currently in the midst of his two-week shutdown. It was reported yesterday that he isn’t feeling any pain after a cortisone shot. But like a doctor once told me after a cortisone shot, it masks the pain but doesn’t cure the problem. Based on Sevy’s positive words, I am cautiously optimistic that rest is the cure and there will be no further setbacks for him. Ellsbury, after such a late start to camp (expected to arrive next week), will need to stay for extended spring training, assuming he’s 100% healthy even when he arrives (unlikely if you ask me). Sabathia, as we know, had a delayed start this Spring after last December’s angioplasty and has been going a little slower than the rest of the starting rotation.

Two inactive players in camp are already destined for the Injured List as they continue their respective recoveries from Tommy John surgery: Didi Gregorius and Jordan Montgomery. I had been bracing myself for the possibility Gregorius could be out until August but he is seemingly ahead of schedule and we could see him as early as June. Regardless of how well Tulo may be playing at the time, Didi will be such a welcome sight when he is cleared to play. Montgomery is doubtful to provide any meaningful contribution this season. When he is cleared to throw and begins his rehab, he’ll head to the Minor Leagues. I see him as nothing more than a spot starter very late in the season, if at all. Many fans are acting like he’ll be a great trade deadline “acquisition” but honestly I don’t see him pitching any big games for the Yankees this year. Even healthy, he is not one of the best starters and I think it will be next season before he’s truly back and ready to help.

So, in my opinion, Opening Day seems to be pointing to the following roster:

Projected 2019 New York Yankees Opening Day Roster
Catcher Gary Sanchez
First Base Luke Voit
Second Base Gleyber Torres
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki
Third Base Miguel Andújar
Right Field Aaron Judge
Center Field Aaron Hicks
Left Field Brett Gardner
Designated Hitter Giancarlo Stanton
Super Utility D.J. LeMahieu
Bench Tyler Wade
Bench Austin Romine
SP-1 Masahiro Tanaka
SP-2 James Paxton
SP-3 J.A. Happ
SP-4 Jonathan Loaisiga
SP-5 Domingo German
Closer Aroldis Chapman
Setup Dellin Betances
Rest of the Bullpen Zack Britton
Adam Ottavino
Chad Green
Jonathan Holder
Tommy Kahnle
Luis Cessa

This is not necessarily the OD roster I want but rather what the tea leaves seem to be saying according to my eyes. I know many fans can’t let go of the homer Greg Bird hit off Andrew Miller in the playoffs a couple of years ago but Voit deserves the first base job based on last season’s performance (until proven otherwise). As the loser of the first base job, I expect Bird to begin the season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I’ve seen people say one of Voit or Bird should be traded but I do think it would be unwise. As much as I like Voit, he needs to prove last Fall was not a fluke. If not, Bird needs to be ready for the call-up while playing every day for the RailRiders. LeMahieu is expected to be the backup first baseman.

This lineup forces the Yankees to use Stanton in left field more often than they would like. I know I don’t see Brett Gardner as an every day starter anymore but no doubt Manager Aaron Boone will run him out there as often as possible. I still expect Clint Frazier to eventually come up from Triple A to mount a serious threat for playing time but realistically it won’t happen until later this summer if Frazier mashes for the RailRiders unless injuries mandate an earlier call. There’s no circumstance I see Gardy as the starter when the calendar page turns to September.

I am a bit concerned about the nagging little ailments that always seem to bother Hicks. He has been held out of games over the past week due to tightness in his back and is still feeling some discomfort. He is not expected to return to play until next Tuesday at the earliest according to Aaron Boone’s words yesterday. I am hopeful the back does not become a season-long malady. I am sure Hicks wouldn’t have missed as much time if it had been the regular season but there’s still concern (if not the Yankees, at least for me).

Tyler Wade’s speed and versatility (ability to play infield and outfield positions) makes him the most logical option for the bench. If he gets the job, I really hope this serves as his breakout year.

My preferred starting lineup would feature LeMahieu at second, with Torres sliding to shortstop, until Gregorius returns. But hey, what do I know. Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone get paid a lot of money to make those decisions and they’re certainly much smarter and more knowledgeable about the Yankees than I am.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tanaka at the top of the rotation is my speculation that he’ll be named as the Opening Day starter. Otherwise, I’d rate Paxton as the slightly better pitcher (sorry Masa). Sevy is expected to be checked late next week to see if he can resume throwing. Best case scenario, we won’t see him until late April or even possibly early May. The concern here is the potential for further setbacks which would delay Sevy much longer than originally expected. Everyone keeps expecting CC Sabathia to come back pitching like he did last season but that’s not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination. The guy had a stint placed in a heart valve. It’s a serious procedure and we honestly do not know how it will affect him until he actually pitches against live hitting in games that matter. I can’t say that I am too enamored with the heavy reliance upon Loaisiga and German (or Cessa) in the early going. I know GM Brian Cashman has said the Yankees intend to go with the internal options, but really, what else is he supposed to say. Even if he is very interested in signing a free agent arm or acquiring another pitcher via trade, he is not going to tip his hand and show any signs of desperation. It would force the Yankees into an overpay situation. So, while I expect the Yankees to go into the season with Loaisiga and German as starters, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Yankees make another move to bring in a veteran starter. There’s no scenario I see Dallas Keuchel as a Yankee. The money, the years, and the draft pick compensation attached simply do not make any sense. I guess age 31 is the new 41 in Major League Baseball. The next few weeks should be interesting as the 2019 Opening Day Roster takes shape. Inevitably, there is always a surprise or two. We’ll see.

As expected, the Yankees reacquired controlling interest in the YES Network.  Holding 20% ownership in the network, they purchased the remaining 80% from Disney with the help of other investors, including Amazon, Blackstone Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group, for $3.47 billion. The transaction presumably increases the Yankees’ stake in YES to 30% and controlling interest among the financial backers. I’ve seen many fans complain about the Yankees’ investment in the YES Network over signing former free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado but, in my opinion, one does not affect the other. I don’t think the YES Network acquisition impacted the decision not to pursue Harper and Machado, nor do I feel that signing one of those guys would have prevented the purchase. Long-term, for the Yankees, I feel reacquiring control of the YES Network is a wise decision. It does underscore the fact the Yankees are a very valuable franchise and regardless of how one feels about Harper and Machado, a very financially astute one.

The sale does not require FCC approval but it is expected to take 120 days to complete. It was reported the financial partners have their own strategic plans for the acquisition but the Yankees will control programming, and the choice of announcers. We may love baseball but it’s hard to ignore the Yankees are a major business and all decisions are made for the long-term vision and success of the organization.

Speaking of the YES Network, I’ve been very pleased with their decision to have guest announcers this Spring. I particularly enjoyed the recent insight of Reggie Jackson. As a fan who grew up with the famed Bronx Zoo, it was fun listening to Reggie’s stories of those days. I loved Thurman Munson and enjoyed hearing his name again. Willie Randolph did a great job too. David Wells is scheduled to sit in the booth next Friday and Saturday when the Yankees play two of his former teams, the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. Boomer remains one of my all-time favorites and I am looking forward to his appearance.

As always, Go Yankees!

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The Winds of Rumors…

Machado and Harper Remain Free…

Many people, albeit none of the true baseball experts, had anticipated the free agent signing of Manny Machado on January 3rd or 4th and it did not happen. I had been very skeptical of any news yesterday but in defense of those who did strongly believe and had “sources”, I don’t necessarily think they were wrong. Shit happens. Things change.

Recently, The Greedy Pinstripes reported an impending trade of Sonny Gray. I’ve seen comments making attacks because the trade did not happen. The post was made on the TGP site on December 10th. We subsequently found out later in the month CC Sabathia had heart surgery the next day (December 11th) to place a stent in an artery to clear a blockage during an angioplasty procedure. There’s no doubt the development of the news of CC’s health reached the Yankees’ front office at the time they were contemplating a potential trade of Gray. Maybe there was never an impending trade but I feel strongly there may have been. The trade was reconsidered when the Yankees realized they needed a backup plan for Sabathia.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Bill Kostroun)

GM Brian Cashman said as much yesterday on a conference call with the media after the announcement of the signing of shortstop Troy Tulowitzski to a one-year deal. “The CC circumstance certainly has given us pause because we want to make sure we are covered and protected,” Cashman said during the call. “When it developed it slowed down my conversations with intent because we had to see how this played out first.  Once he has these follow-up appointments, I’ll be in a much better position to either fully engage the conversations we’ve had or continue to slow-walk while we make sure CC’s health is taken care of, that is first and foremost.” Based on these words, there is no doubt in my mind that Cashman pumped the brakes on trade talks involving Gray. Having a stent placed in a heart artery is a serious matter, especially when you are only 38 years old. Life is more important than the game of baseball (with no offense to those of you who may believe otherwise).

I am not excited about Gray’s presence on the roster but to have the belief Sabathia will be fine by Spring Training is foolish thinking. All things considered, I’d rather have Gray on the roster as opposed to relying upon Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, Chance Adams, and others to fill the void if CC is not ready to go. Of the bunch, I probably have the most trust in Loaisiga but until he can prove the ability to stay healthy, I am not going to place 100% trust in the man. I wanted Gray gone as much as anybody but based on the present roster configuration, I’d rather go into the 2019 season to see how Gray performs. He’ll certainly have a chip on his shoulder with something to prove. He has the talent. If he could become the Sonny Gray of old, that’s one helluva Number 5 starter. At worst, it is a great bullpen option for a long man/spot starter.

This leads me back to the current Machado rumors which failed to come to fruition this week. Everyone seems to be attacking those who cited “it’s happening” and I think that’s wrong. Just because Machado didn’t sign last week does not mean he won’t eventually sign with the Yankees. Maybe he never gets an “official” offer from the Yankees and signs elsewhere. Oh well, shit happens. I have no doubt Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, has bounced numbers off Cashman during telephone conversations to give the team an indication of what it would take to bring Machado to the Bronx even if no formal offers have been made. Orioles blogger Dan Clark has been one of the biggest “Machado to the Yankees” proponents.  Either Dan has a very strong source to back his belief or he is pulling one of the biggest troll jobs in recent memory. Either could be true. But I am not going to attack Clark. He has his reasons for his claims. We need to see how this plays out but even if Machado signs elsewhere, it does not necessarily mean Clark was wrong. He acted on information made available to him. He believed it to be true (or not) at the time of his posts.  Shit happens. Things change. If Machado signs with the White Sox or Phillies or another mystery team, it won’t be Clark’s fault.

As for Bryce Harper, it seems to me and a lot of people he’ll resume his career with the Washington Nationals next season. The Los Angeles Dodgers seem intent on going no more than 5 or 6 years which seemingly takes them out of the picture since the Nats are known to have a 10 year deal on the table. Eventually, Bryce’s decision will come down to what’s more important…years or AAV…and where he wants to play. If the Yankees are not in play, it seems to me that Washington would be more attractive to Bryce than Philly if the dollars are the same or nearly equal. The NL East is going to be a very competitive division next season. Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins had better just grab some popcorn and watch the show from their cellar position.

Troy Tulowitzki is officially a New York Yankee. While I have my reservations about the oft-injured shortstop, Cashman proclaimed him as the team’s starting shortstop during yesterday’s conference call. He’d better hedge that bet. I am glad it potentially means Gleyber Torres stays at second base during the absence of Didi Gregorius but I do still feel we need someone like Adeiny Hechavarria in reserve. I am down on Tyler Wade even if the Yankees continue to believe in him. Wade can change my mind but he has to prove it. Until he does, I want better.

Watching some of the tweets on Yankees twitter, I had to chuckle when Reggie Jackson suggested Number 22 for Tulo. He first said, “I’m thinking #22 is available? Rocket wore it when he was here.” A few minutes later, he said, “Oops ! I missed that one forgive me on that on Tulo. A senior moment ! Ha !” Don’t worry, Reggie, we’ve all forgotten about Jacoby Ellsbury.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Robert Sabo)

I still think Number 12 makes the most sense for Tulo. Tyler Wade has even offered to give it to him free of charge. The assumption is Wade will take Neil Walker’s #14 if Tulo takes #12. Personally, I am intrigued with the number 72 since it contains the numbers of both Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter. That’s why I loved the Mantle/Lou Gehrig number Ronald Torreyes previously wore with 74. Hey, the Yankees are running out of numbers. We have to get creative. I feel bad for the 2219 Yankees. They’ll be wearing triple digits on their backs.

To make room for Tulo, the Yankees designated RHP A.J. Cole for assignment. This was an inevitable move although I had thought outfielder Tim Locastro might have been set loose. Someone will grab Cole on waivers so hopefully Cashman can move him for cash or a player to be named later to get something. The Yankees also signed CF Billy Burns to a minors deal. Burns, 29, is nothing more than a depth piece for Triple A. The Atlanta native was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals and has spent time in the A’s and Royals organizations. More than a few people have referred to him as 2019’s Shane Robinson. I really hope that Burns does not see the amount of time in the Bronx that Robinson, now in the Phillies organization, saw last year.

The Cincinnati Reds have made former Yankees prospect Caleb Cotham an assistant pitching coach. The 31-year-old Cotham was traded by the Yankees, along with Eric Jagielo, Rookie Davis, and Tony Renda, in the December 2015 trade with the Reds that originally brought Aroldis Chapman to New York. Cotham, like Sonny Gray and current Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson, has connections to Vanderbilt. Best of luck in your new career, Caleb!

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Pennington)

Let’s forget the trade rumors for awhile and enjoy the weekend! I am fine if I don’t hear the words Machado or Harper for the next 48 hours.

As always, Go Yankees!

All Rise for Home Sweet Home…

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

American League Championship Series

Yankees 8, Astros 1

Astros lead Series, 2-1

CC Sabathia is proving, again and again, that he is the team’s prime stopper in 2017. I almost feel bad since I was among those who left CC for dead. I started to buy into Sabathia early in the season, but when he ran into his bump in the road and time on the DL, I was burying the guy again. Yet, here he is on the main stage, being trusted with the ball in the most dire situations and he has not disappointed. Monday, backed by home runs from Todd Frazier and Aaron Judge, Sabathia reeled off his 10th win (against no losses) following a Yankees loss with an elite 1.69 ERA in those situations as the Yankees put the brakes on Houston’s march to the World Series.  

Aaron Judge draws the most attention when going yard, but the biggest hit was provided courtesy of Todd Frazier. At the trading deadline when the Yankees acquired Frazier, it felt like he was going to be a two month rental before moving on. However, Frazier is showing how much he enjoys playing in the Bronx and seems to be tailor made for Yankee Stadium. I recognize that Miguel Andujar (or perhaps a free agent signing of Manny Machado after the 2018 season) represents the future at third, but Frazier deserves an encore performance in the Bronx next season.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

While the final line for Astros starter Charlie Morton was not pretty, he was pitching great early. After two strikeouts by Morton to start the game, Didi Gregorius got the first hit for the Yankees with an infield grounder to third, but he was quickly erased for the final out when Morton’s pickoff throw to first was a little faster than Didi’s sliding hand. 

It looked like Morton, who grew up as a Yankees fan in Connecticut, was going to have a very good game in this pitching-strong series. Like the first inning, Morton got two quick outs to start the second inning…a line out to center by Gary Sanchez, who jumped on the first pitch, and a strike out of Greg Bird. Then, Starlin Castro hit a weak squibbler toward third that third baseman Alex Bregman tried unsuccessfully to barehand. Carlos Correa retrieved the ball and threw to first, but Castro had already crossed the bag. Aaron Hicks followed with a high fly to left that dropped in for a single. The Yankees had runners at first and second, but those were two hard earned hits so you couldn’t really fault Morton. On Morton’s third pitch to Todd Frazier, he threw a good outside fastball but Frazier reached out and got enough of the bat on the ball with a one-handed swing to power it over the right field wall. The Yankees were up, 3-0.

Credit:  Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Staked to a three-run lead, CC Sabathia appeared to wobble in the top of the 3rd inning. After getting two outs, he walked George Springer. Alex Bregman singled to deep left, but a great throw by Brett Gardner to second base held the runners at the corners. The very dangerous Jose Altuve was up next and Sabathia pitched very cautiously to him before losing him on four balls. The bases were loaded for the Astros, the best hitting team in baseball with runners in scoring position. However, Sabathia got Carlos Correa to pop out to short for the final out. Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. Excellent job by Sabathia to get out of the inning unscathed.

Greg Bird led off the bottom of the 4th with a fly to left that bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. Left fielder Cameron Maybin came running up to catch the ball but then pulled up at the last moment before the ball hit the ground and became a souvenir in the seats. After Starlin Castro grounded out to third, Aaron Hicks hit a fly to right which Josh Reddick caught on the warning track but Bird was able to tag and move to third. Todd Frazier walked to bring up Chase Headley. Headley hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve in shallow right and reached when Altuve bobbled the ball. Frazier was safe at second and Bird scored on the play. Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch on the left knee to load the bases, which brought Astros manager A.J. Hinch out of the dugout with a call to the bullpen. He brought in Will Harris to replace Morton. With Aaron Judge batting, Harris threw a wild pitch and the runners advanced, pushing Frazier across home plate to score the Yankees’ fifth run. Judge finally broke out of his ALCS slump when he blasted a line drive into the left field seats for three more runs. The Yankees had increased their lead to 8-0.

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Astros threatened again in the top of the 6th inning. Carlos Correa started the inning with a hard grounder that deflected off the glove of Didi Gregorius to safely reach first base. After Sabathia recorded two outs, Marwin Gonzalez hit a grounder to Gregorius and reached base when Didi lost his footing and overthrew Greg Bird at first. Correa moved to third. After a visit to the mound by Larry Rothschild, Sabathia got Josh Reddick to hit a soft grounder back to the pitching mound that CC was able to field and throw to first for the final out. The shutout remained intact for the great 37-year-old Yankees lefty.

For Sabathia, his day was finished. Adam Warren took over in the top of the 7th.  It didn’t start well when he walked his first batter, but he settled in and retired the next three batters to push the game to the 8th inning. Warren was back out for the 8th and retired the Astros in order.

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

It was inevitable that we’d see Dellin Betances at some point and Joe Girardi decided his time was the top of the 9th inning to seal the deal for the Yankees. It was a great opportunity for Betances to earn redemption and show that he can be a trusted arm for the duration of the playoffs. Unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity for Betances who walked the first two batters he faced and was pulled.  

Credit:  Getty Images

Tommy Kahnle was brought in. Cameron Maybin greeted Kahnle with a single to left to load the bases.  Kahnle struck out George Springer for the first out but then he walked Alex Bregman which pushed Marwin Gonzalez across the plate for the Astros’ first run (a run charged to Betances). Bases still loaded for likely AL MVP Jose Altuve and only one out. Kahnle came up big when Altuve hit a grounder to second baseman Starlin Castro who stepped on second and threw to Greg Bird at first to complete the double play. Game over. Yankees win!

Granted, Judge’s home run was huge. While I still feel that Frazier’s bomb was the difference-maker (offensively), the play of the game occurred in the top of the 4th inning when Marwin Gonzalez led off with a fly to right that took Aaron Judge to the wall. Judge reached up to catch the ball as he crashed into the wall and fall to the ground. It was an incredible catch to rob Gonzalez of a potential home run. Of course, it brought the obligatory questions of who was hurt the most…Judge or the wall…but it was the play of the game in my opinion. The Yankees were holding the three-run lead at that point courtesy of the Frazier home run, and a rally by the Astros in that spot would have made it a much different game.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

Judge, proving his glove is as powerful as his bat, also made a diving catch of a line drive hit by Cameron Maybin in the fifth inning.

Credit:  Robert Sabo

I can’t say enough great things about CC Sabathia. Time and again, he has proven to be a crafty veteran who simply knows how to win.  He’s faced his share of adversity but continues to overcome. Like Frazier, I think that CC Sabathia was earned a spot on the 2018 Yankees.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Yankees now turn Game 4 over to the forgotten Sonny Gray. Like Betances (who failed his ALCS audition), this is a chance for redemption for Gray. We know that he will be a huge part of future Yankee teams but this is his time to grab the moment and make his mark in New York. Gray (10-12, 3.55 ERA) will be opposed by Lance McCullers, Jr (7-4, 4.25 ERA). Don’t let the ERA fool you, McCullers, the son of a former Yankee, has been very tough on the Pinstripers. This game should be a classic. Hopefully, Sonny Gray rises to the challenge to craft an exciting first chapter of his Yankees post-season career.  

Odds & Ends…

I missed the weekend game (Game 2) due to a preplanned trip. The Yankees failed to tell me that they were going to make it to the American League Championship series earlier in the year when I made plans. A heartbreaking loss is not fun to write about, but I really appreciated the way that Astros catcher stood up for Gary Sanchez after the game. McCann could easily join the throngs who love to bash the Yankees but he’s been nothing but the professional that we came to love during his days in the Bronx.  

I keep reading so many articles that speculate whether or not Manager Joe Girardi will return and how he seems to be edgier around friends and family. Personally, I think he’d be foolish to leave at the dawn of a new era in Yankees baseball. I think he’ll come to an agreement with the Yankees after the season is over to help the Baby Bombers strive for greater heights over the next few years. Honestly, I do not see any viable alternatives and nothing against Yankee coaches like Tony Pena or Rob Thomsen but I think, despite his faults, Joe Girardi is the best man for the job.


Have a great Tuesday! Like Joe Girardi and Joe Torre before him have said, let’s just win one game today. We believe. Go Yankees!

Judge Rules In Favor Of Yanks…

Credit:  Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

Yankees 5, Mariners 1…

Powered by a monster blast from Aaron Judge that nearly reached the back wall of the upper left stands (if not for a fan in the next to the last row), the Yankees won for the second night in a row in Seattle.  Statcast was unable to capture the length of the homer and it was estimated at 440 feet although it seemed longer to most people watching.  It probably wasn’t the game highlight that Mariners starter Andrew Moore wanted to see after the game but he’s not the first nor the last pitcher that will have to wait a very long time to watch a home run ball drop with Judge at the plate.  

The game should have been about veteran lefty starter CC Sabathia (9-3).  Celebrating his 37th birthday, CC had previously never won a birthday start in his career.  Friday night was a different story.  The game didn’t start like it was going to be a good evening for the road gray.  After Moore breezed through the first three of the Yankees order in the top of the first inning, CC ran into trouble after easily retiring the first two batters in the bottom of the inning.  He lost Robinson Cano, walking him on a full count.  Nelson Cruz hit a “loud” single to the left field wall, with Cano racing around to third.  Chase Headley’s inexperience as a first baseman showed with the next batter, Kyle Seager.  Seager hit a grounder that deflected off Headley’s glove and was retrieved by Starlin Castro in shallow right.  Headley went back to first but his foot placement was inch or two off the base.  So, although Castro’s throw to first was in time, Headley’s recovery to move his foot to the base was too late to get Seager.  Cano scored on the play.  Mitch Haniger laced a line drive down the first base line, past a diving Headley, to load the bases.  Fortunately, CC induced Guillermo Heredia to hit an infield grounder, Todd Frazier to Starlin Castro, to force Haniger out at second for the final out.  Whew!

Credit:  Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

After the Yankees failed to score in the of the 2nd despite a couple of hits, Ben Gamel opened the bottom of the inning for the M’s with a double to center past a running Brett Gardner.  Mike Zunino followed with a hard hit liner to left but Clint Frazier made a terrific diving catch for the out and held Gamel at second.  As YES Network Analyst David Cone said, “Young athleticism on display”.  Gamel was subsequently erased at third on a fielder’s choice by Didi Gregorius with a snap throw to Todd Frazier.  CC was able to retire Danny Valencia on a weak grounder back to the pitcher to emerge from the inning unscathed.  

The Yankees were finally able to get to M’s starter Andrew Moore in the 3rd inning.  Chase Headley opened the inning with a double to left center, just beyond the glove of diving center fielder Guillermo Heredia.  Red Thunder blasted a double off the right center wall as Headley circled around to score just ahead of the throw which got away from catcher Mike Zunino.  Clint Frazier tagged on the next play, a fly ball by Brett Gardner to center, and made it to third just ahead of a tremendous throw by Heredia.  A sacrifice fly to warning track in center by Aaron Judge scored Frazier and the Yankees had a 2-1 lead.

With CC Sabathia seemingly gaining steam as he progressed through the innings, the Yankees scored again in the 5th.  Brett Gardner singled on a line drive to right.  Gary Sanchez singled to left, with Gardner moving to third.  Aaron Judge came up and smashed the Andrew Moore offering to left as the ball nearly left the stadium.  5-1, Yankees.  4 RBI’s on the night for Judge.

Credit:  Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

CC opened the sixth but he walked the leadoff batter, Kyle Seager, and his night was done.  I know that CC could have continued to be effective, but the high pitch count in the early innings had Sabathia at 98 pitches following the walk to Seager.  Nevertheless, this is no longer the Tyler Clippard era of the bullpen.  Tommy Kahnle, who might be my new favorite Yankee, came in to strike out Mitch Haniger.  He easily retired pinch-hitter Jarrod Dyson and Ben Gamel for another highly effective inning of work.

The bottom of the 7th saw the 2017 Yankees debut for former Yankees and White Sox closer David Robertson.  D-Rob was the magnificent reliever of old as he retired the side by strikeout.  Welcome back, D-Rob!  We have certainly missed you and  your leg kick.  My only concern about D-Rob pitching the 7th was that he would not be there as a safety net in later innings.  Fortunately, the Yankees bullpen was as good as advertised.  Dellin Betances got into a little trouble with a double by Robinson Cano and a single by Mitch Haniger, sandwiched between two strikeouts, had runners at the corners.  But he was able to get Jarrod Dyson to pop up to third to leave the runners stranded.

With Aroldis Chapman taking the night off due to a non-save situation, Adam Warren came on in the 9th.  The pesky Ben Gamel opened with a single to left, but was eliminated when Mike Zunino grounded into a double play, Gregorius to Castro to Headley.  Jean Segura hit a hard grounder to Didi Gregorius and he threw to Chase Headley for the final out.  The Yankees win!

Credit:  Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Yankees (50-45) were unable to gain ground on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, however, they did move into a tie for second place.  The Red Sox scored five runs in the first inning to back Chris Sale as they beat the Los Angeles Angels, 6-2.  The Tampa Bay Rays fell 4-3 to the Texas Rangers.  The Yankees and the Rays are both 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox.

The Toddfather was the only Yankee without a hit other than the bench players who didn’t get into the game.  So, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for the first T-Frazier blast.

Odds & Ends…

It’s tough watching Ben Gamel have such success in Seattle.  I understand the reasons for the trade but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch him thrive at the MLB level for another team.  I don’t know if he’ll have a Jay Buhner type career but it was comparable circumstances.  Enjoyed watching the tremendous Minor League exploits of the player, only to watch him traded to Seattle for a long and prosperous career.  The two players the Yankees received for Gamel are Jio Orozco and Juan De Paula.  Orozco, 19, a right-handed pitcher, is 2-0 with 2.36 ERA in five games (four starts) for the Advanced Rookie League Pulaski Yankees while De Paula, also a 19-year-old righty, is 2-3 with 5.25 ERA in five games (all starts) for the Short-Season A Staten Island Yankees.  In other words, it is going to be a very long time before we see any payoff for Gamel.  

I liked David Cone’s comments about the Yankees new and improved combination of power arms in the bullpen.  He said that it has reduced the need for starting pitchers to a “soft-tossing lefty to give you three or four (innings)”.  I know that I am loving the bullpen parade of the current crew.  I do not miss the cringing feeling that came with the entry of Tyler Clippard into the game.  But despite the strong pen, the Yankees do need to do something about the starting rotation.  We’ll probably have to live with a few more starts by Luis Cessa (I’d prefer to see Caleb Smith) as I doubt any of the available starters are moved until the last minute before the trading deadline as their current teams seek maximum return.  I have no speculation who the Yankees should acquire other than I don’t want to lose top and highly regarding prospects which probably means the team will have to stand pat or take chances for catching lightning in a bottle with bottom feeders.  I am hopefully optimistic that GM Brian Cashman will surprise me.

Brian Cashman is on record saying that Red Thunder will be returned to Triple A when Aaron Hicks comes off the DL but with each passing game, it is so hard to think that the Yankees most exciting outfielder, behind Aaron Judge, will have to go down.  He has shown he is ready the big time and he has nothing left to prove for the RailRiders.  He is better player, right now, than Jacoby Ellsbury despite the $20 million plus difference being paid to the latter player this year.  Money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.  I hope Clint Frazier stays.

Have a great Saturday!  Let’s keep this winning streak alive!  Go Yankees!

Credit:  Ted S Warren/AP

The Dawn of the New Season…

It seems like we were just getting excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp.  Now, here we are at the end of the Grapefruit League season and awaiting the first pitch to start the 2017 MLB season.

It was a very successful Spring for the Yankees.  It was far better than I could have imagined.  Heading into Spring, we were concerned about Greg Bird.  He hit well late in the 2015 season but missed most of last year due to his shoulder injury.  There was doubt about how he would perform and if the shoulder would hold him back like, say, the way Mark Teixeira’s wrist did.  Bird smashed any concerns that he is ready.  I know that Spring stats do not really mean much, but Bird led the Yankees with 8 home runs and was second on the team behind Gary Sanchez with 15 RBI’s.  He played first base like a veteran and by all accounts, he is posed to be a future star in New York.  I’ve always thought of Bird as a professional hitter and not one who will be susceptible to prolonged slumps.  I am very glad to see that he is ready to fly (no pun intended).

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Credit:  John Raoux, AP

What can you say about Gary Sanchez?  He continued the great success from last Fall without missing a beat.  His bat delivered (5 homers and 16 RBI’s), and do did his arm (.983 fielding percentage in 102 innings worked, with a sub .500 stolen base percentage against him as he threw out 6 runners while only allow 4 SB’s).  He is arguably the most exciting Yankees catcher since Jorge Posada or to place him higher, Thurman Munson.  Good times ahead for the catching position, no doubt.

Aaron Judge held off Aaron Hicks to win right field in the Battle of Aarons.  I feel bad for Hicks because I know that he needs to play every day to be successful.  It’s hard to get into rhythm with limited, spot starts.  But I would have been very disappointed to see Hicks get the right field job over Judge.  At this point, sending Judge down to Triple A serves no purpose.  He has proven himself at that level.  He needs to master the Major Leagues and he can only do that by being here and playing every day.  His ceiling, if successful, is so much greater than Hicks.  Dating back to the days of Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, I love powerful right fielders at Yankee Stadium.

If I was the General Manager of the Yankees, Brett Gardner would be living in a different zip code.  Nothing against Gardner, he’s been a good Yankee but his best days are behind him.  He needs to open the way for younger guys.  I’d prefer to start Hicks in left over Gardner, so I’d find a way to move Gardy even if the return is not ideal.  The perfect scenario would be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and move Gardner to center, but that’s not going to happen with nearly $90 million left on Ellsbury’s contract.

In the starting rotation, Luis Severino won the fourth spot but it was not an overpowering Spring performance.  Last year, Severino chased his first win as a starter without success (he picked up a few wins in the bullpen but was 0-8 in his starts).  I really hopeful that we do not go weeks or months trying to get that elusive first win this year.  Severino has so much potential but he still leaves so many wondering if his stuff plays better out of the pen.  It would be nice if he could prove those naysayers wrong (including me) to become a vital part of the rotation.

Manager Joe Girardi has delayed his decision for a fifth starter.  With three scheduled off days during April including two days in the first week, a fifth starter is not needed until Sunday, April 16th at home against the St Louis Cardinals.  Of the competitors for the fifth spot, only Bryan Mitchell made the Opening Day roster as a reliever.  Chad Green will go down to AA Trenton while Jordan Montgomery will go to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Both Green and Montgomery will have early April starts in the minors for further auditions.  I am sure that Mitchell will get some audition opportunities through long relief.  Mitchell had been my favorite for the rotation but Jordan Montgomery changed my mind.  So, I am hopeful that Montgomery gets the call-up when it is time for the fifth starter.

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Credit:  Associated Press

I was glad to see Chasen Shreve make the Opening Day roster as the second lefty behind Tommy Layne.  Well, technically the third but Aroldis Chapman doesn’t really count since he’s on the mound at the end of games regardless of who is at the plate.  When the Yankees toyed with the minor league signings of Ernesto Frieri and Jon Niese, I was fearful that Shreve would be one of the odd men out.  Perhaps he still is given the Yankees’ propensity for the using the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle to keep the bullpen fresh.  Another young reliever I am happy for is Jonathan Holder.

Utility player Ronald Torreyes won the interim shortstop role while Didi Gregorius begins the year on the Disabled List.  I am not excited about Torreyes in an every day role, but there were limited internal options.  The Yankees will make room on the 40-man roster to bring up Pete Kozma to back up Torreyes, but Kozma has no bat.  It did not make sense for the Yankees to trade for a shortstop since Didi will be back by the end of April or early May, and, unfortunately,  prospect Tyler Wade is not quite ready.  I also didn’t want to see the Yankees slide Starlin Castro back to short.  He is still relatively inexperienced at second and needs to continue his work at the position.  The Yankees obviously agreed as they never played Castro at short during training camp.  Many thought the Yankees should have slid Castro to short to allow Rob Refsnyder to start at second.  I am not sure that Refsnyder, for whatever reason, will ever get a legitimate chance in the Bronx.  He was sent down to AAA for the start of the season with earlier reports that he was on the trading block.

I am not expecting this to be a playoff year for the Yankees.  They could surprise and nab a Wild Card spot but I don’t think this is their year to unseat the Boston Red Sox as AL East Champions.  They are still a year or two away from being a legitimate World Series contender.  I do think this will be a more exciting team than last year’s team from beginning to end.  The Baby Bombers proved that last year when the deadline deals moved Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians, and Alex Rodriguez was released.  It was only a preview of the excitement and energy the younger players can bring, which is further enhanced by the presence of Greg Bird this year.

Despite the quick arrival of the regular season, I am ready.  Play ball!…

Baseball Equipment Laying on Grass

Disappointment replaced by Optimism…

 

After some thought, I’ve come around…

Now that I’ve had time to digest the Friday night whirlwind that brought pitchers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to the Bronx, my initial disappointment was evaporated.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the power potential of Jesus Montero, and I know full well that he’ll be as devastating against the Yankees as Jay Buhner was if not more.  But I recognize that from a position of need, a top of the rotation starter is better than a player without a position.

Ever since I first heard Jesus Montero’s name, it always included a statement that he’d eventually have to find a new position because he would outgrow catcher.  The obvious moves would be to either first base or left field, but last time I checked, both of those positions were occupied by long-term tenants.  Putting an offensive juggernaut at DH is great for offense but it does nothing to help with the defensive aspects of catching or learning a new position.  With Russell Martin in the fold for the foreseeable future, there was no way that Montero would gain the starting position at catcher.  Martin’s ability to handle the pitching staff is simply too important to the team even if his bat is nothing remotely close to Montero.

With Montero, I was always worried about the other young Yankee catchers.  Of course, there’s Francisco Cervelli on the active roster.  If Montero were to take the backup catching job, where would that leave Cervelli?  Most likely playing for the Twins, backing up oft-injured Joe Mauer or someone like that.  I like the defensive reports that I’ve heard about both Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez, but if their path was clogged by Martin and Montero, where did that leave them?  Sanchez needs more time in the minors, but Romine is nearing major league ready status.  With an injury or two, I fully expect him to get his chance to make an impression at Yankee Stadium in 2012.  The trade of Montero ensures that Romine will get his major league opportunity with the Yankees so that’s a good thing.  He doesn’t have Montero’s bat (who does?) but good defense is essential for championships.

Maybe just tell us who the Yankees haven’t talked to…

As for the DH slot, it seems like the Yankees have expressed interest in about everyone.  There have been reports they’ve spoken to the agents for Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui.  There are pros and cons with all three players, but whoever the Yankees bring on board will have to share time at DH with Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, and Derek Jeter so I’d be okay with any of the three.  I’ve always liked the clutch bats of Damon and Matsui, and the swing for the fences power of Pena is nice even if the average is hovering slightly above the Mendoza line.  With all the reports that the Yankees only have a $1 million or two to spend on a DH, I half expect a report that they’ve talked to Reggie Jackson!  Okay, that might be a stretch, but I’d consider letting ‘all or nothing’ slugger Jorge Vazquez.  He does deserve a shot.  If not, the Yanks should cut him loose and let him pursue a team that will.

If Jorge Posada had embraced the DH role last year, he’d be on his way back to the Bronx for an encore performance…

Upon second thought…

As for the pitching staff, my initial prediction about the rotation order was flawed.  I recognize that Micheal Pineda is the clear #2 in the rotation.  I’ve seen Ivan Nova slotted at #4, but I’d still keep him at #3 at least until he gives reason to drop him in the order.  I think Kuroda is a great addition, but he has to adjust to the American League in the most difficult division, while moving from a pitcher’s ballpark to a park that is less forgiving.  So, I’d give Nova time for pinstripes served and put him ahead of Kuroda.  After the former Dodger, it’s anybody’s guess who will win out…Phil Hughes, my personal favorite; Freddy Garcia, probably the better choice among the pitchers in terms of consistency; and A.J. Burnett, the candidate for most likely to depart the Bronx if the Yanks can find a willing trade partner that wants Burnett…and a boatload of cash to pay that ridiculous salary.  What happens if either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances pitches “lights out” in training camp?  This is going to be an interesting battle.

He’s really a cousin of Alcides and Kelvim Escobar?…

Back to Friday night’s trade, I was a bit dismayed when I saw that pitcher Hector Noesi had been included in the trade.  I kept hearing that his ceiling was the back end of the rotation but there was something that I liked about the pitcher.  At first, I didn’t know anything about the “other” Mariner included in the deal, Jose Campos.  But since the initial report of the trade, I’ve come to realize that he has great potential.  At 19, he’s 6’4” and throws in the mid 90’s.  He’ll more than make up for Noesi and fits a better timeline in terms of being major league ready given the high level pitching prospects already in the organization (Banuelos and Betances, for example).  The Curtis Granderson trade has been labeled as a ‘win-win-win’ for all concerned.  Hopefully, this M’s-Yankees trade will meet a similar fate.

What would I expect Bobby V to say?…

Contrary to what Bobby Valentine may think, the Yankees are a better team today than they were last Thursday.  But, I recognize the Boston Red Sox are not done yet.  They signed former Dodger pitcher Vicente Padilla today (a guy I loathe personally) and there’s rumors they could go after Roy Oswalt if they can move payroll.  I still think Boston could be a player for Cubs starter Matt Garza given Theo Epstein’s knowledge of the Red Sox minor league prospects.  Whether Ben Cherington or rather Larry Lucchino would trade with Epstein is another matter.  Still, I think there are changes to be made on both the Yankees and Red Sox between now and training camp.  Last year, I saw a Red Sox friend predict 118 or 119 wins for Boston.  Teams look great on paper, but as they say, the ‘proof is in the pudding’!

Moneyball II, starring Jorge Garcia…

It’s hard to think of the Oakland A’s signing former Yankees starter Bartolo Colon as a low-cost, high reward “Moneyball” kind of move.  At 39, I don’t think there’s really any upside to Colon at this point and in my opinion, he’s not capable of sustaining a full season of starts.  I’d rather have Gio Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill in the rotation, but I guess since those are no longer options, they have to look at the scrap heap that served the Yankees so well last season.

Yes, I know the way to San Jose!…

Speaking of Oakland, I do hope they are successful in their desire to move to San Jose.  As a former San Jose resident, I think it’s very exciting for the city and its metro area to be on the verge of landing both the A’s and the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, to go with the NHL’s Sharks.  I saw that A’s owner bought the famed Hotel Sainte Claire in downtown San Jose.  He already owns one hotel in San Jose so I guess you can’t read too much into it, but he’s definitely positioning himself for the growth and excitement that San Jose could see in the coming years.  I’d be happy with a Stanley Cup Championship this year, but that’s a little off-topic…

I really don’t forsee another 99 losses when you place character first…

I was a little surprised to see the Minnesota Twins sign former Detroit Tigers flamethrower Joel Zumaya.  He suffered his devastating arm injury at Target Field in 2010.  So, in terms of Karma, you’d think that he’d avoid Target Field like the plague.   But I read comments in this morning’s paper about how he was touched by the reception he received from the Twins fans as he left the field that fateful day.  Stories like that certainly make me feel honored to be a Minneapolis resident, but I was still surprised by Zumaya’s decision.  I wish him the best as he begins the Comeback Trail.  Hopefully he can get back to the level he was before.  For the Twins, with Joe Nathan in Texas and Matt Capps scheduled to close games, they need Zumaya as the pitcher he once was and hopefully will be again.

When it’s tough being the son of Donnie Baseball, come home to the Bronx!…

Before I go, I want to say that I am really hopeful that the Yankees organization proves to be a blessing for former Dodgers prospect Preston Mattingly.  I’ve always heard what a great athlete he is/was when he was younger.  I don’t know what happened through his time in the Dodgers and Indians organizations and I realize that he is getting a bit long in tooth for a prospect, but I really hope that he can find some level of success with the Yankees.  It would be very cool to see Mattingly make a debut at Yankee Stadium at some point in the future.  Who knows if it is in the cards, but being a late bloomer is not outside of the realm of possibility when it comes to someone with his bloodline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to believe that we are just a month away from training camp.  I’m excited and looking forward to a great season.

 

–Scott

Return of the Nemesis…

 

It may be brief, but the view from the top is magnificent…

 

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After tonight’s games, the Yankees may or may not be in first place, but at least they started the day that way.  Of course, the last time I was excited about this was at the start of the last series with the Boston Red Sox.  That didn’t end so well for me, and a pink hat and a Red Sox shirt later; the Yanks were back chasing the Sox in the standings.

 

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Once again, thanks to a series sweep of the Minnesota Twins, combined with a Red Sox loss last night, the Yankees were once again tied atop the AL East Standings with Boston (despite the 0-8 mark against same).

 

 

Associated Press

 

The Yankees open a weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim tonight.  Of all the teams I want to face right now, the Angels aren’t one of them.  For whatever reason, the Yankees have historically not done very well against the Angels.  I don’t know the exact stats off the top of my head, but it seems that the team loses more than it wins against those pesky Halos.  I’d like to say that this dates back to the 2002 play-offs, but it has been much longer than that.  I remember teams with Bobby Grich, Rod Carew, and Reggie Jackson giving the Yankees fits.

 

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You can’t say that the Angels’ mastery over the Yankees is because the team doesn’t match up very well against the Angels.  If you compare the starters of Game 4 of the 2002 American League Division Series in Anaheim on October 5, 2002, only Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada remain with their original team (you could consider Juan Rivera but he has switched sides). The Yankees lost that night, 9-5, effectively ending the Yankees’ most recent World Series run.  But despite the roster turnover, the Angels’ domination continues.

 

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I wish I understood the reason, but the Yankees did to figure out the Angels if they want a chance to return to the World Series.

 

 

 

I know, they also need to figure out Baltimore and Boston.  But one thing’s for sure, they know Minnesota!

 

 

For the record, the Red Sox won tonight, so pending the Yankees game against the Angels (which starts shortly), the Sox are up by a ½ game.  Why is it that Boston gets the Royals while the Yankees get the Angels?  It’s so not fair!  😉

 

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I thought the New York Mets’ acquisition of Jeff Francoeur from the Atlanta Braves for Ryan Church was a solid move.  I realize that Francoeur has struggled the last couple of years, but I still think that the “light bulb” will eventually come on and he’ll be every bit the productive player that he showed in Atlanta when he first came up.

 

 

 

I still think that there’s no way that either the Red Sox or the Yankees will trade for Roy Halladay.  Both teams have done such a great job protecting their young talent in recent years, and it would “break the bank” to bring Doc to Boston or New York.  They’ve mentioned the Philadelphia Phillies as the front-runner and I agree with that, or perhaps the St. Louis Cardinals.  I’d like to see the San Francisco Giants become a player but I don’t think they have what it takes to make a deal.  A starting rotation led by Tim Lincecum and Halladay would be incredible, and would definitely be a major roadblock in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ attempt to crush the NL West.

 

Tim Lincecum picked up his 10th win Thursday and took his... (Tony Avelar / AP)

Tony Avelar/AP

 

Luc Leclerc/US Presswire 

 

I am definitely in agreement that the question is ‘when’ Brett Favre joins the Minnesota Vikings, not ‘if’.  He has apparently placed a $30,000 deposit on a condo in Edina, Minnesota.  I am sure that he didn’t do it just so he could go ice fishing this winter.  The Vikings’ single-game tickets go on sale July 20th, so an announcement could be forthcoming prior to that date.  I don’t think it is the right move and I think that Vikings coach Brad Childress will be forced to play Favre the entire season regardless of how he performs.  There would be   a huge stigma attached to the coach who “sat” Brett Favre.  It’s really shaping up to be a ‘lose-lose’ scenario…

 

 

Well, it’s time to go check in to see how Mr. Chamberlain is doing…

 

 

–Scott