Tagged: St. Louis

Weird Win is a Win, I’ll Take It…

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

Yankees survive Tribe on odd play and stellar bullpen…

If it takes a little league homer to beat the Cleveland Indians, so be it. A day after a Yankees rally fell short by one run against the Tribe, I had no issue with the deciding run in yesterday’s tilt being decided on Austin Romine’s lead-off double in the seventh inning that resulted in a run thanks to a couple of errors. Romine’s hit to the gap in the right center was bobbled by Brandon Guyer for the first error as Romine slid safely into third. The relay throw ended up bouncing past Jose Ramirez at third and Mike Clevinger back up the play into the dugout and the umpiring crew awarded Romine home plate for the go-ahead and eventual winning run.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (David Maxwell)

 

For two teams with great hitters and defenders, it was an odd way for a game to be decided. The win allowed the Yankees to go up two games to one in the current series, putting them in position to take the series today before most of the players head for their homes and families for a few days of rest and relaxation.

It wasn’t the greatest outing for CC Sabathia, giving up four runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings against his original team but credit him for keeping it close. Didi Gregorius had staked CC to an early lead with his three-run homer in the first inning. It was Didi’s 17th home run of the year.

The Indians chipped away at the Yankees’ lead, tying the game at four in the bottom of the sixth when Brandon Guyer, who entered the game with a .162 batting average, hit a two-out infield single to third to score runners at second and third. Miguel Andujar’s wide throw pulled Greg Bird off the bag at first to allow Guyer to reach base safely and Bird’s subsequent throw home glanced off the glove of Austin Romine, allowing the second and tying run to score. The hit chased Sabathia, but David Robertson came in to restore order. He walked the first batter he faced but then struck out Yan Gomes to end the inning.

D-Rob pitched a clean seventh inning and Dellin Betances did the same in the eighth.

The ninth inning was filled with a bit of drama. It started when Brandon Guyer led off the bottom of the inning with a pop up in foul territory. Austin Romine went back for the ball and Miguel Andujar came charging in and neither player came up with the ball, with an error charged on Andujar. It looked like it should have been Romine’s ball but the ball drifted toward Andjuar who couldn’t get out of the way.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

It didn’t matter when Guyer grounded out to short, but then Aroldis Chapman walked Cleveland’s top prospect Francisco Mejia, who represented the tying run. Mejia had just been recalled earlier in the day to make his 2018 MLB season debut.  After striking out Yan Gomes, it set up a rematch of the 2016 World Series with Chapman facing Rajai Davis. As the announcing crew reminded us again and again, Davis had homered off Chapman to tie that game, the seventh and deciding game, although the Chicago Cubs eventually won it and the series with Chappy picking up the win. There would be no Davis home run this time around. His fly out to right field ended the game, giving the save to Chapman, his 26th of the season, and the win to David Robertson (7-3). With seven wins, D-Rob has as many wins as Masahiro Tanaka and more than any other Yankees pitcher not named Luis Severino.

Greg Bird continued his recent hot hitting with a sixth inning solo blast off Indians starter Mike Clevinger that had briefly given the Yankees and Sabathia a two-run cushion. It was Bird’s eighth home run of the year.

The game also featured the ejection of Manager Aaron Boone who showed some fire in the top of the sixth inning. After Giancarlo took a called third strike on a ball that hit his hands as he swung, Boone argued that the ball should have been ruled foul but to no avail. The umps were right but it was fun to see Boone fired up. It was Boonie’s second ejection of the season.

Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)

There was some good defensive play by second baseman Tyler Wade in the game (can we DFA Neil Walker already?) although he was unable to make a difficult play in the bottom of the sixth that led to the first baserunner who would eventually score on Brandon Guyer’s two-run single.

The Yankees (62-32) remained 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays took the Red Sox into extra innings before losing the game in the 10th on a walk-off grand slam home run by Xander Bogaerts.

With the Manny Machado rumors subsiding, it appears most likely that he’ll be traded to a National League team which, all things considered, is probably for the best. The rumors involving the Philadelphia Phillies seem the most fervent at the moment, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers remain in the chase. It does seem odd to me that some teams would be willing to part with top prospects for a player they may have no chance to re-sign in the off-season. But then again, if you think you have a chance for the World Series, it might be worth it if you feel that Machado is the difference-maker. I am sure the Dodgers would hate to see Machado end up in Philly. My biggest fear is Machado being traded to the Red Sox so I am anxious for the O’s to send their star shortstop to the NL as soon as possible. Given how much Orioles owner Peter Angelos hates the Yankees, I could see him sending Machado to Boston just to spite the Yankees even if the return for their team was less.

We may soon see Joe Girardi back in a dugout. The St Louis Cardinals surprisingly fired their manager, Mike Matheny, yesterday. Matheny was expected to be dismissed in the off-season but apparently the Cardinals organization became impatient (an uncharacteristic trait for them) as Matheny seemingly lost control of his clubhouse. Joe Girardi has emerged as a favorite to replace Matheny. The Cardinals are currently 47-46 and 7 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and six games behind the second-place Milwaukee Brewers. they are just four games out in the Wild Card hunt. The last time the Cardinals fired a manager during the season was Joe Torre in 1995. I’ve seen the names of Jose Oquendo, Carlos Beltran, and even Jason Giambi mentioned, but Girardi would seem to make the most sense for a team trying to rebound from first half turbulence. Mike Shildt, the Cardinals bench coach, has been named interim manager. Girardi has some connection to the team as he finished his playing career in 2003 with the Cards.

While I realize the sexy names like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner, and Blake Snell are beyond reach for the Yankees, the most likely names that are available just plain scare me (not in a good way). Michael Fulmer, a name that has been connected to the Yankees for months, has been awful this year. I’ve tried to rationalize his performance by the fact that he plays for a bad team, but he was hit hard by the Houston Astros yesterday.  He failed to complete five innings, giving up ten hits and seven runs, as his season record fell to 3-9. There’s no way that I’d want to see the Yankees give up Clint Frazier and/or other top prospects for Fulmer despite his youth, potential and cost-controlled status. Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ have been awful. TGP’s Daniel Burch cites Zack Wheeler as a possibility but that one doesn’t excite me. Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney of the Los Angeles Angels are the most recent names mentioned. There is a very real possibility that the Yankees are unable to find a match for a top starter or two. Other teams are willing to overpay but the Yankees are not. I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I want to see Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Estevan Florial thrive as Yankees, but on the other hand, something needs to give if the Yankees intend to catch the Red Sox in the second half. Boston shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Hopefully the Yankees can win today to send us into the All-Star Break on a positive note. Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.68 ERA) makes the start against Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.23 ERA). It should be a good game and a great day for a victory.

Go Yankees!

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Judge & Stanton Gladly Pay the Power Bill…

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Photo Credit: The Canadian Press via AP (Frank Gunn)

Yanks use the Big Bats to finish Road Trip on winning note…

It’s been a very eventful week in the Yankees Universe.  The Yankees completed a two-game sweep of the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario and finished the latest road trip with a 5-1 record. Tommy Kahnle now plays for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Jordan Montgomery undergoes the knife today for his Tommy John surgery, and a number of young, talented prospects potentially begin their journeys to Pinstripes.

Seriously, MLB should option the Baltimore Orioles (19-41) to the International League and call up the RailRiders to replace them in the AL East. The RailRiders are loaded with Major League talent.

It’s been a great road trip (outside of the loss in the second game of Monday’s double-header in Detroit) and last night’s game was incredible. Sonny Gray, wow!  THIS is clearly the guy we’ve been looking for and NEED for an extended October run.  Sonny may not have gotten the win but he was as critical to the win as he has ever been while representing the Yankees. If he had given up just one run last night, the Yankees lose. I am so glad that Masahiro Tanaka was not on the mound as he would have given up at least his obligatory home run to send the Yankees home with a loss. Sonny’s final line was better than any starting pitcher who picked up a win on Wednesday. Eight innings, 99 pitches, two hits, no runs, a couple of walks, and eight strikeouts. The closest winning pitcher was Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy who blanked the New York Mets on three hits over seven innings, but c’mon, he was pitching to the Mets. Nice job, Sonny. Now if you can repeat this performance in Yankee Stadium, life will be good.

I am grateful for Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for their game-winning home runs in the 13th inning, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that the Sucks! Award goes to Gary Sanchez. He looked pitiful at the plate.  I was so mad when he swung at a pitch well below the strike zone to end the 11th inning with Giancarlo Stanton stranded at third. All we needed was a measly single and Gary chases a stupid pitch.  For the game, El Gary was 1-for-6 with two strikeouts. The ground rule double he hit in the top of the 4th inning allowed him to barely keep his batting average above .200. Aaron Boone keeps saying that Sanchez is close. I hope so because I sure didn’t see that guy last night.

As for Judge, his two-run homer in the 13th inning off Blue Jays reliever Joe Biagini made me about as happy as the kid prominently featured in the TV telecast, dancing in the upper deck of Rogers Centre while holding a handwritten “All Rise” sign.

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There was no doubt Judge’s shot was gone, but Stanton’s homer surprised me. He walloped the ball like only Aaron Judge can do and it looked like a line drive to left that might drop in for a single except the ball never dropped. It was a laser shot into the left field stands. It goes to show you that when Stanton does get hot, American League pitchers will be running for cover.

Unfortunately, despite the win, the Yankees were unable to make up any ground on the Boston Red Sox. The Sox, winners of four-in-a-row, cruised past the Detroit Tigers, 7-1. Boston (43-19) maintained their one game advantage on the Yankees (40-18). It’s amazing the Red Sox and Yankees are the only teams in Major League Baseball with at least 40 wins. As many have said, the Yankees are on a path to 111 wins but if Boston continues its current winning percentage, the Yankees would have to settle for a one-game Wild Card play-off. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians hold a relatively comfortable 4.5 game lead in the AL Central and project out to 86 wins and would enter as a division champ.  That’s sick.

The Yankees have the day off today in preparation for their weekend series with the crosstown Mets. It will be good to see old friend Todd Frazier but I am glad Yankees pitchers have to throw to the Toddfather and not some guy like Miguel Andujar in this series. Friday night’s game will be tough with Masahiro Tanaka scheduled to face Jacob deGrom. Hopefully the Yanks can hold it close to get into the Mets bullpen. I fully expect deGrom to bring his “A” game as there is nothing better than to beat NYC’s best team in New York.  Hopefully Masa was watching Sonny Gray and taking notes.

I haven’t had a chance to gather my thoughts about the Yankees picks in this year’s MLB Draft. I am anxious to read the Meet A Prospect segments by TGP’s Daniel Burch. The Yankees took six catchers including two for their first picks in the first and second rounds (Anthony Seigler and Josh Breaux). Within their first 16 picks, the Yankees took two 6’8” right-handed pitchers (Daniel Bies, 8th Round, and Derek Craft, 16th Round). The 11th round pick, Tanner Myatt, also RHP, is no slouch at 6’7”. The shortest guy in the draft was LHP Dan Metzdorf (5’9”) who was taken in the 38th round.  Go short people!

I was kind of hoping the Yankees would have selected 3B Triston Casas of American Heritage School in Florida. He had shown up as an option for the Yankees on a few mock draft boards. The Red Sox ended up taking him with the 26th pick in the first round. I probably would have liked to have seen him go anywhere except Boston. I was also disappointed when the Atlanta Braves chose Stanford’s Tristan Beck, RHP, in the fourth round. Beck had been a late, back-end of the draft selection for the Yankees last year but did not sign. For as much as I’ve been down on former Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, I was also disappointed when the Detroit Tigers got Roger’s son, Kody, a second baseman, in the third round.

Lastly, I have to pay my respects to the late St Louis Cardinals great Red Schoendienst who passed away yesterday at age 95. While I am a Yankees fan, I grew up with St Louis as the nearest Major League city and it is where I experienced my first Major League game. While I liked baseball up to that point, I think my first game developed the love I have for the game.

Wednesday, May 29, 1974…

The Los Angeles Dodgers, with future Yankee Tommy John on the mound, were facing the St Louis Cardinals at the old Busch Stadium in St Louis. Bob Gibson was on the hill for the Cards, but more importantly (at least for this post), the manager of the Cardinals was Red Schoendienst. I should have recognized the greatness of the manager in the other dugout (the legendary Walter Alston of the Dodgers) but it was Schoendienst that captured my attention on that day. I can’t even tell you why he was so memorable to me that day. Maybe it was his name. Maybe it was the aura of the Cardinals, a very proud franchise that is second only to the Yankees in history, tradition and World Series wins.

The Dodgers won that game, 5-2, and John was the winning pitcher but I went away from the game with a great appreciation and respect for the Schoendienst-led Cardinals. It probably helped that I got to meet and shake hands with Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan “The Man” Musial but I clearly associated the Cardinals with their manager.

Schoendienst, a second baseman, played in the Majors for 19 years.  While he spent most of his time with the Cardinals, he also played for the New York Giants and Milwaukee Braves. Red was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. During the course his career in baseball as a player, coach or manager, he wore a Cardinals uniform for 67 out of 74 consecutive years in the game. To this day, I still can’t think of the Cardinals without thinking of Red.

Farewell to a great St Louis Cardinal and to one of the game’s greatest guys.

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Photo Credit: St Louis Post-Dispatch (Robert Cohen)

The Red Sox have played four more games than the Yankees, thanks to the rainouts, and the Sox play again today. Here’s hoping for a Red Sox loss (finally) against the Tigers. I’d love to end this day with the Yankees only trailing the Sox by a half-game. The Tigers have a decent pitcher on the mound (Matthew Boyd, 3-4, 3.23 ERA) while the Red Sox counter with Jar-Jar Binks, excuse me, I mean Jalen Beeks.

So, Go Tigers, and as always, Go Yankees!

P.S.  A special wish for a safe and successful surgery for Jordan Montgomery, and the all best for his post-surgery recovery and rehabilitation!

O Say Can You CC…

I have to admit that I wasn’t a believer.  I did not think that CC Sabathia could make the transformation from a young dominant power pitcher to a crafty veteran at the top end of a starting rotation.  Weight issues, age, injuries, alcoholism…whatever the cause…I didn’t think he could do it.  He has proved me wrong.  

After Saturday’s 3-2 win over the St Louis Cardinals, Sabathia leads the team with a 2-0 mark, compiling a 1.47 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with 11 strikeouts.  While the most dominant single game belongs to Michael Pineda, Sabathia has been the most dominant overall.  

I had gotten to the point where I thought of Sabathia as a five inning starter.  Yet, here he was on the mound on April 15, 2017 at 36 years of age, throwing 7 1/3 innings, allowing only three hits and one run with just one walk.  He punched out six.  THAT was not the Sabathia that we had come to expect in recent years.  

I am so glad that he has been able to make the transformation.  I don’t know if it is the time he has spent with Yankees legend Andy Pettitte but we tend to hear Pettitte’s name come up a lot in interviews with not only Sabathia but other pitchers when they talk about success.  Pettitte’s annual visits to training camp for a few days always seem to have such a tremendous impact.  I think Pettitte is an assistant on a high school coaching staff these days, but I would love for his return to New York as an eventual successor to Larry Rothschild.  

At the beginning of the year, I felt it was obvious this would be Sabathia’s final year in Pinstripes.  With the youth movement in full bloom, I didn’t see a future for Sabathia or a veteran’s salary in Team Hal’s budget for 2018.  If Sabathia expects to make his 2017 salary ($25 million) next year, I still think it’s unlikely he returns.  He’ll have to take a pay cut to stay and perhaps he will.  But for now, I am just enjoying the ride.  I love watching Sabathia’s accomplishments this year, and I know that he is a huge influence on the younger pitchers.  If Sabathia, Pineda and Severino can continue pitching like their most recent starts, this is definitely a team that can outperform expectations in 2017.  Of course, Greg Bird does need to start mixing in a hit or two.

I was reading an interview with Jordan Montgomery this morning.  Or should I call him “Gumby”?  I had to laugh when I saw him refer to the famous Serendipity 3 on 60th Street as “some dessert place”.  Give him time.  He’ll figure the City out.   If he keeps pitching like we know he can, he’ll be here for a very long time.  

With the inability of Matt Holliday to play on Saturday due to lower back stiffness, I hope this is not a sign of things to come.  His final years with the Cardinals, while he was still playing in the field, came with significant DL stints. I had hoped the ‘DH-only’ role would help preserve his health.  Hopefully, this is just an aberration and he’ll back with bat in hand shortly.  The loss of Holliday did show the significance of having Chris Carter on the roster as Carter provided what proved to be the winning run in Saturday’s game with a run-scoring single in the sixth inning.  

As for Greg Bird, he needs to figure this out soon.  His 1-for-26 start is dreadful.  I remain hopeful that he’ll work through the challenge and will start to hit like he did in Spring Training.  He is too much of a professional hitter for the current sample to be representative of his ability going forward. No offense to Chris Carter, but I strongly prefer Bird at first in any scenario.  I wish that Tyler Austin was closer to returning but he’s not an option for now and there’s no one else in the organization that would be superior to the current duo of Bird and Carter.  Rob Refsnyder is only hitting .192 in AAA and Ji-Man Choi is not on the 40-man roster.  Choi is batting .280 but he has only 2 RBI’s and no home runs.  

I hate to be politically-incorrect, but the words of former Arizona Diamondback Mark Grace resonate in my ears when I think of Bird’s slump.  “A slumpbuster is if a team’s in a slump, or if you personally are in a slump, you gotta find the fatest, gnarliest, grossest chick and you just gotta lay the wood to her. And when you do that, you’re just gonna have instant success. And it could also be called jumping on a grenade for the team.”  Bird, just do it…take one for the team.

Have a great Sunday!  Hopefully, it will be a sweeping success for the Yankees!

I Guess It Was In The Cards…

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Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

The World certainly looks better when the Yankees are winning.  We have our  own problems but somehow they seem more manageable when the Yankees win.

While it was technically a quality start by definition, Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff on Friday night.  He got off to an ominous start when he gave up a two-run first inning home run to Matt Carpenter of the St Louis Cardinals.  Carpenter, by the way, makes a strong point for the Yankees Facial Hair policy as he proves not everyone looks good with a beard.  Fortunately, the Yankees answered Carpenter’s homer very quickly when Starlin Castro, no stranger to the Cards from his days with the Chicago Cubs, launched a two-run bomb of his own to tie the game.

An Austin Romine solo homer and a run courtesy of a throwing error by Cardinals second baseman Kolton Wong were the only additional runs the Yankees needed to hold off St Louis for their fifth consecutive win.  Tanaka was strong after the shaky first inning until he got into trouble in the seventh.  He finished the game with 6 2/3 innings, five hits, three runs, two walks and five strikeouts to pick up his first win of the year.

The game was in doubt in each of the seventh, eighth and ninth innings as the dynamic trio of Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman succeeded Tanaka.  Clippard, replacing Tanaka with runners at second and third and only one out, got both Wong and Dexter Fowler on fly outs with a great play by Aaron Judge on the latter as it looked like it could have been an extra base hit.  Betances was solid as he recorded all three outs in the eighth by strikeout, but he did have  brief trouble throwing strikes as he nearly walked Matt Carpenter and then did walk the next batter, Stephen Piscotty, on four consecutive balls.  In the ninth inning, Aroldis Chapman, pitching for the third consecutive day, walked Randal Grichuk after easily getting the first two outs of the inning.  The next batter, pinch hitter Jose Martinez, hit a solid double to left, which Brett Gardner got back to the infield quickly keeping Grichuk from scoring.  The Cardinals third base coach initially wanted to send Grichuk but quickly changed his mind when the ball was returned by Gardner so quickly.  That brought Chapman’s former Cubs teammate Dexter Fowler to the plate in a match-up of World Series Champions.  Chapman won the battle as Fowler grounded out to Starlin Castro, and the baseball safely made it to first base before the speedy Fowler did.

It was an intense game but with Yankees-Cardinals, you wouldn’t expect anything less.

I watched Matt Holliday with great interest as this was the first time he had played against the Cardinals since May 8, 2008 when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies.  For the game, Holliday did nothing as he was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.  I am sure that it was an emotional night for Holliday, being reunited with his former Cardinals teammates.  It would be hard to spend eight years with a team and not have emotional attachments.  Holliday’s last game against the Cardinals in 2008 was a much greater success.  He was 4-for-5, with three runs scored, in Colorado’s 9-3 victory over St Louis.  On that same night (to put into perspective how long it has been), Mike Mussina was beating the Cleveland Indians, 6-3, with a save by Mariano Rivera.  Hopefully, Holliday will have greater success against his former team today and tomorrow.

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I know that Greg Bird has struggled with the foot injury and the flu, but I am concerned about his 1-for-23 start.  He hasn’t indicated any signs of the hitter he was during Spring Training.  I had hoped the days of Mark Teixeira and his ice-cold starts were a thing of the past with the new first baseman but so far that’s not been the case.  Hopefully, Bird will get untracked soon and start hitting like we know he can.  I prefer Bird at first over Chris Carter, but if Bird continues on this path, we’ll be seeing more of Carter.

The Yankees are currently 2nd in the AL East Standings behind the Baltimore Orioles.  The biggest surprise to me isn’t that the Boston Red Sox are in the 4th place with a .500 record (they’ll catch fire sooner rather later), but rather the last place Toronto Blue Jays with only one win on the year (1-9).  I think I heard a stat that no team that has lost 9 of its first 10 games has ever made the playoffs.  The Blue Jays were predicted to battle the Red Sox at the top of the division.

I have to comment on two incidents that occurred with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and two of their former tight ends in the last 24 hours.  One was a very heartwarming story (no pun intended) and the other was one of life’s most devastating moments.  In December, former Ravens tight end Konrad Reuland died of a brain aneurysm.  On Friday, it was revealed that the recipient of his heart and kidney was none other than legendary Hall of Famer Rod Carew.  Ironically, Reuland’s age (29) matched Carew’s playing number for the Minnesota Twins.  Also, on Friday, former Ravens tight end Todd Heap accidentally struck and killed his three-year-old daughter while moving his truck in his driveway in Mesa, Arizona.  This was such devastating news to hear and I cannot possibly imagine how Heap will be able to deal with this tragedy.  I am so very saddened by this news, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Heap and his family.

It’s kind of hard to say ‘have a great day’ after that news, so I’ll only say hug your loved ones and be thankful they are in your life.

Backin’ into the playoffs, one game at a time…

(Not) Takin’ Care of Business…

The last week has been a struggle for the New York Yankees.  This team is not playing like one that will enjoy post-season success.  It seemed as though they were playing from behind in almost every game against the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles.  Those deep first inning holes were virtually impossible to overcome, especially when team hitting is in a slump.  These are not good signs for Tuesday’s Wild Card game.

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I thought Manager Joe Girardi was wrong resting guys during Saturday’s double-header with the Orioles.  While I realize it is important to rest guys, it could have cost the Yankees a chance to play their Wild Card game at home.  With the Yankees most likely facing the Houston Astros and their ace, Dallas Kuechel, the home field advantage is huge.  If the Yankees can’t win Tuesday’s game, what good was the additional rest last Saturday?…

Fortunately, the Yankees have the Arizona Diamondbacks to thank for their season-ending victory over the Astros to give the Yankees home field advantage.  But it is the Astros who carry momentum into the winner take all, one game format.  Plus, the ace advantage is theirs with Kuechel, with a Yankees offense that can’t seem to hit good (or bad) pitching.

Generated by  IJG JPEG Library

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

At the beginning of the year, I didn’t feel the Yankees had the team to succeed in October.  As the regular reason ends today with the Yankees in the post-season, I still do not believe they can succeed.  The season ending series against the Red Sox and Orioles showed that they do not have the clutch hitters (outside of Carlos Beltran) to get the job done.  The Yankees can get guys on base…they just can’t bring them home.  Now that the pitching will be amplified in the play-offs, it’s only going to get worse from here.  The Yankees have showed no heart in September and that doesn’t translate to playoff success.  I know, the Yankees lost the last six of the regular season in 2000 and won the World Series.  That was a much better team and the 2015 squad does not have the same resiliency.

I still think there were some moves that GM Brian Cashman could have made at the trading deadline without sacrificing the farm to bring in additional strength and energy for the pennant run.  It was disappointing then for the Yankees to do nothing, and it hurts even more now as the team struggled at the end of the regular season like a whipped puppy.  I know that it would have cost a lot of money, but Max Scherzer would have looked so good in the Yankees rotation.  With no sure things in the rotation, Scherzer would have gone to the head of the Class.  With him on the mound, I would have liked the chances against the Astros much better.

This has been an agonizing week as a Yankees fan.  It was hard to see the team throttled like a bottom feeder by the Red Sox, and then tossed around like a salad by the Orioles.

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Probably my biggest fear with the Yankees’ achievement of a Wild Card is that it fuels Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s belief that he can rebuild the team exclusively through the farm system.  While there are talented guys in the system, it is far from one of the best.  They need to supplement the promising prospects with good, smart trades and thoughtful, strategic free agent acquisitions.  Paul O’Neill would have never had a Yankees career if the team hadn’t taken a chance on the former Cincinnati Reds outfielder.  The Chicago Cubs look masterful for their acquisition of starting pitcher Jake Arrieta who should be the NL Cy Young winner.  At the time of the trade with the Orioles, Arrieta was just another miscellaneous transaction and there were no tears shed in Baltimore.  How much would the O’s like to have him today?  That’s what you pay scouts for and that’s the difference between winners and losers.

The regular season is over.  The Yankees now have one game to prove me wrong.  They need to bring heart and intensity to Tuesday’s game, and show the World they are not the September pushover they appeared to be.  I so want to believe that I am wrong and that this team is capable of much, much more.  At least their destiny is in their hands.  I am sure the Los Angeles Angels would gladly change positions with the Yankees, along with a few other teams like the Red Sox and O’s.

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Congratulations to the NL West Champions…

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Dodgers for winning the NL West and securing home field advantage against their first round play-off foe, the New York Mets.  Like the Yankees, the Dodgers hit a slight bump in September but they recovered and won the games they needed to win.  At one point, it seemed improbable they would catch the Mets for a better record.  Yet, they persevered and did exactly that.

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Generated by IJG JPEG Library

The National League will be very hard to win with the presence of the St Louis Cardinals, but I thought Manager Don Mattingly did a good job this year.  It helps when you have All-World players like Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but he had to manage around disappointing seasons for Yasiel Puig and Joc Pedersen.  The arrival of Corey Seager is exciting even if it likely means the end of the short Dodgers career for Jimmy Rollins.  I fully expect the Dodgers to advance to the NLCS to take on the Cardinals.  Nothing against the Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates or Chicago Cubs, but I feel that the NL World Series representative will be either the Cardinals or Dodgers.  I can’t say that I’d be disappointed if the Cubs advanced to the World Series, but I think they are still a year away.

Well, time for us to find out who will be this October’s heroes…

—Scott

Winning Baseball is, admittedly, more enjoyable…

As I sit and recover from foot surgery yesterday (yes, my leg is elevated), I have finally shaken the pain and can think about the Yankees again…

The MLB Draft…

The MLB Draft lacks the drama and suspense of the NFL Draft, but still, I was disappointed to see Mariano Rivera, Jr go to the Washington Nationals.  To add salt to the wound, the Nats are in the Bronx for a short two game series starting today.  I had really hoped the Yankees would try to draft the legendary closer’s son again this year, but it was not meant to be.  Perhaps it is best for Mariano Jr to go to another team to establish his own identity.  With the Yankees, he would have always had to suffer from the comparisons to his father.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23:  Iona college pitcher Mariano Rivera Jr. son of former Yankee pitcher Marino Rivera poses for photos around the Iona campus in New Rochelle NY. Thursday, May 22, 2014 (Photo by Anthony Causi)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 23: Iona college pitcher Mariano Rivera Jr. son of former Yankee pitcher Marino Rivera poses for photos around the Iona campus in New Rochelle NY. Thursday, May 22, 2014 (Photo by Anthony Causi)

Anthony Causi, New York Post

I was surprised to see the Yankees go with starting pitcher James Kaprielian of UCLA with their first pick.  But everything I have read points to his readiness sooner rather than later.  He’ll never be a frontline starter but with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda headlining the staff, they just need solid, dependable starters that can provide innings.

The compensatory pick for the loss of former closer David Robertson in free agency netted an all-glove shortstop in Kyle Holder.  Maybe the bat will develop, maybe not.  As the saying goes, time will tell.  Meanwhile, the Yankees already have the glove, no bat at short in Didi Gregorius although even the glove has been suspect at times.

The way Hal Steinbrenner envisioned it…

The Yankees continue to impress.  I still do not think the team has the horses to make an October run, but stranger things have happened.  The Yankees looked horrific in a few recent series, but they’ve bounced back with solid play.  It’s amazing the difference that a healthy Mark Teixeira makes.  The Yankees still need to figure out a solution for the lack of productivity in the lower half of the batting order.  The Yankees did get two home runs out of Stephen Drew in a recent game, but he has generally been a disappointment with the bat.  A .168 batting average is not going to get it done.  Meanwhile, it is rather ironic that Drew has 5 more home runs than former Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano.  I doubt that will last as Cano will eventually get it together whereas Drew will not.

I am typing this as Masahiro Tanaka’s second start since returning from the Disabled List begins in a few hours.  It will be interesting to see if he is able to continue the dominance he showed in his first start back.  If the Yankees intend to be successful this year, the story begins and ends with Tanaka.  They need him.  We’ll never get away from the feeling that he is just one pitch away from Tommy John surgery but for now, the hope is for the elbow ligament to hold up to pitch more wins.  With Michael Pineda on a short leash innings-wise, they cannot afford to lose Tanaka.  I am anxious to see what Ivan Nova brings when he returns later this summer, although I remain fearful that we’re still a year away from him being the Nova of old.  How fast can Kaprielian get warmed up?…

James Kaprielian #11 of the UCLA Bruins pitches against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Jackie Robinson Stadium on March 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. UCLA defeated Arizona State 7-3. (Larry Goren/Four Seam Images)

James Kaprielian #11 of the UCLA Bruins pitches against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Jackie Robinson Stadium on March 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. UCLA defeated Arizona State 7-3. (Larry Goren/Four Seam Images)

The Yankees are very fortunate that they play in the AL East with no clear dominant teams.  The trading deadline may shift the balance of power.  I still expect a hard charge by the Boston Red Sox, and I’d be foolish to ever underestimate a Buck Showalter team.  The Blue Jays and Rays both have talent.  The division is still anybody’s for the taking.  If the Yankees choose to just go for rentals, I hope that they do not part with quality talent to do so.  I hate reading about how well former Yankees prospects are doing in other organizations after trades.  Nothing against them personally, but I so want a core group to develop in the Bronx again from the farm system.  It seems like it runs in cycles, and good drafts in recent years should bring the potential for a talent infusion in a few years.

The Closer you get…

For years, Mariano Rivera was my favorite Yankee.  There’s something magical about a great closer.  Years ago, the favorite was Goose Gossage.  While I wouldn’t say that Andrew Miller is my current favorite, I love the back end of the bullpen with the dominant Dellin Betances setting up Miller.  Other guys like Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson have been solid.  It’s nice to have reasonable confidence that the team is going to win if they hold a lead late in a game.  Of course, weaknesses in a starting rotation can place too much stress on a bullpen, but for now, the team was right in paying special attention to build out the pen this past off-season.  In the grand scheme of things, it looks like it was the right decision to let David Robertson walk even if he is considered an elite closer.

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USA Today

Trip down Memory Lane…

On Sunday, I went to Dodger Stadium to see the Dodgers play the St Louis Cardinals.  It was the first time I had seen these two teams play each other since the first MLB game I saw as a kid.  The first game was 5/29/74, and the Dodgers won 5-2 with Tommy John beating Bob Gibson.  The Cardinals took Sunday’s game with a few late runs to win 4-2.  There is always something special about the first time experiencing Major League Baseball in person and I’ll always remember that game in 1974.  Sunday’s game?  Not so much…

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Is it really June already?…

—Scott

The Yanks are assured of putting up 162 box scores…

 

Team Question Mark…

It’s March 22nd and I am still waiting for that deal that instills confidence for the 2013 New York Yankees, but so far, it’s been like an unsuccessful Vegas weekend.  I want to throw out the surgery recovery for Alex Rodriguez because I remain happy that he is not in the lineup regardless of the cost.  Addition by subtraction.  Sorry, I am just not a fan of the narcissistic one.  Even with the injury risk, I prefer to see Kevin Youkilis man third base for the Yanks.  But throwing that aside, the Yankees have lost Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira to injury.  While both are expected to be back in May, there have been numerous professional reports that Teixeira could be lost for the year.  The Yankees lost their backup first baseman when right fielder Nick Swisher signed with the Cleveland Indians.

The catching battle is between two perennial backup catchers.  I fully expect Francisco Cervelli to win the job, but I do not have full faith and confidence in his ability as a starter.  I am sure that Chris Stewart will see plenty of time behind the plate this year.  I had quietly hoped that Austin Romine would surprise in training camp and claim the job, but now that he’s back in the minors, his arrival won’t come until later in the year and perhaps even next year.  Meanwhile, I am hoping that top catching prospect Gary Sanchez can start to accelerate his development to hasten his arrival in the Bronx.

Despite Derek Jeter’s optimistic outlook, it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready on Opening Day so the Yanks will most likely open against the Boston Red Sox with Eduardo Nunez at short.

I am assuming that Ichiro Suzuki will be shifted to left to temporarily replace Granderson, so right field will most likely be a committee led by recent signee Brennan Boesch.  I am hopeful the team also finds room for Ben Francisco, but neither bat will rival the production the Yanks received from Swisher.

Brett Gardner is coming off an injury-lost season so it’s not 100% that he’ll be the Gardy of old.  So, the only “sure thing” in the Yankees lineup right now is second baseman Robinson Cano.  Given his recent health history, I would certainly not label DH Travis Hafner as a sure thing.  If the Yankees lost Cano, this season would be lost.  As it stands, I still expect a late March trade to bring in a capable first baseman.  Gaby Sanchez of the Pittsburgh Pirates is the name that comes to mind.  There’s no way that it will be a frontline first bagger, not under the regime of Hal the accountant.

The Yankees are the oldest team in baseball and rarely has the oldest team succeeded.  This will be a tough year.  Yes, the Yankees will compete for a play-off spot but I do not see them repeating as AL East Champions.  I know that Red Sox fans have been salivating all off-season (along with Rays and Jays fans).

At least I learned what a lisfranc injury is…

While I was pleased to hear the Yankees have re-signed former ace starter Chien-Ming Wang, he’s a bigger question mark than any of the current players on the team.  The foot injury suffered against the Houston Astros years ago led to Wang’s subsequent departure for the Washington Nationals, and he really only enjoyed one reasonably healthy season while away.  I seriously doubt that he’ll ever be the 19 game winner that he was a few years ago.  He does give the Yankees some insurance to trade someone like David Phelps or Ivan Nova for a quality bat.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen…

I have been a Yankees fan for a number of years but this is clearly one of the most fragile times that I’ve experienced in recent memory.  The Yankees are only an injury or two away from disaster.  Sure, some players could step up and have career years but the range of potential success to non-success have never been wider.  The pressure on Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman will be as high as it has ever been.  It’s unfortunate that they are the front mean for Team Hal.  I am not quite sure why the Yankees suddenly feel that they can be the AL version of the St Louis Cardinals.  My favorite teams, in order, are the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The pressure on Girardi and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly are higher than any other manager in baseball.  Not that I am against a scenario that could ultimately bring Donnie Baseball to the Bronx as manager, but still, both men deserve better than the hands they have been dealt.

–Scott