Tagged: Tommy Kahnle

Much Ado, Machado, About Nothing…

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Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson-Associated Press

Manny Machado and the Pinstriped Dreams Vanish…

After waiting all off-season with the hope that Manny Machado would wear the famed Pinstripes, it was not meant to be. C’est la vie. I’ve heard people say they can’t believe Hal Steinbrenner was outbid by the small market San Diego Padres. But that would imply the Yankees made a bid which they apparently did not.  I can’t blame the Yankees for passing on a 10-year, $300 million deal. Manny’s a great player but he’s not the best player in baseball. I don’t blame Hal Steinbrenner or the Yankees for passing on Manny at that price. I thought he made sense in the low 200’s or on a short-term deal with high AAV but not $30 million per year for the next ten years. He’s not exactly Alex Rodriguez in his prime.

Best case scenario, if he was not coming to the Yankees, was for Manny to sign with the West Coast Padres. I am glad that he’s out of the American League and away from any Northeastern city. I didn’t really want to see him go to the Chicago White Sox or the Philadelphia Phillies. It is kind of funny that Machado will have to visit Yankee Stadium this year. The Padres will be in New York on Memorial Day, May 27th, for three days. There’s no doubt Machado will receive more than a few Bronx cheers. Even though the Yankees never really made a formal offer, I expect the home crowd to treat Machado something like Oakland did when their former star Jason Giambi returned to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum wearing Pinstripes for the first time, only worse.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

While I feel Manny would have made the Yankees better, they are still a very, very good team. I am fully anticipating a dog fight with the defending champion Boston Red Sox again this season and would have liked every conceivable advantage or edge over the Beantown Bunch, which Machado certainly would have provided. But, he’s not here, and we move on. In the AL East, I feel the Yankees are the better team but I’d be foolish to think the Red Sox are going away, even if nobody likes their bullpen on paper.  At the end of the day, the Yankees bullpen might not be as great as everyone thinks (there will be the inevitable bumps in the road) and the Boston pen might not be as bad. Regardless of what happens, I am sure the Yankees and Red Sox will be jockeying for position deep into September.

The most attractive free agent on the market, Bryce Harper, remains available but the Yankees have never been connected to him this off-season at any point like they were with Machado (much to the chagrin of the Yankees fan base). Not only is Harper an excellent player, he has that star quality about him (the “it” factor). Bryce is deserving of a contract equal to or greater than the one Machado received from the Padres. Given that Giancarlo Stanton’s huge deal with the Miami Marlins a few years ago (13 years for $325 million) was an extension, Machado’s contract is considered the most lucrative free agent contract in MLB history. Still, I am sure Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, has every intent to beat the dollar value of Stanton’s deal. While it would make sense for Harper to receive a 10-year, $325 million contract, I’ll take the over with the involvement of Boras. Perhaps Bryce signs a deal for $330 or $335 million or even a little higher. I’d argue that even these dollars make sense for the Yankees. They can certainly afford it while still paying its pending free agents and extending other young players as they reach arbitration like they did with ace Luis Severino. The Yankees are not exactly tapped out on capital like the Chicago Cubs apparently are.  I am not getting my hopes up about Harper or any last-minute play by the Yankees but signing him does make sense to me.  Drop Harper in the batting order between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and let’s go. I’d love to see what that lineup could do to the American League.

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Photo Credit: Katherine Frey

The Steamer projection for Harper in the 2019 season is 34 home runs and 93 RBIs with a batting line of .267/.399/.528 and .927 OPS. His WAR is projected at 4.8, which is well below guys like Mike Trout (8.5) and Mookie Betts (7.2) but above Stanton (4.4) and Judge (4.6). Steamer projects Harper to have the second best wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) at 148, trailing only Trout (180). I don’t need to lay out Brett Gardner’s projected stats to say those numbers would represent a huge upgrade in left field. Probably the only way that Harper doesn’t make sense is if the plan is play Stanton in the field more this year. All I know is we need a better option than Brett Gardner.  It would be wonderful if Clint Frazier shows that he is up for the task and can stay healthy. I’d love for him to grab the position from Gardy, who fits this roster best as its fourth outfielder. Given the players in camp right now, Frazier is the best option. The downside, if Frazier misses any time with injury, there’s not much in the way of a backup plan other than start Gardy every day or play Stanton in the field (which is always a risk for a player that carried the injury label until his huge 2017 NL MVP season).

The current players on the projected 25-man roster that scare me the most are Frazier (for health concerns), Troy Tulowitzki (health concerns, rust, age regression), Greg Bird (health concerns, inability to hold sustained success), and Luis Cessa (not very good, self-explanatory). If Tulo is not up to the task and shows that he cannot recapture past success, the Yankees can easily move Gleyber Torres to shortstop and insert DJ LeMahieu as the starting second baseman. The downside is the lack of a strong utility player under that scenario. The best roster option appears to be Tyler Wade who, to date, has not really shown much at the Major League level. I had hoped for a strong glove-first signing like Adeiny Hechevarria but the New York Mets scooped him up a few days ago. Maybe Wade can prove to be the guy or perhaps Thairo Estrada can show something in camp now that he’s healthy. If Bird fails, I am not too concerned. I think Luke Voit will hold his own at first base. The ideal scenario, to me, is for Bird to outperform Voit and get his left-handed bat into the lineup. For as critical as I’ve been of Bird, there’s no question he has a beautiful swing.  Bird has the talent to succeed even if we’ve grown impatient waiting for it to happen but Voit is no slouch and I do feel that he’ll build off his successful late season run last year and not turn out to be the latest incarnation of Kevin Maas. I am not crazy about going into the season with Cessa as the designated swingman in the bullpen. I’d prefer for Jonathan Loaisiga to overcome the health concerns that engulf his potential and have him break camp as part of the Opening Day roster. I’ve seen enough of Cessa and I’m ready to move on. While I think Cessa could be better in short relief, I don’t really want to see him as the team’s emergency starter. Since he’s out of options, Cessa either must make the team or pack his bags. Despite his faults, he would be claimed on waivers by another team. I’d prefer a trade to at least get something for him. The Yankees are expected to made trades for additional bonus pool money so it’s possible Cessa could be part of that quest. It wouldn’t break my heart.

I am enjoying the Danny Farquhar story like everyone else but it seems to me his only hope to make the Opening Day roster is to outperform Tommy Kahnle.  Farquhar is a short reliever so he’s not an option for the last bullpen spot (long man/spot starter) which presently appears to be Cessa. With nothing against Farquhar, I really hope Kahnle proves during spring training that he can be the dependable reliever he was in 2017. Sure, if Kahnle is a disaster again like last year, let Farquhar take his job but I really hope that’s not the case. I’ve been a Kahnle fan since his early days in the Yankees’ farm system and I’d really like to see him be a valuable and contributing member of Baseball’s best bullpen.

As tough as it was to see former Yankees great Jorge Posada in Marlins camp wearing their new gear, I am grateful Carlos Beltran is in Yankees camp. He has so much to offer the young players. I can’t help but think top prospect Estevan Florial benefits the most from Beltran’s presence and that’s a wonderful thing. Clint Frazier is certainly another player who would be wise to pick Beltran’s brain. Beltran may not have the Yankees pedigree like Posada, but he’s an invaluable resource and the game is better with his involvement in any capacity.

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I am really looking forward to Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL.  The downside is that we’ll see names like Ryan Lavarnway, Billy Burns and/or Matt Lipka but at least it will be “Yankees” on the field playing the game of baseball as opposed to us watching videos of PFP or the coaches playing fungo with the infielders on practice fields.

Lastly, I was saddened to see the passing of former Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers great Don Newcombe yesterday. The Dodgers announced Newcombe died Tuesday morning at age 92 following a lengthy illness.  Newcombe was MLB’s first black pitcher to win 20 games. He accomplished the feat in 1951, after winning 17 and 19 games the preceding two years (including earning NL Rookie of the Year honors for the 17-win campaign in 1949). He helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1955 but his greatest season was the next year when he finished 27-7 with 3.06 ERA. He had 12 complete games and 5 shutouts. He won the NL Cy Young and MVP Awards that year, but lost the deciding Game 7 of the 1956 World Series to the Yankees, giving up two early home runs to Yogi Berra. For his career, “Newk” was 149-90 with 1,129 strikeouts and a 3.56 ERA over a 10-year MLB career.  Missed two seasons in the early 1950’s to serve our military in the Korean War. He was a great Dodger and a better man. May he rest in peace.

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Photo Credit: Luis Sinco-Los Angeles Times

As always, Go Yankees!

Happy Reporting Day for Yankee Pitchers and Catchers…

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Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

The Dawn of the 2019 MLB Season…

After a painfully long off-season filled with too many rumors and rampant speculation, Yankee pitchers and catchers officially report to training camp in Tampa, FL today to begin preparations for the upcoming season. Granted, many of the Yankee players are already in Tampa, working out informally, but Spring Training officially gets underway today with the first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers tomorrow.

Meanwhile, position players can spend Valentine’s Day with their loved ones although many, like Aaron Judge, Troy Tulowitzki, Didi Gregorius, Clint Frazier and others, are already in camp in advance of Monday’s reporting date. The first full team workout will be next Tuesday.

I really thought there would be movement with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this week. Of course, I’ve been thinking that every week since the start of the new year.  At this point, I don’t really know when they’ll sign. I still think they’ll be in some team’s camp, either in Florida or Arizona, before Opening Day but who knows. I feel so bad for the other guys. The free agents not named Machado or Harper. So many guys who can make a difference on a Major League roster, like Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, and they can’t find work. Clearly something has to change. For the Yankees, they appear to have the guys who will compete for the Opening Day roster barring any last-minute additions. Even if the Yankees didn’t sign Machado or Harper, they’ve been one of the more active teams this off-season.

The biggest battle to watch this Spring is the first base competition between Luke Voit and Greg Bird. By the way, Happy Birthday to Luke!  He is 28 years old today. DJ LeMahieu will apparently also see time at first in his role as the utility player for the team (which makes no sense to me). I’d like to see Voit win the job outright, continuing his late season run from last year.  I like his energy and excitement.  It’s infectious and spreads to his teammates. I would love to see Greg Bird hit the way we know he can but, like many people, I am tired of waiting. My guess is Bird goes to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to find himself if Voit wins the job. Bird’s sweet left-handed swing would look beautiful in Yankee Stadium but I am losing confidence we’ll ever see it consistently. For as much as I want Voit to win the job, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Bird killed it this Spring to reclaim the position for himself. That would be a great problem to have.

I just can’t wrap my head around the thought that Troy Tulowitzki is the starting shortstop. In my mind, he’s done. If he shows anything in camp, great, but realistically, I am not expecting anything from him. Team defense, in my opinion, is better served with Gleyber Torres at short and DJ LeMahieu, and his gold glove, at second until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Tulo is such a Wild Card at the moment. He could make the Opening Day roster and be the starting shortstop or he could by cut by the end of March when the team identifies its best 25 players. Honestly, neither would surprise me. But I think LeMahieu is the better player at this point and the Yankees have a greater investment in him. I find it very hard to believe that LeMahieu is simply the new Ronald Torreyes. He is better and deserves better.

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Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Out in left field, dependence on Brett Gardner as the starter is flawed logic. A fourth outfielder at best at this stage of his career, it would be better for Clint Frazier to win the job (unlikely) or put Giancarlo Stanton in left more often which is always a risk since he carried the injury-risk label until his monster 2017 season when he won the NL MVP Award for the Miami Marlins. DH is the best way to keep Stanton healthy and hitting the way he did during his MVP year. Jacoby Ellsbury, if healthy, looms as a threat to take a roster spot away from Frazier for Opening Day. I anxiously look forward to the day when Ellsbury and the Yankees part ways. While I don’t expect him on the field Opening Day, the possibility exists he is there if healthy.  The problem with Ellsbury is even if he is healthy, it won’t stay that way. The King of the DL will become the King of the new IL (“Injured List”). Let those insurance checks keep rolling in for Team Hal.

The only other real competition will be the last spots in the bullpen. Tommy Kahnle is expected to take one of the jobs, assuming he can pitch like he did in 2017. I really hope that the last man in the pen is not Luis Cessa. That’s another guy I’d like to see leave. I would prefer the last spot go to either Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga as the swing man/spot starter assuming the Yankees do not bring anyone else into Camp.  Let German and Lasagna duke it out in the Spring with the best arm heading north to the Bronx in late March. Danny Farquhar probably looms as a sentimental favorite for many after last year’s brain hemorrhage. If Kahnle fails to win a job and Farquhar proves he should be one of the bullpen finalists, I’d like to see him get it.

It’s an exciting time in the Yankees Universe. We have one of the best teams in Baseball right now. If this team can perform to its expectations, we should be watching Yankees baseball deep into October. Hopefully, this season will not see the Boston Red Sox spilling champagne on Yankee Stadium soil. It would be much better for the Yankees to return the favor with celebrations at Fenway Park while sounds of New York, New York reverberate through its halls. I know, it would be better for the Yankees to celebrate at home, in front of Yankee fans, but there’s a part of me that wants to see the Yankees in googles and bubbly in the very heart of the Red Sox Nation.

I was a little disappointed to see Jorge Posada is joining the Miami Marlins organization as a special adviser.  I know, it was destined to be considering Jorge’s close relationship with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter but it’s still tough now that it is actually happening.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

It’s difficult to watch 50% of the Core Four representing another MLB organization. Plus, a third Yankees retired number currently manages the team. I guess we should be thankful the Marlins are in the National League so the Yankees do not play them very often. Credit to Alex Rodriguez for maintaining his alliance with the Yankees after the end of his playing career.  I know part of it was the renegotiation of his playing contract into special services for Hal Steinbrenner, but A-Rod could have severed ties as he pursued his broadcast career with FOX and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Posada’s move makes me very thankful for Mariano Rivera, my favorite member of the Core Four. Rivera recently announced his intention to be a pitching consultant for the Yankees (teaching pitching in the organization in a to-be-determined role).  I’d really like to see the Yankees get Andy Pettitte back in the family. I’ve always thought he’d be a tremendous pitching coach and I’d love to see him transition back into pro coaching as an eventual successor for Larry Rothschild. We may have lost Jeter and Posada for now, but I don’t want to lose either Rivera or Pettitte. Eventually Don Mattingly will get fired.  Not that I want him to lose his job, but when the inevitable parting of the ways occurs, I am hopeful that Mattingly can find his way home.  Maybe not as a manager, but I look forward to the day when Donnie Baseball is a frequent visitor to Yankee Stadium again even if it is only for Spring Training and Old Timer’s Day.

It’s exciting to see the images of Spring Training. I am glad we’re getting the band together again and look forward to the first exhibition game a week from Saturday in Fort Myers, FL against the hated Boston Red Sox. This is the year we take them down. AL East Championship, American League Championship, World Series Championship. The time is now. Let’s end Boston’s reign.

As always, Go Yankees!

A Week Closer to Spring Training…

Less Than a Month for the Road to Tampa…

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner but for pitchers and catchers when it arrives, it will mean they’ve reported to Spring Training in Tampa one day earlier. Very appropriate considering our love for America’s favorite Pastime. Flowers and chocolates for the loves in our life? No, grab a glove and bat and let’s get after it! I know that I am anxious to see the guys back at Steinbrenner Field so that we can talk about baseball activities as opposed to this dreadful offseason of rumors and rare free agent signings (or as I like to call it, the roller coaster of hope).

The Yankees were busy last week collecting former Colorado Rockies. I like DJ LeMahieu and was surprised his signing was met with much negativity among the fan base. Maybe it’s because I live in Denver, Colorado but I saw firsthand how much DJ meant to the Rockies and their fans. He has such a strong reputation for being an excellent fielder and is very highly thought of by his teammates, and we know he hits for average even if he didn’t accumulate power numbers at the hitter’s friendly high altitude of Coors Field. Even if the Rockies didn’t make DJ an offer, I know the fans and his teammates were disappointed to see DJ leave. For the Rockies, it’s well known that they are saving their pennies for Nolan Arenado. Despite the trade rumors that surfaced late in the week, the Rockies still hope to hang on to their franchise player who can be a free agent after the upcoming season. I feel that we need to give DJ a chance. He wants to win as much as anybody and he seems excited to be a Yankee even if it wasn’t his childhood dream. There’s other infield moves that I might have preferred but I still think LeMahieu is an outstanding addition.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

Later in the week, the Yankees signed former Colorado reliever Adam Ottavino, another fan favorite. I’ve never been a very big fan of the Rockies, kind of hard when your favorite NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I know that whenever Ottavino was giving an interview, I’d listen. He is well spoken and offers great insight into baseball anytime he talks. He is frequent guest on MLB Network and always makes himself accessible to the media. After his disappointing 2017 season which included his omission from the playoff roster, he didn’t sulk. He took office space in Harlem to build an indoor pitching facility and reinvented himself which led to a highly successful campaign this past year. The native Brooklynite maintains his home in NYC with an apartment in Manhattan and seems such a natural fit to pitch for the Yankees. My hope going into the off-season was for the Yankees to sign at least two of Zach Britton, David Robertson, and Ottavino. While I would have liked to have seen D-Rob return, I can’t say that I am disappointed he has been replaced by Otto.

Ottavino’s signing means the Yankees need to make room on the 40-man roster before the trade can be made official. The flurry of Sonny Gray trade rumors are intensifying which seems to imply the Yankees will be looking to trade Gray for prospects rather than proven MLB talent that might occupy 40-man roster space. It was kind of funny yesterday when Jack Curry of the YES Network fell for a false tweet by the fake Jon Heyman to send out a report Gray had been traded to Cincinnati for a player to be named later and cash. By all accounts, the Yankees are still talking with the Padres and Giants in addition to the Reds. I’ve quit trying to  speculate who the Yankees might get in a Gray trade. I am sure that GM Brian Cashman will acquire the best possible talent. There’s been some talk a reliever like Tommy Kahnle or Jonathan Holder could be included to sweeten the pot, but I’d hate to sell Kahnle low as I feel he’ll be closer to his 2017 version this year. Holder was the breakout arm last season and as a young cost-controlled pitcher, he carries too much value in terms of both cost and talent to trade (unless you are convinced Stephen Tarpley and other minor league arms are ready to ascend to the Bronx). I’d prefer to see Holder and Tarpley as the last men in the pen, aside from long relief/spot starter which I anticipate to go to Jonathan Loaisiga if Gray is traded. It’s very possible that a Gray trade could go down this weekend or early next week. The Yankees should be in position to make Otto’s signing official by Monday or Tuesday so you’d think Gray will be gone before then, although I’d have no problem, personally, in severing ties with Luis Cessa.

Jon Heyman, the real one I think, is reporting the Gray trade is expected to happen this weekend. Per his tweet on Twitter this morning: “Yankees and Reds are getting closer on a Sonny Gray trade. Teams are talking about two prospects and a draft pick going for Sonny. One of 2B prospect Shed Long and C prospect Tyler Stephenson may go. Giants, Braves, Brewers are on periphery. A deal should happen this weekend.” I liked a tweet yesterday when the commenter said that if he saw Sonny Gray was traded for a shed, he wouldn’t blink an eye. I know, I feel the same way but it would be nice to get a value return.

Congratulations to Brian Cashman for at least getting a young prospect for outfielder Tim Locastro who was designated for assignment when LeMahieu was signed. Locastro was traded to Arizona for 17-year-old LHP Ronald Roman of the Dominican Republic.  Roman had been signed by the Diamondbacks last summer as an international signee and is set to make his professional debut this year in the lower levels of the farm system. Could not really find any information on him. He’s a lottery ticket, for sure, but you can’t win if you don’t take a chance.

Back to the bullpen, the Yankees have certainly built what should be the premier pen in the league. But we know that even the best of bullpens give up a few runs now and then. I like the Yankees’ chances in the late innings, but there will be breakdowns. We can’t expect perfection but all things considered, I’d rather take my chances with the Yankees’ pen over any other team in Major League Baseball. I am surprised the Boston Red Sox have not done anything to fill their holes in the bullpen. I still think they’ll eventually get Craig Kimbrel back. I know the Sox don’t want to pay Kimbrel’s current asking price but I’d still be surprised if they let him walk away. I really thought they’d snare one of Britton, Robertson or Ottavino and I am so glad it did not happen. Given Otto’s relatively affordable contract of 3 years for $27 million, I was even more surprised the Sox didn’t make a play for him despite carrying MLB’s highest payroll. If the Red Sox do lose Kimbrel, I’d expect Dave Dombrowski to make a trade to bring in a proven closer unless they are convinced Tyler Thornburg is healthy and ready to pitch at the level he did a couple of years ago for the Milwaukee Brewers. Thornburg had 13 saves for the Brewers in 2016, with 2.15 ERA after being named their closer midway through the year. He had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2017, and wasn’t really able to do anything last summer  after his return (5.63 ERA over 24 innings) before being shut down early in September. I am sure the Red Sox will figure out their current bullpen mess but it’s clear they do not value the importance of a super bullpen like the Yankees do. If I ran the Sox, I’d probably sign Dallas Keuchel and move Nathan Eovaldi to the pen. No doubt Keuchel’s asking price is dropping.

As it stands right now, I like the current composition of the 2019 Yankees and certainly believe they have the talent to take down the Red Sox. There are other moves the team could make to improve the roster but if they don’t, this is still a damn good team. I am so ready to watch the baseballs flying in Tampa and seeing Aaron Judge’s grin as he arrives at Steinbrenner Field. It’s almost time for the Yankees fan base to reunite and cheer for MLB’s best team.

As always, Go Yankees!

It’s Manny Machado Day or Is It?…

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Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

The Machado Rumor Mill Runs Rampant…

According to “Anthony in White Plains”, today is the day for the announcement Manny Machado is signing with the Yankees for an alleged 8-year deal worth $240 million. In a previous post, I had picked this date as the day Manny signs but admittedly as I write this post now, I am very skeptical there will be any news at all.  Until someone like Ken Rosenthal, Jon Paul Morosi, or Buster Olney says it’s happening, I am not going to believe it. I am certainly not going to take the word of Anthony in White Plains or Dan Clark in Australia.

I do know that I am so ready for the Manny Machado and Bryce Harper talk to end. This is as divided as I’ve ever seen the Yankees fan base. While I’ve wanted the Yankees to sign Manny despite others’ preference for Bryce, I am nearing the point where I just want them to sign somewhere…anywhere…even if it is not with the Yankees. Let’s move on with our lives. Sadly, that won’t be happening until Manny and Bryce know where they will be playing in April. Until then, we have to ride the roller coaster of rumors.

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I was saddened to see David Robertson sign with the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday. D-Rob has arguably been the most consistent reliever in baseball for the last decade. He was magical in critical jams, hence the “Houdini” nickname. I enjoyed having confidence on the mound in bases loaded jams because somehow you knew D-Rob would work his magic. With some guys in the pen, you know when they let a few guys on base, we’re going to have flashbacks of Tyler Clippard on the mound. That wasn’t the case with Robertson.

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Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

I did bother me a little yesterday when Robertson said that he had talked with GM Brian Cashman this winter but Philadelphia was where he wanted to be. He says all the right things about a willingness to pitch anywhere in the late innings but no doubt the greater potential to close in Philly or at least have a job share with Seranthony Dominguez was more appealing than setting up Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. I also read that something had changed with Robertson during his time away in Chicago and he was not as beloved in the clubhouse his second time around. Specifically, it was mentioned he was not popular with the younger players. Considering the team is mostly comprised of younger players, that didn’t sound very good. I had never heard of any locker room dissension but of course we’ve all heard the role D-Rob played in the team vote that cost certain members of the organization, like assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere and traveling analyst Zac Fieroh, money from the distribution of the team’s playoff shares. I’ve defended D-Rob’s role as he didn’t force other players to vote for limiting shares but as a leader of the vote, there was a negative perception of his involvement. We may never know what exactly transpired (well, not until a book is written one day) but it does seem a parting of the ways was mutually beneficial. Thanks for the memories, D-Rob. We do wish you well in Philly unless they happen to be playing the Yankees in the World Series. It does kind of stink that the Phillies have now snagged two valuable members of the Yankees’ 2018 playoff team, having previously inked OF Andrew McCutchen, and could potentially steal Machado away from the Yankees.

With relievers Robertson and Andrew Miller off the board, Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino are the most desirable options available. Reports show the Yankees focusing on Britton and we know the player enjoyed his time in the Bronx and was amiable to returning so I am hopeful the two sides can come together on an agreement soon. NJ Advance Media for NJ.com was reporting this morning the Yankees have not been as engaged with Britton as other teams in recent days so I am hopeful this is a ‘get back to us with your best offer and we’ll see if we can match it’ situation. I like Ottavino, but I’d rather have Britton among the two. It’s rumored Britton wants a four-year deal. It seems like the Yankees could come up with a solid three-year contract with vesting option for the fourth year to entice Britton to return. If Britton wants four years, he should have some skin in the game to ensure the fourth-year option is exercised. My biggest disappointment will be if the Yankees fail to sign either player.  Regardless of what happens, the Yankees need a strong rebound season from Tommy Kahnle. As it stands right now, he is one of the most crucial pieces in the pen. Another year like last year would be detrimental to the team. As for free agent Craig Kimbrel, thanks but no thanks.

Apparently, Troy Tulowitzki took his physical yesterday so the official announcement of his signing should be imminent. Once it happens, someone will lose his place on the 40-man roster. The most logical candidates appear to be infielder Hanser Alberto and outfielder Tim Locastro. Position-wise, Alberto appears to the odd man out but player-to-player, I’d probably keep Alberto over Locastro. Locastro is not going to beat out Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier, or, gasp, Jacoby Ellsbury and appears to be more of a depth piece for Triple A. Not that I think Alberto is going to make the Major League roster, but he’s had a good winter and offers infield versatility. I’d like to see what he can do in the organization. The only thing that I’ve really heard about Locastro is that he is fast. That’s nice. Next.

As for Tulo, I really wish I could get excited about his addition. But honestly, we don’t know what we are getting. He could be the starting shortstop on Opening Day or he could be released at the end of training camp. It’s not like he was a huge investment. The guy hasn’t played in a year and a half and has not shown an ability to stay healthy for the last few years. He may have looked great in the tryout that preceded his signing with the Yankees but playing the game will be the true test. Until then, I want a strong plan in place for shortstop/second base should Tulo fail. Sorry Tyler Wade, you are not a strong plan.

Inevitably, the departure(s) of Sonny Gray, Luis Cessa and/or A.J.Cole will free up space but I don’t think those are moves made yet. Could be wrong. I am far from having any inside knowledge of the situation.

Ken Rosenthal is reporting Cleveland’s chances of trading either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer are diminishing by the day so it doesn’t look like the Yankees will be in play for another starter until potentially the trading deadline in July unless it is some random (i.e., bargain bin) arm they decide to bring into camp.

Well, let’s see what today brings. Manny Machado could be exciting the Yankees Universe by day’s end or we could be listening to the continued chirp of crickets emanating from Yankee Stadium. Hal, please loosen the wallet. We know you can afford to make Yankee fans very happy. What’s good for us is good for you.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Puzzling Case of Pickles…

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Yanks Get Double Treat on Saturday…

The Yankees swept the day/night doubleheader in Baltimore on Saturday, and find themselves only seven games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East (just six games back in the loss column). The Yankees took the day game by a score of 10-3 behind the pitching of J.A. “Happer” Happ, his fifth consecutive Yankees victory, and then swept the doubleheader by defeating the O’s 5-1 in the nightcap, a win delivered courtesy of Sonny “Pickles” Gray.

Granted, Gray was facing the worst team in Major League Baseball and they weren’t playing at Yankee Stadium so he had the right conditions for a stellar game. The last time “Pickles” had faced Baltimore, he was pounded for seven runs in only 2 2/3 innings (a 5-7 loss to the O’s on August 1st but that game was in the Bronx. He pitched six scoreless innings of three-hit ball against the Orioles at Camden Yards on July 11th and has only given up one run to Baltimore in three Camden Yards starts this year. He clearly likes pitching in Baltimore even if he can’t pitch anywhere else so I temper Saturday night’s performance. Still, it was a win and that’s what matters most. Gray threw 79 pitches in 6 1/3 innings, limiting Baltimore to three hits and no runs.  He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter until the final guy he faced in the bottom of the 7th inning.

After the game, Gray proclaimed himself as “one of the best starting pitchers in this league” which I thought was a bit much. Maybe he was saying it for the benefit of O’s GM Dan Duquette (future trade possibilities), given his propensity for ‘elite-like’ games in Baltimore. His statement could not have been meant for Yankee fans because we know better. Good for Gray to have confidence, but he shouldn’t rush out to buy shelf space for a Cy Young Award.

Perhaps the disappointment of the night game was the inability of reliever Tommy Kahnle to preserve the shutout for “Pickles”. It was a messy bottom of the ninth as Kahnle gave up three hits, the last one a single by Yankees castoff Jace Peterson which scored Trey Mancini with Baltimore’s only run. Manager Aaron Boone was forced to bring in Dellin “El Acido” Betances to get the final out with two runners on base. Fortunately, he struck out Caleb Joseph on five pitches to prevent an Orioles rally and gained his first save of the season. There’s no way that should have ever been a save situation and it reinforces why Tommy Kahnle has a long way to go before he can be a trusted member of the bullpen again.

In the day game, I was a little worried when J.A. Happ gave up two runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning which gave the O’s a one-run lead. He has pitched so well for the Yankees since his acquisition in July and it is inevitable that the wheels will fall off. Happ is exactly the type of trading deadline deal you want to make. Acquire a guy who outperforms his time with his previous club and just wins down the stretch.  The Yankees other lefty July trade target, Cole Hamels, is doing a tremendous job for the Chicago Cubs, but I agree that Happ was the right choice given his AL East experience. Happ ended up with yet another quality start, holding the O’s to just those two runs on five hits over six innings for his 15th win of he year. Happ (15-6) walked a batter and struck out nine and is only a win behind Luis Severino. Luis Cessa, the 26th man, finished up the final three innings for his first save despite the blowout.

Miguel “Papá ” Andujar, who has become everybody’s favorite choice for AL Rookie of the Year, hit his 21st home run in the first game with 4 RBI’s to pace the Yankees. Aaron “Hicksie” Hicks had three hits and 2 RBI’s. Luke “Louis” Voit got the start in the first game over Greg Bird, and delivered a run-scoring single. Brett “Gardner” Gardner also chipped in a couple of RBI’s and Gleyber “GT” Torres, with two hits, had an RBI as well.

In the night game, Gardy, Hicks, and Giancarlo “G” Stanton all contributed an RBI, and Austin “Ro” Romine smacked an insurance-providing solo homer in the top of the ninth. Greg “Bird” Bird finally got the start after two successive starts by Luke Voit. He responded to the challenge for his position by going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

The Yankees (82-47) play the Boston Red Sox six more times with three games in New York and three in Boston. The New York series is Tuesday, September 18th through Thursday, September 20th, while the Boston series finishes the regular season on Friday, September 28th to Sunday, September 30th. It’s still an uphill battle but the division title remains within reach if the cards fall right for the Yankees. Getting everybody healthy is the first course of business.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe had some interesting comments about the Yankees in his weekly Sunday Baseball Notes.  He stated the Indians and the Yankees “were exploring the possibility of (Andrew) McCutchen, who has cleared waivers and can be traded anywhere”. I find it hard to believe the Yankees would add McCutchen due to the luxury tax threshold limitations but I guess you can never underestimate GM Brian Cashman. I wouldn’t mind seeing McCutchen in pinstripes but then again, he’s a redundant luxury once Aaron Judge returns to good health. Cutch does have that “it” factor and could be capable of delivering huge hits when it matters the most even if he is no longer the player he once was for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cafardo also said the Yankees were in the hunt for Giants lefthander Madison Bumgarner at the July trading deadline but found the price too high. Bummer, I would have loved Mad-Bum on the Yankees. Of course, I have no idea what the Giants asked for. Handing over our ten best prospects probably would not have been a good idea. LOL! I doubt that was the cost but it probably wasn’t too far off.

Congrats to former Yankee Matt Holliday for his return to the Majors with his original team, the Colorado Rockies. Holliday was unable to wear his original number (5) since it now belongs to long-time Rockie Carlos Gonzalez and the number he wore with the Yankees (17) is retired in honor of Rockies great Todd Helton. So Holliday opted for number 7 which of course is a hallowed number around here. Holliday went hitless in his Rockies debut on Friday after an absence of ten years in a Colorado uniform but he delivered a pinch hit homer yesterday against another one of his former teams, the St Louis Cardinals.

The Yankees conclude their series at Camden Yards today. Luis Severino (16-6, 3.28 ERA) will face Dylan Bundy (7-12, 5.31 ERA) tonight at 8 pm ET before the team heads home (sleep?  who needs stinkin’ sleep!). It would be great if Sevy could pitch like he did in the first half. We need THAT guy hitting all cylinders for the sprint to the finish. Baltimore is going to lose 100 games this season with or without our help. We might as well move them one game closer. With the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers on tap for the seven-game homestand starting Monday, the Yankees must continue to put the pressure on the Beantown Bunch.  These are the games that we can and should win before we face the Wild Card contending Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners on the the last West Coast trip of the regular season starting on Labor Day.

Go Yankees!

A Win is a Win…

 

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Photo Credit: Miami Herald (David Santiago)

Yankees Survive the Marlins in Extra Innings…

Beat the teams you are supposed to beat. It does get frustrating when the Yankees struggle against Major League Baseball’s worst teams. I thought it was game over twice last night when the Miami Marlins loaded the bases with no outs in the bottoms of the ninth and eleventh innings against Chad Green and A.J. Cole, respectively. Somehow, the Yankees miraculously survived both innings and finally punched across the winning run in the top of the twelfth, thanks to a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by everybody’s Rookie of the Year, Miguel Andujar.

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Photo Credit: AP (Lynne Sladky)

I guess it does not really matter how you win so long as you do win.

On a night the Boston Red Sox were losing…again…it was nice to pick up a game in the standings. With the 2-1 win over the Marlins, the Yankees now trail Boston by eight games (seven in the loss column) in the AL East. The Sox dropped their second straight game to the AL Central leading Cleveland Indians, 6-3. It was Boston’s third consecutive loss overall.  Bummer, I feel so sad when that happens. Um, not really.

I’ve always felt that as long as you are within six games on September 1st, you have a chance to win the division. Mathematically, you can obviously be further out and still take the division crown but I’ve seen many six game leads erased over the years, the number has stuck in my head as the benchmark to ensure that you trail by no more than six when the calendar page rips to the ninth month of the year. Now, I don’t really expect the Red Sox to crater despite their current losing streak but it is fun to see the Yankees cut into their large lead.  Boston’s losing pitcher last night was Nathan Eovaldi. Nasty Nate hasn’t pitched a quality start for the Red Sox since they beat the Yankees on August 4th. For all those Yankee fans who wanted Eovaldi over J.A. Happ, be glad that your dreams did not come true.

I am worried about Aroldis Chapman. Brought in to close out last night’s win, he was unable to find the strike zone, walking the leadoff hitter in the twelfth inning. After six pitches, he signaled for the dugout and the decision was made to pull him due to his troublesome left knee. While Chapman has been trying to play through the knee tendonitis, this is the worst it has been so far. The Yankees plan further tests today to determine if something else is going on.

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Photo Credit: AP (Lynne Sladky)

Either way, it does not look good for the Yankees closer. David Robertson has missed a few games with minor soreness in the shoulder, so, to me, Zach Britton looks like the best option to close. I wouldn’t want to mess with Dellin Betances. He is much better in a setup role. Chad Green hasn’t been as reliable this year as he was in 2017. Britton, if he is right, is the best man for the job. He knows and understands the pressure of the ninth inning and he has proven in the past he is among the league’s elite. I know he’s had his share of struggles in Pinstripes, but he would be my first option to replace Chapman if Chappy is forced to miss any time. Work and knowing his role would help Britton elevate his game to previous levels of dominance.

Tommy Kahnle picked up his first save of the season in relief of Chapman but he is not a closing option for an extended period of time. The Yankees have been concerned about his drop in velocity and he is fortunate that the team he faced last night was the Marlins and not a stronger team like the Oakland A’s, a team we will see in early September. Khris Davis or Matt Olson would feast on Kahnle’s offerings.

As expected, Didi Gregorius landed on the disabled list prior to yesterday’s game due to his injured heel.  Hopefully, he’ll only miss the minimum amount of time (ten days). It’s fortunate the Yankees have a true shortstop in Gleyber Torres to slide him over to cover for Didi and hand the second base job to a proven second baseman in Neil Walker. It hurts to lose Didi but on paper, he is an easier guy to replace than Aaron Judge. I guess it is good and bad with Walker at second, considering that it opens more potential playing time for Shane Robinson in right field. Yuck!

It hurts me to look at the list of Yankees that have hit the disabled list this year. You could nearly field a playoff contender with the DL guys alone.  Baseball is about opportunity. When one goes down, another has to step up. Credit to those Yankees who have performed when asked. Hopefully the team can withstand the latest run of injuries to put the team in good position for the final weeks of the season and when some of the injured guys like Judge and Gary Sanchez can rejoin the active roster.

I am really surprised GM Brian Cashman has done nothing about right field. There’s no question I am not a fan of Shane Robinson. I know the Yankees are trying to navigate the treacherous waters beneath the luxury tax threshold, but there are too many other better outfield options available for the Yankees. I would have preferred the Yankees recalled Tyler Wade yesterday instead of first baseman Luke Voit. Manager Aaron Boone wanted Voit’s bat since they are playing a couple of games in a National League park, but despite whatever hitting success Voit has enjoyed at Triple A, it has yet to translate to the MLB level. Wade is capable of playing some corner outfield. Or make a spot on the 40-man roster for first baseman Ryan McBroom. McBroom is also capable of playing in the outfield and has had a very good year between Double and Triple A. I certainly like McBroom or Wade over Robinson.

Tyler Austin’s dad, Chris, has taken much heat for his tweets which basically trashed Greg Bird while promoting his son’s success with the Minnesota Twins. Personally, I don’t have a problem with Chris. My father passed away when I was a small child. Man, I wish I had a dad that loved me as passionately as Chris does Tyler. It’s wonderful that Tyler is enjoying success with the Twins. He deserves it. It is unfortunate Greg Bird took the unfair criticism but Bird has it within his power to change the results. If Tyler had been the first baseman the Yankees kept and Bird was the guy traded to Minneapolis, I am sure Yankee fans would not have minded Chris’s tweets promoting his son over Bird. Tyler, for the record, was embarrassed by his father’s tweets and asked him to take them down. He apologized for his father’s actions and expressed the intent to reach out to Bird.  I think the whole situation was overblown. I didn’t take offense when I first saw Chris’s tweet and figured it was his right as a father. In retrospect, it probably should not have come at Greg Bird’s expense but again Bird can change the results. I hope Tyler prospers and thrives as a member of the Twins and Greg Bird goes on to have a very good Yankees career.

I really hope that Giancarlo Stanton can get his 300th career home run tonight at Marlins Park in Miami.  It seems so appropriate for the long-time Marlin to snag the milestone homer in what was once his home ballpark. Hitting number 300 at Camden Yards in Baltimore does not have the same honor or prestige for the Marlins’ all-time leading home run hitter. The positive reaction the crowd gave Stanton last night was very moving as was his gesture that they had his heart. A sweet, tender moment with the Marlins fans. Now, crush their hearts with a long, dramatic home run for #300.

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Photo Credit: AP (Lynne Sladky)

The Washington Nationals were busy yesterday. They traded a Daniel Burch-favorite, second baseman Daniel Murphy, to the Chicago Cubs and let first baseman Matt Adams go on waivers to the St Louis Cardinals. Outfielder Bryce Harper was apparently claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers but the Nats pulled him back off revocable waivers ensuring that he’ll end the season with Washington in what could be his final days as a Nat. As much as I would like for Bryce to play for the Yankees next year, I think the Philadelphia Phillies are the most likely destination for the free agent-to-be. With slightly more than a week left before the waiver trading deadline, teams will probably start making moves like we saw yesterday. Hopefully Brian Cashman can snag some help to offset the rash of injuries. Aside from the return to health for the key guys on the DL, the biggest September move might be the promotion of Justus Sheffield to serve in the Yankees bullpen. Regardless of how he gets to the Bronx, I am anxious to see the Yankees best pitching prospect finally get his opportunity. Top Sheff, it’s nearly your time.

Today is a good day for a win and a great day for a Stanton home run. Let’s Go Yankees! Please feel free to shave another game off Boston’s lead. We certainly do not mind.

InCESSAnt Behavior…

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Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)

Yanks Ride Luis Cessa to Loss…

Sorry Cessa, not a fan…

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Luis Cessa may be a great guy and one of the ‘boys’ in the clubhouse, but he isn’t a pitcher I want in the starting rotation for a team driving for a shot in the post-season. I realize that Cessa had a couple of good starts in July, but in two August starts totaling seven innings, he has given up fourteen hits and ten runs.  In three seasons with the Yankees, he is 5-10 with 4.71 ERA in 133 2/3 innings. He has given up 129 hits. This is who he is. If you’re lucky, he is not going to give up more than 4-5 runs before the game is halfway over. We need better.

I am not sure why the Yankees have such an infatuation with Cessa. I think he’s better served pitching in the bullpen.  That’s not a slam.  Bullpens are filled with failed starters. I’d gladly take Cessa as the long man in the pen over A.J. Cole. Cessa is better in short non-starting spurts than he is starting games. Cole would be better served pitching elsewhere.

To Cessa’s defense, any of the Yankees starting pitchers were going to lose yesterday if the offense could only push one run across the plate in the 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Still, it felt like it was going to be a loss before the first pitch was thrown. Maybe his teammates have full faith and confidence in his ability, but for me, it was a psychological downer knowing Cessa would be on the mound.  It’s hard to be at your best when you are not mentally in the game. I can’t really see what Cessa has done to inspire any confidence.

After the game, Cessa was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so A.J. Cole lives to see another day. He remains my latest preferred DFA candidate unless he can somehow survive the next 15 days. George Kontos, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. I am not really sure why the Yankees acquired Kontos. They paid cash to the Cleveland Indians on August 4th for the former San Francisco Giants reliever and one-time Yankees prospect. It was kind of a nice story about the former Yankees farmhand coming home.  They placed him at Triple A for a week and promoted him to the active roster on August 13th. He pitched an inning and two-thirds against the New York Mets on the day of his promotion, limiting the Mets to a hit and no runs while striking out two. Yesterday, he was designated for assignment to make room for Cessa’s start. There was a reason Kontos was available. His velocity is down significantly from last year, but I am not sure why the Yankees even bothered to acquire him. To create a spot on the 40-man roster to pitch him for less than two innings seems curious at best. It’s not like he pitched Sonny Gray-style in his one and only appearance. Maybe he clears waivers and is outrighted to Triple A, but I’d be surprised if another team doesn’t place a claim. Everyone could use bullpen help.  Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Photo Credit: AP (Mark J Terrill)

Frankly, I am a little tired of people who keep promoting GM Brian Cashman as the greatest genius in the sport and the Ninja Master. There’s no doubt he has had his share of successes but his closet is littered with failures.  I shouldn’t be bitter the Yankees have the second best record in Major League Baseball, but I am frustrated that the team could have been better if not for questionable Cashman moves and the overall inexperience of manager Aaron Boone. Boone’s a good man and I think he’ll eventually be a good manager but there have been and will continue be bumps along the way. Cashman and his analytic team making the lineup decisions is befuddling at times. I guess we should say that Michael Fishman, VP, Assistant General Manager and head of the Analytics Department, is the true manager of the Yankees.  Sometimes, the answers are not in the numbers.

When it was mentioned that Aaron Judge was only going to be out for three weeks for his injured right wrist, I felt the timetable was probably a little over-aggressive. So, the latest word that Judge will need more time and we may not see him until September is not surprising.  This is why I felt the Yankees should have acquired another outfielder in lieu of promoting one of the few healthy outfielders at Triple A, Shane Robinson, earlier in the month. I’ve mentioned Curtis Granderson.  I know that will bring ire from TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen. I get that Grandy has seen his better days and he was such a disappointment down the stretch last year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, compared to Shane Robinson, Grandy still looks appealing to me. Of course, he hit a grand slam last night for the Toronto Blue Jays so it’s easy to say when the player is performing.  I really wish that Clint Frazier was healthy. This would have been his opportunity to shine and his chance to prove to the Yankees he represents the future of the outfield.  It was not meant to be, unfortunately, so I feel that Cashman and Company should have turned quickly to Plan B. “B” standing for ‘better than Shane Robinson’.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

It was funny yesterday when first baseman Ryan McBroom was pulled from the lineup in the double-header between the Indianapolis Indians and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Moosic, PA. Yankees Twitter blew up with the usual ‘trade or call up’ speculation. Subsequent word was that he was scratched due to a stiff back that tightened up on him during Tuesday’s game. He is expected to be available today for the RailRiders. Despite his good year at Triple A, he doesn’t seem like a prospect that is going to warrant much consideration from the Front Office.

To replace Luis Cessa on the active roster, it appears reliever Tommy Kahnle will be returning to the Bronx.  He cleared out his locker at Triple A last night, after not appearing in the double-header. I am hopeful Kahnle is back for good. Of course he has to pitch like we know he can to keep the spot but that’s on him. Welcome back, Tommy! The Philadelphia Eagles suck but we are happy you are back.

Speaking of the RailRiders’ double-header, the first game was not very kind for top Yankees prospect Justus Sheffield. He only lasted an inning and two-thirds after getting tagged for four hits and four runs, while mixing in five walks in the short outing. Not exactly a stellar start for Top Sheff. He took the loss as the RailRiders were unable to rally against the Indians. He held Indianapolis scoreless in the first inning despite leaving two runners stranded after a hit and a walk. But it unraveled for him in the second inning.  The Indians scored three of four runs that inning  after Sheff had recorded two outs, and he was pulled with the bases loaded. J.P. Feyereisen struck out Wyatt Mathisen to end the inning so the damage to Sheffield’s final pitching line could have been much worse if not for Feyereisen’s K. Nevertheless, it was just a blip. Sheffield has not become the second incarnation of Luis Cessa. It happens to the best of pitchers. He’ll be back strong next start, I am sure. Brian Cashman has indicated we’ll see Sheffield at some point this season so I fully expect his arrival when rosters expand in September.

I guess at this point the AL East standings do not really matter, however, the Yankees lost an opportunity to pick up a game on the Boston Red Sox yesterday. The Sox suffered a rare loss against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday while the Yankees were losing to the Rays. The Yankees (75-45) stayed ten games behind Boston. They also maintained their slim 3 ½ game lead in the Wild Card standings over the Oakland A’s. The A’s lost to the other Wild Card contender, the Seattle Mariners. The M’s are 2 ½ games behind Oakland.

The Yankees conclude their series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium today. They’ll send Masahiro Tanaka (9-3, 4.08 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Rays ace Blake Snell (13-5, 2.18 ERA). I am hopeful that we’ll see a much better Tanaka than we did last start. Regardless, the Yankees offense needs to chip in some runs today if we are to be successful. I am sure that a few balls will leave the yard today but hopefully the majority of the culprits will be wearing pinstripes.

Go Yankees!

I Thought the Yankees Owned Tampa…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)

Tampa’s Best Resident treated rudely by the St Pete Rays…

The last couple of days have not been fun.

I was afraid after the Yankees finished off the sweep of the surging Seattle Mariners, the Yankees might struggle against a losing team. I know, every team goes through mini-slumps and it is inevitable the Yankees will lose from time to time as difficult as it may be for Yankees fans. They’ll eventually lose around sixty games (give or take) by the time the season is finished so Loss #24 on June 23rd is not the end of the World. Winning 116 games in the regular season does not guarantee anything. Just ask the Mariners. The goal is to win the division, not to see if the Yankees can top the 114 victories by the 1998 Yankees.

I think the toughest part of Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays was the inability of the Yankees to score runs off the Rays rotation by bullpen. Trailing 2-0 in the 7th inning, Aaron Judge delivered a run-scoring single off one-time brief Yankee Chaz Roe and had the Yankees set up in scoring position with Brett Gardner at second and Judge at first and only one out. But both Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorious both grounded out to end the Yankees best chance to tie the game. Otherwise, it was a very quiet night.

On the same night as the Yankees were floundering in St Petersburg, the Boston Red Sox overcame deficits of 0-5 and 5-10 to defeat the Seattle Mariners by a score of 14-10. The Yankees couldn’t squeeze out one more run while the Red Sox had no problem erasing not one but two five-run deficits.

Yesterday’s loss might have been easier to take for no other reason than the Red Sox finally lost. The Mariners snapped their five-game losing skid with a 7-2 victory over Boston and nine-game winner Edwin Rodriguez.

There were not very many positives with Saturday’s game as the Rays bullpen held the Yankees scoreless on four hits en route to the 4-0 win over the Yanks. Sonny Gray gave up three runs in the first two innings to put the Yankees in a hole and the last hitter he faced in the bottom of the 7th, rookie Willy Adames, took him yard. Credit Gray for the stretch of hitters when he retired 15 Rays in a row, but ultimately it was just another loss for the disappointing Gray (5-5, 4.93 ERA).

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I do not understand Wilmer Font’s mastery of the Yankees. Font lost jobs earlier this year with the Los Angeles Dodgers (11.32 ERA) and Oakland A’s (14.85 ERA) but against the Yankees, Font is 1-0 and has limited the team to only 2 runs over 11 1/3 innings with 9 strikeouts. The Yankees have almost single-handedly revived Font’s career.

The most painful at-bat for me yesterday was Giancarlo Stanton’s strikeout (against Rays reliever and Friday night’s “opener” Ryne Stanek) to end the top of the 6th inning, leaving Aaron Judge stranded at third. Leaving runners in scoring position has plagued the Yankees in both losses and the last couple of weeks. Friday night, they were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and they left nine men on base. Yesterday, they were 1-for-8 (Didi Gregorius advanced Judge from second to third prior to Stanton’s swinging strikeout) but couldn’t get anyone home.

The Yankees offense really hasn’t done anything since the two-homer outburst in the first inning of the series finale with the Mariners last Thursday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Julio Aguilar)

The Yankees (50-24) hold a slim one-game lead over the Red Sox (51-27) in the AL East. After helping the Rays climb closer to .500, the Yankees have a tough week ahead. When today’s game is over, they’ll hop on a plane bound for Philadelphia to play a three-game set against the Phillies. The Phillies currently have a better record than the Washington Nationals and sit just a game and a half behind the surprising Atlanta Braves in the NL East. There’s no doubt they’ll be ready to play when the Yankees come to town. The Phillies are riding a three-game winning streak entering play today. After a much-needed day off on Thursday, the Yankees return home to face the Boston Red Sox for three games next weekend. The Braves follow the Red Sox so the Yankees have clearly missed an opportunity to beat up on a losing team before another difficult stretch. Time to get the team’s offense going. Today is better than tomorrow. I’ve really missed Michael Kay’s “See ya!” calls.

I was going to rip on Chasen Shreve but the Yankees did it for me. Shreve relieved Sonny Gray yesterday after the homer by Willy Adames and he had the Rays set up for more runs with a couple of walks and a hit to load the bases. Fortunately he struck out Wilson Ramos to leave the bases full, but it appears this may have been his final Yankees appearance. The Yankees designated Shreve for assignment today, recalling Tommy Kahnle from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. As a lefty who has experienced some success at the MLB level, I doubt Shreve clears waivers so thus endeth his Yankees career. The Yankees need another lefty for the pen but I am not sad to see Shreve go. He was the bullpen’s weakest link.

Welcome back, Tommy Kahnle!  The Philadelphia Eagles fan was 1-1 with 3.12 ERA in eight games for the RailRiders. He struck out 15 batters in 14 innings and yielded only 3 walks. I am glad to have Kahnle back even if his 7th inning role has been supplanted by Jonathan Holder.  He gives Aaron Boone a few choices before he pulls the Dellin Betances-Aroldis Chapman card late in games.

I cannot talk about the RailRiders without mentioning Brandon Drury. Drury’s two-run homer  yesterday was the difference-maker in the RailRiders’ 4-2 win over the Rochester Red Wings.  Drury continues to be an on-base machine even if he was only 1-for-4 in the game. For a big league club that’s struggling to advance base runners, Drury could help. At this point, I’d be ready to eat the balance of Neil Walker’s contract to open a spot for Drury. Walker has done a fine job supporting first base, but the athletic Drury can be equally as effective (if not more so).

Very nice job on Saturday by Yankees pitching prospect Garrett Whitlock for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A). Whitlock, 22, picked up the win over the Jupiter Hammerheads with a three-hit shutout. He beat former Yankees prospect Jorge Guzman (the hard-thrower who went to Miami in the Giancarlo Stanton trade), striking out eleven Hammerheads over seven innings while only walking one. Whitlock was drafted in the 18th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He is currently rated as the 26th best Yankees prospect by MLB.com. He is exceeding expectations (5-3, 1.41 ERA  in combined A ball, with 81 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 70 innings) and should advance his stature within one of baseball’s best farm systems with his breakout season. Whitlock has only given up one homer this year (only the second of his minor league career) and none for the Tarpons. I suspect that we’ll be hearing more and more about Whitlock in the coming months.

Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio

Hard to believe that the calendar will soon turn to July. Trade talks should be heating up in the coming weeks. That should spark some good Bryan Van Dusen posts. It will be a fun month, made even better if the Yankees can put some distance between themselves and the Red Sox.

Never a better day to start winning than today. Go Yankees!

 

Update:  Sounds like the DFA of Chasen Shreve was fake news or just my wishful thinking. Bummer.  I am ready for the guy to go and for Tommy Kahnle to rejoin the Yanks.

The Excitement of Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium…

The 2018 Old Timer’s Day Rosters are loaded…

Yankees Old Timer’s Day is always an exciting event each year. I love the introductions and watching former Yankees greats take the field to the massive cheers of the home crowd. I cannot think of another team that honors its alumni as well as the Yankees. While I am grateful for each year that allows legendary Hall of Famer Whitey Ford to return to Yankee Stadium, the name which excited me the most this year was Andy Pettitte. It’s always fun when Andy makes a brief appearance during Spring Training or shows up while the team is on the road in Houston, but nothing is going to match his presence in the Bronx wearing the famed Pinstripes and the interlocking N-Y baseball cap. It will be Andy’s first appearance at Old Timer’s Day. The two greatest lefties in Yankees history will share the same field at the same time. Sweet…

I am also excited to see fellow first-timer Jason Giambi who will gleefully be sporting a Gleyber Torres jersey for the day.

While I am not a fan of Yankees President Randy Levine, I do not appreciate the bitterness expressed by former Yankee Jim Leyritz who did not receive an invitation.  Leyritz directed his anger at Levine. He took to Twitter yesterday with “Yes it’s a joke already. Randy Levine and Debbie Tymon (Yankees SVP, Marketing) have said I didn’t do enough in Yankee history to be invited. How many sliders did they hit. Lol” I am appreciative of Leyritz’s contributions to the Yankees but he was never a star nor considered a key performer. Maybe the results of the 1996 World Series would have been different if Leyritz didn’t hit the eighth-inning three-run homer in Game 4 to tie the game which the Yankees eventually won in extra innings on their way to the championship in six games. I have no problem with the Yankees’ decision to pass on an invitation to Leyritz. Professionalism and character are part of the package for the invitees.  

Here is the complete list of this year’s Old Timer’s Day participants:

Jesse Barfield (RF, 1989-92 Yankees)

Ron Blomberg (DH…MLB’s first, 1B, RF, 1969-76 Yankees)

Brian Boehringer (RHP, 1995-97, 2001 Yankees)

Aaron Boone (3B, 2003 Yankees; Manager, 2018-Present)

Jim Bouton (RHP, 1962-68 Yankees)

Scott Bradley (C, 1984-85 Yankees)

Dr Bobby Brown (3B, SS, 1946-54 Yankees)

Homer Bush (2B, SS, 1997-98, 2004 Yankees)

David “Coney” Cone (RHP, 1995-2000 Yankees)

Johnny Damon (OF, 2006-09 Yankees)

Ron Davis (RHP, 1978-81 Yankees)

Russell Earl “Bucky” Dent (SS, 1977-82 Yankees)

Al Downing (LHP, 1961-69 Yankees)

Brian Doyle (2B, SS, 3B, 1978-80 Yankees)

Mariano Duncan (2B, SS, LF, 1996-97 Yankees)

John Flaherty (C, 2003-05 Yankees)

Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford“The Chairman of the Board” (LHP, 1950-67 Yankees)

Jason Giambi (1B, DH, 2002-08 Yankees)

Ron “Gator” Guidry (LHP, 1975-88 Yankees)

Charlie Hayes (3B, 1992, 1996-97 Yankees)

Reginald Martinez “Reggie” Jackson (RF, 1977-81 Yankees)

Dion James (OF, 1992-96 Yankees)

Jay Johnstone (OF, 1978-79 Yankees)

Scott Kamieniecki (RHP, 1991-96 Yankees)

Don Larsen (RHP, 1955-59 Yankees)

Graeme Lloyd (LHP, 1996-98 Yankees)

Hector Lopez (LF, 3B, 2B, 1959-66 Yankees)

Lee Mazzilli (1B, OF, 1982 Yankees)

Ramiro Mendoza (RHP, 1996-2002, 2005 Yankees)

Gene Monahan (Trainer, 1973-2011 Yankees)

Jeff “Nellie” Nelson (RHP, 1996-2000, 2003 Yankees)

Paul “The Warrior” O’Neill (RF, 1993-2001 Yankees)

Andy Pettitte (LHP, 1995-2003, 2007-13 Yankees)

Lou “Sweet Lou” Piniella (LF, 1974-84 Yankees; Manager, 1986-87, 1988)

Willie Randolph (2B, 1976-88 Yankees; Coach, 1994-2004)

Bobby Richardson (2B, 1955-66 Yankees)

Mickey “Mick the Quick” Rivers (CF, 1976-79 Yankees)

Nick Swisher (RF, 1B, 2009-12 Yankees)

Frank Tepedino (LHP, 1967-1971, 1972 Yankees)

Marcus Thames (OF, 2002 Yankees; Coach, 2016 to Present, Yankees)

Roy White (LF, 1965-79 Yankees)

Elston Howard widow Arlene Howard (C, LF, 1B, 1955-66 Yankees)

Jim “Catfish” Hunter widow Helen Hunter (RHP, 1975-79 Yankees)

Alfred Manual “Billy” Martin widow Jill Martin (2B, 3B, SS, 1950-57 Yankees; Manager, 1975-78, 1979, 1983, 1985, 1988) 

Thurman Munson widow Diana Munson (C, 1969-79 Yankees)

Bobby Murcer widow Kay Murcer (OF, 1965-74, 1979-83 Yankees)

The 72nd Annual Old Timer’s Day will be on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 17th prior to the Yankees scheduled game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Heck, Rays Manager Kevin Cash (C, 2009 Yankees) might want to join the festivities.

As badly as it hurt to watch the Texas Rangers make mince meat out of the Yankees pitching staff on Wednesday night, it was probably salt in the wound to watch Danny Duffy and the Kansas City Royals bullpen hold the same Rangers to five hits and two runs last night. Duffy (2-6, 6.14 ERA) took a shutout into the eighth inning. Seriously? I hope CC Sabathia was watching and taking notes.

Hats off to the Tampa Bay Rays for turning back a furious Red Sox rally to beat Boston, 6-3, yesterday. The loss reduced the Red Sox lead over the Yankees in the AL East to only one game. The Red Sox entertain the Atlanta Braves (29-19, 1st in the NL East) at Fenway Park for a three-game weekend series starting tonight. Glad to see them finally play some winning teams.  

The Major League career of reliever Ryan Bollinger lasted one game without an appearance. He was returned to Double A-Trenton after sitting in the bullpen for Wednesday night’s loss in Texas.  His spot will presumably be filled by Tommy Kahnle who is expected to be activated off the disabled list today. Greg Bird is also expected to return this weekend. I still think Tyler Austin will be the odd man out with a free bus ticket to Scranton, PA.

Hopefully Luis Severino gets the Yankees back on the winning track tonight against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Given that we will not see Shohei Ohtani pitch this weekend, there’s no doubt he’ll be penciled in at DH to take his shots at Yankees pitching. I am sure if he watched the Yankees-Rangers highlights, he is drooling at the prospect. I trust Sevy will set the right tone for the series.

Go Yankees!

Just One of the Guys…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)

A Meaningful Monday…

 Not bad for a Monday. The day started with the arrival of Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson in training camp to field grounders with Didi Gregorius and blast a few homers (six) for batting practice in a group that featured Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez. After the eventful day, third baseman Miguel Andujar capped it off with a dramatic 9th inning two-out walk-off home run to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-3.

Clearly, the story of the day was Russell Wilson. It’s funny how every news article, especially those in Seattle, expressly state that he has not suddenly decided to give up his day job (as if they are worried about it). Some Yankees fan think Wilson is a distraction, but I take it for what it is.  It is an opportunity to break up monotonous Spring Training by spending time with a Super Bowl-caliber professional athlete. I’ve always said there are guys who know how to play the game and there are guys who are winners. The rare combination is the guy who embodies both.  Wilson is one of those rare athletes. I think he has much to offer the young Yankees even if he never fields a single play or takes an at-bat in an exhibition game. Winners breed winners. I am glad that Wilson is a Yankees fan and is spending his off-season in a baseball environment around the Yankees. His five or six days in camp will pass quickly and he’ll be gone. But the impact of his visit will remain with the players as they march toward the start of the 2018 season and its grand expectations.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)

Maybe Wilson should spend some time trying to talk some sense into reliever Tommy Kahnle and his “overkill” love for the Philadelphia Eagles. Sadly, I think that’s a lost cause.

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At the very least, I’d give Wilson an at-bat in one of the upcoming exhibition games but it is possible the Seahawks have imposed a moratorium on what Wilson can and cannot do while in Yankees Camp. It would be nice to see Stanton and Judge catch a few passes before Wilson departs.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)

Monday evening, in the first night game of the Exhibition Season, the Yankees continued their winning ways, fourth win in four games, to make Aaron Boone an undefeated manager to start his career. I know, these games mean nothing but it’s tremendous to see everyone embrace Boone’s desire to be “great”. I was disappointed the Phillies game was not televised as I would have enjoyed watching Sonny Gray’s Spring debut. He pitched two innings, giving up two isolated singles, but struck out 2 batters and did not allow any runs. He was throwing strikes as all 12 of his pitches were in the zone.

Chance Adams made his debut (which is another reason I wanted to watch the game).  Adams got into trouble with the first batter he faced, his high school teammate Dylan Cozens.  Adams and Cozens were in the same class at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona (Class of 2012).

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Cozens, comparable to Giancarlo Stanton in size and weight, drew a walk off his friend to start the third inning. He stole second and then advanced to third when Rhys Hoskins hit a grounder to first. A sacrifice fly by Phillies free agent acquisition Carlos Santana brought Cozens home for the only run off Adams. The next batter, Cesar Hernandez, got the only hit off Adams over his two innings of work, with a single to left. Aaron Altherr followed with the second walk of the inning but Gary Sanchez rescued Adams when his throw to second caught Hernandez off base for the third out.

The player of the game was, no doubt, Miguel Andujar. Andujar entered the game as a pinch-hitter for right fielder Billy McKinney in the bottom of the 7th inning. Andujar’s double to left scored Mark Payton, running for Brandon Drury, from third to tie the score at 2. Andujar stayed in the game as the replacement for Drury at third base. The Yankees had a chance to win it with a RBI single by Jorge Saez in the 8th, but Cody Carroll’s attempt to earn the save failed when he allowed a solo home run to Scott Kingery, another Arizonan, in the top of the 9th. No worries. Gleyber Torres and Mark Payton recorded the first two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, bringing Andujar to the plate. After two balls, Andujar swung and missed at the next two pitches. On the fifth pitch from Phillies reliever Ranger Suarez, Andujar sent the ball over the fence in left clearing most of the Phillies off the field before Andujar could finish his home run trot.

For a meaningless game, it sure was exciting. If only we had been able to watch it…well, those of us not so fortunate to be at Steinbrenner Field. So far, the battle for third base between Brandon Drury and Miguel Andujar has been very spirited. It’s early but the competition at third base has been better than second base.

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Photo Credit: Newsday

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

The Yankees starting lineup for today’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Florida at 1:05 pm Eastern will be:

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

Miguel Andujar (aka “The Stud”), 3B

Tyler Austin, 1B

Danny Espinosa, 2B

Austin Romine, C

Jace Peterson, DH

Ronald Torreyes, SS

Billy McKinney, LF

Shane Robinson, RF

The starting pitcher will be Bullpen Ace Chad Green.

I am not exactly a fan of Hanley Ramirez, but the Red Sox 1B/DH was popping off yesterday after Boston finally announced the signing of free agent slugger J.D. Martinez.  His words were something to the effect that they were going to step on everybody’s neck now. I harbor no ill will toward Ramirez, Martinez or the Red Sox but I am looking forward to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton putting on a display this year against the Red Sox, along with the other great young Yankees hitters. Let’s see whose neck gets stepped on. I hope, and I suspect, that this will not be a fun year for Ramirez. The best way to shut up Han-Ram is for the Yankees to win the American League East. I like our odds.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Go Yankees!