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.
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.
How will the Yankees “manage” potential change?…
Will Joe Girardi be the Yankees manager this time next year? As the manager enters the final year of his contract, the expectation is that he’ll re-sign with the Yankees in October or November. But anything is possible. The Steinbrenner family might have a change of heart and decide that a change is needed. Girardi has held the job for a long time (this will be his 10th season as Yankees skipper).
Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
I get frustrated with Girardi at times. He’s never been one of my favorite managers. I had greater confidence in Joe Torre’s ability to lead. Among current managers, I hold Don Mattingly and Terry “Tito” Francona in highest regard.
Mattingly was my favorite player so sentimentally that’s probably why he is my favorite manager. In 2008, when the Yankees hired Girardi over Mattingly, I did think it was the right decision given Mattingly’s lack of managerial experience at the time. Mattingly was not able to succeed in Los Angeles for the Dodgers, but I’ve felt he has continually improved each year. Today, I’d easily take Mattingly over Girardi. My only reservation with hiring Mattingly as Yankees manager (assuming the Yankees could pry him from Miami) is preservation of his Yankees legacy. Managers are hired to be fired or so the saying goes. I wouldn’t want my final memory of Mattingly in pinstripes to be him walking away after being fired.
I have admired Francona since he was manager of the Boston Red Sox. I had great respect for the champions he built and of course he was responsible for ending The Curse of the Bambino, along with then general manager Theo Epstein. I doubt that Francona would ever leave the Cleveland Indians (by his own choice). The Yankees could have hired him after he was fired in Boston but they did not express any interest. Francona has history with the Cleveland Indians franchise (pre-dating his time in Boston), and after taking the team to the World Series last year, he is very beloved in the city.
If the Yankees do decide to make a managerial change at the end of the season, I just don’t see any overwhelming candidates who could do a better job. Mattingly would be great, but he is under contract, so it would take a trade to make it happen. I am not enthused by simply elevating one of the coaches (Rob Thomson or Tony Pena).
This situation bears watching over the course of the season. I think the odds are much better that GM Brian Cashman, also in the final year of a contract, re-signs with the Yankees than Girardi. Time will tell.
Let the competition be Judged…
The Yankees have various degrees of competition at certain positions this spring. The most obvious is the two open spots in the pitching rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. The early leaders, in my opinion, are Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell. But there is still time for Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and perhaps Adam Warren to state their case. I am anxious and excited for Jordan Montgomery and James Kaprielian but it does not appear to be their times yet. Kaprielian has the higher ceiling but he won’t make an appearance at Yankee Stadium, barring injuries, until September at the earliest. Montgomery could show up sooner and might be the first or second option if someone gets hurt.
The competition at first base evaporated somewhat when Tyler Austin broke his foot. Greg Bird clearly holds the advantage over Chris Carter despite the latter’s 41 home runs last season. Unlike Carter, Bird is good defensively (even if he’s not on par with former first baseman Mark Teixeira’s glove) and hits for average. As Bird has shown this spring, he still has his power following last year’s injury.
Right field was also a speculated position of competition. Most assume that Aaron Judge will get the job, but technically, he is in competition with Aaron Hicks. Judge has a much greater upside, but he did strike out 42 out of 84 times late last season. If he is not able to make the necessary adjustments at the big league level, it could open the door for Hicks to take the job. I personally hope it does not happen. I am hopeful that Judge figures it out at this level like he has at every level thus far.
The flaming red hair is left on the barbershop floor…
Kudos to OF Clint Frazier for cutting his bushy red hair this week. While I personally feel that the Yankees current hair policy is outdated, I thought it was a good move by Frazier to cut his hair after a talk with Manager Joe Girardi. Girardi felt that the hair had become a distraction. It was a mature statement by Frazier in saying that he loved playing for the organization more than his hair.
Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Frazier won’t break camp with the Yankees, but he’ll be there soon enough. This is all part of his maturation into a dynamic young future star outfielder for the Pinstripers.
There’s other baseball on TV…
I should probably watch the WBC more but I’ve never been into it. Still, I fully understand the importance of placing Baseball on the World Stage and should reconsider my complacency. I guess I am just get tired of seeing the Dominican Republic or Japan always win the competition.
Regardless, it was fun to see the USA defeat Columbia, 3-2, on a run-scoring single by Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles. Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard picked up the win. The game featured a very strong start by Jose Quintana for Columbia. The rumors continue to swirl about Quintana’s future and the Yankees remain one of the potential destinations. His WBC performance yesterday did nothing to dispel those rumors.
Credit: Logan Bowles, USA TODAY Sports
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Don’t say it!…
As soon as I saw the words that Aroldis Chapman had claimed overuse by Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, I knew it would go viral. Within minutes, the internet was flooded with stories saying Chapman had slammed Maddon.
Given that Chapman has spent time in New York (and Chicago), one would think that he would know the importance of choosing his words wisely. In Cincinnati, he probably could have said those words, generating a few chuckles from the reporters, and never another word. But in New York, everything is magnified. I personally do not think Chapman meant any harm with the words nor does he hold any ill will towards Maddon and the Cubs. He qualified his comments by saying that he was to be ready to do his job. Maddon unnecessarily responded to the comments by saying that he had to win and Chapman always said yes.
Credit: Jamie Squire, Getty Images
I do not blame either man. In the play-offs and particularly the World Series, you leave it on the field. Whatever it takes. Was it foolish to bring Chapman into a game with the Cubs up by 5 runs in the 7th inning of Game 6. Sure, but we weren’t in Maddon’s shoes. How much did he trust his other relievers? Did he sense a potential shift in momentum? Was Chapman simply his best option? That is Joe Maddon’s decision…not ours. I felt Chapman was overused and didn’t blame him for the breakdown in Game 7 based on his workload over the preceding couple of nights. Joe did what he had to do and so did Chapman. The end result was the first World Series championship in 108 years for the Cubs. So if Maddon overused Chapman, so be it. They can cry about it as they collect their World Championship rings.
To me, this is not a red flag. I know that Joe Girardi will be selective in his use of Chapman and I think the pitcher’s presence on the Yankees is a mutual fit. I am glad he’s back. I am sorry for his prior domestic violence issues and while I don’t like what he did, I believe the man is capable of correcting his behavior and deserves the second chance. I always believed in giving Steve Howe second chances and I got burned on that one, but still, I think Chapman has carried himself well during his time in New York and Chicago. I look forward to seeing those 105 mph fastballs flying from #54 on the Yankee Stadium mound.
While I like the job Tyler Clippard did in pinstripes, he is clearly not Andrew Miller. So even with Chapman, the Yankees bullpen is noticeably inferior to last year’s No Runs DMC. I’d like to see the Yankees pick up another reliever to pair with Clippard as the bridge to Dellin Betances. I’d like to see the return of former Yankee Boone Logan but would certainly accept other options.
There’s is definitely still work to be done for the bullpen but I can’t begin to say how much better I feel having Chapman back in the fold.
Say it isn’t so…
I was so saddened to hear that Yankees beat writer Mark Feinsand was leaving the New York Daily News this week. It’s funny how we take the beat writers for granted and we grow to really appreciate the work they do day in and day out. With Feinsand, I loved his columns, tweets, and podcasts. He was always so insightful. But it was a surprising sense of loss when I heard he was leaving the Daily News.
Credit: Corey Sipkin, New York Daily News
I don’t know what’s next for Feinsand but I hope it involves the Yankees.
I don’t follow the Brooklyn Nets so admittedly I don’t know much about Feinsand’s replacement, Mike Mazzeo, but I am looking forward to his work.
Congratulations to Feinsand for his terrific work at the Daily News and best of luck in his next endeavor!
Sanchez had better get extra padding for that mitt…
Before the Yankees re-signed closer Aroldis Chapman, there was very little talk of what they SHOULD do. Now that Chapman is back in the fold after his brief hiatus to win a World Series championship with the Chicago Cubs, the naysayers are out in full force.
Credit: ESPN.com Illustration
For me, I am glad Chapman once again anchors the back end of the bullpen. If the Yankees had not paid him the record-setting 5 year, $86 million contract for a closer, the Miami Marlins were fully prepared to step in and pay him a million more. Like him or not, Chapman was going to get his money.
I know the current Baby Bombers Implementation Plan is in full effect and there are cheaper alternatives available. As great as Kenley Jansen is, he would have cost the Yankees their first round draft pick in the 2017 MLB Draft (then Number 17, but now Number 16 thanks to the Colorado Rockies’ signing of OF, SS, or 1B? Ian Desmond, thereby forfeiting their higher draft selection). In terms of dollars, in addition to the draft pick, Jansen would have cost nearly as much as Chapman.
Free agent and former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland is still available but he carries more questions as he attempts to come back from injury.
A reunion with former Yankees closer David Robertson was a possibility but the Chicago White Sox have shown they demand premium plus in trades.
Signing Chapman did not cost a draft pick or talent…only money which the Yankees have.
Chapman does carry the negative stigma of domestic violence but I do believe in second chances. He has not been convicted and by all accounts no one was seriously injured (or worse). I hope and pray it was a wake up call for Chapman. After 20 years of a Saint in the closer’s role for the Yankees, it’s unfortunate we have to deal with these issues. But give the man a chance for redemption.
I did not believe that Dellin Betances was suited for the closer’s role. My suspicions proved correct when we saw Betances stumble in September after the trades of Chapman and Andrew Miller. It may have been fatigue but I felt it was more mental. Betances is a great setup guy, perhaps one of the best in the game. Being a great bridge does not necessarily equate to being a great closer.
There is no doubt I would have preferred a reunion with Andrew Miller over Chapman but that was not going to happen. The Cleveland Indians recognize they have one of the most versatile and dependable relievers in baseball and possibly one of the most selfless guys you can ever hope to meet. But he is Cleveland property for the next few years under a very reasonable contract. If Cleveland was amenable to trading Miller, they would want no less than the premier talent they paid to acquire him. OF Clint Frazier is either first or second on any given Yankees top prospect list and P Justus Sheffield is a future mainstay in the rotation.
So regardless of the other options, I am glad that #54 found his way back to the Bronx. The trio of Tyler Clipart, Betances and Chapman may not be ‘No Runs DMC’ but they’ll be close. The Yankees still need other bullpen upgrades (I personally would like to see another reunion with the potential signing of lefty Boone Logan) but regardless of what happens, the pen will be a strength in 2017.
Next year’s going to seem like a Holliday…
After talk the Yankees would use the DH role to cycle through its position players as a form of rest, I was glad to see the Yankees make a short-term investment in former St Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday. Any way you slice it, Holliday will be a major upgrade over the now departed Alex Rodriguez. Last year, the Yankees offense was largely dependent upon two major underachievers, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. This year, the center of the lineup features Holliday and rookie sensation Gary Sanchez. If the Yankees can get meaningful production out of new first baseman Greg Bird and right fielder Aaron Judge, this could be a very good offense.
Credit: Google Images / STL Sports View
I am still a proponent of trading Brett Gardner. I feel strongly the team needs to open up left field for other young talent and allow Holliday an occasional start. The Yankees clearly need another starter in the rotation so if Gardner can bring in a solid #5, I’m all for it.
I think P Jason Hammel would be a good signing for the rotation but if that doesn’t happen, I am hopeful GM Brian Cashman gets creative in adding another piece. I would much rather see the team’s young talent fighting for only one rotation spot; not two. I am not convinced Luis Severino can be an effective starter but we know that he can be a very effective reliever. I would rather see Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell in swing roles, serving as the long men out of the pen. It would be much better for Luis Cessa and Chad Green to fight each other for a rotation spot than handing it to both of them.
The heavy lifting is done for the 2017 roster but the coming weeks should bring continued improvement. No major signings or trades are expected but just little tweaks to keep this team in contention while it looks ahead to brighter days in 2019. This is what Brian Cashman gets paid to do it, and so far, he’s been doing it well…
A swing and a miss, another miss, yet another miss…
This morning, I saw a post on the MLB Trade Rumors website (http://www.MLBTradeRumors.com) that asked the poll question of which MLB team had the best draft in 2002? Of all the examples shown, no Yankees were anywhere to be found. For a draft that started with Bryan Bullington and B.J. Upton, there was some great talent uncovered in the 2002 draft. Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Joey Votto and a guy who would eventually find his way to the Bronx, Brian McCann, were among the great choices by their respective teams. But sadly, not a single Yankee selection stuck that year.
Number 26 selection Phil Coke is a major leaguer but with the Detroit Tigers. He had his moments in the Bronx but was never anything special and was sent to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson-Austin Jackson trade.
But removing Coke, there are 50 rounds of names that Yankee Stadium never heard from. I really do not recognize any of the names outside of the first round selection and that’s only because he was later the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns (Brandon Weeden).
I know that there are many sad tales among the 2002 draft picks, like 2nd round pick Alan Bomer, a pitcher, who reinjured his shoulder after a previous injury several years earlier, bringing an end to his major league hopes.
But it’s also a testament to the drafting ability of major league teams and 2002 was clearly not a good vintage for the Yankees. I know the team’s re-focus on the minor league system didn’t occur until a few years later but hopefully barren draft years like 2002 are a thing of the past. But looking ahead a few years, it’s not too pretty.
2003 really wasn’t much better with top pick third baseman Eric Duncan long gone from baseball. The only name that stands out to me from that draft is Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard.
2004 was the year the Yankees selected pitcher Phil Hughes and can only wonder what could have been. Time will tell if he can fulfill his promise in the Twin Cities or if he was simply one of the most overhyped young players of our time.
For the Yankees, solid draft picks do not appear until 2005 which Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson were chosen. Interestingly enough, the Yankees also chose pitcher Doug Fister that year but he opted to return to college for his final year, and was taken by the Seattle Mariners the next year. Granted, Fister is currently on the Nationals’ DL, but he’d certainly look good in the Yankees rotation about now.
In 2006, the Yankees made some good choices, but it’s rather humorous that the first round pick went to Joba Chamberlain, a journeyman reliever for the Detroit Tigers, while current Yankees closer, David Robertson was selected in the 17th round. Ian Kennedy and Zach McAllister were both chosen after Chamberlain, and they are solid starting pitchers for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians, respectively. Dellin Betances was also taken that year and after years of hype, he’s finally contributing as a force in the Yankees bullpen. Mark Melancon, currently the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates due to Jason Grilli’s injury, was also a draft selection.
Of the decisions the Yankees made regarding trades, the one I didn’t like was dumping McAllister. He went to Cleveland in 2010 for Austin Kearns who only stayed in the Bronx for the remainder of the season. That trade felt like the foolish ones that we had grown accustomed to in the 1970’s and 80’s. McAllister is having a very solid year for the Indians and is another guy who would have looked great in the Yankees rotation.
I will never find fault with the decision to trade Ian Kennedy even though he almost won the Cy Young after leaving the Yankees. I just never found him to be a good fit in New York.
2007 was another disappointing draft year as the Yankees really only have catcher Austin Romine, currently at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, to show for it. Top pick Andrew Brackman was coming off a major injury at the time of the selection and was never able to find his way back.
As I advance to 2008, it’s disappointing to see how poor, outside of 2006, the draft has been for the Yankees. Atop the list in ’08 is a pitcher the Yankees were unable to sign and who is now entrenched in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole. Talk about another guy who would have been a brilliant option for the Yankees rotation. What could have been…
This really shows how incredibly difficult it is to determine those who will be able to achieve results and success at the Major League level. It also shows how many people fail to find their way for whatever reasons.
It’s a small wonder that the Yankees have had to spend so much in the free agent market to ensure the team remains competitive. In a statement of the obvious, the Yankees would be smart to improve the quality of their scouting and development to ensure that the older players are replaced by younger, cheaper talent with high ceilings.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals are solid teams because of their drafting ability. For the Yankees, they are successful despite it. I get why owner Hal Steinbrenner believes in the power of the farm system. This is not rocket science. Sustainability will only be maintained through youth and controlling costs.
Stupid is as stupid does…
The fans of the Boston Red Sox took great delight when Michael Pineda was tossed from a Yankees-Red Sox game last week due to the blatant smear of pine tar on his neck. After the fiasco caused during his previous start against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium (“brown dirt”), he had to have known he would be under the magnifying glass. Yet, he risked detection by continuing the use of pine tar and ended up applying a more generous amount than he had intended to. So, Boston manager John Farrell had absolutely no choice but to call out Pineda. This is one instance where I felt the Red Sox were 100% correct in a controversial decision involving the Yankees. Pineda’s 10-game suspension hurts the Yankees, at a time when they’ve already lost starter Ivan Nova for the season due to an elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery.
For a rotation that looked so strong and full of promise for a few starts, the Yankees now have to replace both Nova and Pineda, plus the top of the rotation has been questionable at times with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. The only source of consistency has been Masahiro Tanaka, who faces an incredibly difficult challenge today against the Los Angeles Angels and the likes of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.
Baseball is a team-first sport and Pineda made a “me-first” decision. I hope that he learns a valuable lesson during his suspension and comes back with choices that are for the good of the team.
For the record, I do believe that Major League Baseball should allow pine tar to some degree for gripping purposes only in colder temps. But until the rules are changed, it’s a violation and should be handled accordingly. Baseball has been tolerant of discreet behavior regarding its use, but to blatantly violate the policy warrants the appropriate punishment until such a time the rules are changed.