Saturday, April 8, 2017

Week One has been Anti-Fun…


The hope for the Yankees to get off to a great start are dissipating.  I know, it’s still early with just four games played, but winning only one out of four is not great, especially to lose one that should have been a win like last night’s game against the Baltimore Orioles.  

The game started very good as the Yankees raced to a 5-1 lead, thanks to home runs from Gary Sanchez and Matt Holliday.  But momentum turned when Manny Machado connected on a three-run shot off Luis Severino in the 5th to bring the O’s within one, 5-4.  It set the stage for outfielder Seth Smith to deliver the eventual game winning two run home run in the 7th off Tyler Clippard.

The game seemed to a microcosm of the season so far.  A few good performances (homers by Sanchez and Holliday, and Brett Gardner’s 3-for-5) surrounded by an overall ineffective offensive effort.  Marginal pitching susceptible to the random home run.  Poor fielding setting up the winning play (Chase Headley’s ill-timed throwing error that started the sequence leading to Smith’s game-winning HR).  Poor base-running to shut down potential big innings (like when Gary Sanchez was thrown out at second in the top of the 7th inning).  

It’s way too early to push the panic button with 157 games to be played.  But we’ll need more than Greg Bird’s .063 batting average to be successful.  Counting the next two games in Baltimore, the Yankees face AL East opponents eleven more times this month.  This includes a trip to Boston later this month for a three-game set.  The Yankees will also play the perennial playoff contending St Louis Cardinals next weekend at Yankee Stadium.  In other words, the April schedule is not forgiving.  It’s important for the Yankees to get on a roll for overall good performances, consistent from day to day.  This could easily swing in the wrong direction, sending the team on a downward spiral and mental funk.  

This is really the test of a good manager.  Now is the time for Joe Girardi to get inside the heads of his players and help challenge and motivate them to be their best.  If the team gets on a roll with a few consecutive wins, the mood changes and everybody’s talking about how exciting the young Baby Bombers are.  The time is now to start giving closer Aroldis Chapman a few save opportunities.

This has been the week of false news reports.  First, we had the reports that top prospect Clint Frazier asked the Yankees if they would un-retire Mickey Mantle’s #7.  It was quickly shot down as the Yankees said it didn’t happen and Frazier said that he’s only concerned about what’s on  the front of the jersey, not the back.  But something happened for the story to be written.  We may never know the genesis of it but there had to be a reason someone wrote about it, even if it was just a case of words being taken out of context.  I personally do not believe Frazier made that request but the player does bring his share of controversy (The Case of the Flaming Long Red Hair).  Next, it was reported that the Yankees would not attempt to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka if he decides to opt out of his contract at season's end.  While that does sound like something President Randy Levine would say after a few beers, I really do not believe that’s the Yankees official position on the subject.  The Yankees denied the reports, and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said no discussions have yet been held.  To the Yankees’ defense, if Tanaka does opt out, his next contract will extend primarily past his age-30 seasons (he turns 29 this November).  He is player that will need eventual Tommy John surgery so even if he is the ace, there must be discussions about the team’s strategy if Tanaka opts out.  

Sounds largely to me that writers are trying to find things to write about.  I get it.  Everyone’s trying to find the major story for sensationalism.  Rummaging through a few smoking cinders is likely to uncover a fire if you dig long enough.

This has not been a great week in the Yankees Universe.  Aside from the team’s struggling performance in Week 1, top pitching prospect James Kaprielian has been moved to the Minor League Disabled List and underwent a MRI (which included dye-contract in his elbow).  He is off to Los Angeles to consult with noted Tommy John surgeon Neal S. ElAttrache, M.D.  Dr. ElAttrache is the team physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Rams.  He is also on the Board of Directors for the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic, which was co-founded by Frank Jobe, the pioneer in Tommy John surgery.  This doesn’t sound good for Kaprielian and if he needs TJ surgery, it’s very likely that we will not see him again in any significant role until 2019 at the earliest.

I had been very optimistic about Kaprielian and had hoped that he would have a very successful 2017 minor league season to set him up as a potential rotation candidate next Spring.  Now, there is doubt whether he’ll ever be able to make the major leagues.  I hope that Kaprielian receives the best possible news from Dr ElAttrache and if surgery is the path, I wish him well on his long road to recovery.  I remain hopeful that we’ll one day see Kaprielian step out on the Yankees Stadium turf wearing pinstripes.

Masahiro Tanaka takes the mound today for the Yankees.  We could use some good news.  Here’s hoping that Week Two is much, much happier and more successful.

Have a great Saturday!

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