Wednesday, April 4, 2018

I'm Glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee...

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Don’t Worry, I’ve Got Your Back…

Aaron Judge recently put it in the best perspective. One of the things he likes most about the Yankees was something to the effect that if you don’t do your job, there are 24 guys ready to pick you up. I don’t remember the exact words but that really isn’t the point. This is a team and a group of guys that are ready to back each other, regardless of the circumstances. Team chemistry made the 1998 Yankees a very special team. I am not saying that the 2018 Yankees are the version of 20 years ago, but this is one of the most closely knit teams that I’ve seen in recent years. 

Didi Gregorius had a huge night last evening for the Yankees, powering the team to victory with two home runs and eight RBIs, yet many Yankees fans chose to boo Giancarlo Stanton instead or trash him on social media. Whoa, please step away from the ledge and relax. 

There’s no doubt Stanton had a night to forget with five strikeouts in his Yankee Stadium Pinstriped debut. But, never once did I find myself in a position wanting to boo the man. In jest, TGP’s fearless leader, Daniel Burch, tweeted #TradeGiancarlo. It was amazing how many Yankees fans reacted like that but with full sincerity. Granted, Daniel was not serious (he tagged the comment with #TotallyJoking) but the fans who booed Stanton acted like he was the biggest Yankee disappointment since Chris Carter. 

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson) 

Stanton’s fault, if anything, was trying too hard to impress the Yankees faithful. He wanted to be the difference-maker, perhaps a little too much. There will be better days. That’s not just my opinion…it is fact. Looking at the attendance figures for the Miami Marlins, it’s obvious that Giancarlo has never played before an Opening crowd of over 47,000 people. The Marlins averaged barely more than 15,000 last year despite an MVP season by Stanton. Stanton has said the right words and we know that he loves New York and he wants to deliver. The pressure he puts on himself is far greater than the pressure we can put on him. He needs our support; not our boos. He didn’t stumble upon 59 home runs last year by accident. Pitchers weren’t lobbing him freebies to hit over the fence. I remember how Dave Winfield would carry the team on his back for weeks. Stanton is that kind of player, only better. 

My favorite quote after the game was Stanton’s remarks about the incredible accomplishments by the Yankees shortstop who batted fourth behind Giancarlo. “That’s what a cleanup hitter does. You clean up the garbage in front of you.” He took ownership of his performance but was not going to let it defeat him. 

Aaron Boone was asked about Stanton after the game and he talked about how the slugger can have an off-night and yet the team produces eleven runs. As Boonie said, “There’s going to be a lot of days when we jump on his back”. Boone added that he was not at all worried about Stanton. Why should he be? Stanton is a stud and I am glad he’s a Yankee.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa) 

What can you say about Didi’s performance?  It was the greatest game for a Yankees shortstop in franchise history. He was 4-for-4 and helped to ensure the snow-postponed, rain-delayed home opener was a success despite the questionable weather conditions. When interviewed after the game, Didi deflected the attention away from him individually and spoke how it was a team effort. 

It was crazy in the off-season when everyone was developing top ten lists and Didi’s name was rarely mentioned in the conversations. I honestly cannot think of anyone that I’d rather have at shortstop for the New York Yankees than Sir Didi (with no offense to Manny Machado or others). Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa are incredibly gifted but I am glad we can call Didi Gregorius our own. He’s a worthy successor to Derek Jeter and has proven he is his own man. He’ll go down as one of GM Brian Cashman’s best trade acquisitions. 

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

I know all of us kind of wish that Jordan Montgomery had been allowed to go a little deeper into the game, but he was excellent for five innings despite the four walks he gave up. 80 pitches, two hits, one run, and four strikeouts to start the year with an ERA of 1.80. He has looked noticeably better than last year when he did a really good job as a rookie. You have to really like the progress he is making to become a reliable force in the rotation. In many cities, the fifth starter is either a Triple A performer or an older veteran trying to hang on. Gumby has the potential to be an October star. He’ll never be Luis Severino but you don’t need five Severinos to win a World Series championship. You need winners and Montgomery is one. A single run through the starting rotation this season and I am feeling very good about the state of the starting staff. Knock on wood that the present outfield injury plague doesn’t spread to the pitchers.    

Speaking of outfielders, the Yankees claimed outfielder Trayce Thompson yesterday off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers. I realize that Thompson did absolutely nothing in 2017 (55 plate appearances, one home run, two RBIs, .122/.218/.265, .483 OPS) but I like the move. Thompson, 27, was well-liked by Dodger fans and his availability was due to the glut of right-handed outfielders on the Dodgers roster. Thompson, brother of Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and the son of former NBA player (and champion) Mychal Thompson, hit 13 homers in 2016 before a back fracture ended his season so he has some pop. The guy just needs to play. Sure, he could be back on the unemployment line once guys like Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier return to good health but I think it was worth taking a flyer on Thompson.  The Yankees have one coach who is very familiar with Thompson, bench coach Josh Bard. Bard served as the Dodgers bullpen coach for the two years that Thompson was in LA. So I am sure that Cashman sought input from Bard before making the waiver claim.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Lisa Blumenfeld)

To make room for Thompson on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved reliever Ben Heller from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL (right elbow bone spur). No word yet if Thompson will be immediately added to the 25-man roster or if he’ll start the season with extended spring training. He is out of options. While I am saddened to see Heller’s season start off on the wrong foot, kudos to the Yankees. They had optioned Heller to the minors, but when the decision was made to place him on the DL, they voided the demotion to keep him at the Major League level which means that he is accruing MLB service time and pay while on the disabled list.  I don’t know the circumstances behind the decision but it appears to me they could have placed him on the DL after the minor-league assignment which would have prevented the service time accrual at lesser minor league pay. Outwardly, it appears to be a very generous move by the Yankees to look out for Heller’s best interests. Heller was my breakout candidate for the year so I am hopeful that he has his opportunity before the season is done. 

It’s a new day. When Giancarlo Stanton takes his position in the batter’s box later today, I know I’ll be cheering. Regardless of whether the result is a home run or a strikeout, I will be proud #27 wears Pinstripes. And #18 too, oh, hell yes!  

Go Yankees!

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