Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Who Wants to Join the Yankees?...

Trading Deadline May Bring More New Faces…

I am not sure which time is more important today…4 pm Eastern when the Non-Waiver Trading Deadline ends or 7:05 pm Eastern when the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles get after it on the Yankee Stadium turf. This is always one of my favorite days of the year and there is generally a flurry of activity. Whether or not our favorite team decides to play remains to be seen but I am sure it will be thrilling to the finish. Then, let’s go out and beat the Orioles. 

Friggin’ Boston won last night, unfortunately. The Philadelphia Phillies took the Red Sox into extra innings before Blake Swihart won it with a walk-off ground rule double in the bottom of the 13th inning, scoring Eduardo Nunez with the winning run. So, the Yankees begin play tonight six games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. Boston also plugged a hole at second base last night when they acquired the hard-nosed Ian Kinsler from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to fill in for the injured Dustin Pedroia. Thanks for nothing, Billy Eppler. 

I was very surprised with yesterday’s moves by the Yankees. After the dust settled, the Yankees had replaced reliever Adam Warren with a better swingman pitcher, Lance Lynn, and they were able to do it without adding payroll. The news of Adam Warren’s trade to the Seattle Mariners struck first. Maybe I am not so surprised that Warren was traded (we eventually have to make room for Tommy Kahnle, and A.J.Cole, though seldom used, has proven valuable in long relief). However, I was surprised the Yankees traded him to the Seattle Mariners, a team the Yankees are likely to face in a Wild Card elimination game if they are unsuccessful in catching the Red Sox. The Yankees seem to be on a mission to rebuild the bullpens for both the Orioles and the Mariners. Warren, a free agent after the season, will join former Yankee James Pazos in the Mariners pen. David Phelps is also a Mariner but he’s on the disabled list after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this year.To the Yankees’ credit, they didn’t trade Phelps to the Mariners but Pazos and outfielder Ben Gamel were ‘roster-crunch’ deliveries to the Great Northwest. Warren was not flashy but it always seemed like the guy did his job. I will miss his consistency in the pen. For Warren, the Yankees acquired more international bonus pool money. You can’t blame GM Brian Cashman for looking ahead to the future while making his ‘right now’ moves. 

Later, the Warren trade became clearer when the Yankees swung a deal with the Minnesota Twins for starter Lance Lynn. The cost was first baseman Tyler Austin (which explains why the Yankees acquired first baseman Luke Voit from the St Louis Cardinals) and minor league pitcher Luis Rijo.  Lynn (7-8, 5.10 ERA) does not excite me as a starter but I recognize he fills a void as the rotation’s sixth man.  Lynn has also started two games against the Boston Red Sox this year and fared well both times. In his most recent game last Friday, Lynn held Boston to two runs over six innings but did not factor into the decision (a game the Twins lost 4-3). On June 20th, Lynn was the winner when he held the Sox to only one run (none earned) and three hits with five innings of work. Lynn walks too many guys (62 batters in 102 1/3 innings or 1.632 WHIP, Yikes!) but maybe Cashman is right that Lynn’s stuff plays up in the bullpen. We’ll see. I am a little sad to see Tyler Austin go.  The guy loved being a Yankee and I had felt he should have been the one to get the call when Aaron Judge was placed on the DL. I will miss his attitude on the team even if he never really delivered the results that warranted his place on the roster. Maybe he was never given enough of a chance. Regardless, I hope he prospers in Minneapolis when he gets his opportunities. A good guy that I am sorry to see leave.   

I am not sure what today will bring. With the Yankees so close to the luxury tax threshold, I honestly do not see any major moves of significance. If the Yankees do make a trade or two, they’ll most likely have to shed some payroll as the team needs money for September callups and any other necessary roster additions between now and the end of the season. So, as much as Yankees fans would love it, there’s no scenario where I see the Yankees making the bold decision to shed high level prospects for the great Bryce Harper. If there’s anything about this afternoon’s deadline that excites me, it is the end of the ‘Harper to the Yanks’ rumors. Team Hal is not going to pay (prospects or money) to bring Harper to New York regardless of how we may feel.   

I do think the Yankees will pick up a bat today. I was sorry to see the Cincinnati Reds trade outfielder Adam Duvall to the Atlanta Braves because I thought Duvall would have fit nicely in the Bronx. More than likely, we’ll see a reunion with someone like former Yankee Curtis Granderson, which clearly does not exactly excite me. He is a wonderful character guy, one of the best, great for the clubhouse. But the skills have faded with age. I’d prefer to see a player with a greater ceiling added. 

I am keeping my expectations low for today. I’d love for Brian Cashman to shock the World but I don’t think it is going to be that kind of day. I think 2 pm will come and go quietly for the Yankees.

The Yankees acquired RHP Sonny Gray a year ago today. It will be interesting to see if he is still a Yankee at the conclusion of the day. Happy Anniversary…don’t let the door hit you on the way out. If the Yankees do somehow pry Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays (improbable if you ask me), I think it is a certainty Gray will be wearing a different uniform tomorrow.

As for other transactions, the acquisition of closer Roberto Osuna by the Houston Astros was shocking to say the least. Osuna has been a brilliant closer (the Yankees certainly have not been able to hit against him), but for a team that is so concerned about character, the addition of a player who has missed the majority of the season due to a 75-game suspension for violating MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy, it is alarming. I was saddened to see Ken Giles leave Houston since the Yankees seem to do so well against him but I guess we’ll have better opportunities now with the Blue Jays pen. From a talent-standpoint, Osuna was probably a great addition for Houston but you wonder what it will do to clubhouse chemistry. Osuna is eligible to return next week.

Okay, I will go ahead and dream a little…

It’s not going to happen but like Manny Machado, it is certainly fun to think about.

If anything, the flurry of Yankees activity over the past week has freed up some good numbers. 26, 29, 43, 45. Lately it has seemed like the last guy on the roster always gets 38. If I was A.J. Cole, I’d trade in 67 quickly before a newcomer snags one of the lower numbers. Or I wouldn’t blame Miguel Andujar for cashing in his pitcher’s number 41 for a more appealing one like 26. Chasen Shreve was unable to keep his number 45 with the St Louis Cardinals, thanks to some guy named Bob Gibson. Shreve opted for Luis Severino’s number. I had to wonder if it was a nod to Sevy.   

To go off topic, I am very glad to see the Minnesota Vikings re-sign wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the recipient of the Minneapolis Miracle catch last fall in the play-off game against the New Orleans Saints. When the Vikings paid huge money in the off-season to free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, I was fearful there would be severe ramifications on other spots on the roster. Since then, the Vikings have signed key players to extensions like LB Eric Kendricks and DE Danielle Hunter, among others. The Vikings still need to find a way to secure LB Anthony Barr, but the nucleus of the its core is in place. A few years ago, wide receiver was such a troublesome spot for the Vikings. They failed miserably a few with former first round pick Cordarrelle Patterson and there were no apparent bright spots on the horizon. Now, Diggs and Adam Thielen have developed to give the Vikings a great catching duo, one of the best in the NFL, for Cousins, and the three will be in place at least through the 2020 season. Vikings EVP-Football Operations Rob Brzezinski is a master with the salary cap. He doesn’t get enough credit and recognition for his value to the Vikings. Diggs’ five-year extension is expected to be worth around $14 million per year. I am very glad to see the Maryland product back in the fold. Like the Yankees, the Vikings are a good, young team with lots of promise. 

Let’s see what this day and Brian Cashman have in store for us. Wins both on and off the field would be nice. We don’t want much. Total domination and annihilation of the American League is fine.

Go Yankees!

Monday, July 30, 2018

This Just In!!! Must Read News!!! 

I was going to wait until after the trade deadline to grade the Yankees trade deadline moves. However with the news I just received I couldn’t wait! The Yankees must act now otherwise all their moves in my mind me nada!!! From a inside source I have gotten word that the Nats have made Bryce Harper Available!!!!! I can care less he is a Rental! 

I can care less who we have or don’t have atm! It’s time to pay up !!!!!!!! Forget the tax blow that right out of the water!!!! Hit the Grand slam! Go get one of the best players in the game now! Don’t wait to sign him in the off season!!! I REPEAT!! Go get him now!!!! Before another team does and it haunts us Later in this season. Bryce wants to be a Yankee! We should want him! He is Available !!!!!! Don’t wait Cash go get our man!!!!! Greed Greed Greed!!!!!! 

As always you can reach me at JamesCPalma@Yahoo.Com 

Have a great night folks!!! 

This Just In!!! Must Read News!!! 

I was going to wait until after the trade deadline to grade the Yankees trade deadline moves. However with the news I just received I couldn’t wait! The Yankees must act now otherwise all their moves in my mind me nada!!! From a inside source I have gotten word that the Nats have made Bryce Harper Available!!!!! I can care less he is a Rental! 

I can care less who we have or don’t have atm! It’s time to pay up !!!!!!!! Forget the tax blow that right out of the water!!!! Hit the Grand slam! Go get one of the best players in the game now! Don’t wait to sign him in the off season!!! I REPEAT!! Go get him now!!!! Before another team does and it haunts us Later in this season. Bryce wants to be a Yankee! We should want him! He is Available !!!!!! Don’t wait Cash go get our man!!!!! Greed Greed Greed!!!!!! 

As always you can reach me at JamesCPalma@Yahoo.Com 

Have a great night folks!!! 

Tyler Austin Traded to Minnesota Twins

According to Jon Heyman on Twitter the New York Yankees have traded Tyler Austin to the Minnesota Twins. Who did the Yankees get back? Stay tuned...


Tyler Austin and Luis Rijo for Lance Lynn.

Lynn is 7-8 with a 5.10 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP, and he is set to make $12 million this season before hitting free agency at the end of the season.



Yankees Trade Adam Warren to Seattle for IFA $

The New York Yankees have agreed to send RHP Adam Warren to the Seattle Mariners for international free agent money. With the deal the Yankees have acquired $3.75 million in IFA spending money, which one would think has to be the max that the team can acquire in one signing period. Teams can acquire up to 75% of their international cap from other teams and the Yankees had a shade over $4 million to spend when the IFA market opened on July 2, 2018.

This has to be a precursor to a couple moves, one being the signing of Victor Victor Mesa off the international market, and a second move for one or more of an outfielder, reliever and a starting pitcher. Stay tuned...

Meet a Prospect: Osiel Rodriguez

The international signing period opened up on July 2nd like it does every single season, and much like every single season the New York Yankees were linked to and have signed many of the top available international free agents on the market including the focus of today’s post, Osiel Rodriguez. Rodriguez was ranked as the 5th best IFA available by Baseball America while MLB.com had Osiel ranked as the 9th best prospect in the class, either way the Yankees have potentially a great new arm to add to their farm system, so let’s meet him. This is Meet a Prospect: The Osiel Rodriguez Edition.

Rodriguez is a 6’3”, 205 lb. 16-year old right-handed starting pitcher out of Cuba that the New York Yankees have signed with the start of the international signing period for the 2018-2019 season. Rodriguez is a raw talent, obviously as most teenagers are, and may have to work on his “unorthodox” and “violent” delivery, but if he can harness his potential and drop his repertoire to about three or four pitches he could be an ace going forward. Currently the right-hander possesses a fastball that can touch 97 MPH, a plus slider, a curveball, changeup and splitter.

Here is what MLB.com had to say about Rodriguez:

The right-hander’s fastball has been clocked at 97 mph and the pitch usually hovers in the low to mid-90s. There is some concern about a drop in velocity at times, but evaluators attribute the decrease to normal fatigue or being overworked on the showcase circuit. A strike-thrower, Rodriguez has a good mound presence and demeanor. He changes his arm slot and throws several different pitches at different angles, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse as far as scouts are concerned.

Rodriguez has signed with the Yankees for $600,000 so let’s welcome him not only to the organization, but to the Yankees family as well. I look forward to seeing you grow and prosper as a minor league player with the Yankees. The Yankees just got the top pitcher in the international market guys, get excited!


(Or “What I did in my 2018 Summer Vacation”)
By David H. Lippman

In my day, 40 years ago, at the start of every school year, my new teacher would face my class from the front of the room, and say, “Let’s all get to know one another, shall we? We’ll all write an essay, ‘What I did on my summer vacation.’” He, she, or it would write that on the board, and we would groan. Not because we had to do an essay on what we did on our summer vacation, but because, for most of us, it was pretty bloody dull.

The real purpose of the essay was so that the teacher could determine at a glance our level of ability to write clearly, in 500 words, and a little bit of who we were. The essay didn’t make much sense to me. We would turn in the essay to the teacher, he, she, or it would read them, grade them, and hand them back to us, all red-penned, with negative comments on our paragraphing and use of grammar and punctuation. The only time the teacher was angry about content was when one of my schoolmates described in graphic terms that he and a female counselor at the summer camp he worked at went off in the bushes on regular evenings, took off their clothes, and got frisky with each other. He got sent to the assistant principal’s office for writing “fictional pornographic filth,” while he insisted it was the “God’s honest truth.”

I usually joined him there, for asking the question that we wrote the essays, turned them in to the teachers, who graded them, handed them back to each of us separately, so he got to know us, we did not get to find out about each other, and we certainly did not “get to know about” him. That view was considered impertinent and insolent, and when my teacher told me so, I would leap to my feet and flip him the Hitler salute and swear allegiance to Der Fuehrer…but that’s another story.

The story I would write would be invariably the same. My brother and I sat through baseball games at Yankee and Shea Stadiums, watching the Yankees win and the Mets lose. Having little else to write about, I would dissect the Yankees’ advantages (Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, and Ron Guidry) and the Mets’ flaws. (Bruce Boisclair, Richie Hebner, and Kevin Kobel)

Well, this summer, I took my vacation in Pittsburgh, and it was again baseball-related, but it was a hell of a lot more fun. From June 20 to June 24, I was attending the Society for American Baseball Research’s annual National Convention, my third such, as a member of the Biography, Black Sox, Media, and Game History Committees, a chapter officer of the New York Casey Stengel Chapter, and a Yankees and Giants fan. (The Giants being my favorite National League team for reasons too complex for this essay)

This time around, I thought I’d keep a journal of the event, which I thought would be entertaining for readers. As I took plenty of photographs, it will be well-illustrated.

Pittsburgh has a very long baseball history – the Pirates claim to have been there since the 1880s, and some of the most legendary players in the game’s history have worn their distinctive black-and-gold: names like Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, Ralph Kiner, Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner, Arky Vaughan, Dave Parker, Pie Traynor, and two that stand above the rest: the titanic Roberto Clemente, whose deeds transcend sport, and a man who was best described by Shakespeare’s King of France, in “Henry V,” in Act 2, Scene 3, literally:

Witness our too-much-memorable shame

When Cressy battle fatally was struck

And all our princes captived by the hand

Of that black name, Edward, Black Prince of Wales.

For those having trouble with Shakespeare, “No Fear Shakespeare” renders it thus:

Reflect on the battle of Crécy, where, to our everlasting shame, all our princes were taken prisoner by the Prince of Wales, he whom they called Edward the Black Prince.

And the “battle of Crecy” can be translated to the “1960 World Series,” and “Edward the Black Prince” translates to “Bill Mazeroski.” Our boys – the Yankees led by Casey Stengel, outscored, outhit, and outpitched the Pirates, with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, and Bobby Richardson powering 55 runs to the Pirates 27. Whitey Ford pitched and won two shutouts, 12-0 and 16-0. But the Pirates prevailed in the ninth inning of the seventh game when Mazeroski broke up the 9-9 tie to win the game with a home run off of Ralph Terry. Mickey Mantle cried all the way home to Pittsburgh, knowing that the Yankees were the better team.

Yogi Berra knew it, too, and he shared his memories of that in an effort to comfort Yankee fans four decades later after the horror of the final inning of the 2001 World Series, a year that the Yankees and New York City needed a World Championship more than it ever had in its entire history, but was denied it.

Anyway, I also had a complaint about it as a Giants fan – the Pirates had denied the New York Giants the 1927 pennant, and it would have been wonderful to see a Subway Series at any time. It was the only year that Rogers Hornsby played for the Giants, and I’m sure that Waite Hoyt would have put that miserable grouch in his place. More recently, the 1971 Giants won the National League West one the final day of the season, and the Pirates zapped them in the playoffs. It was the only time that Dave Kingman played in the post-season, although he picked up a World Series Ring in 1977 when he finished up the year (10 games) with the Yankees.

So I had to go and represent – the Casey Stengel Chapter, the Yankees, the Giants, New York, and myself. Besides, Pittsburgh seemed an interesting town. I hoped to get a look at it when not in the hotel.

I packed out the night before, on June 19, loading two bags with notepaper (for the journal), a couple of books to be autographed by fellow members who I knew were speaking, and ensuring that my t-shirts and caps were such that at all times I would be wearing both Giants and Yankees gear – Yankee hat and Giant t-shirt or Yankee t-shirt and Giant hat. I planned the t-shirts with great concern – more so than an actress choosing her gown for the red carpet at the Oscars. Yes to the t-shirt from the 2010 Yankees Old-Timer’s Game, which had the names of all the attendees on the back, honored the late Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner on the front, and had pictures of great Yankees from Ruth to Jeter. No to the battered Yankees-Mets 2009 interleague series shirt, as it would confuse the issue. Yes to the t-shirt with the 2014 front page of the San Francisco Chronicle that had all of the Giants’ World Championships, five in New York, three in San Francisco, marked with little orange flags. The light color would be good for watching the game in the heat. Yes to the t-shirt that said “New York’s Finest, Bravest, Winningest” with the logos of the NYPD, NYFD, and the Yankees on it – that would show visitors who was the best. And so on.

My wife Kathy and daughter Wallis (freshly graduated from college) looked on in amusement at “Daddy the Dork” making these critical decisions, but I told them it was like suiting up for the Game. You had to be in uniform. “You’re still a dork, Daddy,” was the answer.

I couldn’t go by car to Newark Liberty International Airport – both had elsewhere to go, but a miracle of Newark and my neighborhood is that a New Jersey Transit bus line, the “Go28,” runs directly from two blocks from my home with limited stops, straight to the airport, with racks for luggage. So here we go:

June 20

10:10 a.m.: I flop down to wait for the bus to the airport, and expect a long wait – it runs every 20 minutes to half an hour. Instead, it shows up two minutes later, and I have to dash out to flag it down. The bus is nearly empty. I hop aboard, flash my monthly bus pass (it works on this line, too) and grab a seat. The bus zooms off, making limited stops, avoiding ordinary commuters. I break out Willie Randolph’s autobiography, “The Yankee Way,” and start at the start. Willie defined Yankee excellence all his life.

10:19 a.m.: The weather this morning is absolutely perfect, as we zoom south down Newark’s Broadway and into Broad Street, the main artery of the city since its founding in 1666. Some 350 years later, Broad Street looks much better than even 10 years ago – the empty Wiss Jewelry Building has been replaced by a 27-story Prudential Insurance Company skyscraper, complete with a Starbucks. The abandoned Hahne’s Department Store is now a Whole Food Market, its upper floors turned into housing and a Rutgers art studio. Military Park, Newark’s oldest, has had a massive renovation that includes new carousel and lunch area, and free Wi-Fi. Gutzon Borglum’s immense bronze statue “Wars of America,” which depicts 132 Americans of both sexes and a number of horses fighting for liberty in conflicts from the Revolution to the Great War has been cleaned up, its sword-shaped garden around it replanted with new flowers.

This is a Newark that few people see – well, judging by the nasty posts in the comments section of media outlets on our news. According to these readers, Newark is a permanent cesspool, despite all my 20-year-efforts as a public relations man for the city. Perhaps the fact that Newark has made Amazon’s 20-city shortlist for its “HQ2” may answer the nay-sayers. Maybe not. My fields are history and baseball, not business. Except the business of baseball.

The only major loss is the closing of the “Subway” sandwich shop at Broad Street and Raymond Boulevard. There were two downtown, one here, the other near City Hall, and they were occasional lunch breaks for me.

I pass by City Hall, my workplace, and think, “Back on Monday!”

11:12 a.m.: I finally get through the complex automated check-in procedure at the airport. I swear, you have to have a degree in computer science to get on a flight to Pittsburgh. After tapping screens and showing identification, I finally line up to endure the TSA’s draconian security process.

When I was a kid, and my family flew to Montreal for Expo 68, we had to wear our best clothing for the plane. Now people fly as casually as possible, holey jeans, bare midriffs, t-shirts and shorts. The dress is casual, but the security is tight.

12:01 p.m.: On the United Airlines plane at last. My least favorite airline, and not just because their Gestapo dragged a doctor off a flight in Chicago last year and beat him severely. I have rarely, if ever had a good flight on United. British Airways, QANTAS, and most of all, Air New Zealand, have given me good service. But United is an airborne disaster. Sure enough, this plane is narrow, with four rows, 156 seats, five of them the usual extra-wide first-class seats.

12:10 p.m.: During the safety briefing, I pay attention. I read that flight attendants get mad if you don’t do so. Besides, if something bad happens, I want to be ready. While the flight attendants give the briefing, we taxi to the runway. It always amuses me that flight attendants in real life look nothing like the models and actresses they use in the commercials – more sober and professional than the happy-go-lucky actors.

12:12 p.m.: As the plane takes off, I go back to the life of Willie Randolph, and read about how he learned both baseball and discipline playing baseball on the Parade Grounds in Brooklyn, just south of Prospect Park. He also met his future wife, as an eighth grader, fell in love, and have been a couple and then married ever since, and still are. As a guy who has been married 23 years (and gone through difficult times but held it together), I am greatly moved.

12:27 p.m.: The plane takes off, and we zoom over the Linden oil refineries, and head west. Most visitors to New Jersey only drive up and down the New Jersey Turnpike, so all they see are the factories, oil refineries, swamps, airport, and seaport. That’s their view of New Jersey. They never see the beauty of our mountains, the culture of our cities and theaters, or the history of places like Morristown and Monmouth. It’s a shame.

12:30 p.m.: As we bank and head west, I look down and see endless suburban blocks, rows and rows of split-level homes. It makes me realize just how heavily populated New Jersey really is. If New Jersey stinks so much, how come Newark alone has 280,000 people and Wyoming, a wonderful place, has a grand total of 350,000? Can’t answer that. I go back to Willie Randolph. He gets scouted by the Pirates, signs with them, and makes his debut with their big club in 1975. At season’s end, he is traded with Dock Ellis and others to the Yankees for Doc Medich. Ellis tells Randolph that the Yankees are more interested in the young Randolph than the veteran pitcher Ellis, which is absolutely accurate. Ellis does one year with the Yankees, 1976, and then is dumped on the Oakland Athletics. Randolph goes on to glory with the Yankees.

1:04 p.m.: I feel the usual pop in my ears, and realize we are descending into Pittsburgh. I will need lunch soon.

1:21 p.m.: The pilot announces there is a 20-minute landing hold-up due to thunderstorms, which will be a meme for the rest of the journey. I hope they clear up the weather by game time. We circle over Pittsburgh. I read about Randolph’s rookie season with the Yankees, and how much he admires Billy Martin.

1:30 p.m.: Out of the airplane. I hike to the baggage carousel, scoop up the big bag, and discover that the terminal is not the terminal. Well, it is the terminal. But you have to take an underground shuttle from this terminal to the other terminal, where the ticketing, parking, and transportation resides. That way, Pittsburgh can have a terminal where planes can load and unload at any point. Chicago has something similar, I recall.

Before I reach the shuttle, I find two large statues standing guard at the entrance to this two-stop subway. One is William Pitt. The other is Franco Harris, making his “Immaculate Reception.” They have important priorities in Pittsburgh.

The one-stop subway is virtually all standing-room, and zips along quickly. It dumps passengers on one side and loads from another, for greater efficiency. After that, I head in search of the bus that will take me downtown.

1:47 p.m.: I’m out of the gate. Pittsburgh’s airport is like all airports. The information folks tell me where to find the bus. I go there. Like all airports, a scruffy homeless man staggers up to me and begs for a dollar. No, I am not supporting his drug dealer. I have to purchase a plastic commuter card, like a credit card, to ride the local buses, which are run by the “Port Authority.”

Port Authority? Port Authority? Who the hell are they kidding? Pittsburgh is in the middle of Pennsylvania! Three rivers and no ocean! This sounds like a Robert Moses-style scam to me – create an authority for a temporary purpose, and then make it permanent by issuing bonds forever. Then non-elected people with no accountability to anyone can do what they want forever.

2 p.m.: The bus arrives, and it proves fairly comfortable. We head off and down interstate highways like I-376, east toward downtown. Outside heavy clouds mass.

2:10 p.m.: The clouds turn into heavy rain. I hope tomorrow’s Pirates game with the Arizona Diamondbacks will not be rained out. However, I am prepared. I pull out my New York Yankees rain cape, purchased years ago at the old stadium, and wrap myself up in it. Not only am I prepared, I am representing.

2:26 p.m.: I-376 is also US 22, which means that if I keep heading east on I-22, I will be back in Newark. It’s circular reasoning. The bus makes a few stops at specific stations through the rain.

2:31 p.m.: The driver puts the bus on a dedicated busway, which consists of two lanes, only buses, and has periodic stations where commuters can board various bus routes to go downtown. I’m impressed, and wonder if this was formerly a trolley route. If so, they should have kept the trolleys.

We go into a tunnel and when we emerge, the rain is still coming down, but Pittsburgh appears through the clouds and mist. It is fairly impressive from the south side of the Ohio and Monongehela Rivers, where the three rivers meet. Downtown Pittsburgh is the usual mass of modern and post-modern skyscrapers, surrounded by bridges. The bus rumbles across a double-decker bridge – eastbound on top, westbound below, and the hotel is across the street from the bus stop.

2:45 p.m.: I get off the bus, lugging my kit, and walk through pouring rain into the Grand Wyndham Hotel. They are hosting the American Disabled Association’s national convention, which is in its last day, as well as SABR, which is just getting started. Conventions are the lifeblood of hotels, because of their massive and profitable use of the facilities. However, this one is clearly a strain on the staff, as people in wheelchairs, tapping canes, or trailing service dogs, struggle through the lobby. I hope that nobody makes any cracks about the blind guys being umpires. Interestingly enough, one of the lectures on the schedule is a history of “Baseball for the Blind.”

The staff has my reservation, and a member asks me if I would be happy to get put on a higher floor. While I have a fear of heights, the 21st floor is not a problem. I am given a room that has a fantastic view of the point where the three rivers – Ohio, Monongehela, and Allegheny, actually meet. Outside, the rain batters down.

I take off the cap I have worn on the trip, my Royal Navy HMS Cornwall cap, which goes on every single major trip I go on. That cap has been up Mt. Fuji, to Hong Kong, to Hawaii, the United Kingdom, Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Maine, Philadelphia, and Antarctica. Now it has been worn in Pittsburgh. It will stay in the bag the rest of the way. I put on a Yankees cap and head downstairs to check in.

3:15 p.m.: The registration process is as simple as ever – I ran it myself last year in New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, stuffing the goody bags and then checking in the victims. They have my name tag, a Pirates lanyard, and a bag with the usual material – event program, list of Pittsburgh distractions, upscale eateries – and a Pirates cap. I won’t be wearing that. I have to go to a charming young blonde to get my paper for the awards luncheon and the Pirates game, and the charming young blonde turns out to be an acquaintance from last year’s SABR convention…Blair Clancy, of New York, New York.

Ms. Clancy is a Sports Management Major at New York University. More importantly, she was one of our interns at SABR 47 in New York, handing out materials to attendees with gusto and good cheer. Most importantly, she is Whitey Ford’s granddaughter. We recognize each other and have a pleasant chat. She is near her degree, but hasn’t got a job lined up yet. I tell her she can use me as a reference. She tells me that Whitey is in good shape, living in Long Island (in summer) and Florida (in winter), slowing down a little, but still enjoying watching the Yankees on TV. The whole family loves going to Old Timer’s Day. I tell Blair I would love to watch a Yankee game on TV with her grandfather and hear his analysis of the game…it would be more interesting than most broadcasters. She says she enjoys doing that herself.

With that done, it’s time to get some lunch. Preferably cheaply. One goal is to save money on this expedition.

3:47 p.m.: I spotted a McDonald’s near the hotel, so I put my rain cape back on – I was letting it dry in my hotel room – and head over for my favorite McDonald’s food: Egg McMuffins. Everything else is weak. I take along baseball writer Leonard Koppett’s brilliant “The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Baseball” for company. Koppett was a tremendous writer, and I spoke to him once by phone from Japan, and he graciously autographed my copy of the first edition of the original book, which had “Man” for “Fan” and was written in 1966. It is therefore obsolete in some areas (and not just for sexism), but for baseball’s changes (free agency, designated hitter rule, players’ unions), but some of it translated easily into the new book, particularly the game as it is played on the field. I devour the chapter on hitting as I devour the food.

4:15 p.m.: I head back to the hotel, and as I do, I walk by the glass entrance to the Pittsburgh Light Rail/Subway, which has a major downtown station here. The line is like the Newark City Subway in two respects – light rail cars and no turnstiles. You have to use your Port Authority card to get on, and fare inspectors make sure you have a valid one. The station has a public address system, and when not giving announcements, it plays music. However, unlike clothing stores, it’s not hip-hop, and unlike elevators, it’s not Muzak. It’s Mozart. I recognize “A Little Night Music” anywhere. Good to see that the Steel City has some class. Probably scares off vandals, too.

4:34 p.m.: Back in the hotel room, I put the Yankee rain cape away, and review the schedule. First event is the Welcome Reception at 6 p.m. I have an hour and a half until that, so I conk out for a nap. I should be up in time…..

6:20 p.m.: Holy Cow! I’m late for the welcoming address! I race down to the main ballroom, and find it full of fellow baseball fans. Most of them are like me, in their 50s and older, but there are younger folks. Many are men, but there are a lot of women. Nearly all are wearing the caps or shirts of their favorite teams, including the Negro Leagues.

The food consists of finger food and light material, which means I’ll need a real meal later. I take the finger food and start chatting with folks.

Suddenly an ancient retired sportswriter from California, named Steve Ames, rising from his seat with the aid of a metal cane, collapses onto the floor, suffering cuts on his right arm as he does so. I put aside the dull finger food and like the Navy veteran I am, respond to the emergency. With some help, I am able to lift him up and prop him into a chair, while hotel security arrives at the double with a bandages and walkie-talkies. The medics wrap him in bandages and ask if he wants to be transported to hospital. Absolutely not, he says. He doesn’t want to spend the convention in the hospital. The medics finish their job, and we sit for a while.

Steve tells me of growing up with the Oakland Oaks, and how Casey Stengel managed them and recognized the talents of their young second baseman, a local kid with small size and a large nose named Billy Martin. The rest of the story we know forever.

After Steve feels better, he rises properly on his cane and heads off for a drink. I chat with the other attendees. Among them is a woman wearing a Detroit Tigers road jersey with the words “Rally Goose” on the back. That makes no sense.

Rally Goose tells me that the shirt is one of many official items the Tigers have been selling and marketing since the incident earlier this year when a goose landed on the field at Comerica Park. Groundskeepers encouraged the goose to take off, and he did – right into a grandstand scoreboard and its lights. Doubtless he was utterly confused by the noise and lights.

The goose collapsed onto the lower deck seats, and would have probably been trundled off to a dumpster, but a veterinarian was sitting nearby, and she dashed over. She said the goose had merely suffered a concussion and she took the dazed bird to an animal shelter, where he was treated, given a few shots, and released in a park later.

The goose became a symbol for the Tigers – they got a wooden goose decoy and now keep it in the dugout. When one of their young stars hit a walk-off grand-slam home run, he was greeted at the plate by teammates holding up the wooden goose.

Now the Tigers sell “Rally Goose” merchandise, and show “Rally Goose” messages on their scoreboard. I’m impressed. I wonder what a good Yankee bird would be…a pigeon? A seagull? An English Sparrow? Would a New York mascot have to be a bird? How about a cockroach, a rat, a mosquito, house fly, a bedbug, a waterbug, or a Central Park dragonfly?

I greet people I’ve known from previous SABR events. They are impressed by my Mariano Rivera t-shirt, which lists his career highlights from signing to retirement. And my daughter snickered at my t-shirt choices.

We eat our finger food and talk about baseball history…it’s always fun to talk baseball with people who know the game cold, and no trash talk. Even though folks there are wearing Mets, Red Sox, and Dodgers attire, we can cheerily discuss how, for example, being a catcher requires more than offensive and plain defensive skills – since you catch every pitch, a catcher must understand pitching. Furthermore, they are the only player in the game who faces the action. That’s why so many catchers (Connie Mack, Mickey Cochrane, Brad Ausmus, Yogi Berra, Wes Westrum, Bruce Bochy, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Ralph Houk, Wally Schang, Ray Schalk, Joe Girardi, Darrell Johnson…)

I meet up with Jason Pomrenke, who is taking official photos of the event for SABR. We are pals, and he is head of the 1919 Black Sox Committee, which researches that scandal. I have a personal interest in that fiasco, as my great-uncle, Sam “Izzy” Lippman, helped rig that World Series.

Izzy was an interesting guy. He began his career in questionable occupations by cleaning spittoons in the pool hall that Giants Manager John J. McGraw co-owned with the “Big Bankroll,” Arnold Rothstein, around 1906. Izzy got free Giants and later Yankees tickets, and introduced Grandpa to baseball in 1908, when they saw Christy Mathewson fire a 3-0 shutout at the Reds. Grandpa was hooked.

By 1919, Grandpa was a pharmacy major at Fordham University and Izzy was a bagman and enforcer for Rothstein. When the Big Bankroll orchestrated the rigging of the World Series, Izzy was sent around New York to handle betting slips, make payoffs to winners, and collect from losers. Having a sharp mind, quick fists, and a closed mouth, he did his job. If you didn’t pay your losses to Izzy, he would beat the hell out of you.

When not working for Rothstein, Izzy led a crew that robbed furniture warehouses. They would often get a tip on new furniture from the night watchman, and drive up in their truck, give him $100 or beat the hell out of him, or both, and take the furniture they wanted. What they didn’t fence, they gave to my family, which was the only reason Izzy was invited to family events. Otherwise, they couldn’t stand him. “A shame for the neighbors, he is!” my relatives would yell.

In the mid-1920s, Izzy disappeared. Apparently he was skimming the take from Rothstein, and the Big Bankroll didn’t like this. We don’t know why Izzy did something that stupid – drug addiction, gambling debts, booze addiction, expensive girlfriends, but he did. What we do know is that Izzy is forever a cornerstone in the infrastructure of New York – he’s holding up the Hell Gate Bridge.

Jake tells me that the Committee, based in Chicago, is making little progress on finding the missing pages of White Sox Secretary Harry Grabiner’s diary, which may – may – contain the dope on how Sox owner Charlie Comiskey and others worked behind the scenes to hide the Sox players’ confessions and get them acquitted at trial. Too bad for all concerned that Commissioner Landis overruled everybody.

We talk about how funny it is that Ray Schalk, the “Clean Sox” catcher on that squad, made it to the Hall of Fame despite his mediocre statistics (compared to Hall of Famers). Two of the other major “Clean Sox,” Urban “Red” Faber and Eddie Collins, are also up at the Hall, but justifiably so.

“Maybe they should add Nemo Leibold, the right fielder,” I say. “He played the Series clean but dull.”

Jake laughs and heads off to take photos.

I head downstairs to the computers, and check on my e-mail, the Giants, and the Yankees. The Yankees have come back from a 5-0 deficit when Giancarlo Stanton smashed a walk-off two run homer in the bottom of the ninth off of Ryan Cook to cap a massive rally. Yankees win, 7-5.

This is a big moment for Stanton, as it’s is first such dramatic moment at the Stadium, and the fans who have been irritated by his high strikeouts have obviously leaped to their feet, and are making the ballpark vibrate. I kind of wish I could be there, but this is a good substitute.

I also see that I’m “Judge No. 23,” which pleases me. I volunteered to judge the presentations, as I did in Philadelphia in 2013. The first time I did it, I gave everyone high marks. This time I’ll be tougher, having had experience.

I head back up to the room, and the rain is drenching down. It patters off my window. In the distance I can see lightning bolts illuminating the sky. The bolts you see are actually the reverse flow coming up, not the main bolt coming down, for some reason.

I read the schedule for tomorrow: opening remarks, a panel on Roberto Clemente, a presentation on why Babe Ruth never became a major league manager, another one on Ralph Kiner and Branch Rickey, the Giants and Dodgers moving west, legendary black baseball writer Wendell Smith, and Moe Berg. I’d better get up early.

I watch the lightning for a while, blasting over the Steelers’ stadium, and then hit the sack. It’ll be a long but fun day tomorrow.

The Calm Before The Storm...

A Day Off and the O’s Before the Big Weekend…

The Yankees begin the new week with a day off in advance of a couple of games with Zach Britton’s old team, the Baltimore Orioles. But it is hard not to look ahead. A four-game showdown with the Boston Red Sox is looming right around the corner with the first game in Boston on Thursday, August 2nd, the 39th anniversary of the death of the late great Thurman Munson. 

First, kudos to J.A. Happ for his impressive Yankees debut. I thoroughly enjoyed how calm and controlled he was on the mound. His experience and leadership should prove invaluable for the Yankees over the coming weeks. It was hard not to compare Happ’s debut with Nathan Eovaldi’s first game as a Red Sock. Nasty Nate pitched a shutout, but I’ll gladly take Happ’s six innings of three hit, one run ball. With the 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, the Yankees took three of four for their first series win since taking two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays in early July.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

The Yankees (67-37) kept pace with the Red Sox and are 5 ½ games back in the AL East. The Red Sox host the Philadelphia Phillies for two games at Fenway Park starting tonight. They’ll have Wednesday off before the Yankees come to town. Hopefully the Yankees at least capture a split of the series in Boston, but of course three of four or a sweep would be even better. My primary goal this week is for the Yankees to not lose any further ground to the Red Sox and hopefully pick up a game or two.

Hats off to GM Brian Cashman for putting in some overtime this weekend. After Saturday night’s trade that sent relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the St Louis Cardinals for first baseman Luke Voit and $1 million in international bonus pool money, Cash sent minor league lefty Caleb Frare to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday for an additional $1.5 million in international bonus pool money. This has been a breakout year for Frare at Double-A but unfortunately it came in the same year as his Rule 5 eligibility. So, you can’t fault Cashman for moving Frare for something rather than risk losing him for nothing. Frare, who turned 25 earlier this month, struggled with control earlier in his career after lost time due to Tommy John surgery a few years ago. Last year, he walked 52 batters in 62 2/3 innings for High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. This year, with 44 2/3 inning pitched (primarily for Trenton), he has only walked 15.  At Double-A, Frare held hitters to 27 hits and 4 earned runs over 43 2/3 innings with 57 strikeouts. This was good for an 0.62 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.  Frare made a believer of Trenton manager Jay Bell who, last month, said, “He does so many things well”. Tough to lose a quality left-hander but it’s the price to pay for a stocked farm system and roster crunch in advance of this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December.    

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)

With a portion of the international bonus pool money received, the Yankees yesterday signed 16-year-old RHP Osiel Rodriguez from Cuba. The Yankees had been linked to Rodriguez since the current signing period opened earlier this month and they finally signed him for $600,000. Despite his youth, Rodriguez is already 6’3” and 205 lbs. Per MLB.com, “One of the top pitchers on the international market this year, Rodriguez is the latest in a long line of Cuban stars chasing the big league dream. The right-hander’s fastball has been clocked at 97 mph and the pitch usually hovers in the low- to mid-90’s. There is some concern about a drop in velocity at times, but evaluators attribute the decrease to normal fatigue or being overworked on the showcase circuit. A strike-thrower, Rodriguez has a good mound presence and demeanor. He changes his arm slot and throws several different pitches at different angles, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse as far as scouts are concerned. Evaluators love his “big arm”, but the club that signs him might ask the teenager to refine his approach and focus on only three pitches. He has an unorthodox – sometimes described as a ‘violent’ – delivery, but it has not impacted his pitchability.” Welcome to the Yankees Family, Osiel! We’re very pleased to have you on our side. 

The next couple of days should be interesting to say the least. I am not really expecting Brian Cashman to make any bold moves, but you can never underestimate the Wizard. The Yankees continue to be linked to Chris Archer but if the price is Justus Sheffield, no thanks. I think the Yankees will pick up a bat, but it won’t be a big name. You never know, a reunion with Curtis Granderson is certainly possible. The Grandy Man is not going to scare anyone at this stage of his career, but he is certainly capable of helping to hold the ship until Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge are back in action. An interesting name to me is slugger Hunter Renfroe of the San Diego Padres. The 26-year-old is only hitting .233 this year (lifetime .239 hitter) with 7 dingers and 26 RBIs but he did swat 26 home runs last year for the Padres. Another name that has come up is San Francisco Giants (and former Pittsburgh Pirate) outfielder Andrew McCutcheon. I don’t see that one happening unless the Giants pay down his contract and they are a team looking for salary relief, so it doesn’t seem to make sense. Nearly every Yankees fan would love to see Bryce Harper in pinstripes by tomorrow but that’s another move that will not happen. I expect any moves made to be fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. I do not envision the trades of Sheffield, Albert Abreu, Estevan Florial or Clint Frazier. We’ll see. Brian Cashman is certainly capable of shocking the World…or standing pat. 

Lastly, my condolences to the friends and family of Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano who died last week at age 56. The Vikings are a young and exciting team and I had been looking forward to Sparano’s leadership of the offensive line to provide support for new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Sparano, to me, had seemed overqualified to be an assistant coach but I was so grateful that he was part of Coach Mike Zimmer’s staff. The Vikings replaced Sparano in-house by moving Tight Ends coach Clancy Barone to the O-Line as Co-Offensive Line Coach along with Andrew Janocko, who was elevated from his role as Assistant Offensive Line Coach. Senior Offensive Assistant Todd Downing, the former Raiders offensive coordinator who joined the Vikings in February, will take over tight ends. I think Mike Zimmer made the best possible moves for his staff but clearly there is no replacing what Tony Sparano meant to the Vikings. He will be missed. God Speed, Coach Sparano.  May you rest in peace.

It will be a tough day today with no Yankees baseball, but enjoy it anyway.  As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

If You Squint, They Look Like Dodgers...

Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star via AP (John Sleezer)
Yanks Continue Struggles with Losing Teams…

The Yankees do know these are the Kansas City Royals, right? Maybe they’d fare better if they thought they were playing Manny Machado and the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was an awful feeling when the Royals, on the fast track for 100 losses, throttled Luis Severino and later David Robertson en route to the 10-5 victory in the first game of Saturday’s day/night double-header. I am concerned, very concerned, about Severino. Despite the rotation pitching woes earlier this season, the one constant was strong performances by Severino who was pitching at Chris Sale-Corey Kluber level as he raced to fourteen wins. Yesterday, Sevy was gone before the end of the fifth inning, after coughing up eight hits and six runs. For his last four starts, Severino has given up 19 runs in 19 1/3 innings. His ERA, below 2.00 not long ago, is now a run higher. Not good. The Yankees need to get him with Pedro Martinez again soon. I jest on that part, but Sevy does need to figure this out. The sooner, the better. 

Photo Credit: NY Post (Paul J Bereswill)

I thought the Yankees were going to climb back into the game after Sevy’s departure and a 6-0 deficit when they scored five runs  to make it a one-run game but the bullpen was not up to the task. David Robertson continues to pitch like a guy playing his final two months in Pinstripes. The 2018 version of D-Rob has not been as trustworthy as the 2017 version and it is sad to see. He’s been one of my favorites but it seems inevitable that we’ll have a second parting of the ways in a few months. Is there such a thing as too much quality in the bullpen, leading to a lack of work and rusty performances? Hopefully the pen gels with the latest moves and provides us with a stretch run to remember.    

I was fearful the Royals were going to sweep the day when they forged ahead of the Yankees in the nightcap while new reliever Zach Britton, hearing the boos so familiar when he pitched as a visitor, was on the mound in the seventh, but Greg Bird, Neil Walker and Aaron Hicks saved the day. Bird’s homer in the bottom of the eighth tied the game. Walker followed with a double to deep right center, and advanced to third on a bunt single by Austin Romine (loved the Twitter comments  of “Yankees catcher sprints to first” which is not something we are accustomed to when Gary Sanchez is playing). Aaron Hicks flied out to left, but Walker tagged and scored the go-ahead run. I was hopeful the Yankees could pick up a few more runs in the situation, but Brett Gardner grounded out and Giancarlo Stanton went down swinging to strand two runners in scoring position.

From there, the game was placed into the hands of Aroldis Chapman who had the major meltdown in his last appearance before being saved by Chasen Shreve. It didn’t start well when the first batter, Adalberto Mondesi (I liked the name ‘Raul Mondesi, Jr’ better), led off the ninth with a single to center. Chappy got the next two batters but then he walked the potential go-ahead run. Mondesi stole third to put runners at the corners for the pesky Whit Merrifield. I can’t say I was feeling too good at that point, but Chapman struck him out on four pitches to end the game. Whew! A struggle to win one of two games from a team that has only won 32 games this season. We should be crushing these teams like the Red Sox do.  

Boston hammered the Minnesota Twins, 10-4, so they were able to increase their lead in the AL East to five and a half games. Despite the struggles, the Yankees (66-37) can take three of four from the Royals with a win today. It is going to be very disheartening if they end up splitting the series with one of baseball’s worst teams.  

Who am I going to complain about now? The Yankees traded LHP Chasen Shreve to the St Louis Cardinals last night so I no longer have a bullpen punching bag. After labeling Shreve as a DFA candidate for months, he wasn’t DFA’d and to my surprise, the Yankees packaged him with RHP Giovanny Gallegos to pick up a bag of donuts and some coin for the international market. Okay, first baseman Luke Voit is not a bag of donuts (is he?) but the guy is not exactly a prospect at 27. The Missouri native played 67 games at Triple A this year, and hit .299/.391/.500, .891 OPS, with 9 homers and 36 RBIs. He has drawn 31 walks. Voit has played in 8 games with eleven plate appearances at the Major League level this season. He is 2-for-11 with a homer and 3 RBIs.  

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry

Voit will most likely head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but first base is not exactly a position of need compared to the outfield or catching for the Rail Riders. They have Tyler Austin, Mike Ford and Ryan McBroom. McBroom’s numbers at Triple A this season are nearly identical to Voit’s. In 73 games, McBroom, acquired a couple of seasons ago for Rob Refsnyder, is batting .297 with 9 homers and 32 RBIs. With the glut of first-base types, McBroom, was recently sent to Double A. It certainly wasn’t because of performance. Poor Mike Ford, who had a brief taste of the big leagues in his Rule 5 spring training with the Seattle Mariners, is never going to see the light of day at Yankee Stadium. Ford, batting .240, has 12 home runs and 36 ribbies in 67 games for the RailRiders.  

For as much as I’ve wanted to see Shreve go, it was still a sad moment when it actually happened. He was a Yankee for four years and there were good times to go with the bad. Listening to his post-game interview was extremely difficult while Shreve expressed his love for his teammates. I wish the Las Vegas native the best as he moves to the Gateway to the West. The Cardinals have a strong history of tradition and success even if 2018 is not one of their better years. The Cardinals are only four games out of the NL Wild Card chase so Shreve does have an opportunity to help his new team reach October. For Gallegos, it means the end of the Scranton/Bronx Shuttle. Hopefully he’ll have a much better time sticking in the bigs with the Cardinals.  

The trade opens a spot on the 25-man roster for today’s starter, J.A. Happ. Happ had been added as the 26th man prior to the start of the second game of yesterday’s double-header after his delayed arrival so the Yankees needed to clear room on the active roster for him. I had expected it to be outfielder Shane Robinson who homered in yesterday’s second game but he presumably lives to see another day in Pinstripes. His spot is the one that clearly needs to be upgraded before the trading deadline unless we can get some positive news about Clint Frazier soon.

Yesterday brought rumors the Yankees are one of the teams aggressively pursuing Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, although the San Diego Padres continue to be seen as the favorites. A report at the end of the day indicated that the Rays had two scouts watching Justus Sheffield’s start for the RailRiders last evening. I like Archer but not well enough to trade the organization’s top prospect for him. There are only a few guys the Yankees should consider trading Sheffield for and Archer is not one of them.  Blake Snell, maybe, but he’s currently on the DL.  

The Yankees may be hurt by injuries, but the Houston Astros are having problems of their own. They already had star shortstop Carlos Correa on the disabled list and yesterday the 2017 AL MVP, Jose Altuve, hit the DL for the first time in his career. Altuve has lingering soreness in his right knee.  

I was watching a little of the Los Angeles Angels game last night and it’s incredible what former Yankees prospect Francisco Arcia is doing for the Halos in his Major League debut. In two games and eight at-bats, the 28-year-old Arcia, a catcher, has two homers and ten RBIs. The Yankees could certainly use Arcia now but who would have known the career minor leaguer was capable of this type of performance. Okay, apparently former Yankees Assistant GM and now Angels GM Billy Eppler knew. It’s not sustainable but it is a great story. One of the Angels announcers made the comment that this is the time of year you need a player to come along and give the team a jolt. Yeah, we could use one of those guys about now.

I will be curious to see how J.A. Happ performs today. He has faced the Kansas City Royals once already this year. In Toronto’s 15-5 victory on April 18th, Happ pitched six innings, allowing five hits and four runs, to pick up the win for the Blue Jays. He walked a couple of batters and struck out eight. The way the Yankees offense is performing, he’ll need to do better than that today. Sure, the Yankees should score 15 runs on a team like KC but not the .500 club that we’ve been seeing in recent weeks. I am hopeful the excitement of a pennant race will reinvigorate Happ. After Sevy’s pitiful performance yesterday and CC Sabathia’s short outing, we could use a strong show from the rotation. We need a “jolt” and this team needs to get on a roll. Make Yankees Baseball fun again! Otherwise, the Red Sox will be waltzing to the finish line.

I’d like to see the Yankees add a bat before Tuesday’s trading deadline, but I am not expecting any earth-shattering moves. The cost of starting pitching seems too high, and I am not really interested in overpaying for another league-average starter. Maybe it is time to bring Justus Sheffield up to the Show to see what he can do out of the bullpen for the duration of the season. I am also looking forward to Jonathan Loaisiga’s return to good health.

Hopefully the Yankees simply take care of business today. We need a win. Please make it HAPPen.  

Go Yankees!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Game Thread: New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals 7/28

And just like that it is game time here in the Bronx between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals. In the third game of a four-game set between these two clubs the Yankees will send out Luis Severino to the mound to face off with Heath Fillmyer for the Royals. Who? That was my reaction as well, I cannot lie. The game will be played at 1:05 pm ET inside Yankee Stadium and can be seen on the YES Network and MLB Network. You can also follow along with the game on MLB TV, with the MLB At-Bat app and by tuning into the Yankees radio broadcast on WFAN with the legendary duo of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman.

Follow us on Twitter, @GreedyStripes, and “Like” us on Facebook, The Greedy Pinstripes, to keep up with us and the team all season long. Enjoy the game, begin to chase down the Red Sox in the American League East division race, and go Yankees!!

Meet a Prospect Special Edition: JA Happ

The price for a starting pitcher in this year’s trade market is apparently pretty high. Now while I wouldn’t go as far as to say the price is astronomical, I have to admit that if I knew that the Yankees were going to trade both outfielder Billy McKinney and infielder Brandon Drury and his three years of team control for a starter I’d have to say I expected a little bit more back than JA Happ. That is not meant to be a diss or disrespectful by any means, but I just think that is kind of a lot for a rental starting pitcher. Happ is a seasoned veteran that has a great history of keeping down the bats on the Boston Red Sox specifically, and I am under no delusions that either McKinney or Drury had a true future here with the team either, so the deal makes sense… and the deal is done whether we like it, or we don’t, so let’s meet him. This is Meet a Prospect Special Edition: The JA Happ Edition.

James Anthony “JA” Happ was born on October 19, 1982 in Peru, Illinois. Happ was the youngest of three children, he had two older sisters, and attended St. Bede Academy where the lefty was a four-year letter winner in both baseball and basketball. After attending St. Bede, the left-hander enrolled at Northwestern University where he played college baseball for the Northwestern Wildcats. Happ spent three seasons with Northwestern before catching the eye of the Philadelphia Phillies who selected Happ in the third round, 92nd overall, of the 2004 MLB First Year Players Draft. Happ decided to forego his senior season at Northwestern and signed with the Phillies almost immediately after the draft, thus starting his professional career. Happ was immediately assigned to the Short-season A-level New York-Penn League (home of the Staten Island Yankees) where he made 11 starts and posted a 2.02 ERA.

Happ continued to impress within the Phillies system from 2005 through 2007 before the Phillies had a need for an arm at the Major League level on June 30, 2007. Happ was called up to make a start against the New York Mets, a start that he would presumably like to forget that saw the southpaw allow five runs in a loss. Happ would return to Triple-A after the start and would not make it back to the big leagues that season. Happ began the 2008 season back in Triple-A before once again reaching the big leagues with Philadelphia on July 4, 2008. Happ made two starts before landing back in Triple-A on July 23, but he was recalled on July 29th to the big-league club. Instead of pitching as a starter Happ was placed in the bullpen in his third stint with the Phillies, an experiment that lasted two days before Happ was once again sent back down to Triple-A where he would finish out much of his 2008 season. Happ was a September call up that season and was even named to the postseason roster that year pitching in one game in the NLCS, thus earning a World Series ring when the Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays for their second ever World Series championship.

Happ was back with the big-league club in 2009, first in the bullpen and eventually in the starting rotation after Chan Ho Park was demoted to the pen due to struggles, and the Phillies were steamrolling the National League with the intentions of returning back to the World Series. Happ would finish second in the NL Rookie of the Year vote this season, but the Phillies would ultimately fall to the New York Yankees in the 2009 World Series. Happ was back with the Phillies starting rotation in 2010, but was ultimately traded to the Houston Astros on July 29, 2010 along with Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar in exchange for RHP Roy Oswalt. Happ struggled mightily with the Astros in 2010 through 2012 prompting Houston to trade the struggling left-hander to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 20, 2012. Happ went to Toronto along with Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter while the Astros received Francisco Cordero, Ben Francisco, Asher Wojciechowski, David Rollins, Joe Musgrove, Carlos Perez and Kevin Comer. What a haul!

The Blue Jays pitched Happ out of their bullpen until the demotion of starter Brett Cecil to the bullpen. Happ would not start long though after having to undergo surgery on a fractured foot in September of 2012, thus ending his season prematurely. Happ only made 10 appearances with Toronto in 2012, six as a starter, but ultimately did enough to lead the Blue Jays to offer him a one-year contract worth $3.7 million to avoid arbitration for the 2013 season. The contract was the highlight of the 2013 season for Happ, especially considering that Happ was hit in the head by a line drive that season off the bat of Desmond Jennings. Happ would remain on the disabled list from May 7, 2013 to August 5, 2013 due to lacerations to his left ear and a head contusion. The 2013 season also marked the year that Happ lost his grandfather.

Happ was back with the Blue Jays in 2014 hoping for a much better season than his 2013 season, and he began the season on the disabled list. That’s not what you want. Once returned from the DL the Blue Jays placed Happ back in their bullpen, although he did regain a spot back in the rotation when Dustin McGowan was removed from the rotation. Happ pitched well as the Blue Jays 5th starter in 2014 pitching to a 11-11 record and a 4.22 ERA with 133 strikeouts and a 1.34 WHIP in 158 innings pitched. How did the Blue Jays reward his breakout season in 2014 you ask? By shipping him off to the Seattle Mariners on December 3, 2014 for outfielder Michael Saunders. Happ made 20 starts and one relief appearance for the Mariners in 2015 compiling a 4-6 record and a 4.64 ERA before Seattle traded Happ to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31, 2015. The Pirates gave up Adrian Sampson for the left-hander and enjoyed 11 starts from him. Happ posted an impressive 7-2 record with a 1.85 ERA and 69 strikeouts down the stretch for Pittsburgh before hitting free agency before the 2016 season.

Happ wasted no time on the free agent market signing back with the Toronto Blue Jays on November 27, 2015 on a three-year deal worth $36 million. Happ enjoyed a breakout season of sorts with Toronto in 2016 winning 12 games before the All-Star break and finishing the year with a 20-4 record and a 3.18 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 195 innings pitched. Happ finished sixth in the AL Cy Young Award voting for 2016 and led the team to a victory in Game Two of the 2016 ALDS. Happ came into the 2017 season looking for much of the same with the Blue Jays, but a disabled list trip due to left elbow inflammation would cost him six weeks of his 2017 season. Happ pitched well but never could replicate his 20-win season from the year prior.

In 2018 the Blue Jays named Happ their Opening Day starter, a game that Happ and the Blue Jays would lose to the New York Yankees 6-1. Happ was named to the 2018 MLB All-Star Game as well before being the subject of trade rumors due to his team struggling mightily in the standings. Ultimately, the New York Yankees acquired Happ for infielder Brandon Drury and outfielder Billy McKinney for the stretch run.

Happ will bring his five-pitch repertoire to the Bronx that includes a four-seam fastball that touched 90-95 MPH, a slider that stays in the 84-86 MPH range, a curveball that sticks around 77-79 MPH and a changeup that sits around 84 MPH. Happ does not use his changeup against left-handed hitters and commonly mixes his curveball in with his fastball in two-strike counts to get outs.

Welcome to the organization, J.A., and welcome to the Yankees family!! Here’s to getting you another World Series ring.