Thursday, July 12, 2018

Losing the Battle of Baltimore...

Photo Credit: The Baltimore Sun/TNS (Karl Merton Ferron)

Splitting the Series is better than losing it but…

Why is it that the Yankees waited until the final game of the series in Baltimore to play like they are supposed to against Baseball’s worst professional team? Okay, I’ll give you the Luis Cessa game but realistically, the Yankees should have taken three of four or all four of the games in B-more. 

Sonny Gray was great last night, but honestly, I still do not trust the pitcher. He has a long way to go before I’ll have confidence in his starts. One game does not a season make. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Scott Taetsch)

If the Yankees lose the AL East, the deciding factor will be the Battle of Baltimore. The Boston Red Sox have beaten the O’s nine times out of ten, while the Yanks and Orioles have split ten games. If the Yankees had matched Boston’s record against the woeful O’s, the Yankees would have had a better winning percentage than the Red Sox even though the Sox have currently won nine games in a row. 

The Yankees face a tough challenge starting tonight with a four-game set against the Cleveland Indians.  The pitching matchup for the opener doesn’t get any better than the marquee event pitting Luis Severino (14-2, 2.12 ERA) against Corey Kluber (12-4, 2.49 ERA). The Yankees swept the Indians in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium in early May but it took two walk-off performances. In the latest series, the Indians will have last at-bat. The Indians (50-41) currently hold an 8 ½ game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. Cleveland’s had some bullpen issues but they remain a very dangerous team. I learned long ago to never underestimate Cleveland manager Terry Francona. 

The Yankees (60-31) have fallen 3 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East after no more than a two-game separation in June.  Boston is on a historic run for their organization. There’s still plenty of time for the Yankees to catch Boston but hats off to them for their refusal to lose. Earlier in the season, I was a bit frustrated by Boston’s cream puff schedule (seemed like they were mostly playing losing teams) but the truth is they know how to beat those teams better than the Yankees. For the Yankees to have a better record against winning teams than the losers, it makes no sense to me. They really need to stop playing down to the level of their opponents and start playing more like last night’s game. 

I am not sure what to think about the Manny Machado rumors which have been running rampant the last couple of days. I’d love to have Manny in Pinstripes. But acquiring Manny only seems to make sense if the Yankees already have a plan in place to acquire an upper echelon starting pitcher, they are fearful the Red Sox might swoop in and grab him, or if they see the pitching market as a collection of Sonny Grays and feel that making further enhancements to the team’s potent offense is the way to go.

I am intrigued by the idea of having Manny on my team. He is one of the best players in the game today.  Probably the only deal-killer for me is if he continues to insist on playing shortstop. I have no desire to replace Didi Gregorius. But if Miguel Andujar is included in a deal for a top starting pitcher or if the Yankees decide to move Andujar to first base to make room for Manny at third, I am on board. I know Greg Bird has hit home runs in the last couple of games including a grand slam yesterday, but health-wise and production-wise, I have more faith in Andujar than I do Bird. I could be very wrong on this given Bird’s history as a clutch performer in the Minor Leagues, but conversely, I am all about doing whatever is necessary to make the Yankees a better team. There’s no guarantee the Yankees re-sign Machado after the season so that’s certainly the risk of trading top prospects to Baltimore who could potentially become Yankee killers. Growing up, it bothered me to see Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez and Rick Dempsey thrive in Baltimore after starting their careers with the Yankees. Not that they were great players (although McGregor did win 20 games for the O’s in 1980) but it’s hard to see your team’s prospects thrive elsewhere, particularly for teams in the AL East. I’d like to think that Manny would enjoy his time in the Bronx and would aggressively work to stay. I don’t think the Yankees would make the move to acquire Machado unless they felt they had a strong chance to sign him to a new contract after the season. Not that I think he’d give the Yankees any type of discount (in fact, it might the opposite given the high cost of living in America’s largest city), but it would be better than him going to Los Angeles and developing a love for Dodger Blue or becoming a Beer King in Milwaukee. 



So, my vote is to acquire Machado now. Realistically, I don't think he ends up in New York, at least not yet but it's fun to think about.  

I enjoyed hearing that Justus Sheffield would not be part of any trade for Machado but I would absolutely include Top Sheff in a deal for an ace like Jacob deGrom, Blake Snell or Madison Bumgarner. I wouldn’t do it for one of the lesser caliber pitchers including Michael Fulmer. The Yankees have a wealth of talented young arms in the system. There’s simply no way every one of them will reach the Majors with the Yankees. If Sheffield leaves, other young, talented pitchers will ascend to the top of the prospect lists.  Luis Medina was drawn much praise this season, and Luis Gil, acquired from the Minnesota Twins, is drawing accolades in the lower level of the farm system.  I still have very high hopes for Albert Abreu and Domingo Acevedo but you keep hearing great things about guys like Trevor Stephan, Nick Nelson, Garrett Whitlock and others. The top pitching prospects tend to be mostly right-handers (unlike Sheffield) but I would trade a potential ace for a proven ace any day of the week, especially considering the team is prepared to win now.

I want the Yankees to capture the World Series THIS year, not next year or the year after (well, actually I want all of the above but for now, let’s take the 2018 World Series). I don’t want to see the team play a one-game Wild Card ‘do-or-die’ playoff to determine their fate. Even a five-game series is not a true test of the best team, but that’s better than ending the season because of one off-night. So I am in favor of whatever GM Brian Cashman wants to do to improve the Yankees and their chances for October. There will be painful losses. As they say, you have to give up quality to get quality. The Chicago Cubs felt it was the right thing to do to give up their top prospect a couple of years ago for a chance to win the 2016 World Series. The Yankees were the beneficiary of that decision but now they are the team with the great opportunity to win it all.  We’ve had trust in Cashman’s decisions up to this point so there’s no reason to believe that he’s going to go ‘George Steinbrenner-style’ and start trading away premier prospects for aging veterans who have seen their better days. I always trust Cash with the vision to simultaneously look at today and tomorrow. He has not led us astray yet.

I am kind of glad that Giancarlo Stanton is not going to this year’s All-Star Game. He’s heating up and I’d prefer to see him take some rest days next week. I am really glad that he opted to pass on the Home Run Derby even though it means no Yankees will be represented. We need Giancarlo humming through October and I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks with him. Hopefully AL Manager A.J. Hinch opts to replace Aaron Judge sooner rather than later in right field and Luis Severino doesn’t pitch more than an inning. We need a rested and ready team for the second half. 

I don’t envy Brian Cashman. He has some very tough decisions to make in the coming days and weeks leading up to the non-waiver trading deadline at the end of the month. Even if he does nothing, the Yankees still have a very good team. We need starting pitching but that’s been a known fact for a very long time. When opportunity presents itself, guys step up. Either Cashman believes in the guys we have or he sees opportunity with players currently wearing other uniforms. Regardless, he has my faith and confidence. He’ll do the right thing, and we’ll be enjoying some great baseball in October.  Life is good.

Go Yankees!

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