Saturday, August 10, 2019

It HAPPened One Night...

Photo Credit: Mark Blinch, Getty Images
More often than I would like…

I guess it was inevitable the Yankees would eventually lose, but I like ten-game winning streaks and the team fell one victory short of “my” goal. J.A. Happ, as usual this season, was “happ-less” in Friday night’s 8-2 loss to his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Oh well, today is a new day. The Yankees are back at Rogers Centre this afternoon for the third game of a four-game set and the series tied. They’ll send Chad Green, Opener, to the mound, to defend the Yankees’ 9-0 record in games that he opens to hopefully start a new winning streak.

I think my biggest disappointment of the July trading deadline was on display last night. I really wanted the Yankees to replace J.A. Happ in the starting rotation. I know, it was never going to happen and we’re stuck with Happ, good or bad, at least for the duration of this year. With another $17 million owed him next season, and an option that could trigger a third year, the Yankees will have to part with some money if they hope to move Happ in the off-season but they should. At 36, he is not going to get any better. Assuming that Jordan Montgomery is able to come back to be a reliable fifth starter, any pitching upgrade in the off-season should take Happ’s spot. Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino will be back, and Domingo German, with 15 wins, has ensured his place in the rotation. So, with Monty back in the fold and taking the soon-to-be retired CC Sabathia’s spot, the only spot that is potentially open belongs to Happ. I can’t look back and say the Yankees should have signed Lance Lynn instead of Happ since I didn’t feel that way at the time, but in retrospect, it certainly would have been the better move. Or signing Charlie Morton would have made a world of sense at the time and he’s certainly over-performed on the two-year, $30 million deal ($4 million less than Happ) he was given by the Tampa Bay Rays. I am still surprised the Houston Astros made no move to re-sign either him or Dallas Keuchel (regardless of how poorly the latter has pitched in Atlanta so far).

As it stands right now, Happ should not get a sniff of a post-season start. There’s no way I’d trust him when the chips are on the table. Give him long relief or leave him off the playoff roster but I do not want to see his name as a scheduled starting pitcher come October.  


Okay, I’ll let my dislike of Happ go…for now.  

As expected, the Yankees activated catcher Gary Sanchez off the Injured List for today’s game. I thought Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka did outstanding job s while El Gary was away, but still, I’d rather have Gary on the field and in the lineup. I am not expecting to see his monster home runs right away, but hopefully he’s 100% healthy and can start ramping up his play over the next few games. I am sure his bat is salivating at the prospect of facing Orioles pitching next week. If there was hope the Yankees would re-sign Romine in the off-season (in my mind), it was lost with how well Ro has played in El Gary’s absence. He deserves more than a backup gig and there are plenty of teams that could use someone like him.  I can easily see Romine going home to Southern CA to play for the Los Angeles Angels.  The familiarity is certainly there with Angels GM Billy Eppler. My guess is Kyle Higashioka will be the backup catcher when Spring Training rolls around next year. But this year, with El Gary back on the active roster, Higgy heads back to Pennsylvania.  

The surprise transaction move today was the placement of reliever Jonathan Holder on the Injured List with right shoulder inflammation. LHP Stephen Tarpley was recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was recalled to take Holder’s place. At this point, I am really hoping that Jonathan LoĆ”isiga is ready soon to take Tarpley’s spot.

There was such mixed reaction this week when it was announced that the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox would play a game in Dyersville, Iowa on August 13, 2020 near the spot of the field from the movie Field of Dreams. Immediately, fans were upset about the dimensions of the existing playing field from the movie without realizing there are plans for a new temporary stadium to be built next to the movie grounds that would provide normalized dimensions for the playing field and seating capacity for 8,000.  

Credit: MLB
I like the idea. As a native Iowan, I never dreamed the Yankees would play on my native soil. It’s not like Des Moines, the largest Iowa city, is ever going to get a professional team. I grew up about 150 miles from Dyersville in a similar rural community. I hate to think about how much those tickets will cost and what a snarled mess Dyersville will be next August. I know Iowans, we all pile into the car to go check things out even if we don’t have tickets.  So Dyersville is not only going to be filled by visitors holding tickets to see the game, the gawkers will be out in full force too. I think I’ll just stick with the FOX telecast. I wonder how much gate revenue the Chicago White Sox will lose by giving up a home game for this attraction and how much MLB is compensating them for the loss. I am sure the Yankees are among the highest revenue attractions at Guaranteed Rate Field. As cool as it would be to see the Yankees wear their famed pinstripes in Iowa, the White Sox are considered the home team and they probably deserve to wear their pinstripes, especially since Field of Dreams featured former Chicago White Sox player Shoeless Joe Jackson. I wouldn’t be a fan of both teams wearing pinstripes. 

Anyway, it should be a fun August day next summer regardless of where you watch the game from. It would be cool if Kevin Costner could throw out the first pitch.  

With no idea when Luke Voit will return (he hasn’t resumed baseball activities and potential surgery remains on the table), I wonder when first baseman/DH Ryan McBroom gets his opportunity. At 27, he is no longer a prospect but has been very strong at Triple A this year. McBroom accounted for the RailRiders’ only runs in yesterday’s 10-2 loss to the Gwinnett Stripers with a two-run double in the eighth inning. On the year, he is batting .320/.398/.559 with .958 OPS. He has 19 home runs, 24 doubles, and 47 RBIs. If he is ever going to get his shot with the Yankees, this is it. There probably comes a time when a minor league player wonders what more he has to do to prove himself and McBroom is probably there. I know I still think of McBroom as simply the guy the Yankees got for Robert Refsnyder, but I’d like to see him get a taste of the Big Leagues. I’d prefer McBroom over a reunion signing of former Giant/Twin/Yankee Tyler Austin.  


There was a part of me that hoped the Yankees would sign free agent second baseman Joe Panik who was recently been cut loose by the Giants, but he took the chance for more playing time with the New York Mets. I know, he’s been dreadful this year and lost his job when the Giants acquired Scooter Gennett from the Cincinnati Reds, but I guess I was optimistic that he’d display some of the promise he once held by returning to his native New York City on a contending team. I guess we’ll see if that happens with the Mets. Robinson Cano will not be returning to the Mets this year with his torn hammy (even if he seems to think so) which created the opportunity for the Mets to push the Panik button (sorry, I had to do it even if that terminology has been overused in recent days).  

Former Yankee (and, ugh, Red Sock) Mark Melancon has been named as the closer for the Atlanta Braves. He was considered one of the top closers when he signed a free agent deal with the San Francisco Giants a couple of years ago, but injuries have derailed him. I thought former Yankee and Tiger Shane Greene would get the job, but he’s been a little underwhelming in Hot-lanta. On the bright side, playing behind Melancon should mean hope since it’s questionable if Melancon can remain healthy. Greene needs to make the necessary adjustments to give the Braves the same confidence the Tigers showed in him. Greene was one of the arms that I had hoped the Yankees would acquire at the trading deadline. Despite his struggles, I’d still prefer him over Stephen Tarpley any day.  

I am trying to contain my enthusiasm but it was a positive to see Luis Severino throw a 23-pitch bullpen session yesterday. He’s still weeks away from a return and any setback could derail him for the season, but I am cautiously optimistic that he’ll be an available arm in September. Regardless of the role he’ll play this year, I want him to be an active part of this year’s team and not just an observer with an awesome dugout view of the game.  

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Baseball Season Did Not End July 31st...

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images
Destination: World Series Championship is alive and well…

Admittedly, I was very disappointed with the trading deadline. I felt it was a missed opportunity to provide enhancements for the team. The Houston Astros are a very good team from top to bottom, and they are led by a very smart manager. I know I will not underestimate them nor will I compare them to a rotation-strong Tiger team that couldn’t win when it mattered. Nevertheless, Houston did not secure a guarantee of October success with their moves.

I do wish I had better confidence with the return the injured Yankee players. It’s being reported that Luis Severino will finally return to the mound next Friday as he begins his rehab back to the Major Leagues for possibly September. Honestly, he is a setback away from not pitching for the club at all this year. I am trying to keep my expectations low, but at best, he appears to be help for the bullpen barring no further setbacks. There does not appear to be sufficient time to get him stretched out for a starting role, or if he comes back to start, he’ll be like one of the starting pitchers who miss Spring Training and then struggle mightily. Still, I’d rather have Sevy on the post-season roster than not.

Photo Credit: Severino40 on Instagram
Maybe Dellin Betances can come back and recapture his 2018 effectiveness. It does not exactly feel like a sure bet. I probably have more confidence in Dellin at this point than Sevy but we’ll see. The Yankees really need both if they are to win the 2019 World Series. It’s not impossible but it would clearly help.

I am not even sure what to think about Giancarlo Stanton. If he hasn’t even begun baseball activities, I don’t see his return anytime soon. And when he does come back, there is the inevitable struggle to recapture his timing. In other words, we’re looking at some painful at-bats until he becomes the Giancarlo we all know and love. 

It’s not great news the Yankees could be without Luke Voit for up to six weeks, a certainty if he does have surgery for his sports hernia. But at least the Yankees have Edwin Encarnacion and DJ LeMahieu to cover first base, and Mike Ford waiting in the wings at Scranton for support. When I saw the San Francisco Giants had designated Tyler Austin for assignment yesterday, my immediate thought was potential help for the Yankees. But I think that was just a sentimental feeling. While I think some team with a higher priority claim will take a shot at the former Yank, I don’t care for Austin’s splits and although he has some power, I think the Yankees have better options in-house. I really thought a trade for Justin Smoak at the trading deadline made sense, but if you truly believe the injured guys will be back, there’s not necessarily any long term room on the roster.  

Oh well, the Yankees didn’t get the needed help for the rotation. It sucks but it is what it is. Time for the starters we do have to step it up. Domingo German has certainly earned his standing among the top five. After allowing the first-inning  two-run homer to JD Martinez last night, James Paxton pitched like we know he can in holding the Red Sox to two hits and those two runs over six innings. This is the Pax we need down the stretch. If only he can overcome those first inning jitters. First innings with Paxton are becoming very painful to watch. I still have hope that Paxton can come up big in October. Despite his struggles, I do not believe this to be a ‘Sonny Gray-like’ situation. I think Pax will have his huge moments in Pinstripes. The talent and the desire are there. Pax just needs to find the answer within himself and I am confident he will.  

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP
J.A. Happ continues to concern me. I think it was his spot in the rotation that I wanted to see upgraded. His three-year contract is starting to worry me a bit. Technically, it is a two-year deal with an option, but the third year vests with 165 innings pitched or 27 games started in 2020, which, if he stays in the rotation, should be easily achievable. Frankly, I hope the Yankees can find a way to move Happ in the off-season and find a better option, but they’ll have to send a few Benjamin Franklins with him to find a taker.  But for now, Happ needs to find what he had last year at this time. Currently out on paternity leave, hopefully the newly born Happ will help J.A.’s rebirth as an effective Yankees starter.

With CC Sabathia on the Injured List for his knee, a deadline starter would have been ideal but I guess we’ll have to continue with Chad Green, Opener. Green and Nestor Cortes Jr have proven to be a reliable tandem so it’s not the end of the World they have to provide the necessary support. When CC returns, I am not going to go against him. He is a crafty veteran and the final starts of his career will have a very strong impact on him in terms of the desire to go out on his own terms. I am confident he’ll have his magical moment before this is said and done.

It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Masahiro Tanaka, but like the great Andy Pettitte, Masa has a way of raising the bar in October. I have no doubt he’ll be very effective when it matters, even if he continues to give up those annoying obligatory dingers.  

For those who think Deivi Garcia is the next Great Savior, my take is not this year. While it has been said he’d be in the bullpen if he does get the call up in September, I doubt he makes a significant difference until 2020 at the earliest. I am not resting any hopes on him. The kid is only 20 and he’s struggled with the promotion to Triple A. I don’t blame him for those struggles. They were inevitable. Rare is the player who can immediately master every level of the minor leagues from the start. I think he’ll be a very good pitcher one day, just not this year. At least not at the big league level. I have no doubt he’ll be frustrating International League hitters by season’s end.

I’ve always liked Aroldis Chapman, but if he opts out of his contract in the off-season, let him go. I am not interested in a renegotiation of his contract. I know Yankee fans either love or hate Zach Britton, but he’d be my choice to take over the closing duties. Not sure if the Yankees will re-sign Dellin Betances, but he’s better suited for setup. He’d be the only other name I’d consider for closer even though I’ve never been a fan of using him in that role despite his limited success. I also think Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle are better in their current roles. The Colorado Rockies tried Otto as closer a couple of years ago without success, but I realize that was before Otto rediscovered himself in his makeshift NYC pitching studio. Still, Otto’s propensity for walks when he doesn’t have his control does not play well in the ninth inning.

I keep reading there’s no way the Yankees sign Gerrit Cole in the off-season and perhaps that’s true. There will be teams like the Los Angeles Angels that will be desperate for starting pitching, particularly for someone with Cole’s resume. I think any chance Houston would re-sign Cole was eliminated when they acquired Zach Greinke and his contract. So, if anything, it gives me some hope the Yankees will be contenders for Cole’s services. We’ll see. Hopefully he doesn’t end the Yankees’ season before we get there.

I was very appreciative of the first inning grand slam by Gleyber Torres last night to answer the home run by JD Martinez and fortunately it held up to give the Yankees a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. Last year at this time, the Yankees started a four-game series in Boston on the exact same date (August 2nd, the anniversary of the death of Yankee great Thurman Munson). The Yankees entered the series in much better position than the Red Sox are in now, trailing the then-AL East leaders by only 5 1/2 games. Boston swept the four-game series which effectively ended the Yankees’ hopes of winning the division. I am really hoping the Yankees can do the same to the Red Sox this year. I remember the defeated feeling I had last year after that series. It’s a feeling the Boston fans should experience this year, in my opinion. I am not really expecting a sweep but taking 3 of 4, especially after last weekend’s disaster in Boston, would be huge. It would also leave the Red Sox severely wounded with their playoff aspirations and three good teams ahead of them in the AL Wild Card hunt.

Since the Tampa Bay Rays had the night off, the Yankees were able to increase their AL East lead to 7 1/2 games. The Red Sox are back to 11 1/2 games behind our favorite team. Too bad, so sad. I’d really enjoy it if the Red Sox players have to make non-baseball plans for October. Time to go for the jugular and race to the AL East title crown. If it happens, I will be so glad the Yankees do not have to play a one-game ‘do or die’ playoff this year. But no Boston baseball in October would almost be as exciting. 

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP
The Yankees play two today. The afternoon game will pit Domingo German, searching for his 14th win, against Chris Sale. It’s been a very disappointing year for Boston’s ace so hopefully the disappointment continues today. In the night cap, Chad Green-Opener will face lefty Brian Johnson. Johnson was activated off the Injured List earlier today. He has been out since June 27th with an intestinal issue. A sweep by the Yankees would obviously leave the entire Red Sox team with intestinal issues. 

Before I go and despite the disappointment experienced a few days ago, I am glad the Trading Deadline has come and gone. I was tired of the endless speculation and the ridiculous trade proposals in the minds of many Yankee fans. Next year, I’ll be in favor of moving the trade deadline to August 15th to help teams better decide if they are buyers or sellers. However, on August 3, 2019, this is our team and this is THE team that can take us to the promised land. To hell with the Astros and anybody else, the Yankees have the players capable of delivering champagne in the final MLB game of the year. Let’s do this.

Go Yankees!