Sunday, October 11, 2020

Eleven Years and Counting...


Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

Rays cast Yankees aside, ending Pinstriped aspirations…

Well, that sucked.

If the Yankees had gotten any help from good health this year, they would be in the AL Championship Series, preparing to host the Houston Astros tonight in San Diego. I think the biggest disappointment is to miss the ALCS by one bad pitch. The path to the World Series this year might be the easiest it ever would have been for the Yankees. I don’t say that because I think the window is closing but the promising younger teams will only get better, increasing the competition so that you don’t have a team with a losing record and a history of cheating playing, sitting in the ALCS right now, for the right to advance to the World Series. The Yankees had a golden opportunity to exact revenge on Astros for their unethical play but sadly we must put our trust and faith in the Rays to do it.

Clearly, the Yankees must do SOMETHING about starting pitching. It will be an on-going Achilles heel unless there can be stronger and more reliable arms behind Gerrit Cole. Starting Deivi Garcia in Game 2 was a clear sign the Yankees simply did not have better options. After the high of Gerrit Cole pitching Game 1, I was deflated when I heard Garcia would get the ball in Game 2. Garcia has been a bright spot this season but the moment was too big for even him. Still, falling behind 2-1 in the series but winning the crucial fourth game, you had to like the Yankees’ chances for the fifth and final game with Cole on the mound. Unfortunately, the bats could not deliver and Year 1 of the massive Cole contract is in the books.

Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

As much as I’ve wanted the Yankees to bring Masahiro Tanaka back, he didn’t have a good post-season. If he had performed like he has in past Octobers, it is very possible the Tampa Bay Rays would be the team sitting at home right now.  The disappointing playoff starts have reduced my optimism the Yankees will or should bring back Masa. With the talk the Yankees will reduce spending, like all teams, after the lost revenue of the 2020 season, it is a near certainty the Yankees won’t make a big splash to land a number two starter like Trevor Bauer. Instead, it will be an off-season of looking for hidden gems ready to blossom.  It is clear Gerrit Cole needs help. He cannot do it by himself.  Whether it is Deivi Garcia and/or Clarke Schmidt or other young Yankee prospects, they need to take it to the next level. But the entirety of improvement in the starting rotation should not fall solely on the young arms. It needs to be a combination of veteran influence and exciting youthful talent and enthusiasm…just not as veteran as someone like J.A. Happ. 

I don’t have a grand plan for the off-season. The Yankees pay Brian Cashman and his henchmen a lot of money to make those decisions. However, I do know the Yankees must re-sign DJ LeMahieu. As one of the team’s best players the last two years and the 2020 AL Batting Champion, the Yankees cannot afford to let the superior defender and consummate teammate depart.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

I’ve heard many fans call for the head of Aaron Boone. While I feel he regressed in 2020, the fact is there is not someone better out there. I respect Boone’s clubhouse skills and I think he will show the improvement evident in 2019 in future years. 2020 was just a weird, freaky, ridiculous and deadly year. Except for maybe the wave of the ten-game winning streak, there was never truly a time that I felt the 2020 Yankees had that “it” quality in terms of championship aspirations.  So, as disappointed as I was to see Mike Brosseau and the Rays beat the Yankees, I cannot say I was surprised. 

I don’t want to point fingers at the Yankees’ bench coach, Carlos Mendoza, who served as Boone’s right-hand man for the first time this season. Perhaps former bench coach Josh Bard was more valuable than what we could observe from the outside looking in. Maybe Mendy is not the right guy to offer choices to Boone in the heat of battle. I like the coach and I am not asking for his firing but maybe a different role is in order. I’ve always felt Boone would be better served by having an experienced manager as his bench coach. Not that I think Buck Showalter would accept that type of position, but he’s the type of guy I have in mind. Okay, maybe I am pointing my finger at Mendoza but I do believe the Yankees need to make the tough decisions to put Aaron Boone in the best possible position to succeed. 

As for Brian Cashman, he is not going anywhere unless a team like the New York Mets throw an overabundance of cash to Cash. I kind of like the idea of maybe bringing back former assistant GM Billy Eppler who was fired after the season as GM of the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim) by owner Arte Moreno. I thought Eppler did a decent job despite the handcuffs placed on him by Moreno. He could never get the pitching to support Mike Trout but I put that more on Moreno than Eppler. The obstacle for Eppler coming back is the apparent stranglehold on Eppler’s old position by trusted Cashman lieutenant, Tim Naehring. Eppler would most likely have to take a lesser role so I think he’s probably bound for another organization, maybe somewhere closer to his Southern CA home.

There are lots of decisions to be made if the Yankees intend to rebound with a vengeance in 2021. It will be another interesting (and strange off-season) with the pandemic continuing to rage across the globe and an impending battle for the White House next month. Although unrelated to baseball, these are factors that can influence significant financial decisions and commitments by all MLB teams.

If there is one guy on the roster who must improve headed into next season, it is Gleyber Torres. I am not advocate for trading him or, at this point, moving him back to second base despite the availability of so many talented shortstops. I guess I’d change my opinion if the Yankees let LeMahieu get away, but until then, I like DJ at second and not the rover he played during his first season with the Yankees. Gio Urshela has proven his worth as the starting third baseman and same with Luke Voit at first. I will always be enamored with having a guy like Francisco Lindor at short, but realistically, it will never happen. I’d rate it more likely the Yankees would go after a guy like Andrelton Simmons.

Not sure what I think about Gary Sanchez. I’ve always given him my support but after this season, given how he was first cast aside by Gerrit Cole and then later in the post-season by Aaron Boone, I don’t think he has a future in Pinstripes anymore. I certainly do not want Kyle Higashioka as the starting catcher (sorry Higgy fans). Options do seem limited, however, especially if the Yankees are looking to cut payroll. A move away from El Gary may not bring in a J.T. Realmuto to serve as his replacement. Keep expectations low seems to be the theme this year with the monetary constraints expected as a result of the pandemic.

I’d buy out Brett Gardner. Sorry. I can’t say enough about how great of a Yankee he has been. In his final game against the Rays a few days ago, he made a magnificent catch in left. But it is time to pass the baton. Clint Frazier should be the undisputed left fielder next season, with support by Mike Tauchman (or someone else if the Yankee can find an upgrade). Time to give Gardy a gold watch, pat him on the back, give him his day at Yankee Stadium and wish him well in his future endeavors.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for

I am hopeful and optimistic for the 2021 despite my concerns noted above. I do think the Yankees will make the right decisions. I don’t see any team going hog wild in free agency this year and I trust the Yankees to find the undiscovered gems. The monster teams growing in San Diego, Chicago (White Sox), and Toronto concern me but the Yankees are a resilient organization with an eye for talent. There are more Gio Urshela’s to be found…the Yankees just need to move quicker before an intelligent team like the Rays can snatch them up.

As for the 2020 playoffs, it sickens me to think the Houston Astros are a series away from the World Series. I hate the Tampa Bay Rays so the ALCS is truly about the lesser of two evils. I’d rather see the Rays (ugh) advance than the pathetic Astros. The Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite NL team so the decision of which team to support is easy. So, win or lose, this is the order of teams I’d support for winning this year’s World Series:

1.       Los Angeles Dodgers

2.       Atlanta Braves

3.       Tampa Bay Rays

4.       Houston Cheaters

The NLCS should be a classic. The Dodgers have a great team but so do the Braves. I think this is the National League’s year to win the World Series so in my opinion, the winner of the Dodgers/Braves series will be the World Series champion. As long as the season ends with no celebrations by the Rays or Astros, I will be happy.    

Before I go, I’d like to say a final farewell to the great Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford.  The Chairman of the Board, one of the all-time greatest Yankee Legends, passed away on October 8th at age 91. He suffered from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in recent years. He was apparently at his Lake Success, NY home watching the Yankees play when he died. No jokes. This is a sad time for the Yankees. I recall my feelings of disappointment when the 2019 Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium did not include Ford. I had feared we were nearing the end of the road for the ten-time All-Star and six-time World Series champion. I never got to see Ford pitch but as a Yankees fan, his historic accomplishments are why the Yankees are such a wonderful collection of Legends who stand above all other teams. Rest in Peace, Whitey. We thank you and we will miss you…

Photo Credit: Ray Stubblebine, REUTERS

As always, Go Yankees! 

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