Saturday, June 25, 2022

Late June, Last of the Teen Losses...

  

Giancarlo Stanton / Photo Credit: EPA

Next loss is almost Legal Drinking Age…

Sadly, there was no ‘rally in their bones’ last night as the Yankees fell to the Houston Astros, 3-1. The loss dropped the Yankees to 52-19, still the best record in Major League Baseball. Every other team in the AL East won yesterday but the Yankees lead over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays is eleven ½ games so there is room in the waistband. I certainly did not expect the Yankees to sweep the Astros this series, as much as I would have liked them to. The Astros are clearly the best team in the American League that the Yankees will face this year. Depending upon how the final standings align, Yankees-Astros could be a preview of the American League Championship Series in October. So, reaping the soul of the Astros in October is far more important than a four-game set in late June.

I am hoping for at least a split of the four-game series although three of four would be quite beautiful. Gerrit Cole and Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr provide reason for optimism. Well, that is true of any of the Yankee starters this year, but now, the ageless dick, Justin Verlander, is out of the series having pitched last night.


Gerrit Cole / Photo Credit: AP

Keeping Aaron Judge a happy man is a good thing. I was glad the Yankees and Judge were able to avert yesterday’s arbitration hearing. While it was thought the hearing was originally scheduled for Wednesday and subsequently pushed to Friday, Mike Axisa wrote in his blog yesterday that the hearing was always scheduled for Friday. Regardless, I was fearful of the negative feelings that can be generated from an arbitration hearing when the team’s primary goal is to prove why the player is not good enough for their salary demand. I think Judge is such a professional, he would not have let it alter his strong emotional attachment to the 2022 Yankees, but it is better that we never find out how the bond would have been tested.


Aaron Judge

The Judge camp had asked for $21 million, while the Yankees countered with $17 million. Initially, there were reports yesterday morning that Judge had rejected the Yankees’ meet-in-the-middle counteroffer of $19 million. The tragic part of this is Judge is worth every penny of the $21 million he is asking for, but that is not how this game is played. Fortunately, it was not long before word came that Judge had accepted the Yankees’ revised offer, $19 million plus $250,000 for AL MVP and $250,000 for World Series MVP (both incentives strongly possible if Judge keeps playing at his current level). The best $19.5 million the Yankees will spend this year.

It was not fun reading Buster Olney’s words yesterday predicting that Aaron Judge will not be a Yankee in 2023. Under the premise of ‘all it takes is one inspired owner,’ he thinks the Yankees will be outbid in their clinical approach when Judge reaches free agency after the season. No doubt, if the Yankees let Judge walk, it will be one of the greatest travesties of the organization in my life as a Yankee fan. It was difficult to see Robinson Cano leave, and while I am not trying to discredit Cano, his loss was not a blip on the radar compared to how wrong it would be for Judge to pull on another jersey. I am hopeful that resigning Judge is as important to Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner as it was to snag Gerrit Cole a couple of years ago.

Sign Judge to a huge deal that makes sense for both sides and make him the next Captain of the New York Yankees. I hope this is the prime objective once we reach the off-season.

The disappointment of Reggie Jackson. I do not know the circumstances that caused Reggie Jackson to leave his role as a consultant for the Yankees to join the Houston Astros organization a few years ago (not sure that I really care), but it sucked to see Jackson show up at Yankee Stadium wearing an Astros cap this week. Compare Jackson to Yankees Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. When Jeter was CEO of the Miami Marlins, you did not see him show up at Yankee Stadium wearing a Marlins cap when his Marlins visited the Bronx. Jeter is respectful of his Yankees legacy, whereas Jackson proves once again, it is all about him. It always was, why should he change who he is now. Good riddance.


Reginald Martinez Jackson / Photo Credit: Twitter via @mroctober

Welcome back, Albert Abreu. Abreu, along with minor league LHP Robby Ahlstrom, helped to bring popular Yankees catcher Jose Trevino from the Texas Rangers to New York this past Spring. Abreu’s time in Texas was short. He was designated for assignment at the end of May and traded to the Kansas City Royals on June 3rd for a minor league prospect. Abreu’s control problems led to a very brief stay in the Royals organization. He was designated for assignment a few weeks later and claimed on waivers by the Yankees on June 21st.


Albert Abreu

I always liked Abreu and there was a time he was one of my favorite prospects. The Yankees had originally acquired him in the November 2016 deal that sent catcher Brian McCann to the Houston Cheaters. Now 26 years old, Abreu is no longer a prospect. I think if the Yankees thought they could fix his control challenges, it would have happened already. I view Abreu as a placeholder. His time on the 40-man roster, unless he suddenly becomes a revered part of the bullpen (unlikely), will be almost as short as his Royals career. When it comes time to add Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, and later, Zack Britton, there will be no room for Abreu.

Many fans were upset when Clarke Schmidt was demoted to Triple A to make room for Abreu on the active roster. I am not sure that I ever saw the two moves related to one another other than Schmidt’s temporary trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is an opportunity to get him more work and more specifically, starting work. The pitching staff knows Abreu and he afforded the Yankees an opportunity to help strengthen Schmidt for the long haul of the season. The Yankees’ starting rotation has been wonderful this season, but injuries are part of the game. Schmidt and JP Sears represent the rotation depth. I like the job Sears did earlier this season, but between the two men, I would rather have Schmidt in the rotation if something were to happen to one of the fabulous five currently in the Yankees rotation.


Clarke Schmidt / Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews, AP

So, fans should not fret about Schmidt. He will be back, and he will play a part in the road to the World Series. His trip to Eastern Pennsylvania will only make him stronger. I am all for it. When champagne is dripping on the clubhouse floor, Schmidt will be getting alcohol stains on his jersey while Abreu will be home watching the World Series on television. For the record, I would love to see Abreu succeed, suddenly overcoming his flaws, but I am not optimistic.

To make room for Abreu, the Yankees traded reliever David McKay back to the Tampa Bay Rays. Watch McKay go from nothing special to a trusted high leverage reliever. That is how it usually works for the Rays. Seriously, it was no loss. The same as it will be when Abreu’s jersey is taken from him by Yankees clubhouse personnel. Life in baseball. It is necessary to have some Gypsy blood, knowing that travel is not limited to games but to different teams when you are not quite as talented as a guy like Aaron Judge.

As always, Go Yankees!

 

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Best Team in Baseball...

 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Yankees Bandwagon is starting to get full…

Let’s party like it is 1998. It is a little early to compare this Yankees team to one of the greatest Yankees teams in the history of baseball but the ride, at least through today, has been one helluva jaunt. It boggles the mind that the Yankees have a ten-game lead in the American League East, a division that is expected to have four playoff participants, and we have not yet reached the All-Star break. The Toronto Blue Jays, the team with the strongest young talent in the division, have the potential to make it a race. I would certainly not discount their ability to go on an extended winning streak, but it sure feels better when your team is up, and not behind, by ten full games.

Admittedly, I was a little concerned when the Yankees began a thirteen-game streak against the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, and Houston Astros. But three games in, the Yankees are 3-0 after sweeping the Rays at Yankee Stadium. The naysayers are quick to say the Yankees are only beating the bad teams and it appears the Rays are not as strong as they have been in recent years, but there are no pushovers in the AL East. Even the Baltimore Orioles are a better team than they once were and would have a better record if they resided in another division.

The Yankees face a stronger challenge starting tonight in Toronto. The goal, as always, is to win the series, but as the only team yet to lose twenty games, I am not going to fret if it does not happen. If the Yankees do win the Blue Jays series, it will be a very loud statement that their stranglehold on the AL East will not be relinquished anytime soon.

Last night’s game was beautiful. Surprisingly, a pitcher’s duel after Luis Severino was temporarily placed on the COVID List and the Rays’ scheduled starter, Drew Rasmussen, was placed on the Injured List. Clarke Schmidt was called upon to open the game in place of Sevy, and despite some two-out jams, he emerged unscathed with three scoreless innings, holding the Rays to one hit, and striking out five. Before the game, I thought JP Sears would be a better option, but I did not check when he last pitched and of course Schmidt was already with the team. Wonderful job by Schmidt, and he certainly rewarded Aaron Boone’s faith in him.

Ryan Weber, we hardly knew ye. Called up to replace Sevy on the active roster, Weber replaced Schmidt and although he yielded a fifth inning solo homer to Francisco Mejia, he gave the Yankees some length with 3 2/3 innings pitched, holding the Rays to only the one run. Despite the heroics, Weber’s Yankees career may be over before it really started. He was designated for assignment after the game when Severino tested negative for COVID and was feeling better than he had the night before, causing the Yankees to reinstate him to the active roster. Sevy has been cleared to travel to Toronto with the team. For Weber, there is always the chance he clears waivers and is sent outright to Scranton Wilkes-Barre if he does not elect free agency. But if he does not stay in the organization, the Yankees have a plethora of young arms waiting for their opportunities. So, thank you, Ryan, for the contribution to thrilling 2022 Yankees ride. We will be sure to send you the DVD.

Ryan Weber / Photo Credit: @Yankees


From there, relievers Ron Marinaccio and Michael King held the Rays in check to push the tied ballgame to the bottom of the ninth. With Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, and Giancarlo Stanton scheduled to face Rays reliever Shawn Armstrong, it felt like magic was about to happen. I was a little disappointed when leading AL MVP candidate Aaron Judge flied out to right, but Anthony Rizzo quickly erased the disappointment with a thrilling walk-off home run to right center. Honestly, going into this series, I thought the Yankees would win no more than two of the three games. In years past, it has always seemed like a struggle to beat the Rays, but clearly, this Yankees team is different.

 

AL EAST

WINS

LOSSES

PERCENTAGE

GAMES BACK

Yankees

47

16

.746

--

Blue Jays

37

26

.587

10.0

Rays

35

28

.556

12.0

Red Sox

34

30

.531

13.5

Orioles

28

37

.431

20.0

I am looking forward to watching how the next ninety-nine games play out. May one of the most exciting and thrilling seasons in recent memory continue. Love these Yankees!

Anthony Rizzo / Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews, AP


Yankees, please keep Aaron Judge happy. Next week, Aaron Judge’s arbitration case is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday. The Yankees offered $17 million while Judge asked for $21 million. Here is hoping the two sides reach a compromise before the hearing. I dislike the nature of arbitration cases that force the MLB teams to find the faults of the players, airing them to the other side, to justify their lower offers. Nothing like sitting in a room for hours being told how much you suck. No question Judge is worth $21 million. Regardless of what happens, the Yankees need to ensure that Judge is taken care of, positively, peacefully…and financially.

Aaron Judge is the face of the New York Yankees, and he should remain a Yankee for life. The last point may not be decided until after the end of the season but if he leaves in free agency, it would be the single biggest loss of a Yankees player, in his prime, that I can remember. There have been players I have been saddened to see leave but nothing of this magnitude. Judge deserves to be paid and he deserves to be the next Captain of the Yankees.


Aaron "MVP" Judge

North of the Border. The Yankees are in Ontario to face their strongest division rival in a three-game set. The pitching matchups are set: Jordan Montgomery versus former Dodgers starter Ross Stripling tonight. Jameson Taillon versus the talented young Alek Manoah (8-1, 1.67 ERA, sixty-eight strikeouts) on Saturday, and Gerrit Cole against Yusei Kikuchi on Sunday. Here is hoping the Yankees starters bring their “A” games like they did in Minnesota. It should be a fun series. As I like to say, to be the best, you must beat the best. The Yankees seem to find new ways to win every night. Let the trend continue.

Lastly, I hate to be critical of the Yankees, but… Aaron Hicks is killing me. Every at-bat is so painful to watch. Even when he does (infrequently) connect, any positive feelings are quickly erased. There is a reason that Aaron Judge has essentially become the team’s starting centerfielder and Hicks needs to be replaced in left. I am ready and hope for his departure next month. I am tired of watching him step to the plate with men on base, only to walk back to the bench with his head down after recording another out. I guess we always need to find “that guy” we can complain about, and Hicks is that guy for me. I am also not looking forward to the return of closer Aroldis Chapman. He was once a great closer, no question, but age regression happens to the best of us. I have genuinely enjoyed the lack of stress in the back end of games with Clay Holmes. No doubt when Aroldis Chapman is standing on the mound in the ninth inning sweating profusely, I will be sweating profusely in my living room. Chapman can still be dominant at times, and I hope the rest has been good for him. Regardless of how Aaron Boone decides to use him, I hope Chapman can excel and play a key role in the team’s success.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, June 11, 2022

The Winning Ways...

 

Trevi for the Win! / Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Yankees Juggernaut continues to steamroll the AL...

Well, it was not a kind week for the elite Yankees starting rotation, but the team continues to find ways to win. After last year’s roller coaster season, it is so wonderful to have a team that competes hard every night (Wednesday night’s 8-1 clunker against the Twins excluded). No question this team has the “it” quality and this might be the most joyous season since the historic 1998 championship run. Not saying the team is going to win 114 (or 125) games but the 2022 Yankees can write their own script. To slightly change Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio’s famed quote, “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee fan.”

The Captain

The Yankees are currently 42-16, .724 winning percentage, and lead the AL East by 7 ½ games. They have the best record in baseball and the only team that can join the Yankees with forty wins today is the crosstown Mets.

The Yankees faced a major challenge this week when they traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota to face the recharged Minnesota Twins. After off-season retooling following a season of disappointment, the Twins currently hold first place in the AL Central and will most likely be a team in the October hunt. For the Yankees, it was a warm reunion with former Yanks Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela. Old friendships aside, the Twins were not so hospitable with the Yankee starters. Jameson Taillon gave up nine hits and four runs over four innings on Tuesday night; Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr, the All Star to-be, went 4 1/3 innings, allowed seven hits and four runs, taking the loss in Wednesday night’s disaster; and Gerrit Cole, who gave up three consecutive home runs before recording on out on Thursday night, was the worst, giving up eight hits and seven runs in only 2 1/3 innings. The five home runs he surrendered was a career worst. If a starter deserved to take a loss among these three, it was Cole. Fortunately for him, the Yankees bullpen and the hitters bailed him out as the Yankees clawed back from a four-run deficit to win, 10-7.

Despite the inflation of ERAs among the three starters, the trip to Target Field was successful as the Yankees took two of three. Win every series and life is good. I know the Yankees have owned the Twins for the past twenty years but one of these days the law of averages will turn the tables on the Yankees. I am glad it was not this week and I hope it is not this year.


Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Jim Mone, AP

Last night, Luis Severino brought order back to the rotation. He struck out ten, yielding only seven hits and limiting the Chicago Cubs to one run in six innings. The game was tied when he left so no decision, but his performance was invaluable, and it set the stage for later team heroics. It took thirteen innings, but the Yankees emerged victorious when Jose Trevino came off the bench, on his son’s fourth birthday, for a run-scoring single in the walk-off 2-1 win over Anthony Rizzo’s old club. There were some brilliant defensive plays along the way that kept the game tied so it was a tremendous all-around team win.


Aarons Judge and Hicks / Photo Credit: Robert Sabo, NY Post

I felt bad for Aaron Judge. He had several key spots taken from him with intentional walks. Sure, walking him was the right thing to do for the opposing manager (former Red Suck David Ross), but as a fan, it was still slightly disappointing to miss a potential "Judgian" moment for arguably the American League’s most valuable player.

Despite the home run on Thursday night, Aaron Hicks at-bats are painful to watch. He may be great defensively behind the plate, but you can put Kyle Higashioka in the same category. I was ready for Manager Aaron Boone to pull Higgy in the ninth inning (to bring in Jose Trevino) when he led off the bottom of the frame. A line out to center only reinforced my opinion that it was a missed opportunity for Boonie.

Clearly the Yankees must do something about Hicks or Joey Gallo. Gallo is starting to hit a little better which probably places the spotlight on Hicks. With Aaron Judge taking most of the starts in center, it seems like the clock is ticking on Hicks and it is only a matter of time until he is just another ex-Yank. Time will tell. I guess we will know if his continued Yankee career is to be or not to be by the anniversary of Thurman Munson’s death.

There was irony before last night’s game when the Chicago Cubs announced they had designated Clint Frazier for assignment. Kind of funny since he had been given a locker in the visitor’s clubhouse, complete with his Cubs jersey. Perhaps Frazier clears waivers and is sent outright to the Iowa Cubs. Or maybe the Cubs should just send him back to Cleveland to see if he can restart his career. I did not really appreciate the ‘cookie cutter’ comments Frazier made this week about the Yankees organization, but it seems that Karma took care of it. 


Clint Frazier, The DFA Man / Photo Credit: AP

The Cubs also announced that another softie, Marcus Stroman, had been placed on the IL so he will miss the return to New York. I am proud to be one of those on Twitter who have been blocked by Stroman. He took offense when I once said that I wanted no part of him on the Yankees. My opinion has not changed.

Former Yankees joining the managerial ranks. The past week saw one former Yankee player and manager fired in Philadelphia (Joe Girardi), but it resulted in the promotion of long-time Yankees coach and recent Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson to serve as Girardi’s interim replacement. Out in Anaheim, CA, or about ten miles from where I am writing this post, Joe Maddon could not survive an extended Angels losing streak after a hot start to the season and was ousted. Former Yankees and current Angels third base coach Phil Nevin will serve as the interim Halos manager. Congratulations to both men. I doubt Nevin manages the team beyond this year, but I am hopeful Thomson wins the audition for permanency as the Phillies manager. You can certainly say that he has paid his dues for this opportunity.


Phillies Manager Rob Thomson / Photo Credit: MLB.com

Bullpen returns. Bryan Hoch reported that Aroldis Chapman is pain free and is scheduled to throw a bullpen today. He will need at least another bullpen session before the team considers activating him or sending him to the minors for rehab. With all honesty, I do not see how Chapman can be reinstated as the Yankees closer. To me, Clay Holmes is the man until he is not. The way he is pitching right now slams the door most nights. The Yankees cannot disrupt a good thing. I know that the end of games has been less painful for me. I am not yearning to see a sweaty pitcher on the mound in the ninth with a loss of control and reduced velocity.

Hoch also reported that Jonathan Loaisiga left the team to deal with a family matter in Nicaragua on June 7th. Hopefully, all is well for him and his family. It is unclear if he has resumed throwing, but his return seems further away than Chapman.

Zack Britton stays on track for return as early as August. He will be a welcome addition. He is currently doing bullpen work and will go on a minor league rehab assignment sometime in the coming weeks. I wish him the best for a full recovery and successful rehab. Same for Chapman and Loaisiga.


Zack Britton / Photo Credit: CBS Sports

Despite the relievers that will be rejoining the team in the coming weeks and months, I hope GM Brian Cashman can make another one of those sneaky good Clay Holmes type of trades to bring an unheralded reliever oozing with talent ripe for blossoming to New York.

As always, Go Yankees!

 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Twin Near-Perfecto's...

 

Gerrit Cole / Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Taillon and Cole take perfection to late innings…

David Wells and David Cone once threw perfect games in back-to-back seasons. Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole nearly did it in back-to-back games although both fell in the later innings of their respective runs for perfection.

Thursday, Jameson Taillon was perfect until Los Angeles Angels first baseman Jared Walsh lined a hard shot that bounced off shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s glove for a double in the eighth inning. The game had been scoreless up to that point. Angels’ catcher Kurt Suzuki followed with a single that gave the Angels a 1-0 lead. Fortunately, Taillon held the damage there. Potentially facing the loss despite giving up only two hits and a run, Taillon was bailed when Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run single which put the Yankees ahead by a run in the bottom of the eighth. Clay Holmes made it interesting in the ninth, in Aroldis Chapman fashion, by walking Shohei Ohtani, one out away from victory, and then hitting two consecutive batters, Mike Trout and Jared Walsh, to load the bases. Fortunately, Luis Rengifo grounded out to Isiah Kiner-Falefa to end the game, giving Taillon the win and Holmes the save.


Jameson Taillon / Photo Credit: Robert Sabo, NY Post

Taillon, much like the entire Yankees rotation, has been brilliant this year. Through ten games started, he is 6-1 with a 2.30 ERA. In 58 2/3 innings, he has only given up fifteen runs on forty-eight hits and has struck out forty-four batters while walking only five. His fWAR is currently 1.6. Taillon, 30, will be a free agent at the end of the year. I have not heard any extension talks, but I hope the Yankees bring him back. He has always had excellent potential. It was only the injuries that held him back. I am glad he is a Yankee and I hope he stays beyond this season.

Friday night, Gerrit Cole took his run at perfection. Unlike Taillon, Cole had no problem receiving run support. With two outs in the seventh inning, Detroit’s Jonathan Schoop hit a grounder up the middle which made it past a diving DJ LeMahieu, spoiling Cole’s gem. At that point, the Yankees were ahead of the Tigers, 12-0, so Cole did not have to sweat it out like Taillon did the day before. Manuel Banuelos made his long-awaited appearance for the Yankees in relief, preserving the shutout by holding the Tigers to only one more hit over the final two innings.

Obviously, Cole is expected to be the staff ace. Expectations are high for a man carrying a $324 million contract. After his freezing weather struggles earlier in the season, I would say he is warming up as the weather does. Cole has started eleven games and is 5-1 with 2.78 ERA. He has given up twenty runs on forty-seven hits and fifteen walks over 64 2/3 innings. He has struck out 81 batters and currently carries a 1.9 fWAR.

It was reported that Taillon and Cole are the first teammates to have perfect games through six innings in back-to-back games since the Expansion Era began in 1961. I kept thinking that David Wells probably got drunk the night before his perfect game in 1998. Maybe Taillon and Cole should have gone on a bender this week.

I honestly cannot remember the last time the Yankees were this strong from one to five in the starting rotation. The success of Nasty Nestor Cortes, Jr has eliminated the fanbase’s pleas for starting pitchers like the Reds’ Luis Castillo or A’s Frankie Montas. The guy who entered the season as a fifth starter, with a shaky hold, to highly probable selection for next month’s All-Star team. It has been an incredible success story.


Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr / Photo Credit: MLB.com

I know it is still early. The Yankees have only played fifty-two games which means there are still 110 games to go, but at 37-15, this has felt like a magical season thus far. Please keep it going. I literally have not enjoyed a Yankees season as much as this since 1998. No pressure, guys.

Aaron Judge’s campaign for excessively massive contract extension is going well. He hit his 20th home run of the young season last night and has driven in forty-two runs. His batting line is .316/.384/.679, with .446 wOBA and 201 wRC+. His fWAR is currently 3.2. Pay the man and name him the new Yankees Captain.


Aaron "Future Billionaire" Judge / Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Hopefully the two sides can come together on a new contract. I know the public stance is contract extension talks are on hold until after the season, but I would really like to see the Yankees sign him before he gets the opportunity to visit other organizations, particularly those in his home state of California like the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels, or San Diego Padres. I would never count out the Los Angeles Dodgers from entering the chase even if they have an exceptionally good right fielder in Mookie Betts. It would be fantastic to hear news over the All-Star break that the two sides have agreed on a new deal. That would be truly special in an incredibly special year.

Joey Gallo or Aaron Hicks must go. As much as I want to, I will not say that the Yankees must get rid of both Gallo and Hicks, but they do need to eliminate at least one. Both have been dreadful, and I cringe every time I see both in the same lineup and especially when they are consecutive at-bats. Hicks finally got a big hit last night, scoring Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but he soured the moment by getting thrown out at second. Sure, Judge got thrown out similarly later in the game, but with Hicks, it is always something negative. It was hard to get excited about his RBI because it came with a 4-0 lead, and he has failed so miserably in situations when the games are on the line.

I think the Yankees can afford to keep one of the guys around but not both. The writing is on the wall for Hicks. Aaron Judge has played center field for 146 innings so far this season. He is only twelve innings behind his CF total for last year. As much as I would prefer to see Judge in right, I am always relieved when I see Judge’s name in center over Hicks.

I like Joey Gallo and I hate that his transition to New York has not been successful. You can say it should have been evident given his reputation as a high strikeout, low average guy (as they keep saying over and over, a true three-outcome hitter). I was hoping the on-base percentage and his defensive skills would shine through, but it has been too painful to watch. Before Anthony Rizzo came through with the huge bases loaded two-run single to rescue Taillon’s near-perfecto, Gallo struck out immediately preceding Rizzo. It could have been a brilliant moment for him, but instead, it was just another strikeout. So far, this season, he has struck out in 37.6% of his at-bats. His OBP (.282) is the lowest it has been since he was a 22-year-old kid trying to make the Texas Rangers roster in 2016. Gallo is a guy who would thrive in a less pressurized environment (like Kansas City, while thinking about what Andrew Benintendi, and his .399 OBP and 14.4% K ratio, would look like in pinstripes).


Andrew Benintendi

We are probably a month away from any potential deals, but hopefully the clock is ticking for Hicks and Gallo. While the Yankees seek perfection, the sources of imperfection must be purged.

Yankees acquire former AL East outfielder. Okay, it was a low-level trade for a guy headed to Triple A, but I remember when Jake Bauers was a promising, up-and-coming outfielder for the rival Tampa Bay Rays. Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres, he made his Major League debut for the Rays in 2018 and had a walk-off home run off Chasen Shreve to beat the Yankees that year. It felt like he was going to be one of those annoying Rays thorns in our sides, but his career has never managed to take off. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians after the 2018 season in a deal that brought Yandy Diaz to the Rays. The Indians (sorry, the Guardians) traded Bauers to Seattle last summer and he signed a minor league free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds last December during the lockout. The Reds dealt him to the Yankees yesterday for cash, ala the Gio Urshela trade a few years ago.


Jakes Bauers / Photo Credit: Sam Wasson, Getty Images

Bauers, who was once a highly regarded prospect, makes Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks look like hit machines. Who knows if the Yankees can find anything in him? More than likely, he will be a failed project that will move on to his next organization if not out of baseball. But if the Yankees’ advanced hitting instruction in the organization can turn Bauers around to be something useful, it will be an incredible accomplishment for them. A left-handed bat is always nice, and Bauers is only twenty-six. I have extremely low expectations for him but do hope he can miraculously find success.

Joe must go. Joe Girardi’s time as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies has ended. The former Yankees manager was fired yesterday by GM Dave Dombrowski, the man most responsible for the team’s struggles in 2022. I feel bad for Joe, but certainly not enough to pine for his return to the Yankees. Been there, done that. I would not mind seeing Girardi get a gig with the YES Network, but it seems more probable that he would go back to the MLB Network to await his next managerial opportunity if he gets one.


"Binder Joe" Girardi

It must be hard for Girardi to see the Yankees having success after the dramatic overhaul of their hitting and pitching instruction and philosophy, while the Phillies threw millions at flawed free agent defensively challenged hitters last off-season and failed to provide legitimate support for Bryce Harper. While you can argue that Girardi is a better manager than Aaron Boone, Boone has been the beneficiary of new and improved vision from the Yankees front office. I have no wish to see Boone ousted unless he woefully underperforms and is out managed in October. Even then, Girardi would not be my first choice for a possible replacement. Yet, I hope Girardi finds a team that looks for his leadership. In the right spot, he can find the October gold again.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Baseball's Best Team Rolls On...

  

Miguel Andujar & Gleyber Torres / Photo Credit: Julio Aguilar, Getty Images

33 Wins in 46 Games, 6 ½ Game Lead…

It has been quite a week…where do we start?

For starters, the Yankees have a plethora of brilliant ones. Nestor Cortes, Jr has been a godsend, and arguably the best pitcher in the rotation. In the first two games Thursday and Friday against the Rays at the warehouse called Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida, Cortes, and Jameson Taillon each went eight strong innings against last year’s AL East champions, and the only run scored was a runner Cortes left when he tried, unsuccessfully, to pitch into the ninth inning. Both men struck out five Rays. There is no doubt in my mind that these are games the Yankees would have lost last year. It is a testament to the strength and cohesiveness of the 2022 New York Yankees.

When the Yankees win, it is friggin’ FANTASTIC! When they lose, it is the end of the World. Last year’s team gave us too many runs through the valleys. This year, onward and upward! Life is good.

I preface this by saying I wish injury upon no one. However, I am relieved that Aroldis Chapman has been removed, albeit temporarily, from his closer’s role with his placement on the injury list due to Achilles tendinitis. It has allowed the best reliever in the Yankees bullpen, Clay Holmes, to ascend to the throne. I do not know about you, but my confidence at the end of games has improved significantly.


Clay "The Closer" Holmes / Photo Credit: Getty Images

Holmes has pitched in twenty-three games this season, a total of twenty-four and a half innings. He has only given up one run on fifteen hits and has only walked two batters. He is 4-0 and has accumulated six saves and has not blown a save opportunity. He has punched out twenty-six batters and his fWAR is 1.0. I do not need to tell anybody those stats are damn good. Aroldis Chapman is a free agent at the end of the year. The Yankees should not be concerned with Chapman’s ego. It is a foregone conclusion he will not be back. Chapman has pitched a little more than ten fewer innings than Holmes, yet he has walked ten batters to Clay’s two. He has given up thirteen hits, six runs, and two home runs…with three wild pitches. Holmes has not surrendered a home run and has only thrown one wild pitch. Give me ninth inning certainty, give me Clayton Walter Holmes.

As for Chapman, he should join the setup crew when he returns. Choose his spots. If he demands a trade, comply with his wishes. I do not expect Chapman to rediscover gold. He is 34. He was great in his younger days, and maybe he can find new pitches, but not on our dime. It is time to move on. I am more excited about the return of Zack Britton from the Injured List than I am with Chapman. Britton knows a thing or two about being the most dominant closer in the game but even he should not close over Holmes.

Give props where they are due. The Holmes trade, which sent infield prospect Diego Castillo and Hoy Park to the Pittsburgh Pirates last July, ranks as one of the greatest in the Brian Cashman era. I can still remember my first reaction to the trade. “Who?” Cashman’s brilliance won out the day and I am extremely grateful Clay Holmes is a Yankee. Too often in years past, unheralded Pirates would go to Tampa and flourish. Turnabout is fair play. You could put Jameson Taillon on the list of great trades, but he was recognized, when he was still a Pirate, as a potentially great pitcher. His only vice was health. Still, Cashman placed his faith in Gerrit Cole’s buddy, and it has paid off too. So, congratulations Cashman. I have been down on you often, but I recognize you built the 2022 Yankees. Although you chose a different recipe than the one, we, the fans, wanted, the results have far exceeded expectations. Thank you for bringing the fun back to the Bronx.

Josh Donaldson suspended, sick and then hurt. What a week NOT to be Josh Donaldson! For calling Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson ‘Jackie,’ Donald received a one-game suspension. I agree. Something had to be done even if one-game seems light. Although Manager Aaron Boone was supportive of Donaldson, strong words from Aaron Judge brought light to the extremely sensitive issue. Although my initial reaction was the invocation of Jackie’s name was not racist, I have been able to see this in a different light and understand how the word could be viewed as inflammatory regardless of what Anderson may have said in the past.

Donaldson and Anderson will never be best buddies. They did not have the type of relationship that allowed playful words to be exchanged with each other. My bigger concern now is if Donaldson has alienated himself from a few of his current teammates. To Donaldson’s defense, he did issue a public apology to Anderson and the family of Jackie Robinson. Unfortunately, an apology only goes so far. Donaldson is not going to change who he is.

Donaldson was placed on the COVID-19 list earlier in the week with symptoms of the virus and has since been placed on the Injured List for shoulder inflammation. Although I appreciate the job Donaldson has done this year, particularly with the glove and the ‘take no shit’ attitude he brings to the team, the time away is probably good. Team chemistry is particularly important to me. I have not been in the Yankees Clubhouse, but you can sense that there is something different and incredibly special about this year’s team. I do not want anything to disrupt it. Hopefully, Donaldson returns to the team with some degree of remorse and can repair any potentially damaged relationships.

Chad Green, I am sorry. It was announced that Green, like Luis Gil before him, will need Tommy John surgery. I have been down on Green, but this is not how I wanted it to end for him. Since he will be a free agent at the end of the year, I wonder if the Yankees will simply move on like they once did with Michael Pineda and Nate Eovaldi. It would be nice to see the Yankees bring him back on a back-loaded two-year contract to help him through the rehabilitation and eventual return (he is expected to be out twelve to eighteen months), but I understand how valuable spots on the forty-man roster can be. Do you protect Green this winter or a young prospect with Clay Holmes or Luis Severino potential? As much as I appreciated the great years Green brought to the Yankees bullpen, it is most likely time for it to end and I am terribly sorry. I hope Green can recover and eventually find the payday that will set him up for the rest of his life.


Chad Green / Photo Credit: AP

Welcome to the Yankees, Matt Carpenter! The longtime St Louis Cardinals infielder is now a Yankee. I get that he has seen his better days. He is thirty-six and has not been great since 2018. The Cardinals chose not to re-sign him last Fall, and he subsequently signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers. Last week, after failing to make the Rangers’ major league roster and stuck playing in Triple A, he asked for and received his release. There is hope off-season work he did to revamp his swing will pay dividends. He will never be the All-Star player he once was, but if he can help, great. Given the recent rash of injuries (Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, etc.), Carpenter has a chance to contribute. In his first two games with the Yankees, he has homered once (last night) and scored three runs. I have no idea what his future holds. When everybody is healthy, he seems to be the odd one out. Marwin Gonzalez has proven his value with his versatility and appears to be the more valuable of the two players. I guess we will just enjoy the ride and see where it takes us. Feel free to swing for the fences (or into the deep corners), Matt. Welcome!

Matt Carpenter / Photo Credit: AP


Welcome back to the Yankees, Manny Banuelos!
 Manny, after starting the year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, has finally achieved his dream of making the Yankees roster. Sporting Dellin Betances’ old number (68), he has yet to appear in a game but hopefully he will get his turn. Like Carpenter, I do not know how long Manny’s pinstriped dream will last. It could be short. I hope he makes the most of his latest opportunity. It has been a long, hard road for him, and I will really enjoy it if he finally achieves success. We are far removed from the Killer B’s (Banuelos, Betances, and Andrew Brackman) and Manny no longer holds the promise he once did, but conversely, he has worked extremely hard to get here and has earned this shot.

The Yankees also brought back another former Yankee on a minor league deal when reliever Shane Greene was signed. Greene was traded to Detroit in the 2014 three-team trade that brought shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Yankees from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Greene developed into an All-Star reliever and saved thirty-two games for the Tigers in 2018. Greene was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers to a minor league deal in March and had been pitching for their Triple A club this year. He was called up to the Dodgers on May 15th, pitched two scoreless innings and was designated for assignment two days later when the Dodgers activated one-time Yankees punching bag David Price. Like with Banuelos, I would like to see Greene find success with his original team. Given the injuries in the bullpen, he may get his chance.

Thanks to JP Sears for his successful spot start this week. It was a quick trip from and back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but with family in attendance, Sears performed brilliantly on Wednesday, May 25th when he pitched five scoreless innings against the Baltimore Orioles and held them to three hits. It was the second victory of the year for Sears. No doubt we will see Sears again. It was tough losing Luis Gil for the year, but I am glad Sears is making the most of his opportunities. There is confidence with both Sears and Clarke Schmidt as rotation stand-ins.


JP Sears

Lastly but most importantly, my thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims of the horrific shootings in Uvalde, Texas. Every story of the children and two teachers lost are heartbreaking. I am not against guns, but clearly, this country can do so much better with gun control and safety. I get that it is impossible to keep guns out of the hands of professional, cold-blooded killers, but an eighteen-year-old kid should not be permitted to buy an assault-style weapon. I am disappointed that we, as a country, have not learned anything from the tragedies of Columbine, Sandy Hook and now Robb Elementary. Throw partisanship out the window, the solutions and remedies require full and unwavering bipartisan support. We must all come together to stop senseless violence and loss of life.


Photo Credit: Jae C Hong, AP

As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Unsinkable Josh Donaldson...

 

Yasmani Grandal & Josh Donaldson / Photo Credit: Sarah Stier, Getty Images

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but…

Suffice it to say that Tim Anderson will not be inviting Josh Donaldson over for Thanksgiving dinner in November. The bad blood between the two players this season boiled over yesterday after Donaldson called Anderson “Jackie.” The White Sox took the approach it was a racist comment. Donaldson, trying to defend himself, stated it was about Anderson’s 2019 Sports Illustrated story where the White Sox shortstop described himself as “today’s Jackie Robinson.”

The Athletic, via Twitter

I am a Yankees fan, so I am biased toward Donaldson, but I honestly do not believe he is a racist. When I first heard Donaldson’s rebuttal to the allegation, I could see how Donaldson might use Jackie’s name in mocking manner to imply that Anderson was no Jackie Robinson or, the way Donaldson described it, he was just being playful with the reference in jest to Anderson’s prior proclamation. Not saying that is right. I certainly would not have used those words, but Josh Donaldson is his own man. If there were any racial overtones with Donaldson’s words or actions, I strongly believe the Yankees clubhouse would call him out on it and take the necessary disciplinary action through their own means behind closed doors.

For the White Sox, it is easy for them to try to make this worse than it was. They have not been successful against the Yankees this year, and frustrations are rising. The White Sox, beneficiaries of current elite Major League talent derived from having one of the best farm systems in baseball from 2017 to 2020, were projected by many to reach the World Series this season. They are 19-20 entering play today and sit 4.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. They are 2.5 games out in the Wild Card chase. So far this season, the teams have played five games and the White Sox have only one win to show for it. Over the last three years, the Yankees have won nine of eleven games against the White Sox. They conclude their regular season play today with a double-header, weather-permitting. If both teams make the playoffs, it is possible this feud will be reignited in October when tensions are even higher.

But setting aside my defense of Donaldson, I understand and accept those who say that how words affect the recipient is the key point which must not be lost. Regardless of what we may think, Tim Anderson took exception to Donaldson’s words. It is his right, and only he knows how deeply the words hurt. We cannot speak for Anderson. If Donaldson’s words did hurt Anderson, then MLB or more specifically the Yankees should take the appropriate action against Donaldson and sit him for a few.

One thing is for sure. Josh Donaldson will never back down from a fight. He brings an edge to the team, and whether we agree with his methods, he gives the team toughness it did not previously have. I truly hope in my heart there was no racial motivation or intent. 

More Clay Holmes, less Aroldis Chapman. Holmes, arguably one of the best relievers in baseball among non-closers is quickly becoming a much stronger ninth inning option than Chapman. Anytime Chapman enters a game, you can only hope the Yankees have put enough runs on the board to offset the runs the opponent will score off Chapman. A one-run lead? Give me Holmes over Chapman any day of the week. I know Chapman has not blown a save this year, but every outing feels like a tightrope walk with a few wobbles along the way.

Aroldis Chapman / Photo Credit: EPA

As it stands, Chapman has not pitched since last Tuesday. It is never a good thing when he does not pitch for long stretches. With two games on tap for today, it seems he will be used out of necessity. It may be the best opportunity for the White Sox to take at least one of the games. I have always liked Aroldis Chapman but my confidence in him has waned. I would have no problem if the Yankees moved Chapman at the trading deadline although I am not sure what they could get. Chapman will be a free agent at the end of the year. He is gone. There will be no further reunions.

Jonathan Loaisiga was my choice for closer-in-waiting at the start of the year, but Holmes has re-written the script. He seems likely to be the next closer, perhaps as early as this season. Move Chapman around in other innings, dependent upon the situations. It might reinvigorate Chapman to face other high leverage spots instead of exclusively the critical, tension-filled ninth inning as he transitions away from a once dominant fastball.

Chad Green placed on the Injured List. As frustrated as I was this year with Chad Green, this is not the way I wanted it to go. If the injury, right forearm discomfort, is serious and requires surgery, it is very probable that Green will not wear the Pinstripes again. He will be a free agent at the end of the year, and it was already unlikely the Yankees would extend him given his struggles for the last season and a half. It was great when Green was one of the most dominant relievers in the Yankees bullpen and rated as one of the best relievers in baseball. Sadly, he is no longer that guy. Age happens, and the life cycle of a dominant reliever, unless your name is Mariano Rivera, seems to be noticeably short. Whatever happens with Chad, I wish him the best. If he can get back out on the field this season, I hope that he is able to rediscover the magic. If not, I hope he finds success with his next team.

Chad Green / Photo Credit: Nick Wass, AP

RHP Ron Marinaccio was recalled from Triple A, taking Green’s spot on the roster.

Luis Gil meets Tommy John. Unfortunately, it is not an opportunity to meet the great former Dodgers/Yankees starting pitcher, but rather the misfortune to go under the knife. This, the Tommy John surgery, is not news that any Yankees fan wanted to hear. Gil was removed from a Triple A game on Wednesday against the Worcester Red Sox after turning to face the RailRiders dugout while pointing to his right elbow after throwing a pitch. It has been confirmed that Gil will require surgery. Gil had met with Yankees team physician Christopher Admad in New York City on Friday and presumably received other medical opinions.

Gil made only one start for the big-league club in 2022, when he pitched four innings on May 12th against the Chicago White Sox. He started, giving up four runs over four innings, and departed with a lead, but the White Sox later tied the game ultimately won by the Yankees, 15-7. Jonathan Loiasiga picked up the win in relief.

Recovery and rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery generally takes at least one year to eighteen months. It can take some athletes up to two years to reach their previous level of ability. It is going to be a long road ahead for Gil, and hopefully he is successful in his journey back to the Major Leagues in either late 2023 or early 2024.

It is a tough break for the Yankees since they lose a starting option. Presumably, Clarke Schmidt becomes the ‘go-to’ if the rotation needs assistance. It would be enticing to consider Michael King, but he has been so hugely valuable in the pen. The dominance of King and Clay Holmes has helped cover for other bullpen flaws.

Roderick Arias will be delayed. It was reported this week that the Yankees’ latest elite international free agent signing may be delayed this season. He ceased baseball activities two weeks ago for an undisclosed injury. Yankees international scouting director Donny Rowland described it as nothing major, just a tweak that is lingering. Hopefully, it is nothing significant, and Arias will be able to make his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League this season. The DSL is scheduled to begin play on June 6th.


The Yankees signed the 17-year-old Dominican shortstop in January for $4 million.

Minor League free agent signings. Over the last week and a half, the Yankees have signed three players to minor league contracts. On May 13th, they signed Danny Salazar, once a promising pitcher for Cleveland, who has not pitched in the Major Leagues since 2019. The right-hander is now thirty-two. Who knows if he will be successful in the Yankees organization but I wish him the best of luck in his journey to find his way back. Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake knows a thing or two about Salazar from their days in Cleveland, so perhaps the signing was based on his recommendation.


The Yankees also signed LHP Rafaelin Nivar and RHP Ryan Miller. There are no minor league stats for Nivar, and I was unable to locate any information on him. Miller, 26, is a former Arizona Diamondbacks prospect who was released in 2020. Miller was assigned to the Yankees High-A Affiliate, the Hudson Valley Renegades.

As always, Go Yankees!