Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Be(a)st of the AL East...


Anthony Rizzo & Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Yankees roll into May with the division lead…

The World always seems to be a better place when the Yankees are winning. The current seven-game winning streak has Yankees fans feeling joyful and optimistic. Of course, it will end with the next two-game losing streak, but it is quite enjoyable for now. When they are losing, there is no one that hates the Yankees worse than Yankees fans, so it is nice to see happy Bronx Bomber fans while it lasts. Shiny happy people…

In all seriousness, this team is special. Remembering the fun of the 2017 Yankees, there was a huge sense of team camaraderie with the Baby Bombers. They took us deep into October and potentially, if not for the banging of trash cans, might have won a World Series championship. Since then, there has been something missing with each subsequent team (no…I am not referring to Joe Girardi). I am not trying to sell those other teams short, but there is an intangible “it” factor that has been missing.

Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo & Giancarlo Stanton / Photo Credit: Instagram

The Yankees’ front office finally woke up to smell the coffee last July when they aggressively acquired Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo at the trading deadline. The infusion of much needed left-handed bats into a heavily righthanded lineup. I know Gallo has largely been a disappointment but the recognition that the makeup of the team needed to change was important for this year’s success. Not sure why it took Brian Cashman and company so long to figure out when fans have been clamoring for lefty bats for years. The move that began last July continued into Spring when the Yankees moved out Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit, clear additions by subtraction. Gio Urshela went too but that was more of a consequence in having to add value with Sanchez to make the move with Minnesota, bringing in Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and that muscular dude fighting the oblique injury. As much as we wanted an elite shortstop this past off-season, IKF has been a vast improvement for this year’s team. Although more was expected from Donaldson, I think he will hit as the weather continues to warm, his greater value might be the ‘edge’ he brings to the clubhouse. I think it has been a significant contributing factor to developing this year’s team chemistry and the cohesive bond that has developed.

The Dachshund Brothers / Photo Credit: Instagram

Thank you to Anthony Rizzo for all that you do. I am so grateful he is with the team. Quietly, the team MVP thus far, even if Aaron Judge is starting to dominate.

After last night’s 12-2 rain-shortened win over the Kansas City Royals, Judge discussed the team’s diversity. Speaking to reporters, he said “I think that’s what makes this team different from other years, just having that diversity in the lineup.” Again, not sure why it took Cashman so long to figure it out, but I am glad we are here. We will have our times of frustration this season, but it seems there will be more highs than lows, and not quite the roller-coaster that we rode last season.

No doubt that Nestor Cortes, Jr has played a huge role in positioning the Yankees (14-6) atop the AL East. He finally picked up his first win of the season last night but that sells short how invaluable he has been. He compensated for Gerrit Cole’s slow start and now that Cole appears to be rounding into form, it will only get better for the starting rotation…from top to bottom. I suppose it was appropriate to see Frankie Montas get pounded for a couple of home runs in Oakland’s 9-8 loss to the Cleveland Guardians last night. While I still think Montas would be a nice add, last night was a brief reminder that sometimes the best trade is the one never made. While Montas was getting hammered, Cortes, who likely would have been displaced in the rotation had the Yankees acquired Montas, battled the Royals. He gave up only two runs (one earned) despite eight hits scattered over five innings and put the Yankees in position, along with the bullpen, to let the bats do the talking with nine runs in the final two innings. Something to be said for the man who just knows how to pitch.

Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr / Credit: FOX Sports

I know it is early, but it is fun looking at stats. Here is a look at one position.



















































The 2022 salaries for these players, in order from 1 through 4, are: $4.7 million; $35.1 million; $33 million; and $20 million. The best production from the lowest paid player. Thank you, Isiah Kiner-Falefa. I am sorry that I ever doubted you. The others are obviously the “Big 3” from last year’s free agent market, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story, respectively. I am sure the stats will normalize as the season progresses, but for now, it is fun to look at.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa

Congratulations to Giancarlo Stanton for his 350th home run. The slugger formerly known as Mike Stanton hit his first home run, a grand slam, on June 18, 2010, for the (then) Florida Marlins off Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Mike" Stanton / Photo Credit: Doug Benc, Getty Images

The 350th came on Wednesday against the Baltimore Orioles when Stanton went yard in the first inning off O’s starter Tyler Wells. 

Giancarlo Stanton / Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

His 351st came quickly yesterday, another first inning dinger, this time off Royals starter Kris Bubic. It is always fun when Stanton goes on a roll. I can remember back in the 1980s when Dave Winfield would get hot and throw the entire team on his back for a winning streak. Stanton is that guy. Coincidentally, Alex Rodriguez hit 351 home runs…as a Yankee. Stanton only has 84, so he has some catching up to do.

Congratulations to Aaron Hicks and his wife, Cheyenne Woods (Tiger’s niece), for the birth of their first child. Cameron Jaxson Hicks was born on April 26th. Weighing in at 8 pounds and 20 ½ inches, he will be on the fast track for the Major Leagues…or PGA. Aaron rejoined the team in Kansas City yesterday after spending parental leave in Arizona. Very cool for Aaron and Cheyenne!

Aaron Hicks & Cameron / Photo Credit: Instagram

Finally, the NFL Draft is always one of the best times of the year. I look forward to the NFL Draft every year, particularly the first few rounds. I know most of you are Giants or Jets fans (terrific drafts so far for both teams), I am a long-suffering fan of the Minnesota Vikings. For as many championships as my favorite baseball team has won in my lifetime, the Vikings are the polar opposite with none. While I respect the new leadership of GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O’Connell, their first two draft day trades were suspect.

The Vikings held the 12th pick in the first round, but when their pick rolled around, they traded it to the division rival Detroit Lions, dropping down to the 32nd pick. The Lions selected a talented wide receiver, Alabama’s Jameson Williams. Then, with the 34th pick they had acquired from the Lions, they traded it to the bitter division rival Green Bay Packers to give Aaron Rodgers a receiving target (Christian Watson of North Dakota State) to help make up for the loss of Davante Adams, recently traded to the Las Vegas Raiders.

I know the Vikings picked up some additional draft picks, but trading with division rivals are painful. Somehow, I suspect both Williams and Watson will be as painful to watch as seeing Garrett Whitlock thrive with the Boston Red Sox. Good thing the Vikings used their first two draft picks on defensive backs (safety Lewis Cine of Georgia and cornerback Andrew Booth, Jr of Clemson). They will need them to defend against the Lions and Packers passing attacks. Hopefully Kwesi, a brilliant mind, learns that it is better to trade outside of the division. The Vikings need to hit on those draft picks they acquired in the trades. Otherwise, these trades will haunt the team for years.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Warning: Brighter Days Ahead...


Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Robert Sabo, New York Post

Yankees WILL get better as the weather warms…

Fans of the Yankees can be harder on the New York Yankees than non-Yankee fans. I realize there have not been enough games like Friday night in the season’s first fourteen games, but we really need to give this team time to come together. I am certainly not ready to ‘throw in the towel’ in April with the Yankees only one game out of first place in the AL East. As the weather warms, so will the Yankees.

Aaron Judge & Anthony Rizzo / Photo Credit: AP

No doubt that last night belonged to Aaron Judge and Michael King. Judge, finally playing like a man who wants $36 million per year (despite the fact he will never get it), was a spectacle of beauty. Two home runs and brilliant defense. More games like last night, and Aaron Judge will be a Yankee for life and hopefully the latest Captain in the string of greats.

While Judge dominated the offensive show in the Yankees’ 4-1 victory over the Cleveland Guardians, the pitching hero was Michael King. Jameson Taillon, despite giving up seven hits in five innings, yielded Cleveland’s only run. King entered the game and shut down the highly flying Guardians offense who had entered the game averaging 5.67 runs per game. After Amed Rosario singled with two outs in the sixth, King proceeded to strike out the next seven batters he faced.

Michael King / Photo Credit: Michelle Farsi, New York Post

Of course, Aaron Boone took heat for not bringing King back for the ninth inning with a chance to match the club record of eight consecutive strikeouts, set by former Yankees setup reliever Ron Davis. Davis struck out eight consecutive (then) California Angels on May 4, 1981. Like the other day when Boone walked Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in his final at-bat, I had no problem with Boone’s decision to bring in Aroldis Chapman for the ninth. King had thrown forty-two pitches in three innings. Just like the Cabrera decision, the King decision was made for the greater benefit of the team over an individual milestone. There is no sense burning out King’s arm. He is needed for the days, weeks, and months ahead. He has become a trusted reliever which has been invaluable with slower starts by Chapman and Jonathan Loaisiga.

I feel bad for Joey Gallo. I like the guy and want him to succeed. It is a case that I want to like him more than I do. I get it, some guys are just not cut out for the bright lights and big city of New York. Gallo has the looks and personality to thrive in the city…if only his bat was capable of speaking. As much as I want him to succeed, every at-bat is becoming increasingly brutal to watch. He has become an automatic out, ringing up strikeout after strikeout. He was 0-for-4 last night with two strikeouts. In his contract year through 47 plate appearances, he is batting .122/.234/.122, .184 wOBA, 17 wRC+, and -0.5 WAR. It is unlikely he will be traded in April or May, but I am rapidly reaching the conclusion that Gallo would be better served playing in a lesser-pressurized environment. If he could just go on a home run binge, and bat his usual .200, he could bring cheers, but I am growing less confident it can or will happen. No doubt Cashman and company are following other left fielders to identify possible trade targets for later this summer.

No, I am not interested in a reunion with Brett Gardner (except for possibly a coaching role).

Many fans are down on Gerrit Cole, and I understand why. The man has one of the largest contracts in baseball and expectations are exceedingly high. Whether it is the crackdown on the sticky stuff or the colder temperatures of April or Billy Crystal, Cole has gotten off to a sluggish start and has rated fifth best on a five-man staff. I am not concerned. I believe that we will see Cole round into form sooner than later. When October rolls around (assuming the Yankees are positioned to advance), Cole will be the arm to carry us. I have no doubts. I am certainly not going to freak out about his 2022 season after only three starts. He will be okay; have some faith.

With Cole’s slow start, Nasty Nestor Cortes, Jr has been a godsend. He takes the mound later today in the second game of the three-game Cleveland series at Yankee Stadium. In the off-season, everyone wanted another starting pitcher (including me). If the Yankees had been successful in acquiring one of Oakland’s starting pitchers, the loser would have been Nestor as it would have pushed him into the bullpen. It is not a bad place for him, he is my favorite for the Ramiro Mendoza role as long relief/spot starter. However, right now, he is pitching too well to take him out of the starting rotation. Frankie Montas would be a tremendous addition, but I am enjoying the Nasty Nestor Show. Eventually, the health of the staff will determine future additions. Fortunately, the starting pitching, collectively, has been exceptionally good for the Yankees through fourteen games. Starters seem to hit a brick wall at five innings but hopefully that will change as the calendar turns to May and the restoration of the 26-man roster with limitation of thirteen pitchers.

I would like to know what happened to Kyle Higashioka’s bat. Granted, I have always viewed him as a backup catcher and still do, but I did expect more after his brilliant offensive performance in Spring Training. I know, the Greg Bird syndrome (blazing Spring; regular season, thud…). Like Joey Gallo, Higgy has been an automatic out. As if Gallo’s line was not bad enough, Higgy is batting .097/.125/.129, with .119 wOBA, -31 wRC+, and -0.3 WAR. Yikes! Dillon Lawson and the assistant hitting coaches are not exactly hitting the cover off the ball. Higgy’s play is causing more starts by Jose Trevino, a likeable catcher, and an elite framer, but it is just a battle of backups. I hope July brings a true starting catcher when the team goes after a new leftfielder and possibly starting pitcher.

A little credit for Isiah Kiner-Falefa. He took as much heat from the fans as any Yankee, but he has quietly been playing his part and helping the team win in recent days. I will not stand down from the belief that we would have been better off with Carlos Correa, Corey Seager or Trevor Story, but I have no complaints with IKF’s play of late. He can keep the position warm until Oswald Peraza is ready to ascend to the Majors. In other words, I will not be pining for a shortstop at the trading deadline.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa / Photo Credit: Julio Aguilar, Getty Images

In this era of the de-juiced baseball, the biggest loser (not the Yankees) appears to be Joe Girardi and the Philadelphia Phillies. Dave Dombrowski’s decision to hire sluggers Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber has placed Girardi in a precarious spot. The Buck Showalter-infused New York Mets have raced out of the gate, and the Phillies trail by 4 ½ games in the NL East with a 6-8 record. Girardi has been making every ‘managers on the hot seat’ list. Of course, if Girardi does get fired, I am sure there will be Yankee fans screaming for Boone’s ouster to restore Girardi. It will never happen. Girardi is not Billy Martin reincarnated. That ship has sailed. I wish the best for Girardi and hope things work out for him in Philly.

Illustration by Britt Spencer for Philadelphia Magazine

As for Boone, he is my manager. I have been critical of him, but I am not going to bash him at this point. The Yankees made the decision to stick with him for another three years. The time to reevaluate Boone will be after the season. I want him to succeed because I want the Yankees to succeed. The continual screams for Boone’s firing are falling on deaf ears and waste too much energy. Brian Cashman is not going to fire Boone. If the Yankees make the difficult decision to part ways with Brian Cashman upon the expiration of his contract at season’s end, I am sure that Boone will be reevaluated despite the years remaining on his contract. Until then, he needs our support.

The New York Post reported this week that the Yankees had quietly settled the contract dispute with former Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury more than a year ago. No terms were disclosed due to the execution of confidentiality agreements. Ellsbury had been released prior to the conclusion of his contract and was owed $21 million for 2020 and $5 million buyout for 2021. The Yankees filed a grievance in 2019 to recoup some of the dollars. The Post indicated the settlement was low enough to keep the Yankees under the second luxury tax threshold in 2020. Regardless of what they paid; I am glad the Ellsbury saga is officially over. It was an unwise decision to sign him, and he seemed like such an albatross those final years in uniform. Me: Never sign or trade for Red Sox players! Also, me: I wonder if the Royals would be willing to trade former Red Sox leftfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Yankees in July.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

The Baltimore Beatdown...


Photo Credit: Barbara Haddock/Baltimore Sun

AL Worst continues tormenting the Yankees…

The inability to beat the Baltimore Orioles in 2021 cost the Yankees dearly as it sent them to the ill-fated Wild Card Game in Boston instead of hosting the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Yankees flew to Boston and, as we all know, their season was over. After holding their own against the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays this week, the Yankees arrived in Baltimore on Friday ready to make a statement. Thud! Here we go again.

Aroldis Chapman -- Photo Credit: Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Aroldis Chapman, looking like the latest incarnation of Tyler Clippard in pinstripes, walked home the winning run for the Orioles in last night’s game as Baltimore took the first game of nineteen against the Yankees. It wasted a good performance by Jordan Montgomery. Unfortunately, a journeyman Orioles pitcher who has played for six teams and was once released by the Colorado Rockies, Jordan Lyles, held the Yankees offense at bay, yielding only a single run in his 5 1/3 innings of work. In his last start, Lyles had given up five runs in five innings against the Tampa Bay Rays and entered last night’s game with a 9.00 ERA. Pitching against the Yankees’ offense, at least this year and last, is always a prescription for improvement of one’s earned run average. 

My only take about Chapman. I am not interested in re-signing him after the season. Even if he is willing to take a steep discount to stay, it is time to move on. It was great when the Cuban Missile was throwing flames across the plate but suffice it to say he is not and will not age as gracefully as the legendary Mariano Rivera. I am hoping Chapman can solve his control problems this year to give the Yankees (and we, the fans) some confidence in his ability late in games, but beyond that, ¡Hasta la vista, baby!

Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake continues to earn his paycheck, despite the challenges of Aroldis Chapman or Gerrit Cole’s attempts to rediscover his superiority following last year’s crackdown on the “sticky stuff”. There is no way that I would have predicted the two best starters for the Yankees two weeks into the new season would be Nestor Cortes, Jr and Luis Severino. Nestor continues to amaze me. Everyone wanted another starter during the off-season. If the Yankees had acquired, say Frankie Montas or Luis Castillo or some other pitcher, Nestor would have been the odd man out. The sixth starter on a staff of five, yet here he is carrying the team along with Sevy. Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon are fine, but they were expected to be. I have purposely tried to keep my expectations for Severino low for no other reason than he has not pitched much in the last three years.  I credit the Yankees pitching coaches for the tremendous work they have done with Nestor, Sevy, and the bullpen outside of Chappy. Michael King certainly deserves a call-out for his performance the other night to clean up Chapman’s mess in the Blue Jays finale, earning his first career save. 

Michael King -- Photo Credit: Getty Images

Now if only Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson and his assistant hitting coaches could have the same impact on the hitters. I realize Isiash Kiner-Falefa is off to a slow start but it is too early to pull the plug. Most fans wanted the Yankees to sign Carlos Correa prior to the season (well, me included). A quick check of his stats show a batting line of .182/.280/.409 with .306 wOBA. He has one home run which represents his only RBI of the season. In other words, IKF is not alone in slow starts. It can happen to anyone. It just gets magnified when you move from the low pressurized environment of Arlington, Texas to the humongous New York stage.

I have seen many fans calling for Oswald Peraza but cool your jets. He is not ready yet. He only played 8 games in Triple A last year, and through 8 games this season, he is only batting .194/.242/.323, .253 wOBA, and 52 wRC+. We will see Peraza at some point this year but we need to give him time despite any frustrations with IKF.  Peraza, who will turn 22 on June 15th, needs to let his bat do his talking. It will tell the Yankees when he is ready. Until then, we need to give IKF our support. I do feel he will be closer to the hitter he was last season for the Texas Rangers (or better). Playing 158 games for the Rangers in 2021, IKF hit 8 homers and drive in 53 runs. His line was .271/.312/357 and .293 wOBA. Give him a chance. New York is not an easy place to play. We may have wanted an elite shortstop but this is the hand we were dealt and we need to make the most of it. IKF may surprise us if we give him the time to adjust.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa -- Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

If Aaron Judge wants to be a $36 million per year player, he needs to play like one. 

I am confident the Yankees will play better. Today would be a great day to start. I know championships are not won in April but I do feel getting off to a strong start is important for the season’s momentum. To borrow one of Aaron Boone’s favorite words (“obviously”), it is easier to build off a good start than it is a bad one.  Gerrit Cole will get stronger as the season progresses and the offense will start to click. I continue to have more confidence in this team than the 2021 version. The current record is nothing that a ten-game winning streak could not cure.  So, let’s go Yankees. You got this.

Clayton Kershaw nearly throws a perfect game. Say what you will, I think Dave Roberts’ decision to pull Kershaw after seven perfect innings this week was the right thing to do. I felt it in the heat of the moment and have not wavered in my opinion. With the shortened Spring, starting pitchers have yet to be fully stretched out. It is why rosters were expanded to 28 players until May 1st with a temporary unlimited cap on the number of pitchers a team can carry.

Clayton Kershaw -- Photo Credit: Craig Lassig/Associated Press

Kershaw is 34 years old and has missed time the last few years with a variety of injuries. He has a date with Cooperstown one day but pushing him to nine innings would not have been prudent and it could have heightened the possibility for his unavailability later in the season as a result. Although he struck out thirteen batters and had only thrown 80 pitches, Kershaw said it was the right decision since he had not been built up. He has not pitched a complete game since 2017.

I know Gary Sanchez was quoted this week saying that if it had been a pitcher like Gerrit Cole or Masahiro Tanaka, they would have fought to stay in the game. I do not agree with the former Yankees catcher. Baseball is a team sport, and the goal is a championship. Individual stats are nice, but not the ‘be all, end all’. Cole and Tanaka are both professionals who would have placed team priority over self-interest. I saw one Dodgers fan say he would have preferred to see Kershaw pitch a perfect game over a World Series championship. I loved the perfect games thrown by Davids Wells and Cone but they were not more valuable than the World Series championships. If given the choice for one or the other, the World Series championship is the only acceptable answer. 

The Dodgers bullpen may have blown the perfect game and no-hitter, but Clayton Kershaw is headed for the Hall of Fame regardless of the outcome.  

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Rain: The Bringer of Donaldson...


Josh Donaldson / Photo Credit: John Minchillo, AP

Rain Postponement of Opening Day sets stage for Donaldson…

For as excited as I was for Opening Day to arrive (delayed by one day due to the rain forecast), it certainly started poorly with the pre-game announcement that the Yankees and star outfielder Aaron Judge were unable to agree on terms for an extension. More thoughts on Judge later, but the mood seemed to carry through to the start of the game. Gerrit Cole, apparently flustered by a four-minute delay for first pitch, was roughed up for three runs in the first inning. Three runs with no outs. For a moment, it had seemed like Billy Crystal must have stayed on the mound after tossing the opening pitch. Fortunately, Cole was able to stop the bleeding and held Boston in check through four innings.

Gerrit Cole / Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

The Yankees quickly made it a one-run game in the bottom of the first when Anthony Rizzo blasted the first Yankee home run of 2022 following an Aaron Judge single. Giancarlo Stanton tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning with an ‘only in Yankee Stadium’ home run blast to the right field bleachers.

The Red Sox broke the tie in the top of the sixth inning. With Clay Holmes on the mound, Xander Bogaerts led off with a double. He moved to third on a ground-out by J.D. Martinez and scored when Alex Verdugo singled. The Red Sox looked to be mounting a huge threat in the inning. After a fielder’s choice and a single had men at first and second, Holmes was pulled in favor of new Yankee Miguel Castro. The former Mets reliever walked the first batter to load the bases. However, the threat was snuffed out when Castro struck out Christian Vásquez. No doubt it was an incredibly positive first Yankee moment for him.

Boston reliever Garrett Whitlock took over starter Nathan Eovaldi in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the former Yankees prospect shut down the Yankees offense into the eighth. GM Brian Cashman was taking his usual beating on social media for allowing Whitlock to slip through via the Rule 5 Draft to the Red Sox prior to the 2021 season until DJ LeMahieu answered the bell. His home run shot to right center tied the game once again and quieted the social media talk about Whitlock.

Everyone wanted the Yankees to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. No one wanted to see the ghost runner at second base in extra innings. The moment was set up for Giancarlo Stanton to be the hero with Aaron Judge on second base and two outs. Unfortunately, it was not one of Stanton’s better at-bats and he struck out swinging to push the game into the tenth inning, complete the dreaded ghost at second.

Both teams scored a run in the tenth to keep the game going. Michael King, who had given up a cheap run in the tenth, was masterful in the eleventh inning. Two strikeouts and a groundout as Boston failed to advance their ghost runner. In the bottom of the eleventh, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, having made the final out of the preceding inning, took second base. Josh Donaldson, wasting no time for his signature Yankee moment, hit a single up the middle through Boston’s two “shortstops.” IKF raced around to score the winning run, 6-5 Yankees. Que Frank Sinatra and New York, New York.


Josh Donaldson, the Bringer of Rain, is our kind of “idiot.”

Photo Credit: Jim Davis, Boston Globe Staff

To point out a few of performances, I thought Jonathan Loaisiga looked terrific, picking up where he left off from last season. The closer-in-waiting seems ready to ascend to the throne currently held by Aroldis Chapman. Aaron Judge deserves credit for getting a hit in his first at-bat after the failed extension distraction earlier in the day. He made the plays he needed to make today. Yankees catchers did a superb job behind the plate. First Kyle Higashioka and later Jose Trevino. I cannot remember how long it has been since I had total confidence in catching defense after living through the Gary Sanchez era. Watching two expert framers is artwork in motion. I missed Higgy’s Spring Training bat but the defense more than made up for it. Someone tweeted that the Yankees would have lost today if Gary Sanchez had been the catcher. I believe it.

King picked up the win with his strong two innings effort.

Michael King / Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

It is important to get off to a good start. I know this is only one game, but a win is better than a loss. Even after the game, Anthony Rizzo said one game could be the difference at the end of 162 games. So true, one more win last season and the Wild Card game would have been held at Yankee Stadium rather than Fenway Park. With so many consecutive days without a day off and a shortened bench (due to sixteen pitchers), extra-inning games are particularly brutal this month. The shortened Spring schedule leaves the starting rotation still trying to ramp up, meaning an earlier hook in most games until they are fully stretched out. Therefore, I have no issue with sixteen pitchers even if I would have preferred fifteen and extra legs on the bench (specifically, Tim Locastro). My team goal this month is to stay healthy, win more games than losses, and have the team running on all cylinders by May 1st when rosters reduce from 28 to 26 and pitchers are capped at thirteen.

It is hard to believe that Friday’s Opening Day walk-off was the first for the Yankees since before most of us were born. In 1957, Yankees third baseman Andy Carey scored Yogi Berra to win Opening Day and it has not happened since…until now.

The 2022 Yankees do seem to have a vibe that has been missing for the last few years. I am sure Josh Donaldson is a big reason, but it is not just him. This team seems more focused and ready to prove they are better than last year’s roller coaster team. I like it.

I am disappointed in Aaron Judge and the Yankees. I do not understand why the Yankees released the amount of their offer to Aaron Judge other than to make Judge look bad, but I do acknowledge that the seven years, $213.5 million extension proposal is fair and generous given Judge’s injury history and age (he turns thirty on April 26th). When you factor in 2022, it brings the total value to $230.5 million. The average annual value of the extension proposal is $30.5 million. If the demands for nine or ten years from the Judge camp is true, the Yankees are correct to pass and allow Judge to walk after the season. I say this loving Judge as a Yankee.

Probably the greater disappointment is how the Yankees have passed on elite free agents over the past few years with Judge’s extension looming. I am hopeful the Yankees and Judge can find common ground, but the rift seems too large. Judge’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for June. If they do not settle before then, an arbitration hearing will make the relationship even more contentious. In July, if the Yankees see the impossibility of an extension, they should seriously consider moving him before the trading deadline to at least get something of value before he departs.

Hopefully, we never reach worst-case scenario and the two sides come together. It would be great to see Judge as a Yankee for at least seven more years.

Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: John Minchillo, AP

Welcome to the newest Yankees.

Catcher Jose Trevino arrived last weekend in a trade that sent pitchers Albert Abreu and Robert Ahlstrom to the Texas Rangers. I feel bad for Ben Rortvedt, given he had a clear path to a Major League job before the trade. However, his oblique injury (right oblique muscle strain) has clouded his return and the Yankees needed a somebody better than Rob Brantly to pair with Kyle Higashioka. Like Higgy, Trevino is an elite framer, giving the Yankees two extraordinarily strong defensive catchers. Rort is in the same mold, but who knows when he will be ready. On the bright side, when he does return and goes to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he will be only a phone call away if one of the two primary catchers is injured. It is kind of funny how Trevino’s availability started with the Rangers acquisition of catcher Mitch Garver from the Minnesota Twins which of course led to the Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela trade to the Twins. A case of catching musical chairs between the Rangers, Twins and Yankees.

The Yankees and Mets hooked up for a rare trade that saw lefty reliever Joely Rodriguez head to Queens for righty reliever Miguel Castro. I never fully understood the Yankees move to re-sign Rodriguez so quickly in November, but in retrospect, I am glad it led to Castro’s acquisition. He is a welcome addition to the bullpen. A rare trade that helps both teams.

Marwin Gonzalez, in camp on a minor league contract, officially headed north with the big-league club when he was added to the 40-man roster after recent acquisition outfielder Jeisson Rosario was designated for assignment. A few years ago, I would have been incredibly happy to have Gonzalez. I may not be as excited today, but I do believe he can help until the best utility prospect (Oswaldo Cabrera) is ready for the Show. So long Rosario, we hardly knew ye.

As strange as it was to see the Yankees and Mets involved with a trade, it was weird hearing the Yankees had acquired a reliever from the rival Tampa Bay Rays. David McKay was added to the 40-man (when the Yankees moved reliever Stephen Ridings to the 60-day IL) and sent to Triple A. There, he will become part of the bullpen shuttle between New York and Scranton. We later found out that McKay had forced the trade. He had been signed to a minor league contract, but when he realized he would not make the Rays, he exercised his opt-out. The trade with the Yankees involved $1 to the Rays. I am sure it was tough for Hal Steinbrenner to part with that dollar.

The last new Yankee is an old face. First baseman Greg Bird, who will begin the year with the RailRiders. Bird had been in camp with the Toronto Blue Jays and was having his usual Spring Training success. He even homered off the Yankees this Spring with his then long-haired, bearded look. I thought he was going to make the Blue Jays roster but when he did not, he chose to opt-out. From there, he came back to his original organization where seemingly a path to first base behind Anthony Rizzo is not quite as daunting as Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. I thought it was funny to see Bird wearing #45 for the RailRiders, the number worn at the time by Luke Voit when Bird and Voit were engaged in the battle for Yankees first base a few years ago. Voit won that battle, but in a way, Bird gets the last laugh, at least with the Yankees. I am not counting on Bird like I once was, but I hope he does well. I hope Rizzo stays healthy, yet Bird offers some insurance. I always did love his beautiful left-handed swing at Yankee Stadium.

Greg Bird / Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Congratulations to CC Sabathia for his appointment as a special assistant to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Sabathia will focus on player relations, diversity, equity and inclusion, social responsibility, youth participation, and broadcasting. CC is such a great ambassador for the game, and his new role will play a huge part in the continued evolution and growth of our favorite professional sport.

CC Sabathia / Photo Credit: Andy Marlin, USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, congratulations to Tampa Tarpons (Low-A) Manager Rachel Balkovec who picked up her first minor league victory in last night’s 9-6 Opening Day win over the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Balkovec, 34, is the first full-time female manager in the history of affiliated baseball at all professional levels.

Rachel Balkovec / Photo Credit: AP

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Stretch Run to Opening Day...


Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images

The dawn of 2022 Regular Season is upon us…

Winter is leaving. I know, it already left, but the upcoming week will feature the official return of the 2022 MLB regular season with Opening Day scheduled for Thursday. It has been a long, difficult road through the atypical and frustrating off-season that included 99 days of the owners’ lockout. I am glad it is over, and happy Spring Training is nearing an end. I know we had hoped for more notable upgrades, yet the 2022 Yankees as presently structured can and will compete hard in the AL East.

With rosters expanding to twenty-eight players until May 1st, the Yankees are contemplating carrying 15 to 16 pitchers on the active roster until the May restoration of the maximum of thirteen pitchers (and thirteen non-pitchers). Between now and Opening Day, the Yankees will need to create room on the 40-man roster. I would like to see LHP Manny Banuelos make the team but then it becomes a question of who loses their spot on the 40-man to make it happen. Aaron Boone has given assurances that Albert Abreu and Mike King will be on the roster. Abreu is out of options. Boone’s assurance of a player’s spot, lately, has proven to be a precursor to a trade. I like Abreu but he seems to be a candidate to be moved if necessary.

Albert Abreu / Photo Credit: John Minchilli, AP

If I felt strongly about the other arms for the bullpen, I would consider trading Chad Green. He has been a good reliever for the Yankees, but if you could get a decent return, it would potentially be worth it. Considered one of the better relievers in the game, he is a good ‘sell high’ candidate if you feel he is replaceable. Not saying Banuelos is better than Green but looking at the composition of all the pitchers who could potentially step up, there are impact arms waiting for an opportunity. There are certainly plenty of internal options available and pitching coach Matt Blake has proven to be extraordinarily successful in his role, along with the other “new-thinking” pitching instructors in the organization. Plus, there are always guys like Clay Holmes who can be poached from other organizations.

I do not envy GM Brian Cashman for his upcoming roster decisions. The bench guarantees only one player…DJ LeMahieu. From there, it becomes a deeper shade of grey. Infielder/outfielder Marwin Gonzalez has seemingly done everything possible to make the Opening Day roster. As a non-roster minor league invitee, moves must be made a clear a spot for him. If the Yankees carry sixteen pitchers, then it seems Tim Locastro could be the odd man out. The Yankees need a backup catcher, expected to be Rob Brantly, until Ben Rortvedt is ready to play. It almost appears the Yankees must pick the worst of their available catchers for the backup role because whoever it is will most likely be designated for assignment when Rortvedt returns. Here is hoping Kyle Higashioka’s fabulous Spring carries over into the regular season. I have seen many fans projecting 20-23 homers and 70 RBIs for him. I am a little skeptical, but if he reaches those numbers with his excellent defense, it will be tremendous.

Kyle Higashioka & Gerrit Cole / Photo Credit: Tony Dejak, AP

Circling back to Locastro, it seems if the Yankees do carry an additional outfielder, besides Gonzalez, the choice will be between Locastro and NRI Ender Inciarte. I have to say it, the third option could be the return of Brett Gardner. Never rule out the Gardy Party until the party is over. Locastro seems to be favorite since he holds a spot on the 40-man. I have really liked Inciarte over the years and he might be my personal preference but either guy will be fine. Their Spring stats are oddly similar, slightly tilted toward Inciarte. Probably not enough to make a difference so I see Locastro retaining his spot. Speed plays.

Triple A games start on Tuesday so yesterday saw the following players re-assigned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: RHPs Matt Bowman and Ryan Weber, INF/OF Phillip Evans, INF Jose Peraza, 1B Ronald Guzmán, and OF Ryan LaMarre. I liked what I saw from Guzmán. I would love to see him crush it in Triple A. The former Rangers farmhand may forever be one of those 4A type of players, but I am still pulling for him.

Ronald Guzmán / Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, The New York Post

Hopefully, the next few days will bring an announcement the Yankees have signed Aaron Judge to an extension. The rumors circulate about $30 million average annual value, with the number of years being the point of contention. Judge turns thirty later this month and it seems his camp wants six or seven years. Judge is the face of the franchise. He is the most visible player since Derek Jeter. Pay the man. I get the rub of multiple guys with heavy contracts into their late thirties (Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton), but Judge is the franchise player. If there is a single player on the team that I could never see (or rather never want to see) playing for another team, it is Judge. Do the right thing, Hal.

Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman, MLB Photos

After Manager Aaron Boone had said Luis Severino was dealing with “general soreness” last week, thoughts of worst-case scenario began seeping in. It proved to be nothing as Sevy was able to throw a bullpen session the next day after a cancelled start.

I am ‘cautiously’ excited about Severino’s return this season. I know he was back late last year, but it was a limited relief role. It has been several years since he was a force in the rotation. Yet, any excitement is tempered when we hear words like ‘general soreness.’ I am hopeful it is nothing and the season represents a full return for Sevy. We need a strong #2 and he can be that guy. He is not today, but he CAN be if health proves to be his friend.

When I heard yesterday that Mets ace Jacob deGrom has been shut down for four weeks due to “a stress reaction on his scapula that has caused inflammation in the area,” it brings up fears we could get the same kind of news about Severino. Sevy is scheduled to make sixty pitches today in his last Spring start. I will be crossing my fingers that all goes well. As for deGrom, I am sorry the best pitcher in the game has suffered a setback. He will undergo another MRI in four weeks. Not that I care about the Mets, but I wish deGrom well in his recovery and hope he is back sooner than later.

Not sure why Brian Cashman mentioned 2017 again this week. Look, we were all wronged. It was a bad situation, but it is water under the bridge. There is nothing that can be done about it, and the Yankees are not going to be anointed a mythical World Series champion as a result. It seems like the Yankees are trying to deflect attention from the impending release of the “Yankees Letter” which the Yankees intend to appeal…again. I have no idea if the two are related but the timing of Cashman’s words is odd. If the Yankees Letter unfairly portrays the Yankees in bad light (singles them out for actions taken by other team as well), I can see the team’s resistance to its release. But if they singularly violated the rules, the letter should be released.

Final Word: I am incredibly happy and excited for the return of Derek Jeter. Jeter will be honored with Hall of Fame Induction Tribute Night on Friday, September 9th at Yankee Stadium. 

If Jeter had still been the Miami Marlins CEO, this night might not have been possible. Selfishly, I am glad he is free from his loyalty to the Marlins and can make the high-profile appearance at Yankee Stadium. His long absence from Yankee Stadium has been difficult. He helped bring the twins, Mystique and Aura, from the old to the new Yankee Stadium. I will love seeing him back in the Bronx. Hopefully he brings the magic back home. 

As always, Go Yankees!