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!

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)