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!