Saturday, July 2, 2022

Let the Wins Continue...


Houston’s tough, but Yankees march on…

I really wanted a victory in Houston, Texas on Thursday night. The Yankees’ 2-1 loss to the Astros ultimately means nothing other than a rare loss for the Yankees. Yet, a win would have left better feelings, for Yankees fans, until the two teams renew their rivalry in an isolated doubleheader in Houston on Thursday, July 21st, the first day back from the All-Star break.

The Yankees need to figure out the Astros. The two teams are evenly matched talent-wise, but the Yankees must match Houston’s confidence in winning the games. The Astros play like they know they are going to win the games from the first pitch. It does not mean the Yankees do not have the same mentality, but they do not outwardly show the same confidence. Winning a couple of games in few weeks at Minute Maid Park would give a huge boost to the team’s confidence and better prepare the Yankees for the destined collision with the Astros in the playoffs.

Thanks to last night’s rainout in Cleveland, Ohio, we had to sit on the Astros loss an extra night. Today is a good day to erase the negative feelings and start a new winning streak. A day/night doubleheader features Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes Jr. The Guardians trail the Minnesota Twins by only a game and a half in the AL Central, winning three of five games against the Twins this week. The five wins included two walk-offs against the beleaguered Twins bullpen, so the Guardians enter the Yankees series with some momentum.

Earlier today, the Guardians called up LHP Kirk McCarty as their 27th man for the doubleheader and he will get the start against Gerrit Cole. RHP Aaron Civale (2-4, 7.20 ERA) gets the nod for the nightcap tangle with Nasty Nestor. While it looks like advantage Yankees, they still must play these games. Hoping that Nestor’s recent bumpy stretch has subsided, and Cole gets some run (hit) support.

Gerrit Cole / Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

Every day that does not feature Joey Gallo in the lineup is a good day. There was a time when I thought Joey Gallo was the better option to retain over Aaron Hicks, but the tide has turned. Like many (most?) Yankee fans, I am done with Gallo. It sucks because I like the guy and he has a terrific personality that fits well in the Yankees clubhouse, but the at-bats have become too painful and too predictable. For a team with World Series ambitions, there cannot be an automatic out in the batting order. Hits and runs will get harder in October when the Yankees are facing the opponent’s best pitchers. Giving away at-bats is unacceptable.

Future ex-Yankee Joey Gallo / Photo Credit: AP

This is where I disagree with many Yankee fans. I routinely see fans post that Gallo should simply be cut. I get the calls for the talent in Triple A (namely Estevan Florial and Miguel Andujar), but this is a business and there is value for a player like Gallo whether you believe it or not. He has proven unsuccessful on the BIG stage but that does not mean he cannot prosper under a smaller microscope like he did in Texas. I bet Gallo could go somewhere like Pittsburgh and resume his barrage of bombs. The Yankees will not recapture the level of talent they gave up acquiring Gallo (Trevor Hauver, Ezequiel Duran, Glenn Otto, and Josh Smith…the Yankees also received Joely Rodriguez who was flipped for Miguel Castro earlier this year), but they can get something. Yankees fill-in starter JP Sears was once part of the return for an insignificant reliever, Nick Rumbelow. Gallo can fetch some lottery chips for the future and the receiving team could get an extraordinarily strong return on their investment. Sonny Gray is a recent example of a player who can thrive away from the bright lights of New York, but he is hardly the first or the last player.

Cutting Gallo makes no sense to me despite my desire to see him on the bench. I look at these days as his final days in pinstripes. The end is coming soon, and hopefully GM Brian Cashman can get player(s) that will help in a few years. The Yankees are 56-21 and have a 12-game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East and have the AL’s best record by 6 ½ games. There is no urgency to drop Gallo. Better to hold onto him slightly longer and try to get something for him. I wish Gallo no ill will and I hope he does find success at his next destination, but he is welcome to continue whiffing at pitches when he plays the Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman is back and not the Yankees Closer. A couple of weeks ago, Manager Aaron Boone seemed to imply Chapman would be restored as the team’s closer or at the very least share the role with super Closer Clay Holmes, but when Chapman was activated yesterday, Boone stated that Holmes would remain the Closer. This is welcome news. I expect Chapman to be better than he was in late May and hopefully he has improved his mechanics while he has been away.

Former Closer Aroldis Chapman / Photo Credit: Elsa, Getty Images

Holmes has been such welcome relief (pun intended) in closing games for the Yankees. Nobody’s perfect, but Holmes has been tremendous. I bet the Los Angeles Dodgers would love to have a Clay Holmes closing games for them. Many (all?) teams would. Seemingly, Chapman is done as a Yankee when his contract expires at the end of the season. It appears improbable they will re-sign him. He has been a great closer for the Yankees, with a fan base that was heavily spoiled by the legendary, unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. But it is time for the changing of the guard. So, I am glad the decision to deploy Chapman in the best situations over the end of games has been made. Choose your spots. I will miss Chappy’s stare at the end of games, but I am sure there will be a few of those mixed in along the way. I can see Chapman being more effective under the new plan while representing insurance if, heaven forbid, something where to happen to Holmes. With his declining velocity, I hope Chapman figures it out and thrives in his new role. There is no reason he cannot be part of a World Series celebration.

I thought Ryan Weber, called up when the Yankees returned JP Sears to the minors, would be the casualty for Chapman’s activation, but he lives to see another day. Miguel Castro was placed on parental leave which has bought Weber a little more time.

Congratulations to Aaron Judge! As the top vote-getter in Phase 1 of this year’s All-Star Voting, Judge gets an automatic start in the Midsummer Classic, which will be held on July 19th at Dodger Stadium. Judge, with 3,762,498 votes, surpassed the second highest vote-getter, Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr, by 259,310 votes.

Future Mega-Millionaire Aaron Judge

Hal Steinbrenner must be feeling the continued squeeze on his wallet.  While I think Judge should remain a Yankee for life, I am, admittedly, concerned that an impulsive owner will throw excessive sums of money at the California native and impending free agent. As much as I am looking forward to October, I am not ready for the days following the World Series. It will not be fun when Judge is visiting other teams and getting their sales pitches. Hopefully, the road leads back to Yankee Stadium. For now, we can enjoy the terrific season Judge is enjoying and we will watch his heroics in Chavez Ravine in a couple of weeks. A Judge-led World Series championship would be the ultimate prize.

Jose Trevino and Giancarlo Stanton are All-Star Ballot finalists, and they will enter Phase 2 of the voting process. I am so excited for Trevino. Starting the year, he was a backup catcher for the Texas Rangers, a team that gave him a vote of (no) confidence by acquiring starting catcher Mitch Garver from the Minnesota Twins. Ben Rohrvedt’s injury gave him an opportunity in New York, and he has thrived with his new team. With superior framing skills and the occasional damage with the bat, he has been the perfect antidote for the team that once featured Gary Sanchez as its starting catcher. Not trying to diss on Sanchez because I thought he did work hard (and wanted him to succeed as a Yankee), but Trevino is a much better fit for the team.

Once the All-Star pitching selections have been made, there should be a large Yankees group making the trip to sunny Southern CA. No doubt Orange County, CA native Gerrit Cole will be making the trip home, accompanied by his Closer, Clayton Walter Holmes. I could be mistaken but I have heard that guys named Clayton tend to do well at Dodger Stadium.

Shortstop of the Present? While I think Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been fine as the stopgap shortstop for the Yankees, the approaching second half of the season brings us closer to Peraza-Time. I would love to see what Peraza could do with some regular playing time at the big-league level. At worst, he would be IKF, but it is the upside that is tantalizing for me. He can improve the team and he is nearly ready to try.

Oswald Peraza / Photo Credit: Mike Carlson, MLB Photos via Getty Images

Shout-out to Brad Johnson 2 of MLB Trade Rumors for this piece yesterday:

Oswald Peraza, 22, SS, NYY (AAA)

249 PA, 9 HR, 16 SB, .240/.309/.404

There’s a certain tyranny to developmental expectations these days. Peraza razed High-A in 2021 then performed well-enough in Double-A to earn a brief call-up to Triple-A. The Yankees returned him to Triple-A at the start of this season, but it might have been more appropriate to continue his development in Double-A. His plate approach could use refinement. He appears to have the raw tools and judgment to be disciplined but instead errs on the side of aggression. His swing is balanced and covers the zone well, especially low-to-high. I perceive some potential for big league pitchers to successfully nibble the outer edge against him, but that’s just me editorializing. I haven’t seen that mentioned in any scouting reports.

Peraza has a high-floor approach as a defensively capable shortstop with sufficient contact skills to keep his head above water. He’s also on the 40-man roster and might be the only plausible option to fill in if Gleyber Torres or Isiah Kiner-Falefa ever need an extended absence.

If there are flaws that big league pitchers can expose, I am confident Peraza will learn to adjust. He is a talented player who could call ‘Yankees shortstop’ his job for an extended run. I am ready for the Peraza experiment…along with an outfield replacement for Joey Gallo.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend...

As always, Go Yankees!