Saturday, August 13, 2022

To Close or Not to Close...


Clay Holmes / Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

Bullpen blows another close game…

Yankees lose again. A ten-inning walk-off, 3-2, by the Boston Red Sox. It is never fun to write after a Yankees loss, especially a game they controlled…until the end. Clay Holmes has lost my trust as the closer and it is frustrating. I wanted him to have the job earlier in the season when Aroldis Chapman began misfiring. He started the season so dominant, and it looked like Pitching Coach Matt Blake was a true pitching whisperer. Yet, now, no lead is safe when Holmes comes into a game. Maybe you feel secure with a five-run lead…maybe.

There was a point I was done with Chapman as the team’s closer. He is a free agent at year’s end and the Yankees are highly unlikely to pursue him in the free agent market.  I was ready to move on, and Holmes looked like the next best man for the job. The problem replacing Holmes is no real solution for the job. Even though Chapman has looked better of late, there is no guarantee he will not revert to the sweaty, control-challenged mess he was earlier this season. Wandy Peralta is not a closer and I have no desire to see him try to close games. He did well to replace Holmes last night after the Red Sox had tied the game with two crucial outs, including a strikeout, but Peralta is much better suited for setup. Lou Trivino is a closing option, but of course, he was on the mound last night when Tommy Pham hit the game-winning single in the bottom of the tenth inning for the Red Sox. 

For Holmes, it was his fifth blown save of the season. In his last five appearances, totaling four innings, he has allowed seven runs and has walked four hitters while striking out only three.  This is not the same guy who earned the All-Star nod earlier this year.  I think we are starting to see why Pittsburgh fans were frustrated with Holmes. I hope, for his sake and ours, he figures this out, finds his control, and becomes the dominant reliever he had been. October is drawing closer so soon he will be running out of time to recapture his dominance.

Lou Trivino had ten saves for the Oakland A’s this season and twenty-two saves last year. However, he has surrendered forty-nine hits and seventeen walks in thirty-six and one-third innings in 2022. He gave up five home runs in twice the innings pitched last season and has already matched that number this year. While Holmes’ ERA has risen from 0.47 to 2.36, Trivino’s ERA is an unsightly 5.70.

Manager Aaron Boone needs to figure this out. If the Yankees continue to blow winnable games, it does not bode well for an extended run in October. 

Honestly, I would give Chapman a few trial runs as the closer to see if he can recapture what he once had. If he implodes, then other options should be considered. It kind of sucks the Yankees demoted one of their best relievers, Ron Marinaccio, simply because he had options. I understand the reasons. If the Yankees had not demoted Marinaccio, someone would have been DFA’d. The most obvious candidate is reliever Albert Abreu who has already been DFA’d by two teams, Texas and Kansas City, this season. If it was simply a question of, who would I prefer, Marinaccio or Abreu, there is no question the pride of Tom’s River would still be on the active roster.  I want Abreu to succeed but I also want the twenty-six BEST players in the organization on the MLB active roster and that is not the case right now. 

Team chemistry should not be underestimated. Whether it is football, basketball, or baseball, I have always believed team chemistry plays a significant role in team success. The trade deadline was eleven days ago, and I am still in disbelief the Yankees dumped Jordan Montgomery in the deadline’s final minutes for an outfielder we “might” see in September or October.  Monty was close to guys in the clubhouse and loved being a Yankee, the only organization he had every known. He was good friends with Jameson Taillon, and his world revolved around New York City. Right or wrong, GM Brian Cashman sent Monty packing, a move that left an entire fanbase shaking their collective heads. Even the players in the locker room were confused. The team’s 1-8 record since the trade deadline sums up the impact of this year’s moves and I am convinced the Montgomery trade has played a role in the latest tailspin.   

Yadier Molina & Jordan Montgomery / Photo Credit: Christian Gooden, St Louis Post-Dispatch

I liked Jordan Montgomery. I never thought he was a dominant pitcher, but he kept the team in games and was consistent. Exactly the type of guy you want in the middle to back end of the rotation. It keeps getting said that he would not have pitched in October and the move was made about October. Injuries certainly could play a part in whether Monty would have been an October starter, but I know that I would rather have him on my team than not. Maybe we will feel differently when Harrison Bader is healthy and patrolling center field with his newfound short hair.  Deadline deals are supposed to energize teams, but the Montgomery trade was a royal deflator. 

As for Montgomery, he is thriving for St Louis. After holding the Yankees scoreless last week, he pitched six scoreless innings last night against the Milwaukee Brewers to help power the Cards to a 3-1 victory. He is the first Cardinals pitcher since 1966 to win his first two starts without allowing a run.  For the good moves Cashman has made, this was a bad one and time will tell if it is worse.

46 home runs, 100 RBIs, .305/.400/.688, .450 wOBA, 7.6 fWARIs that good? With all seriousness, Aaron Judge is having a truly unbelievable season. Unlike the Yankees as a whole, Judge has continued his brilliant year and is the consensus AL MVP leader. I hope, I pray the Yankees re-sign him in the offseason. To lose Judge after such a dominant season would be upsetting. He should be a Yankee for life, and he should be the next Captain.  Owner Hal Steinbrenner must be as aggressive pursuing Judge in free agency as he was a few years ago with Gerrit Cole. Conversely, if I was a rich owner of another team, I would be loading up trucks overflowing with cash for Judge.  I wish Judge and the Yankees could have come together on an extension before free agency. It sets us up for potential disappointment. If he re-signs with the Yankees, it will be a heavy relief aside from exhilaration. If he does not, sorry, I do not want to think about that…

Aaron "MVP" Judge / Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

Hal, please PAY THE MAN.

Despite pleas from fans, Isiah Kiner-Falefa is the 2022 New York Yankees shortstop. For better or for worse. It is apparent the Yankees made their bed with IKF and have no plans to promote shortstop prospect Oswald Peraza or utilityman Oswaldo Cabrera. I find it hard to believe the Yankees have chosen not to promote Peraza because it would start his service time clock, but they obviously have their reasons for believing Peraza is not ready for the Major Leagues. Whether I think he should be promoted or not is irrelevant. The Yankees know better than we do.  Outwardly, it might not make sense, but I will give the team the benefit of doubt on this one. As for 2023, regardless of what happens this season, IKF should be in a utility role at best, not the team’s starting shortstop. He is one and done in the position once held by the great Derek Jeter.

On a side note, the ugly social media posts directed at IKF’s family are disgusting and unacceptable. While I may not be enthralled with his play on the field, IKF is a human with feelings and a good guy. He is trying his best to help the Yankees win. I do not wish ill will on any player, regardless of the jersey he wears. Separate the man from the player and keep it on the field, fans. We can do better. We must do better.

Here’s hoping for a quick recovery by Matt Carpenter who fractured his foot in Seattle. I hope a possible September return proves to be the realistic outcome. Carp has been such a terrific inspiration in 2022 and I hope there is more to his Cinderella story in October.

Matt Carpenter & Aaron Boone / Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, I was shocked to hear about the suspension of Fernando Tatis, Jr by Major League Baseball for using a banned substance. Tatis, Jr, one of the game’s young greats, had yet to play in 2022 due to an off-season motorcycle accident, and the 80-game suspension ensures that his 2023 appearance will be delayed.  Tatis is claiming he inadvertently took the performance-enhancing substance (Clostebol) while taking medication to treat ringworm but has dropped his appeal and has begun to serve the suspension without pay.

For as negatively as the trade deadline ended for the Yankees with the trade of Jordan Montgomery, the San Diego Padres were widely hailed as the Deadline champions for their acquisitions of Juan Soto, Josh Hader, and Brandon Drury. Yet, they were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in a subsequent series, and the Dodgers have simply decided never to lose again.  The Dodgers have won eleven consecutive games and lead the Padres by sixteen games in the NL West.  So, if it was not bad enough for the Padres, they lose one of their great young players for their Wild Card pursuit.

Tatis will miss the first 33 games of the 2023 season although the number could be reduced by the number of games the Padres play in the 2022 postseason. Mike Clevinger summed up the team’s feelings with his post-game comments last night, “You hope he grows up and learns from this and learns that it’s about more than just him right now.” True, I hope Tatis learns from this, and he can be the player he was meant to be. A sad day for baseball.

As always, Go Yankees!