Sunday, June 25, 2023

Aaron Judge and the Honest Toe...


Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: John Minchillo/AP)

Judge comes clean on the severity of his injury…

I remember when New York Yankees baseball was fun.

On Saturday, Aaron Judge revealed that he had suffered a torn ligament in the ailing toe that had landed him on the Injured List earlier this month after the general belief was strained ligaments. The Yankees once again prove they are not transparent regarding player injuries, and it takes the player to divulge the severity of the injury. We went from wondering if Judge would be out a few days, then to a couple of weeks, and now, if he misses less than a month, it would be a miracle.  I am doubtful we will see the 2022 AL MVP until after the All-Star Break. We will soon be hearing words like ‘Judge is a great Trade Deadline acquisition’.   

Despite the heroics of Billy McKinney in recent games, the Yankees are not the same team without Judge in the lineup. Giancarlo Stanton may be in the lineup, but his bat must be on a European vacation. The loss of Judge would be eased if Stanton was hitting like we know he is capable of, but, unfortunately for us, he is not. The Yankees go into every game hoping they can hold the opponents to three or four runs to give their anemic offense a chance to come through. This Yankees club would not be able to compete in a slugfest. The Los Angeles Angels defeated the Colorado Rockies, 25-1, last night. The Yankees have not scored a combined total of 25 runs since they lost to the New York Mets in the second game of a two-game series nearly two weeks ago. 

After losing a disappointing game to the Texas Rangers on Friday night, the Yankees bounced back with a 1-0 victory yesterday behind a tremendous performance by Luis Severino (finally) and a bullpen that was bent but not broken. The shutout upheld Billy McKinney’s fourth-inning home run as the game-winner.  The Rangers, one of the best offensive clubs in the American League, could have easily taken the game away from the Yankees. Somehow, they failed to get a timely hit when they needed it (credit to Yankees pitching), and the Yankees, needing every win they can get, emerged victorious. 

Billy McKinney (Photo Credit: Robert Sabo/NY Post)

The win allowed the Yankees (42-35) to get back to single digits behind AL East leader Tampa Bay Rays at nine-and-a-half games. The Yankees trail Aaron Hicks and the Baltimore Orioles by five games. The Toronto Blue Jays are nipping at the Yankees’ heels, only a half-game behind the Bombers. Further missteps by the team could leave them fighting the Boston Red Sox for the cellar. 

In June, the Yankees are 8-11. Surprisingly, they have been holding onto third place in the division despite their struggling offense.  The Angels have the same record as the Blue Jays, so they are just behind the Yankees in the AL East Wild Card standings. The Angels lost oft-injured third baseman Anthony Rendon, who was placed on the Injured List a week ago with a left wrist contusion, and, an old friend, Gio Urshela, for the season with a fractured pelvis. The Angels did not sit back and take their chances with rookies or cast-offs for third base. They went out and acquired Eduardo Escobar from the Mets on Friday night, and Mike Moustakas last night (after he had witnessed the 24-run loss to the Angels as a member of the Colorado Rockies). Moustakas may not be the player he once was but credit the Angels for trying. No need to wait for the Trade Deadline. 

The Yankees get absolutely nothing out of Josh Donaldson and their best response is to simply sit him on the bench. I realize we are in the final days of Donaldson’s time as a Yankee. The question is not ‘if’ he will be released but rather ‘when’. It seems like it will happen around the All-Star Break, but how long does GM Brian Cashman go without trying to find players who can help today? If the Yankees are hoping for some sign of the 2015 AL MVP from Donaldson, they will be sadly disappointed. Donaldson is done. Time to let him go home and enjoy his young child.  Given DJ LeMahieu’s decline, the best hope for third base, Oswald Peraza, continues to bide his time in Eastern Pennsylvania. It would be fun to see the Yankees acquire Nolan Arenado from the St Louis Cardinals, but I have given up hope Cashman will make that type of move.  Arenado, 32, is hitting .272/.319/.477 (.796 OPS) with 15 home runs and 50 runs batted in. The Yankees will be in St Louis next weekend. It would be fantastic to see them depart the city with Arenado on the plane. The Yankees will not make the trade, but it is fun to think about. They need a jolt to the lineup and Arenado could provide it. I am ready for anything over Donaldson.

I hope the Yankees can continue to tread water until Aaron Judge returns. It would be nice if a few of the big-name vets on the active roster would chip in. No offense to the players but highlight reels featuring Jake Bauers and Billy McKinney do not inspire hope for post-season success.   

Rotation Upgrade Nears Return

Carlos Rodón is moving closer to making his debut in Pinstripes. Today, he starts the second of three expected rehab games before he will be activated on the Major League roster. In his first rehab start, Rodón pitched three innings, allowing a hit and a run, while striking out five (including a streak of four-in-a-row). 

Carlos Rodon (Photo Credit: Somerset Patriots)

His start today, for the Somerset Patriots, will be against the Toronto Blue Jays’ Double-A affiliate, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

After Domingo German’s implosion the other night, Rodón’s presence is sorely needed in the Yankees’ starting rotation. Hopefully, Luis Severino’s terrific outing yesterday is a sign of things to come, and Sevy and Rodón can help the Yankees build momentum in the season’s second half. It certainly helps that Clarke Schmidt has been pitching much better lately…Jhony Brito too. I am hopeful the positives coming from the rotation will spell the end of German’s time as a Yankee.    


RHP Clayton Beeter, acquired last year in the trade that sent Joey Gallo to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline, has been promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Beeter is 6-3 with a 2.32 ERA and 82 strikeouts in thirteen games started. The 24-year-old is positioning himself to help the Yankees later this season if his upward progression continues. 

I am excited to see what Beeter can do. When he first arrived in the organization, it sounded like his future was as a reliever, but confidence has grown in his ability to start. It would be nice if the Yankees could strike gold with Beeter after giving up so many talented prospects to get Gallo. 

Also promoted to Triple-A was third baseman, Max Burt. The right-handed Burt, 26, is hitting .267/.333/.481 (.814 OPS) with 7 home runs and 23 RBIs in 131 at-bats. There is always room in the organization for hard-working players. I would like to see Burt achieve his dream of reaching the Majors. Not sure if he will get the chance with the Yankees but who knows? Injuries on the big-league club (or the release of a certain aging third baseman) could open a path for Burt. Andres Chapparo should certainly be in that same conversation. It is time for some of the young guys to get opportunities over aging players in rapid decline.   

Aaron Hicks Resurgence

I am happy for Aaron Hicks. He has found a new life in Baltimore and has quickly become a key player for the second-place AL East rival. In 69 ABs for the Yankees, Hicks was .188/.263/.261 (.524 OPS) with one home run and five RBIs.  In 62 ABs for the Orioles, Hicks is .306/.403/.581 (.983 OPS) with four home runs and eleven RBIs. Like Estevan Florial in Triple-A, Hicks is seemingly making highlight plays every day in his new orange/black uniform and beard. 

Aaron Hicks (Photo Credit: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

As someone ready for Hicks to leave, I am not going to reverse course and say the Yankees should have kept him. He did not perform as a Yankee, at least not in recent years, and I am not sure he would have had this type of resurgence if he had stayed in the organization. Sure, consistent playing time makes a difference, and the Yankees were not giving it to him.  I saw former Oriole great Jim Palmer’s observation that Hicks was trying too hard in New York to live up to his contract, and it only made things worse, bringing down the wrath of the fans on him. He said that sometimes it is better to try “easier”.

Good for Hicks.  I remain convinced the Yankees made the right decision to part ways. The weight of the Pinstripes can be heavy and for Hicks, it was too much. 

As always, Go Yankees! 

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