Saturday, October 16, 2021

Closing the Book on the 2021 Season...


Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Turning off the Yankee Stadium lights…

The 2021 season was a disappointment. With the severe highs and lows, it never felt like that was a championship-quality year to me, and the uninspired play in the Wild Card game was hardly a surprise. I guess all things considered, it is better to exit the playoffs by getting trounced by your bitter division rival than it is to win 106 games and the division, only to lose to your hatred enemy on a called third strike that was clearly a proper checked swing.

Excellent job by Bryan Van Dusen (as usual) with his 2021-2022 Offseason Plan! His trade proposals and acquisitions always show great thought and consideration. You may not agree with his choices, but his logic is always sound, and he has a strong understanding of what will make the Yankees a team to watch in 2022.

It goes without question, there are necessary changes in the Bronx. The week’s announcement that three coaches (Marcus Thames, P.J. Piliterre, and Phil Nevin) would not be returning was expected and needed. The body of Thames’ work has been strong, but the hitters’ struggles in 2021, unless your name is Stanton or Judge, sealed his fate as a scapegoat. I would not be surprised to see minor league hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson promoted to the Major League team as Thames’ replacement. If Lawson gets the job, there is a chance he could make Rachel Balkovec his assistant hitting coach. I think both would be excellent choices. They know and understand how the organization works, and they have familiarity with the younger hitters in the farm system. If the Yankees decide to bring in coaches from outside the organization, there is no doubt they will have similar technology savvy backgrounds for today’s analytics-driven team philosophies.

I like bench coach Carlos Mendoza, just not as bench coach. Maybe he moves to third base with Nevin’s removal. I have never understood why the Yankees have not gotten a strong bench coach with managerial experience during the Aaron Boone regime. His buddy, Josh Bard, did not work out for whatever reason, although he does find himself in the National League Championship Series as bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I saw one post this week that said the Yankees need a ying to Boone’s yang. I agree. There needs to be a strong voice that can provide Boone, if he returns, with solid options. He would never take the job and is a strong managerial candidate this off-season, but a Buck Showalter-type is what comes to mind. I have heard names like Eric Wedge and Fredi Gonzalez. Those are not names that excite me as a manager, but I think either could be a sound choice as a bench coach. They both have managerial experience, and they have past relationships with Boone. Neither man would be afraid to speak their minds to Boone and challenge him on his decisions.

I have gotten over my anger with Aaron Boone. There were a few days that I wanted his head on a platter, but I have gotten over it. I feel that he can get better by improving those around him. Coaches and players. By all accounts, he is a good guy, and the players like him. A manager needs to be more than a friend, and Boone does not strike me as a strategist like other managers in the game. Even Binder Joe seemed more prepared for games. I am not saying that I wish Joe Girardi were still manager. I keep seeing those comments, but that ship sailed. We can only look forward. If Boone had a strong right-hand man that was a strategist and visionary with experience, he would be better because he would have stronger and more informed choices. I expect an announcement that Boone will be returning on a two or three-year deal within the next couple of weeks.

Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

I love the speculation by Yankee fans for potential shortstop and first base options. I enjoyed having Anthony Rizzo on the team. I would not mind seeing the Yankees re-sign him, although if they have an opportunity for either Matt Olson or Freddie Freeman, those guys would be preferred. The Yankees need to move on from Luke Voit. I am not enamored with the talk of moving D.J. LeMahieu to first base. He is such a brilliant defender at second base. I would rather trade Gleyber Torres and keep LeMachine at second base. I am expecting a better 2022 season for D.J. Worst-case, move LeMahieu to third, not first. Keep him within his highest and best use. If Rizzo, Olson, or Freeman is the team’s first baseman next season, I will be happy.

Like many, I would love to have one of the elite shortstops that will soon be available for money. I have long admired Trevor Story, and I appreciate the left-handed bat of Corey Seager. The best choice is a very hated Astro, Carlos Correa. Many talk about the young guys, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe, however, they are at least a year away from the Major Leagues and a few years from being potential frontline performers. The time is now. Let us not waste the prime of Gerrit Cole’s career. I would not let Peraza or Volpe keep me from pursuing an elite shortstop. If Torres is traded, Volpe could be D.J’s eventual replacement at second. Worry about where to play them when they are ready. For now, let us build a team that can challenge the Rays, Red Sox, and Blue Jays for AL East superiority.

I know Gio Urshela has expressed interest in staying at short, but that does not excite me. Either keep him at third or trade him if LeMahieu becomes the team’s third baseman.

Every off-season I say the same thing, but he keeps coming back. It is time for Brett Gardner to hang up his cleats. He has been a great Yankee and he will not be forgotten, but it is time for younger guys. Estevan Florial is ready, and I would prefer to move forward with him over Gardy. I do not trust Aaron Hicks from a health perspective, so the Yankees do need to address centerfield. I am expecting a better 2022 season for Joey Gallo. I know how awful his time in pinstripes has been, but I am truly hopeful the Yankees can collaborate with him to improve his hitting skills. He will never hit for average but if he could reduce the strikeouts, I think he can play a bigger role in the team’s success. His defense and ability to get on base did not desert him. If not, the name mentioned by many (Starling Marte) seems like such a great fit.

Photo Credit: Frank Jansky, Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Of course, the Yankees are not going to balloon payroll to $300 million so we can only dream. At the end of the day, the Yankees will be economical with their choices. They will spend but they will be financially prudent with their choices. This could prevent the possibility for a guy like Correa.

Catcher is another position that needs to be reconsidered. I have reached the conclusion that Gary Sanchez needs a change of scenery. The problem is that Kyle Higashioka is a backup at best. If the Yankees do move on from Sanchez, they need a good replacement. It is not like J.T. Realmuto is available. I keep hearing Tucker Barnhart’s name. I would not be opposed to the catcher, who will be 31 in January. Austin Wells, like Peraza and Volpe, is expected to make his MLB debut in 2023. Barnhart could keep the seat warm until he is ready and provide the Yankees with a solid bridge if Sanchez leaves. I am disappointed that Anthony Seigler, a former first round pick (2018), has not progressed as expected.

I am anxious to get the World Series over so that preparation for the 2022 season can begin. I never thought I would find myself rooting for the Houston Astros but here we are. That seems so wrong on so many levels, but there is simply no way I could ever bring myself pulling for the Red Sox. Congrats Astros for the Game 1 win, despite the heroics of former Dodger Kiké Hernández. My support for the Astros will end with the ALCS. Regardless of whether the Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves win the NLCS (Go Dodgers!), the NL will have my full support in this year’s World Series. I hope it is the Dodgers but will stand behind the Braves if necessary.

As always, Go Yankees!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

2021-2022 Offseason Plan

Before you get into this I wanted to say that yes... I know this team's payroll would go up by around $50 million over last season. However, I went with this because their payroll would still be lower than the Dodgers was this past season. Not to mention that fans are back and revenue is returning to normal, and the Yankees were under the Luxury Tax threshold. So this shouldn't be a ridiculous idea I've come up with. Is it likely? Probably not. But it's still not the highest payroll in the league. 

So with that out of the way, here goes nothing... 

I believe the 2021 Yankees had enough talent that they should have won a lot more than they did. Good hitters don't just forget how to hit like Urshela, Torres, and LeMaheiu seemingly did (at least for large chunks of the season). That, along with many questionable strategic and lineup decisions, make me want to see changes in the coaching staff. That not only includes Aaron Boone, but basically everyone except pitching coach Matt Blake. 

I don't mean to take any blame away from the players, as they should still perform no matter who is leading the charge. But there's a reason coaches and managers get paid like they do. They can absolutely make a difference by at least creating an atmosphere that pushes players to be better. 

It makes me think of car racing... You can have the best car on the track, but if you don't take the turns right, don't change the tires when you should, and don't make the correct in-race decisions then chances are you won't cross the finish line first. You should still do well, but more often than not you'll still fall short of victory. 

Sorry to you racing fans out there, as that analogy was probably really sloppy. But you should get the gist. 

Can they win if the same coaching staff returns? Absolutely. Hell, I believe the team I put together below could win with my dumbass running the show. But I can't help but think there are better options, and the Yankees should never settle for second best.

To start with the moves I'd make this offseason, I've decided on Trevor Story as my pick to be the new shortstop. Trevor is a good overall hitter with 25-30 HR power, has good speed, and that bat comes with elite defense. He does have a fairly high strikeout rate and is another right-handed hitter, but he's still my guy. And since the Yankees had interest in him during the season, I don't think I'm the only one with strong interest in Story. Carlos Correa has a better bat and a championship pedigree, but that comes with just an okay glove and without the speed the Yankees could really use. Either man would make me happy, though. Oh, and when it comes to Corey Seager... pass, as his defense is not good at all, which is too bad as his strong left-handed bat would be great. But if you thought Torres was bad at sthorstop, then you wouldn't be happy with Seager there.

My next move would be trading Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, Luis Medina, Alexander Vargas, and Albert Abreu for Matt Olson & Frankie Montas. Olson is entering his second year of arbitration, while Montas is entering arbitration for the first time, making both men a little too rich for a poverty team like Oakland. You might say that Torres and Voit are both arbitration-eligible as well, however, those two will get paid as much as Olson himself (based on MLB Trade Rumors projections it's Olson's $12m vs. Voit & Torres' $11.3m). By the way, MLBTR predicts Montas will cost $5.2m, making this deal a total savings for Oakland of nearly $6 million. I don't have to explain why I'd like Olson, so allow me to point out that Frankie Montas was among the top 20 in MLB in spin-rate for his 4-seam fastball, has an ERA+ of 119 over his past three seasons (it was 75 in that stupid 2020, meaning he's likely better than that 119), struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings over the last three years, and has been good at avoiding the long-ball (mind you, that's in cavernous RingCentral/Oakland Coliseum).

Then I'm trading Clarke Schmidt and Gary Sanchez for Willson Contreras. The Cubs #4 prospect is catcher Miguel Amaya, who is an on-base machine (.406 in AA this past season), but they may want to bring him along slowly by starting him in AAA next season (he only played in 23 games last season in AA), with a possible call-up later in 2022. In the meantime, having the MLB-experienced Sanchez should help bridge the gap. Meanwhile, the Cubs are in need of pitching, and while they'll likely spend on somebody for the top of their rotation, a young pitcher that is ready for MLB with good upside should be quite attractive. Conteras isn't going to excite Yankees fans much, but he's a very good defender whose bat isn't going to be a negative. 

While I'd like the Yankees to go after Starling Marte to take over center field, I just don't see it happening. With the moves I think they should make, which I feel are more important than signing Marte, their payroll would be higher than I think they'd go. Hell, I already think the payroll my team would cost will be too much. And with Marte being a right-handed hitter, putting Hicks... a switch-hitter... back into CF would give their lineup that good right/lefty mix they've been missing. The fact that Story has some speed to put at the top of the lineup makes passing on Marte easier to handle as well.

I really thought the Yankees needed to address the bullpen this offseason, but they have been so good at finding and developing relievers that I decided against it. I was looking at Aaron Loup, and also looked into trades, but after seeing what we already have I think we're good to go. The only thing I may like to see is picking up the team option on Joely Rodriguez. Darren O'Day returning has plenty of upside, but I'd be more comfortable with Joely there instead. But what happens between those two depends on whether O'Day picks up his player option after an injury-shortened season.

With signing a shortstop to a long contract, I'm sure prospect huggers would be in tears over Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza being blocked. Well, Gio Urshela will be a free agent in a couple years meaning that after 2023 we can give third base to Peraza or Volpe (or move Story to third and give shortstop to either of them). If they are both ready for MLB then we have a mighty nice problem on our hands. Either way, I don't like the idea of passing on very good MLB players for what might be in a year or two. 

To finish up, here are a few quick notes...

-If you're worried about starting depth, which will be necessary for every team in MLB, the Yankees still have Nestor Cortes Jr, Luis Gil, and Deivi Garcia.
-I'm not a fan of Odor, but seeing that Texas is paying his entire salary for 2022 then why not keep him to at least start the season? We can always dump him since we wouldn't have to pay him, anyway. 
-If Gardner retires, then put Estevan Florial on the bench instead. 
-Non-tender or trade arbitration-eligible players Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, Domingo German, and Tim Locastro.

All of that would leave the 2022 New York Yankees with an excellent team, that has a very good shot at finally winning their 28th World Series Championship. So I'll leave you with the roster I've put together...

Salaries listed next to a player include contracts, non-arbitration eligible minimum salaries (King only), and MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projections.
* = left-handed pitcher/batter
# - switch-hitter

Starting Lineup
1. Trevor Story SS ($30m)
2. Aaron Judge RF ($17.1m)
3. Matt Olson* 1B ($12m)
4. Giancarlo Stanton DH ($22m... Miami is paying $3m)
5. DJ LeMaheiu 2B ($15m)
6. Joey Gallo* LF ($10.2m)
7. Gio Urshela 3B ($6.2m)
8. Willson Contreras C ($8.7m)
9. Aaron Hicks# CF ($10m)

Kyle Higashioka C ($1.2m)
Tyler Wade* IF ($.7m)
Francisco Odor* 2B ($0m... Texas is paying him)
Brett Gardner* OF ($2.575m)

1. Gerrit Cole ($36m)
2. Luis Severino ($10m)
3. Frankie Montas ($5.2m)
4. Jameson Taillon ($4.7m)
5. Jordan Montgomery* ($4.8m)

Aroldis Chapman* ($17.5m)
Jonathan Loaisiga ($1.7m)
Chad Green ($4.1m)
Lucas Luetge* ($1.1m)
Wandy Peralta* ($1.7m)
Clay Holmes ($1m)
Mike King ($.6m)
Darren O'Day ($1.575m)

Miscellaneous Payments
Zack Britton ($14m while he recovers from Tommy John surgery)
Joelly Rodriguez ($.5m buyout)
Remaining 40-man players ($2.25m)
Player Benefits ($16m)

Total Projected Payroll - $258.4m (Dodgers were at $262m in 2021)

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Nothing Comes Easy...


Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP

The Yankees’ Rollercoaster continues…

Just when the Yankees start to give you some confidence, they take it away. Such has been the 2021 season for Yankee fans. Last night’s 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays was disappointing despite the Yankees attempted comeback that fell short. Many fault Aaron Boone’s handling of the bullpen for the loss (true belief, in my opinion) but was clear to me that Rays manager Kevin Cash continues to out-manage Boone in their head-to-head matchups.

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP

With only a game lead in the Wild Card chase, anything can happen with just two games left. I see many predicting when the Yankees will clinch a playoff spot, but with all honesty, they could see themselves out of the playoffs as easily as grabbing one of the two Wild Card spots. It’s unfortunate the two primary Wild Card challengers, the Boston Red Sox, and Toronto Blue Jays, drew losing teams for their final regular season series while the Yankees were handed a division champ that is one victory away from 100 wins.  I like the challenge of beating the best to be the best, but of course you must actually beat them. 

Since the start of the recent Red Sox series, every game has been must-win. The Yankees did very well against both Boston and Toronto, yes, but they need to step up and take care of business against the Rays. They can’t depend on the Washington Nationals or the Baltimore Orioles (Boston and Toronto opponents, respectively) to deliver a playoff spot for the Yankees. They need to control their own destiny…and they need to make a statement in doing so…to secure home field advantage for the single-game elimination if they do succeed in making the playoffs. I don’t think any team really fears the Yankees at this point.

I will never say ‘I wish Joe Girardi was the manager’…that ship sailed several years ago, and I refuse to look back. However, the Yankees, regardless of how this season plays out, need to revisit their current managerial choice. If they win the World Series, odds are Aaron Boone would be rewarded with an extension, but realistically, I do not see a World Series championship in the cards for us this year. The deck is stacked against the Yankees, and they haven’t proven they can beat the better teams ahead of them when the chips are on the line.  I so want to be proven wrong in this belief, trust me. The Yankees can do better than Boone at the helm. I always thought Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin would be a good choice and the Yankees have had interest in the past, but just like the Rays went with an unknown when they hired Kevin Cash to replace Joe Maddon, the Yankees can find the right guy. Not that I necessarily want a manager with no experience, but everybody must start somewhere. They’ve rebuilt and upgraded the level of pitching instruction and can use similar strategy to upgrade all facets of the organization. Bottom-line, Aaron Boone has shown enough to know that he is not the one to lead us to the promised land

Photo Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Okay, enough beating up on Boone. I just hope the Yankees can win today and tomorrow to make anything less than the top Wild Card spot moot. 

Not great news to hear D.J. LeMahieu has a sports hernia. I suppose it is good news he plans to play through it and could potentially be back on the field on Sunday after receiving a cortisone injection. The only question is how effective he can be with the injury. It was nice to see the return of shortstop Andrew Velazquez (at the expense of Albert Abreu who optioned to the sidelines) earlier this morning.  While Gio Urshela has done a decent job at short, he’s obviously needed at third with the state of D.J.’s health, and I clearly have more trust in the Bronx native’s glove than I do Gio despite his strong defensive skills. You must accept less offense with Velazquez in the lineup (he’s starting at shortstop today), but it just means everyone else needs to step up and take care of business. Gary, yes, I am talking to you…among a few others. For Velazquez, he gets a chance against his former teammates, and I am sure he’d love to be celebrating this weekend on his truly home turf. 

Just win, Yankees, just win…

I will be going to a baseball game today. I wish I was in New York and going to Yankee Stadium, but living in Southern California, I’ll have to settle for the next best thing. Headed to Dodger Stadium later today for a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. By game time, the Dodgers should know if they’ve been eliminated from the NL West division championship or if they still have slight hope for at least a tie. The San Francisco Giants, up by 2 games with 2 games to go, are playing the disappointing San Diego Padres in the City by the Bay this afternoon. A win by the Giants and the best (or worst) the Dodgers can do is where they currently sit, top Wild Card team with an upcoming visit by backup first baseman Albert Pujols’ old team, the St Louis Cardinals, on Wednesday. 

Hey Daniel Burch, I will be wearing my Bat Flip Brotherhood t-shirt featuring Cody Bellinger. This hasn’t been the greatest of years for the son of former Yankee Clay Bellinger and who knows if he’ll even play but I’ll be pulling for bat flips by Mookie Betts, the Turners (Justin and Trea) or possible future Yank Corey Seager. Thanks for the shirt, Bro.

Bat Flip Brotherhood on Etsy, by Dan Burch

Not trying to turn this into a Dodgers post (sorry), however, it was sad to see Dodgers Great Clayton Kershaw walk off the mound due to injury last night. He is suffering from forearm discomfort. While he still needs to undergo further testing, it is possible this was the final start as a Dodger for Kershaw. The injury could rule him out of the playoffs if the Dodgers can advance past the Cardinals, and he’s an impending free agent. The Dodgers trade deadline acquisition of Max Scherzer looks so huge right now.  For Kershaw, as much as he has meant to the Dodgers, he is not the pitcher he once was even if he’s Cooperstown-bound. I could see him returning to his native Texas since he continues to make his home there. Regardless of what happens, I wish Clayton and his family the best. I hope he has a chance to pitch again this year in trying to look at this with glass half full. Kersh has been such a tremendous Dodger. 

Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of Joe Girardi, I thought it was interesting this week when his team hired the son of Yankees great Don Mattingly as their new director of player development. Preston Mattingly, 34, previously Major League advance scouting and game planning coordinator for the Padres, is viewed as an up-and-coming Major League executive. Rumor has it he came with a strong recommendation from the manager of the Miami Marlins. Seriously, this is a good hire by Phillies President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, a man who knows how to tear down a farm system or two. Not that I wish anything good for the Phillies, a team I don’t care for despite their Yankee connections on the team, but congrats to young Mattingly as he continues his rise among front office executives. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Early Start for the Playoffs...


Photo Credit: Jim Rogash, Getty Images

Playing for Post-Season begins now…

For the Yankees, the playoffs began last night. Fortunately, the Yankees quickly dismissed old friend Nathan Eovaldi, and current team wearing funky yellow jerseys, with a few homers to take the first game of their series with the Boston Red Sox, the current top Wild Card team in the American League. With eight games remaining against two Wild Card challengers and the division champs, the Yankees simply cannot stumble. Now is the time for Team Inconsistency to play with, well, some consistency.  They have the talent to achieve but do they have the mental fortitude to win with their backs to the wall? I am still disappointed with the team’s failure to show for recent series against losing teams. Play up to the competition, not down to it.

In many ways, the very difficult final two weeks of the regular season might be a blessing in disguise. If the Yankees can continue to win, they control their destiny and can enter the one-game ‘winner take all’ Wild Card game with momentum. If they lose, it is probably indication they simply were not good enough this year. No freebies. Nothing is being handed to the Yankees. If they want it, they can take it.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, The New York Post

While last night’s 8-3 win was fun, I hope the Yankees can follow it up with a strong performance today when they don’t have their recognized ace on the mound. No disrespect to Nestor Cortes, Jr, who has been so valuable this season, but he is not Gerrit Cole. Last weekend, we loved the Friday night 8-0 rout of the Cleveland (soon to be formerly) Indians, only to watch the Indians bludgeon the holy hell out of the Yankees over the subsequent two games. I don’t want a repeat performance this weekend.

Before the start of today’s games, the Yankees sit in the second Wild Card spot, a game behind the Red Sox. The Toronto Blue Jays, who lost last night, are two games behind and so are the Seattle Mariners. The Oakland A’s are four games back. Five teams for two spots. No team can afford a losing streak right now. This one is going down to the wire.

The sad part is that the 2021 Yankees should have been so much better than this. At the beginning of the year, if you had told me the San Francisco Giants would be a 100-win team and the Yankees would be struggling to avoid 70 losses, I would have laughed at you. I honestly thought we had another 100-win season in store for us. In the perfect world, the Yankees should have been fighting the Tampa Bay Rays for the division crown, not trying to wrestle the surprising Red Sox or young, upstart Toronto Blue Jays. 

Now that Luis Severino and Domingo German have joined the Yankees bullpen, I am hopeful we have seen the last of Andrew Heaney except for maybe mop-up duty. Not one of Brian Cashman’s better acquisitions. I had been hopeful the Yankees saw something in Heaney they thought they could fix but he has only proven why he has bounced around with a few different teams. As for Sevy, I loved seeing him back in game action after so long and if the Yankees are successful in grabbing a Wild Card spot and win it, I am hopeful Sevy will have worked his way into high leverage situations for the next rounds. No doubt we’ll see him today or tomorrow, and I hope the results continue to be positive. Welcome back, Sevy! We have missed you.

Photo Credit: Sarah Stier, Getty Images

Sounds like we may see Jonathan Loaisiga soon. Out with a strained rotator cuff since September 9th, the fear is coming back too soon, but if he’s ready, I am excited for the restoration of his role in Aaron Boone’s bullpen. Loaisiga is scheduled to throw on Sunday or Monday, and then the Yankees will decide if he needs further rehab or if he’s ready to join the team. He is, in my opinion, the single most valuable reliever on the team. Aroldis Chapman is pitching better, yes, but Loaisiga is so strong in so many different situations.  He offers the most diversity and inspires more confidence than the other guys. Chad Green has not been as consistent as I would like, although he is still a very good reliever. So glad Clay Holmes was there to fill the void left by Zack Britton, who underwent Tommy John surgery.  The Holmes acquisition was as good as the Heaney acquisition was bad. 

Manager Aaron Boone indicated that Jameson Taillon, currently on the IL with a partially torn tendon in his right ankle, could start one of the games next week against the Blue Jays. Taillon has grown into such a valuable part of the starting rotation after his early season struggles and it would be great if he’s healthy and can pick up where he left off. 

When I see fans predicting off-season additions for the Yankees, I rarely see mention of first baseman Anthony Rizzo. I am hopeful the Yankees can re-sign him after the season. I really like Rizzo’s presence on the roster. There’s no doubt he would have ended up in Boston if the Yankees had not acquired him and watching the defensively challenged Kyle Schwarber play first base for Boston yesterday, it reinforced how much stronger the Red Sox could have been with Rizzo back on their roster. I know Gleyber Torres must be the team’s second baseman next season, so the question is where does D.J. LeMahieu play? I often see people write his name in at first base and while I admire his play at the position, I continue to feel that his highest and best use is at second or third because of his defensive abilities. So, it becomes who do you want at third…LeMahieu or Gio Urshela? I am not ready to take sides in that debate, but if the Yankees must trade Torres or LeMahieu in the off-season to make room, so be it.  I want Rizzo back.

Photo Credit: Eric Espada, Getty Images

As much as I’d love to have an elite shortstop like Trevor Story or Corey Seager, the Yankees just need someone who can hold down the position until the young guys, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe, are ready. Most predictions show their arrival in 2023 and we could see them at some point late next season. Peraza is already on the 40-man roster. I’ve seen a few articles that say Volpe will eventually be shifted to second or third so does that make Torres expendable? Possibly. Speaking of shortstops, Urshela has played the position much better than I thought he would. The return to second has certainly helped Torres and I am glad his bat is starting to come around again. I am glad I am not GM Brian Cashman. He has many difficult decisions to make after the season is over. 

Ok Nasty Nestor, it’s your day. Please bring home the W.

As always, go Yankees!

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Winning is Better...

Photo Credit: John Minchillo, AP

Why can’t all wins be this easy?...

Friday night’s win over the soon-to-be renamed Cleveland Indians was one of the rare times the Yankees have won in a cake walk this season and it was nice…very nice. With homers flying everywhere, the Yankees easily backed starter Corey Kluber and the bullpen (thank you for not inserting Andrew Heaney), thumping the Indians 8-0. It was probably bittersweet for Kluber as he’ll never face his former team again while they wear Indians gear.  Next season they become the Cleveland Guardians and will have a different look. 

Things looked so sunny and bright for the Yankees a few weeks ago when they were on the 13-game winning streak, and then, as we know, they fell hard with miserable play to undo the strong wild card advancement they had made, putting them back into the mix with the Red Sox and Blue Jays.

As hard as it was to get swept by the Blue Jays earlier this month, Thursday’s ugly loss to the Baltimore Orioles was probably one of the toughest losses, for me, to accept. The Yankees have lost a few games this season they should have won, and Thursday’s game was obviously the latest example. They scored two early runs and couldn’t put more insurance runs on the board, and let the Orioles steal the victory in walk-off fashion, thanks to ineffective late relief and sloppy play. The Yankees inability to figure out the Orioles this season while the Tampa Bay Rays were beating them in 18 out of 19 games is why the Rays are in first place and the Yankees are not. 

When the Yankees can’t beat a truly inferior opponent, it leads me to believe there will be no October magic in the Bronx this year. They do not seem to have the “it” quality teams destined for championships have. They have not given me the confidence they can sustain excellence and steamroll opponents when the chips are on the line. It’s within the realm of possibility they can win, if they can win one of the wild card spots, but they need to play more like Friday night and less like Thursday night. Of course, I hope and want them to win, I am just not overly confident they will. Please, Yankees, prove me wrong.

I had started to see ugly comments from the Yankees fan base when Joey Gallo wasn’t hitting dingers, but honestly, I never lost faith in the guy. Even when he is not hitting, he is helping with strong defense and getting on base. He also seems like a cool dude to have in the clubhouse which helps team chemistry. Now that he’s been placed in the lower part of the batting order (which is apparently more comfortable for him), he’s seemingly crushing homers every day. Two last night.  He is certainly heating up at the right time, and I am happy that I’ve supported him from the start.

When the Yankees designated reliever Brooks Kriske for assignment last week and subsequently lost him to the Orioles, it rubbed salt in the wound for how badly the Yankees’ front office botched it last winter when they protected Kriske on the 40-man roster, leaving Garrett Whitlock, now enjoying success in Boston, unprotected, and subsequently lost in the Rule 5 Draft. Not that Kriske has enjoyed any major league success, but it was disappointing that the guy who took his place on the roster, Sal Romano, was lost to injury in his first game back with the Yankees. 

Thanks to former Yankee Michael Pineda, the Yankees are back in the second Wild Card spot. Pineda and his current team, the Minnesota Twins, beat the Blue Jays last night.  The Red Sox hold the top Wild Card, but the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays are in a virtual dead heat with 65 losses. They are only separated by the number of wins (84, 83, and 82 wins, respectively) which means the Yankees and Blue Jays can make up ground when they play an equal number of games (assuming they win those games).

I am happy the Yankees finally pulled Gleyber Torres from shortstop and put him back at second base. I like having Anthony Rizzo on the roster, but I do wish the Yankees had been successful in prying Trevor Story from the Colorado Rockies at the trade deadline. It will be interesting to see what the Yankees do in the off-season. With strong young shortstops in the system, like Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, still a couple of seasons away, will the Yankees make a play for a top free agent shortstop like Story or Corey Seager, or do they just try to find an average player that can fill the spot until one of the young shortstops is ready to ascend to the position? If they don’t go big, it sort of feels like they are wasting the prime years of Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge. Both Volpe and Peraza are targeted for 2023 which is not too far away. Big off-season decisions for the Yankees, especially if they miss out on the play-offs or take the one and done route. 

Photo Credit: David Gravely, Southwest Times

Speaking of off-season decisions, please fire hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere. The Yankees have made significant upgrades with pitching instruction with innovative, new-age hires like Matt Blake and Sam Briend. They need to do the same with the hitting coaches. Sorry P.J., I know you are a company loyalist, and you were cheated out of a bonus a few years ago, but the Yankees can do better. 

Hopefully the Yankees can ensure the Cleveland “Indians” never win a game against the Yankees ever again. Just win today and tomorrow, please. Every game counts. No more room for poor play. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Lucky 13...


Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu, AP

Yankees continue to roll since the corn field debacle…

The title of the post is, admittedly, misleading. The Yankees aren’t just lucky…they are damn good! Last night’s win gave the team thirteen consecutive victories, the best run since September 1-12, 1961. The 1961 Yankees, powered by Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, won 109 games, and of course won the World Series. The 2021 Yankees won’t reach 100 wins, but the World Series certainly remains on the table. After the uneven play earlier in the season and the COVID-19 attack on multiple players, I am very proud of the team’s accomplishments since the trading deadline. The balance provided by Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo have been great, but this has been a team effort. I love the ‘refuse to lose’ mentality.

Unfortunately, the Yankees have been unable to make up much ground on the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays, winners of five in a row, are in Baltimore so they’ll win a couple more games before any potential losses. The O’s have not been able to figure out the Rays, falling short in 16 out 17 games this season. Trailing the Rays by four games in the AL East, the Yankees currently hold the top Wild Card slot, three games up on the second Wild Card, occupied by the Boston Red Sox. The Oakland A’s, once the top Wild Card team, continue their fall and are 3.5 games behind Boston. I hold up hope the Yankees can catch the Rays. They end the regular season with three games at Yankee Stadium against Tampa on October 1st through 3rd. The Rays and Red Sox will play 7 games against each other in the next two weeks.

After the 1961 team’s 13-gamer, they went 9-8 to finish the season. Obviously, it didn’t prevent the team from reaching its goal, but I am hoping for better regular season results for the 2021 team once the streak ends.  Finishing with 95-96 wins, given the team’s earlier struggles, would be huge. 

Now, the Yankees are tied with the Houston Astros for the second-best record in the American League at 76-52, one game ahead the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox.  No one could have predicted this in early July.

Congratulations to Gerrit Cole for becoming the fastest Yankee to reach 200 strikeouts in a season. He reached the milestone in 148 innings, breaking Michael Pineda’s previous team record accomplished in 168 1/3 innings (2016).  I like Cole’s response after the game, “It’s not a goal. It’s just my job.” Yeah, Gerrit, just keep doing your job. Life is good. 

Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu, AP

For as much heat as he takes from the Yankee fan base, it’s great to see Giancarlo Stanton on his best run since his 2017 MVP campaign with the Miami Marlins. He has homered in four consecutive games and has been valuable for the current 13-game winning streak. I’ve enjoyed seeing him play in the field again even if I had some initial skepticism. The Yankees are better when they can get Luke Voit’s bat into the lineup as the designated hitter. I remember the 2017 season when it did seem like Stanton was homering every day. It’s nice to see him wearing a better uniform doing it today. 

Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu, AP

I am cautiously optimistic for Monday’s return of Corey Kluber. I am hopeful that he stays healthy and does not suffer any setbacks. It will take him a few starts to raise his level of effectiveness so I am sure Andrew Heaney will have to pick up Kluber a few times before we see any potential Klubot dominance.  Maybe Kluber picks up where he left off, but I suspect there will be some rust to shake. He has potentially five starts to get ready for the October fun. Kluber has shown us he is not done, and hopefully the best is yet to come. Let’s get that man a World Series ring!

Photo Credit: Ken Blaze, USA TODAY Sports

It was good news to hear that Luis Severino has resumed pitching after getting a second medical opinion from noted orthopedic surgeon Neal ElAttrache. I always worry whenever a pitcher visits Dr. ElAttrache but thankfully the trip was positive and productive. It doesn’t seem like there is enough time for Sevy to get ready, but he only needs to ramp up for a bullpen role. After nearly two years away, he is not going to be starting games any time soon but could be a valuable weapon out of the pen if he is able to make it back. I am hopeful we’ll see him in October in some capacity beyond being a bench observer. 

Nice Major League debut for former Yankees prospect Glen Otto. Sent to Texas in the Joey Gallo trade, Otto made his debut in the Show by pitching five shutout innings, allowing only two hits while striking out seven. The Rangers didn’t back up his performance as the Houston Astros prevailed, 5-4, but it was through no fault of Otto.  It’s always a little bittersweet to see former Yankee prospects excel elsewhere, but I certainly want Otto to do well (unless he is pitching against the Yankees, of course). 

Today is Nasty Nestor Day as the Yankees go for Win number fourteen. Sweet Lou Piniella. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, August 21, 2021

The (Less Rocky) Road to the World Series...


Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP

Yankees gaining momentum toward goal…

It’s great to be a Yankee fan. No stress. Just casual winning every day with monster bats and stellar pitching. Life is good.

As The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch (@GreedyStripes) continues to say, nearly every day from the start of the season, these are just more highlights for the World Series DVD. I may have laughed at first, but it is looking more and more like the odds are in Daniel’s favor and he might truly have the last laugh. A fervent believer despite the many earlier challenges, credit goes to him for never taking off the rose-colored glasses.

The August success for the Yankees does not typify the bumpy roads we’ve travelled to get here but I am feeling so much better about the state of the Yankees than I did last month. I find it hard to believe that I was wondering early last month if the Yankees should be buyers or sellers at the trading deadline. I guess I had become too accustomed of being disappointed about moves not made at the trading deadline (case in point, 2019) that I could not have imagined the brilliant job GM Brian Cashman was about to do this past July. Everyone acquired has contributed in some way.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

It’s goes without question the biggest acquisition is first baseman Anthony Rizzo. He’s the consummate pro who is brilliant on the field, both offensively and defensively, and a leader in the clubhouse. He brought such a winning attitude to the team. Not saying the Yankees don’t have other guys of the same mindset, but Rizzo has been the glue to pull it all together. The presence of his left-handed bat, along with Joey Gallo, finally provided the balance in the lineup that all of us Twitter GM’s have endlessly been calling for.  This is just another plug that I hope the Yankees re-sign Rizzo in the off-season. He’s another great in a long line of great first sackers.  @Yankees, make it happen!

To briefly digress, I do believe there is room on this team for Luke Voit. His homer and four RBIs last night are a testament to the production of a healthy Louis Linwood Voit III with regular playing time, and he should play. Historically, I’ve been against playing Giancarlo Stanton in the field (health concerns), but Voit changes the equation. Stanton should play left (or right on the days Judge is given a breather) and let Voit be the team’s DH. Nothing against Voit but I prefer to see Anthony Rizzo and his glove at first base. There’s risk of injury for Stanton, but he seems to be in the right place this year and I am hopeful he stays in good health.

Back to the trading deadline acquisitions, I like Joey Gallo on this team. I know there are those who are frustrated by strikeouts, but his ability to get on base and his outfield defense are so strong. He always says the right things in interviews and he is clearly a team-first guy. He has also melded into the cohesiveness of the clubhouse. I feel the home runs will come more regularly in time. I remember it taking at least a year before Jason Giambi truly settled in as a Yankee. It is not easy. There are very high expectations when you put on the Pinstripes. Some guys, like Rizzo, can come in and produce from the start. For other guys, there is a bit of a ramp up. I don’t blame him. I want to give him the necessary time because I know how good Gallo can be, and I will continue to support him. The Yankees open the 2022 season in Texas against the Rangers, and I am sure it will be a terrific moment for Gallo given how much he loved his time there. I am sure he will be very motivated to perform well in front of his many friends. I know, that doesn’t mean anything for this year. For now, I will just enjoy Gallo’s name written into the lineup every day and know that his next titan home run might only be an at-bat away. He can be one of the guys who deliver their signature Yankee moment in October.

Photo Credit: AP

Even the pitching acquisitions have been strong. It goes back to the Mike Tauchman trade when the Yankees acquired Wandy Peralta (angering the fan base). I can’t imagine the bullpen without Peralta through the ebbs and flows of the unit’s success. Meanwhile, Tauchman struggled in San Francisco and is currently a Sacramento River Cat after being designated for assignment and clearing waivers. Adding Clay Holmes and Joely Rodriguez have proven to be solid moves. I was down on Andrew Heaney for his first two starts, like many fans were, but I have held out hope and optimism Matt Blake and Eric Cressey saw something in him they thought they could fix. His last start against the Boston Red Sox, a win, was an example of the pitcher he can be. The guy was once a very highly rated prospect. He is older and has never reached his potential, but it doesn’t mean he can’t. Granted, they are not the same type of pitchers, but I always think of Randy Johnson as a pitcher who took awhile to figure it out, but when he did, he was one of the best. That’s not to say I think Heaney will be bumping Gerrit Cole off the ace’s perch but I do believe, if Blake and Cressey are successful, he can be a valuable member of the rotation. There is nothing wrong with a consistent and effective #3 starter. 

So, the acquisitions have helped the Yankees seemingly turn their season around. Before, I didn’t feel like the team had the right drive or passion. That’s an unfair comment on my part because I am not in the clubhouse every day. But the team has bonded and they are winning and having fun while they are doing it. Yes, winning is fun and that’s part of it, but you don’t win by accident. I am proud of the Yankees for erasing Boston’s 10 ½ game lead from early July, finally catching and passing them this past week with a sweep of the Red Sox in New York. If you had asked me on July 6th if I thought the Yankees could catch Boston, I probably would have said no. But here we are with nearly a month and a half left in the season and Boston is in the rearview mirror. Not only that, the Yankees are only four games behind the division leading Tampa Bay Rays which is certainly well within reach. As the Yankees continue to get their players back from the injured list, they will continue to get better and better.

There was a time when I thought just getting the second Wild Card spot was huge. Now, the AL East division title is a possibility if the Yankees continue to play this well.  Someone posted on Twitter that the Yankees are never hot in August. Generally speaking, that seems to be true. I didn’t look up the stats but in past years, it has seemed like the Yankees have always run into a rough patch during this month. But just because it happened in the past, doesn’t mean it has to happen in the future or now. This is a resilient team that has proven they can change and adapt. I am sure other American League teams are fearful of the Yankees right now. They should be.

Hats off to the in-house “acquisitions” too. Nestor Cortes Jr is clearly the leader of the guys who have stepped up as part of the ‘Next Man Up’ brigade. I remember nearly losing him to the Baltimore Orioles a few seasons ago, actually losing him to the Seattle Mariners last year (November 2019 trade for international bonus pool money), and then getting him back on a minor league contract last December. After his less than successful season as a Mariner, I know I didn’t have high expectations for him, but he has delivered far greater…consistently…than I could have ever imagined. He, along with the magic of young Luis Gil, are the reasons the Yankees have maintained solid starting pitching despite the injury and COVID losses in the rotation.  Nasty Nestor deserves so much of the credit for the Yankees’ recent success.

Luis Gil will come back to Earth but what a breath of fresh air he has been. I love seeing his early success even if it is not sustainable. He is a guy that can get better and better, and even if he is not pitching shutouts every game, he can put the team in position to win every time which is very powerful.

Andrew Velazquez has been another great story. The Bronx native enjoying success in his hometown. When the Yankees signed him in January, I didn’t think much of the move. It seemed like just more fodder for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But the 27-year-old utility man and one time Diamondback-Ray-Indian (Guardians?) has fully taken advantage of Gleyber Torres’ time away. I am happy to see his success. I don’t know what his long-term future will be. When Gleyber comes back, decisions will have to be made to open room. Never a great Tyler Wade fan, I’d prefer Velazquez but there are those who can make the legitimate argument for why Wade should be the choice to stay. I hope Velazquez can continue to make this a very difficult and complicated decision for the Yankees’ front office. For now, I will enjoy his play and the smile on his face when he comes up with a key hit or makes a challenging fielding play. 

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Here is an image certain to bring a smile to the face of any Yankee fan:

As always, Go Yankees! 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Field of Bad Dreams...


Photo Credit: Zach Boyden-Holmes, The Register, USA Today Sports Network

Finding new ways to lose…

The Yankees seemingly find new ways to break my heart every day. The curse of our decision to follow the greatest franchise in the history of sports, at least this season. This has been a tough year for any Yankee fan, for sure. The Field of Dreams game featuring the Yankees against the Chicago White Sox was fun to watch in terms of the setting and the presence of Kevin Costner, plus the tie-ins to the movie even if you have never actually seen the movie. Growing up in Iowa but away for many years, I found the corn fields near by the newly built stadium and movie set to be soothing and comforting. I guess you must be an Iowan to understand the beauty of the flat rural, agricultural views because there are no mountain or ocean views, the things Californians appreciate (well, unless you live in the Central Valley). 

Photo Credit: Reese Strickland, USA Today Sports

But back to the game, it was tough to watch. Trailing for most of the game, the Yankees erased a three-run deficit in the top of the ninth inning to take a one-run lead off one of the better closers in the game (Liam Hendricks). It was such a feel-good moment and gave life to the thought the Yankees might win the game. But sadly, no, Zack Britton entered the game and promptly handed it to the Sox with a walk and a misplaced pitch that Tim Anderson was able to easily drive out of the park for the dramatic game-winning two-run home run. 

Using Britton in that situation was, in my opinion, another poor decision by Aaron Boone. Britton hasn’t been right this season (“pitching like shit” in his own words) and the White Sox might be the best team in the American League right now. Take a chance with trying to close a game with Britton if you are playing the Royals, but not the White Sox. Perhaps Jonathan Loaisiga would have given up the game-winning HR too, but that’s a better risk to take than simply gift wrapping a win for the White Sox. Not a big fan of Chad Green in the ninth so that’s why I am on board with Loaisiga as the best option until Aroldis Chapman returns.   

It will be a tall order for the Yankees to win this series with the White Sox as the remaining two games shift to Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. I hopeful of at least a split between these two games which unfortunately gives the series to Chicago. Winning both games would be huge, but I am not expecting it, unless Aaron Boone can miraculously start making better decisions…and if the ice-cold Joey Gallo could rediscover his home run stroke. Yeah, you too, Luke Voit.

I am thankful both Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery are on track to return to the Yankees next week. It was good to see Gerrit Cole at the Field of Dreams game for his brief interview on TV. When the guys go on the COVID-19 list, there is such eerie silence for how they are doing. Having Cole and Gumby back in the rotation will be great. Aaron Boone indicated we’ll see Luis Gil again for one of the games during Tuesday’s double-header against the other and smelly Sox. But as exciting as the rotation additions will be, it is concerning to hear that Luis Severino has suffered another setback. I had been hopeful to have Sevy back at least as part of the bullpen for the duration of the season. However, he didn’t “feel right” before his last scheduled rehab start on Friday, skipped the game, and headed back to New York for further evaluation. Not good. Another significant setback would seem to spell the end of any hopes of seeing Sevy pitch in 2021. Nearly two years since we last saw the former Yankees ace pitch in pinstripes.

Speaking of COVID-19, it was good to see the return of Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who had been placed on the COVID list during the Marlins’ series against the Yankees. Mattingly missed 12 games despite being fully vaccinated. Donnie Baseball told the Associated Press, “Getting the positive wasn’t necessarily a shocker because of the way I felt that day. I’ve been taking my temperature every day for two years and never had a fever. And all of sudden I had a fever and got a little headache; this doesn’t feel good. Honestly, you test, you’re positive and they kick you out the backdoor and you don’t see anybody for 10 days. It’s definitely an experience you don’t want anyone to go through.” I remain very concerned for the man who now holds Mattingly’s spot as Yankees first baseman, Anthony Rizzo. Given his status as unvaccinated, it is worrisome.  I lost a friend last year, younger than me with no health issues. The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate…it doesn’t care who you are. Keeping Rizzo in my prayers for a speedy and full recovery. Mattingly is further quoted in the Miami Herald, saying “Seeing so many people have so much trouble, you don’t want to be flippant about this thing and just think, ‘Oh it’s not a big deal’, because there’s lots of people that have had trouble and obviously lost their lives and things like that. But I was glad I was vaccinated from the standpoint of I had a couple of days of mild symptoms, and I felt good. And I didn’t pass it on to like my kid or my wife. Tried to do the right thing, but definitely glad I was vaccinated.”

Photo Credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald

Speaking of the Marlins, I am glad to see they have given former Yankee outfielder Dustin Fowler another chance. Fowler, who will forever be remembered suffering the devastating knee injury during his Yankee debt at Guaranteed Rate Field a few years ago, was released by the Pirates organization last week. Fowler, now 26, is with Miami on a minor league deal, and will try to resurrect a once promising future in the game with the Marlins’ Triple A affiliate in Jacksonville, Florida. Best of luck to the former Yank.

I know he hasn’t played very well for several years but I was still a little surprised to see the Boston Red Sox designate utility man Marwin Gonzalez for assignment. His removal opens the way for the Red Sox to add former Yankee Twitter favorite Kyle Schwarber to the active roster. Despite never playing first base in the Major Leagues, Schwarber becomes Boston’s starting first baseman, a position that has seen dreadful production year-to-date for them. I had a brief thought the Yankees should try to sign Gonzalez if he is released by the Red Sox, but it passed quickly.

I also saw the Milwaukee Brewers have placed Travis Shaw on outright waivers. Despite his disappointing production (.191 batting average, .279 OBP, .337 SLG, and 68 wRC+, good for -0.3 WAR in 56 games), perhaps a change of scenery would help the 31-year-old left-handed hitter. When Gio Urshela comes back, he’ll need to help cover shortstop during the absence of Gleyber Torres so the Yankees could use better options than Rougned Odor to play third. Shaw, historically, has played better in the American League with his stints in Boston and Toronto than the National League. Since the cost to sign Shaw would only be the prorated league minimum, I could see the Yankees taking a flyer. 

Here’s hoping the Yankees can stay healthy for the duration of the year. Looking forward to the return of those temporarily away, and hopeful everyone on the field later today stays on the active roster for the hopeful path into October. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, August 7, 2021

The Rocky Road to the World Series...


Photo Credit: Lynn Sladky, AP

Challenges, old and new, persist in push for October…

Although the Yankees, with their power infusion at the trading deadline, made up significant ground this past week, it seems like nothing goes their way. I guess this just provides more highlights for the World Series DVD that Daniel Burch (@GreedyStripes) is currently producing (allegedly). 

As we know, the great Gerrit Cole (well, not so great in recent outings) and Jordan Montgomery are on the COVID-19 List and today, it was announced that closer Aroldis Chapman (also not so great this year) has been placed on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation. It remains to be seen if Zack Britton, Chad Green or Jonathan Loaisiga becomes the interim closer or if the Yankees go the closing by committee approach.  Either way, it is yet another challenge that requires others to step up. Nick Nelson, called up to replace Chappy, needs to perform better at the Major League level than he has this year.

Speaking of stepping up, the same applies to Kyle Higashioka who becomes the starting catcher in place of the COVID-stricken Gary Sanchez. The less we must see Rob Brantly play, the better.  I don’t know why I was bummed to see the Yankees trade minor leaguer Kellin Deglan to the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s not like he was a strong option for call-up. However, he was always around Spring Training and seems like such a great organizational guy (even if he is not Major League material as a player). He is a native Canadian (British Columbia), although he is currently assigned to Toronto’s nearby Triple A affiliate in Buffalo, New York.  It would be cool if he gets a chance to play in Toronto. This is probably where I wish we had seen better growth and progression by catching prospects Anthony Ziegler and Josh Breaux (particularly the older Breaux who was recently promoted to Double-A Somerset after four years in the organization). I guess we’ll just have to bide our time until top catching prospect Austin Wells is ready. 

The past week, just from a true baseball perspective without all the figurative curveballs that have been thrown at the Yankees, has been fun. The team is winning again (as they have the past month), and the wins are magnified by the sudden downward spiral of the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees, once 9 games behind Boston, now sit 5.5 games out of first place (entering play today) and only 3 games behind the Red Sox.  They are only 1.5 games behind the Oakland A’s for the second Wild Card spot. At this point, there is a very real possibility the Yankees could claim the top Wild Card spot and remain contenders for the division should Tampa derail for whatever reason.  Life certainly looks better today than it did just a week or two ago.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I have to say I really like the throwback jerseys the Yankees will wear in the upcoming Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa.

Photo Credit: Yankees

Born and raised in Iowa, I love to see the Yankees play baseball in my home state even if I must watch on TV, thousands of miles away in sunny Southern California.  I am excited for the game (Thursday, August 12th at 7:00 EDT) and what it will mean for Dyersville and the state. 

When the Yankees acquired Los Angeles Angels LHP Andrew Heaney at the trading deadline, I figured the Yankees must have seen something in the pitcher they could fix. So, it comes as no surprise to hear that Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake has been working with Heaney to tweak his mechanics. I am hopeful this is not another Sonny Gray situation. Hopefully Heaney responds to the changes in a positive and constructive way and does better than his Yankees debut when the lowly Baltimore Orioles crushed four home runs off him. 

If the Yankees had somehow managed to pull of a trade for a top starter like Jose Berrios at the trading deadline, GM Brian Cashman would look brilliant right now. He looks good for Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo (and maybe Clay Holmes), but a top starter with the unforeseen COVID-19 diagnoses for key starters would have been invaluable.

Is it too early to call for the Yankees to extend Andrew Rizzo? Setting aside what he can do with a baseball bat, I love the defense he brings to first base. He is a natural leader and just one of those guys who seems to make everyone around him better. I am glad Joey Gallo will be back next year despite his slow start and I really hope we see both Gallo and Rizzo together next Spring when the Yankees report to Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.  Many Yankee fans want an elite shortstop (like Corey Seager or Trevor Story) this upcoming off-season to move Gleyber Torres back to second base, which, in turn, would push D.J. LeMahieu to first base, but I really like having Rizzo on this team. He brings so many great intangibles and has meshed incredibly well with team chemistry. The Yankees will figure it out. There are ways to bring in an elite shortstop and re-sign Rizzo.  I am hoping Rizzo is enjoying the Yankees as much as we have enjoyed him. 

Photo Credit: Fox Sports

It’s nice to see Luis Severino pitching again but I have to say I am cautiously pessimistic. Rarely do you see a pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery have immediate success. It generally takes the next season after his return to see the successful results. So, it’s hard to count on Sevy as a key factor the September push to the playoffs. Same with Corey Kluber. He’s not coming off surgery, but the long layoff can’t be good and the potential for continued trouble for him remains high.  I am hopeful Gerrit Cole can shake off COVID and return with renewed fire, aided by the forced rest.  Same with Gumby.  We need both.

I am anxious to see Luis Gil’s next start. There’s no doubt he’ll fall back to Earth and there will be games the control issues are a problem, but if he can provide serviceable back of the rotation support, it would be huge for this team.  One of these years, I’d like no need for ‘next man up’ yet it is fun and exciting to see guys get their Major League opportunities and make the most of it. 

Lastly, my apologies to dinosaur Brett Gardner for being skeptical he’d come up big in Friday night’s game. His walk-off 11th inning single in the 3-2 win was/is much appreciated.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

As always, Go Yankees!