Saturday, April 23, 2016

TGP Saturday Night Open Thread

Boy do I need an open thread tonight, I’m whooped. First and foremost watching the Yankees is just mentally draining lately and it is especially nerve wracking when you watch them play against a division rival like the Tampa Bay Rays. Then I had to weed eat two acres of grass today because it was getting long and my lawnmower did not want to start. After working on it for about an hour I gave up and weed eated (which is not a word I know but I’m tired and my mind doesn’t work right now) everything. I’m getting too old for that.

Also as you know I am an avid Walking Dead fan and I play their app Walking Dead Road to Survival. Well a couple weekend a month factions can go head-to-head in All Out War and that was this weekend. It’s basically 72 hours of taking strong points and killing characters. Well, maybe a little crap talking too but I’ll never tell. I’m beat so here is your open thread for the night. Be good because I’m going to bed soon.

Oh wait, I can’t. UFC 197 and Jon Jones is tonight. Crap. Well, have a good one anyway!

Recap: Yankees 3, Rays 2

During their recent cold streak, the Yankees have been desperately searching for someone to spark their offense.

They found him Saturday in the form of Brett Gardner.

Gardner crushed a walk-off solo home run off Erasmo Ramirez in the ninth, lifting the Yankees to a 3-2 win over the Rays at Yankee Stadium.

Gardner went 3-for-4 on the afternoon, tying the game with a bases-loaded infield single in the seventh. The hit likely would have plated another run had it gotten through to center, but Rays lefty Xavier Cedeno was able to deflect it.

Gardner's late heroics helped the Yankees overcome nonexistent hitting in the early-going.

The Yanks' bats managed just one earned run -- coming on a wild pitch in the first -- on two hits in five innings against rookie Blake Snell, who was making his major-league debut.

But thanks to a second straight strong start by Masahiro Tanaka, New York kept it close.

Tanaka surrendered just two earned runs across seven innings, yielding five hits while walking one and striking out seven. He allowed an RBI double to Corey Dickerson in the fourth and a solo shot to Kevin Kiermaier in the fifth, but never let Tampa Bay extend its lead.

And with the Yankees' bullpen as good as it is this season, that's all the team really needed.

Dellin Betances fanned two in a 1-2-3 top of the eighth, and Andrew Miller worked around a one-out single to put up his own zero in the ninth.

The Yankees then began the bottom of the frame with a couple of weak groundouts, before Gardner ended it by clubbing a 3-1 fastball into the upper deck in right.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Yankees clinched their first series victory since taking two of three from the Astros Opening Week. They are now 7-9 on the year, 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Orioles.

NEXT UP: The Yankees go for the three-game sweep on Sunday. Michael Pineda (1-1, 5.29 ERA) and Drew Smyly (0-2, 2.91 ERA) are slated to be your starters, with first pitch set for 1:05 p.m. ET.

You May Miss George Steinbrenner But You Shouldn’t

You may miss George Steinbrenner, hell I do too, but if it is only because we would “fix” this mess the team is in right now, well you shouldn’t. George Steinbrenner was a great man God rest his soul and he was a great owner for the most part as well. Sure he meddled where he didn’t need to meddle and sure he stuck his nose and check book where it didn’t always belong but he treated this team like his hobby and not like his only source of income. This was not a job for him, this was what he did in his down time and it showed in his passion for the team and the way he handled it. Passion can lead to knee jerk reactions though, bad trades and even worse signings and that’s what George would be doing right now, not necessarily fixing things.

I mean zero disrespect in this post but let’s use his track record and the history of the franchise under his tenure to dissect what we think would happen if he were still running this team today. First and foremost you can kiss the Yankees young guns goodbye. You say you’re attached to Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Robert Refsnyder, James Kaprielian, Domingo Acevedo, Ian Clarkin and others? Sorry, they are all gone. Mateo is in San Diego right now and Craig Kimbrel is in the Bronx. The team wouldn’t have an average age under 30-years old like they do now, it’s be more like 35-years old after the bulk of these players would likely be traded for aging veterans and hired mercenaries. Again, we’re using history as an indicator of the future as I have no crystal ball and I barely watch ESPN let alone use my psychic ESPN…..

There wouldn’t be all bad though. You think George would shy away from eating the contracts of CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez or Chase Headley if they continued to struggle and didn’t lead the team to their ultimate goal, their 28th World Series championship? You don’t think George would flip Jacoby Ellsbury for another bad contract like Shin-Soo Choo of the Texas Rangers just to be rid of the devastating contract to the organization? Many of you would love to wake up and see the news that both Joe Girardi was fired and Brian Cashman is cleaning his desk out as we speak, FYI I wouldn’t, and many of you would then jump for joy when the next flavor of the week is hired in their places.

“If George were alive…” Enough. George is not alive and if he were I am not certain things would ultimately be any better. Sure the team would have more big names and wouldn’t treat the organization like we’re clipping coupons and qualifying for food stamps just to keep the doors open but at the same time I’m not sure how much the team would be any better. Let’s remember, again using history as an indicator of the future, that it took George being banned from baseball completely to undo everything that was done and to build the Core Four and a perennial World Series winner. It was when this core grew older, key parts moved on and when George had too much say in the free agent market that the team began losing in the first round of the playoffs year in and year out.

Reaching the Wild Card Round or ALDS is not good enough for me and it wouldn’t be good enough for George either. Unfortunately it’s good enough for Hal and it would unfortunately be all we would see if George were still here running the show. It’s a different game now, you can’t just throw money at a problem and make it go away. Injuries will happen and so will declines and that’s where you need depth and a strong farm system. One last piece of history for you and I’ll stop because I know I ruffled a few feathers with this post. It was in 2005 that a high priced veteran-laden roster fell apart that George Steinbrenner assembled and threw money at and it was a Yankees farm system that George tried to trade away on numerous occasions (let’s remember it is well documented that Cashman did not want Alex Rodriguez and that Robinson Cano was offered in the A Rod deal) that saved that team and led them to another trip to the playoffs.

History and science are the only two things that theoretically can never lie.

Aaron Hicks Sent for MRI on Sore Shoulder

Yankees fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks is considered day-to-day with a sore left shoulder he sustained while attempting a diving catch against Tampa Bay Friday night. You can see the play here. Hicks hit the ground pretty hard and was very slow getting up. He was removed from that game in the fourth inning and was not available Saturday either. The latest news is he will be sent for an MRI to make sure there is no more permanent damage. The injury was reportedly no better after a night’s rest, which concerned the team’s staff. "We told him, see how you feel when you wake up. If you're really sore, we're going to send you for an MRI. And that's what happened," Joe Girardi told reporters.

Hicks has struggled at the plate in limited action thus far, going 2-22 in 14 games for the Yankees. That’s not to say he’s been a total disappointment. His cannon arm and flair for the dramatic catch has been a game-changer for the New York defense. Dustin Ackley will serve as the backup outfielder until the team determines the severity of Hicks’s injury. The Yankees have a number of options at Triple-A Scranton if Hicks goes down for any length of time. Slade Heathcott and Slade Heathcott are both on the 40 man roster. So is Mason Williams, but he’s recovering from his own shoulder injury.

Nick Swisher is another interesting possibility. It’s not clear that he should be considered an outfield option at this point in his career, but given Brett Gardner’s ability to backup Jacoby Ellsbury in center, it could work passably. The one advantage Swisher has is he could replace Hicks as a platoon option against lefties. The majority of New York’s Triple-A outfield options bat from the left side. Swish has a 125 wRC+ against LHP for his career and even managed a respectable 96 wRC+ against them last year despite his struggles overall.

Gardner Walks Off Rays,3-2

       A day after the Yankees took game one of a series for the first time this season, the boys in pinstripes looked to lock down a series win in game two against the rival Rays. Attempting to put a small winning streak together, the Yankees sent Masahiro Tanaka and his 3.04 ERA to the mound. Opposing New York for Tampa Bay was Blake Snell, a 23-year old rookie making his major-league debut in Yankee Stadium, facing his childhood idol, Alex Rodriguez. Smell grew up and was drafted out of high school in Washington, where he followed his favorite team, the Seattle Mariners, and their two superstar players, Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr.. However, it would be a Yankee outfielder that would play the role of superstar in today's game.

     How about this for a change… I get to write about how the Yankees score 1st in a ball game. In the bottom of the first, after Gardner and Ellsbury made two quick outs, Carlos Beltran walked and Mark Teixeira moved him to third on a squared up base hit to right center. With runners on first and third and two outs, the rookie over-threw a breaking ball and it got passed Hank Conger, allowing Beltran to score from third, making the game 1-0.

     Tanaka would begin the game with three perfect innings. It was in the fourth inning where he ran into some trouble, beginning by serving up a hit to Logan Morrison, ending a 0-19 slide for the first baseman. Two batters later, Corey Dickerson lined a double into left field, scoring Morrison and tying the game at one. In the top of the fifth, Tanaka served up a solo shot to Kevin Kiermaier, giving the Rays a 2-1 lead and making the picture of record, at that point, the rookie Snell. The rookie would leave the game in the bottom of the sixth, with his first final stat line and impressive 5.0 IP, 2 hits, 1 unearned run and 6 strikeouts.

     In the bottom of the seventh, The Rays made good on their promise to throw a myriad of left-handed pitchers at the Yankees. Enny Romero, a southpaw, replaced the lefty Snell, And lead off the seventh by walking Brian McCann. After recording the first out, Romero was replaced by another left-handed pitcher, Xavier Cedeno, Who proceeded to immediately walk Chase Headley. With runners on first and second, to star from last night, Jacoby Elsbury, reached on a catchers interference call, loading the basis for the Yankees. The next batter, Brett Gardner, lined a bullet off of the body of the pitcher Cedeno, ricocheting the ball off to no-man's land and scoring McCann from third, tying the game at two.

     After a scoreless eighth and top of the ninth, the Bombers would send up Gregorius, Ellsbury and Gardner to try to win it and send fans home happy. The first two batters recorded outs in rather quick fashion. But, not as quickly as the ball got out of the ballpark when the hero who tied the game earlier, Brett Gardner, launched it into the right field bleachers, walking off the Rays, sealing their second straight victory. Walk me off, Brett!! Atta boy!!

     The Yankees will look to sweep their first series of the 2016 season tomorrow, beginning at 1:05 PM.

Branden Pinder Considering Tommy John Surgery to Repair UCL Tear

An MRI revealed Saturday that RHP Branden Pinder has a partially torn UCL in his right elbow. No decision has been made yet, but he will likely undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the tear. Even if he opts for rehab, Pinder will almost certainly be shelved for the 2016 season. If he does choose the surgery route, it's possible he will not return until June of 2017, and that's assuming everything goes well.

Pinder was called up last week to replace LHP Tyler Olson. He's only made one appearance for the Yankees this season, giving up two runs in a rocky eighth inning in Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the Athletics. This news comes less than two weeks after it was announced fellow reliever Nick Rumbelow will also miss the 2016 campaign with a UCL tear. Pitching prospects Domingo German and Ty Hensley are two more Yanks who have undergone Tommy John in the past month.

While New York still have more bullpen depth than most clubs, it is considerably thinner than it was coming out of spring training. Pinder and Rumbelow were perhaps the two most successful members of the "Scranton Shuttle" in 2015. Missing an entire season when you are on the cusp of establishing yourself as a major league regular is a nasty blow. RHP Nick Goody was called up Friday to replace Pinder on the 25 man roster. A decision on the TJ surgery should be announced in the next day or two.

Live Game Updates: Rays at Yankees - 4/23

1:55 p.m., Mid 3rd: Tanaka puts up another zero in the third, maintaining the Yankees' 1-0 lead. He's allowed just one hit so far and struck out three. 

2:23 p.m., Mid 4th: Corey Dickerson ties it with an RBI double in the fourth. Middle of the Yankees' order coming up. 

2:37 p.m., Mid 5th: Kevin Kiermaier drills a solo shot off the right field foul pole in the fifth. It's now 2-1 Rays as the Yanks' bats look to get going. 

2:46 p.m., End 5th: Yankees' offense back to its old tricks. Nothing doing again in the fifth. 

3:01 p.m., End 6th: Lead-off single and a stolen base later on from Gardner are wasted by the Yankees' big bats. After a great game yesterday, they're back to swinging early in the count and that's not a good thing. 

3:36 p.m., End 7th: Yankees scrape across the tying run with two walks, a catcher's interference, and a pitcher-deflected infield single by Gardner. Enter Betances for the eighth. 

4:05 p.m., Final: Yankees 3, Rays 2.

Another big hit by Gardner, this time a solo shot, wins it for the Yankees in the ninth. They are now 7-9 on the year and 3-5 on the homestand. 

Game Thread: New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays 4/23

The New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays are ready to face off head-to-head for the second time this weekend as a part of their three game set. Yankee Stadium has been traditionally well to the Rays over the year for whatever reason, now that I think about it so has Tropicana Field as well, and the Yankees need to do whatever they can to protect their home turf and to win this ball game today in the Bronx. Donned with that task for the Yankees is their ace Masahiro Tanaka as he takes the ball for New York while Tampa Bay counters with Blake Snell. The game will be played at 1:05 pm ET inside Yankee Stadium and can be seen on the YES Network, MLB Network and MLB TV.

The Yankees and Rays are back at it again tomorrow in the Bronx and if you want to be there live click the Yankees Tickets link at the top of the blog and visit our friends over at Ticket Monster. They can hook you up with the tickets you need and they won’t make you wear a stupid costume for them either. If you can’t make it live you can always follow along and interact with us on twitter by giving @GreedyStripes a follow. We won’t let you down like these Yankees have been lately.

The team has been tough to watch lately but this is baseball and it can all turn around overnight. Maybe that night or day is today. Have to watch to find out. Go Yankees!

Can Ellsbury Provide the Missing Spark for the Offense?

Most of the games during the Yankees’ recent 1-7 slide have followed a familiar pattern. Very few of the losses were blowouts. New York’s pitching has not been spectacular, but they’ve kept them in games. The real issue has been the inability of the offense to muster more than 2-3 runs per contest. The result has been a number of frustratingly close defeats. The first half of Friday night’s matchup against the Rays followed this pattern. The Yanks were down 3-2 in the fifth. Although they had two runners in scoring position, they also had two outs. The team’s struggles with RISP have been well documented in the early going, so the odds seemed against a clutch hit.

With a full count to Brett Gardner and two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury made a bold call that resulted in easily the most exciting and memorable play of 2016. He stole home against the deliberate Matt Moore, something he hadn’t done since April 2009, ironically against
the Yankees. After the game, Girardi expressed his admiration, telling reporters, “It's not a play you see every day. The last time I saw it, he did it against Andy Pettitte. That kept me up a few nights. It's good to be on this side." The decision was daring because there was two strikes on Gardner. If Moore threw him a pitch down the middle, he would have to swing, possibly putting Ellsbury in danger of being hit with bat or ball. Of course, the gamble paid off, and the run tied the game at three. The play completely reversed the momentum of the night and began the rally that led to an eventual 6-3 victory.

Despite his hefty salary and lengthy commitment, Ellsbury has been looking more and more like a platoon option (at best) in 2016. The only reason he was in Friday’s game at all was because Aaron Hicks, who started in centerfield, had to leave the game with a sore shoulder. With Hicks day-to-day, Ellsbury will have the next few games at least of playing regularly, even though the team will be facing several left-handed starters in a row. Ellsbury got off to a miserable start to the season (a 54 wRC+ in his first 51 PAs), but has started to turn things around the last three games, going 6-12 with two doubles and two RBI.

Friday’s steal of home felt like a statement. Ellsbury was signed to be the spark at the top of the Yankees lineup. They are at their most dangerous when he and Gardner are healthy and causing havoc at the top of the lineup. The further he gets from the knee injury that hobbled him in the second half of 2015, the better the chances are that fans will see that dynamic player return. An aggressive Ellsbury who is fighting to regain his everyday job may be the catalyst the Yankees need to reverse this losing streak and  dig themselves out of the AL East cellar.

Potential Trade Options if this Season Goes Awry

This season has not exactly started out the way many of us both inside and outside of the organization had really hoped for. With every season in the Bronx many head into the season with the expectations of at the very minimum competing in the American League East Division if not for a World Series championship. Like many seasons in New York the World Series may not be headed to the Bronx but this season may be especially grueling and long after a sluggish start by the team. If the team continues at this pace they will be out of contention by June or July leaving many to wonder if the team would, or could, sell off pieces at the trade deadline.

To answer the easy questions first, yes the Yankees have more than a few tradeable pieces if they decide to mail it in, take their ball and go home for the summer. During the offseason the Yankees attempted to, and could have in many cases, trade Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova and Andrew Miller but that’s only the beginning of what they would have to offer. I know expiring contracts is not a huge thing in Major League Baseball like it is in a salary cap driven sport like the NBA or NFL but the rental contract of Aroldis Chapman, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran could also possible be moved if things don’t go so well this season for New York.

Now of course Teixeira and Beltran have no-trade clauses but Chapman, Gardner and Miller do not. I truly believe New York would want to hold onto younger guys like Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks along with a few of their young pitchers, namely Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino. If you’re going to hold onto young pitching though it may be imperative to hold onto a veteran catcher known for calling good games because good games equal confidence so Brian McCann may be safe in the Bronx until his current contract runs out.

One must remember that the Yankees are no longer at the beginning of this “rebuild on the fly while still trying to compete” thing. The Yankees have youth at second base, shortstop, all over the pitching staff and littered throughout their minor league system. The team is ahead of the curve and they have their eyes on the 2017 and 2018 seasons anyway, would a bit of a fire sale really be the worst thing to happen to New York in 2016? I really can’t bring myself to say no, although that doesn’t mean I won’t be rooting my ass off all 162 games to win and reach the playoffs either. 

Game Preview: New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays 4/23

The New York Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka out of Japan to be their future, their ace, their present and their stopper. The New York Yankees need a stopper and they need a defining win today in the Bronx and Tanaka just so happens to be on the mound. Tanaka had his best start of the season last time out in another “stopper” situation against the Seattle Mariners and will once again look to get the Yankees back in the win column today against the Rays. This is why we got the guy and today he needs to make good on the investment. Opposing Tanaka on the mound will be Blake Snell for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tanaka is getting stronger and stronger with each start he makes this season and he looked especially sharp in his last start against the Seattle Mariners. Tanaka allowed three runs but only two of them were of the earned variety while scattering six hits in seven innings of work beating his former teammate Hisashi Iwakuma. Tanaka will be making his fourth career start against the Rays this afternoon looking to push his career 2-0 record and 2.70 ERA in three career starts up a bit.

Snell is the Rays top prospect overall and top pitching prospect by a mile and he makes his MLB debut inside Yankee Stadium against the New York Yankees. That's usually rough for a kid but New York has shown an ability to make a pitcher they are seeing for the first time look like Cy Young as well so there are a ton of unknowns in this start. 

The game will be played at 1:05 pm ET inside Yankee Stadium and can be seen on the YES Network, MLB Network and MLB TV. The Yankees need a win as they try to claw back to .500 and try to claw back into relevancy this season. It’s not all on Tanaka though as the offense needs to wake up, the defense needs to do their part and everyone needs to keep their head in the game. If you can’t get the big hit with runners in scoring position you don’t need to give out free outs on the basepaths. Get it together and get a victory.

Go Yankees!!

Weekly Check In: Robert Refsnyder

I kicked around the idea of even bothering to check in with Robert Refsnyder or not, I truly did. He may possibly be the Yankees top rated second base prospect, or even their third base prospect, but he also may never get a true shot in the Bronx due to questions and concerns with his defense. His bat is there and it’s ready but after being drafted as an outfielder and converted to the infield the transition has not gone as smoothly as New York, or presumably Refsnyder himself, has hoped.

Now we are all left wondering if Refsnyder will ever get a true shot at the Bronx or a shot at the Major Leagues with another ball club. Will he defense ever be good enough, or even adequate, for the MLB level and will his confidence ever recover from being handed the keys the kingdom only to see them snatched away as quick as they were taken away.

Sure I’m bias, I have called myself Refsnyder’s biggest fan next to his mother, but I truly believe the talent is there and I hate to see the talent wasted and the development reversed at a level that he has outgrown. I’m passionate, sue me. 


This Day in New York Yankees History 4/23: Home Runs from Both Sides of the Plate

On this day in 2000 the Yankees Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada become the first set of teammates to each homer from both sides of the plate in the same game. The Yankees would beat the Blue Jays 10-7 on this day.

Also on this day in 1985 Don Baylor collected his 999th and 1,000th RBI of his career when he hit a two run home run off of Oil Can Boyd against the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees lost 5-4 but the 36 year old designated hitter ended his 19 season career with 1,276 RBI's.

Finally on this day in 1903 the New York Highlanders, formerly the Baltimore Orioles and soon to be the New York Yankees, win their first game in their franchises history. Spitballer Harry Howell went the distance and threw a two hitter to get the victory when they beat the Washington Senators at American League Park 7-2.