Saturday, April 10, 2021

There Will Be Better Days...

Photo Credit: Dirk Shadd, Tampa Bay Times


Yankees off to usual slow start…

Can we take a mulligan on the season and start over? Slow starts seem to be a “Yankee thing”…unfortunately. It will get better. The wins will come but I always have unrealistic optimism for an undefeated streak, or least an extraordinary amount of April wins, to start the season, propelling the momentum for a strong season (much like how the 2018 Boston Red Sox charged to the championship) , but in usual fashion for our favorite team, a slow start eventually followed by consecutive series wins that puts the Yankees in the upper part of the division by June is the standard formula.

It is early, but the AL East standings appear to be in inverse order: 1. Orioles. 2. Red Sox. 3. Yankees & Rays. 5. Blue Jays. Flip the standings, drop the Jays and Rays a spot or two, and I am good.

I was hoping for more with the first game against last year’s AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays yesterday, especially with Corey Kluber on the mound. Sadly, it was not vintage Klubot. Not going to fret over one start, but it was not very pretty. Pulled with one out in the third inning, Kluber’s final line was five runs (three earned) with two walks and three strikeouts. He failed to preserve a brief two-run Yankees lead, and ultimately took the loss when Nick Nelson allowed the Rays to put the game out of reach. Bummer. There will be better Kluber starts this summer, but I was kind of hoping for a better first start against the Rays. 

Photo Credit: Associated Press

I am unsure what to think about Aaron Judge’s latest injury. The Yankees always seem to be guarded with the information they will release about Judge and his ailments. Judge will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023 (and age 31). I have growing doubts the Yankees will commit long-term dollars to Judge and it is sad. When healthy, he is such a great asset…the bat, the glove, the clubhouse personality, etc. But if he cannot stay on the field, what is the value? The Yankees would be foolish to tie up so much money for a player who will become an even greater injury risk as he moves through his 30’s. Judge remains one of my favorite players and I really hope that he can put consistent time on the field to earn an extension. It is only my optimism, not desire, that is starting to fade. If the injuries continue, the desire will exit.

Speaking of health, Gio Urshela missed yesterday’s game after side effects from his vaccine shot. He is expected back this weekend, possibly today. Glad to hear much of the team has been getting their vaccinations and they do not show the vaccine hesitancy of other MLB teams. It is unfortunate Urshela suffered the adverse reaction but hopefully he is doing much better today. 

This was not a good week for health news regarding former Yankees players. The worst was former Yankees starter James Paxton. Paxton was pulled from his first start with his new/old team, the Seattle Mariners, after 24 pitches, recording only four outs. Afterwards, it was disclosed that Paxton likely needs Tommy John surgery. If so, he will be derailed for the rest of the season and likely all of 2022. I do not wish any ill will toward anyone and certainly not against the Big Maple, but it is somewhat of a relief the Yankees did not sign him to a new contract last off-season. No doubt his injury history played into the decision and rightfully so. Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon carry their own risk, but for now, knock on wood, they are healthy. Paxton’s MRI has apparently been sent to noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles for a second opinion. Dr. ElAttrache is the Head Team Physician for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Rams. If this goes the path of Tommy John surgery, I wish Paxton the best for a successful procedure and a speedy and full recovery. He is a good man and I look forward to seeing him on the field again even if he no longer wears the pinstripes.

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

The other ailing former Yank is New York Mets reliever Dellin Betances. Betances was placed on the 10-day injured list this week with a right shoulder impingement. Based on his last couple of seasons, Betances has picked up the tag “oft-injured” and his reduced velocity has been well documented. He was a great Yankee but it appears the Mets will never see that player. Not that I want the Mets to be successful (I do not) but I want Betances to succeed. Hopefully Dellin can overcome the latest health challenges, without missing too much time, and pitch effectively for the Mets. It is a contract year for him (with limited options last off-season, he exercised his player option which pays him $6 million this year but he is an unrestricted free agent after the season) and it is hard to see the New York native staying in the City.  He deserves better and I hope he finds it.

Photo Credit: ESPN

Color me as perplexed as anyone when the Yankees acquired the poor hitting Rougned Odor. When I saw the Texas Rangers were paying Odor’s salary, basically meaning Odor has no impact on the luxury cap, I can certainly see why he would appeal to Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. But aside from the homers, the bat has been horrific for a long time. I know he is only 27 (that keeps seeming to be the first positive everyone puts forward) but we all know young age does not equal success. I am skeptical the Yankees can find magic in his bat (or his glove). Thairo Estrada lost his seat at the table to make room for Odor when he was designated for assignment. Honestly, I would prefer Estrada over Odor. If the Yankees somehow unlock the potential Odor once held, great for them. I would love to see it happen. Realistically, I think he is just a future ex-Yank that could not cut it. 

Photo Credit: Smiley N Pool, The Dallas Morning News

The biggest surprise of the trade for Odor was remembering that Yankees prospect Antonio Cabello, who went to Texas with outfield prospect Josh Stowers, is only 20. He’s been around for so long, it seems like he should be older. The Yankees had moved the former catcher to the outfield, but the Rangers intend to resume his catching career. I hope Cabello achieves his dreams in North Texas. As for Stowers, it never really seemed like he had a future in New York when the Yankees acquired him a couple of seasons ago for the prospect they had acquired in the Sonny Grade trade to Cincinnati (second baseman Shed Long).  I get the Yankees’ logic. It is just a roll of the dice. If it works, they will be heroes. If it does not, Odor can be easily dismissed without financial ramifications. So, for now, welcome to the Yankees family, Mister Odor.  

I hope Estrada either clears waivers and is outrighted to the minors or the Yankees can trade him for something (bullpen help?). I would hate to see him simply cut for nothing.

Congratulations to Joe Musgrove for throwing the first no-hitter of the young season. Last off-season, before he was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the San Diego Padres, many Yankee fans were calling for the Yankees to acquire him. Instead, the Yankees went for a different Pirates starter after Musgrove went to the land of “Sunny and 74”. I certainly do not regret the acquisition of Jameson Taillon and as previously noted, one start does not define a season, but good for Musgrove and congrats to the Yankee fans who saw the potential. It is kind of funny that Musgrove’s pitching coach is Larry Rothschild.

I am glad baseball is back. It is nice to see some people in the stands again after last year’s empty seats and cardboard cut-outs in some parks. I look forward to fuller stadiums as we move into the summer and fall.  Nothing better than a packed, energized Yankee Stadium crowd for a pennant chase and trophy hunt. It has been far too long since we have had that experience.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)