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!

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