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!