Saturday, April 9, 2022

Rain: The Bringer of Donaldson...


Josh Donaldson / Photo Credit: John Minchillo, AP

Rain Postponement of Opening Day sets stage for Donaldson…

For as excited as I was for Opening Day to arrive (delayed by one day due to the rain forecast), it certainly started poorly with the pre-game announcement that the Yankees and star outfielder Aaron Judge were unable to agree on terms for an extension. More thoughts on Judge later, but the mood seemed to carry through to the start of the game. Gerrit Cole, apparently flustered by a four-minute delay for first pitch, was roughed up for three runs in the first inning. Three runs with no outs. For a moment, it had seemed like Billy Crystal must have stayed on the mound after tossing the opening pitch. Fortunately, Cole was able to stop the bleeding and held Boston in check through four innings.

Gerrit Cole / Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

The Yankees quickly made it a one-run game in the bottom of the first when Anthony Rizzo blasted the first Yankee home run of 2022 following an Aaron Judge single. Giancarlo Stanton tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning with an ‘only in Yankee Stadium’ home run blast to the right field bleachers.

The Red Sox broke the tie in the top of the sixth inning. With Clay Holmes on the mound, Xander Bogaerts led off with a double. He moved to third on a ground-out by J.D. Martinez and scored when Alex Verdugo singled. The Red Sox looked to be mounting a huge threat in the inning. After a fielder’s choice and a single had men at first and second, Holmes was pulled in favor of new Yankee Miguel Castro. The former Mets reliever walked the first batter to load the bases. However, the threat was snuffed out when Castro struck out Christian Vásquez. No doubt it was an incredibly positive first Yankee moment for him.

Boston reliever Garrett Whitlock took over starter Nathan Eovaldi in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the former Yankees prospect shut down the Yankees offense into the eighth. GM Brian Cashman was taking his usual beating on social media for allowing Whitlock to slip through via the Rule 5 Draft to the Red Sox prior to the 2021 season until DJ LeMahieu answered the bell. His home run shot to right center tied the game once again and quieted the social media talk about Whitlock.

Everyone wanted the Yankees to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. No one wanted to see the ghost runner at second base in extra innings. The moment was set up for Giancarlo Stanton to be the hero with Aaron Judge on second base and two outs. Unfortunately, it was not one of Stanton’s better at-bats and he struck out swinging to push the game into the tenth inning, complete the dreaded ghost at second.

Both teams scored a run in the tenth to keep the game going. Michael King, who had given up a cheap run in the tenth, was masterful in the eleventh inning. Two strikeouts and a groundout as Boston failed to advance their ghost runner. In the bottom of the eleventh, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, having made the final out of the preceding inning, took second base. Josh Donaldson, wasting no time for his signature Yankee moment, hit a single up the middle through Boston’s two “shortstops.” IKF raced around to score the winning run, 6-5 Yankees. Que Frank Sinatra and New York, New York.


Josh Donaldson, the Bringer of Rain, is our kind of “idiot.”

Photo Credit: Jim Davis, Boston Globe Staff

To point out a few of performances, I thought Jonathan Loaisiga looked terrific, picking up where he left off from last season. The closer-in-waiting seems ready to ascend to the throne currently held by Aroldis Chapman. Aaron Judge deserves credit for getting a hit in his first at-bat after the failed extension distraction earlier in the day. He made the plays he needed to make today. Yankees catchers did a superb job behind the plate. First Kyle Higashioka and later Jose Trevino. I cannot remember how long it has been since I had total confidence in catching defense after living through the Gary Sanchez era. Watching two expert framers is artwork in motion. I missed Higgy’s Spring Training bat but the defense more than made up for it. Someone tweeted that the Yankees would have lost today if Gary Sanchez had been the catcher. I believe it.

King picked up the win with his strong two innings effort.

Michael King / Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

It is important to get off to a good start. I know this is only one game, but a win is better than a loss. Even after the game, Anthony Rizzo said one game could be the difference at the end of 162 games. So true, one more win last season and the Wild Card game would have been held at Yankee Stadium rather than Fenway Park. With so many consecutive days without a day off and a shortened bench (due to sixteen pitchers), extra-inning games are particularly brutal this month. The shortened Spring schedule leaves the starting rotation still trying to ramp up, meaning an earlier hook in most games until they are fully stretched out. Therefore, I have no issue with sixteen pitchers even if I would have preferred fifteen and extra legs on the bench (specifically, Tim Locastro). My team goal this month is to stay healthy, win more games than losses, and have the team running on all cylinders by May 1st when rosters reduce from 28 to 26 and pitchers are capped at thirteen.

It is hard to believe that Friday’s Opening Day walk-off was the first for the Yankees since before most of us were born. In 1957, Yankees third baseman Andy Carey scored Yogi Berra to win Opening Day and it has not happened since…until now.

The 2022 Yankees do seem to have a vibe that has been missing for the last few years. I am sure Josh Donaldson is a big reason, but it is not just him. This team seems more focused and ready to prove they are better than last year’s roller coaster team. I like it.

I am disappointed in Aaron Judge and the Yankees. I do not understand why the Yankees released the amount of their offer to Aaron Judge other than to make Judge look bad, but I do acknowledge that the seven years, $213.5 million extension proposal is fair and generous given Judge’s injury history and age (he turns thirty on April 26th). When you factor in 2022, it brings the total value to $230.5 million. The average annual value of the extension proposal is $30.5 million. If the demands for nine or ten years from the Judge camp is true, the Yankees are correct to pass and allow Judge to walk after the season. I say this loving Judge as a Yankee.

Probably the greater disappointment is how the Yankees have passed on elite free agents over the past few years with Judge’s extension looming. I am hopeful the Yankees and Judge can find common ground, but the rift seems too large. Judge’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for June. If they do not settle before then, an arbitration hearing will make the relationship even more contentious. In July, if the Yankees see the impossibility of an extension, they should seriously consider moving him before the trading deadline to at least get something of value before he departs.

Hopefully, we never reach worst-case scenario and the two sides come together. It would be great to see Judge as a Yankee for at least seven more years.

Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: John Minchillo, AP

Welcome to the newest Yankees.

Catcher Jose Trevino arrived last weekend in a trade that sent pitchers Albert Abreu and Robert Ahlstrom to the Texas Rangers. I feel bad for Ben Rortvedt, given he had a clear path to a Major League job before the trade. However, his oblique injury (right oblique muscle strain) has clouded his return and the Yankees needed a somebody better than Rob Brantly to pair with Kyle Higashioka. Like Higgy, Trevino is an elite framer, giving the Yankees two extraordinarily strong defensive catchers. Rort is in the same mold, but who knows when he will be ready. On the bright side, when he does return and goes to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he will be only a phone call away if one of the two primary catchers is injured. It is kind of funny how Trevino’s availability started with the Rangers acquisition of catcher Mitch Garver from the Minnesota Twins which of course led to the Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela trade to the Twins. A case of catching musical chairs between the Rangers, Twins and Yankees.

The Yankees and Mets hooked up for a rare trade that saw lefty reliever Joely Rodriguez head to Queens for righty reliever Miguel Castro. I never fully understood the Yankees move to re-sign Rodriguez so quickly in November, but in retrospect, I am glad it led to Castro’s acquisition. He is a welcome addition to the bullpen. A rare trade that helps both teams.

Marwin Gonzalez, in camp on a minor league contract, officially headed north with the big-league club when he was added to the 40-man roster after recent acquisition outfielder Jeisson Rosario was designated for assignment. A few years ago, I would have been incredibly happy to have Gonzalez. I may not be as excited today, but I do believe he can help until the best utility prospect (Oswaldo Cabrera) is ready for the Show. So long Rosario, we hardly knew ye.

As strange as it was to see the Yankees and Mets involved with a trade, it was weird hearing the Yankees had acquired a reliever from the rival Tampa Bay Rays. David McKay was added to the 40-man (when the Yankees moved reliever Stephen Ridings to the 60-day IL) and sent to Triple A. There, he will become part of the bullpen shuttle between New York and Scranton. We later found out that McKay had forced the trade. He had been signed to a minor league contract, but when he realized he would not make the Rays, he exercised his opt-out. The trade with the Yankees involved $1 to the Rays. I am sure it was tough for Hal Steinbrenner to part with that dollar.

The last new Yankee is an old face. First baseman Greg Bird, who will begin the year with the RailRiders. Bird had been in camp with the Toronto Blue Jays and was having his usual Spring Training success. He even homered off the Yankees this Spring with his then long-haired, bearded look. I thought he was going to make the Blue Jays roster but when he did not, he chose to opt-out. From there, he came back to his original organization where seemingly a path to first base behind Anthony Rizzo is not quite as daunting as Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. I thought it was funny to see Bird wearing #45 for the RailRiders, the number worn at the time by Luke Voit when Bird and Voit were engaged in the battle for Yankees first base a few years ago. Voit won that battle, but in a way, Bird gets the last laugh, at least with the Yankees. I am not counting on Bird like I once was, but I hope he does well. I hope Rizzo stays healthy, yet Bird offers some insurance. I always did love his beautiful left-handed swing at Yankee Stadium.

Greg Bird / Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Congratulations to CC Sabathia for his appointment as a special assistant to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Sabathia will focus on player relations, diversity, equity and inclusion, social responsibility, youth participation, and broadcasting. CC is such a great ambassador for the game, and his new role will play a huge part in the continued evolution and growth of our favorite professional sport.

CC Sabathia / Photo Credit: Andy Marlin, USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, congratulations to Tampa Tarpons (Low-A) Manager Rachel Balkovec who picked up her first minor league victory in last night’s 9-6 Opening Day win over the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Balkovec, 34, is the first full-time female manager in the history of affiliated baseball at all professional levels.

Rachel Balkovec / Photo Credit: AP

As always, Go Yankees!

1 comment:

  1. It was nice seeing Donaldson deliver a clutch hit instead of trying to go deep like Judge , Stanton and Gallo all the time.
    He new a singles was as good as a home run in this situation.I hope greedy Judge was paying attention on how to be clutch.


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