Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Rise of Champions...


Giancarlo Stanton & Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: John Minchillo/AP)

Can the Yankees overcome the challenges ahead?...

The ALCS continues today in New York with the Yankees searching for answers. The Houston Astros hold the game…and psychological…advantage over the Yankees, up two games to none. Manager Aaron Boone may not believe Game 3 is a “must-win” game, but it is. Even if the Yankees win two of three at Yankee Stadium, the Astros will return home for Game 6, a game away from a World Series berth, and into an environment the Yankees have not been able to conquer. If the Yankees can win all three at home, and take the advantage into Houston, it could be the accelerant for vanquishing the demons in Minute Maid Park.

Although it is never over until it is, I do not believe the Yankees can overcome a ‘three games to none’ disadvantage. These are not the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Thirty strikeouts in two games are a sign of excellent Astros pitching, poor Yankees hitting, or a combination of both. If the Yankees cannot hit, they cannot win.

I keep seeing fans plea for the firings of Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman. In the middle of the American League Championship Series? The time for any evaluations of leadership and coaching is after the season, not amid a heated playoff battle. I am not trying to defend Boone or Cashman, but now is not the time to call for their heads. Boone needs our support. Anything else is counterproductive. Yankee fans everywhere should be united in our support of the team.

Although I expect to see Isiah Kiner-Falefa as today’s starting shortstop, I personally would stay with Oswald Peraza and his superior glove. I wish Boone had played Peraza more in the waning days of the regular season to help build his confidence at the Major League level. The talent is there, he just needs to experience success to build the mental aspect of his game. Repeatedly, Peraza produced big hits in Triple A. No doubt his bat will reach that level in The Show, but it takes time. There may not be sufficient time in the remaining ALCS games, but his glove is championship-quality. In a series differentiated by so few runs (Astros have only scored three combined runs more than the Yankees in two games), every error weighs heavily. If there is no time for Peraza’s bat to come around, there is even less time or tolerance for IKF blunders in the field. Peraza’s bat has greater potential than IKF so there is always a chance he comes through in key situations.

Oswald Peraza (Photo Credit: Eric Gay/AP)

I was afraid that Matt Carpenter would have too much rust after his long layoff with the broken foot. He is 0-for-5 with 5 strikeouts, yet fans continue to call for his placement in the starting lineup based on his regular season success. I am doubtful he can recapture the Matty Moustache Magic, and he should not be starting. If he can get a few pinch hits, then reevaluate. Until then, he should be on the bench.

For all the great moves GM Brian Cashman has made, Josh Donaldson will forever be a major faux pas. His ability to play solid defense at third has been Donaldson’s only redeeming quality. He is an unlikeable guy that can no longer hit and is a major liability at the plate. Owed $21 million for next year, with an $8 million buyout in 2024, it will be a near impossibility for Cashman to offload his mistake without parting with other young valuable prospects to make it happen. I have said all season that Gary Sanchez was addition by subtraction, but the cost to take Donaldson in a trade was not worth it. The Yankees should have simply non-tendered Sanchez and sent him on his merry way. They would still have Gio Urshela, who is good defensively (albeit not as good as Donaldson). At the end of the season with the Twins, Urshela was continuing his reputation as a timely hitter…something the Yankees could certainly use. Minnesota, after watching Sanchez play in his walk year, reportedly have no plans to re-sign him. The Yankees should have similarly just walked away from him. I know the Yankees expected more from catcher Ben Rortvedt, but again, not worth the cost of taking on Donaldson’s contract. Cashman gambled that Donaldson was not washed up, and he lost. Win some, lose some. Not one of Cashman’s finer moves, but hopefully he will find a way to eliminate Donaldson from the roster in the upcoming offseason. Until then, we can only hope Donaldson finds a way to be effective. Dude, time is not for your friend. A contribution to a win today would be much appreciated.

Josh Donaldson (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

I was listening to The Michael Kay Show on Friday and a fan suggested the Yankees play IKF at third base over Donaldson (admittedly, something I have considered), but Michael tore the caller apart. I get Michael’s position. Donaldson is a former MVP and right or wrong, the Yankees have entrusted third base to him this year. Aaron Boone continues to defend the player, and they believe he has value. IKF is not a starter, he is a guy who should be playing an infield super-utility role. The truth is the Yankees do not have a third base option better than Donaldson. That would have only been possible had DJ LeMahieu been healthy and on the active ALCS roster.

If the Yankees lose the ALCS, ultimately the biggest factor will be the injuries. The team would have looked so much better with Andrew Benintendi in left field, DJ LeMahieu roving around the infield, Michael King representing the best stopper the Yankees have had in years, and a bullpen with the likes of Ron Marinaccio, Scott Effross, and Zack Britton. Chad Green seems like such a long-ago memory, but if not for his injury and Tommy John surgery, he could have helped even if his production had been trending in the wrong direction over the last few seasons. But in the end, the sole cause for loss cannot be placed on the injuries. Those are the times for others to stand up. Houston has deftly filled the void of losing one of their better outfielders, Michael Brantley. This is not about the need for Aaron Boone to manage better, it is more about the players simply playing better.

Not giving up hope. If the Yankees win today, they can win tomorrow. One game at a time. As Yogi Berra says, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

The Texas Rangers failed with their attempt to spend a half-billion dollars in shore up their middle infield in 2022 with the free agent signings of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Credit to them for the stunning announcement yesterday that they have hired proven World Series manager Bruce Bochy to a three-year contract. I thought San Diego’s acquisition of Bob Melvin as their manager last offseason was the best managerial move, and Bochy stands as this offseason’s best even if the offseason has not even started yet. A good hire by the Rangers.

Bruce Bochy (Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu/AP)

A little strange to see a former Dodgers great managed by a Giants great but no doubt Seager is feeling a sense of excitement about his team’s future. I wonder if this will be the offseason that Dallas native Clayton Kershaw finally decides to come home to play. I have always felt he should be a Dodger to the end, but Kersh’s powerful sense of family and his North Texas home set the stage for his triumphant Lone Star State return.

Clayton Kershaw (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

If the Rangers sign Kershaw and trade for Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner (who has Bochy’s trust), it would be truly wild to see those guys on the same team.

The Braves-less and Dodgers-less NLCS is now advantage Philadelphia. After last night’s 4-2 win over the San Diego Padres, the Phillies are up two games to one. They play Game 4 tonight in Citizens Bank Park with a chance to take a commanding series lead. Although I have never been a fan of the Phillies, I am enjoying the success of Manager Rob Thomson. After years in the Yankees organization, Thomson should have been given greater consideration when Joe Girardi was not rehired. The Yankees, as we know, chose Aaron Boone since, in Cashman’s words at the time, he checked all the boxes. I think Thomson has shown he is more than just checked boxes. Unlike the Yankees, the Phillies made the right call to replace Girardi with Thomson. It helps to have a superstar like Bryce Harper on your team, but I am pulling for the Phillies to win the NLCS and advance to the World Series. If they play the Astros, I will be pulling for Philadelphia to capture its first World Series championship since 2008.

If Joe Girardi wants to manage another team, the Phillies’ success after he was fired cannot be good for one’s resume.

The Toronto Blue Jays removed the “interim” tag from Manager John Schneider’s title with a new three-year contract. Good for him. He did help the Blue Jays after the firing of former Manager Charlie Montoyo even if they faltered at the end (the memories of Vladdy Jr’s failed ‘This is our house!’ mantra still fresh on my mind). The Blue Jays have a strong, young core, and they will enter the 2023 season as a strong contender. Schneider joins Rob Thomson and Phil Nevin as interim managers who successfully auditioned for permanent roles with their respective teams. I think Nevin’s choice had more to do with the potential sale of the Los Angeles Angels than the Angels’ long-term desire to have Nevin lead them, but he will be the field general next season for the Halos.

Former Yankees and current Astros coach Joe Espada continues to interview for managerial openings. I do not know if it is true, but it feels like he has interviewed for more managerial jobs than anyone over the last several years. He deserves the opportunity. I saw that he had interviewed for the job with the Chicago White Sox, who are also reportedly considering former Manager Ozzie Guillen to replace the retired Tony LaRussa. I think the White Sox would be wise to choose Espada over Guillen. Espada has also talked with GM Kim Ng and the Miami Marlins, another good fit. I really hope he lands either the Chicago or Miami job. It seems like the White Sox roster has the greater potential. Either way, it is his time to lead.

As always, Go Yankees!

1 comment:

  1. Ok, this lineup makes no sense.
    1.Rizzo , he hit .167 while batting leadoff during the regular season.
    2.Carpenter was 1/8 as a pinch hitter , so far he is 0/3 in the postseason and 0/4 as a position player.Carp started off slow and the Yankees don't have the luxury.
    3.IKF made a couple of errors , however he has more hits than Stanton and Judge and makes contact, steals bases and plays better defense than given credit.It is not defense this team needs it is offense.
    4.Pitching, Boonehead pulling starting pitching to soon and as far as Schmidt goes I can not make judgement until I hear why up 0/2 he doesn't use his breaking stuff or bounce one in the dirt.
    Boone is quick to throw people under the bus.
    5.Is DJ hurt that bad that he would not make some difference ?What is it about Cabrera they gave him all this playing time more than Florial who is an excellent defender , Andujar who had 9 rbi's in 9 games because he was playing every day.As Pittsburgh announcer said he is a contact hitting machine.Hiw many games could we have used a hit with contact with RISP.
    Montas is not what is needed, we need Marriaccio
    This roster and lineup was bad choice.


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