Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Unsinkable Josh Donaldson...


Yasmani Grandal & Josh Donaldson / Photo Credit: Sarah Stier, Getty Images

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but…

Suffice it to say that Tim Anderson will not be inviting Josh Donaldson over for Thanksgiving dinner in November. The bad blood between the two players this season boiled over yesterday after Donaldson called Anderson “Jackie.” The White Sox took the approach it was a racist comment. Donaldson, trying to defend himself, stated it was about Anderson’s 2019 Sports Illustrated story where the White Sox shortstop described himself as “today’s Jackie Robinson.”

The Athletic, via Twitter

I am a Yankees fan, so I am biased toward Donaldson, but I honestly do not believe he is a racist. When I first heard Donaldson’s rebuttal to the allegation, I could see how Donaldson might use Jackie’s name in mocking manner to imply that Anderson was no Jackie Robinson or, the way Donaldson described it, he was just being playful with the reference in jest to Anderson’s prior proclamation. Not saying that is right. I certainly would not have used those words, but Josh Donaldson is his own man. If there were any racial overtones with Donaldson’s words or actions, I strongly believe the Yankees clubhouse would call him out on it and take the necessary disciplinary action through their own means behind closed doors.

For the White Sox, it is easy for them to try to make this worse than it was. They have not been successful against the Yankees this year, and frustrations are rising. The White Sox, beneficiaries of current elite Major League talent derived from having one of the best farm systems in baseball from 2017 to 2020, were projected by many to reach the World Series this season. They are 19-20 entering play today and sit 4.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. They are 2.5 games out in the Wild Card chase. So far this season, the teams have played five games and the White Sox have only one win to show for it. Over the last three years, the Yankees have won nine of eleven games against the White Sox. They conclude their regular season play today with a double-header, weather-permitting. If both teams make the playoffs, it is possible this feud will be reignited in October when tensions are even higher.

But setting aside my defense of Donaldson, I understand and accept those who say that how words affect the recipient is the key point which must not be lost. Regardless of what we may think, Tim Anderson took exception to Donaldson’s words. It is his right, and only he knows how deeply the words hurt. We cannot speak for Anderson. If Donaldson’s words did hurt Anderson, then MLB or more specifically the Yankees should take the appropriate action against Donaldson and sit him for a few.

One thing is for sure. Josh Donaldson will never back down from a fight. He brings an edge to the team, and whether we agree with his methods, he gives the team toughness it did not previously have. I truly hope in my heart there was no racial motivation or intent. 

More Clay Holmes, less Aroldis Chapman. Holmes, arguably one of the best relievers in baseball among non-closers is quickly becoming a much stronger ninth inning option than Chapman. Anytime Chapman enters a game, you can only hope the Yankees have put enough runs on the board to offset the runs the opponent will score off Chapman. A one-run lead? Give me Holmes over Chapman any day of the week. I know Chapman has not blown a save this year, but every outing feels like a tightrope walk with a few wobbles along the way.

Aroldis Chapman / Photo Credit: EPA

As it stands, Chapman has not pitched since last Tuesday. It is never a good thing when he does not pitch for long stretches. With two games on tap for today, it seems he will be used out of necessity. It may be the best opportunity for the White Sox to take at least one of the games. I have always liked Aroldis Chapman but my confidence in him has waned. I would have no problem if the Yankees moved Chapman at the trading deadline although I am not sure what they could get. Chapman will be a free agent at the end of the year. He is gone. There will be no further reunions.

Jonathan Loaisiga was my choice for closer-in-waiting at the start of the year, but Holmes has re-written the script. He seems likely to be the next closer, perhaps as early as this season. Move Chapman around in other innings, dependent upon the situations. It might reinvigorate Chapman to face other high leverage spots instead of exclusively the critical, tension-filled ninth inning as he transitions away from a once dominant fastball.

Chad Green placed on the Injured List. As frustrated as I was this year with Chad Green, this is not the way I wanted it to go. If the injury, right forearm discomfort, is serious and requires surgery, it is very probable that Green will not wear the Pinstripes again. He will be a free agent at the end of the year, and it was already unlikely the Yankees would extend him given his struggles for the last season and a half. It was great when Green was one of the most dominant relievers in the Yankees bullpen and rated as one of the best relievers in baseball. Sadly, he is no longer that guy. Age happens, and the life cycle of a dominant reliever, unless your name is Mariano Rivera, seems to be noticeably short. Whatever happens with Chad, I wish him the best. If he can get back out on the field this season, I hope that he is able to rediscover the magic. If not, I hope he finds success with his next team.

Chad Green / Photo Credit: Nick Wass, AP

RHP Ron Marinaccio was recalled from Triple A, taking Green’s spot on the roster.

Luis Gil meets Tommy John. Unfortunately, it is not an opportunity to meet the great former Dodgers/Yankees starting pitcher, but rather the misfortune to go under the knife. This, the Tommy John surgery, is not news that any Yankees fan wanted to hear. Gil was removed from a Triple A game on Wednesday against the Worcester Red Sox after turning to face the RailRiders dugout while pointing to his right elbow after throwing a pitch. It has been confirmed that Gil will require surgery. Gil had met with Yankees team physician Christopher Admad in New York City on Friday and presumably received other medical opinions.

Gil made only one start for the big-league club in 2022, when he pitched four innings on May 12th against the Chicago White Sox. He started, giving up four runs over four innings, and departed with a lead, but the White Sox later tied the game ultimately won by the Yankees, 15-7. Jonathan Loiasiga picked up the win in relief.

Recovery and rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery generally takes at least one year to eighteen months. It can take some athletes up to two years to reach their previous level of ability. It is going to be a long road ahead for Gil, and hopefully he is successful in his journey back to the Major Leagues in either late 2023 or early 2024.

It is a tough break for the Yankees since they lose a starting option. Presumably, Clarke Schmidt becomes the ‘go-to’ if the rotation needs assistance. It would be enticing to consider Michael King, but he has been so hugely valuable in the pen. The dominance of King and Clay Holmes has helped cover for other bullpen flaws.

Roderick Arias will be delayed. It was reported this week that the Yankees’ latest elite international free agent signing may be delayed this season. He ceased baseball activities two weeks ago for an undisclosed injury. Yankees international scouting director Donny Rowland described it as nothing major, just a tweak that is lingering. Hopefully, it is nothing significant, and Arias will be able to make his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League this season. The DSL is scheduled to begin play on June 6th.

The Yankees signed the 17-year-old Dominican shortstop in January for $4 million.

Minor League free agent signings. Over the last week and a half, the Yankees have signed three players to minor league contracts. On May 13th, they signed Danny Salazar, once a promising pitcher for Cleveland, who has not pitched in the Major Leagues since 2019. The right-hander is now thirty-two. Who knows if he will be successful in the Yankees organization but I wish him the best of luck in his journey to find his way back. Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake knows a thing or two about Salazar from their days in Cleveland, so perhaps the signing was based on his recommendation.

The Yankees also signed LHP Rafaelin Nivar and RHP Ryan Miller. There are no minor league stats for Nivar, and I was unable to locate any information on him. Miller, 26, is a former Arizona Diamondbacks prospect who was released in 2020. Miller was assigned to the Yankees High-A Affiliate, the Hudson Valley Renegades.

As always, Go Yankees!