Saturday, May 20, 2023

Where Do the Yankees Go from Here? ...


Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: AP)

Yankees slowly finding their “sea legs”…

I have absolutely no idea where the New York Yankees will be at the end of September. I would like to think they will be the AL Eastern Division Champions with a game left to play in Kansas City against the Royals on the first day of October to conclude the 2023 Regular Season, and ready to prepare for the playoffs with momentum on their side. Or maybe they will be one of the Wild Card Teams hoping for a 2022 Philadelphia Phillies type of run. Yet, just as easily, they could be on the outside looking in. Who knows? Much can happen between now and the end of the regular season.

I have lowered my expectations since the start of the season and even with some recent optimism, the Yankees still manage to disappoint us as often as they excite us. I have not found them to be a team of destiny, at least not yet. I believe the Yankees will be better when the injured guys get healthy, however, there is no certainty that everyone else will stay healthy. This could just be a rotating cycle of different guys headed for the Injured List.

As I write this post, it is not my belief that the Yankees are championship-caliber. They can be, but not today.  No, I am not giving up on the season. I am hopeful and optimistic that the Yankees will start winning with greater frequency and consistency. Any team with Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole is going to be a contender. The question is who is going to make the Yankees better than a contender likely to be bounced in the early playoff rounds? The continued maturation of Anthony Volpe will help, and a strong, healthy debut by Luis Severino on Sunday adds value. Tommy Kahnle will soon be making his latest debut in Pinstripes to provide much-needed bullpen help, and Giancarlo Stanton and his monster bat should be along shortly. Josh Donaldson keeps finding new ways to stay on the Injured List, but he is not missed.

As for the continuation of injuries, the Yankees placed catcher Jose Trevino (hamstring strain) on the Injured List this week. Catcher Ben Rortvedt will finally get his chance to make an appearance for the Yankees after all the jokes about his fictional status in the organization. I am hopeful Rortvedt makes a positive impression when/if he gets to play. Over-exposure of Kyle Higashioka as the starter is troublesome. The Yankees also lost reliever Ian Hamilton to the IL with a groin injury.    

As we roll into June, the rumor mill for trades leading up to the trade deadline starts percolating. We may begin seeing a few trades in June as teams begin to assess their needs and organizational directions. There had been some questions if the Yankees would be buyers or sellers, but that is crazy. The Yankees will be buyers.  After two years of disappointing deadline deals (with no disrespect to Anthony Rizzo who was a very fine acquisition), maybe this is the year for GM Brian Cashman to hit the jackpot. The third time’s a charm, right?  If the Yankees can find the right mix of healthy, productive players in the coming months, I will be far more optimistic in September than I am today. 

I would like the team’s senior consultants, Brian Sabean, and Omar Minaya, to show why the Yankees brought them aboard. Time for them to show their mettle and prove their worth. They need to make Cashman look like a genius for hiring them. 

I usually do not start a post so negatively after a Yankees win. The Yankees defeated the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night, 6-2, but of course, it is the Reds so the Yankees should beat them. The win improves the Yankees’ record to 27-20. I was prouder the team went into Toronto this week, and, despite the drama of Aaron Judge’s eyes, they took three of four games in Vladimir Guerrero, Jr’s house. 

The Blue Jays, the only AL East team to lose Friday night, fell into a last-place tie with the Boston Red Sox, elevating the Yankees to sole possession of third place.

It would be nice for the Yankees to get on a roll. I always love ten-game winning streaks. Two down, eight to go. My goal every year is to be 34-21 (or better) after 55 games. It has been that way since I was a kid although I am not sure why. If the Yankees go 7-1 over the next eight games, I will have no reason to be disappointed. 

Anthony Volpe is a Major Leaguer

I do not understand the Yankee fans who are calling for the demotion of Anthony Volpe to Triple-A. Like many fans at the beginning of Spring Training, I thought Oswald Peraza should be the starting shortstop for this year’s team. I slowly came around as Volpe continued to impress every day in Florida and it started to look like he would make the Opening Day Roster. I was fully prepared to accept Peraza, but equally, I accepted Volpe because the Yankees believe in him.  Okay, I do not trust everyone the Yankees believe in (case in point, Aaron Hicks). When Volpe was named the starting shortstop, he had my support. But in accepting a rookie, a then-21-year-old who has since turned 22, there will be good days and there will be bad days. It is part of the growth of a Major League Baseball Player. When he makes an error, I am not going to call for his head. This is what we signed up for. Accept Anthony Volpe for who he is and let him blossom over time. 

Anthony Volpe (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

I think Volpe will prove to be a game-changer with his speed and the disruption he can cause on the basepaths for opposing pitchers.  Volpe can be an elite player, but this is a long-term project. He was primarily a Double-A player last season with only a cup of coffee in Triple-A. It is not going to happen overnight or in a matter of days. It could be a few months, or it could take a couple of years. Regardless, it will be worth the wait. Sending Volpe down now serves no purpose. If he was booting routine grounders every day or flailing at pitches at the plate, I could see sending him back down to Triple-A to work on the fundamentals. That’s not the case. I think Volpe grows with each game and learns from every mistake. He is getting better. Give him your support, not your anger or frustration. Save that for Aaron Hicks.

Domingo German is a…

Regardless of the excuses given, it stands out to me that Domingo German has once again let his team down. The Yankees are a man short for ten days while German serves his ten-day suspension for being thrown out of Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays after a foreign substance check. If the rules say pitchers should only use rosin on the pitching mound, there is no excuse for German to use any substances in the dugout regardless of his intent.  He selfishly made a decision that hurt the team. 

While I appreciate when German is pitching well, it does not detract from my desire to see his removal from the team. Hoping the trade deadline brings some good news on that front. 

The Reds contended Clarke Schmidt was using a foreign substance in Friday’s night game when they detected a black smudge on his wrist. Schmidt was checked by the umpires who accepted Schmidt’s explanation that the smudge was the result of black fur inside his black glove combined with sweat and rosin on his hands. The umps did not find Schmidt’s hands to be sticky, and he remained in the game much to the chagrin of Reds manager David Bell who was subsequently tossed from the game. It would have been tough for the Yankees if a second pitcher had been ejected from the roster for ten days, positions that cannot be filled during their absences. 

This is not a double standard. German was clearly using a substance obtained off the field with sticky hands. As William Petersen’s Gil Grissom character once said on CSI: Vegas, the evidence never lies. 

Yankees Acquire Outfielder

Greg Allen is back.

It was a surprise to see the Yankees had acquired Allen from the Boston Red Sox on Friday night. Allen had been playing in the Red Sox organization on a minor league deal. According to Red Sox beat writer (and one-time Yankees beat writer) Pete Abraham, Allen had an upward mobility clause in his contract. The Yankees sent 18-year-old minor league pitcher Diego Hernandez and cash to Boston for Allen. 

The 30-year-old Allen was with Boston’s Triple-A affiliate in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was hitting .250 (.407 OBP) with 2 home runs and 15 RBIs in 116 at-bats for the Worcester Red Sox. He scored 25 runs and had stolen 23 bases.

Since Allen is expected to be added to the Major League roster, whom will he be replacing? It seems like either Oswaldo Cabrera or Willie Calhoun could be headed to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The less likely moves seem to be either Jake Bauers or Aaron Hicks although I would gladly drive Hicks to his new destination at no expense to the Yankees.  It does seem strange that the Yankees acquired Allen at a time when Estevan Florial is tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A. Not sure what Florial must do to prove he deserves an opportunity in the Bronx.

It is always odd to see the Yankees trade with the Red Sox.

I was a little surprised when the Yankees left Allen off the roster following the 2021 season, and he was plucked by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Glad to see him back on the team. He is obviously not a difference-maker, but he can help the team.   

Greg Allen

The Yankees also signed reliever Michael Feliz to a minor-league contract. The 29-year-old was playing in the Mexican League when he got the call from the Yankees. Feliz pitched in the Boston and Minnesota organizations last season, only making it to the Show for 3 ½ innings with the Red Sox. 

Feliz was part of the package, along with Jason Martin, Colin Moran, and Joe Musgrove, that went from the Houston Astros to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2018 trade that sent Gerrit Cole to the Astros. Time will tell if he gets a chance to play with the guy he was once traded for. 

As always, Go Yankees!

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