Sunday, July 2, 2023

Keeping NYY Expectations Low...


Luis Severino (Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson/AP)

You win some, you lose some…

The Judge-less Yankees are not a threat to wreak havoc in October. They are barely a participant, holding onto the second Wild Card slot by a game on the Houston Astros, who hold the third spot, and a game-and-a-half lead in front of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays’ inability to beat the Boston Red Sox (winless in six tries) keeps them from higher placement in the Wild Card standings.

Friday’s rainout led to a doubleheader in St Louis, Missouri on Saturday, and the Yankees promptly killed their mini two-game winning streak by getting pounded by the Cardinals, 11-4, in the rain-interrupted first game. Luis Severino, trying to pitch as badly as Domingo German did on June 22nd against the Seattle Mariners, gave up nine runs (seven earned) in four innings. Somehow, I doubt Sevy will rebound with a perfect game as German did. German’s performance against the Mariners was slightly worse (ten runs, eight earned, allowed in three-and-a-half innings of disaster), however, Severino carries greater expectations than German. The Yankees needed Severino to step up this season with Carlos Rodón and Frankie Montas on the Injured List. A record of 1-3 with a 6.30 ERA (good for -0.4 fWAR) in eight games/forty innings pitched is not exactly stepping up. Severino has the worst K/9 rate of his career (7.65; his career average is 9.86) and his HR/9 is double his career average (2.25 to 1.12). 

Although Severino is a free agent after the end of the season, I had previously expected the Yankees to re-sign him after the season. Now, I am not so sure. His dismal showing during his walk year places pressure on the Yankees to find better options. Maybe Sevy cannot bounce back with a perfect game like German did (hey, a no-hitter would be just fine!), I doubt he does, but simply put, he needs to pitch better. The chance to improve begins with the next start. There is time to right the ship. A quality start followed by another. Is it too much to ask?

The lopsided score led Manager Aaron Boone to have Josh Donaldson pitch. As much as I hate to see position players on the mound, Donaldson retired all three batters he faced. The fact that Donaldson pitched better than Severino in the game is a sad testimony of where we are with the Yankees. 

Thankfully, the Yankees won the second game of the doubleheader, 6-2. The game was much closer than the final score, and it featured a bullpen game for the Yankees, led by Ian Hamilton. The Yankees jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, only to see it immediately tied when Lars Nootbaar homered off Hamilton in the bottom of the first inning. Anthony Volpe, who was probably the star of the game, tripled in the top of the second inning, scoring Isiah Kiner-Falefa, to give the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish. His single in the top of the ninth, after Isiah Kiner-Falefa had walked, moved IKF into scoring position at third base. IKF promptly scored on a safety squeeze by Jose Trevino. Volpe scored an additional insurance run when a single to left field by Gleyber Torres brought both him and DJ LeMahieu home.  Say what you will about Volpe, but regardless of his recent struggles, he needs to continue to play at the Major League level to get better. I remain convinced it will be worth the wait.


Gleyber Torres and Anthony Volpe (Photo Credit: USATSI)

The highlight of the game was the touching reception the Cardinals fans gave to Harrison Bader when he stepped to the plate for the first time. Bader did not play the first game. The warm reception received in the nightcap impacted Bader as he touched his heart during the applause and expressed his gratitude to the fans.  I may not be a Cardinals fan, but I have long understood how strong their fan base is. It was on display with Bader. 

The lowlight was the YES Network booth discussion with Michael Kay, Jeff Nelson, and Meredith Marakovits about Luke Voit’s sleeveless jersey while playing for the New York Mets Triple-A affiliate against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

Luke Voit

It led to Kay flexing his “dancing biceps” for the TV audience, sadly, a sight we can never unsee. 

The Yankees (46-37) failed to gain any ground over the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays this week. They remain nine and a half games behind. The Blue Jays appeared ready to leapfrog over the Yankees this week, but their weekend series against their Kryptonite, the Red Sox, has kept the Blue Jays a game and a half behind the Yanks. 

The Yankees open a four-game series tomorrow at Yankee Stadium against the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The O’s currently hold a three-game advantage over the Yankees in the AL East.

The Yankees need to get on a roll if they plan to make up ground. Taking anything less than three of four from the Orioles will seem like a disappointment. The Yankees’ offense, without Aaron Judge, gives little confidence they can dominate the O’s. With Gerrit Cole pitching today, he will miss Baltimore. Randy Vasquez is expected to be recalled for Wednesday’s start although he is listed as today’s starter for the RailRiders. Presumably, he will be scratched if the plans are for his promotion to make Wednesday’s start. If not, the Yankees have other plans.

Carlos Rodón completed his third rehab start. I preface it by saying he was pitching for the Yankees’ High-A affiliate in Hudson Valley. He struck out eight lower-level prospects in three-and-a-third innings. He gave up one hit and walked two batters. We should see the Yankee Stadium debut of Rodón this week. He was expected to make three rehab starts before activation and they were completed with solid results. Given Luis Severino has fallen off the cliff, the Yankees need Rodón’s presence in the rotation now more than ever. If he pitches like he did last year for the San Francisco Giants, the team should start to build some momentum. 

Rodón is expected to make his Yankee Stadium debut on Friday when Anthony Rizzo’s old team, the Chicago Cubs, are in town for a weekend series. 

Honestly, I have no expectations for the Yankees this year. I am not trying to be a pessimist, but rather a realist. If the Yankees need Aaron Judge to be “great”, then the team was poorly constructed. There is talent on the roster, but collectively, the talent and the effort have not yielded the necessary results to play with the big boys. Judge’s return remains murky at best. The hope he would be back before the All-Star Break has become hope he will return before the season’s end. The torn toe ligament casts doubt on how effective he can be until he has fully and completely recovered…an unknown timeframe.  The Yankees need an impact bat since the so-called impact bats on the roster are not providing it. 

July is the month for significant trades. However, I remain skeptical that the Yankees will make any big splashes this year. I do not see the Yankees taking on huge additional financial commitments nor do I see them moving another bevy of top prospects. Depleting the farm system for rentals has not worked out in the last couple of years.  We should probably hold off from running out to buy Juan Soto jerseys. Michael Kay has already been calling out the company line when he said that Rodón’s return is like a deadline acquisition. The cold, hard truth is these are our 2023 New York Yankees, for better or for worse. The refusal to pursue elite impact bats in free agency the last couple of years has led to the belief that we are wasting the best years of Gerrit Cole’s career. I yearn for the Yankees of old when they were a young, exciting, and over-achieving team. There is no magic with the current crew, aside from an occasional perfect game. Maybe things change when Judge and Rodón are back in full form, but maybe not. Until they can prove they are better, we continue to win some, lose some and that does not bode well for October.

Domingo German’s perfect game

I am not a fan of Domingo German.

Although I believe people deserve second chances, the stories of domestic abuse are hard to overcome.  As such, I had mixed feelings about Domingo German’s perfect game this week. It is exciting the Yankees won. It was a brilliant pitching performance regardless of the quality of the opponent. I am glad the Yankees won. The difficulty is German’s name is forever placed among Don Larsen, David Wells, and David Cone as the only pitchers to throw perfect games in Yankees history.  Gerrit Cole, Jhony Brito, Clarke Schmidt, Luis Severino, or Randy Vasquez…any of these names would have been more palatable than German as legendary franchise achievers.

While it is hard to celebrate the individual, the stats were impressive. No hits, no walks, no runs, nine strikeouts. Ninety-nine total pitches, seventy-two for strikes. German improved his season record to 5-5 and lowered his inflated ERA to 4.54. It was the first perfect game in Major League Baseball since Felix Hernandez did it in 2012. No one can ever take the perfect game away from German, and he will be talking to his grandchildren about it. Good for him. 

Domingo German and Kyle Higashioka (Photo Credit: USATSI)

I know some fans feel that German should be forgiven. Maybe so, maybe not. I have my feelings about him, and it does not make any difference to anybody. I believe it was Randy Wilkins, @pamsson on Twitter, who tweeted something to the effect that we can celebrate the accomplishment without celebrating the individual. It makes total sense to me. I can have my opinion; you can have yours. In the end, neither opinion takes away the accomplishment. 

Didi’s Return

Signed to a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners in early June, Didi Gregorius finally made his debut for the Tacoma Rainiers (Triple-A) on Friday. His arrival had been delayed due to visa issues. Gregorius, released last year by the Philadelphia Phillies, had been playing in the Mexican Leagues before his contract with Seattle. Only 33 years old, I am glad to see Didi given another opportunity. He is certainly one of the good guys in the game.

Didi Gregorius (Photo Credit: Instagram via @sirdidig18)

Time will tell if Didi makes it back to the Major Leagues, but the challenge is within his control. I would like to see him succeed…just not against the Yankees. 

It is weird to see both Didi and Luke Voit, once considered important Yankee players, fighting for their baseball futures in Triple-A.  Gary Sanchez, currently a backup catcher for the San Diego Padres, was able to make it back. Hopefully, the same outcome awaits Didi and Voit.

As always, Go Yankees!

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