Yankees Progress Report – 60 Games

When we left off after the Yankees 50 game report, the team was playing much better. The offense was still lagging but they were getting good pitching and just enough offense to win seven of their ten games from May 17 through the 27th. To quote a worn-out cliché from manager Aaron Boone, it looked like the Yankees were turning the corner.

Fast forward another ten games later, and the team is back where they were three weeks ago, treading water and playing barely over .500 ball. The Yankees played three games against the Tigers in Detroit and got swept. They returned home to play a four-game set against the Rays, which they split, followed by three games at home against the Boston Red Sox. In any case, it ended in a demoralizing sweep in front of the Yankee Stadium faithful.

Let’s go over the carnage.

The offense – let’s just say it was offensive. To save the aggravation of re-living it, I’ll just summarize. Yankees hitters need to be better. When they weren’t striking out, which was often, they were hitting into double plays. When they weren’t hitting into double plays, they were making dumb outs on the base-paths. And that’s only when they were finding ways to get on base. 

Yankees beat-writer Sweeny Murti summed it up well.

Honestly, it’s been painful. To save space, I’ll just say that Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela are really the only hitters that are performing as expected. The rest are spinning their wheels in the mud. 

Pitching – the rotation and pitching staff as a whole suffered a tremendous blow when Corey Kluber went on the injured list. He left his start against the Blue Jays after three innings on May 25. Just six days prior, he pitched a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Diagnosed as a shoulder strain, Kluber has reportedly sought 2nd and 3rd opinions.  Kluber played catch on June 4 and felt good, which is encouraging.

Gerrit Cole was roughed up at home against the Rays on June 3, giving up five runs in five innings. Uncharacteristically, a pair of lead-off walks in the 4th and 5th innings ended up scoring. Additionally, his spin-rates were down, which made some ask if he was curtailing his supposed use of sticky substances in the wake of MLB’s announcement that they are going start randomly checking pitchers for illegal use.

The bullpen is beginning to show signs of wear, with Chad Green and Justin Wilson suffering poor recent outings. Green let in four runs against the Red Sox while recording just a pair of outs in a 7-3 loss on June 5. Wilson was walked off in the 10th inning in Detroit on May 28, when Robbie Grossman hit a two run shot. In essence, Wilson should have been out of the inning with a save and a Yankees win. Home plate umpire Vic Carapazza had other ideas. According to MLB Gameday, Wilson hit his spot which should have been called strike three. Carapazza called it a ball.

Murphy’s law took over and Grossman ended the game on the very next pitch. 

To be sure, it was a tough 10-game stretch, with the Yankees losing five out of seven at home. The Yankees started an eight game road trip with an 8-4 win against the Twins, with the offense looking much more like themselves. By and large, it’s a good head start for the next ten game stretch. Like YES Network broadcaster David Cone says, “Home runs are a great deodorant”. So is winning!

See ya next time!

Yankees Progress Report – 50 Games

It feels like I just published the New York Yankees 40 game report, but here we are again to cover the team’s first fifty games. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? 

It is fun when the team is winning, and the Yankees have done this quite a bit lately. Their record sits at 29-21 after a 5-10 start. They continued their road trip into Texas, dropping the first game of a four-game set on Monday, May 18. Gerrit Cole struggled, allowing five runs to the Rangers in a 5-2 loss. Jameson Taillon struggled the next night. His teammates spotted him five runs, but the Rangers got to him for four runs in just 4.1 innings. The Yankees went on to win, 7-4.

The following night, Corey Kluber was dialed in from the beginning. The offense scored just a pair of runs, but that was all he needed. Kluber looked like his Cy Young self, mastering the Rangers on his way to a no-hitter. He breezed through 101 pitches, 71 of them for strikes. After getting 14 outs the night before, Kluber gave the bullpen a needed night off.

 

The rest of the rotation followed Kluber’s lead, pitching a total of 37 scoreless innings before allowing another run. Domingo Germán and Jordan Montgomery each hurled seven scoreless innings, with Monty notching a career-high eleven strikeouts against the Chicago White Sox on Friday, May 21. The next night, Cole returned to form with seven scoreless of his own, frustrating Chicago hitters to the tune of seven punch-outs and only four hits.

Taillon redeemed himself a bit on Sunday, May 23 with five scoreless innings against the same White Sox. Trouble came after an off day, when Kluber left his start against the Toronto Blue Jays after just three innings. He reported his arm feeling heavy and unable to get really loose. An MRI showed a slight strain, but nothing truly serious.

With the starters going deep into games, it gave the Yankees bullpen a needed breather.  Aroldis Chapman had the nerve to be human and give up a run on May 23, but it didn’t matter in the end as the team won. He now has a 0.47 ERA to go with 11 saves and a 2-0 record. 

Jonathan Loáisiga has struggled a bit in his last four appearances. He only allowed one run, but allowed a few hits and just isn’t quite as dominating. His stuff is so good, though. He and Chapman, along with Chad Green have formed a really good set ’em up and shut ’em down bullpen squad. 

More good news, as Zack Britton (right elbow surgery) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment tomorrow with Double-A Somerset.

On the other side of the ball, the Yankees offense has been up and down. Aaron Judge has caught fire at the right time, hitting .434 with 6 HR and 11 RBI in his last 15 starts. Last night, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Blue Jays, he smoked a blast to center that doinked off the windows above Monument Park.

Gleyber Torres came back after a battle with COVID-19, and promptly raked. He recorded 11 hits in 18 at bats against Texas and Chicago. However, Gleyber didn’t record a hit against the Blue Jays in all three games. Luke Voit, who made his season debut on May 11, went back on the injured list with a strained oblique muscle. He struggled in his time back with the Yankees, hitting .182 with just one home run. Voit will be out until some time in July.

Gio Urshela is cooling off a bit, but still managed seven hits in 32 at bats and 5 RBI over the past ten games. Gary Sánchez is never going to hit well, I think that’s a given at this point. But he did hit a needed home run last night, a solo blast in the 3rd inning off Robbie Ray. He added another hit in the 6th inning. We’ll take what we can get from Gary.

And I need to show some love to Tyler Wade. He’s been getting more playing time, out of necessity with the team being banged up. He has two hits in ten at bats, but made a really good running catch in the 9th inning of Corey Kluber‘s no-hitter. This is relevant because Wade has hardly played any outfield in his career. He discussed it in the postgame Zoom room with Yankees beat writers.

Last but not least, Giancarlo Stanton makes his return tonight after recovering from a quad strain. He last played on May 13.

The Yankees begin a three game set in Detroit for a weekend series against the Tigers before returning home next week for a pair of important series against the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. Both teams are currently ahead of the Yankees in the AL East.

Early Candidates for the American League Cy Young Award

We are a third of the way through the MLB season, baseball’s top pitchers are separating themselves from the rest of the pack. Some of the usual cast of characters are pitching as expected, and there are a couple of surprises as well.

Today we will look at early contenders for the American League Cy Young Award.

Gerrit Cole – The $324 million dollar ace of the New York Yankees is doing his thing. His numbers (6-2, 1.81 ERA) are as you would expect. Cole struck out ten or more five times, and struck out 59 hitters without issuing a walk. The Cy Young odds have been updated and it looks like Cole is now -125 favorite to take home the award.

John Means – Means opened eyes across the baseball world on May 5, when he pitched a no-hitter against the Mariners in Seattle. But those who have watched the big, strapping lefty for some time shouldn’t be surprised. He’s leading the AL in ERA with 1.79, and would be among the league leaders if he had more run support from his Orioles teammates.

Kyle Gibson – Some folks reading this are probably saying, “WHO?” The 33 year old Gibson has toiled in relative obscurity in Minnesota for most of his career, before coming to the Rangers prior to the 2020 season. He entered this season with a career 69-74 record and ERA over 4.50, but seems to have finally put it together. Gibson has a 3-0 record and 2.24 ERA in ten starts, including a 1.50 ERA in his last nine outings. Like John Means, he should have a lot more wins if he had run support.

Hyun-Jin Ryu – Ryu has been one of baseball’s top pitchers since coming to the majors in 2013 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Prior to the 2020 season, he signed a four year contract with Toronto to be their ace. He hasn’t disappointed. Ryu posted a 2.69 ERA across a dozen starts in the abbreviated season last year. He has carried it over this year, fashioning a 2.53 earned run average. The stuff is there for him to win, the biggest obstacle has been staying healthy long-term.

Tyler Glasnow – Before he was traded to the Rays from Pittsburgh, it was hard to tell where Glasnow’s career was headed. The 6’8″ righty had trouble with mechanics and keeping everything in-line. The raw stuff was there, but no one know where the ball was going when it left his hand. After the trade in Summer 2018, Kevin Cash and the Rays put him right into the starting rotation. A switch flipped on when Glasnow began working with respected pitching coach Kyle Snyder. The Rays coach is also a big man and a former pitcher. The 27 year old Glasnow (4-2, 2.57 ERA) is pitching deep into games, averaging 12.6 K’s per nine innings. 

In a later installment, we will break down starters who could battle for the Cy Young in the senior circuit.

 

What a week for this Baseball-holic!

When the calendar flipped to 2021 leaving 2020 behind, I had a feeling things would get better. After COVID-19 ravaged our lives, everyone looks ahead to the normalcy that COVID took from us. That better life includes a full season of baseball after Major League Baseball played only sixty games in 2020. Consequently, Minor League Baseball didn’t play a game, as the season was cancelled completely.

On Tuesday, May 18, Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull pitched MLB’s fifth no-hitter of the young 2021 season. The 28 year old righty held the Mariners hitless in a 117 pitch masterpiece. Two years ago, Turnbull suffered through a 3-17 season, but owns a 2.88 ERA this year. Meanwhile, Seattle has been no hit twice this year after Orioles lefty John Means mastered them exactly one week before.

In addition to Turnbull’s effort, the next evening Corey Kluber locked in from the beginning. The Klubot had every weapon in his arsenal working. Coupled with his marksman control, he carved his way through the Texas Rangers, for a no-no in a tidy 101 pitch effort in a 2-0 New York Yankees win.

With that, MLB has six no-hitters less than two months into the season. If you include Madison Bumgarner‘s seven inning performance in Atlanta, there’s seven (yes, it should count).

Friday night, the Yankees turned a triple-play in the top of the 9th inning, snuffing out a White Sox rally. The game was tied at one apiece, and swung the momentum in the Yankees’ favor. They won on a walk-off hit by Gleyber Torres, giving the Yankees 21 wins in their last 30 games.

On a personal level, I took in a few minor league games in Rochester, where I live. In light of the cancelled minor league season, the Rochester Red Wings played in their home ballpark, Frontier Field, for the first time in 624 days. They hosted the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Yankees Triple-A affiliate.

Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders CF Estevan Florial steps in as Rochester’s Ben Braymer checks his fielders before first pitch. It had been 624 days since the last Red Wings game was played at Frontier Field. (Author’s photo)

 

It’s an incredible feeling to have Minor League Baseball back. Please support your local minor league team. So much fun at an affordable price. See ya next time! 😎

Yankees 40 Game Report

The New York Yankees and Major League Baseball are through forty games, roughly the first quarter of the 2021 season. After starting out 5-10, the Yankees have won 17 of their last 25 games. The bats have warmed along with the weather, and the team has gotten good pitching more often than not.

In this installment of “Yankees xx Game Report”, we’re going to cover games 32 through 40. We got a little off kilter the last couple times, and I want to get back on track covering games by full ten game increments. So let’s get started!

The Yankees won all three series against the Nationals, Rays, and Baltimore Orioles, for a 6-3 record in those games. Yankees fans tend to be a greedy bunch (in a GOOD WAY), so there was some disappointment when the team failed to complete the sweeps against Tampa Bay and Baltimore.

  • Pitching

Gerrit Cole started only one game during this span of games, but he made it a beauty. On May 12, the unquestioned rotation leader delivered eight scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and a dozen punchies. He threw 73 strikes over 106 pitches.

Jordan Montgomery has been uneven, and his two most recent starts has been more of the same. Six innings of one-run ball in Tampa on May 11, and yesterday he went just three innings (76 pitches) and let in five runs in Baltimore. On the season, Monty is sporting an ERA of 4.75 and hasn’t gone past six innings in his eight starts. 

Corey Kluber has also made eight starts in 2021. His first four starts were less than impressive, but I will chalk it up to rustiness after pitching one inning last year. The Klubot locked it in since, reeling off 26.1 (7 ER) innings reminiscent of his Cy Young years. The Yankees won all four starts, and Kluber has lowered his season ERA to 3.48.

Domingo Germán pitched well in his two starts against the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees won both games and Germán got his team to the seventh inning each time (3 runs over 12.1 total innings). He’s throwing strikes and seems to be back to form after missing all of 2020 under suspension for his role in a domestic abuse incident.

Jameson Taillon, the Yankees fifth starter and newest addition to the rotation, has struggled. He missed most of the past two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Many pitchers who have had this surgery say command is the last thing to return to normal, so this isn’t unexpected. The stuff is there, as Taillon has struck out 43 in his 33.1 innings. What’s hurt Jamo is not being able to put hitters away, resulting in getting into deep counts and raising his pitch totals. Taillon also seems to have one bad inning where things start to go sideways. Patience is going to be key, but I believe it will be rewarded in the long run. For now, Taillon sports a 5.40 ERA and a record of 1-3.

As for the bullpen, the guys are still getting the job done. Aroldis Chapman has converted all nine save opportunities, striking out 31 in his 15 innings and allowing only one unearned run. Jonathan Loaísiga has two saves of his own, filling in when Chapman was unavailable while touching 100 mph. Chad Green has been dependable, while lefties Lucas Luetge, Justin Wilson and Wandy Peralta have been excellent. On the injury front, Zack Britton is throwing simulated games with Triple-A Scranton, and should be ready to begin a rehab assignment any day now.

**UPDATE** Yankees clubhouse reporter Meredith Marakovits reports Britton has some “general soreness” after the simulated game. The plan was to have him make a rehab appearance with Somerset on Wednesday, but will push that back for now.

  • Position Players 

Aaron Judge is getting hot, and it’s coming at a great time. In the Baltimore series, Judge swung his gavel to the tune of six hits and 4 HR’s in ten at bats. He’s 13-29 with five bombs over the past nine games. With Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton hitting the injured list, the Yankees need him. 

Luke Voit is back after finishing a week-long rehab assignment with Scranton Wilkes-Barre. It took a few days for him to get going, but Voit drove home a pair of runs in Baltimore while collecting four hits in nine AB’s.

Gio Urshela returned he sat out a few games with a sore knee. He’s back to hitting the ball (7-22 – .318) and being his dependable self, including a clutch three-run HR in Baltimore that proved to be the winning runs.

After DJ LeMahieu carried the Yankees in 2019 and 2020, we became used to him raking like a man-possessed. He’s not hitting .350, but he’s been extremely dependable. On the season, LeMahieu’s slash-line is .272/.364/.364. Over the past nine games, it’s .286/.375/.457 – which is more indicative of the hitter he is.

Gleyber Torres has been out since May 11 after testing positive for COVID-19. The diagnosis came at a tough time, as Gleyber was starting to hit after a slow start to the season. Torres was 13 for his last 43, including his first home run of the year on Mother’s Day. The Yankees are hoping he will be back soon.

In the catching department, Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sánchez are holding their own. They each have five home-runs, but are also hitting under .200. I can live with it, as long as the guys are handling the pitching staff and defense.

And I have to give Tyler Wade some love. When Torres went down, Wade stepped in with six starts at shortstop. He has 5 hits in his 16 at bats, and drew a pair of walks. Everyone seems to hate on the guy, myself included at times. He deserves credit for some good at bats.

It’s hard to believe we’re a quarter of the way through the 2021 season. The Yankees play four games in Texas against the Rangers before heading back to the Bronx to face the White Sox and Blue Jays.

Yankees need more from bench players

In today’s world of professional baseball, no player is going to play every game of every season. Players like Cal Ripken, Jr., who famously played 2,632 consecutive games for the Baltimore Orioles, wouldn’t set such records for durability today. Studies have shown resting players periodically is more beneficial for teams, because they are fresher after a day off. “Load management” is a thing in MLB, minor league baseball, and other sports as well.

When the New York Yankees tweeted out their lineup for yesterday’s game against Tampa Bay Rays, I didn’t have a good feeling.

Let’s finish this series?

I was hoping for “Let’s sweep the series”. The Rays started a soft-tossing lefty in Rich Hill, so I didn’t expect to see Mike Ford and Brett Gardner, who bat left handed. Aaron Hicks (sore wrist) and Luke Voit (that load management thing) weren’t able to go, necessitating the lineup changes. Let’s just say it didn’t go well. The 41 year old Hill pitched into the seventh inning, holding the Bombers to three hits.

I understand keeping players fresh, but that lineup was a white flag more than two hours before first pitch. The results were predictable. Mike Ford and Brett Gardner are hitting .095 and .192, respectively. Clint Frazier has a .141 average and is an automatic out.

If this is how the Yankees are going to get through the season, then they need players who will produce off the bench. As tough as the AL East is, every loss matters. The Yankees didn’t compete last night. I’m not saying they weren’t trying, of course they were. However, it wasn’t competitive.

There was a point in the game where Ford came to the plate vs. Hill in the top of the 6th inning. Runners on 1st and 3rd with one out. The game was in reach, only 4-0 at that point. In this case, it’s a perfect time for Voit to pinch hit, right? Nope! Manager Aaron Boone kept Ford in there, and what does he do? He grounded into an inning-ending double play and “Yankees Twitter” lost their collective minds. The Rays went on to blow the game open in the bottom of the 6th with a 3-run blast from Randy Arozarena.

Although the Yankees ended up winning the series from the Rays, which is big in it’s own right. I just thought it was a good opportunity to keep their foot on the gas and sweep the series. That lineup told me the Yankees were content to just win the series. Thus, that 9-0 loss washed away every good feeling I had about the first two Yankees wins. The team needs more than what the likes of Mike Ford, Clint Frazier and other bench players are providing.

If Clint doesn’t get himself going, he could find himself back in Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. On the other hand, Estevan Florial, already on the Yankees 40-man roster, was promoted from Double-A Somerset to Scranton. He’s knocking on the door. 

Posted in MLB

Yankees Ten Game Report – Games 22-31

The New York Yankees have blown through another ten game chunk of the 2021 season, so here we are again. The Bronx Bombers finished series vs. the Orioles, Tigers, and those lovable Houston Astros. The Yankees split a four-game set with the O’s, swept three against the Detroit and took two of three against Houston. All in all, they won seven of ten, so things are looking up in the Bronx.

Often the object of Yankees fans’ wrath, no one has been hotter than Giancarlo Stanton the past two weeks. His numbers for the past twelve games are mind-numbing. His slash line – .481/.509/.904 for an OPS of 1.413. Over that span, Stanton has gone 25-52, with 6 HR and 4 doubles. He sent another missile into the Yankees bullpen yesterday.

Aaron Judge isn’t hitting at the same clip as Stanton (I mean, who can?), but he contributed three home runs of his own to go with ten RBI over the past ten games. By the same token, he played in nine of those games. Staying healthy is important.

Speaking of health, there’s cause for concern. Third baseman Gio Urshela came up gimpy in yesterday’s series finale against the Astros. Gio banged up his knee in on a diving play late in the game. The team is awaiting results of an MRI as of this writing. The timing is unfortunate, as Urshela went 12 for his last 33 AB’s while bringing home seven baserunners.

Second baseman Rougned Odor was fortunate to not have any structural damage in his left knee after a scary home plate collision with Astros catcher Martín Maldonado. Still, Odor went on the 10 day IL.

Gleyber Torres has picked up the pace over these three series. He has 10 hits in his last 30 AB’s, with three doubles and seven RBI. Even better, he walked five times and only struck out three. His at bats have been quality. No HR’s yet, but this approach is better. Really, Gleyber doesn’t need to be a power bat. This is good.

Gerrit Cole and Corey Kluber each delivered a pair of strong starts. Kluber especially opened eyes with a dominating performance against the Tigers. In that game, he gave eight innings of two-hit shutout ball, punching tickets for ten Detroit hitters. Domingo Germán shut out the Orioles over seven innings and gave five effective innings vs. the Astros (2.25 ERA, 12 IP). In the second game, Jordan Montgomery ground out six innings of three-run ball against Houston, not having his best stuff. At the same time, he’s growing as a pitcher, and those games are character builders.

The bullpen has been lights out, and Aroldis Chapman is putting up video game numbers. Over his eleven appearances (11 innings), the Yankees closer has allowed five baserunners (two hits, 3 BB) and struck out 26. His FIP is -0.81 (yes, MINUS).

Chad Green has done his job well, but the Astros got to him yesterday with Jose Altuve hitting a three-run HR that was the difference in the game. These things happen. We don’t like it, but “that’s baseball, Suzyn”. Just have to turn the page and move on.

Darren O’Day went on the injured list with a right rotator cuff strain, necessitating Michael King‘s return from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. From the left side, Lucas Luetge and newcomer Wandy Peralta (obtained from the Giants for OF Mike Tauchman) have done the job. Justin Wilson has not pitched well in his return to the team, with an overall ERA of 7.04 – and 16.88 over his past three games. To be honest, the Yankees need more from him.

But reinforcements are coming. Luke Voit played a pair of games in Syracuse for Triple-A Scranton, scorching the ball. Him and Miguel Andújar had quite the game on May 6 against the Triple-A Mets.

Voit was expected to play again in Syracuse last night, but when I scanned the field during batting practice, he was noticeably absent. Of course, given the uncertainty for the injury to Urshela, I suspect he was scratched and is on his way to New York. However, we’re still waiting for official word.

Andújar DID play last night for and only went 4-5 with a pair of home-runs in a 17-11 win for the RailRiders. There was some confusion last night, after he was moved mid-game from first base to third. This created a false alarm, thinking he may have been pulled. He’s making his own case for a return to the Yankees.

So that’s it for this Yankees Ten Game Report. The Bombers are looking better, more like the team we expect to see. See ya next time! 😎👋🏽

**UPDATE**

Luke Voit was not recalled from his rehab assignment, and yesterday was a scheduled day off as part of the plan. However, Miguel Andújar was called up after his big performance in Syracuse.

 

Higashioka Seizing his Opportunity

Yesterday afternoon, New York Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch of MLB.com sent a tweet saying Aaron Boone is giving more playing time to catcher Kyle Higashioka.

Given Gary Sánchez’s trouble making contact at bat and spotty defense behind the plate, it’s easy to understand why. But make no mistake, Higashioka has earned the right to play more. His hitting stats are the best on the team, by far. Going into tonight’s game against the Orioles, Higgy’s slash-line is .320/.414/,880. His OPS (1.294) is over 400 points higher than Aaron Judge (.885), who has the second highest.

On the defensive side of the ball, the 31 year old Higashioka has proven to be dependable behind the plate. When he is catching, Yankees Twitter is a much calmer place to be during the game. It’s no secret Gerrit Cole likes working with Higgy, who knew Gerrit when both were being scouted by David Keith in 2008 for the Yankees. Sánchez caught Cole on Opening Day, and hasn’t done so since. It’s interesting to note the Yankees have a record of 5-3 in games Higashioka started behind the plate, and the team is 5-12 in games Gary Sánchez started. That’s not all on Gary, but I believe there’s certainly more comfort on days Higgy catches.

It’s been a long road for Higashioka, who’s been with the Yankees his entire career. He spent a lot of years riding buses in the minor leagues, climbing each rung of the ladder. I got a close up look at Higgy when the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders played the Buffalo Bisons on Opening Day 2019.

(Kyle Higashioka signing a few autographs before first pitch in Buffalo on April 4, 2019)

 

No doubt, Higashioka has earned his way over the years. With so many bonus babies being fast-tracked to the majors, it’s rewarding to see someone like Kyle succeed and thrive.

 

Posted in MLB

Yankees 20 Game – Plus one – Report

The last time we covered the Yankees “Ten Game Report”, the team was 5-5 and they were coming off a pair of wins. They salvaged an 8-4 win in St. Petersburg against the Rays, and beat the Blue Jays in the first game of a three-game set in nearby Dunedin, FL. Things were beginning to look up, right?

Wrong. The Yankees proceeded to lose six of their next seven games, the wheels fell off and now the Yankees are 9-12 after twenty-one games. The offense continued to be offensive. Gerrit Cole has been himself (3-1, 1.71 ERA), but the rest of the starting rotation has continually came up short, leaving the bullpen to cover several innings most games. In the sixteen games Cole didn’t start, Yankees starters are averaging 4.25 innings. Jordan Montgomery has provided the most innings behind their ace, while Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Domingo Germán have struggled to give length.

Yankees relief corps are still giving excellent innings, led by Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga. Lucas Luetge, who has been a wonderful story since spring training, notched his first win since 2013 in relief of Montgomery in a 5-3 win on April 23. The collective workload the bullpen has taken on in the early going is a concern, however. Green and Loaisiga have already appeared in ten and nine games, respectively. Luis Cessa and Darren O’Day have appeared in eight games each, and Luetge seven. This kind of workload isn’t conducive to success, and the overwork can lead to injuries. This is reason to worry, especially to a guy like Loaisiga, who’s had injury problems in the past.

On offense, the Yankees as a team are hitting .206 with a collective on base percentage of .302. Aaron Judge has overall been the team’s most reliable everyday hitter, with a slash-line of .246/.366/.449 and 4 HR’s. Giancarlo Stanton has been mostly cold, but did smoke a pair of blasts in the aforementioned 5-3 win in Cleveland. A positive spin – Stanton does lead the team with 14 RBI. Kyle Higashioka has seen increased playing time, a big reason is hitting almost 100 points higher than Gary Sánchez, with just as much pop in his bat. The other reason is his overall catching abilities, which frankly are much better than Sanchez. Yankees manager won’t say it, but Higgy is Cole’s personal catcher for most intents and purposes.

The last eleven games have been ugly. There’s no sugarcoating it. But the weather has been brutally cold, especially so in the game I went to at Yankee Stadium on April 21. The Atlanta Braves were in town for a two-game series and Wednesday’s game was frigid, with temperatures hovering in the low 40’s with sustained 20 mph winds. When the calendar turns to May in a few days, the weather should soon warm up. Getting Luke Voit back will only help, and he’s currently at the Alternate site in Scranton ramping up his rehab.

It’s hard to stay patient, especially for Yankees fans who expect wins, runs and homers. Sensing fans frustrations, General Manager Brian Cashman called a Zoom meeting/press conference on Monday, April 19 to attempt to calm the masses. It didn’t really work, but the right thing to do is continue to stay the course. For now.

Fans didn’t really buy it, but something had to be done even for the sake of doing something. Time will tell, but I feel confident the Yankees bats will warm up. Hopefully the rotation will pick things up and ease the burden on the relievers.

See ya next time! 😎👋🏽

Yankees 10 Game Report – 2021 Season

It’s that time again! Last year, I broke down the Yankees season in chunks, ten game increments. I am going to do the same thing in 2021, because it’s simply more manageable. I don’t want the reports to be super long, and I can better detail what’s happening with the team this way.

The Yankees are 5-5 after ten games. They lost two of three at home against the Blue Jays to kick things off. They followed that by taking two out of three against the Orioles. The Bronx Bombers went to St. Petersburg and promptly lost the first two of a three-game set against the Rays. The Yankees avoided the sweep by winning the final game of the series, and won again last night against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL.

  • Pitching

Gerrit Cole has been as-advertised, racking up 29 strikeouts over 18.1 innings. His ERA is a scant 1.47 and WHIP is 0.82. Cole is a pitching savant, and guys flock to him. On April 11, YES Network cameras captured Jordan Montgomery talking to Cole shortly after Monty was removed from the game. A reporter asked him about it after the game.

 

Montgomery wasn’t as sharp in his start against Tampa Bay as he was in his first start, but kept his team in the game. In his two starts, “Gumby” has a 3.27 ERA in eleven innings. Corey Kluber‘s first pair of starts (7 runs, 6.1 innings) leave something to be desired, but he’s a professional. Despite early troubles, I think Kluber will be ok in the end. Domingo German stunk it up in his two starts (12 hits/7 runs over seven total innings) and was optioned to the Alternate site (AAA Scranton Wilkes Barre) account of several off days. Jameson Taillon‘s first start in Pinstripes went well. Despite not pitching in a major league game since 2019, he wasn’t rusty, giving up only two runs in 4.2 innings (he was on a pitch count).

Yankees relievers have been very dependable in the early going. Aroldis Chapman, Darren O’Day, Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga have all provided valuable scoreless relief. Chad Green suffered a pair of “Rob Manfred runs” (including an extra-innings loss), thanks to his stupid extra innings runner on 2nd base rule. Otherwise, Green has been money. Youngster Nick Nelson was flogged by the Rays in a mop-up outing. Lucas Luetge gave up a few runs in his three appearances. Without a doubt, the bullpen has been valuable.

  • Position Players

The bats have been lagging, which isn’t unusual early in the year. It’s April and it’s cold. Yankees hitters have left a not-so-nice 69 runners on base. Overall, the team is hitting .232 with 41 runs scored in ten games. Gary Sanchez has hit quite well, with a pair of home runs, four RBI and a slash-line of .296/.406/.556. D.J. LeMahieu has been his usual steady self (.268/.362/.415), with at least one hit in eight of ten games. Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton struggled at times, but still have found a way to drive in a combined twelve runs. Gleyber Torres has an anemic slash-line of .205/.295/.231, and is also struggling in the field. He already has a pair of errors and just seems shaky out there. Also, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge have contributed with their bats and outfield glovework. Clint Frazier has lagged, but I’m confident he will shake it.

Rougned Odor made his Yankees debut at Tropicana Field and quickly made his mark, driving in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning.

I like the move, trading for the 27 year old second baseman. No question, Odor has more upside than Tyler Wade (who was optioned to AAA Scranton). With his soft hands, I can eventually see him getting work at 3rd base and perhaps even shortstop.

Ok that’s it for the Yankees ten game report. We’ll see you again after the next set of 10 games!

 

2021 MLB Season Preview – The AL East

Happy Opening Day! After an miserable year in 2020, including an abbreviated sixty game schedule, fans are looking forward to a full 162 game season. Best of all, fans will be allowed in MLB ballparks. The stadiums will not be sellouts at first, but as COVID vaccinations continue, capacities will increase. Normalcy is slowly returning.

The AL East Division is always competitive, and will continue to be in 2021. Today, we’ll take brief looks at each team in the East and assess their chances of winning the division. Let’s get started!

  • Boston Red Sox – After last year’s disaster, there’s nowhere to go but up. Alex Cora is back to manage the team after a year away from baseball account the much publicized Astros sign stealing scandal. Over the winter, the Red Sox added Kike Hernandez, Franchy Cordero, and Marwin Gonzalez to their lineup. They brought in former Yankee Adam Ottavino to their bullpen and Garrett Richards for the rotation. This team will hit, but their success will ride on pitching. Nathan Eovaldi is back throwing 100 mph seeds and Eduardo Rodriguez is back after missing 2020 with post-COVID related heart issues. Chris Sale (recovery from Tommy John surgery) is slated to re-join the team after the All Star break. If their bullpen holds up and does the job, the Sox will be much better in 2021. However, they’re still behind upper-echelon teams like the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays.
  • New York Yankees – Last year’s Yankees finished 2nd behind the Tampa Bay Rays. Injuries are a big reason why, as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton each missed more than half the season. Remaining healthy is the biggest concern for manager Aaron Boone and the Bronx Bombers. If the bodies hold up, the Yankees are the most talented team in the division. The Yankees lineup is basically unchanged from last year. Good health also goes for pitching – if newcomers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon make all their starts, good things will happen.
  • Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays are for real. Sure, things change every year because the team’s salary structure dictates they must. Kevin Cash is a top-notch manager (other than that Blake Snell World Series thingy) and gets the most from his players. Willy Adames, Mike Brosseau, Randy Arozarena and Tyler Glasnow make up a formidable core. They have the lineup to compete and score a lot of runs. As with most teams, pitching well – especially in relief – is key to success. Beyond Glasnow, the Rays rotation is a patchwork quilt of recycled and older starters. Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks and Chaz Roe are good at shutting teams down. They’ll be at or near the top the entire way.
  • Toronto Blue Jays – What a lineup. After the Yankees, these Baby Jays have the best lineup in the AL East, and maybe the entire league. Over the winter, GM Ross Atkins brought in CF George Springer, 2B Marcus Semien and starting pitcher Steven Matz. The Jays and manager Charlie Montoyo have young flamethrower Nate Pearson slotted in behind Hyun-Jin Ryu in the rotation. Again, pitching well will be important – especially in this loaded division.

Enjoy the games today and the entire season! There’s no day quite like Opening Day. For me, it’s better than Christmas.

Who Gets the Final Yankees Roster Spot?

As spring training wound down, New York Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch sent a tweet saying INF Tyler Wade and pitcher Michael King made the team’s Opening Day roster.

Yes, one spot remains. With lefty reliever Justin Wilson out for the short-term, it could make sense to replace him with another pitcher. Lucas Luetge immediately comes to mind. The 34 year old Luetge hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2015, but he had an impressive spring. He struck out 18 over 10.2 innings and allowed only a pair of runs. The Yankees could do much worse than Luetge.

 

On the other hand, with everyone fresh, the team could decide to add an extra bench player for a few days until the team needs an additional arm. Thairo Estrada may be a good option, adding another infielder to the mix. Estrada made his presence known at the end of camp, hitting home runs in back to back games. As of this moment, Wade is the only backup infielder on the squad.

The rest of the team is ready to go, the Yankees are back in New York. And FANS WILL BE THERE! I love Opening Day. 😎

UPDATE – According to Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated, Luetge appeared to be at Yankee Stadium with the team this afternoon. Stay tuned.

And it’s officially official. Lucas Luetge has indeed made the Yankees 26 man roster.

What a Relief? Yankees Hurlers Looking for Roster Spots

A few days ago, we looked at position players looking to find a spot on the Yankees bench on the Opening Day roster. This time, we will focus on the back end of the starting rotation and relievers searching for spots in the team’s bullpen. Let’s get after it!

  • Rotation

The top four spots of the Yankees rotation are accounted for. Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery are cemented in the starting rotation. That leaves Deivi Garcia, Michael King and Domingo German to vie for the fifth spot until Luis Severino returns. All three are having very solid springs to this point. Based on performance in spring games so far, I would give Germán the early edge in this competition. However, with a full 162 game schedule on deck, the Yankees may go with a six-man rotation for the bulk of 2021. With a 60 game schedule, nobody reached close to 100 innings last year. The team will not overwork their valued arms. We will see if the team wants to hang on to the embattled Germán. He missed the 2020 season while suspended for a highly publicized domestic violence incident.

    • Bullpen

Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson have solid footing. Also established is Zack Britton, who will miss most, if not all, of the season’s first half while recovering from elbow surgery. This leaves three spots to fight for, plus Britton’s spot for the first few months. Let’s reveal the candidates.

Luis Cessa – The soon to be 29 year old Cessa is a nice guy most Yankees fans seem to hate. Not because he’s a bad guy, but because he always seems to give up runs. In reality, Cessa had a pretty good 2020 season. Over his sixteen appearances, he allowed runs in only four. But when he’s bad, he’s BAD. In his lousy four outings, he gave up a total of ten runs. He’s probably not going anywhere. Every team needs a guy to mop-up, and Cessa is out of options.

Jonathan Loaisiga – “Johnny Lasagna” is having himself a spring so far. Six scoreless innings, two hits allowed and 5 K’s. The stuff has always been there for the 26 year old Loaisiga. It’s been a matter of harnessing it. I have always seen a bit of 1996 Mariano Rivera in Loaisiga, especially with the rising fastball. I think it’s time to focus on keeping him in the bullpen because his stuff plays better in relief. He can give multiple innings, which gives him even more valuable.

Lucas Luetge – The lefthanded Luetge hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2015, but seems to be opening eyes this spring. In four exhibition game appearances, the soon to be 34 year old, has struck out ten hitters over 4 innings. With Zack Britton sidelined, the Yankees could use another lefty to step in. Luetge is a guy to keep watch of.

Nestor Cortes, Jr. – I’ll admit it, I’m a fan of Nestor. His fastball MAYBE touches 90-91, but the life it has on it makes it look closer to 95. Cortes has proven himself in Triple-A, but the success hasn’t translated in the majors in any way. As a member of the Mariners, he was hammered to the tune of a 15.26 ERA (13 ER in 7.2 innings) in 2020. If the Yankees have him on their roster during the regular season, it’s not a good sign. He’s filler for Triple-A.

Albert Abreu – It’s hard to believe the 25 year old Abreu has only one option year remaining, and the Yankees are surely taking a long look at him this spring. It’s been rocky going so far (5 ER over 1.2 innings), but there’s still plenty of time to assess. I am guessing the Yankees will use that last option to let him get reps and stretched out in Scranton. If injuries hit like last year, he could be an option for the rotation.

Nick Nelson – Nelson, also 25 years old, made his big league debut in last year’s tire-fire of an abbreviated season. He made it into eleven games, mostly in mop-up duty. Still, these reps are valuable. Nelson posted a 4.79 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 20.2 innings. Like Abreu, Nelson are destined be a member of the RailRiders rotation to get experience and stretched-out as a starter.

Kyle Barraclough (R), Tyler Lyons (L), and Nick Goody (R) are options for the Yankees if everything goes to hell in a handbasket. All are better suited as Triple-A filler.

Thanks for reading, have a great day! 😎

 

Pining for Spots on Yankees Bench

Ayeeee it’s time to get this thing cranked back up! I just renewed my WordPress plan and my domain for another year, so y’all are stuck with me! We’re almost in the middle of spring training so I want to get some good content out.

The New York Yankees lineup is locked and loaded, so we will look at guys battling for spots on the bench for Opening Day. The season begins in three weeks, players looking to head north when camp breaks are starting to feel urgency to produce.

  • Brett Gardner – This one is easy, and not much of a battle. Yankees GM Brian Cashman brought him back to be the fourth outfielder and will get a fair number of at bats. At age 37, Gardner will benefit from a reduced role and be more fresh for the second half of the season. Guys in the clubhouse love him, he’s a leader. Gardy will earn his keep and paycheck.

The Yankees are even testing Brett out in right-field.

  • Tyler Wade – I’m fairly sure the guy most Yankees fans would like to fire into the sun is Wade. Always a reliable defender and threat on the bases, Tyler’s hitting just hasn’t taken off. In Triple-A Scranton Wilkes Barre, he hit a composite .287 in just over a thousand at bats over three seasons. Tyler’s success in AAA hasn’t carried over to the majors. Wade has one option year left, so he could sent to Scranton if the Yankees keep Derek Dietrich. However, I think Wade will stick as the backup infielder – in large part because he can play shortstop, and Dietrich cannot.
  • Derek Dietrich – The 31 year old lefty batting Dietrich is on his fourth team in four years. He may have an edge over Tyler Wade because he’s got more pop in his bat and can play several positions, including first base. The downside with Derek is he’s pretty much all or nothing with the stick. His lone hit in spring training? A two run bomb. On the upside, his gold chain would impress Mr. T and he resembles John Cena.
  • Jay Bruce – Bruce hasn’t wasted any time opening eyes in Tampa. Over six spring games, the 33 year old has five hits in 13 at bats (.385), with a pair of HR’s. In the field, Bruce Almighty can cover the corner OF spots as well as first base. I give Bruce the edge over Dietrich based on overall track record.
  • Mike Ford – There’s no sugar-coating things, the 2020 season was abysmal for Ford. He was a nice story two years ago filling in for Voit, but the carriage turned back into a pumpkin. Ford registered ten hits in 74 at bats (.135) and just two home runs. Roster spots are scarce and it’s likely manager Aaron Boone will carry thirteen pitchers, so the team needs a versatile bench. Ford only plays first base, so it limits things. With a pair of option years left, Ford can work to get himself back on track in Triple-A.
  • Thairo Estrada – The young infielder from Venezuela has enjoyed a couple cups of coffee with the Yankees. He spent last season on the taxi-squad and made it into 26 games on the expanded roster. With only eight hits in 48 at bats, he seems destined for Scranton unless Yankees decide to send Tyler Wade down. It’s Estrada’s last option year, so the team will want to get him back on track away from the distractions of New York.
  • Kyle Higashioka – No battle here, either. Brian Cashman said Gary Sánchez is his starting catcher, I put Higgy here. With Robinson Chirinos now out with a fractured wrist, Higashioka easily assumes the backup catcher role. He earned his money last year, I believe Chirinos is either Triple-A filler or will be cut.
  • Mike Tauchman – Tauchman enjoyed a productive first year in Pinstripes, hitting thirteen tanks in a little over a half season. Last year, the power disappeared completely. Perhaps it’s a fluke, but it’s hard to tell which Mike Tauchman is the real thing. He can cover all outfield spots, which is nice. With no option years left, if he struggles to hit, the Yankees will soon have choices to make. 
  • Miguel Andújar – I am ashamed to admit I unintentionally omitted Miggy from the original draft. But Andújar has an outside chance to make the club, just because he bats from the right side, and everyone else on the list except Higashioka and Estrada bats lefthanded. I think there’s a better chance of him being traded. Andújar was not pleased about being sent to the alternate site last year, and his agent took it to the press. Airing grievances through the media, especially when you’re a Yankee is not a good look. I think he eventually gets a fresh start elsewhere.

Next time, we’ll see how things shape up for the fifth spot in the rotation and last spots in the bullpen. Have a great day!

Baseball is Back – Spring Training Starts Tomorrow!

As I type this from my living room just northwest of Rochester, NY, it is 21 degrees and we’re digging out from an overnight snowstorm. It feels like forever since we have enjoyed warm weather and the beautiful sport of baseball.

That changes tomorrow, thank goodness. Baseball fans young and old are looking forward to what should be the first full season since 2019. COVID-19 (I am SO sick of that term) has robbed us of family members, friends, and loved ones. On a much smaller scale, it took away sports the way we’re all used to consuming them.

With vaccines out, the country is working (albeit glacially) toward immunity and getting back to lives as we knew them. Major League Baseball is planning a full 162 game schedule, and Minor League Baseball will be returning after taking the 2020 season off. Fans will be allowed back in ballparks across MLB and MiLB, however, at small capacities to start.

A new baseball season is dawning. The darkness of night that was 2020 and a long winter will soon be gone. Let the sun rise on baseball season. I can almost smell the morning dew on freshly cut grass. We’ve made it! 😎⚾

The Bills Have Rejuvenated This Old Football Fan

I know what you’re thinking. This is supposed to be a baseball site! Well yes, it is, but for those who don’t know – I am a lifelong fan of the Buffalo Bills.

For those of you who have followed me on Twitter, you may associate me with my obsession for baseball. But I have to tell you, these Buffalo Bills have reawakened my love for football. Long before Twitter, even a few years before the internet itself became a thing, the Bills were a powerhouse of a football team. The late 1980s/early to mid 1990s teams were regulars in the postseason.

Of course, the Bills are widely known for losing four consecutive Super Bowls.

 

During the Super Bowl years and most of the 1990s, the Bills OWNED Western New York State. Fans wore player jerseys, Zubaz pants, Starter jackets, caps and winter hats. It was an exciting time! Going to Bills games was an all-day event. This was when tailgating really became a big thing for us fans what would eventually become “Bills Mafia”. Many family outings on weekends included Sunday football at different houses to watch the games.

Late in the 90’s, things began to change in terms of team quality. Legendary quarterback Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season, and young Todd Collins took over as the team’s starting QB. To say things didn’t go well for the 26 year old heir apparent to Jim Kelly would be an understatement. Collins started thirteen games for Buffalo in ’97, the team lost eight of them. Collins was in a no-win situation replacing Kelly and the collective roster was aging at this point. He did eventually carve out a nice career as a backup QB years later in Kansas City, Washington and Chicago.

Realizing Collins wasn’t the answer at QB, then-General Manager John Butler traded for young hotshot quarterback Rob Johnson in exchange for 1st round and 4th round picks in the 1998 NFL Draft. Butler also brought in Doug Flutie. He had been discarded by the NFL because of his small stature (listed at 5’10”, but a couple inches shorter in reality), but thrived in the Canadian Football League) for a number of years.

After Johnson was injured in his very first start with the Bills (injuries were a theme with him in Buffalo), Flutie pretty much took over for most of the ’98 season and was the team’s starter for the first 15 games of 1999. A confident veteran, Flutie’s presence lifted the team and gave opponents fits with his mobility and improvising. He was the polar opposite of Johnson, who was a prototypical pocket QB at 6’4″.

Wade Phillips, who succeeded Marv Levy as head coach after 1997, rested Flutie and a number of other regulars for the season finale. The Bills couldn’t advance in playoff seed, so the team wanted to give the 37 year old QB a breather before the playoffs. Johnson started the final game of the year and went 24-32 for 287 yards, throwing a pair of touchdown passes in 31-6 blowout win vs. young Peyton Manning and the Colts.

At this point, fate intervened. After watching Johnson pick apart the Colts in an all around meaningless game (Indianapolis won the AFC East and had a first round bye), Phillips (in later years, he told NFL Network he was ordered by owner Ralph Wilson) benched Flutie and started Johnson for the Wild Card game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. Then the “Music City Miracle” happened.

 

I still vividly remember the dumbfounded feeling of disbelief more than 20 years later. Nothing was the same after this bitter playoff loss.

The fortune’s of this franchise were flipped upside down roughly a month later on “Black Thursday”. On February 10, 2000, the Bills parted ways with Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith and Andre Reed. That was one of the darkest days I can recall, including the loss to the Titans just weeks before. These were all fan favorites, and the news didn’t go well with fans. Tim Graham wrote about this day in The Athletic. After these cuts, all that remained of the Super Bowl teams were defensive end Phil Hansen, punter Chris Mohr and kicker Steve Christie.

The year 2000 began the period of time I refer to as “The Abyss”. Wilson fired Phillips after an 8-8 season. Ever frugal, Wilson paraded a cast of characters including Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick “7-9” Jauron and Chan Gailey. Naturally, all were unsuccessful. Collectively, the Bills went 82-126 under these coaches. As losses mounted, these were painful times and there wasn’t anything to celebrate. The Bills had gone from a perennial playoff powerhouse to a laughingstock under Ralph Wilson’s ownership. The few proud moments were the three occasions when we beat the Patriots and Tom Brady (yes, I can remember where I was each time).

The franchise fared a little better under Doug Marrone, who wiggled out of his contract when Bills ownership transferred from Wilson’s estate to Terry and Kim Pegula.

The Pegulas brought in Rex Ryan to coach the Bills. The results were less than desired, but the team made it known years of a losing culture are to end. Clearly, things were going to be different. A pair of events in 2017 have reversed Buffalo’s fortunes.

First thing, hiring Sean McDermott as head coach.

Secondly, hiring Brandon Beane as the team’s general manager.

Lastly, in April 2018, the Bills selected Josh Allen in the 1st round of the NFL Draft to as the franchise quarterback.

 

Over three seasons, Allen’s had some bumps, bruises and growing pains, but his growth is apparent. Allen’s play, McDermott’s coaching and leadership, and Beane putting the team all together has restored the Buffalo Bills back into a powerhouse. The long ago feeling I experienced in the 1990s is back and reinvigorated me. We have a team that can go deep into the playoffs! I watched the last few seconds tick off the clock in Monday night’s win against the Patriots in Foxborough, I noted these feelings and reminded myself – enjoy this.

 

What Will Santa Bring Yankees for Christmas?

It’s the first full day of Winter, Christmas is almost here, and everyone is excited in anticipation of gifts they will soon be receiving. Fans of Major League Baseball are also excited to see who their favorite teams will sign as a free agent or make a trade to solidify their lineups or pitching staffs.

Of course, the New York Yankees are in the market to add to their team, as they are every Winter. The big name in play is D.J. LeMahieu, who’s spent the last two seasons with the Bronx Bombers. Bringing him back is imperative, as I wrote back in November. Over his pair of seasons with the Yankees, LeMahieu put up a slash-line of .336/.386/.536 with 36 HR’s and 129 RBI in 195 games. Brian Cashman, the Yankees GM, maintains he is doing everything he can to retain the popular and surehanded 2nd baseman.

YES Network’s Jack Curry thinks LeMahieu will return. Certainly, this would bring a collective exhale from Yankees fans strong enough to qualify as a gale wind.

If LeMahieu leaves, the wise move would be to move Gleyber Torres back to second base, and sign a shortstop. Old friend Didi Gregorius could be an option. Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow late in 2018, Sir Didi played all 60 games for the Phillies in 2020. He put up decent numbers (.284/.339/.488 with 10 HR’s and 40 RBI) and should have no problem securing a multi-year deal. It’s hard to say if Cashman is willing to re-commit to Gregorius after letting him leave after 2019. Would Didi even be willing to return?

With Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ hitting the free agent market, the Yankees have a few holes to fill in their starting rotation. Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery are the two main holdovers from the 2020 season. Luis Severino is expected to return from Tommy John Surgery, but unlikely to be ready by Opening Day 2021. Deivi García seems ready to contribute after a number of good starts late in the summer. No one knows what to expect from Domingo Germán. He missed the 2020 season while suspended for his role in a domestic violence incident in September 2019.

Trevor Bauer is the big, high profile name in free agency and he would instantly upgrade the Yankees rotation. However, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has repeatedly said he does not want the team’s budget to be above the luxury tax threshold (210M for 2021). Adding Bauer would most certainly push them above 210 million. It’s more likely Cashman will look to lower priced options such as Corey Kluber or Jake Odorizzi (both missed virtually the entire season) or bringing back Paxton on one year deals to prove they are healthy.

Other than adding pitching and trying to bring back LeMahieu, the Yankees are in good shape, roster-wise. Hopefully Santa will deliver Yankees fans with some nice gifts to celebrate over Christmas.

And I want to wish all of you a safe, happy and healthy Merry Christmas! 🎄🎁

Could Yankees Really Trade Gleyber Torres?

 

Last night, on YES Network’s “Yankees Hot Stove” program, Meredith Marakovits interviewed Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Cashman. Meredith asked him about several Yankees players, including star infielder Gleyber Torres, who struggled on both sides of his game for the majority of the truncated 2020 campaign. Cashman cut right to the chase.

Courtesy of YES Network 2020

 

“He wasn’t in the best shape to start the second spring training.”

Ouch! But it does explain why Torres had troubles for most of the season. It also explains why he was so hot in the postseason when he raked to the tune of a 1.292 OPS. He had his feet under him and was in proper playing shape.

While 2020 was a year unlike any other (and hopefully we won’t ever see again), it’s a bit troubling Gleyber apparently let himself go during the layoff. No one knows what he was doing or not doing at the time. For Cashman to take this public, he evidently wasn’t impressed.

Which leads me to wonder. If (a big if) Yankees re-sign free agent DJ LeMahieu, would Cashman consider trading Torres for much needed pitching help? Remember, Cashman says Gleyber’s a better second baseman. Gleyber’s value is still high, considering the hot postseason he just had. He also hit 38 home runs in 2019, driving in 90 runs. But what happens if he has another punchless season in 2021 and his defense hasn’t improved? His trade value would drop precipitously. Of course, if LeMahieu leaves to go elsewhere then all bets are off.

Almost two and a half years ago, Cashman said “I have to walk around in this city”, when asked if he could consider trading Torres.

 

Now, it may not be as far-fetched.

 

Why Are Teams Interested in J.A. Happ? Let Me Explain…

Over the last few days, a few prominent baseball writers have shared on Twitter teams who are interested in former Yankees starter J.A. Happ, currently a free agent.

 

The comments are as you would expect, given his track record with the Yankees. Happ’s final game in Pinstripes was in Game Two of the ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays, where he took over for Deivi Garcia at the bottom of the 2nd inning (which I thought was a horrible idea) and promptly imploded. That game is still fresh in the minds of Yankees fans, and many baseball fans who watched on national television.

No doubt, Happ struggled in his first full season as a Yankee in 2019. Similarly, his first couple of outings in 2020 were rocky as well. He made his next start on August 16 against the Red Sox at home, giving up only one run over 5.2 innings. That outing began a stretch of seven starts where he was literally the best starter in the rotation not named Gerrit Cole.

Coupled with Cole, the two of them were the most reliable starters on the team in September. The numbers in the image above speak for themselves. Seven starts, an ERA of 2.34 over 42.1 innings, a WHIP under one and almost a strikeout an inning. In addition, Happ averaged more than six innings each start. Believe me, General Managers across the league were paying attention.

Hopefully this can answer the question of why J.A. Happ is generating interest in the free agent market. So far, the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Angels publicly expressed interest. Don’t be surprised to see him return for a third tour of duty with the Toronto Blue Jays. He enjoyed playing there, and you can be sure he will be pitching with a chip on his shoulder the next time he faces the Yankees.

 

Yankees Biggest Need – D.J. LeMahieu

Free agency is here in Major League Baseball, and every team is formulating game plans for the 2021 season. Across the nation and world, baseball fans are excited in anticipation of their teams adding to their rosters. Except for Cubs fans, maybe. That makes me sad. I like the Cubs.

One of the best free agents on the market is DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu spent the last two seasons with the New York Yankees. To say he’s been valuable for the Bronx Bombers is a massive understatement. He was their prime catalyst in 2020, getting on base 42 percent of the time. His slash-line (.364/.421/.590) numbers were in the top-ten in every category except slugging, where he fell just a hair short.

His mere presence in the Yankees lineup made the team better. With LeMahieu playing, the team went 30-20 in those games. When he didn’t play, they won only three out of ten games. The level of contrast is remarkable.

Understandably, Yankees GM Brian Cashman is reluctant to give contracts to players beyond four years. Given he is 32 years old, it seems even wiser to not do so. However, LeMahieu is not your run of the mill early 30’s infielder. He drove in 102 runs in 2019 and finished 4th in American League MVP voting. Not only did he crack the top-five votes of 2019, he did the same in the 2020 season, coming in third. Silver Slugger Awards in both seasons as a Yankee. To be sure, D.J. is a leader. Perhaps he is even worth being named a captain. Furthermore, he can play everywhere in the infield except shortstop (and would likely be fine there as well). Need I go on?

By the same token, other teams are getting ready to make offers to LeMahieu. With Robinson Cano now suspended for the 2021 season for another positive drug test for PED’s, the Mets are looking for a second baseman. With Steve Cohen now owning the crosstown team, they finally have an owner willing to spend.

To be sure, the Yankees need to add pitching in the free agent market, as there is no such thing as having too much pitching. I have no doubt the team will add some.

The Yankees would be wise to give LeMahieu what he wants and be done with it. He is their rock. It’s time.

Kim Ng Makes History, Becomes 1st Female General Manager

At 10:38 this morning, Jon Heyman of MLB Network announced on Twitter that the Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng to be the team’s new General Manager.

 

This is significant. At almost 52 years of age, Kim Ng is now the first female GM in Major League Baseball. Notoriously slow to adapt to modern ways, Major League Baseball showed it wants to shed it’s archaic ways. It took a young owner like Derek Jeter to break the mold. Furthermore, she is the first female general manager of ANY major sport (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) in the United States.

While Ng is new to the GM title for the Marlins, she is anything but new to MLB front offices. Starting at the bottom, Ng began her career thirty years ago with the Chicago White Sox, working her way up to the title of Assistant Director of Baseball Operations. Wanting to advance, she left in 1997 to take a position in the offices of the American League, where she was Director of Waivers and Records, approving transactions.

Ng joined the New York Yankees in 1998 as Assistant General Manager under Brian Cashman, himself a new GM. She stayed with the Yankees through the 2001 season, and left for the Los Angeles Dodgers where she held the same title, while adding the title of Vice President. In 2005, Ng interviewed for the Dodgers vacant GM position, but lost out to Ned Colletti. Wisely, Colletti kept Ng in the same position, where she stayed until early 2011.

Undeterred, Ng interviewed for General Manager positions up and down the West Coast. She applied from San Diego to Seattle and everywhere in between. In March 2011, she left Los Angeles for a job as Senior VP of Baseball Operations for MLB, while reporting to Joe Torre. Ng stayed with MLB until Jeter and the Marlins made her historic hiring official this morning.

 

This is a great day for Major League Baseball and humanity in general. Ng’s hiring is more proof women can do what historically has been known as a “man’s job”. I would bet she will do it better than most men. I wish Ng the very best in her new job in Miami.

 

Hot-foots, Warm ups and Pranks

Yesterday was Election Day in the United States, and anxieties are high across the country. So, I thought it would be a good time for a fun article. In the following paragraphs, let’s have some laughs and look back at some funny moments in MLB.

Nineteen years ago, in September 2001, A.J. Burnett was a 24 year old flamethrower who was in his first full season with the then-called Florida Marlins. As fans settled into their seats, Burnett threw his warm-up pitches while the team mascot, Billy the Marlin was riding in the back of a pickup truck getting the fans excited. As the truck and Billy the Marlin drove around the perimeter behind home plate, Burnett fired a perfectly timed warm-up pitch that shattered the window behind the passenger side door.

Twelve years later, Burnett was with the Pittsburgh Pirates when he had a rosin bag give out on him. After he noticed the cloud of rosin around him he flashes two fingers. That’s because it was the SECOND time it happened to him in the same season. 🤣🤣

Starting pitchers on their days off can be as lethal in the dugout as they are on the mound. Case in point, Justin Verlander giving then-Tigers teammate Don Kelly a “hot foot”. When Kelly realized his foot was on fire, his reaction was priceless.

Ten years ago, former Yankees pitcher Chan Ho Park talks with reporters at his locker after pitching three scoreless innings in Boston. He is asked what the difference was from his previous outing, when he pitched poorly three days before. We’ll just let Park answer, while Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera looks on in the background. 😂

Finally, let’s watch Yankees right-fielder Aaron Judge when he joined “The Tonight Show” in New York City’s Bryant Park in 2017 to ask people what they thought about Aaron Judge.

In conclusion, I hoped you enjoyed this lighthearted look at baseball. We could all use a little less stress and more laughs. Have a great day and please be kind, as we don’t know what battles people are facing.

 

Yankees Take ‘Em or Trash ‘Em – Relief Pitchers

Ok, I have slacked off for the last week since I cranked out Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Starting Pitchers. With this edition of take ’em or trash ’em, we will put a wrap on the 2020 Yankees. With the Los Angeles Dodgers on the brink of winning the World Series, the end of this batshit crazy 2020 MLB season is in sight.

Let’s begin dissecting the Yankees bullpen.

Zack Britton– (1-2, 1.89 ERA, 8 saves) Having a once-time dominating closer (120 saves from 2014-16 with Baltimore Orioles) in your bullpen to back up Aroldis Chapman is handy. While Chapman was recovering from a bout with COVID-19, Britton took over closing duties. He saved all eight opportunities and was dependable all summer. Britton finished the season with a 1.89 ERA, easily the best among Yankee relievers. His only hiccup was a couple shaky outings after missing 10 days while nursing a hamstring injury.

In less than a week, we may know the Yankees’ plans for Zack. His current contract is through 2021 (13M), but the club must decide on his option for ’22 after this year’s World Series. If Yankees decline Britton’s option for 2022, he can immediately opt-out if he wishes. Being that he’s only 32, he should still have many effective years left. Stay tuned!

*UPDATE* Per a tweet from Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch, the team has picked up Zack Britton’s option, keeping him under contract through 2022.

Take him! (and the Yankees did)

 

Aroldis Chapman – (1-1, 3.09 ERA, 3 saves) On the surface, Chapman’s season ERA (3.09) isn’t bad. The 32 year old from Cuba picked up 3 saves, his lowest total since 2011. He missed a few days at the front end of the season recuperating from COVID. Chapman took a few lumps in his first two outings but came out guns-a-blazing in September. Including his final game in August with his stats in September, Chappy was unhittable. In eleven games from August 29 – September 25, Chapman allowed a run, three hits and three walks over 10.2 innings. Over that span, he struck out twenty batters! In addition, Chapman held his opponents to a .184 on base percentage and a .361 OPS. While he may throw 102 with his fastball anymore, he still can dredge up 100. Chapman’s slider is a very viable off-speed pitch and recently unveiled a split-finger fastball in against Toronto.

Chapman’s current contract keeps him in the Bronx through the 2022 season.

Take him!

Chad Green – (3-3, 3.51 ERA, 1 save) This is another case of stats being deceiving. If you toss out three games where Green was lit up, he held opponents to a 0.77 ERA in his other 19 appearances. It feels like he has been around forever, but Green is still only 29 and has two more seasons before he reaches free agency. He’s an important piece of the Yankee bullpen, especially with fellow righthander Tommy Kahnle missing the 2020 season.

Take him

Tommy Kahnle – With the except of one appearance where he recorded all three outs by strikeouts (see below), Kahnle missed the season after injuring his elbow. He had Tommy John surgery and is still recovering. As of this writing, there are no new updates. He is arbitration eligible and it’s likely the Yankees will iron out a contract, since GM Brian Cashman likes to avoid arbitration hearings as much as possible. Kahnle’s return will be a welcome sight, as the Yankees were too often forced to rely on guys who simply didn’t get the job done.

Take him!

*UPDATE* Apparently the Yankees wanted to outright Kahnle, removing him from the 40 man roster while he continues recovery from elbow surgery. Kahnle decided to become a free agent instead. This is unfortunate.

Adam Ottavino – (2-3, 5.89 ERA) After a good first season in 2019 in New York, things didn’t go as well for him in 2020. After a particularly brutal three week stretch from mid-August into early September (including a horrific performance in Buffalo against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 7), Ottavino found himself working in lower-leverage situations. However, he turned it around the rest of the way. Over his final seven games, he allowed only one run and struck out ten in 5.2 innings. For those wanting Otto off the team, he’s probably not going anywhere. He has one more year remaining on his contract at 9M.

I still think Ottavino has more in him, given his stats from 2018 and ’19.

Take him.

Jonathan Holder – (3-0, 4.98 ERA) When Yankees legend Ron Guidry was a struggling rookie, the late Billy Martin asked him, “Is there anybody in this league that you can get out? Because if you can, let me know.” We know how that turned out for Guidry, but I ask the same thing about Jonathan Holder. I suppose it’s good to have bullpen filler guys for low-leverage situations, but this is what Holder is reduced to. His strikeout rate dropped to a career-low 5.8/9 innings while his walk rate doubled to 4.6/9. I wish I could put a positive spin to on Holder’s entry in this article, but I’m having trouble. Maybe a change of scenery will jump-start things for his once-promising career. Holder is only 27, so he has time. Also, this is the first and last time you will see Guidry and Holder mentioned in the same breath.

Trash him. 🗑

Luis Cessa – (0-0, 3.32 ERA, 1 save) Luis Cessa is another bullpen filler on the roster to eat innings in mop-up situations. He has a live arm, consistently hitting 95-97 with his fastball. The 28 year old righty from Mexico was tagged for four runs over 1.1 innings in his final appearance of the 2020 season, causing his ERA to jump from 2.21 to 3.32. Cessa figures to once again be a part of the Yankees bullpen in ’21. That’s fine as long as they aren’t relying on him in high leverage situations.

Take him (someone has to eat the innings)

Jonathan Loáisiga – (3-0, 3.52) The young righthander from Nicaragua has been something of an enigma in his short time with the Yankees. His stuff can be dominating, and there were times he shut teams down. Other times, Loáisiga pitched behind in the count, forcing him to groove pitches with the expected results. I’m not sure where the Yankees plan to best utilize Jonathan going forward, but he rose up through the minor leagues as a starter. I think Loáisiga would be best served to start 2021 in Scranton (he has one option remaining), where he can start every five days. He has three pitches, let him refine things and get stretched back out. That way, if the Yankees have an injury, he can immediately be plugged right into their rotation. His stuff is just too good to be a middle reliever. Plus he’s still young, about to turn 26.

Take him. (Let’s not give up on him yet)

Nick Nelson (1-0, 4.79 ERA) – Nelson made his major league debut in 2020 after rising through the minors in 2019. The 24 year old native of Panama City, FL picked up a his first win in his initial appearance against the Red Sox on August 1. Like Jonathan Loáisiga, Nelson climbed through the system as a starter. He would be better served to start 2021 in Triple-A to gain experience and continue honing his craft. That said, it’s hard to ignore a guy who can bring 99 mph heat out of the bullpen.

Take him!

And with that, we have covered the 2020 New York Yankees. Stay tuned as we enter the Hot Stove League. Soon enough, we will see who and what is in their plans going forward.

Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Starting Pitchers

Welcome back! A few days ago, we dug in to Yankees position players in the first post-2020 season installment of “Take ’em or Trash ’em“. Over the next two installments, we will break down the pitching staff from ace starting pitcher Gerrit Cole to closer Aroldis Chapman, and everyone in between.

Let’s get started with the Yankees rotation, next time we will tackle the bullpen.

Starting Pitchers

Gerrit Cole – Cole proved why the Yankees were wise to give him a nine-year, 324 million dollar contract last December. After his first eight starts while paired up with catcher Gary Sánchez, Cole looked fairly pedestrian with a 3.91 ERA. He gave up home runs at an alarming rate, twelve round-trippers in only 46 innings. Beginning in September, Manager Aaron Boone had Kyle Higashioka catch for Cole. The results were strikingly better. The Yankees ace was unstoppable down the stretch. Over four September starts, Cole struck out 34 batters over 27 innings, allowing 14 hits, three earned runs and only two homers over that span. That success continued over three October starts, with the Yankees winning two of them. Look for Cole and Higgy to continue working together in 2021.

Do I really have to ask? Take him (duh).

Masahiro Tanaka – While job security isn’t an issue for the aforementioned Gerrit Cole, Tanaka may have pitched in his final start for the Yankees. It doesn’t seem all that long ago Masa signed a seven-year contract, after spending the first seven years of his career pitching in his native Japan. While Tanaka may not command the 22 million dollars a year he got in his last deal, he certainly is worth hanging on to. In 2019, Tanaka pitched to a 4.45 ERA while struggling to make his trademark splitter work. This year, he lowered his ERA almost a full run to 3.56, while increasing his K rate closer to his 2014-2018 levels. It was troubling to see Tanaka get roughed up in both postseason starts, and he will soon be 32 years old.

If Tanaka is gone, we’ll have this lasting image of him, Cole and their wives on a sushi dinner date.

Take him (but only if the price is right).

James Paxton – 2020 was rough for the Big Maple. After rehabbing his back over the winter, the root of the problem wasn’t discovered until February. He had surgery and rehabbed while Major League Baseball waited out COVID-19. When the season started, Paxton was building his pitch count. He was clearly behind and it showed. Paxton got pounded early, his fastball lacked it’s normal velo. Normally 96-98 mph, his fastball sat 91-92. By the mid August, Paxton’s fastball improved. Things went south when he allowed one hit against the Rays. He walked the bases loaded before allowing a double, emptying the bases. He left with a flexor tendon strain, never to return. Paxton is a free agent. With Tanaka and Happ also free agents, the Yankees need starters. I would offer Paxton a one year deal with incentives. If he wants a lot of guaranteed dollars, I let him walk.

Trash him. 🗑

J.A. Happ – Most of “Yankees Twitter” can’t stand Happ for various reasons. He pitched poorly in 2019, the first two outings of 2020 and the ill-fated Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series against the Rays. Most people don’t realize Happ was the Yankees most dependable starter for six weeks, including Gerrit Cole. From August 15 through September 19, Happ pitched to a 1.93 ERA with a 0.86 WHIP. After expressing his feelings regarding his usage (his contract situation earlier in the season to his role in Game Two of ALDS), It’s safe to say he won’t be coming back. However, Yankees fans shouldn’t be shitting all over Happ. He wanted to be treated fairly and used the way he is used to (and successful with). Happ didn’t ask too much. He’s now 38 and it’s hard to say how much he has left. Trash ’em“. 🗑

Deivi García – From the second oldest player (Happ) on the Yankees to the youngest, García pitched much better than his ERA (4.98) indicates. If you take away his start against the Red Sox on September 20, García’s ERA drops to a much better 3.73. What I’m saying here is this young man has a bright future. Deivi didn’t look like a typical 21 year old out there, and didn’t get rattled. Best of all, he drew praise from none other than Pedro Martínez, his idol.

I look forward to seeing what García will do over a full season in the Yankees rotation. There’s a spot open for him. Take!

Jordan Montgomery – Monty had his ups and downs in his first full season back from Tommy John Surgery. It’s been said one of the last things to come back for a pitcher recovering from TJS is command, and Montgomery’s command was spotty at times. This resulted in a season ending 5.11 ERA and high pitch counts that made for short outings for the 27 year old lefty. Monty’s stuff is there, and may be even better after his surgery. Look for Jordan to have a more stable 2021 season with the Yankees at the back end of their rotation.

Take him!

Luis Severino – It seems like forever since we last saw Sevy pitching in a Yankees uniform. After a shoulder injury sidelined Severino for most of 2019, he tore his UCL in spring training late in February. As of this writing, the plan is for Sevy, still only 26 years old, to be able to pitch early in the 2021 season. While the Yankees are known for being conservative, his return will be a welcome sight for the team and their fans. Take!

Domingo Germán – Germán sat out the 2020 season after a MLB investigation proved his guilt in a domestic violence incident late in the 2019 season. He has not been back with the team since. His suspension ended this past September but was ineligible to pitch in the postseason. Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner did not commit to bringing Germán back in 2021. However, Hal’s father, George M. Steinbrenner III gave players second chances. Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden are two of the most famous examples. That said, no one George Steinbrenner gave a second chance to was guilty of domestic violence. Personally, I think Yankees should trash him. 🗑

Clarke Schmidt and Michael King – Both Schmidt and King are guys the Yankees have high hopes for, but neither are ready for full-time rotation spots. Yet. Before everything went to hell in a handbasket in March with COVID, both guys were looking good in Florida in spring training. When everything resumed, King found himself in the Yankees bullpen as a long reliever/mop-up man. Schmidt returned to the team’s “alternative site” in Scranton/Wilkes Barre to keep sharp in simulated games. Both King (age 25) and Schmidt (24) were victims of infrequent use, resulting in ERA’s over 7.00 and wasting a year of their careers. Hopefully they will begin 2021 in Scranton-Wilkes Barre to refine things and cement their statuses as upper level prospects. If injuries hit, or Yankees don’t add a starter or two in free agency, one or both could start the new season on the big league staff.

Take ’em both – but they could use a little more seasoning in the minors.

In the next installment of “Take ’em or Trash ’em”, we will wrap things up with the Yankee bullpen. Join us!

 

Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Position Players

Well, the time has come once again. For the past few seasons, I have graded New York Yankees players based on performance. I then recommend to either take ’em or trash ’em. Former Yankees beat writers Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand had their own annual take ’em or trash ’em when they were with ESPN, they deserve the credit. When they left ESPN, it was no more. I always enjoyed it and missed it, so I decided to do it on The Titanium Spine.

This first installment of Take ’em or Trash ’em will cover position players. Without further adieu, let’s begin with the catchers.

Catchers

Gary Sanchez – OOF. It’s been a long ways down since Sánchez made a splash back in 2016, when he hit 20 home runs in 53 second half games for the Yankees. This year, he averaged roughly one hit every seven at bats and his on base percentage (OBP) fell to a career-low .253. He did manage 10 home runs, but he just can’t hit. Coupled with his ongoing defensive problems, it doesn’t seem feasible to hang onto Gary when an established star like Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto will be available in free agency. That said, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gave Sánchez something of a vote of confidence when speaking to the media yesterday.

That may well be lip service. Yankees GM Brian Cashman addressed the media Wednesday afternoon at his season-ending press conference, and did not commit to Sánchez as the full time starting catcher in 2021.

 

 

 

My opinion? Trash ’em!

Kyle Higashioka – Higgy became a popular man with “#YankeesTwitter”, simply by being a reliable guy with his bat and behind the dish. After spending a chunk of August on the shelf with an oblique strain, Higashioka returned in September and played the bulk of games as their starting catcher. He cemented that status when he slugged three home runs in a 13-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. However, his defense and game-calling made him popular with the pitching staff. Higgy became Gerrit Cole‘s personal catcher, or as Cole describes it, “I’m his personal pitcher”. It made a difference. With Gary Sánchez catching, Cole’s ERA was 3.91 after eight starts. With Higashioka behind the plate for seven starts (including the playoffs), it fell to 1.79. The ace of the Yankees staff is clearly more comfortable with Higgy, whom he was college teammates with at UCLA.

Take ’em!

Infield

Luke Voit – In a season full of injury and instability, Voit was one of the few sure things the Yankees could count on day in and day out. The 29 year old slugging first basemen played 56 of the teams sixty games, and led the major leagues with 22 home runs. Voit’s OPS (on base plus slugging percentages) of 948 was second on the team, only behind D.J. LeMahieu, and he cut his strikeout rate from 33 percent to 25 percent. Luke also provided a steady glove at 1st base, all while dealing with a painful foot-injury often described as “foot stuff”. He did have a platelet rich plasma injection and will spend some time in a walking boot.

 

 

Take ’em!

Mike Ford – This one hurts. When Ford hit a walk-off game winning home run off Oakland A’s closer Liam Hendriks in 2019, I thought he might have cemented himself a place on the Yankees roster going forward. Like Tyler Wade, I watched Ford play a good number of games at Triple-A Scranton and he had grown on me. As fate would have it, Luke Voit seized the Yankees 1st base job from him and hasn’t looked back. Ford hit a paltry .135 with only a pair of home runs, and went 0 for September in 22 plate appearances. Ford was sent to the Yankees alternative site in Scranton. One of the last memories of the Yankees postseason was manager Aaron Boone sending Ford to the plate to pinch hit for Kyle Higashioka late in Game 5 of the ALDS. The reactions were as you would expect.

 

 

I hate saying it because Ford is such a good guy, but Trash him.

D.J. LeMahieu – There aren’t enough superlatives to properly describe how much LeMachine means to this team. Simply put, the 2nd baseman is the Yankees heartbeat. When D.J. missed nine games due to a left hand injury, they went 2-7 in those games. The Yankees went 30-20 in games D.J. played and 3-7 when he didn’t. He led Major League Baseball in hitting with a .364 average and 1.011 OPS. The Machine gets on base 42 percent of the time, a true catalyst. He’s going to command a large salary this winter as a free agent, and the Yankees can’t afford to let him walk away. Oh, and he can play anywhere in the infield except shortstop.

Take him!

Tyler Wade – I’ll admit I always had high hopes for Wade, having watched him play a lot when he was with the Yankees Triple-A club, the Scranton Wilkes Barre RailRiders. It goes to show the talent in the minors doesn’t always translate to the big leagues. T-Wade hit a lethargic .170 in his limited at bats, which made him about as popular as a case of the clap. That said, Tyler is still a solid defensive replacement in the infield and can steal bases as a pinch-runner. I suppose there still is value in that, plus he’s still only 25 years old.

Take him (if you don’t have to rely on him every day)

Gleyber Torres – Gleyber had a very uneven, up and down 2020 season for the Yankees. After whacking 38 home runs in 2019, the number fell to three. In a normal full season, that would probably equate to 10-12. Torres’s average fell from .278 to .243 and the OPS from .871 to .724. In the field, Gleyber made nine errors in 40 games at shortstop. It was a painful season to be sure, but he did rebound in the playoffs and absolutely raked. Ten hits in 23 at bats, a pair of home runs, 5 RBI and a 1.262 OPS. And still, Torres is 4-5 years from even entering his prime. He will be ok, just keep working on defense.

Take him.

Gio Urshela – Gio picked up where he left off last season, providing excellent defense at third base (only one error) and reliable offense. Urshela really took off in September, raking to the tune of a .390 average with a 13 game hitting streak. The power numbers dipped, likely due to painful bone spurs in his throwing elbow. Gio will not require surgery at this time, as noted in the tweet above in Luke Voit’s paragraph.

Take him.

Miguel Andujar – When Andújar went down with a shoulder injury early in 2019, Urshela took over and Miguel has been unable to wrestle the third base job since. Miggy made the Yankees 28 man roster at the beginning of the season in late July, but his playing time was sparse. In order to keep him in playing shape, Andújar was optioned to Scranton to play every day in daily simulated games. His agent wasn’t happy about that.

 

 

When Urshela went on the injured list in September, Andújar was recalled and gave the Yankees offense a shot in the arm. He went 11-31 in nine games (eight of them starts) for a .355 average and .975 OPS in that span. When he gets regular at bats, Miguel has proven he can hit. Still, defense is an ongoing issue with Miguel. In six games at third base, he made three errors and made another in left field where he looked uncomfortable. With Gio Urshela firmly entrenched at third and nowhere to play, I believe the Yankees would be best served to seek to trade Andújar for more pitching help.

Trash ’em.

Outfield

Brett Gardner – Gardy has been a mainstay in the Yankees outfield since his arrival in 2008. He’s the last remaining holdover from the 2009 World Series winning team. Brett hit a personal best 28 home runs and drove in a career high 74 RBI in 2019. Unfortunately, time is catching up with Gardy, now 37 years old. His average dipped to a career-low .223, his worst as a full time player. Gardner’s bat speed has slowed after six thousand plate appearances. Gardy said he still wants to play in 2021, and would be a good fit as a reserve outfielder and defensive replacement. That said, I don’t think he fits as a productive every day player anymore. The offensive stats back that up. However, his speed in the outfield and glove still play. And his hitting could easily rebound if not subjected to the rigors of playing every day.

Take him – only as a back up.

Clint Frazier – Frazier came to the Yankees back in 2016 when Brian Cashman traded then-closer Andrew Miller to Cleveland in a trade-deadline deal. After a series of ups and downs, Frazier is now healthy from post-concussion symptoms and showing why the Yankees were and are excited about his future. “Red Thunder” provided thunder with his lightning-quick bat speed when he was recalled from Scranton in mid-August. In his first four games, Frazier went 8-15 with a pair of homers and five extra-base hits. Before hitting a 1-20 skid to end the 2020 regular season, Clint was hitting .306 with a 1.017 OPS. Frazier finished at .267 with 8 HR, 26 RBI and an OPS of .905. I believe he’s earned a shot at the left field job full time. He’s paid his dues.

Take him.

Aaron Hicks – I can best describe Aaron Hicks as a case in frustration. One category he improved in is staying healthy and on the field. Hicks also improved his walk rate. Everything else offensively is in decline, at a time when most athletes are in their prime. Hicks’s average, slugging percentage and OPS are in decline since 2017. Aaron made only two errors, but he made a few misplays in center field that shouldn’t have happened. At times, he looked disinterested. No worries, though. He’s under contract through 2025 at the minimum, when he will be 36 years old. It’s not a bank-breaking annual salary (in relative terms, at least), but still a long time to be tied to a player who has regressed when he should be improving. This was NOT one of Brian Cashman’s best signings.

I would love to trash him, but doubt he’s going anywhere.

Giancarlo Stanton – Stanton started off the season hot, whacking a pair of home runs in Washington against the Nationals. After five games, Giancarlo had eight hits in 16 at bats, with 6 RBI. Unfortunately, bad luck struck once again and Stanton missed five weeks with a bad hamstring. After he came back in mid-September, he went 7-35 (.200) in nine games with one home run. But Stanton was there when the Yankees needed him in the postseason. In seven playoff games, he went 8-26 (.308) with 6 HR’s and 13 RBI, and showed truly fun Stanton is to watch when locked-in.

In Cashman’s post-mortem presser this afternoon, he indicated Stanton will be primarily a DH going forward.

 

 

 

He’ll here through the 2028 season. Try the veal. Take him.

Mike Tauchman – After emerging as an excellent left handed option in the Yankees outfield in 2019, Tauchman had an equally uninspiring 2020 campaign. He finished at .242 with no home-runs and 14 RBI. After a three game series sweep at home against the Red Sox, Tauchman had six hits in 12 at bats. After that, he promptly fell off the face of the earth. From August 17 through season’s end, Mike had eight hits in 65 plate appearances for a .151 average and .462 OPS. Like Tyler Wade, Tauchman is a defensive replacement and pinch runner, and can’t be counted on for production as an everyday player. The sentimentalist in me would take Brett Gardner over Tauchman.

Take him (strictly as a reserve/defensive replacement).

Aaron Judge – Let me start by saying I love Aaron Judge. I really do. The broken hand he suffered from an errant inside pitch from Jakob Junis in 2018 wasn’t his fault. He pulled an oblique on April 20, 2019, the day after my son and I were lucky enough to watch him play from the Judge’s Chambers at Yankee Stadium. He fractured his rib in September 2019 on a diving play in the outfield that wasn’t officially diagnosed until March. The extra time from the season being delayed gave Judge more time to heal.

When the season started in late July, Judge hit the ground running. After 18 games, Judge hit .292 and slugged 9 HR’s with 20 RBI. Then he pulled his right calf. The injury bug nailed him less than three weeks into the season. After missing nine games over 15 days (thanks to an unscheduled COVID break), Judge returned for three at bats against the Baltimore Orioles in the second game of a doubleheader. He was removed in the sixth inning after reaggravating the calf, missing 21 more games as a result.

Judge returned for the team’s final ten games, but he looked out of sorts. He had no home runs, two RBI and only seven hits in 36 at bats. In the postseason, Judge didn’t look much better, with four hits in 35 plate appearances (.133 average). At least he hit the ball a long way when he DID make contact, sending three of them over the fence.

Bottom line, Judge has to find a way to stay on the field. People with large bodies like his are more prone to injury. But he’s not doing the Yankees any help in the dugout (the same can be said for Stanton). Judge is better off as a DH but Cashman said Stanton is a DH going forward. It’s a conundrum, but I think Judge and Stanton should split their time in RF and DH to help preserve both of them.

Anyway, Take him.

Thanks for reading my “Take ’em or Trash ’em”, next time we’ll take a look at Yankees pitchers.

 

 

Yankees Missing Extra Gear vs. Rays, Missing a Manager

After losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series, the season is over for the New York Yankees.

The writing was on the wall, even before the postseason started. The Yankees won only two of their ten regular season against the Rays, and generally looked lethargic against the 2020 AL East Division winners. Collectively, the Yankees hit .218 against the Rays. In the eight losses against them, the numbers were worse (.194). Those numbers are tough to swallow, considering the Yankees/Rays rivalry seems more intense in recent years than when they play against the Red Sox.

It’s very apparent the Rays raise their games to another level when they play the Yankees. That’s what good teams do when the stakes are high. Players like Randy Arozarena, Ji-Man Choi, Mike Zunino and Mike Brosseau are far from household name. But each of them has bludgeoned the Yankees in 2020, the most household name team in Major League Baseball. They had “that extra gear” needed to win.

Meanwhile, the Yankees core of Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combined for 13 hits in 70 at-bats (.186) against the Rays in the regular season. That’s just unacceptable. D.J. LeMahieu, soon to be a free agent, went 10-30 against Tampa, which illustrates how vital he is to this lineup and must be retained.

In the ALDS, the Yankees fared a little better, hitting to the tune of .242 in the five-game series. However, manager Aaron Boone‘s decision to use Deivi Garcia as an opener and starter J.A. Happ to follow him blew up in his face. To me, this was irresponsible. Boone tried to get cute, trying to beat Rays manager Kevin Cash at his own game. You can’t do that when you don’t have the personnel designed to excel pitching that way. Happ has been the most reliable starter for the Yankees behind Gerrit Cole. I already wrote about this farce in detail, so I won’t clog up a lot more space about that.

Unfortunately, there were other situations where it seemed like Aaron Boone was playing checkers, while Kevin Cash played chess. Like when Boone sent up Mike Ford to pinch-hit for Kyle Higashioka in the top of the 8th inning against Rays closer Diego Castillo.

Jimmy O’Brien (Jomboy) illustrates most everyone’s reaction when they saw Ford come to the plate in THAT situation.

I mean seriously, what the fuck is Aaron Boone thinking here?? Ford had two at bats in the postseason, including this ill-fated appearance where he went down looking. Higashioka was 0-2 on this night, but came into the game with an OPS of .853! And taking Higgy out of this game meant Gary Sánchez had to come in on defense. With Aroldis Chapman pitching. Who doesn’t always know where his pitches are going.

WHAT THE HELL IS BOONE THINKING?

In the end, Chapman gave up a home-run to Mike Brosseau on the tenth pitch of the at bat, and it cost them. Game over.

In the end, the Yankees didn’t have that extra gear needed to beat the Rays. They got outplayed, and certainly got out-managed.

Felt Cute, but Yankees Should Delete Later

Last night, for some reason, the New York Yankees thought it was a great idea to do something different in a playoff game. Manager Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman started 21 year old rookie Deivi Garcia against the Tampa Bay Rays, used him for exactly one inning, then replaced him with lefty J.A. Happ at the beginning of the 2nd inning. Happ went on to give up two home runs and four runs over 2.2 miserable innings.

In theory, the reasoning is understandable. With the righthanded García starting, Rays manager Kevin Cash put a number of players who hit lefthanded in his lineup. Bringing in Happ early is a good way to counter and gain an advantage.

But here’s the problem – Happ is not accustomed to being used in relief. The 37 year old has been in the starting rotation wherever he’s played for the last ten years. The preparation is different, and the larger problem is the mental difference. Think about how you do your job, whatever your profession is. Say you’ve been at your job a long time, and all of a sudden your boss has you do your job in a different way than you’re used to. You are thrown for a loop, right? Think about it.

Plus, Happ hasn’t pitched in a live game for 11 days. His routine is already screwed up, the feel isn’t there and then Boone and Cashman changed the way he’s being used. He had two strikes against him before he even threw a single pitch, and many folks on Twitter felt the same way.

After the dust had settled, Yankees Twitter came out of the woodwork. They point out how lousy Happ is and what a mistake it was for the Yankees to keep him. People quickly forget he helped carry this team on his back the second half of August and all of September. Happ’s stats over his last seven regular season starts: 42.1 IP, 30 hits, 11 ER, 7 BB, 39 K’s. He held opposing hitters to an OBP of .241. He and Gerrit Cole held everything together in September.

Folks, this is 100 percent on Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman. They are getting skewered in the papers and media and it’s deserved. They have to be held accountable.

Analytics most certainly have their place in baseball. But you still have to operate with common sense and a feel for things. The Yankees failed miserably in that aspect at the worst possible time against a team that owned them all season.

 

Yankees End of Season Report – Playoff Preview

When we last looked at the New York Yankees in my “50 Game Report”, I wasn’t sure what kind of team they were. The last ten games of the season didn’t give any more clarification, other than the 2020 Yankees are a notoriously hot and cold team.

Maybe I just answered my own question, the Yankees aren’t bad but they aren’t good. They’re just streaky. Anyway, let’s cover the last ten games of the 2020 schedule. Then we’ll briefly look ahead at their AL Wild Card Series against the Cleveland Indians.

Catcher

Gary Sánchez – Gary suffered through an absolutely horrific season with the bat and behind the plate. Sánchez went 2-5 with a clutch game-tying three run home run against the Red Sox at Fenway on September 18, and seemed to be turning the corner. He was fresh off an 8-27 stretch with 3 HR’s, but went back in the tank, and finished the season with two hits in his final 23 plate appearances. Sánchez ends the 2020 season with an abysmal .147 average, making the “Mendoza Line” (.200 batting average) seem a galaxy away. He is a liability on both sides of his game.

Kyle Higashioka – With Sánchez struggling, Higashioka’s playing time has increased. Higgy already has been serving as Gerrit Cole‘s quote/unquote personal catcher, and earned more playing time by simply being reliable both at the plate and behind it. Kyle finished the season at .250 with 4 HR’s and 10 RBI, and went 3-11 with runners in scoring position (RISP).

Infield

Luke Voit continued his MVP-caliber 2020 season by going 10-40 (250) during the season’s final ten game stretch, with a pair of homers and six RBI. He finished the season with a slash-line of .277/.338/.610 to go with 22 HR’s and 52 RBI. Not bad for a 60 game season.

After D.J. LeMahieu came of the injured-list on August 29, he played every one of his team’s remaining 31 games. While he couldn’t maintain the .411 clip he was raking at before he hurt his left hand, he still finished the 2020 campaign with a .364 average. That was good enough to win the AL batting title. The Yankees are a completely better team with LeMahieu in the lineup. When he played, they went 31-20. Without him, the Yankees were 3-7. The Yankees would be wise to sign him long-term. He is Captain material, and the team responds to him.

Gio Urshela continues to provide offense, as he went 12-34 (.353) over the team’s final ten games. Urshela is also a vacuum cleaner at the hot corner, showing over and over again why the Yankees were justified to choose him over Miguel Andújar at third base.

While Urshela, LeMahieu and Voit are hitting well, Gleyber Torres has struggled most of the season. His average dropped to a career low .243. His slugging percentage fell .167 points from .538 in 2019 (38 HR’s) to .368 this year (only 3 HR’s). However, Torres’s OBP was higher in 2020 (.356) than 2019 (.337), a result of more patience by earning walks at a higher rate. Making things worse, Gleyber’s fielding percentage also dropped to a career-low .933, his first full season at shortstop. Still, Torres is extremely young (23) and I would bet every dollar he will rebound on both sides of his game.

Tyler Wade has played at an increasing rate, despite continuing to produce at an anemic rate. Only Aaron Boone knows why, as he’s best suited as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner.

Outfield

Longtime Yankee Brett Gardner turned 37 years old on August 24, and much of the season has been a struggle. Gardy limped into September with a .169 average. Over the season’s final month, he turned it on with 17 hits in 59 at bats (.288) and knocking in 9 RBI. Over the last ten games of the schedule, Gardy went 7-19 (.368). No one knows for sure if this will be the end for Brett Gardner, but if so, he finished it off on a high-note.

Like Gleyber Torres, centerfielder Aaron Hicks had an odd season with the bat. His slash-line has dropped every season since peaking in 2017, but this year his on-base percentage reached a career high .379. Why, you may ask? Working more walks. Hicks walked more times (41) than he struck out (38) for the first time in his career. Like Brett Gardner, Hicks finished on a stronger note. After bottoming out at .200 on September 5, he recorded 17 hits in 66 at bats over the last twenty Yankees team games to finish at .225.

Clint Frazier has been a pleasant surprise all season with the injuries to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. He provided a spark when the Yankees needed it, and played excellent defense, after struggling in 2019 with depth-perception from post-concussion syndrome. As late as September 19, Frazier’s slash-line was .306/.422/.595, but closed out 2020 on a 1-20 slump with 11 strikeouts. Still, Clint has much to be proud of. With the Yankees facing the Indians, Frazier is going to look forward to taking it to the team that drafted him, then traded him to the Yankees in 2016.

Both the aforementioned Judge and Stanton have struggled since returning from their injuries. Judge has 7 hits in 36 at bats (.194), while Stanton has 7 in 35 AB’s (.200). Combined, their production since returning is one home run with six RBI. To be fair, it seems like Judge and Stanton will play a game or two and manager Aaron Boone will sit them for a “rest day”. They need the at bats and reps. I’m not sure if it’s coming from the Front Office or Boone himself, but being an every day player many years ago, Boone should know this.

Pitching – Starters

Gerrit Cole has been on fire all September. In his four starts the Yankees Ace (with a capital A), mowed down 34 hitters in 27 innings. This equated to a WHIP of 0.70 and allowing batters to hit .147 against him. Filth.

Masahiro Tanaka did not have the same dominant month Cole did, but he still was steady and reliable, which is all the Yankees need. Tanaka went 3-2 in September with a 3.62 ERA. Plus his postseason stats speak for themselves (5-3, 1.76 ERA, 0.78 WHIP in 8 starts). Masa will be ready to go.

 

After his first two starts of the 2020 season, longtime veteran J.A. Happ was looking at an ERA over ten and an unsure future beyond this season. Since then, all Happ has done is become the Yankees most reliable starter not named Gerrit Cole. The 37 year old lefty pitched to a 2.34 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over his last seven starts, striking out 39 over 42.1 innings. Happ earned his keep over the past month and a half, and deserves a lot of credit.

Lefty Jordan Montgomery (5.11 ERA) and young rookie righthander Deivi García (4.98) were up and down. Their postseason roles will likely depend upon matchups. However, both will be ready to help any way they can.

Bullpen

Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton are ready to go for the playoffs after dominating performances down the stretch. In Buffalo against the Blue Jays, Chapman broke out his new toy, a split-finger fastball.

After a hideous meltdown on September 7 against the Blue Jays in Buffalo, Adam Ottavino worked his way back into Aaron Boone’s circle of trust with seven solid outings. Over his final seven appearances, Ottavino allowed just a run in 5.2 innings (1.59 ERA) with 10 K’s. Chad Green suffered a similar fate against the Jays in Buffalo on Sept. 7, and also turned it around in six games since (1.35 ERA). Hopefully they will provide needed innings for the back of the Yankees pen.

The usual cast of suspects round out the bullpen. If Jonathan Holder, Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loáisiga and Michael King (combined 5.03 season ERA) are pitching, chances are good things are not happening for the Yankees.

The Yankees are in Cleveland to open their Wild Card Series tomorrow night against Shane Bieber (1.63 ERA), the likely AL Cy Young Award winner. After they face Bieber, the Yankees will have to contend with Carlos Carrasco (2.91) and Zach Plesac (2.28). They will have their hands full. Once they get into Cleveland’s bullpen, Bombers will have to deal with Oliver Pérez, James Karinchak (17.7 K’s/9 innings) and Brad Hand.

I will report back after the conclusion of the Yankees season. Hopefully it won’t be a post-mortem report. Hopefully it will be after the Yankees hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy with champagne-soaked hair. It’s been too long since Yankees fans have seen this sight.

 

 

 

Which Yankees Team is it?

After a seven-game homestand against the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees took to the road to play a three game set against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. They won the first two games, 6-5 Friday night, followed by an 8-0 whitewash on Saturday. J.A. Happ‘s outstanding shutout performance over eight innings, coupled with a potent offense had the Yankees and their fans flying high on a ten-game winning streak. Things are great, right?

Pump the brakes. The next afternoon, rookie starting pitcher Deivi García laid his first real egg against the Sox. It was an early exit where he gave up 11 pitches where the ball was hit 99 mph or harder, by far the most of his brief major league career. It set the tone for the entire game, which ended in a 10-2 blow-out. The game was still in reach, until relief pitcher Jonathan Holder gave up three more runs. The highlight of the game was beloved backup catcher Erik Kratz pitching the bottom of the 8th inning.

 

After leaving Boston, the Yankees traveled back to Buffalo, where the Blue Jays had taken them to the woodshed a couple weeks prior. The hope going into this series was the Yankees would continue momentum they built when they buried the Jays in a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. The Bronx Bombers simply bludgeoned them by a composite score of 43-15, with a mind-blowing total of eighteen (18!!) HR’s in the three games.

For the first game back at Sahlen Field, Yankees manager Aaron Boone started rookie Michael King as an opener. It was a bullpen day, specifically designed to push back the rotation in preparation for the playoffs. It didn’t go well. King breezed through the first two innings with ease. After the first time through Toronto’s lineup, he wasn’t fooling anyone. He departed after 2.2 innings and five runs later. Jonathan Loáisiga, who relieved King in the third, tossed gasoline on the fire by letting in 4 more runs in the fourth inning. The rout was on.

The Yankees only scratched across a pair of runs against Jays starter Matt Shoemaker and reliever T.J. Zeuch. Mike Tauchman capitalized on Wilmer Font‘s wildness with a double down the right field line in the 9th. That drove in three runs, making the final score a little less ugly at 11-5. It was “garbage time” offense, to use a football analogy. It should be noted Tauchman was only in this game because the game was a blowout. Moreover, it’s time to get all the regular players at bats every day. No more resting players bullshit, because the guys need regular at bats. Let Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres get their bats going. The Yankees need their offense. Most certainly, their struggles are a result of too much downtime.

The losses to Boston and Toronto drops their road record to 10-16, compared to 21-7 at Yankee Stadium. With this year’s postseason set up the way it is, the Yankees can’t take their foot off the gas pedal. They have to find a way to have as many playoff games at home as possible.

Pitching is a concern for the Yankees. Starters Gerrit Cole, Happ and Masahiro Tanaka have pitched well over the last month, while Chad Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman anchor the bullpen. However, literally everyone else scares the daylights out of me. Will Deivi García rebound from his rough outing in Boston? Can Jordan Montgomery at least give two solid turns through a lineup? Will Adam Ottavino keep building on his last few positive outings? Lastly, will someone please lock Holder and Luis Cessa in the crapper so they don’t have to pitch?

Joking aside, this is put-up or shut up time for the Yankees. What team is it? The one who reeled off ten straight wins, or the unpredictable team who all too often made Yankees fans scream into their pillows? To be sure, they better find a way to win consistently on the road or it’ll be an early exit in the postseason.

 

Yankees 50 Game Report

A week and a half ago, as I was typing out my Yankees 40 game report, I was doing it with a sense of doom and resign. The Yankees seemed to be in a free-fall. They were in the middle of a five-game losing streak and lost six of seven. The team wasn’t hitting. When they did hit, they couldn’t pitch. Things looked bleak.

What a difference ten games make! After losing the first pair of games on the road to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees have reeled off eight consecutive victories. In four of them, the Bronx Bombers have lived up to their moniker, scoring ten runs or more. They are coming off a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays at home, making up for losing three of four in Buffalo earlier this month.

Yankees bats have never been hotter. The team scored 43 runs over the three games, including a mind-blowing 18 (!!!) home runs. No Yankees team has ever done that. Amazing.

Hitting

A line from ex-MLB hitter Mark DeRosa in the game “MLB The Show 20” come to mind. “There’s a fight at the bat rack for who’s gonna hit next”. Let’s start at the top of the Yankees lineup and work our way down.

D.J. LeMahieu continues to rake like a man-possessed. He played all ten games and brought his lunch pail to work, going 16-40 (.400) with six bombs and 11 RBI. Why the Yankees haven’t extended his contract is beyond comprehension. They can’t afford to lose him.

Luke Voit has firmly seized the first base job. Initially splitting time with lefty batting Mike Ford (who has since been optioned to Yankees alternative site in Scranton) in a platoon situation, Voit has been scorching hot no matter who is pitching. Over the last ten games, Voit went 14-43 (.326) while mashing 7 taters and bringing him 18. None of his home-runs are cheapies, either.

Gleyber Torres hasn’t shown the power he displayed in 2019 when he belted 38 home runs, but still is very productive. Over the last ten, “Glasses Gleyber” went 9-26 (.346) with a pair of homers and eight RBI.

Injured superstars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are back! Both players took an o-fer in their first games back, but last night Giancarlo went 4-5 against Toronto. He only came a triple shy of the cycle, bringing home a pair of runs. Having Judge and Stanton in the lineup makes an already potent lineup more dangerous.

Third baseman Gio Urshela missed a handful of games while on the injured list with bone spurs in his throwing elbow. He returned Tuesday and has since gone 5-14 over three games. No RBI’s, but it’s hard to drive in runs when everyone else is clearing the bases with home-runs.

OF Clint Frazier has been consistently productive in 2020 for the Yankees. Injuries to Stanton and Judge opened the door for Frazier and he’s earned his everyday playing time. He played all ten games, going 11-34 (.324) with a pair of homers and nine RBI. On Monday, Frazier revealed he was still dealing with concussion issues that carried over from 2018. He suffered from depth perception problems, which explains his defensive struggles last season. This year, Clint’s defense has been top-notch.

It’s been no secret Gary Sánchez has struggled in 2020, so we’ll take any silver linings. Always streaky, Gary went hitless in his first nine at bats over this ten game stretch, followed by six hits in the next 22. Sánchez socked a pair of homers in the Toronto series, driving home six. Backup catcher Kyle Higashioka has caught Gerrit Cole‘s last two starts, and all he’s done is hit four HR’s, including a three-homer game against the Blue Jays.

Veteran outfielders Brett Gardner (6 for 22) and Aaron Hicks (7 for 28) have been suffering through abysmal seasons, hitting .198 and .215, respectively. The defense is still there for both of them, but for some reason the offense hasn’t been there. Mike Tauchman had a three hit game against the Baltimore Orioles on September 11, but has otherwise been non-existent. Light hitting Tyler Wade has subbed in for Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres when needed. When he’s on base, Wade is always a threat to score. The problem here is, he’s rarely on base.

Pitching

It all starts with Gerrit Cole. The ace starting pitcher, Brian Cashman’s so-called “White Whale”, made a pair of starts against the Orioles and Blue Jays. Both outing were seven-inning gems, a two-hit complete game shutout against Baltimore in the first game of a doubleheader, followed by a three-hitter against Toronto. Cole gave up one run in his collective 14 innings, striking out 17 hitters. Filthy.

Masahiro Tanaka follows Cole in the Yankees rotation, and is a nice contrast. Masa is going to give up his home runs, it’s just who he is. The good thing is Tanaka never walks anyone, so usually the bombs are solo jobs. He had the benefit of a lot of run-support over his last pair of starts, his teammates giving him ten runs. This allowed Tanaka to pound the strike-zone and get outs efficiently. Against the Blue Jays, the long-time mainstay of the Yankees rotation had his longest start of 2020, seven innings. The only damage was a pair of homers to Lourdes Gurriel.

Deivi García, all of 21 years of age, has continued his impressive rookie season. The young righty made a pair of starts against the Blue Jays, pitching seven innings each time. In Buffalo, he only allowed a pair of runs on five hits in Buffalo, a start that helped stop a five game skid. Six days later, he made another start against Toronto. This time, the Yankees won 20-6 and his seven innings helped rest a weary bullpen. His WHIP and SO/BB ratios are better than Gerrit Cole’s. Imagine that. Did I mention he’s only 21??

Rounding out the rotation are lefties Jordan Montgomery and J.A. Happ. Montgomery’s last outing was a very solid 5.2 innings of one-run ball against the Orioles at home. He struck out a career-high nine and lost a win opportunity on an unearned run that scored after he departed. Monty’s season high is six innings, as he seems to hit the proverbial wall after about 75 pitches. Aaron Boone doesn’t seem to give him a lot of rope, and Montgomery seemed unhappy when the manager relieved him in the Baltimore game.

After a rough pair of starts to begin the 2020 season, veteran J.A. Happ has reeled off five starts where he’s kept his team in the game, if not pitch outstanding. Over the five starts, Happ has pitched to a 2.45 ERA, with 27 strikeouts over 29.1 innings. Over that span he has allowed a scant five walks and 23 hits, translating to a WHIP of 0.95. Happ is earning his money, although he only has a record of 1-2 to show for it.

In the bullpen, Chad Green and Adam Ottavino combined for a horrific meltdown inning against the Blue Jays in Buffalo on September 7. The Jays scored four times on Green and six against Ottavino in a 10 run inning that lasted 43 minutes. Green rebounded with a pair of good outings against Baltimore, while Ottavino struggled again six days later. Boone used Adam again last night against Toronto, and he looked much better. He gave up a hit, but struck out a pair of Blue Jays in a 13 pitch inning.

It’s hard to predict what the Yankees will get from Jonathan Holder. The 27 year old Holder was lights out over the last month where he only allowed one run over 10 innings (eight appearances). He came in last night to close out last night’s game against Toronto with a 10-3 lead. He departed 28 pitches and four runs later when closer Aroldis Chapman had to come in to put out the fire and lock down the save. Holder’s ERA jumped two full runs after the game, now sitting at 4.08.

Zack Britton continues to bring his lunch pail to work and get the job done. Britton provided four efficient scoreless innings over games 41-50 and picked up a win along the way. I applaud his unselfishness, as he could probably close for every other MLB team not named the Yankees.

The aforementioned Chapman notched a pair of saves this past week and added another memorable moment he probably would prefer never happened. Chapman recorded the first out in the 9th inning of a tie-game against the Orioles. We’ll just let Jomboy break it down, as he always does so well.

Of note, Chapman’s appeal for the suspension he received for throwing a pitch over Tampa Bay Rays hitter Mike Brosseau was supposed to be heard this past Monday (September 14), but there has been nothing reported since. Stay tuned.

Luis Cessa, Mike King, Jonathan Loaisiga and Nick Nelson are the leftovers who usually come in to mop up or cover in the event of injury. Cessa and Loaisiga are generally the more trusted pitchers of this quartet to get the higher leverage innings.

Next time, we’ll cover the final ten games of the season. We’ll also take a peek at what will be ahead for the Yankees as we enter the expanded postseason in this crazy year that is 2020.

For Yankees, Playoffs Start Now

After tonight’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees will have completed 80 percent of their 2020 schedule. It has been a roller-coaster season for the Bronx Bombers, with injuries and uneven play up and down the lineup and pitching staff.

The Yankees begin a three-game homestand, taking on Toronto this evening at Yankee Stadium. Last week, the Blue Jays took two of three games against them at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. Thus included a demoralizing 12-7 loss on September 7 when relievers Adam Ottavino and Chad Green thoroughly imploded. The Yankees rebounded, winning the series finale and followed by sweeping the Baltimore Orioles in a four-game set at home.

Looking ahead, this upcoming series against Toronto is the beginning of the (unofficial, of course) playoffs for the Yankees. Their final 13 games consist of the three games at home against the Jays, followed by three games against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway, then four games back in Buffalo against Toronto. Finally, the 2020 campaign closes with a three-game set against the Miami Marlins at home September 25-27.

The Yankees will be healthier in the days ahead. Injured players Gio Urshela, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are expected to all return by the weekend. Scranton Wilkes Barre Railriders reporter Conor Foley (@RailRidersTT) sent this tweet yesterday showing them working out at PNC Field.

The returns of Urshela (expected back tonight), Judge and Stanton give the lineup a nice boost. While players like D.J. LeMahieu, Luke Voit, Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres have carried the team, the addition of the three injured sluggers makes the Yankees much more potent.

It may take a few games for Urshela, Judge and Stanton to get back in a rhythm and feel comfortable. However, the Yankees have to show they can win against their upcoming opponents. The Blue Jays have been rolling, winning twelve of their last 18 games. Their lineup is potent, and their bullpen is quietly effective. They added three starters before the trade deadline and won’t go quietly. The Red Sox have had a miserable season, but will want to gear-up and play spoilers against their longtime rivals. The Marlins won’t roll over, as they are only four games out of first place in the NL East behind the Atlanta Braves. The Yankees will have their hands full over the next two weeks.

For more coverage, you can listen to me as I join the great Sal Maiorana on his podcast “SalSpeaks”. I join Sal each Tuesday as we break down the week for the New York Yankees. The link is below.

https://www.salmaiorana.com/posts/8332010?utm_source=manual

Yankees 40 Game Report

It seems like it was just the other day when I cranked out the 30 game report for the New York Yankees. Time flies when you’re having fun, right?

The last ten games for the Yankees and their fans have been anything but fun. The same can be said for the ten games before that. It’s been a very ugly stretch for this battered team. Let’s get on to assess the carnage, shall we?

Hitting

Or lack thereof. Where do we even begin? I guess we will start with the guys actually producing. D.J. LeMahieu came back for the team’s 30th game after missing ten games with a hand injury. He picked right up where he left off. “LeMachine” logged 10 hits in 36 at-bats in this ten game stretch, including back to back two hit games against the Tampa Bay Rays. The second of which he slammed a pair of home runs in a rare Yankees win over the Rays.

First baseman Luke Voit was productive against the Mets and Rays, but cooled off considerably against the Baltimore Orioles. Backup catcher Erik Kratz has been a pleasant surprise for many reasons (see this YES Network video about him helping Latin pitchers realize their dreams), but he has swung the bat well (8 hits in 27 AB’s) and gunned down a couple runners. Saturday night, he caught O’s catcher Pedro Severino napping off 2nd base from his knees. Not bad for a 40 year old.

There’s not much else positive to say about the rest of this Yankees lineup. 3rd baseman Gio Urshela has battled a troublesome bone spur in his throwing elbow, and was placed on the IL. Gary Sánchez still looks lost at the plate (13 hits in 100 AB’s), including strikeouts in each of his last seven plate appearances. He did manage a home-run, a grand slam that proved to be a game-winner against the Mets in the first game of a doubleheader. However, Aaron Boone is planning to sit him for a couple days to get himself right.

Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Mike Ford and Tyler Wade continue to struggle and give non-competitive at bats. Mike Tauchman has one hit over his last 17 at bats. Clint Frazier is still hitting well (8 for last 26), but only drove in three runs. It’s hard to drive runs in when no one else gets on.

Pitching

You know things aren’t going so hot when Jonathan Holder has the lowest ERA on the team (minimum 10 IP). Sigh.

It’s been a tough last few turns for Gerrit Cole, but he deserved so much better Saturday night against the Orioles. He has his best stuff of the season. Cole struck out five of the first six hitters and sat 97-99 with his four-seamer. He had nine K’s through five innings on only 63 pitches. The next inning, the roof caved in. D.J Stewart hit a home-run. Hanser Alberto reached on an error. Cole issued back-to-back walks, then followed those up with a two-run single and a ground-rule double. Next thing you know, five runs have scored (one earned) and that’s all she wrote.

Masahiro Tanaka tossed six innings of two run ball in a 5-3 Yankees win against the Rays on September 1, punching seven tickets. Sunday against the Orioles, Masa was charged with four runs (two earned) over 5.1 innings in Baltimore. Like Cole the night before, Tanaka deserved a better fate. Luis Cessa relieved him for some reason only Manager Aaron Boone knows (more on this later). Cessa inherited two of Tanaka’s runners and allowed a single to load the bases. He went on to walk in a run, followed by a single for another Baltimore run. The O’s went on to a 5-1 win Sunday. Again, Tanaka deserved better.

Jordan Montgomery imploded in a his start against Tampa on September 2, giving up five straight hits and two home-runs to a fired-up Rays team. The day before, closer Aroldis Chapman sailed a 101 mph fastball just inches over the head of Mike Brosseau. The Rays felt they had something to prove, and they made a statement, jumping on Montgomery, who only recorded two outs on 39 pitches.

J.A. Happ made a start in Thursday’s makeup game against the Mets, going five innings, giving up 4 runs on eight hits. His season continues to be up and down.

Deivi García pitched a beautiful six innings against the Mets in his debut on August 30, striking out six. He looked like a seasoned veteran, allowing a scant four hits. He drew praise across MLB, including Pedro Martínez, whom García is often compared to.

His second start wasn’t as great, but pitched into the 5th inning before he was relieved by fellow rookie Clarke Schmidt, who was just called up to make his Major League debut. It didn’t go well, with the Orioles ripping him for three straight hits, allowing four runs to score. We’ll also touch on this move by Boone later.

Michael King made a couple of uninspiring starts and abbreviated starts, against the Mets and Orioles, respectively. King didn’t pitch badly, only giving up a total of five runs between the two starts. But Boone doesn’t give him a lot of rope. His longest outing of the season was his start against the Mets, four innings. That puts a lot of work on the bullpen.

Speaking of the bullpen, it’s worn out. Any starter not named Gerrit Cole or Masahiro Tanaka simply doesn’t get to pitch very deeply into games. Sometimes it’s for a good reason (they are getting shelled), sometimes it’s because Aaron Boone gets an itchy trigger-finger or analytics call for a move.

Adam Ottavino (16 appearances), Chad Green (15) and Zack Britton (13) are getting worked a lot, and the team is averaging 4.5 innings per start from their starting pitchers. Things are getting thin, and cracks are beginning to show. Jonathan Loaisiga, who’s been valuable as an opener and multi-inning reliever, was put on the IL with an illness unrelated to COVID.

As mentioned earlier, Aroldis Chapman threw a pitch above Mike Brosseau’s head. This ended up getting him a three game suspension from Major League Baseball. He has appealed and is awaiting a hearing. Even if reduced, it adds more to an overworked bullpen. Another unwise and selfish move by Aroldis.

Britton returned from the injured list last week, and will help ease the burden. He looked a bit rusty in his first couple games back, but should be fine with more work.

Luis Cessa and Jonathan Holder have received higher-leverage innings out of necessity, reaffirming how much the Yankees miss Tommy Kahnle (Tommy John surgery).

Aaron Boone/Coaching

The Yankees have now lost 13 of their last 18 games. Aaron Boone has made some questionable decisions. Bringing in Luis Cessa into a runners-on situation in relief of Tanaka trailing only by a run (it didn’t work). Having Clarke Schmidt, a starter, make his debut in the middle of an inning with runners on base (it failed miserably) when he had a couple other arms to chose from. Not having Erik Kratz catch J.A. Happ (who raved about working with Kratz after the game) when the pair was spectacular together in Happ’s previous start, having Kyle Higashioka catch him instead (it didn’t go that well).

I realize managing a team is difficult, managing a struggling team in New York magnifies it tenfold. But it seems like Boone is making things harder than it needs to be.

It’s easy for me, other writers and fans to be armchair managers. One thing is obvious. The Yankees need to turn this around, or they may be watching the playoffs along with us in our armchairs.

 

Paying Respects to Tom Terrific

Last night, the baseball world was rocked by the tragic news of Tom Seaver‘s passing at the age of 75. The most famous New York Mets player in team history had suffered from dementia in recent years, staying out of the public eye. In addition, he reportedly had complications from COVID-19.

My earliest memory of Seaver was in a Cincinnati Reds uniform, shortly after leaving Metropolitans in a 1977 trade that shook The Big Apple. I saw a magazine photo of Seaver captured in the middle of his delivery. His back knee was almost touching the dirt. The Reds were still “The Big Red Machine”, with the likes of Pete Rose, Tony Pérez, George Foster and Ken Griffey, Sr. They were constantly on national television. Many weekends, I stayed with my grandparents and Grandpa always watched baseball. This was before cable, and the Reds got a lot of exposure on NBC’s Saturday Game of the Week, and ABC’s Monday Night Baseball.

In early 1983, we got cable TV. With it came New York City’s WOR-TV (channel 9) and WPIX (channel 11), who carried the Mets and Yankees, respectively. That season, Seaver returned to the Mets in a trade with the Reds. I finally had a chance to watch him pitch on a regular basis. Watching baseball on cable TV was the catalyst for my love of baseball, and Seaver was a part of it. “Tom Terrific” was on the downside of his long career, but he was still really good. He was 38 years old, with over 4,000 innings under his belt. As a result, the blazing fastball had vanished, replaced with guts and guile. Still, it was a delight to watch him pitch.

In 1985, by then with the Chicago White Sox, Seaver won his 300th career game against the Yankees in the Bronx. WPIX aired the game, with Bill White, Frank Messer and Phil Rizzuto on the call. It was a delight for me to watch, 14 years old at the time.

Tom Seaver went on to win 16 games in 1985, and split the ’86 season between Chicago and the Boston Red Sox before calling it a career.

Seaver was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1992, earning 311 career wins. He logged 4,783 innings and 3,640 strikeouts (6th all time) with a lifetime 2.86 ERA. His career WAR, an amazing 109.9. Tom Terrific, indeed.

My thoughts are with his wife, Nancy and his children and family. Rest in Peace, Tom Seaver. Thank you for the childhood memories.

 

Yankees – No Deal? No Problem.

As Monday afternoon’s 4:00 PM trade deadline quickly approached, I rapidly refreshed Twitter to see if the New York Yankees made a deal to bolster themselves for the stretch run.

Four o’clock came and went, and word finally came in from a few beat writers. Yankees GM Brian Cashman didn’t pull the trigger on anything.

It’s a fair point. The Yankees have a number of big names on the injured list, most of them are expected back this season. Giancarlo Stanton (left hamstring), Gleyber Torres (left hamstring/quad) and Aaron Judge (right calf) will return before season’s end. Reliever Zack Britton (hamstring) and Kyle Higashioka (oblique) made their returns last night against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Although it would have been nice to add a starting pitcher like Kevin Gausman, as I wrote about last week, I think the Yankees have enough to get by as long as their current starters pitch close to their capabilities. J.A. Happ and Deivi García were stellar in their last outings (García’s MLB debut).

With sixteen teams making the playoffs in this crazy year that is 2020, the Yankees just have to play well enough to get in. Once the playoffs start, anything can happen. The hottest team at the time makes the longest playoff run. It’s happened before. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series with a regular season record of 83-78. Historically, many 90 win teams have missed the postseason! Cashman was right to not mortgage the future. There is no reason to trade the team’s very best prospects in a year when more than half the teams in Major League Baseball will reach the postseason.

So let’s see what happens when the big guys come back. Let Judge, Stanton and Gleyber heal up for the playoffs. There is enough on hand to get them there.

Yankees 30-Game Report

After yesterday’s walk-off win against the New York Mets, the Big Apple’s other team, the Yankees officially reached the halfway point of 2020’s abbreviated schedule. The Bronx Bombers are 17-13 heading into Sunday’s doubleheader against these same Mets.

The past ten games for the Yankees was a brutal stretch. They won the first two games against the Boston Red Sox, were swept by the 1st place Tampa Bay Rays in a three-game set. Then the team was idled due to a handful of Mets players testing positive for COVID-19, followed by an off-day and a rain-out in Atlanta. After play resumed, the Yankees were swept by the Braves in a doubleheader. The Yankees traveled back home to be swept in another doubleheader Friday night against the Mets. Finally the Yanks won Saturday afternoon, snapping a seven-game losing streak.

In fairness, that five day stretch where the Yankees didn’t play a game did not do them any favors. The team has scored 11 runs in five games since resuming play. Not playing for close to a week, doesn’t do any baseball player much good.

Hitting

After spending 15 days on the shelf recovering from a calf injury, Aaron Judge was penciled into the lineup in the second game of a doubleheader in Atlanta. His return lasted six innings before re-injuring the same calf. After hitting a single in three at bats, Judge was replaced by Clint Frazier in right field.

This of course sent Twitter into a raging frenzy. After a couple of days, Brian Cashman told a group of Yankees fans on a Zoom call Judge would be returning to the injured-list. On the same call, he also said shortstop Gleyber Torres was looking at 3-6 weeks for his recovery from a quad strain and hamstring injury.

As for the players still on the field, it wasn’t a pretty ten game stretch. The Yankees did get excellent production from first baseman Luke Voit. Aaron Boone installed Voit in the lead-off slot, and has been a revelation. Luke has hit at a .452 clip in the past ten game (14-31) with 7 HR’s and 10 RBI. He’s simply on fire.

D.J. LeMahieu missed a bunch of games due to a left hand ailment, but returned yesterday. Raking with a .411 average before going on the IL, he picked right up, smoking a triple in the bottom of the 3rd inning. LeMahieu is a welcome sight for this Yankees team.

Third baseman Gio Urshela was held out of the last few games with a bone spur in his right elbow. This may explain why he only had four hits in his last 24 at bats.

Tyler Wade and Miguel Andújar saw increased playing time due to Torres and Urshela being out. Neither player has hit well, combing for four hits in 35 at bats over the past ten games. At least Wade provides reliable defense; a 55-gallon drum is more dependable than Andújar at the hot corner. After a horrible day in Friday’s twin-bill, Miguel was sent back to the team’s alternate site in Scranton. Both Andújar and Wade might benefit from a change of scenery at this point.

With Judge back on the IL, Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier will continue to see increased playing time. Both are productive at the plate, countering the lack of productivity by veterans Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner.

Behind the dish, Gary Sánchez is going through a nightmarish season. On the season, Gary has 10 hits in 77 at bats with 37 strikeouts. In Friday’s doubleheader, he left a small army of Yankees stranded on the bases in two separate crucial plate appearances. Manager Aaron Boone went with 40 year old veteran back-up Erik Kratz to catch J.A. Happ the following day. Kratz and Happ were teammates way back in 2014 when they were with the Toronto Blue Jays. Happ responded with 7.1 scoreless innings, and said he felt very comfortable with Kratz back there.

Pitching

Let’s start with the aforementioned Happ. Coming into Saturday’s start against the Mets with a 6.39 ERA, he did it with a chip on his shoulder. Speaking with the press on a Zoom-call, he said this……

Given Happ’s age (37) and his contract situation (17M/year), there may be something to it. On Saturday, he delivered 7.1 scoreless innings on three hits, with no walks and 5 K’s. He raved about working with Erik Kratz, who may find himself catching Happ in his next turn later this week.

Let’s talk about Gerrit Cole. He’s the undisputed ace of the Yankees pitching staff. As great as he is, he’s giving up home runs at a break-neck (10 over 41.1 innings). Cole allowed one blast in each of his first five starts, followed by a pair of solo shots in St. Petersburg against the Rays. Following that start, Gerrit gave up three bombs to the Braves, including one by Ronald Acuña, Jr. (473 feet) that may still be in orbit. Cole’s stuff is still crisp as ever, and he is his own harshest critic. He’s not someone to worry about because he will figure it out.

Masahiro Tanaka made a pair of starts, one in Tampa where he was pretty bad (6 runs/4 innings/2HR), and one on a hot/humid day in Atlanta (5 scoreless innings). Tanaka still hasn’t thrown more than 71 pitches in a start, and was gassed after 66 pitches against the Braves. The steamy weather in Atlanta may have pushed his endurance a bit.

James Paxton made a start against the Rays at Yankee Stadium that was bizarre. He held Tampa hitless through four innings. Paxton went out for the 5th and struck-out the first batter, followed this with a pair of walks and a wild-pitch, which put the runners on 2nd and 3rd. Joey Wendle doubled home the runners, and went to 3rd on the throw home. Paxton walked the next batter, then allowed a sac fly which scored Wendle. Paxton struck out the next guy, ending the inning. I called the inning bizarre, as Paxton normally has excellent control. Also notable his velocity, already lower in 2020, dropped further – barely touching 90 mph.

A few days later, the Yankees announced Paxton is heading to the IL.

Jordan Montgomery performed well in two starts, the first on August 17 against Boston. He allowed one-run ball into the 4th inning before the game was stopped by rain. The second start was the first game of Friday’s doubleheader. Cruising through five innings, the only blemish an unearned run, thanks to another error by Miguel Andújar. Jordan started the 6th inning allowing a pair of singles on consecutive pitches, which brought Aaron Boone out of the dugout to make a change. Chad Green came in and promptly gave up a home run to Mets first baseman Pete Alonso. Montgomery deserved a better fate.

The bullpen – Yankees relief pitchers haven’t provided much relief. Let’s start with Chad Green since we already touched on him. Coming into the 7 inning twin-bill in Atlanta, Green was his usual dominating self with a ERA of 0.71. Taking over after Tanaka’s five scoreless, he gave up a pair of bombs, handing a win to the Braves. Two days later, Green came in following Jordan Montgomery and it was batting practice. Three homers later, it was all over but the shouting. Those two outings raised Green’s ERA almost three runs.

Adam Ottavino has also tossed gasoline on the fire, coming in after J.A. Happ’s start yesterday only to blow the lead after allowing a home run to Wilson Ramos. On August 20, Ottavino gave up three runs after a poor performance by him and Luis Avilán (since released).

Zack Britton has been a wonder this season, especially while close Aroldis Chapman recovered from a bout with COVID-19. Britton made his first appearance in a non-closing situation against Tampa on August 19, and had a tough outing. After he departed, the team announced he will be going on the IL with a left hamstring problem. He has been throwing bullpens over the past couple days, and should be activated soon.

The 32 year old Chapman has made three appearances. He has yet to earn a save, but looked much better in his last outing, compared to his first pair. The velocity is bumping up for Aroldis, touching 99-100 mph.

Jonathan Loaisiga has worked as an opener and long reliever, turning in reliable work when needed. Jonathan Holder and Luis Cessa have provided decent work, normally in low-leverage situations. It’s asking a bit much for them to pitch with the game on the line, however.

Next time, we will cover the next ten games for the Yankees and see what progresses. Thanks for reading!

Gausman Makes Sense for Yankees

With only five days left until Major League Baseball‘s trade deadline, aspiring playoff teams are looking to add players to enhance their chances of winning a World Series title.

The New York Yankees are one of those teams. One area the Yankees would like to shore up is pitching. James Paxton is on the IL for an undefined time with a forearm strain, his team could use another starting pitcher. All Yankees starters *not* named Gerrit Cole have an ERA of 4.60 or higher. The Bronx Bombers need rotation help.

Kevin Gausman of the San Francisco Giants is reportedly available in trade, according to Yankees beat writer Brendan Kuty of NJ.com.

Gausman is on a one-year contract for a rebuilding team, and be had for a modest price. The eight-year veteran has always been up and down, but had some dominating performances this year. His spin-rates are higher on all pitches, and has struck-out a career-best 12.2 per nine innings, while touching 99 mph. Finally, Gausman is familiar with pitching in the heat of the AL East, spending six years with the Baltimore Orioles.

Teams have a few days left to make deals, so it will be interesting to see who does what. The Yankees will be in that mix.

The San Diego Padres – A Team You Should Know

The year 2020 has brought some levels of insanity to everyone’s lives, almost immediately since the ball dropped in Times Square in New York. Too many things have happened this year just in Major League Baseball, it would require a lengthy post all on it’s own.

One example in the baseball world is the emergence of the San Diego Padres. Perpetually a losing team, the Padres regularly lost 90 games a year over the past ten years, resulting in no playoff seasons since 2006. However, team Executive VP and General Manager A.J. Preller has slowly and methodically added blue-chip prospects and players via draft, trades and free-agency.

The Padres have a deep farm system, drafting #1 pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore in 2017, shortstop CJ Abrams (#2 prospect) in ’19, and C Luis Campusano (#4 team prospect) in the 2017 draft. In trades, Preller acquired star player Fernando Tatis, Jr. from the Chicago White Sox for James Shields. Secondly, as part of a three-team deal, the Padres shipped OF Franmil Reyes to the Cleveland Indians and got their fifth-ranked prospect OF Taylor Trammell from the Cincinnati Reds. Furthermore, Preller received rotation stud Chris Paddack from Miami for Fernando Rodney in 2016. Lastly, San Diego sent OF Hunter Renfroe to Tampa Bay, bringing back OF Tommy Pham and sensation Jake Cronenworth.

Equally important, San Diego signed RHP Luis Patiño and LHP Adrián Morejón as international free agents in 2016. Both show a lot of promise, with Patiño making his debut this year, Morejón made his big league debut in 2019. Both guys throw hard, although one is a lefty, the other a righty. We’ll let Rob Friedman, the “pitching ninja” show you Morejón’s filth.

 

Luis Patiño. Nasty.

 

Twenty-eight year old starting pitcher Dinelson Lamet came to the organization as an international free-agent signing in 2014, signing for $100,000. Again, another pitcher with a blazing fastball, Lamet has been disaster for opposing hitters.

 

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention A.J. Preller’s biggest acquisition, Manny Machado. Something of a surprise at the time, he signed his name to a ten-year deal just prior to spring training in 2019. He will be with the Padres through 2028 (Machado does have an opt-out after ’23) at 32M/year.

First baseman Eric Hosmer came to San Diego just a year before Manny, in another surprise free agent signing. This contract is more team-friendly, at 21M/year through 2022, where he has an opt-out. If Hosmer chooses to stay, his salary lowers to 13M per year through 2025, his age 35 season.

What do you get when you put all this together? A team that is 18-12 and has a chance to not only reach the playoffs, but make a deep playoff run. A fun team to watch that has been boat-racing opposing the opposition. The Slam Diego Padres!

Yes, this team cranked 5 (FIVE!) grand-slams last week! This resulted in copious amounts of runs helping them win seven straight games. It all started with Fernando Tatis hurting the Texas Rangers‘s feelings. Jomboy will break it down, as he does so well.

 

This is a young team and will have it’s ups and downs. Before the seven game winning streak, the Padres lost five in a row. There are bound to be ebbs and flows. I was concerned how the team would respond after manager Jayce Tingler didn’t completely support Tatis after his grand-slam with the score already somewhat out of hand. However, to Tatis’s and the team’s credit, it didn’t adversely affect them. I believe this team is built for the long-haul, and A.J. Preller deserves praise for constructing it.

To put a cherry on top, the Padres have an excellent play-by-play man calling their games on Fox Sports San Diego, Don Orsillo (and Mudcat Grant). It’s going to be a fun second half of this year’s sixty game schedule.

Are Astros Nearing the End?

The Houston Astros are a household name in Major League Baseball as a result of reaching the playoffs four of the past five seasons. In 2017, they won their first World Series championship, and last year battled seven games in a classic World Series against the Washington Nationals. This past November came the bombshell revelation of their 2017 sign-stealing scandal, tainting the sole title they have.

After a tough start to 2020, the Astros rebounded from a 7-10 start, climbing to a record of 14-10 going into Thursday afternoon’s game in Denver against the Colorado Rockies. Beating up on bad Giants, Mariners and Rockies teams has propelled them to a seven game winning streak.

All is not well, as José Altuve is barely hitting his own weight with a .180 average and .241 OBP. George Springer is struggling at .215 on the season, while ace Justin Verlander is shelved as a result of a forearm strain. Josh James, a 27 year old with a 100 mph fastball is no longer in the rotation because of inability to throw strikes. James’s bloated ERA of 11.17 has relegated him to mop-up duty. Lance McCullers, Jr’s ERA sits north of 5.00 in his first year back from Tommy John surgery.

Only Zack Greinke and 24 year old rookies Brandon Bielak and Blake Taylor have provided reliable mound-work in Verlander’s absence. On the offensive front, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley have picked up the slack. Josh Reddick is an active contributor to the Astros cause as well.

Yesterday, Astros beat-writer Brian McTaggart announced last year’s rookie sensation Yordan Álvarez is out for the season with a partial tear in his right knee.

The Astros have many questions going beyond this season. Springer (30 yrs. old), Brantley and Reddick (both 33) will become free agents. Behind the plate, Martín Maldonado gives excellent defense and is cheap (3.5 M through 2021), but a poor hitter and better as a back-up.

The aforementioned Justin Verlander, now 37, faces an uncertain future. He went on the shelf after his Opening Day win with a forearm strain. This type of injury to a pitcher is an ominous sign, and often leads to Tommy John surgery. Greinke’s outings are as good as ever, however, he is 36 years old and the velocity is declining. Young José Urquidy (on 10-day IL) is ready for a spot in the rotation. 22 year old Forrest Whitley may be ready sometime in 2021.

The Astros owe Verlander a prorated portion of his 33 million dollar salary for this year and the full amount in 2021. Greinke has a price tag of 35M this year and next. However, 10.33M is paid by Arizona, resulting in a little financial relief. Altuve’s contract runs through 2024 at 29M/year. Gurriel is still productive, but enters arbitration this winter. Because Houston owes so much in active contracts, it may result in them trading the 36 year old Gurriel and go with 23 year old Abraham Toro.

If 2020 were a normal season, the team’s budget would have been just over 230 million dollars. For 2021, eighty-nine million dollars is dedicated to Verlander, Greinke and Altuve. New general manager James Click has decisions to make about Astros future. Myles Straw and Kyle Tucker can fill in if Click moves on from Brantley, Reddick, and Springer,

Will owner James Crane further distance himself and his team from the disgrace from the sign-stealing scandal? Former manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow are history, and letting Springer, Reddick, and Brantley will remove a few more pieces. But Altuve, Greinke and Verlander aren’t likely to go anywhere unless Crane is willing to eat most of their contracts.

Correa and Bregman are young superstars not yet in their prime. It remains to be seen if the Astros keep one or both upon entering free agency. Winning games fixes a lot of problems, moreover, Houston seems to be back on track for the time being. However, if they fall apart, it will be interesting to see what ownership decides to do.

 

Yankees 20 Game Report

Welcome back, everyone. It’s that time again! We’re going to take a look at the New York Yankees in ten game increments instead of half-seasons like a normal 162 game season. Last time out, we covered games one through eleven, this time we will even things out by covering games 12 through 20.

Pitching

Yankees pitching over these nine games was a mixed bag. Gerrit Cole pitched well in Tampa against the Rays, but didn’t make it out of the fifth inning because he got into a lot of deep counts that ran his pitch count up. Five days later, he silenced the Red Sox over seven innings of one-run ball.

James Paxton also had a pair of starts against those same Rays and Red Sox. The Big Maple gave up three runs in both starts, and looked much more like himself. His fastball velocity has been a source of concern as he continues building strength after back surgery over the winter. In his starts this week, his velo continues to trend upward, touching 95 a few times against the Red Sox. Equally as important, his spin-rates are also improving. Paxton’s 7.04 ERA is still unsightly, but he looks more like himself.

Masahiro Tanaka gave a pair of good starts, albeit abbreviated as he continues building his pitch-counts after a late beginning to his season after taking a liner off his head during summer camp. Jordan Montgomery and J.A. Happ contributed serviceable starts, the latter coming last night against Boston after ten days off. Montgomery and Happ both looking much better than their previous outings.

In the bullpen, Zack Britton continued his great work filling in for Aroldis Chapman, converting every save opportunity. Chad Green and Adam Ottavino have been amazing, giving the Yankees nearly flawless work in relief. Jonathan Loaisiga has been dependable, the same can’t be said for Jonathan Holder.

By the way, Aroldis Chapman has been activated ahead of tonight’s series finale against the Red Sox.

Hitting

On the offensive side of the ball, the Yankees scored 54 runs over the last nine games. Gary Sánchez and Gleyber Torres made significant progress after slow starts to the season. Gary homered in three straight games, while Torres has 13 hits in his last 25 at bats.

In the OF, Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier have been tearing things up this week. Tauchman has shredded Boston, going 6-12 with 4 RBI, while Frazier (recalled for the injured Giancarlo Stanton) has announced his presence with authority by going 8-15 (2 HR, 8 RBI) over four games. Aaron Hicks’s defense has been spot on, and his bat is starting to rebound while taking a lot of walks. Brett Gardner’s struggles continue, but he earns his money as a much as a leader as his on-field work.

Mike Ford and Luke Voit have covered first base with their bats as well as solid defense, and Gio Urshela continues to prove his 2019 wasn’t an outlier.

D.J. LeMahieu (.456 OBP) and Aaron Judge (9 HR, 20 RBI) were tearing the covers off the ball, but both went down to injury this past week. Because 2020 can’t be normal, the Yankees again are dealing with health problems.

With Stanton out, Judge sidelined until Saturday and LeMahieu sidelined for the better part of a month, the Yankees need production from everyone.

Tonight, the Yankees wrap up the series with Boston. Jordan Montgomery gets the start for the Yankees, while Martín Pérez takes the mound for the Sox.

Yankees 10 Game (Plus 1) Report

With Major League Baseball having a shortened 60 game season in 2020, I thought we could cover the New York Yankees in ten game increments. I like the idea, to me it makes things more manageable as opposed to 81 game halves.

With that, let’s get to it. A disclaimer – the Yankees played a doubleheader yesterday against the Philadelphia Phillies, which were the tenth and eleventh games. They made a nice run in the late innings after laying an egg early in the first game, and played well in the second game, so I couldn’t omit that. Therefore, this entry will cover games one through eleven. The next report will canvas games twelve through twenty. 

Pitching

It all begins with Gerrit Cole, the “White Whale” of General Manager Brian Cashman’s last off-season. He’s been everything the Yankees expected so far. Cole is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA, striking out 16 over his 17.2 innings of work. If not for a pair of rain-shortened outings, the “Cole Train” would likely have a couple more innings under his belt.

Jordan Montgomery and Masahiro Tanaka looked good in their first starts of 2020, and both appear healthy. Montgomery, beginning his first full season after recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2018, has regained his velocity and command. Tanaka, who took a 112 mph line-drive off the side of his head in Summer Camp, showed no ill-effects in his start against the Boston Red Sox on August 1. He will still be on a pitch count, likely 65-70 pitches.

James Paxton and JA Happ are points of concern for Aaron Boone and Pitching Coach Matt Blake. Paxton, coming off back surgery at the beginning of 2020, hasn’t regained his velocity. Over his two starts, the “Big Maple” has been sitting at 91-92 mph, about 5 mph short of his normal velocity. Paxton’s numbers are ugly – 12 hits and 8 runs allowed over four innings. Meanwhile, Happ is healthy but he’s not hitting his locations. He doesn’t have the velocity to cover a lack of command, and his results have been predictable. Happ owns a 10.29 ERA, walked eight over seven innings and allowed three long balls. Yikes.

The bullpen has done nice work, with Zack Britton converting all five save opportunities. Britton, Chad Green, Adam Ottavino and Jonathan Holder have all held opponents scoreless. David Hale and Michael King have pitched well when needed to give innings, and Jonathan Loaisiga has performed well at times. Nick Nelson earned his first major league win in relief of Tanaka, before getting hung out to dry in Game 1 of yesterday’s doubleheader (and being subsequently sent down afterward). Closer Aroldis Chapman is probably at least a week away, and the reliable Tommy Kahnle is lost for the rest of the season (and likely much of 2021) after undergoing Tommy John surgery on Tuesday.

Hitting

Welcome to the Aaron Judge Show! Seriously, Judge is white-hot right now. After starting the season 2-12, he went on a tear, hitting home-runs in five consecutive games. When Judge lowers the gavel, he doesn’t hit wall-scrapers, they get stuck in orbit.

 

Luke Voit has launched four homers over nine games and looks back to his second half of 2018 level. Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela are also raking, with OPS’s of 1.028 and 1.088, respectively. Urshela came up early in 2019 when Miguel Andújar injured his shoulder and has firmly seized the 3rd base job. Andújar, now healthy, has struggled to the tune of 1-14 (.071) and was optioned to the Yankees “Alternative Site” (2020 version of being sent to Triple-A Scranton) last night. He could also be trade-bait if Brian Cashman decides to look for more help in the rotation.

Gleyber Torres, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and Gary Sánchez have struggled, to the consternation of many on Twitter. It’s a matter of time before they get going, particularly Torres ( I think Gary will also be fine as well). Gardner, now 36, may be best off in a platoon situation if the Yankees decide to bring Clint Frazier back up from Scranton. Mike Tauchman has earned a lion’s share of playing time, but only so many at bats are available with this log-jam.

Next time, we will cover games 12-20 and see if the Yankees can continue to stay hot.

Waiting for the Kraken to Release 🦑

The New York Yankees are off to a torrid start to their 2020 season, winning eight of their first nine games. Catcher Gary Sánchez has been off to a dreadful start with his bat.

This isn’t unusual. Gary has a lifetime batting average of .207 with a slash-line of .207/.531/.806 in March and April. It’s no surprise he is struggling at the onset of the season, because he has always been a streaky hitter. Hits and home runs come in bunches for Sánchez when he gets hot. When the Kraken is on fire, Yankees games are fun to watch because he puts on a show.

Sánchez’s hitting is secondary to me, though. Make no mistake, his towering blasts are jaw-dropping. What matters most to me about Gary’s game is the work he does behind the plate. Watching the way he and new ace Gerrit Cole interact in the dugout after each inning tells me how much his defense and calling games means to him. Although Cole grew up a huge Yankees fan, I don’t think he would make a nine year commitment if he didn’t feel good about his main battery-mate.

Sánchez worked diligently on his techniques behind the plate this past winter with Tanner Swanson, the new catching coordinator. YES Network filmed Gary doing drills in Florida back in February.


In seven games behind the dish, Sánchez has thrown out one out of two would-be base stealers and recorded one passed ball. It wasn’t long ago when his defense was a liability, drawing the ire of then-Yankees manager Joe Girardi, a key reason why the manager wasn’t retained.

The hits and home runs will come, albeit in bunches. The good news is the calendar now reads “August”, a month that historically has been scalding-hot for Sánchez (1.075 OPS).

Joe Kelly Fight Club V2.0

Last night, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros began a two-game series in their first meeting since the Astros sign-stealing scandal news broke in a story by The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich.

The game was relatively uneventful until the bottom of the sixth inning, when Joe Kelly entered the game for the Dodgers. Let’s reacquaint ourselves with Mr. Kelly.

 

In April 2018, Kelly threw at then-Yankees hitter Tyler Austin in retaliation for a hard slide into Brock Holt (now of the Brewers). All hell broke loose and Red Sox Nation created “Joe Kelly Fight Club”, complete with t-shirts and all.

Back to last night, there were signs in that sixth inning that something was going to go down. Kelly walked a couple hitters, and was missing inside a lot. He walked Alex Bregman, with several pitches inside before he buzzed ball four behind his head. He missed inside to Yuli Gurriel in the next at bat before walking him on four pitches. Kelly went to 2-0 on Carlos Correa, missing with a head-high off-speed pitch before striking him out on the next three pitches to escape the inning. Video in this tweet by Rob Friedman, the Pitching Ninja (recommended follow on Twitter) captures the moments.

 

Needless to say, the Astros were not happy with Kelly’s pitching last night. The usual “you’re risking ending a guy’s career throwing at someone’s head” kind of stuff. This is true and I don’t condone throwing at a person’s head, but the Astros HAD to know some kind of retaliation was coming. To a man, Kelly handled the postgame questions perfectly.

 

It will be interesting to see if anything goes down tonight when these two teams square off again. They have three more games remaining against Houston, including a pair at Dodger Stadium September 12 and 13. Tonight’s game-time is 9 PM eastern-time.

UPDATE: Joe Kelly has been suspended for eight games by Major League Baseball. Very harsh punishment.

Judge is Ready to Hold Court

It appears Aaron Judge is all-systems-go for the New York Yankees.

In early March (which feels like an eternity ago), Judge was diagnosed with a broken right rib making a catch in a game on September 18, 2019. We won’t re-hash the hows and whys about his treatments over the winter. That is beyond the scope of this particular article.

Now entering his fourth full season in Yankee pinstripes, Judge has been working in the team’s “summer camp” with his teammates. All seemed well with his progression until he was held out of a team intrasquad game on July 11, as seen in a tweet from Yankees beat-writer Bryan Hoch.

After reading some replies to Bryan’s tweet, I could hear the sound of Yankees Twitter’s eyes rolling into the back of their collective heads. It’s no secret Judge has struggled staying healthy over the course of his brief career, however it’s not because he is soft.

That said, he has to put together a full season to avoid being labeled as injury-prone and subsequently mocked the way Jacoby Ellsbury is. Judge said he was going “keep playing this game hard, and that’s all I know”.

Freak injuries happen. When big men fall, they fall hard which can result in injury. Aaron is 6’7″ and weighs 280 pounds, so when he goes down there’s much more risk than a person a half foot and 75 pounds lighter.

The Yankees are a different (better) team with Aaron Judge in the lineup. His presence is an emotional life, while his pure skill can overpower opponents. The team is going to put up some numbers with a full and healthy lineup. I look forward to seeing mammoth blasts from Judge, like his ridiculous 495 foot blast from 2017. ALL RISE! 👨🏽‍⚖️

George Steinbrenner

Today marks ten years since New York Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner III passed away at the age of 80.

“The Boss” bought the team in 1973 from CBS for 10 million dollars. From Day 1 until the day he passed, he invested in his team, his city and the fans. The Yankees were an also-ran organization, it’s glory days of the 1950’s/early 1960’s were long gone. He made it a mission to make the Yankees winners within three years. He spent freely to add Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson as free agents.

It took exactly three years to make the Yankees winners. In 1976, the Bronx Bombers made it to the World Series, only to be swept by Pete Rose’s Cincinnati Reds and their “Big Red Machine”. Undeterred, the Yankees went back to the World Series in 1977 and ’78, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers both times. They faced them yet again in 1981, losing in six games.

Lean years followed, as the Yankees showed signs of aging. Steinbrenner worked to keep his team winning, however some free agent signings and trades weren’t panning out. He re-hired Billy Martin for 1983, brought him back early in 1985 and again in ’88. Martin was only a band-aid over a bigger problem. A rebuild of the organization was badly needed to replenish the farm system.

In 1990, Steinbrenner was suspended by then-Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent from day-to-day management for paying a gambler to dig up dirt on star outfielder Dave Winfield. This brought opportunity for GM Gene “Stick” Michaels to begin the rebuild. He responded, drafting the core of players who would eventually make the Yankees winners for more than a decade.

Although Steinbrenner’s suspension was to be permanent, “The Boss” was reinstated in 1993. Seeing the work Micheals put in to re-stock the farm system, he was less inclined to rule with the iron-fist he was accustomed to. The Yankees became winners again, winning titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009. The ’09 series win was especially meaningful, as it was the final World Series of Mr. Steinbrenner’s life. His son Hal, by then George’s successor, dedicated the title to his father, saying “This one’s for you!”

Hal Steinbrenner is less willing to spend freely the way his father did, but I’m guessing George was smiling down from the heavens last December when the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to a 324 million dollar deal.

George Steinbrenner’s 37 years of Yankees ownership put the team back on the map and took it into the stratosphere. His family’s ownership is the gold-standard of the way sports owners should run their teams.

I hope you are resting comfortably, Boss. I can’t believe you’ve been gone ten years.

I Can’t Quit Baseball

Two days ago, when Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement saying there would likely be no baseball in 2020 unless the Players Union dropped grievances against the league, I was ready to walk away from baseball.

My anger had reached it’s boiling point. For months, the players union and Rob Manfred have negotiated through the media, trading barbs along the way, ultimately wearing on the nerves of fans, the media and literally everyone who cares about the game.

After lunch, I left my apartment and took a drive. Driving is my way of getting and clearing my mind. It’s where I do some of my best thinking and reflecting. Now that places are starting to open back up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I walked into a Barnes & Noble bookstore.

By default, I go to the magazine racks first and then the sports section of books. Baseball, of course. I ended up leaving the store with two books, The Inside Game, by Keith Law and Yankee Miracles: Life with The Boss and the Bronx Bombers by Ray Negron and Sally Cook.

I got back in my truck, drove away from the store, and I felt a familiar tug. The tug of baseball pulling me back in. I realized how much I love this game. I was very angry at baseball, like so many are right now. Upset at both sides because we all could use a distraction from all the craziness of 2020. But I know I still love this game, and I know I can’t turn my back on it. I love writing about it and sharing it with you.

Before I went home later in the afternoon, I drove up by Lake Ontario’s shoreline to catch a cooler breeze coming off the water. As I sat there, I checked my phone and opened Twitter. This tweet from New York Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch was one of the first things I saw as I scrolled.

Maybe these experiences today are a sign that everything is going to be okay, that things are coming back together. I know one thing – I can’t imagine myself living without baseball. ⚾

MLB: Just Find a Way to Make it Work

It’s been a hot minute since I have written anything on The Titanium Spine. My last post was on March 6, but with everything the country has gone through with COVID-19, it feels longer. I hope everyone reading this has stayed healthy along with your families and friends.

Major League Baseball owners and the Player’s Union are currently battling over finances and salaries for this season, and if it’s not resolved there may not be baseball in 2020. Yesterday, the owners submitted a proposal to the players union that would pay players on a sliding-scale. Players who are under team control, and thus generally paid less than one who has a larger contract stand to benefit the most.

 

Needless to say, the players aren’t happy with this proposal. Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer tweeted this out late Wednesday night.

 

Keep in mind this was a baseline offer and the players union will counter. Minor league players are already suffering, although for now all teams are paying them a monthly stipend. But the Oakland A’s intend to stop paying after this month ends.

 

Not all teams are taking this hard stance. The San Diego Padres plan to pay their kids through August, so this is by no means a universal thing in Major League Baseball.

 

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and baseball can return this summer. A lot of players, workers and fans could really use some normalcy in their lives.