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 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).
After an injury-riddled 2019 season where they used 54 different players, one would think the New York Yankees 2020 season would be better in terms of health simply by default.
Concerned about the alarming number of injuries and treatment of them, the team overhauled the strength and conditioning department, hiring Eric Cressey as Director of Player Health and Performance.
The Yankees today announced that they have restructured their Player Health and Performance staff, which will be led by new Director of Player Health and Performance Eric Cressey. pic.twitter.com/dPxE1F8kvR
Longtime Yankees trainer Steve Donahue, with the team since 1979, has been reassigned as Director of Medical Services in the restructuring.
So far in 2020, the “Medical Gods” still aren’t being too kind to the Yankees. As of this writing (March 6), the team has lost starting pitcher Luis Severino (Tommy John surgery) for the season. James Paxton (lower back surgery) will be out until May at the earliest, OF/DH Giancarlo Stanton strained his right calf doing defensive drills last week and may miss the first week of the season. It has been reported Stanton has resumed running, so he may be able to ramp things up again soon. Aaron Judge has been dealing with pain in his shoulder/chest area, and today it was revealed he has a fracture in one of his ribs.
Aaron Judge has a stress fracture in a rib. Yankees are going to try two weeks of rest but surgery is not off the table.
It was also revealed Judge originally suffered this injury in a game last September 18 on a diving catch attempt, and felt a “crack and a pop”. Preliminary tests were performed and Judge received a cortisone injection.
More on Judge’s injury can be read via Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch’s Twitter feed.
Despite these injuries, the Yankees have depth to overcome. Even with the early losses of Stanton and Judge (and loss of CF Aaron Hicks for first half of 2020), the team has Mike Tauchman, Clint Frazier and Estevan Florial on the 40 man roster to go along with Brett Gardner. Miguel Andújar has looked promising in left-field, to the point where manager Aaron Boone says he is comfortable continuing to give him reps. Also in the mix is 27 year old Zack Granite, a 2013 draftee from the Twins organization. The lefty hitter spent last season in Nashville, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
Unless you have been living under a rock since mid-November, you have heard about the 2017 Houston Astros using technology to steal signs to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents.
When former Astro and current Oakland A’s staring pitcher Mike Fiers went on record with The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal, speaking out on how his former team stole catchers’s signs, it turned the baseball world on it’s ear (the Drellich/Rosenthal piece can be read here).
Needless to say, Fiers’s former teammates are upset that he broke an unwritten code of clubhouse culture. Major league clubhouses are sacred. What goes on in a clubhouse is supposed to stay in a clubhouse. Fiers may never be fully trusted again by some current and future teammates because he went against the grain, letting team doings become public.
On social media, the reaction has been mixed. Many folks are calling Fiers a hero (including this writer), and many are destroying him, calling him a rat, a bad teammate and many words unsuitable to repeat here. Reactions from many ex-players, including Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez had this to say:
Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez doesn’t support Astros whistleblower Mike Fiers; ‘You’re just a bad teammate’ https://t.co/cAxGWsbPBg
Mike Fiers was the first former Astros player to speak out, but I don’t think he will be the last. Players are human beings, and many human beings have consciences. Fiers proved he has one by going public. But he can’t be the only one who feels the same way about his team’s cheating. Immediately after Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, former Astro Gerrit Cole distanced himself from the team.
Gerrit Cole, an impending free agent, was resistant to talk after Game 7.
“I’m not an employee of the team,” he said to an Astros spokesperson. “I guess as a representative of myself…” Then he spoke.
This is certainly not to say Cole will say anything at all regarding the Astros’s indiscretions, but it makes me question whether he agreed with what his former teammates were doing.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the current Houston squad was cleared of any wrongdoing, but let’s remember how Jose Altuve jumped all over a slider thrown by New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman to end the ALCS, and had a look of terror on his face as he told his team not to rip off his jersey. He did that for a reason.
It makes a lot more sense why Jose Altuve didn’t want his teammates to rip his jersey off after he hit walk-off HR to win the pennant 🧐🧐🧐 pic.twitter.com/VTW3WbmNQ2
Two days ago, Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel, a member of the Astros from 2012-18, gave something of an apology, saying he is “sorry for the situation”, but also pointed out they didn’t cheat every game.
Keuchel apologizes for Astros sign-stealing scandal. Said it was “not like every game we had it going on.” pic.twitter.com/oAS4DewLk5
The trade would potentially send Betts, a free agent after 2020, to San Diego in exchange for 1B/OF Wil Myers and a number of prospects (reportedly MacKenzie Gore and CJ Abrams are not a part of the deal).
With the Red Sox expected to decrease payroll, enticing Betts to stay in Boston could be an uphill battle. It is not known at this time if the Padres are willing to offset some of the remaining 67.5 million owed Wil Myers through 2022. Myers’s contract also has a 20M option for 2023 with a buyout of a dollar. Although it is reported a deal isn’t likely as it is, Lin’s story says there is “legitimate interest” on both sides. My guess is San Diego might eat a little of his contract if Boston will accept “less than blue-chip prospects”.
Updates: It’s reported by Dennis Lin and Jon Heyman the Red Sox are interested in Padres prospects Luis Campusano and Luis Patiño in a potential trade for Mookie Betts.
In the Mookie Betts trade talks, catching prospect Luis Campusano is one player the Red Sox have expressed interest in. The Padres value him highly; Campusano, a Cal League co-MVP last season, is 79th on Baseball America’s top-100 list.
Not sure a star with 1 year to go before free agency like Mookie Betts makes perfect sense for Padres. But SD is clearly very interested and have heard among their superb pitching prospects they’d be more willing to trade Luis Patino than MacKenzie Gore. @dennistlin 1st on talks
The 2019 season came to a heartbreaking finish for the New York Yankees two days ago, and for their fans it still stings. With the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros set to begin Tuesday night, now is a good time to begin a post-mortem assessment of the Bronx Bombers.
This year’s “Take ’em or Trash ’em” will begin with the pitching staff. We will begin with the starters and follow with the bullpen.
Masahiro Tanaka – On the surface, Tanaka’s 11-9 record and 4.45 ERA look very pedestrian, but his numbers were skewed by a pair of starts against the Boston Red Sox where he was absolutely destroyed (14 ER’s over four innings). Take away those two starts and his season ERA was 3.84. Masa stayed healthy all year and was very dependable. If MLB goes back to using the same ball from 2018 and before, look for more strikeouts and overall better results.
TAKE HIM 👍🏽
J.A. Happ – (12-8, 4.91 ERA) Happ was signed to a two-year deal last offseason with a vesting option (27 starts or 165 innings) for a possible third year. His 2019 season had more ups and downs than an elevator. Happ gave up 34 home-runs and had ten starts where he gave up four or more runs. He also showed the brilliance of his second half of 2018 after Brian Cashman traded for him. He’s still under contract at 17M for 2020, and the Yankees would have to eat the majority of his salary if they decide to pull the plug and trade him.
TAKE HIM 👍🏽 (and pray he reverts to his 2018 form)
Domingo Germán – (18-4, 4.03 ERA) It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Germán was rolling along toward the end of May, pitching to a 9-1 record and an ERA of 2.60. From there, the rail-thin right hander was up and down, until his season was abruptly halted on September 19, when he was placed on administrative-leave after allegations of domestic abuse surfaced.
It remains to be seen where Germán’s career goes from here. If an investigation proves him guilty of domestic abuse or assault, it may be the end of the line for him in Pinstripes.
My take (If he’s guilty of these charges)? TRASH HIM 🚮
James Paxton (15-6, 3.82 ERA) Paxton’s first season in the Bronx was a tale of two halves. The Big Maple pitched with mixed-results for the first four months of the season. In a pair of back to back starts in April, Paxton dominated, fanning 12 in both outings. However, he was consistently inconsistent until the calendar flipped to August. Going into Pax’s August 2 start against Boston, his ERA sat at 4.72 with a record of 5-6. Over his last eleven starts, Paxton put the Yankees on his back, going 10-0 with an ERA of 2.51. His final start against the Astos in the ALCS proved his internal fortitude, where he insisted on staying in the game, despite being well over 100 pitches. I look forward to seeing more of “The Big Maple”.
TAKE HIM 👍🏽🇨🇦
Luis Severino (1-1, 1.50 ERA) Luis Severino missed the majority of 2019 with shoulder and lat muscle strains. When he came back, he looked like the Sevy Yankees fans are used to seeing. His three starts in September were abbreviated as he was still getting stretched out. Severino started twice in the postseason and pitched well enough, but it was clear his command wasn’t where he or the Yankees wanted it to be. Now healthy, look for him to have a big impact in 2020.
TAKE HIM 👍🏽
Jonathan Loáisiga – (2-2, 4.55 ERA) Loáisiga began the 2019 season as the Yankees’s fifth starter, thanks in part to Luis Severino’s injury and CC Sabathia’s “That’s for you, bitch” suspension. He made a couple starts before Sabathia was activated, but his command was inconsistent and it got him in trouble. He was sent to AAA Scranton before being recalled again for a start in early May. Soon after, Loáisiga was shut down for three months with a right shoulder strain. He came back in mid-August and was used exclusively in relief. Jonathan’s stuff plays better out of the pen, and he may stay healthier if stays in relief.
TAKE HIM 👍🏽 (as a reliever)
CC Sabathia (5-8, 4.95 ERA) Unless you have been living under a rock, or you don’t follow baseball and clicked on the link to this article by mistake, you know how much CC Sabathia meant to this team. Yeah, his numbers this year weren’t great and to me they don’t mean much. He DID record his 3,000 strikeout this year and my son and I were lucky enough to win tickets to our first game at Yankee Stadium in April and we got to see CC pitch (and WIN!) against the Kansas City Royals.
The last image we’ll see of CC pitching for the Yankees was him leaving the field with Stevie Donahue and his shoulder hanging, but he was so much more. Other great pieces from many excellent baseball writers have chronicled Sabathia’s accomplishments on the field and what his leadership has meant. I just want to say, “CC, you’ll be missed”.
TAKE HIM 👍🏽 (even if he’s retiring)
In our next installment of Take’em or Trash’em, we’ll assess the Yankees bullpen.
The Major League Baseball All Star Break is over, and teams are gearing up to begin the second half of the season. Some teams are expecting to make deep pushes to the playoffs, other teams still have hopes of making the postseason, and yet others realize the don’t have a chance.
Today we’ll size up the AL East Division and look at the three contending teams in it. We will look at the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Tampa Bay Rays and what to expect from them as they begin their playoff runs.
Red Sox – (49-41, 3rd place) The 2018 World Series Champions have struggled from the onset of this season. They began the season with a 3-8 west coast road-trip. Chris Sale, the ace of their starting rotation, was getting shelled regularly, and the Sox didn’t climb above .500 until almost Mid-May. Mookie Betts, last year’s AL MVP, isn’t producing at the same rate (he’s human), but the team is still scoring a lot of runs.
Pitching has been the problem. Beyond Sale, the rotation has been up and down. Rick Porcello has pitched to a 5.33 ERA, the inconsistent Eduardo Rodriguez has been — you guessed it — inconsistent. David Price has pitched well, but at age 33 isn’t giving the length he once did. The Boston bullpen, so good last season, has been incredibly bad after letting Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly leave as free agents. Nathan Eovaldi, who signed a 4 year/68 million dollar deal last off-season to return and be a starter, has been named the closer when he comes back from injury.
What to expect — Team President of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski plans to look for a starting pitcher, according to Ken Rosenthal.
#RedSox pushing to add a starting pitcher, sources tell The Athletic. Would prefer to act sooner rather than later. Casting wide net.
If the Red Sox shore up the bullpen and add a starter, look for them to creep closer in the standings and make things harder for the Yankees and Rays.
Yankees – (57-31, 1st place) After a sluggish 6-9 start in April, the Yankees have spent the vast majority of the last two months atop the AL East. The team has been riddled with injuries all season, with a whopping 22 different players hitting the injury list. At one point, more than half of the original starting lineup was sidelined at the same time, and a whopping 22 different players have been plagued by injury in 2019. The good news is the Yankees lineup is now mostly healthy. First baseman Luke Voit could be back as soon as tomorrow, and Giancarlo Stanton hopes to return from his second IL stint in August.
It’s not a secret Brian Cashman is looking to add a starting pitcher, and Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner and Trevor Bauer have been the names most often bandied about. Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard from the crosstown Mets are also reportedly being shopped around. The Yankees have to find a way to get deeper into games. The rotation collectively is averaging about five innings per start and the bullpen has been carrying a heavy load. Any of the aforementioned starters would help fill this void. The Yankees also could get the injured Luis Severino back before season’s end, provided he has no further setbacks.
What to expect — If they stay healthy, more home runs and more wins. However, if the rotation doesn’t help out more, it could wear down the pen during the dog days of Summer.
Rays – (52-39, 2nd place) The Tampa Bay Rays are currently 6.5 games behind the Yankees as we head into the second half of the season. These feisty, youthful Rays spent the 39 of the first 41 games of the season in first place before the Bronx Bombers overtook them. Starting pitcher Blake Snell (5-7, 4.70 ERA) has been up and down after his Cy Young Award winning season in 2018. The lineup doesn’t have the flashy names like the Red Sox and Yankees, but there is good young talent. Austin Meadows, Brandon Lowe, and Willy Adames are expected to become impact players in the lineup, while starters Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Brandon McKay form a talented nucleus for the rotation.
There is veteran leadership from starter Charlie Morton (10-2, 2.32 ERA), CF Kevin Kiermaier (who’s still only 29) and recently acquired catcher Travis D’Arnaud. Closer Jose Alvarado and starter Glasnow (6-1, 1.86) are out until mid-August, but should make an impact upon return.
McKay made a couple starts and was sent back to Triple-A to continue developing and honing his craft. Tyler Glasnow (forearm) and Jose Alvarado (oblique) being out a while hurts the team, but Brandon Lowe and closer Diego Castillo are expected to be activated from the IL this weekend.
What to expect — It’s hard to tell what the Rays may or may not do, but I wouldn’t expect them to trade away any young talent. Manager Kevin Cash and his coaching staff has done a stellar job getting the most out of his team, and Senior VP/GM Erik Neander also deserves credit. The Rays may fall to 3rd place behind the Yankees and Red Sox, but at the very least, I expect them to scratch and claw all the way to the bitter end.
I would like to take a minute and thank every person who took the time to read this, and any of my previous work on The Titanium Spine. For the immediate future, I’m mothballing my site and going on hiatus.
The question in the title is one of rhetoric, and subjective to the person reading it. To me, and hopefully many of you, there really isn’t a better game on Earth.
My love of baseball began young, watching games on TV with my grandpa. It didn’t matter who was playing. My grandfather would watch any game. I remember seeing Pete Rose in the later parts of his career. I remember the late, great Thurman Munson and Reggie Jackson with the Yankees, Gary Carter with the then-Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals) and many other players. Grandpa, who passed in 1995, was notorious for mispronouncing players’ names. For one, ex-Pirates reliever Kent Tekulve was “tea-kettle”.
My Mom was also a baseball fan, and grew up as a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the late 1940’s and 50’s. Of course, the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958 and have been in L.A. ever since. My step-father was a Yankees fan, and watching games with him got me turned onto the Bronx Bombers.
Baseball became a needed distraction for me as I grew into adolescence. For as much as my family enjoyed and passed on the love of the game to me, there was also much turmoil in my immediate family. Watching baseball was a welcome escape from the madness going on around me. Strat-O-Matic baseball helped chew up a lot of time when I wasn’t actually watching a game on TV. It was a source of comfort and it was reliable. It’s still my go-to when things get tough today!
As I grew into my high school years and beyond, I discovered friends (and women), graduated and got a job. Between working and having a young family, baseball took a back seat for a while. As life went on, I began to have problems with my degenerating spine. Resulting surgeries, pain and depression took hold, and I rediscovered baseball. It was a welcome distraction that once again helped me escape. Just as before, this wonderful game helped me find comfort as it did more than two decades before. The players are all different, but the game remains the same.
My son Jacob and I visited Yankee Stadium for the first time on April 19. I captured his first look at a Major League Baseball diamond.
I’m trying to instill the love of baseball into my son, hopefully I can pass on my love of this great game to him. I won’t force it, because I’m proud of him for who he is now and for who he will be in the future.
Before I close, I want to give heartfelt thanks to everyone on Twitter who voiced their support over this past week. I was feeling particularly vulnerable, questioning if my own writing was good enough to have any kind of future. Your words mean a lot to me, and I look forward to getting back on the saddle. Thank you so much.
In a matter of minutes, CC Sabathia will take the hill for the New York Yankees, making his first start in the final season of his long career. Him being activated from the injured list couldn’t come at a better time. CC probably won’t pitch too deep into the game since he’s not fully stretched out, but the stability he brings to the rotation and the team will be every bit as important.
When he came into the league back in 2001, Sabathia was the prototypical power pitcher. He flashed a upper-nineties fastball and an upper-eighties slider that chewed hitters up and spit them out. When he came to the Yankees in 2009, he still had that arsenal at his disposal. Things changed a handful of years ago, when age and wear and tear began to show, and CC had to change his style of pitching to stay effective. Yankees legend Andy Pettitte helped teach him the cut-fastball and helped change his approach to get guys out with lesser velocity.
Over the past few years, CC Sabathia returned to being a dependable pitcher, often times stopping losing streaks and getting the Yankees back on track. In addition, and just as importantly, he’s been a team leader and a rock for his teammates.
I look forward to watching him pitch this afternoon and the rest of the 2019 season. Let’s hope we’ll be able to see CC hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy one last time.
With Luis Severino not expected back from shoulder inflammation for roughly a month, Boone had to make new plans for the Yankees’ first game. Tanaka made it an easy choice because he’s thrown the ball well in each of his starts this spring.
James Paxton and J.A. Happ will follow Tanaka in the rotation, but who will follow them still remains to be seen. Domingo Germán has pitched well in Florida, allowing two runs over 7.1 innings with 12 K’s in the early going. Yesterday, Luis Cessa started against the Tigers, retiring the first 11 batters before allowing a hit. He has surrendered one run on five hits in his nine innings in his three appearances. Both Cessa and Germán are candidates to for the back end of the rotation with Sevy and CC Sabathia both unlikely to begin their seasons until late April.
What about Jonathan Loaisiga you ask? It’s a fair question. He has looked very good this spring, and he’s not ruled out by any stretch. But the Yankees are going to want to take it easy with him, especially after some injury problems limited him to 80 innings in 2018. Over Loaisiga’s professional career, he has thrown only 196 total innings in his four years. Chances are Jonathan will continue to hone his craft in Triple-A Scranton by starting every five days, building up his innings in a carefully controlled environment.
Cessa is out of options, and would require clearing waivers if the team tried sending him back to Scranton-Wilkes Barre, so he’s going to get every opportunity to make the team. Aaron Boone may decide to go with a five-man rotation right out of the gate. I see the rotation something like this until Severino and Sabathia return:
Of course after Sevy and CC join the rotation, some decisions will have to be made for Germán and possibly Cessa, but I think both righties can hold down the fort in the meantime.