They Buried The Lead

The Aaron Boone press conference had gone about 45 minutes when the Yankees dropped the bombshell that Didi needs Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. Boone wouldn’t give a timetable other than to say the Yankees thought he could play “the bulk” of the season with the team. The operation is scheduled for next week so until it actually happens, guesses seem silly.

Before that happened, Boone had three notable comments.

1- While he stopped just short of handing Voit the job at first for next year, he ceme really close and in his extended answer about Voit he didn’t mention Greg Bird once. He did get a follow up on Bird and said he had a lost season, but they believe in his talent.

2- Boone admitted that Severino does tip his pitches “from time to time” but said there was nothing wrong with him physically.

3- Boone said that for Andujar it is all about pre-pitch positioning and footwork that will determine his defensive future. He said the glove and arm were fantastic and also praised his bat.

Back with more after Cashman speaks.

Cashman had a number of notable comments.

1- He all but traded Sonny Gray saying it “hasn’t worked out here” and saying it was on him “to find something that would work better” and “it’s in our best interests to see if we can match up with somebody”.

2- all the coaches are coming back for 2019.

3- He was asked in regards to Gray about figuring out what players could thrive in NYC and if they were better at doing that than they used to be. Cashman’s answer was interesting because he admitted that it was a problem and said that he and his team don’t just look at the numbers, but talk to as many people as they can to figure out if a player will fit well in NY.

4- CC Sabathia had the same knee operation that he had last year and Cashman fully expects him to pitch next year. (Though he didn’t say it would be here)

Those are the highlights, but based on some research I found that Tony Womack had TJ surgery in October of 2003 on his throwing arm and made it back for Opening Day. That’s about the only guy I could find with that quick a turnaround, nine months seems like a better number and that means we are probably looking at the All-Star Break.

Good Season?

I’m not one of those Yankee fans who believes the team has to win a title or the season is lost. To me, progress is the key metric. At the end of the year can you say the Yankees have improved and gotten closer to winning a title, or did they take a step back? I would say this year was another step forward.

Start with the luxury tax, which the Yankees didn’t pay and therefore have reset their tax rate. That’s a big deal because they have even more financial flexibility than they did. That’s a positive.

Next go to Torres and Andujar who both established themselves as players with bright futures ahead of them. Coupled with other young stars, the Yankees clearly have a solid young core to build around.

And I think you have to give the new manager a good review. Boone surprised me with his easy demeanor and he was a breath of fresh air to watch compared to Girardi who looked like he could explode at any minute. I think he is a perfect guy to nurture the young talent and while he made a big mistake the other night, I think he will learn from it.

Some people might be tempted to add Voit to this list and while you can not deny what he did, I am still not convinced we didn’t just see the second coming of Shane Spencer, who exploded on the scene in 1998 but barely lasted 500 games in the majors.

We also have to take into account the bad, specifically Gray, Bird, Sanchez, and Montgomery. Montgomery got hurt, so let’s not dwell on him other than to say his development into a quality starter has been dealt a setback. Gray was simply a disaster and the Yankees almost certainly have to figure out a way to get him out of New York. Bird presents a much bigger dilemma. Was his 2015 debut the mirage and the sub .200 batting average in almost 500 plate appearances since then the truth? I’m not sure, but the Yankees have to figure it out and either move on, or fix him.

That leaves Sanchez and we need to be careful with assumptions about him. First off, he was terrible with passed balls, but did you know that the Yankee pitchers had a 3.49 ERA when he was catcher this year? It was below the team ERA and why below Romine’s 4.09, so let’s not claim that pitchers were uncomfortable with him behind the plate. And let’s be honest, would we be paying attention to his catching if he was hitting like he had in 2017? It’s hard to figure out what went wrong in 2018, a BABIP of .197 certainly didn’t help his batting average and his line drive rate was way down, which hurt his slugging. Maybe his contact wasn’t as clean as in years past? Maybe it was something else, but the fact remains that he is still not even 26 and the Yankees were reminded of his talent Saturday Night in Boston.

Jacoby Ellsbury gets his own category because he didn’t even make it on the field and has two years and around $47-million left on his deal. I don’t know how the Yankees get rid of him, but they need to.

Add it all up and I think this was a positive year with some important improvements. To take the next step, the Yankees need to figure out how to get better starters and they will need to make some long-term financial decisions. More on that soon, but tomorrow I will recap the Cashman/Boone press conference being held at the Stadium.

Starters Matter

So close, yet so far, that’s the epitaph for this Yankees season. An immensely talented team won 100 games, but was held back by a mediocre rotation.

They need better starters next year and they need to replace s chunk of the bullpen. Assuming that happens, they will be right back next year. Tip your cap to Boston, they deserved this victory and they will fight Houston in the next round.

Must Win

Aaron Boone has taken a real beating in the press the last 24 hours, I wonder if it will affect him tonight? Specifically, how long does he stay with Sabathia? I expect the answer to that is two times through the Red Sox lineup. Sabathia has held opposing teams to an OPS under .700 in those instances, but he has surrendered an OPS over .900 the third time through the order. His pitch count stats don’t show much fluctuation, so I think that Boone will be looking for him to face 18 batters and get out of the game.

That leads to the question of where that puts the game situation-wise. It won’t be six clean innings and based on his 2018 stats, we should expect him to get around 14 outs from those 18 batters, so the Yankees probably go to the pen in the fourth. I expect Boone doesn’t try to use a starter in that spot this time, but I could see Tanaka starting the fifth or sixth, depending on how things go.

Two lineup changes as the Yankees look to load the lefties into the lineup. Hicks is back in CF, with Gardner moving to left and McCutchen to the bench. Walker is starting at 3b with Andujar going to the bench. The Andujar decision is an interesting one because he actually hits righties much more effectively than lefties, but I guess his defense is the problem. This would have been a great spot to try Tyler Wade, but that ship has sailed.

Booneheaded

As I write this the only suspense left is what the final score will be when the Red Sox take a 2-1 lead in this series. Aaron Boone has had one of his worst games at the absolutely wrong time.

Don’t get me wrong, I support what must have motivated Boone’s thinking. He needed outs from his starter tonight to keep his bullpen in play for tomorrow. That makes a lot of sense, but the visual evidence screamed for a different approach. The Red Sox showed they were not fooled a bit by his pitches with two almost home runs in the first. In the second, a lucky bounce got them a run after more hard-hit balls and in the third all the Sox did was hit balls with authority, and they ended up with two more runs. This was the point where Boone needed to ditch the game plan, Severino wasn’t going to go much further, and down 3-0 you couldn’t worry about tomorrow’s game.

That should have led to one of two different decisions. The first would have been bringing Lynn in to conserve the bullpen and start an inning like he usually does. The second would have been to bring Green in and turning things over to the bullpen fully. Boone tried to avoid both calls and muddle through with Severino and it was a spectacular fail. Boone will be asked about it after this abomination ends, but there are no good answers.

Trouble Ahead

The Astros completed their sweep of Cleveland today and now will wait to find out if they are headed to Boston or staying in Houston for Game 1 of the ALCS. They can rest up, set their pitching however they want and get ready. They will be a huge challenge to overcome for either NY or Boston.

But we can’t worry about that right now, Game 3 is almost here and Boston has made a bunch of changes. First, Eovaldi gets the ball tonight instead of Porcello. Eovaldi has pitched well at Yankee Stadium and especially well against the Yankees since joining Boston. In addition, they are switching their catcher, second baseman, and third baseman in tonight’s lineup.

Sevy will have his work cut out tonight. The Yankees really need to get more length from him than they did last week, at least five innings and ideally more. Sabathia will be starting tomorrow, so the fresher the bullpen, the better. And let’s hope this foggy drizzle that’s been hanging over the City most of the day is gone by game time. Rain delays would not be good.

Even Up

Good Tanaka showed up and the Yankees bats took care of David Price. The series is now tied up and headed to New York. A few thoughts

Loved Boone going to Betances in the sixth. No reason to full around or push it with Tanaka in a 3-1 game and with this bullpen.

I don’t know what the point of replay is if it can’t get that call on second with Voit right. There is no way that should have been overturned.

Alex Cora deserves a lot of credit for how he has been managing his starters as relievers, but you are playing with fire pitching a lefty against these righty monsters.

Remember Joe Torre’s old adage about momentum being about tomorrow’s starting pitcher. In 22 starts against the Yankees, Rick Porcello is 10-8 with a 3.11 ERA. He gets the ball on Monday night.

Puddles

A wise YankeesRedSox.com writer once wrote:

Price owns a 5.12 career postseason ERA. That’s not what you are hoping for with your ace.

That was November 24, 2015.

Well, Price’s post-season ERA has gotten worse since then and tonight was a perfect summary of his career as a pitcher.  When there’s nothing on line, Price is your man.  When there’s something on the line, Monster and Bleacher seat fans, wear your helmet and cup.

Now I’m ok with being a lousy pitcher, but don’t be a grade a jerk when asked about it.  Price is the guy who gives nasty answers to long-time WBZ Red Sox beat writer Jonny Miller and who embarrassed Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley on a team flight last year, all because he thought Eckersley was being unfair to a Price teammate.

Jackie Bradley looks bad too, if you click that link, he of the career .466 post-season OPS.

Sorry, that was a tangent.  Back to Price.  He has folded and left the Red Sox again in a brutal post-season spot as I write this in the 4th inning of game 2.

But I can criticize Price all day long when the real criticism should be saved for Dave Dombrowksi.  He signed Price 3 years ago and did nothing to help the bullpen this year and whose Achilles heel has always been the bullpen.  Why John Henry made Dombrowski GM/President is beyond me.  Dombrowski has spent his team’s money while always cleaning out the farm system (Keith Law ranks them 24th, MLB 25th, Bleacher Report 27). I could do that, no?  Spend money, deplete the farm system?  That sounds easy.

Recall that Dave traded the number one pitching prospect in baseball for…grab some popcorn for this, Drew Pomeranz.

Time for me to wrap up my ramble. Price has been a terrible pressure situation pitcher and Dave Dombrowski has won 1 World Series since becoming a GM in 1988.  The law of averages suggest, especially when working for big market teams, that he’d have won more than that.

Enjoy the traffic free ride home tonight David Price.

I write this from Keene Valley, NY, deep in the Adirondacks, where I’ve listened/watched many a Red Sox post-season game.

Advantage Boston

Sale was pretty good last night and Alex Cora made two smart bullpen moves to take the pressure off of Boston and place it squarely on the Yankees. They need to win tonight.

The key to tonight will be which Tanaka shows up. If it’s the good one, the Yankees should win. If it’s the bad one, we could be in for a five hour slugfest. The Yankees will be at a disadvantage if Hicks can’t play. He said his hamstring felt like a cramp, but he is headed to a MRI and the Yankees don’t have any additional outfielders on their 40-man roster.

Back tonight.

Here We Go!

The last time the Yankees played the Red Sox in the playoffs, I lived about two miles from Fenway Park and had a four-month old baby. Now I’m back in my hometown and that four-month old has somehow become 14. So it’s been awhile and this feels very different than then for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, 2004 happened. We no longer live in a world where the Red Sox couldn’t beat the Yankees. The “curse”, which was really just inept management coupled with a racist owner, is over. The pressure that the 2004 Yankees collapsed under is gone. In fact, it has switched sides for this series as it will be a disaster if the best regular team in Red Sox history loses to the Yankees.

Second, unlike in 2004, these are not the two best teams in baseball by a clear margin. They are both very good teams, but it is very likely that the winner of this series will have to face the incredibly talented Huston Astros. It is very possible that neither of these teams even makes the World Series.

To me this series boils down to one player, Chris Sale. Sale was cruising along to another dominant season when he ran into shoulder issues. He made it back, but hasn’t been the same player. If he’s not, the Red Sox are in trouble. Their bullpen doesn’t come close to the Yankees, and David Price is not a good pitcher against the Yankees or in the playoffs. So I think Sale has to get the Red Sox a win tonight or they are in trouble.

Will he? I have no idea. Back after the game.