Danger Ahead

As the Yankees strive to win a wild card spot, they would be wise to take advantage of this weekend’s series with Baltimore because there is a possible nightmare ahead of them.

The magic number is 3, so sweeping this weekend gets them a wild card spot, but anything less than that sends them to Tampa for four games against one of the hottest teams in baseball. Since the end of July, Tampa has gone 31-14, that’s an 111-win pace over more than a quarter of the season. It’s why Kevin Cash deserves series consideration for manager of the year and why the Yankees really need to take care of business this weekend.

The Rays could be eliminated from playoff contention this weekend, it would take a combination of four Tampa losses and Oakland wins. But if they are not, they are going to be reall6 motivated come Monday. And with the AL East settled, the best scenario for the Yankees is hosting the wild card game. Baltimore is an 108-game losing team and taking two of three should be the minimum expectation this weekend. That would lower the clinch number to 1 at worst. Anything else, and next week will be far too interesting.

Best Red Sox Team Ever?

No is the answer.

Thrilled to see the Red Sox clinch the AL East last night in New York (John Sterling’s turn in the booth notwithstanding…but to be fair, his call was actual perfectly fine as it didn’t include some of the usual silliness that accompanies).

Is this the best Red Sox team ever?  Certainly based on their regular season record it will be, but unless they run the table and win the World Series, then no.  A World Series win is a must.

Looking at the Red Sox playoff prospects means we have to look at Red Sox rotation:

Post Season Record:

Chris Sale – 0-2, 9.2 IP, 13 H, 9 ER, 1 BB, 12 K’s, 8.38 ERA, 1.44 WHIP

Rick Porcello – 0-3, 24.2 IP, 29 H, 15 ER, 5 BB, 23 K’s, 5.47 ERA, 1.378 WHIP

David Price – 2-8, 61 IP, 66 H, 40 ER, 10 BB, 54 K’s, 5.90 ERA, 1.246 WHIP (as a starter)

Yikes?

If you think Eduardo Rodriguez will come to the rescue, here is his post season line:

Rodriguez – 0-0, 0 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K’s, 1 HBP, Infinite ERA, Infinite WHIP.

Drew Pomerantz?

Pomerantz – 0-1, 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 7 K’s, 9.53 ERA, 2.118 WHIP

 

There’s really nowhere to hide with this staff.  It all boils down to pitching, we know the Red Sox can hit, but if they don’t have starters who can go 5-6, heaven forbid 7 innings, there’s really nothing to talk about.  The existing cast of characters has had no post-season success so I’m not overly optimistic about their chances at another World Series.

Maybe this will be the year each starter figures it out, but the odds look long.

Any don’t get me started on the bullpen…

They Made It

The AP is reporting that the Yankees have come in under the luxury tax. This means that they have reset their tax rate and would pay 20% next year on any payroll amount between $206 and $226 million. (Here’s how the whole thing works if you are interested.)

The Yankees will have a bunch of really interesting decisions to make in the coming months. Do they try to buy out arbitration years from some of their young stars? Do they seek a big free agent? We won’t know until we see how the season ends and while the panic alarm keeps getting louder, it is worth remembering that the Yankees are pretty much where we thought they would be a month ago- heading to the wild card game. With Judge hitting baseballs again and Chapman rumored to be returning next week, things should look a bit brighter soon. Plus, the two closest teams to them in the wild card face each other over the weekend.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

SiriusXM Radio did a countdown of the 100 greatest Beatles songs last weekend and it was great. The number one song was “A Day in the Life” which put me in the mood to listen to Sgt Peppers again and when the title track started, it triggered a memory. (Digression time- my original cassette copy of this album started with “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” before the title track, which I subsequently learned wasn’t how it was originally released. It changed the whole meaning of the album for me.)

Back to the memory, it was September 9th, 1998, when I sat down the first base line in Fenway and watched the greatest team I ever saw in person, clinch the AL East. It was great seeing that happen behind enemy lines and I remember having a very hoarse voice at work the next day. Anyway, happy anniversary Yankee fans!

Like the ‘98 edition, the current Yankees are probably destined to play dramaless baseball the final three weeks of the season as well. With 20 games left, they are 7-1/2 out of the division and 11-games up on the wild card. They may sweat the race to host the wild card game a bit, but that’s a small thing compared to the three big questions hanging over them-

1- Can Judge make it back?
2- Can Chapman?
3- Who starts a wild card game?

The first two are huge with only three weeks left in the year, because without those two, the Yankees are greatly diminished. The final question is impossible to answer right now other than to say it won’t be Sonny Gray. Any of their five starters could be the answer, depending on the location, the matchup, and how they finish the season. With Severino falling apart in the second half (6.95 ERA) the Yankees don’t have a clear ace to start a do or die game. They will have to assemble all the data, study the matchup, and make a good guess. That’s the uncomfortable reality of where they currently stand.

What Took So Long?

The reports are that the Yankees have acquired Andrew McCutchen from San Francisco for two minor leaguers. It’s a solid pickup to fill an obvious need. What I don’t understand is why it took so long?

When Aaron Judge went down on July 26th, the estimate was that he would be back in three weeks. That was fifteen days ago and Judge isn’t even swinging a bat. Yet the Yankees acted as if nothing was wrong forcing Neil Walker to learn a new position and Shane Robinson to play way more than anyone wanted.

Older outfielders with big contracts are not hard to trade for but for whatever reason the Yankees refused to give in and make a deal. Maybe it was because of bad medical information maybe it was just wishful thinking. Whatever the reason, it took five weeks to find an adequate replacement for Judge and that’s way too long for a team fighting for a playoff spot.

A Tale of Two Leagues

While the AL West has become a hot playoff race with three teams fighting it out, the Al East and Central are essentially clinched. It pains me to say it. But the real action this year appears to be in the National League.

Today’s standings show that none of the division leaders has a lead of more than 3-1/2 games, and the top-eight teams are all within five games of each other in the standings. In fact eleven of the fifteen teams in the league are within 7-1/2 games of a playoff spot We could really be headed for an epic finish.

And while parity reigns in the NL, the AL is top heavy. Seattle, which would be leading two divisions in the NL is the only current non-playoff team in the AL within even 11 games of a playoff spot. Essentially you have six great to very good teams- Boston, Cleveland, Houston, New York, Oakland, and Seattle, and 9 mediocre to absolutely wretched ones. That should make it very hard for teams to gain ground on each other, as the good ones will usually be playing the bad ones, but also magnify the importance of series where the good teams face off like this week when we see Boston face Cleveland and the Mariners face Houston.

So buckle up, only six weeks left until the end of the regular season.

Is This The End?

The Yankees announced today that Jacoby Ellsbury had surgery to repair a torn labrum yesterday, he will need six months to recover from the operation and is therefore out for the year.

This could be it for the Yankees and Ellsbury. Through five seasons, the numbers are ugly- .264/.320/.386, 39 homers, 102 steals, and 64% of total possible games played in. All for the “bargain” price of $105-million. Counting his team option which will be declined, the Yankees owe him around $47-million after this season. That’s a big check to write, but it’s hard to see what value Ellsbury would offer as a backup outfielder trying to come back from a serious injury in 2019.

So I suspect the Yankees to write that check, or trade a Ellsbury for a bad contract that is a better positional fit. The real question is, have they learned anything from this? For that answer, we have to wait until the offseason and free agency begins.

The Beauty of 162

When you go through a loss like last night, a bitter end to a terrible weekend, the worst thing in the world is waiting to watch the next game. In football, you have a whole week to stew over things. In hockey or basketball, it’s usually a couple of days. Baseball instead presents a steady diet of almost nightly games and that’s a blessing in this case because we all get to turn the page.

And here’s the better news, the Yankees have a really good chance to do so. Their next 26 games are against teams no better than .500, with most of them against teams that are really bad. The schedule is set up to give the Yankees a boost into the home stretch. For a club that has gone 18-20 over the last 38 games, they could use it.

Woof

It’s hard to think of a worse start to a four-game series in Fenway than the one the Yankees penned last night. Up 4-0, they pulled a struggling Sabathia after three innings and then watched their bullpen implode. When the smoke cleared, they had lost by eight and used their Saturday starter to soak up innings.

If the Yankees are going to turn the page, they obviously need to play better and they need their ace to step up tonight and deliver, something he hasn’t done much since June ended. The pressure is on and a loss tonight would put the Yankees in a precarious spot. The speculation is that Chance Adams, a former top prospect who is trying to regain his from after offseason surgery, is going to start Saturday. Asking a rookie making his MLB debut to dig you out of a 2-0 series hole is a tall order. Let’s see what happens.

Gray To The Pen

The Yankees recognized reality today and replaced Sonny Gray in the rotation with Lance Lynn. Gray came to the Yankees with a 44-36 record and a 3.42 ERA. In 32 starts he has a 12-15 record with a 4.85 ERA. Worse in 17 starts at the Stadium, he is 6-7 with a 6.70 ERA. The Yankees have to hope that he can figure things out in the pen, but it seems much more likely that he has made his last start for the Yankees and will be traded away this offseason.

In other news, J.A. Happ won’t be pitching in Boston this weekend because he has Coxsackie, or Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. If you have kids, you probably are familiar with that one, but I had never heard of an adult getting it until Noah Syndergaard came down with it a few weeks ago. Happ should be fine and back next week, but the Red Sox will get to face Luis Cessa.

And the Yankees decided to bring Luke Voit up to the club in place of Tyler Wade and he will DH tonight.