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A Terrible Loss

Reading the news this morning of Jose Fernandez’s death brought me instantly back to August 2nd, 1979. Then it was Thurman Munson, taken far too soon in a plane crash. Today it is Fernandez, taken even sooner in a boat crash. Somewhere in Florida there are plenty of six-year olds who feel the way I did so long ago and my heart goes out to them and everyone affected by this tragedy- especially Fernandez’s unborn child.

The loss of Fernandez seems harsher because of his personality and his potential. Here was someone who risked his life to get to this country and played the game with a certain kind of joy that you don’t often see.

And he was so good at it! Among starting pitchers, only Randy Johnson (twice), Pedro Martinez and Kerry Wood, have ever had a higher K/9 rate than the 12.5 Jose put up this year. He was 38-17 in his career for a team that only won 45% of their games over the same period. He had a career ERA of 2.53 and an ERA+ of 150 (The average is 100) He was 24, and about to hit arbitration and provide financial security for his family for a long time.

What a sad day.

 

 

 

My Wish List For The Final Ten Games

People keep mentioning how the Yankees are “only” three games out of a wild card spot. That statement is factually true, but it ignores two important details. 1- There are only ten games left in the season. 2- There are three teams closer to that wild card spot than the Yankees right now. So, the Yankees have to play incredibly well over these final ten games and hope that multiple teams stumble. And don’t forget their one good starting pitcher is missing his next start. There is a chance it could happen, but I wouldn’t expect it. So, here are the things I would like to see over the final 10 games out of the Yankees and MLB in general.

1- Two more wins. Two more wins gets them to .500 and means they haven’t had a losing season since 1992. That’s an impressive streak.

2- A couple of home runs from Mark Teixeira and 3 additional hits beyond that. It’s been an awful season for Tex, but I would like to see him end his career on a good note. Those homers and hits would get him to 15 for the year and should squeak his average up to the Mendoza Line.

3- More of Gary Sanchez. Really doing anything at this point because it is fun to watch.

4- Applause for David Ortiz on Thursday. I still think Ortiz got off lightly for failing that drug test, and he takes way too long to run around the bases, but he is the last guy standing from when this rivalry was an amazing spectacle and he is one of the greatest clutch players I have ever seen.  The fans should show him some respect in his final game at the Stadium. Cheryl Miller’s little brother got cheered at MSG in his final game there. Ortiz deserves a similar reception.

5- A start for Sevrino this week in place of Tanaka. The Yankees have a rotation hole and Severino has been touted as a rotation solution. Let’s give him one last chance in 2016 to show that because I fear the Yankees are going to Joba Rule him to death next year.

6- Some good wild card races. I’m afraid the division races are settled. The Cubs have clinched. The Rangers and Nationals can clinch tonight. The closest division race is the AL East where Boston has a 5.5-game lead. If there is going to be excitement over the final week, it is going to have to come from the wild card. Greg posted a comment with some crazy tie scenarios for the wild card, I’m rooting for those.

7-Labor peace- Ok this doesn’t have to happen now. It doesn’t even have to happen in October. But being a child of the 80’s, I always get twitchy when MLB’s CBA is expiring like it will in December. I hope we hear an announcement of a new deal very soon.

Crusher

thats all I have to say abou that.

It’s Been Awhile

The Yankees and Red Sox are about to play some meaningful games late in the season for the first time in a number of years. You probably have to go all the way back to 2007 to find a series this late in the season with these implications. That’s because the Yankees find themselves four games out of first with four games against the first-place Red Sox. Now, I am not suggesting that the Yankees are going to sweep this series. Considering the state of their starting pitching, and the fact that they signed Billy Butler yesterday because they think he can help, indicate how long a shot this is. But, if the Yankees somehow take 3-of-4, they will remain in the think of the playoff race- something inconceivable on August 1st.

Again, I don’t think it will happen, I would actually be pretty happy getting out of town with a split. But as a Yankees’ fan I am playing with the house’s money over these final 17 games so I can dare to dream.

Summer Reading

Sorry for not posting in awhile, but I went on vacation and took a break. But not all of my vacation was devoid of baseball, among the good books I read while away, “The Arm” by Jeff Passan definitely made an impression.

If you have a child who is thinking of pitching, I strongly encourage you to read it. Passan does an amazing job of looking into arm injuries and trying to find the smoking gun behind all of the Tommy John surgeries that are plaguing major league baseball.  He doesn’t come up with a definitive answer, but his data on kids who throw more than 8 months a year is eye-opening. (Synopsis- don’t let your kids do that) He travels to Japan and tries to understand their pitching culture and also presents the history of TJ surgery. He details the Red Sox negotiations with Jon Lester, and explains how MLB is trying to stem the flood of injuries. Part of it is a system-wide computer database of every injury across all levels, to get an idea of the scope of the problem and look for patterns. And part is an organizational study of a few systems, the Yankees included, focusing on the pitchers and analyzing not only their pitch counts and usage patters, but also their biomechanics. It will be interesting to see what results all of this study provides, but the conclusion I drew from the book is that the seeds of these injuries are planted long before a player even gets to college. Youth baseball is poisoning the health of future pitchers. Again, if you are a parent with a kid pitching, read this, but even if you are just a fan, it is worth your time.

*****

I find myself back in NYC and surprisingly back in a pennant race. Let’s face it, the Yankees making any playoff push is the cherry on top of the sundae this year and if they actually made it- wow. I don’t think they will. For one thing, they are still only given about a 10% chance from the sites that forecast these things. For another, they have a ridiculously hard schedule, especially after they finish with Tampa this weekend. But they are playing meaningful games in September and that is great for not only this year, but for the development of all the young guys on the team. I think Joe Girardi deserves a lot of credit for keeping everyone focused when it would have been easier to just throw in the towel and focus on 2017.

24 Years

Since getting swept in Tampa, which allowed the Yankees to finish their sell off, the club has run off a 13-9 streak. That puts them at four games over .500 again, the best they have been all season, and leaves them 16 wins short of another season at .500 or better.

You have to go back to the 1992 Yankees to find the last time they finished below .500. That was the 4th year of a brutal stretch of baseball- the 1989 to 1992 Yankees were really bad. They lost 90 games twice in that stretch, something the franchise had only done twice before since 1912. But 1992 marked the turning point. Buck Showalter was hired. Bernie Williams came up from the minors and things got better from there. It’s a fun walk back in history for me to look at that team after so many years. I remember going to Opening Day that year and sitting with the guy from the other side of this blog as the Yankees beat the Red Sox. I had to listen for hours to how Phil Plantier was going to be the next great Red Sox after he hit a homer. (Nice call Andy!)

It’s a good time to look back at that team for some of the names that held such promise then, but didn’t pan out. Sam Militello was a top pitching prospect, but injuries derailed him. Pat Kelly had hit the cover off the ball at Columbus and was considered the second baseman of the future. Hensley Muelens, Bam Bam, never hit at all. One day we will look back at this 2016 team and I wonder which guys will be the Bernies and which guys will be the Kellys? Time will tell.

Thinking About The Next Trade

The Yankees have clearly fully committed to the youth movement over the past few weeks and it makes me wonder which veteran will be traded next? The popular idea is to trade Brian McCann because Gary Sanchez clearly seems ready to catch and to hit, so what’s the point of keeping McCann around? I couldn’t disagree more.

Now, I will preface the following argument with the caveat that if a team wants to seriously overpay for McCann, by all means the Yankees should let them. But, assuming rational trading partners, the Yankees have no reason to give McCann away or pay a cent of his salary right now for three reasons.

1- McCann is still a good defensive catcher.

2- McCann still hits RHP well.

3- You need some veterans around the team to show the younger guys how to survive in this league.

Having McCann as a DH against RHP and backup catcher in 2017 isn’t a bad thing. The Yankees will be overpaying him for that role, but they should get solid production. For the first time in years, they don’t have a guy who is an obvious DH every day type, so why not let McCann take the bulk of the AB’s there, at least against RHP, and catch 1 game a week? Additionally, consider that the almost all of the guys the Yankees are bringing up right now are righties. Lefty hitters are going to be a rarity in the 2017 lineup.

Furthermore, the logjam the Yankees are facing defensively really lies in the outfield. Judge is clearly the right fielder of the future. I believe Frazier will be the left fielder of the future. Austin is a guy who can play the corners. Hicks can play all three spots. You also have Mason Williams and Ben Gamel lurking in the minors. That leaves Gardner and Ellsbury as the two guys who it would benefit the Yankees the most to trade. The problem is Ellsbury is untradeable at this point with about $90-million and four-plus years left on his deal. So Gardner is the guy who has to go.

That would clear the way for the eventual promotion of Frazier- sometime in 2017, but also allow the Yankees to get long looks at guys like Austin, Gamel, Williams and even Jake Cave to see what they have. I suspect Gardner passed through waivers, so the Yankees should try and make this happen now, before August 31st and the second trade deadline. That would put them in a position to field an every day lineup with six-of-nine guys under 30 in 2017. How’s that for a change?

An Opportunity

Nathan Eovaldi announced today that he will need Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of this season and most likely all of 2017.

It’s awful news for him and bad news for the 2017 Yankees. They were hoping that Eovaldi would provide them with a solid rotation presence next year. In the immediate future it probably means that both Green and Cessa will be in the rotation. In the future, it may mean Adam Warren will be part of the 2017 rotation.

The question is can the Yankees and Eovaldi find a future together?  The easiest thing for the Yankees would be to non-tender Eovaldi at the end of the season and get out of his contract. But instead of doing that, I think the Yankees should offer him a three-year, incentive-laden deal. Pay him a minimal salary next year and then give him a chance to make significant money, health permitting, in 2018 and 2019.

For the Yankees, they get a pitcher besides Severino under contract beyond 2018. For Eovaldi, he gets a big league contract for next year and a chance to rehab in a place he knows. That seems like a good opportunity for both sides.

Youth Movement

Alex is gone and the Yankees have called up Austin and Judge. It’s pretty exciting and even more so is the lineup for today’s game which features both of them and only two players over 30.

48 Hours

Two more days. That’s all we have left of A-Rod and it won’t be a quiet two more days thanks to a mistake Joe Girardi made on Sunday and the NY media.

Sunday Girardi said A-Rod could play in all three games at Fenway if he wanted. Tuesday he didn’t follow through, admitting he made a mistake and was human. That’s not good enough for the media and they are going to absurd lengths to portray A-Rod as a victim.

Start with their attempt to equate A-Rod not playing to Jeter hitting second in his final season. Yes, Jeter should not have hit second, but think about the differences between Jeter and Alex for a minute. Never, and I mean never, did Jeter do anything to embarrass the Yankees. By contrast A-Rod has done plenty and also sued the club a few seasons back. Girardi didn’t want to embarrass Jeter and while it wasn’t his best move, it was an understandable one. Alex doesn’t deserve that benefit of the doubt and Girardi can’t pretend he is trying to win games and use Alex as a regular this week. That’s the bottom line there.

Next go to this notion that the Yankees owe A-Rod something. They owe him the remainder of his contract, about $26-million, that’s it. They will have paid him almost $400-million for his 13 years in the Bronx. They don’t owe him a majestic farewell or a spot in the lineup, but they are going to give him that tomorrow. That’s fine, but its also enough. These same writers defending A-Rod will be the first to attack him when he signs with another club next spring. You can count on that. Let’s get that distraction out of the way now. Alex doesn’t owe the Yankees anything either. He played and they determined he wasn’t useful anymore so they cut him. That gives him the right to go and find another team to play for and he should not be criticized for a lack of loyalty if he does that.

Finally, let me add my own conspiracy theory to what happened this week. Yankee management is not thrilled with having to cut A-Rod, but they know it is the right move for the future of the franchise. They orchestrated the Friday sendoff to sell a few more tickets instead of doing it on Sunday like they should have. They also realized that the less they let Alex play this week, the more he will want to play for someone else in the future. While it won’t cut the bill they owe him by much, a season on another team’s roster means $500,000 the Yankees save. I would bet they would be happy to save it.

The circus closes in 48 hours. I won’t miss it.