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Uh-Oh-UPDATED

Reports are that Andrew Miller got hit by a comebacker on his right wrist and left today’s game in pain.  I will update this post as details become available.

UPDATE(12pm)- Strangely my update from last night seems to have failed. Either way, Miller has a broken bone, but he plans on trying to pitch through it. He still needs to see a hand specialist to confirm he can do that.

The news is not so good on Bryan Mitchell.  He has a Grade 3 turf toe which basically means he will be out about three months. Mitchell had pitched really well this spring and was in line to make a lot of contributions out of the bullpen.

The Price of Pitching

The Yankees are said to be looking for a young starter with 0-3 years of time in the big leagues. Good luck to them, that is probably the most valuable commodity in the game.

While the recent contract signings of Greinke and Price grab the headlines. Look at some of the lesser deals that have been signed. Mike Pelfrey just got a two-year/$16-million deal from the Tigers. This is a guy coming off of a 6-11 season with an ERA of 4.26. Advanced metrics give him an ERA of 4, but that isn’t much better.

Or consider Darren O’Day, a nice middle reliever. He’s 32, and has 14 saves in his career, yet he is getting a four-year deal worth just under $8-million a year.

Or Ryan Madson, who missed three years, but pitched well in KC this year and just got three years at $7-million each from the A’s. The A’s!

Pitching prices are out of control and that is a reflection of the money flooding the game.

So while the Yankees should absolutely chase young, cost-controllable pitching, they also need to think about their own backyard and some of the pitchers they already control. How about giving them extensions before they hit arbitration/free agency? Three guys come to mind, Betances, Eovladi, and Pineda.

Betances is not even arbitration eligible yet, but after next season he will be and the way he is pitching he will cost a lot very quickly. Could the Yankees buy some cost certainty with him now? Considering he is going to make “only” $507,000 next year, I bet they could, why not try?

Eovaldi and Pineda are tougher cases because they are two years away from free agency and both had injuries in 2015. But, could the Yankees buy out a couple of years of free agency from them right now? It’s certainly worth a shot.

I will be absolutely ok with the Yankees forgoing the free agent market this offseason and keeping their best prospects. But, they need to plan for future costs as well. Locking some of these guys up now can help them do that.

MLB Has A Chance To Lead

Roger Goodell has done a terrible job handling domestic violence incidents in his sport. He originally gave Ray Rice a two-game suspension for knocking his fiancee out cold in an elevator and only amended it when video surfaced of the actual punch. Meanwhile, he gave Tom Brady a four-game suspension for supposedly knocking around some footballs. Ugh. This weekend we got to see the horrific pictures of the victim of Greg Hardy’s assault in July 2014. He was actually convicted by a judge in a bench decision and eventually suspended by the NFL (amazing). But he returned to the field early this year, made misogynistic jokes about Tom Brady’s wife, and was called a “leader” by his team owner. Double ugh.

It looks like Rob Manfred is going to get a chance to show that MLB can handle things better than the NFL. News came this morning that Jose Reyes was arrested on Halloween for “abuse of a family or household member” after attacking his wife. Under the new rules governing this, Manfred can basically set the tone for this type of punishment- no minimums or maximums are set and punishment does not depend on a conviction in court. I hope he sets a very harsh penalty because the sad truth is that as long as an athlete can still perform at a good level someone will excuse his past behaviors and give him a chance.

Look at Ray Rice.  He apologized, completed a pre-trial intervention program, actively speaks out against domestic violence, and does good things like this,  yet he is still trying to get even a tryout from a NFL team. That’s probably because his yards-per-carry dropped from 4.4 to 3.1 in his last season of play. Hardy can still rush the passer effectively, so he gets a second chance.

Domestic violence is a problem that isn’t confined to sports, but sports has an outsized ability to influence our culture in positive and negative ways. Let’s hope that MLB uses that power for good.

We Can’t Beat Toronto- So What!

Give the Blue Jays all the credit in the world, they owned the Yankees this season. They went 13-6 against them, and they currently own a 3-1/2 game lead over them with 11 to play. Barring a miracle, the Yankees are not winning the AL East. That’s ok. Last year demonstrated that the current playoff format still allows a wild card team to advance to the World Series.  What the Yankees have to do now is think about how to get to the playoffs and how to win once they get there.

Step one is clinching the wild card. The magic number for that is 7. Any combination of Yankee wins and Minnesota losses that add up to 7 gets them into the wild card game. Since Houston has played two more games than the Yankees, that combination of wins and losses by New York and Houston, will clinch home field advantage in the wild card game.

Step two is putting Tanaka in line to pitch the wild card game. That won’t be hard, it is just a matter of determining how much rest they want him to have before that start, and how many starts they want him to make prior to it. Assuming regular rest, never a good bet with Tanaka, he would need to start Saturday to get on track to make two starts before the wild card game.

Step three is figuring out who is going to start game one of the ALDS since Tanaka won’t be on full rest until game 3.   I think it has to be Pineda. He is currently not on track for that as he is scheduled to pitch the last game of the season. But assuming that is meaningless, he could easily be skipped. That’s a decision the Yankees can hold off on for now.

11 games to go.

 

Remember Montero

As Greg Bird rounded the bases for a second time yesterday I wondered to myself how long would it be before he was anointed the next great Yankee. It didn’t take long. Don’t get me wrong, I loved what Bird did yesterday and I love the idea of Greg Bird becoming a long-time Yankee, but things have gone from silly to crazy in one day.

First off, let’s start with the idea that Bird has somehow “Wally Pipped” Mark Teixeira. In 1925, Wally Pipp hit .230 with a total of 12 extra base hits, Lou Gehrig was an easy choice to replace him. In 2015, Teixeira is hitting .257 with 31 home runs. He is in the Top-10 in a number of offensive categories and plays gold-glove caliber defense. That is not someone you take out of the lineup when healthy, no matter how good a rookie looks.

Second, let’s remember that this was one game and Bird now has a total of 39 games above AA ball in his career. Yes, he could hit like this for the rest of his life. More likely, he will struggle as pitchers adjust to him and perhaps even need some more minor league seasoning. That’s not a knock, Mike Trout hit .220 in his first season in the bigs. Sometimes it takes time and Bird might need that.

And finally, let’s think of when we have seen this before. Jesus Montero ring a bell? How about Shane Spencer or Kevin Maas? Rookies have come up and blasted the ball before only to struggle and turn out to be much less than the Yankees thought they might be. Bird seems like a better bet than any of those guys, but we shouldn’t hand him a starting spot next year yet. For one thing, there isn’t one right now with Teixeira and A-Rod under contract in 2016. For another, let’s see him hit like this a bit more before making long-term decisions.

This is all a good thing for the Yankees. Teixeira’s contract expires after 2016 and Bird would be all of 24 heading into 2017. The job is his then at the latest. Between 2017 and now there will be opportunities for him to contribute, but he may also spend time in the minors. That’s ok, the exciting thing is you are starting to see the outlines of the Yankees infield of the future and it looks like a good one.

Severino Arrives

Last night was a fun night to be in the ballpark. There was a huge crowd- it looked like almost every seat was full- and they were into things. Let me get to that in one second with a rant first.

Start of rant. The Yankees, just like every other MLB team, have decided to use metal detectors at the ballparks this year. I won’t get into the reasoning behind that, but if they are going that route, they need to speed people through them. Last night was an epic fail. I arrived just before the gates opened and had to stand in a line that stretched the length of 161st-street from River Ave to Jerome Ave. What made this especially infuriating is that the Yankees had people and metal detectors completely unused. I would say there were more than 50% of the detectors sitting there, with people in front of them, closed to anyone who wanted to use them. I suspect this was a trial for this innovation which is starting Friday. and while supposedly free to enter Yankee Stadium, costs $179 per year everywhere else. So, MLB and the Yankees are now going to make money off of ballpark security. Ugh, and end of rant.

As for the game, Severino looked really good, but I was reminded of that line from Bull Durham- “Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic.” The seven K’s were good, but not having enough pitches to get into the sixth inning was bad. It’s part of the process of learning to pitch, and when Severino does that, look out!

Kudos to Steven Wright who kept the Yankees off-balance all night. You could tell how effective his knuckler was by the fact that he kept throwing it, at about 77-mph, and nobody could touch it. Wright is now 2-1 versus the Yankees in his career with a 1.50 ERA. Not bad for a pitcher with a career line of 7-5 3.97.

So a fun night at the ballpark, and a good game, that’s win-win no matter what the scoreboard says.

Showcasing?

There is a report that on the interweb that Luis Severino could be called up next week. That report, plus today’s roster move make me wonder if the Yankees are trying to showcase some players as potential trade chips. Let me explain.

Today the Yankees purchased the contract of Nick Goody from Scranton. It’s a strange move because it required the Yankees to add him to the 40-man roster, at the expense of Gregorio Petit, and he has a grand total of six innings above AA ball. Now those innings have been very good, as have his overall numbers, but why make this move? If the Yankees simply wanted an extra bullpen arm, they could have recalled Rumbelow from Scranton. He is already on the 40-man roster. But they decided to add Goody and give him a shot which makes me think they want to see what he can do and let other teams see him as well.

If I am right, that might also explain Refsnyder’s brief audition and the potential callup of Severino. Get these guys into the big leagues and let other teams get a look at them. It’s not a bad plan, but it will cause some 40-man headaches in the future if they don’t trade some of them.

New York-New York

The Yankees took the first round of the subway series. Due to a scheduling quirk, we will know if these teams are both playoff contenders the next time they meet in September- games 146, 147, and 148.

We will also have the answers to four questions which featured prominently in this series and so far this season-

1- Is Carlos Beltran finished? The early results are not encouraging and the eye test is worse. I never liked this signing, but I wasn’t expecting this big a drop.

2- On a positive note, is Mark Teixeira capable of being productive again? Almost the direct opposite of Beltran in the way he is hitting and the way he passes the eye test.

3- Can Didi handle the pressure he is under? The bat has been slowly improving, and while his defense has taken a  lot of criticism, objective fans will recognize that he is getting to a lot of balls his predecessor wouldn’t have come near to. The problems are two-fold, fans unfairly expecting him to be Jeter, and the media consumed with picking his every move apart. I don’t think Girardi did him any favors benching him last night versus the left-hander.

4- Can Nate Eovaldi become the pitcher his stuff says he should be? Curt Schilling was right (that hurts to write) about his lack of fastball command. Last night was not a good night for the flamethrower, but the early results are encouraging. His walk rate is lower than his career rate and his strikeout rate is way above it. He will be fascinating to watch going forward.

For now, let’s enjoy a subway series win and look forward to a matchup tonight where first place is on the line. That’s right, at 11-8 the Yankees have a share of first with Tampa, the team coming to the Bronx tonight.

 

Back To .500

The Yankees needed a weekend like this one. Yes, Tampa is probably the worst team in the AL East, but after dropping six-of-nine, the Yankees will take any wins they can get. And with the win and other results Sunday, the entire AL East is within 1-1/2 games of each other.

And now comes a really interesting week. There are two teams which have reached double-digit wins in the season and the Yankees will face them both in the next seven games. First up, the best team in the AL- Detroit

The Crystal Ball

It’s time for baseball, which also means it is also time for me to take a stab at predicting the upcoming baseball season. As always, believe these at your own risk!

Let’s start with the most confounding division in the game, and my personal favorite, the AL East. (I know that’s a shock)  I honestly believe you could pick the teams out of a hat and have a better chance of picking their order of finish than actually trying to handicap it. But, fortune favors the bold, so this is how I see it unfolding.

1- Baltimore

2- Toronto

3- Boston

4- New York

5- Tampa

One other note before I delve into the individual teams and my thinking. None of these clubs is winning more than 90 games, barring a big trade at the deadline, and I would bet they all finish within 10-games of each other.

I know the Orioles lost Cruz, but they have Machado and Wieters returning. Yes, they will regress from last season, but remember they won 95 last year, so they have room to decline and still win the division.

Toronto has done a lot of nice things, but losing Stroman for the season will prevent them from climbing to the top.

Boston will hit, though I don’t think Sandoval will, the question is the pitching and I don’t think it will be good. I don’t like the rotation or the bullpen and I think that puts them in third with fans getting treated to a lot of four-plus hours, 12-10 games. It’s worth remembering that they are coming off a 90-loss season, so finishing 3rd may make them the most-improved team in the league.

As for the Yankees so many questions and so many ways to see things unfold. Let me paint two pictures:

The good:

1- Pineda and Tanaka make 60 starts between them.

2- Ellsbury, McCann and Beltran hit like the back of their baseball cards say they should and Teixeira and A-Rod do enough.

3- Eovaldi is the pitcher he has the potential to be.

That team could easily win the division.

The bad:

1- Tanaka and Pineda make much fewer than 60 starts.

2- Teixeira, A-Rod and Beltran are done as productive big leaguers.

3- The injury bug hits again.

That team could easily lose 90 games.

That’s the challenge with the Yankees, perhaps the hardest team to handicap because of all the questions. The only seemingly certainties are that they will play good defense and have a good bullpen. I feel good about both of those, but in this era betting on older players to contribute is a foolish move. I will say the rotation is a strength, but the lineup is a bust and it leaves them in 4th place at 82-80.

Tampa lost their manager, a huge blow, but they will still be dangerous. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them finish at .500, but in 5th-place.

 

And now a briefer look at the other divisions.

AL Central

1- Cleveland- I think they take the Central crown easily.

2- Kansas City- They won’t sneak up on teams this year, but the strengths that got them to the World Series are still there.

3- Chicago- Call me unconvinced that they are ready to seriously contend, but they are improved.

4- Detroit- I don’t think it will be a disaster, but considering the recent run this season will be a disappointment.

5- Minnesota- One day soon they will be good again. Just not yet.

 

AL West

1- Angels- Best player in the game and plenty of talent around him. Seattle may be the trendy pick, but I think the Angels are better over the 162- game season.

2- Seattle- Right there all year on the Angels’ heels.

3- Houston- This will be a fun team to watch. They will hit home runs in bunches and probably set the record for strikeouts.

4- Oakland- A step back, but probably not for long.

5- Texas- They have fallen far and fast.

WILD CARDS- KC and Seattle

NL East

1- Washington- Is this the year Harper lives up to the hype? I don’t know, but the rotation will lead them to the NL East crown and beyond.

2- Mets- Harvey is back and the rotation looks good even without Wheeler. I didn’t get the Cuddyer signing, but I bet Tulowitzki is playing at Citi Field before the year is out.

3- Florida- I think they will battle the Mets all season for second and fall just short.

4- Atlanta- Building for the new ballpark, but the disaster in Philadelphia keeps them out of the basement.

5- Philadelphia- Ugh, this team is going to be bad even if Cliff Lee gets healthy.

 

NL Central

1- Pittsburgh- The class of the division for now.

2- Chicago- Big things happening on the North Side, but not enough to beat Pittsburgh

3- St. Louis- Always hard to count them out, but I don’t think it is their year.

4- Milwaukee- Nothing much to get excited about here.

5- Cincinnati- I think their window has closed and what happened to Phillips and Votto?

 

NL West

1- Los Angeles- They have it all and talent coming up.

2- San Diego- They have really rebuilt quickly, but not enough to catch LA.

3- San Francisco- They only win in even years.

4- Colorado- When do they trade Tulo to the Mets?

5- Arizona- Outgunned in this division.

WILD CARDS- Chicago and San Diego

Playoffs

Seattle over KC

Angels over Seattle

Cleveland over Baltimore

Angels over Cleveland

Cubs over Padres (1984 revenge play)

Nationals over Cubs

Dodgers over Pittsburgh

Nationals over Dodgers

And….

Nationals over Angels in the World Series

Enjoy the season!