Yankees

This is Silly

The Yankees opened the season with their starting shortstop on the DL. Assuming Starlin Castro goes to the DL after tonight, every other opening day starter, apart from their DH, 3B, and LF, has been on the DL. Add in Aaron Hicks, and the Yankees’ lineup has been wracked with injuries.

You can also add the closer, Chapman, the 7th inning guy, Warren, and the 3rd starter, Sabathia, to the total. Their opening day DH may hit the DL and the 3b has skirted the DL. The Yankees should encase Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner in a protective shield.

We don’t know what will happen with Castro at this point, but Tyler Wade has been removed from his game in Scranton, and is probably on his way to Chicago. Losing Castro would be a big blow, but bringing Wade to the bigs could be a huge lift. For all the injuries, the Yankees are lucky they have depth.

Carter Released

The Chris Carter era is over for now as the Yankees DFA’ed him after 57 games and a .204/.286/.383 line. His low average was not a surprise, he is a career .217 hitter, but he never delivered the power the Yankees hoped for. He might end up at Scranton, because I’m not sure any major league team will give him a shot.

Now the Yankees turn to Tyler Austin, one of the three rookies they brought up last August. Austin’s foot injury opened the door to Carter, and his recovery closed it. Greg Bird is waiting to see if his cortisone shot worked. If it didn’t, and Austin doesn’t produce, the Yankees will have to go to plan D at first.

A Night in The Bronx

I made it to my first game of the year last night, and while the result was disappointing, the atmosphere was not.

It’s been awhile since I have seen the Stadium like that. I got there right before 5pm when the gates were about to open and it was already really busy. Lots of fans had lined up to get into the game to see batting practice. The outfields were pretty packed with fans trying to catch balls and things were loud. The attendance was announced at 39-thousand something and I would believe it. Not a lot of empty seats anywhere in the ballpark. Ownership must be thrilled. A mid-week game on a school night drew almost 40,000 fans.

It will be interesting to see what happens from here with attendance and the Yankees. NYC schools get out June 28th, so that should help. Continuing this seven-game losing streak would clearly not. But even if they continue to struggle, fans want to see Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. There were a ton of those jerseys in the stands last night and both of them rewarded their fans with long balls. It’s funny how Sanchez has been a bit lost in all of the Judgemania. In 2016 he was Judge, with 20 homers in the final 53 games. He got hurt early in 2017, missed a month, but look at him now. 12 homers in 41 games.

Who knows where the season goes from here, but based on a Tuesday night in the Bronx things look pretty good and the fans seem pretty energized.

When It Rains…

The Yankees just announced that Gleyber Torres is going to need Tommy John surgery to repair a UCL tear in his elbow. This is obviously very bad news, but the saving grace is that the injury is to his left, non-throwing, elbow, so he should be ready to go at the start of next season.

However, he clearly won’t be able to help the team this year. That’s not a huge deal because I am not sure he would have been called up anyway. The Yankees probably would have turned to Tyler Wade before Torres. But it also means he is going to lose 1/2 a season of experience in the minors, which will delay his arrival in the Bronx next year.

All of this because he tried to slide into home face-first. Teams really should spend time teaching players to slide feet-first. So many more things can go wrong when you go in face-first, especially to home plate.

Why Chance It?

The MLB Draft is one of the more inexact sciences in life so critiques of individual picks should be used sparingly, but the Yankees have left me scratching my head with their first-round pick. Clarke Schmidt has a lot of the things you would want in a future Yankee. He’s reportedly a great kid, he throws really hard and he went 4-2 with a 1.34 ERA for the University of South Carolina this year. The only problem is, he had Tommy John surgery in May.

That means he will definitely miss the rest of this year. And he will probably miss at least half of next year. I get that he is reportedly one of the top arms in the draft, but his arm doesn’t work right now and might never work the same way again. And unlike many of the past years, the Yankees were picking in the middle of the draft (16th) rather than the back of the draft. In fact, you can draw an uncomfortable parallel between this pick and the Andrew Brackman pick of ten years ago. Brackman was hurt when the Yankees picked him, but they defended the choice by saying that next to David Price, he had the best arm in the draft. The Yankees were picking thirtieth overall then, but consider some of the guys they could have drafted instead of Brackman- Chris Sale (Round 8), Jordan Zimmerman (Round 3), Corey Kluber (Round 10), Craig Kimbrell (Round 14), Rick Porcello (Round 27) Danny Duffy (Round 2)…you get the idea. Instead they turned to Brackman because they were so desperate for a top-end arm they thought it was worth the risk.

It’s way too early to tell if this will pan out. They may not even sign the guy, but it seems like a dumb risk at this point. The Yankees are probably not going to be picking anywhere as high as 16th next year. They already have an injured, first-round pick recovering from Tommy John, in James Kaprielian. (Ironically also the 16th-overall pick in 2015.) Why double down?

Make This Team Better

The Yankees have almost reached the point where you start to think about the ways to improve this team to make it a legitimate playoff contender. The problem is, that is going to be harder than it looks.

Reflexively, I think most fans would say that the starting rotation is the place to upgrade, but dig a bit deeper. Throw Tanaka’s performance to date out of the equation, and the Yankees have the lowest starter ERA in the majors. The quartet of Pineda, Sabathia, Severino, and Montgomery have been that good. And while advanced stats suggest they are slightly overrated, it isn’t by a huge amount.

So maybe you say Tanaka is the guy to go, but his contract makes that impossible. He can opt-out after this season, or he can stay with the Yankees and keep on earning $22-million a year for the next three seasons. If you remove him from the rotation, he stays and you pay him $66-million to sit in the bullpen. That’s not realistic, so the Yankees really have no choice but to keep sending him out there.

The bullpen has been a strength, and with Chapman due back soon, there is no need to improve it. The Yankees have four guys they can rely on late- Chapman, Betances, Clippard, and Warren, and they have plenty of interesting arms that could add to that quartet.

That leaves the lineup, and there are two obvious holes, first and third. Chris Carter has not been good, but Greg Bird is on the mend and will absolutely get a chance to fill that hole. So that leaves third, and Chase Headley, but the Yankees may also have the answer to that problem internally

Tyler Wade is hitting .307/.372/.449 in Scranton. He has played every position outside of catcher and first. Gleyber Torres is off to good start at Scranton (.273/.403/.418) and he is rotating between second, third and short. Either of them is worthy of a promotion if the Yankees are going to try to replace Headley.

And the Yankees may have set the sequence in motion tonight that leads to that move. They DFA’ed Tommy Lane. That’s because they decided to push Tanaka back a day and need Chad Green to start tomorrow. Since Green is no longer stretched out and they will need to go to the bullpen early, they recalled Domingo German. German was a part of the Prada-Eovaldi trade and he is stretched out. He was also on the 40-man roster, so the Yankees now have an open spot. I would bet that goes to Wade in the very near future.

And that’s why is I expect the Yankees to look inside the organization for help. If a big injury comes along, that could certainly change. But for now, the only logical move is an internal, and not an external, one.

A Big June Start For Big Mike

Michael Pineda may be the most frustrating pitcher I have ever seen in a Yankees’ uniform. He can go out and absolutely dominate a game and then get absolutely torn apart in his next start. He’s now made 83 starts for the Yankees and his record is a mediocre 29-30 with a 4.05 ERA. I don’t think he is in the team’s future plans. In fact I would suspect the best-case scenario for the Yankees is that Pineda pitches well enough to make an arbitration offer a no-brainer and the Yankees can then let him get his riches elsewhere while pocketing a draft pick. But, if there is any hope of the Yankees unlocking the vault for a contract extension, he needs to show them they can trust him in a big spot.

Tonight is one of those starts. The Yankees have a chance to win the series over Boston and send them away trailing by 3 in the division. Conversely, a loss puts the race at a game and gives Boston the series win. Which Mike will show up? Nobody knows, but throughout his career he holds a 4-5 record against Boston with a 4.73 ERA. The Yankees will face David Price, a guy they usually hit well (He’s 14-10 against them, but with a 4.55 ERA) so they should have some chances, but only if the “good” Pineda shows up.

It will be fascinating to watch and I am sure Brian Cashman and his team will take note of what they see. They have a big decision to make about Pineda in the next few months.

Conspiracy Theories

David Ortiz has come up with a doozy. According to Ortiz, the Yankees were behind the New York Times report that named him as one of the players who failed the 2003 PED test. According to Ortiz, this was because “The only thing that I can think of, to be honest with you, a lot of big guys from the Yankees were being caught. And no one from Boston.” This is breathtakingly stupid in a number of ways.

1- How did the Yankees leak the information? How could they have gotten it if no other club had it?

2- The New York Times owned a piece of the Red Sox when they published that. I don’t think they were interested in helping the Yankees.

3- The Mitchell Report was written by a director of the Red Sox and commissioned by an owner of the Brewers. If you want a conspiracy theory, maybe that’s why not a single Red Sox or Brewer was named in it?

Ortiz still hasn’t admitted to it or come up with the reason he failed the test, like he said he would years ago.

He is however probably right that the leak came from New York. After all, MLB’s offices are right on Park Avenue in midtown.

A Good Reminder

The Yankees hot start has been exciting to watch, but it has also opened up a dangerous possibility. Would the team look to add players at this year’s deadline in order to win a championship now? If the Yankees are still playing like this in two months, the pressure to do so will be enormous.

So I hope Brian Cashman has archived this series on his DVR. Houston looks very good, and boy can they hit, shredding three Yankee starters, including two who would be part of the playoff roatation.

That’s what I take away from the series, the Yankees don’t have the pitching to compete with the best teams. And with 3/5ths of the rotation already likely to be on the open market after the season, they need to stay away from the lure of short-term rentals to get it. This is a process that won’t be completed in 2017, but patience is always very, very hard for this team. Hopefully, this weekend shows them to just keep their heads down and work with what they have.

Dial it Down

Aaron Judge may be the best story in baseball right now. He has amazing power and he is showing it prolifically, but unfortunately people are getting stupid with their comparisoions and need to stop.

Judge isn’t Jeter or, and I can’t believe I have to say this, Mantle. Jeter was 22 when he broke in and Mantle was 19. Judge is 25. He could still improve, but 3,000 hits or 500 homers are very, very, unlikely so let’s set the expectations a bit lower.

Judge looks like he could be a very good player for the next decade and the best Yankee rightfielder since Dave Winfield. That would make him “better” than Paul O’Neill, which should be more than enough for Yankee fans. The immortal Yankees are safe, everyone else is in play. Let’s just enjoy it.