Here’s To Yogi-UPDATED

You could argue that the worst and best things George Steinbrenner ever did as owner of the Yankees involved Yogi Berra. There was the absurd firing of him as manager just sixteen games into the 1985 season. And there was the rarest of Steinbrenner actions, an apology, that brought Yogi back to the Yankee fold in 1999.

And thank goodness for that, because Yogi was a unique gem in the pantheon of Yankee stars. He was certainly a great player. Over 2,000 hits, basically catching every day, ten World Series rings, 15-straight All-Star games, and the Hall of Fame. It is a shame the Yankees didn’t think enough of Bill Dickey in 1947 to give Yogi a different number than 8. Because of that mistake, Yogi is the only Yankee who shares a retired number.

And then there were the Yogisms. Everyone has a personal favorite and while “It’s ain’t over ’till it’s over” may be the most famous, my favorite is “Nobody goes there anymore because it is too crowded”.

But unlike some other Yankee legends, Berra was as good off the field as he was on it. He served his country at D-Day. He was married almost 65 years and was genuinely loved by all he encountered.

In the next few days the Yankees will undoubtedly have a tribute to Yogi as they should, but I hope they make sure that they wait until some key people can make it to the Stadium. Ron Guidry, Yogi’s spring training chauffeur, has to be there. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada have to be there too. And, it would be great to see Diana Munson as well.

And it should be a celebration of a life well lived. Because in the end, Yogi lived to be 90 and died universally loved. That’s as good as it gets.

UPDATE Very cool tweet by MLB’s Lindsay Berra, granddaughter of Yogi. Sorry so many people didn’t seem to get it.

The Price Will Be High

David Price has been everything the Blue Jays could have hoped for and more. In ten starts, he has gone 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA. Against the Yankees he has gone 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA. He isn’t the only reason the Blue Jays look like the AL East champs, but he is a big one and as an impending free agent, he is going to cash in big time.

Compare him to Johnny Cueto, another ace traded mid-season this year. Cueto has gone 2-6 with a 5.12 ERA since joining the Royals. There is a legitimate argument to keep him off the postseason roster.

Here’s the amazing thing, there are probably five pitchers who are ace-caliber talents headed to the free agent market this fall. Besides the two above, Jordan Zimmerman, Zach Greinke, and Jeff Samardzija are free agents. Based on 2015, Greinke and Price will sign massive deals. Zimmerman should do very well, and Cueto and Samardzjia may have cost themselves millions.

And don’t forget all the bats. Heyward, Gordon, Cespedes, Upton, Davis…. We could easily see over 10 $100-million deals signed this winter and probably at least two $200-million ones. What a great time to be a baseball player.

Congrats, Now Go And Sweep The Blue Jays

The Yankees did a good job this weekend. They rebounded from a bad Friday and took two-of-three from one of the best teams in baseball. There are lots of things to feel good about, but the schedule simply doesn’t permit it. If the Yankees want to win the AL East, they have to sweep Toronto.

That wasn’t going to be easy, but it has gotten harder. With Tanaka hurt, the trio of Warren-Severino-Nova will start for the Yankees against the trio of Price-Estrada-Stroman- advantage Toronto. And, I think it would be hard to argue that the Yankees come close to the firepower that the Blue Jays’ lineup possesses.

Those are the facts, but it is also a fact that right now the Yankees have a chance to seize a huge opportunity. It won’t be easy, but winning never is.

Something’s Gotta Give

The news is that Masahiro Tanaka will skip his next start due to a hamstring strain suffered while RUNNING THE BASES on Friday night. It’s a huge blow, and the Yankees just have to hope that he can get back on the mound at some point in the next two weeks.

As you can tell, I am not at all happy about the way Tanaka got hurt, and I imagine that Yankee ownership is even less so. The idea of using guys you pay $20-plus million a year to do something you aren’t paying them for seems insane to me. Add in the fact that interleague is now almost a nightly occurrence and I think we will see the end of pitchers hitting in the next collective bargaining agreement.

I get it NL fans, that’s the way baseball is supposed to be played. Even if you are right, and I am not conceding you are, the risk of injury is too great. We saw Adam Wainwright, one of the best pitchers in baseball, tear his ACL while running the bases. The salaries have gotten to the point where it simply doesn’t make sense to keep doing this.

MLB has essentially gotten rid of all of the things that made the AL and NL distinct, from separate league offices to separate umpires. Only one thing remains, and I just don’t see it surviving.

Time To Take The 7 Train

When the 2015 schedule came out you knew that this upcoming series against the Mets would be a big deal, they always are. But, only the most optimistic New York baseball fan could expect the matchup to be this big.

For one thing, both teams are closing in on a playoff spot. The Mets have come out of nowhere to pass supplant the Nationals at the kings of the NL East. They have the hottest hitter on the planet right now- Yoenis Cespedes who has 17 homers in his 43 games with the team. They have the most vilified pitcher in the league right now, Matt Harvey. And they have a fan base that is hoping that the Mets  deal a huge blow to the Yankees’ playoff hopes.

And we have some great pitching matchups. Tonight we have Tanaka versus the latest rookie sensation in Queens- Steven Matz. Tomorrow we get Pineda versus their previous rookie sensation, Noah Syndergaard. And Sunday night we get CC Sabathia versus the anti-Sabathia, and former fan favorite, Matt Harvey.

It’s going to be an incredibly challenging weekend for the Yankees, and you just have to hope that Tanaka gets them off on the right foot.


Look West

A funny thing is happening in the AL West right now. Houston is collapsing and Texas is rising. Thanks to a win last night, the Rangers are now in first place by half a game. They play Houston twice more this week and then three more next week, so things could quickly change, but this has shaken up the wild card picture.

For one thing, Houston would now be the team coming to Yankee Stadium in a wild card game. The Yankees were 3-4 versus them this year, and 2-5 versus Texas. It’s worth noting that Houston is the worst road team in the AL this year at 29-44. So, this could be a good thing for the Yankees.

And, this creates the possibility of a tiebreaker game. If the AL West is tied, Houston and Texas would play a tiebreaker game before playing the wild card. That’s definitely a good thing.

18 games to go.

Quite A Win

Last night’s win contained so many unexpected events it is hard to remember all of them, but let’s try.

Start with Sabathia pitching like he used to. That was certainly unexpected. Then Ackley leading off the 9th with a hit, that wasn’t something you expected. Or Ellsbury following that up with a GIDP. Or Gardner getting a hit and stealing only his fourth base of the second half. Ok, you probably expected Alex to get that hit, but I guarantee you were not expecting Slade Heathcott to hit a three-run homer on the first pitch.

Baseball-Reference has an win probability matrix for each game as it goes along. At the start of the 9th inning, the Yankees had a 16% chance of winning. That jumped to 27% when Ackley got on base, but plunged to 3% when Ellsbury his into the DP. Gardner’s hit put it back up to 8%, but even A-Rod’s game-tying hit left them below 50% (47%)

Bu as Joe Torre used to say, “momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher”, and the Yankees are turning to their bullpen and Adam Warren to keep things going. Three weeks from today is the AL Wild Card game, 19 games to go.

Stopping The Bleeding

There has been a lot of debate recently over who the Yankees should start in a potential wild card game. Before Eovaldi got hurt, there was the idea that he might be the choice. Pineda and Severino have their supporters, but to me the answer is, and has always been, Tanaka.

Here’s my reasoning, Tanaka may not be the truly dominant pitcher the Yankees thought they were getting, but he is a very good pitcher and a very smart pitcher. He understands how to minimize the damage, even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. None of the other Yankee pitchers have figured that out, so Tanaka is the guy who gets the ball.

I mention this because the Yankees have a decision to make with Tanaka in terms of his usage the rest of the season. If he stays on schedule, he would pitch Friday against the Mets, Wednesday against the Jays, Monday against Boston, and then Saturday against the Orioles. He would then not be able to pitch again until October 8th, the first game of the ALDS.

That’s fine if you think the Yankees have a chance to win the AL East. The problem is that they probably don’t. As of this morning, Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds gave the Yankees a 5% chance of winning the AL East. It will go up after today’s win, but clearly the Yankees have a very small chance of doing it.

So what should they do with Tanaka? My suggestion would be to use Tanaka on normal rest right for the next rotation turn. You need to pitch him Friday in order to have the chance for him to pitch against Toronto next week. The Yankees can make the decision if they really want to do that as things progress. If they are close to Toronto in the standings they could start Tanaka in the last game of the series as long as he pitched on Friday. If you give him more rest this week, that chance goes away. And if they decide the AL East is unattainable, they can configure Tanaka’s starts to put him in line to pitch a wild card game very easily after he pitches Friday.

It all starts with Friday, so let’s see what they do.



Wild Card Time

With yesterday’s disaster, the Yankees are now closer to being out of the playoffs than winning the AL East. They still have a four-game lead for a wild card spot, but things are getting tighter and the next week doesn’t do them any favors schedule-wise.

While I will admit that Toronto is a better team right now, I was confused by Girardi’s decisions yesterday, two in particular. First, with 20 pitchers on the roster, why go with Mitchell in the 11th inning of an extra inning game? I understand why you use him before rosters expand, you need length. But in September you have the luxury of using lots of arms. Why not try a short reliever there? Why not use matchups to your advantage? It may not have worked either, but it would have made more sense.

And in the second game, how does A-Rod not play? And if you can’t start him for some reason, why isn’t he your pinch-hitter in the sixth inning with the tying runs on base? Granted Young has been good against lefties, but I’ll take Alex over him.

Just two decisions in a frustrating day.

Not A Good Day

While it is only the fourth inning, the Yankees are on their way to ending their chances to win the AL East this year. After a heartbreaking loss in the first game, the second game is a blowout- right now. Throw in last night’s humiliation, and the Yankees are very likely trying to avoid a sweep tomorrow afternoon.

I’ll break it all down tomorrow, but for now, ugh.