Catching up & prepping for Spring

My apologies for my delinquency in posting this off-season. Like many of us bloggers, I have another job that promoted me last fall, which meant that much of my extra time normally reserved for blogging and baseball vanished into paperwork and emails.

Tomorrow officially kicks off the 2020 Yankees baseball season. And in camp are pitchers Albert Abreu, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Aroldis Chapman, Gerrit Cole, Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Chad Green, J.A. Happ, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Michael King, Brooks Kriske, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Medina, Jordan Montgomery, Nick Nelson, Adam Ottavino, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and Miguel Yajure; catchers Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sanchez; infielders Miguel Andujar, Thairo Estrada, Mike Ford, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, and Tyler Wade; outfielders Estevan Florial, Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Tauchman.

Non-roster invitees include: pitchers Domingo Acevedo, Luis Avilan, Chad Bettis, David Hale, Tyler Lyons, Dan Otero, Clarke Schmidt, Nick Tropeano, Alexander Vizcaino, and Tony Zych; catchers Kellin Deglan, Chris Iannetta, Erik Kratz, Wynston Sawyer, and Josh Thole; infielders Chris Gittens and Kyle Holder; outfielders Trey Amburgey, Zack Granite, Rosell Herrera, and Thomas Milone.

And there’s a few new rules for the 2020 season. Among them include changes to the roster, pitching, and injured list length. First, the roster expands from 25-players to 26 during the regular season, but reduces to just 28 for the September call-ups rather than 40 from previous years. Plus, only half of the roster can be composed of pitchers for both scenarios. Pitchers must face at least 3 batters, except in the case of injury, effectively eliminating the “specialist reliever” who was brought in for a single tough batter. Being on the injured list returns to 15-days from last season’s 10-day length. This does allow for longer periods of healing and won’t push teams to force shortened recovery times just to get a player back sooner, and anything that helps increase player health is a good rule in my book.

But as we prepare for another season, there’s a bit of catching up to do in other areas. While there weren’t many major deals made this off-season, the Yankees had some minor splashes. We said farewell to a few Yankee favorites like Didi Gregorius (Phillies), Dellin Betances (Mets), and Austin Romine (Tigers) and breathed a sigh of relief when they re-signed Brett Gardner for another year. But that still left room for a new starter in Gerritt Cole, who arrived at camp earlier this month and got a standing ovation by fans during an open practice.

Cole was originally signed with the Pirates in 2011, moving up through that organization and into the big leagues in 2013. The Pirates traded him to the Astros in 2018 for a handful of prospects. Cole was part of the Astros’ championship runs in 2018 and 2019 (more later) before signing with the Yankees in December as a free agent. His best year as a pitcher was last year, which made him a hot commodity on the free agent market this off-season, and the Yankees have desperately needed starters for about as long as I’ve been blogging about them.

Now with Sabathia in retirement, some strong veteran presence on the mound is necessary, and the Yankees think Cole could be the answer, adding to the roster with Happ and Tanaka, among others. Jordan Montgomery is back in camp this year, hoping to re-earn his spot on the rotation after Tommy John surgery, and it looks like Luis Severino might be dealing with some yet-to-be diagnosed arm soreness. In addition to Montgomery, this could open a spot for Cessa and Loaisiga or potential prospects King and Garcia.

Pitcher James Paxton is going to be out of commission for a few months. Earlier this month, he underwent spinal surgery to remove a small cyst. He has been battling some lower back pain for quite some time, so doctors finally made the decision that surgery was the best option for both pain relief and long-term care. He will be out 3-4 months for recovery. So, no Spring for “Big Maple”, but he might be back in time for the Summer Classic.

Last month, at the BBWAA dinner, DJ LeMahieu was awarded as New York’s Player of the Year, an honor from the writers’ association’s local chapter to the player they believe has had the most impact on baseball in the City.

CC Sabathia was named a Special Adviser to the Yankees, a position held by his former teammates like Swisher, Rodriguez, Beltran, and Pettitte. This keeps Sabathia in the New York area, where he is currently raising his family.

Former Yankee legend (and current Marlins owner) Derek Jeter was almost unanimously elected to Cooperstown, missing that coveted honor by a single vote. He will join his former teammate Mariano Rivera in the Hall of Fame during his induction ceremony this coming summer.

However, the big story this off-season hasn’t been any particular trade or signing, but rather on the scandal of the Astros’ postseason cheating to win their championships in 2017 and 2018. Basically, after some investigation by MLB, they determined that the Astros used cameras, buzzers worn under jerseys, and banging on a trash can in the dugout (so both high and low-tech) to communicate stolen signs from opposing pitchers to their batters to win. While the only official consequences are firing their former coaches, team fine, and a stern lecture in the form of a letter from the Commissioner, the backlash from the media, the other players, and the fans has been, well, overwhelming.

It’s all most people can talk about in regards to baseball, including Yankees’ players like Judge, Torres, and Tanaka. And in all the mess, some star players were mentioned as holding key roles in the scandal, including Mets’ recent hire for their manager, former Yankee and Astro Carlos Beltran. However, people who know him best, like Yankees manager Brian Cashman, question the accusations. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe the worst of people you know and like, but sometimes, innocent people get caught up in the drama.

That’s the tough part about these kinds of things — because of how it was handled from its start to today, it’s a big mess, and that mess is going to get on people who were in the vicinity but had no part in it. But when dealing with a team issue, it’s kind of hard not to fault the entire team, much like the “Black Sox” scandal from the early days of baseball. Almost everyone on that team got dragged through that mud, and they still aren’t cleared or forgiven.

Further, those who both admitted and were accused of steroid use, even during the so-called “Steroid Era” are forever marked with an invisible asterisk by their name. Their accomplishments, once touted as greatness, are permanently marred by suspicion and tinged with the shame of “cheating”. There’s a reason many from that era have trouble getting into Cooperstown, even today.

And it’s not like other teams haven’t been doing something similar in recent years. In 2017, both the Yankees and Red Sox were accused of cheating via technology — the Yankees via their TV cameras and the review room and the Red Sox with their Apple watches. MLB investigated and warned the entire league of potential consequences for their choice to participate in such activities, as it clearly was just the tip of the iceberg as far as what they were doing. And yet, things still persisted. Call it arrogance or stupidity (or both, according to my friend) — but the Astros developed (and/or continued) a system and kept cheating even after they were warned.

Whatever happened during these last few years within the organization, people everywhere will question the players and coaches’ reputations for the rest of their careers. It will never go away. When it comes time for some of those championship Astro players to be considered for the Hall of Fame, I certainly won’t be surprised if the writers opt to exclude them. It’s hard to be considered great if there’s always going to be that asterisk by your name, whether it’s officially there or not.

Go Yankees!

Game 51: HOU vs. NYY — Gardy Party brings win in 10th, despite 5 errors

No one can say tonight’s game was anything close to cleanly played. Not with 5 errors on the scoreboard. The defense certainly needs some work, some basic throwing and catching and fielding routine grounders.

And yet, despite that mess, the Yankees kept the game tight enough to find a win in extra innings. CC Sabathia started this middle game of the mid-week series against the visiting Astros, threw 99 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs (3 earned, thanks to a few of those errors), and struck out 4 Houston batters.

A lead-off solo homer in the 2nd got the Astros on the board. In the 4th, with 1 out, Sabathia gave up a walk and single that both scored on a big double. And in the sloppy 5th, the lead-off batter made it safely on a messy throwing error, advanced all the way to 3rd on a single that was further complicated by another throwing error, and then scored on a single. A sacrifice fly scored on more run for the Astros.

Then Jonathan Holder came on in relief of Sabathia for 2 innings, and set a pattern the rest of the bullpen would keep for the rest of the game, keeping the Astros from adding to their score and lead. Robertson and Betances continued that momentum through their innings in the 8th and 9th, respectively.

And because this was that kind of game, the Astros’ pitching staff pretty much matched the Yankees’ in many ways. The Astros’ starter gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 3 runs in his time on the mound (6 innings). And most of their bullpen helped keep the Yankees from any potential hope, despite the close game and all their defensive errors.

I once heard someone say that the way Brett Gardner goes, so goes the Yankees. So we should have known something was up when Gardner led off the 1st inning with a big 2nd pitch solo home run. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Miguel Andujar doubled, moved to 3rd on a passed ball, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ single. Then the Yankees loaded up the bases with Gardner’s single and Judge’s walk, but left them stranded. Aaron Judge later kept the game tight with a 1st pitch solo home run to the right field seats to lead-off the 5th inning.

Again, a rather tight game ensued, which is really what surprised me with all the sloppy fielding. So into the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees found their next opportunity. Andujar led-off by working a walk, and then 1 out later, Brett Gardner hit 2-run home run just over the right field wall to tie up the game. And the remaining fans of the sold-out game went crazy. (This is the reason you stay until the last out, people!) Judge followed that with a solid double and moved to 3rd on Stanton’s 2-out single, but Sanchez’s big swinging strikeout sent them into the 10th inning.

Aroldis Chapman came on for the top of the 10th and held the Astros scoreless. With 2 outs, he gave up a walk that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch. But then on another wild pitch, catcher Gary Sanchez played the ball off the back wall and fired it down to a waiting Andujar at 3rd to tag out the runner there.

So the Yankees got their 2nd chance (or rather 10th, I guess) to find the winning run in the bottom of the inning. But with 2 fairly quick outs, things were looking grim. And then Miguel Andujar hit a solid double into the left field corner. It would be down to Gleyber Torres. He worked through the at-bat and somehow found a solid enough single to score the speedy Andujar with time to spare for a great walk-off win.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, in 10 innings

If tonight is any indication, you can understand why the young rookie Gleyber Torres was named the AL Player of the Week. Last week, Torres hit 5 home runs and 9 RBIs and maintained an average of .368 in those 6 games. And he’s certainly making a case for being considered such on a regular basis.

And the annual amateur draft is coming up June 4-6. It’s where we first heard first-round names like Thurman Munson (1968), Derek Jeter (1992), and Aaron Judge (2013). Who knows who the Yankees will choose this year. And every year, the Yankees send representatives to make the announcements of their choices. This year, the Yankees will be represented by former Yankees outfielder and current special assistant to the GM Nick Swisher and Yankees Manager of International Operations Victor Roldan.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 16: NYY vs. MIA — Mixed results on the opposite coast

An interesting mix of 7,648 Yankee, Marlin, and Jeter fans showed up for this afternoon’s match-up between the two team in Jupiter, Florida (about 3 hours southeast of Tampa, just north of West Palm Beach). The team actually traveled south following yesterday’s game, so former Yankee Starlin Castro (and current Marlins 2nd baseman) took some of his former teammates out to dinner (including Sanchez, Torres, and Florial) to catch up. In other words, it was a powerful Yankee (and post-Yankee) presence, but that didn’t stop the Yankees from faltering at first.

Recently named the official 5th starter, Jordan Montgomery certainly had a less than ideal start today. In the 2nd, he gave up a 1-out walk and a 2-out single before they both scored on a double. And in the 3rd, with 1 out, he gave up another walk and single. Things just weren’t looking up for him today. So the Yankees turned to reliever Brady Lail, who promptly gave up a 3-run home run to add to the Marlins’ early lead. Lail, however, had better luck with a scoreless 4th inning.

He handed the game over in the 5th to Wade LeBlanc, who’s had mixed results this Spring and once again today. After 2 outs, he gave up a double and a 2-run home run to further the Marlins’ lead. But LeBlanc had a perfect 6th inning to bounce back and set the tone for the rest of the pitchers. Carroll and Harvey each had a scoreless inning to close out the game for the Yankees. Yankee pitchers racked up 11 total strikeouts, but it was those 11 allowed hits and 4 walks that became the determining factor.

But it wasn’t like the Yankees didn’t make an effort. The had their first real opportunity in the 4th, with consecutive singles by Bird and Sanchez and a passed ball that put them in scoring position. Didi Gregorius’ ground out scored Bird and moved Sanchez to 3rd. Sanchez then scored on Miguel Andujar’s sacrifice fly.

In the 6th, with 1 out, Sanchez made it safely to 1st on a fielding error and was replaced by Higashioka. Not that a speedier runner was necessary as Didi Gregorius decided to rack up more RBIs this Spring with a big 2-run home run over the center field fence. Andujar’s beautiful triple went wasted with 2 quick outs to quell the Yankees’ attempts to chip away at the Marlins’ lead. Aaron Judge made one more effort in the 7th with a huge 2-out solo home run. It went so far over the left field fence that it landed on the balcony of the Marlins’ executive offices.

Final score: 7-5 Marlins

Next up: the Yankees host the Twins for an evening matchup in Tampa. Tanaka is scheduled to face off a former Yankee pitcher, and Tanaka really needs a better start than last time.

Someone pointed out that former Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton was oddly absent from this key game. Comparing it to Jeter’s obvious presence before the game and during the game from the owner’s suite. I didn’t really think either instance was that odd. First, it’s pretty common that the bigger stars or veterans often skip the longer bus trips. Like you might see Sabathia and Gardner on the 30-minute trip to Clearwater (Phillies) or Dunedin (Blue Jays) or Lakeland (Tigers) or even the hour trip to Bradenton (Pirates) or Sarasota (Orioles). But very rarely will they make the longer trips. It’s part of the perk of their status on the team not to have to sit through an uncomfortable bus ride (yes, even those super luxury buses aren’t really comfortable for hours on end).

And to point out the obvious, Jeter is part of the ownership group that runs things down in Miami (or Jupiter for the Spring) and runs the baseball operations part of things. So why would he not be at the home games to watch how the team he invested a ton of money in is doing? You don’t have to look very hard during Yankees’ Spring Training to see one of the Yankees’ owners (often Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal in the owners’ box by the dugout). I suppose people are just getting used to the fact that a former player they used to cheer has moved from pinstripes on the field to a black short-sleeved shirt and pants in a cushy suite chair. Add in that it’s a whole different team, and the feelings get messed with on a different level.

In baseball, you get used to seeing players come and go thanks to trades, free agency, big signings, retirements, and rookie promotions. I mentioned to a friend at the game yesterday that there were players on the Mets that I liked as humans (and I think I could say that about every team), but until they wore pinstripes, they will just be a good guy in the wrong uniform.

It’s why I’ll remain with this simple tagline…

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no broadcast, no video highlights. Sorry!}

World Series 2: HOU vs. LAD — Extra inning craziness

What do you get when you start with former Dodgers’ broadcaster and legend Vin Scully, major awards, an ace pitcher, 2 power-hitting teams, a nearly unstoppable bullpen, 8 home runs (5 of them in extra innings), extra innings, and 93° at first pitch? A “crazy, kooky, cuckoo dream“, as one sportswriter dubbed it.

Yes, the Vin Scully came out on the field before the game to supposedly throw out the first pitch, but as he rambled on in his familiar entertaining manner, he revealed that he would have help from former Dodgers, catcher Steve Yeager and pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, both part of 1981 championship team before together the three of them sent the game off with his famous opening: “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” A real treat for long-time Dodger fans (and long-time baseball fans in general).

And then, yes, there was a game. And it wasn’t really anything typical. Or for that matter, quick (compared to last night’s speedy conclusion) — clocking in at 4 hours and 19 minutes. To be fair, I did question whether the Dodgers were going to be able to break through the Astros’ starter Verlander tonight, the same pitcher that stymied the Yankees in the ALCS. And he was good again, throwing 79 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 2 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out 5 batters. Comparatively, his counterpart Hill was less dominant, but still had a pretty good outcome — 60 pitches in 4 innings, 3 hits, 3 walks, a run, and 7 strikeouts.

The Astros got on the board first in the 3rd inning by playing a little small ball. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, ended up at 3rd on a single, and then scored on another single. The Dodgers answered back in the 5th with a 2-out solo home run to tie up the game and also break up Verlander’s running no-hitter (what a way to break up a no hitter!). The Dodgers came back in the 6th and added to their score with a 2-out walk that scored as part of a 2-run home run.

So it would be down to the bullpen to make the difference. And the Dodgers’ bullpen was running on 27 straight innings (going into this game) with absolutely no runs allowed. Basically, the way we in Yankee Universe talked about the strength of the Yankees’ bullpen, they were doing the same with the Dodgers’ bullpen. And that was totally working for them. Until the 8th inning. A lead-off ground-rule double by the Astros’ forced the Dodgers to call in their closer early for a 6-out save, but instead he allowed the runner to score on a 1-out single (breaking the aforementioned scoreless streak). And then a lead-off solo home run right up the middle tied up the game in the 9th inning. With Dodgers’ fans everywhere screaming, “You just needed 3 outs!”

And without a Dodgers’ walk-off something in the bottom of the 9th inning, the game went into extra innings. And it became a home run palooza as neither bullpen could really hold it together. Consecutive home runs led off the top of the 10th inning to push the Astros ahead. With another runner on base with a double, the Astros shut down that rally quickly with a new reliever, a fly out, an intentional walk, and a double play. The Dodgers answered back in the bottom with their own lead-off home run (all 3 this inning hit into the same area of the left field bleachers). Two outs later, a batter worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, and then went flying (impressive for this player) around the bases to scored on a shallow single to tie up the game again.

Another new reliever got the final out to send Game 2 into the 11th inning. The Astros got a lead-off single that promptly stole 2nd base (free tacos for everyone!) and then scored when the next batter hit a 2-run home run (to the right field seats, so they didn’t feel left out of the fun). So the Dodgers focused in on their final chance to push for a 12th or walk-off, but the Astros finally found a pitcher that worked for them — and still gave up a 2-out solo home run.

Final score: 7-6 Astros, in 11 innings, series split 1-1

The Series heads to Houston for the weekend, with Game 3 starting Friday night. And really, the bottom line really did come down to pitching, a hypothetical conversation I had earlier today. Dodgers’ pitchers gave up 14 total hits and 5 walks, striking out 8 Astros’ batters. While the Astros’ pitching staff gave up just 5 hits and 3 walks, striking out 11 Dodgers’ batters. The reality is that the Astros, led by Verlander, threw a better game tonight, and they won their battle. But huge props to the Dodgers for not letting pesky things like stats deter them from making a win really hard for their opponents.

And before tonight’s game, MLB announced its winners of the Hank Aaron Award, to recognize the league’s top hitters in both leagues. This season, the award was presented to the Astros’ Jose Altuve and the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton. Altuve has been quite the force for the Astros (both as a hitter and an infielder), and Stanton, who also won the award in 2014, made a run for Maris’ home run record this year, falling just short at 59 home runs (though it was certainly a career high and franchise record). In other words, both awards are well-deserved. Both young players were on hand to receive their awards from the award’s namesake legendary hitter Hank Aaron and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

Yankees trivia tie-in: Derek Jeter won the award in 2006 and 2009, and Alex Rodriguez currently holds the record for the most, winning it with the Yankees in 2007 after also being awarded while he was with the Rangers in 2001, 2002, and 2003.

And in Yankee news, there will be a nice representation of young Yankees in the Arizona Fall League, a few you might remember from Spring Training appearances like Billy McKinney, Kyle Holder, and Justus Sheffield. They will join other young Yankees Thairo Estrada, Estevan Florial, Albert Abreu, Cody Carroll, and Andrew Schwaab to fine-tune their skills in hopes to make it to the show one day soon.

Go Yankees!

Games 34 & 35: HOU vs. NYY — Let’s Play 2! Mother’s Day in the Bronx, pink caps and all

I come from a long line of baseball fans. Amazingly, not everyone is a Yankees fan! Some root for the Braves or the Dodgers or the Cubs or even (brace yourself…) for the Red Sox. My dad just loved the game, no matter what team was playing, but the women in my family chose their teams and fiercely stuck by them for decades, no matter the standings. My mother was an ardent Indians fan, collecting the newest hats and t-shirts and sending them to her family. Both my grandmothers were lifelong Pirates fans who loved listening to games on the radio, discussing stats and batting averages with me, even when I was a little girl.

Growing up with brothers, I was told sports were not for girls, but my mom and my grandmothers taught me that was nonsense. I owe a great deal to the women in my family who loved this great game of baseball and passed that on to me and to my daughter.

On this Mother’s Day, as I prepared to watch a Yankees-Astros doubleheader, I was reminded that much of the joy and zeal I have for baseball is because of these amazing women who I am so grateful to call my family and to honor them on Mother’s Day. Much of what they loved about the game (integrity, persistence, teamwork, hope, and character) applies to so much in life. And for that lesson, I am also grateful.

Mother’s Day in the Bronx this year was packed with events, some planned, some not so much. After yesterday’s rainout, fans today were pleasantly surprised to attend a single-admission doubleheader, complete with a much publicized ceremony honoring a former Yankee. Oh, and there was pink (the color, not the singer). Lots and lots of pink, but all for a good cause! The fans may have been decked out in their NYY blue and white fan gear, but the players on the field sported pink shoes or pink uniforms or pink caps. In fact, stadiums across Major League Baseball today were awash in pink this Mother’s Day to encourage awareness for women’s health issues for the annual fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Stand Up 2 Cancer.

Game 1
The first game in the Bronx this afternoon (the 3rd game in this weekend series) did not disappoint the (officially) sold-out crowd despite the bleak start. Facing the Houston Astros, Luis Severino started for the first game but struggled throughout his short time on the mound today, throwing 76 pitches into just the 3rd inning, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs and striking out just 2 batters. In the 3rd inning, the lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a single, then to 3rd on a ground out, and scored on a single. Two more singles scored 2 more runs. Then with the bases loaded, Chad Green stepped in for the bulk of the game only to keep the Astros from adding to their lead.

In the 7th inning, new pitcher Adam Warren take his turn for a couple of innings, but had his own issues. With 1 out and runners on the corners, Warren had trouble getting out of the inning. A single scored one run, a failed force attempt and throwing error scored another, and a sacrifice fly scored the final run for the Astros in Game 1. Warren had a cleaner 8th inning, but Jonathan Holder pitched a strong ninth inning, keeping the Astros scoreless and hitless that inning.

The Yankees were the first to score in the 1st inning. Brett Gardner led off with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Matt Holliday’s ground out. Then down by 2 runs going into the bottom of the 4th, Holliday led-off with a walk. Starlin Castro then hit a nice 2-run home run, only to be followed by a big home run to center by Aaron Judge. And the Yankees were back in the lead.

But after losing the lead at the top of the 7th, the Bombers battled back in the bottom of the inning. With 2 men on base and just 1 out, Holliday’s single scored Gardner and moved Ellsbury to third base. Facing a new pitcher, Castro doubled, scoring Ellsbury and moving Holliday to third, and Judge was intentionally walked to load the bases. Chase Headley promptly tripled on a line drive to right field, clearing the bases and scoring Holliday, Castro, and Judge. Chris Carter took the batter’s box and doubled to left field, as Headley scored the 6th run of the inning. The Yankees had a strong lead. Brett Gardner added his own home run to right center field to lead-off the bottom of the 8th in what would be the final run for the Yankees.

Game 1 final score: 11-6 Yankees

After a ceremony to retire his jersey number (more on that later), Derek Jeter, the former Yankee shortstop, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Standing in front of the mound, he lobbed the ball over the plate (no one ever hired him as a pitcher) as fans cheered for him one last final time.

Game 2:
Despite the earlier win and some strong bats, the New York pitchers had a surprisingly weak outing for this second game of the doubleheader. Masahiro Tanaka struggled from the start, giving up 7 total hits, 8 runs, including 4 home runs, only pitching into the 2nd inning. His first two batter hit consecutive solo home runs, within the first 9 pitches of the game. Then, with 2 outs and the bases loaded, the next batter his a grand slam to give the Astros a fairly hefty lead in the 1st inning. Another lead-off solo home run began the 2nd inning. Then with 2 outs, a former Yankee hit a RBI double to score yet another Astros run that would spell the end of the Tanaka’s brief outing tonight.

Giovanni Gallegos took over on the mound from Tanaka and had a decent outing, save a few problems in the 4th. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a catcher’s interference and to 3rd on a fly out before scoring on a sacrifice fly. Relievers Shreve and Layne combined to allow no further runs. Dellin Betances’ came on in the 9th inning for the final out, but he had a momentary blip. With 2 outs, Betances gave up 2 singles to put runners on the corners before a passed ball scored the final Astros run.

The Yankees offense were held scoreless for the first 4 innings. So, in the bottom of the 5th and down by 9 run, the pinstriped bats woke up to get on the board. With 1 out, Chris Carter worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. Sanchez’s line drive single into center field added another baserunner before Matt Holliday smacked a big 3-run home run to right center field.

Still down in the 9th, New York showed their Bronx persistence in their attempt to win. Torreyes singled and then moved to 3rd on a double by Sanchez. With Castro at bat, a wild pitch at the plate allowed Torreyes to score and moved Sanchez to 3rd. Fans in the stands were cheering wildly with hope for this late game rally. Starlin Castro singled to center and scored Sanchez, and then Aaron Judge hit a line drive to left field and scored Castro. With Judge on third thanks to a bad fielding error, Gregorius worked a walk. But despite all the persistence, even with two men on base, a ground out then ended the rally and the game.

Game 2 final score: 10-7 Astros, Astros win series 3-1.

Roster updates: Aroldis Chapman was placed on a 10-day DL, retroactive to yesterday, May 13, due an inflamed rotator cuff. The Yankees recalled Chad Green and Rob Refsnyder from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Refsnyder was then sent back to after the second game of the doubleheader today, as he was considered the “26th man” for the day.

Records are made to broken! Aaron Judge continues to amaze his fans and coaches. As of today, he has 14 league-leading home runs. Gotta feel like he’s just getting started! Yet, on this Mother’s Day, he give a lot of credit to his mom for where he is today. And the Yankees also recorded a special video thanking their moms (and a few wives) for the special roles they played in their lives to this day.

In between the two games of this doubleheader, the New York Yankees held a ceremony to officially retire Derek Jeter’s jersey number, #2. Accompanied by his family, including his grandmother who first introduced him to Yankees baseball, Jeter accepted a plaque to be displayed in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. Several former teammates, coaches, and friends, including the Steinbrenner family, were present for the honors. Fans held homemade signs and cheered as the former shortstop once again waved goodbye to the crowd, reminiscent of the Captain’s final game at Yankee Stadium in 2014.

{Media note: watch the full 40 minute pre-game ceremony here.}

This is the end of a chapter in Yankee baseball. It’s a fresh, new era. This 2017 team has potential to far surpass anything we have seen in pinstripes in a very long time.  It’s time for the new players to show what they can do as part of their team. To live their dream of playing baseball for New York Yankees. And may they all be able to join Joltin’ Joe and say, “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.”

And on that note of being thankful, on this Mother’s Day,  I would also like to honor all the moms of baseball represented by many of the players we see on the ball field. The moms who faithfully watched countless games of T-Ball and Little League and college baseball. The moms who racked up miles on their car driving to games. The moms who sat in rickety stands in little towns everywhere, faithfully cheering their young one at every at-bat, no matter the outcome. The moms who were there for both the discouraging times and for the victorious times. The moms who encouraged their children to be people of integrity and courage. The moms who taught the importance of being part of a team, to be there for each other, to work hard, to dream, to hope, to be persistent, and to never give up. And for the moms that taught that character really does count. That character counts on and off the field, win or lose. We, the fans of baseball, thank you, Baseball Moms, for all you did so we can have for the joy of watching such fine young men (and women) as they play the game they love.

Go Yankees!

Game 30: NYY vs. CIN — The unstoppable Yankees

Okay, so the Yankees are currently on quite the win streak (currently at 6). So much so that the Yankees are currently the best team in MLB. To be fair, it’s a bit tenuous because several teams are right behind them. But for now, it’s all Yankee at the top of the list. And I’m going to take it for as long as that’s true.

Masahiro Tanaka flew to Cincinnati before the Yankees even entered into extra innings at last night’s marathon game in Chicago. So, tonight’s starter was well-rested and ready to go. He may be the only one that’s well-rested, but the whole team was ready to go. Tanaka threw 112 pitches in his 7 innings, getting hit hard by the Reds, who are just a 1/2 game behind in the NL Central. He gave up 10 hits, a walk, and 4 runs (3 earned), and struck out just 6 batters.

In the 1st, Tanaka gave up 3 consecutive singles that scored the Reds’ first run. With 2 outs and a runner at 1st in the 5th, a batter reached 1st on a fielding error that put runners on the corners. A single scored the lead runner (the unearned run). And in the 7th, with 2 outs and a runner on base with a walk, Tanaka gave up a big 2-run home run to double the Reds’ score.

Then it was up to Clippard and Layne to breeze through the roster in the 8th and 9th innings. Clippard, still fresh from last night’s outing, and Layne, unused and ready to join the fray. Both continued to prove just how good the Yankees’ bullpen can be, and part of the reason they’re in 1st place and on a great winning streak.

The Yankees meanwhile dinged into the Reds’ pitching staff, going through them like hotcakes. The Reds used 6 pitchers in tonight’s game, as their starter didn’t make it out of the 5th inning. In the 1st, Gardner led-off the game by reaching on a missed catch error. Then Hicks singled and Ellsbury worked a 1-out walk to load up the bases. Gary Sanchez’s single scored Gardner and Hicks, and Gregorius’ single scored Ellsbury.

Then in the 2nd, Torreyes led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 2-out single. With the bases loaded with consecutive singles in the 5th, Gregorius’ sacrifice fly scored just 1 of the runners.

Things got dangerous in the 7th. Hicks was hit by a pitch and Holliday worked a walk. Then an out later, Sanchez was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Another out, and the reliever hit Chase Headley to score Hicks and load the bases again. It’s a wonder none of these guys were hurt more than a few bruises. Ronald Torreyes singled home Holliday before Sanchez was thrown out trying to make it home as well.

In the 8th, pinch-hitting Castro got on base with a single and then scored as part of Brett Gardner’s monster 2-run home run. One out later, Matt Holliday joined the fun with a solo home run to tack on one more run for the Yankees tonight. Despite the bases loaded a bit later in the inning, they weren’t able to get another run across the plate.

Final score: 10-4 Yankees.

The Yankees are gearing up for Derek Jeter Day, coming this Sunday in the Bronx. They will retire his number in Monument Park before the game against the Astros. It’s also Mother’s Day, so expect a lot of pink touches everywhere that night. In preparation for Sunday’s special pre-game ceremony, the Yankees are relying on recent nostalgia to gear up the hype, remembering Jeter’s famous plays (“The Dive”, “The Flip”, “DJ3K”, and more).

After Sunday, it will be like the final door to the past is closed and the Yankees can move forward and focus on that elusive #28, with which each win is looking more and more possible this year. It’s amazing to think of this new generation of legends and greatness. Not to compare them to any previous legends, but to allow them the freedom to create their own paths in their own way. Who cares about the “next Jeter” or “new Mariano”! Let’s have the “Judge Bombs” and the “El Gary” and “Bird Power” and everyone else carving their own piece of this cake.

Go Yankees!

All the latest updates, farewells, outreaches, and honors… it’s been a busy 5 weeks!

Between the Cubs’ victory parade, postseason awards, Thanksgiving, Winter Meetings, and now the approaching week filled with Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year, the Yankees have been everything but quiet and stagnant. Some years, Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman’s job seems to just sit back and watch other teams do the postseason dance that is somewhere between an elegant waltz and a fire-sale at times. But not this year.

Cashman has been busy, even making some pretty big moves. First, in the middle of last month, he traded catcher Brian McCann (and cash considerations) to the Astros for a pair of young pitchers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. Sorry, McCann fans, but McCann wasn’t exactly ready to be a once-a-week player with Gary Sanchez taking a much larger (and well-deserved role). This was a good move for everybody.

Earlier this week, as part of the Winter Meetings (hosted at the beautiful Gaylord Resort, just south of D.C.), Cashman also made a play for two big players. First, he signed Matt Holliday, a veteran outfielder who is slated to primarily fill the position previously occupied by Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran (outfielder/designated hitter). Holliday, a 7-time All-Star, began his career with the Rockies, spending 5 seasons there and making a name for himself, before finding a nice home with the Cardinals for the last 7 1/2 seasons, being a crucial part of their 2011 World Series championship. Holliday seems very excited to be playing in New York, which isn’t really surprising as he wore #7 in St. Louis for Mickey Mantle. You know, David Ortiz said once last season that there are two kinds of players — those who were born to play with the Yankees and those born to play against them (Ortiz being the latter).

Another big pick-up was the deal made when the Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman to a 5-year, $86 million deal. Yes, Chapman fans, two of the Warriors Three will be back in the Bronx for the foreseeable future. This time, with Chapman’s shiny World Series ring glaring and pushing the Yankees to give him another one. A physical exam is still pending the finality of this contract, but things look good for the closer to return to Yankee pinstripes for the next five seasons.

Cashman’s focus was clearly on building up the bullpen as most of the roster moves these last 5 weeks. So try to keep up: Branden Pinder was originally designated for assignment early in November, but then was outrighted to AAA Scranton, so we’ll be seeing Pinder again; Joe Mantiply (after being claimed off waivers from the Tigers), Nick Rumbelow, and Nathan Eovaldi were designated for assignment and then released all three of them just before Thanksgiving; James Pazos was traded to the Mariners for reliever Zack Littell; Dustin Ackley was released; Jacob Lindgren elected free agency; and the Yankees then filled a bunch of holes on their roster with minor leaguers Jorge Mateo and Yefrey Ramirez (from the Single-A Tampa Yankees), Ronald Herrera and Miguel Andujar (from AA Trenton),  and Dietrich Enns and Giovanny Gallegos (from AAA Scranton).

But it didn’t stop there. In coordination with the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees moved some minor leaguers around and said some goodbyes. The Brewers claimed reliever Caleb Smith, the Red catcher Luis Torrens, reliever Tyler Jones went to Arizona, and the Pirates got reliever Tyler Webb. The Yankees themselves picked up a few minor leaguers, catcher Jorge Saez (Blue Jays) and reliever Colten Brewer (Pirates).

All the postseason awards have been doled out, and the Yankees got… two. And nothing went to our Rookie of the Year, Gary Sanchez. No, the big Yankee winner this postseason was Brett Gardner, who took home both the Gold Glove and Defensive Player of the Year for doing the outstanding job we’re used to seeing out there in left field.

However, there are a few alumni honors come next month. BBWAA vote for the Class of 2017, with any new inductees to be announced next month. Several former Yankees grace the ballot this year, none more so than Jorge Posada (the first of the Core Four to reach such an honor). However, the chances everyone seems to hold for Posada (and the few other Yankees alums) seem rather slim, especially as the voters seem to be rather stringent in their voting, less nostalgic as your average baseball fan and more strategic in their selection parameters.

Also selected for Hall of Fame honors this year are current Braves’ president John Schuerholz and former MLB commissioner Bud Selig, both elected by the Today’s Game Committee. Other familiar faces on this ballot, who failed to make the cut this year, include former manager and player Lou Pinella, former players Albert Belle, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire, and former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Debates as to which of these deserve to be in Cooperstown rage on.

Two other awards honored journalists for outstanding writing and broadcasting — the late Bill King, known for his coverage of San Francisco sports, distinctive facial hair, and his catchphrase “Holy Toledo!”, and veteran journalist Claire Smith, who became the first woman to receive the honor. Neither will be officially in the Hall of Fame, but will be part of a permanent exhibit to honor such journalist excellence and contribution to the game. I mean, without them, our knowledge of the game would not be what it is today, even with direct information like social media. It would certainly make my job a lot harder!

And speaking of Yankee alumni, the Yankees announced that they will be officially retiring the number 2 in honor of Derek Jeter on before the game on Sunday, May 14. Rather fitting really, with the extensive knowledge of how close Jeter is with his family, Jeter’s long-sacred number will become the 22nd one the Yankees send to Monument Park, and with that move, all the single digits (save a zero) are officially removed from jersey circulation. Single game tickets are not directly available yet (though they feature prominently on the secondary online marketplaces), though season tickets and multi-game ticket packages are available.

This week, in Tampa, the Yankees foundation hosted their holiday celebration, led by Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal with special guests Alex Rodriguez, Tino Martinez, and Nick & Joanna Swisher. Hundreds of local children were treated to the Yankees 28th Annual Holiday Concert, complete with gifts and carol singing, in preparation for the holidays. The Yankees also hosted other local community outreaches in New York for the holidays including a Thanksgiving food drive and giving back to the children and families of the Bronx with a great goodie bag full of both basic necessities and special gifts.

Looking ahead, many players have already committed to playing for various teams around the world in the World Baseball Classic this March. The Yankees only current representative is Dellin Betances, who agreed to play for the reigning champions, the Dominican Republic, alongside former teammate Cano. Other former Yankees who will play in the WBC include Martin for Canada and Beltran for Puerto Rico. Betances, who was also recently married, will be an outstanding contribution to any team. Also, a big congratulations to Dellin and Janisa Betances!

As far as everything else, there’s still 63 days until Pitchers and Catchers report for Spring Training. So there’s a lot of time left for the Yankees to do something else, despite reports that they’re pretty much done with big moves this off-season. That statement, however, doesn’t preclude any minor “tweaking”, and you must know by now they love their “tweaking”. Enjoy your holiday season!

Go Yankees!

Game 87: NYY vs. CLE — Yankee perseverance pays off

As Yankee legend Babe Ruth once said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Very fitting words for tonight’s game between the Yankees and the Indians before a crowd of 32,951 on the shores of Lake Erie. Like two thoroughbreds in a match race, the Bombers and the Tribe tenaciously refused to give up, running neck-and-neck though 11 innings until one team finally found an extra gear and won in the final stretch.

Back in the land he started his professional career, CC Sabathia started for the Yankees, pitching 5 2/3 innings, giving up 7 hits and 5 runs. In the 1st, a lead-off hit-by-pitch moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt and then stole 3rd. He scored on an RBI single later in the inning to get the Indians on the board first. In the bottom of the 3rd, with 1 out and runners on the corners, 3 consecutive hits scored 3 more runs for Cleveland. A great play stopped the fourth run right at home.

In both the 5th and the 7th (because the Indians only scored in odd numbered innings this afternoon), a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored easily on a 2-out RBI single. (Talk about deja vu.)

Enter the Warriors Three for the long haul.  Dellin Betances pitched 1 1/3 innings, allowing 2 hits and 1 run and was followed by Andrew Miller throwing for 1 2/3 inings giving up 2 hits and no runs. A rather odd and kind of scary collision in the ninth had Headley colliding with the runner going to 3rd; the runner was called out for interference, as it’s football and you can’t tackle the defense to make sure your team gets the win. To be fair, it clearly wasn’t intentional, but it was a rather odd event in this particular sport. (Chase Headley also had a bit of a reaction on the collision after the game.) Aroldis Chapman replaced Miller in the bottom of the ninth for 2 1/3 innings allowing no hits and no runs and threw four of his scary strikeouts to end the game with the win for New York.

For over four hours, the Yankees were determined to not give up this game to the AL Central Division leaders. Typical New York perseverance and a refusal to quit were evident in both their offense and defense on the field as they fought for the win. In the third inning, a double by Gardner, an RBI single by Carlos Beltran, and 2-run homer from Didi Gregorius put the Yankees in the lead by 2 runs.

At the top of the sixth, with 2 outs, the Yankees loaded the bases with Headley and Refsnyder’s singles and pinch-hitter Rodriguez’s walk. Romine came in as Rodriguez’s pinch-runner. The Tribe changed pitchers, but Gardner cleared the bases with a beautiful triple to put New York ahead by a run. When Cleveland tied the game in the 7th, the Yankees pushed forward in hopes for a leap again in the offense. Unfortunately, so did Cleveland. So they went into extra innings.

So with the continued tie game through the 10th inning, the Yankees finally regained control of the game in the 11th. With two outs, Beltran singled and was pinch-run by Ronald Torreyes as pinch-runner. It would be Brian McCann to hit a RBI double to right field and score Torreyes to break the tie and the Yankees were ahead by one. At the bottom of the 11th, the Indians finally ran out of steam, and after an eventful tag play to catch a runner stealing 2nd, New York took home the win.

Final score: 7-6, Yankees, in 11 innings.

Injury update: Aaron Judge, the power hitter of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, who was set to compete in the Triple-A Home Run Derby was placed on the DL with a knee injury. Test results show a sprain and bone bruise. No word on how long he will be on the DL or how this will affect his All-Star Game appearance as a participant in the minor league home run derby this Monday night.

This Day in Yankee History: Five years ago today, former shortstop Derek Jeter became the first Yankee to record 3,000 hits with a home run off of Rays pitcher David Price (now with the Red Sox) in Yankee Stadium. Jeter, of course, ended his career in 2014 with 3,465 hits with only five other players recording more lifetime hits.

Go Yankees!

Reporting for duty, part 1

Well, it’s that time of year again, ladies and gentlemen. Today, the Yankees Minor League Complex in Tampa swarmed with pitchers and catchers reporting in for Spring Training. As usual, many are already in town taking advantage of a week of 70°+ highs to get back into pinstripe-worthy shape.

Joe Girardi gave his usual pre-season press conference, focusing the season on some retooling, especially in the bullpen so that the annual goal of being World Series Champions doesn’t get pushed back to “next year” once again. If it seems like he says the same thing every year to you, imagine what it must feel like on his side of the table. He’s asked to make predictions based on guys he’s never really seen play, some he’s had limited interaction with, and somehow promise people a championship. Realistically, the goal is championship, but the failure to get there is a combination of factors, most of which cannot be predicted or even imagined here in February.

Masahiro Tanaka was also available for the press, who were keen to know more details after his off-season surgery to remove bone spurs from his pitching elbow. It caused a bit of a stir when he mentioned the other day that he may not be ready for Opening Day (April 4), but let’s clear something up. First, Tanaka may not be the guy they choose for Opening Day anyway in the grand scheme of things. And second, I think it’s just wisdom to not make blanket promises. The most important thing isn’t that Tanaka is ready for April 4th, but that he will still be ridiculously healthy and fierce come October.

Some old faces popped up at the complex this past week to lend their experienced voice to the young players hoping for a roster spot or at least some encouragement to keep chasing their dreams. Both Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter contributed in their own way — Pettitte threw batting practice to prospects like Aaron Judge (the veteran was impressed with the power from Judge’s bat), and Jeter took the invitees out to dinner for a chat about being a young Yankees (about the same time most of those guys were born).

Other former Yankees are scheduled to appear at camp as Guest Instructors include many familiar faces like “Goose” Gossage, Ron Guidry, “El Duque” Orlando Hernandez, Reggie Jackson, Hideki Matsui, Lee Mazzilli, Stump Merrill, and Willie Randolph. Comforting sights every Spring as it represents the continuing legacy of the Yankees — one generation helping the next succeed and even surpass them. I mean, you never know which of these random invitees might one day have their likeness emblazoned on the walls in Monument Park, or even Cooperstown.

Position players report on Wednesday, with the first full-squad workout held next Thursday. And from there, it’s just 6 days until the Yankees host the Tigers for their Spring Opening Day. Winter, your days are numbered! It’s almost Spring!

Masahiro Tanaka and his wife welcomed their first child, a son, born Monday in New York. A great addition to the Yankee family! Congratulations to their growing family!

Select single game tickets for Yankees regular season games are open to MasterCard ticket holders this weekend. All tickets will go on sale to the general public on Monday, February 22 at 10:00 am EST (including online tickets).

And a little motivation via a sign posted in the Yankees’ Clubhouse…


Go Yankees!

Game 89: SEA vs. NYY — Home runs to start the 2nd half off right

Four days off. Yankees with great representation at the All-Star Game. And it’s back to business in the Bronx to start the unofficial second half of the season. So with the Seattle Mariners coming in for the weekend, it was a good start to keep the Yankees at the top of their division.

Masahiro Tanaka, the opening day starter, got to start the second half, but with much better results tonight. He threw 103 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up 5 hits, 3 runs, and 2 walks, striking out 7 Mariners’ batters, and earning the win. Despite a sticky situation in the 2nd, Tanaka seemed in control of the game with two glaring exceptions — a 1-out home run in the 3rd and a 2-out 2-run home run in the 5th. In other words, save a couple of well-placed pitches that the same player found enticing enough to hit over the fences.

Fortunately, the Yankees also hit themselves a couple of home runs and some offense to help Tanaka earn the win. In the 2nd inning, Chris Young got things started with a 1-out solo shot to left field. After the Mariners tied up the game, the Yankees came back in the 4th to push ahead. Young led-off with a double and then scored on Chase Headley’s single.

And when the Mariners re-took the lead in the 5th, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the inning to tie up the game — Rodriguez led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Teixeira’s walk, and scored on Brian McCann’s single. Then in the 7th, Alex Rodriguez hit his 19th home run of the season into the Yankees’ bullpen to give the Yankees the lead.

The Dynamic Duo kept the Yankees in that lead safely — Betances in the 8th and Miller in the 9th. It was like everything was back in order, with the win and the save and the home runs. It was just back to normal in the Bronx.

And that is a wonderful feeling.


Final score: 4-3 Yankees.

Draft update: The Yankees signed 35 of their 41 draftees from this year’s First-Year Player Draft, including their first 27 selections. Of course, most of the hype was based on the signing of their first round draftee James Kaprielian, which he did on July 15, two days before the deadline.

Roster moves: Brendan Ryan was activated from DL after his AAA stint. The corresponding roster move was Gregorio Petit, who was optioned to AAA. Beltran will come off the DL shortly, and there is already a lot of talk about what the corresponding roster move will be for him. But nothing is set yet, as many of the young guys are currently being watched to see what they can contribute to the team, on and off the field. Look, often it’s not personal. Some people just fit with the mix of the team, and some don’t and can find a better mix with another team.

And in Yankee Alumni news: Derek Jeter spent the All-Star Week on the West Coast, accepting the ESPYs Icon Award on Wednesday evening and the Kids’ Choice Sports Legends Award on Thursday night. While the ESPYs were classy and formal and was filled with meaningful speeches, the KCSA were filled with slime, including the golden slime that they dunked on Jeter. And apparently, there were donuts. I spent Thursday night wishing I could get slimed (but the original green stuff), and I woke up this morning wanting a donut. Not exactly Yankee-esque, but an interesting way to enter the weekend, as it sounds like a prank one might find in a clubhouse locker room. (Now there’s an idea…)

Go Yankees!