LADY AT THE BAT

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Yankees Win As Vintage CC Makes Appearance

Have the Baby Bombers lit fires under the other backsides on the Yankees roster? It sure seems that way.  Aside from the final game in Anaheim, this trip, as well as games leading up to it, has showcased nearly the entire lineup.  

Aaron Hicks has finally shown up for the season. Jacoby Ellsbury has awakened from an ill-timed slumber. Starlin Castro has gone back to his winning offensive ways. Ronald Torreyes has been hot (although, he could use the excuse of not being given enough playing time).

Then there is CC Sabathia. The oldest pitcher in the starting rotation and one of the oldest on the entire roster, Sabathia (though he may not hear footsteps of someone coming after his job) sees the success of all these kids (especially Chad Green and Luis Cessa). He must have told himself, "Dude, don't embarrass you old butt in front of these young guns." He has likely already offered a lot of advice to these guns, and might even have taken them shopping to purchase suits for road trips, as is his wont. 

So up steps the veteran CC Sabathia to the mound in Seattle last night with, I'm assuming, a lot to prove. Well, he proved it. He proved it all. We saw vintage CC last night: 7IP, 3H, 1R, 1BB, 7K.  I'm hoping this is a good omen, that he will keep it going, because, Lord knows, his team needs it.

Now, thanks to the big guy leading the charge last night, the Yankees have another chance at a series win today. As long as they keep doing that, they're still alive. That's all you can ask.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

In Loss To Mariners, Sanchez Continues Sweet Start To Yankees Career

First, let me get the bad stuff out of the way:

Michael Pineda wasn't as sharp as he could have been and Anthony Swarzak stunk up the joint  (Why hasn't he been DFA'd?). As a result, the Yankees coughed up two leads and lost to the Mariners by a score of 7-5. They are, once again, 5.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card spot.

There. I have done the chores. I have taken my medicine. I have eaten my vegetables. Now I can have my dessert:

Gary Sanchez. This kid is unbelievable! Last night he called Safeco Field his, going 3-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored. The numbers include two home runs, giving him eight on the season. He's the fastest player in Yankees history to eight career home runs.

Of course, as you already know, Sanchez made history even before last night's game, becoming the first Yankees catcher since Thurman Munson in 1976 to win the AL Player Of The Week Award. I know I'm not the only one who found this stat hard to fathom, what with players like Jorge Posada in the team's catching history. However, it's true. Sanchez secured the award with 11H, 4HR, 6RBI, and with a .524 batting average.

So, what else will they put on his Hall Of Fame plaque? Just kidding. As great a start as this kid has had, it makes absolutely no sense to think so far ahead like that. After all, everyone remembers how fast Luis Severino got out of the gate last year. An even better example would be Kevin Maas. Older readers who remember the Yankees teams of the early '90s know Maas' story, how he burst onto the scene, setting records with every home run he hit before the league caught up to him. Maas never was able to catch back up to the league. 

In any case, even if Sanchez comes back down to earth and remains there the rest of his career, he has still proven himself behind the plate. He calls a good game, blocks pitches well and has a cannon for an arm, that hasn't missed yet. That, in itself, is a win, both for the Yankees and their fans.

Very tasty dessert, indeed. Congrats, Gary, and keep it up!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Yankees Lose But Rob Angels For Another Series Win

They say everyone loves the long ball, but I have to say that’s one-upped by watching a home run get robbed. At least when the Yankees outfielders are the ones doing the robbing. Brett Gardner laid it all on the line in Saturday night's game, to rob a two-run HR (which turned out to be an even bigger play given the solo shot that Dellin Betances gave up later), and Jacoby Ellsbury followed suit with a perfectly timed leap to thwart another two-run shot in yesterday's game.

Both were things of beauty to watch, and were part of an overall successful weekend, even though the Yankees lost yesterday's game.

There will come a time for the team when just winning a series is no longer sufficient if they want to continue making the argument that the playoffs, at least the Wild Card play-in game, is still in play for the 2016 season. I would argue that, entering the third week in August, the Yankees are not quite there yet. With 30 games left within the division (albeit 7 against the Tampa Bay Rays who trail the Bombers in the standings) along with six against two teams they are battling for the Wild Card (the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals), the Yankees still, to some extent, control their destiny.

The Yankees lost a game that was imminently winnable yesterday, going 1-for-7 with RISP and leaving eight runners on base. The manner in which they lost it, however, offers some reassurance. With the exception of The Kraken, the lineup was without some of the younger players the Yankees have played recently, including Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin. Chase Headley, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann were the core of the lineup, and they went a combined 1-for-11 with five strikeouts. All this against an Angels pitching staff that is easily in the bottom third in the American League.

While Sanchez struggled (comparatively), he still put together a representative at-bat in a key moment, showing that he was not completely over-matched. Chad Green, the young righty who has been hit or miss this season, had a terrific start (6 IP, ER, 5 K).

All of this is to say, in keeping with the look forward approach that has been adopted by the Yankees, there is nothing too alarming about this loss. For fans like myself, however, who still would like the Yankees to make some noise in 2016, it was a disappointing loss.

Bigger picture, though, everything is fine.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Get It Straight: Yankees Playing For 2017

The moment Andrew Miller was dealt to Cleveland, on the heels of Aroldis Chapman's trade to the Cubs, I couldn't help but think the Yankees had just set the match up for the Fall Classic in October. Cubs versus Indians in the World Series. Of course. while that match up is a real possibility, there will be ten teams in the post season, and some still believe the Yankees have a chance to be one of them. The Yankees are six games behind both wild card spots, but time is slowly running out.

And every decision made in the last few weeks was about 2017 and beyond, not 2016.

That is as it should be. In thinking 2017, the Yankees are taking a "let the chips fall as they may" attitude for the rest of 2016.  It's like punting on third down and long and maybe they recover a fumble. Most likely, they just gain some field position.  By acquiring all that young talent the Yankees are gaining valuable "field position" for their future.

It's August 19th, which means pitchers and catchers report somewhere near six months from right now. So there is plenty of time to set the roster for the start of 2017, and the process is well under way. Roster decisions are being shaped as we speak. Some decisions will wait until spring training, some will happen in the off season and lots have already been made. Right now, it's all about the remaining veterans, the unforeseen circumstances and mostly, it's about the youth.

The Veterans
There is no better example than Brian McCann. It's obvious that the Yankees are ready to turn the page. They have anointed Gary Sanchez as the number one receiver, at least for now. McCann has reportedly cleared waivers and can  be dealt any time. Except that McCann has a full no trade clause in his contract. McCann might be exercising his right to veto a trade for now, but don't be surprised if that changes in the off season. Just a hunch, but McCann might be thinking it is much easier to start fresh with a new team in the spring than uproot and move with six weeks left in the season, especially if he is going to a non-contender like Atlanta, as rumored. So perhaps he has exercised his no trade rights for now. On the other hand, the Yankees will have  openings at first base and designated hitter, so McCann could remain in the Yankees plans, playing a mixture of DH, first base and part time catcher.

What We Did Not See Coming
One thing we've learned this year, is circumstances change and often in short order, At the end of May, I said Michael Pineda might not be tendered a contract this off season, based on the way he had been pitching up until that time, but that Nathan Eovaldi likely would be tendered. Now it seems to be the other way around. Eovaldi will miss the entire 2017 season, at which time he becomes eligible for free agency. Should Eovaldi be given a roster spot just to bide his time until free agency? Call it highly unlikely.  

The Baby Bombers
It seems that in Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the Yankees have two of the next core four. Both have charged out of the gate in the major leagues, but it's a cautionary tale with young players. Remember in 1990 when  the future was going to be built, in part, around a hot shot left handed pitcher? His name was Brien Taylor. He lost his career when he injured his shoulder in a fight. Instead, the real hot shot left hander was a draft and follow pitcher taken much later in the same draft. His name was Andy Pettitte. Pettitte did not sign until just before the 1991 draft, something not allowed anymore in baseball.

A gem can be found in unexpected places.  Remember a year ago how excited the Yankees were to add Luis Severino to the rotation? . Now Severino appears to be fighting for a spot on the roster going forward.  Sanchez and Judge have produced well in very small samples. Severino struggled in the Bronx this year, but there is still hope.  Maybe all three will be integral parts of the success of 2017 and beyond. Severino's struggles prove it's all a calculated gamble the Yankees are taking with going younger.

The Only Way To Go
What's next for the Yankees? It's time to use the rest of the season to evaluate the young talent, not forgetting the veterans still on the team. If a waiver deal presents itself before the end of the month, fine. Otherwise, the off season could be busy, as the Yankees might do a little more selling as well as some significant buying, we hope. So in the six weeks that remain, let the evaluations continue in earnest as we begin to take in some football at the same time. .

But if that aforementioned punt is fumbled, then here's hoping the Yankees are all over it.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Future Fun To Watch During Yankees' Disappointing Season

The bad taste Tuesday night's game left in everyone's mouth was still there at the start of yesterday's series finale, but the Yankees were hopeful that it was on its way out of town. However, at the end of the day, the Blue Jays were the only ones leaving town--with a series win. The Yankees were left to ponder the rest of the season which, at this point, looks to be nothing more than a showcase for the future.

Yesterday, part of that future--Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge--was featured in the heart of the batting order. Sanchez went 2-3 with a long solo shot into the left field seats. In 52 at-bats (I know, small sample size) he is hitting .360, with 11 RBIs and five majestic home runs. His most impressive hit, however, might have been the single he hit yesterday, golfing a ball well below the strike zone into center field.

Judge went 2-4 with an RBI. In his very short career, he is hitting .389 with 2 home runs and four RBIs, an even smaller sample size than Sanchez's. Still, he has shown patience at the plate and seems to understand the importance of making adjustments.

While Sanchez and Judge only recently arrived on the scene, there are, of course, other young players that the Yankees are high on, and two of them have become much improved recently. While Aaron Hicks went 0-4 yesterday, he has really turned it on of late, He is 7 for his last 24 (.292), with two home runs and four RBIs. Starlin Castro went 2-4 yesterday, and has hit three home runs in his last seven games.

And then there is Didi Gregorius. He has been money all season, hitting .287 with 54 RBIs, and a career high in home runs (16).

The spark that these four guys have been providing (five if you count Chad Green's outing the other night) is enough to make this Yankee team still fun to watch, even after having had its fire sale. Come to think of it, in some ways, it might even be more fun to watch now. Yes, it definitely is.

So, thanks for all the fun, Baby Bombers. Keep up the good work!