Thursday, May 5, 2016

Yankees' Sabathia Triumphant In Return To Baltimore

The last time CC Sabathia went to Baltimore (with his team, anyway), he did some soul searching, presented himself to manager Joe Girardi and admitted he had a drinking problem. Last night, however, it was a different story.

A presumably sober CC put his team on his back and led them out of a horrifying six-game slide, to a 7-0 victory. His line was great: 7IP, 6H, 0R,0ER, 2BB, 6K. His ERA is now a solid 3.81. He looked like the CC of old, except that he wasn't. That hard-throwing lefty from the Cleveland Indians and the early part of his Yankees career is gone. What is left is a finesse pitcher who, I hope, will hang around for a while, because the Yankees desperately need him.

They weren't that desperate last night, however. The offense pounded out 10 hits and was a respectable 4-12 with runners in scoring position. This output gave the front office a bit of a reprieve, after they inexplicably called up a pitcher, lefty reliever James Pazos, to replace the DL'd Alex Rodriguez. When YES reporter Jack Curry explained the move, he seemed to imply that Pazos would only be there for the one game. Perhaps we'll see some more offensive help going forward.

For now, though, we savor a much-needed win, which generated a lot of good feelings. Let's hope those feelings continue in tonight's series finale, and during the upcoming homestand.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

As Yankees Continue To Lose, Changes Beg To Be Made

I have run out of words to describe the 2016 Yankees or at least any intelligible, decipherable ones. I’m also fresh out of any desire to continue to searching for explanations for what ails this $226 million team. I don’t want to think about the fact that this team ranks last in the American League in total bases, in XBH and, in what is perhaps a sign of just how unafraid opposing pitchers are of them this year, intentional walks (zero).

I don’t want to think about the fact that Luis Severino gave up 4 Rs (3 ER) over 6 IP on Tuesday night and, in the process, lowered his season ERA to 6.31. Or the fact that the Yankees starters as a whole have the worst ERA in the A.L. and have thrown the third fewest innings on the season, taxing the bullpen that is already showing some wear and tear.

I especially don’t want to think about the fact that the Yankees have lost four straight games against teams in their division and six straight overall. I get it. The Yankees aren’t hitting. Fine. They’re not pitching. Ok. Chase Headley is still getting 4 ABs a game. Whatever. I know the problems. Every Yankees fan knows the problems. We watch them every single game.

Not to go all George Steinbrenner on the team here, but enough with the analysis. Just fix the problem. Time to move on. As quoted by Bob Klapisch in his NY Post article, Brian Cashman said, “We have to stop this slide and start from scratch. That means the game [tonight].” Of course, the game he was referring to was the Tuesday game the Yankees just lost but, nevertheless, the point still stands. The only way the Yankees can dig themselves out of this mess is one game at a time.

I’m not advocating any hasty decisions. Don’t dismantle the team and throw away track records because of a six game losing streak. But something needs to be done because crossing our fingers and willing this team to victory isn’t getting it done.

If that means sending Severino down to Triple A to learn how to pitch in high pressure situations until after the All-Star Break,then fine. Stretch Ivan Nova out and make it happen.

If it means the Yankees bench their $13MM 3B (who put together another 0-fer on Tuesday and has yet to get an extra base hit this season) for a few days until he can get back on track then fine. Do it.

If it means changing the DH spot into a true revolving spot so that Aaron Hicks' strong defense and offensive potential can be in the lineup, that’s fine, too. Their current DH is proving quite fragile enough as it is.

Not change for the sake of change, but change because this team is struggling. Less discussions of the problems. More trying out solutions. Your move Yankees. Time to end this losing streak and right this ship.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Three Thoughts About A Five Game Yankees Losing Streak

These thoughts remain from the Yankees' frustrating weekend series, during which they were swept by their division rival, the Boston Red Sox:

First, even though it's only the first week in May and there are still well over 100 games left in the season, it’s starting to feel like, to paraphrase the late Yogi Berra, it’s getting late early out here.

To be clear, I’m still in the “it’s too early to bury this team” camp, but it’s hard to imagine a worst start to the season, than what the Yankees have gone through. They are riding a five game losing streak and it sometimes feels like they have forgotten how to play anything resembling decent baseball.

Most nights it’s the sluggish offense causing the problem. Yankees fans have more screenshots than we’d care to save of Yankees hitters trudging back to the dugout shaking their heads after striking out in a key spot, popping up with RISP or grounding into an inning ending double play.

Some nights, like last night, it’s the pitching that steps up and says, “Hey, look at us, we can blow games too!”

Presumably, it’s not from lack of trying. Surely this team doesn’t want to be this inept. All players slump at some point and perhaps it’s just that the Yankees are all slumping together. If that’s the working theory, then they should all come out of it together. Soon. Right?

If the issue is that the Yankees are just this bad, then it means more than just a rough season for 2016. It means having to accept the fact that the rebuilding while trying to contend plan Pete wrote about on Friday just won’t work. The implications of that are sad to contemplate. Again, it’s still too early but the thought is starting to fester.

Second, whatever is wrong with the previously invincible Dellin Betances, I hope it disappears quickly. He’s given up home runs in his past three appearances and is now 0-3 on the season with an ERA over 3.00. That might not sound too bad but, considering that, just 7 days ago, he was sporting an ERA of 0.00 and had yet to surrender a single HR, he’s trending the wrong way.

He hasn’t been overworked and his velocity and repertoire are as devastating as ever, so perhaps this is just a blip on the radar. As fun as it is to watch him pitch, let’s hope it’s not an injury or otherwise career altering problem.

Finally, as always,Yankees pinstriped white and blue, this is my team through and through. But, goodness, it’s much more fun when they are winning. When they take the field on Tuesday night against the Orioles, it’ll be a week since that last happened, and hat’s no fun at all.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yankees Attempting To Win While Rebuilding: A Tough Business

Starting a season 8-12 will get your attention, especially as you simultaneously try to win a championship and try to (let's call it what it is) rebuild following the departure of the Core Four.

Such a stretch at any other time of the season can be looked at as a blip or a hiccup. Starting a season that way is an entirely different matter.

For one thing this slow start makes one wonder if this is how it is going to be all season.

We can all agree that it is too early to panic and that things might get straightened out. We can tell ourselves this is a veteran team that knows how to win. We all know we are approaching the return of Aroldis Chapman who will join Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller forming an amazing trio of lockdown relievers, maybe the best the game has ever seen.

But what about the rest of the club? Rebuilding is a tricky business. Part of rebuilding is trying to anticipate future needs. Player development can be fun to follow and it can also be downright frustrating.

Consider that in 2010, knowing that a shortstop was needed to eventually replace Derek Jeter, the Yankees selected shortstop Cito Culver with the 32nd overall pick. Baseball America and other sources projected Culver to be better suited for a few rounds later in the draft. The Yankees selected Culver anyway, and today Culver in languishing at AA Trenton, with a batting average of about a buck fifty. The very next draft, in 2011, the Yankees first choice was shortstop (but projected third baseman) Dante Bichette Jr. Like Culver, Bichette was projected to go in later rounds of the draft. The Yankees selected Bichette anyway and today he plays along side Culver in the Trenton infield.

Neither is expected to be in the Bronx anytime soon, if at all. To replace Jeter, the Yankees traded for Didi Gregorius, a move that may actually pay off , but was clearly a risk. Bichette was expected to replace Alex Rodriguez at third base, but the Yankees had to deal for Chase Headley, and with no third base prospects in the organization, gave Headley a four year contract. How is that working out?

Because outfield prospects like Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams struggled with injuries and development, the Yankees had no choice but to look elsewhere for outfield help. With the departure of Robinson Cano, the Yankees gave a generously long contract to Jacoby Ellsbury.

It's all about making good decisions on draft day as much as it is about keeping prospects healthy. Consider the pitching. Not many draft picks have made it to the everyday rotation since Andy Pettitte was drafted in the early 90's. Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder were among the fast track draft picks who recently had Tommy John surgery, Jacob Lindgren, a top pick in 2014, who saw a short stint in the Bronx, and had elbow surgery, is now on the disabled list at Tampa. Even last year's top pick James Kapriellian is now on the disabled list at Tampa with a "minor" elbow issue. We can only hope that is true. Seems as if the only fast track these young pitchers are on is to elbow problems and the operating table.

So the 8-12 start might be a distant memory in a couple of weeks if the Yankees go on a tear and climb to the top of the standings. On the other hand, starting tonight in Boston, the Yankees season might just continue the downward spiral. It is times like this when bad draft decisions and bad luck with injuries to your better prospects, come home to roost.

Rebuilding is a tough business. Much tougher when you have expectations of winning at the same time and it doesn't work out that way. We could be in for a long season,

But it is still early.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

How To Beat The 2016 New York Yankees

The formula has been simple: Throw a lefty at the Yankees and get a lead by the sixth inning.  That's really all an opposing team needs to do, as long as the anemic Yankee offense continues to fail at re-taking the lead. We saw it again in last night's series finale against the Rangers in Texas.

If this keeps up, the addition of Aroldis Chapman in a little less than two weeks will mean absolutely nothing. As it is, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are barely keeping the cobwebs off. It's not hard to wonder if the Yankees will trade Chapman before the Deadline if the three-headed monster is emasculated by the rest of MLB.

After losing the lead in the third, the Yankees did tie the score in the fourth, on Alex Rodriguez's 100th HR at Globe Life Park, scoring his 1,000th run as a Yankee in the process. Say what you will about A-Rod's checkered past, the Yankees need this guy in the middle of their lineup or, as bad as things are now, they will get much worse going forward.

After today's off-day, round one of Yankees-Red Sox begins at Fenway Park. Hopefully the formula won't work there, and the Yankees can put a crack in that New England crucible.