LADY AT THE BAT: Yankees Beat Mariners: Can They End "June Swoon?"

Friday, July 21, 2017

Yankees Beat Mariners: Can They End "June Swoon?"

As I sit waiting  for the Yankees to finish their late night game at Seattle, I have a few top of mind thoughts. 

1. June Swoon
This may be more of a common term to us in the Midwest. For many years the Cubs suffered from this affliction. Now it is possible the "swoon" has hit the Yankees with a vengeance. The last series won by the Yankees was June 9-11 versus Baltimore. There were splits in four game series in Chicago and in Boston, but every other series since June 11 has been a loss. Sure, there is time for the Yankees to turn the season around, with the improved bullpen and injured players returning from  the DL.  But what if it doesn't happen? Baseball is nearing the trade deadline and a year ago the Yankees were sellers and were playing about .500 ball. But if the recent slump continues,  the Yankees may find themselves at .500 once again at the deadline.

The point has to be made it is possible the Yankees have moved beyond their best baseball of the season and they will not recover in time to salvage much this year. Yes, of course that is negative thinking, but I think it all gets better in the not too distant future. The question remains, this year or next? I know, social media will go nuts with that kind of talk. 

2. The White Sox Trade
Count me as being all for this trade. The worst aspect for the Yankees is they gave up a top prospect in Blake Rutherford. But consider he was playing at low class A and is behind countless prospects who also play the outfield. Rutherford is a few years from being ready and the more-developed young outfielders on the 40 man roster could play for the Yankees for many years. That list includes Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Dustin Fowler and Clint Frazier.

In the trade, they gave up Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo, prospects who are both rule five eligible following the season. And they also unloaded "fan favorite" Tyler Clippard. Sure Todd Frazier is just a rental, but let's see what the New Jersey native does the next couple of months in the Bronx before dismissing him to the free agent scrap heap. David Robertson can be a closer, a backup closer and an 8th inning guy and is signed through 2018. Tommy Kahnle has found a lights out 100 mph fastball and will be under team control for quite some time. 

It was a good trade. 

3. Clint Frazier
Regardless of what happens with Todd Frazier, Clint Frazier is here to stay, long term. Remember that C Frazier was the second choice to replace the injured Aaron Hicks? Frazier has taken to his new Major League surroundings quite well, Now, when Hicks returns, Frazier might have to return to AAA, but that stay will be short lived as Frazier will return September 1st when the rosters expand. Then, I don't think Frazier will be sent down again. Probably very soon, the impossible to trade Jacoby Ellsbury becomes the 5th outfielder. The Yankees may not re-sign Matt Holliday because they can rotate the designated hitter from among their outfield depth. 

4. The Yankees are on the right track
With all that negativity I threw out as this post began, I never said with any certainty the Yankees are finished for 2017. I said it is possible the "June Swoon" could be real and the season is finished. If nothing else, the trade with the White Sox changed the narrative of what management thinks of this team, which is a departure from just one year ago. Management is saying the Yankees are contenders and they expect the players to respond. There is no throwing in the towel for ownership this year. We'll see if that has an effect on play the remainder of the season. Even though this year may not end favorably with a playoff berth, there is no question the Yankees have increased their young talent pool. Sometimes all it takes to get over that proverbial hump is the emergence of a key player or two. The bullpen is much better and Joe Girardi, who is notorious for protecting his pitching staff from overwork, has multiple bullpen options now. 

But the rotation has to be fixed and therein lies the number one challenge. Jordan Montgomery  has experienced growing pains witnessed by the second inning of his last start. Luis Severino has shown flashes of ace stuff. Masahiro Tanaka has not pitched well enough to exercise the opt out clause in his contract following the season. CC Sabathia has pitched well enough, despite an injury, to create some early discussion about  2018. But the lack of overall consistency has been frustrating and now Michael Pineda has been lost for the season. 

5. Yankees WIN
The Yankees started the 11 game road trip going 4-4 and this .500 start is better than their overall season record on the road. I stayed up to watch the game while writing this, and the news is good. A sixth inning Brett Gardner solo home run broke up a scoreless pitching duel between Severino and the M's Felix Hernandez. Credit Severino with seven strong shutout innings with ace like stuff. Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman each pitched one shaky inning, but the Yankees scored three insurance runs late including an RBI single by Judge and a Robinson Cano throwing error, plating two more runs.

Okay, so maybe with this trade and a .500 restart to the season post All Star break, and on the road,  the Yankees can return to their early season form and put an end the swoon. The post season is still within the Yankees' grasp at this point even with all the struggles. Don't forget the trade deadline is not until July 31st. Could Cashman have another trade surprise up his sleeve.

That will get everybody talking on social media.

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