Off Season Update: Holiday Wrap-up

Well, the Astros are the reigning World Champions, much to the city of Houston’s glee. The parade through the streets of Houston, which had been nearly devastated just a few months earlier was a big encouragement to those who are still trying to rebuild their homes and lives after Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast in late August.

Winter Meetings begin on Monday, and between the Astros winning Game 7 over the Dodgers and the Winter Meetings on Monday, it’s not exactly been a quiet off-season. Especially for the Yankees.

Awards Season: Almost immediately following the World Series, MLB Universe wraps up its season by handing out all sorts of awards. Mostly, it was Aaron Judge that was up for many of the awards like MVP and Rookie of the Year, but it was a tough year for nearly every category as there was some really outstanding players and plays made this season. You can catch up on all the awards (with extensive coverage and video clips) here. But I’m just going to do a brief Yankee Universe summary.

As expected, the MVPs and Hank Aaron Awards of both the AL and NL went to the Astros’ Jose Altuve and Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, though Judge’s name was tossed about quite a bit for the AL versions of both awards. Judge did snag Rookie of the Year, voted so unanimously, the first Yankee to do so since Jeter in 1996. (Side note: also in the mix for ROTY — breakout starter Jordan Montgomery.) Judge was also awarded the Silver Slugger for right field, something he shared this year with teammate Gary Sanchez, who won it for his catching position. And Judge was also voted on by his fellow players for the Players’ Choice Award of Outstanding AL Rookie.

Now, Esurance sponsors its own array of awards for the season and quite a few Yankees graced the finalists lists. Best Major Leaguer was awarded to Altuve over 9 other finalists including MLB legends like Stanton and Trout as well as (of course) Judge. Severino was nominated for Best Pitcher, but lost to the Indians’ Corey Kluber (who had an outstanding postseason in his own right). Of the 6 finalists for Best Rookie, who else but Aaron Judge became the natural choice. The Astros’ manager AJ Hinch edged out 9 other finalists for Best Manager, including Joe Girardi, and Brian Cashman got the same treatment in the Best Executive category as the Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow snagged that one. Other awards include Best Postseason Moment, Best TV/Radio Call, Best Play, Personality of the Year, and Best Fan Catch, none of which unfortunately include any Yankees

Hello, old friend: At the end of October, before the World Series was even complete, the Yankees announced they were parting ways with their long-term manager Joe Girardi, and began the search for their new skipper. With former bench coach Rob Thomson singing on to be the Phillies’ new bench coach and 3rd base coach Joe Espada the Astros’ bench coach, the Yankees ended up narrowing the manager candidates down and included two former Yankee players — Carlos Beltran and Aaron Boone. Just a few days ago, the Yankees announced that they were going with Aaron Boone, known to most Yankee fans as the hero of the 2003 World Series and more recently as a ESPN broadcaster. Boone, who will wear #17, will be thrust back into Yankee Universe in a crucial role, one that could either expose his inexperience as a manager or one that could see him flourish thanks to his extensive baseball knowledge, legacy, and intelligence. Only time will tell.

Big splash denied, big splash made: All 30 MLB clubs were hoping to sign an international sensation, 23-year-old Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, who is known both as a stellar pitcher and as a big power-hitter. The international market has some complex rules about signings, and many assumed that Ohtani would sign with a big name NL team so that he could use both of his famed tools. Almost immediately, most East Coast teams were eliminated, including big market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox. With most of the chatter leaning towards the Mariners (despite being an AL team), the big surprise was when the Angels (also an AL team) announced their newest acquisition just a few days ago.

But without that possibility, the Yankees started searching for their big splash. Within about 24 hours of word leaking that the Marlins were shopping their superstar Giancarlo Stanton, it was confirmed just today. Former HR Derby champion Stanton would join current HR Derby champion Judge in the Yankees outfield and in Yankee pinstripes for the 2018 season. Details are forthcoming, but it looks like the Yankees will send prospect pitcher Jorge Guzman (the #9 Yankee prospect), prospect shortstop Jose Devers, and Starlin Castro to the Marlins in exchange for Stanton and about $30 million. Castro has 2 years and about $23.7 million left on his current contract.

Okay, what that means and leaves wide open for the Yankees to answer questions this off-season. First, removing Castro from 2nd leaves a wide open space for perhaps Ronald Torreyes to play more frequently, especially as he was clearly one of the more reliable and consistent defenders and hitters (basically the ideal bench/utility player) for the last 2 seasons. However, there are several prospects that could earn the everyday position in Spring Training including the much talked about Gleyber Torres.

The Yankees now have 6 potential outfielders — Gardner, Ellsbury, Judge, Stanton, Hicks, and C. Frazier. Frazier will likely spend time in AAA once again, which leaves either Gardner or Ellsbury (mostly due to age, unfortunately) as the prime potential for a trade. However, Ellsbury has a no-trade clause in his contract, one that he could easily waive if asked or volunteer to be traded on his own if he so desires. A lot of that usually depends on who’s asking. That prevents players from being traded into a clubhouse or organization they don’t like. If I was a player, there are definitely certain clubs I would avoid like the plague, or take a pay cut to play with a better team.

Also, the Yankees are dealing with 8 arbitration-eligible players and 10 with less than 3 years on their contracts, most notably Headley, Robertson, and Gardner, who are all on their final year of their deals. Arbitration-eligible means that the Yankees will extend an offer (a proposed salary) to keep them on their roster, and the player either accepts it or counter offers and it goes to arbitration for the mediator to pick the correct number. Basically, it’s a negotiation tool, and this off-season, the Yankees will have to negotiate with Betances, Gray, Gregorius, Hicks, Kahnle, Romine, Shreve, and Warren. Unless they trade them, of course.

Again, the Winter Meetings start on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (a.k.a. Disney World’s Swan & Dolphin Resorts, for anyone not familiar with Central Florida geography). Winter Meetings are when representatives from all the MLB clubs and their minor league teams, as well as MLB executives, meet up for about four days and do business face-to-face. So, there’s going to be trades, discussions, executive meetings to discuss baseball operations and potential alterations to rule of play. Often scouts, owners, general managers, international visitors, job-seekers, and trade show exhibitors will also be milling around the meetings. In other words, we can expect more news to come out of this next week’s meetings. And I was going to wait until after that to post, just in case the Yankees make another big splash, which they could as they still need to shore up the starting rotation. But today’s news was too big to pass up.

But barring a big splash, I hope everyone has a good holiday season as we close out this 2017 and hope for a really wonderful 2018. I mean, it really looks like 2018 could be the year we finally celebrate #28.

Go Yankees!

World Series 7: HOU vs. LAD — #HoustonStrong

Well, one drought is over. The Astros organization have finally won a World Series. The Houston team was created in 1962 as the Houston Colt .45s, being renamed for the 1965 season for the local space program that would help send men to the moon. They were in the NL for most of their history, switching to the AL in 2013 to balance out the league that now included more interleague games. The last time the Astros were in the World Series was in 2005 when they lost to the Chicago White Sox. But now, they’re the World Champions.

Neither starter in tonight’s Game 7 was really that good. And when you’re dealing with a Game 7, you’ve got everyone available. No “he needs more than 3 days rest”. No “he’s the backup player”. You play who you’ve got to play because it’s really an all-or-nothing. The Astros really got lucky tonight because they certainly allowed enough base runners without allowing any runs. Including 4 base runners thanks to their starter McCullers hitting 4 Dodgers’ batters.

And before you jump there, no, the Dodgers are a classy organization and didn’t serve up the “traditional revenge” and hit 4 of their batters. This follows the pattern they also showed when an Astros player made a racial slur and gesture towards Game 3 and tonight’s Dodgers’ starter Darvish. Darvish and the Dodgers didn’t respond in any way other than showed their class and desire to move beyond what they deemed a disappointing and ignorant move. Gurriel (the Astros player) received a 5-game suspension to be served at the beginning of the 2018 season without pay, a move that received mixed reception.

Anyway, the Dodgers did get quite a few runners on base, but they never did anything to convert those into runs for most of the game. The Astros went through 4 pitchers in the first 5 innings before they called in another starter Morton to close out the final half of the game for 4 innings. Morton held strong and still managed to give up the Dodgers only run in the 6th. A lead-off single and walk got runners on base once again before a 1-out pinch-hit single scored the lead run to get them on the board. But that was all Morton allowed for the Dodgers’ offense.

The biggest problem for the Dodgers tonight was their starter Darvish. Darvish just struggled his way through his 2 innings, and that would be the problem they could just not overcome. A lead-off double, by Astros’ player Springer, scored on a throwing error. After a stolen base, a ground out scored another run to give the Astros an early 2-0 lead. And in the 2nd, former Yankee catcher McCann led-off for the Astros with a walk, ended up at 3rd (sort of limping actually) on a double, and then somehow scored and slid home on a ground out. Then Springer smacked a big 2-out, 2-run home run to push the Astros even further ahead.

That was it for Darvish right there in the 2nd inning. And his reliever Morrow came on and threw 3 pitches to get out of the inning with a strikeout. So it was back to the bullpen to rely on their amazing pitching staff, starting with Kershaw, who was going on just 3 days rest from his stellar start back in Game 5. Kershaw gave up 2 hits and 2 walks in his 4 innings, but like the rest of the Dodgers’ bullpen tonight, never allowed another run to score. Closer Jansen had his own scoreless inning in the 7th, passing the ball to another starter Wood who closed out the game through 2 scoreless innings.

Final score: 5-1 Astros, Astros win series 4-3

So the Astros win the 113th World Series, and George Springer was honored with the Series’ MVP award, dubbed for the first year as the Willie Mays Award. In addition to the trophy and honor, he was presented with a special edition Chevy Silverado pick-up truck. Springer was named the MVP because of the power-hitting show he displayed this last week. He ties Reggie Jackson (with the 1977 Yankees) and Chase Utley (with the 2009 Phillies, now with the Dodgers, by the way) as the only 3 players to hit 4 home runs in the World Series, though Springer is the only one to hit them in 4 consecutive games. A well-deserved honor.

In another victory moment on the field, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend Daniella. She said “yes”. Correa later said there was two options for him — win and propose, or lose and cry. (And probably propose later this off-season. I mean, Christmas and New Year’s is coming up after all…) Either way, congratulations to Carlos & Daniella!

And in former Yankee news, two former Yankees and veteran ball players were part of the Astros championship team and thus get their first World Series rings — Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

I couldn’t agree more. Congratulations to them on their well-deserved rings! And best of luck in whatever you decide is your next chapter, Beltran!

Now, folks, we head into the off-season with lots of question marks in Yankee Universe about the manager, coaching staff, certain players’ contracts and opt-out clauses, and what kind of mix of veterans and young players will compose the 2018 team. So, don’t spend your off-season like Rogers Hornsby and just look out the window waiting for Spring. There’s another new season, another championship to be won, another great team to cheer on and pray we get our Game 7 next year. Spring seems long because winter is dark and dreary, but it will come faster than you think. And it’s earlier than you think this year, with all the Spring Training games starting in February, something they have to do because the season is starting at the end of March this year.

Maybe they got tired of November baseball? I don’t know. I think true baseball fans like baseball in all seasons… oh, and hey, some of our guys are playing in the Arizona Fall League right now and doing really well, even making the Fall All-Stars roster!

Go Yankees!

Game 156: KC vs. NYY — #CCStrong, Make-up batting practice, historic afternoon

Today’s afternoon game was a minor blip in the regular schedule, a make-up game from a rain-out back on May 25. The Yankees start their final week of the season, 2 3-game series in the Bronx — the Rays and Blue Jays. The visiting Royals flew in from Chicago after the weekend and will head home to Kansas City for their own final week at home.

CC Sabathia got the start today and really had a great afternoon against the Royals. He was absolutely stellar through the first 3 innings, not giving up a hit until the 4th. But even then he really didn’t allow much until his final blip on the mound. He threw 80 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 4 batters. In fact, until the 7th inning, Sabathia limited the Royals to that walk and 3 hits alone.

So, feeling strong, and with a low pitch count, Sabathia came out for the 7th, but then found some trouble in the heart of the Royals’ order with their veteran power-hitters. He gave up a lead-off single, a 2-run home run, and a solo home run. That would be it for his afternoon. All pitchers are on a short leash now, so if you can’t limit the damage, it’s time to depend on the next guy to see you through.

And today, once again, that worked out well. Chad Green came on to do what Chad Green does, but after allowing a walk to his first batter. Then he promptly set the Royals down in order, righting the ship, as it were. Robertson’s 8th inning was a flawless 3-strikeout moment, and Kahnle’s 9th closed things out for the Yankees, overall limiting the damage to that lone blip by Sabathia in the early 7th.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took advantage of the late summer warm weather and found their swings early and often. Gardner led-off the 1st with a single, moved to 3rd on Sanchez’s double, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ ground out to get the Yankees on the board early. In the 3rd, Gardner worked a 1-out walk, and then Aaron Judge followed him with a big 2-run home run, his 49th of the season. (More on this after the recap.)

In the 6th, Gregorius hit a 1-out single and then scored all the way from 1st on Matt Holliday’s double. Greg Bird smacked a big 2-run home run into the 2nd deck of the right field seats to keep the momentum going. After an out, the Royals opted to go to their bullpen and piece together the rest of the game. But they just don’t have the bullpen they did a few years ago.

In the 7th, with 2 outs, the Yankees just let loose. Aaron Judge hit a really big solo home run that bounced into the left field bleachers — his 50th home run of the season, breaking the rookie home run record (more below). Gary Sanchez immediately followed that up with his own solo home run into the left field seats, his 33rd of the season. (Remember, Sanchez had about a month out due to injury too!) Despite loading up the bases a bit later, the Yankees couldn’t add any more to their score.

Well, that inning. Because in the 8th, they came back and added just a few more. With a new reliever and 1 out, Torreyes got another hit today (he went 3-for-4 today), and because they missed the catch originally, Torreyes got all the way to 2nd, but the player fumbled the throw and that error allowed Torreyes to keep going all the way to 3rd. He then scored on Brett Gardner’s double. Judge worked a walk (pinch-run by Clint Frazier) and Sanchez singled to load up the bases. Didi Gregoirus singled home Gardner, and Matt Holliday’s sacrifice fly scored Frazier to cap off the Yankees’ monster afternoon.

The Yankees’ offense racked up 15 hits and 4 walks, while getting only 5 strikeouts. The latter part of the game was basically Yankees’ batting practice after a while.

Final score: 11-3 Yankees

Technically, the Yankees win that May series with today’s game, winning 3 of the 4 games against the Royals. Boston doesn’t play until later tonight, so where they land on the standings is still a giant question mark.

Postseason prep: tonight… go Blue Jays! (Seriously, they beat the Yankees this weekend, surely they can take out the Red Sox.)

Now, both of Aaron Judge’s home runs mattered and ended up in Judge’s memory case. In 1987, Mark McGwire hit 49 home runs in his rookie season. Coming into today’s game, Judge was sitting at 48. That first one in the 3rd inning meant that Judge tied McGwire for the record. But the one in the 7th was #50, a new record for a rookie player.

Also, Judge has now homered off every AL team (including the 4 he hit late last season). As of now, he’s hit off 4 of the 15 NL teams — Mets, Brewers, Pirates, and Dodgers. So, there’s 11 teams waiting for a Judge home run. By the way, active players who have hit off all 30 teams are former Yankee (and current Astro) Carlos Beltran and current Ranger Adrian Beltre (who also has hit a home run in the 40 stadiums of the modern era). Judge’s name is already being thrown around with names of some great players, but setting records at every turn will do that to you.

And it’s not like CC Sabathia is some slouch in the midst of these rookies building their greatness. The veteran pitcher is certainly making a case to include his name in future Hall of Fame talks. His win today tied him with Yankee great Whitey Ford, as left-handed pitchers with 236 wins. Only 2 more lefties have more wins — 240 by Frank Tanana (who played for a few teams including the Angels, Rangers, and Tigers 1973-1993) and 239 by David Wells (a name that might be familiar to Yankee fans from his brief stint during the dynasty days, but also flitted around the league with teams like the Blue Jays 1987-2007).

To be perfectly fair, Sabathia is only at 17 seasons this year, 4 less than either Tanana or Wells and just 3/4 game wins behind them. He could very well jump both early next season. That is if he plans on renewing his contract after his current one expires following this season. And in pure disclosure: Whitey Ford earned his 236 wins in just 16 seasons, however, it was during the time (1950, 1953-1967) when the Yankees and winning games was almost a foregone conclusion.

I kind of miss those days… but these days are pretty awesome too…

Go Yankees!

Game 105: NYY vs. NYM — Subway series opening drama

Yes, there is much to talk about with the last-minute extended trade deadline today, and it’s once again kind of sad for Yankee Universe for now but also kind of positive for Yankee Universe in the future. But more on that later.

Today marked the opening day for the annual “Subway Series”. This year the Yankees play 2 game at CitiField in Queens, and then the Mets come to the Bronx for 2 more games to complete the series. Tonight, for the opener, the Yankees sent up CC Sabathia who really had a bit of an okay start overall. He threw 103 pitches into the 6 inning, gave up 8 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs, striking out just 5 Mets batters.

A lead-off solo home run in the 2nd got things started for the Mets. A 1-out single in the 5th gave them another run on a 2-out RBI double. And in the 6th with 2 runners on base with singles and 1 out, Sabathia gave up a big 3-run home run to push the Mets into the lead. After another out and a walk, the Yankees brought in Richard Bleier, who promptly loaded the bases with a single and a walk. Nick Goody got them out of the inning in 5 pitches.

In the mean time, the Yankees weren’t exactly letting the Mets have this game easily. In the 4th, Ellsbury led-off with a double and Teixeira joined him on the base paths with a walk. McCann’s fly out moved Ellsbury to 3rd which then allowed him to score on a wild pitch. And in the 5th, with 1 out, Refsnyder worked a walk, moved to 2nd on Sabathia’s sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s double. Gardner himself then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single.

While the Mets had a slim lead over the Yankees, the Yankees’ pitching staff sailed through the Mets’ roster. Recently re-acquired Tyler Clippard (more below) breezed through the 7th inning in just 12 pitches. And Adam Warren continued to show the Yankees why he was needed back in pinstripes (or away greys tonight) through the scoreless 8th and 9th innings.

The Yankees tied everything up in the 8th. Gardner, on base with a walk, 2 outs, a new pitcher, and McCann singled on base only to be pinch-run by the speedy Torreyes, who proceeded to immediately take 2nd on a wild pitch. The stage was set for Didi Gregorius’ single to score both quick runners to tie up the game and make the Mets uncomfortable and heightened the drama for the over 40,000 fans in Queens.

And into extra innings, this game went. In the 10th, Ellsbury led-off with a walk and Teixeira singled. Pinch-hitter (and recently recalled) Ben Gamel then laid out a perfect bunt and beat the throw to load the bases. Something was cooking in Queens and it wasn’t coming from Shake Shack near center field. Then with 1 out, Starlin Castro hit a big sacrifice fly that scored Ellsbury to break the tie. It was just enough for the Yankees.

They sent in Dellin Betances, the new closer by default, for the 10th inning. But there was more drama to come. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt; a hit-by-pitch landed runners in the corners; and a ground out put runners in scoring position. CitiField was split down the middle with the fans in orange hoping for a walk-off something and the fans in pinstripes hoping for an out. A nice strikeout it was, and Betances got his first save of the season.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, in 10 innings.

Of course, one of the more interesting plays in the game happened at the very beginning. On the 2nd pitch of the game, Brett Gardner hit the ball right off the back wall of the park and safely had a triple. But due to his speediness and (according to Statcast) hitting 20.1 mph at one point, Gardner tried to stretch it into an inside-the-park home run. It was officially ruled as a triple with an out at home on the relay from right-center field. But we should have known this was going to be one of those games right then and there.

So trade updates… today, the Yankees said goodbye to Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova. And I don’t know which one Yankees fans are more upset about losing. The Yankees sent Beltran to the Rangers for 3 young pitchers — Dillon Tate (who went 4th overall in last year’s draft), Erik Swanson, and Nick Green. And the Yankees dealt Nova to the Pirates for 2 players to be named later.

Beltran has become a veteran presence on and off the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the Latino arm of MLB. Plus, his recent spike in offensive contribution had people already talking about Cooperstown. Nova is considered a “homegrown Yankee”, having grown up in the farm system and making his debut with the team in 2010; this made 2016 his 7th season with the Yankees. Both join recent trades like Miller and Chapman in the growing list of now former Yankees that will be missed by the fans.

With all the empty spots on the active roster, the Yankees recalled outfielder Ben Gamel and reliever Nick Goody, and added recent trade acquisition Tyler Clippard to the active roster. Clippard was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2003 and made his debut with them in 2007 before he bounced around the league pitching for the Nationals, Athletics, Mets, and Diamondbacks. And now, full circle back to the Yankees.

It appears to many that the Yankees have “pulled the plug” on 2016 and are regrouping for the future. And to some extent, I agree with that. I think they realize that the nostalgic pull of the late 1990s dynasty is over (and as to when that actually ended is up for debate), and people are wanting a regrouping to focus on the next dynasty.

I think it can be compared to several times throughout Yankee history when the team needed to close the door on what were great stretches of great teams — Murders’ Row of the late 20’s and the 1950s with DiMaggio into Mantle, et al. greatness comes to mind. I think history is more likely to group the late-90s dynasty with those 2 eras rather than the almost fluke that was the late-70s “Bronx is Burning” team. Chalk it up to the known players or the multiple World Series wins or just a better overall team. Whatever makes you happiest, I guess.

Because for the first time in many current fans’ lives, the team isn’t dominating the AL East consistently. It’s playing… well, like a normal team. It’s nowhere near as bad as the Yankees that most of the bulk of their current fan base were born under (as I was) — most of the 1970s (save a couple of fluke years), the 1980s, and the early 1990s. We got spoiled. We got used to winning. We got used to being the “Evil Empire” and dominating all the little “rebel forces” trying to usurp our rightful throne.

So here’s the fun upshot in all this sudden cold rush of reality: the Yankees will always come back and dominate with another dynasty. It’s in their blood. It’s the DNA of the organization. It may not look like Gehrig or DiMaggio or Berra or Rivera. But it will happen again. And I’d actually bet the farm (so to speak) that it will happen again in our lifetime. Because that’s what the Yankees do. They win. They excel. They set the standard. And when they’re not doing it, they fight as hard as they can to right the ship so they’re on top once again.

Don’t give up on the boys just yet. It may be a long road, but they’re still fighting. And so should you.

Go Yankees!

Game 104: NYY vs. TB — A sweeping loss

Okay, before we dive into the major news of the day that even overshadowed the game, we need to talk about the game. Being as it is the series against the Rays, I should resign to using water metaphors and puns. “Swept out to sea”, “sunk again”, and “dive bombed” might be appropriate phases, and to make matters worse, one of the home runs today was hit into the Rays touch tank the Trop has out over center field. (By the way, it’s super cool if you’re ever at the Trop; but get in line early, like when the gates first open, or you won’t get in before the game.) But I won’t resort to pirated phrases… okay, a few might sink in there from time to time.

Michael Pineda got the start this afternoon in the closing game of this weekend series against the Rays. Pineda actually threw a pretty decent game for the first half of his 6 innings, keeping the Rays scoreless and with just 1 hit. But then he struggled in the 4th getting runners in scoring position with no outs before they both scored on consecutive ground outs to give the Rays a lead.

A 2-out solo home run in the 5th added another run for the Rays (that’s the one that ended up floating in the touch tank). And in the 6th, with 2 outs and runners again in scoring position, Pineda intentionally walked a batter, hoping to go after the next batter. But a pitch left just a little up in the strike zone became a 2-RBI single to pad the Rays’ lead.

After 93 pitches, 6 hits, 4 walks, 5 runs, and 8 strikeouts, Pineda’s day was done. Luis Severino came on to throw a near perfect 2 innings and kept the Rays from adding to their score or doing much in the way of base runners.

In the meantime, the Yankees did their best to reduce the Rays’ lead. In the 4th inning, they loaded up the bases with a couple of singles and a walk and just 1 out, but the next batter quickly ended that hope by grounding into a double play.

It wasn’t until the 6th inning, they finally broke through. Ellsbury led-off with a walk and then scored when Carlos Beltran hit a big 2-run home run. The Yankees were on the board and watching the Rays enjoy their lead. So in the 8th, Starlin Castro led-off with a single and ended up at 2nd on a messy throwing error, before scoring on Brian McCann’s single. But a double play and line out later, the Yankees rally and run-scoring was at an end.

Honestly, most of the game featured pretty similar stats — 23 total strikeouts between the two teams, 15 hits, and 9 walks. But what does it always come down to? Those runs scored numbers.

Final score: 5-3 Rays, Rays sweep series 3-0.

And for the big news of the day… the Warriors Three and the Dynamic Duo are officially done. At 8:30 this morning, Andrew Miller got the call that informed him that he had been traded to Cleveland (more below). Sorry, Miller fans, but he’s headed to the “Mistake on the Lake”. Now, here’s the upside for Miller — Cleveland is doing really good this year, like they’re the best team in the AL as of this posting. Their chances of the postseason are really high (95%), which means Miller (who will wear #24 with the Indians) will most likely be playing October baseball. (More than I can say for most of his now former teammates — the Yankees’ postseason chances are down to 5%.)

Okay, so here’s the trade details: Miller was traded to the Indians as part of a big swap. In exchange for the closer, the Yankees acquired 4 prospects, including 2 of the Indians top prospects — outfielder Clint Frazier (#1) and left-hander Justus Sheffield (#5), as well as right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. In addition, to fill the gap on the roster due to Miller’s trade, the Yankees traded for an old face to some fans — pitcher Tyler Clippard is back from the Diamondbacks in exchange for pitching prospect Vicente Campos.

After updating the Yankees’ farm system rankings and the league’s farm system rankings, the Yankees’ farm system is actually one of the best in the entire league. This is really good news. It means the future is looking bright again, even if the current season isn’t looking so good. Comparisons are being made to the farm system that produced the core of what became the dynasty of the 1990s and early 2000s. Again, this is good news.

Go Yankees!

Game 98: SF vs. NYY — (Future & new) Hall of Fame heroes

This afternoon’s rubber match between the Giants and Yankees faced off with MLB fans for attention with the Hall of Fame weekend culmination, inducting in its two newest members. Both served up some interesting viewing, and both ended happily for New York and nostalgic fans.

In the Bronx, Nathan “NastyNate” Eovaldi was at it again, starting today’s game and staying rather strong throughout. He threw a season-high 118 pitches just shy of 7 full innings, getting a warm cheer by the 34,000 fans as he walked back to the dugout. He gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 6 batters. Eovaldi kept the Giants scoreless until his final inning. He allowed a lead-off single before getting a couple of outs, and then a double put runners in scoring position. And that was it for Eovaldi.

Chasen Shreve came in to help shut things down, but after working up a full count, he walked the batter to load the bases. Time for a new reliever to stop the rally. And it was Chad Green in. But a single scored the first two runners (Eovaldi’s runners) to get the Giants on the scoreboard before getting the final out of the inning.

But the Yankees got on the board first in the 1st with Carlos Beltran’s 21st home run — a 2-out solo shot to the right field seats. Then the Yankees repeated that in the 2nd with Mark Teixeira’s 200th home run in pinstripes with a 2-out solo shot. (People want to blame his new bright white cleats.

And then in the 6th, Hicks led-off with a walk and Gardner’s single put them on the corners. Then as Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a double play, Aaron Hicks made his way home to add to the Yankees’ lead. And then they did it again — Beltran and McCann on the corners with singles. Starlin Castro’s single scored Beltran, and Didi Gregorius’ ground-rule double into Monument Park scored McCann. The Giants’ starter was done after just 87 pitches. And that reliever did what the starter couldn’t do — kept the Yankees from getting on the bases and scoring further runs.

The coolest play by the Yankees, however, was in the 8th inning. With 1 out and a runner on base with a single, the next batter hit into a non-standard double play — a grounder hit to Castro (at 2nd), thrown to Green (the pitcher), and then to Headley (at 3rd). Now, in standard scoring, that becomes a 4-1-5 double play. 415 also happens to be an area code for San Francisco (including where AT&T Park sits). But it was a great play, and some really smart thinking and action on behalf of Green to throw across the diamond to the diving Headley for the 2nd part of the out.

Final score: 5-2 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1.

Hall of Fame: Congratulations to the Cooperstown Class of 2016 — Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey, Jr. There is much covered all over MLB which dives into their history, their legacy, and their legend as they step into the new chapter of their baseball careers. Honestly, both Piazza and Griffey deserve this honor, and both players hold special moments and memories in my own memory of baseball history in the 1990s and early 2000s. So, it’s not hard to imagine why Cooperstown was packed this weekend for all the fun and festivities.

The next few years should be interesting as some of the key players who used to wear pinstripes come up for eligibility to the Hall of Fame. Who knows how the voters pick or select. Sometimes, they’ll surprise you, and sometimes, it’s super predictable. And Piazza and Griffey are predictable, yet deserved. But then this seems to be a similar story in the last few years. We’re just now getting to the height of the legends who peaked in the late 1990s and turn of the millennium. There’s going to be a lot of nostalgia over the next few Cooperstown election cycles. And I kind of don’t mind.

Go Yankees!

Game 96: SF vs. NYY — Errors make for easy runs, apparently

There were 45,304 fans who spent a rather muggy Friday night at the stadium to watch the series opener against the visiting Giants. Now, the Giants are basically one of the best teams in baseball, which makes sense as it’s an even-numbered year. (Reminder: the Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014.)

Masahiro Tanaka started the game and pretty much dominated the game for his 6 innings. He threw a rather efficient 83 pitches during his tenure, allowing just 4 hits, 2 walks, and no runs, striking out 4 Giants batters.

The Yankees struck first offensively tonight, which actually kind of shocked me, as they faced the Giants main ace and one of the stars of their last World Series Championship (he won the MVP in 2014). In the bottom of the 1st, Brett Gardner led-off with a single and then scored on Starlin Castro’s double. Castro ended up at 3rd due to a bad throwing error (the first of the Giants’ 4 errors tonight) as Gardner slid head-first into home. A couple of outs and a couple of walks later, the bases were loaded, and finally that ace pitcher pulled through and got Romine to fly out for the final out of the inning, escaping that jam.

Then in the 2nd, with 2 outs and Torreyes on base with a single, Castro singled and moved Torreyes to 3rd on a fielding error (sloppy play). Torreyes then easily scored on Carlos Beltran’s RBI single. And with that, the Yankees were up 2-0 in the 2nd inning. But while they continued to collect a handful of hits and walks, the Giants were able to band together and shut them down from scoring.

Now, the biggest defensive star tonight was easily Carlos Beltran. The veteran outfielder ranged for a running and leaping catch to save a double in 6th and had a nice catch and throw home with his rocket arm to gun down a runner trying to score at home for a double playin the 3rd. Now, the Giants wanted to make sure the out was really out at home. Which, of course, it was (even after a challenge and replay)

Still, Tanaka had a nice lead to protect and pass onto the Warriors Three tonight. Now, until tonight, the Yankees’ bullpen kept a scoreless streak 31 innings. That ended tonight. In the 7th, Dellin Betances walked his first batter and then struck out the next two. The next batter doubled, putting both runners in scoring position, so that a wild pitch easily scored the Giants’ first run of the night. Not to be outdone, Andrew Miller added his own contribution to the break of that streak. With 2 outs and runners on the corners, a pinch-hit double scored the lead runner and tied up the game. But Miller got out of it with a strikeout.

That tie didn’t last long. In the bottom of the 8th, Chase Headley led-off with a single and Teixeira walked. Austin Romine hit a little grounder that they tried to make into a double play. They got Teixeira out at 2nd and then (what else tonight?) a bad throwing error allowed Headley to sprint to home to put the Yankees back in the lead.

A pitching change ended the Yankees rally, but the damage was done. It was Aroldis Chapman for his 20th save and some nasty fireballs in the 9th inning. His last 8 fastballs were listed as: 104.3, 104.0, 104.9, 105.3, 104.9, 104.8, and 104.0 mph. Nasty stuff.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees.

The injury this game was on other team this time, as the catcher took a foul ball off his foot. For anyone interested, he’s fine; it’s “just a bruise”. But I have to say after a good portion of this season having to report about a Yankee injury, it was a bit of a relief to not report about a Yankee injury. Though a game without any injury report is better than a game with an injury (even if it is the “other guys”).

Also, as I’m back now, I want to give a big thanks and shout out to my guest blogger “pinstripes08” for filling in for me this month. Pinstripes08 will be back to do special features in the near future. So stay tuned!

Go Yankees!