Category: Yankees

How So-lo Can You Go? Bombers Bomb in The Bronx

With 5 solo shots by the Bronx Bombers, the Yankees take their fourth of the last six games, and continue to pick up steam.  Aroldis Chapman also made his 2016 and Yankees debut and recent call-up Ben Gamel picks up his first major league hit in his first major league at-bat.

The Bronx, NY, bottom of the first, no-one on, one strike, one ball, two outs, Brian McCann at the plate.  The 12th pitch of the game delivered by Chris Young of the Kansas City Royals, and so begins the night of the one-run homer. A high and outside 88 mph fastball gets sent over the right-centerfield wall, into the first row, and just out of reach of a leaping Lorenzo Cain‘s glove.  1-0 Yankees.

Seven bases empty home runs between the two teams would be the story of the night, with the Yankees dropping five of those long balls, including three in the third, and the Royals adding two, including one in the top of the second when Alex Gordon hit a solo shot off Ivan Nova to tie the game at one a piece.

The Yankees would take the lead right back in the bottom of the second, with Carlos Beltran‘s fifth dinger of the year sailing over the fence.  Once again it was to right-center, and once again, it was a fastball, except this time, it was only 87mph, and right down the gut. The Yanks wouldn’t relinquish the lead again, on their way to their fourth victory in six games.

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Carlos Beltran watching one fly into the bleachers at Yankee Stadium, Credit: AP Images

Even more fireworks erupted in the bottom of the third, when Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and once again, Carlos Beltran, would each drive the ball beyond the confines of the Yankee Stadium outfield wall.  Gardy and the switch hitting Hicks would go back to back, with Beltran following a few batters later with his sixth of the year.  Gardner and Beltran would again smash not-so-fast fastballs out of the park, while Hicks took advantage of a hung slider for the longest of the Pinstripers round-trippers of the night, putting the Yankees up 5-1.

They would go on to tack on one more run in the bottom of the seventh with an Aaron Hicks sacrifice fly, only to have Eric Hosmer get it back in the top of the eighth with the seventh and final single-RBI bomb of the night; Yet another blast to right-center, this one coming at the expense of Chasen Shreve, and Hosmer’s 6th of the 2016 campaign, but not enough to come back against the Yankees, who won the game 6-3.

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Chapman making his Yankee debut, Credit: AP Images

Overshadowed, but not lost in the plethora of solo gopher balls hit into the right-center bleachers, was the return of Aroldis Chapman, having completed his 30 game suspension for some off the field legal issues during the winter break.  He would toss one inning, give up one earned, and strike out two, throwing over 100mph with regularity.  The Chapman filter should return to a @statcast near you any day now.

Ben Gamel also made his first ever plate appearance in his third official major league game, and picked up the first hit of his professional career, hitting a chopper to the left side of the infield off the glove of Alcides Escobar.  Gamel, who has hit .286 in AAA this year is now batting 1.000 in the big leagues.

In one final footnote, since it relates to the theme of “can anyone hit anything other than a home run”, Yankees #2 prospect, Aaron Judge, also dropped a one man four-bagger, when he launched one over the fence in the bottom of the seventh of the RailRiders 6-0 win.

Jason Greco, @thatbaseballer1

Yankee Injuries A Blessing?

No one wants to see a pro-athlete suffer an injury.  They can, however, lead the way to improvement, and force the hand of the front office or manager to make moves they didn’t have the stones to make when a player is healthy.

Jacoby Ellsbury and C.C. Sabathia are among some of the latest injuries the Yankees have suffered.  Ellsbury left yesterday’s game in the first inning with a right hip injury that a subsequent MRI would reveal was a strain.  He is currently listed as day-to-day. Aging veteran C.C. Sabathia was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain.

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Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The 40 year-old Alex Rodriguez also recently hit the 15-day DL for the second time this season, but even while being limited to a role as DH, it is to be somewhat expected.  He is, after all, one of the few players in the league older than I am.

These are not season ending injuries such as the one the young first base prospect Greg Bird suffered during the off-season, when he had to undergo surgery to repair his torn right labrum, but they do open the door to possibly getting a glimpse of some AAA talent.

The bad news …

The timing is very “2016 Yankees”. Though they won on a controversial couple of 9th inning pitches by Andrew Miller to David Ortiz, which led to a strikeout of Big Papi with the bases loaded, a John Farrell ejection, and a game ending K versus Hanley Ramirez, timing has not been something the Bombers have excelled in this year, batting just .207 with runners in scoring position.  C.C. is coming off two of his best starts in recent memory, and although the first of the two, in Texas, resulted in a Yankees loss and wasn’t exactly pitcher of the week material, it did show signs of the old [read: much younger] C.C. His last start, May 4, in Baltimore was very promising, having pitched 7 innings, with 6 K’s and no earned runs in an all-to-rare Yankees victory.

Likewise, Ellsbury has been coming on stronger of late, pulling his average up from near the Mendoza Line in mid-April when it sat at .213 to its current .260, and has a slash line of .400/.526/.600 over the last 5 games.  Even ARod has started to come around recently, with a slash of .368/.400/1.000, with three home runs and 3 doubles in his last 6 games.

The less than great but not quite bad news …

While these injuries could present opportunities to get a glimpse of some young talent, even if it is brief, the Yankees instead optioned to call up Ben Gamel, a lesser known prospect who had a solid 2015 season with Scranton/Wilkes Barre, and Phil Coke, who is a solid 32 year-old pitcher that has spent most of his career coming out of the bullpen, so expect to see Ivan Nova fill the #5 spot in the rotation.

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Credit: Associated Press

I’m actually alright with the move to bring up Gamel, letting the highly anticipated debut of Aaron Judge wait a bit longer, but I would have liked to have seen maybe Chad Green (1-3, 1.45 ERA, 1.16 WHIP) brought up from AAA for a couple of starts, or even Tyler Webb (1-0, 1.88 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) if you want to back fill Nova’s spot in the bullpen while he fills in for Sabathia.  Nova has been in that role, and proven he can’t handle it, not to mention he has given up 8 earned runs in just 14 inning so far in 2016, so I’d personally rather see a starter called up.

The good news …

There is a light at the end of the tunnel … or so it would seem.  The Yankees have a middle of the road farm system right now, but it is one of the best they’ve had in years.  Prospects such as Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, and Gary Sanchez, provide a lot of hope for replacing some of our aging players such as Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and ARod (if Mateo can make an adjustment and play third base), and don’t forget about Greg Bird, who will hopefully be able to replace Mark Teixeira.

I do expect both Judge and Sanchez to be seen in The Bronx at some point this season, although with the less than ballsy moves by Cashman and company, I wouldn’t expect to see it prior to the September roster expansion.

There is hope Yankees Nation.  We may just have to be, dare I say it …. patient.

Jason Greco, @thatbaseballer1

Header image credit: YES Network

The Curse of Donnie Baseball

Could it be true?  Could the most potent and powerful curse in all of major league history belong to a man beloved by New York Yankees fans everywhere?  The greatest Yankee to never win a World Series, may just be doomed to never get that ring.

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Don Mattingly’s 1982 Police Columbus Clippers Baseball Card

Donnie Baseball. The Hit Man. 1985 AL MVP. Don Mattingly.Donald Arthur Mattingly, out of Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, Indiana, was drafted as the 25th pick in the 19th round of the 1979 amateur draft, by the New York Yankees. For those of you keep tracking at home, that’s 493rd overall, which is to say, a long shot to ever make The Show. However, a little over three years later, the man who would be best known as “Donnie Baseball”, would make his major league debut with the parent club that drafted him. As of September 8, 1982, Don Mattingly had made the big leagues.

The Yankees were in the World Series just the year before, losing the series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In their third meeting in five years, the Dodgers would take home the championship in six games, after dropping the first two games to New York. This was the eleventh (and still the last) time these two teams had met in the WS, including back to back titles for the Yankees in 1977 and ’78 (which as luck would have it, were also the first two years of my life).  The stage seemed set for the Yankees to enter yet another of their seemingly predestined runs of postseason glory … but that was not to be.

His late season call-up in 1982 led to a 91 game/305 PA season in 1983, batting .283 while being used as a utility player primarily at first (where established star Ken Griffey played), which was enough exceed the rookie limits, and earn a full-time gig in the Bronx in 1984, where he would be a gold-glove winning staple at first base for the Yankees until his retirement after the 1995 season.

In his 1984 season he exploded onto the major league scene batting a league leading .343, and led the league in hits (207) and doubles (44) while pounding 23 long balls and driving in 110. The Yankees, however, only finished third in the AL East.  The next year was more of the same, with The Hit Man hitting .324, while leading the league in both doubles (48) and RBI’s (145), while being named to his second All-Star team, winning his first gold glove, first Silver Slugger, and taking home his one and only MVP award.  The Yankees improved to 97-64, and a second place finish in the AL East, coming up two games shy of the division winning Toronto Blue Jays in an era that only had two divisions per league, no wild card, and no division series. No October for the Yanks once again.

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A Poster from the mid-1980’s featuring The Hit Man in a pinstriped suit, holding a bat like a tommy gun in a clear play on words to reference 1930’s style gangster culture.

It would be more of the same from Mattingly over the years, and the Yankees went downhill from there including 5 consecutive losing seasons (they only have 21 all-time), from 1988 – 1992.  In 1994, the Yankees finally seemed primed for a playoff run, which would have been Mattingly’s first, but the players strike ended the season short, with a 70-43 record, second best in all of baseball to the Montreal Expos mark of 74-40. It would be only the second time in MLB history that there would be no World Series, and for the first time since 1904, nobody would be crowned champion, and the postseason would elude Donnie Baseball yet again.

In his final season as a player in 1995, Don Mattingly finally got a taste of October baseball.  With the recently added division series being added to the playoffs, the Bombers squeaked into the ALDS after finishing second in the division to the Boston Red Sox and squared off against the young and upcoming star whose father Mattingly had played with 12 years prior, Ken Griffey, and the Seattle Mariners.

In a playoff series best remembered for Griffey’s slide into home for the winning run in the bottom of the 11th, and likely saving baseball in Seattle, Mattingly would bat .417 with 4 2B’s, a HR and 6 RBI’s.  The Yankees had led the best-of-5 series 2-0, taking both games in The Bronx, including a 15 inning thriller in Game 2, before dropping three in a row on the road in The Kingdome.  Don Mattingly’s hopes of ever wearing a World Series ring would end watching “The Kid” (who also never won a World Series) take that dream away with a slide into home plate.  It was over.  The 6-time All-Star, 9-time Gold Glove winner, and 1985 AL MVP, who amassed 2153 career hits, with 222 home runs, and a career .307 batting average, would never play in the playoffs again.  he would never trot out to first base in the World Series, and he would never raise the Commissioner’s Trophy above his head in triumph.  He would, in fact, never play Major League Baseball again.

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Boggs and Mattingly, circa 1986

The rest, as they say, is history.  The Yankees would go on to win their first championship in 17 years in 1996, ending their longest drought since winning their first title in 1921. As if that weren’t enough, long time Boston batting rival, Wade Boggs, who joined the Yankees in 1993, would win a championship in the front of the home crowd in Yankee Stadium.  Wade Boggs, who had a solid season batting .311 over 132 games, was simply in the right place at the right time, and the fan-favorite Don Mattingly, simply never was.  Roger Clemens taking home two rings while wearing pinstripes in 1999 and 2000, was just more salt in the wound.

Coincidence?  Maybe.

Mattingly would return to baseball in 2004, as a hitting coach with the same team with whom he had spent his entire career.  After another solid season that had become all too routine, the Yankees made history.  With Mattingly in his first season back in the clubhouse, the Yanks would have a monumental collapse in the ALCS, losing a 3 games to none lead to the Red Sox, and fall in seven; The first and [to date] the only team to lose a seven-game series when leading 3-0. The Red Sox would go on to win their first championship in 86 years.

Bad luck?  Perhaps.

He would remain hitting coach until 2006, when he moved into the position of Yankees bench coach in 2007.  The Yankees would win another World Series only two years later, in 2009.

Cursed?  I think so.

He would go on to manage the Dodgers from 2011-2015, leading the highest paid team in baseball history to a 446-363 record over 5 seasons, and a less than enviable 8-11 postseason record.  He is currently the manager of the Miami Marlins.

Greater players than Mattingly have failed to reach the pinnacle of baseball success.  Ted Williams and Ernie Banks immediately come to mind.  The difference is that their teams were “cursed”.  The “Curse of the Billy Goat”, placed on the Cubs in their last World Series appearance in 1945 (last won in 1908), allegedly by owner Billy Sianis for denial of entry to his goat, and the far more infamous “Curse of the Bambino”, which the Red Sox inadvertently placed on themselves by selling babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919.

“But the Curse of the Bambino was broken”, you say.  Indeed it was.  For a curse can only be broken by a more powerful curse, and in this one particular case, the Great Bambino was no match for Donnie Baseball.  Cubs fans should pray for his return to the American League. It seems Don Mattingly has won something after all.

~ Jason Greco, @thatbaseballer1

 

 

Time to Panic in The Bronx?

thatbaseballer

Don’t pull that ripcord just yet.  Yes, the Yankees had a dreadful April, and while losing is not something we’re accustomed to as Yankees fans, I wouldn’t start thinking about the 2017 season just yet.

The Yankees ended April in the cellar of the always competitive AL East, with a W/L record of just 8-14, which is far from acceptable amongst Yankee fans. The lack of scoring and run support resulted in 8 losses when allowing 5 runs or less, 3 of which the opposition was held to 3 or less.  They’ve lost their last 4 in a row, concluding April with an embarrassing 8-0 loss at the hands of the rival Boston Red Sox.

April was only slightly kinder in Yankee Stadium than it was on the road, with the Yankees going 5-7 in The Bronx, while 3-7 on the road.  Generally poor hitting and the inability to…

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