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Happy Monday, folks. The Yankees are off tonight after returning to the Big Apple for the final home stand of the season. Isn’t that wild? Anyway, the Yankees are tied with Houston for the best record in the American League, which means that they’re actually a game behind. Houston, which won the season series, owns the tiebreaker, remember. The Yanks will have to be one game better than Houston over the remaining 11 games to secure home-field advantage.

Anyway, with the off night, I figured I’d hold us over with a news post that covers the latest developments in Yankeeland. Here goes nothin’.

Playoff Rotation

Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated had a fascinating piece about the Yankees’ plans for postseason usage. The piece offers some insight into the Yankees’ and Aaron Boone’s thinking about optimal bullpen usage and the way in which they will use their starters. Here is the money quote, in my opinion:

“We’re going to be a little untraditional. The only one we might use as a traditional starter is [James] Paxton.”

Aaron boone

He even went on to say that he viewed Tanaka as a “floater” later on, which is something I find a bit strange. I’m not in the business of parsing words–I still think the most likely outcome is Tanaka starting a game, even if he’s limited to 5 innings–so I’m not even going to bother guessing what “floater” means. To me, there’s no chance Tanaka is anything but a “traditional” starter. He might not be allowed to go through the order three times, but that’s basically what’s expected these days.

There are plenty of other good nuggets in there–did you know that the last NYY starter to face 27 batters in a playoff game was Hiroki Kuroda? #HIROK–and Verducci has some good data in there about recent pitcher usage. I saw some folks on Twitter either mildly annoyed or surprised by this story, which surprised me. This is literally why the Yankees built the team they built, after all.

Giancarlo Stanton Returns This Week

Giancarlo Stanton is set to return to the Yankees during this home stand, remember. I haven’t seen a more specific update recently, but Judge spoke to the media about Stanton over the weekend and there’s nothing to suggest that those plans have changed. We should see Giancarlo back in action this week. That is good news.

I’m sure there will be a lot of bellyaching across the fandom once Giancarlo does come back and strikes out in his first at-bat or whatever, because that’s what we do now. A lot of folks have decided that Stanton is bad and makes the Yankees worse, but, dear reader, I trust you know that is baloney. It was baloney before the Encarnación and Stanton injuries and it is baloney now. The Yankees are simply a better team with literal MVP Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup. Controversial take, I know. I’m excited to see him back this week, though. If he returns tomorrow, and I hope he does, he’ll have about 40-45 plate appearances before October.

That’s not a lot, but it will hopefully be enough. Here is what Judge had to say:

“The biggest thing he has to realize is that these last 12 games are important, but what is more important to us and the team is him getting ready for the postseason.

Say you struggle the first couple of games, ‘Hey, forget about it, you just keep working on what you need to work on.’ We’ll still be fighting for the best record in baseball, and he is going to come out here to win every game, but don’t get frustrated if he is not getting hits. Make sure of your preparation. You are seeing the right balls, you are swinging at the right pitches.’ He is a big piece.

I know a lot of people might have said, ‘Why bring him in now? He’s missing the year, you got a good thing going on.’ But he is an MVP, he knows what to do. He’s come back from injuries before, he knows how to come back. We’ll be adding another guy who can leave the park at any time. Just do your job. And he has been around the team all year, it is not like he has been gone for six months and all of a sudden he is a new player coming in, he’s been around the team, vibing with us, hanging with us.

There will be no letdown. I know that. It will be a big relief for a lot of guys. ‘We got Stanton now, too.’ It makes that one through nine even tougher.’’

Aaron judge on giancarlo stanton

Have I ever mentioned that I love Aaron Judge? A captain in the making, for real.

The Return of Brett Gardner?

Brett Gardner, he of 25 home runs and a .249/.326/.500 (111 wRC+) triple-slash, is open to returning to the Yankees next season. No surprises there, really. The Yankees are the only organization Gardner has ever known–they drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2005 Amateur Draft–and he is the team’s longest tenured player.

He told Randy Miller of NJ.com that he would “love to be back next season” and that he’s “always been very honest about not wanting to play anywhere else.” Gardner went on to say that he is too focused on the team and 2019 to focus on next year right now, but we all know that’s not true. It’s only natural.

For what it’s worth (it’s worth nothing), I fully expect the Yanks and Gardner to come to another one-year deal this offseason. Probably right away, in the first week of November or something. It makes too much sense. Even if you believe that his stats are boosted by the juiced ball, Gardner is a capable MLB player.

Even if he regresses offensively next season, he’s still a plus defender and he’s the fastest Yankee regular. He hasn’t lost a step at all. Those are skills that make a player a perfect 4th outfielder at the worst. We’ve all seen what he’s done this year when playing every day. Plus, he is seemingly beloved in the clubhouse and he is a true leader. That stuff matters, too. I think we’ll see Gardy back where he belongs next year.

Baseball America’s MiLB All-Stars

Over the weekend, the good folks over at Baseball America named their 2019 MiLB All-Stars. Two Yankees made the list: Canaan Smith and Ezequiel Duran. You can see the full list here.

Nice to see those dudes get some love. Smith, who was drafted out of high school in the 4th round of the 2017 draft, had a real nice season for the Class Single-A Charleston RiverDogs, hitting .307/.405/.465 (154 wRC+) with 11 HR in 528 plate appearances. The 2o-year-old outfielder had a nice rookie campaign and then struggled last year, so this was a nice rebound season for him.

Duran, who was signed as an IFL from the Dominican Republic way back in 2012, was a standout for the Short-Season A-ball Staten Island Yankees. The 20-year-old second baseman hit .256/.329/.496 (143 wRC+) with 13 HR in 277 plate appearances. This was his third season with the organization and his first above rookie ball.

Mariano is Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Mariano Rivera was awarded and presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House today.