A win’s a win. After standing absolutely no chance against Max Scherzer, Brad Hand blew the save. And he coughed up the lead again in the tenth, I might add. Same guy the Yankees beat in Game 2 of the Wild Card series last season. They’ve got his number.
The Yankees eventually won this one in 11 frames, 4-3. You read that right: the Yankees won a game in extra innings. Feels like they’ve lost a million frustrating ones already this season. To the takeaways:
Friends, I miss baseball. A lot more than a normal person should, really, but that’s to be expected. I also miss writing about baseball: it’s been several weeks now that I’ve been mostly completely absent. Of course, we all have the pandemic to thank for that. While I’ve been fortunate to be healthy, it’s altered quite a lot of the day-to-day, hence the silence.
In any case, that’s over now. You can expect much more regular posts in this space again, and frankly, I’m very excited about it. A tinge of normalcy will be nice, and writing about baseball has always been cathartic. (And a special thanks to Randy and Matt is in order, as they’ve managed to keep things rolling here. It’s greatly appreciated.) It’s time for a news and notes post.
But first! A fun highlight: 16 years ago today, the great Mariano Rivera earned his 300th career save. It came against Tampa Bay. Here’s the video:
Miss you, Mo. Our man went on to collect 352 more in his illustrious career, which made him baseball’s first unanimous Hall of Famer. Good stuff. Onto today’s relevant news.
A Labor War, What’s It Good For?
Is baseball going to have a season in 2020? That’s the million dollar question these days. I am actually optimistic – if that’s a word you want to use – that there will be a truncated season of some sort. At the same time, though, there are serious complications to that vision, caused by the broken economics of the sport.
No reader of this site is a stranger to the fact that there have been obvious fault lines in baseball’s economics for some time now. Management and labor – using the term “owners and players” obscures that this is a labor issue at heart – have been battling for years now. We’ve all seen it coming and many of us predicted a work stoppage after the CBA expired next year.
Well, the pandemic has exacerbated that underlying labor crisis and accelerated negotiations because now everyone is feeling the squeeze. Randy and Matt have discussed this and more lately on the podcast, so I don’t need to get into it that much more, but there are a few notable updates over the past few days.
First, MLB presented the MLBPA with a new plan to restart the game. It involves another pay cut for the players, who have already agreed to one. It’s steep for the richest players in the game. Here is the pay scale, per Jeff Passan:
Yikes! In Yankee terms, that means Gerrit Cole would make about $9 million this year, not the $36 he signed for. Nobody will feel sorry for these guys, of course, as 41 million Americans file for unemployment (but not the MiLB players who aren’t getting paid!) these days. But it’s understandable that the union will not go for this deal after already accepting a pay cut, especially to it’s most powerful and visible members. For what other purpose would MLBPA even exist if not to push back on this?
And they are pushing back. Via player union official Max Scherzer, the players will not engage with the league any further on this issue. Here is his statement, which, again, can be read on behalf of the entire union:
The union is also now pushing back on the 82-game proposal for a longer season – going back on previously agreed upon terms, just like their management friends. Now that at is what I call an impasse. (And, according to one union lawyer on Twitter, a tactically wise one for MLBPA. Check it out.) I don’t think its an insurmountable hurdle by any means, but these are real challenges to getting the league back up and running.
In these scenarios, I am always, 100% of the time, going to side with the players. I truly believe in the maxim that you can’t privatize the profits and socialize the losses. (Well, you *can*, because, well [gestures widely] but it’s an immoral thing to do.) Besides, management takes the risks here, as they like to say. Sometimes, when you take risks, it blows up in your face. That’s what risk means.
At the same time, this is a weird, unprecedented economy. There is no question that teams will take a haircut and earn less money these days. I’d be more sympathetic, though, if the league as a unit wasn’t already squeezing players (and fans!) for every last penny recently, product be damned. I’d bet the union would be more friendly, too, but what do I know. In other words, a live look at MLB:
Last night on Twitter – where so much of these negotiations are bearing out – Trevor Bauer blasted Scott Boras for “meddling” in MLBPA affairs. Here’s what he had to say:
At the time, I thought that was puzzling not just because Trevor Bauer is a noted idiot but because Scott Boras’ “personal agenda” aligns with the players’ more than just about any other actor in the baseball universe. Turns out that, indeed, Bauer’s actions are puzzling. Today, the Associated Press got access to some of Boras’ “meddling”, and here’s what it was:
In an email obtained by The Associated Press, Boras wrote that players should not alter terms of the March 26 agreement between MLB and the union that called for players to reduce their salaries to a prorated rate based on a shortened season. MLB on Tuesday proposed a series of tiered reductions that would cause top stars to receive the biggest cuts.
“Remember, games cannot be played without you,” Boras wrote. “Players should not agree to further pay cuts to bail out the owners. Let owners take some of their record revenues and profits from the past several years and pay you the prorated salaries you agreed to accept or let them borrow against the asset values they created from the use of those profits players generated.”
Boras has a undeservingly bad reputation, but it’s impossible to deny that the man has a point here. These are lines the players should be trumpeting from the rooftops, so it’s a bizarre choice by Bauer to slam him, but not altogether unsurprising.
But buried in the email was one more interesting point. Perhaps, in fact, it’s the key point of all this: per Boras, “the owners’ current problem is a result of the money they borrowed when they purchased their franchises, renovated their stadiums or developed land around their ballparks.”
It’s an insightful critique and one that gets at the heart of the problem. The league is about much more than just baseball, of course, and that’s the root cause of the labor issues. It’s why salaries have largely stagnated – complex investor groups, complicated land use deals, and other financial arrangements are the language of the game’s books – in recent years and a driver of the labor strife.
These are tangled webs, but I think Boras has the right of it. Owners have made record profits lately. Players should not need to finance their losses now, especially not more than they’ve already agreed to. Again, it’s bizarre for an outspoken player to slam a powerful actor for articulating this stance, but hey, it’s Bauer.
(For a more detailed explanation of the Yankees debt service obligations surrounding the financing of Yankee Stadium, a crucial topic for the team, check out the last answer in this mailbag. I explored it in a bit of detail there.)
Derek Jeter, Ever Heard of Him?
Every non-Yankee fan’s favorite punching bag is back in the spotlight. MLB Network is going to be running 64 (!) consecutive hours of Derek Jeter coverage, beginning tomorrow at 6 am EDT:
That is a crap ton of hours about Derek Jeter and some people are going to get so performatively mad about it. I love it. Jeter, for all his faults, is one of the finest players in league history and a beloved franchise icon – and one of my favorite characteristics of his is to make nearly everyone else mad. You gotta love it.
I’ll probably be tuning in to see some of his many career highlights over that period. Here’s one that never gets old:
I don’t know about you, but it feels like time has crawled since the end of Game 3. The rainout yesterday obviously hasn’t helped, but I can’t wait until it’s Tanaka time come 8pm or so. I’m exhausted from rehashing what went wrong in Games 2 and 3 and there’s been too much free time to do that. It probably hasn’t helped that the NLCS ended quite quickly; the Nationals sweep of the Cardinals hasn’t allowed for any distractions over the past couple of days. For now though, to kill some time between now and first pitch tonight, here’s a news and notes roundup.
The Yankees and Astros argued back and forth over Houston’s alleged sign stealing
Honestly, I’m so over talk of this and pitch tipping. Sure, the Astros have developed a reputation for this kind of gamesmanship, but I have a hard time getting up in arms about it. Especially because, as Andy Martino reported, the Yankees were enraged by Houston’s behavior in Game 1, when they handled the Astros with ease 7-0.
Sign stealing is part of the game, but apparently, Houston drew ire because they went too far in the Yankees’ view. Apparently, whistling to relay information is wrong, but other more subtle methods are OK. Whatever. The Yankees need to just beat the Astros on the field. As long as Houston’s not cheating with some sort of advanced technology, which there’s absolutely no evidence of, the Yankees need to do better. Just beat them on the field.
Just to close this out — MLB found no wrongdoing:
As first reported by @martinonyc, the #Yankees suspected the #Astros used a whistling sound from their dugout in Game 1 of the ALCS as a way to convey signs to hitters. Per sources, MLB investigated and found Astros did not engage in any activities prohibited by MLB policies.
The Astros and Nationals have reminded the Yankees of pitchers that could have donned pinstripes
Lindsey Adler of The Athletic (subs. required) gave a good overview of where the Yankees’ pitching staff stands with Game 4 upcoming and no days off the rest of the series. Even though the Yankees’ pitching staff as a whole has done a great job suppressing run scoring against Minnesota and Houston, we’re starting to see the toll of not having starters capable of giving length. Aside from Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees’ starters have struggled to go more than three or four innings.
The issues with getting five or six innings regularly from the rotation is in stark contrast of not only the Yankees’ current opponent, but also the National League Champion Nationals. And of course, both teams have workhorse starters that the Yankees could have had, as Adler notes. Justin Verlander could have been had as a waiver claim in 2017, Patrick Corbin could have been a Yankee had the team been willing to offer him six instead of five years, and Gerrit Cole could have been acquired via trade following 2017. Max Scherzer, who is not mentioned in this piece, was signed by Washington before the 2015 season in free agency. The Yankees theoretically could have (should have!) signed him too.
Now, the lack of starters who regularly give length doesn’t mean the Yankees can’t overcome this 2-1 deficit against Houston. It just provides an added challenge.
What makes Masahiro Tanaka so good in the postseason?
There are a few good quotes in here, mainly from Yu Darvish but also from Aaron Boone. The forthcoming Darvish quote takes the cake:
“If anything, Tanaka has posted better numbers in the postseason than myself, so I don’t think I have much advice to give him,” Darvish told ESPN. “It may be because his sense of personal responsibility is strong, and he competes with the mentality of going to kill his opponent.”
With Tanaka going tonight, you have to feel pretty confident about leveling this series at two a piece. I never, ever, want to hear anyone complain about his regular season ups and downs ever again.
Josh Reddick takes exception to Yankee Stadium crowd
Yankee Stadium in October isn’t the most welcoming environment for road teams. We’ve seen this time and time again, whether in prior years or as recently as the ALDS with the “Uber” chants directed at Twins’ starter Randy Dobnak. It’s come up once again in the ALCS, with this time Josh Reddick taking the brunt of it.
For what it’s worth, he doesn’t seem to be upset about anything said to him. He even seems mildly impressed with some of the comments received. But, he rightfully took exception to things being thrown on the field. That’s definitely dangerous and over the line.
After four incredibly long nights without (real) baseball, we will finally see our Yanks back in action tonight when they take on the Blue Jays. I’m looking forward to this second half, you guys. I really am. I think it has the potential to be one of those that we remember for a long time.
Yankee fans do a lot of complaining, and we seem to spend a lot of time griping about the parts of the team that aren’t working, but as we get ready for this second half, let’s remember how good things are right now. There are not many teams in a better position than the Yanks are. I just hope the good times keep rolling throughout the summer and into the fall.
Anyway, on to the mailbag. We have 6 questions today. As always, send us your questions by email at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com.
Jamie Asks: With Marcus Stroman dealing with a pectoral injury and Max Scherzer presumably unavailable, are there any starting pitcher difference makers available that the Yankees are WILLING to trade for? Or are they most likely going to trade for this year’s Zach Britton?
Let’s just get this over with to begin with: Max Scherzer is definitely, 100% not available. There’s no reason to think he would be. I mean, if the season ended today, the Nationals would be the NL’s top Wild Card team. That doesn’t seem like a team that’s about to trade their best pitcher. Things have changed, and I think it’s time that Yankee fans move on from the Scherzer dream. It would be nice–more than nice–but it’s not going to happen.
As for difference-making SP, it depends on what you mean by “difference-making”, I guess. I’ve taken a pretty thorough look at Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman (I know, I know, the injury, but that does seem minor at this point), and Matt Boyd so far (with more on the way), and I think you could make an argument that any one of those guys could be a difference-maker. Hell, I think you could argue J.A. Happ was a difference-maker last year! It all depends in the definition.
There are, to the public’s knowledge at least, no true aces available this year, though. Bauer comes close I guess, but he’s still not on the Scherzer level. If Scherzer or another like him is what fans want, a lot of people aren’t going to be satisfied with this deadline, I think.
Matt Asks: What are the chances we see Severino or Betances this year? Do you think we sign Didi to an extension? Early predictions on Jasson?
This one is a multi-parter, but I like all of the questions. I’m going to answer the last part first, though. I don’t really have a lot to say about Jasson Dominguez, the 16-year-old phenom from the Dominican Republic that the Yankees just signed, that you can’t find elsewhere. Jeff Passan wrote an excellent article about him, so just read that. FanGraphs, in what feels insane to me, already ranks him as the Yankees top-ranked prospect. I’ve never seen him play or even talked to anyone who has, so how can I say what I think right now? I’m excited to follow him, and I think you should be too. That’s all I know at this point.
Anyway, I think the odds that we see either Severino or Betances in 2019 are pretty slim at this point. The odds are decreasing with each day that we don’t hear more about them. Severino isn’t even throwing as far as we know, and the last we heard from him was that the Yankees bungled his recovery. The Yankees won’t even answer questions about Betances’ timeline. Remember, both of these guys are going to need significant rehab time. It’s starting to get late really early around here, which is a huge bummer. The Yanks are so much better with Severino and Betances.
As for Didi, I do think the Yanks sign him to an extension. He is clearly a valuable member of the clubhouse, and my man put up a .268/.335/.494 (121 wRC+) line last year with great defense. He’s improved every year in New York, and he took over for Derek Jeter. Not a small task. I think the Yanks will look to sign him after the season, and I think they’d be silly not to.
Since we’re talking about Didi, let’s all watch this again, because why the hell not:
Robert Asks: What’s up with Clint Frazier performing terribly at AAA? I know it’s been only a few weeks, but every time you show his name in DotF he’s 0 for 3 with 2 Ks. Prior to his demotion, he had like a .850 OPS with the Yanks! Is it possible that his anger at the Yankees has resulted in bad habits at the plate?
Robert is right: Clint is not hitting the same in Triple-A as he was in the Majors. He’s hitting .234/.290/.391 (71 wRC+) in the minors this year, to be exact, and .283/.330/.513 (117 wRC+) in the Bronx. What gives? Well, a few things.
First, it’s only been 70 Triple-A plate appearances for Clint. That’s not a lot and definitely not enough to make any declarative judgements though. Second, there does come a point where a player stagnates against minor league pitching, and I think Clint could be one of those cases. The dude is clearly an MLB-ready bat. I don’t think even his biggest detractors deny that. He needs consistent MLB at-bats to get better.
As for the last part, whether or not Clint is developing bad habits, I don’t think we can say that. He’s probably upset with his situation–you would be, too–and maybe that’s spilling onto the field. Does that mean he’s developing bad habits? Not necessarily. It just means he is struggling a little right now, but I wouldn’t lose any sleep over his Triple-A performance.
Matt Asks: Where would you set the over/under on Deivi Garcia MLB appearances this year? With the promotion to AAA it’s realistic he gets the call especially if he keeps pitching the way he’s been pitching. Couldn’t he be like Severino in 2015? Just pitching too well to hold back anymore.
First of all, let me just say that I completely agree with the last part of this question: Deivi is pitching too well to hold back. The Yankees seem to agree. As Matt said, he was recently promoted to Triple-A Scranton. That may not sound like a lot, but consider the fact that Deivi is the youngest player in Scranton by more than 3 years at age 20 (Thairo Estrada is 23) and he’s the youngest pitcher by 4 years (Mike King is 24). He was also the youngest player on the Thunder roster.
There’s a good reason why. 688 players have thrown at least 50 innings this season across the entire minor league system. Here are some Deivi stats, with his ranking among that group in parentheses:
Strikeout Percentage: 39.3% (1st)
Strikeouts Per 9: 14.94 (1st)
FIP: 1.86 (1st)
K-BB rate: 27.9% (12th)
Home Runs Per 9: 0.26 (36th)
Swinging Strike Percentage: 15.5% (40th)
Batting Average Against: .198 (68th, top 10%)
Home Run Per Fly Ball Rate: 4.2% (71st)
If you were wondering why I have such a huge prospect crush on him, this is why: holy smokes those peripherals are good. They’re even more impressive when you remember his age and the fact that the bulk of these innings have come in the upper minors. It’s so, so hard not to get over-excited about this kid as a Yankee fan.
This has all been a rather long-winded way to say that I’ll set the over/under on Deivi MLB appearances in 2019 at 10. There are a few reasons for that. First, the Yankees are trying to win, and it’s too hard to ignore Deivi’s arm at this point. If he continues to carve through lineups like butter, we’re going to see him in the Bronx this year. However, he will have an innings limit this season, so that means he’d likely come up as a reliever, ala Joba Chamberlain. That said, the use of the MLB ball at Triple-A, along with facing the hitters in general, is going to be a major test for him.
So I’ll say 10, as I can see him getting a cup of coffee in the bigs in late September, but 10 appearances would be more than that. It would mean he had a role to play down the stretch. And you know what? I’m feeling optimistic. I’m going to take the over.
Andrew Asks: At this point, if Chapman were to opt out after this season, do you think the Yankees should re-sign him or let him walk?
Ugh, this is a tough question. A really tough question. First of all, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Chapman is still really, really good. Since returning to New York, he is 9-4 with a 2.57 ERA (2.19 FIP) with 78 saves and 14 K/9 in 136.1 innings pitched. That all ranks toward the very top of the league in that period. It can feel shaky sometimes for some reason, but the reality is that the Yanks have one of the best closers in the business.
Not to mention, there aren’t any relievers out there with Chapman’s level of success or his kind of stuff. The guy is still in the 99th percentile of fastball velocity, for crying out loud, and he’s really refined his slider. The other best pending free agent is Betances, followed by Sean Doolittle. Slim pickings, even if Chapman isn’t getting younger.
Will he opt out? I kind of doubt it. He’d be leaving 2 years and $30 million on the table, and while he would probably beat that (look at the deals the Yanks gave Britton and Ottavino for non-closing roles), the market has been so anti-player recently that he might not want to deal with the hassle of it all. I’m not sure I blame him, and I go back and forth on whether or not he will opt out.
Now, with that said, if he opted out, I’d be fine if the Yankees let him walk. You don’t need me to remind you about the circumstances in which Chapman arrived in New York in the first place, after a domestic violence incident, a police investigation, and a suspension. This all makes me feel extremely uncomfortable–maybe it doesn’t make you feel that way, but it definitely does for me–and I wouldn’t be sorry to not have to wrestle with this anymore.
Ken Asks: I’m not trying to rush this incredibly fun season, but I also can’t help but wonder about next season. If we assume Andujar recovers fully from his labrum injury, and were you in charge, which four players would you want to get the most at-bats in the Yanks’ 2020 infield?
and George Asks: Look into your crystal ball: 2020 Yankees: if Miggy is healthy, does he stay or is he traded, once teams see the shoulder isn’t an issue? If he stays, in what role and is Gio your starting 3bman?
These are two tough questions. To answer the first one, which then segues into the last, here are the top 4 players I’d want getting at-bats in the 2020 infield: DJLM, Torres, Didi, Voit. I think that’s, at this point, clearly the best option. (These things change so much that it’s silly, honestly, to even talk about, but it’s a fun thought experiment.)
As for Miggy, he’s going to have some serious, serious rehabbing to do. He won’t have faced live pitching in about 12 months by the time Spring Training rolls around, and he’ll be recovering from one of the worst injuries a baseball player can endure. I am a believer in Miggy, but he’s going to have to do a lot of work to get back to where he was. I hope he can force the issue, though, and I bet he will.
As for Gio, I think the sun has set on him. I could be wrong, but as I have said before, the Giodude is a career .262/.303/.385 (80 wRC+) hitter, and that includes this year’s success. He simply has never hit before his .304/.355/.469 (117 wRC+) year this year. Can he keep that up? I have my doubts. We’ve already seen some cracks in the armor. Check out his rolling xWOBA, via Statcast:
That right there is what we call a downward trend. I hope I’m wrong and Gio continues his magical 2019, but I think we should just be glad that his torrid streak happened at all. It helped the Yankees in a time of need, and we can’t take them back. It’s oh-so-very 2019 Yankees, honestly, and I love it so much.