Tag: New York Yankees

Waiting For The Yankees

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I love sports as much as anyone.

Sports consume me. They are on my mind the majority of every day. Honestly, I love them more than anything outside of my family. This has been the case since I was a baby watching Yankees games with my grandfather and having no idea what was going on. Sports are a part of my identity. I dearly miss them.

I am also not in a big rush to have them come back.

We are experiencing a global human crisis, unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. At this point, it would be difficult to find someone who isn’t directly or indirectly connected to this virus. There is no need to recount the harrowing numbers. Many of us have felt the long-reaching impact of the pandemic for over a month now.

There is a natural tendency to find and hold onto things that remind us of normalcy. The quarantine has thrown our routines for a loop. When things are in disarray we look for anchors. Sports are that anchor for many. So it makes sense that we want them to return as quickly as possible. I share that desire, but not at the expense of health and safety.

In a recent interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci said there is a way to bring baseball back this summer. Fans wouldn’t be able to attend the games. It would require weekly testing, strict quarantining, and detailed surveillance. On the surface, this is encouraging and hopeful. And we all need hope nowadays. We also need a context that extends beyond the sports world. Taking a step back, is the country really in a position to handle a return to sports in the immediate future?

There are endless stories about our brave medical professionals fighting on the front lines with inadequate protection. In New York City, there are nurses wearing garbage bags while treating sick patients. Doctors are wearing empty salad containers over their faces. Medical staffs have to repeatedly disinfect N95 masks for re-use. Without getting into the politics of why this is the case, it is patently absurd that weeks into the pandemic hospital staff must resort to YouTube level DIY solutions to protect themselves and others during a pandemic.

Understanding the larger picture, is it appropriate to bring sports back under these circumstances? Boredom pales in comparison to matters of life and death. Unfortunately, our collective idea of normalcy no longer exists. Those days of normal are now apart of the lore of yesteryear.

The need to experience a distraction or an escape during trauma is valid. One issue is a return to sports reminds us of that trauma at every turn. We will see empty stadiums. The dugouts may be empty because the players may sit in the stands six feet apart. The announce teams will constantly tell us about the weird context we’re all consuming these games in. We aren’t going to escape anything. We’ll have to actively disconnect from what we’re seeing and hearing just to attempt to suspend reality. That is a tall task.

Of course, there are arguments for an immediate return to sports. Some will say if the medical experts deem it safe to play than what is the issue. Why should I read a “rando blogger” and his silly complaints? I get it. But it is important to point out that the leading medical experts still don’t fully understand how the virus behaves. They are still in the process of learning all of its characteristics. As a result, the recommendations for protection are constantly evolving. One week we’re told it’s ok to go outside without masks. The next week wearing a mask in public is a requirement. The potential distance at which the virus could travel in the air changes as more research is done. Even in places where social distancing was enacted relatively early, the rate of infections remains scary.

Some parts of the country may re-open if they meet certain criteria while others will remain in lockdown. Federal, state and local governments remain at odds with one another on how to properly and safely move forward. We are hardly seeing a consensus amongst the people in charge.

To be clear, this isn’t a criticism of the medical experts. They have been tremendous. They are in a really difficult position and their incredible efforts do not go unnoticed. Instead, this is acknowledging that our understanding of this novel virus changes with more information. Recommendations from the medical community are fluid so there is no guarantee they will give the green light at the first sign of improvement. Their primary responsibility is to mitigate the spread and protect our healthcare system until a vaccine is found.

There are some who will argue that certain places in the country are less impacted than places like New York City, Philadelphia, and Detroit so it’s ok to start sports up again. I’m glad many people aren’t living in these hot spots. It sucks living in this country’s ground zero. The reality is you don’t have to live in a hot spot to be at risk. We are all at risk right now. The simple point is we don’t want this thing to spread. The lower number of cases in specific areas isn’t protection from the virus. Social distancing, testing, and protective equipment protect us from it.

Speaking of those things, there is also the issue of test, PPE and medical equipment availability. There is a nationwide shortage of tests. Contact tracing isn’t available. States are competing against one another for ventilators. Everyday citizens are volunteering to create masks for medical workers. It looks pretty selfish and tone-deaf to have sports leagues command so many resources when there is a such a startling finite amount of resources available.

I have a close friend who most likely had the virus. Despite showing all of the core symptoms, he wasn’t give a test because the symptoms weren’t extreme enough. He didn’t fit the qualifications to get a test simply because there weren’t enough to go around. They sent him home. He had to ride it out not knowing if he was carrying the virus. This reality is a tough one to reconcile.

Keep in mind, the quarantine plan for players has very real challenges. In order for baseball to return, MLB has to account for team staff, medical staff, clubhouse staff, stadium employees, tv crew, transportation staff, kitchen staff, maintenance staff, and hotel staff. You aren’t going to quarantine everyone. If tests and safety equipment are readily available for everyone involved to play games, shouldn’t these precious supplies first be available for our medical professionals and citizens who are immediately at risk?

I’m pretty sure some of you are reading this looking for anything to tell you things will quickly return to the way it used to be. Trust me, I wish I could provide that for you. But it is important to stress how crucial of a time we’re in. We’re talking about life and death. Sports are an important piece of our lives, but first, we need to ensure that we all have healthy lives to live. We also need the athletes, coaches, and staff to be healthy. It just feels like sports should return when it is appropriate and safer to do so.

The good news is we will get sports back. We will see our beloved Yankees again. They are going to win the World Series when the season starts up. The season may start in June. It may start in July. We may have to wait until next year to see them win it all. But they will be back. Sports will be back. We just need a little patience to see this through.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

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Gerrit Cole sits at an inflection point in the Yankees-Astros rivalry

The man in the middle (MLB Gifs)

Run from them, dread them, the Astros arrive all the same.

There was a brief buzz about the Yankees getting to face the Rays (with some newfound respect) in the ALCS. Instead, we get the matchup of goliaths, the two best teams remaining, as the Bombers battle the Astros. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best in this case.

As with mighty Thanos, the Astros seemed inevitable. They are the fully-formed, infinity-stone-wielding titan that 2017 hinted they’d become, someone far surpassing their previous championship squad. Alex Bregman, not Carlos Correa or Jose Altuve, turned into an undeniable superstar, while Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke form a triumvirate powerful enough to plaster over their bullpen flaws.

But the Yankees were inevitable, too, with some offense to the Twins. Houston was the best team in baseball this season, but the Yankees were close despite a spate of ailments and they got healthy in time to match the Astros blow for blow.

I’ve written before about how the Yankees and Astros are on the cusp of a real rivalry, and it seems they might actually cross the threshold this series. This will mark their third postseason meeting in five years and second time with a World Series bid on the line. By all appearances, they’re set to stand at or near the top of the American League for the next half-dozen years.

This series, and in some ways the futures of each franchise, hinge on the Astros’ Game 3 starter, Cole. If you watched any of his ALDS starts, or frankly his last six months, you saw a pitcher at his peak, a slider and curveball dealing ace capable of taking down teams by his lonesome. Despite missing Games 1 and 2 after finishing off the ALDS, he looms large.

It’s not that Verlander doesn’t strike fear anymore, but he was (figuratively) wounded in the ALDS. The Yankees saw him bleed. He was forced to pitch on short rest, which could add to his burden in his next start. As for the future of each team, he’s 36 years old, and there comes a point where even a Hall of Famer starts to slide, though that doesn’t have to be now necessarily.

But Verlander’s one off night displayed Cole’s crucial role. Whichever team possesses him in the postseason can practically snap their way through a few games. The Rays did the Yankees a favor by forcing him to wait until Game 3, where he’ll have to pitch in the Bronx, but now it’s imperative the Bombers win in six games or else face the full weight of Cole at home in Game 7. He hangs over the Yankees like Dallas Keuchel did in past postseasons.

Beyond this season, Cole will be the most sought-after free agent outside of perhaps Anthony Rendon. There aren’t many true innings-eating aces left and he’s one in his prime. He’s like watching Verlander in 2011. There should be 30 teams going hard after him.

But the Yankees and Astros might actually pass on Cole in the offseason. New York is already over the luxury tax while the Astros are close and hesistant to surpass it. They seemingly acquired Greinke both to get over the top in 2019 while staying fearsome in 2020 after Cole leaves in free agency.

We all know the Yankees appear short in the rotation, but signing Cole would require enough money to affect the rest of their roster construction. Much of the depth that has buoyed their magical 2019 run could be dealt or let go in order to make room for the best of the best, which would be a painful but worthwhile tradeoff. The Bombers will also have to compete with the likes of the Phillies, Angels and Padres (just to name a few) for Cole’s services.

For now, the Yankees have to figure out how to beat Cole, or win four of five against Greinke, Verlander and a lesser starter with two of those wins in Houston. The 29-year-old right-hander, who grew up a Yankees fan, now represents the present and the future of the Astros-Yankees rivalry, one way or another.

Game 57: Takeaways from Yankees vs. Red Sox

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Step. On. Boston’s. Throat. The Yankees pushed their advantage on the rival Red Sox to 10 games with a hard-fought victory Saturday that had all the trappings of a classic Yanks-Sox game.

Let’s hit the highlights:

1. Gary remains scary

With the game tied at three in the fifth inning, Gary Sanchez came to the plate with two outs and a man on. In many ways, the fate of the game stood on his shoulders: Aaron Boone had Luis Cessa warming for a tie game and Tommy Kahnle warming if they took the lead. That’s plenty incentive to score!

After falling behind 0-2, Sanchez got the count to 2-2 against Rick Porcello. On a slider off the outside corner, the Kraken unleashed the ball, just getting enough of it and driving it to right field.

It almost seemed like he poked it to right, yet he hit it 102.1 mph. That’s 2019 Gary for you.

He already has 18 home runs, which is as many as he hit all of last season. Health makes plenty of difference, as does his approach at the plate. Fly balls are a great thing at Yankee Stadium, particularly when you hit them as hard as he does. Best Catcher in Baseball.

Side note: He tried to pick a runner off second again tonight. He’s got confidence in his arm again after some early-season throwing errors.

2. Wearing down Domingo

No offense to the Twins and Rays, but this was Domingo German’s toughest assignment of the year. He doesn’t get an ‘A’, but this was somewhere in the ‘Cs’, nowhere near failing. He held his own, but Boston is such a tough lineup to navigate. Aaron Boone spoke postgame about the Red Sox wearing down the right-hander.

He navigated the first inning well enough with two strikeouts and a walk, yet he already had 20 pitches. He then had to grind through the second inning before giving up a two-out single to Sandy Leon. Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt and Leon each had two hits, most of which were hard-hit, against German, though they were mostly the only ones to get to him.

Outside of those three getting hits in the second, German got three swinging strikeouts. He’d add another two around a J.D. Martinez ground out in the third, his only quick inning.

And then Boston took him out in the third. Bogaerts hit a no-doubt dinger to left before Holt homered and Michael Chavis walked (more on Chavis at the end). He struck out Jackie Bradley Jr., but Leon got to him again. He ended his night by getting Betts to pop out, with the MVP going 0-for-3 against him.

Overall, German battled well. He got eight of his 11 outs via strikeout, all swinging, and threw 54 of 87 pitches for strikes. He had 21 swinging strikes if you include foul tips. That’s outstanding, even if six were just JBJ looking lost. It just a ton of foul balls to get to those swinging strikes, and then a few well-placed hits. Eight baserunners, most of which were stranded.

3. Green & the Gang

One cannot talk about this game without talking about Chad Green, and not just because Green was the winning pitcher. Green saved this game in the middle innings.

German left two men on for Green in the fourth and the reliever quickly got Andrew Benintendi to line out to center. He’d give up hits to Martinez and Bogaerts, putting second and third with one out in the fifth.

But Green beared down. He struck out Holt and then Chavis on fastballs and kept the game tied.

From there, the Yankees went to the big guns. Kahnle got the first two outs of the sixth. After two guys got on for Martinez, Boone went to Ottavino. He clearly wants Otto facing J.D. in any big spot and he was right to do so as he got him waving for a strikeout.

Holder nailed down the seventh, Britton the eighth, walking Eduardo Nunez (?) before getting an easy double play off Christian Vazquez.

4. Hold on to your butts

Chapman had a bit of a close call in the ninth inning. His fastball was in the mid-to-upper 90s, clearly not quite at full tilt while pitching in his second straight game.

But his command was about as bad as it’s been all season. He walked Mookie Betts on five pitches and quickly fell behind Benintendi 2-0. He used his slider as a get-me-over pitch for strike one, then tried it again. It almost worked! However, Benintendi got the ball into the hole on the right side and boom, first and second, none out, Martinez at the plate with a chance to win it.

Chapman tried his fastball one more time, another ball, before going to his safety valve; The slider served him well. Martinez hit an easy grounder to Gleyber Torres, who turned the 6-4-3 double play. Rafael Devers grounded out on a slider on the next pitch and there’s your ballgame. Phew!

It’s funny: This was about as bad as Chapman’s looked all year, but he got through it all the same. His slider looks like a real pitch this season, not just a toy to play with like it’s been in the past. That could help sustain his career.

5. All of the singles!

Similar to the rally against Chris Sale on Friday night, the Yankees put together a string of hits instead of a home run against Porcello in the second inning.

Torres led off the second with a near homer, settling for a single after admiring the ball perhaps a little too much out of the box. JBJ fielded the ball well off the right-center wall anyway, so a single may have been it.

Kendrys Morales hit his first of three singles through the shift, though it would have been a double for anyone else. He is sloooooooooooow. With one out and two men on, what did Boston have to look forward to?

GIOSTORM! Gio Urshela came through yet again. An RBI single tied the score at one. Two batters later, it was D.J. LeMahieu with a two-run single with the bases loaded. Can those two do anything wrong with runners in scoring position? Maybe, but not right there. Gary’s homer made the difference tonight, but some clutch singles in the second inning loom large as well.

6. Stray observations and Sunday’s bullpen

  • Clint Frazier was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning. Right smack on the elbow. He was removed in the top of the inning partially for defensive purposes, but he had x-rays and they were clean. Should be OK.
  • I raved about Chavis in the series preview, but the Yankees may have the book on him. On his first two strikeouts, German and Green fed him a steady diet of high fastballs and he was rarely able to lay off. Wonder if that’s the hole in Chavis’ approach that pitchers can exploit right now? Britton, of course, went with low sinkers, but that’s just Zack with a K’s normal.
  • Boone absolutely dominated tonight. Perhaps not a perfect game, but he made all the right calls. Kahnle and Holder against the bottom of the lineup, Ottavino for Martinez, going to Green early with the game on the line in the fourth inning.
  • That being said, there isn’t a whole lot left in the tank for Sunday. The Bombers need to get to David Price early. With Nestor Cortes optioned for CC Sabathia, they’ll have David Hale and Cessa as bullpen arms. Beyond them, ¯_(ツ)_/¯. Holder can probably go one. Ottavino may have an inning or a batter since he only threw five pitches today, but he’s thrown in three of four.
  • All of Ottavino, Kahnle, Britton and Chapman have thrown in back-to-back games. That’s good! You want to go for wins when you have a lead against your rival. Even with Monday’s off-day, at least the latter three should be off limits.

To close out the series, the Yankees and Red Sox meet on Sunday Night Baseball (7:05 p.m. this season). It’ll be CC Sabathia returning from the IL to face David Price.

Game 57: Domingo en sábado

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The Yankees took the series opener with the Red Sox and have a chance to step on Boston’s collective throat by taking the series tonight. The Sox sit 8.5 games back and the Bombers need to extend that past where Boston can make it up.

On the hill for his first real start against the Sox is Domingo German. He somewhat served as the opener, or maybe just the first pitcher in a bullpen game, at the end of last season. Either way, this is a tremendous test for German, who has faced the Twins, Rays and little else in terms of contending teams. Thursday’s rainout prevented him from a chance at 10 wins before June.

Red Sox

  1. Mookie Betts, RF
  2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  3. JD Martinez, DH
  4. Rafael Devers, 3B
  5. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  6. Brock Holt, 2B
  7. Michael Chavis, 1B
  8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
  9. Sandy León, C

RHP Rick Porcello

Yankees

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  2. Luke Voit, 1B
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Gary Sanchez, C
  5. Gleyber Torres, SS
  6. Kendrys Morales, DH
  7. Clint Frazier, LF
  8. Gio Urshela, 3B
  9. Brett Gardner, LF

RHP Domingo German

Notes: The Red Sox placed Steve Pearce on the 10-day IL after he left yesterday’s game with back spasms. They called up Sam Travis to take his place.

Editorial Note: I’m going to be at the game tonight, so the game reaction and DoTF will be late. Thanks for your patience!

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