Category: Whimsy Page 3 of 4

The definitive categorization of post-Yankee beards

Love this, minus the uniform. (MLB Gifs)

Matt’s off this week, so in lieu of his Sunday column, here’s my dissertation on Yankee beards.

Since the early days of George Steinbrenner’s tenure as owner of the Yankees, the Bombers have had a strict facial hair policy. Yes to mustaches, absolutely not to beards or excessively long hair.

Would I love to see the Yankees practice the scraggly art of unkempt or even fine-tuned beards? Sure. But the contrast of non-bearded Bombers gives us a chance to study players changing, one follicle at a time.

If someone is drafted by the Yankees out of high school or signs with the team on July 2 as an international free agency, that player is joining the organization well before their prime as a beard grower. Therefore, for much of their adult life, they’re deprived of the ability to grow out fun, lengthy and sometimes hilariously bad facial hair except in the offseason.

When players leave the Yankees, particularly homegrown talents, each player immediately throws away their razor. OK, maybe not literally, but almost everyone grows a beard shortly after leaving the Bronx. Some pull it off well and some … well, they aren’t quite as gifted.

For a breakdown, here’s an unnecessary categorization of Yankee beards.

The Standard Offseason Beard aka the CC

The most common beard you see from a Yankees player is the offseason beard. Without responsibilities to the team, players can go wild from November to February with hirsute appearances.

There is one undisputed champion in this category; CC Sabathia leads the Yankees in Offseason Beards Above Replacement. As he talked about on R2C2, he’s even mastered the in-season beard after learning at the feet of the master, Andy Pettitte, by finding ways to let some growth come up in-between starts. Since he’s now retired, he was quick to start the process back up.

Let’s check out this offseason work from 2014:

That, my friends, is a master at work. CC tested, LeBron approved.

Sabathia hasn’t always had the best beards, but he’s always courtside at basketball games ready to show off the new look. Salute.

The In-Uniform Offseason Beard aka The Bernie

Bernie Williams takes the cake here. First up, his appearance on Seinfeld:

You know that the Yankees are either in a stetch of off-days or the offseason, as Bernie is rocking the goatee. Considering the show aired in November, it’s likely the latter.

Yet Williams was not done. Six years later, he took part in MLB’s trip to Japan and played against Koji Uehara, among others. Most notably, he sported a devilish goatee again, this time in full Yankee pinstripes. We must bow down to this flagrant display of whiskers.

The Average Post-Yankee Beard aka The Hughes

For most players, this is a right of passage. You play for the Yankees for a while and shave every day. Once you leave the Bronx, you want to see what you can do. Most players don’t abuse this newfound power and put together a fine look.

Example: Phil Hughes

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It’s not perfect, but it’s a strong effort from the baby-faced Hughes to blend into the adult world of Minneapolis. I dare say he pulls it off.

Example II: David Robertson and Melky Cabrera

This … This is the Bad Place! I didn’t want to see David Robertson with a beard, so now you have to as well. He put in the effort, but he was meant to be clean-shaven. (Melky’s beard fits him. Don’t @ me.)

Robertson has since tried to hide all evidence of his bearded days with his glove.

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Example III: Ian Kennedy

Kennedy shows up in a later (and lesser) category, but after years of trying, he’s mastered the post-Yankee beard. We salute you, IPK. Save the Big Three. 10/10

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The Cano

Sometimes, there are visionaries in a field. Someone who knows instantly their true calling and makes strides that others simply cannot. That is Robinson Cano and the mustache-less beard. He brought it out at his introductory press conference. That’s how much confidence he had in it.

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Years later, it was still there. He’s since gone in new and innovative hair directions (Check his Instagram), but he’s a unique player in the post-Yankee beard space. No one else is pulling this off.

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Going Too Hard aka The Joba

All of the energy Joba put into expressive fistpumps early in his career went into hiding his chin and neck with hair later on.

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Look, Joba was great. He’s a World Series champion and was just about as fun a middle reliever as one could watch. That being said, he made a follicle folly. Chamberlain appears to have spent 10 years at sea on a crab-fishing expedition and barely lived to tell the tale. This took the post-Yankee beard past the line.

As promised, here’s Kennedy doing the same in San Diego.

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Once a Yankee, Always a Yankee (The Tino)

Almost everyone grows out the Yankee beard. Not Tino Martinez. Never Tino.

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Perhaps he couldn’t pull it off. Maybe he knew not to mess with his good looks, even while wearing a Cardinals or Devil Rays uniform.

Joe Girardi remained steadfast in his clean-shaven look as well. It’s What You Want.

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Extra: The Pre-Yankee Beard!

There are a few players who went hard on a beard before coming to the Bronx. The most famous, of course, is Johnny Damon. As a member of the ’04 Red Sox, he had long hair on every inch of his head.

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He never really grew it out again after leaving the Yankees, only sporting the occasionally average beard of a normal human.

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However, let’s check on the work of one Jonathan Holder. He was drafted by the Yankees but out of college. While at Mississippi State, Holder, aka Kenny Powers, clearly saw grooming as an optional pursuit meant for everyone else.

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Here’s an even better look. If Holder had gone to another organization, he’d have had a chance to shine as a cult hero for his shaggy hair. In the Bronx, he’s just like everyone else.

The 10 Biggest Hits of the Yankees (Regular) Season

It’s been just about three weeks since the Yankees were eliminated by the Astros. That feels like an appropriate time to get nostalgic about the 2019 regular season, which was one of the most fun seasons in recent Yankee history despite the bitter ending. There is, of course, quite a bit to relive.

It is a fun annual tradition to look back at the biggest hits of the season by Win Probability Added (WPA), a useful metric that captures the change in win expectancy from one at-bat to the next. In other words, it measures one individual play’s impact on the outcome of a game.

Baseball-Reference’s Play Index makes it super easy to sort every hit by WPA, so, without further adieu, here are the 10 biggest hits of the 2019 Yankee regular season.

10. DJ LeMahieu Walks It Off (0.39 WPA)

It makes sense for there to be a walk-off on this list, obviously, but what’s more surprising is that this is the only one. Baseball is wild. Anyway, on May 7, DJ LeMahieu delivered one of his first big hits in pinstripes with a two-out line drive single into right field. It was positively Jeterian, if I do say so myself.

The hit sealed an 5-4 win over the Mariners for the Bombers, who improved to 21-14. This was a very fun game, as the Yankees scored four runs in the final two innings, including three in the 9th after a rain delay. More on this game in a bit!

Despite the win, the Yanks remained two games out of first place, though this was their 16th win in their last 22 games. The early struggles of April were already a distant memory, and LeMahieu was hitting 330/.385/.443 (121 wRC+). What a player.

9. Austin Romine Homers at the Deadline (0.41 WPA)

Trade deadline day was a weird one for the Yankees, who made zero moves despite a general expectation that they would. Adding to the weirdness is the fact that they were facing Arizona’s Zack Greinke…who would be traded mid-game to the rival Houston Astros. With fans upset over the lack of action, the Yankees also looked lifeless at the plate.

That is, until savior Austin Romine came up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 7th. The Yanks were trailing 3-2 but had one man on base, and Romine drilled a go-ahead, two-run home run. The Yankees didn’t look back and won the game 7-5. That home run propelled the Yanks to a nine-game winning streak and, more broadly, into a stretch where the Bombers won 16 of 19.

8. Brett Gardner Ties it in the 9th (0.43 WPA)

The A’s were a menace to the Yankees this year, with the Yankees seemingly struggling against them quite a bit, especially in Oakland. Brett Gardner made sure to put a stop to that on September 1, when he came to the plate with the Yanks trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th. He drilled this homer off Liam Hendricks, setting the stage for Mike Ford to keep Truck Month rolling into September.

The Yanks’ 5-4 win was their 90th of the season (90-48) and kept their lead in the American League East at 10 games. Ford’s walk-off homer in the next at-bat was the Yankees’ second consecutive walk-off win over the A’s after DJ LeMahieu’s (who else?) 11th inning walk-off the day prior. The 2019 Yanks. They were fun, folks.

7. Gary Sánchez’s Three-Run Blast Seals the Deal (0.46 WPA)

The Yankees went 17-2 against the lowly Orioles this season, and a huge reason why was the barrage of home runs they hit against them. Only one (more on that in a moment) was bigger than the Kraken’s missile on May 20. The Yankees trailed in this game 6-1 and 7-3 but managed to win 10-7 anyway. It was their second win in a seven-game win streak and stretch during when they won 11 of 13.

Givens’ fastball came in at 98 mph, but it was no match for our Gary. His three-run blast down the line was the clinching blow and it extended the Yankee lead in the ALE to one-game. They would only be in second place for one day in the season after this game. At the time, Gary was hitting .265/.341/.646 (151 wRC+) on the season, serving as a reminder of what he’s capable of when it’s all clicking.

6. Brett Gardner’s 100th HR Comes in Grand Fashion (0.46 WPA)

I covered Brett’s grand slam in detail just the other day, so I won’t spend too much time on it here. This homer is my personal favorite of the year, though. I love Gardner and this blast was a personal achievement for him. It also clinched a two-game sweep over Boston. You love to see it. I was sitting in the bleachers for this one, and let me tell you–it was a playoff-like atmosphere out there. It was only April 17! Just great stuff. Remember when the narrative was that the new Stadium didn’t get loud?

Anyway, the Yanks were trailing 3-1 in the 7th and sat at just 7-9 on the season. After Gardner’s slam, they won 5-3 and improved to 5.5 games out of first. As we all know, that didn’t last very long.

5. Didi’s Double Torments the Twins (0.47 WPA)

Without a doubt, this was the game of the year. There’s another highlight from this Game MVP Aaron Hicks below, but let us not forget Didi’s contributions to this insane game. Our guy had five hits and seven RBI in the wild affair, and none were bigger than this double.

With the Yankees trailing 9-8 with two outs in the top of the 8th, Sir Didi came to the plate and delivered a huge at-bat. Check out the strike zone plot from this one:

The seventh pitch of the AB was right over the plate and Gregorius did not miss it. Two runs scored and the Yankees had a 10-9 lead that they would not hold for very long. More on this game, obviously, in a moment.

4. Gio Urshela, The Most Happy Fella (0.47 WPA)

In the very same inning as LeMahieu’s walk-off single, Gio Urshela had an even bigger hit. With the Yanks trailing 4-2 with one out in the bottom of the 9th, Giodude came to bat with Gleyber Torres on base. Despite being down 0-2 in the count, Gio managed to blast one to dead center that tied the game.

That set the stage for LeMahieu to be the night’s ultimate hero, but, if we go by WPA alone, it was Gio Urshela who had the biggest blow. What a season for Gio. I still can’t believe it.

3. Clint Frazier Breaks the Orioles’ Hearts (0.57 WPA)

It feels like a lifetime ago now, but the Yankees were really scuffling on April 6. Although it was early in the year, the team under .500 and were already dealing with a barrage of injuries. It was a frustrating time to be sure. The Yankees called on Clint Frazier for support, and boy did he deliver.

He came to the plate with the Bombers trailing 4-3 with two-on (including Gleyber Torres) and two-out in the inning. He worked a five-pitch at-bat and, on a 2-2 pitch, hit a blast into the left field seats that gave the Yankees a 6-4 lead. My favorite part is the reaction of Pedro Severino behind the plate. He was just so frustrated. I love it when the Yankees do that to the opposition. I love it so much.

The Yankees won this one 6-4 and improved to .500 (5-5). I think it’s fair to say that this was the very first instance of Next Man Up in 2019, and it sure was a big one.

2. Aaron Judge Puts the Rays on Ice (0.59 WPA)

Pretty wild that the Yankees won 103 games on the season but their best player on has one of their 10 biggest hits, isn’t it? But boy was it a satisfying one. On July 16, the Yankees were 60-33 and held a five-game lead over the Rays in the AL East. They lost to the Rays the night before in the first game of a pivotal four-game set in the Bronx.

The next night, it looked like the Rays might do it again. With two outs in the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees trailed 3-2, though Torres was on base. That brought Aaron Judge to the plate against Colin Poche, who threw him seven (!) consecutive fastballs:

The seventh was low and inside on the hands, and Judge absolutely drilled it to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. What an at-bat in an absolutely huge moment for Judge. If the Yankees lose this one, their lead slips to four games in the division–but instead it climbed back to six games. The Rays never got this close again for the rest of the season.

They’d eventually load the bases and Gregorius would stab the Rays in the heart with a majestic grand slam four batters later. The Yanks would win 8-3 and take three of four from the hated Rays in what was my favorite game of the season. Just great stuff.

(Side note: the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd biggest hits of the Yankees all had one thing in common: Gleyber Torres was on base. Even though he didn’t deliver any of the hits himself, our man Gleyber was in the center of all of the action. What an absolute stud.)

1. Aaron Hicks Breaks the Twins’ Hearts…For the First Time (0.71 WPA)

Was there a more memorable game in 2019 than this one? It featured two of the top 10 biggest hits of the season, as well as Aaron Hicks’ absolutely incredible catch to seal the victory. But it’s easy to forget that Hicks had another huge moment in this game: his two-out, two-run, go-ahead home run in the top of the 9th inning.

Rodgers’ 97 mph fastball stood no chance against Hicks, who hit a rocket into the bullpen to give the Yankees an 11-10 lead. Although it would not hold, it ended up being fine…again because of Hicks. I can’t talk about this game and NOT show this one:

What a night for Hicks (and Gregorius). Anyway, the Yankees would win this one 14-12 in the end, and I’m not sure there has been a more fun Yankee game since the ridiculous comeback against the Orioles in April 2017. It’s only fitting that a moment from this one tops this list.


I wish the Yankees season ended with champagne and not a bitter defeat, but I love doing exercises like this. It reminds me of all of the good times and clutch hits we got to witness during the regular season. This was a hell of a fun season. Even if I extended this list to the top 20, all of those hits would be memorable or have come in memorable games.

The 2019 Yankees were a joy to watch, and doing this leaves me with one final question: is it 2020 yet?

Yankees Team of the Decade Part I

The Ace of the Decade (UCinternational/Creative Commons)

In the last decade, the Yankees did not have an AL MVP. They didn’t have a Cy Young winner. They earned one Rookie of the Year, one Comeback Player of the Year and two Relievers of the Year.

For the team that produced the most regular season wins in the 2010s, that’s surprising. The Bombers still had an impressive collection of talent that rivals previous decades of the organization.

We decided to put together the Yankees’ best team of the last decade in two parts. First, in this edition, we’ve assembled a 25-man roster of the best players the team had in the 2010s, taking into account the whole of their accomplishments. In Part II, we’ll take a look at the individual seasons that stood out and merited inclusion here.

Let’s get to positions.

Starting Lineup

Catcher: Gary Sánchez

The Yankees have had good production from catcher in the 2010s, but it has come from a variety of players. Jorge Posada, Russell Martin, Chris Stewart, Brian McCann and Sánchez have all held down the job, with a healthy dose of Francisco Cervelli in-between. On the whole, pinstriped backstops have a 98 wRC+ and 40.8 fWAR, good for third and fourth-best in all of baseball in the span.

Of the aforementioned catchers, Sánchez has been the best of them this decade (2000s Jorge Posada would be a different question). In 3 1/2 full seasons, he’s bashed 105 home runs, more than any catcher in baseball since 2016. It’s four more than Yasmani Grandal, and 29 more than the next hitter. For his defensive warts, the Kraken is still a tremendous force.

First Base: Mark Teixeira

Teixeira’s best season in pinstripes was his debut in 2009, when he produced 5.3 WAR, finished second in MVP voting and won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. His 2010s, particularly after 2011, were injury-filled as his steady switch-hitting bat was taken out of the lineup far too often.

For the first half of the decade, the Yankees went as Teixeira went. He was still productive from 2010-12, producing 11.3 bWAR and winning two Gold Gloves. When a wrist injury derailed both his 2013 and ’14 seasons, the Yankees’ offense lacked the necessary juice to reach the postseason. Then, when Tex regained All-Star form in 2015, he became the driving force to an unlikely wild card bid.

Second Base: Robinson Canó

Starlin Castro proved a fine stopgap and Gleyber Torres is going to man the middle of the Yankees’ infield for at least the next five years at least. However, Canó was the best Yankees second baseman in recent memory and his breakout season coincided with the turn of the decade.

From 2010 to 2013, Canó batted .312/.373/.533 (142 wRC+) and finished no worse than sixth in MVP voting every season while playing no fewer than 159 games. He slugged 117 homers and 176 doubles in that span and made up for his lack of walks (#KabakHat) by putting the ball in play with his line-drive swing. While Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter defined the 2009 World Series run on offense, Canó was the catalyst for the last gasps of that title window.

Shortstop: Didi Gregorius

This is the first one with two legitimate candidates, though Gregorius ultimately runs away with the honor. Jeter held down shortstop longer than he likely should have, yet he made four All-Star teams, somehow won a Gold Glove and was 2012 hit king, all 2010 or later.

Gregorius, meanwhile, had to come from underneath Jeter’s shadow, but he learned to excel in the Bronx and became a fan favorite in his own right. His defense kept him steady, yet it was his shockingly powerful bat that won the Bronx faithful over. He now owns the record for most home runs in a season by a Yankee shortstop (Gleyber nearly qualified to break it in 2019) and has more than a few memorable playoff homers to his ledger.

Hot Corner! (Tom Hagerty Photography/Creative Commons)

Third Base: Alex Rodriguez

By the end of the decade, A-Rod was in the broadcast booth. Before that, he was a DH. Before that, he was suspended for a year. And before that, injuries and age had sapped his production and turned him from MVP to mere All-Star.

Still, Rodriguez had back-to-back-to-back 4.0 WAR seasons from 2010-12 and launched 113 homers, including two 30-dinger years. I’m including his bounceback at DH under here, even though his 2015-16 seasons included all of 18 innings at the hot corner.

A-Rod had an eclectic group of successors. They include Chase Headley, the brief rise of Yangervis Solarte, Todd Frazier’s three months and Miguel Andújar, as well as the out-of-nowhere Gio Urshela in 2019. The last two are contenders for best season at third in NY this decade, but they don’t have the longevity of Rodriguez.

Left Field: Brett Gardner

The de facto Yankees captain of the last five years, Gardner is the longest-tenured Yankee for a reason. He started in center field for brief, non-congruous periods, but he became a Gold Glover in left field. It’s insane to think back to 2009 Gardner, who hit only three dongs, and then realize he hit 121 dingers over the following decade.

In addition to that, Gardner led the Bombers with 228 stolen bases in the 2010s and was successful on 80.5 percent of his steals. He’s not quite the spritely slap hitter of yesteryear, but he’s adjusted to the game and stayed in pinstripes all the while.

Center Field: Curtis Granderson

Aaron Hicks has an argument after usurping Jacoby Ellsbury in 2017 and playing well in center for the last three years. However, this is Granderson’s job, even with a move to left field by the end of his time in the Bronx.

Granderson hit 84 homers between the 2011 and ’12 seasons, leading baseball in runs scored and RBI in 2011. His weak arm made him a liability at times in the outfield, but he was a wrecking ball at the plate. His 2011 season, which was his second in New York, was a career year and the best from a Yankee center fielder since prime Bernie Williams.

Right Field: Aaron Judge

Judge transformed the Yankees in 2017. When he became an MVP-type player, the Bombers became contenders with him as their leader. If he were a one-hit (or 52-homer) wonder after 2017, dayenu. Yet he’s improved in some ways, becoming a more selective hitter and having his overall numbers only hampered by injury.

Nick Swisher deserves mention here as an All-Star and fan favorite in his own right. Funny enough, the compensation pick for letting Swisher go was the one the Yankees used to pick Judge. It all comes full circle.

Designated Hitter: Giancarlo Stanton

With A-Rod at third base, there’s no clear cut DH like a David Ortiz or Hideki Matsui to put here. Posada, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Marcus Thames and Matt Holliday each had one good year with a host of a DH ABs, but Stanton gets the crown both with how he carried the team to the postseason in 2018 and how he stuck around for a second year.

Stanton will likely be one of the few players on this list that could repeat at his position in the 2020s, alongside Judge and Sanchez. Ideally, he’d play enough left field to earn recognition there, but his injury history makes that a debatable assumption.

If you’re putting these nine players into a lineup, weighing the player they were this decade, it’d go something like this:

  1. Brett Gardner
  2. Aaron Judge
  3. Robinson Canó
  4. Giancarlo Stanton
  5. Curtis Granderson
  6. Alex Rodriguez
  7. Mark Teixeira
  8. Gary Sánchez
  9. Didi Gregorius

The Bench

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Actual bench players: Cervelli, Andruw Jones, Chris Young, Ronald Torreyes

Next best to form bench: Martin, Gleyber, Swisher, Hicks or Jeter

You can go at building the bench in two ways: You can either use the actual bench players from the previous 10 years, or you can take the next best players that missed the list and try to back up each position. I give you both.

In the first one, Cervelli is listed as the starter in 2010 on Baseball Reference, but he was the primary backup for a few seasons. Jones and Young each had a great season as a platoon bat, while Torreyes was a steady utility man, never hitting all that well, but doing just enough to stay rostered.

In the second scenario, Martin or McCann could get the spot while Swisher is an easy choice as an outfielder and backup first baseman. Torres can backup the middle infield and third base in a pinch, which leaves it down to Hicks or Jeter. Either will do, I’ll take Hicks for an actual bench spot.

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Rotation

  1. CC Sabathia
  2. Hiroki Kuroda
  3. Masahiro Tanaka
  4. Luis Severino
  5. Andy Pettitte

You can quibble with the order of the rotation as long as you put Sabathia at the top. There isn’t much you need to say about him. He was the heart and soul of the Yankees for 11 years and both served as an ace and a steady back-end starter.

Kuroda is one of the most underappreciated Yankees of the 21st century. He was only in the Bronx for three years, yet he outpaced his four seasons in Los Angeles in that time. It’s a shame he only got to pitch on one playoff team in New York.

Tanaka and Severino have been the Opening Day starters since Sabathia ceded the role in recent seasons and they’re both worthy of the honor. Tanaka looked like an ace before his Tommy John scare and has been a steadying presence with a knack for the big game since. Severino, meanwhile, is closer to actual ace-hood when healthy and his stretch from the start of 2017 to mid-2018 is about as good as any Yankee pitcher in the last couple decades.

The last spot was tough, choosing between Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda and Pettitte. The Bombers haven’t had tremendous starting pitching depth this decade and it shows in this. Pettitte got the spot because he was truly excellent, albeit in just 121 innings, in 2010, and was solid again in his final two seasons after his first retirement. An added bonus is how he helped Sabathia turn into a crafty lefty in his own mold.

Bullpen

Closer: Mariano Rivera
Middle Relief: Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Chad Green
Long Man: Adam Warren

There’s a legitimate case for Chapman or Robertson as the closer, but how could you not go with Rivera? He was still at the top of his game in 2010 and was excellent still over his final two full seasons. Over 193 2/3 innings after turning 40 just before the 2010 season, he had a 1.95 ERA (216 ERA+) with 167 strikeouts to 30 walks and a 0.929 WHIP.

The middle relief is a murderer’s row of potential or actual closers. Betances was the best reliever in baseball from 2014 to 2018. Chapman probably has the title since Rivera retired. Robertson and Miller were lights out and helped lead superbullpens that made the post-Mo years tolerable. Green, meanwhile, is a multi-inning stud and his 2017 season is up there with 1996 Mo and 2014 Betances for best New York reliever seasons of the last 30 years.

I figured, if we’re putting together an actual roster, we might as well put in a long man, a role that Warren fit like a glove. He was a great swingman in the Bronx and even did OK as a middle reliever. If you’re going with the next best reliever of the decade, Tommy Kahnle or Rafael Soriano are each worthy of inclusion.

Brief reminiscing to late April

Maybin’s first hit with the Yankees. (Screenshot)

The Yankees, on April 26, were in a weird spot.

The Hospital Yankees were in full force. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks were all already out, as were Greg Bird, Luis Severino and Dellin Betances. The team, however, had started to win, overcoming an early-season malaise to win eight of 10 going into a cool evening by the bay in San Francisco.

The pitching matchup that night was exquisite: James Paxton, coming off back-to-back scoreless outings, was facing Madison Bumgarner. Both team’s best (healthy) starters, a pair of lefties, dueling in the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball.

On paper, if the Giants were going to steal a game in this series, this is probably the one to win, even with Paxton on the hill. Just look at the Yankees’ lineup and put on your April 2019 glasses for a moment:

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  2. Luke Voit, 1B
  3. Gleyber Torres, SS
  4. Gio Urshela, 3B
  5. Cameron Maybin, RF
  6. Austin Romine, C
  7. Mike Tauchman, CF
  8. Thairo Estrada, LF
  9. James Paxton, P

Let’s go to a few key points here:

  • Cameron Maybin had just been traded to the Yankees the day before. The 32-year-old had posted a .663 OPS in Triple-A with Cleveland after hitting little for the Giants that spring. The veteran outfielder seemed fried, and it would have been no surprise if he’d done nothing.
  • Gio Urshela was batting cleanup. The former Indians glove-first third baseman who was a well-below-average Major League hitter over the course of multiple stints dating back to 2015. This was wild at the time.
  • Thairo Estrada had never played the outfield before. Not just in the Major Leagues, but ever. So, of course, that means toss him into left field at Oracle Park. Brett Gardner needed the day off.
  • Outside of that top three, can you expect a hit all series?

Yet the Yankees cruised in that game. LeMahieu, Torres, Urshela and Maybin picked up hits in the first inning to give New York a lead it would never relinquish. Paxton was only so-so. The bullpen walked five batters, gave up no hits and struck out six. Still, every position player in the lineup (plus a pinch-hitting Mike Ford!) got a hit en route to a 7-3 win.

In the grand scheme of things, the April 26 game between the Yankees and Giants was just 1 of 162. It’s interleague. San Francisco was mediocre at best for the season.

But that was the type of game that made the 2019 Yankees special and gave the appearance of a team of destiny. They were a few more injuries from starting the entire Railriders, and both LeMahieu and Urshela would suffer minor injuries during the series, as would Gleyber. Gary Sanchez was making his way back from his first groin issue.

At the time, we didn’t know Maybin, Urshela and Tauchman would become cult heroes. It was just a matter of surviving the spate of injuries, one game at a time, which the Yankees did with aplomb. For a breezy April night, that was about as good as it gets.

The 2019 Yankees It’s Not What You Want Meter, Revisited

(MLB Gifs)

As the 2019 season has reached its conclusion, I figured it was time to revive my It’s Not What You Want guide. You may remember it my last post at River Avenue Blues before it went to the great blog in the sky.

If you’re unfamiliar, the concept is simple. Remember that catchphrase for Joe Girardi, It’s not what you want? The one he said at countless pressers and has continued in his time as a broadcaster? Well, it can be used to describe anything in life or baseball.

So with the Yankees bowing out in the ALCS, it’s time to rank parts of their season and the surrounding accouterments on a scale of 1-5 Girardis. One Girardi means It Actually Is What You Want, Five Girardis means It’s ABSOLUTELY NOT What You Want. Let’s get to it.

The Yankees’ Absence from the Fall Classic: Five Girardis

No.

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Like many of you, I haven’t quite been able to process Saturday’s defeat. I’m writing this during early stages of World Series Game 1, but I have Pelicans-Raptors on instead (Side Note: Go Pelicans!). I’ll put the Fall Classic on eventually, but I can’t quite bear to watch the Astros go for their second ring right now. There’s a silent force preventing me from changing the channel.

Houston was the better team in the ALCS, but the Yankees had a real opportunity to win that series. Games 2, 3 and 6 were all within reach, and even Game 4 featured early opportunities to seize control. The Bombers were outscored by just one run over six games and won just two.

(MLB Gifs)

The Offseason Outlook: 3.5 Girardis

If you aren’t ready to say goodbye to the season, then buddy, I have a heck of a painful time in store for you. CC Sabathia has retired. Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances are all among the Yankees’ free agents, and none of that trio have a certain future in the Bronx.

You can talk yourself into this being a chance for the Yankees to get Gerrit Cole — Believe me, we’re gonna write about that a ton — but 29 other fanbases want Cole, too. A couple of handfuls have realistic hopes, but there’s no clear favorite. Not even the Bombers.

If this winter is anything like the 2018-19 edition, it could be slow and painful. The Yankees could make shrewd acquisitions without adding Cole — DJ LeMahieu, James Paxton and Adam Ottavino come to mind from last year — but it’s most likely going to be a slow burn.

The Hicks Homer and the Good Memories: One Girardi

This postseason wasn’t all bad just because the ending was the Sudden Departure mixed with taking a Louisville Slugger to the skull.

I’m going to choose to remember some other things even as Altuve’s homer is burned into my retinas. Gleyber’s go-ahead double in ALDS Game 1. Didi’s grand slam. Gleyber and Tanaka dominating to start the ALCS.

Even towards the end, the Yankees provided two near iconic moments: Aaron Hicks hitting one off the foul pole to finally hand Justin Verlander a loss to the Yankees in October, and DJ LeMahieu’s tying blast in Game 6. I already wrote about the LeMahieu dinger, so here’s the Hicks video for the fun of it.

Joe Girardi the favorite for managerial gigs: One Girardi

This IS What You Want.

Look, Aaron Boone was a Manager of the Year candidate and was uniquely equipped to deal with the Yankees’ rash of injuries this season. He’s an improved manager from Year 1 and overall rates out well in my book.

But if you follow my Twitter account, you’ll notice some clear Girardi affinity. His catchphrase truly stuck with me, plus he was a legitimately good manager in the Bronx. Sure, he was too rigid with certain issues, but he kept the Bombers going through some rough stretches just like Boone.

Whether he joins the Phillies, Cubs or crosstown rivals, it would be nice to see the manager back in action. It’ll be a shame to lose him from broadcasts, where he brought plenty of fun to the booth with AJ Pierzynski in the Division Series.

But yes, I am looking forward to some more #INWYW.

The 155 Days until Opening Day: Three Girardis

Would I love to watch some live Yankees baseball today? Of course. The offseason always features the notable absence of baseball, which is what we set out calendars to from March through October. Waiting five months for regular season games means getting through the aforementioned offseason and hopefully a healthier Spring Training.

But we could also use some distance from the end of 2019. Some time to process the devastating ALCS. A chance to find renewed hope in a championship and further remove from what some might consider a failure. Enjoy the next five months. Get reacquainted with family members you’ve ignored. It’s a chance for us all to make new hobbies that we’ll promptly give up come the spring.

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