Yankees

Mandel’s Musings: Yankees, With Historic Won-Loss Record, Will NOT Defeat Astros in the Playoffs

By Scott Mandel

The Yankees, the best team in baseball, is not built to win a World Series. Today they got one hit against the Cleveland Indians. Yes, the Tribe, wokesters. Their lineup has not proven it can succeed against very good pitching, which is what they will face in the playoffs.

The Houston Astros have the best starting pitching in the game. It can shut down any lineup. They recently shut down the Yankees and it wasn’t even close. The Yankees are better than Houston. Houston will defeat them, as currently configured, in the playoffs. Again.

If the Yankees add a contact hitter or two to this roster, someone like Kevin Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals to play the field and bat .300, Yankees will have a much better chance of winning against good pitching.

At the moment, Joey Gallo, poor Joey Gallo, is manning an outfield slot and batting ninth. Gallo has lost his ability to contact the baseball with the barrel of his bat. Or, with any other part of his bat. Joey, a nice guy, can no longer help the Yankees win a championship though he can play a powerful role in preventing them from winning one.

The befuddled Joey Gallo is a rally killer

Joey Gallo, Yankees Left Fielder, Needs A Change of Scenery While Michael Conforto Remains Available

By Scott Mandel

It appears the Joey Gallo era in New York City, under the hot, bright lights of Yankee Stadium may soon come to an end. Insiders tell sportsreporters.com the Yankees are hoping to showcase the troubled left fielder for the purpose of trading him.

That would be a terrific idea. The sooner, the better. And, who should replace Joey Gallo in the outfield? Someone who has proven he can perform at the highest levels in the big city, under the glare of the demanding media and fans alike, in pennant races and against tough right and left-handed pitching who can take full advantage of the short right-field porch in the big ballyard in the Bronx.

I give you, Michael Conforto.

The guess here is, Yankees fans would rather see Conforto run out to left field for the Yanks than Gallo, a guy who appears to be suffering with emotional stress and facial tics brought on by a condition nobody is talking about. But, whatever Gallo is sadly afflicted with, it appears playing in New York triggers his stress and his ability to perform on the field.

I feel for the kid but he needs a change of scenery.

This big, noisy stage of NYC is not everyone’s cup of tea. It can be a pressure cooker. That’s why I always remind my California pals who rave about the “great” Mike Trout that Trout, for all of his wondrous talent and gifts, has not performed under the blaring lights of Broadway nor has he battled under the pressure of a pennant race at any point in his career. Talent is talent but sometimes, the pressure cooker wins out.

Gallo, who has enormous power when he connects his bat with a pitched ball, has struggled to make that particular kind of contact since joining the Yankees last season. In 69 games in pinstripes, Gallo has 34 hits in 221 at bats, a batting average of .153. In his first 11 games this season, he is 4 for 33, a .121 average with ZERO homers and ZERO runs batted in. He has become a strikeout machine, having struck out 103 times in his 221 at bats, a rate that would have him striking out nearly 250 times over a full 500 at bat season. If he was hitting homers and driving in runs, his low average could almost be excused but the power display he always possessed seems gone, for now. Even if he goes on one of his streaky home run weeks, it seems his incompetence as an automatic out the rest of the time hamstrings the Yankees’ lineup on most nights.

Conforto, a left-handed power hitter and a starting outfielder for the Mets with an All-Star appearance, pennant race pressure, and a World Series on his resume is 29 years old and in the prime of his career. He remains unsigned for this season, having turned down the Mets last offer of $100 million for six years on the advice of his agent, Scott Boras. He has not played baseball nor has he gone through spring training so his season. is perilously close to being ruined, if not his career. I would say there is a mutual and pragmatic need on the part of the Yankees and Conforto to come to an agreement as soon as possible.

Conforto will require 4-6 weeks of spring training and then he will need to go to the minor league for 2-4 weeks to play games and face live pitching. This is turning into a horrible scenario for this talented outfielder, who looks like he won’t be available until the All-Star break in July.

Conforto has not done well on the advice of Boras, whom he should probably fire. Coming off a down year during the Covid season of 2020 and having no at bats this year, he is no longer dealing from strength in any negotiations with major league teams. Any thoughts of getting the contract his agent guaranteed has turned into flights of fancy.

Sources tell me Conforto wants to make a deal for one or two years and regain his footing as a dangerous left-handed hitter. He knows his leverage is almost gone, while not playing baseball in 2022, with a dozen games already on the books, is hurting him.

Note to Brian Cashman: Cut bait with Gallo for a Double A flame-throwing pitcher and bring in Michael Conforto, a lefty bat who has performed beautifully in this town who would take aim at the short porch in right field. Put him in the five or six hole and away you go.

Mandel’s Musings: Cashman/Yankees Playing a Dangerous Game with Aaron Judge, Yankees Fans, and the 2022 Season

by Scott Mandel

The incompetent general manager of the New York Yankees, Brian Cashman, is playing a very dangerous negotiating game with Yankees fans, Aaron Judge’s career trajectory and marketability, and with his own career as Yankees G.M. when he publicly announced the Yankees offer to Aaron Judge.

Judge, the star outfielder and best player on the sports’ most famous franchise, is also one of the two or three faces of the sport across the country along with Mike Trout and I don’t know who else. Suffice to say, Aaron Judge has been a very popular guy and a great player.

Judge and his agent chose to reject the Yankees last offer which, according to Cashman was for $234.5 million over eight years. Broken down, the Yankees deal would’ve Included paying him the $21 million arbitration request he asked for instead of $18 million, then adding seven years and $213.5 million, an average annual value (AAV) of $30.5 million for the last seven. That contract would have taken Judge, who turns 30 later this month, to age 36, a number when most baseball players, especially sluggers, are past their prime (unless your name is Barry Bonds or Nelson Cruz, who may have their own little secrets to longevity and peak performance).

An excellent offer, on surface, isn’t it?

Except that Aaron Judge, one of the faces of the sport, is also one of the top five players in the game. Even if you want to debate it, there is nobody who would not put him in the top 10.

So, Aaron Judge turned it down. Unless the Yankees up the offer, he will become a free agent on the day this current season ends. He is gambling $213.5 million he will stay healthy and productive this season then go into free agency when 30 major league teams will have the opportunity to sign him. If Judge plays very well this year, there will be a bidding war amongst the Yankees and a handful of other wealthy clubs (sorry Kansas City and Oakland) for his services.

But, by sharing the Yankees offer to his most popular and best player with the public, Brian Cashman has not only disrespected Aaron Judge but has turned a large chunk of the Yankees fan base against Judge. Last night, the right fielder struck out with two men on base, late in the game. Instead of the typical booing, borne out of the frustration of not getting the runs in, there were thousands of additional “editorial” comments ringing through Yankee Stadium related to Judge turning down the big money deal.

“Come on, you bum. $30 million ain’t enough money for ya?”

The Bronx crowd was, all of a sudden, getting on their favorite son. Being booed is part of being an athlete, especially in NYC, but Aaron Judge has never been booed. He is just one of those guys who is likable (and marketable) in every way. And accessible.

Brian Cashman and Yankees management (we see you hiding behind Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner) is the reason. They are strategically instigating a fan reversal against their best player and asset in order to cover their own rear ends, which has not won a championship in 12 years. It’s going to backfire, significantly.

We are at game number four of the 2022 season. The Aaron Judge story has been the biggest and most constant one coming out of Yankee land. It’s going to be distracting for the team, distracting for the player, and distracting for the 50,000 fans who show up for the games. The manager, Aaron Boone, had to take questions from the press after the game last night. Not about the game but about Aaron Judge’s contract. This could turn into a season killer.

Cashman and Steinbrenner, have they been doing for the last decade plus, have screwed up again.

Below is a graph of the top 20 highest paid players in baseball, on an AAV basis. Where would you place Aaron Judge on this list? Judge and his agents clearly put his AAV above that of the Yankees offer, which is $29.5 million per year for seven years.

Below is our list of the 20 largest contracts in MLB history by average annual value (AAV). Please note that if a player was already under contract and signed an extension, only the new money counts.  For our list of the 20 largest contracts in total dollars, click here.

1.  Max Scherzer, Mets: $43,333,333.33.  Free agent contract signed November 2021

t-2.  Mike Trout, Angels: $36,000,000.  Extension signed March 2019

t-2.  Gerrit Cole, Yankees: $36,000,000.  Free agent contract signed December 2019

4.  Carlos Correa, Twins: $35,100,000.  Free agent contract signed March 2022

t-5.  Stephen Strasburg, Nationals: $35,000,000.  Free agent contract signed December 2019

t-5.  Anthony Rendon, Angels: $35,000,000.  Free agent contract signed December 2019

7.  Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks: $34,416,667.  Free agent contract signed December 2015

8.  Francisco Lindor, Mets: $34.1MM.  Extension signed March 2021

9.  Trevor Bauer, Dodgers: $34,000,000.  Free agent contract signed February 2021

10.  Nolan Arenado, Rockies: $33,428,571.  Extension signed February 2019

11.  Justin Verlander, Astros: $33,000,000.  Extension signed March 2019

12.  Corey Seager, Rangers: $32,500,000.  Free agent contract signed November 2021

t-13.  Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: $31,000,000.  Extension signed March 2014

t-13.  David Price, Red Sox: $31,000,000.  Free agent contract signed December 2015

t-13.  Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: $31,000,000.  Extension signed November 2018

16.  Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: $30,714,286.  Extension signed January 2014

17.  Mookie Betts, Dodgers: $30,416,667.  Extension signed July 2020

18.  Jose Altuve, Astros: $30,200,000.  Extension signed March 2018

19.  Jacob deGrom, Mets: $30,125,000.  Extension signed March 2019

t-20.  Manny Machado, Padres: $30,000,000.  Free agent contract signed February 2019

t-20.  Max Scherzer, Nationals: $30,000,000.  Free agent contract signed January 2015

Mandel’s Musings: Former “Can’t Miss” Pitcher, Manny Banuelos Getting Last Chance with Yankees

by SCOTT MANDEL

Nice to see Manny Banuelos pitching two scoreless today, with three strikeouts for the Yankees vs. the Phillies.

Who is Manny Banuelos?

The Yankees originally signed him as a 19-year old lefthanded pitcher from Mexico in 2010. He became one of the top 50 prospects in the sport, according to Baseball America, and, the Yankees fourth highest rated overall prospect in their system, by 2012.

Banuelos came along at the same time as the 6’8″ fireballing Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman, another 6’10” hard thrower from N.C. State. The three pitchers came to be known as the Killer B’s. Only one of them, Betances, became a star in the major leagues.

Yanks' Betances and Banuelos Still Just Prospects - The New York Times
Banuelos and Dellin Betances as young pitchers in Yankees spring training of 2012

Injuries to his shoulder and elbow followed Banuelos, then, surgeries and subsequent struggles on the field.

Mariano Rivera saw Banuelos pitch in spring training 12 years ago, calling him the best pitching prospect he’d ever seen. That observation encompasses many years and pitchers Rivera had observed.

In recent years. Banuelos has pitched in Korea and Japan, then, back to Mexico, a baseball nomad in search of his old “stuff.” The Yankees must see something in him or, perhaps feel badly for how his career has evolved but they signed him this past January. Today’s solid outing is a great start.

Yankees’ Gary Sanchez Swinging the Bat like the Sanchez of Old

By Scott Mandel

Whatever one thinks of Yankees catcher, Gary Sanchez’ career ups and downs, his statistical averages, taken over a 162-game season, are comparable to the numbers put up by the greatest catchers in baseball history.

Sanchez’s career productivity has had as many ups and downs as the Yankee Stadium VIP elevator, except with that elevator, you know what floor you’re going to by pushing the buttons. With Sanchez, over his seven year career, no one in American League history has reached 100 home runs for a career as fast as Sanchez did, reaching that spectacular achievement in his 355th career game. He has hit over 30 home runs twice, made two All-Star teams before his 26th birthday, and is considered to have the best throwing arm among catchers in the sport.

More so, let’s look at how Sanchez compares to the game’s greatest offensive catchers over the past 75 years or so. Johnny Bench, considered the benchmark at the position over the past 50 years and a Hall of Famer, averaged 29 home runs, 103 runs batted in, and had an OPS of .817 over a 162-game schedule, a full season ofmajor league baseball. Yogi Berra, another great Hall of Fame receiver from the 1940s through 1965, averaged 27 homeres. and 109 rbi’s over 162 games, with an OPS of .830. These two players were the cream of the crop, at the catching position. How does Gary Sanchez compare? Over 162 games, Sanchez is averaging 43 home runs, 106 runs batted in, and has an OPS of .822. His production with a bat in his hand not only is equal to the greatest offensive catchers in the game’s history, it is exceeding those who came before him.

But, Sanchez has not had a perfect career, as his seasons hitting under .200 have also been marked by more strikeouts than hits in a given season as well as inconsistent defensive deficiencies behind the plate, struggling to block pitches in the dirt, frame strikes for his pitching staff, and lacking the “soft hands” found in the skill-set of top of the line defensive catchers, who tend to save more runs which leads to more wins.

His struggles have been so obvious that Yankee manager, Aaron Boone, inserted career backup, Kyle Higashioka, into the starting lineup during the playoffs last year, essentially taking Sanchez’s job during the most important time of the year, the post-season.

It has also led Yankee brass to wonder privately if it is time to move on from Gary Sanchez, especially the “bad” version of the player. The problem is, when Sanchez goes on one of his offensive tears, it can last a month or two and, he can literally carry this team on his shoulders with his offensive firepower.

Then, there are the times when his sheer talent teases Yankees brass and fans, alike, with majestic 450-foot home runs, solid defense and great throws down to second base catching runners trying to steal the base. The contrast between the two Sanchez’s is stark but, when he is performing at his optimal levels, he produces in a manner most long-time observers have not seen from baseball catchers over the last century or so.

After starting out this season, over the first month batting well below .200, the Yankees catcher has morphed into the younger Sanchez, who terrorized American League pitchers with his perfect home run swing and his ability to
“barrel-up” pitches with solid contact. Over the past 25 games, dating back to the end of May, Sanchez is slashing .294/.345/.667 for an OPS of a whopping 1.012. And his .333/.391/.905 slash line in the last week has been crucial to the Yankees’ 5-1 record against the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics. Especially considering that both Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres are slumping.

There is constant chatter on sports talk radio and in the print media about the 28-year old Sanchez never reaching his full potential. Many have suggested, at this moment of his latest hitting streak, now is the time to trade him when his value is rising high, once again. That is a debate Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has been having with himself and with his staff for three years, since Sanchez began to falter badly, both offensively and defensively.

But, make no mistake, among major league catchers, past or present, very few have come close to the sort of offensive output Gary Sanchez has shown, over a full season.

All players tend to be a little streaky but the Yankees would love to see Gary even out or shorten some of those down periods during a typical season. The inside word has been about trying to get him to focus a little more, pitch by pitch (on both sides of the ball) than he has in the past.

And he’s only 28 years old. So, the debate rages on whether to stick with him or cut bait. It says here, Sanchez will hit 40 homers for another team if he’s traded. Why not let him do it in the Bronx.

Welcome to MLB Season that Starts in the Heart of the Pennant Race

By Scott Mandel

Typically, when a major league baseball season gets to game 102, leaving only 60 games remaining to the season, we have gotten through the All-Star break in the second week of July and we are bearing down on the dog days of August. For those teams still in the pennant race, the high-pressure games of down-the-stretch baseball are about to begin.

Here, in 2020, with the condensed schedule of only 60 games instead of 162, all 30 major league teams are officially in a pennant race, with every game remaining having the impact of almost three games. If a team goes on a short losing streak while division opponents are winning games, the distance they fall behind, with fewer games remaining, puts increased pressure on every game and every pitch.

Welcome to the pennant race, from beginning to end of this unique season.

Opening day started yesterday with a Yankee win as their $324 million free agent ace, Gerrit Cole, earned part of his $36 million annual salary (pro-rated to reflect the shortened season), throwing five innings and allowing one hit and one run against the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals, in D.C. as the Bronx Bombers defeated Max Scherzer and the Nats, 4-1. In front of an empty stadium, but a huge television audience, the distinguished Dr. Anthony Fauci was unable to distinguish himself as the opening day pitcher of the First Pitch. The 79-year old Fauci, who was a high school basketball star in New York City, just missed throwing a strike by about 30 feet, with his pitch landing somewhere near the first base foul line.

Today, in front of a small crowd of smiling cardboard season ticket holders at Citi Field in New York, Jacob deGrom, the Mets ace and two-time Cy Young Award winner, threw another gem against the Atlanta Braves, allowing one hit in five innings while striking out eight Braves batters. He left the game but watched Cespedes hit a solo home run in the seventh inning as the Mets shut out the Braves, 1-0.

It sure didn’t take much time for Yoenis Cespedes to swing right into a DH role in his long-awaited return.

Cespedes came back with a bang, immediately capitalizing on the new designated hitter rule in the National League by launching a home run that sent deGrom and the Mets past the Braves in their season opener Friday.

After five dominant innings from deGrom, who was popping the catcher’s mitt with 99 mph fastballs at the start, Cespedes connected in the seventh off reliever Chris Martin (0-1) for his first long ball since his previous major league game on July 20, 2018.

“I’m very excited. It was very exciting just to be able to play again,” Cespedes said though a translator. “I don’t have words for a situation like that.”

“It proved to me that I can still be the same player that I used to be,” he added.

The 34-year-old slugger missed most of the past two seasons with a string of leg injuries, requiring surgery on both heels and then a broken ankle after a bad fall at his Florida ranch in a reported run-in with a wild boar.

“I don’t care if he took a five-year hiatus, when he gets in the batter’s box, you’re worried,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s such a presence.”

Rules changes for this shortened season delayed by the coronavirus provided a DH in NL games for the first time — giving the Mets a perfect slot for Cespedes even if left field presents a problem.

“The funny thing was I joked with him before the game, I said, `Why are you hitting for me?” deGrom said. “Really happy for him.”

With no fans at Citi Field due to the pandemic, it was easy to hear teammates exclaiming in the dugout when Cespedes sent his drive soaring into the empty left-field seats.

“They erupted. They went crazy,” rookie manager Luis Rojas said. “Obviously, it’s a big moment for Ces. He’s been waiting.”

Seth Lugo (1-0) tossed two innings, pitching out of trouble in the seventh, and Justin Wilson whiffed Ronald Acuna Jr. with a runner in scoring position to end the eighth.

Edwin Diaz, who lost his job as closer during a miserable 2019 season, struck out two in a hitless ninth for the save. He worked around a one-out walk, giving the 38-year-old Rojas a victory in his debut.

Afterward, he got a game ball from his players and a celebratory shower that Rojas said was beginning to make his uniform stink.

“I don’t know what they threw on me, but they threw a lot of stuff,” Rojas said.

Coming off consecutive Cy Young Awards, deGrom fanned eight and permitted only a broken-bat single and a walk. He was pulled after 72 pitches following a back-tightness scare early last week. The right-hander extended his scoreless streak to a career-best 28 innings dating to last season, the longest active streak in the majors.

Notes:

The cardboard cutout photos occupying some seats included one of former Braves star and Mets nemesis Chipper Jones.

FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR

The Mets improved to 39-20 in openers (despite losing their first eight), the best opening day winning percentage in the majors. They’ve won 12 of their last 15 — and 23 of the past 26 at home.

SENDING A MESSAGE

Both teams wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts for batting practice and joined in holding a long, black ribbon on the field during a pregame message on the video board from many Black major leaguers about eradicating racial injustice.

PREGAME CEREMONIES

The national anthem was performed virtually on the video board by essential workers, each singing their part, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said “Let’s play ball!” It appeared all players on the field stood for the anthem.

MONEY MAN

Because he didn’t begin the season on the IL with a foot injury, Cespedes’ salary rose from $2,222,222 prorated ($6 million before the schedule was shortened) to $4,074,074 ($11 million before the change).

Mandel’s Musings: Jeter, the Distant Yankee, Should Be Unanimously Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

By Scott Mandel

I’ve never been a big fan of Derek Jeter, the former New York Yankees shortstop, on a personal level. But, today, Derek Jeter is going to be elected, deservedly so, to the the Baseball Hall of Fame, an acknowledgement of his status as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.

But, Jeter was not always an easy guy to get along with or get to know, from a media point of view. And, he knew there was no prerequisite for trying to endear himself to the media or even, to the fans. He did his job as the Yankee shortstop, and did it better than anyone in the franchise’s history.

Jeter opted, over the course of his 21-year career, to play it close to the vest with the media and with Yankeee fans, His responses during interviews were filled with sports cliches, but never really offered his deepest feelings about any subject. Jeter was a bright guy and had many opinions to offer, particularly as the Yankee captain, but he chose not to share most of those feelings with his adoring public.

He was self-aware, always, and always tuned-in to saying as little as possible, as non-controversial as possible. Yet, his ego was so enormous, he had no problem with handing out “swag bags” of Jeter memorabilia to his one-night stands as they walked out his apartment door, in the previous night’s dress and makeup.

He left the Yankees, his beloved Yankees, acrimoniously after Brian Cashman refused to make him the highest paid shortstop in the game when he was 37 years old and had lost many of his skills.

Jeter has not been back to the stadium since retiring five years ago, other than one time to honor Mariano Rivera. He also showed up in Cooperstown to watch Rivera get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Other than that, the great Yankee has been as detached from Yankee tradition and the Yankee organization as any non-Yankee player would be. There are many who feel he has intentionally slighted the Yankees from capitalizing on their relationship with him, ie, profiting from the marketing possibilities of Jeter, the Yankee.

Jeter was indeed a role model for the way he treated kids and umpires in ballparks all across the country. But, as an owner in Miami, Jeter has looked a lot more fallible without the pinstripes on. He deserves a fair shot with the Marlins and enough time to build the organization the way he wants it built. It has never been a good idea to bet against Jeter. He can still turn this second baseball career into a big success.

But the fact that he fired a number of popular Marlins employees — including Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, and a longtime scout who was in the hospital trying to recover from cancer surgery — and handled various duties (including the Giancarlo Stanton trade) with what appeared to be a less-than-gentle approach, did not shock some who have known Jeter. That includes R.D. Long, the longtime running mate ejected from the shortstop’s inner circle years ago for a reason never explained to him.

“I can’t comment about Derek Jeter today, because I don’t know that person today,” Long, who spent six years in the Yankees system and who coached at Rochester Institute of Technology, said last week by phone. “But as a player, people who doubted him just don’t get it. If some think he’s overrated, that’s ludicrous. I think he might be the most underrated player of all time.

He’s a stranger in his own stadium, the “House that Jeter Built,” where he starred.

That said, Derek Jeter was the greatest shortstop in Yankee history and today, we will find out at 6 o’clock whether his inevitable election to the Baseball Hall of Fame will be unanimous, or not. If there is a voter who does not elect Derek Jeter to the Baseball Hall of Fame on this, Jeter’s first opportunity to get into the hallowed hall, that voter should be stripped of his vote. Jeter was a great player, possibly the greatest shortstop over the past 50 years. Despite his media foibles and his soiled relationship with his Yankee heritage, he deserves to be the second player in baseball history to be voted into the Hall of Fame, unanimously. The first, of course, was Mariano Rivera, last year.

Yankees May Look to Lengthen Pitching Staff with Shorter Pitchers, Marcus Stroman and Minor League Phenom, Garcia

by Scott Mandel

The New York Yankees, in need of starting pitchers, will try to trade for 5’7″ righthander, Marcus Stroman, a local boy from Long Island who has been languishing in Toronto with the Blue Jays, before the July 31 trading deadline. They have another short (okay, height-challenged, for you politically correct types) pitching phenomenon in the minors, named Delvi Garcia, a 20-year old 5’8″, 160 pounder, who is averaging 16 strikeouts per nine innings and appears to be a “can’t miss” prospect with four above average pitches in his arsenal, including a 95-97 mph fastball.

Wouldn’t it be fun to see little guys out there on the mound, mixed in with Yankee pitchers like 6’7″ C.C. Sabathia, 6’5″ James Paxon, 6’5″ JA Happ, and 6’5″ Aroldis Chapman, mowing down major league hitters during the stretch run of a pennant race?

Whitey Ford, only the greatest pitcher in Yankee history, was about 5’8″, and he’s in the Hall of Fame with 236 wins to his credit.

Clearly it’s not the size of one’s height, it’s the size of one’s heart (just made that up). And, it’s also the spin rate on the curve and slider, mixed in with control and command of a 95mph heater. But more on that, later.

Delvi Garcia is mowing down Double A hitters and could be in the Bronx sooner than expected

The Yankees have been bitten by the injury bug throughout their roster this season with the pitching staff getting hit particularly hard. Injuries to Luis Severino, their ace, along with Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery (recovering from Tommy John surgery last June) have left them with an over-dependence on pitchers like the 39-year old Sabathia and 36-year old Happ while getting inconsistent performances from James Paxson and German (before his injury).

Garcia, at Double A Trenton, is dominating Eastern League batters as he dominated in Single A ball. He is expected to be moved up, once again, to Triple A, the highest level of minor league baseball, within a few weeks. If his dominance continues there, he could be in line to get called up in September, when major league rosters expand.

“For a lack of a better word, he’s been dominant,” Trenton Thunder manager Pat Osborn said. “He has a really good four-pitch mix and all four right now are probably above the Major League average. He’s a heck of a competitor and has the composure of a guy that’s been pitching for a number of years. He’s the full package in terms of what you want in a young starting pitcher.”

Montgomery has had a recent setback in his rehabilitation, trying to come back from rotator cuff surgery in his elbow last June. This time, he is experiencing pain in his throwing shoulder. An MRI this week showed inflammation in the joint, always a scary proposition for pitchers. He won’t be back anytime soon.

German is a question mark, particularly since he didn’t pitch that well prior to his injury. He tends to lose command of his pitches, probably due to faulty mechanics with his delivery. He was able to maintain fastball velocity in the 95 mph range, but wasn’t throwing it for strikes, consistently. He was hit hard over his last several outings.

Severino, who won 19 games last season, seems to be progressing well in his rehab. If everything continues on a good path, it looks like he’ll be headed down to the minors in about two weeks to stretch out his arm so he can give the Yankees solid seven-inning outings when he returns to the big club. That should require at least four starts down on the farm, with the last two outings to occur with the Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees. Depending on how his arm, as well as his other physical ailments respond will determine when the Yankees bring him up to the big club in the Bronx. But, it will certainly be after the All-Star break.

The lesson to be learned is as old as the game, itself. Teams can never have too much pitching.

Mandel’s Musings: Mets’ Wheeler and Yankees’ Sanchez Are THE KEYS to 2019 Success

There are certain players on certain teams that are considered bellweather perfomers. On the Yankees, players like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Luis Severino are needed and expected to play up to the backs of their baseball cards for the Bombers to have any chance of winning a championship. On the Mets, the expectations of excellence falls on the shoulders of Michael Conforto, Robinson Cano, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. Without those four achieving at high levels. the Mets have no chance to compete for a division title, let alone a World Series championship.

Which brings us to the other key players on the major league roster. The ones who are unpredictable, yet, so talented that if all of their bio-rhythms were in place, their mental and physical health were steady, and they played up to their talent, it would put both of these teams squarely in the race for the big trophy at the end of the season.

Sanchez banged out three homers for Yanks, yesterday

For the Mets, one of the keys, perhaps, THE key to their success in 2019 is Zack Wheeler, currently the number three guy in their pitching rotation.

For the Yankees, it is Gary Sanchez, the sometimes moody catcher with Hall of Fame skills but not always Hall of Fame focus and concentration.

Yesterday’s games showed us just how crucial these two players are to the fortunes of these teams.

The Mets know what they will be getting from deGrom and Syndergaard when they start games every fifth day. The question mark remains Wheeler, who was the second best pitcher in baseball from the All-Star break through October in 2018.

Wheeler, who was a number one draft choice, sixth overall pick, by the San Francisco Giants in 2009, has always been viewed as a potential ace, with a 98 mph fastball with movement, sharp breaking ball, and a flexible, live arm that could take the mound every scheduled outing and dominate opposing teams.

Sanchez, who broke into the majors and made himself an immediate Hall of Fame candidate after his first half season in 2015, has had more ups and downs in his still-young career than any future Hall of Famer should go through. Most of those downs have been of his own making, through not being able to understand or accept the tough love former manager, Joe Girardi, the old catcher, tried to impart to Sanchez the finer points of the game, especially, defensively.

Girardi was fired, some say, because of his relationship with Sanchez, in an era of players having more power than a manager.

But yesterday, we saw what Sanchez, still only 26, can do with a bat in his hand. In an era when any offense from a catcher is welcome but not necessarily expected by major league teams, the “San-chize” hit not one, not two, but three home runs in Baltimore. He drove in six runs. And, the Yankees had another cakewalk against the sad Orioles, 15-3.

He now has six homers in the season’s first 10 games, and looks to be a happy player.

Oddly, after the game, no one expressed shock at yesterday’s output from the young slugger. His teammates have seen him do this before, in bunches, as a rookie and in his second year. Last year, he hit .188. Nobody seems to know why yet, most baseball observers still consider his hitting talent to be the best in the Yankees lineup.

The dilemma with Sanchez is, we know he’s one of the scariest hitters in the game, when he has access to his full compliment of physical and mental capabilities. The question is, how do the Yankees keep him happy and thriving?

With Sanchez bashing, the Yankee lineup, is one in which nobody can be pitched around. It becomes a nightmare for opposing pitching staffs and it will lead to a season of fastballs for everybody, 1 thru 9.

Yesterday, Wheeler pitched against the Washington Nationals in a style reminiscent of the first eight years of his career. He lost his command on his fastball and curve, he lost his control, walking a career-high seven batters in five innings. He generally looked lost out there, a huge disappointment to a Mets organization that has been re-structured from top to bottom by new general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen. But still, at the major league level, this team is programmed to be dependent on its pitching arms.

Without Wheeler pitching with some semblance of his talent level, the Mets will turn into a version of the old Milwaukee Braves slogan, “Burdette and Sain, and pray for rain” from the 1950s:

“deGrom and No (Syndergaard) and pray for snow.”

Right now, the Mets are praying for the light to go on again for Wheeler. If it doesn’t, you are looking at Stephen Matz and Jason Vargas needing to pick up the pace to about 15 wins apiece. A tall order which almost guarantees a disappointing season for the Mets.

Mandel’s Musings: Yankees, Missing Table Setter, Still Haven’t Fixed Lineup Issues

It’s early, of course, in the 2019 season but the New York Yankees, one of baseball’s favorites to win the World Series this year are looking very much like last year’s team, which fell short in the playoffs for one major reason. Their lineup of home run hitting sluggers was unable to put bat to ball when they faced top of the line pitching rotations like the Astros or the Red Sox.

This season, so far, has that same feel, know what I mean?

The Yanks’ lineup remains the most fearful in the game. From one through nine, a healthy Yankees’ batting order will do damage to most American League pitchers over the course of a season. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Aaron Hicks, and Gleyber Torres will all hit more than 20 homers this year. Hell, they’ll all probably hit more than 30.

The question is, how many of these bashers will also hit .280 or better and strike out less than 100 times?

The Yankees dilemma this year is the same as it was last year. Hitting homers in batches, as the Bombers did in 2018 (266 – a major league record) puts fans in the seats, even bringing back the early-arrival fans who enjoy watching these very large men take their pre-game batting practice hacks but, it doesn’t win championships.

But, who are the table-setters?

Nothing wrong with power, in this age of weight-training, protein drinks, and any other enhancements used in professional sports. But, even in 2019, championship teams must possess lineups that include a smattering of hit-to-contact types so the bashers can get big, sweet fastballs to swing at with runners on base. Opposing pitchers prefer to pitch off the plate to big swingers, who tend to feast on fastball strikes but without ideal bat control, can be fooled by pitches that expand the strike zone to include breaking balls in the dirt. Base runners force pitchers to throw strikes, a good scenario for big swingers like Judge and Stanton and Sanchez.

But, who are the table-setters?

The Houston Astros’ second baseman, Jose Altuve, has, at 5’6″, 160 pounds made himself into a superstar by getting on base, not striking out, and making opposing pitchers jittery when he’s taking leads off first.

The Red Sox have Mookie Betts, who also knows how to make contact and does so to all fields with power, despite his diminutive body-type.

Guess which teams won the past two World Series? If you answered the Astros and the Red Sox, you’d be right.

I’m not saying the Yankees should have held onto a popular player of theirs from the past two seasons, Ronald Torreyes, but let’s just say, by getting rid of a “Torreyes-type,” they no longer have a diminutive contact hitter in their lineup who rarely strikes out. Brett Gardner is going to be 36 during this season, and never was a hit-to-contact type with a high on-base percentage. Tyler Wade has a lifetime batting average of .164. D.J. LeMahieu, a solid acquisition during the off-season, doesn’t fit the profile of an Altuve or a Betts, either.

Yesterday, the Yankees beat the lowly Orioles, 8-4. Their offense, third in the American League in strikeouts and at the bottom of the league in stolen bases, has been slumping for several games now.

Once again, the Yanks were in their collective offensive funk against Alex Cobb, the Orioles starting pitcher who will NOT be in the running for the Cy Young award, until the sixth inning. Cobb was treating this Yankee lineup as if he was pitching for the Astros or the Red Sox, in post-season games.

Baltimore, on paper the worst team in the sport, had a 4-1 edge going into the sixth inning, the Yankees lone run coming on, you guessed it, a home run by Gleyber Torres. Other than that, against Alex Cobb, zilch.

It wasn’t until the sixth inning when the pinstripes exploded against the putrid Orioles bullpen for four runs, on, yes, a solo home run by Sanchez and a three-run homer by Torres, his second of the game, coming after two singles by Bird and LeMahieu.

Image result for jose altuve
Altuve is the perfect table-setter for the Astros

Here’s the thing about home runs. They come in bunches and practitioners of the art of home run hitting tend to be streaky. They will hit 10-15 in a month, then, nothing but ground outs and strikeouts for a few weeks. Nobody seems to know why that is. It’s one of baseball’s mysteries that keeps this game interesting. But, it doesn’t help a team when most of its lineup is comprised of precisely those kind of bashers who have their hot and cold streaks during the season, but are especially cold during the playoffs, when the strikeouts and ground outs are almost a guarantee.

Note to Yankees’ General Manager, Brian Cashman: The Yankees will not win a World Series without scrappy, speedy guys with high on-base percentages to set the table for their sluggers.

Where have you gone, Ronald Torreyes?