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Followup on my 2015 Wishes

Prior to the start of last season, I considered each probable starter for the Yankees and made one wish for the upcoming season. Now that we’re rapidly approaching a new season and the dust has settled from the previous season, it’s time to see which Yankees lived up to my (completely unimportant) expectations.

THE PITCHERS

Masahiro Tanaka “That the arm holds up. Let other teams speculate about your health and distract their focus against you.”

Notice my hope was only about the health of his arm – not his contract, his performance, or whether or not he’s an ace. Tanaka did start more games (24) than he did last year (20), and as a result pitched more innings (154.0) than he did last year (136.1), including one of only two complete games thrown by Yankee starters in 2015. He had one trip to the DL which lasted from 4/28/15 to 6/05/15. (The year before, Tanaka was out from 7/6/14 to 9/21/14.)

Verdict: He pitched more, was injured less, and his arm did not fall off. Good!

Michael Pineda “Keep up the good work, Big Mike. And if you want to wear your hat a little straighter, I won’t complain.”

There were good days (Mother’s Day, when he struck out 16), and there were meh days (too many to mention). We saw a lot more of Pineda this year after his return from injury (160.2IP compared to 76.1IP last year), but yet only one example of really good pitching immediately comes to mind.

Verdict: …at least there was no pine tar!

CC Sabathia “Have a better season than I’m fearing you’ll have.”

I was really hard on CC – and I mean really hard. I predicted a loss every time he started because I was so confident opposing hitters would destroy him. For the first part of the season, that was true; in the first 24 games of the season he was 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA. Then came the blessed knee brace! In his final 5 starts of the season, Sabathia’s ERA dropped to 2.17 – much more like the workhorse we’re used to. He is now 35 years old and has thrown 2988.2IP and recorded 2,574K in his 15 year career. This was a difficult year for Sabathia personally and professionally, but even if his body wasn’t performing as he wanted it to, his heart was always 100% in it.

Verdict: Glad the end of the season was more like the old CC – and knee brace for MVP!

Nathan Eovaldi “Be that young pitcher no one expects to be great, and then dominate opposing teams.”

There’s a big difference between playing for the Miami Marlins, and playing for the New York Yankees. For example – Eovaldi had a 6-14 record in 2014 with the Marlins, and a 14-3 record this past season with the Yankees. His ERA in 2014 and 2015 are roughly the same while his starts and innings pitched were down slightly in 2015 due to injury. The numbers that really stood out to me were his 175 hits (down from 223), 72 runs (down from 107), and 72 ER (down from 97).

Verdict: He didn’t exactly dominate, but he’s a work in progress, and seems to be progressing well.

Adam Warren: “Be consistent and pitch well – there’s a reason you won this rotation spot – and don’t be one of the pitchers we have to worry about.”

Remember when Adam Warren was a starter? Those were my favorite Adam Warren days! I was fortunate enough to see two of his starts in person – one a narrow defeat and one a win. Of course later in the season Warren was moved to the bullpen where he proved to be just as effective. There was a certain amount of comfort in having him out there if a starter totally tanked (and not that Chris Capuano ever did…) because we knew he could give length. Or a spot start. Or really, whatever the Yankees asked of him, because he would do it. And he would do it well, and always without complaint.

Verdict: If anyone met and exceeded all my hopes for 2015, it was Adam Warren. I’ll miss him in pinstripes, but wish him tons of success with the Cubs.

THE INFIELDERS

Brian McCann (C): “You’ve had a year to settle in to a new environment – now it’s time to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s right field.”

There isn’t a huge difference in McCann’s stats in 2014 compared to 2015. He only hit three more HRs, but he did have 19 more RBIs. He had 20 more strikeouts, but also drew 20 more walks. He’s projected to have roughly the same kind of numbers for 2016.

Verdict: I’m not sure we can expect much more from Brian McCann as we’ve seen the last two seasons. That being said, I’m not at all disappointed with him.

Mark Teixeira (1B): “Don’t be stubborn: teams are going to shift, especially when you outright say you won’t try to beat the shift.”

For quite awhile early this season, it seemed like Tex’s approach to beating the shift was just to hit everything right over the shift. It didn’t seem to matter where anyone was standing on the field – he was just going to hit the ball right out of the park, probably yelling “I’ll show you!” as he rounded the bases.

Verdict: This is, by far, the most hilarious example of being proven wrong I can think of from this season!

Stephen Drew (2B): “Crack .200 for your batting average and look like you can play 2B.”

What an odd player Stephen Drew turned out to be. I’m not sure anyone in baseball history has ever hit 17HRs while only hitting .201 for the season (of course he had to add that extra .001 to his average, just to spite me). As for his fielding, I have to give him credit for switching positions after age 30. He’s demonstrated versatility playing 2B, SS, and 3B during the season, as well as having some (very random) power at the plate. He could be a very good utility infielder for the Nationals this year.

Verdict: He just barely broke .200 before he was shut down for injury the rest of the season. He certainly wasn’t the best 2B in MLB last year, but he also could have been a lot worse.

Didi Gregorius (SS): “Don’t get rattled by replacing one of baseball’s biggest stars on one of the largest stages in the world.”

I’ll admit I was hard on Didi early in the season. He had a bit of a rocky start with a mental errors (working with a former Gold Glove shortstop helped), but showed great improvement as the season went on.

Verdict: Do we all love Didi yet? I think we all love Didi!

Chase Headley (3B): “Keep the good New York momentum going.”

In his nine years in MLB, Chase Headley has made 83 errors at 3B. In the first eight years of his career, he had never made more than 13 errors in a single season (2010) and even won a Gold Glove with the Padres in 2012.

During the 2014 season, I was extremely judgmental of anyone who tried to play 3B – mostly because they were “replacing” my favorite player, but also because they were pretty terrible. When Headley came to New York, it was like a breath of fresh air. Finally, there was someone competent who could play 3B – and then he signed a four year contract as a free agent. Things were good!

But then came the 2015 season, and a career high 23(!!) errors. At times, I wondered if the Yankees might actually get better defense from 40 year old Alex Rodriguez.

Verdict: Biggest disappointment of 2015.

THE OUTFIELDERS

Brett Gardner (LF): “Be that gritty player who flies under the radar and leaves teams wondering “Where the hell did that guy come from?””

Gardner always has a rough second half of the season. At this point in his career, I’m not sure that will ever change. One thing I absolutely love about Gardner is that he always, always gives it all he’s got. He doesn’t often get the recognition he deserves, especially for someone who had to fight just to play college baseball and is now an everyday player for the New York Yankees.

Verdict: Gardy finally got the recognition he deserves, being selected to his first career All Star game at 31 years old.

Jacoby Ellsbury (CF): “Steal a ton of bases – and maybe another steal of home.”
Bonus wish: “Have a ridiculously good game against the Red Sox. Just explode offensively and defensively, and silence those Red Sox fans who claim they’re happy you left Boston.”

Early this season, I really thought it was going to be Ellsbury’s year – he started the season hot. In the first month and a half of the season, he hit .324 with 48 hits, 29 runs scored, and an impressive 14 stolen bases. Every time I turned a game on, he was running – and it was like a dream come true. This is the Jacoby Ellsbury I wanted to see!

When things seem too good to be true, they often are. On May 19, Ellsbury sustained a right knee injury and spent May 20 through July 8 on the disabled list. As luck would have it, he injured his knee in the first of two games in Washington, and of course I had tickets for the second game. (It wasn’t all bad news though – I was there for Slade Heathcott’s MLB debut!)

For the rest of the season, Ellsbury was okay. Average. Definitely far less exciting than he started the season. There was no amazing game against the Red Sox either.

Verdict: If I could only judge Ellsbury’s season up until May 19, it would be a big success.

Carlos Beltran (RF): “Do something to make me excited you’re on the team?”

Beltran and Sabathia are similar in that I really expected zero from either of them. The difference between the two is that I actually feel bad for judging CC so harshly. I’m still not wildly impressed with Beltran.

In all fairness, his bat did heat up later in the season and often at key moments of the game. But the defense was terrible. Every joke about Beltran riding a Rascal around right field were completely justified. Outs turned into hits. Running looked nothing short of pathetic. At this point in his career, Beltran probably is best suited as a DH, but on this current roster, it’s just not possible.

Verdict: The excited moments were few and far between, but there were a few.

THE DESIGNATED HITTER

Alex Rodriguez (DH): “Don’t blow it.”

Remember when Alex Rodriguez returning from his suspension was the worst thing that could ever happen to baseball? We’ve come a long way.

Over the past year, he’s shown tremendous growth personally and professionally. We saw a man who, at forty years old, finally seems to be comfortable in his own skin – and proved he can still play professional baseball after spending the better part of the last two years watching from a distance. He has said and done all the right things, allowing many people to forget just how much they hated him just a year ago.

Verdict: No words could accurately express how happy I am to see this version of Alex Rodriguez.

 

The regular season starts in just a few short weeks! Hopefully, I’ll have a whole new list of hopes and dreams for this year’s team. Stay tuned!

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Chapman comes to New York

Since the Yankees shocked the baseball world by trading for Aroldis Chapman, I’ve been trying to decide how I felt about the trade; there’s the potential for huge reward, but with big risk. I’ve actually started this post several times trying to sort out the many thoughts in my head about the trade, the current Yankees roster, and Chapman’s personal problems.

After a whole lot of thought…I think this deal is going to turn out alright.

First, there is the trade itself. At least for now, Yankee fans have seemingly forgotten they hate Brian Cashman. No one seems to miss the four young players sent to Cincinnati, because there is so much excitement about what good Chapman could bring to this team.

This deal creates an amazing back end of the Yankees bullpen. Dellin Betances. Aroldis Chapman. Andrew Miller. They are all among MLB’s best relief pitchers, and they are all together on one roster. Even if you hate the Yankees, you have to admit that is a very powerful trio.

via sportsonearth.com

 

 

We’ve seen the super bullpen work with the Royals in 2014, and even better in 2015 when they won the World Series despite losing Greg Holland to injury (and Tommy John surgery) in mid-September. We all know having a powerful bullpen shortens games, and for the Yankees, that can be extremely beneficial.

There are significant concerns about the Yankees rotation. Cashman insists the rotation is “full” and that the Yankees are not signing any big free agents – so let’s just assume they keep the starters next year. In 2015, the top six Yankee starters (Eovaldi, Nova, Pineda, Sabathia, Severino, and Tanaka) averaged 5.83 innings per start. (Tanaka had the highest average with 6.42 innings and Nova had the lowest average with 5.53 innings.) Whether the starters were unable to go deep into games was a result of their pitching ability or an overly anxious manager is a whole other debate. For argument’s sake, let’s each starter lasts approximately 6 innings per start – that leaves 3 more innings to play, and there are 3 super arms sitting in the bullpen.

Obviously the super trio cannot pitch 7-8-9 in every game, but there is some flexibility here. Last season, we saw Girardi frequently use both Betances and Miller for more than one inning. He didn’t wait for the 8th inning to bring in Betances, and he wasn’t afraid to use Miller for a 4 or even 5 out save. He pushed them – and it often worked out well for the team. Adding that third arm can (hopefully) cut down on the workload for both of them, which could then give them more opportunity to rest and stay healthy. There is always the possibility Girardi starts brining in relievers in the 5th inning as one of my friends at The Greedy Pinstripes (somewhat jokingly) suggested, but I am going to cross my fingers Girardi hasn’t totally lost his mind this offseason.

That still leaves a big question – who’s the closer? The Yankees have three potential closers, which is an excellent problem to have. Surprisingly, since I am a big Andrew Miller fan and call him my hero, I would actually chose Chapman as the closer – and the flexibility of the other two is part of the reason why.

 

So far, both Betances and Miller have been quoted saying they’re excited about the addition of Chapman, and each willing to do whatever they can to help the team win games. Miller, especially, has said since he signed with the Yankees last offseason, that he is willing to do any job given to him. He never demanded he be the closer, and he never assumed he would be the closer. Betances is a New Yorker, and wants to bring a championship home. Of the three, Betances is the least likely to be the closer (although perfectly capable). Chapman has always been a closer, while the other two have not, so I would have to assume he is the most comfortable – and obviously successful – in that role.

Which leads me to my first concern about Chapman – how long can a human arm withstand throwing pitches at such great speeds? There is a great deal of mechanics/physics that go into pitching (read some interesting articles HERE and HERE), and we see “average” MLB pitchers suffer injuries by throwing pitches significantly slower than Chapman’s. At some point, will his arm just give out?

The medical professional in me thinks about things like this. There is a certain point (the actual speed seems debatable) where the human body just cannot handle throwing a baseball any faster. Chapman is likely nearly that point. Part of me will worry with each pitch – is this the one that will tear his UCL? Betances and Miller are not throwing quite as fast as Chapman (but really, no one in baseball is). Because of that, I would feel more comfortable allowing Betances and Miller throw more pitches per outing than Chapman. Considering that along with the flexibility they’ve already demonstrated, and we could potentially see 6+ outs from just the two of them. To wrap things up, bring in Chapman for 3 quick outs on probably less than a dozen pitches thrown (3-9 pitches would be even better).

Of course, the biggest concern about Chapman is a possible suspension for domestic violence. Before I go any further, it’s important to mention I am against violence of any kind, against anyone. However, from a legal standpoint, Aroldis Chapman has never been charged with domestic violence.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t a shit human being. The entire story makes me uneasy – and the fact that he was ever in such a volatile situation at all – but the fact is the investigation did not bring up enough evidence to charge him. He may be a bad person, but he certainly wouldn’t be the first in baseball.

If MLB does find cause to suspend him, a few things can happen. There is the possibility he is suspended long enough to delay his free agency eligibility until the end of next season. If that happens, Brian Cashman will look like a genius for getting two years of Chapman at the cost of four young players. There’s also the possibility the suspension is shorter, or maybe there is no suspension at all.

Suspension or not, there will be a lot of attention focused on Aroldis Chapman. Of the two teams, who would you expect to handle the possible media circus better – the Cincinnati Reds, or the New York Yankees? Remember, the Yankees are a much larger organization and were recently very involved with the longest suspension MLB had ever given, and all the public spectacle that went along with it.

The key to this working as well as it can is keeping the three pitchers together. The Yankees bullpen already lost two of their best pitchers (Adam Warren and Justin Wilson) this offseason, and aside from Betances/Miller, there were a lot of question marks. Adding Chapman is almost enough to make fans forget Warren and Wilson are even gone, but removing any of these three puts the Yankees back into that same position. There have been rumors all offseason that the Yankees have been listening to trade offers for Andrew Miller. Honestly, it’s a smart thing to do – the Yankees could be blown away with an offer they can’t refuse. But trading Miller for a starter? That doesn’t make much sense to me either. Even the best pitcher, who would assumingly go deep into games and take stress off the bullpen, is only going to pitch every five days. The Yankees have six starters and, while it’s not ideal, it looks like those are the six they will have going in to Opening Day. Trade Miller for even the best starter available and you’re left with seven starters, two reliable relievers, and still a whole lot of question marks.

It will be interesting to see how Chapman fits into the Yankees organization, what his punishment will be (if any) and how it will all play out in New York and MLB. For the time being, we Yankee fans can smile because our team has the Betances/Miller/Chapman trio.

If the whole season falls apart, I’m fairly confident at least those three will still keep things exciting.

Were the trades worth it?

The Toronto Blue Jays had arguably the best trade deadline in MLB this year, and probably pulled off the best trade early in the previous off season as well. As a result of these moves, they won the AL East, went on to the playoffs, and were beaten by the world champion Kansas City Royals in the ALDS. The organization did what they had to do to win.

But were all these moves really worth it? They didn’t accomplish their ultimate goal of winning the World Series in the first year, but there’s always next year….right?

The Blue Jays will likely be good next year, and may even be among the best offensive teams in the league again, but will that success last long term? Did they give up too much in the trades?

It’s a question that’s been in the back of my mind since the deadline. When the news came out the Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos would not be returning, and possibly due to a disagreement about trades with new Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro, my curiosity was piqued again. Just how much did the Blue Jays give up?

First, I am in no way an expert on the Blue Jays or their farm system. Also, I am not someone who believes you can judge a trade immediately after it happens. What looks good on paper doesn’t always translate well to what’s actually happening on the field.

Some trades initially do look better than others right away, and the trade that brought third baseman Josh Donaldson to Toronto is one of those. The Blue Jays sent four players (3B Brett Lawrie, LHP Sean Nolin, RHP Kendall Graveman, and SS Franklin Barreto) to Oakland in exchange for Donaldson. Lawrie himself is a decent third baseman (he also played some second base this season), and has roughly the same amount of MLB experience as Donaldson (5 years, 494 games to Donaldson’s 5 years 5 years, 563 games). Offensively and defensively, Donaldson is the better overall player, although Lawrie (26 in January) is about four years younger than Donaldson (30 in December). Still, a straight Lawrie-for-Donaldson trade wouldn’t be fair, but the four player package was enough for Oakland to give up the 2015 A.L. MVP.

Both young pitchers (in December, Nolin will be 26 and Graveman 25) pitched at the major league level with mediocre results. Nolin (the Blue Jays’ former #11 prospect) appeared in just 2 games and finished with a .333 ERA while Graveman appeared in 21 games and totaled a 6-9 record with a 4.00 ERA. Barreto is just 19 and spent the season at level A, but still talented enough he was the #8 Toronto prospect before the trade.

Toronto’s smallest trade deadline moves occurred on the July 31 trade deadline. One move brought Mariner’s RHP Mark Lowe to Toronto in exchange for three young LHP: Rob Rassmussen (26), Jacob Brentz (20), and Nick Wells (20). Brentz and Wells both pitched at level A. Rasmussen did pitch at the major league level for both Toronto and Seattle, although with disappointing results. In just four days on the major league roster with the Blue Jays, he appeared in just one game and pitched only one inning. In Seattle, he pitched 14.1 innings with a 2-1 record over 19 games and an unfortunate 10.67 ERA and 2.302 WHIP. That alone makes the acquisition of Lowe all the better, especially considering Lowe carried at 1.00 ERA and 1.167 WHIP over 36.0 innings in 34 games in Seattle. In Lowe’s 23 games and 19.0 IP with Toronto, his ERA rose 3.79 while WHIP dropped to 0.842. Lowe was signed to a minor league deal before the 2015 season, and is now a 32 year old free agent.

Another small move occurred on the deadline day between Toronto and Philadelphia. The Phillies received two young RHP pitchers (Jimmy Cordero, 24, and Alberto Tirado, 20) from the Blue Jays, who received LF Ben Revere in return. Cordero and Tirado both pitched at the minor league level for Philly (Cordero AAA and Tirado A), and could work out well for a team trying to get rid of bad contracts and rebuild. Prior to the trade, Tirado was ranked as Toronto’s #15 prospect. In Toronto, Revere’s stats actually improved. With Philly, Revere was batting .334 with 109 hits and 1 HR over 96 games. After the move to Toronto, his already solid average went up slightly to .354 with another HR in the 56 games he played with the Blue Jays. Revere is under contract through the 2018 season.

One day earlier, the Blue Jays pulled off one of their biggest trades when they acquired LHP David Price from the Detroit Tigers for a package of three LHP. Overall, David Price had a very successful 2015 despite being traded for the second time in his career. His stats before and after the trade are very similar, although slightly better in Toronto. One of the pitchers acquired by Detroit, Toronto’s former #16 prospect Jairo Labourt, spent the 2015 season at level A. Matt Boyd pitched for both the Blue Jays and Tigers, and although his numbers are not overly impressive, he did show signs of improvement after the trade. With Toronto, Boyd pitched in just two games (both starts), lasting only a combined 6.2IP with a 14.85 ERA and 0-2 record. However, in Detroit, Boyd pitched in 11 games (10 starts) with 50.2 IP, a 1-4 record and 6.57 ERA. Blue Jays former #1 prospect, Daniel Norris, was the third player sent to Detroit and the most consistent before and after the trade. In 5 games for Toronto, Norris recorded 23.1 IP with a 1-1 record and 3.86 ERA. For Detroit, he threw 36.2 IP over 8 games, with a 2-1 record and 3.68 ERA.

The other big trade, and the most interesting to me, happened three days before the deadline when the Blue Jays sent three RHP and SS Jose Reyes to the Colorado Rockies for Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins. Anthopoulos had asked the Rockies about Tulowitzki several times before the season (likely around the same time he made the move for Donaldson) but the right trade didn’t present itself until July.

Overall, Tulowitzki had a decent 2015 season although his .300 BA and .348 OBP dropped to .239 and .317 after the trade. Hawkins also had similar numbers with both teams, with his ERA improving from 3.63 to 2.76. Tulowitzki, who has a history of often being injured, is currently 31 years old and does not become a free agent until 2021. Hawkins will turn 43 years old later this year and become a free agent at the end of the 2016 season.

Undoubtedly, the Blue Jays strengthened the left side of their infield and improved two spots in their lineup with the additions of Donaldson and Tulowitzki.

But the Rockies are excited about all three of the young pitchers, and appear to be interested in developing pitching specific to their ballpark. The youngest of the three, Jesus Tinoco (20), spent the 2015 season at level A in both the Blue Jays and Rockies systems, with his new team hoping to develop him into a back end starter.

RHP Miguel Castro was ranked as Toronto’s #5 prospect, and has dropped to the #10 prospect in the Rockies organization after the trade. Although he had limited experience – 13 games for the Blue Jays, 5 games for the Rockies, and a combined 17.2 IP – the Rockies expect him to work as a relief pitcher. He had an 0-2 record and 4.38 ERA and recorded 4 saves for the Blue Jays. However, the Rockies and Castro have some work to do before he can be a reliable arm out of the bullpen. After the trade, Castro had an 0-1 record with a disappointing 10.38 ERA.

The third pitcher sent to Colorado, and the “key” to the trade, was RHP Jeff Hoffman, who himself has an interesting story. I’ve heard about Hoffman since he was drafted in 2014 out of East Carolina University. My brother (@MichaelPrunka) is a local sports reporter and attended ECU at the same time as Hoffman, and was very excited to see someone he had reported about drafted 9th overall with a $3.1 million signing bonus. He recalls multiple scouts visiting ECU to see Hoffman pitch, including Cubs GM Theo Epstein (the Cubs drafted 4th and chose Kyle Schwarber).

In his three years at ECU, Hoffman’s ERA dropped from 3.67 to 2.94. During his sophomore season (2013), he threw more innings (109 2/3) than any other ECU pitcher. It was expected Hoffman would be one of the top three draft picks in 2014 before his season ended prematurely when he underwent Tommy John surgery. Even post-surgery, he was still drafted 9th overall and did not make his professional debut in until this past May. After 11 starts at Advanced A, he was promoted to AA, and is expected to make his MLB debut sometime in 2016. Some expect him to be an average mid-rotation starter, while others predict he is a future ace. While the Rockies are excited for all three of these pitchers, but it’s Hoffman at the top of their list for the team’s future.

Without a doubt, the Blue Jays had a much better team after the trade deadline than they did before. They acquired three pitchers, a shortstop, third baseman, and a left fielder to improve their team – and it worked, despite falling just short of making it to the World Series.

But to acquire these six players, the Blue Jays lost a total of 13 pitchers, 2 shortstops and 1 third baseman – including six of their top 20 prospects. Two of the pitchers acquired (David Price and Mark Lowe) are now free agents. Just before the off season, Mark Buerhle announced his retirement, and starter R.A. Dickey is 41 years old (although expected to pitch again next season). That leaves the Blue Jays rotation two pitchers short.

The Blue Jays already had the #1 offense in all of baseball, but were only 23rd in pitching. Their offense should be great again next season – Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are both signed through next year, Donaldson and Russell Martin is signed through 2019, and Tulowitzki through 2021. But as the saying goes, you can’t predict baseball. Bautista is 35 years old now. The often injured Tulowitzki is another year older (31) and is playing on artificial turf for at least the foreseeable future. With a few slumps or injuries, their power offense could suffer.

Baseball fans may never really know why Alex Anthopoulos decided to leave the Blue Jays, but the theory of a disagreement between him and Mark Shapiro is not that unimaginable.

“Shapiro, a brilliant man who normally chooses his words precisely, at one point was said to have discussed the lack of top prospects at the upper levels and the need to replenish the coffers following the big, season-altering trades, and Anthopoulos apparently took that as a slap.” – CBS’ Jon Heyman

I’ve heard a lot about Mark Shapiro during the time he worked for my hometown Cleveland Indians. While he doesn’t have a ring to show for his years in Cleveland, I respect the work he did. If he did express concern over trading so many prospects…I really can’t blame him.

Someone asked me if I was worried about the Blue Jays just after the trade deadline when they added Price and Tulowitzki. At the time I said I wasn’t, but would be if they had added more pitching. They may have finished the season 6 games ahead of the Yankees and won the division, but they also have two empty spots in their rotation, and no pitchers on the horizon. None of their top pitching prospects are expected to be MLB ready until 2017.

There is a certain amount of caution when considering prospects. The jump from the minor leagues to the majors is significant, and there’s really no way of knowing how each player will handle it if/when they get there. Of course, there is also free agency or trades to fill the needs of a ball club. While I don’t see the Blue Jays and Mark Shapiro spending big money on free agents or making more big trades, they may not have any other option.

The Blue Jays certainly had an exciting trade deadline, and second half of the season, but they certainly have more work to this offseason. It will be interesting to see how the team will proceed with a new team president, and a newly departed GM.

Only time will tell if these trades were worth it in the long run. Would you have made these moves?

I don’t think I would have.

 

Toronto Blue Jays Top 20 prospects (pitchers), July 27, 2014 (after draft signing deadline):
1. Daniel Norris (LHP) – traded to Detroit for David Price
2. Aaron Sanchez (RHP) – MLB debut 2015
3. Dalton Pompey (OF)
4. Jeff Hoffman (RHP) – traded to Colorado for Tulowitzki & Hawkins
5. Robert Osuna (RHP) – MLB debut 2015
6. Max Pentecost (C)
7. Mitch Nay (3B)
8. Franklin Barreto (SS) – traded to Oakland for Josh Donaldson
9. D.J. Davis (OF)
10. Sean Reid-Foley (RHP) – ETA 2018
11. Sean Nolin (LHP) – traded to Oakland for Josh Donaldson
12. Dawel Lugo (SS)
13. Matt Dean (1B)
14. A.J. Jimenez (C)
15. Alberto Tirado (RHP) – traded to Philly for Ben Revere
16. Jairo Labourt (LHP) – traded to Detroit for David Price

17. John Stilson (RHP)
18. Chase De Jong (RHP)
19. Richard Urena (SS),
20. Matthew Smoral (LHP) – ETA 2017

Current Blue Jays prospect rankings:
1. Jonathan Harris (RHP) – ETA 2018
2. Anthony Alford (OF)
3. Sean Reid-Foley (RHP) – ETA 2018
4. Max Pentecost (C)
5. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr (OF)
6. Richard Urena (SS)
7. Rowdy Tellez (1B)
8. Conner Greene (RHP) – ETA 2017
9. Mitch Nay (3B)
10. Ryan Borucki (LHP) – ETA 2018
11. D.J. Davis (OF)
12. Clinton Hollon (RHP) – ETA 2019
13. Dwight Smit (OF)
14.Dan Jansen (C)
15. Justin Maese (RHP) – ETA 2019
16. Matt Smoral (LHP) – ETA 2017
17. Matt Dean (1B)
18. Tom Robson (RHP) – ETA 2018
19. Lane Thomas (2B)
20. Carl Wide (3B)

A Tale of Two Cities

When you have the opportunity to travel 786 miles to see four MLB teams play in two separate games, you just have to do it. Because after all, this is summer. And even if football has returned to our TV screens, summertime is baseball time.

So maybe that’s not exactly there reason these two games happened within days of each other. As luck – and my work schedule – would have it, I had the chance to drive to Cleveland midweek to see the Yankees and Indians play, and then travel to Baltimore to see the A’s and Orioles that weekend. It was a lot of baseball in one week, or as I would call it – heaven.

11873495_806461130381_1585491247349533703_nWednesday August 12 Yankees at Indians
Final Score: Yankees 1, Indians 2
WP: Danny Salazar LP: C.C. Sabathia S: Cody Allen
Distance traveled: approximately 694 miles

The circumstances surrounding this game might make it the most perfect game I will experience all season long. After spending Tuesday and most of Wednesday with my family, I met up with my best friend Lisa who is the reason I ever started watching baseball. We made plans to head into Cleveland so I could be fitted for my matron of honor dress (Lisa is getting married next July), have dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, and see two of our favorite teams play. Lisa decided to wear an Indians shirt since we were in our hometown and her beloved Jeter is retired, and was very supportive of my Rodriguez jersey. For friends cheering for competing teams, we were very peaceful. And our seats were so good, I could have probably carried on a conversation with Chase Headley if I yelled loud enough.
Before the game, I was worried for the Yankees for a number of reasons: the previous night’s game lasted 16 innings (past midnight), the Blue Jays were closing in on 1st place in A.L. East, and the struggling C.C. Sabathia was starting. Surprisingly, it was a fairly good game despite the Yankees loss. Sometime Wednesday afternoon I had a sudden feeling of confidence in Sabathia. Cleveland is where he started his career in 2001 and won the Cy Young Award in 2007. He was incredibly gracious when he left, and I’ve always felt there was a mutual admiration between him and the city. Sure enough, he settled in well and allowed only 2 runs (all the Indians needed to win) on 9 hits in 6IP (2BB, 2SO).
Another cause of pregame nerves was hearing the Yankees had brought up Chris Capuano after he was previously been designated for assignment. When I saw a left handed pitcher warming up during the 6th inning, I was nearly in tears in the stands expecting Capuano to appear for the 7th inning. Much to my surprise, the lefty was actually Chasen Shreve who is not only a far better pitcher than Capuano (at this point in their careers at the very least) but one of my favorite players to watch this season.
A funny thing about this game are the Indians’ bullpens. During the past off season, the bullpens were moved closer to center field and are “stacked” (they used to be parallel to the foul lines and had very limited exposure to fans in the stadium). Late in the game, both Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances were halfheartedly warming up (neither made an appearance in the game). Both are so tall (Miller 6’7” and Betances 6’8”) they both looked like they might hit the ceiling of the bullpen just by walking. It was a little surprising (at least from my angle) they were able to bring their arms up and around to throw.

11892035_807091866381_7279539388366583417_nSaturday August 15 Athletics and Orioles
Final Score: A’s 3, O’s 4

WP: Zach Britton LP: Pat Venditte
Distance traveled: only about 92 miles
When you think of a really good baseball games, this was one of them.
Camden Yards was packed, and everyone was wearing orange thanks to the J.J. Hardy jersey giveaway. (Some of us arrived too late for the jersey, but were already wearing orange Chris Davis and Manny Machado shirts.)
It started out rough. After Billy Burns hit a triple (to center field – but he’s kind of fast), Mark Canha grounded out to first and of course speedy Butler scored. Miguel Gonzalez settled down for a few innings, and then gave Sam Fuld a nice pitch to hit over the right field wall for his second home run of the season (right after I laughed at home for having only one).
There we stayed with a score of 3-0 and about 44,000 disappointed Orioles fans (the 10 A’s fans in attendance were quite content). In the 4th inning, Gerardo Parra (one of the newest Orioles) hit a single, and stayed there until Chris Davis sent a pitch over the right field wall. Two innings later, Parra continued his impressive start with the Orioles by also hitting a home run over the right field wall – tie game.
After that, the game was up to the pitchers. First, fan favorite Darren O’Day came on to pitch for the Orioles in the top of the 8th, followed by closer Britton in the top of the 9th. The A’s left their starting pitcher Chris Bassitt in through 8 innings, and was relieved by SHP Pat Venditte.
Seeing Venditte pitch was a unique experience. The scoreboard listed him as a RHP, and he did throw considerably faster with his right arm. When he was first announced, I quickly looked to see who was up for the Orioles – Parra (L), Jones (r), Davis (L). If I had the chance to see Pat Venditte pitch, I wanted to see him pitch with both arms! After Parra flew out, Venditte switched to RHP as my husband watched in disbelief. When Adam Jones grounded out and Venditte switched back to LHP to face Davis, my husband yelled “What kind of gimmick is this?!” Suddenly, the ball goes flying into the air – and again, over the right field wall. (Wouldn’t you know we were sitting in left field?)
The Orioles won in the bottom of the 9th by a walkoff home run, and the place exploded in excitement. As is Baltimore tradition after such a big moment, Adam Jones came out of the dugout to throw a pie in Davis’ face, which he gladly accepted after being the hero of the game.

This past week met a few weird fan goals for me this season. First, I (again) saw my 4 favorite teams play in their home stadiums (Yankees, Orioles, Indians, and Nationals). To top that, I’ve seen my favorite team (Yankees) play in all four of those cities.
From this point, it’s a long wait for another live MLB game. Next game on the schedule is September 18 when the Marlins take on the Nats in DC, followed by Yankees at Orioles to close out the regular season the first weekend in October. So far – and looking ahead – it’s been a good baseball season for this fan!

How to Keep Refsnyder

Yankee fans have been calling for – and praying, hoping, and wishing for – Rob Refsnyder to be called up to the Major League. Friday night, we heard he would be playing – and starting – on Saturday and Sunday in Boston. After two starts in the newly dawning Rob Refsnyder era, are Yankee fans satisfied?

In this very small sample size, Yankee fans have been (seemingly) pleased, at least as far as I can tell. Sunday’s game was particularly exciting for fans who saw not only Refsnyder’s first major league hit (a single to right field), but also his first major league home run. The home run was not only a beautiful two-run shot over the Green Monster at Fenway Park, but ultimately won the game for the Yankees with a final score 8-6.

Going into the All Star break, we’re riding a wave of Rob Refsnyder excitement – so much so, that many fans are declaring Stephen Drew’s days in pinstripes are over, or at very least numbered. I hope to see Yankee prospects be promoted and succeed just as much as anyone else, but in Refsnyder’s case, we can’t get too excited too quickly. He has been in the major leagues for two days – and is 24 year old converted outfielder who’s offense has been his weakness. As is the case with any rookie, he will struggle – and it’s important for fans not to give up on Refsnyder the moment he becomes the least bit shaky (as so many did with Didi Gregorius).

Assuming Ref plays well enough the Yankees just can’t demote him, what happens then? How do we keep him on the roster, and who is there if/when he does struggle?

As the roster is right now, the backup option would obviously be Stephen Drew. His bat has obviously been awful, but he has shown he’s capable of playing a decent second base. As I’ve said before, I have to give Drew credit for learning a new position late in his career, and especially for doing so successfully. But, shortly after the All Star break, the Yankees also have utility infielder Brendan Ryan returning from injury. Ignoring all other roster moves (Carlos Beltran will also be returning around the same time), this gives the Yankees three middle infielders for two roster spots.

The main battle will be for second base – Chase Headley is locked in at third base as Didi Gregorius is at shortstop. Let’s assume Refsnyder wins the second base job (since so many of us want him to anyway), and the Yankees are forced to chose between Drew and Ryan. My vote for backup infielder has to go to Stephen Drew.

As is often the case, money comes first. Ryan signed a contract for 2 years $4 million (2014-2015) while Drew signed this off season for 1 year $5 million (2015). Ryan is less expensive, but the Yankees would be more willing to drop a $2-2.5 contract than a $5+ contract.

In offensive and defensive categories, Stephen Drew beats Brendan Ryan in career batting average, and in fielding percentage at second base, shortstop, and even third base.

Career Batting:  .234 Ryan   .252 Drew
2B Fielding %:   .977             .982
SS Fielding %:   .978             .979
3B Fielding %:   .942            1.000
*Drew played only 13 innings at 3B
** Ryan has also played 1B and OF positions

That isn’t to say Brendan Ryan doesn’t have value as a utility infielder – his numbers really aren’t awful and there’s something to be said for a player who can fill in at so many different positions. He does have a big problem staying healthy, and has already had multiple trips to the DL this season already. It seems likely that as he ages, his trips to the DL will only increase.

Earlier this season, Joe Girardi more or less declared that Stephen Drew would be the backup at third base if Chase Headley was unable to play or needed a day off. At the time, the focus was more about what that meant for Alex Rodriguez – that Girardi was essentially saying he would not use him in the field (a choice that has been beneficial for both Rodriguez and the Yankees so far). But the peculiar thing about Girardi using Drew as the backup third baseman is that he already was – and until Refsnyder or anyone else definitively proves otherwise – the every day starting second baseman.

Jose Pirela is a possible substitute at second or third – if he hadn’t been sent back to Scranton late last week. Gregorio Petit is also a possibility, although his performance has been underwhelming at best. He was also signed in an emergency backup one of the times Brendan Ryan was put on the DL earlier this season. Assuming there will soon be an overabundance of middle infielders on the Yankees roster, there really is no need for Petit. If the Yankees are set on keeping him, they could send him back to Scranton – but they could also just as easily cut their ties to him completely.

With Pirela already sent to Scranton, and Petit and Ryan removed from the roster (by trades or any other means), that leaves Stephen Drew as the utility infielder for the Yankees. I am confident he can play shortstop, second base, and now third base in an emergency (although, I wouldn’t mind if he had a few more innings of work at third before giving a full vote of confidence).

Girardi said Drew would be Headley’s backup, which leaves second base open and Refsnyder recently added to the roster… (For what it’s worth, Girardi also spoke to Drew privately about Refsnyder before the call up was announced.) Perhaps Girardi was foreshadowing a move he knew was coming, or maybe it’s all just a wild coincidence. Either way, Rob Refsnyder made an impression in two short days, and will definitely make this an interesting All Star break for the Yankees front office.

The All Star Game Identity Crisis

When you really think about it, the MLB All Star game has gotten complicated – and a little confusing.


In some ways, the game and the festivities (such as the Home Run Derby) are a lot of fun. I always think of Ken Griffey, Jr. in the Home Run Derby, standing in the batter’s box with his hat on backward, while the other all stars sit on the foul territory grass (often with their children) and watch. Or Cal Ripken’s last ASG when Alex Rodriguez made him move over and play shortstop one last time.

But in an attempt to build excitement around the game (and hopefully recruit more fans), things have become a little more serious. The game actually counts for something (the winning league earns home field advantage in the World Series). The fans, players, and managers all choose the all stars. There are scheduled releases for vote totals and hour long shows dedicated to announcing the all star reserves.

So which is more true?

Quite honestly, I think the All Star Game is having an identity crisis. I don’t know whether this game is meant to be a fun break or another important game in an already long season?

If it were up to me, I would make the entire All Star break fun – for the players, the fans, and even the coaches/managers. Yes, baseball is a business and it is the job of all the players (even if they’re being paid ridiculously well) to play 160+ games a season. But remember, baseball is a long, difficult season – there are few true days off during the season (some are travel days) and most, if not all, of the all star position players are playing nearly every game during the season. And long before they were ever professionals, they were fans too. Let it just be fun.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. There’s a lot that goes into the ASG to take into consideration.

First – the where. As is typically the custom, alternate between American League and National League host cities. There is really no need to have a league host back-to-back seasons. At times, the ASG is more than just a game, but recognition of a new park, or an anniversary at an existing park – these things don’t sneak up on you. New stadiums aren’t constructed overnight and special anniversaries don’t happen in unusual years. Plan ahead!

Next – the who. In my opinion, it’s absolutely fitting the managers of the World Series teams are the managers for the ASG (even if they are no longer with that team). They will likely chose a coaching staff from their own team, and that’s also okay. Without managers & coaches, the team wouldn’t make it to the World Series. If that manager and coaching staff was successful enough to lead a team through the post season, it makes sense they might be successful in the ASG too.

I’m a big supporter of fans choosing the starting position players. We all think we would be a better manager/GM than our team’s, so why not let us has this small taste of it? If MLB is so set on players choosing other players, they should be able to chose the pitchers: they know better than anyone who is the most difficult to hit. Fans could, however, help chose the starting pitcher. Of course there will be limitations on who can pitch depending on when they last threw, but if it’s narrowed down to a few potential starters, let fans vote. We already think we know better than the managers do anyway. The managers should still be allowed to chose the reserve players. And…get rid of the final vote! It’s just annoying. How would you like to be the guy who got picked last? And half the fans can’t figure out how and when to vote – hashtags mean nothing until Friday, people!!

That being said, fans and managers will have a tendency to vote for their favorite teams’ players – which is not wrong, but it’s not always right. Fans, when you vote…use your head. There is always that one guy on your team who is not as good as the others – so don’t vote for him! Just because he wears the same jersey doesn’t mean he’s the best at the position. I didn’t vote for Stephen Drew, and the millions of Royals fans who appeared out of seemingly nowhere should not have voted for Omar Infante!

The game – the big what. As I said before, just let it be fun. Give the millionaire baseball players one game to just go out and have fun. Once upon a time they were all little boys playing for fun – it just happened they were all insanely talented and it became their jobs. One game out of 160 (give or take) without any pressure is really not so bad. Let them enjoy the experience of playing with and being among the best of the best in Major League Baseball, even if the final score is 17-14 or something equally as ridiculous.

Do not make the game count for anything other than bragging rights. While it certainly adds drama and makes things more interesting, awarding home field advantage to the winning league will not always be the fair and right thing to do. Imagine a scenario where a team has the best record in baseball – no one else is even close – and they go to the World Series, but the other team – a Wild Card team that barely made it into the playoffs at all – has home field advantage. It would only be worse if one (or even both) of the team’s players had little or no involvement in the ASG – but rather the World Series is dependent on one game in July that had nothing to do with them. Of course, this would be rare, but I can’t imagine many fans of the first place team being pleased if it happened just once.

Personally, the All Star Game has a special significance for me because it was (in 1997) the first baseball game I watched – by choice – start to finish. Admittedly, it’s because they were playing in my home city (Cleveland), but I remember it being such a fun game to watch. Each year year during the ASG, I think of that game and count how many years it’s been since I started watching baseball. It’s a great way to see a mix of the best players in each league having fun, playing with some new (or old) friends for one game only.

If you’re curious who my All Star votes went to – since I asked fans to use their heads – here they are (I only voted for AL; I don’t know NL well enough):

C – Brian McCann, NYY
1B – Mark Teixeira, NYY
2B – Jose Altuve, HOU
SS – JJ Hardy, BAL
3B – Manny Machado, BAL
OF – Brett Gardner, NYY
OF – Adam Jones, BAL
OF – Jacoby Ellsbury, NYY
DH – Alex Rodriguez, NYY

As an intelligent (I hope) baseball fan, I have no complaints about the players chosen as starters or as reserves. Even if they weren’t my first choice or not on my favorite team, I can recognize good baseball talent, and the AL has a lot of great players on that team.

No matter what the circumstances of the ASG are, I’ll still watch the game and be cheering for all the American League players…because I voted for some of them, and because I don’t understand the National League. (Who are half these guys? Do the pitchers really like hitting?)

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Happy (almost) All Star break, everyone!…and go American League!!

My 2015 Yankee Stadium Adventure

This weekend was incredible. Not only was I in New York City (something went from in the universe; I swear I’m meant to live there) but I got to see two games at Yankee Stadium – one great, and one kind of terrible.

My travel companion was Michelle, an old friend/neighbor from Ohio. She drove the 5 hours from Ohio to Maryland on Friday, and Saturday morning we made the 4 hour trip to NYC. I had traffic in all the places in I didn’t expect – like getting onto the freeway near my house, and later crossing into NJ – and no traffic where I expected it – like going through the Lincoln Tunnel or across Manhattan on 42nd Street.

10888905_10103513737149614_7244542773325940126_n
   Here we are approaching the Lincoln Tunnel

Because Saturday’s game was Old Timer’s Day, fans were encouraged to be in their seats by 4pm. Since we arrived at our Midtown hotel just before 4pm, we were obviously a little late to the game. Amazingly, we didn’t miss a whole lot.

First, I have to mention my appreciation for the owner of Pinstripe Collectibles across from the stadium. I went in to ask about a jersey, and rather than sell me a an adult jersey for $100+, the owner convinced me to buy a child’s size for only $55. At 5’6” (let’s just say average weight) I’m not a petite woman, but the jersey still fits. And with a $40 Visa git card I saved from Christmas, my child size Rodriguez jersey was $15.

Saturday June 20: Tigers 3, Yankees 14
W: Nathan Eovaldi L: Alfredo Simon S: Bryan Mitchell

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      Hey there, Yankee Stadium…and rain.

The weather was the worst part of this Detroit ass-kicking. For most of the game, there was a fine misty rain, although never enough to delay the game. Concession stands probably ran out of napkins from fans wiping off their seats, and I can’t remember another June game when I wore a hoodie.

Old Timer’s Day: It’s always cool to see former players and members of the Yankees family back at the stadium, and this was the second year I was fortunate enough to be there. The most memorable, without a doubt, was Mel Stottlemyre. As if the surprise of honoring him with a plaque in Monument Park wasn’t enough, his speech really tugged at the heartstrings. To see a man, who’s battling cancer, stand there and say “If I never make it to another Old Timer’s Day” and reference coaching in Heaven… I’m not sure who the entire stadium wasn’t crying their eyes out because I almost did.

Yankees Museum: Somehow, I missed this gem last year. If you haven’t seen it yet – go. It’s free with your ticket and well worth the time. As luck would have it, the Yankees brought the plaques for both Stottlemyre and Willie Randolph (also honored) into the museum. Michelle and I were able to see the actual plaques right in front of us before they were hung in Monument Park.

As for the game, Nathan Eovaldi could not have had a worse night than he did his previous start in Miami when he gave up 8 runs on 36 pitches and couldn’t make it through the first inning. Saturday night he walked off the field to applause after allowing 6 hits and 2 runs in 6 innings pitched, walking just one and striking out 4. I think Yankee fans let out a collective sigh of relief after bracing for the worst.

In the bottom of the 2nd, Didi Gregorius hit a beautiful homerun, his 2nd in as many days and 4th of the year, over the right field wall. There were a few questionable defensive plays between Saturday and Sunday, but I think he’s settling in. He had another deep hit to center later in the game that looked like it would fall in for a hit, but incredible fielding by Anthony Gose shattered that dream.

Yankee fans know and appreciate him, but Brett Gardner should really get more recognition across MLB. He is a tremendous outfielder, and an outfield that with him and Jacoby Ellsbury is almost drool-worthy. Saturday’s Yankee outfield consisted of Chris Young, Gardner, and Carlos Beltran. Obviously, Gardy is the defensive strength of the three, and he proved that by robbing hard hitting Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez of hits.

Speaking of Yoenis Cespedes, the dude is built like a beast. I’ve never seen him in person before, but even from the bleachers it’s obvious the guy is 5’10” and 210lbs of solid muscle.

And on the subject of outfielders, Carlos Beltran is a source of constant frustration for me when it comes to his defense. Last year, I screamed the F word at Kelly Johnson because of his ineptitude at third, and I nearly did the same seeing Beltran attempt to field in right. He won a few points with me by hitting two homeruns in the game, and just for good measure he hit one from each side of the plate.

The Yankees have called up about a million players from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and one in particular for Saturday was Bryan Mitchell. I’m not really sure what it is about him, but I like him. It could be just because he was up last year and familiar, but whatever the reason it’s good to see one of the kids come up and perform well as he did in 3 innings of solid work (4 hits, 1 run, 2 strikeouts, and no walks).

The best part of the game (at least for me) was Alex Rodriguez’s monster night at the plate. I arrived one day after his 3,000th career hit, but saw his next two hits Saturday night. His 3,001st hit looked a lot like the 3,000th – except that it was a 3-run homerun (career number 668) to left field instead of a solo shot to right as it was the night before. (Ironically, this happened right after I said “I’ve never seen Alex hit a homerun in a game before.”) In his 3 at bats he totaled 2 hits, 2 runs, and 5 RBI. Considering that a year ago I didn’t know if I would ever see Alex Rodriguez play another baseball game – for any team – this was as great of a performance as I could have asked for.

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It’s just rain… You all didn’t have to leave...

Sunday June 21: Tigers 12, Yankees 4

W: Anibal Sanchez L: Masahiro Tanaka

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We’re back! And we’re 3 strong today!

Sunday Michelle and I were joined by another old friend, Sadie (now living in Queens) and the game was almost the complete opposite of Saturday in every possible way. The good guys didn’t win but it was hot and the sun was shining! Of the bleachers are in direct sunlight, which we anticipated – but we didn’t expect our sunscreen to be confiscated by Yankee Stadium security. And you just can’t do that to pale people!!

This is the second year in a row I’ve went to a Sunday game with Masahiro Tanaka pitching, and both years the Yankees have lost – badly. Victor Martinez hit one homerun and J.D. Martinez hit two homeruns off Tanaka (3 total in the game), while several other hits and 2 walks combined for a total 7 runs credited to Tanaka. Oof!

When Tanaka finally got the hook, he was relieved by Danny Burawa, who made his major league debut. From our seats, we can see when a pitcher is throwing in the bullpen, but we can’t see who. Sunday, we could hear the ball crashing into the catcher’s glove after each pitch – leading me to wonder who in the bullpen can possibly throw that hard? Enter Burawa, who consistently threw pitches faster than 95mph. He did not have a great MLB debut giving up 3 hits and 4 runs, but what a first impression with that speed!

In the 3rd inning I witnessed a miracle when Mark Teixeira beat the shift (!) for a single. Not to be outdone in miracles, Stephen Drew hit not one but TWO homeruns in the game. The second one came right as I said to my friends “Stephen Drew will not be on this team next year.” Impressive timing.

Honorable mention goes to Alex Rodriguez, because he’s my favorite. In a fairly weak offensive game for the Yankees, Rodriguez had just one hit, bringing his career total after this series to 3,003. I mention this because a Twitter friend (and fellow member of Team A-Rod) reminded me that even if I missed hit 3,000, every hit from this point on is historic – and that’s absolutely true. He’s still playing, and he’s playing well. Who knows when this journey will end for him, but we keep counting each hit and marking every milestone until the day he’s done. And when that time comes, we can look back and fully appreciate what he’s accomplished in his career.

One more quick note: during the 7th inning stretch Yankee Stadium witnessed an on-screen proposal. Luckily, she said yes! I would hate to see how much it cost to propose in such a dramatic way (but how cool!!), and if she had said no… Yikes.

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People even leave on sunny days? What is this??

Now I enter a stretch of almost a month before I attend another MLB game unless something happens between now and then. For now, I’ll count down the days until the end of July when I see the Braves play the Orioles in Baltimore, and I’m sure there will be plenty of baseball news between now and then.