Go West, Young Machado!: Machado on Way to L.A. Dodgers?

By Thomas Albano

The Manny Machado Sweepstakes appears to be coming to an end, and after weeks of discussion and wonder, it seems he’s off to Hollywood (for now).

As reported by Ken Rosenthal during the FOX broadcast of Major League Baseball’s 89th Annual All-Star Game, the signs are pointing more and more likely that Machado will be wearing the Dodger blue within the coming hours. This would make the All-Star Game Machado’s final appearance in an Orioles uniform.

 

The supposed deal being floated around the baseball community right now would see five Dodgers prospects being sent to Baltimore in exchange for Machado. Prospective players were a big key in negotiations the Orioles have had for Machado — the Brewers, Phillies and Yankees were all considered realistic possible landing points for the shortstop.

 

If the trade talks with LA hold up, this marks the end of trade speculation that has gone on since the offseason. Machado, who is set to become a free agent in the offseason, looked like he could have been traded prior to the first pitch of the 2018 season. However, possible trade talks fell through when, supposedly, Orioles Owner Peter Angelos refused to grant a window to negotiate a possible extension for Machado.

This all comes at a time when Baltimore appears to be at the point of selling and rebuilding. At the 2018 All-Star Break, the Orioles sit last in the AL East at 28-69, 38.5 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox, and bad enough for the second-worst record in the American League (the worst record is currently held by the Kansas City Royals with 27-68). This represents quite the downfall the team has had between 2012 and 2016 — which saw three post-season appearances, including 2014, when the team won the AL East and reached the American League Championship Series.

Now the only question that seems to remain (and as of the time of this writing, most insiders seem to be quiet about) is what prospects will be sent over to Baltimore. Some Dodger fans in replies to Heyman’s tweet seem to be disappointed over the haul being received.

But regardless, I think this was the best trade, or at least one of two, possible for all sides. Let’s break it down by process of elimination:

Trade with Phillies: If a trade between the O’s and Phillies involving Machado happened, I may not be afraid to call it one of the worst deals in MLB history. The Phillies definitely have great prospects, but they’re not as developed as, say, the Braves’ or the Yankees’. So, for the Orioles, it may take a little longer to get back to success. And as for Philadelphia, they would probably just give Atlanta the NL East and have little chance at a World Series title — then Machado leaves for a big-market team. Then you could say they’re trusting the process (again).

Trade with Yankees (and let’s just throw in Astros and Red Sox here): For the longest time, the Yankees would not put a top-10 prospect from their farm system in the deal. Reports did seem to surface later on as talks went up, and while Machado could be a boost to an already powerful Yankees lineup, there’s a potential theory here — the Yankees’ concern wasn’t to land Machado necessarily, but rather keep the Astros and Red Sox from getting him. It’s a battle of top control in the AL among these three teams, the Yankees and Sox especially.

I had said in last week’s Unspoken Podcast that in order to acquire Machado at the deadline, Brian Cashman would have to look himself in the eye and come to terms that he’d lose big prospects and be forced to make Machado his offseason. Now, looking at it, he may have been willing to do that than see the Astros or Red Sox grab him and likely make a World Series run. But now, with Machado heading to the National League, the Yankees can focus on much more important needs — like a starter — and focus on signing a check for Machado in the offseason. Besides, gaining Machado would cause more of a logjam — something the Yankees really don’t need more of at the moment.

Trade with Brewers: Now a trade with the Brewers may be a perfect substitute if somehow a deal with the Dodgers suddenly fell through. In fact, a recent MLB.com article from Jon Morosi debated which team would make for a more appropriate trade, and he sided with a Brewers trade. Morosi’s reasoning is that Milwaukee would be able to provide more for the Orioles due to the Brewers’ depth. Morosi suggests Milwaukee offer a starter like Luis Ortiz or the recently called up Corbin Burnes, as well as an outfielder. Both would benefit the O’s, as their starting rotation is atrocious and outfielder Adam Jones also has a contract expiring at the end of the season.

But, with a trade with the Dodgers, not all is lost. In fact, it could be considered good on the Dodgers part to grab Machado for at least a few months after losing Corey Seager to Tommy John Surgery earlier in 2018. And even if Machado goes to the Yankees, it can be a situation that rings back to when Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were dealt to the Cubs and Indians, respectively, in 2016. Both teams went on to play in the World Series, and Chapman won a ring and helped break a long-standing curse before returning to The Bronx for 2017.

The only downside for LA is not only losing prospects, but a World Series run is not guaranteed considering the NL West is a tight race involving everyone but the San Diego Padres. Plus, pitching may prove to be its downfall with an injury-riddled and arguably underperforming ace in Clayton Kershaw, as well as a similarly struggling bullpen that went from one of the best in the majors to “meh” in months’ time. So, they can’t just sit with Machado as the deadline approaches.

Regardless, this move involving Machado makes for a really interesting start on the path towards baseball’s 2018 Trade Deadline.

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Bombers’ Run: A Weekly Guide to the 2018 New York Yankees (Week 16)

By Nick Fodera

Season Record: 62-33 (2nd in AL East)

Week at a Glance: ALL-STAR GAME!!!!!

Recap it!: Well, folks, it’s All-Star Game week, the one time of year where baseball’s best and brightest come together to compete in what is essentially the athletic equivalent of a bar fight with drunken ferrets, all energy and no direction. With that in mind (and no games until the end of the week), let’s try something different. In lieu of a traditional weekly recap, let’s do a short overview of where the Yankees are this season, and how they got there.

Before we begin, a quick programming notice: Bombers’ Run will be on hiatus for the next two weeks. Fear not, though. This column will return on August 6th. (Did you really think you’d be rid of me that easily? NEVER, I SAY!). Without further ado, let’s have a look-see at where the Bronx Bombers stand, halfway into the 2018 campaign.

  • 95 games in, the Yankees are 62-33, a very, very good record to have at this point of the season, even by their lofty standards. The trouble is, the Yankees find themselves in the ONE situation where winning at that pace may not get you the division crown. Directly ahead of the Yankees are the Boston Red Sox, sporting a 68-30 record and an 11-1 record in their last 12 games. Simply put, the Red Sox just refuse to lose, making this division race an uphill battle. There’s a distinct possibility that both teams will finish with 100 or more wins, and one will still have to play in the Wild Card play-in game. However, let’s put that behind us for now, and focus on who the key players at the midpoint:
  • Boy, if I was Luis Severino, I’d be laughing at those reactionary weirdos on Twitter who wanted me run out on a rail two seasons ago until my backside literally fell off. Not to ride on those individuals too hard, since being hair-trigger, dime-store Nostradamuses is in a strange way part and parcel with being a sports fan — especially one with an *ahem*, loud segment of them chattering away on social media and writing columns (Goodness, I really am that person). Nonetheless, Severino has blossomed into the bonafide ace of the Yankees pitching staff, sporting a 14-2 record with a 2.38 ERA. Granted, part of that record can be attributed to the offense performing mostly up to preseason expectations (more on that later), but to his ample credit, Severino has been what the Yankees needed him to be. Special consideration goes to left-hander CC Sabathia, the Yankees grizzled veteran/leading exporter of grit/literal teddy bear, who has pitched to a 6-4 record with a 3.51 ERA. The 38-year-old southpaw successfully reinvented himself, compensating for lost velocity for pinpoint location and guile, outwitting and outthinking his opponents, armed with a cut-fastball gleaned for former stablemate/Core Four member Andy Pettitte.
  • We were all expecting the Yankees offense to break records wholesale and for the most part, they have, hitting 161 total home runs, on pace to match the record of 264, which was set in 1997 by the Seattle Mariners, according to baseball-almanac.com. Leading the barrage of dingers is right fielder/very large person/gap-toothed dynamo Aaron Judge with 25 homers. Right behind him is left fielder/fellow very large person/shirtless dynamo Giancarlo Stanton with 23. Both have had solid campaigns so far, especially Stanton, who has overcome a sluggish start and boos from reactionary weirdos (Come on, I CAN’T be the only one noticing a pattern here!) to turn in a solid stretch of good hitting.
  • I do know for a fact that no one, myself included, could have predicted at season start that the conversation around the Yankees lineup would be dominated by two rookies, third baseman Miguel Andujar and second baseman Gleyber Torres. Both have opened eyes so far. Torres has been a revelation, hitting .294 with 15 home runs and 42 RBIs. Andujar is no slouch either, with 12 home runs and 39 RBIs. He’s also been a doubles machine, leading the team with 27. Part of the reason why this lineup has been mostly as strong as it is is because of the emergence of these two, which marks a major difference in the makeup of the lineup when compared to last year. They’re more dynamic, able to get a ton of production from the latter part of the batting order, making it a challenge for some pitchers to navigate through.

Look Out For: Who comes up with a second-half surge? Who will the Yankees add via trade? Can they overtake Boston and win the AL East?

Needs Some More Work: Catcher Gary Sanchez, currently on the DL with a groin injury is only hitting .190. I expect better hitting from him in the second half. And of course, there’s Mr. Inconsistent himself, starter Sonny Gray, who so far has pitched to a 5.46 ERA and a 6-7 record. He is struggling, and that’s putting it Mr. Rogers-level mildly. Now, I don’t want to turn into another one of those incessantly-clucking country hens on Twitter that want him burned at the stake (Man, hyperbole is really their native language, isn’t it?) so I will simply ask of Mr. Gray: Please pitch better. I believe you can, good sir.

Plea for the Second Half: So, I think we can all agree that the Yankees need a starter, right? The Yankees have the prospect strength to nab a top-flight pitcher, so the only question is who will it be? The Texas Rangers have made it known that Cole Hamels is available, along with the Toronto Blue Jays shopping J.A. Happ, but neither are the ace-quality starters that the Yanks require, to say nothing of the age concerns surrounding both. Therefore, as a sports columnist with absolutely NO power, I shall make my own pitch to the Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman. Trade with the Mets for either Jacob DeGrom or Noah Syndergaard. Of course, the prospect of such a deal happening while one or both of the Mets owners, the parsimonious, PR-obsessed Fred and Jeff Wilpon, is still on this side of the dirt is slim to nil. But still, the prospective trade makes too much sense to ignore. Both Syndergaard and DeGrom have pitched lights-out in Queens this season on a Mets team that, at 39-55, is cellar-dwelling in the NL East. They’re outpacing even the Miami Marlins on the scale of sheer ineptitude (which, why???) The Mets are staring down the barrel of a full rebuild, and what better way to kickstart that process by getting some blue-chip prospects to help build the farm system back up? The Yankees need an ace, and the Mets need good players. What I’m really doing here is reaching across the aisle to speak on behalf of Mets faithful everywhere to make my pitch. A pitch so starry-eyed, heartfelt and near-mawkish that Sarah McLachlan will shoot up out of bed. To the Wilpons I say: Don’t Mets fans deserve some hope? Don’t you want some building blocks? Aren’t you tired of mediocrity? On second thought, don’t answer that one.

Meme/GIF of Mid-Season:

Abe Simpson GIF

See you in August, dear readers!

Bombers’ Run: A Weekly Guide to the 2018 New York Yankees (Week 15)

By Nick Fodera

Week 15 Record: 4-2

Season Record: 58-29 (2nd in AL East)

Week at a Glance:
Yankees at Baltimore Orioles (4 Games)
– Yankees at Cleveland Indians (4 Games)

Recap it!: Here on Bombers’ Run, I occasionally like to indulge in questions of the rhetorical variety, because I’m just the sort of pseudo-philosophical, grandiose gasbag who does that (seriously, I’m so full of hot air you could attach a basket to me and float to Morocco in two days, but that’s neither here nor there). Still, I must ask: When is a good thing also a bad thing?

Now, I’m not talking about a candy bar filled with hypodermic needles or a clown filled with so much ennui that Sam Smith will write a song about him. I’m talking about the Yankees essentially turning into a triage unit with cleats while our backs were turned. That’s just the kind of thing that grabs most of the attention despite another solid week of 4-2 baseball. Rookie second baseman/child of pure light Gleyber Torres has hit the 10-day disabled list with a hip issue, causing the Yankee faithful to hold its breath in tension and pray to whatever eldritch deity that it won’t keep him down long. Add to that, injuries both small and large incurred this week to center fielder Aaron Hicks (cramps), starter Jonathan Loaisiga (shoulder), and closer Aroldis Chapman (recurring knee tendonitis) and you’ve got yourself a team that’s decidedly depleted but somehow doing relatively well anyway.

  • On the pitching side of things, Nega-Sonny Gray showed up again, getting bashed for five earned runs in just two short innings of work Friday night in the series opener loss against the Blue Jays, a game the Yankees dropped 6-2. Now, I try to be more circumspect when it comes to starting pitching since I understand that a season is filled with ups and downs, and baseball is a game of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, but something MUST be done to shake Sonny Gray out of this near-Sisyphean funk he’s in as of late. Perhaps a few more workshopping sessions with pitching coach Larry Rothschild will do the trick. Loaisiga also took a loss against the Braves on Monday as well. Luckily, pitchers Luis Severino and Domingo German turned in solid performances, with both earning wins this past weekend against the Blue Jays. German in particular was notable due to the fact that not only did he hurl six innings of one-run ball (in a game the Yankees won 2-1), he outpitched Severino, who uncharacteristically gave up three runs in five innings of work the day before, which ended up as an 8-5 victory nonetheless. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just weird.
  • Outfielder/Mr. Clean stand-in Brett Gardner heard what’s been said about him, and he ain’t happy (Before you ask, yes, Brett Gardner can hear you. He hears all). He responded by hitting a lead-off home run on Saturday off Blue Jays veteran and potential trade target (?) J.A. Happ. Aaron Judge joined in on the fun right after, as he blasted a homer of his own, going back-to-back with Gardner. He also drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of Sunday’s matchup. Overall, it’s a welcome sight indeed to behold a revved-up Gardner. A revved-up Brett Gardner can do wonders.

Look Out For: Monday brings a doubleheader at Camden Yards, while the Yankees will finish up the first half in a crucial 4-game set in Cleveland. Watch out for the possible return of pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Hey, That’s New!: Voting for the 2018 All-Star Game in Washington, D.C. has concluded, and Luis Severino, Aroldis Chapman, right fielder Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres are headed to the soiree, with one more spot open.

Rant of the Week: And speaking of, outfielder/designated hitter/perennially shirtless interviewee Giancarlo Stanton is up for that final spot. Now far be it from me to tell you-ah, forget it, I am going to tell you. Vote for Giancarlo! Send him to D.C. so he can be shirtless in our nation’s capital! Some would call him undeserving, I call that unvarnished bull-plop. He’s hit 21 home runs and had 51 runs batted in, which is very close to his stats this time last year when he was selected as a member of the Miami Marlins. By such a line of logic, doesn’t that mean he should be sent to his fifth All-Star Game? I think so. He’s gone from inexplicable pariah to good hitter in no time flat. THEREFORE, I CALL UPON THEE TO CAST YOUR VOTE! SPREAD THINE HASHTAGS ACROSS THE LAND!!!! And remember, folks, every time you vote Stanton, Paul Rudd will dance. Keep him dancing.

Meme/GIF of the Week: Play me off, good sir!

Ant-Man Dancing GIF

Bombers’ Run: A Weekly Guide to the 2018 New York Yankees (Week 14)

By Nick Fodera

 

Week 14 Record: 4-2

Season Record: 54-27 (Tied for 1st in AL East)

Week at a Glance:
Atlanta Braves at Yankees (3 Games)
– Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays (3 Games)

Recap it!: Shows how much I know, ladies and gentlemen. After spending last week’s edition basically eviscerating the Yankees for their poor showing against the Tampa Bay Rays, they go ahead and have a good week, taking 2 of 3 in both series against the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox. If you’ve read this column since it began (and I sincerely hope you have), you’d be well aware of the fact that I, as a Yankee fan, am an entitled little weasel. When it’s good, it’s never good enough. When it’s bad, Armageddon is nigh. That’s just how things are in this neck of the woods. I write about baseball. Making inexplicable mountains out of molehills is practically my stock and trade. With that in mind, there were enough ups and downs in the proceedings this week to give me fodder. Let’s break it down, shall we?

  • There was plenty good to go around concerning Yankee staring pitching this week, as Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Severino (twice) and CC Sabathia tured in sterling performances. Severino pitched back-to-back shutouts against the Phillies’ Jake Arrieta and Red Sox lefty/human batting tee David Price. CC Sabathia summoned his mysterious old man powers to pitch seven innings of one-run ball against the fearsome Boston Red Sox lineup. All was not copacetic in Yankeeland, however, as the bad Sonny Gray showed up again (dude, seriously, STOP showing up here). Nega-Sonny popped his head in to get shelled for 6 runs Saturday night, including serving up a nice, fat opposite-field grand slam to Red Sox rookie third baseman/current-bane-of-my-existence Rafael Devers. As a Jewish mother might say: Oy.
  • The Yanks’ offense had its own roller coaster struggles this week, getting shut out by the Phillies’ Zach Eflin and Red Sox ace Chris Sale (One of these things is not like the other). But fear not, for after getting whupped wholesale 11-0 on Saturday, the Yankees returned the favor with an 11-spot of their very own, courtesy of home runs by Kyle Higashioka (!) Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and three (!!!!!) by Aaron Hicks. I think maybe these guys CAN hit, after all.

Look Out For: We’ll get a look at a Braves team that’s arrived a year early, along with looks at stud rookies Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Ozzie Albies. Someone call Vince McMahon, WE GOT OURSELVES A GOOD OLD-FASHIONED ROOKIE CAGE MATCH!

Hey, That’s New!: As mentioned above, temporary backup catcher Kyle Higashioka joined in on the hit party Sunday with a homer against David Price. However, not only did that homer break an 0-for-22 slide, it was his first MLB hit, ever. Look, I know this is only temporary, and Higashioka will be gone once Gary Sanchez comes off the DL, but man, that was fun to watch. What? I can’t enjoy this?

Rant of the Week: If you hang around Twitter a lot (and for the sake of not turning your brain into pudding, I recommend you DON’T do that), a common complaint emerges, which is that the Yankees hit too many home runs. Now, far be it from me to begrudge others for indulging in a little useless opinion-making (Again, this is what I do), but this argument has gone screaming off a cliff, plunging into the murky depths of inanity. “OH GOODNESS, WHERE OH WHERE HAVE THE DAYS GONE WHEN A TEAM CAN SCORE ONLY ONE RUN WITHOUT ACTUALLY MAKING CONTACT WITH THE BALL?!!? WHAT ABOUT THE BUNTERS?!?!!? WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE BUNTERS?!!?!!?” Now, before you castigate me for painting with a broad brush like the Bob Ross of sports bloggers, know that this #toomanydamnhomeruns nonsense has gained enough traction that even manager Aaron Boone had to address it during his postgame presser, getting animated when forced to defend his band of baseball-murdering brigands. To that end, I ask: have any of you got a clue what it takes to get him riled up like that? The man is the baseball equivalent of beige wallpaper!! Switzerland thinks this guy should take a side already! Let me make one thing quite clear: Home runs are not, nor will they ever be, a bad thing. Do you really expect this small-ball “Holy-Christmas-it’s-1912-all-over-again” approach will do anything in the playoffs once the pitching gets better? When the games start to matter, offenses will, for the most part, be unable to string together 3-4 hits an inning. The priority is doing the maximum amount of damage in the most efficient way possible, and the homer is the best way of achieving that result. Sometimes all you need is one good swing, and the rest takes care of itself.

Bunter Meme

Bombers’ Run: A Weekly Guide to the 2018 New York Yankees (Week 13)

Week 13 Record: 4-3

Season Record: 50-25 (Tied for 1st in AL East)

Week at a Glance:
Yankees at Philadelphia Phillies (3 Games)
– Boston Red Sox at Yankees (3 Games)

Recap it!: Well, it was going to happen at some point, folks. The Yankees, to the delight of most of the population in the other 49 states, had a horrific weekend in Florida against the Rays, getting swept in three games. Now, as a Yankee fan, I understand that our perfectionist attitude toward this team has made us a bunch of spoiled brats (Don’t believe me? Check Twitter). We can be as maniacal as a Soviet-era gymnastics coach caught in a cocaine blizzard most days out of the week. And that unrealistic, burdensome expectation borders on being pants-soiling insane. However (and I will say this loud enough for the folks in the bleachers), THIS SQUAD SHOULD NOT GET SWEPT BY A SUB-.500 TEAM!!!

Now, a 4-3 week (including a home sweep of the surprising Seattle Mariners) is still dang fine by anyone else’s standards. But, mind you, this team went 117 games dating back to last season without losing three in a row, according to the New York Daily News. Though the frustration of the series against the Rays has turned my brain to a stew of anger and mashed-up corn flakes, I know that I’m panicking more than I ought to. And the logical part of my mind should take over for the rabid marmoset currently thrashing about in there. In times like these, it is best to call upon the back catalog of the same comforting Cat Poster platitudes that Yankees manager Aaron Boone is so fond of spouting in his postgame presser. (“It’s a long season GARBLE GARBLE”, “He’s due for a big game BLARG!!!”) However, there’s no denying that the Yankees found all manner of surprising ways to get squirrel-shafted this weekend, including:

  • Being able to lose games even though the starting pitching was not terrible. CC Sabathia and Sonny Gray were saddled with losses this weekend despite struggling early and settling in, though Domingo German spent a leisurely Sunday getting tagged like a brick wall for six runs. This, in turn, caused the team to use up most of their bullpen, eventually ending in a Chasen Shreve-delivered walk-off home run by Rays first baseman — and background extra in a movie about baseball — Jake Bauers, culminating in a 7-6 win for the Rays. Never mind the fact that Sunday’s matchup is a game the Yankees should have won (OH, WE’LL GET TO THAT!!!), but it’s absolutely mind-boggling that this stating staff spent 72 hours getting pipe-bashed by a veritable “Who’s That?” of baseball talent.
  • The fun times didn’t stop there, as the offense looked hopelessly, hilariously futile throughout Friday and Saturday, scoring a grand total of one, count it, ONE run over those two games. They even managed to waste a five-hit game for right fielder/designated hitter/designated shirtless person Giancarlo Stanton. To be entirely honest, I do believe that, to this point in the season at least, this team’s home run hitting, near-lockdown bullpen and ability to comeback late in games has papered over a lot of the cracks in the way this lineup is constructed, being too dependent upon streaky, strikeout-prone hitters. When it works well, it’s glorious. But when it does not, it’s as ugly as sin. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the ways that having more contact hitters at the bottom of the lineup like third baseman Miguel Andujar and second baseman Gleyber Torres has made this lineup more versatile than before, but they will need to pick up more of the slack, especially if the slumpage continues.

Look Out For: Will the Yankees break the losing streak against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park? What craziness abounds when the Red Sox go to Yankee Stadium in an AL East rivalry showdown? Who’s going to tell Chasen Shreve NOT to throw terrible fastballs?

Hey, That’s Unfortunate!: Catcher Gary Sanchez is apparently headed to the 10-day Disabled List due to a groin strain he suffered while running hard to first base on Sunday. Though Sanchez is still struggling, it will still be a blow to lose him for any length of time. Backup catcher Austin Romine will slide into Sanchez’s role. Backing him up will be some form of a semi-conscious robot or sentient butterfly net, I assume.

Rant of the Week: Robbed by a speaker. ROBBED BY A SPEAKER!!! In the top of the ninth inning in Sunday’s game, outfielder and cameo artist Clint Frazier hit a ball that StatCast projected would have traveled at least 335 feet, ending up beyond the left-field fence for a go-ahead homer. In a logical, just world, that’s exactly what would have occurred. But because we seem to live in a world where the fabric of reality is apparently controlled by drunk sitcom writers, the ball instead bounced off a speaker bank attached to the rafters way above the infield dirt. The ground rules for Tropicana Field state that any ball that comes into contact with the rafters (or anything else up there) is playable, so the ball harmlessly settled into the glove of Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria on the outfield grass. I will summarize, for those of you who rightfully may not comprehend the sheer stupidity of what I just described: A HOME RUN WAS TAKEN AWAY BY A SPEAKER EMBANKMENT!!! WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS A SPEAKER DOING IN FAIR TERRITORY? IS THIS A BALLPARK OR A CIRCUS? HOW CAN A BASEBALL STADIUM BE CONSTRUCTED IN SUCH A WAY?!? WHAT, DID A GROUP OF CLOWNS DESIGN YOUR STADIUM FOR YOU?!? Other teams have rightfully complained about the Trop’s insane scaffolding and its ground rules thereof for years, and what exactly has Rays management or MLB done to fix this problem? I’ll tell you: Absolutely, positively friggin’ NOTHING! What kind of clown-shoes baseball organization allows their team and other teams to play in a stadium where man-made structures can literally alter the course of any game? Before you tell me about the Green Monster or the Ivy at Wrigley Field as a counter-argument, understand this: THOSE STRUCTURES AREN’T HANGING OFF A BLANKETY-BLANK ROOF, WAITING TO SWAT DOWN FLY BALLS LIKE THE HAND OF A WEIRD, VENGEFUL BASEBALL DEITY!!

Meme/GIF of the Week:

I Hate Everything GIF

Bombers’ Run: A Weekly Guide to the 2018 New York Yankees (Week 12)

By Nick Fodera

Week 12 Record: 4-2

Season Record: 46-21 (Tied for 1st in American League East)

Week at a Glance:
– Yankees at Washington Nationals (1.5 Games)
– Seattle Mariners at Yankees (3 Games)
– Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays (3 Games)

Recap it!: Well, folks, I’ve finally done it. No, not that. For the first time in a while, the cynical misanthrope that was incubating inside me all along has found its way out. “But why?”, those of you who are new to this endeavor of mine may find yourselves asking. “Don’t the New York Yankees have the best record in baseball at this point? Haven’t the contributions from their farm system paid monstrous dividends all year? Aren’t you being an entitled, overly cynical git?”

Well, yes to all charges. I’m a Yankees fan after all. Constantly poking holes in this team out of a misguided sense of catastrophe, then crying woe over bad things that may or may not actually happen to this team is practically the Yankees fan’s modus operandi at this point. Keeping that in mind, let’s go over what the team had in store for us during the week that was.

  • Starting and relief pitching this week has been mostly solid for the Yankees this week, with ace righty Luis Severino pitching another gem against the Rays, tossing eight shutout frames while striking out nine, bringing his season record to 10-2 with an earned run average of 2.09. By the by, the more and more I see of the Rays’ Guess Who?-caliber team and their manager Kevin Cash, the more I realize that he’s managing like he’s playing Jenga blindfolded while being slowly flattened by a steamroller that’s driven by the world’s angriest man — which is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. It makes the games more entertaining to watch. When the Yankees did have their rotational hiccups this week, i.e., Sonny Gray and reliever Chasen Shreve getting torched to the tune of two towering home runs by the Nationals’ 19-year-old outfielder phenom Juan Soto on Wednesday, the day-to-day effects were usually negligible at best, notwithstanding CC Sabathia’s hard-luck loss (seven innings pitched, three earned runs) to the Rays on Sunday.
  • The problems here lie in the offense. Specifically, how starting catcher Gary Sanchez hasn’t yet fully emerged from his slump, still hitting .190 despite getting a bases-clearing double on Friday and a home run on Saturday. Right fielder/designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton has joined his teammate in the Not-Clutch club, striking out twice in Sunday’s effort, both times with the potential tying or go-ahead runs on base. While infielders/good baseball people Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have still contributed, along with Right fielder Aaron Judge and suddenly-hot shortstop Didi Gregorius. This lineup’s propensity to suddenly go cold with seemingly little reason behind it is one of the reasons why the team is not firing on all cylinders yet, despite the winning. That will be expanded upon in just a bit.

Look Out For: How exactly will the 1 and 1/2 games against the Nationals on Monday work out, pitching wise? What awaits when the Yankees take on the surprising Seattle Mariners? Will Kevin Cash do what I’ve been fantasizing about and let a popcorn machine and a wad of used gum start a game for the Rays in this weekend’s rematch?

Hey, That’s New!: Righty rookie pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga (saddled with the somewhat-unfortunate nom du guerre of Johnny Lasagna by his teammates) made his debut on Friday against the Rays, making a spot start for a still-injured Masahiro Tanaka (DON’T GET ME STARTED AGAIN!!!). Wouldn’t you know it? The kid was good! The 23-year-old tossed five innings of shutout ball, walking four and striking out six. Now, I’ve learned the lesson to not get too impressed by one start, especially in a long season (Hi again, Domingo!), but when all the ways in which this game could have gone pear-shaped did not, it is worth celebrating. For what it is worth, Mr. Loaisiga, you’ve impressed me. Keep up the good work, good sir. Just as a heads-up, it won’t be long before the New York Post sticks him with another lame and infantile nickname, like Johnny Lorax, Johnny Luau, or Johnny-Lee Keebum.

Rant of the Week: At some point or another, something must be done to patch up the dead spots in the Yanks’ lineup. As mentioned before, Giancarlo Stanton has had his struggles with strikeouts and has gone through fits and starts throughout the 67 games the Yankees have played so far this year. While he was serenaded with a not-entirely-undeserved derisive insult from one Yankee fan in particular after he struck out with runners on, Stanton has at least been able to produce some powerful home runs this year, hitting 15 so far. The problem here is consistency. At no point during the season has Gary Sanchez been a consistent hitter. Now, not that I wish to do my impression of Chicken Little, but the fact that this lineup blinks on and off more than an old strand of Christmas tree lights does not bode well for them in the playoffs, assuming of course that all goes according to plan. Winning a metric butt-ton of games in the regular season is fine and dandy when you’re bashing on cosmic jokes like the Royals and the Orioles, but come October, good pitching can and just might leave these Yankees vulnerable. Your mileage may vary, of course. I also desperately want to be wrong (Heck, I welcome the opportunity to be wrong and/or full of it). To his credit, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman is committed to improving the team by way of upgrading the starting rotation, but I fear that both he and manager Aaron Boone are looking in the wrong direction, waiting for slump-busting hot streaks from Sanchez and Stanton that may not come. If you need a bit more context as to why getting to fix the problem is important, just ask the 2016 Golden State Warriors how much playoff success means.

Meme/GIF of the Week: He’s hitting .190?

Colbert Screaming GIF

Bombers’ Run: A Weekly Guide to the 2018 New York Yankees (Week 11)

By Nick Fodera

Week 11 Record: 5-2

Season Record: 42-19 (1st in AL East)

Week at a Glance:
Washington Nationals at Yankees (3 Games)
– Tampa Bay Rays at Yankees (4 Games)

Recap it!: So, the Yankees went 5-2 over the last seven games, which is pretty fine by anyone’s estimation. By that line of logic, you would think that I would have little to complain about in this edition, right? WRONG.

Even though the team is looking strong record-wise and is essentially tied in the loss column with the Boston Red Sox for the top spot in the AL East, the team hit a few big bumps in the road this week. *hears whispering* What’s that? “Stop complaining, you spoiled pillock?” NEVER, I SAY. What is it that’s got me fuming? Let’s dive in.

  • After splitting a doubleheader last Monday with the Detroit Tigers — a series in which right fielder and soul-patch enthusiast Giancarlo Stanton got hit by pitcher Mike Fiers, then promptly deposited another offering into the seats during his next at-bat — the Yankees swept a short two-game set with the positively anemic Toronto Blue Jays. The team then took on the Mets (*snickers*), winning two of three, but the series was not without its own set of tribulations.
  • To wit, catcher Gary Sanchez is in the middle of a terrible slump: a 3-for-48 slide in which he’s batting .068 and struck out 17 times. It may be time to drop him in the lineup. It wasn’t all doom and gloom this week as the Yankees duo of hotshot rookies, third baseman Miguel Andujar and second baseman Gleyber Torres, have performed well as of late, hitting key homers in the series against the Mets. The Yankees have bigger problems to deal with for now, because:
  • Starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and Jordan Montgomery have both landed on the DL; Tanaka for straining both his hamstrings (Oh, we’ll get to that in just a bit) and Montgomery for needing to visit the only John that’s scarier than John Carpenter: Tommy John. Yes, Jordan Montgomery’s season is over, as he underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. The surgery will sideline him for up to 18 months, leaving a gaping hole in the Yanks’ starting rotation. Anybody have a starter they can spare?

Look Out For: What will happen when the Nats visit Yankee stadium for a rematch? Who will start Thursday against the Rays?

Hey, That’s New!: Guys, I think Dellin Betances heard us all clowning on him and now he’s decided to pitch better to shut us up. He’s now been unscored upon in his last seven appearances, striking out a total of 49 and pitching to a total ERA of 3.54. You know what? Keep clowning on him. THE HATRED ONLY MAKES HIM STRONGER!!!

Rant of the Week: Yankees Twitter lost its marbles on Friday during the game against the Mets at Citi Field as Masahiro Tanaka strained both hamstrings running home on a sacrifice fly by right fielder Aaron Judge, immediately causing some Chien-Ming Wang flashbacks in some Yankees faithful (Hey, kids! Remember him? Neither does he). First, a bit of context. Ten years ago, when the Houston Astros were still an NL team, Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang sustained a nasty injury to the Lisfranc joint in his foot as he stepped on home plate, scoring on a double. The injury effectively ended Wang’s season, and derailed his career to an extent, as he was never really the same pitcher again. Snapping back to the present, the Yankees appear to have dodged a bullet somewhat, as the sprain to Tanaka’s hamstrings is mild. But still, we live in 2018 if you haven’t noticed. To that end, I must ask: WHY IN GOD’S NAME DO PITCHERS STILL HIT??!!?

Pitchers are so much different than they were when the game was in its infancy. They throw harder, work out harder, and therefore are much more fragile than they used to be. Within that line of thinking, why oh why are we letting pitchers jeopardize their careers and injure themselves just for the sake of bunting and maybe, JUST MAYBE, hitting a home run once in a blue moon? Now, we can debate the actual effectiveness of the DH, but the only reason I ever hear for letting pitchers hit in the NL is a blabbering cry of “BUT MUH TRADITIONS!!!!!” from older fans, especially on social media. Ssshhh. Nobody tell them it’s not actually 1928.

The league is now integrated, hot dogs don’t cost a dime, and the players and owners make enough money to buy and sell you and I twice over! Even Angels’ pitcher Shohei Ohtani, genuine wunderkind he is at hitting and pitching, has hit the DL with a UCL sprain will probably need Tommy John surgery at some point this season. Gee, where have I heard that one before???!!!??

Meme/GIF of the Week: He strained BOTH hamstrings???!!??!!

Swear Jar GIF

Bombers’ Run: A Weekly Guide to the 2018 New York Yankees (Week 10)

By Nick Fodera

 

Week 10 Record: 4-1 (2 games postponed)

Season Record: 37-17

Week at a Glance:
– Yankees at Detroit Tigers (make-up day-night doubleheader)
– Yankees at Blue Jays (3 games)
– Yankees at New York Mets (3 games)

Recap it!: Folks, that foul, precipitous harpy Mother Nature has unleashed her thorny doom upon us yet again, raining out two games in Baltimore this week. We’ll get to my weather rantings in just a bit. For now, let’s do our best to recap some of the games the Yankees DID play this week.

  • The Yanks still managed to win at a good clip this week, taking two of three from the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium. What is notable about that series is that this team tried their best to lose it. To wit, the team committed a brain-scalding FIVE errors and still won, thanks to a pair of homers (one of which was a game-tying, two-run jack in the ninth inning) by a very-much-alive outfielder Brett Gardner, and a game-clinching walk-off single by dynamo rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres.
  • Just when you thought the game couldn’t get any weirder, the proceedings took a Monty Python-on-mescaline-level turn for the absurd when in the top of the 10th, prior to Torres’ walk-off, a wild pitch by closer Aroldis Chapman went sailing over the head of catcher Gary Sanchez, which would cause the runner at second to advance to third. Seems logical enough, right? WRONG, sassafras! The ball bounced off of the foam padding above the backstop and caromed right back into Sanchez’s glove as if guided by The Force, enabling Sanchez to gun down the runner — Astros second baseman Tony Kemp — before he slid into third. Now, I’m not one to look gift horses in the mouth (that’s what gift mules are for), but that was some Angels in the Outfield-level luck right there, almost to the point of appearing rigged. This seemingly deity-defying good luck cannot possibly happen again, so savor it while you can, loyal readers.
  • First baseman-and-semi-pompadour-enthusiast Greg Bird is back, and he’s brought that swing with him, legging out his first-career RBI triple on Friday. Elsewhere in the lineup, right fielder Aaron Judge continues to torch the Orioles, socking a long two-run shot in that same game, bringing his career stats against Baltimore to .426, with 11 home runs and 26 RBIs, according to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch.
  • I’ve got some good news and some bad news, everyone. The good news is outfielder/designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton broke out of a bad slump and hit a two-run bomb on Saturday. The bad news is, the man saw his shadow, and must now endure six more weeks of slumpage.
  • Sonny Gray actually had a good start Friday night. Stop laughing, it’s true. Now, to call Sonny Gray’s season inconsistent is to undersell the very definition of the word to unfathomable extremes. But he actually performed quite well, giving up one run over six innings of work, while striking out six and walking none. Granted, his opponents were the galactically-terrible Baltimore Orioles. But every good start by Gray builds the case that he can be a valuable pitcher one the games become important. At a point in the season where the trade market for starting arms is thin, and the price for said acquisitions is laughably high (seriously, Twitter, stop trying to sell me on the idea of Cole Hamels), there is something to be said about more consistency from the Yankees rotation, Gray especially. He can pitch, but more good starts are always welcome.

Look Out For: What will happen when the Yankees play a day-night makeup doubleheader against the Tigers? What’re the interesting storylines coming out of round one of the annual Yankees-Mets interleague series? Will there be any more rainouts?

Hey, That’s New!: Don’t look now, but backup catcher Austin Romine is on a 10-game hitting streak, going 14-for-29 with four doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs, according to Newsday’s Anthony Rieber. What’s noteworthy about this is this streak spans a grand total of 33 days and counting. And this guy’s THE BACKUP CATCHER?!??!? Imagine the kinds of depraved acts that other clubs would partake in to have Romine start for them. I’d guess it would involve lutefisk, Vaseline, and a Grand Central Terminal bathroom.

Rant of the Week: I’ve written this column for a little over 10 weeks now, and I’ve already spoken about rainouts more than any person ought to at this point in the New York Yankees 2018 campaign. I must state for the record that WE ARE NOT EVEN AT THE HALFWAY POINT OF THE SEASON!!!! There’s been enough bad weather forced upon us to turn even Al Roker — stout, proud weatherman that he is — into a JABBERING MENTAL PATIENT! Now, I recognize the ultimate futility in yelling at the weather (as if it would actually do something), but this has now mamboed past the realm of climatological oddity into utter farce. What’s worse is, short of building a Bond villain-style weather-change machine, there isn’t much that can be done to fix the problem. *hears whispering* What’s that? Build retractable roofs over stadiums? SUCH TALK IS HERESY, YOU KNAVE! BE GONE!

Meme/GIF of the Week: Another rainout?

Thor Screaming GIF

 

Bombers’ Run: A Weekly Guide to the 2018 New York Yankees (Week 9)

By Nick Fodera

Week 9 Record: 3-3

Season Record: 33-16

Week at a Glance:
– Houston Astros at Yankees (3 Games)
– Yankees at Baltimore Orioles (3 games)

Recap it!: It was bound to happen sometime. No, I don’t mean paying taxes, losing your virginity or getting into an argument with a parrot. I mean the Yankees losing a series for the first time in over a month. That’s exactly what happened, as the Yankees lost 2 out of 3 to the Texas Rangers at Arlington Stadium. It’s an absolutely infuriating turn of events, considering that aside from Cole Hamels doing Cole Hamels things, the Texas Rangers are essentially the AL West’s equivalent to beige wallpaper, languishing in a mélange of below-.500 mediocrity in a division that is essentially a two-horse race between the Astros and Mariners. Say it with me, fellow readers: UGHHHHH! The Yankees were able to take 2 out of 3 from the Angels in the Bronx, which is a good thing considering that the holes in the rotation and staring lineup are starting to show up. To wit:

  • The bad Sonny Gray showed up Saturday night, and he was ready to party like it was 1989, getting tattooed again for 5 runs in a game the Yankees lost 11-4. The game was fun from the other perspective, as Mike Trout went 5-for-5 with 4 RBIs. Good for you, Fishboy. CC Sabathia was no better earlier in the week, getting staked 10 runs, only to flush it down the commode with the help of the Yankees bullpen.
  • Parts of the Bombers’ offense continues to produce, with rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres showing tremendous power, bashing five home runs and nine RBIs over the last seven games. That’s good, considering Didi Gregorius is in a showmanship-level slump, who headed into the series with Texas with just one hit in 42 at-bats. He hasn’t done any better over the last 7 games, hitting to a .103 average. Giancarlo Stanton continued his frankly-heroic strikeout pace, going 0-for-4 Sunday afternoon. Of course, it isn’t time to push the panic button as of yet, though its shininess is tempting to my chimp brain. You may think a rest for Didi is in order, but that won’t happen, because:
  • Backup infielder/travel-sized hit machine Ronald Torreyes was optioned to Triple-A on Saturday to make room for returning first baseman Greg Bird on the 25-man roster. Man alive, Cashman. Show some heart. Never mind the fact that he is beloved in the Yankees clubhouse. Never mind that he always contributes on the days that he plays. It just seems spectacularly cruel to send him. What’s next? Drowning a sack full of cats? Tying John Sterling to railroad tracks and leaving him there?

Look Out For: What do we have in store for Astros/Yankees, round 2? Will Ken Giles kick himself in the face this time?

Hey, That’s New!: Hey, Greg Bird is back! Quick, somebody wrap him up in bubble wrap before he hurts himself existing.

Rant of the Week: There’s no more sidestepping the issue. If the Yankees want to compete, they need better starting pitching. The fact that no starter on this staff that isn’t named Luis Severino has been able to consistently pitch at least seven innings is not only hilariously bad in the short term, it’s going to cost them in the long term. Who do they think they are? The Mets? At this pace, it won’t be long before the bullpen fatigues in noticeable ways, blowing leads left and right. Call me crazy if you must but having Chasen Shreve and Chad Green ride in on white horses every time Sonny Gray is painting a Jackson Pollack with his pitch control seems like a bad idea.

Meme/GIF of the Week: Bombers Run 9 Meme

Bombers’ Run: A Weekly Guide to the 2018 New York Yankees (Week 8)

By Nick Fodera 

Week 8 Record: 2-1 (Two games postponed)

Season Record: 30-13

Week at a Glance:
– Yankees at Texas Rangers (3 games)
– Los Angeles Angels at Yankees (3 games

Recap it!: I’m starting to think Mother Nature hates us baseball fans. Not a vague, general dislike, but a raw, seething hatred — the kind they build John Wick movies around. That’s really the only explanation I can conjure as to why we’ve had so many rainouts this far into the baseball season. Yes, indeed, the cruel moist mistress hath struck again, suspending one game of the Nats/Yankees series and completely washing away both it and the regularly-scheduled match the next day. Therefore, there’s only the Royals/Yankees series to talk about for this week’s edition of Bombers’ Run. It’s both implausibly ridiculous and funny in a weird way — like getting stabbed in the eye by an angry leprechaun during a particularly testy game of canasta. Nevertheless, let’s dive on in:

  • The starting pitching for the Yankees against the Royals was remarkably consistent, save for CC Sabathia getting victimized by two errors from second baseman Gleyber Torres, which lead to two unearned runs in a 5-2 loss on Friday. Luis Severino didn’t have his best stuff but was able to pitch six innings and give up only three earned runs en route to an 8-3 Yankees victory the next day. Finally, Sonny Gray was superb to close the series out, hurling an eight-inning, one-run gem to support a 10-1 bashing of the sub-.500 Royals. Yeah, yeah. I know it’s the Royals, but hey, every little bit helps. Besides, I think he may have heard what I’ve been saying about him in this series and is pitching lights out to make me eat my words. It wouldn’t be the first time I do so, and I can assure you it won’t be the last. I’m a semi-columnist, for corn’s sake. I make an Olympic event out of being wrong about everything. Maybe I should get into talk radio.
  • It looks like the Yankees answered my question in last week’s column about being able to score a bajillion runs off of Royals pitching in the resoundingly affirmative. The Yankees blasted a total of nine home runs in the series, including an inside-the-park job from centerfielder Aaron Hicks on Saturday. Did I miss something, or did Hicks turn into Willie Mays Hayes when I had my back turned? Torres made up for Friday’s shoddy defense with a tiebreaking three-run jack of his own. Giancarlo Stanton added a moonshot, both Tyler Austin and Gary Sanchez had two home runs each in this series, and even Austin Romine joined in on the fun. These guys can hit, is what I’m saying.

Look Out For: Will Greg Bird make his return sometime this week? Will the Angels be able to enact a measure of revenge against the Yankees in the Bronx? Will there be more rainouts?

Hey, That’s New!: Hey look, it’s Clint Frazier! I can’t wait to see wha- * Cue loudspeaker* WE REGRET TO INFORM THE READERSHIP THAT CLINT FRAZIER HAS BEEN OPTIONED TO TRIPLE-A SCRANTON WILKES-BARRE. THAT IS ALL.

Rant of the Week: Not to repeat myself, but seriously, MLB needs to invest money into some kind of translucent dome technology so rainouts can be a thing of the past. We’ve now lost four games this year to weather, and it’s getting absurd and dangerous, like a fist fight with a clown over a bottle of Remy Martin. The Yankees had to spend Wednesday night in the terminal at Dulles Airport in D.C. due to rain, plane engine issues, and booked hotels. I’m pretty sure I just described two-thirds of the setup to Die Hard 2, but with less John Amos and more grinding misery. The only thing worse than that would have been if the team had to spend the night in a dumpster in downtown Hoboken, New Jersey. Actually, that might be an upgrade.

Meme/GIF of the Week: Curse you, bad weather!

(Courtesy of Frinkiac.com)