New York Yankees Flashback: June First Firsts

New York Yankees, Derek Jeter

The first (historically and tradition-wise) of two huge June 1 Yankee days took place as Lou Gehrig pinch-hit for shortstop Paul Wanninger in 1925 in a 5-3 loss to the Senators. The next day Lou played first for Wally Pipp, making what was to become his record consecutive-games streak two games old.

The Yanks had a rare great day in the amateur draft on June 1, 1992, when the Houston Astros and four other teams did not select Derek Jeter in the first round, so they could. The Astros selected Phil Nevin, currently serving as Yankee third base coach, with the very first pick.

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Derek Jeter equaled a Yankee record from 1961 when he reached base safely in the first 50 games of the year when he had two hits, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch and scored three runs to support Roger Clemens‘s 11-5 victory over Cleveland in Yankee Stadium on this day in 1999.

Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn did Jim Bouton and his publisher a huge favor on June 1, 1970, when he reprimanded the ex-Yankee in private for writing the controversial book Ball Four. Sales picked up dramatically.

New York Yankees Flashback: Neon Deion, Tanaka, Rareties

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

The superb Masahiro Tanaka shook off a first-inning unearned run and allowed just four singles while going eight innings in a 3-1 victory over the Twins in Yankee Stadium on May 31, 2014. He retired 10 Minnesota batters on strikes and 10 on ground balls, and probably would have pitched a complete game had rain not caused a delay in the bottom of the eighth.

Two-sport star Deion Sanders made his New York Yankee debut on May 31, 1989, in the Stadium a good one. He threw a Mariner out on the bases, drove in a run, and triggered a five-run, seventh-inning rally with a single. The Yanks won 9-5 behind Andy Hawkins over Steve Trout.

A 4-1 victory over Boston on May 31, 1907, was highlighted by two thefts of home by Kid Elberfeld of the visiting New York Highlanders (Yankees). Kid stole on his own in the sixth, and then on the front end of a double steal with Hal Chase one frame later.

When you consider that the 15 unassisted triple plays in major league history make it a more rare achievement than a Perfect Game, it is truly amazing that Detroit first baseman Johnny Neun recorded one on May 31, 1927, the day after Cubs shortstop Jimmy Cooney pulled the same trick against the Pirates. And Neun did his to end the game in a 1-0 Tigers win over the Indians.

All three Yankee May 31 birthdays made a splash in the game, but most of it with other teams, including Orioles reliever Tippy Martinez (1950), longtime Indians center fielder Kenny Lofton (1967), and righty reliever Andrew Bailey (1984).

New York Giants Pat Shurmur Details Influence Of Saquon Barkley

New York Giants head coach, Pat Shurmur.

The drafting of New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley marked the end of the sub-par running game era for Big Blue. Bringing on a back than can run downhill and bounce the ball outside when under pressure provides the offense with a glorified ‘escape route’.

In past years, the Giants have struggled to convert on third downs and extent drives, often leaving the defense to pick up the slack – which contributed to the fatigue of the defense and the massive amount of injuries. Drafting Barkley aids in the solving of that issue, which certainly played a part in the decision to draft the star running back.

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New head coach for the Giants, Pat Shurmur, will boast a deadly option on all downs – his expectations for the rookie running back have only been exceeded by his obvious potential and leadership abilities.

“He hasn’t disappointed us one bit. We have high expectations for all of our rookies, especially Saquon,” Shurmur said during OTAs. “He has been out there running the ball well and is catching it well. He did a nice job today in pass protection. He is doing all the things now that we need to see him do to trust him out on the field next fall. He has done a good job.”

Having a back that can run, catch, and block is essential to the overall success of the offense, and it’s something the Giants have missed since the likes of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.

With Barkley taking on a large role on the offense, the running game is almost ensured to see an improvement – they ranked 26th in the NFL in 2017, managing only 96.8 yards per game on the ground.

“You need to run the football for your offense, obviously, but also for your team. We practice runs as much as we practice passing the ball,” Shurmur said.

“You just can’t do it in the physical setting that you do when you have pads on. You practice it because it is part of your DNA. Whatever you plan to do on Sundays in the fall, you have to practice. We practice running the football and how we are going to run the ball. We practice it all the time.” 

The Giants signed former Carolina Panthers back Jonathan Stewart to a two-year, $7.125 deal over the offseason. Signing the veteran back certainly rose a few questions, as Stewart has seen a decrease in yards per carry over the past few years. It’s possible general manager Dave Gettleman thought to sign Stewart as a potential culture change factor, but his ability to put his head down and grind out a few extra yards when Barkley needs a rest might be worth the money… Or some of it at least.





The New York Yankees Pitching Situation: An Appeal to Reason

With the first third of the New York Yankees 2018 baseball season about to come to a close, let’s take a level-headed look at their pitching situation. It is true that a handful of guys haven’t exactly performed up to expectations. Sonny Gray stands out as the poster child for that concept. With his 5.98 ERA you never know which Sonny will show up on any given start, but you can assume it won’t be the good one until you see otherwise.

We can acknowledge the fact that consistency has been an issue. There is certainly room for improvement. But just because improvements can be made, are they all that necessary? The entire Yankees’ pitching staff has been one of the better staffs in all of baseball.

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Here’s where Yankee pitching ranks among the rest of the league:

3.85 ERA – 4th in AL, 12th in MLB

3.72 FIP – 3rd in AL, 7th in MLB

.222 BAA – 2nd in AL, 4th in MLB

Not bad! I should note that the one AL team that is consistently ahead of them in those three categories is the Houston Astros, but you probably already knew that. Boston also tops NY in all but BAA. The Yankee bullpen ranks higher than the rotation in these categories, but that’s the identity we all expected. Oddly enough the Houston bullpen, at least statistically, ranks above the Yankee bullpen despite their well documented struggles. Huh, go figure.

Watch Yankee Closer Aroldis Chapman Throw the Filthiest Fastball You’ll Ever See:

The rotation keeps them in the game, the offense wears down good pitching, and the bullpen shuts the door. It’s a winning formula. The superior pitching in Houston and Boston would seem like a problem considering the road to the World Series most likely runs through both of those cities. But as we saw last night, and a few weeks ago, the Bombers care not for our silly hang ups.

With last night’s win they have officially won the season series against Houston, despite the Astros having the best pitching in the league. When a team is clutch, all bets are off. The Yankees have won 5 games where they were behind in the 8th inning (3 of those came against Houston), and that leads the AL. You know what other recent Yankee team walked-off a lot? The 2009 World Champs.

That said, the Yankees can, and should, improve their pitching. Texas Rangers’ lefty starter Cole Hamels seems to make sense. He’s still an effective pitcher on a losing team. He’s a veteran with post season experience. He’s an impending free agent and may not cost as much as some other names like the oft mentioned Michael Fulmer. He likely would not have the same impact that Justin Verlander had when he joined the Astros last year, but that doesn’t seem necessary.

A 4-man post season rotation of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Hamels, and CC Sabathia/Jordan Montgomery/Gray should be able to compete in October. With a juggernaut offense and an 8-headed monster in the bullpen, winning should be a reasonable expectation.

There is no reason to panic right now. Sabathia will probably break out of his slump. Tanaka should continue to trend up after his gutsy performance against Shohei Ohtani and the Angels last week. Domingo Germán is good enough to build on his recent promising outing against Houston. Montgomery will return from his elbow injury and provide stability. Maybe even the good Sonny Gray will take over for a few weeks too!

That’s how it is going to have to be for the next few weeks at least. There is no point in panicking after every loss and yelling from the rooftops “they need pitching NOW!” because it’s not going to happen. There is not enough separation in the standings for that many teams to determine if they are buyers or sellers yet.

You can get Seattle hurler James Paxton out of your head as well. The Mariners have won 8 of their last 10, are 2nd place in the AL West, and have achieved all this sans Robinson Cano. Not to mention they probably think they can do that next year too. Paxton still has 2 years of control remaining after this year. He just threw a no-hitter. He’s not going anywhere.

How about Fulmer? Welp, those who have been hoping to see him in pinstripes in a couple months may find themselves disappointed. The AL Central is so bad that the Detroit Tigers and their 24-30 record currently find themselves in 2nd place and 4.5 games out of 1st. If you want Fulmer, root for the baseball team in Cleveland. Unless they create some separation, the Tigers may start to smell contention and hang on to their guys. Don’t get me wrong, that would be a terrible idea for them. Winning a bad division doesn’t mean they’ll be anything in October, but we should never doubt the ability of a front office to make horrible decisions.

Perhaps there are a couple teams, like the Texas Rangers for example, who are going to be sellers given their terrible records. However, the longer wait to make a deal by the July 31st trade deadline, the more leverage they have.

Another factor to consider is the longer the Yankees wait, the less salary they’ll have to pay to whomever they acquire. Hamels is making $22.5 million this year, but if the Yankees acquire him at zero hour of the deadline they only must pay a fraction of that. They’ll have roughly $10-15 million in cap space to work with and may want to make additional deals. Of course, they could get the Rangers to eat some money in the deal, but that’s neither here nor there at this point. Less money absorbed in a trade means more talented prospects are sent packing in the deal.

The Yankees could very well compete and still have a chance at a ring without making a single move. Consistency is an issue, but that doesn’t mean it always will be. We should take a deep breath and see where they stand in a couple months before pining away over someone else’s rental arm.

I’m a firm believer in improving wherever possible, whenever possible. But with this team I have a feeling Cole Hamels or [insert name here] will arrive in the Yankee clubhouse as yet another weapon in an already dangerous arsenal, rather than a life preserver for a drowning staff.

Davis Webb Making Sure Giants Brass Notices His Offseason Improvement

davis webb, new york giants

New York Giants‘ quarterback Davis Webb is ripping an old page out of the book of quotes… “It doesn’t take talent to hustle.”

The rising sophomore entered the league with flaws in every part of his game, but has spent countless hours refining his skill set and proving to the Giants brass that he, in fact, has what it takes to be a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL.

Is that statement too premature? Maybe, but it shouldn’t take away from the tremendous effort and dedication Webb has given to the game thus far as a Giant.

“The biggest thing I take away from practice and every meeting in the NFL is it’s a process,” Webb told NJ Advance Media. “If you miss a question in a meeting, that’s fine. We’ll correct it, but don’t do it again. If you miss a throw or an adjustment, it’s fine.”

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While practice is just practice, Webb is doing everything he can to extract the value from the game-like situational drills he has performed during OTAs. His arm strength is more than adequate and his accuracy is improving with every pass, but the primary aspect of his game that needs refinement is his decision making.

Reading the coverage of the defense and breaking down their scheme is much easier said than done, and Webb’s mentor, Eli Manning, is certainly one of the best in the game at the specific challenge.

“I’m OK with making mistakes as long as I correct them and don’t do it again. That’s the thing I’m most excited about,” Webb stated.

Mistakes are a necessary part of any game and are essential to any learning process. Webb making the mistakes in practice only benefits him in the long-run, and having a solid defense to test his skills is exactly what he needs to continue building upon his current skill-set to eventually become the heir to the throne.

One of the most underrated aspects of Webb is his behind the scene work, where he took the initiative and began learning the offense with Manning as soon as Pat Shurmur hit the New York tarmac. Manning has been forced to learn several new offenses over the past few seasons, and adding another will only be another challenge to his dwindling prime. Luckily, Webb will have Manning’s expertise to fall back on and learn the ropes of coping with a massive change in regime and scheme.

“I had to do a lot of behind the scenes: Fake throws behind Eli, film work, which helped me expedite the process but you still need to throw to guys and call protections out,” Webb said. “Now, the biggest growth is I’m getting live reps.”

We aren’t the only ones that want Webb to get some game-action! The quarterback himself must be itching to have the opportunity to show how far he’s come since being drafted only one short year ago. To say he has improved would be an understatement, as a season under center behind a Hall of Fame quarterback would improve even the lamest of ducks.



Was Pulling Seth Lugo the Right Move?

The New York Mets lost the first game of their four game set against the Chicago Cubs, 5-1. The game started with Seth Lugo tossing four spectacular innings in his first start of the season. Manager Mickey Callaway pulled Lugo after 60 pitches because he has been in the bullpen. Hansel Robles replaced Lugo and returned to form by allowing a two run homer.

Lackluster Bullpen Performance

The move is definitely questionable considering the circumstances at hand. The bullpen has been extremely inconsistent and a fatigued Seth Lugo is more trustworthy than Hansel Robles. Lugo’s ability to keep the ball down and sharpness of his curveball would determine how fatigued he was. Like he has been all season, Lugo was sharp and cruised through a dangerous Cub lineup without facing any trouble. With Lugo probably getting one more start before Noah Syndergaard returns, the Mets certainly could have afforded to let him stretch himself out more.

If the Mets bullpen was more reliable they could afford to pull Lugo after 60 pitches, but right now there is no one outside of Robert Gsellman and Jeurys Familia that is trustworthy. The Mets are also not in a position to give away games as well. They needed to ride with their hot hand because they simply have no idea what they will receive from their starters. Jacob deGrom is the only reliable starter that is healthy and in the rotation.

Lugo definitely deserves another start and Callaway will likely up his pitch count if he has to remain in the rotation. He is a very effective pitcher, no matter when he pitches, and he is one of the few Mets pitchers who has been consistent this season. With Jason Vargas constantly treading on thin ice, it may not be long until Lugo becomes a permanent starter.

The New York Yankees: Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres and the Millville Meteor

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

If not for a rain-out of the Yankees game in Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night, I would not have had the urge to compare the numbers so far this season of Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, and the “Millville Meteor,” a/k/a Mike Trout.

Thank you Wikipedia for this Trout nickname that takes me right back to the era of “Joltin’ “ Joe DiMaggio and “The Commerce Comet” Mickey Mantle!

The Millville Meteor deserves the accolade; he lives in the stratosphere, belting out a scorching .303/.448/.672 slash line with a 1.119 OPS.

As an exercise, I wanted to know just how far off the pace the Yankees star rookies were from a super star like Trout.

Andujar is slashing .290/.310/.494 with a .804 OPS and has been an extra base hit machine this season.

Torres, on the other hand, is hitting .319/.376/.593 with a .969 OPS and has shown surprising power early on.

In his rookie season, Trout hit .326/.399/564 with a .963 OPS after a full season and was showered with awards.

Now you could say I’m comparing apples and oranges by comparing Trout, now a seasoned veteran and perennial All-Star with two Most Valuable Player Awards, a Rookie of the Year Award and numerous Silver Slugger Awards to a couple of hot Yankee prospects fresh up from the minor leagues and I am.

But the question remains, how close are these Yankee prospects to launching themselves into full star status?

Tom Krosnowski of Pinstripe Alley writes of Andujar’s start to the season:

“The 23-year-old third baseman is second on the club in hits and leads the team in doubles. On a team with hitters like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, that Andujar is producing at their level before even playing 50 MLB games is beyond impressive.”

Andujar has faced some of the toughest pitching in the league as the Yankees have faced the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox several times already this season.

Even with a small sample size, Andujar has shown he is not intimidated by the elite pitchers in the league—this season he is 1-2 against Boston’s Drew Pomeranz, 1-3 against Boston’s Rick Porcello, 1-3 against Houston’s Lance McCullers, Jr. and an impressive 2-5 against Justin Verlander.

Torres, despite being called up from AAA on April 22, has likewise succeeded against the best pitching in Major League Baseball.

The number one prospect in the Yankees organization has fulfilled the projections and beyond this season, as he has not only hit all over the field, but also hit for power and has 9 home runs and 26 RBIs. He also has two walk-off hits to his credit.

Torres doesn’t seem overmatched and presents a calm, controlled demeanor at the plate, even with two strikes, he’s deadly.

CC Sabathia told Randy Miller of that Torres is just getting started:

“Being that young and playing for this organization, there’s a lot of pressure,” Sabathia said. “For him to be able to deliver in these moments, it just means there’s more to come.”

On a team with Judge, Stanton and Sanchez, Torres and Andujar have more than measured up. In some statistical areas, the rookies are leading the veterans and thus leading the team as it racks up victory after victory and series win after series win this season.

For now Torres and Andujar can only aspire to the soaring heights reached by the Millville Meteor— there’s a lot of baseball to be played—but Yankee fans are fortunate to be along for the ride!