Thoughts following the Monday’s long-awaited off-day

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Wasn’t it nice to have that off-day yesterday? The Yankees have been playing an awful lot of baseball of late, and it was good to get a little breather. Forty games in 41 days is one heck of a grind, even when you’re sitting at home watching from the couch. Anyway, I have some thoughts, so let’s get to ’em.

1. I didn’t realize this until I looked at the schedule yesterday, but the Yankees play their next eleven games against the Rockies and Twins. They play two in Colorado and four in Minnesota, then come home to play two more against the Rockies and three more against the Twins. The Yankees have off-days next Monday and Thursday too, so everyone should be well-rested for those games. If the team is ever going to get above .500 and stay there, it has to happen during these eleven games. The Twins have by far the worst record in the AL, and while the Rockies aren’t a total pushover (they’re 30-33), they’re a team you have to beat if you want to contend. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the Yankees need to win at least eight of those eleven games to have a realistic shot at the postseason. The Yankees haven’t had much luck against good teams this year but they sure do beat up on bad teams. Time to make a real move up the standings.

2. The middle relief is becoming a very big problem. The three guys at the end of the game have generally been very awesome, even with a few hiccups here and there. (No one’s perfect.) The rest of the bullpen is a headache. The team’s non-big three relievers have a 4.61 ERA (4.37 FIP) in 113.1 innings this year. Kirby Yates was solid for the first two months or so but has crashed of late. Chasen Shreve and Johnny Barbato both had a few good weeks before falling off. I’d rather not see the Yankees stick Chad Green and Luis Cessa in the bullpen full-time — Green hit 98.7 mph during his inning Sunday, you know — but they very well might be their best middle relief options right now. This is something that will have to be fixed at some point for the Yankees to stay in the race. Bryan Mitchell hopefully returning in August won’t be enough.

3. I do love the way Joe Girardi has been using Aroldis Chapman. Girardi has already used Chapman on back-to-back-to-back days, something he never does with his other relievers, and he even ran him out there five times in the span of nine days last month. Last week there was a stretch where Chapman pitched four times in six days and warmed up on the two days he didn’t pitch. Girardi is very much treating Aroldis like a pitcher who won’t be around long-term, because he almost certainly won’t. (I imagine the front office has given Joe some indication that will be the case, hence the heavy usage.) The Yankees don’t want to work Chapman so hard that he gets hurt, they’re not heartless, but they do want to get their money’s worth out of him. I’m glad Girardi isn’t treating Aroldis with kid gloves like he does some of his other relievers at times.

4. Without question, the feel good story of the season is CC Sabathia‘s renaissance. These last few years weren’t easy for Sabathia both on and off the field based on everything we know now, yet he’s been pitching like an ace thanks in part to his new cutter, a cutter that he actually throws (via Brooks Baseball):

CC Sabathia pitch selection

This is sort of an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but I can’t help but wonder much of a factor Sabathia’s sobriety is in his resurgence. Alcoholism consumes your entire life and it’s not always easy to understand that if it’s never impacted your life. Sabathia is presumably feeling much better mentally and physically these days. How could something like that not have an effect on the field? The new cut fastball — and the new knee brace, remember — definitely helps explain Sabathia’s sudden effectiveness. I don’t think it’s the only thing though. His sobriety helps as well.

5. The Yankees basically had no choice but to sign Ike Davis over the weekend. They’re down to their fifth string first baseman due to injuries, and that fifth string first baseman is a converted second baseman with about two weeks worth of experience at the position. No, I don’t consider Tyler Austin a legitimate first base candidate after one great week in Triple-A. No, I don’t consider Nick Swisher a legitimate first base candidate either because he hasn’t done much to earn the benefit of the doubt the last two years and two months. Swisher’s last season as an effective big leaguer was Mariano Rivera‘s and Andy Pettitte‘s final season. Yeah. Davis is a sound defender at first and he gives the Yankees a lefty platoon bat who can take aim at the short porch for the time being. When the top four players on your first base depth chart are out hurt, you can’t afford to be picky when digging up a replacement. Davis was available, so they signed him. Simple as that.

6. Fun fact about the Davis signing: he is the first Major League free agent the Yankees have signed in 18 months. The last before him was … drum rollStephen Drew in January 2015. They famously did not sign a single big league free agent these past offseason, and given the way things have turned out, that was probably a good thing. A frickin’ ton of free agent deals from this past winter already look regrettable — isn’t that always the case? — and the Yankees aren’t exactly one free agent away from contention. Even Juan Uribe, who was dirt cheap and wanted by pretty much everyone, has been awful. I’m not saying the Yankees should never sign free agents. That is hardly the case. I’m just saying that given their current situation, staying away from the free agent market was probably a smart idea. They need unload some of their veterans to make way for young players, not add more veterans.

7. When the Yankees activated Luis Severino and optioned him to Triple-A few weeks ago, Girardi compared it to the Roy Halladay situation back in the day, which is quite a stretch for me. Halladay had a 5.77 ERA (5.58 FIP) in 231 big league innings from ages 21-23 before the Blue Jays sent him to Extended Spring Training and had pitching guru Mel Queen basically rebuild his mechanics. One year later Halladay was one of the best pitchers in baseball and two years after that he won his first Cy Young. That was a 90th percentile outcome, basically. Severino is not in need of a total overhaul. His stuff is fine. He’s been dogged by command and location issues, issues that existed before he was called up last year. A better comparison may be Max Scherzer, who was sent to Triple-A in 2010 with a 7.29 ERA (5.58 FIP) because his command of his secondary pitches was so bad. He was out there with a fastball and nothing else. Scherzer ironed some things out in the minors, then returned to the big leagues a few weeks later and pitched well. That’s what the Yankees want to happen with Severino. Tweaks, not an overhaul.

Looking Ahead

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

There comes a day when you rectify the team you are with the team you want to be; the Yankees can’t seem to make the two things coexist.

On the good side of things, the Yankees lead the American League in both strikeout percentage and walk rate from the mound. They’ve also got a respectable 91 FIP- and a 100 ERA-, suggesting their pitching may still have some room to grow. On the bad side of things, the Yankees have scored the second fewest runs in the AL, just eight more than the lowly Twins. Their 88 wRC+ is also the second worst in the Junior Circuit, just two points ahead of the trailing Twins.

(Stephen Lam/Getty)
(Stephen Lam/Getty)

As Memorial Day is generally the first ‘mile marker’ of the year, today’s as good a time as any to look at the road ahead by reflecting on the road behind. One way of doing that is heading over to FanGraphs and checking out the playoff odds section, which lets you sort by a few things. In the spirit of looking back, here are the Yankees’ playoff odds based on their season to date stats. A 3.9% chance to win the division. An 8.7% chance to win the wild card. Those don’t look good, obviously, thanks to the poor performances the Yankees have turned in at the plate. Bounce backs from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez would help those numbers creep up, but they’re still fairly low.

If we decide to be more fair to the team and acknowledge the uncharacteristically bad performance at the plate, we can go peek at the playoff odds using rest of season projections instead. Those numbers look a little better–4.5% for the division and 16.4% for the wild card–but they still aren’t anything spectacular.

Their deficits in both the AL East and wild card standings–5.5 and 4.5 games respectively–are not insurmountable, especially considering it’s not quite yet June. But in the AL East, the Yankees have three teams to brush aside, including the first place Red Sox. In the wild card, it’s six teams, including the leading Orioles and Rangers. Allowing for some dramatics, the day of reckoning is fast approaching for the Yankees.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

At some point soon–maybe by mid-June–they need to make a decision, and an honest one at that. This is something the Yankees have struggled with in recent years, but hopefully it’s something they put some earnest reflection into over the next few weeks. Their playoff odds are bad. The team is flawed in multiple ways. Fighting or a five hundred record or to be ‘in it’ in the last week of the season with some vague, outside, puncher’s chance at the second wild card is not worth it. There are still enough valid pieces on this team that can contribute to next year which can be properly bolstered by jettisoning the right assets.

A smart man who used to comment ’round these parts used to say that the Yankees are a win now and win later team and the Yankees need to focus on the latter at this point in the season. Trade some of the present for some of the future and be honest about it with the fans. Trusting that the fans can handle an honest to goodness rebuild is something the Yankee brass has been reluctant to do, but there’s no better time to start than now. It’s not likely this team is going anywhere in 2016 and preparing for 2017 is the responsible thing to do.

Thoughts following Monday’s off-day

(Stephen Lam/Getty)
(Stephen Lam/Getty)

The Yankees start up another 20 games in 20 days stretch today — it was supposed to be 19 games in 20 days, but the makeup game of the rainout in Detroit wiped away the off-day — and 12 of their next 13 games are against AL East rivals. Pretty important stretch of the season coming up, I’d say. Here are some thoughts.

1. Gosh the offense looks so much better when Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting, doesn’t it? He had a dynamite road trip and has gone 10-for-31 (.323) with four walks (.417 OBP) and four strikeouts in nine games since coming back from that little hip injury. Brett Gardner is running a .370 OBP on the season, and when he and Ellsbury are both getting on base at the top of the lineup, it changes the entire dynamic of the offense. Those two don’t steal bases like they once did, but they still draw attention and create some headaches for the defense. Ellsbury and Gardner are, without question in my opinion, the two most important players on the team offensively. When they’re going well, the Yankees tend to score a lot of runs.

2. Didi Gregorius has some pretty weird splits so far this season. He’s hitting .333/.368/.417 (119 wRC+) against lefties but only .232/.245/.354 (58 wRC+) against righties, which is basically the opposite of what he’s done his entire career. Some of this is definitely sample size noise — Didi has 102 plate appearances against righties and only 40 against lefties — though I do think it’s worth noting Gregorius hit .308/.368/.397 against southpaws in the second half last season. He’s struck out only 14.1% of the time against lefties since last year’s All-Star break too. My guess is that as the season progresses, his numbers against righties will improve while his numbers against lefties slip back a bit. I do think Didi has made legitimate improvement against southpaws since the start of the last season though. He looked hopeless against lefties early last year. Now he puts up a fight.

3. Good gravy does Mark Teixeira look awful at the plate right now. Especially from the left side. I thought he showed some signs of life in Arizona — Teixeira hit a few hard hit balls right at defenders for outs — but nope. Didn’t last and didn’t carry over into Oakland. Teixeira is hitting .159/.227/.203 (16 wRC+) in May and he hasn’t hit a home run since the seventh game of the season. Woof. The Yankees can’t take him out of the lineup for a few reasons though. One, he’s not going to snap out of his slump sitting on the bench. Two, his defense is way too valuable. His glove is a game-changer. Three, who replaces him? Dustin Ackley? Maybe once in a while, but not everyday. Alex Rodriguez‘s return today means the Yankees can drop Teixeira down in the lineup a little further and they should absolutely do that. He’s been dreadful. The rest of the offense has really picked him up the last two or three weeks.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

4. The last turn through the rotation was very good — four of the five starters allowed one run or less — and you can kinda talk yourself into believing the Yankees have four reliable starting pitchers at the moment. Masahiro Tanaka is very good even if some folks seem to want to pretend otherwise. Nathan Eovaldi has dominated of late, Ivan Nova has been rock solid since moving into the rotation, and CC Sabathia looks like a new pitcher with his new cutter (and new knee brace?). I can’t fully buy in just yet because Eovaldi is still so inconsistent and Sabathia’s knee is still a mess and Nova is still Nova, but I feel better about the rotation right now than I did a month ago. If nothing else, I feel like those four at least have a chance to give the Yankees a quality outing each time out. The non-Tanaka starters were pretty shaky in April. I don’t think that is the case anymore.

5. I’m actually a little surprised Luis Severino is going to start a minor league rehab assignment this weekend. (Well, that assumes today’s bullpen session goes a-okay.) I didn’t think it would happen that soon. I figured the Yankees would be ultra-conservative with Severino given his long-term importance to the franchise. I guess the triceps injury really was mild. Severino was shut down for a week, he threw on flat ground over the weekend, and today he’ll throw in the bullpen. I’m very curious to see what the Yankees do with him once healthy. Brian Cashman & Co. have said Severino is not guaranteed to step right back into the rotation once he’s ready to be activated. Does that mean Triple-A? Or would they use him as a true long man and let him work out his command issues in three or four-inning bursts out of the bullpen? That can be tough to pull off but it’s not a crazy idea.

6. You know who has been sneaky good this year? Nick Goody. Granted, it is only eleven innings, but in those eleven innings he has a 1.64 ERA (2.62 FIP) with 12 strikeouts and one walk. He’s thrown multiple innings in four of his seven outings as well. I’m not saying Goody should suddenly be trusted in high-leverage spots. I’m just saying that for the sixth guy in the bullpen — Luis Cessa is the seventh guy right now, and, to be honest, I had completely forgotten he’s on the roster — he’s been really solid soaking up innings when necessary. This is the kind of performance the Yankees didn’t get from any of the shuttle relievers last year. Goody has a chance to stick — partly because most of the other shuttle guys are hurt — and he’s making the most of it. He’s carved out a spot in the bullpen.

7. What do you think of the new strobe lights at Yankee Stadium when a Yankee hits a home run? You can see them as Carlos Beltran rounds the bases in this video:

I applaud the Yankees for trying to do something to inject some life into the Stadium, especially after their slow start to the season, but I’m not sure I’m a fan of the strobe lights. The first time I saw them in person I found them distracting and I wanted to look away. Not great. Maybe I’m just old with bad eyes. Maybe they’ll grow on me. I guess I need to see them after a huge walk-off home run or something like that to fully appreciate it. But for a regular ol’ home run, I could do without the strobe lights.

Cobbling together some random thoughts

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

State of the Union

It’s mid-May and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this Yankees’ season. Logic tells me that I may have overrated this team in the offseason. Emotion tells me that it’s still early enough that they can make a run. But then I think, “What would that run be to?” I’ve harped on this point a lot recently, but I think the roster and the team are at the point where missing the playoffs and getting a higher-end draft pick might make more sense. If that happens, I hope there is a sell-off of assets. Neither one of these things is likely to happen as that’s just now how the Yankees operate. But with some solid core pieces in place for next year–Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, Dellin Betances, Brian McCann, (a hopefully healthy) Greg Bird, Brett Gardner–a high draft pick and some prospect rewards for tradeable assets could go a long way in securing the team’s future just a little bit more.

The McCannibal

Speaking of Brian McCann, he represents a bit of a contradiction in my mind. I generally disliked the post-2013 spending spree that brought in McCann and his free agent classmates Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. But that dislike has a lot more to do with Taco and Carlos than it does with McCann. McCann has been quietly very good with the Yankees. Since joining the team, he leads all catchers in home runs with 53. He’s also fourth in fWAR (6.0), behind leader Buster Posey (12.2); Jonathan Lucroy (8.2); and Russell Martin (7.8). The team may have been disappointing in that stretch, but McCann is not among the reasons for disappointment.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Gary Sanchez Thing

Obviously, Gary Sanchez was sent back down thanks to the roster crunch created by Luis Severino‘s sudden injury. It seemed he was only going to be up for two days to face Chris Sale and Jose Quintana anyway, but it still felt like a tease. And isn’t that so fitting for Gary Sanchez’s career? This has nothing to do with Sanchez’s personality or even his performance, which has always been good. I remember reading about him on this very site way back when; he’s 23, but it seems like he’s been around forever–because he has. When is his time finally going to come? Will it be next year? The year after? I still have faith that this guy can and will contribute to the Yankees, but I’m finding it so hard to see a spot for him unless the Yankees really commit to platooning him and McCann next year. That could actually be a good way to ease him in. Then, if/when Alex Rodriguez retires, Sanchez can take the lion’s share of the catching duties while McCann sees more time at DH, and maybe even first.

Sanchez. (Presswire)
Sanchez. (Presswire)

Speaking of prospects…

I’m a fan of Brian Cashman‘s. I think he’s done a really great job in running this team; it’s hard to argue with about 20 straight winning seasons and only two non-playoff seasons, three if you don’t like to count the play-in game. But where do we draw his line of responsibility, so to speak, for the Yankees’ general failure with regards to developing players? No, that’s not all in his hands, but he’s still in charge. This isn’t to say the Yankees have been a total bust with regards to prospects–just look at the Chicago White Sox’s roster for proof of that. But the lack of big-time contributions from homegrown players is shocking. Of course, a team shouldn’t have homegrown players simply for the sake of having them, but something more than Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances would be nice, no?

Thoughts following Alex Rodriguez’s injury

(Patrick McDermott/Getty)
(Patrick McDermott/Getty)

A few hours prior to last night’s win the Yankees placed Alex Rodriguez on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring strain. He hurt himself running out a ground ball Tuesday night. Here’s the video. The injury comes at a bad time — don’t they all? — because A-Rod was just starting to heat up and the Yankees need all the offense can get. Here are some thoughts on the injury and the roster fallout.

1. The Yankees declined to announce the severity of the injury yesterday and that was weird if not worrisome. The team usually isn’t shy about setting timetables. As it turns out, they won’t know the full extent of the injury until A-Rod visits team doctor Dr. Ahmed when they return to New York tomorrow. That’s per Bryan Hoch and Mark Feinsand. I guess the MRI only showed the injury was serious enough to require a DL stint. I dunno, I’m not a doctor. Stop looking at me for answers. Point is, we still don’t know how long Alex will be sidelined. Two weeks? Two months? Something else entirely? Even at 40, Rodriguez still has a big presence in the lineup, and the Yankees will miss him. The longer he’s out the harder it will be to climb out of this early hole in the standings.

2. Looking back, it’s pretty incredible A-Rod made it through last season completely healthy at his age and with all his relatively recent lower body surgeries. He missed the entire 2014 season due to his suspension and was healthy enough to appear in 151 games last year. That’s pretty crazy. Now a month into 2016 he’s already missed a few days with an oblique injury and now he’ll miss an undetermined length of time with a hamstring problem. That’s what you expect from a player pushing 41. Not perfect health like last year. A-Rod joins Greg Bird and Bryan Mitchell as important Yankees on the shelf right now, not to mention various shuttle relievers.

3. Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi all but confirmed the plan is to give Aaron Hicks and Dustin Ackley more playing time in A-Rod’s absence, not call someone up and insert them into the starting lineup. In fact, Cashman told Billy Witz they won’t call up Nick Swisher because “where would we play him?” They’d rather go with Hicks and Ackley and rotate others in and out of the DH spot while Rodriguez is out. I think that’s the best way to go … for now. The Yankees should be prepared to change it up if A-Rod will be out a while and Hicks/Ackley (Hickley? Ackicks?) don’t start contributing at the plate. As I’ve been saying for a while now, I’m curious to see what Hicks can do with regular playing time, and now it looks like he’ll get it.

4. I really hope the eight-man bullpen thing is temporary. It’s overkill — Nick Goody has barely pitched as it is, and now there’s another guy in the bullpen — and they’ll end up with pitchers sitting around for a week between appearances. The Yankees are just starting this 20 games in 20 days stretch, and both the Orioles and Red Sox (their next opponent) have a lot of left-handed hitters, so keeping James Pazos through Sunday makes sense. After that though, they’d really be pushing it with a three-man bench. Eight relievers is one too many. (You can argue seven relievers is one too many.) With so many veteran position players, I’d rather have the extra bench player than the extra reliever. No doubt about it.

5. As for call-up candidates, I think Rob Refsnyder is the best fit because he can play second, third, and right. It was cool to hear he asked to play right field in Triple-A. He wants to improve his versatility because he knows it’s his best chance to get back to show. I’ve said before I think the best way for him to help the Yankees long-term is as a utility man. Refsnyder would add a righty bat to replace A-Rod, be around as a Chase Headley alternative, and provide depth at multiple spots. Ben Gamel or Slade Heathcott would be yet another lefty hitting outfielder. I’m not sure what they offer the Yankees that they don’t already have on the roster. Aaron Judge for a few weeks would be fun as hell, but he’d have to actually play. There’s no sense in calling him up one to play once or twice a week. Refsnyder’s the guy because the Yankees could play him at different positions and keep him on the bench for a few days a week with no real worry about his development.

Thoughts following yet another off-day

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once again, the Yankees had an off-day yesterday. It was their sixth in the first four weeks of the season. I’m not complaining though. I can’t say I’m looking forward to watching this team these days. The Yankees begin a 20 games in 20 days stretch tonight, so prepare for a lot of baseball these next few weeks. Here are some stray thoughts.

1. A small little change I’d like to see: flip Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner in the lineup. Gardner is the better hitter and he’s been getting on base way more often so far this season, so that right there is worth giving him more at-bats. It also frees Joe Girardi up to try some things with Ellsbury like a hit-and-run — or even the underrated run-and-hit — because he is the better contact hitter. And I suppose he would maybe see more fastballs as well. That couldn’t hurt. I subscribe to the “your best hitter should bat second” theory but pretty much nothing the Yankees have been doing is working offensively, Sunday night notwithstanding. Giving Gardner more at-bats and trying to play a little small ball with Ellsbury could help them get out of their funk. It’s not like it’s going to hurt. The offense has been dreadful.

2. I’m not worried about Dellin Betances at all even with the three home runs allowed in his last three games. The homer Christian Vazquez hit was a terrible pitch. It was a fastball right down the middle, and based on how quickly he jumped on it, it seems clear Vazquez was sitting dead red. He got on it so quick I wonder if Dellin was tipping his pitches. As for the David Ortiz homer, I’m not even sure it came on a strike:

Dellin Betances David Ortiz

That’s just straight up good hitting. Ortiz told reporters he was expecting a first pitch curveball, got the first pitch curveball, then reached out and drove it the other way. What can you do? Ortiz is going to the Hall of Fame — it’s going to happen, don’t act surprised — because of pieces of hitting like that. Mere mortals either take that pitch or swing through it. I have no reason to think Betances is hurt. (His velocity is fine.) I would run him right back out there in high-leverage spots like these last three outings didn’t happen. This is just baseball being random as hell.

3. Aroldis Chapman will join the team in six days and I hope the Yankees are on the phone shopping him right now. His trade value can only go down as the season progresses. For starters, the sooner they trade him, the longer his new team will have him, and that’s not insignificant. The Yankees could ask for more in return. Secondly, Chapman is already the best reliever in the world, so it’s not like he can realistically improve his performance. And third, pitchers get hurt, yo. Making the qualifying offer and getting the draft pick after the season is a last resort in my opinion. Chapman is a Grade-A trade chip the Yankees have to cash in — the market for an elite reliever is huge, pretty much every team can use him — and the sooner they do it, the better. Even if they go out and win their next 20 games, trade him. Trade him trade him trade him. Trade. Him. Trade him.

4. We’re still a long way away from serious talk about the Yankees being sellers, but if they do decide to take the plunge, one team to watch is the White Sox. They’re playing well right now (18-8), they have an extra $13M burning a hole in their pocket thanks to Adam LaRoche, and they also have a clear need at DH. (They’re playing Avisail Garcia and Jerry Sands at DH right now, so yeah.) The ChiSox also figure to have a sense of urgency too. They haven’t been to the postseason since 2008 — only the Padres, Marlins, and Mariners have longer postseason droughts — and their best chance to win is right now, during Todd Frazier’s last two years of team control and while Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, and Jose Quintana are cheap and in their primes. Chicago sure looks like a potential landing spot for Carlos Beltran or Mark Teixeira at midseason. Who knows, maybe the Yankees could pry righty Erik Johnson loose. That’d be nifty.

5. Yes, the Yankees do still have 139 games to play, but they are absolutely digging themselves a hole right now. Given their current 8-15 record, they will need to play .568 ball the rest of the way just to match last season’s 87-75 record. That’s a 92-win pace. They’ll have to play at a 96-win pace to reach 90 wins. Here is how their postseason odds have changed over these first 23 games, via FanGraphs:

Playoff Odds 050316Only the Astros, whose postseason odds have nosedived from 68.0% on Opening Day to 26.5% today, have seen their playoff chances take a bigger hit than the Yankees so far this season. These losses are in the bank. The Yankees were going to need some things to break their way just to contend this season. Now they have a big uphill battle ahead of them. Not ideal!

6. The Yankees are struggling big time and when that happens, people talk about firing the manager. That’s just the way it is around here. I get it. Firing Girardi solves zero problems in my opinion though. It would be a total scapegoat move. This isn’t a Matt Williams with the Nationals situation, where the team is disappointing because the manager is borderline incompetent with his on-field decision making and the players are damn near mutiny in the clubhouse. If there’s an issue with the players in the clubhouse, that’s one thing. But firing Girardi because Betances gave up some ill-timed home runs and a bunch of aging sluggers aren’t hitting only compounds the problem. The Yankees have been largely distraction free since Girardi was hired — it’s still amazing to me all the A-Rod stuff blew over like it has — and canning him opens the door for chaos.

7. I have not stopped laughing at this since Sunday night (make sure you have the sound on):

That is damn good internet right there. Baseball is going to be so boring once A-Rod retires.

Caught In Between

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

In the outfield on a fly ball or line drive, in the infield on a hop, or at the plate anticipating a pitch, being caught in between rarely yields positive results. Sure, you can make a recovery from a bad read, make a diving stop on a grounder, or foul off what you thought was a breaking ball but was really a fastball, but those are the exceptions to the rule; nine times out of ten, the ball will sail over your head, skip over your shoulder, or be strike three, sending you back to the dugout looking just as foolish as if you misplayed a ball or got a bad hop. Being caught in between during the course of a game is bad; being caught in between in the roster-building process is even worse.

Whether on here through the offseason or on Twitter during April’s struggles for the Yankees, I’ve maintained a fairly positive view of the team. And in general, I still hold to that; I think they’ll wind up in the wildcard game again, though that’s getting harder and harder to justify as the team continues to not score at a prolific pace. But given the way this team is built right now, where they are now–right in between–is just about where they should be.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Is it possible that 2015 was the one out of ten I referred before? Is that season the diving catch? The lucky grab? The desperate foul-off? Since 2013, the Yankees have been attempting a rebuild-while-still-competing thing that has gone better than most teams’ attempts at that have, as they’ve managed to win 80something games each time and generally avoid being a complete embarrassment. That’s good enough for mediocrity, but it’s not good enough for future strength and it’s not good enough for present results.

The rebuild has been caught in between, despite the ostensibly admirable goal of looking to get younger and more flexible. After 2013, the Yankees could’ve kept to that and their goal of spending less money, but they went out and signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran instead of retaining their own player in Robinson Cano. Not wanting to sign Cano to a ten-year contract is completely defensible and I understand why the Yankees didn’t, especially in a post-Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols deals world. But to follow that up with signing three expensive players–one of whom has been borderline disastrous thus far–is the height of cognitive dissonance and a sign of a lack of commitment to a plan. If you’re going to spend, spend wisely. If you’re not going to spend, just don’t spend.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

For a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in two of the last three years, the Yankees have surprisingly little to show for it. They haven’t drafted high. They don’t have a stocked farm system with prospects ready to make an impact with a reasonable chance of sustaining that impact, though, in fairness, that stems from their years of legitimate contention between 2009-2012. But at the same time, their Major League team isn’t quite good enough to compete for a championship. I’m not saying championship or bust; hat mindset led to a completely barren farm system and a fanbase that’s seemingly unwilling to sit through a rebuild. However, what satisfaction is there in being perpetually just good enough to compete for the wildcard?

It’s time for the Yankees to move out of being caught in between. Either flex the financial muscle that is so much stronger than any other team’s and be that behemoth of the past, or commit to an actual rebuild. No more half measures.