Monday Night Open Thread

The Yankees have yet another off-day today — doesn’t it seem like the off-days have been bunched together this year? — so this is a good time to pass along this great Billy Witz article on Hideki Matsui, who joined what is essentially a high-end Sunday rec league on Randalls Island. Matsui pitches and, to make it fair, bats right-handed. He also sponsors his team. Godzilla turned 41 last month and he has bad knees, yet here he is, playing in a rec league because he loves the game. So great.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing the Nationals and that game will be on ESPN (Harvey vs. Gonzalez). Believe it or not, the Mets are only two games back of the Nats in the NL East. Talk about that game, Matsui’s rec league, or anything else right here.

Hal on Jeter rejoining the Yankees in some capacity: “He will … I have no doubt”

Derek got slimed by Nickelodeon recently. (Kevin Winter/Getty)
Derek got slimed by Nickelodeon recently. (Kevin Winter/Getty)

Aside from the occasional photo globetrotting with his girlfriend, Derek Jeter has managed to keep a low profile since retiring last season. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. Jeter perfected the art of keeping a low profile despite being a megastar in New York.

During a recent interview, Hal Steinbrenner told Marc Topkin he expects Jeter to one day rejoin the Yankees in some capacity. Not as a player, of course, but in some sort of ex-player role. Whatever it is Reggie Jackson does, for example. Here’s what Hal told Topkin:

“He will be (involved in some capacity), I have no doubt,” Hal Steinbrenner said. “He lives here in Tampa. . . . I think he’s just trying to relax for a year. God knows he earned it. It’s a good relationship and I have no doubt he’ll be involved in whatever way he wants to be involved.”

We all know Jeter wants to own a team one day — “That’s the next goal, buddy. Calling the shots, not answering to someone, that’s what interests me,” he said to reporters last summer — and hey, who can blame him? We all not so secretly want to own a team one day. It’s good work if you can get it.

Could the Yankees let Derek buy a piece of team? I suppose, but who really knows. Hal simply said Jeter would “be a great owner, no doubt about it,” when asked. Either way, I’m certain Jeter has a job waiting for him with the Yankees whenever he’s ready to get back into baseball. It benefits both sides to keep the relationship going.

Heyman: Yankees looking to add righty bat, righty reliever before trade deadline

Baker. (Presswire)
Baker. (Presswire)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are looking to add both a right-handed bat and a right-handed reliever before next Friday’s trade deadline. I assume that is in addition to the club’s continued search for pitching. We heard the Yankees were looking for righty relief weeks ago, but that was before they moved Adam Warren back to the bullpen.

The Yankees are hitting .241/.322/.408 (102 wRC+) against lefties this season, seventh best among the 30 clubs, but the bottom of the lineup is very lefty heavy thanks not only to Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew, but also Chase Headley‘s platoon split. He’s a switch-hitter, yeah, but he’s been way better against righties (99 wRC+) than lefties (68 wRC+) this year. Carlos Beltran has had his problems with lefties this year as well (91 wRC+).

We’ve seen the Yankees get shut down by a lefty reliever for a few innings on more than one occasion this year, so the interest in adding a righty bat makes sense. Ideally, it would be a righty (or even a switch-hitter) who can play both corner infield spots as well as the corner outfield spots, so he could platoon with Headley and replace Garrett Jones on the roster. Problem is, who is that player? That’s a pretty specific profile.

The only names that jumped to mind are Martin Prado, Jeff Baker, and Mike Olt. Prado is kinda expensive and he would presumably take over as the regular second baseman if re-acquired, not serve as a part-timer. Baker has historically mashed lefties (career 126 wRC+) but hasn’t done it this year (99 wRC+). Olt has only played a handful of games this season due to a wrist injury and owns a career 71 wRC+ against southpaws. I’m not sure he’s the answer either.

The Yankees aren’t desperate for a right-handed bat, but it would be a nice addition to round out the roster. Maybe the answer is in the minor leagues somewhere, a Quad-A player along the lines of Chris Colabello, who could sit in the minors in August, then come up when rosters expand in September. (Ryan Roberts maybe? He’s in Triple-A with the A’s.) That would give the Yankees the extra righty bat and allow them to keep Jones.

Even before Refsnyder demotion, Yankees needed to add a second baseman at the trade deadline

(New York Daily News)
(New York Daily News)

Disappointingly — and somewhat surprisingly — the Yankees demoted Rob Refsnyder to Triple-A Scranton yesterday when they needed to clear a roster spot for Carlos Beltran. Refsnyder played four games after being called up right before the All-Star break, going 2-for-12 (.167) with a homer while playing a not-so-natural second base. The team never did commit to him as the everyday second baseman.

“Just continue to improve,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings when asked what the team wants to see from Refsnyder. “Understanding the position, continue to make little adjustments. I thought he did a really good job considering the situation we put him in. In Fenway Park, that’s not the easiest place to start. But we believe he’s going to be here for a long time, and for right now, we’re going to stay with the guys we got.”

Brian Cashman said the move was made to maintain depth prior to the trade deadline — the obvious move to keep Refsnyder would have been designating Brendan Ryan for assignment — which makes sense but is disappointing. We’re all sick of the unproductive Stephen Drew and the homegrown Refsnyder is the team’s best chance for an upgrade from within. Four games with an All-Star break mixed in isn’t much of an audition.

Now, here’s the thing: Refsnyder wasn’t going to get much of audition before the trade deadline anyway. There’s nothing he could have done between the time he was called up and the July 31st trade deadline that could have convinced the Yankees or anyone else he was ready to be the everyday second baseman on a contending team. It’s not enough time to evaluate a young player at all. He was going to get 40 at-bats at the most before the deadline. That’s it.

The Yankees didn’t make a mistake by sending Refsnyder down yesterday. The mistake was not bringing him up sooner. Drew hasn’t hit all season — Girardi pointed out Drew had a good June (125 wRC+), but that month was three two-homer games and 11-for-83 (.133) in the other 21 games — and, as many have been saying, Refsnyder should have been up weeks ago, getting a longer audition to show what he can do, good or bad. They stuck with Drew too long.

“I think a lot of times people are going to have discussions about it, try to gather as much information as you can, and make the best decision you feel at the time,” said Girardi to Jennings. “Sometimes as you look back, maybe you would have done it a little different, but I think the important thing is that you make the best decision at the time with the information that you have. Guys are very close here, and that’s probably what’s making this decision tough.”

So the Yankees are in the same place they were a few weeks ago, in need of a new second baseman. Except now the Yankees have less time to evaluate Refsnyder before having to go outside for help, so in essence Refsnyder is a non-option. Well, that’s not true, I just have a hard time believing the Yankees would throw him to the wolves as a starting middle infielder in the middle of a postseason race. Believe it or not, he could actually be worse than Drew.

The team’s hesitancy to use Refsnyder tells us they don’t quite believe he is ready for regular big league action, either offensively, defensively, or both. In that case, the Yankees will need to go out and make a trade for a second baseman at some point in the eleven days, because the last four months have told us their current options aren’t enough. That was true even before Refsnyder was sent back down.

Yankeemetrics: Back to baseball, wins (July 17-19)

Winner! (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Winner! (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Deja vu
The Yankees started the second half of the season the same way they ended the first half, beating the Mariners 4-3 on Friday night. It gave them a 4.5-game lead in the AL East, their biggest division lead since August 2012.

A-Rod delivered the game-winning hit with a solo homer in the seventh inning that broke a 3-3 tie. It was his 19th go-ahead home run in the seventh inning or later as a Yankee; since he joined the team in 2004, no other Yankee has hit more than 10 such homers.

Masahiro Tanaka allowed three runs over seven innings and improved to 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA and 27 strikeouts in three career starts against the Mariners. He is the fourth Yankee to win each of his first three starts against Seattle (Chien-Ming Wang, Tom Underwood, Tim Leary), but the only one of those guys to do it while striking out at least seven batters in each of those games.

Tanaka’s off-speed pitches have been really impressive over his last two starts. Against the Mariners and A’s (July 9) he threw 144 sliders, curves and splitters combined, and those pitches yielded just two hits while netting him 34 outs.

Oh no, don’t cha know
It’s not often you can say after a baseball game that one player beat you … but that’s pretty much what happened in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Mariners. Robinson Cano hit two homers and drove in all four of the Mariners’ runs — an outburst that hardly could have been predicted before the weekend.

Cano entered the game 9-for-40 (.225) against the Yankees since leaving for the Pacific Northwest two seasons ago, his worst batting average against any American League team in his career. Not only was it his first multi-homer game in a Mariners uniform, it was also the first time he had at least three hits and four RBI in a game over the past two seasons.

Brian McCann drove in both Yankee runs with a two-run homer in the fourth inning, his 15th home run of the season. He is the ninth catcher in major-league history to hit at least 15 homers in 10-or-more seasons, and one of only three to do that in his first 11 career seasons. The others? Oh, just Mike Piazza and Johnny Bench.

Throwback Sunday
CC Sabathia turned back the clock and delivered a ace-like performance in the series finale, going pitch-for-pitch with King Felix for six innings, and Mark Teixeira hit another clutch late-inning homer to give the Yankees a dramatic win over the Mariners on Sunday afternoon.

Sabathia now has a 2.33 ERA in 13 starts against the Mariners since joining the Yankees, the lowest ERA vs. Seattle by any pitcher in franchise history with at least seven starts against the M’s.

Teixeira’s game-winning blast was his 23rd homer and 63rd RBI of the season, more than he had all of last season … and it’s the middle of July. The big hit came off a 98-mph fastball from Fernando Rodney, the fastest pitch that Teixeira has sent over the fence since August 14, 2012, when he clobbered a 99-mph heater off Alexi Ogando into the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium. Before the home run, Teixeira was 0-for-9 in 11 matchups vs. Rodney, his most plate appearances without a hit against any active pitcher.

Fan Confidence Poll: July 20th, 2015

Record Last Week: 2-1 (9 RS, 8 RA)
Season Record: 50-41 (418 RS, 391 RA, 49-42 pythag. record) 4.0 games up in ALE
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Orioles (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Twins (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features menu in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

DotF: Bird leads the way with four hits in Scranton’s win

RHP Luis Severino has been placed on the Triple-A temporarily inactive list. Joe Girardi told Andrew Marchand that Severino’s wife is having a baby, so congrats to them.

Triple-A Scranton (7-1 win over Louisville) no OF Aaron Judge for the second straight game, though I suspect he’s just banged up and not about to be traded

  • CF Ben Gamel: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LF Jose Pirela: 2-4, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — 11-for-21 (.524) in his last five games
  • 1B Greg Bird: 4-5, 2 RBI, 1 K — ties a career high with four hits
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • RF Tyler Austin: 2-5, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 7/1 GB/FB — 37 of 53 pitches were strikes (70%)
  • RHP Jose Ramirez: 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 3/1 GB/FB — 29 of 52 pitches were strikes (56%) … seems like every Triple-A reliever is getting stretched out to three or four innings

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