Mailbag: Otani, Dead Money, Frazier, Verlander, Green, Torres

We’ve got eleven questions in the mailbag this week. As always, you should send your questions to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. I get to as many as I can, assuming I actually know the answer or can look it up.

The most fun player on Earth. (Getty)
The most fun player on Earth. (Getty)

David asks: If the Yankees acquired Otani and he was the DH on days he didn’t pitch, (1) who is a comparable hitter, (2) who is a comparable pitcher, and (3) realistically, what should fans expect as a reasonable production for a two-way player?

We still don’t know whether Shohei Otani will come over to MLB this winter and chances are we won’t know until well into the offseason. These things tend to drag out. Remember, when Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish made the jump, we waited weeks to find out whether they’d actually come over. It certainly doesn’t help that MLB is reportedly pushing to renegotiate the posting system with NPB.

Anyway, the 23-year-old Otani got a late start on the season due to nagging quad and ankle injuries. He’s hitting .347/.405/.553 with 14 doubles and five homers in 168 plate appearances and has allowed eight runs in 4.2 innings on the mound. Otani hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers last year and threw 140 innings with a 1.86 ERA and a great strikeout rate (31.8%) and an okay walk rate (8.2%). Travis Sawchik spoke to someone in the know about Otani comps earlier this year:

To better understand Otani I spoke with Anri Uechi of Kyodo News, who covers Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees but also has followed the career of Otani. I asked Uechi for a comps on Otani as a pitcher and hitter. He came up with a blend of Yu Darvish — only with more velocity – and Christian Yelich. Hey, not bad.

That sounds … amazing? Yeah, amazing. For what it’s worth, Clay Davenport’s statistical translations say that .322/.416/.588 batting line in NPB last year works out to a .306/.367/.512 batting line in MLB. Yelich hit .298/.376/.483 last season, so Otani is right in the ballpark. As a left-handed hitter with power, Otani has the potential to do serious damage in Yankee Stadium. The dude certainly looks the part of the superstar, both on the mound and at the plate.

My guess is letting Otani hit will be a prerequisite for signing him, which ostensibly gives AL teams an advantage. They can let him DH between starts. My one concern is he could wear down. Would it be best to give him a full day off the day after and/or before starts? I’m not sure. Anyway, Otani won’t cost much given the international hard cap and the fact he’ll be a pre-arbitration-eligible player like everyone else. The financial risk of letting him pitch and hit is small.

At the same time, this is a super talented player, and you want to protect him physically so he can help you win as long as possible. I was on the fence about letting him hit before but I’m cool with it now. Why not? If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. My only real concern is injury and pitchers get hurt so often it’s maybe not worth worrying about. If Otani comes over this winter, the Yankees should go all out to sign him. Shovel every available international dollar in front of him, wine and dine him, let him spend time with special advisor Hideki Matsui, the works.

Alex asks: It was interesting to me to see that Cashman is personally going to Japan to watch Otani pitch. How much actual scouting does Cashman do at this point in his career compared to big picture/management stuff? How much expertise/background does he have as a scout?

Before becoming general manager, Brian Cashman worked in player development and in the scouting department, though as far as I know, he was never a scout who went around seeing players. He’s an administrator. A general manager is a manager. The Yankees have countless people working in many different departments, and Cashman manages them all. There is so much more to the job than trade this guy and sign that guy.

Anyway, Cashman may not be able to scout and evaluate Otani, but there is value to seeing him firsthand. You get to see his personality, see his work ethic, see how he responds to adversity, those sorts of things. And Cashman gets to talk to his scouts in real time and hear their opinions, and see what they’re talking about. Cashman wasn’t the only non-scout to see Otani — Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was there too, and he’s a Wall Street guy — and even if he can’t pick apart a delivery or analyze a swing, I think it’s good for your top decision maker to see a player up close, especially when he’s coming from overseas and you have limited information.

Dan asks: Do players appear in person at hearings on appeals of suspensions? Who appears on the player’s behalf – someone from the union? The team?

They can appear in person for the hearing but sometimes it’s just not possible for the player to get to MLB’s office in Midtown. Gerry Fraley explained the process last year following the Rougned Odor-Jose Bautista brawl. Here’s how the appeal works:

Odor’s representatives, the Beverly Hills Sports Council, and the Major League Baseball Players Association will handle the appeal. Bob Lenaghan, the union’s assistant general counsel, will direct the process. MLB has 14 days to schedule an appeal hearing, which can be held in person or by video conferencing.

I assume Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine were in attendance for their hearings, but you never know. Doesn’t really matter either way. I don’t think there would be more leniency because the player showed up.

Jonathan asks: Is there a stat that shows dead money for each team? I feel after next year, the Yankees will only have Ellsbury and Chapman as brutal contracts and aren’t that much worse off then most teams.

When I think of dead money, I think of paying players who no longer play for you. The Yankees are paying Alex Rodriguez $21M this season to hang out with Jennifer Lopez. That’s dead money. The Jacoby Ellsbury and Aroldis Chapman contracts don’t look great, but they’re not true dead money. They are still playing for the Yankees and providing some value.

The Yankees have roughly $27.5M of dead money on the books this year between A-Rod, Brian McCann (they’re paying $5.5M of his salary), plus the remainder of Tommy Layne‘s $1.075M salary. Here are the five non-Yankees teams with the most dead money on the books this year:

  1. Dodgers: $47.4M (Carl Crawford, Hector Olivera, Alex Guerrero, Erisbel Arruebarruena, Yaisel Sierra, Dian Toscano)
  2. Padres: $33.1M (Olivera, James Shields, Melvin Upton Jr.)
  3. Red Sox: $28.5M (Pablo Sandoval and Allen Craig)
  4. Rockies: $26.5M (Jose Reyes and Jason Motte)
  5. Angels: $22.4M (Josh Hamilton minus salary paid to Ricky Nolasco by Twins)

The Angels are paying Hamilton $24.4M to sit at home and Albert Pujols $26M to hit .244/.289/.394 (80 wRC+), so that’s probably the worst contract tandem in baseball. The Dodgers have $44.2M tied up in Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, and that’s not much better. In the grand scheme of things, the Ellsbury and Chapman contracts aren’t that bad.

Luke asks: What about the Toddfather taking Holliday’s spot on the team next year? Can play 3b, 1b, DH. He’s not perfect but seems to fit a role perfectly. Thoughts?

I think the odds of this happening are higher than maybe many fans realize, but still unlikely. I still think some team out there is going to be willing to give Todd Frazier a two or even three-year deal to be their everyday third baseman, and I don’t see the Yankees going there. Frazier seems to genuinely enjoy being a Yankee, and his ability to play two positions is quite nice. I have two problems with bringing Frazier back. One, he’s a low average hitter who hits into an awful lot of easy out pop-ups. His infield pop-up rate (20.3%) is easily the highest in baseball this year, and second highest over the last three years (18.3%). And two, he’s yet another right-handed hitter. The lineup leans a little too heavily to that side right now, and it’ll only get once worse right-handed hitters Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier (and Miguel Andujar!) force their way into the lineup.

Weird. (Lindsey Wasson/Getty)
Weird. (Lindsey Wasson/Getty)

Michael asks: Did the Yankees flub it by not claiming Verlander on waivers? If the Yankees had refused to make a trade offer, almost certainly Detroit would have pulled him back, or Verlander would have vetoed the move, and the worst case of Verlander on a 2x28M (after this year) wouldn’t be disastrous. As it is, they let Houston scoop him up and may have to face him in the playoffs.

It’s an interesting question. Of course, this also applies to the Red Sox and the Indians and the Angels and every other team with postseason hopes. I do not think the Tigers would’ve let Justin Verlander go on trade waivers for nothing. He’s a franchise icon and they wanted a real return, and hey, they got one. You always have to be prepared for the possibility that the contract gets dumped on you, though the chances of that happening seemed awfully low here. Had the Yankees or any other team claimed Verlander, the Tigers probably would’ve pulled him back, tried to work out a trade, then try again in the offseason if it didn’t work out. In hindsight, yeah, the Yankees or some other contender should’ve claimed Verlander to avoid facing him in the postseason. I’m not sure how realistic that is though, to expect a contending team to claim any player they could end up seeing in October.

Ralph asks: Now that we’ve seen Starlin Castro for two seasons, it is easy to see why he was a young all-star. It’s also easy to see why the Cubs let him go. The Benintendi slide into 2nd in the first game of the series featured Castro’s non-follow on the tag, another example of the bone-headed plays that seem to find their way to his highlight reel throughout the year. Can we really count on Castro as a core guy, or will Wade find his way there assuming some offensive improvement?

I think Castro is a really good complementary player and not necessarily a core piece, and the Yankees don’t need him to be. The core of the Yankees going forward, on the position player side, is Aaron Judge and Sanchez, and hopefully Frazier and Torres join them next season. Castro is a quality hitter by second base standards, even though he occasionally gives away at-bats. I’m not sure how much longer he’ll remain at second base though. His defense seems to have gone backwards this year. He might be a corner infielder long-term, or maybe even a DH. There’s no reason to move Castro now, but if Torres or Wade were to emerge at some point, I don’t think the Yankees would have any trouble trading Starlin. He’s a good player but probably not someone you make off-limits and build around.

Matt asks: Do you think in this day and age its finally time for the old fashioned waste pitch to die? I’m not talking about changing eye levels or setting up another pitch, but the ball so far out of the strikezone that nobody could possibly swing at it. With pitch counts and limits, it seems silly to waste pitches just so you don’t give up an 0-2 hit.

How many of those waste pitches, the pitch so far outside that no one would ever swing at it, do we even see? And how many are intentional? I feel like very, very few. Most of those are mistake pitches. In the traditional sense of the term, a waste pitch is something you throw to set the next pitch up. The fastball up and in to set up the slider down and away, for example. Those aren’t going away, even in the age of pitch counts. Take away waste pitches — it’s probably better to call them setup pitches, right? — and inevitably other pitches will lose some effectiveness. You need to be able to set one pitch up with another. It’s not a video game where you can just throw a slider in any count and get the swing you want. Waste pitches aren’t going anywhere.

Melanie asks: Can you ask Katie to run the numbers on Judge when he is up with less than two outs and runners in scoring position? It feels like that home run Sunday night was the first time he has gotten a hit in that situation in months. Even in the first half of the season. Thanks!

Lots of talk about Judge with runners in scoring position and similar situations this year, especially in the second half. Here are the numbers going into yesterday’s game:

  • Men on base: .262/.388/.561 (145 OPS+)
  • Runners in scoring position: .262/.386/.587 (150 OPS+)
  • Runner on third and less than two outs: .263/.483/.632 (155 OPS+)
  • High-leverage: .281/.400/.557 (152 OPS+)

Keep in mind there is some sample size noise here — Judge has only 29 plate appearances with a runner on third and less than two outs all season — but the numbers are pretty great. Roughly a 150 OPS+ across the board, which is right in line with his overall 154 OPS+ this season. Funny how that works. I want Judge at the plate in a big spot because in all of baseball (not only among Yankees) he is one of the hitters least likely to make an out and most likely to hit the everloving crap out out of a ball.

Dan asks: Is deception part of the reason why Chad Green‘s fastball is so untouchable? If so, what contributes to that kind of deception?

It has to be, right? Green has great velocity and a high spin rate, on par with baseball’s other top fastballs, yet no one gets as many swings and misses on that pitch as Green. It’s amazing. Green’s not super tall by pitcher standards (listed at 6-foot-3) and there’s basically no gain through extension. His average fastball velocity: 95.55 mph. His average perceived fastball velocity: 95.56 mph. Yeah. Here’s some video:

Green has a big leg lift and his arm action is long and deliberate in the back, then he explodes forward, and I think that creates the deception. The hitter keeps waiting and waiting and waiting for the pitch, then bam, it’s right on them. I imagine that contributes to Green’s effectiveness. Whatever it is, it’s working wonderfully. Green has been unreal this season.

Ryan asks: Don’t we need to pump the breaks just a little on Gleyber being reading at the start of next season? I know it is his glove hand (non throwing arm) he had to have TJS on, but doesn’t that also make it his lead arm batting, which if I’m not mistaken, is his power arm when batting. Do we have batter comps for Torres coming back with power the way we had with Bird after his, much more risky, shoulder injury in terms of power concerns?

Torres has already resumed baseball activities — he shared videos of himself hitting in the batting cage and fielding grounders within the last week — and he is expected to be ready in time for Spring Training. There are very few comps for this type of injury, though there is a good one: Zack Cozart, another right-handed hitting shortstop. Cozart had Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow in August 2011 and was ready to go for Opening Day 2012.

Torres had his surgery in June, so he has a two-month head start on Cozart. Of course the Yankees are going to play it safe with him. Those videos he posted this week? Those are surely closely monitored workouts. I don’t think there’s any chance Gleyber will break camp with the Yankees next year, not after missing half a season. I expect him to go to Triple-A to get back into the swing of things before the inevitable call-up. The injury stinks. I’m pretty sure Torres would’ve been in the big leagues right now. He’d have been up when Castro got hurt, if not sooner. What can you do though? Everyone expected Torres to come back strong and so far his rehab is going swimmingly. That’s all I need to hear.

DotF: Estrada hits for the cycle in Trenton’s postseason win

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Lehigh Valley in 12 innings, walk-off style) they trail the best-of-five first round postseason series one game to none

  • CF Mason Williams: 1-5, 1 BB
  • 2B Donovan Solano: 3-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-6, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — here’s video of the dinger
  • 1B Mike Ford: 1-6, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • LF Billy McKinney: 1-6, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — opened the scoring with a two-run homer
  • RF Jake Cave: 1-5, 3 K
  • RHP Domingo German: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 10/3 GB/FB — 54 of 82 pitches were strikes (66%) … started out great, but things unraveled in the sixth, when four of those five runs scored
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 24 of 37 pitches were strikes (65%)
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HB, 0/2 GB/FB — 23 of 42 pitches were strikes (55%) … bad things happen after leadoff walks

[Read more…]

Thursday Night Open Thread

Good win this afternoon. A win Gene Michael would’ve enjoyed. The Yankees dug in and put together some long at-bats — Kevin Gausman threw 79 pitches in three innings — and mashed the hell outta some taters. First series win in Baltimore since 2013. True story. The Yankees were basically one pitch away from a sweep too, but at least they won the series.

Here is an open thread for the night. The Mets are playing and MLB Network is showing regional games at 7pm ET and 10pm ET. Also, the NFL season begins tonight with the Chiefs and Patriots (8:30pm ET on NBC). Talk about anything here except religion and politics. Thanks.

Homers galore on a Sonny day as the Yankees beat O’s 9-1

They did it. The Yankees finally won a series at the Camden Yards. It is their first since Sept. 9-12, 2013. Phil Hughes started that series finale, David Huff relieved, Eduardo Nunez was the starting third baseman, Alfonso Soriano hit third and Mariano Rivera got the win. Since then, they lost 11 consecutive series in Baltimore… which snapped today. Thank God. Sonny Gray and the bullpen corps held the O’s hitters to one run and the lineup gathered four dingers and nine runs to make it an easy win. Good game. Would watch again.

(Robb Carr/Getty Images)
(Robb Carr/Getty Images)

The scoring

The Yankees didn’t waste any time. In the top of the first, Brett Gardner worked a walk to lead it off. The next two hitters – Chase Headley and Starlin Castro – struck out, but Gardy stole the second base to put himself in the scoring position. Didi Gregorius, today’s cleanup hitter, hit a double down the first base line to drive a run in. Aaron Judge, not to be outdone, hit a monster blast into the right-center seats for a 2-run homer. 3-0 Yankees.

Two innings later, Yankees got another rally going. Didi reached on an infield single (originally ruled an error by Tim Beckham but later changed) and Judge walked to set up a RISP situation. Matt Holliday jerked a single into right field to bring Gardy in. With runners on first and third, Jacoby Ellsbury grounded into an RBI fielder’s choice to make it 5-0 Yankees. The barrage continued on in the 4th inning. With Mike Wright pitching for the Orioles, Gardner hit a double and Headley followed it up with a two-run homer to make it a seven-run lead.

The Yankees took a break in the fifth but went right back at it in the sixth. With two outs, Castro received a Donnie Hart fastball down the zone and drove it into the home bullpen. Think you were done with home runs? Todd Frazier hit a solo homer off Richard Rodriguez in the seventh inning – his 23rd of the year.  9-1 Yankees. And that’s how the score would remain for good. Easy peasy.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Sonny day real estate

Sonny Gray allowed the lone run in the sixth inning and it was unearned. With runners on first and second and two outs, Gray induced a grounder from Trey Mancini that should have been an easy 6-4 putout. However, Gregorius was off-balance when tossing the ball to Castro and it sailed way over his head, leading to an Oriole run.

Let’s talk about the positives. In 5.2 IP, Gray induced 10 ground outs and only 2 in the air. After allowing dinger after dinger the last start vs. Red Sox, it was pretty neat to see him get back to his ground ball-heavy game. After getting through the first three innings easily, Gray labored a bit in the last 2.2 IP, allowing a baserunner in scoring position in each frame. However, it’s hard not to chalk it up as a good start for Gray, who improved to 9-9 this season with a 3.22 ERA.

Leftovers

After Gray departed with two outs in the sixth inning, Girardi brought in Chad Green, who had thrown 36 pitches in 2.1 IP just this past Monday. With expanded rosters and a seven-run lead, Girardi maybe could have brought in someone like Ben Heller in this situation… but at the same time, Orioles lineup isn’t something to be taken lightly. That was probably the best chance that the O’s had to try to turn the game around. After blowing a 6-1 lead two days ago, I’d assume Girardi wanted no part of that possibility. Luckily, Green immediately denied the O’s by striking out Seth Smith. Green went on to take care of another inning after that. I’d have to guess Girardi will give him a rest tomorrow.

Tommy Kahnle came in the eighth inning and threw a scoreless frame. After him, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre relief ace Ben Heller actually got to pitch the ninth! He ended the game pretty swiftly, tossing a perfect, 12-pitch frame. If you missed the game, check out this snake-like fastball by Heller. It is sort of mesmerizing.

You know your offense really had it going when Austin Romine had a two-hit game. Each starter had at least a base hit (13 total). Judge stayed on-brand by hitting a homer, walking once and striking out twice. Gregorius had a particularly good day, going 3-for-5 with an RBI. Gardner, who went 2-for-3, also had two walks and saw 30 pitches total – 6 pitches per plate appearance, not bad.

Box score, video highlights, updated standings and WPA

Here are today’s box score and updated standings from ESPN, video highlights from MLB.com and WPA chart from Fangraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will head down south for a three-game series against the Rangers. Masahiro Tanaka will be up on the mound against Martin Perez on Friday night.

Breaking down the rest of the Yanks’ regular season schedule

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

This afternoon the Yankees are wrapping up their series with the Orioles, in their 139th game of the season. The final 23 games of the season — only 23 games remaining! — will determine whether the Yankees qualify for the postseason, or miss the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years.

Here, to keep the loyal reader informed, are the current wildcard standings:

al-wc-standings-090717

The Yankees are four games back of the Red Sox in the AL East, so they’re certainly not out of the division race yet, but I’ve shifted focus to the wildcard spot. Tough to make up ground in the AL East race with no head-to-head games with Boston remaining. Besides, the Yankees have to nail down a wildcard spot before really making a run at the division title.

Anyway, with 23 games to go this year, I figured this would be as good a time as any to breakdown the remaining schedule. New York’s remaining opponents have a combined .487 winning percentage this year, fourth lowest in the AL behind only the Indians (.459), Tigers (.479), and Astros (.483). That doesn’t mean much though. Any team can beat any other team on any given day in this game. Let’s break down the schedule, shall we?

The Unexpectedly Important Series

I gotta admit, I did not expect a mid-September series against Twins the mean much when I first looked at the schedule last year. Heck, I didn’t expect it to mean much when I looked at schedule at any point prior to, like, August 15th. Minnesota wasn’t expected to contend this year and I think most people have been waiting for them to fall out of race. It hasn’t happened. The Twinkies went 20-10 in August and shot up the standings.

Minnesota is coming to Yankee Stadium for three games from September 18th through the 20th, and while a wildcard spot won’t necessarily be on the line — both teams could still make the postseason, and that series could very well be a Wild Card Game preview — the series could go a long way toward determining homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game. The Yankees dropped two of three to the Twins at Target Field in July, but eh. That won’t have any impact on the series in September.

The Other Important Series

A September series against the Orioles being important isn’t nearly as surprising as a September series with the Twins being important. Even when the O’s sank in the standings at midseason — they went 39-55 from May 10th through August 22nd, so they played at a 95-loss pace for 94 games — I think we all knew they’d play the Yankees tough down the stretch. We’ve seen it this week.

The Yankees and Orioles are closing out their series at Camden Yards right now, and next weekend they’ll play four more games at Yankee Stadium (September 14th to 17th). That will represent the last best chance for the O’s to make up a lot of ground in the wildcard race in a short period of time. Depending what happens between now and then, the Yankees will have a chance to bury Baltimore next week, and the Orioles will have a chance to make up some ground in a hurry.

The Remaining Road Series

Fun fact: the Yankees are in the middle of their final road trip right now. Well, technically it’s their second to last road trip, but the last road trip is a quick three-game series in Toronto. Short flight, home before and after the series. It’s not a multi-city trip or anything like that. Here are the remaining road series, not including the current series with the Orioles:

  • at Rangers: Three games from September 8th to 10th
  • at Rays: Three games from September 11th to 13th
  • at Blue Jays: Three games from September 22nd to 24th

Losing today’s off-day and having to fly from Baltimore to the Metroplex this evening kinda stinks, but what can you do? That’s baseball. Also, that series against the Rays might be moved due to Hurricane Irma, possibly to Yankee Stadium. They could also end up playing at a neutral site — I’ve seen Baltimore and Chicago mentioned as possibilities — or possibly even play in Tampa. MLB is expected to make an announcement on the series by tomorrow.

Anyway, I don’t care where the Rays and Blue Jays are in the standings. Intra-division games are always tough. Those games are always a battle. As for the Rangers, they are still in the race despite trading Yu Darvish at the deadline. The Rangers acknowledged they’re not serious contenders and yet they’re still in the race. Go figure. They are without Adrian Beltre though, which will make this weekend’s series a little easier. He’s done for a while with a hamstring problem. Texas won’t be a pushover, but no Darvish and no Beltre makes life a little easier.

The Stray Makeup Game

The Yankees have one off-day remaining this year: Thursday, September 21st. Two weeks from today. They lost what would’ve been their final off-day, Monday September 25th, to a makeup game with the Royals. The two clubs were rained out on May 25th. Because of that, the Yankees will finish the season with ten games in ten days, which isn’t a huge deal, but you’d still rather have the off-day. The Royals are not going away and are an annoyingly scrappy team. A late season game against the non-contending Royals of old would’ve been a cakewalk. Not now.

The Final Week

Here’s the good thing about the remaining schedule: 14 of those remaining 23 games are at home. The Yankees at home this year: 40-27 with a +87 run differential. The Yankees on the road this year: 34-37 with a +52 run differential (wtf???). Even beyond that, travel stinks, man. Getting to sleep in your own bed rules. The Yankees will get to do a lot of that this month.

Anyway, the Yankees close out the 2017 regular season with seven straight home games. They have the makeup game against the Royals on September 25th, a three-game set with the Rays from September 26th to 28th — Hurricane Irma could change that — and a three-game series with the Blue Jays from September 29th to October 1st. With any luck, all three of those teams will be eliminated from postseason contention and playing rookies by then. Unfortunately, that’s wishful thinking more than anything. Like I said, the Royals are annoying and intra-division games are always tough.

* * *

On paper, the Yankees do not have an easy rest-of-season schedule. As bad as the Blue Jays have been overall this year, those head-to-head games are never easy. Now, that all said, I see two positives here. One, the Yankees have all those home games remaining. An undeniable plus. And two, they have an opportunity to control their own destiny, so to speak. Those series with the Twins and Orioles give the Yankees a chance to take care of business themselves in the wildcard race, and not rely on help from other teams, which is what they have to do in the AL East race.

Game 139: Rain Delayed

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Thankfully, the weather is not an issue this afternoon in Baltimore. The Yankees and Orioles waited out a long rain delay two days ago and were rained out last night, forcing them to give up today’s off-day to play this makeup game. There’s only one off-day left this season now. One off-day and 24 games. Pretty wild, eh?

Tuesday’s loss was one of the worst of the season, and while the Manny Machado walk-off homer was the big blow, that game was lost in the middle innings, when a 6-1 lead became a 6-5 lead and the Yankees never tacked on runs against a suspect pitching staff. Whatever. What’s done is done. Win the makeup game and actually win a series in Camden Yards for once. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 1B Chase Headley
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. DH Matt Holliday
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Sonny Gray

It is nice and sunny in Baltimore and on the cool side too. Pretty much a perfect September afternoon for baseball. Today’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:35pm ET and both YES and MLB Network will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: The Yankees placed Adam Warren on the 10-day DL retroactive to Saturday with lower back spasms, the team announced. That explains why he hasn’t pitched in typical Adam Warren spots the last few days. He’s going to be shut down completely for two weeks, and if this thing lingers, there’s a chance he’ll miss the rest of the regular season. That’s not good … CC Sabathia received a lubrication injection in his right knee yesterday. He’s been getting those for a while now. They’re part of his regular maintenance.

Schedule Update: MLB is still evaluating options for next week’s series in Tampa, reports Marc Topkin. Joe Girardi said the two teams will not trade home series this month, essentially leaving two options: play the series at a neutral site, or postpone Monday’s game and play a doubleheader either Tuesday or Wednesday if the area doesn’t get hit hard by Hurricane Irma. Baltimore and Chicago’s south side have been mentioned as neutral site possibilities. MLB’s decision isn’t expected until Friday.

Gene Michael passes away at 79

(Getty)
(Getty)

Sad news to pass along. Former Yankees player, coach, manager, scout, and executive Gene “Stick” Michael has passed away following a heart attack, report Mike Mazzeo and Bill Madden. The Yankees have since confirmed the news. Michael was 79. He had a heart procedure earlier this year that was kept private.

“Stick was a pillar of this organization for decades,” said Hal Steinbrenner in a statement. “He knew the game of baseball like few others did, and was always willing and excited to talk about it with anyone in earshot. His contributions to the Yankees over the years have been immeasurable. He loved baseball and this organization, and he will be profoundly missed. I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Joette, and his entire family.”

“Stick was a great man with enormous heart and integrity. One of the greatest baseball executives of our time,” said Yankees president Randy Levine to Mark Feinsand. By all accounts Michael was a wonderful man in addition to being a true baseball genius. He’s one of the greatest executives in the sport’s history.

Michael, a shortstop, started his playing career with the Pirates in 1966 before moving to the Dodgers and eventually joining the Yankees in 1968. He played for New York from 1968-74 and retired as a career .229/.288/.284 hitter. Those were the organizational lean years, so Stick never did win a World Series as a player or even get to play in the postseason.

After his playing career was over, Michael served as a coach with the Yankees and had two stints as their manager in 1981 and 1982. He also managed the Cubs from 1986-87 before rejoining New York as an executive. The Yankees named Stick their general manager in 1990 and he held the post until being fired in 1995.

“I am heartbroken by Stick’s passing,” said Brian Cashman in a statement. “He was both a friend and mentor to me, and I relied upon his advice and guidance throughout my career. He did it all in this industry – player, coach, manager, general manager and scout – and his knowledge base was second to none. My condolences go out to his family, friends and all those he touched throughout his lifetime in the game. I will miss him.”

Michael is most famous for being the architect of latest Yankees dynasty. He loaded up on high on-base players before Moneyball made it cool, and he built the dynasty core through the farm system. George Steinbrenner‘s suspension gave Michael the freedom to build the roster as he saw fit, and the result was four World Series titles in five years.

“Gene Michael was not only largely responsible for the success of the Yankees organization, but also for my development as a player,” said Derek Jeter in a statement. “He was always accessible and willing to share his personal knowledge as well as support. He will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family.”

Even after being fired as general manager, Michael remained with the Yankees in various front office capacities, most recently as a senior advisor. He was one of Cashman’s most trusted aids and reportedly pushed hard for the Didi Gregorius trade three years ago. Stick was a brilliant baseball person. The Yankees will wear a black armband on their uniform the rest of the season in his memory.