Game 25: Finish the Sweep

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

The Yankees have won 12 of their last 15 games, and everything they’ve done well during those 15 games has been on display in the first two games of this series with the Red Sox. They’ve hit for power, they’ve gotten good starting pitching, the defense has been sound, and the bullpen has been impenetrable. Nice recipe, that is.

Does that mean this squad is without flaws? Of course not. But do they look better than the 2013-14 teams? Hell yes. At least I think so. Tonight’s game is a chance to sweep the Red Sox in Fenway Park, and while winning two of three in any series is a good outcome, I’m greedy. I want to sweep. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Adam Warren

It was a lovely day in Boston, clear skies with temperatures in the upper-60s, and the weather tonight will be just as good. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05pm ET and can be seen on ESPN. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Brendan Ryan (calf) suffered a hamstring injury during his rehab work, Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon. He’ll be shut down for at least a week.

DotF: Pirela doubles three times and Judge goes deep

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 win over Charlotte)

  • DH Jose Pirela: 4-5, 3 R, 3 2B, 1 RBI — 12-for-33 (.364) with five doubles and a homer in eight rehab games
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 1-5, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-5, 1 RBI, 1 SB — 14-for-34 (.412) during his eight-game hitting streak
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — second homer in three games
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Branden Pinder: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 6/2 GB/FB — 47 of 80 pitches were strikes (59%)
  • RHP Jose Ramirez: 2 IP, zeroes, 5/0 GB/FB — eight of 14 pitches were strikes (57%) … only eight strikeouts in 15.1 innings this year, which is a little weird

[Read more…]

Cashman confirms Yankees aren’t planning to pay A-Rod’s home run milestone bonus

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

On Friday night, Alex Rodriguez helped the Yankees to a series opening win over the Red Sox with a pinch-hit homer, the 660th of his career. That tied Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list and triggered the first of five $6M milestone bonuses in A-Rod‘s contract. It’s actually not his player contract — it’s a separate marketing agreement.

We’ve heard the Yankees are “confident” they can get out paying the $6M bonus because A-Rod’s performance-enhancing drug issues have rendered the milestones unmarketable. Prior to Saturday’s game, GM Brian Cashman became the first team executive to go on the record and say the Yankees do not intend to pay the bonus. From Dan Martin:

“We’re going to follow the contract, as we follow all contracts, so there is no dispute, from our perspective,” Cashman said before the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 4-2, at Fenway Park, a day after Rodriguez’s landmark home run. “We’re going to honor our responsibility of the contract. We have the right, but not the obligation, to do something.”

“It’s not, ‘You do this, you get that,’ ” said Cashman, referring to specific numbers automatically triggering bonuses. “It’s completely different. It’s not all of a sudden we’re choosing not to do something.”

A portion of the marketing agreement was broadcasted on YES on Saturday. Here’s what it says:

“It is the sole discretion of the New York Yankees to determine whether each of these milestones is commercially marketable as the home run chase. … The Yankees have the right, but not the obligation, to determine whether it’s a commercially marketable milestone.”

I’m no lawyer, I have no idea how likely it is the Yankees will be able to get out of paying the bonus. A-Rod will inevitably file a grievance and the union will back him — “The union would challenge any breach of contract with the union. A player can’t be punished again for something he’s already been punished for,” said an MLBPA source to Martin — because they don’t want to set a precedent by letting a team void an agreement with a player.

The marketing agreement between A-Rod and the Yankees calls for $6M bonuses when Rodriguez ties Mays (660), ties Babe Ruth (714), ties Hank Aaron (755), then ties (762) and passes Barry Bonds (763) on the all-time homer list. As good as he’s looked so far this year, I don’t think we can safely assume Alex will reach the second milestone bonus before the end of his contract.

I can understand why the Yankees want to save the $6M — it’s actually $9M since the bonus would be subject to the luxury tax — but as an outsider it looks sorta petty. (Obviously $9M is a ton of money though, even to the Yankees.) Last I looked, the Yankees are still selling A-Rod shirts and merchandise in the team stores at Yankee Stadium, which indicates they think he is at least somewhat marketable.

I dunno, things seem to be going well between the Yankees and A-Rod right now. This feels like an unnecessary battle, like the Yankees are holding a grudge.

Al’s War

Remember Disney’s “Hercules”? I recall seeing it in theaters as a kid and liking it because, hey, funny talking satyr voiced by Danny DeVito. On merit or accuracy to the actual Hercules myth, I doubt it holds up any, if at all. Regardless, a major plot point in the cartoon’s progression is that young Hercules has all this talent and strength that should be admired, but his bumbling personality and pervasive awkwardness thwart his efforts at appreciation and acceptance. Sound familiar?

About 2,000 years after Hercules, the Yankees were gifted, thanks to a big contract and the player’s union, a similarly talented and equally awkward star in Alex Rodriguez. In that decade-plus, he and the Yankees have been through euphoric highs, lamentable lows, and just about everything in between. Even before he came to the Yankees, this shifting dynamic defined A-Rod’s image. His image was variable: built up, torn down, redeemed, sullied again. Now, it looks like we’re on redemption part two. And surely next year, there will be yet another title to hoist upon Rodriguez.

To paraphrase “Field of Dreams,” the one constant through all the A-Rod years has been interest. Love him, hate him, we can’t stop talking about him. And I loathe to do this, but I can’t help but compare him to Derek Jeter, another figure we couldn’t stop talking about for 20 years, though for other reasons.

Despite more recent criticisms of his fielding and batting order position, the vast majority of Jeter discussion was positive, if empty. He was lauded, applauded, cheered, and revered. But, generally, he was boring as hell and in retrospect, perhaps a bit aloof in an untouchable way; it’d be impossible for anyone to reach that status. Rodriguez, meanwhile, has run the gamut as the Grantland piece demonstrates. He’s been deified and vilified; he’s been cheered and booed. He’s done all the right things; he’s done all the wrong things. He’s been warm and open; he’s been distant and unaware, awkward and aloof in an entirely different way than Jeter was. Like the young Hercules, Rodriguez’s aloofness and awkwardness tended to stem from trying so hard, almost too hard, to want to be loved and adored by his fans. With the possible exceptions of his actions leading up to/during his suspension, none of Rodriguez’s faults and miscues were malicious. He wanted to always do and say all the right things and be the hero in all the big spots and never let anyone down, but it didn’t play out that way; baseball hardly ever does. Still, he is a student (and teacher) of the game and in love with it in ways that we as fans hope players are and he’s managed to somewhat reinvent himself at an advanced age, showing he can still do it despite sitting out a year.

Ultimately, he and Jeter are among the best in history at what they do (or did in Jeter’s case). At times, though, Rodriguez has done it while being more flawed and nuanced than Jeter ever was. In that way, he appears more real to us, more relatable. Perhaps that is why we’re so drawn to him. We love stories and narratives, especially complex ones that we can examine and mold to any extent we desire. The Rodriguez narrative, even in 2015, is ever-evolving and hardly follows a straight path; it offers us just what we tend to like in narratives. No matter if you have rooted for him from day one or have been skeptical of him from the get-go, it’s impossible to deny that nothing regarding “Al From Miami” is ever easy or straightforward. But that’s what makes Rodriguez so relatable. Complex stories like his tend to be the most fascinating ones to follow because they’re real. Like our own lives, there’s no script for Rodriguez to follow here. The only thing we know with certainty as Rodriguez’s story wraps up over the next two and a half baseball seasons is that this last part of his journey will be just as unpredictable as his story so far.

DotF: Capuano goes four innings in first rehab start

IF Abi Avelino has been promoted from Low-A Charleston to High-A Tampa, the team announced. He hit .301/.341/.398 (115 wRC+) with 16 steals in 20 games for the River Dogs.

Triple-A Scranton (10-4 loss to Charlotte)

  • 2B Jose Pirela: 3-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — 8-for-28 (.286)
  • CF Slade Heathcott & 2B Rob Refsnyder: both 2-5
  • LF Ramon Flores: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 3-5, 1 K — threw a runner out at second
  • C Austin Romine: 0-4, 1 K, 1 PB
  • RHP Jaron Long: 3 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 44 of 74 pitches were strikes (59%) … Triple-A has not been kind to the former hitting coach’s kid
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1 K — four pitches, three strikes
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1/0 K/BB — 26 of 37 pitches were strikes (70%) … multiple runs allowed in each of his last three appearances

[Read more…]

Saturday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for this lovely Saturday evening. Definitely one of the nicest weather days in New York so far this year. The Mets are playing tonight and FOX Sports 1 is showing the Reds and Braves. There’s also some NBA postseason action going on as well. And I guess there’s some boxing match going on too. Talk about whatever you like right here.

Eovaldi, Gardner, and Betances help Yankees to 4-2 win over Red Sox

Source: FanGraphs

Another series, another series win. The Yankees took the second game of their three-game series with the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon, beating Boston 4-2. My real quick research tells me the Yankees have won five straight series for the first time since September 2012. They’ve won 12 of their last 15 games overall. Baseball is fun! It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon, so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Offensive Outfield: Outfielders drove in all four runs Saturday. Chris Young hit an insurance solo homer in the top of the ninth, and earlier in the game Brett Gardner capped off two rallies with run-scoring hits. Didi Gregorius led off the third with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch, then scored on Gardner’s double to left. The fifth inning rally started with two hits and a sac bunt to move the runners up. Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out sharply to first and the runner at third had to hold, but Gardner picked him up with a clutch two-out, two-strike single to left. Brett’s now hitting .319/.405/.420 (135 wRC+). Very nice.
  • Easy Nate: Two runs in 6.2 innings at Fenway Park? That’ll do just fine. Nathan Eovaldi was hit hard in just one inning Saturday — three hits and one run in the fourth — and gave the Yankees exactly what they needed, specifically taking the ball relatively deep into the game. Two of the seven hits allowed were infield singles and it wasn’t until his pitch count was over 100 in the seventh that he walked a batter (last man he faced, actually). Eovaldi used his breaking ball well once the lineup turned over and got a lot of weak pop-ups. Nice outing for Nate.
  • Bullpen Machinations: It was a little curious when Joe Girardi sent Eovaldi out for the seventh and straight up weird when Justin Wilson was allowed to face Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval with a one-run lead in the eighth, but Joe always has the big picture in mind and it’s clear he was trying to get Andrew Miller some rest. Chris Martin allowed an inherited runner to score in the seventh, Wilson sandwiched a walk to Hanley between retiring David Ortiz and Sandoval, then closer du jour Dellin Betances struck out all four batters he faced for the four-out save. Hooray bullpen depth. (Aside: Holy moly Girardi does not trust David Carpenter, huh?)
  • Leftovers: Gardner was thrown out at third trying to stretch his third inning double into a triple, and I’m totally fine with it. Be aggressive and force Hanley to make a play … everyone in the lineup had at least one hit except for 4-5 hitters Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann … Young had two hits (homer, double) and now has six doubles, six homers, and eight singles on the year … Chase Headley lost a pop-up in the sun but otherwise the Yankees played really solid defense. No highlight plays or anything, but man, they caught everything. Very clean game, all the plays were made … and finally, here’s the pitch location for the Wilson-Sandoval at-bat in the eighth. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the plan was to get him to chase high heaters.

Here’s the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees will look to complete the sweep of the Red Sox on Sunday night. Adam Warren and Joe Kelly will be the generically named pitching matchup.