Mailbag: Sanchez, Williams, Severino, McCann, Headley

Got a dozen questions in the mailbag this week. This is the last mailbag of the regular season, you know. Crazy. Anyway, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send us anything.

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Pete asks: If Sanchez continues to rake and hits, say, 4 more HRs over the last 11 games and the team squeaks into the playoffs, does he get much MVP love? Should he?

Even without the extra homers and the postseason trip, I still think Sanchez is going to wind up with a tenth place MVP vote or two. Twenty-eight different players received an AL MVP vote last season, including guys like Kevin Kiermaier and injured Mark Teixeira. Sanchez getting a tenth place vote wouldn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I kinda expect it to happen.

Now, should he get any MVP votes? Of course not. There is zero argument to be made that Sanchez is one of the ten most valuable players in the AL this season. Heck, you could argue he isn’t even one of the ten most valuable players in the AL East. Sanchez is going to get a ton of Rookie of the Year support and he just might steal the award away from Michael Fulmer. Any MVP love will be the result of the silly down ballot shenanigans we see every year though.

Casey asks: Not that it will happen, and not that I want it to happen, but say the Yankees were to cash in on Sanchez’s high stock right now. What would they get back for him? I know our trade proposals suck, and there probably aren’t many good comparisons out there, but just looking for a rough ballpark.

Now that Buster Posey’s power is slipping, you could argue Sanchez will be the best hitting catcher in baseball as soon as next season. Right? I don’t think that’s completely impossible. It’s either Sanchez, Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, or Yasmani Grandal. Sanchez’s trade value is astronomical because he’s young, cheap, and provides big offense from a premium position. Plus he adds value defensively with his arm.

All of that makes Sanchez one of the most valuable commodities in the game. The list of players the Yankees should be willing to trade him for is short. Mike Trout, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant … we’re talking those types of players. Sanchez plus stuff for Chris Sale has turned into Sanchez for Sale straight up. Quality catchers are insanely valuable. That’s why they get huge free agent contracts and are drafted earlier than expected. Put Sanchez on the market and the Yankees could get almost anything they want.

Michael asks: If Mason Williams has no spot in the Bronx, what might his trade value be? Could he be worth somebody like, for one example, Shane Greene – a busted SP who might have a little untapped potential?

Ben Gamel. That’s Williams’ trade value. Gamel just showed us the trade value of a lefty hitting outfielder who may or may not be much more than a bench player. (Ramon Flores did the same last year.) Williams has far better tools than Gamel and more upside, but the shoulder surgery and relatively short track record of excellence kinda negates that. Generally speaking, there’s not much separating players like this even though their tools may differ.

Using Williams in a busted prospect for busted prospect trade to get a pitcher is probably worthwhile since the Yankees do have outfield depth and need pitching. Trading him isn’t imperative though. Williams could easily end up spending 100 days on the big league roster next season due to injuries, especially if the Yankees trade Brett Gardner. I think Williams is worth more to the Yankees as a depth piece than anything he could fetch in a trade.

Eric asks: Would it make sense to trade Severino for another struggling young starter? A starter like Jose Berrios or Archie Bradley?

This seems like making a move for the sake of making a move. Unless the Yankees are pretty sure Luis Severino is broken for good and will never be a successful starter, trading him for another struggling pitcher seems like more risk than reward. Berrios is talented but he’s had an unbelievably terrible start to his career. I read an article not too long ago — I can’t find it now, unfortunately — that showed almost every pitcher who got off to a start similar to Berrios’ never recovered to have a productive career. Bradley? Eh. I’d take him, Berrios too, but giving up Severino for him is too much. I wouldn’t make Severino untouchable. Not in anyway. But I’m not trading him for a broken pitcher. The Yankees aren’t at that point with Severino yet. He’s not a change of scenery guy.

Liam asks: Ken Rosenthal had an idea on twitter that there should be a Jose Fernandez spirit award where each team nominates a player who has played the game with most enthusiasm and spirit and then pick one of those 30 players for the main award. Hypothetically who would be the Yankees nominee this year?

It was actually Harry Pavlidis’ idea, but more people follow Rosenthal on Twitter, so he got all the credit. Anyway, yeah some kind of award celebrating the spirit and joy in baseball would be a wonderful tribute to Fernandez. Nominating one player per team and then picking one winner, a la the Roberto Clemente Award, would be a great idea. This award has Adrian Beltre written all over it, doesn’t it?

As for the Yankees, maybe it’s just me, but Didi Gregorius seems like the obvious candidate for a hypothetical Jose Fernandez Award. Him or Ronald Torreyes. Didi picking up the 5-foot-6 Torreyes so he can high-five people after home runs …

Aaron Judge Ronald Torreyes

… is one of my favorite things about this season. I’m not even sure who else it would be aside from those two. The Yankees are getting younger, but they’re still kinda boringly corporate, so we don’t have much to pick from right now. Too bad Alex Rodriguez isn’t around anymore.

Tom asks: Assuming McCann is traded and Encarnacion is too pricey, who do like best for primary DH/5th OF out of Beltran/Bautista/Trumbo/somebody else?

Spending big on a DH doesn’t seem like a particularly great idea. Out of those options I’d take Carlos Beltran on a one-year deal, but I don’t even love that plan all that much. The Yankees are going to need to give Sanchez some DH time, plus it wouldn’t hurt to give Greg Bird and Aaron Judge time there too. A rotating DH spot wouldn’t be the worst idea. That creates more playing time for guys like Aaron Hicks, Tyler Austin, Rob Refsnyder, whoever. This free agent class is so bad that guys like Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo are going to get insane contracts simply because there’s nowhere else to spend the money. Big money DHs is not a pool worth swimming in.

Michael asks: How do you think the Ramos injury affects the market for McCann this offseason? He is now better than all of the available free agents.

The Wilson Ramos injury is devastating in multiple ways. The Nationals just lost their starting catcher and best right-handed hitter before the postseason. Ramos was about to hit free agency coming off a monster season, and instead now he’s having his second major knee surgery in four years. Brutal. He was, by far, the best available catcher this offseason.

With Ramos down, the best free agent catchers are Matt Wieters and Jason Castro. I feel like Wieters is going to wind up back with the Orioles — they seem to value him more than anyone else — and Castro … eh. The Ramos injury could definitely open up the trade market for McCann. Teams will no longer have the option to spend money on a superior player. Their options are either trade for McCann or hold your nose with Wieters and Castro. The Ramos injury sucks. In the big picture, it’s good for the Yankees because there’s one fewer alternative to McCann now.

Jackson asks: It seems that another potential landing spot for McCann would be in NY, with the Mets. They are disappointed in dArnaud and McCann would likely not object to a (non) move cross town. Other than the fact that it’s the Mets, why wouldn’t this work? Would a two player return headed by Ynoa and/or Smoker be reasonable?

In theory, yes. The Mets need a catcher because Travis d’Arnaud can’t stay healthy and has gone backwards. Also, Kevin Plawecki kinda stinks. That said, I would be shocked if the Mets took on a $17M a year catcher. Even if the Yankees paid down, say, $7M a year, they still might not go for it. Their rotation is going to get mighty expensive this winter, and they need to figure out second base. d’Arnaud and Plawecki are young enough that sticking with them next season wouldn’t be completely crazy. I think the Mets are too cash-strapped to take on McCann, even at a discounted rate.

Jonathan asks: If The Yankees were to trade Headley this offseason,who would play third?

That’s kinda the problem. Moving Chase Headley in the offseason sounds great — similar to McCann and Ramos, the Martin Prado extension means there’s one fewer third base alternative available — but the Yankees need competency at third base themselves, and I’m not sure who else can give that. I like Torreyes as a bench player. Give him 600 plate appearances as the everyday third baseman and you might get an AVG/OBP/SLG slash line that starts with .2s across the board.

The Yankees’ best third base prospect is Miguel Andujar, and while he had a nice 2016, he’s not someone who makes you say “let’s trade Headley because Andujar will be ready in 18 months.” There’s always the Starlin Castro option, and I do think the Yankees will look to give him time at the hot corner next season. Maybe trade Headley, sign a backup plan like Kelly Johnson, and go with Castro and Refsnyder at third? Eh. That might not work out too well. Listen to offers for Headley. For sure. But trading him likely means a downgrade at the hot corner.

Eric asks: I must have missed something. Where did #YoSoyGary come from? Is there some sort of backstory?

I came from Sanchez himself. On Twitter he signs his tweets with #IamGary and #YoSoGary, and it kinda took on a life of its own. There are even t-shirts for sale now too:

YoSoyGaryTake all of my money.

Michael asks: What’s your opinion on giving Didi an extension? He’s been such an important player for them and he’s only 26, but they do have Mateo and Torres arriving possibly by 2018, not to mention Wade, Holder, Park, etc.

An extension for Gregorius shouldn’t depend on other players in the system. Is he a quality player worth locking up? If the answer is yes, then do it, because at worst it makes him a more valuable trade chip. If down the road you have Gregorius signed affordably and both Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo knocking on the door, great. That’s a wonderful “problem” to have.

Signing Gregorius to an extension now makes more sense than it did a year ago. Last year he had a fine overall season and a very good second half, but we still weren’t sure exactly what he was as a player. Didi broke out this year, especially in the power department, and that’s going to get him paid through arbitration. A 20-homer shortstop with his defense is worth signing long-term.

The only service time comparable I can find is Dee Gordon’s five-year, $50M extension with the Marlins. Gordon had a batting title, two stolen base titles, and two All-Star Game selections to his credit at the time though. Gregorius has none of that. So would something like five years and, say, $40M to $45M work instead? Either way, I wouldn’t let the team’s shortstop prospect depth stand in the way of a Didi extension.

Anonymous asks: The Cubs gave Theo Epstein a 5 year/$50 million extension. What do you think Brian Cashman is worth? And do you think Theo was overpaid, underpaid, or paid the right amount?

Andrew Friedman broke the executive pay scale when he left the Rays for a five-year deal worth $35M with the Dodgers. That was two years ago now, and Epstein has a far more impressive resume, so it’s no surprise he’s getting $10M a year. (Fourth starter money!) I really have no idea whether he is underpaid or overpaid. A smart executive seems tremendously valuable, but there are lots of smart guys out there qualified to run a baseball team. And besides, at the end of the day, the players still have to perform. Executives only have so much control.

As best I can tell, Cashman’s current contract is worth $3M annually, which made him one of the highest paid GMs in the game at the time it was signed. Using the Friedman-Epstein scale, Cashman probably falls into the $7.5M a year range? Maybe even a little higher. Friedman did well in Tampa, but running a big market team is a very different animal, and basically no one pumps out winning teams better than Cashman. The Phillies and Angels and Red Sox have all shown it takes more than money.

Sweep! Yankees pick up 5-1 win over Red Sox but still get eliminated from postseason race

You know, it’s a shame the Blue Jays are still shook from Mark Teixeira bat-flipping the ever-loving crap out of that home run Monday night, otherwise this sweep of the Red Sox would have been so much sweeter. The Yankees won Thursday’s series finale 5-1, but because the Orioles beat the Blue Jays, New York has been officially eliminated from the postseason. Sucks. I can’t say I expect this team to be in it until Game 159 though. The 2016 Yankees were much more fun than the 2013-14 clubs.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Sabathia’s Stellar Season
What a way for CC Sabathia to close out his rock solid and occasionally great bounceback season. The last few years have been tough for him on the mound, and I’m sure personally as well given his battle with alcoholism, yet he was able to put together his best season in four years in 2016. He held the Red Sox to one run — a Xander Bogaerts solo home run — in 7.1 innings Thursday night, giving him a 3.91 ERA (4.28 FIP) in 179.2 innings.

Sabathia started Thursday’s game by striking out each of the first four batters he faced, and never once did the BoSox have multiple runners on base at the same time. There were no sticky situations. No jams. Nothing like that. Aside from the home run, Sabathia didn’t allow a single runner to advance as far as second base. Granted, the Red Sox rolled out a split squad lineup the day after clinching the AL East, but still. They were shut right down.

Hands down, Sabathia’s resurgence was one of the best parts of this 2016 season. He was a warrior for the Yankees all those years, back when they were still going to the postseason every year, so much so that he pitched through hamstring problems and a bone spur in his elbow. All the wear and tear has taken its toll the last few years, but with a new cutter and a clear mind, Sabathia was able to regain effectiveness this year. Well done, CC. You’re still a boss.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Take The Lead And Tack-On
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Starlin Castro‘s double, which drove in Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury walked and stole second earlier in the inning. The BoSox tied things up on the Bogaerts homer, and the score remained 1-1 into the fifth inning. Aaron Hicks popped up a bunt but the Red Sox misplayed it — it fell between Henry Owens and Deven Marrero behind the mound — and Ellsbury made them pay with a run-scoring double.

One inning later, the Yankees turned that 2-1 lead into a 4-1 lead despite not hitting the ball all that hard. Castro singled, Didi Gregorius popped up, Chase Headley walked, and Brian McCann blooped a single to load the bases with one out. Yet another hit with runners in scoring position that didn’t actually score a run. The Yankees have to lead the league in those. In fairness, it looked like the McCann bloop had a chance to be caught before the wind knocked it down in a hurry.

Anyway, Hicks managed to turn a 3-0 count into an unproductive fly ball to shallow right, too shallow to score the run, but Tyler Austin picked him up with a bases loaded walk to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead. A wild pitch by Robby Scott brought home New York’s fourth run of the game. Hicks doubled home McCann all the way from first base (!) in the eighth for a 5-1 lead. McCann chugging all the way around from first was a thing of beauty. It was like third base coach Joe Espada sent him just for the laughs.

Mo! (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Mo! (Mike Stobe/Getty)

The David Ortiz ceremony before the game was well done. Simple and classy. The Yankees gave him a book with personalized notes from their players and others associated with the organization, plus an oil painting of Ortiz at Yankee Stadium. It was pretty nice. Nothing goofy. Succinct and respectful. Lots of cheers too, which kinda surprised me, but whatever.

Tyler Clippard (two outs) and Richard Bleier (three outs) were the only relievers used after Sabathia. Dellin Betances was warming up for the save situation, though he didn’t get into the game once the Yankees tacked on that fifth run in the bottom of the eighth. I’m sure we’ll see Betances again at some point this weekend. Joe Girardi said he wants to get him back out there at some point.

Gary Sanchez hit two loud home runs … just foul. For shame. He officially went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. Yikes. That was his worst game as a big leaguer. Ellsbury had two hits and two walks, Castro had two hits, and McCann had two hits. The Yankees drew seven walks as a team. Sanchez and Gregorius were the only starters who failed to reach base.

And finally, the Orioles did indeed beat the Blue Jays up in Toronto, eliminating the Yankees from postseason contention. Nothing left to do this weekend other than play spoiler. Baltimore’s magic number over the Tigers for the second wildcard spot is three. Winning at least two of three this weekend will be a big help for Detroit.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN is the place to go for the box score and updated standings. has the video highlights. RAB has Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The final series of the season. Hard to believe the season is almost over, isn’t it? The Orioles will be in the Bronx for three games. Yovani Gallardo and Michael Pineda are Friday’s scheduled starters. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for any of these final three games.

Game 159: Alive, But Barely

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

Thanks to last night’s dramatic walk-off grand slam (!), the Yankees remain mathematically alive in the postseason race. They have to win out and the Orioles have to lose out, among other things, but having a chance is better than not having a chance. The Yankees have pulled off some miraculous wins these last few days. Why not a miraculous run to the playoffs?

Also, tonight is David Ortiz’s last ever game against the Yankees — barring a postseason matchup, of course — and thank goodness for that. I’m sick of seeing that guy torment the Yankees. The Yankees are going to have a pregame ceremony for Ortiz tonight, and my guess is it’ll be mostly boos with a smattering of cheers. We’ll see. Here is the Red Sox’s hangover lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C Brian McCann
  8. RF Aaron Hicks
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    LHP CC Sabathia

It is cold and rainy in New York today. It is pretty much everywhere east of the Rockies, it seems. The heaviest rain isn’t coming until the early morning hours though. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Masahiro Tanaka (forearm) threw a bullpen session and everything went fine. He wants to make his scheduled start Saturday, though the Yankees may not let him if they’ve already been eliminated from the postseason race.

The Yankees are getting power from premium positions to make up for their outfield

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

Three years ago the Yankees made a decision to prioritize defense over offense in the outfield. They spent big to sign Jacoby Ellsbury, then a few months later they committed a market value extension to Brett Gardner. Yeah, they also brought in Carlos Beltran to play right field, but the other two outfield spots were occupied to players known more for their gloves and legs than their bats.

Fast forward to today, and things have played out pretty much exactly as expected. Ellsbury and Gardner have declined offensively as they get further into their 30s, meaning their defense is that much more important. Neither is the defender they were three or four years ago either, though I do think both are still comfortably above-average. As planned, it’s defense over offense.

The Ellsbury and Gardner contracts made it clear the Yankees were going to have to get power from their infield, because two of the three starting outfielders weren’t going to hit many balls over the fence. (Ironically enough, Gardner’s power spiked and his 33 homers from 2014-15 were 29th among all outfielders.) That is even more true today, as Ellsbury and Gardner have declined.

Infielders with power — especially middle infielders — can be hard to find, but the Yankees have managed to do it. Didi Gregorius joined the 20-home run club Tuesday night, about three weeks after Starlin Castro did the same thing. The Astros (Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa), Mets (Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker), Nationals (Danny Espinosa, Daniel Murphy), and Rays (Logan Forsythe, Brad Miller) are the only other teams to get 20+ homers from both middle infielders in 2016.

A year ago Didi and Castro combined for 20 homers total — Gregorius hit nine and Castro hit eleven with the Cubs — and now they are able to put up those numbers individually. Sure, Yankee Stadium definitely helps, but these guys are both 26 as well, and entering what should be the best years of their careers. A power spike at this age isn’t uncommon. Also, I’m pretty sure the ball is juiced, so let’s check this out quick:

Castro: 57 ISO+ in 2015, 81 ISO+ in 2016
Gregorius: 50 ISO+ in 2015, 76 ISO+ in 2016

ISO+ is the same basic idea as OPS+. It’s the player’s ISO relative to the league ISO with a park factor applied — I used the handedness park factors at StatCorner — where 100 is league average. Anything lower is below-average and anything higher is below-average.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Adjusting for ballpark and the the increase in power around the league, Castro and Gregorius are still below-average power hitters this season. But! Compared to last season, they’ve both made improvements. Castro essentially went from 57% of the league average power output to 81%. Gregorius jumped from 50% to 76%. There’s real development behind their power. It’s not all Yankee Stadium and juiced baseballs.

In addition to the middle infield, the Yankees are also getting a ton of power from their catchers. In fact, they have two catchers with 19+ homers. Again: two catchers with 19+ homers! That’s pretty awesome. The team’s biggest power sources — catcher and middle infield — are positions not normally associated with power, which is a big positive. Going forward, having Gregorius and Castro up the middle with Gary Sanchez behind the plate will be very nice in terms of dinger expectancy.

The problem this season has been the lack of power from other positions. We knew Gardner and Ellsbury weren’t going to hit many home runs, but the Yankees have gotten very little from first base and DH, the two most premium power positions. When it’s all said and done, the Yankees will (probably) miss the postseason this year not because Dellin Betances blew some saves or Chase Headley had a bad April. It’s because Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez were complete non-factors.

Hopefully young players like Greg Bird and Aaron Judge can help provide some more pop going forward. Right now the Yankees are getting their power from the middle infield and behind the plate, which is a good building block. It’s also necessary because Gardner and Ellsbury aren’t the hitters they once were, and when you have two defense-first players in the outfield, the offense has to come from somewhere else. The Yankees are starting to get that production from elsewhere.

CC Sabathia hopes to remain with Yankees beyond 2017

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Later tonight, in the series finale against the Red Sox, CC Sabathia will make his final start in what has been a rock solid bounceback season. He owns a 4.02 ERA (4.31 FIP) in 172.1 innings overall, which is far better than the 4.73 ERA (4.68 FIP) he had a year ago, or the 4.81 ERA (4.40 FIP) line he had from 2013-15. Couldn’t have asked for more from the big man.

At this point Sabathia’s $25M option for next is going to vest — the only way it won’t vest is if he finishes the season on the DL with a shoulder problem, which is very unlikely — and he’ll be back in the rotation next year. And according to Mark Feinsand, Sabathia wants to continue pitching beyond next season, and he would like to remain with the Yankees. From Feinsand:

“It’s definitely gone by quick,” Sabathia said of his eight years in pinstripes. “I know I want to pitch after next year, but I haven’t thought about where or what. Hopefully it will be here. We’ll see.”

“I feel like this is just the beginning of what I’m trying to do. I feel like there’s a lot more still to learn and a lot better to get. It’s exciting … As long as I’m healthy, I feel like I’ll be able to get big-league hitters out. I’ve proven that.”

There are tangible explanations for Sabathia’s success this season. First and foremost, he’s replaced his four-seam fastball with a cutter, which better allows him to get inside on righties and make them uncomfortable. Righties hit .304/.363/.502 (.370 wOBA) against him last year, and this season that’s down to a much more manageable .258/.326/.398 (.316 wOBA). Huge difference.

Also, Sabathia is healthier this season. He missed some time with groin strain back in May, but that was nothing serious. His arm is healthy and his troublesome right knee has held up, thanks in part to the new brace he’s been using. Sabathia is sober too. We shouldn’t discount that. Addiction consumes your entire life. Sabathia is in a better place mentally and physically than he has been for some time.

This reminds me of the Mike Mussina situation back in 2006. Mussina was 37 at the time and he was clearly no longer the pitcher he was in his prime, but he was still capable and familiar, so the Yankees brought him back on a two-year deal for 2007-08. Sabathia will be 37 next year, and like Mussina, he’s not longer what he once was, but he’s shown this year he can still be an effective pitcher.

Not long ago re-signing Sabathia after next season was complete crazy talk. Now? Well, let’s not completely dismiss the idea just yet. I’m not saying the Yankees should re-sign Sabathia. They’ll have all of next season to evaluate him, after all. If he’s able to repeat his 2016 season in 2017, then yeah, maybe a short-term deal to beef up the back of the rotation makes sense. There’s always a need for pitching and the decision doesn’t need to be made right now.

Either way, Sabathia has been the Yankees’ second best starter this season, and there are reasons to believe his success is not a fluke. The cutter and his health are chief among them. Since his option is going to vest, the Yankees will have Sabathia for next season, and they’ll get to see whether his new approach is something built for long-term success. If it is, bringing him back in 2018 might not sound as crazy as it once did.

David Ortiz is retiring and the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry will never quite be the same

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

Later tonight David Ortiz will play his final game in Yankee Stadium and his final game against the Yankees in general. I speak for scores of Yankees fans when I say: finally! Ortiz has tormented New York for more than a decade now, and he’s responsible for some of the worst moments in Yankees’ history. As Ortiz said in his recent Players’ Tribune article, “Some players are born to be Yankees … I was born to play against the Yankees.”

Like Alex Rodriguez, there seems to be no middle ground with Ortiz. People either love him or hate him. Unlike A-Rod, most folks love Ortiz. Believe me. It’s true. Maybe not in this neck of the woods, but all around the league and the world. People love the guy. Ortiz is affable, charismatic, and he backs it all up on the field. There are superstars like the vanilla Mike Trout, and then there are superstars. Ortiz is a superstar. The total package.

Say what you want about his legacy. Just know Ortiz is going to go down as arguably the greatest DH the game has ever seen and inarguably as one of the most popular players in recent baseball history. Like it or not, the performance-enhancing drug double standard applies to him. Do we like the player? If yes, then ignore the PED issue, which in this case is a failed test as part of MLB’s screening in 2003, the results of which were supposed to remain confidential. If no, then discredit him entirely.

Ortiz has gotten a pass the same way Andy Pettitte has gotten a pass. People like him so they’re willing to overlook things. And frankly, I couldn’t care less. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed watching A-Rod the last 12 years, who am I to judge? Ortiz is having an off-the-charts monster season at age 40, and I think it has more to do with him not having the same wear and tear on his body as a typical 40-year-old ballplayer because he didn’t play the field all those years than anything else. You’re welcome to disagree.

Growing up, I first came into baseball “consciousness” around 1990 and 1991. Somewhere in there. That’s when I started to really understand what was going on and things like that. For the next 13 years or so, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was very one-sided. The 1999 ALCS, the 2003 ALCS, whatever. The Red Sox might win a few battles along the way, but the Yankees always won the war. There was comfort in that.

Ortiz, along with Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez and others, had a huge role in changing that. Back in the late-1990s and early-2000s there was legitimate hatred in the rivalry — hatred among the players, I mean — and that doesn’t seem to exist now. Blame baseball’s parity. It’s not Yankees vs. Red Sox in the AL East anymore. Now each year it’s Yankees vs. Red Sox and the Blue Jays and maybe the Orioles too.

The rivalry was at its best when Ortiz first landed in Boston, and it only added to the rivalry that the Yankees missed out on him. The old story is that George Steinbrenner pushed Brian Cashman to sign Ortiz, though Cashman shot that down earlier this year. Here’s what he told Scott Lauber in May:

“It’s an urban myth,” Cashman said in a phone interview. “Essentially what occurred here was, any time the Red Sox signed anybody, anything that was on ESPN — ‘The Boston Red Sox today announced the acquisition of whoever,’ a free agent, a trade, whatever — George would turn to me and say, ‘Why didn’t you sign him? I’ve always liked him. He better not be any good.’ And I would tell The Boss, ‘You only can have 25 guys on a roster, Boss.’ At that time, we had [designated hitter Jason] Giambi and [first baseman] Nick Johnson. Did George know who David Ortiz was? No, he had no idea.”

Regardless of what happened with Cashman and Steinbrenner, Ortiz is a Red Sox, and he’s made the Yankees miserable ever since. To the rest of the baseball world, he’s beloved Big Papi with an outsized personality and a knack for clutch hits that seems to good to be true. To the Yankees and their fans, he’s a villain, a symbol of when this rivalry stopped being so one-sided.

Is Ortiz going to the Hall of Fame? Of course he is. You can’t tell the story of baseball history and skip over Ortiz. Sorry, but it’s true. And no, Edgar Martinez doesn’t have to get in first. It doesn’t work like that. Their Hall of Fame cases are independent of each other. Ortiz is on the very short list of the best players at his position and he was a central figure in the most successful period of Red Sox history in nearly a century. Hall of Famer. No doubt.

The David Ortiz era of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is coming to an end tonight and thank goodness for that. He’s been a thorn in the Yankees’ side for far too long. Ortiz had a big role in changing the dynamic of the rivalry which, for a while, wasn’t much of a rivalry. The Yankees always came out on top. He changed that. Love him or hate him, Ortiz is an all-time great player and he was a worthy foe these last 14 years. Because of him, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry won’t ever be quite the same.

Yankees 5, Red Sox 3: Mark Teixeira’s walk-off grand slam staves off elimination

Not dead yet! The Yankees were one out away from elimination Wednesday night, but Mark Teixeira kept the season alive with a colossal walk-off grand slam against the Red Sox. How about that? The final score was 5-3 good guys. Amazing. Love this team, you guys.

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

That’s Mr. Mitchell To You
What a way for Bryan Mitchell to close out his season. This was a tough year for him because of the freak toe injury, but in his final start Wednesday night, he held the high-powered Red Sox to two stupid little hits in seven shutout innings. He did walked five and strike out only two, so that’s no good, but hey, seven scoreless innings is seven scoreless innings. This is a start Mitchell can take into the offseason and feel really, really great about.

Mitchell’s biggest jam of the night was self-inflicted. He walked Hanley Ramirez on four pitches to open the fifth, then Gary Sanchez bailed his pitcher out by throwing Hanley out trying to steal. Replays showed Chase Headley, who was over there playing the shift, missed the initial tag, but got Ramirez with a follow-up tag when his foot game off the bag for an instant. Hooray replay! Mitchell then walked Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt, so he walked each of the first three batters in the inning. The next two guys made outs on the first pitch to end the threat.

The seventh inning got a little dicey as well thanks to a leadoff single and a two-out walk, but Joe Girardi stuck with Mitchell and let him work through the mess, which he did. Sandy Leon grounded out weakly to end the inning and Mitchell’s night. All told, the young right-hander pitched to a 3.24 ERA (4.22 FIP) in five starts and 25 innings. He also walked more batters (12) than he struck out (11), and that’s never good. Still, Mitchell can feel pretty good about what he did in these five starts, especially after the dumb toe injury.

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

We can skip over the Red Sox scoring their three runs, right? Mookie Betts hit a two-run chopper over Headley’s head, then a Sanchez passed ball allowed the third run to cross the plate. All three runs came in the eighth inning to break the scoreless tie. I’m not sure we need to relive that half-inning any more than that.

So anyway, the Yankees did a whole bunch of nothing offensively for the first eight innings. They had four baserunners in those eight innings: a single and two walks by Brett Gardner, and a walk by Teixeira. That’s it. The offense couldn’t get anything going on against Clay Buchholz, annoyingly. We’ve seen a few too many games like this, where the bats are completely silent.

The ninth inning rally started with a Gardner single and continued with three straight walks by Craig Kimbrel. The third of those three walks was maybe the at-bat of the season. Brian McCann fell behind in the count 0-2 before working an eleven-pitch walk to force in a run. Sanchez walked immediately prior to that and Kimbrel threw him nothing but curveballs. Didn’t even bother to throw a fastball. The rookie’s getting some respect already.

After the McCann walk, both Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius made quick and unproductive outs. Castro struck out on three pitches and Didi popped up in foul territory. Those two aren’t the most disciplined hitters in the world. The Yankees were down 3-1 with two outs after that, though the bases were loaded. Then Teixeira did this:

“I hope this was my last home run. I really do. That was incredible. These fans. I love you guys,” said Teixeira during the on-field interview with YES after the walk-off grand slam. What an awesome moment. I can’t stop thinking about Teixeira yelling “blow save!” at Jason Grilli from the dugout Monday night after that ninth inning homer. He’s been doing a lot of save-blowing of late. (Phrasing!)

I wonder if Teixeira will sit out the last four games of the season so he can go out with the walk-off grand slam as his final act on a baseball field. Probably not, but who knows. That was a pretty awesome moment. Did you know this is his first ever regular season walk-off homer? Crazy. He had one in Game Two of the 2009 ALDS, but never before in the regular season. Go Tex.

Adam Warren was charged with all three runs, but only one was earned because Castro made a bad error to allow the leadoff runner to reach base. It was a soft ground ball right to him, and he just bobbled it. Pretty bad. Tommy Layne, Jonathan Holder, and James Pazos all pitched in this one too. Pazos picked up his first career win, so congrats to him.

The Yankees had three hits total (two Gardner singles, Teixeira grand slam) and also six walks, including three in that ninth inning. They didn’t have a runner reach third base until the final inning. Gardner (two), Jacoby Ellsbury, Sanchez, McCann, and Teixeira drew the walks. Not much offense, but timing is everything is in this game, so it was enough to win.

The Orioles beat the Blue Jays, which means the Yankees’ tragic number is down to one. One more loss or one more Orioles win knocks New York from playoff contention. Here’s what needs to happen these next four days:

Yankees go 4-0 (one vs. Red Sox, three vs. Orioles)
Orioles go 0-4 (one vs. Blue Jays, three vs. Yankees)
Tigers go 1-3 or worse (one vs. Indians, three vs. Braves)
Mariners go 2-2 or worse (four vs. Athletics)
Astros go 2-1 or worse (three vs. Angels)

If all of that happens, the Yankees and Orioles will tie for the second wildcard spot. That’s the best the Yankees can do at this point. They can’t win the second wildcard spot outright. It’s a Game 163 tiebreaker or bust.

The win was the 82nd of the season for the Yankees, clinching a winning season for the 24th (!) straight year. The 1926-64 Yankees had a winning record in 39 straight season, which is bonkers. If the Yankees keep this current streak going and match that 39-season streak, Gary Sanchez will be 38 when they get there. Geez.

And finally, the Red Sox clinched the AL East title because the Blue Jays lost, but you know what? They clinched in literally the worst way possible and they didn’t get to celebrate on the field at Yankee Stadium. I’ll take it.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go on over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, then for the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the amazingly awesome win probability graph:

Up Next
The Yankees will look to finish the sweep Thursday night against a presumably hungover Red Sox team. CC Sabathia and fellow lefty Henry Owens will be on the mound. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any of the other three games left this season.