Yankees Fans (Photo: NBC 10)

Yankees Season: “It Gets Late Out Here Early” (Yogi Berra)

The Yankees offseason raised the bar, jumping straight to October before Game One. Now, the struggle to get there seems interminable…

You’ll recall those sweet days during the winter when the Yankees projected starting lineup looked like this and Las Vegas was chomping at the bit to proclaim the Pinstripes as the de facto winner of the 2019 World Series:

Brett Gardner (LF)
Aaron Judge (RF)
Aaron Hicks (CF)
Giancarlo Stanton (DH)
Gary Sanchez (C)
Miguel Andujar
Gleyber Torres (2B)
Luke Voit (1B)
Troy Tulowitzki (SS)
Luis Severino (SP)

Twelve games into the season (5-7 record) and the starting lineup for the Yankees will include only four of those nine players, and the prognosis for the Bombers fielding that team on the same day during the 2019 season decrease exponentially as days and weeks go by. To boot, of those four, Sanchez is already banged up, after sitting out Wednesday’s game because of “tightness” in his lower leg.

Update: Friday 4/12 3:11 PM The Yankees have placed Sanchez on the 10-day IL

To the Yankees credit, they are doing their due diligence with each player who has landed on the Injured List (IL), and no one will be pushed back until they are “ready”, as pronounced by the team, not the player.

Which leaves Aaron Boone in the unenviable position of spinning the upside of injured players like Andujar who is “playing catch” now…tell ya what…see for yourself…

The Yankees Can Count Their Blessings

The good news for the Yankees, of course, is the Red Sox are mired in last place with a 3-9 record with their ace, Chris Sale, tossing up breaking ball after breaking ball, having “lost” the action on his fastball. Last year’s savior, Nathan Eovaldi, has no decisions in two starts and sports an 8.10 ERA. David Price has yet to win in two starts, and their bullpen is up to par as expected – terrible.

Trouble exists, however, with the Tampa Bay Rays who don’t seem to understand that a small-market team with a total tax allocation payroll of $88 million should not be in first place in the AL East and looking like they can stay there.

Hal Steinbrenner & Brian Cashman - Blending Perfectly Photo Credit: The Captain's Blog
Hal Steinbrenner & Brian Cashman – Blending Perfectly Photo Credit: The Captain’s Blog

Unless Hal Steinbrenner releases his general manager, Brian Cashman, from their agreement not to exceed this year’s luxury tax team payroll threshold of $207 million, help is not on the way. Dallas Keuchel, in previous Yankees “Steinbrenner” years, would already have two starts as a mainstay following Masahiro Tanaka in the rotation. Not a peep out of the Yankees in 2019, though.

Compounding the Yankees problems is that it’s too early for teams to consider trades of their top players before the team’s season is lost. That doesn’t mean a call to the Orioles asking about Chris Davis won’t get you an immediate sign on the dotted line response. Again, to their credit, that’s not the Yankees.

Instead, these Yankees are a team already dedicated to weathering the storm, with an eye towards playing .500 or slightly better baseball to the All-Star Break in Mid-July. So, let’s go with that, and let’s see what we have. And before we go there, remember there’s a fine line between being negative versus being realistic…

It’s More Than Injury Problems

James Paxton is not yet the pitcher he was in Seattle, spinning a no-hitter and full of confidence in his pitches. Much like Giancarlo Stanton in his first year with the Yankees last year, there’s a cultural learning and comfort curve when a new player wears the Pinstripes for the first time. Thus the question – will Paxton need a full season to reach the solace of playing in New York? It appears as though he might.

Greg Bird - The Long Walk Credit: New York Post
Greg Bird – The Long Walk Credit: New York Post

Second, with one home run and one RBI and a .214 batting average, has Greg Bird reached the end of the line with the Yankees? And if he has, isn’t there a team out there that Brian Cashman can find who might overpay for the “potential” Bird’s backers in the Yankees brass are still hawking? If he can (find that team), the time is now when the team is relatively down to settle that ongoing problem.

Third, players returning from injury more often than not create more of a problem for the team than when they were missing from the lineup. “Rehab” is overestimated and nothing can replace facing live pitching for a position player, or “real” major league hitters for a pitcher.

Whether it’s Hicks, Andujar, Stanton, Gregorius, or Severino, if his season isn’t eventually shut down, weeks, not days, will be needed for each to find themselves again. Their return will provide a lift to the team mentally, but not necessarily any immediate and visible production to help the Yankees.

Yankees – Stay In The Moment Of Today’s Game

In sum, it’s up to the 25 players occupying lockers in the Yankees clubhouse now, with no anticipating the return of this player or that player. Because while Miguel Andujar is “playing catch” and working his way back, there are three games this weekend against the lowly Chicago White Sox that the Yankees at full strength should sweep.

Clint Frazier in Spring Training
Clint Frazier in Spring Training Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, Gio Urshela, recently called up reliever Stephen Tarpley, and now, CC Sabathia is filling holes, previously not on the whiteboard in Brian Cashman’s office when the season began.

It’s almost to the point where it becomes overwhelming from the standpoint as a general manager tasked with the responsibility to provide replacement players for all those injured. But it could be the Yankees and Brian Cashman have decided not to panic, letting the home-grown players mentioned above take the reins, from here to eternity, if necessary.

Frazier and German, in particular, are more than holding their own, even though we shouldn’t kid ourselves that German matches up with Severino and Frazier with Stanton.

Besides, how much fun would the 2019 season be if Las Vegas odds held true and the Bombers reeled off another 100+ win season while roaring to their 28th World Championship – uncontested?

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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