The New York Yankees in May – Part Two – The Pitchers (2021)

As previously noted, the New York Yankees have not had the start to the season that they expected in 2021. However, it is the start of the season that they deserved. With the season a third complete, they finished May at 29-25 and in third position.

Instead of hoping to win the American League East, they are more likely to be targeting the second wildcard spot and only then if their bats begin to do their work.

In May, their pitching was less culpable than the batting line-up in adding to their woes.

Let’s survey the strengths and weaknesses of the players who took the mound:

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The New York Yankees in May – Part One – The Batters (2021)

The New York Yankees finished April at 12 wins – 14 losses and in 4th place in the 5 team American League East. For a team who were expected to dominate the division, things clearly were not going to plan. Noises were made about Kyle Higashioka becoming the first choice catcher and Gary Sanchez being seen much more often warming the bench. Tyler Wade and Wandy Peralta were added to the active roster. One or two things seemed to be falling into place.

By the middle of May, the team sat in second place with a record of 22-17. That’s 10-3 over that period.

And then things began to turn again. Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton and Rougned Odor had headed to the injured list. As a partial balance, 1b Luke Voit (last season’s leading home run hitter) was back.

But things were still not going the way the guys from the Bronx wanted. The second half of the month went 7-8 and the Yankees closed out the month with a run of 4 losses

Let’s see who was struggling and who was holding their own:

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The New York Yankees in April – Part Two – The Pitchers (2021)

The Yankees used 6 starters and 1 “opener” in April. It is fair to say, in that regard, it was a very mixed month. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. We’ll come to that in a moment.

They used thirteen relievers in total. Nick Nelson was used both as the one time opener and a reliever. Those who were solid out of the bullpen were pretty consistent.

There were those who bounced between the major league roster and the alternate training site. Most peculiar of these was Michael King who was excellent but couldn’t seem to do enough to rise in the pecking orderabove those who were struggling.

Let’s survey the whole of the pitching part of the roster:

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The New York Yankees in April – Part one – The Hitters (2021)

Well, it’s so wonderful to have baseball back at something approaching normal. The crowds allowed to attend are limited but isn’t it great to hear games being played with real crowd noise – we are not there yet but we are taking steps in the right direction and it is so heartening.

So, the time comes to survey the Yankees first month. The picture is not pretty but with so many players under-performing there is so much scope for growth – so, let’s not sink into the slough of despond just yet, even with the Boston Red Sox sitting pretty at the top of the division.

It is fair to say we wouldn’t have expected that anymore than we would have expected one of the Yankees’ roster to have retired from MLB in the first month of the season. We closed out the month at 12-14 and in fourth place but given they spent 8 days on the bottom spot, at least the trajectory is in the right direction,

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Red Sox Take American League East – at Yankee Stadium

Who: New York Yankees

What: versus Boston Red Sox 

Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York

When: 18 to 20 September 2018

Well, surely the Yankees – after their disappointing series loss against Toronto – couldn’t bounce back and manage to win the series against Boston — and still allow the Red Sox to clinch the AL East in the Bronx? Well, if anyone could, these contrary Yankees could. Read on…

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In New York – Third Game

September 30th 2009
Yankees Vs Kansas City Royals
@ Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York

Joba rules! We’ve lived with them for the last two seasons. Designed to ensure that the young pitcher of the New York Yankees develops into the star we all KNOW that he can be. Mmmm…….  Tonight after lots of late season restrictions the training wheels came off and Chamberlain was given his head to show what he could do in a game on which nothing depended. And we all sat there and squirmed……. And hoped that this was just another off night and tried to avoid the conclusion that they’ll never make a starter out of this guy. But, trust me, this was dreadful.

Joba Chamberlain pitched 3 and 2/3 innings for 3 runs, and even more worryingly 7 hits and 4 walks. He couldn’t find the strike zone and I would have to say that he was lucky to get off so lightly. He was replaced before the end of the 4th inning by Alfredo Aceves. Now this guy didn’t make the rotation back on opening day and has never really been considered as an option for the starting rotation in 2009 but tonight he looked like twice the pitcher that Joba appeared to be. Aceves pitched two innings and if it wasn’t for the fact that the Yankees’ bats had gone to sleep, we would have been right back in it.

Of the batters, only Jeter produced anything of note. Two hits, one a home run and also a walk before he was lifted for Jerry Hairston in the late innings for a game the Yankees didn’t seem to think they could win but in which they were only one run behind.

The late innings relievers, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera were as overpowering and untouchable as they have been for most of the season but the Royals’ bullpen was just as effective and the Yankees ran out losers, 4-3.

So the last home game of the stand raised more questions than answers and Chamberlain hoping that he could some way edge onto the post-season roster and re-gain some of the ground he has lost.

In New York – 2nd Game

September 29th 2009
Yankees Vs Kansas City Royals
@ Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York

The Yankees are paying AJ Burnett an awful lot of money. After this game he was giving a rousing round of applause for 6 and a 1/3 innings during which he only gave up one earned run. The problem is that from where I was sitting he looked lucky. I kept waiting for the moment when there would be a series of hits and Kansas would then take him apart but it never came. I don’t know why. The problem is that I don’t think it was because Burnett was overpowering so much as that Kansas are a weak hitting side.

The post-season is at hand and the Yankees biggest flaw is their starting pitching – the one thing they spent most of last off-season trying to fix. Sabathia has been consistent (although I wasn’t know to know at this point he was only a couple of days away from one of his worst starts of the season). Burnett has had a poor second half after a solid opening to the season. Pettitte has been good for one good performance in every two. Chamberlain has spent half the time looking like a starter who would make a good reliever which is ironic since he is a good reliever who we are trying to make into a good starter. It is good that we don’t need a fifth starter in the playoffs.

We’ll see what comes. We could be brilliant, we could be embarrassing.

Tonight, we got away with it.

In relief, Phil Coke pitched reasonably well but made some bizarre decisions in fielding and dealing with runners on base – leading to the unearned run that was credited to Burnett. David Robertson looked as good as anyone coming back from injury at this point of season could have done. Brian Bruney removed 4 of the last 6 batters (1 hit, 1 walk) and has been busy playing himself back into contention for a playoff roster spot.

Offensively, we didn’t have much to offer. Teixeira carried us and fan-favourite Nick Swisher added a home run which was just enough for a 4-3 win.

Before the game I visited the Yankees museum (which is excellent) and Monument Park (which, ironically, in this more spacious ballpark is a little too compact). I really must do this more often.

In New York – 1st Game

September 28th 2009
Yankees Vs Kansas City Royals
@ Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York

Last time I arrived in New York, the newspapers were full of stories about how Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, had benched secondbaseman Robinson Cano. Cano had failed to show sufficent effort in his fielding work resulting in Girardi subsituting him immmediately and deciding not to select him for the next game.

This time, Cano fielded like the guy we also knew he could become and hit a grand slam home run to add the power  the Yankees needed to gain their insurance runs.

Oh and all this happened in a completely different stadium.

What else was notable?

Before our journey if I’d have predicted which game I was sure the Yankees would win during our visit, then I’d have gone for the game of the 29th. Burnett looked a possible winner, Chamberlain (due to start on the 30th) can be brilliant on his day. I’m still not sure why we signed Chad Gaudin (who was scheduled to start tonight). We had Sergio Mitre to be an indifferent fifth starter, why did we need another?

At least, the Yankees rule against beards meant that Gaudin couldn’t re-grow that thing he used to sport on his chin when he was with the Cubs. But beyond that I’ve found it hard to think of anything that has come out of him joining the Yankees up until this point. Tonight, he pitched 6 2/3 innings for 4 hits and 2 runs. Now he wasn’t outstanding but he held his ground and kept the Yankees in the lead. I don’t expect to see him on the post-season roster or back in the Bronx in 2010 but he’s good enough to get a job elsewhere.

Cano picked up his 49th double and 26th home run. Jorge Posada got to first base safely in every one of four plate appearance.

Oh and the Yankees collected their 101st win of the season.

This is all the more oustanding because it was their 59th win since the All-Star break. Amazing!

So a 8-2 win for this game, roll on tomorrow

Back in the U.K.!

Well, this time it was a bit of a flying, compact visit to New York but it was well worth the travelling time and the jetlag I’m now suffering back in London. During the time we were there we spent time in four of the five boroughs and attended three games at the new Yankee Stadium. It was a painful experience to see the old Stadium closed up, fenced off and derelict but some people struggle to respect history. Strange to think the last time I was there was in the frivolity and joy of the last game ever held there – now the life has moved across the road into a site which has more comfort, more space but lacks the originality of architecture and atmosphere and the ghosts of great games gone by. Where the new stadium has true class is where it has chosen to echo the old. Let’s just say it’s nice and I’ll get used to it and leave it at that.
Over the next few days I’ll be posting some thoughts about the games we saw and then a summary of September and what I thinks the Yankees chances are in the post-season.

Final Night at Yankee Stadium

So how was the final night at Yankee Stadium, Darren? Well, I’m back in London and feeling very jetlagged so I might as well gather my thoughts and write them down.
A few days earlier I’d arrived early at the Stadium in order to have a final mooch around Monument Park. That night they closed the line into the park five minutes after the Stadium opened and I didn’t get in. So when they said that they were opening the park at 1.05 pm for a game that didn’t begin until 8.05, I wasn’t going to fall for it again but I did want a good long time to soak up the atmosphere so I arrived in the Bronx about 3. There was a guy on the Stadium gate announcing that Monument Park was already closed – no surprise there – but I decided to go in anyway get myself a hot dog and see what was happening. So I moved forward and presented my ticket. The attendant ran it through his swipe machine – and said there was a problem and that I should go to the "Will Call" window. Mmmmmmm…… I began to worry. But confident that all would be well, I walked round to Will Call. The woman there told me that the season ticket holder who had sold this to my ticket broker and then gone on and re-issued it to himself which is technically very out-of-order but meant that the ticket belonged to him and not to my ticket broker and consequently, no to me. Now, life is beginning to look very grim. Tickets for this game have been changing hands for $20,000 – $70,000 so I’m not about to head to a scalper. Looks like time to head back to Manhattan and settle back to watch the game on TV.
I’m waiting on the subway station when the fog of misery lifted enough to decide to ring my ticket broker who is a good guy and whose fault this wasn’t. I checked my cellphone and found that I hadn’t brought the number with me from the UK. Even bigger crap. Decided to ring my mate, Graham, in London, who is a pastor, only to find he was still at church taking service. Tried my sister in Yorkshire, who didn’t even know I was abroad and, lo and behold, she went on the internet and found a number.
Dialled the number. No answer. Ansaphone message but crucially giving me his mobile. Rang the mobile. No answer. Left a desperate message. Rang again. Still no answer. Mentally gave myself a cut off time that I was going to give back up and decide to do something more fun than sit in a subway station. ……… And then the phone rang. Broker Tim sounded very concerned and said he would call back which he did. Ten minutes later, call he did, and said he’d found a alternate ticket. Amazing. All I’d need was some photo I.D. and it would be at Stub Hub to collect. Only one problem….. my only photo identification, my passport, was in Manhattan and I was in the Bronx. Oh, okay, says Broker Tim, I’ll see what I can do to sweet talk them and get them to break their own rules and give it you without. Somehow or other, he pulled this off and ten minutes later – still only 4 o’clock – I was in the Stadium.

So my own personal crises aside, what else happened? Well, there was marching bands and a whole bunch of guys in the outfield dressed to appear as the 1923 starting line up. There were the greats of years gone by – those who are still in this world and didn’t have another game to be involved in this night. There was Reggie Jackson, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Yogi Berra, Moose Skowron, Bobby Richardson, David Cone, David Wells, Don Larsen, Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph and a cast of many, many more. There were the sons, daughters, and wives of those who died young. Crowd going crazy and joy unconfined for the devoted baseball fan. So much to see and do that the beginning of the game was definitely going to be at least half-an-hour late. Film and sounds and heroes.

When the game did actually begin, the Yankees were struggling behind a sub-par performance from Andy Pettitte. He gave up two early runs and Waters was pitching well for the Orioles and to be frank the Yankee bats seemed a little over-awed by the occasion. This really had been the story of all the games I had been too. Starting pitching which didn’t look up to the task and the bullpen to the rescue. The problem with this was it had stretched the resources of the ‘pen to the limit and several of the guys had gone out to the mound several nights on the trot.

And then it happened. Remembering where they were the Yankees came to life. Unlikely singles from Matsui (0-for-16 in recent at-bats), and Molina were followed by a home run from Johnny Damon. Pettitte gave up a third run but a two-run homer from Jose Molina (only his third home run of the season and it turned out to be the last ever fence-clearer at Yankee Stadium) in the bottom of the fourth restored the lead.
And then to the bullpen. Veras, Coke and Chamberlain once more delivered the goods. By this time the Yankees had extended their lead to 7-3. And then everyone was on their feet. Enter Sandman once more pumped from the public address. Rivera coming in from the bullpen. Field of Dreams, indeed.

The rest of the night produced laps of honour, speeches from Derek Jeter and more plays of Frank Sinatra’s recording of "New York, New York" than I could count or care to remember.

All this and in bed for three in the morning. Great, great night.