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

The New York Yankees had a 21-8 record on the month in August. It seems odd therefore, given that this was far and away their strongest month of the season, that I remain unconvinced about their potential to reach the post-season

On one hand, the vast majority of those wins came in consecutive games, when the momentum and positivity was spinning out of control. On the other hand, once that winning sequence was broken, they lost the four remaining games of the month – against the Oakland Athletics (a potential challenger for the New York team for a wild card spot) and against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who went into their series with the Yankees below .500 on the season.

It is an interesting conundrum and it will be very interesting to see what September brings. Boston have remained in contention. Toronto are fast improving. Oakland will need to sort out some of their issues but could still challenge for a wild card spot and Seattle have also come into the reckoning.

The Yankees would need to maintain something like their August record to challenge the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL East division lead, which, frankly, I can’t see happening. This means that any two of five could capture the wild card route to the playoffs. The Yankees of August could do it. The Yankees of July will not.

Let’s see what happened in August-

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

The Yankees 14-9 record in July was due in no small part to their pitching. Their record improved after the All-Star break. They were 9-5 afterwards, 5-4 before.

The Yankees brought in two new pitchers at the trading deadline – Andrew Heaney (SP) from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Joely Rodriguez (RP) from the Texas Rangers but neither of them made their debut for their new club before the end of July.

Heaney was traded for minor leaguers, Janson Junk and Elvis Peguero (both right-handers). Joely Rodriguez may be more of a make-weight, as there is no question that the Yankees main target in the trade was outfielder, Joey Gallo. The players who went in the opposite direction were right-hander pitcher, Glenn Otto and infielders Josh H.Smith, Ezequiel Duran and Trevor Hauver.

In addition, they had added Clay Holmes (RP) from the Pittsburgh Pirates on the 26th of the month in exchange for Hoy Park and Diego Castillo. A curious move saw relievers Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson join the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for a player to be named later. It was no surprise that the Yankees wanted to offload Wilson because the veteran has struggled all season long but giving up Cessa who has had a solid year and been with the Yankees for a number of years when they weren’t particularly targeting anybody in return is strange.

Let’s look at the pitchers who play in July, beginning with the starters…

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

The New York Yankees seemed to begin to turn a corner in July and their results improved – particularly in the second half of the month.

It is difficult to analyse exacly why but strangely the results started to improve when many of their first choice roster members became unavailable and were replaced partially by untried players and partially by journeymen, perhaps spotting one final opportunity to breakthrough.

Some of those regulars were unavailable because of conventional injuries. Others were forced into isolation by positive Covid tests which hit the roster in ever-increasing numbers.

On the face of it, having to subtract Aaron Judge from the selection of available outfielders and add in Greg Allen, who in four previous stints in the Major Leagues (with Cleveland and San Diego) had managed to hit around .230, was not a recipe designed for success – but somehow the energy and enthusiasm of the new faces seemed to work.

Let’s survey the statistics of the offensive players in the month of July…

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Your Jest is Earnest… I familiarly sometimes do use you for my fool and chat with you.

What: The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

When: July 21 and 22, 2021

Where: The Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company

William Shakespeare’s play “The Comedy of Errors” is a better play than many believe and the Royal Shakespeare Company current production of it is better than I expected…

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

The world of baseball pitching began to be shaken up in late-May and early-June as MLB announced that it would be checking the hats, gloves and belts of pitching staff during games.

Rumours had begun to spread about the use of a substance called Spider Tack which was allowing pitchers to get a better grip on the ball and consequently increases spin speeds. Players like Josh Donaldson of Minnesota became very vocal in their criticisms of pitchers including, for example, the New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole.

Now, there have been allegations like that. There also been suggestions that spin speeds for certain pitchers have dropped since the announcement of the rule-enforcement may have caused some pitchers to relearn their craft but so far that’s all we know.

So as we examine these statistics for the month of May, let’s consider those pitchers whose performance seems to have varied most dramatically – but I’ll go no further – the jury is still out – and we may never really know.

Here’s the stats for the whole team and then we’ll begin with a closer analysis of the starting rotation:

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

The New York Yankees were a mess in June. You don’t have to take my word – no less luminaries than Brian Cashman and Giancarlo Stanton agree with me and the language they used was far less kind than mine.

Their record for the month was 12 wins and 14 losses. They lost 5 of the last 6 games in the month. At one point, they lost 7 of 9.

Their roster is full of batters who hover around the Mendoza line (.200). There are others who appear way beyond their sell-by date. Let’s survey the team’s performance on the month:

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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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Passion and Betrayal – Bob Dylan – Tell Tale Signs reassessed

(This article is an expanded version of a review that I wrote when this album first came out. I was really unhappy about the way that the magazine, who commissioned me to do it, published it. They changed the title. They printed it in a way that removed paragraph breaks and they made editing changes to it without consultation. Needless to say, I stopped freelancing for them shortly afterwards. I revisited the article, originally just with the intention of restoring it to the way it was meant to be but then as I read it and listened to the music, I figured perhaps there was more to say. It concentrates on the spiritual and faith-based references in Mr Dylan’s lyrics but touches on other matters too.)

“Those old songs are my lexicon and prayer book.  All my beliefs come out of those old songs, literally, anything from `Let Me Rest on that Peaceful Mountain’ to `Keep on the Sunny Side.’ You can find all my philosophy in those old songs. I believe in a God of time and space, but if people ask me about that, my impulse is to point them back toward those songs. I believe in Hank Williams singing `I Saw the Light.’ I’ve seen the light, too.”

This was Bob Dylan speaking in 1997 – a period which provides 11 songs on his 3-disc set “Tell Tale Signs” (10 out-takes from his “Time Out of Mind” set and 1 live recording).

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Nad Sylvan – An Interview with the Vampirate

(And so as part of my ongoing project for this difficult period, on the day following my Bob and Hilary James interview https://twilightdawning.com/2020/05/22/bob-and-hilary-james-they-are-flesh-and-blood/, I was able to interview Nad Sylvan. As well as being an artist in his own right, Nad is the lead singer with the band led by ex-Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett).

(In the following conversation, NS denotes the comments of Nad Sylvan, and DH those of Darren Hirst)

DH: Thank you for making some time for me today in these strange circumstances. How is the weather with you?

NS: It’s very cold. It’s only like six degrees. it was up to 15 last week with sun, and you know, scattered clouds. But it’s pleasant enough. And we get to make a huge bonfire tonight because on this date every year it’s called Valborg. When we celebrate spring and we’ll all light a bonfire – the only day in the spring that we’re allowed to do that. I have a load of dead wood ready to go.

DH: Well, we’re in the middle of a thunderstorm at the moment in London, so if you hear any strange noises in the background that’s the explanation…

NS: Okay, cool.

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