Monday Mail: April 22, 2019

The Yankees are an unbelievable 11-10 despite nearly their entire lineup being on the injured list

A week ago, the Yankees had just lost two of three to the White Sox after getting swept by the Astros and the Red Sox were coming to town. Now the Yankees are winners of five of six, back over .500 at 11-10 and headed to the West Coast for 10 days. Not everything is rainbows, sunshine and butterflies though. Aaron Judge is the latest Yankee to go on the injured list and the lineup the Yankees are using every night is essentially a Triple-A lineup.

This week’s questions and comments revolve around those injuries as well as the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and what’s going on with J.A. Happ.

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Remember when Aaron Hicks was only going to be out for the weekend during spring training? – Marc

So looking forward to the next seven years of the glass man.  – Andy

Jacoby Hicks – Rich

That extension doesn’t look super great. – Mike

When Aaron Hicks first got hurt in spring training, it was reported he would miss a few days as a precaution and that it wasn’t anything serious. Then it was reported he might not be ready for Opening Day. Then it was reported he would be ready for the first game of the second series of the season on April 1 against the Tigers. It’s now April 22 and Hicks isn’t back despite him saying this past week that he’s been 100 percent for a few weeks. How is a player at 100 percent and not close to coming back? Then again, we’re talking about an organization which claims they weren’t aware of their 25-year-old ace’s lat injury at the same time as his shoulder inflammation. The same ace who started warming up five minutes before Game 3 of the 2018 ALDS.

Prior to the season, I set the over/under on games played in 2019 for Hicks at 145, which would allow him to miss 17 games. He has already missed 21 games and according to Brian Cashman on WFAN on Monday, he’s not close to returning. We all knew Hicks was injury prone before he received a seven-year, $70 million extension, but this is really out of control.

You hope to God that what he’s saying to the media is 180 degrees from what he’s telling the team. They look uninspired, unfocused and are making rookie mistakes on the bases, field and at-bat. – Greg

This was in response to Aaron Boone’s postgame press conference last week following another loss to the lowly White Sox. Boone said, “I really do think we’re in a sound place as far as our focus, our energy, our expectation when we walk through those doors.”

The Yankees were 6-9 at the time Boone said that, having just lost two of the three to the White Sox to fall to 3-6 at home to teams expected to finish in last place.

Since the series loss to the White Sox, the Yankees took both games against the Red Sox and three of four from the Royals to finish their homestand at 6-3 and climb back over .500 to 11-10. Winning cures everything, and for now, Boone can say whatever he wants because his Triple-A lineup is getting the job done. Let’s see what happens with a now Aaron Judge-less team going across the country to play the Angels, Giants and Diamondbacks.

Trust me I’m a Yankee fan and I’m happy when we win but talking smack about the Red Sox should be few and far between because they have won four world championships in the last 15 years and they eliminated us last year. Let’s get real Yankee fans. Let’s just be grateful and not talk smack . That’s a good team and organization. They rival us but they’re just as good as we are. – Nick

I won’t be saying anything about the Red Sox until the Yankees win a championship. The Yankees haven’t reached the World Series in what will be a decade this fall, let alone win the World Series, and since their last championship, their seasons have ended the following way:

Lost 4-2 in ALCS to Rangers
Lost 3-2 in ALDS to Tigers
Lost 4-0 in ALCS to Tigers
Missed playoffs
Missed playoffs
Lost AL Wild-Card Game to Astros
Missed playoffs
Lost 4-3 in ALCS to Astros
Lost 3-1 in ALDS to Red Sox

The Red Sox might have several last-place finishes and missed postseasons in that same time span, however, they also have two World Series and one playoff rout of the Yankees to their name.

I enjoyed Boston’s 6-13 start as much as anyone, and it was good to see essentially a Yankees Triple-A pull off a two-game sweep of the Red Sox last week in New York, but we’re a long, long way as a fan base from being able to trash talk and criticize the Red Sox.

As long as the Yankees can tread water until their healthy everything will fall into place and will be in the playoffs, Boston’s on an extended World Series hangover and will come around but I hope not, right now the Yanks need to string together some series wins and get above .500, Tampa Bay doesn’t seem to lose and the Yanks can’t win there but I hope that changes this year. – Mark

Tampa finally started losing at the same time the Yankees started winning. The Yankees were able to pick up three games on the Rays over the weekend, and miraculously, they are now only 2 1/2 games back in the AL East. (I’m still more worried about the Rays than the Red Sox this season.)

The Yankees are missing their starting catcher, shortstop (and the backup shortstop), third baseman, left fielder/designated hitter, center fielder, right fielder, best starting pitcher and best relief pitcher. It’s actually unbelievable they are 11-10, having won five of their last six games. The lineup they are putting together would be a bad spring training lineup and they are being forced to use it in real games. Luke Voit batting second? Brett Gardner in the 3-hole? Mike Tauchman hitting fifth? A combination of Mike Ford, Kyle Higashioka, Austin Romine and Tyler Wade at the bottom of the order?

The Yankees are going to face an enormous test over the next 10 days with this nine-game West Coast road trip, featuring a lineup with two players (Voit and Gleyber Torres) who were supposed to be everyday players in 2019. The goal right now is to tread water and still be within striking distance when the regulars get back.

The problem now is no one really knows when any of the regulars will be back outside of Gary Sanchez, who is due back this week. The Yankees have botched so many consecutive injury timetables that now they are refusing to say when anyone will come back. Something needs to be done about this debacle internally since this is now the second straight season of players returning long after they were expected to.

Move Happ to the pen. – Mike

J.A. Happ has made four starts since Game 1 of the ALDS — a game he lost three batters in — and they have all gone poorly. His best start of the season was his last start against the Red Sox, in which he allowed three earned runs and two home runs in 6 1/3 innings, getting past 4 1/3 innings for the first time this season.

Happ’s line for the season? 18.2 IP, 25 H, 15 R, 15 ER, 6 BB, 17 K, 6 HR, 7.23 ERA, 1.660 WHIP. (I feel dirty after typing that.)

After the Yankees let Patrick Corbin sign with the Nationals, it was obvious Happ would be returning to the Yankees. He pitched well for them in the second half last year before laying an egg in the playoffs against the team they for him to match up against, and as part of the second tier of available starters (the bargain bin), his asking price was perfectly in line with Hal Steinbrenner’s penny-pinching ways. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for, and the Yankees have a 36-year-old left-hander who relies on his fastball, and they have him for the next three seasons.

I’m sure the Yankees would sign up for three earned runs over 6 1/3 innings (4.27 ERA) from Happ every start, since when healthy, the offense should win in that situation most times. But right now, the offense is a flat-out disaster, and the Yankees need Happ to be better, much better, than he has been.

Happ will pitch the first game of the nine-game road trip on Monday, and the Yankees can’t afford to kick off this West Coast swing with Happ going four innings and destroying the bullpen.

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My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!