Another series, another series win. That’s what the 2019 Yankees do and I can’t tell you how good it feels to see consistent separation from .500 for their record and increased separation from the Rays and Red Sox in the AL East standings.
Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees’ on the first of four scheduled off days in June.
1. The AL East is now a two-team race. The Yankees took out of three from the Red Sox over the weekend to eliminate them from the division. If you’re thinking, “It’s June 3!” or “There’s over 100 games left!” then think about this math.
The Yankees are 38-20 and have 104 games left. The Red Sox are 30-29 and have 103 games left. If the Yankees were to play .500 baseball the rest of the season (52-52), they would finish with 90 wins. The Red Sox would have to go 60-43 just to tie them in that scenario. But the Yankees aren’t going to play .500 baseball over 104 games. Not when they’re about to get Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances and eventually Luis Severino back. Let’s say the Yankees played .600 baseball for the rest of the season (and they will most likely play even better). They would finish 100-62, the Red Sox would then need to go 70-33. Like I said, the division is over for the Red Sox.
So now the Yankees can focus on the team I have said all season long they need to worry about: the Rays. It’s between the Yankees and Rays for the AL East and the loser of the two will end up in the wild-card game. I can’t take a fourth wild-card game in five years.
2. DJ LeMahieu is the closest thing the Yankees have had to Derek Jeter since Derek Jeter and the “DJ” is a great coincidence. His contact approach at the plate is refreshing as he’s now batting .311/.361/.450 and his Gold Glove defense in the field, especially at second base, is astonishing. After a few years of Brian Roberts, Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson, Rob Refsnyder, Starlin Castro and Gleyber Torres as a rookie, you forget just how good second base defense looks.
I’m sure LeMahieu will get screwed when everyone is back and sent to near the bottom of the order, so Aaron Hicks can bat leadoff for reasons I will never understand. But for as long as LeMahieu continues to bat at the top of the order and play everyday, I will enjoy watching him.
3. It’s obvious the Yankees are going to keep treating Aaron Hicks like he’s Bernie Williams, even if he’s never really done anything to deserve the kind of treatment he gets. Hicks continues to bat second or third or fourth in the lineup, ahead of someone like Gleyber Torres, based off a couple good months in 2017 and 2018, and when everyone is back, I’m sure they will put him in the leadoff spot. That’s what this team needs: more at-bats for Hicks!
Here is how I would fill out the lineup card when everyone is back:
Here is how Aaron Boone and the Yankees front office (since no one knows who actually manages the team) will most likely fill out the lineup card when everyone is back:
4. The Clint Frazier in right field experiment needs to end. If Frazier is going to play right field like he’s drunk then he better have an OPS around 1.000. With two more misplayed balls on Sunday night, one of which was downright embarrassing, the Yankees have to have seen enough to keep putting him out there. If you want Frazier’s bat in the lineup then he either needs to play left field where he is less of a disaster or be the team’s designated hitter. Fortunately, Frazier’s miscues against the Red Sox didn’t lead to any runs which weren’t going to score anyway with the way Luis Cessa was pitching, but at some point he’s going to single-handedly lose the Yankees a game out there if they let him.
5. Luis Cessa isn’t good. The only reason he’s on the Yankees is because he’s out of options, and for some reason, the Yankees are scared to lose him. Sunday night was a perfect situation for him with no lead to protect, just a deficit to not let increase. He didn’t get any defensive help from Frazier in right field, but the balls Frazier misplayed were still going to be hits. Here was Cessa’s night as he faced nine batters and retired only three of them:
After pitching well for most of April, Cessa has reverted back to the same old guy the Yankees are unsure what to do with. Cessa isn’t good enough to start, he’s not overpowering or trustworthy enough to be a back-end reliever and now he’s proven he’s not really a long-man either. So he’s a mop-up duty guy? Since April 29, he’s allowed earned runs in five of nine appearances and his ERA and WHIP for the season are now 4.72 and 1.425 WHIP. It’s time to give someone else a chance in Cessa’s “role”. If the Yankees try to pass him through waivers and he gets claimed, so be it. Maybe another AL team will pick him up and the Yankees can get some of the runs back against him in a future matchup to make up for all the runs he has given up as a Yankee.
6. CC Sabathia had his routine trip to the injured list for his ongoing knee issue and returned to start against the Red Sox on Sunday night. His line: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 K. It was actually better than I expected from Sabathia against the Red Sox, considering their right-handed heavy lineup.
A “quality start” is all I ever expect from Sabathia at this point and it’s more important he gets the additional three outs and refrains from only getting through five since it’s clear the Yankees are going to avoid using their elite relievers at all costs.
7. I’m not sure when I will stop mocking anyone who thought Gary Sanchez should be benched in favor of Austin Romine or anyone who wanted to trade Sanchez for J.T. Realmuto or any other player. I don’t think I will ever stop giving it those fans and I don’t think I should. They deserve it.
Sanchez now has an AL-leading 18 home runs and a .995 OPS and his defense is back to being what it was prior to 2018. He showed off his cannon-like arm on Friday night, picking Eduardo Nunez off at second base for an important out just when it looked like J.A. Happ might blow the Yankees’ two-run lead.
Sanchez is amazing and I’m glad everyone is remembering that now after last season.
8. Chad Green will most likely never return to his 2017 self, but the Yankees are going to keep giving him chances to.
Green has now had three scoreless outings in a row (3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K) following an opener and two relief appearances. The late life on his fastball has reemerged in those outings and he looks to betting the swings and misses he got two years ago. I still don’t trust him and I won’t for a while after what he was saw through his first 15 appearances this season. But he seems to be headed in the right direction, and the better he gets, the less chance there is of seeing Holder in a high-leverage situation.
9. I have always thought Alex Rodriguez was OK at in-game analysis and much better at studio analysis, but after Sunday night’s performance, he’s no longer even OK at in-game analysis.
In analyzing the idiotic baserunning which ended the Yankees’ fourth-inning threat, A-Rod said, “I love that play by Aaron Boone.” No one knew if it was even a play or a missed sign or Torres just nonsensically taking off for second, which then forced Hicks to take off for home, but it took the bat out of Frazier’s hands with the tying run on third base and two outs. If it was a play, it was ridiculously dumb, and shouldn’t be praised.
Later in the game, A-Rod credited the Red Sox for putting pressure on the Yankees and Alex Cora’s team approach to hitting for the balls Frazier misplayed. There was no pressure involved and no special hitting approach which led to Frazier misreading two balls as if he were playing right field in a Central Park beer league.
A-Rod needs to be in the studio where he has time to prepare and explain why something happened. When he’s on the spot, his answers are rather out there.
10. My May expected record for the Yankees was 17-12, but after a couple rainouts, they only played 27 games, going 20-7, three wins better than I asked for.
My expected record for them for June is 15-11. They are already 1-1, so they need to go 14-10 to match it. That would give them a record of 52-30 after the London trip.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is available!