Off Day Dreaming: Yankees Keep Finding Ways to Win

The Yankees have their issues, but that hasn't slowed them down from opening a big division lead

The Yankees are the hottest team in baseball, having won 11 of 12, and have opened up their lead in the division to seven games in the loss column over the Rays and 10 games in the loss column over the Red Sox. The Yankees are a good weekend in London and a bad Rays weekend from being set up to coast to their first division title in seven years.

The Yankees are off for the second straight day today and then again on Monday. They will then play six straight before the All-Star break. After the All-Star break though, they will play 38 games around one off day. The dog days of summer are about to be here, and the Yankees have set themselves up to make it a relaxing summer, one in which they won’t have any chasing to do for the first time in a long time.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees on this off day as usual.

1. Giancarlo Stanton retuned to the Yankees on Tuesday, June 18. The Yankees then gave him the Wednesday, June 19 game off and the Sunday, June 23 game off as well. He still got hurt. It’s just another example of the extra, unnecessary rest the organization feels the need to instill, which prevents nothing. Injuries happen and there’s nothing you can do about them. Somehow, the Yankees still haven’t figured this out.

Stanton slid into third base, got his hand spiked by a cleat and ended up on the injured list with a PCL strain in his knee and is now out until at least August. Another odd injury in what has become a long list of odd injuries for him this season, a now lost season.

If you’re a Yankee and you get injured, expect to go on the injured list. Aaron Boone said the tests on Stanton’s initially-diagnosed knee contusion “were good” only for his knee contusion to become a PCL strain.

If Stanton were to come back on August 1, which he won’t, there will be 55 games left in the season at that point. If he were to play in every game, which is impossible since there are already two doubleheaders scheduled along with all the extra unnecessary rest he will receive, he would finish the season with 64 games played (his nine games played so far plus the 55 remaining games). But Stanton isn’t going to come close to playing in 64 games this season and the Yankees would be lucky if he finished the season with 54 games played, the equivalent of one-third of the season.

Stanton will come back sometime in late August since Brian Cashman said, “I would say it’s safer to look into August,” when asked about his return, and because we know of the potential setbacks or maybe inevitable setbacks is a better phrase to use when talking about Stanton, I don’t see him coming back before August 15. When he does come back, he will be inserted into the middle of the order and will be asked to return to the height of his abilities in only a few weeks times leading up to the postseason.

After Stanton’s performance last October and what’s gone on with him this season, he can’t afford to be swinging-and-missing his way out of the batter’s box down the stretch and again in the postseason, and the Yankees can’t afford it either. He won’t have much time to get back into a groove and make sure that doesn’t happen, if he’s not back until late August, and I don’t like where this is all headed.

2. The Yankees are in London and Clint Frazier is in Triple-A. The Yankees have decided using Brett Gardner as an everyday player, which has gone as bad as expected this season, and letting Mike Tauchman, who doesn’t belong in the majors, serve as the fourth outfielder is better than having Frazier on the roster.

Cashman cited Tauchman’s defense as the reason why he’s on the team for the London trip, saying, “This ballpark has a lot of foul territory. The corner would be be best served with having somebody that can really go get the ball and go a long way.” Does that mean Tauchman might actually start or play in this series? I sure hope not.

Cashman also said Frazier isn’t being punished for taking three days to report to Triple-A after being sent down.

“His send-down was tougher than most because of how good he performed here and how much he helped this club. If he needed the extra time to process being the odd man out, I was OK with that personally. It had nothing to do with him not being selected coming here.”

If the Yankees already had their roster set and departed for London prior to knowing Stanton would need more than just the two off days to recover from his knee injury, then these decisions make a lot more sense. But if Frazier isn’t on the 25-man roster on Tuesday when the Yankees return to play the Mets at Citi Field, then we’ll know the truth.

3. This latest Stanton injury could possibly save Frazier’s Yankees tenure. I still think the team is going to move him in a deal for starting pitching after botching better money-only pitching options, but the Yankees might be forced to keep Frazier now.

Gardner can’t play every day. He can barely play as a role player. He’s a near automatic out at the plate, and in the field, it’s obvious he’s not what he once was, with his arm looking like it left him in the offseason. Sure, he can play this weekend against the Red Sox, but after Monday, the Yankees play six straight heading into the All-Star break and then after the All-Star break, they play 38 games with one day off. There’s no way the team can think Gardner or Tauchman is going to be in the lineup for those games.

Stanton has proven he’s both prone to injury and doesn’t heal quickly. An August return seems reasonable for a PCL strain, but no one would be surprised if August become late August and late August became September. The Yankees have a capable everyday player in their system with Frazier, and maybe, just maybe he won’t be dealt for starting pitching.

4. The more James Paxton sucks, the better the chances are the Yankees make a rash decision for starting pitching at the trade deadline. And nearly every start, Paxton sucks.

Wednesday was Paxton’s 13th start of the season and for the sixth time he failed to go five innings and for the 10th time he failed to go six innings. I was one of the fools who thought his back-to-back starts against the Red Sox and Royals in April were him turning a corner, but since then he’s pitched to a 5.35 ERA in eight starts and has landed on the injured list once. Paxton hasn’t been any different as a Yankee than he was as a Mariner: a left-handed starter with lights-out stuff who can never seem to put it together consistently.

I have no idea how the Yankees have been able to build a seven-game lead over the Rays in the loss column and a 10-game lead over the Red Sox in the loss column with their replacement lineup for the first two months of the season coupled with their disastrous rotation. Outside of Masahiro Tanaka right now, which Yankees starter does anyone feel good about? Paxton? No. CC Sabathia? No. J.A. Happ? No. The opener combination of Chad Green and Nestor Cortes? No.

The Yankees are going to go out and get at least one starting pitcher and then hope Domingo German comes back and performs well and that Luis Severino might even come back at some point too. The Yankees, as currently constructed, are built to win in the regular season since most of their games are against teams not even trying to be competitive, but they are hardly built for the postseason, and that’s what this is all supposed to be for.

5. I love DJ LeMahieu. How can you not? Expected to be somewhat of a super utility player despite being a two-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and former batting champion, LeMahieu went from being on the bench on Opening Day to becoming the Yankees irreplaceable leadoff hitter. LeMahieu leads the league in hitting with a .336 average, is three home runs shy of his his season-best total (15) with 82 games left, has a .385 on-base percentage, rarely ever strikes out, and on top of all that, he has played first base, second base and third base. I have said before he is essentially Derek Jeter at the plate and after a few years of watching too many strikeouts from the team and too many home run-or-nothing players come through the organization, LeMahieu is a breath of fresh air and as fun to watch hit as anyone on this team.

6. Edwin Encarnacion has been bad in his small nine-game sample size with the Yankees. Sure, he’s hit three home runs, which is what the Yankees got him to do, but he’s batting .152/.263/.455 in pinstripes. I thought he was going to come over to the Yankees and immediately go off the way so many other veterans have once they put on the pinstripes, but I guess it’s going to take Encarnacion a little time to get going. That’s not a problem since the team is winning and has gone 8-1 in the nine games he has played, but he’s going to hit somewhere in the middle of the order because of his career and reputation, so it would be good if he hit like someone deserving of his lineup spot and not like Kendrys Morales.

7. Speaking of Morales, I feel safer now that he’s no longer a Yankee. Knowing he was still part of the organization and looming on the injured list with a chance to return and unfairly take a roster spot from an actual worthy major leaguer made me fearful. But now Morales is gone and I and all Yankees fans don’t need to worry about seeing his bat-only game (minus the bat) in the lineup and a few weak groundball outs in every game he plays. Morales finished his Yankees tenure batting .177/.320/.242 with a home run and five RBIs in 19 games. He was every bit as bad as his .562 OPS suggests he was and I have to think the Yankees were his last chance in the majors. At least he provided the Yankees with a 3-for-5 day on June 11 in what will likely be his last major league game.

8. I don’t think I have to tell anyone how ecstatic I was for Jonathan Holder to be sent down. Thankfully, the final straw for Holder came in a game win which the Yankees still won, and he didn’t cost the team yet another game in the standings on his way out.

My dislike of Holder isn’t really his fault. He’s not very good and he’s used in spots in which a relief pitcher who is actually very good should be pitching. That’s not Holder’s fault. It’s not his fault the front office and Boone feel he’s capable of pitching in high-leverage situations, and it’s not even Holder’s fault when he blows leads or loses games. He shouldn’t be allowed to. He should pitch when the Yankees are up by a lot or down by a lot and have little to no chance of blowing the game or winning the game. If he were used the way his abilities say he should be used, I would have no problem with Holder. Unfortunately, for the second straight season, the Yankees asked him to be a pitcher he’s not, and now he’s in Triple-A, where he can’t ruin anymore games.

9. Holder realizes he deserves to be sent down and everyone knows he should have been sent down a long, long time ago before it ever got to this point. Green was sent down three weeks into the season and is much more established and has a much better career resume than Holder. But Holder has to be wondering, like everyone else, how Luis Cessa is still a Yankee.

The answer is: options. Cessa is out of options and the Yankees would have to pass him through waivers to remove him from the 25-man roster. So because the Yankees are worried about one of other 29 teams claiming Cessa, they continue to roster a pitcher who has no role, but does have a 5.11 ERA to go along with his 4.79 career ERA. Cessa has pitched in 22 games this season and has allowed runs in 11 of them. Every other time he comes out of the bullpen, he’s giving up runs and many times, they come as a result of a home run, which he’s now allowed eight of in 37 innings.

For as bad as Holder has been, Cessa has been worse and worse for a long time. But for some reason, the Yankees are scared they might lose him.

10. The Yankees began June 4-8 and are now 15-9 in the month. My expected record for them this month was 15-11, which seemed impossible a couple weeks ago, and now they can’t do any worse than it.

I will gladly sign up for one win in London this weekend, which would keep the Red Sox 10 games back in the loss column and take two more games off the schedule, and more importantly, two more games between the two teams off the schedule.


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