The State of the Yankees

Leave a comment

Joe Girardi had his annual beginning-of-spring-training news conference yesterday. Marc Carig of the Star Ledger was there. The highlights:

  • Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson are the top
    candidates for the second slot in the order. I’d probably just plug Johnson and his uber-OBP into that slot, but I assume that Girardi is at least a minor devotee to the “you can’t clog the basepaths” school of thought. My guess is that Granderson is there against right-handers and Johnson there against lefties.
  • Girardi said he’s not going to go crazy pitting Hughes against Joba from the beginning of camp. Rather, he’s going to let them ease into things. Ultimately he wants to make his choice for the fifth starter’s slot decided by March 25th, but if it isn’t it isn’t.  I get the feeling that absent one of them simply throwing bullets in an unprecedented fashion, each of them are going to see some time starting this season. Whatever the case, I’m having a hard time getting excited about this competition. I want Joba to get a clear shot because I think he has more upside, but they’re both good pitchers and these things have a way of sorting themselves out.
  • Granderson and Gardner will both get looks in center and left and Girardi may shift Granderson back and forth during the season.  Based on how many “Granderson is open to playing left field” stories we’ve seen in the last week, however, one gets the sense that the decision has already been made. Girardi says it may turn on who can play left better. Which the cynical side of me sees as a way of saying that Granderson “won” the LF job instead of saying he was moved off of CF. Not that Granderson seems like the kind of guy whose ego needed tended or anything.
  • Girardi is not concerned about the team growing complacent after winning the World Championship.  I realize no one ever knows what goes on in someone’s head, but can anyone point to a team that truly did grow complacent after winning a championship?  These guys are all pros and work hard. Winning a championship is really, really difficult. Things happen. “Complacency” always strikes me as a post-hoc rationalization for why a team fails to repeat. OK, maybe the 1979 Pirates if you count doing mountains of cocaine “complacency” but we’re in a very different era now. Everyone’s in camp more than a week before they have to be. Most guys work their tails off.
  • Girardi is happy that Alex Rodriguez can just focus on baseball and be a leader now. What a difference a year makes. Remember when people were saying that the Yankees would be better off with Colby Rasmus Cody Ransom [whoever] at third as opposed to “A-Fraud?” In other news, absent a 200 point dip in team batting average, I think Mark McGwire will be OK pretty soon.
  • Carig also did something cool: he asked Giradi questions people suggested to him on Twitter.  Sadly, he did not ask the one I suggested to him, which was asking Girardi if he thinks that the 1961-63 Yankees’ success was due to Ralph Houk being at the helm. Marc said I’d have to ask him that one myself when I get down to Tampa in March.

How much ya gimme?

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.