What getting Cliff Lee means to the Yankees

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Off the top of my head it would mean a few things:

  • The Yankees would have too many starters: Lee, Sabathia, Pettitte, Hughes, Burnett and Vazquez. The obvious solution would be to trade Vazquez, and indeed, Buster Olney’s been beating that drum for a while.  The prospect of the Yankees not only getting the best starting pitcher this summer but also peddling a very valuable starting pitcher for even more useful parts has to be pretty sobering to the Rays and Red Sox.  Olney suggests the Phillies, who are in the market for a pitcher, but there are any number of possibilities.
  • While Lee in New York would obviously up the Yankees’ already considerable chances to repeat as World Series champions, one wonders if this move isn’t a bad thing for them long term. We’ve heard much about Jesus Montero’s stuggles behind the plate, but the fact is that he is the Yankees’ most promising hitting prospect in years.  With A-Rod, Jeter and Posada growing older, offense may be scarce sometime in the next couple of years (relatively speaking). The fact is that the Yankees could have waited until this winter to get Lee while still keeping Montero (or at least trading him for a bat) while still remaining a strong contender for the title.
  • Which gets at my beef — however limited it is — with this deal.  It’s kinda gilding the lily, ain’t it? However great a deal this is in the short term, the Yankees didn’t really need this.  That’s not their problem — the minute they stop trying to do everything within the realm of the possible to win is the minute they stop doing their job — but this does strike me as a bit excessive, with some risk, however minor, of hurting their competitive position in the long term.
  • Of course, if the Yankees trade Vazquez for a youngish
    bat or if one of their non-Montero catching prospects is gold, it might not
    matter.
  • Final thought: if the Yankees get Lee for prospects who aren’t missed and then turn Vazquez into a useful bat, doesn’t that make Brian Cashman the GM of the year?  After all: those aren’t mere money moves. Those moves —
    going back to getting Vazquez from the Braves — are all trades that (a) vastly improved the Yankees’ competitively speaking; but (b) were also trades that most any team could have
    made
    but didn’t. Lee and Vazquez werent/aren’t outrageously overpriced at the time they were acquired. Montero may be great, but he isn’t a prospect of a quality that is singular to the Yankees.

Fascinating deal in many, many ways (if it goes through).  My comments earlier this morning about there being “an uproar” don’t reflect my own personal feelings. I have questions about it, but hey, go with God, Yankees.  I’m still guessing there will be a lot of “rich get richer” disgust out there, but there’s a lot more going on here than all of that.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images
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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.