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Less Than Half

by Ed Botti

July 21, 2022


Photo by Yahoo Sports

As the Yankees prepare to kick off the second half of this 2022 Season (not really, they played 92 games already) they have far exceeded many people’s pre-season expectations (including yours truly). I have no problem admitting to you that back in March and April I did not see a 64-28 record at the All-Star break.

On the surface, there is not a heck of a lot to complain about, right? Not too many Bronx cheers to serenade the boys of summer!

We have been gifted with many “walk off wins”, a six game stretch of near no hitters from the starters, a few surprise performances, and of course number 99 betting on himself by turning down an 11th hour big contract extension, and going out there and practically dominating the League.

We saw them get no hit.

We saw them pull Matt Carpenter off the scrap heap and play his best baseball in years.

We saw them somehow survive losing Gary Sanchez.

We saw Manny Bañuelos finally wear pinstripes.

“IKF” became part of our daily vernacular.

We watched Nestor Cortez and Jose Trevino become an All Stars.

We learned that Tim Anderson and Josh Donaldson will not be exchanging Christmas cards.

Gleyber Torres is back to being himself now that the ridiculous shortstop experiment is over.

Miguel Andujar still can’t make this team, despite showing us all that he is healthy and can now play the outfield.

We saw the Reds’ Jonathan India single against the Yankees the second time he hit the ball on the same swing.

We saw Clay Holmes become a big time closer.

It’s been a pretty interesting team, for the most part, to watch so far.

The record speaks for itself.

It seems like years ago, but on April 15 the Yankees lost a 2-1 game to the Orioles and their record stood at a pedestrian 7-6.

Since that game they have gone 57-22. An astounding stretch of .721 winning baseball!

Of course, the obligatory comparisons to the 1998 Yankees started to hit the air waves, internet, and print.

Photo by Heritage Auctions

All misguided comparisons. As much as I like this 2022 team, I am sorry to bust a few bubbles, but the 1998 team was at a completely different level.

But, no need for me to harp on that, it is just a pet peeve of mine. That team was special - head to toe. Not a single player on that team took a pitch or an at bat off from Any Pettitte’s first pitch on Opening Day in Anaheim to Mariano’s last pitch of Game 4 of the World Series sweep over the Padres.

Back to 2022...

We are most likely watching a Yankee win the AL MVP for the first time since 2007 when our old pal Alex Rodriguez dominated the league and won his 3rd MVP, second as a Yankee.

Just as impressive as Judge’s offensive barrage on pitchers is the fact that he is showing everyone in the baseball world that not only can he play centerfield, he can play centerfield with just about anyone.

Those colossal muscular legs may not be as fragile as most made us believe. After all, Mickey Mantle, a muscle bound man himself, did actually play 1,743 games as a centerfielder, on a bad knee.

But at the end of the day we all know one thing; it all boils down to winning a World Series Championship. Anything short of that means they failed.

The Yankees are probably the only team in professional sports that does not hang a banner for anything but the Championship. No Wild Card banners in the Bronx.

They have a completely different level of standard.

I, for one, like that.

But before we start hanging a banner, they do have some issues to correct or things to improve upon.

Joey Gallo- Not to pat myself on the back, but I was pretty clear here at SSTN back on July 29, 2021 that this was a very bad acquisition.

At that time I wrote “In my heart of hearts, I believe Crazy Joe Gallo will end up with more significant NY hits than Joey Gallo”.

Of course that was a little tongue in cheek (as Steve Somers would say), but now I’m not so sure!

If he somehow survives the season as a Yankee, I would be shocked if he had a single post season at bat. The worst part about it is that he has the ability to be an able major league player. He has speed, he has bat speed, he has a good arm, he has a great eye, he plays the outfield very well, and he has power. Joey’s problem is he refuses to consider a different two-strike approach.

It’s mind boggling to me. All he has to do is simply shorten his swing and make some contact. Instead he continues to try to hit every pitch, including 0-2 sliders, onto the Grand Concourse. It just doesn’t work that way.

Although they may not admit it, I am pretty certain that Dillon Lawson, Casey Dykes, and Hensley Meulens (Yankee hitting instructor staff) have all tried their best to convince him otherwise, but he just won’t change.

Forget the coaches, all he has to do is watch Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo chokes up with 2 strikes and shortens his swing, and has out homered Gallo 22-11. If that doesn’t light a light bulb for Joey, nothing will.

He is married to the 3 True Outcome nonsense. I say file for divorce, Joey!

He seems like a good guy and one that his teammates and coaches like. So, the Yankees should do him a huge favor and work him into a deal at the trade deadline and spare him the humiliation and ignominy of being left off the post season roster.

If they win, send him a ring!

Luis Severino- I was hoping that I would be writing today about the feel good comeback story of Luis Severino. He almost made it happen. Unfortunately a strain to his right lat muscle side tracked him this past week.

Aaron Boone did not appear to be in panic mode after the Sevy MRI, but considering that he has had Tommy John surgery and a shoulder injury that limited him to just 18 innings over the last 3 seasons (2019-2021) it is a concern, notwithstanding the 13 game lead in the AL East.

Sevy was ticketed to have a very important role in the second half and post season. It’s a big loss.

Even though they lead the AL East by 13 games, they only lead Houston by 4 games in the loss column. This is significant because if both teams advance in October and face off, the Yankees would be best served hosting games 1, 2, 6, and 7, instead of playing a potential Game 7 in Houston.

Call me paranoid, and as much as I respect Dusty Baker, but I do not trust the Astros one IOTA!

The Yankees need to be proactive just in case Sevy cannot be at full strength in October, and improve the starting rotation.

Nestor Cortes Jr. and Jameson Taillon can be very solid, as we have seen this first half. But, they do have a history to consider. Fatigue has been an issue for Cortez and let’s not forget that Taillon had his problems to close out 2021.

Jordan Montgomery has pitched well this season, but I am not so sure I trust him in a Game 4 start.

Who to acquire? The starters available as of now (that can obviously change) are:

Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, Pablo López, Martín Pérez, Kyle Freeland, Tyler Mahle, Edward Cabrera, Madison Bumgarner, Merrill Kelly, Noah Syndergaard and Kyle Hendricks.

From that list, and considering the goal, Brian Cashman should get Nick Krall (Reds GM) on the phone and start talking a Castillo trade.

Short of that, who amongst us wouldn’t like to see Noah Syndergaard battle the Mets in a big game later this season?

A rotation of Cole, Castillo, Cortez, Taillon and Montgomery would be very strong down the stretch.

If Sevy makes it back (fingers crossed), it would be a great problem to solve for Boone and Cashman.

I am pulling for Sevy. Not just because he is a talented pitcher, but also because he is a good guy and deserves to be with them and contribute as they pursues a Championship.

Bullpen- When you look at the active relief pitchers right now, there is a crazy stat that jumps out.

Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loaisiga are the only members of the bullpen with more than two innings of playoff experience.

That is pretty scary stat. Post season innings are different and more difficult than regular season innings.

To make matters worse, both Chapman and Loaisiga have lost some of Boone’s trust due to injury and poor performance.

The unknown is always a little unnerving. Clay Holmes and Michael King have had great first halves, and look like the real deal. But both have very limited post season experience. Lucas Luetge and Wandy Peralta have more experience then Holmes and King, but have little or no post season experience.

Boone recently stated that he is hoping Zack Britton could be back this season. That would be great. He is a proven post season pitcher. But, coming off his injury and very limited innings thrown since 2020, it’s a big risk.

Neophyte Ron Marinaccio has shown very good promise. Late spring training acquisition Miguel Castro has incredible stuff, but is inconsistent. He somehow seems to get himself out of jams, while giving the rest of us heart palpitations.

Right now Marinaccio and Castro are on the disabled list. No word yet, on when they will return.

Of course, there is still Domingo German in the mix, along with Clarke Schmidt, JP Sears, Albert Abreu, Luis Gil, Ryan Weber and David McKay.

It might make sense to look long and hard for a piece or two as insurance and to bolster the bullpen.

Photo by Corey Sipkin

I saw our old friend David Robertson pitch this season with the Cubs and he seems to be back to where he was when he was a Yankee. The biggest difference is that he is now throwing a career-high 34% sliders along with his classic go-to curveball that sits at a career-low 16%.

Robertson is generating the highest ground-ball rate (53%) of his 14-year career. Hitters have trouble barreling balls off him. He is striking out 39% of batters while recording a 75% first-pitch strike rate.

He would fit in well for the playoff push and post season, and pitch some important innings in October. Something he has done before, logging in 37 + innings.

Make it happen!

So, we have had a lot of fun watching this crew, despite Manfred and Amazon’s greedy high- jacking of our Friday nights.

A quick note on that. The last four Amazon Prime games have all froze at or before the 7th inning. I have no idea why. All the other internet connections in my home are fine. I switch to regular cable or Netflix, and it’s perfect.

One would think that the powers that be would have done some test runs before alienating the largest market in MLB for a quick money grab.

The second half of this season looks to be as exciting as the first, and starts with a bang; today and tonight in Houston for a quick double header. Bring your garbage cans!

They still have 4 games against the first place Mets (2 in July and 2 in August). We will also see the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers for the first time since 2017.

The season comes to a close October 5 at the conclusion of a three game series in Texas.

A lot can happen in the next 70 games between now and October 5.

I would like to see some depth pieces added, including a lefty bat that makes contact. Preferably an outfielder.

Andrew Benintendi is my first choice.

My next choice would be Bryan Reynolds from the Pirates.

I am not a huge fan of him, but Joc Peterson is considered available, and he did a pretty decent job last year with the Braves on their way to a World Series Championship.

Amed Rosario (my choice this past offseason to play shortstop) could also possibly be acquired. He would be an upgrade over Marwin Gonzalez, and even move in and play shortstop regularly.

IKF is pretty good ball player, but as I have stated here numerous times, he does not have a shortstop’s arm. That is a problem in the post season when every single base matters.

I’d replace him with Rosario and move on from Marwin Gonzalez. IKF can then be the utility man.

A lot is riding on the results of 2022. It’s been way to long between sips of Champaign and a trip up the Canyon of Heroes.

Let’s have some fun watching them before we start worrying about the Judge contract, debating the Cashman contract extension, and re-signing Matt Blake, etc. Enjoy the second half folks. It should be a fun ride.

Lastly, congratulations go out to Keith Hernandez for finally having his number 17 retired in Queens. For you younger readers, he set the standard as a first baseman. It was incredible to watch him and Don Mattingly on a nightly basis back in the 80’s redefine how the position should be played. Hernandez was the ultimate leader and a great clutch hitter.

Today’s Fact: On this date in 1920 Babe Ruth became the first player in MLB history to hit 30 home runs in a season. He also broke his then record of 29 home runs in a season set in 1919. He would end the season hitting .376 with 54 home runs and 135 RBI.

What would he be worth today? When Juan Soto does that, let’s talk a trade!

Footnote: I would have loved to have been in the meeting when the person(s) from the marketing department at MLB came up with the ridiculous All Star Game uniforms.

I’d have fired them on the spot!

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Start Spreading the News is the place for some of the very best analysis and insight focusing primarily on the New York Yankees.

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