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Postgame notes: ‘Hopefully the emotion carries over’ — June 30, 2016

Postgame notes: ‘Hopefully the emotion carries over’

By Chad Jennings

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New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, second from left, pats Didi Gregorius on the head after the Yankees defeated the Texas Rangers 9-7 on Gregorius’s ninth-inning, walk-off, solo homer in a baseball game in New York, Wednesday, June 29, 2016.

At some point in the third inning, I decided to be a little snarky and dismissive on Twitter (because that’s the place for such things). Here what I wrote: If Masahiro Tanaka isn’t very good and Carlos Beltran isn’t playing, it’s honestly hard to imagine a way for the Yankees to win. 

I stand by that.

Nothing about this win was remotely imaginable.

  • The Yankees had scored six runs in an inning only twice this year. One was in Colorado — where runs flow like water — and the other was in the second game of the year. They hadn’t score nine runs in a ninth inning since 2010 (and this team isn’t scoring runs at a 2010 pace).
  • Rangers closer Sam Dyson had blown a save only once this season. That was more than two months ago. He hadn’t allowed this many runs in a game in more than a year (when he allowed four earned also at Yankee Stadium). Four earned runs off Dyson were as many as he’d allowed in his past 26 relief appearances combined.
  • According to Elias, this was the Yankees’ first win when trailing by five runs or more in the eighth inning or later since 2009. It was their first win trailing by four or more in the ninth inning since 2010.
  • According to the Yankees, Brian McCann became the first Yankees player to hit a game-tying home run in the ninth or later when trailing by at least three runs since Shelley Duncan in 2007. And seriously, who predicts any game is going to end with a Shelley Duncan reference (though it’s awesome when they do)?

“It all started with just Ref getting on base,” Didi Gregorius said. “Everybody is getting on base, and then Mac came up big for us to tie the game. We never gave up. That’s the best part of the game, right there. We never gave up. You’ve got to play the game to the end. That’s what we’re doing, and hopefully we’re doing this right now and then go with our best foot forward from now on.”

Seven Yankees came to the plate that ninth inning. The only one who didn’t reach was Alex Rodriguez, who hit an absolute rocket for a tough-luck out. Otherwise: Single, walk, single, home run, walk, home run.

“Look, we lost a heart breaker the first night against these guys,” Rodriguez said. “And a tough one last night. It was huge to come back tonight and have a chance to spilt tomorrow. … Big win, probably the biggest win of the year for us.”

Said Gregorius: “I’ll say the biggest is yet to come. I think we’re a team trying to play better, so a lot of stuff is going to happen. We’re going to play better baseball from now on, so a lot more to come.”

Does this win mean anything? It’s a great win, no doubt. The odds were definitely stacked against the Yankees, and after losing three in a row — after watching Masahiro Tanaka struggle and knowing Carlos Beltran was on the bench — there was every reason to give up on game. As early as the third inning, it really was hard to imagine a way the Yankees could win it. But when they won it, they won it in style.

Up next: The tall task of making this mean something more than one good night and one good win.

“I don’t think you temper your enthusiasm,” Joe Girardi said. “But as I said earlier, I don’t ever get too high or too low. Every day is different, and you have to go out and do your job. But they should be excited in there. That’s a big win for us and that’s a win that we really had to fight for and we fought late. So they should be excited and hopefully the emotion carries over.”

With bad knee, McCann goes deep twice

Second two-homer game of the season for Brian McCann, and they’ve each come in the past week and a half. This one, though, came on a night when McCann’s left knee noticeably gave him trouble. After the first home run in the eighth inning, McCann grabbed as his left knee and stopped short as he came around first base. He was checked by trainer Steve Donohue as soon as he got to the bench, but he stayed in the game.

He’s been playing through patellar tendonitis.

“I’ve been dealing with it for a little bit,” he said. “When I got to first base, something grabs. … Rounding the bases it felt like a thing, but just kinda grabbed on me. But after I squatted, I was alright.”

It’s doubtful McCann was going to play tomorrow anyway because the Yankees have a day game.

“We made sure he was all right (before sending him back in),” Girardi said. “He went and squatted. He’s fine. That’s not abnormal for a catcher to have those kind of things.”

Tanaka ties season-high for runs

According to the pitching line, this was probably Masahiro Tanaka’s worst start of the year, but the Yankees seemed to focus on the fact most of the damage came in one inning and half of the runs came on one hit.

“I thought overall my stuff was OK,” Tanaka said. “It just goes back to that third inning. If I could have been able to locate better and do a better job … it would have been better. Overall, I think my stuff was pretty good today.”

Tanaka has matched his season high with seven strikeouts in each of his past two starts.

“The one inning that he gave up the four runs, he just left some balls up,” Girardi said. “He left some balls over the middle of the plate. Some balls backed up on him, and they made him pay. He kind of settled down after that and he kept them in check until he gave up another run. It was not his best outing, but after giving up five in three innings, he kind of kept it there for a while, and that helped us out.”

Cessa gets first career win

With three strong innings out of the bullpen, Luis Cessa picked up his first career win. He allowed one run on a solo homer, but otherwise he walked two and struck out two. His fastball regularly got up to 95-96 mph. Cessa has allowed four runs in 11.2 career innings, and each of those runs has come on a solo home run.

“Really good,” Girardi said. “He saved our bullpen and kept us still in the game. He did a nice job. For him, it’s got to be rewarding. It’s his first big league win, and it was won in style.”

Odds and ends

  • This was the first walk-off home run for Didi Gregorius in pro ball, but he did hit one once for the Dutch national team. They don’t call him Sir Didi for nothing.
  • Four time in his career that Brian McCann hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning or later. His most recent came in 2012 with Atlanta. He had never hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning or later when trailing by three runs.
  • This was Chase Headley‘s third multi-RBI game of the season and his second of the home stand. He has five homers and 18 RBI in 37 home games this season. Noe homers and three RBI in 33 road games.
  • With two hits and a walk, Starlin Castro reached base three times and collected his 19th multi-hit game of the season.
  • Masahiro Tanaka threw a season-high 110 pitches for the second time in his past three starts.

Final word

We’ll give the final word to Gregorius:

“We won, so that’s (the best) part of the game right there. That’s what we’re looking for. That’s what we’re trying to do. Especially the last couple of weeks and into the All-Star break (and) All-Star Game in a good note and keeping going with our best foot forward after the All-Star.”

Yankees president rips media, calls deadline fire sale talk ‘nonsense’ — June 27, 2016

Yankees president rips media, calls deadline fire sale talk ‘nonsense’

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Yankees President Randy Levine took exception to talk of the team’s early demise.

By Brendan Kuty

NEW YORK —  Yankees team president Randy Levine ripped the media while saying it’s too soon for the club to decide whether it will buy or sell at the trade deadline.

Levine also said the Yankees are capable of playing better and that the team is still in the playoff hunt.

“I don’t pay any attention to that,” Levine said at Yankee Stadium on Monday, referring to suggestions that the organization should consider selling off assets.

With 88 games to play, the Yankees (37-37) are in fourth place in the American League East, trailing the division-leading Orioles by 7 1/2 games.

The Yankees are also 2 1/2 games behind in the race for the second Wild Card play-in game position. They have 88 games to play.

Fangraphs puts their odds at reaching the playoffs at 14.1 percent as of Monday afternoon.

Levine said he’s not frustrated with the club.

“I think the team has underperformed and there’s a lot of talent in here,” he said. “Would I rather be in first place, yeah, I would. But there’s a long way to go and last I looked, there’s about eight teams in the American League in playoff contention and they’re a game or two away from us.”

The idea that the Yankees should start the process of becoming trade deadline sellers is “for you guys,” Levine said, referring to reporters, “(with) nothing more important to write about than to write nonsense about that.”

“When we decide to become sellers — if we decide to become sellers — or if we decide to become buyers, you’ll know about it,” he added. “But I guess the difference is that most of you guys have never run anything and we have a lot of history here of knowing what we’re doing, a lot of confidence in our baseball operations people. So we’ll see what happens. All the rest of it is just noise.”

A reporter asked Levine why it was “nonsense” to write about whether a Major League Baseball team that’s been inconsistent in a way that it hasn’t in a long time this late in the season should decide to become trade deadline buyers or sellers.

“I think if you go back over the last couple of years,” he said, “you will see where we were, in comparable positions.”

In 2015, the Yankees were 40-34 and were a half-game behind in the AL East after 74 games. In 2014, they were 39-35 and were two games back in the division at the same juncture. And at the same point in 2014, they were 41-33 and three games behind.

 

Change of plans? Yankees ‘impressed’ with Aroldis Chapman, could re-sign closer, report says —

Change of plans? Yankees ‘impressed’ with Aroldis Chapman, could re-sign closer, report says

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Aroldis Chapman #54 of the New York Yankees pitches in the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium on June 25, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

By Joe Giglio

From the moment the Yankees traded for Aroldis Chapman—taking a chance on a star player with a domestic violence incident on his record—the idea of a long-term marriage didn’t make sense. Chapman in the Bronx felt more like a ‘right player, right price, right time’ move than any sort of referendum on the future of the bullpen.

With the team struggling to emerge from mediocrity—despite brilliant pitching from Chapman since his return—that idea has only been strengthened. If the Yankees are sellers at the deadline, the soon-to-be free agent most certainlywould be on the trade block.

Unless, of course, the Yankees pivot and decide to keep the Chapman-Andrew Miller-Dellin Betances trio together through the deadline and into the future. Miller (signed through 2018) and Betances (under team control through 2019) can be a dominant duo for at least the next couple of years. Apparently, Chapman’s done enough to impress the Yankees to at least consider the idea of the trio beyond 2016, per Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe.

Chapman can be a free agent after the season and the Yankees have been impressed with the flame-throwing lefthander and may try to re-sign him. The Yankees believe in their three-headed monster at the end of games and have no reason to break it up now.

As for what re-signing Chapman would cost? Expect the flame-thrower to look to break Jonathan Papelbon’s contract record for a closer. Prior to the 2012 season, the Phillies handed Papelbon—heading into his age-31 season—a four-year, $50 million deal. No closer has garnered more since.

Chapman, 28, will enter his next contract in his age-29 season.

Yanks must have nearing cutoff date to buy out A-Rod, Teixeira — June 26, 2016

Yanks must have nearing cutoff date to buy out A-Rod, Teixeira

By Joel Sherman

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The Yankees have 15 games until the All-Star break. That should be the leash for Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to show they still have something left, or Hal Steinbrenner must swallow the contracts.

Normally, such a plan would be about playing for the future. And it would be. But it is about 2016, as well. Because if A-Rod and Teixeira were even at 80 percent of their 2015 production, then the 2016 Yankees just might be in first place.

As it is, the Yankees crawled over .500 (37-36) by beating the Twins, 2-1, Saturday. The Yankees are 20-14 in their last 34, and you can see contention in that. But dig deeper. In that span, they are 15-2 against the Twins, A’s, Angels and Rays — or the four worst clubs in the AL — and 5-12 otherwise.

The AL-best Rangers come to The Bronx on Monday, albeit with an exhausted bullpen and devastated rotation. Should the Yanks start beating teams like Texas, they can be taken seriously, especially because their elite end game of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman (19 batters faced the past two days, one hit, no runs, nine strikeouts) can be the backbone of a playoff run.

But to beat better clubs, the Yankees need Rodriguez and Teixeira to hit or else move aside. Because how could other options be worse?

“One hundred percent I think that [Rodriguez and Teixeira hitting] will happen,” Brian McCann said. “I go off bat speed, and their bat speed looks good. And I go off their track records, and they obviously have that.”

Maybe McCann is right. Plenty of folks wanted to cut Carlos Beltran in April 2015 and CC Sabathia in April 2016. They proved to be proud stars with something left. It would not surprise me if the same occurred with Rodriguez or Teixeira. Heck, it was not like they were last effective in 2010.

Last year they combined for 64 homers, 165 RBIs, an .870 OPS and a slash line of .252/.357/.513.

This season they have contributed to the Yankees scoring two or fewer runs an AL-high 27 times. That included Saturday, when the pair had opportunities to help the Yanks win comfortably, but went 1-for-7 — the one an A-Rod infield single — and hitless in five at-bats with runners on. Both were booed by the crowd of 40,075.

The fans are cognizant of the results: a combined 11 homers, 38 RBIs, .595 OPS and a slash line of .199/.268/.327. Rodriguez and Teixeira are walking less (8.4 percent of plate appearances compared with 13.2 last year) and whiffing more (27.8/21.3), symbolic of pitchers fearing them less and challenging them more.

This would be no easy decision. A-Rod and Teixeira helped the 2009 Yanks win a title and have had brilliant careers — albeit in Rodriguez’s case tainted by PEDs. Then there is the money. Teixeira (at $22.5 million) is in the final year of his contract. Rodriguez is being paid $20 million this year and next. From this point forward, the Yanks owe the duo approximately $45.4 million.

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Rob RefsnyderPhoto: Getty Images

But the Rockies ate about $39 million through next year to cut Jose Reyes, and the Dodgers did the same with Carl Crawford, owing about $35 million. Both teams acted for what was best now and in the future.

If those clubs were willing to eat that much, would the Yankees?

It would be simpler in Teixeira’s case if Greg Bird were available. But if Teixeira’s at-bats are going to be this empty, would the Yanks be better in 2016 with Rob Refsnyder while also gauging his future?

And if this is Rodriguez, the 2016 Yankees would be improved with Beltran as the DH, which would better preserve his body while removing a below-average defender, while giving right field at-bats to Aaron Hicks, Refsnyder and perhaps Aaron Judge.

Refsnyder might be a righty version of the young Daniel Murphy — no obvious position, limited power, but terrific bat-to-ball skills. The Yanks want to believe Hicks is Didi Gregorius II — a terrific athlete whose baseball skills would flourish with regular play and veteran mentoring. But so far neither the aptitude nor attitude is stellar. Playing time the rest of the way would better clarify who Refsnyder and Hicks are while possibly bringing more production than Rodriguez.

As for Judge, there has been a wait for dominance, and in his last 20 games entering Saturday he was hitting .366 at Triple-A with seven homers and a 1.227 OPS. Might it be worth it now and for the future for him to get 300 MLB apprentice plate appearances? Could he produce less than Rodriguez has to date?

Now, Teixeira just returned from the DL on Saturday. Rodriguez fills an important leadership role in the clubhouse. Both deserve more time. Until the All-Star Game feels fair for the veterans to demonstrate they have something left. Or it is time for the Yanks to make the future now.

Yankees’ CC Sabathia hurts ankle in worst start of 2016 — June 23, 2016

Yankees’ CC Sabathia hurts ankle in worst start of 2016

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New York Yankees wipes his forehead in the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Yankee Stadium on June 22, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

NEW YORK — Yankees‘ starter CC Sabathia didn’t pitch well on Wednesday afternoon against the Colorado Rockies at Yankee Stadium—four 1/3 innings, five earned runs—but that may not have been the worst part of the day.

He might be hurt.

Sabathia rolled his right ankle twice in the game and it was bad enough to need X-rays, which turned up negative. The 36-year-old lefty had the ankle wrapped when he spoke to reporters after the Yankees’ 9-8 comeback win.

“I twisted it backing up home, earlier in the game, and then I think it kind of got weak and I twisted it again,” Sabathia said, later adding: “It’s sore. Any time you twist your ankle it hurts.”

Sabathia’s right leg has given him problems for years. Since having major surgery on his right knee in 2014 he’s had to wear a bulky brace beginning late last year.

The former Cy Young Award winner had been great in his last seven starts coming into Wednesday, allowing just four earned runs in 44 innings. Against the Rockies a few bad pitches with his cut-fastball were the difference. Sabathia walked two batters but the big blow was a three-run home run by Rockies catcher Nick Hundley in the fourth inning that gave Colorado a 5-4 lead.

“They were on base, kind of relentless,” Sabathia said. “Sucks I wasn’t able to [keep it close], but these guys came through.”

Manager Joe Girardi said the reason for pulling Sabathia in the middle of the fifth inning was two-fold, the poor pitching and the weak ankle.

“I thought he was struggling today, so once he turned his ankle, the back of my mind is thinking, ‘Is the ankle part of it?’ And I just decided to make the change,” Girardi said.

Sabathia’s last 12 months have been wild. Consider what’s happened starting in August of 2015:

— Got into a street fight in Toronto

— Was photographed smoking on a balcony in Atlanta (he said it was a cigar)

— Went on the disabled list with a bum knee

— Returned from that injury and tossed a 2.17 ERA in his final five starts in September

— Landed in rehab for alcohol a day before the team’s Wild Card playoff game.

Then this spring training for the first time in his career he had to fight for a rotation spot—the No. 5 job, which he won—and began the season with a 5.06 ERA in five starts before going on his recent hot streak.

He said Wednesday that he thinks he’ll be able to make his next start. But don’t be surprised if he can’t and the roller coaster of a year continues.

By Ryan Hatch

Yankees have to face a hard truth about A-Rod’s terrible offense —

Yankees have to face a hard truth about A-Rod’s terrible offense

By Kevin Kernan

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On a wild day at Yankee Stadium that ended in cheers for Starlin Castro’s walk-off home run, the boos found Alex Rodriguez — twice.

A-Rod struck out three times Wednesday in the Yankees’ home run-fueled 9-8 victory over the pitching-poor Rockies. He also singled to center and lined to right. After his last two Ks in the fifth and eighth innings, Rodriguez was booed by what was left of the announced crowd of 40,104.

It was not pretty.

The challenges are only going to get bigger for A-Rod as he tries to re-invent himself as a hitter. He turns 41 in a month. He sits at 695 home runs, five home runs away from becoming only the fourth player in major league history to reach 700 home runs.

He owns eight home runs this season and is 19 home runs shy of tying the great Babe Ruth. You can be sure all of that is weighing on him and his swing.

For the season he is batting .215 with 34 hits and 50 strikeouts. His slugging percentage is .399, and his on-base percentage is at .259. Rodriguez has 25 RBIs in his 42 games.

He is putting more of an emphasis on making contact of late, trying to go the other way, and his power is coming up short and to the warning track.

Some scouts believe he is done. Others say he still has something left in the tank.

At this point in his career, Rodriguez is just looking to survive — much like the Yankees — as the designated hitter for the buy/sell Yankees. He must produce for the team to have any chance at success, but he is long past his prime.

Carlos Beltran, 39, was a big part of the Yankees’ offense again, hitting a three-run home run in the seventh to get the Yankees within 8-7, his 19th home run of the season, the same number of home runs Beltran hit all of last season.

Beltran said he believes Rodriguez will be a productive hitter again.

“He works so hard, man,” Beltran told The Post. “I believe he has been tweaking his mechanics, and when you do that, it takes time. It doesn’t just click from one day to another. You have to stick with it until it comes naturally. Right now, when you tweak your mechanics, every time you go to the plate, you think about it because you are trying to make it happen.

“I know that when it comes naturally for him, he is going to be able to hit.”

This approach is not yet natural to Rodriguez, and it shows. For Rodriguez, it is a matter of patience at this point, patience when your career is in its last few laps.

Rodriguez, who has had to fight through a hamstring injury, did not make himself available to the media to talk about where his swing is and what he is trying to do.

When manager Joe Girardi was asked if he had any concerns about how Rodriguez looked at the plate, the manager said, “Since he’s come back, he has swung the bat pretty good, so it is one day, so I’m not going to make too much of it.”

The 35-36 Yankees have put themselves in such a hole that they cannot wait forever for Rodriguez to produce. Over his last nine games, Rodriguez is batting .187 with one home run and four RBIs.

Catcher Brian McCann is hitting .220 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs in 59 games, so Rodriguez is not alone in his struggles, but he is A-Rod, and the spotlight always is on him. Rodriguez is the center of attention.

This version of A-Rod is going to have to figure it out. The Yankees have a day off Thursday, and then the Twins come to town, a team he has feasted on (.315 average, 51 home runs) throughout his career.

In so many ways, time is running out for A-Rod. The Yankees have too many other problems. He must be more productive. If not, the boos are waiting.

Yankees owner eyes buying — not selling — at trade deadline — June 21, 2016

Yankees owner eyes buying — not selling — at trade deadline

By Zach Brazillier

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Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t seem to favor the idea of selling.

The Yankees owner, enthused by his team’s improved play over the last month, said he expects his club to be a factor in acquiring talent by the trade deadline.

“I believe we’re going to be right smack in the middle of it by the end of July,” he said Monday at Cipriani in Midtown Manhattan at the annual Harlem RBI “Bids for Kids” fundraising dinner. “We’ll have to see at the end of July, like we always do. We’ll take a look at everything.

“We’ll see what injuries, if any, we’ve had from here to then, and where the deficiencies are. We’ll go from there. If we stay healthy, I’ve always believed we have a chance.”

While the Yankees (34-35) are still a game under .500 and in fourth place in the AL East, 6 ¹/₂ games behind the first-place Orioles, they are 10-8 in June after going 17-13 in May.

“The last month has been promising,” Steinbrenner said. “The offense up and down the lineup is starting to produce. [Chase] Headley certainly had a rough start. He’s hitting now, and you’re starting to see other guys contribute, too. So I like what I’ve seen the last month. We just have to stay healthy.”

 

 

Revisiting the Aaron Hicks trade, a deal that’s worked for no one — June 17, 2016

Revisiting the Aaron Hicks trade, a deal that’s worked for no one

By Chad Jennings

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NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 21: Aaron Hicks #31 of the New York Yankees hits a RBI single in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium on April 21, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

Back in January, Brian Cashman described the process of establishing and executing an offseason trade. Specifically, he went into detail about the Yankees’ deal for Aaron Hicks.

It starts with assessment, he said. The Yankees’ decision makers spend one day evaluating each organization, “finding out what our perceived weaknesses they have would be … and what we might want from that organization.”

Next is communication. In some cases, that means reviving past conversations – “I’ll circle through (talking to) teams that have already whispered players that may be available,” Cashman said – but after the strategy meetings, the Yankees will have specific targets in mind, linked to specific trade chips that might be of interest.

In the case of Minnesota, the Yankees determined two things:

  1. The Twins might be willing to part with Hicks because of other outfield options, and Hicks might fit the Yankees because of his proven success as a right-handed hitter, his relative youth and his lingering upside as a switch-hitting, first-round pick showing signs of continued improvements.
  2. The Twins might also have a soft spot behind the plate. This was an outside interpretation, so it might have been wrong, but the Yankees had pinpointed the Twins as a team that might be interested in some of the Yankees’ upper-level catching depth. And they had enough faith in other options to make John Ryan Murphy available in the right deal.

“(They said), we’re looking for backup catching,’” Cashman said in a January YES Network interview. “We had already deciphered that. We had already looked at what we could possibly do (in a trade) for Murphy. Hicks was one of the names I threw out right away because we had already prepared the way we did. About a month later, (Twins general manager) Terry Ryan swung around, and what he’d said no to earlier, he said yes to later.”

So, with that, the Yankees had their man. Their analysis of the Twins priorities had proven correct.

What’s still up for interpretation is their analysis of Hicks, Murphy, their own catching situation and their own need for right-handed help in the outfield.

With Hicks currently in Minnesota, this seems to be a good time to look back at the Yankees deal for Hicks and whether it’s worked. It’s a complicated question, mostly because neither player involved as been nearly as good as expected.

  • Aaron Hicks

The idea that Hicks could hit lefties was perhaps the safest part of this trade. He had an .870 OPS against them last season, and he’s shown a tendency to thrive from the right side of the plate throughout the minors and even during his first two big league seasons. His overall production had also shown steady progress in recent years.

Essentially, Hicks could fill the Chris Young platoon role, but with more youth, a better glove, and with the potential to be useful against righties as well. Hicks has, in fact, produced a better OPS against right-handed pitchers, but he’s taken a staggering step back against lefties.

Maybe it’s the lack of regular at-bats? Maybe it’s a product of trying too hard? Maybe it’s the a quirk of a relatively small sample size (fewer than 60 scattered at-bats)? The fact he’s still just 26 is certainly a factor to take into consideration, as is the fact he’s outperformed the guy the Yankees lost in the deal.

  • John Ryan Murphy

If Hicks hitting right-handers wasn’t the safest part of this trade, then the safest part was probably this: Murphy would be at least a capable big league backup. He’d thrived last season, especially in the second half, especially against left-handed pitchers, and there was little reason to believe Murphy could not at least hold his own at this level.

But after just three hits in 40 at-bats, Murphy was demoted to Triple-A on May 6, and he’s been there ever since. Worth wondering if the Twins gave up on him too quickly, but Murphy hasn’t helped his cause much by hitting .209 with a sub-.600 OPS in the minors. His minor league OPS is lower than Hicks’ Major League OPS.

Still plenty of time for Murphy to right the ship and for this trade to change in the final analysis, but for the time being, it seems the Yankees sold high on Murphy, capitalizing on a breakout season, a decision that looks even better because of the players who filled his spot behind the plate.

  • The Yankees’ catching situation

This is the aspect that most stands in the Yankees’ favor. By trading Murphy, the Yankees put significant faith in Austin Romine (a previously dismissed catching prospect) and Gary Sanchez (the top catching prospect in the system coming off his own sort of breakout season). The Yankees made a bet that one of those two could fill Murphy’s shoes.

How’s that worked out? Well, Romine has reemerged as trusted backup catcher who’s been especially good against left-handed pitchers. No matter what happened this spring, would the Yankees have possibly given Romine the job over Murphy? Probably not. Sanchez, meanwhile, has been an offensive force in Triple-A. The Yankees might even have found another bit of upper-level catching depth because of Kyle Higashioka’s eye-opening year.

The Yankees made a bet that they would be just fine without Murphy, and that’s proven correct so far this season.

  • The Yankees’ outfield situation

It’s easy to look through the Yankees’ outfield depth and recognize the overabundance of left-handed hitters. They have plenty of left-handed fourth outfielder candidates, but Hicks was a good target because of his success from the right side.

Turns out, perhaps the Yankees had better right-handed options. Rob Refsnyder began playing the outfield again this season, and he’s been a helpful platoon player since coming back to the big leagues. Cesar Puello has also been a surprising right-handed bat in the Triple-A outfield, Tyler Austin has begun to hit again, and obviously Aaron Judge looms as a high-potential bat that’s starting to get hot again.

Would the Yankees have been better off with one of those alternatives in a platoon outfield role? In the short-term, it’s a viable question. None has Hicks’ defensive ability, but each might have exceeded his surprisingly low production against lefties.

Familiar problems keep popping up as Yankees get their ‘butts beat’ — June 16, 2016

Familiar problems keep popping up as Yankees get their ‘butts beat’

By Chad Jennings

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, back, looks on

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, back, looks on as Colorado Rockies’ Mark Reynolds steps back up to the plate to bat after dropping out of the way of an inside pitch thrown by New York Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances in the seventh inning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 15, 2016, in Denver. Colorado won 6-3.

It’s to his credit, I suppose, that Joe Girardi has been consistent in his message about this chunk of the schedule. Reporters and outsiders see a bunch of games against sub-.500 teams and recognize an opportunity to make up ground against relatively weak opponents.

Girardi sees his own team with a losing record, its season already slipping away, and recognizes a need to win regardless of the opponent.

“I don’t care who you’re playing,” Girardi said tonight as YES cameras rolled after the Yankees fourth straight loss. “If you don’t play well, you’re going to get your butts beat. … This is an important month because we can’t keep having months where we’re not making up ground. If you’re losing ground, it’s going to be tough to catch up. These are months that we have to play better than the teams that are in front of us.”

Girardi’s been saying more or less the same thing since last week.

From last Tuesday: “I don’t look so much at the schedule, but every month that goes by that you’re not playing well, it puts you in a bigger hole. That’s the way I look at it, so I think this is an important month. We have to have a good month.”

Right now, the Yankees are having a .500 month. They were having a pretty good month just a few days ago when they’d won five in a row and pulled back above .500, but since then they have — what’s the term Girardi used? — gotten their butts beat by the Tigers and Rockies.

“(The Rockies) have the potential to score a lot of runs,” Girardi said. “They did it both days. We made mistakes as pitchers; they capitalized.”

A few things that have been difficult to overlook recently (or, for a while, really).

1. This lineup is really bad without Carlos Beltran 

He’s really the only dependable run producer in the middle of the order. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have been getting on base, but without Beltran — and without Alex Rodriguez in a National League park — there’s just no reliable source of power. Starlin Castro has some pop for a middle infielder, but he’s not a real No. 3 hitter. Chase Headley’s bounced back nicely from that brutal month of April, but he’s not a cleanup hitter. Brian McCann is stuck in an extended slump, Mark Teixeira is nowhere to be found, and this just isn’t a lineup capable of keeping pace with the Rockies (especially not without Beltran). The offense had one good inning these past two days. One inning during a two-game set at Coors Field.

2. This rotation is basically two-deep at this point

Through much of spring training, there was extreme optimism about Michael Pineda and Luis Severino, but we all know how that’s played out. Severino is in the minors, and every Pineda start is a hold-your-breath moment. A month ago, it seemed the Yankees might have found something in Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova, each of whom had strung together some good starts and seemed to have found of elusive consistency. But that was fool’s gold, and these past two games showed it. Neither one has been dependable lately. The Yankees have Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and not much else at the moment. It seemed health would be the problem for this rotation. Instead, everyone is healthy, but most of the starters aren’t pitching well.

3. This really was a wasted opportunity

Not necessarily because the Rockies have a losing record — as Girardi said, Colorado’s lineup is awfully dangerous — but because the Yankees were facing two very beatable starting pitchers. The two guys who started for the Rockies each came into their starts with ERA well above 5.00, and the Yankees didn’t do much against either one. Sure, they scored some runs against the bullpen on Tuesday, but the got nothing against the starter that night, and this afternoon Chad Bettis had very little to worry about. Maybe Girardi can’t, in his position, look at game-by-game opportunities. Maybe he does have to tell his team to simply try to win every series regardless of the opponent. That seems to be a level-headed way to approach it. But, man, facing back-to-back starters like that sure looked like an opportunity that the Yankees wasted.

4. This team needs reinforcements that don’t exist

At some point, the Yankees might very well have to go into sell mode and stop trying to win. But until then, they have to keep looking for ways to turn this thing around and make the team better. Problem is, the piece of the roster in need of an upgrade don’t necessarily have obvious solutions. Most of the Triple-A roster’s star power comes in its outfield, but the Yankees are actually doing just fine there with Gardner, Ellsbury and Beltran. Guys like Jake Cave and Ben Gamel aren’t big boppers anyway, and Aaron Judge hasn’t been good enough to think he’s ready to be a difference maker. Who’s going to upgrade the rotation? Severino? The middle innings are a problem out of the bullpen, but at this point, Nick Goody seems as good as anyone who’s tried to fill that role. Maybe Chasen Shreve can get back on a roll? James Pazos? Connor Mullee? How much of a difference would that make? Maybe there’s a way to incorporate Gary Sanchez? Maybe Teixeira can come back much more like the guy we saw last season? There’s just not a quick fix here.

So now the Yankees head to Minnesota, continuing this road trip that’s not necessarily an opportunity, but simply a reality. The Yankees need to win, not because they’re playing bad teams, but because they themselves have been a bad team and they’re running out of time to change that.

“Win every series; that’s the message,” Girardi said. “The message never changes. Win every series. I don’t care who you’re playing.”

Yankees just saw the big-time promise of waving the white flag — June 13, 2016

Yankees just saw the big-time promise of waving the white flag

By Larry Brooks

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It cannot be lost on general manager Brian Cashman and the organizational hierarchy that the Yankees were shut down for six innings on Sunday by a young power pitcher the Tigers obtained in a rental deal last July only after the Detroit front office yielded to the reality that their team wasn’t good enough to win anything of significance.

The pitcher’s name is Michael Fulmer, the rental property was Yoenis Cespedes, and that provides just one example of the road map the Yankees must follow as this season morphs into the trading season.

The first five games of this homestand that the Yankees swept by scoring 33 runs in defeating the Angels four times and the Tigers on Friday provided an oasis of sorts for the offense-parched Pinstripes.

But then the Yankees were limited to one run on six hits in Saturday’s 6-1 defeat, in which Justin Verlander was dominant through 6 ²/₃ innings, before Sunday’s 4-1 loss, in which they got two hits in six innings off Fulmer, who extended his shutout streak to 28 ¹/₃ innings.

Ah, the baseball adage of good pitching beating bad hitting was never more in evidence.

For better or worse, these are the Yankees 63 games through a season in which they’re one under .500. Which means, for better against bad teams with questionable pitching staffs and for worse against the good ones.

Being mediocre on the field isn’t a baseball crime, even in The Bronx where winning — and in this borough, that means championships, not wild-card game losses — is the thread that binds generations.

But being in denial in the front office is a felony.

Yes, with the Rockies (28th of 30 in MLB ERA) and Twins (29th) up for the next 11 games on the schedule beginning Tuesday with two in Colorado and four in Minnesota, the Yankees probably won’t crash over the next couple of weeks if they continue to get the caliber of starting pitching they have since the beginning of May.gvggv

Still, it doesn’t appear as if they have the pieces to compete with the elite. Rather, they have pieces in Carlos Beltran, Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, who seem more valuable as trade assets to regenerate the future than as present-day assets on the field.

The Yankees pounded their way into the second wild-card spot last year largely on the bats of Mark Teixeira (until he got hurt), Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran. Then the club went into this season crossing its fingers and toes hoping for a repeat.

Teixeira is on the DL again, his value diminished. The Yankees are bringing in Ike Davis to take over the black hole at first base.

Rodriguez is having the season (.211, seven homers, .406 slugging, OPS+ of 77) pretty much everyone expected he’d have last year upon his return from the 2014 season-long PED-suspension. Indeed, on the bench Sunday after going 0-for-7 the previous two nights against Detroit and 5-for-24 on the homestand, Rodriguez stayed on the bench with two on and two out in the bottom of the eighth with lefty Didi Gregorius due up as the tying run against lefty reliever Justin Wilson.

Joe Girardi cited Gregorius’ split against lefties (.370, best lefty v. lefty in the AL), as the primary reason he did not go to A-Rod in that spot. But Gregorius hadn’t hit a home run in 54 at-bats against a lefty this year. Fact is, Gregorius had hit one home run in 363 lifetime AB’s against lefties before lining out to center field on Sunday.

Beltran, at age 39, has been carrying the Yankees, even in going 0-for-7 in these two defeats. But as with the back-end arms, Beltran (who has a modified no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to 15 clubs) has his greatest value as a rental property. There is no debate.

Optics aren’t an acceptable explanation for dallying. Hanging around the second wild-card spot sure isn’t, either. The only legitimate reason for Cashman to delay is if the GM believes the market will expand and the return will thus be greater as July 31 approaches. But it takes only two teams to create a bidding war and the more aggressive the GM, the more quickly he should be able to stoke competitive interest in his high-end assets.

And the sooner the Yankees can move on to getting their own equivalent of Michael Fulmer for 2017 and beyond.