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Yanks to ALCS, Forming Something Special.
By: Mike Lindsley
It happens in weird ways. Teams arrive early like the 2016 Indians or the Royals before them or the Cubs last season.

It happens in other weird ways. Cubs break 108 years. Win World Series. Red SoxÖ.yea ok, you know that one.

Baseball. Streaks. Curses. Young teams showcasing their talents on the stage and arriving early at the same time.

Welcome to the party, 2017 New York Yankees.

Ah that Friday night in Cleveland. Yanks were dead. Joe Girardi had buried them with an 8-3 lead, refusing to review an obvious play and refusing to trust his player, his catcher, playing a position HE USED TO PLAY! Ball hits bat. Ball enters glove. Strike 3! Out. Inning over. 8-3 lead. We move on. Oops.

Indians down 8-7 after a Francisco Lindor grand slam. Then another solo home run by Jay Bruce. 8-8. Yanks lose in extra innings.

The team was fried and dead and buried and the manager lost his chance to get another contract.


Not this group. Not in New York. Not for Games 3 and 4.

See, the Yanks have come back all year. They have come back from many a blown save. Astros and Red Sox and Red Sox and Blue Jays and Brewers and White Sox and Red Sox and Indians in October. The next one even more brutal than the last. Down? Out? Backs taped against the wall? No problem.

Injuries? Sure. Count them. One after another. Aroldis Chapman to Gary Sanchez to Didi Gregorius to whoever else. They battled back and battled through them.

Thatís what is different. The battling back. And the youth. And the teamwork.

This group is what the Yanks should have been years ago. Fun and versatile and full of energy. Guys who shrugged off a loss because hey, it is really only one loss in a long season.

Not old and slow and one dimensional. A team that understands, but is not obsessed with, all those numbers and monuments and championships. The Cubs didnít give a flying rip about a goat or a guy dropping a ball in foul territory. The Indians didnít care a year ago about 1948. The Royals created their own modern formula.

Itís the new baseball way. The Yanks were late to the party.

But donít worry, they are here to stay. Aaron Judge smiles after 16 strikeouts. Gary Sanchez throws out runners or hits a clutch home run after slumping. Didi Gregorius carries the team in a decisive Game 5 without having to carry the legacy of Derek Jeter because he knows he isnít Derek Jeter.

Donít forget about the veterans. They even the team out. Brett Gardner fouls countless balls off before getting a base hit in the 9th inning of Game 5 in Cleveland, leading to two more runs, the first run scored and then another thanks to an Indian fielding blunder allowing Todd Frazier to score head first with a smile across his face. Yes, Frazier, he too a veteran.

CC Sabathia. The warrior of the clubhouse. Pitching well against Corey Kluber TWICE in October. Age be damned. Fastball velocity be damned.

Back to Frazier. What an acquisition. Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson came with him from Chicago. The Yanks won the trade deadline in 2017. Remember when this used to happen all the time?

Yep. It feels like 1995 or 1996, in a way, all over again in the Bronx.

That doesnít mean that this group will produce four World Series in five years or play in seven Octobers or form a group like or better than Jeter and Rivera and Williams and Posada and Pettitte.

They arenít worried about the pressure or the backs against the wall or the comparisons to the names of pinstriped past.

If they donít meet various expectations?

Give them a thumbs down.

They will figure it out.

Yankeesí Pennant Chances.
By: Mike Lindsley
Can the Yanks reach the World Series? Will they? Can and will are two different words. Letís have three reasons for each side here.

Reasons NY can:

1. Confidence. These youngsters fear nothing. They have trailed a ton of times this year, including the one-game Wild Card against Minnesota, down 3-0. The Yankees are finally a part of baseball. Young and fearless and fun to watch.
2. Bullpen. Bad starts by the rotation? Insert the big arms from the bullpen. Obviously and eventually you need your starters to do something, but the Yanks have a lot of weapons to bail out the starters at least once or even twice in a series.
3. Judge-Sanchez-Didi. This trio is the key. Aaron Judge has to hit. Gary Sanchez can get hot at any time and Didi Gregorius is arguably the most consistent, well-rounded hitter in the lineup.

Reasons NY canít:

1. Rest of AL. Houston and Cleveland are probably just too good.
2. Starting pitching. It just isnít deep or good enough. You are relying on Luis Severino, 23, hit or miss Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia in the twilight and Sonny Gray. Not good.
3. Not the time. The Yanks arrived a little early this year, making the playoffs. This could very well be the ďget your feet wet in OctoberĒ year and then keep competing and building for a year or two until they finally reach the Fall Classic and win it.

Aaron Judge is Rookie of the Year AND MVP.
By: Mike Lindsley
Some simple facts.

100-RBI season. 50-home run season. Incredible slugging and OPS numbers. 150-hit season. A complete player with leather in right field, a terrific arm and running the bases well. A clubhouse leader at age 25. Someone teammates can count on. A Yankee team that had its best months in April and September at the plate, the same months when #99 had his best 60 days of the 2017 baseball calendar.

Aaron Judge, ladies and gentleman, should with BOTH the American League Rookie of the Year and MVP awards.

Mike Trout is fantastic. But he missed 40 games. Jose Altuve? Amazing talent for the Astros. 200 hits every year. Five-tool player even though most people donít give him credit for his power. But both donít go up against what Judge goes up against in New York, never mind that they both havenít had the year that Judge has.

Los Angeles? Do they even know baseball exists? Houston? A football town. Sure, there are pockets of fans in large cities who love their Angels and Astros. But not like New York. The Yankees own the city. When they win? Forget about it. When a player arrives? The city gives them a key to the place or anoints them the next Mickey Mantle or gives them a section called the ďJudgeís Chambers.Ē

Aaron Judge hasnít even finished half the cup of coffee yet in the majors and all of this has happened, which creates pressure.

That pressure led to a six week period where he was flat-out brutal. Judge was exposed against the Red Sox by slider after slider and so all of baseball saw it, copied it, and kept throwing them. And Judge kept swinging. And missing. Would he adjust? Was he done? Oh my goodness. The guy was so overrated. After all, baseball players never slump through a 162-game season, right (wink-wink)?

Judge will have over 200 strikeouts by seasonís end. Sure, itís a lot. But donít tell the sabermetric guy that, with those homers and slugging percentage. Mickey Mantle had 536 career home runs. ďThe MickĒ also collected 1,710 strikeouts. Did those whiffs keep him out of the Hall of Fame? Uh, no. Homers and strikeouts go together for sluggers who happen to be complete players. Itís the thing that stands out but doesnít tell the whole story.

Kris Bryant won Rookie of the Year in 2015. Strikeout total? 199. Where was the complaining on this? Bryant reduced his strikeout total to 154 in 2016 (won the NL MVP) and even more in 2017. Judge has the chance to do the same. People just wonít give him time because of the expectations.

Back to the slump. Judge was really slumping. Every day there were stories about how he could be a one half wonder or a flash in the pan or something else. Because thatís what our society does. That is what fans do and what the media does. Make an opinion every five seconds as opposed to over the course of time. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. Judge didnít change at all during this point. He was the same teammate. He took the same approach. He smiled the same. He answered questions the same.

And then BOOM. Judge connected. At one point 13 home runs in the month of September. 49th homer and 50th homer on September 25th in a blowout win over the Royals. The most homers ever for a rookie in MLB history.

This was supposed to be the year to curb the expectations of Gary Sanchez after last yearís insane run to end the year.

Judge helped that. Judge helped the Yanks to an incredible first half. Judge paced a powerful offense during its best months in April and September. Judge is the leader on the team that will return to the playoffs.

No one knows what Judge will do in his first playoff appearance. No one knows what his team will do. But we do know what he has done already.

He won the Home Run Derby. He has knocked in 100 runs. He has scored over 120 runs. His sabermetric numbers are amazing. 150 hits. Terrific arm in right field. Solid glove as well. Running the bases very well. 50 home runs left the MLB ballparks, juiced ball be damned.

There is more hardware for #99.

Rookie of the Year.

And, yes, American League MVP.

All Rise, indeed.

Canít Say Enough About Didi Gregorius
By: Mike Lindsley
It might be Brian Cashmanís best trade as a Yankee general manager.

December 5, 2014. Arizona Diamondbacks trade Didi Gregorius to the New York Yankees. Yanks trade Shane Greene to Detroit. Tigers send Domingo Leyba and Robbie Ray to Arizona.

Looking back on it, this was a lopsided deal favoring the Yankees. BIG TIME.

Gregorius has been splendid in the field. He has been wonderful off the field. At the plate, he collected 294 hits in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and hit .265-.276 in those years. Nice pop too. 29 home runs and 126 RBI collectively (remember, 2015 was his welcome to New York season, not easy).

Gregorius, in 2017, has been even better. The average has been up. He is more consistent. He has surpassed the home run total and the RBI total and will likely surpass the hit total. His teammates love him. The city loves him. And if you love social media, you love Sir Didi Gregorius on Twitter. What emoji use!

The biggest part of all this, however, is the guy he took over for. That Derek Jeter guy. The guy who was just about irreplaceable. You never, of course, want to be the guy taking over for the guy. You want to be the guy who took over for the guy who took over for THAT guy.

The Yankees had to do something. For 20 years they got Hall of Fame production from Captain Clutch. Now what? Find a serviceable guy to get booed because everyone expects you to be Derek Jeter?

Well, no one should expect that. And no one is booing Didi because he has been fabulous.

Gregorius was clearly scouted hard by the Yanks and the team did its homework.

Gregorius has handled the limelight, he has hit in the clutch and is actually an upgrade in the field playing the shortstop position compared to the last several years of Jeter.

Another big part for New York? Gregorius doesnít turn 28 until February 18, 2018.

Gregorius isnít a Hall of Fame player. But he has been beyond serviceable in taking over for a Yankee legend. He has wildly exceeded expectations considering what the Yankees were facing heading into the 2015 season and beyond.

#StartSpreadingTheNews everyone. @DidiG18 is pretty darn good.

Projected NY Yankees Postseason Rotation.
By: Mike Lindsley
We have plenty of baseball left (yes, the season is damn long), but it isnít too early to look at the Yankeesí pitching rotation IF they make the playoffs in any capacity. Letís do it.

Scenario: AL Wild Card #1 or #2

This is a one-game showdown between the Wild Card clubs for all the marbles to move on in the playoffs to the American League Division Series. If the rotation stays the way it is now, CC Sabathia would pitch on October 1 at home against Toronto to wrap-up the regular season.

Option #1: You arenít throwing Jaime Garcia out for this game based on who is up next. Garcia is average at best and leaves plenty to be desired with his make-up. So, Joe Girardi could skip a start for Sonny Gray, who is next in line, and toss him here. That would be my choice. You could do the same with Masahiro Tanaka, but you would risk losing him in Game One of the ALDS.

Option #2: Mess with the rotation in September, work Garcia in as a reliever, go to a four-man rotation the last two weeks, and have possibly a Gray or Luis Severino start. This is unlikely in baseball but we have seen wilder things.

Best choice: Sonny Gray. He is a gamer and knows October baseball. You could always have Tanaka ready out of the bullpen, but we know the Yanks already have plenty of arms (Maybe they could actually hold the lead for a chance?). And again, you lose Tanaka for game one of the next round if you use him here. If the Yanks get past this winner-take-all, they can match-up with anyone in a best-of-five match-up. Tanaka-Severino or flip them, plus Sabathia loves the playoffs. If you get length in the first two starts, you only ask CC to go five innings because the bullpen is rested. And you could always go back to Gray on short rest in the next series if need be. But Gray is a very solid choice here, a guy who fears nothing, gets ground balls and who is respected by his teammates. Now, if they could just score for him.

Scenario: ALDS best-of-five

If for some reason the Yanks catch Boston and win the AL East, which is unlikely, you have a few options.

Option #1: Start Gray, get off on the right foot, and set things up in a series that is always tough to win.

Option #2: Start Garcia with the thought that you only need five innings, have all the arms ready and fresh out of the bullpen, and then you have a games two, three and four situation with Gray-Tanaka-Severino, which looks darn good against anyone.

Option #3: Skip a bunch of starts, take chances with rest, and start CC Sabathia in game one. Then you have Gray-Tanaka-Severino-Garcia with all hands on deck in game four or game five or both. This isnít as realistic, but we know crazy things can happen with weather, doubleheaders and more in this game.

Best choice: Start Garcia and hope for the best. Keep in mind that after that, you would have Gray pitching game two on the road, a pitcher who seems to relish any postseason start. Then, you have Tanaka and Severino at home, which is key, considering they both seem to feed off the New York crowd a little more. With the Yanks on the road for this series, most likely, you hope for the split and then two wins at home with those pitchers lined-up. With the way this team can score in bunches, especially at home, New York could win this in four games with the right arms on the mound in the right order. In a winner-take-all-game-five, there are worse things than CC going and all arms on deck for the deciding contest.

Sonny Gray Could Be Yanks Ace.
By: Mike Lindsley
Luis Severino is the ace-in-the-making.

Sonny Gray could be the ace-in-front-of-your-eyes.

With the Yankees pitching staff so all over the place the next few years, Gray could be the constant.

CC Sabathia comes off the books. Masahiro Tanaka should be inconsistent and injured until his time is done in the Bronx. The Yanks are waiting on Jordan Montgomery. Ditto for Chance Adams in the minor leagues. Jaime Garcia is no more than a #5 short or long term. Luis Cessa doesnít have it. Michael Pinedaís days are done in the Bronx.

Gray, on the other hand, seems legit. He is fearless. He has up to five pitches that baffle hitters from both sides of the plate. Oh, and the Yankees have him under team control through 2019. He isnít expensive, either.

The Yankees gave-up three prospects for Gray. Dustin Fowler, an outfielder just waiting to play in pinstripes. There is no room for him. James Kaprielian, a 2015 first-round draft pick who is out with Tommy John. And Jorge Mateo, an infielder who is the best of the bunch, but someone you can give-up considering the future days of Gleyber Torres and current production from Didi Gregorius. This was a win for New York more than Oakland, the team Gray left for the big city. The Yankees got a much-needed pitcher to join an up-and-down staff in a playoff race and didnít give-up huge prospects. Oakland continues to cry poverty and its fans continue to wait for marginal players to develop. Have fun with that.

Gray has already proved himself. Heís accomplished.

If the Yankees reach the postseason in 2017, Gray could be the #1. In a one-game playoff as a Wild Card, you have to go with the guy you trust most to keep you pushing to the American League Division Series.

The Yanks should go with Gray, not Severino.

He is their best pitcher right now. He is their most consistent arm right now.

Heís proved it. Gray has the best resume. He has the best stuff.

He is their #1. He is the potential ace of the team.

Now and through 2019.

2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend Recap.
By: Mike Lindsley
Another year flies by, just like that. Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend is literally like a wedding. You anticipate it. You prepare for it. It nears. And in a flash, BOOM, it is gone. Letís have 20 takeaways from another magical weekend in Cooperstown.

1. Super awesome to meet MLB.comís Richard Justice outside the Hall of Fame. What a guy. What a writer.

2. Bud Selig should not be going into the Hall of Fame. He is the create a mistake, have to fix the mistake kind of guy. People credit him with labor peace. That came after the 1994 strike. Retiring Jackie Robinsonís number? Anyone could have done that. Plus a tie in the All-Star Game. This guy is a total clown. You can say he is passionate and did well with the Brewers and created the Wild Card and anything else. But he shouldnít be in Cooperstown.

3. 2020. Canít even comprehend what it will be like when Derek Jeter goes in. Just canít.

4. Weak crowd for Sunday.

5. Bruce Sutter is not a Hall of Famer.

6. Cal Ripken Jr. even looks classy walking.

7. Not hard to drink six waters in an afternoon on Induction Sunday.

8. So happy that Latin players are in MLB. So much passion. So much emotion. Such an incredible fan base.

9. Houston Astros fans. What a couple of years with Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. Way to support your team.

10. Jeff Bagwell had the power. Ivan Rodriguez had the defense. Tim Raines had the speed. And yet every one of them could do other things well. Speaking of Bagwell, I liked his speech the best. Dry humor and seemed to be organized.

11. Nice tribute for Jim Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher who was so important to Hall of Fame Induction Weekend and our country, for that matter.

12. I love fans with a jersey of one team and a hat of another. Figure it out.

13. Could these speeches be any longer? Sports fans bitch because games are too long in baseball. Really, it is the game inside the game for baseball that is too long considering NFL and MLB games take the same amount of time in many instances. Well, same thing on Sunday. Goodness. I understand that five guys had to go in and talk, but make it stop already! And Tim Raines admitted he didnít have notes after awhile. He could have gone until next yearís celebration.

14. Don Sutton is a miserable man. Absolutely miserable.

15. 2018 Class: Vlad Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones and Jim Thome. Not sure about Hoffman though. Nothing really jumps off the page for his career.

16. After talking with Royals owner David Glass and GM Dayton Moore, you really get an understanding of why the Royals have won in recent years. They really get people and baseball. Quite the team.

17. Super happy for Claire Smith, getting the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. Well-deserved. What a pioneer.

18. You couldnít create a more perfect weather weekend in Cooperstown. We all needed it after all this rain.

19. This little village never gets old.

20. Cherish every time you see an aging Hall of Famer in declining health take the stage. You never know if this is the last time. Great job of powering through by Hank Aaron and Whitey Ford. Orlando Cepeda as well. Joe Morgan is younger but is physically battling.

Yanks and White Sox Make Trade.
By: Mike Lindsley
Yankees get: Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.
White Sox get: Blake Rutherford, Tyler Clippard, Tito Polo and Ian Clarkin.

What does this all mean? Who won? Letís break it down.

Winner: Both. The White Sox continue to build for 2019 and beyond and the Yankees fill a lot of needs without giving-up highly touted prospect Jorge Mateo who is currently ripping-up Double-A Trenton. Frazier can play third base and first base, although third is more likely more often. Robertson and Kahnle are more firearms out of the bullpen. Robertson is a little overrated and makes too much money but can still help and knows New York and the franchise. Kahnle has been solid in 2017.

Key Yankee piece: Todd Frazier. New York kept him from Boston plus he can man the corners.

Key White Sox piece: Blake Rutherford. Yankee fans are making him out to be Mike Trout. He isnít of course, playing at Class A Charleston. But he is a Top 30 prospect in baseball and can play multiple outfield positions. The Yanks donít need outfielders right now, and likely might not in three to five years when heís ready. Finally, remember that really good, versatile infielders are much harder to find than their outfield counterparts.

Verdict: GM Brian Cashman has shown early that the Yankees are going to be careful buyers, realistic sellers and try to get into the playoffs.

Whatís next: Expect New York to try and unload at least one contract and pick-up at least one starting pitcher before itís all done. They canít get into the playoffs with this rotation the way it is performing now. It is too inconsistent and filled with middle-of-the-rotation guys who are either shot and barely hanging-on or youngsters growing in the big leagues.

Yanks in the 2nd Half.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees owned the AL East, partially owned baseball and owned whatever else you can think of until after that six-game win streak in June against Boston, Baltimore and the Angels.

June was rough.

July was beyond rough until the All-Star break.

Dellin Betances fell apart. Injuries happened. The starting pitching, at times, couldnít get out of its own way. When the pitching came through, the offense shut down. The bullpen as a whole was a nightmare with blown leads against Chicago and Houston and Toronto and Milwaukee.

BUT. The Yankees were tied for a Wild Card spot as the pinstriped All-Stars headed for Miami, the rest of the team took a break and Aaron Judge hit balls to the Florida moon in winning the Home Run Derby.

Letís take a look at the five keys if the Yankees are to make the playoffs.

1. Masahiro Tanaka. Brian Cashman told Michael Kay that the Yankees have an ace, they just need him to come back. He means come back to pitching like an ace. That will never happen because Tanakaís arm is too tired and he cannot overpower anyone. What the Yanks hope is that he can give them five to seven innings more times than not and on occasion give them the seven or eight inning gem from here to the end of the season, opt-out and thatís it for his time in the Bronx. There is no way the Yanks can have a horrible #1 on the staff and make the playoffs. NO ONE does that.

2. Bullpen. Dellin Betances is the anchor. He looked good against the Brewers in a Saturday win in New York right before the break. Itís about cleaning-up those arm angles, staying consistent and trusting his stuff. Betances is so huge, literally and figuratively. He can pitch multiple innings, can dominate both lefties and righties when on, and is a bridge to Aroldis Chapman. If Betances continues to struggle, Joe Girardi should stop using Chapman as his last pitcher and do what Terry Francona did last year in the World Series with Andrew Miller. Use your best, when ready, at the most important times to get a win. To hell with the save!

3. Health. The Yanks canít have any big player drop. They have already had enough injuries from Starlin Castro to CC Sabathia to Chapman to Jacoby Ellsbury to Didi Gregorius to Gary Sanchez to Greg Bird to youngsters Tyler Wade, Tyler Austin and Gleyber Torres (would have been called-up for the 40-man roster expansion). There are many more. But they can ill afford to have Aaron Judge go down or Sanchez again or Chapman again or any other big piece.

4. Other teams falling. Parity is way more evident in the AL than the NL. Nine teams (Baltimore, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Toronto, LA Angels, Texas, NY Yankees and Kansas City) were separated by five games in the Wild Card race at the All-Star break. Only two spots are given. If you add a game and a half you have Detroit to make it 10 total teams vying for two places. Mike Trout will be back for the Angels. The Jays can hit. Seattle has Felix Hernandez. Tampa Bay is pesky. Baltimore is tough at home. Minnesota has arrived somewhat early. Kansas City has a bunch of guys who might be playing their final year there and that club knows how to win down the stretch. It isnít going to be easy for New York.

5. Joe Girardi. Girardi has to be tough with his players. If they arenít performing, donít keep going to them. See: Tyler Clippard. See: a new Chris Carter. Girardi has a chance here, with a young team, to make it to October and give the young guys some experience in the playoffs. Keep the binder locked away, Joe.

Honorable mention: Aaron Judge. Because, well, Aaron Judge might have to win a few games by himself in his Rookie of the Year and AL MVP chase.

Betances is #1 Yankee Problem.
By: Mike Lindsley
Remember that All-Star reliever? The go-to guy who was a top WAR pitcher. The slam dunk All-Star. Total domination with all the pitches and an intimidating body from God? The most important and effective bullpen piece in pinstripes.

Heís gone.

Dellin Betances is shot on the mound. He has no control or confidence. He is throwing from two different arm angles. One too inside and one too outside. It is getting bad. The worst part? He knows it.

Betances, right now, is the golfer who knows he is going to miss a four-foot putt. Every. Single. Time. Yes, I hit a great approach shot to four feet! No, I donít want to putt it! Thatís Betances, in a baseball way, starting an inning, taking the ball, wanting the situation. But actually knowing he will walk four people in a row and give the Blue Jays a win.

Can it be fixed? Sure it can. Baseball is long. It is a grind. It is a peaks and valleys sport. You can lose 16 of 22 but still be leading the Wild Card because you had an amazing start to the season or scored 60 runs in a win streak against two division teams and another AL club (see: New York Yankees; Boston, Baltimore and LA Angels).

Whatís the solution for Betances? We know Joe Girardiís solution. Keep putting him out there until he has ONE good outing, and that will fix it all. Itís hard to argue with Girardiís philosophy for two reasons. One, look at Tyler Clippard. He is a different pitcher after getting out of a jam in Chicago. Two, Girardi is super loyal to his players. Sometimes too much, but why should anyone hate loyalty in life? Isnít that a good trait? It is, but sports are different. We all know that.

What about sending him down to Triple-A? You canít do that, because you would be demoting an All-Star who is the most important part of your bullpen. You think Betancesí confidence is lacking now? Try waking-up in Scranton Wilkes-Barre every day.

The only solution is Girardiís typical solution with something added to it. Pitch Betances, but let a few days pass. Let Betances clear his head. Give him a few off days. Tell him his time is coming. Make sure that pitching coach Larry Rothschild works on the specifics without overdoing it so that the key bullpen piece can get back to normal. Pat him on the back here and there. Have the guys take him out for a few dinners and talk anything but baseball. Tell him not to throw a baseball for 72 hours.

A break does the body good. A break clears the mind, which is so important in sports.

The Yankees need Betances to make a four-foot putt again.

Before he does, the bag needs to go in the closet for a few days.

Sizing Up Sanchez.
By: Mike Lindsley
Gary Sanchezís 2016 season was a little hard to believe. It really seemed like he homered every day at one point.

He was the fastest to 11. Then it was 20 to tie an MLB record. He ended-up with that number. 60 hits, 42 RBI and a .299 batting average to go along with it. He seriously could have won Rookie of the Year for just 53 games played.

Fast forward to Spring Training 2017. Manager Joe Girardi made sure to let all Yankee fans and the media know that it was time to curb expectations. Donít expect a ton from Sanchez. Because, well, this after all is baseball, which is a damn hard game, and there was no way Sanchez would repeat in 2017 what he did in 2016.

Truth be told, he hasnít. But he also hasnít been that bad, either. Heís been really good.

Also, thank goodness for Aaron Judge, right? Judgeís insane season has helped Sanchez play Robin to Batman, not be expected to do as much because all Yankee fans are yelling ďAll RiseĒ every game and play pretty darn well.

Think about it. Sanchez went down early with a strained right biceps injury on April 8 in Baltimore. Then it was the nagging groin.

He came back. Twice. And played well. Not 2016 well, but pretty darn good and has continued to do so, along with Judge, as the Yankees hope these two are the main guys and faces of the franchise for years to come.

As of July 1 before a night game against Houston, Sanchez, while again not 2016 statistically, still was hitting .284 with 13 home runs and 39 RBI. Add 52 hits and a .530 slugging mark and over .900 OPS line. Not too shabby for the Yankee catcher who was out from April 9 through May 3. Plus, consider the difficulty of getting into a rhythm with injuries. It literally affects your day-to-day baseball life at the plate and everywhere else.

Sanchez crushed the ball in Cincinnati in June. Four hits and a home run and three RBI, just days after coming off the disabled list. Pounded the baseball in Toronto. How about a two-home run game and five RBI at Fenway Park in a June 8 9-1 win over rival Boston?

Sanchez has had HUGE moments and it still isnít 2016. But itís not like heís failing. Curb those expectations. See reality within the big picture of this game we call baseball.

And you know the other part? The part that NO ONE seems to talk about enough? His still incredible defense behind the plate playing the most demanding position in professional sports. His handling of the pitching staff has been solid too. And this is a pitching staff that cantít get out of its own way sometimes and has an injury eventually. The bullpen? Same thing, especially in June.

Are his numbers a little down? Yes. Is his framing not amazing? Yes. But both are good. And his biceps injury on his throwing arm canít help. He is still very effective at throwing runners out and blocks plenty of balls. Donít let those select passed balls fool you. It isnít the easiest thing for a catcher to stop anyway, a ball flying 95 MPH in the dirt.

June 23. Great example. Sanchez let a ball by and Texas took the lead 1-0. Easy to blame both pitcher and catcher here. Well, Sanchez ended-up starting a rally in the 10th with a single. The Yanks won 2-1 on Ronald Torreyesí game-winning single and RBI. Sanchezís defense wouldnít have cost the Yanks the game if they had lost. It would have been a team loss with the blame put on poor at-bats and not scoring for a full game against a mediocre pitcher.

Gary Sanchez in 2017 so far isnít the 2016 out-of-this-world version.

But with health and time, he still might be. And what if heís not?

The Yankees will still take Sanchez being ďreally goodĒ as his worst.

Aaron Judge By The Letter.
By: Mike Lindsley
He is a big man. He is the frontrunner for the American League Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. Not putting him in Cooperstown here, but at least acknowledging the here and now, which has been an amazing 2017 so far. Letís break down Aaron Judge by the letter. Oh, and with all caps, because, well, Judge is large and in charge for the Yanks.

A-merican League Rookie of the Year. As of June 26th, he led in nine major statistical categories and led All-Star votes for the American League (yes, we know that Mike Trout is injured). He could take the rest of the season off and still win this award.

A-merican League MVP. He is in line to win it. Trout coming back and being Mike Trout could ruin it, especially considering the Angels caught fire against New York and then Boston and donít look like a Triple-A team anymore. Is there really anyone else close right now? No. The answer is simply, no.

R-BI machine. Judge might collect 120-130 or more this season. Sabermetric freaks donít like RBI. Interesting. You have to score more than the other team, so how are RBI not important? Judge is piling them up and should lead the team by yearís end unless something happens like an injury.

O-utfield star. Guy hits. Sure. But he fields too. He has made some insane grabs covering the gaps and more. You could argue that he is a Gold Glove guy in 2017. Five-tool player, for sure.

N-ice. Yes, it is ok to call a man nice. And an athlete nice. Judge has the right personality and seems to adore the fans and relish playing for New York. Letís see if he can continue to keep his head on straight in the big city.

J-udgeís Chambers. This dude has become such a phenomenon that there is a section in Yankee Stadium named for him with fans dressed in court robes. Insane. Also fun as hell. Check out more on this section here.

U-nderused. Maybe Joe Girardi should be using him in the 2-hole more, like sabermetric guys say. Your best hitter should be in the 2-spot so they get more at-bats based on numbers according to the stat freaks. Thoughts, Joe?

D-ude. Aaron Judge is a dude. Thatís all.

G-iant. Absolutely a beast who covers the whole plate and then some. No one in baseball looks like him. He makes Giancarlo Stanton look like an average-sized man.

E-xtensive. Thatís a nice synonym for ďlarge,Ē but really it explains his true ability to cover the entire plate while batting. Pitchers cannot throw any pitch anywhere because Judge has demonstrated ďextensiveĒ coverage of a relatively solid area, which is the strike zone and beyond. He still strikes out a lot, but far less than last year.

Yanks Winning Again Helps Baseball.
By: Mike Lindsley
You donít have to admit it if you hate the team. If you love the team, you will admit it until someone punches you in the face.

The New York Yankees winning again and having a bright future is good for baseball.

If you are in the former group, deal with it. Itís the reality of the situation.

Same goes for Kentucky in college basketball or the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL or Alabama football or any team LeBron James is on in the NBA.

The Yankee fan base is rich. The hate base is rich. Itís called a perfect storm.

And perfect for baseball.

Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge appear to be stars in the making, but remember, it is still WAY TOO EARLY to guarantee anything. The Yankees have more help on the way in the minor leagues. And pitchers like Luis Severino may have found a little something in 2017.

Sometimes, it just all comes together. Who knows if the Yanks will make the playoffs this season or win five World Series with this group? No one knows. Again, too early.

If you hate the club, at least recognize that they are doing it with guys who are tough to hate with no ego. Sound familiar from back in the Joe Torre era, at least when talking about the core, homegrown players and a few others?

This all goes back to Hank and Hal finally letting Brian Cashman fix all of his bad contracts and old player problems. Sell, sell and sell more was the motto in 2016. It is paying off now. As is NOT adding more bloated, bad contracts with guys who cannot even stay on the field. Oh hey, Jacoby Ellsbury (one they might not be able to get rid of).

CC Sabathiaís contract is next. Masahiro Tanakaís could be too if he turns it around and opts-out. Ellsbury is a problem. Chase Headley has one more year.

But other than that, the Yankees are free from bad money. And in the present, they are free in terms of playing baseball.

Nothing to lose. Everything to gain. A possible core of youngsters who could be destined for greatness.

The crowds are back in the Bronx. There could be faces of the franchise in the making. Home runs are flying. The lineup is stacked. The bullpen shuts the door. The pitching is a long science test but one that could pan out with the right formula. The pinstripes could contend for years to come.

And everyone is talking about it, from New York City to the Midwest to the West Coast.

The most successful franchise in baseball history is working towards the top and hoping to stay for awhile.

And thatís good for baseball, no matter what team you support.

Top 5 New York Yankee Killers.
By: Mike Lindsley
You have seen plenty of winning as a Yankee fan for the most part (unless you wear a pinstriped jersey over the course of a lifetime and live in a cave).

But you have also seen a few hiccups along the way with heartbreak in 2004 (leave it at that) plus a lot of guys who have absolutely slaughtered the Yankees in the regular season and playoffs.

Here are my Top 5 NY Yankee killers all-time.

1. George Brett. Yankees-Royals from the 1970ís and early 1980ís is the most underrated rivalry in baseball history. Brett was a big reason why. 17 home runs at Yankee Stadium. Even in ALCS losses in 1976, 1977 and 1978, Brett collected a total of 21 hits, 4 home runs and 10 RBI. Sluggged 1.056 in the 1978 ALCS. Then in the 1980 ALCS, a Royals win, he went for a 1.242 OPS. Brett was a monster in all the big spots against New York.

2. David Ortiz. Big Papi hit big homer after big homer and cashed-in against even the great Mariano Rivera in postseasons of the past. You feared Papi. But looking back, Yankee fans know that his personality also contributed to the height of the rivalry historically.

3. Manny Ramirez. Like Ortiz, Manny was a machine against all Yankee pitching through the years. Manny hit 55 home runs and drove in 165 runs against New York all-time. Slugging was .617. OPS was 1.030. Those were real numbers. Want more? Five four-RBI games. 17 three-hit games. Seven multi-home run games.

4. Roy Halladay. At one point in 2010, Doc was 18-6 all-time against the Yankees with a .750 winning percentage plus ate-up innings each time out. Some might not think Halladay should be on this list. Here is why theyíre crazy. He dominated the pinstripes when they were at the top of baseball during the Joe Torre years and ruled the American League East Division. Even Derek Jeter regularly looked lost against him during his career, so that should tell you something.

5. Edgar Martinez. Yes, he got the big walk-off hit and RBI against the Yanks in Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS, but it was the consistent bludgeoning of New York that made Edgar always feared in the Bronx and Seattle by all Yankee fans. That previously mentioned hit also saved baseball in Seattle. New baseball people donít care about batting average, but what about hitting .579 against Mariano Rivera? Isnít that worth something? Five career four-RBI games against New York. Martinez could hit just about any pitch, anywhere, in games against the Yanks.

Five honorable mentions: Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Ken Griffey Jr.

Number Two Was One of a Kind.
By: Mike Lindsley
You have seen the plays. Over and over. Man alive what we would do to just see, one more time, "The Flip" or Mr. November or the diving into the stands against Boston or Oakland or a home run for hit number 3,000.

What we would do to see his last at-bat at Yankee Stadium or his final game and at-bat at Fenway Park. One more jump throw. One more fist pump. One more inside-outside swing. One more of anything.

Derek Jeter was, and is, one of a kind. We know the numbers (yes, he has numbers, remember when people tried to use that against him?). He never had a losing season in 20 seasons. 20! 3,000-hit club. Franchise leader in steals-doubles-games played-hits. FOR THE NEW YORK FREAKING YANKEES!

Sure, one of a kind for the player he was. But more than that, it was the impact that separates Derek Sanderson Jeter, the kid the Yankees took in the 1992 draft thanks to the Astros and Reds really messing-up at the #1 and #5 spots. You too, Indians, Expos and Orioles.

Jeter's clubhouse became a destination. Sure, every kid dreams of being a ballplayer. But we hear all the time that "the Yankees was where I always wanted to play." Well, if they pay you a lot of money, why wouldn't Jason Giambi or A-Rod or Mark Teixeira say that?

This was about more than money during Jeter's time. He held the team and his teammates to a different standard. He was all business. He cared. He treated Spring Training like Game 7 of the World Series. Win a title? Go win another one. Win two? Get four. When the team kept falling short for years, it was Jeter who reminded the public that "this" Yankee team hadn't accomplished anything. Jeter set the standard. Players wanted to play with him. Players also didn't want to answer to him in a good way, meaning they proved they belonged in Derek Jeter's winning world.

Derek Jeter chose Mother's Day to have his number retired and to go into Monument Park. Of course he did. The day was about him as was the night and the weekend, but Jeter, as clutch as ever, made it about his wife who is a mother-to-be and his own Mom, who instilled core values in him.

Speaking of the core. Well, it's actually the Big Five, not the Core Four. Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. That group, along with DJ, formed something we may never see again. That was the foundation of an amazing Yankee run. Those were the guys. All through the system. They became the best of friends in addition to having the amazing careers in pinstripes. Plus, Joe Torre, the perfect manager at the right time.

But ultimately, it was Jeter's team, his city and his Major League. The face of it all. When you consider the consistency, the longevity, the way he cared for the game, the way he kept his name clean, the way he overcame all those errors at Greensboro, the way he handled the bright lights and the fishbowl of New York City in the enhanced media age and the way he represented anything he was connected to, there was no one like Derek Jeter. And there might not be anyone like him ever again when you really break down all the layers.

Jeter is Mantle to some, DiMaggio to some, Gehrig to some and Ruth to some. More importantly though, Jeter is Jeter.

What a player. What a leader. What a person.

#2 was one of a kind.

April Verdict: Judge Dominant.
By: Mike Lindsley
Ah these Yankees. A rebuilding year. Wait for at least a season or two or even three before they are actually "good" or a title contender.

This pinstripe outfit in 2017 didn't want to wait.

Look, this isn't a piece to crown the Yanks World Series champs. But they did have a great April, even after the slow start by the team and ace Masahiro Tanaka and the injuries to Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez. Here are the four main reasons why:

One reason is Aaron Judge. April numbers: .303 BA, 10 HR, 20 RBI, .411 OBP, .750 slugging, 1.161 OPS. Staggering. Amazing. Clutch. Must-see television. Expect him to come back to the pack a little but he for sure took advantage of being the star while Sanchez was away.

Another reason: overachieving from Luis Severino and Michael Pineda. Make no mistake about it. The Yanks need these guys now and in the future. But both of them looking like dominant, potential aces? Could never have predicted that level of success. Before the season, Severino was absolutely developing the change-up and slider and trying not to get behind on batters, and Pineda was always up and down. Oh, and Jordan Montgomery hung in there just fine in April, by the way..

The third reason: Aaron Hicks, Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury and Starlin Castro playing out of their minds. You can make an argument that everyone in this group classifies as an "easy out" most of the time. Not in April. They all did their part and delivered clutch hits, especially Castro when he hit a game-tying home run against Baltimore towards the end of the month. This group made the Yankees lineup deep and exhausting for any starting pitcher.

Fourth reason: Bullpen. Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman lead the way. But the Yanks have a lot of fireballers including Tyler Clippard and mix and match guys like Bryan Mitchell. They were outstanding during the first month of the season.

The bottom line is that the bullpen will likely be great to dominant for the majority of the year. Expect everyone else to come back to the pack a little. The other good news?

Gary Sanchez returns and can make-up, possibly, for team numbers that decrease, Greg Bird still hasn't done much and the Yankees seem to be a fun bunch that loves to play the game and has nothing to lose while playing with confidence against anyone. This team has already won at Fenway Park, played other divisional games and doesn't fear the big moment (October is always TBD).

REMEMBER: Aaron Judge isn't going to hit 70 home runs.

But the Yanks, 15-8 during baseball's first month, might just challenge for a Wild Card spot.

Because as they say, you can't win a playoff spot in April, but you sure can lose one.

Top 5 Prospects for the NY Yankees.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees have been identified by many to have one of the best farm systems in baseball after rebuilding at the trade deadline last season and continuing the youth movement with the likes of Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and more in 2017. Leaving those names out, considering they are already up in the Bronx, we look at the best prospects the Yanks have below the Major League level. Here are the Top 5.

1. Gleyber Torres. No ceiling for this guy. Amazing talent. Yanks are trying him at second and shortstop and third. Hands from another universe. Yanks will play him in Trenton in AA. But don't be surprised to see him in the Bronx on September 1 when the rosters expand to 40. He's that good. And they need him to be the Cubs' version of Addison Russell. Hitting is good but could be a lot better. Has to get ahead in counts and learn to hit to the opposite field.

2. Clint Frazier. Swagger. Intensity. Outfielder. Maybe the next Reggie Jackson? Ok. Let's not get carried away. But Frazier swings hard and swings often and is a nice power guy for the Yanks. Could you imagine Frazier and Aaron Judge bombing home runs in the Bronx until 2035? Imagine. Deep thoughts.

3. Jorge Mateo. Potential five-tool player who needs to develop hitting off-speed stuff (shocking, of course). Shortstop in the making. Great speed on the bases. Some people say Jose Reyes. He could be way better. It is about discipline in all phases and that is what the Yankee higher-ups need to see before he arrives in the Bronx.

4. Justus Sheffield. Only 20 and likely in Trenton playing Double-A ball for a good chunk of 2017, Sheffield was dealt to New York in the Andrew Miller deal. Probably a #3 starter for the Yanks in the future if he makes it. Biggest issue? Command of pitches. Keep an eye on him. He is probably fourth on the pitching depth chart for the minor leagues but could be the most important guy in terms of what the Yankees are looking for. The Yankees need a homegrown left-handed pitcher. Andy Pettite was the last true one. Sheffield could finally be the next.

5. Blake Rutherford. An outfielder who can potentially play all three positions, Rutherford is just 19 with developing power and speed. The Yanks like him for the sheer fact that he can get on base. Oh, and that developing power. Maybe trade Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury for a bag of baseballs and a bag of chips by 2018 andÖ..Rutherford develops in left field with Aaron Judge in right and that Bryce Harper guy in center? Food for thought. A lot has to happen for this scenario but look at the Cubs. Look at the Royals. Look at the Indians. It can happen for the Yankees too.

Yankee Rotation Thinning Out.
By: Mike Lindsley
Many talk about the free agent Class of 2018 and how it's a no-brainer that Bryce Harper or Manny Machado end-up in pinstripes. Maybe New York should pay Clayton Kershaw instead.

Sure, it's nice to have one of those top two everyday players mentioned, but have you seen the Yankee prospects lately? Pitchers vs. position players? Yankee fans should be way more confident in the future of the position players than the arms.

The current Yankee rotation? It's thinning out. Fast.

Masahiro Tanaka could have a great year and opt-out or an average or below average year and stay with Tommy John surgery looming, considering he still pitches with a loose ligament in his elbow and is losing velocity by the week.

C.C. Sabathia. He has given the team a lot, both last year and during his first start in 2017. But he will likely not be back. Good move for the Yanks, but at the same time a body to replace.

Luis Severino. Still trying to figure out that change-up. Still trying to not throw straight fastballs in bunches.

Michael Pineda. Good luck. 12 strikeouts or five runs in two innings. Confidence is an issue. He might not be able to handle New York.

Chance Adams, Jordan Montgomery, Dietrich Enns, James Kaprielian, Brady Lail and Justus Sheffield are all eying the Bronx, but we all know how pitching goes. Up and down and growing pains and more. You will see these names surface in and around Double and Triple-A, but can you really expect one to shine this year and two to be superstars by 2018? It is not impossible, but also tough to catch lightning in a bottle with starting pitching two or three times at once.

Montgomery and Sheffield are lefties with tremendous upside and amazing stuff and they can overpower. Plus, wouldn't it be nice for the Yankees to find a homegrown lefty again? Andy Pettitte is really the only one they have had the last several years. Kaprielian has the look of a #2 starter to some with smarts and maturity. The Yanks are high on him and will spend a lot of time getting him ready for the big leagues.

So, we wait and see, what prospects could be starting pitchers in the Bronx. 2017 and 2018 are building (didn't use re-building here, just for you, Brian Cashman) years and a few of the pieces have to come together in the rotation or the Yanks are in big trouble for that 2019 season and beyond as the franchise tries to get back to contending for a World Series title.

Or, hope for two out of the six and sign Clayton Kershaw.

2017 New York Yankees Preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
The New York Yankees are on the rise. Period. They built the farm system up during the 2016 season by trading bullpen chips Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. And now the plan is to rebuild quick, but also contend according to Brian Cashman. Can they do it? Can they arrive "early" like the Royals and Indians in recent years, show-up in the playoffs and maybe make a run? It's possible. Gary Sanchez is the new Yankee flavor and we shall see what he does in his first full season. Let's have a look at the 2017 Yankees.

Projected rotation: Masahiro Tanaka-Michael Pineda-CC Sabathia-Luis Severino-Chad Green.

Things to note: The 3-5 spots will go back and forth all year because no one is good enough to hold a specific spot and injuries will happen. Will CC Sabathia even give the team half of what he did in 2016 after alcohol rehab? The wild cards are Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa. All of them have plus stuff, but lackluster control to get the big outs. Whoever doesn't end up in the 5 spot will be bridges to the backend of the bullpen, which is the strongest part of the team, just like last season, and that is just as important for this club to win day-in, and day-out.

Key starting pitcher: Michael Pineda. Either get it together or don't. You have the stuff. Go prove it.

Projected lineup:
Brett Gardner-LF
Jacoby Ellsbury-CF
Gary Sanchez-C
Matt Holliday-DH
Starlin Castro-2B
Didi Gregorius-SS
Greg Bird-1B
Aaron Judge -RF
Chase Headley-3B

Things to note: Chase Headley is absolutely horrible. Great guy, but a joke from a production standpoint to a contract standpoint. Joe Girardi has a lot of weapons and players to work in and out here. He will likely use 25-35 different lineups during the season or more. But this is the one he NEEDS to use by August 1 if this team is even close to a playoff spot.

Key position player: Jacoby Ellsbury. The Yankees are still idiots for giving this guy $153 million over seven years compared to Robinson Cano's demands. But, as they say, what's done is done. Ellsbury has to perform this season. He is a veteran and a table setter for this lineup. If you watch the Yanks close enough, you know that when he is healthy, he can still be a big time player at the plate and stealing bases. His outfield play is a disaster and his arm is weak, but he can overcome it with smarts and placement. He has to step-up and stay healthy. If he plays 150 games, the Yankees are in business.

Another Cup of Joe: Joe Girardi is entering his final season as Yankees manager. Does he deserve an extension? Absolutely. He has done more good than bad. Get mad at the binder and the match-ups and the over-thinking all you want. He deserves a chance to work with the young guys. See: Manager of the Year with the Marlins.

The Bird is the Word: Don't underestimate the importance of Greg Bird back from shoulder surgery. He is a lefty power bat at the plate and has it together with the glove at first base. He is also likable in the clubhouse and was sorely missed in 2016 from a depth perspective. Can you imagine the Yanks last year with him for a full season, pushing for the playoffs? They missed the postseason because of offense and a lack of hits from 1-9. Bird could have helped. Well, he is back now, after a long recovery. He is the x-factor for New York (oh yes, he knows it's just a poke to hit one out to right field in that wind tunnel, too).

Prospect to watch: Gleyber Torres. Acquired in the Aroldis Chapman deal, Torres is the most promising ultra-young prospect the Yankees have had in some time. What's the best part about his game? His versatility. He can bunt or hit for average or hit for an occasional home run or double in the gap. In the field? Slick glove and great hands. He can play second base or shortstop. He is that good.

Projected record: 89-73

Projected finish: 2nd American League Wild Card. Lose in American League Division Series.

In the end: This team is likely two years away from being a World Series contender. A playoff berth would go a long way, however, for the youngsters in gaining experience.