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2018 New York Yankees Season Preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
You couldnít possibly have more expectations in 2018 if you tried in the Bronx. Unless the Yanks also had Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout on the roster.

The Yankees, a season ago, came one win away from the World Series during a campaign in which they were basically rebuilding after trading away Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller at the 2016 trade deadline while shipping huge contracts and egos out the door.

Itís World Series or bust in the Bronx. Letís break it all down.

Projected rotation:
1-Luis Severino
2-Masahiro Tanaka
3-Sonny Gray
4-Jordan Montgomery
5-CC Sabathia

Three things to watch: Sonny Gray for a full season, CC Sabathiaís health/stamina and Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield ready to take aim at the Major Leagues.

Projected lineup (eventually):
1-Brett Gardner (LF)
2-Aaron Judge (RF/DH)
3-Greg Bird (1B)
4-Giancarlo Stanton (OF/DH)
5-Gary Sanchez (C)
6-Didi Gregorius (SS)
7- Aaron Hicks (CF/DH)
8-Brandon Drury/Miguel Andujar (3B)
9-Gleyber Torres (2B)

(All of this depends on how the outfield plays musical chairs with Stanton now in the picture).

Three things to watch: How soon Torres, the top Yanks prospect, gets up to the Bronx and is there to stay following Tommy John surgery, Stantonís place in the outfield/designated hitter role and how that impacts the lineup in general and role players/depth guys like Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, Tyler Austin, Ronald Torreyes and the Spring Training phenom Miguel Andujar.

Biggest challenge: Expectations. Sure, Yankee front office people say this is what they want. They want the hype and the expectations, because, well, they are the Yanks and expect to win. Well, they had expectations and then doubled them by signing Giancarlo Stanton. Now, fans actually think they automatically have a dynasty in the making. One step at a time. The button is re-set for now. Letís see how Aaron Judge does in year two, how Stanton handles New York and the media and if this teamís starters can stay healthy.

Gardy Party Ending? 2018 could be it for Brett Gardner in the Bronx. He has a 2019 team option for $12.5 million or a $2 million buyout. We should all be so lucky. This could motivate Gardner even more, however, in a sort-of contract year to force the Yanks to keep him.

To the tune of Boone: Aaron Boone is the new manager. Heís been around baseball his whole life and is as qualified as anyone for what todayís manager needs to be. He wonít really earn his keep and form a resume until late in the year when he has to handle a pennant race, injuries, bullpen changes, when to pull a starter and more. One thing is for sure. He has been super positive in the Spring and players are way more loose under him than Joe Girardi. The Yanks went deep in the playoffs last season under Girardi, but not everyone was comfortable on a daily basis in that clubhouse.

More on the lineup: The above projected lineup is an eventual situation and quite frankly a guess. Boone has been playing with Judge and Stanton hitting back-to-back in Spring Training in the 2 and 3 holes, respectively. Pinstripe Passion thinks that maybe if you break them up, the lineup becomes even more dangerous. Also, the Yanks arenít stacked with righties only or lefties only. They are stacked, period. Going from the left to the right and right to the left throughout can really mess with pitchersí minds. Boone may want to break-up the two power guys. Letís assume he does.

Overlooked player: Gary Sanchez. Is it possible to overlook a guy who last year hit 33 home runs and collected 90 RBI while being injured again in 2017? It is this year because Aaron Judge was Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton joins the roster as the reigning NL MVP. Sanchez is so good itís scary. If he stays healthy, HE could be an MVP candidate. He hit some bombs in the Spring. Expect that to continue during the season.

Going, going, gone: Starlin Castro (Stanton deal) and Todd Frazier. GM Brian Cashman made-up for those two, however, with Drury and kept key prospects during the off-season.

The Bird is the Word: Greg Bird for a full season could be huge for New York. He has lots of protection in the lineup and has that revamped swing he worked on in the minor leagues after an awful first half in 2017. The ceiling is nowhere to be found for this youngster.

Mr. Underrated: Didi Gregorius. Still deserves more credit from all baseball circles. He took over for Derek Jeter and has been nothing short of amazing. Great clubhouse guy and will adjust to any situation. Amazing in the field. Good and clutch at the plate. Didi battled back from injury in 2017 and really played well. Expect more of the same in 2018. This was Brian Cashmanís best trade ever.

Waste of money: Jacoby Ellsbury. He is still on the roster. $23 million a year. And nowhere to play. What a horrible signing this was and still is.

Odd man out: Clint Frazier. He works hard and is a current key piece of the farm system with a bright future. But where is he going to play? The Yanks have a bunch of outfielders. Donít be surprised to see him in a July deal to grab another pitcher.

Ring of Fire: Blazing arms come out of the Yankee bullpen. Adam Warren, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. Add to that the versatility of Ben Heller (Andrew Miller deal), Chasen Shreve and perhaps some outings from Jonathan Holder depending on how injuries go and the Yanks, on paper, have the best bullpen in baseball.

Projected record: 97-65. 1st in the AL East.

Projected postseason: Win ALDS, lose in the ALCS to Cleveland.

End game: The Yankees have it all. Amazing lineup that will hit for average and power. Enough starting pitching. Dominating bullpen. Depth. Youth. You name it, they have it. Keep in mind that the competition is tough in the American League as well. Boston, Houston, Cleveland and a bunch of other teams are also out there ready to take the next step. The 162-game season is a grind and the expectations will be with this team every single second of every minute of every hour of every game of every week of every month all year long. Only time will tell if they can get back to the top of the baseball mountain.

Q&A With Bryan Hoch Of
By: Mike Lindsley
Pinstripe Passion caught-up with NY Yankees beat man Bryan Hoch from Hoch has also recently authored the book Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the next Yankees Dynasty. Here is the conversation.

PP: Whatís it like to be around Aaron Judge on a regular basis?

BH: He's very much the same person that you probably imagine from his interviews Ė polite, respectful and well-mannered, and of course Aaron is a tremendous athlete. It's obvious that his parents did a fantastic job raising him, and that has carried over into his professional career. I'll tell you a quick story. As part of the book research, I asked Judge if we could set up a time to speak the next day. He agreed. The Yankees' clubhouse opened at 3:20 p.m. and Judge was already sitting at his locker, patiently waiting to do the interview. That doesn't always happen in this business.

PP: Are the Yankeesí expectations a little much not just for 2018, but beyond? I know itís the Yanks and I know what happened last year. But.....this is like 1999, right?

BH: The difference that I would point out is that the '99 Yankees had won two championships in the previous three years when they reported to Spring Training. As exciting as the 2017 season was, this team hasn't done it Ė yet. There is an immense amount of promise, however, in how they were able to restock the farm system and set themselves up for success in the years to come. Something special is happening in The Bronx, and I honestly believe they are closer to a championship than they have been in some time.

PP: Most underrated Yankee prospect who isnít a big name?

BH: Can we call Estevan Florial underrated? Until last year, his name probably wasn't known to anyone but the most serious Yankees fans, but this is a five-tool outfielder with tremendous potential. I was impressed after meeting him at the All-Star Futures Game in Miami, and that has carried over into this spring. The Yanks' brass speaks about him in glowing terms.

PP: Best part and worst part about covering the Yanks?

BH: The best part would probably be that you know every story is important and will be consumed voraciously by a wide audience. There is a huge amount of interest in what these players do every day, and at times it can almost be like covering a celebrity beat. These are some of the biggest stars in the sport. I suppose the worst part is that because of that huge spotlight, there are days when the reporters in the clubhouse outnumber the players, especially for home games. That doesn't happen in Kansas City or Milwaukee.

PP: Give me one word to describe Gary Sanchez.

BH: Determined.

PP: What do you hope people say about your book when they get done reading it?

BH: The book was envisioned as an exploration of how Derek Jeter's Yankees became Aaron Judge's Yankees. I hope that the book tells that story well, while also introducing readers to the back stories that propelled these men to wear the pinstripes. Whether you are a casual fan or a die-hard who watches every inning, there should be nuggets that you take away and feel like you got to sit down with each of these players, as I did.

PP: How good can Greg Bird be?

BH: If he can stay healthy, and that is still a huge 'if,' Bird can be a middle of the order hitter on a championship-caliber team. The hype is real, and you saw glimpses of that in September and October of 2017. It is unfortunate that he hasn't been able to prove it over a full season. Maybe 2018 will be that year.

PP: Aaron Boone the right choice?

BH: I have not heard any complaints. The Yankees brought a diverse group of candidates in for interviews, and the fact that Boone was their unanimous choice speaks volumes. So far, I sense that his camp has been somewhat more relaxed than some of Joe Girardi's were, and that Boone will attempt to be a player's manager. I'm not worried about him handling the X's and O's of in-game decision making. He'll learn on the job there. The bottom line is this: Boone should be a good manager because he has great players.

PP: Do you miss George Steinbrenner for any reason at all?

BH: My first year on the beat was 2007, so I never got to know Steinbrenner well. The Boss was already in the process of letting the young elephants into the tent, as he put it. I've heard the amazing stories of what it was like to cover Steinbrenner in the 1970s and 1980s, and the pressure and stress of being present for that would have been simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. What I can tell you is that the Yankees are in good hands with Hal Steinbrenner and his siblings running the show.

PP: Giancarlo Stanton. Did they really need him?

BH: A power-hitting right fielder wasn't on Brian Cashman's wish list when the Yankees went into the offseason, but when you have an opportunity to add the reigning National League MVP, you should probably do it. Their preference was to add a starting pitcher, particularly Shohei Ohtani. When that didn't work out, Stanton essentially fell into their laps. They'd have been silly to say no to that. Watching Stanton and Judge in the same lineup should be immensely entertaining. To me, baseball is better when the Yankees have star power, and theyíve got plenty of that right now.

Pick-up Bryan Hoch's book here.

2018 New York Yankees Storylines.
By: Mike Lindsley
Expectations are obviously high in 2018 after the Bronx Bombers came one win away from the World Series in 2017 and signed the NL MVP in the off-season in Giancarlo Stanton. Letís start with Spring Training, because, after all, this is where the team rounds into form. Here are the Top 5 storylines for the Yanks this Spring.

1. Rotation. Luis Severino-Masahiro Tanaka-Sonny Gray-CC Sabathia-unknown. This rotation, most thought, was going to be horrible heading into the 2017 season. And yet, they hung-in for the most part, especially in the playoffs, where Masahiro Tanaka, for example, hurled a gem in Game 3 against Cleveland in the ALDS to keep things going. Is Jordan Montgomery going to keep a spot? Is Chance Adams ready to make the jump from Triple-A? Sabathia being back is good for the clubhouse, but ultimately he could run out of gas. The Yankees need two more consistent arms to produce.

2. Aaron Judge/Giancarlo Stanton combo. These two are monsters by themselves. Together? On paper the scariest, most powerful 1-2 punch in baseball. Expectations are high. Baseball people are talking about this twosome hitting 100-120 homers in 2018. Spring Training will provide us with a good idea of how packed batting practice is on a regular basis, how many tickets could sell this season, how Giancarlo Stanton handles the media, how these two interact with one another and how teammates handle the hype and their popularity.

3. Aaron Boone. Boone has never managed. He has never managed a Spring Training. This is the beginning. This is where he earns his beginning stripes in terms of where to put players and what recipes will succeed. The hype starts here. The team building and making starts here. Year one. We start to see how good Boone can be as Yanks skipper.

4. Health. Of course, health. This is a key for every team. The Yanks need their key players to stay healthy. Judge, Stanton, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez. And, especially, all pitchers need to come out of Spring Training healthy. Add your big bullpen arms to the mix as well.

5. 2nd and 3rd bases. Who plays these positions? A lot of it will depend on who develops quickly. Until Gleyber Torres is ready, expect a platoon at each position. It makes since to split Ronald Torreyes and someone else at third base. Torreyes played well in spot duty last year. Is this where Miguel Andujar gets time? The Yanks made him an untouchable prospect this past off-season, which tells you how much the team values the 22-year old from the Dominican Republic. Can Tyler Wade play a little 2nd? Torreyes can play some second base as well. Is Thairo Estrada even ready? The Yanks, it looks like, wonít bring back Todd Frazier unless something crazy happens and soon. Itís only a matter of time for Torres to play full-time when he returns from his Tommy John injury. Is that at second or third? Time will tell.

Q and A with Anthony Castrovince of the
By: Mike Lindsley
Pinstripe Passion chatted with MLB.comís Anthony Castrovince on the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame class and all things Yankees. Here it is!

PP: Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2018. What do you like? What do you dislike?

AC: I like that the BBWAA has now inducted 16 guys in the last five years, because the ballots have been loaded with deserving candidates. I also like that Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina have seen big gains in recent years, which bodes well for them getting in. I don't like that the 10 vote limit continues to overly complicate this process. Scott Rolen, for instance, would probably get more love if not for that limitation.

PP: Is Mike Mussina a Hall of Famer?

AC: Absolutely. The context of his era is important. He was a consistently dominant pitcher at a time when offense exploded.

PP: What steroid guys eventually get in?

AC: There are already "steroid guys" in the Hall. But Bonds and Clemens treaded water in the voting this year and are running out of time. As the voting body skews younger each year, that helps them, but this was basically a lost year.

PP: The Yankees always want expectations. But what about THESE expectations in 2018?

AC: This is what they signed up for. And frankly it feels right to have a Yankees team with this feel to it. The "plucky underdog" model didn't suit them!

PP: What do you like most about Luis Severino?

That he's really just beginning to figure out how to put the raw stuff to use. Throwing that fiery fastball less and therefore making it more effective.

PP: Same for Didi Gregorius?

The power for the position. The confidence. The fact that he replaced an idol and didn't let it eat him up.

PP: Are you surprised that CC Sabathia is back with NY?

Not at all. Was perhaps their most consistent starter last season and really embraces the pinstripes. Still an important presence in that clubhouse.

PP: Does Brian Cashman (GM) have the safest job in baseball?

Sure seems that way. For years, he wanted to build the Yankees internally as opposed to externally and now he's put together one of the best Major League rosters AND one of the best farm systems in the game. Dangerous combo.

PP: How will Aaron Boone do in the Bronx?

He'll be so good with the media, which is half the battle anymore. Kind of the embodiment of the modern managerial mindset. I just have no idea how he'll do from an in-game strategy standpoint, only because we haven't seen him do it.

PP: Three quick, bold Yankee predictions for the upcoming season.

AC: 1. Gary Sanchez outhomers Aaron Judge.

2. They make a mid-season trade for a starter -- maybe someone controllable like Danny Duffy.

3. They win the AL East by north of five games.

Thanks Anthony! Keep-up the great work.

NOTE: Follow Anthony on Twitter @castrovince.

NY Yankees Q and A with Jay Berman of the CBS Sports Radio.
By: Mike Lindsley
Pinstripe Passion chatted Yankees with Jay Berman of CBS Sports Radio. Enjoy!

1. Are expectations too high in the Bronx after the Giancarlo Stanton grade?

They probably are. But more because they were so close to the winning the AL pennant in 2017. Offense wasn't the problem for them this past season. So how much better could it actually be/get? Yes the lineup will be formidable...but relying on the home run...isnt necessarily the best formula for success. HRs tend to dry-up in the postseason. Pitching is where they must improve. Which is why I felt acquiring Gerrit Cole would have been worth it.

2. Aaron Boone is the new manager. Like the hire?

I am not sure how I feel about the hire. And i certainly won't make rash judgements just from his introductory presser...which many people did do...but I will wait to see the results before making a decision on whether or not he is the right man for the job. I didn't love Joe Girardi as the skipper, but I thought it was ridiculous that they fired him. Especially after the recent success.

3. Does CC Sabathia have any gas left in the tank?

I am leaning towards no. I think 2017 was probably a fluke. Expecting more of the same is probably foolish. I would be more surprised if he was able to duplicate '17. Again...this is where the Yanks of add more starting pitching...will probably hurt them in the long run. They have certainly developed hitting...and with the exception of Severino...where is the depth in the pitching from the system coming from.

4. Whatís a full season of Greg Bird look like to you?

I like Bird a lot. But he has to prove can stay healthy. Part of being a good player is being able to accumulate both good stats...and healthy returns. Until he shows he can play 150 games...I will once again reserve judgement. The potential is 100% there...but staying on the field is the biggest concern with Bird. Very interested to see how his 2018 season turns out.

5. Aaron Judge in 2018. Go.

It will be hard for AJ to duplicate his if we are going strictly off that...I would expect him to come back to the pack a bit. With that said...I do expect big numbers from him. His power numbers will once again be there...and so will the protection. But the AL now knows what he is...and they wonít provide him with nearly as many pitches to hit...despite the fearsome line-up.

6. Is Luis Severino an ace long-term?

This is where the predictions get interesting. We all love the lineup...and rightfully so...but how will the pitching hold up? He is undoubtedly the ace of the staff...but it might be difficult to have another stellar season. I do expect him to be a front end pitcher once again...but ANOTHER crazy good season might be a lofty goal. However...he is the ace...and should be for a while...assuming he stays healthy.

7. How does your Yankee lineup look 1-9 in 2018 (obviously with what they have currently)?

1 - Hicks
2 - Gregorius
3 - Judge
4 - Sanchez
5 - Bird
6 - Stanton
7 - Gardner
8 - Andujar
9 - Torreyes

8. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter into the Hall of Fame in 2019 and 2020. Who was more important to the Yanks during that era?

Regular season - Jeter
Postseason - Mo

9. Will New York City ever, sooner or later, not be a Yankee town?

It has been in the past...and will certainly again be...a Met town. It is 100% dependent on the successes of the specific teams. As recently as 2015...NY was a Met town. It certainly is a Yankee town right now...but I wouldnt bet a lot of money that it will be like that forever!

10. Fun one to end. Eli Manning of the Giants is who to the Yanks, past or present? And how about the same with Odell Beckham Jr.?

ELI = Jeter/Mariano
OBJ = Reggie Jackson

NY Yankees Q and A with Mike Vaccaro of the NY Post.
By: Mike Lindsley
Pinstripe Passion had a chance to talk Yankees with longtime columnist, reporter and writer Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post. Mike has covered the Yanks for awhile in the big city and shares his thoughts on the pinstripes.

PP: Giancarlo Stanton to the Yanks. Anything to not like about the move?

MV: Nope, not a thing. If it seems like gluttony ... well, maybe it is, but I donít think anyone ever believes there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Watching him and Judge push each other all summer will be must-see.

PP: With the Stanton move, are the Yankees hated again?

MV: If not hated, theyíre well on the way. Which is probably for the best. It really did seem the 2017 team was incapable of being hated and that seemed to alter the balance of the universe a little. No need to worry about that for a while.

PP: Better 2018, Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton?

MV: Judge. I think heís the better overall player. Both are susceptible to slumps but I think Judge can do more when he isnít hitting.

PP: The expectations were already high for 2018 in the Bronx because of the team overachieving in 2017. How high are they now for the short term, and more importantly the long-term, long let's say being five years?

MV: As high as possible. They are already the betting favorites to win the World Series. Itís what the Yankees and their owners want, those expectations, and theyíve got them. And itís only going to get more intense as either the balleyhooed kids come up or the Yankees start spreading their cash around for Machado and/or Harper.

PP: Aaron Boone is the new manager. Good choice?

MV: I wouldnít have gotten rid of Girardi, but Boone does seem to fill-in all of the boxes Brian Cashman was seeking to fill. Any first-time manager is a risk, though.

PP: Why doesn't the national media give more credit to Didi Gregorius?

MV: I think he can get lost a little because so much attention is paid to Judge/Sanchez/Bird etc. But Didi is a legit star, an improving hitter who is superb on the field. In a lot of ways heís the anchor of the whole operation.

PP: Favorite Yankee player you've covered?

MV: David Cone. Always available, always accessible, always accountable, always quotable. And a hell of a pitcher, too, with the guts of a cat burglar.

PP: Does GM Brian Cashman have the safest job in baseball?

MV: If he doesnít, he should. The Yankees pulled off the nearly impossible, rebuilding without ever once having a losing record. Thatís so hard to do, and Cashman engineered all of it.

PP: In 2017, after plenty of Spring Training worries, the starting pitching ended-up hanging in there for the Yanks, especially in the playoffs. Will it hang-in there again in 2018?

MV: Always a fair question. Can CC hold up? Can Tanakaís elbow? Can Severino be a legit ace now that he canít sneak-up on anyone? And Sonny Gray didnít exactly make a great first impression. Still, thereís plenty of good stuff to work with, plus the bullpen is going to be great again.

PP: Best/favorite Yankee game you've covered?

MV: Game 5, 2001 World Series. No way they could do it again. And then they did it again.

Giancarlo Stanton To The Bronx.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees, a team supposedly building from within using sabermetrics and youth like everyone else having success, have added the reigning National League MVP to the roster. Here are the reasons to love the deal and reasons to have concern in terms of New York trading for slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

What to love:

1. The player. 2017 NL MVP. Runner-up in 2014. 267 career home runs. 672 career RBI. Lengthens the lineup. Upgrades the overall roster. Takes SOME pressure off of the young guys because Stanton is the new splash and has immediate expectations.

2. Derek Jeter (Marlins CEO) doing business with the Yankees. Enough said.

3. Age. This is more of a love, we think, than a concern. The contract? We will get to that later. Stanton just turned 28, however, in November, 2017, so he is in the prime of his career.

4. 2018 structuring and beyond. The Yanks, in 2018, will pay the same for Stanton and whoever plays second base, roughly, as they did for Matt Holliday and Starlin Castro in 2017.

5. Kept the best of the farm. The Yanks didn't move any big guys for Stanton. This was a straight salary dump for Miami. New York only gave-up prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers, guys who are way behind others in the system and second baseman Starlin Castro.

6. Teammates' response. Well, only two that were seen on Twitter by PP. Didi Gregorius seemed to welcome Stanton by joking with his new manager Aaron Boone by asking through a tweet if he was still hitting 4th in the lineup. This, clearly, is the tweet of the year. Aaron Judge, meantime, tweeted a close second to Stanton himself, by asking if the two had just become best friends in a GIF from the movie "Step Brothers." Too perfect.

7. Ballpark. Stanton pulls the ball just a bit and it is gone. A poke the other way catches the wind tunnel and is gone. If this guy stays healthy and can handle really good pitching in the AL and the spotlight, home runs will fly out in the Bronx.

8. The Yankees came one win away from the World Series. Maybe Stanton is worth around 4-7 wins in the regular season and that helps NY get home field advantage and they can set-up pitching and the postseason from the start and get to the Fall Classic this time.

9. Sales, marketing and tickets. Judge did plenty. The others helped. But now this? The Yankee lineup has the potential to be a modern day Murderer's Row. Think about the ratings on the YES Network, jersey sales, ticket sales which create more merchandise and concession sales. It just adds to the business element of New York Yankees baseball.

10. Out of Boston. The Red Sox wanted him for awhile too. We know Stanton used his no-trade clause to block trades to San Francisco and St. Louis. New York was one place he was willing to accept a trade (Astros-Dodgers-Cubs were the others) because he wants to WIN, which we suppose could be 10A here. But could he have been lured to Boston? Anything is possible. Plus, it makes the Red Sox sweat a little bit and maybe they make a bad move in response the way the Yankees used to.

Biggest concerns:

1. How will Stanton handle the New York media? Most reports coming out of Miami say that the guy disappears when the going gets tough. Good luck in New York, pal!

2. The contract. This deal is horrendous. Sure, NY gets $30 million paid for but has to still pay $265 million. That is how brutal of a deal it is until, wait for it.....2027. There is a $25 million dollar team option and $10 million buyout option for 2028. Stanton can opt-out of the deal after 2020.

3. The contract handled by other players. How are guys going to react to Stanton's deal? This is A-Rod like. Not good for a team building from within and creating its own look and culture. Maybe it won't matter (Gregorius and Judge on Twitter noted above), but I would assume some players will be mad. Plus, factor in what Judge and Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird will want to be paid when their time is up, now that Stanton is in town with his insane deal.

4. Old Yankee ways. This feels a little like a handshake deal for Gary Sheffield or dealing for A-Rod who you...

5. Don't need. Do the Yankees really "need" Stanton? They have a ton of outfielders already and help on the way from the minor leagues. They already hit home runs. How about starting pitching, depth and more all-around players with no horrendous contracts?

6. Speaking of, the 2018 free agent class is coming-up. PP doesn't want Bryce Harper but loves Manny Machado and MM also fills an actual need at third base. Oh, and he is a better overall player when healthy. The Yanks could still get him, but it's more unlikely after getting Stanton to town.

7. Health. Stanton hasn't exactly been Cal Ripken Jr. lately. Stanton getting hit in the face in 2014 and missing 17 games was bad luck. Everything else? Not so much. He has been injury-proned. Since 2011, it has been a shoulder or hamstring or quad. In 2017 he was healthy and won the MVP. But Stanton has had a lot of injuries the last six seasons and has missed a lot of games. These are also injuries where you overcompensate your other side to make your weak part stronger. Keep an eye on this.

8. Gary Denbo factor. He used to run the Yankees' minor league system. He is now Derek Jeter's scouting and development guy. Does he know something about the prospects leaving New York that Brian Cashman doesn't? This might be a "stretch concern," but one nonetheless considering that Denbo is a very smart man.

Bottom line:

We all know what the Yanks are adding. This, like everything else, is a to-be-determined situation. We have to wait and see if Stanton can handle New York and the media and the spotlight. We have to see if all of his teammates are ok with an insane contract now on the team, something GM Brian Cashman, we thought, was trying to avoid. Stanton can flat-out play and gives New York a huge layer of offense and depth and length 1-9.

Real bottom line:

How will this deal be validated? Win two or three AL pennants and two World Series. Fair or unfair, those are the expectations now while Stanton is in the Bronx, assuming he plays out the rest of his career in pinstripes.

Yankees Q and A with NYY Sports Talk.
By: Mike Lindsley
Pinstripe Passion recently caught-up with NYY Sports Talk on all things NY Yankees. Be sure to follow them on Twitter @NYYSportsTalk, catch their podcast and oh yes, they do weekly fan giveaways! Here is a little pinstripe talk from the co-hosts, Christian and Chris.

1. Aaron Boone is the next Yanks skipper. What do you like most about it?

Chris: He was one of my least favorite candidates, to be honest. But when they announced his name a sudden burst of excitement came over me. There's something about Boone that just seems perfect right now.

Christian: I don't know if there's one thing that particularly excites me about Aaron Boone becoming the new Yankees manager. I was pretty down on him during the process. He's our manager now and I fully support him. I guess what I like the most is that the Yankees actually have a manager and we can focus on baseball and this team trying to win their 28th World Series and not who the manager is going to be. I wish Boone the best of luck because he's the captain of a ship I don't want to see sink.

2. Will CC Sabathia be back in 2018?

Chris: I really thought he would be. There wasn't a doubt in my mind. But I'm scared it would have happened by now if it were going to. Maybe the Yankees were waiting for Ohtani to be out of the equation before talking to CC?

Christian: I think it's a lock that CC Sabathia will be back in 2018. I felt that way before Ohtani ruled out coming to the Yankees. CC is this team's horse and one of their leaders.

3. Sophomore slump or Sophomore slam for Aaron Judge?

Chris: I think anything will be considered a slump in comparison to 2017. If he goes out and hits 40 homers instead of 52, is that going to be frowned upon? If he stays healthy he will have another great year, but expect the power numbers to come back down to earth a little.

Christian: This is hard to answer because if Aaron Judge hits 39 home runs this season is that considered a slump coming off the season he just had? Judge will be one of the top power hitters in MLB in 2018. He may not hit 50+ homers but opposing pitchers will fear #99.

4. Would you trade Dellin Betances?

Chris: Yes. Next question.

Christian: I'd trade Betances in a heartbeat. This is a topic we've debated on the NYYST Podcast and I'm for it. He's got great stuff but when he can't throw strikes it's the worst possible thing to sit there and watch. He's become expendable with the emergence of Tommy Kahnle.

5. Are the Yankees the favorite in the AL East in 2018?

Chris: Depends on who you ask. If you ask someone who is unbiased and is a fan of baseball above all else, they will tell you the Yankees should sit atop the AL East in 2018. If you ask ESPN, they will probably have them 4th.

Christian: I don't see how the Yankees aren't the favorites in the AL East. Boston is really good but the Yankees have the better offense, bullpen and depth in the starting rotation.

6. Who do you miss more and why, Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera?

Chris: I want to vomit just thinking about choosing between the two. I love Jeter, he will always be my favorite in my lifetime. But I miss Mo running out to "Enter Sandman" in the 9th during a 1-3 run game. I'm getting chills just writing this.

Christian: I miss Derek Jeter the most. He's my favorite ball player of all-time. I miss him a lot less because of how great Didi has been but it goes my wife, Derek Jeter and Sylvester Stallone as the people I love most in the world.

7. Favorite Yankee of all-time?

Chris: The Mick. I wish I could have seen him play just one game in my life.

Christian: Derek Sanderson Jeter.

8. How did you guys get started?

Chris: Our passion for the Yankees was overflowing. I needed to create an outlet for it. Before I could even call Christian to tell him my plan, I received a message from Mark Munch in Cleveland asking me to send someone for his radio show on Fox Sports. I had to quickly brief Christian on my vision for the company and then say "oh, and also, you're going on the air for Fox Sports Radio in Cleveland with Mark Munch to talk Yankees vs. Indians, so good luck." From there, we haven't looked back.

Christian: Chris came to me one day and said he started having some fun on Twitter with this Yankees account and if I wanted to join him and start a podcast. Our first big break was before we even recorded our first podcast when we were asked to be on Munch Bishop's show on Fox Sports in Ohio to preview an upcoming Yankees/Indians series. I became a radio star that day.

9. First real Yankee memory?

Chris: Ah, a heart breaker. We discussed this on our podcast. 1995, Ken Griffey Jr. crossing home plate and the Yankees losing the ALDS. I cried for hours.

Christian: My first real Yankee memory was at the Old Stadium with my dad and sister. The Beach Boys held a concert after the game. I can't say I remember much about the game but I remember my dad taking my sister to dance over by the dugout. I couldn't have been more than six. If you're talking on field stuff it was a Kevin Maas home run. I can't tell you anything about the game but I remember he hit the ball in the upper deck and being amazed by it. I also remember that no one was in the Stadium. How times have changed.

10. Give PP the good, bad and the ugly of the new Yankee Stadium from an experience standpoint.

Chris: I've been to a lot of stadiums in my lifetime. I love all of them for different reasons. Judging Yankee Stadium on its own, its beautiful. It's breath taking. Judging it against the old stadium, it never had the same raw feel until the AL Wild Card game this past year. I've haven't felt the new stadium rock like that, and I was at the 2009 ALCS game when they won the pennant. The new Yankee Stadium finally held its own this postseason. There isn't anything bad I can say about it. It's my second home, and it will always be my favorite place on earth.

Christian: I love the new Yankee Stadium. The only negative thing I can say about it is that if you go to get food during the game you're missing two innings easily. The service is beyond slow. Maybe it's not as "pretty" as some of the newer parks but when you're there you know you're in the home of the New York Yankees and as a Yankees fan that's what matters most to me.

Thanks guys! Best of luck and LET'S GO YANKEES!

Aaron Boone To Manage Yankees.
By: Mike Lindsley
Out of all the candidates interviewed, only one can get the job.

Aaron Boone got it.

Boone will transition from ESPN color commentator to the most demanding managerial position in the game. New York Yankees skipper.

Michael Kay told ESPN's Scott Van Pelt that this is a major risk for the Yankees but that Boone does have the one skill the Yankees need. The one that Joe Girardi didn't have.

Relating to all the players. And, essentially, it's that managing of the clubhouse that's needed. The baseball sometimes takes care of itself these days because players are playing like it's Little League all over again. See Yanks, Indians, Astros, Royals and a few others the last two years.

Where the real pressure really comes is in October. It isn't a June game against the Rays. It's, perhaps, a game against Boston or Houston or someone else when Boone will have to decide when to go to the bullpen or where to bat Aaron Judge if he's 1-31. If it doesn't work? You're a failure. And it takes a lot to make-up for a playoff blunder. Especially in New York.

ďBold move ... a little unexpected," says Marc Ernay from 1010 WINS NYC.

There's no doubt that it is. Boone has never managed. Boone is a risk. Boone wasn't one of the original three or four favorites when Joe Girardi was shown the door.

But he comes from a baseball family. He knows the game. He is respected. He knows how to talk to all people. He knows the sabermetric game. And he sure knows pressure in New York, hitting one of the biggest home runs in Yankee postseason history in walk-off style in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston (11th inning-Tim Wakefield pitching).

So this, like anything else, is a wait-and-see situation. But remember, New York came one win away from the World Series last year. So the immediate expectation from a fishbowl fan base is to reach the Fall Classic. Otherwise you've failed.

You're up, Aaron Boone.

Carlos Beltran the Next Yanks Skipper?
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees recently interviewed Carlos Beltran for the managerial position. This is potentially good. And could be bad. Let's break it down.

Why it could be good:

1. Respect. Beltran is loved by young players and respected all around baseball. Umpires like him. Former players who now manage like him. The media loves him. Fans have never said a bad word about him. Nothing about this hurts the team.

2. Knows NYC. Beltran, like Joe Girardi, knows New York. He was a Yank from 2014 to the trade deadline in 2016. Pressure won't faze him.

3. October star. Beltran is a former GREAT player in the postseason. He can translate that success to everyone.

4. Really wants the job. He seems to want it more than any other candidate. He had contacted general manager Brian Cashman during the 2017 season and said he was going to retire and would help the Yanks organization in any way. He means every word. There's no bull sh&@ with Beltran.

5. The new baseball. Beltran has played recently in the new sabermetric-filled MLB world, most recently in 2017, winning it all with Houston. He knows numbers and WAR and match-ups but likely wouldn't go overboard with it having started in baseball before all this. Good balance here.

6. El habla Espanol. Beltran speaks Spanish. So do many Yankees. Just like a lot of MLB. Immediate connection with the Latin players.

Why it could be bad:

1. Experience. He has no experience. How much does experience really matter? A lot in the playoffs and at the end of the season in playoff races.

2. Labeled too quickly? Beltran retired and then he became the world's greatest candidate by the national baseball media. Sorry. Did he manage on another planet somewhere in-between?

3. The Girardi Effect. Some wanted him out. Some wanted him to stay. He had a bad playoff blunder against Cleveland but the team bailed him out. Some say he's too intense. Some say he's just right. Whatever your feeling is on Girardi, he came one win away from the World Series and led the underachieving team to a deep run in October. If Beltran takes over and the Yanks don't reach the World Series, you know what happens next, especially in the fishbowl of New York City.

Bottom line: Beltran is as good as anyone else and might be worth a shot. He would have a lot of pressure on him to do well right away, but so has every other Yankee manager. He's at the top of the list for the front office, no question.

Aaron Judge Wins AL Rookie of the Year.
By: Mike Lindsley
All Rise again!

No surprise. The verdict is in, the most obvious one of the 2017 baseball season.

Aaron Judge takes the honor for AL Rookie of the Year.

Here are some fun facts on Judgeís accomplishment, something no one saw coming from a numbers or award standpoint in Spring Training when he battled for the right field spot and eventually won it.

-Judge is the ninth Yankee to win the award.

-Judge is the first to win the award since 1996 (Derek Jeter).

-Judge set the record for home runs hit by a rookie in 2017 with 52, three more than Mark McGwire three decades prior.

-While many point towards Judgeís high total of strikeouts at 208, he also led all AL players in home runs (52), runs (128) and walks (127). He also finished second in the AL in RBI with 114. Sabermetric people donít care about the strikeouts when those numbers come with them.

-The hardware piled-up in 2017 with possibly more to come (the AL MVP vote comes on 11-16-17). Judge also won the Home Run Derby and the AL Silver Slugger Award.

Where do we go from here? That is always the question in sports. Come out of nowhere, set the world on fire, create more expectations, get criticized, carry your team again, come one game from the World Series, get exposed in the playoffs yet perform in a few clutch moments in October and overall everyone wants a better 2018. EVEN IN BASEBALL! The hardest thing to do in sports is to hit a baseball and yet few hit it as well as Judge in 2017. But that is where we are in todayís society.

Here is how to answer the above question. Here is what we know by doing so. Judge is here to stay, for at least a few years. Do we know if he will be in Cooperstown one day? Or even be a 10-time All Star who is a very good player but not a Hall of Fame player? Of course not. It is too early for all of that stuff.

But he has shown the ability to handle New York and the pressure and what it means to wear the Yankee uniform. He has been called the next ďfaceĒ of baseball and is already the face of the New York Yankees. He can hit for average and power. He can field his position. His arm is deadly from right field. He can run the bases. He is a good teammate. Fans love him. He never gets too high or too low. He speaks like Derek Jeter.

Who knows if he will pan out to be even as good as Tony Kubek or Thurman Munson or Dave Righetti or Derek Jeter, a few of those nine Yankee Rookie of the Year winners.

But Judge will be an impactful player no matter what. He has already passed the look test as a solid all-around ballplayer, not just a slugger.

And from here, it is up to him. Itís also about his opponents and how they continue to pitch him, because, after all, there is someone on the other side in sports.

Itís about Judge adjusting to everything, mainly that slider that breaks away from him and exposed him over and over this past season, that comes with the sophomore year in 2018 and beyond for us to get the eventual answer.

Chances are we will All Rise a few more times before this thing is over.

Joe Girardi Wonít Return to Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
Clearly there were internal struggles between the front office and Joe Girardi all season long. Does this go back to Chicago, during the season, when Joe Girardi continued to feed Tyler Clippard the ball to try and remove the relieverís slump? Perhaps we will never know.

What we do know is this. Joe Girardi wasnít invited back to manage the Yankees in 2018 and beyond. His contract was up. He wanted to come back. The Yanks said no thanks. Girardi technically wasnít fired because his contract was up. This is more like an indirect fire because he wasnít invited back. Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, who also doesnít have a contract for next year, but must have a verbal ďyou will be backĒ considering he thanked Girardi for his service via the Yanksí Twitter handle, have had enough. In other words, thanks for the decade but take a hike buddy!

Letís look at the three good things and three bad things in terms of Joe G not returning.

The Good:

1. Most players shouldnít care. They ďcareĒ but they donít ďCARE.Ē What does that mean? These players arenít going to run from the Bronx because Girardi isnít there. This is a young, fun, hungry team that wants to get back to the playoffs and make another run. Todd Frazier and others said they ďplayed for the managerĒ after the Game 5 win against Cleveland (Girardi blew Game 2 by not challenging a ball to bat strikeout). What else are they supposed to say when the team won? Those words would have never been uttered if the Yanks lost Game 3 or 4 or 5. There are plenty of players in that clubhouse who also donít like Girardi, you just havenít heard about it because they were all busy trying to reach the World Series.

2. New blood. ďSometimes you just need a new voiceĒ is vastly overrated, especially here. So letís use ďnew blood.Ē As in a guy who will run the numbers, let the front office run the show and who has worked with the young players in Triple-A and lower or even in the Bronx. Think Al Pedrique. He has been with the Yankee farm teams since 2013 (Charleston-Tampa-Trenton-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre).

3. Girardi gets a shot elsewhere. Yankee manager seems like a dream job to everyone. But it is hard. Nothing is ever enough. Girardi could take some time off and head back to the dugout in 2019 or beyond. Or, he could manage a guaranteed division winner in Washington right away (would need to get an interview and offer of course) and watch Bryce Harper try and win a World Series before he cashes-in. Food for thought.

The Bad:

1. The Yanks came one win away from the World Series. Sure, Girardi had the Game 2 blunder against Cleveland and slipped with the bullpen at times during the season. But doesnít he deserve a shot with this young group?

2. Who is better? Not saying someone who has never managed canít do well. Plus, there are a bunch of recycled managers out there who could do well in a new spot. But are any of them better than Joe Girardi right now? A quick NO is your answer.

3. Girardi knows everything Yanks/NYC. He won titles as a player. He won a title as a manager. In New York. For the Yankees. He knows the fans and the media and the franchise. Good luck finding someone who knows as much as Girardi in this fish bowl of a baseball place.

2017 New York Yankees Season Recap.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Houston Astros topped the Yanks in Game 7 of the ALCS 4-0 and ended the Baby Bombersí fun playoff ride. Here is a season recap.

The best: Just the way this team played from the start of the season to the end. Baseball had been doing it for a long time, but not the Yanks. Fun, nothing-to-lose approach, team bonding, young and playing hard each and every day to win a spot on the roster. This brand of baseball helped in comebacks in the playoffs, down 0-2 to Cleveland and Houston, respectively.

The worst: Dellin Betances. Sure, Aroldis Chapman and a host of others bombed out in the regular season and blew a lot of saves, which ultimately prevented the team from winning an American League East title, but Chap and the trade deadline hurlers and others were awesome in the playoffs (David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, etc). Betances? He was dreadful during the playoffs and never got right in October. The Yankees might have to start over with this guy. Betances has gone from a sure thing and an All-Star to a guy who is missing the strike zone by a foot or more at times. He simply cannot throw strikes. Is he injured?

Most surprising unit: Starting pitching. Somehow, the Yanks made it through the regular season with an up and down rotation and then in the playoffs, boom, they got, for the most part, terrific starts from the likes of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray and Luis Severino. Sure, Sabathia ran out of steam in Game 7 against Houston, but he really hung-in there until that point as the ďstopperĒ of the staff. Tanaka was brilliant with the teamís back against the wall in Game 3 against Cleveland in the ALDS and then mowed down Houston in helping New York to a 3-2 series edge.

Team MVP: Aaron Judge. Other than a six-week slump, Judge was an AL MVP candidate. 114 RBI. 52 HR. .422 OBP. .284 batting average. .627 slugging. 1.049 OPS. And in the playoffs, despite putting-up record strikeout numbers, he was sensational in the field, robbing home runs and extra base hits and had key hits throughout October. He had a major impact. The problem for him? Next year he has to avoid the sophomore slump and handle pressure in New York while doing so. Judgeís personality should help him here. What would also help him is an off-season of adjusting to pitchers and how to lay-off the slider that haunted him during the regular and post-seasons.

Important to note: The Yankees technically arrived ďearlyĒ say many baseball pundits. What does that even mean? They arrived ahead of schedule and so next year they will win the pennant and then two straight World Series crowns? Arriving early honestly means nothing. It means they surprised many THIS year and have a bright future. But it doesnít guarantee anything. 2018 is a new year. 2019 is a new year. And so on. Every year is different.

Seasonís slogan: ďThumbs Down.Ē Incredible. This team got an idea and ran with it. This is part of baseball players having fun. Thanks to Gary Dunaier, who looked like Santa Claus and put his left thumb down. Thanks to Aaron Judge for noticing it. Judge helped Todd Frazier (who hit the home run leading to this against the Mets) and other teammates get on the train and the theme/image/slogan chugged along. Now there are shirts and emoji jokes and everything else. Dunaier even has his own bobblehead now. What a world. What fun. Contracts off the books: CC Sabathia, A-Rod, Matt Holliday, Michael Pineda, Jaime Garcia, Todd Frazier (adjusted).

2018: Brian Cashmanís contract is up, plus the Yanks need a new manager after foolishly telling Joe Girardi to take a hike. Will Masahiro Tanaka be back? Will the Yanks bring back CC Sabathia for a one-year deal? Will they try and rid more bad salaries like Jacoby Ellsbury?

2018 projected lineup:

1-Brett Gardner (LF)
2-Aaron Judge (RF)
3-Didi Gregorius (SS)
4-Gary Sanchez (C)
5-Greg Bird (1B)
6-Aaron Hicks (CF)
7-Todd Frazier/Chase Headley (3B)
8-Starlin Castro (2B)
9-Jacoby Ellsbury (DH)

Note: This all depends on Ellsbury or Frazier being in the lineup. After 2018, Headley comes off the books, Frazier will likely not be in pinstripes either and New York will attempt to grab one of the big fish in free agency. Maybe Manny Machado mans third base starting in 2019? Expect Gleyber Torres to see time at second and third bases, respectively, and the Yankees possibly shopping Starlin Castro at the trade deadline. Brett Gardner is signed through 2018 and has a $12.5 million dollar team option for 2019 with a $2 million buyout. If the Yankees sign Bryce Harper, Gardner may be the odd man out. 2018 and 2019 are fascinating years in the Bronx, thatís for sure. Donít expect the Yankees to spend a ton going into 2018. The free agent class is very weak and all of the positions, really, are full on the Yankee roster. Why sign Carlos Santana when you have Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez? Do you sign Mike Moustakas when Machado is available the year after? Jay Bruce? No outfield room. You could DH him, but that means someone has to take Ellsburyís horrendous game, injuries and silly contract dollars.

2018 projected pitching rotation:

1-Luis Severino
2-Sonny Gray
3-Jordan Mongomery
4-Chance Adams
5-CC Sabathia

Everything depends on Masahiro Tanaka opting out. We are projecting that he does because the free agent pitching class is so weak and he had a wonderful postseason. If he does, that means more money per year. Good luck with that in the Bronx. 10-15 years ago, the Yankees would have caved and given it to him. Not anymore. These are new times. Tanaka loves pitching in New York and still has a partially torn UCL in his elbow. Those are big factors in this whole equation one way or the other. If he opts out, expect the Yankees to let a youngster into the mix, sign Sabathia to a one-year deal, and perhaps make a play for Yu Darvish as another ace-type guy and a backend guy like Lance Lynn to hold the fort down until Justus Sheffield is ready.

Stay tuned: Pinstripe Passion will have lots of off-season articles and commentary as well as a new podcast debuting during the Winter. If there was one word to describe this 2017 group it was ďfun.Ē One word to describe the franchise? ďBack.Ē ďBackĒ doesnít guarantee titles, but this team is in good shape for several runs for the next five to seven years.

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.

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