Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Day the Season Was Saved?

During last night's game between the Yankees and the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, the Chicago White Sox were hosting an Interleague game with the Los Angeles Dodgers (a game the Dodgers would win 1-0), and Todd Frazier wasn't in it. Instead, he was seen shaking hands with his teammates in the dugout -- as if they were about to no longer be his teammates.

That turned out to be the case. Yankee general manager Brian Cashman pulled off what could turn out to be a major trade. He said pitchers Tyler Clippard and Ian Clarkin, and outfielders Blake Rutherford and Tito Polo, to the White Sox for Frazier and pitchers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.

Polo, one of the "prospects" that Cashman had thrown Ivan Nova away for, was playing for the Class AA Trenton Thunder, 2 steps below the major leagues. Clarkin was pitching for the Class A Tampa Yankees, 3 steps below. Rutherford was playing for the Class A Charleston Riverdogs, 4 steps below. None of these guys was going to help the Yankees this year, or the next, or probably even in 2019.

The most important player the Yankees gave up was Clippard, who had proven for the 2nd time that he simply cannot pitch for the Yankees. Yes, Tyler Clippard is gone. As Bronson Pinchot used to say on Perfect Strangers, "Now, we are so happy, we do the dance of joy! Hey!"

This is a case of, "Great trade! Who did we get?"

Kahnle is a 27-year-old righthanded pitcher from near Albany, New York. He had pitched the last 2 seasons with the White Sox, and the 2 before that for the Colorado Rockies. He's been assigned Number 48, and if the Yankees get anything out of him, it will be a surprise and a bonus. He was a throw-in.

Robertson, we know. The 32-year-old righthander from Birmingham was with us from 2008 to 2014, and rejoins Brett Gardner as the last 2 guys on the Yankee roster who played a home game at the old Yankee Stadium. "D-Rob" won the 2009 World Series with us, made the All-Star Team in 2011, and was eventually the man who had the unenviable task of succeeding Mariano Rivera as the closer in the 2014 season. He did a good job, but after the season, with his contract having run out, he declined the Yankees' new offer, and signed with the White Sox.

He's done well since, and now he's back, and he can either fill the 8th inning role that's been effectively vacant since Cashman stupidly traded Andrew Miller away for "prospects" last July, or alternate with the lefthanded Aroldis Chapman as closer.

As for Frazier, well, who thought that "prospect" Clint Frazier wouldn't be the most important Frazier for the Yankees this season? Todd, a.k.a. the Toddfather, was born in Point Pleasant, Ocean County, New Jersey, and grew up in neighboring Toms River. He helped a Toms River team win the 1998 Little League World Series, graduated from Toms River High School South (which has one of the Shore Conference's most historic baseball programs), and was Big East Conference Player of the Year at Rutgers University in 2007. His 42 home runs are the most in Scarlet Knights history.

He was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2004, but did not sign with them, choosing to stay at Rutgers. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, and signed with them. He was a late-season callup in 2011, finished 3rd in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2012 (behind Bryce Harper and Wade Miley, so he never had a chance), and was an All-Star in 2014 and '15.

His wife, Jackie Verdon, is also a former Rutgers athlete, a gymnast. They have a son, Blake; and a daughter, Kylie. His brother Jeff played 9 games for the Detroit Tigers, and his brother Charlie played in the Miami Marlins' organization.

Frazier has worn uniform Number 21 since he arrived in the major leagues, a tribute to his favorite player, Yankee Legend Paul O'Neill. Since the Yankees have, effectively if not officially, retired that number for O'Neill, he has been assigned uniform Number 29.

He comes into this game with only a .207 batting average, but he has 16 home runs and 44 RBIs. His OPS+ is 105. In contrast, the man who he could replace as the Yankees' starting 3rd baseman, Chase Headley, is batting .257, but has just 4 homers, 37 RBIs, and a pathetic OPS+ of 87.

Frazier could also play 1st base. a position that was held by Chris Carter for most of the season, with an OPS+ of an execrable 70. Ji-Man Choi and Garrett Cooper have been tried there, but it's too soon to tell if either is a solution.

Regardless, Todd Frazier should help. David Robertson should help. Indeed, simply not having Tyler Clippard as an option for Joe Girardi to put in the game should help!

*

Oh yes: There was a game last night. Luis Cessa was the starting pitcher, and he was shaky, not getting out of the 4th inning. Girardi brought Chasen Shreve in, and he settled things down. At that point, it was 3-1 Minnesota.

To that point, Bartolo Colon, the big fat 44-year-old former steroid user who had previously pitched for both the Yankees and the Mets, making his debut for the Twins, had handcuffed the Yankees.

But Ronald Torreyes led off the top of the 5th with a single. Gardner hit a ground-rule double. Gary Sanchez nearly hit one out, settling for a double and 2 RBIs, tying the game. Twins manager Paul Molitor had seen enough: He took Colon out, and brought in Ryan Pressly.

If this Pressly, like Elvis Presley, told the Yankees, "Don't be cruel," he was, instead, left all shook up. Aaron Judge broke out of his post-All-Star-Break slump, and singled home Sanchez to give the Yankees the lead. Matt Holliday struck out, but Didi Gregorius hit a home run to make it 6-3 Yankees.

That was the final score: Between them, Shreve, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances and Chapman pitched 5 1/3rd innings, allowing no runs, 3 hits and 2 walks. And this was without the possibility of Robertson -- but also without the possibility of Clippard.

Yankees 6, Twins 3. WP: Shreve (3-1). SV: Chapman (10). LP: Colon (0-1).

This may well have been the day the season was saved.

The series concludes this afternoon. Jordan Montgomery starts against Jose Berrios.

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