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Jastremski: An Electric Weekend In The Bronx

Yanks/Stros In October Sounds Tasty!

You never want to get nuts with a late June series, one way or another if you’re a Major League team.

That said, there was a heightened sense of adrenaline kicking in the Bronx this past weekend for the Yankees-Astros series.

After Sunday’s finale finished up, my first thought was.

Man, can we get 7 of these come October?

The Yankees and the Astros have developed quite the rivalry over the last couple of seasons.

They’ve played multiple playoff series, both teams have won a whole lot of games, and of course the bad blood from the 2017 cheating scandal.

There is no love lost for the Yankees and the Astros.

There is certainly no love lost for Astros star Jose Altuve from the Yankee faithful.

However, the rivalry has been pretty one-sided in games that really matter.

The Astros are responsible for eliminating the Yankees from the 2015 Wild Card game and the 2017 & 2019 American League Championship Series.

Cheaters or not, the Astros have pretty much owned the Yankees.

I looked at this past weekend as a great litmus test for the red hot Bombers.

As far as I’m concerned, the Yankees passed the initial tough test.

They split the four games, but the wins and losses featured two different subplots.

The two wins on Thursday & Sunday displayed the grit and intestinal fortitude that has been on full display in the Bronx all summer.

On Thursday, the Yankees were down 3 in the 9th inning. Aaron Hicks hit a 3 run bomb to tie it and Aaron Judge walked it off with a double.

Friday and Saturday didn’t go quite as well for the Yankee bats.

They were shut down by Yankee nemesis Justin Verlander on Friday night and on Saturday, the Yankees were no-hit for the first time since 2003.

Ironically enough, the last team to no-hit the Yankees was the Houston Astros, the same exact script that took shape on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday wasn’t looking particularly good for 6 innings.

The Yankees once again were being no-hit, but the difference between the 2021 Yankees and this year’s team was on full display.

The Yankees scratched and clawed their way back. A couple of homers to tie the game and an Aaron Judge walk-off bomb in extras to win it.

It was an electric weekend of baseball in the Bronx.

Two terrific teams, star power all over the field, and exactly the sort of series you’d want to see come October.

The Yankees have a whole lot cooking in 2022. If they want to win it all, they must slay the dragon that is a very dangerous Houston Astros team.

Theater that I would most certainly pay to see!

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify/Apple Podcasts. You can watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight following Mets postgame on SNY.

Jastremski: Little things propelling the two best teams in Baseball

I know a baseball season is all about perspective.

When you play 162 games, it’s important not to get too low or too high regarding the state of affairs for your team.

However, it’s almost the end of June. That’s three plus months of baseball this season.

The Yankees have the best record in the sport. The Mets have the second best record in the sport.

It’s been well documented here, on my podcast and on my television appearances how enjoyable this has been for me!

To put the NY Baseball perspective in some context. So far, the Yankees are on pace to eclipse the win mark set by the record setting 1998 team.

For the Mets, they’re off to their best start since the 1986 season.

Fair to say 1986 and 1998 worked out pretty well for the Mets and Yankees respectively.

Look, I’m not telling you a Subway Series is a foregone conclusion yet.

There is a long way to go, but we can safely say, both NY baseball teams are really good.

Yes, they’re talented, but I’ve noticed a specific difference in both the 2022 Yankees and Mets compared to some other versions over the years.

The Yankees and Mets both have this in common, they’re doing the little things very well.

The Yankees a year ago were the ultimate boom or bust team. They relied on the homerun entirely, they couldn’t run the bases, couldn’t field their position and couldn’t hold a lead.

If you’ve watched the Yankees at any point this year, you’re seeing a totally different brand of baseball.

The base running and defense is drastically better and it’s made a difference in their record.

For the Mets, the last two seasons hitting with runners in scoring position was an absolute nightmare.

The Mets couldn’t buy a big hit and in reality, it probably cost them trips to the postseason each of the last two years.

The offensive approach implemented by Buck Showalter and hitting coach Eric Chavez has required the Mets at times to get back to basics.

That approach has delivered top notch results.

Look, the Mets added some terrific hitters. Mark Cahna and Starling Marte for starters, but up and down the lineup, the approach at the plate is flat out better.

The Mets have done a masterful job all year of putting the ball in play and as a result of that, it has highlighted some of their opponent’s deficiencies.

No need to apologize for them, just take advantage.

Winning baseball can seem obvious at times, but it’s more than meets the eye.

The little nuances of the game that evaded the Yankees and Mets over the last two years have been mastered so far this season.

Little things lead to big things and a whole lot of wins around town these days…

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify/Apple Podcasts. You can watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight after Mets postgame on SNY.

Jastremski: A New Fab 5 in the Boogie Down

In the middle of Rangers fever, Instagram and the nature of the new Yankee Stadium, it’s tough to get a June crowd rocking the way you would an October crowd.

Sadly, the nature of the beast these days. However, Thursday night was one of those nights where you could tell the new Yankee Stadium was very much alive and well.

Jameson Taillon was two innings away from making history, but at the same time the outcome of the ballgame was very much in doubt.

The stadium crowd was living and dying on every strike, every pitch and every out.

Taillon lost the perfect game in the 8th inning and surrendered a run, but in many ways the Yankee crowd and Anthony Rizzo was not going to let the pitching performance go wasted.

The Yankees came back and won the game. Yankee Stadium was going bananas and I was in quite the good mood.

Little did I know, Taillon’s performance on Thursday night was just part one of a Yankee starter flirting with perfection.

Friday, the ace on paper Gerrit Cole was nothing short of brilliant against the Detroit Tigers.

Cole took a perfect game into the 7th inning.

Back to back starts with two guys seriously flirting with perfect games? I watch a whole lot of baseball, that simply doesn’t happen.

On Saturday, Luis Severino wasn’t flirting with a perfecto, but he delivered a 1 hit, 7 inning shutout masterpiece.

I know the Tigers lineup is nothing to write home about, but it will be tough to imagine three starts in a row from teammates being better than Taillon, Cole and Severino in 2022 throughout the sport.

The Yankees are rolling every which way so far this season and their starting pitching has hands down been the biggest reason.

Entering the 2022 season, I expected Gerritt Cole to be the ace of the staff and everything else would fall into place.

I didn’t expect that the highest era for a Yankee starter would be Jordan Montgomery’s 3.02, which is 14th amongst starters in the American League.

I thought this Yankee rotation would surprise people, because I expected a resurgent year from Severino and I believed in Cortes.

Could I have imagined this would be what the rotation would look like in the middle of June?

Not in a million years.

The last time the Yankees received high quality starting pitching like this, the end result was a parade down the Canyon of Heroes.

It’s premature to start thinking about that, but it’s not premature thinking about the possibility of multiple Yankee starters finding their way to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game.

I know the Fab 5 has branding rights, but the Yankees have a Fab 5 of their own.

A Fab 5 on the mound in the Boogie Down Bronx.

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York on The Ringer Podcast Network every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday nights on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. You can watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight after Mets postgame on SNY.

Jastremski: Nasty Nestor is no fluke

There are always certain types of guys that fan bases just love falling in love with.

The classic overachiever, the home grown star or maybe it’s just someone oozing confidence and swagger.

It’s pretty obvious to point out the type.

Last year, the Yankee fan base fell in love with Nestor Cortez.

Cortes came out of nowhere. He pitched with the Yankees in 2019, left the team in 2020 and returned in 2021.

Cortes profiled as your classic lefty journeymen pitcher and I’m sure his return to the team wasn’t exactly celebrated.

However, midway through the 2021 season, the Yankees needed someone to step up in their rotation.

Nestor Cortes took on that role.

He went from being the really good long reliever to a pitcher Aaron Boone could rely on more and more starting out games.

The Yankees would not have made the postseason last year without his contribution to the rotation.

Cortes won over fans with his strong performance, but it was more than that.

Nestor Cortes has a flair and a presence on the mound. The way he changes speeds, the funky leg kick and then you throw in the mustache!

How can you not love Nestor Cortes???

Heading into the 2022 season, I wondered if Cortes could do it again?

After all, I remember Aaron Small and Shaun Chacon. Small and Chacon were instrumental in the Yankees division title in 2005 and were both cut mid way through 2006.

A month plus into 2022, Cortes has made it clear. 2021 was no fluke.

Cortes is the first pitcher in Yankee history with at least 40 strikeouts and 6 runs or fewer allowed in his first 6 games of the season.

On Monday, Cortes took a no hitter into the 8th inning against the Texas Rangers and was sensational.

Believe it or not, I received a text from a Yankee fan telling me he’d prefer Cortes start the Yankees playoff game over ace Gerrit Cole!

I’m not willing to go that far, but I am willing to say. Nestor Cortes is for real.

The stash, the leg kick, the swagger.

I’m sold. Nasty Nestor is no fluke.

You can listen to my podcast New York every Sunday & Thursday on the Ringer Podcast Network, You can also check us out live Tuesday nights after Yankee & Met games on Spotify Live with your calls. Plus nightly on Geico Sportsnight on SNY.

With the 2022 Baseball season upon us, will both NY teams be October bound?

At the end of spring training, hope springs eternal for a whole lot of baseball fans itching to see their favorite team in action.

It’s terrific knowing that the expectations for both NY Baseball teams should be pretty darn high going into this year.

The Mets did a fabulous job of winning the backpages this winter.

They acquired the best pitcher on the market, Max Scherzer. They acquired one of the most exciting outfielders in the game, Starling Marte. Oh and they hired one of baseball’s best managers, Buck Showalter.

On paper, the Mets could not have drawn up their offseason any better.

However, you don’t win division titles on paper.

The Mets already have a major headache on their hands with their ace Jacob deGrom.

The same ace that missed the entire second half of last season is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. So much for Jake being in the best shape of his life!

The Mets can survive deGrom’s absence for the first two months of the season, but if they want to win a championship, they need him.

It would be nice to see the 300 million dollar man Francisco Lindor step up in a big way in his second full season in Queens.

Lindor is a star player, but last year for a good majority of the season, he didn’t play like one.

If the Mets are going to win the NL East, they will need a bounceback season out of Mr Smile.

For the Yankees, they didn’t win the back pages of this offseason the way the Mets did.

It by no means was a sexy offseason for a team that is coming off back to back disappointing seasons.

However, the Yankees are a better team going into 2022 than they were going into last season.

For starters, defensively they should look much better behind the plate and at shortstop.

Offensively, a full season of Anthony Rizzo and the addition of Josh Donaldson should provide an element of toughness that was lacking for most of last year.

GM Brian Cashman mentioned after the Donaldson trade that the Yankees were lacking an edge, I hope Donaldson helps provide one.

The Yankees will be better offensively, because in addition to Donaldson and Rizzo, Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu can’t be any worse than what they were last season.

In a loaded American League East, the Yankees can’t have lackluster campaigns from Torres and LeMahieu.

They also need to answer a pretty simple question. Who will be the #2 starter behind Gerrit Cole?

Luis Severino has the stuff to do it. He’s been an All-Star before. However, he has not started a full season of games in 4 years.

If the Yankees win the AL East, we will be talking about a Baby Bomber resurgence for both Torres and Severino.

It’s an exciting time to be a NY Baseball fan. Both teams are interesting and expect to win.

If we are not talking about two playoff teams at the end of September, something went horribly, horribly wrong across the board.

For now, let the games begin…

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts.

You can also watch me nightly at 11 PM on Geico Sportsnight on SNY.

Pol Position: Mandatory for some, but not for others

NYC Mayor Eric Adams claims that his recent decision to lift the COVID-19 vaccination mandate is an attempt to bring back the city’s illustrious “nightlife” that “the city that never sleeps“ is and has always been known for.

“We’re going to keep our nightlife industry thriving, a $35.1 billion industry. By putting our home teams on equal playing fields we increase their chances of winning and that has a real impact on our city. It’s not just fans in the stands, it’s people in the stores. Every time a championship or a game is played here it’s a boost of $11 million into our economic impact during the playoff season,” Adams said in his press conference. “Expanding this exemption, which only applies to a small number of people, is crucial.”

While the announcement comes just in time for the upcoming NBA playoffs and MLB 2022 season, many New Yorkers are in an uproar that Hizzoner is caving in to the pressure from celebrity holdouts, including Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets and Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, who have both expressed their disinterest in taking the vaccine which many city workers have been forced to take at risk of losing their job.

NYC Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said that this sends the wrong message to the city that athletes and celebrities making millions of dollars each year are exempt while so many others have been losing their jobs.

“This exemption sends the wrong message that higher-paid workers and celebrities are being valued as more important than our devoted civil servants, which I reject. This is a step away from following sensible public health-driven policies that prioritize equity,” Speaker Adams said.

In the Mayor’s defense:

The entertainment industry was one facet of New York City living that experienced a significant blow from the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of people lost their jobs when concert venues and arenas were shut down due to the virus.

Stagehands and union employees who put in the work to ensure that these concerts and events were able to function properly have been out of work for a very long time, and are eager to go back.

Since the mandate was enforced many performances scheduled to take place in New York City have been canceled or postponed indefinitely.

According to a report made by NYS Comptroller DiNapoli last year, employment in arts, entertainment and recreation declined by 66 percent as of December 2020, representing the largest decline among one of the City’s most valued economic sectors.

While there are many who are opposed to the Mayor’s recent announcement, it’s important from the standpoint of economic recovery to bring back these institutions where so many people have traditionally been employed.

Vendors, security, and stagehands have all had to go without work, and two years later, several have had to make difficult decisions in order to make ends meet.

In defense of the mandate:

The mayor’s kowtowing to the demands of rich ballplayers who refuse to observe the mandate enforced on city employees may allow for there to be a 2022 MLB season but it could lead to rifts between the city and municipal workers that feel they were strong-armed into falling in line with the vaccine requirement.

Healthcare workers were the most impacted by this requirement. When the mandate first came into effect, many of the essential workers who helped treat the sick at the start of the pandemic suddenly found themselves in a predicament. Many felt they were made to choose, risking their jobs by holding out on taking the shots.

Earlier this week, The New York Post spoke with an unvaccinated Harlem resident who was sent home from her job as a waitress at Citi Field because she didn’t want to get the shot. According to the Citi Field employee, Elissa Embree, she hasn’t been vaccinated because she had two miscarriages and is worried that the vaccine could possibly increase her risk for another.

“I’m not as important as a Met is, because a Met will fill Citi Field, which fills the coffers of New York,” Embree said in the article. “They don’t care about little ol’ me, who pays middle-class taxes. The elusive ‘they’ don’t care that I have been out of work and that I have been at my breaking point.”

While the CDC states that there is no definitive evidence showing that the COVID-19 vaccine causes any such fertility problems, her overall frustration with the franchise echoes the remarks of numerous other NYC workers who have been pushed out of their job due to the mandate.

Presently, more than 1,400 NYC municipal workers lost their jobs for refusing to take the vaccine.

Two Deadline Approaches

In the days leading up to the July 31st MLB trade deadline, one would have figured the Yankees and Mets would be in the exact same position: buy and win at all costs.
That thought process in the preseason made perfect sense. After all, the Yankees and the Mets were supposed to be two legitimate World Series contenders.
Things have changed since the middle of March.
The Yankees have been the biggest disappointment in baseball. The Red Sox and Rays have surpassed them in the AL East, putting them at the point of no return as far as winning the division is concerned.
However, the second Wild Card puts the Yankees very much in the postseason conversation.
Despite all of their flaws and issues, the Yankees are only two games back in the loss column behind the Oakland A’s for the final postseason spot in the American League.
So how exactly do you handle the trade deadline?
The Yankees are not going to sell off assets considering they are within striking distance of the postseason, but considering their deficit in the AL East is it worth going all in on this 2021 team?
The Yankees should look to add to the roster, but the idea of making an all-in type of move in 2021 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
That said, the Yankees should think about adding to the roster, but with the mindset of trying to add for 2021 and beyond. Long-term moves make sense, short-sighted moves do not.
The Mets find themselves in a much different predicament.
They are in first-place in the NL East and could be a very dangerous postseason team.
It’s not to suggest the Mets should mortgage their future on one specific player, but their front office can think about the idea of making one move to potentially put the team over the top.
Is that player Kris Bryant or Max Scherzer? Uncertain, but if the Mets brass believes that one player can take the team to the next level, that is the move that should be made.
The Mets should be in a far more aggressive position come July 31 in comparison to the Yankees. The results in the standings are the ultimate proof.
This week should be about cautious buying for the Yankees and aggressive buying for the Mets.

You can listen to my podcast “New York, New York” on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify and Apple Podcasts every Monday, Wednesday & Friday morning.

Make or Break Time

It’s been well documented in this column and throughout town that the New York Yankees have been baseball’s disappointment in the first half of the 2021 season.
The Yankees issues are well documented.
They are too reliant on right-handed power and lack the athleticism and balance that is needed to field a championship team in 2021.
Despite their obvious flaws and issues, the Yankees have a pulse because of two reasons: a winning West Coast road trip and the fact that Major League Baseball has two Wild Card teams.
The Yankees are 4.5 games behind the Oakland A’s for the second Wild Card and eight games back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
Personally, I don’t see a viable path for the Yankees overcoming the deficit in the division. However, if you want to hold onto that dream, pay close attention over the next two-and-a-half weeks.
Coming out of the All-Star break, the Yankees will play the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays eleven times before the month of August.
If the Yankees have any prayer of making the division race competitive, they have to play their best baseball of the season starting on Thursday.
The Yankees need a big second half if they’re to simply qualify for the postseason, because in the first half, they’ve were nowhere close to resembling a playoff team.
Think about three of their losses right before the All-Star break. In the soul-crushing losses the Yankees yucked up not one, not two, but three ninth-inning leads, including leads of four and five runs against the Angels and Astros, respectively.
To add insult to injury, the other loss was against the crosstown Mets.
It will be difficult to change the fabric of the Yankees lineup midseason, but it’s time to see if the team that was supposed to slug their way to the American League pennant can actually find a way to do exactly that.
There is no tomorrow, not just for Yankees manager Aaron Boone, but for this Yankee core as we know it. By the end of July, you’ll know as a fan if there will be an August or September worth fighting for.
Put up or shut up time indeed.

You can listen to my podcast “New York, New York” on The Ringer Podcast Network, which can be found on Spotify and Apple Podcasts every Monday, Wednesday & Friday morning.

The Broken Yankees

After the Yankees were humiliated by the Detroit Tigers right before Memorial Day, the entire team stressed the urgency of their most recent home stand.
Four games with the Tampa Bay Rays and three games with the Boston Red Sox.
To say the Yankees failed miserably doesn’t even do justice to what we watched last week at Yankee Stadium.
The performance of the team goes beyond the 2-5 performance over the seven games.
It’s obvious to anyone watching the first two months of the year that there is a simple truth regarding the Yankees: they are broken.
It’s funny to think about the 2021 Yankees being the Vegas frontrunner to win the American League.
Vegas assumed, like I did, that this would be a Yankee team that would be able to score a whole lot of runs and hit the ball out of the park pretty consistently.
But two-plus months into the year, the Yankees are dead last in the American League in runs scored.
Look up and down the lineup, and aside from Aaron Judge, where is the production?
There are plenty of guys underperforming. Who in their wildest dreams could have imagined DJ LeMahieu’s start to this year.?
The Machine has turned into the ground-ball machine and has been a shell of the player he was in 2019 and 2020.
He is not alone though, because the overall construction of the Yankee lineup is flawed. They are too right-handed and too reliant on the home run, which they are not hitting.
This lineup loves to do two things especially well: strikeout and hit into double plays.
They have also been an insanely sloppy team. They lead baseball in getting thrown out on the base paths. They play terrible defense and make way too many mental mistakes.
The sloppy play falls at the feet of manager Aaron Boone. Boone is a likable guy, but sadly his team has reflected his personality, and not in a good way.
The Yankees continue to make the same mental mistakes over and over again, and there is a major lack of accountability from their leader. Boone’s nice-guy act and constant cliche’s postgame have become a tired act.
Meanwhile, the difference in the Boston Red Sox from a year ago was on full display over the weekend.
The biggest reason for the Sox turnaround is Alex Cora returning to manage the team. He’s given them instant credibility, and they are back to playing a winning-brand of baseball since his arrival.
I see the impact that Cora has had on the Red Sox, and it’s the opposite with Boone and the Yankees.
With Boone in the final year of his contract, his seat could not be any hotter going into the summer months.
But the scrutiny shouldn’t stop with Boone. Longtime general manager Brian Cashman must take responsibility for the flaws with this team and the way it has been built.
The Yankees had a championship window starting in 2017 after a feel-good regular season and a surprise trip to Game 7 of the ALCS. Four years later, the Yankees seem further away from a championship.
Sure, there’s a lot of baseball left, and yes things can change.
But the Yankees are in a stage of development where they should be “World Series or Bust” mode.
This was supposed to be a down year for the American League, the Yankees time to capitalize. They’ve done nothing but fizzle and disappoint.
If it’s more of the same over the next four months, wholesale changes up and down the organization are needed.
For now, we’ll see if Cashman, Boone and the Yankees can put the pieces back together.

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday night on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts.

It’s the Pitching Stupid!

Rewind the calendar about six weeks, and it was full-fledged panic mode in Yankees land.
The Yankees started the season 5-10. They were 2-8 against the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays and actually played worse than their record would indicate.
Over that 15-game stretch, I couldn’t really pinpoint one particular aspect of the game that was working well for the team.
That said, I always expected the Yankees to find their groove at some point in the regular season because a team with that much talent is usually going to perform to the back of the baseball card.
The Yankees have done exactly that. Since the 5-10 stretch, the Yankees have won a whole lot of series.
I’d make the argument that their most impressive series of the year was this past weekend against the Chicago White Sox.
The White Sox are one of the most talented teams in baseball and a team the Yankees will likely meet if New York is still playing in October.
The Yankees won two dramatic games and found a way to sweep one of the hottest teams in all of baseball.
The negative vibes of early and mid-April have turned into walk-offs and post-game Gatorade showers.
So, what’s been the biggest difference from the Yankees of April to the Yankees of right now. It’s the pitching stupid!
Since mid-April, the Yankees starting rotation has been among baseball’s best units.
Offense is down across the sport, we all know that, but that does not in any way take away from what the Yankees rotation has been able to do.
Heading into Tuesday’s matchup against the Blue Jays, the Yankees starting rotation has hurled 35 consecutive scoreless innings.
It helps when you have Gerrit Cole, who clearly profiles as baseball’s second best pitcher, but he has had a whole lot of help recently.
Corey Kluber has so far lived up to the task of being a legitimate number-two starter. He has flashed the form we saw from him from 2014-2018 with the Cleveland Indians, and threw the Yankees first no-hitter in 21 years last week against Texas.
In addition to Kluber, Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery have been durable and reliable arms that have exceeded expectations.
The Yankees rotation went into the season with all sorts of questions. Two months into the season, it has provided a whole lot of answers.
It may not be the case for all four starters not named Gerrit Cole, but I do believe the success of the rotation throughout the last six weeks is sustainable.
The Yankees have put together the best rotation they have had in ten years, and help is still on the way. At some point, former ace Luis Severino will make his return to the team from Tommy John surgery.
Who knew that two months into the year, the success of the team would be tied to its pitching staff? That’s baseball Suzyn!

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday Night, Tuesday Night & Thursday Night on the Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify and Apple. There will also be bonus episodes on Wednesday & Friday Night after both Knicks playoff games.

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