A toast to the Yankees’ return to the postseason

Oh, it’s been a long time, but I’ve finally gotten to see this familiar sight again.

Cooler weather, Halloween, school, and the New York Yankees in the postseason. Those things have stuck with me and I expect it all every time October rolls around. It was a shame to not have it all the past two years, but now it’s back. The Yankees are back in the playoffs and everything’s normal again.

The previous two years were absolutely disappointing. Injuries, declining stars, and having to say goodbye to a group of legends that you grew up with and knew so well. It looked as if the Yankees were done. You’re used to seeing them in the postseason, so it’s such an unfamiliar feeling to see them out. It was their birthright to play in October, but it looked like it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.

Going into this season, we thought it would become a real trend.  team was even older than before. It probably seemed inevitable that this would happened, but at the same time it was hard to imagine it. The Yankees being bad? Impossible. The Yankees are as eternal as time. No matter who wearing the Pinstripes there, they’re still the same. Competing every October for the crown and often winning it. From Ruth and Gehrig to DiMaggio and Berra to Mantle and Maris to Munson and Jackson to Jeter and Rivera, they are always there. Still, it was a reality many of us fans were ready to face.

But it began different than what we expected. The bats returned. The bullpen was solid. The rotation was doing enough. Old friends like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez did some things we hadn’t seen from them in years. Youth was coming. It looked like a throwback to the glory days. The Yankees looked as if they were a serious team again. The Yankees looked like the Yankees once again, and our fears could be calmed.

Then, what we feared what would happen at first finally happened. Teixeira broke down, A-Rod slowed down, Sabathia continued his decline. Everyone stopped hitting. The pitching, starting and relieving, became totally gassed. Every step forward was followed with three or four back. The team limped to the end of the regular season, and it makes you wonder if their hot start only saved them from another early winter.

At the same time, we saw seen a glimpse of what could be a bright future, instead of a doomed one. The young ones arrived and showed what they could do. Luis Severino responded to the hype and pressure of being the team’s potential ace of the future and has put himself in the Yankees’ present. Greg Bird flew in and picked up from Teixeira left off. Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams had a moment in their brief cameos. Rob Refnsyder showed what the Yankees foolishly missed when he finally got his chance.

Even with this horrible finish, the Yankees get a fresh start on Tuesday. It’ll be win or go home, so it could be the end there or the beginning of the real business. Toronto, who has owned them all season, could be waiting for them. That could be the turning point.

This could be a pivotal time for the franchise. Could this be the beginning of a new era of greatness for the greatest franchise in sports? Or is it the first page that long rebuild many said is inevitable? They face a tough road to that familiar endpoint of glory, but we can’t forget that history tells you the Yankees are no stranger to this kind of setting. We aren’t either. Which is why it feels so good be back.

Luis Severino represents the Yankees’ future, which they expect to be bright

Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

It appears that a new era will dawn on the New York Yankees tonight, as 21 year-old Luis Severino will make his Major League debut under the bright lights of the new House. In the middle of a pennant race. Against the hated Boston Red Sox.

The young Dominican right-hander will likely be unfazed by the challenge, as he’s already improved with each successive promotion.

Armed with a fastball that touches 97 mph, a deceptive change-up, and an improving slider, Severino went 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 61.1 in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after pitching to a 3.00 ERA in 14 previous starts in Double-A Trenton.

“We are really, really excited for him,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “It shouldn’t be miscast, either. We’ll let him get his feet wet and see what he can do. He is a really exciting cat. I think he could have a very good career, but he is still young and he is still developing.”

Despite warts in the Yankees’ rotation, they stood pat at the Trading Deadline last week. Perhaps it was on purpose.

Severino’s rise has an even greater meaning for the Yankees organization. He is the latest chance for them to prove that they can successfully develop a successful starting pitcher from within to become part of their franchise’s core.

Since the debut of Andy Pettitte 20 years ago, the Yankees have continuously been unsuccessful at developing consistent starting pitchers from the farm system. In general, many of their top prospects have not panned out much at all.

It’s a consistent failure that has caused the team to underachieve, as they’ve won just one World Series since 2000 despite spending over $1 billion in player salary since. It’s a pestering failure that has caused the Yankees to miss the playoffs the previous two seasons. It’s a constant failure that has put them at a disadvantage against every other team that has managed to develop and hold onto top flight starting pitchers.

It’s not like they haven’t tried, however.

Just eight years ago, the Yankees had not one, but three top pitching prospects for whom they had sky high hopes for, just like they have now for Severino. However, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy all turned out to be major disappointments.

Chamberlain struggled with his control and was permanently banished to the bullpen. He’s now in the Toronto organization after being let go by the Yankees and Detroit. After a brief success in the 2010 season, Hughes lost his fastball and his ability to keep the ball in the park, thus forcing him to retreat to wide open Target Field in Minnesota, where he has pitched better. Kennedy enjoyed brief success in Arizona, winning 21 games with a 2.88 ERA in 2011, but has mostly been a mediocre starter due to a lack of a plus fastball.

Really, the only productive starting pitcher the Yankees have developed in the last two decades is Ivan Nova, who has been either superb in some seasons or just bad in others.

The main issue is arguably the innings limit the Yankees are regularly obsessed with when handling their pitchers, rookie or veteran. They fiddled too much with Joba and Hughes’ inning count in their first go-arounds as Major League starters, and they paid the price.

The Yankees hope to find the formula for success in Severino. Despite an unusual delivery that hardly involves his lower body, he has all the goods to become a top of the rotation starter.

Now, it’s different. Despite having a reputation for moving their prospects through the system slower than most organizations, they’ve moved Severino up very quickly, and he has responded.

Despite previously setting an innings cap at 150 for Severino for the year, Cashman stated after announcing Severino’s call to the majors that the training wheels are off. They’re letting him take flight.

“There’s risk in throwing some of the young guys in the Atlantic Ocean and saying, ‘Time to swim,’” Cashman told Chad Jennings last week. “But that’s also something we’re not afraid of in some guys’ cases. We do like this team, and we have benefited from the use of a lot of the young guys throughout this season. We still look forward to these guys hopefully contributing to us.”

Without an innings limit, Severino could place himself into the Yankees’ plans for the rest of THIS season, not just next year. With holes in the rotation, he has the chance to become part of the Yankees’ quest to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2012, and also be apart of a possible deep run in October.

Are the Yankees on the verge of running away with the American League East?

Brian McCann and Alex Rodriguez have lead the Yankees to a commanding lead in the American League East (Photo: The Associated Press)

Brian McCann and Alex Rodriguez have lead the Yankees to a commanding lead in the American League East (Photo: The Associated Press)

The New York Yankees are en fuego. The rest of the American League East is going down in flames. This week’s sweep of Baltimore may have been a death kneel for the rest of the division.

That’s the simple explanation as to why the Yankees have built a surprising 5 1/2 game lead in the division after going 7-2 in their last three division series, capped by a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles. They are now 12-4 in the month of July with everyone else in the East sinking. According to FanGraphs, the Yankees have a 79.3% chance of winning the division and even a 26.4% of winning the American League pennant and going to the World Series (higher than Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Houston)

New York has returned Jacoby Ellsbury and Andrew Miller from the disabled list to bolster their already dangerous lineup and bullpen respectively. They are second in the majors in runs scored and fifth in wRC+. After six innings, they are 39-2. After seven, 44-2. After eight, 50-0. All thanks to their sturdy bullpen. They are just another piece from becoming serious World Series contenders.

The rest of the division is in dire straights. The Toronto Blue Jays are in second with pitching problems. The Tampa Bay Rays are 6.5 games back when they were in first just a month ago. The Orioles are now seven games back. The Boston Red Sox, after climbing to within 5.5 games ahead of their meeting with the Yankees at Fenway Park before the All-Star Break, have lost eight in a row and have fallen to 12 games back. The Yankees are the only team that has surged in July; the rest of the division’s pain is their own gain.

Obviously it would be foolish to call the race over, but the Yankees are sitting pretty while the rest of the division is scuffling and trying to figure out what to do before the trade deadline next Friday. The Yankees don’t need to make a move as much as everyone else does.

A sweep at the hands of the Yankees may have turned the Orioles from buyers to sellers. Now seven games back, they could look to deal several of their free agents-to be: LHP Wei-Yin Chen (2.86 ERA/4.06 FIP in 116.1 IP this season), slugger Chris Davis (21 HR, 119 OPS+, 2.8 bWAR), submarine reliever Darren O’Day (1.04 ERA and a 11.9 K/9 rate and an All-Star selection in 34.2 IP), and Matt Wieters (.683 OPS in 114 plate appearances but remains one of the best defensive catchers in the game coming off Tommy John surgery) could all be dealt in order for Baltimore to retool their scarce farm system.

Tampa Bay has also been in free-fall since the end of June. They peaked at 40-30 on June 20th, but since they are 8-19. They have an elite pitching staff led by Chris Archer, Nate Karns, and Jake Odorizzi; but the blatant lack of major league caliber hitting has finally come back to bite them. According to Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times, the Rays are already listening to offers for their relief corps, particularly All-Star closer Brad Boxberger (22 saves out of 24 opportunities with a  3.18 ERA) and LHP Jake McGee (1.19 ERA in 22.2 IP).

The Red Sox will also likely (once again) become sellers; for the third time in the last four seasons they sit in dead last in the division (and the entire American League as well!). They have the worst pitching staff in the American League, so they aren’t just one move from being relevant. They have one of the best farm systems in baseball, so it would be a bad move to use it up to make a foolish attempt to climb back from a 12 game deficit in the division and a 9.5 deficit for the second wild card.

The biggest threat to the Yankees is Toronto. The Blue Jays have the most dangerous lineup in all of baseball. They lead the majors in runs scored by a significant margin and their run differential is second only to St. Louis. However, they are just one game over .500 because of poor pitching, which ranks 12th in the AL in team ERA. Their only reliable starter is Mark Buerhle (120 ERA+/3.80 FIP), so they look to be active buyers before the deadline, actively looking for whatever starting pitching they can find, even if it isn’t an ace like Johnny Cueto. Just one starting pitcher with this offense will make the Blue Jays a much more serious threat to the Yankees.

The Yankees should look to make a move. They don’t seem to be willing to trade the team’s top prospects, RHP Luis Severino and 6’7″ slugger Aaron Judge for a rental like Mike Leake or Johnny Cueto.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, however, they will listen to offers for their other prospects, such as 22 year-old catcher Gary Sanchez. Sanchez is an expendable piece with Brian McCann signed to a huge contract and John Ryan Murphy established as his backup.

New York should look to add a starting pitcher, as their rotation has all-around been shaky: 19th in ERA, 12th in FIP. Although Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda have overall been solid, their health and consistency is still questionable. CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi have pitched poorly all season, but the Yankees are still hoping for more consistency to come in the coming months.

On a more positive note, Ivan Nova has a 3.34 ERA in his five starts since returning from Tommy John surgery. He does have a 4.82 FIP due to a lack of strikeouts and command issues, so there still is some rust. His improvement will lessen the need for a trade.

While the rest of the AL East is figuring out where they go next, the Yankees have their sights set on October.

My 2015 MLB Seasons Predictions

American League East:

Toronto Blue Jays: 92-70

New York Yankees: 89-73*

Boston Red Sox: 84-78

Baltimore Orioles: 76-86

Tampa Bay Rays: 67-95

American League Central:

Cleveland Indians: 95-67

Chicago White Sox: 91-71*

Detroit Tigers: 86-76

Kansas City Royals: 83-79

Minnesota Twins: 71-91

American League West:

Seattle Mariners: 96-66

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 88-74

Oakland Athletics: 83-79

Houston Astros: 74-88

Texas Rangers: 65-97

National League East:

Washington Nationals: 102-60

Miami Marlins: 90-72*

New York Mets: 80-82

Atlanta Braves: 68-94

Philadelphia Phillies: 57-105

National League Central

Chicago Cubs: 95-67

St. Louis Cardinals: 93-69*

Pittsburgh Pirates: 86-76

Cincinnati Reds: 71-91

Milwaukee Brewers: 67-95

National League West: 

Los Angeles Dodgers: 101-61

San Diego Padres: 87-65

San Francisco Giants: 82-80

Colorado Rockies: 66-96

Arizona Diamondbacks: 61-101


AL Wild Card: Yankees over White Sox

ALDS: Mariners over Yankees in 5, Indians over Blue Jays in 4

ALCS: Mariners over Indians in 6, MVP: RHP Felix Hernandez

NL Wild Card: Cardinals over Marlins

NLDS: Nationals over Cardinals in 4, Dodgers over Cubs in 5

NLCS: Nationals over Dodgers in 7, MVP: RHP Jordan Zimmerman

World Series: Nationals over Mariners in 6, MVP: RHP Stephen Strasburg


AL MVP: OF Mike Trout (Angels)

AL Cy Young: LHP Chris Sale (White Sox)

NL MVP: 1B Anthony Rizzo (Cubs)

NL Cy Young: RHP Adam Wainwright (Cardinals)

AL Rookie of the Year: OF Dalton Pompey (Blue Jays)

NL Rookie of the Year: OF Joc Pederson (Dodgers)

AL Manager of the Year: Joe Girardi (Yankees)

NL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon (Cubs)

AL Comeback Player of the Year: DH Alex Rodriguez (Yankees)

NL Comeback Player of the Year: RHP Matt Harvey (Mets)

April is Autism Awareness Month, but what about other people on the spectrum?

I wrote this two years ago, and my message remains the same. Just wanted to add some other things as well. 

Normally I use this blog to rant about the events going on in the worlds of sports and politics. But this issue is really important to me.

As you all may be aware, the month of April is dedicated to the awareness and acceptance of children and people with autism, a neural disorder that affects the development of a child’s social and communication skills. In 2012, about 20 kids per populations of 1,000 were diagnosed with autism in the United States.

Autism is one of THREE major disorders recognized in a range of behavioral and development disorders forming the autism spectrum. The other two are: Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger’s syndrome.

Asperger’s is a high functioning form of autism that specifically affects social interaction skills and some behavioral patterns that would be considered eccentric. Another major symptom includes the development of intense and sometimes obsessive interests in things, and a refusal to try other things.

Some people may not notice that a person has asperger’s because they seem to be totally normal as they mature, but early on they have trouble fitting in with peers and society. But eventually many of them go on to become very successful in adult life. In a way, I think this is why I feel that asperger’s isn’t recognized by the general population the way autism is.

I have Asperger’s syndrome. I was diagnosed when I was about two years old, when I couldn’t really speak yet. My mother told me she was very scared that I would never be able to overcome it or be successful as an adult. Throughout my childhood, I struggled to fit in because my social skills developed very slowly. I developed intense interests in sports, video games, and music, and I’m still obsessive about them every day in a way.

During my early years of school (pre-school, kindergarden, 1st grade) I was sectioned off from regular students based on my IEP, and forced to attending special classes with other kids with autism spectrum disorders. I didn’t really feel comfortable there because many of those kids had real autism and had it worse than me.

Even up until high school, I had to attend group “speech” sessions. There, I often met other kids with asperger’s and kids with autism. But as I grew older and more mature, I began to wonder why I needed them so I stopped in my sophomore year, since by then I was a top A/B student taking Advanced Placement and Honors classes.

But even though I had no trouble doing well in more difficult classes in school, Asperger’s syndrome still seriously affected my social skills and it still does today. I used to have trouble forseeing the consequences of my actions and often did things that were viewed as eccentric by my peers. In middle school, I had random outbursts in the middle of class when I got either angry or distraught.

Of course, none of them knew what was wrong with me and thought I was just crazy, so I didn’t really have any friends until high school. I finally started to mature by then and finally found my circle of friends on my high school’s baseball team, as I became an assistant to the coaches. I left New Jersey after graduating high school, and I split my time between going to college in New York City and spending summers and breaks in South Carolina. It’s still been difficult trying to find new friends.

Even as a young adult nearing 21 years old in May, I still am affected by Asperger’s. I have always had trouble adjusting to new things and have fear of meeting new people, speaking in front of groups of people. I sometimes have random, compulsive thoughts when meeting people that I have learned to control, but it makes me appear and feel socially awkward. Even though I am doing very well in college, I still have had trouble making new friends at college.

Many people with asperger’s have been able to overcome the disorder and go on to become very successful. Famous people who may have had the disorder include Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Mark Zuckerberg, several of the Founding Fathers of our country, Alfred Hitchcock, Bill Gates, and comedian actors Michael Palin and Robin Williams. Indeed, the disorder mostly affects social skills rather than intelligence.

However, many people believe that the disorder’s effect on social interaction development can lead some people to impulsive, and explosive behavior. Some people have gone out and blamed recent mass shootings on Aspergers. I assure you that even if they did have the disorder, they are so few and the stigma is cruel and unfair. We’re not like that. At all.

I think people need to be aware of our struggles with Asperger’s and should embrace us. We are normal. We are intelligent. We are inventive. We are strong. We are just like everyone else. We just have trouble fitting in and we need help to find our way from our peers.

I really hope to one day go into more and more detail of my childhood and life growing up with Asperger’s and eventually write a book about it. I want to help promote the awareness and acceptance of my disorder so my generation’s children will not be alone and misunderstood by their peers like I once was in middle school.

NFL Picks: Week Seventeen

Last Week: 12-4

On the Season: 145-90-1

Early Games:

@BAL Ravens (-13.5, OVER) vs. CLE Browns (O/U: 39.5, OVER)

DAL Cowboys (-4, OVER) vs. @WSH Redskins (O/U: 49, UNDER)

IND Colts (-7, OVER) vs. @TEN Titans (O/U: 46.5, UNDER)

@HOU Texans (-9.5) vs. JAX Jaguars (O/U: 40.5, UNDER)

SD Chargers (-1, OVER) vs. @KC Chiefs (O/U: 40.5, UNDER)

NYA Jets vs. @MIA Dolphins (-6, UPSET) (O/U: 42, UNDER)

@MIN Vikings (-6, UNDER) vs. CHI Bears (O/U: 45, OVER)

@NE Patriots (-5.5, UNDER) vs. BUF Bills (O/U: 43.5, UNDER)

@NYN Giants (-2.5, OVER) vs. PHI Eagles (O/U: 52.5, OVER)

NO Saints (-4, OVER) vs. @TB Buccaneers (O/U: 46.5, OVER)

Later Games:

@DEN Broncos (-14, UNDER) vs. OAK Raiders (O/U: 48, OVER)

@SF 49ers (-6.5, UNDER) vs. ARZ Cardinals (O/U: 37, UNDER)

@SEA Seahawks (-12, UNDER) vs. STL Rams (O/U: 41, OVER)

CAR Panthers vs. @ATL Falcons (-3.5, UPSET) (O/U: 47.5, UNDER)

@GB Packers (-7.5, UNDER) vs. DET Lions (O/U: 47.5, UNDER)

@PIT Steelers (-3.5, OVER) vs. CIN Bengals (O/U: 48.5, OVER)

NFL Picks: Week Sixteen

Last Week: 10-6

On the Season: 133-86-1

Thursday/Saturday games: Had TEN over @JAX, @WSH over PHI, SD over @SF (2-1)

Earlier Games

@MIA Dolphins (-5.5, OVER) vs. MIN Vikings (O/U: 42, UNDER)

BAL Ravens (-6, OVER) vs. @HOU Texans (O/U: 42, UNDER)

DET Lions (-9.5, UNDER) vs. @CHI Bears (O/U: 44, OVER)

@CAR Panthers (-4, OVER) vs. CLE Browns (O/U: 40.5, OVER)

ATL Falcons vs. @NO Saints (-6.5, UPSET) (O/U: 56, OVER)

GB Packers (-12.5, OVER) vs. @TB Buccaneers (O/U: 49, UNDER)

@PIT Steelers (-3, OVER) vs. KC Chiefs (O/U: 48, UNDER)

@NYA Jets vs. NE Patriots (-10.5, UPSET) (O/U: 46.5, UNDER)

Later Games

NYN Giants (-6.5, OVER) vs. @STL Rams (O/U: 43, UNDER)

@OAK Raiders vs. BUF Bills (-7, UPSET) (O/U: 39, OVER)

@DAL Cowboys (-3.5, OVER) vs. IND Colts (O/U: 55.5, OVER)

SEA Seahawks (-9, OVER) vs. @ARZ Cardinals (O/U: 36, OVER)

DEN Broncos (-3.5, OVER) vs. @CIN Bengals (O/U: 48, UNDER)