The Be(a)st of the AL East…

Anthony Rizzo & Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Yankees roll into May with the division lead…

The World always seems to be a better place when the Yankees are winning. The current seven-game winning streak has Yankees fans feeling joyful and optimistic. Of course, it will end with the next two-game losing streak, but it is quite enjoyable for now. When they are losing, there is no one that hates the Yankees worse than Yankees fans, so it is nice to see happy Bronx Bomber fans while it lasts.

In all seriousness, this team is special. Remembering the fun of the 2017 Yankees, there was a huge sense of team camaraderie with the Baby Bombers. They took us deep into October and potentially, if not for the banging of trash cans, might have won a World Series championship. Since then, there has been something missing with each subsequent team (no…I am not referring to Joe Girardi). I am not trying to sell those other teams short, but there is an intangible “it” factor that has been missing.

The Yankees’ front office finally woke up to smell the coffee last July when they aggressively acquired Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo at the trading deadline. The infusion of much needed left-handed bats into a heavily righthanded lineup. I know Gallo has largely been a disappointment but the recognition that the makeup of the team needed to change was important for this year’s success. Not sure why it took Brian Cashman and company so long to figure out when fans have been clamoring for lefty bats for years. The move that began last July continued into Spring when the Yankees moved out Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit, clear additions by subtraction. Gio Urshela went too but that was more of a consequence in having to add value with Sanchez to make the move with Minnesota, bringing in Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and that muscular dude fighting the oblique injury. As much as we wanted an elite shortstop this past off-season, IKF has been a vast improvement for this year’s team. Although more was expected from Donaldson, I think he will hit as the weather continues to warm, his greater value might be the ‘edge’ he brings to the clubhouse. I think it has been a significant contributing factor to developing this year’s team chemistry and the cohesive bond that has developed.

Thank you to Anthony Rizzo for all that you do. I am so grateful he is with the team. Quietly, the team MVP thus far, even if Aaron Judge is starting to dominate.

After last night’s 12–2 rain-shortened win over the Kansas City Royals, Judge discussed the team’s diversity. Speaking to reporters, he said “I think that’s what makes this team different from other years, just having that diversity in the lineup.” Again, not sure why it took Cashman so long to figure it out, but I am glad we are here. We will have our times of frustration this season, but it seems there will be more highs than lows, and not quite the roller-coaster that we rode last season.

No doubt that Nestor Cortes, Jr has played a huge role in positioning the Yankees (14–6) atop the AL East. He finally picked up his first win of the season last night but that sells short how invaluable he has been. He compensated for Gerrit Cole’s slow start and now that Cole appears to be rounding into form, it will only get better for the starting rotation…from top to bottom. I suppose it was appropriate to see Frankie Montas get pounded for a couple of home runs in Oakland’s 9–8 loss to the Cleveland Guardians last night. While I still think Montas would be a nice add, last night was a brief reminder that sometimes the best trade is the one never made. While Montas was getting hammered, Cortes, who likely would have been displaced in the rotation had the Yankees acquired Montas, battled the Royals. He gave up only two runs (one earned) despite eight hits scattered over five innings and put the Yankees in position, along with the bullpen, to let the bats do the talking with nine runs in the final two innings. Something to be said for the man who just knows how to pitch.

I know it is early, but it is fun looking at stats. Here is a look at one position.

The 2022 salaries for these players, in order from 1 through 4, are: $4.7 million; $35.1 million; $33 million; and $20 million. The best production from the lowest paid player. Thank you, Isiah Kiner-Falefa. I am sorry that I ever doubted you. The others are obviously the “Big 3” from last year’s free agent market, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story, respectively. I am sure the stats will normalize as the season progresses, but for now, it is fun to look at.

Congratulations to Giancarlo Stanton for his 350th home run. The slugger formerly known as Mike Stanton hit his first home run, a grand slam, on June 18, 2010, for the (then) Florida Marlins off Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The 350th came on Wednesday against the Baltimore Orioles when Stanton went yard in the first inning off O’s starter Tyler Wells.

Giancarlo Stanton / Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

His 351st came quickly yesterday, another first inning dinger, this time off Royals starter Kris Bubic. It is always fun when Stanton goes on a roll. I can remember back in the 1980s when Dave Winfield would get hot and throw the entire team on his back for a winning streak. Stanton is that guy. Coincidentally, Alex Rodriguez hit 351 home runs…as a Yankee. Stanton only has 84, so he has some catching up to do.

Congratulations to Aaron Hicks and his wife, Cheyenne Woods (Tiger’s niece), for the birth of their first child. Cameron Jaxson Hicks was born on April 26th. Weighing in at 8 pounds and 20 ½ inches, he will be on the fast track for the Major Leagues…or PGA. Aaron rejoined the team in Kansas City yesterday after spending parental leave in Arizona. Very cool for Aaron and Cheyenne!

Finally, the NFL Draft is always one of the best times of the year. I look forward to the NFL Draft every year, particularly the first few rounds. I know most of you are Giants or Jets fans (terrific drafts so far for both teams), I am a long-suffering fan of the Minnesota Vikings. For as many championships as my favorite baseball team has won in my lifetime, the Vikings are the polar opposite with none. While I respect the new leadership of GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O’Connell, their first two draft day trades were suspect.

The Vikings held the 12th pick in the first round, but when their pick rolled around, they traded it to the division rival Detroit Lions, dropping down to the 32nd pick. The Lions selected a talented wide receiver, Alabama’s Jameson Williams. Then, with the 34th pick they had acquired from the Lions, they traded it to the bitter division rival Green Bay Packers to give Aaron Rodgers a receiving target (Christian Watson of North Dakota State) to help make up for the loss of Davante Adams, recently traded to the Las Vegas Raiders.

I know the Vikings picked up some additional draft picks, but trading with division rivals are painful. Somehow, I suspect both Williams and Watson will be as painful to watch as seeing Garrett Whitlock thrive with the Boston Red Sox. Good thing the Vikings used their first two draft picks on defensive backs (safety Lewis Cine of Georgia and cornerback Andrew Booth, Jr of Clemson). They will need them to defend against the Lions and Packers passing attacks. Hopefully Kwesi, a brilliant mind, learns that it is better to trade outside of the division. The Vikings need to hit on those draft picks they acquired in the trades. Otherwise, these trades will haunt the team for years.

As always, Go Yankees!

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