Memo to Brian Cashman: Starting Pitching Matters
Want proof. Look no further than Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, where Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer pitched brilliantly in leading the Washington Nationals to their first World Series championship.
Or take another look at Gerrit Cole’s, right, performance in Game 5, which brought the Houston Astros to the brink of their second title in three years.
Starting pitching throughout the playoffs ran counter to such noveau strategies as the opener, bullpen games and the super bullpen.
For years now the Yankees have been building a powerhouse teams with a stacked lineup and the best bullpen in baseball, a team capable of winning 100 games each of the past two seasons, and reaching the ALCS two of the past three years.
While spending big bucks on Giancarlo Stanton and fortifying the lineup and bullpen, Cashman and the Yankee brain trust have taken the cut-rate route on starters. Lacking a true number one ace (save for Luis Severino in the first half of 2018), the Yankees have used duct tape and baling wire to piece together a rotation, both at the front and back end.
Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton have been serviceable pitchers, but not aces. Domingo German’s future is uncertain, based on his domestic abuse issues.
Instead, the Yanks banked on CC Sabathia, who had nearly as many injured list visits as victories the past two years, and JA Happ, the so-called Boston killer who has wilted against the Red Sox.
Sonny Gray, a 2017 trade acquisition, turned out to be another Ed Whitson. Lance Lynn didn’t last. Michael Pineda. Jaime Garcie. Need we go on.
It wasn’t enough. While the Astros and Nationals thrived on starting pitching in the playoffs, the Yankees couldn’t hit in the clutch. Eventually their vaunted bullpen wore down, saddled down by innings, opposing batters becoming more familiar and comfortable with each appearance.
Well Hal Steinbrenner, above left, austerity no longer flies with Yankee fans. We know you have the money. Heck, your father wrote an $80,000 check in 1973 when he fronted an investors’ group that bought the Yankees for $8.8 million from CBS.
The Yankees earn 20 percent more than the next wealthiest baseball team, and their $4 billion market value is second in sports, behind only the Dallas Cowboys.
Well Brian Cashman, above right, time to bring on some pitching. Cole would look good in pinstripes. Strasburg and Madison Bumgarner too.
There’s work to be done. 2020 is up next. Time to bully up Yankees.
If this were a travel review, I’d wax poetic about the wonderful two weeks I spent in California. Every day was a highlight, starting with Grant & Andy’s wedding at Jack London’s ranch in the wine country. Spent some time farming in the sweet air at Glentucky Farms in Sonoma with Mike, Grant’s father and my friend since first grade.
During the trip I found my old home and school in Daly City, and visited such sports as Mission Carmel, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, magical Moonstone Beach in Cambria, Morro Rock and the Santa Monica Pier as I made my way down the Pacific Coast Highway to Southern California.
I even managed to cross off a bucket list item with a visit to Dodger Stadium, the third oldest ballpark in the majors. With the help of the SeatGeek app, watched Washington defeat Los Angeles in an NLDS playoff game. Afterwards, battled LA traffic and made my way to see another lifelong friend, Janie, and her husband Kevin, in Marina del Rey.
From there, went to Coronado to visit my college roomie Paul and his wife Karen. We saw the historic Midway aircraft carrier, the San Diego Zoo and the famed Hotel del Coronado.
On the final night of the trip, Paul suggested we make an appearance at the Island Beer Club, pictured above. What a concept, Drinking beer with your neighbors outdoors in the beautiful weather.of San Diego.
Since I was wearing a Yankee cap, a club member told me I should meet Chris. Well, Chris Sheppard turned out to be the son of legendary Yankee PA announcer Bob Sheppard, who was nicknamed “The Voice of God” by Reggie Jackson. Carl Yastrzemski once said: “You’re not in the big leagues until Bob Sheppard announces your name.”
Sheppard was the PA announcer for the Yankees for 56 years. During that time, the Yankees won 22 pennants and 13 World Series. Shepperd announced six no-hitters and three perfect games at Yankee Stadium.
He called his first game on April 17, 1951, six days before I was born. The first player he introduced was Dominic DiMaggio of the Red Sox. Mickey Mantle made his debut that day. Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Johnny Mize of the Yankees and Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Lou Boudreau of the Red Sox were also introduced by Sheppard during the game.
Sheppard earned $15 a game his first year with the Yankees, $17 for a doubleheader.
He was also the PA announcer for the New York Giants for more than 50 years, encompassing nine conference championships and three NFL titles, including two Super Bowls.
Sheppard was the starting first baseman for three years and the starting quarterback for four years for St. John’s University, graduating in 1932. During World War II was a gunnery office for the US Navy and served in the Pacific Theater. He taught speech at several schools, including his alma mater.
Bob Sheppard worked until he was 97, and passed away three months before his 100th birthday in 2010, two days before George Steinbrenner died.
Chris Sheppard played basketball and baseball at Marquette, and sometimes filled in for his father at Yankee Stadium. He joined the Marines and later became a commercial airline pilot. He lives in Coronado, where he is a member for the Island Beer Club.