On Tuesday afternoon, the New York Yankees announced Jordan Montgomery would be undergoing Tommy John surgery. On Tuesday evening, Madison Bumgarner made his return to the mound.
According to some Yankees fans and a fair few pot-stirring beat writers, this was the sign needed from the baseball gods that Bumgarner was destined for pinstripes.
Hmm… Yankees scouts in the stands? https://t.co/fUr3oRa1YO
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) June 5, 2018
Except there is an only-slightly-above-zero chance that that happens.
Let’s start with the obvious: Yes, Bumgarner is in many ways a perfect fit for the Yankees. Targeting him is both logical and completely understandable on an emotional level.
The Yankees needed another starter before Montgomery was done for the year, so what was a pressing need has now progressed to something just short of a trash compactor.
Bumgarner is arguably the best pitcher who could even conceivably be available, is the best postseason pitcher in a generation, and is young and cheap if for some bizarre reason that wasn’t already enough.
There’s just one problem — trades require two teams.
The Giants enter Wednesday 30-31 but only 2.5 games back in the NL West, despite having lost three-fifths of their Opening Day rotation to the DL in the first quarter of the season. Joe Panik has spent time on the DL, Hunter Pence is now relegated to a bench role after his own return from the DL, $62M erstwhile closer Mark Melancon has thrown a total of 1 (one) inning, and offseason acquisitions Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria plus hometown favorite Brandon Crawford had to overcome slow starts.
Through all of this, the Giants have somehow kept their heads above water, largely thanks to surprise contributions from rookie starters like Andrew Suarez and Dereck Rodriguez and an MVP-caliber start from Brandon Belt.
The Giants plan from the beginning was to hang on until the reinforcements came, and whether it quite counts as Even Year Bullshit or not, they’ve made it through.
That alone makes convincing Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans to part ways with their homegrown ace and postseason legend an order taller than Paul Bunyan, before even touching on the more complicated and painful calculus of beginning the slow dismantling of a dynasty.
Evans’ first and arguably only controversial move as GM was to trade 2015 National League Rookie of the Year runner up Matt Duffy to Tampa Bay for Matt Moore at the deadline in 2016. Despite the move being reasonable, if hard to swallow, at the time, you’d still be hard pressed to find a Giants fan who was in favor of it then or particularly now, with Duffy once again healthy and productive and Moore traded to Texas after a miserable 2017.
The Giants, quite simply, do not trade home grown stars. If anything, they find ways to reacquire old friends, bringing back Travis Ishikawa and Conor Gillaspie just in time for their own postseason hero moments, and even welcoming back prodigal son Pablo Sandoval.
Whether you agree with it as a business strategy or not, the front office and fans simply do not have the stomach for it.
The Giants are the relatively rare franchise where you’re hard pressed to find jerseys in the stands of players who aren’t on the field, and when you do it’s largely either the recently retired or a Hall of Famer who is more than passingly likely to be in the stands himself.
The front office has to be aware of the magnitude of the ask they’d be placing before fans, and while it’s hardly a unique conundrum, the Giants have long seemed more sensitive than most to at least the appearance of loyalty, whether that’s always deserved or not. For good or ill, the organizational ethos is and has been better to hold on a little too long than let go too early.
Now, everything has a cost. Even for the seemingly soft-hearted Giants, at a point it’s a fireable offense to turn down an offer.
So what would it take?
As a starting point, look at what the Astros gave up to acquire Justin Verlander last August. Then potentially scale up for Bumgarner being younger and less expensive, the Yankees’ public desperation to acquire a starter, the Giants still being in contention, and it being far, far before when mid-season trades typically happen.
Sabean and Evans couldn’t sell a trade to their own ownership group, much less fans, unless the return was so patently overwhelming that it was impossible to turn down. Brian Cashman’s ninja-like negotiating skills or not, the cost to pull that off would be beyond what even could argue he was worth.
The Giants have all the leverage in this situation, and there’s a limit to even Cashman’s ability to pull a left handed rabbit out of a hat.
If the Yankees were to acquire Bumgarner, the most likely scenario is next deadline, or possibly next offseason if the Giants stumble mightily down the stretch this year for reasons that won’t resolve themselves naturally (e.g. not because Brandon Belt gets abducted by aliens or befalls some other fate befitting someone with the luck usually reserved for those whose homes are built on ancient burial grounds.)
As a rental at that point, he would be far less costly for the Yankees, and the loss slightly less catastrophically painful for the Giants and their fans.
No, it doesn’t magically solve the Yankees’ problems now, but not much will. They’ve already weathered plenty, literally and figuratively; they will just have to make it to the deadline and go shopping someplace more like the “aging but still definitely helpful” aisle populated by Cole Hamels and friends.
It’s not the sexiest option, but neither is prematurely stripping a former New York neighbor for parts.
Loiasaga makes strong Yankees debut
The distance between Yankee Stadium to Managua Nicaragua is approximately 3,800 miles. Until Friday it never came up as the Yankees never employed a Nicaraguan born player on their roster.
It changed Friday night when Jonathan Loaisiga took the mound and reached 97 with his first pitch.
Out of the previous 1,650 players to make at least one appearance for the Yankees, Loaisiga is the first from Nicaragua, the country known for producing Dennis Martinez.
And what a debut it was.
Thought not dominating, it was a display of composure, something the Yankees spent this week discussing.
In his first major league start and first above Double-A, Loaisiga allowed three hits in five innings, struck out six, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth and the Yankees won again.
“Everyone got a peek at the stuff,” manager Aaron Boone said. “And I thought he competed really well. A few walks that didn’t allow him to get deep into the night, which I think as we go forward will be a little uncharacteristic, but I thought for the first time out, he gave us everything we needed tonight.”
Whatever the outcome this was a big deal.
While Dennis Martinez, best known as “El Presidente” is the most well-known Nicaraguan to appear in the majors, he is one of 15 to appear in the majors.
Of those 15, 11 are pitchers, and until Friday, none ever pitched for the Yankees.
And while Loaisiga might have appeared in the majors sooner than later for the Yankees, it seemed unlikely a year ago. The Yankees signed him to a minor league contract after the San Francisco Giants released him following the 2016 season. Then Loaisiga posted a 1.38 ERA in 11 games with Staten Island and the Gulf Coast League, earning a chance to be on the 40-man roster.
“It has definitely been a tough road to get here,” Loaisiga said through an interpreter. “I felt super excited. Getting to your goal, achieving your goal; it’s a dream to pitch in the big leagues. Having the opportunity to do that and finally pitch in the big leagues is a dream come true.”
He saw a few flags waving in the stands and knew his family was watching intently on the MLB app back home.
What they and anyone else saw were 91 pitches, 17 swings and misses and a bunch of poise. He displayed a three-pitch mix (47 four-seam fastballs, 31 sliders, and 13 changeups).
While getting the praise for poise by the Yankees, he had the Rays thinking of Mariano Rivera even though the 23-year-old did not throw a cut fastball.
“There were some similarities,” Kevin Cash said as he mentioned the cutter. “Don’t give him any ideas, though. He doesn’t need to be pitching in the ninth inning anytime soon. Talented young kid. Very poised.”
He was so poised that he became the seventh Yankee pitcher since 1908 to record at least five scoreless innings in his first appearance and the second starting pitcher to do so since 1943. The other was Sam Militello, who allowed a hit in seven innings Aug. 9, 1992, against the Red Sox.
He followed Domingo German’s 10-strikeout showing Thursday, and it marked the first time Yankee pitchers recorded their first career wins in consecutive starts since Chase Wright, Kei Igawa and Sean Henn April 17-19, 2007.
Those aren’t names anyone wants to remember since they filled in for a team devoid of minor league talent at the time.
Based on what unfolded, it seems the assembly line of Yankee minor league talent might have churned out another competent major league performer.
“I’ve said a lot since I’ve taken this job, the talent in this organization is evident to people across the baseball world,” Boone said. “There’s no question that as an organization, we do a really good job of preparing these guys. Not just from a physical, baseball X’s and O’s, but all the mental stuff, all the emotional stuff that goes with being a big leaguer. That goes with being in New York.”
How Buddy Rosar changed Yankees history
The New York Yankees were one of the hottest teams in professional baseball on July 13, 1942. With a record of 54-28, the limestone walls of Yankee Stadium were busy hosting a game between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees had their World Series ace Lefty Gomez on the mound while the Tigers sent out Dizzy Trout. Like many pitchers, Gomez showed a bit of wildness in the first inning, walking Barney McCosky and hitting Doc Cramer with one out. He threw a wild pitch, advancing the runners. Pinky Higgins walked, bringing up the star of the team, Rudy York. York came into the at-bat hitting .299. He popped up, which catcher Bill Dickey chased after until falling on his legs. York ended up popping up again, before Don Ross walked in the first run. A groundball by Jimmy Bloodworth ended the inning. However, it set in motion a controversy that changed the path of the franchise behind the plate.
Not much was known about Dickey’s fall until Buddy Rosar replaced him defensively in the top of the second. Rosar finished the game in the place of Dickey, which became a 4-3 win in favor of the Yankees. However, the news was awful after Dickey had his shoulder evaluated. Dickey tore a ligament in his right shoulder trying to chase the York pop-up and would be out of commission at least two weeks. This ended the streak of Dickey as baseball’s catching “Iron Man”. Dickey broke Gabby Hartnett’s record of 12 consecutive years of catching 100 games. This would have been his 14th, but the injury kyboshed any hope of that. (Dickey ended up playing in 82 games that season, never to catch 100 again.)
Rosar was considered the replacement of the future for Dickey when the latter would retire. Rosar’s career began in 1934, making it to the majors in 1939. However, despite the fact that scouts loved his bat and considered equal to Dickey by 1940, Joe McCarthy was unwilling to play him much in favor of the stalwart Dickey. By July of 1940, Rosar sported a .325 batting average versus Dickey’s .204 and pushed McCarthy’s hand into letting him play. Rosar hit .287 in 67 games as backup to Dickey in 1941. Entering 1942, the Yankees had a great tandem of Dickey and Rosar. That was the case until July.
With Dickey injured, McCarthy declined the request of Rosar to go to his home of Buffalo, New York. Due to having a shortage of catchers, there was no way they could let Rosar go. The purpose of this trip was to go take the Civil Service examination so he could look into a future as a police officer. With that in mind, Rosar took off from the Yankees and New York and drove up to Buffalo on July 18. With no catcher ready, McCarthy and Barrow were forced to sign catcher Rollie Hemsley to a major league deal and Ed Kearse to a minor league deal.
While in Buffalo, Rosar not only took the exam with 953 others at noon in the city, but also welcomed the birth of his second child, their first son. The city of Buffalo, contacted by the media, noted that Rosar had the fastest time in the mile run. Mayor Joseph J. Kelly noted that they could use someone of Rosar’s type on their force. He also admitted the big reason Rosar made the move, that the catcher thought there would be no baseball in 1943 and wanted to get a job to help his family.
Meanwhile, Hemsley went 5-6 in the doubleheader with the Chicago White Sox, despite no sleep and a hard travel schedule. McCarthy announced on Monday, July 21, that he fined Rosar $250 for his actions and anything further would be decided in Cleveland. McCarthy, who also lived in Buffalo, stood firm in his belief that Rosar should not have abandoned his team, “even if it was his brother.” The press asked McCarthy about possibly going to be the benchwarmer to Hemsley for a while, but did not decide yet. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Rosar went ahead and brought his entire team cigars for his actions, noting he was in a lot of trouble.
The press ripped Rosar for his stunt in defying McCarthy’s orders. Some in the press called Rosar “dumb” and ridiculed from others for his decision. The press and fans thought that he was doing something foolish. A police officer on the beat would make $35-$40 a week despite the fact that he would get a higher salary from being a baseball player to make the World Series. Syndicated writer Al Lamb put it best, that the decision was the right for his family and that was priority number one. Lamb agreed that there may not be any baseball in 1943 and had to make the trip.
On August 11, it was announced that Rosar failed the exam he left the team to take. He admitted to the press that he made a mistake and it was time to move on. However, the Yankees never really did. On December 17, despite making the All-Star Team, the Yankees traded Rosar and outfielder Roy Cullenbine to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Roy Weatherly and infielder Oscar Grimes. While they never stated it was due to going AWOL in July, the press believed that was the reason.
Rosar would go on to have a long career, making the All-Star Games four more times. He garnered MVP votes in 1946 and 1947 as a member of the Philadelphia Athletics. However, one must wonder if that decision would have changed the path of history. If Rosar did not go AWOL, would Berra not be signed by the Yankees as the heir to Bill Dickey? It is amazing to speculate what could have happened if Rosar stayed with the team until Dickey returned?
Flippin’ bats | Giancarlo Stanton off Mike Fiers
Welcome to Flippin’ Sweet, where Locked On Yankees’ resident bat flip experts analyze a recent Yankees bat flip, with GIF help from Max Wildstein. Let’s look back at Giancarlo Stanton’s home run off Mike Fiers.
Matt Gregory: We are back this week and boy do we have a fun one. Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Fiers, Russell can you set us up, maybe some back story?
Russell Steinberg: Yeah, so these two have a history. Long before Stanton’s home run — long before either player joined their current team, in fact. Fiers is the pitcher who, as a Brewer, hit Stanton in the face in 2014, causing the Miami slugger to miss the remainder of the season and giving baseball fans everywhere quite a scare.
Last Monday when these two met, Stanton was plunked again, though Stanton admits this was not intentional. That set up the home run we are here to discuss.
MG: I have a certain amount of sympathy for Stanton here. The pitch that hit him was not too far away from his head and given that Giancarlo now wears the C flap because of Fiers, I think his frustration is warranted. Also, full disclosure, I am a major Giancarlo Stanton fan since the time when he was known the Mike Stanton. But as Meek Mill once said: There’s levels to this.
RS: I’m not sure it’s frustration so much as the gratification of hitting a BOMB off the guy who could have, reasonably, ended your career with one pitch a few years ago. The look in Stanton’s eyes as he watches it go screams vindication to me.