Yankees: Did Tanaka just strip Sonny Gray out of his pinstripes?

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The Yankees and their fans got a peek last night of what their world is like when their ace pitches like an ace. But does it mean that the guy wearing green and gold on the West Coast will not be wearing the Pinstripes this season?

If Yankees starting pitcher and ace of the staff, Masahiro Tanaka, ever pitched a more dominating game wearing the Pinstripes, someone please find it and tell the world.

Over eight innings, Tanaka struck out more than half of the batters he faced (14-26), didn’t walk anybody, threw 70 percent of his pitches for strikes (77-109), allowed only two hits, and surrendered only one run on a harmless solo home run by the Rays newly acquired 1B-DH, Lucas Duda late in a game that was already out of reach for the Tampa Bay Rays.

So, how do you like them apples? I like them very much. And I must say that after, ironically, spinning a column titled, How can the Yankees dump Tanaka?, just hours before he took the mound last night at Yankee Stadium to, coupled with a Red Sox loss to the Royals, propel the Yankees into first place, a second take is warranted. Or, is it?

Is it Fool’s Gold or the real thing?

Baseball fans know one game, good or bad, does not a season make. And for a pitcher, earned-run-average is the most telling of all stats because it acts like a median throwing out exceptionally good and terribly bad starts, settling close to the middle of a pitcher’s performance. Tanaka’s ERA after last night speaks for itself and is now 5.09, well below the league average.

And any impartial Yankees fan would have to say that, over the course of the 2017 season, they recall more starts on the downside of the ledger by Tanaka, than they do on the positive side. Fair?

And it would have much easier for the Yankees, regarding how they view Tanaka if he had rolled out another clunker instead of a gem, especially when the team is on the cusp of making some very heady decisions at the trade deadline.

Now, what?

As we know, the Yankees have been in hot pursuit of Oakland right-hander, Sonny Gray, and as of a day or so ago were figuring as the favorite to land Gray amidst competition from several other teams.

But the face of the Oakland franchise, Billy Beane, remains adamant that he wants at least one top level prospect, plus others in exchange for Gray’s services, which extend under contract for reasonable money to 2020.

For the Yankees, this probably means surrendering either Clint Frazier or Gleyber Torres as part of the package to needed to satisfy Beane, who is clearly in the driver’s seat. And to further complicate the Yankee’s dilemma, Torres gets an incomplete on the season due to an injury that ended his season prematurely.

Frazier, on the other hand, is in full view of the team and fans and gets high marks for the numbers he is putting up and his, not to be overstated, on and off the field demeanor, a cue he seemingly has taken from Aaron Judge to take it one game at a time and to give it your best at all times.

So, there you have it.


The question now before the Yankees is this, and it’s not a simple one. Is Tanaka’s start last night a hiccup in between a mediocre, at best, series of starts over the course of the season? Or was it something that means a real turn of the corner into executing the job he was hired for as the ace of the staff.

Because if it’s the latter and Joe Girardi can count on Tanaka, the Yankees don’t need Gray, at least for now.

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And this is particularly the case if Girardi continues to employ his Bullpen By Committee strategy over the remaining course of the season and into the playoffs. Because Tanaka’s eight innings last night could easily have been four or five and the bullpen would have nailed down the victory, just as they have been doing since the second half began.

I happen to side with those who say you can never have too much pitching. And I’m still not convinced that Tanaka’s effort last night was anything more than an aberration and not the real thing and that after ten years of pitching, his upside is in the past, whether he stays or goes, opting in or out at the end of the season.

Pull the trigger?

Yankees fans, add your thoughts and comments on the Yanks Go Yard Facebook page, but here’s my two cents.

Clint Frazier should be a non-starter in any trade talks the Yankees are having. The power-hitting tandem of Frazier, Judge, and Gary Sanchez in the Yankees lineup for the next eight to ten years is something to dream about. And if they can add a power hitting lefty to the three righties, look out. Did someone mention Greg Bird?

On the other hand with Torres, I have never trusted hype. I didn’t like it when the media did it with Sanchez, and I don’t like it now with Gleyber Torres. And believe it or not, Torres is expendable when you consider that Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro have marked their positions in the infield for years to come, and the only opening for Torres is at third base.

Chase Headley has one more contractual season with the Yankees, and he does no harm there. After which the Yankees are free to pursue a third baseman in the free agent market, which would include Manny Machado or via the trade market.

Next: Will the Yankees replace starting pitching altogether?

So, Torres is a yes to get Gray if that’s what it takes. But Frazier is a loud, no!

In any event, I’m looking forward to Tanaka’s next start, even though it’ll come after all the dust has settled and the deadline is past. I (still) have to see it to believe it.