I never thought anyone could be mentioned in the same breath as Phil Rizzuto and Mel Allen when discussing the voice of the Yankees, but Michael Kay has definitely earned the right to mentioned with the best to have done it. It's been a true joy to listen to Michael night in and night out over the past 20-plus years.
After the Yankees devastating series loss to the Red Sox, I ran into Michael and had to ask him what he thought. Before we got too in depth with our discussion, I asked him if he could answer my questions for my loyal blog readers; many of which are Yankees fans still going through the mourning phase. He generously obliged, and here's what he had to say.
Brandon Steiner: What went wrong for the Yankees in the ALDS?
Michael Kay: The Red Sox got better starting pitching performances than the Yankees did, and the Yankees simply did not hit. Exacerbating matters was that the Yankees didn't get to their bullpen soon enough in game's 3 and 4; leaving in Luis Severino and CC Sabathia for too long. With the hitting absent, it was impossible to make up for the damage done by leaving the starters in for too long.
BS: What was most encouraging and discouraging to you about the 2018 Yankees season?
MK: The encouraging thing is the Yankees won 100 games and incorporated two more youngsters - Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres - who could be part of the program from the next decade.
What was discouraging for me was the overall play of Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird. I know that batting average is no longer a big indicator of production, but Sanchez should not be hitting in the .180's. He's too good for that. As for Bird; well, I just don't get it. I thought he was destined for stardom with his lefty swing playing 81 games in the Bronx, but he had a miserable year and I'm not sure how you could plan for him to be your first baseman in 2019.
BS: Do you think adding Giancarlo Stanton to a young team added too much pressure going into 2018?
MK: No. Even without adding Stanton, this is a team that went to the seventh game of the ALCS last year against the eventual World Champions, so this is a team that was going to be expected to go at least as far in 2018. The addition of Stanton should have made that easier to accomplish.
BS: How do you think the Didi Gregorius injury will factor into the Yankees plans for 2019?
MK: It has to factor into their plans in a big way. There is no telling how long he will be out, so I don't think you can go into the season trying to patch it together for a short time. I think you either have to bring in a full-time shortstop or move Torres to short and bring in a full-time second baseman. Either move would mean a full-time player would have to move to the bench if and when Gregorius comes back. This injury does not make it easy for Brian Cashman to plan out the season.
BS: Do you think it makes sense for the Yankees to make a blockbuster trade or sign one of this off-season’s biggest free agents (Harper, Machado)?
MK: I don't know if it makes sense, but it might send a message to the fan base. I'm not certain that message needs to be sent, but if the organization feels the need for an off-season jolt you can always go that route. If the payroll is not unlimited, I would bring in a starting pitcher and re-sign J.A. Happ.
BS: If you were to give Aaron Boone’s first year a grade, what would it be and why?
MK: Boone would get an A- for the regular season because he handled an injury-ravaged team and the subpar years by Sanchez and Bird with a steady guiding hand and he never got too high or low. I think the team benefited from that steadiness. He also handled the media beautifully, never showing too much of his hand and staying away from publicly criticizing his players. I think they trusted him throughout.
In the postseason, I think the grade has to be a C- because he stayed with Severino and Sabathia for too long. He seemed locked into a game plan of how to use the bullpen rather than reacting to game situations. He handled it very well in the Wild Card win against the A's, but not as well as he could have in Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS.
BS: Who would you say was the Yankees MVP in 2018 and why?
MK: It would have to be Aaron Judge. All you have to do to see how valuable he is was watch how differently the team played when he was on the DL. They were not close to as effective and dangerous as when he was in the lineup.
BS: What do you expect from the Yankees in 2019? Is there one thing Yankees need to do for sure to improve?
MK: I think the Yankees will again contend for the AL East and be good enough to win a world title. I think they will sharpen the rotation, continue to have a strong bullpen, and you would think the baseball gods would give them better health after what happened this year. They don't have to win more than 100 games but, obviously, they must play better in the post season and not live or die with the home run. I love home runs, but there has to be a somewhat different approach with men on base in a big game and big situation.
BS: Thanks, Michael.
What do YOU think the Yankees need to do to get back to the promised land? Comment below!
Quote of the Day: “You have no choices about how you lose, but you do have a choice about how you come back and prepare to win again." - Pat Riley
Song of the Day: "Whatever It Takes" by Imagine Dragons
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