MLB: New York Yankees now last in AL East standings, American League, after Rays sweep Yankees
Brian Cohen (@CohenBrian_), cohost of The Challenge RHAPup podcast on the Rob Has a Podcast network, visits the Jack Vita Show for a lively conversation centered around the past week in baseball action.
Brian is a diehard Yankees fan that is very frustrated with his team. The Yankees (5-10) own the worst record in the American League, after the Rays swept them in New York over the weekend. Brian provides his assessment of the Yankees, the Rays, and the AL East to open the season (0:00 - 26:45). What needs to happen for the Yankees to turn the corner, and look like the team they've been over the last four years? Is the seat warming for Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman? Were the Rays, who have started the season 5-1 vs. the Bronx Bombers, slept on entering the 2021 season? Brian and Jack discuss the league's most exciting players, including Ronald Acuna Jr., Mookie Betts, Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani. Is the term "two-way player" the proper distinction to define Ohtani? (26:45 - 35:00). Brian and Jack discuss the first meeting between the Dodgers and Padres of 2021, the beginning of what hopes to be baseball's next great rivalry (35:00 - 37:15), the Atlanta Braves' early struggles (37:15 - 40:55), Cubs entering a rebuild? (40:55 - 45:25), the Mets' first place start and assessing the NL East (45:25 - 49:05), a look around the whole league and which divisions will likely look the most different at the end of the season from the way they do now, including Royals, Angels, Mariners and Red Sox, and a scoreboard update and weekend recap (49:05 - 1:00:45). Jack and Brian discuss 7-inning doubleheaders, the designated hitter, the Atlantic League's trial run of a further-back pitcher's mound and loss of the designated hitter spot when a starting pitcher is pulled (1:00:45 - 1:08:45). Brian and Jack each share one bold take/prediction accumulated from the first two and a half weeks of the regular season (1:08:45 - 1:11:55). Finally, Jack and Brian finish off with some thoughts on The Challenge: Double Agents upcoming finale, and the start of The Challenge: All-Stars on Paramount Plus (1:11:55 - END). Get a free one-week trial of Paramount Plus at jackvita.com/paramount.
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It really was the perfect time for me to have Brian Cohen on the Jack Vita Show, whether he it or not. Entering into the week of April 19, I expect the Yankees' early struggles to be the talk of the league. Their rotation is a work in progress — we knew that. What nobody expected however was that the Yankees would seemingly forget how to hit. It's very early, and I expect their offense to turn it around soon enough, but I think Yankees fans' concerns with this team are legitimate. After kicking the tar out of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019, the Rays have since returned the favor, opening the season 5-1 vs. the Bronx Bombers. It's entirely possible that the Rays' are simply a better team than the Yankees. As a Yankees insider, Brian assesses the team fairly, and questions the job security of manager Aaron Boone and general manager Brian Cashman. We also discussed the surrounding teams in the American League East, and pointed out why we both believe that the Rays were highly underrated entering 2021. Though the Rays have started slow, their rotation is still getting stretched out and a slow start with their new rotation was inevitable. What nobody saw coming, however, was how thoroughly they would stick it to the Yankees this early in the season. Even without Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, we both believe the Rays can contend for a division title this season.
After a comprehensive look at the Yankees and the AL East in the first half of the show, we had a lot of fun discussing the league's most exciting players. Ronald Acuna Jr. has to be the odds-on National League MVP favorite at this point. He's leading the league in home runs, SLG and OPS, and ranks near the top in RBI, BA, OBP and just about every other statistical category, while contributing highlight reel plays in the field and on the base paths. Mookie Betts is in the same category, who continues wow us with more and more spectacular catches in right field.
I've recently been questioning the use of the term "two-way player" when discussing Shohei Ohtani. While Ohtani is in fact a two-way player, aren't all positions 2-9 in the lineup? There needs to be a better term that makes a greater distinction for Ohtani's contributions. I pitched the term "duel-threat", but I think we can do better than that. Tweet me (@JackVitaShow) and Brian (@CohenBrian_) with your suggestions for what we should call Ohtani.
The Padres and Dodgers met for the first time in 2020, after their playoff series last October. While the Dodgers took two of three on the road at Petco Park, the Padres looked like they belong in the same weight class as the Dodgers do. Still, through the first two and a half weeks of play, the Dodgers are looking like an unstoppable force.
We also had a good time discussing the NL East and the other perplexing divisions. At season's end, the standings in the NL Central and NL West probably won't be very different from the way they look now, whereas the Royals, Red Sox and Angels sit atop of their divisions in the American League. Are any of these teams legit? The main concern I have for all three is the lack of pitching, and the top-heavy nature of the Angels. Their 2-3-4 of Trout, Rendon and Ohtani is as good of a core as any team's, but all three guys are injury prone, and I don't see a lot of depth behind them. The NL East is appearing to be as hyper-competitive as we expected it to be entering the season, but the Atlanta Braves have struggled. I picked the Braves to win the World Series in 2021, and though they've started slow, I'm not overly concerned yet. Max Fried just hit the DL for a short stay, and eventually Mike Soroka will come back. Help is on the way for them. Brian really likes the Marlins this year. And the Mets are in first place! We discuss it all.
The Cubs are at a clear crossroads, and I expect the rebuild to begin soon, if it hasn't begun already. After another rough weekend, they stand at 6-9, in the basement of the NL Central. Brian is on the same page as I am. But how did the Cubs get here? We chat about it.
The Atlantic League is going to try out some new rule changes that Major League Baseball may consider, including having the pitcher's rubber moved back an extra foot, and having a team lose its DH spot for the game once a starting pitcher is pulled from the game. We have a brief debate over the universal designated hitter, but agree to disagree. Brian is a big fan of 7-inning doubleheaders and thinks that MLB should incorporate them in to their schedule. I love the idea.
We take a look at the MLB scoreboard for the weekend and provide a recap for what you may have missed, including Carlos Rodon's no-hitter and Boston's questionable Patriots Day uniforms.
Finally, we chat about The Challenge: Double Agents' upcoming finale, and the start of Paramount Plus' The Challenge: All-Stars. This hasn't been my favorite season by any stretch of the imagination, but Brian has enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm enjoying All-Stars far more than I have enjoyed Double Agents. Nevertheless, I'm rooting for Leroy and Nany about as hard as I have ever rooted for anybody on a reality television show.
(Photo via Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)