Saturday, November 22, 2014

2014: The year of commercially orchestrated Yankee emotions

From Jeter's powerful "Respect" ad - which sold Gatorade - to this heartwarming, 30-second ditty, the Yankees in 2014 became a touchstone for any corporation in need of a public relations face-lift.

This one came out in July. I almost forgot about it, until it popped up on Reddit yesterday.

For all its misery, Buffalo has a mere 10-inch lead in the Golden Snowball

Buffalo, dealing with snow.
Buffalo - the media darling of late for winter whiteouts - has squandered an incredible opportunity to run away with the 2014-15 Golden Snowball, which is annually awarded to the Upstate NY city that is most buried in snow.

As of Friday noon, Buffalo leads this season's race with 17.2 inches - only 10.3 inches ahead of Rochester and 12.4 over Syracuse.

Considering the week's apocalyptic blizzard, this is pathetic.

If I lived in Buffalo, I would be fuming over these numbers, which are measured by the National Weather Service at the city's airport. Frankly, Buffalo should be leading by 40 inches. A 10-inch lead? That is nothing. I speet on a 10-inch lead. Pttuui.

Let me put this into Yankee terms:

This is like having loaded the bases with no outs in each of the first two innings, but having only scored one run, with Alfredo Aceves on the mound, at Fenway Park, on a windy day, when the game is on national TV, and Preston Claiborne has just started warming in the pen. There is simply no way the lead will hold.

Syracuse is the 1927 Yankees of the Golden Snowball. Sure... Buffalo may have the early headlines, but our snow machine hasn't even warmed up.

Nice try, Buffalo. But soon it will be our turn at bat.

Bring canned food

The weirdness of life in Syracuse:

If somebody soon ponies up $150,000, the city will get Lady and Tony. 

Waiting for MLB's off-season version of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand

It's been said that, when a butterfly in China flaps its wings, it sets into motion a series of events that culminates in Taylor Swift getting a yeast infection.

One of these days - perhaps even before Thanksgiving - the butterfly will flap, toppling a line of dominoes that will end with the Yankees doing something crazy, like trading the entire city of Scranton for Troy Tulowitzki.

It could be the signing of Max Scherzer, which would unleash the scrambling hordes for the two remaining Sisters of Fate, James Shields and Jon Lester.

Or it could be Boston signing Pablo Sandoval - a move said to be "90 percent" likely - which would goose the market for Chase Headley into a frenzy.

Several options, though, would be unaffected by these moves. I'm talking about the international market - pitchers from Japan, and position players from Cuba. (Why are so few defining position players from Asia, and/or pitchers from Cuba? Any ideas?) These deals hinge entirely on money, which is the Yankees greatest field of expertise. In fact, it seems to me that the Yankees have only one remaining advantage in baseball anymore, and it's in the international market.

There is enough talent out there - and none comes at the expense of our first-round draft pick - to fill nearly every hole on the Yankee roster, except for shortstop. There is an interesting Korean star, but he might be way overpriced and a stretch.

So when the dominoes fall, we should not panic if the Yankees do not quickly leap into the vortex. On the contrary, if we run out and sign another All-Star from 2008, or somebody that costs us our top draft pick, it might be a sign that Hal is done for the year with the international market.

That would unleash a butterfly in the Bronx, which could end up with Vladimir Putin getting shingles. It's a strange world.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Is it relevant that on the day Brian Cashman slept on the streets of NYC to draw attention to the plight of homeless teens, he signed a 16-year-old Columbian to a $500,000 contract?

I honestly don't know. But sometimes, those are the questions that life delivers.

(Either way, kudos to Cash for the effort.)

Godzelous


Zelous Wheeler - the pride of Sylacauga, Alabama - is going to Japan.

Who can forget his first MLB game?
He homered in his second at bat.

On behalf of the Yankiverse...
Good luck, Zel.

Buffalo has jumped the starter's pistol in the Golden Snowball award

If you're lucky enough to live in Upstate New York, nothing more delights you than the annual race for the Golden Snowball. It's like the Stanley Cup, the World Wrestling Federation Championship Belt and the Oscar for Best Special Effects - all rolled into one.

Five Utopian cities - Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton and Albany (Sorry, Utica, mwa-hahaha...) - scramble to see which will tally the most winter snow.

As of Thursday, here are the standings.


As you can see, Buffalo has claimed an early lead. (Note: These totals reflect the National Weather Service official measurements, taken at each city's airport. Buffalonians commonly whine that their numbers are under-reported, but the fact is, most of that "five-feet of snow" you heard about this week fell outside the city, in towns like "Cheektowaga" and "Gowanda," with names full of sexual innuendos.) But Syracuse remains the New York Yankees of snow. We in "the Salt City" have won the Golden Snowball 10 out of the last 11 years. (Rochester took it 2011-12.)

Frankly, nothing more delights the Syracuse city fathers - as they seek lure to town a new dioxin plant or prison for the criminally insane - than our well deserved national reputation for whiteout blizzards.

Which brings me to a looming scandal.

This year, Buffalo has cheated. It has jumped the starter's pistol. It's not even December 1, yet they have established a foot-long lead. A foot-long lead.

This is wrong.

Baseball doesn't count spring training victories toward the pennant race. This recent storm - the one they're ludicrously calling "Knife" - is the equivalent of Jim Boeheim's Syracuse basketball team beating Adrian College last week. The score was 84 to 35. But it was an exhibition game. It doesn't count toward the Final Four.

When December arrives, and the games matter, you better believe that we Syracusans will lace up our cleats, get out there and start shoveling ourselves into heart attacks. Until then, this whole thing is a sham.

If cities start winter earlier every year, it'll soon become like Presidential campaigns - which never even end. It's time to hold the line, Golden Snowball. I don't care how grumpy those Buffalonians are. If exhibition scores counted, Zolio Almonte would be the star Yankee outfielder. Opening day is still a week away. Call back the racers, and let's start over. There's yardage to record.

Someone left the cake out in the rain: The Yankees may regret leaving Kyle Roller unprotected in the upcoming Rule 5 draft

Yesterday, the Evil Empire added four "kids" - Tyler Austin (age 23), Danny Burawa (25), Branden Pinder (25) and Mason Williams (23) - to their 40-man roster, protecting them in next month's Rule 5 scavenger hunt. Left outside the Bronx bubble is first-baseman Kyle Roller. 

I understand the decision. Roller is 26. Also, he plays a position where the Yankee drain is clogged: Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, two immovable statues stand in his path.  But Roller last year hit 28 HRs and batted .300, jumping from Trenton to Scranton. He's ripe for the pickings. I can't help but feel that another one is about to fly out the window.

Oh well, you can't keep everybody, and - believe it or not - I don't presume to know more than the Yankee scouts. I speak as a fan, not an insider. But wearing the ball cap of the fan, I say simply: WTF?

The Yankee brain trust is currently saying that, a) They expect nothing next year from A-Rod (which, actually, is smart p.r.) and that, b) they expect a bounce-back season from Teixeira. They say most wrist injuries take at least a year to heal, and that Tex clearly was bothered throughout 2014. Thus, next spring, he'll be ready.

When I hear that, a question emerges: WTF? If they knew Tex was likely to tank in 2014, why didn't they secure a backup 1B? At one point, they played Carlos Beltran, who hadn't stood at the position since high school. Nor did Brian McCann have experience. And when it became abundantly clear that Tex was not hitting - he finished the season at .216 with 22 HRs - they never gave Kyle Roller so much as a cup of coffee.

In the second half of 2014, Teixeira hit .179 with 5 HRs. How much worse could Kyle Roller have done? The only reason the Yankees stayed with Teixeira - as far as I can see - is they were paying him too much money not to play him. He was the baseball equivalent of JP Morgan - incompetent, but too big to fail. So he anchored the batting order, and pulled the team underwater.

Meanwhile, down at Scranton, Kyle Roller - an actual first baseman - was tearing it up.

We all know the deal: Sticking with old names - Brian Roberts instead of Jose Pirella, Chris Young instead of Zolio Almonte, etc. - is standard Yankee policy.

It is also the policy of cowards.

OK - so next year we'll have Tex back, plus A-Rod - and if they get hurt, there's McCann, who plays 1B like a catcher. After that, well, they can try Beltran, or sign some modern day version of Matt Nokes.

I get the feeling that Kyle Roller is about to roll out the door. Just another guy who wracked up numbers and never got a chance. That's the Yankee way, eh?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

If Pat Venditte turns into a star in Oakland, there will bloodshed in the Bronx

After a thousand lifetimes mired within the Yankee farm system, Pat Venditte - the only switch-pitcher you or I will ever know - has been signed as a minor league free agent by Oakland.

Over seven seasons in the Yankee scrub lands, Venditte rose to Scranton, but never received so much as a courtesy cup of coffee. The Yankee "baseball people" - experts of the radar gun - detected flaws in his pitches, so he never got a call.

Fine. OK. No problem.

Surely, we accept that the Yankee "baseball people" knew what they were doing, by denying their fans so much as a glimpse of the lone switch-pitcher of his or any generation.

Thanks to the Yankee "baseball people," if we ever see Pat Venditte pitch, he will wear an A's uniform.

Just know this: If Venditte turns into a Major League star, there will be trouble.

That's all I'm going to say.

Trouble.

Yankee president Randy Levine thanks the wrong deity for A-Rod's diminished status;

Yesterday, Yankee president Randy 'Fright Wig" Levine snatched another 15 seconds of internet fame from the oiled cheeks of Kim Kardashian, with his two-syllable reaction to the news that Giancarlo Stanton - the most feared slugger that nobody's ever heard of - just replaced A-Rod as baseball's wealthiest player.

Randy said - quoting now - "Thank God."

Of course, Yankee fans know the reality of Stanton's 13-year, $350 million contract: Before it's done, he will be dumped on us, like a truckload of yellow Buffalo snow. They all do. Kevin Brown. Roger Clemens. The Big Unit... They hear the pledge of Lady Liberty: "Give me your tired, your old, your sore elbows and your designated hitters, yearning to retire..." I'm betting Giancarlo arrives in NYC by 2020, not half-way through his trek through the tit and coke dunes of Miami... alias "South Gomorrah."

President Randy was thanking God because the Yankees are no longer keeper of baseball's most rancid contract - the one that tethers Hal Steinbrenner to Alex Rodriguez - which, if you think about it, is proof that Karma is one sick bastard. From now on, whenever a Gammonite feels compelled to self-righteously spew about the insane amounts of money foisted on athletes - as opposed to bards - their user-keys will be programmed to say "Giancarlo" instead of "A-Rod."

Of course, Alex will remain baseball's Bond villain, the human magnet for indignation about steroids. As soon as he leaves, the game can pronounce itself clean again. And you better believe the new commissioner - He Who Is Not Bud - will avoid the PED issue like a fresh pile of puke from a passenger on Air Africa.

But here's the rub, folks. Baseball's bottom line is exploding. For 40 years, the game has blamed the steady rise of player salaries on the Yankees. Now, with parity looming via luxury taxes, team payrolls are not falling. They're shooting out of the stratosphere.

This week, Russell Martin received Brian McCann money, (after McCann last year scored Yadier Molina money.) Billy Butler is getting Carlos Beltran money, (which was practically Carl Crawford money.) David Robertson wants Mariano money, which means Max Scherzer and Jon Lester - dear God! - they might get Robbie Cano money.

And nowhere in these ridiculous bidding wars will you find President Randy Levine.

Nope. He's hoping Chris Capuano will settle for Phil Hughes money.

So... (insert sigh here)... what should we - as Yankee fans - think?

Remember: These owners are billionaires - not millionaires. They sit atop taxpayer-funded shitpiles, they are lawyered-up, and every player is insured, so if he pops a gonad or beats his girlfriend, the suits cut their losses. If we don't like where baseball is going, they are the people who are taking us there. The Gammonites will scream and moan about the players, because that is what Gammonites do.

Yesterday, President Randy thanked God that A-Rod is no longer baseball's fattest golden calf.

Frankly, I think he was looking in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Robbie to Seattle: Send more money


The sighs you'll hear in the future will be from Mariners fans, when they realize they needed the hitter last year, because Robbie isn't getting younger.

How ISIS recruits


The enemy of my enemy is my drinking buddy: It's time to root, root, root for the Cubs and Giants; or Boston will be back in the driver's seat

It's a critical week for the Evil Empire - Hail Hydra! - as the Redsocks try to reload.

The Fratboy Nation has made muy gigundo offers to Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester, their top free agent pinups. Last summer, they ditched the deadwood for just this moment. Moreover, they have a bubbling geyser of young prospects, as opposed to the Yankees' farm system, baseball's version of the XL Pipeline. If they add Lester and Sandoval, it's easy to imagine them whooshing past the Yankees in 2015. In fact, it's easy to imagine Prince Hal Steinbrenner doing something batty - Troy Tulowitzki comes to mind - which could relegate us to permanent Third World status for the rest of this decade.

Two people stand in the way of the Redsocks' plans:

1. Theo Epstein, the former Redsockian consigliere, who is trying to resurrect the Cubs with manager Joe Madden and a roster replica of the 2008 Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Theo needs Lester in the way that the Bill Cosby needs six months of solitude. If he outbids Boston - of if Lester still feels the taser sting of being jettisoned last summer - it would force the Redsocks into chasing Max Scherzer or James Shields. Both pitchers are solid, but Scherzer will require a Giancarlo Stanton price tag, and Shields is 32 (Lester and Scherzer are 30.) That two-year gap is a mofo when when you're looking at a five-year commitment. Go you Theo. Hail Hydra!

2. Brian Sabean, the former Yankee wonk, who built the Giants with other former Yankee wonks. (If only the Yankees were wonked by their former Yankee wonks.) Sandoval has three rings in San Francisco, and - at age 28 - he could fill his hand by staying put. Will he feel loyalty to the town and team? Let's hope so. Because it's not hard to see him flicking pop-ups off the Green Monster and having the peak seasons of his career, much like David Ortiz, who came to Boston at age 27. If the Redsocks whiff on the Panda, their fallback at 3B becomes Chase Headley - ha! - and, at the least, we can bid up Headley's price and make Boston pay way too much. Think of it this way: Their next fallback is in Zelous Wheeler territory.

So watch the skies. If Boston nails both Lester and Sandoval, Team Hal Hydra will declare Code Red, and all the Yankees really have to trade is their future. Of course, even if Boston goes oh-for-two, they still have plenty of wiggle room. It wouldn't be the first time their plans went blooey - and they ended up on top. Remember the winter of 2003 and a fellow named Alex? Hail Hydra, or - better yet - Hail Hubris!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's coming, I tell you: Troy Tulowitzki will be the Steinbrenner family's Second Coming of Rickey Henderson

I keep having this sick, spidery sense that I'll wake up tomorrow to find the Gammonites rejoicing and the tabloids sprouting rainbow typeface, and learn the Yankees just obtained Troy Tulowitzki.

Since the dawn of time, this has been prophesied.

It was always fated to happen... like Ebola, Taylor Swift and pumpkin beer.

Right now, a trade for Tulo is mere blogger blather. Then again, so is the notion that Hal Steinbrenner would simply chase Chase Headley and Chris Capuano, and recreate the magical 2014 Yankees, without Jeter's farewell tour. If Hal is - as I believe - the reincarnated spirit of his dad, then he must relive Old George's mistakes, perhaps at an accelerated rate. Thus, before things improve, we shall endureth a long, Stygian darkness.

I tell you, Rickey is coming...

Old George loved Rickey Henderson - that is, until he spent five years with him. In 1985, the Yankees emptied their system - Tim Birtsas, Jay Howell, Stan Javier, Eric Plunk and Jose Rijo (the jewel) - for Rickey.

In his NYC period, Henderson hit 78 HRs and stole 326 bases. But the team sucked, and George pitched him back to Oakland for three factory misprints, including Plunk and Luis "Hands Off the Babysitter" Polonia. Five years of crapola... Ron Kittle... Claudell Washington... Wayne Tolleson... But at least we owned the back pages.

Now, the Colorado Doobies are sniffing for suitors, pretending they'd never trade such a beloved icon as Tulo, even though he's 30, with a bad hip and is owed a ton of the state's best Rocky Mountain High. Tulo has always loved NY, and Hal seems enamored of him. If we empty the system - a Bird, a Judge, a Severino and maybe four Dante Bichette Jr.s - we can get it done.

The five-year dark period, I mean.

That's what we would be getting done.

Clearly, Hal is his dad's acorn. From Gooden to Clemens to the Big Unit to A-Rod, Old George always got whatever player he coveted lately. Hal is closer to the front office lug nuts, as evidenced by their seeming lifetime job security. But self-indulgence remains as much a Steinbrenner trait as the family's billions. Trading for Tulo would generate applause from the media courtiers, who really don't care if the Yankees win. They just want the circus back in town.

Obviously, I am a paranoid delusional. I am the homeless guy on the street, waving the sign.

But I tell you, it's coming...

Mark these words: The Snatch Catch will return.

Monday, November 17, 2014

CC Sabathia may have already found his new career

An old Woody Allen joke goes: "Those who can't... teach. Those who can't teach... teach gym."

It could be updated: "Those who can't... write. Those who can't write... write children's books."

Not saying CC can't write. But George Saunders can sleep tonight.

Anyway, it's a very nice book by a very nice man. It beats Tiki Barber's line of children's books. Or George Foreman's. Or Madonna's. Or Rush Limbaugh's. It beats a lot of them.

When Santa takes a night off, the real big man - CC - comes to his rescue.

With that Sabathia dials up some help from his "special cell phone" and in walks George Steinbrenner. From there, The Boss takes over. He borrows Sabathia's magical phone and calls on some baseball legends to pitch in, get the toys built and allow CC and Carsten to deliver the goods. So in come Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and at least a dozen more.
OK, we get it. But Ted Williams? Is that because his head is already at the North Pole? Anyway, Catfish and Bobby Murcer make dolls - any book that has Catfish and Bobby is OK with me - and (Spoiler alert here) CC delivers the goods.

If you're into brainwashing your children into becoming Yankee fans, this might work. Keep in mind, though, I tried, and they now all loathe the team. Life is funny.

First, Melky; now, Martin: The Blue Jays really know how to jab the knife

Today, Toronto signed Russell Martin, which means they're guaranteed to win at least one game next year in New York... because revenge is guarding a dish best served cold.

Of course, Martin should never have been let go by the Yankees, much like Blue Jays stalwart Melky Cabrera, whom we traded for Javier Vazquez, (the second time, after he'd given up the grand slam than exorcised the Bambino.) 

No word on whether the Blue Jays will re-sign Melky. But don't hold your breath about the Yankees chasing him. Melky must have used the wrong fork in NY, because they were always looking to deal him.

These are the days of miracle and wonder.



Fans lining up for the ultimate knowledge: What does Derek Jeter think?

Hamilton College is a rich, WASPy upstate NY school located on a hill in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by white people with guns. About 10 years ago, it hired for its faculty a member of a Canadian UFO cult who sought to clone the dead child of a West Virginia politician. (I am not making this up; those were the good old days.) Its list of past speaking dignitaries includes Hillary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice, Desmond Tutu, Margaret Thatcher and alleged serial rapist Bill Cosby. Next month, the school will seek to answer one of the profound questions of our era:

What does Jeet thinketh?

On Dec. 10, Derek Jeter will speak at Faber Hamilton. Want a ticket? Forget it. They're gone. On Craigslist, fans are even trading the ultimate upstate currency - Syracuse basketball tickets - for a night with The Captain. The school will live-stream the Great Jeterian Address into two auditoriums. As The Master might say, "El Capitan... It's a bleat... from Jeet!"

I know what you're thinking: Bid deal. We know what he'll say. He'll thank the fans, talk the pitch, mention tomorrow's game, and stress that winning - not personal achievements - is what is important. Then he'll wave goodnight. He'll go 60 seconds, maybe 90 - max.

No. This will be Jeet talking for - who knows? 20 minutes? 40 minutes? Maybe he'll turn out to be Fidel Castro and rumble for three hours. This is a speech. This is a paid speaking engagement. This is where you warm them up with a Don Zimmer anecdote, do a little "Mister Torre," sprinkle in some Yogi wisdom, build to a crescendo - George's death bed maybe? - jerk open the tear ducts and leave the crowd wallowing, weeping, wailing for more. This isn't a side-wink to a doting Suzyn Waldman. This is a podium. This demands a call to arms: peace in the Middle East, or end cancer in our lifetimes. This is the start of Jeet's second career. He's either going to talk for living, or he'll have to tend bar.

Forty minutes of Jeet. It sounds like one of those New Age soundtracks, the patter of an oncoming rainstorm. For 20 years, the guy was a monk in a monastery. Now, he's ending his silence? What if he turns out to be evil - denies the Holocaust and calls for beheadings? What then, Hamilton? What will Jeet sayeth?

Right now, I gotta think he's pacing the floor with a quarter-bottle of Scotch, chain-smoking and flinging unjacketed Miles Davis records against the wall, trying to summon descriptors from the depths of his tortured soul. He's like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, waiting for a mission. The floor is covered with blood - his blood - and he's been eating Chinese takeout since Oct. 3. He just smashed a mirror. This will be his moment, his time to testify.

Three weeks until the night of a thousand answers. This is like landing a robot on that comet and drilling into the subsurface for worm viruses.

In three weeks, we will know...

What does Jeet thinketh?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Newest inductee to the IT IS HIGH Yankee fan Hall of Fame: the late Bill "The Baker" Stimers

He remembered details from every game going back to 1952.
In the ensuing decades, Mr. Stimers became a part of Yankees lore. He was frequently called on by sportswriters and broadcasters to conjure up statistics, such as the leaders in sacrifice fly balls going back 50 years.
Gay Talese, the New York writer who met Mr. Stimers while working on an article about Yankees manager Joe Girardi , said Mr. Stimers’s memory extended beyond box scores, to such obscure trivia as the name of Babe Ruth’s landlord, the home address of Joe DiMaggio’s tailor and Mr. Steinbrenner’s telephone number when he was a student at Williams College in Massachusetts.

Head for high ground, world coming to end: Madden, Cashman, make sense

The blustery, bombastic Billy Madden is one of the last of the mastodons, a full-boar Daily News baseball columnist and - too often for his own good - a voice-distorted mouthpiece for the House of Steinbrenner.

Whenever the Evil Empire is on the verge of flinging itself - and the Yankee fan base - over the ledge, and signing, say, a Carlos Beltran to a three-year deal, we're likely to read a column from Madden saying, What the Yankees need is someone like Carlos Beltran, who could probably be had for a three-year deal! In other words, read him and weep.

Today's column is a sign - first in a while - that the Yankees actually have a plan: Grow the bullpen, and the rest will follow.

[T]he vast majority of starting pitchers now are out of the games after six innings and/or 100 pitches, and if you don’t have the relievers who can consistently get you those last nine outs, you’re sunk.
This is why re-signing David Robertson is Cashman’s absolute top priority and why, if Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy get above-market, four-year offers elsewhere, the Yankees will simply move on.
Thus, at last we are told the Yankees are not planning the madness of signing Chase Headley or Brandon McCarthy to long deals. Because by year three, each will likely be another slowly draining toilet. As for the infield?

[T]here are people in Cashman’s high command who feel it would not be such a bad thing to turn second base into a spring training competition between Robert Refsnyder and Jose Pirela. Meanwhile, with or without Headley, Cashman knows he’s going to need a backup first baseman but that could be anyone, from free agent Mike Carp to unsung, non-roster system guy Kyle Roller, who hit 26 homers between Double-A and Triple-A this past season. 

I didn't believe the Yankees knew there was a Kyle Roller. Who knows? They might even use their farm system.  But beware...

If the Red Sox are able to lure Jon Lester back to Fenway and sign Sandoval, well, that changes the whole dynamic of the division, not to mention Cashman’s vision of squeezing out a division title with another patchwork team in transition in anticipation of the long-awaited arrival of some legitimate position player prospects — right fielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird — in 2016. 

In other words, BEVARE! If the Redsocks strike, the Yankee future could go up in smoke. So long, Refsnyder, Judge and Bird... hello, Tulo?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Another one bites the dust

If there was such a thing as a human icon of good will, we had two.

One was Robin Williams. The other was Bill Cosby.

Super-shyster warbles: "Ballgame over, A-Rod wins! THUUUUUUUGH A-Rod wins!"

In NY Mag (which has owned the A-Rod story):

Rodriguez came clean to the feds in exchange for limited immunity — he can’t be prosecuted for what he said. For lawyer Joe Tacopina, who’d accompanied A-Rod to his interview, that constituted a win. “He didn’t get indicted,” said Tacopina, “he’s not like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens,” both of whom stood trial for lying about their use of banned substances. With his client granted immunity, Tacopina said Rodriguez was in the clear. “It’s over. Game. Set. Match,” he said.

AJ Burnett re-signs with Pittsburgh, another reminder of Hal Steinbrenner's original sin: Russell Martin

It seems like yesterday, the winter of our discontent - 2012-13 - when the Yankees prepared to re-sign Russell Martin, the Ray Liotta lookalike. He was coming off a brutal season - 21 HRs and a .211 average, thanks to a terrible start - and all he wanted was a two-year deal.

Yep. Seems crazy, doesn't it?

Of course, we know what happened. Hal Steinbrenner decided to impose a $186 million payroll cap. Thus, no two-year deals. (Then he broke his rule and signed Ichiro.) Brian Cashman went to the Winter Meetings and said - famously - "Beggars can't be choosers." Next summer, the Yankees played everybody but Matt Nokes at catcher. And last winter, they lashed themselves for five years to the great white whale known as Brian McCann. And here we are: McCann hit 23 home runs and batted .232. last season.

But believe it or not, I'm thinking about AJ Burnett today. The Pirates just re-signed him, even though he crapped the bed last season: 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA. That, of course, fueled Burnett's boisterous Yankee critics, who still claim - ludicrously - that it was smart to dump him in 2011... a move that foreshadowed Hal's brief fling with austerity.
AJ Brunett

In 2012, Burnett was one of the NL's best pitchers. (In return, the Yankees received two Single A meatballs.) He followed it in 2013 with a better ERA - 3.30 - over 191 innings. And last year, for all his issues, he still threw 213 innings - well more than any Yankee pitcher.

For the last three years, the Yankees have bled starters. Yet they gave Burnett away, and - amazingly - never seemed to face criticism for doing so.

Well, yesterday, Pittsburgh did something the Yankees refused to do:

They forgave AJ Burnett for having a bad season. They re-signed him.

Oh, well, we chopped a year off the McCann prison sentence. And Martin is a free agent. He should get a decent deal. Did you know he hit .290 last year?