Saturday, December 3, 2016

It's a bolt... from Beltran!

Carlos signed with the Astros today. One year, sixteen large.

Mixed emotions here. He would have provided our one-year fix, but we'd be moving backwards. Houston is obviously going for broke. (Too bad, Robbie; another year, shot to hell) Steve Pearce and Matt Holiday are still out there... (in case we don't want to watch Encarnacion at age 40.)

It's an antique stat, I realize... but here some old-fashioned batting averages for last year.

Encarnacion: .263.
Pearce: .288
Holliday: .246
Beltran: .295

Let's face it: Encaracion could probably carry the team for a few weeks, but if the kids don't hit, it would be a lost cause. And if the kids do hit, either of the other two could supplement the lineup, maybe bat fifth or sixth. I'm just now sure about a five-year deal, when we're using old five year deals to plead poverty.


Why the Frowny Face, Hal?


This might be a "please bear with me" blog post.  So please bear with me.



Introduction

I saw a picture of Dan Quayle in the news today.


The picture accompanied an article about Quayle meeting with President-elect Trump.  Presumably they discussed some cabinet position.  "Secretary of Spelling the Word Potatoe", perhaps.


While reading the article and glancing at the photo, it occurred to me that Dan Quayle bears a passing resemblance to Hal Steinbrenner.


The Idea

Hmmm, I thought.  It might be fun to do a "Separated at Birth" spoof of Quayle and Hal. They're both a couple of deer-in-the-headlights rich boys who had a lot of things handed to them at birth but who have underwhelmed ever since.  And they kinda, sorta look like each other.

Maybe there's some potential for humor, I thought.


The Search

I conducted an exhaustive 20-second Google search and every picture I found of Dan Quayle showed the former Vice President smiling.  Sometimes he's smiling genuinely and sometimes he's got a cheese-y pasted-on politician smile (like the one above), but our boy Danny Quayle is always smiling, darn tootin'.

I thought to myself, "Ok, now I need to do another Google image search to find one of Hal Steinbrenner smiling.  I'll put their photos side by side, then I'll write it up."

"No problemo", I thought.  "Piece of cake."


The Discovery

I did a Google Image search on "Hal Steinbrenner" and browsed through the images of Hal, looking for a shot of him smiling.

There weren't any.  

Good Lord, the guy doesn't smile.

I looked through the 1,000 or so images returned by Google and there's only one that shows Hal smiling.  In this single solitary photo, Hal's smile is a little Nike swoosh of a sideways smirk.  I circled it in red below in case it's not obvious.


But look at all the others!  Compare the circled shot to all the others in the pictures above.  The other photos show what you ALWAYS see Hal looking like.  You can look through hundreds and hundreds of images of Hal and you won't find any of him smiling.  Not one.  None.  Nada.  Zip.


Believe me, you can click the "Show More Images" button as many times as you'd like, but you'll only find photos of Hal like the one on the right.

I mean, here the guy is, out with his wife for a nice night at the ballpark and he looks like he's been told that ISIS has formed a sleeper cell in the home team dugout and those mischievous utility infielders have peed in the hot tub in his private Jim Beam suite.  Again.

Meanwhile, his wife is smiling like she's married to the guy who owns the ballpark.

What gives?



An Analysis for Another Time

Since we are all highly qualified and expertly trained sports psychologists, we should discuss our individual theories why Hal is never seen smiling in a photo.  Is it because Sabathia told him he'd give him a monster wedgie if he dares ever to set foot in the locker room?  Is he concerned about his brother Hank's smoking?  Is Hal upset because he's realizing it was a bad idea to rent out his stadium to a soccer team because, you know, after you take their money, they're actually going to play there?  Is he sad because he's got to pay A Rod $27 million just to kiss himself in a gym mirror?  Is that grim look pasted on his face because he just finished puberty and now realizes that, in a gush of misplaced teenage enthusiasm, he tore down Baseball's One True Cathedral and put up The Mall of America?

Or is it just because his team sucks and he doesn't know what to do about it?

We could discuss this at length.  We probably should.  But I don't want to throw us off track.  I'd like to propose a challenge.


The Hal Challenge

I challenge anyone to find and post a link to a photograph of Hal Steinbrenner with his head thrown back, his mouth wide open, and enjoying a good laugh with someone.  With some friends.  With anyone.


I don't think such a photo exists.

     And I curse the life I'm living

     And I curse my poverty

Is this guy as miserable as he's making all of us?





Yankees enter Cone of Silence while their top scientists study alien CBA

As you read this, a crack team of Yankee super-analysts (pictured right) is scrutinizing MLB's new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the owners and their employees, looking for hairline cracks or possible wormholes into the alien structure's seemingly impenetrable exterior.

For the next 24 to 48 hours, we must ignore the rumors and speculation being mouthed across the Yankiverse. Most of this is produced for fake news sites by underpaid teenagers in Macedonia.
The truth is this: No one knows what lurks inside the agreement, until our greatest legal minds crack the code.

Friday, Brian Cashman warned humanity that the Yankees would enter a seeming hibernation state, while our technicians study the agreement, as he eerily emulated the actions and image of Amy Adams in the current sci-fi hit movie, Arrival. 

God speed these tireless technicians in their work. If one of them can find the Golden Loophole - a way to use Yankee wealth and market resources to win pennants, rather than simply enrich the stockbrokers - there is hope.*

*This assumes the ownership really wants to win, rather than enrich the stockbrokers.


Friday, December 2, 2016

He Thinks He's Derek Jeter

Four Yankiverse-shaking events that could happen next week

The winter meetings (pictured right) start Monday. By next Friday, assuming we're not at war, I predict the Yankiverse will be buzzing over four cataclysmic events.

1. The trading of Gardy. Let's face it: Deals are the Calgon Bath Oil Beads of the meetings. Everybody covets one. And for us, either Gardy or Jacoby Ellsbury simply must go. They are identical clones, and neither is what he was three years ago. Yeah, Gardy won a Gold Glove, but that's because he's a CF playing in left, where most teams stash their defensive buffoons. I can't fathom what we'll get for Gardy, but if it's two nobodies like Chad Green and Luis Cessa, whom we snagged last winter, I'll take it. Still, pardon my tears next summer when Gardy first appears in an enemy jersey. He is my favorite Yankee, and it hurts to think he will soon be gone.

(By the way, my negative tone is to reflect the depth of the black hole into which the Yankees have flown over the last four years. Make no mistake: If our big prospects fail, or - worse - we don't show the patience to let them evolve as players, this could be the worst period in Yankee history. Think about that, next time some 19-year-old expert extols the brilliance of our ownership: The. Worst. Period. In. Yankee. History.)  

2. The big losses from the Rule 5 draft. I think the super-serious Yankee blogs are sugarcoating this: We are about to get plundered. We will surely lose Jake Cave, a promising OF with Scranton. We'll lose a good pitching prospect. We could lose some of the lesser players we received in last July's rebuild. It's possible some team could reach down and grab Luis Torrens, a 20-year-old catcher with enormous potential; two years ago, before he got hurt, he was one of our biggest hopes. We should brace ourselves for a brutal draft day. Last year, two of the first three picks came from our system. This year, I suspect it will be worse.

3. A free agent signing, maybe two. Not sure how quickly things will brew. But by now, Aroldis Chapman, Rich Hill and Carlos Beltran must have a good sense of their future homes. The Yanks have "made inquiries" on all three. I don't know what the hell that means. It's been two years since we bid on a big ticket bucket, and the crosstown Mets just shelled out Fred Wilpon's left testicle for Humanis Centepedes. By next week, we should know where Fallow Hal is going.

4. The out-of-nowhere, unpredictable, nothing-for-nothing Cashman deal. Whether it's trading Tyler Clippard for Jessica Alba - (wait, make that Jonathan Albaladejo) - or dealing Vincente Campos for Tyler Clippard, the Yankee GM always cuts a nobody-for-nothing transaction, just for the Calgon Bath Oil Beads instant pleasure of proving he's alive. Sometimes, they work. Sometimes, they don't. I'm thinking Rob Refsnyder. You heard it here first. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sweepstakes?

When good headlines turn bad...


Where have you gone, Mephistopheles? The Yankees turn their lonely eyes to you.

Dear Satan... aka Scratch, Bub, Luce...

As you know, last night, baseball's stately plantation owners and prideful migrants achieved labor harmony. They have tweaked the current system and greased the wheels of prosperity through 2021.

Quick question: Where the hell are you?

Actually, that's a trick question. We know where you are: Somewhere in the fine print, lurking in the boilerplate, hidden in a phrase or dangling in a participle... waiting to someday emerge like Melania Trump's immigration papers.

At least, that's what I hope.

From first impressions, the new baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) keeps the de-facto payroll caps that crushed the Yankees in the early 2010s and turned the team into a big city version of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Today, the questions are the ones always asked after such a deal is made:

Is there a loophole, and can the Yankees exploit it? Make no mistake: That is Brian Cashman's job. And by the way, he won't hold a news conference and announce it. Don't expect quick analyses. That's how loopholes - and devils - work their magic.

The Yankees built their 1996-2003 dynasty, in large part, on a newly found revenue stream called the YES Network. MLB reacted by imposing huge luxury taxes on the big-spending teams (the Yankees), while other franchises built their own TV networks. Ever since, the Yankees have been a nostalgia act, presenting aging stars in season-long Old-Timers Day pageants, as they chased Wild Cards.

Obviously, sitting here this morning, I can't identify a loophole. The luxury tax cap will rise by a few million each year, but if Hal "Food Stamps" Steinbrenner stays above it for too long, his tax rate will skyrocket. The Yankees must still get below the threshold every few years - while balancing the long-term deals that top stars demand. It's a Catch-22 that the Yankees have yet to solve.

Last year, after four seasons of mediocrity, Hal finally threw in the towel, traded veterans for prospects and vowed to rebuild - just like Kansas City does. Now, we hope a wave of young stars will lift this team. But if it does happen, will the Yankees be able to keep them, when they demand to be paid like stars?

Don't get me wrong, Luce. This agreement is probably fair to all owners. Trouble is, most teams seek pennants. A few annually chase world championships. The Yankee tradition is to think of dynasties. That's where you come in.

Somewhere in the details, we need a devil.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Mets' signing of Humanis Centepedes means the Yankees no longer share NYC with a patsy

Yesterday, the Non-Miracle Mets spent their holiday money on four-years of Yoenis Cespedes - more than $27 million per season. In theory, that deal now defines the market for Edwin Encarnacion - everything but the kitchen sink - which underscores what we already knew: The computer known as Brian Cashman will "make inquiries" on Edwin and then hide under the bed, praying the player's agent doesn't return the call.

A few thoughts on yesterday's deal:

1. Apparently, Mets owner Fred Wilpon has finally "recovered" from Bernie Madoff. It's only been eight years. Frankly, it's never been clear whether Drop Dead Fred won or lost in the Madoff scandal. He poor-mouthed pretty well - billionaires always do - and accepted big loans from MLB and Bank of America to stay afloat, nearly sold 49 percent of the team to an equally evil hedge fund. But in 2012, Fred settled a lawsuit from the small Madoff investors, the ones who truly lost everything - by paying $162 million - even more than for Cespedes. For years, the Mets used Madoff money to thrive. It's a cruel jungle for Hal Steinbrenner - life among the billionaires.

2. For the third straight year, the Yankees will loom as NYC's inferior baseball team. (We're still ahead of the Staten Island Yankees and Brooklyn Whatevers.) This will be reflected in ticket sales, YES ratings and the refusal of Comcast to roll over in cable disputes. When the Evils were swept in the 2012 ALCS, did any of us imagine that we would go four years without a post-season win? Did anyone foresee such a dark period in the Yankiverse? Well, yeah, Alphonso did - but that's his thing.

3. If it's true that the Jersey Giants and Dolan-cursed Knicks have improved - (and, seriously, that's a big "if" on both) - the 2016 Yankees could be NYC's fourth most popular sports team. (Thank you, Jets, for your constant mediocrity.) And that's not even pondering the unponderable: That Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez turn into complete flops. If that happens, watch out Brooklyn Nets: We're coming for you.

4. Newton's Third Law says for every action, there is an equal re-somethingorother. Last night, news reports said the Yankees are in "full pursuit" of the late-blooming veteran pitcher Rich Hill, probably for a three-year deal. The guy is 36. Thirty-six. After Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Chase Headley, et al - we're going to give a 36-year-old pitcher a whopping three-year-deal? Well, it's Hal's money, not mine - and maybe the front office is shitlessly scared of what being the fourth most successful team in NY might mean. Still, I think it's a touch of madness... or just an attempt to momentarily divert attention from the Mets looming superiority.

Clearly, if we were to sign Rich Hill, Aroldis Chapman and a DH - a Steve Pearcer - we can chase the 2017 AL Wild Card - with or without Aaron Judge. The bar is rather low for chasing wild cards. A .500 team is contending until September. I'm just worried that Rich Hill will become Exhibit A for why the Yankees sit out next year's free agent auction, and - worst of all - yet another sign that we have learned nothing from Madoff, the Mets and everything else in recent years.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

All Bow Down


...I get the ball, I throw the ball, and then I take a shower...




Happy 47th Birthday to Mariano Rivera.  Old Guys Rule.

Eovaldi, Mantiply, Rumbelow... the poem


Three names new fans shall never know:
Eovaldi... Mantiply... Rumbelow...
Three names, I say, "Watch out below!"
Eovaldi... Mantiply... Rumbelow.


Three seeds the Yankees shall not sow,

Eovaldi... Mantiply... Rumbelow.
Three homes YES broadcasts will not go:
Eovaldi... Mantiply... Rumbelow.

And yet, each one, you never know...

Perhaps they'll make it in The Show,
Not spend their day in Buffalo,
Lost in some roster's undertow,
Perhaps they'll beat the status quo,

Eovaldi... Mantiply... Rumbelow!

Alas, we know not what we'll see.
The future is what it shall be.

At least a few have been set free,
Eovaldi... Rumbelow... Mantiply...

Monday, November 28, 2016

If the new luxury tax threshold is set at $200 million, this could be the year Hal hits his magical number

There is talk that baseball's next Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Scrooges and their fancy pet poodles will set team luxury tax thresholds at a fat, juicy $200 million - ending Hal "Food Stamps" Steinbrenner's long and unfulfilled quest to reach that vaunted $189 million payroll limit. Like peace in the Middle East, or among the Kardashians... it was just never fated to happen.

If so, this could be the year - even with the signing of Aroldis Chapman and/or a mercenary DH - that the Yankee plantation owner finally escapes his long-time, overwhelming luxury tax liabilities.

Right now, according to the Cot's Baseball Contracts website, the Yankees face at least $136 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017. That doesn't count future arbitration settlements with Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda, Austin Romine and Aaron Hicks - (though let's not worry about paying Hicks; he sucks) - plus the piddling rookie salaries of Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, et al. Let's say all the extras cost $35-45 million. That still puts us around $180 million - with $20 million to spare on the return of El Chapo.

Moreover, if we trade either Brett Gardner, Chase Headley or - please, God, please, please, please - Jacoby Ellsbury, we can probably carve off some of their salaries, as well. With a little graft here and there, we could slide in under $200 million and get Hal's monkey off our backs. Then we can spend like hell next winter, when A-Rod and CC are memories (along with $46 million), and a far superior crop of free agent brisket is salted and ready for the smoker.

All we have to do is think about 2018. Nothing else. 2018.

This in no way suggests that I approve of Food Stamps' cheapness. The Steinbrenners have more money than any of the kids can count, yet they have chosen to accumulate more - rather than obsessively chase world championships, as their daddy did. That was George's legacy, and they pitched it overboard. Maybe in five years, if Hal makes a plan and sticks to it, there will be salvation - even forgiveness - within the Yankiverse. But right now, all we're watching is one of the richest families in the world wriggling to make more. And I can never divorce myself from the reality that even a site like this - that yells and screams at them - only adds to their portfolios, at the end of the day. When you're selling tradition, all attention is good.

So... let's hope the team can screw Didi and Dellin in arbitration, and then trade the virtuous and loyal Brett Gardner! That way, we can "afford" a veteran DH, such as Carlos Beltran or Steve Pearce. Two hundred million... here we come!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Yogian problem with signing Chapman and Beltran...

... is actually quite simple: We would be moving backwards... reliving 2016, a crapola season... it's deja vu all over again.

Today, Joel Sherman calls for the Economical Empire to look past 2017 in its winter moves and do just that: Sign Chapman and Beltran.

... [T]hey need one more year to A) let the prospects grow both in the majors and minors to get a greater understanding of exactly what they need, and B) clear more money... So what does this mean for 2017? I think it means forming as strong a bullpen as possible and finding the best one-year hitter on the market, so think of it as perhaps signing Chapman and Carlos Beltran.

On the first part, relating to the long term future... I'm in. So should be any thinking Yankee fan. These idiots who talk about trading the farm for Chris Sale are either suffering from dementia or they are still in sixth grade, because they certainly have forgotten the 1980s. We have too many intangibles on the 2017 roster - most notably Aaron Judge, the King of Uncertainty - to start bundling prospects for another Jeff Weaver, an arm that has already logged 1,200 MLB innings.

This is about patience. Most players are not Gary Sanchez, stars from the outset. A year from now the Yankees should have a much better idea of what Judge, Sanchez, Greg Bird, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Severino can do in the majors. 

Amen. If we're still in the race by July 30, maybe we can peddle some 2017 versions of Ben Gamel and Cito Culver for a retrofitted carburetor. But for now, if we're chasing winter free agents, we need to fortify the bullpen (Chapman?) and seek a one-year slugging fix - gulp - Beltran?

Why do I feel sick? I get the reasoning. Beltran for one year. It makes sense. Still, there is no way to sugarcoat it: This means moving backwards, reliving the mediocre dullness of 2016. To bring back Beltran would hardly generate a positive April buzz. It certainly won't boost ticket sales and those all-important YES ratings, which have been falling for years and may not have yet bottomed out.

Beltran, again? It makes sense. But I'm throwing up in my mouth. Can the Yankees separate the marketing needs of their TV network from the long-term well-being of their team? For years, it was YES money that gave us a competitive advantage. Ever since MLB imposed its massive luxury taxes, the Yankees have become slaves to YES. That horrible contract given to Jacoby Ellsbury: It was all about creating a diversion over the loss of Robbie Cano... and keep eyeballs watching YES.

So... which direction will we take this winter? The future, the past, or some variant of both? Can we move forward and backwards?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

What does it mean?

Within 24 hours of each other, Florence Henderson and Fidel Castro die.

(Love tryst?)

In the new player's union agreement, the Yankees should be on the players' side

In case you've wondered which side to back in the ongoing labor dust-up between the players and owners, it's easy: Yankee fans should root for the players. It's not even close.

For starters, let's never forget that this is a skirmish between millionaires and billionaires. The owners are capital b Billionaires who - in labor matters - pretend to be lowly millionaires, in hopes that we will feel sorry for them. Hal Steinbrenner will never take a 95-mph fastball in the ribs or tear a knee sliding into third. The closest he'll come is stubbing his toe on an Italian marble coffee table in the luxury box, or - if you're into psychological suffering - having to sit next to Rudy Giuliani for an entire game. That's truly a hell, but it merely requires heavy drinking.

Beyond our knee-jerk, Maoist hatred for the golden dumpster class, backing the players' union should be Hal's position anyway. It's far more favorable to the Yankees. For example:

1. We want no international draft. The owners demand it, so they can spend less on foreign talent. Why should the Yankees give up their big market advantage in signing Latino players? Hey, we came in second in the battle for Yoan Moncada!

2. We want no loss of draft picks for free agents who receive qualifying offers. It sucks for the particular player - remember how Stephen Drew nearly missed an entire season? - who cannot get his free-market value in negotiations. And it means the Yankees cannot sign those players without giving up our future.

3. We want them to bump the luxury tax threshold beyond $189 million. Small market owners should not be allowed to skimp on payroll and have the Yankees foot the bill through heavy luxury taxes.

The owners want the Yankees to be the San Diego Padres. Well, folks, they're not. They are the New York Fucking Yankees, the premier pro sports franchise in America for nearly a century. You cannot scream about the beauty of unregulated, free market capitalism when the tax man is at your door - and then turn around and run your business like a socialist state, when it comes to regulating what teams can and cannot do. If unlimited contributions are good for political elections, how about unlimited payrolls for a frickin' pennant race?

One other thing about big and small markets: It costs more to do business in New York. It's harder to stay focused in New York. If you make all teams equal, you're rewarding the small cities and screwing the larger ones, because they face all the distractions.

Hal Steinbrenner ought to be on the players' side of these negotiations. If he's not fighting for them - and for Yankee fans - he's in the wrong business.