666? A-Rod is - well - STILL within two home runs of SATAN.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

On Bernie Williams Day, 'Monument Park,'' a song about him from The Baseball Project

On the day that Bernie Williams has his number retired and gets a spot in Monument Park, here's The Baseball Project's "Monument Park," about Bernie. It's from the group's recent show at the Hall of Fame. And for you trivia buffs ... before the song, they noted that Bernie is probably the only player in history who has received both votes for the Hall of Fame and a Grammy nomination.

And as for the video/audio quality ... it was taken on a cell phone, so chill out. 

(And yes, that's a redsock guy on keyboards. Sorry. It's Josh Kantor, who is actually the Fenway organist.)

Cano comes in second in Seattle Times' "biggest disappointment" poll

But three out of 10 Mariners fans see a long decade ahead, doncha know?

Will Mount Hal erupt?

Let's start with the obvious. He's not cheap.

Cheap. Not.

The questions about Hal Steinbrenner are simple: Is he alive? Is he cognative? Aware? Does he rage against the night sky? Does he scream, does he holler, does he ever go bucktooth, sit-on-a-tack crazy, the way his blustering old man did?

Is he going to do something about this sorry Yankee team? (And - frankly - does it matter?)

Yesterday, old George would have punched an elevator. Didi Gregorious would still be bussing to Columbus with a necklace of garlic and a suitcase full of strangled kittens. For weeks, George would have been huffing about how Beltran's belt is obscured by his paunch. Yesterday's Bucknerian wickets replay in RF would have sent George over the precipice. As for Stephen Drew? Dear God, let's not think about what would have happened to him. We'll only be giving the CIA torture experts ideas.

To be sure, old George probably would be shredding the organization, by now. He was Isiah Thomas before Isiah Thomas became Isiah Thomas. We must be careful about assigning too much rose-colored nostalgia to the father. There was a lost decade in there, where George messed up everything so badly that, if MLB hadn't banned him - leaving Bob Watson and Stick Michaels to clean things up - the nineties might not have brought any Yankee redemption. 

Lately, I've been wondering if Hal isn't doomed to relive his dad's chronology - but in a shorter time frame. He wins a World Series, lets the team get old, and then wanders the darkness for several years. (Which is where we are now.) Maybe it's all fated to happen. Maybe we're in a time/destiny loop, something cooked up by George Lucas in one of his Yoda deliriums.

But another loss to the Rangers, another blowout at home, on national TV... well, if George's blood runs through the veins of his son, something has gotta give. Right?

He's not cheap.

The question is, does he feel embarrassment?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A guy who posts the best daily write-ups on Yankee farm hands

I don't know if this is legal or what, but a commenter who posts under the name "Go Win" on River Ave Blues' daily Down on the Farm report is the best thing on the Internet, if you like to track Yankee prospects. Unfortunately, most people don't go into the comments section - (life is too short, you know?) - and they miss what this guy is doing.

Thus, now and then - until they tell they me not to - I'm going to pop a few of this guy's work right here. Like I say, he posts in the comments, not as a hired hand. But check this out: It's today's write-up of last night's action in the Yankee system. My edits and additions are in italics. This is from GO WIN.

Here are today's notes:
- (Ramon) Flores (OF, Scranton) had a 3 hit game today and very quietly has pushed his batting average to .300. All the hits came on line drives, one for a double and two for singles. He now has a line drive rate over 22% which is his best career mark and a K rate that is at 14% the lowest for his career. He also has an OBP that is just a few ticks below .400. He has hit just 10 extra base hits during the season (about 23% of his hits) but he has better power than that. Flores is knocking on the door of the majors.
- (Brady) Lail (Trenton) pitched 6 innings allowing 2 runs but no earned. He allowed 5 hits and 1 walk. Lail needed just 79 pitches to complete those 6 innings showing the superior efficiency that has always (characterized) him. In his last 4 starts (including the one shortened to 0.1 innings when he was hit by a line drive) Lail has allowed just 1 run in 16.1 innings pitched. During this period he has allowed just 2 bases on balls. Lail is a very refined pitcher who has 4 offerings including a couple of FBs (in the very low 90s), a curve ball and a change up that he can control for strikes, He has middle of the rotation starter potential. I would not be surprised at all if he gets promoted to Scranton during the summer. Severino, Mitchell and Lail could provide next year the best depth of young starting pitcher at AAA that the Yankees have had in the last few years
- (Ken) Jagielo (Trenton) had a 3 hit game all on line drive singles, 2 to center field and one to the pull side to push his batting average to .302. In his last 10 games prior to today, Jagielo had been hitting 361 / 489 / 583. Jagielo's line drive rate is at 25%, the best of his career by far and the percentage of pulled fly balls is at 46%, 10% below last year showing a much more balanced all fields approach. On the negative side Jagielo made a couple of errors on defense, one fielding and one on the throw. Rough around the edges but a lot to like also.
- (Tyler) Wade (Tampa) had another multi-hit game, thanks to a fly ball double to the pull side and a grounder to drive his batting average to .324. He now has a 5 game hitting streak including 3 multi hit games in which he is OPSing over 1.000. In three of those 5 games Wade has been able to connect an extra base hit. During this stretch Wade has looked much more aggressive, selectively driving the ball to the pull side which has translated into improved gap power instead of his normal slap swing approach. If Wade can keep showing good contact skills, above average speed (15 stolen bases on the year) and improving gap power, the Yankees could have a very intriguing SS prospect in their hands.
- (Chris) Breen (Charleston) had a 3 hit game including a HR. The homer came on a fly ball to the pull side. He also had a single on a liner to the opposite field and a double on a grounder to the pull side. He now has 3 HRs in just 64 ABs in the long Leagues which is plus territory, specially for a 21 year old kid making his debut in A-. Breen was the only 20 yr old (or younger) to hit 8 HRs last year in the NYPL. There is a lot of power in this bat and the contact skills might be good enough for the power to play up. 

Could the Redsocks really be this bad?

The Boston frat-boy fan base spent last winter telling themselves how smart New Englanders are - deflating not only footballs, but baseball teams - engineering the Redsock collapse, so they would rise up and win the World Series in 2015. (I confess: I bought into this, too.)

Obviously, it's too early to count out anybody. And it's troubling to see how close Boston is to the AL East leaders, considering how few cylinders have been firing for them.

But if a few players turn out to be duds, the joke could be on Boston.

Baseball might yet provide some entertainment in 2015.

The Yankees' big problem is not pitching, hitting or fielding. It is a dark, soul-crushing boredom

Last night, I had a reason to watch the Yankees. His name was Slade Heathcott.

First time he came up, we were already down 7-0. I figured the game was over. We don't score eight runs in a weekend, much less one night. Still, I dropped what I was doing and rushed the TV. And he didn't let me down: He laced a drive to left-center, ran like a banshee, slid headfirst for a double. It was magnificent! Slade did it! Slade got a hit! (Next time up, a HUUUGE catcher's interference!) 

Listen: I putter around the house during games. Even with the speed-up rules, a game lasts far too long to sit and watch. Plus, these Yankees don't feel like a 3-hour commitment. This season, a Yankee game feels like 10 hours. It's like watching reruns of a show that wasn't good, back when you didn't know the outcome.

The Yankees' bugaboo is not mediocrity. It is that they are flat-out, excruciatingly boring.

What's the thrill in watching Carlos Beltran's quest to hit .250? Last night, John Sterling waxed apoplectic about "the new" Beltran's recently hitting spree. All I saw was a season total of 2 HRs and a .237 average. Beltan won't return to his glory days. Nor has he a Yankee backstory worth telling. They marched him in. One day, they'll march him out. When I see him - a DH playing right field - all I can think is: How long before Aaron Judge gets here?

Almost every Yankee has a concrete ceiling for what constitutes a good year. For Chase Headley, it might be 20 HRs and .260. (Which look impossible, right now.) For Stephen Drew, it might be 15 HRs and .240. When they come up, the Excitement Needle doesn't move. It doesn't even vibrate.

The current Yankees have a handful of players whose futures are not predefined by their past. There is A-Rod, who is confounding his critics. There are Pineda and Tanaka, both wild cards. Evaldi? Maybe, but he's starting to fray, as is Didi Gregorious with the bat. (Last night, the exception.) Ellsbury and Gardner seemed on the verge of breakouts - until Ellsbury got hurt.

And last night, there was Slade Heathcott.

Yes, I'm naive. A better phrase would be "dumbly optimistic." But I think Heathcott can be another Gardner. I think in his career season - maybe three years from now - he'll hit .300 and steal 30 bases, maybe add 20 HRs. His prime is ahead of him - not behind him. If he avoids injuries, who knows? Frankly, I don't care. He is so much more f==g interesting to watch than Carlos Beltran. Will he get a shot... or will we get another month of Chris Young? Or worse, will he be traded for another quick fix, somebody over 32, who is currently depressing fans in Colorado or Arizona?

This year's Yankees look like a middling team. The question is, will they be interesting?

Friday, May 22, 2015

We Score 2, They Score 3. We Score 9, They Score 10

Losing is a culture, shaped by the ability put on the field and the management thereof. We will be losers automatically by sticking to faded stars and burying younger talent.

It has always been and shall always be.

Where are they now?

Peter O'Brien, (traded to Arizona for Martin Prado) in Triple A: 9 HR, 36 RBIs, .326 BA, now an outfielder. He's 24.

Yangervis Solarte (for Chase Headley) in San Diego: 2 HR, 22 RBI, .273. He's 27.

Rafael De Paula (to San Diego for Headley): In San Diego Single A: 3-2, 2.38 (He's 24).

Manny Banuelos (for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve) in Braves Triple A: 3-0, 2.70 ERA. He's 24.

Francisco Cervelli (for Justin Wilson) in Pittsburgh: 0 HR, 9 RBI, .286. He's 29.

Shane Greene (for Didi Gregorius) in Detroit: 4-2, 4.05 ERA. He's 26.

Shawn Kelly (for Johnny Barbato) in San Diego: 0-2, 7.59 ERA. He's 31.

Vidal Nuno (for Brandon McCarthy) is in Oakland: 0-0, 2.70 (one game) He's 27.

David Phelps (for Nathan Evaldi, Garrett Jones) is in Miami: 2-1, 3.21 (He's 28.)

Martin Prado (for Evaldi, Jones) in Miami: 2 HR, 16 RBI, 2.77 (He's 31.)

R.A. Dickey's knuckler could have been used to draw up GOP Congressional election boundries

The knuckleball. As seen on TV. 

Stolen from Redditt.

On this day last year, the Yankees fell into second place, never to rise again

Is Bryce Harper, the childhood Yankee fan, destined for LA?

Once upon a time, it was a fait accompli that Bryce Harper would become a Yankee, when his free agency status arrives in 2019. He'll be only 26... Dellin Betances' age last year. Twenty six.

This week, watching Harper come to bat, Yankee fans needed to wear bibs. We can't help but remember the drooling, slobbery eras when stars like this were destined to wear Pinstripes. Ah, but those were different times under a different ownership.

In 2019, Harper will decide where to play for the rest of his life. He grew up a die-hard Yankee fan. Maybe that gives NY an inside track. But if anybody thinks the Yankees are a certainty, they must have been smoking Randy Levine's red curly hair.

For starters, if the Nats in 2018 see Harper edging to the door, they will trade him, demanding an aircraft carrier of talent in return. Generally, the Yankees don't grow bumper crops on the farm. Nevertheless, the franchise lavished $30 million last summer on 16-year-old Latinos. That
"class of 2014" would be around 20 years old in 2018. Most would be in Single A. Hopefully, the best of them will be highly coveted, rising stars.

We would trade them, of course. The idea would be to get Harper in NY and woo him to stay.

The concern is that Harper becomes MLB's Lebron James - (who is also a big Yankee fan, and many folks thought he would surely end up coming to the Knicks.) - a star of such magnitude that he literally reshapes the dynamics of the league. If so, Harper might want to end up with a team that always contends, in a big market with nice weather, a full tap of supermodels and a media that treats celebrities like gods. Today, that team and market is the Los Angeles Dodgers. (Moreover, Harper as a Little Leaguer probably idolized Don Mattingly.) The Dodgers are currently the new Yankees. They don't seem to be worried about luxury taxes or bad contracts. Their ownership simply wants to win.

And frankly, the Boston Redsocks might be the AL version of the Yankees, too. (But hopefully, if Harper loved the Yankees, he would have hated Boston, right?)

Oh, hell... It's a lifetime away. The Republicans will be in charge, the polar caps will be a broth, California will be burning, and we'll all be dead. Why care? You can't predict baseball, I've heard it said. But, thus far, Hal Steinbrenner excels at finishing second in bidding wars. Let's just hope that in 2019, Yoan Moncada isn't the second best player in baseball. Because Lebron James liked the idea of teaming up with talent.

The Yankees may be in second, but they still lead the league in self-congratulatory praise

"I'm saying, I'm an insect who dreamed he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over... and the insect is awake. I'm saying, I'll hurt you if you stay." 
Jeff Goldblum (as scientist Seth Brundle) in "The Fly" (1986)... summing up the 2015 Yankees.

Yesterday, the Yankees fell into 2nd place in the AL East, arguably the worst division in baseball. Unless they regain the lead, they will have failed to outlast the sorry 2014 Yankees, who held first until May 22, and the even-sorrier 2013 version, which somehow lasted until May 24. 

Already, Hal Steinbrenner is promising trade deadline deals, vowing to fortify this listing ghost ship with a new gaggle of vets who have outstayed welcomes in other cities. It's the new midsummer tradition: The Yankees' flea market splurge.

What will then follow is yet another wave of Yankee front office bow-taking. Alfonso Soriano, what a steal! The Yankees pried loose Chase Headley and gave up nothing! Chris Young, what a pick-up! How does Brian Cashman do it! 

The Yankees may be in second, but they still lead all of baseball in premature self-ejaculatory praise. It couldn't be more blatant if Brian Cashman addressed the world on an Air Force carrier in front of a sign that said "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED."   

It's not just the YES Network and John Sterling's "Driven (Insane) by Jeep" blatherings. They are paid to sell the team. But even though they know better, the NY courtier sports press seems unable to help itself in prematurely praising the Yankee front office. Stephen Drew, what a steal! The Yankees pried loose Nathan Evaldi and gave up nothing! How does Brian Cashman do it!

"... their bullpen is every bit as good as general manager Brian Cashman hoped it would be when he overhauled it," marveled MLB.Com in late April. 

And now... well... second place. The dream is probably over. They'll hurt us if we stay.

Which we will. We have no choice. Let me apologize in advance for the things I will say this summer about the team I have been blessed and condemned to love. 

In the great days of our last dynasty - a previous Millennium, by the way - the team constantly bumbled through May, like a fighter warming up. Then they gelled in July and August. These Yankee teams seem to always be built to win this week's games, with the notion that next week, somebody new will pop from the waiver wire. If you bounce around the Yankee blogs, how much time do they spend speculating on possible scrap heap pickups? We are in an endless cycle of tired players replacing tired players. 

They are nice men, for the most part. Seriously. I never wanted to dislike Carlos Beltran. He's had a great career. Why did we have to get him at the end of it? Seriously. It's no fun to rip Chris Capuano. But when the Yankees spend the last month promoting his return, as if all will be OK when he gets here, well, it's impossible not to be disappointed. Years ago, Jason Giambi had it right when he said the fans only boo because they want to cheer. Yet the Yankees consistently punt on young players and drink from well of yesterday's all-stars - (Want to throw up? Compare the stats of Yangervis Solarte and Headley) - and in the meantime, we constantly hear how smart they are... as if we cannot even see the standings.

I hope I'm wrong here, but hope doesn't buy us anything. The Yankees are stuck in an old B-movie. And they keep awarding themselves Oscars.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The 2013 Yankees held first place until May 24; can this year's team beat them?

Magic Number Revisited

The magic number is 2, remember?

Once we eke out our 2 runs, and no other offense appears via home runs, the Yankees are finished for the day.  No extra base hits, no lead-off hitters on base.  Just an endless, and boringly predictable, series of strike outs, meek ground balls, and pop-ups....some, reaching the outfield.

As soon as Washington had two runs, I knew the game was over.  Sure, it could have gone 13 innings, or 22 innings, but we had lost.  Do the math;  2 + 0 = 2.  The Yankees cannot seem to score again, once we get a two spot up on the board. Even mighty A-Rod, pinch hitting with two out in the 9th, went down looking  ( lousy call, by the way.  That ump must have had some fat chick waiting for him at Denny's ).

Seriously, the Yankees can create absolutely no threat.  They are hard to watch.  Ugly.  Uninteresting.  Boring.

So back to NYC, now, to celebrate the great Bernie Williams. 

I contrast his work with the lumbering, fat, over-paid bulbous Beltran who, last night, after chugging 40 yards after a lazy, foul pop-up, simply gave up on it.  To save his body, no doubt, for another 0-4 night.  The "out' he did not convert, by the way, became a man on base which became the winning run.  Or, ;osing run in the Yankee's case.

I really wonder what has poisoned Girardi's brain.  He has a guy in right field who can't run 15 feet, has a rubber arm, and is pounding the rock at a .220 clip when he is hot.

Just disgraceful.

Love you , Bernie.

Hal Steinbrenner to fans: Don't worry. Come June, we'll once again trade our future for a bunch of over-the-hill salary dumps

Yesterday, as the Yankees continued their new tradition - "the Memorial Day Collapse" - boy-owner Hal "I'm Not Cheap" Steinbrenner took to his media soapbox to assure fans that the franchise has learned absolutely nothing from the last two years, and that it will continue the July trade deadline practice of larding up with useless contracts in pursuit of a respectable mediocrity.

Steinbrenner said last summer's acquisitions of Stephen Drew, Chase Headley, Chris Capuano, Brendan McCarthy and Martin Prado were so successful - the team nearly won the away-field berth in the new, single-game Wild Card - that he can't wait to do it again. Hal told the NY Post:

“I’m not afraid to spend money. I never am. You know that. So when July rolls around, the trade deadline rolls around, we’re going to see where we’re really deficient and we’ll do what we can.”

Music to our ears, eh?

Cheer up, campers. Instead of whining about the team losing seven out of its last eight, let's start imagining the incoming Salary Dump Class of '15. (Doesn't "salary dump" sound like something that happens four hours after you've eaten clams?) Something tells me Ryan Howard and Grady Sizemore could be coming our way! Hey, we can start perusing that Diamondback roster as if it's the menu at Applebee's! Could Vidal Nino be ours? Let the excitement begin!

And don't worry about trading prospects. Once they're gone, multiple Yankee truth squads will assure us that they were mere illusions, who were never going to make it anyway. (SEE O'BRIEN, PETER; BANUELOS, MANNY, ET AL.) Those high prospect rankings from last winter? They were disinformation campaigns, designed to confuse other teams. And it worked! The Yankees will use their "big market advantage" to steal - dare we imagine Aaron Hill in Pinstripes? - Frankly, who cares? It'll be somebody, anybody, who played in an all-star game about 10 years ago, when he was 25.

Did you know that Chase Utley is only batting .159? For the right price, we could have Utley and Drew - the most overpaid and light-hitting SS-2B combo in history. Ladies and gentlemen... this is the stuff of mythology!

Thus, Hal's team can chase yet another Wild Card... which means hovering around .500, which means no top free agent next winter without forfeiting a 1st-round pick, but who cares? it'll be mid-round anyway. Moreover, the Yankees cannot sign a high-priced international free agent next year; they splurged last summer on a bunch of 16-year-old Latinos. They're all spending their millions now. ETA in Pinstripes? Oh, let's say 2020. Is Jackson Melian still out there?

Last week, Hal's Yankees went 1-5 against Kansas City and Washington. Moreover, they looked like a team that didn't even belong on the same field.

Those two franchises built contenders the old-fashioned way. They came in dead last for practically a decade. Under the new reality, that's how you do it: Just suck so badly that you are rewarded year after year with the highest draft picks. Eventually, a Bryce Harper falls your way.

Maybe one of these years the Yankees will collapse - so completely that Hal cannot patch the wounds with old fat guys in their career death spirals. Maybe someday, we'll draft first.

Something to look forward to, eh?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Steinbrenner & Billy on Letterman, 1987

You Thought The Winter Did Me In?

Just because there was 100+ inches of snow on my hangout this winter, doesn't mean I froze to death, or starved to death. I know most of you hoped it were so.

I've been here all along.

Those perpetually optimistic fans who prematurely celebrated my extended absence, will just have to bite their lips and grasp their walkers in horror.  Better yet, start drinking heavily.  I am feeling mean and ugly.

I was right here when Tanaka went down, but chose to stay hidden in the reeds.  The young preppie kid, Chase Whitley, that was childsplay.  Why gloat over that? Sorry about the Ellsbury thing.  I was aiming for Beltran but he bent over to tie his sneaker when I aimed my magic dart at him.  Needless to say, Jacoby was sitting next to him and, well...

By the way, whatever the Yankees are telling you about his knee tweak is an understatement.  Sure, he is on the relatively short-term DL, giving everyone a feeling of optimism.  Don't jump this shark.

Mr. Duque has already pointed out the accompanying tragedy that Slade is getting his call-up just as he is sinking in a slump.  How will that work for his confidence against a real pitcher?  Will Joe even start him, or will he play Beltran in right again?  It doesn't really much matter.  This could be the debut and, dare I say, the " Swan Song'" of Heathcott all in the same week.

And by the way,  I am not finished.  There is more to come.  More trips to the DL.  More strains, pulls, tweak, and tears. Sorry, but this is an old, deteriorating, vulnerable team.  It is, as they
 say, " easy pickens."

The failures of Brian Cashman and his team of incompetents is shortly to be revealed to the world. 


See you soon.

A memo-writing lion for social change

From a USA Today puff-up on new Commissioner Rob Manfred. (Emphasis mine.)

He shook up all of the ownership committees in baseball, assuring that every club is now represented on at least three committees. He sent a memo two weeks ago reminding clubs that they must consider minority candidates for all front-office and managerial jobs. The clubs also are required to inform him when they're about to make a general manager or managerial change.

Robbie Cano: .253... 1 HR... 11 RBIs... 9 more years...

Seattle is getting - well - a bit apprehensive, would you say?

Only nine years, $216 million, yet to go...

Says Seattle blog Lookout Landing,

I mean, come on, it's Robbie Cano. All you have to do is look at the back of his baseball card to know he's going to be alright. That's what everyone says, from commentators to Jack Zduriencik and on down to manager Lloyd McClendon. After Sunday's win over theRed Sox—in which Cano went 0-for-4—Lloyd added to this popular refrain by saying "I'm not overly concerned because he's not striking out a lot."

He's only 32...

Cano fanned twice in the game, and the 16.9 percent clip he's striking out this year would represent the highest mark of his career. If you're concerned, you have reason to be.

I certainly would never gloat. Such pettiness is beyond me. My DNA forbids it. That said...

Robbie Cano was a great Yankee, and nobody should blame him for chasing the gold. (The owners certainly do it.) I just think Robbie made a huge mistake by jogging off to Seattle, and his agent - Jay-Z - viewed Cano as a way to burnish his own fledgling reputation as a negotiator. Robbie could have accepted a nine-year deal with the Yankees, retired wealthy beyond his imagination, and lived his remaining life under the halo of a beloved New York City icon. He chose the cash and the beard.  So be it. My only hope is that - in the end, when he's scrounging for one final, overpaid at bat, we DON'T bring him back. 

I would consider that the proper Empire State of mind.

Perfect timing? Mired in a slump, Slade Heathcott gets the call

For weeks, I secretly hoped Carlos Beltran would tweak a love handle and go on the DL. It wasn't that I wish ill on Beltran - a nice fellow, I believe - but I just lost hope. These days, I leave the room when he comes to bat. (I've tried everything else; nothing worked.) In my fantasy Yankee world, Slade Heathcott would rise from Scranton like Linus's Great Pumpkin and patrol RF for the next 15 years. Carlos Beltran would make a fine Wally Pip. He just made a lousy Paul O'Neill.

Ten games ago, my dream looked viable. Ten games ago, Heathcott was hitting .328 and nearly leading the International League. But the last two weeks were not pleasant. He is now down to .285 - having hit .154 over the last 10 games with no HRs and 2 RBIs. Yes, he was Beltran-like.

Last night, the Yankees promoted Heathcott - a former first round wonder boy - to the Show. Worst of all, and I don't mean this cruelly, he's not even replacing Beltran. The injury was to Jacoby Ellsbury, heretofore our best player. Oh, well...

The new Yankee tradition: Around Memorial Day, the teams become bad memories

Last year, on May 22, the Yankees managed three hits off Chicago's Chris Sale, losing to the White Sox and falling from their perch atop the AL East. We didn't know it at the time, but the 2014 Yankees would not again be relevant until the tearful pageantry of Derek Jeter's final games. They finished 12 games behind the Orioles.

Last night, the "Bombers" blew a 6-2 lead en route to their first walk-off loss of 2015. They fell into a tie for first, having squandered a three-game lead in one week. Moreover, they will play at least the next two weeks without their best player, Jacoby Ellsbury, who sprained his knee.

If the Yankees can hold first place through Memorial Day, they will also beat the infamous 2013 Yankees - the collapsible tent of Overbay, Wells and Hafner. That team lasted in first  until May 24, then swirled the drain and eventually finished 12 games behind Boston.

Can this year's team survive Memorial Day?

Lately, the official line seems to be that the AL East is so rotten that a mediocre team can win it. It's the old "lowering of the bar" theory: As long as Boston and Baltimore stink, the YES brigade - and the "Driven by Jeep" partnership - swallows their consciences and channel old NY Lotto commercials: "Hey, you never know!" 

Regardless of how this year's model does this week, they will continue to lead all of baseball in self-congratulatory praise. For two months, Yankee fans have constantly heard how smart the Yankee brain trust is for a) building a powerhouse bullpen, b) signing Chris Young, c) keeping Chase Headley, d) not chasing those expensive Cuban free agents... blah, blah, blah...

Sunday, the Yankees will retire Bernie Williams jersey, sparking memories of great teams that are now nearly 20 years in the past. Over that stretch, the franchise never developed a star CF replacement... or a shortstop... or a first-baseman... or a third-baseman... or (gulp) even a catcher - though they assured us for a decade that the farms were stocked behind the plate. What's most amazing is that nobody in the front office ever lost his job.

Praising the Yankee front office is, of course, the real modern Yankee tradition. When the YES team mentions Hal Steinbrenner, they speak with the kind of love and admiration that a moose expresses for its flying squirrel. But the dark side of Memorial Day looms. And this October, there will be no tearful pageants, no forgiveness - and maybe no fannies in the seats - if the Yankees are 12 games out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cervelli Death Watch

Either I'm old, or somebody did some serious Captain America-style cryonic suspension

Now pitching for the Astros, Lance McCullers.

Dear Commissioner Manfred: MLB must return to a 154-game season, and the reason is none other than Babe Ruth

Dear Madam or Sir,

Quickly now - no Googling - who are the top five MLB single-season HR sluggers? Well, there's Barry Bonds, right? And Mark McGwire? It's Sammy Sosa, it's - um - guys who, if you read pious sportswriters, cannot set foot in Cooperstown without bursting into flames. They represent a dark era in our nation's past - the nineties - when players popped pills to win. (Actually, that's the entirety of baseball history, but - hey - that's another story.)

The single-season record stands at 73, held by Bonds. Next comes McGwire at 70, then Sammy Sosa at 66, then McGwire at 65, then Sosa at 64, and Sosa again at 63 and by now, we all get the joke, right? The truth is there is no HR record worth remembering, because for a few years, the game turned into pinball scores. The historians will say that MLB winked at steroids as part of a marketing strategy: It sacrificed HR records so the public would forget baseball's darkest era - the 1994-95 strike.

As a result, the greatest record in sports - Babe Ruth's 60 home runs in 1927 - was tossed aside.

I mention all this because of your recent statements about possibly shrinking the size of the regular season. Such a move would reduce the grind on players, as well as their families. The Yankees just finished a grueling two months - at one point, 30 games in 31 days - during which they lost three pitchers - Masahiro Tanaka, Chris Martin and Chase Whitley. Nothing batters a pitching staff more than seven games in seven days. Once upon a time, teams fielded 10-pitcher staffs. Now, the Yankees use 12 and still must regularly shuttle arms up from Scranton. One 15-inning game, and the bullpen becomes a MASH unit.

Now, you are saying a reduced schedule can be considered in future talks with the players union. Clearly, the owners will expect the players to take less money. Thus, in the end - as always - it will come down to greed, right?

Sir, don't let this happen.

Don't let a few dollars get in the way of doing the right thing.

Baseball needs a 154-game schedule. For starters, eliminating seven eight games won't change the tenor of a pennant race. It's plenty long enough. Sprinkle eight seven off-days across the schedule, and you might spare five pitchers from Tommy John surgeries. When a game is rained out - or postponed due to riots - it won't inflict a crushing blow to a team's schedule in September, as they play the new "twi-night doubleheader," where the crowds are replaced. (Not a fan-friendly situation either.) 

But here's the main reason: For a decade now, MLB has sought to put the tainted steroids era behind it. Some probes were arbitrary and - I believe - unfairly targeted against New York City teams, because they play in a media vortex. A-Rod and company faced unrelenting scrutiny, while players in smaller markets received raised eyebrows and winks.

Now, MLB has a chance to put the steroids era into the backwaters of its history. By moving to a 154-game season, the HR record would revert back to Babe Ruth. The other records came in 162-162-game years, with asterisks, as Roger Maris learned. (BTW, he should be in the Hall, dammit.)

Return to 154, and future sluggers will chase the immortal Babe, as they should. 

Return to 154, and the game can heal over Bonds, Clemens, McGwire - maybe even A-Rod - as it should.  

Some might argue the HR record is still held by Bonds or McGwire, because maybe they hit more than 60 home runs in 154 games. That's stupid. Do you chose the first 154 games of the season, or the last 154? Are you just looking for a stretch of 154 games... because that's not a season. It's a single-season record, and they didn't play in a 154-game season. Thus, their totals don't matter. They can hold the 162-game record throughout eternity. So be it.

Shrink the schedule. Save an elbow. Save a marriage. And save Babe Ruth. Damn, it's so simple. Let's get this done.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Stop complaining: You could have been a Marlins fan

Apparently, the Yankees will wait to fall out of first before making any moves

Here's today's Amazing True Fun Fan Fact:

The Yankees yesterday were shutout for the first time all year!

Yep. That was our first full-game whiff. It's hard to imagine that a team whose batting averages - after the first three hitters - are .248, .237, .234, .236, .177, and .204 - had not been shutout until yesterday. That's because several of our one-run games - like Thursday night against Tampa, when A-Rod homered in the ninth to cut the deficit to 6-1 - felt like shutouts (sort of the way wind-chill factor makes a zero-degree winter day feel colder.) And then there was Friday's 12-1 loss to KC. That was not a shutout. Just a shellacking.

No... a spanking. That's what it was. A trip to the old woodshed. Yesterday was our first 2015 shutout, but it was certainly not our first spanking.

Yesterday's visit with Mr. Hairbrush occurred while Rob Refsnyder - down at Scranton - was hitting 2 home runs, lifting his average to .304. He has gotten hot, after the starting the season in a deep hitting and fielding funk. Refsnyder is an outfielder still learning 2B. But soon, it won't matter. Ready or not, he's going to have to botch grounders in New York, because Stephen Drew is not cutting it.

Yesterday, Drew went 0-4 with a strikeout. One of the most fascinating aspects of Drew's slow-motion career implosion is his apparent inability - or unwillingness - to adjust to defensive over-shifts. You'd think a guy hitting .177 - who is not a slugger - can learn to go to the opposite field or bunt his way on base. Yet Drew swings away, as if indifferent to the defensive realignments. The Yankees this year have two batting coaches - TWO. Can neither of them save this guy?

But let's face it: As long as the Evils remain in first, Refsnyder will slog on in Scranton, and Drew will journey deeper into the void. Lately, he is sharing time with Jose Pirela, also a defensive liability. (Last year on this date, Brian Roberts was hitting .250 and batting second, seemingly on an upward trajectory. Over the next month, Roberts fell apart and was cruelly jettisoned before earning a bonus paycheck. But Roberts - at the end of his Yankee trial - was still hitting .237. Yep... as bad as he was, Roberts was an offensive surge, compared to the last five putrid batters in yesterday's first shutout lineup.) 

And so it also goes with Carlos Beltran, he of the .234 average. Because last year we saddled ourselves with Beltran's three-year deal, it really doesn't matter whether Slade Heathcott (.288) or Ramon Flores (.281) are hitting at Scranton. Neither will get a shot, until Beltran splatters against a wall or tweaks a gonad while tying his shoe.

The Yankee strategy seems to be this: As long as we're in first, ignore the millstones. The AL East looks bad - as it did last year, when the Yankees held first place until May 22.

Trouble is, you don't need to be a cow to know the milk is sour. The AL East looks weak now, but sooner or later, Boston or Baltimore will rattle off an eight-game winning streak. The Yankees are squandering a month, when they might have put distance between them and the division. Eventually, injuries will cripple this old, brittle team. Eventually, the bullpen and rotation will snap.

Hate to be a pessimist on a first-place team, one that only yesterday suffered its first shutout of the year! But the Yankees look far more like last year's dreary Wild Card also-rans than they do any of the Division champs of the early 2000s.

So now, we just stand on the ice and listen to it crack? We're in first by one game over Tampa. Enjoy it while it lasts, folks. Will we beat last year's team and stay in first beyond Friday? Yeesh. May 22 seems a long, long time away. As for October, you can't even see it from here.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Now You Can Hit Home Runs, Just Like Roger Maris

Unraveling The Yankee Offense

Last night, the Yankees led 1-0 for about 4 innings, I recall.  They did this without the benefit of a hit.  Four walks and I don't know what netted them a run.  Finally, Headley hit a 3 run homer and A-Rod later hit a solo shot.

This is typical.  In our four previous ( and consecutive ) losses, we had several opportunities to score multiple runs with a clutch hit, but got none.  Bases loaded and no one out; zero runs.

It is when the Yankees hit home runs that they win.  No one is a situational clutch hitter with men in scoring position.  Those key singles or doubles to the gap just don't come.

It looks that way again today.  The Yankees are going down like puff balls.  No threats.  No hard hit balls.  Just quick outs.

Unless we hit some home runs, we just can't score more than the magical 2 runs.

And that usually spells loss.

Stay tuned.


With prized free-agent Chris Capuano returning to Pinstripe Pride, you can literally feel the buzz across the Yankiverse.

Last year, Capuano won 2 games for the Bronx Bombers. Over the winter, the team's top brass won an intense bidding war to bring back the gamy, 36-year-old lefty who - sadly - hurt himself while trying to cover first base in a spring training game, delaying his season.

Who knows what the crafty southpaw will do? In 2005, Capuano won 18 games for Milwaukee.

Now that he's back, the Pinstriped Power rotation is again intact, and Yankee hopes are sky high!

"The Yankees may be baseball’s marquee franchise, with their record 27 World Series championships, a rich history and a fan base that has tentacles reaching every pocket of the country. But this season, the Yankees have been baseball’s least popular attraction. Entering Saturday, the Yankees were last in road attendance, averaging 22,820 fans."

Last night, 31,871 Kansas Citians turned out to watch two divisional leaders go at it. The seats at Kaufman Stadium were 84 percent full.

Not bad. I guess. Let's face it: The Yankees don't have a farewell tour going this year, and there are only so many times you can watch an oldies act before the songs grow tiresome and the wigs fall off. Folks aren't turning out in droves to see the mighty Bronx Bombers any more because - hey - the mighty Bronx Bombers haven't put out a decent album in 15 years.

Billy Witz, the NY Times writer with the NY Post byline name, has written some wonderful pieces this year on the Yankees. This one adds to his collection: The Yankees are no longer the top draw in baseball. But who would have thought they are dead last.

Congratulations here should go out to MLB and its former commissioner Bud "the Statue" Selig. Sir, you finally did it. You created a pro league without a dominant team. You killed the Yankees.

Of course, this took generational change. The new Yankee owner no longer puts winning above all else. Don't get me wrong: Hal Steinbrenner wants to win. But it's more important to toe the line financially and respect his colleagues, the other great men who own teams. Nobody wins when an owner goes rogue and spends too much money on his team. It's better to wait your turn.

Of course, in a few years, the Yankees will rise again. They simply must finish last a few times and use their high draft picks wisely. It's the tried and true way to achieve success in professional sports. Everybody wins, especially the owners, who are rewarded for cutting salaries and doing poorly. Who ever knew that billionaires could so love excessive luxury taxes?

Only one problem... when the Yankees come to town, it's not quite the same. I guess the Stephen Drew farewell tour doesn't quite reel them in. Oh well, maybe next visit, the team can bring some retired uniforms and install a plaque in CF to - say - Freddie Patek. Hey, it works in New York.