Thursday, March 23, 2017
I mean, for 14 months, the Yankiverse has awaited Bird. We watched him in the Arizona Fall League. He's the only actual 1B on the roster. He hit two years ago. He's hit all spring. He's batting .421 with four homers. And yet... it's news that he's beaten out Chris Carter, the granite-gloved 30-year-old strikeout leviathan?
No, let me rephrase: It's fake news. It's fake because we all know in our hearts that Bird has only beaten out Carter for now. Don't think for a moment that if Bird goes 0-10 in a weekend series, we won't see Carter - a DH at whatever position he "plays" - platooning against the next lefty. Hell, it could happen before spring training ends. Mustang is dead on right: Today's Yankee front office would still be playing Wally Pip.
And it's not just first base. We spent the winter assuming Aaron Judge would get at least 200 MLB at bats, so we could see at last what he's got. Throughout his career, Judge has always started slowly and adjusted. Well, after three weeks in Tampa, the ghosts of Billy Connors seem to declaring a dead heat between Judge and Aaron Hicks, despite the latter's Hall of Fame resume of disappointments.
Listen: I don't wish bad fortune on Hicks or Carter. Both have roles to play, and if either steps up to have a great season, it's gravy. But the Yankees cannot market themselves as the team of youth, "the Baby Bombers," and then dollop out last year's potato salad, claiming it's fresh. In Carter's case, we have a known defensive liability who, if given the at bats, would threaten all-time single season strikeout records. In the case of Hicks, we see an eternal prospect - now 27, two years older than Nick Rumbelow, fer godsake - who hit .217 last season. Two-fucking seventeen. Yeah, Hicks was working on a decent month when he strained a Willie and disappeared. That's it. For that, he wins a do-over? Two seventeen, folks. With on On Base Percentage of .281.
Well, at least we know that Kirk Douglas, Doris Day and Dick Van Dyke are still alive. May each live another twenty years, happily and in heath! And for now, when Lou Costello asks who's on first, Bud Abbott says, Bird! Next to Gary Sanchez! And with a little fairy dust and elbow grease juju, we could have two of baseball's rising sluggers anchoring our lineup. And here's the news: Unless the Yankees rediscover Wally Pip, we might actually get a chance to see something.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
But there is no chance.
Wade has earned the shot, but he has never played in the major leagues. He isn't even, really, a guy on their " high prospect" radar. And they don't want to be embarrassed by revealing a superstar they didn't even know was a potential superstar.
All along, he has been a body to throw into a trade. You know, for some old guy. And when he becomes Jay Buhner for someone else, they will try to cover it up by making other monumentally bad trades.
Even worse, Wade might just be better than the highly touted guys. So Cashman and Girardi, like some members of our government, will keep it secret and lie about it.
Above all ( including the prospect of winning ), they don't wish to be " shown up" as idiots and assholes, who do not belong in their jobs.
So Torreyes and Tejada will battle it out to play mediocre defense and hit .228. Then, DIDI will come back, flash for a while, re-injure the shoulder, have surgery, and wave adios.
Get used to it.
Forget the American Dream. It is dead.
The Yankees are, at best , a third place team in the AL East. And that reflects the new optimism.
First half of 2016: .296
Second half of 2016: .233
Average last August: .198
Average last September: .237
Average in 2016 post-season: .100
Average this spring: .179
Ah, Jerry... where are you? Yesterday, upon hearing the Yankees will lose our best player, Didi Gregorius, for six weeks, my thoughts turned to Jerry - who died 22 years ago within days of Mickey Mantle, of all people. In a perfect world, I would grab some sour diesel, roll 40 fatties - one per day - and check in with you all on May 1 - Mayday - to see where the team stands. But the Yankees are my self-medication, and for the last 18 hours, why lie? I've ping-ponged between hope and despair.
My immediate thought: It's not so bad. We only play 24 games in April. (I looked it up.) A few get rained out. (Only three in a dome, Tampa.) It's a long season. Everybody gets hurt. We're lucky this didn't happen in July...
Then the equal, opposite reaction, as required by the law of thermodynamics: This is the worst thing that ever happened. It's just the kind of injury that wrecks a guy's season. Didi was on the verge of stardom. It'll take him into June to catch up with pitchers. What if it's the start of shoulder issues? In April, we play 15 games within our division. Fifteen. Every loss will haunt us all season. If it happened in July, Gleyber Torres might be ready. Now, we're sunk...
I bounced back to hope: Ha! Another reason not to trade for Jose Quintana. (I think it's Reason #304; the pile is taller than Mt. Marcy.) Whenever someone goes on about why we should trade prospects for Quintana, they sound like a toaster oven trying to pass the Touring Test. So much for that. This is a transition year. We must think of 2018 and 2019. No trading prospects!
Then... despair: Fuck me. Right now, Cashman surely is working the phones, offering Gleyber, Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield for a Brendan Ryan. We already have two Ryans - Brendan Tejada and Brendan Kozma - but they're not enough. He'll trade for another. Six weeks is just long enough for Cashman to wheel and deal. Hell, maybe we'll sign Brendan Ryan off the Tigers scrap heap. After all, he hit .077 last year for the Angels.
Then... a giddy twinge: Wait... WTF! Tyler Wade! He's 22, bats lefty (platoon with Torreyes). He played 133 games last year at Trenton. He hit .259 with an On Base Percentage of .352. That's a shitload of walks (And he stole 27 bases!) This spring, he's 13-for-33 in Tampa - has yet to make an error. (Torreyes and Tejada have each made three, and Gleyber Torres - bless him - made four.) They've been grooming Wade for a utility slot. Push the button, Cash! Throw us a bone! Let's "Wade" into 2017.
Then... I saw Girardi's lineup last night: Torreyes at SS. (Went 0-3) That's Joe's immediate reaction - his current plan. Shit. Listen: I like Torreyes as a utility piece. He's pesky, he's quick, and he's not Brendan Ryan. But I don't see him playing everyday for a month without being undressed... and certainly not at SS. Jeez. I dunno.
But I'm not leaving in transcendental despair. We'll get through this. Forty days. And it's a long-term tumbler clicking into place. Next year, Didi should play 2B, with easier throws. (Yeah, he got hurt at 2B, but overall...) If Castro is a part of our future - (big "if," considering his refusal to walk: his OBP last year was only .300) - it's at 3B. Our SS must be Gleyber Torres. This injury sucks, but it's a reason not to turn Gleyber into a 2B - and maybe to bring Gleyber up in July and never look back. In the meantime, 2017 is a transition year. So let's transition, goddammot! Tyler Wade, baby, TYLER FUKKING WADE!
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
The earliest release from the Yankees ( remember...they are not going to ever reveal the truth, until they have no other choice ) is that Didi is out for April.
Now he moves from the Tampa Hospital assessment team to the New York Hospital of Special Surgery.
Nothing ominous there, right?
You read it here first.
Pitchers keep getting hurt. It's almost as if...
Juju Gods, if you happen to be listening, you could really make a name for yourselves by installing a new Redsock curse. And despite what they say, we all know the truth: They would secretly love it.
PLUTO IS A PLANET. YOU HEAR ME?
LOCK AND LOAD, MUTHFUKKERS.
PLUTO = PLANET.
WHO'S WITH ME?
Most likely, it will appear unto us in a tweet, rippling across the Yankiverse. Often, breaking news appears on our comments section. That's probably what will happen. Somebody will see it, and their shrieks will rouse the rest of us.
Obviously, I'm referring to the medical diagnosis of Didi Gregorius' shoulder, which has been described as "bruised" and "strained" and "a hematoma of the subscapularis muscle." A hematoma is a solid swelling of clotted blood between tissues. This is not Didi tweaking a gonad. It's the shoulder, the most important part of any ballplayer, after his heart. Last spring, Greg Bird announced that he'd hurt his shoulder. He's still recovering.
Today, we stand at the crossroads of four alternative fates. The bleacher beast in us wants Gleyber Torres to magically save the day. But I dunno. In the movies, Cuba Gooding Jr. joins the team, teaches the town to love, and we win the state championship. In real life, Torres is in danger of becoming over-hyped.Three weeks in March - and the notoriously unrealistic hitters' parks of the Arizona Fall League - is not enough to stick a 20-year-old Single A player into the iconic footsteps of Jeter. A reminder: Last season, at Tampa, he hit .254. There are serious reasons why Torres is not ready, and this is one of those times when we must assume Yankee coaches know what they're doing. Of course, we root for him. But you can screw up a kid's head by pushing too hard. The sixties writer John Barth ("Lost in the Funhouse") once said, "If you think you're something you're not, it will keep you from becoming what you could be." Torres could be great. We gotta protect him from our fantasy erections. So... the scenarios.
1. Didi is out for days. WTF? Why are we even discussing this? Let's get back to dissing Pineda.
2. Didi is out for weeks. No problemo. We go with Ronald Torreyes or Ruben Tejada. I'd suggest Tyler Wade in a pinch, or the 29-year-old Scrantonian Pete Kozma (who's hit .320 this spring, 98 points over his lifetime average.) Weeks? Bah. Bring in Cito Culver! We can handle weeks.
3. Didi is out for months. Problemo. As Ralph Cramden would say, "Hummina-hummina-hummina..." We can move Starlin Castro to SS and splice somebody in at 2B, but who? The Yankees long ago gave up on Rob Refsnyder's footwork, and the only players listed as 2B this spring are Castro, Thairo Estrada and Abi Avelino, two embryos. If it's months, Cashman might have to trade for a veteran, betraying every hopeful aspect of this franchise's youth movement. Frankly, I would rather see Cito Culver or another scrap heaper. Where's Donovan Solano. The dude hit .319 last year at Scranton. We won the Governor's Cup with this guy!
4. Didi is out for the year. I can't even think about this. If this is it, we just lost our best player. In my fantasy world, I figured this was Didi's year - 25 HRs and .290, maybe even .300. He would start in the sixth hole and by June, he'd be batting third. This was the dawning of the age of Gregorius. Now... if this is it... well... is Alvaro Espinosa still playing? Jeez. I dunno. Just be gentle in the comments section. I have a stent, you know.
Monday, March 20, 2017
Didi Gregorious, who was having his best spring ever, now limps home to NYC Hospitals for further testing on, " a barking right shoulder."
I have not seen any tape of how the injury occurred, so my diagnosis is limited.
I can tell you, however, that a shoulder injury is insidious. There is no such thing as a " tweak" in the shoulder. A "tweak," by the way, is a meaningless, generic term for something not considered serious and which, with rest, will cure itself 100% in a relatively short time. With shoulders, there are tears, dislocations, breaks, strains and hematomas.
All bode badly for Didi.
My guess; the Yankees will never tell us the truth. That is point one.
The geniuses running this franchise have already penciled in two guys who are, basically, career minor leaguers with no upside. Torreyes, who has a decent glove and hits the occasional single. Or Rueben Tejada, a cast-off who underperformed for the Mets, I think. This reflects the typically optimistic, and disingenuous, Yankee storyline that Didi is not seriously hurt, and all the Yankees need do is, " hold the fort," for a bit. They think that lying to their fans and to the league will help the team win.
As fans, we want to see an exciting rookie. We want a reason to watch the team. Inserting Torreyes or Tejada for Didi does not cut it. The team has been downgraded, by the loss of DIDI. And using a couple of career nobodies is a blessing for Boston. We gain nothing.
Now to the question everyone has been asking me:
Dr. Alphonso; how long will Didi be out? How seriously is he hurt? What will his recovery time period be?
Answer: Didi will be out a long time and his season, this season, is essentially ruined for him.
That idiotic marketing extravaganza, that world baseball thing, hurts major league teams like the Yankees big time. Who gives a rats ass if kids in Denmark start lobbying for little league teams, instead of soccer pitches? Building baseball love in the Yemen should be someone else's job, not the real teams of the world.
The Yankees took a bullet with Tex and they are taking a bullet now, with Didi.
Mark my words.
Two days ago, we mentioned this... and warned the juju gods about being smart-asses.
According to Kouroupakis - (whom I suspect has no problem spelling Higasioka) - the Tigers are clutching their pearls over JD Martinez' "sprained mid-foot," which happened this weekend while making a catch. It's not broke, not stubbed, not mangled in a lawn mower - it's not even the whole foot, it's the mid-foot, so we're probably talking - oh, hell, I dunno, you tell me - weeks? But these sprained mid-thingys are tricky, and Detroit has been sorta looking for a lead-off hitter and - hell, I can talk US into the trade, the question is, would Detroit bite?
It sucks that we discuss swapping Gardy as if we're trying to find a home for our old college dorm refrigerator. But why kid ourselves? One of the reasons for his crapola spring - (hitting .205, five points above the disillusioned Rob Refsnyder) - could be Gardner's underlying certainty that, at any time, Cashman might ship his ass to some baseball-city-equivalent to Zambezi. He's watched Clint Frazier (.343), Gleyber Torres (.444), Dustin Fowler (.250, 2 SB) and Billy McKinney (.389) grab the Gammonites' attention, and he has to wonder if there'll be a place for him in the lineup come July. Bloggers tap their toes and blather about trades, but unless some team frees us from four more years of Jacoby Ellsbury, we have only Gardy to trade.
Thus, every time an OF for a wild card-hopeful tweaks a gonad, we'll go through this mating dance with Gardner's psyche. It's a bad deal, but it's the reality of late March.
Hey, it's been a great spring! Eleven days to ignition. Hold on, everybody. Now come the trades.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
The same article touts 22-year-old OF Billy McKinney - who hit his third homer yesterday - as a potential breakout prospect - (a phrase that covers every minor leaguer in our solar system.) Obtained as an "afterthought" in last summer's Aroldis Chapman deal, McKinney has hit all spring, and he might wind up in Scranton instead of Trenton. I hope Cashman is drinking in the positive vibes that come with trading FOR prospects, rather than dealing them for retreads. How much more exciting are they to watch than the lineup of Ellsbury, Headley, Castro, etc. Keep telling yourselves: Better times are coming.
A-Lo and J-Rod "quietly" visited Tampa camp yesterday. Yeesh. Story reads like an episode of Drunk History. As JA-RodLo was leaving, a high school hockey team approached them, seeking an up-close glimpse of immortality. A-Rod was gracious. (Insert joke about the $21 million he's being paid.) Good for him/them/it. I hope it's true love. But for now, it looks like just another case of insecure celebrities doubling their fame imprint by pairing-up in public. They weren't getting enough attention. I'm not sure I'd want to get too close.
A chewable thumb-sucker on "expectations" for Masahiro Tanaka. Nut of it: He could have a great year! Then again, maybe not. Is his elbow half-full or half-empty? That's the deal with "expectation" stories. I have little expectations.
Still getting over the death of Chuck Berry. Was hoping I heard it wrong, and it was actually Buckcherry. As our traditional IIHIIFIIc tribute, we rewrite a few songs a la' the Yankees - you know, Run, Run Randolph, Johnny B. Damon, and My Chien-a-Ming. But this just seemed wrong. I felt like... well... a certain current Yankee.
Riding around in his automobile.
Refsnyder is at the wheel.
Last night delivered a walk-off drive.
Won't seem him again 'till August 5.
He hits, but never can find the way...
With no particular place to play.
We've lost a true American original, a true American hero, the greatest rocker in history (and yes, I am aware of the guy from Jersey.)
Saturday, March 18, 2017
With two days left in the annual competition to be crowned Snow King of upstate New York, perennial power Syracuse - the Lion of Lake Effect - is barely holding on against plucky Southern Tier upstart Binghamton, former home to Rod Serling and Camille Paglia.
Syracuse holds a 1.3 inch lead, but flurries are flying across the region. This one is going down to the final storm.
Here's the rundown yesterday against the Tigers.
|Machado flied out to center.|
Infante popped out to second.
Romine lined out to shortstop.
Castellianos grounded out to shortstop.
J.D. Martinez struck out swinging.
Upton lined out to third.
Hicks fouled out to first.
B. Ryan grounded out to second.
E. Navarro struck out swinging.
Simcox grounded out to shortstop.
Diaz flied out to right.
Romine lined out to third.
Three line drive outs. Just keeping it in perspective.
This got me to thinking. Somewhere, I recalled a similar Yankee spring training no-hitter from a few years ago. It's that or a mushroom flashback. I went into the team's news archives - got sidetracked and never found it. But while perusing the stacks, I realized that the real excitement of the '17 Yankee Spring Team of Exhibition Destiny (TM) is not what has happened... but what has NOT happened:
Note: Last time we mentioned injuries at IT IS HIGH, Tyler Austin went down the very next day with a broken hindpaw. Therefore, before continuing, I wish to hereby address the vengeful, overpaid juju gods of the Yankee astral deep state: Listenup, assholes, just because somebody mentions the absence of injuries does NOT mean you have to immediately crush someone's gonad, just to show you're on the job. Show a little professionalism, juju gods, or Trump will cut your funding, and don't expect help from us. We'll have moved on to become an Irritable Bowel Syndrome Lady blog, and you can spend your next 10 years tweaking runs of diarrhea.
That said, I wish to thank our fine, beloved middle management faeries of fate for what DIDN'T happen two weeks ago: The near outfield collision between clownish Clint Frazier and newly minted CF gazelle Dustin Fowler, which surely took place in a universe not far from here. We came so close - I mean, a millisecond - to a full-scale mashup calamity - two young outfielders crashing into each other, broken bones, lost for the season, maybe forever - and yet NOTHING HAPPENED. Whew.
But while searching for that spring no-hitter - anybody else remember it? - I found that last year on March 19, 2016, a CT scan on Jacoby Ellsbury's banged-up wrist came back negative. At the time, this news comforted us, suggesting Big Jake would recover for opening day. I know it's dangerous around here to say anything positive about Ellsbury, but considering his 2016, it's worth wondering if he ever really recovered. You cannot underestimate the impact of dings on someone who has always been considered - and harshly criticized for it in Boston - a china doll. Ellsbury had one sterling moment in 2016 - he stole home on a play that mystified Brett Gardner. But last year, right about now, when hope similarly reigned supreme, the bruises started to mount.
While we're in the 2016 Wayback, let's note that Brett Gardner didn't swing a bat until around now, mid-March. Gardy was recovering from a bone bruise suffered in the Wild Card game of 2015. Like Ellsbury, he turned out to be a shadow of himself last season. Did the tweaks and twizzles of spring 2016 foreshadow the wretched year that was to come? And if so, it's right about now that this year's team is most vulnerable.
Of course, we can't mention last year's hurt locker without noting Bryan Mitchell's stubbed left big toe on March 30, 2016, hours being told he'd made the opening day roster. What a rotten omen! Seriously, why didn't we just spare ourselves the crapola and transition into a Taylor Swift fan blog right then? We would have saved ourselves so much pain, and we'd still be giddy over Tay-Tay's dissing of Katy Perry. Such a wasted opportunity.
Other signs from last year: A-Rod homered in his first game on March 3... and never again all spring. He went 12 for 49 (.245) in the Grapefruit League and then carried his newfound mediocrity right into the regular season. A-Rod sucked so badly that he was benched by mid-April, right around the time the Yankees signed Nick Swisher to DH in Scranton. Looking back, what incredible warning signs. And yet...
And yet, we still drank the Kool-Aid. Right around now last year, the MLB.com website, in a piece extolling the Yankee season ahead, troweled out this amazing dollop of slush: "Not only have the core guys -- CC Sabathia is the exception -- pitched well, but suddenly, there's depth. Tanaka, Eovaldi, Pineda and Luis Severino have a combined 2.25 ERA this spring." The writer went on to blather about how solid Aaron Hicks looked. I'm not linking to the story. It just hurts too much.
Sorry to be such a downer. It's those words from Old Man Girardi: It means more if it's in the regular season. What could he possibly mean?
Friday, March 17, 2017
Five children would vie for two open rotation slots, and hopes ran high that the two Luises - Cessa and Severino - would pull swords from the boulder and claim the monarchy. Simultaneously, Brian Cashman hinted that several teams were inquiring about Brett Gardner, and the White Sox whispered that we could have the immortal Jose Quintana, in exchange for merely a left testicle of young talent.
For the last month, Yankee fans have hoped some NL contender in a place we never visit would suddenly crave a 33-year-old lefty OF with good chemistry and declining speed. They could have Gardy or Jacoby Ellsbury. In a perfect Yankiverse, we'd trade one of them for Quintana and start printing tickets for the October one game Wild Card.
Well, fuck that. Despite a 15-5 spring record - best anywhere - the holes in our roster are big enough to swallow the city of Scranton. Between now and April 1, Cashman will almost certainly cut a deal or two. The reasons...
1. Nobody has claimed the two starter spots. The brain trust seems to favor Severino (3.68 ERA in 7 1/3 IP), out of pure muscle memory: They've been touting him for years and can't quit the habit. (He's almost becoming the new Pineda.) The fifth appears to be Bryan Mitchell (3.77 ERA in 14 1/3 IP), but we've seen this movie before. Last year, Mitchell wrapped up a bullpen slot and then stubbed his toe, missing four months. The fact is, if anybody throws well next week, he can wear the crown... and folks, that's not a good sign.
2. We have too many outfielders - way too many; they're like an overgrown crop of tomatoes. We have enough for not only NYC, but for Scranton, Trenton and the European Union. Somebody's gotta go, and that dreamed-of suitor for Gardner or Ellsbury has yet to materialize. After tweaking his shoulder, Mason Williams - sent to Scranton today - never had a chance. Thus, the Anthracite Capital of Pennsylvania will now see Williams, Dustin Fowler, Clint Frazier, Jake Cave, Mark Payton, Rob Refsnyder and the suddenly intriguing Billy McKinney, who had a great spring. Considering that IF Tyler Wade is supposed to add OF to his resume, something's gotta give. We either trade an old guy, or we trade prospects. And thus far, nobody wants old guys.
3. Then there's Quintana, the rumor that will not die. I've ripped this notion for months - no sense going there again. We hoped the events of spring would force some team to need Gardner, giving us leverage for a deal. In fact, the joys of spring - such as McKinney's ascension - might make a Quintana trade more likely. We're like the shouting TV pitch man: We gotta move these cars! Be afraid. Be very afraid.
4. No matter what happens, all the roster churning will not fundamentally change the 2017 Yankees. To win anything, we must still close our eyes and imagine that somehow - magically, I guess - Ellsbury, Chase Headley, Starlin Castro, Michael Pineda and Aaron Hicks turn into all-stars. Frankly, we have a better chance of dating Emily Watson, but that's the level of surreal, Dali-esque reality to which we've been reduced.
We have big holes to fill, and I am dreading the deals ahead. They will shape 2017 - and perhaps years to come.