Thursday, January 21, 2021

"It's not a matter of life or death..."

 Filed on behalf of HoraceClarke66, whose computer was stolen and sold to Russia...

“…What is, what is?”

 

Well, actually a lot of stuff, much of which is being debated right now.  But let’s not go there.

 

Instead, I want to talk about something trivial:  The proposals to make the 2020 Abomination Rules—7-inning games in doubleheaders, starting every extra inning with a runner on second-base—a permanent disfigurement of the game we all love.

 

“Who cares, who cares?”

 

The words above were penned by the great Elvis Costello in 1980, part of a song called, “Hoover Factory.”  It’s about an old Hoover vacuum factory outside of London that was about to be torn down, like several other abandoned Art Deco buildings from the 1930s.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FAzWgY8Ftc

 

As you can see, it was drop-dead gorgeous:

 




 

But hey, what would be the big deal if it was reduced to rubble?

 

“It’s not a matter of life or death…”

 

Neither are these moronic new rules for pandemic baseball.  Installing them will just be one more example of chipping away at the great game for no discernible reason.

 

Baseball isn’t overrun by extra-inning games, especially not those that go on and on, inning after inning.  The owners long ago all but eliminated doubleheaders, so that they’re only played in the case of monsoon-level rainouts.

 

Nor do the lords of MLB have any interest in actually shortening the games.  Or addressing  the real problem, which is that the game today is more one-dimensional—and boring—than it has ever been.

 

What they are after is making the game more predictable.  Squeezing it into reliable, three-hour boxes.  This way it can be turned all the more easily into one of the timed games that baseball envies so much, football and basketball, where advertisers can be assured that the action will always take place within certain time slots.  

 

It’s all for the money, of course, like everything else, and if it mutilates the game some of us love so much, well, is that really so bad? 

 

And will it really be so bad when, not long from now, MLB puts ads on the outfield grass?  Then on the infield grass, the bases, and the uniforms? 

 

When all teams, as well as their stadiums, are named after their corporate sponsors?  When our favorite team becomes the My Pillow Yankees?

 

“Who cares…?”

 

The Hoover Factory, incidentally, was saved.  It was converted into a supermarket and apartments, with all of its salient elements preserved and it looks great. 

 

Just another beautiful thing.  Just something to make people feel better as they go into it or drive past it on another working day.  Just the way we think of baseball. 

 

If only somebody would save our favorite thing.

 


 



Conversations With Myself - Can We Win it all in 2021?

ME:  I saw that the Blue Jays signed Springer.

ALSO ME:  That’s great! Now they will be too preoccupied arguing with each other over who impregnated the waitress who works the seats behind home plate to play well. 

ME:  Not Jerry Springer. George.

ALSO ME:  Oh. Well, that’s not good then. You know, I never liked Jerry. I blame him for 9/11.

ME:  Seriously?

ALSO ME: Yeah. Before Jerry Springer, the media images of America that we broadcast to the world were tough guys like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. It said, “Don’t mess with us”. 

Jerry Springer showed the world a bunch of fat stupid people arguing over who the baby daddy is. It gave the world the impression that, “We can take these guys. ”

ME:  Baseball…

ALSO ME:  So, big deal, the Blue Jays signed George Springer, in year six they’ll regret it.  Besides, we got DJ back.

ME:  You don’t do irony do you?

ALSO ME: The Yankees will be fine.

ME:  Face it. Toronto got better we got worse. The more I think about it the worse we got. It will take a miracle injury free season from Stanton, Judge, Kluber, Sanchez, and Hicks to be any kind of good.

ALSO ME:  It’s possible. 

ME:  Please, this team is so fragile they should install  a M*A*S*H unit next to Monument Park.   

ALSO ME:  You worry too much.  Toronto has no starting pitching. Also, they might be forced to play in Buffalo this year. Their post game spread will be Beef on Kimmelwicks and Hot Wings. Toss in a few kegs a day of Genny Cream Ale and they’ll self destruct like the Red Sox did.  

ME:  Beef on Wick.  Man, I miss those. A little horseradish sauce…

ALSO ME: Baseball…

ME:  So, can we win it all in 2021?

ALSO ME:  What do you want from me? I know what we’re dealing with.  We’ll have another winning season. What is that like, 47 in a row? We make the Wild Card again. Once the playoffs start it’s a crap shoot. We just need to get hot at the right time. Sanchez is in the best shape of his life, we’ll get him some Prozac,  Devi is the second coming of Pedro, Severino will be back mid-year, German is truly sorry, Frazier got nominated for a Gold Glove, Stanton has something to prove, Hal hasn’t made his ninja move yet…   we’re due damn it, WE’RE DUE!!!!!

ME:  Speaking of due, have you seen the results of Kathy’s pregnancy test? 

ALSO ME:  It wasn’t me.

ME: Well, it wasn’t me…

And we’ll be back, after this…


Do the Yankees think time is on their side? Because it might not be...

Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez says Gary Sanchez last year wasn't having "fun." 

Speaking on behalf of the Yankiverse, I confirm this:

Slogging back to the dugout last season, bat in hand, eyes drooping, head down... Gary seldom looked jocular, mirthful, lugubrious. Rather, he seemed a bit depressed, bummed out... Clapton-Tears-in-Heavenish

It's hard to imagine Gary so down in 2021. I mean, it's almost physically impossible, right? Surely, he'll improve. Can a guy hit worse than .147?

Don't answer that. Soon, we'll know. The Yanks have not upgraded at catcher, and it looks as though we'll ride it out with Sanchez, Higgy and fervent prayer. At 28, Gary would be considered relatively young for a catcher - that is, if he could catch. He'll probably never relive that magical half-season of 2017, but as they say at Lotto: Hey, you never know...

And speaking of Lotto... how about that Corey Kluber! Isn't it fun to imagine him returning at full strength? We'd have two aces - two! - as The Master would say, "back to back and belly to belly!" He'd be great, if he comes back...

Today, I think that about sums up the Yankee fan base: Let's roll the dice and hope that time improves this team. Yes... time. 

Trouble is, I'm not sure if time is our pal.

Here are the Yankees who, based on age alone, would seem likely to improve in 2021.

Gleyber Torres, 24 next season
Clint Frazier, 26
Tyler Wade, 26
Miguel Andujar, 26
Thairo Estrada, 25
Deivi Garcia, 22
Michael King, 26
Jonathan Loaisiga 26
Nick Nelson 25

Let's assume that either Frazier or Andujar could go in a trade. There is also the usual busloads from Scranton - (Clarke Schmidt will be 25) - which every team has. Are we feeling lucky yet?

Because here are the Yanks whose best years, based on age, is likely behind them: 

LeMahieu, (o, it hurts, but it's true) he'll be 32.
Giancarlo Stanton, 31
Brett Gardner, 37 (assuming he returns)
Aaron Hicks, 31
Kyle Higashioka, 31
Zack Britton, 33
Aroldis Chapman, 33
Adam Ottavino, 35

To this, add Tyler Lyons (33) and the various reclamation projects Cashman will sign.  

So... are we having fun yet? Could Gary have a comeback year? Sure. But if he doesn't, we're screwed. Could Judge and Stanton stay healthy? Sure. But if they don't - and they haven't yet - we're screwed. Could Gleyber become a star SS? Sure. But if he doesn't... screwed. 

Look at Tampa or Toronto. You see waves of youth, career years still to come. What happened to the Yankee surge of 2017, when we seemed on the cusp of league domination? We slipped in 2018, faltered in 2019, fell last year, and now we stagger into 2021, with Hal Steinbrenner clutching his wallet. Time is not necessarily on our side. 

Yesterday, J.A. Happ signed with the Twins. Good luck with that, Minnesota. 

Today, we hear the world champion Dodgers might sign Trevor Bauer. Good luck with that, every other team in baseball.

Remember when the Yankees did such things? We added Mike Mussina? We added Jason Giambi? We were the premier franchise in baseball, in all of sports. We were Alabama football. We were Duke basketball. Damn, it was fun.

Unless some crazy intangibles break our way, 2021 could be a tough year. If Gary Sanchez isn't enjoying himself, beginning in April, we might not have much fun, either. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Springer and Yates to Toronto? So much for thinking a diminished AL East would be easy pickings

Last year, the Blue Jays' regular CF was a lad named Randall Grichuk. 

Today, it is George Springer.

Last year, the Jays' closer was somebody called Anthony Bass. 

Now, it's Kirby Yates. 

Woah, holy crap, what was that? Did you feel it? A cold, shuddering breeze, coursing through my parka. I'm still shivering. WTF was THAT..?

Well, it was Toronto, whooshing past us, en route to Alpha Dog status in the AL East. Yesterday, the grounds shifted in a division the Yankees not long ago were proclaiming themselves Team To Beat. 

And unless Brian Cashman can coax a few extra doubloons from Hal Steinbrenner's chastity belt/fanny-pack, the Death Barge will enter 2021 as contenders for a Wild Card berth. Yes, another bronze medal could soon be hanging in the stadium's historically insignificant rafters. It's the new Yankee Stadium: Where nothing has ever happened!

Could 2021 be the year Buffalo wins the Super Bowl and World Series?

Here's something even crazier: Toronto's centerfielder last year - the unheralded, 28 year-old Grichuk - was not only younger but far more productive than our superstar, the famous Aaron Hicks. Mr. Nobody Grichuk hit 12 HR and batted .273 - doubling Hicks' HR total (6) and surpassing his anemic .225 average. Now, with Springer aboard, Toronto could move him to a corner slot or trade him - for pitching, or whatever they need. 

We talk about the Yankee OF glut? The Jays also have Lourdes Gurriel, 26, who hit .308, and Teoscar Hernandez, 27, who hit .289. Both topped anything from our OF last year, aside from - say - jersey sales. O, and did I mention that the Yanks might coax back Brett Gardner? Everybody loves Gardy. He'll be 37.

Last year, in hated Houston, Springer hit 14 HR and batted .265. That outproduced the great and mighty Aaron Judge, (9 HR and .257.) The Yankees boast truly big names... just not big numbers. 

But wait, there's more. Unto the Jays' bullpen now comes Yates, who in 2019 led the majors with 41 saves. Here's a jolly note: Their closer, Bass - with 7 saves - outdid our own Aroldis Chapman, who supplied three. 

Last week, when we signed DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber, the Yankees briefly reigned as favorites in the AL East. Let us cherish that halcyon moment. Float it into amber. Take its picture. Because unless Hal goes to his checkbook - and we know how he loves paying luxury taxes - it might just be the peak of 2021. 

The year of Buffalo. (Go Bills!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

5 Pitches to Midnight

Thanks to all who liked the AYG-HAB™. There were some really good other metrics in the comments.  

Senior Duque’s suggestion for a pitching metric got me thinking…

It’s not so much are we glad the guys IN as the need for one that tells us when to take the guy OUT.

Truth is, all pitchers, unless they are pitching a no hitter, must be taken out at some point. Even closers. (Cough, Chapman in any elimination playoff game, cough!)

What we need is a metric that measures the time frame for the implosion. I’m thinking something like a Doomsday Clock. Sort of a 5 Pitches to Midnight type thing.

For example. Tanaka has been mowing them down for three innings. He comes out for the 4th and walks the first guy. START THE CLOCK. Five Pitches to Midnight. If the next guy gets a single. Pull him because that three-run home run is just a 2-0 count away. If he strikes the guy out or gets a pop up everybody can exhale, and we can reset the clock or turn it off.

Maybe we could have a special pitching coach sitting on the bench in a lab coat to advise Boone as to when the clock starts.

Put it on the Jumbotron! It will become a fan favorite in no time.

---

One more thing on the AYG-HAB™…  In my fantasy it’s an app, and while the game is on all the viewers enter their AYG-HAB™, the app amalgamates, and the booth has to report it.  

Imagine John Sterling saying,  “You know Susan, I’m not a big fan of numbers and statistics and all that, but the fans have Gleyber’s AYG-HAB™ in this situation as a 5.7. “  and she replies,  “He’s at least a 6.3 in my book.”  “Well let’s find out here’s the first pitch…”

It's a NEXT GEN solution for keeping the game interesting and, best of all, it doesn't require gambling.  

Oh...  No money stream at the fan's expense.  So I guess that ain't happening.  

  

Frozen in time? What does it say when your top prospect for the last two years has still never experienced a professional pitch?

It's the dregs of January - the time of polar vortexes, Sports Illustrated soft porn, inaugurations, exploding Gwyneth Paltrow vagina candles and - drum roll, please - Baseball America's Top 100 prospect list. Last January, the Yankees placed three names on this exalted parchment of ether. This year, they have - drum roll - three! The same three. 

Cryonic suspension? you ask. Time Travel? Nope. Pandemic. 

Our top hopeful is Jasson Dominquez, aka "The Martian," a switch-hitting CF who ranks 33rd. Last year, age 16, he placed 38th. He spent the last 12 months hanging around Camp Tampa, whistling at girls and watching Netflix... and his status improved. At this rate, if the Covid shutdown lasts seven years, he'll be No. 1. 

Occasionally, videos show Dominquez whacking balls in batting practice. The Yankiverse celebrates these events, like edicts from Noam Chomsky. I donno what to make of them. They show a strapping young man, seemingly cut for the NFL, slamming a meat ball. He might as well be ringing the strong man bell on a carnival midway. In a few weeks, he'll be 18. Earth time, not Martian. He yet to experience a professional curveball in a game.

Our other two top 100 prospects are pitchers Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt - again, frozen in place over the last 12 months. Garcia ranks 55th - up from 62nd - (why am I bothering to compile this? I tell myself every year, "Don't bother with it" and yet...) and Schmidt came in at 64th, up from 65th! Yes, he pitched in three MLB games, with a 7.11 ERA, moved up ONE WHOLE NOTCH, to 64th! (Somebody, stop this. Please, shoot me...) 

These rankings are baseball's version of cryptocurrency: Nobody knows how they are made, or what they're worth. They're fun, like collecting pogs, and when the Yankees trade the farm for a Giancarlo Stanton, they give sportswriters a shorthand way to document the atrocity. And sometimes - yes, sometimes - they give us a glimpse of what's to come.

Here's a quirky tidbit: Last January, the two teams with the most Top 100 prospects were the Rays (8) and Dodgers (7) - the eventual world series contestants. Tampa consistently maintained one of MLB's best systems, while eating the Yankees' lunch. 

Yesterday, the Rays put five players on the Top 100 - third highest total among franchises. Of concern to the Yankees should be 19-year-old Wander Franco, a SS who for two years now has been rated MLB's No. 1 prospect. (Other two-time winners: Bryce Harper, Andruw Jones and Joe Mauer.) If Franco becomes a star, well, we might be scrambling for wild cards. (Also, if you can believe it, Randy Arozarena - the breakout star of the 2021 post-season - still qualifies as a prospect. He ranks 17th. Dear God, is Tampa stacked, or what?)

And then there is Toronto. The Jays placed six prospects on the list. (The Padres ranked first, with seven.) For whatever it's worth, Boston has three, and Baltimore five, including the No. 2 prospect overall, catcher Adley Rutschman.

It's now been about five years since the Yankees - with Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge - boasted one the game's best farm systems. The hope was that they would maintain it. Well, so much for that. These days, they generally draft about 20th and are hogtied by MLB's spending caps on international prospects. They cannot use their financial advantage, as they once did. But frankly, that wasn't working so well, either.

In 2014, in advance of the new rules on international signings, the Yankees shot the moon and picked up a tranche of Latino 16-year-olds. The big catch was a hulking, 6'3" third baseman named Dermis Garcia. Shortly after his arrival, scouts started suggesting Garcia's future might be at first base. Then, gasp, as a DH. Now 23, Garcia was last seen in Single A Tampa, where in 2019 he hit .247 with 17 HRs. The pandemic may have been kind to Jasson Dominquez. It did no favors for Garcia, who basically faces a make or break year.

Why am I obsessing over this ridiculous blob of information, nothing of which will matter by April 1? Well, somehow the Dodgers and Rays figured out how to have it both ways. They not only win on the field, but they consistently develop fresh talent. Long ago, this was the goal set by Brian Cashman: The Yankees would contend every year, while also growing their own. 

That plan died about three years ago. Cashman turned into a "win NOW!" general manager. Considering the horrible financial anvil that Giancarlo Stanton has become - and Aroldis Chapman could become - the Yankees are always straightjacketed, when it comes to trades and prospects. We don't have enough to trade. And we never dump an aging vet to fortify ourselves for the future. 

So... frozen in time. It'll work if Dominquez becomes the next Mike Trout/Mickey Mantle. But Dermis Garcia was going to be the next someone, and now I can't remember who. Somebody once said, "Whom the gods wish to destroy, they grant unlimited potential." Who was it? Gwyneth Paltrow?

Monday, January 18, 2021

A New Stat for Baseball Fans – The AYG-HAB ™

As a baseball community we need to heal. For too long readers of this blog and baseball fans in general have been torn between an over reliance on stats, and the non quantifiable “gut call” of the baseball purists.

Those who would "burn the binders" ignore science. Those who think that averages over a season have anything to do with the immediacy of an in-game situation are "asleep at the wheel". It’s time for a new stat, one that acknowledges both truths and gives us a common ground so we can properly hate (or love) the ballplayers and not each other.

That stat is the AYG-HAB™. It stands for Are You Glad He’s At Bat? Doesn’t matter why. You want to say that after the seventh inning when facing a left-handed pitcher with less than two outs the hitter is prone to striking out? Sure, go ahead. You want to say, “Why is this guy still in the game? He sucks.” I’m with you. Because regardless of how you got there the batter has a poor AYG-HAB™.  

Conversely, you have to pee, but DJ is up with a guy on third and two outs. Well, DJ has the highest AYG-HAB™ on the Yankees so you might want to hold it in. Sanchez? Head for the bathroom and feel free to stop in the kitchen on the way back because the inning is over.

It’s a flexible stat.  If a player is in a slump. He might have a lower rating. But, because it’s based on how you feel, you could like the player enough to say, “He’s due.” Or, if you are stats minded, just believe that he’s as good as the back of his baseball card and will revert to the mean. Either way his AYG-HAB™ is higher than his current performance.

Bottom line. You’re OK that he’s at the plate.  

One final example. Hicks is up with two outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd. Low AYG-HAB™, but if the bases are loaded, it goes up. Why? He walks a lot.

To Conclude:  

Here are the official AYG-HAB™ categories. The First number of the stat is the category and then you get to arbitrarily, or using metrics, assign a second number. The AYG-HAB™ can change from day to day or inning to inning but mostly, you know how you feel. 

AYG-HAB™ 7 Totally

AYG-HAB™ 6 Probably

AYG-HAB™ 5 Sure What the Hell

AYG-HAB™ 4 Sigh.

AYG-HAB™ 3 Please. Please. Please.

AYG-HAB™  2  Oh crap not this guy again

And

AYG-HAB™ 1  What else is on?

So, as far as I’m concerned DJ has an AYG-HAB™ of 7.3 and Sanchez varies from 2.8-3.2. Hicks? You tell me.

The Reds wanted Gleyber? No problem. Hang up the phone. Block their number. File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Order 100 pizzas to their address, under the name "Anita Mantokiss." Send them subscription to the "Man-Boy Love Gazette."

 This guy sums it up...



Clint and/or Miggy: The Yankiverse steels itself for The Big One

At one point Sunday, the ever-churning MLB rumor mill claimed the Yankees had traded Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar to Cinncinati for 28-year-old RH pitcher Luis Castillo. Today, it's fake news. Tomorrow, who knows?

Buckle-up for safety, everyone. Prepare for impact... 

The real rumor here is that Brian "Cooperstown" Cashman is back on the open waters, howling sea shanties, guzzling rum and chasing another White Whale. In this case, it's Castillo, who went 4-6 last year with a 3.21 ERA, and whose contract would make Admiral Hal Steinbrenner pee himself with glee. Castillo is under team-control for three years. In pitching terms, that's a lifetime. Thus, the key to the deal is... Castillo's deal. 

Could it happen? Fukiff I know. The Reds have shown a willingness to trade with the Yankees. Once upon a time, they sent us Aroldis Chapman for Eric Jagielo, Caleb Cotham, Rookie Davis and Tony Renda. Yikes. None saw an MLB pitch in 2020. (But remember: El Chapo's value was damaged by a little garage-shooting thingy. Also, I think we received several Robert Mapplethorpe photos.) Three years ago, they took Sonny Gray off our hands for Shed Long and a sandwich pick. (I thought long and hard about just saying "Shed Long and a sandwich," but as a truth-teller, I take no such shortcuts.) In Cincy, Gray turned out to be - well - Cashman's lost White Whale. 

That's the rub on our boy. Year after year, he chases the stud starter whom he believes will fly the Yankees to Xanadu - then gets stuck at the Duluth Airport Ramada. It's Michael Pineda, Carl Pava- nooooo, I cannot do the list, it's too painful. We get pitchers who peaked in other towns... like Cincinnati. 

That said, Castillo did not overwork his money maker last year. The Covid season limited him to 70 innings. And let's face it: The Yankees do need another starter. For years now, the lack of a rotation has tanked our bullpen and crushed us in October. 

Still... Frazier AND Andujar? Calgon Bath Oil Beads, take me away! Who here does not see Frazier as a budding NYC personality, the future of Kelly Ripa? And before his injuries, Miggy was a doubles machine, worthy of Joltin' Joe. The Yankees supposedly have a glut of outfielders. Yeah, right. Come July, our Bermuda Triangle - Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton - will disappear, cratering the offense. 

Frazier AND Andujar? Channeling George C. Scott in Hardcore here: TURN IT OFF, TURN IT OFFFFFFF...  

Jeeze, I just dunno, anymore. For 12 years now, our big-slugging lineups have been undressed in the playoffs, while we hope for miracles. Last October, our rotation consisted of Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka and Netflix. (And Tanaka is probably gone.) We resorted to Jordan Montgomery and the Deivi Garcia trickery. It didn't work. Again. 

Steel yourself, Yankiverse. Cashman is sailing the open seas. Iceberg, dead ahead. And we're preparing to harpoon it.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

CBS Sports: Yankees' tax strategy probably ends the Tanaka era

CBS Sports offers an interesting take on the Yankees' moves this week, and what terrifying demons they foretell. It's not a Lovecraft horror. Nor is it Jane Austen. The gut-punch: 

It suggests the end of Masahiro Tanaka as a Yankee.

Right now, the team's $204 payroll falls about $6 million shy of the dreaded, almighty Satanic, supremely evil, luxury tax threshold. Once they burst through it, they'll pay 20 cents on the dollar on the overage.  (Which isn't that much, actually: Going over by $10 million would cost them $2 million - that's two Colter Beans and a Zolio Almonte.)  But the surtaxes mount. If they exceed the threshold by $20 million, the fines rise another 12 percent, and then spike at $40 million. Forget about it. As Meat Loaf once sang, he'll do anything for love, but he won't do that. (A Yankee fan, by the way.)

Theoretically, they can go $25 million over the threshold and avoid the big surtax hits. Accounting for in-season acquisitions, CBS estimates the Yanks still have $15 million to spend this winter.

Which brings us to the gut-punch...

What the Yankees can't do -- not without punching their ticket to the surtax zone -- is bring back veteran right-hander Masahiro Tanaka for a wage similar to what he has made throughout his MLB career ($20-plus million).

Insert sigh here.

CBS suggests Brian Cashman will root around for a middling starter, a bullpen lug nut and a lefty bat, (Brett Gardner?) He might trade either Clint Frazier or Miguel Andujar, which seem a redundancy, until the Bermuda Triangle - Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton - goes down with tweaked gonads. 

The Yankees have a ton of high-priced talent and big bills. (Let's give Hal Steinbrenner his due; he's signing the checks.) But the current roster is as lopsided as its lineup (whose lone LH bat is the switch-hitting Hicks, with a career .229 average from the left side.)  

For whatever it's worth, I want Tanaka to return. He's a great competitor, a tireless soul, and it would be nice to claim a Japanese star as a lifelong Yankee. (Godzilla ended up in Anaheim, Oakland and Tampa.) But - (hangs head, looks down) - he's not worth $20 million a year. 

Does he not see this? Is there no chance for compromise? Where is Henry Clay?

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Kluber is a start, but the Yankees still face huge questions

Let's not bury the lede here:

Bravo to Hal, Cash, and whatever wonky office schlub pushed the Yankees into signing Corey Kluber yesterday, just hours after retaining DJ LeMahieu. 

It was a golden Yankee day! the kind old George used to give us, breaking up an otherwise dead January. For hours, the Yankees trended high on Twitter. Last night, they became the talk of baseball. All eyes on our team! 

The way it used to be... 

Way to go, chief! Hip-hip! Hip-hip! Hip-hip!

But... if I may, some questions: 

Did all that money spent on LeMahieu and Kluber just crush the team's free agent fund? 

Have we more to spend, or are we tapped out by self-imposed austerity?

Was yesterday the beginning of a pennant year, or a half-court shot from a graying team?

For now, let's focus on Kluber. We hooked him for one year at $11 million - higher, I suspect, than originally anticipated. (That suggests at least one another bidder. Someone else saw Kluber's upside?

And make no mistake: The upside is real. If Kluber returns to form, the Yanks will win the AL East. Seriously. He won't be our No. 2. He'll be our ace. He was that good in Cleveland, three years ago, before the injuries. 

Ugh. The injuries. Kluber didn't suffer tweaks. He suffered breaks. A fractured pitching arm. Yikes. Thus, the Yankees yesterday did what seems impossible: They made a fragile roster even more fragile. 

You thought James Paxton a china doll? Well, at any moment, Kluber could grab his shoulder and vanish... forever. Any ache or pain will likely send him to the IL. Last time we rolled the dice like this, it was Troy Tulowitzki... great player, big upside, fine character... couldn't stay on the field. This could be that. 

So... now comes the hard part. Brian Cashman will once again chase his white whale, the stud pitcher that has forever eluded him. For trade chips, he's got Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar and the prospects he kept last July. But he cannot land another Paxton, Gray, Pineda, Vazquez, Eovaldi, Pavano, Igawa, et al. This time, we need a keeper. 

And here's the rub: What GM trades an ascending young starter, unless it's an absolutely incredible package, or he secretly suspects the guy is ready to break? And who sends him to the Yankees, where any success will get hyped every night? Good luck to Cashman. Trading for a good pitcher: It's almost an impossible task. 

So... bravo to the Yankees. Now, what? Well, seems to me, they need a Tanaka-like pitcher - you know - an innings-eater, a big-game guy, somebody who can handle NYC, a fellow who fits into the clubhouse - the way, oh, the way Tanaka did. Yep, a Tanaka clone. Someone with Tanaka's character, Tanaka's work ethic. Anybody come to mind?

Friday, January 15, 2021

Breaking: LeMahieu is signing

 He read our earlier post, and that was it.


The Yankees need to set a deadline for DJ LeMahieu, and the country needs a plan for pro sports

Okay. Enough is e-NUFF! This stalemate has lasted two months, two long and dreary  months: LeStagnation... 

It's the Yankees' cheapo way to flatter (and wheedle) D.J. LeMahieu - by saying they'll make no major roster moves until he decides where to play this season. 

According to the Gammonitic hordes, LeMahieu is now soliciting offers from other teams. WTF? He should have done this last month. Likewise, it's time for the Yankees to call the cards. 

News reports put the two sides $25 million apart. If that's true, compromise might be hopeless. Either way, Hal Steinbrenner should spike the punch with $5-to-$10 million and set a deadline. If LeMahieu balks, they should sign Didi Gregorius and Masahiro Tanaka, two popular souls who actually might better fit the prince of billionaires self-imposed austerity roster. 

I don't mean to criticize LeMahieu or suggest the Yankees ditch him. But he's a smart guy, and he should see the reasons to return: He's had his greatest seasons as a Yankee, he fits into the clubhouse, he thrives in Gotham, he'll reach the post-seasons, he'll do hair product endorsements, he'll get a plaque in Monument Park and a Jeep. If those don't ring his bell, well, he can chase the money all the way to Canoville. We've seen how that movie ends. 

The Yankees should settle this. I'm starting to wonder if the 2021 season is more in jeopardy than we think. Right now, it's hard to imagine games in Covid hotbeds like LA (148 cases per 100,000), Arizona (134), Miami (98) and even NYC (73). Who knows where the numbers will be in April? (Note to clubs: Don't throw out those cardboard fan placards.) And soon, pro sports across America will hit a massive, ugly controversy: 

Should star athletes - keys to a massive economic engine and societal obsession - move to the front of the lines for vaccinations? 

If you're thinking of - say - jabbing ten Knicks, fine, that's nothing. (Even the Knicks.) But expand vaccinations across the NBA, with coaches and staff, and it becomes a huge, angry bellwether test about privilege and wealth. 

And then there is the current political unrest. God knows where we are headed. But last week, watching that mob storm the Capital, I wondered if - were I sitting in a bar with a beer - I could reach these guys by talking Brees v. Brady, or Verlander v. Kershaw. (Note: I think no on the  horned "Q Shaman ;"he's Vanilla Ice v. Mungo Jerry.)  Could we find common ground in agreeing that Gary Sanchez sucks?

I dunno anymore. Enough of the Big Lie. Here's my Big Truth:

We need pro sports in America. 

America needs a baseball season. 

Baseball needs the Yankees.

And the Yankees need LeMahieu.

Jeeze. Damn. WTF? THIS SHOULD BE SIMPLE. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

From Today’s Daily News: After victory over Knicks at Garden, Nets admit they’re trying to win New York.

Yesterday the Nets, a team named after sporting equipment…

(Hey! The Cleveland Gloves? The Cleveland Bases? At a minimum there should be a fan group called the Cleveland Athletic Supporters.)

Anyway, the Nets made a blockbuster trade, named after a company, that rented VHS tapes and is now bankrupt...

(As an aside, although I was, and for some ungodly reason remain, a Knicks fan, I really liked the Nets when they had Rick Barry and Dr. J -  although sadly not at the same time. 

They both played before basketball players could kvetch their way off the team and play with their friends. My street basketball was a Spaulding red, white, and blue Rick Barry model.  Great ball.)

But I digress…

The Nets made a trade of Herschel Walkerian proportions exchanging something along the lines of, three first round draft picks, four draft pick swaps, three useful to good players and Danny Partridge in a pear tree, to create a super team of James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving (Not Pictured).

One would hope that it’s more than Blind Faith

(See what I did there? - Actually, Blind Faith had several great songs including “Can’t Find My Way Home” before they self-immolated and went their separate ways.)

Maybe they win a championship, maybe they don’t, but as the title at the top of the piece says…

“After victory over Knicks at Garden, Nets admit they’re trying to win New York.”

Which brings me to what faces the New York Yankees. 

We are 1/5 finished with the 21st Century. (I know, right?) And, while most of us here became diehards watching Mantle or Munson, the Yankees were able to create a new generation of fans during the late 90’s with The Core Four (and Bernie - Their Ric Grech) 

Now not so much.

The City of NY is there for the taking. Maybe not this year, although it feels like it’s up for grabs as the back page count should be making clear. The Next Gen of Yankee fans won’t come into existence on its own. 

I’m not advocating something along the lines of what the Nets did yesterday. Frankly, I think it is short sighted. But star power sells and the Mets are adding great players and we are losing ours. 

Add to that, and this is the killer, we don’t even like or trust our stars.

When healthy,  Stanton is a great ballplayer. MVP.  We can’t get rid of him fast enough.

Judge – Fragile

Gleyber -  Can’t play short.

The Sanchize?  Don’t get me started.

Voit?  Moose Skowron. Love him but don’t see the kids buying the jersey.

I could go on. You know who is a superstar? Lindor. 

“Nets admit they’re trying to win New York.” 

The Mets don’t even have to admit it. If Hal doesn't get off the dime (Instead of trying to pocket it.) it’s a done deal. 

Next up: The Corey Kluber Colon Conundrum

According to an unimpeachable source - (Google) - scouts from "20 to 25 teams" yesterday gathered to watch former Cleveland ace Corey Kluber throw "25 to 30 pitches." (The site hopes to someday develop precise counting technology.)

Kluber seeks to return after missing two years with a Swiss Army Knife assortment of injuries, including a broken right arm - yep, the one he throws baseballs with. In April, he'll turn 35, putting him up there with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Zack Grienke, Charlie Morton, and Cole Hamels. (Also, Adam Ottavino.) Whatever he's got left, it's 2021 or bust. According to the acclaimed insider baseball site Forbes, Kluber's radar readings came in about 4 mph below his halcyon days. He was:

... getting clocked at 89 to 91, which even with slightly diminished velocity might make him a buy low candidate for any team whether it is one with a desire to add more depth or a desire to fill a need.  

Hmm. "... a desire to add more depth, or a desire to fill a need..." Hmm... 

Surely, Brian Cashman's Linkedin page is spiced with tales of reclamation, up and down. Perhaps his greatest move: signing Bartolo Colon in 2011 - age 38 - after injections of Captain America super solder serum. Bartolo threw 164 innings, went 8-10, then signed with Oakland. He managed to pitch until 2018 - age 45 - four times throwing more than 190 innings and making the all star game. Astonishing. Cashman also signed a pile of Aaron Smalls and Vidal Nunos - hits and misses - but seldom does a guy like Kluber come around, with so much past success and so many heavy questions.

For example: What part of "fractured arm" do we not understand?  Could we ever feel secure about Kluber's next pitch? Yes, he was certifiably great in 2018 - 20 and 7, on his way to Cooperstown. Now...? 

What to do? Don't look at me. Why would I know more than scouts? In fact, Kluber is linked to the Yankees because he's been working out at one of their facilities. That's good. It might give us an edge in evaluations. So I leave it to the experts. 

Soon, though - once D.J. LeMahieu makes up his mind - Cashman must start seriously chasing pitchers. He'll probably need to make trades, starting with either Clint Frazier and/or Miguel Andujar. We will hate losing either. But with an owner demanding austerity, it's almost surely to happen. 

But here's a small nugget of hope. We mentioned Colon, the great reclamation. But I believe Cashman's greatest pitching deal came in 2015, when he traded LH Justin Wilson to Detroit for two Triple A starters, Chad Green and Luis Cessa. Both have endured, and Green remains a stalwart. The Yankees need a deal like that.

We won't win in 2021 with big names whose careers are behind them. I'm all for signing Kluber - not my money. But to outlast Tampa, we have to start beating them at their own game - with young, ascending arms.