Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"The Golden State Warriors of Baseball"

We all know what transpired yesterday: The major networks projected Boston to win the 2017 World Series. They're never wrong. It's over. Stop reading. Give up, Kirrrrrk... All we can do is bow to Zod and request a recount, beginning next spring.

Before yesterday, we planned to stomp on their Achilles heel - the starting rotation. David Price's heat would lose another 5 mph, Rick Porcello would meet Gigi Hadid, the others would morph into Matt Clement and Dice-K. Meanwhile, Luis Cessa would become Luis Tiant and Chad Green... um... Mean Chad Green. Well, aint a-gonna happen. The networks have spoken. They're never wrong.

Chris Sale will win the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature (it doesn't always go to novelists, anymore), and Boston will clinch the AL East on June 30. (Mike Tyson's birthday.) It was Brian Cashman himself - who has an incredible ability to sound like a mere bystander, rather than as 15-year architect of the Yankee malaise - who yesterday called Boston "the Golden State Warriors of baseball."

And yet, I'm alive, ALIVE! I survived jumping off the bridge. (In Syracuse, you land in snow.) Here's why...

1. The Golden State Warriors did not win the NBA championship. Wait, was the Cashmeister being ironic?

2. Right now, the Jays, Rays and O's have suffered paper losses. With luck, the 2016 Yanks could leapfrog Toronto and Showaltertown, and chase a wild card. Houston looks like The Man in the west, and Cleveland rules the Sloppy Central. The rest are tomato cans, we're Campbell's. It's a wild card year! Get out the can-opener! Woo-woo!

3. The Redsocks just traded away the top prospect in all of baseball. In this day and age, I don't know how a team does such a thing. It could haunt them for decades. The name Moncada will no longer torture me. In fact, it could come to instantaneously rupture the gloat glands of Redsock fans. Every time they hear it, their brains will fart, and they will run wailing into the nearest open sewer. Wouldn't that be sweet?

4. Boston also traded Travis Shaw, so they are back to the Panda at 3B. He's been a complete bust, thus far. Sometimes, the juju gods simply do not want a certain guy to play in a certain city. Remember Carl Pavano? Good everywhere... but one place.

5. I'm done with wailing like a Mafia widow over our refusal to pony up for Moncada. But let's use this occasion to once again spew some righteous, acid bile toward Shallow Hal Steinbrenner. The grim-faced boy owner will bank a shit-ton of money over the duration of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. The stockholders should build him a plaque. But unless he wins a championship, he is going to be reviled like a serial killer. If Boston wins the 2017 WS, they will open a three ring lead over us in this millennium. If they win in 2017, they will have four WS since 2001. That's the only metric by which Hal will ever be measured, and believe me, across the Yankiverse, it won't be fun to be him.

6. Let's again note how top prospects have become a standard MLB currency. Boston spent $60 million on Moncada and then traded him for two three years (corrected via comments) worth of Sale, which might bring a WS ring. That's a damn good haul. The Yankees have spent the last three seasons pointing to free agents they didn't sign and assuring everybody that we are oh-so smart for sitting tightly on our buttholes. Think about it: If we had signed Moncada... OAGAAAHHHHH, okay, that's the last time I ever do that.

7. I can't see how we could have obtained Chris Sale without crashing our computers. News accounts say the Nats offered two major prospects,and the White Sox didn't blink. My guess is we would have had to trade Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge and more. We'd have Sale for two rotten years, with nobody to back him or score runs. We'd be the 2016 White Sox. Why bother?

8. This is blaspheme, but considering the market for ace pitchers right now, the Yankees should actually take offers for Masahiro Tanaka. He's got the trick elbow, plus an an opt-out clause next winter - when Hal will surely develop alligator arms. Of course, we can trade him at the July 31 deadline, if we're out of it. Yes, he's a great Yankee. Yes, I wish he would play his entire career with us. But due diligence requires thinking ugly thoughts.

9. The bright side: We can devote ourselves to full hate and negativity. We can become obsessed with meanness and malevolence toward Boston. We can be like those fake news sites that tied Hillary Clinton to Satanic cults. Wow, I feel better already! Sale has thrown 1,200 MLB innings. Elbows aint forever, mwahahaha. If he tweaks a gonad or turns into Price, mwahahahahaha. And we can root-root-root for Moncada. If becomes a star, Redsock fans will crawl out of their skins. It's been a while since Boston traded Jeff Bagwell. I'm rooting for Yoan... and Satan!

10. Everything now hinges on Aroldis Chapman. I really don't want to lose a first-round pick because we had to sign Kenley Jansen. What's the point of that? With Chapman - and some dumb luck - 2016 could be interesting. Without him, fukkit, the networks have already declared their winner.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Big Party tonight. My house. Be there.

The Redsocks just traded the number one prospect in all of baseball.

The name Yoan Moncada will no longer torment me for perhaps the most troubling 20 years of my life.

I know, I know... Chris Sale is a great pitcher, a stern competitor, blahblahblah... But elbows are fragile, and Redsock hubris is divine - remember under Bobby Valentine, when they were going to field the 1927 Yankees?

Boston just traded the number one prospect in all of baseball.

My house. Super Party Mega-Blast. Bring booze. Bring inflatables, bring hockey horns, bring lead-based paint chips, bring those Brannock devices that shoe stores use to measure feet. Bring chaos. The Redsocks plan to balance the universe on an elbow. Is this a dream? If I'm out on the floor, don't wake me.

Gigi Hadid has been named Model of the Year

She's the next Mike Trout... a shoe-in for the Hall.

Not sure who will be named Comeback Model of the Year. Did Christie Brinkley deliver her numbers?

Or who will take home the Vince Lombardi Modeling Trophy.

Then there is the Defensive Model of the Year. The Heisman Model Trophy. The Stanley Cup. And the WWE Modeling Championship Belt. Someday, there should be a Nobel Prize for Modeling. Why aren't we moving on this?

Didn't See That Coming ... Much

No, I'm not talking about Chris Sale being traded for Yoan Moncada...  

I'm here to report that the Yankees announced this morning at 10am that noted online publisher Derek Jeter's No. 2 jersey would be retired at a pre-game ceremony on May 14th.

“How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life” 
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

But I'm still a little surprised about Moncada...

Winter is coming

Maybe the Yankees should declare themselves the official "home of Pineda?"

Though they want Aroldis, the Yankees are channeling Meat Loaf

Two out of three aint bad - especially if one of the two is the best closer on the market. But yesterday, classic rockster Brian Cashman channeled that great Yankee fan, Meat Loaf, in describing his quest for the elusive Aroldis Chapman. The lyric, spoken cold and lonely in a deep dark night, goes like this:

"I'd do anything for love, but I won't do that."

Cash said the Yanks will only go so far in their quest for El Chapo, who apparently wants a six-year deal. In the NY Times, the GM said...

“The attraction to him is we know he can pitch in New York and he’s doesn’t have a draft pick attached. So then it just comes down to money and term. We’ll compete to a certain level, and then we’ll see if that’s good enough.”

... to a certain level, and then we'll see...

He took the words right out of my mouth.

Cash spoke shortly after the SF Giants - a team run by ex-Yanks (Sabean, Tidrow, Alou, Righetti, Meulens, et al) - signed ex-Yank Mark Melancon for four years, at $62 million, the most money ever given to a relief pitcher.

That kind of money sounds loopy - old Papelbon held the previous record at four years for $50 million, and look how that turned out. But if I thought El Chapo was unreachable - and I'm starting to think so - I would have swam Frisco Bay to beat Melancon's offer. What I most fear is signing Kenley Jansen for an equally unfathomable shit-ton of money and losing our first-round pick. That would suck like a bat out of hell.

If El Chapo wants a six-year deal, maybe Joggie Cano needs a new pool boy. Six years? Uh-uh. He's not Nolan Ryan. Six years means at least two lost seasons. Six years? That's like a hot girl - barely seventeen and barely dressed - suddenly saying, "STOP RIGHT THERE! I gotta know right now, before we go any further, do ya love me?" And frankly, I have another fear about this.

Sometimes, players dealt at a deadline simply don't forget the team that ditched them. Everybody talks nicey-nicey, but the moment cannot be unremembered: You bastards traded me. Remember how Boston fans boasted that they'd trade Jon Lester and then get him back the following winter? Yeah, right. Everybody said Carlos Beltran would return to the Bronx. Nope. There's always that little voice in the subconscious: You bastards dealt me. 

Chapman knows the Yankees' financial limits. I'm wondering if he really plans to come back. Of course, he won't say so in public. Having the Yankees in the bidding is the best thing that can happen for a free agent auction. But it's always there: You bastards traded me. Even if we make him a huge four-year offer, I have a feeling he'll say, "Let me sleep on it. I'll give you an answer in the morning..."

These days, the Yankiverse is split into two sharply divergent factions.

1. Those who feel 2017 is already a wipe-out, and we must point to 2018 and beyond. (I am in that group.)

2. Those who think the Yankees should go all out and try to win this season.

Frankly, I don't see either side thinking six years of El Chapo is a good idea. It's doomed to leave Hal with another big dead contract. Thus, he will zip up his fanny pack and hide under the bed. The reality is this: Hal will never sell this team. When things go south, he will simply bleed it. And we will end up praying for the end of time...

Folks, the era of old George aint coming back. It was long ago, and it was far away, and it was so much better than it is today... 

RIP, Mrs. Phelps

Margaret Whitton, the actress who played the owner of the Indians in the "Major League" movies, has passed away. This paragraph jumped out at me from her obituary today:

“Major League” played to her love of baseball. She was a Yankee fan who had season tickets to the old Yankee Stadium, her husband said, but did not renew them at the new stadium, which she found “soulless.”

Monday, December 5, 2016

Yeah, I'll really want to drive to Cooperstown to attend this

Can't wait for tickets to go on sale. Bring extra Kleenex for the tears of joy. A former used-car dealer, who orchestrated the first labor shutdown of a World Series, who then turned a blind-eye to steroids so X-box style home run records could bring back the fans, who tried to kill off Minnesota's team so it would benefit his own, who did everything he could do to crush the Yankees while favoring his good buddy Fred Wilpon on the Mets, who once tried to put movie logos for Spider-Man on the bases, who wanted to hold world World Serieses with the Japanese champion, and whose lasting decision - making the All-Star Game outcome determine the site of the Series - just got deleted in the new labor agreement. Oh, yeah, I can't wait for that ceremony. Truly one of the all-time greats. Ruth, Gehrig, Selig... that's how I see it.

I think it's time for us to realize that the "Baseball Hall of Fame" is merely a family-owned, privately run roadside attraction in Upstate New York with as much historical relevancy as the World's Largest Ball of Twine.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Duque will write something with depth and wisdom. I'll just note that Yankee-hater Bud Selig and his toupee have been elected to the Hall of Fame.

The toupee, I can understand.

Holliday on ice

So much for Edwin Encarnacion...

Yesterday, the Yankee stockholders opened their combination lock purses and signed 13-year veteran OF Matt Holliday to a one-and-off deal for $13 million. Thirteen years, thirteen million, replacing number thirteen... you want omens? Chew on that.

Holliday is a fading RH slugger who, like most Yankee players, peaked around 2007. Over the last two years, his numbers have noticeably, almost cruelly withered - mainly due to injuries. Still, it's not forcing us to relive 2016 (Beltran) or threaten 2020-21 (Encarnacion). As Donald Rumsfeld would say, at least we know what we don't know. But here are a few known knowns and unknowns.

1. Much of yesterday's signing will eventually be framed by who gets Encarnacion and for how long. If he signs with Boston, kiss the next two years goodbye. If he stays in the AL, whatever team gets him becomes - at the least - a major contender for the wild card. Still, I never thought we were in play on Encarnacion. We just went to the auction, sat in the back row and pretended to be lifting our card now and then. It's an improvement over last winter, when Hal hid under the bed, terrified that the free agents would come to visit.

2. We don't lose a first-round pick. This is significant. To me, it means we do not plan to sign any free agents who are lashed to qualifying offers. (Kelly Jansen and Justin Turner would have been potential targets.) I'm relieved. In this age, no middling team can afford to surrender its top pick, period. (Rich Hill and Aroldis Chapman are still out there, and neither will cost us.) Can you imagine playing a gazillion years and finally hitting the free agent market, and then having your worth devalued exponentially, because your old employer sticks you with a going-away, one-year offer? That truly sucketh.

Holliday's recent stats: age, games, HR, RBI, BA, OBP 
3. Take a gander at Holliday's recent (this decade) beautistics. Clearly, his career is in decline. Nevertheless, he's never had a bounce-back year, and guys like him often do. He's played 13-seasons in the NL and should benefit from playing DH. And for as bad as he was last yeaer, if he had played a full season, he almost surely would have led the Yankees in HRs. (BTW, that's a reminder of who absolutely crappy we were. On last year's team, a .246 batting average was Rod Carewish.)

4. He probably bats behind Gary Sanchez in the lineup, which now looks like this. (I'm still assuming Brett Gardner is traded:)

Ellsbury cf
Castro 2b
Sanchez c
Holliday dh
Bird 1b
Gregorius ss
Headley 3b
Judge rf
Hicks lf

Way I see it, either Tyler Austin or Rob Refsnyder are loose change. Also, the above team comes in third. (Everything hinges on the two Aarons.)

5. Over his career, Holliday has never been a platoon slugger. He hits against everybody. He plays every day. With RISP, he's hit .305 over 13 years. We can use that. And here's a glimpse into Joe Girardi's binder: He is an absolute crusher when ahead in the count.
1-0: .368.
2-0: .379
3-0: .227 (Uh-oh. Forget the green light, Joe.)
2-1: .426
3-1: .481

When a pitcher is ahead in the count, he's a mere .258 - nearly 50 points below his career average. And one last thing: Holliday always crushed us, hitting .356. Everything considered, at least we took him off the street. Now... what comes next?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Essential Question: Do we want to lose our first round pick for five years of Encarnacion?

Let's be straight here: The Yankees should deathly fear that Boston signs Edwin Encarnacion.

The Redsocks are already faves in the AL East. Encarnacion would instantly, seamlessly replace Big Papi, maybe even outhit him. It's hard to imagine the 2017 Yankees toppling them and it's easy to picture Boston winning three straight divisional titles. Fuckin-A.

But is that reason enough to lash ourselves for five years to a DH who will be 40 at the end - especially after our esteemed boy owner has now gone four years blaming his mediocrity on just such deals?

If we sign Encarnacion... we lose our first pick in next June's draft. Last summer, we chose Blake Rutherford. He's already considered untouchable by our scouts. Two years ago, we took James Kaprielian. He remains our top starting hope. Three years ago - drafting in the second round, because we'd lost our pick - we selected Jacob Lindgren. This week, we waived him. If we give up our top picks, we give up all pretenses of a long-term strategy. And for the record, the one we launched last August will have lasted exactly five months. This is why we compare our owner to Dan Quayle.

If we sign Encarnacion... he'll play every day at 1B or DH for five years. That's 2,500 at bats that our youngsters will not get. Next spring, it means Greg Bird will lose playing time. He could end up platooning. Wasn't he going to get a shot as 1B of the future? Simultaneously, the probational try-out period for Aaron Judge will shrink. We hope Judge is the real deal but won't know until July. By then, if he's not hitting, would we trade him and cross our its fingers that the biggest make-or-break Yankee prospect in this millennium doesn't become a star in another city? With Encarnacion, we will seek to win now. We won't have the luxury of letting Clint Frazier, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, etc prove themselves.

If we sign Encarnacion... we will have quickly forgotten the dark side of long term contracts, which dragged down the last three Yankee teams. Last year, despite the failings of Tex and A-Rod, they could not be pried from the center of our lineup. Then there is the albatross in CF, whom we will have for four more years and who could force the trading of Brett Gardner. It will be the same old, same old, same old Yankees.

If we sign Encarnacion... well, yeah... at least Boston won't. They would likely move on to sign Matt Holliday or someone else, for one or two years. And they would still be odds-on faves to win the 2016 AL East. We have one true hope: That 2019-2022 will bring a new era of Yankee stars. Do we really see Encarnacion, age 40, anchoring those teams?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

It's a bolt... from Beltran!

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

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

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

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

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

Why the Frowny Face, Hal?

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


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

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

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

The Idea

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

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

The Search

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

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

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

The Discovery

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

There weren't any.  

Good Lord, the guy doesn't smile.

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

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

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

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

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

What gives?

An Analysis for Another Time

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

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

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

The Hal Challenge

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

I don't think such a photo exists.

     And I curse the life I'm living

     And I curse my poverty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

He Thinks He's Derek Jeter

Four Yankiverse-shaking events that could happen next week

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 1, 2016


When good headlines turn bad...

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

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

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

Quick question: Where the hell are you?

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

At least, that's what I hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somewhere in the details, we need a devil.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

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

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

A few thoughts on yesterday's deal:

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

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

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

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

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