Tuesday, February 21, 2017

10 true things you didn't care to know about new Yankee Jonathan Niese

1. He was born on the day the Mets won their second World Series. (That makes him 30.)

2. He hails from Defiance, Ohio. ("The Man from Defiance looks in, gets the signal...")

3. He was an all-state soccer player in high school.

4. He was a little league teammate of Chad Billingsley.

5. He gave up a homer to the first major league batter he ever faced. (Rickie "Wikileaks" Weeks)

6. In 2010, he threw a one-hitter against the Padres.

7. He had a nose job, paid for by Carlos Beltran. (Not making this up.)

8. In 2013, he was the Mets' opening day starter. (Don't snicker; we once had Pavano.)

9. This winter, the Mets bought him out for $500,000, making him a free agent.

10. He'll make a baseline $1.25 million for the Yankees - plus $750,000 in incentives, and we have to extend him by $100,000 before spring training ends, or he becomes a free agent.

The $21 million part-time coach

Today, the great Alex Rodriguez will grace Tampa with his sainted presence, the first of three days in which the beloved Yankee special life instructor will impart his vast base of experience to the less-evolved mollusks of humanity.

“To extend the knowledge he has about how to play the game, talk to the young kids and some of the expectations: how to deal with some of the different positions and how to hit, how to hit in the middle of the order,’’ Girardi said when asked what was planned for Rodriguez. “Those are the things we want him to offer insight to our young players and to the older players as well.’’

Amen, brother Joe. Spoken like a pope reading from his binders.

Hence, we get to embrace three golden, never-to-be-forgotten days with the human vortex of delight known as A-Rod. The things he will say! The wisdoms he will bring forth! O, come let us adore him.

In fact, if I were granted an audience with The Great One, I would try to distill my essential hopes and fears into one burning question: 

How the fuck did you pull this off? 

Three days? Last I looked, A-Rod is on the clip for the full $21 million, a year's worth of playing time, if he could still hit. Where I come from, that should also mean a year's worth of coaching time, or announcing time, or Scrantonian time - or something, anything, that will add to the Yankee fruit plate. Three days? Are you kidding me? He'll show up for a few selfies and a news conference, then disappear back to the boat?

Beyond the haughty words and embraces, I can't help but wonder if A-Rod remains a pariah within the Yankee brain trust. Three days? That's ridiculous. This guy should be a full-time coach, if not with the Yankees, with their minor league system - as a roving trouble-shooter. My guess is that if he worked with a Dermis Garcia or a Blake Rutherford, it might turn out to be the best $21 million the Steinbrenners ever pissed down a well. But he should be there every day, 24/7, like the wise-ass ancient masters in martial arts movies, who can still kick the karate kid's butt, if needed.

A three day resurrection? Crazy. My secret hope is that A-Rod glad-hands his way into the Yankee front office, and eventually repeals and replaces Brian Cashman. All that vast knowledge of baseball - plus, he sure knows how to cut deals as a coach. Three days. Wow. Ring the victory clock.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The legend takes shape

Move over, Babe.

Gardy: “The fact that maybe some other teams have interest in me, I see that as a compliment.”

Used to be, the longest-tenured Yankee held a sacred position in the empire. Nobody ever talked about trading Jeet for a pair of Clint Fraziers. Nobody dared. You'd get punched. The writers would rumor-monger about anybody - Clemens, Sheffield, Giambi, et al - but the oldest true Yankees, the homegrown, home-schooled, home-bred, home-alone Yankee vets - they could never wear other uniforms. It would be like Iron Man wearing Thor's breastplate. There'd be riots.

The good old days, remember? Pride and prestige. Aura and mystique. Joe Torre stood in front of a crowd and thanked God for the chance to be a Yankee. Jeez, it went back for generations. We might not be any good, but Roy White wasn't going anywhere.

When did we lose it? When did the craven corporate structure replace tradition? I trace it back to the winter of 2003-04 when Cashman chose the MRI on Andy Pettite's elbow over the truth of Andy's heart. We just let him go. Andy pitched three years in Houston - 84 games with an ERA of 3.38 - while we dicked around with Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, Jared Wright and Kevin Brown - not one a true Yankee. It took us three years to realize the mistake, three lost years, while Torre's team fell apart.

Well, today, Brett Gardner is our oldest tenured Yankee, the closest we have to a Roy White. He does everything well, nothing spectacular. Not an all-star. Just the guy you want up late in a tie game.

We spent the winter trying to peddle him.

In the end, Cashman said no. Not because Gardner is too sacred to be traded, but because Cashman needed a slam dunk for his management resume, a career that can only be considered a success by its longevity. Cashman's greatest achievement has been in keeping his job.

In fact, I guess Cashman is our longest tenured Yankee, our sacred figure. And that's why we are in this predicament.

It's hard to realize that Gardy is 34. Seems like yesterday, no? He'll never again steal 50 or hit 20 HRs. He should bunt more. His glove is golden, and he still takes bushels of pitches. It's a sad testament to this team that we're a year, maybe two, from desperately needing a clubhouse lug nut like him. But does anybody really expect him to still be around on opening day? I don't.

It's been a month of bad omens. The Chris Carter signing. The Betances arbitration. The mere sight of Randy Levine. (Mr. Trump, don't you need an ambassador to Mars?) The Tyler Austin broken toe. The injuries still to come. The 2017 Yankees don't look like a contender. And Brett Gardner - lifelong Yankee, a great player and a sacred figure - might not be around much longer.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Four Reasons To Drink Excessively

1.  Hal Steinbrenner

2.  Randy Levine

3.  Brian Cashman

4.  Joe Girardi

Sunday links: We are being run by an insufferable, delusional idiot...

... And his name is Donald, right? Actually, I was thinking of Randy Levine. Yesterday, the former Giuliani bag man showed again why the Yankees remain baseball's version of North Korea, with a frat-boy victory dance over Dellin Betances in arbitration. Last year, in his second all-star season, Betances earned $507,000 - the minimum - and now Levine boasts about chiseling the guy out of $2 million? We should march on the stadium. We should shut down Tampa. WE SHOULD RIOT. Levine has presided over the Yankees since 2000 - a period in which we have won two measly World Championships - one in 2000, which he inherited, and one in 2009, which Hal basically bought via free agents. Realistically, Levine as one championship in 17 years - two less than Boston - which makes him the moron-in-chief behind one of the darkest periods in Yankee history. And yesterday, he sashays like a Fashion Week runway anorexic, with the gall to actually rip a homegrown hero. Wow. Is there something about orange hair? Seriously, every time we get a close-up of the people running the Yankees, whether it's Lonn Trost or Hal 2000, it's a horror show of nepotism, cronyism and stupidity.

Chris "Swing and Miss" Carter can't wait to start flailing again. Get this: He still can't figure out why nobody wanted him. Two hundred strikeouts per season, and a .222 batting average. Brace yourself, everybody for some stiff winds blowing out to center. And let's forget those rookies up from Scranton. Here is the new face of the '17 Yankees. King Kong Carter.

The Yankees have a long and cherished history of screwing homegrown players. Old George was the king of discarding Yankee talent. He tried to chisel Jeter. He tried to chisel Jorge. In his eyes, the other teams' grass was always greener, and he never trusted a Buhner, a Drabek, a Willie McGee - nope, not when it could be turned into a shiny new Jesse Barfield. Hence, the 14 Year Barf. So now they're welcoming Betances to the secret club of homegrown pariahs.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Impeach Randy Levine

President poisons pitcher's morale

Saturday at the beach links

Well, that didn't take long... One day - one goddamm day - after we get giggly over the absence of Yankee injuries, Tyler Austin goes out for six weeks with a busted twinkle toe. He fouled one off in batting practice. My first thought was that it must have happened two weeks ago, and Cashman kept it a secret, and it's why we signed Chris Carter, and isn't it great to have a diabolical villain running the franchise? Apparently, no. It happened this week. Bummer for the Baby Bombers marketing plan. We've seen this movie before: Kid turns up, kid impresses everyone, kid gets hurt, kid goes to rural Pennsylvania, killing teens in hockey mask. 

Not only that, but Mason Williams will miss two weeks with a flare up of the shoulder issues that knocked him out last summer. Bad juju, folks, bad juju. I should have kept my mouth shut. My bad. I just didn't think the juju gods would be so petty that they would take it out on innocent kids. I guess I had more respect for them. But that's okay. Better to know what kind of narrow-minded, vindictive, shabbily dressed fate entities we're dealing with. I myself wouldn't be able to sleep at night, knowing what I've done to a fine young man like Williams. I guess some juju gods simply have no self-respect. Sad.

Speaking of injuries, Slade Heathcott is the latest ex-Yankee to turn up with the Bay Area Bombers - aka the Giants, which are run by ex-Yankees (Brian Sabean, Dick Tidrow, Dave Righetti. Bam Bam Meulens, etc.) I still think Slade the Grenade will scrape out a middling major league career. Wasn't long ago that he was our future Josh Hamilton - the flawed, superhuman talent forged from a hellish childhood. Made a great narrative. Then came the injuries. Guy used to run into walls, fight entire teams. I wish him luck. 

Yankees go cheap in arbitration hearings against Dellin Betances. They are playing nickel and dime with a career Yankee, ripping into him in front of a glorified CPA, in order to save a few pennies on a $220 million  payroll. He wants $5 million. They offered $3 million. Does anyone here have an idea of how a compromise could be worked out? WTF? They're going to chisel a million from a critical bullpen lug nut, a week after signing Chris "Swing and Miss" Carter? Between the juju gods and the front office, we are in serious trouble, peeps. Excuse me while I go ponder the Irritable Bowel Syndrome lady. The devil can assume a pleasing form...

Friday, February 17, 2017

Phil Hughes's Rib: What Would You Do?

"It's in a little jar of fluid," Hughes said. "I don't know what I want to do with it. I'm throwing around some ideas. We'll see."

What would you do?

This franchise has now gone "2" days without a work-related accident, but can we trust the universe?

Here we are... two days into pitch and catch, and nobody yet has dropped a kettelbell on his big toe, or reported to Tampa one nut short of Chelsea Manning due to a letter opener accident. Everybody is healthy. Everybody is smiling. For now. 

But you know those Baby Einsteins who theorize that they can trace TV static back to the original Big Bang? What they're actually capturing on their billion dollar Fisher Price toys is something far more sinister.

They're listening to the universe giggling behind our backs. Because it knows...

Hold that thought a moment.

Last year, around now, we were drinking heavily over the news that Greg Bird - the great Yankee hope of 2016 - was done. In a week, we'd learn that Mason Williams would join him on the MIA list - out for six months. By the end of March, our biggest pitching surprise in camp, Bryan Mitchell, would stub his toe and disappear like George Pataki. And then there was Domingo German. At the moment, I am unable to recall the injury to Domingo German, or for that matter, Domingo German, himself, but I'm sure it was a sad moment, and that the Tamiami Trail was lined with mourners. 

Two years ago, around now, we lost Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova. The weirdest part about those injuries is that, at the time, we actually thought it was a bad thing. Now, we know the truth: 

It was just the universe, laughing at us.

And - gulp - it is surely giggling right now. 

Brace yourselves, folks, because it's coming. The first big shoe to drop on 2017. Don't know who it will be. Don't know how bad it will be. It might be a key infield lug nut. It might be Domingo German. But it's coming.

Same in American politics, don't you think? All this gibber-jabber will soon be forgotten by the dimensions of a crisis that will redefine everything we consider to be "news," and we will look back and shake our heads at what was consuming us back in "the good old days." The universe is giggling, because it knows...

We are two days into pitch and catch, and considering the current low bar on this definition, you can say Yankee camp is operating "like a finely tuned machine." No coach has been fired for plotting with the Redsocks, and - to my knowledge - nobody has poked a Q-tip through his eardrum. (Henry Cotto, wither goest?) We should be happy and hopeful, I suppose. 

But that's not our style. Nope. And it's coming: The first injury revelation of 2017. Somebody important is about to announce that he did something really stupid New Years Eve with a bottle opener. And until it happens, there are no projections, no predictions, nothing we can take to the bank about the 2017 Yankees. 

Right now, the universe is preparing to dial our number to page "Ivan Oliver Closeoff." It's painting the bleachers with Super-Glue. It's filling the bag with dog poop, and dousing it with lighter fluid. It already knows. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Yankees bring in Jameis Winston to talk to their prospects

His message: Don't rape women, I guess. 

Or maybe: Keep a good lawyer on retainer.

Inspiring speaker? Huh. Maybe I'm missing something. Isn't Winston, the great football hero, the guy who skated on the sexual assault charges that weren't even investigated at the outset? Didn't Florida State University eventually pay an alleged rape victim $950,000 to settle out of court, so the big man on campus could go to the NFL?

Wait, maybe I'm confusing Winston's sexual assault case with his shoplifting charges, which required him to do a few mere hours of community service. Or when he climbed on a table and shouted "Fuck her in the pussy." Or the bee-bee gun incident. Or... what's the ratio of reported to unreported incidents? One to 10?

Gee, it's all so confusing, trying to figure out the inspiring message that Jameis Winston could pass on to these Baby Bombers - talking about girls, five hundred dollar handshakes, alumni boosters and the American justice system. 

But I can certainly understand why the Yankees would choose him to speak: 

Aroldis Chapman wasn't available. 

Hair: Addendum

Just a reminder, maybe to myself, that Michael Burke was Steinbrenner's partner in buying the Yankees from CBS. He was hardly a traditionalist.

From Grantland:

Burke was certainly hip to the times. He wore his hair long and his sideburns longer, he attended antiwar protests, and, as befit a man who kept a pair of volumes written by Eldridge Cleaver in his office bookcase, he was quite liberal when it came to race relations. After firing Barber, Burke redeemed himself in the eyes of many by finding and hiring Bill White, the first African American to call a game for the Yankees. “We have a stadium not too far from Harlem,” Burke told White. “I want those black kids there knowing that when they grow up they can do what you’re doing.” Burke also pushed the team to diversify its lily-white lineup, but he never managed to find the minority superstar he hoped would someday serve as the progressive face of the Yankees.

Doomed to repeat it? Yankeeganda from last year's spring training

Every year around this time, the writers, talkers, bloggers, coaches, players and owners - everybody, even The Master - should ponder the ever-shifting shit pile on which we precariously balance. But nobody does. February is the month for pure baseball crapola, delivered hot and piping to your door like pizza. So, as we project Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge into Monument Park, let's keep in mind that next year, around this time, we will look back on the gushings that were gushed.

This is from last February's harvest...

Feb. 8, 2016: The Yankees expect a better performance out of Nova now that he is a full year removed from Tommy John surgery... general manager Brian Cashman has already gone on record saying he believes Nova is the team's best bet to complete 200 innings this year.

Feb. 9. 2016: The Yankees remain the only team not to have signed a Major League free agent this winter, with general manager Brian Cashman explaining that the trade market proved more attractive to address their needs.

Feb. 10, 2016: CC Sabathia appeared at the complex last week, and Rothschild also said that the left-hander "looks better than I've seen him in a few years," according to The Post.

Feb. 12, 2016:  Anticipation is kicking into high gear for the upcoming season... The Yankees believe that Hicks profiles as a big league regular... he also posted an .870 OPS vs. lefties last year, making him a solid choice to fill Chris Young's old role.
Feb. 15, 2016: Over the next two seasons, the Yankees will see their commitments to stars like Carlos BeltranAlex RodriguezMark Teixeira and CC Sabathia tick down, but they will count heavily on all of those players for the purposes of chasing an AL East title -- and more -- in 2016. "My mindset is to win the World Series," Girardi said. 
We all know better than to believe the crapola. That said... CLIMB ABOARD, COMRADES! HERE WE GO AGAIN...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ten most vapid comments from today's "State of the Yankees" address from Prince Hal

Today, Hal Steinbrenner rendered unto humanity his observations on the 2017 Yankees.

He said the following.

1. "We have to prove ourselves."

2. "We’ve got a good thing going, everybody’s excited about it."

3. “We love Joe. Joe is one of many people who work in this organization who have contracts."

4. "Joe’s a very smart guy. And there’s a lot of aspects to it, particularly when you’re in New York City."

5. "I think he (Brian Cashman) has done great,”

6. "I can tell you one thing a successful season is to me, and that’s staying healthy."

7. "We’re always going to field a championship-caliber team."

8. "The process is what the process is."

9. "Jacoby’s a great player. He comes to play every day."

10. "The stats are what the stats are."

Let's Keep the Ban on Facial Hair

I fear that I sometimes appear to children in our neighborhood and to work colleagues as a crusty old stick-in-the-mud aching from his latest lumbago flareup.   The crotchety kind of guy who has too many frisbees on his lawn.  I try, therefore, as often as I am able, to be patient.  I have mixed success.

Which is a polite way of saying I have almost no success.

I thought about this while I read John M's post of earlier today, "Don Mattingly, Marlins lift ban on facial hair."  Despite my repeated and strained attempts at patience, I had trouble with the idea that the Yanks should follow suit and allow facial hair.  Like names on the backs of players' uniforms, it just doesn't feel right to crusty old me.

In the comments section of the post, KD said:
You Photoshop dudes (looking at YOU, LBJ), give us some pictures of Babe Ruth et al, all furred up like U.S. Grant.
I live with a Photoshop dude-ette who's a wizard and an artist but I'm not much of either myself. Worse, I had a number of pressing tasks on my to-do list for this afternoon.

But, shoot, the man called me out by name.  I'm pretty sure there's some Internet rule somewhere that demanded I take action so I decided to look to see if I could scare up some images of furry Yankees using a Google image search.  To my surprise, the Google "auto-complete" feature began typing "Babe Ruth Beard" all by itself after I typed the first few letters.

This happened because, apparently, the Babe participated in a few exhibition games with a team from "The House of David", a Michigan-based Christian commune that eschewed meat, sex, tobacco, shaving and the cutting of hair in general.  They seem to have sworn off pretty much everything except baseball.  Here's a team photo from 1931:

Check out the second guy on the left and the fourth guy from the right!  They make ZZ Top and all those 1980s big hair bands look like Brett Gardner.

These guys must have been reasonably competent as ballplayers, however, because they did barnstorming tours and managed to play against Babe Ruth at least twice.

Being the good sport he was, the Babe apparently donned a fake beard when he played against them.  The photo below is from 1931 during an exhibition game against the House of David team:

The next is from an exhibition game in 1933.  It absolutely scares me how much he looks like Joba Chamberlain.  It was all I could do to resist the urge to photoshop a swarm of midges around his head.

Flush with the success of finding two photos of a famous Yankee with a beard where I didn't have to lift a finger to do any actual work, I thought perhaps Lou Gehrig might have played in the same House of David games and that I might find a picture of Gehrig wearing his own fake fur.  There was nothing like that out there.

Not to be daunted, I found one of those online "beard simulator" websites and carefully placed a goatee on the Iron Horse:

He doesn't look bad but, frankly, I felt dirty the whole time I was doing it.  I felt like I was drawing a mustache on a picture of a saint.  Doctoring Gehrig's beatific face made me feel so awful, in fact, that, I quickly moved along and tried using the same software to alter the guy who started this whole thread:

Yes, friends, this is what Donnie Baseball would have looked like, left to his own devices back in the day.  Are you starting to catch my drift about why a ban on facial hair might not be a bad idea?  Young players with a ton of dough and chicks who'll climb all over them regardless of what they look like will ONLY come out looking like the above.

Check out this next image of another Fine Yankee:

Yikes, even his new daughter might be frightened by that look!  I then found another image of a Yankee that didn't require me to do any photo-retouching:

Yes, boys and girls, that's a picture of Brett Gardner taken when he was still in college.  I wasn't aware that Gardner also needed to remove his muzzle lashings in order to play for the Yanks.

(Quick digression, but I think Gardy looks a fair amount like Toby Flenderson, the Human Resources guy on The Office.)

While painting a mustache on Lou Gehrig felt like blasphemy, I found that doing the next one lifted my spirits quite a bit:

(For the record, he's still not smiling.)

Having had fun painting a mustache on Hal, a non-player, I decided to see what another non-player would look like flying an Admiral's Pennant:

Strange, but the Master doesn't look half bad.  This made me think that perhaps some other non-players might look better sporting some "suburbs of the chin":

Alphonso doesn't look appreciably different and El Duque looks something like Goose Gossage.  Unfortunately, there's no hope for this guy... 

Back to work...

Don Mattingly, Marlins lift ban on facial hair

Can Armageddon be far behind? Are we to be the last bastion of decent, clean-cut young men in the major leagues? Is there no end to the shaggy, bizarre and hillbillyesque appearance of modern ballplayers that plagues us?

After the greatness of Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMag, Mays, Mantle, Maris, Aaron. even Williams...is unrestrained unkemptness truly the only option in this, the age of furry facemen?

Have we forgotten the Red Sox embrace of facial hair and general Neanderthal appearance as a rallying point in 2004 and 2013? Must we all sink to their level of Bostonian beardedness?

Donnie, Donnie, Donnie...what hath thou wrought?

Gammonites prepare milk bath for Redsock '17 Hall of Fame Superteam of Destiny (TM)

So much for the '27 Yankees. Ruth? Gehrig? Whadda they done lately? Mantle and Maris? Whitey and Yogi? 1961? Overrated. The moment has arrived for America's Citadel of Testosterone to welcome its new greatest ever: The Redsock '17 Hall of Fame Superteam of Destiny (TM) - winner of the next five World Series - is opening Camp Benintendi in Florida, where the hubris is thicker than the snowbird traffic on Tamiami Trail. From today's Gammonitic honks...

Adding [Chris] Sale to Rick Porcello and David Price gives the Red Sox a formidable starting rotation, but the rotation – and the rest of the roster – was plenty formidable without him. Porcello and Price have won Cy Young Awards in the past five seasons, and the three pitchers competing for the other two spots would easily win spots in most other rotations.

In case you didn't hear, the mighty 'Socks acquired Sandy Koufax Chris Sale, creating baseball's best starting rotation, for baseball's best lineup, and baseball's smartest smarties, and they did this while Tom Brady was conquering eternity and Big Papi was somehow managing to retire without a positive urine test. And did we mention Andrew Benintendi? Good lord, the rock-ribbed teen titan has added 50 pounds of muscle and can now single-handed lift Guernsey cows from sinkholes. Good lord, people, bow before fucking Zod. This team is a veritable golden shower of, well... - "jaw-dropping" talent.

[W]hile Sale was the jaw-dropping acquisition of the winter for the Red Sox, it's not lost on him that he's joining a team stocked with veterans of October, [and] a 93-win team returning largely intact.

"Jaw-dropping." That's right. There's a term you don't just hear enough. (I would have gone with "face-melting," but that's just me.) So, let's take a moment to lift our jaws from the floorboards. But wait! There's more. Don't forget the bullpen!

It’s not only the acquisition of Tyler Thornburg, the health of Carson Smith and the transition of Joe Kelly that has the relief corps in good shape at the start of spring training. All it takes is simple math to see how Sale will save the relievers from having to record one additional out each game this season.

Listen... We all know the deal on the 2017 Yankees. For us to win 90, every traffic light has to glow green. Even if our prospects produce, we're still a year away from the kind of jaw-dropping, face-melting, heart-stopping, Irritable Bowel Syndrome crapola that the Redsock blather machines are churning. This may be a year when we merely get to celebrate a Boston collapse. But if it happens, dear God, it should be fun.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

In lieu of a contending team, the Yankiverse celebrates prospect rankings

Lost amid the news that Hannah Davis has been awarded the ultimate Jeter gift basket, Baseball America - the Bible of Human Potential - ran it's Top 100 prospects list yesterday. (We scored seven on it.) Simultaneously, Baseball Prospectus published its Top 101. (We had nine.) Analyst John Sickels unveiled his Top 200 (We placed 10.) If IT IS HIGH ever does one, it'll be the Top 1,000, and we'll score at least 20.

These lists have a purpose. Just remember to flush. They are parlor games, the type played by fund managers at Mar-a-Lago, while they oogle the nuclear football. Last summer, the fabled New York fucking Yankees stank so badly that their owner collapsed the circus tent and sold off the elephants. This spring, we're looking good on prospect lists. Excuse me if I fart. 

All you need to know about Baseball America's esteemed list is that two years ago, Boston's international man of mystery, Rusney Castillo, placed 21st. He had come north from Cuba and launched a bidding war. The Redsocks won it. They've already paid him $23 million, and they owe $49 million more. They'll have him until 2020, when he is 32. Last year at Pawtucket, he hit .263 with 2 HRs. When Redsock fans blather about future Hall of Famer Andrew Benintendi, cover your ears and shout "RUSNEY CASTILLO!" They will go away. 

But let's talk about Aaron Judge, the Yankee leviathan. In 2015, he placed 53rd on BA's list. Last year, he fell to 76th. This year, he ranks 90th. (Sickels dropped him to 143rd.) From all "expert" indications, Judge is on the verge of becoming our Rusney.

The reason for this pessimism is Judge's sorry play last August, when the Yankees sprang his escape from Scranton's coal mines. He flashed power and athleticism, but basically stank out the Bronx - fanning in half his at bats. (You all know this.) True believers note that Judge always struggled after promotions. Last year, a tweaked gonad took him out before he could adjust. We still don't know what we've got.

What if - say - Judge's gonad (which must be the size of a state fair watermelon) had barked last July, and Judge stayed in Scranton? His record for 2016 would show him crushing Triple A. There's be no bad September, no blitz of strikeouts. My guess: He'd be ranked higher on every list. The fact is, he is better off for getting a glimpse of MLB pitching - he's had a winter to adjust - but if he'd stayed in Scranton, he'd now be ranked higher by the "experts."

Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining that Aaron Judge should be ranked higher in these stupid lists. I'm just saying we should not get lulled into a sense of imminent success by them. They are baseball's equivalent of the "Most Popular" polls in high school. And we all know what happened to that former star quarterback, right?  

Over the last three years, the most heralded prospect in baseball has been Byron Buxton of the Twins. Last year he got the call. He played in 92 games. He hit .225. Maybe 2017 will be his breakout year. Or maybe rankings just don't matter. It's a tough game.