Monday, December 9, 2019

Pitching tonight: Eli Manning

Considering the dreadful state of the NFC East, and the failures of Daniel Jones to master an offense, it seems obvious that if the New York Giants had merely shown faith in Eli Manning, and not benched the veteran field general after two modest outings, this team could now be leading the NFL - with a perfect 0-12 record - in its uncompromising drive to earn the first pick in the 2020 draft.

Why, why, why... didn't they stick with Eli? 

Yanks make first bid on Gerrit Cole. Will they make the last?

Two hundred forty five million potatoes, clams, goobers, galdingoes... over seven trips around the sun... 

That's a lotta quiddich, moolah, beans, hoogins... a lotta ink. 

Is it a lotta crapola, too? 

What should we make of the very publicly leaked Yankee offer to this year's "Hollywood It" free agent, Gerrit Cole? Are we shooting for the moon... or second place? Some thoughts...

1. Sunday evening, the ancient Gammonite Bob Klapisch - of the Times, the Post, the Daily News, ESPN and the Columbia University Daily Spectator - tweeted the numbers and broke the story. Thus, it almost had to come from an old-line Yankee power source: Hal, Cashman, Randy, Trott, or Delores in the typing pool. It didn't come from Gerrit Cole. So, let's figure that the Death Star unveiled these numbers on purpose.

Thus, the question to ask today: What would that purpose be?

Well, it would seemingly absolve the Yankees from critics who assail their self-inflicted - and self-indulgent - cheapness. How can we call him "Food Stamps," if Hal is willing to spend $245 million on a pitcher? Last year, as the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado auctions unfolded, the Yankees noticeably never scribbled a number on the chalkboard. Now, they have done so... and they wanted that number to be known to the Yankiverse. Interesting.

2. Paraphrasing Regis Philbin from long ago, "Is this your final answer?" If so, for all the public awe that Hal's offer may conjure, it is merely a figure on a check that might never be cashed. The Angels have said they'll beat any offer, whatsoever. Now, they have a number to top, either by adding additional years or dollars. If this is the final Yankee offer - take it or leave it - the franchise has made it ridiculously easy for another owner to outdo.  

If the Angels go higher, will the Yankees follow suit? Also, if the two teams put down matching numbers, would Cole opt to stay home in Southern California or follow his childhood fantasies as a Yankee fan?

3. I guess the fundamental question is whether the Yankees looking to again finish second in a bidding war? From where we sit, it's impossible to know. Did their $245 million offer - most for a pitcher ever - just blow everyone else out of the water? Was it a knockout punch... or an opening salvo? 

My guess: It's a little of both. One thing the Yankees do not want is a long, drawn-out bidding war, stretching into January. Cole's decision will set the agenda for every other move Cashman makes this winter. If that is the Yankee offer, and no others shall be forthcoming, even if Cole drags his heels on choosing a team, the Yankees might be quietly looking elsewhere by the end of this week. 

Once again, they will have finished in second. And yes, we will still call him "Food Stamps." 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

What was that sound?


Wait.  I just heard something.

It sounded like something from a radio play, where someone slowly opens a long-closed door.  

Creeeeee-ak.  

Hoo-boy.  That door was heavy.  It hadn't been opened in a long time.

Now I hear the sound of dripping water, as though from the ceiling of a deep cave.

Ahh.  Now, I'm hearing nothing but silence.  Maybe never mind.  

Wait.  

There it is again.

I and a few other careful, attentive listeners are wondering what it all means.  We wonder what's happening and if everything is ok.

That sound creaking sound we heard might just have been the sound of Hal's wallet being openedThe source is no less than the Gray Lady.



What should we do?  Should we look in there?  Will anything come out?

Stay tuned to this blog for our next exciting episode....

MLB Prepares To Issue Penalty for Domingo German

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.



Middle management at MLB  ( seen above ) has been working diligently for a fair and just outcome of the German alleged non-crime.  Losing the Yankees any shot at the World Series was clearly not adequate for the rumored and, as yet, undocumented offense.

Even though there are no facts available, there are odes, short-stories, innuendoes and reported sightings of the event.  A ballad is sure to follow.

Whatever German did had to be worse than juicing a ball, stealing signs or continuing to use umpires in human form to call balls and strikes.

The justice wing of MLB ( who fills in for NSA when the US Govt. is shut down ) will declare the verdict and punishment for the "German Incident" ( this is the preferred marketing term for the event....baseball's way of honoring  the historic "Ox-Bow Incident" )  sometime before the Xmas holiday or, if you prefer,  the Happy Holiday.

The Boston Red Sox have been given " rights" to all tee shirt sales bearing said logo.  The shirts will be designed to celebrate the holiday season;  with a Santa-red background, neon green lettering and, of course, black piping.

Domingo is being held incognito somewhere.  One journalist who follows the case closely, thought he saw him in a clown suit on a unicycle in Kansas City.  But this remains unconfirmed by representatives of Ringling Bros' Clown College.

In any case, the Yankee starting pitching staff continues to hang in the balance.






The top 5 assumptions threatening the Yankees this winter

1. That we can deal JA Happ for something, anything, that doesn't belong on on a Red Lobster menu. He's 37, he'll make $17 million next year, and he relies on his fastball. Yeesh. So, remind me, what was the attraction when we signed him last winter? 

Somehow, the Yankees have concocted a Narna-like, drug-flashback scenario where Happ is bundled with several dirt league prospects in exchange for a lawn mower that works. Really? Are we playing in a Strat-o-Matic league? After all was said and done last season, the guy didn't even warrant a playoff start. Would you trade for him?

2. That Gleyber Torres can play SS at the same level as 2B. Yes, we know he's a natural SS and - with DJ LeMahieu - a de factor team leader. But it's Gleyber - not Aaron Judge - who looms as the future face of the Yankees. Next year, he could become the best 2B in the game. (And LeMahieu could win another Gold Glove, this time at 1B.)  

But if Gleyber has defensive issues - let's say Luke Voit/Mike Ford cannot absolve him of a few bad throws - or if he falls into spring slump, the Yankees could face a SS "situation" by June. I still wonder why the brain trust didn't make Didi Gregorius a qualifying offer, though if it was to devote more cash toward Gerrit Cole, I'll buy it. But by moving Gleyber to SS, we are tampering with success. Some people think that's a bad idea.

3. That Gio Urshela will pick up right where he left off. Now and then, the Yankees find legitimate stars out of nowhere - I suppose Didi was the last one - and that's what Urshela represents. I still pinch myself. But there is a reason why the "sophomore slump" remains a vagary of baseball. One can argue that Urshela is beyond his second year - he's no rookie - and a solid 2020 would cement him as our 3B for at least the early 2020s. But if he slumps, well, what then? 

It's way too early to assume that Urshela is a .300 hitting Gold Glove 3B. The defense is there, but we must wait to see what we have this year.

4. That Masahiro Tanaka will be the same after surgery. Within hours of the Yankees' elimination - on Oct. 24 - Tanaka had bone spurs removed from his pitching elbow. The Yankees say it was minor surgery, that he'll be fine and that he won't miss any time, but let's not kid ourselves. About two years ago, Chance Adams had the same deal, and he's never been the same. (Granted, Adams remains an unproven commodity; I'm simply saying shit happens after somebody undergoes the knife.) Tanaka will be 31. 

5. That the Yankees will harvest the wave of young arms they added to their 40 man roster this winter. From the Rule 5 draft - and at the expense of Greg Bird and Nestor Cortes - they chose to add RHP Deivi GarcĂ­a, RHP Luis Gil, RHP Brooks Kriske, RHP Luis Medina, RHP Nick Nelson and RHP Miguel Yajure, along with keeping the holdovers, RHP Albert Abreu, RHP Michael King, Jonathan Loaisiga and RHP Luis Cessa. Also, RHP Clarke Schmidt, a former first-round pick, is rising quickly. (He did not need to be protected, otherwise, they would have added him. That's 11 young arms, and you'd think that at least one will become an item. 

At least, that's the hope: That somebody will emerge, the way Domingo German did last year. If tradition has meaning, two to four will need Tommy John surgery, at least one will suffer control problems, one will hit his girlfriend, and two more will be packaged in a deal for somebody who all-too closely resembles J.A. Happ. 

In other words, it's early December, and let's take nothing for granted. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Waiting for Cole

CASHMAN: Still no word.

HAL: (despairingly). You're sure he likes us?

CASHMAN: He seemed to like us.

HAL: But you do not know he likes us?

CASHMAN: He said he likes us.

HAL: But he has not called or texted.

CASHMAN: He wanted to wait. (They stare at the tree.) What should we do?

HAL: We can trade Andujar.

CASHMAN: (Sighs) I do not wish to trade Andujar.
HAL: He would fetch something of value.

CASHMAN: I do not wish to trade Andujar.

HAL: It would save money.

CASHMAN: True. (Responding to a sound.) What's that? Did you hear that?

HAL: I heard nothing.

CASHMAN: It sounded like a cell phone.

HAL: I heard nothing.

CASHMAN: (Takes out cell phone, studies it, shakes it, puts it back.) Perhaps he will call or text tomorrow.

HAL: Or the day after tomorrow.

CASHMAN: He should call. 

HAL: So... we wait?


CASHMAN: Are we not born mad? Doomed to live meaningless lives on moonlit fields, waiting for stars that never descend, for answers that never come? 


(They wait for 60 seconds, symbolizing the passage of a minute.)

HAL: You know, a lot of teams want Andujar...

Friday, December 6, 2019

If Hal Signs Gerrit Cole... the poem

I'll swim the Hudson, drink the Seine,
I'll dive the Great Blue Hole,
Yet never once will I complain,

If Hal signs Gerrit Cole.

I'll paint his house, I'll wax his car,
I'll dance about his pole,

He'll drink for free inside my bar,
If Hal signs Gerrit Cole.

I simply want to make it clear
With all that I control,
No taunts shall he from this clown hear,

If Hal signs Gerrit Cole.

I know I've dissed him in the past,
But that was just my role,
And I will kiss his pasty ass,

If Hal signs Gerrit Cole.

Old King Cole

Old King Cole was a merry old soul
And a merry old soul was he.

He called for his pipe and he called for his glove
And he called for a quarter of a billion dollars, cash money, 
And that's just for starters.

Then he'll sign with the Angels.

Fuck you, Hal.

The Yankiverse loves how our owner has opened his pocketbook... unless he hasn't.

DING-DONG, DING-DONG... It's the most wonderful time of the ye- DING-DONG, DING-DONG! With kids jingle-belling and everyone telling you be of good cheeeeeer... It's the most wonderful time... 

Yes, everywhere, folks are mistletoeing, and hope is flowing like golden pee on a red sleigh. What's this? you say? Did we win another war on Christmas? Hell, no. It's Old Scrooge McSteinbrenner, bellowing hope from his bedroom window. He just awoke from a nightmare, where he was visited by three Yankee ghosts -- the past (Don Mattingly), the present (Giancarlo Stanton) and the future (Jasson Dominguez) -- and he's been transformed. He's shouting, "MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY! AND SIGN GERRIT COLE!" Down in the cobblestone streets, urchin Gammonites are milling this new holiday grist, and suddenly, the Yankiverse is alive with hope! We're back to putting gifts under the tree and lifting the dreaded curse that has haunted this team since 2004...

Unless it doesn't happen. 

Sorry, folks. I hate to play Grinch in this wondrous landscape of gingerbread houses and marshmallow snow. The fact that the Death Star flew across country, brought in Andy Pettitte and their Mayor Pete pitching coach, and spent four hours wooing Gerrit Cole with card tricks and foot massages is - indeed - praiseworthy news. From the standpoint of publicity, the Yankees are pushing all the right buttons. And now, supposedly, Chairman Hal has issued a proclamation indicating that the Yankees - winners of the 2009 World Championship - will offer whatever it takes to bring King Cole to Gotham. That the Mets may have a new billionaire owner willing to do the same has nothing to do with this abrupt epiphany of jubilation and awe. It's Christmas, everybody. Santa is back!

Only one thing... 

We haven't seen a bottom line. And neither has Hal Kringle.

Supposedly, the Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim plan to deck the halls with Cole's contract. And no one in this millennium has accused the Dodgers of being cheap. The Cubs lie in wait. When it comes to pitching, I wouldn't sleep on St. Louis, Seattle, Texas, San Diego, Toronto - even Boston, those dirty snakes. It's great to be "all in" on the bidding. But until the Yankees come away with the prize, with all respect to Frank Capra... it's a wonderful lie.

What we have is a franchise striving to raise hope and good will within its fan base, which has been numbed by 10 years of disappointment. If the Yankees convince their fans that they did everything possible - but that greedy Grinch Gerrit simply wanted too much - (it's called gas-lighting, folks) - then the websites and bloggers will side with our poor-mouthing billionaire at the top, and actually celebrate that the Yankees saved money. It's like the Stockholm Syndrome, where the hostage takes on the views of his captors. We start worrying about luxury taxes, as if the Yankees don't have enough money to pay them.

Listen: I'm happy that the Yankees brought in Andy Pettitte to talk sense into Cole. New York remains baseball's greatest stage. If it mattered, I would have brought along CC, or Coney, or Suzyn, or Whitey Ford - anybody who could testify to what Cole will miss if he face-plants in Timbuktu. But at some point, it will all come down to Hal Steinbrenner signing a massive check to a player - (the Stanton deal two years ago was so seemingly lop-sided, he had to go along with it) - and let's just say, we shall see. 

Christmas is still three weeks away. This story is just beginning. Hal may yet get visited by a ghost or two. Let's hope one of them isn't Jacoby Marley.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

As the first MLB team to stream games on Amazon, the Yankees will need a marquee pitcher next year

Lost amid this week's back-flow of free agent blurbs and belches was news that the 2020 Death Star will become the first MLB franchise to stream regular games on Amazon Home Video. This could be the Yankees' first cash cow advantage since Old George birthed the YES Network in 1999, letting the team print money for every top free agent (Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, etc.) in captivity.

The question is whether this golden shower will propel Mr. Austerity, the penny-pinching Hal Steinbrenner, to spend what it takes to sign an ace... in this case, Gerrit Cole.

Thus far, we at IT IS HIGH have refused to buy the Yankee narrative of being "all in" on Cole, who could cost the team $300 million. Hal's tightwad record suggests he'll never spend that kind of money on an employee. It's one thing to dine with a player and play footsie beneath the table. It's another to put down actual money and find a hotel room. 

But in the pursuit of Cole, at least three mitigating elements are worth considering:

1. He is everything the team currently lacks. More than anything, the Yankees need an ace pitcher. They have a lineup and bullpen. But if they must trade for a top starter, they will shred that roster. Cole can be had for money - just money. He is a team leader. He is hungry for a ring. He can throw 200 innings and start game one of a series. If they sign him, they become the team to beat. If they sign him, a disillusioned Boston might do something stupid, like trading Mookie Betts. If they sign him, they can trade for whatever else they need. If they sign him, they are lock for the 2020 post-season.

2. The Amazon deal is emerging, and the Mets may have a new owner. Apparently, the 2019 Yankees' ratings on YES plummeted by 17 percent - mostly because thinking human beings want nothing to do with cable TV. This new Amazon arrangement will let people watch games on laptops and phones - for a price, of course. Eventually, this will cover all MLB teams, but the Yankees - as majority owners of YES - have a head start. That should mean a bump in revenues. What better way to cement their on-line presence than by showcasing the best team in baseball?

3. Without a new star, the Yankees will lose New York. Look at the Tabloid Covers race on the left of this page. Over the last two years, the Yankees have easily dominated the back pages, which Old George once considered the real  currency of sports. But as the Mets made a brief pennant run, they actually overtook the Yankees for a few weeks in tabloid covers. Had they made the post-season, the Mets would probably have won the year. Now, with a potential new owner, they could easily bypass a do-nothing Yankee franchise in 2020. The Yankees' once-bright star of Giancarlo Stanton is now nearly a joke, Aaron Judge cannot stay on the field enough to carry the team, Gleyber Torres will be challenged to play SS, and Masahiro Tanaka will be recovering from off-season surgery. Who becomes the marquee Yankee? We love DJ LeMahieu, but does he appear on the program cover?

Listen: Unless the Yankees make a spectacular move, they will lose New York next year. 

As stated above, I'm still not buying the idea that the Yankees will truly be bidders in the Gerrit Cole auction. It's easy to flirt, much harder to find the hotel room key. But there are plenty of reasons for the Yankees to want Cole. Does Hal simply love his money too much to really go "all in?"

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Questions the Yankees will ask when sitting down with Gerrit

Death Star ambassadors intend to "meet" this week with Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. Surely, this inter-dimensional Yankee panel, headed by Cooperstown Cashman himself, will have critical questions to ask each man...

1. So, in your upcoming bidding process, what do you think it will take for a team to come in second?

2. Do you really want to shave that beard? I mean, it's you. It really would be a shame to see it go.

3. Did you hear about the traffic jam today in the Bronx? I mean, it must have been 45 minutes, dead in traffic. Of course, if you play in New York, you'll get used to it. Wouldn't you like that?

4. Listen, we will beat any other offer, bar none! That's not in doubt. One thing, though: We'd like you to keep everything quiet and work through Rudy Giuliani.  Say, didn't you once go carousing with Hunter Biden?

5. You'd love New York. Of course, your kids could get shot or kidnapped. Have you thought of leaving your family to play in the Bronx? No distractions.

6. Okay, I can't believe I'm doing this: One year in New York for all the money I've got in my pocket, right now! Ho, boy, if Steinbrenner knew what I'm offering, he'd blow a gasket! Whaddaya say?

7. Do you really want to be one of those greedy players, who values money over everything? I didn't think so. So, simply say the Yankees offered the most money, but you want to go home. Everybody wins! 

8. The choice is yours. Which would you rather hang out with? All those young, LA supermodels and movie starlets... or Pete Davidson? 

9. Hey, what do you think it will cost us to sign Michael Pineda? 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

As trade rumors swirl, Fallow Hal counts his beans

Full confession: I hate trade rumors. They're like candy. Devour too many, and you lose a toe. They're always morphing, always circling overhead, always convincing you the Death Star is about to do something terrible - and the worst part is that, even though they're always wrong, the next one might come true.

Today's horrifying rumor is a proposed 4-1 deal that would bring us Milwaukee's Josh Hader, the long-haired, 26-year-old closer who imploded in the recent NL playoffs. Supposedly, the Brew Crew is putting him out for bids. Rumors have the Yankees trading Miguel Andujar, Deivi Garcia, Jonathan Holder and Chance Adams for Hader, who could then re-explain the racist tweets that introduced him to the world at the 2018 All-Star break. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot? I can see a few back pages on the horizon.

I shouldn't let these things rattle me. I should watch YES all day, the way old folks do Fox, and keep the blood pressure low. But the notion of trading Andujar and Garcia for a guy who - in a good year - will give us about 70 innings drives me batty. Who's running the rumor mill these days? Kellyanne Conway? Do they really believe the Yankees can "bullpen" the entire 2020 season? the way we tried to "bullpen" the 2019 playoffs? Because - ahem, excuse me - it didn't work. Midway through the ACLS, our pitching staff was a shredded Bounty paper towel, because our starters couldn't last five innings.

I realize that Cooperstown Cashman may have to trade Andujar and even Garcia - you can't keep them all - from bloodthirsty mosquito GMs who want to raid our roster. But these are damn valuable trade chips, and if they're going to go, the Yankees better address our main concern: Starting pitching. Another bullpen lug nut? Gimme a break. 

Now, I can imagine a scenario where such a deal might work: If the Yanks were going to sign Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, then bundling players for a 70-innings stud reliever could make sense. We'd address both issues, which basically amount to pitching, pitching, pitching... 

Which brings me again to his Excellency, Sir Hal Steinbrenner, who - sadly but truly - remains the Papal Audience of One, the lone opinion that matters in the Yankiverse. It shall be Hal's executive decision whether the Yankees will spend the money it takes to lure a Cole or Strasburg to NYC - without giving up Andujar and half of Trenton. Yesterday, YES aired a Meredith Marakovits interview, in which she asked Commander Hal about Cole and Strasburg. He responded, in the purist dialects of HalSpeak: 

"Let me just say that all options are open as far as I’m concerned. Anything that rolls along across my desk, I will be looking at real seriously."

Really? Do we have to experience this? I have too much respect for the phrase "mealy-mouthed" to apply it here. This is offensive, a ridiculous new low, even for someone who is known to blather drivel like water shooting from a fire cannon. "Anything that rolls along across my desk" - jeez. Is that how things work in the Tampa tower? They roll along across his desk? Dear God. "I will be looking at real seriously." So, if I'm getting this right, if a Tonka truck rolls along across his desk, he will pick it up and roar truck sounds, before putting it back down carefully because of its $19.99 price tag.

So, Meredith then asked her employer about the MLB luxury tax, which Hal is known to blame whenever he feels compelled to plead old-fashioned poverty. As with several big market teams, the Yankees $212 million payroll is currently over the first-tier threshold for luxury taxes, but it's $16 million below the second tier. Would Hal go higher, even above the third tier? He said:

"It's a big deal. It’s something we’d certainly prefer not to do, because there are June draft ramifications. There are numerous ramifications. But that is something that I would consider.”

So, there it is, folks. That's a big, fat, bloody, no. To say he'll "consider" things that come along, rolling across his desk, I assume he means slices of pepperoni pizza. To get a starter pitcher, the Yankees will have to trade talented young players, as they did with Sonny Gray and James Paxton. The Gray trade was a disaster. The Paxton deal is still to be judged. One message has come out of the Death Start, loudly and clearly: Hal is not going to spend his way out of this rotation mess. Don't get comfortable with the Yankee depth. It's about to disappear, and for a lot more than Jonathan Holder and Chance Adams. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

Doublespeak Hal: “We had some good games in there, had a great division series; but, in the end, in October, we failed. That does not mean the season, of course, was a failure.”

When not ignoring top free agents, Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner comes up with new, creatively spiritual definitions of success. 

His latest came this weekend, when he said that the 2019 Yankees did fail, but that does not make them failures. He's gotten good at saying such things. In fact, he could say the same of other Yankee teams, including:

2010
2011
2012

2013
2014
2015

2016
2017
2018


All of the above teams "had some good games" in there, but failed in the end. However, that doesn't mean they were failures. Not to Hal. Yankee fans measure success by winning the world series. Hal invokes a different criteria. I wonder what it could be?  

Today, MLB teams will non-tender a few dozen veterans who make too much money for their own good. Watch the list carefully, because it will form the basis of trades that Brian Cashman will make this winter. The Yankees will not sign either Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg - they were never going to - and Cashman's job will be to trade Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazier, Thairo Estrada and maybe Estevan Florial for pitchers slightly past their sell-by dates, who have become financial millstones to their teams. They will come to NY with high expectations, and the odds are good that they will flop. Cashman will do this because Hal Steinbrenner measures success by something other than world series rings. Gee, I wonder what it is?  

The 2019 Yankees were not a failure. Nope. They enriched their owner. Too bad about that glitch in October. Oh, well, time to save on next year's payroll. Who out there looks distressed? 

PS: Thank you, New York Football Giants, for showing the grace of good, gentlemanly sportsmanship yesterday, and collapsing at home. I never really doubted you. This Daniel Jones looks like a keeper, as do the coaches and general manager. Good luck in the final four weeks.