Call off your dogs, Selig. It's over. You won.

Call off your dogs, Selig. It's over. You won.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thuuuuuuugh blacklist: Missed scoring opportunities and the bull frog fan advance into the semi-finals of the John and Suzyn hell-peeve brackets

Thuuuuuuuuuuugh Final Blacklist continues.

You voted them in. Nothing steams our heroes like a missed Yankee scoring opportunity, or that loud fan who happens to be sitting right under the booth. They now advance into the semi-finals, pitted against that ridiculous sound system of Tropicana Field and obnoxious Sunday Night Getaway games, which are even worse than traffic tie-ups on the Major Deegan.

Still, the road to the top of Thuuugh Blacklist flows through some of other incredibly horrible Yankee night terrors. Vote early. Vote often. Tell your friends. Thuuuuuuuuuh time is running out.

An absolutely meaningless home series against the Redsocks

Holy crap! It's finally here! That calendar date we circled back in March - it's arrived! Today, the defending world champion Boston Redsocks visit New York. The Hudson River is charged with electricity! Can you feel the ozone? You'd think it's May 12th! Hey, you corporate chieftains and office muskrats: Put away your slide-rules! No work gets done today! The Redsocks are here! Get ready to rumble!

My heart... my heart! O, jeeze... Lemme catch my breath. I didn't sleep last night. Who can sleep on the eve of Martin Prado's debut into the World's Greatest Rivalry. We'll finally see Boston's new star, Humanis Centepedis. Plus, Chris Capuano and Jacoby Ellsbury will face their former teammates in this furious, down-to-the-wire, early September climax. Thank God that Hal Steinbrenner didn't build a dome on the new Yankee Stadium, because it would pop like a giant zit, from all the anticipation crammed inside during this incredible mega-series! I gotta go soak my feet. They're bleeding again from the excitement.

(Half hour later.)

Yo, I'm back! Where were we? Hey, forget what else is on TV tonight! Those other networks - the stupid ones who don't show Yankee baseball 23 hours a day (the last hour devoted to "Centerstage with Michael Kay") - they might as well just show reruns of "Suddenly Susan" starring comedienne Brooke Shields. The entire country - the real America - will be fixed on the real clash of the titans: King Kong vs. Godzilla, Earth vs. Mars, time vs space. Sure - we played them a couple times this summer, but that was before we loaded up with Chase Headley and Rich Hill (who, unfortunately, can't be here.) This is it, folks. This is World War Y!

You know, some folks actually claim that sarcasm doesn't translate into print? Check out this headline. Go ahead. Read it with a straight face.

Yep. Crucial, all right. If the Yankees win - say - nine out the next nine, they'll vault past Cleveland and close the gap behind Seattle and Detroit for the precious away-field advantage in the one-game, winner-take-all, season-in-an-afternoon, TBS-broadcast, fake wild card race. And - whoa-ho - you just know that Boston would love to play spoiler! How they'd love love LOVE to put a crimp in our quest for that big one-game, stop-the-presses, moon rock, chicken of the sea, gemstone of history.

Yep, this is it! We've been waiting all year. Strap yourselves in, everybody. Yankees! Redsocks! New York! Boston! Third place! Last place! IT DOESN'T GET BETTER THAN THIS!

Monday, September 1, 2014

What? Jeter's coming, and we're supposed to give him something? Quick, what do we have in the freebies account? An all-expenses-paid trip to Banff, a helicopter tour of the Canadian Rockies, a cooking lesson and a golf tutorial.

That's what the Blue Jays gave Derek yesterday, along with a brtual, soul-crushing, beat-down ending to the 2014 post-season race.

A trip to Alberta, a helicopter ride, cooking lessons and a round of golf.

Which way do they say history moves? Does tragedy descend into farce? Or does farce roll into tragedy? In this case, I'd say the Yankees have achieved equal parts of both. (A perfect .500 team, eh?) The Blue Jays bestowed upon Jeter a coupon book of freebies, like one of those grand prizes on The Newlywed Game, chosen specially for the happy black couple: ("That's right Theotis and Urbi, you're going to Ferguson!") Will Jeter receive a special letter from the Jays, to be presented at the heliport? Maybe it will include a Best Buy Bonus Shopper Card, which features discounts on various goods. Of course, this begs another question, a secret question: Do players of Derek Jeter's stature ever pay for anything, anyway?

Right now, I'm wishing the Blue Jays were still the domineering mother ship for the Syracuse Chiefs, formerly the SkyChiefs, who play at "Your Name Here" Stadium. If so, Jeter might have received a free weekend at the Destiny USA supermall (soon to have the Disney Store - again), or maybe season tickets to the Syracuse University varsity football team, which stunned the country this weekend by beating Villanova in double-overtime. (The "stun" came in the form of the country realizing that Villanova has a football program.) Why does Banff get the free publicity? What about the Tug Hill Plateau?

I'm still recovering from yesterday's loss. It was raining in Central New York, nothing to do but crack beers and potato the couch. Even when we led by three, you knew they'd blow it. After you live with someone for 130 games, you learn the truth about them. And the truth about the 2014 Yankees is that they were always a farewell tour for Derek Jeter, and we thought it could never end soon enough - but now - jeez - it is almost over, and opposing teams are emptying out their attics to send him packing. 

Let the record show the season didn't end in New York, Baltimore or even Toronto. It ended in Banff. What time is the Giants game next Sunday?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

If the Yanks lose today, he'll be bummed

Big Yankee fan.
BTW, the five things are hair, eyes, faith, "humility," charity, acting. 
That's six, but it beats clicking on the site.

Dear Yankees: OK, they're all softened-up and laughing at us. It's almost time to start playing hard.

Cash, Joe, Randy, Jeet...

I know what you guys are thinking: The key to hooking Old Smokey is to not tug on the line too soon. Let him swallow that worm all way to the belly. You guys probably figure we should lose - say - four more in a row, so Vegas, Monte Carlo and that human kewpie dumpling, Showalter, will REALLY be caught off guard, when we suddenly fling off our homeless person mask, pull out Excalabur and start hacking pitchers into Cycle Four kibble. It will be fun to see the looks on their faces when we shout, "SURPRISE!" and start actually trying to win.

Yep, you've done the hard part. For six months, you subjected yourselves, your families and Hal Steinbrenner to intense and relentless ridicule, maintaining a dead-on perfect impersonation of the San Diego Padres. You even traded for one! (And he's stayed in character too!) But now - any day now - I say, "Pull out! Fire the retro rockets! Release the crackin'!" Whatever.

Start actually playing hard.

Trust me here: They're ripe for the plucking. You got 'em where you want 'em. Boy, it's gonna be great. Do you want me to shout it? Are you waiting for me to say the words? OK... here goes.








Saturday, August 30, 2014

One hit wonders

Mungo Jerry.
Vanilla Ice.
Barry McGuire.
The Lemon Pipers.
Brett Gardner.
Derek Jeter.
Mark Teixiera.
Carlos Beltran.
Ichiro Suzuki.
Martin Prado.
Stephen Drew.
Chase Headley.
Brian McCann.

Had Enough?

If you check the archives of this literary publication, you will confirm that I (or my alter ego….Alphonso ) predicted what would happen.

A partial tear doesn't heal with rest.  Unless that rest includes a lifetime withdrawal from pitching.

So the Yankees played," let's pretend."

They went with a fairy tale to protect themselves from the ignominy of having ruined (read; " over worked ") their $185 million investment.  Don't quote me on the numbers…..I am a swimmer, not an accountant.

So now I return.

Yankee fans must be well worn out from the ups and downs of hope and despair.  Pineda is good; then he is bad; then he is good again.    But, all the while, no one hits.

The Yankees need their Japanese import to hold other teams to 1 run in 8 innings.

Not this year.

It was always a pipe dream, and an ill-considered one, that Tanaka would just, " wait it out and heal."

Sure, he can soft toss.  He can simulate bullpen sessions.  But his ligament is partially torn.  Partially torn becomes badly torn when it gets stressed.  Rest just postpones the reality.

So I have come now for Tanaka.

Dr. Andrews will soon confirm the inevitable.  And this outcome was obvious from the outset, save for the blind, wishful thinking of the brilliant Yankee organization.

Now, the surgery will set him back longer.  Likely, he is gone for all of next year.

A silly, childish decision by the Yankees.

Haven't we all had enough of bad decisions and incompetence?

Haven't we had enough of Cashman?

Eli Manning's brilliant and hillarious AMA on Reddit yesterday is quite different from Brian Cashman's attempt eight months ago

If you've never seen a Reddit AMA, (Ask Me Anything) they're sort of fun. Celebrities get asked a lot of suck-up questions, and it's not exactly an exchange of useful information, but anything can happen, and you often get an interesting sense of a personality. (That is, assuming that he/she doesn't simply have a proxy answering the questions - always a possiblity on the web.)

Yesterday, Eli Manning did an AMA, and it shows why his future in broadcasting might even be more successful than his playing career. If you're a Giants fan or you just want a good read, see it here. (Talking to you, Alfonso.)

Now, check out Brian Cashman's tired, brief and souless AMA, done last winter.

Could Ellsbury's ankle be the 2014 equivalent of Gardner's 2013 ribs?

The poet Robert Frost, a man who pondered fences even more than Bobby Abreu, once famously asked whether the world will end in fire... or in ice?

He was, of course, writing metaphorically about the 2014 Yankees.

Will we go out swinging hot bats... or sitting in the clubhouse, pressing ice to a swollen elbow or knee?

In recent years, one regular certainty about the Yankees has been the Injury Specter, who is always lurking outside the door or behind the team bus. It seems that whenever we reach full stride, someone reaches for his strained hamstring. It's the mark of old, veteran teams. It's the mark of players who wear down after 140 games, or of pitchers who assume a new consciousness after 140 innings.

Last Sept. 12, all my remaining hopes for the 2013 Yankees died. That night, our best clutch hitter, Brett Gardner, stepped up to the plate against Baltimore. He took a swing and grimaced, then walked gingerly to the dugout. He strained the muscles around his ribs, and he never batted again in the season. Losing him was our final kick in the side.

Well, last night, we might have lost Jacoby Ellsbury, who did something to his ankle on a play at the plate in the ninth. He limped after the game, and he might need an MRI, and if there's anything Yankee fans fear more than bum ankles, it MRIs, which always seem to show something nasty.

We all know what it would mean to lose Ellsbury right now. It would mean losing our best hitter and replacing him with Zelous Wheeler. It would be like moving from an exalted and pretentious high-brow Robert Frost anecdotal lead to a grotesque finale, based on junk TV culture. That's something you'll never see here.

Nope. The 2014 Yankees are like a starship running on impulse power after a direct hit from a Klingon vessel, thanks to those damn cloaking mechanisms, which would be outlawed, if Bud Selig were Commissioner of the Universe, rather than merely Commissioner of Baseball. (Then again, we would probably have to lose much of our front bridge staff - at least Checkov and Uhura - due to Selig's imposed salary caps, so it's probably a good thing he's not in charge.) We're holding steady, awaiting the damage report from Scotty. Wait a minute. Wasn't Robert Frost Scottish?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Yankees Acquire First Outman In Team History

In a groundbreaking move, the Yankees have acquired lefty specialist Josh Outman from the Indians for a player to be named later or cash. (For Alphonso's sake and for everyone's, I hope we send them Cash.)
The Yankees have never had an Outman on the major league roster before. In fact, Josh Outman is the only player with the moniker to ever appear on any major league roster in history. New York thereby becomes the fourth MLB team to sport an Outman, following Oakland, Colorado and Cleveland into the history books.
In two cases of "close but no cigar", Brooklyn had a player named "Chink" Outen in 1933 and Jimmy Outlaw had a career with the Reds and Tigers during the 1930s and 40s.
"This is the kind of innovative thinking we've come to expect from the front office," said Manager Joe Girardi. "The idea of getting a guy named Outman -- much less a bullpen lefty named Outman -- would never have occurred to me. We've just never had anyone with his particular name in the mix. It's a great move."
Girardi plans to use Outman to face left-handed and only left-handed batters, no matter how well a particular batter hits left-handed pitching or how fantastically good or bad Outman is pitching. "We have plenty of right-handed guys who can pitch to right-handed batters," said Girardi.
To prove a similar point, the manager has been known to sit lefty outfielder Ichiro Suzuki against lefties, even though Suzuki hit .331 against lefties in 2013 and is hitting .367 against southpaws in 2014, better than anyone else on the team.
Welcome, Josh! Glad to have you specializing with us!

A fan-based, "Hail Mary!" juju strategy that could still save the Yankee season

If we sweep Toronto this weekend, I offer one last plan - one final, magical strategy from the juju playbook of hope.

I propose that Yankee fans everywhere buy horse-head masks - or animal pull-over heads - and wear them to Tuesday's home game against Boston. Thus, when the Redsocks take the field, they will gaze out upon bleachers full of Hannibal Lecter psycho killers. It will look like a scene from The Wicker Man.

Imagine the intimidation factor of playing in front of such a clearly disturbed, blood-crazed mob. The fans won't need to cheer. They can sit silently and scrape their fingernails against the seats, growling like Hollywood C.H.U.D. cannibals. Let's see Dustin Pedroia dig in at the plate with a crowd of braying horse nostrils staring at him.

As the Yankees win game after game, more fans will get the message, until the bleachers turn into a sea of nightmares, rousing subconscious terrors within our opponents, and causing their confidence to collapse.

No pitcher can throw strikes, no batter can hit home runs, in a horse-headed arena of horror.

But first, we have to sweep Toronto...

NFL launches major crackdown on wife-beating

NFL players have been placed on full alert: 

From now on, Tank, think twice before going bang-zoom on your wife!

Thanks to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, scores of lucky ladies can now walk their living rooms without having to fear the flash of a sudden left uppercut, or to find themselves looking up to see a jubilant sack dance performed by their enraged, 340-pound steroidal hubby, who is wondering why they didn't do the dishes.

From now on, boys, beat on the little lady, and you'll face a six-game suspension!

Yep, that's not a misprint, folks. Six games!

That's right, guys. The NFL is throwing the penalty flag at wife-beaters. That's almost a third of the season - and nearly half as much as some guys get for smoking pot!

Make no mistake: You send that lady to the E.R. room, and come next Sunday, you'll be watching the game on TV in her hospital room.

A story too wonderful to fact-check: Jesus goes batty in Boise

Good luck in figuring this out. But, hey, any Twitter feed named "Justin Pieper" must be stone-cold accurate - and it means Team Cashman can celebrate by pulling ahead even further in the infamous Pineda-Montero trade.

I have absolutely no interest in fact-checking this story. At times, there are items simply too wonderful to fact-check. You simply go with them, and I am going with this one for several reasons:

1. It's a player fighting a scout. It's not as if Jesus was being heckled by a regular fan. At last, he would be taking out his frustration on one of those damned scouts, who have ruined his life.

2. Theoretically, the scout must have been yelling hurtful things at Jesus. For starters, that's great scouting! Secondly, what would he have been yelling: "Montero, you're still dropping your hands in the strike zone! Montero, lengthen your stride for god-sakes!" This is precious.

3. It's Jesus, ascending into the stands to tell off the scout. "You screwed me with that hitting review. If I'm dipping the shoulder, it's because I want to dip the shoulder. You don't know anything." Ahh, a golden moment.

4. Jesus brings his bat. He's not big enough already to intimidate the scout? Maybe he was going to show the scout exactly how he swings.

5. We don't know what happens next. And frankly, I don't care. My take: Jesus beat the snot out of the scout, then used the bat to clear a path to the batters box, and then homered on the next pitch, sealing his anger forever. This beats Babe Ruth calling his shot. I'm going with it. Justin Pieper would never embellish anything.

No more denials, no more naive excuses for hope; it's time for the Yankiverse to accept its fate

I listened in the car - a full three hours of John and Suzyn's lycanthropic de-evolution from hope into sheer despair. In the beginning, their voices projected the jubilation of a ticker-tape parade along the Canyon of Heroes. In the end, they were broadcasting from the viewing deck of the Hindenburg.

In the first inning, they noted how Tigers' rookie Kyle Lobstein could be tight in his MLB debut, ripe for a veteran lineup to exploit.

In the second, they said the Yanks were hitting hard drives directly at people. (Aka: the over-shift excuse.) Lobstein's fastball reached 90, not fast-enough.

In the third, Suzyn mused that the Yankees were taking more pitches, as Lobstein fell behind in counts.

In the fourth, she suggested they'd hit Lobstein the second time around.

In the fifth, John said the Yankee hitters were ripe and ready. Of Teixeira's .230 average, John said, "He's better than that."

In the sixth, they said nobody in baseball is hitting - the NL batting leader was .317 - and that it's a pitcher-dominated game.

In the seventh, they said the Tigers bullpen was gassed from throwing seven innings on Wednesday.

In the eighth, they said the Yanks had several players who were stepping up lately.

In the ninth, they watched Ichiro Suzuki botch a fly ball to right, reminiscent of Nick Swisher's screw-up two years ago... also against the Tigers.

Afterword, they said the Yanks must now sweep Toronto to "get back into" the wild card race.

Three hours that will haunt me forever.

Folks, I hereby apologize for the naive tone of recent postings...

I should never have let this sorry team raise my hopes. I should have known better. The Yankees were never close to a wild card, they simply were close to being close to the last wild card slot. They said, "If we win five in a row, we could be only one or two behind!" And I bit. Like Teixeira, I should be better than that.

Right now, if you desire hope for the New York Yankees - well - think about next year, or maybe the year after that. Frankly, neither look all that bright. We'll still have Brian McCann flailing at high pitches, through by then he'll also be a mediocre-fielding first-baseman. By 2016, Carlos Beltran will be patrolling the outfield like Bernie Williams - the monument, though, not the player.

We have one MLB-ready prospect at Scranton - Rob Refsnyder - but he'll probably spend another season at Scranton, because Martin Prado will play 2B. If you stick Refsnyder in RF, he doesn't look so hot. Most of our other high-level prospects - Austin Romine, John Ryan Murphy, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams - did nothing this year. Compared to what other teams will bring up from their systems, our organization looks good and dead.

I am now officially subscribing to the "Collapse Theory," which says for the Yankees to field a contender, they must go through a meltdown, causing them to blow up the entire roster and excise the dead tissue. The Redsocks have used this strategy to win three championships in 10 years - and next season, they will be poised to whoosh past us again. Barring a complete collapse, come next August, we once again will be mortgaging our future in pursuit of a wild card mirage.

Yes, the wild card mirage... the Curse of Selig.

When Bud Selig orchestrated that second wild card slot - the one-game playoff - some experts called it a salve for small market teams, something for them to chase in lost seasons. Instead, it has become the worst thing that ever happened to the Yankees.

Right now, we are the only organization willing to trade young players in order to chase the final, away-field wild card slot. Everybody else steps back and says, "Go for it, Hal!"

Not long ago, the Tampa Rays had closed the wild card gap to within a few games, becoming one of the hottest teams in baseball. Nevertheless, they traded David Price for prospects, because they saw the futility in such a ridiculous chase. Likewise, the Indians and Blue Jays studied the realism of their wild card chances - and the meager one-game payoff - and chose to stand pat with their lineups. Only the Yankees believed that trading prospects in pursuit of the wild card was a worthwhile strategy.

Ahh, but we all know why they did it...

They were picturing themselves riding along on that flatbed float, crowds waving, ticker-tape flying, in the Canyon of Heroes.

So here we are, folks, riding the Hindenburg. Feel free to take it all the way down. Me? I'm jumping.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Phil Coke Gets An Out And The Win

Another nice game by Kuroda wasted. 

Shawn Kelley coughs up the winning hit in the bottom of the ninth. 

Joba "Man Mountain" Chamberlain pitched 1.1 for the hold.

McCann almost hit a three-run homer that would have brought on Robertson, but it curved foul. Sterling says, "These people who think they can predict baseball...who would have said that would go three feet foul?"

Sterling also says, "What a tough loss. But if a tough loss dooms you, you don't have a winning team."

Well, that explains it.

Breaking: Suzyn and John Really Hated Olympic Stadium

Suzyn: "That had to be the ugliest place I've ever seen!"

John: "Talk about wasted space--they had so much space there!"

The Yankee farm system has failed Masahiro Tanaka

It looks like none of our minor league teams - beyond the Gulf Coast Diaper League - will make the playoffs. That means to get back in shape, Tanaka must pitch to crash test dummies and computer autobots. 

It's Jeter or nothing

He smacks more grounders than anybody else in baseball, and he's hitting a meager .226 for the month. But Girardi won't drop Derek Jeter in the batting order.

And you know what? He shouldn't. 

If we go down, let's at least go down with dignity.

Folks, I'm all in on this. Jeter or bust. Jeter or bust.

With Kyle Lobstein looming, the Yankee post-season begins today

Here she comes, earlier than usual.

Today, the Evils play the first of 31 Wild Card games, fulcrum points in short series they must win.

Forget that it's August, that the State Fair butter sculpture has not even begun to sag, and that you haven't even yet bought the drugs and alcohol for Labor Day. In Detroit, it's Halloween time. The masks are out, and there is raking to be done. From now on, both the Yankees and the Tigers - two of the game's most veteran, most expensive and maybe most disappointing teams - must win virtually every series... and this is their rubber match. Here she comes. It's her time of the month.

Let the record show that the Empire today faces nobody who dates Kate Upton or is auditioning for a future $250 million contract. Nope. We must duel Kyle Lobstein in his first MLB start.

Yes, dear God, another no-name rookie, the kind that the wily Yankee hitters traditionally cannot fathom. Then there is that cursed name, a set of syllables that pangs the Yankee subconscious.

Think "Lob," as in the great Dave LaRoche - heir to Steve Hamilton's Folly-Floater and ancestor to El Duque's out-of-the-sky meteor. To the Yankees, junk balls from slow-pitch leagues are historically the pitching equivalent of Mysterio's smoke machine, which robbed Spider-Man of his spider sense. And then there is the suffix... stein - which needs no explanation, none, to anyone within the Yankiverse. The Lobster is coming? Help us, Mr. Horse Head... Help us.

But let's give Joe and Cash some credit: The Yankees may be peaking at the absolute right time. Today, five teams have won 7 of their last 10: The Cubs (meaningless), the Phils (meaningless), the Angels (critical), the Royals (whom we beat the other day) and us, a .500 club throughout most of the season. The Even Empire.

So today, they face the Lobster and a lineup that has eaten our candy in previous Octobers. Win or lose, we will remain behind Detroit in the loss column. But from now on, if we butcher any Wild Cards, the post-season becomes next season. Here she comes...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

After two weeks, it's official: The NY sportswriters have declared the Martin Prado deal a success

First, the obvious: Martin Prado is a nice player. He hits 10 HRs a year, bats .270 and plays three positions. The Yanks could do worse. And Prado hit well during the team's recent 5-game winning streak. (Not last night, though: He went 0-4.)

Still, isn't it rather early to start congratulating the Yankee front office for trading power-hitting prospect Peter O'Brien for the 30-year-old Prado, who will be paid $11 million over each of the next two years?

Well, not too early for the brown-nosing NY sports media.

Today, John Harper of the Daily News details the heart-stopping final trade deadline moments, when the fates collaborated to bring the Great Prado to Gotham. The upshot? Wow, the smart Yankees have done it again, gotten something for nothing! Start framing the CF plaque for Brian Cashman! After all, Prado has helped lead the Yankees back to within 7 games of Baltimore, and now three of that final, away-field, one-game Wild Card slot.

O'Brien has been hurt lately, so there's no instant metric for determining the outcome of that deal. Apparently, Arizona wanted a package of prospects, but Cashman didn't cave. (Apparently, they didn't want that package of prospects as much as they wanted to get out from under Prado's contract, but that's another story.)

Even if O'Brien completely tanks as a major leaguer, there is another intangible, conveniently overlooked, in the Prado deal.

Last week, the Yankees passed in the bidding on Rusney Castillo, the 27-year-old Cuban outfielder who became a free agent. One reason: absorbing the last two years of the Prado contract pushed them over the luxury tax budget limit. Boston signed Castillo. The Yankees weren't even in the final bidding. So all we can do is cross our fingers and hope the Redsocks didn't just acquire the next Puig or Cespedes.

No problem, though, not here in New York.  Prado had a good week, so the Yankees win, thuuuuuugh Yankees win... thuhhh deal.

Remember how they marveled last year about acquiring Alfonso Soriano? Oh, well, we had a good week and stretched out the wild card race for a few more days. Isn't that all that matters?

So much for Shawn Kelly's horse head

Listen: There's something about juju that everybody needs to know:

Once you tell the world your secret, you always wonder if you didn't just blow it. In the back of your mind, a voice is always whispering, "Once you tell everybody, it's over."

In my book, "The Juju Rules, or How to Win Ballgames from Your Couch" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) the first rule of Juju is simple: DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB. (See what I mean? We don't even mention the j-word.)

I'm sure Shawn Seabuscuit Kelly is wondering today if he should have mentioned the horse-head mask that he had donned for five straight games - five straight victories - to a Yahoo sports reporter. The story moved nationally and, for a few hours anyway, raised hopes among Yankee fan-fools, of which I am one.

Listen: Juju does exist. It's beauty - it's success - stems from the most powerful performance-enhancing drug known to humanity: The placebo. 

In study after study, over generations of clinical work, scientists have found that people who believe in the snake oil always get a little more boost than those who do not. This won't help the evangelical preacher who attempts to faith heal Ebola in the Congo. But when Martin Prado steps into the box against David Price, it might just sharpen his confidence just enough to pull the trigger on a belt-high fast ball.

Baseball players are not always the sharpest knife in the butcher block. Can you imagine driving across the country with Paul O'Neill talking all the way? Keep in mind, his sister wrote for The New York Times. If ballplayers believe there is a nation of nutcase fans who are pacing in their rooms, holding up amulets and photographs of Thurman Munson, then - at least for some of them - there is always a trace of hope, even in the worst of situations. I believe the New York Yankees have built the largest army of practicing wackos. We have the juju to win the World Series every year - though the Redsocks certainly have built a sizable juju war machine, as evidenced by their beards last year and the zealous belief that Boston was a city fated to win the championship. You could feel that juju coursing through September.

And maybe the Yankees felt it Monday night, after they crushed Kansas City. Frankly, Shawn Kelly should kept quiet about the horse head. Last night, it probably wouldn't have mattered. Maybe we were fated to lose. But once Kelly mentioned it publicly, he had to know that he looked like a fool and that he was jinxing his secret good luck charm.

A juju rule: Never jinx your secret good luck charm.

The Yankees lost. Tonight, Kelly can wear the horse head, but he'll only feel like a fool. The placebo only works when people believe. It's getting harder and harder to believe.

The end shall come not with fire or ice, but via the double play

What a fool I am. What a gullible, sad, home-bound, idiotic fool. Last night, I could have been out clubbing across Syracuse, bounding from rage to rage, twerking away the final days of summer in a vortex of champagne and showgirls. Instead, there I was - staring at the TV, pacing the dungeon, snorting the snake oil, grasping at strands of hope and belief. What a fool.

We'd put runners on base. I would rise. We would leave them. I would sit.

One on in the first, McCann hits a DP grounder. (The man runs like Amos McCoy.)

Two on in the third, Jeter strikes out looking.

Two on in the fourth, Prado and Drew fail to move them.

One on in the sixth, Prado grounds out.

One on in the eighth, McCann another DP.

In the ninth, the Empire spares me from the temptation of hope, which appears in the form of closer Joe Nathan, who has thrown gasoline-dipped blasting caps all season. They go down 1-2-3, like Valium tablets.  

Technically, summer is not over. But spiritually, emotionally, psychologically - damn, we have been dead for a while. In hindsight, I'd put the flat-line moment two weeks ago in Baltimore, when Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones hit those home runs off Dellin Betances and Seabuscuit Kelly, blowing a 2-1 lead in the eighth. We ended up losing five in a row to Cleveland, Baltimore and Tampa. At that point, I was ready to trash the season and turn this site into a self-righteous blog about the need to stamp out twerking during the Video Music Awards, something like that, which would allow me to post photos of scantily-clad women, while pretending to be outraged.

But then we won five in a row, and last night, there I was - needing to believe again.

What a fool.

We can still win this series, I suppose. All we need is for Shane Greene to out-pitch David Price, for Brian McCann to take the concrete out of his shoes, and Derek Jeter to regenerate - 15 years younger. Stranger things have happened, I guess. But only fools are willing to believe it.