Saturday, May 31, 2014
In times of doom and gloom, nature sends a signal.
The family of rare, black swans gathers and asks for a player. Demands a player.
It always means an injury, usually serious.
For sure, for a brief period, the symptoms may be masked. Doctors will talk of, " inflammation " or " no apparent structural damage." Another course of rest is prescribed for the ailing limb.
The DL time clock ticks on.
Encouraging tidbits filter back; " he took five swings with no discomfort. We'll see if the stiffness returns in the morning. If not, we'll move him straight to the T-ball function."
But the swans are here.
Don't we know as well?
|Those who forget the past...|
Exiting the month of May - which traditionally was cruel to Yankee powerhouses of the early 2000s - here is what I know:
1. The AL East is a putrid cesspool of antique collections of mediocrity - plus a young one, Tampa Bay. Unless the Blue Jays are for real - ha to that! - and bolt from this lumbering, toothless pack, the 2014 Division champion could win less than 90 games.
The weakness of our rivals stands as our greatest strength.
2. Despite the checkbook additions of Beltran, McCann, Ellsbury and Tanaka, the Yankees are behind last year's pace. This is troubling, to say the least.
Last year, on May 31, the team stood at 31-23, eight games above .500 and one behind Boston, in second. Today, we are 28-25, and displaying an exceptional ability to follow a rousing victory with a clunker. (This is what happens when the rotation is in tatters.)
Last year's May 31 lineup: Gardner, Youkilis, Cano, Teixeira, Wells, Nix, Adams, Ichiro, Stewart. The pitcher was CC Sabathia. Back then, we didn't know that Youk and Tex were doomed, that Wells would turn into Andruw Jones, and that the bottom of the order would haunt us the way Dick Cheney does the GOP. By June, our woes would culminate in the line-up at right, a photo sent to me by a fan, who brilliantly recognized a sign of the Yankee Apocalypse. The snake-bitten Yankees of the late 1980s had nothing on last year's team.
So last night, losing to Eduardo Nunez and the terrible Twinkies, here was our order: Gardner, Jeter, Ellsbury, Tex, McCann, Roberts, Suzuki, Solarte, Murphy. Does anybody else feel seasick? We've already suffered two waves of injuries, but when you're as ancient the Yankees are, a next wave is always imminent. The first six names on that batting order are famous for breakability. The last three are rolls of the dice. Last year, Wells and Hafner sparkled in April and May. By July, they were a horror show. And let's not discuss the rotation. Glag. Don't get me started.
3. Last year, we received crapola from our farm system. Preston Claiborne pretty much covered it. The rest were used parts: Adams, Nuno, Almonte, Romine, Murphy (for his cup of coffee.) This year, we are seeing actual live human beings - Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Chase Whitley and John Ryan Murphy could be long-term Yankees, if they're not peddled for another Alfonso Soriano.
One glaring trouble, though: Throughout the minors, our "top" prospects - Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin - have pretty much floundered. (Sanchez has been serviceable at Trenton, but the others are nearing a career free-fall.) We've had a few breakouts, such as Pete O'Brien, the DH-C who leads all of baseball in HRs (but doesn't walk enough to help us this year,) But yesterday, minors guru Keith Law listed his Top 25 prospects in baseball - with an Honorable Mention tier - and the Yankees placed nobody - nada, not one name - on it. He didn't even feel compelled to throw us a bone.
Yankee fans have a tendency to focus microscopically on our prospects - growing overly elated or depressed about their developments. (When Law ignores our players, some scream anti-Yankee bias.) But we too seldom compare our kids with those of other teams. Last year, it was an easy comparison: Our system was a joke. This year, it has improved. But we still lag behind other organizations, including - gulp - Boston. We don't have - say - a guy like Mookie Betts, a Redsock 2B who has torn apart the Eastern League (and is now being moved to CF.) If we did, we'd be shouting his name from the Empire State Building. We are developing young players. But are we keeping up with the Joneses? Not sure, yet.
Of course, if you read the self-congratulatory words of the Yankees brass, you'll hear that all the problems have been fixed and - implicitly - that all their jobs should be secure. Wasn't the head of the Veterans Administration saying similar things not long ago?
Last year, at this time, we had high hopes for the team.
Today - for all the pluses of Tanaka and the kids - I'm not sure the Yankiverse sleeps well.
But hey, last night, the YES team focused on the bright side: Toronto was losing, so they wouldn't gain ground! Yep. They really said that. Ahhh, the month of May. Sad to see it go.
Friday, May 30, 2014
Rick Reilly drinks quart of maple syrup, then writes column on Jeter: "He was a kind of prince in baseball cleats, George Clooney in pinstripes, the guy every woman wanted to bring home to mom, and very few did. He was humble and handsome and yet hard to hate."
How he was loved! In a league full of bloated steroid cheats, he kept the same body, the same weight, the same helmet size. In a game full of bat-flipping prima donnas, he ran out every ground ball, hard. In a world of my-agent-doesn't-want-me-to-play multimillionaires, he played hurt more than we know. "Most of the time, he wasn't 100 percent," Posada said. "He'd come out of spring training and tell me, 'I'm already hurting,' but he wouldn't tell anybody else. He just kept going."
Never mind that he's right. Pour me a drink.
Reilly goes so overboard that he's already spawned knock-offs and rebuttals.
This is what happens on off-days. The Yankees should never have off-days.
Disney story line thought for the day:
We trade somebody old to Seattle. I dunno, Alfonso Soriano, maybe. We bring Jesus home.
This resurrects Jesus, of course. He rekindles his former prospect status, the way Soriano briefly did last August. He turns into the right-handed DH, 1B and "during-emergency-break-glass" catcher that we once envisioned, long before we ever heard the name Jose Campos.
Of course, it's just a fantasy. Like thinking Tex can go the year without wrist issues, eh?
Chew on that one for a moment. Ada Robinson lived 92 years, raised a family, did many things, and in the 300 words that are supposed to define her life, it needed to be noted that she rooted for a certain baseball team some 500 miles away. I never met her, but I know her. She was just like my own grandmother, who died in a nursing home, still grumbling over why the team could have traded Moose Skowron.
On any day, open an obit page across America, and you'll find people - good, family-loving people - eulogized as fans of the Yankees - a team that, for reasons only God and Yogi Berra understand, long ago captured their hearts.
It's tempting to shake our heads. It's tempting to be sad and cynical that someone would be remembered merely for being a fan. Seriously. How low a bar should we place on our memories? Yet I don't feel that way. In fact, as they toss dirt onto my coffin, or flick my ashes Big Lebowski-style into the cold breeze, I hope someone is checking the box scores, wondering if my ghost has induced a bad hop single on behalf of the Yankees. My obit will probably have the Yankees in the headline. What a loser, someone will think. Oh well... we make our beds, including our final one.
Which brings me to the current Yankees. Listen: I cannot imagine what it's like to play major league baseball in an era of 24/7 sports networks, when every injury demands an MRI, and every statement is parsed in the press like a Supreme Court ruling. But in this time of the season, when we are supposed to remember people long gone, I hope the players and the brain trust now and then Google "yankee fan" and "death," to take note of their sacred responsibility to all those people out there who follow every game, every precious moment, as they enter their own final innings.
I think the Yankees sometimes forget those people. The organization lapses into a state of a greed and arrogance, which views fans for cash flow instead of passion. There are economic forces that would dismiss the Ada Robinsons as insignificant, as holding no value to advertisers. There are elements within the corporation of baseball that only care about the bottom line.
When the Yankees - or Major League Baseball - prices out fans via the rising cost of seats, or squeezes their supporters by putting huge prices on radio and TV broadcasts, they are not thinking about people like Ada Robinson. One day, that base will be gone, and I'm not sure it will be replaced. The Yankees need to start figuring out how to be more accessible to fans - not how to squeeze more money out of them.
Here's to the world's greatest Yankee fan.
Rest in Peace, Ms. Robinson. If you can, maybe work us a bad hop single when Tanaka pitches. Say hello to my grandmother. See you on the other side, where the games are free.
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Defying Hollywood's established system of intolerance, Darrell Hammond tells the world, "I'm a Yankee fan."
"You know, I'm a Yankee fan and when I watch the game I still fantasize about it. I really do. I actually filmed a pilot for TBS three years ago in New Orleans. I got to take batting practice at a minor league park and I almost hit one out."
|It must be a distraction to Yankee pitchers,|
actually seeing fans in the expensive seats behind home.
Yes, in other cities, people actually come to games and sit behind home plate. Crazy, huh? How do they do that? Are they holograms? How is that done?
Back home, our "new" Yankee Stadium has now been around for five years - long enough for two Kim Kardashian weddings - but there are always huge, blue algae blooms of empty seats in the high-priced sections, behind home plate. It's normalcy, the Yankee way.
The blue empties are a symbol of the financial powers that control New York City. The choice seats in Yankee Stadium cost way too much for regular fans, so they purchased by corporations and/or billionaires. The owners not only don't attend many games, but they aren't even bothered enough to give them away. So the seats are empty. The Yankees don't even let fans come down and use them in the final innings. This is the modern Yankee reality, and someday, you'd think it will rise up and bite this franchise hard in the butt.
Meh. Not this year.
Thus far in 2014, overall MLB attendance is down slightly - by 149 fans per game from last season. But the Yankees home attendance is up - by 2,939 fans per game.
Why would this be? Maybe it's the Jeter Effect - fans longing to glimpse The Captain's farewell tour. It might be a splash from Masahiro Tanaka or Jacoby Ellsbury, or the fact that we played Boston way too many times in April. My guess: We're counting sales, not butts.
The center field camera at Yankee Stadium almost always shows empty seats behind the plate. But empty does not mean unsold. The money flows where fans cannot go. Against Seattle - on a cold night, there were so few bodies in Yankee Stadium that the booing of Robbie Cano seemed to echo across a cavernous empty structure. In the final innings of a few home games this year, the stadium has looked like an April game in Syracuse. And believe me, there are empty seats on cold April nights in Syracuse.
The Steinbrenner brain trust may not think it has a problem. Hey, as long as the money flows, as long as the numbers show attendance up, ka-ching. All is fine. But like algae blooms on a lake, those swatches of blue represent something seriously bad going on beneath the surface. One of these days, the Yankees will wake up to a crisis. Do you think the brass noticed the fans in Chicago and St. Louis? Do you think they said, "Wow, who are those people? They actually sit behind home plate?" Ah, who cares? Just count the money. In two years, there will be another Kardashian wedding anyway.
McCann at first until Tex is back...and if he doesn't come back, McCann should stay there. Either that or Murphy learns to play first, fast.
Last night, what ESPN called a 'makeshift' lineup was actually pretty much the perfect lineup from the roster we have. Still need to find playing time for Solarte, I don't think he's done, just cooled. Jeter would make a fine DH once we're in AL parks again.
The Master had a brilliant comment last night, saying the Yankees needed CC and Beltran and Soriano and Tex back -- when, of course, we really only need Tex back -- and capping his pronouncement with, "You can't field a team without players. You need players."
I never knew that.
There is also some chatter about how the Yankees are a team built to win by hitting home runs, which used to be true and now is certainly untrue. Somehow the chatterers think that stealing a base, getting timely hits and sacrifice flies, and actually being able to run, period, is a kind of scrappy, unseemly form of play that's both medieval and beneath the grand Yankees brand.
Well, fork them and the McCarver they rode in on.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Imagine: A Madison Avenue suit who would have rooted against Yogi Berra.
“For Don specifically, the Mets are great. They’re brand new. They represent nothing but possibility. They had this crazy year (1969) where they upset the whole apple cart. It’s a perfect team for Don Draper to root for. Don would never be a Yankee fan. That’s a frontrunner. He’s an underdog guy if he’s anything.”
A navy pinstripe yoga mat
A year's supply of Genny Cream
A keg signed by the vending team
A "2" carved out of northern granite
A solar-cell vibrating hammock
A zircon-slathered Yankee topper
A 2,000-gallon popcorn popper
Another ugly pair of boots
A vid lip-synching with the Roots
"2s" in crystal, onyx, steel,
Beer cans, tree trunks and fresh veal
A wondrous Joe-Girardi-shaped 'tater
A Japanese robot fellater
It's not a hoarder's dream or last mirage --
Just what's stuffed in Jeet's garage.
I always enjoy Steve Politi’s columns, but I totally disagree with his remarks in the April 30 Star-Ledger (“From Yankees and their fans, Cano deserved better”). Politi says he was disappointed that former Yankees star Robinson Cano received such a rough reception when his new team, the Seattle Mariners, came to Yankee Stadium. Had I been at the game, I would have booed Cano, too.
The Yankees offered him a king’s ransom to remain with the team, but had the good sense not to extend his contract for another 10 years because he is 31 years old. Baseball players are on the downside of their careers when they reach 35, so the Yankees would have been paying millions to a player who would probably be nonproductive or on the injured list for about half of that contract.
I can’t feel sorry for the Mariners if they are still foundering near the bottom of the American League in 10 years, as they are now.
The recent developments come as no surprise to any Yankee fan.
Injuries to Sabathia, Beltran, and now Texiera. Every medical person I know, who is a baseball fan, expressed deep concern Last Year about Tex's ( or anyone's ) ability to come back and be a productive major league, regular player. That wrist sheath thing is tricky for a senior bank executive to come back from , so he can use the cell phone properly.
And the thing of it is; the Yankees ( Cashman ) has all its cards on those players. We have seen the depth provided. The " clown college" play of Kelly Johnson at first base, for exam,ple is an embarrassment. And it isn't Kelly's fault. He is a competent third baseman whom the Yankees converted to first base with virtually no experience there.
If you ever played this game, it is easy to know how skillful a player must be to handle that spot. You don't just take any decent athlete and stick him there. It is like sticking Derek Jeter on ice skates and putting him on the Rangers' third line. Personally, I avoided catching, first base, and pitching like the plague. Much too demanding of a special type of skill, in my view. And I dreaded looking like an amateur, even playing in front of six bored high school girls and my teammates.
Last night, we saw Phellps on an " off day." his one good pitch didn't work, and he got jobbed by the umpire. The failure to call a third strike on a perfect pitch….I mean perfect….opened the floodgates as Roberts then misplayed the subsequent ground ball.
Roberts is old and can't bend over any more. Balls hit to short are suddenly called, " base hit up the middle" by the broadcasters. When Derek was young, you knew when the ball left the bat he would get to it, and it was an automatic out. Now, it is a seeing eye single four feet to his left.
Too much dialogue here. But last night, the Yankees were pathetic. Gardner keeps looking at three straight strikes which, to me, were all pitches you have to swing at. Solarte is beginning to flail and ruin rallies, rather than cap them off with RBI's. The team had no shot last night and we ( fans ) knew early, the game was over.
Now there are calls for the storage container from Scranton to come and play first, and he isn't young. Or the guy from A ball , who is. Duque wants a smart deal made. Cashman is incapable. He'll sign another 36 year old for 7 years. Worse, because of his contract, he'll trade young prospects, and keep playing the old guy until he rolls over on us.
Somewhere, some time, accountability must be taken.
Cashman has failed and he must go!
Sunday . No later.
Yankiverse I: Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira return, hit 50 HRs and drive in 150 runs. The team challenges for first in the putrid AL East.
Yankiverse II: Either Beltan or Tex returns; the other craps out. The Empire finishes slightly above.500, enough to contend for the one-game wild card in Bud Selig's expanded, NBA-style, mediocrity-on-parade, 24-hour post-season.
Yankiverse III (Aka: Hell): Beltran and Tex are done, kaput, so long, suckahs. A revolving door of scrap heapers - from Kelly Johnson to Scott Sizemore - returns us to the days of Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells lore, and the 2014 Yankees become the worst team ever built, conceived or known by Brian Cashman.
By Sunday, we need to know which universe to expect.
By Sunday - (Hail Hydra!) - Beltran or Tex must come clean about his injury. If either goes into denial, and claims he can play - but can't - 2014 will be a washout. By Sunday, we must know.
Because Sunday is Kendry Morales Day in America.
Yeah, OK, I know what you're thinking: Another old fart? Jeeze, Duque, you can't be serious. Yes, we're all sick of the Yankees signing the Apple Dumpling Gang. And if Morales is seeking a Robbie Cano, long-term mega-deal, let's shake his insect-like feeler and wish the Kendryman luck. But starting Sunday, Morales can sign without costing us another draft pick. He is a switch-hitting 1B, the one guy who could lesson the blow of losing Beltran or Teixeira.
He can't compensate for the loss of both. In that case, the Yankiverse might as well move to Kansas City and write poetry about Dan Quisinberry. Our final option after Sizemore - who whiffs at a Grandyman-esque rate - might be Kyle "the Slow" Roller, a 240-pound storage unit at Scranton, who is having a great year. Last night, he hit his 12th HR. Who knows? Maybe Roller could lift the team in a Kevin Maas kind of way. But the Yankees never promote nobodies, and the truth is, every franchise in baseball has a variation of Kyle Roller, a too-old guy having a great year in a city known for anthracite, not baseball. We love those guys. They are part of baseball's legacy. But not many of them lead teams to pennants.
We have until Sunday to figure everything out. Until then... Hail Hydra.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Although really, nobody can feel good about this. Must be a warm, loving family, though.
Consider yesterday in St. Louis. The Cardinals - pretending to have a long and meaningful history with Jeter - presented him with cuff-links, yes, cuff-links, inscribed with the image of Stan Musial, their patron saint. Fine. Ka-Ching. The cuff-links, of course, are the farewell gift version of a fruitcake, or steak knives. I suspect the Cards execs have a crate of them roughly the size of a phone booth, which they bestow upon every sponsor and prospective buyer of a luxury box. But what is the point in honoring Jeter? There was no modern Yankee rivalry, or hardly any interaction, between the Yanks and Cards during Jeter's entire career. They are just giving an obligatory gift, which everybody knows is crap, and they probably figured Jeet already has an iPad. When Springsteen comes to town, do the city fathers give him a Chuck Berry tie-clasp?
And there was another Big Check - $10,000, to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation. Ka-Ching. Thankyouverymuch. Who can find fault a donation to charity? Certainly not me. But isn't there something shady about a sports team giving money to a charity run by one of the wealthiest men in America, whose main function is to shield tax money and provide photo ops? Every star athlete in America - after signing the $100 million deal - sets up his or her foundation. To help the kids. I'm not suggesting these shell games are insincere or phony, but do any of you ever send them money? Hell no. But these baseball teams pretend Jeter's charity is the Salvation Army, and that he is Mother Theresa. He's not. He's a ballplayer.
These going-away tours are a tradition we will eventually despise. In a few years, will we be expected to lavish gifts upon Big Papi and Albert Pujols? Of course. Their teams honored did Jeter, so we will return the favor. When Chase Headley retires, what should we get him? A Rolex watch purchased on Times Square? These farewells are baseball's version of Jeter's legendary gift baskets for one-night stands.
What Jeter deserves in each city is a standing O when he comes to bat, and maybe a chant of his name in the final inning. The speeches, the ceremonies, the gifts? Spare us - and spare Jeter's garage, where they will all end up. Nobody is going to ever sit on a bench made of baseball bats, or wear those ridiculous cowboy boots. I'd rather watch a very special episode of Little House, with loved ones, of course.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Why was it we didn't meet Seattle's offer for Cano again? We didn't want to go 10 years because it would have likely (but not definitely) meant carrying him around for the last two or three, while reaping the greatness for the first seven or eight? But McCann for five, that was a sound decision, as was Beltran for three, as was Ellsbury for seven (at least he'll be worth it, if he doesn't crumple to injuries....something Cano has shown absolutely no danger of).
So all of those were worth doing but Robbie for 10 wasn't? And having a lame infield that needs help and will probably lead to another lousy trade involving our promising younger guys and a long-term deal for someone not worth Robbie's sweaty jogging shorts...this is OK?
I'm with Alphonso. This ownership and front office and farm system management all need to be fired.
My 90-year-old mother could run this team better, and probably would, if asked. She has a fair amount of free time these days.
The incompetence of the Steinbrenner clan continues unabated and unchecked. What will it take? Would Murdoch do any better? Certainly couldn't be more annoyingly right-wing than the Kate Smith crap every damn game...
And sorry once again for not being witty. I'll try harder when I'm less disgusted.
Saturday, May 24, 2014
"With Friday’s 1-0 walkoff loss to Tampa Bay, the Red Sox have scored 16 runs during this eight-game losing streak. The Rays have been worse than the Red Sox, but at least they’ve got an excuse — three starting pitchers out of action, along with heart-and-soul player Ben Zobrist. The 20-27 Red Sox have been dreadful, pathetic . . . any derogatory adjective you want. They deserve it."
Ah, the joys of spring. Be still my beating heart.
The reality is this;
1. A .500 team doesn't make the playoffs or belong in them.
2. If we make a deal, giving up the young talent we think we have, the best we do is get into, and then lose, the one game play-in ( Or whatever stupid, money making device the league has in place for crap teams).
3. You are right that the other teams aren't stupid. The only stupid people are the Yankee's
Cashman ( who repeatedly makes the same, ineffective moves and believes they will this time work ), and Jim Dolan.
4. If we give up Bettances, Murphy and, let's say, Solarte ( the other teams aren't stupid…..they know our minor league guys suck, so they want proven ability ), I am absolutely, and forever, done with the Yankees.
5. If they aren't aware enough to know that it is insane to pursue the same failed strategies hoping for a different outcome, then who would want to be associated with them, anyway?
6. The Yankees used to build champions by making incredible deals to our benefit. Remember when Kansas City used to be a virtual farm system for future Yankee greats? Now the Yankees are at the other end of the stick. They aren't the Yankees I knew and loved, so giving them up won't be that difficult.
Cashman has to be fired, or perhaps sent to Yemen as US ambassador, if he gives up youth for wrecked and wretched old arms. Throw away the Steindolts' money all you want. I don't care about that waste. They deserve to be pillaged of all they were handed.
But, by accident, we finally have a few players under the age of eighty who are performing, hustling, and not breaking down. Don't dare deal them away for another Ed Whitson.
As we ponder the trade market's lush garden of pitching, let us also think about the pound of flesh we will surrender
1. The 2014 team, as currently structured, couldn't bring home herpes from a trip to Buffalo.
2. To fulfill the team's prime objective - having anyone watching YES in August - Brian Cashman must trade for a starting pitcher.
It's pointless to speculate the identify of that lucky fellow. But we all know his resume: He will be 31 to 34, have bounced from team to team, is having a good year, and his current employer hears "tick-tick-tick" every time he steps to the mound. The GM desperately hopes to dump him before the music stops. When the Yankees call, ready to bleed money and prospects, his prayers have been answered.
Two years ago, we traded for Ichiro. Last year, we grabbed Sori. Alas, they were mere outfielders, in the clear throes of decline. A pitcher experiencing that momentary upswing doesn't come cheap.
So let's not think about who we'll get. Who will we surrender? And let's understand one point that the Yankee-covering Gammonites might overlook: Other teams are not stupid. Whenever we get some thirty-something buzzard who peaked in 2006, it's quickly hailed as a slam dunk steal. Later, we start to wonder. If this is a pitcher, we won't get away with sending Abe Almonte. They will demand blood. What do we have to give?
1. One of our many catchers. We have a division full of catchers, and somebody must go. I believe that I speak for the Yankiverse in saying that Frankie Cervelli and Austin Romine deserve better new digs. Neither seems to have a future with the Yankees. Both have been passed by John Ryan Murphy. The only problem: Other teams are not stupid. They will want Murphy or Gary Sanchez, who is still our best prospect. I think Murphy is most likely to go. We'd still have a backup to McCann - whom we can't trade - plus a long-term plan with Sanchez. This will really hurt. But it almost has to be Murphy.
2. One of our few, homegrown bullpen lugnuts. I'm talking about Dellin Betances and Adam Warren. In both cases, they are pitchers who might have much more to offer. Once freed from the shackles of New York - and with new pitching coaches - either might become a starter. Cashman might refuse to trade either man, because are critical to the 2014 bullpen. The problem: Other teams are not stupid. I cannot see a front-line starter coming, unless we give up a major leaguer with a future upside. We don't have enough hot pitchers in our system. My guess: They would want Betances.
3. A rarity: A Yankee prospect who is having a good year. Pete O'Brien comes to mind. He's become the most exciting prospect in our system, nearly leading the minors in HRs. He strikes out too much, and he doesn't have a position. Still, it's been three years since a Yankee prospect actually created a buzz. (Jesus Montero was the last.) It could be O'Brien, or the injury-prone Slade Heathcott (if he hits over the next month), or Ramon Flores, an interestingly un-hyped OF at Scranton. He turned 22 in March. Lately, he's been on a tear, lifting his average to .256. The numbers don't grab you. But if he keeps hitting, somebody's going to want him. And we all know the Yankees view the outfield as an old folks home.
Don't mean to be the Grinch here. Yesterday, the Redsock Nation was buzzing about a trade for Gioncarlo Stanton. Fine. Trouble is, other teams are not stupid. The trade deadline isn't Christmas, folks. It's gets messy.
"So I'm gonna say what everyone's thinking,
"If we're stuck on this ship and it's sinking,
"Then we might as well have a parade..."
I cannot tell a lie. I missed last night's Yankee debacle, choosing instead to drive the Thomas Dewey Wormhole to a meadow outside Cooperstown to see one of my all-time rock heroes, Frank Turner, play in front of a huge crowd behind the Ommegang Brewery.
If you have never heard of Frank Turner, that's OK. He is a Brit, still catching on in the colonies, doing it one fan at a time. In a previous incarnation, he fronted an angry, wild, bombastic, hard-edged punk band called Million Dead. Then he jumped ship. He switched acoustic folk music with angry, wild, bombastic, hard-edged lyrics - sort of folk-punk, a mix of Neil Young and Henry Rollins. He played at the 2012 London Olympics, but Bob Costas didn't get the memo. Last year, he did Wembley, and it was a sell-out. For my money - and I am choosing my words carefully here - Frank Turner is Second Coming of Bruce. In my life, I have never said that about anybody. (Disclaimer: I did like Tommy Tutone for a while, but I never compared him to Bruce.)
Don't know Frank Turner? Go here. Go here. Go here. And if you ever get a chance to see this guy, don't miss out. He will save your soul. Last night, he saved me from the Yankees.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Anyone betting the " over " or the " under" on Yankee games knows that scoring two runs is often the best this team can muster. Mostly this season, therefore, those of us who consider ourselves, " players," are getting our asses kicked betting that the Yanks will score more than 2.
Might as well just throw the money away if we face a decent pitcher.
Sure, once in a while, we get lucky and put up a bunch. But not often.
We are lingering a game or so over .500, which will win exactly nothing, come September/October.
Our big bats are failing. Former clutch hitters are groundouts now, or pop ups. Except for Soriano, who K's.
We don't have the pitching to win 2-1 or ( God forbid ) 2-0.
See you at 2 o'clock.
1. George Herman
2. Lawrence Peter
3. Mickey Charles
4. Derek Sanderson
5. Bucky F---g.
OK, delete number five. Still, you with me? Hardly any Yankees - even the greats - get immortalized by middle names. Don Mattlingly? Haven't a clue. Mariano Rivera? He still needs to shoot a president.
So... how did John Ryan Murphy do it? Why isn't he just John Murphy? Yes, it's sort of a common name, but it's no Jose Cruz. According to Baseball Reference, there are three John Murphys in MLB history, including John "Soldier Boy" Murphy, the scrappy 5'7" inch infielder who played for the Tigers and Cardinals in 1902-03. His middle name was Patrick.
So what happened with John Ryan Murphy? He came up last season as J.R. Murphy - a cool name, which stands for "Junior" in some circles, and the TV show "Dallas" in others. Last fall, it was J.R. Murphy who walked out to the mound for Mariano Rivera's final moment as a Yankee. Last year, it was J.R. Murphy who came up from Scranton to represent the lone Yankee prospect ready to climb up from the diseased primordial pool of our farm system. But this year, he is John Ryan Murphy.
Did he shoot somebody? Did I miss something? What happened?
My guess: His mom called. Or an aunt. She called Hal Steinbrenner, or Rupert Murdoch, or Cashman, or even The Master, and reamed them out. Maybe she was drunk. She screamed at them. She cried. They cowered. They apologized. They pushed out a memo. And now we have a middle name - a Yankee rarity - which I hope the team takes into consideration during trade talks next month. Because if I were another team, and I were dangling a thirty-something rag-armed starter, a guy whose middle name we will never bother to consider, then John Ryan Murphy would be the young Yankee I wanted in exchange.
I hope it never happens. Lets hope Theo Epstein decides it's not worth it to get John Ryan Murphy, because he doesn't want to deal with the phone calls.
To go 42 games without one loss requires a solid fastball, a great spliter - and teammates who occasionally rescue you from a bum night. The Cubs - worst team in the majors, if you're looking at records - beat the Yankees 6-1.
The Yankees failed Tanaka.
The record shows he gave up four runs in six innings, his worst outing in America. Four runs. That's not an insurmountable lead. And six runs is hardly Mount Everest. But it didn't matter. The Yankees scored one run. Unless Tanaka threw a shutout, that streak was doomed.
The Yankees failed Tanaka.
We are watching fissures break out on every phase of this team. Where we once saw strength - the rotation, the outfield, the bullpen, even catcher - we now massive holes. The AL East looks like a race among rusted, crippled barges, with Boston and New York listing horribly. Imagine a division so weak that even Toronto could win it.
But coming into the city of Mayor Daley and Barack Obama - a town that since 1968 has served as a Republican code word for crime, lawlessness and race - the Yankees maintained one golden point of pride. We had a pitcher who hadn't lost in 42 straight outings.
And we didn't support him through a tough night.
The Yankees failed Tanaka.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Two cases in point. CC is out until July, and speculation is that his knee issue will be a season-ender. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, preferably deep-fried. Whether this is why he's basically sucked last year and this (especially compared to his compensation, which isn't really fair, but come on...) , only Dr. Caligari knows. One thing was for sure, we needed him out of the rotation. His replacements may not be the second coming of Cy Young, or even Fritz Peterson, but there are some young arms worthy enough to be tested. And they're a hell of a lot more interesting to follow than the downslide of the big man.
Case #2: Beltran. A stupid, stupid, stupid signing, overall and especially for three freakin' years. The front office, as we know, is on acid, or maybe MDMA, since they seem to just love the broken-down old guys who everyone else can see are not worth shelling out for or displacing more deserving types. (The outrage earlier this year about Ichiro clogging up the road for Zolio were woefully misplaced; it was Beltran all along.) Mercifully, the gods have decided that Carlos' elbow is old and decrepit, and if we're lucky he will require season-ending surgery. We can worry about what to do with him next year after Ichiro is gone. At least for now, we have one lugnut out of the daily lineup.
Sadly, even St. Carl's holy buttocks cannot seem to rid us of Mr. McCann. I feel for the guy, but what an offensive disaster. Yes, the pitchers all talk glowingly about the man-crush they have on him for his game-calling expertise, but that is so meaningless it's comical. The guys who weren't very good pitchers last year aren't very good this year (whether they were already here or flew in from somewhere else over the winter), and Kuroda's Fountain of Youth act may unfortunately be winding down, which not even Yogi could help. Citing a catcher's game-calling as some wonderful gift from above is, to me, a lot like saying Joe Torre was a great manager. When, in fact, he got mediocre results from mediocre teams, good results from good teams, and great results from teams composed of guys who could do no wrong, regardless of his decisions (which were often blatantly terrible). "But he managed all those high-paid egos and kept the team running smoothly" his whining supporters carp. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's really amazing. Nobody else ever did that before. (cough) Besides, the late-70s Bombers were chaos incarnate and they won anyway. An incredibly overrated baseball skill.
Cervelli, if he could stay healthy, would have been the better choice at catcher, but since he's totally snakebit ala Shane Spencer (God: "Oh, you're finally getting your chance and doing well? Well, suck on this."), Murphy is the man. This is now so patently obvious, all we can do is wait for whatever surreal idiocy and meaningless bullshit comes out of Girardi's mouth when Francisco comes off the DL and Murphy inevitably gets sent down. Remember, Joe the defensive catcher stuck by defensive catcher Chris Stewart when it was clear the poor man was in over his head against major-league pitching. Expect the same ad infinitum with McCann. (There seems to be a glut of good defensive catchers. This is because catchers who can hit are way more valuable, as long as their defense is decent. Most of Posada's career comes to mind.)
So, ladies and germs, it's time to light a candle at the shrine of St. Pavano, and hope like hell we catch at least one more break (unintentional pun, honest) in the injury department. Oh, almighty Carl, let our newly-signed powerhouse catcher enjoy his millions from a lounge chair on a Hawaiian beach for the remainder of the season. Like Beltran, we can figure out what to do about next year when next year rolls around.
Thank God Tex is hitting homers again, even if at the expense of his defensive prowess. (Did he make a deal down at the crossroads last winter, like, you have the power or you keep the defense, but not both? Is it kind of like an Italian/Portuguese/Guyanese Sophie's Choice? Not something you'd expect from a devout Catholic, but stranger things have happened.)
As for Jeter, even I cannot speak the completely blasphemous. All we can do is pray for fewer innings in the field and greater ability at the plate. Amen.
Earlier, they offered their fratboy fan base a ray of hope: They resigned Steven Drew, a 31-year-old infielder whom they hoped to get rid of last December.
Bringing back Drew - who hit .253 last year, and whose career peaked in 2010 - was not the Boston Master Plan. Nope. The Redsocks planned for Xander Bogaerts to play SS and Will Middlebrooks, "the next Brooks," to take over 3B. Middlebrooks was hitting below .200, and now he's hurt. So much for schemes.
For Redsock fans, last year was a Disney movie. They were The Team of Destiny. Mike Napoli and Johnny Gomes became Ruth and Gehrig, John Lackey and John Lester turned into Koufax and Drysdale, and Big Papi became Santa Claus. He gave the world an otherworldly performance. In fact, if MLB hadn't banished A-Rod, thus solving all its drug problems, some evil people might even be questioning David Ortiz's amazing resurgence and sculpted physique. Carrots can only do so much. But obviously, nobody would ever think such a thing about America's team. The whole country was cheering. Only evildoers - like you - grimaced in pain.
Well, here we are: Roughly one-third of the season, and Boston is losing nearly two out of every three games at home. They planned to get a first-round pick for Drew. That plan went nowhere. They planned to say goodbye to Drew. Now, they're saying welcome home.
It's a long season. Anything can happen. And the AL East is wretched. Eighty-five wins could do it. Still, if you're looking for magic in 2014, I don't think Boston has any left.
By comparison, Chase Whitley is doing volunteer work. But he's still on a thin line. One shellacking, and Chase could be back in Moosic, visiting the Anthracite Museum. Moreover, if and when Yankees trade for a high-priced starter (aka a "salary dump"), Whitley could be gone, no matter what his record says. Back Clemens took his final lickings - his 2007 ERA was 4.18 - we just shrugged. George was paying him too much to pull him from the rotation.
And that's it, folks. That's your Evil Empire. That's why evil constantly loses in movies. The Green Goblin spends millions on gadgets, and all he needs to do is shoot Spidey with a gun show Glock.
Pay a guy $20 million, and you can't sit him down. If a kid from Scranton can do better, well, that's Chinatown, Jake.
This season, the Evil Emp has great results from the cheap meat - homegrown kids - with mixed hope from the top shelf brands. Yes, it's a small sample. Yes, the stars are hurt. But let's look at the nobodies. And I won't include Masahiro Tanaka and Yangervis Solarte - our two best players thus far - who came as free agents. Let's look at the guys who boiled up through the Yankee cauldron.
1. Dellin Betances. For the last four years, the Yankiverse has taken batting practice on this guy. He was a "Killer B," which meant high expectations and a lot of attention. He looked to be a flop, and folks never wasted words when flogging him - or the Yankees for having him. (I guess we're a little guilty here, too.) Now, for a guy who pitches the sixth inning, he's generating a huge buzz. The Gammonites see a future starter or closer. Who knows. But he certainly has outperformed Matt Thornton, who at 37, has been putrid. (He's pitched 8 innings and given up 5 runs. Yeow. But we're paying him $9 million this year and next, so... deal with it.)
2. John Ryan Murphy. YES spent the last five years pushing Austin Romine, Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli and Gary Sanchez - now it's Pete O'Brien - but Murphy is the one who looks like our future catcher. He's 23. In 31 plate appearances, he has a HR and is batting .400. Yesterday, he delivered a key single in the final inning. Every game, he contributes. Too bad we have Brian McCann for the next five years.
3. Chase Whitley. Covered him upstairs. He's pitched nine innings, has yet to give up a run. It won't last forever. Will we trade him for a Bronson Arroyo?
4. Zolio Almonte. Homered in his first game. Hit last year, then got hurt. Oh well, we're stuck with the decline and fall of Alfonso Soriano, who is headed to Grandy Land - .220 and 150 strikeouts. There's also Ichiro, who is hitting well and acting classy - but is still a threat to beat out an infield hit. Soon, Almonte will go back to Scranton. It won't matter if he's hitting .500.
5. David Phelps and Adam Warren. I list them together, because they came up together, they started together, and neither ever received much respect or attention, compared to the great Manny Banuelos. They have outperformed so many free agent slobs that it's useless to list them.
6. Brett Gardner and David Robertson. OK, both are "stars," in the sense that they're in New York and making decent money. Both rose through the hyper-attentive crucible of the Yankee system, with bloggers and Gammonites questioning every mistake. (A system that killed Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, though both are having decent years elsewhere.)
Yesterday, I campaigned for the signing of Kendry Morales. It beats trading for someone. But a Cuban farmhand named Adonis Garcia is tearing up the International League. He's no kid - 29. He's no monster - 5'9" and 190 pounds. He has little power (3 HR) but - yeesh - he's batting .340, with a 17-game hitting streak. If we don't sign Morales, why not give this guy a chance? Must we endure another Andruw Jones/Vernon Wells/Travis Hafner season? Are we doomed to always do this? Because Harry Osborn will never kill Peter Parker with an exploding pumpkin. All he needs is a nail gun.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
1. Claiborne can bunt. Maybe he can teach a couple of other guys.
2. "Ryan came home when Veras threw a pitch over Murphy's head, and Murphy drove in Solarte with a single to right to make it 4-2." Ah, Cubs, you are learning the magic of Jose.
3. Jeff Samardzija has an ERA of 1.46. He's still in a winless streak, now at 16 games. Wtf??
4. "The Yankees had runners on second and third with two out when Derek Jeter grounded out to end the rally." This is becoming awfully familiar.
5. Dave Robbie is 9 for 9.
6. "Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley had a setback in his recovery from a back injury. Manager Joe Girardi said the right-hander woke up feeling stiff Tuesday." Enjoy it, son, that stops happening much after you cross 50.
7. "The Yankees tied it [in the 9th] when Ichiro Suzuki sent a grounder to shortstop Starlin Castro." He sucks. Down to .359. Cut 'im now.
8. "Whitley was solid in his second start since being called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He gave up a run and six hits in 4 1/3 innings." Laugh all you want, the guy is about five times better than CC. His ERA in two limited starts is 1. One. Uno. The first nine innings have gone pretty good. Ya never know.
9. Aceves pitched an entire inning and gave up no runs, one hit with one K. Joe will pitch him the next five days straight to make sure his ERA keeps hovering just under 6.00.
I think and hope it was the rain.
Tanaka got whacked around last night by the Cubbies. I could see on Tanaka's face that he didn't have his usual grit and determination. I mean, the sky was blue, black, great and yellow all at once.
The rains were most intense when he was pitching.
I know he has been through this before, but that spot of blue sky, mixed with the lighting bolts, the thunder and the pelting rain had to be a distraction. Normally, he brings something extra when he is threatened by a runners on base situation. Last night, his demeanor of domination and determination never arrived.
The slippery drops had to have impacted his grip and the movement of his pitches, causing some to hang that would normally take a dive.
If not, we are screwed.
We've all seen The Natural. When Bob Redford gives in to temptation, he loses his mojo. He strikes out a lot. He sucks (my guess is, Kim Basinger's character was doing the same, but that's hearsay).
The message is clear: Beware the femme fatale. Stay clean, stay pure of heart, have ice cream floats with Glenn Close and your son. It's the only way to succeed at America's greatest game.
Which brings us to last night. Tanaka wasn't going to go 24-0 this year. Impossible. At least, we assume it was impossible. He's not facing a bunch of Carp out there this season (well, the Cubs are a form of dead fish in a way, but whatever). And it was his second time facing the Cubs, who said that kind of helped.
But what really happened? Really? On the road, a guy gets lonely. There are only so many restaurants to go to, so many undressing chicks to bird-dog from the hotel roof (hiya, Mick!).
At some point, a young man wants a little company. A little female companionship. And it doesn't hurt if it's someone you see every day. Someone you're familiar with. Someone you already like. Someone who maybe is staying in the same hotel as you.
Like, say, Suzyn.
I have no evidence, no proof that any shenanigans went on between her and our ace. The mere idea does boggle the mind and stretch credulity to new limits.
Dear Mr. Steinbrenner, if you are serious about doing whatever it takes, the Yankees need to sign Kendry Morales
New York City, New York
Dear Madam or Sir,
A Lannister, it is said, always pays his debts.
Likewise, a Steinbrenner does whatever it takes.
Last week, you repeated your family's ancient doctrine about spending to help your serfs and servants... we, ye humble Yankee fans. Today, we beseech you for relief.
We need help, because in four our of every five games, the Yankees must score eight runs to win. That's a moat-full of runs. The pride of our once-great army - the starting rotation - has gone a little wobbly. We have Masahiro Tanaka. After him, well, we have witch women and kettle prayers.
But 10 days from now, the horizon offers hope. Ten days from now, Kendry Morales becomes a free free agent. He's been a free agent since last fall, but because he rejected a cheapo qualifying offer from the Angels, any team that signed him had to surrender a first round draft pick this year, and nobody wanted to do that - except, of course, the House of Steinbrenner - because, when it comes to draft picks, it is nearly the House of Dolan, as in the New York Knicks. We didn't sign Kendry Morales because we didn't need him: We'd already signed Carlos Beltran, and how many DH's does a house need?
Well, the answer is: A lot. Beltran is - (surprise!) - hurt. Today or tomorrow, we'll learn whether he needs surgery on his elbow. If so, he's out until August. By then, it might be too late.
But on June 1, Morales will no longer cost his new team a draft pick. Thus, the Steinbrenner family can sign him without losing any players.
Listen: Kendry Morales is a switch hitter. He hit 23 HR last year, batted .277. We need him. If Beltran is hurt, we need him bad. Sir, it's merely gold. This is YES currency, Murdoch bank notes. Do you need another drawbridge? Do you need better porridge? No, sir. You need a dragon. You need Kendry Morales.
He can rest Teixeira at first. He can protect Tex in the order. We might win a few of those games by scoring nine runs. Sir, the sirens are blaring. The Yankees cannot go two months with Zolio Almonte hitting sixth. I hate to break this to you, but Yangervis Solarte might not hit .320 this year. We need another dragon.
OK, I know what you're saying: What we really need is a pitcher. You're right. But there are no pitchers on the free free agent market. There is only Kendry Morales. You go to war with the free free agent market that you have. In this case, it is Kendry Morales. If Beltran is out, we need another bat. There he is, standing on your lawn, holding up a boom box and playing Peter Gabriel music, begging to be signed. Let him in. LET HIM IN!
A Lannister always pays his debts. Does a Steinbrenner really do whatever it takes?
Sign Kendry Morales.
Nope. Doesn't rattle me. Not one iota. Better to be over it. To nip it in the bud. Yep, nip it, nip it, nip it, nip-it-nip-it... Nip. It. In. The. Bud. A loss to Theo Epstein's Cubs? Palooofff. That's what I say. Pa-looo-fff. We've got Chase Whitley today. Chase Whit-ley. Maybe Chase can launch a streak.
Then comes Mr. Phelps, Toyota Kuroda and El Nuno.
I feel a streak forming.
Who needed Masahiro Tanaka's streak? Not me.
But you know... last night in the sixth, when we were down 2-0, and Brett Gardner led off with a dunk double to left, I would have bet the toaster we would win that game. I felt it. Jeet fought back from a 0-2 count to force an eight-pitch at bat, then grounded out. Ellsbury - (WTF happened to him?) - popped out, and Teixeira slashed a glorious single to right, scoring our run for the night. McCann drew a walk, and Soriano - the ever-shrinking, free-swinging, Soriano - whacked the first pitch he saw to the third-baseman. End of threat. (I can't pinpoint the moment I lost all hope for Soriano, but I'd have to say it was in that game against Boston last September, the one we absolutely had to win, and he - the tying run - got thrown out trying to steal third with two outs. Once a rookie, always a rookie.)
Oh, who needed that streak anyway? We should be thankful there's no more pressure, no more distractions. Chase Whitley today. I guess that about sums it up.