Monday, February 29, 2016
One was Carlos Beltran's pinch-hit, three-run HR against the Blue Jays, which snapped Toronto's 11-game win streak, restored the Yankees into first, and briefly made Beltran's three-year contract seem 1,000 pounds lighter around the neck.
The second was "the Slade Heathcott game." Heathcott - who looked good in early summer, got hurt and disappeared - homered to beat Tampa - another three-run shot - after the Yankees had been no-hit for eight innings and gone down to their last out. Gardner had signed, A-Rod hit a double, McCann was walked, and Heathcott came out of nowhere... which, for him, was business as usual.
It feels like we've waited a hundred years on Heathcott. He's only 25. He was drafted out of Texarkana High School - our number one pick - with a Josh Hamilton buzz, in part due to his torturous background. The details of his teenage upbringing - he was homeless, he was an alcoholic, he was - as the trainers would say - day-to-day - slowly came out. On the day after an excruciatingly long piece on him was published in the Charleston paper, Heathcott sparked a massive brawl with an opposing catcher. He looked too volatile to make it. Then came the injuries, one after another, often self-inflicted because he ran into a wall or dove onto his shoulder. The Yankees dropped him from the 40-man roster. We resigned him, and boom - there he was last September, hitting the HR that might be the only thing he's remembered for.
Even now, he faces an OF so crowded that it will be tough to find playing time in Scranton.
Yet there he is - still the great Yankee hope, sort of.
I don't wish ill on any Yankee player. I don't need to. If anybody thinks Gardner, Ellsbury and Beltran can last the season, they haven't watched the team. And the jury remains out on our two Aarons - Hicks and Judge - until they perform. But my secret hopes still rest on Slade Heathcott, the most interesting Yankee in the last five years. It's been a long, crazy road for the guy.
This is his year. Keep fingers crossed.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Latest scuttle-butt from Tamptown says tomorrow, you will hand down your long-awaited ruling on girlfriend-choker/garage-door-shooter/Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman. Even though the Chapster wasn't arrested by police, news coverage of his "incident" dictates that you must suspend him for enough time to get the message across:
Major League Baseball will not tolerate anything less than the highest moral caliber from its players and team employees, (owners and executives notwithstanding.)
Sir, Chapman deserves 46 days in the penalty box.
Why 46? Well, for starters - 46 is the number of human chromosomes, so there's the cool symbolism thingy. Secondly, 46 is a Wedderburn-Etherington number and a centered triangular number - the sum of the totient function for the first twelve integers. In fact, while we're jellin' on 46, it's the largest even integer that cannot be expressed as a sum of two abundant numbers!
Yep. In other words, if an even integer (Chapman) is pushing around an abundant hot number (his girlfriend), well - mathematically speaking, 46 is the bomb. Forty-six, baby! Slap it in the books, and the message will get heard: Don't choke your honey. Don't shoot your garage. Don't do drugs. And don't be cruel... to a heart that's true.
The perfect suspension - divorcing ourselves, for a moment, from the horror of domestic abuse - would be 46 days. As an aside, such a suspension would mean the Yankees get to keep Chapman not only this season, but next. That has nothing to do with this.
My guess is the guy has two good seasons in him, because nobody throws 104 mph forever, and he might be just the kind of fellow who should factor alimony payments into his financial future... so come 2017, he'll probably want a 10-year-day with three opt-outs... unless he's lashed to the Yankees for two years like Ahab to the whale.
Of course, the Yankees will have to pay him for two years. That means Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner will serve margarine instead of butter at family functions... but get this: he will be lowering his cholesterol!
Sir, give Chapman 46 days, and I bet the Yankee franchise won't even appeal your decision.
It's win-win... 46 times! Forty-six days, Commissioner! Put it in the books!
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Friday, February 26, 2016
1-800-916-8000 is the number to call to book John for "a guest appearance, motivational keynote speech, grand opening, autograph signing, product announcement, employee gathering, or for an exclusive meet and greet." [Source]
So, today, let us savor the fresh, steaming write-ups that proclaim Alex Rodriguez as Mr. Yankee, noting the difference from last year, when the Gammonites were measuring his neck for the noose.
Last year, the likes of Billy Madden were telling us - assuring us - that A-Rod would never - ever - play another game as a Yankee. When A-Rod arrived early, the act was viewed as a craven attempt to seem like he actually cared. When he apologized, it was a craven attempt to grab headlines. Whatever he said was viewed through a gotcha lens.
This year, everything is groovy.
A-Rod better not cash those good will checks. He's 40, he's a full-time DH on a team loaded with DHs, and if he starts slogging as he did last September, he'll find himself once again on the wrong side of the line.
And let's not kid ourselves with high-brow talk of cheating or basic morality: If a player hits, or if a pitcher pitches, the fans always forgive, and the teams always pay out.
Last year, you had the feeling that Alex Rodriguez was the only person in the world who had faith in Alex Rodriguez. He had only one option - to fight for his survival. This year - hate to be a nudge - but he can only go downhill. Let's cross our fingers. One more year?
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Yes, a hill... you know, to run up and down, like Jack and Jill. In the old days, players ran stadium steps. Not anymore! The Yankees have a brand new, state-of-the-art hill. And the writers are in love. SEE IT!
Don't get this wrong. This is not a knoll. Nope. The Milwaukee Brewers can run up and down a mound. This is a hill - Yankee Hill. Damn, I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it... Those youngsters, standing at the foot of Yankee Hill, thinking of all the great Yankees who will run up and down. This is no mere conditioning tool. It's a metaphor... for climbing to the top of the hill!
I can barely contain myself. The Yankees didn't need pitching, after all. We just needed an edge, and now we've got it. Our own hill. At last, we've outsmarted the Redsocks. They don't have a hill. And if we get into a hill-climbing contest, well, let's just say they brought piss to a shit fight.
Someday, I'm thinking the Hill goes into Monument Park. Its number will be retired, and we'll honor it with a day at Yankee Stadium. They'll bring out all its teammates - the weight machine, the treadmill, the jacuzzi - everybody will be crying when Hal pulls down the curtain to reveal - the bronze plaque: The Hill. SEE IT!
I'm telling you, being a Yankee fan, every day is Christmas. What will Hal give us tomorrow? A creek? A pond? A sand trap? Wait... I got it! A boulder! Guys can push it up the hill. It'll be incredible!
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
David Ortiz: "You know what I want most of all? I would love it if the fans at Yankee Stadium gave me a standing ovation." (I've got a better idea.)
It's cold and wet. Ninth inning. Yanks lead by 12. It's late September (and I really should be back at school.) Boston's been out of the wild card race for six weeks. Ortiz pinch hits for Dustin Pedroia, who is batting .192. Papi himself is hitting .202, having achieved the vaunted Stephen Drew above .200 status last week, when he went on a torrid 2-for-9 s0treak. On the mound is Brandon Pinder, doing mop-up, saving the Yankee bullpen for the playoffs.
Behind home plate sits a handful of super-rich beer farts. Most of the Trumpian crowd is swilling crab legs in the buffet line, or dancing in the stadium disco, or they stayed home anyway. Sitting in the middle of this collection is the famed Yankee executive, public relations whiz, and esteemed class warfare sociologist, Lonn Trost, who turns toward the game, points to Big Papi and yells, "Wait a f---g minute, I know this guy. It's Big Pog, or Big Palin, something." His 16-year-old escort screams, "It's Pig Boppy," and everybody laughs. Lonn gives her a kiss and thinks, I don't care if she's poor and loud, this little firecracker understands me!
Ortiz steps into the batters box and waits for the announcer to say his name. Nothing happens. The P.A. system isn't working. There is silence as the 22,000 in attendance slowly realize the implications of this historic moment.
This is it... the culmination of one man's career, the end of an era, and the last vestige of what was once the greatest rivalry in sports. And everybody in Yankee Stadium does the right thing.
They set aside their animosities, bury their collective hatchets... they react as One.
They rise from their seats, turn their backs to home plate, unhitch their pantaloonies and bend over.
That's right. The Papi Moon. Imagine the Yankee Stadium crowd, united in one grand moment - the moonment - giving David Ortiz a sendoff he will never forget.
It's only a Papi Moon.
That's what should happen. He could even hit a home run. I wouldn't care.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Starting pitching: "The key to the team. (Emphasis, mine) If their starting pitching stays healthy, you know what they'll have at the end of the game, and they'll have enough offense."
What will happen? "That's a big question. No one can answer it, either. But that's a big question: Will they stay healthy?"
What about Didi Gregorius? "He was terrific in the second half, both with the glove, and he also hit a bit."
What about Mark Teixeira? (John crinkles face.) "Well, in spring training, everything is good. So you have to, you have to wait and see. It doesn't really matter what your opinion is. You have to play the games."
Honoring David Ortiz: "He's been such a great player, such an important part of the Yankee-Redsocks competition. And don't forget, they honored both Mariano and Jeter."
Insert wretch here.
It's that time of year. Happy Talk Time. By now, everything that can be said about the 2016 Yankees has had a winter to fester. All the "LISTS OF KEY YANKEES IN 2016" have been published. All the depth charts have been completed. (Actually, we added career banjo-hitting 1B Chris Parmelee yesterday, changing the dynamics in Scranton!) So what is there to say, except Mel Thunderthigh has reported in the best condition of his career, or Ernie McBombthrower has developed a knee-buckling new change-up, and young Snappy McBarfalot has found religion, and he's now dedicating each at bat to God. It's Happy Talk Time.
Ivan Nova plans a big year in 2016? Guess what? He planned a big 2015! Let's set the Wayback for last February and visit the Yankees archive.
Brendan Ryan knows what the back of his baseball card has looked like for the last few seasons, but the Yankees infielder believes that he can be counted on for more than just a good glove.
The Yankees have preached patience with Andrew Bailey, hoping that the former All-Star closer will be able to take advantage of their facilities and pay big dividends down the line. That time may be quickly approaching.
Chris Capuano is being looked at as a strong contender to pitch in the back end of manager Joe Girardi's rotation, and the veteran left-hander said he is not concerned about the possibility of being the odd man out later in the year.
Ivan Nova refuses to look too far ahead, resisting the urge thus far to peek at the schedule and circle some summer dates. As he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees' right-hander has been absorbing his plans one week at a time.
Injuries kept Carlos Beltran from producing the type of numbers that he expected in his first Yankees season, and as he takes his first swings of Spring Training, the veteran slugger believes that he is coming back with something to prove.
As CC Sabathia prepared to step on an outdoor mound for the first time this year on Saturday morning, the big left-hander could not hold back a toothy grin. He understands the questions of doubters -- especially having been limited to just eight starts last season -- and is looking forward to the challenge ahead.
The Yankees made a $25 million pitch for Yoan Moncada on Sunday, but it was not enough to reach an agreement with the switch-hitting Cuban infielder.
Monday, February 22, 2016
L to R: Yankee fan Giuliani, Yankee fan Trump, Red Sox fan Bloomberg, professed Yankee convert Clinton, Yankee monument Torre, Diamondback investor Crystal.
I hate giving ESPN any credit for anything, especially over the New York Times, but the New England-happy cable/web behemoth actually has an article that gets the Yankees' bullpen situation right. (If you must, here.)
Aside from mentioning all of the reasons we probably won't get to the seventh with a lead all that often -- including the fact that every bullpen arm available in earlier innings is, at best, highly questionable (*cough..sucks*) -- the article also brings up a very good point that makes you wonder why the hell signing Chapman makes any sense whatsoever, when what we really needed were some reliable middle-inning guys (somewhat like the guys we traded away):
"...it will be difficult for even Betances, Miller and Chapman to improve on the Yankees' late-inning relief from 2015, when the team’s record was 66-3 in games they led after six innings, 73-2 in games they led after seven and 81-0 in games they led after eight."
Exactly. The late innings were not a problem. We had that covered already.
So naturally, we solved a problem that didn't exist and made the bullpen problem that did exist worse.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2016 New York Yankees.
Yesterday, Don Mattingly again signaled his fate: To return to NYC and lead the blind Yankee franchise to a series of world serieses. This latest omen came in an announcement that Mattingly - not the Marlins' butcher shop ownership - will ban on facial hair on his players, a rule that adds nothing to a team and, frankly, has potential to create conflict.
Seriously, what good does a ban do? If a man (or woman) wants to look like Jesus, or even ZZ Top, what's the point in stopping him (or her.) This isn't 11th grade. This isn't the Army. This isn't even Guam. It's just another pointless rule for the sake of invoking pointless rules. I'd rather they ban bellbottom jeans or those rhinestone strap thingys that keep your glasses in place. Over the years, yes, the ban sort of - (I apologize for this) - grew on me. That's because it became the lone difference between the Yankees and the rest of baseball.
By the way, it used to be the Yankees were vastly different from every other team. They spent the most on players. They always contended. Their owner never poor-mouthed. They played in the greatest venue in sports, and they loved their fans. They always ruled New York, and in a strange way, banning beards seemed to be a way of connecting with working men (and women.)
Now, the only thing that separates them is that they take fans for granted and would prefer that the poorer ones stay away.
And now, they aren't even the only beard-banning team.
Still... I digress. By now, we all should see what's happening. Mattingly is a salmon swimming upstream to die... a swallow flying home on a mission. When he gets to NYC, it's going to be like the Key Master inserting his thing into Zule's whatever - you know, in Ghostbusters - causing the Yankees to rise from their owner-induced crypt slumber and rule the baseball world. I'm thinking it's two years away. I wish we could fast-forward to it, though I'm too old for fast-forwards.
Still, you can see it. Slowly but surely, Donnie Baseball is weaving his way home. Beardless. (By the way, we are in 2016 not going to be a Yankee blog; we are going to be a John Sterling blog.)
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Well... that was 2012.
Two years ago, we got him for Yangervis Solarte and a hard thrower named Rafael De Paula. Last year, Solarte hit more HRs than Headley (14 to 11) and had a higher average (.270 to .259.) And if the issue was glovework, Headley developed a love for sailing - that is, his throws to first base sailed into right field. He wasn't very good.
Naturally, the Yankees signed Headley for four years, and frankly, I'm not sure if we wouldn't have been better off keeping Yangervis. (De Paula, now 25, does not look so promising.)
Nobody expects Headley to be 28 again. And he seems like a good teammate. I remember him getting beaned by Tampa - that asshole Madden tried to sluff it off - but Headley didn't let him affect him. Good guy. But we have him for three more years, three - when he'll be 34.
In the modern era, for reasons I cannot explain, the Yankees have never been able to raise quality third-basemen. The only one we developed was Mike Lowell, whom we traded for a handful of magic beans. We don't have anybody at Scranton, and I'm not even sure we'll play a rising prospect at Trenton. We may be stuck with Headley for three more years - at $13 million per. Yep, while we decry bad deals, we go out and make new ones.
Well, here's one thought: This is a crossroads year for Mr. Chase. He either turns things around - maybe hits 20 HR and bats .270, is that asking too much? - or else he goes into the category of another blown idea.
Because unless he improves, it will have been four straight years that Headley has slumped... and it's no slump any more.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
" It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and (another) fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount … And quite frankly, the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.”
The New York Yankees - owned and operated by billionaire siblings - don't want the bootless and unhorsed to ruin the game experience for their super-rich pals.
That's the quote from Lonn Trost - one of the suited Yankee senior vice-somethingorothers, who clog the team's upper masthead the way a disposable diaper does a toilet. He was speaking this week after the Yankees announced a novel new way to screw fans: They will no longer accept print-at-home tickets, which often come from StubHub - at times costing less than the market price. The team says it's fighting ticket fraud, but not everybody believes it.
Insert sigh here.
Listen: I don't want to write about "print-at-home" tickets. WTF? I want to write about rookies and veterans and who'll play 3B if Headley breaks a boner? Besides... the "controversy" here is overblown: StubHub will soon use smart phone tickets, ending the need for print-at-home. And frankly, I grew up in a world when scalpers were arrested, and I still view StubHub as lawyer-hacked, legalized scalping. What bugs me, though, is that apparently the Yankees aren't regulating "the secondary market;" they just want to do the scalping themselves. Hence the anger across the Yankiverse.
Yesterday, I kicked around on a few fan message boards, trying to understand how Trost could spout such Jay Gouldian crapola. (I have no doubt he thinks it, but how stupid would anybody be to SAY it?) Apparently, some high-cost season tickets include access to food buffets, and when the rich put them up on StubHub, the buyers eat all the chicken-fried lobster. God bless those people. That's what I would do. But the Rockefellers hate it. And Trost identifies more with them than regular fans.
All of this poses a new reason to root for a day of reckoning - one that will never come. The Steinbrenners don't just own a team. They own a chunk of New York City. They own a slice of the American culture. They own The Babe, The Mick, Mariano, Jeter - the memory of Yogi, like the way Koch brothers own Kansas. All they need do is field a team that chases the Wild Card - that's a few games over .500 - and they can literally print money.
Also, they will always have me. I can't help it. I've been a Yankee fan all my life. As the days grow shorter, I'm too old to change. I'll die a Yankee fan, no matter who owns the team.
But this week, I learned something important.
They don't want me in Yankee Stadium. I might use the wrong fork. I might make a rich person uncomfortable. I don't make the cut.
Thank God for the Yankee Radio Network, driven by Cheap. Of course, one of these days, Trost will figure out how to squeeze it to death - maybe they'll have Ivanka Trump do a fashion report during pitching changes. But for all their woes, at least John and Suzyn still want us.
The owners wish all us angry fans just went away.
Friday, February 19, 2016
Uh-oh: "Chapman’s driver told the police that Chapman had fired the gun shortly after he punched the window of his car, lacerating his finger."
Lacerating the finger.
Let's not have a Jason Pierre-Chapman.
It's possible that Refsnyder will end up with a fat wife and a coal truck, and spend his future Sundays drawing finger pictures into pretzel dust on some laminated Elks Club bar top in Moosic, a place that is as close to Syracuse as it is to New York City... But I say no.
This is going to be Refsnyder's year.
Of course, much depends on Dustin Ackley, the ex-prospect we sluiced from Seattle at last season's trade deadline. Ackley looks like the 23rd man on the 2016 Yankee roster. He can play 1B, 2B and OF, bats left, and if he hits, he could bury Refsnyder in Scranton for yet another year - at age 24.
When Mark Teixeira or Castro need a day off, Ack will handle it. But if someone gets hurt - let me rephrase that - WHEN someone gets hurt - it will dictate a Rube Goldberg chain of events, culminating with Refsnyder's ascension. Here are some scenarios.
1. Tex goes out for a month. First, why would we not expect this? He's old and fragile. I was surprised when the Yankees didn't chase Ike Davis harder, because right now, they have no pro 1B at Scranton. Ackley is a stopgap 1B, not a six-week replacement. But... there is someone who can play first base.
It's Chase Headley. He moves to first. and Castro moves to third. (Girardi has said he wants Castro to learn the position.) That would mean the Yankees bring up Refsnyder, who could platoon with Ackley. Or maybe it's just Refsnyder at 2B.
2. Headley gets hurt, misses a month. Headley was a workhorse last year, one of the few to not miss much time. But hey, shit happens. We have no backup 3B at Scranton. So... Castro moves to third, and - yep - Refsnyder gets the call.
3. Gregorious gets hurt, misses a month. This is unlikely but... you know. Once again, Castro becomes the lynch pin; he moves to his old slot with the Cubs, and Refsnyder plays 2B.
4. Castro gets hurt, misses a month. Need I say it?
5. Refsnyder works in the OF. It's his natural position. Right now, the Yankees don't need another fly-chaser in Scranton. They already have four. But if Refsnyder makes the big club, playing the OF occasionally would be a big advantage.
OK, if everybody stays healthy all season long, Refsnyder does a Jimmy Hoffa. But that's not gonna happen. This is going to be his year. And if he makes himself into a major league 2B, he could become an important homegrown Yankee or - at the least - a future trade chip.
Let's hope. You can get pissed at the way the Yankees do business. But you can't root against guys like Refsnyder. They are the reason we come back.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
In August, we went 14-14, then we did the same in September. We barely crawled to the finish line - losing six of our last seven. We looked like Trenton against the Redsocks, then couldn't even beat the horribly slumping O's. If the season had lasted one extra week, we might not have made the Wild Card - oh, that wonderful night when we scraped out three hits. Three. Fricking. Hits.
All of which begs one still-unanswered question: WTF?
I believe Yankee fans still suffer from 2015 PTSD, based on the team's Met-like collapse. There are several theories of what happened. Each is suitably terrifying.
Theory Number One: They were old, gassy and decrepit.
This is popular among End of Yankee Days evangelicals. Certainly, A-Rod looked ready for the turpentine factory. But the fact is, old man Beltran was streaking, and young Greg Bird - whom we'll next see play under the administration of President Trump - was on fire. It was Ellsbury and Gardner, who turned into Abe and Zolio Almonte - leaving two rally killers atop our lineup. Were they old, or hurt, or both?
If Theory Number One holds, well, Houston, we have a problem... basically because the essence of this team will be to have aged yet another year. Why would we think A-Rod can go the full season, when he couldn't do it last year? But with regards to Gards, we do have one advantage: Several young OFers - Heathcott, Williams, Gamel and Aaron Judge will sit at Triple A. Plus we have Aaron Hicks from Minnesota. Any one of them might step in and provide a jolt.
Still, if the Yankees are playing well in July, can we have faith in the team lasting through October? The answer - right now - is, no.
Theory Number Two: Tex's injury.
The 2015 Yankees were two teams: With Teixeira, and without. Tex got his last hit for the team on August 15. He fouled a ball off his foot, broke something, struggled, rested, and then got an MRI and said goodbye. Even with Greg Bird hitting well, we were never the same.
This theory terrifies us because Tex won't be any less brittle, and we no longer have Bird. It's a crazy stretch to think that Dustin Ackley is our backup 1B. Right now, that's the plan.
Theory Number Three: CC's collapse.
The idea goes that one of the team's spiritual leaders was falling apart, even if his pitching was improving. Clearly, something was seriously wrong inside Sabathia. You just don't check into rehab on the eve of the playoffs unless something is has gone kaput in the universe.
I can't begin to fathom the personal issues Sabathia was facing, but it had to affect his teammates. I don't think an entire team should fall apart because of Sabathia, but the street fight incident in Toronto obviously was a harbinger of unanswered problems.
Theory Number Four: Girardi bungled it.
Some of you are ardent Giradi bashers. I've not been one - I think he's a stand-up guy - but there's no way anybody can spin 2015 as a good year for management.
Meltdowns are supposed to happen to other teams - not the Yankees. Girardi owned this one. Once he lost faith in his middle-innings bullpen - sometime in July - he started overusing Betances and Miller. By August, he was abusing them. This year, the Yankees have given him the best bullpen threesome baseball has seen in many years. How will he use it?
Will our three-stopper system be cracking under the strain by mid-August? And why, why, why did we trade Justin Wilson for two middling Triple A pitchers? How bad is the rotation? Does Cashman know something we don't?
Girardi looks more and more like Tom Coughlin of the 2015 Jersey Giants. He may have the faith of the organization, but how many seasons can a New York team finish out of the running, before the fan base - and YES ratings - demands a change? We are not the Knicks, but we are turning into the Giants. And Coughlin is no more.
So WTF happened?
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
What's the greatest all-time Yankee home run? Buck Dent? Aaron Boone? Chamblis for the pennant? Leyritz v. the Braves? Ruth's 60th? Ruth's called shot? Maris' 61st? Jeter's 3000th? Jeter's shot v. Jeffrey Maier? Scott Brosius on the second night? Mantle off Barney Schultz? Mattingly v. Mariners? Slade Heathcott last September? Or how about this...
First, let's dispel once and for all this fiction that Hal Steinbrenner doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing. He is undertaking a systematic effort to change this team, to make the Yankees just like the rest of baseball...
As the 2016 team gathers in Tampa, aside from the bullpen - which, despite sporting three closers, still has no proven innings-eaters, due to the trades of Justin Wilson and Adam Warren - there is no credible argument that the Yankees are superior to the Blue Jays and possibly even the Redsocks in the AL East. We're sitting around in our homes, waiting for Terry Bradshaw to knock on the front door and warn us about shingles, and we're wondering whether CC Sabathia will answer the bell? Of course, he will answer the bell! He'll think it's the dinner bell! The problem is, like Sabathia, the Yankee core players simply will be one year older, one year more brittle, and one year closer to retirement, due to policies instituted by Steinbrenner.
Some will say he doesn't know what he's doing. I disagree. I say Hal Steinbrenner knows exactly what he's doing. He is undertaking a systematic effort to remake the Yankees into a team just like those which play European soccer. Look at Chase Headley. Why do we have Chase Headley? We spent most of last winter harping over long-term contracts, and then - as if to stick it personally to A-Rod - we gave Headley a four-year-deal, and now we're stuck with him. This week, two Cuban brothers defected to America. They want to play for the Yankees. One is 31 and a genuine star in Cuba. He could be a Martin Prado type. The other is low-20s, an infield prospect, and seeing as how we have nobody playing third at Scranton, it's a natural fit, but will we do anything? Of course not. And you ask why? I'll tell you why.
Let's dispel the notion that Hal Steinbrenner doesn't know he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing...
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
A Boston website trowels out a 1,000-word manifesto of excuses on why Yoan Moncada isn't rated quite so highly by one scouting system.
Pathetic. (But I still want him.)
A similar event happened last fall in the tri-state area.
Since November, Comcast and Fox - the Sunnis and Shiites of TV - have played chicken over YES broadcasts, creating a tiny wrinkle in the Yankee time-and-space continuum. As a result, 900,000 suburban rec rooms have been denied daily simulcasts of the Michael Kay Show. Hard to believe that weed-whacker-wielding mobs of Yank-Kay fans haven't marched on City Hall, eh? They must be drinking Flint water, and it made them sluggish.
But today, as the Daily News' Bob Raissman reports, the all-important March 2 Yankee Spring Training TV Opener - yes, against those dreaded Tigers! - could be a victim of this blood feud. (We'll have to listen to the Yankee Radio Network, driven by Cheap.)
It started when Fox-YES demanded a 33 percent increase in cable broadcast fees. Every Comcast subscriber - whether they follow the Yankees or not - pays almost $5 per month into the Steinbrenner Family Dynasty Trust. But this year, Comcast fired back. Says Raissman:
"More irrelevant than compelling." Yeow, kitty like to scratch! Of course, as Raissman says, this is probably just another bucket of brinksmanship. At the last minute, the suited elephants will cut a deal, and nothing will change. Or maybe no. Maybe the suits noticed something:
The 2015 Yankees were boring.
Yeah, boring. Fans were tired of watching the same aging, skill-eroded players, especially when management has no option other than to play them. The two most exciting things that happened last season were Greg Bird and Luis Severino. They almost balanced out the everyday dreariness of Carlos Beltran and Chase Headley, even though both players posted their usual numbers, more or less.
Old guys make boring teams. Boring teams make lower ratings. Lower ratings should mean lower fees. The 2015 Yankees were all of the above. The Mets enter 2016 owning New York, and Food Stamps Hal didn't shell out to sign a starting pitcher - the one ingredient that could have vaulted this team to the top of pre-season predictions.
One of these days, viewers across America will be free from the shackles of cable TV packages, which force them to pony up vast monthly sums for ESPN, YES, the Food Channel, whatever - for programming they don't watch. That doomsday judgement will affect Comcast, Fox, YES and Hal. I say, let the black holes converge. For better or worse, let's surf the waves...
Monday, February 15, 2016
We won one - Masahiro Tanaka's elbow didn't bark after his first throwing session since off-season surgery. That's a huge, though transitory, victory. Lost amid the excitement of being the only MLB team to not sign a free agent this winter was the Yankee news that Tanaka had gone under the scalpel... yet another another reason for Food Stamps Hal to have considered signing a Price or Greinke. Ah, but why say those names, they are just this year's Yoan Moncada. (YOAAAAAN MONCADA... SLOOOOOWLY, I TURN... STEP BY STEP...)
We lost one - or Scranton did. We didn't sign Ike Davis to some piddling, middling deal. I thought we would. He's the kind of reclamation project Brian Cashman usually snags - a former top prospect, now tarnished (and cheap.) Also, he is the son of former Yankee bullpen lug nut Ron Davis. I always figured he'd end up with us. It's no big loss, but when Tex gets hurt - (and we all know Tex will get hurt) - we have Who on first. (Technically, it's Dustin Ackley.) Jeez... It's either Who or I Dunno...
Then there was a tie: Mookie Betts, the reincarnation of Kenny Lofton, drove a golf cart into a water trap. No biggie. And the Redsock Nation will tsk-tsk about Mookie being Mookie, about the madcap joys of youth, all that crapola they trowel out when one of their players just peed in the punch bowl. But the guy drove his golf cart into a pond. I've known guys who do things like that, and some are fine, and some have one cog always turning in reverse. How do roll your cart into a pond? Beats me. Today, beneath the joyful smirk of every Redsock fan, there lurks a silent terror that 2016 might have a tweak in the matrix.
Soon, the Dice of God will start rolling every day. Right now, our only injured player is Greg Bird. By the Ides of March, there will be others. They could be 20-year-olds slated for Charleston. They could be A-Rod and Tex. Guys get hurt. That's baseball. That's the Dice of God.
Boston has yet to feel that kick in the groin. But they have a team much like ours, based on thirtyfivesomethings, guys who can tweak a gonad while taking a crap. The Dice of God have already taken Bird from us. But the truth is, we are deeper at Triple A than we've been in the past. We have young replacements at most positions - we're knee deep in the OF - except pitching, (And nobody can withstand injuries to a pitching staff.)
Boston has energized its 2016 fan base. They signed David Price, traded for Craig Kimbrel, and are marketing their young stars - Xander Bogartes, Jackie Bradely Jr. and - of course - Kenny Lofton Betts. If all goes to plan, they could run away with the AL East. Then again, the Dice of God are about to roll.
And their golf cart could still end up a water trap.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Yes, Amos Otis. The Elevator.
Sherman, set the Wayback to 1969. Otis was the future of the Mets, a 22-year-old CF who had failed in his first incarnation, at 20. He comes up, hits below .200, and is dealt to Kansas City for the great Joe Foy. As a Royal, Otis blossoms, epitomizing a common event in the 1970s and 1980s - the former hot prospect who is a bust with the first team, then explodes in another setting. Randy Johnson, for example. The decades were full of them, and the Yankees - think Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, et al - led the way in giving them away.
But then GM's began to wise-up. Nobody wanted to be the guy who traded Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen, a player whose name in Boston remains synonymous with a bucket of fried chicken. But the trades still happen. And Cashman is sifting for his Amos Otis.
Last year, he pried loose Didi Gregorius from Arizona. Gregorius started horribly, then did very well. If he further evolves, he could be a star.
Here are the Yankee Darwinian Hopes for 2016:
1. Aaron Hicks, former Twins first-round pick. He's 25, hits both ways, is solid defensively, and has Paul Molitor as a fan. To get him, we gave up John Ryan Murphy - who could turn out to be the one that got-away. If Hicks evolves...
2. Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi. We all know them by now. They should be hitting their peak years. They've both flashed signs. Maybe we've already seen all there is to see. If either evolves...
3. Dustin Ackley, former Mariners' first-rounder. We got him at the trade deadline. This is the guy who disappeared when Robbie Cano came to town. He was supposed to be the next Dustin Pedroia. He is NOT the next Pedroia. But if he evolves...
4. Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, former top Yankee prospects. Basically, they are the same player - (25 and 24, respectively) - fast, injury-prone, LH bats who play good defense, might hit .280 and maybe 15 HRs. For either to evolve, somebody has to get hurt. What are the chances of that happening...?
5. Luis Severino. Saved the best for last. Practically every hopeful 2016 projection involves this guy evolving into a top starter. He's 22. Two weeks ago, we were stunned by the news that Greg Bird will miss the season. The only thing more disheartening would be an injury to Severino. If he evolves...
I'd say for the Yankees to win the division, three of the above seven names has to make that step. Of course, there are many other factors. But if someone evolves... the elevator will be going up.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
The knees: Great! The elbow, great, the shoulder, great, everything, great. He's thinking clearly, and smiling. We should all feel great - for now.
Sabathia is a great Yankee. Six years ago, he pitched us to a World Series. Thus, he has a leg up on Beltran, Ellsbury, McCann et al, - and frankly, that might never change. Right now, he seems to have kicked his alcoholism. But warm days and meaningless games in February will be easy. It will be the grind of July and August that brings the test. It will be the night after he's knocked out in the third. It will be the morning when his arm hurts. It won't happen in the sunshine of Tampa. But in a rain delay in Boston... well, let's keep our fingers crossed.
One thing Sabathia has been saying - and it's good to hear - is that he recognizes the battle ahead: He will be fighting this war for the rest of his life.
I can't remember the last time a Yankee star came to camp so nakedly with a substance abuse problem. Well - actually - I can: I just wanted to block it out.
It was Steve Howe. The late Steve Howe. One of the great could-have-beens of his generation.
Over 17 years in baseball, Howe was suspended seven times for drug violations. But his teammates loved him. The Yankees stood by him, again and again - even when his recurring suspensions became an unfunny joke - that is, when it became clear he was not going to win the fight. Howe retired in 1997, leaving the Sioux Falls Canaries in an indie league. Nine years later, he rolled his truck - he worked in construction - and died. An autopsy showed meth in his blood. Gone at age 48.
So this year it's Sabathia, and nobody needs me to tell them what it could mean to the Yankees if he returned to 2009 form. He's 36. Today, everything feels great. The skies are sunny, and the outlook is for seventies and soda. This time of year, the world always looks great in Florida. Let's just hope...
Friday, February 12, 2016
You see it with some "star" players. They reach a certain level of fame and self-delusion, and then decide not to run out grounders, or to show loyalty to their home city. They square a 10-year, gazillion dollar deal on the other side of the country, just to please Beyonce, and if there is a God in heaven, they'll never be never heard from again, and yes, Smiley, you know who you are.
John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman have been calling Yankee games since anyone can remember, and they've been doing it on a year-to-year basis. Every season, never knowing whether it would be their last, they went out day to day, laced up their cleats and talked.
This time, they somehow managed to score a two-year deal, which means - what? - complacency? It better not, because they're taking the hard-earned dimes straight from Hal Steinbrenner's pocket... at a time when the plucky owner can't even afford one free agent.
A two-year deal? They better talk their A-game.
If you're riding on a two-year cream puff, the WinWarbles need to hit 7.00 seconds. No more 6:20 second Sterl Hurls. You gotta be like that Latino soccer announcer, the one who goes Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooahl.
If you're sitting pretty on a two-year pact, the Homer Hollers need to be crisper than "Gardy goes Yardy." I still can't even remember Beltran's call, though that's probably due to Beltran not hitting enough HRs to deserve one.
If you're in this for two years, that law firm that does the work on asbestos victims had better get a busload of viably sick clients, and the Little Debbie Snack Cakes will have to fly off the shelves.
Two years? Fine. But we cannot accept complacency from our tethers to the Yankiverse.
He added that the sun is warm, 2+2=4, and he hoped that we still feel small when we stand beside the ocean, that whenever one door closes, we'll see one door open, that we'll promise to give faith a fighting chance, and if we get a choice to sit it out or dance... he hoped we'll dance.
Write this down: The key to 2016? No injuries. Got it?
If nobody gets hurt, everything A-OK!
“Our starting rotation’s health is really the keys to the kingdom for us,” Cashman said. “It normally is for anybody, but I believe when we’re able to run out our healthy starting rotation that we have on paper, we can match up with anybody.”
In other words... GOD HELP US! MAYDAY! WHO'S GOT THE SHOE POLISH, 'CAUSE THE BATHROOM CLEANER ISN'T STRONG ENOUGH.
Okay. Get a grip. Take a pill. It's just the NothingSpeak that comes every February. It's just Cashman saying things to say things so the things that get said say nothing.
But... for the sake of saying things... let's play out this baby: Tell me a Yankee starter whom we should expect to go the season. CC? Uh-huh. He'll be 35. Last year, he crumbled like a chunk of bleu cheese. Pineda? Tanaka? Eovaldi? Granted, they're young. Each missed time last year. Severino, at 22, gives hope. He threw 62 MLB innings. How far do they stretch him? Above 150? If this guy ends up in TJ surgery... I cannot be held accountable...
Bullpen? That's our wheelhouse. But both Miller and Betances missed time last year, and whenever a guy throws 100 mph - as Chapman does - you wonder how long? (He's only 28.) After those three, it's all scrap-heapers and kids. Bob Shirley, you jest.
The OF? Gimme a break. Neither Ellsbury nor Gardner can be counted to play 140. Beltran at 39? Tex at 36? On any swing, poof. A-Rod's hips and knees belong in a freak museum (along with Cashman's mustache.) Didi and Castro could go the season. Headley looked older than 31 last year. McCann will be 32. He's a work horse, but we're already thinking about Gary Sanchez...
Conclusion: I agree with Cashman. If nobody gets hurt, we'll be okay. And if you get a chance to sit it out or dance... um... keep it in your pants.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
"From what we know of Cashman, it seems likely that the best five starting pitchers to come out of training camp are the ones he will take to Yankee Stadium, regardless of resume, length of service, or size of paycheck."
While fans zone-out on long-range strategies to land Bryce Harper, Yankees penny-pinching extends all the way to the bargain basement
Yesterday, the Atlanta Braves outbid the Retrieval Empire for a flea-market, spare-tire ex-Met named Carlos Torres, proving that when the Yankees go cheap, they go cheap from the top of the penthouse all the way down to the bodies in the bottom of the sinkhole.
This happened as River Ave, the pre-eminent Yankee interweb lug nut, fulminated at length on whether the top brass has committed the Empire to some secret Blofeld-level scheme to obtain Bryce Harper three years from now. This is the new parlor game for Yankee fans who see little hope for 2016.
The notion goes this way: Three years from now, Harper will be a free agent, so the secretly smart Yank brain trust is sitting on its cards, letting fat contracts die, so we can make Harper a $500 million Yankee. That's where the dream sequence ends, because it's hard to decide whether investing so much money into one player is a winning strategy. But - hey - when your team can't outbid the Atlanta Braves for Carlos Torres, you need something stronger than mouthwash to get through the slush of February. You need shoe polish, if not LSD.
Yesterday, Mike Axisa devoted about 1,200 words to the Harper "Endgame," eventually reaching one point: It's pointless. If the Yankees do have a secret Harper strategy, it will be irrelevant, if not incoherent, by 2019. In three years, Harper could be injured. Or a head case. Or a lifetime Nat. The most likely scenario: Washington trades him in his final year for a mountain of prospects that wrecks a team's farm system for a decade. He's being represented by Scott Boras. Do we need to think any more? Between now and then, there's a lot of bones to be put into the sinkhole.
So yesterday, the Yankees missed out on Carlos Torres. I won't pretend to care. The guy is 33, was ditched by the Mets, and got cuffed around pretty badly last year. He's no Justin Wilson. He might not even be Nick Rumbelow. If anything, it's sort of nice to think Cashman was even involved in a bidding party. The free agents still out there seem almost as pointless as pondering Harper, yet one could be the next Yangervis Solarte - the poster child for Cashman's scrap heaping.
We're a week away from the annual avalanche of crapola about players who have worked harder than ever before, found God, grown up, gone gluten free, whatever - the annual glut of gobbling. Bring it on. Anything beats this cheapo winter, when we couldn't even outbid the Braves.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
These are his closing words from last night's victory speech in New Hampshire. My edits, of course, are in blue.
We are going to start winning again.
We don't win anymore.
we don't win with the
we can't beat
We don't win with anything.
We are going to start winning again
and we're going to win so much,
you are going to be so happy,
we are going to make
maybe greater than ever before.
“I will show up and be ready to pitch in whatever role they ask.”
So here is Miller - who kept alive the last great Yankee tradition: closer - saying and doing all the right things, while the franchise 1) Replaces him with a volatile, NL-tested, potential whack-job, who might be suspended for the first month, 2) Traded a valuable innings-eating chess piece, Justin Wilson, for two potential fifth starters in 2017, 3) Continues to eye potential deals for him.
We know why the Yankees must shop Miller. The owner, Food Stamps Steinbrenner, nixed spending on any of the big free agent pitchers, who didn't carry a draft pick price tag, and the Yankees (wisely) won't sign anybody who costs them a first-rounder. The franchise is playing Moneyball, not Yankee ball. Thus, to get a good starting pitcher, they must trade something of high value, and Miller is baseball's best closer, even though he won't be closing for us.
Some of you (rightfully) are shaking your head right now, thinking that spoiled Yankee fans squawk when they don't sign every free agent on the market. And you're right: In my perfect world, we would sign every player, and then cut the ones who don't measure up. Once upon a time, the Yankees were unique among American pro sports teams, and for reasons that might involve genetics as much as socialization, we are hopelessly drawn to the team.
Those of you who vow to not watch YES next year, or to boycott games, I say this: Don't kid yourselves. You're one five-game win streak from vaulting back onto the liquor wagon, just as the wheels tumble off. If you think you can walk away from a lifetime habit, you must be taking advice from Girardi's binder.
The 2016 Yankees, as they straggle into Tampa, look like a potential Wild Card team. They are one solid pitcher shy of winning the AL East, and the pathway to that one pitcher was simple: It required an owner who would to step to the plate. Instead, we have Food Stamps, who banks his money and talks long term strategy, like a 14-year-old with a pack of Strat-O-Matic cards.
As a result, Andrew Miller - the best closer in baseball - may still only know one year in pinstripes. Cities can trade players, but not owners. That's a shame, because Tampa would be a perfect fit for the one we have.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Some websites say we got the best of them in the tweetwar. I cannot verify this, mostly because I could not bring myself to read the reports. I tried. I clicked on the site, but after reading the opening paragraph, I felt chest pains. When I clicked away, the diminished. I was afraid to go back.
This is a lost time of winter... a lost time of a lost, lost winter. The big baseball news yesterday - aside from the Yankees' great triumph on Twitter - was that two Cuban stars have run northward to play in America. This was the kind of news that used to excite Yankee fans, because the ownership was always interested in international talent. But yesterday's news simply meant that two other teams - possibly in our division - will sign players, while Food Stamps sits on the sidelines, counting his money.
But chin up, everybody. We won the day. Twitter War over. Yankees tweeted. Thuuuuuuuh Yankees tweeted.
Monday, February 8, 2016
The record shows Jeet hit .256 with 4 HRs, 50 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He didn't cover ground but didn't flub easy grounders, either. As the season withered, and we fell out of contention for even the one-game Wild Card, Joe Girardi never once moved Jeter from his perch atop the batting order. The team never considered a replacement SS. They honored him all the way to the final game, even though - who knows? - a lineup with him batting eighth might have scored more runs. It was a respect thing, and now that it's over, I'm glad we did it. But at the time, we were not so happy. Jeter grounded into 15 double plays that year, and every one of them was a kick in the nuts. What were you going to do, boo?
Which brings us to the 2016 Boston Pre-Dynasty Superteam, which will spend the season honoring its gaptoothed, smiling World Ambassor of Peace and Love, David Ortiz. On opening day, Big Papi will bat third or fourth, and receive the loudest applause that Redsock fans can make with their piglike voiceboxes. And, as we are learning from the Boston media, this will be the year the Redsocks win the AL East and prove once and for all how smart the city is. (Thank you, Food Stamps Steinbrenner, for letting them get Yoan Moncada.) This is also the year they will say give Papi a proper goodbye.
Speaking on behalf of the Yankiverse, I say this:
Good luck with that, Boston. And welcome to our world.
Remember: If you're going to honor such a fine chap as Big Papi, he needs to be in the lineup every day. And an all-time beloved DH cannot bat seventh, eighth, or ninth. He needs to be in the middle of the action, up there with the Panda and Hanley Ramerez, who I hear is the new reincarnation of Lou Gehrig.
Last year, Papi - at age 39 - hit .273 with 37 HRs. He also hit into 16 DPs. I'm sure Boston would love such numbers to be repeated. We'll see.
Farewell seasons are great for ticket sales and memories and mournful tunes on a classical guitar. But the trouble with farewell seasons is that they last the whole season. Welcome to New York, Boston.
Sunday, February 7, 2016
But today - Super Dumbday - let's cling to one floating crudlump of hope: The Redsockian propanganda mill is printing playoff tickets, declaring victory in the winter of '15-'16. That's always a good sign.
In today's Boston Herald - the equivalent of our NY Post - in between the pop-up ads, a Gammonite named Michael Silverman says of the steroidal Goodbye Papies...
They’ve added a true, legitimate ace in David Price, and the same two adjectives apply to closer Craig Kimbrel. They can contend once more.
That's from his diagnosis of "winners" and "losers," which declares Boston as the former, and us as the later.
[W]hatever happened to boosting a rotation that features two time-bombs in CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, and promising but far from sure things in Michael Pineda and Nate Eovaldi?
Of course, he's right. They added David Price, and we countered with Lane Adams. Clearly, Boston has improved, while we are in danger of missing yet another year of the watered-down playoffs. (I do not consider losing the one-game Wild Card as having played in the post-season.) But when things go south, we still have Boston to watch. And whenever their expectations shoot sky-high, they become Bible-thumping Donald Trump in Iowa. They declared victory under Bobby Valentine, and they did it last year. They're declaring victory today? Best news I've heard since December 1.
Let's hope we don't have to watch them win another World Series, while Food Stamps Steinbrenner is still hording his money, waiting to give the all-clear sign on the last free agent contract. We are going to need somebody to break out this season - to give us something nobody anticipated. And we have to hope Boston continues to be Boston. At least the Gammonites are still Gammonites.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
Quote the Raissman:
While the road to Waldman’s apparent deal appears to be smooth, sources said WFAN’s negotiations with Sterling were “somewhat acrimonious.”