I'm about one-third of the way through a book that deserves to be on your shelf next to "O Holy Cow."
It's called "The Only Rule Is It Has to Work," by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, two self-described statheads besotted by sabermetrics, who last year or the year before acted as GMs of the Sonoma Stompers in a podunk independent (very) minor league.
I've never been a huge fan of the stat-crazed crowd, but something about the whole idea has always intrigued me. Baseball is historically all about numbers, so there's a connection there I can relate to. Plus, it's kind of nerdy, and I guess I am, too. On top of that, "Moneyball" was a great freaking movie.
"The Only Rule" is important not just for a look into the heads of two of the biggest statters out there, nor just for the way it dissects what they did and what worked and what didn't, nor for the way it casually tells you things that are happening in the majors that maybe you haven't heard about.
No, you have to read this because Ben Lindbergh was a stat-crunching intern for the New York Yankees in 2009 and knows a bit about how Cashman's office works. Not that he goes into great detail about it, but let's just say you can see into Cash's brain a bit better because of the reflected light.
The Yankees are one of a handful of teams that have embraced statistical analysis in a big, big way, and since 2010 they haven't exactly been poster children for it. Girardi's little black binders are not an accident or a personal quirk. They're likely an organizational mandate. Cashman's trash heap shopping? You got it. Shades of Billy Beane. And you have to wonder if the signings of McCann, Headley, Ellsbury, Beltran and even Didi and Castro were somehow inspired by number crunching (gone wrong, in most cases).
Anyway, if you're one of the small minority of Americans who still reads books, even if it's on a Kindle, check it out. The weird stuff the Yankees do--you know, the stuff that has all of us shaking our heads in disbelief--isn't an accident, at least a lot of it, I'm guessing. It makes me wonder, though...how can they do what they're doing so badly?
Saturday, April 30, 2016
I'm about one-third of the way through a book that deserves to be on your shelf next to "O Holy Cow."
“I really believe we are going to bust out of this. We haven’t yet, and I know I keep saying it. But I really believe in my heart that these guys are going to hit and we are going to score a lot of runs.”
April 29, 2016
His final season as Yankee manager
Last night, Phil - now age 33 - pitched 5 innings and gave up only 1 run, which was unearned. He is "stretched out," having pitched in an independent league.
In case you're keeping score, last year Phil pitched a total of 12 innings for Toronto and the Cubs, compiling an ERA of 5.68. In his five years with Detroit, after the Yankees dealt him in the Curtis Granderson/Ian Kennedy/Austin Johnson three-way, Phil was a serviceable bullpen lefty, with a an ERA of 4.25.
Welcome home, Phil.
Last night, that's how I felt watching the Yankees. My wife was yelling at me: "Why? Why are you doing this? Do you any self-respect?" Of course, she was right. Still, I needed to go. I needed to see for myself. What if someone was still alive down there?
Well, there's nobody's alive down there. It's a cellar full of carcasses, most of which are signed through 2017. Our best hope is that, come July, somebody goes in with a gas can and Bic lighter. We're not just the worst team in NYC. We're the worst team between Atlanta and Nova Scotia. (I'm betting we'd lose to the Syracuse Chiefs in a seven-game series.) And still, I watched...
And it was so perfect, so clean, so primal.
We led early on, as we always do.
We let a struggling pitcher off the hook, as we always do.
We let them back in the game, as we always do.
We suddenly stopped hitting, as we always do.
And finally... we found a new way to lose, as we always do.
Joe Girardi - our "Lucifer in the flesh" - says it's only a matter of time before this team hits. And he's right. One of these days, they'll score 21 runs. Everybody will pad their numbers, so they can't be singled out on the Jumbotron. But when it matters, everybody disappears. This is a ghost team, and who cares which door we open? They all lead to the cellar, and it's really dark down there.
Friday, April 29, 2016
It looks ugly. In mid-May, Aroldis Chapman's woman-choking, garage-shooting ban ends. Unfortunately, El Chapo is at the wrong end of the pitching staff. With him, Miller and Dellin, we have the nuts, chocolate sauce and cherry - but it's still a banana split without ice cream.
But I am here to say the Yankee propaganda mill is alive and well. In Scranton, manager Al Pedrique is explaining away Aaron Judge's less-than-encouraging month of April.
"He has no issues when they throw him a fastball inside," Pedrique said. "His hands are quick enough that he's going to be able to drive the ball to the left-center gap all over the park. It's a matter of time until he feels comfortable where he can do something with those pitches middle away and drive it the other way.
A matter of time. Unfortunately, time takes too long, sometimes. Judge is 24 - no phenom anymore, in his second tour of Triple A. His average has dipped to .267 - small sample size - but he's striking out at an intolerable 33 percent rate. I'm not giving up on him, but if Judge burns another year in coal country, waiting for Beltran to mulch, we're looking at another Yankee prospect on the wrong side of 25.
Today, the hype apparatus is selling a new Luis Severino. His name is Domingo Acevido, who is 6'7" and sure fills a cab. The new head of the farm system, Gary Denbo says.
"He looks like he's going to move quickly through the organization."
(Jeez. I can remember when Denbo was a prospect with Cinncinati. If anybody understands being stuck in a farm system, he does.) Acevido is 22 with a 2.21 ERA in four starts. Supposedly, he once hit 103 on the radar gun. If so, they better move him fast and get some of those bullets, before the ghost of Tommy John arrives to claim him.
Sadly, there is no breakout prospect in Trenton or Scranton who could generate buzz. There is a pitcher at Trenton - Dietrich Enns - on a 23-inning scoreless streak. But he turns 25 next month. Baseball America says of Enns:
Never rated among the Yankees’ Top 30 prospects, Enns is pitching his way into consideration, despite pedestrian stuff.
Yep. All he does is get guys out. Generally, Yankee scouts discount performance, trusting their superior instincts, which are evidenced in the team's incredible success rate at developing players. Do I sound cynical?
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Last night, I turned on the TV to see it was a 2-2 game. I said to myself, " we only score 2, so this game is over."
I changed channels to watch, "Naked and Afraid." Two assholes attempting to survive in the jungles of Guatemala for 21 days. No clothes, no food, no water. Usually, with a machete and a map.
A man & a woman, by the way. Sort of. Thank 6th Avenue that clothes were invented.
I concluded that watching people get eaten by bugs and vomiting, is better than watching the Yankees try to survive a 2-2 tie.
No more Yankee idiocy.
It's easy. All you need to do is wait for the Bronx Boredoms to score two runs, and then announce, "That's our show, thanks for coming, Miami Beach is the greatest audience in the world! Goonight, everybody!"
Listen: It's not even May 1, and I'm ready to shout MAYDAY. I am already sick of this team, this season, and this insufferable, Godot-like wait for some ray of hope. Every team we face unveils a 21-year-old rising star, the likes of whom - were he a Yankee - would generate apocalyptic 24-7 coverage by the YES mush machine. Instead, we're supposed to get excited about reclaiming scrap heap projects that have been kicked to the curb by their previous teams.
No. I take it back. We're supposed to sit happily and wait for A-Rod, Tex, CC, Headley, Ellsbury, Nova, et al, to start producing - even though it will only mean short term benefits if they do. It will mean we will justify burning another three months, as each climbs toward his concrete ceiling, which has been steadily caving in due to age and injuries. How many HRs does A-Rod hit this year? Twenty-five? With a batting average of .240? Is that our third hole DH? Each one deserves to shine in a supporting cast of emerging stars. Instead, they're packed like Syrian refugees into the same leaky boat, lost at sea and headed for collapse.
Worse, it's just so boring. The Yankees are a HR/K team in a HR/K sport. We score when someone hits a homer. Our pitcher dominate - lots of Ks - except for the occasional mistakes, which fly out of the park. Joe Girardi blames the over shift. The fans simply mourn the death of the adaptive player, the Lou Pinella or Roy White. They say you can't teach old dogs new tricks. At some point, you gotta put the dog down. Two runs a game. Last place. Mayday. Mayday. Mayday...
And that, friends, is the upbeat headline on ESPN's recap of last night's game. The gist of the column was that 2009 is a long, long time ago, but for $45 million the Yanks need Alex and CC to be as mediocre as possible this year if the team is to have a chance.
We're in last place. I know you know, and you know that I know that you know, but just to reiterate our position.
This may be the year. The 50 year symmetry.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
1. No teams allowed to field players under age 30.
2. Teams can no longer bunt or hit to the opposite field.
3. All scoring must come via home runs.
4. Teams not allowed to score after the fourth inning.
5. Pitchers must allow batters to hit the way they did in 2009.
What am I missing?
The New York State Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.
What? You thought it was for the Hebrew Home at Riverside?
He hasn't yielded a run this year.
Not complaining about the Starlin Castro deal. But, considering all the self-congratulations the Yankees have foisted upon the fan base... just sayin.'
Seriously, as Severino was failing every test last night, Coney kept on his rant about how great this young player was going to be. We got to watch him load the bases , with two outs, in a one run game. We got to see him walk in a run. We got to see a bases clearing hit up the gap and, when the Rangers finally missed a pitch, the third out was registered. Mind now, this out was a mistake on Texas' part.
Now it was 6 runs on the board for Texas. Luis just registered an "F" on all his, "Coney tests."
So this game was over in the third inning. ( Unlike Pineda, the other day, who had the game lost in the 1st inning). So that is progress? That is our future? This is a player to acclaim? This is another failure, I say.
Coney kept raving about Severino's, "90 plus change-up" ( that was off the plate for ball 4 ); and "what a great learning experience this was for the youngster" ( e.g. if he could get out of bases loaded and two outs, without letting Texas score.) I swear, when he could get the ball into the strike zone, it was a meat ball, dripping with gravy. And Texas lit him up, every time.
When Severino needed to show his mettle, the big out didn't happen. The out pitch didn't exist.
HIs pitch count was more than 30 in the third inning alone. That fat guy who still pitches for the Mets is many times better than that! Didn't we just see a 23 year old dominate the Yankees? Luis will be 4-12.
This kid has zero command and gives me no hope at all for the future. Maybe he can become another Dellin Bettances ( convert from starter to reliever ). That way, if he can go the 6th inning with success, we only need starters to go 4-5 innings. Of course, when we average 2 runs of offense per game, we need exceptional work all the time.
From now on, let's speak of him as our high prospect bum. Just another example of Yankee public relations department, " flash and dash," but no substance. Trade bait, whose appeal is now dirt.
Send him to Scranton and see if he can pitch in relief.
I would rather we had Adam Warren.
Last night, so bleak was the Yankee outlook that John and Suzyn spent most of their time appealing to God for rain. (I wanted hail.) Early on, they recognized our only chance. When this team falls behind by six, root for earthquakes, asteroids, Hitchcocking bird attacks, whatever... just don't waste your breath rooting for a rally.
This morning, as a means of self-torture (the waterboard is broken), I looked up our "Yankee batting leaders." What a joke. Our "top hitter," Starlin Castro, is at .278 - a virtual mirror of last year's team, which was led by Beltran at .276. Castro also "leads" the team in RBIs... with 11. That ranks him 60th in MLB. Sixtieth. Right now, Beltran, Tex and A-Rod - together - have 9 HRs - as many as Bryce Harper. Each is being out-homered by Houston's Jose Altuve,.. all 5 feet 5 inches of him.
I looked it up: Chase Headley (batting .157) has as many stolen bases as Brett Gardner.
Today, eight Yankee pitchers are tied for the team lead in wins.. with one apiece. That leads to this incredible graphic on the team's pitching stats page:
Yep. CC is listed as the team "leader" in wins.
And then there is Luis Severino. Last night, he was certifiably bombed. He is now 0-3 with an ERA close to 7.00. It was the second documented torching in his brief MLB career. Last September, in the waning days of the race, Toronto dropped six runs on him in two innings. Until then, he hadn't been cuffed around in all of 2015 - not in Trenton or Scranton. Now, in his last 10 outings - spanning the winter - he's been rocked twice.
He's 22. There's still hope - unless we learn tomorrow that something hurts. Still, hope is not easy to find with this team. We've got a five-man rotation with three question marks, and a lineup full of nothing but past glories. I can't even figure out if this is a team worth cheering... or if we're better off collapsing and trading for next year, or 2018.
When you spent the last decade vowing to upgrade your farm system and build from within - and now, the apocalypse is looming - that's a bad sign. Ah, but what do I know? I'm just a fan, looking at the stats.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Yankees Radio Network ACME’s Market
Home Run Payoff Contestant.
Pitch is inside, which is a mouthful,
but at ACME that’s a good thing.
And Bianca will win a one hundred dollar
ACME Markets gift card for every home run hit.
Two one to Andrus, one out, no one on,
Bottom of the second, one nothing Texas,
Pitch grounded foul at home plate, two and two.
And when Severino struck out Moreland,
that was Sevy’s first strikeout of the game.
And Winthrop University Hospital reminds you
that they strike out cancer with their
Cyberknife technology. Winthrop University Hospital:
Your health means everything.
We’re on top of everything.
Flirt with a no-hitter. Take that, Beyonce!
(By the way: When Joggie Cano watches Beyonce's new video, in which she smashes storefronts over Jay-Z's infidelity - with a baseball bat, no less - do you think he has second-thoughts about having thrown in with the Cash-Is-King "sports agent" and loped off to Seattle, home to the warning track out?)
Wait, yes... the no-hitter! Last night, Nathan Eovaldi nearly threw one, again proving he's great when he doesn't suck. (The Yankees have three Great Or Suck pitchers: Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and Eovaldi.) I'd started to think of making Eovaldi the fourth rail in the Yankee bullpen stopper collection, with Dellin, Miller and El Chapo. Now, he's secure in the rotation for at least a month. In the 2016 Yankee meritocracy, one quality start wins you at least a month of starts.
But the daily downer is that 22-year-old James Kaprielian - who River Avenue follows with a widget, the Refsnyderian Curse - pinged something in his elbow and will spend the next two weeks in the milk bath. Publicly, we knew Kaprielian was 16 months from the Bronx. Privately, we wanted to see him this August. Now, we might not see him for three years, or ever - the Manny Banuelos Experience - which leaves us with Ian Clarkin - age 21, pitching in Tampa - as our last "blue chip" pitching prospect. (He's thrown 23 innings, 2-1, with 2.35 ERA.) Does he inherit Kaprielian's widget?
What's wrong with us? Sunday, the Tampa Rays unveiled 23-year-old Blake Snell, the latest in a conga line of young arms. Isn't it time to ask what the Rays are doing on the other side of Tampa? Are they drinking from a different water system? Should we check the pipes for lead? Can't we send a hot secret agent to infiltrate a Rays bar and pry loose their secrets?
Finally, we won last night with three runs. We have a three-run attack, which usually means three HRs. Generally, teams with anemic offenses play small ball. Remember the old LA Dodgers with Maury Wills and Junior Gilliam, and the famous "Dodger Homer?" A guy draws a walk, steals second, gets bunted to third, scores on a sac fly. We have the "Yankee Single." A guy homers, nobody on, and that's our single run of the game.
Still in last, but Baltimore has now lost 6 of its last 10. It's a .500 division. Boring, unless the line score says no hits.
Monday, April 25, 2016
By John Sloss Sterling and Suzyn Waldman
Swung on, hit high in the air to right field.
That ball is high...
It is far...
It is… gone!
Into the Tiger Stadium lower deck!
Jacoby hits one!
He Ells-buries it in the right field seats!
O, everything is Jake with Jacoby!
He homers to give the Yankees
a one nothing lead.
And that’s a big load off of his chest,
his first home run, he’s got a big smile,
did you hear the fans here?
Is everybody from New York
in this building?
There’s not a lot of them,
but there’s an awful lot
of New Yorkers in here.
Sounds it, huh?
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Yes, that was a solo shot.
Yankees v. Rangers, third inning
Globe Life Stadium, Arlington, Texas
(not Tiger Stadium)
The day after Brad Pinder met with Dr. Andrews, the Yankees scheduled another office visit for our top pitching prospect, and recent number 1 draft pick, Jim Kaprelian.
The official word is that an MRI saw some swelling in his elbow and the medical community has suggested, " rest and plenty of water."
So the process extends and prolongs. Sometimes, a prospect becomes an old guy with very little tread on his tires by the time this game of wait and see ends.
It is my strong gut feeling that Kaprelian will soon be asking for the , " two for one," discount at Dr. Andrews' clinic.
And these serious career setbacks are happening to all our young, developing players.
What about the old and slow?
Gimme a break!
It's time for your Yankees Indian Point Nuclear Reactor Power Report, brought to you by Indian Point Nuclear Reactor
Old Forge/Taylor/Moosic/Duryea/Avoca/Dupont, with a nimble .348 OBP and .333 slugging percentage. Although he trails the team's leading slugger, Nick Swisher, who has posted a .382 BA with 2 HRs in 34 at-bats, or catcher Gary Sanchez's 27 total bases in 52 ABs, Lane is a feared competitor who is willing to push his 6'3", 220-pound frame if it can make a difference to the team.
Smooth and slick in the outfield, the fleet-footed Lane has handled 13 putouts flawlessly for the RailRiders and notched an assist with his howitzer of a right arm. (The site MLB Trade Rumors is high on his "strong defensive chops"!) He is coming off what is arguably his best year ever, hitting .298 with a solid 12 HRs in 97 games for the double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
On the personal front, Lane describes himself on Twitter as "Outfielder. Oklahoman. Slugging % enthusiast," and a lover of "all things Real Estate and Biomechanics." So he'll appreciate the New York-area property market and be able to put his biomechanical skills to work in the crowded Yankees training room. A class act, he tweeted his gratitude to the KC Royals when they released him, and is excited to be with the Yankees organization. He still follows his alma mater Red Oak High School basketball team, Class B state champs for 2016.
RailRiders fans may have seen Lane zipping toward the park from the player parking lot on his scooter, just another example of his happy-go-lucky sense of humor. (On Twitter, he joked that Marco Rubio wasn't a good candidate because you have to manually hold down the handle when you pump gas in Florida--well, it made us laugh!)
A good guy, smart player and devoted husband, Lane Adams keeps an ear cocked toward the clubhouse phone for the call he knows is coming -- along with another shot at the Big Show. Even outside of Northwest Arkansas, he is truly a "Natural" destined for Yankees pinstripes.
Our nose is pressed to the microwave window, the power is on full, and the aluminum foil is starting to spark.
Yesterday, A-Rod diddled an oblique. He follows Aaron Hicks, who jammed a shoulder. That's what the Tower of Power is telling us. Of course, the Yankees so comfortably lie about injuries that nobody - not even the breathless, lapdog courtiers of YES - believe them anymore. The two bats who were going to save us from lefty pitching - they're out, and it's still April.
Last winter, the Retrieval Empire boasted two stockpiles of young talent. First, was the list of outfielders at Scranton, which would rescue us when Gardner, Ellsbury and Beltran inevitably went down. We had Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, Aaron Judge and Jake Cave - so many OFs that they overflowed to Trenton.
Right now, replacements for A-Rod and Hicks have boiled down to the aging, creaky, Kardashianesque Nick Swisher - who in the last two years hasn't hit higher than .208 - and/or Lane Adams, a 26-year-old career minor league hubcap. Everybody else is hurt, left-handed or not ready. (Judge fans 31 percent of the time.) We're already turning over rocks. And it's still April.
Our other talent overload was the "Scranton Shuttle," the young arms who would yo-yo back and forth, (there's a reason the team is called the Railriders) whenever the bullpen went poof. We had a pile. Not anymore. It looks like Brandon Pinder is following Nick Rumbelow and Jacob Lindgren to surgery, while Tyler Olsen is getting relentlessly hammered, and Scranton is so thin with pitchers that yesterday, it trotted out 28-year-old Tyler Cloyd and 29-year-old Richard Blier, to throw the entirety of a 7-4 loss. And it's still April.
As we wait for Aroldis Chapman, it's time to wonder where this team will be after the next nine games, all on the road, against Texas, Boston and Baltimore. We can't hit lefties. We can't hit situationally. We have one consistent starting pitcher. The injuries are just beginning. Nobody in the minors is breaking out. And it's April, still April, dear God, it's still April.
This is what catastrophe looks like.
Sunday, April 24, 2016
One has to wonder; If Michael Pineda gives up more homers in five innings, than Jesus hits all year in the minors of majors, did we win the trade?
If Michael tags the Yankees with a loss after one inning of work, is it better having him on the field in the Bronx or having Jesus in Buffalo somewhere? I mean, if Nick Swisher had pitched, the Yankees likely would have done better.
My point here is that having someone on a team can, sometimes, be worse than not having a player on your team.
Pineda is being paid millions, right? Guaranteed millions, no matter how he performs?
If having him, say, in Florida instead of NYC meant that the team got more wins than if he was pitching for us, isn't it, " good baseball," to move him to Florida? Or Nigeria? Or to go salmon fishing in the Yemen?
In other words, if the guy you have ( Pineda) does more harm to your club than the guy you don't have does to anyone, aren't you worse off?
I'm just trying to re-start the debate. I am thinking we lost this trade.
By the way, we got a run today. Oh, and Alex pulled on oblique muscle. Oh, and one of our Scranton shuttle guys ( Brad Pinder? Bad Pinder? ) gets , " The Dr. Andrews visit," tomorrow.
Oh, and that Hicks/ Nicks guy is going to have serious shoulder problems. This is not a 4-5 day thing.
I say bring up that kid who hit really well last year at Scranton, and whose name no one can ever recall.
Who needs to watch Judge strike out three times, while we are hoping he can be good?
BY BOOK OR CROOK
By John Sloss Sterling
By book or by crook,
Must score this run;
They've loaded the bases
On two walks
And a catcher's interference,
Which you don't see
April 23, 2016
Tampa v. Yankees
REMEMBER: IF YOU HEAR SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING
The one that got away - Yoan Moncada - is hitting .357 with 13 stolen bases for Boston's advanced Single A team in the Carolina League. Moncada is 20 and playing 3B. He has no HRs on the season. It's too bad the Yankees didn't sign him, but - hey - Hal Steinbrenner just didn't have the money. There's nothing you can do... if you just don't have the money.
For comparison sake, our top hitter thus far in advanced Single A is Mike Ford, a 23-year-old 1B, who is hitting .371 with two home runs at Tampa. Our second best producer, statistically, in Tampa is Billy Fleming, a 23-year-old secondbaseman. He is batting .357, no HRs. Both are a bit old for their levels.
Our top hitter at Double A is Jose Rosario, a 24-year-old 2B. He is batting .310.
At Scranton, Aaron Judge is hitting .302. He's 23. He has 2 HRs.
In low single A, our leading hitter is Trey Amburgey, a 21-year-old outfielder. He is hitting .327. He has a home run.
Certainly, the season will be long enough for several Yankee prospects to emerge. But thus far, nobody is turning heads like Moncada. It's a shame the Yankees couldn't afford him. But that's what happens when you have no money, right?
Yesterday, in Syracuse - winner of 2015-16 Golden Snowball - we saw the leviathan: Tall as the wall in right field, the gigantic Aaron Judge came to play at the city's famed Your Name Here Stadium. And that's where the story turns ugly: He fanned swinging three times - once on a pitch in his eyes - and popped up harmlessly in the fourth at bat. Each time, Judge swung mightily, with long, buttery, unraveling strokes, sending thick waves of air in the direction of Canada. It was not pretty.
Meanwhile, Nick Swisher patrolled first base like the ghost of Dick Stuart. Ground balls went by him, under him and through him. The official scorer - a cousin? - awarded Swish only one error. That was a gift basket from the Syracuse Up-Downtowners. He deserved three. At one point, it almost seemed Swisherian brain-lock - he batted down a ball, couldn't pick it up, and pretzel-ed himself into sort of a backwards semi-cartwheel. The crowd enjoyed it. Very entertaining. It led to two runs.
OK, it's just one stupid, ridiculous snapshot of a game, right? Certainly, we all understood that Swisher needs a few innings at first base. And Aaron Judge is an emerging project who - get this - is still hitting .303... not too shabby.
But they didn't look good, folks. Maybe today.
By the way, Gary Sanchez smacked two hits, including a double. And Rob Refsnyder still technically exists, though he now plays third-base and is hitting .200. (That's 41 points higher than Chase Headley, but don't get me started...)
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Thursday, even on the generally upbeat River Ave blog, Mike Axisa was outlining potential trades that would make Ellsbury disappear. When River Ave is looking to dump you, that's a bad sign. That's looking up and seeing "Surrender, Dorothy." Not even Alphonso plots trades; (he'd rather boil them in oil.) And yet... this morning Axisa can be found waxing over Ellsbury's "Signature Yankee Moment."
And he's right. It was Friday night's electrifying - and incredibly stupid? - steal of home against Tampa. Ellsbury ran on a full count and two outs, with two runners in scoring position, and Brett Gardner at bat. How does a runner attempt to steal home in such a scenario? If the pitcher throws a strike... dear God. Gardner either takes strike three - inning over - or he swings and potentially fractures his teammate's skull. There's a reason why guys don't steal home on 3-2 counts with two outs.
So what happened? Ellsbury stole home! The place exploded. It was incredible... but it raises a legitimate question: Did Ellsbury not know the count was 3-2?
And yet... who cares? HE DID IT! He pulled it off! If a strategy works, forget the insanity, right?
Well... yeah. I'm in. If Gardner had been forced to take strike three, or if Ellsbury were called out at the plate, today's tabloids would be going wild, and NYC talk radio would be re-enacting the 2004 movie "Hotel Rwanda," (remember killing the cockroaches?) This could well have been the end of the Jacoby Ellsbury era in New York. That's the chance he took.
But he did it.
So... I ask you: Is this his Giambi grand slam? Is this Coney perfect game? Is this the moment that finally anoints Jacoby Ellsbury as a Yankee for life? Because we haven't yet seen one.
Is this the game that turns him around. He's still batting only .255 with no home runs and four stolen bases. Yesterday, Ellsbury was even benched against the lefty. He only played because Aaron Hicks hurt himself on a dive. Last night, we witnessed one of the ballsiest career gambles in Yankee memory. Last night, did something happen?
Friday, April 22, 2016
We score first. Our starter looks unhittable. We miss a few scoring chances. Some mediocre hitter for the other side whacks a home run.
Then, slowly, exasperatingly, our lineup falls asleep, and everything unravels.
This is the Yankees of 2016. (Not much removed from 2015 and 2014 and 2013.)
We have perhaps the best bullpen in baseball... yet no lead is safe.
We have some of the highest-paid sluggers in the game... and a vacancy sign in the lineup.
"The Yankees are now five and nine... ouch," John Sterling said last night. "I know it's early, but nobody wants to begin the season that way."
Comcast must be laughing at this team. Rupert Murdoch - the owner of YES - must be throwing chairs through windows. (Or, more likely, Jerry Hall is.) At least Lonn Trost won't have to worry about poor people wanting to see games. Nobody wants to see these games.
I say, bring it on, juju gods. If this in the year of the collapse, let it happen. All the way. Don't hold back. Let's wash these stables clean. Let it fall into the ocean. Somewhere out there are young players who will revitalize the Yankees, and maybe a new owner who will have a plan. The Yankees are what happens when Nepotism weds Cronyism. They should move this franchise to North Korea.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
This started as a comment to Alphonso's last post, but I thought, what the hell. Let's throw it out there.
Ticket sales can't be very good. I'm getting special rock-bottom offers from the Yankees every week or more, the last one offering tickets under $20. And not in the bleachers.
Here's an idea that will never fly in a million years. Trade all the big names, even if we have to eat all or the bulk of their remaining contracted salaries. Clear out the dead or walking dead wood. Whoever we can't get rid of, we bench. Then we field an everyday team of dirt-cheap young unknowns mixed with the few performers we currently have. We give the kids a good shot at making it, and reduce expectations for the season to zero. Then we see what we have and what we can put together for next year, sans the aging and struggling bodies we've been throwing out there.
We'll have to honor their contracts to whatever extent necessary, but the added cost of the kids will be bupkus in the scheme of things. And as the old contracts die, we are unburdened, refreshed, exciting, and with a new direction that will put fannies in seats--which should get cheaper, by the way, to attract a larger fan base as the contract burdens are lifted.
It will never happen. But it would be interesting. Which is one reason it will never happen. Our credo is nothing if not to be as boring as possible. No matter how mediocre or bad it makes us.
When A-Rod walked up to the plate with the bases loaded last night, it was just a certainty that he would strike out. To me, anyway.
What I did not figure was that he would go down looking. I have never been able to fathom how superstar major league players, or anyone good enough to get an at bat in the majors, goes down looking on a 3-2 pitch, with two out, in a critical situation.
To me, that is a far worse blunder than DIDI running himself into a double play, destroying a different rally.
In any case, we got our two runs again which is tantamount to losing. Two solo, meaningless, home runs. Sound familiar?
As a result, El Duque is expressing a concern that the Yankee apocalypse has arrived. Wishful thinking.
The Yankees will score in double figures today, causing everyone to expel a sigh of relief and declare that the, " offensive slump is over."
Only it won't be.
The Yankees will continue to show a spark of life, and then more days of dormancy. They will be like a lamp bulb signaling its last legs. Flicker, shine, flicker, shine......until it goes dark.
But this miserable team will be, "in it" ( the race for the wild card play -in game, where last year the Yankees scored 0 runs ) until the last day.
And on that day, where we get to the post season ( as if the play-in game is truly, the post season) with a win, the Yankees will score two runs early, and then go dark themselves. I don't know the final game score, or who we will be playing, but the Yankee run total will remain, and end, at 2.
Duque is correct that we need a collapse of monumental proportion. We need revolt and rebellion. Something so embarrassing, so unforgiving and so potent, that even the Yankee management and ownership wake up and stop this bull crap sham that all we need, is " re-tooling, not re-building."
I don't want to see any more of ; Ellsbury, Gardner, Beltran, Tex, Headley or Mc Cann. Nor do I wish to wee: Nova, CC, or Pineda.
It is time to scuttle this ship.
But the process will not relieve us. It will torture us.
Yes, let's say it out loud. Why lie?
If the Yankees are going to suck this year, let's go all the way.
Yes, I realize it's only April - this isn't the last copter out of Saigon - but the despair I feel usually comes in September, when the end is literally near.
After last night, to root for this Yankee team just seems so pointless. So - well - gullible.
If A-Rod homers tonight, what does it mean? His ever-diminishing ceiling is defined in concrete. He'll be lucky to hit 25 and bat .250. If Jacoby Ellsbury starts hitting, how long will he last, before a tendon snaps or a bone breaks? How insane is it to think that CC will ever return to form? And if all management wants to do is wait until everybody is off the books... until all the big contracts disappear... so it can trade the farm for Bryce Harper and then give him a 12-year deal... why bother? These aren't the Yankees. This is just another club. This franchise offers us no swagger, no bluster, no rising stars, nothing. It is most defined by the self-congratulatory hubris of management, fueled by a cheerleader media that will say anything to stay afloat.
The Yankees sit on the biggest pot of gold in American sports, yet the owner's priority is to cut costs. Hal Steinbrenner has used his dad's inheritance as a plaything. One day, he refuses big contracts to save on luxury tax. Next day, he trades prospects for Aroldys Chapman. We just descend deeper into the void, while rivals swoosh past us to the top.
Tell me a reason to feel hope for this team, this season, other than that maybe in September, some prospect will come up for a cup of coffee and look good.
If the meltdown is coming, I say let it happen. Let it rain. Let the shitpile fall. We cannot do worse than this.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
"A terrible inning for the Yanks," John said, after Chase Headley booted a grounder and then Didi Gregorius dropped the throw.
The Yankees are down 3-1 against Oakland, bases loaded, one man out, and The Master is losing it.
Later, Suzyn echoed his question, asking exasperatingly, "What IS going on here?"
He made several huge off-season moves ( Castor and Didi have worked out, sort of ), in addition to the guy awaiting release from MLB for shooting up his girlfriend's garage:
Aaron Hicks ( am I right? His name is Aaron ? As in Hank? ) - I probably haven't learned his name for a reason.
But Cashman told us, with great excitement, how this kid was just coming into his own. A great defender with speed and a cannon arm. "His hitting woes were pretty much were behind
him" ( sayeth Brian ) and, in the waning days of last season ( when nothing mattered for the Twins or their opponents, and everyone from AA was pitching ), he elevated his BA into the high .260's.
We get youth, speed, a great arm and excitement with this kid ( still a prospect, really ). Only thing is; the Yankees play Gardy, Jacoby and Beltran. So there is no room for Hicks. Yawn.
As a result, Hicks is hitting .059 and comes in for Carlos when some defense could help our
cause ( usually, never ).
Dustin Ackley ( am I right?) - Brian had much the same to say when he brought this dude in last year. Only thing is; we have no position for him, either. So, he has 7 at bats and a .000 BA.
Cashman's leadership is about as effective as that of President Bush, going into Iraq without an exit plan, and with no idea of what a mess he was creating. Leaving things worse than if he had done nothing. But what is leadership if not, "taking steps?"
Cashman, like Bush, simply makes moves to distract everyone from how horribly he has performed his true responsibilities. Luckily, Cashman's decisions, stupid and non-productive as they are, do not cost lives and the death of families. And he only pisses away the ill-gotten wealth of Happy Hal, not the nation's Treasury.
The Cashman result: There is insufficient talent on the roster, or in the organization, to effectively compete. None that will play, in any case. And we are not going to the one-game, wild card play-in. That is a standard far out of reach. And Cashman has been at the helm for decades.
If the people can revolt in Brazil, can't we do it on River Avenue?
So I settle back into my bark-a lounger and dial up the Yankee game.
At first I thought; " This is great. An olde fashioned pitchers' duel. Tension on every pitch. No margin for error on defense."
Then, I realized something else; this Yankee team cannot hit and, by definition, cannot hit when it matters ( in the clutch for those new to baseball).
We surged ahead in the bottom of the 5th, to lead 2-1. I didn't actually notice how we scored that run. Nonetheless, as I poured another re-fill from my pitcher of, "Crown Royal manhattans," it hit me;
"The 2 Run Limit."
The Yankees had already reached it and, unless we could pitch shut-out baseball through the 9th, we were going to lose. We don't ever win at home when we go into extra innings. Because, due to baseball folklore ( and who does the predictable thing more often than Girardi?), we will have used both Betances and Miller to keep the game tied for us, so we could walk-it-off in the bottom of the 9th.
Only thing is, we never win in that scenario. Maybe if it is 12-12. But not if it is 2-2, and the Yankees haven't threatened for 2 hours.
So I watched pointlessly as the zeros mounted. I think the Yankees always went out 1-2-3. Maybe I missed one inning when a Yankee reached base. But nothing happened. Not a damn thing. My adrenaline never once wiggled ( until I noticed the manhattan pitcher was on empty ). There was not a second of positive expectation for the Yankees.
Didi made two great defensive plays. I remember them.
Next thing I know, the 2-2 tie proceeds as I surmised, and now we are into the 10th and 11th, with the Scranton no names, replacing our real relievers.
It is so inevitable. And so draining.
My anticipation for watching a Yankee game is like looking forward to dusting the attic.
A-Rod added to his statistical collection ( a hit, an rbi ). What else matters?
I wonder how Mason Williams is doing?
Ah, yes. I'd almost forgotten... the boundless love a moose feels for his flying squirrel...
Rest assured: John Sterling will not lose faith in the Yankees, in Bigelow Tea, or in Jeep. He truly believes we will hit, and that 15 minutes can save you big on car insurance. And, you know what? He's right... about the team. Eventually, they will. But a question is starting to loom on the horizon: Will it matter?
Frankly, this is mid April, a time we always slip on our frozen puke. Fortunately, we don't remember it in May. But the 2016 team needed a nice April, and we are now last in the AL East, with the fourth worst record in the league, ahead of only the Twins, Mariners and Astros.
In the dreaded Small Sample, Tex is batting .200, A-Rod .154, Hicks .059, Headley .200, Ellsbury .213 and Didi .225. John believes that's a positive: All of these hitters will start to produce, and the team will thrive.
But like Trump and Hillary, the fans are moving on. I doubt Comcast is losing viewers in Jersey. Everywhere, I see Mets and Redsock caps, where Yankee emblems used to flourish. In Syracuse, the guy at the flea market who sells Yankee shirts didn't bother to get a new shipment this spring. He's still selling Grandersons.
Listen carefully, and you can almost hear the sound of crickets. It's too early for crickets.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
The latest episode of That Darn Curt - titled "The Phantom Menace" - stems from a series of rage-filled tweets, re-tweets and blog deliriums on the Far Right Straw Man Terror of the Month: The looming threat to our children of transgender people peeing in public restrooms.
As far as I can tell, Curt doesn't want them peeing anywhere. Period. When in public, they should cross their legs and hold water. It's not that America is facing a wave of hormonal-crazed restroom abductions. It's just that real Americans hate anybody who is different, and denying them a place to piss is a neat way to hit them where it hurts.
Curt wants male transsexuals to pee in the men's rooms, regardless of how they look or what they're wearing. Penises peeing with penises, which makes perfect sense, unless you picture Curt at a urinal beside what looks like a evening-gowned supermodel - a photo I'd pay money to see. In that case, wouldn't it make sense if the babe in the mini-skirt just finds a booth in the ladies room, squats and pees, and no newly state-empowered lug nut bothers to demand a birth certificate?
Every few months, like a smoke-detector with a faulty battery, Schilling tweets about some new menace to America from the godless, commie-loving left. (Some of these threats come from web sites that fear lizard alien shape-shifters.) There's always a boogieman. Last time I looked, if a wacko endangers a kid in a restroom, there are plenty of laws to put him away. I didn't realize we needed to deputize the citizenry to patrol our bathrooms and keep everyone on their rightful throne.
If ESPN has one shred of morality - or guts - Schilling should never make another peep on that network. Don't worry about Curt. He'll hook up with Fox News or Trump or David Duke, or somebody who specializes in Nazi metaphors and racial dog whistles. What a putz. But next time you gotta go, make sure you have your papers.
Why did the chicken cross the basepath?
a) He wanted to be in fowl territory.
b) He heard an umpire yell, "Bawk."
c) He didn't want to be "a birdin'" to his team.
d) His friends were turkeys.
e) He was hurt and needed a nearby hospital with a Buffalo wing.
Note to the curious: It is believed the finger fell a passing bird, who plucked it from a Happy Meal.
You need to read it. In a nutshell, Powell systematically dismantles Recipient Randy's gin-addled claim that the Yankees receive no taxpayer handouts. Slowly, piece-by-piece, plank-by-plank, the writer outlines the hundreds of millions of public dollars poured into the franchise - a national symbol of nepotism and cronyism, which charges the highest ticket prices in the animal kingdom. This wasn't a debate. It was a flogging. Levine looked like the guy who brings hand lotion to a semen fight.
Normally, after the groundhog sees its shadow, it skitters back down into its abyss until - say - the next hair plugs medical procedure. But Levine - whose mop suggests a trip to the Ronald McDonald House - has followed up his masterwork. He has penned an article in the right-wing website Newsmax, comparing Donald Trump's current GOP delegate battle to - gulp - a pennant race.
I'm not making this up. Here is what he says.
Gov, Kasich has already been mathematically eliminated and soon, the same will happen to Sen. Cruz.That said, Gov Kasich continues on, lingering in the race, hoping to win at the convention and claiming he should be selected because he believes the polls show that he does better against Democrats than his fellow Republican candidates.
This argument makes no sense. It would be as if one decided to substitute the winner of the American League pennant in the World Series with the team which came in third place.
Wait a second. Isn't Levine complaining about the Wild Card?
Yes... the third place team taking the place of the pennant winner in the World Series! It's called the Wild Card. Isn't that what the Yankees have been chasing for the last three years?
You win or lose on the field or at the ballot box. It is OK to play as a spoiler, as many teams do to effect the final standings, but if that is your goal you should acknowledge it.
What? Come September, when Levine's Leaches are chasing yet another Wild Card, should our esteemed team president announce that the club is now a gentlemanly spoiler, and that it actually has no intention of going all the way? That it is fundamentally wrong to use the Wild Card as a route to the World Series? Doesn't the team with the best record in the AL deserve to play in the final runoff.
Listen: I have no issue with Levine being a right-wing blockhead. (That ship sailed long ago.) If he wants to support Trump, fine. (Though considering the shameful amount of taxpayer money the Yankees receive, there is an ample stench of corruption when its top officials cozy up to the candidates who might someday be writing out the checks.) Nope. They're all scumbags, and when it comes to pandering in sports, Trump is just a rich version of Rudy Guiliani with hair.
But the baseball metaphor... Yeesh. These are the people who run the Yankees?
Monday, April 18, 2016
Down in the Single A bus-ride leagues, Redsocks' prospect Yoan Moncada - whom poor Hal "Food Stamps" Steinbrenner just couldn't afford - has an eight-game hitting streak. He has stolen 10 bases in 10 games, and he's hitting .333. Moncada plays 3B. He is Boston's top prospect, and he looks ticketed for Double A by June.
If the Yankees had signed him, YES would be broadcasting daily updates. (We can talk about Aaron Judge, but he's generally ranked in the 50th percentile of top 100 prospects; Moncada is ranked in the top 10.)
Listen: I'm not voting Moncada into Cooperstown yet, but if he becomes a star - maybe as early as 2018 - add him to Betts, Bogartes and the ownership's willingness to sign free agents - Boston could have our number for a long time. They have won three world championships in the last 12 years. I wonder about the middling Yankee fans - the New Yorkers who basically just know there is a guy named A-Rod - and whether they realize the future shift of domination in baseball?
Simply stated, the Yankees are not the Yankees anymore. The only reason this has not become apparent to most people is that no other team has claimed the mantle... yet.
I have to say this upfront. Yesterday, on this very record, I revealed a mathematical formula which predicted the Yankees would score four runs in Sunday's big game of Japan superstar pitcher vs. Japan superstar pitcher.
Mustang didn't bother to notice this nugget of baseball mastery. Look it up, dude and post the appropriate "props." Are you away on holiday?
Once again, I digress.
The thing is; the worst event possible for Yankee fans, and the team in the long run, was the re-emergence of A-Rod's name as a positive contributor to a Yankee home win. Now, all is right again with the team.
We can count the numbers of A-Rod RBI's and Home runs for the next two weeks. We can show where he is on the all time baseball leaders' list, steroid users or not. We can note how remarkable that it is, at his age, to be winning ballgames with a single stroke of the bat. We can sigh gratefully that the AL uses the designated old guy.
After all, when did baseball ever require running, catching and throwing?
We can forget about the aging of the Yankees. Or what will happen if A-Rod continues to have a BA in the low 100's. Don't worry that we won't sign, or give an opportunity to young talent, because this $25 million per season guy will be around again next year. And maybe longer , after that, if Hal observes this hot streak.
All is well. The Yankees won. TV shots of A-Rod in the dugout showed a totally relaxed superstar, bathing in the glory of pumpkin seeds and thoughts of adoration.
All is well.
No need to worry.
I mean, like, whoooooa. Pass the bong. Are you talking about a game with no Kirby Yates? I mean, like, wow, there's no six calls to the bullpen sponsored by our Tri-State Ford Auto Dealerships? I mean, what happens to our Tri-State Ford Auto Dealerships? Do they close? A game where, afterwards, we DON'T shuttle somebody down to Scranton?
A seven-inning start... Has the human body evolved to absorb such punishment?
Well, in the season's 11th game, a Yankee starter pitched through the 7th. It was the guy with the slightly torn elbow, who underwent bone spur surgery last winter. Masahiro Tanaka gave up three runs - two earned - and that was everything. A seven inning stretch. Woah.
Crisis averted? I'm hoping. Unfortunately, as we've seen, three runs can be a bridge too far. Fortunately, we also received a two-run ding by A-Rod - number 689 on the career, tying him with the sum of three consecutive primes: (227+229+233), which is pretty impressive. A-Rod was batting sixth. He's still hitting below Paris Hilton's weight. (Did you know she was seen at Coachella? Looked great in her designer scooter chair.)
The seven-inning start...
So, we are 4th in the AL East, three games behind the Baltimore Bubble, which soon will pop. More worrisome are the Redsocks and Toronto, who are jockeying with .500. We host Oakland, the Rays, then visit the Rangers... and then, we finish April with a weekend at Fenway.
By then, will we have seen another seven-inning start?
Sunday, April 17, 2016
It's too juicy to paraphrase. You need to read it.
But those pro-A-Rod protesters who carried the signs that said "Randy Levine is the devil" had it wrong. He's far too stupid to be anybody's devil. This article undresses him. It's worse than anything Alphonso could say. Reading it is like eating ice cream.
Disillusioned and learning another new position, Rob Refsnyder is a miner trapped forever in Scranton
Self-abuse, I guess. Three weeks ago, the guy turned 25, which, for a prospect, is paleolithic. He is starting Year III in Scranton. (That's why they call it Triple A?) By now, he probably walks into diners and calls the waitresses by name. He could run for office. He can become a land baron, a Scrantonian bigwig.
Refsnyder has now played more than 200 games for Scranton. And you can see it.
In 2014, he hit .300 and was named a Baseball America Triple A All-Star at 2B. He played 77 games that year - not a small sample size. The Yankees' reaction? Over the winter, they signed Stephen Drew, a veteran SS who had hit .162 that year, and installed him as their second-baseman.
There is no charitable way to describe Drew's play last year. Let's just say he got hot at the end and finished at .201. Meanwhile, Refsnyder played 117 games for Scranton, concentrating on playing 2B. His average dropped to .271. He didn't make any All-Star team.
This year, he's hitting .242. It's only 33 at bats, but there's another factor here: He's now trying to learn 3B, and it won't happen overnight.
He's played five games at 3B, made two errors. It's good to have a guy learn extra positions, but what's the point? The Yankees have Chase Headley for three more years, even though he is already looking like a Jenny Craig version of Pablo Sandoval. He's like one of Bernie Sanders banking targets - too big to fail. They will play Headley until his average falls below .210 or his throws to first start harming celebrities in the right field boxes. (Remember Knobby hitting Keith Olbermann's mom?)
At 2B, we now have Starlin Castro - age 26. It's too early to lock him into the slot, although Brian Cashman has already taken numerous victory laps, showered with praise from fair and impartial, brown-nosed arbiters of the YES Network - the Yankee version of Fox News. In their minds, Cashman has pulled off the steal of the century.
Nobody wants to hear about Rob Refnyder. So why, why, why am I bothering?
Listen: I don't know more than the Yankee scouts and coaches. If they say Refsnyder isn't ready, he probably isn't ready. Maybe the guy has some fatal flaw in his DNA - I dunno. I can't sit here and condemn the baseball professionals who devote their lives to finding and developing talent. OK? I get it.
But one of the great frustrations of rooting passionately for the Yankees - as opposed to other teams - is almost never getting to experience the joy of a young, emerging no-name player - the kid who comes out of nowhere to surprise us. Remember watching Bernie Williams evolve from a wisp into a star centerfielder? Wasn't it nice watching Brett Gardner make the all-star team last year, silencing all those early critics who said he was merely a pinch runner?
Even if they don't always become stars, the Greg Birds and Slade Heathcotts are so much more exciting than another Brian Roberts or Stephen Drew.
But the Yankees don't give us them. They buy boring old players - who are not real Yankees - and they field a boring old team, that is not the Yankees either. (Years from now, will Headley, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann be remembered as Yankees? I doubt it.)
I yearn for rookies.If we're going to suck, if all we can do is chase the Wild Card, can't we at least give some of our kids a shot?
Or - better - trade Refsnyder. He'll be a fine MLB secondbaseman someday. And he will make us pay.