Yesterday's headline hit me like an obit about a celebrity you thought was already dead. You know... Kirk Douglas... Doris Day... Dick Van Dyke... The Yankees anointed Greg Bird as their 2017 starting first baseman. WTF? This is news? There was a competition? This was, gulp, in doubt?
I mean, for 14 months, the Yankiverse has awaited Bird. We watched him in the Arizona Fall League. He's the only actual 1B on the roster. He hit two years ago. He's hit all spring. He's batting .421 with four homers. And yet... it's news that he's beaten out Chris Carter, the granite-gloved 30-year-old strikeout leviathan?
No, let me rephrase: It's fake news. It's fake because we all know in our hearts that Bird has only beaten out Carter for now. Don't think for a moment that if Bird goes 0-10 in a weekend series, we won't see Carter - a DH at whatever position he "plays" - platooning against the next lefty. Hell, it could happen before spring training ends. Mustang is dead on right: Today's Yankee front office would still be playing Wally Pip.
And it's not just first base. We spent the winter assuming Aaron Judge would get at least 200 MLB at bats, so we could see at last what he's got. Throughout his career, Judge has always started slowly and adjusted. Well, after three weeks in Tampa, the ghosts of Billy Connors seem to declaring a dead heat between Judge and Aaron Hicks, despite the latter's Hall of Fame resume of disappointments.
Listen: I don't wish bad fortune on Hicks or Carter. Both have roles to play, and if either steps up to have a great season, it's gravy. But the Yankees cannot market themselves as the team of youth, "the Baby Bombers," and then dollop out last year's potato salad, claiming it's fresh. In Carter's case, we have a known defensive liability who, if given the at bats, would threaten all-time single season strikeout records. In the case of Hicks, we see an eternal prospect - now 27, two years older than Nick Rumbelow, fer godsake - who hit .217 last season. Two-fucking seventeen. Yeah, Hicks was working on a decent month when he strained a Willie and disappeared. That's it. For that, he wins a do-over? Two seventeen, folks. With on On Base Percentage of .281.
Well, at least we know that Kirk Douglas, Doris Day and Dick Van Dyke are still alive. May each live another twenty years, happily and in heath! And for now, when Lou Costello asks who's on first, Bud Abbott says, Bird! Next to Gary Sanchez! And with a little fairy dust and elbow grease juju, we could have two of baseball's rising sluggers anchoring our lineup. And here's the news: Unless the Yankees rediscover Wally Pip, we might actually get a chance to see something.