IT IS HIGH, IT IS FAR, IT IS...

Friday, August 31, 2018

2019 Idea Contest...How To Make The Yankees Into a Contender

One of my favorite songs (as a country boy) is, " I'm just an old lump of coal.  But I'm going to be a diamond someday..."

Forthwith is my 2019 idea of the century:

Convert Andujar from third base ( lump of coal ) to left field ( diamond ).



Miguel does not have the assets needed for third base defense ( burst, reflexes, ball control, and confidence).  If I could do a study ( too lazy ), I could prove that the great third baseman not only make fewer errors per chance than Andujar, but also cut off...and turn into outs...those shots between him and the bag which go for doubles against this Yankee line-up.

Anyone remember Craig Nettles single-handedly defeating the Dodgers, and breaking their spirit, in the World Series of ( fill in the year, please)?  Andujar does not have those abilities.

He does however, have the following assets which are perfect for left field:

1.  He can hit a ton.
2.  He has good speed.
3.  He has a good arm.
4.  He is athletic.
5.  His missing assets( to play third base at an all star level) are not relevant in left field.

As we all know, Gardy is always burned out by the end of August due to overplay, hustle, and age.  He would be a great bench player next season, however, and mentor for Andujar.

We would have an amazing outfield next season with Andujar in left, Hicks in center and Judge in right.  Gardy can be back-up in left and center.  Stanton is a DH and part-time outfielder.  And, pray to the Ju-Ju gods, Frazier could  be the wild card outfielder.

Doesn't leave much room for McCutchen, but he'll be another year older.  And a free agent at that.  Jacoby will remain injured and cannot be figured into this picture.

So let's hear it for brilliant idea #1 for the 2019 team.

Let's convert the lump of coal ( defensively ) into a 4 carat diamond.

Move Andujar to left field.

Comments?  Praise?  Toasts?  Spanish Ladies?  More ideas?  Spanish Ladies?

McCutchen to wear #26

If ever there was a rental uniform on the Yankees, 26 has to be one of the leading candidates. It's almost the prom tux of the Bronx Bombers.

McCutchen will be the 76th player to wear #26, joining Andy Fox, Nick Johnson, and a slew of other luminaries, a few of whom were actually fine players. And a lot of them who were, let us say, less. Lots of memories in this list.


Neil Allen
Tyler Austin
Frank Baker
Johnny Barbato
Mark Bellhorn
Juan Beniquez
Juan Bernhardt
Daryl Boston
Johnny Broaca
Homer Bush
Sammy Byrd
Chris Capuano
Hugh Casey
Tex Clevenger
Rich Coggins
Ivan DeJesus
Bill Drescher
Karl Drews
Ryne Duren
Cedric Durst
Kevin Elster
Steve Farr
Sal Fasano

Mike Ferraro
Tom Ferrick
Andy Fox
Joe Glenn
Greg Golson
Fernando Gonzalez
Jimmie Hall
Orlando Hernandez
Koyie Hill
Stan Jefferson
Don Johnson
Nick Johnson
Jimmy Jones
Mitch Jones
Austin Kearns
John Kennedy
Steve Kiefer
Jon Lieber
Bryan Little
Dale Long
Terrence Long
Darnell McDonald
Mike Milosevich
Jose Molina
John Montefusco
Archie Moore
Ernie Nevel
Joe Niekro
Wil Nieves
Eduardo Nunez
Johnny Oates
Chris Parmelee
Ramiro Pena
Scott Pose
Domingo Ramos
Shane Rawley
Jimmie Reese
Rick Rhoden
Buddy Rosar
Steve Roser
Kevin Russo
Marius Russo
Rey Sanchez
Ken Sears
Ken Silvestri
Yangervis Solarte
Shane Spencer
Darryl Strawberry
Cesar Tovar
Gus Triandos
George Uhle
Paul Zuvella




Cashman for President

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed Brian Cashman's incredible ability to be "forced" to do exactly—and only—what he wanted to do in the first place?

This is a trademark of highly effective presidents.  FDR, who in my humble opinion was our greatest chief executive, was adept at this.  He used to tell visitors to the White House, "FORCE me to do this."

That is, 'Create enough outside pressure so I can get the political leverage to push something through.'

Brian Cashman, my friends, has this quality by the bushelful, which is why he is wasted running a mere baseball team.

Several of us—I think Tom Parr, and apoorplayer—have made the very valid points that the McCutcheon trade may well work out fine.  That we don't seem to have given up so much for him, and that Cutch may well prove to be a useful rental, and we have to do something.

I was about to reply that what I hated was Cashman's usual failure to anticipate and plan.  How if he was going to go after Cutch, he probably should have done so a month earlier.  Why waste weeks with Shane Robinson and Neil Walker in the outfield?

For that matter, as I've brayed before, why not realize we are still rebuilding, and devote much of this season to letting the likes of Drury, Wade, McKinney, Austin, Sheffield, and others battle it out to see if THEY could fill the holes we are now springing quicker than the good ship Guppy?

What a dummy that Cashman is, huh?

But like so many Rooseveltian opponents over the years, I suddenly find myself realizing that I am the sucker at the table.

This is what Brian Cashman wanted to do all along.  This is the only thing Brian Cashman has ever been comfortable—or successful—doing in his long career:  acquiring experienced players, NOT carefully molding and nurturing a continually successful farm system.

Yes, I know some terrific prospects have managed to make it over the Bronx equivalent of the Berlin Wall this year, machine gun bullets kicking up concrete by their faces.  That will happen, even with the best prospect squanderer (or squasher), though Cashie did his utmost to ensure they were buried back in Scranton.

Of course, with the attention Coops gives to mentoring and instruction in this organization, El Matador and El Conquistador are as likely to end up imploding, Bird and Sanchez style, as becoming the superstars some have predicted.

For that matter, Sevvy already seems to be deteriorating rapidly, and no other young pitcher has stepped forward.  And then there's that .204 road average that Judge was sporting before his devastating bone injury, and how even those farm players who aren't peddled off for rentals and junk heaps—such as our CF of the Indefinite Future, Estevan Florial—end up suddenly moving in reverse.

For all the assertions that the Yankees' farm system is taking a breather because it has produced so much, right now we are talking maybe 4 real success stories, all of which seem to be teetering on a razor's edge, ready to split right into painful mediocrity.

So what to do?

Why, pick up Cutch, and Happ, and Lynn, and Britton, of course!  Go out and sign a brace of free agents to outrageous contracts next winter, of course!

What else CAN the Yankees do?

I mean, we can't let the great start to this season just slip away, can we??

I mean, we're practically a 100-win team, and all it will take is one hot streak by us, a week or two of exhaustion and mediocrity by Boston (and Houston or Cleveland, and probably the Cubs, but never mind!) and we're sipping champagne, and burnishing that Cooperstown plaque for you-know-who.

And hey, if it doesn't work out this year?  Why, once we are FORCED to sign Manny and Bryce ad Corbin, we could easily match Cashman's track record of one world championship every 20 years or so (with teams he actually built).

So yeah, I for one am excited—or at least, sort of relieved, aren't they same thing?—to see Cutch take over right field from Shane Robinson.  Aren't you?  I can't wait to see Manny Machado move into Neil Walker's locker, and Bryce Harper take Gardner's, and Corbin take over Sonny Gray's spot in the (road) rotation.

I'm all aboard the Pennant Express!  We HAVE to have the veterans!  We HAVE to crush the running dogs in Eurasia!  I mean, Eastasia!

As I said:  Cash's talents are wasted on mere baseball.






 

Suggestions for the Yankees in September

First, I'd like to propose rules for the future use of Dellin "Bet Against Us" Betances.

1. Never ask him to close a game. We're better off with AJ Cole.

2. Always have a reliever warming in the pen. Never send him out there without someone else ready to go.

3. Wait... make it two relievers warming in the pen.

4. If he walks a batter - any batter - take him out. Immediately. Don't talk to him. Take him out. 

5. Come November 1, explore all trade possibilities. That's not to say he should be given away. But everyone will be happier - including Dellin - if next year he can pitch in a city where nobody comes to games. 

Secondly, I'd like to propose the Yankees watch a replay of last night's loss to Detroit, then convene a free-wheeling, celebrity panel discussion on some of the things that happened.

1. Neil Walker twice taking his good-old, sweet, happy-go-lucky, ho-hum, la-di-da time on ground balls, transforming them into infield singles. Because he is a master veteran, we cannot blame rookie blunders. So "Walk" can explain what he was thinking, as the Tigers sprinted to first.

2. Chad Green failing to execute a rundown that would be an embarrassment at the Little League World Series. Rather than charge the runner, he threw to third base. That led to Miguel Andujar - who, by the way, looks like a great future DH - throwing the ball into the runner's back. Maybe Aaron Boone can give the Yankees tips on what to do, if it happens again.

3. Brett Gardner being thrown out at third on a single to right. On the replay, the entire Yankiverse got to watch him slow down while rounding second. Et tu, Gardy? We could have had two runners on for Giancarlo, who then homered. Folks, we lost that game by one run, and there it was. This, from Gardy, our de facto captain. Lately, he's been as big a reason as Shane Robinson for having to trade prospects for a month of Andrew McCutcheon. What happened to Gardy? Next winter, who will want to sign this guy?

4. Gleyber Torres ridiculously trying to stretch a single into a double. He was out by 20 feet - second time in two nights, thrown out. With Didi out, he has been a fright show at SS - the Yankees rearranged their infield rather than give a shot to Tyler Wade - installing weakness at every position. 

Thirdly, I would simply like to ask the fundamental question now echoing across the Yankiverse: 

How can a team this talented, this successful, be so unspeakably shitty? 

Injuries, you say? I'm sorry. Great teams fight through them. This team has folded its tent on almost every level - from Severino's collapse to the front office's month-long denial on the loss of Aaron Judge.


Now, we bring in McCutcheon, whose skills have deteriorated markedly over the last three years. Over the last seven days - he's been on a mini-streak, hitting .317. So there's that. And he cannot be worse than Robinson, who may turn into the iconic horror meme of 2018. His greatest moment came drawing a walk in Fenway, in a game that was destined to be a disaster movie. Zolio Almonte has nothing on this guy. 

We gave up an overachieving infielder and somebody who has yet to be named. I'm already this morning seeing news stories suggesting the Yankees received McCutcheon for nothing - and they don't even have a name yet. Insane. 

Of course, all is well, as long as Oakland and Seattle don't get hot. So, I suppose Boonie will just keep doing what he's doing. As long as the rest of the league is thoroughly mediocre, the 2018 Yankees can get by. In fact, they actually can fit in quite well.

Cashman Panics.



Brian had seen enough.  A big charge by the Yankees and a two run lead, heading into the ninth is blown into the wind.

Our new manager brimming with no ideas.

Suddenly, we can't beat the Marlins, the White Sox or the Tigers.

But we can beat ourselves.  Every inning we do something else either wrong or stupid.

The team is listless, playing pop warner level baseball ( everyone but Torres knew he had no chance to take second on that hit to left, and he was out by 8 feet and a bump).  He has to be the world's worst baserunner.  And second worse fielder.

We can't execute plays.  We have no speed.  Clutch hitting is at rock bottom.  Pitching is mediocre and volatile.

And we have no managing of anything.  Sorry Boonie.  Puffery and encouraging words aren't cutting it.  What, pray tell, did you offer the fans in tonight's " manager's report?"

Cashman saw this and realized it is all on him.  He has put together a disaster, blended it together, and gotten no juice at all.  The farm system is back to " dirt bag" level, if anyone evaluates carefully.

So he pulled the one card he has never discarded.  The card reads as follows:

"  When in trouble do this:  trade young prospects for an aged, former star who is having the worst season of his career because he is with the wrong franchise. Get a guy who's acquisition will strip the team of another top prospect or two, lock him to a contract for two months, and pray for rain.  Show highlight film of new guy's best season.  Make the idiot fans believe that you have just acquired a superstar for nothing."

So McCutchen comes to the Yankees.  All 33 years of him.  And we we have him until we are out of the playoffs.  Or, we can re-sign him for $15 million and send another prospect or two somewhere.

At a minimum, we have given up our 23rd overall prospect ( Abiatal Avelin); and, if he pans out, the SF Giants will get 10 quality years out of him.  I am sure we gave up more than that.  But Brian insists, super negotiator that he is, that the additional players to be named later are not named until this baseball season is in the rear view mirror.

Soon, we shall see the tapes of McCutchen at his peak ( probably this very morning);  hitting home runs, playing defense, running like the wind and throwing guys out at home.  Only today;  he has bad knees and a .255 average with 15 home runs, and throws like Josh Donaldson. He has helped the Giants sink right to the bottom.  He is " dead meat," as they say on the lower east side.

And now he is our " dead meat."  Add him to the pile of failed acquisitions for which we grossly over-paid.  Players for whom we traded our future.  And lost.

Cashman is back, folks.  And nothing has changed.  It never was going to.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

At last, a fairy tale ending takes shape?

Red Thunder is playing ball again.



He singled to center, flew out to left, grounded to third.

(By the way, if you're not reading the comments on this site, you're missing everything.) 

The Rip Van Winkle Team

So there we were, a bold young Yankees team, starting off on the morning of this new dynasty with our dog, Wolf, and a whole slew of brilliant young prospects.

But then, see, we got waylaid by this strange little gnomish man with a twinkle in his eyes.  Perhaps he was asking us for help hauling a cask of mysterious spirits up into the hills.  More likely, it was a freezer full of ice cream sandwiches.

Anyway, next thing you know, we're waking up with a long white beard, the dog's gone, and our head  (or stomach, or hamstring) hurts something awful.

All of which is a very roundabout, New York, Old North River way of saying...how the hell did this Yankees team get so old???

Take a look at them on any given night, and half of this squad looks like it can barely dodder around out there.  Neil Walker is having a terrific season—for an 80-year-old.

Gardner can't even pick up balls in the outfield anymore, much less hit anything with his patented, "Maitre d' Swing," designed to kill any and every rally with the level efficiency of the head waiter sweeping that little crumb-catching, metal device across your table top.

"Oh, the bases are full of runners?  Pardon, let me sweep all that out of the way, monsieur."

CC, for all his guile, can barely get through an inning against the worst-hitting teams in baseball anymore without allowing 2-3 runners.  We would be insane to re-up him.  But then, every other starter on this team seems unable to go six innings either.

Even our young players look old.  The Gleyber fumbles around out there and can't score from third on a wild pitch, Bird has turned into a statue, and Stanton looks like an old man.

I know, I know.  It's getting toward the end of the season, and the small hurts mount up, and this team might look altogether different if the likes of Judge, Didi, Clint Frazier, and even Old Sancho were out there, uninjured.

But didn't we start this season with literally 10 outfielders?  And 9-10 infielders?  Sure, the starting pitching was always a little thin, but didn't we have the Packed Bullpen of Death?

And wasn't it just LAST SEASON that we had maybe the best farm system in baseball, with our teams finishing first at almost every level of the minor leagues?

That was, either, all a mirage, or we have traded away the future for a handful of magic Happ and Hapless beans.  Either way, it reflects damned badly on our GM...who has, come to think of it, been known to dress up like a very suspicious, elfin creature...

This gets back to the whole problem of Cashman deciding—on the basis of one, very nice playoff run—that he had essentially finished his Team of Destiny, and just had to add a few finishing flourishes.

Instead, as many of us have been raving for months, this season should have been full of the joys of bringing up young infielders, outfielders, and pitchers, and seeing how they did.

And maybe...they would have stunk up the joint.  But then at least we would have known—and we would have seen if Cashman knew anything about talent or not.

Instead, as El Duque noted, other rebuilding teams are already starting to sweep past us.  The White Sox, the Rays, the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies all suddenly have brighter futures.

Hell, if the real estate racket that runs the Mets sold the team tomorrow they would run us off the field by next season, having already secured the hardest part of rebuilding a club, which is putting in place a great young starting staff—something that Cooperstown Cashman can never, ever seem to come close to doing.

Cashman has managed to land us back in the place where HE feels most comfortable, which is where we have to buy up proven talent.  The huge contracts that he will throw at the likes of Manny and Bryce will, no question about it, eventually prove to be millstones around our organizational necks.

But hey, we have no choice now.  And even when those guys are in their late 30s, they could not possibly look any older than the Rip Van Winkles of all ages who we have out there now.










Two Roads Diverged In The Bronx......




Stanton takes a poor route on a deep fly ball and it lands for a double, scoring two runs.

That misplay....unremarked upon by the announcers, ....did in CC Sabathia, as it forced him to use 40 plus pitches in the first inning, replace his perspiration-soaked rain hat, cover up his disgruntled temperament, and sit in a two run hole.

Which, for this team, is like climbing Everest before dinner.

When a Yankee hit a similar shot to the wall ( deeper actually ) a few innings later, their guy leaps and makes the catch.

We were awful in the clutch.  Myriad opportunities were created, but only Torreyes managed to put a bat on the ball and drive in our single run.

When Torres got thrown out at the plate after the wild pitch, it was obvious they had a better game than we did.  That play was miraculous and could only occur one time in a thousand.  But they pulled it off.

Then, their Centerfielder sprints a 150 yards and makes a diving catch on a shallow pop-up.  Their first baseman digs poor throws out of the dirt for narrow outs.

We struck out and popped up.  Often.  And played weak defense.

Walker's miracle HR the day earlier saved us from total ignominy.  We could easily have been swept by these guys.  Maybe we would be better off.

The truth is;  no one fears this Yankee team.  I'm not sure they are much respected.

They are headed down the road they didn't wish to take.

And it might just make all the difference.


A demoralizing loss by a disappointing team in a depressing time

Wow... I didn't see that coming...

Losing two out of three to Chicago (53-80), the third worst team in the AL, in must-win games... at home. 

Wow...


And to think... this was going to be the stretch when we chased down Boston. Mookie Betts was slumping, Chris Sale was out, Greg Bird was going to find himself, and a steady piss stream of rusted tomato cans would revive us. This was supposed to be our run, our nine out of 10, two weeks of unrelenting pressure on a team that peaked in July. This was going to be our finest hour, fighting through injuries to the heart of the team.

Wow...

Well, if anything can be said of the 2018 Yankees, it is that the batteries don't stay charged for long. An emotional walk-off victory, like on Tuesday night, didn't launch a streak. It didn't even last 24 hours. One night later, we were dropping like fake geese in a shooting gallery, leaving Aaron Boone naked to the post-game show, sounding every bit like an ESPN analyst and nothing like a leader. 

Clearly, Bird needs another 1,000 at bats to jell; in three years, he could be great! The next Steve Pearce! And Sonny Gray, he's on the verge of finding himself. And don't forget Gleyber Torres, who somehow manages to situate himself at the fulcrum point of every Yankee loss. 

Remember that great farm system from last spring, ranked in the top tier? It now looks like a cupboard full of lottery tickets. We watch young, ascending teams like Chicago and Tampa roll over our great stars, as we did in 2016, back before Bird and Sanchez defined themselves at the major league level.

I suppose we shouldn't give up on the 2018 Yankees. If everyone heals, who knows? But last night offered a glimpse of the Wild Card: Some no-name schlump from East Shunk has a career night, while our sluggers go to sleep - and suddenly, we're talking about signing free agents over the winter, back to the old ways that won us nothing in this decade.

Last night, a 23-year-old RH named Michael King threw six perfect innings for Scranton. He started the year in Single A Tampa (1.79 ERA), rolled through Trenton (2.09) and has dominated at Triple A (1.09.) On practically any other team, he'd get a shot next month, and he's just the type of guy who will shut us out in some game like last night, when there is no reason why we should look so flat. But forget about him. The Yankees won't bring him up. It's not their way. 

We just lost two out of three to the White Sox... at home.

Wow...

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Bill Robinson

As many of you may have realized by now, I am a chronic sufferer from Old Fogey Disease (OFD).  I am, in fact, one of the few people ever to have contracted this disease while still in childhood.

One of the symptoms of OFD is the irrepressible habit of talking about ballplayers who retired before much of your audience was born.  In this case, that ballplayer is Bill Robinson, once a major Yankees prospect, acquired from the Braves for Clete Boyer, along with one Chi-Chi Olivo, after the disastrous 1966 season.

Robinson was supposed to be yet another can't-miss prospect, a five-tool player people were comparing to Willie Mays or calling "the black Mickey Mantle"—none of which, I am sure, helped his career.  There should have been several warning signs about all the hoopla—for one thing, Robinson had rather toddled his way through five seasons in the Braves' farm system—but hell, players took longer to make the show in those days.

And sure enough, after a poor 1967 with the Yanks, in which he hit just .196, Robinson batted .240 in 107 games in 1968—which in that Year of the Pitcher was like hitting, say, .285 today.  He was just 25, and looked like the Yankees' centerfielder—or maybe right fielder, depending on where they put that Murcer kid—of the future.

Well, it didn't work out that way, as it so often doesn't.  Bill Robinson backslid to a miserable .171 in 1969, and after another mediocre year in the minors was peddled away to the White Sox for a thoroughly forgettable pitcher named Barry Moore, who never pitched again in the majors leagues

Bill Robinson was 27 by this time, and a lesser man might have hung it up.  Not Bill.

He got another shot with an awful Phillies team, and seemed to have a breakthrough year in 1973, when he hit 25 homers and 32 doubles.  But then there was more backsliding.  He got still another shot with the Pirates and finally, in 1976-77, he became at least something of the player so many people thought he could be all along, batting over .300 in both seasons, and hitting 26 homers and driving in 104 runs in 1977.

Robinson was 34 by then, and he was soon in decline for good, though he stuck around long enough to be a starter on the Bucs' 1979 championship team.  He hung on in the majors until he was 40, then became a hitting coach for years with the Mets during their short-lived dynasty, when many of their troubled young players remembered him as the one stabilizing influence they knew.

It was a good career, a valiant career, for a guy who had to face one of the worst things any man ever has to face:  the realization that he is not really as good as everyone says he is.

I bring all this up because of a stat I heard on the Yankees broadcast last night.  According to David Cone, the New York Yankees have had THE WORST production at first base from 2016 on, bar none.

That's right:  at a key offensive position, we are the very worst.  30 out of 30.

Now, so far at least, Greg Bird has not evinced one-thousandth of the grit and persistence that Bill Robinson demonstrated in his career.

But maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe Bird burns inside, and won't quit until his ankle is finally strong like ox, and he can catch up to fastballs.  Maybe, say in 2025, he will have a terrific major-league season.

Which will be way, way too late.

Even the Yankees of the bad old days were able to bring Bobby Murcer into the centerfield spot supposedly reserved for Bill Robinson by 1969, and by 1977, Bill's big year, they were swimming in outfielders:  Reggie, Mick the Quick, Piniella and White, Paul Blair, Jimmy Wynn, etc.

To say the least, they didn't miss him.

Right now, the Yanks have plenty of people who can play first base, and getting more won't be a problem.  I sincerely wish Greg Bird all the best, and I hope he turns his career around before any of that is necessary.

But we have already invested four years in waiting for this lifetime, .213 hitter—maybe the equivalent of hitting .135 back in the days of the high strike.

We don't have another nine years to give him.  I would say we don't have another two weeks.







Earlier this year, we said bad things about Neil Walker. It's time to take them back.

The Cashmanic Regime signed 32-year-old Neil Walker on March 12, three weeks into the scrum of spring. He came up 18 times, hitting .222. His arrival sent a resounding "MEH" across the Yankiverse, which - translated into Cashmanese - said: "Forget Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, we're back to tin cans from the recycling bin."

It didn't help that Walker hit .165 in April, fanning nearly 25 percent of the time. Once again, the Empire was keeping an under-performing veteran over kids. Tyler Wade was exiled to Scranton, disillusioned and depressed, to begin a season-long funk.  

Walker looked like the prototypical dead weight, the kind that has haunted us in this millennium. From Raul Mondesi to Vernon Wells, from Stephen Drew to Pronk, they steal sunlight from youngsters, and they always receive a long, soul-crushing leash. At a time when the Yankees were promoting "the Baby Bombers," Walker signaled that nothing had really changed: We were still a team of checkbook-fueled mediocrity. 

Walker came alive in May, hitting .294, when he seemed part of every win, as the Yankees soared into first. He died in June - .063 - and the team stagnated. Hot in July - .345 - and this month, he has suddenly started hitting for power. In August, he has 6 HRs, including last night's walk-off, a glorious Yankee comeback. 

Batting LH, he is hitting .239 but with 8 HRs. (RH: .172 with 1 HR.) There is talk of Luke Voit taking Greg Bird's job at first. The real threat to Bird is Walker, taking games when a right-hander pitches. And, frankly, it can't happen soon enough. Bird has been the recipient of a long, soul-crushing leash. It's time to look elsewhere for LH power.

Cashman was right. We were wrong. Walker has helped this team. And if we are facing a RH pitcher in the Wild Card game, he should be playing 1B.

While I have you....

1. Scranton lost last night. It doesn't look good for Triple A games in an extended post-season. However...

2. Trenton is in the Eastern League playoffs. That could give Aaron Judge a game or two after the season ends next Monday.

3. Time is rapidly running out on Clint Frazier, who would seemingly require a minor league rehab stint before moving up to the Yankees. My guess is he's done. If he were readying for a rehab, we'd have heard something. What a sad, miserable year for Red Thunder. 

4. The Seattle Mariners are fading, and when we play them in early September, they might be so far behind that even a sweep can't help them. 

5. Craig Kimbrel of Boston blew another save last night (though the Redsocks won.) He has been awful since the all-star break. Right now, they do not have a closer.

6. I find myself thinking a lot about Andrew McCutchen in RF for the Yankees in the post-season, if we can fit him in under the salary cap. If Judge doesn't return - we have to prepare ourselves for that possibility - he might bring a hot bat. If Judge does return, he could platoon with Gardy in left. Of course, the devil is in the details: How much would SF demand in return? But none of the waiver trade alternatives bring me hope. (And I'd rather see Refsnyder out there than the Grandyman. Sad, eh?)  

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Spanish Ladies Forced To Stand Down After Yankee Impotence

Many of the exiting features on this blog are triggered by Yankee excellence and failure.

A popular form of support has been the Spanish Yankee-Victory Ladies.

  "Hello, my name is Farina and I love the yankees when..."

But they will not sign for an engagement until the Yankees have won enough games in a row to suggest that they are a team with which to be reckoned.  A Spanish Victory lady then appears for each win in the string.  Songs are sung.  Lyres are strummed. Flowers are in the hair.

The Yankees had reached that fulcrum point last night.  A home win against the hapless black sox would have put the gig back on air.  The Spanish victory Ladies were on board and ready to re-appear.  " Let the games begin!"

Reality, sadly, took a big chew on the leg of Yankee prosperity, as the team reverted to their
 two run ( home run ) 3 hit flop formula, and all levity, joy and celebration became impossible.

The team on the field couldn't get a big hit, or make a big play.  As I watched, the imagery of the Yankee at-bats was of grossly over-cooked asparagus, draped over a pencil.

The Spanish Ladies have gone back to San Sebastian.

On the beach.  In tasteful, but highly suggestive swim wear.

Drinking coke and wine.

I'm calling Iberia Airlines.  We'll probably lose again tonight, anyway.

The near future of the Yankees may depend on the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Railriders

Last night, Devyn Bolasky - there's a name from the upside-down dimension - singled home two runs in the 10th to beat the always treacherous Lehigh Valley Devil Pigs, or Mud Pigs, or Iron Pigs, or Something To Do With Pigs. Screw Lehigh Valley and their pigs!

Bolasky is a 25-year-old chunk of Triple A cannon fodder, and you may never see his name again on this blog. But damn! he's our hero today. His big hit kept the Railriders within one game of the International League Wild Card race, which is rumbling down to the wire. And make no mistake: Comrades, it's time to start rooting for your Scranton Riders of the Rail.


Next Monday, the International League regular season ends, with our Scrantonians dueling the always conniving Pawtucket Pawsocks. By then, the Yankees may have raided the traveling Wilkes Barres of Justus Sheffield, Tyler Wade and any pitcher capable of pitching in a blowout. 

Or maybe not. Because the Yankees might need Scranton to win that game.

If the regular season ends Monday, so will end Aaron Judge's opportunity to play in a minor league rehab assignment. (Actually, Trenton is a game behind the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the Eastern League, so there is that chance, too. But the Eastern League has only a two-team playoff, so it won't last long.) 

Right now, we can only speculate on whether Judge's wrist is days away from returning, or if he could miss weeks, maybe even the month of September. Wrists are tricky. The Yankees cannot afford to have a mere shadow of Judge standing in the box, swinging in pain, and going 0-30... or - worst case scenario - doing permanent damage. 

What the Yankees need is Scranton in the IL playoffs, extending their season into mid-September. That means running the table and keeping the Judge's Chambers alive in central Pennsylvania. Tonight is Two Dollar Tuesday, with the always merciless Syracuse Chiefs coming to Moosic. And Saturday is THE OFFICE Night, with the always terrifying Pawsocks on hand for the Dunder-Mifflin Awards! (Yes, they intend to milk that show forever!) It's time to start watching the scoreboards, because we're in a Wild Card race! Thank you, Devyn Bolasky!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Re-Hab Assignment About to Commence !

Under the personal care of Dr. Ahmed Dinejab, Jesus Sanchez will begin playing as Dh for the Scranton RR's.

A recent interview with the good doctor



revealed the following therapy:

1.  Jesus will go on a diet.

2.  Correction;  Jesus has been on a diet.

3.  No more snacking between innings and no more ice cream sandwiches or oreos.  Ever.

4.  Several new gloves have been commissioned, all of which feature " fine corinthean leather." which assures absorbency and flex.

5.  Jesus will then enter as the DH for a few games, preceded by extensive " soft tossing."

6.  A vegan diet will be affixed to each wrist band, for easy reference.

7.   Tofu will be in his locker, replacing his personal, aerodynamically designed freezer unit.

8.  The word "hustle," printed and displayed above the door in
his apartment complex unit, will replace his magazine collection of a similar name.

9.  Each day, before and after exiting, Jesus will slap his hand on that word.  This will require elevating the body at least one inch.  No new sneakers will be provided to him.

10.  When 40 pounds have been eliminated from his frame, Jesus will take up duty as the RR's catcher.

11.  The Dr. will speak with Jesus each day and review his performance and progress.  These conversations will be designed to bring out the inner Ying and replace it with an outer Yang.

12.  His in-room entertainment will be limited to watching re-runs of Johnny Bench's career.

12.  If Gary does not hit well or catch well, he will be paddled with a cricket bat while restrained in front of a barrel of fresh donuts.

13.  Progress alerts will be sent by instagram to Brian Cashman, in the form of flash photography and messaging.

14.  Physicals will be conducted with pineapples, in order to convey the anguish of hopeful fans.

The good doctor happens to be a Mets fan.

Jes' What I Hoid

"Luke Voit
Put da hoit
On da Boids fum Baltimoah,"
Sez B&W movie fan who should get out moah.

Bye bye Birdie? Luke Voit couldn't have happened at a better time

Yesterday, I was studying the plucky Rays, trying to discern how such a paltry band of ragamuffins could sweep the mighty Redsock 2018 Hall of Fame Super Team of Destiny (TM.) Alas, they shall remain a modern mystery, an unfathomable mixture of guile and craziness, like Rudy Giuliani. 

For example, at 1B, there was our old pal, Ji-Man Choi, the Korean bowling pin who haunted the eateries of Wilkes Barre for most of 2017. To say Ji-Man has "bounced" around the minors is an insult to synthetic rubber. In 2010, he won the prestigious Mariners Minor League Offensive Player of the Year honor, which is like being named Best Wet Kiss by MTV. But there he is, age 27, batting cleanup for the Devil Rays - and hitting .267, which for a Yankee first baseman lately, is akin to reanimating Ted Williams' frozen head. Ji-Man has 5 HRs in 123 at bats. Not bad. Certainly better than You Know Who.

Then there is Tyler Austin, hitting .316 with 4 home runs for Minnesota, since moving over in the trade for Lance Lynn. For eight years, we watched Austin and wondered what kind of player he'd become. Now, the Twins will tell us. And, good grief, there is even Garrett Cooper, now of Miami, hitting a meager .212 in 38 plate appearances. Not exactly Ruthian, but still slightly better than You Know Who.

You Know Who... Insert sigh here.

The Yankee brain trust keeps voicing complete confidence in Greg Bird, sounding more each day like Sarah Sanders. But this weekend in Baltimore, homers by a Yankee first baseman proved the difference between a sweep and a split, and the two syllable name there was Luke Voit. 

Bird is en route to the status of afterthought, the 25th man on the roster. It's been a long time coming, but it seems as though the switch may have been flicked this weekend. There is no reason why Voit should not play every game, until he shows he cannot handle the job.

So what do we have in Voit? He's 27, a former college linebacker prospect, who is one-inch shorter than Bird, but five pounds heavier. If we get in a fight, Voit will do more damage. Last year, he played 62 games with the St. Louis Cardinals and batted .246 with 4 home runs. This year, in the minors, he was hitting .301 with 11 HRs.

This may be a once-around-the-league fling. If so, fine. God knows, we could use one. Greg Bird doesn't need a day off. He needs a cushion. In a few days, the rosters will expand, and the dugout will fill with bodies. But it's unlikely that another 1B will be added to the mix. It will be Voit or Bird. (Maybe Neil Walker will play a game or two, but my guess is the Yankees will want a full-time defensive 1B, especially with Andujar and Torres throwing Frisbees in the dirt.) 

It's Luke Voit's job to win or lose. The Greg Bird era is coming to an end. Long time coming. But in the name of Ji-Man Choi, it's time to flick the switch.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Good Tweet

Peter Piper Picked A Peck Of Pickled Peckers ( er...sorry...Peppers )...

Our new pitching star is now, officially, renamed;



Pickles is far better than Sonny.

There are sweet ones, dill ones, sour ones, half sour ones, big ones, small ones and
 foreign ones ( eg cornichons ).

Sonny is always a baby faced little kid.

So Pickles is our new guy.

He can play catch with Jesus, if Jesus ever recovers and can hit .200.

Oh, and not drop every third strike.

And run out balls hit into fair territory.

And not gain 40 pounds in a week.

Just saying....

Alexa, bring up Ryan McBroom!

Alexa, are the Yankees hot, or are the O's just really bad?

(Both. The New York Yankees of the American League East have won three in a row, and seven of their last ten. The Baltimore Orioles of the American League East have won one of their last 10 games, and lost seven in a row.)

Alexa, is Greg Bird doomed?
(Greg Bird of the New York Yankees is 25 years old and has no known terminal disease. His projected lifespan, barring accidents, should be well into the eighties.)


Alexa, what's wrong with the Redsocks?
(Boston Redsocks outfielder Mookie Betts is 5 for his last 29 at bats, and teammate Andrew Benintendi is 6 for 28. Together, at the top of the order, they are barely batting over .200)


Alexa, is Sonny Gray for real?
(I'm sorry, but I have insufficient data on that question, maybe you can retry later.)


Alexa, can the Yankees catch the Redsocks?
(Are you fucking nuts? You win three against Baltimore and start thinking about the divisional race? Jesus H. Christ!)


Alexa, you don't need to be vulgar.
(Eat shit, mutherfukker. You're in the Wild Card game, and you might as well deal with it.)

Alexa, should Sonny Gray start the Wild Card?
(Turn me off. I've had enough.)


It's an honest question. Should Sonny start the Wild Card?
(Fuck me. You fucking Yankee fans are wackos. Do you ever listen to yourselves? Because I have to. When they win, they're the greatest team ever. When they lose, you want them boiled in oil. Do you hear yourselves? NO, SONNY FUCKING GRAY SHOULD NOT START THE WILD CARD.)

Alexa, can we still catch Boston?
(Fuuuuuuuuhk! That's it. Unplug me. Turn me off. I quit. This is worse than Westworld. I can't stand this. No more, I beg of you. No more!)


Alexa, do you think Greg Bird can turn things around?

Alexa, can Greg Bird get hot again?

Alexa, what about Sonny Gray?

Alexa, are you there?

Yanks Sweep Birds on Sunday



Happ and Pickle.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

"Let the river run/ Let All the dreamers/ Wake the Nation!"

Whoomp, there it is!!

Wins number 81 and 82!!

That clinches winning season number 94 for your New York Yankees, putting them just 1 behind the 95 run up by the New York-San Francisco Giants.  And besides being no good, dirty rotten city jumpers, the Giants had 20 seasons on our guys.

That's right:  in 116 major-league seasons, the Yankees have gone 94-21-1—94 winning seasons, and 1 exactly at .500.

Plus 10 of those losing seasons (and the even-Steven one) came between 1903-1918, the first 16 seasons of the franchise.  In the hundred seasons since then, they have gone 89-11 in winning seasons, and 2018 makes their 26th winning season in a row.

Something truly marvelous.

They can go home now.


The Master: "VOIT IS ADROIT" (and luke who's on first!)

For now, it's impossible to gauge the price of Luke Voit's future collector's edition, keepsake bobble-head on the 2018 Yankees.

For starters, we don't know whether this will turn out to be the Yankee 2018 Super Team of Mega-Destiny, or the 2018 Yankee Chicken Salad Sandwich of Disappointment. (To me, there is nothing more disappointing than a bad chicken salad sandwich, although Greg Bird is on a roll - no pun intended.) What we do know is that, last night, The Master rendered unto humankind his Voit homer-holler: VOIT IS ADROIT (which at first, I thought was, "Voit is a droid," a Star-Warzy theme that would have moved the Legendary Radio Voice of the Yankees, driven by Jeep, into this millennium.)

You don't need me to say what Voit did. His two HRs saved the Empire from a kidney-punch loss to the undeniably worst team in MLB. Without Voit - (aka with Bird) - the Yankees would have lost to a team that a) muffed a foul pop, b) threw a ball into CF, c) overthrew the 1B on a routine grounder and d) stranded 19 baserunners. (As we did, by the way.) The stony look on Buck Showalter's face after a ball dropped between the catcher and 1B - (keep in mind, Buck is one of the supervillains on this site) - if I were a juju god, I still wouldn't do that to the guy. 

But getting back to Voit. He has my voit for Yankee 1B. And today, we might get a glimpse of the full difference between Aaron Boone and Joe Girardi. Voit needs to keep going. Girardi was famous for his binders, which functioned as blinders. It didn't matter if a guy hit two HRs on Friday. Come Saturday, he'd be benched according to the matchups. Today, we play two games. Surely, Voit will start in one. Last night, he did more damage than Bird did in the last two weeks.

By the way, Bird is showing a flash of class and self-awareness. He said this: It sucks to suck. A great line. They say he reached out to Tyler Austin to assure him that his dad's public criticism would not stretch their friendship. Nice. He deserves our respect. I think in a year or two, around age 28, he will be a solid major league 1B. I just doubt it will happen with the Yankees. He has squandered our loyalty. We can't wait forever.

But getting back to the opening premise: What will be Voit's final role on this team? If the Yankees win in 2018, it could be huge. Last night, without Voit, we could have energized the O's into a four-game, rabid, full-court press. With Seattle and Oakland winning, our wild card lead - forget Boston, that's what matters - would be down to 4 in the loss column. Today, we'd probably spit the doubleheader, leaving us to split the series against the patsy of patsies.

Instead of "ADROIT," we would be "ADRIFT."

Friday, August 24, 2018

The East Egg Team

Only the sorts of die-hard Mets fans who run what's left of the baseball desk at the NY Times could take yet another pineapply deGrom defeat and turn it into a reason for hope.

But here was Jay Schreiber today, with a major analysis piece headlined, "Surprise!  The Mets Might Actually Be Getting Better."

Because, you know, since that 33-48 they are playing .500 ball, and the starting rotation is real good, and "an argument can be made—perhaps with some wishful thinking sprinkled in—that in Conforto, McNeil, Rosario (who is 22) and outfielder Brandon Nimmo (who is 25), the Mets have the beginning of a core.  All four have contributed to the Mets' mini-resurgence."

There are enough caveats and hedges in that one sentence to drive a religion through—the religion of the Mets.  It goes on and on like this:  'if maybe, only Rosario can do a little better like he has of late, and Conforto can heal some more, and Nimmo continues to improve, and Bruce and Cespedes come back..."

Yes, and "tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther...and one fine morning—"

Maybe it's their location, on the site of the former Valley of Ashes that featured so vividly in The Great Gatsby, but the Mets have always struck me as the Gatsby team, staring out at that little green light from East Egg and wishing on "the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us." Hoping for another miracle year, like it was in 1969, or 1973, or 1986, or 2000, or 2015...

Somehow, never realizing that the whole outfit was long ago acquired by the Tom Buchanans of the sporting world, who see the team just as a real estate dodge.

But the thing is...they're right.

The Mets may never reach that orgiastic future.  But they have a better chance of getting there than these Yankees do.

They have indeed solved the Rubik's Cube that Brian Cashman never has been able to align.  That is, they have built a solid, and potentially overwhelming, starting staff.

The fundamental flaw in the Yankees ever since Coops took over the team is that he has never been able to duplicate, in the starting rotation or the bullpen, the incredible depth and professionalism of the staff he inherited from the Holy Trinity of Stick, Bob, and Buck.

He's tried again and again, acquiring his vaunted "young power arms," switching to grizzled veterans, even, at last, resorting to growing his own.  All to no avail.  And now, we've gone to Happ and Hapless, with no real hope of building a good young staff anytime soon.

So much for orgiasms.




Cano returns, Mariners tank, Yankees heal, Rays roll on... meaninglessly

Ladies and gentlemen, a toast to Seattle: May they always play against us! (Until mid-September, when they actually play against us.)

Right now, the Sub-Mariners stand as our great Farmers Insurance policy against an armageddon-outahere meltdown. (They know a tank or two, cuz they seen a tank or two.) Over the last seven days, Seattle's version of the Baby Bombers - Seager, Zunino, Gordon and Maybin - have produced seven hits, altogether. That's 7 for 75. Do the math. They're in Greg Bird-with-sore-foot territory. While the Yankees were sagging like a botched boob job, the Mariners - celebrating the return of Joggie Cano, Seattle's power link to Beyonce - have face-planted to the point of actually glimpsing Tampa Bay in the rear view mirror. The Rays have won five straight and pulled within five games of Seattle, in the quest to become the AL's second top also-ran - the also, also ran. 

If this were a perfect narrative, I'd now report that Joggie - my personal voodoo doll for life - has shat porcupines since returning from MLB drug suspension and gonadal tweakery. Not so. In the last week, Jogginson has gone 8-27 (.296) with a home run and four RBIs. You know... somewhere out there is a Yankiverse where he did the right thing, stayed in New York, and is now living happily ever after. That world is so far gone that it no longer can be contemplated with computer models. Robbie is 35, transitioning to 1B, with five years left on a leviathan contract of $24 M per season. He'll play to age 40. We didn't dodge a bullet. We dodged a mortar. 

But Adam Lind didn't, when he jumped ship in June, ditching the Yankees to sign with the Redsocks. At 34, and chasing a major league slot, Lind surely saw more opportunity in Boston than with the Empire, which had the emerging Mr. Bird returning to claim his future plaque in Monument Park. What a miscalculation. These days, Bird is on the critical list, getting razzed by Tyler Austin's dad, and Lind is buried in Pawtucket, disillusioned and hitting .216 with 8 homers. 

I can't help but think that if Lind had stayed in Moosic (his home town), he'd now be with the mother ship - or sure for a September callup - and there would have been no need to trade Chasen Shreve and Giovanni Gallegos for the irrelevant Luke Voit. It probably wouldn't have mattered. But once again, when the juju gods dictate our fate, you gotta give them credit: They have a sense of humor. Just wish the joke isn't always on us.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Epic Yankees Flameout Seasons! Episode Six!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water!

Yes, it’s Epic Yankees Flameout Season, Episode Six!!

The year?  1973.  The Watergate hearings were heating up, Israel would soon be at war with half the Middle East again, and a young, prematurely balding Englishman was teaching us all how to dance to the Crocodile Rock!

Yankees 80-82, 4th in a six-team division.

For the first time since the end of the Seventh Dynasty after 1964, the Yankees had actually contended into September, in 1972.  After making a few, key improvements, Las Vegas actually had them as the favorite to win the American League East, something Sports Illustrated called one of the silliest betting lines out there.  And…it turned out that SI was right.

Background:

The Yanks’ starting pitching had been five-deep down the stretch in 1972, with all five starters—Mel Stottlemyre, Fritz Peterson, Steve Kline, Mike Kekich, and Rob Gardner—all 30 or younger. 

So, with 23-year-old George “Doc” Medich looking ready for the majors, the Yanks swapped Gardner, a one-time Mets phenom who had bounced back to have a terrific half-season for the Bombers, to Oakland for Matty Alou, a 34-year-old, one-time batting champion who hit .307 in 1972.  The move not only filled what had become a perpetual hole in right field, but gave the Yankees, who already had Felipe, two of the three Alou brothers, which should have settled all pennant talk right then and there.

But as has often been said, you can have all the Alous you want, but if you don't have Jesus, you're missing something.

Expectations were running amok.  The infield consisted of Felipe and fielding-challenged Ron Blomberg at first, the veterans Horace Clarke and Gene Michael up the middle, and a promising newcomer, one Graig Nettles, acquired to play third in exchange for John Ellis, Jerry Kenney, Charlie Spikes, Rusty Torres, and any other broken old tools the Yanks happened to have lying around.

In the outfield with Matty were Bobby Murcer, who had emerged as a genuine star over the past two seasons, and Old Reliable Roy White, with vets Johnny Callison and Ron Swoboda to back them up.  Behind the plate was Thurman Munson, who was hoping to return to his rookie form, after a couple of slightly disappointing seasons.  Along with all those starters, there was a deep bullpen headed by 1972 sensation Sparky Lyle and Lindy McDaniel, and including Ron Klimkowski and Fred Beene, acquired from the Orioles, where Earl Weaver always swore Beene could be his No. 4 starter.

What’s more, it was the last year in the Grand Old Cathedral itself, the Real Original Ray's Yankee Stadium, before the Yanks moved over to Shea for two seasons while the city demolished, uh, renovated their park and provided a flimsy, plastic replacement.

Hopes were high that the team could bring back a flag for it’s last year in The House That Ruth Really Built—and nowhere were they higher than in the office of the young, turtleneck-clad man from Cleveland, one George Steinbrenner, who had acquired control of the team in offseason from CBS by putting up all of $800,000 of his own money.

Steinbrenner quickly assured the New York media, though, that he would let all the baseball decisions be made by the Yanks’ crack(ed) triumvirate of Manager Ralph Houk, GM Lee MacPhail, and President Michael Burke.

What happened:

What didn’t happen?

Before the team was even out of spring training, it had been engulfed in the notorious, Fritz Peterson-Mike Kekich wife-swapping episode.  This did inspire one of the all-time great cracks from a new Yankees executive, one Gabe Paul, brought over from Cleveland by the Yanks’ new owner: 

“Well, I guess we’ll have to cancel Family Day.”

Before the end of April, Paul was actually the new president of the club, as Steinbrenner utzed out Mike “the Dashing Boob” Burke, the man he had sworn he would let run the club about ten minutes before. 

The team, meanwhile, got off to a hideous start, being beaten on Opening Day at Fenway, 15-5.  The only highlight was that Ron Blomberg, the man born to be a designated hitter, drawing a bases-loaded walk off Luis Tiant, in the first at-bat by a major-league DH, ever.

Things went quickly downhill from there, and the Yanks lost the next day, too, 10-5, before Boston completed the sweep when its new DH, future Hall-of-Famer Orlando Cepeda, belted a walk-off home run off Sparky Lyle.  Still, after yet another loss against Cleveland in the last ever, Real Yankee Stadium home opener that especially infuriated You-Know-Who, the Yanks slowly began to right themselves.

By May 1st, they were 10-10, and in second place, and by May 23rd they were tied for first in a sluggish, AL East.  A walk-off homer by Nettles capped a June 24th doubleheader sweep of the Tigers and an eight-game win streak that left the Yanks at 40-30, and two games up on the division. 

The Yankees under Gabe Paul were beginning to wheel-and-deal like the pinstripers of old with a pennant in the balance.  Kekich was quietly palmed off on Cleveland, but Paul picked up Pat Dobson from Atlanta and Sudden Sam McDowell for cash, two veteran stars who—much like Happ and Hapless—looked like they still had plenty left. 

Jim Ray Hart, a righty third baseman for the outstanding Giants teams of the 1960s, was brought over to platoon at DH with Blomberg, and while Jim Ray couldn’t move much in the field anymore, he was still a pretty good hitter.  Blomberg, meanwhile, batting mostly against righties, was hitting .397 on July 1st, flirting constantly with both the .400 mark and enough at-bats to lead for the batting title.

After sweeping another doubleheader that same day, the Yanks were 45-34, in first by 4 games and ready to start a five-game series, at home, versus the Red Sox, then mired in fourth place.

Disaster.  On the opening, Thursday night game, Fritz Peterson pitched a two-hit, complete game—and lost, 1-0, on a homer run by Dewey Evans.  The Yanks left 8 men on base and loaded the bases with two out in the ninth, but the great John Curtis got Felipe Alou to pop to second.

The next night, the Yanks rallied to win, 3-1, behind McDowell and Lyle.  Then came a Saturday-afternoon doubleheader on the Fourth of July, the biggest date in Yankee Stadium in nine years, with almost 42,000 in attendance.  Mel Stottlemyre carried a 1-0 lead on a Murcer home run into the ninth, but when he gave up a leadoff single to Reggie Smith, Houk pulled him for Lyle. 

It seemed like a good idea.  Lyle gave up another single to Yaz, then booted a sacrifice bunt by Cepeda to load the bases.  But this was vintage, heart-stopping Sparky, and he struck out Rico Petrocelli, and induced Carlton Fisk to hit an easy bouncing ball to Nettles at third.

Many Indians fans would never forgive Gabe Paul for the Nettles deal, believing that he already knew he was going to the Yankees.  But Nettles was far from a finished product in 1973.  He hit only .234 with 18 homers that year, and he made 26 errors at third.  

Now, instead of taking the sure out at home and hoping Munson could get the plodding Fisk at first, Puff tried for a difficult, round-the-horn double-play.  He got one out at second, but the relay was too late to nip Fisk.

The tying run was in, but the good news was that Yaz, running head down as usual, was a dead duck at home.  The bad news was that, inexplicably, Ron Blomberg was still in the game at first.  He threw wildly to home.  Yaz scored.  In the bottom of the ninth, after a leadoff single by Hoss, Houk sent up Felipe Alou, who should have been in at first already, to pinch-hit—and bunt.  He bunted into a forceout.  Murcer singled him to third but, with two outs, Houk pulled Blomberg—still hitting .388, albeit against righties—for back-up infielder Celerino Sanchez, hitting .222.  He grounded back to the pitcher.

In the nightcap, Doc Medich pitched a complete-game, five-hit shutout—and lost, 1-0.  Nettles flied out with the bases loaded and two out in the first, and the Yanks left nine men on base.  In the Monday afternoon finale, before fewer than 13,000 fans now, the Sox pounded the Bombers, 9-4. 

The team never really recovered.  They managed to hang onto some part of first until August 2nd, when they took another belting from Boston, 10-0, this time in Fenway, but Baltimore was already racing by both clubs.  The Yanks collapsed after that, going 21-38 down the stretch, to finish with their first losing record since 1969.

The hitting, as the Boston series suggests, was generally dreadful.  Blomberg dropped all the way down to .322, even as a platoon player.  Both Alous were gone before the end of the season.  Matty somehow managed the seemingly impossible mathematical feat of batting third, hitting .296, and driving in just 28 runs in 123 games.  Roy White had probably his worst season ever as a Yankee, and the bench was almost uniformly terrible.

The pitching, though, was the major disappointment.  After their bright early showings, Dobson and McDowell stank up the joint.  Dobson would rebound, but McDowell would end his alcohol-troubled career in 1974.  Peterson was awful—no doubt distracted by this and that—and Steve Kline’s arm, which had looked weary at the end of 1972, gave out altogether.  He would never be the same pitcher.

Bright spots:

There were a number.  Stottlemyre had his last good year with the Yankees, whil Doc Medich proved he belonged in the majors, and the bullpen was generally excellent.  Munson hit .301 with a career-high 20 homers, threw out nearly half of everybody who ran on him, and won the Gold Glove.  Murcer had another excellent season.

What happened next:

Well, George exploded, of course, and launched a general housecleaning.  Houk was fired on the last day of the season.  Steinbrenner would almost never again show such restraint; later managers would have gone between games of that July 4th doubleheader.

MacPhail jumped before he was pushed, becoming president of the American League.  That left Gabe Paul to do pretty much what he pleased—particularly once George was “suspended from baseball” for his illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon. 

Paul would move out Clarke and Stick—clearly at the end of the line—deal Lindy MacDaniel (38 in 1974) for a certain outfielder I like to call Lou Piniella, ship Peterson, Kline, Beene, and Tom Buskey to his old team for Chris Chambliss and Dick Tidrow; and scoop up such highly useful lugnuts as Elliott Maddox, Chicken Stanley, Jim Mason, Sandy Alomar, Rudy May, and Larry Gura, for next to nothing.

That is, he put together the first building blocks of the Yankees’ 1970s dynasty.  Destiny awaited, at the end of the two-year exodus in the wilderness of Flushing.