Friday, February 15, 2019

The New Big Lie

For years, the Big Lie around New York City baseball was that the Mets could not compete because that rotten Bernie Madoff had robbed them blind.

Come spring training, the writers would cluster around Wilpon Senior and ask him if his team had any big moves planned, and ol' Fred would just look shamefaced and scratch at the ground with his shoe, and bravely mumble something about, "Well, of course I can't talk about the ongoing investigation..."

And everybody would nod in sympathy, and go off and write something along the lines of, "Eli Wiesel AND the Mets?  That Madoff!  Arrrrgh!"

Somehow, none of the Knights of the Press Box ever got around to ask how it was, if Wilpon had been such a big victim, that the federal investigators were trying to claw back money from the Mets owner.

In other words, the Wilpons weren't victims of the Madoff scam at all but beneficiaries, and—wittingly or unwittingly—accomplices, their big name helping to pull in more of the rubes.

"The loss" Fred was referring to was that he would no longer have the guaranteed, every-quarter-like-clockwork, 18 percent payoff on his investment that Madoff delivered to his clients, all of whom should of course have realized that this was simply the latest twist on Mr. Ponzi's marvelous invention.

The Wilpons, in reality, were always an undercapitalized family for major-league ownership in the first place, and more interested in running real estate rackets than anything to do on a baseball field.

Now, though, they are about to be put in the shade by the latest Big Lie:  Hal's Crushing Debt Service.

Haven't you heard?  Poor Hal and his billionaire family have to shell out $90 million clams a year—count 'em, 90!—just to service the sparkling new ballpark they have bestowed on us, so lovingly plopped right in the middle of what was once a beloved neighborhood park.

We can go into just how awful that park—the first major-league stadium ever NOT to have full views of the field for its bleacher denizens—really is.

But before the consumers of Hal's best scotch and steak get started on just how onerous this debt is upon the Bronx's very own Jean Valjean, let's get the facts down:

—As previously noted, the Yankees received $1.2 billion in tax breaks and direct subsidies for the new House that Hal Built:

1.2 billion—that's over 13 times that $90 million a year payout.

—As reported here and elsewhere, Forbes claims that the Yankees spend the smallest percentage of their revenue on payroll, just 29.7 percent.  In dollar terms, that means of the $650 million in revenue the team reported for 2018, it spent just $193 million on payroll.

That's a gap of $457 million—or over five times the annual, backbreaking payment of $90 mill in debt service.

—Of course, determining actual team revenue is about as easy as getting meaningful Russian GDP stats out of Vladdy Putin, as Ma Boone calls him.  It's not clear at all that that figure includes what the team hauls down from YES, the network it is planning to buy back.

And I don't know just what YES under its current ownership pays the Yankees.  But I do know that, according to Forbes, the team got $3.04 billion—that's BILLION—for selling 80 percent of YES to Murdoch back in 2012-2014.

Take away what little in taxes the Steinbrenner's pay and maybe any remaining, minor partners, and they probably cleared, what?  At least $2.5 billion?

Or in other words, close to 30 times that annual debt service.  And we're not even talking about the Yankees' money for radio, foreign-language broadcasts, social media rights, or their share of the national networks' payout of $800 million a year—which comes to about $26.7 million a team.

—Also, let's break down those ticket costs.  The Yankees last year had the highest attendance in baseball, at 3,482,855.

Now, with dynamic pricing, getting any figures on average ticket prices is difficult.  But here's CNBC with a 2015 claim that an average Yankees ticket then was $101.43.

Figuring just a moderate inflation in that cost—say, to $110—were talking $383,114,050 in seat prices alone...or four times that notorious $90 million.

—Of course, one of the rottenest things the Yankees did in building their rotten new stadium, was to  eliminate over 9,000 seats from Yankee Stadium II, in order to almost triple the number of luxury suites, from 19 to 56 (and to lower capacity by about 27,000 from the 74,200 the Yanks first shoved in there on Opening Day, 1923).

Again, it's hard to calculate just how much more money than means, with "dynamic pricing"—i.e., "turning a vendor into a sort of gigantic, institutionalized scalper."

But since the suites currently go for $8,500-$15,000 a game—and can go for up to $20,000 for "premuium" games, I'm figuring they increased revenues on that alone by about $30-$40 million a year.

All right, I won't even go into how much the Yanks probably make in profit on their outrageous parking fees, or their merchandise, or their concessions.  (Hey, rat dropping don't grow on trees, you know!).  Or how much they're planning to realize on MLB's brave new push into gambling.

I'll leave it to the good folks at Forbes to estimate how it was—even back in 2015—the Yankees were the wealthiest franchise in the game, with a valuation of $3.4 billion, or nearly 40 times the white-man-from-Cleveland's annual burden.

Finally, there's this:  taking into account that the Yanks can deduct that $90 million from their expected luxury tax and revenue-sharing bites—and taking into account that wonderful accounting trick known as "depreciation"—does anyone at all think Hal is REALLY paying out $90 a year to start with?

Just wanted to ask, before the Next Big Lie gets its boots on.

The parlor games continue: The graying of our staffs

Yesterday, for the sheer hell of it, we looked at ages of Yankees and Redsocks position players, to learn basically nothing we didn't already know: Both teams skew slightly on the wrong side of peak foliage, but still possess enough ascending talent to easily rule the tomato can-filled AL East in 2019.

Today, let's look at pitching. Once again, I remind you that this merely a dumb parlor game, a notch above Charades. For all the advanced metrics in the Bill James universe, nobody has ever come up with a perfect way to evaluate pitchers. That said, age is as a good a factor as you'll find.

If we assume that age 29-30 represents the peak years for major league pitchers - you can debate otherwise, but I've got the mic, so the hell with you - here's how the Eco-Yanks and Gas-guzzling Socks stack up:

Yankee starters
Paxton (31): -1

Sabathia (39): -9
Happ (36): -6
Tanaka (30): PEAK

Severino (25): +4
Total: -12 

Redsock starters
Sale (30): PEAK

Eovaldi (29): PEAK
Price (34): -4
Porcello (30): PEAK
Rodriguez (26): +3

Total: -1

Obviously, with three pitchers at peak fertility, Boston is primed to birth one of the best rotations in baseball. If Eovaldi approaches last season's output, they have four Cy Young candidates. Add the mysterious knuckleballer Stephen Wright, 35, and we're in for a long summer. This is why the Yankees should not sleep on Dallas Keuchel (31). 

However... Let's look at bullpens:

Britton (31): -1
Chapman (31) -1
Betances (31): -1
Kahnle (30): PEAK

Green (28): +1
Holder (26): +3
Ottavino (32): -2
total: -1

Barnes (29): PEAK
Workman (31): -1
Hembree (30): PEAK

Everybody else: TBA

Fact is, Boston has such a meager bullpen - at least for now, anyway - that our  comparison is worthless. Here is where the Yankees should rule. It's hard to imagine the Redsocks not signing a few pitchers soon, but the Yankees will still have a superior bullpen. At least in the parlor.

UPDATE: Pitcher Michael King (23), who shot through the system last year to make himself a long-shot starter, has arm troubles. So it begins...

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Wonderful moments - the photo tour

I am soon disappearing into the desert for my usual sabbatical.

THIS POSTING ......if it works due to the effort of a Yankee fan bartender in Barstow, Ca.  This is the end of the road, if ever you’ve seen one.

But the thrills of last season endure.  Who can recall this moment?

Is he tipping a pitch?

Is it before or after the all star break?

Is it the game that propels us into the AL lead?

Amazon is OUT! Should the Yanks Go, Too?

So word is that Amazon is pulling out of its New York "commitment" because the citizens of our fair city actually demanded their representatives have a say about their vast subsidies and tax breaks.

Seems they objected to "taxation without representation."  Crazy, that.

Speaking of which, I'm all for a citizens' movement to force the Yankees out, too.

For the last 45 years or so now, the Yankees have taken enormous public subsidies that we rarely got to vote on, mostly in the city building two new stadiums for them.

The first one ended up costing us $160 million by the time it opened in 1976—or $672 million in 2014 dollars.

Within 15 years, though, George Steinbrenner was already demanding a new stadium—this one on prime Manhattan real estate—or he would leave for Connecticut, or Denver, or even New Jersey.

That little extortion scheme fell through.  But the Yanks DID get ANOTHER new stadium, this one costing a jaw-dropping $2.3 billion—with $1.2 billion in public subsidies, according to this study:

And now, as 13bit points out, the Yankees have violated the basic public trust—the unspoken covenant—they have held by for over 100 years.

Ever since the reprobates who first owned the team sold it to the Colonels, the understanding has been that the Yankees—no matter what awful, bullying, money-grubbing little monsters owned them—would try to put the best team they could on the field.

That is, sadly, about the best that any fans outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin, can hope for from their team owners.

And now that's gone.

As Hal finally informed us this off-season, the old way of doing business is over.  The Yankees will now pinch pennies and give up worrying about performance on the field.

To which I say:  It's time for them to go.

We really should encourage it.  Tell 'em they don't have to make anymore payments on the Stadium.  Just pack and go.

We can find another team to move into the biggest market in the country in a heartbeat.  Hell, we could find two.

Sure, the sportswriters would weep and moan about the loss of tradition, the sacred pinstripes, and the Babe, and Mickey, and the Clipper, and blah-blah-blah.

But Hal Steinbrenner and his band of merry pranksters in the front office are not the keepers of that flame.  I bet Hal could not name you a single member of the 1976-78 Yankees not called Thurman or Reggie.

We are the ones who maintain that legacy, and we'll keep it always, in our hearts and minds, no matter what the corporate entity known as the Yankees does.

So let 'em go.  We'll haul in some dog of a franchise like the Rays, or maybe we'll invite Derek to move his Marlins up, or maybe we should just start a whole new team on our own.

We'll call 'em the Bronx Bombers, or the Woolly Mammoths, or anything we please.  And they'll be our team.  They can stay as long as they keep their promises.

The old Yankees can follow Jeff Bezos to whatever dump he's headed to.

CC or not, the Yankees are feeling old

Yesterday, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, CC Sabathia announced that 2019 will be his final year. No, he doesn't expect to die. He was talking about throwing baseballs.

But if you consider the stent in his arteries and the close-call that recently required CC to undergo an angioplasty procedure, he might be secretly worrying about meeting his maker. And all Yankee fans should worry about his upcoming season as the anointed fifth starter.

Despite the chatter accompanying the additions of Happ, Paxton, LeMahieu et al, the Yankees have basically reconstituted the team that lost three out of four to Boston last fall - with one change: They're older. 

Let's play a little parlor game. In baseball, position players generally are said to peak around age 27-28, and pitchers do it a little later - 28-29. You can argue the numbers, but why bother? It's a parlor game, okay? Who do you think you are, Dr. Reason A. Goodman?

So, looking at the current everyday lineup, how do we stack up as pre-and post-peak? (I'm leaving out Ellsbury, because he'll never play a down for us.)

Miguel Andujar (24): +3
Troy Tulowitski (34): -6
DJ LeMahieu (31): -3
Brett Gardner (36): -8

Aaron Judge (27): PEAK
Aaron Hicks (29): -1
Giancarlo Stanton (29): -1 
Luke Voit (29): -1

Gleyber Torres (22): +5
Greg Bird (26): +1
Gary Sanchez (26): +1

TEAM: -10

And now, Boston: (I'm leaving out Pedroia, because I don't think he'll ever play for them.) 
Mookie Betts (26): +1
Andrew Benintendi (25): +2
JD Martinez (32): -4
Jackie Bradley Jr. (29): -1 
Xander Bogaerts (26): +1
Raphael Devers (22): +5
Christian Vazquez (29): -1
Eduardo Nunez (32): -4
Brock Holt (31): -3

Steve Pearce (36): -8
TEAM: -12 

What does all this mean? Fuck if I know. If, say, Clint Frazier (24) were to take over in left field, or a younger shortstop were to emerge, the Yankees could have a clear youthful advantage. But I guess it will come down to pitching staffs, and that should be for another day.

When you're in a two-team league, comparisons are easy - and deceiving. But make no mistake: The Yankees and Redsocks are showing shades of gray. 

Let the Self-Flagellation Begin!

Channel 2 was reporting tonight that Ma Boone made himself watch the Red Sox all the way through their World Series triumph, because he wanted to learn what could happen if you actually played all your best players in important games.

No!  I kid, I kid.  It was to give himself extra motivation.

Of course it's not true.  Dear old Boony and his big-hearted wife probably skipped down to Haiti, dug out a village or two, and adopted a few more kids.

Hey, the man's a mensch.  It's just, let's face it, that not every mensch should be a major-league manager.

Meanwhile, Otis Livingston, looking pleased as punch to be out of the NYC cold, reported how the Yanks are the early Vegas favorites to win it all, and how that was probably due to their "vastly improved pitching staff."

The same report, incidentally, added that 20 percent of that starting staff is going to be "taking it slow" this year, because of the stent in his heart.

Already, the insane corporate line starts.

"We're better than ever, eyesore!  Just help gramps there out to the mound, willya son?  Don't forget his ear trumpet."

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Bat Masterson Is Dead

Back in the day—and it was a long day—New York had the best sportswriters in the world.  How do we know?  Why, they'd tell you so themselves.

Ring Lardner and Franklin Pierce Adams, Grantland Rice and Paul Gallico and John Kieran, Jimmy Cannon and Red Smith, irascible old Dick Young and Roger Kahn, and all those Chipmunks (no, not the ones who sing, "Christmas, Christmas, Christmas"), and even Bat Masterson, who did indeed die with his boots on—at his typewriter (whereupon he was elevated into the firmament by his fellow knight of the press box, Damon Runyon, who made him into the "Guy and Dolls" character, Sky Masterson).

Yep, they were quite a collection.  Sure they could be stupid, and self-serving, and arrogant and pretentious.  Jimmy Powell, I think, once wrote that Lou Gehrig might have infected his fellow Yankees with polio, and Dick Young of course rushed to the defense of M. Donald Grant, and Jimmy Cannon used to say of Red Smith that, every article, "He was going to leave writing dead on the canvas."

But hey, they transformed the profession, and they transformed the sports they covered, and they didn't do it by NOT wanting to watch the very best in action.

They loved being in a town where they consistently got to watch the very best in pro football, and especially in baseball, and often in college sports as well.

They wrote odes to Babe Ruth, and Joe DiMaggio, and Willie, Mickey, and the Duke, and so many others.  They gave them unforgettable nicknames, sang their great deeds, made them legends.

Sure, they were forever "godding up the players" as one of their editors used to say.  But they always wanted to see the best.

Then one day, for some reason, they switched their allegiance to the best interests of those curious, soulless, corporate cartels known as MLB, and NFL, and NBA.  Except for the last, elegant holdout, Roger Angell—who was, usually, writing only a couple times a year in The New Yorker—we got to hear all about the importance of competitive balance, and keeping payroll under control, and what the Lords of Baseball are thinking tonight.

It was as if every single sportswriter in America got dragged into that boardroom in Network, where Ned Beatty explains the facts of modern capitalism to poor, crazy old Peter Finch.

The latest example is Joel Sherman, who joined the thundering herd of tabloid reporters yesterday in telling us how horrible, awful, tragic, really bad it would be for the Yankees to sign the two best and youngest free agents to ever hit the market.

(The Times, of course, was too busy covering ice-fishing in Patagonia, or some such.)

Sherman reliably gives us the corporate razzle, right down the line, and devoid of anything resembling logic or common sense, of course.

Didi will be back by June, don'tcha know, and it would be crazy to sign Machado as a stopgap.  The Yanks have plenty of outfielders, and they're still paying off that Ellsbury contract (yes, he actually said that), and anyway, it's way too much money to commit.

This ignores the fact that, in the next year or so, the Yankees will be ponying up major bucks just to re-sign Didi and Aaron Hicks, much lesser and considerably older ballplayers than Manny and Bryce.

But even better, Sherman informs us that players such as Judge, Sanchez, and Severino "are about to get more expensive," and that signing Manny "could extinguish the chance of finding out if Greg Bird/Luke Voit were for real," and-and-and, you know, "Mr. Zero," Adam Ottavino, is better than Robertson anyway, everybody says so.

His best pitch, though, is more of the same:  You fans think you're unhappy now?  Why, you'll REALLY have something to cry about when the Yanks have to pass on Chris Sale and Mookie Betts in their free agency years!

Yes, fool me once, shame on you.  Object to me trying to fool you twice?  I'll take a mallet to your head, you ungrateful little wretch!

"I sense many Yankee fans felt lowering payroll in 2017/2018 was to sign one or the other [Manny or Bryce]," Sherman sneers, with the barely concealed contempt for us pathetic fans that now, weirdly, seems to characterize most tabloid sportswriting.

You SENSED that, did ya, big boy, from your lofty spot a-high up in the press box?  Your fabled antennae were out?  And why DID you pick up those signals, bright stuff?  Could it be that you and your friends up there have been diligently selling it to us fans for the last two years?

And now—'Just hold on, maybe you'll get Mookie Betts!'

All right, all right.  But what I don't get is this:

If you're a sportswriter, why don't you want to cover the best?

That used to be the first priority, back in the day when the Knights of the Press Box still had enough brain cells left to understand that if any of their prose lived on, it was going to be in praise of Willie Mays—not about how D.J. LeMahieu is a nifty little utility guy.

You know, I don't read opera criticism.  But somehow, I doubt that the columnists in Milan are telling fans of that art that they should just pipe down and realize that Pittsburgh needs some sopranos, too.

I do read theatre reviews—and I've yet to read a reviewer in this town write, 'Aw, gee, that danned Streep is opening another show on Broadway, when does Cleveland get a chance?  Lin-Manuel Miranda—what, he can't do his next musical in Baltimore?'

Somehow I missed all the pandering, breathless interviewers with the Broadway suits, from which they impart the information that, 'Hey, we just can't AFFORD that many stars!  Do you know how much ushers make???  And look—we picked up one snazzy triangle player for the orchestra!'

This is the big town.  This is the Crossroads of the World.  This is the Lights on Broadway, mofo.  This is, explicitly, why Jacob Ruppert bought the Yankees and not the Cubs:  "Chicago is a long way from Broadway."

This is why you worked and scraped and fought to get here, Joel baby—and Wallace Matthews, and all the rest of you.  To see the very best you can, night in and night out.

If that doesn't thrill you anymore—if all that really makes you tingle anymore is that thick, black bottom line on some cartel annual report—then get out and get a flak job and let someone else do what you do.

Your replacement will be a whole lot easier to find than another Bryce Harper.  And you won't have to worry about anyone immortalizing you.

Yankee Photo Contest....2018 warm memories

I can tell that this team IIH participants and readers ) is alert and " on their game."

As we prepare for the optimism of Spring Training, it is useful to re-awaken some of the fond memories from the season past.

Here is another one ( of my personal favorites ):

Please present your recollections and narratives.

What are we witnessing here?  Have we seen it before?

Could Manny ruin Hal's winter by settling for a short-term contract?

Supposedly, Manny Machado's conga line of suitors now holds as a Bermuda Triangle of the Padres, White Sox and Phillies. Each is said to have offered him an epoch-long deal with dollar signs and zeroes that, to the rest of us, is as incomprehensible as Kellyanne Conway's marriage. Each franchise offers a shitwad of cash to, in theory, compensate for the many years Manny will face finishing third. 

If The Manster has any sense of history, he must know that each of those three owners eventually will sour on him, that each of the fan bases will blame him when their team sucks - which each will - and that he could wind up at age 40 without not only a ring, but maybe not even another World Series at-bat. Manny's greatest years are at hand; could he squander them in San Diego?

Of course, Manny will surely do what all beagles do - chase the money - because that's all they know. They've been programmed since birth to run barking down the street after the mail truck. Trouble is, they never ponder what will happen if they catch the truck.  

And maybe, just maybe, that's what Manny is doing.

If he signs that massive lifetime contract, it will define him in the lizard eyes of his owner and the ticking time-bomb hearts of his fans, both of whom can turn icy if and when a dead-in-the-water front office decides to tank the team in late May. 

So what if - as rumors say might be happening - Manny ditches the greed-first mentality and decides what is important is where he plays and who he plays for, and on that note, he wants to be a Yankee? Crazy as it sounds, the scenario looks possible. How can I say this?

1. Something should have happened by now. They were telling us that Machado was going to sign over Christmas break. The spring camps are nearly open, and he's still sifting offers. If he wanted San Diego, Philadelphia or Chicago, you'd think he would have signed by now.

2. It's well known that Mrs. Manny wants New York. Again, how much of a premium does a player put on domestic tranquility? How much money negates the downside of an unhappy spouse? 

3. There remains one card to play: He could accept a one or two-year deal, make a lot of money, then hit free agency in, say, 2020 at age 27 - with the best earning years of his life still in front of him. 

If Manny pushes for New York - that is, if he makes it clear that he's waiting for the Yankees to put forth an offer, it becomes a nightmare scenario for Diamond Hal Steinbrenner.

Hal either ponies up the money, or he looks like a cheap suit weenie. Just last week, he proclaimed that the Yankees are never done improving until opening day. If he walks away from a one-year deal with Machado, he'll be revealed as a poor-mouthing, outclassed heiress in a Yankee windbreaker and a $50 haircut.  

Those of you who are harsh critics of Manny - there are many of you, and for worthy reasons - would have to at least agree that he at least wants to be a Yankee, and that he is sacrificing dough to play in New York. That ought to buy him some credibility, and a chance to show what kind of player he is.

He would likely play shortstop, the Troy Tulowitski era - a weirdly fantastical time - will come to an end. In it, delusional Yankee fans imagined Tulowitski as ten years younger with hips and knees that haven't been surgically rebuilt. In it, the story of a one-day tryout takes on mythic proportions, and the notion of a man agreeing to play for next to nothing in salary is a fairy tale come true.

Finally, Didi Gregorius does not have to rush back and - as a result - face a harrowing contract season. Didi is our shortstop. He always will be. But it's hard to imagine him returning in July, without spring training, and having much of a year. He might be able to come back in late August and September. He might be able to play in the post-season. But rushing him back because - say - Tulo just tweaked a gonad... that's a worst-case scenario for everyone involved. 

And if Manny wants to play in NYC, shouldn't we let him?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Yankee Photo Game

As we await Spring Training, we reminisce about the baseball season past.

Here is another telling photo;

You all did well on the previous exam.  What is happening here?

Have a shot of Jack.

Relax and enjoy.

If Luis Severino was tipping his pitches last year, blame belongs to the Yankee coaching staff

Theoretically, the reason for Luis Severino's dreadful, rotten, flea-bagged second half of 2018 was body language. Before throwing a fastball, he does something. He twitches. He fidgets. Maybe he scratches his billiards. He does something. The Redsocks supposedly saw it and knew when fastballs were on the way. Once they broke the Sevy Code, he was done. 

Some of this may be wishful thinking. It's a great excuse - and hope for the future - if Severino simply needs to adjust his twitchy testicles tomfoolery. If that's all, we can ignore his last 55 innings, when opposing batters hit .323 with 13 home runs. Think about that: He transformed all opposing batters into Mookie Betts. If it's simply body movement, then he didn't fall off the face of the earth, and he still has a future.

But here's a thought on a cold day: When a guy is found to be tipping pitches, it means somebody on the other team was watching him more closely than his own coaches. 

Last time I looked, Larry Rothschild - who survived the purge of Joe Girardi - is the supreme being assigned to guard against such events. If Severino was tipping pitches, it would have been nice if somebody on the Yankees noticed it before the Redsocks did.

Within the Yankiverse, if Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton represent the majestic towers of power, Severino and Gary Sanchez are the mysterious, alligator-laden catacombs, deep beneath the streets. Both were supposed to become stars. Last year, both fell apart.

I understand why Brian Cashman decided to keep them: He would be trading them at a particularly low period of value. But if either stumble this year, the team's chances of overtaking Boston will hit major turbulence. 

For reasons I cannot fully explain, we are still considering Severino the ace of the staff, and Sanchez remains our starting catcher. 

But make no mistake: The Yankee "resurgence," if one is coming, must be balanced on the backs of two players, neither of which did much in 2018. And the coaches who watched them fall apart will be back for more. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Yankee Photo Game

I am going to show you photos of some of your favorite Yankees from last season.

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to accurately describe the situation depicted.

Here is photo number one;

What do you think just occurred ?

The Excitement Builds....

As Spring Training approaches, Yankee fans all over the globe are expressing their optimism for the upcoming season.....where everyone starts out in first place...and their appreciation for the superhuman, creative moves made by Yankee ownership and management to re-tool this also ran into a contender.

I captured this reaction at a recent Yankee rally in Tampa;

Soon; pitchers and catchers report.


Then....some games.

Then....the race to nowhere.

Would MLB collusion actually push Machado and Harper into spring training without a contract?

The gates will soon burst open in Tampa, Sarasota, Bradenton and various watering holes of the Cigar City Brewery, which are by far the preferred locations for baseball talk and philosophical discourse about who is dating Pete Davidson. With days - no, hours! - before spring training begins, the number - and the names! - of unsigned MLB free agents is staggering - no, damning! Something is rotten in the state of baseball. As soon as Bob Mueller finishes unraveling the sexual attraction between Trump & Putin, he should take up the pee tapes and dick pix that have Rob Manfred controlling Hal Steinbrenner. Somebody has something going, and it's not Calgon Bath Oil Beads. Inquiring minds would like to know!

At some point, any day now, the music will stop, unleashing a frenzy of teams and players becoming tethered to each other like Ahab to Moby - the whale, not the sensitive, 90s alt-rock sensation. For Yankee fans, the fear should be stark and sinister: That Boston, which has played dead snake all winter, suddenly leaps from its basket and snatches Craig Kimbrell and another stud player - maybe a Manny or a Bryce - turning our meager, microscopic gains this winter into a grainy, tasteless mush, the kind sold at Yankee Stadium food outlets. 

If I owned the Redsocks, and I wanted to deliver a dynasty, I would thank the Yankees for sitting out the winter of 2019 - choosing the comedy team of Tulo and LeMahieu - and sign Manny Machado to play 2B. A few Boston fans would whine - that is, until Mannny's first HR against the Yankees. From then on, everybody would be fine with his dirty play and lack of hustle.

I'm sure that the Yankee brain trust feels secure that Boston will not break the secret iron-fist collusion agreement that binds all the owners together in the drive to strangle the players union. But I would never sleep on a snake-infested Redsock campsite, and as the clock approaches midnight, anything can happen.

Last winter, the Yankees sat happily in Paul Lynde's center square, congratulating themselves on the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, and certain that we had become faves to win the 2018 AL East. Then Boston signed JD Martinez. The rest is history.

Little did we know that the signing of Stanton meant that the Yankees were done with long-term contracts, and that Machado and Harper were no longer future options. If the front office had reported this, fans would have approached the deal with far more wariness. 

So, today, we have Gio - whose image is already being fitted into an Ellsbury picture frame. If he fails to hit, or he gets hurt, make no mistake: He will be the next Jacoby - the player who absorbs all blame for not only the front office's decisions but its calls for austerity. 

Soon, the music will stop. That's when we learn who the 2019 Yankees are. Hal Steinbrenner is right when he asks not to be judged until all the deals are made. But that time is coming. And once it's hear, judgement might not be pretty. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Throughout the Yankiverse, only the sportswriters believe the owner is not cheap

Over the last three weeks, an angry, scarlet pimple of indignation has blossomed on the forehead of the Yankiverse, and no SWAT team of Clearasil can quiet it.

In a rare moment of worry, the franchise is addressing the burgeoning fury of its fan base. 

This week, Harold Z. Steinbrenner - known in these parts as "Food Stamps" - wheedled and whined about how expensive it is to own the Yankees, and whinnied about public criticism for not trying to sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. It's tough, being an old money multi-billionaire. Nobody understands you. They think dollars grow on trees. It's not fair. Take a letter, Maria: IT'S. JUST. NOT. FAIR.

Across the Yankiverse, fans have demanded that the Yankees spend their mountain of money on payroll... or explain to us where all the rising revenues go. We remember the last three years of poor-mouthing, as the brass bellowed about the need to escape luxury taxes. Their arguments for austerity always included a winking reference to the free agent class of 2019 - the generational talents of Machado and/or Harper. The message was simple: We'll save money now and spend it when the big boys come available. And nobody was talking about DJ LeMahieu. 

Over the last three weeks, as the word "collusion" has echoed across the Internet, a notion that the Yankees have been a) deceptive, b) disingenuous and c) cheap - (an argument nurtured by godforsaken sites like this) - has gained traction almost everywhere.

There is, however, one safe house where the Yankees always find a sympathetic ear: Your friendly neighborhood media Gammonites. 

This week, the tabloids did their best to debunk the idea of Prince Hal being a flea market psycho. In a gushingly friendly interview with the Post, Food Stamps noted that the Yankees are on target to spend $220 million this year on payroll. He did not mention that such a number will remain $20 million below what Boston spent last year. Another tab story conveniently laid the blame for Yankee austerity on Jacoby Ellsbury, as if the Redsocks haven't carried burned huge contracts of their own. It's always open season on player contracts. Show me one long term player contract that always looks fruitful to its owner, or to fans who are struggling to pay their rent. It's the biggest gimme in all of sports.

Yesterday, some team source revealed a Yankee offer to Machado of about $22 million over seven or eight years, though it's not clear whether the proposal was made before or after the Yankees signed LeMahieu, which was basically the end game for Machado's New York chances.

Nor does it explain Harper, who is clearly a Yankee fan fave. For starters, this ridiculous notion that the Yankee outfield is "overcrowded" requires us to believe that Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton can each last a season without injuries. Secondarily, the team is woefully overbalanced to the right side. Harper would solve that glaring weakness. Yet the Yankees don't seem to be opening the door... even a crack.

So Hal can say whatever he wants. Boston seeks to repeat as world champs, while the Yankees have reassembled last year's wild card winner. Call it "cheap." Call it "insane." Call it whatever you wish. One of these days, maybe the media will get the message.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Big changes this year in baseball show evolution of sport

First, I'm keeping this brief today, like Bezo chopping at David Pecker, so you can skip down to Local Bargain Jerk's heartfelt love ode to the new Yankee Stadium/imploding death star.

Two big announcements this week testify to baseball's changing times.

1. Zach Britton will now be called Zack Britton. Holy crap. This will take getting used to. I'll probably say "Zach" 30 times before I realize it's "Zach." (Oops, I did it again!) It's Zack. Wow. This is going to be freaky for The Master. I wonder if Boonie will call him Zacky? Or Brittony. (Oops, I did it again!) Wait... that's a joke.

2. MLB is going to no longer call the Disabled List the Disabled List. From now on, it's the Injured List - the I.L. They are making this change out of respect for disabled people, and I suppose that's nice. But what about injured people? They don't count? I whacked my toe on a coffee table last week. It still hurts. I'm out with an injury. So now, I should be ostracized? 

Enough. Now read Bargain Jerk's piece. (And of course, Alphonso's.) 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Now We Know the Number

The cost of tearing down baseball's One True Cathedral has been quantified.

In his "Please Stop Calling Me a Miser" interview in yesterday's NY Post, Hal Steinbrenner was quoted as saying:

"One of the problems with this narrative is, I hear everything about our revenues, and hear nothing about our costs. I hear nothing about the gargantuan debt service payment that we have to pay every year [about $90 million]."
So there you have it.  Because he was goaded by ex-NYC official Randy Levine into tearing down a long-ago paid off shrine, the following has resulted:
  • The Yankees have $90MM less in operating capital each year to fund essential items such as uncontaminated concession food, reduced ticket prices, and ... there was one other thing ... shoot ... wait ... it's right on the tip of my tongue....  oh, that's right: The Yankees could also use the extra $90MM per year to fund PLAYER SALARIES.
  • We also lost our towering home field advantage which came, in part, from the wall of noise that poured down from seats seemingly on top of the players.  Anyone who ever walked up those steep, tiny upper-deck steps, clutching the railing the whole way, knew the meaning of the words "nose-bleed seats".  But, boy oh boy, when you turned around and looked out at the view in front of you, it was overwhelming.  The Bronx Courthouse off in the distance, the majestic expanse of green, and your heroes looking like they were just a few feet away.

  • We also lost a direct, continuous link back to 1923, back to the best teams in history, back to all that matters in baseball.  I never sat in the upper deck and looked out at the Bronx Courthouse without thinking of Lou Gehrig's "luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech, even though it was delivered long before I was.

    Curt Schilling is a completely disagreeable blowhard, but his description of a palpable "mystique and aura" in the old place was spot-on.  We gave that up AND we're paying $90MM per year for the privilege.
With an extra $90MM kicking around our coffers each year, don't you think we'd already have Bryce Harper on the team?  And maybe a front-of-the-rotation starter and maybe $40MM to spare?  With that extra money, maybe the concession managers could purchase disease-free hot dogs made from the meat of actual animals.  And we'd be playing in the old stadium.  Wouldn't that be a treat?

In October, Duque tapped out a trenchant analysis of how the new building is killing us:
The short right field porch and the bandbox, homer-haven dimensions of Yankee Stadium undercut our ability to field a well-rounded team. It's been nearly 10 years in the new park, and aside from 2009, with the free agent infusion, what have we seen? Team after team of power-drunk whiffers, guys who notch 25 HRs by flicking at mistakes, and who are incapable of bunting to beat the over-shift. Meanwhile, our pitchers get pounded, as fly balls leave the park. I just looked it up: In the nine years of the new ballpark, only one Yankee starter with more than 150 innings has compiled an ERA of under 3.00. (Luis Severino, in 2017, with 2.98 - a stat that cruelly reveals his downward slide.)  You can homer your way through a regular season. Come October, when the best staffs are distilled, pitching always wins, and in this new park, we never seem to have it.
We had a gem of a park that served us well and provided a material home-field advantage for 85 years.  Because it was paid off long ago, it cost the owners nothing other than out-of-pocket operating costs which would be more or less constant for any stadium.  And we took on a crippling -- "gargantuan" in Hal's words -- $90,000,000 per year debt service obligation to build the Mall of America across the street.

I'll say it again: The new stadium reduces the amount of money we have for player salaries by $90MM per year.

There is no doubt in my mind that Randy Levine, New York City's Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Planning and Administration from 1997 to 2000, orchestrated all this.  He left his position with the city to become President of the New York Yankees.  Levine's head was aswirl in a cloud of do-gooder ideas about economics, development, and planning.  Unfortunately for Yankee fans, the new stadium was one of those initiatives where the principal purpose was to boost the egos of the participants versus accomplishing anything useful.

Yes!  We'll build a new stadium!  We'll create jobs!  We'll have more corporate boxes!  We'll get some of the guys together and put on a show!  We can rip up under-performing 85-year old season ticket plans that have been lovingly handed down from father to son to grandson to great-grandson and replace them with cushiony-soft upholstered Legends and MVP seats and charge people $2,000 per game.

Who cares if no one sits in them?  We don't need crowd noise!  We'll have revenues! Think about it, Hal!  Since the grounds will no longer be hallowed, we can rent them out to soccer teams!

Then they sat down at a mahogany table in a midtown law firm and Randy L. directed the proceedings:
And, now, Hal, sign on this line.  Yes, right here.  And now, on this one.  Aaannnnnd, finally, your initials here.
What?  What is the $90MM per year figure?  Well that's what the bankers are calling a "debt service".  One of those comes with every new stadium they're building these days.  Every team pays a "debt service".  It's one of those nettlesome amounts we couldn't lay off on the taxpayers.  Think of it as a rounding error in the grander scheme of things.
During Randy Levine's tenure, the Red Sox have enjoyed the benefits of:
  • Fans who sit in seats they purchase.

  • Playing in a park that provides a distinct home field advantage.

  • The absence of a $90MM per year debt service because their stadium was paid off
    long, long ago.

  • Three World Championships.
Here's the worst part: What's done is done.  We can't unfry the egg.  We're stuck in a new building that looks like everyone else's, gives us no home-field advantage and, to Duque's point, presents some serious disadvantages for the home team. 

And it's all going to divert $90MM per year from the funds available for player salaries until it's paid off!  What fun!

Hal didn't share with the NY Post the number of years remaining on the promissory note but that's just another thing for fans to think about while they enjoy a hot dog made of sheep "casings", chicken "trimmings", eyelids, recta, and yesterday's shredded newspaper while washing it all down with a delicious $15 beer.

What we've had for the past 10 years is what we should expect going forward: $90MM leaks out of the Yankee coffers each year to fund someone's economic development fantasy of a decade ago.

90.  Million.  Dollars.  Per.  Year.

An easy way to avoid this "gargantuan" cost would be to sell the team.  Makes sense, Ziggy?

Up the Ante

Newswire ( Saudia Arabia);

Manny Machado and Bryce Harper have informed their agents than on Saturday at 10:00am, the minimum price to discuss a contract will increase to $400 million.

Plus, a driver and a Bentley, and:

- Two billboards near the Lincoln Tunnel entrance

- A monument in some ballpark

- A personal attendant for manicures/pedicures.

- Swiss chocolate bonbons for lunch

- Golden spikes

- Exclusivity on home field Jumbo-trons

- An entrant in the Kentucky Derby

- A Partridge

- 2 Pear Trees

-  Back-up body parts in cold storage

-  A contract with RoGain for male pattern baldness

-  Camel and tent

-  Game of Thrones version X

Is anyone sick of this crap?

Make them both Padres.

Hal "I'm not cheap" Steinbrenner: “If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, it’s just false."

Well, I NEVAH...!

Yesterday, Harold Zieg Steinbrenner set the record straight, once and for all, for everyone to hear...

“If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, it’s just false. I mean, we’re well above $200 million — we’re at $220 right now — and we’re well above where we were last year. We did everything we wanted to do to really improve, again, the pitching, because that’s where I wanted improvement, because as far as I’m concerned pitching was a big problem in the division series, more so than anything else.”

So goes the eternal lament of ownership: Nobody ever has enough pitching, and nobody ever makes any money.

Upon reflection, we at IT IS HIGH hereby wish to apologize to the Yankee owner for our truthless deceits, prevaricational canards and vigorously misspelled whoppers of false innuendo. 

For some reason, we were under the impression that the Boston Redsocks outspent the Yankees by $46 million last year, en route to the world championship. 

Somehow we'd gotten it into our heads that Yankee revenues have skyrocketed over the years, while payroll has flat-lined, and that - jeeze, how did we come to think such things? - that Bryce Harper actually wants to play in New York rather than Philadelphia.

That's what happens when you read published reports, outside of YES Network. 

We apologize. We must have been stoned last season when we imagined the value of the team soaring - according to scurrilous sources such as Forbes - while the Yankees were cutting payroll to land below the luxury tax threshold.

I'm flabbergasted to think that, somehow, we came up with sad false narrative that the Yankees this winter would sign a lefty bat to balance their lineup, and that it would involve one of the big name free agents. Well, we did sign somebody: DJ LeMahieu! How did we miss this?

We are sorry for our misdeeds. So sorry. So so very very sorry. As owner of the Yankees, Mr. Steinbrenner should not have to put up with our tripe. Why can't we just shut up and cheer? You know what would serve us right? What if Mr. Steinbrenner decides to sell the team to somebody who is really cheap. You know, like Jeff Bezos or Vladimir Putin. Then we'd get our rightful what-for. But clearly, that's not going to happen. Nothing could force him to sell. Wait a minute: Anybody have a yearbook photo of him in blackface?

Thursday, February 7, 2019

RIP, F. Robby

Always a frightening ballplayer.  Had he played in more of a hitters' era, his numbers would have been off the charts.

Supposedly, the Yanks could've had him for Jim Bouton after the 1964 season.  They passed, and Bouton blew out his arm for good in the disastrous, 1965 Opener in the Snow, in Minnesota—the same game when Elston Howard blew out HIS arm.

With a little luck, we could've had an outfield of Yaz, F. Robby, and Murcer, c. 1969, backed up by Roy White.  But then as now, our luck was taking a dive...

The usual wave of crapola has begun

Here we go again...

What else is he going to say?

Would they tell us, "CC plans for another bad year!"

Would they say, "Adams refuses any role less than ace."

It does become tiring, relentless hope. I mean, I get it: Spring is around the corner, and every player is rebounding, every prospect a future star. We should embrace this madness, I suppose.

But I can't escape the feeling this year that we are being gamed. This truly is the winter of our discontent. Boston reigns as world champion in both football and baseball, while our owners pull out their pants pockets and plead poverty. Yes, you could say Yankee fans are spoiled, that we expect too much from the franchise. Used to be, that's what the Yankees stood for. 

Now, we stand one player - one free agent signing - away from returning to dominance, and instead, we are being spoon-fed garden variety hopetoids from the working press. The annual crapola process is restarting. Put on your boots. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

By June, the Yankees likely will be desperate for a LH bat

Yesterday, Aaron Judge wasted a delirious human cry into the Canyon of Heroes, saying he would happily move to CF if the "Eco-Yankees" would break ranks with the MLB ownership cartel and sign Bryce Harper. 

Judge's words prompted the Yankee brain trust to spring into action. Quickly, the congenial Aaron Boone - aka "the expendable Aaron" - dismissed the notion, suggesting that "Judgy" - (yes, he really called him that) - had consumed too much Super Bowl dip. He assured the Yankiverse that no deal is coming: Just because we found horseshit under the Christmas tree, no pony is waiting for us in the back yard.

These days, the Yankee front office cannot stand to hear the words "Manny" or "Bryce," fearful of spurring the hopes of fans who swallowed their carefully parsed lies over the last two years. Since 2017, the ownership meticulously cultivated the notion that cutting payroll would lead to a big 2019 free agent spending splurge. Some fans still believe it. They think the Yankees will rise up to sign Harper. Yesterday, Boone did everything but turn a fire hose on those wisps of hope. 

Nevertheless, like a judge instructing the jury to ignore that recent outburst from the witness, what's done is done. Judge's words have laid bare a glaring  Yankee underbelly: They are almost an entirely RH lineup - a team with no lefty power - in Yankee Stadium, no less.

Oh, technically, we have two. One is the graying, 35-year-old war horse Brett Gardner, who hit .236 last year. The other is Greg Bird -  either injury prone or overrated, take your pick. It's easy to imagine both on the DL. If you think opposing managers won't stack their bullpen, you missed what happened last season in Tampa. The fact is, some teams will be more likely to exploit the porch in right field than we will. Folks, that's insane.

So, it's rather strange to hear Boone to desperate to strangle any hopes for Harper, who would instantly make the Yankees baseball's best team. You'd think he'd favor the idea. But that's what toadies do, isn't it? By mid-May, Boone will be lamenting the lefty weakness, and Cooperstown Cashman will be sleeping in junkyards, looking for somebody, anybody. Can the Giambino come out of retirement?  

Well, at least Judge won't have to change positions. He'll just never see a lefty pitcher. And never be protected. Make no mistake: That's going to hurt this lineup. And there's nothing they can put in the Super Bowl dip that will change it. Trouble. 

Tight. Not Tight.

The trouble with the Yankees is this: they're already unraveling.

It happens to all teams.  Eventually.  But well-constructed teams are always tight.

What does "tight" mean?  Everybody is there for a purpose.  They may not always work out (see Sveum, Dale), but they are part of a plan.  And on smart, well-run teams, when they don't work out, they're quickly replaced by someone who does (see Bush, Homer).

Sure, things can go wrong.  Injuries.  Drug addiction.  That thing with David Price where he was playing too many video games.  But there's always a plan.

The Yanks right now don't have a plan.

Instead of right and tight, they are fishin' and wishin'.

Take a look at, say, the 1978 Yankees.  Everybody was there for a purpose, right down to guys like Gary Thomasson (good defensive replacement, respectable hitter) and Jim Spencer (left-handed pinch-hit bat, good glove.)

I remember wondering why the hell Spencer was on that 1978 team.  After all, we already had a good-hitting, good-fielding, left-handed first baseman.  Then I saw Spencer win a game for Guidry with a grand-slam against the White Sox.

Tight teams have built-in redundancy, because they know something will go wrong.  They specialize in guys who can contribute in different ways.

You knew that great, 1970s team was starting to fray at the edges when, all of sudden, in 1979 they had guys like George Scott (although he somehow hit .318 as a Yankee), or Roy Staiger, or Ray Burris.

The Yankees didn't really think Boomer was about to bounce back after two years in marked decline. They didn't sign him because a series of injuries made them suddenly desperate at a key moment in a pennant race.

They were just fishin' and wishin'.

Same with this team, as currently constructed.

They're just hoping against hope (and any good sense) that people like Gardy and CC will bounce back.  They are praying that Paxton can actually pitch over 160 innings and be effective, and that LeMahieu will be better than Neil Walker, and that somehow, in some way, Troy will be able to hit again and give them a modicum of mobility at shortstop.

These are all just wishes, while all of the team's real problems went unaddressed.

Can this work?  Sure it can. If the 1988 Dodgers could win a world championship, so can almost anybody—particularly now that 1/3 of the teams make the playoffs.

But that wish-and-a-prayer is not how tight teams are built.  Tight teams maximize their chances by getting everybody for a purpose.  On the Yanks right now are a whole bunch of guys who are there because of a combination of low salaries, bad judgement, and desperate hopes.

And sure, every team starts to fray eventually.  Thing is, that 1970s team didn't start to get "not tight" until after three pennants and two ring—and after 1979, they rebounded to take a division title and another pennant.

The 1990s dynasty produced the greatest team ever, not to mention five pennants, four rings, two wild cars, and one "best-in-AL" (strike-shortened 1994) year before people like Raul Mondesi and Jeohn Vander Wal began to pop up like the start of a bad rash.

This current Yankees tea went from aspiring, to fraying in record time, from about midway through 2018 to now.  It is a reflection on how disengaged our management is.

As a ballteam, we are the equivalent of a divorced father of five who is $100,000 in the hole, on a bus to Atlantic City with his weekly paycheck of $640 burning a hole in his pocket, hoping one hot streak will make all his troubles disappear.

Good luck.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

And unto the Stygian darkness there came a bright beam of light....

If Cashman can trade Jacoby Ellsbury, I hereby forgive him for Sonny Gray

Supposedly, the once-proud San Francisco Giants have reached the point where they are peering out over the precipice, staring wide-eyed into the fiery anus of death, and pondering a trade for Jacoby Ellsbury. 

I'm talking about the team of Willie, Stretch and the planet-sized skull of Barry Bonds... the city of Bullitt, Grace Slick and Scott McKenzie. They're considering The Chief. So if you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. Summertime will be a love-in there. 

To the Giants, I say... BRAVO! Securing Jacoby is a flat-out brilliant move. 

Jake is rested, tested and raring to go. Write him into the lineup, and he'll bat lead-off, play CF and ignite the West Coast offense. He's big in the post-season - important, because the Giants with the Ell Train will become the NL team to beat. He'll teach the kids a thing or two because he's seen a thing or two. He'll unite the tribes and become King of the North.

I'm not just saying this to hear myself jabber. I mean it. Ellsby's mission in New York has been accomplished. He's taught us the one essential truth about America: Money is piss, and the sparrow is immortal. It's time to move on to another city, another sunset, another adventure.

I know, I know... Some of you are down on Jake because of the contract thingy. Boo to you. If you're angry because a player signed a big contract, don't blame the player. Blame the front office. Blame the juju gods. Blame the hallucinations caused by staring wide-eyed into the fiery anus of death. Bad contracts are a part of life. So are injuries. The E-Bury didn't fake his barking lumbago last season. It happened. The guy needs a new town and another chance. The worst thing that could happen would be trying again in New York. 

In return for 'Coby Beef, the Yankees get to be a team without 'Coby Beef. They might receive an equally bad contract, if such a thing exists. The rumor mill says Johnny Cueto might come our way. He will miss the 2019 season with TJ surgery. He's 33, with three years left on a $63 million stack of larded papers. The Yankees would write him off this year and hope for comeback in 2020. 

This is where Cooperstown Cashman must earn his pay. Somewhere in the middle, the numbers can even out a trade between Dinglebury and the Cuet. Somebody needs to throw in a Shane Robinson, and everybody is happy.

Finding a happy home for Ellsy would be one of the nicest moments of this gloomy winter. It would also eliminate a bullshit Yankee excuse for not bidding on Bryce Harper: That the outfield is "too crowded." Of course, it won't matter. Everything is money. All across the nation. Such a strange vibration. People in motion. There's a whole generation. With a new explanation. People in motion. People in motion. But maybe in San Francisco, he's gonna find some gentle people there. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

When You Need Ingenuity and Creativity.....

Don't look here :

Or here:

Will Boston fans even bother to chant "Yankees suck!" during the Patriots victory celebration?

We know their venom seems endless, but I wonder when Boston sports fans will grow bored with kicking their NY patsies. This week, when the throngs gather to cheer another championship, I'm sure a few old-timers will raise the Yankee chant, mostly out of nostalgia. They'll be like Trump fans chanting "Lock her up!" which makes no sense, but it fills in the gaps when you'd otherwise have to think. Get good and drunk, and chant anything. That's America today, isn't it?

But do the Yankees warrant their attention, anymore? In pro sports, Boston has been eating our breakfast, lunch and dinner now for so long that it's hard to remember the days of The Curse. Since the meltdown of 2004, the Redsocks have dominated our rivalry, and the Patriots have become the Green Bay Packers of the NFL. New York is a city of pygmies. The superstars are in Boston.

Consider this sad, painful, ranking of current sports titans between the two cities.

1. Tom Brady
2. Mookie Betts
3. Bill Belichick
4. Chris Sales
5. Aaron Judge

6. Gronk
7. JD Martinez
8. Giancarlo 

9. Odell Beckham
10. Kyrie Irving 

What does this say about NY sports? It screams that we no longer have a Jeter or a Mariano, that Eli Manning has become a concrete-footed liability, that the Knicks will always be the Knicks, and that when people ponder the Rangers - in those exquisitely rare moments that anyone does - they still think of Rod Gilbert. The Jets, Mets, Nets... the eternal Forgets. In terms of sports, New York has become Syria. 

I raise this today because of the incredible opportunity that still presents itself: The Yankees could open their thick wallet and bring Bryce Harper to the Bronx. They could wipe the drunken smirks off the faces of Boston fans, and force the Redsock management to spend its money in response. But they won't do this. If you're wondering about "collusion," folks, it's not between the owners of the Padres and the Royals; they've always been cheap. The actual collusion this winter is between teams like the Yankees and Redsocks, neither of which has added a "star" who would seemingly reshuffle the cards. 

Oh, no... wait. I'm sorry. The Yankees have signed one exciting, electrifying new superstar: DJ LeMahieu. He's going to dazzle New York with his glovework at 2B and his amazing ability to not strike out. The Master will be apoplectic.  



My guess is that the Boston crowd will still chant "Yankees suck." It will be like old times. Fun for the family. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A quiet clubhouse? The 2019 Yankees have added quality people

So... no Manny, no Bryce. Deal with it. But that also means no second-guessing about whether Manny trotted to first, or whether Bryce swung for the fences when a single would do. No generational superstars. No in-house whining, too.

Today, for a change, let's - gasp! - look on the bright side. The Eco-Yankees may not have baseball's best team, but their recycling efforts are working; the players they've added or kept this winter should lift overall clubhouse harmony.  


Danny Farquhar. He's a 31 year-old relief pitcher who collapsed last April and underwent brain surgery for an aneurysm. That's not a tweaked gonad. That's Meet Joe Black. We signed Farquhar last week to a minor league deal. Seriously... who wouldn't root for this guy? Dr. Evil? Whatever happens, Farquhar won't be taking these games for granted. Sometimes hope can be contagious.  

Clint Frazier. Another guy with reasons to count his blessings. (He'll not only see the glass as half-full, he'll see a 2-1 count as half-full.) Everybody knows the story of Red Thunder: He's a bit too brash for his own good, and he crashes into walls. Frazier just lost a year to concussions. What a horrible season. Can he recover? Dunno. But I don't think we'll ever see him accused of jogging to first.  

Brett Gardner. We could have let Gardy walk. He didn't have a good year, but somebody would have taken him. Instead, we kept the de facto Yankee captain. We're betting on a comeback. I have a feeling he might be a lifetime Yankee. The team's leader.

CC Sabathia. Didn't see him returning. Figured he'd pack it in. Obviously, the pinstripes mean something. No, he's not the pitcher he was. But he's the same guy, and the Yankees brought him back to lead the staff.  

Aaron Judge. He's been everything we could have asked, even when the Yankees ridiculously began marketing him - in his rookie season, no less. Judge is showing himself as not just a great talent, but as the great face for the game. I can't imagine him dogging out a ground ball. 

Troy Tulowitzki. It says something that the Yankees offered him a starting shortstop job, and he accepted it for the minimum wage. Too old? Maybe. But he remains one of the game's most respected players. There are concerns about his defensive range between Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. But nobody will question his positive impact as a role model for the two.

JA Happ and Zach Britton. They've both seen ups and downs in long careers. Happ floundered for years, before deciphering how to pitch. Britton was the game's best closer, then had to relearn everything, after injuries. I gotta believe they will help steady the pitching staff. 

Didi Gregorius. He'll be back. He is simply the most joyous Yankee on the field. 

Do we have sore spots? Hell, yeah. That slacker behind the plate needs to block some pitches and hit more than .191. Our great, young future all-star infielders need to improve their goddamm defense. Our superstar bullpen closers better figure out stability. But the Yankees should field a solid team in 2019. 

The question is not whether we will win, but whether we can beat Boston. A divided clubhouse has no chance. On that front, we should be okay.