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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The abundantly reasonable case for swooping in and scooping up Manny

Nobody thinks this can happen, including me. But now and then, a warming glimmer of uncertainty pokes through the polar vortex of cold, dead rumors: 

What if Manny Machado simply decides 

a) he doesn't want to spend the rest of his career chasing wild cards in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego or East Schunk

b) a one-year deal would let him prove his worth as a hustling teammate

c) he'd like to win a ring

d) life improves with a happy spouse.

If so, he says, "Alexa, call Brian Cashman and get me a one-year deal at 20something million, and we'll sort out the rest next winter, when the owners are being sued for collusion." 

Okay, what happens then? Here's a snapshot of the dominoes that would drop.

1. The Yankees release Troy Tulowitzki. We say, "Sorry, Tools, but that's China Town." We promised him a starting job at SS. We keep our promise. It's just not in NYC. He goes back to free agency and surely scores a better deal than the minimum, which we were going to pay - (everyone thinks, hey, the Yankees wanted him; he must be back) - no harm, no foul. 

2. Manny becomes opening day shortstop. He bats second, moving Judge to third and Giancarlo fourth. This gives Didi Gregorius ample time to recover, and he can even DH, too.

3. Gleyber Torres stays at 2B. No more jumping between positions. We tell him to learn the position, because it's his to lose.

4. Miguel Andujar gets four months to solve the vast mysteries of his footwork. They say he's a dedicated student. Here's a chance to nail down 3B for a generation. If he fields, he stays. If he doesn't, once Didi returns, Machado bumps him to the OF. 

5. DJ LeMahieu becomes our all-purpose utility infielder and defensive replacement.

6. Didi returns in August/September with his chance to win a long term job. (He'll be a free agent next winter.)

Instead of a 34-year-old, limited range SS who in a good season will bat .260, we add one who hits 30 HRs with 100 RBIs. Boston panics and re-signs Craig Kimbrel, who was falling apart last fall. We win the AL East. And next year, right around now, Manny is telling Alexa to call Hal and decide whether the marriage can go on. If a ring is involved, the bonds might be hard to break.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Breath Of Fresh Air

The Yankees have had a pathetic off season.  So far, at least.

Today, a bit of good news leaked through the pipeline.





Most of you may have missed this nugget.

Neal Walker has signed with another team!

I think it is the Marlins, but I don't care.

It is a contract with a team other than the Yankees.

Make of it what you will.

I am having a cupful of Gentleman Jack.

Taking break from ownership collusion, the eco-Yanks turn to composting!

Yesterday, the office of Yankee CEO Harold Z. Steinbrenner announced that his venerable franchise has hired an "environmental science adviser" to offer guidance on dealing with the well-known Chinese hoax of climate change. Congrats to all! It's heartening to know that our eco-billionaire plans to study energy savings on the heat lamps for the famously poisonous foodstuffs the Yankees sell.

Announced Harold Z. - (fun fact: it stands for Zieg) - in a statement: 

“The Yankees have always been devoted to supporting the best interest of our community, our fans and our players, and we believe effective eco-friendly initiatives are a key element of our interaction. We have made significant strides throughout the years, and as such, Yankee Stadium is proud to promote a zero-waste economy, and stand as one of the most successful recycling and composting venues in all of sports.”

Yep. We can now understand the signings of Troy Tulowtizki, J.A. Happ, Zach Britton, and CC Sabathia: 

The Yankees are composting. 

They are perfecting the science of rot. 

Fans, don't throw out that last french fry. It can be mixed into the clay around second base to form a firm pate. The bag it came in can power a grease-fueled bullpen cart, while the home dugout is warmed by methane bursts from Larry Rothschild. It's a new world, and the eco-Yanks will lead the way over gas-guzzling Boston.

(By the way, something tells me that a) the eco-Yankees have identified a tax break in there somewhere and b) maybe eco-Randy Levine may yet end up as Trump's White House Chief of Staff. But let's not lap ourselves here.) 

Recycling the lead: The Yankees are composting!

Fun facts: By definition, "compost" is "a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land." The verb "compost" means "to convert a material such as decayed plant debris to compost."

Wait a minute. Don't get me wrong. What the eco-Yankees are doing is actually commendable. Once again, they are leading the way in pro sports. Nobody will praise Eco-Bill Belichick's-Patriots, because there is no such thing. But then again, Yankee leadership is nothing new.

In fact, the Yankees' willingness this winter to collude over the price of free agents such as Manny Machado and Bryce Harper has helped to artificially keep down the salaries. In a few years - when the federal courts are done, and the players' strike is underway - MLB will be flourishing, that is, if its stadiums are still above sea level.

What a sad ingrate I am. Here, the Yankees do something nice, and I am whining about their lack of interest in Dallas Keuchel. Still, I feel the way I do when some Hollywood celebrity wins praise for spending a zillion dollars to make their oceanfront mansion "carbon-friendly." The thought is there, but it's just... bullshit. It's compost. It doesn't hurt anyone. But nothing has changed, aside from the self-righteousness. The eco-Yankees will save nickel bottle deposits, while MLB revenues explode beyond our imagination. Owners are raking in the dough, and then poor-mouthing about the wasted contracts of Jacoby Ellsbury and Albert Pujols. They have it both ways, and why I am kidding myself? They always will.

We are supposed to be a "fully operational Death Star." That's good. Because in space, nobody can hear you scream.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

WTF? The Yankees are about to balance a $210 million lineup on a guy making the MLB minimum

There are still rumors that the fully functional Deaf Star could magically vault into the Manny Machado collusion matrix, which now has Mr. Hustle facing a lifetime sentence in Chicago, Philadelphia or San Diego. But let's face it: The Yankees probably won't chase Manny, regardless of what he might accept to escape Dannemora. We're counting pennies again. But frankly, our infield sure could use a superstar who can play SS or 3B. 

I mean, if Lou Costello were still alive, he'd be yelling "Who's on first, and second and third?" Because just three weeks from pitchers and catchers, nothing in our infield is defined. 

For now, here is my best summary of an infield with everything - everything - up for grabs, and hinging upon an aging stalwart who hasn't taken a swing in 20 months.

We start at SS, where the Yankees have seemingly committed to Troy Tulowitzki's magical comeback at age 34. Clearly, they think Tulo can somehow give them five solid months, until Didi Gregorius returns. (Another question mark, by the way.) Five years ago, Tulowitzki looked like a future Hall of Famer, piling up huge numbers in the helium atmosphere of Colorado. He was dealt to Toronto - where the air is more like elevator farts - in a failed pennant stretch run. He's never been the same. He missed all of last season and most of 2017. But here's the deal: We're paying him the minimum, based on a two-day tryout last month, and we're hoping he returns to form. After all, he says he feels great. Why would he lie?

And, who knows... maybe it'll work. Maybe Tulo can come back and save the team. Trouble is, this fantasy has been dreamed by the Yankees many times before: Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, the list goes on. We'll see.

But if Tulo plays poorly or gets hurt, then - well, as far as I can see - everything goes nuts. At that point, here are the options: 

a) Move Gleyber Torres to SS. Trouble is, we still don't really know Gleyber. Is he the all-star 2B who hit .300 in the first half, or the ragged ball-in-the-dirt-chasing strikeout machine, who returned after his injury? Last year, his fielding at 2B was a definite "MEH," and it's worth wondering if he'd be a solid defensive SS. Moreover, if we move him around, could we ruin the guy? Wouldn't it be best to install him at 2B, and let him grow comfortable there?

b) Move DJ LeMahieu to SS. Trouble is, he's a gold glove 2B. He can probably field the SS position, but would he be overtaxed there? And what kind of hitting should we expect? In today's game, 2B is a critical offensive position. Can we afford to install a slappy .260 fielding specialist at such a key slot? Frankly, if Tulo plays well, I don't know what LeMahieu's job will be, other than late-inning replacements. We signed him for $12 million a year. What role do we have him playing?  

c) Play Tyler Wade. Trouble is, he's done nothing in his brief MLB career to inspire hope. One advantage, he bats LH, and there won't be many in the lineup who do. 

d) Look for a scrap heap fielding SS - they're out there - and hold on until Didi returns. Trouble is, rushing Didi might backfire, wrecking his season entirely.

Then there is 3B, where Miguel Andujar's glove must improve, or he'll need to learn the OF. Last fall, his throws to 1B were borderline Knoblauch. If Andujar fails to show progress in spring training, LeMahieu might move to 3B, keeping the infield intact until Tulo pulls up lame.

Finally, there's 1B, where neither Greg Bird or Luke Voit will ever win a gold glove. Bird hasn't shown an ability to hit, and Voit might simply be a once-around-the-league. 

I'm serious. This looks like a fourth-grade art project done with Cray-Z Glue. The Yankees are balancing a $210 million payroll on a 34-year-old china doll who will be earning minimum wage. If it all works, yeah, we could be really good. If one cog breaks, though... uh-oh.

Am I seeing this correctly? Are we really doing this? I keep staring at the painting, but I don't see any flamingos. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Will this be the year the ice cracks beneath Yankee trades of prospects?

For the first time in my memory, the Yankees recently were shut out of Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list. Now, my memory isn't what it used to be, but somehow, even in the lean years of "Brawlin'" Brien Taylor, Jesus "Ice Cream Sandwich" Montero and Ruben "Sticky-Fingers" Rivera, we always landed somebody in the Top 100. This year, we got nada, zip, zilch... purple asparagus. 

There are good cop/bad cop arguments behind this. Several prospects have graduated to the Show. And several went in trades last summer. We didn't win, and they're gone... purple asparagus.

Five takeaways on the current farm situation:

1. It's only a matter of time before somebody we traded becomes a star. Brace yourselves, people: We're going to experience a new Doug Drabek, a Jay Buhner, a Willie McGee. When that happens, the full flaming pimple of the last two trade deadlines will explode.

It will be easy to blame Brian "Cooperstown" Cashman, but our owner's demand to avoid luxury taxes remains at the root of the problem. Even last July, when Boston was running away from the AL East, Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner imposed nickel-dime austerity on the Yankee budget. And saddest of all, the NYC sports media basically accepted this without question. All the Gammonites wanted to do was blame Jacoby Ellsbury for signing a good contract and feeding his family. 

In 2019, two ex-Yankee prospects look ready to haunt us. Pitcher Taylor Widener has become the No. 1 or No. 2 Diamondbacks prospect. (We traded him for Brandon Drury.) And Justus Sheffield is the consensus top Mariners stud pitcher. (He brought us James Paxton.) So buckle up, especially if Paxton's elbow barks and Sheffield soars. Things could get nasty... fast.

2. We are a lower-tier farm system, and the situation might be more dire than we think. Most of the Yankees current top prospects are a) really young pitchers and b) way down in Single A. In the Top Ten of Pinstriped Prospects, eight are in the low minors and only two - Jonathan Loaisiga and Michael King - are remotely ready for the majors. In modern times, young arms are a fragile commodity. (Loaisiga has shoulder issues.) By the end of the year, it's almost a certainty that a handful of these pitchers will be out with Tommy John surgery. I mean, bet the farm on this: Several will be gone.

The Yankees do have some five-tool studs way way down in the rookie leagues. But that far away, everybody looks like a future star. And it speaks volumes that our current top prospect, Estevan Florial, had a terrible, miserable, rotten 2018... and yet rose in our rankings. Ouch.

3. The big international spending splurge of 2014 - when the Yankees showered millions upon about two dozen Latino 16-year-olds - looks like a dud. The best from the class is probably Dermis Garcia, who is a) continually repeating Class A, b) strikes out way too much, c) has no clear defensive position, and d) might be converted into a pitcher. His home runs travel great distances; unfortunately, they still only count as one. The others from the class seem to be stuck in the dirt. 

Moral of the story: This may be what happens when you make a 16-year-old a millionaire. 

4. This looks like a make or break year for our re-invigorated farm system. In 2019, the Yankees must render a final verdict on Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres and even Miguel Andujar - the "Baby Bombers" from the the 2016 tanking and rebuilding era. At one point, we were ranked first or second in the majors. 

The reality is that none of these players remains a sure thing - a Core Four player. We have one star: Aaron Judge. That's not nothin.' But this is the year of final verdicts, especially on Bird and Sanchez.

5. At the deadline this July, we will probably keep trading prospects. We will have no choice.

The recent Sonny Gray deal holds interesting implications. We dealt Funny Sonny for an excellent, MLB-ready 2B prospect and a sandwich round draft pick... then we dealt the 2B for a Single A outfielder, farther removed from the majors. 

Why such churning of prospects? It allowed us to keep a spot open on the 40-man roster. 

Come July, we will probably have a glut of these young players, whom Cashman will be looking to trade. His rationale: We either trade them or lose them next winter in the Rule 5 draft. The Yankees are converting their farm system into a clearing house of talent for trades. Will this work? Fuck if I know. But this I do know: Sooner or later, we're going to get really burned. The ice is getting thin. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Mike Mussina wearing no logo is a huge dis to Baltimore

He's going into the Hall as an orphan, no logo on his cap. If I were an O's fan, I'd feel offended...

Wins
Baltimore 147
NY 123

ERA
Baltimore 3.53
NY 3.88

Strikeouts
Baltimore 1535
NY 1278

Complete Games
Baltimore 45
NY 12

Shutouts
Baltimore 15
NY 8

Not complainin'. Just sayin'.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Yankee Ownership Votes " Aye " on Ottavio's "0"

Our new franchise relief pitcher has gotten his wish.

He can wear the number "0" in pinstripes.

It is so clever because he is the first Yankee to wear that numeral, and because his name begins and ends with the letter "O."

So is zero and the letter "O" the same?

Have we crossed an intellectual barrier?

In any case, we have our guy:

Ottavio at birthday party
A fair warning;

Don't expect players from the Rockies to perform as well at sea level as they did at altitude.

I think we have more frosting than cake.

The Yankees keep listing CC Sabathia as fifth starter. This is delusional

Friends, Romans, Yankeefans, lend me your fears...

I come not to bury CC but to praise him. The ERAs that men do live after them; the wins are interred with their bones...

Seriously. Nuthin' against CC Sabathia here. Everybody loves him. For $10 million, he's the best Yankee signing of the winter. If all he does is hang around the clubhouse, taking Lipitor and denying himself french fries, he's worth every penny. He's a great Yankee with a shot at the Hall, and we should render unto CC what is CC's: Maybe 100 innings in 2019. 

But fifth starter? No. It's an ungodly a leap of faith to believe Sabathia can pitch every fifth day... or that the Yankee rotation, with him slotted at No. 5, remotely compares to Boston's. Even if we are improved - and James Paxton has yet to be tested in NYC - our starters wither against Sales, Price, Porcello, Eovaldi, Rodriguez and the exceptionally frightening Stephen Wright (whose knuckler can kill us at any time.)

Our mere designation of CC as "fifth starter" should raise blazing red flags. If the Yankees are "done" for this winter, the truth is - unless Luis Cessa or Chance Adams becomes a huge surprise - they might be done for 2019.

Listen: CC's character and presence remain unimpeachable. If he were running this country, we wouldn't have had a shutdown. But here are some issues that cannot be avoided:

1. CC will turn 39 next July. This is probably his last year.

2. Last month, after suffering chest pains, he underwent angioplasty. He now has a stent in his circulatory system. He is surely on blood thinners and, while cardiologists may clear him for play, the Reaper's close call will always remain a ghostly presence. I know this, because I have a stent. Life can be normal, but pitching in the majors at 39 at a weight of nearly 300 pounds? I dunno. The regular sight of CC exploding with sweat - we've all seen perspiration dripping from the brim of his cap like an open faucet - will carry a new, disturbing reality: The guy might be endangering his future. 

3. CC's best shot at health and happiness would seemingly require him to lose weight. He has done this in the past. Unfortunately, his fastball lost its bite, and he was ineffective. Since then, he's figured out the art of pitching to contact, rather than strikeouts, but anyone projecting the workhorse he once represented is ridiculously stretching the odds.

4. The last time CC threw 200 innings was 2013. That year, his ERA ballooned to nearly 5.00, where it stood for two seasons. Two years ago, he seemed to figure out a new plan: He went 14-5 with an ERA of 3.69 in 148 innings. Last year, he fell off those numbers slightly. For all his guile and savvy, he is nothing like the pitcher of old. 

5. Nor can he be counted on in a big game. It hurts to note this, but it showed desperately last October. Against Boston in Game 4, he barely made 3 innings, giving up three runs. The Yankees lost 4-3. It was the pivotal game of the series. A quality start could have changed everything. He could not deliver. 

6. One characteristic of the Yankees in this last decade has been the willingness to offer nostalgia acts. (They played Jeter at leadoff for the entire season.) While it's nice to think of a franchise that honors heroes from the past - rather than jettisoning them in their twilight years - this usually leads us nowhere. Worse, it denies young players an opportunity to show what they can do. (Tulowitzki, for example, means Tyler Wade's chances are basically zero.) It's easy to imagine the Yankees going with CC well into June-July, always thinking he's going to magically regain his old stuff. In the meantime, whatever hopes we have will waste their arms in Scranton and Trenton. 

I'm not saying anything that we all don't implicitly know. The Yankees have made interesting moves this winter - Ottovina, Paxton, Happ, Tulowitzki - but if they actually believe CC Sabathia is their fifth starter, well, they are fooling themselves. 

Bear with me. My heart is in the dugout there with CC, and I must pause 'till it come back to me.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Will the Yankees really sit out a dead auction for Bryce Harper?

This idiotic stalemate - entering yet another month - has become a national disgrace. Talks are going nowhere. Nobody is getting paid. How much longer can this embarrassment - this stain upon our cultural identity - continue? On the news, some pundits are saying February, even March - long enough to permanently undermine the integrity of our system. Haven't we all seen enough? HAVEN'T WE ALL SEEN ENOUGH?

Of course, I'm referring to the so-called "free market" auctions for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

Once viewed as vanguards of a new salary structure, both have been systematically ghosted by big market teams, most notably the Yankees. And the word being increasingly whispered is "collusion."  

Specifically, I'm targeting Harper, who at age 26 was projected to be the most sought-after free agent in modern history. After the Dodgers yesterday signed a middling, nothingburger outfielder, reports now say Harper's "market" boils down to Washington and/or Philadelphia. One is an insult - that he should stay with a team he's already decided to leave. The other is Philadelphia.

Listen: The war between owners and the owned is never a fair fight. When a battle pits billionaires against millionaires, you don't need a betting line. But I have to believe that, somewhere down the road, a federal judge will pass harsh judgement on the winter of 2018-19, as the courts did during the collusion trials of the 1980s. Either way, the end game here won't be pretty. Remember the  peace that came about during the last labor negotiations? Machado and Harper could become tag lines for a future strike. (Okay, players union, here's your chant, free of charge: "Manny and Bryce, Don't lie to us twice!")  

But wait! Here is a chance for the Yankees to 1) break the current stalemate, 2) save MLB from a future shutdown and 3) win the 2019 AL East. In the next few days, Hal Steinbrenner should parachute into negotiations, slap down a big-ass $20-$25 million one-year-deal with a beer bucket full of options and incentives, and bring Harper to New York, where he has always been destined to play.

Stick him in left field and let the fates determine the future of Clint Frazier and Brett Gardner (both of whom will log plenty of time anyway.) 

Yesterday, I moaned and bellowed about signing Dallas Keuchel. Let me be clear: Keuchel should be Yankee Target No. 1. But he will demand a long-term deal, and Harper - staring at the choice between herpes and chlamydia - might just be pissed off enough to accept the once-in-a-lifetime challenge of winning over NYC. 

Because that's what I believe will happen. If Harper comes to the Yankees, I think he - along with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar - will become part of a legendary lineup, a modern day Murderers Row. Either way, the Yankees should not be done spending this winter. Remember: They spent last year being cheap, all to make a big splash this offseason. They promised us more than DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino. It's time to step up. This disgraceful stalemate must end.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

I Think I Know what Is Going On....

When some of you were young, the US Department of Justice went after baseball for price fixing, and collusion  ( many of the readers of this site were not yet crawling or born).
















But it actually happened.  Major League Baseball owners cried " foul."   They went to members of Congress and wailed their story.  It looked like this:


Baseball  ( money ) won and got a lifetime exemption from the anti-trust laws of this nation.  Today, behind closed doors, the Fat Cats are concerned that player salaries are getting out of control.  

They are saying that profit margins"must be established and not compromised.  The workers are already over-paid."

So, as Manny and Bryce's front men began to speak of $300 million guaranteed....the owners gathered and said..." not on my watch."

That is why the Yankees are not in this thing.  That is why no offers have been formally tendered and accepted.  

MLB owners will wait until the "cost" for these two superstars declines to a level they are willing to accept as the top pay standard of the sport.  

It is price fixing, pure and simple.

The irony is that this collusion is protected by law.  Or, rather, by the absence of law.

Money bought a free pass for baseball years ago, and money keeps the protection in place.

It is still about the money.

So we wait.









Mr. Steinbrenner, we need Dallas Keuchel

Dear Hal, 

First, chin up, old bean! I understand how you feel. You've been mistreated, misjudged, and disrespected. It's wrong. It's just sooo wrong! 

You've spent millions of dollars on the 2019 Yankees. I'm talking about real money... bread, jack, chyzga, glorf, kabazoolah! It could have gone towards a brand new suit, or a laptop, or winter tires for the jalopy. You could have bought the wife one of those Roomba 960 vacuum cleaners, or an Insta-Pot. Instead, you knuckled down, thought of needy Yankee fans, and signed J.A. Happ. 

And what did it get you? Trolls. You'd think Yankee fans would be grateful, but no... They just whined about Manny and Bryce, Manny and Bryce, Manny and Bryce, boo-hoo-hoo. You're shuffling credit cards to pay the rent, while they're easing back on their comfortable couches, drinking overpriced micro-brewery lagers, farting into the cushions, and decrying your family name on Facebook. It's not fair!

No sir, it's just not fair! And no matter what you do, they'll never cease their feckless whinnying. They've got one hand on the TV clicker and the other in a bag of Cheetos, with orange dust crusting their lips... And. They. Will. Never. Be. Happy. Buy them a Manny, they'll say, "Where is our Bryce?" They'll always complain. Even now, some claim you're lying low, planning to buy both Manny and Bryce, even though you'd be stealing the fishcakes right off your children's dinner plates. They won't be satisfied. And then there is that Ocasio lady, who wants to steal 70 percent of your weekly pay! Dear God, can't they see what's happening in Venezuela? It's not fair. It's just not fair! 

But... I have a suggestion. Forget Manny and Bryce. Think... Dallas Keuchel. If you were to buy Dallas Keuchel, I believe it would shut their goddamm fucking ingrate pie-holes. In fact, I know it would. I deal with these people on a regular basis. You should consider me your eyes and ears. Every day, I stare wide-eyed into the gaping jaws of their hateful schemes and hellish delusions. If you sign Dallas Keuchel, we will bring rest to the unrest, unify the disunity and restore happiness to Yankeeness. 

I have taken the pains to list five reasons to sign Dallas Keuchel.

1. Our five-man rotation would be comparable to Boston's: Severino, Keuchel, Paxton, Tanaka and Happ... v. Sale, Price, Eovaldi, Porcello and Rodriguez (with the scary Stephen Wright backing them up.) Truth be told, without Keuchel, they still have a huge advantage over us.

2. We can slot in CC as sixth man, without having to worry about him dying on the mound from cardiac arrest. 

3. We don't have to fear Boston's impending counter move. (Sir, never sleep on the Redsocks. Last winter, they waited and waited, then signed J.D. Martinez. They have been quiet thus far. One of these days, they will strike.)

4. Keuchel always pitches well against us. We no longer have to sweat him.

5. Shave that horrible beard. Do the world a favor.

Sir, remember the two fundamental rules by which all baseball owners swear: 1) You never make any money, and 2) You never have enough much pitching. Paxton and Tanaka are fragile. Happ is old. Sevy still hasn't explained the second half. The reality is that, despite your heroic spending, the 2019 Yankees are a few tweaked gonads away from disaster. Keuchel would be an insurance policy. He won't cost you a Manny or Bryce. Your wife can still buy a $50 pair of shoes! No more consignment stores! Everyone will be happy! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A perfect Hall of Fame call: Mariano, Moose and no Schilling

What a joyous night! 

The first unanimous Hall of Fame vote in history - overriding a Gammonite's attempt at sabotage - for the great Mariano Rivera! Hip-hip, hooray! 

Long overdue appreciation for Mike Mussina, who will likely enter Cooperstown with an O's cap, but who earned the respect of Yankee fans, and whose first and only 20-win season came on the last pitch of his career! Hip-hip, hooray!

A nice, juicy, pungent shit sandwich for Mr. Curtis Schilling - the U.S. Senator from Pigsqueal, Mass. - who should go into the Hall on the day when Roger Maris, Ron Guidry, Bernie Williams, Mel Stottlemyre, Greg Nettles, Willie Randolph, Don Mattingly, Andy Pettitte and Thurman Munson are inducted. Hip-hip, who cares?

If Redsock fans, or Trump fans - or fans of superhuman, self-righteous hypocrisy - feel slighted, let them study the list of Yankees who were ignored, and then explain how all those World Championships came to be without great players. Because of Cooperstown's under-representation - directly related to anti-New York sportswriters - the Yankees need a Monument Park. And it's all because of Gammonites, as we'll discuss later. 

I don't want to befoul today's celebration ripping on Schilling, whose defaulting on a loan from the state of New Hampshire rivals anything that Pete Rose ever did, because this should be about Mariano.

A few weeks ago, a little known Gammonite - Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram & Asswipe - announced that he wouldn't vote for Mariano out of some hissy-fit relating to his dislike of saves. (I'm not making this up. He feels saves are overrated so he pulled out the soapbox and -yeah, I can't figure it out either.) After weeks of being denounced, Ballou decided to abstain. He wouldn't vote. 

I don't think for one minute that Ballou caved out of scorn from the Yankiverse. Boston fans thrive on Yankee contempt. I think Ballou picked up on the anger from fellow Redsock fans. 

From the Joy of Sox.

To argue that Fruitbat is not a first-ballot Hall of Famer is delusional... Silver Lining: The first unanimous Hall of Fame selection will not be Derek Jeter.

The Boston Globe

Even the most ardent Boston fan had to respect the Yankees closer

So today, the good guy wins. Congratulations, Mariano. Hip-hip, hooray.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Are the Yankees done with the winter?

They finally disappeared Sonny. They'll pass on Manny and Bryce and Dallas (oh my.) Apparently, Frugal Hal will keep the Yankee payroll below the second tier of luxury tax - around $220 million - which means the music has stopped, and the purse just closed. From now on, we're talking about signing the Danny Farquars and the David Hales, reclamation projects and bulwarks of Scranton. Our "fully operational Death Star" is about to transform into the Retrieval Empire. Remember that teenager who built the machine to recover plastics from the ocean? He should remodel it after the Yankees.

Cooperstown Cashman has basically reformed the team that finished 8 games behind Boston last year, and which in October dropped three out of four. (Although, to be fair, the Redsocks right now are not last year's team, their bullpen compromised by the losses of Kimbrell and Kelly.) 

So... are we done? It's over? Is that all there is? If that's all there is, then let's keep dancing. Let's break out the booze and have a ball. If that's all... there is?

If winter's over, we face serious question marks.

What happens when Tulo gets hurt? Hate to be a nudge here, but seriously, what happens? Last year, the very fabric of the Yankees was fundamentally altered by Giancarlo Stanton and his generation-crushing contract. This year, everything revolves around seeking the minimum wage solution to Sir Didi's injury: Troy Tulowitzki's comeback. And listen: Tulo will come back. The guy is a pro. If he says he's still got it, he's still got it. Trouble is, he's got it until something goes "oy" in the shower - a hip, a heel, a gonad - something will bark like Dick Cheney's caboose after cabbage stew. Then it's six weeks on the DL and a rehab assignment in Trenton. Then what? The 34-year-old SS is like the Higgs Boson: it lasts a moment, then it's gone. 

Are we seriously listing CC as a starter? They're talking him up because... well... he's been cleared by his cardiologists. Doctors say he probably won't die. That's the lowest bar since David Cone's aneurysm, and Coney hadn't suffered four bad seasons before the diagnosis. Listen: We all love CC. But to list him in the rotation? That's delusional. But hey, great news Yankee fans: he probably won't clutch his chest and die on the mound!

Will James Paxton break the Cashman Power Arm Curse? It extends back to the days of Jeff Weaver and Javier Vazquez - Cooperstown's relentless quest for the Holy Grail, a starting pitcher who won't separate like old mayonnaise while in pinstripes. The latest incarnations were Michael Pinada and Sonny Gray. So, we are now touting Paxton as the answer to the rotation, a potential ace. Well, last January, we said the same about Sonny. There is a reason why teams trade certain warhorse pitchers; they think the guy is running out of bullets. Paxton is an injury risk. To get him, we traded our best pitching prospect in many years. Could this become the catastrophic deal that ends Cashman's run in NYC? Or is he immune to second-guessing?

Will the infield improve defensively? Our most interesting free agent acquisition this winter - DJ LeMahieu - is a slick-fielding, slap-hitting 2B. Can he play SS too? Right now, our infield looks like Monument Park - full of statues: Andujar, Tulo, Gleyber and some variation of Bird/Voit. Add Gary "the Goalie" Sanchez behind the plate, and this could be the worst Yankee defense since Gary Sheffield picked up a firstbaseman's mitt. We hope our young players will improve. If they don't, dear God, we could be facing doomsday. 

Is that all there is to the winter? The purse is closed? Oh, well, let's break out the booze... and have a ball... if that's all... there is.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Sonny to Cincy, Shed to Seattle, Stowers to us

Somehow I think we didn't make out so great. I guess we needed Stowers because we traded away all of our minor league outfielders to get Gray and Lynn or something. We also gave up a young left pitcher named Sanmartin. 

I'm sure Cashman knows what he's doing. Genius.

The Alphonso Solution ...Review Everything !



There is a lot of discussion, today, about the non-call that allowed the Rams to come back and win the game yesterday.

The Saints were robbed of the opportunity to win and go to the Super Bowl.
 Brees vs. Brady...imagine.  Two geezers fighting it out for all the marbles.

But the referees, who should not even be noticed, are now the " deciders."

So I propose the following:

In addition to the endless replays and challenges and timeouts now in vogue, let's simply review every penalty flag thrown.

How many times have we seen a great run, at a critical moment, blown up by the yellow flag denoting a "hold" by an offensive lineman?   In many cases, when the camera highlights the offense. as the players forlornly return to the huddle, we see almost nothing.  Many times a " pancake " block is called a hold, simply because the refs can't believe a 320 pound man of muscle could be so effectively neutralized.  Sometimes a hit on the quarterback is an intention, rather than a reality.

And you can make book that on nearly every punt or kick-off return, there will be a " behind the back block" against the receiving team.  I just can't figure out how the coaches can't teach their special teams players to tell the difference between front ( where the face is ) and
back ( where the face is not ).

We can develop a different colored flag for this new program ( can't be yellow or red ) ....I prefer a zebra-striped flag....which fans can throw onto the field after any decent play is ruined.  The replay then goes up on the Jumbotron, in slow motion, and a committee of pre-selected, independent fans get to vote.  They can be in a courthouse conference room in a non NFL affiliated
city ( like Syracuse ) with electronic gadgetry in their armchairs for voting.

It would be real-time, online judgement.  If mistakes are made by this panel of independent football fans, then jail time is administered.

Games will now take up to 6 hours.  The incremental cost will easily be absorbed through increased commercial  breaks.  Each " vote" on a penalty can be sponsored ;  " This ruling review is brought o you by Jeep..."  etc.

Referees will each be allotted a limited number of penalties they can call per game.  At which point, they are removed from the game and must visit a team dentist.  The drill will be housed in one of those little blue huts behind the bench.

Thankfully, we still have baseball.  Where seasons are determined by the competence, or lack thereof, of ownership and the front office.  Not by umpires.  Usually.


Have we have reached the era when fantastical finishes have become tedious?

If you scripted major sports events - if the NFL were the WWE - every game would boil down to a "Hail Mary" pass or a fantastical play in overtime. Every baseball game would end with the tying run at third, and the final minute of an NBA game would last an eternity. Everything would come down to the last play. 

You know... like it is now. 

Listen: During the regular season, I never watch an entire Yankee game. Who has the time? It might take five hours. Besides, the first six innings do not matter. Unless one team is blown out, everything will hinge on the final three, when teams move from starter to closer. Turn on the game in the seventh. Forget the early innings. That's what wrap-ups are for.

For as long as I can remember, this was the reality of the NBA. In the first three quarters, anything less than a 30-point lead is virtually meaningless. If you're waiting for the game to end, so TBS can switch to Lindsay Lohan's Beach Club, good luck with the final two minutes. They will last a half-hour. A 10-point lead with 20 seconds? That's 20 minutes. Foul, time-out, foul, time-out... it could easily go into overtime, and that's another hour. That's show biz, Lindsay!  

Yesterday, we watched this endless evolution in the NFL playoffs. The Pats and Chiefs, like the Rams and Saints, waged defensive wars for three quarters. Then everything turned into three-on-three basketball, with teams scoring at will. At several points, you wondered why coaches didn't order runners to NOT score touchdowns; they'd be better off downing the ball on the one-inch line and running down the clock. 

I'm not sure how this came about. In football, some of it stems from well-meaning rule changes to protect QBs and receivers. Some of it is fatigue; by the fourth quarter, defenses are gassed. Some is the ability of modern offensive coaches - (excluding the Giants) - to figure out and defeat defensive strategies. But in the fourth quarter, no defense can hold anybody. If a team gets the ball with 90 seconds left, that's a gimme. The only question is whether the other offense will get it with enough time to run down the field and score.

If you were scripting this, every game would lead to the final play, to the unforgettable climax. If you were scripting this... 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Those Capuchins!

Okay, first off, some housekeeping?

Oh, Mr. Duque?  Can we get the final score for the Soccer v. Yankees up there?  It should be, Soccer 392, Yankees 262.  Thank you.  It was just bugging me.

Now, turning to today's NFL action...how can it be that a league which has managed to slow much of its action to a crawl through video replays, STILL manages to get so many of them wrong??

First, the Saints-Rams game, in which not only pass interference but what looked like close to cold-blooded murder was overlooked.

Second, how about that Patriots game??

I mean, it was a mildly interesting contest until the 4th quarter, when suddenly a pack of mischievous Capuchin monkeys apparently got control of the officiating crew and the videotape replay, and reduced the game to complete anarchy.

Hey, as somebody who had no real dog in the fight. I was immensely entertained.  But c'mon.

Those darned Capuchins called what seemed like 572 penalties in the last quarter alone, and decided it was Opposite Day when it came to official reviews.

Catches were ruled no-catch. No-catches were ruled catches. Blatant pass interference was ignored. Iffy-maybe interference was ruled a war crime. Various people were whistled for touching or not touching the quarterback's helmets.  Everybody was offside all the time.  Also, they were holding.  And roughing the passer.

Oh, those Capuchins!

In the end, it was a great win for a great, great pro.  Plus, why the hell did KC ever give him the ball first?  Did they not watch the last game?

Well, the attendance was not cheated, as Casey used to say.  But they were very, very cold.

So say you're the NFL.  You got two games.  One is LA vs. New Orleans.  At New Orleans.  In a dome.  The other is New England vs. Kansas City.  Out in the middle of the Great Plains.  In late January.

Which one do you put in the afternoon, and which at night?  Riiiight.

Anyway, it was fun.  Which you gotta give the monkey.  The NFL, on the other hand, might consider dropping the reviews.  They don't work anyway.



Shed Long? Surely, The Master is smiling

According to the Internet, our fully operational Death Star is trading all 50 shades of Sonny Gray to Cincinnati, Ohio, for 22-year-old 2B Shed Long, a supplemental draft pick and somebody or some thing to be named later. Let's hope it has a pulse.

So, the question of the hour: Who is Shed Long?

Shedric Bernard Long is a fireplug 2B - just 5'8," 180 lbs - who turned pro five years ago as a catcher. Last year in Double A, he hit .261 with 12 HRs and a sweet on-base percentage of .353. He stole 19 bases but struck out too often. He bats lefty, which could be a key. He's the 7th ranked prospect in the Reds' system, which itself ranks 6th overall, according to Fangraphs. So if you're into esoteric rankings, he would probably slot into the (21st-ranked) Yankee system around 5th or 6th. He'll likely start 2019 in Scranton, manning the keystone with Tyler Wade. Considering the scrambled eggs Yankee infield, if he can run or hit, he could play a role next fall. 

I love prospects, because they let you dream. Instead of a Pete Kozma or Chase Headley, whose .230 career undermines any hitting streak or big night at the plate, you actually can summon hope. The best moments in this dead decade came with the Yankees unveiling youngsters - Sanchez, Bird, Judge, Sevy, even Austin and Voit. There's no reason why we cannot regularly fortify our farm by jettisoning excess veterans. Trades don't always have to make us older. I hear rich people are now buying young people blood. Why not the Yankees!

A supplemental draft pick is actually a nice little chip, too. The Yankees should draft 36th, just three picks after Boston ends the first round, and seven after their first selection. This gives us three darts in the first two rounds, which - frankly - haven't yielded much in recent years, aside from trades. (We dealt James Kaprielian, Blake Rutherford and Nick Solak.) 

But if you seek closure on So-So Sonny, we're not there yet. To get him two years ago, we sent to Oakland Kaprielian (who hasn't pitched since 2016, due to arm troubles), Jorge Mateo (now 23, who hit .230 last year in Triple A), and Dustin Fowler (24, who, though he hit .224 with the As last year, might be the one that got away.) Of the three, Fowler shows the most promise.

So, who wins these trades? Clearly, John Sterling. Close your eyes and dream... 

"LONG GOES LONG! OH, SHED, THE YANKS ARE AHEAD!" Who knows?

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Heading into colossal storm, Syracuse has opened a huge lead in Golden Snowball

The annual Golden Snowball award - given to the upstate New York city with the most winter snowball - looks like a done deal. Syracuse - the Ming dynasty of snow dynasties - is once again plowing over the competition. We use shovels. Other towns use brooms.

Here you go, Buffalo. Read it and sweep.


What should the Yankees want for Sonny Gray?

It may be the longest winter trade in history. For nearly three months now, the Yankees have been slow-cooking a deal for Sonny Gray. You've heard of "players to be named later." This will involve players to be named sometime this century. Gray is being water-tortured for his crimes against the Yankees. He's been linked to 1) Oakland, 2) Cincinnati, 3) Milwaukee, 4) San Diego, 5) Minnesota and/or 6) Seattle. Everybody wants him, except the Yankees.

And why not? We can all read the handwriting on the wall (or is it steel slats?) Once freed from Gotham's hateful, Gammonitic vortex, Gray should thrive. A lot of bums do. Remember AJ Burnett? Ian Kennedy? The Bronze Titan, Jose Contreras? (The best thing about Phil Hughes: He didn't soar in Minnesota.) Sonny's place on our roster will be taken by James Paxton, for whom the Death Star is whipping up expectations. (As it did last year with Sonny.) If Pax turns into The Son of Sonny, the 2019 Yankees will field the same team that finished 8 games behind Boston. Good luck with that!

Lately, the Gray rumor mill has heated up again. A deal looks imminent, maybe before DJ LeMahieu is added to the roster next week. The latest blather involves the Reds, who could send us a young catcher, a young 2B, a sandwich round draft pick, or some variation of the three. (I'd favor a catcher, because Kyle Higashioka doesn't hit, and I'm tired of having to spell his name. Also, we don't need a 2B and Yankee draft picks are a sore spot; we'll simply pick another pitcher on his way to Dr. Tommy John.) 

Today, the Reds no-name generating buzz is Tyler Stephenson, a 22-year-old catcher, a former first-round pick, ranked Cincy's sixth top prospect. Trouble is, he bats RH and played last year in Single A, (where he hit .256). He's two years away, and the Yankees have a pig's roast of catchers down in the dirt leagues. 

Also, let's remember the Iron Rule of Cashman: 

He never - ever - does what the rumors say. 

I think it's a point of pride with him. It's also a brilliant survival strategy. He whispers up a low bar of rumors, which then makes the trade look good. My prediction, (Suzyn:) He'll gin up a three-way - Cash loves threesomes - so dizzying that nobody can rule a winner. Anything can happen: He could add Greg Bird or one of the Scranton Holy Trinity: Chance Adams, Domingo German and Luis Cessa. 

Here's what I see the Yankees needing.

1. A young, MLB-ready catcher, preferably who bats LH. This gives us a potential platoon with Austin Romine, if Gary Sanchez turns into a full Matt Nokes.

2. A professional first-baseman, who hits LH and fields well. A great glove could save our 2019 infield. Luke Voit has the hands of a linebacker. 

3. Young arms, of which no team has too many. You know... Pitching, pitching, pitching...

So, maybe it will happen tomorrow. Frankly, I don't care. For me, Sonny can wait another month, if necessary. Excruciating torment? So be it. That's how I felt watching him. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Could the Yankees be thinking of Tampa-esque bullpen starts?

With the signing of Adam Ottavino, the Yankee hype engine has been revved up, as Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel would say, "to eleven." That's okay. The franchise this winter has now performed basic due diligence: It has reconstructed last year's team: (Happ, CC and Gardy stay; Tulo and LeMahieu replace Sir Didi; Ottavino replaces David Robertson; Red Thunder replaces Andrew McCutcheon.) 

Are we better than last year's Wild Carders? Dunno. Our lineup still tilts dangerously toward the right. We still have statues at the corners of the infield. If we trade Sonny Gray, we still lack a fifth starter. And here's the real chilling adventure of Sabrina: Boston has yet to make its countermove. Last year, we spent January drunkenly toasting Giancarlo Stanton, while the Redsocks waited in their bunkers, preparing to low-ball JD Martinez. They won't stay underground all winter. Whenever a free agent rumor conjures the the phrase "mystery team," I get queasy. Soon, Boston will come to bat. 

But the bullpen now stands as the Yankee pride and joy. This raises the question of whether Aaron Boone could occasionally use the Tampa "Charge of the Light Brigade" Bullpen Model: Start a reliever and use the kitchen sink to go the distance. We certainly have the guns to do it. 

Before I continue, let's mention the bugaboo. The Tampa model looks like a great way to burn out a bullpen. I can't see the Yankees spending $40 million on relievers and blowing them up by mid-June. (Although with Boone, I can imagine anything.) So this can't happen often... maybe three or four times per season. But let's say the Yankees absolutely need to rest their starters, and they can't piss away a game. In the old times, they'd phone Scranton and call up Dopey Dildox. But here's how a bullpen game could look.

Innings 1 and 2: Dellin Betances. (I'd start Dellin because a) if he's on, he's lights out and b) if he's awful, we have nine innings to catch up. Betances could mow through the first six batters, and when the Yankees raise an early lead, the entire game changes.)

Inning 3-4: Tommy Kahnle, Stephen Tarpley, Luis Cessa, Chance Adams - still to be added LOOGIE. This is the fulcrum point in the game. We gotta get through these innings.

Inning 5-6: Mean Chad Green. (If we're ahead, the game is effectively over.)

Inning 7: Ottavino.

Inning 8: Zach Britton.

Inning 9: Aroldis Chapman. 

You could argue about starting Betances. I believe he'd benefit from a well defined role. The guy has some of the most dominant stuff in baseball, but it comes and goes. Frankly, he terrifies me. Seems to me, if everything is working, you should let him pitch forever. But, hey, I dunno.

One thing, though: The hype machine can bellow self-congratulations, but all we have basically done is replace Robby with a pitcher who has yet to succeed in New York. Don't get me wrong: I'm happy. We all should be. But if the Yankees are now done spending, what we're seeing is same team that lost three out of four to Boston. 

We need Bryce Harper. Now that would change the dynamics of the American League East.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dear Hal: Signing Ottavino is great! NOW FINISH THE JOB!

We are NOT letting up. 

SIGN BRYCE HARPER!

IF YOU SIGN BRYCE HARPER, I HEREBY PROMISE TO NEVER CALL YOU "FOOD STAMPS" AGAIN.

It's time for the kill shot. If you come this far, and then fail to sign Harper, you are:

-- President George H.W. Bush invading Iraq and letting Saddam Hussein remain in power, thereby ensuring that another war will take place.

-- Captain Edward Smith speeding across the North Atlantic but ignoring the warnings of good-hearted Yankee fans, at the expense of his ship, the Titanic. 

-- Oil giant BP, disregarding upgrades of its Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, causing the worst oil spill in history, a $40 billion cleanup.

Sir... in for a penny, in for a pound.

SIGN BRYCE HARPER, AND WE WILL LEAD THE CAMPAIGN TO PUT YOUR FATHER IN THE HALL OF FAME.

SIGN BRYCE HARPER, AND I WILL NEVER CALL YOU "HAL-IGATOR ARMS" AGAIN.

SIGN BRYCE HARPER, AND I WILL NEVER QUESTION YOUR FAMILY LEGACY AGAIN.

SIGN BRYCE HARPER, AND WE WILL CALL OFF THE DOGS. 

WE GOT OTTAVINO. WHERE THE FORK IS HARPER?


Ever Have A Series Of Bad Experiences With A Car Rental Company?



I have.

For some reason, every time I choose to use ( insert car rental company name here ), I have a miserable experience.

Something goes wrong;

1.  They don't have the car model promised.

2.  The reservation is screwed up.

3.  The car is damaged, though one doesn't see that until it breaks down on the highway.

4.  The gas tank gauge is faulty.

5.  The price is much more costly than imagined.

6.  It smells bad.

The Yankees have, this off season, decided to feast on rentals from the Colorado Rockies franchise.  This is a franchise known for over-inflated cars.

They seem to perform well at altitude, but not at sea level.

Guys who hit for power, now strike out.
Pitchers who dominated at home, now get lit up at home.
Gold glove defenders grow cement hands.
High contact hitters hit into double plays.

The Yankees opting to use Colorado as their farm system, is like the NFL Giants drafting players from Fordham instead of Alabama.

Time to wake up and change rental agencies.

Re-treads from losers is not a great foundation for a road trip.

Manny Takes A Time Out ......



Manny has been wresting with a philosophical question.

"Is it better to let a team I don't care about bestow riches upon me, or to sign with a team I do care about for far less?"

As a single question, that is easy to assess.

But with Manny, the simple issues become complex.

Should he run when he knows he will be out anyway?

Should he cheat when cheating works?

What is a dirty player, anyway?

Does a tree falling in the river make a splash if no one is there to witness it?

So Manny, per his agent, is off to Tibet for a consultation.

There is a lot of pressure when you know the world awaits your decision.

So Manny has granted the Dahli Lama an audience.

What a guy.


With the Yankees out of it, the Manny Machado sweepstakes has turned weird

Yesterday, Dan Lozano, the lucky agent who happens to represent one Manual Arturo Machado - aka "Hakuna Machado" - issued this fierce statement. While reading aloud, play war drums in background:

"I have known Bob Nightengale and Buster Olney for many years and have always had a good professional relationship with both, But their recent reporting, like many other rumors in the past several months, have been inaccurate and reckless when it comes to Manny Machado. I don’t know if their sources are blatantly violating the Collective Bargaining Agreement by intentionally misleading them to try and affect negotiations through the public or are just flat out lying to them for other reasons. But the truth is that their reports on the details of the White Sox level of interest in Manny are completely wrong.

“I am well aware that the entire baseball universe: fans, players teams, and media members alike: are starved for information about this free agent market for all players, including Manny. But I am not going to continue to watch the press be manipulated into tampering with, not just with my client, but all of these players’ livelihoods as they have been doing this entire off-season. The absence of new information to report is no excuse to fabricate ‘news’ or regurgitate falsehoods without even attempting to confirm their validity and it is a disservice to baseball fans everywhere when the media does just that.

First off, aint no "disservice" to me. Ever since the Yankees signed General Curtis LeMahiue, I don't give a crap. Once our "fully operational Death Star" called in sick, I erected a mental Trump wall to keep out Manny news. If anybody still thinks Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner is playing possum, waiting to jump in and grab Manny at the last second, I suggest you hitch your wagon to that rising British superstar, Theresa May. In the world of free agent spending, this is Yankxit. 

Still, the Manny numbers tossed about do sound crazy: seven years for $175 million? That's Jacoby Ellsbury-type money... and for a player who actually plays! Could Manny's stock have plummeted that far? Unless you think Olney made it up - and he's been around a long time - somebody somewhere has been feeding low-ball figures on Machado, and you don't need Trump's greatest brain ever to discern why: If the world believes Machado will sign for peanuts, it undermines every other free agent on the market, from Bryce Harper to Neil Walker. 

But you  know what? History never changes. The kid who owns the ball can always take it home with him, and the game must halt. In the battle between "Haves" and "Have Nots," bet the Haves. The owners always win. Machado's salary gets debated in public, where nobody can feel sorry for him. Nobody asks how much the team owner banks, or what he even does to deserve a paycheck. He owns. That's all. 

So now we watch the "plight" of MLB free agents - a thought that's laughable, when compared to real working people. But here's the rub: The owners are colluding. Everybody knows it. And in the center square, instead of Paul Lynde, there's Hal, the owner with the largest market at his disposal, and the most money to spend, and a family tradition behind spending it... and he sits on the sidelines, not a peep. 

In a truly free market, the Yankees would set the pace. But that's not the way of a monopoly. So this is what we have, folks: Call it collusion, or price-fixing, or bid-rigging, whatever you want. It's a secret agreement between participants in a market to buy a product at a fixed price, through the control of supply and demand. MLB isn't a corporation. It's a cartel. 

Sustained Excellence

I was doing my usual complaining the other day with some friends, about how dreary and mediocre the city is becoming.

Oh, sure, in the aggregate it's better than ever.  Richer, safer, less corrupt.  Even quieter (Don't think so?  Imagine about 500,000 wagon wheels with iron rims, passing continuously over uneven paving stones.)

And that's no small thing.  I hold zero nostalgia for crime, filth, decay, etc.

But at the same time...

Looks, it' now all millionaires living over empty storefronts.

Does rich mean we can't have style?  Does rich mean we can't have beauty, and cultivation?

Does rich now mean no great buildings, no great restaurants, no great art, dive bars, newspaper columnists, night clubs, music, great plays, and on and on and on?

Used to be, many of those things seemed to come WITH money.  In fact, they seemed like the whole reason for money.

Not so much anymore.

Take the New York Yankees (you knew I was getting there).

Hey, I'm not saying the team was ever run by people who wouldn't cut your throat for an extra doubloon.  But they brought something to it all.

The Yankees were supposed to be about class, right down their classy pinstripes, and their interlocking "NY" (a Tiffany's design), and their "hat-in-the-ring" logo (lifted from Eddie Rickenbacker's flying squadron, no less).

The Yankees were about a ballpark that looked like a cathedral, and players who seemed like gods.  Don Mattingly was actually amazed to learn that Babe Ruth was a real person.  A hundred years from now, some fresh busher from Indiana will think the same thing about Joe DiMaggio, or Mickey Mantle, or maybe Aaron Judge.

And yes, the Yankees were about dollars.  But also about winning.

Well, even that sounds pretty crass, doesn't it?  At least, that's what generations of sportswriters—from here and elsewhere—and hordes of fans from Boston and Chicago and L.A. have tried to make us think.  "Oh, you Yankees fans just like to win all the time!"

Let's drop the malarkey right now.  Yes, we like to win.  All the time.  And so do those other fans, once they get a taste of it.

Even the lovable Mets, back in the early sixties?  A huge percentage of their gate every year was for Giants and Dodgers games.  In other words, people turning out to see their old favorites.  When it came to just the lovable losers...not so much.

Somebody asked me once how I could like this big, terrible, arrogant team.

My answer was:  sustained excellence.

Isn't that how we should measure accomplishment in most endeavors?  Vocationally, I mean.  Sustained excellence.  Building terrific cars, year after year.  Showing up and teaching a great class to your students, year after year.

You can have all your teams with their miracle years.  Anyone can get lucky, particularly nowadays, when everyone makes the playoffs.

No one is lucky for fifty years.  Or a hundred.

Sustained excellence.

I even admired it in teams I didn't like, such as the Boston Celtics, or that I actively despised, such as the Dallas Cowboys.

That's the standard you measure yourself against.  Without it, sports means less and less.  I know, I know, it's what the owners would like for their cartels:  every year a crapshoot of mediocrity.  Every year, everybody wins between, say, 78-82 games.  Hurrah.

Sustained excellence.  Not simply money.  That is—was—the New York Yankees.