Saturday, February 22, 2020

Here It Comes...Just As I said


"Judge has another good day."

"Aaron Judge hit off a tee Friday."

" It was the first time the Yankee slugger was allowed to swing a bat since he was shut down earlier this month."

"He kind of gave me a smile and a thumbs up, " said manager Boone.

"So everything is moving there I think the way it should."

"But do not expect to see Judge hitting in grapefruit league games, anytime soon."

Pause here and throw a bottle against the wall....

Is it possible to become bored so badly you would rather die?  Why do sports writers carry on?  Is it the booze?  The overweight Floridian snow birds?

Save us.  Please;  not another word about Judge until the operation.  Okay?

It's Come to This.

Meanwhile, on YES, they have a "Yankees Classic," from August 11, 2019:


"Masahiro Tanaka and Aroldis Chapman combine on a four-hitter, Brett Gardner has an RBI double, and New York defeats the Blue Jays, 1-0, to end a two-game skid."

WTF?  

Since when does a routine August win over Toronto the year before qualify as a "Yankees Classic"?  

I thought at first I must've accidentally turned on SNY:  "That game last year when the Mets rallied from two runs down to beat the Padres.  Woo-hoo!"

This is what it's come to.  This is what we have to look forward to if something miraculous does not happen and this Dynasty That Never Was continues to fill the DL.

One thing of interest:  Mike Ford made two consecutive, full-length stretches/jumps to save errant throws to first from going into the stands.  I think these were the feats of agility that awed Ma Boone last year:  "How did his every hamstring not snap?"

Maybe it should be a classic just for that:  a Yankee made two fairly routine plays in the field and did not injure himself.

It's on


Actually, it's quite simple: Rob Manfred should resign

It's time for Rob Manfred to go. 
He has squandered whatever trust he once held as Commissioner of Major League Baseball. 
The botched and bogus Houston cheating scandal has exposed Manfred as an ownership lackey, a cover-up artist, unworthy of managing a major sport, especially one that heralds itself as "the National Pastime." 
The more we learn about the scandal, the more clearly we see Manfred's unwillingness to take action, even when the essence of the game had been corrupted. 
He will never recover from this loss in trust.
Consider the following facts...
Since 2017, speculation about the Astros cheating had been rampant. Several teams publicly suspected Houston of stealing signs.  
Manfred did not investigate. 
In 2018, after catching a Houston team employee taking pictures, the Cleveland Indians went so far as to warn other teams about the Astros in the upcoming post-season.
Manfred did not investigate. 
After game one of the 2019 ALCS, the Yankees asked MLB to look into the whistling sounds that were coming from the Astros dugout. Houston manager A.J. Hinch mocked the Yankees, saying, "It made me laugh." After fateful game six, the Yankees accused Houston of using blinking lights beyond the centerfield fence to convey messages to batters.
Manfred did not investigate. 
Instead, before the 2019 World Series, MLB warned both teams not to use electronic sign-stealing. (Only one team was accused of doing it.) Meanwhile, players from throughout the league were calling the Nats, telling them to be watchful. One Nats player later told the Washington Post, "It was amazing... how many people were coming out of the woodwork to let us know."
Yet Manfred did not investigate.  
Only until after Oakland pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic the specifics of Houston's cheating did MLB finally launch its probe. 
What are fans supposed to think, other than - without a public expose to force action - Manfred would have continued to look the other way?
For sitting on his hands while three entire seasons have been tainted, Manfred should resign.
For doling out minor slaps on the wrists of the Astros - (a $5 million fine? draft picks? no players punished? Pete Rose remains banned for life, while MLB links itself to lucrative gambling sites) - Manfred should resign. 
Sportswriters keep telling us the scandal will soon burn itself out, and fans will return to hot stove gossip. More and more, MLB and its spokespersons have become uncomfortable with the topic. They just want it to go away, before it affects the bottom line.
This scandal is not going away. 
Anger continues to grow. 
It is becoming Manfred's legacy.
He should resign.

Friday, February 21, 2020

And So It Begins


The Daily News, today, was first to report:

-  that Aaron Judge has been " soft tossing", and

-  soon, he will consider taking some swings.

This horror ....these tales of Judge considering the batting tee....and taking ( god forbid ) a full swing...are the images from which nightmares are made.

And boredom to the point of INSANITY.

Cashman was quick to report:

Boone said that, "Severino felt that tweak the last time he pitched, in October."

So in mid-february....the same tweak remains?

Supposedly, MRI's ( 2) and some other form of Xray- type exam revealed nothing, as to the source of the problem. 

 Doctors say; " the floating thing in his elbow is not the likely cause, either."

So here is my solution;  put the guy on the mound and let him pitch.   Full out on all four pitches.

Just proceed as though there is nothing wrong. 

Maybe there isn't.

And if something is seriously amiss, it will show up in spades.  There is no point resting his arm another four months, only to learn the tweak is still there when he throws his change-up. 

You are paying him $10 million.  Make him do something other than rub aloe on his arm and sleep on a divan.

It doesn't matter if surgery happens now or then. If he needs a new arm, find out now. 

 Here is the red flag warning;  resting him all off season did nothing.  It is a year and a half post surgery to recovery, so why waste another four months?

"I want to attend every Houston Astros game this season with a trash-can lid and bang it every time one of their sign-stealing cheatballs comes to bat. I want to find Commissioner Rob Manfred and pelt him with Stay Puft marshmallows for his pillowy-soft punishment of the most crooked team in baseball history. Chicago Black Sox? Please. That scandal was eight players in one series. This was the whole team, and coaches, for two full seasons."


"The Crookedest Team in History," by Rick Reilly. 

The Brainstrust

Just an idle thought while waiting for my copy of the 2020 Bob Klapisch/Brian Cashman's sequel, Inside the Ruins to arrive:

The assembled baseball acumen we have here, as displayed by people spending maybe 5-10 minutes a day around our having to do real work—or, okay, real drinking—far exceeds that of the brainstrust (yes, that was the original spelling of the word, and we're nothing if not Old School here) assembled by Brian Cashman, the man who has taken more victory tours than you can shake a stick at, but has yet to win anything on his own.

I hate to ever contradict our Peerless Leader, El Duque, who has been killing it of late (and pretty much always).  But I didn't cheer or clap when Cashie inked Sevvy and Hicks to those crazy contracts, and I don't remember anybody else doing so here.

Despite all the Kremlinese coming from the Bronx, I ALWAYS thought that there was something wrong with Severino beyond his "tipping pitches," and I ALWAYS thought it was ridiculous to sign up a player such as Hicks—a speed player, in good part, whose game would inevitably decline even if he somehow avoided the plague of injuries that has always beset him—to such a long deal.

But how is it possible that our collective wisdom here, at a single, whiskey-soaked blog, exceeds that of the best baseball money that Steinbrenner cash can buy?

Just look at the comments on the state of our ballteam in the last post comments:

Warbler:  It would have cost $10 million a year to sign up at least one more, highly serviceable starter.  TRUE.

ALL-CAPS:  The Yanks should have played it straight and got Sevvy the operation he obviously needed back in 2018.  Now we're likely to be without him until 2022.  TRUE.  (This is especially true because I wrote it, too, in an earlier comment.)

Joe FOB: We can't keep wasting money on frail players.  TRUE.

RichieAllen1964: Despite his suspiciously Philliean moniker, he points out that taking Severino from 133 innings in two years to 384 innings in two years was not a good idea.  It's a figure so crazy in light of what we know about young arms today that I had to go look it up.  You know what?  It's TRUE TRUE TRUE.

Hammer:  Aaron Hicks, hardworking and likable though he is, was never more and never could be more than a wan imitation of Bernie Williams.  Why the hell would you possibly give him all that money?

Incidentally, in Bernie's last year he hit .281, with an OPS of .768, and was firmly shown the door because he was making the ungodly salary of $1.5 million a year.  Hicks, who if we're lucky we'll get our usual one-half to one-third of a season from this year, has a lifetime BA of .236, and a lifetime OPS of .729.  He'll be making nearly $11 million in 2020.  TRUE.

Other Anon:  "...a good 2020 from Severino is...neither likely nor necessary...His overall career has been at best average...and his performance in the playoffs probably the worst of any Yankee in the modern era."  FALSE.

I respectfully disagree.  First, Severino had an outstanding 2017, and halfway through 2018 was one of the best pitchers in the majors, with an ERA under two runs a game.  His potential was immense.

As to his postseason performances, yeah, they've been bad, particularly his first-ever outing in the wild card game against Minnesota.

But consider:  In his one start in the 2017 ALDS against Cleveland, he came up big:  3 runs and 9 Ks in 7 innings, as the Yanks tied the series.

Against Houston, IN Houston, he did less well.  Hmm, why would that have been?

But it still wasn't awful, considering what we now know he was up against:  1 run and 2 hits in 4 innings in his first start there, before Girardi gave him a quick hook, down 1-0; 3 earned runs in 4 2/3 in Game 6, before another quick hook.

Yes, there was that disastrous start against Boston—when we now know he was pitching injured.  Then, last year, 4 scoreless frames against Minnesota, and 2 runs in 4 1/3 against Houston.

When, as we now know, he was once again—ludicrously, crazily—pitching injured.

And finally, YES, we desperately needed him for 2020, considering how weak and injury prone the rest of the staff is, save for Mr. Cole.

All of which is not to say that we're all geniuses here (although, you know, we kind of are).

It's that this once blooming Yankees dynasty, with so much promise, has been nipped in the bud by the sheer, inattentive incompetence and stupidity of Brian Cashman's actual brainstrust.

Just look at the record above:  wasting money on players who obviously weren't worth it (and then crying poor), pitching injured pitchers, and above all, always, always hoping for something to work out when there was no indication at all that it would.

It has been said of one of New York's more infamous mayors, James J. Walker, that he hoped like a child.

He had nothing on Brian Cashman.







Will the Yankees, twice burned, abandon long term contracts to emerging stars?

Last February, the Yankees broke from longtime policy and signed Luis Severino to a four-year, $40 million contract. It made sense. He was 25, still ascending, and the deal would avoid arbitration and ensure that his future Cy Young seasons happened in New York. Across the Yankiverse, citizens cheered. I can't lie: We at IT IS HIGH certainly did.

A few days later, the Death Star doubled-down: They signed Aaron Hicks to a seven-year, $70 million deal, filling CF for the foreseeable future. At 29, Hicks was coming off his best season, and he looked like the next Bernie. I can't lie: We applauded.

The real news here was the change in Yankee fiscal strategy. We were following the lead of small market franchises, investing in young(ish) stars, rather than waiting until they hit free agency, as old George Steinbrenner did, and then wooing them with tractor-trailers full of money. 

Welp...

The first results are in! With 90 percent of the precincts reporting, the outcomes are - um - awful. 

However wise these deals seemed last year, they now look like the most epic disaster since The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Hicks is a walking bag of shards; and Sevy? What is there to say, aside from, "Good luck in rehab!" His forearm hurts, he's getting tested, and until we know otherwise, we shouldn't count on him in 2020 - or for that matter - maybe ever. 

Severino's problems came without warning. Who knew? But if the 2020 Yankees are, once again, emulating a coronavirus cruise ship, maybe the problem is not the trainers. Maybe it's management's continual disregard for injury backgrounds on the players it seemingly "steals" in trades.

Case in point: Nobody should have been surprised last spring, when Giancarlo Stanton went down for virtually all of 2019. Any cab driver in Miami could have predicted it. This is not to rip Stanton; injuries are part of the game. But they happen to some players more than others, and we are learning that big, lumbering OF husks have a tendency to tweak. 

Nobody should have been surprised when James Paxton recently went down with a barking back. Any bellhop in Seattle - (are there still bellhops?) - could have predicted it. The problem with Paxton was always injuries. When the Yankees traded for him, they knew this. He's good until hurt. Then he disappears.

We should not have been surprised when Hicks went down, only days after signing his contract extension. His track record was clear: He'd play two months, then miss one. The Yankees knew this. 

Just as they know Aroldis Chapman misses more time with each passing season. Or that Masahiro Tanaka, who has pitched nearly seven years with a slight tear in his wing, is coming to camp after off-season surgery on chips in his arm. More than anybody in baseball, the Yankees should be aware of a player's injury record.

Then there is Jacoby Ellsb-[STOP: THIS IS YOUR AUTOMATED CARDIAC MONITOR. A DANGEROUS RISE IN HEARTBEAT HAS BEEN DETECTED. IT IS ADVISED THAT YOU STOP WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING, OR WRITING, AND REFRAIN FROM SAID ACTIVITY. ALL WORDS WILL BE BLOTTED OUT, UNTIL NORMAL HEARTBEAT RESUMES...] -imagining Alan Ludden's and Betty White's marriage night, yowzer, am I right?

And soon, the team must decide on its future core four: Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Of that group, only Gleyber has been durable; the others crumble like fresh Cheetos. (And know this: Gleyber is indispensable; if he's hurt, Code Red.) Will Hal Steinbrenner - the owner formerly known as "Food Stamps" - bestow upon any of them a long-term deal that cements his future as a Yankee? Or, twice burned, will we return to the days of old George? (Or for that matter, should we?)

This winter, the Yankees avoided arbitration with all their players, seemingly sailing towards a pennant... and more. But without Paxton and Severino, everything has changed. Suddenly, even floundering Boston has a stronger rotation, and Toronto and (especially) Tampa are rising nations. It's certainly too early to panic, and the team still has trade chips - Clint Frazier, Estevan Florial, Luis Cessa, Thairo Estrada. But yesterday morning, before the news broke on Sevy, the future looked a hell of a lot brighter. And today, aren't we all just waiting for the next shoe to drop? Who else out there has been waiting until now to report that twinge of pain? Class? Anybody? 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Nope. I'm Not Going To Even Quack.


"Things floating around," you say?

And who might this transportation device be awaiting?


Let me guess:  Would Dr. Andrews be involved?

Would the patient's last name rhyme with "The Bambino?"

" Please pass the Crown Royal.  That's OK, I can drink it straight from the bottle."

Severino, gone?



Going to see the doctor.

Another Carl Pavano?

Season on the brink...

Time seems to be running out on MLB's investigation of the Redsocks

Here's a sign that we don't need a centerfield camera and specialized software to decode:  

The longer that MLB delays unveiling its case against the Redsocks, the more likely it is that Boston will skate.

The probe surrounds ex-Redsock manager Alex Cora, "ringleader" to the ongoing Houston scandal, according to the Commissioner's first report. Ever since the volcanic accusations against the 2017 Astros became public - prompting Boston to fire Cora - MLB investigators have hemmed and hawed on the matter of Boston. They have three times delayed a public release of their findings. The longer they wait, the more likely it seems they will come up empty. 

You have to think: If they had anything, they'd have gone public by now. 

So, what's happening? Commissioner Rob Manfred said recently: 

"There have been a couple of developments in the Boston thing that slowed us down, people who had to be re-interviewed as a result of things."

Hm-mm. 

Long ago, I was an "investigative journalist," a phrase that today is pretty much a punch line. On many occasions, we were on the verge of breaking a story, but waiting for one more person, one more source, to wrestle with his/her conscience and decide to go public. Thus, we held the story for another week. My guess is that's what happening here. The investigators have smoke but no fire. They suspect something but cannot prove it. Soon - to use the wrong sports metaphor - they'll simply have to punt. 

This week, in camp after camp, MLB players are reporting to spring training and immediately sounding off about the Astros scandal. But not the Redsocks. Chris Sale spoke his peace, mentioning some bad outings in Houston, but he's a pitcher. Overall, it's as if the Redsocks suspect something might be out there, and they don't want to look bad by denying everything, only to be later proven a liar, on top of a cheat.

Yesterday, Ian Kinsler - now retired - weighed in. He's practically the first 2018 Redsock hitter to give an interview on the matter. He told MassLive.com: 

"I don’t know what [MLB] is going to find, but in my opinion, it’s not anything close to what’s going on [in Houston] .The Red Sox were just a very tight-knit group. When I was injected into that team in the middle of the season, it was a lot like the Rangers clubs I was on, where it was just a very tight-knit group and their system was flawless. They just had a very good system of relaying from second base to home plate. That was it. Honestly. We’ll see what happens with the commissioner’s report.”

Clearly, I have a grudge against Kinsler, a great player in his day, who killed the Yankees many times. But in terms of integrity, he seems a stand-up guy. My guess is that he's telling it like it is, from the standpoint of a veteran who joined the team relatively late in the season. Tight-knit group... Very good system of relaying from second base... We'll see what happens... 

The Astros scandal continues to dominate baseball. Certainly, every Redsock player, now and former, is taking notes. They see Astros being personally condemned, mocked, even threatened. No players, not even the pitchers, are emerging unscathed. Boston has had two months now to polish its stories and shut down any potential whistle-blower.  

We know that, in Houston, Cora was one of the architects of a complicated sign-stealing system, which broke down codes via algorithms. We know he was not Stump Merrill, and that Boston had a video room near the dugout. We know that after Cora came to Boston, the Redsocks enjoyed the greatest year in franchise history. They won 106 games - 13 more than in 2017. At home, they won seven out of every ten games. They were practically unstoppable. A team for the ages. 

And here's the ugliest part of this scandal's second half: 

We will probably never know if the Redsocks cheated. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

I Need To Retire


The training camps are barely getting started and the Yanks are down a key starter and, possibly, their best outfielder. 

Sure, we only have initial reports of a " tweak."

No one panics this early for an injury like that. 

But shoulders are tricky things, and undiagnosed injuries are undiagnosed, because no one can figure out what is wrong.

So Aaron will sit.

We'll wait a week.  Then we'll wait two weeks.

Reports will filter in about how and when he might " resume baseball activities." 

We may even see him swinging at a "whiffle ball" sitting on a batting tee. 

Get ready for a hard rain.

I am already burned out, and my official time on the clock has not been started. 

I am too old for this.

Not again. 

Judge's injury raises the question: Was last year the "new normal?"

As you all know, Aaron Judge has been relegated to the Peloton and extreme kegels for the first week of spring training, and he'll miss Saturday's crucial game against always-tough Toronto. (1:05 p.m., YES, and/or John & Suzyn, on the Yankee Radio Network, driven by Sleep.) Somehow, he strained his shoulder, and he'll be shut down for a few days, maybe a week, two at the most, probably not more...

Translation: There's a chance he's out until the All Star break.

OMG. WTF? HDIKEPO! ALEPCXZ? Talk about doom and gloom? Why would I speak such horrible acronyms? 

Well, because...

a) Last year, the Yankees said the exact same thing about minor boo-boos - "just a flesh wound, ma'am" - to Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks, and they missed most of the season.

b) Over the years, the Yankees have shown no compulsion or duty to disclose the truth about injuries to the general public. It's not like stealing signs. 

c) Judge has proven to be an enormously fragile giant, to the point that missed service time is threatening to define his career.

d) It hasn't been explained how he hurt himself. Henry Cotto once blew out an ear with a Q-Tip. Graig Nettles fought a lawn mower and lost. How did this happen? 

e) More importantly, when did it happen? How long has this lingered? Judge underwent an MRI a week ago. Supposedly, it showed nothing serious. But how long was this hurting before he requested the scan?

f) The Ellsbury Effect: Last year, the Yankees were able to injure players while they were rehabbing other injuries. Last month, they cleaned house on the training staff. The question: Does modern baseball demand such peak athleticism that every bone, muscle and ligament is now tweakable, and  players have become human potato chips?

Aw, I should lighten up, right? The first week of spring training is filled with nonsense. Clearly, the real story is the continuing "days of rage" against the Astros, with MLB players emulating the students of Hong Kong. Still, this Judge injury is another sign that injuries don't follow random patterns, and just because the Yankees experienced too much rain last year, it doesn't mean a drought coming in 2020. 

Continuing waves of injuries may just be the new normal.

If so, there is actually cause to for hope within the Yankiverse. Shane Robinson is not coming. If anything, Judge's injury opens a lane for Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar, and maybe even the lost prospect of yesteryear, Estevan Florial. Just like James Paxton's injury creates competition for the fifth starter and justifies the decision to keep J.A. Happ, the Yankees can actually make use of the opening... as long as it doesn't continue into April.

The Yankees may have the deepest roster in baseball. It extends beyond the 40-man into the taxi squads of Triple A, where Cooperstown Cashman is always combing the scrap heaps for recycled clutches and brake pads. 

Nobody wants to see Judge miss time. But if this is the new norm, perhaps the Yankees can find a new Gio Urshela and Mike Tauchman. That would sure be nice.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Solved! Seven reasons why Jose Altuve's unfinished tattoo, "Melanie," (rhymes with "Felony") needed to be hidden from view in the moments after his glorious playoffs-winning home run

One of the new lines from BattleWorld Houston is that after his (in)famous home run, Jose Altuve didn't want his bare chest exposed to the nation because of an incomplete tattoo, which now says "MELANIE.

This should put things to rest. There are at least seven rock-hard reasons why Jose wouldn't want an unfinished "MELANIE" be seen. 

Here they are, in order of likelihood:  

1. "LANIE." This would make him seem a fan of actress Lanie Kazan, or maybe even a stalker. Not good. He was wise to avoid that controversy. 

2. "ANI.' In his greatest moment, it would be assumed that he was honoring acclaimed singer/songwriter Ani DeFranco (from Buffalo, by the way.) If Jose has any love of music, he should be proud of a tattoo supporting "Ani." So why hide it? It doesn't make sense. Therefore, I do not think this was the reason. 


3. "EL IE." This would seem to reference Yankee great Elston Howard. From a baseball standpoint, this is fine, but a bit ticklish, since Jose's home run had just beaten the Yankees. As Jose rounded the bases, he must have realized that Yankee fans would think he was "rubbing it in," so he smartly clutched his jersey and kept himself hidden.

4. "MEL." This could only refer to legendary Yankee announcer Mel Allen and, frankly, this would be rather bizarre, because Allen has been dead for many years. It would require explaining on Jose's part, especially since Allen was a big Yankee fan, and the home run would be especially hurtful to remaining members of his family. That Jose shielded them from pain can only be considered a testament to his empathy, as he rounded third. 


5. "M." Did Jose fear that fans would see this as a reference to James Bond's boss? He'd have reason. As head of the British Secret Service, "M" was always breaking enemy codes. Pretty scary, eh? 

6. "ME." This would make Jose look like a narcissist, which he is definitely not! In fact, this dovetails into his first excuse: he's a humble fellow who didn't want his manly cleavage put on display like Easter morning with the Kardashians. This makes sense! How could a quiet, introverted man such as Jose explain to the world why, with his boobs exposed, he'd serve the brazenly self-loving message: Me. Everyone would hate him.

7. "MELA." Surely, this is it. Why do I think this? Moolah. Cabbage. Bread. Scribbage. Geohaug. Yep, money. "MELA" would be interpreted as short for Melatonin, a sleeping supplement. This would directly undermine Jose's endorsements for 24-Hour Energy Drinks. Does he want to wake you up or put you to sleep? You can't have it both ways. While he rounded the bases, he realized the implications of showing a veritable billboard for a sleep helper. He hugged himself and stayed private. Now that's quick thinking. 

Ruh-roh

Here we are, less than two weeks into the 2020 season and the Yanks already have two major injuries.  Exactly how it is that our boys go off to rest for the winter and come back with sucking chest wounds is beyond me, but there it is.

Are they all secretly trying out for the U.S. Olympic ski-jumping team?  Auditioning for that show on the (No) History Channel where people go out and fish in the Bering Strait?

At this point my main worry is that our black swan will stroke out from overwork.


 

The latest, of course, is that Aaron Judge, pictured above, needs "shoulder maintenance."  Those of us who are veterans of Yankee Kremlinology (Bronxology?) understand that this is most likely Cashman -speak for "shoulder bursitis," to be followed shortly by "shoulder tendinitis," and then, "torn rotator cuff, requiring season-ending surgery."

I hate to keep harking on this because I myself love Aaron Judge with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns.  But if we'd had a really shrewd and ruthless general manager—a Branch Rickey, say, or a Gene Michael—we'd have dealt off Judge at his peak value, probably sometime in 2018, when it became evident that the injuries would be chronic, and the big man just too fragile to stay on the field.

Judge was good enough, sunny enough, and cheap enough that we probably could have flummoxed some other GM into handing over a brace of true prospects, plus a couple of decent, day-to-day players or pitchers already on a major-league roster.

Well, that's so much blood under the bridge, as Mr. Albee wrote.

Flip the glass to half-full and you see that at least this might make the Mr. Smithers we DO have running our front office reluctant to touch the trigger he's been itching to pull since last summer and trade The Red Menace.  Hell, maybe, just maybe, it will even incline him to go after Mookie Betts—be still, my heart!—in the free agent market next year.

In the meantime, though, get that swan up and waddling back to the pond.

Ken Davidoff in the Post the other day—quoting Ma Boone, who seems to have mastered the 21st-century version of Stengelese—gave us a broad hint that Judge is unlikely to be the only oversized slugger on the DL for long:

"Despite his considerably shortened season, Stanton reports to camp a “fully healthy” player, Boone said. 

"The manager elaborated: “I go through his routine with him probably as much as I do with anyone. Matter of fact, I was just talking to him about it. [He] might not play those first couple of games, but I would expect him probably that second home game [Feb. 24 against the Pirates] and then we’ll just decide if we’ll let him go [to the] outfield right away or if it’s some kind of DH role to start.

“But no, he’s good to go. I fully expect him to hit it running.” "

Or, as it were, "sitting."

So glad Cashman did that thorough investigation of the Yankees' training and rehab methods.  Without it, who knows what we'd have?  Probably plague.





Astro Vespers


With apologies to A. A. Milne  


Little boy settles in over the plate,   
Crosses himself, crouches and waits,
Hush hush, stay quiet this time!
Jose Altuve is getting his sign.

God bless my Astros, all are great mates
To tell me what to expect at the plate.
God bless Coach Cora, and Carlos Beltran,
And God bless Gatorade for supplying the can.

Tapping the bat on the side of his cleats,
Adjusting his cup, his collar, his teats,
Hush hush, don't say a word!
Jose Altuve's expecting a curve.

It's such wonderful tech that allows us to see
What the next pitch is likely to be.
God bless those geeks, whoever they be,
Of course, most of all, God bless me.

Little boy lines up the ball in his sight,
Little boy swings with all of his might!
To his reps please direct your inquiries--
Jose Altuve helped steal a World Series. 

Yankee enemies appear to be in tatters, but one can feel the echos of 2003.

Yesterday, as the Asterisks took their first 2020 open batting practice, an anonymous hero emerged from the Florida Man gene pool.

If there is a God - or if the juju gods care about public opinion - it should be a long year for Jose Altuve and the buzzer boys. In every opposing park, boos should rain down like piss on porcelain, and vengeful pitchers - the kind whose past includes an unexplained meltdown in Houston - might seek to enact their own form of vigilante justice.  

Meanwhile, the suddenly quiet Redsocks await their fate on an MLB probe that's probably been neutered by the overwhelming rage directed at Houston. The lords of baseball don't need another Astros situation, certainly not one with a marquee team in an already boiling market. General expectations - for whatever they're worth - say Boston will face a lesser penalty - (as if Houston were flogged in the town square.) A million dollar fine? A draft pick? A stern lecture. Ptttuui. Surely, by now, the Redsocks have closed ranks. Without a Mike Fiers, without a smoking gun, the Fenway Finaglers will skate.

Yesterday, Boston owner John Henry tweeted an apology to the fans for trading Mookie Betts. It was a heartfelt piece of claptrap. He loves the fans. He loved having adorable Mookie on his payroll. He loved that adorable Mookie smile. Then John Henry did what all billionaires do. He poor-mouthed. Oh, how he would have loved to keep Mookie, if only the player hadn't wanted to earn what he is worth on the open market. Why, it's so tragic! If only there was enough money in the larder, but - alas, who can afford such a player. Thus, they had to throw him overboard, shoot Old Yeller, let him go.

You might think that Houston and Boston are done in 2020. But let's get real. Nothing is ever settled in February. Both the Yankees and the AL better not sleep on either team.

The Astros were were built, brick by brick, around an orchestrated multi-year tanking. It's not easy being the worst team in baseball for consecutive seasons. They did it - and reaped the draft picks: Bregman, Correa, et al. If the Astros get off to a fast start, the national Gammonite narrative will quickly portray Houston as "the team with something to prove!" A united roster and absolute need to win - not to mention a front three named Verlander, Grienke and McCullers - could crush the otherwise weak AL West, which basically shapes up as Mike Trout. Want the ugliest outcome to this ugly scandal? What if becoming a national pariah helps the Astros? 

Meanwhile, the last time I looked, Boston still has Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez, a front three that easily matches ours, especially with James Paxton out until June. Yeah, they'll miss Mookie. But we haven't yet seen the young OF they received in exchange. If Benintendi rebounds and Rafael Devers continues to improve - (he would reach MVP levels) - they are hardly dead in the water. With the talent they still have, Boston could easily win 90 games. Once in the playoffs... 

The last time I recall the Yankees seeming to dominate Boston so totally over a winter came in 2003. That year, the Redsocks' celebrated trade for Alex Rodriguez was nullified by the players union, allowing the Yankees to swoop in and get him. That winter, we partied over Boston's grave. The Curse of the Bambino would go on forever. They were our patsies, for eternity! It was the last great winter of the Yankees dominance... 

Little did we know. 

And this we do know: The juju gods, they can be bastards.

Monday, February 17, 2020

This Is Why Throwing Out Titles Is Hard

Remember this?  How can you not?




Reggie Bush, pictured above, was stripped of his 2005 Heisman Trophy, and USC of its 2004 BCS Championship—as well as every win in its near-championship season of 2005—because USC violated NCAA recruiting rules.

Now, I'm not saying this is the same as the Astros scandal.  The NCAA's rules have long been so arcane, convoluted, and hypocritical that probably every big-time college football program, in reality, violates them every year.  Which makes such punishments arbitrary, to say the least.

But the result is the same.  You can't un-see USC absolutely annihilating Oklahoma in the BCS bowl game, and you can't reset that season to determine who should then really be the national champion—not to mention who should win the Heisman instead of Mr. Bush.

Would the Yankees have won the pennant?  Would they have bested the Dodgers in the World Series?  Who knows?

Therefore, I suggest that we here at IIHIIFIIC take care of the problem.  Anyone have Strat-o-matic cards for the 2017 Yanks and Dodgers?

If so, I suggest we designate one individual to manage the Yankees, another to manage the Dodgers, and a third person of impeccable character to officially roll the dice for each at-bat.  We can play out the entire World Series What Never Was, online.

Who's with me?






Both Convicted In the Court Of Public Opinion

Two cheating, malevolent slime balls.


Brothers, of a sort.  



The commissioner of baseball is not just mis-reading the players' reactions ...he is mis-reading fan reactions.

That toady creep commissioner denigrated the value, in his " press conference," of retrieving the Championship trophy, and all related hardware,  from the Houston display cases.

Bull shit.  How much are the rich owners of Houston paying into your off-shore account?

Having Clay Bellinger and Aaron Judge walk in to break the glass of the display case, and take those symbolic trophies back should be on national TV.

And Houston players ( and Boston ) should have to wear black " I cheated " patches on their uniforms forever.

I would start minor league pitchers against this team and throw at every player, every time. If MLB bans them for 60 games, fine.  They go back to Trenton.

Fans must bring banners ( hidden under their coats at Yankee stadium ) which say " Cheaters " on them.  I will pay off the dweeb who runs the Jumbotron to flash " cheaters, cheaters, cheaters" until he is shut down.

Fans must never relent.

 Duque is right;  a $5 million fine is a fucking insult.  That's like throwing a begging man a nickel and saying, " Have a nice day!"

Piece of shit Commissioner.  He is another lame, bought and paid for, old white guy...out of touch with the very game, the very players and fans, he is hired to understand and protect.

He is allowing the game to be compromised.

 Put him in a cell with Harvey.  And make him wear a skirt.


The worst sports scandal since Sandusky and Nassar?

It's been nine years since authorities charged Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky with 52 counts of sexual abuse on boys - horrific acts over a 14-year period, beneath the cloak of Joe Paterno's once-sterling reputation. The NCAA would fine the university $60 million and ban it from four post-seasons. Its president would be convicted of child endangerment and sentenced to prison. And Paterno would die before his time, desperately seeking to defend his tarred honor. 

It's been five years since the sex scandal of U.S.A. gymnastics coach Larry Nassar, a convicted serial child molester, who abused hundreds of young women during his career. Dozens of officials at Michigan State and the U.S. Olympics team have been ousted and/or charged, the university has paid $500 million to settle lawsuits, and Nassar has been sentenced to prison for the next 175 years.  

In our sporting lives, let's face it: There's been nothing like these scandals, and let's hope there never is. (I wouldn't bet on it, though.)

Over the last decade, we've seen sports scandals about steroids, bounties, deflated footballs, concussions, college recruiting and even saluting the flag, though that was actually more of a controversy. Now comes probably the worst non-sex-related scandal in this generation, and it's expanding every day.

Anger about illegal sign-stealing by the Astros (and maybe this week, the Redsocks) continues to explode, fueled by a sense that Houston cheated and got away with it. And, really, how can we NOT feel that way?

The Astros face a $5 million fine, the loss of some draft picks, and a few managers tossed under the bus. The owner skates. The players skate. The franchise skates.

Seriously, a $5 million fine? 

Forbes values the Astros at $1.775 billion - (billion, with a "b.") Its annual revenues stand at $368 million. A $5 million fine? Wow. Why didn't they throw in a pink-belly? 

Anger at Boston has yet to emerge, but with each passing day, it looks more as if the Redsocks will skate. Commissioner Rob Manfred's toothless decision to grant immunity to players in exchange for their testimony must have seemed like a grand shortcut three months ago. Now, Manfred looks like a miner in a coal shaft holding a dead canary. 

Every day, new accusations emerge, now being fueled by fans. The latest: photos show Jose Altuve in the top of the ninth of the Yankees' final game, wearing a t-shirt beneath his jersey. Before coming to bat in the fateful bottom of the ninth, Altuve removed it. WTF? Why? I've always assumed Altuve - a great player, no question - didn't need to cheat. Now, I wonder if he'll go down in history as Houston's Shoeless Joe. But why did he take off his t-shirt?

Lately, critics are taking aim at Manfred's investigation. For years, teams had accused Houston of cheating. Why didn't MLB launch a probe? Whistle-blower Mike Fiers, whom some Astros have the gall to blame for their problems, told MLB about the problem months before he talked with reporters. It almost looks as though MLB sat on the issue until media reports forced its hand. 

I think Manfred will lose his job over this.

The Commissioner seems to have completely misread the players' reaction to this scandal. Yesterday, Phil Hughes suggested that players should consider a work stoppage to protest the Astros' weak punishment. There's been so much talk about retaliation than Manfred has found himself in the worst position possible: Defending Houston, and warning other teams not to take action.  

The Astros have closed ranks, (as Boston surely has done), claiming it didn't cheat last fall. But here's the rub: They are known cheaters. Thus, nobody believes them. There is a consequence to squandering your integrity. Once gone, it doesn't come back. 

This is also a good time to recall how close Houston came to winning the 2019 World Series. In game seven, they led 2-0 going into the seventh. The bounce of a ball, and they could be the third World Championship team in a row to be tainted forever.

Officially, it will cost Houston's owner just $5 million?

Nope. This ain't over. Oh my God, no. It's just spring training.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Letter to the Editor: Carping in Colorado

Wheat Ridge Transcript
Jan. 29, 2020

Dear Editors,

Every bona fide player and fan knew about the Yankees having the scoreboard guy watching with binoculars. That was in Billy Martin’s days and before electronic scoreboards. 

Signals are a very large part of the game, and are taught beginning with little league. A base runner on second base watches the catcher and signals to the bench, where they are relayed to the third-base coach then to the batter, giving him some advantage. They also can be signaled directly to the batter, but that is usually too sophisticated or quick. Everyone has to figure what type of pitches the catcher is calling for, and they change them occasionally.

It works both ways. The team in the field can pick up signs for the batter to bunt or lay off the next pitch, and for the runner to steal a base.  

The problem seems to be the electronic era, which elevates that part of the game to cheating.

Tom Graham,
Arvada

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Letters to the Editor: Growling in Greensboro

Greensboro News and Record
January 27, 2020
Dear Editors,

The Associated Press’ Tim Dahlberg must be a New York Yankees fan.
In his commentary (“Patriot fatigue: Super Bowl might actually be fun again”), he stated that the New England Patriots are “the New York Yankees of another era except, of course, the Yankees didn’t cheat.”
Seriously? What makes him make an unsubstantiated comment like that?
The famous (now infamous) “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” was a game-winning home run by New York Giants outfielder and third baseman Bobby Thomson off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca on Oct. 3, 1951, that won the National League pennant. It has now been well-documented that Bobby Thomson confessed on his deathbed that he hit that home run thanks to sign-stealing. Ironically, the Giants went on to lose the World Series to the New York Yankees. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Yankees cheated as well.

I suspect that Mr. Dahlberg is just jealous and expressing proverbial sour grapes, realizing that, in this century, the New England Patriots have won three times as many Super Bowls as the New York Giants; the Boston Red Sox have won four times as many World Series as the New York Yankees;and even the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins have won one more NBA and NHL championship than the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, respectively.
Jim ErtnerGreensboro

More Fuel


Yesterday on TV in LA, Clay Bellinger ( Dodger hero ) said flatly,

" Altuve stole my MVP award."

I think we should design tee shirts in Houston Astro colors that say.

You cheated
You lied 

or

Give back those trophies!

Hopefully, at every away game, Houston players will hear endless chants:

Cheaters...cheaters...cheaters...

( As the fans at MSG now chant at Knick games, " Sell the team...Sell the team...).

We need to create an environment where no one will ever want to play for Houston.

-  no one will be traded to them
-  no draft pick will sign
-  no player will sign a new contract

And every Houston player should be a target for every fastball pitcher in the game.  Hitting a player an inning should be the goal.  Break bones.

So what if you lose?  You will anyway, because Houston will still be cheating.

Just hit them.

As Houston's scandal lingers, MLB may have shot itself in the foot over its investigation of Boston

Hooray! Spring training is here! How do I know this? By the blah-blah-blah. 

Deivi Garcia throws a bullpen session: "You can see why we're excited about him," gushes Aaron Boone. 

Gary Sanchez shows up: "We're excited about him working with all our new people," Boone says. 

Players piss in the showers: "It's exciting for me, watching these guys," Boone drivels. 

Somebody, shoot me. Boone could get excited about a bar of soap. In the future, when we start ragging on the Gammonites - (who are enormously endangered, by the way) - let's remember this day and cut them a bit of slack. They annually must devour, digest and excrete the official Yankee propaganda of February, some of the most fetid, mind-numbing crapola spoken outside of North Korea. 

Every February, I get an urge to re-read the Yankee quotes from the previous year. My fave is the annual Yankee who has "redefined himself," arriving in "the greatest shape of his career," whose newly carved, rock-ribbed, Brad Pitt-in-Troy body has onlookers going knock-kneed in anticipation of the coming season. And by June 1, the guy is hitting .183. But, wowie-kazowie!, on that first day of camp, he sure oogled the Tampa red carpet. 

Like most citizens of the Yankiverse, today, I am still in no mood for write-ups about prospects, or the battle for the fifth rotation slot. A month from now, we can marvel about or debate such matters. Right now, I'm still angry about the cheating scandal, and I'm wondering why the Putin of baseball, Commissioner Rob Manfred, keeps rolling back the timeline on his "investigation" into the Boston Redsocks' championship 2018 season.

It was supposed to come out by Feb. 1. Then, it was supposed to come out by the opening day of camp. Now, it's supposed to come out by March 1. Something is screwy, and my guess is that the obvious has come to pass: 

As they've watched Houston players be publicly ridiculed - (while escaping actual punishment) - the Redsocks have closed ranks and built a big Green Monster Wall of Silence when talking to investigators.

Yep, MLB has completely fumbled the case.

Listen: The news last week in America is that witness tampering is now "in." (See PEOPLE V. ROGER STONE.) It's now okay to tell a potential whistle-blower that he should fear getting shot, or losing his dog, because - haha! - boys will be boys, and goofy disembowelment threats are one of the joys of locker room talk. 

On that note, imagine the recent conversations between Redsock players, as they watch Jose Altuve being grilled on why he didn't want to be seen shirtless.  

Obviously, I have no inside track on whether the Redsocks are guilty or innocent. But this I do know: Cheaters lie. Especially the good ones. That's why they're cheaters. And if they successfully cheat, odds are that they will later claim they didn't. It's their shtick. It's their routine. So, yesterday, Andrew Benintendi - who I'm sure is a truth-teller, probably in the greatest shape of his life, etc., - crossed his heart and told reporters, "I just think we know what's going on, and we know we didn't do anything." 

Okay, maybe they did, maybe they didn't. I dunno. But good luck to that poor MLB investigator who is still trying to untangle the Houston scandal from what happened in Boston. Because Manfred shot that poor slob in the butt, when he announced the sanctions against Houston, leaving the Redsocks on the back-burner. What a gift to Boston, whose owner responded by trading its greatest star, thus holding the line on MLB salaries. Quid pro quo? Who knows? But the longer this case drags on, the more that Redsock players and personnel will close ranks. And the more likely Boston will wriggle off the hook. But, hey, how about that Deivi Garcia! I hear Boone is excited.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Astros seem to think the cheating scandal will go away: They are delusional

Yesterday, I offered the Official IT IS HIGH Speech-of-Contrition Template, in case the Houston Astros wanted to see what righteousness looks like. Turns out, they didn't. They had all gathered the previous day to synchronize their alibis, and yesterday, they waddled out, one by one, to cop pleas to minor infractions - each player singing a different song, like a Utica dinner theater rendition of Rent. As far as I could see, the most heartfelt words came from Carlos Correa:

"What we did in 2017 was terrible. We all know it and we feel really bad about it.”

Okay. Not bad. A start. But then Josh Reddick unveiled the grand old chestnut, "It is what it is," en route to claiming Houston's 2017 championship will not carry a permanent stench. Lance McCullers Jr. argued that the championship "was earned, 100 percent." Former future Hall of Famer Jose Altuve blathered about taking responsibility as a team. Co-future Cooperstown black-lister Alex Bregman said they made "bad choices." Justin Verlander raised the human shields. "We have families. I have a little girl. Jose has kids." (Kate, if you're reading this behind the couch, give me a call...)

On and on they went... a well orchestrated news conference that was described by one Gammonite as "Contrition Performance Art." (Wish I'd said that.)  

Look, maybe we as Yankee fans should not saddle up on too high a horse here. In yesterday's avalanche of Astros news - (not in Boston, though, where the big story was the signing of... drum roll... outfielder Kevin Pillar!) - more than a few hot heads noted that Yankee fans are newly minted defenders of rules. They have a point. We haven't exactly tossed our 2009 World Series memorabilia into the Hudson, because A-Rod's blood tests showed up Hulkian green. But ten years later, we still cringe over what became a dark and ugly period in Yankee history - a lost decade that remains a prime reason why Yank fans feel so desperate. Nobody wants 2009 to become their final parade in the Canyon. (And the decade also produced Alex's incredible, Ulysses-like journey, going from Yankee pariah to America's sweetheart suitor. And of course, he'll eventually be dumped. The guy is a newsprint machine.) 

Well, here's a bit of grimy truth about Astros Apology Day: It is also Groundhog Day. In 2020, it shall be relived every single time they visit a new city. It will pop up every single time the Astros win a game in the ninth, or knock out a pitcher in the second. It will be raised every single time an aging former Astro sits at a card table and signs glossies in an airport Ramada. It will be a permanent stain on every single one of their records. They are the cheating Houston Asterisks, and yesterday, as they tap-danced through their little cub scout skits, I wonder if they realized how long and soul-crushing their journeys will turn out to be. 

Well, maybe today, they get a glimpse. Today, across baseball, the stories include: 

1. A body language expert who claims Altuve is lying.

2. Aroldis Chapman calling Altuve's season-ending HR "suspicious."

3. Aaron Boone calling claims that no games were affected, "quite a stretch."

4. This wonderful image.

5. And a sense that the Astros' show was a complete bomb. (Our old friend Pete Abe even suggested that that Astros had done the impossible: Made it worse.) 



It's going to be a long year in Houston. The Astros story is just beginning.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

A sorry day in America: Some words the Astros ought to summon

Testing, one, two, three... Um... Thank you for coming today. My remarks will be brief, and I will not take questions, though I promise to be available in the future.

I want to apologize to the game of baseball. 

I'm not going to discuss the details of this scandal. I won't say whether some of us cheated, and some of us didn't. Every coach, player and team official who knew what was happening is responsible. It's that simple. The Houston Astros have undermined the game of baseball, and in our careers, and in our lives, this will never be forgotten. We may never regain the respect that we have squandered. That's on us. That's on me.

I want to apologize to all opposing players.

Specifically, I want to address all the pitchers who suffered at our hands without even knowing why. You didn't deserve to be humbled or humiliated, at times on national TV. You didn't deserve the hook, or the boos, or in some cases, to be sent back to the minors because our batters knew what pitch was coming. In the fog of our ambition, we stole from you and your families. If I could turn back the clock, I would. 

I want to apologize to the fans.

Especially, I want to address all those around Houston who believed in us, who rallied behind us, and who now must try to explain to their sons and daughters how we failed you. We wanted so desperately to bring you a championship, a celebration, a time of joy and accomplishment. We wanted it so badly that we became blinded to what is right and wrong. If I could turn back the clock, I would.

I want to apologize to America. 

Today, I see a country that is losing faith in its own democracy. We are heading toward a presidential election whose outcome neither side may accept. This is because of people who put wealth over honor, and put power over truth. It has been said that baseball is a metaphor for life. Well, what we did was taint the results of entire seasons - and the World Series, itself. It will take many years for restore trust in such institutions. If I could turn back the clock, I would.

But, as we all know, we can't go back. All I can say... to the game, to the players, to the fans and to America... is this: 

Please do not give up. As painful as these revelations have been, the truth is always preferable than a history propped up by lies. We always need to know what is happening. Never imagine that a covered-up a scandal is better than an exposed one. Never blame those brave souls who come forward to tell the truth. Some players blame Mike Fiers for speaking out. He is a hero, like all whistleblowers.

Thus, today, I am donating my entire 2017 World Series share to the IT IS HIGH, IT IS FAR, IT IS caught Yankee fan blog, the lone voice of truth and dignity in the baseball universe. I urge all my current and former teammates to do the same. Only through righteous voices, such as this beacon of truth, can the national pastime be restored to its sacred, honorable status.

I thank you for your attention. I will now go out to the parking lot and sign autographs until every single fan is gone. It's what I will do tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. It's my new normal. I can't wait.