Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Statistics of Nothingness

A big factor in Miguel Andujar not winning the Rookie of the Year Award he so richly deserved seems to be one of the great scams of this baseball era:  advanced fielding statistics.

Sure, El Matador wasn't getting the award if the baseball writers of America could possibly help it, because he plays for the New York Yankees.  But it was the fielding "statistics" that gave the Knights of the Press Box the intellectual armor to hide behind.

Supposedly, Miggy ranked 120th of the 124 regular fielders in the AL, according to an entity known as Ultimate Fan Zone Graphs, or some such nonsense.  His flubs at third cost the Yankees, we are assured, a total of 16 runs on the season.

Trouble is, to paraphase Joe Welch during the Army-McCarthy hearings, this is an image of exactly nothing.

Literally nothing.  Unlike every other baseball stat—unlike every other sports stat—the new fielding statistics promise to measure what DIDN'T happen.

It's the same sort of nonsense that led to otherwise intelligent people telling us that Derek Jeter was "the worst shortstop of all time" in the field.

Miguel Andujar committed 15 errors at third base last year.  Not great, but not horrible.  Not as bad as, say, the 23 errors that Chase Headley committed at third in 2015.

But hold on.  Headley got a -0.3 defensive WAR (another dubious stat) from the experts for that.  Andujar?  A -2.2.

In other words, El Matador was over seven times worse a fielder than Headley according to the new geniuses of sabremetrics, than Headley was, despite making over one-third fewer errors.

How is that possible?

Why, because of the unseen world, of course!

The Ultimate Fan Graph Big Head Super Heroes claim to be able to calculate:

—How many balls Miguel Andujar SHOULD have got to, and

—How many runs his failure to catch up to said number of theoretical balls cost us.

There may be more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in Horatio's philosophy—but not for your average sabremetrician!

They KNOW that Andujar's actual errors were his fault, and not that of the bandy-legged stumble bum the Yankees chose to put on first base for most of the season.

They KNOW that the balls Andujar didn't get to were his fault, and not where his manager positioned him.

They KNOW that all those theoretical balls were Andujar's fault, and not where the Yankees might have positioned his slick-fielding shortstop partner, Sir Didi.

They KNOW exactly how the Yankees' pitchers were pitching—apparently, exactly like every other staff in major-league baseball—so that the theoretical balls Miggy missed were his fault, and not due to how hard said balls were hit, or where they were aimed in the first place.

They KNOW that those theoretical balls missed cost the Yankees exactly 16 runs (only one every 10 games, really).

They KNOW that none of the balls Andujar did not get to came in meaningful situations, and not when the team was up or down by 16-1, in the eighth inning of an afternoon game.

They know all these things that didn't happen, just from their statistics, without having to review ten seconds of actual play.

You know what's more?  They also KNOW that Miggy's greatest, reality-based accomplishment—his 97 RBI—DOESN'T matter.

They KNOW that runs batted in depend wholly on how many runners are on base, not the individual batter's worth.

They KNOW there is no such thing as clutch (even though they spend so much time compiling stats for things like hits with runners in scoring position, or hits with two outs, or when it is "late and close.")

They KNOW, just like our genius manager and GM that the great Neil Walker was just as likely to drive in runs against Boston in our last game of the year as Andujar was.

It's amazing what they know.

Donald Rumsfeld with his known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns had nothing on these guys.   Nor did medieval theologians, calculating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Our sabremetrical geniuses are wasted in baseball.  They ought to go into predicting the future, or maybe performing magic acts in Vegas.

Oh, the things that they know!

Could an Amazon-infusion shake NYC out of its sports doldrums... and knock the Yankees off their pedestal?

This week, New York won a big one. It landed Amazon's half-headquarters, someday adding up to 25,000 big-paying, high-tech jobs, if you believe in press releases. (And who doesn't!) Those are future season-ticket holders, patrons of the arts and buyers of those authentic $10 Rolexes sold on the streets. Techies, eh?That means bearded, vaping hipsters and 300-pound futon melons with comic book collections! I'm already dreading the cosplay at the 2025 ComiCon. 

But but BUT... At last, We beat Boston in something.

This victory came - coincidentally? - as the football Giants eeked out a win over the second-worst team in the NFL, representing the tech capital of the world, which allows Eli Manning to saddle and ride the rest of the 2018 season like Slim Pickens on the bomb in the finale of Dr. Strangelove. And if that isn't a jumble of metaphors, then I'm Elvira, Mistress of the Yankee Dark.

It's rare to see a sports franchise achieve such exquisite mediocrity from top to bottom. That is, unless you live in New York.

Here, sports teams represent the gold standard for incompetence. Consider the Knicks, where every year is 1929. The Nets and Rangers aren't far behind, the Mets have perfected the art of rotting from the head down, the Jets still marvel about Joe Namath, and then there are the Jersey Giants, a team that cannot even tank properly.

Two nights ago, Eli and his teammates beat the lowly 49ers, giving the owners - (fun fact: the Tisch/Mara families boast of being the only people in the world to have both an Oscar and a Super Bowl ring!) - an excuse to continue their piddling limp along the road to nowhere. The victory guarantees Eli will start another game, and then another, and then another... because twice in his career the Giants were good, and as this miserable season dwindles down, they will increasingly face franchises who want to lose, because that's how NFL teams improve. (But not the Giants.)

The Giants have arguably two great players - Odell Beckham and Saquan Barkley - squandering their salad days on a zombified team. More likely, both will die, lunging for a buddy pass. The Giants seem bent on having Barkley run the ball 100 times, as long as he can recite the alphabet. But it will save Eli at all costs - keeping Eli at QB, protecting Eli in the pocket, allowing Eli to remain the comforting, white-bread, suburban kindergarten teacher face of the team - and never replacing him. (They actually have another year on his contract.) As a result, we'll watch him play out the back nine in a meaningless season, when we'd be better off losing.

Well, that's business as usual, eh?

But something could change. Could Amazon save New York sports? That's the question. By 2025, the massive infusion of tech money should make large contracts - like the one the Yankees have with Giancarlo Stanton - a Starbucks tip jar. In fact, one of the biggest winners this week should be Hal Steinbrenner. New York will be welcoming tens of thousands of well-heeled residents, and many will become diehard Yankee fans... if the team is decent. There has never been a more important time to develop a Yankee dynasty. They could rule NYC for generations to come. 

There is no reason in this world, other than sheer negligence of brains, for the Yankees to adhere to an austerity spending plan.  

Listen: I'm not sold on giving a Bryce or a Manny a 10-year deal. Inevitably they will be a millstone around our necks. But more than ever, Hand-Me-Down Hal had better use the one advantage the Yankees have - their market-based wealth. If he doesn't, the rest of NYC sports just might pull out its checkbook, and the Yankees won't be the lone oasis in a sad sports desert. If I owned the Mets, the moment Amazon confirmed its plans, I would have been on the phone to Scott Boras. It's going to be a whole new sports landscape. And the Yankees won't necessarily dominate it. In fact, if Hal starts clinging to pennies, his time at the top of the sports food chain might be coming to an end. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The More Things Change...

As our Peerless Leader, El Duque, points out, all you have to do to figure out what a role Yankee-hating played in this year's Rookie of the Year vote is to look at how many seasoned Japanese veterans—now including Ohtani—have been considered "rookies" while Hideki Matsui was not.

But this sort of double standard doesn't stop at the Rookie awards.

Cast your minds back, back, back to the simpler, innocent days of 1978.  When the MVP of the American League went to Jim Rice over Ron Guidry.

Never mind that Guidry had maybe the best season by an American League pitcher between the heydays of Lefty Grove and Pedro Martinez:

25-3, 1.74 ERA, 16 complete games, 9 shutouts (most by an AL lefty since Babe Ruth), 248 strikeouts vs. only 72 walks, 187 hits in almost 274 innings.

Nope, nope, nope!  The important thing was...Jim Rice was an everyday ballplayer!

To be sure, old Jim Ed had a monster year:  .315/ .370/ .600/ .970; 25 doubles, led the league in hits (213), triples (15), homers (46), and RBI (139).

Sure, he only walked 58 times vs. 126 strikeouts—which should tell you something about the lineup around him and his, ahem, value.  And where Guidry would go on to win 5 Gold Gloves, Rice played only 114 games in the outfield.

Never mind.  Playing every day counts more than being a pitcher.! Got it.

Cut to the merry old days of 1986, where Roger Clemens has a helluva year for Boston:

24-4, 2.48 ERA, 10 complete games, 1 shutout, 238 strikeouts vs. 67 walks, 179 hits in 254 innings.

Hey, it's no Ron Guidry in '78 year, but it's damned impressive.

But should he have won the MVP?  I mean, after all, for the team that Clemens' Sox beat out by all of 4 games, Don Mattingly did this:

.352/ .394/ .573/ .967; 53 doubles, 2 triples, 31 homers—or the exact same number of extra-base hits that Rice compiled in 1978.  Donnie Baseball also scored 117 runs, drove in 113, and led the AL with 238 hits, while drawing 53 walks and striking out only 35 times.

Oh, and he also won his second straight Gold Glove.

So of course the MVP went to...Roger Clemens.

The logic is simple here.  When you're a day-to-day player, you get the advantage—if you're not a Yankee.  When you're a pitcher, you get the advantage—if you're not a Yankee.

The election was rigged

The other day, when Miguel Andujar won AL Rookie of the Year from The Sporting News, I thought we were sensing a blue wave... midnight blue, that is! Well, as the late Stan Lee would say, "Brush my teeth and call me smiley!" I shoulda known. When it comes to the Gammonites - those dirty creeps from the Yancy Street Gang - "elections" are a sham of a scam, a fraud of a farce, a mockery of a fakery, a crock of a joke! Collusion! Witch hunt! Whatever. LOCK THEM UP! 

Last night, as an ESPN barker broke into an ongoing NY Giants debacle to announce the winner - Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese Babe Ruth Miriam Adelson - my ears began to hurt. I would have had more fun listening to the Khashoggi murder tape. What a joke. I should known. It was always going to be Ohtani. They might as well have handed him the tiara and bucket of newsprint last winter, as soon as he nixed signing with the Yankees. That day, he became AL Rookie of the Year.

Listen: I'm not here to rehash the reasons why Andjuar deserved to win. The fact that he outdid Joe Dimaggio in doubles, and both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton as the best Yankee hitter in 2018 - nope, that could not overrule a guy who drove in 61 runs - eight more than Gary Sanchez! - and threw a whopping 51 innings before requiring Tommy John. 

Today, the excuses making the rounds are Andujar's concrete glove and propensity to double-clutch on throws to first. As you're reading this, let's hope he's taking grounders or seeing a shrink. Same with Gleyber Torres, who I have a hard time imagining at SS for four months, considering the five errors in 15 starts he made there last year. I'm not saying Gleyber was robbed. But Miggy deserved better than a mere 5 out of 30 first-place votes. 

Oh well, maybe it will remind both that post-season awards mean nothing in a wild card year. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Crazy People

Lately, I've been reading a lot about crazy people.  I don't buy it.

For instance, I've been reading about how President Trump is "a lunatic."  I don't want to start another political discussion here, but I will say that, love him or hate him, our president is not crazy.  He is pursuing various strategies that he thinks work best for him, but whatever you think of them, there is nothing insane about this.

Same goes for Hal and Brian.

They are not insane.  They simply have different priorities than we do, and they are very sanely pursuing the strategies that have worked for them so far.

Hal Steinbrenner's main priority is maximizing the profit of his family business—a very common goal in this great country of ours.

Sure, he would like to see the Yankees win it all because that would be the fastest and easiest way to maximize profits, as well as deliver the sort of prestige and goodwill that would enable him to once again fulfill what was apparently his great, hidden fantasy of appearing in drag on a Macy's Parade float.

But it's far from the only way for him to make money.  This week, for instance, was a bad week for Hal not because the Yanks apparently dropped any idea of pursuing any real stars in the free-agent market, but because the NYCFC "Pigeons," the wholly manufactured soccer team he owns in conjunction with various sheikhs and an English soccer powerhouse, went down to defeat and was eliminated from the playoffs.

This not only cost him another lucrative November event date at Yankee Stadium, but also eliminated the slim chance this year for building the sort of "Pigeon Mania" that might have enable him to squeeze yet another free stadium—and surrounding luxury housing development—out of the City of New York.

This isn't crazy.  It's just business.  The only business he cares about.

Similarly, Brian Cashman isn't crazy.

Cashman's goal is to maintain his lucrative position of general manager of the New York Yankees.  Sure, he'd like the Yankees to win a world championship, because that would be the fastest and easiest way of further burnishing his reputation and increasing the revenue flow for his boss, Hal, and enable him to again fulfill what was apparently his great, hidden fantasy of rappelling up a Connecticut building dressed as an elf.

But winning it all would mean exercising skills Cashman does not possess, such as being able to identify and nurture first-rate talent, or hiring people who can do that—something that would only create a potentially dangerous rival for him in the front office.

Thus, Cashman will quite logically go on with what has worked for him over the past 22 years, which is maximizing profits for his boss, working the press, and being a veritable ninja at office politics.

Hal and Brian, Brian and Hal.  Not crazy in the least.

Just not interested—primarily—in the same things we are.

That vaunted Yankee farm system is withering at the top

Today, the Yankiverse should happily celebrate our second straight Rookie of the Year - Miguel Andujar - as named by The Sporting News. (Some fools would pick the Japanese Babe Ruth Miriam Adelson, but I'll take Miggy!) Add that Gleyber Torres finished third, and the "Empire" should look prime for the next decade, right?

Well... meh. In our dark hearts, we fear that Miggy could be a man without a position, and who can forget how Gleyber curled into a ball at the end of 2018? Aaron Judge is the real deal, but Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez sure aren't. Clint Frazier... WTF? And after Jordan Montgomery popped his wing, no rookie pitcher stepped up last summer. 

And now, we must buy a rotation.

So what happened to that explosive farm system - ranked 2nd in 2016 behind Atlanta? Mostly, we traded it for stopgaps - Toddfather, Sonny, Cutch, Britton, et al. Today, our system is ranked in the middle of the pack, with the best talent deep in the bowels, where every lunk with a thick neck looks bound for Cooperstown, or at least Oneonta. 

I did a quick check. Of our Top 30 prospects, according to MLB...

20 are pitchers. Yep, a wave of young arms, ready to blow.

21 spent most of last year below Double A, where most prospects die.

6 might be ready this season. They are pitchers: Gary Justus Sheffield, "Fat" Chance Adams, Jonathan "Johnny Lasagna" Loasiga, Jonathan Acevedo, Stephen Tarpley, and Michael King. And right now, they all look like trade bait.

Sheffield is the big name, though it's troubling how little the Yankees seem to appreciate him. They didn't showcase him in September, and his name pops up in every trade rumor. Nobody talks about him as ready for the rotation. This might be disinformation - the Yankee way, or maybe they know something. Sometimes, when everybody says it's raining... it's raining.

(Then again, last winter, the Yankees did everything possible to derail Andujar's chances at 3B. As Miggy was hitting in spring training, they traded for Brandon Drury. If not for his migraines, Andujar would probably have spent most of the year in Scranton, and could easily have been dealt at the deadline. We cannot forget how close the Yankees came to a disastrous outcome with Andujar.)  

Adams suffered a wipe-out year. He started late due to surgery and never recaptured his 2017 look. He pitched adequately against Boston in a desperate pressure cooker game, then was promptly discarded to Scranton. Nobody mentions him in trades, aside from a throw-in. He seems an afterthought. 

Loasiga came out of nowhere last winter, when he was named to the 40-man roster. He became the darling of Mel Kiper-type bloggers, who all claimed they knew him (though nobody had ever mentioned him previously.) He pitched well, then strained his shoulder, which has been the story of his career. Who knows what he's got? But there are always young, upcoming pitchers who simply throw too hard for their own good, and right now, that might be his legacy. 

Tarpley looks like a lefty reliever. If he works out, he'll be the first home-grown prospect to fill that role in a long, long time. 

King rocketed through the system, wowing folks with numbers. But the brain trust doesn't seem intoxicated with his stuff. I'm old school. I think if a guy succeeds in the minors, he deserves a shot. I'm sure he'll get one, eventually... if he isn't traded.

So... is there a fifth starter in there? Because even if we sign both Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ, that's just four. Four. (I'd take Eovaldi over Happ, btw.) 

Let's hope there is Justus, after all. Third rookie of the year in a row? It's fun to dream. 

We Have Become a Punchline

True story.

This actually happened on a Northeast Regional Amtrak train, around noon on Friday.  It was, as usual, stalled in Bridgeport—right next to the torn-up playing field of the now-defunct, Bridgeport Bluefish, an independent minor league team.

The conductor came on the P.A. and announced:

"On your left is the home of the former Bridgeport Bluefish, ladies and gentlemen.  They went out of business after losing too many ballgames.  I understand the Red Sox are going to be moving a farm team in here."


"They're gonna be called the Bridgeport Yankees."

Yes, folks, it's come to this.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Yankees must enshrine Miriam Adelson in Monument Park

It's long overdue, but humanity is finally saying "Thank you!" 

When you think of the great Americans - Babe Ruth, Elvis Presley, Orrin Hatch, etc. - all too often, Miriam Adelson was overlooked. And everybody knew why: It's because she is a proud, trailblazing, mirthful, marvelous, effervescent and perfectly lovely lassie!

Well, we're off the hook. Miriam is the one-woman powder puff qualifier for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Which means it's time for the Yankees to get off the crapper.

Dammit, the Yankees must enshrine Miriam Adelson in Monument Park. Old "Number 55" - as in millions of dollars given to GOP groups in September - deserves a bronze bust.

Sadly, she has also been denied: a) an Academy Award, b) a Nobel Prize, c) the Heisman Trophy and d) a Teen Choice Award.

While we're at it, what about Jerry Hall, the latest wife of Rupert Murdoch? Is she chopped liver?  

Uh-oh. Cashman is shopping for another "power arm" Thanksgiving turkey

For five years now, the Yankees have had pissing rights over the Seattle Mariners. The reason? That poor, pitiful franchise lashed itself to Jogginson Cano via a 10-year suicide vest of a contract, negotiated by Beyonce and Jay-Z, and they're still only halfway through the sewer pipes. No matter how bad the Yankees have been, at least we aren't Seattle, right? 

But but but... Brian Cashman may come to the Mariners' rescue. Apparently, the Cooperstown-bound Yankee GM is on the prowl for another "power arm," which has been the glitch in Cashman's Matrix for the last 20 years. Nothing brews more fear in the hearts of Yankee fans than the notion that Cash is waiting in some hotel lobby, looking to hook-up with another GM to land another starter already past his pitch count/sell date - which is the story of this Yankee millennium.  

Today, let's ask a fundamental question: Who is James Paxton and how much blood are we likely to give up for him? Here are Paxton's beautistics:

 I've marked three spots, from left to right.

1. His best ERA came two years ago. Yep. He's on the slide. In essence, he is another pitcher who showed great promise in 2017, and then last year got cuffed around like Pee Wee Herman in a Sarasota porno parlor. He is a mix of Sonny Gray and Luis Severino (who, by the way, is listed as one of Paxton's statistical doppelgangers.

2. He threw 160 innings last year, most in his career. That's always been a red flag for Cashman's overly baked pitcher trades: Wear and tear on the inner tube. Simply stated: There's always a reason why the other team wants to trade the guy. If he was a true ace, would they really give him up?

3. He surrendered 23 HRs last year. Put him the Bronx, where pitchers throw superballs, and I gotta believe that total rises by 10.

Okay, you know where I'm going. I'm bracing for the worst - that we trade Justus Shefield and Clint Frazier for this over-cooked turkey. Well, let's remember that the judgement of every deal must come at the molecular level: If the Yankees traded Gray for Paxton even up, or even then goosed the deal with a dab of Brylcreem, we could live with it. What are the odds? 

I am not here to recount every bad deal Cashman ever made because, frankly, he's brought us some great positional players. But it's pitching - the quest for the power arm - that's been his blind spot. He traded Mike Lowell for four. He traded Gary Sheffield for three. He twice traded for Javier Vazquez. He gave up a circus for Jeff Weaver, a tribe for Kevin Brown. He brought in an ancient Randy Johnson, a tired Roger Clemens. Meanwhile, he traded away Ian Kennedy, Mark Melancon, Tyler Clippard and - AHH, I told you, don't get me started! Has he ever traded for an ace... that worked? You'd have to go back to David Cone, when Cashman was going out for pizza.

So, this winter when the Yankees have all the money in the world, and no longer sit shackled by luxury taxes, we are relegated to hoping Brian Cashman can successfully trade for a starting pitcher. The giddy Gammonites say our chances look good. I don't want to always be the downer. But really, how in hell should we feel confident?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Massholes, Part 3,024

Please read the first two sentences of this article in to understand why people from Boston are such insufferable dweebs:

Well, well, well. First the Red Sox squashed the Yankees in the ALDS, and now we’ve taken something else that’s just as sacred.
All this because an article generated by software on picked a chain restaurant in Boston as the Best Pizza in the U.S.  "Well, well, well"?  I mean, these people are such Massholes.

For the record, Regina Pizzeria serves slices that are about the same as any Sbarro's in any airport.  I.e., you go there because you're already there, nothing is else near by, and only because you're hungry.

Why must everything they do in Boston be viewed through the prism of New York?  Dipwads.

P.S. Those shimmering puddles of orange grease on the pepperoni slices on the lower left of the photo are accurate.

A limit on defensive over-shifts would only worsen the game

Supposedly, the MLB brain trust is pondering four rule changes:

1. Implement a 20-second clock for pitchers.

2. Move the trade deadline back a few weeks.

3. Alter the 10-day DL so teams can't fudge on it.

4. Ban the defensive over-shift.

On the first three, I'm open for debate. (Though, instinctively, I oppose clocks in baseball.) But let's be clear: Number 4 shits the bed. It represents no less than a battle over baseball's soul.

I understand why the owners would ban the over-shift: It works. The over-shift turned "You're on the" Mark Teixeira into a sad .220 lunk, and it can lop 30 points from the average of the game's biggest sluggers (in whom the owners have invested a lot of money.) But forcing teams to play traditional defensive slots - the opposite of Wee Willie Keeler's "hit 'em where they aint" - will eventually backfire. It will embolden the strikeout/walk/homer swing-a-thons that have undermined the pace of the game. 

The problem is not over-shifts. It is batters who cannot - or refuse to - adjust to them. 

Boston won the World Series with a lineup that coaxed singles from thin air,  rather than attempting to hit balls all the way to Maine. So did the Kansas City Royals a few years back. The 2018 Yankees set a home run record - whoopie-doo! why no parade down the Canyon of Heroes? - but had nobody capable of hitting .300. You could say they were always fated to flop against good pitching. And that's exactly what happened.

If MLB bans the over-shift, hardcore sluggers will see a spike in batting averages - for a few months. But as they swing harder and harder for the fences, the game will descend even more into a quagmire of strikeouts, walks and home runs. What will the owners do next? Ban the split-finger fastball? Force defenders to play without gloves?

One of the beauties of Luke Voit in September was his ability - and willingness - to drive balls into the opposite field. For the record, he finished at .333 - in a small sample. Of course, our concern is that, over an entire season, he would come down with Traumatic Giambi Syndrome and start pulling everything to left field - into an over-shifted spider's web. 

Theoretically, wasn't that why teams have batting coaches? To help batters adjust? Oh, well... 

As much as we love the idea of the Yankees adding Bryce Harper to the lineup, what we don't need is another 169 strikeouts. (Yep, that's what he did last year.) Somehow, we must forestall Glyber Torres and Miguel Andujar turning into Chase Headley and Stephen Drew, or Clint Frazier becoming a RH version of Curtis Granderson. Banning the over-shift might briefly goose some players' numbers. But it won't save baseball from itself. Let the owners finagle the 10 day DL. But they should keep their hands off the field.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Maybe it's time to show a little faith (there's magic in the Yanks?)

In baseball, you can either see a 3-2 count as favoring the pitcher or the batter: it's up to you. (Unless, that is, Giancarlo Stanton is batting in the ninth of a crucial playoff, in which case the advantage goes to the pitcher.) On that note, in our upcoming winter of discontent, here are some tidbits of faith that I hereby choose to believe...

I believe Hal "Food Stamps" Steinbrenner will outspend payroll luxury tax limits of 2018. I understand why Cooperstown Cashman lately has been poor-mouthing, suggesting the franchise will continue its self-imposed austerity. If you're planning to bid in a high-stakes auction, there's no point in looking drunk. 

But the big reason for cutting Yankee payroll last year - and it was stated throughout the season - was the need to compete in this winter's free agent market. The Yankees basically ceded to Boston their long-held mantle of fiscal dominance. Hal is not stupid. Surely, he sees that, without some bold signings to improve this team, the Yankees will continue to chase the wild card, and eventually, the Mets will rise, the tabloid back pages will turn blue-and-orange, and a mass extinction event will unfold in the seats of Yankee Stadium. They promised us a reward for last year's austerity. They had better deliver.

I believe Gary Sanchez can rebound as a player. In fact, I think it's wise for the Yankees to give him one more season (or at least through the all-star break.) In the darkest days of Yankeedom, the late 1980s-early 1990s, we constantly traded young players like Sanchez after they disappointed us. (Drabek, Buhner, et al.) Sanchez's problem was his explosive success at the outset of his career, which was always going to be impossible to maintain. Last year, he flat-out sucked. But if the Yankees dumped him, he would instantly become prime candidate for comeback of the year, and they would probably get nothing in return. I'm good with him getting another shot.

I still believe in Clint Frazier. Yes, this is my heart talking, not necessarily my head. At times, something about this guy says 15 home runs and a .198 average. But Frazier has a magnetic personality and a great spirit, and I choose do believe he can someday become a beloved Yankee, along the lines of Brett Gardner. Last season, the juju gods conspired against him in ways that suggested malicious malpractice; two concussions, both with the worst timing anyone could imagine. I think he can make it. But it must happen this year, and the Yankees must at least give him a chance.  

I believe the Yankees need a bullpen overhaul. Everybody knows we need starters. I think our closers have become incredibly scary. Last season, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman embodied the wildest variations in baseball. They could strike out the side or never even record one out. I still have PTSD from El Chapo's meltdown in the lost series in Boston. Frankly, if the Yankees had won Game Four of the ALDS, I wouldn't have trusted our so-called vaunted bullpen to shut them down at Fenway. The Yankees need at least two more quality bullpen arms, and one with closer experience. Chapman is simply not the pitcher he was. We cannot expect him to save us.

I believe Miguel Andujar can play 3B. Listen: A third-baseman like Andujar comes around once in every generation. But if he moves to left field, well, he becomes just another corner outfielder (and Clint Frazier - see above - never sees the light of opportunity.) All season, the Yankees praised Andujar's work ethic. Well, were they bullshitting? Yes, his fielding must improve. I believe he can do it, if the Yankees show a little faith.  

Twenty-two Years and Counting

So what IS Brian Cashman doing this offseason?

Well, mostly polishing his Cooperstown credentials, it seems, judging from his interview with Billywitz in the Times yesterday.  There, Coops patted himself on the back for NOT getting Chris Sale.

"Thank God I didn't do that, actually, because you'd be missing some serious components of our major-league club right now," Cash noted.

Yes, it's good he pointed that out, because who else could we possibly have traded for Chris Sale?  Hmm, maybe some kid we could have signed from somewhere...

"We wouldn't have gotten anywhere if I did anything with the White Sox like that back then," our leader concluded.

Yeah, good point.  Imagine, we might not be where we are now, falling further and further behind Boston's perennial victory parade.  To quote Eric Idle, we'd have to give up being crucified in the afternoon.

The interview contained yet another message from the top that "Bryce Harper and Manny Machado...seem destined to land elsewhere," as Cash-and-Carry once again practices "restraint."

"Now, however, all the ingredients are there for the Yankees to back up their armored car, loaded with prospects or cash, to address that same need for starting pitching," enthused Billywitz, who doesn't really seem to follow sports much.

Armored cars full of prospects?  That's funny, and of course Hal has no intention of spending his soft-earned cash, which leaves...what, exactly?

No doubt, Billywitz and the other Knights of the Press Box will praise Coops to the sky whatever he may do.

"If I was a new G.M., and hadn't been here for 22 years and know the terrain, maybe I'd be optimistic.  But I'm not optimistic," their favorite GM warned us at the end.

Neither are we, Brian, neither are we.

And maybe if does want to reach Cooperstown, he should stop throwing around his longevity.  Has any other GM gone 22 years with a team winning championships ONLY with a core of players put together by his predecessor?  Any GM in any sport, anywhere?

Cashman is, as always, one for the books.

New York Yankees, International Team of Mystery

Joe Robard:  You're a liar, Sidney.  Oh, it's a publicity man's nature to be a liar.  I wouldn't hire you if you wasn't a liar.  I pay you a C-and-a-half to plant big fat lies about me and the club all over the map.

Sidney Falco:  Oh, you mean in that sense—

Robard:  Yes, in that sense.  But you are a personal liar, too, Sidney, because you don't do the work that I pay you for.

—The Sweet Smell of Success

It's in the nature of a GM, too, to be a liar.  But the latest revelations from Kremlin-on-the-Hudson make me think that the Yankees and their general manager never really stop lying.

Or as the immortal Nancy Sinatra put it, "You been lyin' when you oughta be truthin'"—and, truth' when he oughta be lyin'.

As many here have pointed out, when you're trying to move a piece of turned meat such as Sonny Gray, you don't stand around with a megaphone pointing out the strange green color and how many maggots are crawling over the carcass—the way our Brian Cashman has been doing for days now.

And when you have a promising young player who is hurt, maybe badly hurt—we learn today that Gary Sanchez had two cortisone shots for his aching shoulder this year, and one in 2017—you don't leave him out on the field to twist in the wind for writers, fans, and, well, us to abuse him.

This is the second year in a row the Yankees have perpetrated the fine art of scapegoating on a developing player.  Aaron Judge is always so fundamentally open and sweet-tempered that nobody could get TOO mad at him in 2017, but not so with Sanchez, royally abused by all and sundry—including your faithful correspondent—as a perfidious loafer.

But really, this is a reckless and stupid game.  Cashman's justification—offered on those rare occasions when this Hall-of-Fame lock feels the need to justify himself at all—has usually been that the Yanks don't want to tip other teams off to a player's if those weaknesses are not manifest in the space of a few innings.

Major-league baseball is not a place where you can hide major injuries for long.  But this fact always seems to escape our alleged braintrust.  Hence the sorry spectacle this year of our closer having to actually wave his arm in the air and ask to be taken out before his knee collapsed on him.

The Yankees have long been a purposely mystifying blend of secrets and inexplicable events.

All the way back in 1965-66, the team put it about that Roger Maris, a classic, "raw-ass" gamer to the end, was suddenly slacking.  This was actually because the quack medical help that the Yankees have always inflicted on its stars—Dr. Oz once performed a major operation on a leading Yankee pitcher—in Roger's case failed to detect the broken bone in his hand.

No apologies were forthcoming, and of course there was no question of resting a player who had done so much for the team, in seasons when it finished sixth and tenth.  The Rajah was needed to get out there and keep the box office up!

In half-a-century, nothing is changed.  So, Judge's career is risked, and so is Sanchez's.  Could it really be that Bird's miserable play is due to the fact that he really he needs this much time to recover?

Who can say?  Who knows anything about this Yankees Team of Mystery?

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Finally, We Learn The Real Reason.....

Gary Sanchez had the worst season of any player in history, and his job security was never threatened.

Now we know why:

He needed shoulder surgery.  Just a tweak.

A tendon here and there.

Have no fear;  the Yankees are " deep"  in guys who can't hit, throw or catch.

Look for Gary in the spring.

He'll be the guy being rooted about in that wheelbarrow.

Now we know.

If it's true that Bryce Harper can play first base, the Yankees must jump into the bidding

Over the centuries, we've seen enough of "super-agent" Scott Boras' to know that his greatest skill is polishing turds until they look like freshly mined nuggets of gold. But sometimes - such as in his warnings this week that the greatest threat to baseball are greedy owners who purposely tank their teams - the turds carry weight. And today, the Yankees should carefully consider another Boras claim that is making the rounds: 

That Bryce Harper can and will play first base.

Like the hosts of Fox & Friends, Boras was addressing the world but targeting only one man, a millionaire at birth whose ascension to power defies the norms of both morality and Darwinism. Of course, he was speaking directly to Hand-Me-Down Hal Steinbrenner, who is clutching the purse strings on not only the 2019 Yankees... but the long-term future of the franchise.

All that is happening - the lifetime "Mr. Congeniality" contracts to Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia - revolves around Hal's willingness to spend money this winter. The Yankees stand as the only team capable of beating Boston in the 2019 AL East, but not if the Redsocks continue to spend nearly $40 million more on annual payroll. Hal can talk about frugality until the turd looks like chunks blown from King Midas, but it will still stink. Without a sizable spending surge this winter, the Yankees next summer will be contending for the Wild Card, while Boston chases its place in history. 

The Redsocks have built a team and system capable of winning two or three straight championships, creating a dynasty that will never be topped in our lifetimes. I want you all to think about that. If Boston goes on a three- or four-year roll, we will go to our graves as also-ran chumps, punching bags and punch lines to Boston's magnificence... 

Which brings me to Bryce Harper.

If it's true that he can play first base - (and here, I defer to the scouts, who know more than I) - then Boras' turds words must be met with keen interest. Supposedly, Harper always wanted to play for the Yankees. Maybe this is just Boras stirring the pot, trying to rouse another bidder. But at 1B, Harper represents a perfect fit for the Yankees. He is a lefty masher, a hard-edged player, who would immediately give us a Big Three in the lineup - (actually, a big four, if you consider Miguel Andujar). If we think about it, he's a better long range fit than Manny Machado.

Even if we even choose to ignore Machado's dirty play and lack of hustle - (of which he, amazingly, seems proud to acknowledge; how stupid is that?), there is a serious question about how he would fit into the long term Yankee plans. Yes, he'll fill the immediate void left by Didi Gregorius' injury. But when Didi returns, what then? Does Manny move to third, knocking Andujar to the outfield or - gulp - first base? And who is our big lefty threat? Gardy? Ellsbury? Luke Voit? Seriously, folks, on a long-term basis, Manny makes no sense.

But if Harper can play first, the Yankees can find a stopgap SS-2B until Didi returns - there are several candidates - and slot Harper into a position where he is likely to eventually end up, anyway. If Harper devotes himself to the position, he could play there into his late thirties and cut wear-and-tear on his body. 

The key here is that Food Stamps Hal needs to open his precious fanny pack. The Yankees seem to be pooh-pooing Boras' claim, conveniently suggesting there is nothing there. This is no time to be cheap. 2019 will be the final year of a decade in which the Yankees never even played in a world series, the first time that's happened since they were called the Yankees. If Hal wants to save nickels, he should annex the team's bottle deposits concession. 

If Bryce Harper wants to be a New York Yankee, and he's willing to make a full-spirited change to first base, we better take it seriously. And Hal needs to SPEND SOME FUCKING MONEY. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Cashman must absolutely despise Sonny Gray

Here's something you don't see every day, Chauncey: Cooperstown Cashman publicly outlining a future trade. 

In fact, if there was a "Cashman Rule" for our tight-lipped, Hall of Fame-bound super GM, it would be that he never, ever, discloses Yankee plans before they've been enacted. There's no benefit. Over the years, if rumors linked us to Dopey Dildox, you could almost bet we'd sign Filthy McNasty. Misdirection of the Gammonites has been Cash's "thing," his "groove," his "signature move..." and yet...

Lately, the nut graf in Cashman's winter 2018 road show - after saying the Yankees haven't decided on this guy, and won't talk about that guy, and might chase him, or maybe somebody else, because they don't talk about this in public... and oh! by the way! we're trading that mutherfucking Sonny Gray!

“We are going to move him if we get the right deal because I don’t think it is going to work out in The Bronx,” Cashman told me [NY Post] Monday at the GM Meetings. “I don’t feel like we can go through the same exercise and expect different results.”

Thus far, this is Cashman's winter agenda: Give lifetime achievement contracts to to CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner, keep Jacoby Ellsbury in the witness protection program, clean the garage, lose 20 pounds, figure out Snapchat... and trade that mutherfucking Sonny Gray.

Strange, but when Carl Pavano reigned as the Yankee Great Mistake, I don't recall Cash announcing that he was a goner. Nor did Kei Igawa ever win that sad distinction. Moreover, Cashman shows Jesus-like compassion in forgiving Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird for 2018, when neither performed much better than Runny Sonny. And really... does it improve one's bargaining position to state flatly that you intend to move a player, that he's done in New York?

My guess: Gray is a walking reminder of Cashman's greatest flaw as a GM: His weakness in acquiring future aces - so-called "power arms" - to lead the Yankees. Over the years, Cashman has actually done quite well in trading for position players - (think: Didi, Aaron Hicks, Luke Voit.) But when you look at starting rotations, from Javier Vasquez to Jeff Weaver, from Michael Pineda to Mr. Sonny, his track record goes off the rails. (In fact, yesterday Cash was defending his failure to land Chris Sales, when the White Sox were dangling him, saying Chicago wanted the likes of Sevy and Judge. But somehow, Boston figured out how to do it without losing Benintendi or Devers, or even Rodriguez or Jackie Jr. And that's why they are still partying.)

And here's our dilemma: This is the winter when Cashman must sign at least two more "power arms." So how will he blow it this time? Will he trade a hay wagon full of prospects for another Pine Tar Pinata? Or sign another Pavano? Whatever he does, he better not fail. 

And if a deal goes south, the last thing Cashman needs is a walking reminder of his dismal past. So... so long, Sonny. It's not that you were certifiably awful. And it's not that you're done. It's just what you represent. And on the Yankees, that's something you do see almost every day, Chauncey.