Friday, July 20, 2018

Speed Bump Ahead

For all that we'd like to hit the ground running in the second half...fudgeddaboutit.

This weekend, lads, we run smack into what the good folks in guerrilla campaigns like to call asymmetrical warfare.

That is, while this weekend in the Bronx against the Mets will be treated as just another series by our boys, the Mets will play it as the continuation of their annual Little Metsies World Series, necessary to justify their continued existence and the IV drip of dollars to Wilpon Real Estate Development that their whole, sad franchise has become.

They've set up their pitching perfectly, including deGrom and Syndergaard, recently activated after months of agonizing agony with the finger ligament that just would not heal.  (Too busy, no doubt, popping it at any club official or reporter who came within flipping-off distance.)

For that matter, Cespedes is supposed to be back, and we can count on the Toddfather, too, raising himself from his deathbed like Jim Bowie at the Alamo and taking aim at our right field porch on every at-bat.

Hell, if the Mets could reanimate Gil Hodges and lure Tom Seaver back from his vineyards for this series, they probably would.

This is beyond pineapples, folks.  Expect genetically altered, spiked watermelons.  Tormented by days of tabloid back pages about how they need saving, the Mets are rarin' to get out there and give their fans another year of bragging rights in barrooms, construction sites, gentlemen's clubs, and handball courts all around the city, before they nod back off for the rest of the season.

"Yeah, sure you guys won the World Series.  But who took the season series?  Huh?"

Well, this is what they need to live on, I suppose.  And what are we responding with?

Domingo German, Sonny Gray, and Tanaka.  Greeeaaat!  Can't wait to see THOSE match-ups, along with our whole, slumping lineup in one of the especially thick fogs that seem to envelop them whenever they have a day or two off.

Forget pineapples, watermelons or any other fruit.  These will be three, mangy dog losses, not even close.

Hey, I can't really blame Ma Boone for holding back Sevvy and CC for extra rest.  They both sure look like they could use it, and I'm glad he's thinking of the long term.

But all that will get us is wasted starts in the dank, gloomy precincts of Tampa Bay's Bastille-like dome, against their parade of random pitchers.  Oh, that will be fun.

Seriously, if we win two of the first six out of the gate, it will be a major victory.  I'm sure Boston will go 6-0.




I had a dream



Honest, I really did have a dream this morning that left me shaken to my core.

In the dream, I somehow had access to rooms at Yankee Stadium where George Steinbrenner and his "baseball people" were meeting to assess possible trades. I got a look at a binder that had several trade options listed--who we'd get and who we'd give up.

Unfortunately, I can't remember a lot of the details. But one possible trade was to get Carl Pavano back in pinstripes.

My dream self (looking suspiciously like me circa 1988) was appalled. To be fair, there was another pitcher also under consideration who was just as bad (the name lost to my alcohol-damaged memory), but the Pavano trade made me go marching right up to old George to object.

"Mr. Steinbrenner," I said in agitation, "you can't bring back Pavano! He's terrible! And you shouldn't trade away your young players for any reason!"

George looked at me, slightly puzzled, and replied, "Look, I have three different people telling me that Pavano has adopted a new system, and that he's a changed man."

Well. Three different people (Curly, Moe, and Larry, perhaps). Who was I to convince George otherwise? How could I point to the names of the young tradebaiters and prove it was better to keep them then chase terrible pitchers?

So I adopted a more respectful tone. "Sir, really. I'm just speaking out of concern for the team. We've been burned by Pavano before. And the young kids really do look like they could be stars." There were, by the way, lists of who we'd give up to get Pavano, or for the other lousy pitcher, and for somebody else I can't remember but who didn't seem very important. At the top of the list for one trade was the boldfaced name "Kelly" at the top of a list of prospects. Was it the immortal Pat? I don't know. Maybe.

George and I started walking through several rooms where people worked quietly at desks as we talked. I kept up the respectable bit, calling him "sir" and "Mr. Steinbrenner" as I tried to win the argument. Albeit very politely.

For my troubles, I was spotted through a large plate glass window by some reporters, one of whom said, "Oh, there's John M again, kissing up to Steinbrenner. What a wuss."

And then I woke up.

What does it all mean? I don't know. Obviously, my subconscious is alarmed by the trade deadline. (I read on ESPN's site that "the Yankees really wanted Marchado." OMG.) I don't want to give away any kids. I don't want Carl Pavano or his modern-day equivalent.

But in the dream, George didn't get swayed by my heartfelt case. Three of his baseball people knew otherwise.

I'm really scared now.

If Clint Frazier is concussed, the Yankee trade deadline plans just went poof

Today, the Yankiverse poses the most troubling question of 2018:

What are the names of Clint Frazier's cats?

If Clint can't answer, or if he slurs his words, or if he must read the lingering Sharpie-inked response he once wrote his forearm, the Yankees' trade deadline hopes just got a nose job from Dr. Lizzie Borden. 

This spring, after hitting a wall in a Grapefruit League game, Frazier famously couldn't recall his cats' names, the result of a concussion that forced him to miss April and May. Last night, after diving for a ball in Scranton, he left the game with concussion symptoms, creating uncertainty on so many levels that I can't remember where to start. Wait... what's this blog about, anyway?

Let's probe the clouds around Red Thunder's potential injury, and it's possible effect on the Yankee second-half.

1. It might be just a scare. He might be reciting phone books, performing Kreskin-like mental feats, and easily describing the furry ways of Mister Mestophiles and Mungo Jerry. This could blow over, and we'll laugh about it tomorrow. 

2. If it is his second concussion in six months, this is bad. Really bad. Repercussions-beyond-baseball bad. Studies of athletes with repeated concussions raise serious flags. I pulled this off a medical site.

A 2009 study [1] of high school soccer players, for example, found that athletes with a reported history of concussions performed significantly worse on tests of memory, visual processing and reaction time using the ImPACT computerized neurocognitive test battery than those who reported no prior concussion

That means longer recoveries. If it's another concussion, Frazier might be done for the season.

3. Obviously, this compromises his short term trade value. In the old days, you'd think it ended his trade possibilities, but the Yankees last year dealt James Kaprielian and Dustin Fowler to Oakland, and both were hurt at the time... so, me... know... nothing. For the record, I still want Frazier to stay a Yankee. Good grief, he's only 23. If he misses the season, he can return next year, wiser and more reluctant to coco-butt subway cars. All of NYC will be pulling for him. He is not done. 

4. A concussion would thin the Yankee OF. We might need Billy McKinney (.235 with 13 HRs at Scranton) or even - gulp - Jacoby Ellsbury (293 lattes, 12 beach novels at Tampa.) We'll need somebody. Historically, Aaron Hicks is a tweak waiting to happen, and Brett Gardner is 34, though he has learned to avoid walls. Frazier was our fifth OF. We'll need a replacement.

5. Now, in trade talks, GMs will press deeper into the guts of the Yankee farm system. I can imagine them calling today to tell Brian Cashman that Frazier is off the table, and they now want Justus Sheffield, Estevan Florial and Albert Abreu - and maybe even others - all for a three-month rental on a spare tire named Cole or J.A. The big fantasy deal Cash was secretly concocting - the one for Bumgarner or Thor - may have just died. 

You know what? I've barely scratched the surface on the implications. They say the butterfly flapping its wings in China creates the tornado in Topeka. The butterflies are working hard. Our short and long-term chances may have just suffered a calamity... all over a fly ball in fucking Scranton, where Frazier doesn't belong, anyway. The real takeaway here: The juju gods are dicks. And between now and October, more tornadoes will be coming.



Ah, hell

It's reported that Clint Frazier left a Scranton game in the second inning after he failed to make a diving catch.

He was said to feel "light-headed," and the fear is that he is suffering new concussion symptoms.

And Still ANOTHER Thing...

Everybody see all those ads for cable vs. Direct TV vs. Fios?

I don't have an opinion on which service is really better.  (Me, I still rely on my parents' 1965 Philco black-and-white, with the vacuum tubes and the tin foil wrapped around the rabbit ears.)

But I gotta say, in the ad competition, cable is kicking it.

For a long time, Direct TV liked to show ads of people hurting themselves and laughing.  They got a little better recently, with one that has lawyers fighting—but it still makes out that astronauts are lousy moochers on society.

What's up with that?  Who doesn't like astronauts?

And Fios?  That kid with the weird head is beginning to freak me out.

But the cable ads have that suburban neighborhood full of "evil" characters—Death, Mr. and Mrs. Wolfman, the Mummy, a living ventriloquist's dummy, a mad scientist, Dracula and Bride, some guy with horns, etc.—sharing how it's really Direct TV that's evil.

In one of the newer ones, they're all barbecuing, and the Wolfman is explaining to the Mummy how you don't have to put any cheese on the burgers he's doing, they already come with cheese in the middle.  The Mummy gets so excited, he starts to do a little dance next to the grill.

Now that's entertainment!








And Another Thing...

What's going on with all the ads about how you can really do best by obtaining pretty much any and every service yourself, online?

The most mind-numbing have to be the ads for the new "Purple Bricks" website, which revel in what they call the "real misery" people have when their overly intrusive neighbors tell them they COULD have saved thousands of dollars, if only they had hired their real estate agent online from Purple Bricks, to buy and sell their large suburban homes.

Uh, say what?

That's like saying we experience real misery here in New York when that shady, pushy guy in the next apartment tells us we could've got the same engagement ring for thousands less:  "There's this guy I know, works out of the trunk of his car..."

An online real estate agent?  Right, and I'm sure their resumés online tell you too about how they're now over that pesky cocaine habit that got them fired from their last agency job, or why they slept with that client's wife.

In the same vein are those very funny ads, to the tune of "The Banana Boat Song," about really old people having to keep working because they don't have sufficient savings or pensions plans:  "I'm 85, and I wanna go home."

The solution?  Go trade stocks online!

So...maybe your already low salary and lack of any benefits or savings does NOT make you the perfect candidate to go make money trading online?  Maybe you should try one of those magic SUVs that take you to your dream job, in a cubicle under the desert?

Have You Ever Wondered...

All right, in a final, desperate stab at entertainment, now that we've gone yet another day without real baseball, I offer these Jerry Seinfeld/Andy Rooney-style questions about the commercials one is subjected to most often during sports events.

To wit (or not to wit, that is the question!):

—What's with the theme in car ads of comely young women walking out of their office jobs so they can go drive somewhere in a perfectly ordinary looking SUV?

In one of them, the young woman in question is fatally disillusioned because she hears an older male executive talk about golf.  Oh, honey.  That's the least of it.

But nonetheless, next thing we see she's shoved all her possessions into a box and is grinning as she marches off to find what she has scribbled down as her "perfect job."  Her fellow employees are all applauding as she walks, perhaps because they will no longer have to deal with her constant whining about how it is she does not already have her dream job at 23, or snapping "Oh that's so bougie!" at them in the lunchroom, anytime they mention something so mundane as golfing, or shopping for lawn furniture.

What's happening here?  Has she suffered some sort of traumatic head injury that makes her believe her lumpish, oversized car is a magic career machine that will take her automatically where she wants to go—vocationally?  Wow, that's some GPS!

On another one of these, a woman—even prettier and more stylishly dressed—leaves her cubicle and actually climbs up a metal fire escape ladder, pushes aside a manhole cover there, and finds an SUV waiting for her on a deserted road, in a gleaming white, desert landscape.

I mean, WTF?  Where is she working?  NORAD?  Area 51?  What kind of cubicle job does she have,   fifty feet under a desert, with an escape hatch only accessible by a metal ladder?  And why is she wearing heels?

How does she leave work most days?  Is there bus service out there?  Or is she supposed to be the first young woman, years later, after her magic SUV has taken her to a job hacking the Democratic National Committee?  Where is she off to now, a secret rendez-vous with Julian Assange?

What's going on here???




Thursday, July 19, 2018

Performance Review for Management, Too! Part 2

Okay, time for Brian Cashman, whose Cooperstown plaque has been steadily burnished by the local sports literati—or literatty—this year, despite how assiduously he has ignored most of their advice.

His midterm from me may surprise you:

COOPS CASHMAN:  B

This is, mind you, a midterm, and it is in honor of what he has done—and not done—so far.

We give Coops his props—if not yet his plaque—for NOT pulling the trigger on one lame-brained trade after another espoused by the Knights of the Press Box.  (And, okay, yours truly.)

We still laud him for NOT acquiring Gerrit Cole.  Yes, Cole has flourished down in the Land of the Magical Fountain of Pitching Rejuvenation, but that doesn't mean he would have done so in New York.  (Sure, it was all about getting him to throw more breaking stuff.  Uh-huh.)

Thus far, at least, there has NOT been a trade for Happ or Hapless, no inordinate number of prospects swapped for this year's Sonny Gray or Jaime Garcia.  And so far at least, none of the sacks of young players he gave away last year have really panned out or even displayed much promise—something that could change in a heartbeat, of course.

Coops' biggest deal was for the Trojan Horse who is Giancarlo Stanton.  As we can now see, he would have been much better off forgoing Stanton's mind-numbing contract and outbidding the Sox for J.D. Martinez.  But still, Stanton has proven not to be the utter disaster he looked like at first, and he will probably continue to be at least a respectable addition to the lineup.

The worst things that Coops DID do were the panic grabs of Drury and—need I say it?—that Walker man.

Drury was picked up for very little, and may still have some use—though I worry that Coops and those around them are busy convincing themselves, with no real evidence, that he is somehow worth keeping over Andujar.

Walker has been the real disaster, not just for how wretchedly he has played, but also for keeping young players we desperately need to see from more at-bats.

All told, Walker has had 216 plate appearances this season.  Combine that with the 208 plate appearances Chris Carter got last year, and we're talking almost two-thirds worth of a season full of absolutely disastrous play from guys who were here solely on the basis of Coops' ingrained bias for veterans over young players.

Carter's extended presence last season almost certainly kept the Yanks from beating out the Red Sox for the division title, and who knows what difference that might have made in a playoffs where we missed the World Series by a single game?

Will Walker make a similar difference this year?  And who have we missed out on seeing, how much more uninformed will we be going into the postseason thanks to all of his at-bats?

Aside from that, there has been what we can only assume is Coops' all-out embrace of the New Baseball, with its inane dictum to swing for the fences, first time and every time.  Oh, except when you're daring to take a called third strike.

The farm system, too, as we have seen with all the injuries, is not nearly as deep this year as our local pundits would have it.  That is due in part to so many good young players having recently been called up, but there are glaring and serious shortages in majors-ready pitchers, catchers, and even outfielders.

Finally, with an exception here or there, such as A.J. Cole, there has been fairly little of Coops' famed dumpster diving.  Where are the bargain basement deals—never mind a truly bold and brilliant trade?

But hey, this team is good enough NOW that we don't necessarily need brilliance—just steady, careful, continued rebuilding.

The general manager's oath should be that of the physician:  "First, do no harm."  And so far this season, Coops has done very little harm indeed.  We salute him.

We also understand that this could turn on a dime, and we'll be back to the sentiments so nobly expressed in our current masthead.  Remember:  these are only midterms.

Or to paraphrase Kipling:

"Though we've beaten ya
And flayed ya
By the livin' God that made ya
You're...not too terrible a general manager this year, Brian Cashman."









Performance Review for Management, Too! Part I

Don't think we're letting the usual suspects off the hook!  Time to grade management.

Unfortunately, the Steinbrenner family and its notorious "baseball people" have grown too opaque to really judge from the outside.  So we'll confine ourselves to manager and general manager:


MA BOONE:  C

As we hoped, Ma has lowered the temperature in the locker room by about twenty degrees.  No more worrying that our manager was going to pop a thromboembolism during a presser following a midweek win over the Blue Jays.  This has probably been good for team unity and concentration in general, and it's hard to argue with the results.

The Yankees are 62-33 after 95 games, as opposed to 50-45 last year, a 12-game improvement.  Should they finish the same way they did in 2017—41-26—they will have 103 wins.  Still probably not enough to catch the Red Sox, but the most victories the team has run up since that championship season of 2009.  Considering the number of injuries—big injuries—in the first half, they might do even better.

What's not to like?  Some have pointed out that, according to baseball reference's "Pythagorean record," the Yankees underperformed badly last year, with a team that "should" have won 9 more games than it did.  This year?  The club has OVER-Pythagored by 1 win—something that should reflect well on the manager.

And yet...

Things are maybe a little TOO cool around the Yankees.

Too often this season, the Yanks have seemed to mail it in, particularly after a day off.  This might have been due to how the incessant rainouts have hurt the pace of the season.  But isn't it a key job of the manager to keep guys motivated, as well as contented?

For all that Boone has ceased the public torture and humiliation of Sanchez, for instance, the results seem worse than ever.  This might just be due to Sancho's injuries, but there sure isn't any extra effort evident.

The Pythagorean record, for that matter, is a rather crude measurement, one based solely on run differential.  If you win a lot of blowouts, for instance, but lose a lot of close games, then you're seen as potentially all the better a team.  But these days, especially, the final score can be decided by so many things:  a tired pen on the other side, a lack of days off, opponents tanking, etc.

The record for Boone would seem to indicate that his team is winning the close ones, but that certainly doesn't seem to be very true of late.  Nor does he seem to be doing the little things that are how a manager contributes to play on the field.

When was the last time, for instance, the Yankees started a runner?  Or put on any kind of play?  When was the last time Ma jumped out of the dugout and got all over an umpire for the ludicrous ways in which they continue to call Judge's strike zone?

What's with all the silly lineups, insisting on batting our best power hitter second, then backing him up not with our next best power hitter, but a badly slumping Didi?

To be sure, much of this might be attributed to "the Presidential Factor"—the way in which Boone is, in the end, hostage to the whims of an infinitely more ruthless and Machiavellian force.

Hence his witless, muddled repetitions of the party line about how Yankees hitters need to "dare to take a close third strike" and how "you can't beat Verlander with singles."  Hence writing Neil Walker into the lineup.  Over and over again.

Hey, we longtime Yankees fans understand Stockholm Syndrome.  But it's time for Ma to be his own,  nurturing, highly evolved man.






Could it be that the dynasty begins next year?

First off, nobody's conceding 2018. Barring a complete, Harvey Weinsteinesque collapse, the Yankees will make the 2018 post-season. From there, with a little fairy dust, anything can happen. The Great Modern Age of the Yankees could definitely begin this fall.

But what if it's just not meant to be? 

Let's face it: Boston has a better rotation, Houston is rolling, and now, the Dodgers have Manny Mucho. The post-season is a crap shoot, but maybe the wisest Yankee policy would be to calculate every trade toward 2019, the year we take over.

One recent positive is the sense that both Manny and Bryce Harper would love to be Yankees. Twice, Machado said as much online, and his nephew wished for it. Harper has always edged toward the Yankees, who he loved growing up. Some suggests the shaving of his beard shows his desire, (though that's probably a stretch.)

Next winter, the Yankees should be well under the MLB payroll threshold, resetting their luxury tax liability and freeing Foodstamps Hal to spend, spend, spend... especially if we fail to win the 2018 World Series. He could sign one or two major stars - (maybe three, if he relives 2009, with CC, AJ and Tex.) If a player peaks between 26 and 32, here's next year's lineup (with next year's age.)

Infield
c Gary Sanchez. (26.)
lb Greg Bird. (Assuming he sticks, 26. If not, a big free agent.)

2b Gleyber Torres (22.)
ss Didi Gregorius (29.)
3b Miguel Andujar (24.)


Prognosis: Probably the best infield in baseball.

Outfield
Aaron Judge (27)
Giancarlo Stanton (29)

Aaron Hicks (29)
Clint Frazier (Assuming he's not traded, 24; if he is dealt, it would be for pitching.)
Brett Gardner (likely lost to free agency, 35)
Jacoby Ellsbury (traded, released or disappeared, 35.)

Bryce Harper?  (26, potentially moving Stanton or Judge to 1B)

Prognosis: With Harper, the most celebrated outfield in baseball, if not the best. 

Rotation
Luis Severino (25)
Masahiro Tanaka (30)

Sonny Gray (Assuming he sticks, 29)
Domingo German (26)
Free agents and youngsters, such as Justus Sheffield (23)

Prognosis: With one or two free agents, far better than this year.

Bullpen
Aroldis Chapman (31.)

Dellin Betances (31.)
Free agents and youngsters.

Prognosis: Stable.

Listen: We want to win now. But we also want multiple championships. And whatever happens in the next two weeks, trade-wise, we must consider that the Great Modern Age of the Yankees is still in sight for 2019... if we don't do something stupid.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Closing Grades

First, I just want to alert you all to the fact that today is "Wrong-Way" Corrigan Day—something that I thought Alphonso would want to know, especially considering his pending departure for the British Isles.

Yes, on this day, 80 years ago, Corrigan landed in Ireland, after claiming he got lost on a Long Island-California flight.

As we all know, he later flew on to Gilligan's Island, where The Professor built him a SuperSonic Transport out of some jungle vines, several coconuts, and one of Mary Ann's tie-off blouses, and sent him on his way.  Unfortunately, he accidentally ate the paper which held the island's coordinates on his way back to civilization—something the castaways heard about on the iPhone The Professor made out of crab shells and one of Lovey Howell's broken high heels.

This year, we've been lucky enough to have relatively few wrong-way appearances by our relief corps...

Okay, okay!  That doesn't work as a segue at all.

But the bullpen—now the majority of the staff by far, has been doing pretty well.  In fact, the whole staff has.

The Yankees' run production after 95 games is actually down a tiny bit:  499 in 2017, to 493 this year.    The reason the team is better?  Pitching, the reason for most things in human existence.

The Yankees have allowed only 362 runs so far this season, as opposed to 403 at this point last year.  That's due to an improvement by the starters—down from 2.75 runs a game to just 2.57—and the relievers, who have gone from allowing 1.33 a game to just 1.23.

So how do they stack up individually?

AROLDIS CHAPMAN:  A

"Machine Gun," as we affectionately call him, has been just short of Mariano magnificent, save for an unfortunate little misfire here and there.  Our only fear is that barking knee—yet another reason for the team not to go hard down the stretch, as if this were our only chance for a championship.  Without Aroldis, who knows where we could be?


DELLIN BETANCES:  A-

One of the most pleasant surprises of this season.  He has really turned his head around, after a start that made it look as though things were going to be just as horrible as much of last year was.

There's still a bit of panic when anybody gets on base, of course, but you can't argue with the overall results.  Betances seems to have really benefited from Ma Boone's tender loving care, as opposed to the Randy Levine, "I'll give you something to cry about" approach.


CHAD GREEN:  B

At the beginning of the year, the main debate seemed to be over whether the Yankees should make Chad a starter, or begin grooming him to succeed Machine Gun as our closer.  So far...he's been a little bit of a disappointment.

He's still a valuable piece out of the bullpen most days, but there seems to be a little less velocity, a few more hittable balls every appearance—culminating in his pre-break inability to hold the Indians last Sunday.  Let's hope this is not the beginning of a steeper decline.  The Yanks need him bigly.


DAVID ROBERTSON:  B-

Houdini still delivers most of the time, but he's definitely fallen off from last year, leading to a couple disasters when we needed him most.  He does seem to know how to get by—usually—even when he doesn't have his best stuff, which is more and more often.


TOMMY KAHNLE:  INC

Anybody know what's going on with his status?  His loss has been a big one, seriously diminishing the bullpen's depth.  Let's hope he can come back, but I wouldn't bet on it.


ADAM WARREN:  INC

A very valuable, very versatile performer when he's healthy, and right.  If he's both down the stretch, it will be a huge boon for the Yanks.


CHASEN SHREVE:  F

He's been even worse than his very bad statistics show—and as a rare lefty, we really need him to succeed.  No can do, it seems.  I cringe whenever this guy comes on, and at 27, he's rapidly running out of time.


A.J. COLE:  A-

Another Cashman salvage prize from the junk pile.  A very nice performance in limited action so far, and the early injury is a concern.  But still, a nice pickup.  We clamor for more


JONATHAN HOLDER:  A-

Looks to be pitching over his head, but we'll take it.  A blow-up here and there, but generally a plugger, and a good one.  A pleasant surprise.


GIOVANNY GALLEGOS:  INC

Didn't expect much from him, and didn't get it, even before the injury.  Really, isn't there anyone else in our much vaunted farm system to give a whirl around the show?  Oh, right, David Hale.  Not even worth talking about.

September, at least, would be a nice time to give the kids a go.



Heaven Awaits ( this is a play off of a certain new comic series )

The All Star break has created a certain wanderlust.

No longer chained to a real baseball game, that matters, I have heard the clarion call.

For the next two weeks I shall be scouting,

Here 

And Here 

They don't strike out in cricket, do they?

The pubs stay open don't they?

England is in a good mood due to the relatively surprising success of their national futbol team ( 4th in the World Cup), and the departure of a certain ugly American.  One who, they claim, threw his country under a bus at Helsinki.

I am not mentioning any names, because politics are not kosher here.

I just have to find some white pants, a stupid hat and a bat.  Should be easy at Herod's.

If the Yankees do manage to win three in a row during my absence, I shall line-up the Spanish victory ladies.

But they have all been feasting on paella in Marbella.

Feel like a pint?

Starting Grades!

This is the real grind of the yawning All-Star Gap:  the day AFTER the game.  Which is why we're here to entertain you as best we can.

(No, that doesn't mean more Spanish ladies!)

The grades for our starting pitchers:

LUIS SEVERINO:  A

What's not to like?  He has very much blossomed into the pitcher we all hoped he could be.

Another telling stat from the All-Star Game last night, in which he pitched a scoreless frame:  Sevvy has reached 99-mph or more on 128 pitches this season, as opposed to just 47 for Chris Sale.

That's impressive—maybe TOO impressive.

This grade would be an A+, but for the fact that Sevvy's velocity and his performance have plummeted in his last few outings.  Maybe this is just hot weather or the usual fatigue of the long season.  But management ought to watch him like a hawk down the stretch.


MASAHIRO TANAKA:  B

There are few guys you'd rather see on the hill for a big game—even if his conditioning is such that, as a 29-year-old professional athlete, he pulls hamstrings in both legs while called upon to sprint for 90 feet.

The "B" is mostly for the astonishing fact that he has managed to keep his arm, reportedly dangling by a thread for over three years now, still attached and useable.

Someday, somebody ought to open a Hall of Fame of Sports Ligaments, one that would feature most prominently Tanaka's arm and Mickey Mantle's torn ACL, reportedly never fully repaired after being ruptured at the START of an 18-year, Hall-of-Fame career.

That said, Tanaka has settled into a prematurely aged career as a sort of late-model Catfish Hunter, a home-run machine able to surrender most of the many blasts he does with nobody aboard, thanks to his pinpoint control.  He is also still able to get key strikeouts when he needs them, averaging a K an inning.

How long can this—or the arm—hold up?  The barking hammies might have been a blessing in disguise, saving him three weeks on the back end of the season.  We shall see.


CARSTEN CHARLES SABATHIA:  A-

This is another guy doing it with mirrors, and who can fail to admire it?

At the same time, his outings are getting shorter and shorter, and as some here have pointed out, why would a team NOT bunt on him repeatedly at the start of a key game?  (Why would we NOT have bunted on Schilling in Game Six, 2004 ALCS?  Why, that Torre— #@!%)

But I digress.  We love The Bear, and just hope he can endure.


SONNY GRAY:  D-

What's left to say?  He doesn't quite fail, because of his decent work on the road...but that just underscores how much of his floundering in the Bronx is due to nerves.

Fact is, Sonny Boy is not going to be corrected by changing his delivery, or his grip on the ball, or any other quick fix.  Currently, he lacks the confidence and intestinal fortitude to pitch big games in a big market, and unless that changes—fast—he always will.

A perfect candidate for a trade, but our GM doesn't think like that.  Coops is just lucky the prospects he dealt for Mr. Softee here aren't panning out—so far.


DOMINGO GERMAN:  C-

He's a rookie, so we allow for rookie blow-ups, and there have been flashes of brilliance.  On the other hand, the guy is 25 already.  He needs to show consistent improvement down the stretch.


LUIS CESSA:  C-

How does this guy keep getting back in the mix?  He turned in that very nice outing for us, when we badly needed it, in the back half of a twin bill against the Birds that was fast going south, so we give him his props.

Is this just a repeat of last year, when he pitched surprisingly well against another very bad team—the Mets—then got hurt?  We shall find out, I think.  And again, it's about time:  Cessa is 26, though I know it seems like we picked him up with Bob Turley.


JONATHAN LOAISIGA:  INCOMPLETE

Sad to see him get hurt so quick.  Anyone heard an update?  Let's hope it's not the knife; the kid looked like he had something.


JORDAN MONTGOMERY:  INCOMPLETE

I never really thought he had major-league stuff, but he surprised us last year, and the injury is a crying shame.  Let's hope we have not seen the last of him.


J.A. HAPP:  GOT YA!

What stands out from all of this:  how thin our staff really is.  No one quite seems ready in our supposedly bountiful farm system.  Or are they?  Another reason to stop worrying about the One-Game Wild Gard Play-In, and try out everything we have in Scranton, and maybe in Trenton, too.

Next up:  Closing grades!  Get it?  Huh?  Uh, boy.





Manny moves, the Happ trade looms, and the Gray Lady loses her mind

This morning, in an amazing fourth-grader multiverse fantasy, Billy Witz of the NY Times suggests the Yankees trade Aaron Judge for Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaardthe Gammonite equivalent of The Poseidon Adventure, where everything turns upside-down, forcing Gene Wilder to climb the bowels of an overturned ship. Dear God. Somebody shoot me. This is why smoking is banned in the press box: Sportswriters cannot be allowed to play with matches.

What is it in the human psyche that compels us to conjure such doomsdays? Why must we always lean over the precipice, just to hawk and drop a loogy? Why in the world would the Yankees trade a generational star of Judge's magnitude for two pitchers who have Matt Harvey written all over them? Insane. 

My best guess: The Mets possess a pee tape of Witz, forcing him to make such arguments. 

Today should otherwise bring hugs and kisses to the Yankiverse, in that we seem to have escaped a Manny Machado deal, which could have haunted us for a decade. It's not that Manny isn't a great player; it's that we had absolutely no place to put him, we can sign him next winter, and then there is that disturbing little part where he demands to play SS, despite showing the range of a concrete guardrail. Best, he goes to the NL West - as far away as possible without choosing Japan - where he cannot kill us 19 times per season. If we see him again, it's the World Series, and I'll take my chances. 

So... Cooperstown Cashman keeps a full larder of prospects, plus the money to spend on accessories. Clearly, the Commissioner had put the blocks on the Machado trade until the All-Star game - avoiding the chaos of deciding which league he should play for. My guess is the same happened with JA Happ, the lone Blue Jay on the AL roster. Had Happ been dealt over the weekend, the league would have had to scramble to find someone from Toronto - Yangervis? - and the cupboard looks bare. 

Now that most unimportant professional sports event after the Pro Bowl is over, there is no reason for Toronto to keep Happ for even another day. All he can do is tweak a cabbage roll. Buckle up, folks. The deal dam is about to burst. And let's just hope Cooperstown Cashman isn't in a Queens hotel room, watching hookers pee with Billy Witz. 

And Now, Yer Really Big All-Star Shew

The great work is finished.

For the first time in my baseball-watching life—for the first time since a bright July day in 1964, in brand-new Shea Stadium, when Johnny Callison took the Sox's Dick "The Monster" Radatz deep for a three-run, walk-off home run...the American League has won more All-Star games than the National League, 44-43-2.

Read 'em an' weep, Senior Circuit!

Let the missiles fall out of the sky from North Korea, Iran, Russia, wherever.  I can now die a happy man.

As for the game...

Sure, I thought the Home Run Derby was last night, not tonight!  Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.

I know you kids like these listicles today, so here we go:

The Yankees fan's top three moments from the 2018 All-Star Game:

1.  Aaron Judge's monstrous home run.  Let's hope it's a sign of better to come in the second half.

2.  Luis Severino's superb inning of work, after giving up that frightening, lead-off double to Matt Kemp.  That was (somewhat) reassuring.

3.  J.A. Happ looking hapless as ever, as Joey Votto took him downtown in his one inning of work.  Mr. Cashman, you have been warned.

The Yankees fans' worst three moments from the 2018 All-Star Game:

1.  Chris Sale, as the starter, going all of one inning.  I would've pitched him three, and put him away wet.

2.  Craig Kimbrel, the most dominant AL reliever in the first half, NOT getting the call to close out the game in the ninth or tenth inning.  Mr. Hinch, you may come to rue your generosity.

3.  Seeing the frightening number of terrific young players from the Yanks' three main rivals, the Red Sox, Astros, and Indians.  Mr. Cashman, you have been warned.

WORST NEW INNOVATION.  EVER. :

Fox deciding it was a good idea to conduct interviews with players while they were actually in the field during a live game.

Yeah, that was just great.  Because we were all dying to hear nervous half-chuckles, noncommittal phrases, and mumbled cliches DURING the game, as well as before and after.

This got so bad I had to turn the sound off at several points.

Memo to Joe Buck and your fellow idiots over at Vulpine Sports:  What is beautiful about the athletes is what they do.

Yeah, every now and then you find a thoughtful and well-spoken one willing to give you some insight on the workings of the game (any game).  You get somebody to jot them down in a book, and you read them when there's no game to watch.  That's what the offseason is for.

The rest of the time?  Shut up already!

Interesting facts and statistics to know and pass on:

—Jacob deGrom's 1.68 ERA is the lowest of any Met at the the All-Star break since Dwight Gooden's in 1985.  Or did they say any pitcher, period?  In any case, the words were barely out of Buccaneering Joe Buck's mouth before Trout had put his next pitch into the seats.

But here's the rub:  Doc's final ERA for 1985 was 1.53.  Meaning he actually drove it DOWN through the rest of the year, mostly with a 0.34 ERA in September.  0.34.  I've never seen a starter have a year like that one, not even Guidry.

It was also the same year that Mattingly was the AL MVP, and Rickey Henderson scored 146 runs.  Oh, but had their been a Subway Series that year!  Which very nearly occurred (Psst:  I think they might have beaten us!).

—Judge became the youngest Yankee to hit an All-Star game home run since Mickey Mantle, in 1956.  Mantle was just 24 at the time, and in the midst of his magical, Triple Crown season.

—The starting AL catcher was Salvador Perez.  Yes, that Salvador Perez, the one currently hitting .231, with a .653 OPS, who started because Wilson Ramos couldn't go.

This once again demonstrates just how easy it would be for Gary Sanchez to dominate this position in this league, if he ever cares to put his mind to it.

—For all that the AL has once again taken the lead in Midsummer Classics, the NL may very well win interleague play for, I think, the first time since it started in 1997.

If my faltering math skills are right, the AL is only up by three games this year, thanks mainly to the world class tanking of Baltimore, KC, and the Pale Hose, with Texas close behind.  


Guy I don't want on my team:  Bryce Harper.  It will be really interesting to see what offers he gets.


Nice job by those Carmine Hose hitters:  2-7, I think, with a lousy pair of singles.  Pah!


SPECIAL ALL-STAR GAME QUIZ!

—Who hit the very first All-Star Game home run?  (Hint:  he was a tad rotund by then.)

—Who holds the record for the most career All-Star Game wins?

—Who holds the record for the most career All-Star Game saves?

—True or false:  in his 9 innings of All-Star Game work, Mariano Rivera never allowed a single walk or run.

—Who is the only man ever to win the MVP Award in the All-Star Game and the World Series, in the same season?

Well, there you go, kiddies!  We'll be back tomorrow, with more grades for the pitchers and management.

In the meantime, here's hoping this enthralling piece of tripe helps get you through Thursday!












Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Cuban Missile Has Laid Down a Challenge: Let's Play!


Aroldis Chapman has challenged everyone to an "Add a Caption" contest.  Look at the photo below (taken in the AL locker room at the MLB All Star Game) and add a fitting caption.


I'll start us off with a few:
  1. El gringo Judge puede unirse a nosotros después de que aprenda el Español.

  2. None of us ever liked Frazier anyway.

  3. Nice shoes, Aroldis.

Have at it everyone...

Waiting for the trade war to take its toll

Nobody likes a trade war - check that: No contender likes a trade war. 

Unless you go all the way and win the ring, it's a done deal that you'll give up more than you'll receive. And if you go for broke and fail - like the 2015 Blue Jays with Bautista and Encarnacion, who added Tulowitski and Price at the deadline to build perhaps the strongest AL East lineup in this decade - you can then turn to shit and flop for the next five years.

What happens in the next three weeks will determine the future of the Yankees as much as did the deadline trades of 2016, which brought us Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, Clint Frazier, Billy McKinney, Ben Heller and Dillon Tate. 

And this is what we know:

Cooperstown Cashman is going to make deals. Why?

1. He has extra money in the team's luxury tax threshold bank. Like a squirrel hording nuts, he has kept a special trove for a late-July buying binge. He's proud of himself for doing this. It meant walking away from several free agents who looked relatively cheap at the time. Having saved his war chest, he's not going to sit on it.  

2. He has a deep system that will face a 40-man roster talent crunch next winter. Either he trades prospects now, or he will have to do it in December. For prospect-huggers such as us, this is still painful. But we must accept that some exciting young players - especially infielders - are blocked long term and need to be sent to another franchise. It's inevitable that one future star will get away. We can't keep them all.  

3. As The Master might say, you cannot predict Cashman. He is a genius at bucking rumors and suddenly making a trade that nobody anticipated. That's what he does. That's why the Manny Machado rumors - it looks like we're out of it - never carried weight. Cashman would be tarred and feathered if he traded Miguel Andujar for a three-month rental, and he wants plaques not only in Cooperstown but Monument Park.

It's going to happen soon. In the meantime, let's just get this stupid all-star game out of the way with nobody tweaking a gonad. Seriously, the worst part of the all-star break is not going four days without baseball. It's that ridiculous game. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

And the Marks Are Up for the Outfielders!

Okay, you asked for it, you got it!  (Blindfolds and cigarettes are available for the squeamish.)


AARON JUDGE:  B-

How can you run down the big guy, still the best sports story in this town, our own Gentle Giant?

And sure, he's had a decent season, by any metric.  His fielding continues to improve, and he's got the arm to have already caught seven men on the bases (as opposed to just five all of last year), perhaps fooled by his methodical but careful way of picking up balls in the field.  He can steal a base, get a hit, draw a walk.

And yet...

There's something missing.  Don't get me wrong:  there's been no terrifying, two-month death spiral the way there was last year, after he hurt himself in the fakakta home-run derby.

He may well have done as well as he's done playing hurt again this year—that jammed thumb against the Bad News Bears who play in the next borough.  He's rarely had a chance to bat just ahead of Stanton, and he's been woefully undefended against terrible strike calls by his manager.

All that said, a season in which he is on pace for fewer homers, fewer walks, fewer runs scored, and a major-league record, 227 strikeouts...is just not an improvement.

What's more, we have not seen Maximum Judge, not really—those amazing months of April, May, June, and September 2017, in which he ran amok, hitting for both power and average, driving balls with record velocity and for tape-measure distances.  The closest we saw was this April—but even then, it wasn't quite the same.

Who can say?  Maybe it's just the thumb.

But what does seem evident was that we didn't hitch up Mantle & Maris, or Ruth & Gehrig, as some of us—myself included!—had hoped.  For that matter, we probably have not lined up Bernie & Paulie, or even A-Rod and Sheffield, c. 2005.

I truly doubt if Judge and Stanton are ever going to carry this team, and a really canny GM might just decide that this is Maximum Value Judge, right now, and trade the big man at his highest value.

But we don't have one of those—a canny GM, I mean.

And if we don't have the M & M boys, well, maybe we have the 21st Century equivalent of, say, Frank Howard and Roy Sievers.  Two perfectly serviceable ballplayers!  All-Stars even.  But...


GIANCARLO STANTON:  B-

The other half of the equation.  Again, by no means a failure.  His fielding has even been a little better than advertised—at least, aside from plays like that flyball in Toronto the other day when he jumped up the wall about five feet to the right of where the ball came down.  Hey, he was trying!

Really, he's shown some gumption, coming back from those record-setting strikeout episodes early on.  He stayed cool, didn't let himself get run out of town as some of us—I plead guilty!—might have liked to do.

Unlike most of the lineup, he ignores the Yankees' inane hitting advice, and has learned how to hit blistering singles when the gopher ball is not an option.  And he also has not been done any favors by not going bell-to-well, back with Judge.

But still...it's like Stanton never quite takes off.  One thing never quite leads to another, and he is on a much-reduced home-run pace from just last year, when he was playing endless, meaningless games for a team going nowhere.  Moooooore than coincidence, as they used to say?

I hope not.  I hope the best is yet to come.  Because he seems like a decent, diligent guy.  Our own Roy Sievers.

And hey, he's going to be around for awhile!  That fifty-ton anchor of a contract is going to hold us down for another the years after this one—something that Alphonso grasped but I didn't.

Let's just hope he can learn to play first base.


AARON HICKS:  B

Remember:  like any class full of underachieving, American grade-school kids, these marks are based upon the players' presumed potential.

And Hicks...has overachieved.

This did not seem possible just a few weeks ago, when many of us—me, too!—wanted him gone.  But since then, he's been, well...clutch.

No one's confusing him with Willie Mays, or even the star he looked like he could be for a hallucinatory couple of months last season.

But—he's shown himself able to hit a home run, steal a base, make a catch, when we need it most:  "...an attendant lord, one that will do/ To swell a progress, start a scene or two,/ Advise the prince..." as the poet wrote.

None of which means that Clint Frazier should not get more at-bats.


BRETT GARDNER:  A-

What can we say?  He looked finished back in April, and then came alive again.  He always does the little things, he sometimes does the big things.

Sure, I still think his real role should be that of a(n invaluable) fourth outfielder.  Every year, the Yanks overplay him and manage to wear him out—hence his wilting second halves, another one of which is probably coming up.

But we can still appreciate him for all he's given us, here in what may be his last season as a Yankee.


CLINT FRAZIER:  INCOMPLETE

His spring injury was a very bad break—for us, especially.

Is he the next Jay Buhner or the next Marcus Thames?  I don't know—but why don't we find out???  Above all, why don't we give him some time in centerfield?

Everybody says this guy has the fastest swing they've ever seen. That and an ever-rising number of renminbi will get you on the subway—but why not find out what it could mean?


BILLY McKINNEY:  INCOMPLETE

Another bad break.  But he deserves better than Death By Scranton.


JACOBY ELLSBURY:  E

For "ennui."












Infielder Grades!

All right, here are some more to chew on:


GREG BIRD:  INCOMPLETE

Bird was headed for a big, fat "F" until he managed to show signs of life over the last week or so.  One can't help but sympathize with his struggles, but yet another major leg injury has put him on the edge of Nick Johnson territory.

Bird could be—should be—a key piece of this reforged Yankees contender, a Stadium-built, left-handed hitter to wedge in between our wavering Twin Towers.  We got a glimpse of what that could look like last October—but now comes another half-season lost to the knife.

The second half of this year will be critical for Bird's Limitless Potential (BLP).  There is only so much more time the Yankees can or should give him to become a productive, everyday player, with any number of potential first basemen—Sanchez, Stanton, Andujar, Drury, McKinney—lining up.


GLEYBER TORRES:  A-

El Conquistador has been pretty much everything as advertised.  A few points off for some foibles with the glove at an unfamiliar position, but otherwise he has been a remarkably poised and productive young man.  It's with The Gleyber—not Judge, or Stanton, or Sanchez—that another Yankees dynasty will rise or fall.

One bit of foreboding:  a second major injury in as many seasons.  Might just be a fluke, but we need to keep The Gleyber on the field.


SIR DIDI GREGORIUS:  B-

Who doesn't love Didi?   But frankly, he's been a puzzlement this year.  Sure, nobody thought he was going to go on hitting .327 with power, but that .149 May and all of 22 ribbies since April seems like a bit of an overadjustment.

Shoving him into the designated BLP spot didn't help, even if he is a lefty, but Ma Boone just keeps on doing it, no matter how disappointing the results.  The shame of it is, Didi seemed to be moving from acceptable to elite shortstop over the past three seasons; now, suddenly, he seems to be backsliding considerably.

If this keeps up in the second half, the Yanks should seriously consider trying to sign Manny Machado, who is both better and over two years younger.

Yeah, yeah, he tilts them too far to the right, Didi is a great clubhouse presence, etc. But as the poet wrote, it don't mean a thing if you ain't got that swing.


MIGUEL ANDUJAR:  A-

El Matador has done pretty much everything we prospect-huggers could have hoped for.  Tremendous poise and power for such a young player, more than a little flair, and a better glove than advertised.

Sure, not Brooks Robinson, and he's been slumping lately.  But trading him for some happless hurler—or even Manny—would be a travesty.


RONALD TORREYES:  A

Toe has been, once again, everything we wanted, and more.  Let's hope his pressing family problems—which must be terrible—are over soon.


TYLER WADE:  D

It pains me to write this, because I keep thinking this guy has such tremendous potential, but maybe that's an illusion.  There have been a couple signs of life recently, but I'll be amazed if he isn't a throw-in to some bad and hasty deal.  A shame.


TYLER AUSTIN:  C

Same old, same old.  Flashes of excellence, hints of something more, then injury, and a lapse into mediocrity.  I hope he gets a more extended shot somewhere before he's through.


BRANDON DRURY:  INCOMPLETE

It's nice we got the migraines fixed, and everybody and his brother seems to see something in this guy.  But he fell on his face when he got another (very brief) shot, and even the production in Triple-A has not been THAT amazing.

I suppose the Yankees will subject him to Death By Scranton now, in their inimitable way.  He deserves better, especially since the one guy still in front of him is Neil Walker.


NEIL WALKER:  F

Here's your head, what's your hurry?

I suppose I should break into the choral rendition of A.E. Housman's "To An Athlete Dying Young," but in Walker's case it is would be more like, "To An Athlete Retiring Young With $50 Million."

Seriously, this is what his marginal career with mostly marginal teams has gained him, an ode to what a good union can do for anyone.

Walker is worse than a stopgap, worse than merely bad.  With so many deserving players stacked up in the Yankees' system like planes over Shea, he has taken 216 plate appearances away—and counting!—from guys we really needed to look at.

Is any of this his fault?  Of course not.  But he's still through.  Get the hell off my TV screen.









There Is No Baseball. Time To Catch Up On Procrastinated Chores......


Let's face it, watching the Yankees' batting practice, game and post game from March-July has eaten into our spare time.

Each of us, I'm certain, has put off some important tasks.  

In my case, I have for a long time promised to clean up the yard, and make it more respectable for entertaining.

It is just hard for me to determine where to begin.  For example, where can I move that jungle gym to, so it won't be an eyesore?

But I will be outside and there is nothing to watch on my inside/outside TV, unless you are drawn to the NBA summer league games.  It shows a number of young 7'2" 265 pound guys smashing backboards, and prepares you for the 11 month NBA season where much the same takes place.

You can probably guess;  I would rather watch Walter Cronkite re-runs.  Or Putin riding naked with some of the puppet politicians he fancies.

The NFL doesn't begin for another 2-3 weeks, where we can all look forward to " media day." Endless player interviews where they preen and spout the " party line."  Signifying absolutely nothing.

 The league no longer allows practices with helmets and pads, so tag football is growing in its appeal.  Mostly, we get news about injuries;  season ending, and those that will nag a player all year.  How they happen with no contact is hard to fathom.  But teams lose players before they ever play.  Lose the wrong player and your season is over in August.

When baseball resumes, it will seem like next year, for a while.  Once September arrives, we'll all know if it is worth watching or not.  

I have promised on several occasions to have this yard in shape by the time of the one-game play in contest. I am hoping for Yanks vs. Padres.  There's the ticket.  If we win, we play Boston.  If we lose, we move to San Diego.  Inter league one game play-ins have a special appeal.  I am still waiting for MLB to approve this innovation.

It is all so boring.  The World Cup is over.  Football is in limbo.  Baseball is pretending people give a damn about the all star game.  Basketball never stops.  Hockey plays re-runs 24/7/365, hoping some drunks will think the Stanley Cup finals are just on tv now.  There are no olympics.  Tennis is between matches. And no one understands cricket.

I think I'm going to build my outside bar fist.  Or get a new tee shirt.

Yawn.

Midterms Are In!

That's right, folks.  Just like real media outlets, we got GRADES to hand out at the All-Star Break!

Mind you, these are based on each player's performance in comparison to his assumed potential, not his overall ability.

They are submitted for your approval, in a twilight zone world where the Boston Red Sox are threatening to set records the most games ever won in a season.

Let's start with Catcher:

GARY SANCHEZ:  INCOMPLETE.

I have never seen a young catcher who looked as much like Johnny Bench as Sanchez did in his first year-and-a-half.  Terrific hitter for power, and what passes for a relatively high average these days.  Gun for an arm, and a surprising flair for framing pitches.

The only thing that seemed to bedevil him was those passed balls—with, after all, a staff that delights in spinning balls into the dirt—and with a manager who seemed to delight in humiliating him gone, this was looking to be a breakout year.

Didn't happen, which may all be due to the gonad problems that have kept him out for three weeks now, and which may have been much worse than we knew.

On the other hand, I've never heard of a groin pull affecting a guy's eyesight, and Sancho's command of the strike zone seemed to completely deteriorate this season.

One also wonders about his desire.  Of course, he's already made an estimated $1.2 million in the game, and there's absolutely no reason why Gary shouldn't be more interested in doing something infinitely more worthwhile:  fighting climate change, eradicating malaria in Third World countries, becoming a Legal Aid lawyer, etc.  The list of good causes to devote his life to is endless.

But should he choose to remain as a catcher for the New York Yankees, he needs to put more into it than we've seen so far.  Sanchez as a tremendous, power-hitting catcher would be an invaluable resource for this club.  Sanchez as a platoon first baseman...not nearly so much.


AUSTIN ROMINE:  A-

Our backup catcher has done pretty much everything he's been called upon to do, including catching Sonny Gray, which is no small feat.

The one item that got a few points taken off:  his durability.  This is a big question mark for a guy who, should Sancho's deterioration continue unabated, may be called upon to be the first-string catcher, at least until Anthony Siegler, Cashman's bow-tie wearing, one-man band of a backstop is ready to make the majors, maybe in 2023.


KYLE HIGASHIOKA:  B+

Hey, you gotta give him his props.  Three homers for his first three, big-league hits:  not bad for a guy who most of us thought would never get so much as a single in the show.

Nice little stopgaps like that are the sorts of moments that win pennants.  Or at least, well, One-Game Wild Card Playoffs in the City of Your Choice.

Counting on Higgy for much more, though, is likely to be counterproductive.

NEXT UP:  INFIELDERS!


 



Soccalypse is Over!

And, oh boy, did we get smashed.

The current standings are—drum roll, please!—Soccer 262, Yankees 145.

But at least we have we have the Top Ten best things that did NOT happen in the 2018 World Cup:

10.  By not qualifying, the U.S. did NOT lose an embarrassing match to somebody like Iran.

9.  The Russians did NOT win it.  (Somebody's off to the gulag.)

8.  The Russians did NOT poison a single person with radiation of one sort or another.  (Ditto.)

7.  The games were NOT played in December, in a mythical Persian Gulf country. (That's for 2022.)

6.  Canada was NOT in the World Cup. (That will come in the 2026, NAFTA World Cup.)

5.  England did NOT win the World Cup, so we didn't have to hear their stupid, mindless chant repeated over and over again.

4.  Croatia did NOT win the World Cup, so that we didn't have to hear their fans roar their old Utasha chant.  (Besides, the fascists have won enough the past few years.)

3.  Germany did NOT win, so we didn't have to hear anything more about "the Mannschaft," which I think was also the name of a gay leather bar in the Village, back in the seventies.

2.  Iceland did NOT win, so we didn't have to endure anymore of their Viking thunderclaps, which would have caused real Vikings to run you through, if you ever tried it in their presence.

1.  France did NOT win in the lifetime of Marcel Marceau, so we were spared his imitation of a man scoring on a penalty kick against the wind.

We need a cheap starter, a Shreve upgrade... and some juju

Okay, yesterday's loss was sobering enough... so let me ask the question of all drunks and politicians: Where the hell are we? 

Four-and-a-half out. Three in the loss column. Playing down to crapola teams. A rotation with more questions than answers. Second place.

Insert gulp here.

Suddenly, it occurs to me that, beyond all the bluster, the Yankees might end up playing in the Doomsday wild card, after all. The reason: Boston has two distinct advantages over us.

1. A solid rotation.
2. Less dependency on homers.

Short of a farm system extinction event, no trade Brian Cashman can make will change this margin. The trade-available pitchers cannot change the dynamics of the AL East. What can affect it are injuries, which is where the juju gods come in. But over the decades, I've learned never to ask them for injuries. They're more likely to send us a few hamstrings, just to punish us. They're bastards, but that's what they do.    

Soon, Cashman will try to upgrade the rotation. We all know this. Our fear is that he chases another "contract-friendly power arm," such as Sonny Gray. This way, we get to learn why another team was willing to part with the guy. Surely, Cash must be tired of trading for long term clunkers. If he gives up too much for another Sonny, or another Javier, or another Big Mike, he won't escape the backlash from even the team-owned media. Also, if he keeps trading prospects, it's only a matter of time before one explodes into stardom in another city. That would generate some nasty back pages. 

My guess - for whatever it's worth - is that Cash must be waiting for a baseline price tag to be set on either Cole Hamels or JA Happ. That will only happen when one is on the verge of being traded. It could mean midnight brinksmanship on Aug. 1, but Cash will be ripped if he trades Justus Sheffield or Clint Frazier for a tin can. If we move, we would probably trade minor league infielders - Brendan Drury, Kyle Holder, Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, Abi Avelino - who look blocked for the next five years. 

We also need a lights out lefty reliever because - well - Chasen Shreve: Need I say more? The guy isn't a LOOGY; he's just a streaky pitcher who gets crushed too often to make the solid outings worthwhile. Anybody, even Chris Britton, might be an improvement.  

Next weekend, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres should return. (Sanchez is already playing in minor league games.) Though we ripped Gary for his meager output, he's clearly an upgrade over Romine and Home Run Higgy. Greg Bird has started to hit; Stanton is showing his MVP creds, and even Hicks might be a factor. Call me crazy, but I still feel that Jacoby Ellsbury could play a role in September, especially if the juju gods send us a tweaked gonad or two. Ellsbury could be fresh, raring to go, and the kind of player who manufactures runs from base-to-base, which is what we need. Hey, you never know...

Pitching-wise, we are screwed. Suddenly, Severino looks less like Pedro Martinez and more like Tippy. CC hasn't gone a full season in years. Sonny is a dice roll, and the realty about Tanaka might be that he's a fourth starter. That leaves German and Cessa, and - frankly, I'd take my chances with Happ, if the price is right.

But here's my best, wake-up-in-the-gutter-with-bad-headache truth: We may end up playing the one-game Wild Card. And over those nine innings, we won't need a fifth starter. We'll need a lights-out lefty. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Power Outage

There are plenty of culprits in the Yanks' limp to the finish of the first half, not least among them injuries.  The team is missing some key personnel, and others—notably Mr. Severino—seem to be diminishing noticeably.

Fatigue at the end of a long first half?  Or, perish the thought, something swannish?

But most notably absent has been the alleged powerhouse in the middle of the lineup.  The new M & M Boys, Judge and Stanton, the Twin Towers who were supposed to whip each other into a race for the legitimate home-run record (whatever that is now).

Instead, both have essentially blinked out for the last ten games.

Stanton has at least been whacking line drives hither and yon for base hit, raising his batting average from .259 to .271 over the last ten games.  But the power has been cut.  He has just 2 homers and 2 doubles in those ten games, and all of 4 runs driven in.

Also, it's not even as if people are pitching around him.  Stanton has just 3 walks to go with 12 strikeouts in that time.

His slugging partner, Aaron Judge, has only seen his batting average slip by a point.  But again—the lights have gone out all over the powerhouse.  Judge has not homered in his last nine game, and has just 1 in 10 games, along with 1 double.

Meanwhile, Judge has only 3 ribbies, and 6 walks against 15 Ks.

That's right, folks.  A combined 3 HRs, 3 doubles, 7 ribbies, 9 walks, and 27 strikeouts.

What's going on?

I suspect that Judge, at least, is hurting.  He has never really been the same since jamming his thumb against the Mets, and as we saw last year, he's not one to utter a peep, even when badly hurt.

It also doesn't help to have one of the team's less productive hitters wedged between the Twin Towers, no matter what side of the plate he hits from.

Well, you know, small sample.

Maybe they will both come out in the second half and start bashing again.  But so far, these two guys are going to compete for nothing but Mark Reynolds' home-run record.  (Right now, Judge would break it, Stanton would miss by 1.)







We Shall Not Cease From Sameness......

The Yankees ended the first half of the season pretty much as they began it.

I call it our "oreo" half season........mediocre beginning and mediocre ending, sandwiching some really juicy and tasty in-between.

Kind of like this:



The Yanks began with a 4-4 record, and ended the first half exactly the same way.  If you expand the horizon, the team went 9-9 at the beginning and 10-8 at the end.

No matter how you look at it, only the middle was really tasty and inviting.

Pitchers pitched, sluggers slugged, relievers relieved and batters hit with runners in scoring position.  We got used to comebacks and walk-off jubilation.  The team produced a different hero every game.
And we caught up to the Red Sox, who were winning everything.

As the first half drew to a close, however, we became a predictable team.  We won if we scored early and often, and hit home runs.  We lost when the other teams did.  We never came back in a meaningful way.  We took a few pineapples.  Our starting pitching failed and weakened.  Strikeouts became endemic to our line-up, along with rally-killing double plays.

Injuries joined the party as guys like Montgomery, Torres, Sanchez and Tanaka all went down.  Eventually their replacements ( Walker, Wade, Lasagne, German, Hapishioka---sorry ) proved less than adequate.

In the rest of the world, Boston flourished.  Another double digit winning streak lingers.  No injuries of note. Lots of all stars.

The Yankees, despite the slow and demoralizing opening and closing to the first half, have one of the best records in baseball.....plus 30 games over .500.  Still in the hunt, but 4 games behind the front-runner.  With a one-game play-in game the only reward for second best.

It is frustrating, and we need help.  So far, we have hung on with help from our internal resources.  Let's hope it stays that way.  We have to have some long term vision here.  Give our own guys a shot, and keep the farm system deep!

We may not win the championship this year.  But, then again, we might.

Whichever way the cookie crumbles, we need more of that tasty, sweet stuff from the middle.



RIMG BLOG CONGINUED

Austin Romine is better than anybody the Redsocks have as catcher.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Where Did All The Flowers Go.....?



Do you remember when:

1.  The Yankees were never out of a game?

2.  The Yankees would come back late and steal a victory?

3.  A Yankee would get a huge hit late to win a game that appeared lost?

4.  This team would rally until the 27th out was recorded?

5.  No Yankee game was over until it was over?

Believe it or not, those scenarios happened for the Yankees during that 17-2 run, after our .500 start.
The team gave us hope.  Confidence,  Expectations.

We had reason to watch the entire game because the Yankees kept achieving miracles.  Worse;  we got used to it.

We are now back into a .500 kind of performance.   If we are down in the 6th or 7th, we are done.  We score early, but not often.

There is no longer any reason to watch the entire game.  What is on the scoreboard tells it all.  No more great endings.

All is predictable again.

DRUNK BLOG (CONTINUED)...

It's not the drinking that takes you down. It's the crapola you eat when drinking.

Chex Mix. (It's gluten-free, according to the bag.) 

DRUK BOG (GONTINUED)

Help. I am stuck in a group of insufferable Redsock fans, and I am losing ground. I can't take any more talk about Babe Benintendi. The only thing I have going is David Price: They hate hearing about David Price.  

David Price. David Price. David Price. Hear that, Boston? David Price.

Friday, July 13, 2018

DRUNK BLOG (CONTINUED)...

Boston isn't that good.

They will fall to earth. 

August shall be ours!

Screw the Wild Card!

Let's have a playoff for the Divisional crown.

The Crack of Doom

Today at the Boston Glob:



Have they learned nothing from 2011? 



The " Halfway" Point is In View



The Yankees blew into Cleveland after a rough outing against the Birds, who played as if they are going to be this year's World Series Champs.

We felt pretty upbeat, because we caught one of those games where Sunny Gray appears to know how to pitch, and to have some abilities.  So we tied up the Baltimore series, behind Sunny's fine work and a number of other eerie occurrences  (like three hits....including a HR....from Tyler Wade; like Greg Bird appearing to awaken, etc )."

With Severino set to go against Kluber, we felt confident.  Until Sevy threw his first pitch.  He was drilled like an excellent batting practice pitcher the entire game.  His velocity was down.  His breaking balls were not enticing.  He earned one K in 5 innings of struggle.  This was the second consecutive start in which Sevy had to battle to give the Yankees any depth at all.

I kept saying to myself;  " he needs rest.  He needs the all star break."  And then I realized, he might start that game.  And the AL manager may just stretch him out for three innings, and try to do some permanent harm to a guy who needs some sleep.  For insidious, competitive reasons.

Boone, of course, started Neal Walker at second, as payback for Wade's homer and three hits.  He'll have some lame excuse, but this was the wrong call.  Walker not only killed a major rally opportunity ( lined into DP...okay, some bad luck there ....but bad luck counts in baseball ); but he made an error which could have opened the flood gates for Cleveland.

We still have three " heats " to finish before the break.  And that means three games in which Cleveland has better starting pitchers than do the Yankees.  Nonetheless, we can win this series if the bangers bang, and if Wade plays instead of Walker.

The demoralizing thing is this;  Boston may not lose another game.  Without some key injuries, they may simply be that much better than everyone else.  We win series after series, but they win game after game.

The race remains long and arduous.  And the blue ribbon does not always go to the swiftest.

We are all ready to take a breath.  Mostly to see what move(s) Cashman does or does not make.  Two more weeks and our agony will be over.

"Steady as she goes," sayeth I.

Make no moves before their time.