Thursday, March 22, 2018

Yankees' slow-going on Clint Frazier's concussion shows the corruption of the NFL

It's now nearly a month since Clint Frazier sparrowed into the left field wall at George Steinbrenner Field, dizzying himself in what seemed a minor setback. Remember the articles where Frazier followed "Doctor" Russell Wilson's advice - drink buckets of water - as the NFL's instant cure for concussions? That's how tough footballers coped, Wilson said, and Frazier planned to be back out there within a week, splattering into another wall. 

Well, he hasn't taken one pitch in a spring game, beset with headaches and queasiness, and it's a done deal that "Red Thunder" will start 2018 on the DL and work himself back to health in Scranton, if not Tampa or Trenton. Who knows how long he'll be out? There is no timetable for something as serious as a head injury.

One reason for such diligence is that ball clubs have learned to respect the concussion's impact on your ability to throw or hit a 95-mile-per-hour baseball. Last year, after crashing into a wall, Jacoby Ellsbury spent more than a month in recovery and then suffered a brutal, six-week batting slump, which effectively destroyed his season. The Yankees don't need an outfielder who cannot hit, so they will wait on Frazier. Frankly, they have no choice.

Which brings us to the NFL, the last, great bastion of professional sports where human heads are used as cannon fodder...

Remember the AFC championship game in January, when Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a brutal helmet-to-helmet collision with a DB, and could barely make it to the correct sideline? He never returned in the game, though it wasn't until the second half when the Patriots made the decision formal. 

Then, two weeks later in the Super Bowl, there was Gronk, crushing skulls all over again. Obviously, his brain was still healing. And I get it: This was the Super Bowl. But at what point does the NFL finally put the health of its players over the outcome of a game? Well, I guess we know the answer... never.

As a Giants fan, I can tell you that watching a season of the NFL is to see a steady succession of dazed players, who stagger off with a head injury and return two weeks later, presumably after following Dr. Wilson's advice. Drink a keg of water and get back out there. They're like Timex watches in the old John Cameron Swaze commercials: They take a licking and keep on ticking. I wonder how many head injuries Gronk has endured? My guess is that not even Gronk knows. So Gronk goes out and uses his head like a bowling ball... Gronk, Gronk, Gronk... 

And ten years from now, what then? Will he be a loving, happy dad? Or will he be living under a bridge? We can no longer dismiss the threat to NFL players by romanticizing their danger on "the gridiron." The more we see the lasting effect of head injuries on baseball players, the more we should question the brutality of pro football's ridiculous concussion protocols, rules that undermine what should be the league's top priority: the safety of its players. What a joke.

Clearly, the NFL suits see players as replaceable commodities, cannon balls to be fired at the other side, and if somebody faces a post-retirement hell of early onset dementia, fuck him. They paid him a lot of money to wreck his brain. So fuck him, and let society figure out the next move.

Surely, the Yankees' slow movement with Frazier has been hardest on Frazier, who seems like the kind of guy who'd get back in there and hit the wall again. In fact, that day in February, that's what Frazier did. Thank God somebody took a stand - (or maybe it's much easier in spring training exhibition games.) 

It's now been more than 10 years since NFL concussions became a national issue. This is not a new controversy - or a ginned up debate, like standing for the National Anthem. Families are on the line. At some point, somebody is going to have to take a stand. And Clint Frazier needs to sit back, count his blessings and think about June... and the long career and happy life that he hopefully will have. I want each Yankee to someday enjoy Old-Timer's Day, with full access to his memories. I just wish it could happen in football, too. But something has to change. It's a national disgrace.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"You could almost visualize the leg irons."

Be still my heart!

The New York Times actually brought in Tyler Kepner to do an analysis piece...on Real Madrid. Kidding, kidding! No, on THE YANKEES!!

(Apparently, Billywitz can't be trusted with anything beyond, "The Case of the Missing Geese.")

Anyway, Kepner felt obliged to ask our Mr. Cashman if he felt "pretty comfortable" with this team. Cash, apparently flashing back to when Old George was still alive, immediately started channeling John Travolta at the end of "Blow Out" ("It's a good scream. It's a good scream."):

"I'm never comfortable. I never said I was comfortable. The best general managers are served well by being uncomfortable at all times. I think these guys all know my job is to find something better than they are. At all times, that's the job: to improve the roster when opportunity exists."


Meanwhile, Aaron Boone kinda sorta admitted that he wakes up with nightmares about the forthcoming season.

There's a great description of the employees of the Steinbrenner family shipping company under George's father, Henry, c. 1961:

"Those people looked like something out of Charles Dickens. They didn't have chains to their desks, but those people, you could see it in their eyes, the long faces, not a smile, not a look of pleasure. People were glum, almost cowering. You could almost visualize the leg irons. These people were bitter, frustrated, unhappy, but they needed their jobs."

George would be very pleased to know that he has bested his dear old dad once again. Even eight years after his death, he is still terrorizing his employees.

This makes it Soccer 45, Yankees 25.

In shocker, Yanks announce that best player this spring will make team

Yank hitters this spring with large sample size (more than 35 at bats.) 
Wow! Who expected this? Yesterday, Yankee Interim Manager Aaron "Boonie" Boone announced that Tyler Wade - the team's best hitter thus far in 2018 - will make the 25-man opening day roster! He's the 25th man, a slot that offers the job security of a Trump White House adviser, and it could mean the end of Ronald Torreyes' heroic Yankee run, as soon as Iron Man Ellsbury heals (ETA: 2023.)

The announcement, of course, comes with caveats. For example, the designation would be voided, and Wade instantly tele-ported to the mudflats of Moosic, if and when:

1. At any time over the next 10 days, some tired, salary-bloated, thirty-something lug nut is dumped made available by another team, giving the Yankees an opportunity to fill their entire roster with members of the 2013 all-star team. In particular, I'm thinking of Koji Uehara or Tanner Scheppers, who were on the cusp of the final fan vote competition, or maybe "Earnest" Everth Cabrera, the great Padre rep that year. The determining factor will be that said player receives a great deal of money, most of which the Yankees will not have to pay.

2. Wade doesn't crap a billiard running out a triple or proving himself as the team's lone base-stealing threat. (Sorry, Gardy, but it needs to be said.) Since the days of Christian Parker, a grand Yankee tradition - along with the awarding of that outmoded watch - is that the most hustling, up-an-comer in camp always gets hurt, or is found to have been playing while hurt and hiding it, in the final days of grapefruit. 

3. Wade boots an easy infield grounder, prompting an anonymous, diapered Yankee scout to set down his gin glass and declare a problem with "footwork," of which the Yankees find more problems than the entire national chain of Arthur Murray Dance Studios. Once a scout sees footwork issues, said player disappears, no questions asked, like a reality star voted off the island.

Congratulations to Tyler Wade, the official "2018 Baby Bomber." On any other team, in similar circumstances, he would be the starting second-baseman. As it is, public declarations be damned, let's keep fingers crossed that he's still here on April 1.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Not Even Boras

It's an indication of just how often the Ever-Injured Ellsbury is, well, injured, that not even Scott Boras popped up to defend him yesterday.

Usually you could count on Boras, the man I want shepherding me through life, to say something along the lines of, "We're very hopeful this flu bug will heal that pesky oblique!" or some such nonsense.

Nope, not this time.

How does one get the flu, in Florida, while resting up from an injury? Only Carl Pavano would know the answer.

But meanwhile, my Cousin Dan, fresh from his morning round of throwing marshmallows to the gators, has come up with a blues song on his banjo:

"Poor ol' Ellsbury
He got that flu
The o-bleak went an' grab him, too
I got the Jacoby blues
Them mean old, lean old, can't stay on the field old blues..."

Well, needs work.

The Yankees actually got a teeny, tiny little article from Billywitz today in the Times, thanks to the titanically stupid plan to go play in London. (I smell road trip!). But that only offset a big piece on how the Chelsea club is owned by a Russian. And has been since 2003. (Duque, you are already a prophet.)

Soccer 45, Yankees 24 for the year, Soccer 18, Yankees 9 for March.

Jolly good show? British Sterling? Yanks v Redsocks in London

In 2019, MLB wants the Yankees and Redsocks to play a two-game series in London, boosting the global market for swag and video rights on the telly machine. I say, "Tickety-boo and pip-pip! Tally-ho, mates!" 

Some highlights:

1. In huge disappointment to local fans, Yankee CF Jacoby Ellsbury will miss series due to a bit of dicky tummy collywobbles. 

2. Confused Brits rooting for Boston will cheer for "Red Thunder," later to learn that Clint Frazier is a gobby arse Yank.

3. In pregame ceremonies, Queen Helen Mirren will accidentally bestow knighthood onto Sir Didi Gregorius.

4. Fans will deride Yankee leftfielder Bryce Harper's knackered 0-8 performance as a dodgy load of bollocks. 

5. Despite sellout crowd and incredible games, New York Times will prefer to cover nearby soccer matches.

6. Rabid London sports fans will be stunned to learn that Yanks no longer have Reggie Jackson.

7. John Sterling home run calls: "GREG GETS GOBSMACKED! BIRD'S YET UNCLE!"


Tyler Austin... "IT'S T-TIME!"

Damn... there has to be other British Sterling calls. I'm tapped. Who's balls-up on this? 'Cause we won't come back 'til it's over over there!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Rogers Hornsby Is Dead

All right, deep breaths, everybody!

Why the season hasn't even started yet, and you're already throwing in the towel faster than Sonny Liston's corner. My friends generally consider me about the most pessimistic individual they know—in fact, my nickname in certain circles is not "Hoss" but Dr. Doom—but I got nothing on you knee-knockers.

Just to set you straight, I have called in Jolly Cholly Grimm, the man with the greatest oxymoronic moniker in baseball history. A profound optimist, Jolly is here to get you a new perspective.


All right, ladies, time to get a firm grip on your scanties and rationally assess what has and has not gone on in this spring training.

Right now, you fair maidens are caterwauling worse than Hack Wilson when he missed that flyball that cost us an 8-0 lead in the Series against Connie Mack's Athletics. We just told old Hack to put a sock in it, and sure enough, 10 or 12 whiskies later, he was right as rain. There ain't nothin' in this world that alcohol and good old common sense won't solve.

Now, it seems to me that somewhere along the line Starlin Castro has become the next Rogers Hornsby. (Mean sumbitch, the Rajah, and he would never go to the movies, either, outta fear it would ruin his eyes.)

Well, I got news for you damsels in distress:  he ain't.

Castro was a perfectly serviceable ballplayer, even if he does have the same name as a commynist.  But before you started in on lamentin', as I recall you were cryin' to high heaven about how we won't have anybody getting on base, and all we're going to be doing is striking out.

Fact is, in his 263 games and 1,083 plate appearances as a Yankee, Rajah Castro drew an entire 47 walks, as opposed to 211 strikeouts, and a .317 OBP.

Yes, we old-timey ballplayers can read a stat sheet as good as you can (Except for Rajah. Wouldn't read neither. The eyes, you know.)  And Castro's says that he is just another free swinger, who never did get back to his promise of greatness.

When you're offered the NL MVP for a player like that, you take him. You want on base? Try Stanton's .376, with 85 walks.

Oh, you weep an' wail an' tear yer garment about how Stanton'll be just like A-Rod. Yeah, that A-Rod was just unlikable. He also won two MVPs, several Gold Gloves (it wasn't his fault they gave them to Jeter), and took charge in your last drive to a World Series by driving in 18 runs in 15 games.

The problem with A-Rod wasn't A-Rod. It was pitching, which is always the problem in everything.

Oh—and did I hear one a you molly-coddles talkin' about how clutch that Castro was? Uh-huh. A lifetime .202 hitter with 1 homer and 3 ribbies in 88 playoff plate appearances. Clutch, my gramma's naches.

So you're afraid that Judge will be rested from the outfield some. Well boo-hoo. Ain't this the guy who hurt himself swinging last year? Will that really be the worst thing?

And you don't want Stanton playing the field much, because it will take time away from Brett Gardner. Uh-huh.

You show me the last season that Brett Gardner didn't take time away from Brett Gardner. Why, if that Cashman hadn't picked up Stanton, right now your outfield would be Judge, Hicks—who I hear half a you rankin' on all the time—the Ever-Injured Ellsbury, Gardner, and that poor, concussed rookie. Oh, and Billy McKinney, a proven quantity if there never was one.

Worst of all, though, is the hy-pocrisy I hear about Gleyber Torres. You just spent the last year-an'-a-half licking yer chops an' rubbin' yer Louisville Sluggers about how you can't wait to see him develop! Now the guy has a rough spring after all of 96 at-bats in Triple-A, and you want to discard him!

Why, you ain't real prospect huggers! You're as impatient as Old George was himself!

Give the kid a little time to get ready. Hell, in my day men spent eight years in the C League and were damned grateful when they got a promotion. Torres will be fine. For that matter, let's not mourn too hard over Andujar. I love the guy, too—but weren't you the ones all het up for somebody who can get on base more? Like, more than one walk in an entire spring training?

So what else are you yappin' about?

Oh, yeah, the one and only time the New York Yankees actually played "small ball" was the summer of 1976, which sure was fun. Then they got eaten up an' spit out by the Big Red Machine, and the next fall, there was Reggie Jackson standin' at home plate while his third homer of the night sailed into the bleachers. Which was more fun.

And you're afraid you don't have enough pitching, which is always a legitimate fear, but you don't want to trade for anymore.

And you're afraid you'll go out and pick up Manny Machado next year. Oh, the humanity.

And you're afraid now that you'll be favored to win.

Well, you'll have to excuse me now, ladies, because I got to get back up to that Big Barroom in the Sky an' tell Joe an' Lou an' the Babe that the fans of the New York Yankees are worried that they will be the favorite again. That thunder you're about to hear is their laughter, if they don't come clompin' right down out of the clouds after you.

All right. I hope I got your heads right. Now re-situate your jocks, wipe your noses, and try to enjoy. Personally, I think it would be rather entertaining to watch a lineup of giants take turns seein' if they can be the first one to hit a ball out of that Stadium.

But what do I know? I spent most of my days playin' for the Cubs.

Yanks Acquire Fish Part

I was pre-mature in speculating that Jake Cave would remain a trading prospect.

But I was correct in seeing that Cashman has a trading addiction.  Personally, I would prefer that his addiction of choice be alcohol, drugs, gambling or fast cars.  Even unattractive waitresses from Tennessee would satisfy.

Because today, without really getting a good look at Jake Cave, we acquired this:

Someone named Gil from the Twins.

A young Dominican ( always a potential baseball prospect ) who claims to pitch.  He is a league below whatever is the lowest.

More " depth"has just been expended for a future no one can put to a timetable. I am convinced that this is a " counter-balance" in Cashman's mind to his obsession with acquiring veterans, no matter how mediocre.  He has to know he is irking the fans.  Now he can say, " but I just acquired an 18 year old flame-thrower."

Count on this;  if he is good, we'll never see him.  He will be cross-dealt for some other old, tired, boring wash-out veteran.

 Cashman deals players just like local politicians deal for votes, making campaign promises like,
 " I will grant huge increases to all pensions," without ever funding them.  And like the politicians, he will be long gone, basking in his beach house, before the price has to be paid.  Before we all realize he has pissed away another home grown talent for somebody else.  It is the action that arouses him.  Not the end result.

He is like the Alabama sheriff who took $740,000 out of a $750,000 fund meant for prisoner food, and built a beach house. The remainder went for cheese doodles in the mess hall.

Only in Alabama, is it legal for sheriffs to do this.  They have kept a depression era law on the books to support the practice.  And who calls Alabama backward?

And only on River Avenue, is it legal for Cashman to deal away our farm system for fish parts.

The chaos never ends.

The Trade For Stanton Has "Doom" Written All Over It

I never liked the trade.

I am one of the few, I know.

The "why" of my position is now beginning to emerge:

1.  The idea that Judge will now take turns with Stanton between right field and DH is horrifying.

2.  Judge is an excellent defender and a player who should have a full time position.  DH will ruin his rhythm as a hitter, and demoralize him as a player.  The Cshman plague has already impacted him as he talks up Machado at third, rather than Andujar.  He has swallowed the " cool aid" that superstars belong at every position, and you buy them on the street.

3.  Stanton has shown himself to be an absolute liability in the outfield.  And, as we all know,
 the " ball will find you" when you really can't play.  I think Stanton made one " clean" play in the outfield in spring training, and bungled about six fly balls ( all outs which he turned into doubles by taking poor angles and not being able to outrun the fat lady sitting in row six near third base).

4. Judge will, inevitably, feel that some of the " responsibility " for getting the big hit is now off his shoulders.  Watch the strikeout rate soar.

5.  Stanton is not much of a hitter for average.  Watch the strike out rate soar.

6.  Strikeouts, for those not paying attention, are prime rally killers.  When Stanton strikes out with a runner on third and one out, all of a sudden the other team can get out of the inning with no damage.

7.  The Stanton deal created the " second base " problem.  What is that, you ask?  Follow the bouncing ball;
  -  Castro worked really well with Didi on defense
  - Castro was a clutch hitter with power for a second baseman. And he was young.
  - We now have no second baseman.  The Torres " promise" was a flop.
  -  The Yankees do not trust Tyler Wade.  He may open the season at second, but that is just a stop      gap until the veteran ( former Met ..... a fine winning tradition... ) Neil Walker is " ready."  He is not in condition because no one wanted him.
   -  Tyler will then revert to what he was last season; an anxious, talented defender with speed, who gets one at bat per week and fails.  He may also cause us to lose Torreyes.
  _  the prospect of the Yankees starting two rookies threw Cashman into apoplexy, so he traded more talent ( our farm system is endlessly deep, right?) for another cast-off veteran ( Dreary Drury, I call him ).
   - so now the team will start two highly mediocre veterans at second and third, somehow multiplying the damage of the original " second base " problem he created by trading for Stanton.
   -  We also gave up two highly rated pitching prospects to get Stanton.  Our pitching depth is compromised.  Accordingly, Andujar, the " Red Thunder" and, likely, others will go for a 32 year old starter, at some point this season.
    -  last season, with Castro at second base, we nearly won it all.  Why does that not have significance?

8.  This team is now a veteran team " expected " to win the World Series."  It is no longer an exciting, unpredictable, emerging team with eager young talent surprising us every day.  It is the " number one seed" in our division,  and they better do what is expected of them ( no University of Virginia here, right? ).  No " spitting the bit."  No "choking."  Everyone must hit home runs, every time up.  There will be no bunting; no advancing runners; no stealing; no excitement.

 There are no longer a bunch of future stars peppering our line-up.  I am shocked that Adam Lind isn't still with us.  The reason for fan interest went, in my book, from 100 to about 40.  Unless you like watching strikeout/solo homer ratios.

Seriously, this trade for Stanton is the Devil and will cause the team to fail, not to thrive.  I have been troubled by this trade from the outset.  It showed, at the core, the Cashman we really all knew and hated was still alive and well.  The Cashman who pretended he gave a rat's ass about young talent and the farm system.  Who pretended we would " grow from within."  The Cashman who gave us 10 years of lousy baseball.

We are going to have more years of lousy baseball now, and the veteran parade shall continue.  Just close your brain to any hope for a young star to emerge and play for us.  Don't get your hopes up about anyone you here good things about.  Cashman is back .  He never changed.

"Work on your bunting"

I remember reading somewhere in Peter Golenbock's delightful history of the 1949-1964 Yankees, the greatest dynasty in the history of the sport, about how it became a running joke how Deron Johnson couldn't stick with the big team.

Johnson, a power-hitting third baseman, kept doing everything right. At just 19, he had 27 homers for the Triple-A Richmond Virginians.

Nope, not enough. Back Deron went to Richmond, the Scranton of its day, for more "seasoning." He hit another 25 home runs...and didn't even get a cup of coffee on a 1959 Yankees team that had turned in a rare clunker of a season, and was out of it by September.

In 1960, he hit ANOTHER 27, Triple-A homers—though by now, no doubt a bit discouraged, his batting average and OBP both fell off.  The Yanks did bring him up, once they had another pennant wrapped, for all of four at-bats. He had two hits, including a double. Not that that got him anything.

The next spring, Deron was killing it again in spring training, and the Yankees just didn't have a slot for him. They really didn't know what to tell him, and the joke went around the camp that they told him:

"We need you to go down to Richmond again and work on your bunting."

In the end, though, they didn't send him back down again. They traded him to our own personal gulag, the Kansas City Athletics.

In return, we got Bud Daley, a gutsy pitcher with one leg shorter than the other who, as a number-four starter for one of the best hitting teams ever in 1961, went 8-9. The next season, Daley was a useful lug nut in the pen. All in all, he went 18-16 in parts of four seasons in the Bronx.

Deron Johnson took a little bit to right himself. But by 1964, he was the starting third sacker in Cincinnati, and a star. In 1965, he drove in 130 runs, and finished fourth in the MVP voting. As late as 1971, he was still hitting 34 homers for a terrible Phils team, and he was a valuable cog for the 1973, world champion A's, now in Oakland.

Is Andujar our Deron?

I suppose a demotion is what you should expect these days in baseball, when you draw one walk in 42 at-bats, as Miguel did, or when after a very fast start in the spring, you tail off badly.

And yeah, who knows? Maybe Brandon Drury or Manny Machado will prove to be the 2018 equivalent of Clete Boyer, the guy who ultimately beat out Deron Johnson. It's not like Boyer was such a bad option.

But I can't help thinking that we've missed out on something good here. And I dread what we will give up this diamond in the rough for.

Michael Fulmer? Yeah, he has Bud Daley written all over him.

No Soccer, no Yankees, for two days now. It's not like anything just happened.

Andujar goes, and probably for good.

Yesterday, the Yankees said nice things about Miguel Andujar, after sending him back to the place where he hit .317 last year. You could smell the magnanimity in their lavish praise. What a lucky player, to be assured all winter that he'd get a shot at 3B, only to be dumped in February for a 25-year-old, who could hold the position for the next five years. And that's not considering the Manny Machado option next winter. Yep, third base sure looks like a wide-open opportunity, no?

It's like the billionaire telling his mistress, "Baby, you're the greatest! And if not for Tippy, who just had her parts fixed, you'd still be tops on my weekend shortlist. So here's what I'm gonnna do: I'm renting you a posh townhouse in a beautiful seaside town - Moosic, Pa. - with laundry, electricity and Netflix thrown in, and if things don't work out here with Tippy, I'm gonna call you up for, you know, a 72-hour oil change in Jersey. So... just go, for now. And don't feel bad. We'll always have Trenton. You're the best, sweetheart! Stay young!"

From the moment the Yankees traded for Brandon Drury, the romance was over with Andujar. The courtier Gammonites have promoted Drury as a breakout star, while questioning Andujar's footwork at third. I'm not saying they are wrong. Sometimes, when everybody says it's raining, it's raining. But Yankee fans should come to grips with the ice-cold reality that - barring an injury or complete collapse by Drury - Andujar will stay in Scranton until traded to another team, probably for pitching, sometime in July. There is no ascension plan. He's in Scranton forever.

They have decided to keep Gleyber Torres, and - if their words are to be believed - they will give him a shot at 2B, at least until a new Tippy pops in from the tit farm. Once he's over being jilted, once he starts hitting at Scranton, Andujar will be the cornerstone of a mid-season prospects bundle, to bring pitching, or whatever they need, as long as it's not a young third baseman. 

In the last 40 years, the Yankees have never developed an all-star thirdbaseman. The closest they came was Mike Lowell. They're not going to break that record now.

Apparently, the jury is still out on the future of Tyler Wade. Every day, some Yankee operative assures us that Wade is in the mix at 2B, and that Neil Walker isn't a long-term solution. But I don't know how even a kid like Wade could be so naive as to believe a word from the front office. The Yankees are back to chasing the World Series. That means using the farm system to harvest body parts, and watching the ones who get away develop major league careers in other cities. Andujar is gone.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Yankees have become a mediocre exhibition team

Eleven days ago, the Yankees stood on the precipice of exhibition dominance: Their 10-2 record led all of baseball in the vagaries of meaninglessness, suggesting their great, unforgettable-but-forgotten grapefruit league of 2017 - they went 24-9 - could reproduce itself into another summer. Last March, electrified by competition at several key positions, the Yankees were the best team in nothingness. 

But the last two weeks have exposed a glitch in the Meaningless Matrix. Lately, the Yankees look once again like a ho-hum, Twittering cavalcade of cover-boy celebrities, who happen to also play baseball. Since March 7, they are 2-7, losing in ever-creative manners, such as getting only two base hits, or watching late-inning games collapse like a Florida footbridge (sorry, too soon) with a bullpen made of paper machete. Yesterday, it was the starter: Masahiro Tanaka gave up 4 runs in two innings, leaving with a 11.25 ERA and a game that would never be close. 

Listen: Nobody is suggesting that we start sweating spring training records. But there is a decidedly different attitude this season, inflated with hubris and expectation. The addition of Giancarlo Stanton and the elevation of Aaron Judge to deity status seem to have created a team of Instagram rock stars. Everyone expects the 2018 Yankees to battle Boston and Houston - and crush the rest of the AL without a blip. Last year, the Yankees fielded a team of hustling nobodies. This year, aside from Tyler Wade - who likely will be relegated to the bench - and Gary Sanchez - who looks newly rededicated - the team does not appear to be inspired by an impending season.

Maybe this is good. Maybe the Yankees needed to step back, lose a few meaningless games, and keep everyone healthy. (Thus far, no critical starter has tweaked anything.) But the Yankees look like a team with a few world championships under its belt, when in fact, all that came from 2017 was a one-game wild card flag. Greg Bird is hitting .158. Stanton is at .212. Judge is .240. Yes, it's a small sample size. Yes, the numbers mean nothing. Yes, a big day tomorrow could change everything. Yes, yes, yes...

Of course, this is simply what happens when you seek meaning in a pointless universe, which may or may not be a computer simulation. This is no time to sound an alarm, or to suggest unwarranted changes. But Houston, Boston and Baltimore are cracking. At some point, Aaron Boone will need to change the focus from deck chairs to wind sprints. In 11 days, the meaningless ends. Right now, we are not ready.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Farewell to The Poet of the Mets

I would like to take this gorgeous St. Patrick's Day to pay tribute to...a Met.

That is, Ed Charles—"Gum," "Ez," "The Glider," and "The Poet,"—just deceased at 84, and third baseman for the 1969 Miracle team.

 Charles grew up in about the most horrendous circumstances imaginable, a poor black kid in Daytona Beach, Florida. He got to witness his father regularly beat his mother—and then the Daytona Beach cops beat his father.

He dreamed of playing baseball professionally one day, but back in the day, it wasn't that much of a dream.  It meant beating around in some crowded cars with his teammates on whatever Negro League team he would've been restricted to. Banned from staying in good hotels, eating in nice restaurants, or even going to the bathroom at most filling stations.

Then, one day in 1945, 13-year-old Gum Charles got the word that Branch Rickey had signed Jackie Robinson to a major-league contract.

It made him feel "like a little boy waiting for Christmas and Santa Claus to see what kind of toys he was going to bring us," he would remember, and prayed for Jackie make it, knowing, "If he succeeded he was going to open the door to Christ Almighty...It gave me a little hope that perhaps at last we were on the right track as far as living the type of American dream, this freedom of opportunity we were supposed to have in this country."

(It also delighted a 16-year-old kid sweeping up in a St. Louis store. "I felt like dancing all over that floor," remembered Elston Howard.)

After somehow graduating from high school, Ez was signed in 1952 by the Boston Braves, for a few hundred dollars. His timing could not have been worse. Eddie Mathews had just broken in for the Braves, and though Charles quickly showed himself to be a fine hitter and excellent glove, between Mathews and military service, it took him 10 years to make it to the show—and then with the Kansas City Athletics.

It didn't stop him. Still, somehow, a believing Christian, Ed Charles took to writing poems of faith. One in 1961 read, in part, "Grateful to You I'll always be/ For exploiting my talents for the world to see."

Nobody saw much of his talents during five, very credible years with a miserable Athletics team. Traded to the Mets in 1967, he had an excellent season in 1968, but still had to come back and win a spot as a non-roster invitee in 1969.

"The Glider," as Jerry Koosman nicknamed for his smooth fielding style, was 36 and nearing the end now, appearing in only 61 games. But he still had one good day left in him.

In the second game of the World Series, with the Mets trailing one game to none, and the score tied at 1-1, Charles lined a two-out single off Dave McNally in the ninth, then made a daring dash to third on a hit by Jerry Grote, and scored easily on another hit by Al Weis.

In the bottom of the inning, with two on and two out, he made an excellent stop of a sharp ground ball by Brooks Robinson, and a throw that just nipped B. Robby at first. The Series was tied, and the Mets never looked back.

The Poet retired after that and went to work for the Mets, who as usual did not know what they had. Fired in a dispute over moving expenses by that supreme ass, M. Donald Grant, Charles passed a civil service test, and spent his second career helping troubled kids at a home in the Bronx, and taking care of an aged relative.

It was all in keeping with the man who deserved another nickname, in keeping with this Irish day: The Mensch.

The Times did run a nice obit for Charles yesterday, at least. Today, a piece on Frazier's concussion...but also more FIFA. What would a day be without FIFA?

Soccer 44, Yankees 23.

Best thing to happen this winter: Shohei Ohtani running to LA

As the Yankee 25-man roster takes shape, let's imagine for a moment the grousing across Tampa this week if the famous "Japanese Babe Ruth" had signed this winter - as almost everyone predicted - a Yankee contract.

The "spring of Ohtani" would now be in its fifth week, and everything - like that twin's DNA in outer space - would have changed.

For starters, we would surely not have Giancarlo Stanton. Once the Yankees signed Ohtani, they couldn't add another OF/DH to the mix; they simply would not have enough space. Part of Ohtani's deal was guaranteeing him the chance to pitch and hit, which meant filling the DH slot. So... no Giancarlo. And we'd still have Starlin Castro because - let's face it - after they acquired him, the Marlins couldn't find a taker. So... Starlin at second.

Without Giancarlo, the Yankees would have $20 million more to spend, increasing the odds that Yu Darvish - the Dodgers' "Mr. October" - would be in pinstripes. We'd have outbid the Cubs, and he'd be ours for the next six years, until age 37, at $20 million per (give or take.) Instead of the Twin Titans of  Judge and Stanton, NYC would be agog over the three Samurai - Tanaka, Darvish and Ohtani. But all eyes would be on the Babe, and his every appearance would be an electrifying moment for international diplomacy. 

And this is what we would have seen...

Ohtani at bat: 2 for 20, .100 BA, 1 RBI and 7 K.

Ohtani on the mound: 2 games, 2.2 Innings, 9 hits, 8 earned runs, 27.00 ERA, and 5 K.

Yep... a 2018 spring mixture of Gleyber Torres and Chance Adams.

Less than two weeks before Opening Day, the Yankees would be staring down the barrel of having to dispatch the Japanese Babe to Scranton, despite their promises over the winter. Or they could simply close their eyes and write him in as DH and sixth starter, and to hell with the numbers. Something tells me that, as Chasen Shreve or Billy McKinney were pitched overboard, the Gammonites - and Alphonso - would be growing ever-more restless. Moreover, somebody else would have Stanton, and my guess is that he would be nestled in a lineup of the AL East. Boston, maybe?

The Yankees are still seeking a sixth starter, and who knows what Ohtani will do in LA? It's far too soon to draw conclusions. But for now, we should thank our stars that the Babe wanted to play on the West Coast. It was our luckiest break all winter. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Colossal Collusion

So Judge's shocking remarks to Manny M. actually drew a Times piece today. Billywitz must have been ecstatic, in his lonely Florida sojourn.

Of course, for one Yankees article, the Times hit back with soccer pieces on just what cities would host a potential, North America World Cup, and FIFA plans for a global, all-women's league (presumably without the sexy costumes one of the corrupt buffoons who used to be FIFA's president once suggested the fairer sex gambol about the pitch in).

This is what amazes me about Times sports coverage:  how much of it really isn't about sports, just venues, administrative decisions, ancillary pieces on money or drug use, etc.

It would be as if their international news section ran huge, front-page articles on just what hotels the next Davos conference would be in, or their theater coverage was confined to what concession prices were averaging in the big Broadway houses.

Anyway, it now stands at Soccer 43, Yankees 22 for the year, and Soccer 16, Yankees 7 for March.

Yep, baseball's spring training has brought one soccer pieces a day for the Paper of Record...

Searching for meaning in Tyler Austin's home runs.

Yesterday, Tyler Austin homered again, meaninglessly.

His fourth pointless HR this spring.

In all of 2018 spring training, only five players have hit more homers, and 26 others also have four. Of that group, only one has fewer at bats than Austin. (Our old friend the Grandyman, chasing a final season in LA, also has four HRs in the same number of at bats: 25.) One of Austin's most meaningless HRs won an exhibition game in the ninth. That's one hell of an irrelevant event!

With Tyler Austin, the veteran Yankee prospect, the emptiness of spring training home runs should be magnified by the number of days in March. Not only do the games not matter, but unless some Yankee soon tweaks a buttery gonad, everything Austin has done this spring will be loaded into a cannon and fired off into the eternal, ether-laced void, which Nietzsche called "the "Abyss" and which the rest of us know of as "Scranton."

Or maybe it'll be Seattle.

When the Yankees signed Neil Walker this week, part of the reasoning went that the cagey switch-hitting vet can also play first base, in case of emergency. Before two red sunsets had dropped into the Gulf Coast, Adam Lind - the other cagey first-base backup to Greg Bird - was released. That left Tyler Austin to wait for his bus ticket to Pennsylvania. He might have accepted this reality by striking out or sulking in some fast-food restaurant men's room. Instead, he hit his fourth HR in 25 at bats. He's hitting .240 with an on-base percentage of .367. But, of course, it's meaningless-times-March.

Austin is now 26, and the official line on him will probably always be that his best chance with the Yankees came and went last spring, when Bird was hurt, and when he was also injured. Last year he hit .286 with 10 home runs over a half-season in the upper minors, mostly at Scranton.

I don't know what the Yankees can do with Austin, who has delivered far more clutch hits in his brief career than can be expected of such a fellow. But unless a gonad pops somewhere, he's probably going to be dealt in the next 10 days for whatever the Yankees can get. Generally, Cashman covets low single A pitchers with live arms, and he deals with the Pirates, Mariners and Angels, teams that return his calls. In recent years, the Mariners have done quite well with Yankee cast-offs. I would bet Cashman will call them first.

If you're an old-time Yankee prospect-hugger, you've been following Austin for eight years, back to the days when he hit .390 in the Gulf Coast League. He hurt his wrist, was virtually cleansed from the prospect lists, and then made a miraculous comeback in 2016, hitting .323 in - gulp - Scranton, the town he knows so well. If not for those injuries, who knows? But I think his Yankee run is coming to an end. If there is going to be meaning in his HRs, it looks like they will happen in another city.  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Tyler Wade, the rhyme

Tyler Wade
Had it made.

Then Tyler Wade
Never played.

Will Tyler Wade
Be a trade?

(Note: Please restrict all comments to rhymes.)

Yankees on Machado: NO COLLUSION!

But in the future, Aaron "Not So Small" Judge needs to recuse himself.

Beware the Ides of March

Considering what a good day this is to get knifed, Chance Adams shouldn't turn his back on anyone.

In all the excitement of the last couple days, I have not updated our red-hot competition.

With the Yankees sending down their highest rated prospect yesterday, even the Times couldn't resist giving them an unanswered score. But today, Soccer struck back with a piece about how "Barcelona Stays on a Roll."

Frankly, I've never been that fond of Barcelona on a roll. It's too much bread, smothers the true, Barca flavor. C'mon, I know you're out there! I can hear you breathing!

That puts our yearly total at Soccer 41, Yankees 21, and Soccer 14, Yanks 6 on the endless month of March.

Notes from the field

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, Mustang and I scalped our way into yesterday's O's-v-Yankees game at historic Ed Smith Stadium (since 1989!) in Sin City, FL, known locally as Sar'sota. The hot dogs were spicy, the crab cakes overdone, the beer cold in fake aluminum bottles, with Yank fans out in force for their team's one Sota Town visit this spring. Some observational pithys...

1. Sellout or not, you can always score a ticket. Remember back when scalping was illegal? Today's cops are aware of StubHub. (Hell, I bet they wouldn't even bother to follow Pee Wee Herman into a porno movie, anymore.) Barely 100 feet from the box office, within spitting distance of a flashing gumball, two SRO tickets cost us a total of $35, though one guy was trying to squeeze $60 a whack for reserve seats. (This was 40 minutes before game.) Online, a ticket was running around $40. Go forth and scalp!  

2. Chance Adams looks like a weight-lifting bouncer from Tony Soprano's Bada-Bing softball team. Warming up, his fastball was sizzling, while Larry "House of" Rothschild watched approvingly, like Saruman savoring the birth of an Orc. Then came the reality of Major League Exhibition Baseball. The first long fly ball stopped at the warning track. The next one just kept going. These were not close calls and bad hop singles. Adams got pounded like the Second Coming of Hideki Irabu. Entering spring training, we had high hopes for this guy, based on past, overachiever performance. He'll probably get a shot at redemption. But right now, nope, he's not ready. Big disappointment. Scranton-bound.

3. Across the stadium, whenever Aaron Judge steps up to bat, time suspends itself. It's like a dinner cruise when a whale breaks the surface nearby, and the Eagles cover band stops in mid "Hotel California." The vendors set down their wares. People stand to take selfies with Judge in the background. He is the face of baseball. So what did Mr. Face of the Game do yesterday? Grounded into a 6-4-3 DP, struck out twice and lofted a lazy pop fly. Looked like an large version of Alfred E. Neuman. I'm not saying we should worry. But if Judge starts slowly, it will not go unnoticed.

4. Billy McKinney looks - how do I say this? - pensive, worried, lost... in left field. He reads fly balls like they are Thomas Pynchon novels. We're all rooting for him, but he better shore up his defense. If we go from Brett Gardner to him... wow, that's a big drop.

5. Best swing of the day by a Yankee was from Erik Kratz, a hunking 37-year-old who served as DH, a rather obvious sign that management's heart wasn't in winning this game. (Ninety minute bus ride from Tampa culled much of the veteran herd.) Kratz - listed at 6'4", 245 - gave an old-fashioned spanking to a ball, the lone Yankee highlight moment. Organizational lug nut in Scranton?

6. Yanks are now 11-7 in Florida, and while I'm not so idiotic - yet - as to assign meaning to spring standings, the team does seem in a transitional funk. What began as wide open competitions for various slots - 3B, 2B, 5th starter - has turned into a ho-hum sack race for the 25th roster position, and even that could change, depending on tomorrow's waiver wire. Didn't see anybody fuming after a strikeout, or pounding the glove especially hard in the field. Maybe that's good. It's a long season, and we probably shouldn't waste quality at bats in a place where scalpers only get $17.50 per ticket. Still, aside from eliminating Chance Adams as a viable starter (for now, anyway), I can't say the Yankees gleaned much from yesterday's trip down the coast. Just skip the crab cakes and stick to the dogs, and all will be well.