Friday, January 31, 2014

Will Middlebrooks was chasing not only curveballs, but sideline reporters

These are the dog days of the hot stove league. Think of it as Aug. 30 through Aug. 40. Everybody is signed - well, almost everybody - and nothing will happen until the first avalanche of injuries. Soon, we'll see stories about how so-and-so is reporting to camp in "the best shape of his life," (as Andruw Jones did two Februarys ago; remember how that turned out?)

So for the next couple weeks, for a change, let's be totally positive. Let's be constructive: Let's imagine how Boston could fall apart and actually be worse than us.

Here's one idea: The news is out that Will Middlebrooks has charging the mound of bubbly NESN sideline reporter Jenny Dell. This is a complete breach of journalism ethics. Call Romanesko. What if Chris Christie was found schztupping Megyn Kelly? I would lose faith in Fox News, the sister to YES.

I, for one, hope Middlebrooks is shamed into doing the right thing: He must marry her. That way, every night after sex, she can snag him in the bathroom and ask him - in at least 600 words -  how he feels and how this team is catching fire, and then coax him into recapping the big moment and try to describe what he was thinking as his gonads popped. Every night.

I can think of no better recipe for a .200 batting average and a trip to Pawtucket.

Folks, wipe Middlebrooks off the slate. He's done. One down, 24 to go. 


I wonder if he'll sing "New York State of Mind."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Was Michael Pineda a perfect model of health when he was traded from Seattle to New York? No, probably not. All pitchers, and certainly pitchers like Pineda, carry a level of risk. But did this have to happen, the torn labrum? Would it have been as likely if Pineda had never been traded, and instead continued to play in the lax Seattle market? I don't think so."

Did the extra pressure of being a Yankee - of being scrutinized, booed and even having his commitment questioned - cause Michael Pineda to blow out his shoulder and probably his entire career?

A Seattle writer wonders... 

Today, the Yankees officially signed a light-hitting thirdbaseman from Oakland named "Scott." Dare we think of the last time this happened?

Today... Scott Sizemore.

Not long ago...

Reason for hope: In his write-up on Yankee prospects, Keith Law calls Slade Heathcott "legitimately a crazy person."

I believe that I speak for the Yankiverse in saying: We'll take him!

Actually, Law quotes an unnamed scout, who questions Heathcott's sanity. 

Two years ago, the night after a torturous magazine-length feature article appeared in the local newspaper detailing Slade's troubled youth - (we're talking shotguns, booze, abandonment, and living in cars) -  this is what happened when he stepped up to the plate. Watch the catcher go ka-boom. I never did figure out what he said, but I bet it wasn't very nice.)

Hello, people of Atlanta: Go slow and double-pump the breaks. And don't read if this you have a bad ticker: Imagining the Yankee Worst Case Scenarios for 2014

Hello, Brave fans. Thank you for Brian McCann (I think.). But cheer up: Summer will soon be here, and than you can laugh at New Yorkers all you want. We're just hoping our Congressman don't throw us off the f--- g balconies. 

Which brings us to the Yankees, who last year were thrown off the f----g balcony.

If you think about it, the fact that the Yankees made it into last September still contending for the post-season - even that fake one-game playoff - was a miracle. We entered 2013 looking anemic from Hal Steinbrenner's (now aborted) plan to shrink the payroll to $189 million. Then we faced our ice storm of bad events:

1. Granderson breaks hand.
2. Teixeira strains wrist.
3. Jeter can't run.
4. Youkilis hurts back.
5. Sabathia is terrible.
6. The A-Rod charges.
7. Cervelli breaks something, who cares what?
8. Pineda never does nothing.
9. The farm system produces squat.

Seriously, last Jan 31, if we knew those things were going to happen, we would have sold our winter rats and moved to Atlanta. How - I still wonder - did we avoid a Knicks-like meltdown? Well, here's why:

1. Robbie Cano, great player.
2. Mariano Rivera, pure magic.
3. Brett Gardner, stepped up.
4. Bullpen, spare parts performed.
5. Timely hitting, by the nobodies (looking at you, Lyle Overbay)
6. Girardi, he held the team together. No fights. (Still don't know how.)

OK... stick with me now: What have the Yankees done about last year's explosions in the mineshaft?

1. Loss of Grandy. HOO-RAY. Ellsbury, Gardner, Soriano and Beltran are notoriously brittle. But we have the depth.
2. Tex.  UH-OH. He has yet to even test his wrist. And in interviews, he's talking like Tippi Hedren in The Birds.
3. Jeter. UH-OH. Complete unknown. We have a backup fielder. If he can't play SS, he's our 900-pound gorilla.
4. Youkilis. Gone. Better off knowing from the get-go. A wash.

5. Sabathia. HOO-RAY (I think). We signed new ace, Tanaka. Plus, new Jenny Craig CC might come back.
6. A-Rod shadow. No distractions. But we won't have him in August.  A wash.
7. Cervelli. HOO-RAY.  We have McCann, and Cervelli & Romine. (Somebody's got to go.)
8. Pineda. He'll be back. So what? A wash.
9. Farm system. UH-OH. Still weak. Suspended in amber.

And what of last year's successes?

1. Cano. UH-OH. Nobody to replace him. This is actually two UH-OHs.
2. Mariano. UH-OH. Wondering how many Houdini 9th innings I can take.
3. Gardner. HOO-RAY. We still have him. Unless we trade him.
4. Bullpen. UH-OH. Gahhhhh. Under complete reconstruction.
5. Timely hitting - HOO-RAY. McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran added.
6. Girardi. HOO-RAY. In November, he flirted with Chicago. We were smart to keep him.

I count seven UH-OHs and five HOO-RAYs.

A lot still to happen. But right now - we haven't had any unexpected ice storms - but we're stuck in traffic, and we're not going anywhere.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A reason to hope: The Mel Kipers of baseball are rating Yankee prospects near the bottom of the well

Every winter around now - after the free agents have been signed, the rosters have formed, and the Grammy night nipple-slips have been digested - there isn't much baseball to discuss. Thus, the talkers and ponderers take up their lowest level of blather: The beer pong game of rating the game's top 100 prospects.

This is done, for the most part, by people who - if they've actually seen the players they're rating - saw them once last summer. Between then and now, some got married, some found God, some became alcoholics, some started weight-training, and maybe one or two figured out the far corner of the plate that eluded them in the past. In short, most are entirely different people than they were last August. But they get ranked 1 to 100.

Here is all you need to know about the Yankee farm system and these ratings.

We have a bunch of young guys who, if they have big years, will skyrocket into the upper tier of next winter's rankings! Whoopie.

Right now, if we're pondering who will help the 2014 Yankees, we'd have to mention Dellin Betances, who's been around so long he seems less a prospect than old-timer. This could be Dellin's year. Finally! He might be a middle innings reliever. All he has to do is throw strikes and beat out a few of Cashman's scrap-heapers. The bar is not that high.

After that, we have two ancient Cubans - Adonis Garcia and Ronnier Mustelier - both pushing 30, who spent last year at Scranton, though they were injured. They play OF, but they're trying to learn 3B and 2B (for obvious reasons.) Unless they have big springs - I mean REALLY BIG SPRINGS - they look ticketed for another year in the Electric City. These guys have "Tucker Ashford" written all over them. (For those of you too young, look him up.)

After that, JR Murphy comes to mind. He is "Most Likely to be Traded for a Salary Dump Slob." Murphy, a catcher, played well at Scranton last year and received a cup of coffee, when he was hailed - (rather sadly) - as the big harvest crop of the 2013 Yankee farm system. But now with Brian McCann in front of him, and our supposed best prospect Gary Sanchez behind him, Murphy looks like a good bet to be dealt somewhere in a package for the 3B we currently do not have. This is sad. He actually looks like a future major leaguer.

Finally, there is the raft of anonymous young pitchers - let's call them the Preston Claiborne Class of 2014, named for the guy who showed up last summer after never once being mentioned by prospects ratings. Suddenly, he was there. Claiborne looked great for a while, then was mercilessly bullied by the Redsocks in that horrible three-game sweep at Fenway. He was so hammered in Boston that I wonder if he can come back. If not, there will be a new Preston Claiborne. We just don't know who it is.

In past years, some of the prospect rankings included Japanese imports, such as Jose Contreras and Dice K. This year, they didn't. Otherwise, they would have put Masahiro Tanaka high on the list - possibly Number 1 or 2. At age 25, he's younger than most of our Scranton-level prospects.

As for the Slade Heathcotts and Mason Williamses, the Manny Baneuloses and the Preston Whatnots, well, let's hope for breakout seasons. If so, next February, when there is nothing else to talk about, they'll rise in these meaningless rankings. Whoopie. Pass the meatballs.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Now it's Professor Joba, without the inner tube? Why couldn't Joba Chamberlain get into shape last year?

He has grown a Freedom Beard, bought new glasses and he's lost 20 pounds. Yep, that's our Joba - now a Tiger. He's poised to salvage his career, now that he's escaped the hell-hole known as New York City and moved into that beautiful urban paradise, Detroit.

Last season,  Joba looked and pitched like a Keystone Cop. He not only gave up grand slams, but he ate his share of them at Dennys. Either, nobody on the Yankees noticed that he had become a human tub of lard. Or he just kept eating and refused to listen.

How does a player with so much potential turn into such a slob?

Well... that's a question the Yankees need to figure out - and soon.
During their 14-year barf, which ran from the 1980s into the Selig Strike, the Yankees were a franchise so dominated by their nut-bag owner and his syncophantic courtiers that we fans commonly saw players flourish after they left New York. As we head into 2014, it's hard to say which Yankees we are - the team that gets the most from its players, or the place everyone needs to escape.

But does anyone doubt that Joba and Phil Hughes will turn around their careers, now that they're outside the Steinbrenner/Murdoch/YES radioactive zone?

Of all the disappointments last year, their collapses hurt most. If the Yankees had gotten anything from either, the team might have made the playoffs. We fans literally watched once-great prospects turn into meatballs.

And now Joba has discovered "physical conditioning?" Wow. How did this happen? Was there, say, a pamphlet in the Tigers dugout that suggested players try workouts? Did he see an exercise tape lying around?

Last year, the Yankees were a fine team for a scrap-heapers seeking to extend their careers. But for old-line Yankees, it was hell. Everyone was either hurt, or they just stank. This year, we'll have new chemistry. I suspect Beltran and McCann were signed as much for their leadership as their bats. And though I recognize that some people think Robbie Cano was smart to jog out grounders - I'd prefer to see players actually run. (And Alfonso Soriano better stop watching his long flies from home plate. I hate to think of that image - a throwback to the times of Mel Hall - becoming the Yankee way.)

But Hughes and Joba are gone - and lucky to be out the door. So what's going on here?

Listen: I don't think it's the ban on beards that creates problems for Yankees.

But I believe it has to do with the hubris that results in a ban on beards.

When players leave, the first thing they do is stop shaving. Are they not sending us a message? Something about the Yankee mystique needs to change. And until it does, all the free agent spending in the world is not going to help.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A daft punk? No, that was Robbie Cano, (doncha know), last night at the Grammys

We can’t escape him. He’s everywhere, like a song on the radio, flashing his Freedom Beard. Surely, he’ll turn up at the Oscars, chillin' with Leonardo and Martin, or with the cast of “12 Years a Shave." He goes everywhere, trotted out with Jay-Z as Exhibit A: The Man Who Made the Money. It's Robbie Cano, the jogger, who could have appeared last night in a duet with Shirley Bassey, nodding as she sings, “He loves only gold… only gold.

Aww, hell. We can’t whine. Robbie earned every penny he’ll ever make, and for the last four months, the Yankee brass sat back and pretended he wasn't going to really leave. We spent $450 million on breakable outfielders, a 30-year-old catcher and a foreign mystery - every one of them far less of a certainty than Robbie. We can coo about the middle of the order – McCann, Beltran and Teixeira – but around the seventh slot, we start calling names like Scott Sizemore and Dean Anna, and if you're scoring at home, that will be a good inning to go score a sandwich. We haven't yet weighed the gains with the loss – and we need to start coming to grips with that loss. Because there he was, last night, at the Grammys. Yeah, the winners ran up to accept their statues faster than Cano sprints out a grounder to first. But the Yankees still don’t know what they’ve done.
Around March 25, Cashman will either make a hail Mary trade - goodbye, Brett, and probably so long to our best prospect, Gary Sanchez - or he'll go dumpster diving, as he did last March. One problem, though: Last year, we scored nothing valuable from the scrap heap. We landed Vernon Wells, Ben Francisco, Brennan Bosch, Travis Hafner and a raft of lost infielders, all of whom played like – well – hubcaps found on a scrap heap. They’re all back on the heap. Are Beltan and Ellsbury worth more than the loss of Robbie? Were the increments worth the excrements?
Oh well, last night, there he was – Robbie - hanging with Lorde and Taylor. Let’s hope he stayed up all night sniffing animal laxatives with some King of Leon. Let’s hope his Freedom Beard turns white. But he’s going to have a great year in Seattle – maybe three. After that, the only songs the Mariners will associate with him will be musical chairs, because they’ll be stuck with him for seven more seasons, at $25 million per. By then, Jay-Z will be bringing Bryce Harper to the Grammys, and we’ll finally be finished with A-Rod.

And by then, maybe we’ll have a second baseman. As of now, we do not.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Yankees look like a camel that was designed by a committee

Last week was a blast. We drank, we partied, we drank, we barfed on Redsock fans. We pretended everything was fine, the Canyon of Heroes was ours, and the Evil Empire was evil again.

Before Wednesday, 2014 loomed as a Met-like disaster. Truth be told, not much has changed. The Yankees remain a duct-taped blob of old players and bloated contracts, with glaring problems and an unbridled status as the worst run franchise in baseball, if not all of sports. (Aside from the Knicks.)

They have now spent nearly $500 million to upgrade a team that still could finish fifth. What if Jeter, at 40, cannot play SS? What if Tex re-tweaks his wrist? Or if Tanaka needs a year to adjust? Or if Robertson can’t close? Or if CC doesn’t come back? Who the hell plays third base? Who in God’s name plays second? How can a team sink so much money into its farm system and receive so little in return? (And yet nobody lost his job? On what metric does job-performance get rated?)   

I think it’s because the Yankees have been built by a committee. The members: Frederic Horowitz, Casey Close, Hal Steinbrenner and, now, Rupert Murdoch, the newest co-owner. Everybody else is a YES man. Until now, Brian Cashman simply has been pouring coffee and taking orders for donuts.  He couldn’t move until A-Rod’s fate was decided. He couldn’t move until Tanaka chose a team. Now, he can move – but he might as well wait until spring, when the first injuries arrive.

Then, Cashman will probably trade Brett Gardner. This will piss off rabid Yankee fans, who know Gardy as one of our few home grown gamers of the last decade. But The Committee won’t care. He will probably try to package Gardner with either Francisco Cervelli or Austin Romine, but this requires a team that a) wants both players, b) has something to give up, and c) is willing to trade with the Yankees. (Some, like the Rays and Redsocks, simply refuse.) Finally, we must decide on our most urgent need: Starting pitching, bullpen pitching, second base or third. And remember what happens if Jete or Tex go into remission: Then the sirens go off, and it’s 9-11.

Yep. The worst run team in baseball.  By far. Every few years, they spackle-over their problems with money, but then the walls sag and the house collapses. It’s what George did. It’s now what his son – chair of The Committee - is doing. Last week, we had a day to rejoice over the signing of a player – something we missed last year. (Remember that brief fling with fiscal sobriety? The $189 million payroll? Or did we just dream it?) But now we’re back to the cold reality of Robbie Cano in Seattle and nobody to play third. Three weeks until pitchers and catchers – and the first injuries. God help us. But it sure was fun last week, am I right?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Yanks & Friends: 10 subtle changes in YES now that Fox News owns the network

Hidden within the money avalanche that landed Masahiro Tanaka is exciting news for Yankee/ Tea Party fans: From now on, 80 percent of YES – up from 49 percent – will be owned by Rupert Murdoch, the guy who recently divorced the one woman on the planet who will ever take a pie for him.

This could mean changes in YES programming. 

"Center Stage with Michael Kay" questions David Ortiz’ birth certificate.
2.    New feature: Live 7th inning analysis from Governor Palin.
3.   Yankee "loss" refuted by Karl Rove.
4.   David Cone and Paul O'Neill replaced by Kate Upton and Brooklyn Decker
When Cano appears, boos attributed to Jumbotron image of Hillary Clinton.
6.  Double-header questioned as part of ongoing "War on Fourth of July." 

Nationwide survey shows most YES viewers believe Yankees won 2013 World Series.
Teixeira’s slow-healing wrist blamed on Obamacare.
In ninth inning of loss to Redsocks, network switches to incredible new developments on Benghazi.
Roger Ailes offers Suzyn $100 weekly pay raise for sex.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Meet The New Boss

In for a penny, in for a pound: It’s time for the Yankees’ to release the Kraken. It’s time to sign Stephen Drew

Dan Shaughnessy, the Boston Globe columnist - whose head was the inspiration behind Amy Adams’ hairdo in “American Hustle” - has always served as the human canary in the Redsock Nation mineshaft. Whenever he gets a whiff of worry, Shaughnny  goes face down in his cage and starts barking carnival verses about John Henry – who owns only the Redsocks but the Globe. (Which, sadly, he bought for only slightly more than the value of Dustin Pedroia's latest contract.)

Today, Shaughnny offers one of those columns that illustrates the perfect way for an employee to address his boss: He poses a question instead of stating his concern.  It’s headlined: “Has Sox offseason been too quiet?” Shaughnny does the obligatory cooing over the Redsock brain trust, and waxes his dolphin with last year's championship ring, but then - for the first time in 2014 - does something much more Shaughnny-like. Or even Lupica-like. He starts asking why his team is playing cheapo ball.
“The local glee when the Yankees overspend has always perplexed me. Does it put any money in Sox fans’ pockets if the Yankees exceed the luxury tax threshold and the Red Sox hold the line?  If you want to be the Yankees, why are you thrilled to see them land good players at exorbitant costs?”

He even suggests the Redsocks view 2014 a “bridge year,” moving young talent into key positions for a future run. (Translation: Not this year, folks... not... this... year.)
Listen: It’s never been "Boston Strong." It was Boston Smart. They've been smart enough to know the wisdom of a rebuilding year. Two summers ago, they took everything apart and then started putting it back together. They won a ring. They now have three in this millenium. I personally believe a lot more Yankee fans would understand and support the team, if the Steinbrenners adopted a similar strategy. But it doesn't matter, because that won’t happen, (unless we hit an apocalyptical meltdown, which IS still a possibility.) There is too much YES Network money involved to have the Yankees crawling into a season without hope. (As they did last year.)

So, comrades, here is what we must do. 
Sign Stephen Drew.

Yep. I opposed it last month. It made no sense. I opposed it on Monday. No sense at all. I didn't support it on Tuesday. Or Wednesday morning. But today, everything has changed. Now, if we're in this for a penny, we are in it for a pound. SIGN STEPHEN DREW. He can play 2B. He can play 3B. And if Jeter tweaks a gonad, he’ll play SS. The Yankees have a huge, gaping hole on the infield, and the $189 million payroll threshold - the concept that guided us last year - is now a certified glitch of history (Definition: Never discuss this again. We sucked last year for nothing, nothing.) SIGN STEPHEN DREW. It will:

a)      Piss off the Redsocks more than ever.

b)      Give us an everyday 3B without having to trade Brett Gardner.

c)        Give us a player with something to prove to Boston.
Listen: No GM is going to hand the Yankees a solid 3B without demanding a blood ransom. The Redsocks are playing their penny-pinching strategy, and the Steinbrenners have now settled on their plan, which is to spend the moon. OK, let's do it. Drop the bomb. Release the Kraken. Send in the clowns. The canary in the mine shaft is wobbling. In for a penny, in for a pound. Let's go, Mr. Steinbrenner. This is no time for cheapo baseball.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ahhh, how I love the smell of napalm in the morning

The baseball world is appalled, furious, LIVID. Those damn Yankees are trying to buy a pennant. It’s not fair. It’s not right. First, A-Rod made a mockery of the game. Now, this. They’ve bought Masahiro Tanaka. For too much money. Somebody should do something. It’s wrong. There should have been a draft, like in the NFL. The Chicago White Sox should have been able to select him. Or the Cubs. They haven’t won in generations. Why couldn’t baseball force this man to play for the Cubs? Let’s hope Mr. Selig does something. He ridded baseball of drugs. Can’t he stop the Yankees? Mwahhhh-

… Ahhhhhhhh. Oh, yes. Mmm. It’s like easing into a hot tub full of melted butter. Oooogh, squishy-squishy around the toes. I can hear the whines. It sounds like soft cooing.  Hmmmm.
Wait a minute. Before I pass out… there was something I was gonna say… what was it?

Oh, yeah…
This is no way to run a baseball team. (Has anybody noticed that?) Because – oooh, this feels so good – it’s  incompetent, it’s stupid, it’s crazy. (We know this, right?) You can’t just spend a half-billion dollars every few years to keep from falling apart. Somewhere, you gotta – oooh, this feels so nice – I’ll take it up later. I forgot what I was saying.

We got our man. Masahiro Tanaka, of the New York Yanakas.  But if he chose the Cubs, or Los Angeles, today we would be screwed. We might be looking at a team comprised of DHs and duct tape. We have spent $460 million to avoid a Hee Haw reunion special, and if Tanaka sucks – well, we’re still a few injuries away from Met-hood.
But today, the sound of the squawking soothes us. Mmmm, it’s so nice. I think I’ll dip a little of this lobster into the butter. Oww. That was my finger. We have a ways to go.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This bud's for you: The Super Bowl pits the two states of legal weed

Colorado v. Washington. 

Screw NYC. They should play in Amsterdam.

After the game, the winning QB should shout, "I'm looking for Disney Weed."

A cold night in the war on crows

Stop complaining, NYC. You could be a soldier in the war on crows.

Have I Mentioned That I Love The Steinbrenners?


Tanaka is ours!
2014 is in play!
Hal Steinbrenner is serious!
$189 million is dead!
A-Rod is yesterday's news!
CC just put on 10 pounds!
Cano is in a football town!
Theo Epstein is pissed!
Tex right now is working his wrist! (No naughty thoughts, there)
God is in heaven!
No school in New York!

"When he gets up to bat, you can hit him and hit him hard. That’s what I’d do. He sued us. Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz screwed up. You know what? They owned up to it. They took their medicine. (Rodriguez) needs to be scared of coming back."

Well, the Yankees have found their lead-off man for 2015: Alex Rodriguez! He'll always be on base, because his union brothers will bean him, out of revenge.

Listen: If this is what constitutes a modern union debate, I understand why organized labor has fallen into such a sorry state.

Yahoo yesterday quoted several Major League Baseball Players Association union "leaders" as fuming over A-Rod's lawsuit, wanting to boot him not only out of their club but from baseball, entirely. And why? Because his lawyers are following the law. They are suing MLB and the union.

OK, bear with us here. It gets tricky - but not too:  A-Rod’s lawsuit against MLB stems from the Labor Management Relations Act. The statute says that when a union member sues his employer for breach of contract... he must also make a claim of "breach of the union's duty of fair representation." It's not personal. It's not new. For decades, lawsuits against car-makers or public entities, because of insurance claims, forced families to also sue friends or loved ones. I've seen several such cases. I bet you have, too. They're horrible situations. Everybody feels bad. But it's the way the system operates.

A union "leader" ought to be able to understand this.

So the players union wants to expel A-Rod... but it can't. Doing so would be illegal. It would also help A-Rod. (It would, ironically, support his claim.) So... they'll throw at him? He's now the equivalent of a scab? Some unnamed "leaders" are fuming over the fact that union official Michael Weiner - now deceased - is listed in the suit. Yeah, it's emotion being expressed. But Weiner would have been first to explain the situation to these thug-wannabees. And considering the wanton, under-the-table acts said to be done by MLB in its probe, there are many reasons why the players union might want A-Rod's suit to move on - or at least get a public hearing. 

Listen: We don't know how this will play out. But I hope it happens in full view of the American public. If it does, I think both A-Rod and Bud Selig will get what they deserve.

A-Rod's life and reputation will suffer enormously, and financially, if and when he is proven to be a juicer. But MLB's underhanded tactics - the bags of cash, etc. - they need a full airing, as well.

And finally - because honestly, I'm tired of A-Rod; it really is getting to me - I hope the Yankees keep the guy, just for the drama. Come 2015, the entire world will focus on his attempted comeback. Love him or hate him, what an incredible story! It needs to play out on baseball's biggest stage. Good grief, if he's hitting for the Newark Bears, what a loss for everyone. (Except the Newark Bears.) And if he's in LA or Chicago, or anywhere but New York, we will be missing so much theater. For better or worse, I hope he stays a Yankee. We are, after all, the Evil Empire.

Let us predict Tanaka's choice through reasoned analysis

It's simple. All we have to do is divine from what we know of him. Is he the sort of man who would pitch for the Cubs, the Dodgers or the Yankees? Now, only a great fool would pitch for the Cubs,  because he would know he'll never win a World Series. And he is not a great fool, so he should never pitch for the Cubs...

But... because he knows that if he pitches for the Cubs, nobody would ever expect him to win a World Series, he could never be a disappointment, and so he could clearly choose to pitch for the Cubs...

But... he comes from Japan, which, as everyone knows, has a great tradition of honor, so he would never choose a team that has no chance, because it would the same as accepting defeat, which he would never do...

Unless... he has already won a miracle championship in Japan, in fact, gone undefeated and led his team to a once-in-a-lifetime championship - which he has done - which means he'll never have to prove himself, and he is free to accept a similar challenge, because it won't matter to his reputation at home...

Nevertheless... We would only think that he would seek such a challenge, when in fact, what he wants most to do is win a championship every year, and he realizes that if he goes to the Yankees or the Dodgers, he has the best chance to do that, and to win championships in two countries...

But... if he goes to the Dodgers, he will be the third or fourth starter on a team where expectations would be astronomical, considering the unprecedented amounts of money being thrown into the team, and if he doesn't win, he will be subject to intense scrutiny from the disappointed and perhaps angry fan base...

So... he would go to the one team with the greatest tradition, and the greatest need, which is also the team with the deepest pockets, where he can be hailed as a savior, especially considering the team's other ace was a butter bean who has now turned into a matchstick, and TV network is running out of attractions for viewers... Anything else, that would inconceivable!

Unless we're wrong and he goes to Boston.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Uh-oh. Teixeira's still hoping for his wrist to heal

Over the years, Yankee fans have learned one critical lesson about the way bad news leaks out to the Yankiverse:

Whenever a Yankee gets hurt, and the team says he's fine, day to day, expected back soon, he should be fine... well... gubye, it's ovah, kaputski, he's done. 

We saw it with Jeter. We saw it with Hafner. We saw it with Nix. We saw it with Gardner. We saw it with Youkilis. We saw it with Cervelli. We saw it with Bosch. We saw it with Vidal frickin Nuno.

And we saw it with Tex. Oh, yes, did I forget him? We saw it Tex.

So this is what Tex tells Jack Curry of YES:

"Right now, I’m six months out of surgery. Will I be 100% day one? I hope so... Even my doctor said ‘it’s going to keep getting looser, keep getting stronger’ … I’m a little anxious about the way I’m going to feel, but I know that as long as I’m doing what I’m told, doing what I’m supposed to be doing, that I should be fine.

Gubye, it's ovah, kaputski, he's done.


Yankees one of five nominees for a Tanaka Award (aka: The Tanaky)

What an honor. The Yankees are one of the five finalists for Masahiro Tanaka.

The other nominees are:

The Los Angeles Dodgers (Dallas Buyers Club).
The Seattle Mariners (12 Years a Slave).
The Chicago Cubs (Gravity).
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California (Her).
The Arizona Diamonbacks (Nebraska).

And a write-in candidate, Boston? (The Wolf of Wall Street).

Can you feel the jitters? Who should we wear? Gotta lose six pounds. Must fit in that suit. Do we dare write our acceptance speech? So many little people to thank. The Steinbrenners, Mr. Cashman, the team, the fans. Must be gracious. Only get thirty seconds. Don't forget to thank God. Need a few stiff ones beforehand. Fasten the zip. No wardrobe malfunctions. Keep the smile on. If we lose, don't give the bastards anything to use against us.

But damn: When Bud Selig and Yu Darvish open the envelope up on the stage, I might faint.

Gotta go work out. Get the hair done. Gotta look good. (Should we take out another ad in the Tokyo newspaper?)

Of course, if we're not chosen, it's still a great honor. And who knows, at the after-party party, we could take home a Ubaldo.

Stringbean Sabathia? Will somebody please send this man some cheeseburgers?

CC Sabathia's Baseball Reference page lists him as 6'7" tall and 290 pounds. He'll be 33 this season, and the Yankees have him signed through 2017 - that is, unless he wilts away into nothingness.

In the latest photo making the rounds, CC looks like Manute Bol after an enema. This is no 290-pounder. This is a Jenny Craig graduate who caught Dengue Fever. CC looks so svelte, so slim, that your first thought is that Lena Dunham's agent is working the Photoshop, or that he's trying out for Matthew McConaughey's role in a dinner theater version of Dallas Buyers Club. It's not just the cut of the tuxedo. If it were, that's the suit we all could use.

Yesterday, some trainer attempted to assure the Yankiverse that all is well, that CC is merely on a super-training regiment, that he's converted all that old baby fat into muscle, that he's becoming a rock-ribbed power blaster, that he's in the best shape of his life, that blah, blah, blah... go back to sleep and buy more tickets.

I dunno.

CC came to camp last year touting a slimmer than usual figure, due to a tricky knee. The expectation was that by reducing pressure on his legs, he could lengthen his career. Only problem: His fastballs turned into Happy Meals. He went 14-13 with an ERA just shy of 5.00 - worst of his career. Unless he retrieves his old speed, or becomes a junk-baller, we might not be worrying about him lengthening his career.

OK... let's give him benefit of the doubt. After a bad year, you gotta try something. And CC is a legitimate great Yankee. He's won the right to make his own training decisions. If he wants to join Weight-Watchers, so be it. But this is no 290-pounder. He looks closer to 220. And excuse me if I go binge on wings just to calm my nerves.  This looks like an entirely new pitcher coming to camp. And who knows if he'll be any good?

Once again, the Yankees are getting a glimpse of the downside of long-term contracts to 30somethings. No team, regardless of its money, can consistently contend without young players reinvigorating the roster. And if each year we squander our first-round draft pick in order to sign yet another oldster to a seven-year bomb - (hello, Jacoby!) - we are going to be watching photographs like this one - or the famous "Jeet and Eat" shot from last winter - and shaking our heads. If CC doesn't return to form, 2014 could be a meltdown year. Let's hope the Yankees leave themselves an escape hatch - with ample food supplies to last through next winter.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Two weeks until The Master returns in the 2014 Kitten Bowl

Does the NFL really think anybody 
will watch Bruno Mars?

By this time next week, the Yankees will have Tanaka, or Ubaldo, or a very good view of the abyss

Usually, sometime in August or September, a confluence of events brings brain damaged souls like us - born to live or die with the NY Yankees - to claim that everything, everything... EVERYTHING!... hinges on one critical game. 

Well, this year that game came early. It's this week.

(OK, I know what you're thinking: Yes, this is ridiculously premature and overstated. We all know this. A million factors can save or kill the Yankees' year. In fact, usually, the big game in August, that one we target, doesn't truly make or break our season. But this IS it. All those other times, when we're wrong? Forget them. THIS IS IT.) 

This week, the Yankees could be chosen by Masahiro Tanaka as winners of the 2014 International Star Award, vaulting us into contender status in the AL East - and the land of 35 percent luxury taxes. If Mr. Tanaka selects us - and we hope that he is reading this, and recognizes how much we love him - who knows? We could win something.

If Mr. Tanaka bypasses the Yankees, Brain Cashman will likely run to sign Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, the sloppy seconds of 2014's winter. This news will be met across the Yankiverse with a collective sigh of hopelessness. All season, we will be playing for the one-game wild card.

There is a third possibility: That if we whiff on Mr. Tanaka, Hal 9000 directs the Brainster to stay within the infamous payroll target of $189 million. We would be biting the bullet. Over the long haul, this could be the best thing that ever happens to the Yankees. If they could shed the luxury tax burden, retool the farm system, and develop two or three solid players, the franchise could rise in 2015 in the way Boston did last year. (Big if's, though.) But 2014 will be a blank spot on the fossil record.

In other words, folks, everything, everything, EVERYTHING! hinges on the next few days. 

R.I.P. Carlos Silva, the quiet passenger

Sad news. Carlos Silva, the silent presence during every Yankee radio broadcast, has died of cancer at age 50.

Silva produced the games, and from the teasing way that John and Suzyn spoke about him and to him, it was clear that he was part of a closely knit family.

I saw a picture of him today. He looked nothing like I envisoned. For some reason - my own hangups, probably - I pictured him as a twentysomething engineer, someone who was chiding - and constantly being chided by - the stars of the booth. In fact, he had a long and successful career, a wife and a family, and I am sure that, among those who knew and worked with him, he cannot be replaced.

The show will go on. It always does. But 50... that is way too soon.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

10 golden reasons why Syracuse needs another sports arena

Last week, the Syracuse University super-brains unveiled their two-year-old scheme plan for a spanking new, $500 million sports arena. This wondrous money grab  opportunity became public just as Gov. Andrew Cuomo was finalizing his 2014-15 annual budget goodie-bag. With better timing and a little extra grease, SU might have scored a quick $200 million from Albany, without  even having to tell the city of Syracuse. But - hey - what football town can't appreciate the old End-Around?

Seriously: Who needs public debates? After all, SU has the prestigious Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, whose resident Oh-Dears pontificate about democracy, while the Pooh Bahs decide things behind closed doors. What are we, Utica? This is Syracuse, the city that birthed the drive-through bank teller and the popular teen craze, "Knock-Out." So what if the city's infant mortality rate belongs in a Third World country, and the waters of Onondaga Lake still look made from frozen concentrate, a new 40,000-seat arena could snag us an NCAA championship! That would mean a parade! 

Face it: There are TWO HUNDRED MILLION crisp reasons why SU needs a new sports toy. But let's cap the number at 10.


1. Hockey fans are sick of being unable to score good seats for Syracuse Crunch games when Hershey comes to town. A 40,000 seat thingy would solve that problem. Good grief, when those pesky Binghamton Senators play us, they bring their families. With a new facility, we'd have a place to put 'em: The nosebleed section!

2. Nothing stinks more than when the Carrier Dome is reserved for use, leaving the area with no sports or entertainment venue, aside from Manley Field House, the SRC Arena, Coyne Field, the Lampe Center, the Onondaga County War Memorial, LeMoyne's Niland Complex, the State Fair Coliseum, Chevy Court, the Landmark Theatre, Destiny, the Turning Stone Casino, the entire the town of Fabius, and that venerable ballpark home of the Syracuse Chiefs, "Your Name Here" Stadium. Where can we hold the next Benny Mardones concert? We could lose our gun shows to Cortland.

3. A new arena on the Eastern fringe of the downtown will help Syracuse grow the bars on the Eastern fringe of the downtown. Right now, the hot bar action is on the Western flank, Armory Square. What about our Eastern bars? Shouldn't they get a swipe of the card? Hey, think we could get the 2015 Redneck Summer Games? That would boost the Eastern front.

4. Syracuse needs an identity upgrade. For 100 years, we were "the Salt City." Today, that's a dangerous diet. Now, we're "the Emerald City," a true WTF? moment for all who visit. We need a new handle. How about THE ARENA CITY...  with more domes per capita than anywhere in the world! Welcome to Syracuse, Home of the Sell-Out!

5. It's just state money? It's not like we paid for it. It's free money, from Albany! Cuomo gets it from Obama, who gets it from China, which owns all of Utah, where the Mormans secretly keep the Arc of the Covenant, from which all earthly currency emanates. Nobody will miss $200 million. It's free! Money! For you, and you, and YOU! Freeeeee!

6. The current arenas are antiquated. Take SRC Arena, for example. It's now three years old.  Time for the wrecking ball. The Carrier Dome? It still doesn't have cup-holders. Have you peed lately at the War Memorial? (Good luck finding hand soap.) One of these days, we'll all have rashes, or bed bugs, or bad backs, and everybody will say, Why didn't we build that new arena? 

7. A new arena could attract a new pro sports team, such as in the WNBA. How about the Syracuse Snow Queens! More teams mean more games. More games mean more tickets sold. That creates the famous Economic Development Ripple Effect. Did you know that one dollar you spend for a football ticket generates $7,003 in economic stimulus, according to the Football Concussion Institute of Math, where numbers are crunched by ex-Green Bay Packers, recovering from head injuries. If you buy a Chiefs t-shirt, you're feeding 100 children for a month. 

8. The I-81 overpass through Syracuse, which is sagging like a rope bridge. The whole city is debating what to do. A new arena would solve that issue: Without any money, we can't do anything!  No more arguments. Just ram all the traffic into the arena's parking lots, and let folks tailgate until they sort things out. End of problem.

9. Naming rights. A new arena presents a golden opportunity for some rich bum-wad or institution in need of p.r. power-wash to stick their names onto something positive, for a change. (Think: Golisano Children's Hospital.) That weird shake-up at Upstate Medical Center? Ladies and gentlemen, it's the "Upstate Medical Center Hope Gardens!" Death weapons buzzing Hancock Air Base? Welcome to the Syracuse Predator Drone Dome! 

10. Luxury boxes! Come on, folks, let's get real: That is all this is about. The new arena will have bigger, better, more luxurious sky-boxes than everything we currently can offer to the 1 percent. And frankly, why even bothering with a debate? We've seen this movie. We know how it ends. If they don't get the $200 million this time, they'll just come back next year, or the year after, until they do. And they'll win - of course, they will - because they'll promise jobs.

That's all. Jobs. Nobody cares what we're building. Just give them a job. Let them show up, flag cars for eight hours, and then go home. Mission accomplished. Remember that Kevin Costner box-office turkey, "Water World," where the crazy leader Dennis Hopper has all the men on his boat rowing and rowing - they don't know where they're going on the ocean - but they row, row, row... for the sake of rowing? Well, that's us. When did we ever question what to build? Certainly not with super-brains on a hill, happy to think for us, behind those doors.

In defense of... (gasp!)... the infamous Cito Culver

To hear various bleating voices from the Yankiverse, the Yankee brain trust should be fired because of Cito Culver. Last week, one blogger called the former first round pick a complete whiff. (Ah, the reason we blog: to vent.) Culver was selected number 32 - end of the first round - of the 2010 draft, outraging all those experts who consider themselves to be the Mel Kiper of baseball. (Which is terrifying, if you think about it.)

In his great novel, "The Art of Fielding," Chad Harbach writes about a prospect who is told by the St. Louis Cardinals that they'll draft him first, if he'll sign for a certain amount. He jumps at it. Thus, the team can spend bigger on other picks, luring studs away from college. It's a viable strategy, which the Yankees played. Did it work? Too soon to say. But some people can't move beyond ripping Culver as Exhibit A in the case against Brian Cashman.

Fact is, they're wrong.  Culver, 21, is a fine prospect, and it's time for folks to stop whipping him like a rented mule. In the middle of last season, he quit trying to be a switch hitter, and now bats exclusively from the right side. His average jumped 40 points. He hit .313 in August and moved to High A. Here's what he did between Charleston and Tampa.

Listen:  If Culver takes three years to reach the Yankees, he will be still only 24. He has a gun for an arm, and his glove is solid, and if he can hit .250, we've got our shortstop.  By the end of next season, he could be knocking on the door.

I'm always good for ripping the Yankee brass, which seems to hate all its own prospects - and prefers players on the way down to those on the way up. That's a strategy doomed to fail.   But good grief, cut Cito Culver some slack.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Fallon thanks A-Rod

Part of his Friday "thank you" notes: 

"Thank you, A-Rod, for getting a one-year suspension for performance enhancing drugs. I know you're upset. But at least now, you'll have time to get it out of your system."

The first sign that we will not hook Tanaka

In his next tweet, he says the Yankees say they're just doing "diligence."


Either way, dark news. Frankly, if the Yankees cannot sign Tanaka, I'd rather see them go for the $189 million payroll than throw in with Santana for three to five years.

The Ancient Order of Berra-ians: 2014 Yanks will sport the second oldest offense in baseball history

A guy at Baseball Prospectus crunched the numbers to project the 2014 Yankees with the second oldest everyday lineup in the history of baseball.

Yes,  we're the Feeble Empire... The Nine Shades of Gray.

Last year's Yankee lineup averaged an age of 31.9 years. This year, even without A-Rod, the team is anticipating a batting order of 33.6 years. 

Comrades, this is truly an accomplishment, a monument to the inability - or unwillingness - to see forests for trees. The 2013 Yankees lost more time to injuries than any other team in baseball, and there's not a Yankee fan in captivity who could not see the absolutely critical need for an infusion of youth.

So... Carlos Beltran.

Yes, they got older.

The 2006 SF Giants - anchored by Barry Bonds, when his head was the size of a weather balloon - remain history's oldest lineup. They didn't make the post-season.

The 2014 Yankees: Every Day... Old-Timers Day!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Waiting for the Redsocks to strike in the Tanaka sweepstakes

Yesterday, we learned the Cubs have leaped into the Masahiro Tanaka bidding war - this, after days of "news" reports claiming the action had boiled down to the Yankees v. Dodgers. Obviously, those reports were crapola. Let's face it, nobody - not Joel Sherman, not Pope Gammons, not even Randy Levine - has a track on what Tanaka wants in his next baseball team.

But if it's a ring next year... well... the team most likely to supply it happens to also have $100 million lying around - the Jacoby Ellsbury Farewell Fund - and these days, they're acting awfully damn quiet. "Too quiet," as Ward Bond would say, sitting around the Wagon Train camp fire.

If you were the Boston GM, and you wanted to turn one World Championship into three or four - a "dynasty," they call it - here's your ticket. If the Redsocks ante up - say- $120 million over six years, they can also guarantee him the 2014 Post Season, the loony loyal fan base, friendly toadies in the ESPN and FOX booths, and - if he's of the mind - a safe and secure PED-supplying network, (which the Yankees clearly cannot offer.)

Boston is a position to put the Yankees in its rearview mirror for the next three years.  Don't think they are unaware of this. Don't get comfy over news stories that are based in ether, or anything that suggests the Redsocks will sit this out.

Be afraid, Yankiverse. Be very afraid.

Now that they hold the key to a managerial challenge, will home team broadcast booths run instant replays in a timely manner?

Last season was a disaster for the New York Giants and coach Tom Coughlin. But early on, one game seemed to hinge on an instant replay challenge. There was a critical first-down pass, which might have been dropped, and Coughlin was ready to throw his challenge flag. But you could see him awaiting word from a coach upstairs, who was waiting for the FOX TV crew to replay the pass. When FOX didn't do it, Coughlin called a timeout. Obviously, he wanted more time for FOX to run the replay, so he could see if it was worth issuing a challenge. But FOX cut to a commercial, and when the game returned, Coughlin threw the challenge and lost - and the Giants lost two time outs. A miserable moment in a miserable season.

Last night, I was remember that moment, after MLB announced it will use the instant replay. Because the Yankees have the YES Network, which will be quick to run the Super YES-MO replay on any call that goes against us. Joe Girardi will never have to blindly challenge a call, because YES will be on it. But if the play goes against us, will YES hurry to run it?

Baseball isn't like the NFL, where all games are broadcast by a major network. Each MLB team has its own TV network, and some in the booth are notorious homers. (Not the Yankees, of course. Other teams, obviously.) 

If the Yankees are hosting, say, Houston. Will the Astros broadcast crew be using the YES camera feed? Or will they bring their own camera crew? Will there be conflicting booth reviews, before the managers decide whether to use one of their challenges? This will never be a big issue - unless the day it becomes one. Then it will be a doozy.

Did baseball just kill the rhubarb?

Nothing could beat a Lou Piniella, out-of-body, fall-to-the-knees, primal scream session, over a close call. Yes, Billy Martin could kick field goals, Bobby Cox could yell, and God knows what Earl Weaver said, but when Lou threw a base into the dugout, you were seeing pure, uncut, felony-grade American rage. You were seeing baseball.

Yesterday, Major League Baseball approved the use of video replays on close calls. From now on, if the Yankees get screwed on a play at first, Joe Girardi will simply walk out and call for the replay. If it's after the seventh, the umps will probably beat him to the punch.

It's up, and it's... GOOD!
Don't get me wrong. This change was always going to come. It's overdue, considering how replays have become a part of the NFL, (though it's maddening that every touchdown, regardless of need, requires a review.) But somewhere, the ghost of Ralph Houk is slinging chains against the wall. And no matter how you slice it, baseball just ceded another part of its humanity to the corporations that rule the sports industry.

There will still be arguments. Balls and strikes can be disputed. Bean balls can be thrown. Runners will leave base paths, and managers will occasionally blow just for the sake of blowing. But teammates won't have to haul Brian McCann from the field on a close play at the plate. They'll just stand back and watch the Jumbotron.

Just saying. "Kill the umpire!" is dead. From now on, "Call the umpire!"

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Highlight of the Winter

Bigger than Mariano: It's time to imagine Bud Selig Day at Yankee Stadium

It's hard to blog with tears in your eyes.  But that's today's situation, as we try to digest the game of baseball without dad, er, Bud Selig - damn, did I call him "Dad" again? It's hard not to think of dad Uncle Bud that way. Now, they say he's going to go? Nooo, say it aint so!

All last year, Bud must have looked at Mariano Rivera's final tour and thought, "Damn, what did that little punk do for the game?" When Uncle Bud, goes, baseball should build him a pyramid.

So... it's time to ponder Bud Selig Day, the greatest commissioned commissioner celebration in baseball history, when thousands - nay, millions! - will bid dad Bud adieu.

Before the game, the great stars Bud personally touched will honor him on the field. There will be Senator George Mitchell and the entire Redsocks organization, which skated through Bud's steroids probe. Big Papi will tell the world that Bud was "f----n awesome!"

Then comes a parade of 1990s lawyers, who received full time jobs trying to defend Bud's collusion plan, which screwed free agents like Jack Morris out of an estimated $280 million, before it was clobbered in court.

At this point, Bud will symbolically shove swords into an effigy of former commissioner Fay Vincent, signifying how dad Bud took over baseball, by eliminating the commissioner's office entirely, so the game could be run by the owners, without a central authority, which could be so easily sued.

After the bloodletting, the Bud Selig Day game itself will be delayed 150 days, symbolizing the players strike of 1994, which Bud oversaw in an attempt to force a payroll cap onto the sport. Replacement players will take the field and then be paid to leave, giving homage to the man who canceled the first World Series since 1904.

When the game is played, it will feature the Minnesota Twins, who Bud attempted to scrap, a move that would expand the market of the Milwaukee Brewers, the team from which he completed "divested" himself, after passing it onto his daughter.

The game will feature a special treat: Spider-Man 3 logos painted on all the bases - oh, but don't worry traditionalists. No logos on home plate! No way, not there - because Bud never believed in rank commercialization.

In the first three innings of the game, each team will hit 70 home runs, showcasing the the celebration of modern protein enhancements, which helped dad Bud in his campaign to restore baseball to popularity, after the strike of 1994.

Then, in the fourth inning, all the home runs and all the home run hitters will be abruptly deleted from the box score, as if none of it ever happened. It will be a tie game, and the two teams will play a ONE GAME PLAYOFF... with the winner gets to advance to the real ONE GAME PLAYOFF for the post season, and also for the chance to win home field advantage in next year's All-Star Game, which Bud will call after nine innings, because no team sent pitchers.

In the ninth, with the game designated a tie - (the two teams will play another ONE GAME PLAYOFF to determine who goes to the ONE GAME PLAYOFF) - special ceremonies will be held. Bud will receive the gift of sex from a team of fawning announcers from Fox, or ESPN, or whatever network happens to be paying for the rights - and, by the way, charging about $5 a month to every cable subscriber in America, a de facto tax, whether they care or not about sports. The owners will present Bud with his annual check for $23 million, and Bud will announce that he's done a great job, and that, "Baseball considers itself the luckiest sport on the face of the earth."

A special MLB drone will land on the field, and Bud will be lifted into the sky - straight to Cooperstown for induction ceremonies - while Tim McCarver leads the crowd in singing,  "So Long, It's Been Good Ta Know Ya."

For the next hour, people will gather around the Bud Selig statue, where Alex Rodriguez has been chained, to pose for selfies. Through the miracle of modern technology, the statue will grow live human hair. It'll be great, except that we'll have to see it through the tears.

Hal Steinbrenner, supercomputer: “I’m pretty objective in my thinking. This is business. I’m just focusing on the team, a player. Is the player an asset to the club or not? That’s about as far as I look. I don’t get personal.”

In his first post-A-Rod appearance, the HAL 9000 owner-bot was wheeled into view yesterday to process questions from an assembly of Gammonite interfaces. Usually, HAL beeps once for yes, twice for no. But this time, to dispel fears that the Yankees do not have a super-analytical mind at the top of the beer chart, HAL 9000 spoke, calculated minor algorithms and gave everyone a dazzling glimpse into the digital mind of this super Yankee warlord. Highlights:

On the computational sense of time: "I have not thought about 2015 nor am I going to. My focus has to be on right now."

On the unlimited potentials of problem solving: "Pitching, starting pitching, is an area I believe we still need some help. We're looking at a number of possibilities and we're talking to a number of people."

On "emotional" attachments:  "I love hockey. I don't follow it as much as some people do, probably. I love the sport."

On maintaining a binary hockey modality: "I am a Rangers fan and I root for the Lightning as well. Those would be my two teams. I have no others."

On projecting statistical variations: "Hopefully... we'll have a more normal year when it comes to injuries and the team we hope and the fans expect to see is on the field."

On reality v. anticipated projections: "I wish our Minor Leagues were a little bit better than they are. I wish that some of the prospects we were so excited about had panned out the way we thought and hoped they would. But it is what it is."

On calculating numerical jersey retirement probabilities: " We're going to figure out just whose numbers are going to be retired... Sometime in the next few weeks we'll be talking about it. It could be none, one or multiples. You've been around long enough to know that it's a very special thing for us. It's not something we do lightly."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Rumors about Logan Forsythe and Bronson Arroyo raise Yankee fan excitement to explosive fever pitch

It’s that time of year, the Scrap Heap Season, which no one plays with more starling-into-the-picture-window, splattering intensity than Brian “Crash” Cashman. If you invited this man for dinner, he’d spend most of the time in your garage, looking for treasures. He’d make you an offer for that prized painting of the dogs playing poker. And today, he’s at it again, said to be working his magical spells to pry loose Logan Forsythe – yes, the Loganberry himself - from the pesky Padres of San Diego. That kind of pillow talk ratchets NYC excitement levels to Defcon 5. Forsythe in Pinstripes? PINCH ME!

But wait, there’s more! If the Yankees order now, MLB might throw in Bronson Arroyo, at no extra charge. Yes, the first true victim of A-Rod stands as the possible Yankee pitching fallback if the touring giant lizard from Japan, Masahiro Tanaka, takes his atomic breath to the Dodgers. Maybe I’m self-projecting, but some disturbing signs popped up in the last 24 hours to suggest the Yankee deal might be headed south. Two stories in the New York Post – the journalism equivalent of a backyard planter for Yankee bigwigs - are basically telling us not to expect or want Tanaka. An unnamed Yankee official says he’s “not sold” on the guy, and another says Tanaka’s pop star wife prefers the Mileys and Gwyneths of Los Angeles to cold NYC. Yes, blame it on Yoko.
Remember the days just before Cano dropped his Seattle bomb? The Yankee upper-level brownouts planted a story in the Post that said Robbie craved only money and didn’t care about team loyalty. It was a shot across the bow and, in retrospect, an attempt to deflect what they already knew: Cano was gone. So, are they doing it again? (Better question: Why wouldn’t they be doing it again?)

The Yankees this winter have been harder to figure out than traffic cones on the George Washington Bridge. They ran out and signed Brian McCann to a five-year-deal, and then Jacoby Ellsbury to seven -  two long term contracts that will eventually haunt them – while they we whining about Alex Rodriguez’ last few years. Then they added three years to Carlos Beltran – something they refused to do the last time he was a free agent, back when he was younger. Were they just grabbing the biggest names available, because Robbie was heading out the door? Now, they have George Costanza and Bert Convey to pitch every fourth and fifth day, or to play 2B and 3B – while they count on Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira making full recoveries, and nobody else to get hurt.
Is there a plan here, other than to deflect criticism when something is on the horizon? The Yankees are talking about a trade for Forsythe – an infielder who batted .214 last year – and/or signing Arroyo, the living definition of a middling 5th starter. Yes, I know, I know, I know... spare parts can be critical to a team. And if you're talking about Forsythe as the 25th man, no sweat. If Arroyo is the long reliever, no problem. But right now, Forsythe could bat seventh, and Arroyo would start every fourth game. That's going to beat Boston? On what planet?

The Yankees better find some NYC celebrities that Mrs. Tanaka wants to meet. Hello, Miley? Wanna host Saturday Night Live again?

Scrap Heap Baseball, everybody. If you see Brian Cashman, lock your garage.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

For the Low Price of Ten Clicks, the Voice of the Red Sox Will Teach You Who to Hate

NESN's Villain List stars a suspended Yankee, an ex-Yankee and a Yankee GM... plus some players who were never Yankees at all!

Did you know that the Yankees have been "making it rain this offseason?"

Let's face it: 2014 is Tanaka... or $189 million and retool

Between now and January 24, Masahiro Tanaka will decide the future of the New York Yankees. His agent will call Brian Cashman and give the verdict on whether the team should try to win this year or start looking down the road.

Strange, how it's come to this, eh? We've tracked through a dead farm system, an aging lineup and the public banning of A-Rod. The Redsocks now sit atop the world of baseball, and the Yankees - o, those mighty Yankees - are grasping for the 2014 one-game playoff, that phony post-season that was installed to make MLB look a little less like the National Pastime and a little more like the NBA.

Well, if we sign Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees could be competitive this year. Add an ace pitcher to the lineup, well, that's can put a so-so team into the playoff mix. Suddenly, the Yankees could be a trade deadline acquisiton from the post-season. Hey, ya' never know.

But without Tanaka, well, ouch. Good luck, Yankee fans. Without Tanaka - or the Tanaka we're hoping he'll be - the Yankees must hope for a) Sabathia to put on 30 pounds and get younger, b) Kuroda to take off 40 innings and get younger, c) Nova to add three years of maturity, d) Phelps/Pineda/Bannelous/Nidal - good grief - why bother listing them all? - to become Andy Pettitte. All this must be added to a batting order thick at the top and pencil lead thin at the bottom. And then there are the injuries, sure to ravage such an old roster. Nope. Without Tanaka, this is a team likely to be out of the race by August 15, and there will be no worse place to play sports in America than Yankee Stadium for the final six weeks. We'll be watching Slade Heathcott playing Kevin Maas.

Without Tanaka, there is - well - Ubaldo Jimenez, and another lost draft pick. Without Tanaka, there is Adam Warren, a perfectly fine long reliever, asked to throw 180 innings. Without Tanaka, the Yankees roll the dice on a Brett Gardner trade, and even if they succeed, it's hard to imagine their strengths overcoming their weaknesses.

January 24 is the deadline. That's when Masahiro Tanaka decides the future of the Yankees in 2014. Amazing, eh, that you can invest so much money into an operation and still be waiting for the call.

Open Letter to A-Rod: Believe it or not, you've been granted a reprieve


n his late years, Shoeless Joe Jackson – he, of the lifetime ban – ran a liquor store in Greenville, South Carolina. One day, Ty Cobb and the sportswriter, Grantland Rice, came in to buy life-sustaining booze. Jackson pretended not to recognize them. Cobb grew exasperated. “Don’t you know me, Joe?” he said. “Sure, I know you, Ty,” Jackson replied. “But I wasn’t sure you wanted to know me. A lot of them don’t.”

It’s been 95 years since Shoeless Joe was banned by the Bud Selig of his generation. The world still remembers Jackson, still debates him, still views him as one of the great hitters of history. He will be known long after other stars of his time are forgotten. It’s the Bill Buckner Effect. He will take on a larger than life perspective, because people have an innate appreciation for greatness and a fascination with tragedy. It is part of human nature.

Over the next year, in the darkest times, you must remember this.

Someday, the world will track through its instinctive anger upon hearing the name Alex Rodriguez. Someday, writers and pundits will compare your transgressions to a generation of far worse villains, because evil seems to evolve more quickly within our species than goodness. Eventually, they’ll say you weren’t so bad. But it will take time. Maybe a lot of it.

Listen: Yesterday, you screwed up. You pushed a nuke button and began suing MLB and the player’s union. My friend, that is a loser’s strategy - unless you are lawyer. It’s how to spend $10 million, without achieving anything - unless you are a lawyer. Your name will get dragged through the mud, and the lawyers will become famous and rich, and sir, you should rethink that strategy soon. The courts will not save you. They will simply take your money.

Many people, like you, believe the recent arbiter’s ruling was a shame. But one thing Frederic Horowitz did do was to cut your suspension from 1.5 years to one. That’s not minor. That’s the difference between a lifetime ban and a year off.

Listen: You have been given a year to redeem your name.  

This is no time to go Robert Redford and sail around the world, thinking if you die, everybody will feel bad. This is no time to run a liquor store and pretend you don’t recognize people. This is a year to get out and make the world a better place. I’m not talking about “personal appearances.” Courtney Love makes “personal appearances.” Get out and work. Get out and build Habitat for Humanity homes. Get out and march for crops, or causes. Get out and wield hammers and deliver foodstuffs, and actually do things. Don’t disappear into a weight room. Don’t hide with the aerobics instructors and the hangers-on. Get out and be with real people.

Bud Selig sold cars. Know what? He’ll always been a car salesman. Go out be Alex Rodriguez, the person, not the player. You cannot win your case in the courts. There will be no justice there, just a bunch of suits who nod and take your money. Plead your case to the people, to the fans, to America. That is the only court that matters.

If you get involved with a righteous cause, the next year will disappear in what seems like a minute. It will soon be the winter of 2015, and nobody will give you a chance at returning to baseball. And that’s when you get a shot at proving them wrong. That’s when you can show the world who Alex Rodriguez is.

Because, frankly, we still don’t know.

You’ve been granted a final act. Not many people get one. You have one year. Will you sit in your compound, screw the latest stripper and direct your legal war? Or will you get out and work with people – REALLY work with people, not just do p.r. – and become the person you’ve never been able to be. It's time to tell the truth - about everything.

The craziest part of your defense was that crowd of nutjobs who showed up on the streets of New York to support you. Everybody assumed they were paid. Well, maybe it doesn’t matter. Wherever you go, there will be a crowd of nutjobs. (Some will be there to heckle.) You have a podium. You have a chance to tell about your life, and maybe to do some good.

Sir, you are not “retired.” You are “banned,” and banned by a gang of jokers who will carry a lot of historical baggage. Everything they did will come out. Everything you did will come out. You don’t need lawyers. You need friends. Do something with your year. Do something with this ban. You will be remembered for 100 years, like Shoeless Joe.

Do something. Or else buy a liquor store and instead of selling booze, just drink it up yourself.  Because it’ll be you in the mirror that you pretend not to recognize.