Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The case for Girardi

"The Yankees just let one of the best managers in baseball go."

Are the Yankees waiting for the series to end before announcing their manager... or is something else going on?

I can see why "Cooperstown" Cashman didn't wait to fire Joe Girardi: The sooner Joe officially became a free man, the more likely he'd land a job. But thus far, it's not as if Destiny has been ringing his cellphone. Over the last 48 hours, Washington and Philadelphia both filled managerial openings, leaving Joe in the limbo of the lost, also known as Greater White Plains. 

It's possible that Joe is mulling his future and not returning calls, taking some "me" time before the next gig. It's also possible that with the Mets, Redsocks, Nats and Phillies having filled their slots, the music has stopped for 2018, leaving Joe without a chair... aside from one next to Coney and Paul in the YES Network barker gallery. 

But what's going on with the Yankee opening? When Joe received the pink slip, everyone assumed that "Coop" already had a successor in mind. It's not like Cashman to fire someone and then organize a search committee to sift for replacements. This isn't the East Syracuse Zoning Board; it's the frickin' New York Baseball Yankees. They don't accept slush pile submissions. So why the delay?

For now, let's assume it's due to the ongoing World Series, and the unwritten rule that teams don't make big public splashes while the games are still going. (Remember the wails when A-Rod opted out of his Yankee contract during the 2007 World Series? How dare he undercut that epic, 4-game Boston-Colorado sweep!) This allows the evil Fox Sports hype machine to fully bulldoze American junk culture throughout the month of October - selling insurance scams and watery beer - without having some team wave around the reanimated corpse of Gene Mauch or Terry Bevington as its latest face of the future 

Still, what gives here? Boston, Washington and Phily have all filled openings during the post-season - the Mets and Redsocks moving while the Yankees were still playing - without a blip of protest. So why haven't the Yankees made their announcement? Surely, Cashman has already settled on his man, right? It's like Robert Mueller's indictment - filed last week, but not made public until yesterday, right? We're just waiting for Joe Buck to give the go-ahead, right? 

My guess is that if Houston wins tonight, we'll have a Yankee manager by Thursday morning drive time. If not, something has happened within the bowels of the Yankiverse. Somewhere, in the well laid plans of Cooperstown Cashman, reality will have tweaked a gonad. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Joe won't be going to Washington

The Washington Nationals have hired Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez, eliminating one of the most popularly speculated destinations for Mr. Joseph Elliot Girardi, star of the Joe Girardi Show. Supposedly, the Gnats contacted Joe, but nothing came of it.

Phillies? Tigers? The Sunoco Broadcast Booth?

In alt-universe, last night's Yankees-Dodgers game was rained out

BREAKING _ Tonight, all eyes are on the alt-Bronx, when the alt-Yanks take on the alt-Dodgers in alt-Game Four of the alt-World Series, following two alt-rain-outs...

Yeah, it's that pathetic. Still thinking about Greg Bird sliding into home. The real world just hurts. The Badgers and Assholes are playing extra-inning barn-burners, perfect for West Coast celebrities who don't care anyway, but killers for us nobodies of the East. We get the first six innings - de facto exhibition games, as everything changes when the bullpens take over. I can't watch little Jose Altuve's hawk 5-hour energy drinks, or the commercial where Flo hides in the kid's bedroom closet. Talk about nightmares. Who writes these, Harvey Weinstein? Meanwhile, we get to ponder the next Yankee manager from a list of no-names that only Brian Cashman recognizes. 

What are we supposed to do? Watch the Jersey Gints? Please. I'm already rooting for the draft pick. The Jets? The Knicks? The Rangers? Dear God. NYC sports is an ongoing catastrophe, with only one traditional element of pride, and it ended because Greg Bird didn't try a hook slide, and it's not his fault, it just happened. The alt- and real worlds have one thing in common: A steady rain. 

Yesterday, for a while, I actually pondered the Yankee payroll, crossing off future salaries and cackling over the coins saved like Ebenezer Scrooge. It gave me a headache. I hate myself. Over the years, I have refused to tolerate the Steinbrenners poor-mouthing about payrolls and luxury taxes - these are billionaires pretending to be millionaires, so we'll feel sorry for them - and there I was, giddy over the chance to screw Matt Holliday from future paydays, so Randy Levine can stuff more cash into his suitcase. Ridiculous. Only at this time of year, when baseball is still going, but the Yankees are not. 

I tried following the Arizona Fall League. Did you know that Thairo Estrada, a promising shortstop, is fifth in the AFL in hitting? Last I looked, he was at .392. And Billy McKinney - now playing first - is leading the league in RBIs! But here's the rub, we could lose either or both in the December Rule 5 draft, when MLB teams pick our carcass clean like a marching army of fire ants. Between now and early December, Cashman will likely trade prospects to lessen the upcoming bloodletting. So there's no point in following celebrating a good Arizona autumn, unless it's within some alt-world drug delirium. 

Winter is coming, the trees look bare, and I'm still thinking about Bird sliding into home. The World Series is still going, the games end at 1:30 a.m., and - you know what? I don't care who wins. Calgon Beauty Beads, take me away!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Fun with numbers: A quick glance at 2018

Here is the Third World budget-worth of Yankee contracts dissolving into dust this winter, from Cot's Baseball Contracts. (Not shown is the $21 million from A-Rod.) Take a look, and try not to choke on your drool.

I count $75 million coming off the boards, and that's not including Tanaka's $22 mill, if he opts out for the free agent debutante's ball (as he should; he'll get more.) If Tanaka walks, that's a $97 million kidney stone removed from last years's $196 million budget, making Prince Hal the luckiest billionaire on the face of the earth. Time for a bigger yacht! Is West Virginia for sale? (Its politicians are!)

Of course, making money is never easy. We'd love CC at a discount and Tanaka for three more. There will be arbitration spikes for Didi, Dellin, Hicks, Bird, et al. Still, no matter what happens, Hal's Evil Empire will see massive chunks of payroll replaced by minimum wage workers, such as Glyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazier, Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield. This is the year Hal should fall comfortably below the luxury tax red line, like 95 percent of the other billionaire owners. Imagine this: It should be the last winter in our lifetimes that Hal whines about money.   

Or will it? A critical situation remains. Right now, here's where the all-important rotation stands:

CC (if he returns)

Tanaka (if he returns)

After that, things get murky. Here are solutions:
The Japanese Babe Ruth guy: Ohtani?
Sign a free agent: Yu Darvish? Jake Arrieta? Alex Cobb? Lance Lynn?
Convert from the bullpen: Chad Green? Luis Cessa ? Bryan Mitchell ? Adam Warren? Maybe even Dellin -gulp - Betances?

Go with a rookieChance Adams? Justus Sheffield? Domingo German? Cast of Knots Landing: Scranton Edition.

My personal hope: We re-sign CC for one year; Tanaka signs with Seattle for the next millennium; Sonny Gray figures out NYC or gets dealt for James Kaprielian straight up; Montgomery avoids sophomore slump; Chad Green returns to starting (a la Severino), and either Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield turns out to be the real deal. If so, all will be hunky dory. 

What are the chances? Forget about it. These never work out the way you want. Something tells me the August 1, 2018, Evil Emp will barely resemble last summer's team, with one exception: The center of the lineup: Judge, Bird, Sanchez, Didi. After that, who knows? But I'll take it, knowing that Hal won't go hungry anymore. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

It's a Laff Riot, I'm tellin' ya...

The hijinks are non-stop when noted yuk-yuk-yuk-ster and Fox Baseball Analyst David "Big Papi" Ortiz delivers a cheeky "fake news" announcement about the next Yankees skipper:

I can't believe I missed it when it first ran last night.  These guys' cachinnations are sure to catch the nation!

Or something.

Summit of the minds: Alphonso spotted in Amsterdam

EXCLUSIVE: Filed from overseas, where Alphonso is traveling, by special IT IS HIGH senior international correspondent, Urban Farmer formerly known as DutchFan...

No more despair.

I have been to the brew home in Amsterdam near the river last night.

Something told me I had to go to this place. The oldest bar in Amsterdam they say.

When I walked in my attention was drawn to the back of the dimly lit barroom. There was a large table with only one person sitting at it.

A grumpy looking man, in a polyester polo shirt, wearing a little hat and sporting a necklace that reflected the sparse light that fell on it. On the table a flock of empty whiskey glasses. 

The man was washing down unami oysters from Zeeland, each with a glass of Superior Jenever (Dutch gin, produce of Holland that is, right in the capital of the Netherlands) and on his bib I could see the sorry proof of a fight with a lobster. The lobster lost, for only a shell remained on his plate.

He drinks a bottle of Sancerre for desert. He speaks French so nobody can understand what he is mumbling about.

He is a young man with an ancient spirit.

He orders a few I.P.A. beers to go with a new bottle of Superior Jenever.

His voice grows louder and all of a sudden it is as if there is a glowing light around his head. Still in French, with the slightest Normandy accent, revelation after promise after prediction flows from his lips (a bit greasy from the classic thermidor style lobster butter) and the barroom lights seem to become brighter.
Girardi, Cashman, the Steinbrenners, Yankee Stadium and the 2018 season are put in perspective and all doubt there might have been in my head, disappears.

Then the man gets up and walks towards the exit. Suddenly he turns around and looks at me. He takes a few steps until he is standing right in front of me. His surprisingly large torso towering over me.

He thrusts a plastic bag in my hands and says, ”Trust the 99." Then he leaves.

I couldn't make sense of it, so I just did what any normal man would do. I started drinking heavily. And in the thick fog alcohol provides, I got the message. I opened the plastic bag.

One thing I can tell you, I have been to the brew home near the river in Amsterdam and got the t-shirt to prove it.

I have been Judged.

Next Yankee manager? He needs to wear the Golden Thong!

First, let's be real here: Nobody cares who we think should be "next Yankee managerial pariah." It's Brian "Cooperstown" Cashman's decision, and unless he is rappelling down a building in an elf costume, his next move is impossible to gauge. That's why we generally avoid the dreary, timeworn blogger game of proposing trades. Yeah, it's fun to be 14 again, and imagine getting Willie Mays for Roger Repoz and Ross Moschitto, but it's a waste of beery brain cells. When it comes to running the Yankees, Cashman operates like the CIA, and we'll be lucky if the documents on last summer's Robertson, Frazier & Kahnle deal are released in 2047, by then-President Tiffany Trump. You cannot predict baseball, Suzyn. Nor can you predict Cooperstown Cashman.

Thus, consider this for what it is: A dry-drunk Yankee rant, which will be forgotten unless for some reason, it hits the jackpot. Then, for the rest of your miserable lives, you will hear me blather about having predicted the next Yankee manager: Mr. Jason Gilbert Giambi of West Covina, California.

Really, predicting the Yankee manager is a crap shot full of blank cartridges. Have any of us ever met Trey Hillman or Jay Bell? Does anybody know Rob Thomson? I personally wouldn't recognize Al Pedrique if he turned out to be the barefoot stoner on acid who hitched with me to Daytona for spring break. They are names on a chart. And here is the chart, based on some ridiculous Vegas betting odds. (Truth be told, Cashman will - just to be Cashman - probably hire somebody not on this list.) But here goes anyway...

I believe the next Yankee manager must be smart, media-savvied, charming at times, relatively young (mid-40s), tough, with previous experience in NY, with a slight crazy streak, with the ability to seduce Suyzn Waldman (if necessary), and with the size and presence to physically beat the shit out of anybody in the clubhouse. If you notch all those characteristics, the list looks like this:

I could be off here. (I think Mattingly could take out Betances in a pinch, but I could be wrong.) Still, I hereby propose Giambi, age 46, as the man who could run the Yankees for the next 10 years. From his earliest days, when he carried the Oakland A's to divisional championships, to his incredible roller-coaster ride with the Yankees, Giambi has seen it all. He remains a larger than life presence. He can be crude, he can be emotional, he can scream at umps and he fire up a team and - I'm not alone here - he could be the next great major league manager. 

Terry Francona, four years ago, when Giambi was with the Indians, put it this way:

I'd be lying if I said he's not special. … I've already gone to him two or three times with questions about things. It's just the way he is. He's a manager-in-waiting.

Of course, there is one major knock on Giambi: No managerial experience. He would literally be assuming the toughest job in baseball, with the most expectations of any manager in baseball, and never have even done it before. Talk about hitching to Daytona on acid? He'd be lucky to end up in Branson, Missouri. But look at the others on that list: Thomson, Hillman, Ibanez, Naehring (who apparently has taken himself out of the competition). They too have no previous experience. I say, with a solid bench coach (John Sterling, maybe?), who knows?

If the Yankees want to rev up their fan base, with the exception of Mattingly and, of course, A-Rod, I cannot imagine anyone more exciting than Giambi. And yeah, I'm probably seeing him through the same rose-colored glasses that I wear for Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade. But with a wave of young Yankees  launching (we hope) great careers, how about a young manager, too? Besides, I can think of no better person to run the team than someone in command of a magical Golden Thong. Wouldn't such a mystical garment have helped Aaron Judge last August? Remember this... from May 2008.


On days when drives are flying long,
And pitchers wonder what’s gone wrong?
The Bronx winds sing this joyous song:
“Giambi’s in his golden thong!”

Each swing reveals Giambi’s might,
Each wince inspires his mates to fight,
They know too well his painful plight:
One ball hangs left, one ball hangs right.

He leads the veteran team attack,
True courage, he shall never lack!
He eyes the pitch, then takes his whack
As golden threads ascend his crack.

Then comes the time when life turns wrong,
When wins grow short, and losses long,
And Bronx winds sing their saddest song:
“Giambi’s lost his golden thong!”

Friday, October 27, 2017

One other thing about Joe Girardi...

On the night the Yankees won the 2009 World Series, while driving home to White Plains, Joe Girardi stopped on the side of the road to help a stranded motorist.

That says it all.

I speak not to disprove what all have said, but here I am, to speak what I do know...

Friends, Romans, Yankeefans, lend me your clicks,
I come to bury Joe, not to praise him.
The pineapples that managers endure live after them,

The wins are oft interred with their bones.
So let it be with Girardi...

First, let us discuss collateral damage: The Joe Girardi Show. In my fave episode: Joe and Meredith went to Frank Pepe's Pizza shop. It was incredible. They learned to make pizza. First, you pound the dough. "Fascinating," Joe said. Then you twirl it. "Wow," Joe said. Then you put the sauce on it. "Look at that," Joe said. Then you put the pizza in the oven. "I can't wait," Joe said. Then you wait. "Interesting," Joe said. Then you pull it out of the oven. "Looks great," Joe said. Then you eat it. "Delicious," Joe said. That's how you make pizza. Who knew? 

The next guy had better know pizza.

Then there is the personal toll: Joe's feelings. I don't think they'll stay hurt for long, because Joe will get job offers, quickly. But I'm not sure he'll take them. Regardless of what he does, Joe will always be "former Yankee manager." I'm not sure he wants to work in DC or LA or even Chicago, his base. It will never be the same. Joe Girardi is a Yankee, true and true. He is a kind, decent man - a great man, in my opinion - who for 10 years tamped down clubhouse feuds, put a game face on some terrible lineups, and never broke under the pressure of a predatory 24/7 news monster, always thirsting blood. When that rookie tore up his knee in his first MLB game, Joe wept on the field; it's the only time we ever saw him cry. After incredibly tough losses - the pineapple still wedged up his canyon of heroes - he calmly answered trick questions from the Gammonites, and before the next game arrived, he would cordially welcome dear Suzyn into The Manager's Show, to chew upon the world as we knew it. 

The next guy had better have a steel rectum.

There is the ugly reality of running the New York fucking Yankees: Nobody gets out alive. Sooner or later, the writers, the bloggers, the talkers and the fans all agree on one thing: It's time to go. We saw it with Joe Torre, whose dynastic run might never be repeated in our lives. Yet in the end, he simply had to leave. Too many pineapples. Too many twisted decisions that didn't go his way. 

The next guy had better understand his ultimate fate.

Make no mistake: Joe Girardi needed to go. Everything ends, including Yankee managerial runs. Joe had become brittle and beaten, reduced to relying on "binders" more guaranteed to generate excuses rather than wins. For the last three years, his late summer bullpens were always shattered, reduced to one or two pitchers in his ever shrinking "circle of trust." When reporters would ask in the postgame show about a certain bad decision, Joe would hesitate before answering, and in those moments, you sensed a decent human being being crushed under the weight of a universe that was once a boyhood game of fun, and you wondered how long he could last. Running the Yankees is not making pizza. 

The next guy had better be lucky.

If I'm right that Hal Steinbrenner is a mere abbreviation of his dad - thus, the Yankiverse will relive the era of Old George at an accelerated pace - we are now entering Hal's fire-the-manager phase. If so, the next guy is in trouble. He walks into an incredibly pressurized situation: Throughout the media, the Yankees are not only expected to win in 2018, but then to dominate for three or four more years. That's crazy. I can think of no worse situation for a new manager. 

The next guy had better be lucky.

Joe was lucky. He lasted 10 years. That's 10 lifetimes. I hope he enjoys his rest. I will never forget the night he cried. In that moment, no Yankee manager was ever greater.

O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me.
My heart is in The Managers Show with Suzyn,
And I must pause until it comes back to me.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

World reacts

The collective sigh of relief is powering windmill farms across the Eastern seaboard

It needs to be said: Brian Cashman - gulp - deserves an extension

Since February, I assumed this was Brian Cashman's last hurrah as Pooh Bah. You can only wear so many AL East bronze medals before their collective weight takes you under. The Great Sell-Off of 2016 could be seen as either Cashman's zenith achievement or the sum of his failures, depending on what happened this year - and I figured we'd once again finish one lager short of a six-pack. 

It wouldn't be a slam dunk, firing Cash. Along with his keen Machiavellian instincts, I suspected Cashman possessed coffee-spitting Steinbrennerian photographs, along the lines of the Steele Dossier. There were reasons to keep him: Once out of the Yankee organization, he would be free to write a tell-all book that would make the Harvey Weinstein revelations look like Jennifer's ice-bucket challenge. Nevertheless, another year of finishing third would be his last. 

Well, to the victor goes the spoils! Let us render unto Cashman what is Cashman's: Credit for the state of the Yankees as headed into 2018. We almost stole the AL pennant from three clubs who built themselves by turning last place finishes into an art form. Heading into next year, we have a dynamic young lineup that looks positioned to win divisions rather than wild cards. And it all comes back to the Great Sell-Off. 

Think about it: In mid-2016, Cashman somehow convinced Prince Hal not to pursue that final wild card slot like a doberman chasing a garbage truck. The Yankees easily could have traded Aaron Judge and/or Gary Sanchez for a proven starting pitcher, and gone down the same disastrous road they had done in the past. Instead, they reversed the process. That was Cashman's greatest moment, the fulcrum point on which his career seems to have turned.

Not every deal has worked. It will take years to assess the trade for Sonny Gray, who - let's be honest here - at first gush has been a Kenny Rogers-level disappointment. But Cashman's three-way deal for Didi Gregorius is already looking like a career-steal. It's hard to imagine Didi playing improving in 2018 without being the AL MVP. He's that close to greatness, and Cashman delivered him.

I believe Cashman's survival stems from his ability to involve Prince Hal in each decision. As a result, the owner cannot rightfully take out failures on the front office. This strategy has one potential long term problem: The owner may come to think he's behind the Yankee success - playing to the family's greatest evolutionary weakness: Runaway hubris. Old George ran the team through 15 horrible years before he finally loosened the reins and let Gene Michael and Bob Watson build a team. I've always felt Hal would be an abbreviated version of his dad: Instead of 15 bad years, we would see five. And that's what we've endured. Now, his golden era might be starting. Let's hope...

There is another reason to keep Cashman: Gary Denbo, our director of minor leagues somethingorother, whom Derek Jeter recently poached to Miami. With his knowledge of our system, Denbo will turn the December Rule 5 draft into an all-you-can-eat Yankee buffet. The front office cannot afford to lose both Cashman and Denbo this year, watching all our secrets flying out the door. 

One last notion: At 50, Cashman should be reaching peak foliage for a GM. The next few years should be his wheelhouse. And at this point, nothing should faze him. He's been through everything. Remember Louise Meanwell, his stalker-mistress? Remember the year of Pronk and Vernon Wells? Remember "beggars cannot be choosers?" Remember watching Robbie Cano jog out the door? Another injury to Greg Bird will be peanuts. (Besides, we have Garrett Cooper!) 

I'm not saying the guy belongs in Cooperstown. That's crazy. But it's in the Yankees best interests to keep this guy in the fold, pissing outwards. Like him or not, tired of him or not, we need Brian Cashman to run the Yankees for the next few years. He built this roller coaster. Now, he should get to ride it. 

(Something tells me a few of you are gonna disagree...)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

There is no World Series. The news is that Thairo Estrada hit a home run

There is no World Series. Don't succumb to their lies. It's fake news by the failing NY Times and the corpo-military-pharma complex. It is merely an ongoing scam of homer umps who stretch visiting batter strike zones and give free passes to the locals. I'm not watching. It's a fraud. Somehow, the Russians hacked the umpiring crews, and they're trying to destroy us from within. Well... not me! I'm not watching. I'm not listening. I'm not reading. Lalalala! How do I know it's all a fraud, you ask, since I'm not watching, listening, reading or digesting information. I don't need to know their dogmas and catmas. There's nothing worse than know-it-alls who relentlessly watch and research games and then think they know something - you know nothing, John Snow! That's what the lady said. By not watching or listening, or playing their game, I maintain purity. I stay incorruptible. And since MLB screwed the Yankees out of the World Series - well - they're not getting free commercial-watching eyeballs from yours truly. No way. Want to know what happened yesterday in baseball? I'll tell you:

The big news is that 21-year-old Yankee prospect Thairo Estrada hit his first home run of the Arizona Fall Instructional League yesterday, helping the so-and-sos to a victory over the such-and-suches? Said Thairo after the game to Perry Cohen of MLB. 

"It's all about staying with my routine. Drive the ball to the gaps and look for good pitches to hit. That's been my plan the whole blah-blah-blah."

I added the blah-blah-blah, though it would have been cool if that's what Thairo actually said. "It's about - you know, like, whatever, man. Swing, boom, piss, shit, blood, you grok my fullness?"

Here's the deal on Estrada: He hit .301 last season at Trenton with 6 HRs and 8 stolen bases. He's odd-man out when the Yankees rank middle infield prospects - well below Tyler Wade and Glyber Torres - but the guy has hit at every level - a lifetime minor league average of .286. There is a possibility we will lose him in the December Rule 5 draft, but - (having not seen him; I cannot stress this enough) - I'm saying he's not ready for the bigs. (For one thing, he doesn't draw enough walks.) Still, if we have a 22-year-old hitting shortstop in Scranton this summer, he's going to turn heads. 

So that's the news for today. Thairo Estrada - HR number one! He's now hitting .333 - 11 for 33. Don't get sucked into that Jose Altuve crapola universe. Hooray for the Yankees! Hooray for Thairo. Only four months until pitchers and catchers! And don't watch their charade. No justice, no eyeballs!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A hundred degrees for the Series? Good. I say make it hot for the cowardly home plate umps

I trust that the tin crown billionaires of baseball can now enjoy their stupid, boring, inconsequential, meaningless, six-hours-per-game World Series, because nobody - NOBODY - will be watching. At least I won't be. To me, the grapes they're offering look mighty sour. Dodgers v. Astros? That's not a world series. That's the NL West. It's Raul Mondesi v. Lance Berkman. It's wildfires v. floods. It's Harvey Weinstein v. the Texas high school social studies teachers who constantly bed down 11th graders. Nobody - anywhere - will watch. We all have better things to do this time of year... like... um... bobbing for apples.

In fact, from now on, this is a bobbing-for-apples blog: IT IS HIGH, IT IS FLOATING, IT IS... bit! You know what the trick is to getting the good bob? Press the apple against the rim of the barrel, squeeze it with your chin, go below the water and explode upwards, like the Pacific Life whale. Rookies attack from above, and the apple simply goes underwater. You cannot snag an apple coming from above. You will get apple squat. (Tomorrow: Winning at musical chairs.)

But but but... I'm still smarting from the inescapable sense that the recent Houston-New York series was the most unfairly called playoffs in memory. Every game went to the home team, and in each case, the home plate umpires were playing like Pavaroti to the crowds. Of course, the Yankees received three plates of home cooking. But in the end, heading back to Houston, you knew the balls and strikes would be going the Astros' way, and to no one's surprise, that's what happened.

I'm not referring to the close calls at first, or that snap throw to the plate that nailed Greg Bird. Those were studied and, when necessary, overruled by video replay. But balls and strikes are another matter. And throughout the series, the strike zones shimmied like Shakira, with huge impacts on the outcomes. Over and over, home plate umps seemed swayed by crowds that were louder and wilder than anyone had seen all year. They talk about a "tenth man." The home plate umpires became just that.

It showed on the Fox automated strike zone grids, which often contradicted the calls. I'm not saying machine strike zones are perfect, but at least they don't move like a butterfly. And for Houston's junk-ballers - Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, in particular - those shifting zones turned October into Christmas.

I wonder if somewhere in the world of science, there will be a pitch-by-pitch analysis of the series. It's right there for anyone with copy of the Fox broadcasts. And to be clear: I'm not saying the umps consciously favored either team. I just think they were unconsciously swayed by the crowds, and it became the real home field advantage. 

As an old fart dinosaur from another era, I hate to see humanity replaced by machines. But that doesn't have to happen in baseball. There will always be the need for a home plate ump - calling balks, controlling the pace, settling disputes, etc. And if we as a nation are moving toward driverless cars and drone-delivered pizza, we damn well ought to be able to perfect the automated strike zone. It would have made a fair ALCS... something we did not see. So the series is starting? Who cares? I've gone bobbing.

Monday, October 23, 2017

'I marveled at how fair they were'
Sterling, Waldman Draw Kudos

Jim Bransfield of the The Middletown (CT) Press enthuses about John & Suzyn:
Here’s how big a Yankee nut-case I am.
I wanted to listen to John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, not the thoroughly annoying Joe Buck and John Smoltz on TV, and I wanted to be alone. So I got in my trusty Hyundai Accent and drove around for three hours listening. I marveled at how fair they were, praising the Astros and the Astros’ fans, saying how amazing playoff games are, and correctly pointing out that it’s tough to win when you get only three hits.
They talked about the great Astros’ pitching — and the great Yankee pitching — and what a marvelous player Jose Altuve is.
And at game’s end, Sterling gave a great call: “Popped to center field, they’re going to get it. Springer makes the catch, ball game over, ALCS over, the Astros win!” And he gave it with enthusiasm.
Class act from a class guy.
In the end, Sterling is a baseball guy. Not a Joe Buck who does everything — a baseball guy. When I got home, I went out on my deck and did what I do every year at season’s end and took down my ‘NY’ flag that has been flying since the season opened in April, rolled it up, and put it away for next April.

An American in Paris

Alphonso email:

"I can’t post anything from here.  I’ll post a meaningful, eye opening exclusive when I return."

That ought to cure us of optimism.

On 2018: Let's hope for hope, but not be optimistic about optimism

I've recovered from Saturday night, but I can't escape my innermost secret of 2017: 

All season, I was dead certain the Yankees would fall short of the World Series - absolutely sure of it - that is, until after the fifth game of the ALCS, when we beat Houston. At that point, I became absolutely certain we were going to win. 

Do you understand the implications here? As long as I - in my heart of hearts - considered the Yankees to be also-rans, they played like champions. As soon as I thought them to be champs, they turned back into pumpkins.

Listen: There isn't a remedy for this. It's not about me simply proclaiming the Yankees suck, using reverse juju, and winning happily ever-after. We are what we are. I can grouse around like the pincushion guy on Hellraiser, but if on the inside, I'm a touchy-feely, hope-and-changy girl scout cookie, it won't work. The juju gods don't care what negative slop you ejaculate onto the Internet. (To begin with, I'm not even sure they have WiFi.) The universe knows that, deep down inside, you're wetting your flowery panties about the Canyon of Heroes. The juju gods may be middle management deities - they don't get to regulate hurricanes or growing seasons - but they are not naive. They have been around since monkeys started stacking rocks, and they know when you are secretly turning Jello. You can't fake juju.

And here's where it gets scary: Everybody, the Gammonites, the Joe Bucks, the hardened fans - and me, myself, I - think the Yankees are going to win in 2018. We might as well call ourselves the 2018 Yankee Hall of Fame Superteam of Destiny (TM), named after the great recent Bostonian October clown show.

It's hard not to be optimistic. Look at the lineup. With Judge, Bird and Sanchez, we have three premier young sluggers. Then there's Gaga, Jimmy, Barry - wait - there's Didi and - well, Hicks and Gardy. If we buy out Ellsbury's hostage contract and trade him packing for a Pocket Fisherman, we still have four young OF for two openings - Clint Frazier, Jake Cave, Mason Williams, Billy McKinney - plus, the Pocket Fisherman, which really catches fish! In the infield, we can give the Toddfather a gold watch of appreciation, trade Castro for movie money, and still have three kids - Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade, Glyber Torres - not to mention Big Toe and one more year of Chase Headley - to fight it out at 2B and 3B. We have a wave of youth coming. What can go wrong?

Well... for starters, there's a little thing called the first rung of the playoffs. This year, it weeded out Cleveland, the AL's best team. Then there are the injuries, and the mystery head cases, and the things that go bump in the dugout. There's a shitwad of plans that always go wrong. So forget optimism, folks. Let's just go with hope, because we'll need something to get us through the winter.

The winds are shifting in upstate New York. The trees have turned, it's getting cold at night, and yesterday, I looked for the windshield scraper. In Syracuse, NY, you take no ride for granted between Nov. 1 and March 30. I'm oiling the hot stove. And despite all the horrors and the pain, all the pineapples and the sudden ice picks to the forehead, you know what? 2017 was a good year. And I can't wait to see what happens next spring. Jeez, did I mention we have Garrett Cooper, too! Yes, Cooper II, too!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017

ALCS Game Seven Chat: There's a kind of hush all over the world tonight

This is what we are

A lifelong Yankee fan reflects...

For posterity, the tabloid pages

Tonight, we must be prepared for the end

Here's the worst part. Come the ninth, with the outcome clear, Joe Buck will launch his usual, "let's-comfort-the-afflicted" funeral benediction for the losers - the most craven compilation of bullshit known to humanity. It makes Trump's botched phone call to that Gold Star mom look like Lou Gehrig's farewell address. As the camera pans through the losing dugout, the Bucket will unleash his golden shower of canned praise - "... nothing to feel sad about... great future... so close... successful year all around..." - to linger in our memories like farts after a Shriner's convention. I believe this is why Elvis shot TVs; he was listening to some Joe Buck-type eulogize his team.

No. I won't do that. If the end comes tonight, as I greatly fear, I say we go out listening to The Master and his Acolyte. Their grief will be real, not a retrofitted Gold Globe acceptance speech, and they won't tell us, wait 'till next year, because John and Suzyn understand the nature of predicting baseball. If Suzyn cries, and my guess is she will, the tears will not be culled from Louie Anderson's 1987 stand-up act.

Tonight, the end may or may not come. But if does, we must be prepared. That means keeping a radio or electronic porthole nearby. Do NOT end 2017 being buttered and basted by the corporate pallbearers at Fox Sports, a network whose only sop to the Yankees was to trot out A-Rod, arguably the most hated player of his generation. 

If we are destined to lose, I implore you - for your own peace of mind - not to go through the winter with the piss aftertaste of ginned-up false sympathy from these human Hallmark cards, who couldn't feel the pain of a Yankee loss if it were wedged up their keesters with a pushbroom. Turn down the TV and turn up the radio, the last bastion of electronic communication in our lives. Yes, radio has become the conduit of hate, lies and dogma - (and Celino & Barnes, the injury attorneys! Dial 888-888-8888!) - but in 2017, it was also the home of the world's greatest enduring love story, (aside from the one between a certain moose and his flying squirrel.) If it ends tonight, if we all go down, do not go down with Joe Buck and his ludicrous tribute to the franchise for which he has always shown contempt. Don't let it end with Buck telling you how good you should feel. There are things worse than death in the world, and the loneliness of lying in a cold coffin with Joe Buck talking about you overhead... nope... I can't think of anything worse. (I've always imagined hearing that REM song, "That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight...") If we go out tonight, we don't need a phone call from a politician. Let's go out with Mom and Dad. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

ALCS Game Six: Drove our Sevvy to the levee

A great facility getting utilized!

They're already printing the tickets!

Merry Mickmas

On this sacred date in 1931 the Commerce Comet came into the world.

Hang the stockings, everybody. 

Drudge Report unleashes terrifying Juju bomb against Yankees

Are the Russians now trying to meddle in the ALCS? 

Is Drudge the real "Little Rocket Man?"

Rejected hed: 

Tonight's game should go five hours, longer the better

Last time we faced Justin Upton-Verlander, we were the Astros and they were the New York Yankees. We played the upstarts, outsmarted at every turn, and they were the resurrected veterans, patiently showing the world how it's done. They won every ump's call, beat every close play by a micrometer, and won after we botched a throw to the plate that would be routine for the Double A Binghamton Rumble Ponies. They deserved to win both the game and the league series, and we sure as hell deserved the Fiery, Hairy Radish Pineapple of Defeat (FHRPD - as in, to be "firped.")

Last time we faced Juston, Aaron Judge looked like a popped media balloon, the baseball equivalent of Yahoo Serious. (Think of a 6'7" Megyn Kelly.) He couldn't lay off curves in the dirt, which so befuddled him that pitchers weren't even bothering to throw them anymore, fanning him on juicy fastballs down the pipe. When Judge came up, Yank fans dreamed of a walk. The notion of Judge v. Altuve seemed a cringe-worthy comparison, and shrieking voices, mine included, called for him to bat sixth or seventh.

Last time we played Verlander - six nights ago - the Yankiverse was a tired, queasy continuum, resigned to approaching snowstorms and the next mass shooting. We pleaded with the fates for one measly victory, with the implied understanding that if none was forthcoming, we'd prefer a quick kill shot - anything but one of those drip-drip torture chamber losses that the Yankees often firped on us during the regular season.  

Last time we faced Verlander - a borderline Hall of Famer, if he knits together a few more good seasons - we couldn't score two fucking, goddamn, shit-ass, cock-sucking, jizz-licking, fuck-me firping runs. (Sorry about that; something came over me.) We let a 34-year-old geezer go nine - throwing 124 pitches, five more than his longest previous outing in 2017. Obviously, Kate Upton has not been wearing him out. (Neither did Boston, the week earlier, when he threw 40.) 

Listen: Baseball players have the life spans of your pet beagle. Some last 15 to 20 great years. Some get hit by the garbage truck after six months. But old baseball players are not dogs: They can learn new tricks. That's why CC Sabathia is still effective: He isn't too old to learn. Clearly, Verlander falls in that category too. Thus, tonight, he will be on us with mystical old-guy voodoo shit. Whatever he did last time, he won't do it again.

So tonight, we must be the veteran team. Tonight, the Yankees need to take pitch after pitch after pitch. We need 10 pitch at-bats, not 10-pitch innings. This series, Houston's bullpen has five pitchers with ERA's at 9.00 or higher, and that includes their all-star closer. Imagine a bullpen half-full of bad Betanceses; that's what they have. But... two pitchers, McHugh and Gregerson, have thrown zeros at us. If Verlander tires - and there is no reason why he should get there beyond the seventh - that's who we will see. This game needs to last a long time. Buy your five-hour energy shots now. Or - better - load up on bath salts.

Tonight, we need to outsmart the veteran. We've done it before. And make no mistake: This series needs to end tonight. Otherwise, we've committed another mistake worthy of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies: We'll have celebrated too soon. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Redsocks obliterate playoffs media cycle with earth-shaking news

Wait. How does Phil Rizzuto's wife end up managing the Redsocks?

Behold the pages of victory

In three nights, everything changed... for now.

Talk about the world abruptly changing...

Wasn't it last year when Gary Sanchez muffed that fatal throw home, launching the Astros' victory celebration in the 2017 ALCS? Wasn't it the previous millennium? Certainly, it was pre-Trump, pre-Judge, pre-Harvey (Weinstein)... a long, long time ago, back before the floods.

Wait. No. I looked it up: It was four days ago. Believe it or not, the Wikipedia thingy claims that it happened on Oct. 14, 2017 - four days ago, barely a Vernon Wells-hitting streak, as time is measured within Yankee fossil records. Back then - jeez, it feels like a century ago - Aaron Judge was baseball's saddest soul, dwarfed by the swaggering, Bunyanesque presence of Jose Altuve, who bestrode the Earth like a colossus. Back then, we were the team without a DH, or a closer, or a manager with a clue. Back then, we were backsliding into the Keuchel Abyss, victims of the Yankees' death star - (whom someone in last night's chat brilliantly called "Rutherford B. Hayes") - forever to pine for Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian. It was a different fucking universe back then... four days ago.  

So don't get cocky, comrades. We still have work to do. Come Sunday, we could be right back in that smoldering dumpster, fighting the rats for those last KFC wrappers, being forced to root for Eli Manning on his quest for Win No 2.

The road to the series goes through Hell. Instead of "M-V-P" chants, Judge will hear "LOCK HER UP!" If he crashes into the right field wall, the crowd won't flinch; they'll expect Mexico to pay for a new one. If Judge tanks, Trump will call him "Liddle Aaron," (along with "Crooked Didi" and "Lyin' Joe.") Lose the next two, and everything reverts to that prehistoric era when Las Vegas stood for showgirls, Napa Valley stood for wine, and we were a mere wild card floating on the devil's breeze.

Today, I must keep pinching myself. (This is not the bath salts, stupid! It's really happening.) Our "thumbs down" gesture is becoming a national meme. Gary Sanchez is alive. The MLB meat puppets are already hyping the next Yankee dynasty. It's as if Houston has accepted its fate, and we should already be learning to spell Yassel Piug, or Yasiel Puig - whatever. But actually, nothing has changed.

We still must beat Houston in Houston. We must still beat Verlander as Verlander. If we lose Friday, they become the team with the momentum, the crowd, the sense of destiny. They become the team with Kate Upton. If we lose Friday, we're the ones suddenly blotted out by the cold shadow of Mount Altuve. If we lose Friday, last night's win will feel like a hundred years ago. And everything that happened in the last three nights will leave a bitter taste of the inconsequential. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Victory train!

ALCS Game Five Chat: Win Two More

Small sample size. But still...

From ESPN, in case you missed it.

The power of our Rookie of the Year reaches new heights

Earlier today on the home page of the Los Angeles Times. 

Look out, Dodgers. If he can stop the travel ban, he can stop you.

Toddfather: "“The Yankee gods are watching us. There’s no other way to put it.”

This, we know... 

With their backs against the Great Trumpian Wall, the 2017 Yankees become a different team. They have now won four elimination games, and - frankly - the last two at home were de facto extinction events. 

Aaron Judge is a hurricane force of nature. His tidal storm surges hot streaks can turn into tropical depressions  slumps, and he'll spin out to sea strike out without a flood whisper. No FEMA airlifts bullpen can stop him. When his eye hits landfall he gets hot, it's SO LONG, PUERTO RICO! trouble for the opposing pitcher. 

All year, we've been terrified that Judge was an illusion, that his bleacher "chambers" came too soon, that - before our very eyes - he would whither into Andy Stankiewicz. Well, ain't'a gonna happen. If you're my age - that is, old as dirt - we may be watching the last great homegrown Yankee slugger of our lifetimes (with Sanchez and Bird.) Maybe we should just sit back and enjoy it.

Of all people, Todd Frazier has become a key juju component to this team. For many reasons, I instinctively oppose trading prospects for vets, but it's getting hard to criticize the deal for Frazier/Robertson/Kahnle. All three have contributed, and the Toddfather has become the smiling face of this team, (reminiscent of Sergio Romo on the 2010 SF Giants.) I can't see how the Yankees could sign Frazier this winter - we have Miguel Andujar and Glyber Torres coming up - but frankly, I have come to love this guy. He's solid at third, and he's delivered big hits. Since the trade was made, judgment of it's success has been on based on the Yankees winning the World Series. If that's unfair, tough beans, this is the Yankees. But write this down: I was wrong, Cashman was right, and I've changed my mind about that deal: Todd Frazier is fucking wonderful. 

No matter what happens in this series, last night's comeback cements the Yankees as a team of great heart. Moreover, it has completely silenced the spiteful Redsock Nation, who briefly slithered up on Twitter yesterday to slime troll the anniversary of their 2004 comeback. The Yankees' response: We hope they enjoyed the moment, but for us, it was a workday and - by the way - how did they plan to celebrate with their day off? Beautiful. The fact is, Redsock fans can no longer smart-mouth that their piss-poor October performance - they beat Houston once - was basically the same as the Yankees'. Last night, Big Papi was shouting WinWarbles and lovingly talking about Aaron Judge as if he were Pedro's midget. Boston has replaced him with David Price. It's another Popeye's Fried Chicken winter.

I know the world hates A-Rod, and there can probably be no worse Yankee ambassador to baseball, but I draw great joy at watching him smirk after we win. Last night, he was kissing his ring like it was J-Lo's cone of uncertainty-wrist. Two out of three, baby, that's all we need. Two out of three.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Yankee Strong!

ALCS Game Four Chat: When Sonny Gets Gray

Mem'ries will fade
And pretty dreams will rise up
Where his other dreams fell through

The Master calls a three-run blast

Tonight we'll get our first full read on the Sonny Gray deal

Tonight, the man who was supposed to save our rotation pitches. Sonny Gray came three months ago in the biggest swap of tomorrow-for-today since the three-way scrum of December 2009, when we dealt Phil Coke, Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy for the earnest free-swinger, Curtis Granderson. For the next two years, the Yankee-owned media proclaimed the deal as a steal. Then it devolved into a trade that helped all three teams. Today - well - we can debate the trade until dawn, but the Grandyman never did decorate the sunrise and sparkle it with dew. We didn't win a ring. To me, that sums it up. 

Sonny Gray is the latest in the bloodline of "Cashman emerging arms," that is, a parade of 20-something fire-ballers who were expected to become stars in NYC. The line extends back a generation - to Jeff Weaver and Javier Vasquez - and runs up to Nathan Eovaldi - it's the mythical 200-inning, underdeveloped starter who would don pinstripes and becomed Cy Young. Brian Cashman is always looking for that fantasy pitcher, the white buffalo, and this year, he traded the house for Sonny. And tonight - well - we'll find whether it worked.

Maybe, anyway.

Thus far, Sonny has been a middling fourth starter prone to throw up a stinker now and then. He came from Oakland with a 6-5 record and a 3.43 ERA. In 11 Yankee starts, he did worse: 4-7 and 3.72 and seeming to break down at the end. Over his last three regular season starts, he gave up 12 earned runs in 16 innings, drawing home boos. Sonny is 27 and we have him until 2020. As a result, the price tag was heavy.

It's impossible to get a quick read on what the Yankees gave up, because two of the three 22-year-olds - James Kaprielian and Dustin Fowler - are hurt. Kaprielian - the former first-rounder - had been hyped (by the Yankee-owned media) as our best pitching prospect, before he needed Tommy John surgery. He should return to Oakland next summer and could reach the majors by 2019, Sonny's contract year. 

This year, Fowler emerged in Scranton - hitting .293 with 13 HRs and 13 SB - in an overcrowded outfield. But he is primarily remembered for the most painful moment of humanity in the 2017 Yankee season: In his first MLB game, with his family proudly watching from the stands, he slammed into an electrical box along the right field line of Comisky Park - (we should have sued that wretched team) - tearing his knee and causing Joe Girardi to openly weep. Fowler will be back for Oakland next spring. Whenever I see him, for the rest of his career, I will always feel a pang of remorse and a sense of innocence lost. Nobody should go through what he endured. And then, the Yankees traded him. He's not 22 anymore. He's lived a lifetime. 

The third guy was the highly touted and, at times, highly criticized SS-CF prospect Jorge Mateo. I fear he is the most likely to haunt us. For four years, the Yankee-owned media had touted him as the fastest player in our system, a guy likely to steal 50 bases a year. He came up two springs ago and hit a Grapefruit League home run, causing John and Suzyn to go googly over the Yankee future. He made Baseball America's top 30 prospects list. Supposedly, he mouthed off to the front office about not being promoted, and spent the summer of 2016 in the penalty box. This year he turned it around. After finally being promoted to Trenton, Mateo hit .300 with 4 HRs and 11 SB, elevating his status just before the trade. Later, with Oakland's Double A outlet, he hit .292 with 4 HR and 13 SB. (Over the whole season, he swiped 52.) You can't teach speed. He could be with the A's next summer. If he's stealing 50 bases a year, it's going to hurt.

I say all this to remind us that - no matter what happens tonight - it will be years before we get an honest assessment of what the Yankees gave up and received for Sonny Gray. I generally view such deals with horror, because of PTSD over the 1980s, when old George Steinbrenner pushed a series of terrible deals, one after another, of young for old talent. He systematically killed the Yankees for 14 years. Just say the names - Buhner, Drabek, McGee, McGriff, McGregor, ugh - and it's an ice pick to my heart.  

Of course, there is one way to certify a successful Yankee deal: Win the World Series. That's why I didn't mention Chuck Knoblauch. If the 2017 Yankees go all the way - or just reach the Series - long term verdicts will be muted. 

Tonight won't decide everything. When you trade prospects, no matter what happens in the short-term, you are judged over the long haul. We can't predict baseball, Suzyn. But we can predict how the Yankee-owned media will assess the deals: Yankees win, thuh, Yankees win! But tonight will give us a glimpse of the future. It will either be very sunny or very gray.