Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Menace Of Red

When Clint Frazier ran into the wall catching that fly ball the other day, it doomed him.

He made a great catch, just as Jacoby last year did when he, too, collided with the immovable object.

Jacoby did not recover for well more than a month and, by that time, he was deep on the bench.

I am sorry to say that Red may be menaced by the same thing.  An extensive recovery period.

The Yankees are saying his concussion was his first, and it was minor.  I think not.

He is describing symptoms that suggest a fairly significant relocation of his grey matter, and I think he won't play ( or should not ) for 4 weeks.  By that time, the team has been selected.

He may, of course, force himself onto the field.  The personal incentives are high.  But his performance will falter, and the symptoms will return, if he plays too soon.

So he has punched his ticket to Scranton.  Should Jake Cave suddenly emerge, he may have punched his ticket out of town.  All because of a great effort.

" Good deeds shall not go unpunished," said my grandmother goose.

For some reason, the hands of destiny seem to not favor this young man's Yankee future.

I hope we get lucky.

The dream of an undefeated month has ended

So close. And yet so meaningless.

The one thing missing...

...on this Team of Destiny is something dear to the heart of Old (Dead) George.

That is, motivational coaches.

Oh, I'm sure we have some, hidden away in the clubhouse at Jabari Blash's old locker.


C'mon, as Tony Soprano would testify, your average Russky today is much tougher even than a member of a Jersey mob family. These people have reduced themselves to a diet of roots, berries, and vodka, and they are still twisting our entire political system around their collective little finger.

So who should it be?

Well, who else but those two, teenaged Siberian tigers last seen prowling around the skating rink in Pyongcheang, Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva?

Anybody else catch Zag and The Med during their gold medal competition? While the American skaters were flopping around the ice like so many harpooned walruses, these two were stalking around backstage looking as if they could shove their way through Tom Brady's offensive line and rip his throat out, even in their 80-pound frames. And on their skates. Waiting for scores in the "Kiss & Cry" section, there were no tears and precious little kissing. All the Big Z and EM the Assassin did was shoot daggers at anyone in the general vicinity.

Forget Russell Wilson, an altogether too-nice Super Bowl quarterback, setting an example. The Russian figure skaters are exactly what this Yankees team needs to take it over the top. I don't doubt they would resort to beating and floggings, if words did not suffice. Bring in the Killer Russian Skate Babes! George would approve.

Meanwhile, our Paper of Record apparently did not feel that Red Thunder concussing himself or half the New York Mets reverting to the DL with paper cuts was worthy of coverage.

No soccer, either, meaning that our year-long score remains Soccer 27, Yankees 15—not 14, as the sidebar has it now. I would change it myself, but I'm still new to this whole thing, what with the googling and the posting and the interneting and HEY, LADY!


Could Miguel Andujar ruin everything?

I wonder if Cooperstown Cashman slept well last night, fretting over The Master Plan. It is called "Operation Brandon Drury," named for the plucky third baseman for whom the Yankees recently gave up two top prospects to obtain. Drury will start for the Empire on opening day and probably bat eighth. 

It shall be, as it hath been so decreed.

Thus, Miguel Andujar - third base front-runner for most of the winter - shall start the 2018 season in the Wakanda of Pennsylvania, the cloaked technological Utopia known to outsiders as Scranton-Wilkes Barre. There is no debate here, no spring training "third base competition," any more than there is a Klaw, a Killmonger, an Okoye or a Slade Heathcott. Drury will play third, and it's a done deal, because - well - let's all say this five times:

When Cashman plans to pay for a player, that paid-for player plans to play.

This is not to dig at Brandon Drury or suggest that Cashman did wrong by securing an experienced infielder. Since the deal came about, several Gammonites have humped the narrative that Drury is prime for a breakout season, that he's changed his bat trajectory to hit more flies, and his acquisition is yet another granite stepping stone on Cashman's nature trail to the south shore of Otsego Lake. Whenever the Yankee-aligned press agrees with Cashman, it doesn't mean the writers have received brain-implants from Fox News; it merely means that - like our brain trust - they ran some Brad Pitt/ Moneyball numbers, and they look good. In recent trades, Cashman has posted more wins than losses. The trouble is, we still can't gauge most of his deals, because the prospects we gave up have yet to give a full account of what we traded. We know Sonny Gray. We don't know James Kaprielian.  

But if Cashman last night was bouncing off the bed rail, it might be because Andujar could still undermine The Master Plan. Yesterday, he hit his second homer in as many games. If Andujar keeps it up, the Yankees will look bad when he boards the 30-hour bus to Scranton, disillusioned and depressed, and ready to open the season in a free-fall funk. We've seen it happen, sometimes with players who overcame it - Francisco Cervelli had a nice career in Pittsburgh - and with those who didn't: Whither goest, Rob "Brigadoon" Refsnyder? Something about having a breakout spring training, and then learning it doesn't matter, seems to jab a wooden stake into a prospect's heart. 

Of course, it's way too early to draw conclusions. It's February, for god's sake. Zolio Almonte was the Babe Ruth of February, and where is he now? (Answer, he's playing OF for the Chunichi Dragons of the Nippon Professional Baseball League.) But the Yankees went most of the winter assuring us that they were quite comfortable with Andujar at third, and then, two weeks ago, signaled that it was all - as the kids from Florida call - "B.S." I hope Andujar never really believed them. It'll be easier on him. Because he can hit 20 homers in March, and it won't matter. That's the way it goes. 

Altogether now...

When Cashman plans to pay for a player, that paid-for player plans to play.
When Cashman plans to pay for a player, that paid-for player plans to play.
When Cashman plans to pay for a player, that paid-for player plans to play.
When Cashman plans to pay for a player, that paid-for player plans to play.
When Cashman plans to pay for a player, that paid-for player plans to play.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Finding meaning in a meaningless universe

Five and oh, baby, five and oh.

The Town

I'd just like to apologize for being so late on my first official post today.

As it happens, I spent most of the day being grilled by the Boston police and FBI bankrobbing expert Jon Hamm.

I have to admit that my previous implication that I had J.D. Martinez batoned at the behest of my security expert, "Jeff Stone," was simply a cover story. My real purpose for being in Boston was indeed to knock off the Fenway Park cash room, working on a plan devised by a criminal florist.

It was a quiet, simple plan involving a mere six SUVs, an ambulance, five police cars, two helicopters, a gang of 30 men armed with automatic rifles and dressed like really ugly nuns, and the back-up line of the Rockettes.

Somehow, this all went wrong, and I would have been toast if it had not been for the heroic sacrifice made by my childhood best friend, David Ortiz, who distracted the police by covering the sun with his head.

I was able to make my own escape cleverly disguised as Yaz, chain-smoking and muttering incessantly about how I made the last out in the epic seasons of 1967, 1975, and 1978.

That said, I am happy to report that the Yankees knocked another point off Soccer's commanding lead today, albeit with a Times piece that managed to bury the lede, throwing in at the end of an interminable article about Russell Wilson that, huh, Clint Frazier suffered a concussion by running into walls repeatedly.  Oy.

Anyway, that puts it at Soccer 27, Yanks 15 for the year, BUT...the Yanks nearly clinching February with a 14-12 advantage.  Get better, Red Thunder!

Searching for meaning in a meaningless - but undefeated - universe

Four and oh, baby, four and oh!

Remember the days when old George Steinbrenner would throw a fit about spring training losses, rousing his team to win some meaningless game in early March? What a load of crap. He had assembled ho-hum Yankee lineups, bloated with high-priced veterans who didn't give a shit about Grapefruit League standings. 

Last year, with several positions up for grabs, the Yankees went 24-9, compiling the best spring record in baseball. Nobody ever had to complain about spring efforts.

Of course, we still don't give a shit about the standings. Why bother? But I would argue that our current 4-0 - as drunk as this sounds - reflects the wave of young, hungry Yankees who are asserting themselves at the Major League level. 

Yesterday, as Giancarlo thrice fanned, the Evils beat Phily on the output of three players competing for the opening day roster. Miguel Andujar's homer in the ninth won it, suggesting he hasn't yet read the memo earmarking him for Scranton. With two outs, Tyler Wade singled in a run. Brandon Drury tripled. And Gary Sanchez - perhaps seeking the title of baseball's best catcher? - picked a runner off second.

 There were blips. Chance Adams walked two and gave up a run. (Interesting how unnamed scouts give him such little respect.) Ben Heller did the same, though he struck out three. 

But but but... it just doesn't matter! One of these days, a gonad will tweak, and all the collective giddy from these early wins will vanish like coconut shrimp in the clubhouse buffet. Nevertheless, we have young backups, and in the modern game, that's how you build. 

The Players Union can bloviate, but free agency, as we once knew it, is dead. I shudder to think of the 10-year, $400 million deal we might give Bryce Harper or Manny Machado next winter. They'll never be worth it. We build with Andujar slowly becoming an all-star, and with Gary Sanchez making that next step. And right now, all is fine. Undefeated in a meaningless universe. Too bad it's February.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Scummy Ex-redsock Hurler Strikes Again

That he's a skeevy, reprehensible excuse of a human being is incontrovertible.

Everyone is entitled to their political beliefs. God bless America!

But this creep, aside from his questionable World Series injury, has pushed a variety of wacky wingnut propaganda points.

Now, he's questioning the authenticity of the Parkland (Fla.) massacre.

Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Meaningful vows

In the euphoria of our so far undefeated spring, some members of the editorial board are testing some long forgotten Ju-Ju rules.  One member, anyway.

That member, who has chosen anonymity, has vowed to go to a movie during every spring training game, as long as the Yankees continue the winning streak.

So, far, the streak stands at three.

Without revealing anything about the "vower" (one who vows), I simply leave the following photo clue:

A-Rod's return to the Yankees is a sign that, yes, Hal Steinbrenner IS becoming his dad. And the lords of baseball ought to be worried.

Yesterday, the Yankees announced that ex-team pariah Alex Rodriguez will return to Tampa this spring as a special guest instructor/greeter/concierge/hanger-on/tag-along/sidekick/Valet De Chambre - a good will ambassador from the gluten-free celebrity world of Lamborghinis and self-commissioned centaur-portraits. As a form of collateral damage, Jennifer Lopez - the Beyonce of the 1990s - likely will turn up in the nearby vicinity, unleashing floodgates of fame upon the newly anointed, click-generating gods of New York, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

The two Yankees should look closely at A-Rod, J-Lo, their entourages and the assembled paparazzi they attract, because their lives as athletes are about to seriously change. Celebrity in New York City is like nothing else in this world. Stanton and Judge will enter the 2018 season as the reincarnation of Mantle and Maris, and their every move will be debated on blogs and newspaper pages that have nothing to do with box scores. If they hit well, they will ascend to a pantheon of single-name fame - LeBron, Michael, Mickey - that few athletes ever attain. If they hit poorly, they will be mocked to the point of physical harassment. It will take a toll. The craziness could include other rising Yankees, from Gary Sanchez to Luis Severino, but the twin towers are surely going to attract their share of attention.

Who better than A-Rod to explain the new rules about pissing in back alleys or mouthing off to Uber drivers? Over the last 20 years, Rodriguez has become walking Klieg light. And let's give him credit: The guy is a survivor.

Not long ago, he was suing the Yankees in a bitter dispute over steroids and back payments, leaking personal emails and coaxing people to carry signs claiming Randy Levine is the devil. If anybody predicted he would ever again be welcome in Hal Steinbrenner's palace, they would have been laughed out of the Yankiverse. Yet here he is. Moreover, it's not at all crazy to think that Rodriguez might someday manage this team. At 42, he's two years younger than Aaron Boone, and he'll spend the season at ESPN, where Boone padded his own resume for the job.

Bench coaches and computer wonks can write the lineups. In today's vertical-media market era, managers increasingly function as spokesmen, the star of 30-minute post-game shows that sell massive volumes of beer and stiffy pills. Last year, we saw the grind in Joe Jacoby's - (wait, was that his name? Jeez, I forget) - face after brutal losses. That will be one of Boone's most critical jobs, facing the cameras after Aroldis and Dellin blow a whopper. Someday, it might be A-Rod's.

But now and then, Prince Hal Steinbrenner does something that makes us realize that, yep, he carries his father's DNA, after all. One thing Old George did regularly - spectacularly - was forgive and forget. He hired and fired Billy Martin with regularity. He brought back David Wells and a bunch of players, even after they publicly blasted the Yankees. He never held a grudge - except for whatever team was playing the Yankees at the time.

Hal has to become the guy who foams over Bobby Meachem or the Fat Pussy Toad, but bringing back A-Rod is sign that he's getting there. And maybe next year, once this luxury tax threshold business is done, we can see him really act out his father's fantasies - perhaps by spending his money on some free agents. Some smart signings and a solid farm system would do his old man proud, and I wouldn't want to be the Tampa Rays.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Searching for meaning in a meaningless universe: Day 3

Danny Espinoza with a double and three RBIs.

Justus Sheffield whacked for three earned runs in 1.2 innings.

Gleyber with a double.

Gio Gallegos: one inning, one walk, three strikeouts.

A win in February is just as important as a win in March. So what about Billy McKinney?

In the winter of 2015, 19-year-old OF Billy McKinney ranked 83rd on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list. He was considered untouchable, one of the gems of the Oakland farm system.

The A's had chosen him in the first round of the 2013 draft, paid him $1.8 million and moved him steadily through the system. Then Billy Beane, fresh from his Brad Pitt in Moneyball moment in Hollwyood, got himself a whopping erection over the chance of making a post-season. So he did what most middle-aged guys do: He touched an untouchable part.. 

Beane dealt McKinney to the Cubs in a big package for Jeff Samardzja and Jason Hammel. It was one of those deals that have prospect-huggers tearing out their hair, and Addison Russell - another A's kid in the deal - helped Chicago win the World Series. In mid 2015, at age 20, McKinney was holding his own at Double A - hitting .285 - when he fouled a ball off his knee and hairline fractured a bone. It ended not only his season - but his time in the Baseball America Top 100.

He floundered in early 2016 and was dealt to the Yankees as part of the Aroldis Chapman package, when Theo Epstein suffered his own career priapism. At Trenton, McKinney continued to flounder (hitting .234) looking like another super former "can't miss" untouchable, the kind that populates every farm system. (Estevan Florial, your chariot is waiting.)

Last year, around now, something changed. McKinney came to spring training on a last-minute invite, and he raked. He hasn't stopped. He hit .400 with 3 HRs in the Grapefruit League, stayed strong in Trenton, won a promotion to Scranton, and hit .306 with 10 HR in 220 plate appearances. Three months ago, he was among the Arizona Fall League leaders in RBIs. Since rehabbing the knee, McKinney has become the hitter of his early projections. He's now 23 and plays 1B as well as OF - utility flexibility - and he's one of the most intriguing stories in the Yankee system.

Yesterday, McKinney surely made an impact on the brass, if only because his late game homer broke a tie and avoided extra innings, getting everybody back to Tampa in time for happy hour. What it won't do is keep him on the opening day roster. Even if Greg Bird gets hurt - (how unlikely is that!) - McKinney surely will still start 2018 in Scranton. Still, he's one of Cashman's signature projects - the ex-top prospect who's hit rough times and needs a reset. The strategy brought us Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks, and yesterday it showed up in another kid - Dillon Tate, the former top pick, obtained for Carlos Beltran, who threw two innings and gave up a run.

For whatever it's worth, I like the strategy, especially if the door swings both ways. It's nice to give second chances to the Billy McKinneys. But the key to last year was showing faith in Aaron Judge after a crappy 2016 (and keeping Gary Sanchez a year earlier, after he needed an attitude adjustment.) This spring, Tyler Wade and Tyler Austin are returning from dud seasons. If they play well, let's hope they make the team rather than the Chace Petersons or Danny Espinosas, the kind of players (Pete Kozma, Brendan Ryan, et al) the Yankees have traditionally favored.

If McKinney hits at Scranton, he could be part of a July deal that would have me - the prospect-hugger - yanking out my hair. (I still suffer from PTSD over deals 30 years ago.) But the more McKinney hits, the better chance we have of obtaining a Bumgarner or Donaldson for the stretch. And if Bird goes down in June, McKinney - a LH bat - could become the most important prospect in our system.

This is, of course, merely another fantasy of spring. It's snowing in Syracuse, but I'm ready for shorts and sandals - already dreaming of July.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Searching for meaning in a meaningless universe

Billy McKinney with a 3-run homer, playing first base.

Dare we dream?

Our first triumph of 2018

What a cool beginning.

I am not calling this , " Mustang, " because it isn't.

Let's take a wild ride!

Still recovering from yesterday's near-catastrophe

It was supposed to bring the first true Jubilation of 2018, not the darkest nightmare since Chloe Kardashian's baby bump traumatized Snapchat. I had carefully arranged my juju portkeys, donned my Armor of Beowulf and Crown of Immortality - and set up the couch pillows, the malted nectar of Turpin, and the yellow power crystals of Cheeto. The TV was tuned to YES. It was the opening moment of the opening game - the Opening of the Opening - akin to that moment in The Lion King where Mufasa raises Simba to the Universe, and the zebras and elephants curtsy like Mike Pence at a tit farm. It was Biblical. It was Spielbergian. It was the Yankeean.

Then came the ultimate reminder of how quickly the bastard juju gods can turn on us. The Tigers' leadoff hitter, Leonys Martin, bounced a single up the middle. Gleyber Torres - our best prospect, our future secondbaseman, the Cooperstown Class of 2039 - streaked to his right and dove for it - just as Robbie Cano didn't do in 2008, when our season ended early. The ball glanced off Gleyber's glove. And Torres stayed down. 

"NOOOOOOOOOO," I screamed. "GET UP! DAMN YOU, GET UP, GET UP, GET UP!" There it was, the torn elbow, the broken spine, paralysis, life in a wheelchair, assisted suicide, a la Clint Eastwood-to-Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. The worst spring opening event since the Grandyman broke his hand in his first at bat. Torres - the future of the Yankees, coming off elbow surgery - gone.

Well, he had the wind knocked out of him. 

But I am still catching my wind. Today, let us be reminded of the need for depth -  Johnny Depth: the young, Edward Scissorhands Johnny Depth, not the Jack Sparrow eyeliner version. And on that note, I'm happy to say that the three stars of yesterday's non-game, as far as I'm concerned, are grand omens of the Yankee future. They were:

Tyler Wade, who used his speed to stretch a single into a double, then rattled the pitcher into committing a balk, and then scored on a grounder. A purely manufactured run. (He was charged with an error, but the real error was by the official scorer; it was a bad hop.) Much has been said about Wade's poor performance last year, when brought up in a once-a-week utility role. But if Aaron Boone chooses to use a late-inning, base-stealing specialist, Wade is probably the fastest guy on our roster.  

Clint Frazier, who walked and then served notice by stealing second. Imagine for a moment the juju gods at their sickest behavior: Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton gets hurt. If so, the Yankees can plug in Red Thunder, and who knows what we would see? This is not Zolio Almonte. This is not Ben Francisco. This is a high-ceiling prospect who, if given the chance, might be a star. 

Jake Cave, who wrestled a high-inside strike into a line drive single to left-center (not easy for a LH bat) and promptly stole second. He looks big, fast and strong. If either Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury get hurt - ("if" isn't the word, "when" is better) - he looks ready to go. 

Yesterday, the juju gods toyed with us. Next time, they'll mean business. Somebody will dive for a ball, and a gonad will pop like a kernel of Orville Redenbacher's. Remember: Our strength is our depth. It's the kids that will carry us. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Searching for meaning in a meaningless universe

Clint Frazier and Jake Cave, both with stolen bases.

Ben Heller, two innings, no runs, two hits, three strikeouts.

Jorge Saez, a 27-year-old backup catcher earmarked for Scranton, two hits.

We are tied for second, a half-game behind Tampa.

They're back

And already down 1-0. 

Somebody, shoot me.

The pain and suffering starts today: Okay, juju gods, do your worst!

Yesterday, behind closed doors, the Yankees held a summer camp-style "improv" exercise, with a comedian/cruise director, in an attempt to forge team goofiness and harmony. Photos show Masahiro Tanaka laughing hysterically, though he might not understand a word, while teammates slap their knees. WTF are they talking about? Girls? Hal? We don't know. Nor do we see the part where Boonie's pants get yanked down, and everyone squirts Gillette Foamy into his hiney. Oh well, boys will be boys!

And I say it's good to smoke the bath salts before the games begin, when everybody is an ascending star, and nobody has yet to feel a gonad twinge. Because starting today, the juju gods take over. 

Beginning today - the first game of spring, 1:05 p.m., vs. the Tigers - the herd gets culled. Last year, around now - (actually, it was Feb. 17) - Tyler Austin went down with a broken left foot. We shook our heads in disbelief. Some of us saw Austin platooning with Greg Bird at 1B, instead of the then-newly acquired Chris Carter, whom we greeted like plaque psoriasis. Our winter projections didn't even make it to the first spring game. Wait... ooh, ooh, think this: Baseball as metaphor for life!

Then, a few weeks later, playing 2B in the Bud Selig World Injury Classic, Didi Gregorius tweaked a shoulder. He missed the next six weeks. That injury likely cost Didi a 30 home run season, the kind of number that puts shortstops into contention for MVP awards. As a result, Gregorius remains underappreciated in rankings of the game's best players (but not by Yankee fans.) 

Who can forget the final days of spring training 2016, when Bryan Mitchell - who had won a bullpen job - jammed his toe covering first base? He missed four months and, basically, the season. (Last summer, he got hit in the head by a line-drive and missed a month.) Poor guy never got to show his stuff. Now, he's in San Diego, given to the Padres in exchange for taking Chase Headley - (with Jabari Blash, the historical footnote, somewhere in that mix.) For Mitchell, everything changed on that spring training play.

The spring loss I most remember is Christian Parker, who the Yankees obtained from Montreal in 2000 for Hideki Irabu. Parker was the surprise of the 2001 spring camp, and pitched his way onto the opening day roster - no easy feat, as we were reigning champs. Then, kaboom. He appeared in one game, surrendered 7 runs in three innings. Afterward, he confided that his arm was hurting. Basically, he'd thrown out his elbow seeking to make the team. He never pitched in another MLB game.

They say, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Well, I guess that sums up baseball in the spring. Today, all our projections, all our secret plans, fly out the window. Beginning today, somebody we're counting on will slide the wrong way, or swing too hard, and everything will change. Today, the juju gods take over.

Well, I say, bring it on, you sick, slimy, arrogant motherfuckers. Just be fair. That's all. The Yankees have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball. With the exception of first base and catcher, we have young players backed up throughout the upper levels. Every team will suffer spring injuries. The 2018 Yankees should be able to power through. Do your worst, juju gods. Just be fair. That's all we ask. Just. Be. Fair. And what in hell was Tanaka laughing about?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

From now until April 1, the Yankees will be hitting the flea markets for a Bartolo and a Steve

In the wild jubilation surrounding the arrival of Brandon Drury, there remains speculation about what "Cooperstown" Cashman will do with the remaining $10-$12 million in his Yankee 2018 Spring War Chest. Drury came cheap - not in prospects, but, literally, cheap: He'll earn the MLB minimum, and the Empire owns his tortured soul for the next four years.

So what will Cashman do with all his Mallo Cup coupons? We've discussed the wish list for finding the next Bartolo Colon. Every fan base wants one. Do you realize that it's been seven years (2011) since the Yankees signed Barto off the scrap heap for a measly $900,000? He has twice gone to the All-Star game, and in 2013 finished second in ERA, sixth in the Cy Young vote. Last year, the Braves paid him $12.5 million. Now, that was a signing worth inscription on Cashman's plaque. Unfortunately, we let him go. 

So... first on our fantasy napkin list is a new Bartolo. (Last year we tried ex-Met Jonathon Niese; oh well...)

But next on that list needs to be a firstbaseman, just in case Greg Bird - well, you know... does what Greg Bird does. (Birdy bones are known to snap easily.) Over his six years as a pro, he has played in the equivalent of three and a half seasons. He lost his first years to a knee, then tore his labium, and last year it was the ankle. Last fall, he looked great. But what if he drops a bar of soap on his toe in the shower?

Right now, we would turn to - gulp - backup catcher Austin Romine or the equally injury-prone Tyler Austin. (What is it about Yankees named Austin and Tyler?) The Yanks traded Chase Headley and Garrett Cooper, and said bu-bye to the Toddfather and our own Liddle Rocket Man, Ji-Man Choi. It's been noted that Drury can play 1B, but according to the Internet, he's only played one game there in his MLB career, so... I dunno. As for Judge, Stanton or Red Thunder... I still dunno... Remember how A-Rod and Beltran freaked out there as a Girardian experiment? Old Brigadoon Refsnyder is gone to Team Canada, and Billy McKinney, an "unknown unknown" worthy of Donald Rumsfeld, played 1B in the recent Arizona League. If a Birdian gonad goes pop, the Yankees would be in a free-fall at first base.

Clearly, there's no call to run out and sign Lou Gehrig - no place for him and no money. But the Yankees could use a Steve - as in Pearce - sort of a Bartolo Lite. It's been six years (2012) since Cashman signed Pearce off the scrap heap; he came to bat 30 times for us that year (1 HR, .160 ave.) Since then, the guy has hit 80 MLB homers, barging around the majors, and batted .309 for Tampa Bay in 2016. He's been named AL Player of the Week and in 2014 ranked 9th among AL position players in WAR - so there you go, cyber wonks! We had him. We let him go. No big deal. 

But my guess is that Cashman is trolling the Tiki bars for a Bartolo or a Steve. We're not done until the money's gone. From now until April 1, the flea market is open and underway. Here's an idea: Instead of trading more youngsters, let's buy cheap and see what happens.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Buried the Lede

Jabari Blash is gone! We never even had a chance to hear The Master's home run call for him!

(Another Blast from Blash? A Smash from Blash? It's on Safari with Jabari?) We'll never know!

Life is so unfair!

Clinical Cashman's trade may bring micro-improvements, but it sure kills the buzz

Studying yesterday's non-blockbuster deal for infielder Brandon Drury, who can escape the sense that a bit of sizzle just vanished from the 2018 Yankees, even if the trade itself represents a crafty, wonky, lizard-like intelligence.  

Realistically, only in Disney movies do the Yankees start two rookie infielders on opening day. As simplistic, dumb-ass fans, we want Miguel Andujar and Glyber Torres to step in and become immediate stars, because it would almost guarantee us a generational dynasty. When a trade for a middling veteran bursts that bubble - last year, it was Chris Carter - who is not secretly disappointed? Opening Day now looks like an unveiling of two players all-too-well defined by "meh" careers - Drury at 2B and Jace "Chase?" Peterson at 3B. Who's on first. I Don't Know is on second. Who Gives a Shit is on third. Insert sigh here. Same old Yankees. Always go with the old guy. It's a wonder Aaron Judge isn't playing for Pittsburgh.

Still, I cannot fault Cashman for adding another micro-layer of depth. He's always looking to upgrade, even if in atomic-level increments. If Drury plays a solid 2B and hits .260, we escape the possibility that Glyber suffers a washout season (like Bird did last year.) A bird in the hand, right? Isn't that how it goes? Drury is fire insurance.

As an unrepentant prospect-hugger, I submit that anyone who remembers the Yankees of the 1980s understands the folly of gutting a farm system. If we learned anything from the 14-year barf, it's that you always need a multitude of prospects; you cannot assume your scouts will perpetually keep the right ones. Since last July, the Yankees have traded away a shit-ton of young talent. One of these days, we're going to pay a price.

In that regard, I'm sad to see Nick Solack go. He might just be The One That Got Away. Yesterday, we traded him - a firebrand with a huge offensive upside - for a roster chess piece. It's a trade that contending teams often make. If Glyber or Ronald Torreyes or Tyler Wade take over at 2B, Solack would have no path to the majors, like "Brigadoon" Refsnyder, doomed to appear once a year and vanish. But I can't escape the feeling Solack will be an all-star, an Ian Kinsler type, and we will rue the day we traded him for a coat-hanger. .

Also, I cannot shake the feeling today that Miguel Andujar will never play another inning for the Yankees. All the happy talk lately saying how he's made great strides in defense? It might as well have come from Russian bots. Come March 30, the Yankees will play the seasoning card and send him back to Scranton, where he hit .306 last year. They'll hand the position to Danny Espinosa or Peterson, figuring they'll go with defense. Depressed, Andujar will start slowly and be dealt at the deadline, because, after all, the future Yankee 3B is either Josh Donaldson or Manny Machado. There was never a path for Andujar, aside from in Disney movies. All that discussion about two rookies starting in the infield? We might as well have been talking about about life on Mars. 

The truth is, the Yankees are probably better today than they were yesterday. Ah, but it's not the same.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Brandon Drury is now the starting Yankee secondbaseman

Today, in a three-way, we obtained 25-year-old Brandon Drury from Arizona, a team known to hate us. We gave up Nick Solack and Taylor Widener, two promising youngsters.

Here he is. Pour a drink first. The spreadsheet on Brandon Drury. 

Downside: No speed; one SB per year. He strikes out a lot, one in every five ABs. Doesn't walk. His batting average is on the descent. He bats right. His MLB statistical comparison hitting doppelganger through age 24 is Adonis Garcia. Yeah, Adonis Garcia. He's not even a former first-round draft pick, the kind to which Cashman instinctively gravitates. 

Upside: Middling power. He hits .278 against lefties (platoon with Tyler Wade?) We won't sign Neil Walker or Mike Moustakas, thus saving luxury tax money (he makes the MLB minimum). Guy plays 2B, 3B and OF, and let's face it: If Glyber Torres cannot replace him by July 1, we'll have a bigger concern on our hands.

Middleside: Jabari Blash has been released. Jabari, we hardly knew 'ye.

Behold: The Redsock '18 Hall of Fame $230 Million Superteam of Destiny (TM)

Well, so much for this year. Let's pull the plug, start the tanking process and look to 2020. Can we deal Glyber, Andujar and Justus for prospects? I mean, look at that Boston lineup - look! - now with JD Martinez? It's like The Avengers adding Aquaman. Add an immortal like J-Mar, and, good grief, the season is wicked ovah, bros, fukkin wicked ovah! Flush the toilet and close the stall. I need a drink.

Look at that Redsock '18 Cy Young Hall of Fame Billion Dollar Pitching Staff of Super Destiny (TM), look at it, goddammot! Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister and Drew Pomeranz... not to mention "Machine Gun" Kelly, who throws, like, 350something miles per hour. They say he's just a change-up tweak away from winning 30. And King Cobra himself, Craig Kimbrel, with the scary eyeballs, and Dusty P, their "Lil Jeet" at 2B. Hit .293 last year with seven longballs! Plus, they'll platoon Hanley Ramirez at 1B, that is, unless they trade him for Madison Bumgarner, straight up. That's it. UNCLE! I cry UNCLE!

Okay, let's lower the Snarkometer. The truth is, we've known since December - the moment we traded for Giancarlo - that Boston would sign Martinez. It's their thing. They will enter 2018 with a payroll north of $230 million - nearly $35 mill higher than ours. That means they'll either sit out next winter's free agent class (Bryce and Manny), or their owner John Henry simply has so much money that he doesn't care. (In which case, he is shaming Hal, whose money supply is closer to infinity than zero.) Ever since the Curse of the Bambino died, one popular theory goes that Boston and the Yankees flipped polarity - they became the hammer and we became the nail. This may be the season that proves or disproves that notion. Could they overpower us simply by spending whatever it takes? If so, we need regime change.

But here are some truths that I believe to be self-evident, and it's why I'll take our chances on this otherwise dark day...

1. Since 2004, the Redsocks have thrived through a powerhouse farm system, which management has, at least temporarily, gutted. Meanwhile, ours is running at full capacity. Were I a Boston fan, I would greatly fear this as the flipping of polarity.

2. The delay in signing Martinez at least kept the Yankees from being pressured into a bad countermove. Yes, I'm talking about Todd Frazier. By waiting until spring training is upon us, Boston failed to trigger the weeks of Gammonitic outcry that the Yankees needed to "keep pace." There remain a few free agents out there - Arrieta, Moustaka, etc. - but we don't need to blow up a long term strategy to "win the winter." (Frankly, I believe we already won it, anyway, forcing Boston to blow up its own long term plan.)

3. The 2018 Redsocks will hinge on pitching, pitching, pitching, which Martinez cannot deliver. After Sales, every one of their all-star starters is a melting ball of Jello pudding. Porcello remains the lamest former Cy Young winner in history, and Price may have permanently attained Bostonian pariah status. They have no upcoming wave of young arms, just a pile of ex-prospects in the third year of their disappointment. (See "Machine Gun" Kelly.)

4. The real key to their team is 20-year-old Rafael Devers, who will play 3B, if his glove allows. In 222 at bats last season, he hit .284 with 10 homers, and he killed us a few times. Still, there is a quirkiness to his stats - though LH, he hit lefties far better than righties. Will that stand? Nevertheless, he could be an emerging star. If so, their farm system's death has been exaggerated, and we are in trouble, unless Miguel Andujar rises from Scranton.

5. It's a Yankees/Redsocks season. Nobody else in the AL East looks remotely competitive, and it means that - despite all the bluster and rivalry - the two teams will play 2018 merely to decide which draws the October home field advantage, and which must play the one-game Bud Selig horror show Wild Card. Between now and August 1, some serious impact players (Manny, Bumgarner, Josh Donaldson) could be on the move, and you would think Boston's already bloated roster would be over its limit. If Andujar flops, we might seek a 3B rental.

6. Make no mistake: Martinez is the real deal. In each of the last four seasons, he has hit for both average and power. But by the end of his contract, he will be 35, and Boston is not a nice place to be banking big money without producing big numbers. It's not as bad a contract as Jacoby Ellsbury's turned out to be, but if Martinez falters, the crowds and radio shows will be cruel. It's a long way from Detroit and Arizona, especially if you're Aquaman joining The Avengers. 

But I still need a drink.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The 2018 Yankees need a Jacoby Ellsbury far more than a Red Thunder

Today, the Gammonite universe is feverish over the notion that Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton could both take batting practice, reenacting last July's home run derby and possibly tweaking the game's two largest sets of gonads. It's a Gammonite's dream come true, and the Yankees are playing along. The team will open its parks early in 2018, so fans can watch a daily Indian Point Power Report display and eat more sushi, while the players try to hurt themselves by hitting balls to White Plains.  

It might be a baby step toward the hubris that always gets us in the end. Or maybe a daily mini-derby will indemnify our sluggers from giving a shit about the All-Star break contest, a celebration of hype nearly equivalent to the Super Bowl Halftime Show. If every day brings a mini-derby, who cares about Chris Berman's final moments in the sun? Let's hope, anyway...

But we should worry that the 2018 Yankees will become the All-Time Three-True Outcome Team - the three events being homers, walks and strikeouts. This would make the Yankees not only boring but prone to failing against tough pitchers - the kind you see in playoffs. Let's look at last year's HR/BB/K numbers and - assuming my math is right - consider what could be in store.

Brett Gardner  21/72/122
Aaron Judge 52/127/208
Giancarlo Stanton 59/85/163

Gary Sanchez 33/40/120
Didi Gregorius 25/25/70
Greg Bird 9/19/42 (prorated to entire season: 27/60/150)

Aaron Hicks 15/51/67 (prorated: 25/100/110)
secondbaseman (let's say: 14/50/110)
thirdbaseman (let's say 10/40/110)

For starters, the team's HR total - 276, not counting players off the bench - looks like comic book violence. It would beat the all-time team single season HR record, set by the Mariners in 1997 (264), which - it should be noted, didn't make it to the World Series. Add bench homers, and the 2018 Yankees could do what no team in history has done: Hit 300 homers. Ridiculous. I mean, flat out bonkers.

The lineup would also generate about 600 walks - not bad, even though well below the all-time record of 835, set by the 1949 Boston Redsocks. Add bench numbers, and it could reach 750 bases on balls. Huge. Still, the lineup has two problems: Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius do not take enough walks to fully do damage. If either can be more selective, the Yankees could walk their way into history. 

And then there is the downside: Our lineup would deliver 1,163 strikeouts, a crazy number for an AL team, though not the record. That was set by the miserable, super-tanking Astros of 2013, at 1,535 whiffs. If we add 60 strikeouts by our pitchers in inter-league games, plus a couple hundred by the bench, the Yankees could fall within striking distance (no pun intended) of the ultimate strikeout lineup in history. That's a lot of players walking back to the bench without putting a ball into play. It's a lot of time spent watching nothing happen.

A couple takeaways here: 

Such a team can win - runs are runs - but it would need solid pitching. 

The 2018 Yankees need a Jacoby Ellsbury more than a Clint Frazier - table-setters, not another HR power. 

Likewise, in the two open slots, 2B and 3B, the Yankees need a Ronald Torreyes more than a Mike Moustakas. Also, if both positions prove to be sinkholes - that is, lots of strikeouts and little production - this so-called super team could be more vulnerable than we may think. 

You have to love the homers, but get comfortable in the bean chair, folks. This could a season when nothing seems to happen. And when certain players go into a funk - they all do - the losses could be excruciating.  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Giancarlo's moment

Walking into history.

A Yankee bold strategy for spring: Let's do nothing and see what happens.

In today's Murdoch, Joel Sherman opines that Cooperstown Cashman likely will horde his $20-$25 million in leftover salary cap/tax threshold money, and forego the low-hanging free agents still dangling on grapefruit league vines. The plan: Keep the mad money for the August 1 trade deadline, when an avalanche of big name salary dumps could scramble the pennant races beyond recognition. 

Close your eyes, and around July 31, you can imagine the likes of Madison Bumgarner and Manny Machado hitting the auction barn, with the Empire paying not only prospects but cash on the barrel-head. In the meantime, Cashman might chase a fading prospect, such as Jurickson Profar of the Rangers, in his eternal quest to collect all the Aaron Hickses of the universe. The Yankees might become the Team of Second Chances.

If that's the plan, count me in. The key to building with prospects is allowing them time to develop, and every wretched period in Yankee history is pocked with hasty decisions about slow-developing youngsters. Over the last 18 months, they broke Old George's generational need for Yankee instant gratification by allowing Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks to survive sluggish periods. If this were the 1980s under Syd Thrift, it's not hard to see them all traded to other teams for the likes of a Rick Rhoden. But that doesn't seem to be Cashman's way, and - once again, with fingers crossed - let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

For now, let's embrace the perfect plan: 

Let's do nothing and see what happens.

Apparently, Cashman will wait on Glyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazier and a gaggle of young pitchers likely headed to Scranton. He recently let the Mets sign Todd Frazier and the Redsocks grab Edwin Nunez, and I don't see Yankee fans slinging bile over the losses. I don't even see a movement growing to sign Neil Walker or Wilbur the Talking Pig. 

We have the most interesting lineup in baseball. We don't need a stimulus package. We don't need new infrastructure. We just need time.

Let's do nothing and see what happens. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Could Thairo Estrada be the next D'Angelo Jimenez?

In the looming battle for second base, the Yankees yesterday found they couldn't dodge a bullet. News came out that Thairo Estrada, a 21-year-old breakout prospect last year at Trenton, was shot during a robbery last month in Venezuela, and he will play 2018 with a bullet in his hip. The Yankees say he will make a full recovery, and let's hope that this time the team is telling the truth (though it seldom does regarding injuries.) Still, I find it hard to imagine a shortstop - considering the range of motion required - will not be affected by a sliver of metal in his hip. And once again, we of the Yankiverse must suffer the grim reminder that players are actual people - with actual lives - and not just fantasy Strat-o-Matic cards.

Today, I'm thinking of D'Angelo Jimenez, a 21-year-old shortstop who came to the Yankees in 1999 and hit .400 in a late-season cup of coffee. Of course, he was cock-blocked at SS by the great future Marlins brain trust, but the Yankees planned to either trade Jimenez for pitching, or move him to third. He'd hit .327 at Columbus, was an all-star in Triple A, and was unquestionably one of the premier prospects in baseball.

But that winter, Jimenez was in a serious car accident in the Dominican Republic, forcing him to spend months in traction. Even though he was expected to make "a full recovery" - that's what the Yankees said - he missed the 2000 season and never again appeared in Pinstripes. He played eight years in the majors, bouncing between seven teams, usually as a utility infielder, compiling a .263 lifetime average. Not what we wanted. Not what he expected. Life, eh?

This morning, let's also ponder the fate of Andre Robertson, who was 23 in 1983, when he broke his neck in a terrible car accident on NYC's West Side Highway. It effectively ended his career and left a young ballerina paralyzed, destroying two lives. Ten years later, the Times found Robertson working in a chemicals plant, and the young woman had sued the city, in part because the former player was broke. Life...

There was, of course, Graig Nettles' inability to mow the lawn, and Brien Taylor's inability to avoid a bar fight, not to mention Mickey Mantle's lifetime of distractions, and Steve Howe weakness for anything addictive, and Henry Cotto's troubling decision to ram a fucking Q-Tip into his ear. Every year, somebody screws up, or maybe - like Estrada - they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

For the 2018 Yankees, losing Estrada is hardly the worst setback that could happen. He was barely in the mix to win a starting job. And let's assume the docs know what they're doing - maybe he can make "a full recovery." But I dunno. Shortstop is a tricky position. And we as fans can move on to the next youngster. After all, pitchers and catchers are here. Summer is within sight. The world is turning, and while we celebrate the eternal hopes of spring, let's pause for a moment to remember how quickly life can go south. Enjoy every sandwich, folks. We're not Strat-o-Matic cards, and neither are the Yankees.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The price of Jaime Garcia is a rude awakening to Yank fans hoping for a spring steal

I hate to keep barking about this, but one of these days, "Cooperstown" Cashman is going to spend the remaining $12 million in mad money that Hal Steinbrenner has bequeathed to the 2018 Yankee spring roster. With every free agent signing, the music stops and one chair disappears, and one of these days, we will get our man... I think, anyway... 

Yesterday, the still-not-ready-to-tank Blue Jays signed 31-year-old Jaime Garcia for $8 million this year, plus $2 million in bonuses, if he pitches well, (and we all know he won't.) Garcia poses an interesting benchmark, because Cashman obtained him last summer for Diedrich Enns and the living legend Zach Littell, a 21-year-old who went - get this: - 19-1 at Single and Double A. Nineteen and one. (Write this down: If Littell turns out to be a keeper, the name of Jaime Garcia will roil the Yankiverse for many years to come.)

Garcia threw 37 innings for the Yankees - eight sickly starts - and pitched 2 scoreless innings in the Divisional Series against Cleveland. Overall, he went 5-10 last year, with an ERA of 4.41 (which, terrifying fact alert here, was still better than Masahiro Tanaka's 4.74.) 

But if $8 million wins you Jaime Garcia, I believe it's safe to say that Yankee fans can forget about Jake Arrieta or Lance Lynn. Even with Toronto out of the auction - and that's no certainty - the big name pitchers will still command far more than what Garcia is receiving. If not, something is seriously wrong with the concept of supply and demand.

Which brings us back to the hope that Cashman can find a cheap, used-lottery ticket reclamation project. Yesterday, Tim Lincecum auditioned in front of about two dozen scouts, and supposedly hit 93 on somebody's radar gun. (In this day and age, hitting 93 is the equivalent of a GED diploma.) It's amazing to think that Lincecum - after four years of sustained mediocrity - might be too pricey for the Yankees, but jeez, if Jaime Garcia costs $8 million... that may be a reality. 

We might have to start thinking about 35-year-old Jason Vargas, or 29-year-old Chris Tillman, who endured a completely lost season last year in Baltimore, falling from near ace status to a Betances-in-crisis, end of the bullpen lugnut. I don't know what Tillman would cost, but it's like Popeye's Fried Chicken - cheap but not good for you.

Last year, Cash coaxed Chris Carter up from the primordial ooze - a strike-out machine DH who cost us $3 million. Hard to imagine, but this year, in search of pitching, we might get less. We want a Bartolo. Might just be that even the Bartolos are too expensive.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Tim Lincecum is exactly the pitcher the Yankees need

Today, before a police lineup of scouts, agents, accountants, trainers and gun-owners (radar guns, that is), the Freak himself - Tim Lincecum - will step onto a mound and into Spring Fantasy Comeback Crapola History. Maybe.

At age 33 - (34 in June) - Lincecum is seven years removed from elite status with the SF Giants, and three since he threw more than 100 innings. In his last, torture-porn incarnation with the Angels, he was horrible, Anthony Scaramuchi-bad, with an ERA over 9.00 in 38 firebombed, air-sickness innings. That was 2016. He didn't bother showing up last year. He was probably rolling sushi.

And yet... here he is, lacing up his Doc Dentons and attempting to be John Travolta. And before anybody yells, "Battlefield: Earth," I offer one word: 


Bar. Toe. Low.

Okay, I know what you're thinking: Duko, you done gonna batshit, Glen Beck-crying crazy batshit. The mere fact that the Yankees once gave Bartolo Colon a final chance, which he parlayed into a second career, does not mean it can happen again. Odds are Lincecum will get hammered in spring training by some Zolio Almonte clone, end up in Scranton and then disappear into some sanctuary city to pour gluten-free wine to Trump-supporting Junior Leaguers. 

But but BUT... if there is one piece yet to be played for the 2018 Yankees, it is the opportunity for a cast-off pitcher to return with sheer guile and maybe some slippery elm - a guy who gives us 100 innings until July, when the Domingos and Justuses take over. 

My guess is that Lincecum will sign for around $2 million - slightly more than porn star hush money, these days - and he's a gamble worth taking. He won't pitch in the all-star game. He won't be our third starter. But he could be the sixth man, and we will need one. If anybody thinks the current rotation will stay healthy, let them note the ankle brace CC was wearing yesterday, when golf-carted to his car, following the first action-packed day of soft-tossing. He must have stepped on a sparrow.

The Yankees can afford a high-risk, piss-away-some-of-Hal's-money signing this spring. If Lincecum flops, no harm, no foul. It just means more of a chance for the Domingo Acevedos or the Domingo Germans. He either pitches his way onto the team, or he vanishes into the fast food joints of Clark Summit. 

Supposedly, the Yankees will send a scout for today's audition. Whoopie. They'd be fools to skip it. Let's hope they like what they see, and lay down some cash. Let's dare to dream about 2018. We have three Aarons and a lineup full of potential. It would be nice to have a Freak.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

People keep proposing trades to kill the Yankees

This morning, Ken Rosenthal - the 5'5" human bow tie - outlines a three-way, Groupon-inspired, Rube Goldberg-machine deal that would send Manny Machado to the Yankees for the remaining season on his contract, and all you need to know is that it will not happen - and in the current Philippines, people would be shot in the streets for proposing it. Why do sportswriters do this? Fentanyl? Are they genetically predisposed to disrupting the Yankees? Are the Russians, bored with American politics, now looking to meddle in the AL East? 

Not a week goes by without some Gammonite ginning up a plan for the Yankees to trade Glyber Torres or Miguel Andujar for a big name on a cruise ship-sized contract, which ends next winter and would leave the Yankees protecting their gonads with duct tape. Every conversation with Yankee fans reaches the same conclusion: The fan base loves loves LOVES the idea of two ascendant rookies in the lineup, even with the understanding that both could fail. It's fresh air, it's the unbridled hope of youth. With luck, the Yankees could win divisional championships and maybe a ring or three. Why in God's name would we trade Torres or Andujar, without even unwrapping their gift boxes to see what's inside? Nobody wants to tamper with this team, aside from sportswriters who cannot resist ways of de-fanging the Bombers.

I believe the Yankiverse must make peace with Jacoby Ellsbury as the fifth outfielder, regardless of what he's being paid. It doesn't matter whether he starts in CF or comes in as a late inning pinch runner. It. Doesn't. Matter. The fact is, he's not a bad player or teammate, and the current outfield logjam could be blown up instantly by injuries, making Ellsbury critical to the 2018 season. We have him, folks. He's not going anywhere. Who cares what he's being paid? Let's see what happens. 

Regardless of how the rookies look or the outfield shapes up, there are still six weeks left to ponder the relentless carnival train of nightmare trade ideas that will be presented whenever a Gammonite realizes he has nothing to discuss. We made it this far with two rookies. We don't need to trade for a year of Manny Machado (who wants to play SS anyway.) Let's keep our fingers crossed and away from the nuclear button.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Arod: Captain of ... Industry?

The awesomeness of Arod can only be compared to his preternatural lack of self-awareness. It's part of his charm, such as it is.
He's not just a craven self-promoter, but someone who's had a second coming and seeks to leverage the public's short, addled memory.

And the esteemed multi-Pulitzer Prize awarded Miami Herald is playing a part in the rehabilitation of the tarnished image of the Yankee near-great. He's been selected, with slight notice or fanfare, as a judge in the paper's annual Business Plan Challenge.


It's here! We made it... the long awaited return of M & M

Let's be honest: At this point, a mere "winning season" would be a colossal Yankee disappointment, almost an embarrassment. Today, as camps open, the 2018 Bombers stand among baseball's highest tier - one of the rare teams expecting to win, no chance of tanking.

MLB's collective bargaining agreement has built a solid de facto payroll cap, known as the luxury tax, to keep player salaries low, while revenues skyrocket. Dilly-dilly to them. But an unfortunate side-effect is that the surest way for a team to win is by "tanking," finishing last for several years. Entering 2018, about one-third of the teams actually hope to win. Along with the Yankees, they are:

Houston, defending champs, thanks to decades of tanking.

Cubs, still clinging to 2016, after lenghty tanking.

Indians, Nats, Redsocks, Dodgers - must win now or re-tank. 

Angels, with Japanese Babe, special case, cannot tank this year.

Twins, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Rockies - tanking done! ready to go.

Mets, Mariners, Blue Jays, Cards, O's - lost in limbo, need to tank.

Thanks to the Yankees' mid-2016 tanking - and the Marlins' current tankathon - we want to win it all. It's been generations since the Yankees started spring training with two open slots - 2b and 3b - a farm system rated among the industry's best, and this much optimism.

But with hope comes the Curse of Expectations. In every model, every projection - no matter how we temper them - we Yankee fans secretly believe the 2018 team will field one of the most powerful lineups in our lives. In our fantastical private moments, we are fourth-graders, awaiting the reincarnation of the M&M boys. This is our version of the Rams' "Fearsome Foursome," or Michigan's "Fab Five." We are entering March with hopes so far beyond this planet's orbit, there is almost no way this team can compete with its expectations.

I'm imagining that two rookies - Glyber Torres and Miguel Andujar - launch future all-star careers. I'm thinking that by the time a pitcher finishes with the front seven hitters, he will be so drained that the final two - our rookies - will feast upon him. 

It won't happen, of course. Somewhere out there, huge disappointments loom. Maybe Greg Bird will miss another season. Maybe Aaron Judge will simply fail to hit. Injuries could kill our rotation, and who knows what to make of Chapman and Betances? It's a perilous path, but I'm here to say that anything less than a Divisional title will be disappointing. I've waited sixty years for a Yankee reincarnation of Mantle and Maris. This is why I became a Yankee fan. It's finally here. Mickey and Roger, Yogi and Elston, Moose and Blanchard - Judge and Jury. It's spring, and we're all 12 again. Have a Pepsi! Calgon Bath Beads, take me away!