Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Latest

John Sterling was quoted in an article in yesterday's NY Post defending his much-maligned Italianate home run call for Giancarlo Stanto.

In my humble opinion, he took a few steps toward redeeming himself with his call for Tyler Austin's awesome 2-run homer in the fifth:
Austin Powers One!

Sure beats hell out of “Non si può de stoparlo!”

Shagadelic, baby.

I Wasn't Going To Say This.....

But I have a creepy feeling about Aaron Judge starting today in CF.

I remember Mickey Mantle, and the storm drain that derailed his excellence.

Hopefully, today is just another fun day at the ball park.

And Judge, being such a great athlete , will prove his abilities even more.

Maybe he should wear number 7, just for the day.  To add to the merriment.

I don't like anything about this.

Um, no, it doesn't.

In the battle for March, another fine Yankees article in the Times today, but also one about soccer. Regarding one Jack Cork, the only Premier League midfielder to have played every minute of every game so far this year.

In the course of this, Cork has apparently run or walked all of 227.4 miles, or more than 7 miles per game. It is an accomplishment so immense that, as the Times subhead notes, "It Challenges The Mind."

Except it doesn't.

Those 30 games Cork put in took place over about six months. Which means a little over a mile a day, something that about half of this city routinely runs and walks, even in just getting to one place or another.  Throw in practices, friendlies, and other games...and we're still talking the average workout for maybe a million or two New Yorkers.

I know, I know. They're not playing Premier League soccer. Just dodging murderous traffic, street lunatics, potholes, and falling trees in the parks.

For the year:  Soccer 48, Yankees 38.  For March, Yanks 23, Soccer 21.

Montepulciano Yankees Injury Report

—Clint Frazier, DL, concussion.

—Aaron Hicks, DL, intercoastal waterways.

—Greg Bird, DL, foot fell off.

—Jacoby Ellsbury, o-bleak pull. Plus flu.

UPDATE:  Ellsbury reported severe sniffling and a jammed pinky last night. Status doubtful.

UPDATE:  Ellsbury over sniffles and pinky, but feels "all headachy." Status uncertain.

UPDATE:  Ellsbury's head is much better, thank you, but is suffering from "a boo-boo." Status extremely precarious.

UPDATE:  Ellsbury boo-boo has cleared up, but the indigestion is back. Oy. Status gaseous.

UPDATE:  Ellsbury feeling overwhelmed by sense of existential angst. Reportedly wonders what's it
all about, Alfie, and does not know where he's going to, or if he likes the things that life is showing him, or if, when he looks behind him, there is no open door. Status existential.

The two-team race begins with Billy McKinney's lifetime in the lurch

The Yankiverse is a strange place, a dimension of space and time, unbound by the curds and whey of conventional physics. Here, an entire lifetime can unfold in a weekend. For example, consider the case of Billy McKinney, who delivered a hit last night, but who might disappear by Monday, and not return until September... (or ever, as a Yankee.) We are down a center fielder, and Jacoby Ellsbury is almost ready. That will send McKinney to Scranton, the city of coal museums and trade chips. If he hits there, McKinney could well become the focus of a mid-summer trade. We used to call Rob Refsnyder
"Brigadoon" because he only appeared once every hundred years. Frankly, many Yankee prospects could earn that nickname. 

If we've seen anything thus far, it is that Torontonians should think about hockey. By mid June, the Blue Jays will be a weekly garage sale, dedicating themselves to 2020, (aka the Year of Hugh Downs.) Their best player can't throw the ball to first base in the air. Their hitters look so bad that we cannot gauge Yankee pitching: are we that good, or are they simply awful?

Between now and October, we cannot fathom the comedy and/or tragedy that awaits us, only that nonstop events will enfold us like a fart in an elevator. And this year, everything revolves around two teams: us and the Redsocks.

Yesterday, the worst thing that could happen... happened. David Price pitched well, like the guy they thought they were getting via the priciest pitching contract in history. A big season from Price could be seismic event in the AL East, matched only by one of our own... Aaron Judge.

As usual, everything hinges on injuries... though you could add Price and Judge to the list of intangibles. Thus far, we haven't seen enough to know what to expect. If Judge produces anything like last year, it's hard to imagine the Yankees missing the post-season. If he were to completely tank, as he did last July, and become an outfield version of Chris Carter... well, that would be a 6'7" hole in the batting order. We'll deal with that if it happens.

Currently, the Redsocks have five players on the DL - Dustin Pedroia, Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Thornberg, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez. Four pitchers and a 2B.

We have four: Ellsbury, Bird, Frazier and now Hicks. Three outfielders and a 1B. Both teams have been hit in concentrated areas. Which is why we're seeing Billy McKinney. Let's enjoy his Yankee lifetime, while it lasts. "Brigadoon" McKinney? Who knows?

Friday, March 30, 2018

To Continue...

Six little outfielders, nothing here to fix,
Then we get caught by the intercostal Hicks.
Five little outfielders, they're getting pretty slow
Which one will be the next to go?

—T.S. Eliot

Jesus, Mary And Aaron !

As some of you know, when I visited spring training, I hoped this was going to be an easy year.

Sure, Bird would need surgery before opening day but he has never made it healthy to an opening day.

It is no co-incidence, by the way, that a foot ( ankle ) problem can cause poor timing with the bat.  Hitting requires balance and co-ordination ( eye, hands, feet, hips thyroid, etc ) at an intense level....with rock hard balls being hurled toward a batter at 95 mph and more.

 Bird's dismal hitting was directly related to his nagging pain.  We all know he can hit.  We just don't know if he can ever stay out of the infirmary.  For some, it becomes a sick kind of psychological compulsion ( reference; Nick Johnson, and people who stab themselves at night in the kitchen).

Which brings me to today's news and dismay.  On the day when you know who got out of the bat cave and headed skyward, our own biblically named icon ( Aaron ) went into it.  One friggen day of meaningful baseball and he is gone.

 He has what we call ( in Swanese) " an intercostal...not coastal....muscle strain."  You can get it from paddling too hard and too fast around the lilies, or running out infield singles.  Aaron got it, somehow, in doing the latter.

Never mind that in this morning's box score he was 2-4.

So the injury replacement parade begins.  The depth of the miracle, and highly over-rated farm system is tested.  McKinney comes up.  One underperforming first round pick substitutes for another ( neither of which were originally selected by your GM ).

So what is today's line-up?  We know Gardy moves to CF.  I hope Judge stays where he is.  They will never start McKinney, particularly in LF ( he is a RF).  That can only mean one thing:

The Italian Stallion ( named after an English nobleman....the Stanton family of plymouth rock ) will be in left.

Double trouble.

I already need a break.

Stanton homered, but The Master swung and missed

This Fourth of July, John Sterling will turn 80 - older than Dick Cheney, Richard Dawkins and White-Out - and if longevity has learned him anything, it should be to treat every single Opening Day as his last. No green bananas in the Loew's Broadcast Booth... (Let's build something to-gethahhhhh...) 

If you listened yesterday - I caught three innings in the car - The Master didn't sound 79 and older than Charo (she's just 77,  goochie-goochie!). He chewed on each batter as if it were a bite of Beyonce. But in his grand moment of Opening Day - the Giancarlo Stanton home run call that has been anticipated since December - Sterling delivered one of the most disappointing hollers of his 48-year play-by-play career.

Here's how it looks, in verse:

Swung on and drilled to deep right center field,
It is high, it is far, it is GONE!

In his first Yankee at bat!
Giancarlo... non si pue de parlo!
It is a Stantonian home run,
A two-run blast to right-center
In his first Yankee at bat!

Today, the Internet is icing its forehead, searching for answers. 

Deadspin: "What the hell is John Sterling's home run call for Giancarlo Stanton?"

Fox Sports: "Famed broadcaster leaves fans baffled over Stanton home run call.""

CBS Sports: "John Sterling's new Italian home run call for Giancarlo Stanton left many people confused.

And on and on. Nobody seems to have gotten it, or to appreciate it, or to fathom it. Most everybody notes that Stanton is not Italian, that the translation itself says there are no words for it - and the best defense by Sterling's fans - i.e., us - is that it surely will be replaced by something catchier. 

Now, you could argue that controversy brings clicks, and that by going into the ozone, The Master has just pulled off a crafty public relations coup. With this bewildering call, he will generate more attention than ever. But to anyone who has followed Sterling for the last half century - that is, we who remember White-Out - that notion doesn't parse. Sterling is not the type to purposely mail in a clunker. This call is his Geraldo moment in Al Capone's vault, and by Easter Sunday - considering the 2018 Blue Jays bullpen - he might have repeated it a dozen times. I don't think this call is going to grow on us, because - well, there's no connection to Stanton, to baseball, or to anything. You might argue that singing about the Grandyman didn't either, but frankly, this one just sounds... unSterlinglike

I have to wonder: Doesn't The Master have anybody who would say, "Dude, that aint gonna work. Sing a song. Go nuclear. Try something else, anything else. Why are you going Italian?" In interviews before the season, The Master expressed his own concern over the call. Apparently, nobody stepped forward with something better. 

Coupled with a game-ending gasp of a WinWarble - (which I've only heard about in comments; did anybody have a chance to record it? The MLB radio repeat feed wasn't working for me this morning) - The Master may be showing his age. And today - with the jubilation of an opening day victory and a Redsock pineapple colonoscopy - while we're celebrating, the Yankiverse might ponder the reality that calling 162 games, without missing one pitch, is a hell of a lot to ask of someone older than White-Out. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Things to improve upon

That was about as complete an Opening Day romp as I've ever seen.

Everybody hit. Not just Stanton, but pretty much everybody. We scored six runs even with Gardner hitting scorchers hot enough to light up Smoak, and a couple more hits taken away by Donaldson. Happ also pitched pretty well, I thought. Didn't matter.

Most encouraging, Judge had a couple of terrific at-bats after looking bad on that first strikeout.

Everybody hustled. Neil Walker would've stolen a run with a heads-up play, had we not been robbed on the video replay (How does that happen?).

Everybody fielded. We looked amazingly sharp for Opening Day. Good plays by Austin and Walker at first. Great play by Wade, just when Betances was blowing up. Didi looked like a vacuum cleaner out on their turf. Sanchez looked comfortable and competent.

Everybody pitched. Well, almost everybody. But seriously, Severino looked terrific. The pen was strong.

Ma Boone managed. Smart move on the quick hook for Luis.

Things to worry about:

—Toonces, of course. But I preferred this Betances, at least getting the ball in there, better body language, and coming back to get Donaldson. Not hopeless.

—Was it just me, or was Severino losing a lot of velocity near the end? Maybe just a case of building up strength through the season.

—Sure, the anti-Direct TV ghouls had a fun new ad, and the YES Network's "Nine-Man Booth" was fairly funny. But where was Irritabella, the IBS lady???

Yeah, That Was Okay

I can't tell you how bad the omens were looking while I was scurrying around doing errands this afternoon, trying to get back in time for the game.

My local library branch was running a big display on the Titanic. Huh? Not only a colossal disaster of a highly overrated vessel, but one that happened in April, 1912—just as Fenway Park was opening in a world championship, Red Sox year. A year in which the Yankees finished a miserable last, in their
last season in Hilltop Park.

Next, I see a bulletin on one of those new phone charger monoliths: "Happ homers in first at-bat."  WHAT? Okay, they meant the Happ on the Cubs. But still: that can't be good.

Still worse, the guy at my local newsstand was reading a Hindi-language with a headline that read, I kid you not:

"Rastunek dla watrophy."

Right? I mean, who wants to look at that on Opening Day?

Worst of all, there was some ragged looking, middle-aged guy—much like me—who was lying on the sidewalk, having suffered a fall or a stroke of some sort. The EMT guys were dealing with him, but right next to his head was small blotch of blood—and a Yankees hat.

He seemed to be all right. But once they got him in the ambulance, there was the bloody Yankees cap,
lying on the pavement. The driver picked it up delicately, and deposited it in the ambulance, too.

Not good, am I right?

Then the game began.

Hey, kids, let's bone up on the latest Redsock news!

A great Yankee win

But remember:

Every Yankee win... is a great Yankee win.

Fifty Years from Now

In his excellent post, "Fifty Years Ago", HoraceClarke66 posed the following thought-provoking question:

What will the game be fifty years from now?

I have a few work tasks that desperately need to be completed this afternoon so I thought HC's question offered an excellent opportunity to ignore them.

What will the game be like in 2068?
  1. Every inning will begin with a runner on second base.  This player will be selected from a cadre of six "Designated Runners" available to both teams.  The Major League Designated Runners Union (MLDRU) will be more powerful than the Major League Umpire's Union (WUA).

  2. In an attempt to cut down on rampant sign stealing, players, managers, and coaches will be tested for implanted microchips before every game.  Bionic devices that shrink a players' strike zone by artificially elevating his kneecaps and lowering his nipples will also be prohibited.  Jose Canseco will cite both bans as further evidence that the league discriminates against Latin players.  Ted Williams' recently unfrozen head will open its mouth and vehemently disagree.

  3. Players will have difficulty finding the bases 
    when Tide sponsors the game because the orange Tide advertisements plastered all over the bags will blend in with the infield dirt.  A few old coots watching the game will wail "When I was young, we used to EAT those Tide pods. Now these good-fer-nothin' young'uns can't even see 'em."  Younger fans will forgive these oldsters, who have clearly lost their pod-eating minds, if they ever had them.

  4. Now that fans can attach in-seat catheters and no longer need to visit the restrooms, the owners will propose eliminating the quaint but archaic Seventh Inning Stretch" in order to speed up the games, which now average 7.2 hours in duration.  The Yankees will protest because they won't be able to figure out when to play Kate Smith's recording of God Bless America.  In a gesture of support for cherished traditions, fans will rip out their catheters and go to the restrooms.  The federal government's mind-reading software, however, will scan the fans' brains and determine they just didn't want to hear Kate Smith anymore. Septuasexual fans will protest because there are no restrooms that meet their needs.

  5. Camden Yards will be a fine stadium.  Wrigley Field will be a fine stadium.  Yankee Stadium will continue to be Mall of America.

  6. Hal Steinbrenner will be 99 years old on Opening Day.  His team payroll will be under the then current salary cap, ahem, sorry!, luxury threshold, but Hal will not smile.

  7. A-Rod will be romantically linked to North West's 23-year old daughter, Jeri.  Jeri West will be seen in the owner's box at Super Bowl C-III feeding A-Rod nuggets of non-GMO, 3D-printed, creamed corn.

  8. Carl Pavano will be unable to participate in the 2068
    Old Timer's Day game due to injury.  Doctors will initially make a diagnosis of "bruised ovaries" but, when Randy Levine, Yankee Team Historian, recalls that Pavano's ovaries were removed in 2007 following the 11th and final inning he pitched that season, doctors will sheepishly conclude that it's a simple case of "bruised buttocks".

  9. John Sterling will wear a black armband to mourn the recent passing of his compañera, Suzyn Waldman.  Fans will marvel as he recalls the lyrics from obscure show-tunes first recorded in 2032.

  10. Red Sox fans will be insufferable assholes.

Play ball.

My Song In Imagery


Song of a Yankee fan

The gods place bets with loaded dice,
And all our earthly dreams betray,
But listen to one clown's advice,
Goodbye, cruel world; it’s opening day.

The politicians scrounge for power,
With consequences we shall pay.
But somewhere, it's our finest hour,
Goodbye, cruel world; it's opening day.

Our weary age is full of war,
The daily news brings dark dismay,
So surf the dreams worth living for,
Goodbye, cruel world; it’s opening day.

10 juju tidbits from the far edge of the Yankiverse

1. Last year on opening day with highly touted Mets, Neil Walker batted fifth. Today, he'll bat eighth. 

2. In digital vote of confidence, the Yanks have given Tyler Wade jersey #12. (He was #39.) Only Brett Gardner (#11) is lower. What's left for Gleyber Torres? How about the magical #13? 

3. Nathan Eovaldi needs surgery to vacuum bone chips from his elbow. They should install a zipper. He's had two Tommy Johns and was supposed to pitch against us next week in Tampa Bay. Could miss season. Could be done. Sad.

4. In realm of nicknames, Aaron Boone has put his 2B-tandem in a blender. He calls Neil Walker "Walk" and Tyler Wade "Wader." One shortened, one lengthened. Weird.  

5. Apparently, David Cone will join Michael Kay for today's game. With bad knees, the Yanks don't want Kenny Singleton calling on artificial turf.

6. All this YES hype about Gary Sanchez's renewed commitment would disappear today with one passed ball. Just one.

7. Congress should pass a law about fans wearing Yankee jerseys with names printed on the back. Nothing sadder.

8. Today's 3:37 p.m. start time is perfect for nursing home coots. Happy Hour (meds) come in the fifth, dinner (creamed corn) ready by the seventh, tucked away in Land of Nod by ninth. Long-ballers can even stay up for "Law and Order." 

9. Boston plays Tampa seven out of first nine games, with punchy Marlins as other two. Redsocks should be 9-0 - printing playoff tickets and measuring bronze plaques - when Yanks hit Fenway on April 10.

10. Since he figured out how to pitch, J.A. Happ has been a mini-Yankee killer. Last year, he went 2-0, throwing 11.2 innings and giving up only 2 runs. First test of new homer-happy lineup. Beat a crafty junk-baller. 

Well, beat the drum. And hold the phone.

Take it from here, boys.

Fifty Years Ago

So that SI from 1968 got the pennant winners right, but only 4 of the remaining 18 spots in the two leagues.

Only 11 of the 20 teams drew over 1 million fans, and only St. Louis and Detroit, the pennant winners, drew over 2 million.

The highest AL team payroll was $605,000, total, for a Boston team that drew nearly 2 million fans. The Yankees drew almost 1.2 million, and had a payroll of $409,000—almost a quarter of it going to The Mick—meaning they made a healthy profit, too.

It's unimaginable that any team did not make money, even the Senators, who drew a little over half-a-million fans, but paid out only about a quarter-mill to their players.

SI listed the salaries of the Cards' starting lineup, which, with Gibson, came to all of $565,000. All told, the Cards paid out $651,000—and drew $1.7 million just in "advance sales," after their World Series win the year before.

It was a different world. The Cardinals had been christened "El Birdos," because they had all of two Hispanic players on the roster, Orlando Cepeda and Julian Javier. Gibson threw 24 complete games, and was NEVER relieved on the mound by his manager. Denny McLain won 31 games.

What will the game be fifty years from now?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

...and reasons to be cheerful.

Did anyone else read the Daily News baseball preview piece about how Ma Boone's wife, Laura Cover, has done outstanding work rebuilding Haiti for years? And that in the course of this, she adopted two local boys who have now been in the Boone family for years?

And that she also used to be a Playboy model.

I mean, the man has married a former Playmate who is also smart enough and big-hearted enough to spend her spare time working for the mandated of the world, and making them part of her family.

Can anyone truly doubt that this guy has the JuJu to compete with ODUMODU?

Among other things, the guy has turned a devastating, freak off-field injury into a managing gig in the Bronx.  He's even luckier than Lucky Cashman.  And then there's Laura, of whom we are in awe.

I feel fine.

Things to worry about for Opening Day...

One thing I don't like is opening in Toronto.

That's always struck me as prime Odumodu territory, Dr. Balogun's playground. A weird park atmosphere, usually full of bitter Canadians who sit there sullenly, too polite to really jeer, but hating us all the same.

I seem to remember Sheffield the Elder once injuring himself running out a triple on that idiotic turf of theirs.

And of course there was the awful 2003 opener there when that idiot Ken Huckaby decided to slide into third base in full catcher's gear and put Jeter out for 40 games. For which Huckaby then demanded an apology FROM Jeter, and went on doing so for years.

I also don't like that we're opening on Maundy Thursday.

"Maundy" comes from Christ's command to "Love one another," and especially the poor and downtrodden.

Exactly what I DON'T want to do is love the poor and downtrodden in baseball—especially those pretending to be poor, which is pretty much every other club we play.

Why, did you know that when playing on Maundy Thursday, our record is—

I have no idea. Nor do I know what it is on Good Friday, Black Saturday, Easter Sunday or Monday, or on any of the days of Passover.

But I don't like it!

This is what you call "a bad omen"

Dodger fans should be prepared.

Write this down: 96 Yankee wins, the return of Greg Bird, and a revolution in beer drinking

Comrades: Take a long gander into the picture on the right. Tomorrow Land is here! Humankind has finally ascended to that magnificent, Asgardian plane of joy and rapture, where our loved ones - Yankee players! - serve as tour guides in our regular journeys to the Isle of Stagger and Puke. 

Once again, the Yankees are leading a revolution - this time, not in revenue-generating TV networks or stadium tax breaks - but in consumption of beer. Naturally, the pearl-clutching, golden-shower-seeking, oh-dear!s of MLB are worried - mainly that they'll miss out on the beer-foam pie. They actually want to stop this innovation. Can you believe it? These insufferable Beyonce-biters suddenly claim it's wrong for baseball to link itself to beer. To beer. As in the Milwaukee Brewers. Or Coors Stadium. Or Busch. Or Bud. Or craft beer nights. Suddenly, baseball is too hoity-toity for - (pausing now to swig) - beer.

Listen: This is the greatest thing that ever happened to the seventh-inning pee-break, which some people still wrongfully call a "stretch." It's amazing: The lords of the game don't want this? Good luck with that. What we are witnessing is the March of Humankind toward a greater realm, known as Yankee Stadium, and from now on, when guzzling by myself - as a certain Mr. Christie Brinkley once said, I'll be sharing a drink that's called Yankinees, 'cuz it's better than drinkin' alone...

Which reminds me... ah, yes... the Yankees...

The Yankees will win 96 games this year and take the AL East by five games. That's me talking, not the faces in my beer,. They simply have too much firepower in the starting lineup and, more importantly, a wave of hungry youngsters eager to replace them. Seriously. If Aaron Judge goes down next month, Clint Frazier could step in, and who knows what he'd do? This isn't a case of bringing up Ben Francisco and Zolio Almonte. We would replace veterans with Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar... and actually improve.

Boston is the only team capable of beating us; the Rays, O's and Jays will be in tank-mode by July 4. But the Redsocks are way overspent - a $223 million payroll, more than $20 million above the second place Giants - and still lack replacement parts for when the front-liners go down. 

So let's address what you're thinking: What about Greg Bird? Yes, it's a huge loss for the first two months, and it calls into question Bird's long term future. But last year at this time, we'd lost Didi Gregorius for six weeks, and in a matter of days, we would lose Gary Sanchez for five more. In the modern era, it's a given that almost every player will go down for a while. What's different with Bird this year (from last) - hopefully, of course - is that:

a) the doctors have diagnosed it and treated it

b) we have a young Tyler Austin (who hit .373 last year against lefties) platooning with Neil Walking (.277 against righties)

c) we're not using
 the sinking barge known as Chris Carter. 

The Redsocks will be tough, especially if David Price returns to form. But he's approaching Sabathia status with injuries - (hasn't gone a full season in two years) - and their rotation is already missing Pomeranz and Rodriguez. They're still waiting for "Machine Gun" Kelly to emerge, and they have a better chance of seeing Rusney Castillo arrive in a UFO.

Ninety-six wins, folks. If you haven't already done it, put in your 2018 wins prediction below. I'll tally them up for posterity, and somebody will be feted on this site along with Irritabelle, the spandex IBS Lady, maybe chomping on Beyonce - yes, a convergence of Yankee peace and harmony that surely portends The End of Everything. Long ago, Nietzsche - the philosopher, not the linebacker - predicted that 50 years after the world wars, humankind would descend into the Abyss, otherwise known as cynicism. What a moron. He deserves to see his face in beer foam.    

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I can't hold the secret inside anymore: I bit Beyonce

Screw this... I cannot deal with the shame. I BIT BEYONCE! That's right. I did it! I'm not proud. It was wrong. It was cowardly. It's not who I am. I just - well - she was standing in the supermarket, bending over to pick up a 20-pound sack of potatoes, her knees cracked, she made a slight grunting sound, and I just - well - something came over me! I leaned forward and bit her.  

Damn... THIS IS NOT WHAT I NORMALLY DO. I've never bitten anyone before.  I'm not saying I'm a saint. I've made loud, scary chopping sounds with my teeth, but never gone in for the bite. Hell, my parents didn't raise a biter. There was something about that supermarket aisle, the music, the mustiness... I just lost it, that's all. And now, I cannot let some innocent fake Hollywood celebrity pay for my deed. 

I DID IT! Lock me up. I don't need a lawyer. Just put me in the cell and throw away the key. I bit Beyonce. And I'd do it again. Just let's not let this besmirch the arrival of opening day. 

Crazy, Stupid Love

I recently came across something I have saved for 50 years: the Sports Illustrated, baseball preview issue for the 1968 season. It is physically bigger than today's SI, much better written, its design more arresting and unusual.

The cover features a sliding Lou Brock, and inside it correctly predicts that the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers will win the last ever, single-league pennants. It also mentions that the season will be delayed due to the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and picks the Yankees to finish tenth and last.

Hey, things could be worse, both in our little band of brothers, and the wider world.

This spring's SI features Judge and Stanton on the cover, which may be just in the New York market, but it concludes, "New York is arguably baseball's best positioned team, with a championship caliber roster, payroll flexibility, and a top farm system."


I have been following them since 1966, and I have to admit, I have never seen a deeper Yankees team. Not in 1998, when the fielded the greatest team ever, and brought up Roy Hobbs in September. Not in 1977, when our back-up outfielders were Jimmy Wynn, Paul Blair, and Roy White, who had led the AL in runs scored the year before. Not ever.

Yep, losing Greg Bird was a blow. But unlike last season, we won't have to watch Chris Carter turn in the worst performance by any Yankee regular since Charlie Smith.

Instead, all we have lined up to fill in are Tyler Austin, Neil Walker, Miguel Andujar, Billy McKinney, and Old Nassau Ford. I would bet one or more will break through.

Yep, it's highly possible that Walker's back will break down at second. All we'll have there is Tyler Two, and the Gleyber, and if worse comes to worse, Kyle Holder, who really came on this spring.

Think Drury will be a bust? Well, then there's Andujar again. Oh, and what about the Toe?

I haven't even got into how we have about five spare outfielders, injuries to Red Thunder and the Ever-Injured Ellsbury notwithstanding. Hell, even most of our injuries have been lucky this year, forcing Cashman to hang on to guys he might have disastrously traded away instead.

But what about pitching, you say? Well, yeah, pitching.

That 1968 Yankees team didn't finish 10th. It surprised everyone and finished fifth, with a winning record, despite an all-time, MLB record low .214 team batting average, and just 536 runs scored, a number this year's team is likely to match sometime in July.

How did they do it?

Pitching. And the 2018 Yanks' starting pitching is their weakest spot. But look at all our leading rivals this year. Each one seems to have a couple of formidable arms up top—then they drop off a cliff. And their pens just aren't as deep.

Were you terrified by the Indians' pitchers last postseason? Or the Astros', at least outside the park where every pitch they threw was an automatic strike? Which makes it all the more imperative we end up with the best regular-season record, seeing as what shameless homers the umps have become.

But we have as much depth on the mound as anyone, and probably more, and lots of good young arms still on the way up.

I'm sorry, I've tried my best to see how this Yankees team will crack, and of course it could, but I just don't see it—not with much of the AL and even our NL foes tanking to rebuild. I'm sure that Cashman will do something stupid soon, but even he seems to be on a colossal run of luck lately.

Call it skill. Call it the luck of the eights, that lucky Chinese number. 1998-greatest team ever. 1978-greatest comeback ever. 1958-comeback from a 3-1 Series deficit against a formidable Braves team. 1938, 1928-utter domination, and World Series sweeps, the last with Ruth and Gehrig turning in the best ever, 1-2 Series performance. Five pennants, five World Series titles, with a 20-5 record.

That's JuJu that I don't see even ODUMODU or his evil henchman, Dr. Balogun, overcoming.

I'm going high, calling 112 wins, something that really disturbs me since it goes against every grain of the professional pessimism that I have carefully cultivated for years. Of course, they probably won't win that many games, but 104-106 is very likely, and I'm willing to grab the high total, period.

For the record, my picks are:

Yankees          Cleveland      Astros          Washington     Cubbies            Bums        
Sox*               Twins*           Angels         Metsies*         Milwaukee*     Colorado
Blue Jays        Pale Hose      A's                Phillies           St. Louis           Arizona
Orioles            Royals           Mariners      Braves            Pittshburgh        Giants
Rays                Tigers            Rangers       Jeters              Redlegs              Padres

Sox over Twins             Mets over Brewers
Yanks over Sox             Nats over Mets
Stros over Indians         Dodgers over Cubs      Yankees over Washington
Yanks over Stros           Nats over Dodgers

As that 1968 SI noted, in reviewing the 1967 season, it was "one of those vintage years, the kind that remind you that baseball in its subtle and often laconic ways is still a thrilling game of sudden action and intense climaxes."

May it remain ever thus.

The world awaits: “This one is so different. It’s an Italian phrase that rhymes. I don’t know if anyone will get it. I’m really worried. Well, not really worried. In fact, I’m not worried. Let’s say I’m mildly concerned. Boy, I hope it works. It may not.”

Long long ago, in a Yaniverse far far way, this was the lone site on the burgeoning Information Superhighway that measured and treasured John Sterling's readily evolving WinWarbles and Homer Hollers. Other sites generally treated The Master as an embarrassment, a lab experiment gone wrong, who should be replaced by a cheap Newhouse School graduate - some suited ESPN dust mite who would joylessly announce Yankee home runs like newly discovered intestinal parasites. 

Well, today, the Gray Lady himself devotes 20 inches of manicured ether to the great burgeoning mystery of 2018: How The Master will call Giancarlo Stanton's first Yankee home run. In the meantime, world dictators will suspend their meddling, Donald Trump will cease to tweet, and the lone rival mystery - who bit Beyonce's face at that Hollywood party? - must wait. (Ooh! Ooh! Jumpin' Jehovizat! What if John Sterling bit Beyonce! That would be incredible! And it would be even crazier if he bit her because she dissed his Giancarlo home run call!) The world is waiting. When Stanton pondered the pressures of moving to New York, could he have possibly imagined the need to belt a homer on Opening Day, just to get the Sterling monkey off his back and render unto bitten Beyonce the stage that is rightfully hers? 

In July, Sterling turns 80. He enjoys reminding the world that he called every pitch ever thrown to Derek Jeter. He surely hopes to do the same with Aaron Judge. But without artificial intelligence full-brain downloads, that won't happen. His time in running out. Today, though, he - not Greg Bird's bad paw - is the Times' Yankee story of the day. He's come a long way from "Bern Baby Bern." Sterling has achieved full critical mass: He has become the story. 

But what about that mystery call? 

Obviously, it rhymes with Giancarlo. My best guess: It's an obscure show tune that mentions Monte Carlo, akin to "Something Sort of Grandish," a South Pacific ditty that he tried with Curtis Granderson. (Nobody got it, so he replaced it with the more popular "The Grandyman can.") There's a song called, "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo." You've never heard it. I've never heard it. Hell, nobody beyond Sterling would know it. But he'll have his Stormy Daniels moment by using it, to be googled everywhere. That will spur suggestions from across the Yankiverse, from which The Master can pick the best. 

In simple terms, this completely non-digital, non-web-savvied 80-year-old is about to crowd-source the call. Who'd a thunk it? 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Breaking Bird

From the NY Yankees, at 4:07pm:

Image may contain: text

6-8 Weeks = June.

At best.

It Is Almost Time

I've never been a slave to order and organization, so I am making my prediction now.  Duque can mark them unofficial if he so chooses.

1.  The Yankees will win 89 more, no less.

2.  Boston will win the AL East

Here is why I am not as optimistic as most:

A.  The Greg Bird thing is not going away.  I see him missing most of the year or grossly underperforming, due to this now chronic injury.

B.  The second base thing, created by trading Castro, will not be easily resolved.  Wade will not continue the hot streak he has shown in Florida.  He will, therefore, be liberally replaced by Walker.  Wade will then recede emotionally, and return to the rarely used player of last season, and perform accordingly.  In other words, Boone will not show him the patience and confidence required to overcome a slow start.

C.  Just doing the math:  that puts a " place-holder " at both first base and second base.

D.  The Yankees will feel obligated to use Stanton, from time to time, in the outfield.  This weakens our defense by a factor of fifty ( okay, I don't know what that means, either ).  But he is a liability in the outfield.  He turns outs into doubles.  And when Boone is hit in the face with this shit pie, he will use him as our $165 million DH.  Soon, Giancarlo will wish he had stayed where he was.  And Judge will not grow in the days he is used as our DH.

E.  Judge is not going to hit 50+ Homers again this season.  He just isn't.

F.  Drury is a wild card.  He will either surprise us on the upside, or simply be blah.  But can he be a clutch "banger" in critical games against Boston?  Up to now, he has never played an important game in the majors.  This is a risk, and we don't get the "upside" of a rookie surprising everyone.

G.  The first base thing, from the flip side: If Greg can't play, who can?  The oft-injured Austin?  Another homer or strikeout guy?  Walker?  Please...this is a sick idea.  Second basemen don't move over to first and thrive.  They maybe give you a bandaid for a day, but it won't work long term.  Adam Lind ( yawn)?  At least he knows how to play there.  Is that Cooper guy still bouncing around?  This is a serious weakness and likely to remain so.  It rips the heart out both our offense and our defense.

H.  Pitching.  Ah yes.  I fear the reliability of our two closers. And we all know that someone will develop an ailment.  I can see the Black Swan circling from here.

I.  I still don't buy into Aaron Hicks.  He had an all star beginning last season.  I love his speed, his glove, and his arm.  But his hitting remains suspect.  If he has arrived, we are in pretty good shape.  If not.....then what?

This is not what we expected when spring training started.  We don't have "Red Thunder;"  Gleybar Torres bombed out;  Andjuhar played well, but the Yankees don't trust him yet; no one surfaced on the pitching staff (as Montgomery did last season); Bird went from a post season batting star to a question mark; the Stanton thing is more problematic than it appears; our infield might be "DIDI" and three others.  Tyler Wade is the only "rookie" who made the team.  Cashman has dealt away a boatload of young prospects to get us to this.

89 wins will be a good year.

Apologies to Ty.

Kepner, that is, not Cobb.

Yesterday, I berated the NY Times for not running a proper baseball preview, only to discover that those sneaky petes on 41st Street were doing it today.

It's not exactly in the tabs' league—just two pages, no special focus at all on the local teams (mentally and spiritually, the Times floats somewhere in the ether, above all time, space, and dimension—but still, full predictions. And all by Tyler Kepner.

They are, mind you, a little weird.

Among other things, Kepner expects the Orioles to beat out the Red Sox for second place in the AL East, and a wild card spot. On the basis of what, you ask? Why, because of Kevin Gausman, and Andrew Cashner (their free-agent acquisition with the 42-64 lifetime record), among other things.

I know, I know. I was thinking the same thing: could this be another Kevin Gausman? And never mind that their lights-out closer will miss at least half the year with a ruptured Achilles:

" would be no surprise if Manager Buck Showalter finds a way to squeeze this team into the playoffs for the fourth time in seven seasons."

Ah, so we're relying on the magic of Buck now! Well, I'd sooner go with the magic of ODUMODU.

I respect Buck, too, but I think Casey Stengel was the greatest manager who ever lived, and when he didn't have the horses, particularly the pitching thoroughbreds, he didn't win. Buck won't, either.

Ty picked the Astros to repeat, which is perfectly reasonable, but based in part on his claim that they "got better" in good part by picking up Gerrit Cole—someone I feel will be what Cole would've been for the Yankees, which is subtraction by addition.

AND...the Times did pick the Yanks to win their division over the Red Sox, which is rather like the College of Cardinals picking the Protestants in the Thirty Years' War.

More importantly—it counts for the fifth straight, unanswered Yankees article, and puts our yearly total at, Soccer 46, Yanks 30. We're closing the gap!

It's almost time to make our predictions

Once again, folks, we have reached that ultimate summit of anticipation, as Opening Day - aka, Boswell's beginning of time - stands only three days away. That means it's time to lay our 2018 Oscar, Nobel Prize, Pillsbury Bakeoff Yankee win projections.

Tomorrow and Wednesday, I shall call upon each of you to inscribe your expected number of Yankee victories over the coming season - and explain why. Come October, whoever came closest in win totals will receive the Alenna P. Allison Watch, awarded annually to the most promising IT IS HIGH rookie in spring training. Last year's winner was John M, who shall carry the juju priest ODUMODU's blessing into the new season. 

Some questions to ponder in your win projections:

1. Is this Tinkerbell chatter about a newly rededicated Gary Sanchez true, or just another load of blustering Gammonite crapola? Players are always showing up at Tampa in "the best condition of his life... incredibly chiseled... not an ounce of fat... man, I'd do him!..." yatta-yatta-yatta. Even when true, it doesn't guarantee success. (Remember Stringbean Sabathia, the Genny Craig version?) Still, if Sanchez improves his defensive game, he becomes baseball's best catcher, hands down, and that's not nuthin. In fact, if Sanchez self-improves, he would put himself on course to become the next Yankee captain. Imagine that.

2. What happens at the trade deadline, if Baltimore and/or Toronto have been sandblasted out of the race? Neither team has tanked lately. They're overdue, and their fan bases would be pissing bile. That could thrust Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado into trade auctions, with the Yankees holding cards to deal. In many ways, that makes Brandon Drury this spring's most important Yankee. If he plays well at third, Cashman would feel less pressure to add a big name. But if Drury is channeling Celerino Sanchez, let's face it: The Yankees will unload their system for a star 3B. Considering the lack of confidence they showed in Miguel Andujar this spring, it's hard to imagine him NOT ending up in another uniform by August 1. But what stars will be available? (Note: Following his injury this week, Bumgarner's chances of getting traded have just increased exponentially.) And then there is first base; I ask you, who the fuck knows what to make of Greg Bird?  

3. Can we count on Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances? In both cases, their once-terrifying impact on opposing batters seems to have eroded into a sense of sudden opportunity. Neither can hold a runner. On occasion, neither can throw a first pitch strike. Surely, they'll have their unhittable moments - nine pitches, nine strikes - but last October, both were exposed as potential head cases, (especially Dellin.) The writers seem to think our bullpen is deep enough to survive anything. I dunno about that. No bullpen can survive the collapse of its two closers. Will any ninth inning be safe?

4. Can the Yankees win a 2-1 game? We know they can win 12-5, when their sluggers are ripping on fire. But let's say it's the ninth inning, and they need one measly run. Who draws the 12-pitch lead-off walk? Who pinch runs and steals second? Who bunts the man to third? Who brings him home? Is Boone a tactician, or just the guy who writes in lineups? Watching Curtis Granderson the other day reminded me of how a player with so much talent, so many tools, can devolve into a one-dimensional home run/strike out hitter. Could it happen here? Of course it can. Of course it will. Think about such matters, as you compile your Yankee win projections. (And watch out for John M; the guy was on fire last year, and ODUMODU has some nasty shit.)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

And now, it's time for another episode of, "Lucky Cashman, Private Dick"!

I was working a job for the Fatman, down in Florida, and when I got the goods, I was supposed to bring it to his suite, at the Fontainbleu.

That's where I found him, sweating worse than the Pronk running out a single, despite the seersucker. Behind him stood his gunsel, Wilmer, sneering worse than Rudy Giuliani when the Snakes beat us down in the desert.

"By God, sir! You have it, sir! Let's see!"

I put the package down on the table before him, and in about two seconds he had cut away the twine and newspapers with a knife he produced out of nowhere. There it stood: a statue of a bird, covered in black shoe polish.

"That the dingus?"

"By God, sir! The 'dingus,' sir! Oh, you are a character, sir!"

By that time he had already shorn away most of the Brogan juice. The bird looked completely different now, shining head-to-foot with jewels.

"What is it?"

"The bird, sir? Why this is the stuff that dreams are made of!"

"Good. Now for my pay."

He looked very pleased with himself, as he gestured to Wilmer to step forward.

"Indeed, sir. Ten thousand, as we agree. Wilmer here, who is like a son to me, will take you down to the back alley via the freight elevator, so no one will see you. We must be discreet, sir, and it is a very discreet spot down there. A perfect place to give you what you have coming, sir. Bwaha. Bwahahah."

Something didn't seem right about the whole set-up. Wilmer was grinning like a Times editor who's just found a new Afghani sport to cover, and there was something jutting out prominently in his overcoat pocket.

Then I got it. That thing in his pocket hadda be a pipe. He had it, and he had it bad.

It all made sense now. Having Wilmer give me the envelope, the deserted alley out back.  No wonder he was grinning like that. The poor bastard was dying to get outside and get a smoke.

"Now, let me make sure that you have followed all our arrangements to the letter, sir. You told no one you were coming here, correct? And you have no identification of any sort on your person?"


"Excellent, sir, excellent! And you did not take public transportation of any kind to get here?"

"No. You know, it was the strangest thing: somebody stole my Ford a couple days ago, but this morning I looked out, and there it was! They even had it washed and detailed, and filled up the tank. And in the backseat—I found the dingus."

"A remarkable story, sir! You are a most remarkable man. Now, if you will go with Wilmer here, you will get your just reward—"

"Now just a minute here," I told him, hauling up my bag. "I got some other things you might be interested in as well. Here's a drury I managed to pick up for next to nothing. It's official, too: you can see the brand on it."

"Very impressive, sir. Not that I knock it, but I'm afraid that I am not in the market—"

"Now hold your horses! I brought you an actual Walker, as well. They were just giving it away at the Metropolitan."

"By God, sir! What on earth would I want with a portrait of a man grown old before this time, clutching his back? What is the meaning of cluttering up my suite with this old junk?"

"Well, you never know what you'll need in this business. I mean, here's an old linder I picked up the other day. A little rusty, I know—"

"Balderdash, sir! Can't you see I have the Bird? And over in that display case there: an original Gleyber! See how it shines! Why would I ever need anything else?"

"With all due respect, you never know when lightning will strike out of a clear blue sky, or when something will just go flying out the window—"

"Ridiculous! Why do you continue to palaver like this? Can it be that you still truly do not understand that you have been set-up? Hornswoggled, duped, put on the spot? That you are about to put out the big light? You are an imbecile, sir! An idiot!"

It happened so fast then that I could barely comprehend it. The lightning bolt hit the Bird dead center, frying it just as black as it had been with the shoe polish on it. Wilmer jumped back out of the way, but he hit the display case when he did, and sent the Gleyber flying out the window.

Damned if he didn't dive after it. Got it, too, and wrapped it close to his chest. But when he tried to get a grip on something solid, he was just clutching air. The Fat Man looked like he might explode.

I was looking at the linder again.

"You know, this really is shot," I said, and tossed it out the window. I heard a weak moan from below, and looked out.

"Well whattaya know? Landed right on him! What are the odds? Maybe I should go down there and see how your son's doing—"

"Leave him to the rats!" the Fat Man snapped.

"But doesn't he have my money?"

"There's a safe on that wall, under that wedding photo of Joe and Marilyn," he said, running a handkerchief over his face. "The combination is 4-18-23. Inside you will find more jewels, gold bars, and cash than you can carry."

I opened it. He wasn't kidding.

"Why, this is too much—"

"Take as much as you want! It's just a small down payment. I can't afford NOT to have a man with your luck on a permanent retainer. Now, come sit over here—closer—I want to tell you about your next assignment."

I did as he said, sitting just across the table from him. He leaned in even closer, looking more frightened than I had ever seen him. He glanced all around the room again, before he said a word.

"Tell me, my friend, what do you know," he whispered, before taking another look around, "of those who practice the dark rituals of...ODOMODU?"

Albert Pujols?

So, the Times ran its mighty baseball preview section today.

It was all of one page, consisting of an entire, sentence-long introduction, and included absolutely no predictions as to where any team might finish, or any analysis of them whatsoever.

Instead, it focused on statistical milestones various players might reach (Jogginson Cano, 2,500 hits!).

The lead one of these? Albert Pujols might get to 600 home runs and 3,000 hits. This was illustrated with a huge picture of Pujols, surrounded by the other men who have done it—Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez—dancing around the gigantic Pujols figure, holding hands.

I am not making this up.

In a year when the Yankees are loaded for bear and the Mets are fielding a surprisingly interesting team, we get statistical tidbits, focused on the doubtless juiced, over-the-hill slugger for a team an entire continent away.

But hey, c'mon! The Times had to run a massive, two-page spread on the training facility where Russia's athletes are built, complete with photos.  Over a month after the Olympics have finished.

Nonetheless...there was enough on the Twin Towers, Judge and Stanton, in the baseball "preview" to count for a Yankees article. Combined with a big piece on Gary Sanchez improving his catching techniques by Billywitz, plus a short piece on the Greg Bird's Myster-o Injury, that qualifies for 3 entire, unanswered Yankees articles, their best one-day showing this year.

That closes the gap to Soccer 46, Yankees 29, on the year, and Soccer 19, Yanks 14 in March.

Imagine a Yankee team without one big lefty slugger. Right now, that's us.

Greg Bird was going to shock the world this summer, just as he did Andrew Miller last October. He would bat third or fourth, up high, the big lefty bat sandwiched into a thicket of right-handed power. He would see meaty fastballs, like slabs of honey-glazed bacon in a breakfast buffet, and he would uphold a Yankee tradition dating back to Gehrig - including Chris, Donny, Tino, even Daryl Strawberry on occasion - the lefty power stroke at 1B. He was our secret sure thing. Nothing could stop it. 

And now, well, thank you, juju gods. Thank you, very much.

By now, you know that Bird has flown to Gotham for MRI and divining rod tests on the same barking ankle that sabotaged most of 2017, and if you want to inspire rank Yankee pessimism, all you need do is check Bird's personal history, which reads like the ship log for the Titanic. If Bird loses another year to injuries, he will make Jacoby Ellsbury look like Iron Man Joe McGinnity, morphing into the party guest who never arrives, the player who gives prospect-huggers a bad name on fan forums. Whenever an aging veteran pops up in future trade talks, angry fans will opine what the Yankees could have gotten, if only they were willing to trade Bird when his stock was high. His name will become shorthand for unseen potential. 

Last year, the Yankees waited three months for Bird to return, to be rewarded with a great young hitting first-baseman in September. But considering the team's plans to chase a championship in 2018, it's hard to imagine them waiting on Bird a second time. 

And right now, here are the candidates for first base:

1. Neil Walker, the recently signed free-agent. He's a switch-hitter. Last year, at age 31, he hit 14 HRs and batted .265. He gets on base. It's hard to see him playing 140 games at first, but he could serve as LH platoon with...

2. Tyler Austin, 26, a righty. Last year, sidelined by his own injuries, he did next to nothing in the majors, but at Scranton, he hit .275 with 10 HRs. On the day before Bird left for tests, Austin was optioned to Triple A. He's probably back on the beam. 

3. Mike Ford, 25, who was returned from Seattle yesterday, after being chosen last December in the Rule 5 draft. He was hitting .259 with 2 HRs this spring, but was blown out by another guy in the competition for first-base. Last year, at Trenton, he hit .272 with 13 HRs, and he's known for his discerning ability to draw walks. He bats LEFT... a perfect fit, except the Yankee coaches haven't had a good chance to assess him this spring.

4. Billy McKinney, 23, a converted corner outfielder, who also bats LEFT. He hit 5 HRs this spring, but his batting average fell to .171. He was never seriously considered a candidate for 1B, not enough experience there. Now, with Ford at Scranton, he will probably get pushed back into the Scranton outfield, where he is blocked by Clint Frazier. He increasingly looks like a trade chip. 

5. Miguel Andujar, the former future Yankee third-baseman, who now was supposed to be learning first-base at Scranton. With Ford and McKinney in the mix, I don't know how the Yankees will handle this. Maybe they can play two guys at first base, let them switch each inning!

6. Adam Lind, 34, whom the Yankees released a week ago. He bats left, and was blocked by Bird. They might bring him back?

Strange how the fates work. On the day Bird leaves, Ford returns, looking exactly like what they need. Yet the coaches didn't get to see him, so he's destined for Scranton, where everything already is clogged to the pores. 

But without Bird, the Yankees big lefty-hitter is Didi Gregorius. Suddenly, we can imagine Bronx weekends with RH-starters stacked against us. Can the Yankees win without a big lefty slugger? We might soon find out. With Bird, it's hard not to think the worst. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Gulp !

Things are starting to "cook," as they say in the nursery rhymes.

Greg Bird is being held out of today's line-up due to a sore foot.

Dreary Drury had an Xray which everyone says is negative.  But deep bone bruises can take 4-6 weeks.

Red Thunder, as predicted....remember that, " as predicted "..... missed the entire spring training period and is only now beginning to resume, " baseball activities ."

Jacoby is hitting whiffle balls off a tee.

And where is the hidden injury?

Who isn't speaking up?

I Only Hope This Was The Conversation

AARON;  "So, Brian, do you want me to keep 12 pitchers or 13?"

BRIAN ;  " We should go with 13.  I didn't like what I saw yesterday from the pen."

AARON;  " So who do you like, and why?

BRIAN:  " I think we should keep the Holder kid.  It is true, as Alphonso, said, that Domingo German has better stuff, but he is our likely 6th starter."

AARON:  "Alphonso?"

BRIAN:  "Yes.  I met him in a bar in Tennessee a few years back and he introduced me to......"

AARON:  "Why does he like German?"

BRIAN:  " He told me that German reminds him of a leaner version of Severino. AND he just gave us three shut-out innings of relief."

AARON:  " So why send him down?"

BRIAN:  "  In Scranton, he will start.  He will build arm strength and have a chance to stretch himself out.  He can work on pitches and command.  Holder, by contrast, is a 3-5 out guy. He doesn't gain much by more relief work in Scranton.  He can either help us now, or not at all.

AARON:  "We believe in you, boss."

BRIAN :  " That's what we pay you for, Aaron.   Have a good year."

Expand the rosters

If I were major-league position player right now, my number-one demand to my union would be this: expand the rosters.

Few ideas have less of a chance of becoming reality. But as the thrilling battle over who will be the 13th pitcher on the Yankees this year reminds us, it's necessary.

13 pitchers? That means 12 position players for 9 slots, and given the automatic need for a back-up catcher, we're essentially talking two reserves.

That might have been all right back in, say, 1936, when the Yanks' starting infield—Gehrig, Lazzeri, Crosetti, Rolfe—averaged 148 games in what was a 153-game season that year. But not today.

Frankly, I question the need for 13 pitchers. But they look to be here to stay, and as such have wiped out such animals as the third-string catcher. Such pitching-heavy rosters are like an invasive monoculture in nature. They wipe out variety and color in the game. Getting to the 26- or 27-man roster is what the game's analytical geniuses should be clamoring for.

Instead, we are talking about Judge batting first. Hey, at least that led to Billywitz getting to write an actual piece of baseball analysis this spring—the first one, I think, he has turned in all year.

Unfortunately, the Times also ran a piece on Landon Donovan, the most boring soccer player in recorded history, yesterday, so Soccer maintains its healthy lead:  Soccer 46, Yankees 26.

The 2018 difference between the Yankees and Redsocks might be Rafael Devers

Yesterday, the Redsocks tortured Yankee relievers with a 6-0 whupping that, fortunately, holds no meaning beyond the swelling in Brandon Drury's hand. (More on that later.) But even within the existential meaningless of spring training, occasional isolated elements - such as lineups or the positioning of one's visor cap - project a grotesque, if not inhumanly surreal, consequence, which causes us, as naked fans, to stare wide-eyed into the open maw of Hell.

One such asteroid of fate may have blazed yesterday. Batting third for Boston was Rafael Devers, age 21, who is hitting .348 this meaningless spring. Last year, Devers came to the majors and hit .284 with 10 home runs - including one that still requires therapy sessions for Aroldis Chapman. Though Boston held concerns about Devers' glove at third base - the kind of worries that generally land Yankee prospects in Scranton - the Redsocks stood pat, and Devers is batting third. 

You know how NASA scientists all say that global warming is causing more catastrophic super-storms and hurricanes? I think the same thing is happening in baseball, in the form of catastrophic super-rookies. Last year, Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger put together half-seasons seemingly earmarked for Cooperstown. Part of it was them going once-around-the-league, and part was plain, instinctive talent. Look at the explosiveness of Yankee rookies over the last few years - Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez appeared superhuman in their first incarnations. It seems as if hitting is becoming a young man's game, while starting pitchers are skewing toward guile and experience. 

This is one reason why - not to be a broken record here - many Yankee fans show so much impatience for Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. They thirst for another explosive young arrival. Now, I can't argue that either rookie should be in the Yankees starting lineup; the coaches know far more than we do, and they've ruled that both need seasoning. So be it. But Boston is going with Devers, and apparently, they'll bat him in the middle of their lineup, and two words come to mind.

Uh. Oh. 

Of course, last year they did the same with Andrew Benintendi, anointing him with the royal three-spot. It didn't work, though Benintendi could be improved  this season. But everything circles the arrival of Devers: If he can hit, all the talk about the Yankees being the dominant team in the AL East... it's nothing but YES-polished NY pre-season bullshit. If they add a .300 hitter with power to their lineup - a fucking 21-year-old - that's rocket fuel for a team that could catch fire.

Also, we should brace ourselves in the future just for hearing the name "Devers." The Yankees gave up Jose Devers, Rafael's younger brother, in the deal for Giancarlo Stanton. If he becomes a star in Miami, that word could haunt us for a generation. 

One final thought: Yesterday, Drury was plunked in the hand by a Boston beanball, and x-rays were supposedly negative. I say "supposedly" because the Yankees have no track record of truthfulness when it comes to injuries. We'll know the extent of Drury's injury by what Cashman does - or doesn't do - today. If Drury is out for weeks rather than days, watch for Cashman to hit the waiver wire for a stopgap third baseman. The Yankees are not Boston, when it comes too young third basemen. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

In the 2018 Yankees, there is no "evil" and no "empire"

Lately, the conventional Gammonitic cracker-barrel drivel has troweled up a rather convenient chestnut for 2018: It's okay to hate the Yankees again, because the "Evil Empire" once again embodies the big money arrogance in sports.

This allows Redsock fans - (aka Yankee haters who follow Boston) - to cloak their regular vitriolic bile in a bleached white sheet of morality. The fact is, for some Yankee haters - not all, but definitely some - their negative passion stems from a deep-seeded hatred of New York City, aka urban America, with its unspoken undercurrents of racism and antisemitism. I'm not saying Yankee-haters are racist. But over the years, certain Yankees - Reggie, Sheffield, A-Rod - always served as the harshest lightning rods for anger. It wasn't a coincidence.

But it was the big Yankee money that folks claimed to hate most. The Yankees bought pennants. They stole free agents from small market teams, who couldn't afford them. They bullied the rest of baseball and operated with a different set of financial rules. This, of course, was bullshit. Some of the richest billionaires in the game owned teams in small markets like Minnesota and Kansas City. They could outbid any team for any player; they simply didn't care.

When the Yankees last ruled baseball - the great, late-90s teams under Joe Torre - who could rightfully hate the lineup? Bernie, O'Neill, Tino, and young versions of Mariano and Jeter... what to hate? After the Yankees added Giambi, Moose and A-Rod, anti-NY tempers came to a boil - it was the notion that an already great team was attracting stars who wanted to win rings. That's when the "Evil Empire" passions went crazy.

But really, folks... how do you assign such anger to this Yankee team? Where's the evil? 

Last year, the Yankees were embodied by Aaron Judge, a selfless rookie who went through a dramatic ascension of fame and then a hellish slump, and yet who never once ripped a sportswriter or flipped off a fan. He became the smiling face of baseball, and he's not even yet a millionaire. Or Didi Gregorius, who replaced a legend. Good luck in hating him, folks. Or Sanchez or Bird or Severino... tell me who is overpaid and arrogant? If there is a problem with the 2018 Yankees, it's that we fans fell in love with the concept of young and unblemished rookies rising through our system: we wanted Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres in the lineup. Not Neil Walker. But if that's he's high-priced free agent for 2018, seriously... is that your Evil Empire?

Of course, the reason for the venom these days is Giancarlo Stanton, and the fraudulent notion that the Yankees got him in a trade for next to nothing. (That, by the way, has been fed by the Yankees front office, wanting to look good.) The Yankees acquired Stanton because: 1) they were spurned by Shohei Ohtani, 2) the Marlins were obsessed with dumping his contract, 3) the Yankees gave up a solid starting second baseman in Starlin Castro and 4) they also gave up two top prospects, plucked from their farm system by the very guy who used to run it, Gary Denbo. If other fan bases are angry, it should be because their own franchises didn't jump in and offer the Marlins more. (Yes, he had a no-trade clause, but it had several cities on it.) Nobody did, because the Yankee offer was more substantial than most people want to believe.

So... how does anyone get off hating the Yankees? Muscle memory, I guess. Today, six teams have higher projected payrolls: Boston ($229 M), Washington ($201 M), San Francisco ($197 M), Cubs ($183 M), Houston ($182 M) and Dodgers ($179 M). You can look it up. Where's the evil? And where's the empire? They won the Wild Card last year, not the Division. And the Redsocks, who did win the AL East, just added the preeminent free agent slugger on the 2018 market, JD Martinez. Why is that different from the 2002 Yankees adding Giambi? Why isn't Boston being singled out for over-spending?

Well, we all know the answer. The real evil in pro sports is not uppity players being overpaid or failing to salute their flag-wrapped owners. It is franchises that willingly throw fan bases overboard, looking to tank for several seasons, so they can build powerhouse teams on the cheap. The system is designed for just such moves, and what everyone needs is one whipping mule team to hate, to blame for all misfortune, rather than focus on the greed and cynicism of the local franchise owner. That's why it's okay to hate the Evil Empire this year, and dammit, the sportswriters ought to address it.