Thursday, May 31, 2018

Rainout Theater


The Yankees Win! THUHUHUH Yankees WIN!!!

Over Soccer, anyway.

The Yanks took their fourth straight month from Soccer in The New York Times, and opened up their widest lead on the season:

January:    Soccer 15, Yankees 1
February:  Yankees 14, Soccer 12
March:      Yankees 23, Soccer 21
April:        Yankees 32, Soccer 22
May:         Yankees 28, Soccer 17

Total:  Yankees 98, 87.

It's a great tribute to just how entertaining this Yankees team really is.

But...World Cup is coming!

Isn't It Becoming Obvious...?

In a conversation with myself, during last night's game, I observed the following:

Scene I - Tyler Austin come to bat with runners on and strikes out.

Scene II - Tyler Austin comes to bat with runners on and strikes out.

Scenus interruptus - I mention to El Duque and Mustang ( via text ) that, " if tonight, Tyler Austin earns the golden sombrero, he should go back to Scranton and Red Thunder should be brought to NYC."

Note to editors :  my observation generated no response.

Scene III - Tyler Austin strikes out.

Scene IV - Tyler Austin strikes out.

Here is my thinking.

Tyler is  "once in a blue moon" good for a monster home run.  The Yankees take to homers like recluses take to chocolate.  The Long Ball dominates their thinking, and clouds their vision.

Many felt that Tyler should have been sent down when Bird-man arrived.  Nevertheless, he was retained and the "Toe" was sent down, demoralizing me, him and the team.  Lowering our "on base traffic potential" for a potential HR ( don't we have enough guys who are supposed to hit HRs?).

Don't get me wrong;  I like Tyler Austin.  He is a much better first baseman than I imagined.  But he cannot hit.  Seriously, he hits fastballs and mistakes, from lefties.  Sometimes.  Even the Yankees hesitate to put him in there against a quality right-hander.  The advantage of only hitting against lefties hasn't gained us much. Austin still bits to a low BA and lower on base percentage.  It is his HR total and resulting RBI total that kept him here.  But it has been a while since he has helped on offense, and added to those totals.

He did last night that which he will most always do.  Swing at the air.

 Walker is not quite as good at first base as Tyler, but not so noticeably different that he can't be a capable back-up there.  And he usually makes contact with the ball, when he comes to the plate.  In other words, he is a better option.  As is the other Austin, by the way.

Meanwhile, we need a way to get Clint Frazier up here, and to see him perform.  If we do that, I think he will force his way onto the team.  And take himself off the, " what meat do we have to trade for some blubber," table.

 Get him into Boone's hands and out of Cashman's.

Tyler Austin is still young and has earned some bones.  Other teams might like him, and he might still become a regular as a Yankee, given Bird-man's proclivity for the DL.  But first, he needs to become a more reliable hitter against righties and lefties.

For the moment, the team gains a lot with the move of Austin to Scranton, and Frazier to NYC.

Let's make this change.

Prove me right.

This weekend in Baltimore could be a farewell to Buck

Oh, Baltimore,
Man it's hard, just to live...
- Randy Newman, 1977 -

Be afraid. The crab cakes will have razors, the Natty Bo's laced with castor oil. Officer Jimmy McNulty will have tapped our phones, and the sonic wave headaches will come from Mr. Poe's telltale liver. Be very afraid. This weekend in Maryland is a snake in the row house, the last torn tendon on Johnny Unitas' ankle. 

We play four against the second worst team in creation, after Obama's White Sox. The O's have lost seven of their last 10. They sit 22 games out in the AL East, so far from relevance that the 2018 Wild Card might as well be Alpha Centauri. And their farm system is a lingering catastrophe: Baltimore ranks 23rd in talent, which is actually the highest they've been listed in the last three years. They are becoming the Knicks of the American League.

None of their main starters has an ERA under 4.30. Their most effective pitcher - Richard Bleier, a bullpen lefty - is one of our castoffs. Their best player by far, Manny Machado, is so mentally removed from this lineup that his pre-game rituals must include trying on other teams' caps. In his role as an auditioning trade chip, he's hitting so well that it's almost embarrassing. If Manny sees one pitch in the strike zone this weekend, the offending Yankee should be fined. 

And yet... the last time we saw them, they took three out of fucking four.

The reason, of course, is Buck Showalter, whose malevolent hatred of the Yankees burns hotter than those lava flows into Hawaii's suburban wasteland. The O's may have taken off the entire month of May, but Buck will have them on Ambien, playing the way Roseanne Barr tweets. This is the closest thing they'll have to a meaningful weekend all summer. This is their World Series, and Buck will manage like it's Earth vs. the Martians, using his arsenal of pitchers from the Norfolk Tides, the Bowie Baysox and the Delmarva Whatthefux of the Single A Shithouse League. 

Mark these words: This is one of those weekends when all the perks of rooting for the Yankees come with a downside: A team that drank all last week suddenly wakes up hungover, and the rage boils over. Don't be surprised if chins are shaved and fielders are blindsided by runners looking to make an impression on an angry manager. 

And a goner.

Listen: Don't our guts tell us that Buck Showalter is facing his final roundup? This will have been his second straight fifth place finish. Not many jobos survive that kind of streak. Buck is only 62, but he looks eighty, and managing jobs are increasingly going to guys still worthy of hair commercials. Showalter has never taken a team to the World Series, and his four post-season appearances have a 9-14 record. I personally shall never forgive him for pulling out his starters in the last game of the 2005 season, so the Angels could easily take the home field advantage over the Yankees in the playoffs. And though he's professed to having no bitterness to being fired by old George, he always seems to be settling scores when his former employer comes to town. 

In another universe, Fatso didn't fire him after the 1995 season - (when he didn't deserve to be fired, by the way.) In that world, Buck might have lasted through the great late-1990s Yankee run, and he might have a plaque in Monument Park or even still be our manager. It's strange how things play out, eh? That's baseball, I guess. But love him or hate him, it won't be the same after he is gone. And make no mistake: He is going, going... almost gone. 

And this weekend, don't even think about us bringing up Ryan McBroom. We will be lucky to take two. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Queasy Season

Welcome to the queasy season, that now annual part of the campaign where we must live in dread and general nausea for weeks, fretting over just what awful deal Cooperstown Cashman will make in his grand illusion that we are one player away from winning it all.

Last year, at least the VERY worst did not happen—although the Sonny Gray deal has turned out to be as bad as pretty much everyone here predicted.

Besides the big bopper fiascoes, there are also the devil-in-the-details little deals that Coops makes almost offhandedly, all while condescendingly assuring us that while he'd LIKE to keep all the amazing prospects he discovered, some will have to go or be scooped up by other teams under the Rule Five draft.

Somehow, despite a lifetime spent in a baseball front office, Coops has still not gleaned just how easy it is for even the deepest ocean of baseball talent to become a desolate Sahara, almost overnight.

Just look at how much thinner our minor-league talent pool is today, as opposed to this time last year. That's not to blame it all on Coops—injuries and flameouts always take their toll. But somehow, Coops always fails to take that into consideration.

And it matters. We could really use, say, a Zack Littell, last seen hurling at a 2.57 clip at the Twins' Triple-A stop—as opposed to the late, unlamented Jaime Garcia.

So who do we have to fear for this year? The obvious answer is Clint Frazier. Who will he be dangled over the fire for...?

Cole Hamels? Now 3-5, 3.74, a 34-year-old whose best season was back in Philadelphia, in 2012? Ex-Met Michael Fullmer, 29 and now 2-3, 4.08 in Detroit, who has deteriorated rapidly from his outstanding rookie year in 2016?

Chris Archer, the Tampa Bay wunderkind, now 29 and not so wunder or kind, who is 3-3, 4.29, with his best season back in 2015? Because, you know, our crack staff is so good at reviving the careers of foundering pitchers?

Something even worse????

Who knows? Except that we shall have to live in torment from now through the trading deadline, and maybe beyond. It's the queasy season.

Advice of the year

We at IIHIIFIIc want to pass on this critical information. 

Right now, the Yankees Bore Four are a blight upon hope

Somewhere out in the vast Pacific Ocean lurks a massive floating dead zone of plastic garbage, said to have roughly the same size and karma of New Jersey. Lately, whenever the Yanks mount a potential rally, leading to the meat of our order, I find myself picturing that massive, ongoing, human-made catastrophe.

It begins with Giancarlo Stanton - the 2017 National League MVP, two-time Silver Slugger award-winner and four-time All Star - who is now 2-21 (.095) over the last seven games, while fiddling-up nine strikeouts. A few weeks ago, he looked ready to emerge from his new-to-NYC-stress cocoon, as his average climbed to a level of near-respectable mediocrity. Then something happened. He has quietly reverted to the swing-and-miss boo magnet of April. I still believe Stanton will heat up this summer and carry this team. But crunching his career numbers at age 27 brings up these statistical doppelgangers - Juan Gonzalez, Jose Canseco, Daryl Strawberry and Prince Fielder. None will make Cooperstown, and all seemed to prematurely disappear. Maybe he will join them. New York is not Miami, and maybe Stanton will never hit like he did for the meaningless Marlins. Derek Jeter made his career by showing great baseball acumen. Maybe he knew what he was doing by jettisoning Giancarlo at the top of his game.

Our recent dead zone continues with Gary Sanchez, who is 1-20 with eight strikeouts over the last seven games. Last night, with the winning run on third in the ninth, Sanchez conjured up one of the lamest three-pitch strikeouts since - well - Canseco came off the bench in the 2000 World Series to watch three meatballs bisect the plate. Gary reached across the Hudson to flail at three curves that should have put him ahead 3-0 in the count. You can't judge a guy on one at bat. Sanchez remains one of the game's best catchers. He'll hit 30 HRs in an off-year. But that's what he might be having. 

Then there is Sir Didi, whose recent 5-25 (.200) is being YES-cheered as a positive omen. But Didi still looks like an ongoing crisis. He seems to be channeling the late incarnation of Curtis Granderson, swinging for the right field porch. His fall from grace might rival the Grandy Man's. The Yankees don't need Gregorius to hit 30 homers. They just need him to get on base. Right now, he's popping up balls that were gappers in April. Clearly, the Yankees must stick with Didi, but if he continues to regress, the once-unthinkable could happen: They might do a double-take when Manny Machado hits the July trade market.

And then there is Aaron Hicks, 2-18 over the last week. Not long ago, he seemed to be ascending with each at bat. Now, he's back to pop-ups, which the YES team dutifully says he "jeuuussssst missed." Obviously, the Yankees like Hicks' switch-hitting abilities and centerfield defense. But time is running out on the promise he showed early last year. He is becoming our Jackie Bradley Jr. 

The worst part of his meandering, shrink-wrap logjam of hopelessness? Down at Scranton, Clint Frazier is crushing pitches like never before. Since being sent to Triple A, he is 10 for 18 (.556) with two doubles, a triple and a homer - hitting .353 overall on the year. There is nothing left for Frazier to prove in Scranton. He is wasting his time, just as the Bore Four right now are wasting ours. 

It Smells, All Right

"It looks, it feels, it smells like a special year."
—Dallas Keuchel

Forget all the sloppy play in the field last night, or the spotty clutch hitting. The Yankees managed to score three earned runs in just six innings against a Houston starter, which this year is about the equivalent of what clubbing Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Claude Osteen all in a row would have been c. 1965.

Going into last night's game, the Astros had—in Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit Cole—the top three pitchers in the American League, with the none-too-shabby Keuchel and Lance McCullers joining them in the rotation, and a bullpen full of overachievers backing them up.

Going into last night's game, the Astros boasted a 2.58 team ERA, a full run better than anyone else in the AL, and far below the 3.30 ERA of the Nats and the Cubs, the two best pitching teams in the NL, a league where they let the pitcher bat, for cryin' out loud.

The New York Times reported that Justin Verlander is now 16-3 since coming over to the Astros last year, with a 1.36 ERA. This year, his ERA remains below Bob Gibson's in 1968, while Tyler Kepner informs us that he is just the second pitcher in major-league baseball SINCE 1900 to get to June with at least ten starts, and no more than 10 earned runs or 50 hits allowed.

The other guy? A certain Pedro Martinez, back in 2000.

Now, maybe this is all just about experience and know-how, or the Astros' "advanced data and video analysis," as Kepner speculates. Maybe it's the sort of anomaly you get from a limited sample size (though a third of a season and at least half a pitching staff seems to me to be a pretty big sample.)

Maybe it's that notorious "clear pine tar"—somewhere, Michael Pineda is weeping—that the 'Stros are widely rumored to be using (though last I checked, doctoring the ball with any substance is still illegal).


But none of this accounts for how Verlander managed to throw "by far" the most innings in the majors last year—or how, according to Kepner, he has regained his "elite fastball."

It doesn't account for how, as my ace scout, ALL-CAPS, informs me, Charlie Morton has managed to bump up his fastball at age 34.

I'm not jumping to any conclusions. Nor am I saying that Houston is the only club that might be harboring juicers past or present (I'm looking at you, Giancarlo Stanton. And my eyes are saying, 'Go back to the old stuff!').

But if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, and it walks like a seven-foot high, fanged mutant duck with webbed feet the size of flatboats, well then, it's probably one performance-enhanced, juiced up, blatantly cheating duck.

If the Yankees were doing this, of course, it would be a war crime and a threat to mothers and orphans everywhere. With the Astros, it's a testament to pitching smarts.

Whatever. But Houston should be careful. If the 'Stros manage to juice their way past the MLB pet Red Sox in the playoffs, there will be calls for a new Mueller investigation.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

That was a big Yankee victory.

Time for A Chat.....

Everyone settled in?

Got a beer, a shot of something 100 proof, some Earl Grey tea perhaps?

I just turned off CC,  struggling in the 5th inning, to keep Houston to 5 runs.  It already seemed like a 4 hour game, and 100 pitches, by our 37 year old lefty.

We have shown nothing on offense since Gardy's lead-off homer, and the consecutive hits by our third and second basemen.  All the big dogs are striking out. And we have logged three errors.

The team has lost 4 of the last 6 and is losing ground to Boston.

What can this portend?

I am requesting that the Yankee brass hold firm.  I implore them not to panic, and succumb to the promises of trading for help.  It is now clear that our starting pitching is as follows ;

1.  We have a legitimate, young ace.
2.  In Tanaka we have a guy who often pitches like an ace.  He has a weakness;  the three run homer. But he wins more than he loses.
3. In Sonny, we have a failure, who pitched one good game and then gives 2-3 clunkers.
4.  CC is doing today, what CC can do  Usually, 5 innings and 5 runs.
5.  German maybe has a future, but not likely this year.
6.  Montgomery will come back when it is too late to matter.

So the obvious move is to trade the great young talent, which cannot get at-bats with the big club,  for pitching.

Here is the problem;  there is no starting pitching available that can match or exceed the talent potential we would have to give up.  And we have succeeded, in a major way, using our youth in positions on the field.  We cannot revert to trading youth for age.  Potential stardom for past glory.

It is the organization's bad choices and poor planning which have failed to develop the pitching staff, and they have to bite the bullet, and pay their price, through patience.  We have some young guys emerging.  But likely not until next season.

I say this;  the only reason everyone is in a stew about the current Yankee dry spell is because the expectation became; " we are going to win it this year."   That is understandable;  we came within a game of the big dance last year and we signed the NL MVP.  But the pitching staff does not allow that expectation.   It didn't from the very beginning.

We should be content to do what we can and not worry about it.  It is our bad fortune to have Boston and Houston both in the AL.  Not to mention some fine teams in Anaheim and Cleveland.  But we need to stay with the plan.  Try some of the younger pitchers.  Bring up "Red Thunder."

Use the season to learn and get right for next year.  We can surely buy some FA pitching in the off season.

We must hold the line.

Why Does It Suddenly Feel This Way?

The game was over as soon as German gave up the three run dinger.  Second inning?  Third?

It was clear that the Yankees couldn't hit Verlander.

Our win the day before, already felt like a loss ( we scored all three runs, supported by a solitary single, in our big rally ).

I realized this morning that it already feels like August, late in May:

So I ask why?

Is it the predictable, embarrassing strikeouts of our NL MVP?

Is it our failure to hit with RISP?

Is it the known, unknown that our defense ( measured by errors, wild pitches and passed balls ) is still horrendous?

Is the pitching staff unglued?

Is our managing more like a cocktail party than baseball?

Is it the unshakeable fear that Cashman is going to cave-in, and go for it all this season?

Or is it because, in their greed for headlines and victory now, they disrespected our most respected player?

That four-day rain-out in Washington killed Yankee momentum

Two weeks ago, across the vast expanses of the Yankiverse, time itself ceased to flow.

As our heroes visited Washington, creating new Bryce Harper speculation, they were on a 10-2 run, closing on Boston. Then came four days of soggy nothingness. An off-day. A five-inning rain-out tie. Another rain-out. An off-day. Nothing. 

Ever since... a 5-4 record, second place, and shoddy work. 

The four-day snooze should have rejuvenated our pitching staff... but it didn't. CC Sabathia struggled out of the blocks against lowly KC. In fact, our rotation has boiled down to Luis Severino and a series of dice rolls. Yesterday, the notion of Domingo German facing Justin Verlander inspired little hope from the git-go, and the game seemed a done deal from the second inning onward, once Houston took a 3-0 lead.

The four-day snooze should have settled our bullpen... but it didn't. David Robertson is going through a particularly nasty stretch, as the so-called "circle of trust" has dwindled to a dot of delusion. In one wretched night, the Yankees scored 10 runs and still lost - certainly the worst defeat of the season. 

Last time we faced Houston, the Yankees lost game one and then stormed back to take the series. But that was before the four-game snooze. They are not the same team. 

Listen: It's far too early to panic and, frankly, what's the point? Neither the Yankees nor Boston will miss the post-season. One will win the division. The other will take the wild card. Done deal. But right now, we look like the third best team in the American League. Changes could be coming. 

With four-hits yesterday in Scranton, Clint Frazier looks like a player who simply cannot be denied. Meanwhile, Aaron Hicks continues to slide farther from the guy who looked so dominant early last year. Could Gardy move to CF and Frazier take over in LF? Or does Frazier get traded for a starting pitcher? Right now, he's being wasted in Triple A.

With two hits yesterday, did Didi Gregorius finally break out of his slump? Because his collapse has been so overwhelming lately that you almost start to reassess the possibilities of a Manny Machado trade. Through April, Didi looked like our longtime SS, maybe a future Yankee captain. In May, he's looked horrible. Would Baltimore take him as a centerpiece to a deal that brings Machado to NYC for three months? Last month, I'd been slapped across the face for writing such blaspheme. Now, anything could happen.

Finally, Greg Bird homered yesterday - a great omen. If Bird's bat has truly returned, he becomes the missing LH that neither Didi nor Hicks has provided lately. At the least, he should take pressure off of the others. But does that mean Tyler Austin completely disappears? Or does he get traded for a pitcher? (Another trade chip, Tyler Wade, has finally gotten hot in Scranton.)

Right now, the Yankees look like the AL's third best team... but they have more depth than Boston or Houston. Something is going to change. We have to get back to that winning state before the rain-outs. 

Stop competing. Keep building.

This was the mantra for many of us on the site last year, as the Yankees defied pre-season predictions and suddenly became a contender.

It should be our mantra again, as the team begins to struggle.

Right now, there are at least four teams in the league with better pitching than we have. Sure, that could change. David Price could be lured back by the unholy call of his video game. Houston's supplier could get arrested at the border.

Stranger things have happened. But right now, this Yankees team looks deadset to either lose the Meaningless Wild Card Win-In, or get swept in the ensuing ALDS.

Enough already. Time to go back to building. We need pitching, and right now we're stuck with the GGG (the Great Giancarlo Grift) perpetrated on us by Derek Jeter.

It will take an inordinate amount of front office brainpower just trying to get out from under what is now the Worst Contract in Sports History.

Don't believe me?

Well, why should you? After all, when Coops Cashman defied our Olympian advice and decided to go for the ring last year, we came within a game of the World Series.

How much of it was due to his great moves? Well, let's take a look at last year's "Over the Top" acquisitions:

—The Good:  Robertson, Kahnle, and Todd Frazier, for Ian Clarkin, Tio Polo, Blake Ruherford, and Tyler Clippard. Houdini and Kahnle gave us some valuable innings, and the Toddfather was at least a replacement for Headley at third. Meanwhile, the bunch we gave up have yet to learn their trade—though that could change overnight.

—The Bad: Sonny Gray for James Kaprelian, Jorge Mateo, and Dustin Fowler. Sonny is subtraction by addition, but at least none of those we gave up have excelled. Yet.

—The Ugly: Jaime Garcia. Useless. And we gave up Dietrich Enns (no big deal) and Zack Littell, now pitching quite well in Triple-A.

In short, none of these guys put us over. True, nobody we gave up has excelled yet, but none of the pieces we got have really helped.

Let's not do that again this year. Stop competing for meaningless prices. Keep building a stairway to paradise.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Some Modest Proposals

The trouble with baseball is that, as it has been well and truly said, momentum is today's starting pitcher (and no, I'm not talking about Sergio Romo).

Houston was all set up for us, coming off a stunning, debilitating, 14-inning loss. But Verlander-Morton-Keuchel will likely revive them, especially the Verlander-German match-up today.

Most likely, Justin and Ms. Upton have been bouncing around Manhattan for a couple days already, seeing old friends, taking in those sights to be seen in exclusive, super model/star athlete parties; sipping health drinks and smart water.

Verlander will emerge tanned, ready, and rested, and put our rat-gnawed bats away without much trouble. Morton and Keuchel will likely do the same.

So let us take these horrid three days to talk of many things, as the Walrus said. To wit, these modest proposals:

—Can Drury play second? Could the solution to the Didi and pitching problems be: deal Didi for an arm, put The Gleyber back at short, and install Drury at the second sack?

This way, we could get a pitcher and avoid some fatally overlong Manny contract. (Neil Walker needs to be simply taken behind the barn and put down.) We could bring back Toe for late-inning defensive purposes, or eventually Thairo the Pharaoh could be brought up, once his 5,000-year-old body has finished ingesting that bullet.

Again, I love Didi, but the leather he's been flashing lately implies he's not physically hurt. Which means the brain has locked. Not good.

—Could a Scranton-Ellsbury platoon be the answer? I know, I know, this assumes that The Ever-Injured Ellsbury will ever be back. But just supposing. His lifetime numbers against righties are much better than Scranton's this season.

And Scranton is killing us. He looks utterly lost against right-handers. I know the prescribed manner of batting these days is to swing for the fences, always and completely. But a 228-strikeout pace is ridiculous. If Jacoby can ever make it back on the field, platoon them and let the fur fly. At worst, Scranton will demand out of the Bronx (oh please, oh please).

—Is there enough of the old ultra-violence on Westworld? Me and the droogies are beginning to wonder.

What started out as a pretty interesting show about human identity has devolved into a gore fest with the visit to Shogunland. It's no Sonny Gray yet, but it's begun to lose both velocity and movement.

Anyway, let's discuss, as they say. Enjoy the oysters, and try to avoid peering at the scoreboard for the next three days' beat down.

Our total today is *Yankees 94, Soccer 87.

In defense of Yankee pitching

Let's start with Dellin. My memory isn't what it used to be, but I remember one or two key Yankee relievers from years back who consistently got themselves into jams before they got out of them. (Sparky comes to mind.) Regardless, I know there is precedent for the heart-in-throat reliever who almost blows the game but doesn't. It's not as efficient and calming as an appearance by Mo, but if Betances can get guys out and put a 0 on the board, he's doing fine--regardless of how harrowing it may feel. Same with Chapman.

On another pitching front, Tanaka is really good. Really. He's not Severino or Verlander or your-selection-here, but he does have a fair number of games where he's as good as anybody. Plus, he's only 29 years old. (Something about his demeanor always makes me think he's pushing 35.) He's 6-2 so far this year, and 58-30 in his time with the Yankees. That ain't bad, especially since he had a very off year in 2017. (Good showing in the playoffs, though.) Do we really think we have somebody better at Scranton? I don't. And I doubt anyone we can trade for is going to be better--probably not as good.

Which is just a long way of saying that we have two, count 'em, two starters at this point in time. A healthy Monty can still fill the five slot. Imperfectly, but that's who you put in the five slot. CC is on his final lap now, but he did turn in a brilliant skein of performances this year. He just might have enough left in the tank to do that again.

Then there's Sonny. As Boone and Kay and Suzyn and every Gammonite on ESPN will tell you, the Yankees need Sonny Gray to be the pitcher they thought they were getting. The problem with that is, he may not be that pitcher. He may be this pitcher. Worse, he may be Ivan Nova.

D-Rob, sadly, doesn't seem to be D-Rob anymore. It would help if he could turn it around. And whither Warren? But on the flip side, Holder doesn't seem to suck like he used to. Shreve has definitely improved from his early days in the pen. Green is still solid. Kahnle is just alright with me. Kahnle is just alright...oh, yeahhhh...

Put it all together, though, and somehow we're one game back with a team ERA of 3.87, fourth in the league. Would it be great if we had Houston's 2.61? You bet it would. Do I have a really good feeling about our pitching staff? Not particularly. But they can be and have been surprisingly good, and some of the pieces are not quite as terrible as they seem when viewed through the prism of expected Yankee perfection. We don't need 14 or 15 of them clogging up roster spots, though. That's just stupid. And if you make a dodgy in-game decision or two to boost Gray's morale, what message does carrying a million relievers send to all of the starters? There's a confidence boost for ya.

But then, we don't need Stanton, either. And Gardy and Didi are running out of time. Because the holes that do exist in the pitching staff have to be papered over by a frighteningly scary offense, or we aren't going to go 33-16 over the next 49 games. And that's the thing about this team. As good as it can be, it's not fully formed. Maybe that happens next year. I don't think we have the horsepower quite yet to grab a ring. We might, but right now, too many moving parts seem too rickety. And while the batting order looks to be ahead of the pitching staff at this point, it's not as far ahead as it's touted to be.

3.87 just isn't that bad. I'll take it for now, and hope the baling wire holds until everyone is healthy again.

Dellin Betances will kill us all

Yesterday, I watched the eighth inning from behind the couch. Apparently, manager Aaron Boone had decided that Dellin Betances should resume set-up duties, as if the old NO-RUNS DMC protocol still exists and the last few months never happened.

Dellin walked the first batter on five pitches. Five. Often, he only needs four. You could argue that this was a hopeful sign - needing five pitches to walk the lead-off man - but it brought up Mike Trout with the tying run on base, which seemed at the time a questionable strategy. 

The beauty of having Trout at bat was that it kept the base-runner from easily stealing second. That's a hallmark of Betances sightings: Once on first, every runner quickly takes second. Stephen Hawkings could steal second. Rosie O'Donnell could steal second. George H.W. Bush... you get the idea. But because everybody on the planet figured Trout would tie the game with a home run - or get walked, moving the runner to second - the base-runner didn't bother to steal.

Trout hit a chopper to Didi, who secured the force. 

The next guy, on a 2-1, mashed a bullet right at Didi, who turned the DP. Betances walked off grinning, and the Yankees today will pretend that he is back and in command of the eighth. But I'm sorry: I don't buy it.

I don't know what to do with Betances, I really don't. But his appearance in anything less than a blowout is flat-out terrifying, and unless he never walks another batter, his inability to hold base-runners on first is grounds for a divorce. We can't go on like this. Everybody in baseball knows it. The guy cannot throw to first base. It doesn't matter how nasty his stuff is to home. He walks a batter, and the runner quickly steals second. If the runner is particularly fast, he then steals third. Pitch-outs don't work. Pick-off attempts go into right field. Are we seriously going into a full-bore pennant race - tough games against Boston - with an eighth inning reliever who is always on the verge of exploding into a cloud of dust? I don't think so. 

Again, I don't know what to do. The box score says Betances did his job yesterday. But if you were watching, you know how close we came to utter disaster. My heart can't take this. I wish there was an answer. But folks, this isn't working.

Mookie urged to start writing induction speech

Why we always win.

These Guys Know What They're Talking About

I got back from Colorado this evening—and no, I was NOT out there at NORAD helping to make certain technical arrangements should that June 12th summit stay canceled (Un-ray.) Nope, no way, nothing at all like that (Un-ray. Ow-nay.).

In my absence, no surprise, El Duque and Alphonso came through with the answers to this disturbing hiccough in what has already been an immensely entertaining Yankees season.

Their basic idea, stated outright I think by El Duque, but reiterated in several creative ways by Alphonso, as well: get younger.

Now, I know that I have already proposed at least 30-40 different "solutions" for this team playing nearly .700 ball, but my loss- or drink-fueled rages aside, I think this sums it up perfectly.

We should be trying to built the best team possible, not getting all caught up in acquiring the pitcher who can win for us this year. And we should keep trying to get younger and more flexible—not less so.

Once we accept this, certain things seem obvious:

—Trade Walker for whatever lottery ticket arms we can get. Not only is Austin better, he can also play another position besides first base.

—If and when he is ever fit to walk out of the whirlpool bath, trade TEIE (The Ever-Injured Ellsbury) for the same. Agree to pick up his whole salary, if necessary. Like Walker, he won't be missed.

—Get Toe and Red Thunder back up to the majors. Now. This is just silly. Toe has done absolutely everything that has ever been asked of him, and done it brilliantly. Send back down whoever is today's No. 12 and No. 13 pitchers. This is not rocket science.

—Start every possible Scranton prospect—including the foundering Chance Adams—in the makeup game doubleheaders ahead. Let's see what they have, starting with Sheffield. Is this Josh Rogers guy as good as his stats seem to indicate? I dunno. Let's have a look.

—Trade Sonny Gray for what we can get. New York is not a place for the easily frightened.

Tougher dilemmas?

—Giancarlo. Yes, Alphonso, I admit it: I fell for a classic grift, the deal that was just too good to be true.

Like most marks, I was looking at the big, shiny watch, instead of the guy selling it. Derek Jeter? That guy who has arranged his entire life exactly as he wanted it? Who became a Hall-of-Famer, four-ring champion playing for his favorite childhood team, then ended up with a gazillion dollars, married to a supermodel?

Yeah, how could THAT guy ever put anything over on Cooperstown Cashman?

Sure enough, as Alphonso predicted, Giancarlo turned out to be the biggest poisoned pill since the Trojan Horse. But now that we're stuck with his millstone of a contract, what to do?

Is there anyway we can find a left-handed bat to platoon with him? But that would probably make him so mad he would demand a trade or at least opt out of his contract in four years! Hmm.

—Time to stop pretending that Sir Didi is just going through a rough patch. Is he hurt? Then bring back Toe and put him on the DL until he's better.

Is he reverting to pre-Yankee mediocrity?

This would put our get-younger resolution to the test. I love Didi to death, but in that case we should seriously consider dealing him for pitching, and signing Manny—who is, after all, almost three years YOUNGER than Didi.

Or, can we move El Conquistador to short, and find a new second-sacker? I don't know.

The one thing we should NOT do? Trade players for Manny. You know he's going to test the free-agent market in any case. Give up cash if we must, but not money.

But whatever happens, give it up for Peerless and Dauntless. They know what they're talking about. Get. Younger.

All right, that's all I have to report, except that the Yankees-Soccer contest will have to have a permanent asterisk, unless someone has a Friday NY Times. The local rats, still angry over that Pineapple last Wednesday, gnawed it to pieces right out on my stoop.

Unless somebody can fill in the gaps, I have it at *Yankees 92, Soccer 87.

But hey, things will probably change with the World Cup next month. And don't worry, there WILL be a next month! (Un-ray. Ow-nay.) Really, I swear! (Un-ray ar-fay. Ot-nay idding-kay. UN-RAY!)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Is This the Year of the Pineapple...

...for Boston?

I realize that many on this site—and many everywhere, especially in New York—do not care much for LeBron James.

But watching him convert that clinching drive to the hoop against Boston—despite a Celtic literally hanging with both hands from his shoulders (and what DOES constitute a flagrant foul in the NBA these days, especially in Boston Garden?)—and seeing another Celtic guilty of goaltending—AND THE BALL STILL GOING IN...

Well, I gotta say, it just seemed like a little sunshine bursting through this clouded moment in the Yankees season.

It also made me think, is this the year that almost was—but not quite!—for Boston?

Think about it:

—The Patriots just barely losing to the Eagles in the Super Bowl.

—The Bruins running up 50 wins, taking a thrilling, opening round playoff season—then collapsing.

—The Celtics valiantly, heroically, tragically losing to the Cavaliers tonight.

Don't be surprised if we see the Red Sox finishing out The Year That Almost Was by taking a big, spiny pineapple. (Sure, most likely, at the hands of Houston or Cleveland. But it will still be good to see!)

The Basis Of Today's Win

What Are Managers For?

The Yankees, yesterday, gave up another meaningful lead and got clobbered.  We are making a pattern of giving up 3, 4 and 5 run leads lately.  And losing.  And losing ground.

The pitching staff, and much of the regular line-up, may be visually described as follows;

No, that is not spaghetti on her brain, it is a tangled mess.

1.  We all said, " Walk him, goddamit.  Walk him!"  Sonny Gray had established from his first pitch that this would be "one of those days."  He could not throw a first pitch strike.  He couldn't throw a strike when the count went to 3-2 either.  He is desperately trying to protect a one run lead, with two out, one on on third ) and Mike Trout at the plate ( did he think it was Steve Trout?)

The manager must, by now, know that MLB changed the rule for intentional walks to speed up the games.  Just wave your hand, and off he trots.  Instead, Boone pitches to Trout ( who had hit two scorching doubles in his first two at bats ) and suddenly, the Yankees are behind and out for the count.  Shitty, miserable decision by a rookie manager, trying to give his pitcher confidence.  Meanwhile, it blew the game.

2.  The last thing I imagined was sending the " toe " down to SCRANTON.  He was hitting .330 and played great defense.  Torreyes was a thorn in every team's side whenever he played, and loved by the team.  Clearly, this was management thinking...."our starters are so terrible, we need 5 relievers per game to give us any chance of winning."

The message here is; " no matter how consistently well you play, if you are not a full scholarship player, you will be trashed."  This is clearly a Yankee administration that would have found no place for Phil Rizzuto.

The team is bummed, and all to bring up a guy who has never been reliable ( Bird), and who was hitting .200 in AAA.  He is now hitting zero in the majors after yesterday's debut, flashing an unimpressive and non threatening 0-4.

3.  If opposing pitchers only throw change-ups, curves, sliders and sinkers to Stanton, he will strike our forever.  He can only hit a fastball.  And only from lefties. But he made a nice defensive play, or we would have lost 13-4.

4.  I, too, wondered why Knahle and why now?  He had not shown anything in the minors.  His only asset is his fastball, and it is not doing what it did last year.  His work was useless.  Can't wait until Adam Warren proves that he, too, is out of gas.

5. The big guns in our line-up ( all swinging to hit the ball 454 feet ) are just shooting blanks far too often, and it is obvious that they can't do much damage against really good pitching.  So, our shot in the post season would seem limited.  We aren't scoring 10 runs often enough, and sometimes lose even when we do.

6.  But the real story is that we have one reliable starting pitcher.  Sonny, CC, Tanaka and German are each good for about 4 innings and 6 runs per start.  And there is no point considering a trade of our best prospects because we can't get 4 reliable starters in any imaginable series of transactions, and that is what we need.  It is a fairy tale to think we can win the AL East if the four current starters are a combined 32-32 in mid September.  This is what you call;  a mess.

7.  The Yankees are the ones who should play the Tampa Bay" pitching switch."  Lay out each game with the idea of replacing our starter ( except Luis) after three innings.  Always walk a dangerous hitter if there is anyone on base, and two outs.  Hold the damage down and keep all thirteen pitchers active.

Also, change the batting order.  Bird and Stanton should be in the 7-8-9 part of the order.  Torres needs to be moved to the heart.  Seriously consider getting Clint Frazier into the outfield now.  Gary and Hicks, lovable as they are, are not producing.

And we won't even address the " Didi issue" right now.  He is great.  Yes.  But none of us have seen a non hitting streak from a star, as relentless as this one is.  His lack of production is killing us.  At least move him to the 9 hole.

8.  Make some courageous changes, Aaron.  That is your job.  Now do it.  It is not courageous to simply plug in the expected, formulaic moves ( Bird, Khanle, Warren, Walker ).  Anyone can do that.

I suggest we begin today.

Big-spending Redsocks to pay $51 million for nothing

Transactions this weekend by the two of the three best teams in baseball illustrate the widening power gap in the game.

To bring back li'l Dustin Pedroia, big-spending Boston ditched Hanley Ramirez and the remainder of his $22 million contract. Ramirez - a known killer of Yankee pitching - must be traded within the next few days. Don't we all wish the Yanks had an open roster slot?

Meanwhile, the Yankees dropped li'l Ronald Torreyes - a great utility infielder and good luck charm - for the return of Greg Bird, (who promptly went 0-4.) Thus, we found ourselves last night in a bizarre, nearly unprecedented dimension: Nobody hurt (aside from Jordan Montgomery, who wasn't starting, and Jacoby Ellsbury, who no longer counts.) It won't last long, of course. Somebody will get pregnant. And as Yankee pitchers continue to slog, the trade deadline looms ever larger.   

But the big-spending Redsocks just keep clunking along. Right now, they have no choice but to write the checks and grin. They are $51 million in the tank for mistake money... this season alone, and like Lady MacBeth, they recognize that the bloodletting must continue. 

Along with the $22 million for Ramirez, big-spending Boston must pay Pablo Sandoval ($18 mill) and Rusney Castillo ($11 mill). It goes into a $233 million opening day payroll, highest in the game, nearly $60 mill more than the Yankees. They are so far into the financial abyss that Castillo cannot be promoted from Pawtucket, because his presence would crush the team's already disastrous luxury tax threshold. They'll pay Sandoval and Castillo for two more years, and pretend they're pass-through payouts to Michael Cohen.

And hey, it's working. They're in first, two games up. But if something happens to a front-liner, they won't have a Clint Frazier or Ronald Torreyes to call up from Triple A "Aw-fuckit" Pawtucket. They won't even be able to call back Hanley Ramirez. They're in a position occupied by the Yankees through much of the middle 2000s - able to contend but vomiting bad contracts.

They are what the 2020 Yankees could be, if we suddenly lard up our roster with aging veterans on bad, win-now contracts. The Yankees are in a unique situation - a great lineup with young players who should improve. They also have the financial might of the NYC market, which they should dominate.  

So... on this Memorial Day weekend, how is this for a long-term hope:

That the Yankees use their financial strength to grow younger, not older. There can be a new Core Four, or even a Core Five or Core Seven. But there should never be a reason to bind ourselves to a player for 10 years, so long that he is assured of eventually becoming a millstone. Big contracts, short duration, and instead of always buying on July 31, the Yankees should sell off assets for future prospects. If we must trade Frazier, Drury, Wade, Austin, et al - and I'm not saying we have to - let's get even younger. Let's not be the big-spending Redsocks. 

Have a great Memorial Day everybody, and let's play nice with each other, okay?

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Tampa pitching experiment wouldn't work against the Yankees

By now, you've probably heard of Tampa's devilish new reverse-starter strategy: A "closer" like Sergio Romo starts the game, pitches the first inning, goes through the first three batters, then leaves for the "starter," who a) avoids facing the top hitters and b) confuses any platoon-crazy opposing manager who firms up his larder with righties or lefties. Interestingly, it was Tampa that first pushed defensive over-shifts and became pioneers in the "tanking" movement, finishing last to draft first (David Price, Evan Longoria, et al.) Now, the Rays may be altering the fundamental DNA of the staff. If this becomes the norm - that is, if it works - we may never see complete games, single pitcher shut-outs and no-hitter masterpieces.

But if Tampa tries this with the Yankees, well, good luck with that, Tampons.

Instead of avoiding the Big Three Yankee hitters, the Rays starter will enter the fray against the middle and bottom of the lineup, which right now is doing the damage. Thus far, the first inning brings...

1) Brett Gardner, hitting .233, about 50 points below his career average.
2) Aaron Judge, formidable, but fans too often and can be pitched around.

3) Giancarlo Stanton, who - frankly - has yet to show up. 
4) Didi Gregorius, who is cold as ice... willing to sacrifice our love... you never take advice, someday he'll pay the price, I know... yes, I know...

But down at the bottom, ka-boom. Miguel Andujar is hitting .291 and seeming to improve with every game. And finally, at least for now anyway, the Yankees' best hitter by far: Gleyber Torres.

Let me take a deep breath and chose my words carefully. 

We could be looking at two Yankee cornerstones for the next decade. 

Yeah, that's a lot to bullshit to load on two rawboned rookies, and baseball is generally cruel to such statements, but like the butterfly in China, which flaps its wings and creates a hurricane in Florida, it's the bottom of the order where the Yankee big innings start. Gleyber Torres has become the Yankee you most want to see come to bat. And if Gardy ever gets going - (and somewhere, a clock is ticking on this) - no revolutionary new Tampa pitching strategy is going to matter to the Yankees. 

One final thought on that strategy: Could it be the thing that settles down... and saves... Dellin Betances? Hmmm.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The volcano rumbles, as Tyler Austin faces the Abyss

Like many on this godforsaken blog, I instinctively loathed the late-winter signing of utility infielder Neil Walker. It was another case of the Retrieval Empire at its grubbiest, scrounging up yet another tired veteran from the scrap heap, once again at the expense of youth. 

Walker's arrival directly threatened the playing time of three "Baby Bombers:" Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade, along with a slush pile of fellow travelers (Jace Peterson, Danny Espinosa, even Brandon Drury) whom the Yankees had assembled to compete for 2B and 3B. He was not viewed as a big 1B option. That position belonged to Greg Bird, the avenging angel from last October.

Walker's presence quickly killed Tyler Wade's role on the Yankees. Of course, Wade didn't help himself, going 3 for 35 in April, after winning a utility job in spring training. Wade was exiled to Scranton, where - disillusioned and depressed - he has remained in a deep coal mine accident of a slump. It's possible that he will never play another inning for the Yankees, but be converted into a Bitcoin trade chip, albeit one that has lost much of its value.

Walker also started the season in a dreadful slump. One difference, though: The Yankees had no option on him. So they stuck with him, as they always do with veterans (See 2017: Matt Holliday, Chase Headley, Chris Carter, et al) until the roofs cave in. To be fair, Walker recently snapped out of his funk, just in time to avert the eviction notice. Lately, he has hit well and provided quality at bats. 

And today or tomorrow, he will likely eliminate another Yankee rookie, another Tyler.

This time it's Tyler Austin, the mound-charging hero of Boston, who has 8 home runs and 23 RBIs, fifth on the team. His .238 average has been dropping - (it's still above Walker's .220) - and his on-base percentage has dwindled to .297 (same as Walker's.) This weekend, when Bird rightfully returns, Austin will almost surely be jettisoned to Scranton, where he can be expected to go 0 for the month of June and disappear into the ether of Central Pennsylvania. 

Listen: I get it that Austin is the logical choice to go. The Yankees need Bird's LH bat at first base. Plus, Walker plays several positions. I get it that the problem with a loaded 25-man roster is that somebody has to miss the prom. I get it that Walker is, in fact, a smart batter who contributed some big hits during the recent winning streak. It's not about Walker.

But haven't we all been wishing for a pulled hamstring, a minor injury somewhere that would keep Austin - or Clint Frazier - on this team? Frankly, I still wish the Yankees had never signed Walker. I still believe in the rookies, and - yes, you're right, who am I?, and what the fuck do I know? - I still believe that Tyler Wade on any other team would have gotten the chance to play through his rough opening, and he would now be helping this team. Instead, we have Walker.

Like I say, this isn't about Walker. It's about hording. It's about refusing to give youngsters a chance. Tyler Austin deserves better than what is about to happen. And I believe these things take a toll on the psyche of a franchise. A baseball team is a life form, an organism unto itself. For every Yin, there is a Yang. You cannot do this to people. A bad wind is blowing in.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

No game tonight, but you can still listen to John

The Master Speaks on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast.

Image result for john sterling microphone

Famous Sayings....

For those of you who are, at the core, philosophers, I give you these words from Blaise Pascal:

"  It isn't enough to show up.  You have to play the game. ( my translation of " old french" ).

I think the Yankees have heard so much about their invincible line-up, that they believe the headlines.  When they score, they assume the other team will roll over. When they score 10, they go home.

Last night we learned that this perfect team, breaking a new record every at bat, can lose to a loser.  It seems the " statisticians " are becoming more inventive;  " the Youngest rookie ever to hit two three run homers in a Texas city north of the Pecos river...."

"Only Micky Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Terras Bulba have before done what Torres and Andjuhar did in the fourth inning last night.....stumble over first base while entering a home -run trot, after hitting back-to-back rookie dingers..."

Can we all please come back to reality?  It is demoralizing to lose 4 run and 5 run leads in the same game.  It shows that our pitchers have no one's back, and that our hitters get satisfied and shut down.

It also has created a pestilence of fear that Clint Frazier and others will soon be shipped away for a 3 month contract of a guy with shoulder problems.

So our individual game win streak is over.

 Our consecutive series' win streak is over, as well.

And now the few remaining gems in our farm system are at risk.

It is time for the Yankees to put down the newspapers and read some philosophy.

" If you intend to win, you have to work at it."

Yankees spend another night in an airport


That's what losers get.

After the ugliest loss of the season... Introducing the Gina Haspel Yankee Loss Discomfort Index

Well, here we are, back on the Pineapple Express. How do we spell relief? Not "B-U-L-L-P-E-N," that's for sure. We just scored 10 runs and lost going away. The Yankees are back in second place and - here you go, comrades: Behold, the 2018 Wild Card Standings. Maybe we should get used to them?

Hell, no. Clearly, I'm talking reverse juju. It's therapeutic to load all your demons into one bloated pinata and then go Aaron Judge on it.  We always knew 2018 would feature some Siberian cold spells, and here we are. It sucks to blow a five run lead, but these things need to happen. We have to know who can rise up after a debacle, and to learn, you need an occasional debacle.

Thus far, the Yankees have given us 15 losses - 15 household items jammed up the Yankiverse's wazoo, causing us to shout, "GHUWAYLI!" (It's like Jumanji, but creepier and far more intense.) Hence, I am hereby unveiling the 2018 "Gina Haspel Up-the-Wazoo Yankee Loss Agony Index," (GHUWAYLI), named for the new CIA director's unique experience in knowing the limits of fan torture discomfort.  

It has five levels - called Haspels - of up-the-wazoo torture discomfort. They are:

1. Sticky bun.
2. Bar of soap.

3. Cell Phone.
4. Alarm Clock.
5. Pineapple.

Here is the season of Yankee losses, based on Haspel torture discomfort.

March 31, 5-3, in Toronto: Bullpen gives up 3 after seventh (Warren, Betances) Judge goes 0-4. Alarm Clock.

April 1, 7-4, in Toronto: Bullpen gives up 6 in late innings. (Kahnle, Robertson) Gardy goes 0-5. Pineapple.

April 5, 5-2 v Orioles: Tanaka loses it in 7th, he and bullpen give up 5 (Green). Gardy 0-4. Alarm Clock-Pineapple.

April 6, 7-3, v Orioles: Bullpen blows it in 14th (Holder); Sanchez 0-6. Cell Phone.

April 8, 8-7, v Orioles: Bullpen blows it in 12th (Warren); Stanton 0-7 with 5 ks. Cell Phone.

April 10, 14-1 in Boston: Severino bombed, Kahnle and Shreve pounded. Cell Phone.

April 12, 6-3 in Boston: Gray pounded, Gardy 0-4 Bar of Soap.

April 17, 9-1, in Miami: Tanaka pounded, Cessa whacked, Yanks get four hits. Loss from the gitgo. Sticky Bun.

April 20, 8-5, v Blue Jays: Gray and German pounded, Gardy 0-5. Bar of Soap.

April 30, 2-1, in Houston: Yanks get 3 hits against Charlie Morton & relievers. Cell Phone.

May 10, 5-4 v Redsocks: CC pounded, Yanks get 5 hits, Didi 0-5 Alarm Clock.

May 11, 10-5 v A's: Gray pounded, Robertson hit hard. Never in it. Sticky Bun.

May 18, 5-2 in KC: Judge, Didi, Gary 0-12, Gardy 1-5 Cell Phone.

May 22, 6-4 in Texas: German pounded, team gets 7 hits Cell Phone

Last night, 12-10, in Texas: CC pounded, bullpen pounded. Pineapple.

Gina Haspel... or Larry Rothschild?

For all our pain and torture discomfort, the 2018 season has hardly delivered Haspels on the level of past years. But last night sure tried. I believe it was the ugliest loss yet, capped by an appearance of "Bad Betances," which always leaves me wondering if there's anything worth trying to salvage. The guy cannot hold a runner, and it's late in a career to start learning a fundamental aspect of pitching.

Still, think of it this way: CC always runs hot and cold, the offense is still percolating, and we didn't lose anybody to an injury. The fear is that David Robertson may be nearing a sell-by date, and Mean Chad Green might be wearing down. The "Circle of Trust" is becoming a dot.

The hope? Justus Sheffield threw four scoreless innings last night in Triple A. Right now, he is next in line to be unveiled in the Yankee debutantes ball. I prefer to be optimistic, even at the risk of summoning bad juju. 

Listen: We must get used to occasional torture discomfort. The Haspels come with the job. Now, if you'll excuse me. I think I need to stand for a while.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

"In Citi Field, the Metsies Blow..."

I have to head out to Colorado for a few days, and no, it is absolutely NOT true that I am on special assignment to NORAD to make certain preparations just in case the June 12 summit goes wrong.

No, nope, absolutely nothing to that!

But since I will have to miss most of Memorial Day weekend, I will leave you with the following, inspired by looking at all the long rows of empty seats in the Stadium-formerly-known-as-Shea late night.

(With apologies to Lt. Col. John McCrae):

In Citi Field the Metsies lie,
Beneath the jet-congested sky.
Their arms have faltered one-by-one,
Their bats have failed, they cannot run
And Cespedes doth pound his thigh.

They are the Dead. Short days ago
They lived, won games, saw Mickey Calloway glow.
Loved and were loved
By Mets fans, anyway.
Then their prospects died in May.

Take heed, ye fans, and observe the fate,
Of the team whose owner craves real estate.
His dreams are not filled with rings or pennants
But wealthy European tenants.
He does not care if the seats are cold
In Citi Field, where the Metsies fold.

For now, the Yanks hang onto their lead over Soccer, 89-84.

Philip Roth, RIP

"Writing is frustration. It's daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It's just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time."

—Philip Roth

The greatest writer of our time. The failure to give him the Nobel Prize is one of those omissions that diminish the award.

Ding Dong Domingo

Last night, as Yogi famously stated, " it got late early."

Domingo German spun his second consecutive not so tasty cake.  Only it was tasty to the Rangers, not to Yankee fans.

The game was over, early, in the opening inning, after the Yankee top (and heart) of the order had meekly gone away without a solid contact between bat and ball.

 In fact, Giancarlo swung at a pitch that, I swear, was on the ground, behind him by about a yard.  It was as if he was trying to hit a horse fly buzzing behind his left knee.  Let me just didn't look like he was going to be in hitting rhythm during this game.

But back to the larger problem:

 Domingo couldn't throw a strike, other than with his meekly straight meat ball ( known , otherwise, as a fast ball).  And that pitch was like batting practice for the infirmed.  Everyone clobbered it.  Worse, he had lost the mound presence and confidence that David Cone used to complement him on.

He looked afraid and incapable, hesitant and slow moving.  When the three run dinger left the ballpark, so did I.  Turned off everything electronic and went elsewhere.  I know, " when to fold 'em."

And as Duque and all of you calculated;  this can only mean one thing:  The trade winds are again blowing.  Cashman is on red alert ( and I mean that in the most likely, tragic, sense).

We won behind Tanaka's latest start only because we scored 10 runs.  We have now seen enough evidence that this new kid is lined up for a 1-9 season if he remains here. ( Luis did that, by the way, but not with a team this strong).

Meanwhile;  everyone has seen "Red Thunder;"  everyone knows about Florial ( though injured ), Drury lingers, etc.

It is the Duque challenge; trade youth and high ceilings for an over-priced, beer bellied has-been?  Divert from the present winning course, in the face of stress?

The problem is; who still sees a real future for Domingo Ding-Dong?  In truth, originally, I did.  I loved this kid. I thought he was a younger, leaner version of the big dog ( Luis ).  But something transformed him.  He has been hopeless, now, two starts in a row.  Against crappy teams, no less.

 When he walked his first guy yesterday, there was no chance.  He must have used up 35 pitches in inning one, leaving us down three runs.


Last night may have been the worst thing that could happen

For most of the last 18 months, the Yankees have bucked history: They have steadfastly - and uncharacteristically - ignored aging stars with bloated contracts and hamstrings the size of fan belts. We just said no to Jose Bautista. We hid from Bartolo Colon, didn't pick up the phone on Rich Hill. Somehow - the real Toms River Miracle, in my opinion - we avoided the Toddfather himself, Todd Frazier, while he danced in front of us all winter, shirtless. 

For the first time in this decade, Bud Selig's de facto payroll cap - created for no other reason than to destroy the Yankees' financial advantage - backfired. The "luxury tax threshold," a thinly veiled construction of corporate socialism, forced the Yankees to halt spending and grow younger. Since the summer of 2016 - with the exception of Billy Butler, Jaime Garcia and their annual midsummer reunion - the Yankees have gone cold turkey on old-timers.

And it's worked - dear God! - more gloriously than we could have imagined. Today, the Yankees not only field baseball's best lineup, but they could remain that way for three to five years... that is, unless they revert.

Imagine a recovering alcoholic walking into a bar, sitting down and staring at a glass of Crown Royal for three hours. That's what happened last night. Cole Hamels pitched seven innings, over which the Yankees only sent six balls out of the infield. Today, Gammonites everywhere will be spewing trade ideas like Trump does tweets, and every bad proposal will be a plan to knock us off the sobriety wagon - take a hearty swig from the bottle and revert to the days of Ike Davis and Chris Young. After last night, Hamels has now strung together four solid starts - he was cuffed around in April - and you better believe the Rangers - who not long ago, before trading their youth, looked like the Yankees do now - will go into a full-blown yard sale, desperate to ditch him before the 34-year-old arm pops a gonad.

Of course, this had to happen on the very night that Domingo German shits the rookie bed, and while Chance Adams in Scranton lasts only three innings, eliminating for now what dwindling hopes he once offered. We can see the planets aligning for Cooperstown Cashman to trade prospects for Hamels, a three-month rental, and we can read the stories in our minds - how the Yankees just "traded for a pennant" and gave up "low-level prospects," just as the courtier press always did during the bloat years. And once the Yanks start going all-in for this October, they're like the recovering drunk in the bar, who decides one little sip can't hurt... and always deserves another.

Will we hold the line?

Yesterday, another omen appeared, and I can't figure out how to give it context. The A's released Slade Heathcott, who for a few measly years offered us the hope of youth. The trouble with Heathcott was that the Yankees were always bottled up in the outfield - Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran - so whatever numbers he piled up in Scranton - they didn't matter. Like Brigadoon Refsnyder, we watched a guy come up now and then, get a few hits, and then return to Central Pennsylvania to rot on the vine. But I can't scream that Heathcott was ruined. Maybe the Yankee scouts were right. The guy bounced to the White Sox and now the A's, and - hey, wanna feel old? - he's now 27. This could be it for him, time to hit the community college or start selling cars. 

All I can say is what we say too often on this blog, this message in a bottle surfing on the ocean: Building a team is not about holding onto one or two youngsters. You need a wave of youth, and once you start draining your resources, you start listing against the tide. If the Yankees bite on Hamels - after holding the line for the last 18 months - well, last night might turn out to be the worst thing that happened: The moment we picked up the bottle and started chugging. Will we hold the line?

"May 22nd, 2018, a date which will (almost) live in infamy..."

So, to commemorate the approach to Memorial Day, I was going to list everything we lost today in an FDR-like litany from—yes—the very last time an American president asked the Congress for a declaration of war as mandated by the Constitution. (Thank goodness we haven't had any wars since!):

Tonight, we lost a game to the miserable Texas Rangers, a team so low they are starting a man named Rouged-knees Odiferous.

Tonight, we lost first place, as the Red Sox defeated Tampa Bay for the 66th time this season.

Tonight, we saw our promising young pitcher pummeled into looking like trade or Scranton bait.

Tonight, we saw their decrepit, mediocre old pitcher puffed up into looking like one more inappropriate object of Brian Cashman's desire.

Tonight...we almost lost Gary Sanchez.

The official report is leg cramps, to which we can only say, "Hydrate, Gary, HYDRATE! It's Texas, for cryin' out loud! The state flower is dust!"

Of course, had Mr. Cashman alertly jumped to and taken up my audacious proposal to trade Sancho and the still spiraling Didi for deGrom and Syndergaard—or "legroom and Cinderella" as my spellcheck would have it—well, we wouldn't have to be worrying about Mr. Sanchez's hydrogenic habits.

Since, however, Coops is inexplicably ignoring my every suggestion for the 21st season in a row and Sancho is still with us, we must all breathe a great sigh of relief.

December 7th still holds the title.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Phil Franchise is looking for one

Looks bleak for Phil Hughes, cut loose at age 31 by Minnesota. 

In another Yankiverse - Kevin Long, long ago and Steve Farr, far away - Phil is still anchoring the rotation, along with Joba and Ian Kennedy... and Edwar Ramirez as closer.

Those were fun days, imagining how great the Big Three were going to be. And then... well... 

Just can't let it happen without a mention. So long, Hughesie, see you at Old-Timers Day. 

Forget Judge, Stanton and Sanchez... the Yanks could break the record for most players to hit 20 HRs

Last week, in their continuing quest to redefine bullshit, the YES team neo-Gammonites announced that the 2018 Yankees had become the earliest team ever to field four batters with 10 homers... or something like that. 

These days, my ears wax over with the continuing lava flow of "unprecedented" historical milestones from the pre-and post-game wonks. Last night, the 2018 Yankees became the first team ever to hit four or more HRs over three straight games! Huh. "Unprecedented!" they say. I say, huh. And don't get me started on David Cone's bizarre fetish over exit velocities, matched only by his infatuation with long dead sitcoms. Last night, he called for a YouTube revival of Hogan's Heroes - perhaps the sickest premise in TV history. (Not to mention Bob Crane's certain "proclivities.") I'm waiting for him to rediscover Happy Days, just to summon the perfect IT IS HIGH headline: Coney Loves Chachi! 

So, um, anyways... the Yanks now lead the majors with 72 HRs in 45 games. Over a full season, that projects to 259.2 dingers - (the 0.2 being a Ronald Torreyes double.) That's only 4.8 HRs behind the all-time record, the 1997 Mariners - who didn't, it should be noted, reach the World Series. 

But another "unprecedented" event could be more rewarding. The Yankees look poised to break the seasonal record for number of batters with 20 or more HRs - which now stands at seven. It is shared by six teams, (including last year's miserable Orioles.) In fact, only the 2009 Yankees - with Tex, A-Rod, Swish, Jorge, Damon, Godzilla and Joggie Cano - homered their way to a ring. 

But look, look, LOOK: Barring injuries, as many as 12 Yankees this year could hit 20.

Aaron Judge, lock.
Giancarlo Stanton, lock.
Gary Sanchez, lock.
Didi Gregorius, lock.

Aaron Hicks, likelihood.
Greg Bird, likelihood. 
Tyler Austin, with a platoon, likelihood.
Brett Gardner, hit 21 last year; he'll heat up, a maybe.
Gleyber Torres, suddenly, a definite maybe!
Miguel Andujar, a decent maybe. 
Clint Frazier, if he gets called up, maybe a definite maybe.
Neil Walker, twice hit 23, hell, he hit one last night, an outside shot at a maybe, baby! 

Twelve candidates. We could not only break the record, we could absolutely demolish it. 

One problem: Boston is second with 68 HRs. They have seven solid bets for 20. Everywhere you look, unless injuries reshuffle the deck, 2018 is a two-team race. After that, as Coney would say in his impression of Sergeant Schultz... "I KNOW NOTHINGK." And it's true. I know nothingk.