Saturday, June 30, 2018

Fawning Post marvels at the courage of The Master

There was real fear on the Yankees’ team flight. The turbulence made it feel like the plane was bouncing around the sky like a knuckleball. Then, the oxygen masks dropped down from overhead.
“Everyone was freaking out, yelling, getting really nervous,” YES’ Michael Kay said.
John Sterling read a book.

In the Wake of the Soccalypse

The June results are in—and they're not pretty.

As predicted, the Paper of Record turned its full attention to soccer with the World Cup. The Yanks warned 31 Times articles for June, their second highest monthly total in 2018—and got absolutely stomped.

The year so far:  Soccer 210, Yankees 129.

Month by month:

June:        Soccer 123, Yankees 31
May:        Yankees 28, Soccer 17
April:       Yankees 32, Soccer 22
March:     Yankees 23, Soccer 21
February: Yankees 14, Soccer 12
January:    Soccer 15, Yankees 1

And...the Soccalypse is only half over!

By the by, it really should be the Europe-South America Cup. The two continents had 14 of the 16 teams to advance from group play, 10 for Europe, 4 for South America, with 1 apiece for North America (Mexico) and Asia (Japan).

Or even, the Europe-Brazil-Argentina Cup. The only other South American team to win it all, Uruguay, did so last in 1950.

Just thought you'd want to know.

Jeez... we can't even enjoy a Yankee victory without the disruption of trade talk?

Why the Yankees drive their fans crazy: From today's Gray Lady... Exhibit A.

This is nuts. We beat Boston with a staple gun, go to sleep, dream of unicorns, wake up safe - no asteroid, no super-volcano, no nuke war - to find this: A Gammonitic story suggesting that Miguel Andujar will be traded for another one of those mythological "young power arms" that only exist in Brian Cashman's Ambien-driven wet dreams. 

Says Billy Witz this morning:

So, it stands that to get an elite pitcher — Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, if the Mets don’t quiver — the Yankees may have to part with a prospect, perhaps two, who may haunt Cashman for years. At the top of the list could be the rookie third baseman Miguel Andujar...

GAAAAAAAAAAAAA. This is nuts. Can't we enjoy one victory - just one? - without a spasm of Cashmanic diarrhea? It's bad enough that the Yankees seem to be talking themselves into trading Clint Frazier, but now we get speculation on throwing Andujar into the pool, as well? GAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

First, a trade with the Mets would raise the stakes far higher than the Yankees need. No way would they trade deGrom or Syndergaard across town unless the deal is so top-heavy with young talent that it crushes our future in ways we cannot comprehend. Yes, the Mets may be idiots, but they're not morons. The price would be insane. Why would the Yankees rip up their best young lineup since 1996 - jeopardizing their future - for pitchers of questionable durability - (See Harvey: Matt.) 

Okay, I'm a prospect-hugger. So shoot me. I get it that the Yankees should do something between now and Aug. 1. Several promising players can be dangled in talks, without giving up our 3B for the next decade. For example:

Billy McKinney, 23, 11 HRs at Scranton, lefty OF blocked in NY.

Tyler Wade, 23, .271 at Scranton (rebounding from deep slump), SS-utility blocked by Didi and Ronald Torreyes, et al.

Brandon Drury, 25, .306 at Scranton, 3B-2B now blocked by Andujar/Torres.

Abiatal Avelino, 23, .341 at Trenton, SS, having breakout season, but blocked.

Kyle Holder, 24, .344 in small sample at Tampa, former first-rounder, great glove SS, impressed in spring training but was hurt; now blocked at SS.

Okay, you don't get somethin' for nothin'. But these are viable prospects, capable of bringing a Happ or a Hamels, or some other third starter. We do not need to deal Justus Sheffield, Andujar and/or Frazier for the next Sonny Gray, and suddenly turn a bright future into a side trip down Javier Vazquez Boulevard. 

There's another thing going on here, and it's worth taking a pill over. Trading Andujar would almost lock the Yankees into dropping $400 million on Manny Machado next winter - and returning to their old, tired, bloated, Steinbrennerian ways. Within two years, we could be floating the largest payroll barge in baseball, a team of underachieving stars, ever-floundering, while the Mets recapture NYC. Look, I'm not opposed to signing Machado - Hal's gotta spend the money somewhere - but if we must trade a kid like Andujar, we'll have a lot more leverage next winter, when it's not a such a seller's market.

Of course, Cashman is gonna do what Cashman is gonna do. But we are not powerless. 

If Cashman trades Clint Frazier, we must mobilize. When someone sees him in a restaurant, we will gather at the front door and chant, "SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!" And at night, we will meet outside his house and play recordings of Alphonso shrieking from the pain of having Sheffield ripped from his loving hands, as we chant, "NO JUSTUS, NO SLEEP... NO JUSTUS, NO SLEEP!"

Big Yankee win last night. Can't we just enjoy it? 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Does "Hot" Exist?

One of the idiosyncrasies of baseball's long season is how much depends on when you play a team.  Are they banged up? On a roll? And what about your team? Hot or not?

Somebody with even more time on their hands than me should, someday, do a grand statistical analysis of how teams did when encountering "hot" or "not hot" teams, to see how that came out. They could come up with a gigantic algorithm to, well, predict baseball, previously thought to be impossible even by the greatest minds the game has produced.

The Red Sox right now are hot, which is one reason why they will sweep the Yanks handily in their own ballpark.

The Sox not only swept a pretty good Angels team, but took two of three from Seattle before that. Their pitching is perfectly aligned, and the only significant piece they're missing is the aging Dustin Pedroia, who has been out almost all season and much of last year anyway.

The Yanks' run production, by contrast, is in a month-long death spiral, and the team has significant injuries. Tanaka's hammies and Montgomery's likely career-ending TJ surgery are only the start of it.

It's hard to say exactly how banged up the team is, thanks to the Yanks' usual, paranoid secrecy that makes James Jesus Angleton seem like Jimmy Stewart by comparison. But Andujar, El Matador, is rumored to have a wrist injury, Gardy should definitely be on the DL already after not only hurting his leg but concussing himself against the wall in Philly, and while Judge has played well after jamming his thumb against the Mets, the big guy has hit only 3 homers since then and got another "rest" day in Philadelphia.

Bird's Limitless Potential has obviously not recovered from his last foot surgery, and while it may be addition-by-subtraction not to have to watch the sucking wound that is now Sanchez's game, the fact that Higgy will be behind the plate for a game this weekend gets us back to subtraction again.

Oh, and of course we will have to see Neil Walker get another start.

All that aside, though, hot or not, the fact remains that the Red Sox are simply a better ball club and a better organization.

First, it's a better balanced team.  The starting pitching is much, much deeper than the Yanks', which is critical now and will be especially critical in October.  I keep waiting for the bullpen, which I think is their big weak spot, to fall apart—but it doesn't.

All in all, the Sox score more runs than we do, 5.2-5.1; allow fewer runs, 3.67-3.76; commit fewer errors, 42-45; and steal more bases at a better rate, 60 in 73 attempts, as opposed to 33 in 45 attempts.

What's more, this is likely to be the case indefinitely.

Oh, I know that the Sox' minor-league cupboard is supposed to be bare, and Sports Illustrated, at least, thinks we have MLB's best combination of current roster and future prospects. But I believe that both those calculations are negated by Boston's superior front office, and superior coaching/management.

Dombrowski and the usual suspects up at Fenway have once again run rings around Coops, most of all by signing J.D. Martinez, a hitter light years better than Stanton. I have no idea if that's due to nature or juice, but on the field, Martinez is an all-around better bat, and when he wears out he will be gone, after his five-year contract ends.

We will still have Stanton for six more, insufferable years after that. I know, I know: I was all for the trade when it happened, and it's not like we gave up too much. But we could have developed or traded the kids, Devers and Guzman, and still dealt Castro for pitching. And...not been stuck with the  fifty-ton anchor contract of a highly streaky, one-dimensional player.

The Sox' ability to spin straw into gold also remains breathtaking. They outbid us for Moncada and then, when his development looked shaky at best, perceived that quickly enough to hand him off to the Pale Hose for the best pitcher in the league. Smart. And incidentally, anyone who thinks the Sox' farm system will not be far out ahead of ours again in about three years is sadly mistaken.

But Boston's superior front office is no revelation. What I find much more disheartening is our approach to instruction.

I don't know if it's our obeisance to the New Baseball—the idiotic, "Swing For the Fences But Don't Be Afraid to Take a Third Strike" approach we have adopted—or what. But the fact is that our players, especially our hitters, tend to quickly decline, while theirs get better.

The horrendous collapse of Gary Sanchez—and Jesus Montero before him—are only the most obvious examples. Didi is generally reverting to form, even Judge's numbers have slowly decreased, and Torres and Andujar are cooling off quicker than that cake with the green icing that Richard Harris left out in the MacArthur Park rain.

Contrast that to the progress made by Babe Benintendi and Mookie Betts. Even Jackie Bradley, Jr., has shown signs of life lately—just in time for us.

Fact is, our organization is sorely lacking in philosophy and instruction. We fill our players' heads with nonsense, and are utterly baffled when it comes to helping them adjust, once other teams have adjusted to them. What we're looking at is a great, lost chance for an incredible dynasty—sort of a general American theme these days.

With big-spending Boston in town, "Green Monster" has a new meaning

If you talk to a Boston fan this weekend, chances are they'll wax about how fulfilling it is to be watching another great Yankee-Redsock rivalry, just like the old days, way back when - you know, the way it used to be...

Phuk. Dat. Sheet. 

This is no throwback to a bygone era. Yeah, tonight begins a three-game set between Boston and New York - a war of clam chowders - but these blubbering, self-righteous fans of the big-spending Bosocks want it both ways: 

They're happy to root for a team that buys its way to the top, while they seek to relive some fantasy underdog status, rolling back to the daze when they were (in their minds, anyway) fighting the Evil Empire for the soul of baseball.

Fact is, the big-spending Redsocks have become everything their fans once detested. You can look it up. Boston sits atop the MLB shitpile with a staggering roster payroll of $242 million - that's $20 million more than the second highest franchise, the San Francisco Giants, and $50 million higher than the Cubs, who are third.

The Yankee team tonight will cost about $75 million less than its opponents. And that won't even include the $11 million-per-season Boston pays Rusney Castillo to patrol right field for Pawtucket. The guy is hitting .310 in Triple A - (last year, he hit .314) - but they will never let him see the lights of Boston, because they would have to pay luxury tax on his contract, which runs out in 2021. I wonder what he thinks of those heartwarming, underdog Redsocks?

Of course, they're still paying off the contracts of Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez and Allan Craig - 27 players in all, who have been released, traded or bought-out with movie money. Boston has pissed away cash at a historically unprecedented level, and yet this weekend, its fans will try to re-imagine themselves rooting for fuzzy-cheeked upstarts against some monstrous corporate machine. 

Last winter, Boston fans screamed like stuck pigs when Giancarlo Stanton - exercising options he'd earned from devoting eight years to the insufferably cheap Miami Marlins - nixed trades to equally Scrooge-like smaller markets and pushed to play on the grand stage of New York City. They yelped especially loudly because their Gammonitic sportswriters had spent most of November speculating on how Stanton would end up at Fenway. As soon as he became a Yankee, the outraged Boston fan base demanded a new toy, so the Redsocks went out and signed the most expensive free agent on the market, J.D. Martinez. And get this: The team and the fan base prided itself on holding the fiscal line with Martinez, paying him only $24 million per year. What a joke. 

Yesterday, the Green Monsters signed veterans Steve Pearce and Brandon Phillips, simply because, well, at a certain point, as the poet Bukowski once wrote, money is piss and the sparrow is immortal. 

So, this weekend, when some big-spending Boston fan starts pontificating romantically about how much this series reminds him or her of 2004, don't get caught in their slobbering delirium. This isn't then. Don't let them get away with ignoring the truth about what they have become.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

It Is 2016 All Over AgaIN

In 2016, if the Yankees did anything consistently, they would score 2 runs and go home.

If the other team scored more than two, early, we lost.  No comeback offense.  Just a lay-down.  You could tell how the Yankees were going to do early.  Game after game.

Last night, I got to see my first Yankee game on TV in three weeks.

The moment I saw that we had a line-up with Neal Walker, I knew trouble was at hand.  Then, I realize the starting battery is Gucci Cessa and That Higashioka person from Scranton.

I have never liked Cessa.  Not ever.  Not for an inning.

And the "kid" at catcher was the player for whom I predicted:  " he will never get a hit as a
Yankee. "  That prediction still holds, even though he hit well in spring training.

Cessa, per usual, used up close to 40 pitches in his first inning, and pretty much " doomed " us to a Tampa -style pitching event....use all the relievers for an inning or two.  He escaped that inning.

However, when I saw him put two on, with two out, in the bottom of the second, I sent the following to Mustang and Duque:

" Here comes a 3 run homer."  And there it came.

This erased any chance of Cessa fooling me and giving a decent, even if short, outing.

Then I watched a few Yankee hitters do nothing and said:

" If we win this game, with Neal Walker in the line-up, and with Cessa and Higashioka as our battery, I think we can go all the way.  But we won't."

After Cessa struck out, with two Yankees on base ( and the commentators saying how Cessa didn't look like an automatic out ), I could see the pattern.

After Andjuhar was left stranded I said:

'If you are still watching, you will see nothing.   A shut-out means we score no runs.  Double plays, pop-ups and strikeouts.  Why bother ?"

This was after the top of the third inning.  It drew no response from M or D.

This game had a 2016 feeling.  Where we had no hope.  Where we would and could do nothing.

It was a game where Boone decided not to compete.

I hope the rest was worth it.

This weekend, Apocalypse Now

It's time to see how the 2018 Yankees might look in October - and whether this team of rising celebrities has a sense of legacy. If we cannot win at least two out of three against Boston, earthquake alarms will blare across the megalopolis, and at least some evacuations will be likely. 

The horror, Mr. Cash, the horror... 

Some reasons... 

1. Well, duh, these are home games. Thus far on the season, against Boston, we are 3-3. We won't play them again until Aug. 2, a four-game set in Fenway.

If we lose this series, we'll go five weeks - through the trade deadline - at a distinct psychological disadvantage. They'll have beaten us at home. If we already worry about a face-lifting Brian Cashman trade, to lose this weekend will boost those horrors by 100 percent.

I imagine Cashman going full Martin Sheen in the hotel room, gulping hard liquor and smashing every mirror until the clubhouse is a wading pool of blood. Anybody could go. His carefully assembled, 2018 Yankee Super-Team of Destiny will have popped like a cheap balloon, and a month before Shark Week arrives, he will need a bigger boat. 

2. "All those little arms, sitting there in a pile..." That won't be Marlon Brando speaking; it'll be Aaron Boone. Boston plans to start three lefties - Rodriguez, Sale, Price - against our powerful RH lineup. Even without Gary Sanchez, we have Judge, Stanton, Torres, Andujar and Hicks - (why the hell is Clint Frazier back in Scranton?) Supposedly, the Yanks plan a roster move - maybe having Tyler Austin or Brandon Drury platoon with the hapless (and running out of time) Greg Bird. We should eat lefties for breakfast.

CC, who pitches Friday, has a 1.93 ERA in his last three starts. Eduardo Rodriguez, for the Redsocks, has been cuffed around (4.60). Okay, game two looks pretty bad - with Chris Sale facing the roller coaster ride known as Sonny Gray. But Sunday night, we have our ace, Luis Severino. And thanks to Gio Gallegos, our bullpen looks surprisingly rested. Boston plays the Angels tonight. Let's hope for a 16-inning slug-fest.

3. "Who's in charge here?" Good question. The hitters should be. Over his last seven games, Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .357. It's time for him to dominate a big series. Meanwhiile, Boston batters have been unbelievably hot. Over their last seven games, eight players - even Jackie Bradley Jr. - are hitting over .300. That can't last. They're due for an ice-down, right?

If Boston wins tonight, they'll come to New York atop the AL East. If they leave Sunday night, still in first - yes, there will still be an entire second half to play, and no, it won't be the end of the season - but they will be baseball's premier team. And the Yankees will be looking to improve. That usually causes an apocalypse, and Armageddon outahere.   

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

I'm Back. Get Used To It.

If any of you plan to travel to the abandoned factory areas of either Revere or Everett, Massachusetts, I have some eating and drinking establishments for you.

One spot must be the neighborhood "Cheers " of the former Singer plant locale, only with the absolute best bargain on fresh lobsters, steamers and pasta.  It its called Floramo's. And it is in Everett. A foot high draft of Stella was $3.  Lobster was $14 ( with choice of pasta and salad );  garlic bread $1.50; and steamers ( $8.95).

And the menu is huge ( ribs, haddock, anything your arteries and taste buds call out for), with great desserts as well.  I could live there.

Then, there is the breakfast joint for the workers in the few factories still operating.   Mostly, Brazilian.  And one cookie plant.  Breakfast choices are written on a blackboard in chalk, and you walk up steps right off the street and open a door to a different world.

Due to my pork-pie hat and gold bling, not to mention the rented black Cadillac parked outside, they assumed I was from ICE.  However, after I blurted out my order they stopped the suspicion.  No one from ICE likes hot sauce on his breakfast sandwich, or eats in a place that says, " cash only" on the door.

There is a Marina Bar on Revere Beech road ( guess which city?) that is equally good for lobsters and steamers, but is far more pricey.  However, the manhattans are exceptional.  No place to park, but you are allowed to improvise.

Shortly after two days of this vacation eating fun, I returned to my motel 8 and flipped on the Yankee game.  Only thing is;  I think it is a state law not to ever allow Yankee games on TV in Boston territory. So I had to watch, " List It or Blow it Up," which is a real estate show from Waco Texas, apparently on tv 24/7.

Luckily, I could still get play-by-play from Mustang ( and sometimes Duque ) on the I-phone.  Here is what I have concluded after the last three weeks of the season;

1.  Tampa Bay has our number.
2.  Chassen Shreve would be a toll collector on the Bay Bridge were he not left-handed.
3.  Bird has proven to be a huge disappointment, although I gather he has hit a single or two lately.
4.  Sanchez is having the worst year of his career.  Rather than practicing diligently in the off-season, he might be better off on a party boat.
5.  I read somewhere that he has been "great defensively," despite Mendoza-line hitting.  "Great defensively" for whom, is my question?
6.  Sorry he is injured, though.  He and Tanaka must have the same conditioning coach for running the bases.  The walrus hustle.
7.  The depth of the Yankee farm system, which earns high praise from numerous anonymous talking head cases, is barren with respect to catchers, first basemen and starting pitchers.  So there may be depth, but not balance.
8.  Duque is right to be cautious about growing optimism for German.  Remember that Severino was 1-9 or 0-9 in his first full season.
9.  Lasagne is still a mystery to me.  I have missed both of his games due to geography and lack of modern TV communications.  His stat line is great.  Yet, Duque thinks he has already logged too many innings.
10.  The trade is coming.  The only question is;  how bad will it be?
11.  Without the contribution of our rookies, we would be no where.
12.  I loved the video" clips" of Betances and Servy swinging the bat.  I would imitate Stan Musial, myself.

See you in Philly.

Riding high in April, shot down in May... what do we make of Didi's wild ride?

Yankee hitters, last 30 days
Let's agree: It was just a dream, that's all... Sir Didi's disastrous month of May. It was not The End. It was not the puncturing of his balloon, the collapse of his testicle, or a Dark Horseman of Doom. Yeah, it was a deep hole, a full-scale nightmare, but - fingers crossed - it's over.

It was the worst month of Didi's career, (.149) which happened to follow the best month of his career (.330). It was a market correction... karma, a meta-mathematical sequence, a plate of bad clams - with pitchers dispatching him in the way that the waitress made short work of Sarah Huckabee Sanders' order of linguine with clams - and it had nothing to do with the delirious tribal reality that is the 2018 Yankees.

But think about it: One month, Didi is the best hitter in baseball. The next, he is damn near the worst. Then, over the last 30 days - as shown on the right - he is hitting a nice .313. Damn.

Overall, the numbers show Didi Gregorius hitting .259 with 15 HRs and 43 RBIs, which should miss the AL all-star team. (Manny Machado would start at SS, followed by Francisco Lindor.) He is third on the Yankees in RBIs, in part due to  his left-right sandwich between Judge and Stanton in the order. (As long as Greg Bird struggles, Didi will own that spot.) But seriously, folks, WTF happened in May? And can it, gulp, happen again? 

Some theories:

1. Actually, nothing happened. It was the law of averages. What comes up, must come down. He is not a .330 hitter, so the universe stepped in.

2. He got homer-happy. At one point, finding himself among the league leaders, he went full Grandyman and started swinging for the fences. It happens often on the Yankees - (see Tyler Austin and Gary Sanchez) - and especially to lefties who decide to pull everything east of the Hudson. (See Bird.)

3. The pitchers adjusted, and he didn't. Again, this happens all the time. If this is the culprit, Didi has readjusted, and another phase may soon come.

4. It was the Curse of Jeter. Remember Jeet's terrible slump, that spring when it seemed like he would never again get a base hit? Maybe it's just part of being the Yankee shortstop.

5. Didi became secretly flustered when he was moved up to third in the batting order. This is my theory: Once he assumed that mantle of the traditional marquee hitter, he subtly changed his style, thinking he needed to be somebody else. That messed him up.  

Whatever the reason, I don't think Didi will experience another dead month like May. (I say this, because slumps are surely out there, laying in wait for Gleyber and Andujar.) He's down to have a regular Didi season - 25-30 home runs, maybe hit .280. We'll take it. Because let me state this here, for everyone to read and contemplate:

Didi Gregorius is the pride of the New York fucking Yankees. 

No other player matters as much. Nobody. And May was just a dream.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Loaisiga looks too impressive to go unprotected

After a game like last night, the Yankiverse experiences a false sense of serenity. Jonathan Loaisiga pitched like the Second Coming of Greg Maddox, so suddenly, all problems seem to have vanished. We're drowning in starters, with Masahiro Tanaka on the verge of a Scranton rehab.

To top it off, there is the Tampa model to consider. Watching the Yanks being throttled by mini-waves of relievers, you have to wonder if our own bullpen could not win in a pinch? Imagine a Betances-Warren-Robertson-Holder-El Chapo progression - ditch Chasen Shreve - and you could steal a game. Burn bullpen, instead of rotation, right? Arms are arms, eh? 

Listen: The dog days are near, and the Empire must be exceedingly careful with Loiasiga. Last night, he made it look easy - maybe too easy. Rookie starters are prone to be erratic; we still don't know which Domingo German will show up on a given night. Right now, for better or worse, most of our rotation is amazingly on track with last year's workload.

Luis Severino, 104 innings, 2.24 ERA (Last year: 191 innings, 2.98) On track.

CC Sabathia, 76 innings, 3.14 ERA (Last year: 148 innings, 3.69) On track.
Masahiro Tanaka, 72 innings, 4.58 ERA (Last year: 178 innings, 4.74) On track.

Sonny Gray, 80 innings, 4.93 ERA (Last year: 162 innings, 3.55) On track.
Domingo German, 63 innings, 5.40 ERA (Last year: 111 innings, 3.16 in minors & majors) On track.
Jonathan Loaisiga: 14 innings, 1.93 ERA - (45 innings in 2018, counting minors.) (Last year: 32 innings, 1.93, in minors) Seriously overworked. 

As you see, I've flagged the inconsistency. It's a ridiculous leap of faith to think Loaisiga can pitch deep into August or September. He may look like a young Mariano, but Sam Mittello might be the better comparison. He'll soon log the most innings since 2013, when he pitched in Single A for the Giants, and threw 68. He is a stopgap at best, unless we burn him out, which would be unforgivable. With stuff like that, he has to be protected.    

So... what do we do? Well, as a parlor game, here is the current five-man in Scranton.

Justus Sheffield, 38 innings, 3.26 ERA
Josh Rogers, 86 innings, 3.32 ERA
Nestor Cortez, 44 innings, 4.23 ERA
David Hale, 50 innings, 4.26 ERA
Chance Adams, 65 innings, 5.21 ERA

Help on the way? I dunno. Sheffield is the big name. Rogers could throw some innings. Chance Adams has been awful. Cortez has interesting stuff; we nearly lost him in last December's Rule 5 draft. Hale is Scranton's version of AJ Cole.

Here's the reality: Brian Cashman will be searching the scrap piles for this year's Jamie Garcia, a journeyman tin can who won't cost much. From the bleacher seats, we'd rather see Sheffield, someone who inspires hope. That's not Cashman's style. Remember:

Bird gotta fly,
Fish gotta swim;
Cashman gotta think,
"Trade for 

No matter how you slice it, a trade is coming. The Yankees need a sixth starter, a bullpen lefty, and maybe a backup catcher. Jonny Lasagna is too promising to be thrown into a grinder. Hold your breath, folks.  

Monday, June 25, 2018

McBroomed in Tampa. Who are the 2018 Yankees?

The plan was to put some space between us and Boston, so a series win next week could put us permanently in charge of the AL East. So much for that. The only separation we're going to see will be with Chasen Shreve, who cannot do squat, and Gary Sanchez, who cannot squat.

But we're about to learn the truth about the 2018 Yankees. It's one thing to have a power-packed lineup that scores boatloads of runs, and which can practically phone-in a slot in the post-season Wild Card game. It's another to win a pennant race and launch a future Yankee dynasty.

We've spent the last three months touting our depth throughout the farm system, almost begging for an outfielder to tweak something, so we could show off Clint Frazier or Brandon Drury. Now, we're looking at a month of Austin Romine, while we relearn how to spell Kyle Higashioka, whose bat - nonexistent last year in NY - had utterly disappeared in Scranton (.196 for the year.) Suddenly, our rotation is cracked, and we're struggling to score runs... all this, as the pivotal Boston series nears.

Swept in Tampa. How the fuck does that happen? Well, nobody hits with runners on base... that's how. But before this, our last clunker series came against the Rangers, which - like the Rays - were already preparing to tank on the season. The Yankees rolled in, expecting some laughers, and limped away like Gary Sanchez, with their nut sacks on ice.

After the Texas series, the Yankees went 12-3, ripping through the Angels, Astros and Orioles. Maybe they needed to be embarrassed, pushed to the wall. Maybe they just got lucky. We will soon see who the 2018 Yankees really are. We are no longer a super team full of big bats. We are a team that is finally tasting its own blood. And soon, Boston will be knocking.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Picking Up the Wreckage

First off, granted: the Rays' Idiot Dome and their whole franchise is a disgrace.

I'd say somebody's going to get hurt playing down there, but somebody already did:  our catcher.

I never like to see a player get injured. But if Gary Sanchez WAS going to tweak a gonad grounding into yet another double-play, well, best he do it just now, when he was stuck in a deep, dark hole and industriously burrowing toward the earth's core.

It will likely give him some time to rest and relax, and get in a better head—and it WOULD give a crackerjack GM time to set up his trade to Miami for Realmuto, assuming we had such a crackerjack GM.

We don't, of course, which is why we are a modern, major-league franchise without a LOOGY. How can that happen?

I have to give Coops Cashman more props than I thought ever possible for getting the team this far. But as I feared, he is simply not the closer GM needed to take it over the top—a fact that will likely be confirmed before long by some absolutely asinine deal for Happ or Hapless. As if pretty much the whole last month of the Yankees' season has not illustrated that that should be about the last item on our to-do list.

Item one, of course, is to stuff Neil Walker into the pod bay, with Shreve to follow.

Item two is to bring up Drury and maybe even give him a shot at second, with the Gleyber at short.

I love our Flying Dutchman, and his numbers are better this last month now, but the truth is Didi is still awful in the clutch, and losing power faster than Jimmy Carter after they took the hostages in Teheran.

Which leads us to Item three: what IS it with this lineup?

I mean, remember 1961, back when Mantle and Maris, the M & M Boys, hit all those glorious home runs...sandwiched around Tony Kubek in the lineup?  No?

This is roughly what we're doing now. You maximize power by massing power hitters together, not by sprinkling them around the lineup. It forces pitchers to pitch to them, not around them.

When we first got Stanton, the idea was that we could stick Bird's Limitless Potential between him and Judge, and thereby stop the march of specialty relievers. But as we've seen, BLP is likely to manifest itself maybe sometime around the Great North America World Cup.

Right now, we need to stop the nonsense, and stick our big two back-to-back. Put the Gold Dust Twins, our wonderful infield rookies, out in front of them, and Frazier behind them. The rest of this woebegone lineup you can shake well and let float to the bottom in any order you so desire.

As Expected...

...the great McBroom:

Oh, Ma!

As readers of this space can attest, I have been all dewy eyed about our new manager, Ma Boone, from the start.

But I have to say, even Ma strains my patience with what have now become his almost daily efforts to rewrite the past, and celebrate the New Baseball.

Here, for instance, is part of the Yankees' hitting strategy that is working so wonderfully well, as described by Billywitz in the Times:  "Don't swing at a pitch unless you think it's a strike, even if it is a borderline pitch, even if it comes with two strikes. Yes, there might be some painful called third strikes, but over the course of 162 games, the benefits will largely outweigh the costs."

"The goal is to get on base and break the dam," Ma is reported as saying.  "The reward for getting on there versus swinging at a pitcher's pitch that you're not going to do anything with is a win if you have the discipline to lay off.  And it takes courage, because you're going to get rung up on a borderline pitch or maybe a pitch just off every now and then."


I just love these efforts to chuck about 150 years of baseball down the memory hole.

Swing or don't swing, those are the only choices, right?

Nope, nobody's ever heard of anything like "spoiling" a borderline pitch with two strikes on you, fouling off balls until the pitcher throws one that's a tad more hittable. Nope, never happened, the Ministry of Truth has declared that you imagined it.

Nor has anyone ever tried shortening their stroke, or going with the pitch on a two-strike count. Sorry, you dreamed that, too. And OF COURSE the role of all ballplayers, at all times, is to "get on base and break the dam."

You get on base by always going for the home run, and refusing to make any compromises with the situation. You take the strike, or you swing for the fences, and don't be embarrassed by the embarrassing results!

No contradiction here, none whatsoever!

And really, no one has a different role. You want your biggest power hitters and RBI men to be taking every at-bat just like the guys who specialize on getting on base and setting the table, so that ultimately the runs are driven in by...well, somebody, somewhere.  Someday.

Even worse, though, was Ma Boone claiming that while Aaron Judge, at least, might get punched out more than he deserved because of his ginormous strike zone, it wasn't up to him, the manager, to interfere in that.

Oh, he might ride the umps a little from the bench. But as for doing anything else to keep the men in blue honest, well, "each player would have to do it in his own way."

Sorry, Ma—it just doesn't work that way.

The umps are always going to have trouble judging the Judge's strike zone, especially with so many pitchers throwing harder than ever. Moreover, Judge is by personality a gentle giant, and you don't want your best player getting on the bad side of the umps in any case.

It's up to you, Ma, to man up, put on your best Billy Martin face, and go out there and ream them out after every terrible called third strike. Only when you do that—only when you give each and every home plate arbiter your meanest, nastiest, cap-turned-backwards, spittle-flecking verbal beat down—will you embarrass them enough into paying attention.

It's you who must put the thought in the back of their heads, "Hey, if I don't call this right, a rabid badger is going to emerge from the Yankees' dugout and attach himself to my leg in such a way that it will make all the ESPN highlights for the next two days. Along with the replay showing how badly I blew the call."

That's your job, Ma. Stop pretending it went out with Earl Weaver.

Happy Sunday Fun Day Pak!

Hey kids! Here is your special, Sunday Supplement, Yankees Happy Sunday Fun Day Pak!

Fun Fact: Did you know that The New York Times has run 183 articles about Soccer this year, but only 123 about the Yankees????

Pop Yankees Quiz:

Yesterday, the Yankees scored more often than which one of these teams competing in the World Cup of Soccer, the world's lowest scoring sport:

A) Belgium
B) Tunisia
C) Sweden
D) Germany
E) Mexico
F) South Korea

Answer: It's a trick question! ALL of the soccer teams in action scored more than the Yankees.

Fun Fact: Did you know that in 23 states, Sonny Gray is officially a midget? Only special camera angles make it possible for him to be seen above the mound!

WORD JUMBLE: Find the secret magic phrase hidden in the following Word Jumble:


Got it kids?? Okay, here's another one:


And here is one more, for all of you top puzzle solvers:


Good luck!

Pop Yankees Quiz II:

Name all of the Yankees' coaches!

Answer: It's another trick question! The Yankees actually don't employ ANY coaches, which is why every single player who comes to the team gets steadily worse as long as he plays for them.

Be sure to come back next week, when we'll have another Happy Sunday Fun Day Pak in which we review J.A. Happ's first Yankees start against Boston! Stay away from those Tide pods!

For a system loaded with talent, the Yankees have few options after Greg Bird

Yesterday, Greg Bird had a decent game, relatively speaking: He went 0-2 with a walk. He only struck out once.

In 92 at bats this year, he is hitting .198 with 26 Ks and 16 hits. 

In his three year MLB career, Bird has yet to come to bat 200 times in a season, and unless he starts hitting, that could become his lasting legacy. I don't claim to be a scout, but the guy looks frightened at the plate, swinging behind fastballs and through curves. Were it anybody else, he'd be in Scranton. But Bird, at 25, will surely get at least until the All Star break to figure out MLB pitchers. Frankly, the Yankees have nobody else.

In recent years, a Florida sinkhole at first base has become the Yankee norm. Last season, they traded for Garrett Cooper, the lion of the Pacific Coast League, and even tried the portly Gi-Man Choi for while, while Bird recuperated from what we then assumed would be his final foot injury. Then, in spring training, his dog started barking again.

Now, he's once again recovering, slowly, with the Yankees surely beginning to wonder what they'll have when he's fully healed. If Bird doesn't hit, or just keeps getting hurt, what can they do? Not much. Here are the options.

1. Drop him in the batting order. Originally this season, he was earmarked to bat third. Yesterday, he hit sixth. He could probably fall to eighth.

2. Bring up Tyler Austin and have the two platoon. Austin has heated up in Scranton, but the most recent memories of his MLB at bats were not pleasant; he seemed to collapse before our eyes. 

3. Use Neil Walker. Statistically, we would gain one point in batting average. (Walker is hitting .197.) During the big winning streak of May, Walker had some nice games, but now he seems to fallen back to nothing. Yesterday, he failed to advance a runner on second with no outs; it was the type of situational hitting you want from a veteran, and he didn't come through. Walker is still a valuable utility man, but he sure doesn't look like a full-time option at first.

4. Use Austin Romine. This seems like a way to destroy Romine, a great backup catcher, while gaining next to nothing.

5. Trade for Garrett Cooper or Gi-Man Choi. (Or bring up Ryan McBroom, whom the Yankees hope not to see this weekend in Tampa.)

6. Just play Bird, view him as a defensive specialist, and hope for the best.

Right now, number six looks like the best option. But the clock is starting to tick on Bird. You can't be a prospect forever.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Casey Sez: Time for a Platoon!

If you'd told all the Knights of the Press Box before the season began that two guys in the Yankees' lineup were hitting in the .190s, they'd have nodded their ink-stained chins sagely and said, 'See? We told you that you can't have two rookies starting at the same time for a contending team.'

Needless to say—but I'll say it anyway, dammit!—it's the rookies who have kept the floundering offense afloat, while the sub-Mendozas are men already considered to be established rocks of our rebuilt dynasty-to-be, Greg "Bird Legs" Bird" and the ever-mysterious Gary Sanchez.'s time to ask ourselves, as we always should:  WWCD?  What would Casey do?

The answer, I think, as it so often was for Casey: platoon.

Take a look at the splits. In their fairly short careers, neither player has seemed platoon worthy. Bird, lifetime, is actually somewhat better at hitting lefties than righties:  .226/.353/.429/.782 vs. southpaws, as opposed to .219/.299/.472/.771 against righties.

But THIS season...oy vey.

For 2018, Bird is a (not hardly) respectable .224/.268/.478/.745 versus those who throw from the starboard side, while just a sub-sub-Mendoza, .071/.381/.071/.452 vs. lefties.

Now granted, Bird's performance against southpaws this year is based on a very small sample size, just 21 plate appearances, mainly because Ma Boone has usually preferred to play someone else, such as Tyler Austin, against lefties.

But with Tyler back in Scranton, what does that leave us? More Neil Walker at-bats? Ryan McBroom??

Well, how about Sanchez?

Lifetime, Sancho has performed almost as well against righties as lefties, .266/.335/.531/.866 as against .243/.346/.546/.892. But this year...not so much.

In 2018, Sanchez is a very decent .255/.388/.564/.952 against lefties, but an atrocious, .174/.259/.401/.660 against righties.

So—why not platoon Sanchez and Bird at first? This will spare us what The WinWarblist would call Sanchez's suppurating defense behind the plate. He could spell Romine once or twice a week, to be sure; maybe, if a lefty is going that day, we could try slotting Stanton in at first, as a start on were he will inevitably play part of his endless contract.

Just looking for some way to halt our ever-decreasing production...

Ellsbury is alive

Previously on "Frozen Rope:"

[RANDY to corporate board room filled with executives]: Gentlemen, we now own Omega Corp and all its - well - secrets.
[HOMELESS MAN to CASH in alley]: You don't know, do you? You just don't know...

[GENNIFER opens door, gasps]: But... but... you're DEAD! I SAW THEM KILL YOU...!

Cue opening theme...

It's only a TV show. It's only a TV show. Keep repeating... 

Jacoby Ellsbury visited the Yankee clubhouse in Tampa last night and told reporters he's almost ready to start his new life as an extra in The Walking Dead. He will rehab the plague of tweaks, sprains and viral infections that have made him, well, Jacoby fucking Ellsbury. He's back. The ocean liner sank; he swam ashore. The plane crashed; he landed in a tree. Like a ghost from Hell, he's come back to demand his rightful position in the Yankee pantheon. 

Let's figure that he'll start active play in two weeks. He'll play in Florida against the high-schoolers, then accept a 20-day rehab assignment with Trenton or Scranton. The clock will be ticking. By Aug. 1, he could be rattling his chains on the front stoop. On Sept. 11, he'll turn 35.

Listen: He'll probably poop his liver while swinging on the on-deck circle. But if Ellsbury does return, or even looks close to returning, it will ratchet up pressure on Cashman to trade Clint Frazier or Billy McKinney for a rag arm pitcher. 

Two things:

1. Nobody will take Ellsbury in a trade. So, forget that.

2. In his 11 seasons, he's never once played first base, in case you were starting to worry about Greg Bird.

Imagine: Entering the dog days of July and August, with a freight train of rained outs to be replayed, we have a career .284 hitter ready to return... and it could set up a crisis. We thought he was dead. But on TV, nobody ever dies.

Back to the Future

Ma Boone is offended. The most amenable manager in the major leagues suddenly took exception in his postgame press conference after the Yanks' win over Seattle on Thursday.

Asked one of the beat writers' usual, annoyingly framed questions, something like, "What do you say to people who say your team can only score on two-run homers?"—because actually asking directly, "Geez, skip, it seems like if you don't hit two-run dingers nobody does nuthin'" would be such an appalling violation of the elaborate kabuki ceremony that now prevails in writer-manager relations that everyone involved would be forced to commit hara kiri—Boone decided, well, heck yeah, he really was "offended."

He went on to give a rambling defense of the Yanks' home-run-or-nothin' offensive plan, which amounted essentially to, "Hey, if someone like Verlander is shutting everybody down, you think going for two-run homers is going to hurt?"


Like any fanatical new ideology, the most annoying thing about the New Baseball is that it demands that we pretend the past never existed. That there never was such a thing as "not trying to do too much," or "going with what the pitcher gives you."

That somehow it isn't true that, long ago, players realized you just can't pull everything, no matter how nice that would be. And that somehow a baseball lifer such as Ma—who is also the son, grandson, and brother of other baseball lifers—doesn't understand this.


The trouble is not beating Justin Verlander when he's on, which nobody's going to do in any case. The trouble is what the truly dreadful Tampa Bay Rays did tonight.

It is putting a seemingly random selection of six meh pitchers out on the mound in no particular order.

It is, God help us, the future.

In the New Baseball, pitching will become completely situational, with hitters facing all kinds of different hurlers, at any given time in the game—maybe with what used to be a closer starting the game.

The problem isn't Verlander. The problem is Joe Anyarm, popping up at any moment, to throw his specialty pitch.

To try to take all those guys deep, in exactly the same way, is to end up with stretches like the past two days:  one awesome first inning against Seattle, followed by 14 consecutive goose eggs, and a single run tonight.  With a lineup that, as usual, includes two regulars batting under .200.

Cut it any way you want, the irreducible truth is this: the more situational pitching becomes, the more situational hitting will have to become, with professional hitters sizing up what they may be given at any time, and hitting it where they can, not where they want to.

They will, in other words, have to hit the way batters did back when Ma Boone's dad and grandad and brother were playing. Not to mention his own self.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Clint Frazier: Let's Rent to Own

Duque wrote:

If the Yankees trade Frazier for a three-month rental on a rusty tin can, I will deny said rusty tin can all personal juju throughout 2018.
Who's with me? 
I'm in.

To expand on Duque's points, we need Frazier to replace Gardner when Gardner isn't re-signed after this year.  For cryin' out loud: Who would be better to replace Gardner than Frazier?

We call someone who's in his walk year who's brought in to help win a World Series a "rental".  If we trade Frazier now, while Gardner is in his walk year, it would be the photo-negative of a rental.  At the risk of belaboring the obvious, when Gardner leaves at the end of the year, who would be better than Frazier to replace him?

[Ahem.  Frazier would also be less expensive than anyone else out there, Hal.]

Even if Frazier plays the rest of the year as a Rail Rider I'm fine with that.  Frazier might not agree with this arrangement, but I'll pretend he's our own home-grown rental ... something like a rent-to-own.

Here's my personal challenge to Brian Cashman: Take the money remaining in the budget that allows us to slip under the salary cap ($10-11 million if I recall), throw in a few Single A or maybe AA players that someone might want -- you can even let them choose -- and get us the best possible pitcher for that asking price.  That's all.  If there are no takers, so be it.  If that gets us another Sonny Gray, so be it.  But this approach will prevent us from amputating something we really and truly need.

Someday soon, the luxury tax will expire.  When that happens, yes Mr. Cashman, please spend whopping amounts of Hal's cash on a pitcher.  Shoot, you can even buy two good ones like in 2009 when you brought in Sabathia and Burnett all in the same off-season.  Please remember what happened the year an unfettered budget allowed you to do that.

Watching what we have is fun.  Let's keep what we have.  We can wait a year.

The bonus is: I'm not even 100% sure we'll have to wait.

An open juju death threat to the Yankees

Yesterday, batting lead-off, Clint Frazier went 2 for 4 with a run, lifting his average to .368. But who cares? He's come to bat only 19 times in 2018, so all numbers are music-less jazzercise. 

Thus, let's ignore his .302 average at Scranton, with 8 home runs in 164 at bats, which belied his recovery from a dark spring concussion that, at one point, had him unable to recite the names of his pets. The kid - he's just 23 - recovered from a bloody hell.

Moreover, let's ignore that "Red Thunder" played CF yesterday, a sign of how speed has become part of his game. He stole six bases at Triple A, and the other night legged a single into a crucial double. Two years ago, when the Yankees obtained him for Andrew Miller, he was jacked like an East German lady weight-lifter, a future DH. Now, he roams center-field.

But maybe not for long.

Frazier played yesterday because Brett Gardner's knee is barking and a wicked lefty was pitching for Seattle. He'll probably play this weekend, because the Yanks won't subject Gardy's knee to Tampa's fake turf pavement. He could conceivably stick through the Philadelphia series; the Yanks might need a pinch-hitter. By the time Boston arrives, unless he's still hitting .360, Frazier will probably be headed back to Scranton... or, gulp, a bigger city.

I cannot ditch the feeling that the Yankees are showcasing Frazier the way a Kardashian teases her jungle theme park while emerging from a cab. (Last night, in Scranton, they played Billy McKinney in CF, another showcase.) Of the MLB-ready prospects in the Yankee farms, Frazier has the highest long term ceiling and the worst short-term hope. McKinney and Brandon Drury are worth noting, but neither matches Frazier.  

I don't know what will happen with Frazier, but the idea of trading him for J.A. Happ or Cole Hamels makes me violently ill. If the Yankees do such a thing, I would probably find myself rooting against those players, hoping they get pounded, just to embarrass the front office. I know that's unreasonable. I understand the paramount need for pitching. I get it that the Yankees would need to be "all-in" for 2018. But out of the blocks, I would hate those pitchers with a passion hotter than a billion suns. That's the truth, folks. 

If the Yankees trade Frazier for a three-month rental on a rusty tin can, I will deny said rusty tin can all personal juju throughout 2018.

Who's with me?


Hello Sandy, Hello Freddie

Yesterday, Joel "Allan" Sherman, chief dealmaker for the New York Post, informed us that, "If I ran the Yankees...I would call the Mets and say, 'You can't have Gleyber Torres. Take any other four prospects for Jacob deGrom.' "

The four "prospects" he suggests are Andujar, El Matador; Estevan Florial, Justus Sheffield, "and take your pick of one of the Yankees' many power righty arms lower down from among Freicer Perez, Domingo Acevedo, Clarke Schmidt, and Trevor Stephan."

With deGrom, sez Sherman, the Yanks' "chances of winning one of the next three World Series—maybe even two of them—would soar."

Wow, think of that: we might win the World Series!  Sort of sends shivers up your spine.

Now, Sherman does allow that deGrom is "a starter who turned 30 this week and already has endured Tommy John surgery," and that the Yanks "might win one of the next three World Series even without deGrom."

Barring such a trade, Sherman suggest the Yanks go after Happ or Hapless, or even Steven Matz. He thinks that maybe, oh, Brandon Drury, Tyler Wade, Chance Adams, and Tommy Kahnle should be enough to bring in Matz.

Well, I thought we should maybe channel the late great Allan Sherman himself, to see how such a phone call from Cashman might go:

"Hello Sandy, Hello Freddie
Here I am, sittin' pretty
But I know you're not so happy
So I should give you half our team and make it snappy.

We're in first place
You're in fourth place
We should help you win some ballgames
Maybe you could help us file some health insurance claims.

Your best pitcher, he looks o-kay
But if we get him he'll go all Gray
Trade for Matz? You must be tripping
It's another kind of Bird that we'll be flipping.

Gotta go now, it's been pleasant
But you won't get some big present
We're trying to get to the Fall Classic
If you stay ahead of Miami it'll be fantastic."

Quick Quiz!

All right, all you kids playing at home, what do these years have in common:


The clock is ticking, all you Yankee Juniors!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

That was a big Yankee win.


That was a big Yankee win.

"Walkero delenda est!"

Back a couple years before my time, it was recorded that after the Second Punic War, Cato the Elder began ending his every speech before the Roman Senate with the phrase, "Carthago delenda est!"

That is, "Carthage must be destroyed!"

He would say this even when his whole speech had been about something else, and everybody in Rome had just had a perfectly nice day, still buzzing over how their favorite javelin-and-net guy had scored an amazing comeback win over that hammer-wielding Thracian in the gladiatorial games the day before.

Cato may have been elder, but he wasn't stupid. He saw that the looming problem for Rome had not gone away.

Thus, on the morning of a daytime away game when a certain Neil "Larry" Walker is likely to play, I can only repeat:

"Walkero delenda est!"

All right, "destroyed" may be a bit harsh.  Anyone know the ancient Latin for, "Walker must be heaped with riches and sent politely on his way"?

Also, in fairness, it's not like Walker is trying to destroy us.  It more like Hannibal had led his elephants over the alps...and then just hung around for months on one of those eating divans the Romans had.

"Great Zeus, Hannibal, have you seen these provender charges???"

"Yeah, well, you know elephants always love seconds. Oh, and Jumbo is sorry about that rare Etruscan vase. But, hey, he's a pachyderm, and they don't know an Etruscan from a toucan. Meanwhile, how is it you folks can make wine like this, anyway? I know, I know:  just plant some vines and then wait four hundred years! How about another goblet full, maybe a little less water this time? And some more of those figs? Wait, what are you doing with that javelin—"

You get the picture. Time for Neil to go back over the Alps from whence he came.

Last night, YES proclaimed it Giancarlo's "Yankee Coming Out" moment, but we've been here before

Last night belonged to Giancarlo Stanton. Sorta.

His homer won the game, the Gatorade shower, the Ted Talk with Meredith, the keys to Randy Levine's antique K-Car, the authentic Derek Jeter overnight gift basket, Alphonso's lucky nickel and the NY Post back page. (WTF with the Daily News? How does Stanton NOT get the back page? The Knicks? Are you kidding me? Trump is right: "Faaaaaaaaaake news! Animals!")

But this is not the first time the Loyal Order of the Gammonites (NYC Post) has bestowed Eternal Yankeehood upon Stanton. On opening day in Toronto, his two home runs were supposed to usher in the new era. Then, over the next 11 games, we went 5-6, and he contributed the phrase "Platinum Sombrero" to the lexicon. 

On May 2, his two homers drove in all the runs in a 4-0 victory over mighty Houston, which was also quickly christened as his "Giambi grand slam moment." His average steadily climbed to .260, rousing stories that he was on par with last year's MVP season. Then he exhaled, dropping to .240 and again hearing hometown boos. 

So was last night - at last - his long awaited Hulk Smash rampage? Is this the point where he clobbers opposing staffs, wins a Player of the Month award and establishes himself permanently in the Number 3 slot of the order? 

Why are you looking at me? I sure dunno.

But I do know this: Stanton's problem is expectations. The guy hit 59 homers last year. Anything less than 40, he's a bum. And frankly, the reason last night became such a party was that nobody felt expectations anymore: Fans are so conditioned to watch strikeouts and popups that, with two outs and two strikes, who expected a walk-off blast? Not me. That I can tell you.

Listen: Stanton is quietly having a half-way decent year for anybody who never won an MVP award. Was night night his Yankee awakening? Let's remain skeptical. We won a big game - Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez had big hits too - and we've taken the series from Seattle. As for Giancarlo, it's time to string some big games together, not have one per month. The Boston series is just a few weeks away. Maybe that's when we'll see what we've got.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Knights of the Press Box

As our Peerless Leader has astutely noticed, even the likes of Allan, sorry, Joel Sherman are coming around to the idea of Winning With Youth!

But confusion still reigns. The Post was also just advocating that the Yanks deal away some of their "unbelievable depth" for some mutt starter. Then, on SNY's Sportsnite last night, the usual suspects were singing the praises of Aaron Hicks, suddenly transformed into an "incredible, all-around player," who is all but the second coming of Willie Mays.

I might put this down to Mets Derangement Syndrome.  A cry is now going up in Queens to bring up Tim Tebow, whom, in comparison to, I guess Hicks does indeed look like Mays.

Truth is, "incredible depth" is how you win.  We must stay reluctant to deal away for Neil Walker, of course. Ignore them all.

Of course, at the reigns.

Our score is now Soccer 160, Yankees 120.

The Times is running 5-8 articles A DAY on The Sport With No Hands.

Hey, at least they don't give us silly trade ideas.

After a statement win over Seattle, more calls to stand pat

The world must be ending, the asteroid closing in. Horde canned food. Buy guns and Kevlar. If you've got a shovel, start digging. The end is near. That's the only way to explain this...  

Today, in the Murdoch-owned Post, Joel Sherman actually bucks the Illuminati Gammonite Secret World Command Orthodoxy, which requires the Yankees to soon bundle their best prospects for the likes of some rented tin can, such as J.A. Happ or Cole Hamels - or as I like to think of them, Happ and Hapless. In a breathtaking dissertation, which suggests that free will can still defeat predestination, Sherman argues that the Yankees actually do not have to do what the rest of baseball wants, and mortgage their future for twice-blown Goodyear retread:

In the 52 games since the team’s shaky 9-9 outset to the season, the rotation has a 3.38 ERA (sixth best in the majors). Over the past 21 games it is 2.77, second best. That latter result was produced without Montgomery and mostly without Tanaka, but with German sure looking more and more like a trustworthy starter.

To the rest of baseball, such words are terrifying. In the forums and sport sections across the nation, the great summer parlor game is to rate the top Yankee prospects, and then draw lines through each name as it sails off to Oakland or San Diego for the next Jaime Garcia. You can hear them plotting merrily: Domingo German, Jonathan Loiasiga and Clint Frazier for Happ? SOLD! Brandon Drury, Tyler Wade and Justus Sheffield for Lance Lynn? MAKE IT SO! 

But what if it doesn't happen? One of the greatest general managers of all time, Pat Gillick, built the Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners and Phillies, and was named to the Hall of Fame in 2011. Gillick was nicknamed "Stand Pat," because he refused to sacrifice vast sections of the future for an August-September sugar high. He made his trades in December or January, when teams were equal, and not in the frenzy of a pennant race, when sellers hold all the bargaining power.

Of course, the Yankees are staring into the cold teeth of Houston's rotation, headed by Jason Verlander, last year's great future-dump trade acquisition. For sure, Verlander is formidable. But in September, he'll be four months from age 36 and another 100 innings into the 2018 season. Old arms break down. We'll see.

Today. Fangraphs has a piece on what they're calling the Yankees Player Development Machine. In our lives, has anyone ever so defined the Yankees? It describes a farm system with a great success rate in finding and developing pitchers. It's a story that will scare the crap out of anyone from Boston, where the Redsocks find themselves in a $230 million payroll hole and nobody young to trade.

Tonight, Loiasiga takes the mound for his second MLB start. Generally, the thing with rookies is consistency; they have none. They look good one day, get hammered the next. Loiasiga shows an unnatural maturity for his age, but he's still a rookie. And tonight, he could be holding back the dike on a flood of trades that could define the Yankee future. Just imagine... a young lineup AND a young rotation. The world must be ending. That's the only way to explain it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

In a sweet equilibrium, the 2018 Yankees are chasing their own history

It is the way of Yankee fans to see every grain of brown rice as a possible mouse turd. That is, we can be winning 10-2, but if Jorge Posada hits into a bases-loaded DP, it fucking ruins our whole night. So be it. Mariner fans can rejoice over a well-played game. We want beat-downs. We want history.

We yearn for the team where every hitter is hot, and every pitcher lights-out. We want 1927, or 1950, or 1961, or 1978, or 1998... teams that arrive once in a generation and bring joyous memories that will last the rest of our lives.

This might be such a team. 

If you look at 15 to 20 year cycles, the franchise is - like Yellowstone - slightly overdue. 

And the best indication - despite our love of negativity - is how the 2018 team has avoided dark slumps. The above chart shows Yankee hitters over the last seven games, a period in which the team scored roughly four runs per game.

As you see, three players - Didi, Stanton and Judge - carried us. Didi and Stanton had previously been slumping. (Since opening day, Judge remains the most consistent Yankee, yet another sign of his ascending greatness.) Meanwhile, Gardy and Andujar - two previously hot hitters - went into the crapper. (Gary Sanchez has been cold now for a distressing period, but he might be breaking out.)

The team seems to have reached an equilibrium, where when one player freezes, another takes over. Last night, Stanton and Hicks carried us. 

So is this a team of destiny? Obviously, too soon to say. My guess is it depends on Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, (and maybe Sanchez.) Whenever rookies hit a slump, you automatically wonder if they'll emerge as the same player. That's the deal with youngsters. But we do have a fail safe: If either enters a deathly tailspin or gets hurt, Brandon Drury looks hungry and incredibly ready in Scranton. 

This may not be 1927 or 1961, but right now, it looks like the best Yankee team since 1998. The bar is high. We're coasting... in a good way. And I'm not suggesting that anybody should touch the brown rice. But you better make sure you enjoy this summer. We might be on the verge of something special. 

What Is Clutch?

Does "clutch" even exist?

Many statheads don't think so—and they have a point. So many of the ways we try to define clutch end up as chimeras.

"Men in scoring position"? Well, isn't first base a "scoring position"? Isn't home plate, if the batter puts the ball in the grandstand?

"Late and close"? Do runs in the first inning not count anymore? If you're up 10-0 by the third, isn't that actually easier on your pitching staff?

The postseason?

Sure, there are some epically bad postseason flops, such as the recently resurfaced Nick Swisher, who in 185 October plate appearances managed to compile a .165/.277/.297/.575 slash.

But usually, the postseason means a very short time to face some of the top pitchers in the game, and simply provides too small a sample size.

Willie Mays slashed .247/.323/.337/.660 in a mere 99 plate appearances scattered over 23 seasons, including just 1 NLCS home run. Was the Say Hey Kid not clutch?

Mickey Mantle set the record for home runs in the World Series, and had a .908 OPS, but batted just .257, far below his lifetime, regular-season average of .298. Was The Mick not clutch?

Of course, everybody KNOWS A-Rod wasn't clutch...though in the end, his .259/.365/.457/.822 line and 13 homers in 330 plate appearances was far from terrible, and he had some very good postseasons, including a great 2009 that got us our last ring.

So...what is clutch?

Well, Reggie Jackson, famously one of the very best postseason players ever, described it as the ability to stay within yourself and just hit as you normally do.

I'd say that's a pretty good definition.  And by those lights, the strategy and tactics of the New Baseball PRECLUDE players from EVER being consistently clutch.

You've heard the classic phrase: "He was up there trying to hit a five-run homer." Again and again, we've all seen it: the guy who is trying to do to much, to carry the whole team on his back, and make every at-bat the greatest ever.

Well, that's what the New Baseball approach demands. That's what the strategy of, "Go up there and swing for the fences, every single time," makes players do.

Right now, I would say that it's killing the Yankees' young players, just as they should be developing. The whole lineup is turning into a gray goo of .240 hitters who specialize in solo homers.

The Yanks have now gone 22 straight games—23, if you count the Washington make-up—without scoring more than 8 runs in a game, something that happened once on this streak. They've gone 12 games without scoring more than 5 runs—something that also happened once.

And once again last night, the team left 10 men on base, five of them on second or third.

The New Baseball is killing the potential of this team, even as it starts to bloom. It is teaching hitters how NOT to play the game, and leaving them frustrated and confused. It's also going to kill the bullpen.

It was nice to pull out the nightcap last night, even after Sonny "Ice Water for Blood" Gray could not get an out in the sixth inning. But once again, that required pretty much all the horses in the pen. That's pretty much the only way the Yanks win now, and it cannot last.