Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Tribute to a Giant

Word tonight that Willie McCovey has died at 80.

Stretch was one of the most terrifying hitters I've ever seen.  We got a nice break when his line drive in the 1962 World Series went straight to Bobby Richardson.

McCovey also seems to have been a real sweetheart.  He made $869,500 in the course of his 19-year career—the equivalent of about 15 games in Gardner's new contract for next year.

Nonetheless, I remember a Roger Angell interview with McCovey about the Giants starting to drop out of contention in 1978.  He was talking about how the people he really felt bad for were the fans, because there was nothing they could do about it.

How the Giants could not win with the likes of McCovey, Felipe Alou, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, and, of course, Willie Mays on the same team is beyond me.  Maybe it was their karmic punishment for leaving Harlem.

But Stretch will be missed.

A Few Notes on Brett Gardner

With his new contract, Brett Gardner will reach a total of nearly $60 million in baseball earnings through next year, when he turns 36.

A leadoff man most of his career, he has struck out almost twice as much as he has walked, averaging 67 free passes and 120 whiffs per 162-game season with a slash line of 261/ .344/ .390. .735.

He is, as well, one of the worst all-time performers in the postseason, considering his number of opportunities.

In 52 games and 146 plate appearances, he has hit just .202/ .239/ .248/ .507,  with 1 homer, 3 doubles, 10 walks, and 33 strikeouts.

Gardy will return

One year, $7,5 million... a pay cut. 

But would he have made more on the market?

Gardy could turn out to be among the rarest of commodities: a one-team player and lifelong Yankee. 

But does it mean Bryce Harper is out? Or is Jacoby Ellsbury gone? What about Clint Frazier? Estevan Florial? Ryan McBroom?

I trust Cashman has a secret plan mapped out on his bedroom wall.

From Eli to Gardy, it's a problem when ownership falls in love

Today, the Yankees must decide the immediate fate of Mr. Brett Michael Gardner, their longest tenured and most respected soldier. 

They can pick up his $12.5 million option and keep Gardy for another year. They can pay him $2 million in movie money and bid him adieu. Or they can start talks on a new deal, somewhere in the middle. Three options. None overtly palatable. 

Within the vast, eternal clockwork of the Yankiverse, this is not a big money decision. But it's the first sign of how the franchise intends to move this winter. Will it leave an opening in the outfield, one that might be filled with a bigger name? Or will it double-down on a slowing 35-year-old with questionable tread left on the tires?

In the second half of 2018, Gardy flat-out sucked, batting .206. He was so bad that the Yankees rented Andrew McCutcheon for the final month, even though it meant listing further rightward in their lineup. Today, Gardy looks like a clone of Jacoby Ellsbury, minus the injuries and horror movie contract, and the worst irony here is that both players were once exactly what the Yankees will need in 2019: A lefty lead-off hitter with speed. Now, neither can be counted on.

Of course, one player we cheer, and the other we lustily boo. Everybody loves Gardy and views Ellsbury as a waste of band-aids. I think it's important here to remind everybody that you can't blame a player for his contract. He's just feeding his family. It's the front office that deserves the tomatoes. Remember: They gave Ellsbury the third-richest deal for an outfielder in history; they did it in December of 2013, after missing the playoffs and watching Boston win the world series; and they did it as Robinson Cano was walking to Seattle. What a colossal, reactionary mistake. 

So... today? Personally, I hope the Yankees let Gardy test the market for a better deal. He'll always be loved in NY and maybe can return someday for a final bow. But there is danger is outstaying your welcome, and having an owner fall in love with you... as illustrated by another fine fellow playing across the river in Jersey. His name, of course, is Eli Manning. 

Right now, the 1-7 Giants are riding Eli like Slim Pickens on the nuclear bomb in Dr. Strangelove. There is no hope, no chance of a resurrection, no nothing... as the team is better off losing every game. Eli moves in the pocket with the dexterity of George Steinbrenner's statue, making the Giants' terrible offensive line look even more porous than it is. Any other team would have weeks ago gone Megyn Kelly on their QB, but not the old money, country-club, white bread Giants. Nope. The Maras - America's WASPiest family - loves Eli as a cherished, longtime cabana boy, and the last coach and general manager to bench him were shit-canned within a week. So Eli stays, and the NFL's worst team does the impossible: It somehow gets worse, not even able to properly tank. Eli is on contract through 2019. He makes Ellsbury look like a free chicken dinner.

Jeez, how depressing it is to be an old-line NY sports fan - the Yankees, Giants, Knicks and Rangers. If we're not mired in the cellar, we must watch our arch-rivals snake dance in the streets, chanting that we suck... and know that they are right. 

The Yankees must change. Believe me... I love Gardy. But the changes must start today. 

The 2018 Yankees Dubious Achievements Awards, Part the First-o

With all apologies to Esquire magazine, what this wretched year really needs is a Dubious Achievements Awards for the Yankees.  So here we go.

Feel free to chime in with your own suggestions, shout-downs, or alternate realities!

Gloat of the Year:  This has to go to Joe Girardi.  Last season he came within one game of reaching the World Series with a team no one expected to be a contender—only to be fired for committing a major blunder in the playoffs (failing to challenge that call in Cleveland) that ultimately cost the Yankees nothing, and for allegedly failing to handle the kids well.

So who is he replaced with?  Why, Ma Boone, who promptly left the Yankees a good six wins why of the Fall Classic by committing a major blunder in the playoffs (failing to bat his best hitter even after falling behind the Sox by four runs), a move that cost the Yanks everything, and for failing to motivate the kids even to do things like chase passed balls or show up on time for their warm-ups in a playoff start.

Joe must have been chortling all through his amazing workout sessions.

Goat of the Year:  Who is 2018's major flop?  The candidates are legion:  Giancarlo Stanton, Sonny Gray, Greg Bird, ICS—maybe even Luis Severino.

I have to say that, as disappointing as Stanton's season was, his hitting did at least carry the team for about a month when we were all out of outfielders.  Severino's failure to show up on time for a playoff game, and his whole second half of ill-suppressed hysteria remain inexplicable, as well as unforgivable (I still think it will end up involving drugs, and not the performance-enhancing kind), but he did have that lights-out first half.

Sonny's Stadium choking was pretty awful...but then, how much did we really expect out of him?  And Bird's awful season might be put down to injuries—or maybe us overrating him to begin with.

To be sure, Sanchez was injured, too.  But his season was so completely dreadful—a complete shambles in the field, the worst meltdown at the plate (considering what he showed himself to be capable of) of any major-leaguer in 50 years...oh, and then there was the Montero-like dedication to the game!

This guy went from looking like a young Johnny Bench to an old Rick Cerone in about six seconds flat.  Gary "ICS" Sanchez, you are not only our Goat of 2018, but a strong candidate to repeat next season!

Worst Managerial Decision of the Year:  I think it was, once again, Ma's crazy-ass decision not to put Andujar in even after the Yanks got down four runs in a do-or-die playoff game against the Red Sox that they ended up losing by one run.

This convinced me that that Boone was either so attached to a discredited philosophy of baseball on his own, or so beholden to Brian Cashman, that he could be replaced in the dugout with a mannequin.    (My apologies to any mannequins who may be offended by that.)

Worst Cashman Decision of the Year:  This one really is a puzzler, especially since we don't really know what all of his options were.

I guess I can forgive the Stanton deal—hey, it opened up a spot for Torres, and we seem to have surrendered nothing of value—and not pulling the trigger on Gerrit Cole.  The Pirates seem to have wanted too much from us and anyway, you know, I know, and the American people know that Cole was never going to make that huge career u-turn with OUR instructional team.

A much worse moment was his getting rid of all of our back-up outfielders just before Aaron Judge got hurt—and then after he got hurt.  But hey, at least they don't look like they'll be world beaters elsewhere.

I guess for me that leaves his having such a terrible instructional team on the ground in the first place, Boone and all his coaches.  Not to mention whatever dimwits are now running the farm system.

But then, so much of THEIR abysmality probably stems from Cashman's own, typically fatuous desire to adopt the Baseball Fashion du Jour—Throw fastballs for two innings, swing for the fences always—without really understanding the analytics behind it.

In other words, Cashman's worst decision was...being Brian Cashman.

More to come, you lucky dogs!  And Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Dodgers Lost The Same Way the Yankees Lost !

While the Yankees led all major league teams in home runs, the Dodgers led the NL league in that statistic.

Yet, the Dodgers were unable to score runs against Boston.  They were not ahead even when a young starter pitched 7 innings of shut out ball, at home, for them.

So they lost.  Early and often.

The truth;  they could not manufacture runs.  They don't play baseball they way it was designed to be played.

Once a quality pitcher faced them, the home runs pretty much disappeared.  And the strike outs soared, as they had during the season.  See Giancarlo Stanton for strike out technique.

The Dodgers were more successful than the Yankees because :

1.  They have better starting pitching
2.  They play better defense
3.  Have more speed

In the end, however, with the home runs becoming rare, they just could not get ahead, and they couldn't hold leads.  Mostly, the Dodgers just never scored, got on base, or threatened.

Even with Manny Machado able to hit well for them, his lack of interest in the games dragged the morale of the team into the sewer.  Just the kind of guy the Yankees need, right?

The Yankees cannot win with the present " formula."

The Dodgers were better and couldn't win either.

This winter can only make things worse.

Dear Hal Steinbrenner, have you seen this?

The Yankees are my old bathroom and Didi is the cracked tile

True story: Twenty years ago, one day while pissing in the shower, I noticed a slightly spongy bath tile on the wall. I pushed it and felt a tiny bit of play. I could have kept pissing, but I pushed harder. 

Twenty thousand dollars later, we had a new bathroom.

Today, that's how I see the next four months of Yankee meta-hysteria. 

Imagine Brian Cashman lying naked in his golden, claw-foot tub, lathered up with Mr. Bubble, the water greasy from Calgon Bath Oil Beads, as he sips Pinot Grigio and reads "Eat, Prey, Love" by candlelight, while the soundtrack of "Mama Mia" plays on his Harman Kardon speakers. The man fated for Cooperstown - first ballot, 2035 - notices a bathroom tile slightly askew. He presses on it and feels a rubbery response. 

Folks, we're in for a do-over. 

Metaphorically, the tile is Didi Gregorius, and if somebody pushed me on which was worse news - Boston winning the series, or the Yankees losing Didi for most of 2019 - I would have chosen number two. Didi's elbow injury has created a worst-case, Rube Goldberg nightmare for the Yankees this winter, and yet they have no choice but to push the tile. 

If they try to go with Ronald Torreyes and/or Tyler Wade at SS, and wait for Didi to return in August, they will be practically surrendering to Boston the AL East, forcing us to play another wild card - which, simply stated, is too risky. They must sign or trade for a shortstop, launching the baseball equivalent of a viral YouTube domino-drop. 

Everything starts with replacing Didi, who was more than a SS. He was the de facto heart and soul of the clubhouse, our only top-tier infield glove, and the lefty bat between Judge and Stanton. No free agent checks all three boxes - even if we try Gleyber at SS and look for a 2B - and whomever we target - (assuming that Hal Steinbrenner unleashes his credit card, which, amazingly, seems to be no sure thing) - that player would be replaced when Didi returns. It's a clusterfuck. 

Yes, there is Manny Machado, whose presence suddenly seems dark and malevolent - (the polar opposite to Didi's) - who we would have to sign for life, who would tilt our lineup harder to the right, and who would compel another trade, quite possibly of Miguel Andujar. We all want Machado's 35 homers, but no matter how you wrangle it, he's like Cinderella's step-sisters trying on the slipper: His feet are too big, and it just doesn't fit. 

Same with Bryce Harper, No matter how we close our eyes and think of the middle of the order, he is yet another homer/strikeout slugger, another lifetime contract, another so-so fielding corner outfielder, another giant ego, and a reason the front office would trade Aaron Hicks or Clint Frazier. 

Whatever we chose, it will set into motion other moves - of Andujar,  Frazier, Greg Bird, Sonny Gray, or throughout our increasingly depleted farm system - and every deal will inspire more bloodletting, until Cashman has more plasma on his fingers than Lady MacBeth. You can look at the 2019 Yankees and see Judge, Stanton, Tanaka, Severino, Chapman, Gleyber and Gary Sanchez (because the front office, amazingly, is doubling down on him) and after that... absolutely nothing is certain. For a team that won 100 games, that's incredible. It's also a bit disturbing. 

Last winter, nobody imagined Giancarlo Stanton as a Yankee. And when it happened, it was not dictated by a sober, front office, lineup-building strategy. It came about because Miami wanted to dump the most onerous contract in professional sports, and we drunkenly signed on. He was our Bryce, our Manny, and we didn't care that the slippers were cramping our toes. 

As we wait to hear "Food Stamps" Hal Steinbrenner's spending plans, brace yourselves, everybody. 

The 2019 Yankees won't resemble last year's model. And they might not be any better. 


So here is Joel Sherman's, glass-half-full, hey-they-won-100-games take on the 2018 Yankees:

Aside from the usual sportswriter fantasies—Hey, maybe the Yanks can trade Jacoby Ellsbury for Zack Greinke!  They should get Nolan Arenado!—it's not an unintelligent piece.

But it does include the "inside scoop" that the Yanks have no real interest in Bryce Harper, and will probably look to sign Machado alone.

Worse yet, word starts to trickle in that maybe the Yankees don't want Manny, either.


Be afraid, people.  Be very afraid.

Look, if this is true it would, on many teams, reflect some good baseball instincts.  On this one, it just reflects saving more bucks for the Steinbrenner infestation.

I am hugely wary of both players, and for any intelligently run Yankees team, I would be all for chasing both of them away with sticks, strings of garlic cloves, and crucifixes.  Giancarlo Stanton could go with them, and so could ICS and the Bird.

But folks, there's nothing left.

I mean, literally.  Thanks to injuries, flameouts, and Coops' brilliant maneuverings, there's not a left-handed bat left on this team.  For that matter, there's not a back-up outfielder remaining, after he traded all of those for mediocre pitching rentals.

Last year, Hicks missed 25 games.  The year before, he missed half a season.  The other Aaron, Judge, missed 50 games in 2018, and played much of 2017 with a serious shoulder injury that rendered him almost useless at the plate.  Stanton missed only four games but he usually misses many more, and when he was forced to play the outfield last season he often looked as though he had tweaked a gonad in his head, as well as elsewhere.

Behind them?  There's no one.  Not in the farm system, where Florial shrinks a little more everyday in Arizona.

Nor is there a single, reliable infield bat down on the farm.  Maybe Hetch-Hetchy, Toe, Tyler Too, or even Holder can fill in for Sir Didi with their gloves, but they're not real replacements at the plate.

And again, there's no one else.

No one in Triple-A.  No one below that.  No new draft picks or signees in 2018 who displayed even a hint of future promise.  Nothing but a few remaining arms who may or may not make a decent No. 4-5 starter or middle reliever.


What the last three seasons have demonstrated, once and for all, is that Brian Cashman has absolutely no idea of how to identify and raise young talent.  None.  Player after player, throughout our system, moved backwards this past season, with even the vague hope that many of them could one day play in the big leagues evaporating like the year's stock market gain.  Gone.  Good-bye, Mr. Spalding.

Any idea that this man Cashman is going to quietly, cleverly build up a real contender the way that, say, the Red Sox, Astros, or Cubs have, is purest fantasy.  It's not what he does.  It's not what he can do.  It's not what he's ever done, in the last twenty years.

The only time that Brian Cashman ever won a ring for the New York Yankees is when he took a big wad of Steinbrenner money, and went out to purchase the top three free agents on the market.  Even then, to be sure, he still had the Michael-Showalter-Watson Core of Four shoring up his team.  But at least it could be said he added some value to them.

This year, Cashman has the chance to do the same.  I'm not looking forward to it.  They're not good investments, and I'm sure that if they are signed, I will be cursing Harper and Manny for many a year.

But the alternative is not going to be the next Benitendi or Martinez, or Altuve or Gerrit Cole.  It's going to be Luke Voit, back to say, .235, at first, and Neil Walker at second, and Hetch-Hetchy alternating with Tyler Wade at short, as they become the first Yankees platoon to collectively hit under .200.

It's going to be the next Shane Robinson, or maybe Rashad Crawford putting in major time, moving from one outfield spot to the next as he follows the injuries, hitting at least 2-3 home runs.

So Hal and Brian are really going to skip the big moves, and tell us all they're going to stay the course with the farm system?  That's rich.  They won't get so much as a whiff of the Wild Card Play-In Game for a long, long time to come.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Syracuse University: It's like a college campus

Following their World Series victory, those magnanimous, good-sport, lovable underdog Redsocks play "New York, New York" in clubhouse

Yes, they did, they really did.

Of course, it's okay when you're God's chosen people, fighting for the common man. Nobody begrudges a Boston fan for punching Gary Sheffield while he's catching a foul ball, or terrorizing Roger Clemens' family to the point of tears, or chanting "Yankees suck" in games against another team - it's just good clean fun, light-hearted tomfoolery, a refreshing sign of impetuousness, an outlet for their enlightened creativity. Oh, those crazy cads! What are they up to now? Singing "New York, New York" in the clubhouse? Bravo! 

Can you imagine the Gammonitic outrage today if the Yankees did such a thing?

You know, a few years ago, when Derek Jeter played his final game in Boston, and the Redsocks stopped everything to have Bernie Williams play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on his guitar, I almost began to appreciate the franchise in a "beloved traditional rivalry" way. But this last month has ginned up several "Lock Her Up" moments of cheap-shot hatred... a reminder of why we fight.  

Well, today, they own us. 

Let's give credit. Nothing more to be said. I doff my cap. Boston has the 2018 Redsock Hall of Fame Superteam of Destiny (TM)... champions of the world... and we remain winners of the 2009 World Series. Meanwhile the Gammonites - (remember: The Redsocks literally own the Boston Globe) - assure us that our front office is worthy of Cooperstown! (That's sorta like being told it's okay to return home by Mister Bone Saw.) 

Next year will mark a full decade without the Yankees even playing in a World Series. That has never happened before in Yankee history. 

Since 2009, they will have...

Missed the post-season three times.

Lost the Wild Card game once.

Lost the Division Series twice.

Lost the League Championship series three times.



Local Bargain Jerk - the man behind the MOON BIG PAPI campaign - is on the prowl.

Stay tuned. 

The Zen Puzzle of Brian Cashman

I have never actually had the privilege to travel to the Far East, and I'm afraid that my knowledge of Eastern philosophy is limited to, well, several fortune cookies from the mmid-80s.

Nevertheless, I believe that the great Zen masters would break the conundrum that is Brian Cashman down into four basic elements.   To wit:

1.  Cashman has no ability to identify or develop young baseball talent, or to employ those who do.

You would think this would be the one, indispensable qualification for being a baseball general manager, akin to, say, being able to see to drive a bus, or having two legs to play the role of Tarzan (old Cooke & Moore routine).

But apparently not.

2.  Cashman does not seem able to ever bring his team's vast advantage in money into play effectively.

If, say, Brian Cashman had signed Manny Ramirez as well as Mike Mussina for the 2001 season, the Yankees would probably have won many more pennants and World Series, and the Red Sox certainly would not have won one until at least 2013.

If, say, Brian Cashman had listened to Jason Giambi after signing him before the 2003 season and signed Johnny Damon as well, the Yankees would probably have won many more pennants and World Series, and the Red Sox certainly would not have won one until at least 2013.

If, say, Brian Cashman had signed Carlos Beltran when he was willing to sign with the Yankees at a discount before the 2005 season, the Yankees would probably have won many more pennants and World Series, and the Red Soc certainly would not have won one until at least 2018.

3. Cashman does not seem able to recognize that his team's only true competition in most seasons is the Boston Red Sox.

If, say, Brian Cashman had seen that the Red Sox were searching around desperately for a first baseman-designated hitter before the 2003 season and signed the recently released David Ortiz (as George Steinbrenner reportedly wanted him to) before they could, the Yankees would definitely have won many more pennants and World Series, and the Red Sox certainly would not have won one until at least 2018.

If, say, Brian Cashman had outbid the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada, he would then have been able to flip Moncada for the ace, Chris Sale, and—combined with any one of the previous eventualities above—the Yankees would have continued to win many more pennants and World Series, and the Red Sox would not have won a World Series to this day.

4. Defying the laws of inertia, Brian Cashman will remain the Yankees' general manager into the indefinite future.

If, say, Brian Cashman does remain the Tankees' general manager into the indefinite future, we would all be well-advised to follow the example of the Chongzhen Emperor, Zhou Fujian, the last ruler of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), who hanged himself with a yellow, silken sash from the limb of a scholar tree, rather than surrender to the barbarians from the north.

Or, you know, we could maybe spend more time reading, working out, or working on the backyard.

When Boston was on the verge of a title, its fans were thinking about ... the Yankees

You know, I can honestly say that whenever the Yankees were on the verge of winning a World Series, I never thought, "I should start yelling about how much the Red Sox suck." The socks were always forgotten about and in the rear view mirror once they were dispatched.

They're so screwed up, we're in their heads even though our season is over. I mean, their team was about to win a title and the fans are chanting about us. Really.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The wolf is at the door.

It's here. Deal with it, everybody. The wolf is at the door.

The 2018 World Series - with Boston now up, 3-1 - is cooked.

All your secret fantasies - that somebody, Houston, Cleveland, somebody, would step up and deny Boston the world - they were morphine hallucinations. You've been lying in a coma for 10 months, and now it's time to wake up. Boston is the world champion. Only one team, one franchise, ever stood between them and the ring - it was our job - and we failed. You can wheedle and blather how our season came within 10 feet of a grand slam, but it won't change a thing. We failed. It's done. 

And tomorrow, one franchise will stand between Boston and a two- or three-year championship dynasty, and it's not the phony Dodgers. The wild card Yankees are that franchise, and this winter, they will need massive infusions not just of money, but of youth.  

Coming soon is the most important winter of our Yankee fan lives, because - make no mistake here - the wolf is at the door. Boston is poised to win multiple championships, and they will not stand pat while the Yankees sign one or two, or even three free agents. Boston's ownership does it right. They willingly tanked for two straight years, building a youthful core, while the Yankees continually flailed at achieving relevance. They will add even more to their MLB-highest payroll, because they want to win rather than pad their bank accounts.

It's not my province to tell the Yankees who to trade and who to sign. But the team's deficiencies are no secret. They need: 

1. Starting pitching. They must sign sign at least one, maybe two solid starters. And Cashman will surely trade for another "power arm," of which his track record is horrible.  

2. A shortstop or secondbaseman who can fill the void until Didi Gregorius returns. This is difficult to assess, because we don't even know how long Didi will be out, or how much he'll be compromised when he does return. But if we go four months with Big Toe or Tyler Wade, or a minor league journeyman, we'll be chasing the wild card again... and one of these years, we'll pay the price for that.

3. A big lefty bat, someone who can hit between Judge and Stanton, and keep opposing teams from loading up against a righty-lineup. 

4. A quality fielding first-baseman, presumably with some pop. We need a 1B who can save our infielders from 20 to 30 throwing errors in a season. Neither Greg Bird nor Luke Voit looks like that player.

5. Help from the farm. Last year, we thought our depth was limitless, until suddenly, we found we had traded away all our assets. Next year, we need something from Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Jonathan Loasigna, Dominic Acevedo, Chance Adams, et al. 

6. More bullpen. Two years ago, it was Chad Green. Last year, Jonathan Holder stepped up. Next year, some massive lunk with 98-mph heat needs to rise from Scranton and become a cog. Or we need to sign somebody.

Supposedly, the Yankee brain trust spent last week cobbling together plans for 2018. The big question is how much the owner will agree to spend. We have no power over Hal Steinbrenner's whims. But if Steinbrenner is comfortable with Boston rattling off two or three world championships, the Yankiverse must become ornery and angry. We don't have to spend our money on an ownership that's looking to pad its wallet.

Folks, the wolf is at the door. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Dodgers in 7 (6 would be even better, but I'll take 7)

With all due respect to Doug K--who is the only one of us smart enough to live in the desert in what is easily the best state of the continental USA--I will repeat what I've said several times before. 

The Dodgers are going to win this World Series.

The Red Sox are not that good (sorry, Alphonso). The 108 wins were padded by domination of bad teams, which, yes, is a characteristic of teams that win pennants. That, in fact, is arguably how they won the division, going 67-21 against crapola clubs while the Yanks were 59-32. 

They were, however, third behind the Yankees and the Dodgers against teams .500 or better. Their 41-33 isn't terrible, but it's a more accurate assessment of the very beatable team the Dodgers (51-38 against .500 or better clubs) are playing against. (Interestingly, LA won the division on the back of their record against good teams, going only 41-33 vs. schlubs. Which says something about their chances for this Series.)

The Dodgers are a very good team, Joggy II aside. But I figured the Sox would likely win the first two games at Fenway, before losing all three in LA. After the way Cora's "all in" style backfired last night, and completely screwed up their chances for tonight (maybe tomorrow, too), that seems more than possible now.

Now, can the team from Brooklyn win a game in Boston? I think so. Yeah, the Sox have a great home record, but remember how much their stats are skewed by how many times they played teams like Baltimore. The silence of the Beanheads in the stands would be icing on the cake.

On a side note, my wife and I really liked Clay Bellinger, and it's great to see his kid nailing a Beanboob at the plate. Sure, he screwed up on base in the ninth. But in games like last night, when bumbles were in the air like midges, great plays stand out that much more.

Muncy is the feel-good story of the postseason so far. That grinding sound you hear is the gnashing of Billy Beane's teeth. I mean, the guy is so cheap, it's silly.

Dodgers in 7. I've been wrong before, but this time I really hope I'm not.

Hmmm. Based on the van that he lives in, should we be worried about Alphonso?

Today, I'm thinking about the van where Alphonso lives, as he roams the country spreading his message of love. It's hard to miss, usually parked outside a methadone clinic, gentleman's club or bail bondsman. Here's his side window.

Come to think of it, I never did learn why he was looking for Dustin Pedroia's home address. Oh well... 

My only regret from last night is that I didn't last long enough to see the tears rolling down Boston's collective cheek after the entire city practically stayed up until dawn to watch its team lose in 18 innings. 

In case you missed - of course, you missed it! it ran 18 frickin' innings - both teams blew out their bullpens, but the Redsocks burned a virtual 6-inning outing from Nathan Eovaldi, their game 4 starter. It's hard to say which pitching staff suffered more damage, but imagine the juju gods pressing the RESET button on the 2018 series, and that's what you've got. The Redsocks' strategy just flew out the window.

Dare we hope that posters of 2018 Redsock Hall of Fame Superteam of Destiny (TM) could turn out to be a new, hurtful sticker on Alphonso's back windshield?

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Price of Genius

As if this postseason were not bad enough, the fact that people are even talking about signing up Neil "Quality At-Bats" Walker for another hitch in the Bronx fills me with a terrible ennui of the sort usually endured only by starving poets in Paris.

Let's take a look at the Indispensable Yankees' final stats for 2018—which, if you'll recall, actually got better as the days ticked by and the games got less and less meaningful:

398 plate appearances, 347 at-bats, 12 doubles, 1 triple, 11 homers, 46 RBI, 42 walks, 87 strikeouts.

A slash line of .219/ .309/ .354/ .664.

Irreplaceable, right?  Even the highly dubious WAR stat, which ranks practically nobody below replacement value, put Neil at a -0.1 WAR, including a +0.1 in hitting, and a -0.4 in fielding.  (Walker played many positions, none of them terribly well.)

Yeah, who could possibly replace old Neil "Quab" Walker?  Just about everyone, as it turns out.

But our future Hall of Famer, Brian Cashman, insisted on playing him last year—even after his other unnecessary pick-up, Brandon Drury, who does everything Walker does only better, had recovered from his migraines and was hitting quite well in Scranton.

Trouble is, this is far from the first Neil Walker who Coops has foisted on us, and it won't be the last.  To impress us with his genius last year, we had to endure 62 games from Chris Carter, the man who almost singlehandedly cost us the 2017 division title.  Get a load of his line:

208 plate appearances, 184 at-bats, 5 doubles, 1 triple, 8 homers, 26 RBI, 20 walks, 76 strikeouts.

A slash line of .201/ .284/ ,370/ .653 (don't ask me to explain these rounding-off figures).  And a -0.5 offensive WAR, a -0.5 defensive WAR (Carter, if you'll recall, was also a terrible fielder, even at first base), for a total -0.7 WAR (don't ask me to explain the inconsistencies in WAR, which is supposed to be cumulative).

Put them together, and you have pretty much an entire, full-time player over the past couple years, given normal rest and maybe a two-week stint on the DL for a hammy pull.  Here is our Quab Carter:

606 plate appearances, 531 at-bats, 17 doubles, 2 triples, 19 homers, 72 RBI, 62 walks, 163 strikeouts.

A slash line of .213/ .300/ .360/ .660.  And whatever the hell the WAR is, a performance well below replacement value.

This is what we've had to put up with, basically to gratify Mr. Cashman, even as the team battled for a championship.

And we're not even talking all the at-bats lost to the likes of Chase Headley (.262/ .339/ .387/ .727, as a Yankee), Stephen Drew (.187/ .257/ .382/ .609), or Brian Roberts (.237/ .300/ .360/ .659) in those lesser years when, even so, we darest not risk seeing how Jose Pirela, or Rob Refsnyder, or Yangervis Solarte might do in their place.

AND I won't even get into The Saga of the Young Power Arms, starring Jeff Weaver, Jared Wright, Carl Pavano,  Kyle Farnsworth, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Sonny Gray, etc., etc., etc.  

For two decades now, this team has been built around the whims and fancies of Brian Cashman.  And when he's wrong, the mistake is never admitted, but played and played until we are all thoroughly sick of him and he has cost us something important.

Genius!  I'm off to smoke a Gauloise.

The Great Darkness looms: The decisions next month may be the most important in our Yankee lifetimes

The dismal, haunting 2018 World Series will end soon, probably by Sunday, when I will finally emerge from behind the couch. I keep telling myself, it's only a movie, only a movie, only a movie... I channel-hop, landing on Fox to find Boston ahead or with the bases full, and it's all I can do to click the remote until the screen finds a mouth-foaming pundit or a medically sculpted Kardashian nipple, so I can escape the truth:

Boston will win the 2018 World Series, and it could be their first of several. 

Look at their lineup. Dear God, you see the Yankees of 1998. Benintendi is Jeter, Betts is Bernie, Martinez is O'Neill, and down the line, every piece fits, with the kind of spirit wins multiple rings. Comrades, the glaciers have melted, the sea is rising, bombs are in the mail, and the Great Darkness - aka the Age of Redsock Supremacy - is upon us.

Last year, Boston outspent us by $40 million. They outspent the Yankees. Yesterday, our Hall-of-Fame brain trust supposedly concluded its 2019 planning sessions, and now awaits a proclamation from the royal family, led by Crown Prince Hal bin Steinbrenner, "Mr. Budget Bone Saw," on how much the team shall spend next year. If Hal keeps our payroll below the luxury tax threshold, it will maintain his popularity with the other billionaire owners in their quests to become trillionaire owners. 

Folks, this is it. If anything is clear from this post-season, it's that only the Yankees can thwart Boston's dynastic march. And everything depends on the decisions made this winter, when the team is restructured by money.

The 2018 Yankees played like statues in a museum, oblivious to each other as they padded their stats. For months, we didn't notice the lack of spirit because of the sheer talent assembled: We won 100 games, after all. It was only when exposed to the Redsocks that our deficiencies became glaring. We didn't make the plays. We didn't get the big hits. We didn't belong on the same field.

The players who were meant to be our heart and soul - Gardy and CC - barely kept their own heads above water. Our sluggers never adjusted their swings, and our rookies did what rookies do. Then there was the curious case of Jacoby Ellsbury, who somehow managed to re-injure himself on a monthly basis. From where we sat, it looked like the Yankees simply told him to get lost, so insurance could cover his salary. That made sense on the books, but not in August, when the team went four weeks with a minor league journeyman in right field. But we saved money, so there's that.

Will 2019 see the same front office frugality and team-wide lack of cohesiveness? If so, find higher ground. People, we are entering the Great Darkness. The worst is yet to come, the army of the dead is at the wall, the Canyon of Heroes is shrouded in shadows, and it is now or never. 

If we mess it up this winter, we may not see a parade again in our lifetimes. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Flying Dutchman

Hey gang:  want to have a little fun with numbers during this most dispiriting of all World Series???

Just take the record of the Yankees in 2017, when they got off to their stunning, 38-23 start, before Chris Carter and Tyler Clippard cost them an 11-inning pineapple in Anaheim on June 13th, that sunk them into a seven-game losing streak.

Next, take their September 1 through the end of the 2017 season tear, when Aaron Judge finally seemed to heal from the shoulder injury the Yankees steadfastly denied he ever had, and went 20-9, almost overtaking the Red Sox for the division title.

Got it?  Great!

Now take the Yanks' blazing, 50-22 start at the beginning of 2018, when it looked as though they might really be one of the greatest teams of this era.

Add it all up, and what do you get??

Yep, that's right!  A record of 108-54, or the very same that the soon-to-be-world-champions-yet-again Red Sox ran up this year!

What we have to face is that that Yankees team, which so bedeviled us, was the Flying Dutchman of baseball.  That is to say, a mirage.

During the early decades of the colonial era, there were many such sightings of ghost ships, riding either the waves or the clouds—usually spotted by sick or starving European colonists in the Americas or Africa, desperate for relief.

That Yankees team was out there, all right.  A glimpse of what might have been a dynasty about to come in, that somehow never made it to dock.  Think of it as what might have happened if, say, Brian Cashman had taken over the Yankees in 1921, or 1936, or 1948.

It's gone now, sure as the Dutchman always vanishes, sooner or later.  We probably will not spot it again in our lifetimes.  But we know it was all there.  We saw it with our own eyes, dammit!

And maybe, someday, when the last Steinbrenner has finally crumbled and gone, it will come again for real, many, many years from now...

This Isn't Even Baseball...It is Funeral Ceremony

We all understand how painful and disgusting it is to watch Boston teams succeed at anything.

But the rest of the world looks forward to a World Series.

Two evenly matched teams battling it out to a game seven thriller.

Leads change, games are won and lost on critical plays at the last moment.

Players stand up to the pressure.

No team is ever out of it.

But this World Series is a funeral, and all we are watching is Boston drive the final nails in the LA coffin:

There is no suspense.  There is no chance for the Dodgers.  Boston is better, notably better, at every phase of the game;

1.  Their pitching is better by 4-1.
2.  They run successfully, stealing bases and putting pressure on the opposing pitcher and defense.
3.  They get key hits, every time, no matter who is at bat.
4.  The shock with huge homers when a shock is needed.
5.  Their defense is flawless.

It doesn't matter how the game begins.  If the Red Sox start with a lead, they win.

If the Dodgers manage to lead by a run, they give it up the next inning.

The Dodgers cannot come back.  They can't do anything.

It is a horror to people who wished to see something exciting.  Like one of the first Ali-Frazier fights. There was actually doubt, and suspense, for a few rounds.

Nothing new is going to happen here.

The Dodgers are going down like the stock market.

It is Black October, all over again.

It is a nightmare for the world.  Who must sit by helpless and hopeless.

"It was a quiet day for Yankees prospects as Estevan Florial (New York's No. 2) and Steven Sensley combined to go 0-for-7 with four strikeouts. Sensley drew a walk, while Florial made his third error of the AFL season when he dropped a fly ball in the first inning, allowing a run to score."

So continues the nightmare state of the Yankiverse... 

As Boston marches toward another world championship, we can monitor the Arizona Fall League, where Estevan Florial is striking out and dropping fly balls.

As the Redsocks dominate LA, we get to read NY Times features on how splintered bats are recycled into chopsticks.  

As the world revels in Boston's success, we get to watch Yankee ownership (via YES) already whining about the money it would take to sign Bryce Harper

As Boston plans its celebration, we get stories that suggest Sonny Gray on the trade market might bring us, gulp, Ivan Nova.

Soon, this sorry year will end. The world will "steal" its Taco Bell free taco. The football Giants will start Dopey Dildox at QB. The Knicks will cement themselves into last place. And Brian "Cooperstown" Cashman will start weaving another magical tapestry of analytics, which always seem better on paper than on a field of grassd. 

Soon, we will trade for another "power arm," the Cashmanic equivalent of Hollywood's Manic Pixie Dream Girl. 

Soon, we will assemble a 2019 lineup capable of hitting 300 home runs and never once beating an over-shift with a calculated bunt. 

Soon, we could be looking at the first team to leave 1,000 runners in scoring position.

Wait a minute... Am I being unfairly pessimistic? 

After all, we did win 100 games. We took Boston to the mat in Game 4. Ten more feet of carry, and Gary Sanchez's fly ball becomes one of the greatest comebacks in history. If Boston sweeps LA, as looks likely, this becomes the second straight year that the Yankees gave the eventual world champions their toughest post-season tussle. Doesn't that mean something?

(Long pause, signifying contemplation.) 

Chopsticks, folks. 

All the Yankees did in 2018, and all we did... we made chopsticks. 

Boston made rings. We. Made. Chopsticks.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Behold: An incredible new era has begun in baseball

Thank you, I'M BILL WHITE.

Ask Dr. Occam!

Today's query for Dr. Occam comes from Little Timmy, from the Bronx, who stayed up late to watch last night's Red Sox triumph, clinched by Eduardo Nunez's pinch-hit, three-run homer, and Nathan Eovaldi's shutout inning of relief.

Little Timmy:  Gee willikers, Dr. Occam!  Players just seem to do great now when they leave the Yankees and go to the Red Sox.  Does this mean "The Curse of the Bambino" has been reversed, and now turned against the Yankees?  And what can we do about it?

Dr. Occam:  Dear Timmy:  it may well seem that the Yankees are the victims of a "curse" to people such as yourself who are still living in the demon-haunted world of Brian Cashman.

But the fact of the matter is that there never was a "Curse of the Bambino," just a Red Sox team that was badly run for many years by individuals whose bigotry and stupidity kept them from putting together a World Series champion.  It is that situation—and not any "curse"—that has been reversed.

The fact that not only these current Red Sox but all sorts of other former Yankees tend to do much better with other teams—while no player currently on the Yankees or in their farm system ever gets better but only gets worse—leads us to the most likely scientific conclusion.

That is, that the Yankees' organization "sucks."  This is an adult phrase, Little Timmy, meaning in this case that the Yankees' entire system is deficient in providing useful instruction or strategy.  Evidence shows this to have been the case for a long time, or ever since the advent of Brian Cashman.

Thus, Timmy, it is Mr. Cashman, and not some curse, that needs to be exorcised here.

In their "LOCK HER UP!" moment, Redsock fans chant "YANKEES SUCK!" at Fenway

Last night, I thought I was hearing things. The mind plays tricks, you know... 

If you believe in demons from Hell, that shadow on the wall becomes the face of George Soros, and that barking dog in the alleyway proclaims you to be the Son of Sam. So last night, in the crowd noise behind Joe Buck's oh-so-witty pillow banter, I could swear I heard "YANKEES SUCK!" Weird, eh? Time to switch meds, eh? I chalked it up to advanced age. Me and Justice O'Connor. I was hearing starbursts from the universe again, that's all. Dementia has its privileges!

Well, holy crap! Turns out I was right! Boston fans - stripped of their precious, all-encompassing, beautiful self-pity - had nothing better to do last night than hurl some lumps of warm feces in the direction of New York. We should feel honored. It's as close to the 2018 world series as we'll get.

I fully understand Boston's bile. For 90 years, they self-identified as baseball's chosen people, a tribe singled out by God for joyous, masochistic pain and suffering, awaiting the championship they knew would never come. Then it came and went. Now, they win every few years, and as they masturbate in the stands, it's extra fun to remember the good old days, when they sustained themselves on sheer spitefulness. Build the wall! Lock her up! Yankees suck! It's all the same. It's a rollicking good time to clasp hands and join together in hate, wonderful hate. It's safer than handling serpents.

Funny thing, though. In their chants, Boston fans appear oblivious to a fact that is increasingly known across baseball: 

The Redsocks now are the Yankees. 

They spent $40 million more on this year's team, (and will next year, too, because our owner is a family disappointment and money-grubbing weasel.) There shall be no graciousness in this Green Monster crowd. There shall be no sportsmanship. They live to hate New York in all its forms, even clam chowder. And last night, when I first heard the chants and figured I must be losing my mind, I vaguely recall a secondary thought. 

By believing myself wrong, I was giving them more credit than they deserve. 

Sad bunch. They can't even enjoy a victory. Lock her up... Lock her up... Lock her up... Pathetic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

As an aside, the NY Giants are a horror show

I used to think the Yankees and NY football Giants were tethered to a cosmic teeter-totter, so that when one team rose in the standings, the other magically fell. No statistical data ever supported this, but I felt it, anyway. From a juju standpoint, it simply made sense. No NYC sports team could win without a corresponding collapse from the others. We'd never ask the juju gods for multiple titles in one year. 

After all, New York isn't Boston.

Well, the Giants (1-6) have now replaced lowly Cleveland as the most pitiful franchise in pro football, and for reasons I cannot explain, I sat up to the bitter end last night, watching them lose on Monday Night Football. And their incredible self-rotting malaise won't help the Yankees, nope, not one bit. The Giants - like the Knicks, Rangers, Mets, Jets, whatever - have achieved a Zen-like internal independence of ineptitude, and right now, they could lose a team-wide fist-fight to Jamal Khashoggie. NYC maintains one generic, annual source of sports pride: the Yankees. And good luck with that, because 2018 may soon be remembered not for a team that won 100 games, but as the year the Redsocks won their first in a row.  

But bear with me, because this is about the Giants. Two days ago, Dick Modzelewski - a fire hydrant of an old defensive tackle - died at age 87. He was known as "Little Mo" because his older brother played for the Browns , and he was the bedrock of a great Giants defense in 1961. This was back when I - age 11 - simply assumed that the NY Giants were the NY Yankees of the NFL, and would always win. After all, they had Y.A. Tittle, Frank Gifford, Kyle Rote, Sam Huff, Andy Robustelli, Erich Barnes - it seemed every player was an all-star. And their defensive line - Ro-Mo-Ro-Ko - (Robustelli, Modzelewski, Rosey Greer and Jim Katcavage) - was the best in the game. The Yankees were Mantle & Maris, Berra and Ford... but the Giants were every bit as powerful... until they were clobbered by Green Bay.

It's amazing to look back on what went wrong. Consider the old Giants' coaching staff. Vince Lombardi coached the offensive line, and Tom Landry handled the defense. But when head coach Jim Lee Howell retired, the Giants let both men go and handed everything over to the team clipboard, Allie Sherman. And soon, they became the team they are now. 

Basically, the NFL has always maintained one rule among owners: No Yankee franchise would ever be allowed, no one team would dominate. And throughout the seventies, even as the Yankees rose, the Giants remained remarkably horrible.

Well, this is not an abnormality. This is the Giants. They are going to be horrible for a while. I'd say three to five years - longer if they end up killing their great young running back, Saquan Barkley. (Every time he runs the ball, I think: Please, juju gods, spare this child.) It's a tough time to follow sports in Gotham, which means business as usual. After all, New York is not Boston.

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Quick Clinic on Situational Hitting

It's been bothering me ever since the Yanks' last inning of the season exactly where I'd seen that before.  Yankees down to the Red Sox by three runs, in a do-or-die playoff situation...

Now I remember:  October 16, 2003.  Game 7 of the ALCS, the game most famous for Ma Boone's walk-off home run, and Mariano's amazing three shutout innings.

But before we could get to that, there was the bottom of the eighth inning.   Let's compare that with the ninth inning of Game 4, ALDS, 2018.


Red Sox have their closer Craig Kimbrel, in to pitch the ninth with a 4-1 lead.  Kimbrel, statistically, is one of the best closers in baseball, but he's faltered a little down the stretch and now can't find the plate with one of Hedy Lamar's sonar sets.

How do the Yankees respond?

Aaron Judge draws a walk on four pitches.

Didi Gregorius—in perhaps his last at-bat as a Yankee—battles Kimbrel and nudges a single through the right side on a 1-2 count.  Two on, none out.

Giancarlo Stanton strikes out on four pitches, swinging at at least two that are not close to the strike zone.  One out.

Luke Voit draws a walk on four pitches, loading the bases.

Neil Walker is hit by the first pitch he sees, forcing in a run.  4-2, Red Sox.

ICS Sanchez works the count to 3-2 and swinging for the fences every time, hits a long sacrifice fly.  Two out, men on first and second.  4-3 Red Sox.

Gleyber Torres hits a slow groundball to third on a 1-2 pitch, and takes longer to get to first base than the No. 1 train does to get to Time Square with a sick passenger alert and a police action.  Game over.  Red Sox win.


The Red Sox decide to leave Pedro Martinez in to pitch the 8th, despite the fact that he has thrown 100 pitches and they have a 5-2 lead.  In fairness, though, Pedro has allowed only six hits and one walk while striking out eight, and the only Yankees runs have come on two solo homers by Jason Giambi.

He is also one of the greatest pitchers of all time.

Nick Johnson battles Pedro to a 3-2 count, but pops out to short.  One out.

Derek Jeter hits a double on an 0-2 count to right field.  The ball seems eminently catchable, but sails over the head of Trot Nixon, who is playing too far in (Think Jeter didn't know that?).  Man on second.

Bernie Williams lines a single into center on a 2-2 count.  This ball, too, seems like it will hang up long enough to be caught, but for some reason Johnny Damon is playing very far back (Think Bernie didn't know that?).  Jeter scores.  Man on first.  Red Sox lead, 5-3.

Hideki Matsui, on an 0-2 count, drills a double down the right field line.  Bernie doesn't score only because some idiot reaches out and touches the ball.  Men on second and third.

Jorge Posada, on a 2-2 count, hits a flair into the Bermuda Triangle of centerfield.  Bernie scores, Matsui scores.  Posada hustles to second when nobody covers the bag.  Game tied, 5-5.

At that point, of course, the Sox finally pulled Pedro for a reliever, and got out of the inning—only to lose in the 11th.

In each case, the Yanks got a break:  Pedro was left in way too long, Kimbrel was crazy wild.

But only in one case, did a parade of veteran Yankees hitters stay within themselves and manage to plate the necessary three runs.  Unlike Stanton and Sanchez, nobody in 2003 was up there just trying to wallop one over the fence.  Four different hitters took what Pedro would give them, and—in the words of that original Yankee, Wee Willie Keeler—hit 'em where they ain't.

This is the difference between a team that's just hoping to get lucky—maybe Sanchez's ball sails a little more—and one that is making its luck, and bringing the game to the opponent.

Who's on first? Maybe Abbott and Costello can figure it out.

Let's say this - boisterously and for posterity: Going into 2019, the Yankees have no viable first-baseman.

Yes, Luke Voit deserves our love, and Greg Bird deserves our pity, and if you believe in magic, or maybe the mathematical sequences behind winning lottery picks, maybe one of the pair will cobble together a decent MLB career. But Voit plays 1B like a Steelers linebacker, and Bird has now floundered for three straight seasons. Both are rapidly hitting their sell-by dates, and we have nobody in the system, nobody, unless you're ready to throw in with Ryan "Boom Boom" McBroom.

Our vaunted Yankee farm system - praised constantly for great depth - has nothing. The list of top 30 Yankee prospects holds one 1B - ranked 29th - the converted 3B Dermis Garcia, whose rank probably still hinges on the $3 million signing bonus he received during the 2014-15 international spending splurge ($17 million, shot to hell.) The 20-year-old Garcia played last season in low single A Charleston, where he hit 15 HRs and batted .241 - as high as he's ever hit. But he struck out 111 times in - aww, you don't wanna know, let's just say 1/3 of the times. Moreover, the Yankees are said to be trying him as a pitcher, never a good sign for the guy in the field, eh?

I've already mentioned McBroom, whom we received for Rob "Brigadoon" Refsnyder, and who starred in the home stretch of the International League pennant race. He hit .295 with 11 HRs this year at Scranton - numbers suspiciously close to Voit's. That when Voit came to Scranton, McBroom was moved to RF says all we need to know about his fielding. 

Our other Triple A first baseman was Mike Ford, who hit .253 with 15 HRs and a shitload of walks. (He tied Tyler Austin, a part-time Scrantonian, for the team lead in walks.) The Yankees have never given Ford the time of day, and I doubt they will again. So... who's on first? Here are some options...

1. Trade for somebody. The fifth-grade fantasy bloggers want us to acquire six-time NL all star Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona, but he would cost several arms and legs, and he bats RH, a problem. We really need a big lefty bat, which is why Bird has received so many opportunities - and may get another.

2. Move Miguel Andujar to first. But then, who plays third? Manny Machado? Well, we have another all-righty lineup. And if Miggy can't play 3B, why think he can play first?

3. Move Gary Sanchez to 1B. Or Giancarlo Stanton. Either way, we have a clog dancer, a butcher, a slob. It would be nice to have a professional first-baseman.

4. Find a cheap glove guy and go with defense. The Redsocks struck gold - gold glove, that is - with Mitch Moreland this year. They recognized how a glove-first 1B would save their infielders a ton of errors. Maybe the Yankees should do the same. Could a Mattingly playing first make Andujar a viable 3B?

5. Sign Bryce Harper and move him to first. Trouble is, Harper probably doesn't want to play 1B... yet. (He will eventually.) And see Number 3. We don't know if Harper can play infield. (But he sure would solve the LH bat issue.)

6. Just go with Bird and Voit, and pretend 2018 never happened. Maybe even throw in Neil Walker. Have a "competition" in spring training. But, generally, those things never happen. Cooperstown Cashman will have a plan. He always has a plan. What he doesn't have - what we don't have - is a first-baseman. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

I Remember When....

......Whitey Ford was a 19 year old rookie with the Yankees.

He remains one of the best we have ever had.  " The Chairman of the Board."

Today, the lefty from Queens is 90.

Happy birthday !

From all of us at IIH, IIf, Iic America, Austria, Holland, and Yemen.

The Sound and the Fury

So everybody did their Super Mega Strategy last night, in the game to decide the National League pennant.  There were 11 pitchers, bringing the total to 84—that is, six pitchers per game, per team—for a new, postseason series record.

Nobody pitched as many as five innings, and only two pitchers threw three or more innings.  They struck out 26 guys between them, and allowed 17 hits.

The Brewers delighted all the press box strategists by bringing in their fast young closer, Josh Hader, to hold the fort when the Dodgers took a 2-1 lead.  He did his job, blazing through three shutout innings.  But that only took Milwaukee through the first five frames, and his successor promptly gave up the three-run homer that essentially clinched the game for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers responded by pulling their leadoff hitter and left fielder after just one at-bat, in which he grounded out, for a pinch-hitter who then went into play second, while their starting second baseman switched to left.  The new second baseman had a harmless single on the night and struck out three times, stranding four runners on base.

For all the Super Mega Strategy, there were three different times in the first four innings when both teams might have stayed out of a double-play through the old-fashioned micro strategy of starting a runner.  No could do.

In general, everyone celebrated as if they had won the lottery when they so much as reached first base on a single, pointing to the crowd, their teammates, God.  Bill Mazeroski never looked quite so excited after hitting his home run to win the 1960 World Series.

For all the histrionics, and the excited crowd, and the inherent tension of a seventh game, this was a pretty dull contest, with all the runs scoring on three swings of the bat, off mistake pitches left too far in the strike zone.  Transplant it to the middle of July—or worse yet, a cold April night—and you'll be pulling in the crowds by the twos and threes.

One final note:  everyone last night was singing the praises of the Brewers' journeyman, part-time catcher, 38-year-old Erik Kratz, who Brian Cashman managed to get rid of twice in 2017-2018—the first time for nothing and the second time for one Wendell Rijo, a 22-year-old infielder, who batted .209 at three different Single- and Double-A stops this season.

Throw in Steve Pearce, and so far this postseason has been littered with useful lug nuts whom Coops, in his vast wisdom, felt free to chuck away because, of course, the Yankees HAVE to carry 13 pitchers at all times.  That way, they can almost be assured of finding the rotten apple in the barrel, every night.

Godspeedeth, thou Dodgers

And so the road of Hell comes down to this: 

Roughly 60 years after they betrayed Brooklyn - now the high-rent hipster capital of the world -  the putrid Dodgers represent our last hope against the Redsock '18 Hall of Fame Superteam of Destiny (TM). We have reached the crossroads of John Paul Sartre's most desperate despair, and find ourselves reduced to choosing taxes over death, lizards over snakes, facial herpes over rectal gonorrhea... howl, howl, howl...  

If LA can somehow pull off a World Series victory - (my guess is Boston will run through the Dodgers like my last colonoscopy-prep Fleet Enema) - here's how it could affect us in the future.

If the Dodgers win, Manny Machado will be more inclined to stay in LA and sire the next generation of sitcom Mindys. I can live with that. The more I see Machado, the more convinced I am that he is a) the best free agent on the market, b) the most expensive free agent on the market, and c) the potentially worst free agent fit for NYC. 

Part of it is the jogging thing, of which he's disturbingly unrepentant. The Yankees already have one jogger. We're hoping to break him of the habit. Do we want Machado loafing down the line, while Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar watch for cues? I agree that Machado plays hard, breaks up double plays like Sam Huff blitzing the Browns, but the notion of our next YES star lollygagging down to first - and rationalizing it in the post-game show - I see nothing good coming out of that, especially with the NY media. 

If the Yankees sign Machado, they drop an atomic bomb on their current lineup. They become top-heavy with RH hitters, and considering that he's not that good a defensive SS, they probably trade Miguel Andujar. That's a huge, long term gamble. Andujar has a great work ethic, and his bad throws could be solved with a great glove at first-baseman, instead of an ex-linebacker. 

If Machado stays in LA, the Yankees would probably sign Bryce Harper, whose LH bat would sit between Judge and Stanton. I can't think of a more formidable heart of the order... Hicks, Judge, Harper, Stanton, Andujar, Sanchez, Torres... wow. If they can sign Patrick Corbin, trade Greg Bird and Sonny Gray for pitching, and find a defensive 1B and a first-half SS, and maybe some bullpen help, they can reload until Didi returns. That leaves Clint Frazier in limbo, but with the lineup listing so heavily toward the right side, I don't see him getting a shot, anyway.

If LA beats Boston, it could dramatically change our future. I'll take it, though. If the Redsocks win it all, 2019 becomes the most important Yankee off-season in our lives. Boston is poised to launch a dynasty. They could win two or three world championships, supplanting us as the gold standard. We better retool fast and hard. If Boston wins, we will be the only team capable of stopping them. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Right (Pinstriped) Earth, Vol. 7


Did everyone get everything they wanted on Mickmas morning?  As for me, my usual request—the head of Brian Cashman under the Mickmas sagebrush—once again went unfulfilled, alas.  I guess I wasn't good enough this year.  Again.  

But in general, I think this Mickmas season ought to be more than the usual celebration of the Commerce Comet that once flared across our skies, cherished though his memory be.

This Mickmas ought to celebrated in sackcloth and ashes, with much rending of garments (Though I know, it's hard to tear sackcloth.  And the dry-cleaning bills!)  This Mickmas is a time of darkness and dread, with yet another Boston World Series championship in the offing.

We must, all of us, think of what we can do to appease the obviously furious JuJu gods in the future, and bring back winning—or at least tolerable—baseball to the Bronx.  

I leave you with the conclusion of our story, before retreating to my monk's cell, to spend the rest of the day in prayer and self-flagellation.

“And then it got easy.”

“Hah!  Smart ass!”  huffed Buck.  “You know as well as I do, it never gets easy.  That ball Paulie hit that juuuust cleared the wall to tie Game Five in the ninth in Cleveland, in 1997.   Then the Buhner home run that won it in the 12th—

“Oh, yeah.  Must have been real hard in 1998, with the greatest team ever,” Meulens laughed.

“I have to admit, that was a team.  Buhner, Bernie, and O’Neill in the outfield, with Strawberry and then Spencer DH-ing. “

“And the pitching.  Once Clemens signed with us in 1997, what were they calling them?  ‘The Five Aces’?  Or was it six?”

“Eight, really,” Showalter grinned.  “Maddux, Clemens, Cone, Wells, Pettitte, and then El Duque and Al Leiter spot-starting and relieving by 1998.  And fronting them all:  the great Brien Taylor.”

“Man, he could throw!  And when you guys got him smart—”

“It was hard to lose with all that.”

“What was it, 139 wins in the regular season, then 11 more in the postseason?  150 wins?  No one’s ever going to break that!”

“I just wanted to give you young squirts something to shoot for.”

“Then on and on it went.  Soriano coming up, and taking over at second—”

“Once we got him to lay off the outside pitches, you could start buffing his plaque in Cooperstown.”

“And you knew enough to put him in center, what with D’Angelo Jimenez and then Robinson Cano coming up to play such great second base.”

“Sure.  But it’s a shame about Cano.  I really thought we could reach him, but we couldn’t.  There’s always one guy who just doesn’t get it,” sighed Buck.

“That’s all right,” said Meulens.  “We have The Gleyber out there now, and when he shifts to short next year, we can just plug in Thairo Estrada after that Triple Crown year he had in Triple-A.  Thank goodness you prevailed on him not to go back to Venezuela last off-season, with all the violence there.  Who knows what might have happened?”

“Hey, sometimes you just get lucky,” Showalter said, and yawned.  “And we’ve had our share of luck, I know.  That three-run homer Shane Spencer hit in Arizona, just before that little storm moved in, that clinched the 2001 World Series.”

“What a tickertape parade that one was,” Meulens said.  “Right after 9/11.  All the players and the personnel walking, and the firefighers and cops and EMT people riding in the floats behind them.  Everybody crying and cheering at the same time.”

“And then the catafalque of Rudy Giuliani, pulled by six white horses.  What a fate!  Dying on your most glorious day on earth!”

“If he’d lived, he would’ve been president.  Everybody said so.  And he would’ve loved to see his Yankees win it all that year,” Meulens said.

“Oh, yeah,” Showalter replied softly.  “That one really put the game into perspective.  Thank God, we never had anything that terrible to deal with again.  Just good times after that.”

“What was your favorite?”

“Oh, I dunno.  I kinda loved 2009, when we signed Pedro for his last year.  How he won the clinching game in the Series, and coming off the mound, 76,000 fans chanted, ‘You’re Our Daddy!’  The way that brought tears to his eyes.”

“It brought tears to mine!”

“Good times, good time.”

The door swung open.

“Somebody say good times?  Doesn’t sound like it in here.”

“Hey, it’s the New Guy!”

There in the doorway stood the grinning figure of Derek Jeter, with his wife Hannah Davis and one-year-old Bella in tow. 

“Time to get this party started.  Mr. Showalter, you got to get yourself doused with some champagne.”

“I told you to stop calling me that!” Buck grinned.  “You’re a big executive now—vice-president of the New York Yankees!”

“Still seems like a dream.”

“Like your whole life does, to most people,” Showalter chortled—but then his visage turned somber all of a sudden.  “Nah, you and Hensley go on down now.  I got a plane to catch. “

“What?” exclaimed Meulens.  “What’s this?”

“Hey, that’s all right,” Jeter said, quickly catching on and hustling the manager and his own family out of the room.  “Not like there won’t be another celebration next year!”

When they had left, Buck Showalter pulled out his plane ticket, and looked once more at the picture of the three friends—the men who had taken the Yankees’ already towering dynasty to heights no sports franchise had ever matched before. 

He looked at Stick Michael, the Old Man, gone just over a year now and already ticketed for Cooperstown next season.  Then at Bob Watson, stoically refusing a kidney from his family, living out his last months on dialysis. 

It was he that Buck Showalter was going to see, to sit around with for a few days, and have some laughs, and remember the old days.  And to plan for the glorious future ahead.