Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Why Baseball Is In Trouble

Things that are actually wrong with major-league baseball today:

1. Play is too one-dimensional, even boring.

2. The games are way too long.

3. Going to the ballpark costs way too much.

4. Viewing games on television costs too much.

5. Starting pitchers have trouble throwing even five innings.

6. Too many of the players are arrogant, oblivious jerks.

7. Too many of the owners are arrogant, oblivious jerks.

8. There is almost incessant, crazy-loud noise at the ballpark.

9. There are almost incessant, repetitive ads even during innings of televised games.

10. Baseball is not being played or promoted in enough places, at all age levels, in America.

11. The umpires can no longer follow pitches accurately.

12. Video replays are much too long.

13. Teams throw millions of dollars at 16-year-old Dominicans they cannot possibly evaluate with any accuracy.

14. Many players are obviously still juicing.


What "MLB" believes is wrong with baseball:

1. The players make too much money.

2. MLB does not have a major gambling deal in place.  Yet.

3. There is no advertising on player uniforms or the field itself.  Yet.

4. There are too many marginal minor leaguers, soaking up those minimal salaries.

5. There are not enough luxury boxes.

6. Baseball has not become a major, universal sport like basketball or soccer.

7. Taxpayers still aren't building ballteams enough free stadiums.

8. Teams occasionally still have to pay taxes.

9. There aren't more gimmicks in place like "Field of Dream" games, or series in European capitals.

10. Vestiges of the old American and National leagues still remain.

11. There isn't another round of playoffs. Yet.

12. Dewy-eyed new draft picks are allowed to play the game, instead of first being subjected to months of schooling in "analytics."

13. There still aren't enough games to generate the sale of gimmicky new, alternative uniforms.

14. There are too few home runs.
 








Yankiverse welcomes winter wacko trade ideas

Here's one straight from the psych ward:

The Yankees will bundle together J.A. Happ and Luis Cessa, then trade them to a city with one newspaper and two traffic lights - for a can of smoked sardines. Then, they will use all the money they've saved to whisk Gerrit Cole out of free agency.

Stop laughing. That's actually a plan put forth yesterday by Grand Buffalo to the Loyal Order of Gammonites, Mr. Joel Sherman. Talk about alchemy: The Yankees would somehow spin Happ and Cessa into Cole. A grand parlor trick, for sure. Suddenly, I'm 14 again! Let's trade Roger Repoz, Joe Verbanik, Tom Shopay and Thad Tillotson for Hank Aaron! Should we hold our breaths?

This is what happens when writers are forced to file 600 words a week, even though nothing is happening - which sums up baseball in late November. To be fair, Sherman quotes a rival executive in outlining this scheme, and he leaves enough caveats to make sure we understand what it is: High bulk fodder, so everyone can go home happily fed.

These days, everywhere you look, somebody is proposing a trade of Dopey Dildox for John Q. Frankenpoodle, plus a Cheeto to be named later. And here's the best part: None of them ever happen. 

If we know anything about Cooperstown Cashman, it is that - historically - he never flags a move in advance. Search last winter's archives for "Yankees" and "DJ LeMahieu." Or do "Cashman" and "James Paxton." Prior to the deals, nobody - absolutely nobody - was proposing them. Instead, for the entire calendar year, they were calculating returns on the sure-thing trade of Clint Frazier, who somehow remains a Yankee.

Do any of us really think Cashman will go all in on Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, with a 10-year contract that could run $400 million, and cost the team high draft picks, to boot? I don't. And tell me what team out there will surrender anything of value for the 37-year-old Happ, whose most tempting attribute might be that his $17 million contract self-immolates after next year?

Fun to dream, eh?

Today, the Yankees might do three things. Don't hold me to them. It's just the wide-eyed 14-year-old inside me, speculating on deals: 

1. They might trade Greg Bird. Yep, the end of the Bird Epoch. I still believe the guy will be Player of the Week someday, somewhere. But who can ever rely on those tender footsies? For the rest of his career, he will be an ingrown toenail away from the injury list. I don't mean to belittle Bird's injuries: Plantar Fasciitis is a bitch. But it will always be a lingering problem. Rather than drop him from the 40-man roster, and lose him in the Rule 5 draft, Cashman should trade him for a low-level prospect. Get something, instead of nothing. Sad.

2. They might do the same with Chance Adams. Same deal: Something, instead of nothing. Adams' Yankee career has come and gone. Two years ago, he streaked through the system and landed in Scranton, became one of the most anticipated young pitchers on the roster. Then came elbow surgery, and a long recovery. He used to be a starter. Now, his future is a bullpen lug nut A change of scenery might do him good. Sad.

3. For all the same reasons, they might move Nestor Octavio-Cortes Jr. But I think the Yankees will protect Nasty Nestor and see what happens. He's got a bit of Sergio Romo in him. You never know. If opposing batters don't see him twice, he might be a serviceable reliever.

But here's the truth: Whatta I know? In fact, by merely presenting trades, I believe the likelihood of them happening somehow decreases. For better or worse, that is the Cashman legacy. So, instead of plotting ways to get Cole, we should be wondering who could be this year's DJ LeMaheiu? And will we be lucky enough to have one?

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A weird dream

Last night I woke up after a bizarre dream.

In the dream, I was younger than I actually am, and had some sort of position in the Yankees organization.

The dream centered on Judge, whose name might have been Aaron but might have been something else. Hell, it was a dream, so it could've been both. Anyway, he looked like the real Judge, so I guess that's who he was supposed to be.

The crux of it was that Judge was leaving the Yankees. He was going to China to play for a Chinese team for five years, at $100 million per year. So, half a billion for a five-year contract.

His reasoning was simple. He was still young, it was a shitload of money, and after five years he could come back and play the rest of his career here in the U.S. of A. with the Yankees.

I pointed out that there were no players of major league caliber in China, and that he would just decimate whatever teams he played. But somebody else--I don't know who--said maybe that wouldn't be the case. Maybe Judge would find the Chinese tougher than expected.

Regardless, he was going. And I cried. In the dream, that is. When I woke up, I just thought, "What a weird fucking dream." So weird, I've actually remembered it all day now, or at least a lot of it.

Maybe it has something to do with the continually non-existent trade agreement. Or the relative disappointment of post-rookie Judge. Or the refusal of Hal to pay someone shitloads of money (unless they're chronically injured or ineffective on the mound). Or the fact that Judge may not be untouchable in terms of trades (even though he is).

None of it made any sense. Dreams are like that.

So weird, yet strangely realistic. Beats me.


Houston may have cheated by stealing signs, but the Yankees should expect no justice from MLB

video making the rounds on Reddit purports to show 25 minutes of the Houston Astros stealing signs in 2017. I dunno about that. If it shows anything, it's that stealing signs and hitting are fundamentally different skills, and the former does not guarantee success. 

When I watch "proof" like this, the first conclusion is that it will be ridiculously hard for any MLB suited gum-shoe to compile a smoking gun. If ex-Astros step forward to spill their guts, that's one thing. But videos won't do it. If Houston players and management clasp hands, form a circle, cross themselves and deny, deny, deny... the franchise will skate. Remember: It's not in MLB's interest to prosecute a feel-good team like the adorable Astros. The poobahs sell a lot of Jose Altuve jerseys. 

Why would we expect any suitable punishment? Remember how the 2009 Yankees' world championship was later tainted by charges that A-Rod had been juicing? Yankee-haters wanted the world series overturned. In the end, the Yanks suffered bad headlines, and A-Rod took the brunt: He lost his bid to chase down Barry Bonds' asterisk-laden home run records. No single Houston player has been tied to the sign-stealing accusations, and I doubt one will step forward to accept the darts. Houston can curl up, take some bullets and threaten to sue. We know what happens then.

To me, what will be interesting is the future direction of the Astros. In the minds of many, they will always be cheats, an outlaw franchise that bent the rules and won. Even if they're docked a draft pick, the success from cheating will outweigh all negatives. Nobody will lower that World Series flag. They have figured out how to develop pitchers. Lance McCullers Jr. will return next year. Even if they lose Gerrit Cole, if they find a replacement starter, Houston could remain the team to beat.

As for our so-called "Death Star" - (Brian Cashman's self-identity, which was supposed to invoke fear among our opponents, which is now almost laughable) - if we've cheated in recent years, we've done a damn good job of hiding it. Even now, while complaining to MLB about Houston, the Yankees have proven to be good losers. 

They have refused to use their almost limitless financial advantages over smaller markets. They self-handicap in spending, and their bizarre attempts to gain an honest advantage have generally sputtered. 

Five years ago, Cashman orchestrated a wave of lavish, million dollar contracts upon 16-year-old Latino prospects - a move later copied by San Diego and other teams. To date, it has netted us almost nothing. (The biggest expenditure, a 1B-DH named Dermis Garcia, remains mired in Single A; he hits balls a mile but strikes out too much.) They tried the most extensive set of defensive over-shifts in baseball; that didn't do it. They hired the sage of pitching coaches, Larry Rothschild, and now are doing a complete 180 - using advanced analytics to build rosters. Give Cashman credit: It's not for lack of trying. 

And let's face it: They are close. Shut your eyes, and you can easily imagine the 2020 Yankees playing in the post-season. From there, anything can happen. But without a Gerrit Cole or a Stephen Strasburg anchoring the rotation for two or three years, it's damn hard to imagine the Yankees building a dynasty. We need that workhorse, the ace who leads the team in the way Justin Verlander has done for the Astros. Who leads the Yankees staff for the next three years? We wanted it to be Luis Severino. Based on last year, that doesn't work.  

Do any of you honestly expect Hal Steinbrenner to shell out $300 million for a pitcher this winter? It won't happen. The reason: Hal seems to think that spending money is a form of cheating. 

I believe otherwise: I believe to NOT spend it is cheating... cheating Yankee fans.

Monday, November 18, 2019

They're talking.

(Telephone conversation inadvertently recorded during the ongoing MLB investigation into whether or not subject Domingo German slapped his girlfriend.  From the wiretaps authorized on the landlines and cellphones of all major- and minor-league players, managers, coaches, executives, and equipment managers.)

VOICE #1: Hey, Gerrit, it's Steve.

VOICE # 2 (GERRIT): Steve?

VOICE #1 (STEVE): Strasburg!  Your fellow free agent!

 GERRIT: (Nervous) Gee, should we be talking?  Isn't that like collusion or something?

STEVE: No, it's not.  And besides, they do it all the time.  Anyway, I'm not calling to ask what offers you have pouring in.  I'm calling to say you should go up to New York and talk to Cashman.

GERRIT: (Amazed) Wha-?  You're signing with the Yankees?

STEVE: No, of course I'm not signing with the Yankees!  What, you think I want to look at Gary Sanchez's fat ass all summer while he runs after one of my six o'clock curveballs?

GERRIT: (Confused) Then—

STEVE: Just go up and talk to him!  That's all he wants.  And believe me, he'll make it worth your while.

GERRIT: (Confused and amazed) He will?

STEVE:  Sure!  Bring the wife.  Bring the kids, if you got any.  He'll take you all to a great restaurant, even get you orchestra seats to a top musical.  Have you seen Hamilton?

GERRIT: They made a musical about Josh Hamilton?

STEVE: No, it was Steve Hamilton.

GERRIT: They did?  And who's Steve Hamilton.

STEVE: Hmmm, maybe you should specify The Lion King, or maybe Frozen—

GERRIT: Sure, I love the Ice Capades!

STEVE: Anyway, point being, Cashman just makes it want to look like he's really considering signing us.  He'll take you around town, tell the reporters that Hal is into it.

GERRIT: But he's not?

(Audible snorting sound)

STEVE: Of course not!  Maybe if they get desperate enough they'll sign Zack Wheeler.  But that's about it.  The Yanks won't go big bucks again until we're in the Hall.

GERRIT: Whose hall?

STEVE: Look, don't worry about it.  I'm tellin' ya, just go.  It's a great package deal:  first-rate hotel suite, good food, a show.  And you play along, and maybe it'll even fool some other GM into giving you a few million more.

GERRIT: Sounds great, Steve.  Hey, do they still have that M & M store in Times Square.

STEVE: They sure do, man, they sure do.  See you in the Series again next year!








Across the Yankiverse, nothing seems to be happening, but that will soon change

By Wednesday, the Death Star must set into concrete its 40-man roster for December's Rule 5 draft. That gives Cooperstown Cashman about 60 hours to peddle a Scranton-shuttle player or two, freeing space to protect his low-flying, stealth prospects. If Cash has anything going, it must happen soon.

Thus, we find ourselves in moments of strained anticipation, like in the old TV westerns, where Ward Bond sits beside the campfire and whispers, "Shhh, Barney, listen: it's quiet out there... too quiet." 

Yep. The birds and crickets have gone silent. Something's afoot. The Yankees are waiting... waiting...

... For Didi Gregorius to ponder preliminary offers and decide if another year in NYC could happen. It's not impossible. He's coming off a crapola season, and for a 30-year-old SS, long-term contracts can be elusive. If he doesn't like the offers, Didi could conceivably phone home and take a one or two-year deal. From there, who knows? He could maybe win a ring and cement his role as a Yankee for life. Note: I doubt this will happen, but until Didi signs with somebody, it's a possibility. And unless his talks become prolonged, I suspect Cashman will wait until Didi's fate is decided. His domino could be the first of many.

... For MLB to rule on punishment for Domingo German's domestic violence case. He remains  on Dean Wormer's Double-Secret Probation, but he's already missed a month of regular season and the playoffs, without a police report in anybody's hands. How much further into 2020 will he sit in the penalty box? You'd think the Yanks should soon get word. If it's extensive - say, half the season - that will impact everything.

... For reports on Miguel Andujar's fielding, following workouts in Tampa. Is he a viable 3B? Because if Miggy had played last year, with MLB's super-juiced bouncing ball, how many of those 47 doubles would have gone out? I'm guessing he'd have hit 40 HRs. If he can play 3B, if he's raised his game, what happens to Gio Urshela and the rest of the infield? Before the Yankees do something stupid, such as trade Andujar for a Mike Lowell-like package - (Ed Yarnell, Mark Johnson and Todd Noel, remember them?) - the Yankees need to know.

... For the free agent market to solidify on Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. Listen: Cashman will NOT sign either. He hates the idea of giving up two high draft picks and losing international signing money. Thus, he'll merely beat his chest to sound interested and keep the critics off his boss, Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner. But Cole and Strasburg will set the pitchers' market, and Cashman needs to know what it means for lesser starters. He simply cannot go with the same depleted staff that finished 2019.

... For bidding to begin on Austin Romine, the best back-up catcher in baseball. For now, Cashman is publicly stating his fealty to Gary Sanchez. That means nothing. If we've learned anything, it's that Cashman's public proclamations - in the face of a better deal - aren't worth a newborn baby's fart. Watching Sanchez languish through October - failing with bat and glove - has me convinced that Cashman would deal Gary in a heartbeat if a bedrock defensive catcher comes into view. Sometime soon, Romine's agent will call with an offer he's received from some middle-market team, and the Yankees must decide whether to beat it. Only then will we get a glimpse of Gary's real fate, and I think it could be a surprise.

It's quiet out there, all right. Too quiet. Mr. Sulu, put up all shields and have the phasers on ready. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Off-Season Theater: CELEBRITY BOWLING with Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Virginia Graham & Richard Dawson

The Off-Season Deconstruction Begins

As if the news about MLB's plan to start the destruction of the minor leagues is not depressing enough, Coops has given notice that—as predicted in this space—Lettuce Romine is soon to be replaced by Higgy.

https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/ny-brian-cashman-kyle-higashioka-austin-romine-backup-catcher-20191115-vadpscplzfgxtbzez2ehrdhnp4-story.html#nt=interstitial-auto

Sure, the Gammonites and other Coops fans will make out that this is just Cashman doing some hardball negotiating.  But that is hardly likely to work.

With 18 homers and 77 ribbies in 149 games over the past two years, Romine won't be bluffed.  He will just go, to start for one of a dozen other possible teams who will be more than happy to have such a catcher.

(One of them may well be your New York Mets).

Close readers of the GM's comments here will note that, once again, the whole obsession is with minor-league options.

Higgy is now out of them, Cashy tells us.  Hence, he will be retained and Romine allowed to walk, never mind the fact that Austin is vastly more experienced and, um, better, with a lifetime OPS that's over 100 points higher.

And special bonus: HAL will save another $1.2 million over last year's payroll, and likely $10-$20 million over a potential new Romine contract.

So what's not to like?  Well, sure, you're talking about the potential of significantly diminishing the not unimportant position of back-up catcher, and catastrophically diminishing it if the much-injured starter is injured again.

But who cares about that?

Certainly not the people who run the New York Yankees.

Next up?  The planned deconstruction of Miguel Andujar, as Coops once again talks about how HE still has minor-league options!



Minor League Baseball faces "an existential crisis"

Finally, the Gammonites of Gotham have stumbled upon MLB's ghastly plans to disappear 42 minor league franchises, severing ties to small town America because - well, there's no other way to say it - under the current system, the billionaires at the top are simply not making enough money.

Today, the New York Times reports on the proposal, which seems to have sprung from the holiday semen spigot of Ebenezer Scrooge and Old Man Potter. Beware: It's a scary read. 

In the past, we've spat our bile over the impact on the Yankees, who would lose one of their few remaining advantages in this world, now that their owner self-imposes austerity. Currently, the Yankees can have up to 285 players under contract on eight domestic teams. Under the new proposal, they would be limited to 150, on five. 

Let's do some cocktail napkin numbers. If, say, the average minor league contract is for $50,000 - then multiply it by 135, and Hal Steinbrenner would shave $6.7 million off his tab. (Obviously, these finances are far more complicated, but generally, I've found that when billionaires impose changes, they always come out ahead.)

Why are the owners pushing this? Out of love for humanity. Says the Gray Lady:


For the last 30 years, negotiations for these contracts have been
mostly congenial. But in this year’s talks, a clash of cultures has emerged between M.L.B.’s analytics-driven league office and a sprawling minor league system dependent upon a major league lifeline.
M.L.B. contends that its proposed reorganization would make the development of up-and-coming players more efficient, while also improving their work conditions. The plan includes increasing the number of days off, reducing travel time, improving transportation and hotel accommodations, and ensuring that ballparks meet M.L.B. proposals for enhanced standards.
Who's against more days off, shorter bus trips, nicer hotels and better infields? Well, I don't buy it. I see a plan to make more money and leave small cities - the last bastion of baseball Americana - with empty ballparks that were built by taxpayer money. 

Someday, I believe there shall be an accounting. It will be generational. It will be political. It will be societal. It will shake our culture like a frack-quake. Someday, the pampered lords of baseball will wake up to find they had been bequeathed the greatest cash cow in American history, and they strangled it with their greed.

(AMENDMENT FROM DOUG K: Billy Madden has a take on it in the Daily News.)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

In a week when nothing seemed to happen, a whole lotta shakin' goin' on

The GM meetings came and went, and nobody - not even Dopey Dildox - was traded. Soon, Brian "Cooperstown" Cashman must finalize the Yankee 40-man roster, and perhaps jettison a few repeat Scrantonians to protect high ceiling 20-year-olds in the December Rule 5 draft. He does this annually, and I thought he might pull the trigger on one last week. Chance Adams, maybe? Nestor Octavio-Cortes Jr?  

Meanwhile, the Gammonites sputter and churn. Here are some of the most cogent musings of late.

NJ.com offers a compendium of Cashman nothing quotes about several on-the-griddle Yankees: Clint Frazier, Greg Bird, Miguel Andujar, Domingo German, Gary Sanchez, and Gio Urshela. Not much here, information-wise. Just Cashman lap-dancing. The man sure can filibuster. The most interesting tidbit comes when he mentions that Adujar, if he doesn't learn other positions, still has options. Thus, he could end up in Scranton. Wow. Is that a warning shot or what?

Jim Callis provides an overview of the Yankee farm system, with two revelations: 1) the continued meteoric ascension of Jasson Dominguez as a marquee prospect (he ranks No. 2) and 2) the Yankee Top 30 includes 15 pitchers, the most of any MLB team. Even if we lose half to TJ surgery - as we should expect - that's still seven quality arms. 

A report that the Yankees are still considering signing Didi Gregorius. I hate these write-ups. Of course they are "considering" this. It's fun to consider stuff. I'm considering hiring ambassador Gordon Sondland for this blog. Look, I suppose there's an honest chance that Didi sifts through his suitors - does he want to play in Cincinnati? - and then gives the Yankees, say, a one-year offer. And they will consider it. But, seriously, I doubt they'll get into a bidding war. It's all up to Didi. In a way, he is "considering" us. 

The ghost of Zim? A story that Yankee third base coach Phil Nevin almost went ballistic on his Astros counterpart, due to his certainty that Houston was cheating in the playoffs. These allegations look awful for the Astros. Players have gone on-the-record with accusations. I can't help but wonder: Was El Chapo's fateful gopher ball to Li'l Jose Altuve flagged in advance? We'll probably never know, but - hell - from now on, I'm going with it. MLB should throw the book at Houston. But mark these words: The brass will assign an intern to it, and let the story go cold. Corporations are corporations, and MLB doesn't want to undermine one of its happy feeling "Cinderella" teams. They would crucify the Yankees, if we faced such charges. The Astros should merely expose a wrist for the looming slap.

One last thought - from me. The totality of these reports don't offer much hope for Clint Frazier. Wherever you look, writers seem to have soured on Red Thunder. I blame the hype machine itself: They put a guy on a pedestal, then push him off. But the one thing that might keep him a Yankee is the fact that no other team seems willing to give up much in return. 

I still think Frazier will have a few solid years - 30 HRs with a decent BA. And all this talk about the Yankee outfield logjam is based on the ridiculous theory that because Giancarlo Stanton missed last year, he'll be healthy this year. I think the guy is a walking bucket of tweaks - maybe another Ellsbury. Why would we think Stanton will play 100 games in LF? With Hicks gone for half the season, show me again how the Yankees have too many outfielders. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Just a Ball of Confusion

So Mike Trout has been voted the AL MVP, and what's wrong with that?

Certainly, judging by all the statistics, old and new, and that other thing, you know, um, watching the guy play, he is the best player in the American League and probably all of baseball.  Good on him.

But there's this:  Trout also missed about a month of play—28 games.  In the 134 games he did play, the team was 61-73.  In the games he missed, they were 11-17.

In other words, it made relatively little difference to his mediocre team if Trout was on the field or not.  And this is where we get into the problem with the whole title of the "Most Valuable Player" award.

Does it mean "the best player"?  In which case, statistically, Mickey Mantle probably should have won 8-9 MVP awards, and Babe Ruth, 13-14?  (I know, I know:  the yearly, sportswriter-run, MVP was not around yet in The Babe's time.)

And why should we still be throwing pitchers into this contest, when they have their own award?  But let's not go there just now.

The point is, half the time the Knights of the Press Box seem to be voting on who the best player is, and half the time on which player made the biggest difference for his team.

And as usual, this gray area works against the Yankees, and for the darlings of MLB, the Boston Red Sox.  Thus, Pedroia was the MVP in 2008, but not LeMahieu—with a virtually identical (and slightly better) season in 2019.

Look, I realize this is an old, old debate.  Back in the old days, it used to tilt more toward the Yanks, as Williams lost out to DiMaggio in 1941 and 1947, and Flash Gordon in 1942.  (Apparently, at the time, some of the Knights of the Press Box used to bet heavily on who would win the MVP—then try to throw the vote.)

I'm just saying baseball should resolve it.  Have a Best Everyday Player, a Most Valuable Player, and a Cy Young winner, for instance.  Or at least define, once and for all, what the MVP should be.







Cold, judgement-less ranking of top baseball teams, by championships, in this millennium

Redsocks 3
Giants 3
Yankees 2
Diamondbacks 1
Angels 1
Marlins 1
Phillies 1
Cardinals 1
Royals 1
Cubs 1
Astros 1
Nationals 1

Thursday, November 14, 2019

So begins the Jasson Dominguez hype

Long long ago, in a Yankiverse not very far away, the Bombers signed a 16-year-old Latino named Jackson Melian to an ungodly amount of money, opening the floodgates to a modern hype machine. He was a publicist's dream: Named "Jackson" by a Yankee-fan dad who who loved Reggie, and called "Millions" by announcer Bobby Murcer, referring to the money shelled out to sign him. Then, for about five miserable years, I followed him in every single box score, awaiting his arrival. Spoiler alert: It never came.

I should note a tragic story about Jackson Melian. Because he was so young, his parents moved to America with him and traveled to every minor league game, driving ahead of the team bus. One night, they were killed in a terrible car accident. The story goes that coaches and teammates saw the wreckage and recognized his parents' car. As whispers passed down the bus, the whole team knew, but Melian was sleeping. I've often imagined being on that bus, knowing the incredible pain that someone - maybe your competitor for playing time - was about to feel, and being helpless to do anything.

I remember that story whenever I think of Melian. It reminds me that 1) Every player has a heartbreak, 2) At the end of the day, potential doesn't buy you dogfood, and 3) Young prospects, however they turn out, don't deserve to be mocked. It's that brutal, evil hype machine that deserves our venom.  

Since Melian, that machine has raised and shredded several future superstars, each of which had an angle for easy derision. Jose Tabata's wife was old enough to be his mom. Ruben Rivera supposedly stole Jeter's glove. Jesus Montero ate too many ice cream sandwiches. Alphonso Soriano - who actually had a nice career - turned out to be a few years older than advertised. Even Aaron Judge sometimes suffers from comparisons to that player we imagined, the one who lives in our fantasies and nowhere else.

The latest kid is Estevan Florial, who hit spring training last March like a jailbreak, running wild on the bases. Unfortunately, he can't seem to put his bat on the ball - hitting .236 in his second season at Tampa. A. Florial is still considered a hot prospect - he'll turn 22 two Mondays from now - but, as Yogi would say - it's getting late early.

Which brings us to the next marquee Yankee prospect: Jasson Dominguez, a 5'11", switch-hitting CF with sprinter's speed and tape-measure power. Baseball America has given him "insane" ratings. (I hate such descriptions; do people have to do that?) He's been christened a teenage Mike Trout, compared to Bryce Harper at 16 and - in the most dangerous lines of all - evoked memories of another switch-hitting CF, the one who ruled my childhood. Dominguez received the highest signing bonus in Yankee history. As a result, the Death Star will surely get its money's worth in hype.

And don't get me wrong: When it comes to hope, I'm all in. It's been a while since the Yankees had a Top 5 MLB prospect, and this might be one. I will follow this guy beginning with the rookie leagues, celebrating every hit, because they all look the same in the box scores. And if the recent World Series showed anything, it's that kids aged 20-21 - Juan Soto! - come of age earlier than ever before. 

But when the hype machine revs on this guy - as it's about to do - here's a thought: On this website, even if it's the only website in the world to do it, let's accept Jasson Dominguez for what he is: A 16-year-old kid who has a long, long way to go in a Yankiverse not very far from here. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Best of the Decade: Number of World Series games played in last 10 years

Giants 15
Astros 14

Cardinals 13
Royals 12
Rangers 12

Dodgers 12
Redsocks 11
Indians 7

Cubs 7
Nationals 7
Mets 5
Tigers 4

Yankees 0

Yankees, 29 other teams, say they'll talk to Cole and Strasburg

If you're like me, you're still jiggling with anticipation over Monday's exciting revelation from Yankee GM Brian "Cash" Cashman: 

He says the Yankees - proud 2009 World Champions - are all in on having talks with Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg.

This is huge. The Yanks will be having talks! This comes on the heels of owner Hal Steinbrenner, throwing caution to the winds, who said that he will definitely entertain the notion of having talks with both pitchers!  

Rest assured, Yankee fan base, this operation is not afraid to be having talks... with anyone!

They'll be having talks with Cole. They'll be having talks with Strasburg. They'll be having talks with - hmm - Cellino & Barnes! With Little Debbie Snack Cakes! With New York Life! And they'll be having talks with all the Gammonites who will be having calls to be having questions about whether the Yankees will be having talks with everyone... driven by Jeep!

The Yankees are planning to be having talks. 

Well, deal me in! In the past, I've wrongfully had my own talks - criticizing "Food Stamps Hal" for letting less wealthy franchises - (aka: every other one in baseball) - outspend the Yankees, especially when it seemed as though our team was one player away from a ring. It just seemed counterproductive.

And I must be remembering last winter wrongly, because didn't the Yankees take Bryce Harper and Manny Machado out on the town, when they came seeking contracts? Apparently, the Yankees took them out for dinner, but never were having talks. Difficult, but doable. Hand-signals, maybe.

So, recapping: The Yankees will be having talks. O-bla-dee, o-bla-dah. 

One other thing... so, apparently, Little Jose Altuve cheated in 2017? He and his evil teammates stole our signals through electronic eavesdropping.

Well, it would be nice if MLB docked them a draft pick or three, but don't hold your breath. There will be no impeachment. There is no incentive for baseball to undermine its own product. Besides, Houston that year was recovering from Biblical floods, and the sports industry loves to promote the ridiculous and bogus narrative that winning teams lift cities out of tragedy. 

The Astros were a feel-good story, even if was a lie. In the eyes of MLB, the Yankees are still the bullying tyrants of Gotham, and small market teams - who tank their way to success - are lovable underdogs. For MLB to favor us again, the Yankees must lose for at least five more years, and even then, get in line behind the Mets. Or maybe NYC needs a flood. You know what they say: Rising waters lift all boats!

In the meantime, enjoy the excitement: The Yankees will be having talks.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Yankees replace bench coach. Wow.

News from the Death Star: 

Carlos Mendoza will replace Josh Bard as Yankee bench coach.

Wow. I mean, wow. Words, I mean, they are not... wow.

This is bigger than big, huger than huge. The universe has tweaked a gonad. No more Josh Bard? It's hard to imagine. A new bench coach. So... instead of hearing, "WAYTAGO, GLEYBER!" it'll be, "SWINNNNNGAH, BATTACH!" Instead of, "UMP, YOU SUCK!" we'll hear, "STICK IT IN HIS EAR, AROLDIS!"

A new bench coach. Wow.

Okay, I'd like to issue an IT IS HIGH challenge unto the Yankiverse: 

What. Does. A. Bench. Coach. Do?

I'll give $5.00 - yep, five crisp U.S. dollars - to anyone who can tell me WTF a bench coach does. What does he do, aside from slap hineys and ask questions such as, "Hey, Gio, think ya can play today?" 

A new bench coach. Wow. Long overdue. In the playoffs, our bench-coaching fell apart. From the git-go, Houston out-bench-coached us. There's no reason why the Yankees shouldn't have the best bench coaching money can buy. You know what they say, you never have enough bench-coaching.

So, let me get this straight. A pitching coach coaches pitchers, right? A hitting coach coaches hitters. So, the bench coach coaches the bench? If so, what are the metrics for deciding success? The number of splinters plucked from the butt cheeks of the Next Men Up? 

Wait a minute. I've been missing the point. The bench coach directs the defense. "YO, EVERYBODY, REMEMBER THERE'S TWO OUTS!" Or, "WATCH OUT FOR THE STEAL!" The bench coach is the consigliere, the analytical brain, the human supercomputer, the psychological wizard, who knows exactly what buttons to push, and who always has the manager's ear. "Psst, Boonie, what if we throw a pitch out?" Or, "OOH-OOH! JUMPIN' JEHOVASAT! LET'S LAY DOWN A BUNT!"

The bench coach. Does he count pitches? Does he carefully click his clicker on on each throw, resisting the urge to click the clicker until each pitch has been thrown? Does he take pride on never missing a pitch? 

Boonie: "What's the pitch count?"

Bench Coach: "He's up to 64, sir. The next will be 65." 


The bench coach. Does he do laundry? Does he razz the umps? Does he remember birthdays? Can he fix cellphones? Does he yell, "COME ON, THREE RUNS TO TIE, FOUR TO WIN!"

The bench coach. We have a new one. This is exciting. Wow.

Final note. Yesterday, Brian Cashman said: 

“Of course we're going to talk to Strasburg. We'll talk to Cole. We'll talk to the higher-end guys, clearly, and have conversations there. We'll also talk about some surprise guys, I'm sure. … It's going to take two to tango, so we'll see where it takes takes us. It's hard to predict. But of course, anybody would have an interest in players like that.”

I hereby refuse to take part in Yankee disinformation campaigns. I will not carry their water. The Yankees have absolutely no intention of signing Cole or Strasburg, or anybody in their price range. We all know this. Hal is too cheap, and he can blame Jacoby Ellsbury. So I request that we not buy into this campaign of deceit. What we have is a new bench coach. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Cashman's job at the General Managers meetings: See what's up for "Next Man Up."

The annual GM meetings launch today at the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Monteluciatsdale, Arizona, Here is where, in boozy late night hookups, trades will be conceived. Surely, Brian "Cooperstown" Cashman will keep a four-day running bar tab, and constantly prowl the hotel lobby for young, scantily clad GMs, flashing their rotations. Make no mistake, Coop will will a powerful, primal urge within his loins to couple up with someone. He needs a deal.

Fans of the Death Star should not expect Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner to abandon his policies of austerity and suddenly throw $35 million at Gerrit Cole. It. Will. Not. Happen. Yeah, it's fun to imagine - the franchise restored to marquee status, as baseball's team to beat - but nothing suggests that Hal will change. To solve their pitching woes, Cashman must make trades.

Critical to everything is the status of the five players who embodied last year's "Next Man Up" spirit: Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, Gio Urshela, Cameron Maybin and Luke Voit. They each showed flashes of brilliance, but one question always remains: Can they now adjust to the adjustments? Let's take a quick look at each.

Frazier: He gave us a great June - .324 with some clutch hits - and we howled when Cash did what he always does, traded for Old Man Encarnacion, who kept breaking down. But "Red Thunder" fell apart in August and September, didn't even break .200, and the only question now is whether he so damaged his value that he's not worth trading. If the roster were set today, he'd be back in Scranton, which nobody - not even the people of Scranton - wants to see. Once upon a time, Cashman boasted about Frazier's "legendary bat speed." Everything seemed to collapse following one terrible night in the field, broadcast on national television. WTF happened? 

Four months ago, every Yank fan in captivity assumed this was Brett Gardner's final year in pinstripes, his exit clearing a path for "the Red Menace." Now, following Aaron Hicks' latest injury, Gardy's on the verge of returning. That leaves Frazier, who only recently turned 25, on the block, and this time, probably for good.

Tauchman: He had a blazing July - .426 - and then tailed off to a serviceable August (.274 with more HRs) and September (.278), before getting hurt and missing the playoffs. One of the weirder scenarios of the World Series was the notion that Tauchman was supposedly ready to play. 

He has three huge advantages over Frazier: 1) He's LH. 2) He's a solid fielder. 3) He can play CF. He surely will stay. He turns 29 next month. It's now or never for him. 

Urshela: He had two rotten, very bad, awful months - June (.232) and September (.207) - surrounded by hot streaks. In other words, he made adjustments. He was one of our better hitters in the post-season (though that's not saying much.) Like Tauchman, his glove is for real, and his ability to play multiple infield positions makes him a valuable asset. He just turned 28. 

But if Miguel Andujar fully returns, and he's capable of playing 3B, could Urshela be moved? The Yankees would surely get something in return. The problem with that scenario is that spring training is too far off. It's hard to see Urshela being dangled this week.

Maybin: He peaked in June-July, nearly hitting .400. In August, he fell into a correction - .235 - and flattened out (.256) in September. We always knew he wouldn't hit .330, but for a fifth outfielder, he was a steal. That said, he's free to move around the cabin, and I get the feeling he'll want a longer deal, probably with another team. 

The point about Maybin is that cagey vets like him are always out there, sitting on the scrap heap, waiting to be signed. He'll be 33 in April. One mitigating factor: He is said to be a great clubhouse presence. (If it comes down to him and Frazier, that could make a difference.)

Voit: A regular season spark plug, then a sad sack in October, when he failed to make the playoffs roster. He turns 28 in February. Luke carried the team in June (.333), batting third, then slipped in each successive month. It reached critical mass in September, when hampered by a sports hernia, he hit .194. As the season progressed, he seemed bent on pulling every ball, rather than hitting to RF. Voit's continued decay, coupled with his lame-ass fielding, raises a concern. If Didi Gregorius leaves, then DJ LeMahieu probably shifts to 2B, and the team will desperately need a good glove at 1B. This is a problem. 

Cash better have an unlimited bar tab. He's going to need it.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Letter to the Editors: Yankees in the news!


Cleveland.com

YOUNG THESPIANS DO GREAT JOB ON 'DAMN YANKEES'
November 4, 2019|
Dear Editors,
Last evening, we attended a performance of “Damn Yankees” at Cleveland Heights High School. It was awesome and the whole production was amazing. The high school students were the main performers -- great voices -- and about 100 elementary school students participated on stage for several chorus numbers.
The school has a reputation of supporting music education, with a number of bands and choruses including the award-winning Barbershoppers.
Also, a shout-out to the school staff and the parents, who do a great job with these performances. The next musical will be in the spring.
Anne Billington,
Cleveland Heights

Letter to the Editors: Yankees in the News

Los Angeles Times
CELLAR, BEWARE

October 25, 2019

Dear Editors,


Now that CC Sabathia of the Yankees just suffered a career-ending shoulder injury, how soon before Angels GM Billy Eppler tries to talk him out of retirement to be the ace of the rotation next season?
Glenn Hiramatsu
Orcutt, Calif.

Letter to the Editors: Yankees in the News

Toronto Sun
October 24, 2019
YANKEES SUCK
Dear Editors
Congratulations to the Houston Astros, who won the ALCS. I can’t say the same about the Yankees. From some of their idiotic fans to the way the sportscasters fawn over the team, the Yankees showed who they are. What they are is a bunch of overrated and arrogant baseball players who will never win until they learn that you need more to succeed than just wearing a Yankee uniform. Aaron Boone thinks he knows all, Aaron Judge should learn how to run the bases, and their relievers think that they are the emblem of greatness. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera played with talent and earned the respect of their peers. The current team has a long way to go before they reach that platform.
Rick Dwornikiewicz
Delhi, Ont.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

And now for something completely different...

A little, belated Mickmas offering, to help us through this gloomy winter.

And all done, of course, with the usual, career-long miseries, such as the unrepaired, torn ACL.

"O brave world
That has such people in't."
—Miranda Stanton





Letter to the Editors: Yankees in the news

Boston Globe
NEW YORK YANKEES SUFFER CURSE OF THE CLEAN CUT

October 22, 2019

Dear Editors,
I’m a devoted New England sports fan, but I must admit I felt a tinge of sadness when the New York Yankees lost in the American League Championship Series.
After an incredibe regular season, what can explain the misfortune that befell our archrival?
It’s simple: the team’s grooming policy. The Yankees are the only baseball team that insists that players be well groomed — short hair on top, and no facial hair (except for religious reasons).
My suggestion: Get rid of this anachronistic policy, and let your players wear their hair long and grow out those beards. Remember what happened to Samson.

Allen M. SpivackJamaica Plain

Letter to the Editors: Yankees in the news

Galveston County Daily News

October 22, 2019

ASTROS SHOWED PERSEVERANCE IN SERIES WITH THE YANKEES

Dear Editors:
Congratulations to the Houston Astros.

I want to call out the New York Yankees' fans when the Astros were playing in New York in the American League Championship Series. They treated several Astros players with total disrespect.

They threw beer and yelled insulting remarks to Astros pitcher Zack Greinke about his mother and the medical condition he has. They threw bottles and trash and insults to Astros outfielder Josh Reddick after he hit a home run. This was reported by a Houston television station.

One thing is for sure — there's a special place in hell for them. It's very plain to see that the Astros own the Yankees.

Jim Benz
Galveston

Letter to the Editors: Yankees in the news


Spencer Daily Reporter

TOO MUCH INFORMATION

November 3, 2019

Dear Editors

TMI (too much information) is a catch phrase these days. You know, when you ask someone how they are doing, and they tell you their unabridged life story! I noted a form of TMI when I watched parts of the seven game World Series between the Astros and the Nationals. Everything I ever needed to know about a pitcher or a hitter, their statistics, preschool years, the rest of their formal education, why a MLB team drafted them, what they can offer in free agency, and on and on.
Some say the game is no longer the "national pastime.” Both it and college football have been around 150 years. Baseball gets a bad name, I think, because there is no game clock. Soccer, basketball and football all play a finite number of minutes, unless extenuating circumstances dictate otherwise. A baseball game goes until the final out or walk off run producing hit/play. That could take well over three hours. Heck, the average MLB game takes three plus hours. Efforts to speed it up have had mixed results. In this year's World Series, there seemed to be a long parade of relief pitchers, in most of the games. Interestingly, none of the seven victories were by the home team.
I'm for limiting the commentary by Jack Buck or whoever is in the booth and can't seem to let a few seconds go by without informing us of the pitcher's mechanics, the batter's choice of pine tar brands, or other mostly inane aspects of the game that only a trivia artist could appreciate. Throw in the unending replays of each and every play, pitch or provocation and you have an event of epic proportion. The fans must be showing their displeasure, to some extent, as the average game during the 162 game season "only" drew 28,000-plus fans. On first blush, that doesn't seem like a paltry number, except when you realize that most of the venues can seat 45,000 or so.
I don't offer any solutions for MLB to consider. I would like them to just own up to the fact that the 2019 World Series was not an official one, since it did not include the New York Yankees. Once they get that straightened out, things will get back to normal and life will be good. Guess we'll just have to wait 'till next year!
— Bill Kersting, Spencer

Friday, November 8, 2019

Piling On....


I think I already mentioned that David Cone would not become the Yankee's pitching coach.  He will not join the Kansas City Royals, either.  When you are in a cat-bird seat, you don't leave it for the alley and a cardboard box.

I saw that comment from the Great Giancarlo about "how we should get both Strasberg and Cole."  I responded to Giancarlo as follows:

 " Of course you want them both.  That way, the Yankees will still have a chance to win games in which you strike out four times, with runners in scoring position.  No one will notice what you do, if we win 1-0."

Duque is correct.  Yankee fans can forget about both Cole and Strasberg.  Their money demands rattle ( " I'm not cheap" )Hal Steinbrenner.  The reason is;  he never earned his money and those two pitchers do.  Therein lies the resentment.  Hal hides behind the curtain of poverty, but it is his own sense of inadequacy that is the driving force behind his lame decisions and philosophy.

So, we will be acquiring our pitchers not from J. Press or Brooks Brothers, but rather Target and Costco.  Look for some cast-off from the Mets.  Or maybe Derek has another boogeyman he would like to unload on us.

I just saw where Larry Rothschild has been hired by the Padres, thus sealing their fate as a loser for the length of his contract.  I live in the region and no one cares.

I see we are trying to re-up Brett Gardner.  I have mixed feelings here.  He has been a wonderful , full-time, home grown Yankee, and has often delivered in the clutch.  He did not have such a wonderful playoff series and is " getting up there in age, " as young people say.

This effort reminds me that Aaron Hicks, our ( also getting up there ) centerfielder , is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Aaron only breaks out for a few days at a time when he is in perfect health.  Mostly, he is a fine defender ( not the best in the game ) but an average offensive threat....even if he is a switch hitter.

Let me be more direct;  He is good, but " he ain't no Mickey Mantle."

So the plan is to return both Brett and Aaron to their normal roles?  Is that progress?

Didi has not been auto-renewed, so he may turn up on the Phillies or the Dodgers.  Or, he may return, hat in hand, only $15 million richer for the coming season.  Problem is;  Didi does not make pitchers work.  He is often a one pitch out.  This is not welcomed when our starter has just had a 25 pitch inning.

I have a theory now, as you know, that we cannot win with the current team. 

 And it is not the pitchers so much as it is the hitters.  Sure, Cole, Verlander, and Strasberg type pitchers can overcome other inherent weaknesses.  But we are not getting any of that ilk.  Too expensive for the cheap, mostly impotent, royal family of the Yankees.

The Yankees have too many guys who fail to put pressure on the opposing team;  not their pitchers and not their defenses.  We strike out or hit solo home runs.   The announcers, the media, all the pundits love the " show of power."  But, in the end, that does not stand up to quality pitching.  We lived that reality this Fall.  Can we learn from it?

The Yankees can't get to, and win, a World Series by counting on and hitting "mistake pitches."  We had a learning lab a few weeks back.  And we came home sucking eggs.

I see no possibility that our GM will act on this reality.  We'll keep adding more of the same, and get the same result in 2020.  Its is already underway.

Watch and see.

It ain't Coney

The New York Yankees hired Matt Blake as their new pitching coach, poaching one of the key cogs in the Cleveland Indians' pitching-development machine as the replacement for longtime coach Larry Rothschild, sources told ESPN.
Blake, who was promoted two days ago by Cleveland to director of pitching development, adds a coach well-versed in analytics and progressive pitching philosophies to a Yankees organization that focused its search on younger coaches -- including a handful who work at the collegiate level. 

To recruit Gerrit Cole, CC is pitching to the wrong man

Two weeks into crotch-scratching, pre-Boomerhood retirement - or maybe his next career - CC Sabathia has reportedly met with Gerrit Cole to extol the splendors of suiting up with the legendary New York Yankees... the 2009 World Champs! What an honor. The fans! The perks! The mystique! Yankee life! Money for nothin', and the chicks for free! 

Don't get me wrong: I love it. To have a walking bronze plaque recruiting for the Yankees - well, I'd sure sign. (I can still go to my left.) Five summers from now, 20,000 of us will stand in a field to watch CC enter the Hall, and he'll already be two years into Monument Park. I hope the Death Star keeps him, if only as a goodwill ambassador, like Joe Namath and Colonel Sanders. 

But what good is goodwill, if the top dog has already set his budget, and it doesn't include a $30 million bump? To make Gerrit Cole a Yankee, it's not Gerrit Cole who needs his tummy rubbed. If Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner continues to set fiscal austerity atop his priority list, all the back-slapping in the world won't bring an ace to Gotham.

Lately, I've felt a distinct angst across the Yankiverse, a refusal to get hyped over free agents. Twenty years ago, signing Cole would be a done deal: top players were courted without concern about the price. The only goal was the World Series. While Halligator-arms Hal surely wants his hobby team to win, he has shown repeatedly that the primary directive is to avoid luxury taxes. (To be fair, they are larger taxes than when his daddy ran the team.) Basically, it adds up to one sure thing: 

Cole will not be a Yankee.

Nope. That's the buried lede, folks. No matter what you read, no matter how hopeful the words may look in ether, the closest that Cole will get to the Yankees has already happened: He heard CC's pitch and nodded his head. When Cole visits NYC on his official Scott Boras goodwill tour, he will get a night on the town, praise from local dignitaries, a blowjob if he wants one, and a ticket to the next city. He will not get a $30-$35 million contract, and he probably won't get any offer at all. We all know this. It's fun to fantasize, but seriously... we all know this.

What's hard to accept is a sense that the 2020 Yankees should be formidable. Barring another wave of injuries - no, even with one - the Yankees will contend for the post-season, and from there, everything is a crap shoot. (Tampa and Toronto could be vastly improved, though.) Add Cole to the Yankees, and suddenly, we have our game one starter. Sign Gerrit Cole, and we could win the 2020 World Series.

Some have criticized Cole's apparent detachment in the clubhouse after Houston lost. He didn't say the right things, the way Jeter would have done. I don't think we should hold that against him. The guy had just watched his team lose, while he warmed in the pen, hoping to pitch on just a few hours rest. It would be far more revealing if he had phoned in sick, saying he couldn't pitch. Players react to Doomsday in strange ways. Didn't El Chapo flash a grin? 

But if CC wants to recruit players, go for it! Get Strasburg on the line. But meeting with Cole was only a start. Now, CC must convince the real power. He must recruit Hal. Godspeed.

Superstars

Pretty much the most hilarious statement of the Hot Stove League so far came from our own Giancarlo Stanton, who quoted expert baseball analysis back to MLB News.

The Yanks, Stanton told some sports network, "can never go wrong with Cole and Strasburg."

Well, amen, Mr, Stanton!  And of course, according to that same MLB News, Giancarlo is out scouting both of them and trying to recruit them.

He says that, after all, "I'm pretty sure Cole grew up a Yankee fan, he'd always like to do that.  And Stras, we debuted together, so he'd like that."

Huh?  Oh, yes, Stanton and Strasburg "debuted together" on different teams.  So there's that.

And there's this, an obviously fraudulent report that makes out that the likes of Stanton are actively trying to recruit great free agents, when in fact they are simply giving perfunctory answers to silly questions.

Yes, Stanton tells us that the Yankees "can never have too many superstars" on their roster which is of course what he's supposed to say.  And if the Yanks sign Cole and Strasburg—and they never will—that will mean they then have two.



Thursday, November 7, 2019

Future MLB rule changes pose a distinct threat to the Yankees

The View from 314 Ft website has a nice rundown on MLB rule changes taking effect next year, with potential impacts on the Death Star. Nothing slaps us that won't hit everyone else, but two minor tweaks to the Matrix could alter Cooperstown Cashman's winter. 

First is the addition of a 26th man on the playing roster, with a limit to the number of pitchers, at 13. This means contenders can add, say, a late innings base-stealer or a third catcher. But tanking teams - (and these days, that can be a quarter of the franchises) - will have extra space to stash low-level minor leaguers who are picked in next month's Rule 5 draft. It's a rotten abuse of the system, so pungent that it will surely grow. As contenders with an especially deep farm system, the Yankees are sitting ducks.

In the next few weeks, Cashman will finalize his 40-man roster for the Rule 5 draft. Between now and then, expect him to flip players for obscure rookie league prospects, who don't need to be protected. In recent years, this has become a rite of November. This year, it could be especially heavy.

A second change requires relief pitchers next year to face at least three batters before being yanked (unless the inning changes or they are injured.) This would seemingly end the grand tradition of the LOOGY - the Lefty-Only bullpen slot. Over the years, that post has generally eluded Cashman. The last great Yankee LOOGY was Graham Lloyd, and if it seems like a millennium ago, it was. The closest we had last season was Tyler Lyons, now a free agent. In theory, this change won't hurt us. It could even help: Imagine Yankee Stadium erupting when a relief pitcher comes in, clearly rattled, and walks his first batter - with everyone knowing he cannot be pulled. Then again, imagine having to watch the bad-hair day Luis Cessa pitch to three batters... agony!

One other potential change needs our attention. MLB's contract with the players union ends in 2020, and early talks suggest a bloodbath. The union is muy pissed off at how the owners created a de facto payroll cap, via excessive luxury taxes. They won't get fooled again... maybe.

Baseball America reports that in MLB's early proposal, the owners want to scrap 42 minor league franchises nationwide. They would basically eliminate the lower tier of every farm system. It's surely just a bargaining chip, but such a change would permanently alter baseball's unique ties to pastoral landscapes and small town summer nights. Of course, why should the owners give a damn? Billionaires don't live in cow towns.

The gutting of farm systems would hurt the Yankees perhaps more than any other franchise. Today, with eight domestic teams, the Yankees have contractual space for 285 players. The MLB proposal would cut them to five teams and 150 players... just like everybody else. 

If there is hope for a Yankee resurgence, it would have to be in the depth of our system. If MLB chops it to bits, kiss the future goodbye. The Yankees will go the route of the Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers and everybody else. Playing in Gotham brings extra stresses, temptations, expenses, dangers and distractions - the kind you don't get in smaller markets. Thus, their teams actually have an advantage.

Rest assured, MLB is working tirelessly to turn the Yankees into the Kansas City Royals. I wonder if, someday, Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner will wake up to find the value of his franchise just dropped by 20 percent. It seems impossible, doesn't it? Then again, we're living in a time when crazy shit is always right around the corner.