Sunday, March 31, 2019

Six Little Outfielders

So, of the six terrific outfielders we had so we couldn't sign Bryce Harper:

One is commencing his second straight year on the DL.

One has joined him, indefinitely, on the DL.

One has been sent back down to the minors.

One is currently hitting .077, with no extra-base hits, and 1 RBI (on a bases-loaded walk).

One is currently hitting .250, with two singles, no extra-base hits, no RBI, and four strikeouts in three games.

One is hitting .333!  With no extra-base hits, 2 RBI, and six strikeouts in three games.

Phew!  We really dodged a bullet there.

The Attendance Was Robbed

This was one of Casey Stengel's favorite sayings when he was managing the Mets, and it was never truer than today.

First off, in the long list of things that people want to do to "improve" baseball, how about we dispose of the three-hour-seventeen-minute rain delay, which Yankees fans were subjected to today?

This had to be done, of course, because otherwise it might have meant Hal Steinbrenner at some point having to schedule a doubleheader and lose a whole game's attendance. Instead, he probably made out like a bandit on extra sales of beer and Rodentia Dogs to those poor chumps gullible enough to sit through this monstrosity.

Empires rose and fell, the continents shifted and reformed, entire NCAA brackets were decided.  And still, this putrid, unbearable afternoon of baseball dragged on.

Today's game was almost a classic in its awfulness, the sort of contest that, if repeated often enough, will kill baseball deader than a doornail with the next generation. Why in the name of Abner Doubleday would a young person want to drop the Xbox and go see that seven-hour nightmare?

Uh-boy. Where to start?

There was The Greatest Bullpen in the History of the World once again putting an anemic Yankees comeback out of reach...yet another game in which awful Yankees fielding—a ludicrously bad throw by ICS, a ball that The Gleyber misjudged—led to a key run by the opponent...insanely bad hitting...awful starting pitching—take your pick!

We got to see J.A. Happ arguing with his manager after Ma Boone decided to take mercy on those remaining fans and pull our big, free-agent acquisition following his dreadful, four-inning start today.

Great. We're not only going to get awful pitching. We're also going to have to put up with all sorts of Happ Crap to boot.

(Incidentally, Pat Corbin wasn't exactly a world-beater against the Mets today, but he did allow only two runs and got to where no Yankee starter is likely to reach this season:  the end of the sixth inning.)

Most of all, though, it's time for someone to admit, once and for all, that Cashman's "analytics" approach to the game is an utter failure, one that has reduced the Yankees' hitters to hopeless confusion.

Yankees hitters today struck out swinging at pitches that nearly scraped the ground (I'm looking at you, Sancho.). They struck out swinging at pitches that nearly hit their heads, as if fighting off bees (You know you did, Judge and Gleyber.). They struck out on three straight pitches none of which had more velocity than 75 mph (That would be you, Mr. Stanton.) They struck out on pitches that nearly hit their ankles, to end the game (Thank you, Troy.)

Every single Yankees hitter struck out today, save for Andujar and Gardy, who still has yet to get a hit on the season. Judge struck out four times, and looked as bad as he ever has at the plate. Stanton looked genuinely haunted. Luke Voit left an amazing seven guys on base.

The cause of much of their frustration was one John Means, a journeyman minor leaguer with a single, terrible major-league appearance last season behind him, who nonetheless shut down the Yanks for over three innings by throwing nothing by 74-mph change-ups at them.

The geniuses in the television booth assured us that this was due to Mr. Means' mastery of "the analytics."

They also informed us that, no matter how many straight, dying quail change-ups Means threw up there, the Yanks could not wait on them because you always have to be waiting on a fastball.


Means had a 35-41 record and a 3.83 ERA in the minors, and he wasn't much better today, surrendering five hits and a walk in his 3 1/3. But he did strike out Yankees whenever he needed to.

So did every other Oriole in sight. For the series, the Yanks left 35 men on base, and struck out 32 times against a pitching staff that would have trouble winning a Double-A pennant.

Even the buffoons in the booth were getting exasperated with the team's approach by the end. Not Brian Cashman, though, who I am sure will tell us it's still early.

I prefer Mr. Dylan (no, not Dylan Bundy):  It's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there.

Best Yankee Defense Against Surging O's

Into every life, a little rain must fall:


 We are still even with the Birds.

 Dropping this opening series would be a backbreaker.

Boston's Devers on course for record-smashing season of clank

William Barr's wrap-up of yesterday's Yankee game

"Following a careful examination of Saturday's game between the Yankees and XXXXXXXX, this office has concluded that neither team was eliminated from the 2019 American League pennant race, and therefore, no final score is warranted. No criminal collusion with the owners  could be proven, though the Yankees were not completely exonerated."

Wanna shut down the Yankees? Use an "opener" and four situational righties

Karns, Yacabonis, Castro, Givens, Wright... goodnight. 

Like a vegan first perusing the menu at Chick Filet, so did the Yankees yesterday first glimpse what awaits them in 2019: Junkyard righties, straight from Triple A, whose specialty is throwing side-arm heat and/or junk to RH batters who have never seen them before. All afternoon, they came and went - one after another, never seeing the same batter twice - shutting down a woefully unbalanced Yankee attack.

For reasons that I fear lurk in someone's contract, Greg Bird didn't start yesterday, leaving the Yankee ship tilted disastrously to the starboard. Our lone lefty hitter, Brett Gardner, went 0-5 with a K, finishing with a soft liner to center that was hailed by YES apologists like the shot Vic Wertz once blasted to Willie. It came in the ninth, when the Yankees had their first - and brief - taste of a lefty.

The Yankees spent the month of March denying they have a right-handed problem. Great hitting always prevails, they said. But yesterday, our great hitters looked off-balance and stumbling against pitchers who would struggle in Triple A, if they faced LH bats. Without the switch-hitting Aaron Hicks - (did we dream him?) - and Bird, the Yankees sent out eight RH batters. And if Gardy flounders again - he failed to crack .230 last year - his replacement could be Clint Frazier, making us a complete RH set. This for a franchise that plays in a park carved out for Roger and Reggie, for Graig and George Herman, for even the Grandyman and Sir Didi.

So, we lost to Baltimore. Big deal? Nope. It's comical to watch fans over-react to losses in April. The sky is always falling, the screams are always hysterical, and by June, all the terror is forgotten. Still, though, around October 1, you can look back and count the games that could have made a difference. And April always looms in those calculations.

So, without hesitation, I say this: If the Yankees start 2019 by losing 2 out of 3 to this sad Baltimore team - at home, no less - we will look back on this series as testament to the crapola we were fed all winter. The Yankees have a problem: They have a lineup without lefties; (Bird might not be the answer.) Teams will exploit this weakness. Yesterday's score meant nothing. But those names that shut us down - Karns, Yacabonis, Castro, Givens, Wright - they mean everything.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Yankees Projecting to 81 win season

A hard fought loss to the up and coming orioles puts the Yanks at 1-1 for the year.

It is early, but that projects to an 81 win season.

Anyone take that number?

A nice, even year.

For me, I am committed to the NCAA tournament.  The, there is some soccer on the horizon ---Ladies World Cup in the summer;  men's gold cup sometime.

It is going to be difficult to watch or care about baseball the way the yankees play it

Red Sox fans must be peeing themselves with delight and anticipation.

This Yankee team is bollux.

All the Devils Are Here

An embarrassing loss.

One game into the season and...all the demons that undid this team last season are back in spades.

Absolutely zero clutch hitting or clutch pitching, shoddy fielding, a lack of concentration against a bottom-dwelling team that walked six batters, made several fielding miscues, and generally gave the Yankees every possible chance to win this ballgame.

Which they had no interest in doing.

This had all the general slackness of your usual, wretched, game-after-Opening Day-contest.

We got to see yet another home-plate umpire who cannot keep up with the speed and movement of modern pitching, and seemed to call most pitches by sound.  Fortunately, at least, he was an equal opportunity incompetent.

It also marked yet another ponderous step forward for the Frankenstein's Monster that is the Anonymous Pitcher, with the Orioles prevailing with an "opener."

For all the concentration on time of games and shifts, the elimination of the most heroic figure on the field, the pitcher—reduced now to an interchangeable, 2-3-inning stint—will go far to leech any and all remaining interest in the game in the years to come.

But let's puke talk Yankees.

First, two things people need to stop saying:

—James Paxton is an ace.  He is not.

He has been, at best, a pretty good No. 3-No. 4 pitcher in his short career, throughout which he has rarely managed to stay off the DL for more than 2/3 of a season.

After effortlessly dispatching the Orioles for five innings, he could not get through the sixth.  And while I know some of that was due to the appalling defense behind him, it is still not how an ace pitchers, especially against this bunch of Birds.

—We have maybe the greatest bullpen ever assembled.  No, we do not.

Our arson squad gave away the game today, unable to retire the Orioles' Sweet Jesus, who had more hits and more ribbies than I think our own catcher did all last year.  Again, the clanging mitts behind them didn't help, but Green's performance, in particular, was pathetic.

The hitting was exposed:  11 more guys left on base, making 21 in the first two games.

A truly bad sign:  Giancarlo Stanton taking "A-Rod Gulps"—sucking air like a drowning man—in his next-to-last at-bat.  

His last at-bat seemed to be a tribute to his last at-bat of 2018, whiffing on a 92-mph, hanging curve.  What makes me think that Giancarlo's curve in NYC is going to be one straight curve straight into the ground?

(When he's finally dealt away for lottery tix after the next 2-3 years of hitting .230, can we then please please please replace Coops with Derek Jeter?)

Awful day for El Matador, against pitchers he slugged last year.  And Sancho continues to look like crap with a bat in his hand.

A bad day for Coops and Zieg Hal.  Once again, this is a Yankees team so poorly put together that there was no one available to pinch-hit for a flailing Gardner in the ninth (speaking of people who should not be here).  Pathetic.

And then there was the fielding.

Voit looked even worse at first base than Bird did the game before.  Yes, Tulo had that encouraging home run and gunned down a runner at the plate.  But he was once again caught flat-footed on a play, this one Voit's ill-considered throw to second that he did not so much as move to corral.

Sancho did another good job of framing pitches for Mr. Magoo behind the plate.  But his bad throw to second on the Orioles' double-steal in the sixth was maybe THE key play in the loss.

It was, to start with, a throw to the wrong base.  He should have been trying to cut down the lead runner at third, of course, and if he had no shot there, he should have held onto the ball, in the latter innings of a one-run game.

But of course SOMEBODY should have been reminding everyone of the situation, checking the Orioles' leads, etc.

Hmm, let's think for a minute.  Who should that someone have been?

Yes, it was Ma Boone, who instead looked as sleepy and uninvolved as his players did on this pleasant, sunny spring afternoon.

He and his players should have all taken a nice, long walk in the park today instead of attempting to play baseball, a more complicated endeavor they clearly did not have the attention span or interest to undertake.

El Chapo is sitting at 95 mph, and this is not good

Aroldis Chapman threw just one swing-and-miss pitch against Baltimore Thursday. 

He struck out Joey Rickard. Yes, THE Joey Rickard.

His fastball averaged 95 mph, about 5 mph below lifetime heat.

They're saying he needs to become "a pitcher rather than a thrower."

They're saying there is absolutely no cause for alarm. Everything is fine. Go on, get. Shoo. There is nothing more here to read.

With an easy opponent and a symbiotic media, the Yankees can preen over their greatness, but fans know better

In The Wall Street Journal this week, Jared Diamond calls it our "lost decade:" the 10-year barf since the Yankees last played for a world championship. Depending on how you spike the cocktails, this year's team either is poised to resurrect the Yankiverse, or we are stuck on a merry-go-round of hubris, doomed to believe the self-serving bleats of our own propaganda machine.

Two days ago, we celebrated the easy dismantling of baseball's worst team in this millennium. Today, with the wind at our backs and the pathetic O's in our cross-hairs, a seemingly magical season looms - no pain, no hardship, Allah Akbar! God is great! - and we can go through the motions of devouring ourselves in a vast buffet of expectations. 

But something's wrong. Today, we find the Yankiverse boiling with anger. What happened? Why are fans so hostile when we have it so much better than most teams? Are we spoiled brats? Ingrates? Or is it that we sit on the cusp of a lost decade, and here we are - exactly where we were last year? 

Let me digress. Ten years ago, when Hal Steinbrenner took over from his dying dad, the official plan was to build the Yankees along the models of great small market franchises of the past, like the Royals of the '80s and Blue Jays of the '90s. Along with Hal's virtually unlimited financial resources, Brian Cashman would build up from Single A, and the Yankees would contend every season - never needing to rebuild.

It didn't work. The team floundered. By 2013, a year when we should have pulled the plug, we instead signed Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and others, and became a barge of mediocrity. Then came farewell tours for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, when other wheels fell off the cart. Instead of giving them post-season appearances, their final outings became meaningless pageants. We failed them both. 

In mid-2016, the Yankees finally adopted the "tanking" model, which Boston had used to win two world championships. They pushed A-Rod out the door and traded for enough prospects to vault to the top of the MLB farm system rankings. Last year, we dealt away that surplus in a failed run. To make matters worse - actually, about as bad as things can get - Boston won again.

This winter, we saw public angst over Manny Machado's statement that he'll never be a "Charlie Hustle" type. His words infuriated fans: A millionaire player  doesn't always play his hardest. That doesn't cut it. 

But why does not the same view hold for a billionaire owner? This winter, Steinbrenner sat on the sidelines, holding back with his wallet. This was the equivalent of a player jogging out a grounder. One can argue that Machado and/or Bryce Harper simply didn't fit the Yankee roster; fine. But the Yankees ignored auctions for Patrick Corbin - who at the end of his contract with Washington will still be younger than the pitcher we signed, J.A. Happ - and Dallas Keuchel. Again, we enter the year with the third highest payroll - below the Cubs and Redsocks. 

Hal is jogging, while the NYC media - bowing and scraping to Yankee influence -looks the other way. We even see hostility toward Machado and Harper, for being paid so much money. And of course, when writers want to make sure their calls get returned, they always mention the real culprit: Jacoby Ellsbury.  

So yeah, I'm still seething. Today, if all goes well, we'll sit back and cuff around lowly Baltimore. But our owner and GM have had 10 years to build the organization, and the Wall Street Journal now has given their tenure a name.

It's called "The Lost Decade." Worst in Yankee history.

Friday, March 29, 2019

When in custody, they're always "ex-Yankees"

John Wetteland - (who used to be a holier-than-thou right-winger, BTW) - is in the new Mel Hall of Fame.

I don't mean to make light of the charges, which are horrible. But Wetteland spent three years with the Dodgers, three with Montreal and four with Texas. Only two as a Yankee. But we all know how that works.

A joyous Yankee day... and night!

Around beddy-bye time last night, I saw "Chris Sale" trending on Twitter. Shit, I thought, he's throwing a no-no. Then, to my delight, I finagled my cursor into place and clicked. Joy! Bliss! Mariano! 

Three innings. Seven runs. Three bombs. Against Seattle, this year's AL West tanker truck. Then the bullpen conga line. A 12-4 loss. Errors by Nunnie and Fatso Devers. 

Ahhhh, Calgon Bath Beads, take me away...!

Listen: It's a long year, the world has gone nuts, my lumbago is still acting up, and the history of opening day is littered with unforgettable performances by forgettable players, and verse-visa. I'm old enough to recall Jim Hunter getting slapped around in his opener, and Frank Messier saying, "Well, Scooter, this is a rather inauspicious debut for Catfish," and neither Phil nor I knew what the hell he meant.

If I were a big-spending Redsock fan today, I'd assure myself that Sale will be fine, that by August 1, his ERA will be around 2.00, and it will reflect the ton of scoreless innings he'll throw to compensate for last night. Yep, that's what I would say. Boston lost, and the Yankees won. No big deal. 

Unless it is a big deal. If so, then the big-spending Redsocks are about to learn how hard it is to repeat, even if they spend more than any other team. 

Meanwhile, if the Yankees don't win 5 of 6 against these sorry, ridiculous Orioles, we should do what the Mets do to crack down on players: Force them to spend a day in Syracuse. Good grief, I knew Baltimore was tanking this year, when three weeks ago, in a spring training game, I couldn't recognize one player. But I hadn't anticipated this: Two Rule 5 players, (shades of Charlie Sands and Frank Tepedino), including one starting at SS, and a pitching staff that will use a Tampa-style "opener" by the second game of the season. Wow. They lost 115 games last year, and now they're gunning for 120.

Yesterday was wonderful. We got ahead early, sat on them and ate ice cream under the sun. Even Greg Bird escaped from a rotten 3-K day - and potential fan abuse - by hitting a HR. All systems go. We looked like the fully functioning Death Star that Cashman once described. We need 5 out of 6 against Baltimore. Anything less, and we're not trying.


All right, grades are in!  From the television side:

Right out of the box,  my screen was filled with players hitting to the opposite field, taking walks, getting on base.  I wanted to ask, 'Who are you guys, and what have you done with my New York Yankees?'

Not that I'm complaining.  (When do I ever complain?)

So, starting with the lineup:

Aaron Judge:  A.  The big guy looked like a more complete ballplayer than ever.  He hit to the opposite field, ran up two singles and two walks, scored three runs, made a strong throw to keep a runner from advancing to second, and made an alert, aggressive play on the bases, taking third on a base hit.  It was a delight to watch.

Luke Voit:  A.  The guy picked up right where he left off.  If Judge and Stanton keep getting on base like they did today, he and Andujar are going to collect a ton of ribbies.

Giancarlo Stanton:  B.  Less chasing, a hit and two walks, no mistakes in the field.

The Gleyber:  B.  A single and a superb play in the field to save a run.

El Matador:  B.  He is hitting everything hard again, and came within inches of having a monster game at the plate.  His arm looked as strong as ever in the field—why ISN'T this guy playing left field?—and the error was not all his fault.  But he also blocked Tulo on another grounder and seems to have been the one who set off that schoolyard blunder on the infield fly rule double-play.

Sancho:  C.  There were signs of life at the plate, including a dogged at-bat and a single where he stayed within himself.  In the field, there were no passed balls, and an excellent job of framing pitches.  But in the end, he popped up after that long at-bat, and left five guys on base.  Room for improvement!

Tulo:  C.  Nice to see that late-game double.  But he also looked like a statue on the bases and in the field a couple innings before.  Not much movement in evidence.

Greg Bird:  C— .  Until that late home run, it looked as if the first-base fight was going to be decided in Game 1.  Three woeful strikeouts, and the error that set up the Orioles' first run was at least as much his fault as Andujar's.  A garbage-time homer against the Baltimore bullpen doesn't exactly make up for that, but at least it was something.

Gardy:  D—.  No hits, a strikeout, and a ball hit over his head to score the second Orioles run.  Plus a failure to quite beat out an infield dribbler he would've turned into a hit two years ago.  Sure looked like a player going on past his time, sad to say.

Tanaka:  A.  Terrific effort, fired, as the booth said, by his usual perfectionism.  Neither run was really his fault.  But let's keep in mind he was putting down the closest thing to a minor-league team I think I've ever seen in the majors.

The Pen:  A.  Everybody looked terrific, especially Ottavino.

Aaron Boone:  F.  There is no reason to close out a five-run lead against the Orioles with your top reliever—especially after a season in which he's landed on the DL with a knee-injury.  We will need every inning Chappie can give us late in the season.

Coops: F.  If not for more injuries, one of our first baseman—and hence, one of our two home runs—would've already taken the first thing smoking out of town for a lottery ticket arm.  Cash's luck is just extraordinary sometimes.

Paul O'Neill:  F.  Pandering Paul had to tell us that he LOVED the new, split-screen method the Yanks have hit upon to shove still more ads into every part of the telecast, now even as the game is proceeding.  No need to kiss-up, Paulie—and no need for Zieg Hal to rip us off for even more money.

The TV Team:  D.  An interminable, confused discussion about the infield fly rule, which no one seemed to know or understand.

Also:  one of the very worst Opening Day ceremonies.  It was great to see The Great One, of course.  But there seemed to be no one else of note on hand, no references to the Yanks' great legacies.

Simply blaring the same two loops of Star Wars music, over and over, for both teams' introductions—evil for Baltimore, good for the home team, of course—was nearly unbearable.  Among other things, guys, the Orioles don't exactly look Vader-esque these days.

And time for a moratorium on introducing all the clubhouse guys as if they were on the team.  The Orioles actually had six, out-of-uniform personnel line up along the third base line.  The Yanks had eight, including two equipment managers, the strength-and-conditioning coach, and the director of strength and conditioning.  Both teams had their massage therapists announced.

Basta.  Bring out the starting lineups and the manager, and let's get on with it.

So are we to the stage of meaningfulness yet?  I dunno.  These Orioles are simply pathetic.  On the other hand, I give the Yankees some credit for managing to merely stay alert as a parade of hurlers issued one walk after another.

Onward and upward!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Things we learned today from John and Suzyn

The Master and his Yankee Maiden were on fire. Some highlights:

1. Next month brings CALENDAR DAY at Yankee Stadium! and all guests of the 2019 Yankees will receive a special 2019 Yankee Calendar, and it's really special. When you think of calendars, you think of them running from January to December. But this calendar doesn't end in December... it extends into the following spring, to correspond with the 2018 Yankee Calendar and end where the 2020 Yankee Calendar will begin. These things are amazing! John only recently realized this, though Suzyn has been aware of it for quite some time.

2. Hopefully, folks won't make "a big thing" about Miguel Andujar's bad throw to first, which eventually resulted in Baltimore's first run. It was a long, tough throw from behind third base. Not many third-basemen could have gotten to the ball. And it was a catch-able ball for first-baseman Greg Bird. That said, it wasn't an error on Bird's part. But it was a catch-able ball. Sometimes, it's hard to give a guy an error. Folks should not get down on Miggy. It's a long season, with no reason to start in about his throwing. Suzyn agreed wholeheartedly: It was a catch-able ball. Sometimes, these things just happen.

3. It's just wrong that the Yankees play six games in two weeks against Baltimore. It's one thing to play, say, Chicago in, say, four or five games early in the season. But Baltimore is in the AL East, these games are critical, and it just seems wrong to play them so many times, so early in the year, especially when these teams are so far apart in talent. It doesn't help the Yankees, because they face the Orioles while they are psyched up and playing hard. In a month, they'll be demoralized and shattered. Plus, it's bad for Baltimore! They shouldn't have to play a powerhouse team like the Yankees - and by the way, this Yankee team is solid from top to bottom! - six times in two weeks. It will destroy Baltimore. They should - ohh - it's just so wrong. 

4. This talented Yankee ball club is going to hit a lot of home runs, but that doesn't mean they'll simply be swinging for the fences every time they come to the plate. Aaron Boone has instilled a new mindset with this team. You could see it in the first inning, when Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hit singles to right field, exploiting the Orioles' defensive over-shift. They're looking to have great years. We're going to see a lot of hitters going to the opposite field. Situational hitting!

5. Stanton was named Suzyn's "Star of the Game," and he said it's really great batting behind Aaron Judge, and he agreed with Suzyn that the two of them should score a lot of runs this year, and that Adam Ottavino looked really good out there, and that this talented Yankee club is stacked from top to bottom.  Giancarlo mistakenly said the Yankees play tomorrow, but Suzyn corrected him, and he agreed that she was right. Obviously, he hasn't seen the calendar.

Opening Day

Yeah, there was no room for him in the Yankees' incredible amazing superfantastic lineup

A small footnote to the frustrations of the offseason:

Major League Baseball says that Bryce Harper has the sport's top-selling jersey, ending a two-year reign for Aaron Judge.

Goodbye Cruel World, It's Opening Day

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

The politicians scrounge for power,

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

Our weary age is full of war,

The daily news brings dark dismay,
So surf the dreams worth living for,
Goodbye, cruel world; it’s opening day.

Reasons to Be Cheerful

Hey, I know it's been a little grim around here of late—and I know I've been one of the leading doomsayers.  I still can't say I'm very optimistic about, well, anything Yankee these days.

But hey, it's baseball time again.  The season is starting, the spring is (sort of) here, and this commercial Hal is not going to ruin Christmas for me.  And that's what we have ahead of us:  our big, beautiful, six-month Christmas of baseball (or Chanukkah, or Kwanza, depending upon one's religious affiliation).

So, Reasons to Be Cheerful:

—Aaron Judge.  Isn't it great that such a character can exist in the modern game—and that he plays for our team?  I know, I know, I've been pretty leery about his future, and I don't expect him to last.  But isn't it great that this great big, shy, easy-going, gap-toothed, mythological Paul Bunyan galoot  of an individual plays for the Yankees?  I hope he hits a hundred home runs.

—The strong possibility that Zieg Hal will lose his shirt trying to build his international sports empire (Hey, I never said schadenfreude couldn't be a reason to be cheerful.).

—The fact that The Great One, Mariano Rivera, has retired, so I can safely worship his past accomplishments, without having to grow an ulcer on every pitch he threw anymore.

—The filigree that still rings most of the Stadium, even in its latest and worst manifestation.

—Those Yankee Rat Dogs.  Yum.

—The flair with which Miguel Andujar, El Matador, releases the bat after lining another ball off—or over—the wall.

—CC's ursine physique—and the skid marks his knees make in the infield grass.

—Getting to see if The Gleyber can really be the star he looks like.

—How the trains still rumble past the outfield walls.  And the sunlight when they come out of the tunnel.

—Seeing how the Bronx, for all its continuing poverty and problems, has slowly but surely pulled itself back up on its feet.

—Knowing that even if Boston continues its present pace of winning 4 rings in the last 15 years and we never win another will still be over 60 years and we'll all be dead before they can surpass our 27.

—Knowing that the Dodgers have a chance to lose three straight World Series this fall.

—Getting to root for both Luke Voit and Greg Bird to have terrific seasons and prove us all wrong.

—Knowing how much Red Sox fans will hate it if Epstein's Cubs beat them in the Fall Classic.

—Watching Tiger Tanaka, a real pro in every way.

—Understanding how much more joy all of us take out of the game, everyday, than Coops Cashman, Zieg Hal, and the entire New York press corps have in their entire lives.

—Getting to have seen, in person or on a screen, every single great Yankee player, game, and moment, and/or read about them in mind-boggling detail.

—Everybody on this wonderful blog (I know, I know: pandering.  And anybody from Brooklyn here tonight?).

—Getting to hear the Master, Mr. Sterling, and his feisty sidekick from the Bay State, take at least one more turn around the circuit.

It's Opening Day.  Play ball!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Everybody In?

With opening day tomorrow, against the mighty and resurgent Orioles, it is time to place our bets.

Yanks 6-5 over Birds.

We win, late, on three run HR by Bird.


Tet Offensive For The Soul Of The Upstate New York Baseball Fan

Image result for mets carrier dome

Image result for mets carrier dome

Image result for mets carrier dome

Hicks still unable to practice

I hereby nominate Aaron Hicks' "Back Soon Back" for Yankee Crapola Spin of the Year. It competes against Hal Steinbrenner's hilarious performance in "Why We Didn't Sign Manny or Bryce," Brian Cashman's gripping biopic portrayal of "Syd Thrift," and Larry "House of" Rothschild in "50 Shades of Sonny Gray."  

In case you missed it, here's the latest on Hicksy: 

Nothing. Keep moving. There's nothing to see. Move on, everybody. Go about your business. Git.

Remember when Hicks was supposed to miss a weekend? Then it became a week. Then he'd be back by opening day. Then he'd miss opening day, be back for the second series. Now it's Opening Day Eve, he's twice gone to the needle, he has yet to resume "baseball activities," and until further notice, somebody named Mike Tauchman is our centerfielder. 

Remember that circular batting order that was going to feature Brett Gardner hitting ninth, with dangerous hitters down the line? Well, as best as I can figure, here's what tomorrow will look like against the famous Baltimore future Hall of Famer, right-hander Andrew Cashner. 

Gardy LF
Judge RF
Stanton DH

Voit 1B
Andujar 3B

Sanchez C
Torres 2B
Tulo SS
Tauchman CF 

(Note: It's possible that Bird will DH, Gardy will play CF, and Stanton will be in LF, thereby hiding Tauchman from public scrutiny on the opener. But until Hicks returns, this lineup will see a lot of games.)

Look closely, and you'll notice three batters in succession - Tulo, Talkman, and Gardy - who haven't hit a lick in over a year. And let's take this moment to remember that Gary Sanchez failed to achieve the magical .200 mark last year, and that DJ LeMahiue will occasionally spell Torres or Andujar. That could present a five-bat dead zone at the bottom trench of the lineup.

Listen: It's a long season. Injuries happen. Lineups happen. Tomorrow, we start 10 games against Baltimore and Detroit, two teams that would have trouble winning at Triple A. Anything less than 7 wins out of 10 will be a disappointment. (Which, by the way, is a worrisome trap; tomato cans are much easier to beat in late April or May, when the full magnitude of their disastrous years is becoming clear.) If we win, say, 5 out of 10, those are gimme games we won't get back later in the season.

I don't know when Hicks will return, but it's reasonable to suspect he is in the throes of "an off year." Let's hope Tauchman is another Luke Voit (while we hope Luke Voit is another Luke Voit.) And I find myself still looking - and hoping- to Scranton, where Clint Frazier will start the long road back. Red Thunder... Dude... if you're reading this, we need you.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Congratulations to Yankees, champions of 2019 Grapefruit League Meaninglessness


The Yankiverse has spoken: 93.8* wins in 2019

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, friends, Romans, countrymen, citizens of Earth...

In our collective wisdom - all of our predictions, averaged together - we project a 94-victory season for the 2019 Yankees.

That's six below last year's total, when 94 wins would have taken the Visiting Team Final Wild Card berth, against Oakland.

In a normal year, 94 wins should assure the Yankees of at least the Wild Card, though that game wouldn't necessarily happen in the Bronx. 

In yours and my comments, which run the gamut from hope to despair, we remain flummoxed by one intangible: Injuries. If the Yankees stay healthy, we should beat 94 wins. If we lose a Judge or Chapman, we could slide from contention. There is simply no other way to say it: The fates shall decide whether our lineup remains intact, and whether the Yankees prevail.

And the fates are bastards. Yesterday, Miguel Andujar took a fastball to the wrist. He wobbled on the way to first base. The trainer came out. The stadium went silent. The announcers held their breaths. Andu stayed in the game. All seems well (fingers crossed). But if that pitch had hit an inch higher, the Yankees could be eyeing at a vast stretch without their cleanup hitter. Would 94 wins still look viable? Not to me.  

We spent the winter in a parlor game, obsessing over Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, and wondering why the cash-flush Yankees refused to even make an offer. The problem is our owner, who has imposed austerity on a whim, rather than a necessity. Let's recognize that every Steinbrenner has more money than he or she can spend in this lifetime. Here are some reality-defying financial decisions that shaped this team.

For $13 million, we could have had the rising 29 year-old Patrick Corbin. Instead, we'll pay  $17 million for the 36 year-old war horse, J.A. Happ. This, of course, is a trick of numbers. To get Corbin, we would have had to pay him through 2024 at an escalating salary, ending at $35 million. At three-and-out, Happ will be much cheaper in the long run - though already older than Corbin will be at the end of his ride. We simply chose to be austere.

We'll pay DJ LeMahieu $12 million per year to - well, who knows? Is he a late-inning defensive replacement? A pinch-bunter? Can he play the OF? He's a former Gold Glove 2B with a Styrofoam bat, whose projection to be the Yankee back-up 1B is cringe-worthy. What a thrill it will be, seeing LeMahieu playing first. We'll pay $12 million for a guy who, wherever he plays, should bat ninth. We have him two years. I scratch my head.

We rolled $10 million per season, long-term deals with Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks, barely hours before both reported injuries, which remain mysterious in scope. Out of the blocks, both ailments were pooh-poohed. Now, they threaten the 2019 season, if not the players' careers. For the short run, the Yankees are clearly worried. They signed Gio Gonzalez and traded for career minor leaguer (a Luke Voit-ish nomad) Mike Tauchman. This we know: Whatever the truth is about Sevy and Hicksy, it's probably worse than what they're telling us.

The whole 2019 season seems to hinge on the bet that Troy Tulowitsky can play quality SS for three months. This gamble comes purely from Yankee austerity. We'll pay Tulo the MLB minimum, while Toronto picks up his salary. Nobody disputes the guy's integrity. But he missed last year due to surgery on both heels. Who here feels secure about this?

The Yankees' winter strategy was to sit back, let other teams win the big auctions, and look for flea market bargains. It might work. But it's the strategy of the Kansas City Royals. A great perk of being a Yankee fan used to be that we never had to worry about how much a player was being paid. The team let us escape the financial stresses that rule our lives. Those days are gone, and the Yankees want us to blame Jacoby Ellsbury. Well, not on this website.

Still, 94 wins should get us a Wild Card. I just wonder how Andujar's wrist feels today?

*NOTE: Late-reporting precincts have lowered this number to 93.4 wins.

Monday, March 25, 2019

85 wins, third place, no pennant, no post-season... I see, gulp, darkness at the edge of April

It's time to post our expectations for the 2019 season.

I - (state your name) - El Duque, hereby project the Yankees to win 85 games this year and finish out of the running, beaten and bedraggled, a dismal, wretched season of injuries and failure, only made bearable by the escape offered by our bile-laden mockery.  

Damn, I hope I'm wrong. I hope that in your comments and predictions, you will change my mind. But this morning, the boiled turnip roots - left beneath my pillow overnight with a once-chewed Chiclet and the monkey schlong - failed to turn blue, signifying trouble ahead. I cannot ignore science. Also, there are these concerns:  

1. First and foremost, injuries. It's one thing to lose aging vets. It's another to lose standard-issue steel-toed boots, who should be entering their primes. Aaron Hicks' back has mystified both him and the team apothecary. The worry is not that he'll miss a month; it's that he'll return as Zolio Almonte with a shaved noggin. Same goes for Luis Severino and Dellin Betances, who looks particularly drained. If these were the only tweaks, I'd add 10 wins to the projection. But the two pillars of our team - Aaron Judge and Gioncarlo Stanton - have been DL tenants throughout their careers. Why should we expect otherwise? Every team faces injuries. But the Yankees - as shown by yesterday's trade for a career minor league CF - have lost their depth. In 24 hours, we went from Hicks to Mike Tauchman. Does John Sterling have a homer-holler ready? 

2. The infield is a crap shot. Every slot is a question mark. Who's on first? Two players, neither of whom has succeeded over a full MLB season. At 2B, Torres still must prove he's the first-half Gleyber, not the Gleyber who returned in August. At SS, Troy Tulowitzi is a jolly good fellow, which nobody can deny. He's also a 34-year-old rehab project on the wrong side of Jeterhood. Does anyone think he'll last three months? And without spring training, what will be Didi be like? Third base will be fine... if Andujar's footwork has improved. If not, we have no Plan B. Instead, we go straight to Plan 9 from Outer Space: Cashman making deals.  

3. The front office has gaslighted the Yankiverse into thinking Gary "Yadier" Sanchez is one of the game's great catchers, as if his two-month arrival in 2016 has been substantiated by his play. It has not. This spring, "Elston" hit .222 with one homer. He is still young enough to become a fine, if not great, Yankee. But last year, I remember sterling testimonials written about "Pudge's" renewed commitment to the game. What happens when "Yogi" goes through a particularly tough stretch of passed balls? Everybody in baseball will be watching. He has no safety net for the critics. If he's hitting .200 in June, things will turn ugly for "Thurman."

4. We keep hearing about the Yankee bullpen. But who closes? According to reports, El Chapo hasn't yet aired out his fastball this spring. What makes us think his knee will hold up? It didn't last year. Betances went through horrible spells in July and August - he couldn't contain big leads. We seem to think Zack Britton is the answer, but he's still untested over a long haul, since returning from his injury. Who closes? Stephen Tarpley?

5. Who starts? Across the rotation, we have injuries, age, and uncertainty. Big Maple Paxton had a great spring. So did Sonny Gray last year. Paxton has a history of injuries, but we've convinced ourselves he'll be just fine. Masahiro Tanaka has defied MRIs for four years. Will this be the season his elbow goes bump in the night? CC, at age 37, is coming off angioplasty. JA Happ is 36. After that, it's a conga line of Domingo German, Luis Cessa and Gio Gonzalez. This is a championship rotation? What are we smoking? 

6. Supposedly, we plan to fortify with mid-season acquisitions. Supposedly, this should comfort us. Well, I don't feel it. What I see in the last weeks of July are one-sided deals where we trade our future for washed-up veterans or nightmare rental contracts, who have become public whipping mules in small markets. That notion that we should look always forward to the July 31 deadline? That disappeared lonnnnnnng before Sonny Gray. I dread it more than any other time in the calendar year.  

7. Quietly, this has become the worst decade in Yankee history. The worst. But reading the Gammonites, you'd was the Yankees - not Boston - who are on the verge of a dynasty. It's clear that Hal Steinbrenner will never be the big-spending sociopath his father became. What's becoming evident is that Hal is obsessed with paying off his debt on Yankee Stadium, making it the biggest boondoggle in sports history. We watch the Redsocks bring championships to the crown jewel of American stadiums - Fenway Park - while our owner uses this dreary colossus of concrete as his excuse for stinginess. 

Eighty-five wins. Maybe even a sell-off in August. Dark times are coming, folks. 

Or please, please, PLEASE... convince me that the turnip turned blue overnight. Convince me that I'm wrong. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

You Could Be...Centerfield. (No, really. You could.)

With apologies to John Fogerty

Well-a beat the bushes and gimme the phone,
Another body went down today.
Get me Mike Tauchman, I'm sure he can play,
Startin' in CF, and battin' ninth.
It's any warm man I can find,
Anyone can fill the spot for me.

Put him in, Boone, he's ready to play,
Put him in, Boone, do what I say,
He can be

Well, I put Bubba out there in 2005,
Until he ran into Shef,
Cost us the pennant when we coulda had Beltran.
Before that I tried out Kenny Lofton,
And after, Terrence Long,
What on earth could possibly go wrong?

Put him in, Boone, he's going to play,
Opening Day.
Put him in, Boone, you gotta do whatever I say,
Yes, he will be

Don't forget Greg Golson and Dewayne Wise,
And there was Melky Mesa, too.
Give me one Eury Perez and a Jabari Blash,
And come back, Shane, your time is now.

Put 'em all in, Boone, everyone can play,
Put 'em all in, Boone, don't matter to me,
They're free
In centerfield.

Is this going to be "one of those years?"

Yesterday, upon hearing that the Yankees had obtained Mike Tauchman, I needed to sit and drink a glass of water. 

Mike Tauchman...

Who is Mike Tauchman? I looked him up. He's 28, a LH outfielder, 6'2", from Palatine, Illinois, with an MLB career batting average of .153... (in Colorado, no less.) This spring, over 46 at bats, he's hit .196 with no HRs and one stolen base (out of three tries.) Thirteen strikeouts. To get him, we traded Philip Diehl, 24-year-old non-roster spring training-invitee who seemed lost in a scrum of bull pen lugnuts.

Mike Tauchman...

Here's the punch line: On opening day, he will probably start in CF for the New York Yankees. Last year, it took five months for the team to be reduced to playing Shane Robinson in RF. This year, we'll be there on April 1. 

Mike Tauchman...

Listen: Maybe he'll prove to be a gem. Baseball is full of late-bloomers. Maybe he'll be another Luke Voit (assuming Voit is for real; we still don't know.) Maybe he simply needs one more chance. Every now and then, Brian Cashman combs the scrap yard and finds some usable copper pipe. Maybe Tauchman can be the next Ronald Torreyes. 

Yesterday, the Yankees spun some isolated stat that I've never heard of before - power/contact - saying Tauchman's 2018 season at Triple A makes them think he can hit. (For the record, he batted .320 with 20 HRs at Albuquerque.) Well, let's hope. 

Still, when things like Mike Tauchman happen, I get rattled. I can't escape the sense that, thus far, nearly everything that can go wrong has happened to the 2019 Yankees, and we haven't yet played a game.

I have flashbacks to the spring of 2013, when on practically the first pitch of the grapefruit season, Curtis Granderson suffered a broken forearm - and from there, things went downhill. That was the year of Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner - aka Pronk - with the Empire finishing third in the AL East, so horrible a season that, in retrospect, it was malpractice by Cashman not to tank the team in July, as Boston did repeatedly in that time frame. (And Boston won the 2013 World Series.) 

Could this be "one of those years?" Aaron Hicks is now an Official Concern. He'll miss a month - (at least) - over an injury that was supposed to last a weekend. Do we really expect Luis Severino in mid-May? Or CC Sabathia at all?

At this stage, the Troy Tulowitzki of 2019 has far more in common with the Vernon Wells of 2013... than with Didi Gregorius. 

So there it is: Until further notice, Mike Tauchman is starting CF for the New York Yankees. Can you hear Bleacher Roll Call? Will they even know how to pronounce it? Mike Tauchman... I need another drink. But not of water.

A Short History of Chicanery

A-way back in 1915, when the Colonels—one honorary, one engineering—bought the New York Yankees from a gambler and the crookedest cop New York had ever seen, they had it in mind that they had been promised the chance to acquire superstars Tris Speaker and Joe Jackson by the American League president, Ban Johnson.

This was an outrageous presumption for a pair of new club owners.  But when the promised players were not forthcoming, the Colonels vowed to run Johnson out of the game.  This they proceeded to do, even though Johnson was a blubbery old man who had dreamed up the American League to begin with.  That wasn't very nice—but Ban Johnson would never interfere with their plans again.

Next, when the owner of the Boston Red Sox wanted to unload most of his championship team—including the star players they had snatched away from the Athletics in the first place—the Yankees bought up every one they could, and even let Harry Frazee sign over Fenway Park as collateral for a loan.

This plunged the Red Sox into the cellar for most of the next decade, and did absolutely nothing for competitive balances in the American League.  Somehow, the Colonels seemed to care about the suffering of fans in Boston, or Philadelphia, or St. Louis.

Some years later, when he got tired of the uneven returns on simply buying up minor-league talent, Yankee GM Ed Barrow followed Branch Rickey''s lead and started his own, massive farm system.

This infuriated Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis, who saw that the minor leagues would be reduced to mere vassals by such arrangements.  He was right—but the Yankees didn't care.  The farm system gave them a great way to parlay their big-market revenue into a real advantage in the time before broadcasting, spending it on scouts, young talent, and minor-league franchises.

Later on, when the league was expanding and TV was destroying the minors, GM George Weiss, and owners Del Webb and Dan Topping, convinced a pal who didn't know much about baseball to buy up the Athletics, and turn them into a virtual farm team for the Yankees.

Was this completely unethical?  You bet it was!

When George Steinbrenner took over the team, of course, he plunged right in and signed the very first, major free agents, incensing his fellow owners—and bringing the Yankees their first championship in years.

For years afterwards, when all the rest of MLB was trying to collude and keep payroll costs down, George would repeatedly go off the reservation and spend like a drunken sailor.  This didn't always work out on the field.  But the team did get richer and richer, becoming the second wealthiest sports franchise in the world, according to some estimates.

Year after year, decade after decade, one ruthless, uncaring Yankees owner after another went on breaking the rules, cheating and finagling, and running down anyone who tried to get in their way.

That is to say, they played the game of capitalism the way it was supposed to be played, constantly enriching themselves by re-investing profits to make their product better than ever.

Now Hal Steinbrenner has decided to join the MLB herd, and return to the sort of gentlemanly, uncompetitive, "owners' socialism" that has done so much good for every other sport and every other business in this country.

Bully for him.  But he may find it's not so easy to sell mediocrity in this town.

Your 2019 YBNH Halligators—The Breakdown, Part Sixto Lezcano: Management!

I haven't read anymore of the Mueller Klapisch Report than you have, but the hot skinny is that it confirms pretty much everything we feared:  Hal a distant tyrant; Coops semi-mad, obsessed with finding "bargains" (and why would that be?); and Ma Boone a hapless captive of the analytics boys down in the dugout.

Gee, what a surprise.

And what a difference a year makes.  This time last season we were so eagerly awaiting Opening Day, worrying over Aaron Hicks' injury, and wondering what sort of trade we could possibly swing to get Jacoby Ellsbury off the 40-man so Coops wouldn't be "forced" to make another hideous trade.

Well, some things change, others don't.  Little did we know, for instance, that it was the secret goal of Hal to hold on to Jacoby so his insurance would keep paying off.

Why is it, now, that every time we hear more about our favorite team, we get the feeling we're being hustled?  Is it just the nature of American life today?  Or something in particular to do with Kremlin-on-the-Hudson?

Going into the 2018 season, our pinstriped favorites looked to be in their best position in 20 years, back when they not only won three straight rings and four-out-of-five, produced the greatest team the spot had ever seen, AND still had the highest ranked farm system in baseball.

The 2017 Yanks had come within one game—and about a thousand rancid, hometown ball-and-strike calls—from going to the World Series.  Almost every single team in their farm system had won their league or finished first during the regular season.  Prospects were stacking up thicker than the jets over the Stadium formerly known as Shea during a midweek day game.

Surely, the long-awaited 10th Dynasty was at hand.

Then, just as quickly, it was over.  No dynasty, but a tantalizing, green flash of greatness, before all descended into darkness.

After a spectacular first half, the Bronx team sunk swiftly into mediocrity, and every single farm team followed, dropping below .500.  Save for a rare few exceptions, every promising young player, in New York or elsewhere, took a giant step backwards, due to injury or incompetence.  And the questionable trades kept coming.

What happened?

Damned if I know.

One MIGHT have expected the Sleuths of the Press Box to have investigated.  I mean, after all, if tomorrow every single Ford dealership declared bankruptcy and the corporation announced its sales were tanking below Chrysler's, business and auto reporters would go look into it. Wouldn't thy?

Not our scribblers and talkers, who preferred to tell us that these were just the growing pains of our wonderful young team.

It's almost as if the editor of the Fargo Fantabulator showed up at the Greasy Grass after the Little Bighorn and assured his readers that the 7th Cavalry was just suffering from saddle sores and foot-an'-mouth.

How DID it all happen?  Did Coops finally hit upon the secret formula—and then just as quickly forget it?  Did he just get lucky?  Was the real genius someone else, such as Gary Denbo, since lured to Miami by our wiley former shortstop?

Who knows?  Not us. William Barr might as well have been put in charge of Steinbrenner security, for all that we'll learn anything, anytime soon.

The known knowns are these:  Ma Boone and his useless coaching staff are, sadly, just the tools we always thought they were, mere extensions of Coops Cashman's "mind."

Coops is just as daft as we thought he was, obsessed still with his bizarre theories:  You get a bargain when you sign an injured pitcher!  You get a bargain when you sign an injured outfielder!  Being a left-handed batter doesn't matter anymore!  All pitchers should be lefties!  Dare to take a called third strike!  Swing for the fences, always!

And on, and on, and on...

The little man in the elf suit will go on working his courtier's wiles, whispering his self-serving stories and excuses, pandering to hi new boss, same as the old boss.

Sure, we should give him his props.  He's picked some gems out of the trash heap.  He's made some good deals in the last few years:  Sir Didi, Hicks (sort of), The Gleyber (maybe), Stanton (meh.)

But as Duque notes, we still don't really know if even his biggest deal will work out.  And there are a dozen or still still live, cast-off prospects out there, landlines just waiting to explode and destroy his endless deals for back-up outfielders and tired arms.

Unlike the Holy Trinity of Bob-Buck-and (especially) Stick, who almost always seemed to know when to hold 'em—Jetes, Bernie, Posada, The Great One, Pettitte, Mike Lowell, Mendoza—and knew when to fold 'em—Russ Davis, Sterling Hitchcock, Gerald Williams, Ruben Rivera, Roberto Kelly, etc.—Coops is just a two-bit slots player, always hoping he's going to pull a million-dollar jackpot in a Vegas bus station lounge.

Ain't gonna happen, and I fear we will see him finally run out of quarters this season.

But as has bean aptly said, a fish rots from the head down.  And that head is the unsmiling man in the kinky red boots.

Hal has decided to fly in the face of long-established Pinstriped tradition and join the meandering herd that is the soulless, corporatized entity so dreadfully known as "MLB."  (See the forthcoming, "A Short History of Chicanery.")

Who's to say if it's in support of his dreams of a burgeoning, international sports empire, or just to maximize profit and minimize risk?  But when Hal passed on the two best young free agents ever available this spring, pleading Stadium debt service payments, he put the dominoes in motion.  Soon, one future free agent after another was reading the handwriting on the wall and signing up with their current teams.

Welcome to the new/old system of baseball, in which free agency is all but dead, terminating what was a huge Yankees advantage.

Hey, I can't say that Manny or Bryce was a sure thing.  It wouldn't be so bad not risking the big bucks on the big stars—but for the fact that Hal also will not ink the people necessary to keep a great farm system going and build from within.

Instead, like so many men who find themselves in a position they did not earn, he prefers a flatterer to real front office talent.  Well, to hell with him.  And to hell with us, too, sad to say.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

With Red Thunder in the minors, it's still hard to assess the Andrew Miller trade

On July 21, 2016, after losing three games in a row, the failing New York Times Yankees traded Andrew Miller to Cleveland for a handful of magic beans. Here's how Sports Illustrated put it:

In exchange for Miller, the Yankees received a quartet of prospects: (outfielder Clint) Frazier, lefty starter Justus Sheffield and righty relievers J.P. Feyereisen and Ben Heller. Frazier ranked 21st on Baseball America’s Midseason Top 100 Prospects list, Sheffield 69th. Measured purely on those terms, by comparison the reported Jonathan Lucroy deal with the Brewers (which Lucroy vetoed) was headlined by BA’s 70th-ranked prospect, catcher Francisco Mejia, while the (Aroldis) Chapman trade was led by the 27th-ranked prospect, shortstop Gleybar Torres.

Sorry. There's a lot of rankings in there. You need an abacus. But the primal nut of it is that Miller and Chapman pitched the Cubs and Indians to the final outs of the World Series, while the Yankees are still figuring out what they received in exchange. Of course, this hasn't kept them from pronouncing the deals as grand Yankee thefts. 

For three years, the franchise - and its courtiers - have constantly driven home the notion that the two trades were massive Yankee plunders, and that we ravaged both Chicago and Cleveland of their priceless jewels. (To be transparent: I completely favored these deals, considered them long overdue.

But the reality is that, at least with the Miller deal, a few precincts remain open and the absentee votes have yet to be counted. 

That giant booty from Andrew Miller... where are they now?

Clint Frazier - aka Red Thunder - was yesterday dispatched to Scranton, where he will "shake off the rust" after missing most of the last season due to concussions. This was always "The Plan," according to the Yankee brain trust, even if it didn't make sense. I mean, all players must "shake off the rust" in the spring. Meanwhile, the Yankees don't plan on having Troy Tulowitzky "shake off the rust" in Scranton, even though he's missed two years. Just sayin'. What happened is that Frazier hit .130 this spring, with no homers and 15 strikeouts (in 46 ABs), and he's no Paul Blair in the OF. I still hold out hopes for this guy. But he's 24. It's not time to "shake off the rust." It's time to call the cards.

Justus Sheffield - was traded for James Paxton, so there's that. For the Mariners, Justus threw four shutout innings this spring and was sent to the minors 11 days ago. This might be a way for the lying, cheating ownership to wrangle an extra year out of his contract; all teams do this to rookies, just to screw them. He is 22 and knocking on the door. Obviously, he remains a solid prospect, maybe the one jewel from the deal.

J.P. Feyereisen - a RH bullpen lug nut - was sent to Scranton two weeks ago. He's always listed as one of the host of young arms the Yankees have assembled - such as Greg Weissert and Kaleb Ort - who stand ready to defend the realm from the Army of the Dead, (which has crashed through the Wall and is marching toward Winterfell.) He's 26.

Ben Heller - is rehabbing from surgery from last April, when a "huge" bone spur was removed from his elbow. He should return this season, but - as he said in a recent interview - the operation seems to have drastically altered his mechanics, maybe robbing him of his 90-something heat. Or maybe not. We don't know. We wish him well. He's 27.

So... what did we get? Part of James Paxton, I guess. Maybe that will prove to be enough. But if you're looking for a firm conclusion, I got nuthin.'

Friday, March 22, 2019

Bird's x-rays are negative, and so is this rhyme

They say Greg Bird is hitting.
His bat has come alive.
They say this year he'll be it.
(I'll believe this when I see it.)

They say that Sevy's healing.
His shoulder feeling fine.
No need to amputee it. 
(I'll believe this when I see it.) 

Talk turns to Luis Cessa.
Superlatives, they spray.
His fastball, he can free it.
(I'll believe this when I see it.)

And Hicks out there in center?
His back is a-okay.
No need to absentee it.
(I'll believe this when I see it.)

Just another spring in Tampa.
All worries put to sleep.

And to all, I guarantee it:
I'll believe this when I see it.

P.S. Monday, we each project our number of Yankee wins in 2019. Get out your abacus. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Of course this was going to happen

No need to panic....X-rays are routine

Greg Bird got hit with a pitch.

Aaron Judge got hit with a pitch last year.

Florial's wrist is broken forever.

Might just be a " ding " for Bird. Bad bruise.  A few days rest.

Might throw his timing off.

Might just bring back last season's Bird who couldn't hit a softball.

Oh well, a decision had to be made at first base anyway, right?

There is a simple truth in play here:

The baseball Gods are tired of Cashman's incompetence and lies, and Hal's cheapness.

The Yankees will be ruined .

The Yankees won't release Ellsbury; he's too valuable to the front office

On the day the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury, - December 7, 2013, a date that will live in infamy! - the world seemed to be getting better. 

Four days earlier, they'd signed Brian McCann, the Munson-like catcher who'd once beat up a showboating runner who was trying to touch home plate. And Ellsbury's signing came the same day we reached a deal with the vastly underestimated Hiroki Kuroda.

Two months earlier, Boston had won the World Series. This was our chance to get even. Hal Steinbrenner was returning to the strategy that won the 2009 championship: Buy the best free agents on the market, and let the fates meld everything together. Some folks wondered if a tweak-magnet like Ellsbury should get a seven-year deal, but we just partied. You saw that Yankee lineup - McCann, Tex, Jeet, A-Rod, Gardner, Cano... how could they miss?

Well, we now know that Ellsbury was a smokescreen, that talks had gone south with Joggie Cano. Five days later, he'd sign Jay-Z's ridiculous deal with Seattle, creating a Yankee vacancy at 2B that continued until last May, when Gleyber Torres arrived. (Fingers crossed that if Gleyber moves to SS, the vacuum doesn't prevail.) 

As a Yankee, Ellsbury has been all that the critics feared. In terms of injuries, he serves to remind us that, sometimes, when everybody says it's raining, it's raining. He never hit above .271, and now, in year six, he is returning from a wipe-out season and hip surgery. 

Two key words here: Hip surgery.

In 2015, in his pre-sainthood, Alex Rodriguez was viewed as a medical miracle after returning from hip surgery to hit 33 HRs. He played DH, and his batting average dropped to .250. He had power, not much else. But Ellsbury has always been a speed/defense CF, without a DH's pop. The chances of him returning to anything remotely like his old form are - WAIT... WTF? WHY ARE WE EVEN PONDERING THIS? THE GUY IS NEVER COMING BACK, HE'S 35, CRIPPLED, AND WAS BARELY ABOVE AVERAGE IN HIS LAST INCARNATION, AND WHY ARE WE EVEN THINKING HE MIGHT EVER PLAY WELL FOR THE YANKEES OR ANYBODY? WTF? WTF? W.T.F?

Excuse me. I lost my spiritual Gamin there for a moment.

Still... One point about Ellsbury must always be remembered. It was never his fault. He signed a stupid contract. It wasn't stupid for him. His family will be fed forever. If we boo him, if we savage him on this blog, we are misplacing our venom - we are letting the front office get away with it. This is not on Ellsbury. It never must be.

Yesterday, I had to retch as the Yankees played their little p.r. mind games. With a straight face, Cooperstown Cashman said the Yankees hope to have Ellsbury back, that they believe he still has some baseball left to play, and that he could help this team. 

What a joke. It's wink-wink, cue-the-booing tape. And the Gammonites play along. Meanwhile, between every paragraph, there is the unspoken suggestion that Ellsbury is the culprit, that if not for his contract, we'd have signed Bryce or Manny, or even Patrick Corbin - that it's all because of Ellsbury that we have to sit out the big auctions. And now, with Aaron Hicks down, we have no CF, and it's all because Ellsbury is once again hurt. Step right up, boys and girls! See the terrible, horrible Jacoby Ellsbury, scourge of the 2019 Yankees.. and beyond! Don't forget to throw your turnip! Don't worry! He's used to it! 

The truth is, if our front office cared about Ellsbury, they would pay him the money, release him, and let the guy fare for himself on the open market. He might get an actual shot with another team. The odds of him ever playing well again are insane. But they won't jettison him, even if it means a roster crunch. They want him around. They want to keep Exhibit A on display, so when the big free agents come up next winter, they can point to the Chief and say, "See? Look! That's what happens! That's why we're staying away!"

It's not on Ellsbury. Let's never blame him. And let's never forget: The Yankees will get their money's worth, just by having him play a new position: Straw man.