Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Short History of Stupidity by the Lords of Baseball

Watching Thairo Estrada grimace in pain after stealing second late in Sunday's game against the Giants—after we had already lost two players that afternoon—I decided to make up a short list of just how stupid MLB ownership can be.

I'm sure I am neglecting a great deal.  Please add your own!

1871—Despite the fact that the New York Mutual are the first team known for sure to have "hippodromed"—i.e., "fixed"—a game,  the brand new National Association—the first professional sports league anywhere— invites them to join.  And despite the fact that the Mutual is owned by the notoriously corrupt Boss Tweed.

In 1876, the Mutual is invited to join the new National League, despite the fact that Boss Tweed is now actively on the lam from the authorities.  The team disbands after refusing to pay for a Western road swing. Tweed is rounded up that fall.

1890—After the last known African American player is cut from a team in "organized" ball, baseball establishes the color line, which will last until 1946. This is more vicious, racist, and disgusting than stupid. But it is still stupid.

1899—The National League has decided to allow multiple club ownership in its 12-team league. As a result, the Baltimore Orioles transfer some of their best players to the Brooklyn Superbas, allowing Brooklyn to win the pennant, and leading to the demise of the Orioles the following year.

Worse still, Frank De Hass Robison, owner of the Cleveland Spiders, transfers all of the team's best players to the St. Louis Perfectos. The not-so-Perfectos finish 5th, while Cleveland compiles an all-time worst record of 20-134.

By 1900, the NL is down to 8 teams, and ripe for challenge by the upstart American League, which sticks new teams in Cleveland and Baltimore.

1935—The first night game in major-league history is played! What's so stupid about that? Only the previous 20-30 years, when the technology to play night baseball and thus swell the attendance with working men existed, and baseball did not take advantage of it.

1956—After a mere 80 years of devastating injuries, the National League decides to require batting helmets. The AL follows suit 2 years later. Not a moment too soon!

1957—Instead of simply sticking expansion franchises in California, the National League allows 2 of its most hallowed teams to move out of the country's largest market and head West.

It's part of a general trend in which, convinced that older, Eastern and Midwestern cities are dying and inhabited more and more by what they feel are icky black and Hispanic folk, MLB owners run for where the white people are.

Besides the Dodgers and Giants fleeing to L.A. and S.F., the Braves move to Milwaukee, the St. Louis Browns to Baltimore, the original Senators to Minnesota, and stupidest of all, the Athletics go to Kansas City. And then to Oakland.

The Braves and A's move on after a few seasons, while the Giants are brought to the brink of bankruptcy, and the Twins try to liquidate themselves.

1959—Like the All-Star Game?  MLB decides to play two!  This lasts through 1962.

1970s—Entranced by the depressing Astrodome, MLB decided to cut costs by playing as many games as possible in cookie cutter, multi-purpose stadiums with a rug. The injuries pile up and the fans depart before they get wise. We won't even get into all the powder-blue, polyester uniforms. Or the White Sox wearing shorts. Or disco demolition night, or free beer night...

1976—Faced at last with the fact that the sport is not above the rule of law and must follow the same basic contract rules the rest of us do, MLB decides to allow free agency. Marvin Miller, head of the Players' Union, is afraid baseball will just declare everyone a free agent, thereby driving down the price of all.

But they don't—the owners preferring to embark on almost 20 years more of destructive labor battles.

2010s—MLB decides to let its general managers and statheads inflict on the sport the most boring form of the game ever devised, while continuing to charge fans extortionate prices and put them through endless rain delays.

2019—MLB decided to make the bases as immobile as possible, and encourage fielders to push runners off them, thereby subjecting the incredibly high-priced talent to countless injuries.

I'm sure there are many others...

So the question becomes... what happens to Greg Bird?

With Luke Voit winning AL Player of the Week - (by the way, hooyah to Luke Voit, AL Player of the Week!) - the time has come to ponder the sad, grimy underside of the rainbow: Greg Bird. 

Unless Voit gets hurt - (fans know this a virtual impossibility) - Bird is done as a private contractor on the Death Star. Frankly, even if Voit gets hurt - (obviously, it can't happen) - the marriage can't be saved. Hey, it didn't work. It's the vagaries of love. It's nobody's fault. If you want to blame anybody, blame me. If only I hadn't blown my stack and said those things on opening day, after he struck out in his first three at-bats.

But as Sansa Stark told Peter Dinklage in the crypt Sunday night: The most heroic thing we can do is be honest: Voit is for real, and he's not going to platoon with a guy who can't reach .200, no matter how great that particular guy looked while hitting a playoff HR against Andrew Miller. Not only that, but Voit is also a giant puppy, the type of guy you want in your clubhouse - (not saying Bird isn't) - and he deserves to play when not injured (which should be always.) 

So... what can the Yankees do with Greg Bird?

He is 26, which means he's not done. In fact, he deserves one last shot, preferably in a small market. His fielding is so-so - better than Voit's, which is slightly better than a catcher's - and Bird made some bonehead plays early this season. The YES propaganda machine claimed he'd added 10 pounds of lady-pleasing testosterone, and he looked hooked-up to a bicycle pump. But he didn't hit bigger: One HR, whacked after he heard my screams on opening day. (If only I could have held my tongue.) 

Let me state for the record: I still like Bird. I wish it worked out. Someday, he'll hit 25 home runs and bat .260, and feed his family for life on the proceeds of a career year. (He's a free agent in 2022.) Someday, he'll meet the god of hitting. But as Arya Stark told the red lady, "Not today!" 

So... what do we do?

First, we wait until Bird is healed. Or heeled, since that's his problem. (Ha ha!) That could be a month, maybe more. Who knows? Bird heals at a geological rate. Then Cooperstown Cashman will send him to Scranton. Why? Because he can. I think Bird still has an option. 

Then, Cash will start looking for low-level minor league arms. Whenever the Yankees fear losing a player to the Rule 5 draft, or Food Stamps Hal has a spasm from eating bad Scranton scrapple, they trade the guy for a few low A rifles who once wowed a wonk with a radar gun. I'm thinking that Bird will not return to the Bronx this season, unless Voit goes on the Injured List. And we all know that can't happen. Right?

Monday, April 29, 2019

Between the injuries and the replacements, the Yankees have found an amazing new way to score runs: Singles

A sad but standard move for following the 2019 Yankees: 

When you hear we've scored, you pull up the box score to learn who hit the home run. 

During the horrible first weeks of April, that's all this team seemed to do: Swing away, directly into the teeth of defensive over-shifts, and try to swat the ball not just out of the park, but out of the city.

Lately - in what historians may label "the Brett Gardner Batting Third Era" - things have changed. Last week, we beat the Angels by scoring six runs - and not one homer. Imagine that. Six runs... not one homer. Yesterday, we swatted two, but in the previous pair of victories against lowly SF, we hit only one HR in each game. It's as if these no-name replacement players are content to score the old fashioned way, moving from base to base. Wow! You can actually score without home runs! Who knew?

Last year, the Yankees set an all-time HR record. That got us the Wild Card. Today, we sit 5th in MLB behind Seattle, Milwaukee, Minnesota and the Dodgers. (Fourth in runs scored and 8th in batting average, at .262.) Of course, this will change. It's happened without last year's top HR threat (Giancarlo Stanton, 38) and the four team runner-ups (Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge... all with 27.) 

By this time next month, Stanton and Hicks should have returned. Judge and Gregorius should be in rehab. (Andujar? Who knows? He needs to play a few games.) And it's fair to wonder if, when the big hitters return, the team will abandon the ways that it just won five of six on the West Coast.

(By the way, one of the beauties of this last week is the compelling difference between us and the Redsocks, who suffered their early indignities on a West Coast swing. If we feared our own disaster on the road, that's now gone.) 

Aaron Boone was hired, at least in part, because of the easy going way he handles star players. To some extent - and I don't mean to diminish this, because some managers never learn it - Boone is paid to simply get the fuck out of the way. 

If the sluggers slug, the Yankees - at least on paper - should win enough games to make the playoffs. From there, it's a crap-shoot. But the other night, the Yankees won a game because replacement nobody Tyler Wade stole second base, and then scored on a single. In game after game, this team of forgettable names has strung together two-out singles and even sacrifice flies to score key runs. It's become fun to ditch the box score and actually see how the Yankees managed to score, rather than learn who clubbed the ball out of the park.

I wonder if Boone can, as Ken Singleton would say, "keep the merry-go-round moving," when the stars return. If so, this could be a great Yankee season. If not, and we revert to winning the team HR crown - well, we'll probably another Wild Card and a crap-shoot. But we all know what happens when home run hitters face playoff aces: They get shut down. The path to the World Series runs base to base. Will we remember the heroes of late April, back in the days when Brett Gardner batted third?

Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Response

Dear Mr. Duque,

The answer to your query is clear.

When all those " regulars " return, the team begins to lose again.  Regularly.

We begin a trajectory that resembles a team playing .400 ball ( downward slope ), rather than a team that has won at an .800 clip ( upward slope).

Tomato cans notwithstanding, the existing team of back-ups and rag-a- muffins are playing baseball.  They are hitting home runs without trying to hit home runs.  They are manufacturing runs the old fashioned way.  They are running the bases and playing defense.  Some are making notable, outstanding plays.  We have even seen successful bunts and steals of third base.

There is passion among these players.  For each other and for the game.

When the regulars return, we go from a team that is fun to watch and unpredictable, to a team that is deadly boring to watch and totally predictable.  We go from guys making contact and taking walks, to guys who strike out mercilessly.  We go from hustle to disinterest.

The team of today is getting clutch hits.  The team to arrive never hits in the clutch.  The "veteran" team showed no ability to mount a comeback win. The team on the field makes regular medicine of that.  The "original" line-up couldn't beat tomato cans at home.  The team on the field wins at home and away.

Baseball reality ( the stupid traditions and decisions of ownership and management ) will inevitably subsume the dream.  Those highly paid " veterans  do not deserve to lose their jobs due to injury." Right?  But that happened to Wally Pipp did it not? And how did that work out for the Yankees?

Frankly, I have grown to dread the day when Stanton returns.  When Hicks returns.  Even
Andujar ( my personal favorite young kid ) can't play defense like Gio.

Why in the world would anyone " mess" with a formula that is winning?  Leave Stanton with his nerf ball and his batting tee.  Let Hicks remain in traction on a beach in Florida.  Trade Andujar for a starting pitcher.  Let Tuto have a private room with a window overlooking the East River.

I fear that the the chess match of " moves" is about to begin and,  sadly, some of these young over-achievers will become part of trade packages. Guys who were " dead and buried" have attracted attention, and that is a good thing for them.  Only not for us.  And not for the fans, the team or the franchise.

 Money will win out.  Hal will not allow his highly paid losers to sit, while he happily allows the underpaid winners to be disbanded.  Because winning is not his object.  It is only our object.  We will talk for years about the team that was and how it became the team that wasn't.  Could the no names have won it all through grit and love of the game?

Gloom and doom are growing on the horizon, as the $300 million contracts return to the line-up.
Let them keep winning until they can't.

Only you have the power to determine if we see Frazier again, if Estrada remains a Yankee, if Stanton sets a new record for striking out, if Tyler wade can continue to disrupt and contribute.  And Voit stays hot.

You are our "death star" manager.  Keep us thriving and dangerous.

Help us now. 

Without your intervention, it is otherwise far too clear what is to become of this scrappy, successful , competitive team.



When the starters return, what happens to these lovable lug nuts?

You know how the National Weather Service now names snow storms? We're now experiencing Storm Xyler, with Yvette and Zachary still to come. 

I propose that the Yankees give similar titles to injuries, in this case giving them dog names. Thus, the year's first gonadal tweak - officially to Jacoby Ellsbury, who is always injured - was Accident Abe. Then, Didi Gregorius became Accident Buddy, Luis Severino Accident Chief, and so on. We're already at Accident Max (Clint Frazier) and could reach Zeke by June 1.

But what happens to the victims of Yankee rehabilitation, the no-names who have courageously outplayed their superstar inspirations. 

Yesterday, the Death Star released updates on the infamous injury blizzard, suggesting some returns are imminent.

For example, Ellsbury is expected back any minute now. As I speak, he is streaking across the Nebraska horizon in his rocket-powered wheelchair, en route to San Francisco, where he'll play CF and recite poety this afternoon. What happened? Simple: CBD oil! So let's cross Abby off the injury list, and enshrine him into the Yankee retirement hall of fame.

(Of course, Ellsbury will never play another down in pinstripes. And once again, let's remind ourselves that a bad contract is not the player's fault. The Yankees chose to bestow a seven-year deal unto an injury-plagued career, and Ellsbury simply was smart enough to take it.)

Supposedly, though, some are on the verge:

Giancarlo Stanton, out since game three, might rejoin the team Tuesday in Arizona. There goes Mike Ford, who hit the two-run blast against the Angels.  

Aaron Hicks, out since the opening of spring training, might play fake games this week. He could be back within - hmm? - two weeks? (There goes Clint Frazier, who might otherwise rejoin the team next weekend - except that Frazier was hitting too well to be demoted to Scranton, so it would probably exile Mike Tauchman... unless there is a logjam of Designated Hitters, in which case Tauchman would stay... assuming he can lift his average above .220 and - wow, it gets complicated.) 

Dellin Betances might start throwing this week, which means he's a few weeks away, and whomever he replaces should improve the bullpen, unless Dellin turns out to be the Bad Betances, in which case we will re-enact the plight of Hanging Chad Green, and have to watch him blow sizable leads. And speaking of Bad Chad, is he an injury or just a flop? 

Miguel Andujar might play in fake games this week. He's probably two weeks away. That means so long Gio Urshella, unless DJ LeMahieu's jammed ankle - see yesterday - forces him to miss time.

Greg Bird? Oh, why bother?

Troy Tulowitski? I'm tempted to say the same. Frankly, Gleyber Torres covers more ground and has done a fine job. Moreover, Tyler Wade brings speed to the offense, something the Yankees can use in close games, once we stop playing tomato cans. What does Tulo bring, aside from a bunch of hibernating tweaks, waiting to awaken?

Of course, Luis Severino - the one we needed most - remains down for the months of May and June. When a person goes missing that long, you have to assume that he or she may never be found. 

The Battling Bastards of the Bronx

All right, I've tried this before.  But let me give it another go:

We're the battling bastards of the Bronx
We got rips in our ankles and bonks in our conks.
No Sevvy, no Didi, no Stanton (No thonks).
No Judge, no Frazier, no Hicks, and no Bird,
Our manager stinks and our pen is absurd,
But at least Hal has got Jacoby insured.
No Miggy, no Green, no Tulo, no Hicks,
And the sorriest roster this side of the Knicks.
And none of them gives a damn.
And none of us gives a damn.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Batting cleanup: Urshella... wait... did the Yankees just field their worst lineup ever?

In a Yankiverse not very far away, the Death Star last night stacked the bats of Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar - back to back to back to back - in a fearsome lineup of power and fury. And they lost, of course. 

But here on Earth Omega, Boonie's bonerless bombers have now won seven out of eight, climbing to just two games behind Tampa and currently tied for visiting team in the 2019 wild card race. If the season ended tomorrow, we would face a one-game pre-wild card playoff against Houston. And in another Yankiverse, maybe seasons do end in April. But for now, let's not go there.

Seriously, I don't know how this is happening, unless we passed through a belt of green gamma rays, thrusting us into an alternative universe where the past and present have merged into terrifying hybrids. And there is reason to suspect just that.

Last night, there he was - none other than Tyler Austin, the man we converted into Lance Lynn, hitting .286. Not far away stood "Never Nervous" Yangervis Solarte, who brought us the Chase Headley Era, or as some preferred, the "Head Casely Era." (When we think of Cashman's highway robbery of Luke Voit from St. Louis, remember that the universe always has a way of evening things out, and Headley was our wrong side of the rainbow.)

If Afghanistan is truly the graveyard of empires, San Francisco has become the graveyard of the Evil Empire. The Giants front office - run by ex-Yank suit Brian Sabean - includes Dirt Tidrow, Felipe Alou and Dave Righetti, each who should still be a Yankee. The Giants have two World Championships in this millennium, which is one more than we do (unless you count 2000, which technically can go either way.)

I don't know how long this winning streak will continue. The Yankee lineup last night was arguably one of the weakest since the days of Rich McKinney and Tom Shopay. I half-expected to see Ron Klimkowski warming in the pen. Seriously: When you see the next Yankee half-inning will bring up Tauchman, Estrada and Paxton, isn't it time to go make a sandwich? 

But we won. And every win brings us closer to the power-packed lineup of Earth Omega. Where, of course, we will lose.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The final River Ave chat is happening now.

Your chance to say goodbye to a great Yankee site.


Yanks winning streak ends at 6 games and 6 innings

Last night, the Death Star's exciting new Yankees Got Talent reality show rolled its wining streak into the sixth commercial break of the seventh episode. You could feel the warmth, the pulse-pounding surge of discovery, as little Gio Urshella whacked his first MLB home run, giving the Yankees a solid lead!

In a scene reminiscent of Mustafa hoisting his newborn cub in The Lion King, Meredith Marakovits made her way up to the Cancer Clinic Broadcast Booth to bring to light The Master's historic new HR call: "Gio Urshella, he's a happy fella," from the obscure Broadway show "Only John Sterling Knows This." (Note: Shouldn't it have been "for he's a jolly good fellow... which nobody can deny?") It was a remarkable event, perhaps the most joyful moment for the Yankees thus far in 2019.

And everyone watching on YES, everybody within the still awake Yankiverse, understood with crystal clarity one certain fact: 

There was absolutely no way the Yankees would lose this game. NO FUKKIN WAY...

Then, it's China Town, Jake. 

Then we watched a collapse so profound that it nearly obscures the good vibes of a great week. And the culprit was, of course, the hyenas. 

It's the bullpen. Again.

Two months ago, the prophets couldn't heap enough praise on the assortment of Olympian gods who would be warming up for the Yankees in every sixth inning, ready to ice victories the way White Walkers snatched babies on Game of Thrones. There was the Great Aroldis. And Dellin the Unhittable. And the Ottoman. And Zach/Zack. And Mean Chad, (who turned into Hanging Chad.) What a collection. All we'd need was five solid innings from a starter, and games would be ours. Locked down. 

Insert sigh here.

Listen: All streaks end. A good team dusts itself off and starts over. But sometimes, a loss feels like more than one nine-inning delirium. Sometimes, it signifies a gigantic balloon bursting. And my ears still hurt from the sound last night.

Today, I don't know how anybody in the Yankiverse can feel that any future lead is safe. That arsenal of talent we seemed to assemble in January? It's a memory of a dream. 

Okay, nobody should agonize too much over a loss... especially in April. Yes, it's still April. But what an ugly, horrible, humiliating way to end a winning streak. 

It's the bullpen. Again. Hakuna mutata, muthafukkahs. 

The Innocent Bystander

Hey, they were bound to lose one, right?

That will be the inevitable take on this series-ending collapse against the Angels, and what more do you want than three out of four?

The loss, certainly, was primarily the fault of Tanaka—who I am convinced will be on the DL within days—and the Arson Squad, now an appalling 5-12 under my CollBull W/L system (patent pending).

But much more irksome was how, as the Tiger and Jonathan Surrenderer coughed up a four-run lead, the rest of the team reacted.

Frustrated, no doubt, by a mess o' hard-hit balls that just failed to get out or get down for hits, and particularly by the ball-and-strike stylings of home plate ump Ryan Blankney, the Yanks melted into a puddle of self-pity, sloppily tossing the ball around in the field, pouting and posturing at the plate.

Blankney was, to be sure, calling your basic homer game, squeezing Tanaka while expanding the zone steadily when the Yanks were up—something that's become all too common an occurrence in the majors.

But so what?  Deal with it.  Instead, this young Yankees team seemed to lose their composure...and worst of all, Ma Boone once against acted like an innocent bystander to the whole scene.

In such a situation, a manager's got two basic options:  tell his team to grow-up and deal with it, and keep their heads in the game.  Or throw a cyclonic fit, tossing hats, kicking dirt, hurling bases—anything and everything to show he's fighting for his boys.

Ma did nothing but stand around literally blowing bubbles.  Well, Mickey Mantle he ain't, and more than silent stoicism was required.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

And so begins the Hoffnerization process

Cameron Maybin traded to desperate Yankees

Maybin, 32, was playing at Columbus (Triple-A) after being released by the Giants in late March. In 14 Triple-A games, Maybin hit .216 with five RBIs.

I think that headline should've read, "to desperate Yankees front office."

This team looks anything but desperate.

But of course, here comes the over-the-hill gang. Cashman's favorite go-to.

They don't perform, they don't excite, but they aren't youngsters who might leave you open to criticism.

I expect the media Hosannas over Cashman's sly moves to begin momentarily.

At least we "traded" no one for Maybin. Just "cash considerations.

I fucking hate this GM and front office in general. 

It's a good thing we didn't have any room for Harper.

Otherwise we would never have acquired Maybin. 

You Could See His Ankle Turn Over

An ankle bent like that does not escape damage.

Clint will be out 2-3 weeks, if not more.

Then, he'll have to hit off a tee, which apparently did in the shoulder of Giancarlo Stanton.

But we are getting players back from the injured list;

Just last night, Gary Sanchez went 0-4 and had only one passed ball.

This old swan says;  "as long as the Yankees keep winning, leave those guys on the injured list.  Let them play in Scranton.  Most of them are awful."

And another one's gone, and another one's gone, another one bites the dust...

Officially, the Yankees last night said that Clint Frazier, the Death Star's hottest hitter, should miss the next 10 to 14 days. Said team spokesman Saaron Huckabee Boone: 

"Fraz very much feels like he can play or is close to playing, but the MRI revealed enough in there — I don’t have the exact what it is — but revealed enough of some partial tear and it’s gonna cost him the ten days."

Realistically, not even Kellyanne Conway would claim that "Fraz" will be back in 10 days. It's just fun to say such things. If we parse Boone's exact words, the terrifying algorithms emerge.

"... very much feels like he can play or is close to playing..." 

Translation: Fraz is frustrated, as he should be. The poor guy missed last year. He is starting to look like a box score hallucination, a ghostly presence, similar to Brigadoon Refsnyder, who haunted our souls for four years, before being finally exorcised for Ryan McBroom, an equally haunted name. (Note: We could see Ref next week; he's playing for the Arizona D-bags.)

"... the MRI revealed enough in there..."

Translation: It doesn't matter how Fraz feels; the truth is in that infernal scanner, and how it the 8-11 glossies will be read by the lab technicians.

"... enough of some partial tear..."

Translation: Whoops. That's "tear"- which rhymes with "dare," not "beer." He'll be wearing a boot for a month.

"... the ten days..."

Translation: May, maybe June, maybe the All Star break.

I hate to sound so rancid. But whenever a Yankee falls, the Death Star's first impulse is to vastly underestimate his recovery time. This pushes the player out on a ledge, with fans questioning his commitment. Last week, it was telling that Aaron Judge refused to even speculate on how long he will be out; the team embarrassed him last September by soft-soaping his broken wrist, leaving the media to constantly wonder where he was. In fact, nothing was amiss: The guy had a broken wrist, and he had to wait until it healed. 

Fraz has a tear in his ankle. It shows up in the MRI. He won't play until another MRI shows it's gone. It won't matter how badly he wants to be out there. And Giancarlo Stanton yesterday got a cortisone shot in his shoulder - WTF? when did he hurt his shoulder? Two weeks ago, it was a muscle strain. When did it become the shoulder? Or was it always the shoulder, and the Yankees simply didn't tell us? WTF?

The Yankees won last night - six in a row - through spirited play by a bunch of no-names, who aren't important enough to be injured. Gary Sanchez struck out four times, and if you closed your eyes and installed the regular lineup - from Hicks to Didi - you'd have a hard time imagining them coming back from a 5-0 deficit, as this team of overachievers did. 

For now, our West Coast swing offers nothing but tomato cans. No Dodgers, no Astros, not even the Padres (14-11). And when we return home, we'll face the fading Twins (leading the AL Central, but 5-5 in their last ten games) and Mariners (who have lost 7 of 10.) Six in a row. Amazing.

All we need to know is that the Yankees stand just one loss behind Tampa and five losses above the ghost ship that is Boston. (And Nathan Eovaldi is supposed to be out six weeks, following elbow surgery. If it were the Yankees, we'd be thinking eight to ten.) 

Six in a row. And Gardy batting third. WTF?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Yankees Will Have to Learn to Make Do With Only 12 Pitchers

All right, Dr. Pangloss here, to give you the best case scenario come September.

The team is surging toward the postseason.  Everything is clicking.  The lineup is, say:

Hicks, CF
El Matador, 3B
The Judge, RF
Voit, 1B
Stanton, DH
Frazier, LF
El Conquistador, 2B
Sir Didi, SS
Sancho, C

Mmm, not bad, eh?

But with just 12 position players, what's the bench?

Gardy, The General, and Lettuce.

Not a whole heckuva lot.  And really, not much that helps us.

Sure, LeMahieu could be nice to put in during the late innings for Andujar, and maybe Gardy could pinch-run.  But if Hicks, Frazier, and Judge are well, we won't really need his glove.  Roman will be there mostly as catastrophe insurance.  He doesn't hit OR catch better than Sancho.

We need room for a Gio U., or maybe a Ford.

We can only do that with a "mere" 12 pitchers on the roster.


Green (assuming he's back)
Toonces (assuming he's back)

Lot of assumptions in there.  And maybe Sevvy will be back.

But otherwise, is the addition of Tarpley/ Kahnle/ Harvey/ Loisaiga really going to make the difference?

Frazier Should Not Be A Hero

I watched Frazier when he turned his ankle on that awkward attempt to not get picked off.

He hung in on pure guts. 

But the next day, Boone rightfully sat him down.

If Boone is smart ( I am in big trouble using an assumption like this ), he will sit Frazier for a week.
Clint is already barking to get back in.  But he will hurt himself, and over-compensate.  And that means, his productivity...the groove he was in....will get lost.  He will start breaking  bats over his knee, again, until he gets a hematoma.  This is not a wise technique for demonstrating frustration.

We need him healthy and fit.

We won last night with the bench.  Let them keep battling.

We have no chance today, anyway, if that Lasagne guy from Scranton is pitching.  He has no command; he will be out of the game in the 4th inning; and the Yankees are destined to lose this one.

The fact that Lasagne is in California today speaks volumes about how useless Chance Adams is.  Chance should retire and become a walk-on in cowboy movies.

I am reaching the point where I don't want to see Sanchez, Stanton, or Andujar return. 

Just go with what we have.

It is more fun to expect nothing but get a lot.

Don't Look Now, But the Red Sox Are in Trouble

Forget the starting pitching, which has indeed looked awful, and without the supporting bullpen that so over-achieved all last year.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. is hitting .134, with no homers, 2 doubles, and 2 ribbies.  He's slugging .164.  That's Jackie Rogers, Jr. territory, and following full seasons at .234 and .245.  Not so reet petite.

Meanwhile, Babe Benitendi looks banged up, Pedroia's comeback has stalled, Nunez is back on the DL, Devers is showing nothing, and even our nemesis, 36-year-old Steve Pearce, is batting .125.

Of course Mookie Betts is not going to hit .239 forever, and Martinez looks just as good as he did last year.  But this team is also carrying a lot of filler, at catcher and first base, and on the bench.

It's strength, then as last year, is starting pitching.  It looks like Price is rounding into shape (the video games must suck this spring), and Sale could well join him, and who knows what will happen if they snatch up Kuchel and Gio.

But even here, Porcello looks awful and Eovaldi is out for six weeks with surgery (Good Lord, could it be that Coops is right AGAIN?).  And they never did fix that pen.

Are the Sox dead?  I would never be so stupid as to say that, 24 games in.  Unlike our sweethearts, this team is run by smart and resourceful people.

BUT, they also have a recent history of letting the club tank when the stars don't align:  see 2012, 2014, 2015.  This could—could—be another such year.

Five in a row: Is it the Yankees or the Cans of Tomato?

With the exception of Lean Chad Green - who can't seem to do anything right - the Death Star today looks terrifyingly functional. With one month nearly in the books, some views from Lord Vader's observational pod:

Luke Voit is real. Forget those fears that last fall's glorious hitting streak was merely a false-read. The guy should hit 30 HRs. It's hard to believe we got him for Giovani Gallegos and Chasen Shreve. (Gallegos has thrown 6.2 innings for St. Louis with an ERA of 5.40; Shreve is at Triple A and getting pounded.) We carp a lot about Cooperstown Cashman, but give him credit: This might be one of his greatest deals. We have Voit through 2025; he's not even eligible for arbitration until 2021. He is a certifiable cash cow for Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner. How did the Cardinals sleep on this guy?

Could Mike Tauchman be another steal? Too early to say, but there seems a new madness to Cashman: Don't ignore the performances at Triple A. Both Voit and Tauchman put up fine minor league numbers, failed in brief MLB auditions, and were discarded. In the past, the Yankees - via Cashman - often dismissed strong seasons by players in Scranton, preferring washed-up veterans. Now, it's as if they have changed. Advanced analytics? Dunno. Have they simply learned? Dunno. They just signed Logan Morrison. Why does that news feel like a kick in the balls?  

It's not the trades that have saved us this spring. It's something far more refreshing: It's their willingness to promote from within. Watching Mike Ford hit a home run last night was one of the season's most enjoyable moments yet - second only to the rise of Clint Frazier. The great teams always had a promising bench. Lately, Tyler Wade and Austin Romine have provided relief - Wade in particular after being cruelly discarded at the end of spring training. Now, we're seeing victories from a full franchise. It's something new.

Five in a row. Of course, it's come against the Royals and Angels, teams cursed by the lack of a market and too much of one. Cursed by the Japanese Babe Ruth - dare we call him one of the biggest busts in modern history? - the Angels now look like a one-man show, and the one-man can be pitched-around. We'll follow with the last-place Giants, then play the below-.500 Diamondbacks. 

In case you're wondering, the fulcrum point of 2019 happens between July 25 and August 4: The Yankees and Redsocks play seven games in nine days. 

By then, Ford and Tauchman will likely be afterthoughts. But the games they won for us in April will still count. Chad Green could be gone, but Voit will be somewhere in the mix.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What Would Vince Say?

So, it looks like Clint the Red tears up his ankle pretty bad last night.

Turns out, it's a sprain.  Clint goes to third on a grounder, scores on a sac fly.  Ankle is taped.  Clint stays in to play another two innings until game finally ends.

After the game, Clint expresses his desire to keep playing, with his hot bat and all.

Yanks talk about the IL, benching him, etc.


I'm well aware that baseball and all big-time sports lean on the stupid side when it comes to injuries.  Jim Bouton quoted Mickey Mantle joking about it in Ball Four.

Mgr. Johnny Keane:  Hey, Mick, how's that arm feeling?

Mick:  Well, skip, it fell off.  But I put it back on with some Scotch tape.

Keane:  That's fine, Mick, just fine.  Can you gimme four innings today?

Or something like that.

But...a sprained ankle?

Isn't the prescription here, ice it, watch it, try not to get so drunk you fall off the bar stool?

It's what Vince Lombardi, the Patron Saint of Football (hallowed be his name) used to say:  You have to play with the small hurts.

So maybe you DH Clint, the perfect small-hurt position.  Or to put it another way, "What would Derek do?"

It Was A Long Game....

What did we learn?

1.  It was much  better to win than to lose.

2.  It gives Boone a chance to say," we are going to need some length from our starter today."

3.  Gleybar may be a .240 hitter who mostly strikes out in clutch situations,  rather than an emerging superstar.

4.  El Chappo can blow games against lousy teams, even when he has his 100 mph fastball.

5.  That person at third base is contributing nicely.  I may have to learn his name.

6.  I have never expected Tyler Wade to hit anything but ground balls to first and second base.  But he does flash leather.

7.  What is with our base runners?  Andujar probably put himself out for the year scrambling back to third, and Frazier may have put himself out for 2-4 weeks doing the same at second base.

I am out of beer.

Enough with the Replays Already

...at least when it comes to the bases.

If MLB wants to use video replays to see if a ball is a home run or not, particularly in a big game, fine.

To take a close look at every single tag play on the bases?  Fuhgeddaboutit.  It's turning the greatest game ever invented into a nightly bout of "Twister," without the rewarding carnal proximity that diversion slyly promised.

Really—the potential reward for holding the tag on the runner has now morphed into a situation where, as often as not, the fielder is subtly or not-so-subtly just shoving the runner off the base.

This was really what happened with Sancho's infamous pick-off at third earlier this month.  Sure, the big dumb jerk should never have let it become that close, but smart infielders now routinely give that little extra push to get the out and the umps—who seem increasingly befuddled by the modern game—just shrug.

Which almost led to disaster with the Big Red One's ankle last night, and which I think accounts in part for the growing number of crazy, injurious dives back to the bag.

Enough already.  It's yet another innovation by the Lords of Baseball that is reducing this to the sort of squabbly, fourth-grade version of baseball:  'You wuz too off the base!'  'Oh, no I wasn't!  You just kicked the stick away!' 'THAT stick ain't the base, THAT one is!'

And so on.

The No-Names have won six of seven

It can go without saying that the 2019 Yankees are better off without Greg Bird. I don't mean Bird, the decent human being, or Bird, the glove man at 1B. They're simply better off without Bird, the lefty lump who bats cleanup and hits .171 without power. Since that Bird vanished onto the Injury List, perhaps never to be seen again in pinstripes, the Yankees are 6-2. (With him, they were 6-8.)

You could say the same about Mr. Giancarlo Stanton, the pride of the Death Star. Sure, the guy can be expected to put up seasonal numbers, and it's certainly too soon to give up on him, but in the three games he gifted us this season, before harming himself on a swing, Stanton fanned five times and left on base the entire cast of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. In 2019, he has yet to drive in a run. 

Speaking of afterthoughts... Aaron Hicks! The 2018 season already seems like a dream. Was it real or Memorex? That's more than can be asked about Jacoby Ellsbury, whose era with the Yankees seems to go back to cassette tapes and Compuserve. Does anyone expect him to ever again don a Yankee jersey? Why? The jury remains out on whether Luis Severino will pitch again this year. Miguel Andujar? We never learned if he solved his 3B fielding woes. Dellin Betawhatizname? Hmm... I just can't place the face.

One month into 2019, and it's normal to see Luke Voit bat second, and Clint Frazier hitting cleaning up (though don't be surprised if he disappears today due to a sprained ankle last night.) We've already seen a sign of the apocalypse that nobody anticipated: Brett Gardner batting third. The Yankees are the tip of the iceberg that is Scranton-Wilkes Barre. But when they win, as they did early this morning in 14 innings, we experience the joy of stealing something valuable... like an ice cream sandwich - the joy of the cat finally getting the canary.

Yes, the Yankees were merely playing the Angels, a certifiable can of tomatoes. But Boston just swept three from Tampa in Cigar City, and suddenly, the long-anticipated two-team race looms. If we must go to Boston with Mike Tauchman in CF and Gio Urshela at 3B, so be it. Until we see otherwise, both of them beat the free-swishing Bird and Stanton. 

Old Man Rumsfeld once said, "You go to war with the army you have." We will enter May with Mike Ford as DH, and Tyler Wade at 2B. Both may receive opportunities they will never see again as Yankees, and I for one will root harder for them than perhaps the big names who will eventually replace them.

Here's to the Yankees getting healthy... but here's to the army we have: We might not see such spirit again this season. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Austin Romine, lifelong Yankee, saves another home stand

Last year, Austin Romine achieved a batting average 58 points higher than the Yankee "star" catcher, the then-underwhelming Gary Sanchez. In 110 fewer at bats, Romine drove in only 11 less runs. Out of respect for Sanchez - who showed signs of awakening before his recent injury - let's ignore the issue of passed balls. The fact is, since rising through the Yankee farm system as an ugly sister backup to the great Jesus "Ice Cream Sandwich" Montero, Romine has always played understudy to an emerging, yet under-performing show pony, a future Yankee star who would then fail to live up to the press clippings. 

Last year, Romine's 265 plate appearances were the most in his career. At age 30, he has been a lifelong Yankee - a rarity that currently includes Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances, Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade, Luis Severino, Sanchez and Greg Bird. (Something tells me Greg Bird won't make it.) But Romine is a free agent next winter, and - though he's paid $5 million - my guess is that he will seek his last big career contract, marketing himself as a starter for another team, in the manner of Francisco Cervelli a few years ago. (Did I mention that Kyle Higashioka also qualifies as a career Yankee?) 

I write this because yesterday, Romine saved the Yankee home stand and maybe the month of April. He did this not once but twice - driving in the tying run in the 8th with two outs, and then the winning run in the 10th. On the season (only 35 at bats), he is hitting .286... once again above Sanchez (but by only 17 points.) I can't remember a time when Romine hasn't come off the bench to help the Yankees when their starting catcher has been injured. He wears down over the long haul, but in pressure situations, he has been a stalwart. 

Of course, when Romine catches, the bottom of the Yankee lineup sags like Larry Rothschild's balls sac, and even in the current assortment of scrap heap veterans and last-chance minor leaguers, Romine usually bats eighth or ninth. (He hit 8th yesterday.) When Sanchez returns on Wednesday (in California), he will almost certainly bat third or fourth, and Romine will return to bench mode, or maybe as personal caddie to whatever pitcher needs therapeutic counseling during games. (Considering how well James Paxton pitched yesterday, he and Romine might become a thing.) 

Of the 67 catchers who have played in MLB games this season, 25 are hitting below .220, 24 have no HRs, and 18 have driven in one run or less. Yesterday, the Royals' catcher - Martin Maldonado - was hitting .175, though his defense won praise from the YES booth. The fact is, Romine can probably score a three or four-year deal, and as a grizzly, seasoned backup, he will probably catch until his late 30s.

The Yankees selected two catchers high in last year's draft, and they supposedly moved one of their most expensive Latino signings into that position. But none of those prospects will be ready for at least three years. Here's hoping that Romine stays put. The Yankees went two weeks without Sanchez, and Romine did his job.