Monday, September 30, 2019

I'm Calling It: We Have an 80 Kansas City on Our Hands

The signs of another barren, encroaching autumn are all about.  Yesterday I searched the AM dial on my walkman in vain for The Master's voice.  Of course:  WFAN had switched the Yanks over to FM so the Giants, marching toward mere mediocrity instead of disaster this season, could rule the airwaves.

Even the YES website led with...NYCFC's loss in soccer.

Yep, the auguries all tell the same tale:  this season is over for your New York Yankees.

Do our boys in the Bronx have a better team than the Minnesota Twins?  They sure do.  Have they beaten the Twins like a rented donkey for, well, years now?

Sure have.  The Yanks have bested Minnesota in five straight playoff or play-in series since 2003, going 13-2 against them.  They have not lost a postseason game to the Twins since 2004—and their regular season record against them has been almost as dominant for the last 25 years, not to mention, forever.

These are, after all, the former Washington Senators that we're talking about.

But I'm still calling an 80 Kansas City here.

In 1980, as I believe most of us here are old enough to recall, your New York Yankees had, by most measures, the better team.  They won 103 games—just like this season!—which was 6 more than KC, withstood some pretty serious injuries, and had the better ERA and better OPS.

All of which...counted for nothing in a short series.  Willie Randolph got thrown out at home, Graig Nettles and Rick Cerone hit balls right on the nines in key situations—and right at infielders—and Goose Gossage, all but unhittable by mere mortals at that point in his career, had to demonstrate that he could throw a fastball past George Brett.  (He could not.)

Three games, and suddenly a Yankees team that should have won another ring was done for the season.  Well, those things happen in a short series.  But the loss led directly to the Mad King's firing of Howser, and had a devastating, long-term effect on the Yanks, ushering in the ringless '80s.

This year's Yankees should also be sitting in the catbird seat, at least for round one.  They are a better team than the Twins and—unlike the 1980 Bombers with KC—actually won the season series, 4 games to 2.  NYY has the better, deeper, all-around team, and as Duque, 13bit, and JM note, the layoff likely hurts the Twins much more than it hurts our boys.

But the trouble is, as Duque also noted, this is NOT the same Yankees team that won those games during the regular season.

The epitome of the sort of beer-league ball that Minny plays—and that the Yankees are tailor-made to best them at—came in the Yanks' extra-inning wing on July 23rd in Minnesota, the sort that sportswriters used to say was full of ding-dong action.

 It was a game in which, you'll recall, Aaron Hicks did his best Willie Mays imitation, bringing the Yanks from behind with a booming, two-out homer in the ninth, then making his mind-boggling, epic catch to end the game in the 10th.  A game in which Didi went 5-5 with 7 ribbies, Judge hit 2 doubles, and Tauchman, Voit, and EE had 2 hits apiece, as they belted around Kyle Gibson and a bevy of relievers.

Now, Hicks and Tauchman are out, EE is going to be doing "simulated games" this week, and almost the whole rest of the infield—The Gleyber, Didi, Gio, and Voit—seems barely ambulatory.

Minnesota's likely first game starter, Jose Berrios, is someone we didn't see this year—and you know how the boys fare against new pitchers.  Two of the hurlers we did beat, Odorizzi and old friend Michael Pineda, are out.

The Twins' pen, of late, has been at least as strong and as deep as ours, bolstered in no small part by Zack Littell (6-0, 2.68).  Littell, of course, was traded by us in late 2017 for the late Jaime Garcia, he of sordid memory.

The Master, yesterday, was going on about how things are so different when you get out there on the Yankee Stadium field, with all the playoff pomp and ceremony.  But the Twins are a team that was actually much better on the road than at home.  Chances are, their two starting lefty sluggers and two switch-hitters will be too busy salivating over the short porch in right to be overwhelmed by the performances of the Anti-Semitic Tenor and that scavenger bird flying around.

There is also the problem of strategy, in which we are sorely lacking.  Unlike 1980, there is no Dick Howser or Gene Michael in sight.

Instead, Tiger Tanaka was sent out yesterday in a relief role—"just in case that's necessary in a short series," as The Master informed us.  And when would that possibly be necessary?  For the No. 1 or 2 starter on a paper-thin starting staff?

And then there is the Return of the Flailers.

Much of the Steinbrenner Press is enthused about the return of Giancarlo enthusiasm based on two very good, meaningless games, against Toronto and Texas.  Overall, in the 9 games—count 'em, nine!—he has played since his return, Stanton has been 8-32, with 11 strikeouts and 2 home runs.  Whoop-dee-do.

His fellow Flailers look just as bad, or worse.  ICS has played all of two games, and seems to have nothing.

And sadly, I have to agree with whoever it was—13bit?—who says he has given up on Judge.  The man now appears to be a pure guess hitter, with occasional home run spates followed by flurries of strikeouts.

And let's face it:  he is just not clutch.  Judge is batting .182 this year (and .222 lifetime) with men on  base and two out—situations that always seem to find him.

Beyond their ineffectuality at the plate, the Return of the Flailers badly weakens the Yanks in the field.  If Stanton is really going to play left, good luck.  We saw Sanchez's brilliant contribution yesterday, with three SBs allowed, and a wild throw that allowed the Rangers to take the lead.  While he has improved on passed balls, Sancho now allows many more stolen bases and commits more errors.

Meanwhile, the starting pitching is iffy at best.  "Five Times Pettitte" Paxton, strong in neither body nor spirit, once again has the minor injury excuse he needs to lose.  Happ is also hurting, and Tanaka is amongst the permanent walking wounded.

The greatest bullpen that ever was is fine, except for the fact that it "Big Five" cannot pitch a game together without allowing at least a couple runs.

All in all, I think this overrides the extended R & R MLB has so charitably granted the team.

Three and out.  And if there is any consolation in that, it's that nobody is getting past Houston anyway this year.

There Are No Odds In Baseball

The Twins are here to hit home runs and shut us down.

The past, in this instance, has no impact on the present.  It can and should be ignored.

There is no coin flip blather about odds and five times out of ten or one of two.

There is only these earthly, non mathematical,  considerations;

1.  What will Stanton do with the bases loaded and one out, the Yanks needing a run in desperation?

2.  Did rest "cure" Severino, or is he again hurting but afraid to say?

3.  Is it going to be the right move to use Luke instead of Ford?

4.  Will Gary rise to the occasion or flame out?

5.  How will Judge perform, now that he has been surpassed by a Met's rookie?

6.  Will Gio have fire, speed and agility, or is he too banged up ?

7.  The Big Maple or Carl Pavano?

8.  And the bullpen, right or wrong. We need to get back the spit and fire.  

I hope we don't wind up blowing in the wind.

Realistically, how many times can we beat the Twins?

If you flip a coin five times, and they call come up heads, the odds on the sixth flip remain 50-50, right? Then again, what are the odds of flipping six heads in a row?

Heads or tails? Call it...

I have no idea what the odds say. I don't do math. I reject logic in all its forms.  I practice the juju sciences, the black arts of success, and the oldest calculations of survival known to humanity. 

Juju pre-dates the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Mayan Calendar, the Old Testament and even Demi Moore's memoirs, where she claims Ashton wanted a three-way on the freeway. And now, with the Twinkies of Minnesota coming to Gotham, we've won the last five coin flips, but what are the odds? Are they 50-50, or do we face the chances of going six for six? 

What I do know is this: Nothing lasts forever.

We saw it with the Curse of the Bambino. As Yankee fans, we witnessed the absolute worst thing that could ever possibly happen... happen. It crushed our souls. It destroyed our faith. It reversed the polarity of the earth, so that 15 years later, we are still battling to restore what once was considered normalcy: The Yankees as baseball's dominant franchise. Now, here comes Minnesota, the drunken stooge staggering home from the bar, his wallet hanging out of his back pocket, practically demanding to be mugged. But this time, could he be faking it? Could he be dead sober and packing heat, waiting for our ambush?

You don't beat a team forever. But over the next 10 days, here are some juju factors that do I believe: 

1. The Yankees have a better team. Not by much, but at full capacity, with Edwin Encarnacion, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez in our lineup, I believe we have baseball's premier offense. That doesn't mean we'll win. But this isn't a case of having to beat a superior lineup. With everyone healthy, our team is unmatched.

2. The hideous five-day layoff helps us. The Yankees have staggered to the finish line, disinterested and tired. Nobody has been hitting. In fact, I don't recall a dead zone all year like the two-games in Tampa, where we nearly were no-hit. Five days of rest means a fresh start. In the case of Encarnacion, it might be the difference between playing and sitting. Overall, it's wrong to schedule four off-days before the playoffs. It almost rewards the wild card teams who stay sharp, while the division watch Netflix. Still, I'd rather be sleeping in our home beds for five days. And it's not as if the Yankees can cool off. At the end, they were ice cold. 

3. The great intangible is Luis Severino. If he's really back - (he sure didn't look it Saturday night) - the Yankees have a Game 2 ace, a shot in the arm unlike any other team. Severino could get six starts in October. It would be equivalent to his normal month of April. We cannot take for granted that he will be the pitcher he has been in the past. But this is no minor addition. This is a playoffs-changer. He could win six games. 

4. It's not juju, but karma that we must fear. After the fall of the Curse, following our colossal humiliation, Yankee fans can never again take anything for granted. We know that, eventually, Minnesota will beat us, and then probably win several playoffs in a row. We saw it long ago with Kansas City: We beat them and beat them and beat them... until we didn't. George Brett hit three home runs and sent us home. Every dog has its day. Minnesota's will come. The only question is whether we will be lucky enough to die before it happens.

That home field advantage sure would have been nice.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

"This is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper."

Just riffing on Duque's Doors quote, here...

Uh-boy.  What a great last game, huh?  Terrible pitching, worse fielding, and no hitting to speak of.  The home run record lost to the Twins.  A straight fastball pitcher, Lynn Lance Lynn, completely dominating.

It was the end of the world, actually—at least, the world of the 2019 season in which the Yanks' gutsy, never-say-die, next-man-up subs beat all and sundry.

Listening to today's travesty of a game, I couldn't help thinking that the wrong guys were hurt or recovered, just as they are going into the playoffs.

I don't wish anyone injured, ever (except for Jason Varitek).  But what a shame the Yanks aren't going into the postseason with, say, Tauchman, Hicks, and a still-puppyish Red Menace instead of Stanton and Judge; Romine and Higgy instead of Sancho; Ford and EE instead of Voit, much as I love him; Betances, for all his faults, and Mike King, instead of CC and Cessa.

I would give that team a chance against the world.

Instead...we are back to the Broken Flailers (Little known fact:  those were the original lyrics for Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted":  "What becomes of the broken flailers?/ Up there swinging like drunken sailors?")

In between their complaint about the 100-degree heat, you could hear the unease creeping into the dulcet tones of The Master and Suzie.  After one particularly awful Torres strikeout, The Master actually burst out:  "What a terrible hack!  Slow and ineffectual!"

The truth will out, as it aways does through great artists.  The Gleyber is hitting .172 with 1 HR and 3 ribbies in the last two weeks, and just .247 for September.  Gio is at .167 for the last two weeks, with 1 HR and 2 ribbies, and .211 for the month.  Didi is at .197 for September, and hasn't hit one out in the last 14 days.

Maybe, just maybe, we could endure the return of the Giant Wind Machines with our infield playing as well as it has all year.  But obviously, these guys are all nursing injuries, great or small, and I doubt if the Yanks will make it past the first round of the playoffs.

At least this dismal end to a great season had the perfect venue.  The Rangers even ran a salute to CC, who owns a lifetime, 5.13 ERA versus Texas.  Rangers players lined up to thank him personally for not retiring so that they could run up so many more hits.

The game happened to be played on the last day of the Rangers' 25-year-old park, with a big commemoration for the fans.  Kenny Rogers, the longtime-choke-turned-playoffs-cheater, caught the ceremonial first ball, from Nolan Ryan, The Man Who Hated New York (I'm not making this up.)

It all left one full of nostalgia for the long-ago, 1990s.  The Master noted that the Rangers had "very good" teams in the 1990s, "they were just beaten by the Yankees."

Actually, the Rangers had very JUICED teams in the 1990s and beyond, including Juan Gone and Pudge II, whose rampant cheating probably cost Derek Jeter an MVP award in 1999, and Jorge Posada a trip to Cooperstown.  Good times.

The park itself was not the worst excrescence in recent major-league history, although it was mostly a hitters' delight, with a turfed batters' eye in center that was immediately dubbed, "the grassy knoll." (Fun-nee!)  Its dimensions—and still more juice—helped convince us all that A-Rod was a truly extraordinary power-hitter.

In its mere 25 years of existence, the stadium was called, variously, The Ballpark at Arlington, Ameriquest Park (after one of the subprime companies that brought America to its knees), and the Globe Life, after a shady insurance and hedge-fund company that changed its name from "Torchmark."  (I wonder why.)  Now it will be turned into a field for the Texas Renegades in the revived XFL.

71 percent of the original Park of Many Names was paid for by the public, or $135 million of the $191 million cost.  The new Globe Life Park the Rangers are moving into next door will cost $1.1 billion when it's finished.  Of that total, "only" half is supposed to come from the public—but Globe Life's "half" will also include tax money leveled on hotels in the area, and parking at the stadium.

We don't believe in taxes in America, save for subsidizing fabulously wealthy, almost ceaselessly cheating ballteams that turn themselves into living advertisements for the worst corporate thieves in the world.

But don't worry:  the Rangers' new park will have a retractable dome!

We don't have the money to deal with the climate change that left The Master and Suzyn sitting in that 100-degree heat today, but we can build more ballparks!  Can't wait until another 25 years down the road, when no one is living in Dallas or Fort Worth or Arlington anymore thanks to the constant hurricanes, dust storms, drought, and probably locust plagues—but Globe Life Park still stands proud amidst the maelstrom.

Ah, Texas!

As the finish line nears, the Yankees are stumbling

This is the end.
My only friend, the end...

Suddenly, the Death Star doesn't look so fully functioning.  

Edwin Encarnacion is still healing.

James Paxton will be coming off a start with a twitchy groin.

Luis Severino will be coming off a troubling start, where he barely escaped the first inning. 

Luke Voit is one for his last 33 and having a nervous breakdown. 

Luis Cessa last night walked in a run with the bases loaded.

Didi Gregorius is still slumping.

If he plays today, Gary Sanchez will have returned with two games under his belt.

Giancarlo Stanton still doesn't play full games. 

The Yankees have lost three out of their last four.

But all that matters today - the only thing in the Yankiverse that matters today - is that nobody tweaks nothing. That's all. No brawls. No bean balls. No diving, no collisions, no headfirst slides, no fouls off the heel. Tune up the bullpen. Give DJ a shot at the batting crown. Give Luke a chance to end the slump (but he won't, not in this state of mind.) Play the scrubs. Get home tonight. Sleep in your own beds. This is the end. Tomorrow begins the beginning. 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Fielding Is Debatable: What A Shock!

So America's go-to sports page for your Greenland soccer reports ran a piece today reporting that it's hard to say if the Yankees' fielding this year has been better or worse than it was last year.

Here are the key lines, before the reams of statistical mush that follow:

one aspect of the Yankees’ play this season has been trickier to evaluate: their defense. Depending on which metrics you choose out of the ever-expanding world of advanced analytics, Yankees fielders have been better than last year, or maybe worse, but probably close to average in the majors this year...

Of course, it comes down largely to which tools are used for evaluation. If you look at outs above average, the 2019 Yankees have improved over last year’s squad. But other metrics, such as defensive runs saved (D.R.S.), show a downgrade for this season’s team — but only a bit below average. 
And then there are the opinions from the players actually doing the defending. 
“We’re above-average defensively,” said the Yankees’ D.J. LeMahieu, an All-Star multipurpose infielder. “I feel like we make all the plays we should make. And our outfield is really good.”

Well, what a shock.  Different metrics produce different results.  And how dare they ask the players!  Who ya gonna believe?  Them?  Your cheatin' eyes?  Or statistics that don't actually measure anything, just what SHOULD be going on?

I think pretty much all of us who have watched many of the games this year would agree that the Yankees' fielding has been considerably better than last year.  The infield has been better—in part, because of Gio replacing El Matador—the catching has been better—with Sanchez both improved on passed balls and often absent—and even the outfield play has been better.

So what's not to like?  Well, among other things, the article makes out that The Gleyber is a below-average second baseman (nonsense), Didi has lost some range (maybe, but hard to say since he makes so many brilliant plays), and Gio is below average.


You can't really blame the NY Times for this one.  Even baseball reference's defensive WAR has Gio at -0.1, which means he has been slightly worse than anyone you can bring up from the minors.

Which is everything that's wrong with WAR and fielding stats in general.  Those of us who have watched Gio knows that he has been absolutely brilliant in the field.  He also has a surprisingly high number of errors, with 13.  And not a one of them have really cost us something of worth.

The advanced fielding stats say that, regardless of what actually occurs, x-number of balls should or could be fielded, and the failure to do so makes one a worse fielder.  The actuality of where the balls are (also the title of the under-appreciated sequel to "Where the Boys Are"), doesn't matter.

The fact that, just maybe, your crack shortstop or centerfielder isn't diving for everything in, say, the 8th or 9th of a game like last night's blowout against the Rangers—which they aren't, and which you don't want them to be doing—counts for nothing.

So I would say this:

The Yankees' fielding is considerably better than last year's.
Fielding metrics don't necessarily prove this.
Advanced fielding stats are generally all wet.

It's the last Yankee weekend for the Red Menace

Hot scoop you might not know: Clint Frazier played in last night's big Yankee win. (Note: Every Yankee win is a big Yankee win.

He came in late, hit for Gardy and patrolled left field in the ninth, when the score was infinity to infinity-plus-one. He drew a walk. That leaves "Red Thundah" - (in these parts, "the Red Menace") - at .263, with 12 HRs in 224 at bats. In the last three games, he has twice come to bat. By my rough, cocktail napkin calculations, he is the fifth Yankee outfielder, the 34th Yankee on the depth chart. Barring a measles outbreak, his season ends Sunday. 

As will his time in pinstripes.

As you may know, I'm a big Red rooter. I still feel the Death Star kicked him in his Kansas this summer, when they traded for the then-slumping Edwin Encarnacion. That move exiled Clint him to Purgatory - aka Scranton - following one god-awful night in right field, on national TV. It was a humiliating fate for a young man who had helped carry this team through its darkest period of the season. Dumped to Central Pennsylvania, Frazier fell into a funk - who could blame him? - and has never been the same.

Everyone, including Frazier, seemed to think he was a gonner at the trade deadline. When the Yankees held on, my hopes grew. But these days, it's hard to imagine him back next spring. And the reason is on Frazier: He simply has not forced the issue. 

After being recalled in early September, Frazier needed to get hot. Instead, he's hit .152, and his fielding remains shaky. Frankly, if Gardy and Cameron Maybin collide into a pile of broken bones, I'm still not sure Frazier would play. The Yankees would probably go with Stanton in left and Tyler Wade in center, with somebody else as DH. Frazier has played himself out of the picture.

Next spring, Mike Tauchman returns. He'll be 29, with at least two solid years ahead of him, and Tauchman is the closest thing to Paul O'Neill that we've seen in 20 years. If Aaron Hicks returns - (I'm starting to think he'll never last a season) - Frazier will once again be locked out. I think he'll be traded this winter, unless nobody in baseball values him enough to pay up. When you're a one-tool player, the tool better work. Frazier's tool has been limp. What else can I say?

Before I leave, I must mention a throbbing Yankee tool: Mike Ford. Last night, he homered again - his 12th in 140 at bats. Right now, Ford is everything that Luke Voit - 0 for 5 last night, and looking increasingly exasperated - is not. Buck Showalter is impressed. Ford is a lefty bat, not much worse in the field than the linebacker, Voit. Unless Luke goes on a spree, Ford should get the call next week. Seriously, isn't it obvious? 

Friday, September 27, 2019

By now, you'd think no more questions loomed for the 2019 Yankees. And yet...

Generally, a season's final weekend is either a bloodbath or a beery blah, and nothing in the tween. For the reigning 2009 World Champion Yankees, that's how these three games should be: Country club contests played with the ease of a well pruned bowel movement, while DJ Lemahieu chases a batting title, and a few Scrantonians scramble for bits of scrapbook newsprint.

But nothing has come easily for this franchise, proud winner of the 2009 championship. This week's two-game outage in Tampa has surely roused mini-alarms in the dark corridors of Brian Cashman's cerebral cortex. We can forgive a two-game letdown, especially after a team clinches its division, but - yeesh - we came within one loopy single of being no-hit, an embarrassment that would have gone down in Yankee history. I'm sorry: Tampa's bullpen isn't Koufax/Drysdale. Check out the ERAs of that nine-member staff, which shut us down Tuesday, 2-1, in extra innings:



(Note: The mere fact that Tampa could use nine pitchers is yet another indictment of the unlimited roster space of September, another reason why next year's rule change - no more endless lineups - is overdue.)

Entering tonight's game, our sole focus should be on avoiding injuries. (And yeah, we'll be lucky to do so.) But dark questions remain:

1. Can Luke Voit really play with a tweaked gonad? He's nursing a sports hernia and might need Tommy Loin surgery in November. But is this working? Over the last 24 games, he's hitting .222 with 2 HRs. Today's NY Post quotes an unnamed scout saying that Luke no longer lashes balls to right, but is "trying to ambush every fastball." Yep, homer-itis. Yank fans love Luke. But if he doesn't start hitting, Mike Ford looks like a better alternative. But who are we kidding? The Yankees won't do that. It sure would be nice if Luke got hot in Texas.

2. Have we reached the Rubicon with Didi Gregorius? In just 40 days, he becomes a free agent. Once upon a time, it would be unthinkable that the Yankees would let him walk. Now... knowing Hal Steinbrenner's financial and spiritual cheapness, and after watching Didi struggle for three months... who knows? In his last 24 games, he has been horrible, hitting .178 - 16 for 90, and striking out twice in every five at bats. He is supposed to protect us on the left side. Right now, it's not working. 

3. Who is Gio Urshela? Is he the wonder boy of 2019, or a slowly dimming bulb? He is 0-for-his-last-18. He took a pitch on the hand Tuesday night, so there's that, too. As late as Sept. 17, he was hitting .328 and challenging for the batting title. Now, he's .315 - still a great season - but you worry. He needs a few hits in Texas. We don't want him heading into the playoffs in an 0-for-30 doomsday slump.

4. What can we expect from Stanton, Encarnacion and Sanchez? (Frankly, even Gleyber has been worrisome.) If all three return at full strength, we'd be a modern Murderer's Row. But what are the odds of all three returning hot? Not good. If they all struggle, we have a big nothing burger in the heart of the order, and probably not make it past Minnesota. This weekend, we need to see them hit. 

It's late to be facing such all-or-nothing questions. But that's the case with the Yankees, proud champs of 2009.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

September Song

But it's a long, long while
From May to December
And the days grow short
When you reach September...

Ah, the mellow strains of "September Song," written by Maxwell Anderson and the great Kurt Weill, radical Jewish refugee from Germany—and, in one of history's little ironies, put in the mouth of Pieter Stuyvesant, the very religious, rabidly anti-Semitic governor of New Amsterdam.

It's a melancholy song that suits the season.  September means the end of baseball approacheth.  But even worse, it means that football bullies its way back on the scene, to hog all the attention and take over the sporting scene.

(Except, of course, at The New York Times, which last Sunday featured a three-page spread on soccer in Greenland.  I'm not making this up.)

Football, we have to concede, is now our true national sport, and especially pro football.  Just why this should be so eludes me, at least anywhere outside of New England.

Pro football, these days, strikes me as just as one-dimensional and even more drawn-out than baseball.  Four-hour passing games, in essence, with the winner of the bombastic title match usually determined by who has sustained somewhat fewer catastrophic injuries over the course of the endless season.

People love it.

Why that should be so, I dunno.  I suspect it's mostly the ceaseless violence.  But never mind why, this time of year the pigskin game takes over.

And the days turn to gold
As they grow few

This season, the Yankees have turned in a pretty incredible performance, despite devastating the injuries.  The Mets were, at least, highly entertaining and full of heart despite being, in the end...Mets.

But even local sports shows and tabloids immediately rushed to give priority to "our" pro football teams, situated both literally and metaphorically "somewhere in the swamps of Jersey," as The Boss sang.

We have heard endlessly about what a big year this was going to be for the Jets, a ludicrous franchise which has not reached the championship game of their sport in half-a-century, and whose latest hopes were dashed when their overrated, underschooled, USC quarterback managed to fumble while running into the buttocks of one of his own linemen.

Oh, wait, I'm sorry!

That was their former overrated, underschooled USC quarterback.  The current one is out with mono.  Also, he was found to have a hickey, and he was repeatedly late for homeroom.

With the Jets, history not only repeats itself, it giggles.

The Jets new leader (apparently), Le'veon B'ell, responded by tweeting that the Jets would show all the "haters" out there how their hateful hatred would just cause the team to rally and play all the harder.

Le'v'e'o'n, we don't hate you.  We don't even know you.

The Giants, of course, are a team with considerably more provenance; a greater legacy, probably, than any New York team except the Yankees.  And everyone was gaga when it seemed last Sunday that, against all indications, their new QB is the real deal, driving the team to a thrilling win (Made more thrilling when the other team's kicker missed a chip-shot field goal.  But still.  There was a thrill).

Now all the Giants need to do is find another 21 players, and they'll have a team.  Particularly since their prized rookie from last year is already hurt.

And let's get real:  the Jints have had a winning record in only one of the last six seasons, and 13 of the last 28.  In their history, which goes back to 1925, they have won a total of 8 NFL championships and have a record of 693-598-33, with a playoff record of 24-25.

In other words, in an average two years, you can expect the Jersey Giants to go 8-8 and 9-7, and every 12 seasons, they might win you a title.

That's fine, and better than most.  But it doesn't really compare to, say, your New York Yankees, who have averaged 89 wins a season in 117 years (and 92 wins a year from 1920, minus strike years).

That's right—close to .600 ball, for a century, and their overall, .570 pct. is the highest percentage in major-league history.  In the postseason...they've been even better, 232-164 .586.

They even have an outside—far outside—shot to win their 28th World Series this season.

But now that September's here...why, to most of the sporting press, they're as visible as Domingo German.  

And the days dwindle down
To a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days
I'd spend with you
These precious days I'd spend with you.

We Need a German House Investigation

So last night, Otis Livingston on the local CBS sports news reported that Domingo German is being investigated for an incident involving his girlfriend at a public event.

About half the media agrees.  The other half says the "event" happened at their home, as mentioned by JM.

Exactly what the event was—most say a slap—we do not know.  The Yankees have severed all contact from their young employee.  German is incommunicado.

MLB, which made the accusation—supposedly on the basis of something one of their employees saw—has determined that this investigation cannot be decided, apparently, for at least another month, and so is keeping German suspended—and let's face it, he is "suspended," there is no "administrative leave" in baseball, as Tom Hanks told us—for at least that amount of time.

I'm sorry, but WTF?

Right now, a single whistleblower has managed to get the president of the United States investigated by a House committee.  We have already seen the transcript of the phone call in question, and his advocates are saying he's innocent, etc.

This is all right and proper in a democracy, and in the interests in keeping politics off this site I will not offer an opinion on Mr. Trump's guilt or innocence.

But how is it possible that we can have this level of openness in something involving the very highest levels of state, but a 27-year-old pitcher who barely speaks the language can't be given his day in court?

I will say, for the umpteenth time, that domestic violence of any sort is a very serious thing, and that professional sports is right to lower the boom on it.  I also realize that investigations of this nature should be delicate, and that a big goal should be to preserve the privacy and dignity of the victim.

And sure, chances are Domingo German will have found to have slapped his girlfriend in public—and maybe much worse—and he will get the punishment he has coming.

But what if that's not the case?

What if—and again, I'm talking a very far-fetched hypothetical—a month from now said, anonymous MLB employee confesses with tears in his eyes that he has a serious gambling problem, and he had gone all in on the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS?

Unlikely, I know.

But how unlikely will it be the next time, judging by what happened this time out?

How long before somebody, trying for some reason to affect the outcome of some game or another, swears up and down that he saw Roy Hobbs battering his wife—hoping that Mr. Hobbs will be immediately disappeared without a hearing, like our Domingo?

One of the first tenets this country was founded on was habeas corpus—produce the body, the idea that you can't simply be thrown into prison indefinitely while awaiting trial.  Another is that you get to face your accuser.

How exactly does German's forced, unexplained, silenced "administrative leave" NOT violate those supposedly sacred principles?

Observation of the day

It's a good thing we don't have to play in the Wild Card game.

A dark night in Tampa foreshadows a dark October in the Bronx

It was a great Yankee season, 2019, the greatest of any MLB team.

The Bombers won 102 times - still counting - with an adorable mix of spare parts and ascending stars, and didn't even blink at the trade deadline, as they usually do. They saved their seed corn for winter trades or - who knows? - maybe even a crop of future Yankees. Yep, a great season, 2019.

But there is a difference between a great season and a great year. 

And last night brought a Schindler's list of reasons why the Yankees are in trouble. We've seen what happens to Death Stars: They fly around, merrily blowing up planets, looking unbeatable, and then - kaboom - it's fireworks night with Jason Pierre-Paul. 

One measly hit - a little league single slapped to right. Sixteen strikeouts, most of them involving home run swings that began in Sarasota. A golden sombrero for Giancarlo Stanton, reminding us of just how terrible he is capable of being. Another bed-wetting for Jonathan Loaisiga. The end of our quest for home field advantage. All in one game. Let me count the ways that last night ended our great season.

A. By dominating us as he did, Charlie Morton surely sets himself up as Tampa's wild card game pitcher. Thus, if the Rays reach the Divisional round, Morton will only be able to face Houston - his old team - once. So much for our hope that someone would beat the Astros for us.  

B. In case you missed it, I'd like to recap Loiasiga's first six pitches: 
1) A ball, way outside. 2) A ball, in the dirt. 3) A fastball down the middle, hit 430 feet by a second basemen with only two HRs this year. 4) A ball, way high. 5) A ball, which the umpire called a sympathy strike. 6) A fastball, lashed to right for a double. At that point, I left. For two years now, the Yankees have touted Loaisiga in ridiculous ways, even hinting he could be the next closer. His ERA is 4.70. He is why Corey Gearin, the toe-tapper, could make the post-season roster. 

3. Sixteen strikeouts. Wow. In the ninth, three whiffs, with batters lunging for home runs despite being down by four. All year, the Yankees have battled back in the ninth. You don't win 102 times by quitting after eight. But last night, three home ball attempts - nothing to show. In the middle was Mr. Stanton, reaffirming every negative moment within his brief Yankee legacy. 

Lately, the YES team has pushed a line of stats that supposedly show homer-hitting teams doing well in the playoffs, debunking the morbid fears of their fans. Well, last night we saw what happens when a homer-drunk team faces a stopper. Houston has three Charlie Mortons.

4. Then there is Minnesota. For nearly 25 years, the Yankees have owned the Twins. It's almost a mini Curse of the Bambino. Trouble is, we know what happens with curses: At a certain point, the fireworks explode in your hand, blowing off a few fingers, and you never sack another quarterback. 

One of these days, the Death Star will fold against Minnesota. Nothing lasts forever. The Twins are young and hungry, and suddenly - larded with Giancarlo and Edwin and J.A. - we don't look like rising underachievers any more.

I suppose this could still be just a glitch. Speaking hopefully now: Maybe the Yankees just needed to be embarrassed, kicked in the butt before the season ends. If so, they sure bent over to take it. The last series means nothing. We cannot lose the home advantage to Minnesota. Still, I wonder if we just glimpsed the end? There's a huge difference between a great season and a great year. 

It was a great season, 2019. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

"For Want of a Nail..."

So today was the last day of the SS Mets, and to be fair, the ship did not go down without a fight.  The Metsies won—for a change, behind de Grom, who finished with 23 straight scoreless innings—and had their season ended only when Milwaukee won again.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox pounded Texas again, with Bogaerts, Martinez, and especially Devers all running up more gaudy numbers on what could have been an MVP season for any one of them—as one of our Leaders, Peerless or Dauntless, pointed out—had their team only won anything.

The Sox, of course, had some major bad luck—awwwwwww!—in that a couple of their vaunted starters got hurt, while a couple more melted down.

Still, Boston might have made a serious run...with any kind of bullpen.

The Mets, for their part, might have made a real run at everything, had they only bothered to build a pen.  NYM has gone 43-24 since hitting a season-low, 40-51 record on July 12th.  Their fielding improved exponentially, they went out an got another, effective starter, they developed a solid core of hitters, and they even had a decent bench by the end.

The only thing missing?  A bullpen.  Their new GM seemed to think that Einar Diaz was enough.  It wasn't—as one strong reliever can never be these days.

Had they made it, the Mets might have become a real threat simply by stuffing another starter or two into the pen.  But they didn't make it, their hot streak carrying them only from 10th to 6th in the NL.

Much as the Yankees are going to ultimately fall short this year, it will at least be due to the lack of a pretty difficult commodity to develop or obtain:  a first-class starting pitcher.

Picking up a passel of relievers?  It shouldn't have been that hard.

New York is a National League Town? "It Ain't Necessarily So..."

Gee, it was thrilling to watch those Metsies, with their backs to the wall, pull out an extra-inning win last night.

Down 4-0 in the seventh, with their Magic Elimination Number at 1, the Baymen rallied on 2, two-run homers by Mr. Met Michael Conforto, the second one in the bottom of the ninth, and then won it in the bottom of the 11th on the always spectacular, bases-loaded, walk-off walk by Brandon Nimmo.

Nimmo's teammates went wild, pelting him with sunflower seeds and baby powder, among other items.  Exactly what all that means...well, I'm sure it is some great and probably obscene clubhouse secret.

The Mets' fans went wild, too...all 20 or 30 of them who were left in the stands by then.  Last night, for their last stand, the Team by the Airport drew fewer than 22,000 "faithful," which is about what a particularly loud auto accident draws in NYC.

Which brings us back to something that A-Rod said, while bloviating at the heartbreaking, Sunday- night loss to the Dodgers that all but put the final nail in the Mets' 2019 coffin.

Voicing similar worries that we've had here in totaling back-page tabloid appearances, A-Rod speculated that if the Mets made a big run and went far in the playoffs, it could change the whole balance of power in Gotham.

"You always hear it said," he warned, "that New York is a National League town."

Well, in fairness to A-Rod, who is perfectly capable of saying all sorts of stupid stuff entirely on his own, you DO hear that said, and repeated constantly by sportswriters.  Maybe, at one time, it was even true.

The only trouble is the lack of facts to back it up.

2019 will mark the 27th straight season, from 1993 on, that your New York Yankees have outdrawn the Mets at home.  This year, in a not untypical result, the Yanks will finish first in the AL in fans.  The Mets will most likely be 9th in the NL, and almost a million bodies behind the Bronx team.

Obviously, this is more than just a reflection on the play on the field.  Even in 2015, when the Yanks barely eked out a wild card and the Mets made a breathtaking run to the Series, the Yanks outdrew them.  By over 600,000 fans.

The next season, when a still contending Mets team made the wild card, and the Yanks were barely over .500?  NYY outdrew NYM by almost 300,000.

And so it goes.  In 2006, when both teams made strong runs but the Mets got within a game of the Series while the Yanks folded to Jim Leyland's Cheating Bengals?  NYY, by nearly 900,000.

In 2008, the Farewell to the Ballparks season, in which the Mets were still in contention on the last day of the season and the Yanks had already folded their tent in third place?

Well, for the one and only time in NYC baseball history, BOTH teams drew over 4 millions fans.  The Yanks just drew close to 300,000 more.

All in all, the idea that New York is a National League town goes back to the 1960s, when the Mets first surpassed the Yankees in attendance.  Their edge, for several seasons, came entirely on the huge crowds they would draw whenever the Giants or the Dodgers were in town.

Otherwise, the Mets usually drew about what you'd expect a last-place club to draw.

In other words, it wasn't so much that New York had some weird, undeviating attachment to National League-ball, so much as that Giants and Dodgers fans, as if visiting from vestigial leg, had to go see their old teams in action.

After that, of course, when the Mets got good and everybody was afraid to go to the Bronx, NYM really outdrew the Yanks on their own.  This repeated itself in the 1980s, when the Mets were good again and the Mad King sank the Bombers into the period known as The Great Confusion.

But Mets dominance was really confined to those two streaks:  1964-1975, and then 1984-1992, after which fans apparently tired of players tossing firecrackers at them and spraying bleach on people from SuperSoakers.  Go no.

But the point is this:  Every other year, the Yanks outdrew them, holding an edge of 37 seasons to 21.

You can argue that this is because the Mets have—due to their own volition—a smaller ballpark.  But it rarely sells out (most often: when the Yanks visit).  And the Mets rarely draw well compared to the most popular NL teams.  Without having looked it up, I suspect the Yanks do better on TV and radio (ESPECIALLY radio!) by comparable margins.

Nor is this a phenomenon that started with the Mets.

When New York had 3 teams still, the Giants, a constant winner run by the fabulous Muggsy McGraw, and with a deep, Irish fan base, generally led the city in attendance.

Until Babe Ruth arrived.

Then it was, literally, a whole new ballgame.  The Yankees became the first team anywhere, ever, to draw over 1 million fans in 1920, and were first in 31 of the last 38 years of the three-team city.

(Brooklyn, for all the vaunted loyalty of its fans, led the Big Three only 5 times, and all between 1939-1945.)

In other words, judging by the facts, New York is in reality an American League town, and it generally has been for the last century, or ever since its American League franchise was no longer owned by a collection of crooked gamblers and rogue Tammany cops.

Sorry, A-Rod.

It ain't necessarily so
It ain't necessarily so
They say the town is the Metsies'
But to Queens fans don't getsies
It ain't necessarily so.

As the home field advantage disappears, a few Yankee slumps deepen

We can't whine. We can't go Zsa Zsa slapping the cop over a game between a team that's fighting for its life, and one who is sleepwalking into its second Ambien tablet. We shouldn't shout insults at the juju gods. We should be good sports, I guess.

Still, last night basically ended the 2019 Yankees' chance at post-season home field advantage. It means we'll probably face Houston in its own park, sleeping in its own beds, and it feeds the dark sense that these last seven magical months - the replacement players, the comebacks, the home runs - will lead to another empty October. 

I suppose we can still win our final four, and the Astros could lose out. But if I were Aaron Boone today, I would start thinking about Minnesota, and light an early prayer candle on behalf of whatever wild card team faces Houston in the best of five. Realistically, folks, our quest to be home team: it's history.

Last night, Tampa once again showed why they are MLB's smartest team in this millennium. They pioneered the now ubiquitous defensive over-shift and invented the (likewise) bullpen start. They regularly contend in baseball's toughest division without having to tank. They have the game's top prospect, a switch-hitting SS, who looks like the next star off their assembly line. I wonder if our front office has benefited from simply operating in the same city? Do we go through their recycling bins? Do we get them drunk and steal their secrets?

If not, maybe we should.

Oh, well... today, I want to note a disturbing set of numbers, all of which were amplified last night: Yankee hitters who are free-falling into October. 

On the right is a chart of slumps over the last 30 days. As you see, four critical players - Didi, Luke, Gio and Hammerin' Cameron - have been Missing In Action. (The Red Menace probably doesn't matter; he won't make the playoff roster.) In the cases of Urshela and Maybin, there remains the existential fear that pitchers have adjusted to them, and they haven't. With Didi, you worry about our ability to handle RH pitching - especially what the Astros will throw at us. 

Over the last 30 games, others have stagnated: Gardy is hitting .250, Gleyber just .247 and Gary Sanchez at .233 (and recovering.) But their power numbers remain solid, suggesting they have gotten a bit homer-happy.

This weekend, the YES team birthed a litter of stats to debunk the theory that homer-happy lineups go dry in the post-season, when the quality of pitching improves. Well, as Humphrey Bogart said in The Harder They Fall, "You can make those numbers jump through hoops." My belief is that there are good hitters who hit HRs, and there are simple HR-hitters. The Yankees have excellent hitters - LeMahieu, Judge, Gleyber, Voit - and one who simply swings for the fences. (Sanchez.) A huge concern is whether Gardy and Gleyber are tilting into that category and where will Stanton and Encarnacion fit in? Will they return as pure hitters, or strikeout/walk/HR guys? 

What's important next month is that we hit some singles and doubles.

Last night, we got nothing. Last night, we were a team that only scores via the HR. It was a sad sight, and it ended our season of home field dreams. Let's hope it's not an omen of what's to come. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Ours Should be 11

Eleven pitchers, that is.

No need to carry more. In fact, any more will make this a lesser Yankees team.

Big Sap (he's been promoted again)
Tiger Tanaka
Happ (a little less hapless—when he can pitch at all)
CC (apparently required by law)

The Big Five in the Pen:

And then, The Remainder:

I would like to see if Mike King or Monty has enough to steal this spot, but although the Yanks have added both to their late-season rosters, they don't seem to have done it for any purpose, such as pitching them.  (Perhaps they are assigned to fetch late-game Klondike Bar snacks from the clubhouse.)

The Remainder is thus most likely to be Luis Cessa, which is, as the song goes, making the best of a bad situation.  Fine.  Cessa can be Mr. Mop-up, and should be pitched in that role until his arm falls off, although it will be difficult to tell when that happens.  CC can join him.

Considering how many off-days there are and how well-rested the Big Five are (a tip of the hat to Ma on that one), there is really no reason to go with any more hurlers.  Again:  any more will just hurt us.

Which should leave:

C—Lettuce, Higgy (with any luck, Sancho is done for the year)

INF—EE, The General, El Conquistador (The Gleyber), Didi (he will surprise us), Gio, Tyler Wade (the hot hand)—and yes, Luke! (or Ford, or Thairo)

OF—Judge, Gardy, Maybin, Stanton, The Red Menace (no avoiding it!)

Any fewer regulars, and we're shorthanded.  With the 14 above, we have a good, deep bench, adjustable for any situation.

Chances are, we're getting outpitched in any case, by any possible opponent save for Minnesota.  Nothing we can do about that now (looking at you, Brian Cashman).  Hence, we're best off carrying the most adjustable, flexible, and deep team we can.

The "Who's on first?" Yankee logjam dilemma

Unless someone leaves a strategic banana peel in the Tampa clubhouse, the Yankees expect Edwin Encarnacion back Wednesday. Throughout the nooks and crannies of the Death Star, only one person might rue the addition.

That would be Mike Ford, as his chance to play in October shrinks like Lindsey Graham's stature in history. Ford's season ends this weekend. And he's probably not alone at first base.

The Parrot's return could mean Luke Voit - one of the most emotional Yankees, and a linchpin to the 2019 team - could watch the playoffs in pajamas.

On a five-game roster, it will be hard for Aaron Boone to justify carrying three first-basemen. With almost no opportunities for Voit to pinch hit, the Yanks will likely reserve the 25th spot for Tyler Wade, who plays everywhere, bats LH, and can maybe steal 2B in a critical moment. 

Here are the stats for Yankee first basemen this year. Read it and weep, Luke fans.

Voit has been fine all year. Everybody loves him. His numbers are credible, his haircut a piece of work. But Encarnacion is still Encarnacion - in a Yankee carnation. And when he recently returned, he returned hot. Unless he goes 0-20 this week, or looks hobbled, it's hard to imagine the Yankees not going with him.

The problem for Luke is his defense. He is almost interchangeable with Encarnacion, a career DH, and he's well below LeMahieu, the everywhere gold glove who has played only 38 games at first. LeMahieu makes the plays, though his low range factor - (that's putouts/assists divided by innings) - suggests he's still learning the position.

(It dazzles to remember that a) Kendrys Morales was on this team, b) Gio Urshela could play 1B in a pinch and c) Greg Bird, the lost enigma, remains probably our best fielding 1B; considering how little the Yankees would get in a trade, Bird could return next spring to vie for the job.) 

It's amazing - and sad - to think that Voit might get shelved from the playoffs roster. And my guess is that neither Encarnacion nor Stanton will hold up through an entire month - if the Yankees are lucky enough to play one. So Luke should stay active. He'll probably get his chance.

Monday, September 23, 2019

What did Ryan Dempster call A-Rod... the Boston Globe? 

Why the "[Alex Rodriguez]"? What did Ryan Dempster really say? 

Domingo To Enter Monastic Order

The only path to redemption for Domingo is to spend time in Limbo.

He needs to pick and plant flowers while remaining removed from public view.

It would be a good thing if he gave up the dating scene for a year, and spent his time laundering orange robes and cowls.

I am thinking he should join the Trappist Monks, where there is no speaking.

His retreat into monkery will, of course, involve counseling and readings from the books of fine behavior.

His fists will be anointed, daily, with oils of sanctity.

When again permitted to utilize his vocal chords, Latin will be the preferred tongue for him.

 This will be another hurdle to his return to baseball, as Latin translators (who really know the game) are difficult to find.

If he returns to spring training in 2020, it will be necessary for him to claim that some form of god has forgiven him.

Perhaps he can get a prominent tattoo which conveys that message.

There is no easy way back for Domingo.

Nor should there be.

With a week to go, the Yankees are actually sitting in the catbird seat

At first glance, it looks as though Houston will win the home field advantage next week. After all, they play six tomato cans within their cupcake division, where they grew dominant by finishing last for a decade. Congrats are in order. HOO-rah, HOO-ston.

But now comes a final hurdle: They must win four of their last six - (the Yanks should win at least three out of five) - while resting their stud muffins. They can't afford a tweaked gonad. (From now on, every tweaked gonad is a broken bone.) Do they want Jose Altuve snapping his tootsie while legging out a nubber? Meanwhile, the Yankees - who have thrived all year on spare parts - actually have players who need the reps.

Here's a Death Star lineup of expendables and returning war horses, all of whom are competing for a shot at October. Damn, we're not in Scranton anymore. 

c: Gary Sanchez (needs action.)
1b: Edwin Encarnacion (needs action.)
2b: Thairo Estrada
ss: Didi Gregorius (needs to hit.)

3b: Tyler Wade
lf: Giancarlo Stanton (needs action.)
cf: Cameron Maybin (needs work in CF.)
rf: Clint Frazier
dh: Mike Ford 

This lineup could run the table. Not only that, it rests Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, D.J. LeMahiue and Luke Voit - all of whom can DH or pinch hit. I cannot recall a deeper Yankee roster entering the playoffs. 

Still, one challenge remains: Can the Yanks actually go five games without an injury? (Have they done it this year?) Encarnacion, Sanchez and Stanton head the list of returnable stock. Dare we imagine a Yankee lineup with everyone healthy - with Gardy batting ninth? Could the planets really line up? Would the tides rise globally? Would volcanoes erupt?

The Yankees play the Tampa Devil Rays twice. They face a team withered by stresses - 5-5 in their last 10 - from its existential reason to go on: Hating the Yankees. If we take just one game - one - behind Edwin, Gary and Gio, we will cripple them. If we sweep, we could put them on a half-season course to Montreal. Meanwhile, Houston cannot ease up. We have cards to play. We have players to play. This isn't a lost week. This could be fun.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Astros blink, Twins sag

Houston has seven games left. We play six.

We need to make up two games in the loss column. If tied, they get the home field advantage.

Right now, they would play the winner of the wild card, and we'd get the Twins.

James Paxton would likely start game one, with Masahiro Tanaka to follow. After that, in Minnesota, who knows? Happ, Severino, or everybody. 

As for the Twins, they might be imploding. 

Not saying we want the Twins. Not by a long shot. But whoever wins the Wild Card will be hot. Minnesota, maybe not. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Sentencing came remarkably fast in the Domingo German case

Like the home field advantage, the vaunted Yankee depth is disappearing, day by day. 

Yesterday, the disturbing allegations against Domingo German came amid a cloud of questions: Without a police report, without a filed complaint, without a hearing, without a completed investigation, German apparently has been banned from the post season, what could be the most important - and thus, visible - games of his life. The charges were barely 24-hours old before a sentence was rendered. Al Franken, anybody?

This NY Times article examines some of the questions orbiting German's situation, which seems to have been affected - and amplified - by the fact that the alleged spousal abuse happened at or after a charity event attended by MLB staffers. Apparently, they witnessed or heard things; hence, German's 7-day administrative leave, which in a few hours morphed into a season-ending ban. Bang... just like that. 

Listen: If German assaulted his wife - or anybody - he needs to be punished, according to the rules. And frankly, the cloud over him during the playoffs might not be worth all the media scorn that would erupt. (That's probably why the Yankees seem to be cutting bait.) It's a lonely place, asking questions in possible defense of a guy charged with beating his wife. But I wonder if German will get a fair shake. It looks like he didn't even get a hearing before being banished.

The Yankees, playing in Gotham, face far more intense scrutiny than other teams. At some point next month, Houston will bring in closer Robert Osuna, the 24-year-old lightning bolt with 36 saves. I trust the truth squads of Fox and ESPN will neglect to mention Osuna's 2018 domestic violence charges, which last Sept. 24 were neatly lawyered into a restraining order, so he could pitch in the post-season. That came with this piece of poetry from the team: The Houston Astros look forward to Roberto continuing his commitment to be a productive and caring part of our community. The Astros remain committed to increase our support regarding the issues of domestic violence and abuse of any kind. We have engaged with a number of local, state and national organizations — and we look forward to working with them in the short term and over the long term.”

What nice words. Surely, the bards are working on a new stanza for German. I wonder if he'll ever pitch for the Yankees again. Of course, our closer is Aroldis Chapman. Hmm. This is a strange time.

Friday, September 20, 2019

What Are These People Doing Here?

As we head into the last week of the regular season, three intriguing individuals have suddenly emerged on the New York baseball scene.  Two of them may well determine just how well your New York Yankees do in the coming, apocalyptic postseason.

One is Luis Severino, of course.  Will he be as good as he looked in his first outing?

Who knows?

But he does have a track record, and if his arm is really healed, it could be quite lively, not having pitched all year (Also, I suspect, he has somehow fixed that "tipping his pitches" canard problem from last season.)  If we can get him out there, fireballing 2-3 innings in key situations, we could be sitting in the catbird seat.

Two is the most surprising, and intriguing, last-minute addition on the Yankees.  No. 73 in your program, no. 1 in your hearts:  Mike King.

This is the guy I thought was going to be the sleeper who emerged this year, instead of Mr. German.  King was 11-5, 1.79 ERA, combined, on three levels last year, including 4-0, 1.15 in Scranton.

Then—the arm miseries.  And after coming back, he was 3-1 in Scranton this year, but with a 4.18 ERA.

But beyond that, the stats still show some possibilities:  23 2/3 innings, 20 hits, only 6 walks, 3 homers, and 28 strikeouts.  Not bad.  And of course he'll have the advantage that nobody has seen him.

I say, if King shows us anything over the next week, he should get a postseason slot ahead of Cessa or Johnny Lasagna.

And three...Buck Showalter????

What's that about?  But it's true:  Buck was back this week, bloviating on the Yanks' postgame show, and he seemed in fine good humor, quick and insightful.

It was nice to see.  He appears to have shed the "Flying Dutchman," mad monk look of his last, awful summer in Baltimore.  And he sounds like he has a lot of baseball left in him.

So?  What's he doing here?

Much as I would love to believe that Coops is about to hire him on as his righthand man, that's never going to happen.  Cashman is way, way, way too clever an office politician to ever let that good a baseball man come that close to his job.

Bummer.  But...why IS he back in New York?

Could it be as a way of quietly auditioning for the Mets job, should the Flushing Remonstrances fall short of the playoffs this year?

I don't know about you, but Buck in charge of the Metsies gives me the willies...

Domestic violence brings the latest challenge to "Next Man Up"

First, let's not convict without a trial. Whatever happened between Domingo German and his partner needs to be assessed by professional people-assessors. 

But when the news broke yesterday of his double-secret probation, due to matters of domestic violence, my first rage was simplistically directed at the juju gods: 

Haven't they done enough to us? Did they have to throw in this?

Then came a second thought: 

This is not a tweaked gonad.

When a Yankee gets hurt, we rail indignation about the Fates, the trainers, Larry Rothschild, artificial turf, climate change, Taylor Swift, click-bait - whatever. When it's a wife or girlfriend who gets hurt, we oughta show a little discretion and STFU. 

Of course, that is not an option.

I cannot imagine the emotional polar extremes of being a 27-year-old Dominican pitcher, transplanted to NYC. But nothing justifies hurting a woman. (How courageous I am, eh? condemning domestic violence!) But with hat in hand, let's abandon moral judgments and merely look at how German's loss could affect the team.

1. He's not the ace of May and June. In fact, he's been shaky. Two weeks ago, in Boston, he couldn't escape the fourth, giving up five earned runs in the opening game of what was then a crucial series. He's now a middle-innings reliever, who has thrown more innings than ever before, and he runs hot and cold. See for yourself.

Thus, if we lose German, it's not the end of the world. It probably means that both Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loiasiga make the playoff roster. It does not relegate us to Chance Adams or the toe-tapper. Lately, there's been hope of J.A. Happ turning it around. (His bicep strain could change that.) And if Luis Severino is truly back, we can win this without German. He can spare himself another month of innings on that whip right arm, maybe come back next spring and become a Number 1 starter.

2. If he returns, how could this affect him? Opposing crowds will jeer him; Oakland is a tough town - (Sonny Barger: R.I.P.) - Tampa already hates us, and he'll have to warm up in full view of drunken fans. All of this could make German a better pitcher - his back is against the wall. But it's a spiritual weight upon his physical psyche. Lately, I'm sorta liking Cessa. See for yourself.

3. The Yankees will lose a little of that No-Name fairy dust the Gammonites have been sprinkling. When German comes in, the Fox/ESPN/TNT blather-machines will ramp up their moral high ground apparatus. Joe Buck will come out swinging. A-Rod will stutter like Porky Pig. 

In a five-game series, it's hard to quantify moral high ground. But to those of us who are old enough to remember Lawrence Welk pledge drives on our PBS station, we can certainly fear another judgment: The mavens might start recapping Aroldis Chapman's history.

El Chapo remains a hurricane force of nature. Last night, with a nine-run lead and two outs, he was still capable of walking in 10 runs. (He didn't, of course. He made Albert Pujols look like Billy Crystal.) But there is always the fear that the wrong Chapman shows up, especially if Boone has already used his entire bullpen.

I don't mean to discard German, based on unspecified charges. But all year, the Yankee motto of "Next Man Up" somehow bypassed the bullpen. Aside from the Big Four, nobody really stepped up. It's time for that to change.