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Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Parrot is out

Yanks cutting ties to Mr. O-for-October. 


Likable fella, but 1-18 with 11 strikeouts lessens the sting of "Goodbye."


Don't ya know it's gonna be all right (wrong)?

With a little tip of the cap to the Beatles...

All right, riffing off one of Alphonso's heretical points:

What did we not do that we wanted to do that we shoulda done?  And vice versa.

That is, what moves did we advocate which would have been good or bad had HAL actually okayed the money?

Manny Machado.

I have to admit, I was all for signing him, once Sir Didi went under the knife.  Which would've been a colossal waste of money.

Just 26—a phenomenally young age for a big free agent—Manny nonetheless grounded into an NL-leading 24 double-plays this year, and his batting line dropped precipitously, to .256/.334/.462/.796, even playing in the beautiful, carefree atmosphere of San Diego (Spanish for, "Whale's Vagina.").

To be sure, Manny still hit 32 homers, and played an above-average 3B.  He's young enough to come back strong, and who knows?  Maybe the whole LACK of pressure hurt his game.

But I still have to say:  I was wrong.  Picking him up would've meant missing out on the delightful Gio experience.

Bryce Harper

The easy call here is going to be that we didn't need him.  In fact, look for our craven idiot of a GM to pat himself on the back for passing on Bryce very soon.

But I'm not so sure.  I gotta go with our Dauntless Leader here.  Sure, we probably would've missed out on Maybin and Tauchman.  But boy oh boy, it would've been nice to have Bryce in the playoffs!

Harper JUST turned 27, and experienced only a minor drop-off this year, with an .882 OPS, 35 homers and 36 doubles, 99 walks, 15 SB in 18 attempts, and 13 OF assists.  And he's a lefty.

Let's see how we feel about this next year, when Coops has let Maybin walk and traded Frazier, Tauchman is reverting to his mean, Gardy is wearing out in latest farewell contract, and Judge and Stanton are struggling to stay off the DL.  And Joe Girardi's Phillies are five game up on their division.

I still say we shoulda signed him.

Patrick Corbin

The guy who won the World Series?  After going 14-7, 3.25, with 238 Ks in 202 innings in the regular season?  And who won't turn 30 until next midseason?

Yeah, I'll say we should've signed him.

Stupidly, I thought Happ was a better signing.  But I would've loved to have signed BOTH, and NOT traded Sheffield, then a leading pitching prospect, for Paxton.

The Maple Sapling's one good playoff start aside, we would've been better off signing Corbin AND Happ and dealing Shef for something else:  a good young OF prospect, another pitcher, etc.

Coops was wrong on Corbin.  And wrong for America, dammit.

Dallas Keuchel

Another no-brainer.  But then, what do you expect from a GM with no brains?

This was especially, egregiously stupid, because all it would've entailed was (a little) more money, with no big-contract or trade risk whatsoever.

No, Keuchel didn't burn the house down, in the end.  But he was entirely reliable, throwing 112 innings after the Braves signed him, and making two so-so playoff starts.

But hey, if we didn't like that?  We could've just let him walk at the end of the year.

Another WRONG for The Office Boy, which puts his 2019 record at 1-3.
 









A Few Words Of Bombast As We Head Into The Dark Winter

I have to say, it was a pleasure watching the 2019 world series.

Both teams do something that leaves the yankees in the dust.  They have quality at-bats and make contact with the ball.

Some would say;  " they put it in play."  This makes the game interesting because people have to do something when that occurs.   And fans get to watch what happens.

Putting the ball in play puts pressure on the defense.  Not the lazy pop-ups to right field, but the screaming line drives hit into the gap. Sometimes the bunts caused the most havoc.  Other times, players could smirk with satisfaction as they " stuck the bat out" and poked a dribbler to the open space against the shift.

The thing is; the Yankees strike out a lot.  All the time it seems, when it really matters.  That puts no pressure on the defense.  It stresses nothing.  It provides no chance for theYankees.

Much as I love Aaron Judge, he came to mind when Washington or Houston batters laid off sinkers and splitters in the dirt.  They forced the pitcher to come into the strike zone or they walked.  Aaron would be gone in three pitches, having made no contact.

But look at the real strike-out kings;  Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Edwin Encarnacion, Greg Bird ( I put this in because it is hallowed, and just mentioning this name is spooky).  If these guys don't hit a mistake pitch for a homer, they are no threat whatsoever.  None.

Seriously, we cannot win with hitters like this.  The fans are bored, and the defenses we play against look better than they are.

The new statistic, which should be the basis for player use and evaluations, must be the percentage of pitches they put into play, per at bat. POPAB.  Not HRs, RBI's or any of the other old school ideas.

We saw fantastic baseball as Washington and Houston fought it out.  We saw everything that is great. Clutch hits, crucial miscues, patience, grit and spectacular defense.  From everyone, at every position.

We can't win with the current team.

 We can't win unless we are constantly putting pressure on the defense.  We need people who put the ball in play and are patient and have good batting eyes.

Home runs, fun as they are, don't even pressure the defense. They just stand and watch it go out.

The latest world series had plenty of home runs.  But they mattered.  Probably 80% of the Yankee home runs this season did not matter.  Had no consequence.  We won 8-1 anyway.

In the world series, the defenses were always on edge and a home run was like a free run, granted by an error.  Which, often, made the difference in the ball game.

I'll say it again;  we cannot win the world series with the current team.

And to all...a good night.



Boo!


Summer is over. Three treasonous Yankee truths on the first day of winter

1. They're calling it the greatest dis in sports history: The Nats to Bryce Harper. Today, Nat fans are taking pinata practice on him. 

For the record, if anybody cares, Harper this year hit 35 HRs, batted .260 and drove in 114 runs - 12 more than any Yankee. This came after a tortuous first half, when Harper slumped and was relentlessly booed, even in Phily. He is 27. 

I whined last winter, when the Yankees walked away from him. And seeing as how 2019 was the year of Next Man UP - with Cameron Maybin, Mike Tauchman, Gio Urshela - none of whom cost the Yankees a handful of magic beans, this certainly shows what I know. In the future, disregard anything I say.

Then again, unless I missed something, the Yankees didn't win this year, did they? And in the post-season, whenever a rally approached, we came upon the middle of the lineup. Does anybody want to look up how our 3rd, 4th, and 5th batters fared? I don't. 


2. Let's not forget that the magnificent and wondrous 2019 World Series - seven games of heart and soul, an instant all-time classic, according to Fox - was a War of the Tanks. 

Both franchises built their teams by simply sucking for an extended period of time. It's the one tried-and-true method of American professional sports.

Washington finished last from 2008-2010, resulting in first round draft picks Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. Houston tanked from 2009-2014, resulting in first round picks George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. This is how you do it: Finish last for three to five years. Write this down: The O's vs the Marlins in 2024. 

The closest the Yankees came to a full-scale tank was late summer of 2016, the first half-year of Gary Sanchez, when they a) ditched A-Rod and b) traded Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller for ransom of prospects. Without this tanking, Gleyber Torres would be in Chicago. But the Yankees didn't go all the way. They finished only four games below .500. Thus, they didn't draft in the top ten - but 16th. 

Thus far, no superstar stud has burst from the 2017 June draft. The Yankees top selection, RHP Clarke Schmidt, could reach the majors this year. But he's no Brendan McKay, taken by the Rays (who really know how to tank, and who drafted 4th that year.) In his first MLB game in June, McKay pitched a perfect game into the sixth. In September, he hit his first MLB home run. Yep, that's no misprint: He is a pitcher/DH, believed to be a generational talent. McKay is 23. Like I said, Tampa knows tanking.

3. Interesting that the Yanks might replace Larry Rothschild - 65, and one of the oldest pitching coaches in baseball - with Chris Fetter, a college coach, who is 33 - certainly one of the youngest.

If it happens, it will comes on the heals of the team hiring a "Director of Pitching Development" (Department of Silly Walks?) last June from a think tank of modern analytics called Driveline Baseball. On its website, the company touts "World Class Pitching and Hitting Training Driven by Data." I believe they are developing the Super Soldier Serum that created Captain America.

For better or worse, this reflects Cooperstown Cashman's continued evolution toward super-advanced analytics - a trend he embraced after the Meltdown Apocalypse of 2004, and Hollywood's ensuing infatuation with Moneyball. (I mean, Brad Pitt!) Before then, Cashman scuttled around in the shadows of Stick Michael and Bob Watson, who were more inclined to spit on the floor and decide things by the smell of fear. 

I have no judgement on this. It's way too soon. But baseball dynasties are always tied to some slight edge over the competition that comes from the top. The powerhouse Toronto Blue Jays of the 1980s were created in part by Epy Guerrero, a superscout who beat the bushes of the Dominican Republic, getting a foothold there before the rest of baseball realized the explosion of talent. The Yankees built their 1990s teams in part by becoming the first franchise to fund itself through its own TV network, YES. Oakland's Billy Beane (Brad Pitt!) is credited with Moneyball, though his de facto protege, Theo Epstein, built Boston into a new millennium power through the same means. By the way, the Redsocks still own us.

Who knows where this will lead? Not me. Not on the first day of winter.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Hot Stove! Middle Infielders! Churros!

I just threw that last one in there because...who doesn't like churros?  Especially with a good chocolate dip...

Anyway, let's do this systematically, people!  Next up:  middle infielders.

The path seems pretty clear here.  They will let Sir Didi walk, turn second over to The General, where he won a Gold Glove in the NL, and give shortstop to El Conquistador, The Gleyber, for the next 12 years or so.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, as our soon-to-be Brexited friends across the sea would say.  

Or maybe not.  LeMahieu, who really deserves this year's MVP award, is 30, and has only one year remaining in his contract with your New York Yankees.  Will he really become a fixture at second?

And great as it was to see Torres continue to blossom this year, I wish someone would stop him from making that sliding-across-the-grass move to stop ground balls.  He's going to really hurt himself doing that some day—and almost did so this year (And yes, I'm saying that as a warning to the JuJu gods.  We see you coming on this one!).

Our musical question here is—what is there to do about a problem like Sir Didi?

It's true he had a tough time coming back from injury this year.  His slash line—.238/.276/.441/.718—was way down.  While he had that grand slam against Minnesota, he often looked dreadful against Houston in the ALCS, popping everything up or striking out.

It should be time to finally let Tyler Too, Thairo the Pharaoh, and/or Kyle Holder have their shot as back-ups, at least.  Shouldn't it?

On the other hand, Didi is far from old.  He doesn't turn 30 until next spring training, and still looks plenty athletic.  He also has a major clutch gene.  Again and again he bailed us out at key moments this year, most memorably with both bat and glove during the big London farce.  And while I think "clubhouse presence" is generally overrated, let's face it:  Didi is the heart and soul of this team.

As is their wont—and it's a wanting wont—the Yanks have him in the wrong spot and expect him to do too much.  Didi should not be in the No. 3 or 4 spot, but more down around 7 or 8.

What I would do:  Sigh.  This is between the proverbial rock and the proverbial proverb.  I dunno.  The smart thing, I guess, would be to let him walk and save the money for a pitcher.

The nasty, hardball thing to do would be to bargain Sir Didi down—he can't command very much in the open market, not after this past season—see how things go in spring training...then trade him, if everybody is well and playing well, so we at least get some value in return.

But that would be such a sleazy, awful, miserable way of dealing with a beloved player.  Oh, sign him, dammit!  Sign him and play him wherever an opportunity opens up!  Someone is bound to get hurt.

WWCCD?  Sir Didi is gone, alas.  And the money saved won't even be used on acquiring a pitcher.
















One more night of baseball, as the Yankiverse readies for winter

Congrats, Nats! (Poetry prompt?) After the DC wipe-out, everyone in the world - even those Hong Kong protesters - viewed Washington as just another roadside carcass from the Mini Cooper named Jose Altuve, another National League team fundamentally hobbled by pitchers coming to bat. (It's a more strategic game, but it lets lesser pitchers succeed.) Last night, who didn't bet the house on Houston?

Tonight... game seven... always a wondrous event. 

I just wish we were there.

Damn, had a few balls bounced differently - think Game Two, if Gardy's smash off Altuve hadn't rolled right to Correa, so DJ was out at home - tonight might happen in the Bronx. To torture myself, I checked tonight's NYC weather forecast: cloudy, seventies, beautiful. Damn. 

A game seven in the Bronx. One for the ages. Chad Green would start. Surgery or not, Masahiro would be ready. Ottavino would have adjusted. Given a reprieve, maybe Giancarlo Stanton would have saved his soul. Maybe tonight would launch the legend of Tyler Wade. Who knows? Trump would be there. We could retrofit the "Moon Big Papi" movement! The whole stadium would go along. Moon Big Trumpy! Check out these (im)peaches! Damn... if that ball had bounced into center, instead of directly to Correa...

NO, NO, NO! THAT'S IT. NO MORE. YOU WILL NEVER AGAIN SEE ME DRIFT INTO "WHAT IF?" ABOUT THE 2019 YANKEES. THERE IS NO, "WHAT IF?" THERE IS ONLY, "WHAT NOW?" 

And today, in my regular perusal of Death Star drivel, it's clear that the Yankiverse is champing for winter, for "What now?" Everywhere, the speculation machine is in full swing.  

NJ.com lists three Yankee position prospects who could arrive in 2020. (Ho hum. It's Trey Amburgey, Chris Gittens and Kyle Holder. No Gleyber on the horizon. Don't compare them to what Toronto and Tampa have coming.

Murdoch's Post breaks the news that manager Jay Bell is done in Scranton. (Apparently, he's blocked by Boone and wants an MLB job. Can't blame him.)

The Scranton Times follows up on Bell. (How could someone not want to return to Scranton? Is doesn't make sense. Warning: Firewall.) 

Pinstripe Alley lists five pitching prospects who might be ready in 2020. (No surprises, you've seen them all. Basically, it's Deivi Garcia and some bullpen lug nuts.)

Pinstriped Prospects lists five minor leaguers to protect in the December Rule 5 draft. (Always fun from the wonderfully-named Robert M. Pimpsner.) 

Reflections on Baseball asks, Where will the Yankees "new school" pitching philosophy take them? (I'm a sucker for stories that ask questions, without answers. Who will the Yankees trade? What should Cashman do? And WTF is the Yankee "new school" approach?) 

No answers anywhere. But the Yankiverse is ready. After tonight, winter is here. Damn... if only that ball hadn't - NOOOOOOOOOOOOO...

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Could the next Yankee pitching coach be a boyhood idol of Gerrit Cole?

Suddenly, the Yankiverse brims with possibilities...

Larry Rothschild is out. Who should be our next pitching coach?

Let's think. Al Leiter! Dave Righetti! Mike Mussina? Pedro Martinez! Woah, Pedro... wouldn't that be delicious? 

That guy down in Tampa, whoever he is, who's always raising the Rays. Let's get him.

Wait... it should be a former Yankee. Someone not too old. Still in his forties. Bilingual. A Hall of Famer. Universally respected. Hm-mm... CC? Maybe too early. 

By the way, though the Gammonites today are right to use the f-word - "fired" - I don't see the Yankees mistreating Larry "Medicaid" Rothschild. Jeez, the guy is 65. When he trudges to the mound, it's Baatan. He's coached Yankee pitchers since 2011, survived two administrations, and we have zero pennants - worst decade in history. They canned him early, so there are plenty of openings. Jeez, when Rothschild began with the 1981 Tigers, his keystone combo was Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammel. Does anyone expect him to be LOL-ing with 20-year-old Snapchatters? All things end. The writers say "FIRED." I'd say he had a sweet ride.

Still pondering replacements... Roger Clemens? That would sure be bold. Andy Pettitte? Hm-mm... Boomer Wells? Now, that would shake up people... 

You know what'd be neat? What if it was someone Gerrit Cole happens to admire? Know why Cole grew up a Yankee fan? Fun Fact: His dad is from Syracuse, a Yankee town, and he passed that love down to his son. You can look it up. And you know who Cole has often mentioned as his favorite player? 

Mariano Rivera.

YEAH, DAMMIT, MARIANO! 

Seriously, folks, this is kismet! Is anyone more destined? In his late years, Mariano already served as a de facto pitching coach. Opposing pitchers sought him out. This year, he reconnected with the Yankees. He's 49, still young. In a pinch, he could probably throw a one-two-three inning. Would anybody NOT listen to the great Mariano Rivera? And if we don't sign him, beware: We'll wake up one day to find a rival has.  

Jeez, folks, it's a slam dunk! Mariano! Come on, Cash, make him an offer. The Yankiverse will celebrate. Suddenly, the future looks wide open. A new decade looms. There might be light at the end of that tunnel. MARIANO, DAMMIT, MARIANO!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Numbnuts Joe couldn't button his jersey

I can't figure out how to imbed the video, but Girardi couldn't button the Phillies jersey straight when he was presented at the press conference.

He can't. Even. Button. The fucking. Jersey.

Good luck, you poor bastards.

Box Sore

The President stood in his box,
Was booed like a virulent pox.
He thought, "This is weird...
I ought to be cheered.
The game's being broadcast on Fox!"

JOY IN MUDVILLE



With apologies to LBJ, who beat me to the punch.

Breaking News: Yankee Staff ERA to Plummet in 2020!




Who's next?


Gerrit Cole must be the Yankees' target

Within every mega-deal bestowed upon a pitcher lurks one dirty little secret: 

Eventually, the signing team will regret this. 

They all do. At some point, Chris Sale reverts from Koufax to coleslaw, and Tim Lincecum becomes Tim Horton. (Wait... that wouldn't be so bad; at least we'd have the Breakfast Egg & Bacon!)  

Signing Gerrit Cole will require a 10-year monster deal - (he turned 29 last month) - that will surely turn into a pumpkin sometime around 2025. If we're still sentient by then, we at this blog will be whining to the juju gods about the $35 million-per-year millstone. But here's another dirty little secret: Whomever signs Cole will eventually trade him to the Yankees anyway, once his ERA soars north of Edwar Ramirez. Eventually, we'll end up holding the bag. Don't we always?

On that note, I say, let's shoot the moon now, and restore the Yankees as baseball's glamour - and most hated - franchise. Let's do this now, before Houston or Boston steals our limelight for another decade, if not this entire generation. 

Just as Hal Steinbrenner's dad once shelled out for Catfish Hunter - a transformational acquisition that ended our 12-year, Vietnam-to-Watergate barf - it's time for the Yankees to exercise their one great advantage over the opposition: Their money. And here's the dirtiest little secret of all: They can do this without running their payroll into the clouds. 

First, they'll save $8 million from the retirement of CC Sabathia.  

Secondly, they can give Didi Gregorius a gold watch and let him walk. Gleyber Torres can play SS, with Miguel Andujar returning at 3B, Gio Urshela or DJ LeMahieu at 2B, and Luke Voit, Greg Bird and Mike Ford duking it out at 1B. They have a fielding SS wizard in the minors named Kyle Holder. Yes, everyone loves Didi, but letting him go will save $12 million.

As much as it hurts, let Brett Gardner secure a two-year, pre-retirement deal with another team. This will be his final big paycheck. Even with Aaron Hicks out through July - (so, what else is new?) - the Yanks have plenty of outfielders, and, yes, Clint Frazier deserves a shot. That's another $10 million in savings.

Finally, if Aroldis Chapman opts out of his Yankee contract - as I suspect we all secretly hope - that's another $17 million.

That's possibly $47 million - free and clear - to spend this winter, and while these are cocktail napkin figures, even if El Chapo and Gardy stay, it's obvious that the Yankees can outbid anybody in a test of will. Of course, maybe it won't matter. Maybe Cole wants to move to his (rapidly burning) California roots, or stick with the (rancid wife-beating) Astros. But there is no excuse for the Yankees to poor-mouth. 

The Yankees will enter 2020 with an intriguing mix of young pitchers. In most farm system ratings - (as ridiculous as they are) - the bulk of their top prospects are pitchers. The current MLB.com Yankee Top 30 list includes 16 pitchers, including six - Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, Albert Abreu, Nick Nelson, Trevor Stephan and Michael King - who should be ready this year. Domingo German and Jonathan Loiasiga could make the rotation, and Luis Severino will turn 26 this winter. This could be a dynamic staff. All that's missing is an ace.

Last year, the Yankees sat on their hands throughout the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado auctions. Let's give them credit: It turned out to be the right move. But there comes a time when the team needs to utilize its financial strength. That time is coming. We need Gerrit Cole.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Amateur Hour

And while this is, of course, infinitely less important than the loathsome corporate entity known as "MLB" dodging and weaving on abuse of women, the Times also ran another piece the other day presenting another truckload of evidence that the baseballs have been changed for the postseason.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/25/sports/baseball/mlb-baseball-juiced.html

It's bad enough that the balls are juiced or "un-juiced" over the years.  Now, we're talking about juicing them during the season and then un-juicing them for the playoffs????  Why?

MLB, of course, is not talking.  This is a cartel more addicted to covering up than Tricky Dick Nixon.  It is ALWAYS their automatic, default reaction to anything.

MLB may be deliberately messing with the balls for any number of reasons—most likely, in this case, something to do with being able to squeeze in still more TV ads thanks to less extended action on the field.  Or this is purely amateur hour, with the balls being obtained from somewhere new, most likely for some tiny savings some beancounter has come up with.

Corrupt or incompetent?  You make the call.

It's the regular state of business (and almost everything else) in America today, conspiracy chasing screw-up all the way down the slide, to a society where any sense of judgement or meaning is rapidly fading.

True, the integrity of baseball is a very minor matter, compared to, say, preserving reality.  But it still stinks.  How are professionals supposed to play a game where the equipment can change during a season, on the whim of the owners?

And how is it that everyone who has any money in this country decided that it's always better to lie than to risk losing so much as a dollar of it?


Suzyn unloads: “Listen, they did what they did [signing him], and Osuna did what he did,” Waldman said of the domestic violence case that wasn’t prosecuted when the victim declined to return from her home in Mexico to testify. “He’ll pay for it in a way. He’s never going to see that child or whatever. The [Astros] did what they did. I understand it. I don’t like it, but I understand it. The problem is lying, trying to cover up something that is so hideous anyway, then blaming it on a young woman and trying to ruin her career. That’s the part I can’t look her in the face. “What they did was worse than Taubman yelling at her, which is vile enough. They tried to ruin a young woman’s career. How do you come back from that?”

And here's the thing.

She's absolutely right!

The Gnats are toast, but why does the Series feel so different from the ALCS?

They say that nothing succeeds like success. Thus, maybe it's a false read - a projection of our own internal miseries - when we watch the Astros swarm into another rally, looking more than ever like a champion. They appear to be a team of destiny, thanks to their spark-plug, the best player on the field, Jose Altuve. Every time that little shit comes up, something is going to happen. You can feel it.

To put it bluntly, the Yanks had no one like him. Our closest - DJ LeMahieu - was magnificent, to be sure. But he's no rah-rah instigator, no human catalyst, and he was sandwiched by big names who withered in the spotlight. 

Aaron Judge (6 for 25), Edwin Encarnacion (1-18), Brett Gardner (3-22), Gary Sanchez (3-23) and Aaron Hicks (2-13) clogged our lineup. After LeMahieu, no one rose to the moment. 

If these four games feel different, there's a reason: Balls are being put into play. Thus far, Houston batters have struck out 32 times - average 8 per game - and the Nats 39 (average 10.) In the ACLS, the Yankees fanned 65 times - a woefully pathetic average of 13 per game. Our leaders were were Sanchez (12), Encarnacion (11) Judge (10) and Gardy (10) - et tu, Gardy? - inexcusable for a vet whose game once depended on making contact. WTF happened to him? How many runs failed to score because Yankees couldn't put a bat on the ball? By the fourth game, just seeing them stride to the batters box put a chill onto the Yankee Stadium crowd. They were the opposite of Altuve. 

There are a million reasons why the Yankees lost - number one being that Houston has a better team. But they had one guy who was constantly starting fires, and we didn't. In the future, I believe that spark may come from Gleyber Torres, as he evolves into the team's marquee star. Judge is great, but his role may turn out to be merely providing public relations cover.

One final thought: I take no comfort in the notion that, at least, the Yankees lost to baseball's best team. So did everybody else. Nor can we claim to have given Houston its toughest test. That came from Tampa, who took them to the final game. Like last year, we were just a stone in the road.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

In 2020, big Yankee contracts could stuff all hopes for additions

These charts, from Cot's Baseball Contracts - (Slogan: "The Pay's the thing.") - say it all. 

With news that Masahiro Tanaka will undergo minor elbow surgery - (Note: There is no such thing as "minor" elbow surgery) - next year's top three Yankee earners might produce next to nothing. Add Happ, and you've got $87 million potentially down the drain.


As for the Redsocks? They too have major issues, most notably whether David Price, Chris Sales and Nathan Eovaldi can deliver. That's more than $100 million in jeopardy.


And, of course, you're wondering about the Astros. They're actually not so bad off, with players still in their primes... unless Greinke and Verlander crumble.


When you study these charts, the eyes glaze over. But one notion prevails: To win big in 2019, all three teams lashed themselves to players at or approaching their sell-by dates. So the question is not how crafty their GMs can be. It is whether their billionaire owners will pull out their pockets and poor-mouth to the world when the big free agents hit the market. 

That said, I cannot help but sense a looming sea change in the AL East. For three seasons, the Yankees and Redsocks have ruled. From here, it looks like time for Tampa and Toronto to ascend. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Report from the Chairman

Hello, sports fans.  HAL here.

Was that a great decade, or what?

In 2019, the Yankees once again finished first in attendance in the American League, just as it has now for two consecutive years—and for every year after 2002, save for 2016 and 2017.  Over three million of you came out to see the Yankees for the 21st straight season, including every year this decade.

True, attendance was down somewhat.  But don't worry.  Profit margins will be preserved through another increase in ticket prices, and an appropriate increase in the percentage of rat feces to meat in the Yankee Franks.  You're welcome.

It is also true that the team used to regularly draw over 4 million fans in the last decade.  But with all due respect, those were poorer fans, less willing to spend excessive amounts of money.  We have upgraded to a higher clientele now, which needs more room to spread out, as I hope you will appreciate when you come out to the ballpark.

(If you don't appreciate it, then please do not come to the park.  The staff is now hard at work considering whether we should peruse credit reports and background checks before allowing ticket sales.)

It has come to our attention that some of you remain unhappy with the team's performance on the ballfield.  We are at a loss to understand this.  Your New York Yankees won 921 regular-season games this decade, the most in MLB.  They also won three division titles, and four of the coveted, Bud Selig Memorial Wild-Card Play-In slots.

Some of you have selfishly complained, nonetheless, that the team did not reach the World Series for the first time in a century.  This sort of obsession with petty prizes will not be tolerated.  Fans should look instead to what truly matters, which are the team's continuing, record profits.

Shouldn't it be of more moment that these are secured for the continuing happiness of The Chairman and his family, down to his distant progeny, than a few loutish athletes or your own happiness?

The only true setback this year was the early playoff loss of our beloved NYCFC soccer franchise, in MLS.  This may retard our major corporate mission, which is to secure billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the building of a soccer stadium/luxury housing complex/office park in the Bronx—and then to continue on to a major global position in the lucrative and fascinating world of international football.

Even more tragically, NYCFC's one playoff game had to be held at Citi Field, because of the remote chance that your New York Yankees might make the World Series that you so obsess over.  You will be relieved to hear that attendance was small enough so that the potential revenue loss was not significant.

(Good luck finding any account of what that attendance actually was.  Our Publicity Department once again did an admirable job in utterly expunging any negative information from the public record.)

Finally, it has once again come to our attention that some of you continue to object to our administration of this corporation in general, with your fixation on nebulous achievements and priorities such as "wins," "great players," or "titles," over corporate profits.

As such diverse authorities as the estimable dictators of the Chinese people, Stephen A. Smith, my brethren owners in the NBA, and the agreeably pliable greedhead LeBron James have all informed you, there is no principal, no moral belief that is an adequate substitute for money, especially money that may be obtained by those who already control a great surfeit of it.

Anymore wrong-thinking, wrong-speaking, or wrong actions will be dealt with severely.  ALL-CAPS, JM, Doug K., 13bit, Parson Tom, etc., do not fool yourselves into thinking you can hide behind your pathetic masks of misrepresentation.  To all your brethren located in The Netherlands, Scotland,  Austria, or wherever, please note that extradition laws can be adjusted as necessary.  And not only governments can manufacture drones.

Warbler, take those pants off your head.  Now.

Thank you for your support, and we look forward to seeing you in 2020 (with a better attitude).  As for the team—MY TEAM—no adjustments will be necessary.

Your great friend in the sky,
HAL











Hicks is out, Houston is disgraced, and smiles are erupting across scattered outposts in the Yankiverse

Yesterday's mini-news that Aaron Hicks will miss most of 2020 gave me a brief tummy ache. I didn't heave, it quickly passed, and I had to smile: Like... this is news? Aaron Hicks, hurt... again? Hicks looks good coming off the bus. He's a Greek statue - big, strong, chiseled, wound so tightly that any false move brings a glitch in the Matrix. He lunges for a curve; an oblique bursts like a water pipe. He outruns a grounder; a hammy barks like Lassie, with Timmy in the well. I had to laugh. Hicksy, hurt again... haha...

Listen: This is no character thing. As far as I know, Hicks is a model inmate, an Eagle scout, an earnest ballplayer wishing only to play ball. But the juju gods have rendered their verdict: He's a china doll, his game defined not by his .236 career average, but by all those tweaked gonads. He's good until something goes pop. And something always goes pop. 

He'll be 30 next July when - presumably - he returns. (I say "presumably" because the Yankees have a way of re-injuring the injured, much like crooked prison guards jamming up the incarcerated.) By July, someone will have claimed CF, or else we will be in a heap a' trouble. It could be Mike Tauchman, or maybe Cameron Maybin. Certainly, it could be Brett Gardner, the de facto Yankee captain. Hicks' injury gives us an excuse to keep Gardy for at least one more season. He'll turn 38 next August. I thought we were going to lose him. Now, he should stay. Feel the smile growing?  

Hicks' injury - (by the way, it's his elbow; he'll need Tommy John) - could give one more chance to the OFFICIAL MASCOT OF IT IS HIGH: the ever-precocious, glove-challenged, "legendary bat-speed," pride of Scranton... Clint Jackson Frazier. In mid-summer, when the Yanks traded for Edwin Encarnacion - (another china doll, it turned out) - the Red Menace's once promising 2019 turned into a garment malfunction. By all indications, the Death Star sought to trade him at the deadline. Unfortunately, his stock value by then had fallen below Uber and Lyft. So, as strange as the juju fates would have it, Frazier may have just received a second chance - like Gardy - courtesy of Hicks' elbow. Call me crazy, call me a fool, call me a cab... but hey, I'm smiling. 

One other newsy bit brought a smug grin yesterday: The Astros fired their assistant GM for yelling obnoxious things at female sportswriters in the locker room after their victory over the Yankees. I believe you call tell a lot about a team after they beat the Yankees. After winning the 2001 World Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks mocked us by playing "New York, New York" on their p.a. system. Classy, eh? Well, ever since, they haven't won squat. Houston's "Me too" moment came from a suited boar named Brandon Taubman, who sought to celebrate his orgasmic victory by telling off Uppity Women Everywhere - (where are you, Helen Reddy?) - that he was glad Houston signed a wife-abuser, Roberto Orsuna. (Then, to top it off, the franchise lied about it, claiming it didn't happen.) 

In that moment, "Give 'em Hell" Taubman managed to ice the shit cake that Houston might have to eat over the next five months. You know how Aaron Judge called the Yankee season "a failure" after we lost to Houston? Well, the Astros might head into winter not only wearing a four-game sweep, but a "beats their wives" sign on their backs. 

If something could make the recent Yankee loss sting less, this is it.

Now, I don't mean to make fun of Taubman's comment, or his predicament. Nor do I want to ignore that the Yankees could have just as easily be wearing the albatross: Long ago, we bit our lip and traded for Aroldis Chapman on the cheap, after his domestic violence case became public, and the Reds cut bait. Also, we have Domingo German, whom we disappeared in September, after his case became public. We are not angels. That said, I'd like to think there is a huge difference here: Say what you want about Cooperstown Cashman's trades: The guy knows enough to not shout abusive tirades at sportswriters, male or female, on a hot button issue. He didn't survive 20 years in NYC by emulating Morton Downey Jr. 

So, I am now officially rooting completely for Washington. Take it in four, Nats! Send those smug bastards home in disgrace - swept, humbled, embarrassed and vilified  Come on, juju gods! Make this hurt so bad they wish they never even won the pennant. Ahh, yes, I'm smiling now. October doesn't feel so bad.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Hot Stove! Pay no attention to that outfielder under the knife...

...I'm sure HAL has suckered Lloyd's of London into a huge policy guaranteeing the money.

(Just what goes on at Lloyd's anyway?  Your New York Yankees must account for half of their losses on an average year.  What's the annual meeting of the board like?

"And once again, I am sorry to report, our American sports division has left us deeply in the red.  I would like to call now on our division representative, Mr. Lloyd George Steinbrenner, to report on it. Mr. Steinbrenner?")

Anyway, let's do this in proper ORDER, as Mr. Bercow would holler, speaking of the English.

Today we're talking about first base, where our contenders for 2020 are:

Greg Bird (believe it or not)
Luke Voit
Mike Ford
EE
Various

Well, as Casey Stengel once said, when you got five first basemen, you got no first baseman (No, really, he actually did say that!  Spring training, 1949.)

Believe it or not, some Yankee bloggers are actually excited about Bird, the man who has not hit so as .200 since 2015, maybe coming back.  They picture him regaining his game in the winter leagues, and coming back to be the crucial, left-handed batter in the Yanks' lineup that ALL-CAPS and I always dreamed he would be.

But we all know better.  Sadly, Bird is much more likely to become the first man ever to be infected with malaria, yellow fever, and dengue hemorrhagic fever from the same, single mosquito.

We can only hope that The Parrot Man is gone, too, after this postseason.  And Various?  Well, since he can't play the outfield, it might be an idea to give Giancarlo a first baseman's glove.  But...no doubt, he would pull a hamstring, wrench his knee, and tear his Achilles tendon the first time he was required to touch the bag with his foot.

Andujar might be a prospect for the first sack, too, depending on how he mends from his own throwing arm injury.  But we'll get to him when we hit third base.

Which leaves the lefty/righty versions of exactly the same player, Luke Voit/Mike Ford.

Voit, the righty, had 21 homers, 62 ribbies, and a .263/.378/.464/.842 slash in 118 games last year.
Ford, the lefty, had 12 home runs, 25 ribbies, and a .259/.350/.559/.909 slash in 50 games.

Ford is 27, Voit 28.  Ford walked 17 times and struck out 28; Voit, walked 71 times, and struck out 142.

What I would do:  All undue influence from the soon-to-be-independent nation of Scotland aside, I think Ford is an easy call.

The man has been an on-base machine his whole career, and seems to be growing into his power.  Plus he and Voit are not QUITE the same player.  Ford strikes out much, much less often than the (slightly) older Voit.

I like Luke Voit, a gamer who has done a lot for us.  But ultimately, I would go with Ford and see what Voit might bring on the market, which is likely to not be nothing, particularly if he recovers well and looks good in spring training.

WWCCD:  Voit going under the knife might, just might convince Cashman to take a real look at Ford next spring.  But don't count on it.

Even though there is a long and admirable tradition of Ivy Leaguers in the majors—Lou Gehrig, Eddie Collins, Ron Darling, Gene Larkin, etc.—and even though Mike Ford looks more like a truck driver than a scholar—baseball men inevitably feel uneasy around people who have more book l'arnin' than they do.  They always assume that smart college boys "think too much," and aren't tough enough.

There's a reason why Coops would not even take a real look at Ford until he was absolutely forced to this summer.  Look for him to deal Ford for next to nothing, while hanging on to Voit..."core muscle" problems or not.

And look for Ford to pop up soon thereafter on the World Series roster of a truly smart organization such as the Cards or—heaven forfend—the Boston Red Sox.











The Off - Season Begins



Aaron Hicks
Tanaka
Voit



Next in line?


As Houston crumbles, Yankee fans bob in a sea of conflicting emotions

Swirling, chaotic, alt-Yankee fan reactions to last night's 12-3 blowout in Houston.

1. Good thing we lost to the Astros. It saves us from losing to the Nats. 

2. Why couldn't we hit Astros pitchers? They stink.

3. Nice to see Houston humiliated. Suck on it, Jose.

4. Thanks to Boonie, Gary, El Chapo and company: Washington will still have never hurt us.

5. If the Astros get swept, the franchise should planning its next five-year tank.  

6. I wonder how Giancarlo Stanton managed to hurt himself this week? 

7. As he watches TV at home, I bet Aaron Boone impulsively changes the channel every five minutes.

8. Glad I'm not the street vendor who bought 30,000 Edwin Encarnacion stuffed parrots. 

9. This was the first time in history that a team ditched traditional starters and used a "bullpen" strategy in the post-season. Also, maybe the last.

10. I don't believe 2019's Yankee plague of injuries was a fluke; I think it's the new normal. 

11. Who is Pete Davidson dating these days? Get off your duff, media: We want to know!

12. Losing to Houston spared us from a week of Rudy Giuliani.

13. Remember YES Network's blitz of stats last month, where they claimed to show how HR-hitting teams do prevail in the post-season? What a joke.

14. World Series ratings are in the pits, in part because MLB finally managed to kill the Yankees. Wherever you are, Bud Selig, suck on it. Next year: C-Span?

15. Yeah, he's a dork, but throughout the playoffs, A-Rod has unabashedly carried the Yankee torch. Not many ex-es do that. 

16. The series keeps our minds off the looming, brutal decisions over Gardy, Dellin and Didi. 

17. Whatever happens this week, it pales in comparison to the real story: Greg Bird playing in the Dominican Winter Leagues. Good spare his tender footsies.

18. As supremely rancid as the NY Giants have been - I'm picturing the oily half of decomposing mayonnaise - they won a Super Bowl in 2011. Thus, you can say they had a better decade than the Yankees. Wow.

19. When Trump calls GOP critics "human scum," let it remind us of his true destiny in life: He was meant to own the Yankees.

20. If he could make a few thin dimes off it, Mark Zuckerberg would tell the world that the Yankees beat Houston. Turned out, Rupert Murdoch has nothing on him.

21. WTF are those snake-shaped UFOs in the skies? Aliens: If you're coming for us, please do it before the Winter Meetings. Spare us Cashman's next round of trades.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A hero tweets


Think All You Want, Men.....


I love this blog's winter " hot stove league." And I will provide my best thinking.

But something is nagging at me;  " none of it will matter."

There are many here who have brilliant ideas.  Some are simple and obvious.  Some are subtle.  But there is creative thinking and a high knowledge of the game.

All of this blog's output would help the Yankees.

But none of it will.

Our best years will no longer be championships.

 Hal will be too cheap to allow that.  And 2019 was the year which proved that.  We had chances to make huge upgrades ( at catcher, and at starting pitcher).  All were rejected, to the benefit of others and to the detriment of us.

Our best years will be just like 2019, where others celebrate and we look on with longing and despair.

We will get to see the space goggles used, and the cheap champagne sprayed, because our winning will end just after the 5 game series, following the play-in games.

It is like you throw a really cheap bachelor party for a friend, and then you don't get invited to the wedding.

The Yankees will not get number 28, next season no matter how hard we plan for it.

Not with Sanchez and Stanton as kingpins in our line-up.








Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye! The Hot Stove League is officially open for business!

All right, let's do this in an orderly, logical fashion—the same way we do everything else.

Set yourselves down by the potbellied, country store stove, now that the harvest is in....Somebody move the cracker barrel inside, shut the door against the chill, cut a wedge of cheddar off the big wheel, bring out the hard cider, and let's get started.

First order of business:  Catcher.

Three individuals to consider:  Fuck, marry, or kill—as the kids say.

Gary Sanchez
Austin Romine
Kyle Higashioka

Last off-season, supposedly, our esteemed general manager had the chance to trade Sanchez, even up for J.T. Realmuto.  If he really did pass that up, it should be considered a war crime and prosecuted as such.

Sancho did have a better season than last year, that much is true.  But hell, the Kurds are having a better season than Sancho's 2018.  (Sorry—too soon?)  He still seems like a shell of his 2016-2017 self, the man who reminded me of a young Johnny Bench.

Sancho was a .232 hitter this year, with an .841 OPS.  He's down to throwing out only 23 percent of runners, from his career high of 41%, and the passed balls just returned with alarming frequency in the playoffs.  About all he can still do is frame pitches well, and hit the occasional rocket blast into the bleachers.

One play would be to sign free agent Yasmani Grandal, and trade Sancho for the considerable number  of players he might still bring.  The trouble with that is, statistically—much as I would enjoy writing and saying "Yasmani" all year—Grandal is pretty much Sancho, four years older.

Romine is coming off his best year ever, 8 HRs, .281, .748 OPS, and throwing out a higher percentage of baserunners than Sancho (30%).  But he's also a free agent, unfortunately, and the temptation will be strong to let him walk and replace him with...

Higgy.  Who is also coming off his best year ever, which is, sadly, only .214 with three homers.

What would I do?  Go hard to sign Yasmani and deal Sanchez.  No, it won't be an upgrade over this year.  But it likely WILL be an upgrade over what Sancho will likely degenerate to, very quickly, in New York, and the return he would bring right now would be considerable.

The risk, of course, is that elsewhere—with competent coaching—Sancho will bloom again and achieve the stardom he seemed to be headed for.  But that will surely not happen in the Bronx.

WWCCD? (What Will Cooperstown Cashman Do?):  Almost certainly marry Gary—that is, leave him where he is—and let Romine walk.  Higgy will then become the new back-up until, Coops will tell us, his two big catching prospects, on whom he squandered the Yanks' first and second draft picks in 2018, make the majors (spoiler alert:  they won't).

What Would YOU Do?







Watching that smug little Jose Altuve, awaiting the Cashman purges

Eight weeks from now, baseball's winter meetings will open in some wretched, Trumpian hell-scape of golf and cleavage. By then, the Death Star will have already begun clearing the gristle from 2019, with Brian "Cooperstown" Cashman dealing bodies like a slumlord flipping Section 8 high-rises. Cash has no choice. Without a culling of the herd, the Yankees will lose big in the upcoming Rule 5 draft, the weirdest realignment of personnel in all of professional sports.

In the Rule 5, each team gets to protect 40 players, leaving the rest of its farm system open to be poached. But there's a catch: The drafted player must remain all year on his new team's 25-man roster  In recent winters, the Yankees lost Mike Ford and Nestor (Octavio) Cortes Jr., only to have them returned in the final days of spring training. This year, both will surely be protected...

Unless they're traded first.  

Cashman's dilemma is simple: He has way too many MLB-ready players to protect. Thus, we should expect a whirlwind of minor trades designed to wrangle low-level talent for players they'd otherwise lose for a stack of Mallo Cup coupons.

Despite his considerable blind spots, Cashman has gotten good at this. For several years now, he's dealt Triple A meat for credible Rookie League arms, simultaneously culling and restocking the herd. Actually, he started in September, when Ryan McBroom went out the door for that venerable prospect from Kansas City, Jose Future Considerations. Yeah, it's a handful of magic beans, but beats the bar of Neutragena that comes from the draft. McBroom -- whom we once acquired for Brigadoon Refsnyder in a similar deal - had a solid year in Scranton. He looks like a Luke Voit type, and would surely have been drafted. So, maybe Future Considerations can pitch in Pulaski. 

In the meantime, to avoid having to think of that insufferable runt at 2B, let's look at the 40-man roster - the players we must soon protect.

Pitchers: (22) Paxton, Ottavino, Britton, Loaisiga, Kahnle, Heller, Green, Severino, Tanaka, German, Cessa, Garcia (Devie), Montgomery, Albert Abreu, Michael King, Cortes, Chance Adams, Happ, Tarpley, Clarke Schmidt, Luis Medina, Roansy Contreras.

Catchers (3): Sanchez, Romine, Higashioka.


Infielders (9): Bird, Voit, Ford, Andujar, LeMahieu, Urshela, Torres, Estrada, Wade.

Outfielders (7): Hicks, Judge, Frazier, Maybin, Tauchman, Stanton, Estevan Florial.

That's already 41, and it doesn't count the hangers-on, Tyler Lyons and Corey "Toe Tapper" Gearin, or the impending free agents Didi Greorius and Brett Gardner, two of the most beloved Yankees in the decade. Nor does it cover the possibility that Aroldis Chapman forgoes free agency to stay with the team. (It's hard to imagine Edwin Encarnacion returning, but you never know.) And then there is - gulp - Jacoby Ellsbury. (Note: There will always be Jacoby Ellsbury.) The Yankees are like that used car guy on TV: We're overstocked! Everything must go!

The Yankees' list of top prospects tilts heavy toward arms. In some rating systems, 8 of the top 10 are pitchers. That's exciting and depressing, when you ponder how many coveted elbows will go through the shredder. Sadly, it looks as though the franchise will rely on scouts - rather than my opinions - to determine who to protect.  

The 14-year-old in us wants Cashman to bundle five certifiable clods in exchange for Max Scherzer. If we're lucky, he will get someone who warrants protection in 2022. It's not a crap-shoot. It's a lottery. But soon, a bunch of Yankees will disappear, and only then will the true hot stove league begin. For now, we're stuck licking our wounds and watching Altuve. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

How Giancarlo Stanton became that girl in your high school play

Remember her?  The one with the green eyes and the way she had of flipping her hair that, well, just made your heart flip, too?

She was the lead in all of the Drama Club's musical productions.  And after graduation, she announced that she was going to New York to become a real Broadway actress.

You tried to break it to her easy.  You told her, "Gee, I know you can sing and dance, Alyssa, but, wow, that New York is a pretty unforgiving town."

And she flipped her hair again, and gave you that enigmatic smile that she developed from being the prettiest person in the room all her life, and told you, "Oh, I think it will be all right."

And she said it with such confidence that you even began to doubt yourself, and thought, well, maybe you just didn't want her to leave town.

And then she went to New York, and found out that while she could sing and dance a little, there were plenty of people there who could sing and dance even better, and who knew how to act, and yeah, it was a really tough town.  Until after about ten years of waiting tables she went back to school in business communications, and at your 20th high school reunion she tried to sell you life insurance.

That's our Giancarlo.

The Marlins thought they had a deal done to trade him to St. Louis, if I recall correctly.

That's a nice town for a ballplayer, St. Loo.  Great front office, always a contender.  A nice, warm, welcoming Midwestern college atmosphere, where they all wear the team colors in the ballpark.  The kind of place somebody who had never played games that much counted could feel right at home.

But no.

Like the pretty, green-eyed girl in all our hometowns, Giancarlo knew he wanted the big time.  He knew he could play on the big stage, and walk in the footsteps of the gods, and be a matinee idol.

He knew all these things until he got here, and couldn't go when it counted.

His leg hurt, and maybe his side ached, and he just didn't feel right, not right enough to actually play, even though the houselights were down and the footlights were on, and the tickets were all sold and everybody was waiting for him to appear.

And he couldn't do it.

Of course it's not really the same with Giancarlo as with that green-eyed girl.  Mostly because Giancarlo has already made nearly $89 million playing baseball, and has another $234 million guaranteed, which will be enough to take care of him and all the little Giancarlos and their descendants unto the generations.

But now he's finding out that it's not so easy and not so much fun to play on the biggest stage of all—not unless Reggie or Derek Jeter, or the Babe, at least.  And sometimes not even for them.

It's hard, it's unforgiving, and unless he somehow redeems himself very fast—something Giancarlo Stanton does not seem in the least equipped to do, physically or mentally—his every footstep is going to be dogged by the Furies here in NYC.

Now we're hearing word that he would like very much to leave.  That he would rather go to L.A., or...St. Louis.

That's nice—but it's too late.  To trade Giancarlo Stanton now would be for Brian Cashman to admit he made a mistake, and that's not something that Brian Cashman does.  And even if he wanted to, nobody is going to lay out that sort of cash to pay Giancarlo Stanton's contract, least of all Mr. Halliburton Q. Steinbrenner.

So there we are.  The moral of our story is that it's not a small thing to know what you want, before you go after it.  Because he did not, Mr. Stanton is going to spend a lot of time making us and himself very, very miserable here in New York.






Soon, Nats or Astro fans will join us in the dark certainty that they wuz robbed

This is untimely to say, given the sad death of MLB umpire Eric Cooper, age 52, due to a blood clot. And let's wish for a speedy recovery for ump Jeff Nelson, who took a foul to the head in game three of the ALCS, and who won't return this month. These guys are blue collar heroes, troopers, salt of the earth, in every sense. But last week's Yankee-Astros series showcased on national TV an arbitrary, haphazard system of calling balls and strikes - a minefield of mistakes that altered the course of every game. It was awful. 

You cannot predict baseball, Suzyn. But here is a certainty: Next week, either the Astros or Nats will be sitting at home, kicking puppies, knowing they were were screwed by bad calls on balls and strikes.  

Time after time last week, the Yanks and Astros dealt with botched home plate calls - so often and so blatantly that the Fox announcers Joe Buck and John Smoltz had to mention it - amazing revelations for employees who are paid handsomely to look the other way. But when the strike zone automation shows a pitch eight inches off the plate, and it's called a strike - well, you cannot un-see it. Last week, with supposedly the finest umps in the game, blown calls happened with regularity. 

And each one carried a huge impact. A count that should be 2-1 becomes 1-2, putting the batter at a huge disadvantage. (How often this year did Aaron Judge become victim to an imaginary strike zone worthy of Andre the Giant?) And here's the dirty little secret: They don't equal out. 

That's the crapola they feed us: That the occasional bad call gets balanced out by another bad call. When Gary Sanchez came up in the critical 11th inning of Game Two, his single at bat lasted 10 pitches and eight minutes. At one point, instant replay showed Sanchez striking out, though the ump declared it a foul tip. A few pitches later, the ump called out Sanchez on a pitch well off the plate. So, said the spin doctors, everything came out fine in the end, right? Justice was served, and Sanchez went down. But that's bullshit. 

Several times last week, close calls at first base were overturned - in this case, they regularly favored favor Houston. But who can grouse? The calls were done correctly, forensically, and the right decision was made. There were no arguments, no screaming matches. The players simply turned and yelled for a replay, and one was done. It worked quite smoothly. 

But at home plate, there are no challenges, no replay, and numerous at bats were corrupted by horrible calls, dramatically changing the outcomes. 

When Aroldis Chapman faced George Springer in the fateful bottom of the ninth of game six, it looked as though one of the pitches clipped the corner - but the ump called it outside. Thus changed the dynamics of the entire at-bat. Instead of striking out, Springer walked, pissing off El Chapo and setting up Jose Altuve for the final home run. Well, so be it. Good riddance. But in the course of that game, the calls did not even-out. I don't buy that. For my money, they favored Houston. (Yes, I'm biased, but I know what I saw.) 

As we speak, the NFL faces an existential crisis due to the stark inability of refs to police the game. On virtually every play, some penalty occurs. It's a crap shoot as to which one gets flagged. New replay reviews of pass interference - an almost impossible penalty to define - have only made the game more frustrating. I'm a lifelong Giants fan. In part because the horror show of the franchise, I've found games almost impossible to watch. But one huge problem is the number of flags that fly - canceling big plays with the knowledge that other transgressions were simply missed. Maybe football is too popular to fail, but with every 10-minute video replay delay, the game becomes harder to watch.

Comparatively speaking, baseball has no such problem. Instant replays can be amazingly easy. For decades, umps fought video reviews; now, they quickly go to the booth and make the right call. 

I have always believed the zeitgeist of umpires should have changed with the millennium. Long ago, umps were big, brawny cops - 300-pound linebackers who ruled the game with shouts and fierce stares - God bless 'em. For better or worse, they shepherded the pastime for 100 years. But today, the burly man thing doesn't work. For starters, umps shouldn't rotate: The first base ump should be a specialist, who always works there. He should be young, tech savvy and carry an iPad. Rather than make a call, he should quickly use his own camera and other video angles - with full transparency on the Jumbo-tron - to get it right the first time. (The fact than an ump on the field made the wrong call should not affect the video decision; this bit about "overturning the on-field call" is pure crapola. Often, that call is wrong.) The right call should take 30 seconds, not five minutes and a commercial break. We can wait for it. Once a call is challenged, we have to wait five minutes, anyway.

Likewise, it's time for automated home plate trials in the minor leagues. They should start in the low levels, so that prospects of every franchise are affected. By including it slowly, the full impact of automated balls and strikes can be tweaked, so eventually the network cams - which give every player the same strike zone - can be perfected. In three to five years, a change could be made at the Major League level.

Before you start screaming, listen: It's going to happen, eventually. 

Yes, I realize that such a change will rob the professional game of yet more of those homespun, cracker barrel vagaries of humanity. Well, that ship sailed long ago. Baseball's great bond with its fans comes in the high school and Little League levels, where there's always an insurance agent or firefighter behind the plate, earning $10 per game. That won't change. But at the corporate, billion dollar level of MLB, why are we still pretending the human element is sacred? It's been thrown overboard since we were young.

Sometime next week, we Yankee fans will be joined by our counterparts from either Washington or Houston. They will suffer from a form of PTSD. They will have watched their team - in crucial at bats - get certifiably robbed. The calls won't balance out. One team will simply get screwed. All condolences to Mr. Cooper and Mr. Nelson. But it's time to start the change.

Tyler Kepner Does a Victory Dance on the Yankees' Corpse

Yup, you knew it was coming.  Sure, the fogies at the Times can't stay up late enough to actually report the playoff games.  But they took their revenge by running Kepner's incoherent "analysis" today.

There's no other paper in any other town that would run such a piece, gloating over the loss of the only sports team left standing in the city.  But your New York Times—the paper that would rather cover women's ice hockey than baseball—couldn't resist a great big sneer and a snicker over the Yankees' loss.

Kepner used the occasion to point out that the Yankees have now NOT won the World Series in postseason play, more often than they HAVE won it.

Gee willikers.  Wonder how long he's been hanging on to that piece of statistical merriment?

OF COURSE, once MLB, in all its wisdom, started letting not just the two league winners in the postseason—but the two best teams in each league—and then the top one-third of ALL the teams—it was going to become easier and easier to LOSE in October.

Statistically, this is meaningless.  If they let EVERY team into the playoffs, then ALL of them would lose more often.

But Kepner then adds cowardice to stupidity by opining—correctly—that the Yanks won't win without acquiring better starting pitchers, especially in free agency.  He even quotes Zack(h) Britton to that effect.

Why is this cowardice?

Because in pretty much the same breath, he tells us:

It would be foolish to question the effort of Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and his staff, or the commitment of the Steinbrenners, who have spent more than $1 billion on salaries in the last five seasons, roughly $400 million more than the Astros. But wealthy teams have the luxury of options, and it is fair to wonder if the Yankees have chosen the right ones.

Missing from that critique is that the raw numbers on spending mean diddly-squat.  The Yankees make a ton.  "$1 billion over five years" is $200 million a year.

For the Yanks, that's not a fortune.  In fact, the Yankees spend a smaller percentage of their revenue on payroll today than any other team.

But to write such a thing would be to draw the ire of HAL and Brian.  They might stop returning Kepner's phone calls to elicit their usual, anodyne quotes.

Look, there is only one way that your New York Yankees are ever going to win another world championship.  That is with top-flight starting pitching.

Since they have failed abjectly, over and over again, to develop such pitching, there is only one way they can acquire it, which is through free agency.

And since HAL will not spend on free agent pitchers, there is no way to acquire it.

That is the actual logic of the situation.

Not Tyler Kepner spitting in the eye of Yankees' fans, while cravenly kowtowing to Yankee ownership.