Saturday, November 30, 2019


Remember those stats?

That was the line from Scott Brosius in his first season as a New York Yankee.  It went along with 34 doubles, 19 homers, 98 RBI, an outstanding glove at third base, and a World Series MVP to cap an unbelievable 1998 season.

He was, perhaps, the last great trade from the unmatched Michael/Watson regime, attained from the Oakland A's for a player-to-be-named later who turned out to be Kenny Rogers, the man who was not only addition by subtraction but went on to torment the New York Mets, as well.

Brosius had a terrific 1998, one that Stick and company no doubt discerned could happen from the very good, two-thirds of a 1996 he had in Oakland.

But that was pretty much that.

Oh, sure, Brosius remained a useful piece of the puzzle for the rest of his Yankees career.  He won a Gold Glove in 1999, and had some key postseason hits—enough that we even forgive him that mental blip that contributed mightily to the 2001, ninth-inning Meltdown in the Desert that traumatized us all so much.

We loved us from Scotty, who Coops Cashman promptly re-signed for a relatively cheap, $15,750,000 for three years after that 1998 campaign.

Hey, he deserved it.

But after that re-signing, of course, it was then alleged that the Yankees had a "logjam" at third.

It somehow became imperative that the Yanks' can't-miss, Triple-A third baseman, Mike Lowell, who had ripped wherever he went in the minors, and looked pretty good in a cup of coffee in the Bronx, be traded.

And so it was.

Brian Cashman, in all his Hall-of-Fame wisdom, promptly death Lowell to the then-Florida Marlins for his version of the Holy Grail, "three strong young arms":  Todd Noel, Mark Johnson, and the immortal Ed Yarnall.

And then, lo and behold, Mike Lowell was diagnosed with testicular cancer in February of 1999.  'Aw, tough break, what a terrible thing,' we all said—and in deep, secret alcoves of our brain thanked our lucky stars that we had got rid of this dying man.

Well, we all know how that came out.

Between them, those three strong young arms won exactly 1 major-league game.  Mike Lowell went on to become a Silver-Slugging, Gold-Gloving, perennial all-star who helped not only the Marlins to a World Series victory—over a certain New York team—but also helped take your Boston Red Sox to a Series sweep.  In which he was the Series MVP.

Moreover, had he remained with the Yanks, the A-Rod deal, with all of its attendant trusts, probably never would have happened—whatever you might think of that.

Brosius, after 1998, hit .247, .230, and .287, his number of games played steadily diminishing.  He never approached his 1998 highs again.

(And his presence for just one more year kept the Yanks from signing A-Rod earlier, and missing out on three of his greatest years at the plate, from 2001-2003—whatever you might think of that.)

I'm saying all this because the Gammonites—and most of our fellow fans, and, horribly, maybe our general manager—have convinced ourselves that we now have "a logjam" at 3B, and that someone must go.  And all too often, the one who we're told must go is Miguel Andujar.

Sure, maybe Gio Urshela, who just pulled off a rip-roaring season at the plate at age 27 is for real as a hitter—even though he never show anything like that before in the bigs.  And sure, he's an infinitely better glove at the hot corner than El Matador, and always will be.

But is he another Brosius?  Are we really going to be so in to Gio's fielding when he's hitting .230 with 10 home runs?

And maybe El Matador hurt himself so badly in that freak accident this season that he'll never be the same.

Or, just maybe, after we've traded Andujar for "a power arm!" or even a very good CF, and he's leading the NL in hitting—all right, at first base or in left field—and driving one team after another to a World Series title, we won't be so glad we traded him after all.

Even to break up that alleged "logjam."

All I know is that from the moment he put on pinstripes, Miguel Andujar looked to me like one of the best natural hitters I've ever seen.  To get rid of him for almost anything available, will be a mistake we will rue for many years to come.

The blogosphere is planning moves the Yankees will never make

When I was eleven, I would sit during social studies class and formulate big Yankee trades. We'd deal Ross Moschito, Roger Repoz, Ray Barker, Duke Carmel and Archie Moore to the Braves for Hank Aaron and Warren Spahn. Just pondering such massive robberies gave me erections, which I later associated with the painted harlots of sixth grade. 

To this day, when I read of proposed Yankee deals, always "helping both teams," I imagine a kid rosining his baseball bat. 

So, here's a three-day making the rounds: The Yanks would trade Miguel Andjuar and J.A. Happ for Sterling Marte and a pitcher. We'd get rid of Happ (a common theme in all proposed trades) and get another reliever (always coveted by Cooperstown Cashman.)

Fun to imagine. Enjoy the warmth. Never gonna happen. 

For starters, it would mean ditching Brett Gardner, which the Yankees will never do. Secondly, it would force Cashman's hand on other deals, and thirdly, it assumes the Yankees would then outbid everyone else for Gerrit Cole, which is also unlikely. 

Another deal is that the Yankees would sign free agent Jonathan Villar, the multi-tasking IF-OF, at a considerable price. We would then trade Andujar and anybody else on the IF-OF spectrum. If you wanted to drop a bomb on the Yankee roster, this would be a start. But even with Villar, we'd still be gambling that Gleyber Torres can play SS. And again, this notion of "flexing their financial might" cuts against the grain of all we know about Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner. He loves old gold. Only gold.

Finally, has anybody ever proposed a trade that Cashman eventually made? I recall rumors for months during 2018 that the Yankees were chasing Sonny Gray - (the botched deal that eventually cost us 2019, by the way) - but all the proposals at the time included Clint Frazier. Even now, people have Frazier being traded to all ends of the universe. But Cashman hasn't pushed the button. Might just be, he never will. 

So... write this down: Phil Linz, Rollie Sheldon, Mike Hegan and Elvio Jimenez for Frank and Brooks Robinson! I'll even throw in Hal Reniff! O, to be young again...

Friday, November 29, 2019

Young v Old, a staggeringly simple way to view the 2020 Yankees

Okay, let's keep this primal. Though there are many, many, many mitigating factors, let's study the 2020 Yankees, based entirely on - duh - age. Yep, nothing more than what it says on their birth certificates (assuming they are honest docs - see Soriano, Alphonso.) 

Which Yankees should improve or deteriorate next year, simply by virtue of absorbing the gamma rays of another trip around the sun?

Players who should still be shy of their peaks - ages 29-31 - (with next year's age):
Aaron Judge, 28.
Gleyber Torres, 23.
Luis Severino, 26. 
Gary Sanchez, 27.
Miguel Andujar, 25.
Clint Frazier, 26.
Chance Adams, 26.
Luis Cessa, 28.
Jonathan Holder, 27.

Jonathan Loiasiga, 26.
Jordan Montgomery, 27.
Stephen Tarpley, 27.
Thairo Estrada, 24.
Mike Ford, 28.
Tyler Wade, 26.
Everybody at Scranton, more or less.

Players who should still be at peak:
Giancarlo Stanton, 31.
Aaron Hicks, 31.
Gio Urshela, 29.
Luke Voit, 29.
Mike Tauchman, 29.
Chad Green, 29.
Ben Heller, 29.
Tommy Kahnle, 30.
Kyle Higashioka, 30.

Players slightly past peak.
Zach Britton, 32.
Aroldis Chapman, 32.

James Paxton, 32.
Masahiro Tanaka, 32.

Players way past peak, entering twilight:

Brett Gardner, 37.

JA Happ, 38.
Adam Ottavino, 35.

Conclusion: Duh. If the 2009 World Champion Yankees simply do nothing - that is, stay the course and replace CC Sabathia, Austin Romie and Didi Gregorius, this team should win 95 games and reach the 2020 post-season. 

But 2020 looks like the final year of this generational surge. If we fail next October, the roster will be seriously starting to gray.  

Thus, with regard to current free agents, you'd think Cooperstown Cashman will want pitchers before or at their peaks. That is Zach Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner and Gerrit Cole - all 29. (Stephen Strasburg is 31.)

Of course, we face huge intangibles. Who is Luis Severino? Can Gleyber play SS? Can Judge play a full season? What of Miguel Andujar? Is Gio Urshela for real? How can we get rid of Giancarlo Stanton?

A crazy future. But make no mistake: It's 2020 or bust. If we fail next season, by this time next December, we could be facing a tear-down. 

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Turkey thought for the day

If they said the 2019 season would end with Aroldis Chapman standing on the mound, grinning, I would've taken it...

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! 

Enjoy the tryptophan! 

Headline: Yanks Will Not Overpay for Top Pitching

Teams in recent years that overpaid for top pitching:

2019 World Champion Washington Nationals.

2018 World Champion Boston Red Sox.

2017 World Champion Houston Astros.

2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs.

Nuf ced.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

We will not take part in the gas-lighting of the Yankiverse on the matter of Gerrit Cole

Yesterday, this popped up. 

And this.

And this.

Look, friends, it's fun to pretend... 

If you're in a bar, and a beautiful woman approaches, you pretend to be Brad Pitt. If you're on a corner, and a homeless guy pisses into the bushes, you pretend not to notice. To your kids, you pretend Santa is real. To yourself, you pretend the world is not insane.

We pretend that juju wins ballgames. We pretend baseball matters. We pretend our leaders care, that age imparts wisdom, and that someday - long after we are dust - something we did on this earth will have made it a better place. 

But I will NOT pretend the 2009 World Champion Yankees are "all in" on Gerrit Cole.

Nope. I have limits. It's a bridge too far, a lie that I cannot tell. We will not take part in the systematic gas-lighting of the Yankee fan base by Gammonites, publicists, bloggers, and bandwagoners with the critical eye of a beagle pup. 

This we know, and the sooner you come to grips with it, the better: 

The Yankees will finish second in the auction for Cole. 

They will come close - o, so close! In the end, they will be outbid by the Angels, or the Dodgers, or the Ukrainians, or Duke University, or somebody - anybody - but it won't matter, because it won't be the Yankees, the 2009 World Champions. In the final hours of bidding, Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner will shake his head, hang up the phone and buy his grandchildren new Range Rovers with the money saved.

No more pretending. And shame on every Gammonite who writes a 20-inch thumb-sucker suggesting the 2009 World Champs' internal calculations on paying Cole. They know better. In every article, they add one caveat paragraph, suggesting the truth and covering their butt. Here's how Sherman put it.

Money is a huge issue. One executive said, “I don’t believe Hal Steinbrenner any longer authorizes seven years or more at the dollars it is going to take for any pitcher.” The signing of Cole would take the Yankees near or over the third luxury-tax level of $248 million, which Steinbrenner surely wants to avoid.

Now, really... was anything else to be said? Are we supposed to suspend disbelief and think the Yankees - the 2009 World Champions - are going to buy the most expensive free agent on the market? 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Joel Sherman still thinks the Yankees can be talked into signing Gerrit Cole

He argues the case, as if there is a chance in hell that Food Stamps Hal would actually spend the money.

When will they ever learn?

When will they ehhh-ver learn... 

Yankee wish list: A LH defensive catcher with occasional pop

Next time Austin Romine steps up to bat in Yankee Stadium, he should receive a thunderous ovation - and maybe a few catcalls. They won't be at him, though, but at the other Yankee catcher, the starter, who's name I cannot summon, whose batting average could be 50 percentage points lower. 

Throughout his career, Romine has been the backup to this and other catchers, even though he often outperformed them - for a while, anyway. In my opinion, he's been the best backup catcher in baseball, and the Yankees will suffer disturbing new pains without him. 

To replace Romine, we will likely turn to Kyle Higashioka, age 29. But you never know: The franchise has a rich history of torturing its catchers. Remember Francisco Cervelli, jettisoned on the last day of spring? Or Russell Martin, for whom the gods refused a three-year deal? Plus, Higgy's career .164 batting average - (he hit .214 last year, and it seemed Ruthian) - is not a flash in the pan. He has a smidgen of power - 3 HR in 56 at bats - and decent, but not spectacular defense. He can spell - um - whatzizname, here and there. But what happens when a gonad pops, and Higgy must go a month? 

You can't predict baseball. I'm sorry, but you just can't. People do it all the time, but I tell you, readers: You. Simply. Cannot. Predict. Baseball. That said, I predict that Cooperstown Cashman will soon sign a LH defensive catcher to staunch the void left by Romine. 

On the free agent market, there are three such LH creatures:

Alex Avila, Arizona, age 32: hit .207 last year with 9 HR.

Steven Voght, San Francisco, age 35: hit .263 with 10 HR.

Matt Wieters, St. Louis, age 33: hit .214, 11 HR, bats both.

Wieters is probably out; he's not a backup. Of the handful of RH free agent catchers, nobody stands out. Is there a scrapheap catcher in the minors, currently bagging groceries? Probably. The Yanks will bring a dozen to Tampa. Considering the lopsided RH lineup, Cashman would love a lefty catcher to spell - um - you know who. 

In case you're wondering, there is no rapidly ascending gem in the Yankee system. Their top catching prospect - 20-year-old Anthony Siegler, a first-round pick in 2018 - hit .175 last year at Charleston. His teammate was Josh Breaux, that year's second-rounder, who hit .271 with 13 HRs. Breaux is 22.

The Yankees have two lefty lug nuts in the upper levels of their system. Franciso Arcia, age 30, caught 14 games for Scranton last year. And Kellin Deglan caught 65 games for Trenton, hitting .265. I have no clue about their defensive skills. But you never know. 

If the Yankees sign -  say - Alex Avila, it won't generate big headlines. Nobody will start suggesting John Sterling homer hollers. (Actually, that's not true; we will do just that.) But it could be a smart move. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Yankees trade Nasty Nestor Octavio-Cortes Jr. to Mariners for money

In assessing the deal, one problem...

They didn't say how much. 

(Bring 'em) Home for the Holidays

As several of us have remarked, this used to be a magical time of year for Yankees fans, behind only Opening Day and the start of the playoffs.

It all began in the 1974 holiday season.  Rumors had begun to spread ever since Catfish Hunter had been declared a free agent on December 16th.  And sure, the Yanks were supposedly interested in him, but I wasn't having it.  Inured to hope through the years between the Great Collapse and free agency, it seemed impossible that change could come so quickly.

Then, there it was.  While out partying on New Year's Eve—all right, all right, I was actually out raking in the big New Year's Eve babysitting bucks—I got the word:  Catfish was a Yankee.

It stunned me—and probably spoiled me as a fan for all time.  I hadn't been old enough to experience the wonder years of the 1950s and '60s, in the World Series every October.  I had become a Yankees fan when the team was literally in last place for the first time, and was raised on the stiff upper lip, and the hope that someday, some decade, if we built our farm teams right, we too might match the mighty Baltimore Orioles or the Oakland Athletics.

And then...BOOM!  There he was, his appearance as shocking as if I had actually witnessed Santa Claus shimmying down a chimney.  Catfish Hunter.  A major pitcher from the defending world champions.  Coming to the Bronx.

And the best thing was, year after year, they kept coming.  No hesitation, no extended chin scratching, and wondering who other teams had signed, and telling people to talk to us last.

We knew what we wanted, and we went after it.  If you dangled the money, they would come.  And boy did they come, as expected and regular as so many presents under the tree on Christmas morning:

—1976:  November 18, we sign Don Gullett, the ace of the team that had just beat us in the World Series, only 17 days after he was declared a free agent, and despite having to deal with the free agent "draft" that year.  November 29—ONLY 11 DAYS LATER!!!—it was Reggie himself.

"Cut 'em out, ride 'em in
Ride 'em in, cut 'em out..."

—1977:  November 22, it's Goose Gossage.  December 9, Rawly Eastwick.  Two of the best relievers in the NL in just over two weeks!!

Sure, there was a bit of a problem because our psycho manager objected to the Yanks signing Eastwick without consulting him.  And as it turned out, Rawly's arm was largely shot.  Still, he did win two games for us, including a game against Cleveland where he pitched 4 innings of perfect relief.

In a season where you win in a playoff, that counts for something.  And later when Martin forced us to trade him, he went for Jay Johnstone and Bobby Brown, who proved to be useful lug nuts for a time (Those were the days when we also traded players we didn't want for other players, instead of just disdainfully disposing of them like so many used tissues.).

—1978:  November 13:  Luis Tiant.  November 21:  Tommy John.  BAM!  One of the best pitchers on the staff of our leading rival, and the ace of the team we'd just beat in the World Series.

We didn't pretend we weren't playing against certain teams in those days.  We eviscerated the other contenders whenever and wherever we could.

—1980:  December 15:  Dave Winfield!  Just in time for Christmas!  Snap!  The best player in the game, coming to NYC!

It was amazing.  It wasn't just that the Yanks acquired four Hall-of-Famers and several near-HOFers in the space of six years.  They also kept the whole town, the whole sports world buzzing about them for months.

Who would the Yankees get, how would they fit in, shouldn't they be stopped, what will become of us???

In a daze, I would spend the slow winter months jotting down potential lineups.

It all came to an end, of course, when George the Mad King, driven round the bend by the 1981 World Series loss, tried to build the notorious "Speed Team" around Ken Griffey and Dave Collins.

From then on, the free agent pick-ups became more ragged and arbitrary, leading to disasters such as Steve Kemp and Andy Hawkins and Ed Whitson (shudder).  Failure built on itself, as free agents became less and less inclined to sign with a Yankees franchise that seemed so out of control.

Some sanity was restored in the Gene Michael years, but the Mad King and Coops kept making gut-instinct mistakes, signing Sheffield over Vlad, Mussina and Giambi over Manny and Damon (the first time) and Beltran (the first and second time).

A notable success came with the signings of CC, Burnett, and Teixeira that put the team over the top at last in 2009, but that was about it.  Instead of signing A-Rod three years early, in 2001, when we should have, we re-signed him too late.  Then came the calamitous, 2013-14 crop of Ellsbury, McCan't, etc.

HAL had all the ammunition he needed to abandon the market.  The holidays would never be the same.

But boy, it was fun while it lasted.

Bravo: The Yankees will have a hitting coach named Rachel

It's too soon to get a sense of how Rachel Balkovec will do as the new Yankees minor league hitting coach. For a groundbreaking, potentially culture-changing pioneer, she doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. But here are some items that we do know...

To communicate with roughly half the prospects she'll encounter, she learned to speak Spanish. That's smart. In fact, I wonder how many other Yankee minor league coaches have done this? If not, why?

She has two Masters' Degrees. That's - well - I'm not sure what to make of it. An old reporter and adjunct professor, I always wondered about people with Masters degrees in Journalism; it seemed like a way to avoid finding a job. In this case, it might be what a woman needs to get an edge in a man's game. If so, fine. Still, two masters degrees... hard to figure.

She seems to have a sense of humor. This is good.

She's sort of a dweeb, a lab-coat. I say this in a positive sense. She comes from a burgeoning, computer-driven field of body motion analytics - which comes in stark contrast to the traditional, ball-scratching, cud-chewing trope of the minor league coach, as advanced by baseball movies and novels. To some, her very presence will be threatening. I mean, you wouldn't imagine Stump Merrill giving a talk at a bio-metrics conference.  

In some, if not many cases, she will represent the first woman boss a teenager ever encounters. Actually, "boss" is not the right word. And certainly, they had female school teachers. But she will become their first and only empowered female since they signed the $200,000 contract. All the others will have chin stubble and ball sacks. Let's hope she affects the way that entitled and pampered young athletes react to females - be they reporters, trainers, fans, hookups, the whole assortment. Because NYC is no place for a 20-year-old future millionaire who cannot deal with women. 

Case in point: Domingo German. Had he not faced accusations of slapping around his girlfriend, German might have two months ago pitched the Yankees past Houston. Now, he'll be pitching under a cloud. I'm not saying Rachel Balkovec could have made a difference. But I don't see it hurting.

Well, actually, it could. What if she seduces a 16-year-old prospect, or goes crazy and boils someone's bunny, or castrates an entire minor league pitching staff? (Okay, what other tropes am I missing?) More importantly, what if Yankee coaches and personnel fail to support her, or whisper against her, to keep their status quo. Some boomers may believe that, on a ball field, toxic masculinity wins. Yep, things could go south. But let's give the Yankees credit here. This is worth a try. Yo, Rachel! You go, girl!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

For the Yankee Death Star, nothing can twinkle until Didi decides

It's quiet out there. Too quiet. Studying the hot stove news desert, you get a sense that the Yankees sit at a crossroads, unsure of whether to turn right, left or go straight - waiting to see what happens with Didi Gregorius. 

Of course, everything could change in an instant, if some slap-happy owner blows away Zach Wheeler with a lawyer-guns-and-money offer. Quid pro quo! I believe Wheeler is the Death Star's secret target because, 1) he's the third best starter on the market, 2) he's battle-tested in NYC, and 3) he'd be a poke in the eye to those pesky Mets, who are poised to rule Gotham next summer. (To the left, look at their rising number of back pages over the last three years.)

As I've shouted repeatedly - not that it matters - I doubt Cooperstown Cashman will go all in on Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg; he can't afford another long-term contract debacle. But Wheeler is not them. He would require less, right? So if he suddenly looks ready to sign, it would flush the Yankees out from their burrow. We'd see immediately whether - and how - Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner intends to spend his hard-inherited money. 

One last question: Is Wheeler worth surrendering a second and fifth round draft pick, plus $1 million in international spending? Cole and Strasburg are. Wheeler... probably. But it's another factor to consider. The Yankees just spent more on one 16-year-old Latino outfielder than any other team in history. Jasson Dominquez - this year's biggest ever! Did they drain their pockets for when next year's comes around?

Which brings us back to the Didi crossroads. If and when Gregorius signs with another team...

a. The Gleyber Torres era begins at SS. (Or does it?) Can he keep the Jeter-Didi tradition alive? Could the Yankees be overextending their best player? He's done fine at 2B. Is it smart to move him?

b. DJ LeMahieu becomes full-time 2B, where he's won a Gold Glove. No problem here. In fact, it makes sense. Why have a Gold Glove playing out of position?

c. Two Ohio State linebackers - Luke Voit and Mike Ford - platoon at 1B. Can Luke stop pulling balls? Is Ford for real? Can either play defense? (Fifteen scoops could save Gleyber 15 percent or more errors on car insurance.)

d. Gio Urshela and Miguel Andujar vie for 3B. If Andujar wins - by showing defense - Urshela becomes the everyday utility guy, last year's LeMahieu. If Gio wins, Andujar moves to the OF or 1B. Or maybe one gets traded for a pitcher.

e. The team that signs Didi will look to move its current SS. The Yanks could trade for a glove SS as backup or late inning replacement. Right now, it's Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade, and neither will evoke memories of Ozzie Smith. (There's also Kyle Holder, 25, said to possess the best glove in Double A last year. If we don't lose him in the Rule 5 draft, who knows?)

f. Hal will have an extra $10-$15 million in his fanny pack. That's $20-$25 million, if you count CC's retirement fund. That's Cashman's war chest. To me, that looks like Zach Wheeler, a bullpen lug nut, a fielder-first SS and a LH catcher. But first, let's see what Didi do.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Yanks sign Zach Granite!

The Yankees have signed 27-year-old, LH minor league OF Zach Granite off the scrapheap. 

Before anybody revs up the Tauchman Talk, keep this in mind:

Despite his rock-hard name, Granite is a speed guy (25 SB) with no power (3 HR) and batted .290 last year at Triple A.

He's from Staten Island and attended Seton Hall. If he has relatives in Scranton, he'll win the Tri-fecta. 

It's hard to imagine, but the Jacoby Ellsbury situation just turned worse

Well, this has turned rancid...

To get paid, Jacoby Ellsbury will have to sue the Yankees. The franchise intends to withhold $26 million - pay for the final year of his contract - because Ellsbury sought medical treatment at a clinic unapproved by the club.

A technicality. That's what they call it. 

Weird, eh? Were I a professional jock with never-ending gonadal tweaks like Ellsbury, I'd comb the earth, seeking treatment from whomever might offer hope - Tibetan monks, hypnotists or goat yoga-ists. To get healthy, I'd even try Tony Robbins. As long as you were seeking to get better, you'd think the poobahs would support you. Is that crazy to think? 

Well, apparently, Ellsbury missed the fine print.

Okay, I get it... This is a lawyer thing. From here, it's impossible to know who's right. (And in court, that might not even matter.) Nothing will change the fact that the Yankees' signing of Ellsbury will go down as worst in team history - until Giancarlo claims the throne. But nobody forced us to give Ellsbury - a walking Chernobyl in Boston - a seven-year deal. Did anybody think that, in the end, it wouldn't explode in our hands?

What's unnerving is how this move could define the Yankees, as free agent suitors. Here at IT IS HIGH, we've already dispensed with the Gammonites' fantasy notion that Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner will sign Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. Nope. The Yankees will "talk" with them, in the way that drunk Nixon talked to Teddy Roosevelt's White House portrait. But if players cannot trust the Yankees to fulfill their contacts, will we sign the next DJ LeMahieu? 

Relations between the players union and the owners cartel have never been worse. Used to be, the Yankees stood firm as big spenders, willing to pay established stars for past performance. Old George Steinbrenner saw the value of bringing marquee stars to Gotham, even when past their sell-by dates. We suffered some brutal seasons - the worst teams money could buy - yet George still coveted graying versions of Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Ichiro. And even when things went sideways, the Yankees never poor-mouthed. 

Well, that changed with Hal, who went after today's Mr. Popularity, Alex Rodriguez, with ice picks and chainsaws. Let's face it: The world has changed. Baseball is a phenom's game, and every long-term deal will be doomed at the end. Still, I never thought the richest team in baseball would try to slither out from its contractual obligations. Just goes to show you: Nobody's tighter than a billionaire.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Question of next spring: Is Ford a better idea?

By now, you all know that the Yankees finally hollered "ENOUGH" and jettisoned the four-year fantasy known as Greg Bird. It was fun - imagining Bird as the slugging lefty 1B, a necessary part on almost all Yankee championship teams. 

You must go back to Chris Chamblis - that's 40 years ago, folks - before we find a big righty 1B on a relevant Yankee team. The others hit LH, or in Teixeira's case, both ways. In 2019, our lack of a lefty slugger - (with the failure of Didi Gregorius) - left a hole that was never filled. We wanted Mike Ford named to the playoff roster, but the Yankees figured old Edwin Encarnacion was money in the bank. Oh, well... that's China Town, Jake. 

But for now, the Yanks' 2020 big LH slugger is, gulp, is Mike Ford. Period. (Didi gone, Mike Tauchman still a question, and Gardy - at 37? - I dunno.) 

The Yankees cannot win with an almost entire RH-hitting lineup. So, is Ford the answer?

Born on the 4th of July, Ford will turn 28 next season. Last year, in his second season in Scranton, he ripped up the International League - .302 with 23 HRs in 294 at bats - and would have been MVP. Nevertheless, folks were surprised when the Yankees freed him from Scranton: He was starting to look like a career minor-leaguer. 

In early MLB stints, he looked befuddled. I recall him slamming a liner into the right-center gap, where the SS - in the over-shift - easily tossed him out at first. I remember thinking, "So much for this guy." But in September, Ford caught fire: .353 with 3 HRs. Over the last two weeks, he hit .500 (7-for-14.) He looked okay at 1B, though his burly, Greg Luzinski frame looks ready-made for DH. Our last memories are of him bashing MLB pitchers.  

But here's the realty: That could be a mirage.

Ford has yet to go twice around the league - only 143 MLB at bats. We've seen newcomers look Ruthian - (most notably, Bird) - then settle into inconsequential lanes. Can Ford platoon with Luke Voit? Sure, if we want to carry two full-time 1B. But when Didi leaves, the infield dominoes shift - LeMahiue to 2B - and we could end up with a problem at 1B. 

No Yankee team ever survives a problem at 1B.

I'm not saying the Death Star should have kept Bird. I'll back the experts here and hope that protecting a wave of young arms will carry the day. But one reason Bird was expendable was a perceived logjam at 1B. Well, folks, that jam has been broken. And come next spring, if MLB pitchers have compiled a Steele Dossier on Mike Ford, we could be the ones taking the golden shower.

The lazy way of looking at the 2020 Yankees is to think that Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar will both return, full strength, adding 70 HRs to the already potent lineup. That alone should put us over the top. Well, I dunno. 

The Yankees could have a lefty-hitting problem. Wow. Is that crazy, or what? 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

News Flash: Ellsbury Works Out for MLB Combine

Just one day after his release by the New York Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury emerged from seclusion to hold a tryout for other MLB teams' disabled lists.

Ellsbury had been largely ostracized after he was seen to "take a knee" during the playing of the national anthem a few years ago.  But since then, doctors have confirmed that Jacoby was not making a political statement, only collapsing under the impact of his many leg injuries.

Willing to give him another shot, scouts and executives from the other 29 MLB teams gathered at the Yankees' training complex outside Tampa, Florida, today, to see if Ellsbury could possibly make their disabled lists.

"Jacoby's a valued commodity," one general manager explained.  "You get a guy like this, guaranteed to stay on the DL for at least a whole season, and there's no telling what you can do.  Get Lloyd's to issue another insurance policy on him, use him as a write-off to basically wipe out your entire tax liability for the year.  The financial possibilities are unlimited."

Scouts watched as a squad of his personal trainers put Ellsbury through his paces, soaking in the whirlpool bath, getting a thorough massage and rubdown, and undergoing MRIs and X-rays on several different body parts.  Most came away impressed.

"You really think he wouldn't be up to it," one scout said, on condition of anonymity.  "Most guys who've spent that much time on the DL wrinkle up like a raisin, first time they set foot in a whirlpool again.  Others fall asleep on the trainer's table.  Not Jacoby.  Why, he grimaced enough to convince any insurance agent or tax auditor."

No decision has been made yet as to whether to sign Ellsbury.  But as they left for the airport, several MLB executives said they intended to come back for a second look at the former Yankee going through physical therapy routines and getting cortisone shots.

"If Jacoby hasn't played for this long," one pointed out, "there's no reason why he can't go on not playing indefinitely."

Ode To Joy

My entire family gathered to cheer the departure ( on paper ) of Jacoby Ellsbury.

It is a tepid cup of tea we drink, however, because he goes with a $26 million bank note pinned to his frock.  He isn't really, "gone," therefore.   It is as though he remains..... does not surface or play,.....and still collects those checks.  Just like the last decade, it seems.

But, in an accounting sense, I guess the Yankees can pretend they are rid of him.  My guess is that it saved a slot on the 40 man roster.

That $26 million.....for another year of doing nothing..... could pay for some entire countries' national debt.  Or a quality starting pitcher.  But it will do neither.  Jacoby will return to Boston, and start living at the Ritz.  He will eat lobsters and laugh at Giancarlo Stanton striking out.

The Ellsbury mistake made by the Steinbrenner boy ( "I'm not cheap" Hal ) pales in comparison to t his Stanton mis-judgement.  The Stanton payment plan will endure beyond the lives of most Yankee fans.  And each strike-out ( assuming 250 per year) will be valued at a cool $100,000.

Imagine, if you will, the world we now inhabit where a player is paid more for a single strikeout than most families earn in a year, by actually doing something.  Is this a balanced distribution of wealth?  Is it not true that any of us can strike out, and that we would be willing to do so for less than half of what Stanton demands?  everyone should write Brian and make the offer.

Giancarlo's financial burden will weigh down Yankee hopes longer than the ice age bothered the woolly mammoths.

In simple terms, the Yankees have won their last championship.

Until the 16 year old billionaire arrives in CF, that is.

Hear, Hear !!!

Bye bye Birdie

Elllsbury is gone... but no, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus

"Our long national nightmare is over." So commented Der Kaiser last night, after the tweet came down - (Note: When the world ends, we'll know by it trending on twitter) - that the Death Star has finally jettisoned Jacoby Ellsbury (and Greg Bird and Nestor Octavio-Cortes Jr.

Is it really over? No. It can't be. I cannot process such an emotion. (I'm still reeling from the notion that Hal Steinbrenner is holding up $400 million to the Yankiverse, until this website announces an investigation into Hunter Biden.) It feels like yesterday that our Commander-in-Cheap posed beside Ellsbury, giving a simultaneous poke in the eye to the Redsocks (who had just won the world series) and Joggy Cano (who was days from eloping to Seattle with Jay-Z and Beyonce.) 

Everything felt mighty grand that day... December 3, 2013, a day that will live in infamy.

So, where were you? I believe all Boomer Yank fans remember where they were when 1) JFK was shot, 2) the towers collapsed, 3) LT broke Joe Theisman's leg, and 4) the Yankees signed Ellsbury. So.. let's go to the Wayback. 

The night before, at 8:28 p.m., the Yankees anointed Mark Feinsand of the Daily News to tweet the scoop.

This unleashed the usual hordes from Hell. And some remarks proved to be painfully trenchant. 

Next morning, the Daily News trumpeted the joyous moment.

Soon, everybody was weighing in. Here's one from Sports Illustrated.

Like they always do: The Empire strikes back. The Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury agreed to a seven-year, $153 million deal Tuesday, according to multiple reports. The deal, the third-richest contract ever for an outfielder, is pending a physical that is expected to take place Wednesday. The signing came on a breathless day that saw a flurry of moves in major league baseball, none bigger than the All-Star centerfielder’s move to New York, a move that significantly strengthens the Yankees in the short-term but will be a deal they regret years from now if Ellsbury’s injury history continues. (Yes, the Yankees have money, but just how easy has it been for them to unload A-Rod or Mark Teixeira?)

On that fateful day, here atop the IT IS HIGH News and Information Space Needle, we drunkenly staggered around naked, leaving various secretions on the shag carpeting. How could we not! We noted that the Globe's Dan Shaungnessy didn't like it. We encouraged Hal to keep the money flowing. Alphonso remained mopey. Mustang proposed new John Sterling Homer Hollers ("WE WILL BURY YOU!") And I shouted to the heavens...

And soon, I did this. I'm not proud. One of these days, I suppose it should be updated.

So, Ellsbury is gone. The nightmare is really over? 

I dunno. Ellsbury lives on in the tendons of Giancarlo Stanton, the loins of Aaron Hicks, the shoulder of Miguel Andujar. Some team will sign him - why not? we're paying his tab - and he'll be the media Soup of the Day when he reports in spring training. But the only guy I've ever seen recover from hip surgery was A-Rod, and he still was never the same. 

When Hal declines to spend his money, some Yank fans will wrongly blame Ellsbury. That's sad, but inevitable. (As the philosopher, Jason Giambi, once said, "When the fans boo, it's only because they want to cheer.")

So let me state this for the record, loud and clear...

I harbor no resentment of Jacoby Ellsbury. I hope he does well (except against the Yankees, of course.) It wasn't his fault. As fans, we have the right to be disappointed and - frankly - to yell anything we please. But it wasn't his fault. I wish him only the best. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


Jacoby Ellsbury in happier times 

Why Baseball Is In Trouble

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

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

2. The games are way too long.

3. Going to the ballpark costs way too much.

4. Viewing games on television costs too much.

5. Starting pitchers have trouble throwing even five innings.

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

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

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

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

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

11. The umpires can no longer follow pitches accurately.

12. Video replays are much too long.

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

14. Many players are obviously still juicing.

What "MLB" believes is wrong with baseball:

1. The players make too much money.

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

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

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

5. There are not enough luxury boxes.

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

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

8. Teams occasionally still have to pay taxes.

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

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

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

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

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

14. There are too few home runs.

Yankiverse welcomes winter wacko trade ideas

Here's one straight from the psych ward:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun to dream, eh?

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A weird dream

Last night I woke up after a bizarre dream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So weird, yet strangely realistic. Beats me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

They're talking.

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

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

VOICE # 2 (GERRIT): Steve?

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

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

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

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

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

GERRIT: (Confused) Then—

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

GERRIT: (Confused and amazed) He will?

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

GERRIT: They made a musical about Josh Hamilton?

STEVE: No, it was Steve Hamilton.

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

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

GERRIT: Sure, I love the Ice Capades!

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

GERRIT: But he's not?

(Audible snorting sound)

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

GERRIT: Whose hall?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 17, 2019

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

The Off-Season Deconstruction Begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But who cares about that?

Certainly not the people who run the New York Yankees.

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

Minor League Baseball faces "an existential crisis"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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