Friday, January 31, 2020

The Honorables, Mentioned. Part II

Okay, as some of you may recall after all your beer-and-whiskey spattered nights (incidentally, I think "The Beer-and Whiskey League" was the affectionate nickname of the old, major-league, 19th-century American Association), I recently dared to name the ten greatest, North American sports dynasties of all time.

In a desperate attempt to get through the last remaining days until pitchers and catchers report, here they are are again, along with my first two runners-up.

And after that, you lucky fans will be treated to my Honorable Mentions!

So first, here is the Top Ten:

10. Chicago Cubs, 1906-1910.

9. Boston Red Sox, 1912-1918.

8. Los Angeles Lakers, 1980-1991.

7. New York Yankees, 1994-2003.

6. Green Bay Packers, 1960-1967.

5. Chicago Bulls, 1988-1998.

4. Montreal Canadiens, 1955-1979.

3. Boston Celtics, 1956-1969.

2. New England Patriots, 2001-2020.

1. New York Yankees, 1920-1964.

And here are the top two runners-up:

New York Islanders, 1975-1984.

San Francisco 49ers, 1981-1998.

And now, in no particular order, your major-league hockey Honorables:

Toronto Maple Leafs, 1941-1951.

Thing is, with the old, haimishe and rather wonderful NHL, it was damned hard NOT to be a dynasty.  Just six teams, four made the playoffs, and most of the time the Rangers and Bruins were awful.

Still, though, we honor this Leafs team, which in 10 seasons won 6 Stanley Cups.  Their status is limited by the fact that in these 10 years, they only finished first once in the regular season.

And, you know, they never did get the plural of their name right.  "Leafs"?  Shouldn't they be the "Leaves?"

Toronto Maple Leafs, 1961-1967. 

Four Cups in six years.  But again, only one first-place finish.

Detroit Red Wings, 1948-1956.  

"Only" four Cups in these 8 years, but 7 consecutive first-place finishes, and two losses in the finals.  Spurred by the immortal Gordie Howe-Ted Lindsay-Sid Abel first line, and the likes of Terry Sawchuk and then a young Glenn Hall between the pipes, the Red Wings won over 40 games in a 70-game schedule three time, and only once had a winning percentage below .625.

Detroit Red Wings, 1994-2009.

In a much larger NHL, these Red Wings won "only" 4 Cups in 15 years.  But they finished first in their division 11 times (including 8 in a row, 2000-2009), lost two other Cup finals, ran up over 100 points nine straight times, won over 50 games 5 times, and played over .600 "puck" 10 times.

Edmonton Oilers, 1982-1990.

The team that finally ended the Islanders' dominance.  Four Cups with the Great Gretzky, and another with Messy Messier, of later Rangers' fame.  They also lost a Cup final (to the Isles), won 6 division titles, won at over a .600 percentage 7 straight years, and won 50 or more games 3 times.

Who knows, had it not been for Gretzky's need to flee to L.A. for the sake of his wife's immortal acting career, this team might have cracked the Top Ten.

New Jersey Devils, 1993-2003.

A sentimental, hometown choice, perhaps.  But Satan's Legion did win 3 Cups, lost another, very close Cup final, and also dropped a heartbreaking conference final to the New York Rangers (awww).  The Devils took 5 division crowns, and played over .600 hockey in 6 different seasons—all while playing in the desperate obscurity of Newark and the Meadowlands.

They are also half the answer to a great trivia question:  what extant major-league hockey and baseball teams have shared the exact same name?

Coming soon...Basketball Honorables!

For the 2020 Yankees, every day will be Gleyber Day

The Yankees are starting to resemble the Iowa caucuses: After months of pondering the outcome, what more to say? Soon, somebody will win, somebody will lose, a few will disappear, and Aaron Hicks will still be injured. Soon, something will happen, and we will have to ask ourselves, what was the point of all that speculation? We could have been watching Ellen.

Then again, this is what fans do - gloriously waste time and brain cells - and we at IIHIIFIIc are blessed with, I believe, the most bonkers Yank fans this side of stage four schizophrenia. Thus, we sit around, thinking personal re-thoughts - that is, thoughts that we have thunk before. (Technically, every thought's been thunk before by somebody; you know how Descartes said, I think therefore I am? Fuck him. I thought it once, all by myself. I was 10 years old, staring out the window and wondering how I could get out of going to school. It hit me, out of the blue: I think, therefore I am. I didn't make a big deal out it. Descartes robbed me.) Anyway, here is today's personal Yankee re-thought: (At least, I'm assuming that I thought it before; actually, I can't remember.)

The fate of the 2020 Yankees rests almost entirely on Gleyber Torres.

If Gleyber can play solid SS, we win the AL East by 10 games. 

If Gleyber can't play solid SS, we face a dogfight for the division, and maybe we settle for the wild card.

Whatever Gleyber delivers, it will topple dominoes in every direction. If he cannot play SS, he moves to 2B, knocking DJ LeMahieu to 1B, thus knocking either Luke Voit or Mike Ford to Scranton. Then there is the question of who plays SS: Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, or - my guess - a veteran glove plucked from somebody's leftovers. (One other exotic possibility: Kyle Holder, up from Scranton.) 

In the everyday lineup, Gleyber probably bats third: (LeMahieu, Judge, Gleyber, Stanton, etc...) If his bat is compromised by the pressures of playing SS, that's a problem. We have undermined perhaps the best hitter on the team. That sends ripples in every direction, as well. 

Thus, everything - the sun, the moon, the vagaries of love! - depends on Gleyber's ability to play SS. Last year, he played it for several months, during Didi's absence. He looked.. okay. But my personal re-thought is that when Didi returned, and Gleyber moved to 2B, our overall defense improved. (The question: Was this, in part, because LeMahiue took over at 1B? Maybe.) The problem in October was that Didi didn't hit. 

So, the question entering 2020: Can Gleyber play SS with superior defense, while maintaining his offensive output? 

We let Didi walk this winter, didn't even give him a qualifying offer. (Apparently, we feared he would take it.) I understand the reasoning, sorta: They were cutting corners after signing Gerrit Cole. They were moving toward Gleyber as the SS of the future. I get it. Still, does anyone out there NOT think that Didi will have a great year in Phily? And if Gleyber stumbles, Hal's little spasm of austerity could haunt the 2020 Yankees, and if this team doesn't win a championship... well, it could haunt Yankee teams for many years to come.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

At catcher, it's Gary, Higgy and the Elders

This week, the Death Star annexed another scrap heap catcher, 33-year-old Josh Thole who, FUN FACT: In eight MLB seasons he has somehow managed to hit only 9 home runs. Nine. No juiced ball/video cheating allegations for him! Thole has spent the last three years ricocheting around the minors, hitting .243 last season in various backwaters. He'll probably spend most of 2020 in exotic Scranton (or mysterious Wilkes Barre.) 

Thole now gives us a nuclear triad of recently-signed veteran backup backstops - Chris Iannetta and Erik Kratz are the other two - to form the safety net below Kyle Higashioka, when Gary Sanchez goes down for his annual month in the hot tub. 

There is no "if" about Sanchez getting hurt. There is only a "when" and a "how bad will it be?" The man is a veritable walking tweaked-gonad.

No starter drives Yank fans crazier than Sanchez, who last year appeared in 106 games and hit 34 HRs. Often, on ESPN broadcasts, Alex Rodriguez would extol Sanchez as the Yankees' best hitter, the most feared bat in the lineup. But what we would see was a guy who strikes out at a rate of one-in-four at-bats, and who - though his defense did improve last year - remains a wild card of streakiness and lost potential. Maybe it's unfair to Gary. After his explosive arrival in 2016, Sanchez faced impossible expectations, beyond the capabilities of any rookie. He was never going to bat .299, as he did in that second half of 2016. Still, ever since, we have watched bad habits transform him from a future consensus all-star into a potential defensive albatross. And this winter, we cut the cord with Austin Romine.

Now, when Sanchez rests his hammy for six weeks, it will be Higgy and the blood donors. Whomever it turns out to be, he will bat ninth, be replaced for pinch runners (if not pinch hitters), and be expected only to provide defense. (The Higster does have power; last year he hit 20 HR in Scranton.) It's revealing  - and potentially ominous - that Brian Cashman, in the final days of winter, is hording cheap backups, obviously hoping to find something... anything. 

After Gerrit Cole signed, it quickly became apparent that he was the Yankee off-season spending project, and that Romine and Sir Didi were goners. No Yankee fan worth his Altuve pin-cushion will underestimate the loss of either - though Romine remains one of the great successes of the Yankee farm system in this millennium. I'm glad he'll get a chance to play every day in Detroit, and it wouldn't surprise me if Romine is playing next July in the all-star game, where Sanchez was supposed to be a fixture. We might have let the wrong catcher go.

Certainly, the Yankees have enough firepower to carry a .200-hitting, defense-only catcher in their lineup. Hell, if Giancarlo and Judge stay healthy, they alone should carry the team. Ah, but there's that word - "if." Last year, every "if" went against us. That means in 2020, get ready for Thole, Iannetta and Kratz. (Oh, my.) 

Thole, Iannetta and Kratz (oh my.) Thole, Iannetta and Kratz (oh my.) 

We may need 50 games from them. Oh, my.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Overheard at the Nationwide, Kobe Memorial Tributes

"I don't care if there was blood all over her clothing!  He was never actually convicted!"

"Rapist, schmapist.  He scored a LOT of points!"

"Sure, he took his 13-year-old daughter up in a helicopter through the mountains.  In a dense fog.  But you can't question his judgment!"

"Maybe a chauffeur-driven limousine should be the ultimate in luxury transportation."

"The settlement is sealed!  And that's final."

"Why couldn't it have been A-Rod???"

The Yankees' minor league affiliate in Scranton should be stocked with talent this year; morale might be another matter

Disregarding the gonads out there that are yet to tweak, you don't need more than a cocktail napkin to picture the 2020 Yankees opening day roster. The starting lineup, the rotation, and the bullpen - right now, they look rather inscribed into stone. A few pitchers will fight for the last staff opening, and several will compete to be Utility Man. Everybody else will disappear to Scranton, where the 2020 lineup could be powerful - and demoralized. 

Close your eyes, and let's imagine the April 1 Scranton lineup.

ss Tyler Wade.
2b Thairo Estrada. 
lf Clint Frazier. 1b Mike Ford. 
rf Trey Amburgey.
dh Chris Gittens.3b Mandy Alvarez.
cf Zack Granite. c Erik Kratz. 

Pitchers: Deivi Garcia, Micheal King, Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga, the cast of The Marvelous Mrs. Maizel. 

Yeesh. What you see is a surge of ripened talent that is at or past its sell-by date. This could make Scranton a Triple A powerhouse or the suicide watch wing of the Lackawanna County Jail. The keys are Frazier, Wade, Ford and Estrada - each of whom has already proven himself worthy of The Show. But circumstances could send them back to Triple A. Again.

Look, all this is a positive sign: The Yankees are stocked, down to Triple A. Still, I wonder about this. I'd hate to think of those four players - plus King or Montgomery - dying on the vine. (I worry less about the pitchers, because they will surely be called up as the season progresses.) Mostly, I fear that the Clint Frazier story is spiraling toward an unhappy conclusion. Everywhere you look, Frazier seems locked out of a future with the Yankees. (And they're not even able to get honest value for him in a trade.) Even with Aaron Hicks gone for half the season, Frazier might lose his corner OF slot to the one person on the roster who might be worse on defense: Miguel Andujar. Even if Frazier knocks down walls in spring training, without a wave of injuries to other outfielders, his ticket looks punched to Scranton. Same with Wade, whom you would think - as the Yankees' fastest player, could win a spot as pinch runner. 

In the next few days, the Yankees will announce the list of players who will be invited to spring training. On that list will be a no-name or two that could matter a lot in the course of the season. For the most part, though, it will be a list of newcomers who will be destined to play in Scranton. The Yankees could have a talent problem: Too much of it. 

First World problem, no?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Shecky Verlander jokes about the Astros stealing signs; I've half a mind to steal his wife, and see how he feels about that

Speaking publicly the other night, Justin Verlander tried to joke his way out of the Astros' ongoing sign-stealing scandal, which is spreading like coronavirus across the anger buttons of writers, players and fans. In the presence of a glaring CC Sabathia, "Shecky" quipped that his team, the Astros,' are "technologically and analytically advanced." Hardy-harr-harr. A regular Will Rogers, there. 

So, that's how he plans to deal with it, eh? Tell a joke, grab the trophy, call a cab. 

Apparently, Verlander feels that, as a pitcher, he's immune to criticism that Astro coaches and hitters were stealing opposing signs. He must have thought that secret video room in the back was for watching Turner Classics, that the banging trash cans were attempts to chase out the roaches, and that strategic whistling? - that was just coaches, pointing out hot chicks in the crowd. All-American fun. That's all.

What's really funny is how Verlander, as a Detroit Tiger, used to be pretty self-righteous about the use of steroids in baseball, because he considered it to be cheating. Not only that, but in 2017, about a month before he was traded to Houston, he spoke out against electronic sign-stealing. Now, though, it's a joke?

Okay, let's give the guy a little extra rope. Truly, Verlander is a great pitcher. Nobody can take that from him. I wish the Yankees had him. But if Verlander thinks he can magically elevate himself above this sorry, horrible, ongoing mess - that he can joke his way out of the stink of it - he's delusional. Though it was the Astros hitters who directly benefited from Houston's sign-stealing, the pitchers gained immensely.

Imagine a football game where the defense knows every offensive play before the snap. You could say the linebackers enjoyed the direct benefit, as they continually crushed the runner, but the entire team would have an incredible advantage. 

Apparently, Verlander thinks it's amusing that the Astros stole signs. Or at least, that's what he hoped it could be. Well, if sign-stealing is okay, maybe wife-stealing should be, too. Maybe I should dust off my old dance moves - I can still do the funky chicken - and steal his wife, Kate Somethingorother. 

That's right. Maybe it's time for me to take one for the team, a bit of "fan-justice-revenge porn."

Somewhere in the back of the closet, I've got my old disco cuffs shirt. Like a superhero costume. I always knew I'd need it again someday. I can spray on a tan, tease the comb-over - (nobody knows it's a comb-over; I'm trusting you not to tell) - and "accidentally" bump into Kate at the laundromat. I'll do a few impressions - Popeye the Sailor's Wimpy, Ward Cleaver ("June I'm ho-ome!"), President James K. Polk (mostly sight gag) - tell a few "adult" jokes, not the kind Verlander tells, and get her hopped up. Then, kaboom. we'll be out, dancing the night away, while Verlander is home pacing the floor with a loaded Luger in his mouth. We'll finish the night making out on the 50-year-line of Verlander's old high school football field - that's some designer porn, eh? That ought to teach him a lesson. He'll know what it's like to have something precious stolen. Yeah, that's what I'll do. I'll take one for the team.

Listen: This Astros thing has not begun to be fully digested by the American public. Basically, baseball just acknowledged that the last three post-seasons were a joke - tainted by cheating, and that two world championships were stolen. Thus far, to my knowledge, four Astros have come forward publicly to deal with the matter. Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, who attended a fan event just a few hours after the story came out, basically hemmed and hawed. Dalls Keuchel gave a weak apology, which turned rancid by his anger at the whistle-blower. Now, Verlander has attempted to joke about it, and say little more. Well, nothing has worked. 

MLB ruled that no players should be punished in the scandal. But if anybody thinks the Astros will return next month to business as usual, or that the players are going to walk away without consequences, they are very, very misguided. You know they say, "the shit has yet to hit the fan?" In this case, the fans are about to hit the shit. 

What They Get On Other Yankee Blogs

Just in case you thought there might be something else happening out there that is not being covered here...there's not.

Just take a look at this excerpt from, quoting Jim Bowden about how the Yanks could work a Nolan Arenado deal:

The Athletic’s Jim Bowden lists eight potential suitors for Arenado. As you probably guessed, one of them is the Yankees:

The Yankees could offer a strong package that includes third basemen Gio Urshela and Miguel Andújar, along with top pitching prospect Deivi Garcia and outfielder Clint Frazier. ... All four of those players would be expendable to the Yankees if they can land Arenado. This type of deal makes a lot of sense baseball-wise. ... Another option could be for the Rockies to offer Arenado straight up for outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who has eight years remaining on his 13-year, $325 million contract, of which approximately $60 million will be paid by the Miami Marlins if he doesn’t opt-out after this season — and he’s not opting out of this contract no matter what. The Yankees would still have to contribute a significant amount of Stanton’s contract for the Rockies to even consider this type of trade. 

Of course!

Alternatively, the Yankees could trade their entire pitching staff to Barca for Lionel Messi who, with his natural athleticism, could easily learn how to play shortstop by Opening Day.  

Then, Gleyber Torres could be moved back to second, while D.J. LeMahieu could be traded to a re-animator, who would bring to life the rotting corpse of Shoeless Joe Jackson—reputedly, almost a Yankee back in 1915!—who could take over centerfield, provided that enough of his body parts hold together.  

Also, general manager Brian Cashman is reportedly looking into hiring a squad of Super Ninja Space Rangers to kidnap Mike Trout, brainwash him, change his appearance, and put him in the Yankee Stadium outfield under the name of Trike Mout.

But would the money needed to hire the Super Ninja Space Rangers make this deal truly worthwhile?   And how would that affect Trike Mout's waaWL%? 

Remember, keep clicking on this space for such truly useful rumors and speculations, cadged from another website that also has no idea what's going on!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Entering 2020, MLB has questionable balls

MLB gets its balls from a Rawlings plant in Costa Rica, where all the pineapples grow. This allows them to be juiced. Ha-ha. Badaboom. But seriously, folks, every single ball is hand-stitched over a 10-minute period, and supposedly they are identical when rubbed in special mud from the Delaware River. (I assume the mud is laden with PCBs, but let's not think about that.) 

Here's the thing: Last year, something happened to the balls, and Yankee fans ought to start thinking about it. I'm sure the Yankees are.

Last year, balls soared out of MLB stadiums at an all-time record pace. Thus, sinker ball pitchers thrived, and fly ball pitchers - such as J.A. Happ - were battered to the point of PTSD. Hard-throwing rookies, who had risen through the ranks by using balls from China, found that fly ball outs became moonshots. Last year, something changed in the balls, and it begs an existential question: What happens if a sport cannot regulate its fundamental element?

In December, a four-egghead MLB committee - including professors of physics, math, statistics and mechanical engineering - concluded that 2019's baseballs showed "less drag" than in previous years due to inconsistent seam heights. This produced a record number of home runs - 6,776 - eclipsing the previous record, set in 2017, of 6,105. That's a huge increase, almost 10 percent. The professors also blamed the behavior of batters: Everybody was swinging (and missing) for the fences.

And here's an oddity that nobody has yet explained: In the 2019 post-season, the balls didn't go as far. Something changed. The study confirmed an analytical report by the St. Louis Cardinals, which found that in October, balls traveled on the average about five feet less in distance. (Remember any balls dying at the wall? During the regular season, they might have gone out.) MLB and Rawlings swear the same balls were used during the post-season. So, why didn't they go as far? Considering what we know about the ethics of various front offices, I'd say it's worth another study. 

The committee recommended that MLB parks store game balls in humidors. Presumably, that will help them keep their fine tobacco flavor. It could also lessen the HR totals. Supposedly, some parks will do this in 2020; I'm not sure if Yankee Stadium will be one. If some parks do it and others don't, this is ripe to become Houston's next scandal. How easy would it be to use humidor balls when the visitors come to bat, then the old juiced one for your team. Baseball had better think this through.

Another change in 2020: Triple A will switch to the MLB brand from Costa Rica, but the rest of the minors will continue using balls made in China. Apparently, Trump's tariffs only go so far. 

As a dumb fan, I find this talk about balls to be disconcerting. Last year, a few pitchers  - Masahiro Tanaka, anyway - seemed to adjust. Happ put together a nice final month, though it too little and too late to save his season. You wonder whether 2019 was an aberration... or simply, at age 37, the twilight of his career.

With Gerrit Cole, the Yankees would seem to be transitioning from a Murderers Row team into a pitching powerhouse. Right now, we have six decent starters challenging for five rotation slots, and that's not counting Domingo German and the scrum of rookies who might make the jump. Will the Yankees, who play in a modern bandbox, use humidors? Could they make a difference?

There is also the question of what MLB wants. Last year, it promoted the excitement of home runs, though this rubbed many old fans, who grew bored with the exploding volume strikeouts and walks. Entering 2020, the Yankees look like the best team in the AL. The question is, will the game itself have changed?

Sunday, January 26, 2020

MLB says it cannot prove any one game was won or lost due to the Astros' sign-stealing. What a joke

MLB says it cannot conclusively say the outcome of any single game was decided by the Astros' illegal sign-stealing. Basically, the Commissioner is saying, "What's done is done... please, go away and let us count our money in peace..." 

And he's right, sorta. Short of a deathbed confession, nobody will ever be able to prove that Jose Altuve's game-winning playoff hits were the results of stolen signs. The mere suggestion is an affront, an insult, to the scrappy-yet-adorable little lumpkin. 

But since the scandal broke, several pitchers have suggested that this explains how Houston batters were so adept at laying off on quality pitches. Marcus Stroman, now of the Mets, couldn't figure out why the Astros didn't bite at his sliders in the dirt. Now, he knows, sorta. So the question isn't whether one swing of the bat came from a telegraphed pitch, but how the did the leverage change if a batter knew enough to lay off just one pitch? 

Let's look at Altuve, the cuddly role model and endorsement magnet. Here are his career batting stats, based on the batting  count. And let's say that one pitch in an at-bat might be affected.

The first pitch, for example, is a curve in the dirt. If Altuve swings and misses, it's strike one. Over his career, down 0-1 in the count, Altuve is a .302 hitter.

But if he lays off, because the sound of a trash can told him it would be a curve,  it's ball one. Over his career, when ahead 1-0, Altuve bats .378.

From the variation on one pitch, he goes from Andrew Benintendi to Ted Williams.

Look at the incredible differences, statistically, if Altuve simply turns one strike into a ball.

2-0 count: .439
1-1 count: .349
0-2 count: .253

3-0 count: .385
2-1 count: .361

1-2 count: .268

One pitch turns a .253 hitter into Superman. 

How many at bats turned on one pitch, because Astro batters simply knew enough not to chase breaking balls in the dirt?

MLB says it cannot prove that any single outcome hinged on stolen signs. That's pretty convenient. But the more you think about it, the overall magnitude of this scandal is breathtaking.  


Napoleon III had a tough legacy to live up to.  I mean, there he was, nephew to the Superman, the guy Beethoven wrote the "Eroica" symphony for, the man who would smash two or three empires before breakfast, and who does he beat?

Well, Austria.  And, oh yeah, he got the Suez Canal built.  A ditch through a desert.  All right, all right, plus he redesigned Paris.

But not quite, you know...the Superman.  No wonder that that heckler in the bleachers, Karl Marx, said in comparing Nap III to his illustrious uncle, "History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce."

OUCH!  Whatever you think of his economic theories, you have to admit our Karl had a way with words.

And now we have our own farce.  Take it away...Giancarlo.

Yes, there's our guy, "lifting" model Adriana Lima (I refuse to say "supermodel Adriana Lima" because when have you heard of a model in the last 40 years who was NOT a "supermodel," and this HAS to stop.)

Oh, Mikey, Mikey.  Oh, Giancarlo.  Have you really learned so little from the past?

Our "tragedy" was, of course, a certain somebody whose initials were "A. R."  Though, he wasn't so much a tragedy.

I mean, Marx called Napoleon I a tragedy because he ended the French Revolution and spent the next 15 years or so killing hundreds of thousands of people all over Europe.

While A-Rod was just generally kind of a cheating, solipsistic, unending distraction.  Who also won a couple MVPs and finally a World Series.  Without killing anyone.  That we know of.

But that farce part?  Well, let's just say Giancarlo is making a strong claim.

Let's compare for a moment:

A-Rod:  Those 2 MVPs and 1 ring, plus deserved to win several Gold Gloves in the field (They were awarded to Jeter instead).

Giancarlo:  Can't really play the field.  Can't really get on the field.

A-Rod:  13 straight seasons with over 100 RBI, 14 in all, and 7 with Yankees.

Giancarlo:  Drove in 100 runs.  In 2018.  Drove in 13 last year.

A-Rod:  14 seasons with 30 or more home runs, 7 in a row with Yankees.  More homers in a season than any other Yankee in the past 93 years save for Roger Maris in 1961; more ribbies in a season than any Yankee since Joe DiMaggio in 1937.

Giancarlo:  Hit 38 home runs in 2018.  Hit 3 last year.  Hit 1 in the ALCS.   And went back to the DL.

I know, I know.  A-Rod famously cheated by juicing, and really bugged the hell out of everybody by doing bizarre things like kissing himself in a mirror, and very ostentatiously dating movie stars such as Madonna, Kate Hudson, Demi Moore, Cameron Diaz, and of course his intended, Jennifer Lopez.

Giancarlo...likely cheated by juicing before coming to New York and is now going through all the chronic injuries that come from that.  And is now pressing underwear models.

You get the idea.

A-Rod, like Napoleon, was a serious pain in the ass who you really got tired of after awhile.  But he was also, at least, someone you didn't want to meet out there on the field of battle.

Giancarlo Stanton seems like a very nice guy who, when it comes time to meet him on the field of battle...will most likely send a note.

"Hey Russia, you know I'm comin' for you!  But today, hmm, kinda tight in the legs.  England, your time has come!  Just as soon as I rehab from this rehab injury."

And now he thinks some good p.r. is to be photographed lifting the model.  Uh-boy.

Hey, don't get me wrong.  I hope Giancarlo has an AMAZING season in 2020.  I really do.  I hope he hits 76 home runs, and drives in 200, and hits .300, and powers the Yankees to a World Series triumph, and even manages to play left field sometimes.

Seriously, I do.  It's the only way he'll invoke his option—for the last 8 years of his contract—and leave.

Tragedy, schmagedy.  But farce.  Oy.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

If You Play Poker With The Astros or Red Sox....

This is the hand they hold:

Both cities should be stripped of any and all titles.

Players should be audited by the IRS.

The sport...all sports...should be banned in those criminal cities.

Just a thought.

How should we process Dallas Keuchel's apology?

Dallas Keuchel shoulda been a Yankee. 

Not by lineage, or by that Disney, Lion King "destiny" drivel. Nothing Hollywood. But he shoulda been. Last summer, Keuchel was a free agent exactly when the Yankees were starving for pitchers, dying in desperation, yet the Steinbrenner formerly known as "Food Stamps" couldn't take out his wallet. We were outbid by Atlanta. 

Outbid. By Atlanta. 

(Note: Another reason Keuchel shoulda been a Yank: He's probably the player in baseball with the most to gain, photogenically, by joining a team that bans facial hair.)

But the biggest reason: What he knew. 

The 2019 Yankees fell to a team that cheated, on a HR that may have been off a telegraphed pitch. We'll never know. If Keuchel were in pinstripes - that is, if Prince Hal had simply opened his fanny pack - Keuchel might have warned his Yankee mates to listen for the bang of a garbage can, and then throw at the head. Who knows? 

But but BUT... Hal didn't unclench his loins, and the Yankees watched Keuchel go the Braves. As a result, come April 1, we can proudly raise the "2019 AL First-Runner-Up flag." 

But that's not why I've summoned you. Yesterday, Keuchel became the first Astro to publicly apologize for his team's pure malevolence. He said: 

"I think first and foremost, apologies should be in order ... for everyone on the team." 

Bravo. Trouble is, then Keuchel started tempering his remorse. 

"When the stuff was going on, it was never intended to be what it's made to be right now."

Okay, let's think about this. By "stuff... going on," he means the cheating, right? It was "never intended to be what it's made to be?" Well, that can be said of most criminal acts, eh? I bet jolly old Ken Lay of Enron - another Houston scandal, back in 2001 - could have said the same thing. As could every cheating bastard in history. I mean, what is Keuchel suggesting? That it was a schoolboy prank that got out of hand? Of course it wasn't intended to be a scandal. They never are. What was intended - I guess - was that they would get away with it. He continued...

"During the course of the playoffs in 2017, everyone was using multiple signs. For factual purposes, when there is no one on base, when in the history of baseball has there been multiple signs?"

Okay, so, if I'm getting this right... he's saying everybody should have assumed the Astros were cheating, and made adjustments. Or maybe they should've cheated too? Now, I do get this: There's an old saying, "If you're not cheating, you're not trying." But no matter how you spin this, visiting teams found themselves at a huge disadvantage when they came to Houston. The Astros had a room set up for breaking down signals. What an advantage. Then Keuchel lost me. He mentioned the whistle-blower.

"A lot of guys are not happy with the fact that Mike (Fiers) came out and said something, or the fact that this even happened. At the same time, there is some sorrow in guys' voices. ... This will be going on for a long time, but I'm sure in the back of guys' minds, this is still fresh... I don't think anyone is going to come out from other teams. They see what happens now."
Well, there it is: The real message. The ugly one, which almost comes as a threat. He's blaming the whistle-blower. It's Fiers' fault. 

Yep, here's the moral of the story: If you see something wrong, or illegal, or corrupt... keep it to yourself. What happens in the video room... stays in the video room. Just say nothing. Otherwise, you'll be letting down your teammates.  

This is a crappy time for whistle-blowers. But for whatever it's worth, I think Mike Fiers is a hero. I believe that next December, he should be Sports Illustrated's "Sportsperson of the Year." I think fans of every team - including the Astros - should thank the guy. He won't get a plaque in the Hall of Fame, but he might deserve an exhibit. He's not the guy who soiled MLB's reputation. He's the guy who just might have saved it. 

Lately, Fiers has been declining interviews. Maybe he's waiting to see what all the others say.  

So... Keuchel. I dunno what to make of him. Yeah, he apologized. And he's the only one, thus far. Let's give him credit for that. Still, it doesn't feel exactly heartfelt, does it? 

You get the sense that, for the Astros, all would be fine if this scandal hadn't happened. They were comfortable with cheating, because - well - it worked. I recall a line from Hunter S. Thompson: "In a world where everyone's a criminal, the only crime is getting caught."

Wait, wait, WAIT... You know what? I take it back! Keuchel shouldn't have been a Yankee, nor should he ever. You know why? Because I wonder:

Maybe he would have sat in the Yankee dugout, listening to the trash can, and kept quiet. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

No Sonny II: The Yankees should stick with J.A. Happ

Somebody's recent Internet list ranked the Reds sixth among MLB rotations. Sixth. Go figure. Granted, Internet lists are crapola, merely ways to kill time during impeachment proceedings. They have no place in an intellectually trenchant, empirical journal such as this. (BTW, the Yankees fuckinay ranked second, behind Washington, gaaaaaahhhh!) But the reason for Cincinnati's #6 ranking was rather interesting. It was based on the Reds' looming ace: Mr. Sonny Douglas Gray. 

Yeah, our Sonny Gray, whom the Death Star last winter traded for Shed Long and a draft pick. (Days later, they dealt Long to Seattle for a 22-year-old OF named Josh Stowers, who stole 35 bases last year for Charleston.) 

Gray last year threw 175 innings with an ERA of 2.87. Before you scream that it was against NL lineups, where pitchers hold bats, let those numbers marinate a bit - because we didn't have anybody come close. (Our "ace," James Paxton threw 150 innings at 3.82.) If you want to scream at the cosmos, tell it that if the Yankees had simply shown faith in Sonny Gray, they might have lost to the Astros in seven games, rather than six, because - let's face it - Houston was still going to cheat. The Rob Manfred Washing Machine arrived too late to save baseball's soiled reputation.

Today, the Yankees have a 2020 edition of Sonny Gray - that is, a supposed "ace" who was vastly disappointing last year, and who should be ashamed of himself. It's J.A. Happ, and we could banish him to San Diego for a can of sardines, just to teach him a lesson: Nobody disappoints a Death Star. Yep, we can feel good for a week. We showed him. 

Or... we could keep Happ as a #5 starter and see what happens? If Jordan Montgomery or Deivi Garcia bust down fences in Tampa, we can use a six-man rotation, or maybe ease in the newcomers for a long year. 

Here's a thought: Maybe we should give Happ a chance to redeem himself.

Yeah, redemption - a word the Yankees don't use often.

I raise this to piggyback on a point made yesterday. As spring training nears, it will become a central point of this blog. 

This has to be our year. If we don't win in 2020, by this time next winter, Hal will be chaffing to dump payroll and cut luxury taxes. If we don't win this year, Tampa and Toronto could be on the verge talent surges, of whooshing past us in the AL East. If we don't win this year, can we reasonably expect Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, Aroldis Chapman, Masahiro Tanaka, Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu to get better in 2021? 

Listen: This has to be our year. If the Yankees are going to restore past glory, it must start in 2020. Second place gets us nothing. The Yankees owe it to J.A. Happ - and themselves - to see what he's got. 

God help us if next winter, right around now, we're looking at Happ - the ace of some other team - and wondering what might have been. It's now or never, folks. I choose now.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Dynasty! Rays win another Baseball America Top 100

Ancient wisdom: Whom the gods wish to destroy, they grant unlimited Kim Kardashian. Yesterday, the baseball world observed its annual rites of crapola: The unveiling of the Baseball America Top 100 prospects list. Among prospect lists, this is Springsteen, this is Spielberg, this is French toast with Mrs. Butterworth's, this is - you get the picture - this is Crown Royal.

Now, as you may know, every year around this time, I rant and rave about the insane folly of these lists. They're a bunch of hooey, wrapped in humdrum, prepared for knuckle-dragging inebriates. Nobody should bother with them. There is nothing there, nothing! I should not look, not give them one iota of my valuable time. And yet - dear mother of pearl! - it's like the musky, dizzying, pheromone scent of a newborn stallion. You tell yourself to stay away. You order yourself to leave this riotous stable, to secure to the nearest tavern and douse the fire that is raging in your soulful loins. You've become Peter Lorre, screaming "HELP ME, RICK, HELP ME!" but it does no good. You click on the site, just for a peek, a momentary glance, what can it hurt? - to see what's there. And it's over. 

Yesterday, the Yankiverse buzzed over the news that three of our prospects made this coveted-but-ridiculous list. That puts us squarely in the middle of the MLB pack. But a closer look, I'm afraid to say, does not improve our standing.

For starters, our top prospect is 16-year-old OF Jasson Dominguez, whom we've already discussed. At this stage, he's nothing but a pin-up fantasy; he's never even seen a professional pitch. He's probably never driven a car, or had his heart broken by a gym teacher. He could spend 2020 in the Dominican Summer League, never even set foot in an American minor league stadium. At the earliest, if he runs every red light, he's three years away from The Show. He ranks #38. 

Next up is Clarke Schmidt, a power RH, who came in at #62. This is a good sign, sorta. Three years ago, Schmidt was our No. 1 draft pick - (BA always loves #1 picks) - though recovering from TJ surgery. He didn't wow anyone in 2018 but looked good last year. He's 23. He could make the team this summer. Fingers crossed. 

Finally, RH pitcher Deivi Garcia is #65. This is actually a disappointment. Garcia received a lot of ink last summer, and the Yankees felt compelled to announce they wouldn't use him in September. At age 20, he streaked through the system, and he's an outlier - just 5'9" tall - which has everybody thinking Pedro II. (Once upon a time, that's what we thought of Luis Severino.) That's a lot of attention - and stress - on a young arm. I worry about this guy. It seems as though we have one every year; he arrives in Tampa, hurts an elbow trying to impress the brass, and he's never the same. 

Three on the Top 100. Not bad. Not good. But for the sake of a meaningless parlor game, let's look around the AL East. 

Once again, and I don't know how they do it, Tampa is showing the world how to run a baseball organization. I shudder to think of what the Rays would do in a city that loved baseball - (that's you, Buffalo) - or if they played in a park with cheers instead of reverb, and blue sky instead of gray catwalks. Tampa placed  eight prospects on the Top 100, most in baseball. That includes the game's consensus top prospect, 19-year-old SS Wander Franco, who might reach the majors late this year. It's rare for a kid to take #1 two straight years; they usually wither under the spotlight. Franco had a great 2019, he looks like the real deal, and Tampa has him. 

Not only that, but they have #14 (a P), #51 (2B), #71 (P), #80 (P), #83 (P), #85 (2B), number #98 (P) and two who BA says nearly made the list. Damn, they are the Atlantic Ocean: One wave after another. We can feel good about Geritt Cole, but Tampa gave us the biggest tussle last year, and they could improve in 2020. Damn.

Also, Toronto and Baltimore each placed three prospects on the list. The Blue Jays have a pitcher, Nate Pearson, at #22, plus a SS at #29 - both higher than our 16-year-old fantasy. (The third, a pitcher, lands at #61 - again, in front of Schmidt and Garcia.) Add them to the youngsters Toronto unpacked last year... two words come to mind: "Uh." and "Oh." 

The O's represent a threat to nobody in 2020. But their big hope is a catcher named Adley Rutschman, whom BA ranks #5. (The others are pitchers, #35 and #47 - again, above both Schmidt and Garcia.)

As for the Redsocks, they have two, the top being a pitcher at #70. Ha. Years of trading kids have taken a toll. And it would be nice if MLB grows a pair and docks them a draft pick or two, based on Alex Cora's magical insights in securing the 2018 world championship.  

So, what does all this mean? Absolutely nothing. Still, I believe we fans have a tendency to eat with a knife and fork all the crapola from the YES spin machine. To hear the Yankees talk, they have a glorious farm system, with waves of talent on the way. I'm not saying the cupboard is empty. But had we not invested $5 million on Dominguez, we'd look pretty paltry right now. And whatever we're doing, we're being consistently outclassed by Tampa. 

Look, it's great to have Cole, plus a nice group of young pitchers. But make no mistake: The Yankees need to win it in 2020. If we fail, we might not get a better chance in 2021. And if you're thinking of dynasties - (which all Yankee fans are, btw) - we better watch out for the Rays. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

What Dick Young Had to Say

Dick Young certainly spent much of his career embodying everything that was evil and loathsome about the old-time sportswriter.   He often carried water for awful owners, ran Tom Seaver out of town, denounced Pele, and generally acted like an idiot (something we can all relate to).

If you've never read Warren Leight and Charlie Rubin's satirical Village Voice columns on Dick Young in Hell, well then, ya gotta.

They are absolutely hilarious, a key part of the neglected Golden Age of Funny Sportswriting, along with those guys whose names I forget who turned Phil Rizzuto's broadcasts into poetry, Tom Peyer and whatshisface:

But ol' Dick, bless his heart, got it right occasionally, as when he saw through Walter O'Malley for the fraud he was, and called out the Baseball Writers of America for not voting Willie Mays into the Hall unanimously:

"If Jesus Christ were to show up with His old baseball glove, some guys wouldn't vote for Him. He dropped the cross three times, didn't He?"

Mays, inexplicably, got only 94 percent of the vote.  O-kay.

My Uncle Bruce took me to see Willie Mays play on August 4, 1967, against the Mets, shortly before we moved into the New England Captivity.  Seaver was pitching and he didn't have a great night:  0-5, with 2 strikeouts, but everyone's eyes followed him everywhere he went.

My uncle—an old New York Baseball Giants fan—has been gone for over three years now, and I miss him more everyday.  Toward the very end, at age 85, his mind failing, one of the things my uncle kept saying was how glad he was that he got to see Willie Mays play.

Me, too—thanks to him.  And I got to see Derek Jeter play for 20 years, which was pretty good, too.

For all my complaints it's not a bad pastime, this baseball.

And so it goes... future Hall of Famer Jasson Dominguez beats former future Hall of Famer Jackson Melian by two Baseball America rating points

Yankee super-prospect Jasson Dominiguez, age 16, ranks 38th on the new Baseball America Top 100, out today. 

He's never seen one pitch professionally. Not one. It's all based on wind sprints, stool samples and home videos. 

Be excited if you want. Go crazy. It's up to you. 

But remember, Dominiguez clocks in at two ranking points higher than Yankee super-prospect Jackson Melian did - he was 40th - when he debuted, age 16, in 1996. Melian never saw one major league pitch. Not one.

It's fun to stalk prospects. Just keep it in your pants.

It only takes one to ruin a righteous Hall of Fame vote

We found the one sportswriter in America who didn't vote for Derek Jeter...

He lives outside Sarasota with a Lay-Z Boy and satellite dish. He has the gout, a nose full of burst capillaries, and his prostate is the size of a newborn baby's head. It's been 15 years since he drove a car, and 30 since he filed his last column for the Topeka paper. It was an insightful rant about these uppity, pampered, smart-mouth pro athletes, who think they're so big. They make way too much money. If he ran sports, he'd set things straight. If he can ever remember that internet password, he'll see if the column is still there.

He sleeps with a C-Pap under an erotic poster of Jayne Mansfield beside his sacred pile of vintage Playboys, and the TV, whose knob has been removed, so nobody can tinker with the channel-changer. He listens to one channel, and one channel only. He hates liberals, hates New York, despises George Steinbrenner - who has ruined the game by spending all that money on those uppity, smart-mouths, the ethnics, that's what he'll call them, who think they're so big. Billy Martin knew what to do. Billy wasn't afraid to punch Reggie right in the nose. But now the game is full of Reggies, and damn, it might as well be the NBA. He refuses to watch. 

Once, long ago, he was supposed to interview Derek Jeter. It was Kansas City, back in the 90s. Well, he got snubbed. Jeter was probably out partying, sleeping with his wenches, forgot all about it. That day, he recognized that Jeter was a street punk with a sassy attitude, who thought he was big. He may have fooled everybody else; all you need in NY is an uppity, smart-mouth attitude, and everybody falls all over you, but Jeter didn't fool him, no way! Ever since, he's been waiting for his chance to let Jeter know exactly what he thinks. Hey, who's the big guy now, eh? 

He hates these modern players. The Joe Pepitones, with their hair sprays and perfumes. Jeter had a perfume. What was that about? And what the hell was ever wrong with Vitalis, anyway? Didn't Pete Rose say it: "A man wants to smell like a man!"  Now, there's a guy who should be in the Hall. Pete was never uppity. Who's that guy on the Angels, what's his name, that uppity pitcher? Oh, yeah, Bo Belinsky! Those Hollywood types. They've ruined the game, with their fur coats and their rap music. 

That's another thing. The music. Can you even call it music? He'll be goddamned if he's ever going to vote for another one of these hooligans, who broadcast their crap over the stadium p.a. whenever they step up to bat. Curt Schilling never did that. Next year, Curt will get his vote. He can't wait. Once Curt gets in the Hall, those uppity, smart-mouth - he's not gonna say what they are; you can't say those words anymore - but they will get an earful! Now, that's a speech he'll want to watch, and he'll have time to watch it, now that they're outlawing dog races. (That's another reason not to vote for Jeter; send a message that people are goddamn pissed. Bring back the dogs, Governor Chiles!) 

Last year, he relented with Mario Rivera. (Actually, he forgot to send in his ballot. It fell into the recliner, and he only found it last month.) But that's okay. Mario was a good guy, respectful. He might have even voted for Mario, anyway. But this Jeter punk, he thought he had everybody fooled. Well, who's the fool now?  

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

It's Derek Jeter Day in America. So where are his teammates?

Today, America's scattered population of card-carrying Gammonites - (aka: old, white, self-righteous farts) - will elect Derek Jeter to thel Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Hooray.

The only question is whether Jeter will be elected unanimously, or if some hurtful, cantankerous asshole from East Boston or West Shmunck will purposely deny him the honor of a 100 percent vote.

With Mariano Rivera, Jeter anchored baseball's last great dynasty: the Yankees of the nineties. In recent days, some writers have labeled the cheating Astros as a "dynasty." They won one championship. One. Joe Torre's Yankees won four in five years. That, my friends, is a fukkin' dynasty. And in our lifetimes, we'll probably never its like again. 

So, how did they win four out of five? Did Jeet and Mariano simply carry everybody? Visit Cooperstown, and that's what you might think. Three others from that great run - Wade Boggs, Tim Raines and Mike Mussina - have made the Hall. Each played a season or two with the Yankees. None was a linchpin to the full dynasty. (Of course, Torre is in the Hall, as a manager.)

So, WTF? Were the Yankees a two-man operation? Apparently, America's scattered population of card-carrying Gammonites believes so. Of course, being old, white, self-righteous farts, they have their personal standards. (Also known as "grudges."

Bernie Williams? Too much guitar. Roger Clemens? Failed the purity test. Paul O'Neill? Broke too many water coolers. Jorge Posada? Soaked his hands in pee.  Coney? Andy? Tino? Nope. Chuck Knoblach? How about Orlando Hernandez - el Duque - who opened ties to Cuba? Chili Davis? Even - gulp - Jose Canseco, in his cameo role. (All I remember: Jose, taking three ridiculously perfect strikes, right down the middle, in the World Series.) Four out of five world championships! Did they just happen?

The greatest dynasty in the last 30 years - no, the LONE dynasty in the last 30 - with only two mainstays in Cooperstown? WTF?

Hmm. You'd almost think there is a small market bias against the Yankees. 

What's that you say? We should wonder why Roger Maris and Thurman Munson aren't in the Hall?   

I'm temped to question some players who have made the cut. That would be crappy. Everyone has their vision of greatness. I say, Bravo to all who have been inducted. And - yeah - Yankees do receive more attention than comparable stars in smaller markets or on last-place teams. But that's why it's the Hall of FAME - folks, it's FAME. And when the judging eyes of the entire world are upon you, it's not easier to win; it's harder. And they won four out of five.

Considering their refusal to acknowledge the other Yankees who comprised baseball's last great team, America's scattered population of card-carrying Gammonites - (aka: old, white, self-righteous farts) - better damn well make it unanimous, today. One hundred percent. 

Anything less, we riot. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Is Jasson Dominguez the new Jackson Melian, or the new Estevan Florial?

Before the cheating scandal, the big Yankee news was that Baseball America - the ultimate ranker of wankers - had named 16-year-old, switch-hitting OF Jasson Dominguez as the Number One Yankee prospect. Top dog in the system.

The BA write-up on Dominguez gushes with legend-building hope, stroking the prospect erection of every secret-14-year-old fan; it reads like the jacket from a beefcake romance novel: 

"... advanced hitter... low chase rate for someone his age... strong hands, wrists and forearms... power from both sides... exit velocities of up to 108 mph..."

Yowzer! He's practically Fabio. Now there's a cabana boy that Jerry Falwell Jr. can appreciate! 

Listen: I don't want to be a downer here. Prince Hal has shelled out the biggest bonus for a 16-year-old Latino in the history of 16-year-old Latinos. Every fan worth his lucky fork is projecting Fabio - uh, I mean Jasson - in the 2022 Yankee lineup - (he'll be 19) - if not in the 2044 Hall of Fame class, (which I probably will not live to see.) 

Of course, this is decadent Yankee fantasy, and in the privacy of your bedroom, I suppose there's nothing wrong with it. Still, it's sort of exploitative and desperate, because Yankee prospects come and go, and most of them end up  sinking without a bubble. Remember Jesus Montero? Remember Ruben Rivera? They were BA Top 100s. My recollection is that Rivera reached BA's Top 5. He's now remembered for stealing Jeter's glove.

Insert sigh here. These guys are simply meant to our hearts.

Mostly, I'm thinking of Jackson Melian, a Venezuelan kid who couldn't miss. In 1996, the Yankees signed him - age 16 - to a $1.6 million contract, the highest ever for a Latino teen. His Dad had named him after Reggie Jackson. He was one of Scott Boras' boys, a world class swimmer, said to have given up a shot at the Olympics to play baseball.

Out of the shoots, he made the BA Top 100, clocking in at Number 40. (Keep that in mind when Dominguez gets rated. Will he beat Melian?)

Jackson bumped around the Yankee farm system, hitting around .265 with mediocre power. He was dealt to Cincinnati in 2000 with Drew Henson, Ed Yarnall - (both prospect legends with their own histories) - and Brian Reith for Denny "Train Whistle" Neagle. Melian bumped around the Reds and Brewers systems and actually re-signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent in 2004. From there, he tried the Braves, Tigers and Astros. Nothing. He never reached the Majors.

One other thing about Melian: I still remember the moment of silence the Yankees held at Yankee Stadium in late August of 1988, the day after Melian's parents had died in a car crash. They'd been following the Yankee farm club in North Carolina. I don't know how a kid recovers from such an event. I'm not offering an excuse; maybe it had no effect on his overall career. But it happened. Whenever I write about Melian, a moment of silence is in order. 

Ladies and gentlemen, will you please rise for a moment and remove your hats. 


Thank you. 

Maybe a more meaningful comparison to Dominguez belongs to Esetvan Florial, who last year was the Bull Goose rookie in Camp Tamp, and who then slogged through a miserable, injury-laden season in the lower minors. Last year, Florial ranked Number 2 on the Yankee list. This year, he doesn't even make some of the Top 10s. It's a make-or-break season. He either hits, or he'll start to slowly disappear like superheroes on Thanos' hit list.

Remember Jose Tabata, who's wife was old enough to be his mom? Or Jorge Mateo, the fastest Yankee in the system? Or Dustin Fowler, who in his first-ever MLB game wrecked his knee on a metal protrusion at Comiskey Park, bringing Joe Girardi to tears. 

These prospects, they raise your hopes and then break your heart.