Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Game 11 thread

Tonight we're turning moderation off during the game. If it turns out well, we'll keep doing it. I can still delete comments that don't belong here; you just won't have to wait to see the new ones. So get out there and play hard and play fair!  



The All-Time Yankees Tournament Semifinals: 1998 vs. 1947

Which of these teams will face the 1951 Yankees in the Greatest World Series Ever? (I'd trademark that, but I doubt MLB would let me.) 

Click below to find out:

Hicksy and Higgy, and two bravos

I grew up in a small Upstate town, full of tropes: Opie Taylor, brush cuts, Moose Lodge, Woolworths, pancake suppers, Little League parades, support for the war, etc. The boondocks. Also, it was Yankee Country. That's why I am what I am (and, as a certain sailor once said, that's all that I am.

One of my starkest memories is the day our six-grade teacher, an Irishman named Hogan, went around the room, from kid to kid, asking why we had done our homework last night?

It was weird. Scary, because of the look in his eyes. Why did you do your homework? Some kids hadn't. They coughed up lame excuses. A suck-up, I'd done mine... but I didn't know why. 

Hogan said we all failed.  

He'd have given an A to anyone with the right answer: 

They didn't feel up to it, because yesterday, the President of the United States had been shot. 

The lesson that day: You are supposed to care.

Often, it seems easier if you don't. If you don't care about the country, you never think about the homeless, or about racism, or any social ill. Just go about your business, don't give a shit.  

Today, America is horribly polarized, in part, because people on both sides care. 

My take: I think major corporations have created a massive media industry that thrives by dividing us. Every day, forces from the right and left push our buttons. The industry rakes in billions, and we grow angrier. And at the roots, it's because we care.

Okay, that's just my opinion. I know what happens around here when I shoot off my mouth on politics. I could be wrong. Hey, I was wrong about Jesus Montero. 

But all our differences would fill a thimble, compared to what we agree on. 

Last night, Aaron Hicks removed himself from the lineup because he didn't believe he could play a game. He has roots in Minnesota. He sees his city in turmoil. He cares. I say, bravo. 

Fortunately, the Yankees won. That happened because of two players, Gerrit Cole and Kyle Higashioka, who hit two HRs. It's the latter who deserves a little attention. 

For no good reasons, I have monitored Higashioka since 2008, when he was drafted out of high school in the 7th round. He went lower than expected, because teams weren't sure he'd sign. Some draft boards - (and yes, they're bullshit, but I still read them) - rated Higgy much higher. When the Yankees signed him, it was considered a coup. He rose through the lower A leagues - low average, high power - then missed two years due to Tommy John surgery and a broken thumb. (He played just 24 games in that period.) He fell off the radar. In 2015, the Yankees released him, then signed him 12 days later to a minor league deal. Any team could have had him. 

From then on, something clicked. In 2016, Higgy hit 21 HRs, mostly at Trenton and Scranton. In 2017, the Yankees gave him a cup of coffee. Two years ago, he hit three HRs in one game against Toronto. In that period, he has 9 HRs in 113 MLB at bats. 

Give him 350 at bats, and I believe he'd hit 30. 

This raises a question the Yankees should seriously ponder: Will Gary Sanchez do more?

A final note, for whatever it's worth: Last night, after the final out, as Higgy was high-fiving teammates, Sanchez was the first person out of the dugout to congratulate him. The first. 

I say, bravo. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

John: That was a big Yankee win.

 Big one. 



Saying Goodbye to Thairo…

From the relentless mind and lost computer of HoraceClark66...

What is it that Brian Cashman has against ballplayers? That is, what does he have against getting one—or several—when he gives up one?

 

As reported, Thairo Estrada is off to San Francisco for “cash considerations,” whatever that means. Stripper tip money? Whatever. Surely about the last thing that the Family Steinbrenner needs is more cash.

 

Somehow, there was nobody in all of organized baseball—no Single-A, lottery ticket pitcher, no back-up outfielder with a surprising ability at getting on base, no light-hitting Triple-A catcher who is a defensive whiz—nobody at all, who Cashman thought the Yankees could use under any possible circumstances.

 


Not to mention Estrada himself. Thairo’s departure is a shame, and no, it’s not just because I still have 10,000 “Thairo the Pharaoh” Egyptian headdresses still moldering in a Bronx warehouse. 

 

Thairo’s Yankees career was short-circuited by plenty of bad luck, not least being how he was shot during a hold-up in his native Venezuela.

 

Nevertheless, Estrada battled back, and even with the bullet still in his body reached the Stadium as a back-up in 2019. He played very well that year, when he was needed—then much less well in the Covid year, when he managed just 52 plate appearances.

 

Somehow, though, that rump of a season seems to count above all for the Brain (see Mike Ford). Thairo never really got a second chance.  This is a pity, since he proved that he could do a lot of things pretty well: hit for occasional power, steal bases (five, without being caught in 61 major-league games), and play every position on the field, save pitcher and catcher.

 

Not enough, according to Cashman, who is remains convinced, evidently, that there will never be another time, with this constantly injured team, that he will be needed again, and that moreover Thairo is so bad there is no sense in even trying to get another player, of any kind, for him.

 

So be it. I just hope Thairo Estrada remains bulletproof in San Francisco. I hope he plays so well and so diligently that Brian Cashman regrets that he ever heard the words, “cash considerations.”

 

 

…and to Dr. Bobby Brown.

 

With all the crazy excitement drummed up by this thrilling Yankees team so far this spring, we have also been remiss in failing to note the death of Dr. Bobby Brown, who won four rings with the great Bomber squads of the 1940s and ’50s.

 

Brown retired well before I was born, but I remembered hearing about him as a kid—usually on Old-Timers’ Day—and was mystified.  He was a ballplayer AND a doctor? How did that add up?

 

Dr. Bobby’s baseball career ran into its own bad luck, mostly in the form of two wars. He did a stint in World War II in the Navy, then a stint in Korea as a medic. His medical studies also cut into—and ultimately ended—his playing time.

 


Not that Brown ever seemed to mind very much. Publicly, he was always very cheerful, and he never expressed any regrets. A long and successful cardiology practice followed his baseball career, and then he became the last president of the American League.

 

As a ballplayer, Brown was a fine hitter for his (unjuiced) day. He didn’t have a lot of power, but he hit as high as .300 in a season and drew a goodly number of walks. Primarily a third baseman, he wasn’t known for his glove but—much like Thairo Estrada—he played nearly every other position in the field, when called upon to do so.

 

He served mostly as a lefty bat off the bench, and in this he excelled in four World Series, hitting .439 with a 1.207 OPS, and driving in 9 runs in just 46 plate appearances. 

 

I’m sure if Brian Cashman had been running the team, Brown would have been displaced by the dire need for a 7th middle reliever, and shipped off somewhere for more “cash considerations.” As it was, he became a revered Yankee for his quiet but vital contributions. He died—no doubt smiling—at age 96.  

Meaningless Stuff...


 I just want to go on record with this:  Jay Bruce should be retired from baseball.

And the question now surfaces: with Odor at second and DJ at first, is Voit now a back-up?  

Seriously, we know that DJ is the best option we have at first.  He is so good, that he reduces errors from Torres and everyone else. 

Also, with DJ's long-term contract, he can probably play it out productively at first base. Not so likely at second.  It makes a lot of sense to commit to DJ as our "first choice " first baseman. 

The infield, in theory, becomes hugely upgraded, assuming Odor is a good second baseman...a huge fairy tale idea.  Is there any "book" on this guy, other than he once hit 30 HRs somewhere and no one wanted him, despite that production?

One of these days, right after Michael Kay mentions how : " great " the Yankees bullpen has been, it will give up an 8 run lead to the Orioles.

Every time I hear the phrase, " okay, everyone please line-up for your shots..."  I keep thinking I have walked into my dream bar. 


Tampa delenda est!

 (From the bright mind and dark computer of HoraceClarke66)

So good news and bad news out of Tampa today.

The YES broadcast reported today—well before repeated, further failures by all three—that Hicks, Stanton, and Torres, the heart of the Yankees' seemingly random batting order, were batting .193 between them, with all of 12 ribbies in 9 games.

The good news? It can't possibly get any worse than this. Trust me, before long...at least one and probably two of those three will be on the DL. 

I kid, I kid!  Gleyber Torres batted in an entire run today, and Giancarlo Stanton—seen here watching yet another pop-up settle gently into an infielder's glove—will surely come around. Right?

But more immediately, I want to talk about the sheer, soul-sucking horror that is a game against the Tampa Bay Rays.  

Oh, I know, I know.  They are incredible underdogs, with pluck and heart, and brilliant minds in their front office who have discovered how to parlay their limited resources into a continual contender.

They are also the black hole of baseball, the soundless, formless, infinite density entity that will draw the entire sport into it within a few more years and crush it flatter than a pancake. Simply watching a game in Tampa is a mind-numbing experience, starting with the Rays' home dome, which has all the charm and elegance of your average Amazon fulfillment center.   

Then comes the endless parade of two-inning arms, the no-name lineup of .220 hitters, and in general all the thrills of your average curling match. This is baseball to hang yourself by.

This has got to stop.  MLB has to either find a reliable tycoon to remake this dreadful franchise, top to bottom—isn't there a spare Steinbrenner heir hanging around somewhere?—or simply dissolve it, and start anew.  

Yes, the Rays may be winners. Everyone else—fans, players, and even owners—will be the ultimate losers, if this slow-moving, flesh-eating bacteria of a team is allowed to go on passing this sort of mass ennui off as major-league baseball.

Old guys rule: Thairo Estrada disappears, Tyler Wade ships out, and we must wonder if Clint Frazier's starting role lasted nine games.

Hats off to Brett Gardner, 6-for-17 and a crisp .367 on the newborn season! Yesterday, Gardy singled and walked twice in the win over Tampa. Give the man a gold star.

Considering our troubled the heart of the order - (Giancarlo Stanton hitting .188; Aaron Hicks, .129; and Aaron Judge, .310 but facing "soreness") - the Yankees need a hot hitter in any form. 

But nine games into 2021, Clint Frazier's lock on LF - a constant theme of Camp Tampa - seems a distant memory, if not a mirage.

Frazier has started cool. He is 5-for-25, a perfect .250. And let's draw no conclusions about his playing time, or lack of it. This is the Yankees, people, not your neighborhood bake sale. Nobody gives a fuck about your cookies, if they're not selling. We all knew Frazier's moment as a starter depended on him hitting, and thus far, he hasn't.

I'm still dealing with 2020 whiplash. I think we all are. Last year, two weeks signified a whole quarter of the season. Last year, an opening slump meant a lost future contract. Last year, there were no spring phenoms, no June swoons, no dog days, no agonizing final stretch - just one fast, hard sprint to a post-season that nearly everyone made. Last year, Houston and Milwaukee both made the playoffs despite losing records. Last year was a hallucination. 

Last year, Frazier was nominated for a Gold Glove.

Of course, that was crazy. Anybody watching Frazier saw an improved defender, but hardly a Gold Glove. It's all 2020 whiplash. We're still recovering.

Which brings me back to Gardy. Over his 14-year career, Gardner has a .259 average. These days, he has surprising power and little interest in stealing bases. He remains a stalwart, a firebrand who breaks dugout roofs - the closest we have to a captain. 

But he's going to hit about .259. If Gardy's presence kills Frazier's shot at playing everyday, we will remember his twilight season with the angst of what coulda been. Frazier needs 300 at bats to prove himself. He needs a chance to heat up. He needs the opportunity that Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade never received - and never will. Yesterday, the Yankees traded Estrada for cash - (yes, Hal wanted cash; since when do the Yankees sell players for cash?) They sent Wade to the black hole of Calcutta, aka the Scranton taxi squad. (Five years ago at Scranton, he hit .310. In his Yankee 5-year career, he has 309 at bats.)

This weekend, the Yankees played a team of highly paid vets against one of youngsters. They were lucky to win one game. They have two players whose stars are still ascending - Frazier and Gleyber Torres. The Yankees will go with Torres through thick and thin. But on Frazier, they always waver. 

In April, every post must note that it's a long, long season, and that no conclusions can be drawn. Still, across Yankee droughts - eras like the late 1960s, early 1980s and now - the problem is always the same: 

Big names with big contracts suck all the air out of the lineup. 

They can be named Tartabull or Mayberry, Wells or Hafner, or maybe Sanchez and Stanton. It's the curse of the Yankees - an owner who constantly carps about salaries, and who then takes on another overpriced, plummeting career. Don't get me wrong: It was great to see Roughned Odor contribute to yesterday's win. But where will he be on June 1? Has Odor changed his approach? And from here on, will he outproduce Estrada? 

It's too early to draw a bead on 2021. Still, close your eyes, and you can see 2013 - with a lineup of Wells & Hafner, Ichiro & Overbay, Youkilis & the Grandyman. That dismal team won 85 games. Let's not kid ourselves: So might this one. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

John: This was a big Yankee win.

 (Then again, every Yankee win is a big Yankee win.)

Let’s talk fixes… (#4 will blow your mind)

We all know that this is a poorly constructed team helmed by a PR guy and run by a GM and owner who are clearly interested in other things. That’s how you end up with no shortstop and three second basemen. That’s how you end up with guys being proposed as back ups in positions they played a couple of times in high school. 

I’m not going to waste anyone’s time with fire Brain or Boone or sell the team because that’s not going to happen. However, there are some things that can and should…

1) Gittens

There is ZERO reason why Boone should ever make a remark like, “Well he has to learn to play the position” about anyone. Right now, Jay Bruce can’t hit or field. Maybe Gittens won’t be able to hit in majors (I think he will BTW) but at a minimum he is an actual 1st baseman. No learning curve. So cut Bruce and add Gittens.

So, this is about the service time clock? If so… fuck you.  Bring him up!

2) Odor

Why is this guy on the team? I don’t care if he goes 5/5 today and hits 3HRs. They sent Wade down? The only guy capable of pinch running in the 10th and scoring from second on a single?  Our actual back up short stop?  I’m not a huge Wade fan like some of you but Wade makes WAY more sense than Odor.  Dump him. 

3) Garcia

They just sent German to the Winchester Mystery House or Guantanamo or wherever these guys go. So, when it’s time to bring up a pitcher again it has to be Garcia.

And  last but not least

4) The Kangaroo

Who is the Kangaroo? It’s not a who, it's a what. It’s the Kangaroo Court. Bring back fines for fucking up.  Error on a catchable ball 25K.  Failure to attempt a bunt at least once when everyone is on one side of the infield? 25K.  Make it hurt. Give the money to charity. Hell, the way they’re playing they could probably build a wing at Montefiore Hospital.

Gardy can be the Judge. I’d let Judge be the Judge, but he seems soft plus I wouldn’t want him to pull something while swinging the gavel.


I'm open to other suggestions even if the front office is not. 


 


As they watch a tired and listless Yankee lineup, John & Suzyn look ready to explode

Midway into yesterday's sad and exhausting loss, John Sterling suddenly latched upon a surgical path forward. 

The Yankees were down 4-0 in the fifth, with Jay Bruce leading off - prompting the Rays' dramatic over-shift, which happens whenever an old school, dead-end, pull hitter comes to bat.

The Master marveled at the open space on the left side of the infield, a veritable pasture, a meadow, a parking lot. Why, if Bruce - cagey veteran that he is - could simply lay one down, he could walk to first, he could literally walk to first. John also noted that, down by four, the Yankees certainly needed a base runner more than a homer. You could feel John's hopes rising - hoping against hope that Bruce could bunt his way to first.

Of course, he didn't. 

Bruce struck out, swinging on a 2-2 pitch. (Reality check: In his 13 year career, he has three sacrifice bunts.) DJ LeMahieu followed suit with a strikeout and, after Aaron Judge singled, Aaron Hicks fanned to christen the inning as a threesome of futility. John didn't mention bunting again. My guess: He won't use the word for a week.

Earlier, he had praised Brett Gardner's double to left, saying it was exactly what the Yankees needed - hitters adapting to the situation, taking a pitch to the opposite field. 

What a concept: Adapting.  

Today, the Death Barge will unveil its latest project, Roughned Odor, who has in his rather dreary career become a poster child for refusal to adapt. Odor is a classic HR/K/W batter - mostly Ks - who was recently jettisoned by Texas because that miserable franchise had simply seen enough of him. 

It's possible that the humiliation of being waived will change Odor, for a week or two, anyway. 

Sometimes, players yearn to prove their old employers wrong, for a week or two, anyway. And in this case, Odor would be basically replacing Bruce, a veteran outfielder who has been forced to play 1B, and who is hitting .111. (10 strikeouts in 27 at bats.)

Every damning assessment of the Yankees must start with this caveat: It's early in the season.

Too early to scream. Too early to throw things. Too early to call for heads to roll.

But it's not too early to wonder... WTF? 

How can a veteran team start a season looking so listless and lifeless? Is there a sparkplug on this roster? Because Mount Sterling is getting ready to blow. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Pre-Recorded Post Game Remarks


 So the game is over, and Aaron Boone shuffles into the " presser" for some post game comments.

I'm not going to watch it, because I already know what is there.  Aaron focused on the positives from the latest shut-out, and loss. 

Here is the gist:

"I thought Aaron moved well and swung the bat well.  He showed no effects of suffering from that damn left side soreness. He just needs to start hitting the ball somewhere there are no fielders..."

"It was good to see Gio back at third, after that Covid-symptom, sneak attack yesterday ( from his first vaccine shot ).  He may have looked a step slow on the pop-up down the line, but that was a long run. 

".... and, did I mention how tough it is to track fly balls and pop-ups in this baseball complex?  I mean take a look at the ceiling.  It is like viewing a series of over-sized cobwebs in a juicer, hanging upside down. Our guys just can't catch 'em."

" The bullpen today pitched great.  We practically shut them out " ( Note to Aaron;  they did ). 

" Domingo was missing his good stuff early, and his velo on that change-up was off.  But he battled and helped save the  bullpen."  

" He is making one mistake each outing with that home run ball. It is fucking demoralizing. Truthfully, as soon as Meadows hit that out, the game was over.  In retrospect, I mean." 

Aaron then makes a private aside ( " I hope he doesn't get too pissed off and start drinking after this shit...." ).  

"We still have a lot of confidence in Domingo."  

" In all of our starters, I mean to say."

As the presser was breaking up, Aaron responded to another throw-away question:  

.".....no, I am not concerned that Gardy is our best hitter. Well aged wines are the best, too, aren't they?"

Judge Not.

From the discombobulated computer - but combobulated mind - of HoraceClarke66. 



 

Aaron Judge missed Wednesday night’s game due to “general soreness.” It was the 150th Yankees game he had missed since joining the club for good in 2018, and on Friday he missed his 151st.

 

That’s 151 games by the very start of what will be his fifth full season with the Yankees, and if Covid had not canceled most of 2020 that total would undoubtedly have been much higher.  He was not ready to go in April of last year, laid up with the usual combination of battered ribs, strained obliques, aching muscles everywhere.

 

This is a great pity, for Aaron Judge is a smart and talented ballplayer when he can play, with a life story that would have led that noxious corporate entity known as MLB to make him the poster boy for all of baseball.

 

That’s highly unlikely to happen, now, as is what once seemed his great good chance of having a career as the next Yankee superstar, complete with his personal cheering section, leading the team to one World Series after another.

 

Judge has been compared unfavorably to Mickey Mantle of late, which is unfortunate, for who compares well with a dead god?  But the salient fact is that Mantle, through his own first five, complete seasons with the Yankees, missed only 58 games. 

 

In other words, Aaron Judge has already missed almost three times as many games in his first five as The Mick, the most famously injured ballplayer in history, brought up in a literal, Superfund toxic waste site, torn by the sprinkler head in the Stadium, ripped asunder by a fence in Baltimore, etc.

 



 

This is not meant as a judgement upon Aaron Judge.  Everybody has their own pain threshold, and their own point where they just can’t play effectively, whether they’re in pain or not.  Obviously, Judge is not going to be the player of our dreams, or America’s dreams, or MLB’s dreams and that’s all right, because he doesn’t owe any of us anything.

 

But his condition does speak, once again, to the sheer blindness and incompetence of the Yankees’ general manager.  Some of us have been saying since 2018 that Brain ought to face the reality of Judge’s physique and trade him while he could still get something worth the trading.

 

He didn’t, because Brian Cashman never does anything anyone advises him to do, even when they’re obviously right.  He never found a training regimen that could keep Judge on the field, and he didn’t trade him, and now he can watch him continue to decline.  And the same can be said for Sanchez, and Torres, and Andujar, and Severino, and who knows how many other players, along with those who have already gone ahead. 

 

Everyone gets hurt, and no one gets better.  That’s the reality of this oh-so-promising New York Yankees team over the last five years, and it’s Brian Cashman’s legacy.  It’s a pity, but such a stupid and needless one.

 

Ten days into the season, Yankee off-season self-congratulations may have come too early

Throughout spring training, several upbeat Yankee narratives emerged.

1. Our wily front office had outsmarted the world by signing potential aces in Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. 

2. The team faced a massive glut of outfield talent.

3. The bullpen, loaded with Olympian gods, remained one of baseball's best.

4. Advanced training techniques - including yoga! - would keep our big hitters healthy.

5. The Rays had weakened themselves in trades, bequeathing the AL East to the Yankees.

6. Gary Sanchez showed a renewed commit-

WE INTERRUPT THIS POST WITH A MESSAGE FROM MY INNER-EARTH BRAIN:

Okay, look... it's too early to start carping. Far too early. You know it. I know it. We all know it. It's too early. Too. Early. I should not get upset. I should not boo or make crude remarks. Sure, posting hurtful comments may feel good, but you'll regret them later. Nothing good comes from grousing on this blog. I will hold my fire. So should everybody. It's... too... early... 

There. I feel better already. In fact, yesterday brought innumerable positives... which, um, I will list. Yes! That's it! Instead of dwelling upon the Big Lie - that the Yankees are the AL team to beat - I will list positives from yesterday. And , OMG, it's a long list. It's an endless list. In fact, before I undertake the task of listing the positives, let me just restate the importance - and the refreshment - of thinking positively about this plucky and talented Yankee squad, especially after a tough loss. 

Not that yesterday was a tough loss. A tough loss is when the bullpen blows a lead or  we lose in 10 because of that phony baserunner rule. The loss to Baltimore, for example. Now, THAT was a tough loss. Yesterday? Nah. That was an easy loss. Down 9-4 in the fifth? Ha-ha! I just turned off the TV and worked on the butter-churner. If the juju gods thought they were bothering me - well, I say, "Ha-ha!" 

See? Thinking upbeat! And listing the positives...  

1. Aaron Hicks, a HR! 

2. Tyler Wade, a hit! 

3. Luis Cessa, scoreless inning! 

4. No errors by Gleyber! 

See? I can do this. WE can do this. It's not the Yankee Big Lie. We are still the team to beat. Soon, we will release the Kraken! Any day now... RETURNING YOU TO REGULAR CONSCIOUSNESS...

... ment to both hitting and behind the plate. He could be comeback player of the year! Ah, the March narratives.  



Calgon Bath Oil Beads... take me away...

Friday, April 9, 2021

 


Aaron Judge is trending on Twitter: Here's the best of it.

 







Is This The Arrow That Slays The Dragon?


 So Cashman sent two deep prospects ( one, now approaching 20 years old ) to acquire Roughened Odor. 

Odor was such a plague to the Rangers that they paid for everything to get rid of him. 

 " He is the worst player in major league baseball..."  cited one of his followers.  They  ( the Rangers ) bought his contract, his plane ticket, and an Uber car to get him out of town.

The guy can't hit and he can't field.  He makes Torres' glove look like Ozzie Smith.

"Odor is a bad seed and he stinks at everything.  There will be fights in the clubhouse within a week," stated yet another admirer. 

It is a panic move made by Cashman to fill a need Cashman created. 

Basically, Cashman went out and found a guy lying in the garbage, in an alley, dead drunk at 7:15 am, and suited him up.

"The price is right, " said Brian.  "And maybe we can rehabilitate that potential he once had...or people thought he had.  I mean, just putting on the pinstripes is like six years at Lourdes, right?"

Seriously, folks, this guy is named Odor for a reason.  It is not Odour or O'Door.  It is men's room at a bus station stink.  This is one guy who lives up to his name. 

I won't wear my Yankee hat because everyone knows we now traded for the worst player in the game, and are making up alibis to justify it. 

They should just put a wavy line on the back of his uniform, not a number. 

He should move in with Hal and his family for a while. Let them smell the work of their GM.

Holy shit !


Who Is the Real Viking Legend?

 From the mind of HoraceClarke66, whose computer is the Zolio Almonte of laptops...

Enough with all this nonsense about voting on what is the greatest Yankees (and therefore, baseball) team ever!  

Time to vote on who is the real Viking hero of the sagas, Ragnar Lothbrok, or Lodbrok, or something that means (I'm not making this up) "Ragnar Shaggy Breeches."  (He sacked Paris!  Baltimore will be a piece of cake!)

You be the judge!  Is our winner:

Ragnar Lodbrok, from the movie Vikings:

 

Ragnar Lothbrok, from the TV version of Vikings:

 

Rougned Odor, from the Texas Rangers? New York Yankees.

 

Vote early and often!

 

The All-Time Yankees Tournament Semifinals: 1932 vs. 1951

Ah yes, down to the Final Four. And it wouldn't be March/April Madness without an upset or two, which brings us to our first semifinal: The 1932 Yankees (who upset the 1927 team) vs. the 1951 Yankees. 

Ruth and Gehrig vs. DiMaggio and Mantle.

Click below to see the results:

Recent reports on Aaron Judge elevate Yankee threat levels


Here's the fossil record, originally noted by Mike Axisa on "RAB Thoughts" on Patreon. (Subscribe, dammit.)

Last three games of spring training: Judge sits out for unknown reasons. Later, it's suggested that he had Covid symptoms but tested negative. Threat Level: Green.

Monday: Judge leaves blowout in late innings to get a rest. Threat Level: Green.

Tuesday: Boone says Judge is dealing with "nothing specific." Threat Level: Yellow.

Wednesday: Judge pulled from lineup due to "general left-side soreness." He is said to be available to pinch hit, but doesn't. Threat Level: Orange.

Thursday: Off-day. Radio silence. Threat Level: Orange.

Tonight... ? Judge might miss weekend against Rays. RED?



For now, the Yanks have no SS but Gleyber, and why we should shudder over the fate of James Paxton

With the next nine games vs the Rays and Jays - as close to a season-defining week as you'll get in April - the Death Barge has no choice but to, as Old Rummy once said, go with the army you have. 

That means Gleyber Torres at SS, without hesitation or reservation. Damn the errors. Damn the bounced throws. Write him into the lineup, and don't look back. 

We have no Plan B.

Listen: Gleyber is a generational star, the most critical Yankee, a player who could lead this team for a decade. To toggle him around the infield - smack dab in the Gotham pressure cooker - could wreck his confidence and ruin his psyche. We can lament management's decision to ditch Sir Didi and put Gleyber in the Jeter slot - it was more about Hal saving money than winning - but that's history. What's done is done. For now, the Yankees must double-down and give Gleyber all the support they can.

That means moving Jay Bruce from first base. 

Sorry, Jay. It's not you. But we're kidding ourselves to think a 34-year-old, last-chance OF/DH can take over 1B, especially when a Gold Glove replacement stands 40 feet away. 

DJ Lemahieu should play first, and Rougned Odor - the oft-maligned, strikeout machine/castoff from Texas - should get a chance to resurrect his thread-dangling career at 2B. As a batter, Odor is basically another Jay Bruce. But his defense will be an improvement. 

And Gleyber must play SS. Were we to punt on Torres - (our options being Tyler Wade and the waiver wire) - it would not only undermine his confidence but create a logjam when Luke Voit returns. 

It's weird to write this, but the next nine games could have an actual impact on the entirety of 2021. If the Yankees dominate - or get manhandled - it would affect the trajectory of the season. Either way, we must stand by the most important Yankee. And that is Gleyber. 

On a secondary note...

Don't lie: Didn't we all smirk yesterday when stinking Seattle announced James Paxton will undergo Tommy John surgery? (Never forgiving them for Joginson Cano.) But swallow the grins, everybody, because Paxton is Exhibit A for why we should fear what's to come.

The line on Big Maple is an old one: The potential Hall of Fame career derailed by ligaments and tendons, things that should only be mentioned in 5th grade biology. Paxton is the classic soldier who seems to get hurt blowing his nose. For some reason - DNA or the juju gods - he goes from tweak to tweak. It's not that he's a malingerer. It's not his fault. But this injury might well furnish the epilogue on Paxton: 

Coulda been great, but for the tweaks.

Well, the Yankees have a staff of Paxtons - Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Luis Severino, to name a few. Jordan Montgomery has yet to pitch a full year, following TJ surgery. Jonathan Loaisiga has had his share. And let's not even mention the china dolls  who bat second, third and fourth.

That's the thing about oft-injured players. Some - maybe most - never change. Hide your smirks, folks. She's a long, long season, full of dark surprises.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Once A Year...

 ...I sing this song.



The name of the song is " You Win With Strength Up The Middle."

It is the oldest, and truest, baseball maxim there is.  And it is always correct.  Want a quick, empirical check? 

 Look at the Dodgers roster that won the world series last year.  

Here is how the maxim goes:

1.  You have to have a great catcher.  The kind of player we all once though Gary Sanchez was.  A reliable hitter, with power, and top defensive skills. A catcher who allows pitchers to throw their best breaking stuff in the most clutch moments (e.g. breaking balls in the dirt ), and guns runners out who dare to steal. 

2.  Terrific pitching.  Starters and bullpen. And a closer who is dependable all the time. 

3.  A gold glove shortstop who can hit ( usually for average, rather than power ). He puts the ball in play, and you want him at bat when you've got to advance or score a runner.  He is a smart, resourceful, unpredictable baseball player. On defense, this guy turns hits into outs due to his range and arm strength. He makes the catcher look good on throws to second with acrobatic catches, when needed. 

4.  A centerfielder with a gold glove and exceptional speed. Patrols 40-45% of the outfield and is known for spectacular catches.  His work is dis-spiriting to the other side.   And, this is a guy who hits for both average and power.  Anyone remember Micky Mantle?  Or Mookie Betts last year on the Dodgers?  It is not usually a guy whose best offensive asset is earning a walk.  You don't bat him third to do that. 

So, how do you rate the 2021 Yankee team on these measures?

And, having done that, can you realistically think anything other than getting into the wild card game, and then getting incredibly lucky to extend the season?

The Plan! The Plan!

 From the amazing HoraceClark66, (who needs a new laptop.)


On the play that lost our first battle for first place last night, I agree with everybody:

 

Yes, any ordinary first baseman—even Mike Ford!—woulda shoulda coulda had it.

 

And yes, on The Gleyber’s throw…WTF???

 

Well, anyone can have a bad game, especially in April. But yes, we should be alarmed that Gleyber, El Conquistador, has yet to drive in a run on the season, even after three games against his personal whipping boys, the Birds of Baltimore.

 

Thus far, he has looked exactly like he did through last year’s sad rump of a regular season: shaky in the field, and inexplicably bad at the plate.

 

Sure, sure give him time. But the trouble is, The Gleyber was “The Plan.”

 

Even Judge’s awesome 2017—how long ago that seems now!—came out of nowhere. The New Yankees Dynasty was going to be built around The Gleyber, the player even the Evil Genius Epstein admitted publicly that he hated to give up, a blood sacrifice necessary to finally get the Cubbies a trophy.

 

The Gleyber was going to be the shortstop of the future, in the shiny new Century of the Shortstop. He was going to make Derek Jeter look like some clanky old, retro Model T—an added bonus for Brain Cashman—with his phenomenal hitting and fielding.

 

Instead…in an MLB full of superstar shortstops, here we are looking at yet another mysterious Yankee flame-out, gone into a ditch on Sanchez Row right next to those other gorgeous, malfunctioning models:  the classic Judge, the Miggy, the, well, Ford.

 

What gives? I’d say, at this rate, pretty soon The Gleyber’s confidence, along with what’s left of his ability, though I hope not. 

 

Never forget, though, the mantra of the Brain’s would-be dynasty: Everybody gets hurt, no one gets better.

40 years ago: Bobby Murcer hits a pinch-hit grand slam on Yankees' Opening Day

(Correction: I really am old ... I got the dates mixed up. It was April 9, 1981, not April 8.)

------

I was at the game - left field, lower deck - and when Murcer was sent up with the bases loaded,  I was praying he'd hit one out. 

As soon as ball met bat, I yelled "He did it!!" My older brother next to me said, "Maybe not ..." thinking it might die out and fall short, but I knew. 

I was 15 and Bobby Murcer was my baseball hero. I was certain that the baseball gods wouldn't be so cruel to tease me like that.

I've learned, in the four decades since, exactly how cruel those juju gods can be, but that day, at least, they weren't.

40 years. Damn, I'm old.

If Judge Is Hurt... the poem



If Judge is hurt, 
Please forgive this ditty...
If Judge is hurt,
This won't be pretty.

If Judge is hurt,
He deserves our pity.
If Judge is hurt,
He needs a new city.

A night filled with dark omens casts an early shadow over the 2021 Yankees

Last night was a trap, a mirage: We entered on a roll, unveiling a stud winter acquisition, and our dearest friends - the jolly-good Orioles of Baltimore - would surely accommodate us. They are wonderful guests. 

Still, it began with one Yank in the jacuzzi and ended with another face-down in the dirt. A night of bad omens, with the juju gods working overtime. Consider...

1. Gleyber Torres threw a game away - literally. One out from a scoreless 10th, Gleyber botched a Little League throw to first. Yeesh. It was a play he simply has to make. By night's end, YES was airing a highlight reel of his errors from the first five games. Dare I wonder: Is this becoming a Knoblauch thing? The '21 Yankees were balanced on Gleyber at SS. If he can't play it - increasingly a concern - it forces a domino-drop of roster moves, all of which begin with finding someone who can. The lineup with Gleyber at 2B is like a Picasso painting, the nose and eyes out of place. Be afraid.

2. In the ninth, down by a run, Gary Sanchez - is there such a thing as an omen-free night from Gary? - smacked a clutch line drive double to left, except for a problem: He stopped at first. Actually, he had no choice. Halfway down the baseline, Gary stopped running so he could better watch the ball. It soared past the LF's glove and bounced off the wall, and Gary had no chance to take second. The result: a runner on first, as opposed to one in scoring position... because he didn't run hard. 

The game was on the line. If a guy doesn't hustle in that situation, will he ever? Great Yankee teams were built around firebrand catchers - Yogi, Elston, Thurman, Jorge, even Girardi - who led by example. That's not Gary. It never will be. Last night, Sanchez was bailed out by an epic romp by Mike Tauchman - scoring from first on a ball that didn't even get past the LF. If Tauchy were out at home, the Yankiverse would be on fire today, seething about Gary's failure to run.  

3. Gleyber's botched throw might have been snared by an expert first-baseman. Instead, we saw an awkward lunge by OF/DH Jay Bruce (who otherwise did not play poorly) as the ball skidded by. Gleyber might have one chance at SS - a gold glove-level 1B who snares his bad throws. That's not Bruce. (It might not even be Luke Voit.)

4. Okay, no more burying the lead: Aaron Judge watched. He suffered "side soreness." WTF does that mean? I do not think Judge is a wuss or bad actor. He is a big lug with with big muscles that snap like matchsticks and heal in geologic time. It we hear today that he'll miss six weeks, will anybody be surprised? And if it's Giancarlo tomorrow, would eyebrows even raise? This we do know: The Yankees will not feel compelled to disclose the truth about an injury, if they sense any advantage to keeping it quiet. So whatever they say about it being minor... their words mean nothing. 

5. Clint Frazier is in a funk. In five sad at bats last night, he gave the O's infield practice. We all have high hopes for Clint. But now and then, you blink and see another Billy McKinney, another Zolio Almonte - another young Yankee whose great potential might be obscured by a flaw that we never noticed, but is now on every opponent's chalk board. 

Until Frazier is a proven hitter, he is not. 

This weekend, we start a nine-game set between Tampa and Toronto. Although there is no such thing as a "must" series in April, last night's omens will not disappear on their own. Thus far, the 2021 Yankees have just not looked all that good.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

How Is This Year Like All the Other Years?

 (From HoraceClarke66.)

Sigh. And I thought that over/under of 6 was really in jeopardy. Oh, well...

Hmmmm....


 Did y'all watch the game yesterday?

Remember the prodigious swing that Aaron Judge took in lofting his 110 exit velocity home run?

Well....he be a late scratch from today's line-up.

He be sittin......

What's that muscle that rips when you swing a piece of lumber too hard? 

Keep a watch out....

Just sayin..

The Yankees say, " it's nothin....it be precautionary....."

I'm gonna honk on that. 

Who is Rougned Odor and why is he a Yankee? Is Cashman facing an existential crisis?

The answers, my dear Watsons, are simple...

1. This is a Tinker Year for Brian Cashman. He'll tinker the rotation, tinker the roster, tinker the media - (hopefully not the interns) - and toggle this team like its the Hadron Collider. Cashman and his algorithms have taken control. Clearly, he suspects that 12 years without a World Series - coupled with the rising Mets - will stain his Yankee legacy. Thus, regardless of how microscopic the change, if his projections show but one molecule of improvement, he will do a deal.

2. It's about defense. Rougned Odor plays a certifiably bad 2B, but he's still better there than Jay Bruce is at first. The intangible is DJ LeMahieu, who plays anywhere with the footwork of Gene Kelly. Bruce can't go a full month at 1B, where despite his lefty bat, he also has two left feet. At this stage of his career, he's a DH/RF, and his defensive shortcomings undermine Gleyber Torres' shot at SS. I believe Bruce might lose his spot. Ironically, last night, he both homered and threw a runner out at home. He surely realizes the threat of Odor.

3. It's about age. Though Odor seems to have been around since Watergate, he is only 27, a year older than Clint Frazier, a year younger than Jordan Montgomery. He is the consummate former super-prospect who flamed out and fizzled, probably because he read too many news clippings. In 2019, he led the AL in strikeouts. Ponder that. Despite great speed, he's caught stealing almost half the time. And though it's hard to assess the root cause of  a brawl, Odor has been in a few too many. Clearly, Texas wanted him gone. But the Yankees have some solid - and very, very large - team leaders. If discipline is an issue for Odor, perhaps being waived will knock some sense into him. Sometimes, it takes just that.

4. It's about money. Texas will pay the freight on this guy - $27 million over the next two years. Like I said above, they wanted him GONE. They cut him, waived him, DFA'ed him, and what did they get in return? Two low-level minor leaguers who - like everybody else - missed all of 2020. It's impossible to assess the price, but it sure doesn't seem high.

5. It's about Luke Voit. Our favorite middle linebacker should return from knee surgery by mid-May. But by then - we all know this: injuries will have happened, Stanton will be in the jacuzzi - and maybe Luke can play DH. Odor will give the Yankees some breathing room, in case Luke is struggling. (One thing we've learned about Voit: He'll play in pain, though he won't necessarily be as productive as he should.)

6. Cashman just blinked. He hopes nobody saw, but everybody did. This winter, the Yankees ignored their the lack of LH bats. They claimed Aaron Hicks, batting third, would be the answer. Well, Hicks hasn't looked like the lefty deterrent. Last night, Brett Gardner - with one hit - equaled Hicks' production over four games. Of course, it's too early to give up on Hicksy, one of baseball's greatest golfers. But Mars needs women and the Yankees need lefties. Odor is just the beginning. He won't be the last retread we see this year. 

7. We get to see what Odor looks like without the beard. (Major improvement, out of the blocks.) 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Bases loaded, Hicks steps up to the plate...

and I think, "Perfect situation for him. Maybe he'll draw a walk." 

OK, yesterday it worked out, but I can't get used to the idea that my expectation was so low. 

It's absurd.  

Can you imagine...

My Grandfather in 1927 (Translated from the original Hungarian): "Oh good the Babe is up. Perfect situation for him. Maybe he'll draw a walk."

My Father in 1961 "Oh good Maris is up. Perfect situation for him. Maybe he'll draw a walk."

Me in 1976:  "Oh good Munson is up. Perfect situation for him. Maybe he'll draw a walk."

Me in 1985:  "Oh good, Mattingly is up. Perfect situation for him. Maybe he'll draw a walk."

Me in 1998:  "Oh good Bernie is up. Perfect situation for him. Maybe he'll draw a walk."

--- 

Here's an easy suggestion.  Bat Frazier 3rd.  "Oh good Frazier is up. Perfect situation for him. He'll probably lash a bases clearing double or, at a minimum, hit a long fly ball and get a run in."

There, that sounds better. 

How Monty did it






 

Is Monty the Second Coming of Andy?

Last night, Jordan Montgomery threw six brilliant shutout innings. It means that... (choose one) 

1. At least for now, he's our Secret No. 2 starter. Corey Kluber will still steal the headlines, but Monty will be the one we count on to restore order through the four-game abyss when Gerrit Cole is not pitching.

2. At last, the Yankee farm system may have birthed a lefty starter. Since Andy Pettitte arrived in 1995, the Yankees have touted a steady stream of duds and near misses - from Brien Taylor to Manny Banuelos, from Eric Milton to Ed Yarnall, from Ian Clarkin to Randy "Snakebite" Keisler. I won't relive the list, which is enough to freeze the ice cream sandwiches in Jesus Montero's eternal cabbage basket. But in the name of Ian Kennedy - (whom we traded) - we may finally have raised another Andy. All hail the Yankee Farm System... two lefty studs in 25 years? 

3. Baltimore was in town.

Hard to say, but Monty's 4-hit outing over the PREVIOUSLY UNDEFEATED AND UNTIED Orioles masked some good and  bad omens. For example:

Good Omen: Aaron Judge's HR went to the opposite field. When he's hitting, they go everywhere.

Bad omen: Gary Sanchez made his third error in four games. He dropped a pop foul. WTF?

Good omen: Luis Cessa pitched two shutout innings. Who thought that Cessa/King could be the new Ramiro Mendoza/Mike Stanton?) 

Bad omen: Gary Sanchez fanned three out of four times. WTF? I'm starting to wonder if this is his "Fat Elvis" phase?

Good omen: Giancarlo Stanton's massive grand slam. 

Qualifier omen: It came after Baltimore's pitcher issued a bases-loaded walk to Aaron Hicks. Frankly, after a pitcher issues a bases-loaded walk, he should be removed. But this was Baltimore. 

And hey, a win is a win is a win. Tonight, maybe Kyle Higashioka can catch, igniting rumors that he's Gerrit Cole's secret personal bodyguard. I say, bring them on. If Higgy doesn't make an error, or strike out three times, he'll look like Johnny Bench. 

And Monty looks like Andy. 

 


Monday, April 5, 2021

Management Test


Here is a proposition.

Have 8 oz. of Gentleman Jack with your breakfast, and ponder this decision:

1.  You own the Yankees.

2.  Your name is Hal

3.  You are an asshole

4.  Giancarlo's agent asks for a meeting with you.

5.  Behind closed doors, said agent proposes that his "client" will retire tomorrow morning, citing the need, " to pursue other interests ."

6. Just write a check for $100 million.

Raise your hand if you would do it. 

Toronto just sent the Yankees a message, and it should worry us

Let's start with the obvious: 

Aside from injuries and joyful visits from topless dancers, nothing of consequence happens in the first weekend of a season. 

If someone told you Michael King would throw six shutout innings, that Gary Sanchez would belt two HRs and that nobody would splatter like Lady Diana into an outfield wall - (too soon?) - admit it: You've have pricked your thumb and signed Mephistopheles' parchment. After three games, our bullpen remains intact. We even scored most of our runs (five out of eight) via small ball. Why would we worry?

Expect a long, hellacious season, made even longer because of last year's 60-game sprint. Between now and October, our lineup will turn over countless times, and all expectations will be chewed up and spat out. Baltimore is 3-0. (Last year, the O's swept us in Games 4 and 5.) Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack. That's China Town, Jake. You can't predict baseball, Suzyn.

I can't even believe I'm bothering to write this: That's how obvious it is. Aside from speeches and bird shit, nothing of consequence rains upon the opening weekend. Take the loaded Luger out of your mouth. Put down the Draino. As long as nobody is clutching his elbow, we have 158 games to erase the 2-game lead Baltimore has amassed. I mean, WHY AM I EVEN SAYING THIS? MY MAIN LOBE, THE PART OF THE BRAIN THAT KNOWS THESE THINGS, THAT ACCEPTS REALITY AND UNDERSTANDS THE RIDICULOUSLNESS OF DRAWING CONCLUSIONS FROM THE FIRST WEEKEND OF A SEASON, IT'S ON FIRE WITH THE KNOWLEDGE THAT IT'S PREPOSTEROUS, IT'S INSANE, IT'S A WASTE OF MY TIME AND YOUR TIME, AND EVERYBODY'S TIME, TO WORRY ABOUT THE 2021 SEASON. AND I ABSOLUTELY REFUSE TO BE INVOLVED WITH ANYTHING OF LESS CONSEQUENCE THAN DRAWING CONCLUSIONS FROM THE FIRST GAMES OF A YEAR. WHY, THAT WOULD BE PATENTLY ABSURD!

That said, I have some thoughts...

In fact, you'd have to blind to miss them.

1. Until further notice, Toronto is the class of the AL East. They put us down so easily that, for the first time in 40 years, I recalled Nature Boy Buddy Rogers with his Sleeper Hold. They scored runners. We stranded them. Their lineup offers at least five emerging stars - players who have yet to peak professionally. We might have two (Gleyber and Frazier.) We must stop kidding ourselves about the Yankees being the power team of the AL. That's YES propaganda. (And after a weekend of Coney and O'Neill, it's clear that YES is evolving from the Yankee Fox News into the Yankee OAN.)  

2. Though there's no need to make changes now, the brain trust must start pondering a post-Aaron Hicks era. If by May 1 he isn't hitting, they must move him out of the third hole. If by June 1, they must replace him. The problem is our distressful lack of lefty bats, which could force a set of horrible trades by Aug. 1. How does a Yankee team - in the House that Ruth Built - evolve into an almost entirely RH batting order? Right now, we're leaning on Jay Bruce and Brett Gardner to balance an entire lineup. That's a glaring weakness. 

3. Okay, rabbit hole  time: I cannot help but wonder if there is more to Giancarlo Stanton being rested after just two games in three days? Sadly, with injuries, we've been programmed over the years to expect the worst. Whenever a pitcher gets walloped, it turns out he was throwing in pain. And when a player sits out, there's usually an ache involved. I get it that Aaron Boone wanted Gardy to get into a game. But Stanton is an absolute central cog to the 2021 Yankees. He's so important that they didn't play him for one pitch in the outfield this spring. So he sits out the third game? WTF?