Monday, October 3, 2022

Game 159: You want to know what I think? I think he hits it tonight. That's what I think. Tonight.




 

Reasons to be Cheerful!

 

With apologies to Ian Dury and the Blockheads...

Believe it or not, there ARE reasons to be cheerful about the weekend just passed.

One is that the Yankees are hitting the road, so that we can at least see someplace on our television set that is not unseasonably cold, dreary, and wet. And who knows—maybe the Rangers pitching staff consists of hardy fellows quite willing to challenge themselves and our resident behemoth. 

Well, we can dream, can't we?

But elsewhere, some good things were happening for Yankees fans.


Some people might say this was one of them—the Mets' ignominious sweep down in Atlanta, despite the fact that they pitched their vaunted aces in two of the three games.

I could not possibly be so unkind. Sure, it does increase the chances that, in the event of a Subway Series, we could conceivably get home field advantage against the Flushing Juggernaut. 

But you know, I know, and the American people know that when it comes to the 2022 World Series, your New York Yankees are not going to be there. The Mets...might, their two stud hoss starters and effective closer—remember those nice things?—giving them a puncher's chance. 

If they make it to the Fall Classic, I will be rooting for them unashamedly.

Much more likely to be there from the National League, though, are the hated Dodgers. But at least, over the weekend, the Bums managed to suffer their 49th loss of the season. 

A small thing, I hear you say. Yes, but it means that The Flock (as they used to be called in Brooklyn days) cannot possibly win more than 113 regular-season games or, therefore, more than 124 total games on the season, and therefore cannot tie or break the 1998 Yankees' all-time, single-season record of 125 wins.

Phew! I know you are as relieved as I am.  Still, it pains me to acknowledge that the Dodgers seem to be the team of the future as well as the now, bidding fair to build a Yankees-style dynasty. 

Let's just hope that prospect doesn't lure away you-know-who.

In the meantime...cheer up!

Twilight for El Chapo: The comeback isn't coming

Of course, you know by now that Aroldis Chapman couldn't hold the Orioles yesterday, filling the bases and walking in the eventual winning run. His meltdown was so perfect, so precise, so Chapmanesque, that once he fell into his personal Abyss, you couldn't imagine him ever climbing out. You know how they say bad movies go straight to home video? Chapman's pitches go straight to the backstop.  

But this is old news. For five years, Chapman has been working on The Secondary Pitch - his "wipeout slider" that would save him in old age, when his fastball turned ordinary. The slider never slid. In recent years, he's been a roller coaster ride, intermittently dominating or horrible - and terrifying to Yankee fans. 

When Chapman comes in, no lead is safe.  

For me, the Chapman Era began to unravel on the night of Aug. 13, 2017, in Yankee Stadium, against the first-place Redsocks. The Yankees led 2-1 in the ninth, a game they desperately needed. They brought in Chapman, who quickly fanned Hanley Ramirez. Next up, a 20-year-old 3B they were touting: Rafael Devers.

It didn't seem fair, subjecting the LH rookie to LH Chapman's 102 mph fastball. He quickly fell behind, 1-and-2. Then, kaboom - a HR to left-center - leaving El Chapo gulping, sweating, staring, dumbfounded - a look we would see many times over the years. Boston won the game in 10 innings. They later won the world series. 

Chapman has gone through good and bad stretches, but his mystique was never the same. He once terrified opposing batters. Now, he terrifies Yankee fans. 

Now this. Yesterday, he couldn't throw strikes. At any time, he is capable of flying off the Yellow Brick Road. It doesn't matter if he strikes out the first two batters on six pitches. The next six might go straight to home video. 

No way the Yankees can bring him into a postseason game. No fucking way. 

Right? Please, tell me I'm right. Please, please, please... TELL ME THERE IS NO WAY THE YANKEES WOULD PUT HIM ON THEIR POSTSEASON ROSTER.

The Aroldis Chapman era is over. 

Next year, he'll be 35. Surely, some team will give him a shot. I wish him luck. But everything ends. And this is long overdue.  

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Game 158: Into each life




Down to the wire: Judge v... Luis Arraez?

 The last race that doesn't involve a memory, and it's down to two. 


Saturday, October 1, 2022

Game 157: They run and hide their heads

News bulletin! News bulletin! Britton to 60-day IL. “Left shoulder fatigue.” 



World's Biggest Pussy Comes to New York

 

Fan Torture 2022 continued last night, as the Baltimore Orioles did everything they could to avoid letting the one and only thing that the 47,583 fans at Yankee Stadium see what they had come to see.

That was, Aaron Judge at least get to try for his record-breaking, 62nd home run of the season. 

No could do! Instead, we got to see such high entertainment as Orioles reliever Felix Bautista pretending to have a serious leg injury, rather than pitch to Judge in the bottom of the eighth inning.

First, before he could even throw a pitch to the Big Guy, Bautista—himself a large man—had to consult with most of the Orioles braintrust. Then, after throwing two balls that barely sniffed the plate, he seemed to go into conniptions.

Once again, out came most of the Baltimore Orioles, past and present. I think Cal Ripken, Jr., was there. Also Cal Ripken, Sr., and maybe Billy Ripken, as well. Players, coaches, trainers, make-up artists. 

At one point it looked as if the entire General Assembly of the UN was milling around the mound at Yankee Stadium.

All to watch Mr. Bautista throw a few warm-up pitches, and then finally, finally indicate that he might be able to continue. 

But even after this naked effort to freeze Judge, Felix the Wonderful Wonderful PussyCat could not screw his courage to the sticking place. He tossed one more ball, far outside, to Judge, before waving him to first on an intentional walk.

Then, Bautista's leg cramp, or intestinal fortitude cramp or whatever was wrong with the Big Feline miraculously healed, and he was able to fan Rizzo on three pitches, and retire Gleyber Torres. (Something that bodes oh-so-well for our postseason hopes.)

Up in the booth, Michael Kay was reminded of Armando Benitez,  the Mets' and Orioles' (and yes, briefly our) all-time choker, and his 2000 World Series at-bat against Paul O'Neill. This was hugely unfair—to Armando Benitez. Abysmal as Armando was in any clutch situation, he at least possessed the gonads to pitch to a batter without faking a spasm.

I know, I know: the excuse for all this folderol was that Orioles were STILL, technically, in the Wild Card race, and so every game counts! If the Birds somehow won their every remaining game and Seattle somehow lost its every remaining game, Baltimore might still have sneaked in.

But nobody believed this could possibly happen, including the Orioles. For the ninth, they did not trot out their closer, Jorge Lopez, with his 1.68 ERA, or even old friend Dillon Tate, who has pitched well out of the pen this year.

Nope. Instead it was rookie D.L. Hall, making the 10th major-league appearance of his career. Battling desperately for the playoffs, my ass.

Once again: Fan Torture, the preferred service offering of MLB. On a cold, fall night, the near-capacity crowd got to stand around and see exactly nothing, in a game so sleepy that using the word "perfunctory" to describe it would have been a crazy overstatement.

And...that may well have been it. 

After the Yanks played a Sunday night game last weekend—a contest that cost Judge at least one at-bat—the team is back to weekend baseball as usual today and tomorrow, with a pair of afternoon games...right in the slot when the detritus from assorted hurricanes is most likely to rain them both out.

Impossible, of course, that the Yanks could move these otherwise meaningless games to later in the day.  And with them will go any chance of Judge breaking the record at home—or perhaps breaking it at all.  

BUT...not before, no doubt, those fans who have bought tickets at extortionate prices are forced to trek up to the Bronx and spend a couple hours, at least, out in the cold and the rain, filling themselves with the Yankees vaunted gustatory offerings. 

Yesterday's "game" put the Yanks over 3 million in attendance for the 22nd time—or every year starting with 1999, save for the Covid year and the Covid Hangover year.  Something makes me think they won't get close to that mark next season.












 

Closer for postseason? How about Tailion or German?

You can't predict baseball, Susyn. Unfortunately, you can't gaslight it, either. 

On or around Oct. 11, a Yankee starter - probably Gerrit Cole - will finish his outing after his usual six innings, having surrendered his usual two or three HRs. At that point, chess master Aaron Boone will turn to a well-rested bullpen - nobody having pitched in a week - according to his Circle of Trust Rankings of Effectiveness. 

As of now, we cannot imagine how that Olympian depth chart will look. But this we do know: Scratch out the name Zack Britton - out with a dead arm due to yearoff-itis. And put a hold on Clay Holmes, who the Yankee say has minor shoulder pain. (Note: I have minor shoulder pain. It comes and goes. Doesn't limit my drinking. I simply adjust. However, for an MLB pitcher, there is no such thing as "minor shoulder pain.")

The loss of Britton is no shock. Not even a gut punch. Frankly, his was a noble quest - just pitching in September. Nobody, aside from Britton and his therapist, thought he would make it for the postseason. In a way, he did. He pitched in three regular season games. Nice try! Maybe next year!

But Holmes is a different beast. For a month now, the YES men have assured us that his sinker is back, that his stuff is filthy, that he'll soon reclaim the intensity of last May, when he was baseball's best closer. Trouble is, it just ain't so. In the first half of 2022, Holmes' ERA stood at 1.31. Incredible. In the second half, it's 4.84. Disturbing.  He was pulverized in July and August - ERAs around 7.00 - and he struggled through September at 3.55 - catastrophic for a closer. Now, this. "Minor shoulder pain." Ugh.

The Yankees have no closer. All the talk about jettisoning Aroldis Chapman before the playoffs? Ha. He's back in the mix. That's how bad it is. 

Here's our bullpen, right now.

Loaisiga
Effross
Luetge
Marinacci
Schmidt
Trivino
Chapman

Look... this is not a world series bullpen. These are not the Nasty Boys. Everybody knows it. There is no reason why Boone should keep five starters for a best-of-five series. That means Domingo German or Jameson Tailion - or both - go to the bullpen. One will be the long man, who comes in to pitch four innings. (Along with maybe Clarke Schmidt.) The other will be - what? - do we need a second long man?

Nope. Between now and whenever, the Yankees must move the back end of their rotation into short relief. It might even involve closing. 

The Yankees say Clay Holmes should be back by Oct. 11. That's what they always say. You cannot believe bullshit, Suzyn.   

Friday, September 30, 2022

Game 156: DJ returns; Germán pitches; history recedes

 

Who are these guys? 






Judge Needs One More HR to Pass The Greatest Yankee Of All Time!

Forget the Maris thing...

Aaron Judge needs one more home run to pass, perhaps the greatest Yankee of them all...

Joe Pepitone! 

They are both tied at 309th all-time. Can Judge do it? Will we have to wait until next year? 

Why is this not a national obsession? 


The next meaningful game is Oct. 11. In the meantime, who's in left?

Thanks to the owners, who cut their lockout losses by adding an extra round of playoffs, the Yankees will play their next meaningful game Oct. 11. 

They'll host the winner of the Cleveland-v-Whomever (BJs, Rays, or Mariners) series. That gives us nearly two weeks of Netflix, hateful political ads and exhibition games - without the expanded rosters of past Septembers, which gave our only glimpses of Andrew Brackman and Tolia Soliata. 

Aside from letting Aaron Judge swing away, what should the Yankees do over the next 11 days? One key matter: Settle the question of left field. 

Who's in left? Oswaldo Cabrera or Aaron Hicks? 

Okay, I know this is blaspheme, considering Hicksy's horrible, terrible, rotten, no-good season. But but but... over the last few weeks, he's heated up.

Last 28 Days:
Hicks: .254 with 2 HRs and 7 RBIs.
Cabrera: .247 with 4 HRs and 15 RBIs.

Extra weird: Both are switch-hitters. 

Throughout his career, Hicks has always hit better from the right side. (.248 vs .225 from the left, though his OBP is practically the same.)

Over the 2022 season, batting RH:
Hicks: .250 with 2 HRs and 13 RBIs.
Cabrera: .320 with 0 HRs and 2 RBIs. (But only 28 ABs)

Over the 2022 season, batting LH: 
Hicks: .215 with 6 HRs and 27 RBIs.
Cabrera: .224 with 4 HRs and 15 RBIs.

It's almost a draw. But you could argue that Hicks should hit against lefties, and Oswaldo against righties.  

You might think this matter is easy: Whomever is hot should get the nod. Unfortunately, hot and cold won't be a factor. The Yankees will sit idle for an entire week - after these final meaningless games - while the wild card teams play their fingers to the nubs. 

We will be tanned, rested and serviced, but will they be meaner and blueball hornier - and thus, more dangerous?

Is Hicks, the veteran, more likely to stay dialed-in over a week of lying fallow? Or is Cabrera, the guileful rookie, more likely to stay hot? 

Or should they share the role?

Note: This assumes that a) Andrew Benintendi cannot return, b) Giancarlo Stanton is done playing the OF, and c) Matt Carpenter - a longshot anyway - would only be available as a DH, which renders him useless. The Yankee outfield would be Judge, Bader, Hicks, Cabrera and maybe Locastro. 

So, in left... it's Hicks or Oswaldo. Or both?  

Thursday, September 29, 2022

ZacharyA: "Just gotta enjoy it..."

(From commenter ZacharyA:)


 Aaron Judge AL Ranks

.313 BA (1st)
.425 OBP (1st)
.696 SLG (1st)
1.121 OPS (1st)
213 OPS+ (1st)
61 HR (1st)
89 XBH (1st)
130 RBI (1st)
130 R (1st)
106 BB (1st)
384 total bases (1st)
168 runs created (1st)
11.0 WAR (1st)
7.58 WPA (1st)

Just gotta enjoy it. Because we're probably never going to see a season like this again.

Could The Yankees Become the Worst 100 Win Team In History... And Other Ponderings

Could The Yankees Become the Worst 100 Win Team In History? 

They have 96 wins with seven games left. The last four against a Ranger team that looks like it checked out in Spring Training.  It’s nothing short of stunning that a team that we all consider to be deeply flawed, and I mean DEEPLY flawed is in this position. 

Yes, they were amazing in the first half, but I don’t even think of them as being that good much less a hundred-win team. We all believe their trip to the post season will be short lived. One Hundred Wins. It boggles the mind.

 

We Still Need to Win Games

I know that the Yankees will be using this time to heal and set their rotation and bullpen etc. but we are two games behind the Mets and the Braves. Should, by some miracle, the Yankees make it to the World Series, and should the Dodgers get knocked off… the Yankees are playing for home field advantage.

We are set to play the winner of Seattle/Cleveland. That means the Blue Jays or Tampa goes against Houston. Maybe we can’t beat the Astros, but they can. And we can beat them.  However…

Don’t Sleep On Cleveland

The Guardians look good. Sleeper good. Plus, Avila has a strong shot at spoiling Judge’s Triple Crown bid.  

Our Best Lineup

If DJ and Carpenter come back this is our best team. This will NEVER happen because the Yankees lack the balls to sit those who should be sat.

Rizzo 1B

Gleyber 2B

Peraza SS

DJ 3B (if not DJ IKF!)

Carpenter (DH)

Cabrera (LF)

Bader (CF)

Judge (RF)

Trevino (C)

This group is strong defensively, gets hits, is fast, has power and, most importantly, has no black holes much less four in a row. That said, the Yankees would have to bench Donaldson (25M), Stanton (30M) and Hicks (10M).

Peraza is currently overlooked but this kid is the real thing. I’m not sure if he is eligible for the post season but if he is, he should play. Maybe if they put Stanton on the IL, he can take the roster spot. I don’t know the rules.


 

Crises averted. Seven games and two weeks until the next crossroads - and where was the Toronto crowd last night?

Relax. Exhale. Look out the window. See the leaves? They're turning red. The day after tomorrow is October. The pumpkins are in the fields. It's time to turn the page. 

After 155 games and a million crises, the 2022 Yankees are guaranteed to improve over last year, when they botched the wild card game in Boston  In case you've forgotten - or mercifully blocked it out - the Redsocks crushed us. Gerrit Cole left in the third, without recording an out, down by three . Our thin hopes died when Aaron Judge was thrown out at home. Giancarlo Stanton hit a meaningless HR in the ninth to make it 6-2. Whoopie. 

The past never goes away. But soon, maybe we can bury that foul memory beneath positive ones. 

Theoretically, we can't do worse. That said, we've seen enough to know what can happen. If this team goes out in the divisional series, it will be a walloping disappointment, a massive disheartening, that could lead into  nuclear winter The future of Aaron Judge will shake every corner of the Yankiverse. If Hal Steinbrenner asks him to accept less because - hey, it's the Yankees - it might be many years before we look back on 2022 without wincing.  

Meanwhile, this we know...

1. Watching Roger Maris Jr. hug Aaron Judge's mom after the historic blast - it was one of the most heartfelt moments in Yankee history. Two people - drawn from distant locations of the world - celebrating their families, their legacies, and the end of a grueling watch... it's a vision we mustn't forget. Also, remember this: The HR record is still owned by a Yankee. 

2.  Frankly, the Toronto crowd blew it. I was surprised - amazed - that Judge's HR came and went, without even a curtain call. This was baseball history, the culmination of an incredibly, stress-filled chase, and he had succeeded. I thought they'd stop the game and do something, or at least that the stadium would erupt into chants, or cheers, or fucking something. Remember how they stopped the game for Cal Ripken's longevity record? Did YES overlook the crowd reaction, with its determination to have each announcer make his own speech? Dunno. But even when Judge came up later, I was disappointed in the crowd's lack of craziness. They should have gone bonkers. Do they hate the Yankees that badly? 

3. Aroldis Chapman threw a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two. It was his first perfect outing since August 13, against Boston. For the record: I'm not falling for it. We all knew he'd look good for an inning or two. And I'm okay with Boone letting him pitch in these final games. But - seriously - can we ever have confidence in El Chapo again? I can't take another season ending in a walk-off HR and Chapman's signature grimace/smile. No thanks.

4. Again, Zack Britton couldn't get through an inning. Give the guy credit for trying, but - no. NO, NO, NO, NO, NO. It doesn't matter how well he pitched in 2019. NO, NO, NO, NO, NO. 

5. I'm amazed at how quickly Oswaldo Cabrera has become one of my favorite Yankees. Last night, hitting behind Judge, he went 1-for-4 with a double, a walk and two runs scored. At 2B, he turned a nifty DP on a tough play. He never looks fazed. It will be madness if Boone disappears him because Aaron Hicks has a decent last week. Why am I worried? It can't happen, right? RIGHT? 

6. Last night, at Double A, The Martian had a big game, leading Somerset to the Eastern League championship. Jasson Dominguez homered twice, drove in six runs, with three hits and two walks - though keep in mind: It was a 15-0 laugher, one of those games where everybody hits. 

Until then, Dominguez hadn't exactly destroyed Double A - 2 for 19 with a HR. But what a jump start to his next challenge! Dominguez starts Oct. 3 in the Arizona Fall Instructional League. It will be fun to follow him. And he hits, good grief... dare we dream? 

7. I have great friends in Sarasota and Punta Gorda, Florida, two places in the news yesterday. Dear God, I hope they're okay - and that any of you in the storm's path can soon look back at it and smile, even if comes with tears in our eyes. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Game 155: Another ballgame for the Marises



The Babe Is Matched, but Not Surpassed

 

So in the head, the lunkheads who run the greatest game ever invented would not let us have our fun, and give Aaron Judge a chance to break Babe Ruth's Real Original, Single (154-Game) Season, Non-Cheating Home Run Record. 

What else could we expect? After all, baseball is now officially the No-Fun Sport, with many highly knowledgeable sports commentators scratching their heads night after night, and wondering, "Why would anyone pitch to Judge?"

Umm, because it would be fun? And right there, you see the dilemma. Give the fans fun on one trip to the park, and next thing you know they will be demanding it every night. 

But I digress. What Judge's tying of the Babe highlights, once again, what an amazing record he (still) holds. "Let's see some son-of-a-bitch top that!" he exulted in 1927, having hit 60 home runs at the age of 32, and here we are, 95 years later, and no son-of-a-bitch or even a class act like Aaron Judge has ever quite done it. 

What other sports records are 95 years old? None, that I can think of. The closest that comes to mind is Paul Hornung's Famous Original, 12-game scoring record of 176 points in the NFL, set in 1960. 


The Babe's is even older. Is it really so amazing? Well, records only tell us so much. To a great extent, they are products of their time, and somebody is always disparaging one or another of them for some reason. 

Comparisons may be odious—but let's indulge, and take a look at the relative advantages that Babe Ruth and Aaron Judge have enjoyed:

The Babe:

—Never had to take a plane ride across one time zone, never mind three.

—Played games that counted against all-white players (as far as we know), drawn from a much smaller pool of talent, in a country with about one-third the population it has now. (Though he hit .455 in games against teams of top Black ballplayers.)

—Played all of his games under natural light.

—Played in an era when relief pitchers were few and far between, and usually the youngest, oldest, or least reliable pitchers on the team. Frequently got to hit against starters four or five times in the same game.

—Faced very few pitchers who threw as hard as they routinely do today.

—Played for great Yankees teams including, in 1927, one that many feel was the greatest of all, scoring 975 runs—instead of the 2022 Hitless Wonders.

—Never had to play for Aaron Boone, giving him "an extra day of rest" whenever the team had an off-day.

—No idiot ever considered making him lead off.

—Played in an ear when umpires generally understood and could see the strike zone.

—Never had to hit with Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, or Josh Donalson behind him.

—Played much of his career—and all of 1927—hitting ahead of Lou Gehrig.



The Judge:

—Never had to make 27-hour Pullman trips, routine in Ruth's day.

—Played games against a much wider and more diverse talent pool than Ruth ever did, drawn from a much larger America and from all around the world—but spread across 30 major-league teams instead of 16, and thinned in many instances by other pro sports that did not exist in 1927—or even by honest work.

—Played in parks with fences that were on average 28 feet closer to home plate than they were in Ruth's day.

—Never played under the constantly changeable ground rules of Ruth's day, where balls hit into overflow Sunday crowds might not count as homers, or where umpires could rule that balls that left the park fair...might have landed foul, and not count them as home runs.

—Played against so many relief pitchers that he was more likely to face one that just didn't have it that day.

—Played against pitchers who generally throw harder but do not have the variety of pitches—or ways of doctoring baseballs—that pitchers of Ruth's era did.

—Is encouraged to swing for the fences on every at-bat.

—Uses a whip-handled, 33-ounce bat, of which he has a small forest in reserve, like all players today. (Ruth at his peak used a 54-ounce bat nicknamed "The Monstrous Weapon" by opponents, the largest bat ever known.  At other times in his career, especially as he aged, he used bats as light as 38 ounces, but routinely 47-48 ounces.)

—Enjoys the refreshing wonders of modern air-conditioning and double-knit, polyester uniforms. (Ruth wore the standard, heavy woolen uniform produced by National Itch Manufacturers—all right, I'm making that up—and for relief in the summer, place a cabbage leaf under his hat. No, I did not make that up.)

—Does not have to play cow-town exhibition games on his every off-day, in which he is also expected to pitch, lead the local band, and be mobbed by several thousand children.

—Enjoys the benefits of modern coaching and training—even if it is the Yankees'—as opposed to Ruth, who was forbidden by contract to work out or even play golf in the off-season, during much of his Yankee career.

—Never felt the urge to eat five or six hot dogs during a game, or to rent out entire whorehouses afterwards (as far as we know!).

—Plays in games so extended and dull that pitchers sometimes fall into fugue states, and forget who they are throwing to.

I'm sure there are more I've overlooked, and I'd love to read them. 


For the record, Bill Jenkinson, Ruth's almost manic chronicler, estimates that he would have hit 86 home runs in 1920 playing with today's park dimensions; 91 in 1927, and a ridiculous 104 in 1921.

Would he have? Impossible to know. And in any case, I think we can pay tribute today to both men.

And unlike Ohtani, he played a pretty good outfield, too


 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Victory.

At ease, soldiers.

From now on, until further notice, we must...

1. Let Aaron Judge hit as many times as possible.

2, Find a closer, or someone - anyone - who can play that role.

3. Figure out whether DJ LeMahieu can play.

4. See whether El Chapo and/or Zack Britton can pitch well enough to make the roster.

5. Get Giancarlo Stanton on track 

6a. Come up with a hitter who can protect Judge in the order.

6b. If he has set the HR record, platoon Judge or - if he has a lead in batting average - sit him. 

Game 154: Beat Ruth


Or not? He looks like a great guy. So does Judge, of course, but Babe... it would be like defeating your teddy bear. I don't know. He had his time. Live for today, right? Crush him. 



 

Power hitters hit in the middle of the lineup.

Enough. 

Enough with the great home run race, which is not only actively hurting the Yankees as a team now, but also pulling down Aaron Judge's chances to win other prizes that seemed all but clinched just a few days ago, such as the Triple Crown and the MVP. 

When I say, "hurting the Yankees as a team," I don't mean to imply that I really care all that much about your 2022 New York Yankees, the single most un-clutch, unengaging, unlikable bunch I have ever seen in the Bronx.

You thought "the Bronx Zoo" guys were tiresome with all their feuding? You got tired of Alex Rodriguez and all his nonsense?

Hey, they were pure bliss compared to following this crew  

The 2022 Yanks never seem to get untracked. Incredible, inspiring ninth-inning comebacks? Wild, extra-inning wins? 

Meh. It means nothing the next day. Clueless Aaron Boone mentioned it a couple weeks ago, remarking, with a note of astonishment in his voice, that the Yankees had seemed "flat" that night. 

It was like watching a man stick his toe in the ocean and exclaiming, "Hey folks, this stuff is really wet!" These Yankees are always flat. Flat is their default position. They are flatter than flatbread, flatter than flat feet, flatter than Flattop, flatter than the Flat Earth Society. 

Sure, periodically, they look alive for a game or two—usually when they get a new player, or when Judge does something heroic. Then it's straight back to Snoozeville.

Duque worries that they could lose the next six games. Sure they could. These Yankees are fathomless.  There is no bottom.

They could easily lose all nine remaining games in the season, 1964 Phillies-style.  Though it doesn't matter because they have already clinched a postseason berth, under MLB's inimitable new parody parity program.

With these Yankees, it doesn't even matter when the Fat Lady sings—to use a copyrighted Yankee expression. A piece of scenery falls on her head mid-aria, or somebody yells fire, or Siegfried vomits into the orchestra pit. 

It's never over—not this interminable "pennant race," not the quest to best Ruth, not the effort to put an uninjured lineup or pitching staff out there. 

Michael Kay, our local MLB propagandist, was raving a few days ago about "everything that's going on in baseball, with all the playoff races, Pujols, Judge..."  In fact, even at the time, virtually every playoff spot had already been clinched for a couple of weeks. I can't begin to tell you excited I am that MLB has decided to allow the juicing Pujols to go after the home run mark they would not let the juicing A-Rod pursue...and then there's The Judge.

Really, enough already. 

I can understand the inclination to help him in his chase of the Real Original Home Run Record by batting him first—particularly when the shenanigans of MLB's ant TV overlords deprived him of at least one at-bat.

But surely after six straight, homeless games, the illogic of the Sabremetricious must be all the more evident. Batting in the first spot, Judge has fewer chances to drive in runs than ever. 

AND, BECAUSE he's batting first, it's easier than ever for pitchers not to pitch to him. 

With runners already on base, pitcher do not pitch as well. Period. They have to throw out of the stretch, check the runners, and deal with added pressure not to allow a run. 

With runners already on base, they usually do not want to put more runners on base. Or they have nowhere to put them. Obligating them to throw strikes to the hitter.

Granted, with LeMahieu, Beni, and PornStache still injured, there are precious few people on this miserable collection of ballplayers in the Bronx who are capable of ever getting on base. But batting Judge third or fourth would still give him more at-bats with people on.

I know this won't happen. But the best thing to do for Aaron Judge—the best thing to do for all of us—would be to stick him in the four spot and pretend he's going for his 31st home run, not his 61st.

A win and a HR, is that too much to ask?

No more scoreboard-noshing crapola. We don't gotta give a shit what Tampa is doing, unless they're drowning. (BTW, they're in Cleveland, so no worries, aside from death by boredom.) 

It's rare to have everything laid out in front of the Yankees - their season, their reputations, their well-being - neatly arranged into  two 9-inning contests, tonight and tomorrow.  

All we need to do: Beat Toronto. Once. That's all. I'm not asking for a series. One game. Don't need to impress Tyler Kepner. I'll take a garbage win, where the BJs play soccer, or fling the ball around like Boston. One victory. A Toronto pitcher who can't throw strikes. An off-night for Vlad Jr.  We can lose the rest, fall into a crevice, eat bad clams, suffer wardrobe malfunctions - don't care. One game. One. It's the loneliest number that you'll ever hear. 

Also.. . a Judge HR. One. Tonight, please. It's Game No. 154 - the delineating event that Ford Fucking Frick once laid out in order to undercut Roger Maris. It's probably why Maris isn't in the Hall of Fame, a historical injustice, which perhaps became a curse upon all those who followed him - in this case, the muscled blimps who later broke his record. Judge needs one homer, one, tonight, please? Hit No. 61, and the Yankiverse shall be a peace. Tonight, please... 

Meanwhile...

1. Is it me, or does Luis Severino increasingly look like a bullpen lug nut, rather than a No. 2 starter? Last night: Brilliant through three, and then... it's Putin, touring the New York State Fair. Last night, he missed giving up a grand slam by the length of Lindsey Graham's - nope, not going there. Yank fans have waited - and waited, and waited - on Setback Sevy, and - yes, he seems a fine teammate and all, but No. 2 starter? Nope. He's a bullpen start, and we've got a problem.

2. Last night, Toronto unveiled a neat little strategy to beat the Yankees: Pitch around Judge and fear no consequences - because, basically, there are none. The next four Sluggos are ground ball machines, and if either Rizzo or Gleyber do get on base, it's the comedy team of Josh & Gio, which represents a dry-rot we haven't seen in our lineup since the summer of Pronk and Lyle Overbay. 

Can someone explain to me why Donaldson bats fourth? He's hitting .226 with minimal power (15 HRs in 452 at-bats; that's the power ratio of Marwin Gonzalez) and to see him as a legitimate cleanup hitter, somebody needs to build a time machine and set it for 2017.

As for Stanton: Look, I get it that we have no choice but to play him. Just suck it up, and write him into the lineup. If we have one chance in October, it's that Giancarlo goes on a whopping, red hot tear. But right now, he's sad. You can see in his eyes: he's going to whiff, and he knows it. He has - OMG - the Aroldis grin, that Mr. Sardonicus smile, which says, "This isn't happening, it's just a dream, haha, and please, somebody, tell me how to get to Connecticut." 

3. Right now, the Yankees need Oswaldo Cabrera higher in the order, maybe leading off. It sure would be nice to have somebody on base when Judge appears. Last night, we kept hearing the same Michael Kay barker cry: "Stick around everybody, because leading off next inning will be Aaron Judge!" 

4. Tonight, it's Tailion. Tomorrow, Gerrit "Little Game" Cole.  Why, why, why... is it always Cole, and why does he always seem to falter? Our bullpen is down to stems and seeds (Chapman and Britton, the Comeback Codgers.) Frankly, it's ridiculous to be so worried about a series - it's almost impossible for us to blow this -  but, damn, if we know anything about the 2022 Yankees, it's that they can turn into pumpkins on a moment's notice. We just won six in a row. This is madness to say, but we can lose the next six. 

But not if we win tonight. Tonight. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

Game 153: Clinch


 

Telling sweet little lies to power.


 "Tell me lies, tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies."

With apologies to Fleetwood Mac, that's exactly what we got last night on ESPN, the hopelessly compromised sports "news" channel that in fact once again proved to be just a lickspittle for another, Big Sports business partner, MLB. 

Or maybe that's unfair. Because really, I'm sure it was ESPN driving last night's farce. No lickspittle they, but the corporate co-conspirators in yet another episode of making life as miserable as possible for their customers—something that seems to be the prevailing business ethic of America.

Last night's rain-soaked debacle was a Chronicle of a Cock-Up Foretold. I know: I foretold it. 

Some 46,707 fans were lured out by the chance to see Aaron Judge break or tie the Real Original Famous Home Run record, only to be doused not just by the elements, but by still more incompetent umpires and an entirely predictable rain "delay" that dragged on for an hour-and-a-half before everyone was sent home—the Yankee Stadium reserves of rat dogs and watery beer apparently having been exhausted at last.

Hard to think of a worse experience at the ballpark, especially at the extortionate prices now charged at YS III. And all easily avoided by anyone with access to a weather map.

The game COULD have been switched to the afternoon in plenty of time to give the fans notice. Instead, Judge lost at least one at-bat—and maybe two, or even three, considering this team's difficulty in putting even bad clubs away—and we may have lost our last chance to see him set the record at home. 

Or at the very least, HAL and company might have tried to compensate the hardy souls who braved the weather with something

Free Cracker Jack, mayhap? A ticket to a game next year? HAL's father, wretched as he was, once compensated fans with free tix just for sitting through a particularly awful doubleheader, back in the plague year of 1982.

But no could do. The Yankees happily pocketed their loot. Not only is the club leading the AL in attendance, but it will soon go over 3 million again at the gate—largely because of Aaron Judge's home run spree. 

And afterwards, of course, nobody dared say boo to them, on ESPN or anywhere else.

Ma Boone was particularly craven, dodging altogether a question about what the fans had to put up with. Nobody even popped such a query at Judge, who instead had to field such inanities as, "How hard IS it to hit home runs?"  

(Judge, after fumfahing for a bit, came up with a typically thoughtful answer: "A lot of people think home runs are pitched, instead of hit." His good-natured presence will be sorely missed around the Bronx next year, if the Yanks try to shortchange him again.)

After that came an extended version of ESPN doing its best imitation of a news organization—which wasn't very good at all. The bantering anchors who came on SportsCenter pretended to argue over whether or not Judge was actually close to setting a new "record":

"Will it be a new record?"

"No. The record is 73, set by Barry Bonds."

And then:

"Do you think he'll get to 62?"

"Winning a Triple Crown would be a much more impressive feat."

So goes the no-doubt scripted corporate line:  "We'll allow some adoration of Judge for a Triple Crown, if he wins it. But no questioning the integrity of our game, which we already ruined 25 years ago!" 

Barry Bonds MUST always be acknowledged as the real home-run champ, for a season and a career, no matter how farcical that insistence becomes. MLB MUST insist that it is still the same game, even as it institutes the Manfred Man, regular-season games that count in London and a corn field, designer clown gear, and a playoff season that 40 percent of the teams now qualify for. All in the desperate pursuit of a constantly shrinking fan base.

They just don't get it. TREAT. THE. FANS. BETTER.

It's not hard. No gimmicks involved. No need to put in great big bases, or advertising on the jerseys. Lower your prices, make day-of-game tickets available, stop shaking down hard-pressed cities for public money, and treat everybody with respect.

And if the Lords of MLB can't see this, then it's the job of a free press—looking at you, ESPN!—to make sure they do.  

Nine up with 10 games to go. Now, it's all about the stats and October.

All you need to know: After you went to bed, the Yankees and Redsox did not tiptoe out in their pajamas to finish the game, and Aaron Judge did not hit The Home Run. 

The media gaggle, the marked balls, the Maris family, The Master & Suzyn - everything now moves to Toronto, where some lucky BJ pitcher can inscribe his name into history - quite lucratively, if he enjoys airport Ramada card shows. Also, some Canadian will catch the million dollar ball.  

Tonight, the Yankees can clinch a first-round bye. But Toronto can send a message: A three-game sweep would a) keep our champagne on ice, b) set them on a path to face us in the second round, and 3) jangle our continually frazzled nerves. Also, if they can handle Judge, they can handle the Yankees. 

Our boy remains in the lead for the Triple Crown, though - like the HR chase - everything will boil down to his final at-bat of the season, against Baltimore.

What if, in that fateful plate appearance, Judge leads slightly in the batting crown but remains tied with Roger at 61 HRs? Would Judge come to bat, knowing that a pop-up would cost him the Triple Crown, but it also would scuttle his last chance to beat Maris? (Spoiler: Of course he would! He's Aaron Fucking Judge, you ninny!)

The problems with a first-round playoffs bye: a) Your team sits around for a week, drinking Mad Dog 20-20 and watching porn, and b) Then you face the hotter of the two wild card candidates, which has already tasted the blood of its first-round opponent. But in this case, a week off should do Judge some good. Between now and mid-October, he'll need a break. 

Other matters:

1. The Death Barge is said to be pondering whether to DFA Aroldis Chapman before the season ends. Is that wise? Not sure I see the advantage in publicly pissing on one of your players. Yeah, El Chapo has been awful since June, but why offend him?

What if Tampa picks him up? Considering their hatred of the Yankees, they would do such a thing. Do we want Chapman deliriously throwing at our heads in the postseason? 

Look, there's no way he returns next year, unless he pitches for free. I can't imagine him making the playoffs roster, and that tattoo infection was an embarrassment, but still... ditching him? Is Cashman that mad at him?

2. Miggy is a Pirate. Let's wish him well. I hereby predict he will be the comeback player of 2023. 

I should add that I predicted the same for Greg Bird, Clint Frazier and Gary Sanchez. 

3. Once we clinch, I'm all for giving El Chapo, Zack Britton, Andrew Benintendi, Matt Carpenter and DJ LeMahieu multiple chances to show they belong on the playoff roster. But once the season ends, I'm sorry. Taking batting practice or throwing in the bullpen is not the equivalent of game action - especially postseason competition.

4. I watched the KayRod alternative broadcast last night, and I can never erase from my mind the PTSD-launching video images of Roger Clemens performing as DJ for weddings and special occasions. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Game 152: Nice day if it don't rain

 





Bad JuJu.


So here we are, lovely, early fall day in New York. Sure, it's a little overcast, a little humid. But a good day for a late-season, Sunday afternoon game, no?

No. The Lords of MLB—i.e., TV—have decided that the Yankees-Red Sox game will be the ESPN Sunday Night game.

The only problem: a 67 percent chance of thunderstorms in the area, after 5 PM. 

Do I need to remind you in how many forms the juju can go bad on this? Oh, let me count the ways:

—Judge hits his 61st early—and it's wiped out by a massive rainstorm.

—Judge his his 61st AND his 62nd early—and they're BOTH wiped out by a massive rainstorm.

—The game is rained out from the beginning. Which, at least, will spare Yankees pitchers from having to tangle with Triston Casas, The .130 Hitter Who Would Not Be Denied. But while the Yanks have one more off-day this season, the Carmine Hose do not. 

What do you want to bet that rained-out game costs Judge the chance to go for number 62?


In general, MLB likes to run and hide from that big bully, the NFL. But it's run out of hiding places now. This Sunday night came has been scheduled for the indifferent eyes of an American public that no doubt will be tuned in to Sunday Night football—or even Big Brother—instead.  

We can, though, look forward to more fan torture. Unless the rains reach diluvial proportions well before the first pitch, count on the faithful who do show up at Yankee Stadium being forced to sit out in the wet and cold for at least a couple of hours.

And afterwards...the hunt for 61 (and 62) will likely start to drag down Judge, too. These quests for personal records tend to diminish even the most iron-willed of competitors; just look at Jeter's chase of 3,000 hits. Tonight's washout will officially make this home run business neurotic, and we'll be very lucky if The Big Guy does anything at all afterwards, through the rest of the season and even the playoffs.

MLB makes its own bad juju, for us all.

Nine up in the loss column, eleven to play, magic number at three... and wondering: Would Boston drop the bomb?

Okay, Mr. Chomsky, consider this philosophical dilemma: 

It is the final frame of a sporting match with your most hated rival, a team of scallywags bent upon harming you. Your squad leads by two points, (in this case, we'll use the fabled Star Trek currency of "quatlooms.") 

Your most illustrious goal scorer is on the verge of setting an all-time record, bringing jubilation and comfort to the troubled populace. In fact, your most loyal news barker - known as "K" - nearly lost his/her chance to witness and articulate the event across the empire.

But your goal-scorer - we'll call them "they"- cannot tally their record-breaking quatloom unless your team allows its opponent to score twice, sending the match into overtime. 

Okay, stay with me now. Suddenly, for unexplained reasons beyond our capabilities to fathom, you are appointed as the juju god in charge of this game's outcome. As the newly transformative powers coarse through your veins, you must decide: 

Do you allow your enemy to score, extending the game and giving your beloved goal- maker a chance to achieve history? Or do you simply, mercilessly, crush the opponent under the heel of your newly energized wanton jackboot?

By the way, this question has nothing to do with yesterday's game against Boston. It's simply a philosophical exercise to broaden and enliven your philosophical chops. 

That said, the deeper we travel into this unexplored region, the more I hereby demand to the juju gods that Aaron Judge's record-breaking home run, when/if it finally comes... matters. 

That's right. If these cheap-ass juju gods are going to make us wait - and worry - I want a walk-off HR or, at the very least, a game-changer. This can't be no 15-1 blowout blast. It can't come off a position player (which, come to think of it, would be the worst thing Boston ever did to us. Dear God, did I just state out loud the formula for the atomic bomb? What if, in a massive blowout, they bring in a position pla- nah, they wouldn't. Right? No. Not that. Right?) 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Game 151: This time for sure

 




Can Aaron Judge save baseball? Can Aaron Judge save the Yankees? Can Aaron Judge save himself?

If we've learned anything over the last two nights, it's that...

a. The Redsocks are a can of tomatoes.
b. Yankee Stadium crowds aren't dead, after all.
c. Our bullpen will bite us in October.
d. Aaron Judge could still falter in his HR quest.

For now, let's ponder "d," the history-homer chase that most Gammonites cynically assumed would have ended by now - neatly, at home, on YES. I'd like to remind you of the Iron Law of Happenstance, which states, in Yogi Berraian style: 

"It aint happened 'til it happens."

Watching Judge, I am in awe of his poise and coolness, facing a media glare that few modern athletes ever will see. He is staring down The Abyss, and showing no fear, stress or constipation. When he steps to the plate, I am more frightened for him than he seems to be. But until he hits number 61, he hasn't hit number 61. And with each at bat, The Abyss licks its chops. 

But let us consider the fundamental questions:

Can Judge save baseball? He'd do this by beating Barry Bonds and the steroidal, turn-of-the-century  blimps, who still haunt us the way a Bud Selig statue terrifies the children of Milwaukee. There is no chance Judge will catch Bonds. But he will become the face of baseball, and his graceful smile will give the sport a HR leader who isn't forever tainted. It's sad that MLB - attempting to make fans forget the strike of 1994-95 - nearly ruined its most prized records. Judge can correct that. He can save baseball. 

Can Judge save the Yankees? We'll soon know. Everything he does over the next two weeks will be eclipsed by his month of October. Before Judge took over the 2022 season, the Yankees were about to be bypassed in NYC by the Mets. Once an historical switch is flipped, it's hard to correct. (See the dynamic between the Yankees and Redsocks, since 2004.) Barring a collapse - (which, sadly, is still possible) - the Yankees will hit the postseason with their best team since 2019, when they won 103 games. That year, they lost to a bunch of cheaters. But in the books, it just says that they lost. So, yes, he can save the Yankees. 

Can Judge save himself? This shall be answered come winter. Judge is having the greatest season in baseball history. He deserves an astronomical package - I can't even imagine the numbers - an unprecedented set of zeros. It conjures one question: What will he want? Would he like to remain a Yankee icon, fated for Monument Park, Cooperstown, NYC mythology, a slot in the YES booth? Will he go home to San Francisco (Oakland seems unlikely, eh?) Will he pick LA and - gulp - Hollywood? Or will he go for the money - the scootz, the cabbage, the rinkga, the glebbish - wherever it takes him, the Robbie Joggy Cano experience? 

That's where saving himself comes in. We all know what happened to Joggy, even those of us who ask, "Hey, whatever happened to Joggy?" Would Judge go for the money, every last thin dime, even to - say - Boston or Queens? The Players Union would love this. His numbers will cause all others to increase. "All rise," right?

I don't want him to short himself, to die in a paupers' prison. But it won't just be his HR record that goes up for auction. It will be his soul. Hope he saves it.