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Thursday, March 31, 2022

"Bank of America"


The first 40,000 fans in attendance at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 8 will receive a replica of Derek Jeter's Hall of Fame plaque.

"Brian Cashman" is trending on Twitter. The reason is very sad.

 It's people reacting to this story.

Basically, here's the tone...






The obligatory early spring stats round-up

The Yankees were pummeled - molested, abused, crapped upon - by Toronto last night, 1,000,000 to nothing. Ha ha. Joke's on the Jays, right? 'Cause we don't care. Ha ha.

So, two weeks into The Abyss, here's the Death Barge leaderboard for hits (remember hits? They're solo HRs, plus bloopers that fall in.)  




Searching for meaning... 

If we thought Joey Gallo might retool his approach to put more balls in play...? Nahhh. He's still bringing more fans than Sally Rand. (Dated ref alert.) Joey leads the team in Ks, and ranks 12th in MLB overall this spring (Cody Bellinger has an ungodly 17 SOs in 27 ABs. Yikes.) I donno about Gallo. If he gets off to a slow start, the fans - the other fans, that is - will be relentless. 

Speaking of potential lost causes... after a quick start, you can feel Miguel Andujar sinking into the woodwork. Of all imperiled former top Yankee assets, Miggy remains the most painful. Early on, he popped a HR, played errorless 3B. Now, his average is falling, and whenever we see him in LF, you have to wonder where another RH bat fits. 

On that note, with the Cubs, Clint Frazier is 6 for 19 with a HR. Let's wish Red Thunder the best, and if he finally breaks out - the big season - let's not forget that the Yankees received absolutely nothing in return for him. Will we do the same with Miggy? 

Kyle Higashioka leads the team with 4 HRs. Could he outhit the Kraken this year? And if so, would it be yet another damnation of how the Yankees asses talent? On Gary, we just waited and waited and waited... 

That said, 4 HRs and just 6 RBIs. Meanwhile, Aaron Judge & Giancarlo Stanton - both 2 HRs and 3 RBIs. We cannot homer our way to a championship. 

For now, though, let's at least give Cooperstown Cashman credit for Isiah Kiner-Falefa - 8 for 19 this spring. The more you study the 2022 Yankees, the more critical this guy becomes. If he fails, or gets hurt, dear God, are we screwed?

Also, neither DJ LeMahieu nor Andrew Rizzo (both 4 for 18) are hitting enough to make the screen shot. Not worrying. But those are the numbers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

This is how you open a baseball season

and get the kids into the sport...





Collapse! Pt. II

 

Okay, great to see all the replies to the musical question, "Why did the Original Famous Ray's Yankees Dynasty Collapse?"  

A couple of you said, "karma," due to all the beloved—or at least, incredibly successful—individuals the Yankees had decided to deep-six from 1960-66. These included no less than two, all-time broadcasting greats, Red Barber and Mel Allen—hey, the Yanks didn't want to pass up the chance to snag Joe Garagiola for the booth!—general manager George Weiss, and managers Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra— these last two moves meaning that the Yanks canned not one but two pennant-winning managers in the space of four years.

(Not to mention, men who had lost their last World Series' because of, respectively, a bad-hop grounder that hit a pebble, and an inexplicable series of errors by a Gold Glove second baseman.)

But hey, having divested themselves of that much institutional knowledge and baseball acumen...What could possibly go wrong???

The Yankees "braintrust" was now Ralph Houk, who as a GM was a pretty good field manager, and Johnny Keane, a man much too tightly wrapped for New York; one who never earned anything but contempt from his players and who would, sadly, expire from a ferocious cigarette habit in January, 1967—just months after being fired.

But there is no karma in baseball!

What really brought about the collapse of The Greatest Dynasty What Ever Was, was injuries, general incompetence, and bad trades—both made and never made.

The injuries started fast and furious. Playing on a snow-swept field in freezing Bloomington, MN, on Opening Day, 1965, the Yankees lost BOTH ends of their starting battery.

Jim Bouton, winner of 39 games over the past two seasons, and Elston Howard, 1963 AL MVP and near Hall-of-Famer, both blew out their arms. Neither was anything more than a shell of their former selves again.

(This after the Yankees had seriously considered—but narrowly decided to pass on—trading Bouton for Frank Robinson, even up, in the offseason.)

On and on it would soon go. 

The Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford, had one more excellent season in 1965. But he had already undergone extensive arm and nerve damage and—despite pitching very well when he could pitch—managed only 16 starts, combined, in 1966-67, and retired.

"The Milkshake Twins" were the next to go. Tony Kubek, an extremely talented ballplayer who could play any number of infield and outfield positions, never got over a back injury he had sustained while—of all things—playing touch football in the Army.

He was finished at 29, and retired after the 1965 season.

His religious double-play partner, Bobby Richardson, decided to answer his calling to become a full-time minister back home in South Carolina, and retired after the 1966 season—at just 31.



Previously, the Yankees, like a shark with its teeth, always had replacements ready and waiting when unforeseen developments like these happened. And so it seemed that they had again.

But Tom Tresh, who had seemed like a budding superstar—Rookie of the Year in 1962 as a slugging shortstop, turned Gold Glove left fielder—tore up his knee in spring training, 1966, and that was essentially that. Though he stuck it out for a few more seasons, Tresh was never more than a shadow of his former self again.


Joe Pepitone, a Gold Glover at first, and another slugging, superstar-in-the-making there and in centerfield, succumbed to the assorted demons of mind and personality that made him first a farce, then a tragedy.

(Yogi Berra, much maligned as manager, had proved to be the one skipper able to keep Pepitone playing regularly and giving his all. But hey, Yogi was no Johnny Keane!)

The bad deals also came fast and furious. Bill Terry, rookie Deron Johnson, and Curt Blefary (basically a bum, but Rookie of the Year with Baltimore in 1965) were all given away for practically nothing.

Clete Boyer, the Gold Glove third baseman with some home run pop, was traded to Atlanta for Bill Robinson who—yet again—looked like a superstar-to-be to many scouts. 

Robinson would eventually make himself into a very good, starting outfielder. But he would do that, alas, in the National League, beginning around 1973. 

Then, of course, there were the saddest stories of all. 

Roger Maris was still just 30 in the spring of 1965, when he managed to injure his hand, after he and Boyer got into a fight with—I kid you not—a male model in a Florida bar. 

Maris never hit more than 13 home runs in a season again. A misdiagnosis of the injury by the Yanks' crack medical staff—some things never change—led to a terrible feud between, first, Maris and Ralph Houk, and then Maris and all Yankees fans. 

After 1966, the Rajah was peddled off to St. Louis for third baseman Charlie Smith, to this day maybe the worst major-league player I have ever seen.

As for The Mick...well, the legs finally went on him in 1965, when he was still just 33. Incredibly, moved to first base, he still managed to put in three final seasons in which, hobbled though he was, he led the team in games played twice and made the AL top ten in many major hitting categories.

But by the time the smoke from all these crumbling Yankees monuments had cleared, the rules of the game had changed. With amateur and other drafts, the minors decimated by television, and the reserve clause still preventing easy player movement, rebuilding was a long, arduous process—one in which the Yanks' advantages in money, and especially in organization and baseball smarts, no longer applied.

The new owner at CBS, for whom the Yankees were an acquisition on a par with the purchases of the Fender guitar company and the road show for Hello, Dolly!, both of which the network had bought around the same time, could not have cared less.

So there you have it: an extraordinary number of unexpected injuries to brilliant players still in the prime of their careers, exacerbated by an incompetent training staff, poor field management, an incompetent front office, game-altering rule changes, a reduced minor leagues, and an indifferent, distracted owner with his eyes only on the bottom line. 

Huh. See any similarities there?  













What's this? A setback for Setback Sevy? Impossible! (And other horrifying cries into the Yankee nebula)

Yesterday, the Yanks toppled Phily 14-2, scoring eight in the 8th against the comedy team of Duron & Marconi. Big shout to breakout stars Max Burt and Ben Cowles - (a Rochester boy! Yay, upstate!) - who blasted huge but meaningless HRs.

The real news from Camp Tamp is - well - a SHOCKER. Siddown for this. Maybe a shot of Jack? A warning: The following report includes words that some viewers will find disturbing. We strongly suggest young readers leave the computer room and go play hopscotch, or Parchisi, whatever... Are POGs still a thing?  THE BREAKING NEWS: 

Luis Severino - aka "Setback Sevy" - has apparently suffered a setback. 

Note: A MINOR setback. Nothing to worry about, nothing to see here. Move on. We have this on the highest authority: The YES Gold Star, Baghdad Bob, p.r. machinery: Sevy will miss tonight's start due to "body soreness." I mean, that's nothing, right? Ha ha. I mean, to sweat such a minor issue - soreness - that's laughable. Ha ha! Had you going, eh? You said, "O fuk-a-me, we're fukin fukked," only to find out - NO! the Yankee Roger Stone Truth Squad says it's no concern. Ha ha. O, that YES. They never fail to amuse. Ha. 

A "minor setback." Wait... is there a deja vu thing here?

Like... May 2016. Triceps inflammation. 'Twas nothing, just a scratch. They simply moved him to the bullpen.

Or March 2019. Rotator cuff inflammation. This came after he signed the big contract. No problem. He'd miss a few starts. Big deal.  

April 2019. A Grade 2 lat strain. Happened in rehab. He'd miss a month, maybe two. He returned in September.

February 2020. Partially torn UCL. Whoops. Tommy John surgery. He'd miss 18 months, back by mid-2021.

June 2021. Groin injury. He'd miss another month, back in August.

August 2021. "Didn't feel right." Back in September... or Opening Day 2022!

Yesterday... Soreness. Tonight's start will be bumped back to September - uh - excuse me, Saturday, I MET SATURDAY... surely, this is nothing. 

NOTE: I want to remind readers that we at IIH never condemn or mock Yankee players because they happen to get injured. (Actually, we do it all the time, but officially, it's not our policy.) Injuries are a part of baseball. Some players are simply snake-bitten by the fates, and Severino looks like one of them. (The greatest of all time - and perhaps, the saddest - was our own Mickey Mantle.) From Greg Bird to Carl Pavano, this brief and ugly millennium is already pocked with Yankee souls who suffered track records of pain that we wouldn't wish on anyone not named Chris Sale. 

But our concerns do point to a darker issue: Practically every upbeat projection for the 2022 Yankees required a comeback season from Setback Sevy. We foresaw him as a dominant No. 2 starter behind Gerrit Cole, a linchpin in the rotation. 

Today, as we bemoan Sevy's latest setback, we must also consider a huge hole in our pitching staff. 

Fortunately, though, we do have someone who could step up and replace Sevy. How about that Clarke Schmidt! He's healthy and ready to go... though, well, there have been a few, um, setbacks...

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Oh, Tyler. Dear, sweet, naive, foolish, forgetful Tyler!

 

Tyler Kepner, ace reporter for Our Paper of Record, informed us on Sunday that "Four American League teams earned more than 90 victories last season, a first for divisional play, which dates to 1969." (source below).

Well, divisional play does indeed date to 1969, but not, apparently, Tyler's memory. Or the fact-checking reach of whatever earnest young Hemingways look over all the news that is fit to print. "A first"? At best, it is "a second."

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/27/sports/baseball/yankees-blue-jays.html?

Courtesy of the IIHIIFII...C Instant Correction Department, bringing you hot-off-the-pan fact corrections since 2022, not only has another such division seen four, 90-plus-win teams, but it is, like Rudolph, the most famous reindeer of all.

In 1978, the self-same American League East featured Four Over 90:

East Division

  
    TmWLW-L%GB
    New York Yankees10063.613--
    Boston Red Sox9964.6071.0
    Milwaukee Brewers9369.5746.5
    Baltimore Orioles9071.5599.0
    Detroit Tigers8676.53113.5
    Cleveland Indians6990.43429.0
    Toronto Blue Jays59102.36640.0



    And, dare I say it? (I dare, I dare!)—each of those squads packed just as much lumber in the non-juiced game of 1978, and was a far sight better rounded than any team in the division today.

    Besides the legendary, Jackson-Munson-Nettles-Guidry-Hunter-Goose-Sparky Yankees that year (3 HOF players), there was a terrifying BoSox team with Rice-Fisk-Yaz-Lynn-Evans-Eck (4 HOF), that hard-hitting Brew Crew, with Yount-Molitor-Cooper-Bando-Hisle-Ogilvie-Caldwell (2 HOF), and the Orioles with Murray-Singleton-DeCinces-Belanger-May-Palmer-Flanagan-D. Martinez-McGregor (2 HOF).

    Oh, and in fifth place, with a mere 86 wins? The Tigers, with Trammell-Whitaker-Staub-LeFlore-Thompson-Kemp-Stanley-Morris (2 HOF). 

    Over 11 campaigns, 1976-86, the core of those 5 teams would win 9 pennants and 4 World Series—and finish just 3 games shy of making that 7 rings.

    So spare us thy foul presentism, ye Tylers! We have seen the days. 



    Just in case you're wondering about Gary Sanchez...


    With the Twinkies this spring, the Kraken is 1-for-13 with a double, two walks and six strikeouts. 

    (Gio Urshela 2-for-15 with a walk and two Ks.)

    Time for YES to declare Cashman the winner in the trade?

    (For the record, we must not hold it against Sanchez simply because he didn't turn out to be the player we wanted. In many ways, he was a victim of false expectations, created by his sensational debut in 2016. 

    He had never been so dominant in the minors. We had no business thinking he would hit both for power and average. 

    One of the best reasons for trading Sanchez was to see if he can turn around his career in a new city, with a new franchise. If he doesn't improve defensively and lower the strikeouts, he's done as a frontline catcher.) 

    Gleyber, Deivi and the AL East... the search for life continues

    The Cash Men beat Detroit yesterday - third time they've played the Tigers this spring - scoring 11 runs against Rodriguez, Foley, Castillo, Garcia & Barnes. (No Celino?)  

    Notions...

    1. Gleyber. After yesterday's leadoff HR, Torres notched his annual "big year ahead for Gleyber?" story in the courtier media. Actually, it's a bit late. (Twice bitten, you know.) Apparently, Boone sees him as the everyday 2B, plus the "break-glass" option at SS, if/when everything goes sideways. This is his crossroads season. At 25, he's still young enough for Demi Moore. Still, last year, he hit only 9 HRs (Kyle Higashioka hit 10) and batted .259 (following a 2020 season of 3 HRs and .246.) He's three years removed from his 38 HR season, and the great Yankee rebuild of 2017 is losing its historical luster. Another meh season, and Gleyber becomes the new Gary Sanchez - the guy we should have traded... (looks at watch)... right about now.

    2. Deivi. Speaking of hope - (wait, were we speaking of hope?) - Deivi Garcia! Yesterday, he threw three innings, gave up a solo HR and a hit. We've discussed last year's meltdown, how the brain trust practically had him throwing sidearm, and the REDUCED PRICE FOR CLEARANCE sign he's worn this spring. Still, there used to be something here. Deivi turns 23 in May, probably celebrating in Scranton, (unless Setback Severino has a setback; what are the odds?) Hey, there is still hope for this guy. We do remember hope, right?

    3. Kepner's Comet. Yesterday, Tyler Kepner of The Times suggested the 2022 AL East might be the toughest division in baseball history. 

    Overreach? Yeah, maybe... but get this: Last year, the AL East became the first division ever with four teams, each winning 90 games or more. That's not nothin'.

    Kepner keyed on Toronto as team to beat. Then Tampa, then the Yankees and Redsocks, chasing the Bronze Medal. I know you'll think I'm daft, but allow me to yell once again at the mountainside: Don't sleep on Baltimore. 

    One of these days, the O's - with CF Mullins, SS Mateo and 1B Mountcastle - will rise up and clean our hubris-laden clocks. They've successfully tanked now for six years - six! (It took Houston seven, by the way, and they're still a power.) With the new draft pick lottery going into effect next year, The O's could become the last great Tank Team in history. They have the game's most ballyhooed prospect, catcher Adley Rutschman and a farm system deeper than Jessica Chastain. One of these days... 

    Look, I'm not saying Baltimore is an Astro-level, once-in-a-generation, gold-standard Tanker. But in terms of the Tank, the O's have proven to be relentless. Trust the Tank. The Tank always wins. Tanking takes time, and Baltimore's time is coming. Ours, on the other hand, may have come and gone.

    Monday, March 28, 2022

    Collapse? Pt. I

     

    Just to riff off an earlier post from our Peerless Leader, El Duque: Is this the year we finally see the out-and-out Yankees collapse some of us have been predicting (all right, crying wolf on) for years now?

    For purposes of comparison it might be useful to take a look at the Yanks' most famous collapse, a.k.a., The Big One, back in 1965. Much has been written about that one, and various shibboleths and urban myths abound. 

    But the central truth is this: The collapse of the 1960s Yankees came out of nowhere, and happened to a team that seemed much better equipped to go on dominating the American League for years, than HAL & The Brain's various editions of the Pinstripers ever have.

    First off, going into 1965, the Yankees were the dynasty di tutti dynastia, far and away the greatest sports dynasty ever to dominate North America, and probably in any major sport, anywhere in the world.

    From 1919-1964, your New York Yankees had exactly one (1) losing season out of 46, the year of the Babe's Great Bellyache—in 1925. 

    From 1920 to 1964, they won 29 pennants and 20 World Series, with a winning percentage of .619. That put them 12 games ahead of the Indians—yes, the Indians—and 15 ahead of the Tigers, and at least an average of 20 games ahead of every other team in the American League in that time.

    During that 45-year stretch, the Yanks also outhit every other AL team by at least 3 points, outscored them by at least 3,300 runs, and outhomered them by at least 1,900 roundtrippers. 

    Similar margins existed in most other statistical categories—and at the box office, where the Yankees were first in the American League in 37 of 45 seasons.  

    They finished out of the first division only once, from 1917-1964. And from 1920-1964, they finished lower than third place only twice—the year of the Big Bellyache, and the war year of 1945. 

    And they only seemed to be getting more dominant. From 1947-1964, the Yanks won 15 pennants and 10 World Series in 18 seasons.

    Now that's a !#&@ dynasty!!!

    And suddenly...it was all over. The team dropped to sixth in 1965, 25 games out of first. 

    This did not prove to be an aberration. They were tenth and last in 1966 (the first time they had finished in the cellar since 1912), and ninth in 1967, before they managed to scrap their way back to some generally respectable, winning, even contending seasons from 1968-1975—but nothing like the old dynasty.

    So what happened?  What caused the collapse?

    Well, a lot of people said the Yankees just got old.  

    Not true. The average age of all players on the 1965 team was 28.3; of pitchers, 27.2—slightly younger than the team had been in the record-mashing year of 1961 (28.4, 27.8, respectively), and younger than the 1953 team, winner of a record, fifth-straight World Series (28.4, 31.0).  

    Some have attributed it to the Yanks' atrocious refusal to enthusiastically pursue Black or Hispanic players. This was certainly contemptible—but it didn't much hurt them in the very white Junior Circuit. 

    As it was, the Yanks had the first, Black AL MVP, in Elston Howard in 1963.



    In 1964, with Howard and Al Downing, they even had the first, all-Black, World Series American League battery. And Downing in general was considered for several years the best Black pitcher in the game not named Bob Gibson.

    After the dismissal of George Weiss following the 1960 season, the fact was that the Yanks got a lot more colorblind. Finally.


    So, what was it that led to the collapse, then?

    The most popular theory has it that longtime Yankees owners Del Webb and Dan Topping actually decided to sell the team back in 1960, and that from then until they finally handed it over to CBS near the end of 1964, they decided not to put anymore money into it, letting it decay and rot. 

    It was an excuse that CBS and its designated president of the Yanks, Mike Burke, seized with both hands, claiming that when they took over, "the cupboard was bare," both on the big team and in the minor leagues.


    Again: not true.

    Topping and Webb, for all their flaws, handed over a genuine favorite—and continuing powerhouse—to CBS. 

    And not only was the team in the Bronx all set, they had not cut the development budget—as evidenced by the formidable number of good-to-excellent players the Yankees kept producing, all through the 1960s and into the '70s.

    These included:

    1960—Bill Stafford, Deron Johnson.

    1961—Rollie Sheldon, Hal Reniff.

    1962—Jim Bouton, Joe Pepitone, Tom Tresh (Rookie of the Year).

    1963—Al Downing.

    1964—Mel Stottlemyre, Pete Mikkelson.

    1965—Roy White, Curt Blefary (Rookie of the Year with Baltimore).

    1966—Fritz Peterson, Dooley Womack.

    1968—Stan Bahnsen (Rookie of the Year).

    1969—Bobby Murcer.

    1970—Steve Kline, Thurman Munson (Rookie of the Year).


    So...if it wasn't the age, or the racism, and it wasn't letting the team rot, what WAS the reason for The Big Collapse???...

    Cole, Jordan, Gonzalez... does anything matter in a matter-less world?

    The Yankees beat mighty Pittsburgh yesterday, 7-4, with all seven runs coming via the HR. I know, I know... we can't obsess over exhibition scores, but it sure would be nice to see a sac bunt practiced in March, so it could be an actual possibility in May.  The Yankees have yet to record one sacrifice this spring. Not one. Emerson said, "The ends pre-exist in the means." He coulda been a great Yankee beat writer.  

    So... we now know Will Smith has a self-immolation button... what other secrets lurk in the boxes we so often ignore?


    Gerrit Cole. Well, he got cuffed around, forcing Boonie to assume the postgame fetal position, cup hands over ears, and shout "La-la-la" until the Gammonites were gone. In fact, the manager insisted, almost manically, that he's delighted with what he saw. 

    Boone has no choice. If Cole fails or falters, the Yank season is doomed. But first outings of spring are often awful, and even the wildest, toad-licking fans - you know who you are - must temper your hallucinations accordingly. Cole will probably be okay. Not sure he'll ever win a Cy. But he's the guy we'll sent out every fifth day to halt the bleeding from starters #4 and #5, who might as well be shuttled up from Marymount. I can't think about the Yankees with an ineffective Cole. Not yet, anyway. (Setback Sevy? Now, that's a different matter.)

    Jordan Montgomery. To buttress my Cole trah-lah-lah, check out the line for Monty: Two and two thirds, five Ks, two hits, no runs. The other day, he was broadsided. Right now, Montgomery is our #2 and, frankly, he's as solid as any number two in the AL East. He's 29, and he threw 157 innings last year, a 3.83 ERA. It beat his 2917 rookie season (age 24, 155 IP, 3.88.) We might really have something with this guy. 

    Marwin Gonzalez. Still a Y.I.N.O. - (Yankee in name only) - he homered yesterday, his second. He's 3-for-8 since being signed off the scrap heap. Unfortunately, he made a throwing error from 2B. Gonzalez will probably make the roster as the all-purpose utility guy. He won't hit .375 - he's 33, a career .256 hitter - but let's hope his defense is up to snuff. The Yankees might need a 9th inning glove guy - and maybe somebody who can lay down a bunt?

    Sunday, March 27, 2022

    The Jumbo Package...? Searching for meaning in the last week of March

    Hal's Pals lost again yesterday, 10-9, to Toronto, because Vinnie Natoli (age 31) and Reggie McClain (29) gave up seven runs in the late innings, pitching to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Giancarlo Stanton hit two HRs, Miguel Cabrera and Rob Brantley each hit one. But look look LOOK at the lineup...

    That's no misprint. Stanton played in right, Judge in center. Gallo - considered a gold glove fielder -  held left. The only outfield in baseball that could start for an NFL defensive line. Cabrera took another turn at 3B. 

    Dare we believe the Yankees would use a flexible lineup in 2022? 

    One of the few hopeful signs from 2021 was Stanton's willingness - actually, his desire, it seemed - to play OF rather than clomp around the water cooler for nine innings. And the more the Yankees tried to bubble wrap him - to make him into a fulltime DH - the more delicate his muscles became. 

    Likewise, the Yankees seemed willing to let Miggy devolve into a one-dimensional, bat-only player. The more they tried to hide his glove, the more glaring his defensive lapses. This year, with Gio Urshela gone, 3B is Josh Donaldson, DJ LeMahieu or Miggy - and if that doesn't work, they'll summon the ghost of Clete Boyer. 

    Finally, Judge in center? Why not? Maybe it's a sign that Brett Gardner is NOT fated to return, and if/when Aaron Hicks goes down with his inevitable whatever-tweak, it won't mean the last prospect evaluations of Estevan Florial? Maybe we'll see some mix and match? Fine with me.  

    I'd write about Florial, but my nose always bleeds. Don't despair, Vinnie Natoli. Thy name aloneth ensures your future in NYC.  

    Saturday, March 26, 2022

    Sevy and Manny... searching for something in a universe of nothingness

    The Tampaons lost to Phily yesterday, when a 31-year-old longshot named Matt Weber gave up three in the ninth. All grapefruit losses should be for such reasons.

    So... oh yes, the search for meaning...

    Luis Severino continues to get hammered. The Yankees have assumed Putin Happy War Mode: Everything fine, comrades. DO NOT WORRY... NOW! REPEATING: WORRIERS WILL BE EXECUTED! PITCHER IS FINE! 

    The Boonester says he's not worried: "That's who he is, and that's why he's Luis Severino." He actually said those words. A Zen koan, am I right? They claim Sevy's stuff is "nasty." It's just being - well - hit.  

    Of course, Boone has a point. One decent outing, and all shalt be forgot. Trouble is, Sevy has been rehabbing off and on now for three years, and memories of his 2018 season (19-8, with a 3.39) are like old episodes of Glee:  Did we really see something there? He's 28. This is his final spin with the Yankees. He needs some zeroes. And if he keeps getting battered, he might become the next...

    Manny Baneulos! Wow. Didn't see that coming. Before Setback Sevy, there was The Yankee Pedro - Baneulos, a 5'10" future ace; he made Triple A at 20 - who was absolutely untouchable in trades... 'til Cashman dealt him to Atlanta in 2015 for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve. Turned out a smart move, because he hurt his arm, and the Braves ditched him. He signed with the Dodgers. They traded him to the White Sox for Justin Yurchak. Yep, THE Justin Yurchak. The White Sox ditched him. He signed with Seattle. Three months later, the Mariners ditched him. He's been bagging groceries (figuratively) since 2020. Thirteen days ago, the Yankees signed him. Jeez Krice, baseball is cruel.

    So, yesterday, Manny threw two perfect innings, fanning three. It was the 8th, and he was basically facing the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Still, MLB rosters in April will expand to 28, and who knows, Manny could make that cut. Ashes to ashes, right? Oh, he's 31. Yeesh... blink, and 10 years pass. 

    Friday, March 25, 2022

    How to burn your own chi

     

    If you're like me, you DON'T watch sports because athletes remind you of politicians on their worst days.

    Very much the opposite. Athletes come from an inherently, "no-excuses" culture, and usually they're very good at owning up to their own shortcomings—and (often too good at) saying what's on their mind. 

    But Covid seems to make cowards of them all.

    We saw it when Aaron Rodgers, formerly one of the most popular players in the NFL, hemmed and hawed and deliberately misled everybody regarding his vaccination status this past year.

    I'm not saying there's karma in football. But somehow it did seem as if Rodgers' reduced credibility led directly to his pathetic playoff performance and—yet another—early exit for the Packers.

    Then there is Aaron Judge, sounding as mealy mouthed as, well, our own mayor, in refusing to let on the other day as to whether or not he has been vaccinated...two years into this epidemic, and with the entire season for his team potentially on the line.

    I don't want to get into the whole vaccine debate here. But it seems to me that the least we're owed by an athlete who we fans are currently enriching down to the seventh generation of the seventh generation, is a forthright explanation.  

    Had the Other Aaron sat down before the media and said, outright, "Hey, I've checked this out, really looked into it, and I think that this vaccine (or any vaccine) is a greater danger to me and others than the Covid, and I'm willing to forego the money I would make by sitting out, if that's what it takes"—I would have respected that.

    I would have thought, Man, you really need to get better sources. But I would have respected his decision.  

    Instead, much like Green Bay's Mr. Fabulous, Aaron Judge, a man who so seemed to epitomize what is best about professional sports (and is so rarely on display these days) that not just your New York Yankees but MLB in general planned to make him the image of the game...managed to burn his own chi to a crisp.

    No, I'm not actually a believer in Eastern philosophies. But I do like the idea of a "chi"—a sort of vital energy that is your real self, much as Plato thought of a real self. Or at least that's how my limited, baseball-polluted intellect conceives of it.

    It doesn't mean that either Aaron will never have a good season again. But their actions do mean that something has been irrevocably lost in both men.  

    I couldn't find it online for some reason, but the Daily News ran its own, brilliant cartoon today, of a massive, pinstriped figure who was obviously Judge, standing at the plate and pointing, Babe Ruth-like, toward the stands, as if to call his shot.

    Instead, he is saying, "Look at that dummy up in the stands who went and got vaccinated."

    It's true. In a town where garbage collectors and nurses are being fired for not being vaccinated, now the Aaron Judges, and the Jacob deGroms, and the Kyrie Irvings, have an exemption. No matter how you slice it, or what you think of Covid or vaccines, it's not right.

    The related question of whether our Aaron should get a massive raise and extension of his contract is now on the table—a question that enabled F.S. Hal Steinbrenner to evade the question as to why he didn't fill any of his team's gaping holes this offseason.  

    As a number of people here have pointed out, Judge, about to be 29, is most likely only to decline. As it is, he has never managed to bat above .287, and has missed an average of almost 33 games a year—a figure that would been more like 50 games a year, had baseball played a full season in 2020, when he would have had to miss the entire first half.  

    I would say trade him. I have said trade him for several years now. But, with the Cashman Conundrum, you know and I know and the American people know that our balding, pudgy Boy Wonder of the front office will never get anything like comparable value for Judge.

    But still: how are the next ten years going to go for what will be a constantly injured, constantly whiffing Aaron Judge—and the knowledge that he still get his hundreds of millions, while the people who served us everyday have had to go look for work?

    Miggy, Schmidt, Abreu... Finding meaning in the words of Brian Wilson

    The Death Barge lost yesterday because Joely Rodriguez - a fringe bullpen lug nut last year - was hideously pummeled. This might not be Joely's year. Still, though, an interesting afternoon...



    1. Miggy Two-Bag. The lost Yankee city - Miguel Andujar - played 3B, delivered two hits (one a signature double) and drew a walk. Not since Brigadoon Refsnyder have we seen a more mysterious disappearing act. At times, I wonder: Was he a mirage? An alcoholic fever dream? Did he really finish second in the 2018 Rookie of  the Year balloting? But there he was.

    I don't know where Miggy fits into the 2022 Yankees. Add him to the list of unexplained phenomena, the Andrea Doria of the  Yankees, the Loch Ness of the outfield. Still, he's 3 for 10 this spring, and after four years of telephone tag, could he be the comeback story of 2022? Guy's still just 27.

    Am I crazy? Of course. If he keeps hitting, Cashman will trade him for another Joely - but today, we're channeling Brian Wilson, "Wouldn't it be nice..?"

    2. Clarke Schmidt pitched two scoreless innings. Okay, let's not go full Andrew Brackman here: He wasn't lights out. He gave up two hits. Still, we've been waiting on this guy since 2017, when he was the 16th player selected in the draft. Guy's a tweak magnet. Over three seasons, he's thrown only 152 innings - always recovering from something. But here he is - age 26 - knocking on the door?

    Okay, I promised myself I wasn't going to cry... still, Kleenex, please... Clarke could be the impact Yankee rookie we haven't seen since - well - Miggy! If he could evolve into a decent starter, maybe third or fourth in the rotation, this team could finish above Boston and Toronto in the AL East. It's been five years, but we're finally unwrapping the package. 

    3. Of all the nicknames suggested in our recent cattle call, my fave is the one for Albert Abreu - "Double A." The perfect snark, cynicism, malevolence- the ideal summation of our grievances. We've been waiting on Albert since 2016, after trading Brian McCann to Houston for him (to make way for Gary Sanchez.) 

    For six years, we've been hearing about Abreu's radar gun readings, his "live arm" and limitless blah-blah-blah, as he shuttled between NY and the Anthracite Capital of Pennsylvania. But last year, on a couple occasions, he actually came through for us. Could he be the next Loaisiga? 

    He threw a scoreless ninth against the Tigers freshman team. He fanned two and never broke a sweat. Wouldn't it be nice...?

    Thursday, March 24, 2022

    Judge, Garcia, Gallo... Searching for truth in a universe of truthlessness


    Though it doesn't matter, the Death Barge last night clobbered their old chums, the Orioles, 7-1. Some of the most relevant irrelevancies...

    Some meanderings... 

    1. Increasingly, Aaron Judge looks like an anti-vaxxer. Last night, he continued to hem and haw around the issue, though he went out of his way to praise Kylie Irving for sitting out the home NBA season rather than get a jab - a move that tanked the Nets. NYC's vaccine mandate will be lifted this week, so it won't crush the Yankees and Mets. But it might still keep Judge from playing in Toronto. 

    I'm not here to debate vaccines. But Covid will always be a flashbulb mutation away from returning, and if a player would refuse one, it's worth noting before you sign him for life. We love Judge, but maybe - just maybe - NYC isn't the place for him. If Hal Steinbrenner is now the King of Prospect Huggers, perhaps he should look to acquire more...

    2. The Yankees are clucking over Deivi Garcia's success last night - two scoreless innings! - after abandoning the changes that our brain trust  foisted on him last year. As 2021's biggest wipeout - his ERA at Scranton was just shy of 7.00 - Deivi fell so fast and so hard that, even now, I wonder if he wasn't always just a concoction of Yankee/YES propaganda. 

    It sure would be great if he could pick up from 2020 - just delete last season from memory - and slot into the Yankee rotation. He'll turn 23 in May. 

    But to think that his woes may have stemmed from coaching... wow. 

    3. Last night's lineup - probably foreshadowing the regular season -  had Joey Gallo batting third, between Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. He went 2 for 3 with a double and a strikeout. 

    A friend in Texas, who has followed Gallo from the gitgo, says the Rangers promoted him for years as the Second Coming of Juan Gonzalez. But last August, they'd seen enough. They couldn't wait to jettison him. With the Yankees, in 228 plate appearances, he hit .160 and fanned 88 times (four out of every 10.) He's 28 and facing a career crossroads.

    Used to be, your biggest bat hit third. The stat-crunchers changed that. But make no mistake: Gallo will be the most important presence in the Yankee lineup. If he can't hit between Judge and Giancarlo, he's toast. And so are we. 

    And batting third - no matter how you crunch your numbers - that's a lot to hang on a lifetime .206 hitter.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2022

    Gardy to Toronto? Say it aint so.

    "These are the days of the lasers in the jungle," the balladeer Paul Simon once sang. (Yank fan, by the way.)  That was long ago - yeesh, 1986 - in a song called The Boy in the Bubble. Today, we don't see kids in bubbles - just shell-shocked children singing Disney themes from bunkers below the ground. These are the days of corpses in the suburbs - of polarization and brinksmanship - when every dispute must be settled by each side holding its breath to see who can last longer. So it went in the recent MLB lockout. And now, Yankee fans face another cruel deadline crisis - the fate of Mr. Brett Michael Gardner, a free agent who seeks one more year.

    Insert sigh here.

    What can I say about Gardy that you don't already know? He remains the last slim connection to the 2009 team, a championship now so distant that - for the TikTok generation - it never happened. Last year, Gardy sorta sucked. He hit .222 - lowest of his 14-year-career, though only one point higher than he hit in 2020. He stole only four bases (three, the previous season.) He will turn 39 in August. Realistically, how much does he have left?

    But but BUT... we're talking about Gardy here. Threat to every dugout roof. Hardest slide on the team. Surest glove in the outfield. Lifetime Yankee. Let me repeat that: Lifetime Yankee. (Will we ever again see one?) The de facto team captain. Arguably, a plaque in Monument Park. He'd happily take a one-year deal. Won't ask for the moon. Won't break a budget. Do the Yankees simply let him walk?

    And here is where the lasers really start to burn. The Blue Jays apparently want him. Toronto - a young and ascending team, the opposite of ours - needs a fifth outfielder, a lefty bat and a splurge of clubhouse glue. Gardner could be a perfect fit. 

    Listen...

    I cannot remember a more disappointing and depressing winter than what we've just endured. Aside from the repulsive owners' lockout, we fans were played by the Yankee propaganda machine. 

    We were wound up with expectations for at least one big free agent signing - someone to spur hope for the coming season. Instead of a star shortstop, catcher or centerfielder, we have a slap-hitting experiment and Josh Donaldson, whose contract sags like a wet paper bag filled with dead kittens. 

    Our outfield looks like a zombie version of 2021. Incredibly, the Yankees seem bent toward the joyride delusion that Aaron Hicks will play a full season, and that Joey Gallo will suddenly become an all-around hitter. 

    And now, on top of everything else, will we see Brett Gardner in a Blue Jays jersey? 

    Okay, I know what you're thinking: The problem here is Gardy. He doesn't deserve another year, it's time to retire, he should show loyalty and not piss away the chance to be a lifelong Yankee. I get it, but with this caveat: All ballplayers think they have one more year. He's no different. He wants to try. The end is always hard. And here we are, perched at another crossroads. These are the days of miracle and wonder, and cluster bombs in the forest, and don't cry, baby, don't cry... 

    Tuesday, March 22, 2022

    What we talk about, when we talk about Boone

     The Surrealist Compliment Generator.

    Your unexpected explosion entangles us in a web of premature umbrellas and precocious timepieces.

    And the 2021-22 Winter Golden Snowball, for upstate NY accumulation, goes to...

     Buffalo. It wasn't close.

    Shameful performance by Syracuse. Pathetic. They should fire the mayor.


    Theoretically, a late-winter snowstorm could tweak these numbers, but - as the news channels say - we're calling it. 

    After three years of self-righteous bluster, will the Yankees be found to have cheated?

    Soon, perhaps before opening day, the U.S. Second Court of Appeals is expected to release a 2017 letter that apparently details the Yankees' involvement with electronic sign-stealing - similar to the scandals that still taint the Astros and Redsocks, (scumbucket cheaters that they are.) 

    We don't know the contents of this letter. All we know is that the Yankees really, really... really...  don't want it made public...  which, of course, makes us want it more.

    In denying the Yankees' bid to disappear the document, the court wrote: 

    “The Yankees argue that the harm from the unsealing of the Yankees Letter will arise because its content ‘would be distorted to falsely and unfairly generate the confusing scenario that the Yankees had somehow violated MLB’s sign-stealing rules, when in fact the Yankees did not.' “That argument, however, carries little weight."

    By the way, this looks like the old Bill Barr Defense: Deny deny deny, and suppress suppress suppress.  The Yankees wanted it both ways and, unless they plan to take this to the Supreme Court - (that's what cornered billionaires do, isn't it?) - they might be about to fry in their own grease.

    So, a few questions...

    1. If the Yankees did cheat, who authorized it? 

    MLB suspended several Astros and Redsocks officials for a year. Presumably, the Yankees won't have been found as blatantly guilty, but still... how high could this go? And will anybody pay a price?

    2. Will the hypocrisy bring them down? 

    Think of that old political chestnut, "It's the coverup, not the crime." For three years, the Yankees whipped up their fanbase over the cheating scandal. If it turns out that they were also caught cheating... yikes. Prepare to those block phone calls from Redsock fans. 

    3. Will the Gammonites take kindly to the accusation that they unfairly distort news against the Yankees? 

    Frankly, in recent years, it's the lack of critics that plagues this franchise. Media outlets have dwindled, and the Yankees own their primary coverage vehicle, the YES channel. We may love Coney & Curry - and John & Suzyn, but they can never rip the front office. We might as well ask that brave Russian TV producer to hold up a sign that says, THEY'RE LYING TO YOU. It is state TV.

    4. Just how explosive could this be?

    Frankly, the Yankees have already screwed themselves: By fighting this letter, they have turned it into a major story. If they'd let it go three years ago, it would be ancient history by now. They just wouldn't have been able to pleasure themselves with so much self-righteous indignation. This could turn out to be a huge embarrassment for Hal Steinbrenner.  

    Listen, over the years, we at IIH have made no secret of our disdain for the Yankee owner. But honestly, there are times when I feel for the guy. 

    I don't think Hal ever wanted to run the Yankees. They were foisted upon him, and I suspect he still looks at his old sled,"Rosebud," and longs for a simpler life. I want to believe he would not authorize a strategy that involved cheating. Why? I think Hal wants desperately to be accepted by his fellow owners - so much that he limits using his unfathomable wealth to improve the Yankees. 

    To be caught cheating, to cover it up, and then to be publicly pilloried for his hypocrisy - that would be about the worst thing that could happen to him. 

    Of course, the letter might be nothing. If so, the Yankees did themselves no favors by fighting its release. Which leads us to a final question: 

    Have we ever seen this organization more in turmoil?