Thursday, March 23, 2023

Yankee silence suggests an uneasy calm before the impending Cashmanic storm.

Sorry, but right now, there's nothing to say about the '23 Yanks - who currently rank 8th in NYC tabloid covers this year, behind the Jets, Nets, Mets and Damar Hamlin. Nope, there is no wise but whimsical rant. No hard-edged venture into hilarity. No wide-eyed glance into the jaws of Hell. Nothing to say. 

Sometime, in the next few days, the Yankees will alter this team, either massively - (think: Gleyber gone) - or microscopically - (so long, Estevan Florial.) They will also decide between Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza at SS. Then, and only then, this year's team will take shape. 

Meanwhile, we ingest recycled crapola: For example, this bottomless blathering of nothingness from the dean of NYC sports talkers, Mike Francesca. Yesterday, on the matter of Volpe, the Oracle said.

"If he's ready and they feel that he's ready - they're around him every day, and they know if he's ready. If he's ready... I think you put him on the team and let him be. It doesn't mean he's going to blossom into Jeter. But if he's ready to be there on a daily basis, you don't bring him up here and put him on the bench. You bring him up here if he's going to play. If he's going to play every day, then you play him. If he's not, then you don't bring him up here."

WTF? Should I disagree?
If he's ready, DON'T bring him up? Send him to Scranton! And if he's NOT ready, bring him up?  

The saddest part is, right now, that's all there is to say: Nothing. Just wrap it into a loop and let it run.  

It's not Francesca's fault. Across the Yankiverse, this is the most excruciating period known to fans: With Opening Day approaching, we must simply sit here, crapping pineapples, and wait for Cashman to do his thing. Shoot me. In the meantime, a few thoughts, which may or may not be fully basted...

1. Whatever happens, cheers to Isiah Kiner-Falefa! With trade talk swirling, there he is, donning catcher's gear, hitting his usual .241, and giving the Yankee fans one more reason to love the guy. Last year, it didn't work for IKF, playing fulltime SS. But he remains a great teammate. And trust me on this: We will need a third catcher. 

Whatever we get for him in a trade, it won't be enough.

2. Michael King continues to excel: He hasn't given up a run this spring, and he pitches two-to-three innings at a time. Shouldn't the Yankees consider him a short starter? Especially if/when German or Schmidt go belly-up. This is not some acid trip idea. It's how most teams develop their starters: They rise up from the bullpen. It's the path traveled by Nasty Nestor. Could King be the next Nasty Nestor? I'm just saying, it's worth exploring. 

3. Yesterday, our two biggest spring disappointments - Peraza and Florial - went a combined 0-for-7. How enjoyable this last week in Tampa could be, if only they looked good. There'd be no debate, no red tide, no fear of a looming Cashmanic disruption. Both would be locks for Opening Day. Instead, Peraza is hitting .188 and Florial, .167. Sad.

Nothing to say. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Just A Friendly Reminder....

 I am still here.

Welcome to an exciting new season.

A year filled with promise and grand expectations.

I only report the news I don't make it.

So blame nothing on me when what I mention, ruins your day.

So who is starting at shortstop?

Josh Donaldson hit two HRs yesterday. Trade him. Now.

A week from tomorrow, the world begins anew. 

No longer shall there be Covid, or political strife, or wildfires, or mudslides, or pain and suffering... though it will still be nearly impossible to get a plumber on weekends.

I refer to Opening Day, the holiest date on the IT IS HIGH calendar after July 4, the birthday of John Sterling. Sometime, between now and O-DAY, the Yankees must make a move. Actually, several. They will need to jettison someone, to cull the herd and make way for 2023.

I hereby speak for the entire Yankiverse in asking Brian Cashman - today - to phone, text, Facetime or butt-dial every single MLB general manager on the planet - and Miami, too.  He should offer around the newly rejuvenated Josh Donaldson - a reborn and refurbished slugger who has rediscovered his 2015 MVP stroke, and who is headed for a fantastic season, Comeback of the Year! Do they know he's only 37 - 11 years younger than Derek Jeter, who could easily hit .260. Donaldson is one of those seasoned old pros who can "teach the kids how to win." He's already won the respect and admiration of African-American players by kiddingly calling them "Jackie." He's a veritable Gold Glove at third, and he hit two HRs yesterday. Did you see that? Two HRs. He's back. Hey, Monty, let's make a deal!

Look, I hate to mock Donaldson. It's not his fault that somebody gave him an outlandish contract, and the Yankees then traded for it. That dust-up last season with Tim Anderson? Let's give Donaldson the benefit of the doubt. Let's say he wasn't being racist. But he still represents the trouble with the modern Yankees. Like a recurring movie sequence, every year, after avoiding bidding wars on free agents, they trade for aging veterans with incredibly bloated contracts. They did it with Kevin Brown. They did it with Giancarlo. They did it with - dear God, don't make me go down the list - let's just say that Donaldson is the latest former star the Yankees acquired from some GM who was desperate to ditch. Also, to make matters worse, last October - on the world stage - Donaldson was putrid. The fans booed, and the Yankees this winter found no team willing to take him. End of story?

NO! HE HIT TWO HRS YESTERDAY! If, say, he hits two more today, could they find a taker?

I don't think Donaldson is a bad person or the cause of Yankee rot. He's just another guy whose contract overwhelms his actual value. If the Yankees could trade him tomorrow - for anything, forget true value, just to a team that would absorb his contract - here's their infield:

1b Rizzo
2b Gleyber
ss Volpe/Oswald
3b LeMahieu
back ups: IKF, Oswaldo

Trouble is, we have Donaldson, the Yankee equivalent of a teetering bank that is too big to fail. We must play him. We must endure this mating dance with our own crapola. If he gets off to a hot start, it simply means he will play longer into the summer before the slump hits, before age catches up to him. 

I say, make the calls, Brian. It's a cruel business, baseball, and today might be the best shot you get. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Yankees will soon get a prognosis on Carlos Rodon - and maybe the 2023 season.

The Yankees OVER 7 ERA club
We've indulged ourselves lately, chattering happily about Anthony Volpe's quest to conquer the old, calcified Yankee establishment and make the opening day roster. 

Soon, that question might not matter.

Any day now, the Yankees should learn whether their biggest addition from the winter of 2022-23 will be a viable starter or the next Yahoo Serious. 

Soon, Carlos Rodon - sidelined with a tender forearm - will throw a bullpen session that could decide whether the Yanks enter 2023 with a capable rotation - or sirens blaring. 

If Rodon feels pain, the projections could be bottomless. His immediate fate can range from missing a few starts - and, hell, every pitcher does at some point - to needing surgery, which might cost him the season. The latter would bring devastation to the Yankees. They would have lost two of their planned five-man rotation, with no guarantees about the others. We would almost have to wonder if the franchise should start viewing 2023 as a rebuilding year.

I hate to be banging on garbage cans here. The world is crazy enough without alarmist bloggers ranting about asteroids, floods and Frankie Montas. Also, no team is immune to injuries. Look at the Mets and Edwin Diaz. The Yankees have much going for them: LeMahieu, Judge, Rizzo and Stanton might be the best top-of-the-order foursome in baseball. But to lose Rodon for an extended period - yikes. He was the one addition from last winter that seemed to elevate the Yankees from their also-ran status of last October. And for now, we don't know... 

If Rodon is hurt, or his return is delayed, the options look thin. The Yankees have struggled in just building trade packages for a left-fielder. To obtain a starting pitcher - that would cost far more. And Yank fans also know the implicit danger that lies ahead: 

Over the years, finding starters has been Brian Cashman's great white whale. From Javier Vasquez to Sonny Gray, he has repeatedly failed in trades and signings. (We love Gerrit Cole, but his best years have still happened in Houston.) Look at the chart on the right. Aside from Cole, Yankee starters this spring have been pounded. We can console ourselves that these games mean nothing. But April is near. 

Keep the candles lit, everybody. If Rodon is hurt, this could be a long year.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Signs of...Hope? The Apocalypse? Somethin'?

This time of year, right around the Vernal Equinox, is when we baseball fans look for signs. Maybe signs of Mickey Vernon (almost traded for Joe DiMaggio, by an owner even madder than a Steinbrenner.).

But I digress.

A couple of signs have popped up of late, and frankly, even the pigeon-entrail assessors I summoned from the Pantheon have been stumped.

Good? Bad? Indifferent, in the meaningless world of foreplay, constant contention without consummation, that HAL Steinbrenner and his family of skinflints have created??? You tell me.

First, of course, the Reggie Bar is back—and New Hyde Park has got it, as Newsday proudly proclaimed.

I was in the stands the day the Reggie Bar was first distributed, free, at the Yanks' home opener in 1978. Like everyone else there, I thrilled as Reggie homered off Wilbur Wood—technically, his fourth homer on four pitches in games that counted, going back to the last game of the 1977 World Series. 

It set off a sight such as I have never seen at a ballgame, before or since, a flurry of the square, orange-wrappered bars that poured spontaneously from the stands like a tribute at a bullfight, or some such more ancient, primal spectacle. Even Reggie, the original hambone, was startled and a little unnerved by it.

(Being too far from the field for even my longest toss to make it, I simply ate mine. Not bad! And no, when you unwrapped it, it didn't tell you how good it was.)

The home run proved to be all the Yankees needed, en route to a 4-2 victory. It proved to be the first of Ron Guidry's awesome, 25-win season. It proved to be the first step on the road to the 1978 World Championship, with the manager of the OTHER team on the field that day, Bob Lemon, in the Yankees' dugout at the kill.

Is it a foreshadowing? And how could it be anything BUT a good sign? 

Perhaps it doesn't meet Yankee Stadium III's heady nutritional standards. Are there sufficient rat turds in Reggie Bar II? I'm sure HAL's health inspectors will be giving it the once over.

But that's not all!

She's baaaaaack!

Yes, IBS Lady has reappeared! 

Mrs. Calabash noticed that the fabulous Ilana Becker, who deserves a lifetime Oscar—or something—for her dazzling role in an IBS drug commercial, popped up in a small role recently on the network show, Ghosts.

Forget I said that. There are no small roles, only small actors. And the latter certainly doesn't apply to our gal. YOU try playing an irritated colon for laughs!

But all Ms. Becker needed was a whig, a hospital sheet she quickly turned into a cape, and AT-TI-TUDE!

But what does this all mean?

A return to those halcyon days when Ilana was first cutting up in doctors' offices, and your New York Yankees were surging up the standings once again?

Or...does her reappearance serve as a metaphor for what will happen, once again, to our team? Waylaid once again by a debilitating intestinal blockage just when things were looking good?

You be the judge. Or Judge will be the judge. But two signs from the juju gods is two signs too many.

SOMETHIN's happening out there!


Beating A Dead Horse

I have to apologize in advance… It seems like pretty much all of you are totally good with the pitch clock but I wonder if SOME of that meh feeling we collectively share is related to the game speeding up. That we are not connecting with it like we used to. 

The pace is off. 

I freely admit that it is too soon do accurately judge.

I understand that it is still Spring Training and there is no compelling reason to be that engaged with the games.

Aside from a few at bats, such as watching Volpe or the Martian or, on the flip side, Hicks and Donaldson there’s not much going on that is worth our attention.

I’ve now watched 8-10 games.

The clock definitely makes the games easier to watch and is an improvement.

It didn't screw up John and Suzyn as badly as I thought.

The games move. I get it.

It's a net positive but...

It just doesn't feel like the same game. I keep saying it feels like basketball.

For the record, I like basketball. My Dad was a HS basketball coach in the Bronx for twenty years.

I dream basketball.

That said, there is more tension in one at bat then there is in an entire game with the exception of the last two minutes of a close one.

That tension is gone. There’s not enough time for it to set in.

I’ve been told I’ll adjust and perhaps I will. That my mind will start to recognize the importance of the pitch without the time to consider it, and G-d knows, nobody likes or wants 5-7 minute at bats. 

I hope so.

Maybe I’m old. Check that. I know I’m old.

Maybe it had to be done for the sake of the game.

But, right now I still feel like I’m watching something go past me. 

Baseball needs a clock. Fine, I get it. Would it kill them to add few seconds to it? 

How about twenty seconds with no on and twenty-five with a man on base.  It would slow the pace down just enough to make it less like watching a guy hit balls at a batting cage and more like… baseball.

Is it a "drought" or a drought? And did the Yankees yesterday show their Opening Day hand?

"A fully operational death star." That's how Brian Cashman foresaw the 2019 Yankees, as the springy sprigs of spring sprang forth. That year, they won the AL East, swept the mighty Twins, and then fell to Houston - cheating, garbage can-clapping Houston. I speet on them. Pttuui. 

Ever since, Cashman has avoided playful Star Wars imagery. He also stays away from "toxic" social media - (such as us, I suppose) - and prefers the company of friendly Gammonites, who, as the NY Post does today, when describing the last 13 ringless years, puts the words "drought" in quotation marks. 

Now, I don't want to nitpick. But I don't think the last 13 years - without winning a world series - constitutes a "drought." I think it's a drought. A fucking drought, actually. 

We are in the third longest championship drought in Yankee history, and - frankly - there is no end in sight. The Yankees "droughted" from 1979-t0-1995 (17 years) and 1963-to-1976 (14 years) - stretches of torture that are remembered for the likes of earnest Horace Clarke and malevolent Mel Hall. 

Yank fans love to tout our 27 championships, which make us America's most successful pro sports franchise. But remove the eras of Ruth-Gehrig-DiMaggio - which hardly anybody is alive to remember - and the Yankees, since 1962, have seven world championships. It's the most in baseball - hooray - but not so  overwhelming. The Cardinals and Dodgers each have five, Oakland and Boston, four. I mercifully won't live long enough to see the Yankees displaced, but my kids probably will. 

Listen: This isn't a "drought." It's a muthafuckin' drought. 

And from here, 2023 doesn't look like a drought-breaker.

Check out yesterday's lineup. I cannot shake the feeling that we just got a glimpse of Opening Day. 

Judge. Rizzo. Stanton. Donaldson. 
Cabrera. Hicks. Peraza. The catcher (whoever.) Cole on the mound. 

Missing were Higashioka and Trevino (WBC and IL), Gleyber (WBC), the gaggle of non-roster left-fielders, a CF (seriously, Hicks?) and Anthony Volpe (destined for Scranton?)

After Stanton, the cleanup hitter, this lineup drops off a cliff - unless you believe Josh Donaldson can turn back the clock to 2019. There are no signs of such a rejuvenation, aside from assurances by Donaldson. 

Also, I know it's bad form to look at spring training records. It's stupid, it's meaningless, it's ridiculous, and the Yankees have lost five straight. Old George would throw a fit. We won't, and I suppose we shouldn't.

But here's the reality: We are in a drought. We are a team looking to make the playoffs and then get lucky. Like all the others. We don't look like the glamor team of baseball. And those 27 world championships? Most of them look pretty tarnished. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

A Glimmer of Light among the chaos.

 In a key contest yesterday,  between Venezuela and Yemen, a Houston Astro was hit in the thumb by a well directed fastball. 

It fractured the proximal phalanx and caused a deep contusion on the MCP joint. Surgery will commence once the swelling diminishes. 

Personally I recommend a surgeon from one of those drive-up windows in Florida, where you might find a Dr Toothy ( for root canal work ) or a " martini to go."  But I digress.

The " victim" ( as they are calling him in Texas), was no other than Jose Altuve. A person of questionable reputation when it comes to baseball ethics. 

And while we never wish ill on any human being, I felt it necessary to report the incident. 

Have a nice day. 

Martini anyone?

Uh-oh. Kahnle?


Another lousy day in Paradise, as the giant humongous of seaweed drifts ever closer

One of these days, that big floating Gargantua of seaweed - larger than New Jersey and twice as garlicky - will reach the gold-gated beachfronts of Florida, signifying the end of spring training, as we know it.

It will march ashore on the tide of a major Yankee trade - or at least a mini-deal assigned massive relevance by the YES echo chambers. Forgive my Chicken Little impersonation, but I believe an earthquake is imminent. By this time next week, the Yankees will have made decisions that shall affect not just the '23 season, but their long term health and welfare. 

The issues at hand:

1. The Florial Arrangement. Estevan Florial, that is. He'll either claim the fifth OF spot or disappear like the Babadookian ghosts of Bubba, Yangervis and Zolio. Right now, the Yankees are playing him every day. This spring, he's third the number of At-Bats. He's not exactly killing it: .182. Does he stay or does he go? And if the latter, what will they get in return? Probably some 18-year-old dirt leaguer who will be filed into the farm system like the Arc at the end of that first Indiana Jones movie. 

2. The Volpe Conundrum. SS Anthony Volpe has 37 ABs this spring, most on the Yankees - while his competition, Oswald Peraza (25 ABs) watches, along with a breathless coven of Gammonites. Yesterday, the NY Post reported on how Volpe's long, pesky lead off first-base rattled a Blue Jays pitcher into surrendering a double to Aaron Judge. Every sentence secretly screamed "JETER-JETER-JETER." Volpe has captured the fantasies of the Yankiverse. But is that a good thing? He's 21. And, realistically, how does he fit into this team? If they start him at SS, it demands a trade: IKF, Gleyber, Oswald, Oswaldo, Donaldson the Untradeable, (who is batting .200)... somebody. And if they send him to Scranton, the sighs of resignation will be louder than even Donaldson's boos. 

3. The Left Field Cryptid. Yesterday, Willie Calhoun caught a long fly and made a sharp throw, signs that his legendary glove of granite might have softened, and that perhaps he is a viable LF. Calhoun also doubled; he's hitting .367 in 30 ABs, fourth highest on the team. (The team leaders in ABs, in order: Volpe, Oswaldo Cabrera, Florial, Calhoun and Hicks the Untradeable.) Also yesterday, Rafael Ortega - playing CF - went 0-3. If Calhoun or Ortega makes the team, it likely means trading somebody.  I can't imagine what they'd get for Hicks, but it would fit in my shirt pocket.

4. The Spot Starter Mystery. As always, it's up for grabs. Like every team, the Yankees need pitching, pitching, pitching, and excuse me if Matt Krook doesn't look like the next Ramiro Mendoza,  the gold standard for emergency starters. After Gerrit Cole, here are the ERAs of our current rotation - (and we warn viewers that the following report contains incidences of violence): Nasty Nestor (13.50), Domingo G (8.71), Setback Sevy (10.64) and Clarke Schmidt (4.63.) It's too soon to run for the hills. But outings like this would kill the bullpen by May 15.

So, the continent of brooding seaweed drifts ever closer. Some scientists claim it was always there, that the planet is simply adjusting. We didn't notice it until last week. Soon, it will arrive. The landscape is about to change, just in time for Opening Day. 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

IKF v Florial: The Yankee stopgap battle in center field?

Yesterday, Isiah Kiner-Falefa tried something wild. No, it wasn't a new aftershave, a hot dating ap, or even a sexy META avatar. He played CF for a first time since 2017, back in slaphappy Double A for the always-miserable Texas Rangers. 

Generally, IKF caught what came his way, though he later claimed responsibility for a blooper that fell into short center. (Actually, Aaron Hicks flubbed it, keeping intact his spring highlight reel of botcheries.) In taking the blame, I believe The Hyphen sought to spare Hicks from the boos that have become his walk-up music. At 27, IKF is a solid MLB citizen facing a midlife crisis. Everybody appreciates his hustle. The question is whether he can play CF every day, and the answer is - well - probably, no. 

IKF's last shot with the Yankees - and maybe anywhere - will be as an all-purpose utility player: IF/OF-even C, a notion that seemed ludicrous last month, before injuries decimated that position. 

Isiah's CF competition is 25-year-old Estevan Florial, a former top prospect who is so statistically remindful of Joey Gallo that we should run. Florial strikes out nearly every other at bat. He cannot lay off curves that seem destined for the Australian outback. He swings at them lustily, the way Chris Christie launches for a slice of pepperoni.  

In the hallowed territory of Joe D, Mickey, Bernie and - uh - Earl Combs? we have a slap hitter with no MLB experience vs. a guy who covers ground but cannot put balls into play. 

For a contending team, neither option works. 

The question is, can either hold CF until Harrison Bader returns - and when exactly will that be? (Current estimates say mid-May, but the Yankee Iron Rule of Injuries is to add an extra month to whatever the franchise claims. There's no nice way to put this: They feel no compulsion to tell the truth.)  

There is no fallback here. (Yes, Aaron Judge could play CF, and maybe Oswaldo Cabrera. Both have significant downsides.) Florial has no more minor league options: If cut, he goes in free agency and we likely get squat. IKF won't bring much in a trade, and - by the way - who out there is knock-kneed with jubilation over the prospect of Cooperstown Cashman cutting deals? That ship of hope sailed last August.

Florial does offer two marketable skills: defensive CF and base-stealer. (I believe he is slightly faster than IKF, but I lost my stopwatch.) Late in a game, which would we want coming up? Actually, we'd prefer Rafael Ortega or Willie Calhoun, but they play LF (and Calhoun can barely do that.) Left field is an entirely different ongoing mess.

And  - yikes - here's a new addition to the billowing Yankee derailment fire: Domingo German. Yesterday, The Germ gave up seven earned runs and four HRs in 2.2 innings. He's our No. 4 starter. These games mean, gulp, nothing. But... yikes.  

Two months ago, the Yankees looked like favorites in the AL East - a loaded rotation and a veteran lineup. Right now, they are one more piece of bad news from a meltdown. 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Two weeks away from Opening Day, the Yankee roster is a jumbled mess

Quickly now, on the '23 Yankees, what positions are - as Brett Cavanaugh would say - settled law?  You know... etched into stone, done deals, no exceptions, no tapbacks. Anybody? Class? Show of hands? You there, with the hair loss...

Of course! Aaron Judge! He plays RF, right? Unless he's in center. But the Yanks won't subject him to such wear and tear, right? Yes? No? Who knows?

And Anthony Rizzo, at 1B. He's a lock, unless his lumbago is barking. For now, he's resting. If this were July...  

And all-star Jose Trevino behind the plate. Unless his wrist is hurting. If so, it's Home Run Higgy and... do we even have a second catcher? 

So, eyeing the lineup... Giancarlo at DH (unless he's in RF), LeMahieu (somewhere), Oswaldo (somewhere else) Gleyber, (unless he's traded) Hicks & Donaldson (unless fans attack the stadium.) Theoretically, Anthony Volpe might crack this Olympian dream team, though it would require deals from a GM with the worst recent trading record since the Indians gave away Manhattan.

After a month of spring training, absolutely nothing is settled. 

And let's brace ourselves for more tweaked gonads between now and April 1. Injuries are the only certainty we know. 

Okay, what about pitching? Certainly, Gerrit Cole starts on opening day. Then comes Nasty Nestor (wait, no; his groin) and Luis Severino (unless his recent outings suggest an issue as yet undisclosed.) 

Yesterday, we added two more question marks. Though it was refreshing to see Clarke Schmidt throw five no-hit innings - he's a lock for 5th starter, even if they don't use one in April - Wandy Peralta and Albert Abreu blew a five-run lead against the Pirates' JV team. After Clay Holmes and Michael King (also returning from an injury), the bullpen is a jump ball, like everything else on the red tide Florida coast. 

At this point, I must confess that part of me likes this. For years now, the Yanks have opened camp with a rigid pecking order in place - the lone competition being for the final bullpen dregs. And what did that get us? The 2009 World Championship! Ever since, the Yankees have taken pride in fielding contenders - a nice word for also-rans. Are your buttons popping from pride?  

Lately, everything swirls around Volpe, who seems to be creating what the late Rep. John Lewis called "good trouble." His emerging presence threatens the serenity of a settled, corpselike lineup. Every Yank fan in captivity is rooting for Volpe, in part because we see the next Jeter - a dangerous set of expectations for a 21-year-old. For Volpe to make the team...

1. He must win SS, hands down. They won't bring him north to sit.

2. Somebody must disappear. Right now, the infield has eight dancers circling six chairs:  Rizzo, Donaldson, IKF, LeMahieu, Peraza, Oswaldo, Volpe, Torres. When the music stops, it's a scrum.

3. Of particular note, they must weigh the potential damage of sending SS Oswald Peraza back to Scranton. The guy has earned his shot. What more can he do in Triple A? The sad saga of the modern Yankees tells of a franchise that eats its young. We must not squander a fine prospect, even if another one came along. Peraza must make this team.  

We have roughly 12 days to settle this.  

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Yankee sore spots linger, but they're still not the Mets

Today, as we nervously await the next Yankee setback, let us collectively thank The Cosmos for sparing us from the most supreme form of torture known to fans. 

Thank you, Yahweh, Allah, Jesus, Buddha, Fates, Gia, Kanye, Odin, Cthulhu, Jerry Garcia,
 Whomever You Are, for not originally begetting us as diehard supporters of the New York Mets. 

No matter what happens this spring in Tampa - (close your eyes, and we can all imagine the unimaginable) -  it won't likely rival the aftermath of last night's World Baseball Classic. Moments after Edwin Diaz struck out the side to seal Puerto Rico's emotional victory over its arch-rival, the Dominican Republic, the Mets closer apparently blew out his knee, while doing celebratory pogoes on the mound. They carted him off in a wheelchair. 

BTW, that's no metaphor. A frickin' wheelchair. Since when do guys get carted off in wheelchairs? 

If the Mets were a bank, Moody's Investment Services today would downgrade their rating, citing a  "rapidly deteriorating bullpen." If they were a textbook, they'd be banned in Florida. If they were a Jake Paul heavyweight bout, the fight would be halted.

Today, as we tiptoe into the minefield of Yankee issues, let's get some context. Here's what didn't happen to us last night: We didn't just lose one of our key players for perhaps the entire season, due to the vengeful ghost of Bud Selig, who forever wanders the earth in search of ways to hurt New York City. Milwaukee Bud created the "World Classic" hoping to monetize the tribal emotions of nationalism, something baseball had mercifully avoided in its first 100 years. So this week, to honor their home dictatorships - and sell out stadiums - players gave their best to win - what - a cup? a trophy? medals? certificates of appreciation? 

Wait... I got it... how about... the golden wheelchair!

Don't me wrong. I'm not crowing. I know how juju treats fans who cackle. Besides, a relatively large faction of the Yankee fan base believes the best thing that can happen to the Yankees is a thriving Mets franchise. Hal Steinbrenner will never face an existential crisis - he's too rich - but his father's legacy won't look all that well preserved if the Yankees become NYC's second tier team. The Mets can force Hal to get off his ass and spend more movie money. But their chances of winning in 2023 just suffered a gut shot. Or a kneecapping. We'll know more today. But from now on, the enduring image of the World Baseball Classic will be... a frickin' wheelchair?.

Which brings me to the Yankee left field situation. No wheelchairs. But not much else, either. The Yankees yesterday somehow managed to score eight runs while getting nothing - nada, zilch, nope - from players who seek to fill the LF sinkhole. The law firm of Hicks, Florial, McKinney and Ortega contributed six Ks and nothing else. 

Of course, we have Oswaldo Cabrera and Anthony Volpe, two current beacons of hope. But do you get the feeling that these youngsters - who were originally slated for less stressful roles - are becoming central cogs to this team? Volpe has been leading off, and Oswaldo yesterday batted after Judge. I know that can't be the lineup on opening day, unless some injuries keep coming.

I'm ready to leap onto the Volpe bandwagon. But it would be nice if he actually had to beat out someone who was also having a solid spring, rather than simply be the best of not much. We aren't seeing much. But, hey, no wheelchairs, right?

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Last of the Coney Island Red Hots.

That was the name of the amateur team Joe Pepitone played for, back when he was a can't-miss, $100,000-bonus baby in the making. 

Before he got shot in shop class. Before he took a $20,000 bonus, all of "which he immediately squandered on a souped-up Bonneville and a fiberglass speedboat," as Peter Golenbock put it.

(Hey, can you ever really squander money on a souped-up Bonneville?)

A couple other facts Golenbock, a keen interviewer, gleaned from Pep was that the much-maligned Yogi Berra was the only manager who could ever handle him, with a sort of fatherly firmness:

"I liked Yogi as a manager. Yogi got me to play in 160 ball games. I used to come up to him and say, 'I don't feel good today.' He'd say, 'You're playing.' I'd say, 'Yogi, I'm sick.' He'd say, 'You're playing.' And he'd turn around and walk away. I played 160 ball games. And I had my hundred-RBI season that year. Twenty-eight home runs. He made me play and I admired him."

Later, he talked about how he quit the game—in America, at least—after Harry the Hat Walk dared to yell at him, down in Houston:

"Here's a manager making $20,000 yelling at $100,000 ball players. I just couldn't stand it. I gave up. I need the money? You can take the money and shove it up your ass. My own head and my own being mean  more to me than the money. I can go down to Coney Island and buy four Nathan's hot dogs and lie on the beach all day. A lot of people say, 'Who are you going to live off of?' I'll live off my mother. She'll take good care of me."

Ah, Joe. Simultaneously claiming that money means nothing and that people who make less money have no right to yell at people who make more! It was that sort of confused thinking that got him where he ended up.

Coney Island is a cold place out of season, and nobody's mother lives forever. In the end, the money meant a good deal. So much so that Joe ended up disgracing himself and going to jail. 

Somehow, when I heard about his death, that old Dion song came to mind. It's the wrong team, of course, but the right borough:

"I used to be a Brooklyn dodger

But I ain't a hitter anymore

I used to have a reputation

I loved to hear the home crowd roar.

I used to be a Brooklyn dodger

But I don't play there anymore."

Well, what the hell? Somewhere, in one of the Alternate Yankeeverses of our dreams, Joe is the smooth-fielding, power-hitting first baseman-outfielder of our dreams, leading the dynasty on along with a healthy Tom Tresh at short and young Bill Robinson in the outfield, and Al Downing on the mound.  

The picture below I scanned from my very first Yankee yearbook, in 1967. Back when it was NOT the size of a phonebook, and cost all of 50 cents. Back before Joe started to look like Savonarola and was just one more, wide-eyed kid in the presence of the great DiMaggio. 

It was from a section in which Yankees players talked about their greatest moments in the game:

 Joe Pepitone, RIP.



The poormouth 2022 Yankees banked $344.7 million from ticket sales alone.

Last year, the Yankee Death Star took in $344.7 million in ticket sales, according to the team's regulatory filing with the People's Republic of New York, (as reported by Sportico.)  

Mull that number. Three hundred, forty four million, seven hundred thousand dollars and no cents. For starters, it's not some Ouija board estimate from Bleacher Report. It's a legal notation, calculated and filed by Hal Steinbrenner's bean-counters, who are presumably every bit as skilled in hiding money as the reptilian launderers of Silicon Valley and Trump Tower. 

Nearly $350 million... in ticket sales alone.

Chew on that. The number doesn't include income from $30 t-shirts, $15 hot dogs, $10 beers, $12 parking spaces, the untold millions from W.B. Mason and Geico TV ads, all those in-game blurbs that John and Suzyn must read (and God help them with the new ticking time clock) plus whatever rivers of income that can be squeezed from the category known as Miscellaneous.  (Who will sell "the official pot of the Yankees?")

The upshot? All those horrible luxury taxes, those unholy payments, which ruin poor Hal's life every day, that cause him so much grief? Well, he shoulda beaten Brendan Frasier for Best Actor. 

If Hal's dreaded Yankee payroll, in all its bloated magnitude, reaches $270 million, it's still $50 million shy of what the team rakes in on FUCKING TICKET SALES ALONE. 

Now, let's note that the Steinbrenner family owns about half of YES. At this point, the numbers become meaningless. What's "infinity plus one?" They transcend our Neanderthal capabilities of comprehension. Who wants to debate an Excel spreadsheet when the matter at hand is Willie Calhoun?

That said, never kid yourselves when the team pulls out its pockets and rattles the cup. The incomes of Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, et al, are dwarfed by an avalanche of money in which every owner wallows, as they squawk about the excessive costs of pitching, pitching, pitching... 

I should note that some of that ticket income was ghost sales: It included $73 million in tickets sold for the entire Yankee postseason. As you may recall, the team did not play an entire Yankee postseason. It sold tickets for 11 home games, but thanks to Houston and Ryan McBroom, the Yankees hosted only five. Thus, they must give back about, what?, um, $35 million? Tough times.

It's tiring, having to remind ourselves, now and then, of what a giant bullshit-grinding machine that MLB has become. They own us, due to heartstrings stemming from our childhoods, bonds we can never break. They control our emotions, and they play us like fiddles. When Brian Cashman trades for -  say - a Harrison Bader, part of his rationale always stems from the player's "team-friendly" contract. The Yankees are always obsessed with control of their payroll, but they are merely playing a parlor game. 

Hal keeps payroll low because - well - it's more challenging! It's more fun! If it turns out that - say - Frankie Montas is damaged goods, maybe that's why his former team traded him, eh? Perhaps it wasn't Cashman's genius in coaxing a great pitcher from dumbass Oakland. Maybe the A's simply saw it as time to shed the hot potato. 

For all their egotistical overspending, owners like the Mets' Steve Cohen and that private equities guy in San Diego - grandson of Walter O'Malley, I should note - they cannot lose, no matter what. 

If every Yankee was Aaron Hicks, the team would still make money. 

Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain living monuments to Hal's fundamental cheapness. They came to New York, knocking on the door. The Yankees hid from them, even though they couldn't lose. Never forget that. Now, about Willie Calhoun...  

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Do Yank fans see Hicks and Donaldson standing in the path of generational change?

Yesterday, as "Winter Storm Sage turned its icy glare toward the Northeast" - (who writes for the Weather Channel these days, the ghost of Dick Young?) - here's where everything stood in the land of sinkholes and pythons.

Nobody emerged to see his shadow.

The handful of Yanks battling for lineup openings went a combined 3-for-18 (.166) with one double (by Anthony Volpe) and a SB (Estevan Florial, his fifth.)  

Oswaldo Cabrera made a bum throw from 3B, and Willie Calhoun - in his fourth MLB organization -  begot a single and a walk. At 5'8 and 200 pounds, Calhoun played DH, his best defensive position.

The true stars yesterday were Yank fans who mercilessly heckled Joey Gallo. My fave: The old winery jingle, "Gallo makes outs with loving care, the worst of the Yank Country."

If there was a goat - (no capital letters, no periods, just bah-h-h-d) - it would be the continually disappointing Aaron Hicks, who might be letting the boos affect him. If so, that's an impending disaster in NYC. 

Hicks and 3B Josh Donaldson seem to symbolize Yankee fans' desire for generational upheaval. They stand in the path of the franchise's most hyped prospects since, well, Clint Frazier? It's easy to imagine both getting dumped in June, even if they're playing well. 

If Volpe and/or Jasson Dominguez keep hitting - be it at Scranton or Somerset - the front office will feel enormous pressure to promote them - especially if the Mets rule in the zeitgeist. (Check the tabloid back page standings to the left. In terms of ink, the Yankees are having a miserable spring, even compared to last March, when their numbers were suppressed by the lockout.) Right now, Hicks and Donaldson are the equivalent of those fake celebrities who temporarily occupy empty seats at the Oscars. If the kids hit, they have no future with the Yankees. 

Yesterday, Donaldson said he can still hit. This spring, he's 3-for-15 (.200) with no extra base hits and four Ks. Hicks is 6-for-24 (.250) with a HR and 9 whiffs. 

Other notes from yesterday:

Deivi Garcia - the former Yankee Pedro - pitched 3.1 innings, walked two and gave up a HR - the game's only run - on a three-two money pitch. This is Garcia's last chance with the Yankees. He's out of options, though it's not certain whether any team would snatch him off the scrap heap. He's fallen that hard.

Last year, the Yankees welcomed back another former Yankee Pedro - Manny Banuelos, who became the feelgood story of camp. He ended up pitching 8 innings for the team before being shuttled off to Pittsburgh, where he threw 32 innings with an ERA over 4.00. 

Deivi might get two more chances between now and opening day. Fingers crossed, as we await Sage's ferocious wrath! 

Monday, March 13, 2023

Ten things to know about the late Joe Pepitone: Author, misfit, outcast, Yankee...

 Perhaps the most poignant memoir ever written by a ballplayer. 

Ten things to know about Pepi.

1. He grew up in Brooklyn and attended Manual Training High School.

2. At 17, he was shot by a student in school; that day, his dad had a stroke and died.

3. At various points in his career, he replaced Moose Skowron at 1B and Mickey Mantle in CF.

4. He once posed nude for Foxy Lady magazine. (Mercifully cropped photo courtesy of Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside.)

5. He was obsessed with his hair and even wore a toupee under his ballcap.

6. He signed to play a year in Japan but was cut for excessive partying.

7. He tried pro softball and was suspended for "conduct detrimental to professional softball."

8. In 1988, police nabbed him with nine ounces of cocaine, 344 qualudes, a pistol and $6,300 in cash. He did four months in Rikers Island. 

9. George Steinbrenner rehabilitated him, hiring him as coach. For his part with the 1999 team, he received a world series ring.

10. He sold it in an auction. 

The Yankees are in August doldrums, and it's only March.

Ever get a sense that, two weeks from opening day, the Yanks are in chaos? 

No LF, no 3B, no SS, no closer, no 4th & 5th starters, no free agent remedies on the market. Regulars dropping like Russian conscripts. The two shining stars of spring, both destined for the minors. A roster screaming for trades by our GM, who is in the worst funk of his career. The Mets rising, the Astros ruling, the AL East lusting for revenge, as the Yankees try to rise from a 2022 second-half when everything, everywhere, all at once... sucked.  

Oh, and here's a delightful thought: Our most injury prone players - Giancarlo, DJ, Sevy- have yet to visit the trainer's room. Should we expect a year of good health from these medical marvels? 

Why such pessimism?

1. Anthony Rizzo has a bum back. There's something about Yankee first-basemen and barking lumbagos. It makes you think of Donny. Naturally, Aaron Boone gave it the pooh-pooh: If this were the regular season, he'd play through it. 

That's supposed to reassure us? 

Last year, Rizzo had a great first half: 22 HRs, among the leaders. Then the back acted up. In the second half, he hit 10. (For the season, he batted .221 - not exactly Mattingly.) On an old school Yankee powerhouse, a tweaked 1B could be replaced. But Rizzo is so critical to this team - somebody must protect No. 99 - that the mere thought of him compromised bursts ours hope like a Chinese spy balloon. If Rizzo cannot play or - worse - cannot hit, this is a huge, dark cloud. 

2. Aaron Hicks looks legitimately putrid. Yesterday, two Ks, a botched fly ball, a pickoff. Okay, I'm calling you out: You secretly thought Hicks might have a decent season. You didn't post it online; you feared the death threats. But deep down, way way down, you thought, "Maybe he'll hit .240!" 

Well, increasingly, we're looking at Willie Calhoun or Rafael Ortega. Calhoun or Ortega. This is for real, people. It's not a dream. You are not flashing back to a Bubba Crosby drug delirium. Calhoun or Ortega. That might be our opening day LF option. 

3. Our two bright hopes remain months away. Since Tampa opened, the rise of Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominquez has been our happiest narrative since - well - Greg Bird. 

On that note, let's get real here. 

With Volpe, we're actually hearing people recall the arrival of Derek Jeter: How nobody expected him to make the team, and look how that turned out. And when Dominguez signed, they compared him to Mickey Mantle. Now, they're doing it again.

Do we realize what we're doing? We're sabotaging these kids, comparing them to some of the greatest Yanks of all time. 

Both might have fine MLB careers. They don't need to be compared to Jeter and Mantle. 

Volpe needs a month in Scranton. The Martian needs Double A. Either could be ready for the Bronx by, say, August. This talk about them making the team... I fear it's a way of distracting the fan base from the problems at hand. 

And right now... chaos.

Sunday, March 12, 2023


 Today, I watched Aaron Hicks:

1. Give up on a fly ball to the corner of left field, only to see it drop fair for a double. 

2.  Strike out.

3.  Get picked off of first base.

Halfway through spring training, the Yankees cannot sustain another wave of injuries

Okay, yeah, you're right: I  know the deal with spring training stats: Why frickin' bother? The tribal elders don't care, and a pair of bloop doubles can turn a prospect into the "It Girl" of Tampa. We all remember Kyle Higashioka last March: Leads the team in HRs, then goes until mid-season before hitting one.

Thus, disregard this stupid list, aside from maybe one column: ABs. Because playing time offers an insight into the Yankee brain trust activity. It shows who has a shot, and maybe who doesn't. (Not making his list are Gleyber (13 ABs), Bader (12, now hurt), Rizzo (12) and Rafael Ortega (12), who is strangely far below the player he is supposedly battling for LF: Willie Calhoun. Dare we make anything of this? Probably not. But if Calhoun keeps hitting, whatever deficiencies he has with a glove - and they are said to be considerable - his LH bat means he has a solid chance. Cashman is desperate for another Jose Trevino or Gio Urshela: Calhoun might just be the guy. 

Some other takeaways:

The Harrison Bader injury really hurts. For one thing, it's a strained oblique. The YES propagandists say he'll miss one-to-two months. I'm calling bullshit. When was the last time an oblique strain didn't sideline a Yankee for at least two months - often three? Secondly, we were excited about the Bader of last October - bat and glove. Now, we must wonder if we'll see the Bader of St. Louis, a gold glove and banjo bat. 

Right now, CF looks like a drainpipe awaiting Elliot Maddox. (Generational reference, there.) Would the Yankees subject Aaron Judge to the position, running foul line to foul line? I hope not. The dream here remains Estevan Florial, the one defensive CF left, and it'd sure be nice to get something out of a failed prospect, rather than releasing him to humanity. (They have no more options on Florial.) But thus far, Flyin' Florial has looked more like "Gloria" Estevan: 10 strikeouts in 22 ABs. Yikes. That's Joey Gallo Country. Florial might be our glove and SB specialist: he has stolen four, not yet caught. But with Florial in CF, our bottom third of the batting order would look sad and withered. Our lineup won't scare anybody.    

The Carlos Rodon injury has yet to be fully assessed. The line on forearm strains is that they might go away after two weeks of saunas and healing sex, leaving all to be groovy. But but BUT... after two weeks of sun and fun, if the forearm still hurts, concerns grow exponentially. 

We're a week into Rodon's shutdown. We won't know how he feels until he starts throwing again - around opening day. Then, the implications could fly off the charts. I don't even wanna think about it.

The Tommy Kahnle injury can be spackled over, for now. The Yankees have a bunch of young arms who can be touted as the pitching staff's 12th man. But the ice is thinning. Yesterday, the famed scout Michael Kay gushed over Matt Krook, a 28-year-old LH with "swing and miss potential," who might even be in the mix for fifth starter.

Krook was pitching the late innings against Philadelphia's Double A team, and it was a chance to show his stuff. Well, five hits and three earned runs, pulled after 40 pitches. Not saying Krook is a bust, or that Kahnle is the answer... we'll know in due time.

But if next week brings the injuries of last week, we are frickin' dead. 

Saturday, March 11, 2023

George and Joan Steinbrenner Had Fourteen Grandchildren

Since the Steinbrenners won't sell, ever, we really need to look down the road to find an heir that can restore the franchise to its former greatness. 

Sure, most to all of us will be dead by the time another one takes the reins, but eventually there will be another Steinbrenner in charge. 

This guy look promising...

George Michael Steinbrenner IV

He's already cutting his sports ownership teeth with his Indy Car team. Plus, if the Yankees need some extra money to sign a free agent, George Michael already knows, "There's money in the banana stand." 

Then there's his sister...

Julia Steinbrenner 

She is now the co-owner of Steinbrenner Racing.  

Both are the children of Hank BTW.  Hank, if you recall was behind the second A-Rod contract and was removed shortly thereafter from "the family business". That said, Hank wanted to win! 

There's also...

Katherine Steinbrenner 

Hal's daughter has supposedly expressed interest in running the Yankees. 

I could not find a photo or anything else on her other than from a Wikipedia entry that was so dated Hank is still alive and the odds are good that Steve Swindal will be running the Yankees soon. So take it with a grain of salt. 

I guess there's always...

A Dark Horse 

I'm certainly not looking for a King Ralph type situation, but perhaps there is a 14th cousin hanging around somewhere that will ascend to the throne in meteoric fashion. 

I'll leave you with this.  Even if the dynastic ruler of the Yankees changes we may not get the relief we are seeking. According to Wikipedia, "(Brian Cashman) and his (former) wife, Mary, have two children, Grace and Theodore."

With injuries to Rodon and Bader, Cashman Doomsday Clock inches another minute closer to midnight

 If he looks nervous, maybe we all should be. 

Yankee outfield

Friday, March 10, 2023

"When Black Friday Comes..."

The opening lines to that song by the inestimably great Steely Dan read as follows:

I'll stand down by the door

And catch the grey men when they

Dive from the fourteenth floor...

This is, I think we can assume, a reference to people jumping out of windows after the stock market crash of October, 1929.

(It is, of course, always a mistake to assume anything with the Master Dudes, two of the most subtle, talented, and elusive of our rock songwriters. The lyrics could mean something even more apocalyptic or sinister. Wasn't "the Grey Man" some notorious child murderer from years past?)

But I digress.

The point is, no Wall Street executive or stock broker actually did dive out of a window on Black Friday or Thursday or any other day. Suicides in New York City as a whole were actually below their usual rate that October-December, 1929. 

The vast majority of people then would not have dreamed of investing their money in the stock market, even if they'd had any. And the money traders...still had plenty of money, and took, as usual, absolutely no responsibility for the havoc they caused.

Which brings us to Brian Cashman.

Secretly, somewhere, both Brian and HAL are smiling, relieved that they now have a ready-made excuse for why their standard, spit-and-a-prayer, jerry-rigged contraption of a team will once again fail to make the World Series. Or, this year, likely not even the playoffs.

This was, to be sure, a new record for the injury plague to descend upon the Yankees, decimated before the winter was even officially over. But it's not something that should surprise us—even if it does shock the little lambs in our local sporting press.

What's the old Ian Fleming saying? "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action"? 

Well, the Yankees now seem to sustain record or near-record levels of injuries every year. Remember when, after one season—2018? 2019?—Cashie promised "an investigation" into all the injuries? Wonder what happened to that. Probably moldering under old copies of the Iran-Contra report. 

Then there was last year's Trade Deadline Debacle, from which, by my reckoning, every single player the Yankees acquired has now been hurt.

No, the Yanks' perennial, devastating plagues of injuries are not due to enemy action. Just dogma and gross incompetence, a much more deadly combination.

I distinctly remember an article, sometime in the spring of 2018, I think, where Jordan Montgomery, coming off a strong rookie season, was talking about how he did not naturally throw very hard, but how the Yanks' crack coaching staff had shown him a couple tricks and—voilà!—suddenly he had added five mph and some nasty spin to his every pitch.

Soon thereafter, Monty vanished from the regular rotation until 2021, en route to a happier fate in St. Loo. Some trick.

The great mystery that Cashie's vaunted Lost Patrol of investigators failed to uncover is that the Yankees under his leadership either:

—Dogmatically insist on turning every single player, pitcher and hitter, into the sort of one-dimensional bozos approved by the Sabremetricious. Or

—Have no idea of how to turn players into Sabremetric studs.


True baseball acumen—like the true education or training of almost anyone, in anything—requires the understanding that different people have different capabilities. 

Not everybody is going to be a power pitcher. Not everyone is going to be a power hitter. But they can still make invaluable contributions to your team.

This is often difficult to comprehend even for people who are, unlike Brian Cashman, smart.

Lou Piniella spent years in Cincinnati trying to make Paul O'Neill into a power hitter. By Lou's lights, assessing Paulie's swing and physique, he should have been a power hitter, and he trying to make him one even as O'Neill's game visibly deteriorated.

But he just wasn't a slugger, at least not primarily. Gene Michael and Buck Showalter were able to understand this—despite the considerable temptation of Yankee Stadium's right field porch—and a result, O'Neill became a terrific all-around hitter (with plenty of power).

This spring, by contrast, we got to watch Harrison Bader—already a chronically injured ballplayer, to be sure—wreck his season by fanning on a low, outside pitch he was trying to pull.

Eh. So it's back to the dumpsters (his favorite place to be) for ol' Cashie, and back to his life of Florida indolence for HAL. Once again, we can look forward to hearing about how valiant it was of the Yankees to make—or almost make, or win 65 games—despite all these freakish, completely unanticipated injuries.

As the poets write:

When Black Friday comes

I'm gonna dig myself a hole

Gonna lay down in it

Til I satisfy my soul.

We should only wish the same for our own, grey men.