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Yankee For A Minute: 1992

You could say that 1991 was when the franchise hit rock-bottom by losing 91 games and coming in fifth in the AL East (at the time, there were only two divisions in each league; no Central and no wild card) and 20 games behind the talent-laden Toronto Blue Jays; led by former player and Blue Jays hitting coach-turned-third year manager Cito Gaston, who initially declined taking over after manager Jimy Williams because he liked what he was already doing (the players rallied to change his mind, and good for them). Black History Moment: 17 years after Hall of Famer Frank Robinson became the first African American manager in Major League Baseball, Clarence Edwin “Cito” Gaston became the first African American MLB manager to win a World Series, then went ahead and did it again next season. He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, and inducted into both the Ontario and San Antonio Sports Halls of Fame, not to mention was awarded the Negro League Hall of Fame Legacy Award (aka Jackie Robinson Award). Way to go, Cito!

Meanwhile back in 1991, when the Yanks survived a lot of underground chaos within the clubhouse and the organization to make it to 1992… when they finished in fourth place (tied with Cleveland) and improved by five games, but somehow still 20 games behind the eventual champion Toronto Blue Jays.  Stump Merrill would be moved out of the managerial hot seat to make way for one of his lieutenants, third base coach William Nathanial “Buck” Showalter III. Before he was Buck, he was “Nat” Showalter, an All American at Mississippi State and a fifth round draft pick by the Yanks in 1977. He would spend seven years in their farm system, wracking up fairly solid numbers by future coach standards, finally making the jump in 1985; collecting honors and working his way up the ladder. in 1992, Buck Showalter arrived, and the transformation of the Yanks kicked into a new gear.

Gene Michael; operating as the chief architect of the new brain-trust that included Buck, a gallery of respected scouts and talent evaluators  and a newly-appointed owner/managing partner Joe Malloy; George’s son-in-law via his daughter Jessica, set to making deals as soon as the 1991 season ended.  When the season began, he had a new ace in the rotation, a new starting right fielder, third baseman and shortstop, not to mention a couple of new draftees who would also become mainstays in future rosters.  Yet even with all of that, there were some even larger moves that were attempted, but for various reasons did not work out.  And man if they had, they very likely would have entirely changed the history of Yankee franchise as we know it…

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

Pitchers

  • 41 Tim Burke
  • 25 Greg Cadaret#
  • 26 Steve Farr#
  • 35 Lee Guetterman
  • 42 John Habyan#
  • 36 Shawn Hillegas
  • 54 Sterling Hitchcock~
  • 57 Steve Howe
  • 49,43 Jeff Johnson
  • 22 Scott Kamieniecki
  • 54 Tim Leary
  • 43 Sam Militello*
  • 55 Rich Monteleone
  • 34 Jerry Nielsen*
  • 33 Mélido Pérez
  • 21 Scott Sanderson
  • 36 Russ Springer*
  • 31 Bob Wickman~
  • 35 Curt Young

 Catchers

  • 12 Jim Leyritz
  • 38 Matt Nokes
  • 20 Mike Stanley

 Infielders

  • Mike Gallego
  • 28 Charlie Hayes
  • 14 Pat Kelly
  • 24 Kevin Maas
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • 59 Hensley Meulens
  • 56 Dave Silvestri*~
  • 60 J. T. Snow~
  • 17 Andy Stankiewicz~
  • 18 Randy Velarde

 Outfielders

  • 29 Jesse Barfield
  • 27 Mel Hall
  • 31 Mike Humphreys
  • 19 Dion James
  • 39 Roberto Kelly
  • 45 Danny Tartabull
  • 51 Bernie Williams
  • 13 Gerald Williams~

So as usual I had some trouble with categories with some players:

Sterling Hitchcock was heralded coming up and was part of the staff for his first four seasons, but his better seasons were spent as a starter with San Diego. He came back via trade in 2001, but was largely ineffectual and used in long relief and spot-start duty until he was traded in mid-2003. So yeah, he was a heralded rookie who had better years elsewhere; didn’t really pan out with the Yanks and was not even a big part of their 2001 WS team.

Russ Springer was kind of the same; he started off with the Yanks, but had better success elsewhere, as well as longevity.  It’s hard to consider him a heralded rookie, though I kind of remember him being touted to some degree. Like Hitchcock, he was never an All Star, but he was a useful arm on other teams’ staffs.

Bob Wickman also was a rookie, though he started out inn the Chicago White Sox farm system, coming over with Melido Perez and Domingo Jean in a trade for 2B Steve Sax. While getting Melido at the time seemed like a boon for a rebuilding team, the real prize in the brain trust’s mind was Wickman:

“We considered Wickman one of their top arms and I think they did, too,” said Brian Sabean, the Yankees’ vice president of player development.

Indeed, Wickman showed promise two seasons later, but not enough to prevent him from being traded in the midst of the team’s successful run at a World Series two seasons further. He reached his potential as a reliever with Milwaukee in closing and high leverage situations, then spent the predominant part of his career in Cleveland in the same role, earning quite a bit of respect in a fairly long career before finishing out in Atlanta and Arizona respectively in 2007.

Melido was solid for the Yankees, but he couldn’t move the needle for his older brother, who had spent a significant amount of time on the injured list after arm surgery in 1990 before being suspended during spring training for the entire 1992 season for a failed drug test, which all but ended his career. Melido for his part enjoyed a career year in 1992, with the second highest total in strikeouts in the AL (behind Randy Johnson), but his career also ended abruptly in 1995, with a tear in the elbow of his pitching arm. He attempted a comeback in 1997 with Cleveland, but didn’t make the cut from spring training. Today, Melido is mayor of the town of San Gregorio de Nigua… the same town where his erstwhile older brother Pascual was found murdered after a home invasion in 2012.

Curt Young spent the majority of his career with Oakland, he was on the pitching staff for the teams that won back-to-back in 1989-90. When he came to the Yanks, it was at the tail end of a relatively successful career working in the shadows of Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Storm Davis, Scott Sanderson, Mike Moore, Rick Honeycutt and of course Dennis Eckersley.

Jack Thomas “J.T.” Snow was of course heralded as Mattingly’s eventual successor; he had a pedigree in sports as the scion of former Pro Bowl wide receiver Jack Snow of the L.A. Rams, who developed J.T. as a first baseman from a young age, and played with a number of sports luminaries as a three-sport star in high school and college and was drafted by the Yanks in the fifth round in 1989. He made his debut at the tail end of the season with the Yanks, but in the off-season he was traded along with Russ Springer and Jerry Nielsen to the California Angels for one Jim Abbott.  Welcoming the trade as a respite from “playing in oblivion behind Mattingly”, he won two Gold Gloves with the Angels before moving on to San Francisco and becoming an All-Star fixture along with former Met Jeff Kent and former Pirate Barry Bonds (who, surprise, was almost was a Yankee himself in 1992).

Lastly, there’s Gerald Williams. selected in the fourteenth round in 1987, Gerald had a down and up minor league career, alternately struggling and showing big promise. He debuted in September 1992, spent the bulk of 93 in the minors again and returned to stay in 94. By 1996 he was getting the bulk of the starts in left field, but in late August he and Wickman were dealt to Milwaukee. Both received World Series rings at the end of the 96 season as they had played the significant part of the year with the Yanks.  Gerald would go on to be a regular bench guy with Atlanta and Tampa Bay (then known as the Devil Rays) before returning for a second stint with the Yanks for their 2001-03 seasons; the last year of which he was traded to the Florida Marlins, only this time he won a ring after the trade with his new team.  He finished as a Met in 2004-05, and has recently been a regular at Old Timer’s Day with the Yankees.  Although he wasn’t any type of star like his other namesake Bernie (no relation), perhaps his greatest contribution as a Yankee was being best friends with a young Derek Jeter, who credited him as being like a big brother “always looking out for me.” Jeter returned the favor when he invited him as a VIP guest to his retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium (which I was lucky enough to be in attendance for) and personally thanked him during his speech.

Offseason

  • November 13, 1991: Ramiro Mendoza was signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees.
  • November 20, 1991: Eric Plunk was released by the New York Yankees.
  • December 2, 1991: Bob Geren was selected off waivers from the Yankees by the Cincinnati Reds.
  • January 6, 1992: Danny Tartabull was signed as a free agent with the Yankees.
  • January 8, 1992: Darrin Chapin was traded by the Yankees to the Philadelphia Phillies for a player to be named later. The Phillies completed the deal by sending Charlie Hayes to the Yankees on February 19.
  • January 9, 1992: Mike Gallego signed as a free agent with the Yankees.
  • January 10, 1992: Steve Sax was traded by the Yankees to the Chicago White Sox for Bob Wickman, Domingo Jean and Mélido Pérez.
  •  

Notable transactions

  • April 9, 1992: Shawn Hillegas was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • June 1, 1992: Derek Jeter was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 1st round (6th pick) of the 1992 amateur draft. Player signed June 27, 1992.
  • August 22, 1992: Tim Leary and cash were traded by the Yankees to the Seattle Mariners for Sean Twitty (minors).
  • August 22, 1992: Shawn Hillegas was released by the New York Yankees.

The first act of the offseason was one of the most significant, if rather underrated.  Ramiro Mendoza became the prototype for middle reliever/spot starter/do-all throughout the Yankees championship run in the 90s (and for another team in particular which shall remain unmentioned). However, it may be surprising to realize that Mendoza was not part of the post-season roster on several occasions, largely due to his unsteadiness during certain seasons, but when he did pitch in post-season play, he was usually a highly-effective mid-game stopper. Signed two years after fellow countryman and best friend Mo, Mendoza became the Yoeman of the pitching staff (similar to yoeman bench player Clay Bellinger) and was very much liked by his teammates.  Mike Axsia of River Avenue Blues has a more in-depth analysis of his career and impact on the Yankees.

I only note the acquisition of Charlie Hayes to explain that this was the first of two relatively short stints with the Yanks, though Hayes made an indelible mark on Yankee history in his second coming.  Here in 1992, he hit .257 and struck out a career-high 100 times. After the season, the new expansion team Colorado Rockies drafted Hayes, but the Yankees fought his selection on the grounds that the expansion Florida Marlins were not fairly compensating the Yankees for taking away their minor-league territory in Ft. Lauderdale, were the Yanks had a long-situated minor league team and played many of their spring training home games. However,  Commissioner Fay Vincent (perhaps still cranky over Steinbrenner’s banishment or his subsequently imminent return) ruled against them, and Hayes became an inaugural member of the Rockies. The loss was not unnoticed by Yanks brass and fans alike, though his records tell us he was actually much better with the Rockies than anywhere else. His post-season play in his second stint was unremarkable except for his steady defense at third, and the image of him catching Mark Lemke’s foul pop-up off of third in Game 6 of the 96 series is perhaps his identifying career image and moment. It was mostly downhill after that; he was traded during the following season and bounced around between the Ginats, Mets, Brewers and Astros, retiring in 2001. However, he has not fallen into obscurity as one would think; he operates a baseball academy in Texas and is a base coach for the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate.  He also has two sons who played professionally; son Tyree was a pitcher from 2006-12, while son Ke’Bryan was the 32nd overall pick by the Pirates in 2015; the team Charlie played for before rejoining the Yanks in 1996. And just like his old man, he’s a third baseman. A helluva third baseman, in fact…

With Steinbrenner, the Yanks had a penchant for pilfering players from World Series-winning teams; the theory of course being that such players would contribute to winning ways on the Yankees.  That tradition continued unabated in fact, though under Michael it was probably for a different reason.  Mike Gallego, late of the Oakland A’s and a contributor to their on-field success was obviously such a signing; although the starting second baseman with Oakland, Gallego played mostly at shortstop for the Yanks, while also playing second and third throughout his tenure. Trivia: Gallego is the last Yankee player to wear No. 2, right before it was to become synonymous with RE2PECT.  Gallego was known more for his glove and being able to move the runner over than as a hitter; in fact his best year as a hitter was with the Yanks in the following season when he inexplicably hit double digits in home runs, but after 93 he returned to normal and returned to Oakland for one more season in 95 before finishing out his career with two seasons in St. Louis with his old boss, Tony LaRussa.  Today, he’s the director of player development for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Sean Hilligas, on the other hand, did not have an extended stay with the Yanks and was gone by the end of August. He was drafted by the Dodgers and made his debut in 1984, having a very decent rookie year in the rotation, but by 1988 he had pretty much fallen off the radar in L.A. and was traded to the White Sox during the Dodgers’ stretch run to the championship. The Yanks picked him up in 1992 as rotation depth, but he continued to disappoint, leading to his inevitable release. He continued bouncing around for another year before finally retiring, never to return to baseball again (but occasionally talking about it).

Oh yeah, speaking of RE2PECT

I also want to get back to what i said earlier about 1992 being just as much about what the Yankees didn’t do (besides play at least .500 ball; the last season that this ever occurred by the way). As we know, Stick was trying hard to turn things around in Steinbrenner’s absence, and he wasn’t afraid to go after a big name if he really felt it would move the timeline faster without disrupting the architecture.  This lead him to go after the biggest free agent in the winter of 1991: Barry Bonds. Barry was one of two godheads in Pittsburgh; the other being his assumed soul brother Bobby Bonilla, who left a season earlier to attach to the Mets (who to this day are still paying his salary, no joke). There was mutual interest between the two; Barry was far and wide the best hitter on the market, while Bonds (whose father Bobby played for the Yanks in the early-to-mid 70s) was unafraid of the bright lights and big city mentality of New York.  However, Bonds and his agent stood pat on a long-term, high salary contract that was apparently a year too long for Stick’s comfort. “We have to draw the line somewhere,” Michael said. “I have no regrets saying we did not offer him a sixth year. We offered him a fantastic contract for five years. We really went out of our way to make a nice offer.” Apparently, 6yrs/$43 million was a vast and uncrossable difference from 5yrs/$36 million for a 28 year old MVP (Hmmmmm…), while on the flip side Barry didn’t think $36 mil was an appropriately high enough offer for a player of his caliber (he may have been right at the time, even though both were ghastly sums of money). After Stick abruptly ended negotiations with Bonds and his agent, he turned his attention to the rotation, seeking an audience with free agent Cubs ace Greg Maddux, who took time to think and pass around the Yanks’ offer before settling on Atlanta, where he continued his career as a pitcher extraordinaire unabated. Michael also considered trading for aces like Greg Swindell or David Cone before finally trading off a significant piece in starting second baseman Steve Sax for Melido Perez and company.

Question: how different would the Yankees look in the enduing years if they had both Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux in the fold? They already had one future legend playing backup in the clubhouse, with four more on the way. Would Bernie have been purged to accommodate Bonds’ salary and ego at any point? More than likely, one of Jesse Barfield or Mel Hall and one or two others would have been moved off the roster in subsequent trades in order to keep Roberto Kelly and Bernie (though with Bernie, there were questions about his fortitude early on, but that’s an entirely different story). Would Michael have been willing or able to make a trade for Paul O’Neill (probably not), Jim Abbott (maybe, but not very likely), David Cone (again), Tino Martinez (perhaps?) and so-on? It’s safe to say they wouldn’t have signed Danny Tartabull; with right field shut down for 5–6 years, that wasn’t going to happen even on a DH level. As things turned out, Michael didn’t regret not signing Bonds, but he did lament not getting Maddux for a time, especially when he, Smoltz and Glavine not only brought the Braves from worst to first, but also to their first championship in the city of Atlanta a few years later.  But as things turned out in the long run, I kinda think Stick knew he did a good job after all.

Yankee For A Minute: 1991

The year 1991 brought reality to the Yankees; the turnaround from George’s style of management to something more akin to the rest of baseball was not going to be a quick fix. Michael was not going to land the biggest fish in the ocean because George said so, and at this point it wasn’t looking like anyone of true All Star caliber was interested in joining them. Aside from soon-to-be All-Star ace Scott Sanderson and hard-luck starter Tim Leary (who was involved in a dicey trade with the Reds for future good hitter Hal Morris) and perhaps Roberto Kelly, Kevin Maas, Matt Nokes and some kid named Bernie Williams, there wasn’t much to speak of about the 1991 Yanks (well, besides Mel Hall terrorizing Bernie in the locker room among many other things).  Stump Merrill was in his first full season as Yankee manager, having taken over from Bucky Dent, who was shockingly fired while in Boston for a series with the Red Sox in 1990 by Steinbrenner, a month or so before he himself was “fired” by baseball.  Stump continued the status quo with the major league team, losing far more games than winning through little fault of his own.

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

Pitchers

  • 25 Greg Cadaret#
  • 51 Chuck Cary
  • 60 Darrin Chapin*
  • 28 Dave Eiland
  • 26 Steve Farr#
  • 35 Lee Guetterman
  • 42,57 John Habyan
  • 40 Andy Hawkins
  • 57 Steve Howe
  • 43 Jeff Johnson
  • 40 Scott Kamieniecki~
  • 54 Tim Leary
  • 50 Alan Mills
  • 45 Rich Monteleone
  • 34 Pascual Pérez
  • 33 Eric Plunk#
  • 21 Scott Sanderson
  • 41 Wade Taylor*
  • 36 Mike Witt

 Catchers

  • 53 Bob Geren
  • 38 Matt Nokes#
  • 48 John Ramos*

 Infielders

  • 14 Mike Blowers
  • 20 Álvaro Espinoza
  • 14 Pat Kelly~
  • 12 Jim Leyritz
  • 13,43 Torey Lovullo*
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • 12 Carlos Rodríguez*
  •  6 Steve Sax
  • 18 Randy Velarde#

Outfielders

  • 29 Jesse Barfield
  • 27 Mel Hall#
  • 36 Mike Humphreys*
  • 39 Roberto Kelly
  • 17 Scott Lusader
  • 31 Hensley Meulens
  • 17 Pat Sheridan
  • 51 Bernie Williams~

Other Positions

  • 24 Kevin Maas

Hey, remember Pat Kelly? He was kinda touted as the second basemen of the future while with the Yanks, and he stuck around long enough to win a ring with the 1996 team, although he only played 13 games the whole season. But how many remember that in 1991, Kelly was a third baseman? He came up as a replacement for the recently-departed Mike Blowers, who was traded to Seattle for a bag of balls. Blowers for his part would become a regular with Seattle, so he would qualify as a player who was (much) better somewhere else, like Jay Buhner before him. Kelly switched to second in 1992 and remained there for the entire tenure of his career with the Yanks and beyond.

Scott Kamieniecki is definitely a name that stands out; he was one of their best pitchers during the dark ages if you will, but I somehow misremember him as being in the rotation in the 80s. I guess when you have Chuck Cary, Richard Dotson, Ron Guidry and Dave LaPoint on your staff at any given moment, you’re going to misremember quite a few things (and try to forget others, like giving away Doug Drabek, grrr…) Kamieniecki was not the best pitcher on staff, but the fans knew him well enough over the next few seasons and I suppose you could consider him one of the Hard Luck Boys of the early 90s. Hard luck followed him into the championship days as well, when for whatever reason, the Yanks decided not to give him a ring for being with the team in ’96, though he spent much of the year on the DL. He later blasted the Yanks for “strong-arming him to the DL with a fake injury” and for “putting on a show” by having him sized for a ring that he never received after the team was criticized for leaving him and a few other players out of the ceremony. He was definitely not a fan of Joe Torre, whose glare at certain players was an automatic ticket to the Doghouse, if not the kiss-off to their Yankee tenure.  I’m guessing though Scott and the Yanks have pretty much made up at this point

Steve Howe was interesting. He had been out of baseball for four years before the Yanks signed him, and he was very effective most of the time.  However, he was a drug addict throughout most of his career well before coming to the Yanks, so much so that he had already been suspended several times. It was his effectiveness as a reliever that kept him in baseball, and though he was banned for life the next season, he was reinstated upon appeal and went on to have one of the best seasons in his career. There was a lot of debate about him while he continued to play, get banned and then be reinstated; was the league enabling his habits because he was a good pitcher? Howe wasn’t the only player who had a drug problem, but he was probably the only one who kept coming back after falling down the well many times. As things go, Howe’s Yankee (and MLB) career was ended with him being released in June 1996, making him indeed a member of the Hard Luck Boys. Sadly, his ignominious death ten years later in an accident that eerily resembled Billy Martin’s death has rendered him a cautionary tale of the glamour of the baseball life. Say his name and/or look him up on Wikipedia and you just can’t help but shake your head and wonder, “why?

Scott Sanderson, on the other hand, was a legit anchor and ace of the staff, as it were. His two seasons with the Yanks were good enough to hope that any of your five (six?) starters for 2018 could at least match. In a fairly solid career with the Expos, Cubs and a good season with Oakland prior, 1991 would in fact be his first and only selection to the AL All Star team. He became a partner at Moye Sports Associates in 1996, who currently represent Austin Romine and Jaime Garcia. However, his moralizing during and after his career could be considered problematic to some (particularly in New York)…

Here are the moves the team made prior to and during the season:

  • October 5, 1990: Wayne Tolleson was released by the New York Yankees.
  • November 19, 1990: Tim Leary was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
  • December 3, 1990: Frank Seminara was drafted by the San Diego Padres from the New York Yankees in the 1990 rule 5 draft.
  • December 31, 1990: Scott Sanderson was purchased by the New York Yankees from the Oakland Athletics.
  • January 13, 1991: Rick Cerone was released by the New York Yankees.
  • March 19, 1991: Torey Lovullo was traded by the Detroit Tigers to the New York Yankees for Mark Leiter.

Notable transactions

  • April 1, 1991:Steve Balboni was released by the New York Yankees.
  • April 5, 1991: Scott Lusader was selected off waivers by the New York Yankees from the Detroit Tigers.
  • May 9, 1991: Andy Hawkins was released by the New York Yankees.
  • May 17, 1991: Mike Blowers was traded by the New York Yankees to the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later and cash. The Seattle Mariners sent Jim Blueberg (minors) (June 22, 1991) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.
  • May 25, 1991: Andy Pettite was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent.

Draft picks

  • With the first overall pick in the MLB draft, the New York Yankees selected Brien Taylor. He was a Left Handed Pitcher from Beaufort, North Carolina who competed at East Carteret High School.

With the release of Wayne Tolleson, the Yanks could now tell who was who between him and Alvaro Espinoza. Tim Leary was drafted by the Mets in 1978 and spent his first four seasons in the majors there before he managed to win a ring with the 1988 Dodgers. Rick Cerone had the last of three stints with the Yankees, previously having been a starter from 1980-84 and a backup in 1987.  Mark Leiter, like his brother Al, was sent away and became a better pitcher with his next teams, but unlike Al, he never returned to the Yanks. Torey Luvullo? Pat Sheridan? Scott Lusader…? Balboni would try one more season in 1993 with Texas before saying bye-bye to major league baseball for good.

And Brien Taylor… *sigh*

Yankee For A Minute – 1990

Honestly, this was the best card picture of him as a Yankee that I could find. He looked downright miserable in others. Not that anyone could blame him at the time.

I decided to begin with the year 1990 for one reason: I believe this was the year that the perennially contending Yankees as we know them actually began, with the ouster of Steinbrenner and the functional head of the organization now being Gene Michael (Steinbrenner’s last official act as managing partner of the Yankees was to fire the current GM Harding Peterson in favor of Michael), the Yanks began the process of reinventing themselves into an organization that valued growing and developing players first, rather than simply being the highest bidder for the biggest star in the free agent market, or trading away developing prospects for tried-and-true veterans whom somehow either flopped or otherwise failed to live up to expectations.  Michael’s method valued potential over past results, and that method yielded some genuine value in both prospects and veterans (signed or traded for) who became franchise mainstays.

But within this process, there had to be players who either didn’t fit into the plan long term for one reason or another; perhaps they didn’t make the cut and were either relegated to the minors or released or traded, perhaps they were at the tail end of their careers and were basically picking up another check before they bid the major leagues adieu. Or, in some cases, they started out with the Yanks but didn’t make it with them, so they went somewhere else and became All Stars, or at the very least fan faves with another team.  Many will be surprised at who donned the famous pinstripes at one point or another in their careers.  Many know of the players who got a second wind with the Yankees after their stars had dimmed elsewhere; Strawberry, Gooden, Cone, Boggs, Fielder, Justice and the like.  But as we start with 1990 and make our way to last season, you’ll find names that would have never occurred to you unless someone (here!) brought them to your attention.  You can tell me if it’s fair or not to include them as “honorable mentions” or “who dat’s”, but that’s what I hope will keep the discussion lively. Feel free to contribute any stories about mentioned players that you might find interesting.

I’m going to build a key here and hope that it sticks:

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics 

So, here we go:

Pitchers

  • 59 Steve Adkins*
  • 25 Greg Cadaret#
  • 51 Chuck Cary
  • 58 Dave Eiland
  • 35 Lee Guetterman
  • 61 John Habyan
  • 40 Andy Hawkins
  • 26 Jimmy Jones
  • 42 Dave LaPoint
  • 54 Tim Leary
  • 56 Mark Leiter
  • 41 Lance McCullers
  • 28,69 Alan Mills*
  • 55 Rich Monteleone
  • 38 Clay Parker
  • 34 Pascual Pérez
  • 33 Eric Plunk#
  • 19 Dave Righetti
  • 43 Jeff Robinson#
  • 22 Mike Witt

Catchers

  • 11 Rick Cerone
  • 28 Brian Dorsett
  • 53 Bob Geren
  • 38 Matt Nokes

Outfielders

  • 50 Oscar Azócar*
  • 29 Jesse Barfield
  • 27 Mel Hall
  • 39 Roberto Kelly
  • 31 Hensley Meulens
  • 21 Deion Sanders
  • 17 Claudell Washington
  • 31 Dave Winfield

Other batters

  • 22 Luis Polonia#

Infielders

  • 45 Steve Balboni
  • 24,21 Mike Blowers*
  • 20 Álvaro Espinoza
  • 12 Jim Leyritz
  • 24 Kevin Maas
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • Steve Sax
  • 2 Wayne Tolleson
  • 18 Randy Velarde#
  • 63 Jim Walewander 

Of that list, I had a little trouble categorizing Bob Geren, Claudell Washington,  Rich Monteleone, Oscar Azócar and Mike Blowers because they were known/heralded, but not great players. The last two in particular were part of a pre-Michaels youth movement that also had rookies Steve Adkins, Mark Leiter, Jim Leyritz, Kevin Maas and Alan Mills making their major league debuts in 1990. Of this group, Leyritz would remain as a fixture, Maas would become a fan favorite for a time (but never a productive cog in the the team’s ambitions as Leyritz would be), Mills would star in Baltimore (but was often foiled by his former team), and Leiter went onto greater things with Detroit among other teams. Hensley Meulens was very much heralded and made his debut in 1985, but by 1990 was pretty much a permanent shuttle inhabitant between Columbus and the Bronx. But he did become a fixture and hero of The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, and he almost became the Yankees’ new manager recently, so there’s that.

Deion Sanders obviously has to be the name that jumps out the most, but he was well known for being a two-sport star; at the time playing for the Atlanta Falcons. If he had not struggled in his first two seasons with the Yanks and had Bo Jackson not suffered the injury that effectively ended his sports career, not to mention his “Prime Time” persona that rubbed quite a few baseball people the wrong way, Deion might have had a longer career with the Yanks. However, Stick released him after an unproductive second season and contentious contract extension talks, saying that football was stunting his growth as a baseball player.  Perhaps this stung Deion in some way, or maybe the ease of being in the same city for both professions helped; when he signed with the Atlanta Braves, he suddenly became Bo Jackson Lite and was an immediate contributor to the teams that won two NL pennants in 1991-92. Consider it one of Michael’s few missteps.

This was also Dave Winfield’s last season with the Yanks, before he was traded in mid-May for pitcher Mike Witt. We all know the story with Winfield, which led to George’s ouster, but Witt was formerly a solid, if not ace-quality pitcher with the California Angels until he suddenly lost his mojo, and after the trade it never came back, with Witt mercifully disappearing from baseball after little more than two seasons and a plethora of injuries.

Offseason
Notable transactions

  • October 1989: Dickie Noles was released by the Yankees.
  • October 4, 1989: Steve Kiefer was released by the Yankees.
  • November 20, 1989: Rafael Santana was released by the Yankees.
  • November 21, 1989: Pascual Pérez was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • December 12, 1989: Hal Morris and Rodney Imes (minors) were traded by the Yankees to the Cincinnati Reds for Tim Leary and Van Snider.
  • December 20, 1989: Rick Cerone was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • February 17, 1990: Mariano Rivera was signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees.
  • March 13, 1990: Orlando Miller was traded by the Yankees to the Houston Astros for Dave Silvestri and a player to be named later. The Astros completed the deal by sending Daven Bond (minors) to the Yankees on June 11.
  • April 29, 1990: Luis Polonia was traded by the Yankees to the California Angels for Claudell Washington and Rich Monteleone.
  • May 11, 1990: Dave Winfield was traded by the Yankees to the California Angels in exchange for Mike Witt.
  • June 4, 1990: Clay Parker and Lance McCullers were traded by the Yankees to the Detroit Tigers for Matt Nokes.
  • September 24, 1990: Deion Sanders was released by the Yankees.

Draft picks
June 4, 1990: 1990 Major League Baseball Draft

  • Carl Everett was drafted by the Yankees in the 1st round.
  • Robert Eenhoorn was drafted by the Yankees in the 2nd round of the 1990 June Draft. Player signed June 10, 1990.
  • Sam Militello was drafted by the Yankees in the 6th round.
  • Jalal Leach was drafted by the Yankees in the 7th round. Player signed June 8, 1990.
  • Ricky Ledée was drafted by the Yankees in the 16th round. Player signed June 5, 1990.
  • Andy Pettitte was drafted by the Yankees in the 22nd round, but did not sign.
  • Jorge Posada was drafted by the Yankees in the 24th round. Player signed May 24, 1991.
  • Shane Spencer was drafted by the Yankees in the 28th round. Player signed June 7, 1990.

Whoa, what a fun draft that was. There are quite a few others to talk about here, so look them up and ask away or talk about any that stand out beyond who or what I highlighted.  Do you think the indications are fair? You tell me.

Yankee For A Minute

Hat-tip to our own Mr. OK Jazz Tokyo for the idea!

I intend for this to be a mini-series throughout this year’s Spring Training, wherein we shine a desk lamp light on those former or future All-Stars (or solid players in any regard) who played for more or less one season with the Yankees during and after their 90’s Dynasty years.

Not that this is an anomaly for the Yankees exclusive to this era (anyone who rooted for the Yanks since Steinbrenner bought the team would know this became part of their DNA through the 80s), but I wanted to focus on this particular era, given that the strongest season from that era and in team history is now 20 years in the past…(!) The folks over at River Avenue Blues presented their annual (and highly recommended Retro Week before the beginning of Spring Training; this year highlighting interesting moments and insights of the super-duper 1998 season. While discussing this series, Jazz suggested writing about some of the well-known players who we (sometimes intentionally) forget were on the Yankee roster for a brief moment.  Since it’s too early to forget Matt Holliday or Chris Carter (among others last season), we’ll leave them off this list. We’ll see…

For now, we’ll exclude players who were signed for specific roles, but then ended up becoming fixtures in the clubhouse (i.e. David Justice, Scott Brosius, Luis Sojo, et al) or prospects who played for the big club and stuck around longer than one season (Shane Spenser, Juan Rivera, Ricky Ledee, et al), and for the sake of this series and out of respect to the great writers at River Avenue Blues who indirectly inspired this series, we’ll not rehash Mike Lowell’s cup of coffee as a Yankee heir apparent; whose opportunity was usurped by a spectacular Brosius regular and World Series MVP season on the cusp of what turned out to be a fairly solid All Star career.

For now though, if you have any suggestions of who to highlight from say 1994 (the natural beginning of 90s dynasty-era dominance) to the present, feel free to comment below.  I don’t have strict rules for the moment, but I am compiling a list and researching as much info as I can about each player; their bios, their accomplishments, what they’re up to now, as much as a guy who is a baseball fan and blog writer with no press credentials can muster and present in an interesting fashion.  It would be easy to just wiki these guys yourself, but who else wants to bother to make the list and do that? >;)

IcyHot Stove

Sooo… how ’bout that weather?

Indeed, it’s been an effort this winter to stay warm and in a cheery mood, not that Cashman and the Yanks haven’t tried to help. After all, snatching up a reigning MVP entering his prime from one league and pairing him with a homegrown runner-up MVP who also happens to be the unequivocal Rookie of the Year and still a couple years away from his prime (hopefully) has to qualify as a heat-seeking missile maneuver to say the least. Re-signing C.C. seems like posturing after the Mother Of All Dunks (hey, they ain’t called the Bronx Bombers for nothing…). Yet even with that, the ripples of time have dissipated far and long enough enough for us to see that this off-season has been in relative stasis; the iguanas falling out of the trees are frozen in expectation of better conditions to act within their nature.

So what are we waiting for?

I guess we’re still waiting on that market, huh? Yunnow, the one that seems to be getting busy later and later in the off-season these past few years? I dunno, with what amounts to a soft-cap looming over the proceedings and a new generation of smart shoppers analyzing everything with modified Hubble telescopes and probability vector algorithms, the Hot Stove has been as interesting as watching flies fiduciary-fiduciary-fiduciary… you get the picture.

To be honest, I’m quite pleased with the relative “restraint” the Yanks have shown in this and the last few seasons; Ellsbury notwithstanding. They’ve figured out how to add and subtract big contracts and farm pieces without putting too much pressure on their bottom line, but obviously the major factor in this formula working is the fact that their prospects are mostly living up to their rankings when they hit the big stage, which creates more capital to pull off a big trade such as Ultron for Rikki Tikki Tavi and two diamond pinkie rings. And so far, what they haven’t done has given them credibility going forward; not trading for Gerritt Cole, who not long ago gave us all the impression that he never wanted to be a Yankee to begin with to me makes up for the pre-dynasty years wasted on Jack McDowell. Now if they can only avoid making a long-term regret with Yu Darvish… I like Darvish and our old Toaster fam Mike Plugh was not wrong about him, but I also like that he purportedly skipped a ridiculously Ellsburyish offer with a 48-hr deadline, which probably means if he does sign with the Yanks, it’ll be for significantly less ducats.  As is, the Yanks can live somewhere around $25-30 million under the luxury tax line without him.

So as presently constructed, what do you think we can expect from this influx of power and youth? Is it safe to consider the roster a go heading into February, or are we waiting for the fire to heat up now that certain teams are starting to make a few moves? Is Gleyber a lock at second or does Cashman want to let him warm up in SWB coming off an  injury and all… is Miguel Andujar the answer at third or is Todd Fraizer going to slide in under the budget line somehow? Does Jacoby break with the team going north and turn in a Headleyesque barnburner of an April-May that gets him some admirers from far-flung contenders? Will Hicks continue to build on what the Twins didn’t have the patience for? Can Gardy… wait, do we still have to do the stupid “name-y” thing now that Joe’s gone? And who’s going to be our Achilles’ Heel bench guy who had one good season and is signed to keep the lineup human THIS year?

Oh yeah, and is Aaron Freakin’ Boone gonna do it or what? Will our new Ulysses prove Cashman to be the brilliant Texas Hold-Em Pragmatic Genius that we hope he is at this point, or will Cashman be forced to do a Dan Jennings The Elder and take over halfway through May? What’s it gonna be, Bob Brenly  or Bucky Dent?

*Before you say it, I know Brenly was a coach with the Giants under Roger Craig and Dusty Baker before he replaced Buck Showalter in Arizona, but it was his first season and first manager job, dangit! One would hope that Boone can outdo Brenly given the roster he gets to handle. As for Bucky… Bucky F*cking Dent, woo hoo!!

 

To The Surprise Of Absolutely No One, Yanks Beat The (B)uck Outta The Orioles

potpie-4

“Oh Look, it’s the Score Tru–“NEEEYYOWWWW!!!!

No, that would be the right fielder. Let’s just call him Score Truck so everyone can get out of his way. This guy is amazing (in the good way, not the Northern Blvd way). And the best part is that it seems like it hasn’t gone to his head yet.  Here’s hoping that it remains that way for the entirety of his career and whatever follows. But I’m not here to anoint a new Chosen One; all things considered, Aaron Judge has been better than anyone could imagine so far, but that’s the thing: did anyone really expect this?

Well, later for that; what’s even more amazing is that he’s far from the only one doing major damage for this team. Everyone in the lineup from lead-off to the nine-spot has the potential (and pretty much has in this series) break out with a moonshot or two: ask the guy whose been playing serious catch-up lately, Gary Sanchez (thank goodness they wised up and put him back in the middle of the lineup instead of the two-spot? Really?) Ask Brett, Ask The Other One >;), Starlin, Matt, Didi, well not so much Chase though he could and has before… but Chris Carter is probably the home-runningest guy hitting ninth and that’s not getting into the nicks-and-scratches guys on the bench. These guys got that swing.  The Mostly Baby-Faced Bosses were last seen making chicken pot pie out of the visiting Baltimore Orioles to the tune of 38 runs to the Orioles’ 8 over three days in the Bronx.  Talk about a critical beatdown…

So yeah, that’s all I wanted to say for now.  This team is pretty much speaking for itself and is constantly leaving people speechless. I suppose some folks are busy stuffing bad pizza in their orifices due to that unfortunate promotion offering half off anything when the Yanks score six or more runs in a game… but we won’t speak of that either. Chicken Pot Pie is a nice alternative for the time being. Starting pitching is still a hold-your-breath kind of issue, but so far I enjoy what I’ve seen for the most part. Happiness is a win in front of the home crowd, after all). Next up: 31934

 

P.S.: 495 feet… I mean, who does that?

Tell ‘Em Tiny Montgomery Says Hello

YS 3What’s good, everyone? My first post of the season happens to coincide with a couple of other firsts: first major league start for rookie lefty Jordan Montgomery, who impressed just about everyone with his steady Spring Training, and for yours truly, my first visit to the new iteration of Yankee Stadium. Yep, first time;  thanks to my buddy Omar Nieve Capra for the belated birthday gift! I brought another buddy Joe Hunt with me to journey to this new planet…

YS 1

Hey babe… take a walk on the Chyll side…

And what a gift it was: Jordan Montgomery, part of a cadre of young and apparently effective farmhands making their presence known to us and the rest of the baseball world was making his major league debut at Yankee Stadium 2.0; a ballpark that from what I had always heard reminded me of an indoor mall with a baseball field in the middle. More on that later. Well, I wish I could say that Tiny (all 6’6″ of him) set the place on fire the moment he stepped foot on the tiniest grain of dirt on the edge of the mound (more on that later).  He is a rookie, and the rookieness showed within his first few batters. After getting the first two outs on a couple of sketchy fly-outs, he walked the venerable Yankee pain-in-the-ass Evan Longoria worked out a walk. Rickie Weeks Jr…. Rickie Freakie-Deakie, Leakie WEEKS… JUNIOR fercryin’outloud… took a pitch and sent it packing over the left field fence, with Aaron Hicks kinda looking at it like it was a fine lady in a red dress on her way to Paris by levitation or something; just looking and wondering… where she was going, what she was doing, could he get them digits, well never mind.  Back to work.

Joe was disappointed, but I figured that this would be a good opportunity to test the kid’s mettle. After all, he’s gonna be the fifth stater for a little while, and this is New York, and his parents were probably here watching from somewhere special, right? Give the kid a chance. He got the third out and the Yanks went to work.

Well, not exactly.  Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell shut down the side fairly easily in the first. with a fly-out by Jacoby Ellsbury, a grounder back to Snell by Hicks and an infield pop-fly by Matt Holliday to end the inning pretty easily.  Joe got the feeling that this might be a long and kinda rainy afternoon for the Yanks.  No doubt a thousand others felt the same way after that inning, but I wasn’t about to give up.  Let’s see how the kid does.

In fact, Tiny did pretty well. He sat down his side of the inning as well, and kept getting them out through the third and fourth.  In fact, in the fourth the umps decided to help out a little when catcher Derek Norris lined a single to left, and for some strange reason decided that Aaron Hicks wasn’t good enough to get him out at second. As the throw came in, I saw that Norris didn’t know what the hell he was likely thinking as the ball was in Starlin Castro’s glove, waiting with open arms.  Perhaps a little too open in fact; Castro applied a high tag to Norris, who managed to get his foot around him and on the bag at the same moment.  From our right field foul pole vantage in the upper deck, it sure looked like he was out by a mile, but upon video review, we could see he beat the tag, so we waited for the inevitable reverse of the out-call.  But guess what: it didn’t happen.  The crowd erupted in glee as the umps held the bad call. Wowzers.  Okay, one for us.  Stupid umps.  Tiny escaped the inning with no more base-runners and no runs, and the kid was proving to be kinda badass.

The fifth is where the train came in to the station; Tampa right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (what, another one?) doubled to left (maybe Norris was onto something?), but Tiny struck out CF Kevin Kiermaier and the surprisingly ineffective Longoria; not without a long battle that ran up his pitch count. “This is his last inning,” I predicted to Joe. “He can’t get anything but a loss,” Joe mused. “The Yankees haven’t done anything all day, aside from Castro getting a hit.”  “Well,” I replied insistently, “all they have to do is get into Tampa’s bullpen and they can get back in it, Trust me, that’s all they need to do. ” Montgomery did in fact leave after that, having thrown about 89 pitches in 4-2/3rd innings, giving up 2 earned runs, walking two and striking out seven. Not bad, kid.  Next, another kid: Bryan Mitchell.  With a runner on second, Mitchell pitched to RickieWeeks, who dashed the ball to Castro at second, who somehow let the ball bounce away from him while Souza scored behind him, but then Weeks tried to go for two and, heh, he was thrown out without question.

In the bottom of that same inning, Chase Headley, who has taken upon himself to rebuild his stock as a viable third baseman, hit a hard single over the middle into center.  Big Bad Aaron Judge (aka Mark Gastineau from Joe’s vantage point and hopefully the comparisons stop right there) walked, pushing Chase to second.  Kyle Higashioka, who came up to spell Gary Sanchez while he recovers from a bicep strain, grounded lightly to third, and the play went to second to force out Judge. However, Girardi decided to challenge the call; from our vantage point it looked like he was out, but the video made it look closer than it was. In fact, the video so impressed the umps that they again reversed the call and Judge was safe.  Lesson: Judge, but don’t judge…?  Bases loaded.  Defensive specialist Pete Kozma, starting at shortstop against the lefty for whatever reason, battled a bit, but popped out to second.  Ellsbury, on the very first pitch, the very first pitch he saw… popped out in foul territory to third.  Boooo! My buddy Joe kept reminding me that the Yanks really needed to make something of this, or they weren’t gonna win.  Oh, Joe, just be patient.  The bullpens will make the difference in this game.  Hicks worked out a walk and Chase brought in the Yanks’ first run. The Tampa infield decided to hold a meeting and as I looked to the scoreboard to our right, I saw immediately that they had decided to do the inevitable.

YS 5

LIIIiiiife’s.. a wind parade!

“Oh look,” I said to Joe, “they’re bringing in Fat Bernie!” If Joe had anything in his mouth, he must have spit it out because he inexplicably collapsed in a fit of chuckles. “Don’t do that to me, Will,” he choked, “you know I wasn’t prepared for that. He even has the glasses, too!” Neither was I prepared for Fat Bernie, better known as Jumbo Diaz. As he jumbered out from the bullpen in center, I wondered if he was not in fact bigger than Aaron Judge.  He certainly lived up to his name. More importantly, he could throw some gas, which is exactly what Tampa Bay brought him in to do. As a matter of fact, he spilled some behind the catcher as the ball bounced underneath his glove and Judge ran a tight end route to home with another run.  Diaz continued to have issues as Holliday walked to again load the bases. But then Chris Human Out Machine Carter, with a pretty wide and rusty-looking swing, brought the rally to a halt with a ground-out.  Yet I turned to Joe and said, “I told you so.”

Bryan Mitchell held the Rays in the top of the sixth, and Jumbo Diaz continued to spill gas in the bottom. Castro beat out an infield single that was close (but no replay) and Headley followed with a sharp single.  It’s important to note that Chase Headley is actually making good contact and hitting the ball hard to various places, as he will have to be significant in order for the Yanks to have a shot at making it through April in good position, never mind being serious contenders by the All-Star Break.  Judge followed with a single that allowed Castro to bring in the tying run. Higashioka, who I think is a better hitter than this, bunted toward third, but he did not lay it down like a bunt is supposed ++ to be, but popped it toward third, which created another fielder’s choice situation and this time Judge was forced out at second (with no replay).  But by this time, the Rays had had enough and brought in Xavier Cedeño in relief of Diaz. Girardi countered with Brett Gardner for Kozma. Hmm, now we’ll get some runs in, I said. Where they stick him after that is beyond me, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Brett is one tough cookie, that’s for sure,  He worked the count, getting 3-0 before letting the obligatory strike cross the plate, then fouling off another pitch.  3-2 with runners on first and third. one out. The pitch: a slow come-backer to the pitcher. Cedeño looked at around and then threw low to Weeks at first, but he couldn’t pick it cleanly and reached over the baseline to get the ball. *** WHAM!!! *** Two trains collided.  Joe and I heard the impact from the upper deck.  I watched the two fall away in opposite directions; two trees falling away from each other and into the river, struck by lightning as it were.  Weeks remained face down while Brett, with a spark of life left, struggled to reach over and touch the base, then seemingly passed out.  Both trainers bolted out of their dugouts and were the first to reach the prone bodies.  The crowd, who had cheered the play as it happened, fell hush with uncertainty.  Momentarily, Weeks climbed up and was ushered back to the Rays dugout, with applause from the crowd for his ability to walk away from the accident. Brett took longer.  he lay face-up on the grass as several people attended to him, the look decidedly not good. After what was a good minute, but felt a lot longer than that, Brett sat up.  The crowd cheered. A few more moments and he was up, walking back to the dugout, and presumably to the clubhouse.

YS 4

…hump bump bump, get bump…

You have to think… for a guy like Brett, who by most metrics is small for a major league outfielder at 5’10”, but is built like a tank if you get close enough to notice and gets injured often because he plays as hard as a tank, it’s hard to baseball.  Harder than you think.  But he keeps going.  That play alone illustrates why it’s a hard notion to give him away to some other team so easily.  Nothing about this cat is easy except his ability to be a good teammate. Maybe I’m getting a little soft in my getting-older age, but I was impressed, not by the knockdown, but the get up. Moreover, he got a run in.  Yanks with the lead, yay.  Shorty Ronald Torreyes, aka Brett’s Mini-Me, came in to run in his stead.  Jacoby Ellsbury sort of redeemed his earlier fail with a sharp single that brought in Fielder’s Choice Higashioka, and Hicks, having a productive game himself, grounded in another run to bring the tally to six for the Yanks.

Tyler Clippard, yeah he’s still here, he took over relief duties and shut down the Rays in the seventh by sandwiching a groundout between two strikeouts.  In the bottom, with Erasmo Ramirez in for the Rays, Chris Carter finally managed to swing and make decent contact, landing the ball softly in right.  For the designated all-or-nothing guy with a country swing, we were willing to take it.  After Castro popped out, Judge came back up.  “Please Aaron,”, I pleaded softly, “hit one up here and into my hands. Knock Joe’s hipster hat of his head…” Well, to Judge’s credit, he tried.  He looked for the right pitch and swung, hard, yet easy.  However, the ball sailed in the wrong direction.  Instead of right field down the line and well into the upper deck, he hit it fairly straight away to center field and over away from us, somewhere between Monument Park and the restaurant that have near it. Maybe somewhere behind those two.  Wherever it landed, it wasn’t in my hands and Joe still had his hat on. I was slightly annoyed, but I gave Judge credit for listening and trying to fulfill a humble birthday wish. Dude is huge; gave the Yanks a huge lead, 8-3.  “See, what did I tell you?” I reminded Joe.  That capped the scoring for the Yanks.

After enduring the groundskeepers’ “YMCA” routine and standing for Kate Smith during the seventh inning stretch, I asked Joe if he wanted to stay or try to beat the rush out the door. Joe looked around, seeing that the stadium was already half-empty at this point, so figured that getting out wouldn’t be an issue and decided we should stay to the end.  Good choice, because after Tommy Layne came on and gave a run back to Tampa Bay in the eighth (just for fun, I imagine), then Jonathan Holder couldn’t keep a couple of base runners off in the ninth, we got to see the fire. Remember the fire? That fire alluded to earlier in the recap? Yeah, that fire, aka Aroldis Chapman, aka Best Reliever in Baseball Right Now (among other things). And yeah, he brung it. What was left of the stadium crowd burst into flames, the scoreboard burst into flames, the sound system, the field, the Rays, everything burst into flames.  There was definitely a theme; the sun decided to pay attention and brought shine and heat for the occasion. Tall, dark and handsome ran like a man with a mission to the mound, warmed up (hah!) quickly and got to work. Flame on!  First pitch: woosh! 99! Second pitch: Zoom! 100! The pitch after that? Floof! 101! Chapman sets places on fire. If you’re still wondering why the Yanks paid stupid money to bring him back, stop.  It was for this, for the hundreds. After that first pitch, he only threw two other pitches less than 100: one at 83? that badly fooled Souza who popped out to first, and I don’t even remember the other one.  He struck out poor Kevin Kiermaier with a 101! is all I know, and that was that. Yankees win, Aaron Judge was the hero and the highlight.

YS 6

Leave your worries behind (Leave your worries behind) ’cause rain, shine, won’t mind, we’re ridin’ on the groove line tonight…!

My Takeaways:

– Aaron Judge will be a star for a good while if he maintains his health and a good work ethic.  Please don’t trade him for anything. A combi of him, Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez, with Didi and maybe eventually Gleyber Torres and Clint Fraizer  and the Yankees will have a monster team in a couple of years and for years to come (again, provided they all remain healthy and in good habits).

– Disappointed to not see Bird or Sanchez (or Betances for that matter) play, but ‘dems the breaks’. Perhaps we should revisit this in May or June…

– Revisit? Yankee Stadium 2.0 is certainly a remarkable edifice worthy of the team itself, but it’s different than the old stadium in quite a few ways.  It’s brighter and fresher, more open air and inviting.  But that’s just the thing: the old stadium was a factor. It was close and personal, dark and foreboding, yet familiar and exciting. In my youth, Yankee Stadium was some place you didn’t dare go alone to, but you were glad you went because you were part of something big, whether they were playing for something big or not. It didn’t necessarily have class, but it didn’t need it because it had spirit.  New Yankee Stadium is charming and sparkly, but sort-of in a billion-dollar college sports complex kind of way.  With stores and restaurants. It screams EXPENSIVE!! everywhere you walk.  And if you were like my buddy Joe and spent $20 on a leftover footlong and a tall cup of light beer, you don’t want to be reminded of how EXPENSIVE!! everything is because when you get hungry again, you don’t feel like spending any more money.  It adds up quicker than Chapman’s fastball.  Sure, it was pretty much the same in the old stadium, but the old stadium gave you a lot more to think about.  This is a paradise I can’t afford except when someone like Omar decides to give me a gift. How soon I revisit depends on how soon a friend wants to gift me with a ticket or two.  Where we sit doesn’t really matter if it’s a good game.

This will be an interesting year for the Yanks. Despite their best efforts to handicap the filed by taking on a Chris Carter or batting Gary Sanchez second, they’ve got the firepower to take them far.  But as I told Joe, it really depends on how they can (or IF they can) solidify the rotation with bonafide innings-eaters and an ace or two to take the stress off their surprisingly good bullpen.  You can’t run your bullpen into the ground before mid-season, which is what I fear might happen if they can’t get their starters past six innings more often than not.  So Jordan Montgomery still has some growing up to do, as good as his start was for the most part. They do have room to play with a handful of young considerables when needed, but hopefully nothing unfortunate occurs to force them to spend some of their considerable depth too soon if not at all. For now, I will say that they’re best bet is a wild card, but that won’t be easy.

YS 2

…and that’s the Triple-Truth… RUTH!!!

Feduciary (yawwwwn!)

Nick SwisherToo tired to put up a real post and not wanting to spoil the tribute post to a recently passed well-known and respected contemporary jazz singer/entertainer, I’m tossing this up for discussions on various things baseball and Yanks related. Among those things:

Nick Swisher retired. Well, at least he didn’t drag it out too long. But he was one of those guys who always seemed to let the kid inside come out and play. I’ll miss that.

Both Tyler Austin and Mason Williams have injuries that, although not career-threatening, will certainly alter their destinations after Spring Training (unless they have super powers).

Front office is sounding quite jerky yet again. I mean, you can be right and correct, but you can also control the impulse to gloat about it, and Randy Levine continues to make the team (and its fanbase by proxy) look like complete [insert favorite expletive here]s. Which, maybe they are, but we don’t seem to want anyone else to say it. What it means down the road is almost obvious though, and it would be really disheartening to lose great talent because the person or people in charge are loose-lipped sociopaths, which is certainly a New York sports-related specialty of late.

Okay, never mind with the vague grinding of axes, let’s get on with the show already!

Go Fish, Gin Rummy, Five Card Stud & Other Games The Yanks Apparently Aren’t Playing This Offseason

peanuts-5So far, there’s been relatively little of seriousness to discuss this off-season, which is par for the course these days around this portion of the year (unless you consider cashing in Brian McCann and his post-trade thoughts for a couple of futures worthy of going ballistic in the comments section). As I (meaning me) have suggested recently, it would be surprising if the Yanks made any tectonic-scale moves to bolster (replenish?) their starters in either the batting lineup or the pitching staff, but don’t be surprised if they swap out some guys for bullpen help or to shore up their bench. In fact, considering how well 2009 went regardless of our initial beliefs, anything’s still possible, so save that thought.

According to Mark Polishuk at MLB Trade Rumors (who apply their own accord on this to George A. King III), Yanks are in on our old pal Aroldis Chapman, though they are considerably wary of going five years with him. Similarly, but to a lesser extent, they are also interested in the hard-hitting Edwin Encarnacion, but are equally uninterested in a five-year deal with him. Both would represent considerably improvements in their area of expertise, though their need for Chapman outweighs their need for Encarnacion based on the presence of Gary Sanchez and (again) to a lesser extent the expectations placed on both Greg Bird and Aaron Judge. To this, we also add the possibility of the Yanks bringing back Carlos Beltran, though they might not get that chance either if they are trying to stay within their given budget parameters.

I would think that considerable attention should be paid to third base, where Chase Headley has been somewhat of a letdown and where the Yanks are considerably thin in their system having traded their former Trenton Thunder 3B Eric Jaigalo (their first pick overall in 2013 and by all accounts their closest-to-ready 3B prospect for the majors, even if he wasn’t really that close) and three others to bring in Chapman last off-season. Among their top ten prospects, none are slated to play third, which along with second has been a perennially overlooked issue with the Yanks of late. Maybe Cashman believes one of their infield prospects will take to the hot corner well enough to cover this seeming oversight, maybe he thinks Starlin Castro or Lil’ Ronnie Torreyes or a player to be discovered later will be good enough, or maybe he even thinks Headley can only go up from here. Perhaps, even, the Yanks can’t afford to go deep on any more starting infielders without trading for one that would ultimately upset the balance he’s creating with all of the prospects he’s stacking in the system at the moment (or because of, you know, the budget). Who really knows? As fans, all we can do is react and speculate, and I’m all out of Big League Chew

So here we are, waiting to see if Cashman can figure out a way to bring back the best closer currently playing in the majors (who you still might be a little wary of considering how he was used by manager Joe Torr–err, Maddon during the post-season) without breaking the bank or the system or future plans in the process, and also hope that while you know in the back of your mind there’s not much hope for contention in the coming year, they can at least make it interesting for far longer than they did this past season.

Ahem, take your time processing all that, it looks like it’s gonna be a long winter at any rate.

Cleveland Rush

WOWZERS-640x360

graphic credit: mashthebuttons.com

So it appears that the Cleveland Indians believe they have what it takes to knock the hustle on the reigning World Series champion Kansas City Royals by fulfilling the wish of most Yankee fans (around here, at least) and trading for their All Star closer Andrew Miller. Yep, Cleveland beat out all comers to go for the gold, as it were.  Cashman, to his credit this season, had managed to acquire the top relieving talent in the AL and has been seemingly wise in what has to be a real first for Yankeedom; bartering good MLB players for good prospects.  Seriously, how often has this even happened, never mind worked out well for the Yankees in their history? The closest I could come up with (or at least the most recent example) was when the Yanks traded starting pitcher Doc Medich for, among others, up-and-coming rookie Willie Randolph in December 1975. That seemed to work out pretty well, if I recall. However, the Yanks have had a strong tendency as well know to be on the opposite side of the spectrum when dealing with prospects; usually giving away prospects (whom a lot of times turn into All Star talent) in exchange for OPP or middling MLB players who either break few waves or write regrettable footnotes in Yankee history.  Is it not fair to think of Jose Rijo, Fred McGriff, Jay Buhner  and other Yankee prospects from the early 80s (well into G. Steinbrenner’s reign of terror as Yankees overlord owner)  ending up as perennial All-Stars and borderline HoFers on other teams because of an incessant need for overvalued or ill-suited veterans led by shell-shocked or bi-polar managers who entered and departed like the steamy vapors of Old Faithful. HOw many of us felt the burn in those times, good times…

But this: unprecedented in nature and in scale.  Instead of discarding a useful veteran or cashing in a bunch of great prospects for a two-month playoff push in the hopes that they can catch the same lightning that David Justice brought with him many moons ago, instead of shuttling off a headache or embarrassment for the tender mercies of their trade partner’s leftovers, the Yanks have practically admitted something obvious to the entirety of the Yankee universe: rebuilding is a viable option.

Rebuild.  What a strange, funny little word that has for so long struck terror in the hearts of fans and administration alike, but somehow has managed to bring us a sense of relief in that now this team has a definitive plan, a course of action that says to all who observe that yes, the team does recognize the signs and has decided to focus on what lies ahead.  There are too many holes to patch, too much money in the pit and much more time on our hands than we know what to do with. But Cashman, the de facto Leader of the New School, somehow got the okay to look forward and trade a couple of his cash cows for some magic beans. And let’s be real, this is what they really are for now… so who are these magic beans exactly?

Clint Frazier; No. 2 prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization, an outfielder and No. 5 pick overall in 2013 (nj.com)

Justus Sheffield: No. 3 prospect of the organization, LH Starter in A-Ball, but no, he is NOT related to Gary Sheffield (contrary to this and other reports, it has been asserted as a myth) (nj.com)

And for gits and shiggles, they threw in a couple more minor league cheeseheads, Triple-A reliever Ben Heller and Double-A reliever J.P. Feyereisen. (yeah you guessed it, nj.com)

What does it all mean? Well, Cleveland’s obviously going for it, and they think highly enough of Miller that they can afford to give up at least two prized prospects to get him.  Good for Miller, he’s a very stand-up guy who deserves a shot at a ring during his prime, but while deserve’s got nothing to do with it, pundits are now seeing Cleveland as a true contender (the Royals seemingly spit the bit early on with injuries to key players and sub-par replacements) who will likely be waiting at the gate while Toronto, Baltimore, Texas and Houston figure out their respective positions. Provided that Miller stays healthy the rest of the way and Terry Francona doesn’t suddenly lose his mojo in the clubhouse, the playoff push promises to be pretty interesting.  For the Yanks: The future is now for one Dellin Betances (provided he doesn’t get traded himself, which doesn’t seem likely at this point, but we are treading unfamiliar waters here). If he stays, he will now get the chance to lock down the closer position for years to come; a position that was inherently his from the moment he came up, but required (and may still require) some seasoning before he could fully embrace it.  He’s got about two months. For the rest of the team, it’s put up or shut up.  The White Flag has been raised, the retooling begins.  Time to analyze who has an actual future with this team in 2017 or even within the next couple of months.  Do they sit down a couple of under-performing players and bring up kids to test them out? Does the hype of these major trades invigorate provoke the rest into Super Saiyin mode and they go on a .750 tear the rest of the way and burst into the playoffs as the most dynamic team this side of hydrogen and oxygen? Or do they play with their shoelaces the rest of the way? Perhaps a little from column A, B and C?

At any rate, this has been likely the most interesting part of the season to date.  So long, A. Chapman, so long A. Miller; you’ve both been great here and we thank you for keeping most of us at least peripherally interested in what’s happening at that mall we call Yankee Stadium nowadays, but it’s time to go forth and make history for your new teams (both Cleveland and the Chicago Cubs having a good chance to make big history by winning it all). while Betances holds down the fort and waits for the new arrivals to mature along with him and bring forth an interesting and perhaps exciting new era of baseball in New York; the likes of which we haven’t seen since the mid 90s perhaps? If so, it will likely change the narrative we’ve had on one Brian Cashman and cement his place in baseball not only as a visionary executive, but a legendary survivor.  Too much, too soon? It’s okay, we just made a couple of big trades that we don’t ordinarily do, as if they finally listened to us and said, “Eh, why not?”

We can afford a little bit of euphoria for a minute. We shall see.

Are We There Yet…

I mean, really? Cool, the Yanks beat up a bad Angels team and sure, they beat the always perturbingly difficult Detroit Tigers in game one of that series, but then Ace turned back into Dexter and got waxed for the last three games. Meanwhile, body parts are flying every which-a-way and guys are doing everything they can to avoid the DL.  Basically, it’s like they are supposed to be .500 regardless of how well or badly they do.

Well anyway, here is River Ave  Blues with tonight’s lineup:

CF Jacoby Ellsbury
LF Brett Gardner
2B Starlin Castro
3B Chase Headley
SS Didi Gregorius
RF Aaron Hicks
1B Ike Davis
C Austin Romine
RHP Ivan Nova

So, never mind the lukewarm lemonade, Let’s Go Yanks!

All Tied Up In Nots

Walk_in_walk_out*Sigh*, let’s see what the Bumm- uh, Bombers did last night…

Hmm, lots of goose eggs in the box score, oh look they managed to push across a run in the second, and dayum, Austin Romine nearly had an extra base hit that could have possibly sparked a much needed and welcomed rally, but some guy on the Blue Jays named Kevin Pillar, whose name sounds too coincidentally like another former Yankee Killer, secured a spot on the Summer Olympics swim team by completing what amounts to be a horizontal swan dive to catch Romine’s sure-shot double, wowing fans and broadcasters alike, while at the same time diminishing any hope that the Yanks would have at least a break in the monotony of loser baseball.  Not just losing, mind you; everybody loses, but when you’re third to last in OPS throughout the season, can’t quite catch up to .500, have essentially five DHs in the lineup who hit for horseshit (our favorite type of fertilizer in these parts, though nothing seems to be growing from it) and a notebook full of whimsy and mystical wonders, you my friend are looking at loser baseball.  Of course, the advantages are clearly potential; higher position in the draft (and thank the stars James Dolan doesn’t run the this team or we’d be out of the draft for the next ten years), time for your prospects to prepare themselves for the leap by adjusting to (or as the case may be, healing from ) AAA play, and in effect driving advertising and broadcast package rates down a notch in the long run because no one in their right minds would pay high rates to watch this over and over again (at least I would hope not for their sake).

This team has me writing in sarcasm-laden parentheticals these days. Bummer.

So, in short, J.A. wins again because he somehow owns the Yanks, CC loses again mainly due to the lack of offense and a neurotic need to use the bullpen to stave off BB (Bulllpen Boredom), and Yank fans are likely contemplating a membership to AA (no need to explain).  Yanks lose 4-1. *sigh*

This Offense Is Lacking… Yep And The Offense Is Missing, Too

05497-732What is there to say? CC, showing obvious signs of being a real pitcher, was let down once again by the lineup (and some would say The Binder, which is steadily taking on more significant (if not welcome or tactful) connotation. Let’s not waste too much time on this: despite feasting on weak teams like any Yankee team should, they have a hard time (as usual of recent seasons) dealing with competitive teams.  Toronto may not necessarily be as competitive as they were last year, but they have more operative pieces than the Yanks do this season, and those came to use for the Jays today, enough for a 3-1 victory.  Meh.  This is what mediocre looks like. If the plan goes the way most hope, we won’t have to look at this for too long (as long as a a couple years is not too long for you).

Some news of note, Chad Jennings also reports that Slade Heathcott has again been released by the team. The popular, but oft-injured outfielder was removed from the 40-man so A-Rod could return from the 15-day DL, also noting that while the team had other options, they chose to release Heathcott.  Being that he’s currently on the DL, is this merely a procedural move in order to sign him to another deal as before, or has he basically run out of time? With Ben Gamel coming off the bench for the big team and a plethora of OF options, it’s hard to tell, but it’s not a good look.  (Update: looks like a big fat Nope) Also, catching über-prospect Gary Sanchez has a displaced thumb fracture on his throwing arm.  While this is a blow to SWB as he was very productive to this point, there is actual (if not exciting) organizational depth to cover his absence for the time being.  All this, plus Greg Bird gone for the season and now Sanchez in limbo, it’s been a very forgettable 2016 overall.  Yet .500 is within reach and at least… well, at least… I dunno, it’s not that cold anymore?

Just Another Game By The IRT

Luigi

A few things we knew going into this last game with Houston:

  1. Carlos Correa is a helluva hitter. His homers have mad hops.
  2. When healthy, Mark Teixeira’s homers have mad hops, too.
  3. It’s kinda cold outside.

Knowing that, we had time to speculate a little further about the near future. Starlin Canostro (hat tip to GaryfromChevyChase), our newest budding star at second, is on a pretty good roll to start the season, considering that he’s playing off the position he started his career with.  Can he keep this up for a little while longer please? Will Nathan Eovaldi continue to evolve from where he left off with intriguing stuff that produced an occasional pearl before he was shut down last September? Can the rest of the lineup keep pace with the outburst they unleashed in last night’s prime time drama?

*(See answers below)

Eovaldi was, to say the least, kinda inconsistent. He zipped through the first inning on six pitches and he probably felt so bad about it that the next inning he struggled through the next inning on 38 pitches, spotting Houston three runs on a long double, followed by back-to-back jacks by Tyler White and Preston Tucker. I’m gonna have to assume that they are part of Houston’s revitalization plan from when they stunk for several years, carefully cultivated for the day when they and Correa and perhaps a few more could be unleashed and strike fear in the AL.  Maybe not, I dunno.  But it did show that Eovaldi still has some work to do coming back from his ouchies from last season; no time like the present. Yet, I’m also hoping that the Yankees are also establishing a trend of their own by fighting back when their down, kinda like how all those teams from the 90s into the early part of the millennium did.  They managed to get a run back on a sac fly by Headley, scoring Teixeira from third, followed next inning by a double by Ellsbury which scored Didi (who is continuing to hit and get on base).  The game was close again going into the fourth, but Eo gave up a two-run single to White.  This probably would have been a problem any other time, but this is Game Three at the start of the season and the Yanks seem to have a tiger in their tank; first McCann led off with a solo shot to right, then two outs later Castro smacked one deep over the left field wall for another run.  Ah, down by one, come back and watch why don’t cha…

At this point, Eo was cruising through the fifth inning, retiring the side on 12 pitches.  However, because of that second inning, his pitch count was in the red zone and his night was over; 94 pitches over five with 5 runs, 7 Ks and no walks.  Not bad, but not necessarily that good either; fairly inconsistent and staring at a loss for his efforts.  But the lineup bailed him out tonight, with A-Rod singling in Ellsbury to tie the score, and there it remained with five apiece through the top of the seventh.

Anybody get a good look at this guy Kirby Yates? The box scores says he acquitted himself rather well in the sixth, going through a tough part of the lineup and giving up only a single sandwiched in between a fly-out and two strikeouts.  If I could have seen him, I’d wonder what his body language was showing, because I guarantee the bullpen’s gonna need more results like that going forward.  Chasen Shreve started the seventh and also acquitted himself well,  keeping the score tied into the bottom half of the Seventh.

Hero Time.  Tonight’s guest: Mark Teixeira.

After Ellsbury grounded out, Gardner singled to right and Houston brought in last night’s reliever of note Ken Giles.  After getting A-Rod to chase two, he somehow managed to single to center. Tex was next hitting from the left side, and after watching a ball go by, he lashed out and poked one near the end of his bat the opposite way. Was it enough?

Tonight, in the beginning of a new season, with so many questions about himself, about the lineup, about starting pitching and even about the bullpen… tonight, it was.

Tonight, Betances came in and held down Houston like an Eight Inning Man™ should.  Tonight, giving up a couple of singles with his left hand while ignoring the pain in his right wasn’t a bad thing, because Andrew Miller used his left hand to strike out three to close the game and seal the win.  Tonight, the third of at least eighty (and hopefully more), here in a pearly open backyard palace in a usually snarled part of the boogie down, it is what it was. Just another game.

 

*Basically, yep.

Them 2016 Yankees, Episode 2: “Blaow! How You Like Me Now?”

Agent_MackWhat was that?

Some say it was a bird, some say it was a plan, but I say it was just pure madness at bat. Not the berserker kind, but the ice cold focus on obliterating your opponent for what he did to your brother kind of mad (though both kind of have the same messy results). Oh, it was just an ugly mess for those mopes on the mound in the bottom half of the first three innings. Tsk-tsk, shake your head, here kid put this bag on ugly. A crime happened here this evening and we have to figure out which Law & Order unit to call and pitch a script to…

Isn’t it nice when you’re on the winning side of that introduction?

Well, lets take a look at the evidence. Michael Pineda, who allegedly has that stuff they call stuff, kinda forgot to be good for a minute and Carlos Correa (okay, you should know you’re going to hear his name a lot for the entire year, never mind this series) to pulled a fast one on Big Pine into the left field stands for a solo jack. Okay, not so bad, it was one run, right? So he gives up a double right after that, who cares.  He finished the inning and the Yankees come to bat.

Now here’s where the story gets kinda interesting. Here’s an excerpt from a witness who happened to be on the scene and witnessed most of the criminal activity:

“So this guy named Collin McHugh was pitching for Houston, see, and he walks this guy they call Jake (played by Jacoby Ellsbury), then he turns around and walks this guy they call Gardy (Brett Gardner), and then he does it one more time with A-Rod (Who Else), so you got all these guys on base and who do you think comes up next? It’s that guy Tex (Mark Teixeira) over from the Lower East Side (1B), he singles to right and Jake ran home, but the bases are still loaded, so that guy McCann (Brian McCann) says, ‘ahh that’s not enough, watch this’ and he launches a double to right, Gardy and  A-Rod score and he’s sitting there at second looking like the cat that ate the canary. You’d think that be enough, but then after that other guy Carlos (Carlos Beltran) grounded out and oh, by the way, Tex came in with another run on that play, this guy named Heddy… Heddy? No, Headley! (Chase Headley) he puts a single up the middle, McCann scores and they knock the poor schlub out who was pitching, that McHugh guy? Pssh, you know what? It was a wrap for him.”

So what happened after that?

‘What happened? I’ll tell you what happened. They send in a new pitcher, this guy named Michael Feliz, and Headley steals second on him.  Then if that ain’t enough, the new guy, what’s his name, uh, Castro (Not that one. Not that one either. Yeah, that one, but I don’t think he’s related), you know what he did yesterday, right? Well he keeps going with a single to center and Headley goes home. Man. And then there was another hit, uh Didi, a couple of outs, a walk and another out and that was it for now.”

So it looks like there was some sort of offensive ruckus there; we should probably alert Inspectah Deck about this. No? Okay, let’s look over some more testimony.

“Word up, knawsayin’, you’d think the Yanks would be wilin’ out and (Shasta) but no, they ain’t do that, cuz them Astro Boyz is nasty. Knawmean?  You wanna know what happened? They went back and got they’ own (shucks) and jumped that (Betty Crocker) like a double dutch tournament. I’m sayin tho, single, double hit by pitch, then this dude Springer, he sprung’im all right, sprung him all the way to left center for a Grand-(mambo-combo)-Slam, yo.  Homeboy had pickles and onions on that (shoebox). Knawmean?”

So Pineda was the victim of retaliation.  Did he survive?

“Word, it was (French) up, but yo, he hung in there. It’s not like they took him out or nothin’, he just got hit up real bad.  I was like, dayum!, that was some cold (salsa), but my dude was still in there and they kept going ham* and (Snapple)…”

Hmm. Interesting. Let’s find out what happened next.

“Dude, I couldn’t believe what happened next. It was like, the next inning and Tex struck out and I was all like, dude! but then McCann walked and Beltran-dude singled and I was like ‘all right!’, but then Headley struck out and I was like ‘duuude’…, but then, but then… Castro was all like “BING!” and I was like “whoaaaaaah! Four-hundred and twenty-eight feet to left-center! Duuuuuuude!” It was a totally awesome shot, dude, you so had to be there.”

Was there more?

“Not really, but then I looked at the scoreboard and I was all like, ‘whoa, it’s only like the second inning? Duude!”

Just so.  It appears to just get uglier from there.  Not the kind of ugly that would stand side-by-side with a sick walrus and help it get a contract with Luis Vutton, but the kind of ugly that yo mama could change her name to Legoland with if ugly was made from colorful plastic small kids could potentially choke on. Well, maybe not quite so bad.  9-5 in the second would inspire impatience in some and hubris in most, which was almost the case before the bottom half of the second. But for some reason, this game was a clear assault on pitching prowess for the most part.  Tex would strike again in the very next inning with an equally impressive and equally damaging shot of his own to his favorite part of the stands (mid-upper deck in right), while the rebellious Carlos Correa would later outdistance them both in the top of the fifth with a humongous shot to center that was measured at 459 feet. Good thing there wasn’t anyone on that time, or at least good for the Yanks at least.  And not to be outdone, The Other Carlos hit a solo shot of his own the next inning, perhaps in retort (wonder what he looked like?)…

Was there anything else? You bet your sweet Aspercreme. According to reports, players identified as Aaron Hicks and Ronald Torreyes, playing the parts of Beltran and Headley respectively, hit a single and a triple also respectively, with Hicks and McCann both scoring on Torreyes’ hit, then having Castro drive him home with yet another hit. By this time, Ivan Nova, the once-and-future starting pitcher, was shutting down Houston’s game for the last four innings and then the carnage was over.  Blood everywhere.

EPILOGUE

So what does this mean? Is this what we can come to expect of this Yankee team; heartbreaking, headache-inducing hiccups in one game and then Rock’em-Sock’em Score Trucks the next? That would be interesting, and would certainly make an exciting recap  every night.  But the reality is, it’s too early to tell.  Houston is ostensibly a really good team, and if Carlos Correa has anything to say about it, they will certainly give the reigning champs a run for their money in the post-season. Bu that’s there and not here.  Today was like a noir crime mystery, or a good old fashioned butt-kicking, or something really gnarly.  You can’t explain a game like this, it just happens. That’s Chinatown for you, on to the next one.

PS: That relatively young second baseman guy Starlin Cano Castro? He did something cool: his seven RBIs in these first two games of his Yankee are the most by any player in franchise history.  Any. Including Todd Greene.  That’s how you make a good impression at your new job. Keep up the good work, kid!  Maybe Papa Sterling will think of a better home-run call for you the next time around… (or maybe not)

Oh, and Happy Nutheryearonearth to Yours Truly… >;)

Methinks The Season Doth Commence (A Nuanced Perforomance)

Yanks Recap Game 1 2016The season has begun, and many of us have returned to bond over a new season of baseball (welcome back, everyone!) So, what do we have here? After an early rainout, our heroes finally took the field to host the “all that losing is finally paying off” Houston Astros, following a similar trajectory to the now-champion Royals and looking to usurp their mid-west rivals for the throne this year.  But first off, they have to take a detour through the Deegan, which may or may not be an easy task, depending on your proclivities. If anyone has something to say about what the Yanks will do this year, Masahiro Tanaka would be the first one to the podium.

Or so you’d think.

To be honest, there had to be a lot of tightness going into this game, wondering whether the Astros’ Dallas Keukel; reigning AL Cy Young award winner, would continue his dominance from last season or show some indications of a fluke.  Actually, he was mostly as good as he was last year, but he didn’t have his usual control and he didn’t face Starlin Castro last year, who starts his Renaissance Campaign with a two-run double in the second inning, thus ending a 29-inning scoreless streak against our heroes.  Tanaka, for his part, turned it up a notch from an uneven Spring with a moving two-seamer that held the Astros to one run through four innings on a Aaron Hicks misplay on a Jose Altuve hit that turned into a double and later a run on Carlos Correa’s fielder’s choice. However, that very same Carlos Correa would reach out and slap a misplaced slider in the fifth over the the right field wall for a solo homer that tied the game and suddenly made it tense. Not so much because you weren’t sure the Yanks could score any more off Keuchel (though they didn’t), but you had to wonder if Tanaka could hold it together after that with his bomb-under-the-shoulder, so to speak. He did pitch 5-2/3 innings without giving up more than that, and he did pitch well, which is what we expect of The Ace.

But later the roof collapsed, and not in a spectacular fire-fashion, but more of a threw-a-lit-gas-can-on-the-roof fashion.  The Official Eigth-Inning Man™ Dellin Betances walked Jose Altuve to start off the inning, which seemed innocent enough to some, he managed to induce Carlos Correa into hitting a slow roller up the first base line. Correa, running on the inside grass, passed in front of Betances who picked up the ball… and shot-putted it over Mark Teixeria’s head, allowing Altuve to run around the bases and score. Boy, was Joe Girardi mad… he came out and jawed with home plate umpire Dana DeMuth in what was likely an effort to get himself kicked out of the game, and when that didn’t happen he  decided to play under protest. Naturally at this point, Betances was probably pretty spooked and gave up a two-run single before exiting the game. It was pretty much over, even though Sir Didi smacked a 96-mile hour fastball from a pretty damn good reliever in Ken Giles for the Yanks’ first homer of the season. It just wasn’t enough, Didi, not nearly enough.  Yanks drop the opening game 5-3 and gave their followers a headache in the process.

After the game, Girardi discussed his issue with the call/non-call on Correa’s running out of the base path which led to the go-ahead run. The rules were explained by DeMuth and it had to be accepted; had Betances simply nailed Correa in the back, in essence, he would have been out by runner interference.  But Betances, probably being  the young nice guy that he is, didn’t think to do that and tried to loop it over Correa’s head and misjudged his Olympian strength (how likely that throw would have gotten him in time if he did make it right is also up for speculation) and created a fine news story for the local and national beat. I wouldn’t get on Betances too much (like some of the broadcasters did); if Girardi was outraged at the prospect of nailing someone with a fastball to get the out at first, then it was probably never mentioned to Betances that he had that option.  Other players who were asked about the play were not too sanguine about Joe’s opinion, but did not argue against him in that regard either, instead taking the high road along with Betances in agreeing that the play just had to be made.

See, stand-up guy, now you know so you can blow a hole through his midsection if you have to make the out and likely Girardi doth not protest to much, methinks..

 

 

Dear Phife

820The Hip Hop universe has awoken to some more tragic news this morning; Malik Taylor, aka Phife Dawg “The Five-Foot Assassin” and “The Funky Diabetic” , a founding member and literal cornerstone of the world renowned Golden Age of Hip Hop era group A Tribe Called Quest, apparently succumbed to the very disease he had made a favored appellation of and in recent years had struggled with. As of this writing, no official announcement has been made yet, but news sources had independently confirmed his passing, first noted on Twitter by legendary DJ Chuck Chillout.

I cannot for the life of me run down the details of his life at this point; having been a huge fan from the beginning and A Tribe Called Quest being on the itinerary of my musical young adulthood, it’s just mind-numbing to have lost someone critical too soon by anyone’s measure. Not to mention, we are losing so many dearly-held artists from so many areas in music these days that I can honestly say that I was shocked to hear about this, but that shock was quickly replaced by that very numbness that such an event would often inspire days later when you’ve had time to process the entirety of a person’s life, impact and death while you compare feelings and moments with friends and fellow fans.  If there is PTSD for music, I must be in the throes of it, and it’s not something I would wish on anyone.

Nevertheless, instead of a eulogy culled from multiple news items, I present a link to an article from Vulture.com that was published last November in which Phife runs down his five favorite songs of A Tribe Called Quest; one from each album they made together.  Perhaps at a later date I will revisit the idea of discussing the band’s impact on Hip Hop and music as well, as they are certainly worthy.  Meanhwile, Rise In Power, Malik Taylor.

More Interviews with Phife Dawg:

NPR

Noisy (Vice.com)

Rolling Stone

Interview Magazine

Q102.1 (Andrew Liu) – YouTube

Lastly, the title is borrowed from this track I came across while thinking of what to write.  Listening to it again, I finally broke away from the numbness I implied earlier and had a moment with my inner self.  We all can relate to that moment because we all have someone or something that touches that button one last time before they go on their journey, leaving something for us to think about; what was, what could have been.  I just don’t know.

 

Itchers & Scratchers

In case you were wondering (and after this year’s Stupor Bowl, you probably are), pitchers and catchers will be reporting to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. on Thursday, Feb. 18.  Yanks have released their Spring Training schedule and have also invited 25 additional players along for the ride.  More details as they come, of course.

Probably Of Some Note…

Greg BirdIt’s early and all, but this will probably be of some note to some of us Banterers in the coming Spring. according to tweets by both NY Post’s Joel Sherman and LoHuds’ Chad Jennings (contained in the linked article) Greg Bird will be out for the entire 2016 season, due to shoulder surgery.  Apparently the Yanks have been hip to this since last May when the injury was first incurred, but doctors said he wouldn’t require any surgery… until now, with a recent recurrence of the injury.  *Sigh*, well, at least Cashman’s been making moves all winter to shore up the depth in the minors as that seems to be about to be put to good use, but dang this sure came out of left field for the rest of us.  Not that he was slated to start in the majors; in fact all indications were that Bird was to start off 2016 in SWB until need be, but crap.  Alex better get his 1B glove on, because he might have to put in some work there soon enough.

Meanwhile, get well soon, dude; see ya next year we hope.

Gone Fishin’

Abe_Vigoda_Fish_Barney_Miller_1977The time has come to say goodbye to a New York treasure, a man who embodied the well-traveled and experienced New Yorker of old, the one who seemingly knew every nook and cranny of the city and who occupied them and touched everyone he encountered with a bit of grump, a bit of wit and a bit of sage advice to keep them moving from one corner to the next throughout the day. And Preparation H.  That’s the impression I always got when looking at his face. How it just carried a whole lot of everything behind it, processed it and gave you back a little piece of New York.

Born in Brooklyn to Jewish immigrant parents, began a long and notable acting career as a teenager, appeared on Broadway quite a few times, including in one of my personal favorite plays (Marat/Sade, which I also acted in while in college), landed the role of a lifetime in an open call in L.A., made an even bigger impression a few years later with a role he’s become synonymous with, and lived life as sort of the unofficial ambassador of Fiorello LaGuardia’s New York, by his very presence able to link that era with the Wagners and Lindseys and Beames and Koches that followed.

By the time Michael Bloomberg ascended to the throne, we looked back at all of this and remembered fondly the ugliness that New Yorkers endured to this point like a rich man who had climbed out of Hell’s Kitchen to dominate the skylines, and in the back of our minds we always wanted to know how Abe Vigoda was doing, and when you get home you’d go and look for that Timex you still have for some strange reason. Everyone was doing it.

I suppose you never know when you might need it.  Well played, Mr. Vigoda, thanks for everything.

 

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver