More melancholy beauty from our man Bags.
Mark Teixeira’s bum wrist might bother him throughout the season. Couple his sore wrist with his steep decline and unless he’s developed a hell of a sense of humor over the off-season, it’s hard to see what he’s bringing to the infield in 2014.
That’s just fine though because they’ve got Hall of Famers at short and third and an MVP candidate at second… hold on, I’m catching up on some news items. Oh. Oh no.
So the 2014 Yankee infield might be bad. How bad? Let’s look at the Steamer projections for the infielders:
1B: Mark Teixeira .247/.341/.465, 26 HR in 558 PA (2.2 WAR, not factoring in lingering wrist issue)
2B: Brian Roberts .251/.314/.379, 6 HR in 335 PA (0.7 WAR)
SS: Derek Jeter .281/.339/.376, 5 HR in 409 PA (1.3 WAR)
3B: Kelly Johnson .231/.311/.393, 15 HR in 490 PA (1.4 WAR)
UTIL: Eduardo Nunez .257/.307/.363 2 HR in 162 PA (0.1 WAR)
UTIL: Brendan Ryan .216/.284/.297 3 HR in 308 PA (0.2 WAR)
(While I don’t think WAR is a perfect metric to stand in for overall performance, I’m going to use it below since it was the only way to easily compile the infield-specific data for each team in Yankee history).
Unfortunately for the Yankees, Steamer only projects 2262 plate appearances, so they’d need another 350 PAs or so from total scrubs who were not good enough to make the above list. But save your shuddering until the end please.
Last year’s infield was also bad. In place of Teixeira, we mostly saw Lyle Overbay. Jayson Nix and Nunez took turns sucking at short and third, and when they weren’t bad enough, David Adams was there to be even worse. The 2013 infield produced 4.2 WAR, one of the worst in modern Yankee history, but not the worst thanks to Robinson Cano’s all-star season. Cano was worth 6 wins above replacement all by himself, so the rest of that collection of suck was worth -1.8 WAR.
At least the 2013 infield was not designed to be bad. The Yankees hoped for Teixeira and Cano to play their customary 150 games and for Jeter and Arod to be back on the field some time in the spring. And not the springs of 2014 and 2015. Even with performance declines and ample substitutions, that’s not a recipe for one of the worst infields in franchise history. In fact, those four guys led one of the best infields in Yankee history to the 2009 World Series title.
In contrast, the Yankees stumble into 2014 with eyes wide open. This is hardly revelatory, as the infield represents approximately 50% of the lineup, but it’s hard to win with a terrible infield. It’s obvious there’s a strong correlation between infield quality and winning percentage. What we’re about to experience is rare in Yankee history.
Let’s go way back to 1925, the year Lou Gehrig replaced Wally Pipp. Gehrig at 22 was good, but the rest of his cohorts were not, and the result was one godawful infield. Like Cano in 2013, only Gehrig’s presence keeps the group in postive WAR. The Yankees won only 69 games and finished seventh. The next year they added Tony Lazzeri, won the pennant, and, seemingly, made putting together a quality infield an organizational priority.
From 1926 through 1964, the team from the Bronx became the Yankees as they are known today. Twenty six pennants in 38 years means that seeing the Yankees in the World Series was more probable than flipping a penny and seeing Lincoln’s mug. The infield was occasionally worth 20 WAR all by themselves and rarely dipped into the single digits.
The average infield during that span accounted for around 14 WAR, or almost 3.5 WAR per position. After Gehrig, the Yankees didn’t employ slugging first basemen to rack up the WAR but instead relied on depth and diverse skill sets around the horn. Casey Stengel maximized value with strategic platoons. Rolfe, Crosetti, Rizzuto, Gordon, McDougald, Skowron, Richardson, Johnson etc. Hall of Famers some, but solid and productive all.
Since 1965, the Yankees have still been the class of baseball, but the pendulum has swung back to Lincoln’s visage in the battle of probability with the Yankees only appearing in the Postseason 22 times in 48 years. The twin killings of the player draft and CBS ownership made it harder for the Yankees to stockpile the best amateur talent and increased competitve balance across the game.
The Yankees have occasionally sucked in the last 48 years, and they haven’t always put together a decent infield. And not surprisingly, there’s some overlap there. Using last year’s total as a baseline for inepitude, here are the worst infields since 1926:
1965 (77-85, 6th Place AL): 4.1 WAR
Clete Boyer flashed quality leather as always at third, and Joe Pepitone contrbuted something at first, but this was the beginning of the Horace Clark era and the rest of infield gave us a sign of the mediocrity to come. Clarke burst onto the scene with a typically forgettable performance in 51 games, but as often the case with teams of this era, he was hardly responsible for the overall suck. Phil Linz, Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek combined to be truly awful as regular players.
1982 (79-83, 5th Place AL East): 1.3 WAR
Take post-1973 numbers with a grain of salt because it’s difficult to separate out the WAR of some of the DHs in here, but no amount of precision is going to improve this group to respectability. Off years from Randolph and Nettles made Roy Smalley the most productive infielder. There is so much negativity in this group it’s like my living room when Mariano Rivera blows a save. Steve Balboni blundered to -1.1 WAR in just 33 games and Bucky Dent deteriorated to -1.1 WAR in just 59 games. That’s sabotage with a quickness.
1988 (85-76, 5th Place AL East): 2.6 WAR
Mattingly’s season was just fine, but he was merely an all-star and no longer able to carry the team. Randolph was nearing the end of his usefulness as a starting second basemen. And oh my, the suck of the left side of the infield. Randy Velarde, Rafael Santana, Mike Pagliarulo and Luis Aguayo combined to produce almost -3 WAR.
1990 (67-95, Last Place, AL East): 1.2 WAR
Nobody will be surprised to see this team on the list, as they won only 67 games. This was the year Don Mattingly’s back spasmed him into oblivion. Alvaro Espinoza got 150 games to prove he was nothing close to a Major Leaguer and neither Mike Blowers nor Jim Leyritz could handle third. Steve Sax at least had a pulse, but if it wasn’t for Kevin Maas coming out of nowhere to hit a bunch of homers, the Yankees would have had negative WAR for the infield. (Also, some of Mass’s 1.3 WAR came from 25 games at DH, so really, this total should be even lower.)
2000 (87-74, 1st Place AL East, World Series Champions): 3.7 WAR
A World Champion. Maybe there is hope for 2014 after all! Derek Jeter was in superstar mode at the plate hitting .339/.416/.481. But he picked the wrong year for that slash. Since offense was so jacked up in 2000, his numbers merely tabbed him as an all-star instead of the MVP candidate he’d be in virtually any other context. UZR hates his defense so much that he racked up only 3.7 WAR. You will notice, with some non-rigorous number-crunching, that means the World Champs got exactly zero from Tino, Knobby, Brosius and their understudies.
2013 (85-77, 3rd Place AL East): 4.2 WAR
We went over this, it was all Robinson Cano. And he’s a Mariner.
2014: 6.4 WAR (Projected before Teixeira’s wrist revelation)
So 6.4 WAR is probably more like 4 or 5 WAR when you discount Teixeira and add in the scrubs who will use up the rest of those plate appearances we’re missing. If Teixeira is bad enough, it’s possible that McCann plays first base and the infield will receive a shot in the arm. Though that’s still bad news for the Yankees, because they’ll be sacrificing the catching advantage they paid handsomely to obtain this offseason. I’d be surprised if the 2014 infield is better than the 2013 infield.
The problem is that these players are too old to have much hope for upside. Kelly Johnson, I guess, could put together something special if everything breaks perfectly for him, but the other guys? Guys in their late 30s coming off career-altering injuries do NOT have career years. If we are very, very lucky, they have seasons that resemble their career averages. More likely, they play poorly and infrequently.
It’s going to be a very bad infield, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a very bad team. The Yankees will need heavy lifting from the outfield and the catcher and they paid the price for that muscle this offseason. The top of the rotation is going to have to outperform their 2000 counterparts, as the bullpen lacks 2000′s Rivera, Stanton and Nelson.
But that’s definitely possible. If Sabathia bounces back (and it’s reasonable to expect him to be a good pitcher this year), the 2014 staff could be excellent. The real problem is that the rest of the AL East is much better than it was in 2000, so the 2014 Yanks could outperform the 2000 team byseveral games and still be shut out of October baseball.
Flip things around and look at the best infields in team history (1927, 1929, 1936, 1942, 2002, 2007, 2009) and there’s much more security in booking your Postseason parties. Starting in 2015 (or this July), when second base, shortstop and probably third base are all holes to fill, it’s time to build another one.
In the winter of 2011, a plan was hatched. That plan, to get the payroll under $189 million for the 2014 season, formed the guiding principle of player acquisition for the Yankees until last week, when the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka. I love the Tanaka signing, but we have to acknowledge that it signifies two years of wasted effort.
Fans excused certain decisions because this plan loomed like a dark cloud. They can’t even think about going outside to talk to Zack Greinke because it’s going to rain! Kevin Youkilis for a one-year-deal adequately addresses 2013 without impacting 2014!
The Yankee rosters for 2012 (AL East Champions, ALCS losers) and 2013 (tied for 3rd in AL East) were forged with these constraints in place. How might things have played out had the Yankees been operating as usual?
The new CBA that inspired the 189 plan followed the 2011 season. In the off-seasons of 2011-12 and 2012-13, the following free agents signed contracts that extended into 2014 – the danger zone for the Yankees:
|PLAYER||POS||TEAM||1st YR of Deal||YRS||TOTAL|
|Shane Victorino||OF||Red Sox||2013||3||$39.000MM|
|Jeff Keppinger||2B||White Sox||2013||3||$12.000MM|
|Maicer Izturis||SS||Blue Jays||2013||3||$10.000MM|
|Ryan Dempster||SP||Red Sox||2013||2||$26.500MM|
|Jake Peavy||SP||White Sox||2013||2||$29.000MM|
|Jonny Gomes||LF||Red Sox||2013||2||$10.000MM|
|David Ortiz||DH||Red Sox||2013||2||$26.000MM|
|David Ross||C||Red Sox||2013||2||$6.200MM|
|Melky Cabrera||LF||Blue Jays||2013||2||$16.000MM|
I have no idea what free agents the Yanks would have pursued, but we can predict, with some degree of certainty, that they would have signed more than just CC Sabathia and Ichiro Suzuki.
Some of the good players are rendered moot before we start. Derek Jeter erases Jose Reyes. Mark Teixeira eliminates Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. Mariano Rivera bumps off Papelbon. We can’t consider David Ortiz an actual option for DH, can we? Robinson Cano blocks second base and though Alex Rodriguez was mucking things up as usual, you’ll notice a distinct lack of free agent third basemen above. So if the Yankees were going to spend in 2011-2013, it was going to be on pitching, catching and the outfield.
Because there are five rotation spots and very rarely five starters who are both good and healthy at the same time, the starting rotation can always stand some sprucing up. Anibal Sanchez was available, affordable and miles better than anyone else the Yankees had at the back of the 2013 rotation. (Zack Greinke was also miles better than anyone the Yankees had, but he was neither as affordable nor as available, depending on what you believe about his interest in pitching half of his games in New York.) Other guys might have interesting names, but even with the benefit of hindsight, I can’t pick out obvious targets for the Yanks other than Sanchez and Greinke, two guys they didn’t even sniff around.
The bullpen, eh, I can’t find fault there. The Yankees employed Rivera, Robertson and Soriano during this time period and all of their bullpens were pretty good. It would be great if they landed a guy like Grilli or whatever, but throwing a lot of money at the bullpen is just not the best way to spend dough regardless of the overall agenda.
Catching was obviously a self-inflicted wound. The only good catcher on this list is Russell Martin and he was already a Yankee. The Yankees went with budget catching in 2013 and it contributed to them missing the Postseason.
The outfield is a pretty tough puzzle to solve because, like the rotation, there is almost always room for a new face. But the 2011 Yankees had a sweet outfield. The 2012 outfield was also going to be very good, but Gardner could not stay healthy enough to play with Granderson and Swisher and Ibanez could not replace him. Enter Ichiro, who gave them some life in 2012 but drained all that and then some in a vampiric 2013 performance. And then, of course, Vernon Wells.
The decision to re-sign Ichiro after his 2012 stint was extremely damaging as he got a 2014 contract – the only other 2014 contract the Yankees handed out was to CC Sabathia. Obviously, the outfield needed help in 2013. But who was there that the Yankees would have employed?
Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton were busts of epic proportions. Imagine a scenario where Vernon Wells was preferable! That actually happened. But I guess the Yankees would have been in play for Hamilton. Maybe his addictions would have steered them clear, but I can’t be certain. For other proven Major Leaguers, it boils down to retaining Swisher or correctly predicting Victorino’s resurgence. Either upgrade would have been huge.
But proven Major Leaguers weren’t the only available players. As we have already discussed, international free agents such as Yoenis Cespedes as well as Yu Darvish and Yaisel Puig, remain the biggest misses for the Yankees during this time period. And the Yankees didn’t even swing. I didn’t even really notice the Iwakuma signing in Seattle, but I’d love to have him on the team. It’s possible that the Yankees didn’t think these players were any good, but it’s also possible that, with the failure of Kei Igawa fresh in their minds, they did not want to allocate any of their precious 2014 budget on relative unknowns - even if the upside was that they turned out to be bargains and enabled them to contend while pinching pennies.
On top of all this are the unexplored trades. Since the Yankees needed salary cleared for 2014, they had to be very careful about trade partners. Typical salary dumps became much more complicated or non-existant. We have no idea what kinds of trades might have been possible, but look at how they handled the Soriano trade. They gave up a prospect they liked in order to get the Cubs to pay more money.
The Yankees cut off several avenues of talent acquistion: they did not sign Major League free agents to 2014 contracts; they did not sign international free agents to 2014 contracts; and they did not trade for players with large 2014 contracts. When you turn the talent spigot off with such force, it’s requires a lot effort to turn it back on. Hence the rampant spending this year doesn’t even cover all the holes.
Without the 189 plan, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees being worse in 2013 than they actually were, but it’s also no sure thing they would have had a contender. The above list shows there were many pitfalls strewn about the jewels of free agency. They could just as easily be stuck with Josh Hamilton now as they could be enanmored with Anibal Sanchez.
When you think about the depth the 2013 Red Sox acquired via free agnecy, though, you can see that talent was available for those free to spend. In fact, the absence of Yankee dollars from the market probably played a role in driving that talent to Boston. Kind of like a black hole sucking Victorino, Napoli, Drew and Uehara through the Bronx and into a frightening dimension on the other side where they would become World Champions for the Red Sox.
So yeah, add Swisher and Martin back to the 2013 team because the Yankees failed to replace them and maybe they win the Wild Card. But then subtract Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran from the 2014 Yankees. I don’t see a clear choice there.
But a Yankee team in 2013 with Darvish, Cespedes or Puig in addition to Swisher and Martin? And maybe they found the needle in the haystack with Sanchez and blocked Uehara or Victorino from signing with the Sox? Oh well, they probably would have all wound up on the DL together anyway.
Today the Yankees agreed to contracts with all of their remaining arbitration-eligible players. Their projected payroll, based on the 25-man roster using league minimum players to fill in wherever there is not an obvious starter, is now at about $188 million dollars.
Masahiro Tanaka appears to be a player the Yankees want desperately. Will they break their backs for him? Ponder this current roster this weekend and do whatever kind of dance you need to do to help the Yankees land Tanaka.
If they do, they’ll have no chance at shrinking the payroll enough this season to fit the original austerity plan and they’ll be free to sign more bullpen and rotation depth and to try to upgrade second and third base through trades. But if they don’t sign Tanaka…
Can you imagine them stepping over the $189 million threshold for Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana or anyone else that’s currently available? The Yankees have been crash-dieting ever since 2011. Masahiro Tanaka is the diet-breaker – the butter-soaked porterhouse. These other guys aren’t even Kit-Kats.
So this Hall of Fame vote is going to be a train wreck and there’s nothing that can be done about that. It’s too bad, because players that deserve a fair discussion aren’t going to get one with the stable of candidates bulging with elite players who may have used setroids.
This problem gets personal for us as Bernie Williams has already been dumped from the ballot while Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and probably Mike Mussina are likely to encounter similar ignorance. Of course Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera won’t be largely delayed, but looking down the road doesn’t promise a smooth path for any player who isn’t a certified member of the G.O.A.T. club, certified “clean” division.
Of course the glow of the anointed warms a body for a spell, but the Madduxes, Jeters and Riveras can’t boil the blood like the Morrises and Posadas. And those raucous debates are being pushed to the margins by the glut of all-time talents with steroid taint.
This is a shame because Hall of Fame is a great place for Yankees and their fans, and that debate around each election is especially fun when Yankees are involved. Moreso, reflecting the Hall of Fame back on Yankee history is a favorite diversion. One barely has to squint to assemble entire rosters of Yankees related to the Hall of Fame.
ALL TIME GREAT YANKEE HOFers
Infield: Yogi Berra, C; Lou Gehrig, 1B; Joe Gordon 2B; Tony Lazzeri, 3B; Phil Rizzuto SS
(Lazzeri has to shift to 3B to fill out the infield. He played 166 games there over eight seasons, so it’s not crazy.)
Outfield: Mickey Mantle, LF; Joe DiMaggio CF; Babe Ruth RF
Bench: Reggie Jackson, OF; Dave Winfield OF, Earl Combs OF, Bill Dickey C
(I guess Reggie could be a starter on the team below, but I prefer him here.)
Rotation: Whitey Ford, Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Jack Chesbro
Relief Ace: Rich Gossage
Of course, Rizzuto is just warming Jeter’s spot and the Goose is about to get some help in the bullpen. Absurdly stacked lineup, but the back-end of the pitching plumbs the depths of HOF standards.
PART TIME YANKEE HOFers
Infield: Frank Chance, C; Johnny Mize, 1B; Home Run Baker, 2B; Wade Boggs, 3B; Joe Sewell, SS
(Here we have to take some liberties. Frank Chance didn’t become part of a famous poem hiding behind catcher’s gear. Nevertheless, he did play 187 games there, just none for the Yanks. Home Run Baker never played second base, but the defensive spectrum may have been inverted back then and he probably could have hacked it at second better than Boggs. And Sewell made it into the HOF for his days at short, but he only played third base for the Yankees.)
Outfield: Wee Willie Keeler, LF; Rickey Henderson, CF; Enos Slaughter, RF
Bench: Paul Waner OF, Leo Durocher IF
Rotation: Catfish Hunter, Phil Niekro, Clark Griffith, Gaylord Perry, Stan Kovaleski, Burleigh Grimes, Dazzy Vance
This is a fun team because all of the starting position players save Frank Chance made real contributions to the Yankees. Six of the eight players fit easily within the top 200 Yankees and even Enos Slaughter was around to play in 15 World Series games and notch a salami against the Dodgers in ’56. The pitchers beyond Hunter and Niekro were just passing through.
NOT QUITE HOFers
Infield: Thurman Munson, C; Don Mattingly, 1B; Willie Randolph, 2B; Frankie Crosetti, SS
(Crosetti is probably too far away from the HOF to make this team, but we need a SS.)
Outfield: Charlie Keller, LF; Bernie Williams, CF; Tommy Henrich, RF
(I know there are no campaigns to elect Keller and Henrich, but they lost a lot of playing time to WW2, so let’s give them a boost.)
Bench: Roy White, OF; Elston Howard, C; Gil McDougald IF
(I remember reading Bill James entry on McDougald, something like “McDougald could have been a Hall of Famer elsewhere, but he was fated to be a Yankee,” and feeling McDougald got the better fate. I think that’s what James meant, too.)
Rotation: Ron Guidry, David Cone, Tommy John, Allie Reynolds
Bernie Williams and Willie Randolph are interesting cases to compare. Both up-the-middle All Stars on fantastic teams. Both highly respected indivduals. And if they could flip-flop in the timestream, they might both be in the Hall of Fame.
Bernie has several HOFesque hitting seasons, albeit without the career counting stats. He has the memorable postseason moments that sometimes rate. There was nobody out there taking up Bernie’s flag and he dropped off the ballot in his second time around.
Bernie had little support because the defensive statistics currently favored by the cognescenti show him to be among the worst fielding centerfielders of all time. And certainly at the end of his career, he was clearly pretty bad out there. So the group most likely to support him (the SABR people who, in the very recent past, would have placed extremely high value on the excellent-hitting center fielder of a dynasty team) wanted nothing do with him. The mouth breathers looking for 3000 and 500 wouldn’t touch him. And most of the bloggers aren’t exaclty weeping on their keyboards to see a beloved Yankee get kicked to the curb. He deserved better, even if he didn’t get ultimately get in.
Willie Randolph came up for election in 1998, a year when 11 second basemen hit double digit home runs. Randolph was an excellent player, whose speed and abilty to take a walk combined with his defense at second made him a central figure for perenially contending and occaisionally triumphant Yankee teams. He received 1.1% of the vote and was dropped in his first year.
I don’t remember any discussion of his candidacy at all, though admittedly, I wasn’t paying close attention. Now the same fielding statistics that reduce Bernie Williams to an after-thought elevate Randolph to a very credible Hall of Famer. Randolph’s career fWAR (62) is wedged right between Roberto Alomar’s and Ryne Sandberg’s. Today, Willie Randolph would be given a much longer look than he was in 1998, even if the result were the same.
This rotation may be getting jammed up soon. David Cone suffers from the same issue that dogs many of the star pitchers of the recent era – when hitting stats skyrocket, pitching stats suffer. It’s hard to get your ERA under 3.00 when the league is scoring almost 6 runs a game. Pettitte and Mussina may be on the way to keep Coney company.
And of course we have players whose careers have been truncated by tragedy, segregation, WW2, and injury. Howard battled segregration AND had to serve in the military before he could start his career. Keller lost possibly his two best years to service (his 27 & 28 year-old seasons) and then his back finished him at 30. Mattingly fell apart at 29! This team may not have the all-timers, but I get the sense these players receive the most love from the fans (Munson over Reggie, Mattingly and Randolph over Winfield and Henderson, Cone over Clemens, Bernie over Jeter.)
FUTURE YANKEE HOFers?
Infield: Jorge Posada, C; Mark Teixeira, 1B; Robinson Cano, 2B; Alex Rodriguez, 3B; Derek Jeter, SS
Outfield: Tim Raines, LF; Ichiro Suzuki, CF; Gary Sheffield, RF
Bench: Jason Giambi, 1B; Carlos Beltran OF; Bobby Abreu OF; Johnny Damon, OF; Andruw Jones, OF
Rotation: Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte
Relief Ace: Mariano Rivera
Robinson Cano and CC Sabathia have a lot of work to do, and both took turns in their careers recently that bear monitoring, so let’s leave them alone. Mark Teixeira is nowhere near the Hall of Fame and is falling further away with every pop-out and popped tendon sheath. Jason Giambi also is not getting into the Hall of Fame on merit. I also skirted over guys like Lance Berkman and Pudge Rodriguez who didn’t even play a full season with the Yankees.
So then let’s break this down (ignoring steroids) into those that are clearly in and those that will cause a debate. Rivera, Jeter, Clemens, Arod, Unit, and Ichiro are well above any statistical line voters can draw. Posada, Raines, Sheffield, Beltran, Abreu, Damon, Jones, Mussina and Pettitte are not necessarily.
I eyeball this as Posada, Raines, Sheffield, Beltran, and Mussina are HOFers. Abreu, Damon, and Pettitte are not. Jones probably is, but I just don’t understand defensive statistics well enough and his hitting doesn’t get him there alone. (I expect Raines, Beltran and Mussina to actually get in.)
The future team would be a helluva a lot more fun to contemplate if Robinson Cano were still around. Maybe Brian McCann gets back to an All-Star-level and his strict adherence to baseball etiquette eventually puts him over the top. Otherwise, hope the Alabama Hammer puts nails in the ninth inning for a decade or so, because it’s about to get lonely on this squad.
The Hall of Fame is a cool place to visit. I went there three times from the ages 12 to 18, but then I haven’t been back in 20 years. So even for big time patrons, it exists mostly as a topic to argued over in the winter before spring training starts. To me, that dwarfs the problem of Barry’s plaque – which I may or may not ever see even if ever gets one. We are losing the chance to discuss Jorge Posada’s piss-stained hands until we are pinstriped in the face. And over the years, that’s become the most popular wing of the museum.
A few months earlier I talked to Todd about joining the Banter. Here’s an email he sent me on October 19, 2008:
Sorry for the length of this email.
I am very excited about the possibility of moving all my writing over to Bronx Banter. I just want to make sure that you know who I am.
I started blogging by accident. When Pete Abraham was still on Blogger and started making people register to comment I wasn’t very “tech savvy” and I didn’t realize I could have quit after setting up a password. I kept hitting next and when I was finished I’d set up a blog template. Since I did that I figured I might write something.
My wife thinks it’s been good for me. We’ve been together for a long time and she watched be burn out in newspapers and magazines. While I do a lot of writing and editing in my job at the ACLU, it has been different than living on two or three hours of sleep because there was always more reporting and writing to do.
Yankees For Justice has become who I am. It’s where I live and what I see and who I know and what I think and believe. I would love to bring that all to Bronx Banter, but I don’t want to lose anything and I don’t want to put you in a tough spot.
I went through and collected a bunch of posts I’ve done over the last two years. I ended up with a lot of links (sorry about that), but pay particular attention to the social justice section. I’ve written a lot about Sean Bell and brutal cops and city policies that go out of their way to hurt the poorest people.
Take a look at the George Mitchell stuff. I stand by every word I wrote about him and Selig in the weeks that followed that ridiculous “investigation” and “report.”
Read my posts defending Barry Bonds. Those got three separate death threats emailed to me.
Also, take a look at the pieces I write about soldiers, especially the kid who used to work at Yankee Stadium and came home from Iraq in body bag.
We were talking about Alex Rodriguez yesterday and you asked if I was Latin. I said I am not. A lot of people who don’t like that I defend Barry Bonds think I am black. I am not. But then again, maybe I am on both counts.
I am Latin and black. I come from China and Africa and the Middle East. I snuck across the border in the middle of the night. I picked cotton in Texas and processed meat in Kansas and laid bricks in Brooklyn. That makes me an American.
And I’m an American whose history doesn’t go back that far. All the family I know were poor farmers in the Tully Valley just south of Syracuse. They lost their farms in the Great Depression and became poor factory workers in Syracuse. I grew up on the Northside, which some people think is pretty rough. The cops call the neighborhood: Free Jail.
The factories started closing up years before I ever had a shot at a job so when I got near the end of high school I got my GED and took my military physical just like every other guy in my neighborhood. I was maybe a day or so from signing the enlistment papers when my baseball coach called and said the school’s art teacher needed to see me. One of the things I did in high school was work in the photo darkroom.
The local newspaper needed someone to work third shift and develop film and print pictures. I took the job and didn’t sign those military papers. I worked that job for a long time and eventually they taught me how to layout news pages and then they sent me out with a camera to take photos and then I did some writing, too.
Journalism has fallen a long way since then. It is full of rich folks with college degrees who have no interest in covering the people in this country. I once asked Jimmy Breslin if he could a newspaperman today and he said: “Fuck no. I couldn’t even get in the door unless they needed a janitor.”
He wasn’t kidding either.
On Yankees For Justice it says: I believe in baseball and an equally free, open, just society for everyone. That’s who I am and where I live and what I see and who I know and what I think and believe.
After you read these posts I hope you still want me around.
This is what I’ve been doing lately:And here are few other things you should know about me:I don’t like George Mitchell or Bud Selig:I don’t like Mike Lupica either:But there was a time when I thought Lupica was going to be great:I am committed to social justice:I like Barry Bonds:I like Sammy Sosa, too:I don’t like people taking shots at Miguel Tejada:I believe in soldiers:I believe too many soldiers die for no good reason:I never stand for God Bless America:I believe that George Steinbrenner is a populist:I believe the Cubans don’t know who they’re dealing with:I went to The New York Times Building once, but only because Jimmy Breslin was there:I get most of my stories on the 2 train:I like New York ballplayers:I am Mexican:And I still think that blogs are poor excuses for street corners:
Now, and always, Todd is our brother, in our hearts forever. He is the soul of the Banter, our guardian angel.
Todd Drew: The Man. Amen.
In Game 5 of the 2000 World Series, Mike Piazza represented the tying run with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Mariano Rivera was on the hill for the Yankees protecting the 4-2 lead and attempting to shepherd home another World Championship. Rivera uncorked an 0-1 cutter and Piazza appeared to make solid contact and drove the ball to center field.
The ball took off and spun Bernie Williams around as he raced back in pursuit. But Shea Stadium isn’t a band box and the last second cut of Mariano’s signature pitch guided the ball past Piazza’s sweet spot and down towards the end of the bat. Bernie caught up to the ball easily before the warning track and the Yankees were champions again.
Mike Piazza flied / flew out to center field.
Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct and expert linguist (among other things), says, “In baseball, one says that a slugger has flied out; no mere mortal has ever “flown out” to center field.”
Before you trust him implicitly, be careful, dude’s a Red Sox fan.
Let us know your preference in the comments.
I hurt my knee on November 10th and it took me a month to schedule a doctor’s visit. Partly because I hoped I would just heal on my own and partly because I’m intimidated by the prospect of finding the “right” doctor. More than seeing this as a chance to solve a problem and improve my life, I saw it as an opportunity to expose my ignorance.
When I finally navigated the insurance web site (no, not THE insurance web site) to find an in-network doctor close to my office, I called them to schedule an appointment and carefully combed over the details of my policy with the receptionist. I still somehow ended up with an appointment with his partner who does not take my insurance. I regretted the decision while making it. Still, I went ahead with the visit just so I would not have to call, again, and reveal my stupidity.
How I long to be the smartest guy in the room and that’s rarely true unless that room is the bathroom and it’s cockroach-free at that moment. I think that’s a universal feeling and it influences the way we talk about the Yankees. But should it? I don’t really care if the Robinson Cano contract is a laughing stock or the Yankees are perceived as stupid for giving it to him. All I care about: is Robinson Cano the best guy they can get to play second base? Yes? Then why isn’t he a Yankee?
In the run-up to Robinson Cano signing with the Seattle Mariners for $240 million over ten years, many Yankee fans thought a contract for seven years for $175 million was OK, but ten years was prohibitive – because they didn’t want to pay him for the very end of his career. The difference ended up being three years, $65 million for Cano’s 38-40 year-old seasons. A similar amount, after accounting for inflation, to what they just gave Carlos Beltran for his 37-39 year-old seasons.
Between the McCann deal, the Ellsbury deal and the Beltran deal we have seen all of the facets of the Cano deal play out over three different players. I observed the following general reactions to these deals:
Brian McCann (C, 5 years, $85 million – with an easy vesting option for a 6th year at $15 million more) – A premium price to be sure, but offense at catcher is so rare that it’s worth it. Also, McCann may not be catching by the end of the deal, but the near-term upgrade is so attractive that we’ll deal with the end of the contract when we get there. There’s always first base and DH, right?
Jacoby Ellsbury (CF, 7 years, $153 million or 8 years, $169 million) – WTF? That’s a lot of money for a guy who’s had two really good seasons. But he’s a solid player and evidently can be an important cog on a championship team, so I’m glad to have him around. Still, that seems like too much money – $22 million a year. Does this mean the Yankees are planning to shoot past the $189 million limit? I sure hope so.
Carlos Beltran (OF/DH, 3 years, $45 million) – Excellent hitter, too bad the Yankees didn’t get him when he could also field and run the bases! Oh well, he’s a one dimensional player now, but will be a nice solution for the middle of the lineup. Three years is at least one year too many since he’s so goddamned old, but that’s the price of doing business I guess.
So that’s the premium price for positional scarcity, the scary high average annual value, and the overpay for the mega-decline years that we’re mocking Seattle for giving Cano. The Yankees are guilty of as much stupidity as the Mariners, the only difference is the Mariners ended up with the best player. Oh yeah, in addition to the oppportunity to pay a 37 year old in 2014 instead of in 2022, the Yankees still don’t have a second baseman for next year.
We can compare projected WAR totals and stab at how badly the Yankees have allocated resources here, but regardless of the metric, wouldn’t the 2014 (15, 16, 17 etc) Yankees have been a better team with Robinson Cano plus the quality outfielders they could acquire with this cash they are throwing around than they will be with Ellsbury and a crappy second baseman? And if they plan to blow past the salary cap, then wouldn’t they be much better with both of them?
I don’t see as much hand-wringing about these three deals. They just represent run-of-the-mill stupidity. Yankee fans will likely never hear another word about them even if they fail spectacularly. The Robinson Cano deal has the potential to resonate for a decade and I think Yankee fans no longer want to see their team top the list of “worst contracts.” We’ve been hearing about how stupid the Yankees are ever since the winter of 2007, when they gave Arod all the moons of Saturn, and they’ve won 3 Division titles, played in 3 ALCS and even a World Series during these dark days.
Did you know a strain of Yankee fan exists that is mad that Robinson Cano didn’t accept fewer years from the Yankees just so he could finish his career reflecting the glory of the franchise? This is a logical fallacy, because the Yankees did not offer Robinson Cano a contract that would take him to the end of his career! And the same fans applauded their restraint. In fact, it was this tail end of his career that scared so many Yankee fans away from the ten-year deal. ”Yes, we want you to be a Yankee forever, right up until you are no longer great.”
How can we ask Robinson Cano to invest in the idea of being a career-Yankee when the Yankees were not willing to do the same? The Mariners showed more faith and loyalty to Cano than the team that profited (heavily) off of him for the last nine years.
I’m open to engaging any baseball argument about why keeping Cano is a bad idea. Is his durability a mirage? Is his less-than-max-effort running the bases a big deal? Has he stopped hitting lefties? Is he a PED bust and precipitous decline waiting to happen? But this is where the debate has to be for me because the accounting angle doesn’t work. I cannot prioritize the possibility that 1/25th of the roster (and what, 8% of the payroll?) might be a bad contract in 2022 over winning in the here and now.
Because if we agree that Cano is the best player available, I find it hard to fathom how the Yankees could have spent all this money and still whiffed on the most vital acquisition. It would be like buying the most expensive cranberry sauce for Christmas dinner but refusing to pony up for a goose.
For those of you who have celebrated the Yankees’ intelligence for not matching Seattle’s offer, please consider this question: When will this decision pay dividends for the Yankees? I am a fan who wants to see the Yankees win the World Series as soon and as often as possible. I think that employing the best second baseman in baseball is a step towards making that happen. Will letting him go get the Yankees to the World Series any faster? Any more often? If the answers lie in 2022, then the questions are moot.
The Yankees famously refuse to hang banners for pennants and division titles. I wonder if they’ll alter that philosophy when their fans proudly declare them ”smartest team in the league” because that’s the only title they figure to win.
It snowed yesterday. There’s freezing rain this morning. This picture by Bags is a reminder of sunnier times.
Good ol’ Bags.
I love our man Bags’ pictures from around town.
While you’re at it, check out this Super 8 footage of NYC in the 70s:
I moved to New York in the mid 1970s because it was a center of cultural ferment – especially in the visual arts (my dream trajectory, until I made a detour), though there was a musical draw, too, even before the downtown scene exploded. New York was legendary. It was where things happened, on the east coast, anyway. One knew in advance that life in New York would not be easy, but there were cheap rents in cold-water lofts without heat, and the excitement of being here made up for those hardships. I didn’t move to New York to make a fortune. Survival, at that time, and at my age then, was enough. Hardship was the price one paid for being in the thick of it.
As one gets a little older, those hardships aren’t so romantic – they’re just hard. The trade-off begins to look like a real pain in the ass if one has been here for years and years and is barely eking out a living. The idea of making an ongoing creative life – whether as a writer, an artist, a filmmaker or a musician – is difficult unless one gets a foothold on the ladder, as I was lucky enough to do. I say “lucky” because I have no illusions that talent is enough; there are plenty of talented folks out there who never get the break they deserve.
Some folks believe that hardship breeds artistic creativity. I don’t buy it. One can put up with poverty for a while when one is young, but it will inevitably wear a person down. I don’t romanticize the bad old days. I find the drop in crime over the last couple of decades refreshing. Manhattan and Brooklyn, those vibrant playgrounds, are way less scary than they were when I moved here. I have no illusions that there was a connection between that city on its knees and a flourishing of creativity; I don’t believe that crime, danger and poverty make for good art. That’s bullshit. But I also don’t believe that the drop in crime means the city has to be more exclusively for those who have money. Increases in the quality of life should be for all, not just a few.
[Picture by Bags]
Hey look, it’s Brian Fucking McCann.
Don’t walk, strut or stand,
Just run to first as fast as you can.
And don’t you dare clap your hands,
Says Brian Fucking McCann.
If you have a rhyme, please leave it in the comments.
PS: He should still sign with the Yankees. They have no sense of humor either.
During my freshman year of college there was a girl down the hall who happened to be dating one of our RAs. The RA’s birthday was coming up, and the girl — we’ll call her Caroline — had a brilliant idea for the perfect birthday gift. Since the RA — we’ll call him Neil — loved to sing, Caroline decided to make a donation to one of the campus a cappella groups, which would then allow Neil to sing a song with them. Ah, but here’s the beautiful part. Caroline chose a love song, knowing that Neil would end up serenading her in front of the entire dorm. Needless to say, it worked like a charm. So Caroline got a gift for Neil that was actually a gift for herself.
All of this came flooding back to me as I watched the Red Sox fumble their way through the pre-game ceremony meant to honor Mariano Rivera. Mo’s been getting gifts at every stop this season, so I knew there’d have to be something special at Fenway, but I had no idea the Sox could screw it up so badly. (I should’ve been paying attention; the Sox can’t do ceremony. Exhibit A: Pedro Martínez and Kevin Millar completely butcher Fenway’s 100th birthday celebration; exhibit B: Big Papi’s F-bomb during the Boston Strong ceremony.)
As the festivities began, Master of Ceremonies Dave O’Brien directed the crowd’s attention to the video board where they showed a clip of the sarcastic cheers Mariano received on opening day at Fenway Park in 2005 after blowing those two saves in the 2004 ALCS. I have to say that I’m curious to know how long it took them to come up with that angle.
“Okay, so we have to plan something for the Rivera ceremony. Any ideas?”
“Sure, why don’t we just give him something cool and talk about how great he is?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Okay, well why don’t we tie it into the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry?”
“That sounds better, what do you have in mind? Maybe Rivera’s greatest moment?”
“Yeah, I was thinking about that three-inning relief stint in the ’03 ALCS. That was wicked awesome.”
“No, that won’t do. Why don’t we tie it into one of our greatest moments? Like ’04?”
“You want to honor him by reminding him of one of his greatest failures?”
“No, I want to honor the Red Sox while we give him a cheap painting!”
I wish I could say that I’m making that up, but they really did choose that moment as the one that said the most about Rivera. To his credit, he simply smiled and played along.
But things got worse. As Dustin Pedroia presented Rivera with the #42 placard which was slid into the Fenway scoreboard each time he took the mound, O’Brien couldn’t just introduce little Pedroia, he had to sing his virtues. “Presenting that gift is another Red Sox player who, like Big Papi, might join you one day in Cooperstown, our brilliant second baseman, Dustin Pedroia.” Who was the ceremony for again?
The next gift was presented by Koji Uehara, whose brilliant 2013 season stands as a reminder of how great Rivera has been for so many years. He really said that.
The ceremony closed with a video montage. I’m not sure if it was produced by the Red Sox and shown in the park, or if it was something that ESPN put together for the viewers at home, but it was more of the same. The first clip — the very first clip of the video meant to honor Rivera — showed Dave Roberts stealing second base in that ’04 ALCS, and the next highlight was the line drive going back through the middle past Rivera, bringing home Roberts. The rest of the video focused on the Rivalry and included Pedro throwing Don Zimmer to the ground and Jason Varitek punching A-Rod in the face. You know, all the touching, emotional stuff you’d expect to see when an organization is honoring a retiring athlete.
Stay classy, Boston. Stay classy.
If you think I sound bitter about that, imagine how I felt once the game got started. When I wrote the recap for last Sunday’s game against the Red Sox, I referenced the Boston Massacre. What happened in Boston this weekend could hardly be called a massacre. It was nothing so dramatic as that. This was a slow death, a syringe in the arm, the victim left to bleed out over the course of several hours — or in this case, three days.
It wasn’t long ago that I believed the Yankees were actually better than the Red Sox. I can’t imagine how I ever thought that.
The Yankees picked up an early run in the first inning after Granderson walked, went to third on an errant pickoff attempt, and scored on Alex Rodríguez’s ground out. It was meek, but it was a run.
Fifteen minutes later, the game was over. It seems pretty clear that Ivan Nova isn’t healthy, but that’s not the way Orel Hershiser sees it. The Ol’ Bulldog believes that Nova simply isn’t trying hard enough, isn’t bearing down, isn’t emotional enough. I don’t want to stir things up, but comments like that sound an awful lot like the criticisms Latino players have been hearing for the past fifty years. But perhaps Hershiser knows better than I do. Maybe Nova simply stopped caring after being the best pitcher in the league in August.
Either way, Nova isn’t right. He was hit hard in the first inning, giving up a double to Daniel Nava, a single to Ortiz, and a homer to Mike Napoli. The score was only 3-1 and there were eight innings left to play, but the hole felt a lot deeper than it might’ve a few weeks ago.
The Yankees couldn’t do a thing against Clay Buccholz after that gifted run in the first. Buccholz was having serious trouble with his control, but the Yankees could never take advantage. The Red Sox, meanwhile, kept adding to their lead in quirky ways, one run at a time.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia was credited with a steal of home in the fourth when Brendan Ryan, the defensive specialist, dropped a throw to second on the double steal, then kicked it around long enough to allow Saltalamacchia to score. In the fifth, Nova plunked Mike Carp with the bases loaded, making it 5-1, then they scored two more in the 6th and two more in the 7th to stretch the lead to 9-1.
The Yankees scraped together a run in the ninth, but it hardly mattered. The game and the series were over. Red Sox 9, Yankees 2.
Of all the games I’ve watched this season, there is no question that this one was the most difficult. The backhanded ceremony, the irritating ESPN announcers, the dominance of the Red Sox, and the increasing possibility of a postseason without the Yankees was simply too much to take. Monday’s off-day couldn’t come at a better time, and not just for the Yankees. I could use a break, too.
Oh, and that song that Neil sang for my friend? Wouldn’t it have been fitting if he had sung “Sweet Caroline”? Thankfully, that wasn’t it. “Only You,” by Yaz. It was absolutely adorable.
[Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images]
Every game is critical now, we know that. Kuroda wasn’t great last night but he was tough and he kept his team in the game. Today, the Yanks once again look to their Big Guy to come up Big.
Curtis Granderson CF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Alfonso Soriano LF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Vernon Wells RF
Lyle Overbay 1B
Brendan Ryan SS
J.R. Murphy C
Never mind the Fox announcers: Let’s Go Yank-ees!
[Picture by Bags]
“Get me Hughes,” said the Captain.
“Is Hughes the right guy for this Cappy?” asked the Lieutenant.
“Of course not,” said the Captain and he slammed the door leaving the Lieutenant on the other side with his stupid questions.
The newspaper pressed the headline before the clerk opened the case file. The crime scene was so fresh it didn’t even stink yet. Two patrolmen waited for a detective to arrive. They stretched yellow tape around the perimeter and snuck glances at the mess inside, hoping they wouldn’t shudder and diappointing themselves when they did.
The city disgorged a heavy case load that week. All over town, things were falling apart and each detective paired up a new crime until all the dance cards were full. Well, all except for Hughes. Hughes had once been a hot-shit-detective, advancing through the academy with unprecedented talent – the test scores and the muscle to back them up. Now he was just hot-shit.
Hughes had at a desk in the back corner of the records room. If you searched his mug, you’d have to sift through equal parts Bailey’s, sugar and donut chunks before you’d find any coffee. His muscles and test scores were now buried under fat layers of failure. Everyone knew he was gone the next time the department made cuts, so everyone ignored him. Until the night the Lieutenant ran through the room yelling his name.
Hughes blinked his eyes repeatedly to wipe the fatigue away. He cracked a raw egg into his coffee mug and swallowed the whole thing in one gulp before his brain could formulate the question, “how long have I had that egg?” He felt the fat on his ribs jiggle when he belched.
He could tell the Lieutenant was eyeing him slantways as they walked upstairs to the Captain’s office. Hughes still had great instincts, especially when he directed them towards himself. The Lieutenant was thinking “why Hughes?” but didn’t have the guts to say it out loud. He didn’t have to; Hughes was thinking the same thing.
Why accept the assignment then? It occurred to Hughes to just hand the file right back to the Captain. In fact, that was what he intended to do, but when his fingertips touched the thick manilla folder, he felt a spark and a current ran up his spine. He stood taller than he had in years.
Hughes looked the Captain in the eyes so there was no misunderstanding between them. Neither man thought Hughes could do the job. But both men knew the department in and out, and while maybe one or two of the junior guys could make a go of it, Hughes was the only one that had a prayer in Hell of bringing it all the way home.
Hughes knew all the usual suspects. On the back side of that coin is that all the usual suspects knew Hughes. Whatever happened that night, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Hughes would get his man, like he had many times in the past, or the man would get Hughes. The only real question was how long it would take.
The rain didn’t make a difference. The evidence had been preserved and Hughes got to work. His tools were rusty, but the hammer still hammered and before long he had a lead. He also had support. Perhaps the rest of the department didn’t count on him anymore, but they didn’t hate the guy. And what the hell, they all wanted to close the case.
Hughes had that lead and he was going to follow it to the ends of the earth. He came to work the next day in pinstripes that mostly fit. But the Captain looked at him and he couldn’t see the muscles and the test scores. He thanked him for the lead and he handed it to Huff. Hughes didn’t even know Huff’s first name, but he understood. He went back to his desk.
Before he sat down, he grabbed his mug and went to the sink to give it a good wash.
Of course Hughes took the case. When his wife introduced him to her friends at parties, she would say “This is my husband Phil and he’s a cop.” At least that’s what she would say if anyone would marry him or invite him to a party. A bad doctor couldn’t pretend he was a shoe salesman if some poor soul walked up to him with a knife stuck between his ribs. He rolled up his sleeves and did his best. A bad cop is still a cop.
Rain delays suck the most on school nights. A nuclear meltdown by David Robertson in the 8th inning threatened to extend this game deep into the recesses of a responsible bed time. But after a fortunate run in the ninth to retake the lead, Mariano Rivera ended things on the happy side of midnight with a 6-5 win.
The game moved quickly enough through six innings – even though the Yankees led 4-1, Chen settled down and began striking out Yankees with alarming ease. Then in the seventh Granderson homered off Chen and that started the Orioles bullpen machine. In the bottom half of that inning, a Markakis homer off Huff got the Yankees up in arms. Joe Girardi used three pitchers to get through the seventh – including rookie Cesar Cabral facing the tying run with two outs.
David Robertson started the eighth with a three-run bulge. Machado took him deep to left and Soriano raced to the wall on a collision course with the burgeoning homer. His leap looked perfect but he hung his head as if he missed it and everybody held their breath. He popped the ball out of his glove and snatched it with his bare hand and smiled. If you weren’t laughing with him, you were probably cursing at him. Maybe both.
Michael Kay blathered about how that play had to knock the wind out of the Orioles. The Orioles tied the game four batters later and the fifth was standing on second with two outs, poised to take the lead. The big blow was Danny Valencia’s three run homer off a grooved first pitch fastball. Soriano’s antics would have played better if the O’s didn’t splatter Robertson all over the infield grass. Somehow, Robertson rebounded and found his curve ball to strike out Wieters and “preserve” the tie.
Brendan Ryan chose a good time to notch his first hit as a Yankee to lead off the ninth. Jim Johnson air-mailed second base on the subsequent bunt and the Yanks had two on with no out. Granderson also bunted and set up Alex Rodriguez for the big moment. The third pitch to Alex was short on a Little League field and bounced to fence allowing Ryan to score. I am not sad that happened, and I’m not certain Alex was going to come through, but I didn’t dread his at bat there like I did a year ago. I thought he was going to get it done.
The O’s walked Alex and got Soriano to bounce into a double play to hold the score at 6-5 for Mariano. He’s pitched a lot lately and not always well, but he was on today. He mowed through three hitters in ten pitches, many of them unhittable. Manny Machado almost broke his wrists swinging at an inside heater.
The strange night didn’t end with the ball game. Turns out the official scorer was so offended by Robertson’s performance that he refused to give him the win. He transferred the win to Mariano, which is all well and good, but if Mariano gets the win then he doesn’t get the save. Nobody should really care about that, but if in 20 years, Craig Kimbrel is breaking Mo’s record, I wonder if they will remember this one.
Rays and Indians won. The Yankees kept pace and head to Boston. Probably without Brett Gardner, who strained an oblique in the first inning. That’s not a quick heal usually, but hopefully Gardner is back out there very soon. All hands on deck and all that.
Hughes spent the rest of the week in those pinstripes. He watched the Captain put the file on a merry-go-round from Huff to Warren to Cabral to Robertson and of course they fucked it up. He could have told the Captain that if you keep looking you’ll find the guy that doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Luckily there was one guy in the department that could close any case, Rivera. He picked up the case where it was left for dead and meticulously put the pieces back together. He got the usual suspects to talk. How did he do it? Hughes never really knew but he suspected there was a pile of broken bats somewhere. Hughes was satisfied to be a small part of a happy ending.
Rivera walked past Hughes desk. There was no reason for him to be in the records room. “Nice suit,” said Rivera.
Derek Jeter’s near-magical ability to hit his mark in the big moment, to rise to the occasion, has been the subject of some of this century’s worst sports writing, and sparked an understandable backlash in baseball fans who got sick of hearing him slobbered over. But even those who rolled their eyes when the sports media went off on one its over-the-top paeans to Captain Clutch would concede that Derek Jeter deserved a large percentage of that slobber.
So this season — a “nightmare,” as Jeter has repeatedly called it — has been jarring, even though we all know even the most larger-than-life stars are just people, and that people age and their bodies change, and that the end of the road for athletes is rarely neat or easy.
When Jeter came off the disabled list for the second time this season on July 28 (after just a one-game return earlier in the month), he did it yet again: In the very first pitch of his very first at-bat, he homered. “He’s back!” crowed the headlines. But he wasn’t; Jeter strained his calf four days later. Determined to help the Yankees with their tantalizing playoff hopes — only one game out of a wild-card spot, going into Thursday, despite everything — he came back in late August… this time for all of 12 games.
That makes 17 total games played in this lost season. And Jeter is 39. The number of players who have performed at a high level at that age, let alone those who’ve come back from very serious injury to do so, is not very large.
[Picture via It's About The Money]
When Mariano Rivera blew the game Thursday night, my foot slipped. When the 8-3 sure-fire-win on Friday night became another loss, my shoulder dipped. And when Mariano blew Sunday’s game, my ass flipped right over my head and I was lost in the Negative Zone. Not even winning Sunday could draw me out; I was adrift and doomed.
And I’m not coming back. Not this year.
CC Sabathia gave a decent effort when nothing short of his best would do. The Yankees didn’t hit Chris Tillman, who’s been good this year, but hardly Tom Seaver and the 4-2 loss is the latest nail in the coffin.
In the first inning Alex Rodriguez smacked a home run and things looked up for about a minute. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but CC Sabathia couldn’t hold the lead. Not even for an inning. Nick Markakis hit a lead-off double and scored two batters later.
The game stayed knotted at one, but the Yankees were never going to be the team that loosened the knot. Sabathia kept the ball in the park, but off-the-wall can still hurt you. A handful of doubles, productive outs and timely hits put the Yankees in a 4-1 hole after seven.
Tillman retired 13 in row at one point. He struck out three straight to napalm the seventh and then Lyle Overbay scraped the sky with solo homer to start the eighth, so Showalter brought in Tommy Hunter to strike out the next three. The Orioles struck out 12 Yankees in all.
Alex hit a blue dart to center to lead off the ninth. After two ground outs, Curtis Granderson hit a full-count fastball to the middle of the warning track in center. I can’t say what it looked like from your seats, but nobody here in the Negative Zone thought it had a chance.