"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: Chyll Will

Fools Rush-nah fergeddit (:p)

Photo Credit:Steve Delabar on Twitter; @BlueJaysAggr @SteveDelabar_50

Although one would hope that the likelihood of what Yanks’ official team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmed says in a post on Medium.com regarding the risks of starting up the season too soon is about the same as the likelihood of a real-life scenario pertaining to the (ahem) film referenced in the title… aaaaand now I’m stuck, because I just can’t understand or accept why that film was even made. But Dr. Ahmed has some thoughts that might stick you just as easily and unpleasantly.

Dr. James Andrews, another noted physician who has performed numerous Tommy John surgeries for MLB pitchers, has also spoken numerous times about the uptick in these type of injuries in recent years, and both have warned of the potential of an epidemic going forward, though here Dr. Ahmed posits on how the Covid-19 pandemic could hasten such an epidemic.

To me; someone who has also often pondered to anyone and no one about the fast-rising volume of injuries and surgeries, this is definitely worth considering before we beg for baseball (or any sport for that matter) to return to whatever normal ends up being. Yeah, life without sports can be a living hell if you’re used to watching it year-round. But Tommy John surgery is by no means cute, and neither is the prospect of a preposterous number of pitchers succumbing to it while trying to entertain the restless masses sooner than they should have.

Teefusses…

“That’s what gives him such heart to fight; Leon says, ‘I ain’t got nuttin’ to lose: I ain’t got no money… I ain’t got no teefus… and I definitely ain’t got no driver’s license!’ ” – Richard Pryor, from the skit “Leon Spinks” from Wanted: Richard Pryor Live in Concert, 1978

That line to me is only important because the decision announced by Rob Manfred and MLB regarding their Red Sox investigation immediately made me think of that; it says a whole lot that in comparison to what MLB announced today (in the vacuum of no-season), Leon Spinks might have had a lot more of what Manfred apparently lacks.

Of course, there are a host of other considerations about the season that would seemingly take precedent above and beyond what the Red Sox’ punishment should or shouldn’t be after a non-transparent investigation into the possibility that they continued the trend that Houston started with tech-cheating (and having one common denominator in the process). After all, there are contracts and disciplines and decisions to consider and decide what is valid and for how long; points of reference which could instigate major disputes and conflicts even before the fact that they’ll eventually need a new CBA…

But no, let’s do the easy stuff first and make the Red Sox besorry fuh awwwll the wrong dey dunnn” … This is becoming a habit with him, isn’t it?  But at this point, I wonder who even cares; maybe that was the point all along.

Happy Trails, Hank

Pic Credit: Posted By: Annah Nafula July 6, 2017 Capital FM Uganda

Hank Steinbrenner, eldest of the late George Steinbrenner’s children and co-owner/general partner of the New York Yankees has died at the age of 63 (from a non-Covid 19 related illness).

Not only is this surprising, but it’s an even sadder oddity and reminder that we are living a moment in world history; in our own lifetimes, that we have to distinguish a well-known and older individual’s death from the thousands of deaths we are experiencing on a daily basis due to an insidious virus that has caused a global pandemic.  From reports that have come about at this writing, Hank had been sick for quite some time; it was the catalyst for him to step down as managing partner of the team he inherited from his father and pass the reigns to his once-reticent brother Hal.

As much as I hate to speculate, but it may have been this act alone that began the subtle rehab of his public image to the point that Yankee fans no longer saw his as a long-term threat to the organization’s prosperity, but more as a die-hard Yankee fan who happened to be co-Chairman and son of a legendary owner who did much the same thing in his latter years to recoup the grace of his involvement in all matters involving the Yankees.  Fair or not, Hank did things that angered the populace to the point that stepping away from the active and visible role of managing partner was in itself a blessing to everyone involved.

But I am not here to bury the man.  I never met him in person, so I don’t know what kind of guy he was.  I imagine in the days to come we will hear anecdotes about things he did under the radar that will form a more substantial view of him as a human being and a person with an important role in the organization; even if it was not direct or worthy of publication at the time, and maybe I’ll feel better or worse for what I write.  Hank seemed to us fans like a version of his father; loud and boisterous, reckless in terms of decisions involving the direction of the team.  In fact, his most noteworthy contribution to the Yankee Universe (a phrase he used in a distinct rant against the “Red Sox Nation”) was his involvement with the A-Rod contract negotiations after the latter opted out during the 2007 World Series from his former, ludicrous contract that the Texas Rangers had gifted him some years earlier.

After all was said and done, Hank, as the de-facto figurehead of the organization management in lieu of his father, supported and glorified Rodriguez with a 10-year, $275 million dollar contract (subsc req’d). No need to rehash what came of that, but it fairly or unfairly earmarked Hank’s place in Yankee history as one of the controversial decision-makers in their storied history (if not the worst), and that’s saying a lot.  Never mind that it was not solely his decision in the entire process (and that it was then-wife Cynthia who convinced A-Rod to go back to the Yanks), it was a move his father would have made in the blink of an eye, and cemented the image of Hank as a repeat offender to all anti-Steinbrenner campers (and in effect shielding Cashman, younger brother Hal , president Randy Levine and company from the main torrent of flak).

Yet outside of that, strictly in a baseball-sense Hank was if nothing else entertaining or at the very least a distraction from mediocrity in his boisterousness; a quality if you will that even the most begrudging curmudgeon of Yanks fans had to appreciate as he, often without forethought or by cynical design, gave voice to the core essence of Yankee fandom.  His criticism of the Red Sox resulted in owner John Henry extending him “citizenship” as a member of “Red Sox Nation”, including lifetime privileges and perks deserving of any VIP such as Green Monster seats and an autographed hat by David Ortiz (“…”).

Hank also scattered his buckshot around the league, feuding with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Dodgers,, the National League and MLB in general; once moved to write an article for the Sporting News after the Yanks were eliminated in 2008 from playoff contention for the first time in 25 years.  Hank had buckshot for everyone who was not a Yankee, much like a Hatfield would for a McCoy, and who’s to say that such rabidness wasn’t the least bit of good at a time when fortune seemed to be stagnant, if not trending downward for the Yanks and their fans.

In fact, it can be said without irony that Hank in a way kickstarted some of the self-analysis that MLB is publicly experiencing now, what with his  lashing out against divisional formats and not having a designated hitter in both leagues (as a result of the once-dominant Chien-Ming Wang injuring himself running full-tilt on the base paths during an interleague game and never fully recovering from it).  And for what it’s worth, Hank did differ from his father in one critical thing: he loathed the idea of selling off blue-chip prospects for the sake of a quick fix.  Having directly witnessed the consequences of such decisions, he was smart enough to realize that selling the organization’s future short guaranteed nothing in the present and potentially more disaster in the future (not that it completely makes up for the one decision that did end up complicating the organization’s future). His and Hal’s support of that principle has led to the Baby Bombers Renaissance, which Hank personally loved and can rightfully receive a certain amount of credit for.

All-in-all, it is fair to criticize the man we don’t know personally; who was the face of the franchise for some glorious and inglorious moments, who seemingly made strong efforts to impersonate his demanding, complicated and legendary father, who made at least one critically fateful decision that altered the direction of the storied franchise that can be analyzed for decades, whose unbridled passion for the team he co-owned and co-chaired led him to defend that team as though he were its sworn protector and whose candor seemingly hoisted his own pertard… but in doing so, remember that he not once disgraced the franchise with scandal brought about by some personal or moral failing that would belie or deflate his outspokenness as we have seen many times with many in his position.

For all the public slather about him over the years, I don’t have any reason to hate the man.  I never knew him personally, so I cannot say whether or not he was a good man.  What I do know is from where I stand, it seemed like a good idea for him to step down and pass the reigns to his little brother.  Now that we have a better notion of why, it’s all the more sympathetic. Strictly from a baseball sense, I think that’s fair.

Juice (Know The Ledge)

Terry Francona & Mike Hargrove; photo by Erik Drost

Here’s a fun discussion to have; one I was having offline that was suggested to me to post here: what managers really have “juice” these days? Not PEDs of course, but respect; the kind that allows them to call the shots in the dugout without too much input, oversight or meddling from the GM and front office? There have been many discussions about the true role of the manager in the Age of Analytics, and how the importance of the manager has either diminished or shifted to other points of interest.  I thus made an impromptu list of current managers and ranked them by service time, how many rings they’ve won, how many times they led their team to a championship series and the general perception likely by players, fans and others around the league.

The topic arose, ironically, from the latest news reports about the Houston Astros cheating scandal and former manager A.J. Hinch’s role in the whole story. The general conclusion was that Hinch, who was contrite in apologizing for not doing enough to discourage the cheating that MLB investigated and concluded in a mostly direct report, yet seemingly danced around a direct question about the use of wearable tech by players, would likely never manage again in the majors due to his apparent show of weakness among veteran players and his drop in credibility. Depending on the results of the ongoing investigation of the 2018 Red Sox due to their association with Alex Cora and how he reportedly continued his cheating methods as manager, Cora could also likely be blacklisted as a manager of a MLB team, if not worse.  Also, with Carlos Beltran continually being outed for his role and impact on other players, Beltran could stand to lose the most from the scandal when all is said and done.  But what is most telling is the role the front office reportedly had in both initiating and implementing the cheating in the first place, and how that impacted players who either played along or protested against the cheating.  Former GM Jeff Lunhow is very likely out of MLB anything for good, due in part to his alleged oversight of the whole operation (and the fact that he denied any knowledge whatsoever), and also due to the fact he has virtually no supporters in other organizations;  many people disliked his personality and hubris.

With all that said, do any managers really have power within the organization to lead or direct players in any capacity beyond writing their names on the lineup card and implementing analysis that was cooked up by a GM and his analytics department? Is there more to it than that and managing personalities anymore? Are managers more than notebook carriers and soothsayers for impressionable young stars in the making? Are style, personality, managing or coaching experience (particulary in the majors) and verifiable results actually unwelcome aspects when considering hiring a new manager in this day and age?  Could a Rob Thomson or a Hensley Meulens ever get a manager job over a recently retired player or even a quality assurance coach?

Here’s the list of current managers for each team (courtesy of BR Bullpen):

American League

National League

I underlined the managers who’ve managed more than one team (I would say no less than five years total experience, probably averaging ten) and boldened managers who’ve taken their teams to the Championship Series in their respective leagues.  Out of the ones who’ve achieved both distinctions, I would say six have some juice as managers:
  1. Terry Francona
  2. Joe Maddon
  3. Joe Girardi
  4. Dusty Baker/Aaron Boone
  5. Ron Gardenhire
The first three have won a World Series (Francona twice).  Dusty is the top guy without a ring, followed by or perhaps tied with Boone (largely on two 100-win seasons managing the Yankees), Gardenhire, Mattingly, Matheny and Melvin.  The last three are more or less legacy hires and could be ranked under both Dave Roberts and Dave Martinez (who just won a ring), were it not for the fact that they are largely guided by their front offices (Martinez is arguable).  You can say that Mattingly has more juice than Gardenhire based on his notable playing career alone, but Gardenhire has a longer track record as a winning manager. Neither are managing good teams right now, either. Craig Counsell, Kevin Cash and Bud Black are probably the only managers left with discernible cache, the rest are either newbies or also-rans. Bud Black, Ron Roenicke and maybe Rick Renteria are the only guys I would consider retreads (I don’t count Dusty, Melvin and Matheny because of their playoff experience), but even those three have a serviceable amount of experience to consider, and in Renteria’s case a championship ring that was given to him by the Cubs in honor of his service as manager for a rebuilding team that won the championship after he was unceremoniously dumped for another (i.e. more-respected) manager.  Also for what it’s worth, Luis Rojas has gotten a lot of surprise support from current Mets players and other former players and current coaches who worked with him and for in the minors where he managed for several years (winning a championship for the Sallie League Savannah Sand Gnats in 2013), but more to the point he’s the son of well-respected former manager and player Felipe Alou and brother of Moises, Jose and Felipe Jr.; so the Mets are obviously banking a lot on Felipe Sr’s genes being solid and that his managerial knack has rubbed off on him as well…

And there you have it. The list is fairly malleable; depending on how first year managers prove to be in their overall style of leadership and of course results (Baldelli could move up the list as much as Counsell can go down), but this in my opinion is a fairly representative ranking of current managers and the respect they garner from  around the league and from fans alike. It would be interesting to see a scientific poll taken among current players and organizations alike, but that’s likely too much fuel for an unnecessary fire so early in the season.  However, fans and media alike could speculate all year, so lets kick off the discussion and see where it goes.

All Betts Are Off!

Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts talks to reporters at 2016 All-Star Game availability. (Arturo Pardavila III)

Wowzers, you see it coming and yet…

Boston, still without a manager a week before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, traded two of their most significant players to the Dodgers, right fielder Mookie Betts and starting pitcher David Price, in a three-way trade also involving the Twins for regarded young outfielder Alex Verdugo from the Dodgers, and pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol from the Twins.  The Twins in turn get starting pitcher Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers.  It is indeed a seismic move involving three star players changing coasts and leagues at the same time (well, Maeda goes halfway, but you get the picture). In a likely corresponding move to make room for Betts, the Dodgers also traded outfielder Joc Pederson (along with a rookie league prospect) to the Angels for a young infielder I’ve never heard of, but will likely be pushing for a spot during the upcoming Spring Training portion of the show.

What’s the initial take? Dodgers pretty much get a Golden Ticket to the 2020 post-season (as long as they stay healthy) with Top 5 (Top 3?) outfielder in Betts, but then what of former All-Star and current borderline albatross David Price? Fortunately for L.A., the Red Sox are apparently sending a boatload of cash with him in the deal, and apparently by sending Maeda to the Twins, who send one of their pitching prospects to Boston, this evens out somehow.  They are once again the team to beat in the N.L..

For the Twins getting Maeda, who finished 3rd in ROY voting in 2016 after eight largely stellar seasons in Japan, goes a long way in stabilizing a rotation that has Jake Odorizzi leading a staff including José Berríos, Homer Bailey and… um… yeah.  Michael Pineda will finish out a 60-game suspension in mid-May while Rich Hill recovers from surgery and will probably return sometime in June.  Minnesota needed this after having a huge season, yet falling short to the usual suspects in the playoffs.

The Red Sox, you say? I was having an offline discussion about this; basically this is salary relief in the disguise of retooling.  They get a young(er) outfielder plus a prospect in Verdugo from the Dodgers and Graterol from the Twins, while also getting something instead of nothing for Betts.  While they apparently have to pitch in a significant portion of Price’s salary to move him, he’s essentially one less conflict they have to deal with head-on (and vice-versa).   Thus the price (pun… not intended, but liked) for a championship (albeit with a cloud hovering over it) and spending with near-reckless abandon to achieve it. The fans will probably HATE this move, but will definitely find ways to rationalize it.

Why does this matter to us Yankee fans, you might also ask? (You might, rabbit, you might…) Well, obviously it weakens a close competitor significantly; what Boston gets in return does not move the needle much as far as contending is concerned.  If anything, they get a young player with value and more years of control and a really manageable salary… but GTFOH, he’s not Mookie Betts. He’s not charging up Aaron Judge in man-to-man WAR comparisons… not yet anyway.  The pitcher they get may or may not make the rotation, that remains to be seen.  All-in-all, the Red Sox accomplished their main goal in shedding significant salary, and we should be happy they did, more contending for the Yanks.  And the best part is Mookie’s in the NL now, so the Yanks don’t haver to face him (or Price for that matter) nearly as much.

So that’s that so far. I may easily change my mind about all of that as more updates come; whereas much of this happened only recently as of this writing, so more details are sure to come.  Comment away!

Picked Off

Photo Credit: Eric Enfermero

Boom. As fans, let’s take a few moments to assess what we just witnessed in the latest edition of “As The Baseball World Turns”…

I wish I had time to go in-depth on this situation, which is still evolving as we speak.  But I do have some references for you to follow up and discuss if you wish.

What we know so far:

  • The Astros got As-whupped (PDF download) for their rather frank cheating activities during ther 2017 season which resulted in them being crowned World Series. champions.
  • After being suspended for one year each by Major League Baseball, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane fired GM Jeff Lunhow and manager A.J. Hinch.
  • Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was bench coach with the Astros for the 2017 season, was implicated in the report and ongoing investigation into the 2018 Red Sox cheating allegations.
  • New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who formerly played on the 2017 Astros team and was also implicated in the report as one of a group of players who discussed ways of interpreting signs and signals by the other team, will not be punished by MLB (no players were punished).

There has been and will continue to be plenty of discussion about what this all means for the people involved; we know that the Astros lose their first and second picks in both the 2020-21 drafts and also have to pony up $5 million; an unprecedented punishment indeed for the fifth-year commissioner Rob Manfred and for baseball overall, but then Crane went beyond that and fired Luhnow and Hinch for essentially  embarrassing the organization and the city of Houston. Cora is still under investigation; he was singled out as the person who implemented the cheating system, then allegedly carried it over to his new job as manager and won a championship with it there. If he gets the book thrown at him, it will likely be bigger than the one thrown at Luhnow and Hinch, and likely result in his dismissal.  meanwhile, Beltran, while not escaping the eye of MLB investigators, managed not to get punished by MLB.  Yet, that doesn’t mean the story is over for him; there will likely be internal discussion about his suitability for running the Mets going forward, depending on what or if he told the Wilpons and GM Brodie about his part in the scandal and whether or not it means anything to them (did they even ask?) The New York press is going to have a field day with this, for real.

Happy New Year, folks, your Hot Stove is on fire

Referenced Links:

The Athletic, Article 1 and Article 2 (subscription needed)

MLB Trade Rumors, Article 1 and Article 2

MLB.Com (video featured)

Where & When 2019-20: Game 3

Welcome back to another round of Where & When! Big things have happened since our last entry around the league; definitely a climate change from last year’s humdrum conundrum that led to existential angst about the motives of the powers that be. As it turns out, premium starting pitching is a thing worth waiting for, and the Yanks did a nice job sewing up the top free agent starting pitcher in a decade to say the least, and now they have gone almost full-android with their coaching by bringing in a new pitching coach who loves analytics as much as neatsfoot oil (they also let go of yet another strength and conditioning coach, but that’s likely a sore subject we need not explore), not to mention an under-the-radar hiring of a new organizational catching coordinator (subscriptiion link). But enough about baseball for a few seconds, here’s what we have on today’s docket:

Photo credit (from Wikipedia): Mechanical Curator collection, a set of over 1 million images scanned from out-of-copyright books and released to Flickr Commons by the British Library. Public Domain.

I can tell you the date on this will be really hard unless I either tell you or if you find a similar picture to work with, and I won’t stop you from looking hard because there are only a handful of sources to tell you anything about this pic. But if you do find it and suss it out, please tell us a little bit of history about this location and what it’s current status is, if any.

Keeping it simple for the New Year, folks.  There were some harder locations to consider, but I figure a nice one to lead us into the New Year wouldn’t be a bad idea.  Have fun, and see you on the other side of 2020!

 

Where & When 2019-20: Game 2

Welcome back to another scintillating episode of Where & When! Last week’s season debut was fun and informative, so we decided to do it again; this one is also relatively easy, so to make it more interesting I’m going to ask for some qualifiers: not only will you determine where this picture was taken and when, but you’ll also be tasked with finding out who or what preceded the tenant of the particular building prominently featured in this photo, and who followed all the way to the present.  I think what you’ll find makes a rather interesting story in itself:

Credit: Wurts Bros (New York, NY) Courtesy of New York Public Library, NYPL.org digital collections;; Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy

Bonus points if you can name one present-day landmark restaurant in the same neighborhood; you’ll definitely get some nice brownies for that.  Have fun, I’ll check in with you soon!

Where & When (Back Again) Game 1: 2019-20

Hello again, good to be back! Where & When is here to accompany you through the 2019-20 Yankee off-season; entertaining and educating as we continue to sleuth out some locations in and around New York City (with an occasional deviation from the norm).  A little birdy told me that some of you folks missed this game, so I decided to find time to oil the gears and bring it back to the storefront, yay!

Before we start ‘er up, some ground rules: the name of the game is Where & When, meaning that I give you a picture of a location and you have to determine the location and time frame the picture is depicting.  For example, I presented a black-and-white pic of some brick church-like building with antique cars parked in front of it; using those and other clues within the pic, you can use your intuition or research the net to pinpoint the address and year in which this picture was taken.  Utilizing your fine detective skills, you determine that the address is 222 Suchensuch Blvd in the Bronx, taken in 1922; by which the building featured prominently is the Metropolitan Executive Municipal Events Depot, which upon further review is where Sherman Peabody used to work and is now split between Duane Reade and Chase Bank (the details after the date are for bonus points).   To keep it fair and show that it wasn’t just a lucky guess (although that can happen in the more obvious locations) or peeking at the credits (more on that), I ask that you explain your method in making your determination; i.e. I found a similar pic at this site or I looked a listing of similar buildings and made a match, or even better I live(d) in the same neighborhood.    If you do find it on the net, please credit your source as well; we try to avoid some copyright issues when possible.

I have to explain about peeking; I do try to credit my sources, but it would not be fair to other players if you simply clicked on the credit link to find the answer. The credits are for copyright purposes and we don’t want the Banter to get into too much trouble, do we? So for fairness’ sake, if I credit a particular source, please refrain from using that source yourself; consider it out-of-bounds.  Now, if you happen to come across the link on your own during your research, I can’t stop you from checking it, but I would hope you don’t follow it and instead let it lead you to a similar source.  That’s not hard for the easier games, but you might be tempted for more obscure ones, which I try to limit for that reason. Still, if you are intrepid enough and uncover interesting trivia pertaining to the particular location, you will be rewarded and it might even put you ahead of the competition.

Oh, the rewards: being that this is a Banter game and we have a lot of inside jokes from the past and present, I like to keep it simple: you win , you get a root beer.  Bonus points come as brownies or cookies; winner’s choice in fact. I like to think we’re all winners already for partaking in the chase and discovering something new about our spiritual hometown. I know it sounds corny, but hey, we don’t have sponsors, so we do it for the fun of it, yes? If I left anything out or if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments or answer in kind of you know.

And now, on the show:

Credit: Wurts Bros (New York, NY) Courtesy of New York Public Library, NYPL.org digital collections;; Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy

One other thing I didn’t mention: some of you know I tend to drop very subtle hints in my presentation, so you’ll scour my post to see if anything I said is helpful.  Feel free to keep doing so, you know how we do.  Often, I will provide you with a direct clue to help in your tracking efforts.  Other times (like with this one), I will be a bit oblique and just tell you to look carefully, as the pic might have enough clues to help you.  You can make as many guesses as you wish, and you can even post your progress if you like.  If you ask, I might give you an indication of how close you actually are (but please don’t expect a prompt reply).  If no one comes up with an exact address, I may usually take a ballpark figure and reward the player closest to the answer; sometimes the answer itself isn’t precise and I don’t even know exactly where or when, so guessing helps in a way; admit to it if you want credit for your sleuthing.  With this one, you may be thrown off a little if you’re not careful, so I can tell if you’re cheating, haa >;)

With that, have fun! I’ll be in and out to check on your progress and close out the game mid-week, I’ll try to keep up with these weekly as time permits.  Also, unless it’s something breaking ad extraordinary, feel free to banter about the latest moves in the Yanksverse or anything else baseball; these are meant to keep us occupied during the long hot stove season after all.  Later, gators! >;)

Gone Shoppin’

Photo Credit: “My places by Anthony Catalanotto” on Pinterest

Looks like free agency’s officially here and open for business.

Given the last few years, how can we tell if the market will favor legit stars like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg or… not-Cole/Strasburg? Last year, it was decidedly the latter; though Bryce Harper and Manny Machado eventually got much of what they wanted in heavy, long term contracts, they had to wait an awfully long time to actually get them (and not necessarily from teams that were first on their supposed lists). Will it be different now that we’re talking about two dominant Cy Young candidates with some good years still ahead of them heading the list? Only the GMs and the supporting stats departments know with MLB Analytics driving the conversation.  As we’ve seen recently, not everything is what it seems.

Take the Yanks’ own free agents:

Edwin Encarnacion

Aroldis Chapman

Didi Gregorius

C.C. Sabathia

Brett Gardner

Dellin Betances

Austin Romine

Cory Gearrin

David Hale

Cameron Maybin

Erik Kratz

Cliff Pennington

We already know CC is retired; hope he recovers from his latest injury well enough to enjoy his first year off from baseball in what has to have been a very long time.  As for the rest, it’s easy to say that none are solid locks to be on the 2020 40-man for the Yanks; if anything, Didi would be the most likely to remain, and that’s not stated with a whole lot of confidence.  Fan favorite that he is, when he came back from Tommy John surgery, he wasn’t up to what we’ve come to expect of him year-round.  Personally, I would not find this to be the tipping point in any negotiations, though Didi doesn’t necessarily have the leverage he could have expected a year ago pre-injury, thanks to the year natural-shortstop-playing-second Gleyber Torres had; playoffs included.  Gleyber is ticketed for stardom no matter where he plays on the diamond; provided he doesn’t get injured (which, ironically, is what we would have said about Didi last year at this time).  I don’t like the idea of Didi being dismissed, given that Tommy John surgery is not something you bounce back from so quickly either as a pitcher or a position player, but the talent hasn’t disappeared either.  With a full off-season to recover and rebuild, I would expect him to return to Hidden Dragon form.  Hopefully the Yanks will find a way to keep him here.

Dellin Betances, too; I hope that the team will bring him back. 2019 was a disaster for Betances; first recovering from right shoulder surgery, then suffering a lat strain during rehab that cost him most of the season, and finally after returning for one game, tearing his ACL and being done for 2019.  This was just a horrible season for Dellin, especially since it was a contract season where it was expected he would be lights out while either finalizing an extension or moving into free agency as one of the top sought-after relievers.  Now the best he can hope for is that the Yanks decide to bring him back for a season or two to rehab and get back into form; failing that, his options are likely either accept any offer he can get from another club (which will likely be very low) or take the year off and rehab until next off-season, then take a likely pillow-contract to re-establish his value.  Man, sucks to be him right now (and I mean that kindly).  Again, the promise of talent is what keeps his value from slipping into AA territory, and I hope the Yanks feel that it’s worth the investment, regardless of the fact that he’s well past 30. But I dunno, it’s bad territory to be in for him.

All that being said, the biggest name on the FA list for the Yanks has to be Aroldis Chapman has been extended for another year at an additional $18 million.  He still can chuck it over 100mph, but it’s getting harder and harder as the seasons go by and we’ve seen less of it this season than in others.  Then there was that slider… well, I don’t think the team will hold that against him so much (though it was not his best pitch by a long-shot) and given his usage, you can almost not blame him for using it, but that’s neither here nor there; there were plenty of other reasons the Yanks lost.  The thing is, though the Yanks do have someone to replace Chapman, it came down to how much he wanted to remain in New York (a whole lot), how much they were willing to pay to bring him back (a whole lot) and, ultimately how much stronger he makes the pen (a whole lot).  As freely as the team spent in the George Steinbrenner era, the team is willing to be thrifty in the Hal Steinbrenner era and seem hellbent on going down with the ship to prove to whomever that The Yanks Don’t Buy Championships (*cough-cough2018 Red Soxcough*) and also don’t need to TANK! to build a champion contender.  If anything, the Winning Formula Award® now shifts to Dee Cee and the Nats, who are also the comeback players of the year (century?) and looking at some harder decisions than the Yanks this off-season.  Would I like to have him back? I like having him back; having a super-duper bullpen is never-ever a bad thing, but I hope it’s not at the expense of keeping Didi + Betances and/or signing an ace; Hey-ell no.

So what’s left:

Brett Gardner… another tough call, honestly.  He is the realest example of a True Yankee; drafted and bred in the Yankees system, made an impact from day one and through sheer hard work and perseverance became a solid everyday player and a fairly important one at that, even when his production went down, the team gambled on him holding the fort while others played in front of him and that gamble paid off in different ways, culminating in one of his best seasons of production in his career this past season. However, he’s 36, he’s not stealing many bases anymore even if analytics suddenly found them useful and there are quite a few guys on the team who are champing at the bit to do what he does (at a cheaper rate to boot).  Between Clint Frasier, Cameron Maybin and Mike Tauchman(!), Gardner had his hands full just staying on the roster,  But it says a whole lot that not only did he remain, but he competed hard and was quite productive in the process. It was a gamble both he and Cashman won this season despite ups and down throughout. This time, I don’t think fans would be so averse to having him around for another season, also given how injury-prone Stanton and to a certain degree Judge have been.  Plus, he’s the last link the team has to their last championship on roster, and at a glance probably the only player in the clubhouse with a championship on his resume; at least as a starter.  That cannot be discounted in any regard.

Austin Romine, however… there’s a lot to be said about having a good backup catcher.  For one, they are very rare.  For another, the Yanks sure do need them.  With the way Gary Sanchez’ career has played out so far, they were blessed to have Romine on the roster. It may or may not stick with him, but he proved to be very valuable given the playing time he had and the number of times he had key hits that either kept them in contention or won games for them.  And more importantly, pitchers liked pitching to him.  That always is something to take into consideration.  That said, this may not simply be a matter of if the Yanks want him back or not, but rather if they are willing to compete for him.  Several teams need upgrades in the backstop department, and Romine could fit in any contender’s roster as well as a rebuilding team in search of a steadying force in the infield.  He’s not a star per se, but he might be just what some team needs to keep the pieces together.  I’m not sure if there;s an immediate replacement for Romine in the system if he were to walk; top catching prospect Anthony Seigler is way too far away from the majors, and Kyle Higoshioka is decidedly not Austin Romine.

Cameron Maybin, well he deserves a decent contract somewhere.  He proved to be a solid contributor for the Yanks after signing with and being released by San Fran, signing with Cleveland and then being bought out by the Yanks all in 2019.  After effectively replacing Frasier who was inept in the outfield and in interviews with reporters, he hustled his way to consideration as key fourth outfielder beyond all of the injuries plaguing the team until his momentum was stopped cold by the same injury bug that felled many of his teammates.  But he returned in due time and was a key contributor the rest of the way, including the playoffs.  He’s a talented player; even if he doesn’t often hit for power, he puts bat on ball more often than not and he’s a good outfielder to boot.  I’d hate to lose him to someone else, but I would not begrudge him a starting role somewhere else (out of the division, of course).

Edwin, thanks for the memories.  However, you proved to be the exact definition of a luxury; the homers were nice and it’s a good thing you could play first, but nah, we’re good. By the way, you weren’t when we needed you to be, but you already knew that. This… is an ex-Parrot.

The rest are not so much a Who’s Who gallery as it is a Who Dat? list.  David Hale is the most familiar name as the Yanks have released him several times and reacquired him and sent him every which-a-way for the past couple of seasons, so I wonder if he’s also a masochist.  Cliff Pennington, I only wondered if he was related to former NY Jets QB Chad Pennington (PS: I doubt it).  Cory Guerrin and Eric Kratz; I’ve got nuthin’.

Okay, so feel free to chime in and sound off; this will probably stay open for a couple of weeks if it remains active, after which we’ll likely throw in another stream of consciousness or distract you with a Where & When cameo (those were fun) or even maybe try to pick up where we left off recounting famous Yanks For A Minute or who knows, something new for the Hot Stove Season to keep us engaged? Only time will tell, but thanks for the fun season, for sticking around and psst, keep an eye on the cash register having fun>;)

Taster’s Cherce

Oh-ho! Haven’t seen this for a while now, have you? However, this time it’s ol’ Chyll Will taking a ride up the kitchen isle in order to share a neat recipe that he sort-of made up while doing a little R&D in his apartment kitchen. So, while we wait for the team to start up a new series in Arizona, why don’t I give some serious consideration to an experiment gone right with some pulled pork.

 

Let’s Chill

The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893

No, that was not a pun or self-reference (it’s too obvious for one… >;)  

It’s more of a declaration or a plea.  The Yanks have been very sucky, as in inconsistent. They won the season opener the way everyone envisioned they wudduh-cudduh-shudduh with a 7-2 easy win over the lowly Orioles, then proceeded to streak like a naked drunk at old Yankee Stadium across several games, losing two of three to both the same Orioles and the wow, there’s a worse team than them Tigers. At home, no less. In front of a whole lot of impatient NYers who already don’t like that the Yanks skipped out on two young All-Stars and a potential one to complement the suddenly rickety rotation.  So naturally, they go away to home-away-from-home Camden Yards and beat the crap out of the Orioles to return the favor and then some (they swept them there, so)… but they either left their bullpen prowess at the depot or the Orioles infected them with their Orioleness because now the bullpen sucks and is infecting the some of the rotation (Paxton) and fielders (Frazier, because Gary was already like that).

So here we are on an off-day in April standing at 5-7 with almost half the starters on the injured list and the accountant I mean manager having to make pep talk for the media because God knows basically every decision he’s made lately has been betrayed him faster than ketchup at a dive bar.  It’s all his fault, of course, because he was so eager to listen to whatever Cashman told him to do, which is why he got the job in the first place, right?

Yeah, um.  Let’s stop right there, because this is panicking for panicking’s sake.  Good for headlines, but not for watching baseball.  It’s been hard for me personally to follow sports in general because of the micromanaging that analytics has wrought and will continue on until someone manages to figure out how to merge the glory days with the innovations. No more bunts or steals because they aren’t productive; now three or five blasts over a shifted infield, that’s the ticket! Yeah, fun.  But whatever, it’s here and in all sports, so I’m rolling with it better than most; particularly the kids who don’t really care for all the standing around doing nothing. And the people who are mad at players who are upset that owners only want to pay several millions as opposed to several more; of course no one says anything about the owners themselves pocketing the millions upon millions they get from TV contracts and revenue sharing, but that’s another rant for another day…

The Yanks are built to last; so to speak as they obviously can’t stay healthy long enough to dominate as envisioned.  I mean, if they had Didi, Giancarlo, C.C., Dellin. Miggy, Luis, Hicks and hell, why not Troy and Jordan Montgomery and maybe even Ben Heller and– nah, not him. But if they had at least four of these guys back and in good playing shape, it probably wouldn’t be this bad, would it? Well, that’s one thing. The players can hit when left to their own devices, and they’re talented enough to overcome some of their own missteps. Plus it’s early… 12 games does not a season make.  Yet I see people freaking out as though the team just missed the playoffs. Let me remind you all that this is not the team the Yanks intended to start with, and as I had commented during Spring Training, if they falter they pretty much have a built-in excuse: injuries, resulting in playing time for fairly unseasoned youth (just like last season!) who basically have to hold the fort until the starters come back.

Of course it’s easier said than done, but it is what it is, and we see that this team can hit. I worry more about coaching and managing missteps than about the players being able to deliver, and honestly unless they are the reason the players are getting themselves hurt, then there’s really not much to get up in arms about. One could say that Boone, for example, is not really responsible for the decisions he makes because they probably aren’t even his to begin with. The Yankees aren’t all that big on autonomy these days, after all.  But they have a helluva lot of talent and youth to spare, regardless of how much of the farm they’ve pawned off in recent seasons.  There, another good thing to bear in mind is that the Yanks are not compelled to throw their prospects at other teams right out the gate for a quick pick-me-up.  When the previously wounded return to battle, there’s likely going to be a bump in win percentage.  And if they don’t, well by that time some of their bluer chips might be primed and ready to throw some support their way. As recent highlight-reliever-making-his-Yankee-debut Joe Harvey would say, it’s gonna get real and it’s gonna be pretty dope.

I wish I had something far more compelling to console you with, but we see the same thing year in and year out.  The team stumbles out of the gate and people get all Edvard Munch paintings on you. Please chill.  There are plenty of things to be up in arms about right now, but the Yanks being sub-500 after two weeks in April is definitely not one of them.

Wait until mid-May for that…

Unanimous

A piece I photoshopped together back in 2013 for “Serious Consideration!“. I dare say this is a good moment to bring it back out for people to see…

This was, believe it or not, a seminal moment in baseball; a crossroads for everyone involved. From players to owners to fans and the media all, this was the time to decide if the way we honor the people we often consider heroes had merit in itself.

And to be totally frank, I think the answer saved more than just baseball from itself.

Could you imagine the outrage, the utter frustration and perhaps final resignation from the realization that there would always be that one person who, for reasons either predictable or inexplicable, decided to not vote for Mariano Rivera.  Anyone reading this, please tell me that you fully believed that the writers entrusted with the task of selecting the new entries to the Baseball Hall of Fame (which by name and by dynamic carries almost a mysticism of grandeur and worldly accomplishment) would actually act in accord with one another to vote for the undisputed greatest reliever of all time to enter this cadre of baseball greatness… unanimously??

Questions, plenty of them if you have the time, but not really.  I care not for the arguments this obviously opens; why NOT Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mike Schmidt, Ken Griffey Jr, et al… why were they not given the honor of total agreement by the fickle and oblique judges of such honors? We know the answer, and by knowing that answer we were hostage to the possibility of what could easily be described by most as recklessness at the least.  The worst of human nature flashed curiously through some minds; what would be the excuse, the agenda, the agonizing self-aggrandizement that would crush its employer to earthly oblivion, ironically in a plane dominated by cyberspace?

I don’t care about that.  I only care right now that this one man, who was universally loved and/or respected by anyone within earshot of his name, with casual interest or platonic worship, had finally broken through to an entire subset who, whether on pain of personal loss or with genuine gumption, parted for Moses and held the gates wide open.

A couple of years ago, my girlfriend-now-wife were driving through New Rochelle, NY which is actually within walking distance of where I live, and we came to a light at an intersection. In front of us, a man ambled somewhat slowly across the street, looking down along his path as though he was organizing his thoughts about either something he had just done or was about to do. He wore a collared white shirt with one button undone at the top and pleated slacks. He was slightly balding from the back and his gait was a little stiff, as though he had been sitting in a pew for more time than he’d realized.  I stared blankly, as he crossed the street in front of us towards the gas station, wondering if this was one of those moments…

“Is that who I think it is?” I said slowly to Lyne, “who does that look like to you?” Lyne was and is a casual baseball fan; I’ve taken her to Yankee games when I was given tickets by friends or people I’ve worked for in the past, and though she was excited by the experiences, her interest remained largely casual beyond beyond certain players.  Certain players… “Who is that… I know him… wait, are you sure it’s him?” I pondered for a split second whether to honk my horn and hope that he knew why we were honking, jump out of the car and chase him to the gas station store and thank him profusely for his career or just leave the man alone to his thoughts and respect him as a fellow human being. I chose the latter. The light turned green and I kept driving, thinking about any and everything, and hoping that he was at least having a nice day.

You see, that’s the thing about Mariano Rivera. For all I know, he is one of the nicest people I’ve ever seen play pro baseball.  Sure, he’s an ordained minister with a church somewhere nearby, and he was revered by millions of fans and respected by millions more. And you better believe he confounded, frustrated and utterly infuriated opposing batters, teams and their fans in game situations that meant do or die for their varied aspirations.  But I never heard one person utter a cross word about him as a person, as a human being. Mo was the antithesis of the admonishment by Charles Barkley so many years ago.  His victories were ours, his pride in a job well done was our pride.  His glare was the glare of many. His focus was legion. The moments of shock, when the fabric of time in space was torn and he did the unthinkable: fail… that was felt and carried by many.  The way he shifted minds, moods and destinies with such fluidity and attentiveness; such a solid state of grace and accomplishment was lifeblood and fountainous youth for any Yankee fan.  “Exit light… enter night!” was clarion and carrier of emotions; the entitled and the marginalized, the wealthy and the poor, the casual and livid; all came to witness the ninth inning  as if it were an address by a world dignitary, an execution or a sermon from some high mount. I could not control myself when it introduced him for the last time as the closer of the New York Yankees.

Unreal, yet Real.  That’s the only way anyone can describe this moment in baseball history. It is only proper that it is connected with a player who fits that description.  Hyperbole?  Sure, why not; don’t we have rare moments that deserve some? I think we can all agree on that.

Dat Bullpen Tho

Yeah, this pretty much had to happen; Yanks sign native Noo Yawka Adam Ottavino to a 3yrs/$27mil.  Cool… so…

Tell us how you REALLY feel in regards to the report that the White Sox offered Manny Faces a 7yr/$175 mil contract; not to mention his agent essentially going apeshet over it. Did it happen? Was it gamesmanship or something nefarious? What does it say about the state of baseball today, particularly in regards to the hard and blatant disconnect that exists fans’ expectations and baseball’s actions? Show your math >;)

Happy Noo Yearz!

© Julienne Schaer, c/o ILoveNY.com

If you’re from New York and you know what WPIX means, you know what I’ll be doing after the bell. How are you guys spending your New Year’s?  >;)

You’ Still Here?

Well, there is life after the Yankee season after all and the true baseball junkies will likely be following their antics at this point, so here’s a thread to get your fix on. I hope that a few of us will come through with individual post-season observations about what the Yanks have done so far and intend to do for next season. I’ll be waiting after the “fun” is over, but in the meantime feel free to scoop or speculate while watching the cream rise to the top. One thing I notice already, the umps aren’t gonna make this easy...

Bombers Away!

How did we end up here?

Well, if you ask Boone and the Bombers, it all went according to plan. I was wrong, I admit that right away; Yankees did get the home field for the wild card. After that, they punched their ticket emphatically and now are invading Boston to continue their quest for the expected: a trip to the Whirled Serious and a chance to make good on the promise they showed last year, not to mention to justify all the moves and deals they made to get there.

And maaaaaybe just a little revenge for 2004? Not that anyone on this roster would recall that series (nor should they try), but some of us would just love to get those games back, and this is the first time since then that the two teams have had a chance to hash it out again in the playoffs. And look who’s leading those teams to this fancy reunion: rookie manager Alex Cora and equally-rookie manager Aaron F***in’ Boone.  Of course, neither were part of that series, but both had contributed to their teams in important ways when they were playing for the teams they now manage.  And both won at least 100 games in their first year at the helm.  Trivial, but fun facts heading into this showdown, which promises to be Very Interesting Indeed.

Lots to take into this series in terms of expectations; Boston sprinted past the Yanks early on in the season and held tight or stayed close through the mid-season, then turning on the afterburners after the ASB and leaving the rest (especially the Yanks) to fight it out for second place. If nothing else, having two 100-game winners in the same division has begun and interesting discussion about what teams should actually qualify for the playoffs; had the Yanks won their hundred games, yet failed to reach the post season while a team with maybe fifteen less wins was automatically in because they won their division, there certainly would have been a lot of outrage among fans if it were not the Yankees (but definitely outrage if it were from MLB and their television partners).  But that’s for a later debate. For now, let’s revel in the chance for fireworks and Score Trucks and who knows what.  Both teams are coming in with chips on their shoulders, so it oughtta be “lit” as the young players would likely say.

As for me, I’m feeling the Yanks in five; now that Brother Judge is up to speed and has brought life back to the lineup and clubhouse in general, it’s up to the starters to get the job done. Scientific Happ leads off, followed by Major Tanaka and The One (Whom Most Doubted) , then C-Squared ready to shut the door on Boston’s aspirations if that were actually the case. This makes sense; I think that’s the right order. I could be wrong about what we’re about to encounter (and kinda hope I am, but in a good way). Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gents, the show’s about to begin! >;)

This Is The Way We Walk In New York

Mural by Crash c.2013 NYC

In appreciation of Our Dude CC Stickyfingaz, an old school brotha who chucked half-a-million aside to stand up for his peeps and inspire a tired team and irritable fan base as they sprint the last few days of the season to home field advantage that looked suspect no more than a week ago. And yo, if you’re gonna walk a dude, put an exclamation point on it.

Slip ‘n’ Slide

Are we watching a James Cameron blockbuster in the making or something? Or is he producing and Michael Ray Richardson is directing?

The Yanks have been playing like horseshit freshly baked meadow muffins for much of the second half of the season (they are playing tag with the Mutts for Most Mediocre Record to date), which has caused all kinds of ennui among the rational fans, while the real fans are all-like, “we’re GOING to the playoffs, modammit!”, to which one has to wonder as to what they intend to do there. Rodeo clowns are forbidden from entering the field of play, after all.  For all that matter, you might as well see the grounds crew in the lineup the rest of the regular season while the regular suspects perform “Y-M-C-A” during the seventh. At least when you’re drunk out of your mind trying to erase the past couple of months from your memory, you’ll find that dynamic to be a keeper.

My no-fault prediction (aka wild guess) is that Yanks will lose the home field for the wild card, come close to falling out of the playoffs before turning on the boosters to save face and win the one-off, but then fall back and get swept by whomever they face in the divisional series.  Then the real fun will begin. I almost think this has to happen in order for the organization to wake up from the nagging sense of complacency that seems to have befallen them recently.  Bad baseball has bum-rushed the Stadium and the team plane.  You know bad baseball when you see it, so don’t kid yourself.  Just hope that the Hail Mary that is Aaron Judge returning to active duty before he’s actually finished healing lands in good hands. Other than that, everything else I speculated could be bullshit pons de la rue (a la mode).

Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Children???

Ugh.  I’ve purposely avoided Yankee ball (or at least bantering about it) for the last couple of months as I’ve found myself doing a lot more griping and complaining than enjoying, and I can’t imagine anyone around here would care to read what they’ve already written in comments during that same time period, so I will not add more dung to the pile…

Oh, whom am I kidding? Regardless of how the Yanks do the rest of the way, changes are needed and likely imminent.  The starting rotation needs an overhaul, the infield needs mending and reconfiguring and the outfield needs to be refurbished.  Cashman gambled away his outfield depth and the remains of the day immediately went kablooey, so now he has to figure out what to do with whom not only in the post-season, but beyond. Here are a list of possible bullet-points for him to hash out…

  • Does Gardner stay a little longer than expected? (like to 2050 perhaps?)
  • Will Clint Frazier ever get a full season to show his worth without having to deal with his bully, the outfield wall?
  • Is Aaron Judge rushing back to save the lineup really a good thing?
  • Is Stanton really a backup outfielder forced to play everyday at this point?
  • Does McCutchen actually exist? Or is he just a story made up to scare impending free agents?
  • Is it a sin to not hit a homer in every at-bat? Do you get sent to baseball purgatory for bunting against the shift or hitting for the cycle?
  • Would it help if we put an extra row of seats between shortstop and third base?
  • Would Ritalin improve the infield defense?
  • Is Gary Sanchez really just Jesus Montero trying to sneak back into major league baseball?
  • Do you think CC would look good as a pitching coach next season? Yeah? Huh?
  • Would it have helped some if Tanaka had gotten that surgery he’s needed for the last two or three seasons right after the slight tear in his UCL was first noticed?
  • Does saying “We don’t necessarily need Chapman” three times automatically wipe away his 5 yr/$86 mil (17+Mil per) salary?
  • Did Pedro really cover all bases while he was mentoring Severino over the winter, or was that a sample since he wasn’t paid (as far as we all know)?
  • Do you think Lance Lynn would do well to appear for a couple of seasons on Westworld rather than on the mound?
  • Could he take Sonny Gray with him?
  • What’s the over/under for J. Happ bolting the Yanks within minutes of the end of the Whirled Serious? And will that be him saying he “can’t get with Da Bronx” or Cashman and Co. low-balling him?
  • What is the purpose of the Yankee coaches, really?
  • Is Aaron Boone @#$%ing crazy? Or is he just @#$%ing right for this job?

I know, a lot to take in. You don’t have to think about it now, just enjoy the game(ssssss…).  These things always have a way of working themselves out. If I’m lucky, I’ll come back with more by the end of the, er… month.  >;)

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