Sunday, November 29, 2015

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Yankee lineup is like a school budget choked with government mandates

Lately, many of you have offered plans to revive New York City's second best baseball team - the former "Evil Empire," now just "the Evil Dead." Good luck on this.

Me? I got nothing. Every plan worth a paragraph requires signing a free agent ace, which Hal "I'm Not Cheap" Steinbrenner has ruled out, after stressing that I'm Not Cheap is not cheap.

The possibility exists that I'm Not Cheap is actually not cheap, but posturing - planning to bid on, say, David Price, rather than allow Boston a clear bidding path to the pitcher. That is our version of "fantasy baseball." When I'm Not Cheap said the same thing last year about Max Scherzer, we didn't believe him, thinking I'm Not Cheap could not be so cheap. Had we signed Scherzer, who knows? We might have won the AL East. But we didn't, and for a guy who counts his holdings in billions, and owns the frickin' NEW YORK YANKEES, I'm Not Cheap is looking damn cheap.

So here we are, basically standing pat with a wild card. If you're wondering Who's On First, you might as well be Lou Costello. Because practically every position is inscribed in granite: 1B (Tex), SS (Didi), 3B (Headley), the OF (Gardy, Ellsbury, Beltran, Hicks), C (McCann), DH (A-Rod), the starters (six of them, no discernible ace), the bullpen (Miller, Betances, Wilson).

You want wiggle room: 2B, fifth starter, bullpen depth. We're like a school budget that's been rejected, but the board can't make changes due to mandated programs. So it puts up the same budget.

I think a better question is how did we get here? It's now been six years since Hal basically bought the pennant by signing CC, Tex and AJ. Everything since has floundered. And, frankly, he has never held a plan for a full season. In the last six years he has:

a) Declared "Austerity," demanding that the payroll be cut to $186 million, with an absolute moratorium on two-year deals. Then, same month, he signed Ichiro to a two-year deal. And then he ditched "Austerity," claiming $186 million was just "a goal."

b) Announced new "Austerity," refusing long-term deals, letting Robbie Cano's 10-year pact go to Seattle. Same month, he ditched the plan, committing the Yankees to 15 years worth of McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran.

c) Purged memories of "Austerity" with mid-season deals for Headley, Prado, McCarthy, et al, in chase of a Wild Card. The following winter, announced "Austerity," refusing long-term deal with Scherzer, et al. 

d) Last summer, vowed to beef up team at trade deadline, but stood pat. And now we're back to "Austerity," not signing any big name.
It looks like a long season. But if we're floundering next June, then what? Do we have a plan?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

From the vault: What we said last Thanksgiving about the Redsocks

They had just signed Hanley Ramirez and the Panda.

Repeat from last year: Lively, mirthful rejoinders to defuse political tensions over your Thanksgiving feast

Now and then, even nice families raise a super-Nazi. As a public service, here are some witty one-liners to extinguish the looming fist fight over the turkey buffet. When Cousin Cooter starts talking about "rounding 'em up and puttin' 'em in a pen," try these soothing comebacks to put a smile on people's faces.

"Hey, you know what? You're a fucking moron."

"That argument makes sense... if you're a fucking cretin."

"Thank you. I always wondered how the world looks to a 40 IQ head full of oatmeal."

"Pass the cranberry sauce, you vile, piddling, brainless shithead."

"Hey, I got an idea. Why don't you stick your fucking jizzy, Jerry Sandusky-breathed mouth onto the bunghole of this bird, and whisper into it all your bizarre and idiotic personal views, because nobody else wants to hear them, you ridiculous, one-track, slappy-headed dick."

Headlines that seem weird on Thanksgiving Day

Is that crazy Obama calling for an insurrection during the feast?

They could steal the giblets?

What could we get for Ivan "Super" Nova, aside from an end to sitting around and hoping for Ivan "Super" Nova?

Hot Scoop: Yankee GM-For-Life Brian Cashman is shopping Ivan "Super" Nova to other teams during his late-night, naked, executive-biker bonfires.

Nova, 29  - a statistical clone of Brett Tomko, by the way - has one more year on his contract, and right now, he's our sixth starter. Last summer, he returned from Tommy John surgery and for three games pitched like Tommy John, and then started throwing like Elton John. But this is Super's walk year, and he's finally over the knife and - who knows? This guy was the 2013 August AL Pitcher of the Month!

So we're shopping him. We're shopping him because - aside from Brett Gardner, Andrew Miller and our best prospects, we have nothing else to shop. Nobody wants Ellsbury. Nobody will take CC, unless we pay his bar tabs. Other teams want players with high ceilings and controllable contracts - so Nova could be the cherry on a package that could net us - oh, God, I get a headache thinking about it.

What I know is this: a) Nova is a crap shot, b) he'll be gone next winter and c) six Yankee starters is far too few. I've wasted too many years pining for Super Nova's break out season, and I can't last much longer. How many pitchers have toyed with our hopes? Remember Edwar Ramirez? Vidal Nino... Kei Igawa... Alfredo Aceves... GAHHHH?

So what am I getting at, this early Thanksgiving morning? The Yankees are becoming Ivan Nova... a collection of the same tired faces with concrete ceilings. We know what Carlos Beltran will do next year, (if he stays healthy.) The Fates have already written most of the Yankees' 2016 season. We've seen the movie. We know Julia Roberts will shack up with Richard Gere (Yankee fan, by the way.)

But... Greg Bird? Now, there's a mystery. And Luis Severino! And Rob Refsnyder! They're the surprise in the Crackerjacks box. They're the reason to watch. They haven't yet disappointed us. We still don't know what they might do.

And in a strange way, so is Nova still a mystery. We still don't know...

So we're shopping him. Somebody will take a flier. Another one bites the dust.

OK, let's eat.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


We're talking Alphonso Anger.

Trying to rebuild and win at the same time: It's looking a lot like 1985

The highway's jammed with broken fans, conjuring last-chance Yankee deals. Joel Sherman has listed 10 pitchers who could be "the next Nathan Eovaldi," as if his uniform is ready to be a Steiner Collectible. Nearly every pitcher will require trading Brett Gardner or Andrew Miller - plus one of our top prospects. The word is out that we will trade anybody, anybody, except the ones we wish we could trade, but nobody will take. Thus, we will rebuild while contending - a tough place to be, especially if the owner won't pry open his fanny pack.

It really looks like 1985, Yogi's managerial deja vu... all over again.

A refresher course: Heading into the winter of '84, we were already three years from having made the post-season, and six from our last ring. Toronto was the reigning superpower, the Mets were ascending, and the Yankees planned to both rebuild and win - (and we would accomplish neither.) In fact, we were in the early stages of the 14-year barf.

On Dec. 4, 1984, we traded prospects to the Cubs for Henry Cotto, an OF claimed to be on the verge of a breakout. (He's now most famous for breaking his ear-hole with a Q-tip.) The next day, we wowed the world by trading five more kids, including Jose Rios, for Rickie Henderson. Two weeks later, we brought in Dale Berra (Yogi was manager; he'd last 16 games), and two days after Christmas, we signed a man whose name still inspires, along with enormous pain, an IT IS HIGH Yankeeography: Ed Whitson. (See upper left) That year, we would finish second, going nowhere.

Today, the Yankee brain trust claims we can trade our way to a 2016 pennant. We won't miss Miller, the best closer in baseball (whose trade would raise a flag to all potential free-agents that the Yankees will show no loyalty to their players), or Gardner, the grittiest player on the roster... and prospects? Bah! We're back to not caring about them, right? The fact is, we were blessed last year in the deals for Didi and Eovaldi. But if you keep trading and trading, the balance sheet has a way of balancing out.

Every other team in baseball goes through a rebuilding process. The Yankees think they are different. Hal "I'm Not Cheap" Steinbrenner says there is no reason why a guy like him should have to shell out $200 million just to win a World Series. He will win it without spending his precious money. He'll outsmart everybody else. Just watch.

It's called hubris, folks. It's how regimes fall, it's how nations collapse, it's how supermodels get fat and it's why the sparrow will outlive us all Sometimes, I guess you have to relive history in order to respect it. Maybe every son must walk his father's lost trail before he really learns anything.

We're three years out of the playoffs, six from a ring, and our Peerless Boiler leader - ("put that money where it belongs, back in your pocket") - says we will win now and rebuild.

The question is, next November, will we be staring into 1986? Because that's when it really gets hairy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Roamin' Robbie says he's happy in Walla Walla at $24 M per season

Kill the "Welcome Home" parade along the Canyon of Heroes, folks. The agent for Robinson Crusoe Cano says last year's fifth best-hitting 2B in the AL - (after Jason Kipnes, Jose Altuve, Ben Zobrist, and Logan Forsythe, you could look it up) - does not want to leave Seattle, after all.

Robbie loves Seattle. He loves the weather. He loves the people. He loves the way the sunset glistens off their auburn hair. He loves the silly things they do. He's not coming back to New York. Boo-hoo.

Honestly, I don't know what to make of this recent Robbie flap. It started with former Seattle coach Andy Van Slyke making make an unbridled, unsolicited attack - something that never happened in NY, even after Robbie jumped ship. (At one point, Kevin Long said he had talked with Robbie about jogging out grounders, but that paled compared to Van Slyke's angry put-down, which blamed Robbie for Seattle's bad season and the firing of the manager.) A few bloggers defended Robbie, but it wasn't exactly Winston Churchill rallying the allies. (Keep in mind that this is probably the slowest news week on the baseball calendar.) The Daily News' John Harper ginned up rumors that Cano wants out - a report that, frankly, Cano HAD to refute, unless he wants to hear more furious words in the deep dark woods.

Who knows what Cano is thinking? But his long flies aren't carrying in Seattle, as they did in Yankee Stadium. He's 33, chunking up around the hips, increasingly injury prone, and Logan Forsythe had a better 2015. Seattle is under new management, and surely the first thing his bosses do in the morning is look at the spreadsheet and shake their heads over the the $24 million per season white elephant. I doubt Robbie wants out as much as they do.

It's really too bad, how this turned out. Seriously, I hate hating Robbie Cano. He should have been the next great Yankee going to Cooperstown. He should be our link to the great teams. We should be rallying behind him. Of all the negatives I heap upon Hal "I'm Not Cheap" Steinbrenner, Robbie is the one decision that wasn't Hal's fault. The team made him a great offer - nine years, more money than he'll ever spend, plus the benefits of being a lifetime Yankee - and he walked away... for a few more thin dimes. He must never come back.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Yankee fans treated to vision of Hell freezing over

Altogether now...


Worst Yankee decade since the 1980s?

Yankee success through the modern decades

(I messed up an earlier version of this.)

1950s: 6 World Championships, 30 post-season wins

1960s: 2 World Championships, 14 post-season wins

1970s: 2 World Championships, 8 post-season wins

1980s: 2 post-season victories

1990s: 3 World Championships, 12 post-season wins

2000s: 2 World Championships, 51 post-season wins

2010s*: 10 post-season wins

*In progress

Will those horrible, terrible,, big Yankee contracts really be "coming off the books" in the next two years?

Last week, Hal "I'm Not Cheap" Steinbrenner rendered unto the world his personal Vision of Hope:

"A couple of years from now, the payroll situation will be different," I'm Not Cheap told reporters. "I'll have flexibility."

What he meant was this: By 2019, the Yankees will finally be rid of Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodrguez and CC Sabathia - the Core Four of Fiscal Doom. Their contracts will run out, and they will go, get out, be gone, shoo... leave us alone.

Because once they are gone - good riddance! - the beleaguered boy owner can once again spend his hard-inherited money. How fortunate New York is to have such a leader! He should do those radio ads for Peerless Boilers, talking about "more money in your pocket!" If we will only be patient, we'll be finally done with the likes of Tex, A-Rod, CC and Beltran - who the hell signed those guys, anyway? - and our small "b" billionaire will be able to afford new players, along with canned food.

Nevertheless, a terrifying possibility remains: 

What if - gulp - what if they have good years? And what if they want to stay?

Lord, I speak for the Yankiverse in saying, SEND THE ASTEROID!

Take first base, for example. Right now, everybody expects Tex (aka Wally Pipp) to tweak a gonad, so Greg Bird can ascend from Scranton to launch his Yankee career as Lou II. But what if - I shudder to write this - what if Teixeira stays healthy? What if he has a solid season? Why, dear God, would the Yankees have to make him a qualifying offer? And what if he accepts? That would ruin everything, EVERYTHING. What if Tex likes NY and wants to keep his family here? We'd be stuck with him for two more years... pushing I'm Not Cheap's contractual porn fantasies to 2017.

Here's a worse thought. I suggest you send children out of the room before proceeding:

What if A-Rod hits 30 HRs next year, and then another 30 in 2017? (He hit 33 this year.) That would leave him at 747 - only 15 behind Barry Bonds as the all-time HR leader. (Bud Selig's final curse: the ban that cost Alex the all-time top spot.) What if A-Rod wants to come back for one more year - to beat Bonds. Would I'm Not Cheap say, "No, hit the road, we can't afford you!" Would the Yankees make him a qualifying offer? Or would they let the Miami Marlins or Seattle Mariners market the glory of his historical, all-time leading HR?

Those millions might not disappear from the books, as quickly as I'm Not Cheap craves.

And what about the potential acrimony from Yankee players with an owner who is counting the minutes until he no longer must pay them. Resentments, anyone? 

As a Yankee fan, there is nothing I want more than for Hal to be happy. And let's face it: He's been dreaming of a $186 million payroll for years. Someday, I'm Not Cheap can fulfill all dreams... unless those pesky players get in the way. Why must they ruin everything?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Will the Redsocks go all out to win one for Papi?

One of the saddest legacies of this woebegone Yankee decade - (we are entering Year VI with nothing to show) - was the Former Empire's inability to give Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter final post-seasons. Both played their last games with basically nothing on the line.

Imagine Mariano closing a World Series. Imagine Jeter batting in game seven...

Two hundred million.. all the kings horses and all the kings men... and we couldn't even get them into a Wild Card game.

And some say we're too hard on the Yankees?

I say, disgraceful.

Well, Boston could be poised to go for the ring this season for the Big Papi's blowout. But they will have to pay. It might mean signing David Price or Zach Greinke - or both. They'll have to shed Hanley Ramirez - a visit from Whitey Bulger might do the trick - but thus far, they have followed the surefire rebuilding model practiced by Kansas City, Houston, Washington and the Mets: Come in last year after year, draft high, wait around, and then strike by getting some big names.

The question is, will the Yankees stand back and let Boston do this? Apparently, yes.

This week, Hal "I'm Not Cheap" Steinbrenner gushed over the crop of youngsters in the farm system. While it has improved, we are nowhere near Boston in terms of rising talent, even after they pedaled two top prospects for the closer, Craig Kimbrel. They still have prospects to trade and money to spend.

We can talk about our catching prospect, Gary Sanchez, but they have Christian Vaszquez and Blake Swihart, and one or both is going to be very good. We can talk about how Aaron Hicks may have figured out how to hit. They have Mookie Betts, who is clearly on the verge of stardom, and the suddenly scary Jackie Bradley Jr. We can marvel about how Didi Gregorious improved at SS. They have Xander Bogartes, who is bordering on MVP status.

I'm Not Cheap says the Yankees won't be in the bidding for big free agents. Is he lying, hiding his cards? I sure hope so. Because otherwise, we will sit back and watch Boston snag Price or Greinke, or maybe John Lackey - without even having to bid against us. That would be giving them a clear path to the AL East. If you figure Toronto is going to be very good next year, then are already playing for the away-field birth in the Wild Card, and excuse me, folks, if that's not an exciting proposition. I'm almost thinking I'd prefer the KC/Houston/Nats/Mets model.