Uncategorized

We’re Not Watching

I adore baseball.  I love going to games and I love watching them. It is quite simply my favorite sport. As a kid, that adoration reached its apogee with the All-Star Game. While I watched the World Series religiously, no single game was ever more fiercely contested, with as much star power,  than the All-Star Games that I grew up on. Sadly, those are a distant memory.

Interleague play was bad enough, but I think it was the sight of Bob Brenly and Joe Torre negotiating an ASG tie that forever soured me on the game. What happened to the days when players went all out to win this game?  When did we have to rely on stupid ideas like home field being determined by it, to want to watch this game?

At some point the players stopped caring about this game. They worried too much about injury and not enough about entertaining the fans. Jose Fernandez took a lot of heat Monday for saying he would groove fastballs to David Oritz, but why?  This was Ortiz’s last ASG and why wouldn’t a baseball fan want to see him go deep in an exhibition game?  Fernandez was just open to giving the fans what they wanted and I can’t fault him one bit. The problem is baseball doesn’t agree. They want to use the phony home field gimmick to make us care. It doesn’t.

I’m not alone in feeling this  Look at the TV ratings and the game is bleeding away viewers. (Last night’s ratings just came in as I was finishing this, a record low- 8.7 million viewers)  I don’t know what the fix is, but I would love to care about this game again.  I really miss it

 

Door Number Three

Joel Sherman has a good article today about how the Yankees are boxed in with A-Rod and his lack of roster flexibility. Read it here. I agree with the argument, but disagree with the solution. Instead of cutting him, why not try a stretch with 11 pitchers?

Here’s the truth, the Yankees don’t use their 12th pitcher very often. And, when they do turn to him, they have enough arms on the 40-man to exchange him for a different pitcher. Consider Anthony Swarzak who was called up in the first week of June. Since then he has appeared seven times and pitched nine innings. He hasn’t pitched since June 22nd. The Yankees brought Richard Bleier up a month ago and he has pitched a grand total of eight times and contributed eight innings. Why do the Yankees need a 12th pitcher if this is how they are going to use them? Because here is the thing. Alex is still hitting LHP. He has a line of .275/.327/.510 against them this year. As a team, the Yankees have only managed a .252/.314/.386 line agains them, so Alex is contributing.

But I doubt the Yankees will ever feel comfortable with 11 pitchers and if that is truly the case, then it is getting close to the time to let Alex go or figure out a way for him to get back into the field. With only four spots on the bench, the Yankees cannot afford to give one of them to a 40-year old platoon player. Joel Sherman is right about that.

Worst Loss Ever!

To quote Comic Book Guy, last night was the worst loss ever.

At least as far as regular season games go.  Bases loaded, no one out in the bottom of the 9th.  How did the Red Sox mess this up?  John Farrell found a way.  First, he pinch hit Dustin Pedroia for Travis Shaw.  Shaw would have been going against a lefty, so I have no major beef with this move, except that Christian Vazquez was on deck and he has been a complete disaster at the plate for the past several weeks.  Why not let Shaw have a crack at it and pinch hit for Vazquez instead?  Both Shaw and Vazquez have been struggling but Shaw is the better hitter.

Pedroia struck out, Vazquez hit a fielder’s choice to the catcher.  Next, Farrell pinch hit for Marco Hernandez with a guy making his major league debut in Ryan LaMarre.  Nothing against LaMarre, but when your first major league at bat is with the bases loaded and 2 out in the bottom of the 9th, there is a fair chance you’ve never been more nervous.  And nervous he was.  First pitch, foul.  Second pitch, swing and a miss and a miss by 1 foot, a very weak and nervous swing.  Third pitch, swing and a miss, inning over.

Craig Kimbrel coughed it up in the top of the 10th and the Red Sox went on to lose 3-1.  This was a crushing loss.  If any one of those 3 had a hit, I probably wouldn’t be writing about but a manager’s job is to improve the odds and put people in positions they can succeed.  LaMarre was in way over his head and that blame falls on Farrell.

We’ll see how the Red Sox recover from this one.

First Is Cursed!

I don’t think I have ever seen a depth chart at a single position get decimated in the way the Yankees’ first base situation has been. Let’s recap.

1- Greg Bird, first baseman of the future and the insurance to a Mark Teixeira injury, goes down in the offseason with season-ending shoulder surgery.

2- Dustin Ackley, the new backup first baseman, hurts his shoulder on a slide and has season-ending, shoulder surgery.

3- Mark Teixeria gets hurt and may require season-ending surgery. He might also come back.

4- Chris Parmalee, the guy they invited to camp when Bird was injured and stashed in the minors, gets hurt catching a throw to first. He has a grade 2, hamstring tear, and will probably miss two months.

So first of all, Rob Refsnyder should get an exorcism performed on the first base area.  Second, this could be a good development long-term.

The Yankees don’t have a position for Refsnyder. He isn’t good enough at second for them. He took a couple of balls off his face at third and they soured on that idea. His arm hasn’t starred in the outfield. But they like his bat and if he hits, they can figure out ways to accommodate his glove.

Ideally, Refsnyder can become a multi-positional talent. If they can put him anywhere on the field, except catcher, center, and short, that is a huge asset to have. They can tolerate a below-average glove if they can hide it by moving it around the diamond.

And ultimately that is what 2016 should be about for this team- experimenting. See what Refsnyder can do at first, and with the bat. See if Pineda can turn into the pitcher his stuff says he should can be. See if Hicks is worth developing, and if Romine has a bigger future than backup catcher.  See what Chapman and Beltran can get you on the trade market, instead of the draft pick down the road.

The Yankees won’t do that unless things fall apart in the next month. Barring that, the best a fan can hope for is last year’s approach- do no harm. The 2016 Yankees could be a lot of things, champions seems the most unlikely. Make sure you don’t mortgage the future to chase an impossible dream.

 

Uh-Oh-UPDATED

Reports are that Andrew Miller got hit by a comebacker on his right wrist and left today’s game in pain.  I will update this post as details become available.

UPDATE(12pm)- Strangely my update from last night seems to have failed. Either way, Miller has a broken bone, but he plans on trying to pitch through it. He still needs to see a hand specialist to confirm he can do that.

The news is not so good on Bryan Mitchell.  He has a Grade 3 turf toe which basically means he will be out about three months. Mitchell had pitched really well this spring and was in line to make a lot of contributions out of the bullpen.

The Price of Pitching

The Yankees are said to be looking for a young starter with 0-3 years of time in the big leagues. Good luck to them, that is probably the most valuable commodity in the game.

While the recent contract signings of Greinke and Price grab the headlines. Look at some of the lesser deals that have been signed. Mike Pelfrey just got a two-year/$16-million deal from the Tigers. This is a guy coming off of a 6-11 season with an ERA of 4.26. Advanced metrics give him an ERA of 4, but that isn’t much better.

Or consider Darren O’Day, a nice middle reliever. He’s 32, and has 14 saves in his career, yet he is getting a four-year deal worth just under $8-million a year.

Or Ryan Madson, who missed three years, but pitched well in KC this year and just got three years at $7-million each from the A’s. The A’s!

Pitching prices are out of control and that is a reflection of the money flooding the game.

So while the Yankees should absolutely chase young, cost-controllable pitching, they also need to think about their own backyard and some of the pitchers they already control. How about giving them extensions before they hit arbitration/free agency? Three guys come to mind, Betances, Eovladi, and Pineda.

Betances is not even arbitration eligible yet, but after next season he will be and the way he is pitching he will cost a lot very quickly. Could the Yankees buy some cost certainty with him now? Considering he is going to make “only” $507,000 next year, I bet they could, why not try?

Eovaldi and Pineda are tougher cases because they are two years away from free agency and both had injuries in 2015. But, could the Yankees buy out a couple of years of free agency from them right now? It’s certainly worth a shot.

I will be absolutely ok with the Yankees forgoing the free agent market this offseason and keeping their best prospects. But, they need to plan for future costs as well. Locking some of these guys up now can help them do that.

MLB Has A Chance To Lead

Roger Goodell has done a terrible job handling domestic violence incidents in his sport. He originally gave Ray Rice a two-game suspension for knocking his fiancee out cold in an elevator and only amended it when video surfaced of the actual punch. Meanwhile, he gave Tom Brady a four-game suspension for supposedly knocking around some footballs. Ugh. This weekend we got to see the horrific pictures of the victim of Greg Hardy’s assault in July 2014. He was actually convicted by a judge in a bench decision and eventually suspended by the NFL (amazing). But he returned to the field early this year, made misogynistic jokes about Tom Brady’s wife, and was called a “leader” by his team owner. Double ugh.

It looks like Rob Manfred is going to get a chance to show that MLB can handle things better than the NFL. News came this morning that Jose Reyes was arrested on Halloween for “abuse of a family or household member” after attacking his wife. Under the new rules governing this, Manfred can basically set the tone for this type of punishment- no minimums or maximums are set and punishment does not depend on a conviction in court. I hope he sets a very harsh penalty because the sad truth is that as long as an athlete can still perform at a good level someone will excuse his past behaviors and give him a chance.

Look at Ray Rice.  He apologized, completed a pre-trial intervention program, actively speaks out against domestic violence, and does good things like this,  yet he is still trying to get even a tryout from a NFL team. That’s probably because his yards-per-carry dropped from 4.4 to 3.1 in his last season of play. Hardy can still rush the passer effectively, so he gets a second chance.

Domestic violence is a problem that isn’t confined to sports, but sports has an outsized ability to influence our culture in positive and negative ways. Let’s hope that MLB uses that power for good.

We Can’t Beat Toronto- So What!

Give the Blue Jays all the credit in the world, they owned the Yankees this season. They went 13-6 against them, and they currently own a 3-1/2 game lead over them with 11 to play. Barring a miracle, the Yankees are not winning the AL East. That’s ok. Last year demonstrated that the current playoff format still allows a wild card team to advance to the World Series.  What the Yankees have to do now is think about how to get to the playoffs and how to win once they get there.

Step one is clinching the wild card. The magic number for that is 7. Any combination of Yankee wins and Minnesota losses that add up to 7 gets them into the wild card game. Since Houston has played two more games than the Yankees, that combination of wins and losses by New York and Houston, will clinch home field advantage in the wild card game.

Step two is putting Tanaka in line to pitch the wild card game. That won’t be hard, it is just a matter of determining how much rest they want him to have before that start, and how many starts they want him to make prior to it. Assuming regular rest, never a good bet with Tanaka, he would need to start Saturday to get on track to make two starts before the wild card game.

Step three is figuring out who is going to start game one of the ALDS since Tanaka won’t be on full rest until game 3.   I think it has to be Pineda. He is currently not on track for that as he is scheduled to pitch the last game of the season. But assuming that is meaningless, he could easily be skipped. That’s a decision the Yankees can hold off on for now.

11 games to go.

 

Remember Montero

As Greg Bird rounded the bases for a second time yesterday I wondered to myself how long would it be before he was anointed the next great Yankee. It didn’t take long. Don’t get me wrong, I loved what Bird did yesterday and I love the idea of Greg Bird becoming a long-time Yankee, but things have gone from silly to crazy in one day.

First off, let’s start with the idea that Bird has somehow “Wally Pipped” Mark Teixeira. In 1925, Wally Pipp hit .230 with a total of 12 extra base hits, Lou Gehrig was an easy choice to replace him. In 2015, Teixeira is hitting .257 with 31 home runs. He is in the Top-10 in a number of offensive categories and plays gold-glove caliber defense. That is not someone you take out of the lineup when healthy, no matter how good a rookie looks.

Second, let’s remember that this was one game and Bird now has a total of 39 games above AA ball in his career. Yes, he could hit like this for the rest of his life. More likely, he will struggle as pitchers adjust to him and perhaps even need some more minor league seasoning. That’s not a knock, Mike Trout hit .220 in his first season in the bigs. Sometimes it takes time and Bird might need that.

And finally, let’s think of when we have seen this before. Jesus Montero ring a bell? How about Shane Spencer or Kevin Maas? Rookies have come up and blasted the ball before only to struggle and turn out to be much less than the Yankees thought they might be. Bird seems like a better bet than any of those guys, but we shouldn’t hand him a starting spot next year yet. For one thing, there isn’t one right now with Teixeira and A-Rod under contract in 2016. For another, let’s see him hit like this a bit more before making long-term decisions.

This is all a good thing for the Yankees. Teixeira’s contract expires after 2016 and Bird would be all of 24 heading into 2017. The job is his then at the latest. Between 2017 and now there will be opportunities for him to contribute, but he may also spend time in the minors. That’s ok, the exciting thing is you are starting to see the outlines of the Yankees infield of the future and it looks like a good one.

Severino Arrives

Last night was a fun night to be in the ballpark. There was a huge crowd- it looked like almost every seat was full- and they were into things. Let me get to that in one second with a rant first.

Start of rant. The Yankees, just like every other MLB team, have decided to use metal detectors at the ballparks this year. I won’t get into the reasoning behind that, but if they are going that route, they need to speed people through them. Last night was an epic fail. I arrived just before the gates opened and had to stand in a line that stretched the length of 161st-street from River Ave to Jerome Ave. What made this especially infuriating is that the Yankees had people and metal detectors completely unused. I would say there were more than 50% of the detectors sitting there, with people in front of them, closed to anyone who wanted to use them. I suspect this was a trial for this innovation which is starting Friday. and while supposedly free to enter Yankee Stadium, costs $179 per year everywhere else. So, MLB and the Yankees are now going to make money off of ballpark security. Ugh, and end of rant.

As for the game, Severino looked really good, but I was reminded of that line from Bull Durham- “Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic.” The seven K’s were good, but not having enough pitches to get into the sixth inning was bad. It’s part of the process of learning to pitch, and when Severino does that, look out!

Kudos to Steven Wright who kept the Yankees off-balance all night. You could tell how effective his knuckler was by the fact that he kept throwing it, at about 77-mph, and nobody could touch it. Wright is now 2-1 versus the Yankees in his career with a 1.50 ERA. Not bad for a pitcher with a career line of 7-5 3.97.

So a fun night at the ballpark, and a good game, that’s win-win no matter what the scoreboard says.