Friday, September 16, 2016

The Day the Season Died

There are 3 times when a baseball fan gets hurt.

The 1st time is when he realizes that he is not going to be a major league player; when he realizes, to paraphrase Sylvester Stallone, that the game doesn't love him as much as he loves it.

I learned that immediately, because, when I first fell in love with baseball, I couldn't even walk. After surgeries, I could walk, but I couldn't run. And I couldn't hit. And I couldn't field. And I couldn't throw. I was forever doomed to be a fan. Which hasn't always been a bad thing.

The 2nd time is the 1st time his team shows him that, not only can things go wrong, they can go spectacularly wrong. Every team, even an expansion team, eventually reaches that point.

For me, it was the 1980 American League Championship Series, when I discovered that the Yankees could lose in the postseason -- not only lose, but in pathetic fashion.

The 3rd time is when the team's management makes a decision so goddamned stupid, it can only mean one thing: They care more about money than winning. Don't they realize that winning will bring them money?

For me, that day came on July 27, 2016. It certainly wasn't ever going to come when George Steinbrenner was alive and running the New York Yankees. But his sons, Hal and Hank, and their lackeys, Randy Levine, Lonn Trost, and Brian Cashman?

They hurt me in the one way in which no post-1973 Yankee Fan ever expected to get hurt: They chose an immediate saving of money over a chance at postseason glory.

The Yankees don't do that.

Well, they have now.

*

The opening game of the key Yankees-Red Sox series at Fenway Park was 5-1 Yankees, going to the bottom of the 8th. Masahiro Tanaka had pitched superbly under pressure again. He is New York's true pitching ace. Girardi let Tanaka pitch 7 innings, throwing 93 pitches, 61 of them for strikes, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and 3 walks. Impressive, especially at Fenway.

He did not let Tanaka start the 8th, saying he was "tried." This would be his usual monumental stupidity when it comes to pitching, except, through his translator, Tanaka backed him up on this.

So Girardi had to juggled the bullpen, and that is never a good thing. He had already used Dellin Betances too much this week, and shouldn't have had to use him last night.

He brought Warren in, and he gave up yet another home run to the big fat lying cheating bastard, David Ortiz. It was the 537th of his career, giving him 1 more than Mickey Mantle.

That is a disgrace. If he had continued to hit home runs at the same pace he had before he started using steroids, he'd have about half as many -- around 270.

So it was 5-2 going to the bottom of the 9th. Girardi sent Tommy Layne out. Layne struck Aaron Hill out. A manager with a brain would have left him in, but Girardi doesn't have a brain, he has a binder. He immediately took Layne out, and brought in Blake Parker. Parker hit Chris Young with a pitch.

Now, Girardi panicked, and brought Betances in. Betances walked Dustin Pedroia, to bring the tying run to the plate. He got Xander Bogaerts to ground back to him, and, unlike the night before, didn't throw the game away. He threw home to get Young out with the force play.

That brought Ortiz to the plate. We were all thinking it would be just like the post-2003 Yankees to let Ortiz hit a walkoff home run here. It would almost have been worth walking Ortiz with the bases loaded and only 1 out, just to prevent the home run and preserve a 2-run lead. Instead, Betances pitched to him, and he singled to center, making it 5-3.

Clearly, Betances was running on fumes. But Girardi was going to either reach safe harbor or go down with this particular ship. Betances gave up a single to Mookie Betts, to make it 5-4. And then he put everything he had left into a 99-MPH fastball to Hanley Ramirez, who hit a 441-foot walkoff home run. Final score: Red Sox 7, Yankees 5.

*

There are 16 games left in the regular season, but what's the point? We won't win the Division, and now, winning the Wild Card has become a considerable chore.

We had a very good chance at the postseason, and Cashman traded it away for nothing.

As a result, I will not be doing postgame recaps for the last 16 games. There's no point.

A long, long time ago
I can still remember
how the Yankees used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
I could watch a victory dance
and maybe I'd be happy for a while.
But in July, that idiot Cashman
threw all our chances in the trash, man.
Bad news on the TV.
The trades, they were so sleazy.
I remember I hadn't cried
but Cashman's brain must have been fried.
He said, "We need prospects." He lied
the day... the season... died.

With apologies to Don McLean... and to no one else.

*

July 27, when Brian Cashman traded Aroldis Chapman, was not the day the Yankees' 2016 season died. That was last night. But it was the day he struck the mortal blow.

"Prospects," my Polack ass. We didn't need no fuckin' prospects! We had prospects! We had Gary Sanchez! We had Aaron Judge! We had Luis Severino! And, while he's missed this entire season due to injury, we had Greg Bird! The Triple-A team is in their league's final. So is the Double-A team. Clearly, the Yankees have lots of prospects.

We didn't need to boost the farm system. We needed to boost the major league team. We needed more guys who could hit major league pitching.

And what did Cashman do? He did the dumbest thing imaginable: He took the one thing that was keeping us in the Playoff race, the bullpen, and destroyed it. He traded Aroldis Chapman, one of the best closers in baseball, to the Chicago Cubs. Then he traded Andrew Miller, also one of the best closers in baseball, to the Cleveland Indians.

I'm not even going to get on his case for trading Carlos Beltran, the team's best hitter all season long. As with last season, when Mark Teixeira got hurt and Bird stepped in at 1st base and hit just as well, Sanchez has filled Beltran's place in the rotation.

But before those 2 trades, here was the pitching setup: The starter would go 6 innings, Dellin Betances would pitch the 7th, Miller the 8th, and Chapman the 9th.

Now? The starter goes 6, Betances pitches the 9th, and the 7th and 8th are handed to... a bunch of guys who can't fucking pitch at the major league level. And Betances, as we have seen, is no closer.

Here is a reminder of what the Yankees traded Chapman for:

* Warren, a 29-year-old pitcher from Birmingham, Alabama, who had already failed as a Yankee relief pitcher from 2013 to 2015: In his return, he has pitched in 22 games, pitching 21 2/3rds innings, going 3-1, with a 2.91 ERA (too high for a reliever, although the best of his career). Did I mention he was 29? This is probably as good as he's ever going to get, and it simply isn't good enough.

* Gleyber Torres, a 19-year-old shortstop from Venezuela: Nothing. He's spent the season at A-ball-plus, with the Cubs/ Myrtle Beach and the Yankees' Tampa. He's batted .270. His on-base percentage is .354. He's hit 11 home runs. He has 66 RBIs. Does this sound like a season good enough to get him promoted to Double-A next year? Yes. Does it give the slightest indication that he will be on the Yankee roster before September 1, 2018 -- or that he'll be ready for that? No. Does it give the slightest indication that he'll ever be part of the next Yankee Dynasty? Does it fuck.

And yet, this is the guy that the "We needed prospects" crowd fixates on. They don't know what the hell they're talking about: There is nothing in Torres' record thus far that suggests that he's going to be anything special.

And what kind of a name is "Gleyber," anyway? I've never heard of anyone, from any country, named "Gleyber" before. Is it a nickname? Is it short for something? It sounds like he's the 3rd Pyle brother from The Andy Griffith Show: Gomer, Goober and Gleyber! (I hope he's smarter than Gomer and Goober.)

One more thing: He's a shortstop. We already have Didi Gregorius, who's only 26 and having a fantastic season. He should be our shortstop for the next 10 years. Are we simply going to move Didi? Or Gleyber? If not, then why is anybody considering this kid such a big part of our future?

* Rashad Crawford, a nearly 23-year-old outfielder from Georgia: Nothing. He has spent the season in A-ball-plus. So that's 2017 in Double-A, maybe, and 2018 in Triple-A. We see him in September 2018, maybe.

* And Billy McKinney, a 22-year-old outfielder from Dallas: Nothing. He spent the season at Double-A, between the Cubs' Tennessee farm team and the Yankees' Trenton, and batted .246 with a .310 on-base percentage, 4 home runs and 44 RBIs in 491 plate appearances. This guy is a "prospect"? He's only slightly better at Double-A baseball than Michael Jordan was.

And here is a reminder of what they traded Miller for, and what they've done for the Yankees:

* Ben Heller, a 25-year-old pitcher from Milwaukee: 7 games, 4 innings, 1-0, 6.75 ERA.

* Clint Frazier, a 22-year-old outfielder from Georgia: Nothing. If Torres is what the "We needed to rebuild the farm system" putzes believe was the key to the Chapman trade, this kid is what they believe is the key to the Miller trade. He spent the 1st half of this season at Double-A, the 2nd half at Triple-A, and the Yankees have not seen fit to call him up this September, indicating that they have no confidence that he's any better than what they have now.

* J.P. Feyereisen, a 23-year-old pitcher from Wisconsin: Nothing. He was 14-6 at Double-A this year (Akron & Trenton combined). He'll be at Triple-A Scranton next year, and maybe he'll be called up on September 1, 2017. But the Yankees have not seen fit to call him up this September, no matter how much the pitching has struggled.

* Justus Sheffield, a 20-year-old pitcher from Tennessee: Nothing. This season, he played 24 games in A-ball-plus, and 1 game in Double-A. If he shows signs of progress, he'll spend 2017 in Double-A, and 2018 in Triple-A. So the soonest we are likely to see him is September 1, 2018 -- a little under 2 years from now.

Chapman has pitched in 22 games for the Cubs thus far, 20 2/3rd innings, and is 0-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 14 saves.

Miller has pitched in 18 games for the Indians thus far, 19 2/3rds innings, and is 1-0 with a 2.29 ERA and 3 saves.

So the Yankees have traded away 1-1, 1.79 over 62 innings, and 17 saves, for... 4-1, 3.86 over 25 2/3rds innings, and no saves.

Does that look like a good bunch of baseball business to you? Because it sure as hell doesn't look like a good bunch of baseball business to me!

In order for the Chapman and Miller trades to work out, here's what has to happen: We have to get Chapman back in the off-season, because, now, we desperately need the one thing we didn't need before, a closer; Torres (shortstop) has to become the next Derek Jeter, or, to accomodate Gregorius (who actually has played in the major leagues, and very well), has to be moved to 3rd base and become the new Alex Rodriguez (without steroids); Crawford, McKinney and Frazier (outfielders) have to become the next Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill and Hideki Matsui; and Heller, Feyereisen and Sheffield (pitchers) have to become the next David Cone, Andy Pettitte and David Wells; with the results being that we have to win multiple World Championships.

Because, essentially, Cashman threw away a chance at the Playoffs in 2016, and another in 2017, in the hopes that these guys will begin to pay off in 2018. If you're going to rebuild, you damn well better have something built.

Because if, on October 4, 2020, the end of 4 regular seasons from now, we haven't at least won our 41st Pennant and our 28th World Championship, then what the hell did we trade Chapman and Miller for?

Here's what is most likely to happen: None of those guys will pan out, and, instead of signing Chapman back in the off-season, he gets signed by another rich club. Maybe the Red Sox, which would really put us up the creek in the AL East. Maybe Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Dodgers. Maybe the Cubs keep him. Or maybe -- hey, they apparently have some money to throw around now -- the Mets sign him.

And the Yankees end up with an entire carton of eggs on their faces.

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