Monday, April 19, 2021

Down at the Five and Ten

In 1879, Frank W. Woolworth opened his first store, Utica, New York. He called it "The Great Five Cent Store," because everything could be sold for 5 cents. It went bust, because there weren't enough things that could be sold for that much.

Later in the year, he moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and opened a new store, a "Five and Ten Cent Store." Now, there were so many things that could be sold for either amount that he quickly ran out of stock. He had to open new stores, and became one of the first franchisers in American business.

Woolworth's become a huge chain, although it went out of business in 1997, by which point, selling things for no more than 10 cents was no longer possible. Similar chains propped up, rising and falling. One of these was J.J. Newberry's, which even had a store in Cooperstown, New York, next-door to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

These stores became known as "five and ten," or "five and dime" stores. (Never "nickel and dime," which suggests not just cheapness, but being no good.) People used to say, "Meet me down at the five and ten."

It was my grandmother, as Woolworth went under at the end of the 20th Century, who figured out that "dollar stores," usually smaller than five and tens, had replaced them and forced them out of business.

Why do I bring this up? Because the Yankees' record is now five and ten.


You would think that, with Gerrit Cole starting the finale of the Yankees' weekend series with the Tampa Bay Rays, they would win. He pitched well enough to win. With the Yankee bullpen worn out due to 2 bad games, Brian Cashman and his flunky Aaron Boone let Cole throw 109 pitches. He got into the 7th inning, allowing 3 runs, 2 of them earned, on 5 hits, no walks, and 10 strikeouts. That gave him 39 strikeouts in his 1st 4 starts of the season, a Yankee record. (As if anybody cares about that.)

But all those "pitching wins championships" and "defense wins championships" people forget: You can't win unless you score. Early on, it looked like they might: Giancarlo Stanton led off the 2nd inning with a home run. That had to be a good sign, right?

As it turned out, wrong: The Yankees stranded a runner on 1st with 2 out in the 2nd; stranded runners on 1st & 2nd with 2 out in the 5th, after an RBI single by DJ LeMahieu; stranded a runner on 1st with 1 out in the 6th; stranded a runner with 2 out in the 7th; and went down 1-2-3 in the 1st, the 3rd, the 4th, the 8th and the 9th.

Rays 4, Yankees 2. WP: Ryan Yarbrough (1-2). SV: Jeffrey Springs (1). LP: Cole (2-1).


So the Yankees' record is now 5-10. That is the worst record in the American League. Over a full 162 games, that would be 54-108, which would exceed by 5 the most losses the team has ever had in a season (1908). They are 4 1/2 games behind the hated Boston Red Sox. Only the Colorado Rockies, at 4-12, have a worse record in the entirety of Major League Baseball.

Cashman's plan to build a team capable of outscoring any team on any day is failing. The Yankees have scored 55 runs, tied with the Detroit Tigers for dead last in the AL. 

Check out these OPS+'s, keeping in mind that 100 is exactly average: Kyle Higashioka 267 (in 8 games), Aaron Judge 140, DJ LeMahieu 132, Gary Sanchez 128, Brett Gardner 105, Tyler Wade 97, Gio Urshela 92, Giancarlo Stanton 76 (and that includes yesterday's homer), Gleyber Torres 66, Clint Frazier 41, Aaron Hicks 41, Jay Bruce 38, Rougned Odor 29, Mike Tauchman -15.

Bruce retired after the game. This was his 14th season, and his 1 home run as a Yankee gave him 319 for his career, a decent total. He made 3 All-Star Games, 2 with the Cincinnati Reds and 1 with the Mets.

I was in favor of the acquisition. I figured, if Bruce has anything left, it will help; and, if he doesn't, we're no worse off than we were.

Unfortunately, he turned into another one of Cashman's overage destroyers. That's a term that was used for ships from the World War I era that President Franklin D. Roosevelt let the British have in World War II, at a point before Pearl Harbor when America couldn't yet get in, and Britain needed all the help it could get.

At least Bruce was a lefthanded hitter, with a swing designed for Yankee Stadium. Most of Cashman's power hitters have been righthanded, with swings designed for Fenway Park in Boston, Minute Maid Park in Houston, any stadium with a nice, close left field wall, preferably with a CITGO sign above it.

For Cashman, it's either overage destroyers or prospects. This led to me posting a joke on Facebook and Twitter yesterday: Did you hear about Brian Cashman's girlfriend? He traded her to a college for 4 sorority sisters, and a professor who wrote a great Ph.D. dissertation in 2012, but she hasn't published anything since.

The Yankees have today off. Tomorrow night, they begin a brief 2-game home series with the Atlanta Braves.

Let's hope they stop playing like five-and-ten products. Stop nickel-and-diming us. As Yankee Legend Yogi Berra was quoted as saying (but may not have actually said), "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."

(Asked to explain this, he correctly said, "Well, it ain't!")

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