In 1968, Mantle was one of the best hitters in the league who, while not the dominant player he once was, still was a valuable patience and power guy who was very valuable to the Yankees. None of this was evident at the time because front offices and management, although aware that it the game was dominated by pitching, did not fully understand its impact. Similarly, Mantle’ primary skill during his last two years was his ability to draw walks, something that was almost entirely unappreciated, even unrecognized, at the time.
Those who seek to craft policies to address the problem of easy and widespread access to extremely powerful firearms are confidently and dismissively told by legislators who receive generous support from the NRA that those efforts can never lead anywhere due the Second Amendment. This misinterpretation of the Second Amendment is wielded like some kind of magical trump card that can, and frequently does, end any conversation or debate about guns. In democracies, rational policy solutions must be discussed and debated not shouted down by a small minority of the American people hiding behind an extreme interpretation of a sentence written more than 200 years ago. Thus, for several decades now the Second Amendment has been wielded not as a way to guarantee individual freedom, but to make mass shootings easier and ultimately stifle democracy.
It is also the case that the season could end differently and bring disappointment to Yankee fans. In addition to the questions marks at second, third and the back of the starting rotation, there are many other possible ways 2018 could go wrong for the Yankees. This is true of every team and is pretty much part of the game, but it is useful to think of what those stumbling blocks might be. Luis Severino or Aaron Judge might regress from their breakthrough years in 2017. Gary Sanchez might prove unable to field hold well enough to hold down the catching job full time. Greg Bird and Giancarlo Stanton, who both have struggled to stay healthy throughout their career could lose significant time to injuries. Additionally, other key contributors like Didi Gregorius or Masahiro Tanaka could suffer serious injuries.
Nobody is chanting “lock him up” about the White House Chief of Staff, but the case that Kelly mishandled national security information almost makes itself. In a White House that can be charitably described as dysfunctional, one of the few seemingly competent people, Rob Porter, lacked the security clearance needed for his job, which involved a lot of access to important documents that the President needed to see. Kelly, perhaps just in the name of expedience, decided that ignoring Porter’s lack of security clearance was okay. This would be a problem for any administration but is particularly galling given that Kelly serves a President who made accusations of mishandling of classified data by his opponent one of the pillars of his campaign.
In Trump’s America, this is the no longer out of the ordinary, but it reveals that the erosion of American political institutions and the American people’s confidence in those institutions is not a peripheral effect of the Trump presidency, but is indeed the goal of the Trump presidency. The Nunes memo was an effort to discredit the FBI, Robert Mueller and indeed the rule of law in America. This may be essential for the survival of the Trump administration, but the impact on American democracy, and the American state, will be profound.
Jacoby Ellsbury is not a terrible ballplayer, but he is an extremely overpaid one. He is useful as a fourth or fifth outfielder who is no longer the offensive threat he once was, but who can still field reasonably well, has some speed left and is a left-handed bat on a team that tilts heavily to the right side. He would be a good player to sign in spring training to a one or two year deal for two or three, or even five, million dollars per year. Unfortunately, the Yankees owe him more than $21 million per year from 2018-2020.
A year into the Trump administration and the marches are still massive and widespread, if underreported, but marches do not translate directly into victories at the voting booth. This is not an issue of those who attend marches not voting. There is no reason to believe that is the case. However, although there were marches all over the country this year and last, the biggest demonstrations occurred in safely blue districts. The march in Manhattan was inspiring, but we New Yorkers have little ability to affect the 2018 election directly through our vote, as many New Yorkers, like San Franciscans or Angelenos are represented from the City Council to the US Senate by Democrats who rarely face competition.
Trump’s descents to into the most blatant forms of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment are now frequent enough that the responses are predictable. His apologists assert that he was misquoted or that he is simply saying what many Americans believe. The former approach is essentially dishonest, but the latter explanation is significant. There is a fair amount of truth to the belief that many Americans disparage countries whose populations are largely non-white, but that does not make Trump’s remarks less offensive. Instead it is evidence that racism is not some rare condition that Trump happens to have, but rather a widespread set of opinions that remains a cancer on American politics and society.
Since the trade that brought Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, most of the speculation around the team has focused on second base, third base and the starting pitching. The rest of the lineup seems pretty set and very potent. Nonetheless, there are some mid-level questions that remain. As the season goes on, particularly if a player or two gets hurt and stops hitting.
At 41, Campy seemed like a player from another era. He had started his career with the A’s when they were still in Kansas City and called the Athletics. He had gone on to a long career and was the solid fielding shortstop and frequent leadoff hitter on the A’s from 1971-5 when the team won five straight divisions and three World Series. Campaneris was not quite as well known as Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson or Vida Blue, but he was just behind them. He signed with the Rangers as a free agent following the 1976 season, but while continuing to play well faded from the baseball spotlight pretty quickly.
The question Americans should be asking ourselves in not whether or not Donald Trump has the mental facilities and stability to be President-he doesn’t, but why so many in the Republican Party ignored that reality for the last two years. In fairness to those Republicans who had significant concerns about Donald Trump, it was not clear what they could have done to stop him from getting the nomination, but it is also clear that once he was the likely nominee, no meaningful effort to derail his nomination was made by any in the GOP leadership. Moreover, those same Republicans elevated hatred for Hillary Clinton to a sacrament, in pursuit of which anything, including supporting a deeply unstable man like Donald Trump, was acceptable.
One of the stranger stories of this Yankee offseason is been how little respect Jordan Montgomery seems to have received. Last year, Montgomery finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting despite having more WAR than any American League rookie other than Aaron Judge. While not an ace, Montgomery was a more than solid back of the rotation starter going 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA as a 24 year old rookie. Montgomery was in the rotation for essentially the whole season, making 29 starts and no relief appearances while striking out almost three times as many batters as he walked. These are not Cy Young numbers, but pitchers like that have real value, especially when they are 24 year old lefties. Despite this performance during the regular season, Montgomery did not pitch at all in the postseason, while the Yankees have spent much of the offseason trying to bolster their pitching rotation and therefore limit Montgomery’s 2018 role.
Election outcomes may be the next target of Trump’s relentless effort to define anything he doesn’t like as fake news. This could take the form of Republican candidates, particularly those with strong support from the President, refusing to accept defeat in close races. This may sound extreme and unlikely-and it would have even three years ago, but this is a different America. Donald Trump himself made it clear during the 2016 election, that he would not simply accept the election outcome if he were to lose.
Sometimes in baseball, and in life, the best moves are the ones you don’t make. The Yankees would be well served to keep this in mind in the coming weeks. As it stands now, the Yankees have a very good team, but the team also has several major question marks. They will go into the season with real strengths at several positions, like catcher, shortstop, designated hitter, the bullpen and the starting outfield. However, they will be starting unproven players at first, second and third base and have a starting rotation that has several question marks.
The reason for this is that in America, hawkish pro-Israel positions are now part of the Evangelical Christian ideology. Evangelical Christians outnumber Jews by a ratio of about 13 to 1. and they vote overwhelmingly Republican. Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not know or care about this, so when they see the US take a hawkish pro-Israel position and try to bully the rest of the rest of the world into supporting it, like we did last week at the UN, many blame the Jews. The result is that when Donald Trump and Nikki Haley, who is thinking about higher office as well, do something to assuage their Evangelical Christian base, the world's rancor will be turned on the Jews because of it.
Through a relatively steady drumbeat of accusations of partisanship, behind the scenes shenanigans and consistently lying to the American people, the Trump administration, mostly with support from the Republicans in Congress, has largely defanged the Mueller investigation. Mueller may or may not be fired, but it probably does not matter. If he is fired it will not be the major paradigm shifting event that many hope. Instead, it will be a two day story. If Trump, or a subordinate at the Department of Justice, fires Mueller on December 22nd, America will be talking about something else by New Years Day at the latest and perhaps by Boxing Day. If Mueller remains in his position, any further indictments, findings or statements will be mostly grist for the partisan mill that is Washington.
The Clint Frazier dilemma is a reflection of the Yankees enviable situation of having a very strong big league team and an equally strong minor league system. If they do nothing, those prospects will gradually lose value, but if they trade them for big league talent, the Yankees might not get their true value in return. By going younger, an unconventional move for an already young team, the Yankees can extend their window for being competitive beyond the next few years. Trading Frazier would be the beginning, but a similar dilemma might arise regarding Miguel Andujar or even some of the pitching prospects in the next year or two.
The shift among many on the right from disagreeing with the opinions or reporting slant of The New York Times, The Washington Post or CNN, to seeing any negative story in those outlets as simply not true is the cause of this and deeply threatens not just our democracy, but the future of a unified and cohesive US as well. This has not happened by accident, but as the result of concerted effort by the Trump team done with the support and encouragement of the rest of the Republican Party. We see this every day when Sarah Huckabee Sanders questions the veracity and the motives of an article or report she doesn’t like or when Donald Trump sends out a Tweet with the words “Fake News,” frequently in all capitals. As long as this continues, the Mueller investigation, almost regardless of what it turns up, will move very few voters or members of Congress and change very few minds.
Ron Guidry was a great pitcher, but the arguments against putting him in the Hall of Fame are clear. He had a short career and was only an impact player from 1977-1985. Other than 1978, he was never the best pitcher in the American League. He has much fewer wins that most Hall of Fame starting pitchers. On balance, I would not place Guidry on the top of my list of players who have been overlooked by Cooperstown, but the problem with selecting somebody who is so clearly under qualified as Jack Morris is that it makes it easy to make arguments for people like Guidry, and yes Tommy John, Rich Reuschel and Luis Tiant as well. Morris’s election was more of a statement by the Hall of Fame than a true recognition of greatness, but it was a very strange statement.
I have a very fond memory of my late brother yelling the news of Boone’s home run to me over the phone. I had called my brother in San Francisco from Batumi, Georgia to get the score because I had no internet access in my shoddy post-Soviet hotel that morning. I am grateful for Boone’s pennant winning blast in 2003 and would love to see him have a few more great Yankee moments. However, less than a week after Boone was appointed manager, it is beginning to feel a bit like a set up.