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.
Despite the fear of a President Pence being somewhat overblown, those hoping for a combination of Mueller indictments and a big Democratic win in 2018 to combine to save us must consider what impeachment would mean for the country. One of the unique characteristics of the Russiagate scandal, which is the most likely series of events that could potentially lead to impeachment, is that none of the news we are hearing now is actually news. While some details are new and Robert Mueller III is doing a great job of connecting the dots, the evidence of Russian meddling in our election with the knowledge of the Trump campaign was present well before the election. In fact, the GOP leadership was briefed about this in fallof 2016.
If the major news media, other than Fox calls the election in 2020 for the Democratic ticket, which of the following Tweets from Donald Trump is more likely “I congratulate the Democratic candidate on her/his victory and look forward to working with them on the transition,” or “FAKE NEWS CNN is saying I lost. Other FAKE NEWS media will do the same soon. But Fox hasn’t called the race yet. I WON despite illegal votes cast.” If you think the first Tweet is more likely you have either been living under a rock for the last two years or are allowing blind optimism to outweigh all the evidence that surrounds us. Moreover, if Trump sends out the second Tweet roughly 35% of the American people will believe his notion that he is the victim of election fraud.
Six one time Yankees are on the Hall of Fame ballot this year. The six Yankees are: Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon, Andruw Jones, Hideki Matsui, Mike Mussina and Gary Sheffield. A seventh, Fred McGriff, was traded to the Blue Jays for a journeyman pitcher named Dale Murray while still in the minors. That remains one of the worst trades in Yankee history. The six Yankees include one very good player, Mastui, who despite his heroics in the 2009 World Series, is not a serious candidate and will likely get little support. Another candidate, Roger Clemens, has unequivocal Hall of Fame credentials as the best pitcher of his generation, but has been associated with PED use. The debate around Clemens is essentially a steroids debate about which pretty much everybody has already made up their mind. My position is that If I had a vote, I would vote for Clemens and Barry Bonds, but the remaining five candidates on the ballot are all more interesting from a purely baseball perspective.
The Cooperstown case for John is based on having had a long and very good, if never quite great, career and for the larger impact he had on baseball. For Tiant, his very impressive peak, relative longevity, including 229 wins and just short of 3,500 innings pitched, are a big part of his case, but there is more to Tiant than that. He was a reliable big game pitcher and one of the first great Cuban stars to make it to the big leagues. Starting pitchers are not well represented in Cooperstown. Tiant and John are among the best of their era who are not in yet, so electing them would begin to rectify that and perhaps open the door to even more qualified pitchers, like longtime Yankee Mike Mussina, from later eras. And, for what its worth, both were better pitchers than Jack Morris who may just get in on some kind of strange sympathy vote this year.
If Al Franken is not held firmly accountable for his behavior, it will make it almost impossible for progressives to hold anybody accountable for sexual harassment in the near future. It will also create further barriers for women seeking to tell their stories of sexual harassment, provide cover for somebody because of his politics, make progressives vulnerable to the charge of being hypocrites, and provide rhetorical ammunition for all those on the right who would love to claim that much worse accusations against Moore, Trump and potentially others are simply political witch hunts. This may mean than an otherwise distinguished progressive who has made himself one of the most outspoken and compelling voices of the resistance will have to leave the Senate. That would be very unfortunate, but the alternative is worse.
The Democratic victory lastTuesday was significant not because of its size-there were only a few key races in a handful of states-but because of its scope. Democrats and progressive causes won in the Northeast, where voters in Maine approved medicaid expansion over the wishes of the Trumpist governor and in New Jersey where Democrat Phil Murphy won the race for governor by 12 points. They won in the South where Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie by nine points in the race for governor of Virginia. The Democrats also won in the west where a special election flipped the Washington State Senate Democratic, giving the Democrats solid control of the three west coast states.
Yankee fans probably need to accept not only that Don Mattingly is not getting into the Hall of Fame and that despite his four great years in pinstripes, he did not quite earn that honor. However, if Steve Garvey gets in and Mattingly does not, Yankee fans would be very justified in feeling their man was not treated fairly by the voters.
There were, however, an awful lot of other people who were either involved in this untoward relationship between a presidential campaign and a less than friendly foreign power or who, at the very least, were aware of it and chose to say, and do, nothing. This probably includes people who were deeply involved with the campaign like Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions who now hold positions at the highest level of government, as well as many others who are less well known. In addition, people were around the campaign and had access to this knowledge in summer of 2016, like most of the congressional leadership, numerous Republican campaign and policy people and many others. Not all of these people were silent about their knowledge of these activities, but the overwhelming majority were. Many Democrats sought to draw attention to it, but in the heat of the campaign, or its immediate aftermath, only Republicans could have raised a sufficient hue and cry about it. Almost to a person they chose not to. That is a damning indictment of a political party.
Sanchez may hit well enough to provide some real offensive value at DH, but good hitting DHs are much less valuable than equally good hitting catchers. If Sanchez became the full time DH due to his defensive shortcomings behind the plate, this would also limit the Yankees ability to rest other players by using them at DH and limit their overall roster flexibility. This means that for the Yankees one of the major things they need to do before the 2018 season starts is to work with Sanchez to fix this problem in his game so that he can remain their primary catcher. Sanchez needs to work at this throughout the postseason because for him the stakes are very high. A Gary Sanchez who fields his position to well enough be a full time catcher will be on more winning teams, an occasional MVP candidate and be much more highly compensated than Gary Sanchez the DH who will have have a shorter career as a good, but not great, DH.
As the off-season begins the first and perhaps most important decision the Yankees will have to make is who to hire to replace Joe Girardi as manager. So far several names have been bandied about including recently fired managers like Dusty Baker and John Farrell, coaches already with the team like Tony Pena and Rob Thompson, organization men like Al Pedrique and former big league managers like Willie Randolph.
If the Republican Party, in a collective act of cowardice on an historic scale, comes to the support of the not yet embattled President, rather than to our already imperiled democracy, the nature of our politics will continue to change. By doing this the Republican Party will make themselves even more complicit in both the Russia scandal and the erosion of American democracy. The first step in this complicity will be even greater efforts to delegitimize or fire Robert Mueller, something for which that the Wall Street Journal, among others have already begun to advocate. The next steps for this Republican Party will be further efforts either to stop the investigation and to keep mobilizing those Americans who believe that this is all fake news cooked up by Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party and Vladimir Putin.
Many Yankee fans may not be aware or fully understand the significance of Judge being 25 in his rookie season. One way to think about Judge’s age is that he is only eight months younger than Mike Trout and is six months older than Bryce Harper, two of the premier sluggers in the game today. Similarly, Judge’s 8.1 WAR in 2017 ranked him 20th all-time among 25 year olds and tied for 73rd in seasons for players 25 and younger. Those rankings are impressive, but indicate that while he had a good 2017, he did not have a historically good one.
Honest discussions about our military, as distinct from our foreign policy, are difficult because they are so emotionally laden, but when those conversations do not occur, or are deliberately repressed by the government as Ms. Sanders has sought to do, our country is weakened. Democracy requires not just civilian control of the military, something already under stress during the Trump presidency, but a civilian culture that is never intimidated or silenced by military brass. Accordingly, frank discussions about who serves in our military and why, or what the purpose of all of these wars, conflicts and military bases make our country, and our democracy, stronger.