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.
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.