June 12, 2021

"I'm Writing Like Crazy . . . When The Time Comes, You'll See The Book Of All Books"

From the Desk of Allan J. Wood:

I turned down two book deals, from the most unlikely of publishers, in that I do not want to do such a deal right now. I'm writing like crazy anyway, however, and when the time comes, you'll see the book of all books. Actually, I've been working on a much more important project right now!

So that's what's been going on with me and I hope — 


Errr . . . this is highly strange and more than a little uncomfortable.


Jacob deGrom: 0.56 ERA, More RBI (5) Than Earned Runs Allowed (4), .400 Batting Average

Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom has a 0.56 ERA, the lowest in major league history through 10 starts, since earned runs became an official statistic in 1913.

The chart above is after 10 "appearances". After his 10th start in 1914, Dutch Leonard's ERA was 0.85 (he had made three relief appearances along the way). The highest Leonard's ERA got that year was 1.01 after a one-inning start (three earned runs) on July 25. deGrom's ERA has not yet risen above 0.80.

I understand including Gooden because of the Mets connection, but Pedro Martinez's 2000 season could have been included. He had a 1.05 ERA through 10 starts and finished at 1.74.

Last night, deGrom allowed one hit to the Padres over six shutout innings and struck out 10, becoming the fastest pitcher to strikeout 100 batters in a season in major league history. He currently has 103 in 64 innings.

He also hit a two-run single off Blake Snell in the fifth inning, giving the Mets a 3-0 lead (they won 3-2). deGrom is the first pitcher in Mets history to allow one hit, strike out 10, and also have two RBI in a game.

In fact, deGrom now has more RBIs (5) this season than earned runs allowed (4), something no pitcher has ever done across any 10-start stretch since 1920 (when RBI became an official stat).

Last night's start was also deGrom's ninth game with 10+ strikeouts and no walks, one behind Tom Seaver, the Mets' all-time leader. (Noah Syndergaard has eight.)

Oh, and deGrom is also batting .400 (10-for-25). He's had at least one hit in eight of his 10 starts and his OPS+ is 137, which is identical to Rafael Devers's OPS+.

June 11, 2021

Missing Mookie

Start with a sprint, then jog quickly in, make a not-so-simple basket catch below his knees, spin around (at one point having both feet off the ground), and without taking any time at all to gauge exactly where the plate might be, uncork a throw that was right on the fucking money to nail the runner by a foot or two. And all of it performed as casually as he might flick the light switch off as he distractedly wanders out of a room . . . damn. I miss Mookie. The broadcast cuts to the runner in the middle of the play rather than showing the eye-popping throw from Mr. Betts (naturally, because no one in baseball ever learns a fucking thing), which allows me to post these wise words yet again:
Unfortunately . . . the stupid fucking broadcast was showing a shot of literally the absolute least dramatic, exciting, uncertain part of the play, which is a guy running in a straight fucking line to exactly the place I already knew he was going to go.

Why do this? Was there some uncertainty about which direction [the runner] would go? Whether he'd run there or skip or do a series of forward rolls or pull out a sword and yell "Charge!" and attempt to skewer the catcher with it? The only interesting thing that can happen with the runner, once he tags up, is if he somehow stumbles and falls on his face. How often does that happen? Is there any plausible reason to expect that it might, and therefore that you had better be sure to show him running, in a straight fucking line to the least surprising destination imaginable, instead of showing the only interesting thing happening on the field? . . .

Show the fucking throw! If the runner happens to stumble and fall or spontaneously combust or gradually get larger as he runs toward the plate so that by the time he gets there he is Godzilla and he simply squashes the catcher beneath one giant scaly foot, we can see that shit on the replay. There is nothing special about [a runner] running down the third-base line. . . .

Conservatively, I would estimate that baseball broadcasts make this infuriating choice roughly 900,000 percent of the time, and I always, always, always hate it.

Schadenfreude 296: (A Continuing Series)

Aroldis Chapman ended the Yankees' 2019 season when he gave up a two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth, tie-breaking, pennant-winning, two-run home run to Jose Altuve.

Aroldis Chapman ended the Yankees' 2020 season when he gave up a tie-breaking home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to Mike Brosseau, who went deep on the at-bat's 10th pitch, in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the ALDS. (Background: Chapman threw a 101-mph fastball near Brosseau's head in early September.)

Is Aroldis Chapman getting warmed up to torpedo the Yankees' 2021 season?

The Yankeed led the Twins 5-3 when Chapman began the bottom of the ninth. He fell behind his first batter, three balls and one strike. Chapman's next (and final) five pitches went: single, ball 1, home run, single, home run.

Jorge Polanco (bbcb) singled to left.

Josh Donaldson (b) homered to left-center, Polanco and Donaldson scored. 5-5.

Pinch-hitter Willians Astudillo singled to left.

Nelson Cruz homered to center, Astudillo and Cruz scored. 7-5.

MFY - 300 101 000 - 5 12  1 
MIN - 100 100 004 - 7 12  1
Loss: Chapman (0-4-4-0-0, 9).

Dan Martin, Post:

The Yankees were three outs away from sweeping the Twins out of Target Field.

And then Aroldis Chapman came in.

The closer . . . had perhaps his worst outing ever, giving up a game-tying, two-run homer to Josh Donaldson and then a game-winning homer to Nelson Cruz, as the Twins roared back in the bottom of the ninth for a 7-5 win on Thursday night.

Chapman didn't retire any of the four batters he faced and his face-plant spoiled [the] night . . .

More sloppy play from the Yankees got them in trouble with one out in the fifth, as Cruz reached on catcher's interference on Gary Sanchez and Larnach followed with a single to left that could have been caught by Andujar. . . .

The real test to see if the Yankee offense is ready to live up to expectations comes this weekend, when they head to Philadelphia for a two-game set and will see more representative competition.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:

Aroldis Chapman did not have it. The Yankees' hard-throwing closer was struggling with his velocity Thursday night and his command was not there. The Twins made him pay for it. Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz each hit two-run home runs off Chapman for a 7-5, walk-off win over the Bombers at Target Field Thursday night.

The two homers tied a career high for Chapman, so did the four runs. Chapman had allowed two home runs in an outing just twice before in his career, the last time in 2016. . . .

After spending all week talking about MLB's impending crackdown on pitchers using illegal sticky substances to get greater command and spin rates on their pitches, Chapman's velocity being down an average of 2.3 miles per hour from his average for the season raised some eyebrows.

(Stupid basketball playoffs are regularly keeping any baseball doings off the back pages, but I still expected more of a reaction in the tabloids after this loss. I guess the MFY winning the first two games  of the series mitigated a lot dooming and glooming. Ah, well, I'm posting it anyway.)

June 8, 2021

When Asked Directly If He's Cheating On The Mound, Gerrit Cole Refuses To Give An Answer

Gerrit Cole did not deny cheating when asked a direct question about using illegal substances before last night's Yankees game in Minnesota.

After Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson pointed out the suspicious timing of four minor league pitchers being suspended for using substances and a crappy start from a possibly worried Cole two days later, the Yankees ace was asked if he had ever used Spider Tack ("considered the stickiest of subjects when it comes to the illegal stuff pitchers are using") to improve his grip and spin rates.

Cole, who will pitch Wednesday night, hemmed and hawed before immediately changing the subject.

The New York Post called it "the least comfortable news conference of" Cole's tenure with the Yankees. Cole was asked about accusations that his success is due to illegally doctoring the baseball. He refused to give a direct answer.

Umm, I don't . . . [long pause] . . . I don't know . . . quite know how to answer that, to be honest. [Another pause before speaking]

Really? Cole is clueless about how to answer the question: "Do you cheat?"

Rather than proclaiming his innocence, which you would expect someone to do even if he was guilty, Cole decided to start rambling:

There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players to the last generation of players to this generation off players, and I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard, and I've stood pretty firm in terms of that, in terms of the communication between our peers and whatnot. . . . [T]his is important to a lot of people who love the game, including the players in this room. Including fans. Including teams. If MLB wants to legislate some more stuff, that's a conversation that we can have because ultimately we should all be pulling in the same direction on this. . . .

I think there is precedent to say that yeah . . . certainly in situations where people have been checked and called out before, it's over the line. There is a difference there, too much, over the line. I don't see why the landscape now has changed in that regard. I don't have all the data or the information to specifically pick apart the substances that you mention and what they may or may not have an effect on. But I do believe there are things that are probably over the line and causing more emotion and more worry and more stress about some of the greater things in the industry. But again, it's not the entire picture. . . .

I kind of thought [the comments by Josh Donaldson] was a bit of low-hanging fruit, but he's entitled to his opinion, to voice his opinion. I have other things that I need to keep my focus on. Respectfully, I can't worry about that type of stuff, but I would say that as a member of the Executive Council in the union, part of my job, part of my role here is to facilitate communication about really all things involving the game. I'm open to doing that.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is 325 words of absolutely nothing.

Cole stated his spin rates were down last week because he was "not being as good or as sharp as I wanted to be. Simple as that. . . . It doesn't make me happy [the innuendo and allegations]. I'm not thrilled about it. But as far as that, I have to just kind of leave it where it is."

Ken Davidoff, Post:

The Yankees' ace channeled The Tap Dance Kid on Tuesday at Target Field, appearing biblically uncomfortable during a Zoom news conference as he received questions about using sticky stuff to improve his spin rate and, consequently, his performance and results. He hemmed, he hawed, he paused for six seconds after being asked directly (by The Post) whether he has used Spider Tack, the paste that apparently has revolutionized the time-honored art of doctoring the baseball, while pitching. . . .

[Y]ou could mark this down as the pinstriped low point for the right-hander, as he took an absolute beating on social media for his non-answers, diversions and digressions. . . .

While he'll get mocked for this performance, not undeservedly, nothing here will come back to bite him a la Rafael Palmeiro wagging his finger to Congress as he denied using illegal performance-enhancing drugs and then failing a test just months later. . . .

Just as players had to adjust once illegal PED testing began, pitchers must adapt or die to the new regulations. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi and plenty of other persons of interest still excelled when tested. It could be that they figured out ways to beat the testing, as Alex Rodriguez did. I don't quite see how pitchers could pass a hands-on inspection as easily as some smart chemists could work around the drug testing, although I am not a devious sort by nature. . . .

And if Cole does suddenly transform into a significantly worse pitcher? Tuesday's news conference will feel like a day at the beach.

* * *

ESPN's Buster Olney reported last weekend that MLB is considering a plan in which: 

all MLB pitchers will be checked repeatedly and randomly by umpires for foreign substances, with every starting pitcher likely to be checked at least two times per start. With officials cognizant of having equipment checks slow a sport in which the pace of play is already thought to be too deliberate, pitchers might be checked as they walk off the field at the conclusion of an outing. One management source estimated that there will be eight to 10 random foreign-substance checks per game.

Donaldson has compares the use of sticky substances to steroid use because of its performance-enhancing qualities:

Hitters have never really cared about sunscreen, rosin and pine tar. We haven't cared about that because it's not a performance enhancement. What these guys are doing now are performance-enhancing, to where it is an actual superglue-type of ordeal, to where it's not about command anymore. Now, it's about who's throwing the nastiest pitches, the more unhittable pitches.

Stephanie Apstein and Alex Prewittjun (Sports Illustrated) offer an in-depth look at the brewing scandal

Over the past two or three years, pitchers' illegal application to the ball of what they call "sticky stuff"—at first a mixture of sunscreen and rosin, now various forms of glue—has become so pervasive that one recently retired hurler estimates "80 to 90%" of pitchers are using it in some capacity. The sticky stuff helps increase spin on pitches, which in turn increases their movement, making them more difficult to hit. That's contributed to an offensive crisis that has seen the league-wide batting average plummet to a historically inept .236. (Sports Illustrated spoke with more than two dozen people; most of them requested anonymity to discuss cheating within their own organizations.)

From the dugout, players and coaches shake their heads as they listen to pitchers' deliveries. "You can hear the friction," says an American League manager. The recently retired pitcher likens it to the sound of ripping off a Band-Aid. . . .

In many clubhouses across the sport, the training room has become the scene of the crime: Pitchers head in there before games to swipe tongue depressors, which they use to apply their sticky stuff to wherever they choose to hide it, then return afterward to grab rubbing alcohol to dissolve the residue. Even that is not always sufficient. One National League journeyman reliever, who says he uses Pelican Grip Dip, a pine tar/rosin blend typically used by hitters to help grip their bats, has been flagged at airport security.

"They swab my fingers—and this is after showering and everything—and they're like, 'Hey, you have explosives on your fingers,'" he says. "I'm like, 'Well, I don't, but I'm sure that I have something that's not organic on there.'"

The MLB rule book bars pitchers from applying foreign substances to baseballs, but officials have so far done little to curb the practice. (MLB declined to comment but says it is focused on the issue.)  . . .

"This should be the biggest scandal in sports," says another major league team executive.

As MLB dawdles, and batting averages dwindle, the use of substances has become all but institutionalized. . . . An AL reliever, who says he uses a mixture of sunscreen and rosin, recalls a spring-training meeting in 2019 in which the team's pitching coach told the group, "A lot of people around the league are using sticky stuff to make their fastballs have more lift. And if you're not using it, you should consider it, because you're kind of behind." . . . The NL reliever who uses Pelican says he played for a team that hired a chemist—away from another club—whose duties include developing sticky stuff. . . .

Never in the history of Major League Baseball has it been so hard to hit the ball. The league batting average would be the worst full-season number of all time. Nearly a quarter of batters have struck out, which would also be the feeblest performance ever. . . .

For more than a decade, pitchers have coated their arms in Bull Frog spray-on sunscreen, then mixed that with rosin to produce adhesive. They have applied hair gel, then run their fingers through their manes. They have brewed concoctions of pine tar and Manny Mota grip stick (essentially, pine tar in solid form), which are legal for hitters trying to grasp the bat. . . .

More recently, pitchers have begun experimenting with drumstick resin and surfboard wax. They use Tyrus Sticky Grip, Firm Grip spray, Pelican Grip Dip stick and Spider Tack, a glue intended for use in World's Strongest Man competitions and whose advertisements show someone using it to lift a cinder block with his palm. Some combine several of those to create their own, more sophisticated substances. They use Edgertronic high-speed cameras and TrackMan and Rapsodo pitch-tracking devices to see which one works best. Many of them spent their pandemic lockdown time perfecting their gunk. . . .

Experts do not entirely understand why sticky stuff works so well, but they agree that it does. . . .

[T]he biggest benefit of using sticky stuff is the way it contributes to spin. The faster a baseball spins, the more potential for movement it has. And movement is what makes a baseball so hard to hit. . . . One way to increase spin rate is to increase velocity. . . . [T]he most effective means is to produce friction, and the best way to do that is to smear gunk on the ball. . . .

For hitters, all this suddenly acquired extra movement is catastrophic. What was an elite spin rate in 2018 is now average. . . .

"I'm tired of hearing people say that players only want to hit home runs," says Rockies rightfielder Charlie Blackmon. "That's not why people are striking out. They're striking out because guys are throwing 97 mile-an-hour super sinkers, or balls that just go straight up with all this sticky stuff and the new-baseball spin rate. That's why guys are striking out, because it's really hard not to strike out." . . .

"There's some [pitchers] where, if you swing where your eyes tell you, you won't hit the ball, even if you're on time," Blackmon says. "I have to go out there and if my eyes tell me it's in one place, I have to swing to a different place. Which is hard to do. It's hard to swing and try and miss the ball. But there's some guys where you have to do it, because their ball and the spin rate or whatever is defying every pitch that you've seen come in over the course of your career. … I basically have to not trust my eyes that the pitch is going to finish where I think it's going to finish and swing in a different place, because the ball is doing something it has no business doing." . . .

If players have been doctoring the ball for a century, why is this all coming to a head now? Nearly everyone interviewed for this story mentioned one person in particular: Dodgers righthander Trevor Bauer.

In 2018, Bauer seemed to accuse the Astros of applying foreign substances to baseballs in a cryptic tweet replying to a comment about Houston's rotation. . . . He complained to reporters that by ignoring the problem, the league was sanctioning illegal behavior.

Bauer said he had done tests in a pitching lab and found that sticky stuff added about 300 rpm to his four-seam fastball. He wrote in a Players' Tribune essay that after eight years of trying, "I haven't found any other way [to increase spin rate] except using foreign substances."

He also tried to make his point on the field: He used Pelican in the first inning of a 2018 start and watched his four-seamer, which usually averaged about 2,300 rpm, tick up to 2,600 rpm. After the first inning, that number dropped back to normal.

"If I used that s---, I'd be the best pitcher in the big leagues," he told SI in 2019. "I'd be unhittable. But I have morals."

From March through August of that year, his four-seamer averaged 2,358 rpm, according to Statcast. In September, it jumped to 2,750. In 2020, when he won the Cy Young Award for the Reds, it was 2,779. This season, the first of a three-year, $102 million deal that makes him the highest-paid pitcher in history, it’s 2,835.

Before Bauer's spin rate jumped, he had an ERA of 4.04 and the 228th-best opponent batting average, at .241. Since the increase, those figures are 2.31 and an MLB-best .161. . . .

Through both his agent and the team, Bauer declined to make himself available for an interview.  . . .

SI found that through June 2, the Dodgers had the highest increase in year-to-year [2020 to 2021] four-seam spin rate, at 7.01%. The next highest was 4.21%, by the White Sox. That increase and that gap are enormous. The Red Sox came in third, at 4.01%; the Nationals fourth, at 3.07%; and the Yankees fifth, at 2.94%. The league-average increase has been 0.52% this year. (All clubs declined or did not respond to requests for comment.)

"People need to understand the significance of spin," says one of the team executives. "It is every bit as advantageous as a [performance-enhancing drug]—except it has been sanctioned by the league and there are no [harmful] consequences for your body."

"We're just doing the same thing we did during the steroid era," says the other team executive. "We were oohing and ahhing at 500-plus-foot home runs. . . . A 101-mile-an-hour, 3,000-rpm cutter, isn't that the same thing as a 500-foot home run? It's unnatural." . . .

The tacit approval leaves everyone doing difficult moral math. At the moment, umpires generally rely on managers to request that they check a pitcher. Managers largely refuse to do so, in part because they know their own pitchers are just as guilty, and in part because they worry their team may someday acquire the pitcher in question. Executives and coaches who personally abhor the practice do not see much benefit in telling their own pitchers to knock it off, knowing that will accomplish little more than losing games and angering their employees. Fringe pitchers tell themselves that everyone is doing it—indeed, that the league's clumsy management of the game all but requires it. . . .

Four minor leaguers have so far this season been caught with substances, ejected and suspended for 10 games. (After one of those incidents, says a player who was there, relievers on both teams headed to the clubhouse to switch out their gloves.) . . .

Meanwhile, the league is weighing rule changes designed to increase offense. The minor leagues have begun experimenting with larger bases, a ban on infield shifts and a limit on pickoffs. If any of these show promise, the majors could adopt them.

"They talk about rule changes," says one of the team executives. "I think people would be absolutely shocked if they actually enforced this, how much you'll start to normalize things without rule changes." . . .

People familiar with the league's plans say that stepped-up enforcement is forthcoming—despite some teams' attempts at subterfuge. Once baseballs are out of play, they are supposed to be thrown into the home dugout, where they can be collected by MLB for analysis. Some teams, observers note, have tried tossing especially sticky balls into the visitors' dugout. Meanwhile, league officials plan to begin punishing offenders. Days or weeks from now, they will encourage teams to police their clubhouses, then instruct umpires to start checking pitchers more frequently. Offenders are to be ejected and suspended 10 games.

June 7, 2021

Amid MLB's Looming Crackdown On Pitchers Using Illegal Substances, Josh Donaldson Implies Yankees Ace Gerrit Cole Has Been Cheating (Aaron Boone's Defense? His Pitchers "Are Mostly Above Board")

MLB has been talking about taking steps to ban the use of "foreign substances" by pitchers, and Josh Donaldson of the Twins strongly implied recently that Yankee ace Gerrit Cole, currently in the second year of a mammoth nine-year/$324 million deal, has been cheating. Donaldson is not the first player to level that accusation against Cole.

Donaldson noted the odd coincidence of MLB suspending four minor-leaguers for using illegal substances and then two day slater, Cole having one of his worst starts of the season (five runs allowed in five innings), with reduced spin rates on all of his pitches.

Donaldson spoke with The Athletic's Dan Hayes:

If you want to clean the game up — because to me, this is going to be the next steroids of baseball ordeal, because it is cheating and it is performance-enhancing — the only way they get it through and to get it out of the game is if they get checked every half-inning. If a new pitcher comes out, they get checked immediately by the umpire. Once they start doing that, it'll be gone, and you're going to start seeing offense come back into the game. . . .

What these guys are doing now (is) performance-enhancing, to where it is an actual superglue-type of ordeal. It's not about command. Now, it's about who's throwing the nastiest pitches, the more unhittable pitches. It's proven.

Donaldson says he has seen an increase in recent seasons in the way pitches move. And those subjective observations are backed up with data from Statcast.

When something is different, we pick that up. It would be like sending a counterfeit $20 bill to a bank teller that's had 20 years of experience. That person's going to know that's not real. So, as a hitter, in the experience I've developed over the years, I know when a fastball should not be moving like that or a slider should not be doing that.

One recently retired pitcher estimated that "80% to 90%" of pitchers are cheating in some way.

When it comes to Cole, Donaldson pointed out the decline in spin rate in Cole's start last Thursday. Baseball Savant reported a 125-RPM decrease in Cole's four-seam fastball, a 78-RPM dip on his knuckle curve, a 77-RPM drop on his changeup, and a 48-RPM loss on his slider.

Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole's spin rate numbers went down (Thursday) after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games? Is that possible? I don't know. Maybe. 

Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post noted that Trevor Bauer of the Dodgers "has raised a cloud of suspicion around Cole, regarding sticky substances, in the past". Bauer and Cole were teammates at UCLA.

On Sunday, before his team was swept by the Red Sox, MFY manager Aaron Boone said he believes his pitchers (including Cole) "are mostly above board". . . . Mostly?

Dunleavy writes that Cole will "address the accusations" before his next start, against Donaldson's Twins on Tuesday in Minnesota. That could be an entertaining game!

Dunleavy also reports that Cole "was linked to a since-dismissed lawsuit by a former Angels clubhouse employee, having allegedly sent a text to the employee looking for a substance the employee provided to pitchers from both the Angels and opposing teams".

Cole in 2021:

First 8 starts:  1.37 ERA   3 BB  78 K
Last 4 starts:   4.30 ERA   8 BB  26 K

Giants Are First Major League Team To Feature Pride Colours On Caps And Jerseys

On Saturday, the San Francisco Giants wore caps with Pride colors in their logo and a Pride-colored "SF" patch on their jerseys. The on-field expression of support for LGBTQ rights was unprecedented in major league history.

Kevin Gausman, the Giants' starting pitcher: "This is a city that's really inclusive. It was fun to be a part of. I've never worn a hat like that before, so that was cool."

Every team has hosted at least one promotional day celebrating their LGBTQ fans over the past two decades — this season, only Texas does not have a Pride celebration of some kind on its schedule — but this was the first time the recognition involved the players on the field.

The Red Sox's Pride Night is next Thursday, June 10, against the Astros. (The Yankees were the last major league team to hold a Pride Night, finally agreeing to do so in June 2019)

"I think it's an exciting moment for our team, for our organization. I'm very proud of our group for publicly supporting the LGBTQ+ community," Giants Manager Gabe Kapler said before the game. "I think it's an important step, and I think we're all standing behind the community."

Shauna Daum, the Giants' senior vice president of public affairs and community relations, said that the "uncomfortable, difficult conversations that we're all having because of what's happened in the last year allowed us to really get honest input and increase the comfort of some of our employees".

The Washington Post reported that the Giants had been considering incorporating its uniform into its Pride celebration for several years. MLB must approve any changes to uniforms worn on the field.
While initial conversations years ago included the six rainbow colors traditionally used to celebrate the gay and lesbian communities, employees raised the importance of including black and brown to communicate support for Black and Brown members of the LGBTQ community, and of including the light blue, pink and white colors of the transgender flag. The hats the Giants wore Saturday included all 11 colors. . . .

MLB players are, by and large, more conservative than their counterparts in the NFL and NBA. Anyone spending time in a major league clubhouse in recent decades could hear more than a handful of gay slurs tossed around with no one stepping in to say they shouldn't be — even as diversity and inclusivity training has become more prevalent. No player has been openly gay during his time in the major leagues.

MLB leadership traditionally has not made leading on issues of social justice and inclusivity a priority, either. The sport is governed largely by owners known for being dragged into conversations of social justice rather than starting them. The Giants' Charles B. Johnson, for one, is a longtime and generous contributor to far-right political personalities.

When Commissioner Rob Manfred announced in April that MLB would move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta because of laws passed in Georgia that many argue will make it more difficult for Black people to vote, the decision stunned the sports world. . . .

Just a decade ago, Baum remembered talking to young Giants players who would arrive in San Francisco having never knowingly met a gay person. . . .
A team statement explained the 11 colours:
The 11 colours of the new Pride logo are emblematic of the Progress Pride Flag and signify inclusion and progression with the six pride colours . . . red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for serenity, purple for spirit, black and brown to recognize LGBTQ+ people of colour, and light blue, pink and white to recognize people who are transgender.
Part of the reason the Giants took this step at this time was manager Gabe Kapler (also a member of the 2004 Red Sox).
He hired the first woman to serve on a major league coaching staff, Alyssa Nakken. He knelt during the national anthem last year to protest systemic racism. And he started a foundation called Pipeline for Change to help underrepresented groups, including the LGBTQ community, find their way into baseball jobs.

Kapler talked to his team about the meaning of the Pride hats, Daum said, adding that the organization brought in members of the LGBTQ community to talk to the players. She said the Giants also sought help from veteran leaders in the clubhouse, players who grew up as Giants and have come to appreciate diversity in their fan base. 
The first professional baseball team to feature Pride colors as part of their jerseys was the Eugene (Oregon) Emeralds, at the time a Class A affiliate of the Cubs. The team's decision to incorporate the rainbow flag into the numbers on the back of their uniforms was in part inspired by GM Allan Benavides, whose grandmother is gay. (Benavides flew her in for the celebration.)

The Emeralds are currently an affiliate of the Giants.

* * *

Schadenfreude 295: (A Continuing Series)

Dan Martin, Post:

The Yankees are quickly going from bad to worse.

Hoping a seven-game homestand against division rivals would help them move up the AL East standings, the Yankees instead got run over, with four straight losses to close it out.

The last one came with some drama, as the Yankees blew a lead — and a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth and fell 6-5 in 10 innings.

The Red Sox scored twice in the 10th on a two-out single by Xander Bogaerts off Luis Cessa and the Yankees couldn't come back in the bottom of the inning.

With Rougned Odor at second, Clint Frazier got hit by a pitch, but Miguel Andujar grounded into a double play turned well by Boston right-hander Phillips Valdez. . . .

[After an infield single scored a run,] DJ LeMahieu grounded to second to end it.

In the ninth, the Yankees came up with a run, but could have won it.

Gleyber Torres tied the game with a one-out double that scored Aaron Judge from first. With runners on the corners, pinch-hitter Odor was called out on strikes on a brutal call from home plate umpire Gabe Morales on a full count to end the inning. . . .

The Yankees made costly mistakes throughout the game, with an especially costly miscue in the top of the eighth, courtesy of the struggling LeMahieu.

Christian Arroyo, pinch hitting for Danny Santana, led off the inning against Wandy Peralta with a pop-up to shallow right that was dropped by LeMahieu, with right fielder Frazier unable to get to the ball. Arroyo got to second on the play — scored a double. He went to third on a groundout and Bogaerts' sacrifice fly to deep center drove in Arroyo to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.

The collapse, though, started earlier.

Holding a 3-1 lead going into the seventh, the Yankees saw Lucas Luetge give a game-tying two-run homer to Gonzalez. . . .

And then there was the lineup, that quickly fizzled again after a promising start.

The end result is a miserable 3-10 stretch since the Yankees had a six-game winning streak seemingly months ago.

The loss also dropped the Yankees into fourth place in the AL East — also trailing Toronto — and a season-worst 6½ games back of front-running Tampa Bay. . . .

Luetge faltered for a second outing in a row. He walked Hunter Renfroe to start the seventh and then allowed a two-run shot to Gonzalez to tie the game at 3-3.

That strike three call on Odor (#7) was certainly . . . incorrect.

Strike 2 (#4) might have been blown by the plate umpire, as well.

Meaning Odor was run up on Ball 6! . . . C'est la vie!

Zach Braziller, Post:

One badly missed call. Two Yankees coaches ejected. Constant derogatory chants at the umpires.

It was a wild finish to the Red Sox's sweep of the Yankees in The Bronx on Sunday night — highlighted by third base coach Phil Nevin and bench coach Carlos Mendoza getting tossed. . . .

After Morales punched out Rougned Odor with two outs and the winning run on third on a pitch that was well wide and high, Nevin let him know about it. Morales threw him out and Nevin went out to home plate to further express himself. . . .

Mendoza joined Nevin after a 3-2 pitch to Bobby Dalbec was called low by Morales to start the 10th. This time, according to Statcast, Morales was accurate. After the pitch, catcher Gary Sanchez began arguing with Morales and Mendoza was tossed by the second base umpire and crew chief Bill Miller . . . Boone called Mendoza's ejection "absolutely ridiculous."

Asked if he was given an explanation by Miller, he said: "not a good one."

Ken Davidoff, Post:

The Yankees lost a ridiculous, 10-inning, 6-5 game to the Red Sox Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, suffering a sweep at the hands of their historic rivals, their fourth straight loss overall, 10th in 13 tries and five out of seven this homestand against the Bosox and Rays.

Remember the disappointment you felt during last year's COVID-shortened schedule when the Yankees wound up 33-27, giving them a lousy draw in the expanded postseason? Well, now they're 31-29, and if this season had ended today, with the more traditional 10-team field, Aaron Boone and company would be headed home for the winter.

This is a franchise in seriously hot water. . . .

The state of the Yankees is so poor that even in this loss, they did show off improvement. They picked up three hits in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position, three more than they combined in the first two games of this series. . . .

The eighth inning featured a double on a Cristian Arroyo pop fly to right field that has an expected batting average, as per Statcast, of .010; DJ LeMahieu couldn't keep it in his glove and Arroyo came home on a Bogaerts sacrifice fly. In the ninth, after Gleyber Torres delivered a game-tying double, driving home Judge from first base, home plate umpire Gabe Morales called an inning-ending, full-count third strike on Rougned Odor so far outside that two coaches, first Phil Nevin and then Carlos Mendoza, got ejected (robot umpires, please!). Finally, the game ended in the 10th when LeMahieu, with tying run Tyler Wade on second, continued his rather seismic struggles by grounding out to Gonzalez at second.

How low can they go? They head next to Minnesota to take on the Twins, the only American League team more disappointing than them. . . .

[Judge;] "We can't sit here and listen to outside noise telling us we're this and that."

Fair enough. I wouldn't want to listen to outside noise like this column if I played for the Yankees, either. . . .

These Yankees must face the reality that they're worse off than 60 games ago. That they're trending in the wrong direction, even if the reasons aren't identical. They are not maximizing their roster, and perhaps they grossly overrated their own roster.

They're now 64-56 in their last 120 games, a touch above mediocrity, nowhere close to greatness.

Matthew Roberson, Daily News:

It took five pitches on Sunday for the Yankees to find themselves in a familiar position: losing.

Domingo German's fifth plateward toss became a 446-foot missile from Alex Verdugo into the right center field seats. Before the Yankees even picked up a bat, they were down a run, instantly playing from behind in a game they needed to avoid getting swept at home.

[W]ith an assist from the umpires — the Red Sox beat the Yankees 6-5 in ten innings Sunday night. It's the first time the Yankees (31-29) have been swept at the Stadium by their hated rivals since 2011. . . .

[In the seventh] Hunter Renfroe walked on four pitches, none of which gave the home plate umpire any trouble. Marwin Gonzalez was lurking in the on-deck circle, and with [Lucas] Luetge on the mound, Gonzalez flipped to his preferred right side of the plate. The switch hitter watched the first slider land for a strike, perhaps baiting Luetge to throw another one. When he got his wish, Gonzalez deposited the ball just inside the left field foul pole, tying the game that the Yankees had ample opportunities to put away.

Instead, it was the Red Sox who took a late-inning lead, capitalizing on a Yankee brain fart. The eighth inning began with a bloop double that nine out of ten scorers would have ruled an error on DJ Lemahieu. . . .

A simple 12-hopper to the right side moved the runner over to set up Xander Bogaerts' go-ahead sacrifice fly. That gave Boston a 4-3 lead that felt insurmountable, withstanding a Giancarlo Stanton pinch-hit appearance that ended with another swinging strikeout. . . .

The losing feeling was driven home like a stake by that Bogaerts guy again. He socked a double in the first extra frame for two more RBI. This time, the lead really was insurmountable, as the Yankees went down scorelessly to close the book on this maddening three-game set.

"A lot of good things happened tonight," Boone remarked. . . .

Boston's postgame handshake line punctuated a game that so perfectly displayed the differences between these teams through their first 60 games. A Sunday gathering that had so much Yankee promise in its first half gave way to Red Sox fundamentals and resilience, first on the small ball clinic that knotted things up following LeMahieu's should-be error, then when they snatched momentum for good in the waning hours.

It's fitting that the Yankees final rally was prematurely extinguished by yet another double play.

Zach Braziller, Post:

Last year's American League batting champion was already a shell of his prior self at the plate and Sunday night a rare defensive miscue contributed to yet another Yankees loss.

DJ LeMahieu's inability to get to a shallow pop-up in right field off the bat of pinch-hitter Christian Arroyo contributed to the Red Sox completing the sweep in The Bronx with a come-from-behind 6-5, 10-inning victory in front of 19,103 at the Stadium.

LeMahieu also had a chance to pull the Yankees even in the 10th, but grounded out to complete his miserable night.

Leading off the eighth inning, Arroyo got under a Wandy Peralta sinker. LeMahieu backpedaled into right field, and right fielder Clint Frazier was slow to the spot, forcing LeMahieu to try to make the acrobatic grab. It fell to the grass and two batters later, the Red Sox had the lead on Xander Bogaerts' sacrifice fly.

At the plate, LeMahieu went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, as his lack of production continued. He has just nine extra-base hits in 221 at-bats and a .656 OPS that would be his lowest in seven seasons. Lately, it's been even worse. LeMahieu has just three home runs this season, and hasn't gone deep since May 7. His last extra-base hit was a double on May 18, a drought of 62 at-bats.

Ken Davidoff, Post:

Giancarlo Stanton, the man to whom the Yankees committed $265 million just a few months after they wrote A-Rod his final check of his $275 million contract . . . is incredibly boring compared to [the "thrills, spills, suspensions, lawsuits, breakups, makeups, brawls, feuds" and Page Six mentions of Alex Rodriguez,] his nine-figured forefather. Yet the 31-year-old brings sufficient drama to his pinstriped existence, and it's the kind that imperils his team’s chances of success in a way that A-Rod almost never did.

For Stanton, signed through 2027, the drama concerns his availability and his productivity, or lack thereof on both fronts. It is considerable.

The designated hitter didn't start Sunday night's series finale against the Red Sox . . . manager Aaron Boone made clear that Stanton still isn't all the way back from the left quad strain that sidelined him for two weeks. Of course, we could have guessed as much, given that the behemoth had slashed .087/.222/.087, striking out 11 times in 23 at-bats, in the seven games since his return. . . .

The team went 9-4 during Stanton's time on the injured list. Hot Stanton, you very much want on your squad. Cold Stanton can perform so poorly — he slashed .158/.238/.333 in 15 games as the club stumbled out to that 6-11 start, to boot — that you might prefer Absent Stanton. . . . Trading him for any meaningful talent or relief seems like a fantasy.

Boone originally professed a hope that Stanton, after resting for Thursday's series finale against the Rays, could play in all three games this weekend. . . .

[A]fter all of his work with Yankees second-year director of player health and performance Eric Cressey, Stanton couldn't make it upright to mid-May, and after a short stint (for him) of inactivity, Hot Stanton looks farther away than Masahiro Tanaka in Japan. . . .

A-Rod of course gave the Yankees two American League Most Valuable Player awards, a championship and countless milestones in return for his theatrics. Reality being what it is, the Yankees probably would accept that trade-off over the Stanton conundrum, which keeps trending in an undesired direction for both the player and his employer.

"Signed through 2027" and "$265 million" and "Trading him for any meaningful talent or relief" all in the same story! Hilarious!

Dan Martin, Post:

Giancarlo Stanton is back on the roster, but . . . [h]e wasn't in the lineup Sunday with the Yankees looking to avoid a sweep to the Red Sox and was limited to a pinch-hit opportunity in the bottom of the eighth of the 6-5, 10-inning loss.

Stanton struck out — his 12th whiff in 24 at-bats since his return.

Aaron Boone made it clear that Stanton continues to deal with lingering issues. . . .

But he didn't hesitate to use him in the eighth, and Stanton was booed after ending the inning.

Matthew Roberson, Daily News:

Giancarlo Stanton will get another day of rest on Sunday, taking him out of the starting lineup for the nationally televised finale against the Red Sox. . . .

Since coming back to the active roster on May 28, Stanton has sat out twice in nine games. . . .

As his offensive well keeps running dry night after night, Boone also knows that one person will not magically fix things. . . .

August 2 cannot come soon enough for the Yankees.

That is the next time they will play the Baltimore Orioles, a team they’ve handled with tremendous ease in recent years, and the only AL East team they have a winning record against in 2021.

The Yankees are 14-20 against their divisional foes this season. That includes a 6-4 record against Baltimore, but losing ledgers versus Boston (0-2), Tampa Bay (5-8) and Toronto (3-6). In their 34 games within the division, the Yanks have been outscored by 20 runs.

Following the All-Star break [July 12-14], 11 of the Yankees' 13 games are matchups with the Red Sox and Rays.

June 6, 2021

G58: Red Sox 7, Yankees 3

Yankees reliever Chad Green was one strike away from ending the top of the eighth inning with the score  still tied 3-3. Rafael Devers had led off with a single, but Hunter Renfroe and Marwin Gonzalez had followed with a strikeout and a pop to third. 

Green's 2-2 pitch to Kiké Hernández (whose strikeout with runners on second and third to close the sixth had extended his hitless stretch to 27 at-bats) was ripped into left field. It rolled all the way to the wall. Manager Alex Cora had sent Devers on the pitch and enabled him to score the go-ahead run. 

Christian Vázquez made weak contact on a 1-2 pitch (again, Green was one strike away from ending the inning) but placed the ball perfectly, along the right field line for another double and another run. Bobby Dalbec then crushed Green's final pitch of the evening 453 feet to dead center for a two-run homer, and the final nail in the Yankees' 7-3 coffin.

The Yankees blew a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning as New York manager Aaron Boone erred by allowing his starter Jameson Taillon (5.1-6-3-1-3, 76) to face the Boston lineup a third time. On the Fox broadcast, Tom Verudcci avered that sticking with Taillon was warranted because of a low pitch count. Taillon began the inning at only 60 pitches, having allowed three hits in five innings, but a third look is still a third look. And batters hit .350 off Taillon the third time through the lineup.

With one out, Alex Verdugo hit against the shift, poking an 0-2 pitch into the vacant lot near third base. Xander Bogaerts drove another 0-2 pitch to deep left. Miguel Andujar went back to the track but pulled up short of the wall; he did not know where it was and was not feeling for it with his non-glove hand. If Andujar had taken perhaps one additional step back, he could have likely caught the ball. But instead, the ball struck the padded wall above his useless glove and Bogaerts had a double. Taillon fell behind Devers 3-0, worked his way back to a full count, and then gave up a hard grounder to right that scored two runs, turning the Yankees' 2-0 lead into a 2-2 tie. Jonathan Loaisiga took over. Renfroe singled through the shortstop hole for a single and Gonzalez doubled to right, scoring Devers.

Edwardo Rodriguez (5.2-5-3-1-7, 88) was chased in the bottom of the inning by a one-out walk and Aaron Judge's ground-rule double to right. Gleyber Torres (who hit a two-run dong in the fourth) re-tied the game with a sacrifice fly to right, but Chris Gittens, making his major league debut, struck out.

Fox viewers were told that Gittens's family was in the stands. We learned that when Gittens signed his  first professional contract, his father told him he would not attend any game his son played until his reached the major leagues. (Gittens has spent seven years in the minor leagues.) This information was presented in more of a good light than bad, even though to many viewers (including this one), Mr. Gittens came off as a bit of an asshole. Why would you want that factoid revealed on a nationwide broadcast?

In more pleasant news, Verducci is still in love with Aaron Judge, cooing at length about how big and tall the Yankee slugger (still) is, noting that he is the first 6-7 man to play center field since the immortal Walt hood in 1964. Verducci also called Judge an "iconic" feature of Yankee Stadium and referred to the current ball park, which opened in 2009, as "the House that Ruth Built". (Important Note to Verudcci: Ruth died 58 years before construction on the park began.)

Schadenfreude 294: (A Continuing Series)

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
The Bombers keep saying they are close to turning the corner, but Saturday night was the second straight loss in a long straight line of losing, nine out of their last 12 games. The Red Sox have won three straight and pushed the Yankees down to 5.5 games back in the division. . . .

[Chad Green:] "I think we're one pitch away. We're one at-bat away. One big hit away." . . .

That has cost them in the division battle, where they are already 14-21 with just two series left against the division-leading Rays and three against the Blue Jays, who now sit in third place in the division, a half-game ahead of the Bombers. . . .

Saturday night, Green, who had allowed just one run over his last nine appearances, was one strike away from getting out of the eighth inning when Enrique Hernandez snapped an 0-for-27 streak and took a high fastball off deep to left field, scoring Rafael Devers from first. . . .

You can also speculate about Boone leaving Jameson Taillon in to face Rafael Devers for a third time in the sixth inning with a 2-0 lead. Taillon, who has a .350 batting average against the third time through the order, had two outs and gave up a single to Alex Verdugo. Miguel Andujar, playing left, misjudged where he was on Xander Bogaerts' fly ball ,leading to a double. And then Taillon left 3-2 fastball fat over the plate for Devers, who tied the game with a double. . . .

It was just the third time in the last nine games the Yankees had scored more than two runs. They have scored the second fewest runs in the American League and an OPS of .685, which is 11th out of 15 teams in the league.

Yet, the Yankees hold on to the belief they are close to being the team they were projected to be.

Ken Davidoff, Post:

You've had it. You booed passionately Saturday night, in person and virtually, as the Yankees lost again to the rival Red Sox, 7-3, their third straight loss and ninth in 12 tries, and fell into fourth place in the American League East at 31-28. By gosh those jeers were merited, as your club faltered all over the field, displaying a glass jaw and poor athleticism and continued to perform as though a team gets charged a fee for every run it scores.

You want change. Many of you desire to channel the late George Steinbrenner, or the alive Donald Trump, and fire everyone responsible for this mess.

I’m not sure whether that would produce anything beyond short-term satisfaction for you. . . .

Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone deserve the opportunity to fix this mess. And then, if they can't prevent this ship from sinking, they'll deserve the consequences. The same goes for hitting coach Marcus Thames. . . .

"Work, compete, trust in one another, understanding that it's going to take everyone," Boone said after the game, when asked to describe the path out of this disaster. . . ."[W]e really have taken it on the chin.  . . . [W]e've got to rally from that." . . .

I know: You hate Boone's news-conference platitudes. Even if you can't revive Billy Martin, you'd prefer Alex Cora's sharpness, or Dusty Baker's unfiltered wisdom, or even Joe Girardi's post-defeat testiness. . . .

While the Yankees did climb out of a 3-2 hole thanks to Gleyber Torres' sixth-inning sacrifice fly . . .the game's most galling moment occurred prior to that, in the top of the sixth, when converted outfielder Miguel Andujar failed to catch Xander Bogaerts' fly ball to deep left field. According to Statcast, the expected batting average on a ball struck thusly is .150. Bogaerts hit 1.000 on it, getting a double off the wall and sending Alex Verdugo to third base with one out and the Bosox trailing 2-0, because of Andujar's inability to properly navigate the wall.

Boone kept in his starter, Jameson Taillon, to go after Rafael Devers, who stroked the game-tying, two-run single. Maybe Taillon should have been lifted for Jonathan Loaisiga, who subsequently served up a Hunter Renfroe infield single and a Marwin Gonzalez double to put the visitors temporarily ahead. They wound up scoring four runs in the eighth off Chad Green for the victory.

Ultimately, this Yankees team is supposed to out-hit its other mistakes, and it hasn't come close to doing that. Giancarlo Stanton, who should be lowered from second in the lineup, is 2-for-23 with 11 strikeouts since returning from the injured list. . . .

Ug-lee. The Yankees need to beautify things soon to quiet the boos, to calm the masses. . . . Under pressure, the Yankees should exhibit grace.

Note: Referring to being down by one run in the sixth inning as being "in a hole" is an indication your offense is seriously fucked.

Zach Braziller, Post:

Less than two weeks ago, the Yankees finished off a sweep of the AL Central-leading White Sox. They had won six in a row and looked ready to take off.

Instead, they really never got airborne.

After Saturday night's dismal 7-3 loss to the Red Sox in The Bronx, the Yankees have lost nine of their last 12 games, failing to win any of their four most recent series. Most concerning, they continue to struggle against AL East rivals, now 14-21 against those teams and 2-4 against the Red Sox and Rays on this seven-game homestand.

They couldn't hold an early lead and one of their strengths — the bullpen — was flattened by Boston. Chad Green was lit up for four runs in the eighth inning and the offense remained underwhelming. Giancarlo Stanton heard boos after falling to 2-for-23 with 11 strikeouts since coming off the Injured List as the Yankees (31-28) fell to fourth place in the AL East and 5.5 behind the division-leading Rays.

Enrique Hernandez's two-out, eighth-inning double off Green started the game-deciding rally. With Rafael Devers in motion, Hernandez turned around a 95 mph Green fastball lacing it into the left-field corner as Devers came all the way around from first to score the game-winning run. To add insult, Christian Vazquez poked a double just inside the first-base bag to score Hernandez and Brian Dalbec followed with a monstrous two-run shot that traveled 453 feet according to Statcast.

Upon contract, a gasp was heard from the crowd. Boos soon followed, as Green was lifted following his worst outing of the season that saw his ERA skyrocket from 1.93 to 3.14.

Mark Cannizzaro, Post:

The Yankees' offense is spiraling towards an historic low point. Saturday night's 7-3 loss to the Red Sox at the Stadium was further evidence of that.

No player in their lineup is scuffling more than Giancarlo Stanton. The former NL MVP, who was 0-for-4 Saturday night with two strikeouts, has looked lost since returning to the active roster from the injured list on May 27.

The Yankees slugger is now 2-for-23 since coming back after the quadriceps injury that knocked him out, and the boos from the home crowd are growing louder with each at bat.

The boos, of course, are nothing new to Stanton, who has spent most of his career in New York as a target for Yankees fans' frustrations. . . .

In his first 15 games this season, Stanton struggled with a .158 batting average and the Yankees went 6-9 during that stretch. . . .

In the past seven games . . .Stanton's average has dipped below .100 and the Yankees are 2-5 in that span.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:

Brian Cashman had worried his winter would come back to bite the Yankees in these games. In a rare inter-divisional trade, the Yankees GM dealt right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino to the Red Sox and worried that he would come back and make the Bombers pay for that. . . .

He has rebounded from a poor 2020 season with the Yankees, which actually dated back to September 2019, to become the second best reliever in the Red Sox bullpen.

After a rough initiation in Boston, Ottavino has allowed just one earned run over his last 12 appearances (11.1 innings pitched). Dropping the cutter from his pitch mix and relying on his fastball and slider, Ottavino recorded 15 strikeouts in that span.

Bill Madden, Daily News:

Since Aaron Boone continues to insist his real Yankees are going to start showing up any day now (even though we're into June and that still hasn't transpired), every succeeding series is becoming a referendum for Hal Steinbrenner's $204 million juggernaut.

It is happening this weekend which began with the Yankees striking out 15 times against Alex Cora's somewhat surprising second-place Red Sox making their first trip to the Bronx this season. And it was especially true with the preceding series in which Boone's Yankees split four games with the feisty, always competitive, first-place Tampa Bay Rays — and looked bad even in the games they won. What's already been well documented is that this is a badly constructed Yankee team, heavily right-handed when there's never been a championship Bomber team without at least two legitimate middle-of-the-order left-handed power hitters. . . .

This team is 13th in the majors in both OBP and homers. So they're not performing offensively like a championship team and they've even been worse defensively with below average defenders at catcher (when Gary Sanchez is behind the plate) shortstop (where Gleyber Torres has struggled all year) and on too many occasions in the outfield, especially with Clint Frazier.

The other day a prominent baseball scout who's seen a lot of the Yankees this year made this observation to me: "You know the one thing that strikes me about the Yankees is that they have what I would consider only three real 'baseball players' in that lineup — the third baseman [Gio Urshela], [DJ] LeMahieu and the backup catcher [Kyle Higashioka]. I would include [Brett] Gardner, but he's clearly at the end."

For sure the Tampa Bay series at the Stadium last week revealed some glaring and troubling flaws, particularly the baserunning, where the Yankees had two runners thrown out on the bases in the seventh inning in Wednesday night's win and Sanchez was thrown out running from second to third on a hard hit ball in front of him in another game. When these sort of unacceptable things happen, you've got to ask: What are the coaches working on in spring training and in the minor leagues? The same with the wild overthrow by Frazier (who continues to earn a reputation as the most annoying Yankee) from right field in the fifth inning of Thursday's 9-2 Rays rout which helped turn a 2-1 game into a 5-1 game.

The fact that the Rays, with the 26th lowest payroll of just $67.6 million, went into the weekend with the best record in baseball, ought to have gotten Steinbrenner's attention, especially after much-traveled 41-year-old lefty Rich Hill shut the Yankees down on three hits over five innings to earn his fourth win in the series opener last Monday. . . . Indeed, the Rays are paying their entire starting rotation: Hill, Wacha, Tyler Glasnow, Ryan Yarbrough, Josh Fleming and rookie Shane McClanahan a combined $12.94 million as opposed to the $11 million Steinbrenner gave Corey Kluber alone.

June 5, 2021

Schadenfreude 293: (A Continuing Series)

Dan Martin, Post:

The Yankees entered Friday night in third place in the AL East.

Only a loss by the Blue Jays kept them out of fourth.

With an offense that was largely shut down yet again, the Yankees lost their first game of the season against the Red Sox, 5-2 at Yankee Stadium.

Michael King allowed a three-run homer to Rafael Devers in the top of the first, and the Yankees' offense didn't produce a run until the sixth, when they were trailing by five runs. . . .

The game ended with Gary Sanchez striking out for the fourth time of the night and a season-high crowd of 18,040 in The Bronx cascading the Yankees with boos. The latest loss kept the Yankees behind both the front-running Rays and the resurgent Red Sox. . . .

"You never want to be here," Aaron Judge said before the game. . . . "It's still a long season. … A lot of things can change."

So far, they haven't. The offense has been mostly dormant throughout the first third of the season and the pitching has been unable to pick up the team in the interim.

The Red Sox tattooed King in the top of the first, with Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts lining singles before Devers belted a two-out, three-run shot into the second deck in right on an 0-2 four-seam fastball that wasn't elevated enough. . . .

The Yankees also matched a season-high by striking out 15 times.

[The bottom four hitters in the MFY lineup] went 0-for-15 with 10 strikeouts.

This was cut from Martin's early edition game story:

The Yankees' poor fundamentals also continued. Brett Gardner lazily went after Gonzalez's hit to center, allowing the Boston first baseman to get to second for a double in the ninth.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:

It was the second straight loss for the Yankees (31-27) and their seventh out of their last 10 games. . . . The Red Sox put more distance (3.5 games) between them in second place in the American League East and the third-place Yankees. . . .

[Aaron Judge:] "I think this team is going to keep getting better and better and hotter as the year goes on."

Friday night was not the night the Yankees would get hotter.

They struck out a season high tying 15 times, seven against Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi. Yankees hitters also grounded into two double plays, their major-league leading 53rd and 54th of the season. . . .

The Yankees were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position on Friday. The Yankees went into Friday night’s game with the second worst OPS (.657) and third worst average (.231) with runner in scoring position. In 376 at-bats with runners in scoring position this season, the Yankees have converted just 130 runs.

Ryan Dunleavy, Post:

Everything was in place Friday for Gary Sanchez to have a breakout game.

There had been recent signs of improvement. . . . Then came four strikeouts in four at-bats during a 5-2 loss to the Red Sox, and suddenly Sanchez's pregame optimism about two weeks of hard work with Yankees hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere sounded like more wishful thinking. . . .

The fastest way for any Yankee to wind up in the fans' doghouse is to struggle in pressure-packed games against the Red Sox. Sanchez has taken a much stranger route to that destination. (Insert joke here with an analogy to his adventurous trips on the base paths.)

That's because, against the Red Sox, Sanchez has numbers that defy logic. It's the rest of the games that usually bring out the boos he heard again after taking a "golden sombrero" out of the No. 8 hole in the lineup in the first Yankees-Red Sox game of the season. . . .

"If I don't make the adjustment, what's going to happen to me? I don't know." . . .

[A]fter striking out twice looking and twice swinging against former Yankee Nate Eovaldi, Hirokazu Sawamura and Matt Barnes, Sanchez's 2021 numbers include a .198 batting average with 46 strikeouts in 131 at-bats.

[Aaron Judge:] "I don't know what it is about the Red Sox . . . The crowd is a little louder and . . . he just steps up in those moments."

Not on this night. If not against the Red Sox, then who?

Ken Davidoff, Post:

The Yankees qualified for 13 postseasons from 2004 through 2020 . . . The Red Sox made nine playoffs in the same period . . .

The Yankees have posted a winning record every season in this span and since 1993 overall. The Red Sox own four losing records, each of them landing the franchise in the American League East basement (including last year), during the same period. . . .

Now the Red Sox find themselves on the upswing once again, reporting to Yankee Stadium on Friday for this season-series opener with a 33-23 record . . .

And if this keeps? If these Bosox, hurt by not one but two sign-stealing scandals and turning over a significant portion of their roster, manage to leapfrog over the Yankees again, that would represent quite an indictment of the stable bunch. . . .

[T]he Red Sox showed up in The Bronx boasting of a vastly superior offense (4.93 runs per game) to the Yankees' (3.74) and a pitching staff and defense that, if not as strong as the Yankees' 3.67 runs allowed per game (second in the American League), put them in the league's upper half at 4.14. . . .

From day to night and back, the Red Sox have weathered many storms since ending The Curse of the Bambino and still lead the industry in parades. The Yankees lead the majors in playoff appearances over the same stretch. It would greatly behoove the Yankees, off to such a concerning start in 2021, to convert one of those October invitations into a title before the Sawx do so again.

Also: Daily News: "The Red Sox Were Supposed To Suck Again, So What Happened?"

June 4, 2021

After 56 Games, Red Sox Finally Meet The Yankees For Season's First Series

After 56 games, the Red Sox and Yankees finally meet in 2021. Boston begins a three-game series tonight in New York. From now until July 25, 14 of Boston's 46 games (30%) will be against the Yankees.

The Red Sox are coming off a four-game set in Houston in which they lost the first three games (batting only .173, being outscored 18-4, and striking out 31.4% of the time) before winning last night behind a fantastic outing from Martin Pérez (7.2-6-0-1-4, 82), who has a 1.98 ERA over his last seven starts. Also, Xander Bogaerts snapped an 0-for-24 skid with a couple of hits late in the game.

Since beating the Yankees in the 2018 ALDS en route to winning their fourth World Series title in 15 years, the Red Sox have gone 1-15 at Yankee Stadium (6-23 overall). Their last victory in the Bronx came almost exactly two years ago: June 2, 2019 (0-11 since). Thankfully, that dismal two-year showing offers no predictive value for this present series, but it does illustrate that recent sojourns in the Bronx have been devoid of gaiety and mirth.

After a 22-13 start, the Red Sox are 11-10 in their last 21 games. . . . The Yankees have lost seven of their last 10 games. . . . When the Red Sox score four or more runs, they are the best team in major league baseball: 29-3.

American League East

            W   L   GB     RS   RA  DIFF
Rays       36  22  ----   288  221   +67
Red Sox    33  23   2.0   276  232   +44
Yankees    31  26   4.5   213  209   + 4
Blue Jays  29  25   5.0   272  225   +47
Orioles    19  37  16.0   215  277   -62


Tonight, 7 PM: Nathan Eovaldi / Michael King
Saturday, 7 PM: Eduardo Rodriguez / Jameson Tallion
Sunday, 7 PM: Garrett Richards / Domingo Germán

The Red Sox have used the fewest number of players (33) this season. They have used the fewest position players (15) and are tied for the fewest pitchers (18).

The Red Sox were 17-10 (.630) in April and 15-11 (.577) in May, the only American League team with a winning percentage over .575 in each month. In the NL, the Giants and Dodgers also had two .575+ months.

Alex Speier (Globe) asks: "What in the name of Steve Balboni is happening in the Bronx?":

After their 9-2 loss to the Rays on Thursday, the Yankees ranked 27th in the majors with 3.73 runs per game. Only once before in the DH era — in 1990, when the lineup featured a lot of Álvaro Espinoza (.532 OPS) and Bob Geren (.584) as well as a hearty dose of Deion Sanders (.507) and, of course, the  Brocktonborn Balboni (.694) — had a Yankees lineup been so run-deficient to this point in a season. . . . 

The Yankees have seen their team line fall from .267/.339/.490 in 2019 to .247/.342/.447 in 2020 to .228/.317/.372 this year. Their strikeout rate has jumped from 21.7 percent last year to 25.1 percent this year, while their typical ability to offset their contact woes with power when they do make contact has fallen off considerably . . . 

Aside from Aaron Judge (.922 OPS) and Giancarlo Stanton (.814 OPS, but 1-for-16 with 9 strikeouts since returning from the injured list), the Yankees' lineup has been dreadful. The team has six regulars with an OPS below .700 in at least 100 plate appearances.

Joel Sherman, Post:

Aaron Boone promised the best is yet to come with the 2021 Yankees in April, then he did it in May and you really do have to like the manager's consistency. We are in June and his team's inconsistent play has yet to knock the optimism out of him.

The season is still young enough that Boone can vow better days ahead. . . .

Yet the season is old enough that the Yankees' pathologies are overt. So, unless they are about to get a lot more athletic, a lot higher in baseball IQ and a lot better hitting overall, especially from the left side, then Boone will be saying something like, "We are not where we need to be or where I think we will get" all the way through September and an early winter. . . .

[Brett Gardner's home run yesterday] was just the 11th homer by a Yankees lefty hitter this season. It was just their fifth lefty homer at home — you know, where they have the short right-field porch — and just their second since May 1. . . . The Yankees' lefty numbers across the board are the majors' worst. . . .

"I feel over the long haul it [the offense] will be an overwhelming strength of the team," Boone said. He said that in April, too. And May. And that quote was from before the Yanks scored two or fewer runs for the 22nd time, third most in the majors. The other four clubs who had done it at least 21 times — Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Texas — began Thursday a combined 54 games under .500 (84-138).

Lindsey Adler and Chad Jennings (The Athletic) wonder: "Are the Red Sox really this good, and are the Yankees really this bad?":

Adler: [A]ny day in Yankeeland could go either way. They could shut down opposing hitters and drop in a couple of timely hits for a 3-1 victory, or they could shut down the opposing offense and come up short in run-scoring opportunities and lose 3-1. There isn't a variety of outcomes for the Yankees this season, but it's always unclear which one you're going to get. . . . Are the Red Sox for real?

Jennings: We might find out in the next couple of weeks, actually. This most recent four-game set in Houston didn't go well, and now they have the Yankees, then Houston again, then Toronto, then the Rays and Yankees again a week later. So, this is a stretch that could tell us a lot about them. But I'll say this: Although the Yankees have some underperforming guys . . . the Red Sox don't have an obviously overperforming guy who makes you think their decline is inevitable. Does that make sense? . . . The Red Sox have gotten here with a good-but-not-great rotation, four reliable hitters . . . plus a decent enough bullpen in front of Matt Barnes. On an individual level, there's nothing about their first 55 games that suggests they're not for real. . . .

Adler: That definitely makes sense about the Sox lineup. They have a pretty diverse set of approaches and profiles, and their lineup has actually been mentioned to me a couple of times as an example in contrast to what a lot of people say is a fairly one-dimensional Yankees lineup. . . . What's sort of remarkable is how well the Yankees pitching staff has performed despite some rough defensive stretches behind them and while working with fairly minimal run support. . . . 

Jennings: No one [in the the Red Sox rotation] really stands out — except maybe Nick Pivetta because he's exceeding expectations a bit — but they're just pretty solid from top to bottom. . . . [T]hey all tend to go five or six innings every time (rarely going deep, but rarely being pulled in the third or the fourth). . . . An important thing for the Red Sox is going to be the consistency of the bullpen. Their starters can give five or six, and Barnes has been great in the ninth, but the struggle is reliably navigating in between. . . . Lately, though, their lineup has let them down. It's hard to lean so heavily on four hitters. The Yankees might have a boom-or-bust offensive approach, but the Red Sox version of that is a lineup that does most of its damage based on Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Devers. That's a good Big 4, but they'd certainly like to lengthen the lineup a little bit . . .

Adler: This Red Sox structure sounds pretty similar to what we saw from the Yankees between 2018 and 2020, to be honest. A lot of high-scoring games then some very flat offense? Seems familiar. . . . It seems like there's a commonality in that they are talented but inconsistent, and sort of dragging a few hard-to-fix issues with them into the second third of the season. . . .

Jennings: Missing Gerrit Cole feels significant for the Red Sox, because I think he's a big difference between these two clubs. . . . Without him pitching in this series, there's no reason to think it has to go one way or the other. Like you said, I don't think it would be shocking to see any scenario play out. At the very least, the gap between these two teams feels clearly smaller than it seemed at the start of the season. But it still feels like a weird year, right? . . . I wouldn't be shocked to see the Yankees take a major step forward to become the class of the American League, but I also wouldn't be shocked to see the Red Sox keep up this slow-and-steady-wins-the-race thing to stay in contention and maybe even win the division.

Cole, by the way, got rocked by the Rays yesterday (Ryan Yarbrough threw Tampa Bay's first complete game in five years (731 games since May 14, 2016)!):