The State of the Yankees

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Joe Girardi had his annual beginning-of-spring-training news conference yesterday. Marc Carig of the Star Ledger was there. The highlights:

  • Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson are the top
    candidates for the second slot in the order. I’d probably just plug Johnson and his uber-OBP into that slot, but I assume that Girardi is at least a minor devotee to the “you can’t clog the basepaths” school of thought. My guess is that Granderson is there against right-handers and Johnson there against lefties.
  • Girardi said he’s not going to go crazy pitting Hughes against Joba from the beginning of camp. Rather, he’s going to let them ease into things. Ultimately he wants to make his choice for the fifth starter’s slot decided by March 25th, but if it isn’t it isn’t.  I get the feeling that absent one of them simply throwing bullets in an unprecedented fashion, each of them are going to see some time starting this season. Whatever the case, I’m having a hard time getting excited about this competition. I want Joba to get a clear shot because I think he has more upside, but they’re both good pitchers and these things have a way of sorting themselves out.
  • Granderson and Gardner will both get looks in center and left and Girardi may shift Granderson back and forth during the season.  Based on how many “Granderson is open to playing left field” stories we’ve seen in the last week, however, one gets the sense that the decision has already been made. Girardi says it may turn on who can play left better. Which the cynical side of me sees as a way of saying that Granderson “won” the LF job instead of saying he was moved off of CF. Not that Granderson seems like the kind of guy whose ego needed tended or anything.
  • Girardi is not concerned about the team growing complacent after winning the World Championship.  I realize no one ever knows what goes on in someone’s head, but can anyone point to a team that truly did grow complacent after winning a championship?  These guys are all pros and work hard. Winning a championship is really, really difficult. Things happen. “Complacency” always strikes me as a post-hoc rationalization for why a team fails to repeat. OK, maybe the 1979 Pirates if you count doing mountains of cocaine “complacency” but we’re in a very different era now. Everyone’s in camp more than a week before they have to be. Most guys work their tails off.
  • Girardi is happy that Alex Rodriguez can just focus on baseball and be a leader now. What a difference a year makes. Remember when people were saying that the Yankees would be better off with Colby Rasmus Cody Ransom [whoever] at third as opposed to “A-Fraud?” In other news, absent a 200 point dip in team batting average, I think Mark McGwire will be OK pretty soon.
  • Carig also did something cool: he asked Giradi questions people suggested to him on Twitter.  Sadly, he did not ask the one I suggested to him, which was asking Girardi if he thinks that the 1961-63 Yankees’ success was due to Ralph Houk being at the helm. Marc said I’d have to ask him that one myself when I get down to Tampa in March.

How much ya gimme?

The Cubs have been baseball’s unluckiest team

1908 Cubs
Library of Congress
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If you throw the word “luck” into a sports conversation you’re gonna anger some people because people don’t like to ever chalk up their own success or their team’s success to anything apart from their own skill, worthiness and merit. What we usually refer to as “luck,” however, is not meant to detract from one’s merit. It’s more about outcomes that were not necessarily predictable or expected given all of the known variables.

Thing is, we really don’t have a concise and compact word that captures the notion of “unreasonably underperforming or unreasonably outperforming one’s statistical expectations,” so the word “luck” is about as good as we can do. Sorry if that offends, but focus more on what we’re getting at when we talk about sports luck and less about how you feel about the concept of luck in general, OK?

With that in mind, know that, according to Rob Arthur of FiveThirtyEight, the Cubs have been the unluckiest franchise in baseball history in terms of turning success into championships. Given how much they’ve won over the years, they should have had six or seven championships and not the two they have (with none for 108 years, of course).

The luckiest? The Yankees. While they have obviously been immensely talented throughout their history, the numbers suggest that they should “only” have 19 or 20 World Series titles. They have 27. They’d still have the most if everyone performed at their level of statistical expectations, but their 16-title lead over the next most successful World Series team — the Cardinals — should not be as great as it is.


Kyle Schwarber is in The Best Shape of His Life

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 16:  Injured player Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs is seen in the dugout before a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on August 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Kyle Schwarber made a quicker-than-expected recovery from ACL surgery and then, after an Arizona Fall League rehab assignment, was shuttled up to Cleveland for the World Series. But that’s not all he has done.

Schwarber is now the latest ever Best Shape of His Life All-Star. Or so says Kris Bryant, talking to Patrick Mooney of

“We’ve seen first-hand the work that he’s putting in and how hard he’s been going . . . Honestly, I saw him out — maybe a couple weeks after his surgery — and he’s moving around, walking. And I’m like: ‘Dang, this guy’s not human. How? I saw your leg bend in half, and you’re walking around. This is unbelievable . . .(It’s) watching him dripping with sweat every single day. Every single day, this guy is drenched. I feel like he’s in the best shape of his life (now). There was no doubt in my mind that he could do it. It was just a matter of if they let him.”

May as well just forfeit now, Indians. No way you can deal with an October BSOHL guy.