No, the Yankees did not lose because of A-Rod's failure to hit his 600th home run

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Let the record reflect that Blue Jays’ starter Rickey Romero was rough stuff last night. After going a mere two and two-thirds innings while giving up eight runs when he faced the Yankees a month ago, Romero came back last night and silenced the Bombers’ bats. He struggled through the first inning but rebounded nicely to throw a complete game two-hitter, retiring 26 of 27 hitters with but an infield single interrupting the proceedings.

Not that the New York Post’s Kevin Kernan is giving him a ton of credit for it this morning. No, he believes that last night’s loss was due to something else:

The Yankees have fallen into the A-Rod trap. And they can’t get out. There’s been so much attention given to the 600 home run chase, the Yankees have forgotten they’re in a pennant race . . . In this celebrity era, the Yankees have to get back to the team game and
putting their eye on the real prize, not 600 home runs, but doing
whatever it takes to winning the AL East, day by day . . .

. . . The day that Rodriguez hit No. 599, the Yankees were three games in
front in the AL East. The next day they bumped that lead up to four
games . . . In a way, the Yankees have been caught looking in the mirror, like
Rodriguez once did, looking at themselves, instead of channeling all
their efforts to take care of business in the most difficult division in
baseball.

If there was any doubt that Kernan is blaming A-Rod’s chase of 600 hits for the Yankees’ struggles, scope the last line of the column: “The milestone has become a millstone around the neck of A-Rod and the Yankees.”

Kernan hangs this whole premise on a single quote from Joe Girardi making reference to milestones “getting in the way a little bit,” but we have no way of knowing from the column what the question was that led to that comment. I’d allow for the idea that 600 may be a distraction to A-Rod himself, but I defy Kernan to find one Yankees player who will go on record as saying that A-Rod’s pursuit of 600 home runs is what led to any struggles they’re having, let alone last night’s loss.  I’d also be curious as to what Rickey Romero and Cito Gaston would say to a question like that.

I know what you’re going to say: “Craig, relax. It’s the Post. It’s Kernan. No need to get worked up over it.”

But I am worked up.  The Post reaches more than half a million in print alone and millions on the web. It, more than other, more reasonable sports sections in the New York area shapes and reflects the opinion of Yankees fans and drives the talk radio discussion which goes on to shape and reflect the opinions of many others.

If this was stuff to be ignored it would be ignored. But it’s not ignored, and idiotic notions like Kernan’s here seep into the public consciousness. It’s what leads to that New York exceptionalism that drives me so crazy. It’s what reinforces and justifies the feeling among a certain brand of Yankees fan that the other teams are mere mirrors with which to reflect Yankee glory. “Rickey Romero? What did he ever do? What do we care about him unless he becomes a free agent?”

Well, Rickey Romero kicked the Yankees’ asses last night. Too bad some people who are paid to understand that couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge it in their rush to create bulls— perpetuating narratives.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.