Self Parody Alert: The New York Post declares Lance Berkman "A True Yankee"

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This morning I mocked Joel Sherman of the New York Post and others who talked up all of that “Berkman will never be able to hack it in New York” junk at the time of the trade. A close relative of that specious line of thinking is the little game in which New York columnists and radio people decide who is and who isn’t “a True Yankee.”

It was a meme that sprung up around the time the Yankees traded for A-Rod. He was better than Derek Jeter, you see, and the tabloid guys just love, love, love Derek Jeter, so they had to find a way to elevate Jeter and diminish Rodriguez. The “true Yankee” thing was great for that. It was so malleable! It could be about leadership. It could be about championships. It could be about character. Whenever there was a need to distinguish between heroes and villains on the Yankee roster, the designation of “true Yankee” did the trick.

I thought that all went away last year, but I guess not, because Sherman and the Post trotted it out again today for Lance Berkman. The headline: “Crucial hits make Berkman true member of Yankees.” Sherman:

Lance Berkman resided
in an interesting place as he came to bat in the fifth inning last
night. Technically, he was a Yankee. He had the uniform, drew a paycheck
signed by a Steinbrenner, enjoyed the company of a clubhouse saturated
with All-Stars. But even Berkman admitted he wasn’t really a Yankee.

I think that’s stretching it, by the way. He acknowledged that he wasn’t all that helpful down the stretch and that his teammates were the ones carrying the team to the playoffs. He said that he didn’t feel “part of the team” due to his lack of contributions. That’s reasonable. But that’s a different thing altogether, I’d argue, than admitting that he was not “a True Yankee” as that loaded phrase has come to be used. That there was some performance threshold that must be exceeded — in terms of numbers, clutchness, character and dramatics — before one can be a True Yankee

Thankfully, however, none of that matters now:

After
spending the majority of his career as a play-against-everyone No. 3
hitter and first baseman for the Astros, Berkman has been relegated to a
platoon, eighth-place-batting DH — an accidental tourist on the world’s
most famous traveling team. Yet, he considers this heavenly
nevertheless . . . . the
homer and double last night were particularly sweet. They allowed him
to step inside the velvet rope and really join the Yankees.

While I’m tempted to ask whether Sherman realizes just how much of a self-parody this kind of thing has become, I won’t. Rather, I’ll congratulate him for finding a new use of the concept of “True Yankee.”

Rather than merely be deployed to keep someone out of the club, now it’s far more versatile: it’s a means of covering the writer’s butt when his original take on a guy (Player X can’t hack it in New York) proves inoperative and a new, slightly less-ridiculous take must be deployed.

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.