Dylan

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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There were only three freakin’ games last night. Three!  How is this fair? Bah! Bah, I say.  So, to make up for the lack of games to talk about, I go into some random Bob Dylan stuff below the scores. My feature. Do what I wanna do.

Tigers 7, Red Sox 3: Max Scherzer continues to be non-disastrous, which is what the Tigers really need from him. Delmon Young and Quintin Berry each had three hits for Detroit. Alex Avila had one hit in the box score and one hit to the face while catching — foul ball — which left him bloody and forced him out of the game.

Rockies 11, Astros 5: Carlos Gonzalez’ reign of terror continues (3 for 4, HR, 2B, 3 RBI). Michael Cuddyer drove in three as well.  Astros starter Bud Norris probably needs a hug. He gave up nine runs on seven hits in less than two innings. It’s OK, Bud. The bad men in the white pinstriped jerseys aren’t there to hurt you anymore.

Brewers 6, Dodgers 2:  Milwaukee sweeps the Dodgers in the four game series. Zack Greinke allowed one run over six.  The Matt Kempless-era, Part II, of the 2012 Dodgers has not gotten off to a rousing start. Gloom and doom is afoot, people. Gloom and doom.

OK, now — because there is no more baseball to talk about from last night — a giant digression …

I’ve probably made about a thousand Bob Dylan references on this blog over the years, so it’s probably no secret that I’m a big Dylan fan. Probably bigger than you think, though. I don’t talk about it THAT much but I’m fairly obsessive. I got almost all of it, even the crazy evangelical Christian albums he put out in the late 70s and early 80s. Even awful stuff like “Empire Burlesque” and “Self Portrait.”  All of the “official” bootlegs and a fairly decent number of unofficial ones. If Dylan has done it, I have it. Or at least have heard it.

There was a time when I’d corner you and act all jerky if you said you didn’t like Dylan. I’m way more mature about such things these days, realizing that the bulk of Bob Dylan is not for everyone and even the essential stuff can be an acquired taste. Yes, I think you’re missing the entire point if you say his voice is hard to listen to, but I’m past the point in my life where I’ll argue with you about it. I probably don’t like stuff you like and think is important and that’s OK.

But I can’t help myself here but to recommend The Onion A.V. Club’s Dylan primer that went up yesterday.  It’s shorter than extended overviews elsewhere but also detailed enough to let you know what it is you’re missing if you care. And it’s not overly fanboyish. It tells you what’s good and what sucks, which is the only way to be honest about the famously uneven Mr. Zimmerman. And it’s the most I can muster as far as Dylan proselytizing goes.

Anyway, since there are only three games to talk about, I figure I’d give you my personal Dylan top Albums list and maybe kick off some Dylan talk today. This is in no particular order — which of these is my favorites changes depending on my mood — but these five usually cycle through the top five:

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan: The one that introduced me to Bob when I was a kid, because my dad owned it. Of course my dad was also one of those guys who turned his back on Dylan when he went electric, so it’s not like my dad was cool or anything. When I swiped this from him sometime in the 80s he was all “Oh, yeah. You can have it.” “Girl From the North Country” may be the most beautiful song in his catalog and it makes me misty sometimes. It’s hard to believe that something so personal and affecting sounding can result from the same ancient folk song that served as the basis for something as sterile as Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.” Really kids, it’s the same song. Listen to them if you don’t believe me.

Highway 61 Revisted: I could easily put “Bringing it All Back Home” here. Or “Blonde on Blonde.” With a nod to the Rubber Soul/Revolver/Sgt. Peppers Beatles and the Let it Bleed/Sticky Fingers/Exile Stones, they constitute what is perhaps the greatest three-album stretch of anyone ever. I tend to favor Highway 61, however, because I heard it first — on cassette! — when all I had known of Dylan before that was his early folk output. It hit me like a lightning bolt. I think it hits everyone like a lightning bolt. With “Desolation Row” serving like some post-storm rolling thunder after the worst of the storm is over.

Blood on the Tracks: Some call it “the Divorce Album.” It may be that. I certainly got reacquainted with it in major fashion when my marriage was disintegrating last year, because boy howdy does it resonate. But the fact is that it is much more than that. Just a beautiful song cycle that, for the first time, really sounded like it came from a truly mature Bob Dylan as opposed to a young man trying so hard to sound worldly.

Good as I Been to You: This doesn’t make many top Dylan lists. Don’t care. Wore it out when I got it in late 1992. Dylan was at something of a critical nadir when it came out but to me it sounded like a logical continuation or an echo or something of “Freewheelin,” which was still relatively new to me then. And it had the added bonus of refueling Dylan’s creative juices, even if he didn’t write a single song on the disc. Bonus: I defy anyone to show me a 60s-era classic rocker who does a better sea shanty than Dylan.

Time Out of Mind: After one more non-originals record in “World Gone Wrong,” Dylan unleashed this bad boy. If “Blood on the Tracks” represented a new maturity in Dylan, this one represented yet another, higher plateau in that regard. While Dylan in the 80s sounded like a man out of time — really, apart from “Brownsville Girl,” most of the “Oh Mercy” album and stuff that showed up on bootlegs later it was a wasted decade — here Dylan sounded like a man who knew he was entering his twilight years and decided that he could wear that very well (and as his next three albums showed, he is wearing it extremely well). Most of the album consists of Dylan staring death in the face and … being just fine with it. Indeed, since 1997 it’s been like Dylan and Death meet twice a week to sip whiskey and shoot the breeze.

Anyway. Thanks for indulging me. When there aren’t any ballgames sometimes my gravity fails and I need something besides negativity to pull me through. More often than not, Dylan has served that purpose in my life, so I can be forgiven for all of this blather, I hope.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the excaption because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.