joba chamberlain getty

Great Moments in Core Four love

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The Core Four: Derek Jeter. Mariano Rivera. Jorge Posada. And, um, maybe Clay Bellinger? I forget. Not important.

What is important is that for years Yankees writers have always made sure to protect the necks of those guys, particularly Jeter and Rivera. Woe be unto anyone who is insufficiently reverent of them and woe, woe, woe be unto any Yankees player who has any kind of dustup with them for they shall be told, in no uncertain terms, that they are not the True Yankees and Gentlemen that Rivera, Jeter and — man, I wanna say Brosius? — are.

Such is the case with Wallace Matthews and Joba Chamberlain today. The Joba Chamberlain who shushed Mariano Rivera the other day was shushed by Mariano Rivera the other day and reacted angrily to it. It was a scandal of something a million miles less than epic proportions, it’s over now and it’s meaningless, but you wouldn’t believe it to read Matthews. This silly little incident is, it seems, a referendum on Joba Chamberlain as a human being and Matthews spares no purple prose in telling us just how much less of a human and a pitcher Chamberlain is than Rivera is in making his point.

Which, thanks! Because before this I was certain that Chamberlain was a better pitcher than Rivera and now I know differently.

Seriously, though, you have to read it to believe it in all of its overwrought glory:

In the same ballpark where Mariano Rivera’s Yankees career nearly ended a year ago on the warning track, Joba Chamberlain’s Yankees tenure surely did in the dugout, his mouth writing what will soon be the epitaph to a career that turned out to be no more than a broken promise.

So confused. If the promise was broken, was it not false? And might that mean now that his mouth is, um, writing something other than an epitaph? Chamberlain is the Master of Lies! Maybe he is deceiving us!

Also note that, once again, Joba playing with his son on a trampoline is seen as a character flaw. That never gets old. And there is a passage in which Matthews suggests that Rivera would surely forgive Chamberlain where others might not. I was hoping he’d go with a full-on Jesus comparison at that point, but he used his deft writer’s touch to only suggest it. Probably wanted to avoid potential blasphemy in saying His name too many times or something.

In any event, this is so beyond parody of the Sucking Up to the True Yankees genre that I have to wonder if Matthews has gone completely meta on us and this is, rather, a COMMENT on all of that.  If so, well-played, Wallace.

The deeper implications of the A.J. Ellis trade

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 17:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers heads to the dugout at the end of the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium on May 17, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The trade of a light-hitting backup catcher is normally about as inconsequential as it gets. The trade of A.J. Ellis by the Dodgers to the Phillies, however, is anything but that. Indeed, it may be the public manifestation of long-simmering, well, maybe “feud” is too strong a word, but a definite butting of heads between the team’s front office and its best player.

While almost all of the clubhouse drama in Los Angeles has surrounded a talented but aggravating corner outfielder currently toiling in the minors, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times wrote last night that the Ellis trade could very well be seen as the front office’s shot across Clayton Kershaw‘s bow:

Kershaw’s preference of Ellis was the subject of a longstanding tug-of-war between Kershaw and the front office, which wanted Yasmani Grandal behind the plate as much as possible . . . Some players interpreted the trade as a message from the front office.

This isn’t Kershaw’s team. It’s not Corey Seager’s team or Adrian Gonzalez’s, either.

It’s Friedman’s.

The notion that Kershaw likes to pitch to Ellis is pretty well-known, but the idea that it was so strong a preference that it created a dispute as to whether he has final say over a roster spot is news, at least to people who aren’t around the Dodgers all the time. Hernandez is a good columnist and is particularly well-plugged in to the Dodgers after many years of being their beat writer for the Times. He wouldn’t throw the notion of there being something of a power struggle in this regard out there all willy-nilly in order to stir the pot or something. I don’t doubt for a second that something bigger than most of us have seen is going on here.

As for the trade itself: yeah, it’s pretty debatable as to whether it makes any kind of sense. Carlos Ruiz is likely an upgrade over Ellis, but it’s a pretty marginal upgrade when you consider how few plate appearances the Dodgers backup catcher will make for the rest of the year. It’s especially marginal if you assume, as Hernandez and others assume, likely with reason, that the loss of Ellis is going to harm morale. At least in the short term before they get to know Ruiz well (worth noting, though, that he comes pretty highly recommended from Kershaw-caliber aces for all the same reasons Ellis does). I can see a lot of reasons not to make that deal even for an extra hit or two a week that Ruiz may give you over Ellis.

All of which speaks to what we don’t know. What we don’t know about the mind of Andrew Friedman and whether or not there is something more going on here than is immediately apparent. About the relationship between him and Kershaw and, for that matter, him and the rest of the team that would cause him to make a deal that plays as poorly with his own players as this one does. It could be something about Ellis. It could be something about Friedman’s relationship with Kershaw. It could be something totally unrelated to any of that, such as offseason plans and the roster in 2017 (Ruiz has a team option for next year, Ellis is a pending free agent). Unless or until Friedman speaks or a reporter gets someone to shed more light on this, there will continue to be questions.

In the meantime, I’ll grant that there are certainly different rules which apply to superstars than mere mortals, but veto power over a trade and/or playing time for other players isn’t typically one of them. If, as Hernandez suggests, there was a sense that Kershaw and Friedman didn’t see eye-to-eye on that and it wasn’t otherwise being resolved, it makes Friedman’s move somewhat more understandable.

World Baseball Classic pools, venues announced

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 10:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of Venezuela gets a hit and drives in a run against Spain during the first round of the World Baseball Classic at Hiram Bithorn Stadium on March 10, 2013 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Yesterday the folks who run the World Baseball Classic (i.e. the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires, the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission) announced the groupings and venues for next springs’s tournament. It breaks down thusly:

  • Pool A will play in Tokyo, featuring Australia, China, Cuba, and Japan;
  • Pool B will play in Seoul, featuring Chinese Taipei, Korea, the Netherlands, and either Brazil, Israel, Great Britain, or Pakistan (final participant to be determined at a qualifying tournament in New York next month);
  • Pool C will play in Miami, featuring Canada, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and the United States;
  • Pool D will play in Guadalajara, featuring Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.

A winner and a runner-up will advance from each pool following a round-robin competition. That will result in a second round robin made up of Pool A and B — which will be called Pool E, because it HAS to be complicated — and which will be played in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Pool C and D’s representatives will make up Pool F, who will play in San Diego at Petco Park.

The winner of Pool F will then take on the runner-up of Pool E in a semifinal at Dodger Stadium, while the winner of Pool E will face Pool F’s runner-up there as well. The winners of those matches will play in the WBC final, also at Dodger Stadium.

Got it? Good.

Now we wait. And listen to people tell us how much we should care about the World Baseball Classic between now and March.