Yankees' Ryan, Cano and Reynolds wait for new pitcher after the Rays scored four runs in MLB game in New York

Yankees eliminated with Indians’ victory

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It’s official: the Yankees’ season is over after 162 games for just the second time in the wild card era.

The Bombers were eliminated from contention when the Indians topped the White Sox 7-2 on Wednesday evening. Just a few minutes later, they wrapped up an 8-3 loss to the Rays, leaving them with an 82-76 record.

Regardless of what happens in their final four games, the Yankees will finish with a winning record for the 21st straight year. However, they are going to miss the postseason for the first time since 2008 and the second time since 1994, when the strike eliminated the postseason. The Yankees were in first place when play ended after 113 games that year. They failed to make the postseason at 88-74 the year before in 1993. The last time they finished under .500 was 1992 (76-86).

Even if the Yankees do win out and finish at 86-76 (.531), it will be their worst record since that sub-.500 season. Their next lowest winning percentage was .540 in 2000, but they still finished in first place (and won the World Series) that year.

It’s a disappointing send off for Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, but still an impressive record giving the myriad injuries dealt with by Joe Girardi’s crew. Consider this: Chris Stewart has the sixth most at-bats this year on the Yankees roster. Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki will be the only three to finish with 500. Fourth and fifth on the list are Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells.

As they head into what surely will be a busy and probably controversial offseason, the Yankees have question marks everywhere. Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson are free agents. Alex Rodriguez has a 213-game suspension hanging over his head. Derek Jeter, who has a player option, isn’t likely to be a full-time shortstop going forward. Plus, the Yankees, who are expected to try to get under the $189 million luxury-tax figure, won’t know how much money they have to spend until the A-Rod saga is resolved.

Practically certain to depart in free agency are longtime Yankees Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. David Robertson could replace Rivera in the closer’s role, but then the Yankees would have to sign someone to pitch the eighth. There are only two locks for the rotation in CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova, but there’s some hope that Michael Pineda will return from his shoulder woes to contribute. The lineup will have Gardner, Alfonso Soriano and the rehabbing Mark Teixeira at first base, plus Suzuki and Wells hopefully in lesser roles.

About the only positive thing the Yankees can take from this season as they head into 2014 is Nova’s rebound campaign that has him looking like a legitimate No. 3 starter. Even though he’s been typically working with two pitches (fastball and curve), he’s notched two complete-game shutouts in his last five starts, leaving him with a 3.13 ERA in 19 starts and three relief appearances this season.

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
Associated Press
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The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.