Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.

Jacob deGrom may have to leave in the middle of today’s start


Mets manager Terry Collins said today that it’s possible Jacob deGrom will have to leave during the middle of his start against the Phillies this afternoon.

Why? Because DeGrom’s wife is due to give birth at any moment. Like . . . it could be now! OMG!

People out there who are pregnant for the first time or have a partner who is are probably freaking out about now. People who already have kids are like “eh, whatever happens at the hospital, he’ll be done by the 7th. Everyone chill out.” New parents are my spirit animals. I love them so.

In any event, if deGrom has to skedaddle, Logan Verrett will be the emergency pitcher. Which will stress out everyone else who wasn’t stressed out about the idea of an impending birth.

Good look, deGrom family!

Thoughts on the Yankees as “the pinnacle of Major League Baseball”


As I noted in the recaps, last night, after hitting a big homer in a New York win, a very happy and enthusiastic Mark Teixeira said this about playing for the Yankees: “the Yankees are the whole package. I mean once you play for the Yankees, you’ve kind of reached the pinnacle of Major League Baseball.”

Mark Teixeira plays for the Yankees and he was happy and they won so of course he’s going to say nice things about his team. But those specific things aren’t about the moment or even the current roster. That’s not akin to the usual “we got a great bunch of guys in this clubhouse” stuff you often here from a team on a roll. No, they’re a statement about the status of the Yankees as a franchise over time and maybe for all time.

And, of course, they’re not new or really controversial words. I know non-Yankees fans sometimes tire of hearing about Yankees Exceptionalism, but facts are facts. They have more championships than anyone. They have more money and are the most valuable franchise. They are, by any measure that matters, the marquee franchise in Major League Baseball now and throughout history. If you go to another country, even one where baseball is not played, it would not be unusual to see a Yankees cap on someone’s head. It’s a team but it’s also a symbol that, with no disrespect to any other team, stands apart. And above.

But I’m still taken with a player actually saying that in a postgame interview. Or any of us ever saying that kind of thing at all outside of the sort of analysis in which I just engaged in in the previous paragraph. It may be true when we think about such things, but why is it so often said when we don’t think about such things? Why are there casual, and not just analytical or intellectual references to the Yankees as the class of baseball and its championship history and its excellence and all of that? This happens frequently, even if we’re not trying to actively contextualize the Yankees in the universe. What fascinates me is not the Yankees-as-the-pinnacle as a matter of fact (they are). But Yankees-as-the-pinnacle as a part of their brand. And how that truly came to be.

People often said such things, casually, about the Yankees until the mid-60s because, my God, the Yankees won all the time. Their seemingly god-given status as the pinnacle of baseball was the central conceit of a Broadway musical in which it literally took a deal with the devil to knock them off their perch.

But from the mid-60s until the late 90s, people didn’t really talk about the Yankees in that way. They understood the history, but it wasn’t sacred. There wasn’t some sense that the Yankees were the pinnacle of anything, really, even when they won four pennants in six years. The Yankees were thought of as a crumbled dynasty for a time, and then a zoo or a madhouse, even if they won. By the early 90s, thanks to a lot of brand-sullying by George Steinbrenner, they were just any old team, not more special or different than the others, their history notwithstanding. Yankee Stadium wasn’t talked about as sacred ground. They renovated the place in a pretty non-sacred manner in the 70s, actually, even if people later pretended that it was still the venerable old ballpark. The upshot: the Yankees had a wonderful history and could still win sometimes, but they were just a team.

Then the 90s happened. When the Jeter-led Yankees started winning again, there was no guarantee that that 1950s-style-rhetoric — “The Yankees are the pinnacle” —  would come back. And simply winning all of those championships didn’t mean that such talk would last. Mark Teixeira was only around for one of them and almost everyone else is gone. It’s been over six years since they hoisted a flag. But the talk has lasted. Why? Why hasn’t it receded like the talk about the Yankees receded as the 60s became the 70s?

Maybe part of that is because the Yankees have remained competitive, even if they haven’t really threatened to win a pennant let alone a championship in the past six seasons. I think it’s mostly because there was a concerted effort to make historical excellence and an intimate tie in with that old Yankees history part of the New York Yankees brand. George Steinbrenner may have been responsible for sullying the team’s image, but he’s likewise responsible for polishing it back again too.

After a couple of decades of occasional lip service to the idea of the Yankees as the Pinnacle — but without doing much to actually demonstrate it — Steinbrenner really started going all in with the “anything less than a championship is failure” talk after he returned from his suspension in the early 1990s. From there media and marketing folks who like to talk about concepts of dynasties and who like to traffic in nostalgia took the ball he gave them and ran with it. And soon players — taking their cues from the very savvy Derek Jeter — began couching almost all of their comments in those terms. When things are bad, the smart ones talk about “hey, this is New York, this is the Yankees and more is expected of us, we get that.” When things are good you get quotes like Teixeira’s. The notion that the Yankees are the preeminent team in baseball is not just a thing someone says because it’s their team. It’s an immutable fact. And it’s totally and completely part of the brand now. I suspect it will remain so even when the Yankees truly crumble and become a bad team once again as, odds are, they will one day.

None of this should be construed as me saying that it’s illegitimate. They won five championships in that stretch when the branding happened and they have won more championships than anyone overall. They earned the right, with victories and finances, to claim that they are the pinnacle. It’s not phony and I’m not slamming the concept here. But the concept was given a BIG helping hand by the rhetoric George Steinbrenner began using with increasing frequency starting in the 90s. No different, in a lot of ways, than Al Davis and his “Commitment to Excellence” stuff, except the Yankees backed it up and the idea of “championships or bust” never became a punchline or an albatross like the Raiders’ self-applied brand became eventually.

I’m not slamming the concept. I’m not slamming Teixeira. I just find his words and the myth-making and hero-building and story-telling and brand marketing that led into what he said after a win last night totally fascinating.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

Associated Press

As I said the other day, on occasion I won’t be doing full ATH recaps. It won’t be often, but it’s going to happen. Sometimes it will be because my sleep schedule or my personal life gets messed up and frazzled and I simply don’t have the kind of mental or physical energy at 6am that I do most days. Sometimes it’s as simple as a time crunch in the morning. I have kids in school and sometimes things come up — like today’s conference with one of my kids’ teachers — that require me to treat my morning like most you treat yours, what with the getting dressed and taking a shower and all of that. Though obviously not in that order.

That said I DID DO full recaps today! I was lucky, there were only eight games played and a rainout, so I had time to put this together. I just say this now so, when that isn’t the case and I have to punt sometimes, you guys don’t get grumpy. Cool? Cool. Anyway, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 10, Phillies 6: There are a lot of people who were certain that the Phillies would be the worst team in baseball this year. My gut was to doubt that some because they’re farther along on their tear-down/rebuild than some think and they finally have some prospects. This by no means made me think they’d be GOOD. Oh God, not at all, but sometimes young hungry kids and organizations which have definitively closed the book on the past go on little frisky streaks. The truly decrepit teams are the ones with a bad mix of veterans and a front office which hasn’t definitively shown that it’s looking forward.

Then the Phillies went and got swept by one of those teams that fits the latter description and I dunno if I shouldn’t just go all-in with the people who are certain.

White Sox 6, Athletics 1: A key to the White Sox being better than a lot of us so-called experts think they’ll be will be to get good pitching beyond Sale and Quintana. In the past two games Carlos Rodon gave them seven solid innings in a losing effort and Mat Latos gave them six shutout innings. This is a good sign. Maybe it’s a sign about pitching against the A’s in Oakland, but it’s at least a view of how things could go well. The Chisox take three of four to start the season.

Yankees 8, Astros 5: Mark Teixeira hit a tie-breaking, three-run homer in the seventh to power the Yankees to a series win over Houston. Starlin Castro hit another. After the game Teixeira said “The Yankees are the whole package. I mean once you play for the Yankees, you’ve kind of reached the pinnacle of Major League Baseball.” I know a lot of people roll their eyes at that sort of thing, but I kind of liked that he said that and have some deeper thoughts about how he can say that kind of thing plausibly, apart from the fact that the Yankees won a lot. I’ll have that up in a post later this morning.

Marlins 6, Nationals 4: David Phelps was like Dante in “Clerks” in that he wasn’t even supposed to be here today. Because of a rain delay early, the Marlins lost their starter, Adam Conley, after an inning and Phelps, a swingman, had to go four. He went four scoreless, got the win and even hit an RBI single. I wonder if he has any opinions about innocent contractors hired to work on the Death Star but who were killed; casualties of a war they had nothing to do with.

Giants 12, Dodgers 6: I guess the Dodgers weren’t going to shut everyone out forever. I guess playing an actually good team will complicate such plans. They did make it until the fifth inning here, giving them a 31-inning scoreless streak, but by the time Hunter Pence hit a grand slam and Joe Panik drove in three, that was pretty cold comfort.

Orioles 4, Twins 2: The Orioles get the sweep. Manny Machado and Joey Rickard homered and Ubaldo Jimenez was strong over seven. Fun thing: in the course of any offseason any number of players come up in the news, so one obviously thinks of them. Big names, free agents, etc. Other players, even if they aren’t in the news, you occasionally think of, at least if you have baseball on the mind. Like, you remember that a thing exists called the Tampa Bay Rays, and your mind might register, for a second, that a person named “Desmond Jennings” plays baseball and that you are familiar with his work. Some guys you just never think of until the season begins again. Ubaldo Jimenez, this offseason was one of them apparently. Because when I saw the box score here I went “oh yeah, he’s a baseball player I haven’t thought about since at least September.” Maybe that’s too much of a glimpse into how my mind works. Sorry, but I work alone and talk to my cats more than anyone. This is how it goes.

Cubs 14, Diamondbacks 6: The Cubs scoring 14 runs and winning is the coldest possible comfort to a really scary and potentially awful situation with Kyle Schwarber. He has no broken bones and he’ll have an MRI today, but he was in pain and on crutches last night, so that doesn’t bode super well. Here’s hoping it turns out better than it looks.

Angels 4, Rangers 3: Albert Pujols with the walkoff RBI single in the ninth. It came after the Rangers intentionally walked Mike Trout to get to Pujols. In a lot of similar situations, players who come through with that big hit imply that they took at as a sign of disrespect or something and that they went to bat following the intentional walk with added inspiration or whatever. Big kudos to Pujols for not playing that card. He said it exactly perfectly:

“I would do the same thing if I was the manager in that situation. Mike is the best player in the game, and as a manager, you don’t want the best player in the game to beat you.”

All that mattered was that RBI which won the game.

Red Sox vs. Indians: POSTPONED — Last time I was here it was raining, It ain’t raining anymore. The streets were drowning, waters waning, all the ruins washed ashore. Now I’m just looking through the rubble, trying to find out who we were. Last time I was here it was raining. It ain’t raining anymore.