Yankees Hot Tub Time Machine

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It just gets better and better with the New York Yankees. They just signed Brian Roberts.

I wrote before (in my Ichiro Suzuki essay for the 100 greatest players) that this Yankees team would look awfully good … in 2006. But by essentially replacing Robinson Cano with Brian Roberts, they have — in a weird way — gotten even older. Roberts best year was probably 2005, which you will note is actually BEFORE 2006.

Here is the Yankees starting lineup … and what was probably each player’s best season:

C: Brian McCann (2006 with Atlanta): .333/.388/.572, 24 homers, 93 RBis.

1B: Mark Teixeira (2005 with Texas): .301/.379/.575, 43 homers, 144 RBIs, 112 runs, Gold Glove.

2B: Brian Roberts (2006 with Baltimore): .314/.387/.515, 45 doubles, 18 homers, 27 steals, 92 runs.

SS: Derek Jeter (1999 with Yankees): .349/.438/.552 with 24 homers, 102 RBIs, 134 runs, 219 hits.

3B: Alex Rodriguez: (2007 with Yankees): .314/.422/.645, 54 homers, 156 RBIs, 143 runs, 24 steals.

LF: Alfonso Soriano (2002 with Yankees): .300/.332/.547, 39 homers, 41 steals, 102 RBIs, 128 runs.

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury (2011 with Boston): .321/.376/.552, 32 homers, 105 RBis, 119 runs, 39 steals, Gold Glove.

RF: Ichiro Suzuki (2004 with Seattle): .372/.414/.455 with 262 hits, 101 runs, 36 steals, Gold Glove.

DH: Carlos Beltran 2006 with Mets): : ..275/.388/.594, 41 homers, 116 RBIs, 127 runs 18 steals, Gold Glove.

In case you’re wondering, that averages out to the year 2005. This team would have peaked in 2005, even if Ellsbury was playing for Lowell of the New York Penn League at the time.

And, don’t forget, this team still has Vernon Wells (best year probably 2003 — .317 with league leading 49 doubles, 215 hits and 373 total bases) and Brett Gardner (best year a more recent 2010 — .383 OBP, 97 runs).

Oh, if only the Yankees had a Hot Tub Time Machine — or the phone booth from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure — they could put together one of the greatest teams in baseball history. Heck, let’s say it, if they could have all nine of those players, in their prime, that would be the greatest team ever. You have (by performance) three SURE Hall of Famers (A-Rod, Jeter, Ichiro), a possible Hall of Famer (Beltran) and four All-Star superstars.

Instead, Tex is old and played just 15 games last year, Jeter is old and played in 17 games, A-Rod is old and with a pending suspension that would last more than a year, Ichiro is old and has not even managed a .300 average since 2010, Roberts is old and is hitting .231/.289/.344 the last three seasons. Soriano and Beltran are old too, though they still had something left last year. Even McCann and Ellsbury, who are like One Direction compared to this gang of Rolling Stones, will be 30 on Opening Day.

Michael Schur and I argue about the Yankees all the time. I believe this team is about to become an all-time fiasco … something that has been building for a few years now with these gigantic and back-loaded contracts that, sooner or later, come due. I look at this creaky team — and the fact the Yankees had to pay a huge luxury tax just to put it together — and see doom.

He does not. He believes that there is some sort of evil empire nectar that they give players when they arrive so that as bad as the Yankees may LOOK to outsiders, they will always find a way to win. Always. Ichiro will suddenly hit .350 again. Roberts will become a .300 hitter, Tex will win the Triple Crown. Whatever miracles have to happen, Michael believes, will happen. He has his points. Even last year, when just about every single thing that could go wrong for the Yankees did, the Yankees still won 85 games and were mild postseason contenders into September.

I guess we’ll find out. I don’t know, to me this team looks like one of those Steinbrenner specials when the aging corpses of Jesse Barfield and Claudell Washington and Jose Cruz and Steve Kemp and Mike Easler and Steve Sax and Andy Hawkins and Scott Sanderson and Pascual Perez were clanging around. But, hey, you know, some of those teams did win a bit. And when you put together a team of players who were, at least at one time, great players …

… you can’t tell me the Yankees aren’t looking into buying one of those hot tubs on Ebay.

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.