Sunday, August 10, 2014

2 comments Johnette Howard Thinks the Yankees Trade Deadline Acquisitions Are All Smoke A---Wait, the Yankees Are Winning Games? Nevermind

Johnette Howard wrote a column  on August 1 titled, "Yankees' deals all smoke and mirrors." She did not approve of the Yankees' acquisitions at the trade deadline. Welp, then the Yankees started winning games and so the very next column she wrote is titled, "Bye, bye Bombers...hello playoffs?" I love it when sportswriters come in hard with a hot sports take and then write another column that contradicts that hot sports take like it never happened. It happened here. 

And yet the Yanks still went out and outdueled Tigers Cy Young candidate Rick Porcello 1-0, with some terrific pitching and defense, defense and pitching.

This is who the Yankees are now. And if they do sneak into the playoffs this season, despite all that's gone wrong, this is how they're going to have to play.

It's almost like the Yankees front office might know this already. What Howard said previously (and "previously" will be the August 1 column I linked above),

What Cashman's deals essentially told manager Joe Girardi is he'll have to keep trying to win with smoke and mirrors 'til further notice.

"Smoke and mirrors" or "terrific pitching and defense." You know, it's all the same in the end.

"It's huge," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the starters he threw out in response: Brandon McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda, Chris Capuano, and now Greene. "I think [this series] was the best four starts in a row we had all year long. They knew who they were facing. They weren't the guys being talked about. But they went out and did the job."

There's still a long, long way to go in this season. But the Yankees have the making of a remarkable story if they can keep doing the sort of things they did over the past seven days.

Wait, so the Yankees' front office did a good job of bringing in Capuano and Brandon McCarthy? I'm wondering because a week earlier Howard said this,

Girardi and the players the Yanks still have deserve a lot of credit for doing as well as they have this year, especially after losing four-fifths of the starting pitching rotation.
But the Yanks' front office? Not so much.

I'm sure Brian Cashman had nothing to do with the Capuano and McCarthy moves. After all, he's incompetent you know. All of a sudden, Cashman may deserve some credit.

But look: After watching the Red Sox's ability to pull in a talent like Cespedes for Lester, it was hard not to feel dissatisfied with a lot of things about the Yankees kingdom. Starting with how the Yanks are still haunted by their inability to swallow hard and trade Robinson Cano in the 2013 offseason or at last year's trading deadline for proven talent or hotshot prospects if they had no intention on paying him what the open market could bring. Which they didn't.

This is just a funny line in this August 1 column. As if the Yankees trading Robinson Cano wouldn't have resulted in the New York media flipping the fuck out and talking about how the Yankees aren't George Steinbrenner's team anymore and Brian Cashman has given up on the Yankees team. Basically, the New York media would do the same thing the Boston media is currently doing when reacting to the trades the Red Sox made at the deadline. But using total hindsight, I'm sure it was a brilliant idea to trade Robinson Cano at the trade deadline last year. After all, the Yankees already knew the market for Cano was more than they were willing to pay and they knew this using their predictive powers.

Greene's start was the 50th by a Yankees rookie pitcher this year, nearly double any other team's total. The Yanks are a shimmering 31-19 in those games. Overall, the Yanks have already relied on a revolving door of 30 pitchers, a franchise record. And yet they moved six games over .500 again with this win, matching their high-water mark this season.

It's almost like the Yankees moves at the trade deadline aren't the only the only issues the team is having this year. Those "smoke and mirrors" moves certainly deserved some scolding though.

What they've got instead after the flurry of July deals they made is a club full of guys who are experienced and versatile and, in some cases, playing like they're fully aware the Yankees' usual pattern is to go out and buy bigger names. But they're here now. And they're playing with the sort of urgency that suggests they badly want to stay.

Interesting. On August 1, this was Howard's take on these players,

Cashman sent disappointing Kelly Johnson to Boston for shortstop Stephen Drew, a free agent the Yankees and everyone else could've signed well past this season's start, but didn't...Drew has never played anywhere except shortstop, and he was already having a dreadful offensive season hitting .176 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in Boston. Now, on top of that, the Yanks will be asking him to change positions, too.

He also sent minor league infielder Peter O'Brien and cash to Arizona for Martin Prado, who is hitting .270 with 42 RBIs in 106 games this season...Prado can play second and third base, where he made the majority of his starts this season. But now that the Yanks have Headley, Prado will instead be asked to be, uh, the Yanks' starting right fielder?...And he gives the Yanks another right-handed bat, which they can use. But power? Nope. He has only five home runs in 106 games.

See what I mean? Underwhelming.

And just a week later Drew is no longer a guy who can't play another position that isn't shortstop, he's now "versatile." Prado is no longer a player with little power who can't really play right field. He's "versatile" and "playing with a sort of urgency."

Quick! Re-write the narrative! And that's exactly what Johnette Howard is doing. It's not that she might have been a little wrong, she was just using negative words with negative connotations that have turned into positive words with positive connotations.

Other people look at them as placeholders. But so what? They look at this as an opportunity that doesn't often come along, especially for young guys. Not here. are the one who was looking at them as placeholders. As part of the "smoke and mirrors" game that Brian Cashman was playing. You said,

the Yankees wound up looking like a team that badly needs an infusion of fresh thinking, not just fresh talent, after their cap-gun moves.

after the Yankees didn't sell off any other players and didn't trade for any big name players. What was once a lack of fresh thinking is now acquiring players who are completely ready to take advantage of their opportunity.

The other thing you notice about this team is although it's barely August, the Yankees are already talking daily about October, doing whatever it takes to get to October, how nail-biters like this one are the sort of games you have to be able to win in October. 

It's amazing what a "smoke and mirrors" trade will do for a team.

But look: Chase Headley, who has been terrific since joining the Yanks, was languishing in San Diego but he seems rejuvenated here. Martin Prado, who made a couple of nice defensive plays to help Greene, including a stab of a hot liner by Rajai Davis though he was playing in on the infield grass,

This is the same Martin Prado that Johnette Howard was really worried couldn't play right field because,

Prado will instead be asked to be, uh, the Yanks' starting right fielder?

This though he's played a total of just two innings there in his career.

Amazingly, the same player who has played every infield position and has played left field was able to adjust to playing right field. Who would have thought this would be possible? Certainly not Johnette Howard. To her, Martin Prado was a left fielder who couldn't play right field before he became the guy playing right field who could make a couple nice defensive plays.

Stephen Drew, who had the winning hit, didn't even sign until May. Before that, he was trying to stay sharp taking batting practice against high school kids.

Or as Johnette Howard put it a week earlier when she didn't have the chance to react to Drew getting a winning hit for the Yankees,

a free agent the Yankees and everyone else could've signed well past this season's start, but didn't.

The guy anyone could have signed this past offseason, but didn't, is the guy who didn't sign until May but stayed sharp playing batting practice against high school kids. While Drew was once characterized as a guy no MLB team really wanted until May, he is now characterized as a motivated athlete who wanted to choose his MLB team and worked hard to stay in shape until he found the perfect MLB team for him. Where did a discussion of the terrible offensive season Drew was having in Boston go? I guess it went out the window a full week after Johnette was full of negativity. It's funny what winning a few games will do.

And defense? You want more defense? Thursday, Yanks center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury covered so much ground, ranging far into left-center field to make two nice running catches 

Is Ellsbury one of those players Johnette described in her August 1 column as,

Worse, each Yanks move was necessitated by the domino effects of a constellation of other bad choices -- namely, the Yanks' same old pattern of signing aging vets to go with the long-term contracts they're already locked into, and then regretting it when said older vets break down or underperform,

I just wonder if Howard considers Ellsbury to be an "aging vet" or a "long-term contract they've already locked into"? Maybe it's both.

Afterward, Headley, like McCarthy, was talking about the sort of attitude that is overtaking this team, even if it has been assembled out of necessity and on the fly.

This is as opposed to those MLB teams playing during the 2014 season that were carefully assembled five years ago without necessity.

(Hank Steinbrenner) "You know what, five years from now we should trade for Chase Headley. Even if we have A-Rod playing third base, fuck it, let's just trade for Headley in five years."

(Brian Cashman) "But he's only currently played one season in the majors. You think he can be the third baseman of the future?"

(Hank Steinbrenner) "Absolutely, we need to start assembling our 2014 team now, so we don't have to fill roster spots on that team out of necessity and on the fly." 

Now we see if the Yanks can keep it up. But they know who they are and how they have to play. And that's a good start.

Now the front office gets kudos based on the "good start" they put together for a winning Yankees team. A week ago, the future wasn't so bright,

Expect more bench time for Ichiro Suzuki and Carlos Beltran, who will still DH most days but isn't likely to play outfield until his elbow improves. Alfonso Soriano was released weeks ago.

What Cashman's deals essentially told manager Joe Girardi is he'll have to keep trying to win with smoke and mirrors 'til further notice.

They could neither bring themselves to give up on the playoff race like Tampa -- a hotter team -- did, nor could they swallow hard and show the daring vision that Boston, which won the World Series just a half season ago,

Next to all that, the two late-developing moves that Yanks general manager Brian Cashman made with less than an hour to go before the 4 p.m. deadline were underwhelming.

The Red Sox made the same determination on Lester. But instead of standing pat, they went ahead and flipped him for Cespedes, who is precisely the sort of corner outfielder with power the Yanks badly need.

See what I mean? Underwhelming.

That certainly didn't sound like "a good start" at the time did it? It's funny what an overreaction to winning a few games can do to a previous column which overreacted to the Yankees (lack of) moves at the trade deadline. I think Johnette Howard would sound a lot less silly in print if she simply could not be so extreme and hot or cold based on what happened over the previous few days. But what's the fun in that? Who even remembers what she wrote a week ago? Obviously she doesn't. 

Because something Girardi said after the game is tried and true.

"If you get pitching and play defense, you're going to win a lot of games."

This from the sportswriter who a week earlier was bemoaning the Yankees not having enough power in the lineup, since apparently that was the tried and true way to win a game on August 1. On August 8, defense and pitching sound like the best way to win a game. The wind blows, Johnette Howard's opinion changes. 


Snarf said...

Greene's start was the 50th by a Yankees rookie pitcher this year, nearly double any other team's total. The Yanks are a shimmering 31-19 in those games. Overall, the Yanks have already relied on a revolving door of 30 pitchers, a franchise record. And yet they moved six games over .500 again with this win, matching their high-water mark this season.

I feel like this line is somewhat disingenuous. The Yankees have a lot of starts by rookie pitchers partially by design. The Yankees signed Tanaka for $155M over 7 years. He made 18 of those starts.

Bengoodfella said...

That's a good point. I wish I had thought about that one. He's made a 1/3 of those starts and he's a "rookie" by name I guess...just a highly paid rookie.