It is high! it is far! it is… caught. boston fans are terrified, and they have reason to be electricity bill average


Yesterday, down the road in Rochester – (runner-up city for the 2017-18 Golden Snowball award!) – the traveling Pawsocks of Pawtucket suffered a tough 3-0 defeat. Damn. Hard to imagine, but their venerable Pawtucketian lineup produced only six hits. Mike Olt, the 3B cleanup hitter, went 0-4; by the way, he’s 29. Catcher Mike Ohlman’s average fell to .247. He’s 27. DH Aneury Tavarez took the collar; he’s 26. The team’s top hitter – 1B Jordan Betts (no relation) – went 0-4. He’s hitting .275. Oh, he’s 26.

Wherever you looked – RF Cole Sturgeon, batting .071, age 26! – you see weathered mugs instead of the starry-eyed phenoms that fueled the Boston resurgence in this millennium. There are still prospects on the farm, but three fruitless years of reaching for the brass ring have drained the system, and Boston’s best prospect, Jason Groome, this month left for Tommy John surgery. The cupboard is looking bare.

Meanwhile, yesterday, against the O’s, Boston CF Jackie Bradley Jr. smacked a double! As a Redsock fan told me last night, it’s a wonder they didn’t stop the game and give him the ball. Bradley is batting .165, and the golden memories of 2015 – when he started the All-Star game in LF, won the AL Player of the Month in May, and looked like the reason why Yankee fans should forget the next decade – look like a cruel practical joke by Ashton Kutcher. The way Boston fans once touted him, I used to call the guy Jackie Yastrzemski Jr. In fact, a better comparison would be Oddibe McDowell Jr.

Listen: John Sterling loves to say that you cannot predict baseball, Suzyn, but he’s sorta wrong. You can’t predict the next pitch, but over the course of a season, you can predict a lot of things. You can know that Brett Gardner will hit at least .260, that Giancarlo Stanton will belt at least 40 home runs, and that the 2018 Yankees will make the post-season. What you cannot do, Suzyn, is ever be certain… of anything.

Boston opened 2018 by blowing a game against Tampa Bay in the ninth. After that, they went 17-1 – seventeen and one! – building a 7 and 1/2 game lead in the division. Yet today, they are in second. And make no mistake, the Redsock Nation has noticed. We have been witnessing one of the hottest streaks in Yankee history. Let us pause to consider that statement – … in Yankee history – yet still, nothing is certain.

Yesterday, Didi Gregorius sat out his second straight game, so Ronald Torreyes could once again remind us that he is baseball’s premier utility man, after Ben Zobrist. Didi had been AL Player of the Month in April, hitting .386 at one point. Now, he sits at .248, a torturous fall. Is he Jackie Bradley Jr? I don’t think so… Didi has two solid years behind him; Bradley in 2015 abruptly burst onto the scene. Still, you can take nothing for granted, Suzyn.

Wait… that’s not true. Today, there is a huge chasm between the Yankees and Redsocks, and you can find it in Pawtucket and Scranton. Boston is riding on two incredibly hot bats – Mookie Betts and JD Martinez – the game’s top tandem, by far. They frame Babe Benintendi and Mitch Moreland (who is hitting .313, far above his career). But if either falters, Boston will replace them with – gulp – Oddibe Bradley Jr., and it’s a long drop.

The Yankees have something entirely different going on. In his last four games, Aaron Judge is 0-15, but hardly anybody noticed. In KC, Gary Sanchez won one game, almost single-handedly, and yesterday, Tyler Austin won another. Stanton kicked in a few hits, and the Yankees rolled the Royals. When it was over, Clint Frazier – who contributed two walks and a double in his only outing – had to return to Scranton, where Brandon Drury, Greg Bird and Billy McKinney are preparing to kick down the door. Tomorrow, we could suffer a spate of injuries, promoting replacements who are up-and-coming stars, not minor league vets clinging to a final shot at the pension plan.

There is a lesson here, and let’s hope Cooperstown Cashman gets it: The secret to building baseball teams is to always maintain a huge wave of talent. It’s not enough to keep one or two targeted prospects, because nothing – nobody – is a certainty. Boston is choking on money and age, and their fans can sense it. They are starting to see the long term picture, and it terrifies them. They went 17-2 to open the season, and they are in second place. Wow.

Doug K. would do well to check his subjective impressions against a wealth of available defensive metrics–you know, the kind that are used by GMs with hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, not just indulging the joys of Internet babble. If he did so, he would find that Andujar’s defensive WAR rating on Baseball-Reference is about the same as Drury’s over the years–both in zero territory (meaning average)–and both in the same territory as someone like Todd Frazier–not a vast difference. Contrast this to someone like Brooks Robinson, whose dWAR peaked at 4.5 in the late sixties, or Graig Nettles, whose peaked at around 3.5 or 4 in his best years–one with Cleveland, one with the Yankees (1976), but otherwise, was in the 1.5 to 2 range. Mike Schmidt never surpassed a dWAR of 2.6, and spend most of his career in the one-ish neighborhhood.

So Andujar is about as good as Drury on defense, and not much worse than someone like Frazier. And even the reputed defensive wizards didn’t sustain staggeringly high defensive numbers for as long as you might expect. In other words, denigrating Andujar over his defense–especially since he barely has his feet wet in MLB competition–is foolish.

It’s clear that Frazier, if given the chance, would be a more valuable player than Gardner or Hicks right now. Frazier has speed on the bases and in the outfield, a good arm, and a lightning-quick bat with power. Hicks, notwithstanding his mini-surge of the past week or so, is a chronic underachiever who is overrated on defense and a career-long bust on offense, with only rare spurts of productivity at the bat–another relic in the museum of Cashman’s reclamation follies. He does have a good eye at the plate and gets on base a lot–I think he’s an ideal fourth outfielder. If Cashman had any cojones, he would promote Frazier now as the left-fielder (with Stanton mainly as DH), and find a new home for Gardner, whose main asset–speed–is not going to wear well in his age 34 season and is only marginally superior to Frazier in this respect.

Frazier is the kind of talent you can build a dynasty around. Hicks–and, at this point, Gardner–not so much. By keeping Frazier buried and demoralized in AAA ball, the Yankees are simply not putting their best talent on the field. That is job one for a GM–if Cashman will never accomplish it unless he can get over his ego and acknowledge his past blunders.