How Baseball Can Stand Up To The”Cap” Ansons Of Today

I am going to stop for a second, and give pause to my dissection of the Yankees lineup for 2016. It is something that is not that important at all. I mean really it means nothing when compared to some of the things that are going on in the world. Although I do like to say to my wife that in itself is one of the beautiful things about baseball. The way that it does not matter at all who is hitting below par, whether Tanaka’s arms will last 200 innings, or Sabathia will be better with the brace on? But for a little while I can sit back, listen to the games, or watch a game, eating a veggie hot dog, having a beer, and enjoying the feel of a warm breeze on my face as spring and summer take hold and pretend that those things do matter. Those moments for me are more pleasurable than I can explain to someone who doesn’t like baseball. Because they take away the ugly things of the world. For just a little while during the day, I can sit back and think about nothing major, just how are my Yanks doing, and how are the other teams doing, whether it will impact on our place in the division. As a person who has depressive tendencies, baseball is a tonic.

But there are times when even baseball is something that needs to be looked at, and the simple pleasure of the game takes on a darker side. In America there is a now commonplace story. A black youth- most likely male- is gunned down by a police officer who uses self defence as a reason to plug someone full of bullets. Never mind that even if a person is a legitimate threat to the safety of the officer and the public, one shot to the leg or shoulder would be good enough to neutralise that threat. I know this as I served in the armed forces in Ireland during the Troubles and had learned that it was better to shoot a person in the leg or shoulder and end the threat he posed while preserving his life in order to ensure he was arrested and served justice. It was drilled into us in training. There was also the cold blooded reasoning that a dead man needs no treatment while soldiers are more likely to stop shooting to help an injured comrade who could live, but that is not the point for now.

The inexplicable fact that the police are gunning these guys down, often emptying the magazine into the poor man when he is lying on the ground immobile is shocking because often the deciding factor in whether the police shoot is the same, the one thing that all these men have in common is that they are black. Whether it is old fashioned prejudice ie that it is okay to shoot them because they are black, or just paranoia based on the preconception that black people are violent and dangerous, it matters not. Anyone with even a slight sense of humanity would be, should be, appalled that it is possible in America, even still, for a man to be killed simply because he is black.

Beyonce has drawn a lot of flack over the last few weeks, due to her Superbowl performance in which she drew on iconic black rights imagery that had turned away from peaceful non violence of Dr Martin Luther King, to the ideas that black people must protect themselves and fight. Now I am more of a non violent kind of guy. But I could appreciate that she was using her art to demonstrate against, and raise awareness of, the killing of black people by police officers who often hide behind their uniforms to commit acts of cold blooded murder, fabricating evidence to back up their evil crimes.

That the police forces have denounced her protest as racist and anti-police, tells us how ingrained the violence and hatred of the black people really is in the police force. Instead of trying to say that this is not acceptable within the police forces, for their officers to operate a shoot to kill policy towards black men, they have thrown their lot in with the racist officers who kill with little fear or prospect of being held to account. They see an attack on officers who kill for no reason as an attack on the police. How sad!!!

What is even worse is that there are growing protests among NY Mets fans who have taken to calling for a boycott of the Mets unless they cancel Beyonce’s concert at Citifield. This is where the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the denouncing of Beyonce link with baseball. When you think that the Mets have taken on the spirit of the Dodgers, wearing the old blue colour, even making the front façade of their new ball club look like old Ebbets Field. Where better for baseball to show that they do not agree with the killing of often unarmed black youth than in the place that traces its heritage to the place where the colour line was broken. If they have any links with Jackie Robinson as they claim then they should and must NOT bow to pressure. They must not let the Cap Ansons of the world raise their ugly banner of racial hatred, and win.

Cap Anson was a giant of the baseball world back in the 1800s. He was, as players go, one of the finest. His numbers are still impressive, and puts him up there with some of the greats of the game. Even though he is dead over 100 years now he still holds the Cubs’ career records for Average (.339), Runs (1,712), Hits (3,081), Singles (2,330), Doubles (530) and RBIs (1,879). Impressive is it not?

The only trouble with him is that as personalities go, he was one of the ugliest. It was his single handed, unrelenting ugly racism that pushed for the ban on players of colour entering the game. It began with his ugly wrangling on day in August 1883 when his Chicago White Stockings (now called The Cubs) played an exhibition game against the Toledos who would in time become known as the Mud Hens. At that time they had on their team one Moses Walker, officially the first black Major Leaguer and the last for 68 years before Jackie Robinson took the field for the Dodgers. Anson had said he would not play there if Walker was on the field. Toledo’s manager kept him on the bench, which he thought was sufficient for the game to go ahead. But such was the depth of Anson’s ugly hatred that he demanded that they man be removed from the ball park. This got under the skin of the Toledo manager who then put Walker in the game. There was a brief interlude of heated discussions in which Anson used a whole tonne of racial epithets. However the Toledos prevailed and the game went ahead. Money talks after all and Anson was told if he didn’t play his team would forfeit their share of the gate receipts. But it was that moment that old wicked pants Cap decided that he would become a grade A dirt bag and began to drive black players no matter how good they were out of the game.

He was almost fanatical about not having a black player in the Majors. However he did not object to having a mascot in form of one Clarence Duval, a young black kid that he gloried in treating like dirt, even going so far as to have on a dog leash, parading him around like some animal.

Now the fact that he was inducted into the Hall Of Fame on the basis of his numbers is one thing. But his role in dehumanising a large number of the American population simply because of their skin colour, and staining the National Pastime with the ugliness of racism seems not even to get a mention in the Hall Of Fame Museum. Just read his biography from the HOF online Anson’s HOF Biography  and you will see that they give no account of his role in barring blacks from organised baseball. Now I am not one of those people who feel that iconic figures from history should be removed from history or places of honour if they are there on the merit of their actions as Anson’s actions clearly merit him being among the greats of the game purely in baseball terms. But they need to add the footnote that in his actions off the field, he damaged baseball, he treated a black boy as though he was a dog, he was as a man, one of the foulest. For the Hall of Fame to not acknowledge that he almost single-handedly drove black players from the professional game for 68 years, is a terrible omission. For him to be in the same vaunted company as Branch Rickey, and Jackie Robinson who worked hard to end the ugly work of his own hand, without even so much as an acknowledgement that he was the architect of the colour barrier, is a great disgrace. One I hope the Hall Of Fame will end.

This is what was said about him when he was inducted into the Hall Of Fame when it was opened in 1939…

“For years he stood at first base for Chicago like a might oak, sturdy, blunt, and honest, the captain who was always kicking at decisions, the one prominent player who was loyal to the National League at the time of the Brotherhood crisis, the symbol of all that was strong and good in Baseball. ” ….. Lee Allen, Historian, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Think about that… he is hailed on his biography as being the symbol of all that was strong and good in baseball… why not mention that he also is the symbol of what is ugliest about it, and American society.

Where this links in with the current climate in America however is simple. The States have not progressed in all these years. Nearly 100 years ago, the same black men that served the US in the First World War, still returned to a country where they could find themselves lynched merely because a mob of white men felt they could kill a black man under the guise of pursuing justice. In that time things have moved on, a black man twice was elected president. But what little progress has been made. When black people still risk being killed in a summary execution, and when like Cap Anson white bigots cry out “get that N- of the field.” In the hope that Citifield cancels Beyonce’s show.

I hope that the owner of the Mets say no to the ugly cries of racists who are trying to stop those who are striving to raise the awareness of an ugly mark on the national character. To say that the murder of black men must stop is not the same as being anti police. It is not the same as being racist. Baseball needs to show they will not make the same mistakes of the past, and give in to racists, no matter who they are, or how prominent they in the national psyche. They have a chance to right a wrong, a wrong they still seem slow to acknowledge. If the Mets stand up to these calls, then I, even though I am a Yankee fan, shall cheer for them with gusto, because these are the times when what happens on the ballpark does matter, does mean something. This is one of those times.

The Stories For The 2016 Yankees: #2 The Infield

steinbrennerfield

I had started to write this post last week, looking at the outfield. But stopped to discuss the role of Cap Anson in bringing in the colour barrier to the game of baseball, leading the way for the Jim Crow laws to be brought in to the states.

Now I shall get back to the business of Spring Training. As I was writing my initial post the word came out that yet again another Yankees player has been held back during the off season due to an injury. Okay so this time it is not so much a failure on the part of the medical staff, as Gardner picked up this injury when he was making a play in the outfield in the abysmal loss to the Astros. As a precaution they kept held his off season routine back expecting the injury to linger. He had after all suffered two smacks to the wrist with a baseball during the season, and crash into the outfield wall was the last straw for the wrists as it was.

With Jacoby going into the spring having spent most of last season trying to bounce back from an injury, with questions overs the health of Beltran, Ackley’s spine, no Chris Young, and questions about how well Aaron Hicks will settle in to his new team and whether he will continue to be a low average with the bat, because let’s face it the figures he has put up has not been very good at all. His average is not the highest, although he has a good number of runs batted in, which hopefully will make him a good bat to have with men on bases though all of that is open to speculation at the moment.

The story, for me, the biggest story seems to be the one that is affecting all the positions in the team. Their inability to stay healthy, and recover from injuries. While for many the outfield had such depth, but looking into it a little more, you see that the depth there is as thin as the paper is written on. Injuries will come and go, but we have three projected opening day position players in the outfield with serious questions about whether they will be able to stay healthy.

We have a number of guys who can and will contribute to the team’s season. But with so many concerns about what the main starters will be able to contribute when they are prone to injury, or in the case of Ellsbury who many are labelling as a bust, a player who has not delivered to the Yanks half of what he gave the Bosox though I have to say that I disagree with that. Because he has given so much of himself to the team, sure his hitting has not been so good at all, but he has given a lot when it comes to the stealing bases and also defensive plays. So to say he has been a bust is not quite giving him the credit he deserves.

That being said there are certainly reasons for concern and that is the injuries. Can the outfield keep going even with questions over the three main outfielders. That is going to be the main problem going into and throughout the season. We shall watch the spring unfold with nerves and trepidation. I just hope they can get into shape and not pick up anything serious. I have no faith in the medical staff any more… they lost it with all their failures.

 

The Stories For The 2016 Yankees: #1 Starting Rotation

steinbrennerfield

Let’s break the Yankees down for this season and try to see what is what. It can be said that for the Yankees there are the three main questions from the past few seasons which continue to trouble the team as they get ready to start Spring Training.

1: The health of the pitching rotation.

2: The health of the older players who were signed to big contracts, but whose health and hitting ability is fast on the wane.

3: The inability to make scores, often failing to get players in scoring positions back home.

These are issues that we hope will be sorted out in time. But can we really feel that they will have gone from being the problems of October, just to be wiped clear during the off-season? That is the big question indeed.

So to see if there is any change I shall break the Yankees roster down by their positions. Starters, Infield, Outfield and Bullpen and see what has been done to tackle those three question marks. Seeing which of those three questions which dogged the Yankees last year have carried over to this year and whether enough has been done (a) to resolve them, or (b) whether they will form the major talking points leading into the Spring Training games.

It is impossible this early in the run in to Spring Training to be able to say for sure who will be the regular roster for this season, from the pitchers to the outfielders and so on. But we will have a look at the guys who were the starters from last season.

 

Yankees stretch
New York Yankees pitchers and catchers stretch while working out at the Yankees’ minor league complex Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

1: Tanaka

While he certainly looked good in some games. There were serious question marks hanging over his performance. Should he have gone for surgery after the 2014 season when he picked up a partial tear on his UCL? Was his bad performances down to a problem with mechanics as he has claimed? Or was there something else wrong with him? Certainly he has had his fair share of injuries over the past two years. I put this down to the medical and training staff who should be able to pick up on injuries, or treat them sufficiently that they are repaired. But they failed to get him healthy and we saw that in the hot and cold performance of Tanaka. Sometimes even within the one game, or innings, he would fluctuate from good to bad. The questions still hang over him, and there has been no confirmation as to whether he will start the opening day game or not.

2: Sabathia

Injuries, bad pitching, a stint in detox for alcoholism…. it has been one thing after another with CC. Last season we saw him bulked up and ready for action. But he lost the opening day starter spot to Tanaka, and continued to struggle for the most part of the season. He now has to play with a brace on his knee permanently. The worries about his loss in speed as well as the health problems means that he will not be expected to be the linchpin of the rotation as he once was, which might help him because he has less pressure as before. There are too many questions about whether he can be relied on every fifth day.

3: Pineda

The best of the lot last season. There are injury concerns about him too. But he was sharp, fast, and certainly exciting to watch. He could loose it, as he did at times. But he was so good that he could very well be in contention to get the opening day slot this year.

4: Nova

Eeesh! This was Nova’s first season back after a long injury saw him miss 2014 and half of the 2015 season. We had a lot of hope that he would return and be a big part of the pitching rotation last year. But it was not to be. It was an awful season. However the hope is that he will go into the spring stronger and pitching a whole lot better than he did last year. He could be a big part of the rotation next year if he is able to improve. But if he has anything like the season he had last year then I fear he will be put in the Bull Pen.

5: Eovaldi

Nathan was another bright spot in the pitching rotation. He was fast, mostly sharp, but could miss the plate. He needs to learn about accuracy over speed, as Kofax did and the will be a force. But as it stands his speed often left hitters flapping at the air and I really felt that with him on the mound we were in the game. Another pitcher let down all too often by the lack of scoring by the hitters. Injury took its toll on him and he lost time on the DL. So even he goes into the spring with question marks over his fitness and whether he has recovered from the injury that ended his season or not.

6: Severino

Luis Severino was a star of the new generation of Yankees players. Long touted as a prospect, last year he stopped being just a prospect for good and established himself as a star in the making. To me a prospect is the kind of guy who will make it in the big leagues and play well. There are many like that who are great to have in a team, but there are few who could be stars, or will make the HOF. Severino showed that he was not among those who would be players in the league who had the potential to be a star. But he is only young and this is his second season in the big leagues and whether he will be able to match his first year remains to be seen. Some say that while he looked good, when you look at his FIP for last year you see that he was below the league average and this they reason is evidence that he is not as good as he seemed.

What ever the case, he is certainly one that we want to watch out for this spring as his youth and health stands him in good stead given the battles with injury the majority of the starting rotation are getting over.

 

In Summary:

The Yankees have a lot of problems with the starting rotation. The question over their health and ability to stay healthy has not gone away and will be a major concern going into the season. There are also too many questions as to how they will perform also. None of these will be answered of course until we get deep into the spring. By then we will get a better understanding as to whether the health issue, and indeed performance issues that dogged the pitchers last year will have gone away.

However going in to spring it can be said that this will be one of the major stories of the run up to the start of the Spring Training. It will not go away until then. That there are questions even now over the health of Tanaka, and the performance of Nova, Eovaldi, and Severino, for many the pitching rotation is definitely not going to be the strong point of the team, and may even turn out to be the weak point in the team. It will definitely be one of the major talking points going into Spring Training.

When Things Go Right, They Go Very Very Right

This was one of those plays that summed up the Yankees performance last year. They would get it so wrong, and sometimes, even when they were so bad, they could still pull out a level of brilliance.

Two of the Infields best players turned around what was a series of mistakes by two Yankees prospects who were inexperienced in the big leagues enough to get panicked by this situation, and therefore could be excused enough for making wild throws, or trying to grab the ball, while watching the runner, as was the case. But when McCann and Didi connected there was really only going to be one outcome.

You can watch the play on YES thanks to the link below, check it out. It really was an example of how when things are going your way in baseball even when things go a bit wrong they still work out well enough for you.

Davis Retired After Wild Play

This gives us something to look forward to this season with Castro’s joining the team. Though there are problems with the first base that means we will be hoping that Tex can keep on the field more than on the DL. If he keeps his role as a guaranteed safe pair of hands, then we will be happy enough with his less that powerful hitting. But we do need players who will score. However if the infield can make plays like this while some of the newer hitters actually make runs. Then we will have an exciting season ahead.

Birdman’s Wings Are Clipped As Greg Bird Is Out For The Season

Okay so this is something that bugs me. It has just been announced that Greg Bird is going to have surgery on a right shoulder injury which he had initially sustained in May of last year.

It is 17 days, actually probably more like 16 days before the pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, and already one of the projected bright spots of the season, the player who was going to see some action when the continually injured Mark Teixera found his way for one of his regular trips to the DL, the player who the Yankees had constantly pointed to as a reason for Bronx fans to get excited for 2016, is out for what looks likely to be the whole season.

Why didn’t they do something about this sooner? Someone there must have known that he was not in good shape and needed some treatment. It has all hallmarks of a bunch of trainers who are clueless over there. This coming after the Yankees only real Trade Deadline move being the obtaining of Dustin Ackley from Seattle only for him to wind up on the DL with a spinal injury. It was shocking that they missed such a serious injury when making the trade for Ackley, but to miss that a player like Bird who has been in the team, albeit as a prospect, could pick up an injury and just be allowed to go along, for this long and do nothing about it, there is just no excuse at all.

For some this is just another example of the front office not having a clue about their jobs. The trainers, the guys responsible with the health of the players have far from lived up to their job titles. Just look at how many of the guys, young guys too, are out with problems. It is to be expected with older players, but for so many younger guys to be injured so persistently, often with the same problems over and over again, they has to be some massive change in how the Yankees training staff works. Not the coaches who have their own issues. But if the front office fail to get good players, or the training staff fail to keep the players from serious injury, or fail to help the players recover from those injuries then we will not do well.

I am serious Yankees fan, in so far as I am happy with us getting into the post season, and will be ecstatic with a pennant. I don’t subscribe to the World Series or Bust mentality that some Yankees’ fans follow. I don’t want to throw the coaching staff out, although I was glad we made some changes with the hitting staff, that had to be done. However when we are trying to get excited and revved up for a season and the Yanks announce that before a single player has even reported, one of the main prospects, hailed as a future member of new core of home grown players pulls out of the season, it kind of lets the air out a little. We cannot keep on having players injured like this, and just left to go on until a massive surgery and DL is the only way to go. They did it to Tanaka too. Something needs to be fixed. I hope they can find out, and explain, why the training staff is so consistently bad and what they will do to stop this mess. We cannot keep on having players out injured like this. We won’t get within a sniff of a chance if we keep losing key players and their backups to injuries, and inertia by the trainers.