The Yankees’ Altered DNA

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Joel Sherman has broken out his eighth grade chemistry set to coincide with his sixth grade writing to “report” that it’s in the Yankees’ “DNA” to make trades at the MLB trading deadline. Apparently Sherman has abandoned reporting trades as completed to be the first to break the news only to have to retract when it falls apart as he did with Cliff Lee being traded to the Yankees three years ago, then not being traded to the Yankees. Now he’s switching to existentialism and “science.”

The “DNA” argument is missing several levels of evolution. Was it or was it not in the Yankees’ “DNA” to make bold and splashy off-season moves with the biggest names on the market? Was it or was it not in the Yankees’ “DNA” to eschew any pretense at fiscal restraint when it came to acquiring players via free agency or trade? And was it or was it not an annual expectation that the Yankees are absolutely going to be in the playoffs no matter what?

Did the DNA regress into the current circumstance with the Yankees resembling a developmentally disabled child due to a quirk in cell formation? Or has Sherman gotten to the point where he no longer has actual players and “rumors” to pull from his posterior in the interest of generating webhits and pageviews and is liberally relying on “Yankee history.”

The new reality is finally starting to sink in with the Yankees, their fans and the desperate media. The club is serious about holding down salaries and is not going to deviate from that plan even if it means they stagger down the stretch and are a non-factor or—perish the thought—sellers on August 31st. They aren’t going to be bidders on the big ticket items that might make a difference to get them back into a legitimate title contender this season or next season. In getting the payroll down to $189 million (even if Alex Rodriguez’s salary is off their ledger during his suspension) they’re going to need to repeat what they did this season with players on a level of Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells: veterans who no one else wants, have a semblance of a history and will sign for one season or be available on the cheap.

The argument that injuries have sapped the Yankees of viability this season is valid to a degree. But without amphetamines and PEDs, players the age of Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte break down. Sometimes players get hit and hurt as Curtis Granderson did twice. Other times the players are finished as is the case with Hafner, Wells and even Ichiro Suzuki.

The Yankees big issues now are they don’t have the money to buy their way out of an injury with an available name player; they don’t have prospects to deal; and the youngish star-level talent a la Andrew McCutchen signs long-term with his respective club rather than price himself out of town and is not on the trade block. So what’s left? The strategy has become obsolete because the core is old and they don’t have an ability to acquire fill-ins to surround or supplement them. When the money to patch holes is gone, the holes are not patched effectively. All the appellations of “specialness” and “Yankee magic” have degenerated to the same level as Sherman’s DNA stupidity. It was based on money.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the ridiculous analysis brought forth by know-nothings was that the Yankees would be better off if they hit fewer home runs. Four months of lost opportunities, Joe Girardi’s small ball bunting and wasted pitching performances has rendered that argument to the idiotic category in which it belonged.

Whether or not the Yankees do make a move for Justin Morneau and/or Michael Young to add to Alfonso Soriano or any other aging veteran who’s not under contract beyond 2014, it’s probably going to have little effect on this season. The teams ahead of them are younger, faster, more versatile, have prospects to deal and, in the biggest irony, have more money to spend.

As the season has moved along, we’ve seen the storyline shift from “Yankee magic” to “wait until the veterans get back” to “underdogs without expectations” to their “DNA.” In a month or so, when the dust settles on the state of the club, the new lament will be that the “playoffs loses its luster without the Yankees.” That, like the Yankees crying poverty, is a cry for help like a kid playing in his backyard having the umpire change his mind so his team will win. It goes against all logic and sanity. It’s something no one wants to hear. Baseball survived perfectly well without the Yankees in the playoffs every season from 1965-1975 and 1979 to 1993. It will do so again. In fact, it might be better and more interesting. It will tamp down the Yankees and their arrogance and clear out the bandwagon for awhile at least. These are the Yankees of 2013-2014. No trade is going to change that at this late date.

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Ryan Braun’s MVP is Suddenly Not Kosher

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Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, AKA the Hebrew Hammer, saw the Kosher status of his Most Valuable Player award called into question when it was revealed that he tested positive for a banned substance.

Braun may not be the Chosen One of 2011 for much longer.

You can read the details here from the New York Times.

Braun is proclaiming his innocence, but that matters little in the world of rapid judgments and suggested punishments before an allegation has been proven to be accurate.

As long as the case is hovering over Braun, it diminishes the MVP award in terms of perception; but we don’t know what the other players were using—nor what Braun used to test positive. It might’ve been an over-the-counter supplement that had an ingredient that he wasn’t aware was banned.

Like the “war on drugs”, it’s pure cherry-picking of what’s okay and what’s not. MLB players can’t use amphetamines anymore, but until the new collective bargaining agreement, there wasn’t an attempt to test players for human growth hormone so players switched from anabolic steroids to HGH.

Chemists and performance specialists have little interest in the rules and regulations of a sport when it comes to drugs; their mandate is to help their clients play better; they do this by formulating the substances based on what works and how best to mask them to prevent a positive test. With the new testing procedures, these same chemists are trying (and presumably succeeding) in coming up with something new to stickhandle their way around the tests.

Some are saying that once his appeal is denied, Braun should be stripped of the MVP award.

Much like the instantaneous reaction to the Armando Galarraga perfect/imperfect game where, in the aftermath of umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call, there was consideration given to an overturn and awarding Galarraga an after-the-fact perfect game, there are other factors to gauge.

Since there was video evidence as to the gaffe, giving Galarraga a perfect game wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world, but where would it end?

If there was a call in a game that was judged to be wrong and it cost a team a victory, how would that be handled? Would the win be taken away from one team and given to another? Would they replay the game from the time of the mistake?

And what about the gamblers who were already paid upon the game’s result? (That’s the big one whether baseball admits it or not.)

People bet on the MVP as well. Would the winnings for those who selected Braun be demanded back? Would anyone give it back? I wouldn’t. Would the new winner—presumably the player who came in second, Matt Kemp—be tested and scrutinized as well?

These things have to be considered before automatically saying, “take away his MVP”.

Braun’s production wasn’t appreciably better in 2011 than it had been in previous seasons—he didn’t hit 73 home runs after a career-high of 49 as Barry Bonds did in 2001 at an age where players decline, not set records; he wasn’t injury-prone and possibly facing the end of his career as Mark McGwire was. There’s no glaring statistical anomaly to say Braun just started using whatever it was he’s said to have used that may or may not have helped him along.

Of course, he might’ve been using various substances throughout his playing career.

We don’t and won’t know.

He also might be innocent.

The fallout from this will be more scarring than the Hebrew ritual of circumcision; more annoying than performing a Bar Mitzvah like a moderately house-trained monkey in front of a group of people one doesn’t know, singing songs in a language he doesn’t understand.

Those things pass into memory.

If Braun is found guilty and stripped of his MVP, that will endure forever.

And there won’t be a catered affair in celebration of his downfall.

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