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Mudville: July 23, 2024 2:49 am PDT

Trade Dudline


Who knew?

Who knew that in 1971 when Pete Townshend wrote the classic rock anthem “Won’t Get Fooled Again’’ he would be speaking directly to a generation of Mets and Yankees fans who seem to get fooled every year into believing their teams will succeed, even though Brian Cashman plays the same tired act again and again and his former top assistant Billy Eppler – who failed miserably as GM with the Angels – has brought the same Bronx analytical BS to Queens.

Who knew?

You knew if you read any of my BallNine pieces or heard radio and podcast interviews detailing how both the Mets and Yankees are trying to pull another fast one on their fans.

Mets owner Steve Cohen didn’t know. He’s eating some extremely expensive Humble Pie. But he can afford it.

Cohen believed in Eppler’s plan, spending ungodly amounts of money on aging pitchers, and counting on an unathletic offense, shaky defense, and Eppler’s terrible re-built bullpen to carry the day in the mighty NL East.

The Phillies helped diagram a successful plan that got them to the World Series last year by putting together a team of hard-nosed, hard-playing ballplayers who care about each other.

Hey, the Phillies are far from perfect – but for the most part they play the game right. Cohen could have looked at the talented Braves, too, and seen that development matters on both the minor league side and major league side; but instead he allowed Eppler to dump some highly qualified development people throughout the organization the last few years.

Steve Cohen didn’t know.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner didn’t know. Maybe Hal didn’t want to know.

Expecting Hal to know anything about baseball is a lot to ask. He is so determined to be the anti-Boss that he is the worst kind of boss, one who doesn’t really care and allows Cashman to spin his rhetoric, getting away from the success Cashman did have when he had baseball people like Gene Michael helping him to run the show. Why Cashman doesn’t go back to being a baseball-first GM is baffling.

This is the Cash Show now and you can tell by the number of Nerds making their way through the maze of offices at Yankee Stadium and at their Tampa compound, men and women driven only by numbers and not baseball development and boots on the ground scouting.

A quick word again on the Phillies.

Joe Girardi did a great service bringing Rob Thomson over to the Phillies and Thomson had interviewed for the Yankees managerial job and lost out to Aaron Boone; but that right there tells you all you need to know about Cashman. Thomson was a fundies foot soldier for the Yankees throughout his long career with the team. He knew how to do things right on the baseball field and passed those lessons along to the players in Tampa and the Bronx like a host of other reliable Yankee Fundies Foot Soldiers who are no longer with the organization – or are still with the organization, but are completely underutilized.

My advice for both Met and Yankee fans is that you might want to “repurpose” the money you spend to watch these teams or buy their gear or whatever until accountability makes its way back to New York baseball.

Who knew the AL East last place Yankees would get worse and become a symphony of strikeouts with 30 Ks in back-to-back losses to the Orioles and Rays Sunday and Monday, the two top teams in the AL East?

Not surprising if you do your homework, because when you show up at a Florida State League A-ball series with six pitching machines in tow like the Yankees’ Tampa team does, all with the blessing of Cashman and his development people, is it any wonder that hitting becomes an issue throughout the organization?

The Dillon Lawson to Sean Casey hitting coach move was made much too late, and it will take a lot of hard work for the hitters to understand the philosophies that Casey is instituting.

Moreover, this is going to have to happen throughout the organization.

For the life of me I can’t understand why the Yankees haven’t had Derek Jeter spend a week with rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe, either in the season or even at the moment Jeter was jettisoned from the Marlins.

Let Jeter explain his inside-out hitting style to Volpe. Jeter and Cashman were not exactly the best of friends when Jeter’s Yankee playing career came to an end, but do what you have to do for the organization to get Jeter talking to the kid. Watching Volpe swing as if he is trying to hit the ball 500 feet on every pitch is really frustrating.

Ironically, over on the Mets side of town, the Mets handed the talented Francisco Lindor $341 million and he takes a similar all or nothing swing. Put the ball in play, shortstops; is that too much to ask?

Who knew little New York shortstops were going to swing like Dave Kingman and Bye Bye Balboni?

The Nerds knew, unfortunately.

That is the Nerd way and Cashman and his protégé Eppler drink from the same baseball numbers Kool-Aid.

Is it any wonder on the worst of trade deadline days for the Mets (who punted on at least 2023 and 2024) that the Mets lost on a balk-off, blowing a game to the AAA Royals, who can’t beat anyone?

Who knew that one day in the major leagues, a missing Pitchcom device would lead to one of the most embarrassing losses in the history of the game, a walk-off balk.

Like I say so often: Only the Mets.

And yes, I can already see the Mets fan group @The7Line lining up for 2024 tickets because the Mets purchased some prospects from teams, most notably the Rangers and Astros, while sending away two pitchers who will be in the Hall of Fame in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander – and sending away as much as $90 million for those prospects.

Astros owner Jim Crane who actually knows what it means to win a World Series, unlike Cohen, who declared he fully expected to win a World Series in three to five years with Year Three being a complete disaster, was flabbergasted with the amount of money the Astros got back in taking Verlander and giving up outfield prospects Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford.

“I don’t think anybody’s ever seen anything like this,” Crane noted. “It’s an unprecedented amount of money they left on the table and we filled in the gap.”

I love how Eppler phrased it as “repurposing” Cohen’s money.

Oh, it’s not a fire sale or a rebuild?

Don’t fall for it, it is exactly a fire sale and rebuild (there are different levels of fire sales) and honest Max Scherzer made that clear this is a fire sale when he told reporters in Arlington, Texas that the sentiment in the Mets clubhouse had been the team was going to contend for a World Series title in 2024 – and then Eppler and Cohen changed philosophies and were going to focus on 2025 and beyond.

This is my favorite quote of the week because it allows us to peek behind the Mets’ curtain.

“(Eppler’s) answer was that the team is now kind of shifting vision and that they’re looking to compete now for 2025 and 2026; and that 2024, that it was not going to be a reload situation in New York, and that it was going to be more of a transition in 2024,” Scherzer said.

Transition teams don’t win World Series.

A repurposing, yeah right.

It’s a rebuild and here’s hoping for Mets fans’ sake they hit on the Astro prospects and what the Mets got back in the Scherzer deal, Luisangel Acuna (that would be the brother of Ronald Acuna Jr.) and some of the other prospects in the many other deals.

Baby Acuna will be in the spotlight. The Bank of Cohen sent over $35.51 million to the Rangers with Scherzer, a 39-year-old pitcher, which is absurd in itself. The Verlander sustaining gift is either $35 million or $52.5 million depending on a Verlander option.

Either way, the defending World Champion Astros could not wait to sign off on the trade. A bunch of other pieces were sent away; including tough-minded hitter Tommy Pham, to the Diamondbacks. Again, fan groups make outings to MLB cities like San Diego to watch the Mets; so maybe next year they can add some trips to Syracuse and Binghamton.

I am not just picking on the Mets and Yankees, although they deserve every ounce of criticism they get from me. I could also criticize the Tigers, a team I think made the biggest mistake of the trade deadline, basically trading pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to the Dodgers, only to learn that E-Rod did not want to go to LA, he doesn’t love LA, and he thus invoked a no-trade clause in his contract.

Now, if that were me in charge of the Tigers, simply a dreadful team, I would have run that past my pitcher first, something along the lines of, “Hey E, we may be able to trade you to the Dodgers where you can pitch in October, what do you think?”

But evidently even with all the geniuses in Detroit, including new head of baseball operations Scott Harris (whom I have been told many times is such a bright baseball person), the Tigers dropped the ball.

This talk to the player situation probably never came up when Harris was playing club lacrosse at UCLA as he began to build his bright baseball resume. I want to credit Detroit Free Press writer Jeff Seidel for writing that Scott Harris failed his first big test. He certainly did.

All Scott Harris would say about the affair was this: “I’m not going to share exactly the conversations revealed to me … Just know that we were talking throughout about possible destinations, and it didn’t work out in the end. I have to leave it at that.”

I don’t have to leave it at that.

From that word salad, Harris must be listening to some of Cashman’s “press’’ conferences; it sounds like young Mr. Harris (“revealed to me”) did not directly talk to his pitcher he was about to up and trade away. The dealing with human beings skill sets of the Nerds are not always the best.

For example: I had to laugh this week when I heard former manager Kevin Kennedy tell a story about walking through the Nerd-filled halls at Dodger Stadium one day with the great Rick Monday, one of my favorite baseball people going back to our days in San Diego. Rick has that perfect combination of extreme player confidence mixed in with a sarcastic wit; and as Kennedy and Monday walked through those Dodger halls, the Nerds they passed would purposefully look the other way or make believe they were on their phones as they walked by.

Yes, like I said, their human interaction skills could be raised a notch. I’ve noticed instances like that throughout the years. My favorite is the sudden moving of the phone to the ear so they don’t have to say “hi” or make eye contact. Probably taught in Nerd 101.

If the trade deadline can be summed up in one non-trade that would be it: good non-job, Scott Harris. The do-nothing Twins front office also excelled in doing nothing.

I also like this fact – and if you have read my previous columns on the Mets and Yankees like “Flaw Guys,” “Another Fine Mess,” or “Starr Search,” none of this should surprise you. I’m not here to have GMs or the slew of assistant GMs looking for GM jobs return my calls or texts. I’m here to tell it as I see it.

So this Yankee fact is perfect for trade day, too.

While the Rangers and Astros, two AL teams that will be playing in October, were landing Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander by the fire sale Mets “and if you buy now we will kick in $35 million and a free mattress,” the AL East last place Yankees, a team that is desperate for offense and reliable starting pitching, a team that is hitting .229 (only the Athletics are worse at .223), a team that needs a third baseman and a left fielder and are relying on Aaron Judge with a torn ligament in his big toe to supply all the offense, a team with many needs, went out and made a last-second deal, just to make a deal, for a middling middle reliever named Kenyan Middleton from the White Sox.

Who knew they needed yet another middle reliever?

You can’t make this stuff up.

Here is some of what GM for Life Brian Cashman said: “We kind of approached this deadline … where we were kind of driving on a lot of different lanes, listening to opportunities, being opportunistic buyers if anything made sense and certainly opportunistic sellers, and as we got out of the gate here in the second half with the struggles, the frustration of how we played recently, we became more cautious buyers.”

Cautious is the word when you wind up only with Kenyan Middleton.

Cautious is the word with the Yankees where essentially no one is under the gun to succeed, the most comfortable franchise in baseball where when a team strikes out 18 times in a game the manager Aaron Boone says, “Outside of the strikeouts, I thought the at-bats were building off of last night. I thought we grinded out really well.”

Who knew that a Yankee manager would praise his hitters after 18 strikeouts in a game they lost by a touchdown?

There you have it.

My advice for both Met and Yankee fans is that you might want to “repurpose” the money you spend to watch these teams or buy their gear or whatever until accountability makes its way back to New York baseball.

Who knew New York baseball fans would have to put up with so much failure in 2023?

And while you’re at it, take a listen to Pete Townshend, circa 1971: “Don’t get fooled again…no, no.”

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.



    August 3, 2023
  • Max Feldman

    Eppler is terrible trader & does not understand the need for good bull pen in todays game/ Traded best long reliever for Vogelbach a useless DH. Trade J D Davis for Ruff and threw in 4 more plyers. Obsessed must have both right & left handed hitting D Hs . Traded Castro solid reliever for left handed reliever with ERA 1.2 higher.

    August 5, 2023
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