A Fine Mess

Port Charlotte, Fla., February 23, 2020; Tampa Bay 9, Yankees 7 — Well, we “suffered” through another Yankee Spring Training loss on Sunday, 9-7, visiting the Rays in Port Charlotte. The work of 36 position players and 19 pitchers resulted in three hours and seven minutes of baseball action, with the visitors unfortunately ending on the losing side.

The conditions were gorgeous, the action continuous, the facility a state-of-the-art venue for the great game. And aside from the exquisite atmosphere, there were some positives for Yankee fans, considerable ones. With the speedy Estevan Florial running from first base with two down in the top of the second, right fielder Trey Amburgey gave the Bombers their first lead of the season with a sharp double down the left field line. Four different baby Bombers came through with sixth-inning singles to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 6-2 lead.

Better still was the work of a pumped-up-looking righthanded starter Jonathan Loaisiga, who set down the Rays in order in the first. There were mixed results among the other nine Yankee pitchers. But righty Miguel Jayure, who was on for the fifth, looked sharp, almost major-league ready. And Amburgey kicked in a perfect throw to second to retire Yandy Diaz trying to stretch a single in the third. But the best news of all came in the form of the play of third baseman Miguel Andujar. His only chance in the field, the 5-4-3 he started to close out the home third, featured impeccable footwork on the one-hop grab and a perfect relay to second base. But better still was the sound off his “thunderous” bat, with which he homered deep but foul in the third, then later went yard the opposite way to right in the fifth, closing the score to 3-2 Rays.

On the other side of the ledger, none of the two-, then one-, then three-run rallies the Rays posted in the sixth, seventh, and eighth came without considerable Yankee assistance. Least egregious was the sixth-inning two-spot, which righty Alexander Vizcaino set up with a hit by pitch. The second of ensuing doubles, struck by Lucius Fox, featured an opposite-field beautiful stroke to left. But worse was yet to come, as Albert Abreu and Trevor Lane both brought on trouble issuing back-to-back walks in the seventh and eighth.

Worse still was the unfortunate work of catcher Wynston Sawyer, who contributed to both rallies with errors throwing the ball back to the pitcher. And further still, believers in old-time baseball would have to take umbrage with two Yankee at bats in their one-run seventh. It could have yielded more had not Kellen Deglan and Brandon Lockridge both swung at 3-0 pitches. Note that Rays backup Miles Mastrobuoni, presented with the same count during his team’s three-run eighth-inning rally, took the pitch and the ensuing walk that began the onslaught with two down and nobody on.

Was it a frustrating loss? Of course not. Spring — particularly early Spring — results mean nothing, unless of course, you’re an insane fan, like me. So yes, it drove me crazy. But not so crazy that I don’t understand where I am, and what I’m experiencing. And seeing the lightning swing of Miguel Andujar in action was worth the price of admission, as people used to say.

February 23 marks the 55th anniversary of the death of comic legend Stan Laurel. His misadventures, shared with sidekick Oliver Hardy, could be frustrating as well. But only if you’re totally missing the point of what these two were conveying. If the middle word of Hardy’s signature phrase is properly appreciated, then yes, today was,

“A Fine Mess”