Coming up with a nickname for the Yankees’ talented bullpen trio was something we figured was fairly low on the team’s priority list. At least beneath finding some decent middle relief help and now another first baseman, after watching Chris Parmelee shred his hamstring while stretching for a throw in Thursday night’s 6-3 victory over the Angels.
We were wrong.
Because as soon as the clubhouse doors opened yesterday, the Yankees had a stack of newly minted black T-shirts emblazoned with the official moniker for Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.
“NO RUNS DMC.”
For those familiar with the pioneering rap group, it doesn’t take much imagination to picture the logo, only with the numbers 68, 48 and 54 etched along the bottom. The back featured the iconic silhouettes of the three rappers — not relievers — to complete the look. Every Yankee had a shirt hanging over his locker chair, but the reviews were somewhat mixed.
“It’s interesting,” Miller said diplomatically. “I don’t know exactly who coined the nickname or where they came from. But people are having fun with it. You don’t get to pick your own nickname.”
Usually clubhouse tees are limited to the locker room, for players and staff. But this idea was hatched higher up in the organization, and the marketing types had bigger things in mind — selling them to the public at a steep $39.95 a shirt. Even if No Runs DMC didn’t sound like the relievers’ first choice.
“I didn’t really pay much attention to it,” Betances said. “I saw some of the ideas on social media. We’ve just got to try to do our job.”
The sales pitch began before any of the relievers entered the game Thursday night, with the shirts being modeled in the TV booth as well as mentioned on radio. And the Yankees probably weren’t all that torn up when Ivan Nova, brilliant for six innings, gave up a two-run homer in the seventh, giving the shirt’s inspiration a chance to shine.
It’s a fun nickname, and as team gimmicks go, the shirts look pretty cool. We just think it’s a little early to brand the Betances-Miller-Chapman triumvirate. Chapman didn’t even join the Yankees until May 9 — thanks to his domestic violence-related suspension.
Usually, a team has to win something for a nickname to stick — a division, a pennant, maybe even a World Series. With Thursday night’s victory, one that was nailed down by DMC themselves, the Yankees clawed back to .500 (30-30) and remained 6 1⁄2 games behind the first-place Orioles. Not exactly being fitted for rings just yet.
But you also don’t need a marketing degree to realize why it was important to roll out the T-shirts now, a solid six-plus weeks before the non-waiver trade deadline. If the Yankees stumble during this stretch — despite the soft underbelly of the upcoming schedule — they surely would break up the trio, most likely starting with Chapman, a pending free agent. No DMC, no T-shirts, no additional revenue stream.
However people feel about the nickname, there’s no arguing over the results.
After Thursday night, Betances leads all relievers (minimum 10 innings) with a 17.29 K/9 ratio and Miller is third at 16.20. Chapman, who earned his 11th save in 12 tries, is eighth at 13.50.
When they all pitch in the same game, the Yankees are 8-0, with the three combining for a 1.85 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 24 1⁄3 innings.
DMC may be worth the money. But the T-shirt?
“I hope they sell a bunch of them,” Miller said, smiling.