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Movin' Through Kazmir
2008-07-09 05:45
by Emma Span
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

My impression is that for much of this year and last, Andy Pettitte has pitched pretty well without particularly great stuff – he has decent control, usually, and he knows what he’s doing out there, and so I remember writing a lot of sentences that began something like, “Pettitte wasn’t sharp tonight, but…”

Well, this wasn’t one of those games. Pettitte was excellent Tuesday night, carrying the Yankees to a 5-0 win, and the fact that this outing came against the Devil Rays is no longer any sort of disclaimer. He went eight innings and allowed just four hits – two of them infield singles, another a bloop. There were some very good (by Yankee standards) plays made behind him, sure, but he was dominant, throwing not just a ton of strikes but really nasty, tricky strikes, exactly where he wanted them. Pettitte’s only remotely tough inning was the seventh, when with Rays on first and third and two outs, he induced Willy Aybar to hit a grounder towards the gap between third and short -- at which point Derek Jeter made a terrific play (you heard me), ranging far to his right to snag the ball, then executing his patented twisting jump-throw to nail the runner at second and end the inning.

Pettitte was only half of a tense pitcher's duel that lasted five innings: Scott Kazmir had very, very impressive stuff, though in the end he wasn't all that efficient. (Even after all this time I'm reluctant to even mention the name “Scott Kazmir” because it still sends my Mets fan friends into such fits of seething rage. Every GM makes mistakes but I can’t help feeling that if I were Steve Phillips I would forgo the ESPN commentating and dedicate my life to charity and self-abnegation in a futile bid for karmic redemption). For a while there it looked like Kazmir might be gearing up for a no-hitter, he was plowing through the Yankees’ Giambi-less, Damon-less, Matsui-less lineup with such ease. But he flashed a little mortality in the third, when Robinson Cano and Jose Molina managed consecutive singles and, after two frustrating outs, Captain Intangibles himself drove both runners in with a double to right field.

The game stayed taut until the eighth, when the Yanks tacked on off of Rays relievers Gary Glover (good pitcher name, there, vastly better than teammate Grant Balfour’s) and Jason Hammel. Melky Cabrera semi-redeemed himself after some thoroughly lousy earlier ABs with a home run, and Jeter singled, then scored from first on Abreu’s double. After sliding home, Jeter stayed down for a very long second, and I thought for sure he was injured, but apparently not – he gathered himself, got up, and walked back to the dugout with no visible limp, and no one on the Yankees' staff seemed concerned. Obviously Jeter had a very nice game overall, but in that one moment, it really looked like he was either in significant pain or just bone-tired.

Anyway, after that Mariano Rivera sat down, Edwar Ramirez stood up, Cano eventually singled in Abreu, and the Yanks took a one game lead in their season series against the Rays; they’re now 7.5 games out of first place, and still 4.5 out of the Wild Card (hey, Twins… knock it off!).

I clicked over to SNY after the game to try to get the Mets highlights, and the dudes on SportsNite were all saying that this was a “statement game” by the Yanks. Hmmm… maybe, maybe not. Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Comments
2008-07-09 06:02:07
1.   horace-clarke-era
Emma remains on a roll with the riff on Balfour's name. One of those 'why didn't I think of that' moments. Give the lady a Bouton-niere from our collective lapel! Ahem.

In my fantasy league one manager posted a heartsick lament that he sat Pettitte last night after his bad start vs the Bosox lastr outing, He gets no sympathy - Andy's won 7 of 8 and that counts as an ace, a stopper, a good memory walking among us. Good memories also from DJ last night, the 2 out hit was genuinely huge as we were about to screw up royally. Raysally? Did anyone else worry that he was hurt - or just not expecting the throw? - when he did that late, awkward slide on the Abreu single? (I haven't read the game thread, sorry if it was already discussed.)

I'd be harder on Melky's early at-bats if it hadn't been Kazmir. Kaz is a textbook case of how 92-94 can seem REALLY fast when release is disguised and the ball moves. A la Mo(de). Sorry. Blame Emma. Got me started.

Joining the lineup of those not happy about Sidney the Yankee today. Maybe we win another slugfest, but only by taking and getting walks, I think.

2008-07-09 06:02:44
2.   Sliced Bread
I'm guessing during the moment Jeter was on the ground, he was thinking about dropping a note in the Yankee suggestion box this morning. Something like:

"Hey, can we get one of those big convex mirrors installed behind Bobby Meacham, you know, like they post on blind curves? And perhaps we could put a warning beneath the mirror: Throws To The Plate May Be Closer Than They Appear To Meacham"

2008-07-09 06:11:22
3.   Sliced Bread
It is pie!... It is flan!... It is ... a violation of Viennese Table etiquette.

http://tinyurl.com/6pjqly

On a related note: How many times do you think Suzyn has had to warn Sterling: "Keep yer sticky mitts away from my tartuffo, John."

2008-07-09 06:14:02
4.   bp1
2 To say nothing of when Posada was thrown out. Geez, I even called that one to my wife "He's gonna be out by 10 feet", and I don't think it was even that close.

Yikes. Ugly stuff.

But - who am I to pick nits. That was a top shelf Yankee win, the way they are drawn up in Spring Training. Good pitching, good defense, working the opposing pitcher into a higher pitch count, then banging away at the bullpen. This was what I remember from recent Yankee teams that had that good "everything is going to be ok" feeling.

You don't want to get too excited over one game, but man it felt good.

2008-07-09 06:15:15
5.   ms october
0 emma, i remember one of your earlier write-ups that alluded to the "pettitte wasn't sharp tonight, but..." which was right on, and i was hoping that would not be his fate all year long - fortunately he still has some gems in him.
one thing - as much as i wish it were steve phillips who traded kazmir - it was duquette - but that so many people think it is phillips is in itself funny to me.

1 i'll second your last 2 paragraphs hoss

2 good ones sliced - meachem is hazardous

2008-07-09 06:25:24
6.   horace-clarke-era
2 Just wondering, I didn't see an angle on it at the time ... what was Alex doing in the way of signalling him? If anything. Once the runner's steaming/trotting/lumbering around 3rd it is the on-deck guy's job (or the baserunner ahead of him if there is one) to signal both urgency and (as I understand it) the location of the throw/slide to come.

I think Meacham has to send DJ there with 2 outs and a weak to so-so CF arm. No blame to him in my mind but my sense was that a better, earlier slide to the inside of the plate would have been safe.

2008-07-09 06:32:27
7.   RZG
6 I didn't have a problem sending Jeter but Upton's arm is very, very good besides being accurate based on the games I've seen him play this year and last.
2008-07-09 06:42:15
8.   Sliced Bread
6 Didn't see ARod on that play either. Who could blame him if he was busy watching his wallet instead,(rimshot, please) but Alex is usually right on top of his traffic duties.

Yeah, sending Jeter wasn't a terrible call there, especially as the Yanks were icing the cake (Sterling's finger not included) at that point -- but, c'mon, the Yanks could sell Con Ed the electricity generated by Meacham's incessant waving.

2008-07-09 06:43:53
9.   JohnnyC
7 And that wily genius Joe Maddon is playing his entire outfield shallow this year to exploit their arms and range (well, maybe not Gomes so much). Maybe it's just me, but this excellent first half by the Rays has Maddon making some "full-of-my-own-greatness" soundbytes. Hey, Joe, it's barely 90 games in, you can wait a few months before preparing your MOY campaign talking points.
2008-07-09 06:49:07
10.   JL25and3
6 It's A-Rod's fault!
2008-07-09 06:52:34
11.   JohnnyC
8 Alright, I'll just say it. I don't expect everyone to agree but...Girardi notwithstanding, this group of coaches is the weakest the Yankees have had since the early '90s. You would think that Cashman would realize that you surround a neophyte manager with an experienced staff not a staff even less versed in the majors than he.
We all know the thought and effort that went into providing Torre with a staff safety net in 1996. I'm sorry but Eiland (who I assume calls the game or at least sets the game plan)has already been called out for (as Girardi phrased it) "bad pitch selection." And while ARod and Giambi sing Long's praises, the team is 12th in RISP average and can't execute a hit and run or bunt play to save their lives. Finally, remind me what Rob Thompson's job is again.
2008-07-09 06:54:32
12.   dianagramr
0

Nice title there Emma ... you are on a roll.

One year, I named one of my roto teams "Kazmir Sweaters"

As far as Meacham goes, I wonder if BP2009 will have part of the Yankee write-up include an analysis of third base coaches.

2008-07-09 07:03:30
13.   bp1
9 They commented on the outfielder's positions several times last night, like when Jeter and Posada hit balls over their head. Maybe Joe went to the Jim Kaat school of outfield. You know what I mean - when Kaat would say (once a game, at least) how he'd rather fielders play shallow to get the bloops, 'cause if the ball is hit over their head it is the pitcher's fault. Dunno if I totally agree, but man he said it a lot. Madden must feel that way, too.

Good thing Melky wasn't playing that way, 'cause he mades some nice catches on deep fly balls that coulda caused some problems.

2008-07-09 07:06:16
14.   horace-clarke-era
10 11 No! It's LONG'S fault!

By the way, I see I'm in a minority as people (just surfed it) praise Upton's arm. I'm going to defer as my own database is too small. I thought it was a throw enough off-line to allow him to score, and since it was SO shallow (as noted 9 , that wily Maddonman!) there's no good excuse for a good CF on the BEST defensive team in baseball (!) to be that far off.

As far as 3rd base coaches, and Meacham, my sense is that they obviously have to make case-by-case, runner-by-OF calls, but a philosophy gets affected by the general quality of the team's hitting. If risp hits are down, the 3rd base coach is likely to be more aggressive - and I'm not sure that's wrong.

Love Kazmir Sweaters, dianagramr, but then (it has probably shown by now) I have a Fatal Weakness for puns. If only Horace the Great had pitched, my handle here would be so good!

2008-07-09 07:13:12
15.   horace-clarke-era
Just for fun, here's one source I found on OF arms

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/best-outfield-arms-of-2007/

I haven't spent much time with it, but Yankee arms all looked good last year (!?) including Matsui, and Melky's D does show well, if one adds speed and range. But I see where Torii Hunter is, and wonder. I know he's not what he used to be but there are ODD guys above him!

2008-07-09 07:30:28
16.   ChrisS
Just an FYI, Steve Phillips wasn't there anymore when Jim Duquette traded Kazmir for Zambrano.

Rick Peterson said he could fix Zambrano in ten minutes.

Here's what BA said at the time:
http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/news/040730kazmir.html

2008-07-09 07:34:20
17.   Bob Timmermann
Grant Balfour's problem is he always making declarations that piss off half the Middle East years later.
2008-07-09 07:36:50
18.   ChrisS
16 and here's the espn story:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1849525

Chuck Lamar:
"'It was a good trade for us, and I think it was a heck of a trade for the New York Mets,' Lamar said."

I wonder how hard it was for him to show restraint and not say that he just pwned the Mets.

2008-07-09 07:47:38
19.   pistolpete
3 Ew.
2008-07-09 07:51:27
20.   dianagramr
16

From the mind of Chuck Lamar, circa 2005 ....

"There's no question I'm a better GM than when I took this job, and I think we're a better organization. People are tired of losing, and I understand that. I've been the GM the whole time, and we're tired of losing. Everyone's tired of hearing my rhetoric about what's going to happen in the future, and I understand that completely. I wish I had some of the decisions we made early in those 10 years back. But you can't. You just hope you learn from them and go on. We think we have."
--Devil Rays GM Chuck LaMar, on his tenth year "on the job." (St. Petersburg Times)

"The first five [years] went by so quickly they made up for the last five. In the first five we built what we thought was just an outstanding foundation for an expansion organization. We don't need to go into a lot of detail over what a struggle the last five have been. But I believe as strongly now as I ever have that there will be a winning team in Tampa Bay in the future."
--LaMar. sigh

"I think the nucleus of young players is there, I think the payroll will be increased in the future to the point to be competitive, and I think the fans will finally get what they deserve."
--LaMar

"There's no question they've been a disappointment."
--Commissioner Bud Selig, on the Devil Rays

2008-07-09 07:59:08
21.   dianagramr
20
I forgot the best one of all!
===============

"The only thing that keeps this organization from being recognized as one of the finest in baseball is wins and losses at the major-league level."
--Devil Rays GM Chuck LaMar

2008-07-09 08:01:09
22.   Raf
11 Eiland may have gotten the call due to the fact that he knows the young pitchers well, having coached them in the minors. Having said that, I don't know if he'll bring anything more to the table than Mel or Gator did.

Same with Long. Giambi & ARod have been in the league for years, I don't know what Long could or would bring to the table that could make them hit any better. I don't think he could be blamed for Cano's, Melky's or Jeter's struggles either.

2008-07-09 08:04:09
23.   dianagramr
Report floating around that Donnie Baseball will come back to Dodgers after ASB ...

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3479584

2008-07-09 08:19:28
24.   horace-clarke-era
17 ka-ching! That's really bad. You have bats in your balfour, Bob.

23 It would be VERY nice to see Mattingly back in the game asap.

2008-07-09 08:52:30
25.   Emma Span
5 16 D'oh!

I know that yet I'm always, ALWAYS making that mistake. Something about Steve Phillips just compels me to blame him.

See... now I'm even blaming him for my own repeated errors!

2008-07-09 09:21:04
26.   ChrisS
25 Double-D'oh as I didn't see ms october's correction.

I've made the same mistake on multiple times, Emma. Phillips says so many blatantly dumb things on ESPN, that one expects him to be behind the dumbest trade the Mets have ever made.

2008-07-09 09:29:16
27.   dianagramr
26

Zambrano/Kazmir doesn't quite match Fregosi/Ryan (just yet)

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