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A Bad Day At The Ballpark
2005-04-10 21:23
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Key moment's from Sunday's 7-2 Yankee loss to the Orioles:

  • Torre's lineup: Joe Torre impresses by giving Bubba Crosby the start in center field. Bubba goes 1 for 3 with seven putouts, catching everything hit near him and firing off an impressive throw to home on a failed attempt to nail Palmeiro scoring in the second. Joe Torre also confounds by not only starting Ruben Seirra over Tino Martinez, thus forcing Giambi into the field where his defense is exploited by the Orioles, but batting Sierra fifth with Jorge Posada hitting seventh. Posada goes 2 for 4 with an RBI single and a should-have-been double. Sierra goes 0 for 3 with a ninth inning walk and a run scored.
  • Top 2nd: Following a one-out single, Rafael Palmeiro, who has 11 stolen bases in the last six years, steals second on Carl Pavano. He's later driven in by a two-out single by Jay Gibbons.
  • Top 3rd: Jason Giambi made a great play on a Brian Roberts liner in the top of the first, and now Roberts makes him pay by bunting to him for a base hit. Melvin Mora then hits a foul pop back by the tarp that Giambi loses in the sun. On the next pitch, Mora lines a shot off Pavano's right temple for a base hit, putting runners at the corners and sending Pavano to the hospital with a mild concussion.
  • Top 5th: With Paul Quantrill on in relief of Tanyon Sturtze, who had gone nine regular season appearances without giving up a run before allowing three on this day, the Orioles have the bases loaded and one out. Jay Gibbons lifts a fly out to Gary Sheffield in medium right field and Miguel Tejada decides to tag and come home. Sheffield fires a strike to home plate in plenty of time to catch Tejada but, as is his wont, Posada catches the ball on the first-base side of home instead of on top of it and misses Tejada, who comes in with a nice evasive head-first slide, when lunging back for the tag. Here's hoping Joe Girardi had a few words with Posada about this play.
  • Bottom 5th: Trailing 6-0 the Yankees get their first hit off of Baltimore starter Rodrigo Lopez when Giambi singles to start the inning. Jorge Posada then hits a towering fly that bounces off the right field wall, but thinking the ball was going out, Posada trots to first. Thus instead of men on second and third there are men on the corners, and Bubba Crosby's ensuing groundball becomes a double play rather than a standard groundout that would have left both runners on base to be driven in on the subsequent singles by Tony Womack and Derek Jeter. Giambi does score on the double-play ball, providing small consolation for the foul pop he dropped.
  • Bottom 9th: Down 7-1, the Yankees stage an unexpected rally against O's closer B.J. Ryan. Ryan dominates lefties (again, they've hit .156/.255/.248--.177 GPA--in 302 at-bats against him over the past three seasons), and does so here, getting Matsui to fly out and striking out Giambi, but in between Sierra walks on four pitches and takes second on defensive indifference. Posada singles Sierra home, amending somewhat for costing his team two runs earlier in the game. Bernie Williams, pinch-hitting for the lefty Crosby, delivers a two-out single, just his second hit of the year, to put runners at first and second with two outs, the Yanks down by five, and lefty Tony Womack due up. Torre lets Womack hit.

    Someone please explain to me why he doesn't use Andy Phillips there. Phillips is a right hander and a superior hitter. Either Phillips or Sanchez is available to play second should the Yanks be fortunate enough to tie the game (a real long shot anyway). Meanwhile, Phillips has yet to get an at-bat this season. He isn't just the only Yankee hitter yet to get a chance to hit, he's the only one who hasn't been given a start. This is a tragicomic misuse of a potentially valuable player. Torre has made several comments in the past few days about getting his bench players some action, but seems completely unconcerned about giving any to Phillips, who it appears will be sent back down when Kevin Brown is activated (which expected to happen on schedule for his April 17 start). To me that seems all the more reason to give Phillips a chance here in a game that's all but decided. But noooooooo. Grrrr. Oh yeah, Womack struck out to end the game.

The Yanks now have a record of 3-3, a game ahead of the Red Sox, a game behind the Blue Jays, and tied with the O's and Devil Rays. For what it's worth, one could argue that the Yankees should have been swept in this weekend's series with the Orioles, the only reason they weren't being Tejada missing Matsui's game-tying ground rule double on Saturday. By the same logic, Alex Rodriguez screwing up a potential game-ending double play, then failing to even throw out Mueller out at home last Wednesday was all that stood between the Yanks and a sweep of the Red Sox. So the breaks have evened out thus far.

Word is Carl Pavano--who only looked slightly dazed as a result of being hit in the head, more reason for the nickname "Meat"--should be able to make his next start, which would come Friday in Baltimore. Today the Yankees are in Boston for the Red Sox's home opener, set to start this afternoon at 3:05. Today's match-up is Mussina v. Wakefield, a rematch of Wednesday's series finale in the Bronx.

Comments
2005-04-11 05:11:12
1.   Alex Belth
The Times commented that the Yanks looked as if they were sleepwalking through the game yesterday. I felt that too, but in a way, that really discredits the job Rodrigo Lopez did. His ball was moving pretty well and he really seemed sharp.

Bummer of a play when Giambi botched that foul ball, especially considering the freak line drive that hit Pavano on the next pitch. It was a collective effort, but two plays by Posada stood out in the loss. One, when Tejada scored and Posada was out of position, and then in the bottom of the inning when Posada was caught watching a long fly ball which ended up as a dumb single instead of a double. To his credit, Posada owned up to the mistake after the game, but it proved costly when Bubba Crosby hit into a double play and then the Yanks added two more hits. What could have been a rally turned into bubkus.

Boy, Alex Rodriguez is on a short leash these days. There's a real Reggie Jackson vibe with him these days. If he makes two or three outs in a row, he hears the boo birds.

Lastly, is it me, or does the bullpen look suspect thus far?

2005-04-11 05:23:54
2.   jalexei
Posada's failure to cover the plate has always annoyed me, even more than his propensity to swing at breaking balls in the dirt. Is he concerned about getting hurt? (not that I can blame him, but sheesh, he's like an open invitiation to run home).

Heading out in three hours or so for the Fenway opener. As much as it will pain me, should be exciting to see all the festivities.

2005-04-11 05:44:32
3.   Alex Belth
It might be painful, but memorable. You're be attending a historic game. Should be interesting. Hopefully, Wakefield's knuckler ain't knuckling too tough.

As for Posada, I've actually felt that he's generally improved blocking the plate over the past few years. Has anyone else noticed that? He's not great at it, but he isn't as tentative as he once was. Oh, and from what I know, his reservations stem from a collision that he experienced in the minor leagues years ago, when he was flattened on a play at the plate. I don't know the specifics of the incident but I recall it being cited when discussing Posada's weakness at the plate.

2005-04-11 06:49:39
4.   jonblack
Cliff, I'm glad you bring up Torre not pinch-hitting Womack with Phillips. Despite Matsui's home run the other day, lefties don't hit Ryan. You knew Womack was going to make out. And the chances of tying the game there were slim. But even so -- why not bring him in just because B.J. Ryan is so tough on left-handed hitters? What's the point of bringing Andy up if Torre seems to forget he's around? Andy, like Bubba last year, has engendered a lot of good vibes with the fans, and the people I was with were cheering on that rally mostly to see Andy bat (we assumed he'd hit for Womack). When Womack went down on strikes, no one was surprised. The whole game was a mess, but seeing B.J. walk off the mound at the end of the game screeching and howling at least gave us a laugh.
2005-04-11 09:52:32
5.   JJay
Posada's homerun trot was inexcusable. When the play had concluded and I saw Posada standing on 1st I was like...."Wha....??? How is that possible?" And then you see the replay. Oy.

I don't understand what Posada was doing on Sheff's throw either. Was he not expecting it? There is no reason to be up the 1st base line and then attempt to lunge at the runner. Does he think this is a good approach?

Let's spoil the Sox fun today.

MOOOOOOOOOOOSE.

2005-04-11 10:40:57
6.   Dave D
Long live Meat.
2005-04-11 10:41:00
7.   Alvaro Espinoza
Posada has never:

1) blocked the plate. EVER. I recall a brief explanation from one of the guys in the booth that he came out on the short end of a collission in the minors and has floated to the 1B side of the plate ever since. Bottom line: inexcusable.

2) been a mentally gifted ball player. Recall that El Duque hated pitching to him and rarely did he actually do it (much like Maddux never throwing to Javey Lopez in Atl - another notorious dimwit). Quite simply he's not a 'heady' player and doesn't call a good game. Why is it always an adventure when a runner reaches 2nd and the signs change? You are guaranteed to see him make a trip to the mound EVERY TIME b/c he botches up the signs. And base running... don't get me started. I'm surprised we've never seen a Bobby Meacham/Dale Berra moment with him getting tagged out at the plate. Actually, we probably have. I just don't recall.

Respectfully disagree on 2 issues:

1) the Phillips PH proposition in the 9th. First of all, the Yanks were still down 5. What's he going to do, hit a 5-run homer? And what's the justification for Phillips being a better hitter than Womack considering he's only had a handful of professional AB's? What if Maz counters w/ a rightie? How do you think Tony Womack, an 8yr everyday veteran, would feel being pulled down 5 runs in the 9th for a career minor leaguer 1 week into the season? That's your everyday 2B there. Don't know, just can't get over-excited about Andy Phillips not getting a PH opportunity in game 6 of the season down 5 runs.

2) Think you're nitpicking about the starting line-up and you're using the ends to justify the means - Bubba plays nicely (good move), Sierra does poorly (bad move). Bubba and Sierra were in their for the exact same reason: gotta get these guys occassional playing time and also rest a few everyday players. Giambi's defense will always be poor. We're going to have to live w/ that. Tino will very often be limited to late-inning defensive replacement status.

The Yanks deserved to lose yesterday. Plain and simple.

Regardless, keep up the good work! Enjoy the sight.

2005-04-11 10:46:06
8.   Cliff Corcoran
In 1994, Posada's first year at triple-A Columbus and his third as a catcher, Jorge suffered a broken left leg and a dislocated left ankle in a collision at the plate (you can deduce from the injuries that he had blocked the plate with his left leg while receiving the throw), which ended his season six weeks early.

According to JockBio.com: "Though he recovered from the physical damage of the injury, the psychological imapact stayed with him for years. Never before shy about blocking the dish, he became hesitant to put himself in harm's way with a runner bearing down the line."

On a certain level it makes sense, the Yankees can more easily afford to give up an extra run in the sixth game of the season then they can to be without Posada in the line-up for a prolonged stretch. At the same time, such injuries are very rare, and he not only fails to block the plate in meaningless mid-season games, but in key games and the playoffs as well.

What really gets me, is that if he's not going to block the plate, he should catch the ball, behind the plate, not in front of it. It's the exact same thing as taking the ball behind second on a stolen base attempt. No human can make a swipe tag as quickly as the ball is already moving. Let the ball's velocity do the work, catch the ball behind the bag.

At any rate, with Joe Girardi in the house on yesterday's play at the plate, I'm hoping we'll see something different the next time such a play occurs.

2005-04-11 10:48:24
9.   jonblack
Alvaro, you take out Womack not because Phillips is a better hitter, but because no lefthanders hit against B.J. Ryan. Matsui blasted a home run off of him, but he's a freak (in the good sense). Lefties batted under .100 against him. Lefties would rather see Randy Johnson. So it's not just about getting Andy an at-bat. Maz, with a five-run lead, is not going to counter with anyone. Ryan was there to face whoever they put up and end the ballgame. Andy wasn't going to hit a five-run home run and neither was Womack. The fact that the game was basically over is the point. He had an opportunity to take out a lefty against a lefty-killer and put in a guy who hasn't had a single at-bat. But instead he let Womack stand up there and die an ignoble, strikeout death. I'm sure Tony was really pleased with that decision.
2005-04-11 11:03:53
10.   Cliff Corcoran
Alvaro: You contradict yourself when you ask what the point of pinch-hitting Phillips would be only to argue that Sierra and Crosby got starts because they need playing time. Well doesn't Phillips need playing time more than anyone since he has yet to get an at-bat despite having hit the cover off the ball in the spring and in Columbus last year? And no, Phillips is not going to hit a 5-run home run (though I like to joke that he's due for an 8-run jobby), but neither is Womack. The Yanks are down by five runs with one out to go, do you really think Womack is going to get upset if Torre says "this guy eats lefties alive and the kid needs an AB." If he does he's not the sort of player you want on your team. Actually, he's not the sort of player I want on my team anyway (he's not my everyday second baseman). Because he is such a poor hitter that I feel confident saying Phillips is better despite Andy only having 8 major league at bats (and though the sample size renders them meaningless, his 2 for 8 with a homer does give him a better career major league OPS/GPA/EQA you name it than Womack). If you want more "proof," look to Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projection system:

Phillips: .263/.326/.456 (.261 GPA)
Womack: .261/.303/.353 (.225)

Factor in the way B.J. Ryan dominates lefties and Phillips is indescribably better than Womack in that situation. And he'd be better against a righty too.

As for Bubba and Ruben, read the archives, I've been pushing for Bubba to get weekly starts in center and dreading Sierra being over used all spring. Big Ru's three-run bomb on Saturday was great, but when he hit it part of my reaction was "crap, now he's gonna get more starts." My reaction to Torre's line-up was not based on the results. It just so happened the results supported my argument.

2005-04-11 21:00:42
11.   brockdc
Things you can count on in this life:

1. Death
2. Taxes
3. Torre rewarding Reuben for hitting a jack by sticking him in the lineup the following day.

Regarding the Phillips-Womak affair, I cannot think of a more ideal spot to give Phillips an AB. Remember, the Yanks are going to need all the pieces they can to engineer a trade for a CF (or, by God, a LOOGY!) at the deadline. Torre's getting more predictable by the day, continually exposing himself as a paint-by-the-numbers strategist.

2005-04-13 11:20:07
12.   Alvaro Espinoza
Don't want to beat this to death - I see your points, just disagree.

Contradiction: I don't feel I'm contradicting myself. Why? B/c I don't put Andy Phillips anywhere near the same stratosphere as Sierra, Womack or even Bubba Crosby. Each of those guys has a significant/integral role with the 2005 Yanks (and are paid accordingly). You're equating Phillips, a minor leaguer, with these guys on the same level (i.e. deserving of playing time, role as a bench player). That's absurd. I hope he becomes a terrific player as much as the next fan but his time is not now (2005) barring a major injury to Womack.

Stats: You guys appear to put a high premium on stats. Ryan is a monster against lefties. No disputing the numbers. What I do recall off the top of my head is the Yanks eating BAL relief pitching, particularly B.J., for lunch the past few years. Ryan's ERA vs. Yanks over the last 3 years is just under 5 - yeah, I caved and looked it up. I just don't get too wrapped up in stats, particularly Spring training/minor league stats (didn't Womack have a good Spring stats-wise too?). I'm not trying to dismiss their use but comparing Phillip's AAA/Spring training/8 MLB AB's stats vs. these other MLB veteran's stats is as apples/oranges an argument I've ever heard.

Trade value: There isn't room to get Phillips enough playing time in order to drum up his trade value for a CF by the deadline. Not when you're paying Womack $4mil to be your everyday guy. Yanks bypassed the best/easiest CF option when they told Beltran to go scratch over at Shea.

Psychology: Very over-rated but I do think it sends a mixed message when you sign someone to be your everyday 2B then turn around and PH for him 6 games into the season w/ a rookie who doesn't figure into this year's team.

What I'm saying: I think it's silly to make such a big stink about PH'ing for Womack especially when the guy you're advocating has all of 6 or so MLB AB's and will spend most of this year in AAA. If I'm the manager, I want to see how my new everyday 2B is going to react in pressure spots sooner rather than later. Phillips will have his day, just not right now. Whether you like it or not, Tony Womack is your everyday 2B.

Ok, we've (I've?) officially beaten this one to death! Go Yanks!

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