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Ding Dong
2005-07-21 04:42
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

"We're back in order," Manager Joe Torre said. "We're dragging a little bit, but I thought we showed a lot of dogfight in us over the last three games. I'm very proud, but it's a little bit too early to pat ourselves on the back, because we have a lot of work to do."
(N.Y. Times)

Aaron Small has a big chin and from the profile looks like the protagonist from the recent animated movie, "The Incredibles." He's not fat at all, he's tall and well-built, but he's got some kind of jaw. Jason Giambi's high-school teammate had a decent outing for the Yankees last night, throwing a lot of off-speed pitches and working into the sixth inning. The offense gave him plenty of support as New York beat Texas, 9-4 to remain a half-game behind first place Boston. I liked the headline on the back page of today's Daily News: "Biggie Small."

The Rangers' starter, Joaquin Benoit started off well, striking out the first four batters he faced (he would get Alex Rodriguez on strikes three times in all, and the three-four-and-five batters in the line up would go hitless on the night). Benoit's stuff looked good early on as he combined a good change-up with a lively fastball. But he left an off-speed pitch over the plate to Jason Giambi in the second, and the Yankee DH lifted a high fly to center field. Gary Matthews Jr lined it up and narrowly missed robbing Giambi of a dinger. I didn't think it would make it over the fence, but it did and the Yanks were on the board. Before you knew it, Jorge Posada reached out and slapped another hanging off-speed pitch into the upper deck in right field.

Richard Hidalgo answered with a solo home run in the second, but the Yanks came back with two more homers in the fifth, a solo shot by Tino Martinez and a three-run job by Robinson Cano--both off Benoit's slow stuff. With the Yankees ahead 7-2 (Jason Giambi added another solo dinger), Small walked two men in the bottom of the sixth and was relieved by Tanyon Sturtze, who promplty left a high fastball over the plate. Hidalgo pounded it into right field. One run scored and men were on second and third. Next, Gary Matthews Jr. walked, putting the Yanks in a tight spot. Sturtze got Rod Barajas to pop out for the second out, but then fell behind 3-0 to the lead-off hitter Dave Dellucci. He did manage to get two strikes however, then Dellucci fouled off two more pitches before grounding out to Tino Martinez.

Sturtze recorded two outs in the seventh, but then allowed a single to Hank Blalock and a walk to Alfonso Soriano. Tom Gordon relieved him and got the Yanks out of the inning. A run would score in the eighth when a ball went through Martinez's legs at first, but Tino hit his second home run of the night in the top of the ninth, and that was that. (Both Martinez and Giambi's second homers came off lefties.) To cap it off, Rivera overwhelmed the heart of the Texas order in the ninth. Mark Teixeira led-off and swung at two cutters, up and in for strikes, then went down looking at a two-seamer on the outside corner. Blalock took an outside fastball for strike one, fouled off a cutter for strike two, laid off a high fastball, then swung through another high heater for strike three. Soriano took a cutter for a strike, leaned back at a fastball that came up and in, then split his his bat in two on a cutter, and grounded out weakly to second. It was vintage Rivera and the Yanks left Texas with another series win.

According to Tyler Kepner in the Times, the decision to send Wayne Franklin back to the minors and bring up Alex Gramman did not come from Joe Torre, but from Tampa. As Bernie Williams told the Daily News:

"It is weird," Williams said. "This year, more than any other, there's a trend of no margin for error. It seems like when you hit or play well, you get to keep playing. If you struggle a little, you sit. And if you're new and you struggle, you're not here anymore."

Tonight gives Randy Johnson vs. Bartolo Colon in California. I expect that Colon will be terrific, especially considering his last performance vs. the Yanks.

Comments
2005-07-21 05:39:18
1.   STONER
Speaking of Franklin - good riddance, the guy was totally intimidated out on the mound, he simply could not miss a bat with any of his pitches. Gramman, a dud as a starter, has been working out of the bullpen in Columbus and reports are he has found his niche...so maybe our long relief will be enhanced - we'll see. Randy - we need you to be Dandy tonight!
2005-07-21 06:17:08
2.   joe in boston
I enjoyed the win last night. But it is clear to me how flawed this team STILL is :
(Centerfield, Middle relief, certain errors in the field at the wrong time). The Yanks are going to have to be really mentally and physically tough in the next few weeks (through August). They are going to have to really fight through some of these games. I want to continue to see strong hitting out of Giambino and Arod. Not to mention Jeter fighting his way out of his slump and the starters working hard. Kind of cliche, but that's what I'm thinking.....
2005-07-21 06:18:05
3.   Dan M
Bernie, of course there's no margin for error because you don't have a 10-game lead like you did last July, and you're not guaranteed a playoff spot.

I figure Bernie might see some more pine-time as Giambi and Tino are streaking. (Now there's a mental image).

2005-07-21 06:27:02
4.   Yanks in NH
Great win last night! Saw a comment criticizing using Rivera in a non-save situation, but that would be letting the 'save' stat drive the decisions, and in this case locking in the win to assure the series win was more important. How many pitches did he throw anyways - the usual Mariano efficiency - its a beautiful thing!

The other nice thing about the game last night was the production from everyone but the big three (Sheffield, Rodriguez & Matsui). When you can do what they did last night with absolutely nothing from those guys - that's pretty good. I'm with the feeling that Colon's getting shelled tonight and chased early!

2005-07-21 06:57:08
5.   mikeplugh
The important thing to remember as a Yankee fan enduring the marathon season and its ups and dows is that the Yanks aren't playing all that well, and yet they always seem to have 2-3 guys carrying them.

The pitching is generally mediocre and sometimes awful. The fielding is subpar. The hitting far too often is home run or nothing and here we are a half game out of 1st.

Soon enough Jeter will start hitting in front of Cano and we'll figure out how to get something out of the CF slot. The defense is something we have to live with, but the pitching needs to come around in the end.

If we can get our pitching situation stabilized and get dominating starts from Johnson and Mussina, we'll win the division and make a run in the playoffs. It looks more and more like it just may happen.

2005-07-21 06:59:10
6.   mikeplugh
Prediction:

Yankees 7
Angels 4

Colon gives up 5 runs over 6 innings and Randy Johnson holds the Angels to 2 runs over 6+ before giving it to the bullpen.

Hitting hero: Derek Jeter

2005-07-21 06:59:45
7.   Yanks in NH
For all of Torre's faults that many here like to rant about, one of his greatest strengths is playing to the hot hand(s), ala Tino during his earlier HR streak, etc. Nothing kills me more than seeing a great game from a non-every day player just to see them on the bench for the following week because its the regular starter's spot. Play it out and see if you (can't resist using Cashman's favorite cliche of late) can't catch lightning in a bottle!

Regarding the revolving door in the bullpen, those decisions are coming from Tampa, not Torre as evidenced by the quote describing him as being dissappointed that Franklin was gone. That's a little puzzling though as he couldn't be gone soon enough for me!

2005-07-21 07:04:13
8.   Yanks in NH
The great Yankee teams have always had that ability to spread the production around like that, with 2-3 different heroes every night and unlikely heroes going on a hot streak - ala Scott Brosiusm, etc.! If it's always the same guys, when they slump, we're in trouble!
2005-07-21 07:17:56
9.   STONER
Yank in NH wrote: Regarding the revolving door in the bullpen, those decisions are coming from Tampa, not Torre as evidenced by the quote describing him as being dissappointed that Franklin was gone. That's a little puzzling though as he couldn't be gone soon enough for me!
///
That's just Joe, he's a players manager. He may be happy as a pig in do-do that Franklin is gone, but he says the right thing and Franklin doesn't feel so bad and his confidence isn't totally shattered. Mind games - Joe knows how to handle and smooze players.
2005-07-21 07:19:40
10.   Chucksax
Yanks in NH: playing the hot hand does not require any managerial skill other than: 1) getting lucky and 2) knowing how to read a box score.

Managerial skill means being able to juggle the bench & bullpen when nobody has a hot hand; or being able to pull a hot hand from a player that has never had one before.

2005-07-21 07:35:34
11.   Yanks in NH
Way too many of those who have what you are calling 'managerial skill' are exactly the ones who sit the hot hand instead of playing it out and getting the most out of it - and they're usually playing golf in October!

Call it luck if you want, but Torre seems to be consistently lucky in maximizing the hot hands!

2005-07-21 07:44:02
12.   JohnnyC
How soon we forget Tony Womack's 250 ABs.
2005-07-21 08:01:59
13.   Yanks in NH
Sometimes you have to invest some time to try to get some people going i.e. Giambi, and sometimes it's a bust because there ain't anything there i.e. Womack!
2005-07-21 08:06:30
14.   dtrain
Torre played Womack well past the point where it became clear he wasn't going to contribute. Plus, a quick look at his career stats should tell you that, even without having to see him play at all.

However, to be fair to Joe, I blame the whole Womack fiasco on management more than on him. I'm sure there was some pressure on Torre to keep playing Womack and keep giving him chances to not make the front office look like the morons they were for signing him.

2005-07-21 08:34:40
15.   unpopster
A trade thought that will NEVER happen, but a boy can dream, can't he?

Pavano, Felix Rodriguez and Sean Henn to the Marlins for Lowell and Burnett. Then the Yanks would move Jeter to CF, Arod back to SS and Lowell at 3B.

Would Jetes ever move to CF? probably not. And even if he would, they would never let him do it mid-season. But think about the 2006 lineup with that configuration (especially if Lowell bounces back to previous form).

2005-07-21 09:17:16
16.   Knuckles
unpopster-
Lowell is most likely not bouncing back to his old form. All signs point to him being one of those slow guys that declines drastically post-30. If the Yanks were ever to slide Jeter to CF and A-Rod to SS, they would be able to find a better 3B to instigate the change (Duncan, maybe?) and never in the middle of a tough playoff race.

And with Pavano for Burnett, we'd just be trading our next 3 years of an iffy, possibly injury prone pitcher, for at least 4 (or possibly zero) years for an iffy, definitely injury prone pitcher who actually can strike people out. Because Burnett is far and away the best pitcher on the market this winter and will go for at least 4 year deal.

The fact that he is th best option out there further reinforces the point that teams are locking up their youngsters more and more often (often with the help of the Boss' revenue sharing dollars) allowing less of them to get to the FA market. Making it all the more important for the Yankees to continue trying to develop starters from within.

2005-07-21 11:28:58
17.   Shaun P
I like Yanks in NH's thinking about Torre - its refreshingly positive. I also agree with dtrain to a point - Torre was stuck with Womack because the FO didn't give him anything else to play with.

On April 1, who else was going to play 2B, Rey Sanchez? It wasn't going to be Cano - in 216 ABs at AAA at age 21 (2004), he hit .259/.316/.403, which screams "more seasoning needed."

So Torre took the cards he was dealt (Womack or Sanchez) and played his best hand until he got a better card (Cano). Then Torre stuck with him, even though Cano hit a Womackian .253/.273/.398 over his first 83 ABs.

Sounds about right so far: make the best of a bad situation, when you get a better option use it.

As for LF, Bernie was hurt, recall, and the other options were Sierra (though he was hurt most of May too), Phillips, and guys in the minors. Would Sierra have been a better option (recent "clutch" hitting aside, Sierra "hit" .222/.245/.289 in 45 June ABs)? Phillips might have been better than Womack, but he didn't impress in the chances he got at 1B/DH (10 K, 0 BB in 32 ABs), stellar AAA numbers aside.

I'm not saying Womack in LF was a great move on Torre's part - I would have tried Phillips and if that didn't work, let Bubba play CF and moved Godzilla back to left - but given his other options, it was certainly defensiveable.

I don't think Torre played Womack because of FO pressure - I think he felt he didn't have any better options. Given what Phillips and Bubba have done in the bigs SO FAR, minor league stats aside, maybe he didn't. That is the FO's fault, not Torre's.

2005-07-21 13:03:39
18.   DaveinMD
Torre loved Womack. He couldn't stop gushing about his speed. Signing Womack was a Torre type move.
2005-07-21 15:08:33
19.   unpopster
BOLD PREDICTION:

I don't like the guy and I wouldn't mind if he's dealt for a bag of balls...but IF Womack is still with the team in the post season, his speed will win a game for us, a la Dave Roberts in last year's ALCS.

But, that is a big IF.

2005-07-21 17:26:18
20.   markp
Cashman has mentioned getting Torre's input on every deal up to this one in every interview I've ever seen with him, save the huge FA signings and the Arod trade (and he's been given a lot of input into most of those like the Mussina signing.)
There's no doubt in my mind that Womack was a Torre choice from day one. That getting Wright, Pavano, and RJ instead of two of the three and Beltran was also a Torre call. Stanton was requested by Torre (as Nelson had been previously.)
Using set-up men too much has been a Torre problem from the start of his managerial career to the present. Bringing in Gordon yet again with a four run lead (after admitting in ST he'd overused him in 2004) was dumb. Not developing a BP past his big three and using awful guys as LOOGY is once again a problem.

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