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Can't Win 'Em All
2006-06-08 21:17
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Just like they did the last time he pitched against them in the Bronx, the Yankees hit three home runs off Curt Schilling last night. This time, however, all three were solo shots (by Johnny Damon leading off the game, Bernie Williams again batting lefty, and Robinson Cano snapping a 158 at-bat homerless streak). Otherwise, Schilling faced the minimum, walking none and allowing only one other hit, a Damon double in the third that was erased when Damon wandered off second expecting a Melky Cabrera fly out to center to drop in front of Coco Crisp.

Still, the Yankees carried a 3-1 lead into the sixth thanks to Jaret Wright's first-inning Houdini act. After giving up singles to three of the game's first four batters, the last off the bat of Manny Ramirez driving Coco Crisp home with the game's first run, Wright walked Trot Nixon to load the bases with one out. With his team on the verge of giving Curt Schilling a big early lead, Jason Varitek hit a ball right back to Jaret Wright, who body-blocked the ball, picked it up and threw home to start an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play.

From there Wright settled down until the top of the sixth when he walked Ramirez, and allowed singles to Trot Nixon and Varitek, the latter plating Ramirez. Wright then clipped Mike Lowell on the jersey to load the bases, ending his day. With none out, the bases loaded and the Yankees clinging to a slim 3-2 lead, Joe Torre called on Scott Proctor to face the bottom of the Red Sox order.

Proctor got ahead of Kevin Youkilis 0-2 before getting him to fly out to center for the first out. That tied the game at three. Proctor the got ahead of Alex Gonzalez 0-2 only to have Gonzalez foul off three pitches and take what looked like strike three on the inside corner to everyone but home plate ump Tim McClelland and Gonzalez for ball one. Gonzalez then fouled off one more pitch before yanking a fastball down the middle past Alex Rodriguez for an RBI double. The ball, which was hit hard and took a sharp hop over Rodriguez's glove, actually tipped off the pinky of Rodriguez's mitt. Initially ruled a double, the scoring was briefly changed to an E5 before being reversed yet again. Proctor then fell behind Crisp 3-0, but the Red Sox's lead-off hitter swung at the 3-0 pitch and grounded out and Mark Loretta flew out to left on Proctor's next pitch.

Down just a run, the top of the Yankee order went down on seven pitches in the bottom of the frame, capped by Giambi striking out on three pitches.

Joe Torre stuck with Proctor to start the seventh against the Sox big guns. David Ortiz lead off with a double and the Yankees somewhat wisely decided to walk Manny Ramirez rather than let Manny's personal whipping boy, Proctor, pitch to him. A better move likely would have been to pull Proctor there and then, but as was revealed after Proctor surrendered a game-breaking three-run homer to Jason Varitek five pitches later, the next man in line was Scott Erickson.

Erickson started his day by giving up a single to Lowell and cracking Kevin Youkilis on the elbow with a wildly errant fastball. He then allowed both runners to score on a two-out Crisp single, running the score to the eventual 9-3 final.

Mopping up in the eighth, Matt Smith ended his career-starting no-hit streak at four innings by giving up two-out singles to Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek before stranding them by getting Mike Lowell to foul out to end the inning. Aaron Small pitched a perfect ninth.

In other news, Gary Sheffield has decided to have surgery on his wrist, officially eliminating any chance of his returning before September. Brian Cashman said the decision was made because the injury did not appear to be healing on its own and having surgery was the only option that might allow Sheffield to return this season.

While Melky Cabrera's unexpectedly high on-base percentage and rapidly improving defense have greatly reduced the impact of Hideki Matsui's injury, the Yankees current plan to replace Sheffield with a platoon of Bernie Williams and Bubba Crosby will not suffice, even if removing Bernie from the DH picture has made room for Andy Phillips to assume the starting first base job. It was clear at the beginning of the season that Bernie was going to be a problem that needed fixing, and despite his two left-handed home runs in the last two games, he remains one.

Despite hitting .301 in May, Bernie, once an on-base machine, continues to walk at half his career rate and despite those two dingers (half of his season total) his power remains a memory. The result is a still dismal .266/.312/.382 line on the year. Then there's the fact that his defense in right has been worse than his play in center ever was. Bernie's range in center may have completely dried up in his final years at the position, but in right field he regularly misplays outs within his limited range into hits. Bubba Crosby is quite the opposite on defense, but more of the same (which is to say, less) at the plate.

The Yankees recently surprised (and impressed) many by demoting Terrence Long in favor of Kevin Thompson. Now is the time to give Thompson an extended look in right. Thompson may ultimately be nothing more than a fourth outfielder, but the Yankees need to know what they have before the trading deadline, which is less than two months away, and it's rather apparent what they have in Bernie and Bubba, the former of whom should be retired and the latter of whom has maxed out as a speed and defense fifth outfielder.

Speaking of Bubba, he'll start a rehab assignment today rather than rejoining the team as originally expected. Octavio Dotel will start his rehab assignment on Sunday. Crosby should play just a few games before being activated next week. Dotel is looking at a longer rehab stint and is expected to work his way up through the Yankees' minor league system and join the team in a couple of weeks.

In other minor league news, Eric Duncan has finished rehabbing his strained back and has been assigned to double-A Trenton, where he should have started the season anyway as he failed to deliver at that level last year. Duncan is listed as a third baseman on the Trenton roster, suggesting he's been moved back to his original position, if so it would imply that the Yankees are now thinking of Duncan less as Jason Giambi's successor than as potential trade bait. Matt DeSalvo, who has been just plain awful thus far this year with Columbus despite a tremendous minor league track record, was also reassigned to Trenton. Further down in the system, Marcos Vechionacci and Tim Battle, neither of whom hit a lick with high-A Tampa, were sent down to low-A Charleston. That isn't as bad as it sounds for Vechionacci, who is actually younger than last year's number one pick C.J. Henry, who is also with Charleston, but is problematic for Battle, who is nearly a year Vechionacci's senior and barely more than a year younger than Melky Cabrera. On the flip side, Stephen White and T.J. Beam have been promoted to Columbus after strong showings with the Thunder. The latter just might be a worthy late-season replacement for Scott Proctor, who's looking more and more like the old Scott Proctor in part because his curve ball has gone missing. Finally, Ben Davis and Erubiel Durazo have both joined the Clippers after brief stays in A ball.

Comments
2006-06-08 23:17:15
1.   Yu-Hsing Chen
The Question is... who can you get? and at what price? Bernie hasn't been good but to get a even remotely decent hitting corner outfielder that wouldn't cost the team serious prospects seems difficut. or would they try to experiement with Andy Phillips and/or Durazo or even gulp Giambi in the outfield and then have one of the other bat DH ?
2006-06-08 23:22:50
2.   brockdc
Cliff, you failed to mention that Proctor's on pace to pitch 487 innings.

Boy, and Joe loves himself some Scotty Erickson, doesn't he? Makes me wonder: What's the allure? Is it the fire and ice stare? The cocky strut? The chisled superhero-like facial features? The ability to somehow be MORE hittable than batting practice?

2006-06-08 23:29:34
3.   brockdc
1 Durazo in the outfield would make me rue the day I'd ever criticized Bernie's defensive proficiency.

For God's sakes already: Can we please just give Kevin Thompson a shot? I'm not saying he's the answer, by any means. But how will we ever know either way? I know the guy's 26, but, dammit, he's got more upside than anyone else we're putting out in right these days.

2006-06-08 23:33:06
4.   Cliff Corcoran
1 When Giambi was younger and relatively more spry, the A's needed to find a position for him and tried him at third and in the outfield. Years later Giambi would famously declare that he "was an abortion in the outfield." Durazo is a DH only. He's worse than Giambi at first base. Phillips, however, just might be able to cut it in the outfield, though I don't expect the Yankees to try to move him there mid-season. He has almost no experience out there.

As you'll see in my amended final paragraph, I think Eric Duncan may be on his way out, provided his bad back and absent bat haven't taken all the shine off his prospect status for this trading season.

2 I figured I've said it enough in the past few days. It's actually about 110 innings, which is absurd enough on it's own, particularly given his almost complete loss of effectiveness.

2006-06-08 23:42:30
5.   Yu-Hsing Chen
Or we could pray that Bernie can at least continue his level of May. (a .760 ish OPS level) which while dissapoint for that position, is acceptable for the 8th/ 9th guy in the batting order? (or .. dream that he can sustain his current June level of .820 + OPS XD)
2006-06-08 23:44:26
6.   Cliff Corcoran
5 If Melky started hitting for power or Cano started drawing walks, yes, but since neither of those is likely to happen this season, no.
2006-06-09 00:24:22
7.   Adam B
I hope now that the draft is over Cashman will start to realize that he has to Torre-proof the roster. Meaning, get rid of Erickson and force Torre to use guys who deserve chances, like Matt Smith and Kevin Thompson. After all, being forced to use Phillips and Melky led to their current showings. I feel like the Yankees would've had a chance tonight if instead of letting Proctor pitch to Ortiz, Manny and Nixon they would've brought in say Myers and had him face Ortiz, intentionally walk Manny and then face Nixon and then gone to Farns and Villone for the 7th and 8th if the game was still close.

Oh well, at least the next two series should be interesting. I get a chance to see Cleveland on Tuesday live.

2006-06-09 01:29:36
8.   Yu-Hsing Chen
Still though Cliff, the Red Sox and Jays are hardly without their own share of problems, particularly in pitching, which while as many rants most Yankee fans seems to have on ours, it has actually been better than both the Jays and the Sox's
2006-06-09 01:46:41
9.   Rob Gee
8 Seriously though - let us remember we saw Cairo at 1B and LF before we saw Phillips and Melky get their PT. Even as they've stuck, it's not Torre's tendency - as we're still seeing with Smith and Thompson. What more could Smith do? And what more could Gapper do to warrant more playing time over Bernie? The kid has 2 hits in 5 AB's with 3 RBI's. If that was Terrence Long, he'd get at least a week of starts. No, I fear the two lefty homers means more Bernie, not less. And once Bubba returns, I can't see where Thompson fits. He's better than a 5th OF and on this team he could be as high as 3rd. Too bad we won't see that happen.

Still, we can't argue too much. The Yanks are in first place and just took two of three from Boston - all without Jeter, Shef, and Matsui - who'd have thunk it, indeed. It's just a damn shame that with all the lessons learned from the last two years (Small, Chacon, Cano, Wang, Melk, Phillips), we still have to suffer through Terrence Long and Scott Erickson over younger models sure to have more horsepower. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over and over again and expecting different results, when can we institutionalize the manager and the GM?

2006-06-09 02:10:27
10.   Yu-Hsing Chen
9 of course, we aren't the coachs, we don't see the practice, and we don't have (as nobody does) a time machine to see what could or could not be.

In reality though, IF Bernie can somehow crank up .800 + OPS levels through the next few months. he would be decent enough despite his adventures in the outfield.

2006-06-09 03:22:50
11.   randym77
I think we'll be seeing a lot more of Bernie after those two homers. Sigh. He's hitting okay, but his defense is worse than ever. And I wonder how long he can keep it up. At his age, I suspect he's prone to wearing down over a long season.

I'm kind of surprised he doesn't walk more. Don't they say the eye is the last to go?

FWIW, I heard Bubba played his first rehab game with Class A Tampa last night. Must have gone okay, because WCBS reported last night that he'll be reactivated Sunday. Kevin Thompson will be sent back to Columbus.

And Jeter should be back in the lineup Saturday.

2006-06-09 04:04:24
12.   randym77
The Boston Herald article about Sheffield's surgery starts out like this:

=====

In news that probably will spur a 15-2 run, the Yankees announced yesterday that outfielder Gary Sheffield will undergo surgery on his left wrist and be out until at least September.

=====

LOL! Just a little bitter, are we?

2006-06-09 04:22:45
13.   Shaun P
What more will it take to exile Scott Erickson from this team? I am so frustrated by his presence on the roster I am speechless.

Dotel can't get back soon enough for me.

Meanwhile, I think its save to say that Proctor has been effectively Quantrilized, no? Someone let Torre know that he can't treat Dotel the same way.

2006-06-09 05:37:54
14.   NetShrine
"Eric Duncan has finished rehabbing his strained back and has been assigned to double-A Tampa"

Tampa?

2006-06-09 05:45:31
15.   Dan M
Is it that Proctor has been Quantrill-ized, or is it that he had his one good month (April 2006), and that's it? I get the feeling that we tend to blame Torre for running talent into the ground, when there's really no talent there to begin with.
2006-06-09 05:54:00
16.   yankz
15 Sturtze Syndrome?
2006-06-09 06:06:55
17.   Sliced Bread
Hard to argue against the logic of the prevailing pessimism re: the Bernie/Bubba/KT situation.

Subbing for Sheff we're looking at a Mount Rushmore of Mediocrity.

Bernie's old cleats should not touch turf more than once a week, but touch turf they will while it's Joe's lawn.

Bubba's bat does not belong in the same rack as Sheff's.

Kevin Thompson? Silly us, he is our imaginary friend. We amuse ourselves with elaborate tales of talent, and potential only to be reminded over and over by the manager he does not exist.

But I maintain the Yanks can get by with Mount Mediocrity in right.

There are still plenty of bats and runners around to hold down the fort.

Dotel's on the way, and unless you truly believe Cashman and Torre should be institutionalized (as Dr. Gee wonders) you have to believe Erickson is on his way out.

Johnson, Mussina, and Wang are fine, and Chacon's coming back.

I'd love to see the Yanks land another starting pitcher, even if it's another number 4 or 5 type, and have Wright moved to the pen where I believe Kerrigan and Guidry could transform him into an effective reliever.

Save the prospects for starting pitching, Cash, and give Mount Mediocrity a chance.

2006-06-09 06:08:38
18.   monkeypants
15 Either way. If there was no talent there to begin with, then why does Torre send him out there 30 appearences in the first third of the season? All the while other pitchers rot in the back of the bullpen (Smith).
2006-06-09 06:09:38
19.   wsporter
14 Yank, I think we can count on Cliff knowing that's Trenton.

Anyone check out Wallace Mathews today in the Post? Yankees lost last night so the sky is falling today. It is really very amusing.

2006-06-09 06:10:47
20.   KJC
This might've already been discussed somewhere, but with Jeter out, why not start A-Rod at short and Cairo at third?
2006-06-09 06:19:06
21.   Sliced Bread
20 I think if (God forbid) Jeter was in the longterm parking section with Matsui and Sheff that might be a good idea, but not shortterm.

As great as he was at short, Rodriguez is a 3rd baseman now. He committed himself to making the adjustment, and I'm not sure how he'd handle being switched back.

Plus, he's had an awful week recovering from that stomach bug, and I doubt he'd be any better at short than Cairo's been.

2006-06-09 06:29:39
22.   Bama Yankee
20 How about A-Rod at short and Phillips at third?
2006-06-09 07:14:30
23.   murphy
22 they tried phillips at third in the minors (i think it's where he started) and he didn't really stick, but your proposal is far better than having cairo on the field at all.
2006-06-09 07:16:21
24.   Cliff Corcoran
20 Because Cairo may be a crappy SS, but he's a worse 3B. 22 is a better option, but as Sliced says in 21, but since Jeter's due back any day, why jerk Rodriguez around when his defense at third hasn't been so great to begin with over the past month or so.

14 Late night typo, I fixed it, but thanks for pointing it out.

15 You hit that nail on the head. That said, as Murcer and Flaherty were saying on the postgame last night, Proctor was having success with a big curve in April and he doesn't seem to be throwing that pitch any more, or if he is the break is almost completely gone. Could that be a function of fatigue?

11 I would think Nick Green would be the guy to go. Seriously, did anyone rememeber he was even on the roster? Does Torre?

9 Aaron Small is cut straight from the Erickson/Long cloth except that Erickson and Long were at least legitimate major leaguers at one point in their careers (even if it was a very brief moment for Long), Small, who is now 34, never really was. Just because he did well doesn't mean he's the sort of player the Yankees should seek out.

As for Chacon, jury's still out. He's young, but he had a solid track record of failure before coming to the Yanks. I've written before about the ways in which one can dismiss that history to a certain degree, but it still exists. There's no way those two deserve to be in the same group with Cano, Wang, Cabrera, and Phillips, none of whom had prior opportunity to prove they couldn't do it. Using the term Steven Goldman recently coined, it's the Phillips Doctrine: better the unproven player with potential upside, than the player who has proven he has none.

2006-06-09 07:22:19
25.   murphy
i love Goldman's new term. let us spread the news of the Phillips Doctrine far and wide.
2006-06-09 07:36:00
26.   joejoejoe
I think it's going to be Cliff Floyd of the Mets that the Yankees end up adding to their outfield. He fits nicely in Yankee Stadium as a lefty with decent power and combined with RH Bernie Williams makes a nice platoon offensively. What's the price of Cliff Floyd from the Mets in his walk year with a $6.5M contract?

OT: El Duque pitched a complete game 3-hitter last night for the Mets allowing 1 run vs. the D-Backs, who just traded him to the Mets. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

2006-06-09 07:42:09
27.   Shaun P
24 That's what I meant by Proctor being "Quantrilized". With that curve ball, Proctor actually looked like a legitimate reliever. Without it, look out . . .

So why isn't he throwing it, or why is it flat when does throw it? I'm no doctor, but if its not because of fatigue, then he's probably got a minor injury. Either way, pitching so much is not helping things.

2006-06-09 07:55:50
28.   Bama Yankee
24I realize that Torre has always said that he would not move A-Rod to short unless Jeter was out for an extended time, but this year's circumstances (with all the injuries and Phillip's recent hot streak) I would like to have seen the move. Especially for last nights game. I am not saying that Phillip's would have made the play on the Gonzalez hot shot last night, but I do seem to remember Phillips making some great picks at first recently and no one has ever classified A-Rod as someone who could "pick it" at third. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge A-Rod fan (unlike some, I start pulling for a guy as soon as he puts on the Yankee pinstripes-- even Damon). Maybe a temporary move back to short would help get A-Rod going again (I not sure it could make his play at third much worse) but the best benefit would be to keep Phillips' bat in the lineup.
2006-06-09 08:00:26
29.   murphy
28IIRC, ARod won the MVP award as a 3B last year. i don't think his position has anything to do with it.
2006-06-09 08:25:34
30.   Bama Yankee
29I hear what you are saying, but he's a gold glove shortstop, playing third and Phillips was sitting on the bench last night. I would just like to keep Phillips in the lineup (he could probably play short as well as Cairo) for a couple of reasons: 1. He has been swinging a hot bat and 2. Showing that he can play multiple positions might make him more valuable if the Yankees decide to trade him.
2006-06-09 09:27:45
31.   YankeeInMichigan
27 If Proctor's effectiveness is dependent on having 3-4 pitches working, then he belongs in a long relief role, where there is a greater margin for error.

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