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Yankee Panky 23: The Wild Cards
2007-09-06 07:48
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

A short piece today to stir the pot.

 

Before I get into the media coverage, a couple of quick observations:

 

  • I’ve always wondered this from a strategic perspective: Why relegate a lockdown pitcher like Joba Chamberlain – or anyone, for that matter -- into a role where his greatest use is preserving a lead? If in the late innings, a manager is looking to keep his team within striking distance or prevent the margin from increasing, why plug in a guy who hasn’t proven he can get outs, even in mop-up duty? Joe Torre has done this habitually over the years, and aside from overuse of select arms, it’s a major reason he is so widely criticized for his bullpen management. The Yankees might have been able to position themselves for a rally on Sunday if Torre used Chamberlain into the ninth inning instead of Edwar Ramirez, whose demeanor is reminiscent of Glass Joe from Mike Tyson’s “Punch Out” and whose fastballs enjoy the wonders of air travel. There’s no guarantee Chamberlain would have tossed a scoreless ninth inning, but I like his odds better than Ramirez’s. Granted, a bad pitch by Andy Pettitte in the 7th, followed by the offense leaving runners in scoring position in the bottom half put the Yankees in that position, but a slight adjustment in bullpen management may have salvaged that series. At least it wouldn’t have rendered the bottom of the ninth moot.

  • It’s a relief to see the media focus on Alex Rodriguez restricted to baseball. If the Yankees do in fact reach the playoffs, he will be the most important bat in the lineup. As a baseball fan, I’d love to see him continue his barrage into the postseason. The look on Derek Jeter’s face following A-Rod’s upper-deck shot Tuesday night reflected many people’s reactions to what the third baseman is accomplishing. If he’s not a unanimous MVP choice, allowing the BBWAA to determine that award should be reconsidered. I’d say this even if I didn’t live in New York and see 160 + Yankee games per season.

 

Prior to the Yankees’ “tough stretch,” which featured series against the Indians, Angels, Tigers, Red Sox and Mariners, the Yankees had whittled their AL East deficit to four games and were still looking up in the wild-card race. Reporters, talkies and announcers alike noted that the three-week interlude would likely determine the Yankees’ fate, and for all intents and purposes, it has.

 

The inconsistency of the Yankees’ play for the past three weeks, which has directly led to their fluctuating playoff position, has made for interesting reading and analysis. When the going was good, the distance between the Yankees and the Red Sox and the longshot possibility of a 10th straight division title was mentioned in nearly every game story that followed a victory. Then the team tanked in Anaheim and Detroit and fell on its face against the Devil Rays in the same weekend a Red Sox rookie tossed a no-hitter, the division gap widened and the attention began to focus on the wild card.

 

In much of today’s newspaper coverage, the Red Sox barely garnered a mention, which is interesting. It’s as if the possibility of a comeback has been dismissed and a more realistic approach to the Yankees’ standing is being taken.

 

I don’t know about you, but I find this refreshing.

 

Until next week …

  

Comments (124)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2007-09-06 08:15:39
1.   Andre
nice post
2007-09-06 08:16:43
2.   weeping for brunnhilde
It still kills me (kills me!) that we've not been able to snatch the division away from Boston, but that's the ugly Yankee fan's sense of entitlement talking, with a healthy dose of schadenfreude. It'd be great to put Boston back in its place, you know?

But the postseason is the postseason, right? Especially considering how little this team actually deserves to make a postseason appearance, I'll take it and be happy.

2007-09-06 08:17:15
3.   Jersey
I agree ARod is your AL MVP, but as a unanimous choice? If there's any justice, the voting reflects the reality: Alex wins a close race with Magglio. They're really not all that far apart.
2007-09-06 08:25:16
4.   unmoderated
it will be interesting to see posada's MVP vote totals at the end of the year. granted, he's not close to alex, but he is putting together an awesome year (even if his power numbers are down a bit).
2007-09-06 08:26:49
5.   JL25and3
Loved the Glass Joe analogy. Perhaps his nickname really should be Edwar "Body blow! Body blow!" Ramirez.
2007-09-06 08:28:01
6.   pistolpete
I must admit I do get a little misty-eyed when I think about the prospect of not winning the division again, but the fact of the matter is that, as the old saying goes, "you just gotta get in". The frustrating part about this whole scenario is that after all our hard work, we probably wind up facing the MFLAA without home field advantage.

We put ourselves in a tremendous hole in April & May - this could have been a season much like 99 or 2000, even if we had just played .500 ball during that hideous stretch. September could have a lot more relaxing as we watched Hughes, Joba & Kennedy slowly acclimate themselves to the major leagues - without the constant 'win now' pressure of a pennant chase looming over their heads every day.

Then again, this is New York and this is how September always is around here. Trial by fire, I suppose.

This offense is absolutely maddening, though. Does everyone forget how to hit until Mr. MVP lands one in the bullpen each night? You can almost hear someone slap their forehead on the bench once the ball leaves the bat - "Oh yeah, THAT'S how we hit!!!"

2007-09-06 08:30:37
7.   JL25and3
I still hate the wild card. This isn't a team that deserves to be in the playoffs.
2007-09-06 08:31:32
8.   Marcus
4 I just was glancing through Posada's career stats and noticed he has never ever had a full season hitting over .300 BA. And now he is hitting almost .340 in his age 36 year. Pretty crazy.
2007-09-06 08:37:16
9.   yankz
2 I've been meaning to ask you; how do you feel about Arod's monster inning yesterday?
2007-09-06 08:40:36
10.   standuptriple
7 Just wondering, who's the 4th team in the AL that deserves to be in then?
2007-09-06 08:42:33
11.   Sliced Bread
7 Whoa.. easy!.. that sounds like something any of us would say in a bad game thread.. but aren't we supposed to feel a lot better than that this morning?
A-Rod's giving us a season to tell our kids about, the kids are pitching like they belong in the playoffs. I'm going with half-full, and then some today.
2007-09-06 08:44:21
12.   Sliced Bread
11 grandkids, that is.
2007-09-06 08:44:54
13.   Sliced Bread
12 no, our grandkids are not pitching like they belong in the playoffs...

yet.

2007-09-06 08:44:59
14.   yankz
10 Seattle; they're way better than NYY...oh.
2007-09-06 08:48:20
15.   nemecizer
2 7 I just have to disagree with the sentiment that this team doesn't deserve to be in the playoffs. They were slammed by injuries from day one, compounded by two very bad decisions on the part of management (named Igawa and Pavano). They were, at one point, 8 games below .500 and 14 1/2 games out of first. That they consistently played .660 baseball from the beginning of June until the recent mini-slump is extraordinary, as is the fact that they are 16 games above .500 (a 24 game swing!) Even given the lousy play, they were 6-3 on the home stand (.750!) and that included Boston.

This team has guts and heart and were hit by factors outside their control. They pulled themselves out of a tailspin and crawled back to lead the wild card.

Are they terribly frustrating to watch sometimes? Yes, but so is every team. This is baseball. I give them kudos, am satisfied with a wildcard spot, and hope they take it all.

2007-09-06 08:59:22
16.   monkeypants
15 I'm not really sure what "deserves to be in the play offs" even means. MLB has decided that four teams get in--three division winners and one WC team, the latter being the team with the best record that is not a division winner. By those rules, if the Yankees end up with the best record of non-division winners, then they "deserve" to be in.

Now, if one wants to argue that no team should get in the playoffs that does not win a division, that's fine by me. But then we are really talking about getting rid of the wild card, not which undeserving team more or less merits inclusion as the WC.

BTW, the argument about injuries, etc. is sort of irrelevant (in my opinion). In a long season sport every team goes through slumps, injuries, and so forth. That is, in fact, why I do think that the wild card should be abolished. But the WC makes money and keeps fans interested and makes for an even number of play off teams, so it's staying.

2007-09-06 09:06:11
17.   JL25and3
10 , 14 , 16 You'll notice that I started by saying "I still hate the wild card." In other words, I hate the wild card even if the Yankees get in that way. I didn't want it in the first place; if anything, I like it even less now.

I know they're never going to get rid of it, but I think it cheapens the season.

2007-09-06 09:08:52
18.   Yanks Fan in Chicago
Awesome fake story from Sports Pickle. Forgive me if this has been posted before, I've been out of town for the past week:

http://www.sportspickle.com/features/volume6/2007-0905-joba.html

2007-09-06 09:17:06
19.   pistolpete
17 I prefer to compare baseball's playoff structure to other sports. There's still only 8 playoff spots out of 30 teams, and it's still only ONE slot for someone who doesn't in their division.

Football is looney, and the way it's set up in hockey is even more insane. There's teams in the NHL who play under .500 and still get in.

'Cheapens the season'? Maybe for you, but I think you'll find a LOT of small market teams and their fanbases disagree with you about 1000%. I guarantee there'd be a lot more bitching if the races were already decided in July than the way it currently plays out.

2007-09-06 09:26:44
20.   EricSanSan
I honestly feel the fact that the Yankees have been in a "win now" mode during the second half of the season will help them tremendously should they make the playoffs.

In past years, the Yanks have been a lock to make the postseason at this point of the year, and it has allowed them to relax and rest players down the stretch.

While I agree that the rest is beneficial with the older lineup, I find it difficult for teams to turn "on" the switch for October if you have been on cruise control for the final few weeks.

History is on my side with this presumption, as evidenced by the Wild Card teams or squads that had to battle all the way down to the final part of the year seem to come out on top in the postseason.

I just feel the pressure of playoff baseball is already upon us, and the fact that we have to show up every night in a "do or die" situation will be a huge advantage if we make the playoffs. The atmosphere will not be any different than what they are currently experiencing.

2007-09-06 09:40:57
21.   Sliced Bread
17 wild card cheapens the season?

I wouldn't say so. As so many wild card teams have had such success in the postseason, I'd say it proves they deserved to be there, making it an improvement over the old playoff system.

As for whether the Yanks get to October via the backdoor: whatever. I'd prefer they not go in as a 2nd place team (which I think is the crux of your beef) but I'll take it. Didn't make me think any less of their wild card opponents over the years.

2007-09-06 09:42:24
22.   rbj
The alternative is to go to 32 teams, with four in each division. Or collapse back to 2 divisions in each league.

I'm fine with the WC, as long as it is only one team per league.

2007-09-06 09:43:21
23.   mehmattski
You know what really cheapened the season? Division races. Like when the 1973 Mets (82-79) took out the Reds (99-63) in a short series, or when the 1987 Twins (85-77) took out the Tigers (99-63).

Oh man, but do you know what really cheapened a season? When a team would completely dominate its league in the regular season and then end up as a footnote to history by losing in a seven game series to a team that struggled to win its own league. I feel for the 1953 Dodgers, the 1954 Indians and the 1964 Yankees.

But no, let's talk about the Wild Card playoffs and how it cheapens the season by letting more teams in than usual. Sure, occasionally there are going to be slip-ups and an 83-win team like the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals will occasionally win it all. But overall, most years there are at least 4 teams in each league with 90+ wins, and they deserve to have a shot at winning the World Series, not be penalized because some other team also had a good year.

And as other said, it could be much, much worse. There could be a computer with a nebulous formula determining, based on human polling and computer calculations, who plays in the World Series. Lighten up, Wild Card doubters- the playoffs are more exciting than they've ever been. If you want to watch a sport where the regular season means anything at all, go watch European soccer. If you want to watch American sports, you need to appreciate the value of playoffs.

2007-09-06 09:50:13
24.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Call me crazy, but I'm not writing off the division just yet. A lot will depend on the next week. If the Sawx go 4-3 -- say the O's take 1 of 4 this weekend, and then Tampa takes 2 of 3 -- and we go 5-1 vs. KC and Toronto -- we're 4 games back in the lost going into Fenway. Game on. Then we sweep them.
2007-09-06 09:53:58
25.   monkeypants
23 21 et al.

There is no doubt that the WC cheapens the regular season. But that consideration must be weighed against the excitement, interest, moeny, etc. of the post season. the fact that WC teams have doen well in the postseason in no way justifies them getting inot the postseason to begin with. Any team, more or less, could win 12 out of 21 games--even the worst teams in the league. It has been posted over and over again the that the post season is a crapshoot.

Therefore, the regular season should be used to determine who has earned the right to enter the crapshoot. The longer teh regular season, the fewer playoff teams there should be, because in theory there have been more games to determine who has earned that right. Over the longer season luck should balance out, injuries should balance out, matchups should balance out moreso than in a short season sport (like football).

As for teh comparison between European soccer and "American sports"--I'm not really sure I get it. I personally apreciate what makes MLB distinct from other major North American sports, not what it has in common. In the before time, I liked that the post season included very few teams, that the season had many games, that the leagues were distinct and didn't play each other. But alas, those are all gone.

2007-09-06 09:57:58
26.   RZG
23 Yeah, at least the wild card is based on actual wins and losses.

So many Banterers place an importance on the Pythagorem calculation I'm surprised they haven't insisted on that being the qualifier.

2007-09-06 09:58:01
27.   monkeypants
25 Frankly, if they are going to have a wild card, I would juts as soon they abolish the divisions. Have two league (or hell, one super league) and take the top four or six or eight or howevermany teams they want, and then seed them tournament-style.

either divisions have a fundamental meaning (that is, by winning it, you have earned some sort of championship that buys you into the next round) or it doesn't. By allowing in WCs, leagues lessen the fundamental meaning of divisions. I say, go all the way and be done with it.

2007-09-06 10:01:25
28.   ric
24
ok- youre crazy ;)
2007-09-06 10:05:44
29.   JL25and3
19 But in other sports, the regular season really is pretty meaningless.
2007-09-06 10:06:44
30.   JL25and3
27 Or four 8-team leagues.
2007-09-06 10:19:17
31.   pistolpete
29 And only half the games to boot!

26 Heh, yeah. Let's base the playoffs structure on which teams should have made it.

St. Louis, please turn in your rings. There's no way you deserved to be playing last October. :)

2007-09-06 10:19:33
32.   monkeypants
30 Yep. Or eight four team divisions. In fact, the latter would work if you played 18 games against division opponents (54 games), 8 games against the other 12 league opponents (96 games), and 3 games against interleague opponents from a single division (which would rotate each year) (12 games) = 162 games.

But of course, that would mean no annual interleague series against your special nemesis (Mets-Yankees, e.g.), so they would never go for it.

2007-09-06 10:21:41
33.   mehmattski
30 But that would require two additional teams, which would further dilute the playing pool such that it's likely that in any given year, there will be an uneven distribution of talent among the divisions. Thus, the Yankees might win their division by 15 games because the rest of the teams in the division are terrible, but the Tigers lose their division to the Indians by one game because the talent in that division is, overall, much better. Does that mean that the Tigers, who have played much better than the Yankees (but don't have the record to show for it), don't "deserve" to be in the playoffs?

The Super-League concept is almost exactly like that of the bigger European soccer leagues. A very long season crowns one champion as the "best" that season, and then they play in a four-team playoff to determine the Cup Champion. The two awards are equally prestigious, unlike baseball where the 1954 Indians win 111 games, but get swept by the inferior Giants and are lost to the annals of history.

But all American sports have a tendency to cheapen the regular season, in order to preserve the excitement of the playoffs. Especially since 1969, the regular season wins leader has given as much prestige as the World Series champion. And as others have pointed out, other sports are to varying degrees even worse about this. The regular season doesn't mean a thing if you don't win the ring.

Meanwhile, back in reality without realignment and rules changes and Super Leagues, we have the Wild Card. For over a decade it has produced many exciting moments and chances for many more teams to compete in a league that does not have a salary cap. I think it saved baseball. To me those who don't like it are just aching for the "good ole days." Funny thing is, back in those days, it was likely that older folk were complaining about how it was better in their "good ole days" and so on and so on.

New does not equal bad. But we've got what it is and if you want to stop rooting for the Yankees because they won the Wild Card, well then good for you, Mr. Principles Defender.

2007-09-06 10:32:55
34.   JoeInRI
33 Ditto
2007-09-06 10:37:36
35.   NJYankee41
I don't know why MLB hasn't made the LDS' seven game series. It would make it a little less likely for those HOT teams to trip their way into the LCS. I just believe all rounds should be equal in length. Like in 2004. The Sox beat the Angels 3-0. The Yanks were up 3-0 to the Sox so why shouldn't that have produced the same result? Hey, who is to say the Angels couldn't have made an historic comeback?
2007-09-06 10:41:32
36.   AbbyNormal821
18 Hysterical!!!
2007-09-06 10:42:40
37.   monkeypants
33 "New does not equal bad."

Nor does it necessarily equal good, except for the triumphalist. I think one can dislike the WC philosophically (as do I) yet still root for the Yankees in the playoff as a WC (as I did in 1995 and 1997 and perhaps again in 2007), and even still recognize the practical realities and economics of the sports industry in North America.

2007-09-06 10:43:40
38.   monkeypants
35 Possibly to prevent the play offs from extending to November or the season starting in March.
2007-09-06 10:57:44
39.   NJYankee41
38 With the new days off the World Series is going to go into November anyway.
2007-09-06 10:58:49
40.   monkeypants
39 Wonderful.
2007-09-06 11:04:36
41.   Oscar Azocar
It should be noted that the Yankees have both been burned and helped by the expanded playoff format. Prior to '94, when the WC was introduced, Cleveland was in the AL East with the Yankees.

In 1996 and in 2000, Cleveland finished with a better record than the Yankees. The unbalanced schedule was introduced in '01.

Keep in mind that the Yankees were ousted in the playoffs in '02,'03,'04, and '06 by a WC team.

As much as I'd like to see what would have happened post 2000 if there were no wild card, I'm not about to trade in '96 and '00 either.

2007-09-06 11:10:25
42.   Alex Belth
Over at ESPN, Keith Law was not impressed with Phillip Hughes' performance last night:

Hughes less than former selfposted: Thursday, September 6, 2007 | Feedback | Print Entry

Phil Hughes' stat line from Wednesday night's start would appear to indicate that he's back to his pre-injury levels, but the view from behind the plate says that he's got a ways to go. He's working as a finesse pitcher, which isn't his game and for which he doesn't have the command or the feel.

Before he pulled a hamstring back in May, Hughes would typically work at 90-94 mph with an above-average curveball with a sharp downward break. Wednesday night, however, his stuff was average at best. His fastball was 88-93, mostly 89-91, and it only had some life when he threw it up in the zone. He threw two breaking balls -- a soft, slow-roller curveball in the low 70s, and a shorter slider around 80 mph that he worked to bury down in the zone or below it -- and flashed a changeup, but none of those pitches were plus, and the curveball was absolutely below-average.

Unfortunately, Hughes doesn't seem to have the feel for pitching to alter his approach to match his diminished stuff, although it would be unusual for a pitcher his age to have that. He spent much of the night aiming his fastball at the corners of the strike zone, missing more often than not, and he kept popping his curveball rather than junking it in favor of the slider, which was the better pitch on this particular night.

Why is Hughes' stuff down? One possibility is that his left leg is still causing him trouble, since both the hamstring injury that landed him on the DL and the ankle injury that kept him there were to his left leg. His landing is now very soft, and it looked like he was babying that leg rather than landing firmly and pushing off that leg as he drives through his delivery. If the leg is indeed still bothering him, it would explain both the loss of velocity and the lack of sharpness on his curveball.

Hughes did get some help from some outside sources to keep him in the game. The Yankees played good defense behind him, with Shelley Duncan showing off a plus arm in right field, nailing Raul Ibañez at second base after Ibañez singled hard off the wall. The Mariners did their part, with several guys overswinging and taking soft curveballs for strikes, then chasing them off the outside part of the plate. Ben Broussard's approach was particularly bad, but Jose Lopez -- who looked like he'd rather be anywhere else but at a ballgame, never mind participating in one -- and Yuniesky Betancourt also showed off some bad swings.

The big story of the night, however, was the umpiring. Ichiro Suzuki was robbed three times by bad calls -- two at first base (one egregious) and one at second base where it was obvious from the stands that he'd never been tagged. (That last one ruined a very impressive stolen base on a pitchout.) The strike zone was something of a mess all night -- or, one could argue, has been all season -- but it became ridiculously small in the Yankees' big seventh inning, exacerbating some bad relief pitching from Seattle's 'pen. The quality of umpiring is always fodder for complaints from baseball execs, but this year it's been embarrassing, with more umpires making arbitrary decisions or putting themselves out of position to make calls than I can remember seeing. The Yankees outplayed the Mariners, but the Mariners could easily have won the game had the umpiring not been so bad and so one-sided in its badness.

Of course, the bad umpiring only fed into John McLaren's apparently pathological need to change pitchers. The track from the Seattle bench to the mound was worn down to the upper mantle by the time the seventh inning ended, as McLaren used six pitchers to get through the frame. The fact that he used that many arms in one inning was bad enough, but the way he used them was even worse, replacing the lefty Jarrod Washburn with the lefty George Sherrill, taking Sean Green out after one batter (a walk where the fourth ball looked like a clear strike from behind the plate), and so on. In fact, what was so odd about the exchange of Washburn for Sherrill was that Washburn gave up a homer to Alex Rodriguez and was allowed to stay in the game, but after Robinson Cano reached on an error of laziness by Lopez, then McLaren made the switch.

I understand that J.J. Putz is the closer, but the Mariners' season was ending with a hissing sound and a foul stench right there on the field. Isn't that the one time you break protocol and bring your best reliever in before the game gets out of hand? Or, if we're going to continue to let the save rule dictate how we use our relievers, why not bring in the groundball-machine Green to face Wilson Betemit, conceding that you'll lose the platoon advantage but taking a shot at a double play with Jason Giambi on first? Instead, McLaren cycled through his relievers like he was completing a paint-by-numbers picture. And while you can't blame him for the bad umpiring or some poor control on the relievers' part, I don't see how you lose the most critical game of your season without getting your best reliever into the game.

2007-09-06 11:13:09
43.   RIYank
On Will's first observation:
Sure, in any given situation, I'd rather have Joba on the mound than Vizcaino. But Joba can't pitch every game -- and the Joba Rules are a bit artificial. Really he can throw a certain number of innings each year, possibly more if he's used in two-inning stints and fewer if his appearances are very short. So the point is to have him pitch the most important innings. And the innings in which the Yankees are losing by four runs are not so important as the ones in which the Yankees are winning by a single run toward the end of the game.

I agree, though, that there are lots of innings just as important as the ones that traditionally see your closer. Tied after the seventh; or up a run when your starter walks the first guy in the eighth. Those are just as High Leverage as up a run in the bottom of the ninth.

2007-09-06 11:16:40
44.   williamnyy23
I don't have a problem wiht the Wild Card. Four teams per league doesn't cheapen the season. That's basically 1 in 4 teams making the post season. Even though that is a dilution from the past, I think the modern game has much more competitive balance. In the golden age, teams like the Browns, Athletics, Phillies, Senators, etc. were so bad for long periods of time that it was like they weren't in the league. You still have that now (Pittsburgh, KC and Tampa), but not to the same degree.
2007-09-06 11:22:37
45.   williamnyy23
42 I agree with Law. Hughes did not impress me last night. I am convinced that he is not 100% because he hasn't come close to looking like he did that night in Texas when he got hurt. Combined with his inexperience, I think Hughes limited capacity makes him a very risky proposition going for the rest of the season. Hopefully, he is back to form for 2008.

I also agree with Law about how mad the umpiring has been this season. Of course, earlier in the year, bad umpiring helped the Mariners take one away from the Yankees, so all's fair.

2007-09-06 11:23:04
46.   OldYanksFan
• Ranks 1st in AL in OPS (1.069)
• Ranks 1st in AL in HR (48)
• Ranks 1st in AL in RBI (134)
• Ranks 1st in AL in R (127)
• Ranks 1st in AL in SLG (.651)
• Ranks 4th in AL in OBP (.418)
• Ranks 7th in AL in BB (80)
• Ranks 8th in AL in SB (22)(.916%)
UnRanked in BA

• Ranks 1st in AL in BA (.353)
• Ranks 2nd in AL in RBI (120)
• Ranks 2nd in AL in OBP (.426)
• Ranks 2nd in AL in OPS (1.015)
• Ranks 3rd in AL in SLG (.589)
• Ranks 5th in AL in R (102)
• Ranks 6th in AL in HR (26)
Unranked in SB
Unranded in BB

Head to Head: ARod Mags
Ops.............. 1 ... 2
HR............... 1 ... 6
RBI.............. 1 ... 2
Runs............ 1 ... 5
Slg.............. 1 ... 3
OBP............. 4 ... 2
BB............... 7 ... U
SB............... 8 ... U
BA .............. U ... 1

3 Magglio is having an outstanding year,
no argument from me, and appears to have a lock on 2nd. But check the numbers. To me, ARod is well ahead.

2007-09-06 11:23:36
47.   pistolpete
42 Hey, way to throw a wet blanket over the whole affair. Thanks, Keith!
2007-09-06 11:25:15
48.   Chyll Will
42 "The quality of umpiring is always fodder for complaints from baseball execs, but this year it's been embarrassing, with more umpires making arbitrary decisions or putting themselves out of position to make calls than I can remember seeing."

Hallelujah, some-body's listening! Bumpires, I say! BUM-pires...

I agree with JL's sentiment, if not the principle regarding the wild card. I still believe this team is capable of much better play and, injuries aside, has either tripped on its own feet or feel asleep at the wheel at times, thus my frustration with this season. If not for the once-and-future MVP, wild-card would be the dream, not AL East. So I'll take the wild-card, but I don't have to like it (a spoonful of sugar helps >;)

2007-09-06 11:26:32
49.   OldYanksFan
Found on another Blog. Sound True???
Yankees 2007...125 OPS+ as a team!
The last time they reached higher that mark was in 1933 (128 OPS+).
I am not sure but suspect they are one of the most ofensive teams as per OPS+ ever and the best in those 84 years.
2007-09-06 11:34:02
50.   Sliced Bread
42 Thanks, Keith Law, but being that you work for ESPN, I'd just as soon trust Jude Law to evaluate our kid.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2007-09-06 11:38:15
51.   Sliced Bread
50 and sorry Phil wasn't Buccholz enough for ya.

Yankee fans may now resume believing in the kid.

2007-09-06 11:41:27
52.   Sliced Bread
50 Yes, I understand you're Keith Law, and I'm a knuckle-dragging caveman. Your point?
2007-09-06 11:56:52
53.   williamnyy23
50 I think Law is an a very good analyst and not prone to the typical ESPN bias. His assessment of Hughes was harsh, but I think it was pretty accurate. Not only is Hughes only 21, but he recently suffered a major hamstring injury AND an ankle injury. To expect him to dominate this season is unreasonable. At best, Hughes will keep the Yankees in games, but I don't think he'll be reliable at any point this season.
2007-09-06 11:57:36
54.   tommyl
42 Fine by me. If a crappy Hughes can post that line, I can't wait to see what a fully healthy one can.

Also, finesse pitchers generally don't have a 9 K/9 rate.

2007-09-06 12:05:16
55.   yankz
I think short of a perfect game, williamnyy23 will never be happy with the Yankees.

Two hilarious things on this thread. First is 18 . Second is the fact that ric reads every comment looking for a mention of the Red Sox.

2007-09-06 12:05:28
56.   weeping for brunnhilde
4 "It will be interesting to see posada's MVP vote totals at the end of the year. granted, he's not close to alex, but he is putting together an awesome year (even if his power numbers are down a bit). "

I'd argue that Jorgie's awesome year is because not despite the fact that his power numbers are down.

He's just hitting it where it's pitched, nice and easy, day in, day out.

Much the way Dave Winfield hit .340 with "only" 19 homeruns in 1984.

2007-09-06 12:06:42
57.   Raf
I have grudgingly accepted the wild card. I know it and interleague play, isn't going to go away anytime soon. I do find it amusing that a team can consider themselves the best in baseball, when they weren't even the best in their league.

44 What makes Pittsburgh, KC and Tampa different from the Browns, Athletics, Phillies & Senators?

2007-09-06 12:08:58
58.   weeping for brunnhilde
9 The man is a sick monster and it does my heart good watching him.

I suppose what I find most awesome is just how fast the ball travels from his bat to the seats. I don't even recall the ball travelling that fast off Bonds' bat five years ago.

It's really something to see.

2007-09-06 12:10:34
59.   Sliced Bread
53 Respectfully disagree. Law readers might roll their eyes at my assessment that Hughes gave a gutty performance last night. He worked his way through a crucial start, the biggest of his life, and gave Yankee fans his best one yet at the Stadium.
As Phil says, it was one he can build on.
I think he'll be better than last night down the stretch, and will represent the Yanks very well in the ALDS.
I don't expect him to throw a no-hitter, or to blow teams away, but I expect the competitive aggression he displayed last night. Phil's a fighter, and a talented one at that.
2007-09-06 12:11:45
60.   JL25and3
33 Jeez, lighten up. You don't have to be quite so angry about my disagreeing.

Of course I'll root for the Yankees in the postseason. But, honestly, I won't be as excited about it; and if they win the champrionship, I'll feel like it should have an asterisk. I don't have a lot of respect for the Cardinals' winning last year, because they weren't a very good team. This year, well, the Yankees are just a second-place team (so far). It doesn't sit right with me.

Just one man's opinion. I'm sorry if it offends you. I'm fully aware that the system isn't changing, and I'm not telling anyone else what to feel. Just giving my opinion.

2007-09-06 12:12:58
61.   weeping for brunnhilde
15 16 I know, I partly spoke out of frustration and partly out of comparison with the old teams. That the team managed to overcome its poor performance earlier is laudable and impressive. That it manages to sweep Boston and then lose to Tampa Bay is not.

The inconsistency exasperates me, is all I meant.

2007-09-06 12:13:08
62.   JL25and3
57 Actually, I think interleague is much worse. The combination of interleague play and the unbalanced schedule has served to dilute a lot of possible rivalries, not create them.
2007-09-06 12:16:13
63.   weeping for brunnhilde
17 I agree about the wc, but I do think it's good for baseball that lots of teams have a chance now.

BUT, I hate how it cheapens the season and I really, really hate that some upstart can knock off the better team in a five-game set.

I'd love to see the wildcard have a serious handicap imposed, like maybe it has to win 4 out of 5 or something. Or better still, 5 out of 7.

That I could live with.

2007-09-06 12:26:28
64.   Raf
62 I don't care much for interleague play either. I remember breaking down the matchups, and a whole lot of them didn't "make sense." But as long as the hypefest that is Yanks-Mets, WSox-Cubs, Angels-Dodgers, etc, etc, etc, sell, then it isn't going away. There's the Yankees factor too, that we saw earlier this season with the Rockies. People want to come out and see the Yanks, another reason why interleague play isn't going away.

I'm not liking too many of the changes, but I understand I'm in the minority. I'll just enjoy the games as they come.

As for pennant races and the wild card, just like everything else, some years will be better than others WRT contending teams in the race, so I don't think that's much of an argument supporting the wild card.

2007-09-06 12:34:58
65.   mehmattski
63 What it comes down to is what you believe the purpose of a post-season is. If the purpose of the post-season is to find out who the "best" team is, then the MLB post-season is probably the most flawed system, other than March Madness. This is precisely for the reason you say: While an "upstart" will have a good chance, beat a team with a worse record in a five-game baseball series. By contrast, it is unlikely that a lesser opponent can hang with a more powerful one in the NBA or NHL playoffs. Similarly, single football games in the NFL are not as driven by luck as are games in other sports- rarely will you see an "upstart" make it through all those rounds of NFL playoff games to win the Super Bowl.

In baseball, single-game variance is so great that the only way to truly determine which team is the "best" is with a balanced schedule where each team plays the other 29 teams an equal number of times. The alternative is to use a formula like the BCS to tease out the elements of play from each team into ranking all 30 teams.

In most cases, the playoffs are set up to see which of two given teams is "better," and in baseball it's done with a best-of series. Which ever team prevails is therefore the "better" team, despite its regular season record. What if the team with the worse record had a terrible first half and then traded for a star and got two awesome prospects coming to their own? They wouldn't have the best record coming in, but then they beat a "better" team in the playoffs. Why should it be that "hot" teams are somehow disqualified? You win the series, you're a better team at that period in time.

And 60 , did it bother you that the 1996 and 2000 Yankees wouldn't have made the playoffs under the division system? Or that the 1977 Yankees wouldn't have made the World Series before divisions existed?

2007-09-06 12:40:12
66.   pistolpete
63 Well if you're going by the Yankees' fortunes over the last 10 years, we've gotten knocked out by the Angels twice, Tigers and Indians in the first round.

3 out of those 4 teams went to the World Series. Hardly 'upstarts'...

2007-09-06 12:45:18
67.   monkeypants
65 It's not clear to me how the Yankees would not have made the playoffs in 1996 or 2000 under the division system--they won their division, no? Or are you assuming that the teams would still have hade the same record under the older division arrrangement, such that Yanks would have come in 2nd place to the Indians in both cases? It probably would not have bothered me at the time, any more than no playoffs in 1985 bothered me--which is to say, I was upset that they missed the playoff but did not call for the whole playoff system to be reworked. The same argument would hold for your example of 1977, more or less.
2007-09-06 12:46:53
68.   Chyll Will
52 'and everywhere I go... there's always something to remind me... of another place in time...'
2007-09-06 12:49:00
69.   Sliced Bread
68 Love that one... not sure if the show is going to work, but I'll give it a shot, gots to support ma peeps.
2007-09-06 12:49:03
70.   monkeypants
65 66 And if we are going to play this game, I might be willing to trade playoff appearances in 1996 and 2000 for not having to face (and lose to) the WC team in the playoffs in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006.
2007-09-06 12:50:12
71.   RZG
55 Perfect game? Despicable!

It only shows how the Yanks aren't giving full effort on the other games they don't have a perfect game.

2007-09-06 12:53:08
72.   Chyll Will
69 My sister says I'm a distant relative... actually she calls me a hairy troglodyte. (Speaking of support, has anyone even noticed that I've been posting comics like I said I would?)
2007-09-06 12:54:17
73.   Alex Belth
Bobby Jenks, ya bum ya!
2007-09-06 12:58:56
74.   Sliced Bread
72 I have, and diggum, especially the art. Cool lookin' cat that Ozzark.
2007-09-06 13:05:42
75.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
73 Man, the Chisox suck.

Tough to blame Jenks tho. Leadoff hitter hits one softly to the right of the 2ndbaseman. It should've been an out, but instead was thrown away. Scored a hit, but really was a 2base error. Runner on 2nd, no out.

Next batter sacrifice bunts with 2 strikes. Runner on 3rd, one out.

Then Casey hits one in the hole between 3rd and ss, the ss gets a glove to it but can't catch it. Tie game.

Finally, Polanco hits another slow grounder btwn 3rd and ss to score the runner running for Casey to win the game.

3 crappy groundball hits, only one of which even made it through the infield and that just barely.

And instead of a 4 game lead over Detroit, it's 3.

Oh, and Sheff is back for the Tigers, as is Kenny Rogers, who looked sharp last night, though it was against the aenemic Sox. Man, we should've put the Tigers away in Detroit.

2007-09-06 13:07:02
76.   Chyll Will
74 Then it was all worth the effort. Thenk yuh >;)
2007-09-06 13:29:40
77.   JL25and3
65 I'm not demanding mathematical or moral perfection from any system. But I'd argue that it's less about what a postseason is for, and more about the regular season. You may see the long season as merely a prelude to the playoffs, but I don't. To me, the beauty is in the 162 games, and that's what separates the men from the boys.

Nor do I pine for the good old days; this isn't about resenting change. There are things about the old days that were good - doubleheaders would be very high on my list - and, probably, more things that have improved. No, this is about nothing more or less than disliking the wild card.

I see no problem with accepting the division structure but not the wild card; they're not the same thing. First off, dividing the leagues into divisions was necessary in a way that the wild card wasn't. Ten-team leagues really weren't viable - I know, because I rooted for a tenth-place team.

Under the two-division structure, at least a team ahd to finish in first place. In a 162-game season, that really meant something. The way the Yankees have played this year, they simply don't look like a shampionship team, and two hot weeks won't negate the six months that preceded them.

The wild card can also make some pennant races less interesting. When two teams are battling it out down to the last week, playing for home-field advantage just doesn't have the same juice.

As was pointed out, I wouldn't have missed the championships if they didn't happen, and I might have enjoyed the seasons just fine. And I'll respond with this: any system that would have made the 1978 playoff unnecessary can't be all good.

I'd prefer 32 teams, even with another expansion, to the wild card. If you believe that that would dilute pitching talent too much, how about going back to a 4-man rotation and carrying fewer pitchers?

2007-09-06 13:31:48
78.   pistolpete
70 That's just beyond silly. You're trading two world championships for this:

- an appearance in the 2002 ALCS (no guarantee we win it)
- a different opponent in the 2003 WS (again, no guarantee. I still say chances are good we lose because of the emotional drain from prior Sox series)
- an appearance in the 2004 WS.
- an appearance in the 2006 ALCS.

I'll keep the two rings, thanks. With the exception of 2003, I'd say we pretty much got what we deserved in terms of the outcome.

2007-09-06 13:38:25
79.   pistolpete
78 Or were you referring to the Red Sox as the 'upstart' team whom we lost to that year?
2007-09-06 13:39:28
80.   pistolpete
79 Never mind. My kingdom for an 'edit' button.
2007-09-06 13:41:38
81.   Mike T
It's hard to believe the White Sox are only two years removed from a championship.
2007-09-06 13:41:54
82.   Shaun P
72 Here here, more Ozzark and Co!

50 53 I didn't see Hughes pitch at all last night, so I can't evaluate him. I would say, however, that Keith Law is a very credible scout and analyst - despite the well-deserved reputation of most of ESPN's baseball "analysts" being full of crap.

(Side note - hey Steve Phillips! How's that "neither the Mets nor the Yankees are making the playoffs" prediction working for you? ##@*.)

I don't always agree with Law's conclusions, but I believe him to be objective. If he says Hughes looks shaky, then he probably did look shaky. But Hughes could be A-OK by the end of the year.

2007-09-06 13:43:24
83.   nick
not to be a fanboy or call Law a "hater", but I can't let this pass in my current cranky fanboy mood--

"Ichiro Suzuki was robbed...at second base where it was obvious from the stands that he'd never been tagged. (That last one ruined a very impressive stolen base on a pitchout.)"

--the only thing wrong with Law's observations here:

a) it wasn't a pitchout
b) Molina's throw beat him by a country mile
c) he never touched second

other than that, Keith, you nailed it!

ok, folks, you may now resume with matters other than trivial nitpicking......

2007-09-06 13:44:29
84.   monkeypants
78 My point is that from a philosophical standpoint I would rather have a "pure" divisional system with no WC. That would cost the Yankees in some years--in Mehmattski's argument, the team would not have made the playoff's in 1996 and 2000 (assuming the divisional system before 1994), but more obviously in 1995 and 1997. But it also likely would have benefitted them in some cases, like perhaps not having to face the Sox in 2004 (the most dangerous potential opponent that year).

I'm not talking about "getting what we deserved." By the rules in place the team got what it deserved every year no matter the outcome (though Baltimore may have some beef for 1996). I just don't happen to prefer the rules in place (that is, the existence of a WC).

2007-09-06 13:45:26
85.   nick
as for the Hughes point, I saw some very "plus" curveballs; the velocity being down a little, yes, but I liked his approach (as did Leiter, who's not just a Yesman....) and have no worries down the road. Next three weeks? Might be different....
2007-09-06 13:46:50
86.   monkeypants
77 Well said.

78 See 77 .

2007-09-06 13:56:39
87.   Bama Yankee
52 Sliced Bread stars as Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer...

Sliced Bread: "I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and was later thawed by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes when I fly to Europe on the Concorde, I wonder, am I inside some sort of giant bird? Am I gonna be digested? I don't know, because I'm a caveman, and that's the way I think! When I'm in my box seats at a Yankees game, I wonder if the ball is some sort of food they're fighting over and if the man with the wooden stick is going to attack me and try to take my tasty tubular meat wrapped in bread. These things I do not know, but one thing I do know is that Mr. Alex Rodriguez deserves a new seven year $200M contract.

George Stienbrenner: "Sliced Bread's words are just as true now as they were in his time. Cashman, draw up the new contract."

2007-09-06 14:01:40
88.   monkeypants
56 Except of course Jorge's power numbers aren't really down. He is on pace to hit about 20 HRs (his career 162 game average is 25) and about 40 2Bs (career ave 34). He currently has a career high SLG (.545), and his isolated power is .208--higher than his career average of .200 (I only calculated his full seasons starting in 1997), and right in line with all of his seasons except for his two big slugging years (2000, 2003).
2007-09-06 14:02:05
89.   Mike T
83 It was Jeter who laid down the tag, correct? I only saw the highlights on Sportscenter of that play, but it looked good to me.
2007-09-06 14:14:08
90.   Bama Yankee
83 & 89 Also, didn't the Mariners benefit from one of the worst blown calls of the year (possibly of all time, the guy was out by 3 feet) back in May at the Stadium?
2007-09-06 14:30:14
91.   Chyll Will
90 Wowzers, that was more like a welfare check...
2007-09-06 14:30:33
92.   Bama Yankee
90 Bloomquist, that was the guy... out by three feet.
http://tinyurl.com/yosca3
2007-09-06 14:48:35
93.   Chyll Will
92 Yet, the ump gave him the finger (sigh)... like Jeter said, nothing you can do.
2007-09-06 15:04:45
94.   Bama Yankee
After reading that article on the May 7th game where umpire Gerry Davis admitted to blowing the call I had a strange thought. So I looked it up...
The umps from last night's game:
HP: Larry Vanover
1B: Tony Randazzo
2B: Gerry Davis
3B: Greg Gibson

Unbelievable...

2007-09-06 15:13:23
95.   weeping for brunnhilde
88 Better still.
2007-09-06 15:25:54
96.   JL25and3
89 On the replay, Jeter pretty obviously - and inexplicably - missed the tag. I mean, he had the ball in plenty of time, Ichiro! was sliding straight into him, and Jeter made a perfectly nice little sweep tag right at Ichiro!'s chest. Except somehow he didn't reach out quite far enough.

And then Jeter should have tagged Ichiro! again immediately. He must have known it was a phantom tag, and because Ichiro! was so far from the bag that Jeter could have tagged him 3 or 4 more times before he came close to touching it.

The ump blew the call, but only by making a call at all. As far as I know, that play still hasn't actually been completed.

2007-09-06 16:00:43
97.   Start Spreading the News
96 Until Ichiro left the basepath
2007-09-06 16:35:06
98.   Sliced Bread
87 6 points for Bama... Roll Tide!
2007-09-06 18:19:34
99.   yankz
Off days: Still suck.
2007-09-06 18:21:10
100.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
damn you Tejada. Bases juiced no out vs Bucktooth and he grounds into an improbable 5-2-3 dp, and then Bucktooth k's Mill-ah. Eff you Mill-ah.
Show/Hide Comments 101-150
2007-09-06 18:22:28
101.   Sliced Bread
FYI - Over at "The Griddle" Bob Timmermann reviews the new Baseball Prospectus book "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over" which Alex and Cliff contributed to.
Check it out. I wasn't hip to this. Sounds like a cool book - especially for off days like these.

Baseball-wise the only thing I hate more than these damn off days is the off season.

2007-09-06 18:39:54
102.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
It's not an offday as long as playoff rivals like Detroit and Bawston play.

The O's game is driving me nuts. I expected this to be a gimme for the Sawx, but got sucked in when then O's went up, twice.

I mean, they should be KILLIN the Sawx. They've put 13 men on to the Sawx 7, but somehow the game is tied, in part b/c the O's got nothing out of the bases loaded none-out situation referred to above, but also b/c half the friggin Sawx runs came on a homer by Coco Chanel of all people.

I dunno what you do if you're the manager and your pitcher gives it up to Chanel with 2 on. I'd go ballistic. The guy would be running laps in the outfield between innnings for the rest of the series. Screw his feelings, the payers' association, whatever. It's Coco friggin Chanel.

2007-09-06 19:08:07
103.   williamnyy23
55 Sorry yankz, but I am not blind fan. I realize some fans only wear poms poms, but I prefer to be objective.
2007-09-06 19:12:53
104.   williamnyy23
57 What makes things different is the number of teams in MLB. 3 out of 30 is 10%. When you factor in NL teams like the Phillies and Boston Braves, nearly half of MLB teams were non-competitive for long periods of time.
2007-09-06 19:22:34
105.   yankz
103 I understand that. But there's no denying that you're damn near impossible to please. That's different from being objective.
2007-09-06 19:24:06
106.   ric
102

HA!

2007-09-06 19:27:55
107.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Man has this day been a disaster. 5 games, each of which has affects the 2 teams I'd like to see make the playoffs, Yanks and Cubs.

4 in the books, and each of them a crap result.

Detroit come from a run down to win in the bottom of the 9th, Cubs blow a lead in the top of the 9th to lose, Cards win in a blowout, and Sawx come back from 2 deficits and win, and to rub salt into the wound Bucktooth pitches out of trouble and throws 3 to get the win and Pamplemousse crushes the heart of the O's order to tie down the win.

One game left, and if the day ends as it began, the Halos will also win in the bottom of the 9th.

I'mn expecting to check the news tomorrow and find out Wang or Arod slipped in the tub or something.

2007-09-06 19:31:20
108.   williamnyy23
105 I don't think that's true at all. Outside of Joe Torre, I don't feel I am overly critical, although I think my criticisms of him are warranted anyway.

As for Hughes, I think we all want him to be good fast, but my original post explained why that isn't likely. Now, you can dismiss that as being pessimistic, and discredit credible analysts like Law, but absent a compelling argument otherwise, it comes off as a rose colored argument. I see no reason to delude myself when it comes to assessing this team.

2007-09-06 19:46:30
109.   yankz
ric totally just confirmed 55 .
2007-09-06 19:49:37
110.   SF Yanks
109 Yup, I guess he fits the definition of a TROLL
2007-09-06 19:56:07
111.   SF Yanks
If it doesn't have the word 'Red Sox' in it, he ain't interested.

And I've just continued to feed the troll, so I will now stop.

Is it tomorrow yet? I really hate off days and like Sliced said earlier, the off-season too. However, as much pain as the off-season can cause, whatever information leeks during that time is like a goldmine, making for some interesting soap episodes. Because then we get to play the What If game, or Can You Imagine Our Lineup When We Get This Guy game every other day to pass the time.

2007-09-06 19:56:26
112.   Bama Yankee
109 You hit the nail right on the head back in 55 (in more ways than one)...
2007-09-06 20:13:15
113.   yankz
110 112 Seriously, it worked out so perfectly, you'd think ric and I had planned it out.
2007-09-06 20:15:39
114.   yankz
RAB has an excellent post up on something we discussed a few months ago: the "Arod effect" on attendance.
2007-09-06 20:20:10
115.   SF Yanks
Who's RAB again?
2007-09-06 20:20:37
116.   SF Yanks
Is it somethin somethin baseball?
2007-09-06 20:22:11
117.   SF Yanks
Actually I have no idea who or what site that is. And sorry for the triple post.
2007-09-06 20:35:54
118.   Raf
104 Yes, but it's the same now. Looking @ the AL since 1994, you have Baltimore, Toronto, Tampa Bay, & KC finishing more than 10 games out over 10 times. Detroit finally turned it around, they had been languishing since 1991. Milwaukee's finally turning it around, they hadn't done much of anything since 1992. Texas won 3 division titles, but their history had been nothing spectacular since their days in DC.
2007-09-06 20:43:59
119.   yankz
It's River Ave. Blues, linked to the right under "Bronx Bloggers."

I thought it was a Harry Potter reference when I first saw it.

2007-09-06 20:49:41
120.   SF Yanks
119 Thanks. What's funny is I read each title under Bronx Bloggers looking for an RAB and still managed to miss it. Ahh, my beautiful mind.
2007-09-06 21:11:44
121.   yankz
120 Dude, after seeing it abbreviated RAB once at their site, I even asked the guys that write there if it was a Harry Potter reference. Now that's beautiful.
2007-09-06 21:14:49
122.   ric
110

HA! hey, sometimes it works!

2007-09-06 22:07:01
123.   SF Yanks
121 HaHaa!! I think you got me beat there. That's good stuff, lmao!
2007-09-07 05:44:07
124.   rsmith51
Alex,

When you wrote your story about Ankiel, did you hear any rumblings about his alleged HGH use?

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