Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Yankee Panky # 56: Random Thoughts
2008-06-28 07:15
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Working from home has many benefits. What does that have to do with this column? It's nice to have the game on in the background — even if it's on mute — while conducting conference calls and closing deals. It's also nice to walk five feet to the den when Game 2 comes on and you can just veg out and absorb New York baseball.

Watching the night game of the Shea half of Subway Series XII — with the sound on, this time — got me thinking about a lot of things about the events of yet another Day-Night Doubleheader in the City. 

• Mike Francesa's conniption on the air yesterday was hysterical. Echoing much of the fan sentiment, he railed on the Yankees' relief pitching, primarily Edwar (leave off the last "D" for disappointing), "Mr. Wonderful" Ross Ohlendorf, and LaTroy Hawkins, who has not been the same since stealing Paul O'Neill's number. As part of the rant, he claimed that the Yankees need to buck up and spend the money to get a starting pitcher, as they will not make the playoffs with three dependable starters. I agree with one point he made, however: to not have a lefty in the bullpen when you have a $220 million payroll — and no, Kei Igawa doesn't count — is unacceptable.

• Michael Kay mentioned how yesterday was not considered a doubleheader, it was two separate games, and would be treated as such. Had the Mets won the regularly scheduled night game, it would not have been a sweep. Since the Yankees won, it's not considered a split. The Yankees won one game, and the Mets won another.

Huh? This logic is like the scene in "The Princess Bride" when Westley and Vezzini are matching wits to see who will drink the wine goblet spiked with Iocane powder. I wish I was there to see the looks on the faces of David Cone and Ken Singleton.

To quote a T-shirt that one of my colleagues at the office wears: "If a tree falls in the forest, do the other trees laugh at it?"

• Kay again, calling SportsNet NY (SNY), making a word out of SNY (sny – rhymes with "guy"), in a tone that sounded belittling and condescending. Maybe he meant nothing more by it than trying to be funny, but it came across as unprofessional and unnecessary.

• Nice work by Kevin Smollon, YES's game producer, picking up on Johnny Damon trying to hold back laughter following Sidney Ponson's bailout swing during his third at-bat. Director John Moore then cut to everyone in the dugout, including Robinson Cano, laughing. Maybe it's me, but I thought Robinson Cano had no business laughing, ye of the .240 batting average. If I put down $1,000 for every at-bat he had with the bases loaded, betting that he'd swing at the first pitch, I wouldn't need to work anymore.

On this topic, how can Kay, Singleton, et al discuss the Yankees' plate discipline, and then when Cano comes up with the bases loaded — twice — swinging at the first pitch, not say anything. I know he got lucky and drove in a couple of runs in those situations, but come on. There has to be a level of consistency. I'm surprised Singleton, who earned a Masters Degree in On-Base Percentage from the Earl Weaver School of Plate Discipline, didn't take Cano to task. Not one person in the YES broadcast trio said a word. Instead, they focused on the replays of the weak grounder and slicing fly ball that brought in runs.

• The more I listen to David Cone as an analyst, the better he gets. I like his enthusiasm. The versatility of Cone and John Flaherty comes through in every broadcast they're assigned to.

• Maybe it's just me, but when Kay promos the Yankees Post Game and touches upon Kim Jones "working her magic" in the clubhouse, I get ideas I don't want to have. A few years ago, when he'd introduce her as "Lil' Kim" Jones, she put the kibosh on that, especially after the real Lil' Kim was convicted. Even then, though, she supposedly worked her magic in the clubhouse, whatever that means.

Questions to ponder as we steamroll toward the All-Star break and beyond:

1. Is this the year Mike Mussina wins 20? If he does, should the Yankees re-sign him next year?

2. Joba has not lost since shifting to the starting rotation. If he goes undefeated, how will we be able to separate myth from reality with this kid? He's already the face of this team. The thing is, he can handle it.

Next week: a poll of your top Fourth of July Yankee Stadium memories and/or moments. I'll give my Top 10. I want to see some of yours.

Take care,

2008-06-28 08:06:09
1.   horace-clarke-era
The Mussina question came up yesterday before the game(s). My own sense is that even if he's just okay the rest of the way, he'd be likely to take an incentive-based deal, and the team should do it. My best guess is that Pettitte will retire. The caveat is that if he has a flat-out brilliant second half he might be lured back - but for the same major money he's getting. I can't see an incentive deal appealing to him, one way or another.

Yesterday gives more fuel (who needs it!) to my Lament for the Missing Relievers. The bats are awake enough, and more. If the team is healthy they WILL score runs. The starting pitching is wobbly without Wang/PKH/IPK and with Rasner looking as if the wheels are almost off. (I will NOT comment on the Second Coming of Sir Sid.) Given this, the need for halfway decent bullpen arms is huge.

I say this also noting the absurd degree of parity in the AL this year. There is only one truly bad team right now. Mariners Stand Alone. Twins are 10-0, Royals 9-1 (!!). Tigers are sneaking back in, Texas pounds the ball ...

Once interleague ends it is going to be VERY tough going the whole rest of the way. I think that does mean no one will run away and hide, but it is also very easy to have a 3-7 stretch, then another, for any team.

It is actually a pretty interesting year at the half, seems to me.

2008-06-28 08:17:13
2.   OldYanksFan
What's really bothersome is that the Yankee coaching staff doesn't take Cano to task. And I wonder about Melky. Both of these guys are playing well below their ability. They have plenty of talent from the shoulders down, but from the neck up?

You know that joke where a guy has a headache and goes to the doctor. He has a head examination, and afterwards:
Patient: "Doctor, did you find anything inside my head?"
Doctor: "Nope. Nothing at all"

1) I believe Horne is a starter, but I think most of our other farm talent are reliever. Whether he wins 20 or not is not an issue. He he continues to pitch well, and will sign for $8m-ish, you have to consider it. You can't have too much pitching. And I don't think Phil will have enough time left in 2008 to prove he is a #3 or better.

There are a lot of questions:
... Will Andy resign?
... Is IPK a legit, quality #5 starter?
... are Raz, Geise, Karstens legit #6, #7 starters?
My guess is, if Moose posts a 4.5 or better ERA this year, we could use him next year.

2) What is this with Wins and Loses?
Joba is the real deal. He has shown great maturity on the mound. He's not trying to just blow guys away, but is working all his pitches, up, down, in, out. He is really pitching (not throwing). If he doesn't get hurt, he will only get better, as he will get smarter. I believe he will be an Ace or a #2 at worst.

If Phil comes back any pitches anywahere near expectations, will will have a very solid 1-2-3 in Wang, Joba and Phil.

2008-06-28 08:27:40
3.   OldYanksFan
3 Hoss. On Andy. He did say he would like to pitch a year in the new stadium. While I'm sure he likes money as much as any of us, I don't think thats the bottom line for another 'last year' for Andy.

I didn't like Roger getting perks simply because he was already being WAY overpaid. But if a guy like Andy is worth X dollars on the market, and he's willing to pitch for 80% of X, I think allowing percs (for pitchers only) is not that horrible. These guys mostly sit around 4 days out of 5. On roads trips, letting Andy spend SOME of those 4 days with his family is a fair swap for a discount.

Therefore, I would proposed a $8m-10m-ish salary with percs, plus some incentive for real excellence.

Until Phil, IPK and Horne (or another kid or a FA) show us they are legit starters, guys like Andy, and Moose, are very good insurance. Right now, Wang and Joba are the only reliable guys we have for 2009.

2008-06-28 08:46:49
4.   mehmattski
2 Robinson Cano since June 14:

45 PA, .366/.378/.610

What happened on June 14: Joe Girardi benched him. Is that not "taking him to task?" Have the results since then not been good enough? I think the Cano-is-slacking horse is almost dead, time to stop beating it.

2008-06-28 08:59:09
5.   horace-clarke-era
OYF, mon compere, the comment about pitching a year in the new stadium is news to me. Missed it in the excitement of the Clemens Circus maybe! I recall Andy needing some quiet time to decide whether to pitch THIS year and that was with - what? - 16 or 18 million guaranteed.

Don't misunderstand me, if he, too, is around 4.5 and stays healthy I'd be very happy to have him back, and, as others have said, it isn't my money being spent.

These calls (Moose, Andy, Stacheman) will get made in the winter, which means we have 80+ (note the +!) games to evaluate, and this includes a return from IPK and (maybe) PKH to factor in.

I am with mehmattski on Cano ... he's turning it around. It is widely known that some batters are aggressive (Vlad) and some patient (Abreu) and many fall between. Cano is NOT a patient hitter, he is unlikely to become one, and I see no magic in taking the first pitch if it feels like your pitch, and especially if you are not a good 2-strike hitter. Cano is getting some lucky hits where before he had some unlucky outs. It evens itself, usually. If he were striking out at a lunatic rate I'd say there was more to worry about. My bet is he won't do last year's second half but will climb towards .270+

One more thought ... our batting, healthy, is really strong. NO team lacks holes in their attack. We CAN 'carry' Melky as a mediocre stick for good D for a time, and see whether, at 23, this is a long slack month or so, or a new low level. It only hurts badly when Posada's sitting and Cano's off his game ... But, again, a lot of teams have only six okay bats. Look at the 10-0 Twins.

2008-06-28 09:04:32
6.   RIYank
I don't believe taking a player to task makes the player better. Okay, there may be rare exceptions.
Also, what mehmattski said.
2008-06-28 09:05:27
7.   RIYank
On Francesa and our bullpen:

Relievers Are Not Good. RANG.
The RANG principle. If they were good pitchers, they would not be relievers. A very small number of obvious exceptions may be cited to 'prove the rule'.

Remember the RANG principle, take it to heart; it will save some of your hair in the long run.

2008-06-28 10:10:45
8.   mehmattski
7 Agreed. Also, the "must have a lefty" meme needs to die a horrible death. Would you rather face Carlos Delgado with Billy Traber? Or Chase Wright? The point is to have a good lefty in the pen, because even if the GM puts any old lefty on the roster, the manager will be tempted to do lefty-lefty matchup when there's a perfectly good right handed reliever with a better chance to get the hitter out.

In the majors, here's the left-handed relievers in 2008 ranked by ERA (at least 20 IP):

So there maybe 15-20 lefty relievers in the majors worth having? Some of them are already their team's closer (Wagner, Sherrill, Ryan), and some of them actually are more effective versus righties (Kuo, Thorton)!

Meanwhile there are a number of teams giving a significant number of innings to pitchers like Ron Villone, Wesley Wright, and Alan Embree. This despite ample evidence that these pitchers are largely unsuccessful at the main purpose of pitching: to get the hitter out.

If the Yankees were going to try and trade for someone like Damaso Marte or Brian Fuentes, I would support it- but not because they are left-handed, but because they are good relievers.

2008-06-28 10:52:06
9.   yankster
7 (phone has no brackets) RANG is dead true and the way you mitigate that is by recognizing the value of starters that pitch innings even if the era+ is slightly lower. The thing about moose and petitte is that we know roughly how they pitch for the yankees. that data alone must be worth a million or two on top of their market value, whatever that is. in my statistically invalid but deep experience when I hire a relative unknown it only pays off when they are 50% more impressive than the incumbent.
2008-06-28 11:03:03
10.   Sonya Hennys Tutu
0 Kay calls it "SNY" on his radio show all the time, same tone. Personally I detest the guy because he thinks he's way smarter than he is. As I've posted here before, I once heard him talking about the "triage of value" as applied to three of something...

Moving on, I still believe that Mussina will revert to being a (way) below average pitcher, and I think we should trade him now. For just about any meaningful piece. Even though it'd hurt our rotation in the near/medium term. But I'm thrilled that he keeps proving me wrong (I've been saying this since his third win!)

But jeez I gotta agree with you fellas - if he (and Andy) are 4.5 or better at the end of the year, I think we have to take a one year run at each, incentive laden if at all possible.

And shockingly, at this rate I think we might have to re-work things with the porn-star for next year. Do the $5mm buyout and sign him for $5mm (ie. $10mm total) with incentives for PAs, etc. And I can't believe I'm saying that. I wonder if any team would offer him 2 years. We shouldn't.

My $.02.

2008-06-28 11:36:08
11.   OldYanksFan
10 You Tutu is on WAY to tight! I disagree with you but wont argue with your opinion. I will pint out that Moose has been very consistant for 16 GS/90 IP. Nothing has changed with his stuff. He hasn't found an extra 4 MPH on his FB that might go away. He has basically done 2 things that have changed his effectiveness.
1) He hardly ever throws his FB. Last year he still thought he could sneak it by batters. I guess he was trying to prove he still had it. He didn't, he doesn't, and he accepts it.
2) When he does throw his FB, he doesn't throw it in a FB count. He only throws it to 'fool' a batter. Maddux and Moyer (who else?) are both well older then Mike and are both effective. As long as Moose miantains his control, he may be good for a few more years.

"Do the $5mm buyout and sign him for $5mm"
Jason is 2nd in HRs (in far fewer ABs) and 4th in OPS in the AL. Unless he falls off a cliff, do you think he's only worth $5m? Juan Pierre makes $8m!!!! Plus, someone might offer 2 years for him as a DH. So a 1 year deal would cost more. Soriu costs $18m (for 7 tears). He is a career .845 OPS guy, and in 2006-2008, has been VERY good, posting a .890 OPS.

Giambi as a Yankee, including 2 terrible, iunjury plagued years, has posted a .930+ OPS, and is currently at .958.

4 6 Yes... for 2 weeks Cano has done very well. SSS (small sample size). Last night he had 2 terrible ABs with the bases loaded, first pitch swinging both times. He got lucky and went 0 for 1 with 2 RBI. But thats just the point. We know he is tremendously talented. But as long as he is NOT PATIENT at the plate and has NO PITCH SELECTION, he will never reach near his potential.

A .340 BA was not a fluke. He could be better then Carew. But Carew was smart. He made the most of his talent. Can you say that about Cano now? Hopefully he is turning it around, but he is still having many poor ABs.

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