Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Yankee Panky #63: August and Everything After
2008-09-02 07:30
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

“Alex Rodriguez homered Sunday off Roy Halladay, as did Jason Giambi, but it was too little, too late for the Yankees.”
— Hannah Storm, on Monday morning’s SportsCenter

“Don’t expect the Red Sox to shed any tears over playing their last regular-season game at Yankee Stadium. But if the champs sweep the Yankees — and throw some dirt on New York’s playoffs dreams — pinstripe fans might be crying all winter. Call it karma for years of suffering.”
— Outlook for final game of last week’s Yankees-Red Sox series, as it appeared on the “Hunt for Soxtober” on

“Bottom line, they sucked.”
— Hank Steinbrenner, following Wednesday’s 11-3 blowout loss to the Red Sox

The first two quotes represent one part truth and one part anti-Yankee sentiment. Hank Steinbrenner’s quote was all truth, and media outlets from New York, Boston, and the national scene took that quote and ran with it like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl.

Doomsday coverage – the words “final nail in season” were used in numerous articles — pulled a matador move late Thursday and into Friday as Jason Giambi saved the team’s playoff hopes for a little while. Story headers reading “Maybe the Yankees aren’t done yet” fed the Optimism Machine. Friday’s gutsy victory over possible future Yankee A.J. Burnett — a win in which I thought Joe Girardi should have been taken to task for removing Carl Pavano after six innings and 72 pitches — prompted more “Maybe…” talk. And like many, I was pumping my fist when Hideki Matsui ripped a bases-loaded double to give the Yankees a 6-2 lead over Toronto. I was thinking “sweep.” I was happy to see the Yankees score all six of their runs with two out. I was even happier to see the Yankees do to the Jays what had been done to them so many times this season: pound the starting pitcher and get into the bullpen by the fifth inning. But what happened over the final four innings was a microcosm of the entire season. The Jays’ last four relievers — Jason Frasor, Brandon League, Scott Downs and B.J. Ryan — threw first-pitch strikes to 10 of the 14 batters they faced, immediately putting the Yankees’ offense on the defensive. Ryan was the only member of the quartet to fall behind two hitters in a row and throw more balls (10) than strikes (9) in his appearance. Conversely, the Yankee relievers’ inability to throw Strike 1, particularly on the part of Damaso Marte and Jose Veras, contributed to their demise.

The papers focused on Cano’s error and A-Rod’s double play, the obvious turning point and climax of the game, but did not delve deeper into the causes for the effect. That was disappointing.

There was contradictory coverage last week as it pertained to Girardi. Newsday’s Ken Davidoff mused how Girardi should lighten up a little. Meanwhile, today, the Daily News’s John Harper; railed the Yankee manager for making excuses for Cano, who a la David Wells, avoided reporters after Saturday’s loss. Maybe it is time to send a message. Maybe it would have been another sign of a desperate team trying to inject itself with vital signs.

As the Yankees lost both series on their homestand last week, whittled the Yankees’ playoff chances from 6 percent as of my last post, to 1.2 percent. To make any kind of a run, the Yankees will have to go at least 20-4 (.833). The last time the Yankees sustained such a streak of excellence was 1998, when they went 22-2 from April 7 – May 8. That 1998 blitz included winning streaks of eight, six, and eight games. Thirteen of the 22 victories came on the road. For those clinging to a last shred of optimism before giving up on the season, like NY Times contributor Jane Heller, the aforementioned facts are for you.

The reality, though, is much bleaker. The media do not know what to make of it as the team yo-yos between oblivion and a pulse. Do we as a fan community?

On to other news …

During one of the games of last week's Red Sox-Yankees series fan was arrested and removed from the Stadium for leaving his seat in an attempt to go to the bathroom during the playing of “God Bless America” in the seventh-inning stretch. Since 2002, the Yankees remain the only team to include “God Bless America” during the traditional break.

The story notes that it is Stadium policy for fans to stay put during “God Bless America.” I do not recall this policy when I covered the team, nor do I recall any incidents like the one reported. Maybe it’s because in the press box, a more lenient policy was in order. I recall a handful of writers and broadcasters sprinting to various locations, including rest rooms, immediately after the third out of the top of the seventh was recorded, with no repercussion.

It’s one thing for the players to project themselves in a way that causes fans to dislike the team. It’s another for the organization to provide fodder for fans to dislike the franchise as a whole.

• Aside from the Yankees not making the playoffs, Mike  Mussina ‘s run at his first 20-win season is the most compelling story involving the Yankees. I’ve written in the past how when Jeff Weaver was a Yankee he once said his teammates “played like they hated him” when he took the mound. That has not been the case with the Yankees when Mussina pitches. The Yankees are 19-9 in his starts this season, including 6-0 in August.

At age 39, Mussina has won more games at this particular age than Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine or Greg Maddux. The last 39-year-old to win at least 16 games in a season was John Smoltz, three years ago. Thanks to 18 quality starts, Mussina is on pace for his first 200-inning season since 2003.

Mussina has six September starts in front of him, beginning with Tuesday’s series opener at Tropicana Field (ESPN is projecting only four more starts for Moose; when I examined the remaining schedule and saw where Mussina fits into the rotation every fifth or sixth day, I saw six starts).

I’ve made light of Mussina’s idiosyncrasies, the apparent need for Joe Torre and Joe Girardi to placate him by giving him a “personal catcher,” and noted how his sarcastic demeanor with the local press has irked some (most of you have heard of his testy relationship with Michael Kay). However, with few positives to reflect on this season, Mussina winning 20 would be a tremendous bright spot.

• Joba is returning to the bullpen and not the rotation. What will this mean for next season?

Until next week …

2008-09-02 07:50:25
1.   pistolpete
>>Call it karma for years of suffering. >>

Didn't we do that whole thing 4 years ago?

2008-09-02 08:41:08
2.   liam
2008-09-02 09:08:05
3.   Raf
1 No. If this is indeed karmic retribution, we have a ways to go before the pendulum swings back the other way.
2008-09-02 09:44:49
4.   Chyll Will
2 Read that the other day; hoping he only speaks for himself. Honestly, people (specifically "reporters") should stop taking an athlete's performance personally.

3 Don't see what karma has to do with 26 championships, but whatever floats their root beer...

2008-09-02 10:07:02
5.   williamnyy23
2 I wonder if the author understands the metrics he was using? I know fangraphs uses variations on win probability to define cluth, but there are flaws with their approach. Namely, they don't really explain how they assign leverage and they define clutch relative to a player's leverage neutral performance. So, a player like Arod could perform well in what we think of as clutch situations, but be labeled unclutch if his performance isn't as good as is overall numbers.

In other words, a player who hits. 200 over all, but .225 in the "clutch", would be more clutch than a player who hits .300 over all, but bats .275 in the clutch.

2008-09-02 10:47:29
6.   The Hawk
Yeah, I don't know why people see the need to develop a formula for something as abstract as being "clutch". It's pointless - mainly because clutch performances often have to do with momentum shifts, which I think are comprised of so many variables, it would be almost impossible to take them all into account.

One thing I will say about the future of the Yankees: I like Nady. The team needs more serious - in his case, seemingly humorless - players like him. He's about the same age as O'Neil when he arrived. Maybe he'll stick around for five or six years and be a good influence on the team. Someone needs to counteract Cano, A-Rod and Abreu (for different reasons, and hopefully they'll just let Abreu go).

2008-09-02 10:56:28
7.   Dimelo
5 I don't mean to be antagonistic with this question, but why do people continually love to make excuses for ARod's performance?

Whether the analysis done in the article is right or wrong it is still a reflection of what I see with my own eyes. Henceforth that validates what I see in the games, isn't that the purpose of SABR stats? Or is it that we invent some new argument/stat to show how some stat is not worth the paper it's printed on?

I'll say how much ARod sucks in the clutch and someone throws around his OPS+ stat as if that should make me feel better.

Can't we just accept what we've seen? We have a good enough body of work to conclusively state that "ARod is the last person we want up when the game is on the line".

I think the Yanks should get a "closer" type of player to come in for ARod when it is after the 7th inning. I have never seen a player play so badly like ARod has this year, when you need him most. He's awful, you can paint whatever picture you want, color the pig with another coating of lipstick, but in the's still ARod and he still sucks when you need him most.

Bottom line, he is the most frustrating player to watch.

2008-09-02 11:15:15
8.   williamnyy23
7 Why do people feel the need to distort Arod's numbers in an attempt to make him out to be anything less than a great player?

You can depend on what you think you see if you'd like, but it seems as if you are being selective in order to come to the conclusion your frustration has pre-determined. For example, didn't we all see the countless big hits that Arod got last year? Also, did you happen to see how Arod almost single handedly beat the Twins in the 2004 ALDS (sure that was a while ago, but who else has been clutch on the Yankees since then)?

You seem to remember what you want and ignore what you don't. That's why one person's observation is hardly compelling, especially when every objective statistic refutes it.

As for your contention that "I have never seen a player play so badly like ARod has this year, when you need him most", well, did you know David Wright has worse numbers will RISP? Also, Mr. Clutch David Ortiz has an OPS of .699 in Late Close this year, after a season in which it was .766. Yet, you are killing Arod for having an OPS of .825 in those spots? Do you really expect to be taken seriously?

Basically, I think you and others demand that Arod come through all of the time. Well, he isn't perfect, no matter how much you want him to be.

2008-09-02 11:25:16
9.   Sonya Hennys Tutu
8 I completely agree William. Unfortunately it seems like the people who look electively also listen selectively.
2008-09-02 11:30:33
10.   williamnyy23
7 By the way, check out Giambi's clutch stats this season and then see if you can make that statement ("I have never seen a player play so badly like ARod has this year, when you need him most") with a straight face.
2008-09-02 11:32:43
11.   yankster
8 It's true that I want him to be perfect. I have always wanted Arod to be perfect, and since he's never been - not even close, I'm disappointed, let down, betrayed. He's my favorite player to hate.

That's whats so amazing about baseball: the best player is astonishingly similar to the worst. Baseball's best player fails 2/3 of the time which is too damn much for a champ. And even when he doesn't, it doesn't account for much if the next lump in the lineup doesn't beat the odds too.

crazy game.

2008-09-02 11:47:04
12.   Dimelo
10 If you want to be considered the best, then you have to play like the best.

ARod has unbelievable amounts of talent, he's a great player, but he's not a winning player.

You are cherry picking from the few times he has succeeded. Yes FEW times.

I don't have a problem giving you those times he has performed admirably, but the bottom line is that he has left Yankee fas with more times where he has failed and left us saying "WTF?" versus him coming through and delivering the Jordan type of win. The wins that are always most memorable.

I remember that Jordan commercial where he states the number of times he has failed and how he has failed much more than he has succeeded, but because he has managed to be great when it matters most then all those other times he had failed just falls by the wayside. Nobody notices. Everyone notices with ARod because he hasn't done it when the Yanks need it most. When their collective backs are up against the wall, the Yanks have not been able to ride the ARod stick to a championship. If they have, please refresh my memory.

A baseball player will always fail more than they succeed, I do not expect ARod to be great at an 80% clip. I just want him to be great enough times where we no longer have this debate, at this point I give up on the guy and I am no longer going to make excuses for him. He sucks!

The fact that you compare ARod to lesser players like Wright, Papi and Giambi further validates what I'm saying. He's no Pujols, he's no Vlad, he's not even Jimmy Rollins. Those guys deliver when their teams expect them to deliver.

All last year you expected ARod to do something great, then the playoffs came and he shit the bed again. Then this year has been a continuation of that. Again, all I'm saying is that we have seen enough and analyzed enough stats to come to the following conculsion:

1. ARod produces very beautiful numbers - if you never saw the guy play and saw those numbers then you'd probably say "This ARod guy was a great player, probably the best ever".
2. ARod cannot be counted on when you need him most.

2008-09-02 11:59:36
13.   Raf
4 In the context of Yanks-Sox, it has been so one sided in the Yanks' favor that I don't know why it's even considered a rivalry.
2008-09-02 12:17:12
14.   The Hawk
I don't think last year anyone was saying A-Rod wasn't clutch. Why? Because he WAS clutch. He came through at key moments all year long. For all his great overall numbers last year, my main impression was I was glad to see him up in a big spot. So you can't say that was a near-career year so we can't expect it every year, because I don't. But he has been wayyyyy worse this year.

Most people would concur I think. We're not trying to slam the guy. He has been good, and this year he has not. His numbers will look very good by year's end but he is a cherry-picking sonuvagun. He's hit a third of his HR when the team was already up a few runs. I'm sure he's hit some more when they were down 5+, and he pops a solo shot in the 8th. It's just the way it is. I wish it wasn't. I liked him better when he was living up to his reputation.

2008-09-02 12:39:25
15.   riclaimbeer

the championships have been lopsided by the head to head record is pretty close...

redsox are .455 vs. yankees

2043(total games) 923(wins) 1106(losses)

2008-09-02 13:17:56
16.   pistolpete
3 >> No. If this is indeed karmic retribution, we have a ways to go before the pendulum swings back the other way. >>

Oh c'mon, a 3-0 blown series lead wasn't enough? I would hope the baseball gods were satisfied...

2008-09-02 15:49:26
17.   Will Weiss
7 8 12 I didn't even get into the fact that prior to yesterday, A-Rod was batting .235 with RISP an < 2 out, and had only 2 RBIs in the 8th and 9th innings this season. (I couldn't find the GIDP information and didn't have time to retrace every box score).

I'm inclined to agree with Dimelo, however. I don't think A-Rod sucks, but I do think we can't let our eyes deceive us when it comes to our analysis of him. The numbers don't lie, either. Overall, his stats are more than serviceable. But as I've said before, there's not a pitcher in the league who fears pitching to him in a crucial situation. He is not Edgar Martinez ca. 1996. He is not Vlad Guerrero or Garret Anderson. He is not Albert Pujols. By my observation, he is a great player (not a great hitter), who destroys mediocre pitching and has yet to prove that he can get out of his own way psychologically.

2008-09-02 16:36:58
18.   williamnyy23
12 I am not cherry picking; you are. I am more than happy to state that for his career, Arod's OPS with RISP is .955 and in Close and Late is .908. Now, if you want to keep going with your theory that Arod never hits when you really need it, we can simply push the facts aside and go with your frustrated recollections. I have this thing for's what prevents us from accepting silly statements like Arod isn't a winning player, but guys like Scott Brosius, Mark Lemke and David Eckstein are.

As for Jordan, if your point is Arod isn't as good as Jordan, and it is easier for basketball players to come up big (because they get more than 4 chances each game), well, there you have a point.

Also, I hate to keep bringing up these silly facts, but have you bothered to check out Vlad's playoff numbers? I guess that .591 OPS really proves how clutch Vlad is? Who knows, maybe you have witnessed Vlad be clutch when the scorekeepers weren't looking?

The Rollins comp is just silly. His career Close and Late is .806. That leaves Pujols, so finally you have a verifiable point...Arod is not as good hitter as Pujols.

17 How do you know there isn't one pitcher who fears facing Arod? Have you asked them all? I watch the games too, and Arod is frequently pitched too carefully. In fact, he is routinely in the top-10 in IBB, despite being right handed and in a strong lineup.

Like Dimelo, your comps are also silly. I've already debunked Vlad, but Garret Anderson is comical. The man has a Close and Late career OPS of .768, while Arod is over .900. Also, in the post season, he has a .710 OPS. Again, please tell me why you think he is better than Arod? My guess is because we've seen him kill the Yankees, but that's precisely why you don't rely on recollections.

Also, since you brought up 2 outs and RISP, do you know what Edgar's BA and OPS was in that split in the 1996 season you mentioned...drum roll please...that's right, he hit a whopping .194/.703! If Arod doesn't get another hit this season in that split, he might still have better numbers.

I realize that facts can be annoying because it prevent us from getting out of the way of the psychologically preconceived notions that we feel compelled to protect. Ultimately, however, one does need some evidence if they expect to be taken seriously in a thought-based forum.

2008-09-02 17:24:24
19.   DarrenF
It's a useless stat because it's comparing a player to himself. Jose Lopez of the Mariners is the clutchest player in baseball, according to that stat. Albert Pujols is not clutch according to that stat. From year to year, the measurement varies so wildly, it is unpredictable and reveals nothing about the subject.
2008-09-02 20:17:29
20.   williamnyy23
I think this thread is dead now, but here are some more inconvenient truths about #13 for the Arod sucks crowd to ignore:

2008-09-03 05:44:53
21.   The Hawk
I thought it was pretty darn clear I was talking about A-Rod and not someone posting on the internet when I said "His numbers will look very good by year's end but he is a cherry-picking sonuvagun". Sheesh.

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