Monthly archives: April 2005
Soggy Bottom Boys
A fine day for Chien-Ming Wang's major league debut, eh? It's been raining steadily in New York all morning. I wonder if they'll just call this one and play two tomorrow instead.
I don't care that the Yankees lost last night's game 2-0, or that the loss established just their second three-game streak of any kind this year (both losing streaks, the other a four-gamer two weeks ago). Last night's game was a classic. Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay both pitched complete games, baffling the opposing hitters with high heat and wicked sliders (in Johnson's case) and sharp curves and changing speeds (in Halladay's).
Both starters also benefited from excellent defense. Bernie Williams made a key running grab at the wall in the right field gap in the first inning. Johnson himself stabbed a pair of comebackers with his back to the plate, one with his glove and one barehanded, and Tino Martinez made a series of less flashy but equally excellent plays at first, from the throw that nailed Alexis Rios at second on a pick-off play, to the pop-up he caught while running over the pitchers mound, to a series of scoops and tags at first to convert questionable throws into easy outs. For the Blue Jays it was their middle infielders who were putting on the show, particularly Orlando Hudson's Jeter-style stretch to his right jump and throw move and John McDonald's tremendous leap to stab a line drive well over his head, which was followed by a stylish roll.
The difference in the game was a seventh-inning slider from Johnson to Eric Hinske that didn't slide far enough and landed in the right field seats for a two-run home run (Gregg Zaun preceded Hinske with a walk), just the 22nd home run hit by a lefty off Johnson in his 18 seasons in the majors.
Good pitching match up in the Bronx tonight as Randy Johnson goes against Doc Halladay. Whatta ya think? Will we see two good starts in a row from the Big Unit? The Yankees offense, dormant for the past two games, have their work cut out for them against Halladay, that's for sure.
Go get 'em, boys.
The Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays
2004 Record: 67-94 (.415)
Manager: John Gibbons
Ballpark (2004 park factors):
Who's replacing whom?
Corey Koskie replaces Carlos Delgado
1B Eric Hinske
R - Reed Johnson (OF)
R - Roy Halladay
R - Miguel Batista
L - Frank Catalanotto (LF)
The Blue Jays enter this weekend's three game series with the Yankees one game above .500, a record their run differential (+3) supports, but one they are unlikely to maintain. After starting the season a blazing 6-2, the Jays are 6-9 in their last 15 games. Prior to their just-concluded three-game sweep of the Devil Rays, they were on a 3-9 run that included a five-game losing streak wich started when the Yanekes traveled to the newly renamed Rogers Centre last week.
Prior to last night's game against the Angels, Kevin Brown threw his normal bullpen warm-up, then took a seat in the pen for a few minutes and did it all over again. The idea was to allow Brown to work out his first inning struggles in the pen rather than the game mound. It worked.
Despite a groundball single through to right by Chone Figgins and a four-pitch walk to Vladimir Guerrero, Brown pitched a scoreless first inning. He then pitched around a one-out double by Dallas McPherson to record a scoreless second. Brown did give up two runs in the third (due in large part to Chone Figgins' baserunning) and one in the fourth, but then settled down to retire the last eleven batters he faced.
Altogether it was not just Brown's best outing of the year, but the sort of performance most Yankee fans would happily take from Brown every fifth day:
7 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 0 HR, 1 BB, 5 K, 63 percent strikes
What Has Brown Done For You (Lately?)
Well? Think ol' Brownie can make it out of the second inning without giving up five runs?
Ray's First Game
Jay Jaffe was at Tuesday night's game, screaming his head off as Alex Rodriguez smacked three dingers and drove in 10 of the Yankees 12 runs in their 12-4 win over Bartolo Colon and the Angels. Me? I was there last night, when the Yanks managed just one lousy run off of Jarrod Washburn (the elusive solo homer that would have made Rodriguez's Tuesday night performance the greatest in American League history).
It wasn't all for nothing, however. Last night I and two of my colleagues brought my 67-year-old boss, a man who has lived in New York City for nearly 40 years, to his first game at Yankee Stadium.
When Derek Jeter was thrown out at home in the first inning last night, trying to score from first on a double, I had a bad feeling about how the game was going to unfold for the Yanks. Garret Anderson made a great throw, and Jeter came up limping after colliding with Jose Molina. Sure, it was only the first inning, but sometimes, you just get a feeling. (Luis Sojo's aggresiveness has backfired twice in the past week.) Jared Washburn had the Yankee hitters off-balance all evening, and benefitted from three double plays. Dag. Meanwhile, Mike Mussina continues to struggle. He made several mistakes--to Vlad, Anderson and Finely, and paid the price as the Angels beat the Bombers, 5-1. Jeter, Sheffield and Rodriguez were the only Yankees to swing the bat well in defeat.
Wang, Bean, Unit, Meat & Moose
Hidden behing the excitement of Alex Rodriguez's 10-RBI night and the Yankees 12-4 victory over the Angels last night was another strong seven innings from Carl "Meat" Pavano. Tossing out his two starts against the Orioles--the first in which he was beaned with a comebacker and the second in which he imploded in the sixth after five strong innings--Pavano has posted a 2.53 ERA in three starts, averaging seven innings in each and allowing a total of just three walks and one home run. His K/BB ratio in those three starts is 4:1 and his K/BB ratio over the season, his two Oriole starts included, is better than 3:1.
Meanwhile, Randy Johnson, in five starts as a Yankee, has a 0.96 WHIP, a .211 opponent's batting average, 8.91 K/9, 1.57 BB/9 and 5 2/3 times as may strikeouts as walks. Amazingly, all of those season stats are worse than his final numbers from 2004. In his last three starts he has a staggering 8:1 K/BB ratio. He's just getting up to speed.
With Meat and the Big Unit forming an impressive top two in the Yankee rotation, it sure would be nice to get something Mussina-like out of Moose tonight against the Angels. That may be wishful thinking--a vintage Mussina performance is increasingly looking about as likely as a vintage Bernie Williams performance--but if he can at the very least replicate what Pavano's dishing out (one hit per inning, excellent control, going deep into games), the Yankee rotation could really begin to take shape. Replacing Jaret Wright with Tiger Wang could also be a big part of that as a strong performance from Wang could force Wright and Brown to battle for the fifth spot.
Oh What a Night
The first home run was satisfying, a waist high fastball punished over the fence in left center field. It was a poor pitch and Rodriguez teed off on the sucker. You could hear it through the TV; it just sounded great. And the Bombers had an early 3-0 lead. The second shot was impressive because the pitch looked inside and Rodriguez was able to just turn on it; this one went into the vistor's bullpen. Really quick hands there, and it gave Pavano back the two runs he gave away via the walk in the top of the inning.
I got really anxious during Rodriguez's third at bat. It was clear that Colon was just about done. How could you not be aware that Rodriguez had a chance to have a special night? Colon fell behind 2-0 and then Rodriguez took a huge cut on a fastball and got that Gary Sheffield/Fat Joe "Lean Back" on his follow-through. Another ball and then Colon reared back and gunned a fastball up around Rodriguez's shoulders. It's the toughest pitch for Rodriguez--and most righties, for that matter, to lay off; you can't hit it, but it's tough to resist. Swing and a miss, full count. Nuts, I thought. That was ball four. Then Rodriguez got a good swing on a fastball and fouled it off before he crushed the next pitch over the wall in straight-away center. Third dinger (and according to Jay Jaffe, who was at the game and later called in, during the commerical break Rodriguez took a second curtain call).
Hot Dog. Rich Lederer, 3,000 miles away, was listening to the game on the radio. He called me from his car phone and I gave him the recap. Rodriguez's next at bat was impressive too, when he lined an 0-2 pitch into center field for an RBI single. Again, he took a page out of Sheff's book, and didn't try to do too much with the pitch, down 0-2. In his final at bat, Rodriguez roped a line drive to center. It was caught, but he hit it well. With one monster night, Rodriguez is now tied for the league lead in home runs and RBI (and oh, he's second in the league in runs scored).
Terrific night for Rodriguez and the Yanks, as they roll over the Angels, 12-4. Andy Phillips started at first again, barely missed hitting a homer off a flat slider in his first time up, then later tanked a double into the deepest part of the ball park. And Colter Bean, he off the wide arse, and the frisbee sidearm breaking ball, pitched the final two innings.
If anyone believed that Alex Rodriguez was still looking for his defining game as a Yankee, I think we've found it.
This is a lot of fun.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2004 Record: 92-70 (.568)
Manager: Mike Scioscia
Ballpark (2004 park factors): Angel Stadium (99/99)
Who's replacing whom?
Steve Finley replaces Jose Guillen
1B Darin Erstad
R Juan Rivera (OF)
R Kelvim Escobar
R Francisco Rodriguez
R Tim Salmon (OF) (60-day)
L Darin Erstad (1B)
A curious observation about current trends in roster construction: as I continue to rail against the Yankees carrying too many pitchers (though I must admit, I haven't figured out whom they should get rid of), the Angels are the first team the Yankees will play this year that is not carrying twelve pitchers. Every team in the AL East as well as the departing Rangers are carting around 12 hurlers and a four-man bench.
Anyway, Vlad is as Vlad does, but other than a solid performance from Orlando Cabrera and a hot streak from Bengie Molina before he landed on the DL with a quadricep injury, no one is hitting. Things are looking much better on the other side of the ball, however, where Kelvim Escobar returned from the DL (sprained elbow) with six scoreless innings on Sunday and the bullpen has posted a 2.30 ERA. Bartolo Colon, who goes tonight against Carl Pavano, has earned his ace tag thus far with a 2.60 ERA, dominating in his last two starts. It seems likely that Meat will have to keep those Halo bats silent to keep the Yankees in the game tonight, while the Bombers would be well advised to get on the board early.
Same Time, Next Year
Tyler Kepner notes today that the Yankees in the same position they were last year: 8-11 with the Angels coming into town. General manager Brian Cashman tells Kepner:
"For some reason, it feels worse this year. But it keeps it in perspective to know that we got off to the exact same start and won 101 games. We're in one of those we're-never-as-bad-as-we-look-right-now schemes. It doesn't mean there aren't problems. But we'll address them."
Kepner goes on to profile Chien Ming Wang. According to a minor league scout:
"Wang is an average major league prospect with a ceiling, a good sinker-slider guy who throws strikes. I think Phillips could start on a second-division club. But the tough thing with the Yankees is there's such a small window of opportunity for a guy to prove himself."
Ever since leaving the ballpark on Sunday afternoon, I've been racking my brain to come up with something to say about Andy Phillips racking up four RBIs and six total bases in his first start of the year and the first Yankee Stadium start of his career, but I've got nothing. I've said it all already. The man can hit. He should be a permanent part of the Yankees' 25-man roster and deserves the opportunity to establish himself in a platoon or even a starting role at first or second base. What happened Sunday was that the rest of the Yankee universe began to notice.
To his credit, Joe Torre may actually have been ahead of the curve. Torre was the man responsible for recalling Phillips when Ruben Sierra went down with a torn bicep, recognizing that Sierra's only contribution to the team was at the plate and that Phillips is, above all else (and all others), a hitter. Torre then reacted to the two dismal losses that began the current homestand by inserting Phillips into Sunday's starting lineup in place of left-handed fan favorite Tino Martinez despite the fact that the Rangers were starting a righty. Phillips then delivered with an RBI double in his first at bat and a three-run homer in his last. The home run earned him a curtain call from the Yankee Stadium crowd and, after the game, Joe Torre said, "he showed that we want to see him a little bit more." Tom Singer of MLB.com went as far as to call Torre "a devotee of Phillips." I hope he's right.
Now That's More Like It
Randy Johnson was not overpowering yesterday, but he delivered his best performance in pinstripes as the Yanks bombed the Rangers and cruised to a tension-free 11-1 victory. Johnson's fastball still isn't blazing in the mid-to-high nineties, but he was still effective. The Rangers were impressed. Tyler Kepner reports in the Times:
"He was a lot different than what I've seen in the past and what I've experienced with him," said Rangers catcher Rod Barajas, who caught Johnson with the Arizona Diamondbacks and went 0 for 3 yesterday.
Third baseman Mark DeRosa added:
"It was like seeing a totally new guy out there," DeRosa said. "He was throwing sinkers away and sliders away, where last year he would just be coming right in at 96, 98. But he still dominated."
Derek Jeter (three hits including a solo homer) and rookie Andy Phillips (double, three-run dinger) led the offense. Jeter was one of several Yankees who spoke in a brief, players-only meeting before the game. Jeter would not comment about what was said, but Bill Madden hit the nail on the head:
The circumstances demanded a meeting, but as Lou Piniella was fond of pointing out during his tenure in Seattle as manager of the Mariners: "If you're going to call a team meeting, it's always best to make sure it's the day before the Big Unit is pitching."
Done and done.
This is getting ridiculous. I think we all expected Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright to take their lumps against the Rangers' young power bats, but to have the Yankee offense manage just five runs over two games against rookie Chris Young and notorious free agent disaster Chan Ho Park is difficult to take. Actually (and even worse), just two of those five runs came against the two Texas starters, the other three coming against the Ranger bullpen.
On Friday night the Yankees failed to score despite getting their leadoff hitter on base in the first, second, and sixth innings. In the fifth, Luis Sojo again windmilled Tony Womack home with two outs only to watch him get thrown out by several strides. In the eighth, the Yanks couldn't get a runner home from second with one out. Save for a Hideki Matsui double in the fourth (which drove home Gary Sheffield who reached on a leadoff walk), the offense wasn't able to break through until the ninth inning, when three pinch hitters--Rey Sanchez, Andy Phillips!, and Jorge Posada (John Flaherty got the start with Brown on the mound)--combined to produce two one-out runs (Sanchez singled, Phillips reached on an error after chopping the ball in front of the plate, and Jorge doubled them home). But by then it was too late, as Kevin Brown repeated the formula of his first start by allowing four runs in the first and another in the third before he and the bullpen (Stanton and Quantrill on this night) shut the Rangers down the rest of the way.
Yesterday, the Yankees again got the leadoff hitter on in the first inning (Derek Jeter's on-base percentage is .471 and he's on pace to walk a career high 144 times), but failed to bring him home. In five different innings the Yankees didn't get a man on base until after the second out, scoring that man only once (in the third, a Bernie two-out double followed by a Sheffield RBI single). Alex Rodriguez reached third with two outs in the sixth, but was stranded when Posada struck out to end the inning.
Again, the Yankees finally broke through with pinch-hitters after the game was essentially out of hand. Down 10-1 in the eighth (six runs off Jaret Wright, two each off Steve Karsay and Felix Rodriguez), Torre began pulling his starters. Bubba Crosby singled for Sheffield, Matsui walked, Rodriguez moved them over via a groundout and Giambi got Crosby home via another. Almanzar then walked Posada and Buck Showalter brought in lefty Ron Mahay to pitch to Tino Martinez, prompting Torre to give Andy Phillips his second pinch-hit at-bat in as many games. With runners on the corners, Phillips blasted Mahay's first pitch into the gap in left, but Kevin Mench was able to chase it down, nabbing the ball in the top of the webbing of his glove as he charged toward the warning track. The Yanks stranded another two-out baserunner in the ninth.
Of course the big story was the pitching.
All is Not Wright
Anyone got anything good to say?
Friday Night: Texas 5, Yanks 3.
Saturday Afternoon: Texas 10, Yanks 2.
Chuck and Duck
2004 Record: 89-73 (.549)
Manager: Buck Showalter
Ballpark (2004 park factors): Ameriquest Field (111/109)
Who's replacing whom?
Richard Hidalgo replaces Eric Young and Brian Jordan
1B Mark Teixeira
S - Gary Matthews Jr. (OF)
R - Ryan Drese
R - Francisco Cordero
R - Greg Colbrunn (1B)
R - Alfonso Soriano (2B)
Let me take this opportunity to piggy-back Steve Lombardi's post today about Ceclia Tan's new book, "The 50 Greatest Yankee Games." Tan is an eclectic author who has written extensively about the Yankees for some time now; she was able to interview Yankee greats like Yogi Berra, Jerry Coleman, Roy White, Reggie Jackson and Don Mattingly and Paul O'Neill for her book (if you want a complete listing of Tan's interviews, including ones with Elliott Maddux and Jim Kaat, click here). This book is choice beach/bathroom/bedtime reading material for the die-hard Yankee fan. Lots of fun. And just to be balanced for you Yankee haters out there, may I suggest "Yankees Suck!" by Jim Gerard. This one should be right up your alley. The title says it all.
Some baseball fans have been predicting, and anticipating the Yankees' fall for four or five years now. The critics have been louder than ever this spring considering the team's mediocre start. The years 1965 and 1982 have been invoked as reminders of what could happen to the current team. Yesterday, veteran New York scribe, Vic Zeigel wrote a piece in the Daily News, making the 1965 comparison:
The Nothing Lasts Forever Club, the Bronx chapter, is about to meet for the first time since 1965. Warning: the last meeting came a year too late and was no help at all.
When George Steinbrenner hired a motivational coach last week, memories of the 1982 team came rushing back. That was the year Steinbrenner made the mistake of trying to build a team around speed. (The local press eventually dubbed the team "The Bronx Burners.") After the Yankees lost the 1981 World Serious to the Dodgers, and the Boss apologized to the fans on behalf of his team, he allowed Reggie Jackson to walk away as a free agent. Steinbrenner ostensibly replaced Jackson's power with Ken Griffey in right, and Oscar Gamble at DH. Davey Collins was signed as a free agent, and Jerry Mumphrey, Lou Piniella, and Bobby Murcer, all competed for playing time in the outfield (Dave Winfield, of course, was the left fielder).
Wednesday night's 11-2 victory behind Meat Pavano's best Yankee outing was nice, but last night's 4-3 victory, which required clutch hits, manufactured runs, tight defense and, above all else, an unyielding bullpen, was the sort of victory that really could turn this team around.
The one disappointing aspect of last night's game was that Mike Mussina is still pitching like the rapidly aging veteran of April through August of last year rather than the days-of-old ace of September. Through the first four innings he alternated pitching out of jams (the worst a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third which he ended by turning a comebacker into a rapid-fire 1-2-3 double play) and setting the side down in order (which he actually only did once, requiring a double play to keep it to three batters in the fourth). In the fifth he gave up five singles, which lead to three Blue Jay runs. Then in the sixth he gave up a single and a walk to the first two batters, got the first out via a sac bunt, and was pulled from the game by Joe Torre, who could have yanked him an inning earlier without argument from me.
The Yankee bats, meanwhile, were silent through three, the only baserunners being Rey Sanchez (starting for Womack against a lefty) who was hit by a pitch and Alex Rodriguez, who walked in the second only to get picked off, yet another unnecessary out on the bases.
The opposing starter was Gustavo Chacin (prounounced SHA-seen), who had intrigued me as he had pitched seven strong innings in the Bronx last September to beat the Yankees his major league debut and entered last night's game with a 1.42 ERA and a 3-0 record in three starts. Chacin is an interesting cat to watch. A lefty from Venezuela, he makes an odd pause prior to his delivery. He also wears Oakleys on the mound, but unlike the prescription lenses of Eric Gagne or Francisco Rodriguez, Chacin's are tinted and hide his eyes. Chacin also has a strangely drawn mouth with thin, rather bluish lips that turn down at the corners at sharp angles. Combined with the shades, his poor complexion, and the Blue Jays' gray caps, this gives him a creepy, robotic look. It's as if he were some sort of evil android from the future. (Strangest of all, he wore the shades for his MLB mugshot. Maybe he really is a robot from the future!)
Carl Pavano earned his first win as a Yankee last night, as the Bombers breezed past Ted Lilly and the Jays, 11-2. Pavano worked quickly and pitched efficiently. In an e-mail exchange this morning, Cliff and I talked about how Pavano reminds us of Andy Pettitte. For me, it's a physical thing. Pavano is a big boy like Pettitte, with a big ass and strong legs. Curiously, he has narrow shoulders and his uniform top hangs in a funny, schlubby way. He's also got strong facial features, a sturdy chin, and a fine Roman nose. Pavano would look just fine in a toga. Cliff noted that he is a good, but not great pitcher, who has fine control and who may share Pettitte's ability to pitch well when the team really needs a win. We aren't alone in making the comparision--which to be honest, isn't such a stretch. Steve Lombardi, who has just launched his own Yankee blog, "Was Watching" is on to it too:
Carl Pavano is starting to remind me of a right-handed version of Andy Pettitte. Both of them have that Betty Davis eyes thing going at times. Both of them are big body pitchers that you would expect to throw harder than they really do chuck. Their uni numbers are close - 45 now for Carl, 46 then for Andy. And, it seems like they be alike in the sense that they're capable of throwing a great game or a hosting Tee-ball session. I know many were down on the signing of Pavano based on the "one-year wonder" theory. But, I think I'm going to like him--as I did Pettitte.
Lombardi's site should prove to be a must-read for Yankee fans as the season unfolds. I especially like how he came up with the name of his blog:
Talking about some long-term baseball announcer, someone once said (and I think it was Bob Costas but I could be wrong) that the announcer's voice was the male voice that was most heard in their house after his father. Listening to Phil for nearly a quarter-century, it was something like that for myself as well.
With the Yankees providing no much joy in Mudville these days, I've had to find pleasure in other places. Fortunately, the spring is in full bloom here in New York. (Today, it's plain hot.) Some trees are sporting great big flowers, others already have little green leaves begining to sprout. The ladies are wearing skirts, strutting (or even strolling now) with purpose, while the guys are cranking their necks around to catch a look. Hey, things are beautiful in New York.
When I entered the subway station on 50th street and Broadway last night, I saw two young Spanish police officers comparing batting stances. I don't know if they were copying their favorite player or giving each other tips, but they looked just like Sweet Lou did on Monday night in the middle of the game, holding his hands up as if he was holding a bat, talking with one of his coaches about hitting, as his team was getting pounded. I spoke with the token booth clerk, a big Yankee fan, for a couple of minutes before the train rumbled into the station.
At 86th street, a group of kids buffaloed their way on the train, full of laughter. I had my earphones on so I didn't catch what they were up to, but when I saw several seated passengers smile, I stopped my music to see what was going on. The kids must have been in junior high, maybe freshmen in high school. There were six of them, and they were scattered around the car. They weren't rowdy or aggresive. There was nothing cutting or harsh about them. One boy laughed so innocently that I was actually taken aback. It was a pure, high-pitched giggle, very clean, and genuine. What is cracking them up, man? Well, it turns out one of them had a whoopee cushion. Need I say more? It's funny, cause I was thinking about whoopee cushions a few weeks ago, remembering how honest and inexpensive a laugh they can provide.
I wish I would have had one to keep me entertained later in the evening.
That's it. I'm fed up. Maybe I'm a couple of days late, but as Alex will tell you, I tend to be both level-headed and optimistic when it comes to my favorite ballclub. Still, after attending last night's 6-2 loss to the Devil Rays, I want my $5 (actually $13 and change thanks to Ticketmaster) back and an apology, not from the Boss or the skipper, but from the team.
The Yankees have now completed five series on the young season and won just five games. They are tied with the Devil Rays and Royals for the worst record in the American League, and have not recorded consecutive wins since the first two games of the season (which had an off day between them).
On the whole, the problem remains the pitching, the Yankees have the third worst ERA in the majors (only the D-Rays and Rockies are worse, and that's according to the stats before last night's 6-2 loss to the Rays). Their team ERA (prior to last night's game) was 5.65, but they've allowed a staggering 6.5 runs per game (including last night) thanks to some very costly errors and their pitchers' inability to pitch around them.
Last night, despite a noble effort from Randy Johnson, was the 2005 Yankees at their worst. Worse even, in my opinion, than Saturday's brutal 7-6 loss in a game they lead 6-2 in the seventh inning.
If George hollars...well, as Joel Sherman suggests, playing the Devil Rays sure can help a slumping team too. As for the early-season slump, Mike Mussina tells Sherman:
"This team right now is the same as a veteran player starting slowly and people not sure if he is off to a slow start or he has lost his skills," Mussina said. "If a 38-year-old starts badly, the tendency is to think he is done. If a 28-year-old starts poorly, the tendency is to say he is off to a bad start. We are an older team, so there are doubts."
John Harper elaborates:
Usually the easiest way to dismiss a Steinbrenner rant about his team, especially an April rant, is to find an American League scout at the ballpark and listen to him tick off the reasons why the Yankees will win 100 games with their eyes closed.
Last night was a good start. Let's hope Randy Johnson gets his ya ya's out tonight.
Is that enough?
Walk. Homer. Double. Ground out. Single. Single. Single. Single. Single. Single. Double. Walk. Single. Grand Slam. Ground out. Walk. Fly out.
17 batters, 59 pitches, 11 hits, 3 walks, 13 runs.
That's what the Yankees did in the bottom of the second inning last night, not only getting off the schnide, but doing so with a historic offensive outburst. The Yankees 13-run second inning tied the record for the most runs scored in the second inning of a game (accomplished four other times, just once before in the AL), fell one short of the franchise record for runs in any single inning (14 on 7/6/20 in Wash), and was the most ever scored in one inning by the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have scored 13 runs in one inning just three times, including last night, the most recent coming on June 21, 1945 in Boston.
The Devil Rays
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
2004 Record: 70-91 (.435)
Manager: Lou Piniella
Ballpark (2004 park factors): Tropicana Field (96/96)
Who's replacing whom?
Travis Lee replaces Tino Martinez
1B Travis Lee
R Eduardo Perez (corners)
R Dewon Brazelton
R Danys Baez
R Rocco Baldelli (OF)
L Carl Crawford (LF)
[commentary to come]
The House that George Will Build
This weekend, the Daily News reported that the Yankees' plan for a new stadium is coming along nicely. The new park will be a few blocks away from where the stadium is now. If all goes according to plan, the new stadium could open in 2009.
Hey, so long as they stay in the Bronx...
Enough is enough. I am bitterly disappointed, as I'm sure all Yankee fans are, by the lack of performance by our team. It is unbelievable to me that the highest-paid team in baseball would start the season in such a deep funk. They are not playing like true Yankees. They have the talent to win and they are not winning. I expect Joe Torre, his complete coaching staff and the team to turn this around.
The above words were issued by George Steinbrenner immediately after today's 8-4 Yankee loss to the Orioles dropped his team to 4-8 on the season, their .333 winning percentage better than only the triple-A squad in Colorado and equal to that of Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay, three teams with a combined 3 winning seasons since 1992 (all by the Royals).
The Yankees 4-8 record is their worst this "late" in the season since 1991, Stump Merrill's last season as Yankee manager, when the team opened 4-8 and finished fifth in the east at 71-91.
After this afternoon's loss, Joe Torre held a closed-door team meeting. The panic button has been pressed. The shit has hit the fan(s). So what's gone wrong? I have no idea.
Chicken Little Anyone?
Coming Sunday to a New York newspaper near you: How the Yankees stink, let us count the ways. Meet the Mets, folks, the boys out in Queens are exciting, and vibrant, while the Yanks are old, flat and dull. Or words to that effect. You know the routine.
Yo, Saturday's game was truly awful. It was the first time all year that I've been truly upset. I mean, it didn't last too long, I didn't let it ruin my evening (it is still April), but when Flash Gordon gave up the three-run dinger to Roberts, man, it felt like getting punched in the gut.
The Indians and White Sox played an entire game in the time it took the Yanks and O's to get through four innings. To be honest, even if the Yanks had pulled it out, the game would have been a chore to sit through. But losing the way that they did was just depressing.
There are a lot of things that don't look good about them right about now.
Kevin Brown makes his season debut tomorrow. Sorry if I'm not feeling overcome with confidence. But hey, we've got to hang with 'em when they are down. Let's hope they can salvage a "w" and move on. No use lookin after spilt milk now, is there?
Hey, Happy Boitday Twenty-Seven, Happy Boitday
To Baltimo Tumow Da O's A Little Lamsy Divey
The Yanks kick off a three-game series in Baltmore tonight at 7:35 as Carl Pavano makes his first start since taking Melvin Mora line-drive off his right temple. Sunday, Kevin Brown is expected to return from the DL to make his 2005 debut against Daniel Cabrera. Brown's return will, in all likelihood, return Andy Phillips to Columbus. Phillips remains the only Yankee hitter without a plate appearance, thus the Yankees have wasted this opportunity get a good look at the best hitter in their minor league stystem. Is it too much to ask that Torre start him at first against the lefty Chen tonight? That's a rhetorical question.
Fri 4/15 7:35 YES (Pavano v. Chen)
The Red Sox beat the Yanks in another wild one at the Fens. I thought Randy Johnson looked decent, in spite of giving up three dingers (Payton, Renteria, and Varitek). But it was not one of his best performances. Bronson Arroyo wasn't as sharp and the Yankees squandered more than their fair share of scoring opportunities. In the ninth inning, representing the tying run, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi both fouled back two pitches that they just missed. So close and yet...bubkus. Rodriguez had a bloop RBI single, but otherwise had a poor night at the plate. What Johnson and Arroyo (and both teams) had in common were their feelings about home plate umpire Greg Gibson's strike zone. Gibson had an erratic night calling balls and strikes, but he was equally bad for both teams. Johnson glared in at him on several occasions while Ron Jackson and Terry Francona both got tossed arguing with Gibson.
With the game tied at five, Tom Gordon gave up the lead in the eighth inning. The Sox scored three times and survived a shaky ninth-inning performance from Keith Foulke to secure the victory. But the most talked-about play of the game came in the bottom of the eighth when Jason Varitek's triple skipped along the right field warning track. Gary Sheffield went to field the ball and was inadvertantly slapped in the face by a fan. It appeared as if the fan was going for the ball, although he didn't bend down nearly low enough to grab it. It certainly didn't look as if the fan was intentionally trying to hit Sheffield. He only grazed the Yankee right fielder, but, caught by surprise, Sheffield immediately extended his glove hand into the fan's face, throwing a punch with his right hand into his mitt. He held himself back after that. Sheffield didn't jump into the stands. Later on, he said that he immediately thought about the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl, and that's exactly what came to my mind as well. As a matter of fact, when that basketball fight went down last fall, all I could think about was that this kind of thing is so ripe to happen at a Yankee-Sox game.
Fortunately, it didn't escalate. I don't blame Sheffield for reacting, though he will most likely be fined for lunging at the fan. I can understand that too. (For what it's worth, the Red Sox thought Sheffield showed restraint.) Again, I don't think the fan was trying to hit Sheffield. However, he was in the field of play, interrupting a play, and there is no question in my mind that the fan was in the wrong. The incident will overshadow the rest of the game, which is too bad.
I think the Yankees and Red Sox have brought out the best in each other on the field (with a few notable exceptions) during the past two seasons. However, the rivalry has also brought out the worst in Red Sox and Yankee fans. After watching highlights of the soccer match in Italy last week, I just hope that something tragic doesn't happen one of these days.
Was Bernie Williams was of the most unlikely clean up hitters in Yankee history? He sure didn't seem born for the part even though he was the Bomber's best hitter from 1996-01. Now, that he's well past his prime, is he one of the most over-qualified ninth-place hitters in team history? Maybe. But he handled batting last in stride on Wednesday night, going 3-4. He didn't give his manager any trouble about the "demotion" either. According to the Times:
"Bernie is unlike any player I have ever met," Torre said after the Yankees' 5-2 victory Wednesday night. "He never changes. I've been here 10 years now and he's the same person, personality-wise and respect-wise. It's refreshing. You hurt for him because you know he's struggling and he has his pride and is taking a beating. But he keeps coming back and that's what makes him special."
Some guys would take the high road just to save face. But I take Bernie at his word. Regardless of how this year pans out for him, Torre's quote reminded me why Bernie is one of my all-time favorites.
Made To Order
Last night, the Yankees won a gem of a ballgame in Fenway that pressed all the right buttons for a Yankee team that seemed to be on the verge of a slump.
With Curt Schilling coming off the disabled list, Jaret Wright coming off a disaster start against Baltimore, and the Red Sox coming off an 8-1 win over the Yankees in their celebratory home opener on Monday, everything seemed to be leaning the Red Sox way.
In the early going it stayed that way. Schilling looked dominant, while Wright appeared to be hanging on by his teeth. Schilling struck out four while allowing just two hits in the first three innings. Then Wright--who stranded runners at the corners in the first, and pitched around a lead-off single in the second--got himself into an awful mess in the bottom of the third.
He went to a full count on the first two batters, getting Ramon Vazquez (starting at second for Mark Bellhorn) to groundout before yielding a double to Johnny Damon. He then walked Trot Nixon and Manny Ramirez on five pitches each to load the bases. That brought David Ortiz to the plate with one out. Wright promptly fell behind Ortiz 3-1, who was 5 for 10 lifetime against him coming into the game. Miraculously, Wright got Ortiz to lift a mere sac fly to left. He then walked Kevin Millar to re-load the bases and fell behind Edgar Renteria 2-0 only to get him to ground to short on the 2-1 pitch to end the inning.
Despite struggling through the heart of the Red Sox order, walking three men and allowing a double to another, Wright escaped down just 1-0. He then settled down in the fourth, pitching around another lead-off single by racking up his only two strikeouts of the game.
In the fifth, the Yankees finally got to Schilling. After Jason Giambi reached on an infield single into the shift, Tino Martinez followed with a booming ground rule double that bounded into the Boston bullpen, pushing Giambi to third. After a Bernie fly out to shallow left, Tony Womack drew his third walk of the season (more on this later)--after falling behind Schilling 0-2, no less. That loaded the bases. Jeter then singled Giambi home, keeping the bags juiced, and Gary Sheffield followed with a sac fly to center that put the Yankees ahead 2-1.
Like most Yankee fans, I have a special feeling for the Joe Torre teams of 96-01. But I'm not one to constantly compare every subsequent Yankee team to those squads. It just doesn't interest me. However, I was reminded of how winning they were when I wandered across Roger Angell's 1996 piece, "One for the Good Guys," last night:
The burden of [the] relentless and irrelevant P.R. during the Yankees' long struggles to regain their October form can at last be thrown aside--what a load it was!--and we are free to celebrate the new champions not for what they represented but for what they were: a competent though far from overpowering amalgam of engaging young stars and gritty hired guns who absolutely enjoyed themselves and each other during a succession of hairbreadth escapes in the late going, and were almost as entranced as the rest of us when they won. The Yankees--who'd have thought it--had become lovable.
Banner Day in Beantown
"They won...For the respect of baseball and for the respect of the Red Sox organization, you've got to be there. After 86 years, I think they deserved to win one. And why not celebrate it as (much) as they could? That's okay. I have no problem with that." Mariano Rivera (N.Y.Daily News)
As good as Opening Day in the Bronx felt for Yankee fans, yesterday's home opener at Fenway Park was even sweeter for Red Sox Nation. The Sox received their World Serious rings before the game and then proceeded to knock the stuffing out of the Yanks. Mike Mussina was not sharp, Alex Rodriguez made a key error, and Tim Wakefield baffled New York once again.
For their part, the Yankees watched the pre-game ceremonies from their dugout, applauding at times. The gesture didn't go unnoticed by the Red Sox. The Bombers clapped when Johnny Pesky was given a ring. According to Mike Lupica:
The Yankees were all class yesterday, led by their classy manager, right there on the top step for every minute of the ring ceremony yesterday, and the raising of the flag. When Terry Francona came out first to get his ring, he stood near first base and the first thing he did was point across the field at the Yankees. "We were curious," Torre said. And maybe, just maybe, for this one day, everybody on the field, both sides of it, both uniforms, knew what Pesky has known his baseball life, long before the sides were even, about why this rivalry has always mattered the way it has.
It's a Ring Thing
Today is the Red Sox home opener. Yankee-killer Tim Wakefield goes against Mike Mussina. Red Sox Nation will be loud and proud this afternoon (Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi should get the worst of it). They deserve to feel good about themselves. While there is nothing the Yankees can do to ruin the ring ceremony, hopefully they can spoil the rest of the day and pull out a win.
My Short Perfessor
It was a gorgeous spring weekend here in New York, and my girlfriend Emily and I watched portions of all three Yankee games. She is very happy that baseball is back in our lives. As the season moves along, I will occasionally quote my sweetheart, who couldn't have cared less about the game before we started going out three years ago. Now, all on her own, and without any coercion on my part, she's a bonafide fan. What I enjoy about following the game with her is watching what she reacts to, what is important to her. Often, the final score doesn't bother her one way or the other. The worst part of a Yankee loss is how it will bother me. She doesn't get emotionally involved when they don't win. So long as are trying the best that they can, she's satisfied. Her biggest pet peeve right now is when fans stick their hands out and attempt to snatch a double down the right or left field line. "They should be thrown out for ruining the play," she opines.
Em's favorite part of the game are the first couple of innings. She gets upset in the late innings because it means the game is almost over. I've never really understood this, because I'm generally impatient during the early innings. But she explained herself to me on Saturday afternoon. "The first four innings are great. They are like the feeling you get on Friday night. The week is over and you've got the entire weekend ahead of you. Then, like the fifth and sixth innings are like Saturday, and so that's still pretty good. But when the eigth inning comes around, it's like Sunday night, and it gets tense, cause you are thinking about the week coming up."
"What about when the game goes into extra innings?"
"That's like Sunday night when you've got a test the next day...one that you didn't study for."
A Bad Day At The Ballpark
Key moment's from Sunday's 7-2 Yankee loss to the Orioles:
Tale of Two Innings
The Yankees got back at the Orioles today, winning 8-5, but it wasn't Randy Johnson that allowed the Yanks and their fans to forget about last night's drubbing. Rather it was a five-run seventh inning at the expense of the Oriole bullpen that saved Johnson from what would have been his first loss as a Yankee.
Johnson pitched well, throwing 66 of 100 pitches for strikes, but couldn't get the job done in the fourth inning. With the score even at 1-1, Javy Lopez lead off the fourth with a double deep in the gap in left that fell in front of the 399 foot sign, a shot that likely would have been a homer in Camden Yards. B.J. Surhoff--the lone lefty in an Oriole lineup that included Lopez at DH, Geronimo Gil behind the plate, and Chris Gomez at first--followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Frustrated, Johnson then started Luis Matos off with a wicked slider that broke under the strike zone and hit the Baltimore centerfielder in the left foot. Matos crumbled to his knees in pain. For a second I thought his foot had been broken, but he turned out to be fine and trotted to first to load the bases. Johnson then fell behind Gomez 3-0 on a couple of borderline pitches on the outside corner (his second pitch looked like a clear strike to me) before walking him on five pitches, forcing Lopez home. 2-1 O's. Gil followed with a single to plate Surhoff and keep the bases loaded. 3-1 O's still no outs.
Then Randy got serious. He struckout Brian Roberts, who fouled off three pitches before going down. Then he struckout Melvin Mora on three pitches. All that stood between him and escape was Miguel Tejada, but Tejada, in a great piece of hitting, cracked Johnson's first pitch the other way for a clean single to right, driving home Matos and Gomez. Finally Sammy Sosa flew out to Sheffield to end the inning. 5-1 Orioles.
O's win 12-5. Next!
The Yanks got tooled by the O's last night. Just generally manhandled. Jaret Wright, by his own admission, had nothing. An off night that resulted in 6 runs on 8 hits in four innings (though his 4/1 K/BB ratio and 62 percent strikes were solid).
The bullpen didn't fare much better with Steve Karsay bombing in his first appearance of the season. Karsay actually did a decent job coming in, striking out Sammy Sosa with runners on second and third and no outs and allowing just a sac fly before escaping the inning. In the next frame, however, he gave up three straight hits, including a Luis Matos triple, and was yanked before recording an out. Paul Quantrill then made his 2005 debut, allowing a run (plus a runner inherited from Karsay to score) on three hits (all singles) and a balk in two innings of work. Felix Rodriguez uncorked his second wild pitch in as many outings this season (this one ruled a passed ball on John Flaherty) and also hit Sammy Sosa in the process of giving up a run on two hits in 2/3 innings. Mike Stanton cleaned up Felix II's mess with one pitch in the eighth, but then gave up a run of his own on two hits in the ninth, one of them a triple by the en fuego Brian Roberts.
The offense only did moderately better. Derek Jeter is officially on fire, going 3 for 3 with two walks he's 7 for 14 with a .650 OBP in the Yankee's four games. Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui both crushed deeep homers, Sheffield a two-run jobby into Monument Park. Matsui's, coming in the ninth inning, was an absolute bomb, way back into the centerfield part right field bleachers. Tino and Jason Giambi both went 1 for 3 with a walk each.
John Flaherty got the start at catcher last night to save Posada from the day game after night game thang, allowing Jorge to catch Randy today. Flaherty went 1 for 3 with a walk. In the ninth inning, Joe Torre emptied his bench, giving Rey Sanchez another inning in the field and Ruben Sierra pinch-hit at-bat (he struckout). He also got Andy Phillips his first game action, putting Our Hero in for Tino at first. In addition, Bubba Crosby got his first at-bat . . . against left-handed Orioles closer B.J. Ryan . . . against whom lefties have hit .156/.255/.248 (.177 GPA) in 302 at-bats over the past three seasons. Poor Bubba looked utterly bewildered at the plate missing badly on three straight pitches after a first-pitch ball. That was the last out of the game. Andy Phillips was on-deck.
Today Randy Johnson helps us forget last night. Lefty journyman Bruce Chen takes the mound for the O's. Think Joe might start Andy Phillips in place of Tino, Jason or Tony Womack? Yeah, me neither.
If you're a starter, try to study or learn about the opposing hitters and follow your preparation routines between starts almost religiously. The same thing for the relief pitchers, although they must be prepared to do this on an everyday basis. If you have a good fastball, try to learn and develop a second effective pitch. It is almost impossible to be successful in the big leagues with just one pitch. Maybe a Mariano Rivera or a guy like him. I'll tell you something, one of the most effective pitches in baseball is the change-up, and the changeup is one of the easiest pitches to learn. You don't need to have a Pedro Martinez or Eric Gagne changeup to be effective. Sometimes an average change, combined with a good fastball and other average pitch, could mean a big difference in a pitcher's performance. Also, dedicate your time to learning the art of pitching. When you can throw ninety-six or ninety-eight miles per hour, but are not able to make outs consistently, what's the velocity good for? You need to have common sense and say to yourself, I'm going to learn to pitch.
Or perhaps too proud. Or maybe just too stubborn.
Speaking of stubborn, ex-Yankee Hideki "Boo-Boo" Irabu is calling it a career. Irabu always cracked me up. He seemed so out-of-place on those Yankee teams. He was a genuine screw-up, but I always liked him.
It's not surprising that everyone and his uncle has a theory about Mariano Rivera and his struggles against the Red Sox, is it? After all, sportswriters get paid for thier opinions, and sports editors must have a story. Tyler Kepner asked Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers what he makes of Boston's success vs. Rivera:
"Every ballplayer has a certain ballpark or a certain team they have a problem with," said Fingers, the first pitcher to save 300 games. "Mine was the Minnesota Twins and Metropolitan Stadium. When I pitched in Boston against the Red Sox, I had good luck against them. Same with the Yankees. That's just the way baseball is sometimes."
2004 Record: 78-84 (.481)
Manager: Lee Mazzilli
Ballpark (2004 park factors): Oriole Park at Camden Yards (104/103)
Who's replacing whom?
Sammy Sosa replaces Jerry Hairston and a chunk of David Newhan
1B Jay Gibbons
L B.J. Surhoff (OF)
R Rodrigo Lopez
L B.J. Ryan
R Jason Grimsley
S Brian Roberts (2B)
There was a lot of talk going into the season that the Orioles had an outside chance to slip into second place in the east if one of the Big Two fell on particularly hard times. Most of the motivation for this comes from those infatuated with the Oriole offense. The thing is, the only change the O's have made to their line-up since last year is the addition of Sammy Sosa, and while that would seem to be a huge upgrade, the numbers just don't support it. Sosa replaces Jerry Hairston and takes away a significant chunk of David Newhan's playing time. Hairston was good for 2.2 WARP (Wins Above Replacement) in 2004 and Newhan was good for 2.4. Assuming Sosa takes just half of Newhan's 373 at-bats (which combined with Hairston's 287 would give Sammy 473 in 2005, just five fewer than in 2004), Sosa would have to replace 3.4 wins.
Battered and Booed
Yes, Mariano Rivera did hear the boo birds as he walked off the mound yesterday in the ninth inning. But as Cliff already noted, TV cameras showed many fans standing and clapping too (and no, they weren't all from Boston).
It was a beautiful day in the Bronx yesterday, or at least it was for eight innings.
Bathed in golden sunlight on a still, 67 degree day, the Yankees and Red Sox played a nice taut 3-2 game through eight. Tim Wakefield's knuckler was dancing as he allowed just five baserunners in his 6 2/3 innings of work, facing the minimum through 3 1/3 thanks to Doug Mirabelli nabbing Derek Jeter, who had singled, as he tried to swipe third with one out in the first.
Jeter probably spent more time on base than any other Yankee during the first seven innings. In the fourth, Alex Rodriguez lifted a lazy Wakefield curve into the lower part of the black section in center for the Yankees first run. An inning later, Tino Martinez creamed a knuckler that stayed up around his shoulders into the right field seats for what remains his only hit of the season. Bernie Williams followed Tino with a five-pitch walk. Bernie remains hitless this season, but has a .308 on-base percentage thanks to four walks and a sac fly. Jason Giambi was the fifth man to reach against Wakefield, drawing a full-count walk in the seventh. Giambi has just one hit this year, but a .455 OBP thanks to one walk and three hit-by-pitches and a single.
Speaking of hit batsmen, Derek Jeter, who has now been plunked twice, was hit in the left shoulder by a Mike Timlin pitch in the eighth. The pitch actually glanced off Jeter's shoulder and hit the bill of his batting helmet, sending Jeter to the ground in a loud and scary moment. Jeter got up and ran the bases--avenging his first-inning caught stealing by making it to third, though no further--but he was replaced in the top of the ninth by Rey Sanchez (wearing 26, despite being listed as #14 on the Yankees official site). After the game, Jeter was taken to the hospital because of a ringing in his ears. A CAT scan came back negative. There are no cats in Derek Jeter's head.
It's another beautiful day in New York, even warmer than yesterday. Some kind of day to be at the ballpark. Mike Mussina will pitch for the Yankees, and Tim Wakefield goes for the Sox. Mussina has a history of pitching well against Boston (especially when Pedro was involved), and Wakefield has vexed the Bombers for years. I'm not going to be able to catch the game. Anyone watching, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
After an Opening Day blowout, today offered something more like what we're used to seeing from the Yankees and Red Sox: a close game, decided in the final at-bat. Yankee-killer David Ortiz hit a home run (for a change), as did Red Sox-killer, Godzilla Matsui--who had three more hits today. Mariano Rivera blew a save opportunity in the ninth inning when Boston's captain Jason Variteck slapped a line-drive homer off of a cutter that just didn't cut (Rivera wasn't terrible, but the Red Sox hitters are extremley comfortable in the box against him; Jim Kaat suggested a little intentional wildness could go a long way...the pitch Varitek hit was straight-as-a-string). Derek Jeter, the Yankee captain, led off the bottom of the inning and returned the favor, belting a full-count fastball over the right center field fence to win it for the New Yorkers.
Matt Clement didn't pitch particularly well for Boston, but man, he's got a live arm. His pitches move a lot. In addition, the ball kind of whips out of his hand at the last moment, which must be brutal for right-handed hitters to pick up. He doesn't look like he's fun to bat against at all. As Joe Sheehan noted over at Baseball Prospectus, Clement has the same kind of sinking fastball that has made Kevin Brown a lot of money over the years. But his control was suspect and he never quite looked comfortable. The Yankees didn't help themselves by leaving a bunch of men on base; not surprisingly, Bernie Williams' timing is all out-of-whack.
Clement looks very much like one of those great line drawings by David Levine. He's got a pointy chin and a wide jaw, and has a certain birdlike quality to him. He reminds me of one of those kids that were a pain in the ass to play pick-up football with as a kid. It's not so much that was hard to tackle because of his speed or weight, but because he's all knees and elbow. Clement also looks very much like a boy, somewhere in the developmental ages between 8-14. He's sporting a goatee, but I get the sense that he doesn't know what his true style is yet. I was talking to Alex Ciepley this evening, and he said that Clement is one of the most uncomfortable players he's ever seen.
Pavano, on the other hand, is a complete load. I keep forgetting how big the guy is. With blunt, dark features, he has a deliberate move to the plate, and a long, bulky motion. I know Bobby Valentine nicknamed him "The Italian Stallion" over the winter, but the only name I can think of when I see Pavano, is "Meat."
Anyhow, it was a warm and sunny day in New York, the best day of the spring thus far. The final score made it even nicer.
Today marks the American League debut's of both Carl Pavano and Matt Clement, as the Yanks and Sox play this afternoon at the stadium. It is hazy but bright and sunny this morning and it looks like it's going to be a beautiful day here in New York.
Both Cliff and I felt the Yankees made an error in not signing Clement. He may be gargoyle-ugly, but he's got "nasty stuff" as they like to say. He could very well be the key to the Red Sox season. Numbers aside, I don't know so much from Pavano. He's seems appealing enough, but I don't know how effective a pitcher he is going to be for the Yanks.
Which pitcher would you rather have?
That'll Do, Sea Cow
Baseball is back in the Bronx, and boy does it feel good.
Becky and I headed up to the stadium early last night. The idea was to beat the traffic, nab a choice parking spot, and hightail it to Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too in Harlem for some down home cooking before the game started. Best laid plans, you know.
We hit the road about 4:30 and didn't have too much traffic to deal with across the GW, but our preferred parking lot was full by the time we drove by around 5:40. We eventually settled on a lot in front of a strip mall further up 161st and caught the 4 and the 2 down to Miss Mamie's, arriving at about 6:15. After inhaling their complimentary cornbread (served too hot to touch) and devouring some fried (for me) and roasted (for Becky) chicken, mac n' cheese, collard greens and cornbread stuffing, washing it all down with a couple of Stewart's rootbeers and some of Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Punch, we dropped our green on the table and split for the Stadium at about 7:10.
We then waited for the 2 train for 25 minutes. You see there was some sort of watermain break in midtown and the northbound trains just weren't running with any sort of regularity. After a 3 train finally showed up at 7:35 (we needed a 2), we bolted for the B & D two blocks across town, only to find out that we'd have to go downtown one stop to go uptown at all, and those trains weren't exactly running on a rush hour schedule either.
So Cliff and his girlfriend are sitting out there in the bleachers. It's raining lightly here in the Bronx, but you know they are going to get this game in. Emily and I are making homemade pizza, chillin in the crib, amped for another season to commence.
For those of you who are surfing around tonight, feel free to leave your thoughts and observations in the comments section below. As Aaron Gleeman likes to say, "Happy Baseball."
Let's Go Yan-Kees.
Hey, hand me that Phillips
On Friday I wrote in this space that Kevin Brown's achy, breaky back was acting up and could lead to his being moved into the delayed fifth spot in the rotation with Jaret Wright taking over his starts against the Orioles on Friday and in Boston a week from Wednesday. Yesterday that switch became official. Today, WFAN's Sweeny Murti reports that the Yankees have placed Kevin Brown on the 15-day disable list. Some may take this as a sign that Brown's back is in particularly dire shape, but it's actually an excellent job of roster management on the part of the Yankees and, if Brown is able to come back (no pun intended) on schedule (don't hold your breath), could work out better for the team than their original plan to have Jaret Wright hang around doing nothing until April 15.
You see, Wright's (and in turn Brown's) first start was supposed to be April 15 in Baltimore. In reality the Yankees wouldn't need a fifth starter until April 17, as Pavano and Mussina can pitch on the 15th and 16th on full rest as the rotation is currently set up (swap Wright and Brown, of course). Of course, Brown will not be eligible to come off the DL until April 18, so the Yanks will need a spot start out of Tanyon Sturtze in Baltimore, but that seems a small price to pay to have a full 25-men at Joe Torre's disposal over the first 12 games of the season.
Best of all, that twenty fifth man will be . . . Andy Phillips! Hot diggity dawg! I suppose it would be too much to ask for Torre to revise his Opening Night line-up one more time to have the hot-hitting righty Phillips start over either the left-handed Giambi at first or the left-handed Womack at second against the left-handed David Wells. Still, look for Phillips to pinch-hit for Womack if Not My Wacko comes up in a key spot tonight. Meanwhile, let's hope that, during this early part of April, Phillips is given the first base starts against lefties (the Orioles have two in their rotation: Erik Bedard and Bruce Chen) over the struggling Tino Martinez. Any opportunity for Phillips to prove himself with the big club can only be a good thing for the Yankees, so while there should be legitimate concern about Brown's back, this shakes out as a pretty good deal for the Yankees, at least for now.
For those looking for tonight's final 25-man rosters, just click below.
Back Where We Started
The rain has calmed down significantly. Saturday was bananas here in New York city. Not only did rain steadily all day long, but the winds were brutal, leaving the streets paved with broken, and subsequently, abandoned umbrellas. Still, there was a warmth in the air that we haven't felt yet.
It's colder this morning and the drainage system at Yankee stadium is earning its pay today, let me tell you. With the NCAA men's finals tomorrow night, you know that MLB wants to get this game in this evening. Cliff C will be in the house, braving the elements, as well as Red Sox Nation (although I don't know how many Sox fans make their way into the bleachers...actually, I'm curious if there will be fewer Dominican fans rooting for Boston now that Pedro is gone, all due respect to the home town kid, Manny Ramirez).
Joe Torre has made out the starting line-up that will face Boomer Wells:
Of course, tonight is the New York debut of The Big Unit. Here's to a good game, and kicking off what we all hope will be another compelling season!
Happy Opening Night Eve, everybody!
The Yankees dropped their final spring training game yesterday afternoon, optioned and reassigned the remaining players who failed to make the 25-man roster which was set in mid-February, and high-tailed it for the Big Apple. Now nothing stands between the team and Randy Johnson's first pitch, which will kick off the season sometime after 8:00 tomorrow night.
With that in mind, here are some quick notes to get us all in the same shape:
Before Thursday's game, Andy Phillips, the Official Lost Cause of Bronx Banter, was given the James P. Dawson Award as the top rookie in Yankee camp this spring. I'm sure he'd rather have been given a spot on the 25-man. For those who can stand it, his final spring stats are:
.324 AVG (12 for 37), .730 SLG, 13 R, 2B, 3B, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 27 TB, 1 SB, 1 HBP
Don't get me started on the fact that they keep HBP stats for spring training, but not walks. No word on who on earth James P. Dawson is/was.
If Andy Phillips is taking his undeserved demotion in stride, NRI LOOGY Buddy Groom, who was also sent to Columbus, is not. Groom was stellar this spring. Final stats:
1.13 ERA, 7 G, 8 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 0 BB, 3 K
But with seven relievers signed to major league contracts, there's no room in the pen for him. The NRI contract Groom signed with the Yanks allows him to bolt if he's not on the 25-man roster by May 1, and he plans to use it. Sez Buddy: "I've got nothing to prove to them and no reason to stay down there after May 1."
One player who's not going anywhere, surprisingly, is Alex Graman, despite his being out of options like Wil Nieves trade bate (how's that for a distinction?) Bret Prinz. Graman actually cleared waivers and was outrighted to Columbus, proof of how far his stock has fallen. His final spring stats:
7.62 ERA, 13 IP, 18 H, 12 R (11 ER), 4 HR, 9 BB, 7 K
Avert your eyes! Ye horrors!
It is supposed to rain all weekend here in New York. Opening Night could be a long, soggy affair. But that won't stop the hype. Today, Godon Edes examines the difficulties that the Sox face in trying to repeat; Jack Curry has a feature on David Wells; Joel Sherman and John Harper profile Alex Rodriguez, and Lee Jenkins has a piece on why New York baseball is better than ever.
Actually, the Times is in rare form this morning. Alan Schwartz, who wrote an excellent article about steroids for ESPN earlier in the week, celebrates the 20th anniversary of George Plimpton's Sidd Finch hoax for Sports Illustrated. I remember when that issue came out. I was in middle school, hanging out in the library when the rumors started buzzing around that the Mets had some yokel with big-ass feet that could throw the ball 168 mph. Natrually, I got caught up in the excitement. I don't remember how long the ruse lasted; I think it was a couple of hours. Then of course, we all learned that it was an April Fool's joke. I just recall thinking, "How could I have fallen for that. Duh, nobody can throw it that fast. Nobody could be that good." But 1985 was Doc Goodon's rookie year. While he wasn't exactly mythical, he was damn close, especially that first year.
Bronx Banter Interview: Chuck Korr
(Click here for Part One)
Here more of my conversation with historian Chuck Korr. Enjoy.
BB: Ralph Kiner writes about the early days of the Players Association in his new book. But for the most part, did the older generation of players, who grew up during the depression and who played in the 40s and 50s genuinely believe they should be grateful for playing the game, forget about getting involved with a union?
CK: Yes, they did like both the money and the adulation that came with being a major leaguer, but few bought into the idea that they should be grateful. They knew that ownership would get rid of them when they were no longer useful. We also tend to forget that many of these players had also come through World War II and they knew the importance of fighting for themselves.
BB: When did that attitude start to change?
CK: The changes started in the early '60s. A couple of features are responsible for that. The most important was expansion, since it made even marginal players feel more secure. The corporate entry into baseball (CBS) also showed a lot of players the business dimension of their sport/occupation. Jim Bunning made that point forcefully to me when we talked. Finally, it's impossible to overestimate the general climate that marked the '60s--the questioning of authority on previously accepted norms. The idea in baseball of "owner knows best" or someone will "take care of you" was both untrue and was out of step with so much of what was happening in
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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