Monthly archives: May 2005
Baseball is a fickle game. On any given day, the worst team in the major leagues can beat the best team. On any given day the worst hitter in the game can go 4 for 4 and the best 0 for 5, while the best pitcher can take the mound without his stuff and get rocked as the worst finds an unfamiliar feel and pitches a complete game shutout. A large part of this is that baseball, more than any other sport, is a game dependent to a large degree on luck. It's the line-drive right at a fielder versus the weak grounder that finds a hole, the hanging curve that's taken for a high strike versus the one with a sharp break and great placement that gets deposited in the seats.
These are all reasons that the two tremendous losses the Yankees suffered at the hands of the Red Sox this weekend (total score, 24-3) don't really bother me all that much. It was clear that Pavano and Mussina simply didn't have it and that Clement and Wells (who found that famous curve after the first inning on Sunday) did. In and of itself, that doesn't really reveal any essential flaws in this Yankee team other than the fact that they were simply off their game two days in a row. Consider the following:
Tuesday through Thursday the Tigers are swept by the Yankees. Friday through Sunday the Orioles are swept by the Tigers. Saturday and Sunday the Red Sox humiliate the Yankees. Monday night, the Red Sox get crushed by the Orioles (8-1).
There's no logic to that. As of this afternoon, the Orioles are the best of those four teams (.620 winning percentage), the Tigers the worst (.479) and the Red Sox and Yankees are tied, four games behind the O's in second place in the AL East with .540 winning percentages. One or two, or even three-game sample sizes are simply not enough to determine the relative quality of two or more teams. Heck, take the seven days since Tuesday:
Then there are these guys:
Yeah, they're that bad. But given the nature of the game, even the Royals, who are indeed the worst team in baseball (.260 winning percentage, even worse than the Colorado Springs Sky So . . . er, Rockies at .286), win a game every now and then (once every four days or so, to be precise). Having been without an official manager since Tony Peña resigned exactly three weeks ago today, the Royals have just hired Buddy Bell, who will manage his first game for Kansas City tonight. With a new skipper in the dugout and their best pitcher on the mound, the exciting young phenom Zach Greinke, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Royals stop that six-game losing streak tonight despite being clearly overmatched by the invading Yankees. That's just how this game works.
That said, the Yankees should feast on the Royals over the next three days, which would be a nice way to kick off the year's longest road trip (12 games in four cities).
More on the Royals themselves below the fold.
The Summer of Second Chances
Chapter Two from "Forging Genius"
By Steven Goldman
(First of Two Parts)
"Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U. S. Steel." The line is variously attributed. It might have been said by the comedian Joe E. Lewis, whose son was the general manager of the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates; the great sports columnist Red Smith; Spinoza; or Maimonedes. Whatever its provenance, it perfectly encapsulated the preferred image of the New York Yankees. New York City's American League ball club liked to portray itself as a horsehide IBM, an organization run with the clockwork precision that generated almost constant success. While the on-field victories that fueled this image were generated by players no less earthy or hard bitten than any of their contemporaries, the Yankees, seen through the lens of that era's sports pages, appeared to succeed through high character, superior morals, management, and discipline, all held together by the esprit de corps of an elite military unit. Though the team had ridden to incredible riches on the back of Babe Ruth's boisterous and often-boorish exploits, the organization saw Ruth as an excess to be tolerated. It was hoped that the fans, though they loved the Babe, would prefer to identify with the quiet efficiency of Lou Gehrig, "a self-effacing star who never gave a manager a day's trouble."
The Yankee formula meant victories and businesslike comportment. Deviation from the formula was not long tolerated. Hence the almost palpable sense that something had gone wrong when on October 13, 1948, the New York Yankees announced that Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel had been hired to manage the team for the next two seasons, replacing the popular incumbent, Bucky Harris. Stengel, a fifty-eight-year-old veteran of nine lackluster managerial campaigns, was widely perceived to be a clown, "A second division manager who was entirely satisfied to have a losing ball club so long as Stengel and his wit were appreciated." The general attitude among the newspapermen who covered the team, which they then transmitted to the public, was disbelief.
There was no reason for their skepticism, and the writers knew it. At mid-century, many of the New York sportswriters had been covering baseball since the days of Cobb and Wagner. Stengel had been associated with New York baseball almost as long, having played, coached, or managed in the city for all or parts of fourteen seasons from 1912 to 1917, 1921 to 1923, and 1932 to 1936. The same writers whose mouths were agape at Stengel's hiring had spoken with him, drunk with him, and ridden the rails with him on the long trips to baseball's distant outposts in St. Louis and Chicago (until 1958, baseball thought the American frontier ended at the Mississippi river and that "The Lewis and Clark Expedition" referred to an evening in 1921 when Duffy Lewis and Clark Griffith stayed out all night trying to find the best speakeasy in the District of Columbia). Their coverage of him had always reflected their apprehension of his intelligence and the bonhomie of their relationship.
Stengel's unexpected association with the Yankees changed everything. The sportswriters of 1948, as with the political journalists of today, had only a sideline in reporting the events of the day. Their primary job was to produce storylines, in the soap opera sense of the word. With over a dozen area daily newspapers, game stories were a commodity product. What sold papers were heroes and goats, complex events and personalities reduced to morality plays, fairy tales without the sophistication.
New York City had three baseball teams in those days, and each had long had an established character, unchanging, like the cardboard leading men in the boys' adventure serials of the time; unflinching square-jawed hero in episode one, unflinching square-jawed hero in chapter twenty-five. The Dodgers were bumbling and yet lovable. The Giants were hard-bitten and driven, as exemplified by a managerial line of descent from John McGraw to Bill Terry to Leo Durocher, the momentary interruption of which by the administration of the milquetoast Mel Ott inspired Durocher to quip, "Nice guys finish last."
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While I Was Sleepin...
Sorry I wasn't around yesterday to recap the Sunday night game. Call it a rare day of rest for Cliff and me. But other than Gary Winfield's line drive dinger in the first, there wasn't much to get excited about for Yankee fans, as a three-headed Red Sox monster (Edgar-Cookie-Manny) helped sink Mike Mussina. Boomer Wells, sporting some silly-looking facial hair, had a rocky first inning and then settled down and pitched a fine game. Rodrigo Lopez did much better against Boston last night, as the Sox, Yanks trail the Orioles by four games in the AL East (the Jays are four-and-a-half behind). The Bombers start the first of four series on the road in Kansas City tonight.
Man, talk about a good game to miss. I was out and about all afternoon and didn't catch a moment of the memorable--for some anyway--17-1 beating the Sox gave the Yanks at the stadium.
Looked long and uuuuugly. Sox fans still worried about Edgar Renteria?
Passing the Test
When the Yankees won ten in a row against the lowly A's and Mariners (who currently have the second and third worst records in the AL) there were many observers, myself included, who felt that the true test of this Yankee team would be what they did next, particularly against the rival Mets and Red Sox. Well, since returning from the west coast, the Yankees have won six of seven including two of three from the Mets and their last five straight. The most recent of those victories came last night at the expense not only of the rival Sox, but against a pitcher who always seems to have their number, knuckleballer and would-be 2003 ALCS MVP Tim Wakefield, who was 3-0 with a 1.34 ERA in last six regular-season starts against the Yankees.
Opposing Wakefield on the mound was Randy Johnson, who has yet to turn in the sort of dominating performance the Yankees expected they'd get routinely when they traded twenty percent of their starting rotation and their Catcher of the Future for him in January. Last night was no different. Despite dialing his fastball up to 95-96 miles per hour for the first time all season, Johnson struggled with his control and threw far to many hittable pitches. Fortunately, he was able to get out of the almost constant trouble he got himself in.
The Red Sox
The Yankees and Red Sox kick off a three-game weekend series in the Bronx tonight. The Yankees are tied with the Blue Jays for second place in the AL East, 4.5 games behind the Orioles and 1/2 game ahead of the Red Sox. The two teams are tied in the loss column (the Yankees have one extra win). Both teams are within a win of their Pythagorean expectations, but the Yankees are a fraction of a win under and the Red Sox are a fraction of a win over, meaning the Yankees should be expected to increase their lead on the Sox given the performance of the two teams thus far this season. In their first six games against each other in April the Yankees and Red Sox each won their home series to split the six games right down the middle at three wins a piece.
The Yankees are currently five games over .500, their high-water mark for the season. The Red Sox were eight games over .500 back on May 11, having won 8 of their last 9 and 10 of their last 12 at that point. Since then they've gone 4-8 against the A's, Mariners, Braves and Blue Jays, losing their series with the A's and M's and getting swept by the Blue Jays.
On the season, both the Yankees and Red Sox are having a mighty hard time against their intra division opponents:
Here's the roster the Red Sox bring into the Bronx tonight:
Taking Stock and Second Place
After pounding the Tigers into submission on Tuesday, the Yankees won a tidy 4-2 ballgame on Wednesday behind Chien-Ming Wang and then finished off the sweep with a nifty 4-3 comeback win behind Kevin Brown last night. Brown allowed just three runs on ten hits in seven full while striking out four and walking none (70 percent strikes) to earn his fourth-straight win. The big hit in the game was a two-run bomb by Alex Rodriguez in the fifth that brought the Yankees back from a 3-2 deficit.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays finished off a sweep of their own . . . of the Red Sox. As a result the Yankees and Blue Jays remain tied in the AL East, but for second place, a half game ahead of the now fourth-place Red Sox, who come to the Bronx to night for a three game series.
The Yankees are now 15-2 over their last seventeen games and with a little more than a week having passed since the season passed the quarter mark, now seems as good a time as any to take a player-by-player look at how things are shaping up in Yankeeland. We'll start today with the offense.
I don't have much to say in anticipation of tonight's game. The Yanks are playing with house money having already taken the series from the Tigers and moved within 1/2 game of the Red Sox. The worst-case scenario (barring an injury) would have the Yankees enter the three game weekend series with Boston 1 1/2 games behind their rivals. Obviously a sweep would be nice, but with Kevin Brown facing Jeremy Bonderman, no one should lose any sleep if the Yanks drop one tonight to the Tiger's young ace. That said, I'll have one hand on my broom tonight.
Bonderman v Brown
Each time Kevin Brown takes the mound, I imagine that it's going to be a long, stupid night for the Yankees. But to his credit, Brown has performed reasonably well of late. (Not that I'm changing my tune or nuthin.) Let's see what he's got in store for us tonight. Anyhow, I'm curious to see J. Bonderman pitch.
Chien-Ming Wang pitched another solid game last night, greatly helped by two double plays, as the Bombers beat the Tigers, 4-2. Wang doesn't mince around. He works quickly, and puts the ball in play. He left the game with runners on first and third and one out, up by three, in the seventh inning. Mike Stanton relieved him and promptly gave up a single. Runners on first and second and in comes Taynon Sturtze.
Marcus Thames blooped a humpback fly ball to short center field. Bernie Williams came in but there was no way he was going to catch up to it. Robinson Cano got a good jump and arrived under the ball first. But he didn't notice Derek Jeter, in full-on John Stallworth post-pattern, Super Bowl XIV mode. Jeter, with his back to the plate, stretched out his glove, made the catch, and fell on top of Cano. For his part, Cano looked like a free safety that spotted an errant pass. He drifted over to the ball thinking he was going to make an easy interception. But Jeter was John Stallworth, and he forcefully snatched the ball from him, at the last minute. (Bernie looked on like any good referee would.) Just as impressive as the catch, was how quickly Jeter got to his feet and returned the ball to the infield. Jeter's spikes caught Cano, but the young second baseman appeared more startled than hurt. Add it to Jeter's highlight reel.
Sturtze got the last out of the inning, Flash Gordon--pitching much better of late--struck out two in the eighth, and Mariano Rivera threw twenty-three pitches (walking one) in a scoreless ninth. Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada drove in the Bombers' four runs, and it was enough for another series victory. The Yanks go for the sweep tonight against the Tigers' best pitcher. Kevin Brown will pitch for the home team. Which is a good thing considering that the Red Sox are up next.
The End of the Line...or Not
My brother called me during the game last night and wondered if the Yankees would consider keeping Bernie Williams next year; buying out his option, then signing him to a small-time, one-year deal. After talking about it for a few minutes, the idea of Bernie in the DH/PH, Rock Raines/Chili Davis role would be appealing. He'd be a nice replacement for Sierra, that's for sure. Whatta ya say? I know it's still early, but do you think that Bernie and/or the Yankees would be interested in such a scenerio?
It hasn't warmed up yet. Let's hope that Bernie has another three-week hot stretch left in him. I know that I am appreciating every thing he does this season--especially the positive contributions--because it could be the last we see of him.
Having literally beaten the Tigers about the head and neck in the first game of their current series, the Yankees must now face two of the best road pitchers in baseball, Mike Maroth (2.03 ERA seventh in the AL among pitchers with three or more road starts, 0.84 WHIP) and Jeremy Bonderman (1.50 ERA fifth in the majors, 0.58 WHIP, 20:1 K/BB) with the task of beating one of them to claim their sixth-straight series victory and avoid entering this weekend's Red Sox series on two-game losing streak.
Speaking of the Sox, they fell to the Blue Jays last night on a walk-off home run by Reed Johnson (his second dinger of the game) off Alan Embree, allowing the Yankees (still tied with the Jays, of course) to creep within 1.5 games. Thus a series win against Detroit would also put the Yankees in position to pass the Scarlet Hosers with a weekend sweep regardless of what the Sox do between now and then.
And that's the trick: winning series. In the new Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman lays out a game plan that just might work:
The current price of the wild card . . . [is] equivalent to 94 wins, so expecting the Yankees to get there would be equivalent to saying we believe that the team is capable of going 71-47 the rest of the way, a .602 pace. Forty-seven of those games will come against the Red Sox (13), Orioles (12), Angels (7), Twins (6), White Sox (6), and Cardinals (3). Say the Yankees win one more than the lose against those clubs. They would then need to win two-thirds of their remaining games to maintain that .602 pace.
In other words, split with the good teams (the Yanks are 3-3 against the Sox thus far this season, though the O's and Angels have had their way with them), and win series against the rest. [Incidentally, Goldman's book on Casey Stengel is finally available for purchase. Also recommended reading: his review of Star Wars: Episode III in today's Pinstriped Blog]
Defending the home turf tonight is Chien-Ming Wang, who hasn't pitched since last Monday when he set down eighteen-straight Mariners while picking up his second straight win. Wang was bumped from his scheduled start on Sunday against Pedro Martinez and the Mets in favor of Carl Pavano, who turned in a fine performance of his own after early-inning struggles.
We can now see that that move was made not only to get Pavano in against the Mets, but to get Mike Mussina (who started in front of Wang yesterday on five day's rest) in against the Red Sox this weekend. That's certainly understandable considering how keyed in Moose has been of late and the fact that he generally does well against the Sox, but it carries the risk of the long rest resulting in a poor performance from Wang tonight that could aversely affect his standing in the rotation, which could lead to future skipped starts, snowballing into his being demoted if/when Jaret Wright ever comes back. Here's hoping that Wang performs up the standard he's set for himself tonight (6+IP, 3 or fewer runs), or, failing that, that Torre and Stottlemyre recognize the effect of the long rest give him a mulligan. Lastly, Wang's strikeout total to beat tonight is four. Tiger vs. the Tigers. As Alex says . . .
The Yankees spanked the Tigers 12-3 on an unseasonably cold, and rainy night in the Bronx. (The weather was so bad that the Yankees gave the fans tickets to another game, later in the season.) Alex Rodriguez drilled a solo home run to right field. In the fourth, he smacked a two-run dinger in the same general direction to put the home team ahead 3-0. That made him 4-4 lifetime (all four hits being homers) against Wilfredo Ledezma. Rodriguez leads the league in home runs (16), runs scored (40) and RBI (46). He's second in the AL in slugging (.642), and tied for fourth in on-base percentage (.413). He'd make Ron Washington happy if he brought his bat out to the field with him to help him with those tricky hops (he botched another easy play last night, though he wasn't charged win an error).
Mike Mussina was sharp, hitting his spots and changing speeds nicely. The immediate question was whether they were going to be able to get the game in. The Yanks scored ten runs in the fourth and fifth inning, the rain contiued to fall all night, and nine innings were played. Jorge Posada added two dingers of his own, and Gary Sheffield and Robinson Cano went deep too (It was the first of Cano's Major League career).
2004 Record: 72-90 (.444)
Manager: Alan Trammell
Ballpark (2004 park factors): Comerica Park (96/97)
Who's replacing whom?
Magglio Ordoñez replaces Alex Sanchez
1B Carlos Peña
R Marcus Thames (OF)
R- Jeremy Bonderman
R Ugueth Urbina
R Magglio Ordoñez (OF)
S Nook Logan (CF)
Hovering around .500 (they're two wins in the red, but 15 runs in the black), the Tigers continue to improve after the remarkable turnaround they made last year in the wake of their historically bad 2003 season. Last year, the team was revived by the infusion of an actual offense, lead by Ivan Rodriguez and the out-of-nowhere MVP-level performance of Carlos Guillen along with a career-saving season from Brandon Inge and a collection of solid, above-average seasons from Dmitri Young, Rondell White, Carlos Peña and Craig Monroe.
This year, the story is the pitching. Second worst in the league last year with a 5.21 ERA, the Tiger staff has posted an outstanding 3.66 ERA thus far in 2005, good for seventh best in the majors and fourth best in the AL (behind the Chisox, Twins and Angels). And before you accuse them of being a product of their pitching-friendly home park, they hold up with a 3.78 ERA on the road, still in the top ten in the bigs and sixth in the AL.
Can't Anybody Here Play this Game?
There is no secret to the Yankees approach to Pedro Martinez--or any dominant pitcher, for that matter. You hang in there, keep the game close, hope to chase him by the late innings, and win the game against the bullpen. The Yankees have spoiled many good performances by Martinez over the past five, six years. True to form, the Yanks did it again yesterday, ruining a fine outing by Pedro, and beating the Mets, 5-3.
Alex Rodriguez is doing everything to live up to his new moniker. In the bottom of the second inning, with men on second and third, Martinez cued a soft ground ball to Rodriguez. It looked like a sure out, but the ball knocked off the side of Rodriguez's glove, a run scored and everybody was safe. Another run came home on an RBI single, as Rodriguez's muff led to two unearned runs. (Somewhere, Cliff Corcoran was slapping his forehead in disgust.) Cliff Floyd added a solo bomb off of Pavano the next inning and the Mets looked to be in good shape behind an effective Pedro, who was resuced from his only real jam in the first by a terrific diving catch which sent David Wright into the stands.
Several key faces were missing in action yesterday, as Carlos Beltran, Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield all sat due to injury. Dig this: The Yankees 7-8-9 hitters were John Flaherty, Rey Sanchez and the pitcher. Womack, Williams and Matsui were the starting outfield. Yipe. This was far from an imposing line-up and Martinez took advantage. Rodriguez got one of his runs back with an RBI single (he finished the day 2-4 with a walk), and then got an opportunity for redemption in the top of the eighth. Errors by Wright and Reyes put runners on first and second wtih one out (Womack was the lead runner, and Derek Jeter, pinch-running, was behind him). On the first pitch, Womack and Jeter took off and easily pulled-off a double steal.
Here it was, but Rodriguez fouled out. Groan. Matsui followed though, and took a fastball that was low-and-away beautifully to left field for a two-run single. The man is tough in a big spot, right? The game was tied. Bernie Williams was next and he stroked a double into right, scoring Matsui. That was all the Yankees would need. They tacked on a run in the ninth, as Stanton-Gordon and Rivera set the Mets down without any drama to end it. Pavano pitched a solid game and the Yankees out-lasted the Mets to win the series. Or, if you want to be crass about it, the Mets just out-sucked the Yankees. Neither team play particularly well over the weekend, and if the Friday and Sunday games were close, possessing a degree of tension, they were not pretty.
But hey, but looks are overrated. Just ask Rodriguez.
Tale of Two Pitchers
Previewing the subway series on Friday I wrote "Kris Benson seems to be rounding into shape after being disabled with a strained pectoral muscle early in the year." No doubt, Benson held the Yankees scoreless through six innings yesterday, allowing just three hits (Matsui, erased by an E-Rod double play, Posada double, E-Rod single) and not a runner past first in his first four innings of work.
However, he did walk two (walking Cano intentionally to pitch to Randy Johnson with two out and Posada on second doesn't count) and hit Derek Jeter in the elbow. According to the radio broadcast (I only caught parts of this game live, and less than that on television), Jeter was in a great deal of pain, and left the game after being forced out at second. X-rays were negative and both he and Gary Sheffield, who was a late scratch in favor of Bernie Williams due to a sore left hand that he actually in jured two weeks ago on a check swing, are day-to-day. Both could start today's rubber game against Pedro Martinez.
Neither of those injuries are as troubling as the inconsistent performances of Randy Johnson thus far this season. Johnson did strike out some men this time, five in 6 2/3 innings, but he also gave up hits. Lots of them. Three singles in the first (no runs thanks to a fielder's choice and a caught stealing). Three in the second (one run). Three in the third (including an RBI double by David Wright). That's nine hits in this first three innings. Johnson settled some after that allowing just one more hit (erased by a double play) in his next three innings. But then lost his grip in the seventh.
Wait a second, Kevin Brown and Victor Zambrano faced off in a game that included five errors and thirteen walks and it was just 3-2 going into the ninth inning?
Yup. Both starters belied their shoddy reputations, despite exhibiting the same tendencies that typically get them in much bigger trouble. Zambrano walked six, but allowed just three runs, two earned. Kevin Brown, meanwhile, escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first (single and two walks) by striking out Doug Mientkiewicz on three nasty pitches low in the zone. He then survived a lead-off single in the second and a lead-off walk in the third and a one-out walk in the fifth. The only run he allowed all evening came in the fourth and it was unearned.
The pitching match-up tonight has all the makings of one hellacious game. We'll see if Brown has anything at all against the boys from Queens. (Once again, I'm not holding my breath.) As it turns out I was interviewed for a puff-piece that will appear on the Channel 11 News tonight after the game. Perhaps I'll have a dopey sound bite or two. The angle is Met fans v. Yankee fans: Who is winning the war on the web? Jeez, I didn't know we were fighting. But hey, anything to keep the Subway Serious fresh, right?
The Mets (a.k.a. You Snooze You Lose)
I have to disagree with Alex. While I'm not exactly "geeked" for this weekend's series against the Mets, I do think this is one of the most compelling subway series match-ups in the now nine year history of interleague play.
One reason is the similarity in the two team's records. With the Yankees' loss on Wednesday and the Mets' simultaneous sweep of the Reds, the Mets are a mere 1.5 games better than the Yanks. That not only reveals the two teams to be very evenly matched, but also marks only the second time in what will now be the fifteen series played between the two teams that the Mets have entered an interleague series with the Yankees with a better record than the Bombers. The previous occasion was in July of 2000, when the Mets were 47-35 to the Yankees' 42-37 entering the second intracity series of the year. That turned out to be a memorable one, both for the unusual home/away double header that saw the two teams play in both stadiums on a single day, and for Roger Clemens' now infamous beaning of Mike Piazza. The Yankees won 3 of 4 games in that series and, despite finishing the season with a worse record than the Mets for what remains the only time since 1991, would eventually defeat them in five games in that year's World Series.
To me, this year is even more compelling than that 2000 match-up, because for the first time the Yankees are not the obvious favorites.
It looks like it's going to be a soggy couple of days in New York, and yo, like Flava Flav once said, I ain't got nothing for ya, man. I don't know what to say about the Subway Serious other than I hope the Yanks win two-of-three and that the games are exciting. Otherwise, I'm numb to the canned hype at this point. I just can't get geeked about this match up, dude. I don't know, maybe it's just me. But the Mets just are not the Red Sox.
In other news, Joel Sherman reports that the Yankees are interested in keeping GM Brian Cashman:
[Yankees general partner, Steve] Swindall revealed to The Post that he opened extension talks with Cashman during spring training, and that Cashman "acknowledged he wants to come back." Cashman verified the exchange and that his "preference is to return." Both men said negotiations have been tabled because Cashman wants to focus right now on remedying the team's deficiencies.
Meanwhile, over at the Times, Tyler Kepner has a nice puff piece on Joe Girardi, the Yankees' bench coach.
All good things come to an end, and the Yankees winning streak ended ugly last night, as three errors (Womack, Sheff, and a crucial one by Jorge Posada) resulted in a 7-6 Seattle win. The Bombers had a chance in the ninth, but Jason Giambi struck out with the bases loaded to end the game. I didn't stay up to watch, so I can't speak about the particulars, but I gather it was a discourgaing way to cap off an impressive road trip. Regardless, the Yanks are in much better shape today than they were two weeks ago.
The Subway Serious is on this weekend against the Mets. I'm not one for manufactured excitement. As a result, the so-called rivalry with the Mets doesn't get me amped. However, I'm in the minority on this one, and Shea stadium will be plenty packed. I've watched the Mets some this year and think they are an enjoyable team. I've always liked Piazza and Cliff Floyd. Beltran is a star, and David Wright is an appealing young player. If their pitching keeps them in the game, they should be a good match for the Yanks. Pedro Martinez has been pushed back to Sunday, so Victor Zambrano gets the nod on Friday night. He'll go against Kevin Brown. That should be a wild one.
End of the Road
The road trip that is. The Yanks go for their second sweep of the Mariners in a ten day span tonight, with Mike Mussina--who started this whole winning streak thingy by shutting out the A's a week and a half ago--coming off the three best starts of his season. His mound opponent will be Jamie Moyer, who hasn't made it out of the fourth inning of any of his last three starts, the last coming against the Yankees when he was run with one out in the third. Moyer has a 19.80 ERA in his two May starts combined.
Bernie Williams, who has always owned Moyer and went 2 for 2 against him last week with a double and an RBI single, is expected to start, which might mean Womack will sit and the outfield will be an adventure.
Speaking of line-up changes, I had this fantasy that Joe Torre decided that, with the series in his pocket, he could sit E-Rod tonight in favor of Andy Phillips or Russ Johnson, or perhaps a two-at-bats-each in-game platoon of the two. You see, E-Rod has played third for all but one inning this season while Johnson has just one at-bat in the majors this year and Phillips hasn't played since he took an 0-fer in Moose's streak-starting shutout back on May 7. With the Yanks headed to Shea to take on the Mets this weekend, it would help to have those two bats a bit warmer than they are now (which is ice cold) for pinch-hit opportunities. And it wouldn't hurt to rest E-Rod with the series in the bag and a 5-0 record on the current road trip.
Just a thought. I know it won't happen.
Sweet and Meaty
Where's the beef? Right here, dog. Yankee sirloin was in full effect last night, as Carl Pavano, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, and Jorge Posada powered the Bronx Bombers to their tenth straight victory. A night after hitting a grand slam, Bernie Williams was back on the bench. Characteristically, he took the news in stride, telling the Daily News:
"At this point in my career, who cares what I do?" he said. "All we care about is winning games and getting to the postseason."
Speaking of meat, today, is the 18th. As a kid, this day had special meaning for me, because it's Reggie Jackson's birthday. Funny, how other people's birthdays can make such an impression on you when you are growing up. For the rest of my life, I'll never forget how meaningful this day used to be for me.
Or as Alex would likely title it ". . . and ya don't stop."
The Yanks won their tenth straight last night behind a dominating complete game shutout by Meat Pavano against the very same Mariner team that beat him bloody last week in New York. Here's his final line:
9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K, 68 percent strikes
Pavano allowed just six baserunners all game, a full third of them in the ninth inning. Meat hit Bret Boone with a pitch in the second, gave up consecutive singles to Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez in the fourth and a single to Boone in the seventh. Pavano did not allow an extra base hit, did not walk a batter, and did not allow a runner past second base. His seven strikeouts tied his season high and 15 of the 20 outs recorded by his defense came on ground balls. Seattle never had a shot.
Fear of the Unknown
The Mariners are pulling Julio Mateo out of the bullpen to make his first major league start tonight. This may look like a great opportunity for the Yankees to extend their winning streak, but this sort of set-up always seems to go awry for the pinstripers.
Mateo, for example, may not have started since A-ball in 2000, and he may be averaging just two innings per outing this year, but that 2IP/G is up from his career average, and his last two outings have been the longest of his season at 3 1/3 innings each. What's more, he has a 0.41 ERA, the opposition is hitting .154/.205/.179 (.137 GPA) against him (ten singles, two doubles, two walks against ten Ks in 22 innings), and in his second-most-recent outing he held the Yankee's scoreless over 3 1/3. He's pitching so well that Jason over at U.S.S. Mariner actually suggested the M's move Mateo into the rotation in a post this past Saturday, with no expectation that the Mariners would actually do it, let alone so soon (to be fair, this is a spot start while Joel Pineiro works on his mechanics in the minors).
More encouraging for the Yankees and their fans, Dave added a very informative post yesterday that reveals that Mateo pitches to contact in the Quantrill/Lieber style except that instead of throwing ground balls, Mateo is an extreme fly-ball pitcher. Thus far this season Mateo has an absurdly low .176 opponents' average on balls in play (against a league average of .293) and has yet to allow a home run. In other words, he's pitching way over his head. Dave fears the odds will catch up with Mateo tonight over an extended outing against the Yankees' major league leading offense. Here's hoping he's right.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have to hope that whatever ailed Carl Pavano in his last start (in addition to Alex Rodriguez's defense, that is) has subsided in the days since. Especially since Joe Torre has inexplicably decided to bump Chien-Ming Wang out of his scheduled start at Shea on Sunday and use Thursday's day off to let Pavano move up a day in his place. Wang should start one of the first two games of next week's homestand against the Tigers instead.
In other news, don't look now, but Mike Stanton is the only active Yankee reliever with an ERA over 4.00. Meanwhile, Ruben Sierra is playing extended spring training games in Tampa (batting left exclusively for the moment) and should start a Florida State League rehab stint mid-week. Take your time, Ru.
Eight is Great, But Nine Is Finer
. . . and rolling, and rolling . . .
The Yanks made it nine straight in Seattle last night thanks to another strong performance by Chien-Ming Wang and a seventh-inning grand slam by Bernie Williams in his first start of the road trip.
Wang coughed up a pair of runs to the Mariners in the first on an Ichiro Suzuki single and stolen base, an Adrian Beltre single and a Raul Ibanez double. He then retired eighteen straight batters before getting knocked out of the game in the seventh by a Bret Boone double (misplayed just a half inning after his grand slam by Bernie, who started in center for the first time since the big shakeup) and a more legitimate double by Jeremy Reed that drove Boone home. TanGorMo kept the M's scoreless the rest of the way. And yes, Wang did post a season-high four strikeouts, while not walking a batter for the first time in his four major league starts.
As for the Yanks, they got runners on in each of the first five innings against Aaron Sele, but only got one of them home, a Robinson Cano lead-off double in the third that was cashed in on a pair of groundouts by Hideki Matsui and Alex Rodriguez. Batting second for the first time (Womack sat), Cano went 2 for 5 and is now 13 for 22 with six doubles in his last five starts.
Sele struck out the side in the sixth, but the last strike was his 115th pitch, so, leading 2-1, Mike Hargrove went to his pen in the seventh. Shigetoshi Hasegawa loaded the bases with one out. Lefty George Sherrill (who replaced Joel Pineiro on the roster) got Tino (who didn't homer, but drew an intentional walk earlier in the game with a man on second and two outs) to ground into a fielder's choice, forcing Sheffield out at home and keeping the bases loaded with one out.
That brought up Bernie Williams, who had a walk, a groundout and a flyout on the night. Hargrove went to his top righty set-up man, J.J. Putz. Putz fired a fastball to Bernie and Bernie smacked it to dead center. Centerfielder Jeremy Reed went back, jumped and reached over the wall, the ball hit his mitt and the simultaneous impact of the ball and the wall knocked Reed's glove off his hand. Grand slam. 5-2 Yankees.
The M's pulled a run closer against Wang, as mentioned, but the Yanks came right back against Jeff Nelson on singles by Cano, Sheffield and E-Rod to put the final score at 6-3.
The Yankees are now one game over .500 and just a half game behind Toronto for third place in the AL East. Also, the A's snapped their eight-game losing streak against the Red Sox, allowing the Yankees to pull within 2.5 games of the World Champs. The Yankees' current nine-game winning streak is their longest since they won nine in late June and early July of 2001. Lastly, when the Yankees were struggling in April and the first week of May, Joe Torre repeatedly said that he was just waiting for the team to pull off nine out of ten and get going. Well, guess what?
Is Eight Enough?
The Yankees' current eight-game winning streak matches their best such streak from last season. Interestingly, last year's streak also included a 5-1 run against the A's and got the Yanks out of an early hole and back over .500. The Yankees aren't back over .500 yet, but they would be with a win tonight as they roll into Seattle to face a Mariner team they swept in the Bronx one week ago.
Not much has changed with the M's since then, though they did have fun this weekend, taking 2 of 3 from the Red Sox (by comparison the A's were swept by the Sox in between series with the Yanks). There have been a couple of roster changes in Seattle. Wiki Gonzalez, who was called up to replace Dan Wilson and promptly given the starting catching job over a severely slumping Miguel Olivo, has been placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Olivo has been given the starting job back and 21-year-old rookie Rene Rivera has been called up to serve as the back-up.
Meanwhile, Joel Pineiro, who was to become the staff ace after the trade of Freddy Garcia last year only to spend the majority of that time on the DL thus far, has been sent to the minors to work on his mechanics following a rough Friday the 13th start. Reliever Julio Mateo, who has started just 12 games in his professional career, the last coming with Class-A Wisconsin in 2000, will take Pineiro's start against the Yankees on Tuesday. He will be framed by Aaron Sele (tonight) and Jamie Moyer (Wednesday) against whom the Yankees scored twelve runs on eighteen hits in five innings last week.
Chein-Ming Wang takes the ball for the Yanks tonight. Removing his one rough outing in Tampa, he's turned in this line in his other two starts: 14 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 0 HR, 5 BB, 3 K. Curiously, the only part of that that isn't encouraging is the K/BB ratio, which was one of his strong suits in the minors. Expect that to correct itself. He's already seen his strikeouts increase in all three starts, even if it has only been from 0 to 3.
On an afternoon when Randy Johnson allowed three first inning runs, and ended the game with no strike outs, Tino Martinez powered a Yankee comeback and Jason Giambi had the game-winning hit as the Bombers extended their winning streak to eight, beating Oakland, 6-4. They are now 19-19, and the win was the 1,800th of Joe Torre's career. Johnson labored through the first four innings, and lasted through six; this was the longest outing of his career withouth recording a K.
But he was helped out by Tino Martinez, who hit two line-drive home runs to right field. Derek Jeter had three hits, and Robinson Cano had four (giving him nine for the three-game set), and Tony Womack swiped four bases for the second time this season. Though he struck out twice with men on base, Alex Rodriguez made one of the crucial plays of the game. With one out in the top of the seventh, Rodriguez walked. Tino Martinez followed and popped out to the third baseman Keith Ginter deep in foul territory. Rodriguez caught Ginter off guard, tagged up, and slid into second base safely. It was the kind of play that has made Derek Jeter an icon in New York. Next, Jorge Posada was intentionally walked, and then Giambi whacked Rincon's first pitch into the right field corner for a run-scoring double.
Giambi did not talk to the media after the game, but he had a good day on the field. In addition to his clutch double, he hit the ball well in two other times. Sturtze, Gordon, and Rivera set the struggling A's down in order over the final three innings, as the Yanks have finally reached even.
On the Seventh Day...Bombs Away
It was shortly after eleven o'clock last night when I went to get the car. My cousin's wedding reception, which was held in a cool French bistro on 5th avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, made for a lovely evening. The car was a couple of blocks away and when I turned on the radio, the Yanks were comfortably ahead, 15-3 (Rodriguez, Jeter, Posada, and yes, that man Martinez, all homered, while Godzilla had four hits, including three doubles.) I'll leave the real recap to Cliff, who I assume watched it. Instead, here are some quick links to what's what in the Sunday papers:
Things might be going from bad to worse for Jason Giambi. Last night, a fan threw a beer on him. He also spoke to reporters and told them how "pissed" he was about being asked to go to the minors. This does not bode well for him. Giving the Boss an excuse to lay into him publicly is not wise.
Thursday's off-day cleary didn't faze the win-happy Yanks. Nor did last Saturday's 131 pitches faze the suddenly vintage Mike Mussina. After featuring a fastball that finally reached the low 90s to shutout the A's last weekend, Mussina switched to a reliance on a sharp knuckle curve last night to hold those same A's to two runs on six hits and a walk over seven innings while striking out an encouraging nine men. Suddenly my claims of Moose's demise seem alarmingly premature. Check out his last three starts combined:
23 IP, 15 H, 4 R, 1 HR, 5 BB, 14 K
In the process he's dropped his season ERA from 4.97 to 3.46. Of course, I'll feel better about Mussina once he turns in a solid performance against a team other than the punchless A's or the last-place Devil Rays, but he certainly is a pleasure to watch right now.
While Moose was cruising the Yanks got out to a 2-0 lead on a first inning home run by Gary Sheffield, who has four homers through the first half of May after hitting just two in April. A 2-RBI triple by Tony Womack (who has a hit in 9 of the Yankees 11 games this month), and two sac flies by Hideki Matsui added four more runs.
In the ninth, Jason Giambi followed lead-off walks by Tino Martinez (who's homer streak was stopped at five) and Jorge Posada with his first hit since April 28, a single to right which Bobby Kielty misplayed for two extra bases, allowing both baserunners to score. Robinson Cano followed with a double that plated Giambi to put the Yanks up 9-2. Cano was 3 for 4 on the night with a pair of doubles and is now 5 for 7 in his last two games with three doubles. After hitting seemingly ever pitch on the ground to second during his first six or seven games in the majors, Cano is suddenly driving the ball into the gaps with regularity.
Joe Torre went back to the well with Tom Gordon in the eighth despite holding a four-run lead against the worst offense in baseball, but given three more runs to work with in the ninth, finally took Mike Stanton out of mothballs. Understandably, Stanton was rusty, surrendering two runs before he was able to get the third out. Paul Quantrill finished the job. 9-4 Yanks.
Kevin Brown vs. Joe Blanton tonight at 9:05 EST as the Yanks try to make it seven in a row.
Mike Mussina pitched seven strong innings and the Yankee offense jumped on Rich Harden early as the Yankees cruised to a 9-4 victory last night in Oakland. Jason Giambi got the nod at DH, and went 1-4; Robinson Cano had three hits including two doubles. The Yanks have now won six straight. I'm between my nephew's birthday part and my cousin's wedding, so I don't have time to get into anything in detail. One thing that I was thinking about last night though was all the premature talk earlier this season about Matsui being a strong candidate for MVP. I've heard a lot of people say that he's been the Yankees' best player since the start of the 2004 season. He's been solid, no doubt, but nobody has been better in that time span that Gary Sheffield. (Man, was his dinger off a Harden heater in the first last night sweet.)
Brown goes tonight. What are the odds he can string together two good outings in a row?
The Yankees' mini-hot streak will be put to the test tonight as they face Rich Harden in Oakland. The A's have dropped five straight. Harden sure looked good to me last Sunday, but Ken Arneson assured me that it was one of Harden's worst performances of the year. Yikes. Hopefully, the Bombers can win the weekend series, then take two-of-three in Seattle before they return to New York to face the Mets. (A week from now, we could be looking at Pedro v. Johnson: mmmm, juicy.)
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First up is the tough young, Mr. Harden. After throwing a lot of pitches in his shut out last Saturday, Mike Mussina is back on the hill for the Yanks. It will be interesting to see how he responds.
Just a quick personal note here. Cliff and I want to send our best wishes to Jay Jaffe and his beautiful (not to mention funny!) bride Andra, as they tie they knot in Milwaukee this weekend. Our thoughts are with you guys. Have a beer and a brat for us. Here's wishing you a long, and happy life together.
The Lesson of Stevie Hearsay
Ten days have elapsed since Steve Karsay was designated for assignment. The Yankees have been unable to trade him, leaving them two options: assign him to the minor leagues, or release him. They have chosen the latter. The four-year $22.5 million contract Karsay signed with the Yankees on the sixtieth anniversary of Pearl Harbor calls for him to make $5 million this year, which the Yankees must now pay, along with the $1.5 million buyout on his option for 2006, without hope for getting anything in return.
When the tale of the Giambi-era Yankees is told, Karsay will likely be remembered as a bad signing, a case of the Yankees throwing an unnecessary amount of money at a fragile pitcher to solve a problem that could have been solved less expensively and paying the cost for their reckless behavior, yet another signpost on the fading dynasty's road to ruin. Upon closer examination, however, Karsay is revealed as merely another victim of Joe Torre's now notorious push-button method of bullpen management.
When Torre was hired as the Yankee skipper, The Daily News famously dubbed him "Clueless Joe," and the one statistic most often associated with him was his 4,110 games in a major league uniform, as a player and manager, without a World Series appearance. In fact, in 32 seasons in the majors, Torre had only been to the playoffs once, as the new manager of the 1982 Atlanta Braves. To make matters worse, his was a history of late arrivals.
Bring that Beat Back
In Bill Cosby's famous "Go Carts" routine, he talked about the importance of having good theme music when racing. Ballplayers love theme music too, as they get to choose four-bar clips that are played when they come to bat in their home parks. Actually, I'm assuming they get to pick their songs. I'm pretty sure they Yankees do anyway. The selections usually are not that interesting: Derek Jeter goes for the latest club hits, Paul O'Neill used to love meat-and-potatoes classic rock cuts. Some guys actually have taste: Chuck Knoblauch appropriately used BDP's "South Bronx" before his at bats, and David Justice nabbed another 1986 Hip Hop classic, "Eric B is President" by Eric B and Rakim. Other players have a sense of humor--Dave Dellucci goes for the "Godfather" theme down in Texas. (Funny music is so underrated at the ballpark. For instance, a couple of years ago, when Rickey Henderson was on the Mets, he was thrown out trying to steal second one day in Pittsburgh. As he jogged off the field, the organist played "Old Grey Mare." Wise-ass organists rock.)
Last year, Hideki Matsui used "Get Back" and "Day Tripper" by the Beatles, which I thought was amusing simply because it sounded so out-of-place. But it fit Matsui's personality well. This year, Matsui is using "The Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin, which is outstandingly random. I'm really loving that. It got me to thinking, wouldn't it be fun to be able to play DJ for your team? So I sat down and came up with a playlist for the Yankees. (Cliff is working on the bench and will have his picks up later today.) Some of the songs are really obvious, used because they have a good opening, others because the title works.
Better late than never, here are some photographs from last Sunday's game vs. Oakland. (Click on photo's for a bigger version.)
Emily and Me
Road Island Red: Bobby Kielty
The Yanks and M's not only played like they had a plane to catch yesterday, but like they had all been out way too late the night before. In a comedy of errors at the Stadium, the Bombers outlasted and outblasted the hapless Mariners, 13-9 to win their fifth straight game. Neither starting pitcher had much and the score was 9-9 after four innings. Alex Rodriguez made two errors, which led to six Seattle runs; Carl Pavano allowed four dingers; for the second time this spring, Jorge Posada Cadillac'd what he thought was a home run into a single; Richie Sexton and Brett Boone kicked the ball around all day, and Shigetoshi Hasegawa perfected Jackie Chan's Drunken Style during a seventh inning rundown. (Even better was when my better half told me about the play and called Hasegawa "Hitchagoowoo Miniyawa.")
Tino Martinez homered for the fifth game in a row, one of eight balls that left the yard (four by Seattle, four by New York). According to Michael Kay, Bernie Williams and the Yankees are now calling Martinez, C.C. As in Curtain Call. Tony Womack swiped four bases, and the Yankees' bullpen was excellent over the last five innings of the game. While it may not have been pretty, the Yanks have to be pleased with the result. They head for the west coast feeling a bunch better than they did when they started this home stand, that's for sure.
With their victory last night, the Yankees ran their record to .500 on the month and .500 at home for the year. Despite having already won the series with Seattle (just their fourth of the year and their first following another series win), they'll need a victory this afternoon against 42-year-old Jamie Moyer to avoid dropping those records back below .500 before leaving town for a six-game trip to the west coast.
The good news is that the Yankees have four men in their line-up with spectacular past success against Moyer, including the blazing hot Tino Martinez (.346/.404/.654 in 52 at-bats), who will look to extend his four-game homer streak. Another of the fab four is Bernie Williams, who will get his second straight start at DH this afternoon. If memory serves me right, Bernie's numbers against Moyer are a bit deceptive. He has hit .386/.458/.771 (.399 GPA) against him in 83 career at-bats, but I recall that just a few years ago he had a .500 career average against the Seattle hurler, meaning he's actually struggled against him since. The other two Moyer-killers are Alex Rodriguez (.380/.426/.740 in 50 ABs) and Gary Sheffield, who has hit an unreal .550/.654/1.200 (.594) in 20 career at-bats, most of which likely came during 2004 and interleague play in prior years.
One Yankee with less impressive numbers against Moyer is Hideki Matsui (.250/.333/.438). Matsui's slump continued last night with an 0 for 5 (though he would have had an RBI double in the third inning if not for Ichiro Suzuki's ridiculous range in right). He's hitting .189/.279/.270 (.193) through the first ten games of May, is homerless since the fourth game of the season back on April 8, and his season line has sagged to a pathetic .233/.315/.372 (.235).
One wonders if, with the series in his pocket going into a day game after a night game, Joe Torre might consider sitting Matsui this afternoon. Matsui, of course, has a consecutive games streak that extends back through his career in Japan to August 21, 1993, so he'd most likely appear as a defensive replacement at the end of the game, but with an off-day tomorrow, it would be nice to give Slumpzilla a couple days in which he's not confronted with his struggles at the plate.
Beating the Bottom Feeders
Chien Ming Wang won his first Major League game last night, pushing the Yankees' winning streak to four, as the Bombers beat Seattle, 7-4. It was not an especially riveting game--other than some nifty running catches by all three Seattle outfielders--but for Yankee fans it was more than satisfying. When pitching out of the stretch, Wang holds his hands above his head and almost comes to a complete stop. It's like he momentarily forgets what he's supposed to do next. I don't know that I can recall seeing another pitcher with a wind-up that starts so slowly. Julio Mateo, who replaced Aaron Sele in the third inning, had a quicker delivery, but the man took forever between pitches. The deliberate styles of the pitching gave the game a lathargic pace. But after the Yanks jumped out to a 7-2 lead, Wang was impressive, working through the middle innings easily. He was excellent from the fourth through seventh innings.
Wang left the game to a nice hand with one out in the eighth. Tom Gordon replaced him, walked a batter and then allowed a two-run double to Brett Boone. The ball missed being a home run by about three feet. This meant that Mariano Rivera would be called on in the ninth. He struck the first man out, and then lost an 11-pitch battle and gave up a single. But Rivera got Ichiro to pop out to left (Suzuki helped Mo out, swinging at a 2-0 pitch that was up in the strike zone.), and Randy Winn to ground out. And that, was that. Tino Martinez homered for the fourth consecutive game, while John Flaherty and Robinson Cano hit the ball hard all evening, powering the Bombers' offense. It was nice to see Cano drive the ball and have something to show for it. The Yankees have gotten healthy playing against the A's and the M's. They've won two series in a row, and improved their record to 15-19.
We can forget about Felix Rodriguez: trade bait. Rodriguez tore cartilage in his left knee getting out of the shower or the hot tub, according to reports. It's not certain if he'll need surgery. He could be out for up to six weeks. Infielder Russ Johnson will replace him on the Yankees' roster.
A Delicate Balance
I wonder if fans were more sympathetic toward aging players before the free agency era. I seriously doubt it. I'm sure fans have always given struggling players a hard time. These days, it's common to hear a player's salary come up when he's slumping horribly. "You make $15 million, throw a strike, get a hit, for crying out loud." If a player isn't producing, it must be because he's a fat cat, too rich and complacent for his own good. Fans have a right to their opinion of course, but often I feel as if this attitude discounts just how difficult it is to play baseball, particularly for players who are over 35 years old. I get as frustrated as the next guy at Kevin Brown, but I feel that it's easy for me to forget how tough it must be for a guy his age to continue to compete at an elite level. Physically, and mentally, playing baseball into your late thirties must be an incredible challenge. In an article that appeared yesterday in The Baltimore Sun, Laura Vecsey profiled Rafael Palmeiro:
Palmeiro's eyes dart here and there. He talks with a mix of passion, longing, anxiety.
Anxiety is the word that stuck with me. In the third inning of last night's game with the Yanks trailing 2-0, Bernie Williams came to the plate with men on second and third and nobody out. He popped out to shallow right field, failing to drive in a run. The camera followed Williams as he returned to the dugout. His mouth was tensed, and he clasped his hands together as if he were praying. But the gesture didn't look like a prayer, it looked as if it was everything he could do to prevent himself from losing his temper. It was just a moment, but it spoke to the kind of anxiety he must be experiencing internally. Moments later, he was sitting next to Don Mattingly, a placid look on his face, talking about the at bat.
Hideki Matsui, mired in the worst slump of his Major League career, must be able to relate. But Matsui still has several good years left in him. For Palmeiro, who homered last night, and Williams, time is running out. The pressure is also on Jason Giambi, who was evidentally approached by Joe Torre and Brian Cashman yesterday about possibly heading to the minor leagues to help his lagging confidence. Giambi insisted that working with Mattingly would be better for him at this time than a trip to Columbus.
Torre told the Daily News:
"I'm a firm believer of the mind ruling the body, and it's not good right now," Torre said. "I saw a calmness (before), but calmness in spring training is one thing. When you're 0-for-4 during the season, it takes on a different face. He was more patient in spring training. Physically, he had a little more life in his body, and I blame the psychological stuff."
Giambi was treated well by Yankee fans early this spring. But any sense of goodwill has run out, and the reaction to Giambi is getting downright nasty. No matter what happens, it doesn't feel like Giambi's career in New York is going to have a happy ending.
Dare We Ask For Four?
Chien-Ming Wang makes his third major league start tonight. Despite it resulting in a loss, his second outing, last week in Tampa, was not a total disaster. In fact, considering the fact that he is a groundball pitcher who was working on the slick turf of the Trop, and that one had to expect some regression after his excellent first start, he did just fine for someone making their second-ever start in the majors. Here's hoping he will build on that performance tonight, particularly on the three strikeouts (two swinging). Wang struck out 7.16 men per nine innings in his minor league career, with his strikeout frequency increasing at each level as he moved from rookie ball to triple-A over the past two seasons.
His opponent is Aaron Sele, who had a nice run as a solid league-average or better innings eater for some successfull Texas and Seattle clubs from 1998 to 2001 (his age 28 to 31 seasons), but has been comfortably below league average ever since.
Yanks go for four-in-a-row tonight. As Alex always says . . .
Sele vs. Wang should mean that there will be some runs scored in the Bronx tonight. (Sele is one of those pitchers I always expect the Bombers to do well against; objects tend to get thrown when he shuts them down.) It should get chilly once the sun goes down, but this has one of those spring days in New York that you just want to mint. It is crisp and clean, no humidity to speak of, with a refreshing breeze, that just makes me happy to be alive. With a little less wind, this would be the ideal day to take a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. But who am I kidding? Like you need an excuse to walk over that great bridge.
Let's Go Yanks!
Dollar, Dollar Bill Y'all
Our labelmate Mike Carminati is undertaking a cool data-gathering project. He wants to assemble all of the free agent contract information from 1976-1984. Mike still has a ways to go, but he's already compiled a boatload of great information. If anyone can help him fill in the blanks, head on over to his site and drop him a line. Meanwhile, here is a list of the Yankee free agent signings (for players who amassed ten Win Shares the year before inking a new deal):
Rudy May? Rawly Eastwick? Ah, dem wuz duh daze. Thanks, Mike.
Third Time's The Charm
The Yankees did it again, defeating the Mariners 4-3 behind eight strong innings from Randy Johnson, some clutch hitting by their worst hitters, and yet another Tino Martinez homer to push their current winning streak to three games, their longest of the season.
With last night's win, the Yankees move past the Mariners and within 1/2 game of the A's as they slowly claw their way back to respectability in the American League. You can thank the starting pitching for that. Here are the lines of the Yankee starters in their last four games:
2004 Record: 63-99 (.389)
Manager: Mike Hargrove
Ballpark (2004 park factors): Safeco Field (92/93)
Who's replacing whom?
Adrian Beltre replaces Edgar Martinez
1B Richie Sexson
L - Dave Hansen (1B/3B)
L Jamie Moyer
L Eddie Guardado
R Dan Wilson (C)
S Scott Spezio (1B/3B)
L - Ichiro Suzuki (RF)
Did the Yankees record consecutive shutouts this weekend because of their excellent pitching or the pathetic Oakland offense? Hard to say. Brown and Mussina both had one previous start this season that would indicate that this weekend was not a complete fluke, but surely the A's ineptitude had something to do with it. How much, however, the Yankees are unlikely to figure out for a while, as they face the A's again in Oakland this upcoming weekend sandwiched in between home and away series with the even more pathetic Seattle Mariners, who are a game behind the A's in last place in the West and just 1/2 game better than the Yankees thus far.
"Rickey wants to play another year, and he thinks he wants to play for you."
You have to admire Rickey Henderson's passion for the game. He'll be back in uniform again this year in the new class-A Golden Baseball League as the left fielder of the San Diego Surf Dawgs. Terry Kennedy will be his manager.
Last summer, I caught Rickey in a Newark Bears game. He lead off the game with a walk, stole second, moved to third on the first out and scored on the second. It was the closest I'll ever come to watching Shoeless Joe tear up the South Carolina sandlots after being banned from the major leagues.
A Day to Remember
Fortunately, Cliff has done his usual fine job of recapping a game. Emily and I were also at the stadium, but our seats were so spectacular that is was actually hard to keep perspective on what was happening on the field. The seats my mom scored for us were just up the left field line from the visitor's dugout, seats 11 and 12, in the front row! I mean, you've got to be kidding me, right? One step forward and we're on the field. Third base coaches Ron Washington and Luis Sojo were close enough to touch, and Eric Chavez and Alex Rodriguez weren't too far off either.
The seats were memorable, though they would not be my first choice if I could sit anywhere I'd like. Being so close, you lose perspective on the entire field a bit. More than that, you have to be alert on every pitch, in case a foul ball comes zipping your way. The first time Sheffield was up, he rocketed a foul ball over our heads and it scared the bejesus out of me. After that, I literally crouched down each time he came to bat. I didn't bring my mitt, but we were lucky enough to have a guy sitting next to us who did. To be honest, I was more concerned about Emily than I was about myself. But you really had to be on guard. No keeping score, or drifting off here. We were in the firing line.
A Game Any Mother Could Love
I love taking my mom to the stadium. A huge (or actually, very tiny) Yankee fan, she gets a big kick out of attending games and cheers louder than I do once she's there (which should surprise no one who knows her). About a month or so ago, I realized that there was a Yankee home game on Mother's Day which was part of my season package, and Becky and I agreed that she would take her mom out separately so that I could take my mom to the game.
Then, some time last week, I realized that Kevin Brown would be the scheduled starter. Worse yet, he would be taking the mound against the A's young ace, Rich Harden. As a result, despite my best intentions, I was not particularly looking forward to yesterday's game.
Indeed, things got off to an ominous start. Brown worked a deceiving 1-2-3 inning in the first. Mark Kotsay lead off with a hard-hit fly out to left. Jason Kendall followed with a sharp grounder that would have been a typical Brown base hit through the middle had it not been for an excellent back-handed play by Robinson Cano, who just nabbed Jason Kendall at first with an off-balance jump throw of the kind Derek Jeter often makes in the hole at short. Brown then fell behind Eric Chavez 3-0 before recovering to a full count and getting Chavez to fly out to Womack in left.
Rich Harden had a much more convincing 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, ratcheting his fastball up to the upper 90s and finishing the inning by striking out Gary Sheffield swinging.
In the top of the second, Brown was up to his old tricks. Scott Hatteberg cracked Brown's second pitch for a sharp single to center. Bobby Kielty then walked on four pitches. Brown's next pitch, to Erubiel Durazo, was another ball. Durazo then singled on a 1-1 count to load the bases with no outs (Hatteberg had started back toward second, as Brown had checked him back before the pitch, and thus was unable to score). Brown's first pitch to Keith Ginter was a ball about head high to the 5'10" second baseman.
Brown was back in his own personal hell, and the Yankee Stadium crowd was letting him know about it. Then Mel Stottlemyre came to the mound. Said Stottlemyre after the game:
"I told him the way to minimize damage was to stay down throughout the rest of the inning. He said, 'I just threw a pitch down, and it was a base hit.' I didn't think the ball that Durazo hit was down [it was thigh-high, Brown is most effective at or below the knees -CJC], but I didn't want to argue with him. I told him the only thing I could think of: 'He's a low-ball hitter; this next guy is a high-ball hitter.' I was lying, [but] his stuff is so electric when it's down. I wasn't trying to feed him a line of bull; I just thought that was our best chance."
Happy Mudda's Day
So Cliff is taking his mom to the ballpark today. Emily and I were lucky enough to be given two cherce corporate tickets--I'm not sure where they are, but they seem pretty fancy, as they come with V.I.P. parking pass, and two vouchers for the Stadium Club--by me mudda, who scored them through her office. She told me it's her Mother's Day gift to me. I told her to expect a dozen roses on my birthday.
Bronx Banter will be in the house, front and center to witness Kevin Brown's latest outing. Pardon me if I'm not overcome with confidence, especially with young Mr. Harden going for the A's. Still, stranger things have happened. And for now, it's still nice that Mike Mussina tossed a complete-game shutout yesterday.
Rich Lederer, president of the Bert Blyleven Fan Club, sent me the following bit of Mussina information last night:
ACTIVE LEADERS IN CAREER SHUTOUTSSHUTOUTS SHO 1 Roger Clemens 46 2 Randy Johnson 37 3 Greg Maddux 35 4 Tom Glavine 23 5 Mike Mussina 22
Good call, Rich.
Hope everyone has a nice Sunday. Let's Go Yan-Kees!
Off to the second worst start in franchise history and tied for last place after a crushing 3-1 series loss against the abysmal Devil Rays, the Yankees needed someone to step up against the A's this weekend. Carl Pavano tried to be that person, but instead he discovered that even three runs allowed were too many for a team that seems to find a new way to loose every day.
Mike Mussina got the message. Yesterday afternoon he took the hill and turned in by far his best performance of the year, going the distance and shutting the A's out to halt the Yankees' losing streak at four games and lift them out of last place in the AL East.
The Yanks look to Mike Mussina to end a four-game skid, and perhaps save Mel Stottlemyre's hide. Remember, the Derby is today. When the dust clears from the track, my Spidey Sense tells me that Mt. Saint Steinbrenner is about to blow.
I'm calling it now. Oakland is going to sweep the Yankees this weekend. I'll be pleased if I'm wrong, but before last night's game I predicted a Yankee win followed by a pair of weekend loses. After seeing the way they performed in the most favorable pitching match-up of the weekend, I would be downright shocked if they won one of the remaining two.
For those who were privileged enough not to witness it, here's what went down:
2004 Record: 91-71 (.562)
Manager: Ken Macha
Ballpark (2004 park factors): McAfee Coliseum (101/101)
Who's replacing whom?
Jason Kendall replaces Damian Miller
1B Scott Hatteberg
R - Keith Ginter (IF)
L - Barry Zito
R - Octavio Dotel
R - Chad Bradford [60-day]
L - Mark Kotsay (CF)
Hey, this just in: the Yankees are terrible. But guess what? So are the A's.
Gone (But Not Forgotten)
I don't think much about the Red Sox this early in the season when they aren't playing the Yanks. I'm actively avoiding thinking about them these days, just imagining how delighted Sox fans must be at how poorly the Bombers are doing. That said, I just felt the need to state that I miss Edward Cossette.
In "Annie Hall," Woody Allen's character complains that in Los Angeles all they do is give out awards ("Greatest Fascist Dictator: Adolph Hitler."). These days, all the Yankees do is lose and have meetings. The back cover of the New York Post says it all. There is a photograph of frowing Joe Torre, and the headline reads "Stinko De Mayo." The Yankees lost to the Devil Rays, 6-2, and are now tied with Tampa Bay for last place in the American League East.
Chien-Ming Wang allowed five runs in his second start but from top-to-bottom, the Bombers looked defeated. Gary Sheffield hit a two-run home run; otherwise, the Yankees are playing like a stunned team, unable to get out of their own way. They hit a half a dozen balls on the screws over the past few innings but had nothing to show for it. (The Devil Rays infield made plays the Yankees haven't been able to convert.) Even worse, there were a few mental errors that suggested just how lost the team is. Jorge Posada doubled with one out in the sixth inning. Matsui followed and hit a sharp ground ball to third base. Posada got caught well off second base and was tagged out, an inexusable error. With two outs in the eighth, Aubrey Huff stole second base, and Posada's throw bounced into center field. Why? Nobody covered the bag. The run didn't score, but it was an embarassing moment for Jeter and Cano. One that summed up another awful night for the team.
How Low Can You Go?
"You'd have to be there," General Manager Brian Cashman said, when asked about Steinbrenner's mood. "It's not a good time if you're with the Yankees right now." (N.Y. Times)
The Yankees look as if they are playing under water. Everything is slowed down, dulled, arduous. The Headline in the Times today reads: "Sinking Yankees Nearly Hit Bottom." I wonder when they'll get there all ready. Hear that ticking? We know what that's about. At this point, Yankee fans must be thinking: When will Steinbrenner finally explode? (Yeah, firing the first base coach, now that's the answer).
The Devil Rays made short work of Sean Henn last night (a key error by Robinson Cano didn't help matters, but Henn looked doomed regardless). Though the Yankee offense battled back, the Devil Rays continued to tack on runs against the Bomber pen, as Tampa beat New York, 11-8. Eight runs should be enough to win. Heck, you should feel good when your team puts up eight runs, but that wasn't the case last night. It's hard to get too excited when your pitching staff can't retire the Devil Rays in order.
Fast Times: A Brief History of Sean Henn
The newly twenty-four-year-old Fort Worth, Texas native Sean Michael Henn is a sturdy, six-foot-five lefty who was drafted by the Yankees not once, but twice, in the 30th round of the 1999 amateur draft and the 26th round of the 2000 draft. The Yanks finally signed him to a record $1.701 million bonus as a draft-and-follow in 2001 (he attended McLennan Community College in Texas in the interim). According to an informative post over at Off the Façade, at the time Henn was drafted, "He sported an upper-90s fastball along with some nasty breaking pitches," but did not throw a pitch as a Yankee farmhand before having to undergo Tommy John surgery later in 2001.
Henn finally got to take the mound as a professional ballplayer in 2003, when he made two dominant rookie league appearances before moving on to make sixteen starts for single-A Tampa, in which he had moderate success. Last year, Henn made a brief appearance in spring training with the big club before spending the entire season with double-A Trenton, posting a 4.41 ERA, a 1.44 WHIP and an equally middling 1.87 K/BB ratio (6.50 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9, both slight improvements over his single-A numbers) in 27 starts. This year, he again spent the spring with the major league club before returning to Trenton, where he has posted the following line in four starts:
25.1 IP, 16 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 9 BB, 21 K
That translates into the following rate stats: 7.46 K/9, 3.19 BB/9, 2.33 K/BB, all of which show a continuation of the improvements he made in those categories in 2004. Those improvements would support the suggestion that Henn is still rebuilding his arm strength coming off his 2001 surgery. Of course they could also suggest that Henn is simply improving as a pitcher. As it stands, he's not a dominating prospect, but a pitcher with potential who's a bit old for double-A (though that's the fault of the surgery). With that in mind, as much as I'd love to see Henn pitch well enough to allow the Yankees send Kevin Brown to the DL or Tampa to work out his problems, I'd much rather see Henn return to the minors, work his way to Columbus this season and throw his hat into the ring for next year's rotation, if not 2007's.
And the Good News Is?
I attended my first ball game of the year last night out at Shea. It wasn't much of a game at all as the Phillies battered Tom Glavine on the field and the Mets fans booed him off it. The highlight of the evening for the hometown fans--other than Cliff Floyd's line drive homer--came in the ninth inning when Jose Reyes drew his first walk of the season, on four pitches no less. The fact that it came with the bases loaded and earned him an RBI was a nice touch.
Carlos Beltran threw a runner out at home plate, but earlier in the game he made a strong throw to third base after catching a fly ball. There was a man on second base who thought better of trying to tag, and it was just one of those plays that make baseball such a great game to watch live. It didn't show up in any box score, yet it was just an impressive athletic feat. The throw attracted the appreciation of the crowd. For me, it was just reminder of what could have been.
New Cover, Same Book
Despite the fact that I didn't expect to catch much of it due to playing in my first softball game of the year (1 for 2 with a nice ranging catch in my only chance in right field), Alex asked me to write the recap of last night's game in Tampa because he was going to be at Shea taking in his first ballgame of the year. As it turns out, we were both treated to similar games. At Shea, Alex witnessed a 10-3 thrashing of the Mets by the Phillies, with Tom Glavine suffering his third dreadful outing in six starts (3 2/3 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 6 BB, 1 K, 53 percent of 93 pitches for strikes). It is only in comparison to that line, which pushed Glavine's ERA over 7.00, that Kevin Brown's performance in the Yankees 11-4 loss to the Devil Rays last night can look like anything other than a disaster.
As per the division of labor here at Bronx Banter, now that Alex has hipped you to the changes the Yankees announced after last night's 6-2 victory over the Devil Rays, its my turn to try to figure out what effects they will have on the team's performance.
To begin with, the announced changes occur in three areas, defense, offense, and roster construction:
Defense: Robinson Cano replaces Tony Womack at second who replaces Hideki Matsui in left who replaces Bernie Williams in center.
Let's take them in order.
About Last Night
Buster Olney's "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty" is now out in paperback. Olney has written a new epilogue, which you can read over at ESPN...for free!
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All Shook Up
Let me just get this out of the way. At the risk of beating a dead horse: If the Yankees had signed Carlos Beltran, none of this would have ever happened. There, I said it. Enough. There's no use a-looking at spilt milk. The Yankees didn't sign Beltran. They were roundly criticized during the off-season all over the Internet. But it was hard not to think about this front office gaffe after reading this morning's papers.
In an effort to shake the team up, the Yanks are making some position changes: Robinson Cano is being called up from Columbus to play second base; Tony Womack will move to left field; Godziller Matsui shifts from left to center, and Bernie Williams moves from center to the bench/DH. As a result, Steve Karsay has been designated for assignment, and is likely to be picked up off of waivers. In addition, Randy Johnson will miss at least one start with a tender groin, and could be sent to the DL. Andy Phillips will likely be shipped down to Columbus today to make room for Double A starter, Sean Henn.
Matsui is the team's best option in center field right now. I don't think anyone can be surprised, or even dismayed to see Bernie finally move into a part-time role. As much as it saddens me to see him toward the end of his career, it's what is best for the team. The official reason for the move is that the tendinitis in Bernie's right elbow has effected his fielding. For his part, Williams handled the move with dignity:
"This move is to show everybody that nobody is indispensable," Williams said. "Everyone is expendable on this team. At least that's how I see it. You've got to prove yourself every day or else you will be replaced. All I have to do right now is make myself available, working hard. Hopefully, they'll have the confidence to put me back out there."
Tony Womack is saying all the right things too:
"I guess these guys want to win," Womack said. "So do I. So, go play and do what you've got to do.
I can't complain about seeing Cano get a chance to play second, but Womack in left field is a problem. The Bombers will get roasted over this one, and I figure, critics will say it serves the team right. However, it's unlikely that the Yanks won't end the season with Womack as their everyday left fielder. A trade will be made. With what, your guess is as good as mine. Right now, Bernie, Giambi, and eventually, Sierra will split time at DH.
I can't imagine anyone has any feelings about this. Yo, you may fire when ready, Grizzly.
Comedy of Errors
"Bad, bad, bad baseball,'' Piniella said. ``That's what it is. Bad, bad, bad baseball." (Tampa Bay Tribune)
The Yanks needed a win in the worst way, and the Devil Rays did everything they could to accomodate them. It was the kind of game that must have tried Lou Piniella's patience something serious, as the Rays fell to New York, 6-2. Unfortunately for Sweet Lou, it is the kind of performance that he has seen all too often in Tampa Bay. Leading 1-0, Ray Sanchez led off the fifth inning with a routine pop fly to right field. Rookie right fielder Damon Hollins made a curious leap when he got to the ball. He actually let it get behind him and botched the play in the process. Gary Sheffield, who is tearing the cover off the ball, laced a double to right, scoring Sanchez. He then stole third on Scott Kazmir's first pitch to Alex Rodriguez. With one out, Jorge Posada skied an 0-1 pitch into foul ground along the right field line. Hollins raced over and nearly ran past the play, making that little jump again. He made the catch and Sheffield tagged and scored easily. With a strike out pitcher on the mound, Hollins might have been wise to let the ball go there.
He redeemed himself with a single in his next at bat, and scored when Alex Sanchez hit a two-run dinger off Mike Mussina. It was the only significant mistake that Mussina made all night. Overall, his pitches were sharper than they've been all year. He pitched seven solid innings, relieved by Flash Gordon in the eighth, then Rivera, who struck out the side in the ninth.
The Yanks added three more runs in the eighth, thanks in part to a miscommunication in center that allowed Bernie Williams' bloop to fall in for a single, and a throwing error by pitcher Travis Harper on a sacrifice bunt by Derek Jeter. The Bombers got the win, but the Rays gave them a helping hand. It wasn't pretty--just ask rookie Andy Phillips, who struck out swining five times--but it was a win.
The Devil Rays
The Devil Rays team the Yankees will face over the next four nights in Tampa has changed slightly from the one they faced two weeks ago at the Stadium.
To begin with, the Yankees themselves knocked Rob Bell out of the Tampa rotation when they scored ten runs off him in one and one-third innings on April 18. He's been replaced by 24-year-old Doug Waechter, who was once an exciting up-and-comer for the Rays, but in two starts has looked more like the Old Mussina than the prospect of 2003. Waechter was in the pen two weeks ago, where he pitched much better than Bell has since switching places with him.
When Bell made that ill-fated start against the Yankees, he was moved up a day to do so to fill in for the injured Mark Hendrickson, who has since enjoyed a 15-day stint on the DL and is now back in action, having performed modestly in one start since being activated. Hendrickson will start Thursday against Chien-Ming Wang. Waechter starts tomorrow against Kevin Brown.
Overall, the Devil Rays' pitching has been awful. They have a 6.21 team ERA and only set-up man Travis Harper has a WHIP below 1.50 (0.83, but a 6.32 ERA). Conversely, only closer Danys Baez has an ERA below 4.00, but he has an equal number of saves and blow saves (one of each), and identical walk and strikeout rates of 4.91 per 9 IP. Recognizing that quantity does not guarantee quality (something the Yankees have yet to figure out), the Rays have slimmed down to eleven pitchers, as I mentioned in my previous post. They did this by demoting another once-exciting young prospect, 24-year-old Seth McClung, who returned to Durham with a 12.19 ERA and a 2.13 WHIP after nine appearances with the big club.
The Rays have replaced McClung on the other side of the ball by calling up yet another 24-year-old prospect, outfielder Jonny Gomes. Gomes got two cups of Turkish Coffee (too small and too overwhelming) in the past two years, but finally seems to be clicking, forcing his way into the lineup, primarily in left field, forcing Carl Crawford to center and Alex Sanchez to the bench (good news for Rays fans).
Throughout the line-up, the Rays are hitting so poorly that Lou Piniella is desperately shifting playing time around to get his hottest hitters in the line-up. Gomes (corner outfield), Nick Green (3B/2B), and Eduardo Perez (1B, and sure to start against Randy Johnson on Wednesday), are the only members of the Devil Rays' 25-man roster with OPSs above .800. One wonders how long it will take Lou to snap and exile Chris Singleton (.250/.294/.250, .195 GPA) in favor of Joey Gathright (who hit for a .309 GPA in his six games with the club during Alex Sanchez's suspension), giving the Rays the outfield they should have installed at the beginning of the season of Crawford, Gathright and Gomes.
In the infield, the underachieving Alex Gonzalez, Josh Phelps, and Travis Lee are finding themselves having to fight for playing time, while Aubrey Huff is once again being bounced around between right field, first base and DH, playing a different position in each of his last three games. Julio Lugo isn't hitting either, but Gonzalez is the only other man who can play shortstop (donde esta B.J. Upton?) and he's been even worse, opening up third base to Nick Green's advances.
All of this adds up to the Devil Ray's having the third-worst record in baseball (above only the Rockies and Royals). The Yankees, by the way, have the fifth-worst record in the majors, only the equally-disappointing Indians falling in-between tonight's two opponents. Speaking of tonight, the Yanks send the Old Moose up against the Rays' Young and Spritely ace Scott Kazmir. The Devil Rays enter this series on a seven-game losing streak and Kazmir has yet to win a game this year, despite hurling seven innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox two starts ago (the only one of his starts his team won, but Baez vultured the win). Pessimists start your engines!
Bringing the Sturtze Down on the Pen
Tanyon Sturtze, who is eligible to come off the disabled list tomorrow, will work two or three innings in an extended spring training game in Tampa today and rejoin the team at the Tropicana Dome tomorrow. This means a roster move is imminent, but looking at the Yankees' pen, exactly what that move will be is not obvious.
Despite what Joe Torre might have said (and I'm still not sure he wasn't kidding) the Yankees are not going to reduce their bench to three men in order to carry 13 pitchers. On the other hand, Sturtze's return in and of itself does not force the team to scale back to eleven (as the Devil Rays have recently done, as we'll see later today). That said, now might be a good time to package two relievers in a trade to both clear room for Sturtze and get down to six men in the pen in one foul swoop. If that were the case, Mike Stanton would be staying, because he has a no trade clause, though he could still be bought out and released.
This is a popular topic in the press, as well it should be, though no one seems to have anything resembling a clue as to who's on the way out. Tom Gordon and Buddy Groom, who can't be returned to Columbus without passing through waivers, appear to be safe, and obviously Mo isn't going anywhere, but there are mixed reports on Stanton and the remaining three--Steve Karsay, Paul Quantrill, and Felix Rodriguez--are anybody's guess.
Check the stats here and let us know in comments who you think should go. I'll chime in later.
It Ain't Easy
"It's tough, I don't care how good you are or how good you're supposed to be," [Manager, Joe] Torre said. "Until you can start going out there and winning with regularity, you know, basically your confidence is not where you want it to be, and that's just the human part of this game."
So I got all my chores done and cleared my afternoon to do nothing but lay on the couch and enjoy the ball game. The skies had cleared. After a lousy Saturday, the sun was shinning, and the stadium looked great for "Bat Day." More than three-and-a-half trying hours later, I tried to come up with the word that best described the game, as well as the 2005 Yankees so far. "Exasperating," was the best I could do. Even worse, I came seem to shake the sensation that this team hasn't hit rock bottom yet. After three straight well-pitched games by the Bronx Bombers, Carl Pavano and the bullpen allowed eight runs on sixteen hits, turning a 6-3 fifth inning lead, into an 8-6 loss. Oy veh.
If This Is Wang I Don't Want To Be Wright
Yesterday afternoon, in his major league debut, 25-year-old righty Chien-Ming Wang (pronounced "Chin-Ming Wong") retired the first ten batters he faced on 24 pitches and shut out the Blue Jays through his first four innings. In the fifth he gave up a pair of runs on a single, a full-count walk, a pair of groundouts that moved the runners up, and an infield single. In the sixth he worked out of a two-on, no-outs jam on eight pitches, and in the seventh the only hit he allowed was a one-out wet-grass bunt by Russ Adams, who was then stranded at first base.
Throughout Wang appeared unflappable, lulling the Blue Jays to sleep with his easy motion. Wang takes two pauses in his wind up, one when he brings his hands over his head, and another when he lifts his leg. He then appears to soft toss the ball to home, but in reality he whips his right arm producing mid-nineties heat. Over the course of his seven innings of work, he broke countless bats and produced ground balls by a nearly 3:1 ratio. His final line was 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 0 K, 67 percent of a mere 81 pitches for strikes.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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