Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Monthly archives: May 2008


That Sinking Feeling
2008-05-31 15:29
by Alex Belth

Dear Chien-Ming,

I have really enjoyed watching you pitch over the past few years. I know that you have run into a little bit of trouble recently and I just wanted to let you know that we're still behind you and that we'll be rooting for you tonight. Who cares that ground balls tend to zip through the infield out there in Minnie. Do your thing, Strech.

Sending all my best,


p.s. Let's Go Yan-Kees!

Yankee Panky #52: Under the Radar
2008-05-31 05:50
by Will Weiss

Take the Mets' struggles, add the Willie Randolph-SportsNet NY "Will he be fired" drama, and for good measure, bring Joe Torre's return to New York into the mix, and you have a recipe for keeping Yankee news relatively quiet for a week. The big news, and rightfully so, is Ian Kennedy's timely placement on the disabled list, which paves the way for Joba Chamberlain to mosey into the rotation Tuesday night in Toronto. Despite everyone, including me, espousing what they believe Joba's role is best suited to be, this shift was inevitable. Given the dilapidated state of the rotation, he could very well become the most reliable arm in the quintet.

Mark Feinsand, in this morning's editions of the Daily News, wrote that Joba should not be treated as a savior. He's right, and so is Joe Girardi, who is no magician at concealing his disdain for the hype.

"It doesn't matter what I say," Girardi told reporters. "Every time he came out of the bullpen people expected him not to give up a run. When there is a lot of hype around you it's hard to control people's expectations, and I understand that."

This means LaTroy Hawkins must figure out how to get people out in the seventh inning, provided Joe Girardi wants to enlist the former Cub tandem and disreputable law firm of Hawkins and Farnsworth to preserve leads in crunchtime.

I'm curious to see how things develop in terms of coverage, pressure from Steinbrenners the Younger, depending on Joba's success.

One thing that we as fans and not-so-casual observers can agree upon: the rotation needs an anchor, and at this point, why not Joba?

Continue reading...
Now I Hold My Crotch Cause I'm Top Notch
2008-05-30 18:58
by Alex Belth

Yesterday I quoted a passage from Roger Angell about Reggie Jackson. Angell wrote that no matter what Reggie Jackson did at the plate--make a weak out, get a single or hit a home run--it was "full value." I feel the same way about Alex Rodriguez in a way that I haven't for any player since probably Reggie himself. At the very least, I don't know that I've craved full value from a player more than anyone since Reggie. It's an infantile reaction yet one that is also based on an adult's appreciation of greatness.

At some point in my twenties I really started appreciating great players simply for being great. Players that I might have found a reason to despise as a kid--because I didn't like their name or the way they looked--I became resigned to appreciating. It's as if there was an invisible line in my mind and after a guy surpassed it and reached a certain level of excellence it was my responsibility to admire them first and foremost. Everything else was about my petty hang-ups. Unless of course I thought he was a mook because of something I knew about him off-the-field, like he beat his wife or something like that.

It's not that Rodriguez necessarily provides full value in all of his at-bats, it's that we demand it from him and when he fails it has a weight that seperates him from other players, even other great players. It's the money, the looks and the talent. I've seen Rodriguez in the locker room and he has the self-possessed narcissicm of an elite model. He knows you want to stare at him. He looks like Superman and he's pretty too. He almost glows. But most of all, it is the blinding talent. The pursuit of something perfect. I love the drama of that. That a strikeout or a failure to drive in a runner from second seems bigger, deeper with Rodriguez.

I derive full value from his at bats because of the expectations I place on them. For me, each of his at-bats holds the promise of getting to watch one of the great all time players do something great. It's like sheer sensation. Rodriguez's swing was mentioned as one of the finest thing in sports in a terrific thread over at YankeefanvsSox fan on Friday that was sparked by Mark Lamster's appreciation of Mariano Rivera.

Just standing in the box, he looks like the ulitimate hitter. He's greater than Reggie Jackson and yet lacks the thing that made Jackson great, separated him from the other great players, the thing that has made Jeter great. But there is value in watching Rodriguez fail because he is playing for immortality.

On Friday night against Glen Perkins, the Twins' young left-hander, Rodriguez provided full value in each of his first three at-bats. Early during his first time up Rodriguez ripped a ball foul down the left field line. His swing was so quick, he hit it so hard that he smiled as he got back in the box. (According to Michael Kay, Rodriguez had put on a show during bp.) He worked the count and then smashed a line drive right at the shortstop, knocking him two steps back. Rodriguez's swing was perfect and when he bounced out of his follow-through, he stood erect as if to punctuate just how hard he had just struck the ball. It was the move of a Roman emperor, regal, arrogant, justified. Even in making an out, Rodriguez had won.

In his next at bat, Rodriguez worked the count and then drilled a liner to left for an RBI single. He stood up again after his follow through. At first I was a little taken aback, thinking he might have had a chance at a double if he had been running instead of admiring. But after seeing the replay, his display, while no less cocky, was understandable because he knew that he had hit the ball too hard get a double. The next time up, Rodriguez crushed a line drive over the centerfielder's head for an RBI double and drove Perkins from the game. But the at bat was such a pleasure to watch--Rodriguez locked in, laying off the weak stuff, getting good hacks at the rest, even the few that he swung through--that the outcome seemed secondary.

He was grazed by the second pitch the next time up and hit a high pop fly that dropped in front of a diving Carlos Gomez for a hustle double in the ninth.

In addition to Rodriguez, Abreu had three hits including two triples. Melky had three hits, and Hideki Matsui continued to deliver. He's on such a hot streak that it seems as if his every blooper and bleeder drives in a run. The Yanks had 16 hits in all. Mike Mussina was hurt by Shelley Duncan's error in the first which led to four runs, but he didn't completely lose it, went six, and improved his record to 8-4. Farmadooke gave up an eighth inning solo shot to Justin Morneau which closed a Yankee lead to 6-5, before Mariano Rivera closed the door in the ninth.

Mike Lamb swung at the first pitch Rivera threw him, cracked his bat, and softly lined the ball at Rivera's feet. The sound of the ball coming off the bat was piteful. Brendan Harris got in two good hacks, worked the count full and then took a cutter, low on the inside corner for ball four. A pitch Rivera usually gets. Gomez fouled off the second pitch from Rivera and broke his bat. He lunged and fouled off a cutter, outside, and then waved at another one, further outside, for strike three.

"School is in session," said Ken Singleton on the YES broadcast.

Pinch-hitter Craig Monroe took a called strike on the outside corner then laid off a fastball, high. He swung late and through another cutter and ended the game looking down as a pee at the knees crossed the outside corner. Precision. Artistry. Something close to perfection.

Yanks 6, Twins 5.

Minnesota Twins
2008-05-30 12:44
by Cliff Corcoran

Minnesota Twins

2007 Record: 79-83 (.488)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 80-82 (.495)

2008 Record: 28-25 (.528)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 25-28 (.480)

Manager: Ron Gardenhire
General Manager: Bill Smith

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (96/96)

Who's Replacing Whom:

Carlos Gomez replaces Torii Hunter
Delman Young replaces Jason Tyner and Lew Ford
Brendan Harris replaces Luis Castillo
Adam Everett replaces Jason Bartlett
Alexi Casilli is filling in for Everett (DL) in the infield, while Howie Clark is filling in for Everett on the roster
Mike Lamb replaces Nick Punto at third base
Matt Macri is filling in for Punto (DL) on the bench
Craig Monroe replaces Jeff Cirillo
Nick Blackburn inherits Johan Santana's starts
Kevin Slowey inherits Matt Garza's starts
Livan Hernandez replaces Carlos Silva
Glen Perkins is taking the place of Scott Baker (DL) in the rotation
Baker inherited Sidney Ponson's starts
Jesse Crain inherits the relief innings of Pat Neshek (DL)
Brian Bass replaces Ramon Ortiz
Craig Breslow replaces the relief innings of Perkins, Blackburn, and Julio DePaula

25-man Roster:

1B - Justin Morneau (L)
2B - Alexi Casilla (S)
SS - Brendan Harris (R)
3B - Mike Lamb (L)
C - Joe Mauer (L)
RF - Michael Cuddyer (R)
CF - Carlos Gomez (R)
LF - Delmon Young (R)


R - Craig Monroe (OF)
R - Mike Redmond (C)
L - Howie Clark (IF)
R - Matt Macri (IF)


R - Nick Blackburn
R - Livan Hernandez
R - Kevin Slowey
L - Glen Perkins
R - Boof Bonser


R - Joe Nathan
R - Matt Guerrier
L - Dennys Reyes
R - Juan Rincon
R - Jesse Crain
R - Brian Bass
L - Craig Breslow

15-day DL: R - Adam Everett (SS), S - Nick Punto (IF), S - Matt Tolbert (IF), R - Scott Baker
60-day DL: R - Pat Neshek

Typical Lineup:

R - Carlos Gomez (CF)
S - Alexi Casilla (2B)
L - Joe Mauer (C)
L - Justin Morneau (1B)
R - Michael Cuddyer (RF)
L - Jason Kubel (DH)
R - Delmon Young (LF)
L - Mike Lamb (3B)
R - Brendan Harris (SS)

Continue reading...

Dropping Science like when Galileo Dropped the Orange
2008-05-30 10:40
by Alex Belth

Excellent post by Tyler Kepner over at Bats today. I'm tempted to excerpt it but I like the whole damn thing and can't make up my mind what to choose without lifting it all. So, just go over and check it out.

And speaking of dropping science, well, I just can't resist.

May Farm Report
2008-05-29 18:54
by Cliff Corcoran

Hey, check it out, I remembered to do another one of these! (For those who missed it, here's the April Farm Report.) This month I'm adding bold faced names.

Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre

The big news out of Scranton is the impending opt-out of Jason Lane and the recent signing of Ben Broussard. Lane has hit .287/.387/.521 in May and can opt-out at the end of the month (which is tomorrow). A righty outfielder who has been working out at first base, he's just an older Shelley Duncan with more major league experience, but given the poor performance of the newer model, it may be worth giving the old chassis another kick.

Former Indian and Mariner Broussard is a 31-year-old lefty first baseman who can play the outfield corners. He was signed by the Rangers during the offseason and released by them earlier this month. His .225/.288/.393 career line against lefties in the major leagues makes him a bad fit for the Yankees and is the reason he was available in the first place. He has three doubles and a walk in seven plate appearances for Scranton.

Speaking of first-base depth, or the lack thereof, Juan Miranda is back on the DL after reinjuring his shoulder. He played just six games in May. Eric Duncan's promising April turned into a typically disappointing May (.205/.300/.269).

That .269 SLG for Duncan makes me wonder if the wind was blowing in all month, as Brett Gardner's April power surge also vanished in May as his game returned to it's previous form with outstanding on-base (.431) and stolen-base numbers (15 for 18), but a sub-.400 slugging percentage. On the season, Gardner is hitting .285/.405/.442 with 19 steals in 26 attempts (73 percent success).

Shifting to the pitchers, with Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy on the DL, Joba Chamberlain moving into the rotation alongside Darrell Rasner, Kei Igawa having shown that he's made no improvements since last year, Steven White having been bounced to the bullpen, and Alan Horne having been on the DL since early April, the sixth starter on the Yankee depth chart is converted reliever Dan Giese, who posted a 2.59 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 3.38 K/BB ratio in five May starts. Jeff Marquez was better in May than he was in April, but still had just two quality starts in five tries. Jeff Karstens has yet to achieve the feat since being activated and optioned. He was awful in his last start. Daniel McCutchen could surpass Giese by the time I do my next Farm Report. His one triple-A start thus far was quality, though he gave up ten hits and took the loss.

Things are more encouraging out in the bullpen. After a rough April, Scott Patterson found his footing in May and posted a 1.59 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP, and struck out eight men against just one walk. He's now the triple-A closer. J.B. Cox has yet to allow a run in triple-A and has a 0.55 WHIP, though he's struck out just three men in 7 1/3 innings. David Robertson, who like Cox and McCutchen was promoted during May, has struck out 14 in 13 triple-A innings without allowing a home run and posted a 2.77 ERA, but has also walked 10. Once he gets those walks down, he'll be ready.

Continue reading...

Extra Value is What You Get
2008-05-29 18:09
by Alex Belth

YES is broadcasting Game 6 of the 1978 World Serious tonight. I tuned in just in time to catch Reggie's bomb of Bob Welch, a first pitch shot that served as revenge for Welch's dramatic K of Jackson earlier in the series. Jackson admired the blast, though his posturing is tame by today's standards, and then tipped his hat to the Dodger faithful after he crossed home plate. In a short, 1994 New Yorker tribute to Jackson called "Swingtime," Roger Angell noted this home run as one of Jackson's career highlights. Here's more from the piece:

Coming up out of the dugout before his next at-bat in a big game, Reggie Jackson was always accompanied by an invisible entourage: he was the heavyweight champion headed down the aisle for another title defense. The batter's box was his prize ring, and once he'd dug in there--with those gauntleted arms, the squashed-down helmet, the shades and the shoulders--all hearts beat faster. It really didn't matter what came next--a pop-up or a ground ball, a single or a dinger, or one of those tunneling-to-Peru strikeouts that ended with his helmet askew, his massive legs twisted into taffy ropes, and the man lurching and staggering as he fought for balance down there in the center of our shouting--because what he gave us, game after game, throughout a twenty-one-year career, was full value.

...From first to last, he was excessive; he excelled at excess...His ego, like his swing, took your breath away, but the dazzled, infuriated beat writers and columnists had to concede that it probably arose from the same deeply hidden, unforgiving self-doubt that whipped him to such baseball hieghts, mostly in the hard late going.

I think Angell gets to the heart of Jackson's gift--no matter what he did when he was at-bat, he always gave us full value. There aren't many athletes you can say that about.

He Punches like a F****** Mule Kick
2008-05-29 16:48
by Alex Belth


I know the NBA home office will be thrilled and delighted if the Celtics and Lakers reach the Finals, something that is a very real possibility (the Lakers can knock the Spurs out tonight, the Celts can finish the Pistons tomorrow). If that happens, we'll see plenty of highlights from the 80s, when both teams brought out the best (and occasionally the worst) in each other and generally elevated the game to spirited heights of competiveness. And we'll also hear from the old cast of characters, including Bill Russell.

Here is a classic story from "Second Wind: Memoirs of an Opinonated Man," by Russell with the historian Taylor Branch (1979, Random House; currently out-of-print). It's about Russell's grandfather and his mule, Kate. Russell's family was from Monroe, Louisiana and he lived down there until he was about ten (his family later moved to the Bay Area where Russell played junior high hoops with Frank Robinson, who in turn played baseball with Curt Flood and Vada Pinson). He called his father's father, The Old Man. When Russell was four or five (1938-9), he followed his grandfather and Kate around one day:

I could tell that Kate and the Old Man understood each other. One day I was walking along with them when Kate decided to go off and stand in a ditch. Being an honest mule, she had a stubborn, mulish personality, and she stood there with this determined look on her face. It was as if Kate were saying, Okay, I got you now. We're going to do this my way." The Old Man did everything he could to get Kate back up on the road. I watched him talk to her, and push, pull, shove and kick—a tough job, because there must have been nine hundred pounds of mule there. The Old Man would get Kate's front up on the raod and be cooing into her ear, but when he walked around to pull up her taile end, the front would sidle back into the ditch again—so he'd take a deep breath and start over. I was taking all this in, and I couldn't believe that the Old Man didn't lose his temper.

After a long ordeal, Kate finally wound up back on the road. The Old Man looked exhausted, and the mule must have taken some satisfaction from all the effort she'd cost him. She looked fresh and relaxed, standing there as warm and lazy as the country air. The Old Man leaned on Kate and rested there for a minute or two; then out of nowhere he hauled off and punched her with his bare fist. Wack, just once, right on the side of the neck. The thud was so loud that I must have jumped a foot. The mule gently swayed back and forth groggily; then her front legs buckled and she collapsed to her knees. Then the hindquarters slowly buckled and settled down too. Kate looked all bent and contorted, like a squatting camel, as she sat there with a vacant stare in her eyes. I was dumbstruck. Right in front of my eyes the Old Man had knocked out a MULE with one punch.

He never said a word to me or to the mule. He just let Kate sit there for a minute, and then he grabbed her by the head and picked her up. "Okay, let's go," he said quietly, and we started off again as if nothing had happened.

That sight stuck in my mind so vividly that I learned a practical lesson from it. I got into very few fights when I played for the Celtics, but every single one of them was in the last quarter, after the game was decided. You have to choose when to fight, and that is the time. The Old Man knew he'd have been in big trouble if he'd knocked that mule down in the ditch, so he waited until it didn't cost him anything. Then he relieved his frustration and gave Kate something to think about.

Eat your heart out Mongo.

Getting Closer to God in a Tight Situation
2008-05-29 16:35
by Alex Belth

Thanks to Pete Abraham, I caught Mike Hayes' interview with Bob Sheppard over at a place called Busted Halo:

BH: What a lot of people don't know about you is that you've been a speech teacher for most of your life at the high school and college level. Do you consider yourself a speech teacher first and the Yankee announcer second?

BS: I'm a teacher first and a Yankee announcer second or maybe third or fourth. Primarily, my whole training has been to be a speech teacher. That's what I decided to do when I was early in college at St. John's (University in New York). For many years I was teaching high school speech during the day, St. John's in the late afternoons and evenings and some of the summer times, and in the meantime, I was still at Yankee Stadium doing the night games and the weekend games.

We will hopefully see Mr. Sheppard later this summer. The old place just ain't the same without him.

Back in Business
2008-05-29 09:13
by Alex Belth

For the past couple of seasons, Jay Jaffe's blogging has slowed considerably as his writing for BP, the New York Sun, etc. has increased. However, Jay's been back at it this spring at The Futility Infielder, which is good news for us. Check out this recent post on Doc Ellis and this fine one on his grandfather, Bernie.

Today gives Jay's excellent piece on Marvin Miller. Peep, don't sleep.

Strictly Business
2008-05-28 22:13
by Cliff Corcoran

Last night, Andy Pettitte turned in his third straight quality start, the Yankee offense scattered four runs against Jeremy Guthrie and company, and Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera, likely appearing as a relief tandem for the last time, combined to nail down the Yankees' win.

The first two batters Pettitte faced reached base, but Andy wiggled out of the jam. In the top of the second, Hideki Matsui doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch, and Jason Giambi miraculously hit a groundball RBI single through the right side of a drawn-in and shifted infield that had three men lined up on the edge of the grass between first and second base.

In the third, Melky Cabrera led off with a double and moved to third on a groundout, but Derek Jeter struck out and Bobby Abreu was unable to pick his captain up. Brian Roberts began the bottom of the third with and infield single and Melvin Mora made it count with a two-run homer off Pettitte, but Giambi evened things up with a 410-foot shot to Eutaw Street (his second plaque-worthy shot in as many days) with two outs in the top of the fourth.

In the fifth, Jeter made up for his missed opportunity earlier in the game by hitting a sac fly to plate Cabrera from third with one out following another Melky double advanced by a Damon hit. Roberts doubled in the bottom of the inning, but Andy Pettitte picked him off second, catching him cold a third of the way off the bag. That was the key play in the game as the Yankees never relinquished their slim 3-2 lead.

Chamberlain came on with two out and none on in the seventh to face Mora, who had a bunt single, a homer, and a walk against Pettitte to that point. Mora singled off Chamberlain, and Joba walked Nick Markakis to put the go-ahead run on base, but he settled down from there, striking out Kevin Millar and cruising through the eighth with two more Ks.

The Yankees added a run in the ninth, which made the decision to leave Chamberlain in to finish the game seem like an obvious one given that he was scheduled to throw 55 pitches and had thrown only 28, but Joe Girardi proved he's a slave to the save and brought in Mariano Rivera the day after his 31-pitch outing on Wednesday night.

Not that it was a terrible call, just a needless one. Mo pitched around an Alex Rodriguez error for a scoreless ninth to nail down the win, and Chamberlain finished his work in the bullpen, throwing 14 pitches, sitting to simulate an inning break, throwing pre-inning warmups, then finishing with 13 pitches to hit his 55-pitch goal.

It was a quick and easy game that helped the Yankees avoid embarrassment and head into their off day and trip out to Minnesota with a good feeling. All decisions on Joba's next appearance and exactly who will replace Ian Kennedy in the rotation early next week remain to be made. It was just a good, solid 4-2 win in which nothing went wrong and no one got hurt.

I'll take that.

Salvage Operation
2008-05-28 13:11
by Cliff Corcoran

The Yankees arrived in Baltimore looking to build on a five-game winning streak and continue their climb into the thick of the AL East race. Instead, they find themselves sending Andy Pettitte to the mound tonight in an attempt to avoid a sweep, while being guaranteed to arrive in Minneapolis as a last-place team, even if they pull out a win tonight.

Pettitte's opponent, Jeremy Guthrie, is the only Baltimore starter who has not yet faced the Yankees this year. Guthrie beat the Yanks twice amid his 2007 breakout season, but stumbled against them in their final confrontation in August. With Erik Bedard in Seattle, Guthrie has responded to the responsibility of being the O's best starter this year, following a poor Opening Day outing with eight quality starts in ten tries (and just missing in the other two). Guthrie has a 3.22 ERA over that span. Unfortunately, his teammates have only scored 3.09 runs per game for him, saddling him with a losing 2-4 record over that stretch. In his last two starts, Guthrie allowed just two runs in 13 2/3 innings, but lost both games by scores of 2-1 and 2-0. Given that the two teams just played an exhausting 10-9 11-inning affair last night, I wouldn't be surprised to see a similarly low-scoring game tonight.

Pettitte is coming off a pair of quality starts in which he struck out 16 men in 12 innings against just two walks and no home runs. Chad Moeller caught both of those starts and he'll catch Pettitte again tonight. Moeller is 4 for his last 12 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch, and in catching Darrell Rasner's and Andy Pettitte's recent successes could indeed be securing his roster spot beyond Jorge Posada's expected return next week. This is why giving Jose Molina a two-year $4-million deal was a dumb idea. As I concluded my post suggesting the Yankees resign him: "Jose Molina is as good a choice as any, and he can be easily replaced mid-season if he fails to maintain a replacement-level performance."

2008-05-28 10:08
by Alex Belth

Funny thing happened on my way home last night. As I was walking across 6th avenue my ankle gave in. It's the same foot I broke years ago and it remains prone to twisting. I got a cab home and then Emily took me to the emergency room. Fortunately, nothing's broken--there might be a minor fracture, otherwise just some torn ligaments, a bad sprain. I got suited up with crutches and returned home to watch Mariano's two innings. Then I went to bed. I didn't even hear about Derek Jeter's tough night until this morning. Pete Abraham called it one of Jeter's worst games as a Yankee. In the most recent edition of The Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman writes:

Back in December, writing the Jeter comment for this year's Baseball Prospectus annual, I said, "For years, Jeter's offense has made him a net positive at shortstop despite his defense. The second half of 2007, taken together with his age, suggests that the day of reckoning may finally have arrived." Emphasis on "may" added-if you have the book, you will note that the qualifier isn't there. Cliff Corcoran, who reviewed the text in his sagacious way, and an experienced follower of the Yankees in his own right, argued that we should strike it, making the statement more definitive: "The day of reckoning has finally arrived."

"Argue" is probably too strong a word for what Cliff did, as I didn't argue with him. I noted the change and mentally shrugged, saying, "He's right. By all available evidence, the time has come." Yet, in the back of my mind, I was still hedging. "This is Derek Jeter! He's got an edge, baby!" (Of course he does; he's the only one who can afford the gas.) As time has gone by, I've become more convinced that that change was the right one, and become grateful for it, as Jeter's performance has borne out the more emphatic prediction.

Tough times for Jeter and the Yanks right about now.

The Best Laid Plans . . .
2008-05-27 19:07
by Cliff Corcoran

The Yankees and Orioles combined to hit nine home runs through the first five innings of last night's game. By the time the smoke cleared, both starting pitchers were gone (though the Yankees' Ian Kennedy left due to a strained latissimus dorsi muscle after a scoreless inning) and the game was tied at 8-8. Seven relievers then combined to push the game past a one-hour rain delay and into the 11th inning with the score unchanged.

Facing Matt Albers in the Oriole hurler's second inning of work, Johnny Damon led off the top of the 11th with a walk. Derek Jeter followed Damon and reached base when Baltimore third baesman Melvin Mora picked up a bunt that might have run foul. When Mora threw that ball to first base only to discover that Brian Roberts wasn't covering the bag, Jeter and Damon moved up to second and third. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley then had Albers walk Bobby Abreu to set up the force at every base despite the fact that it would bring Alex Rodriguez to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs. The gamble paid off as Rodriguez took a ball, then hit a screaming one-hopper at the drawn-in Roberts. Roberts dropped to a knee and snagged the ball as it skipped over his head, then started a 4-2-5 double-play that erased Damon at home and Jeter by an eyelash at third base. Still, with men on first and second, Hideki Matsui delivered a two-out RBI single right through Albers' legs to give the Yankees a 9-8 lead heading into the bottom of the 11th.

To that point, Joe Girardi had done what I've long admonished Yankee managers to do, that is use Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of a tied game on the road. The first part of the plan worked perfectly. Rivera pitched two scoreless innings, extending the game to the point at which the Yankees were able to take a lead in the top of the 11th. Unfortunately, because of Kennedy's injury, by that point Giardi had also used both Edwar Ramirez and Kyle Farnsworth for 1 1/3 scoreless innings each and Ross Ohlendorf for 2 1/3 innings of long relief, leaving just LaTroy Hawkins and Jose Veras in his bullpen.

Both Hawkins and Veras had pitched and pitched poorly the night before with nearly identical pitch totals. Girardi chose Hawkins, who had thrown 12 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings prior to Monday, over Veras, who had allowed four runs over his last 4 1/3 innings, all four runs being scored by the Orioles on home runs by Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott, who were the third and fourth hitters due up in the bottom of the 11th. It was the right choice, but Girardi got the wrong result.

Hawkins gave up a leadoff single to Melvin Mora, then, after a fly out, a game-tying double into the left field gap by Huff. The relay home from defensive replacement Melky Cabrera to Jeter to catcher Jose Molina was just a bit late and offline and allowed Huff to advance to third. Girardi then intentionally walked Scott and Kevin Millar, who had two of those nine early-game homers, to set up the force at every base in the hope of an inning-ending double play, or at the very least a force out at home. Instead, Alex Cintron, who had pinch-run earlier in the game, hit the first pitch he saw from Hawkins to deep right field. It might have been the second out, but it was deep enough to plate Huff with the winning run even if it was. Bobby Abreu chased it briefly but ultimately let it fall as the Orioles began to celebrate their 10-9 win.

It was an ugly, sloppy game that saw the teams combine to make five errors, and the Yankees blow a pair of four-run leads (one by Kennedy, one by Ohlendorf), but Joe Girardi gave his team its best chance to walk away the victors. The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry and leave us not but grief and pain for promised joy.

As for Ian Kennedy, he might have solved the Yankees' rotation crunch by landing on the DL with that lat strain. He'll also allow the Yankees to bring up a reliever today to stock the overtaxed bullpen. Joba Chamberlain's scheduled outing tonight should also help give the pen some needed rest. The Yankees won't be able to speculate about Joba's ability to take Kenendy's next start until they see the former's performance tonight, however.

Continue reading...

No Pressure
2008-05-27 14:35
by Cliff Corcoran

Ian Kennedy starts for the Yankees tonight. Joba Chamberlain is scheduled to throw 50 to 55 pitches tomorrow night. These two facts are not unrelated.

Chamberlain's pitch counts will increase by ten-to-15 pitches with each outing, and Joe Girardi has acknowledged that Joba's next appearance after tomorrow night's game (or Friday night's, if tomorrow night's starter, Andy Pettitte, works too deep into tomorrow's game) might have to be a start, as Joba could be up to 70 pitches for that outing. While Girardi hasn't ruled out using a six-man rotation during this transition period, eventually Joba's arrival in the rotation will mean someone already in the rotation will have to leave it.

Looking at the names of the five Yankee starters, Darrell Rasner would seem like the odd man out, but he's been the Yankees' best starter in May, posting a 1.80 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP in four starts. Looking that the numbers, Kennedy and his 7.27 ERA is the obvious choice to get the boot, but unlike Andy Pettitte or Mike Mussina, Ian Kennedy is expected to be a part of the Yankees' future success, and thus any strides he makes toward that success need to be encouraged and built upon.

Kennedy has a much higher innings limit this season than either Chamberlain or the injured Phil Hughes, and thus his short outings in April and missed turns in May could already have sufficiently limited his innings for the season. That means the Yankees don't need to move Kennedy into the bullpen to protect his arm the way they did Chamberlain both last and this year. What's more, Kennedy's brief demotion to Scranton proved that he's already too good for the minor leagues. That is to say that, if Kennedy can pitch like he did at the end of last season, there's no good reason for the Yankees to take him out of the rotation.

Kennedy already has one plus in his column, as his last start, also against these Orioles, saw him turn in a strong six innings while allowing just one run. Still, Kennedy will have to repeat the feat tonight while decreasing his walks (he issued four in that last start) in order to have much hope of holding on to his rotation spot. If he does that, he'll make Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman's lives difficult, but in a very good way, and could shift the pressure to Old Man Mussina.

Behind Kennedy tonight, Wilson Betemit gets the start at first base while Melky Cabrera gets the night off and the Damatsambi rotates around to fill the gaps. They'll all face lefty Brian Burres, who out-duelled Kennedy last Thursday in the Bronx with 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball before Jason Johnson came on and blew the game. This will be Burres's third start of the season against the Bombers. He's allowed just that one run in 13 1/3 innings across his previous two starts against the Yanks, throwing 5 2/3 shutout innings against them at Camden Yards on April 19.

And Now, the End is Near
2008-05-27 10:26
by Alex Belth

It doesn't take long to go from top of the world to the end of the line, does it?  As Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodrgiuez continue to move past their prime years, I often wonder how long they will last. Which one will be injured the most?  Will one of them just fall off the table seemingly overnight?   

Trot Nixon was the heart of the Red Sox "Dirt Dog" teams just a minute ago.  Now, he's close to finished.  Here's an interesting AP story

No matter how it plays out, I think the transition to life after baseball might be particularly tough for Jeter. Here is Dennis Eckersley, always a straight-shooter, talking to Mike Bryan in spring training 1988, from the book "Baseball Lives:"

People say baseball players should go out and have fun. No way. To me, baseball is pressure. I always feel it. This is work. The fun is afterwards, when you shake hands.

When I was a rookie I'd tear stuff up. Now I keep it in. What good is smashing a light on the way up the tunnel? But I still can't sleep at night if I stink. I've always tried to change that and act like a normal guy when I got home. "Hi, honey, what's happening?" I can't. It's there. It doesn't go away. But maybe that's why I've been successful in my career, because I care. I don't have fun. I pitch scared. That's what makes me go. Nothing wrong with being scared if you can channel it.

I issued to hide behind my cockiness. Don't let the other team know you're scared. I got crazy on the mound. Strike a guy out, throw my fist around---"Yeah!" Not real classy, but I was a raw kid. I didn't care. It wasn't fake. It was me. This wasn't taken very kindly by a lot of people. They couldn't wait to light me up. That's the price you pay.

I wish I was a little happier in this game. What is so great about this shit? You get the money, and then you're used to the money. You start making half a million a year, next thing you know you need half a million a year. And the heat is on!

Used to be neat to just be a big-league ballplayer, but that wore off. I'm still proud, but I don't want people to bother me about it. I wish my personality with people was better. I find myself becoming short with people. Going to the store. Getting gas.

If you're not happy with when you're doing lousy, then not happy when you're doing well, when the hell are you going to be happy? This game will humble you in a heartbeat. Soon as you starting getting happy, Boom! For the fans---and this is just a guess---they think the money takes out the feeling. I may be wrong but I think they think, "What the hell is he worrying about? He's still getting' paid." There may be a few players who don't give 100 percent, but I always thought if you were good enough to make that kind of money, you'd have enough pride to play like that, wouldn't you think? You don't just turn it on or off.

In Case You Missed It...
2008-05-27 09:52
by Alex Belth

Go ahead and check out Joe Posnanski's post on Derek Jeter.

When You Want to Send a Steak Back, Michael Dorsey is a Name
2008-05-27 09:41
by Alex Belth

Has an actor's off-camera clashing with a director ever produced as much on-screen delight as the battle that was waged between Dustin Hoffman and Sydney Pollock in Tootsie?  I loved the Hoffman-Pollock scenes in "Tootsie," a movie filled with highlights (Bill Murray and Terri Garr almost walked off with the movie in smaller roles).  I thought of the Russina Tea Room scene this morning when I learned that Pollock died yesterday at the age of 73.  Hollywood has lost a true pro.

2008-05-26 14:38
by Alex Belth

What is your favorite grown-up indulgence?  On a daily basis, I'd have to say it is that I use paper towels with reckless abandon.  Maybe it was because they were practically rationed in my house as a kid.  Whatever the reason, I use them like mad when I'm in the kitchen cooking and I love it. 

On Sunday, I went out to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where my friend Johnny Red Sox and some of his pals have a serious wiffle ball game cooking each weekend (dude, they keep score, they are serious).  After playing a game, John threw me batting practice for fifteen minutes.  Talk about indulgence!  I just got to stand there and take my hacks.  A moment to savor for sure.


Check out the mascot...


And speaking of dogs...

Darrell Rasner pitched well once again allowing just one run in six innings, but the bullpen (Hawkins, Veras) gave up five in the seventh as the Orioles cruised to a 6-1 win.  The victory ended a five-game losing streak for Baltimore and a five-game winning streak for New York.

Baltimore Orioles III: Passing Ships Edition
2008-05-26 07:00
by Cliff Corcoran

The Yankees took two of three from the O's at the Stadium last week. Over the weekend, the Yanks swept the Mariners, while the O's were swept by the Rays. As a result, the formerly struggling Yankees slipped past the formerly hot Orioles at the bottom of the AL East standings. Expect those trends to continue.

The Orioles roster is unchanged from Thursday, but the Yankees have activated Wilson Betemit, optioning Alberto Gonzalez down to Scranton to make room for him. Garrett Olson, whom the Yankees chased in the third inning last Wednesday, starts this Memorial Day afternoon contest against Darrell Rasner, who pitched seven scoreless frames in that game and has been the Yankees' best pitcher the last few times through the rotation.

Despite his ugly performance yesterday, Shelley Duncan gets another start at first base against the lefty Olson while Jason Giambi takes his turn on the bench. I'm convinced that Jason Lane's May 31 out in his contract is motivating the extended look Duncan is getting despite his poor play, meaning that it's Duncan, who is essentially the exact same player as Lane only two years younger and without the ability to play center field in a pinch, who is in danger of losing his roster spot to the former Astros right fielder.

It's worth noting that the Yankees only outscored the Orioles by one run in last week's series. A more convincing series win in Baltimore would help the Bombers maintain the momentum they've built since Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup.

Don't Call It A Comeback
2008-05-25 15:36
by Cliff Corcoran

Pitching on an extra day of rest due to a mild calf strain suffered in his last start, Chien-Ming Wang wasn't sharp this afternoon. Joe Girardi speculated that the sinkerballer may have been a bit too strong due to the extra rest. Jose Molina reported that there was almost too much movement on Wang's pitches. Indeed, Wang walked four men in his first four innings.

With the game tied at 1-1, Wang walked Adrian Beltre on five pitches to start the fourth frame. Kenji Johnjima hit the next ball to shortstop, but came away with an infield single when Derek Jeter's throw pulled Shelley Duncan off the bag. Wang then walked Richie Sexson on five pitches to load the bases. Alex Rodriguez kept the game tied by picking up a hard grounder off the bat of Wladimir Balentien and firing home to force out Beltre, but Yuniesky Betancourt followed with a single past Rodriguez that gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead and kept the bases loaded with none out. Ichiro Suzuki, who had homered into the right field box seats for the first Mariner run in the previous inning, then hit a grounder to second that Duncan botched, allowing all hands to move up safely, making it 3-1 M's. Two pitches later, Jose Lopez hit a shot right at Duncan, who dropped the line drive but recovered in time to start a 3-2-6 double play as Suzuki had to hold near the bag on the liner, thus allowing Jose Molina to gun him out at second base to end the rally.

Their initial run having come on a two-out Johnny Damon double and Jeter single in the third, the Yankees squeaked out another tally in the fifth when Cano led off with a walk, Jose Molina singled, and Melky Cabrera bunted the pair to second and third base. Although it came fairly early in the game, I didn't have a problem with the bunt, as moving up two runners like that is actually the highest-leverage bunt a manager can call for short of a squeeze as it puts the offense an out away from one run and a hit away from two. In this case, it set up that situation for the top of the order with the Yankees trailing by exactly two runs. Unfortunately, Damon and Jeter only managed the outs thanks to a diving stop of a would-be Damon double down the right field line by Richie Sexson.

Hanging in with a 3-2 deficit, Joe Girardi sent Chien-Ming Wang back to the mound in the seventh inning having already thrown 97 pitches. Betancourt hit a bullet all the way to Johnny Damon for the first out, but the next three men all picked up hits, the last of them plating the first two to drive Wang from the game at 112 pitches trailing 5-2. Edwar Ramirez held the line there, but the bottom of the Yankee order failed to mount a threat against reliever Sean Green in the bottom of the seventh. Melky Cabrera did single with two outs in the seventh, but I found myself rooting against that hit, preferring that the top of the order be given a chance to mount a comeback against J.J. Putz's set-up men with a clean slate in the eighth. As it turns out, Damon grounded out as well and that's exactly what happened.

Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the eighth by battling back from 1-2 to draw a walk off Green. Inexplicably, Mariner manager John McLaren then emerged from the dugout to remove Green and give the ball to Arthur Rhodes. I know McLaren was going for the lefty-on-lefty matchup against Bobby Abreu, but if there's one thing every major league manager should know, it's don't give Arthur Rhodes the ball against the Yankees. Rhodes faced three men without getting an out in Saturday's game and today battled Abreu for eight pitches before surrendering a booming double into the right-field gap that made it 5-3 Yankees. That seemed to shake McLaren out of his stupor as he then removed Rhodes, who thus failed to get an out in two appearances in this series, and brought in his closer, Putz. Facing Alex Rodriguez who represented the potential tying run, Putz walked the defending AL MVP on six pitches and struck out Jason Giambi looking.

Girardi then sent up Hideki Matsui to pinch hit for Shelley Duncan, who had started in Matsui's place against the lefty Washburn. Matsui took a bad swing at the first pitch he saw and tapped a lousy hopper to the right of the mound, but it was just far enough to the right to cause problems. Putz lept off the mound and snagged the ball on a dive, falling face first into the grass and likely breaking up an easy 4-3 putout in the process. Gathering himself as Matsui reached the bag, Putz then inexplicably threw to first from his stomach, firing over Richie Sexson's lofty head and allowing Abreu to score and Rodriguez to advance to third base.

With the tying run now just 90 feet from home and only one man out, Robinson Cano creamed a 1-1 pitch from Putz to deep right center for a game-tying sac fly that was deep enough to allow Matsui to tag from first and advance to second on Ichiro Suzuki's arm. Jose Molina appeared to hit the next pitch to the same spot, but on a higher arch. Everyone in the park, including Molina, though it was the third out, but apparently he got it just far enough around to right (and perhaps just enough of the late-afternoon sun got in Suzuki's eyes) that the ball dropped on the lip of the warning track for an RBI double that gave the Yankees their first lead of the game.

As Mariano Rivera began to warm in the bullpen, Melky Cabrera grounded out on just two more pitches. Giardi thus let Ramirez warm up for the ninth only to pull his should-be set-up man just before the official start of the inning. Rivera, old pro that he is, warmed in a hurry and came in to pitch a perfect ninth inning, striking out the third and fourth men in the Seattle order to finish the job and nail down the 5-4 win.

That win, which was the Yankees' second late-inning comeback in the last four days as well as their second of the season, gave the Yankees their second three-game sweep of the season (both of the Mariners at home), brought their overall record back up to .500 at 25-25, and moved them out of last place in the hyper-competitive AL East, a half game ahead of the Orioles, whom they just beat in two of three games at home and will face in a three game series in Baltimore starting tomorrow afternoon.

Edwar Ramirez got the win and still hasn't allowed a run in 12 2/3 major league innings this year, but has struck out 15 men in those frames. He should get some serious attention as a set-up replacement for the transitioning Joba Chamberlain, who will pitch again Tuesday or Wednesday.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that Derek Jeter's throws have been poor all season. It appears that he's been releasing the ball late, thus firing the ball into the dirt and to the outfield side of the bag, as was the case in the play described above. As for Duncan's misadventures in the field, Shelley also went 0-for-3 at the plate and is hitting .176/.259/.275 on the season. If he's not going to play a viable first base or contribute at the plate, he may be the player who loses his roster spot to Jason Lane this week. The positive indicators for Duncan are that he's hitting .258/.333/.419 against lefties and not striking out at an inordinate rate in general. That's not great, but it's a sign of life.

What the Yankees have done since Alex Rodriguez has returned from the disabled list, a 5-1 record to this point, is a far more encouraging sign of life. Sure it's come against one poor team and one awful one, sure today's comeback was the result of a few lucky breaks, but this team has needed something to remind them that they've been here for years. Last year, the Yankees were seven games below .500 and 13.5 games behind the Red Sox on the morning of June 1. This year, they could have a winning record and be within five games of first place when the calendar flips to June. Don't call it a comeback.

No Surprises
2008-05-24 21:36
by Cliff Corcoran

Carlos Silva entered yesterday's game with a 9.62 career ERA against the Yankees. After two innings, he and the Mariners were trailing 4-0, thanks in large part to a three-run home run Silva gave up to Jason Giambi. Mike Mussina gave those four runs back in the top of the third on a three-run Jose Vidro homer and a solo Adrian Beltre shot, but Silva held up his end of the bargain by giving the Yanks an extra run in the bottom of the frame and coughing up a two-run Bobby Abreu home in the sixth to give the Yanks a 7-4 lead.

Arthur Rhodes came on in relief of Silva in the bottom of the seventh with a 7.13 career ERA against the Yankees. He left three batters later having surrendered a run without getting an out. Brandon Morrow relieved Rhodes with a 15.00 career ERA against the Yankees and let in three more runs. Ryan Rowland-Smith relieved Morrow with a 19.29 career ERA against the Yankees and allowed one last Bomber tally before getting the final out.

Joba Chamberlain took over for Mussina in the sixth inning. He made a nice leaping stab of a bounding comebacker for the first out of the sixth and then struck out the next two batters. In the seventh, he gave up a lead-off single to Yuniesky Betancourt and walked Jose Vidro on five pitches with two outs, but stranded both men. He was effective, but inefficient, using up 40 of his allotted 45 pitches in those two frames, only 55 percent of which were strikes. Given the length of the bottom of the seventh, and the fact that Chamberlain was only five pitches under his target, the Yankees opted to end his day there.

Kyle Farnsworth entered the eighth inning having allowed 2.57 home runs per nine innings. With one out, Jeremy Reed won a 13-pitch battle against Farnsworth with a single. Three pitches later, Richie Sexson homered to the retired numbers. That set the final score at 12-6 Yankees.

Jose Veras pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, but it wasn't without incident. With two outs and the count 1-1 on Beltre, Veras poured in a strike and home plate umpire Larry Vanover gave his strikeout call, prompting Jose Molina to pop out from behind the plate to shake Veras's hand and the stadium P.A. to start blasting out "New York, New York." Thing is, the count was only 1-2. Beltre pointed this out to Vanover, the song was cutoff, all of the players were sent back to their positions, and the at-bat continued for five more pitches before Beltre grounded out to officially end the game. Curiously, two of those pitches were right at Beltre's head, but Beltre laughed both off (in the YES booth David Cone described them as curves that didn't curve). Still, it seemed suspicious to me, and it was even stranger when Beltre, apparently because he was looking the other way, ran right into Veras on his way back to the dugout. Still, none of it appeared to mean anything. That was just about the only surprising thing about Saturday's game.

The Yankees have scored 25 runs in the first two games of this series, have averaged 8.8 runs per game in their five games against the Mariners this year, and in going for the sweep this afternoon will face a pitcher with a 6.99 ERA on the season and a 12.23 ERA over his last four starts in Jarrod Washburn. Washburn, however, has a 2.52 career ERA against the Yankees. Here's hoping Chien-Ming Wang's calf is okay and that he can rebound from allowing seven runs to the Mets in his last outing. If the Yanks sweep, it'll be just their second three-game sweep of the season, both of them having come against the Mariners.

Sliva Platta
2008-05-24 08:42
by Cliff Corcoran

A series in which the Yankees initially had to contend with the two good starting pitchers on a bad team has taken a fortuitous turn. The Yankees scored nine runs off Erik Bedard last night and Felix Hernandez has been scratched from his start today due to continued soreness from a right calf cramp he experienced during his last start. Instead, the Yankees will face Carlos Silva a day early and Hernandez will pitch against the Red Sox on Monday. Seems things are finally starting to break the Yankees' way this season.

Silva's always been a punching bag for the Yankees and enters this afternoon's contest with a 9.62 ERA in five career starts against the Bombers. Silva's faced the Yankees once every year since 2004, and the only start in which he gave up fewer runs than innings pitched came back in 2005, the best overall season of his career. Today marks Silva's second start of the year against the Yankees. In the last, he gave up eight runs in three innings including back-to-back home runs to Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera which account for a third of the home runs he's allowed all season. Jarrod Washburn and his 6.99 ERA will go tomorrow as the M's take advantage of this past Monday's off day by moving Silva and Washburn up to normal rest.

Mike Mussina starts against Silva today. Moose broke a string of five great starts on Tuesday by turning in with the worst start of his career. The upside is that he only threw 41 pitches, thus enabling him to come back on three-day's rest to give tomorrow's starter, Chien-Ming Wang, suffering from a sore right calf of his own, an extra day off. Better still, Moose will be backed up by the second extended relief outing in Joba Chamberlain's conversion back to starting. If Moose goes five or six, you can expect Chamberlain to follow him into the game and pitch two or three frames, with the Yankees looking for a slight increase on the 35 pitches Joba threw in his last outing.

After three games against lefty starters motivating three starts by Shelley Duncan, the Yankee lineup against the righty Silva resets to it's default position.

Continue reading...

Why Ya Buggin?
2008-05-24 05:11
by Alex Belth

From Tyler Kepner in the Times:

After the game, the clubhouse shook with 1980s rap music ("Mary, Mary" by Run-D.M.C.) coming from an iPod on Johnny Damon's speaker system. It was quite unlike the Yankees, who have rarely played music in recent years, and victories in May are not often cause to let loose.

But the Yankees were enjoying their blowout, and on some level, they probably knew things could be worse. All they had to do was think about the team down the hall.

From John Hickey in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

"Playing with this team and seeing what is happening around here, I see something beginning to fall apart," center fielder Ichiro Suzuki said. "If I was objectively watching this team and what's been happening, I'd be drinking a lot of beer and booing."

All you can say to that is, "What kind of beer?"

"I usually like Japanese beer," Ichiro said. "But after this, I wouldn't care if it was from Japan or from Papua New Guinea."

Bottom's Up.

2008-05-24 05:07
by Alex Belth


It's a gorgeous, sunny morning in New York. 

Breaks of the Game: More Bounce to the Ounce
2008-05-23 18:27
by Alex Belth

The Yankees were both lucky and good on Friday night as they beat the woeful Mariners (who were both unlucky and bad) about the face and neck to the tune of 13-2.  It was a beautiful night--crisp and cool--for a laugher in the Bronx.  Manager Joe Girardi sat this one out after being suspended for his theatrics last night, but I'm sure he liked what he saw on TV as Andy Pettitte featured a sharp slider and mixed his pitches effectively, striking out a season-high nine over six innings. 

The Yankee offense featured a few well struck balls (Hideki Matsui had three hits, the slumping Shelley Duncan cranked a three-run homer, while Bobby Abreu and Robinson Cano had a couple of hits each), but mostly featured a chorus line of dinkers and dunkers, 18-hoppers through the infield and off-the-end-of-the-bat flares to the outfield.  In fact, such a collection of cheap-o and fortunate hits I can't recall seeing in some time.  And during the eight-run fifth, Derek Jeter deftly kept himself in a rundown until the two runners behind him advanced; on the next play, Alex Rodriguez got a tremendous jump on a soft liner to center and scored easily, and later Matsui slid under a tag at the plate to score another run.  In the eighth, Matsui even threw out a runner at the plate who was trying to score on a sac fly.  Go figure.  It was that kind of night.

Everything broke New York's way as they won their third straight.  Maybe it's Giambi's mustache. Whatever the case, we'll take it and we like it.    



Seattle Mariners Redux
2008-05-23 12:26
by Cliff Corcoran

The Mariners have the worst record in the American League and the second-worst record in all of baseball. When they last visited the Bronx at the beginning of the month, the fell victim to the Yankees' only three-game series sweep of the season (and the Bombers' last series win prior to their just-completed defeat of the Orioles). Since then, the M's have gone 5-11, with two of those wins coming against the Padres, the only team in baseball with a worse record than Seattle's. The Mariners' offense has been every bit as impotent as the Yankees' this season, and their pitching has posted the second-worst ERA+ in the AL.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, in this weekend's series they won't see any of the three pitchers most responsible for Seattle's pitching woes. Starters Miguel Bautista (6.47 ERA) and Jarrod Washburn (6.99) pitched the last two days, and long-reliever Cha Seung Baek (5.40 in 30 IP) was just designated for assignment in favor of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Instead, the Yanks draw the M's two aces, Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez, tonight and tomorrow. At least they'll have Carlos Silva to kick around on Sunday. And, hey, they beat Bedard and King Felix in early May.

Andy Pettitte takes the hill against Bedard tonight. It took a strong Chien-Ming Wang outing, a lock-down bullpen, and four Mariner errors to beat Bedard last time he faced the Yanks. Pettitte is coming off a bounce-back quality start in which he struck out a season-high seven men in six innings. Tomorrow, Mike Mussina comes off his 41-pitch disaster outing against the O's to start on short rest with Joba Chamberlain's second transitional outing backing him up. Sunday, Wang takes the ball after being pushed back a day by a mild right calf strain.

Tonight, Joe Girardi will serve a one-game suspension for his ninth-inning tirade last night, leaving bench coach Robby Thompson in charge. Thompson lost the two games he managed during Girardi's early-April suspension for the team's spring training shenanigans. The lineup penned by Girardi has Derek Jeter leading off with Johnny Damon getting a day off, Shelley Duncan playing first, and Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui rotating to DH and left field, respectively. Chad Moeller is behind the plate for the third time in six games.

Continue reading...

Yankee Panky # 51: The Tao of A-Rod
2008-05-23 09:40
by Will Weiss

Injuries or prolonged absences tend to spring the mainstream media into a mode of touting the exploits of a superstar player and his value to a team (the value not quantified by Baseball Prospectus’s VORP stat). This was especially true over the last week while the Yankee offense was comatose.

Talk about a 180-degree turnaround. When Alex Rodriguez first came to the Yankees, there was the stigma of his exorbitant contract and the fracturing of his friendship with Derek Jeter. Three seasons later – seasons that included two MVP awards and team records for right-handed power hitters, playoff series of subpar performance and strange/lurid/bush—league behavior both on and off the field, Alex Rodriguez was still portrayed as an outsider.

Then he went on the disabled list and the Yankees became the Tankees, plummeting to mediocrity, struggling to beat the Tampa Bay Rays.

Had the Yankees been pitching well, hitting in a representative manner and winning, the perception would not have taken shape that the Yankees had become reliant on the production of A-Rod to kick-start the team. Three games into his comeback, Rodriguez is writing the stories for the beat, with two home runs in each game, which can hopefully kick things into gear and give Joe Girardi some lineup stability. With Jeter out of the lineup, A-Rod’s presence and the need for him to succeed are magnified. The writers and detached local TV reporters won’t let him forget it.

Watching A-Rod, though, he seems to be at peace with all of it, finally.


Does it roil anyone else to hear “fans” discuss baseball and then say something asinine like this?

 “I don’t really watch a lot of baseball, but for the money these guys make, they shouldn’t make any errors, I’m sorry.”

I heard that yesterday morning at the gym and nearly gave myself a headache from biting my tongue.

Equally ridiculous – and I admit this – is something I’ve said for years : No major league hitter should ever strike out looking. That comes from years of watching and playing the game, and covering it. I know if I was a Major Leaguer, I’d be up there to hit and swing the bat, and if I go down, I’m going down swinging. Of course, I’d only swing at strikes, so that I could increase the odds of boosting my OBP and OPS. 




How far has the Subway Series fallen? I don’t mean the Yankees’ performance, which was akin to watching a loop of American Idol rejects. From the media radar, I mean. The hype was tepid – largely due to the absences of Jeter and A-Rod. The anticipation, as usual, was greater from the camp of Mets fans, and the media coverage was bland.

The only thing that came out of it, in my opinion, was that on the heels of Carlos Delgado’s three-run home run that was ruled foul, MLB could – and perhaps should – give serious consideration to Instant Replay. Joe Morgan had one lucid comment about the incident: “The job of the umpires is to get the call right, and in this case, they didn’t get it right.” When Jon Miller set him up to give his thoughts on Instant Replay in baseball, Morgan always came back to, “No, I don’t think there should be instant replay, because then you’ll see umpires go to it in the fifth inning, like tonight.” Huh? That call would have given the Mets a 6-0 lead. Was it not a critical time in the game?

More curious was that Miller did not challenge is broadcast partner or ask the question: “Well, Joe, you said that the job is to get it right. If there’s a questionable call and none of the umpires get it right, why does it matter when IR is used?” No solutions were presented. It could have been a great discussion, and it fell flat.


“That’s what I mean when I’m talking about accountability.”

I bet this kept the guys at busy on Monday morning.

The Hall of Famer said that at least 15 times in a 3 minute span Sunday night when analyzing the locker room controversy that Billy Wagner started, when he called to attention the fact that the Latino ballplayers had left before the media could interview them about the game. David Wells used to do this occasionally when he had a horrible outing.

Morgan’s quote referenced Delgado apologizing to Wagner, and then whenever he did something positive on the field, that tied into his accountability for shirking reporters. Actions on the field make you accountable to your teammates and nothing else.

Morgan didn’t have a problem with Delgado and Carlos Beltran ducking. As a reporter and fan, I do. The first rule is you get the quotes from the people who most closely influenced the game.  If they bail, you mention that they left early and work around it.

On the broadcast, Morgan theorized that players “only being accountable to their teammates, not to the media.” Maybe that was true 35 years ago, when there wasn’t a 24/7 news cycle and players were making good money, but not eight figures a year, but not now. Leaving without explaining matters is selfish and it doesn’t help a player’s standing with fans, or as Wagner showed, in the clubhouse. Barry Bonds was icy with the media, but at least he told writers he wasn’t going to talk.

The papers are not free from blame here. The tabloids blew the incident out of proportion, made Wagner the story and turned it into the Sharks vs. the Jets, which was wrong. It was a revenge play to sell papers and create drama within the team, and it worked.

Until next week … Enjoy the holiday.


Card Corner--Dock Ellis
2008-05-23 08:12
by Bruce Markusen


This 1973 Topps card of Dock Ellis (No. 575) shows the talented but temperamental right-hander where he seemed to feel most at home—on the pitching mound. The photograph, taken at a game at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, is very similar to his 1972 "In Action" card, which appears to have been snapped in the same game but only a moment sooner in his pitching motion.

The word "snapped" might have applied to Ellis at various times during a successful and storied major league career. At times, the behavior of the Pirates’ right-hander would have qualified him for work in an episode of "The Twilight Zone." In 1970, Ellis pitched a no-hit game against the expansion Padres. (The Padres had only two good hitters in their lineup back then—Nate Colbert and Downtown Ollie Brown—but a no-hitter’s a no-hitter.) In and of itself, there’s nothing bizarre about such an accomplishment, which can represent the pinnacle of a pitcher’s performance. Years later, however, Ellis revealed that he had forged the masterpiece only hours after ingesting considerable amounts of LSD.

And then came the ugliness of a 1974 game, in which Ellis displayed his determination to punish the Reds for some condescending pre-game words they had said about the Pirates. (The Reds had a recent history of beating the Bucs; Ellis felt his teammates needed a wakeup call.) In the first inning, Ellis proceeded to hit each of the first three Reds’ batters—Pete Rose, Little Joe Morgan, and Dan Driessen—with pitched balls. With three of his first five pitches having hit his intended targets, Ellis continued his assault on Cincinnati’s lineup. He threw two pitches behind the head of Tony Perez before eventually walking the Hall of Fame slugger. With one run already having been forced in, Ellis refused to let up on his game plan. He threw two pitches at Johnny Bench that barely missed making contact. Amazingly, the home plate umpire allowed Ellis to remain in the game. (Obviously, this was not baseball in 2008.) But his manager, Danny Murtaugh, mercifully walked to the mound and removed Ellis before he could do any additional damage.

In perhaps his most celebrated incident (though not as controversial as his efforts to bean every member of the "Big Red Machine" or his pitching a no-hitter under the effects of illicit drugs), Ellis walked out onto the field before a 1973 game against the Cubs wearing a head full of hair curlers. The incident shocked several of his Pirates teammates, manager Bill Virdon, and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. The latter’s opinion mattered the most; he threatened to fine and suspend Ellis if he continued to appear on the playing field looking like James Brown in a dressing room. Much to the delight of the commissioner, Ellis eventually backed off on his insistence on wearing curlers and restricted them to the clubhouse—or presumably to his home—for the balance of his career. Unfortunately, no one from Topps had been at Wrigley Field that memorable afternoon to snap a photograph of Ellis in his best "just-out-of-the-showers" look.

All of these bizarre stories involving Ellis have become pertinent again given the revelations of the past week. On Sunday, I was distressed to read a story in the New York Post about Ellis and his health, which has suddenly turned much worse over the past six months. A former Yankee—he pitched for the franchise in 1976—Ellis has lost 60 pounds since last fall, when he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. Ellis needs a liver transplant soon; otherwise, the outlook is dire.

Ellis has certainly made more than his fair share of mistakes over the years, including his ill-advised usage of LSD prior to a game, his attempt to turn the Reds into human pin cushions, and his repeated efforts at undermining his managers. But almost all of that behavior occurred during Ellis’ playing days in the sixties and seventies, while he was trapped in a haze of alcohol and drug abuse. After his retirement in 1980, Ellis successfully abandoned his drug addiction and used his experiences to become a counselor against drugs and alcohol. An emotional public speaker, Ellis has worked diligently to advise youngsters not to repeat his own mistakes. Beginning early in his career, Dock has also made efforts to help prisoners in the Pennsylvania state penal system, soliciting their input in making suggestions for prison reform.

Considering his own personal reforms and the social consciousness that Ellis has displayed, he has become one of the game’s good guys. Let’s say a prayer that he receives some financial help for his mounting medical bills, which have become more problematic given his lack of health insurance. More importantly, let's hope Dock receives that much needed liver transplant—quickly, before we lose a colorful character who began to find his way only 25 years ago.

Bruce Markusen's upcoming book, Out of Left Field, includes a lengthy profile of Dock Ellis. 

Joba Ranks
2008-05-23 07:00
by Alex Belth

That kid has one of the better arms in baseball," said former Braves and Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone. "If you have an arm like that, he shouldn't be a setup guy. Your setup guy doesn't do you any good if your starting pitchers can't get you to him."

..."I don't think the Yankees are risking injury by starting him," Mazzone said of Chamberlain. "I've always felt that if you have a regular time to pitch and programs to get the pitcher ready in between starts, it's easier to start than be in the bullpen."
(Anthony McCarron, N.Y. Daily News)

Pat Jordan likes to bust my chops about the Yankees, the team he grew up rooting for. He doesn't much like them much these days and never misses a chance to get under my skin when they are not playing well. His favorite rant this spring has been about Joba Chamberlain, about how the Yankees are wasting Chamberlain as a set-up man instead of using him as a starter. Well, that's one gripe Pat can't beat to death now that Chamberlain has officially begun the process of moving from the pen to the starting rotation.

In the Daily News, John Harper writes that this is a sign that, without conceeding anything yet, the Yankees are looking beyond this season to 2009. I agree. One thing that occured to me yesterday was how exciting it is going to be to watch this all unfold. To see Chamberlain pitch two, then three, four, five innings. I imagine his demeanor will change somewhat. All that fist-pumping is part of what comes with being a late-inning reliever, but I don't expect he'll do quite as much of as a starter--unless he gets out of a big jam in the sixth, seventh or eighth. Regardless, I'm goosed about the whole thing. Ain't you?

Attsa Fine
2008-05-23 04:52
by Alex Belth

My wife Emily is composed and polite and very careful not offend. Too careful. However, she also works in a hospital emergency room and it is not uncommon for her to come home at night swearing like a sailor. I love this, not just because it is amusing to hear such obscenities coming from such a nice girl but also because it allows me to curse with equal vigor without fear of being scolded. Em's had a tough week and last night as I watched the game, she blew off steam in a way that I don't think I've ever seen before. She vented about just about anything that came to mind. "...And another thing..." And she carried on some more, preaching away from her little soap box. At one point I had to put a cap on what turned into a seemingly endless tirade. "Okay honey, I get it, you are pissed off, that's fine. I appreciate that. Now, you've got 15 more minutes to get it all out, do your worst, but then you've got to shut the f*** up."

In the spirit of tantrums, Joe Girardi got himself run from the game with one out and a man on in the ninth inning last night. A belated third strike call was what set him off and it was clear from the moment he left the dugout that Girardi was going to leave it all out on the field and get tossed. Girardi looks smaller to me as a manager than he did as a player. Maybe it's because he is usually wearing a Yankee jacket with the collar up or maybe it's the thick white soles of his spikes or perhaps the TV just shrinks him. Whatever the reason, he reminds me of Chico Marx half the the time (a terrible call, but nevertheless, it is what pops to mind). He put forth a decent showing with the home plate ump and then the crew cheif said calmly, "You made your point Joe."

Girardi fumed and carried on near home plate which prevented the pitcher Jim Johnson from staying warm. When the game resumed, Johnson walked pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu on five pitches. Then, with men on first and second, Robinson Cano lined a fastball into left field for a base hit, Hideki Matsui rounded third and beat a good, but high throw from Jay Payton to the plate for the game-winner. A good end to a good overall night from the Bombers as they won, 2-1.

After the customary celebrating, Cano was greeted by Derek Jeter in the dugout. Jeter was smiling. He looked peaceful, like a mermaid that had been on land too long and had finally been returned to the sea, and looked directly into Cano's eyes and said a few words. It was as if he was saying, "That's more like it, boy-o. Winning is fun, remember?"

There was a lot to be pleased about last night. Cano's hit, Damon collecting three of his own. The game moved quicky (all three games were played under three hours each, which must be some kind of a record for the Yanks and O's) and the pitching was crisp. Ian Kennedy had his best outing of the season. After retiring the side in order in the first two innings (thanks in part to a double play that ended the second), Kennedy gave up a one-out single and then triple in the third. Then, he walked Brian Roberts and Payton to load the bases. But he rallied to strike out Nick Markakis, who has been striking out a lot these days, and got Aubrey Huff to fly out to left. It was the biggest moment of the season for Kennedy, who went on to pitch six innings. Jose Veras pitched the seventh, Kyle Farnsworth the eighth, and Mariano tossed a perfect ninth to put the Yankees in position to win it.

For the second time this season, Orioles' starter Brian Burres pitched well against the Yanks, the lefty throwing on the corners, lots of breaking stuff. He was impressive. But this was just the kind of game the Yankees needed to win and they did just that. A weak Seattle team is in town this weekend but they've got Bedard and Hernandez tonight and tomorrow which is no walk in the park. Still, let's hope they can win another series and keep it rolling in the right direction.

Fo Real or Fugazi?
2008-05-22 12:31
by Alex Belth


Yanks seek to keep looking good tonight with a (gasp) second straight win tonight against the Boids.  Ian Kennedy smirks and smiles a lot for a kid whose been pitching like a bum so far.  Like to see him smile for the right reasons tonight.  We'll see if he's got anything.    

Go git em smiling Jack.    

Let's Go Yan-kees.


The Way it Was vs. The Way it Is
2008-05-22 10:36
by Alex Belth

Slate has the latest from Pat Jordan, Josh Beckett Won't Return My Phone Calls:

In January, I got an assignment from the New York Times Magazine to write a profile of Josh Beckett, the Red Sox pitcher. I was excited about this because I had always admired Beckett as both a pitcher and a person.

...But, alas, in a single-sentence e-mail from his agent, Beckett declined to be interviewed by me or anyone else. I could understand that. Why would he want me poking around in the closet of his life? Maybe I'd spend four days with him, and catch him saying something derogatory, in a moment of weakness or fatigue, about his manager, Terry Francona, or about Manny Ramirez. He was making, what, $10 million a year? He had just pitched superbly in the 2007 World Series after compiling a brilliant 20-7 record during the season. He didn't need a New York Times profile or recognition for anything but his pitching.

...But, still, I thought it was a shame Josh wouldn't let me profile him in the Times. I had a long lunch with him a few years ago, when he was with the Florida Marlins, and came away thinking he was an interesting young man. At the time, and even now, Beckett had a reputation for being a surly, hard-ass, rednecked, Texas country boy in the way of old-timey ballplayers. But the Josh I met over lunch was smart, caustic, funny, sophisticated, and a much deeper and more nuanced man than his public gave him credit for. I would have loved to have burnished his image, to have shown his fans that side of him in a profile. But it wasn't to be. His fans then lost an opportunity to know the real Josh Beckett.

This has become the curse of modern sports journalism. Writers and fans alike no longer get to know the object of their affections in a way they did years ago. Athletes see us as their adversaries, not as allies in their achievements. They are as much celebrities as rock stars and Hollywood actors are. They live insular lives behind a wall of publicists, agents, and lawyers. They don't interact with fans or writers. They mingle only with other celebrities at Vegas boxing matches, South Beach nightclubs, and celebrity golf events, all behind red-velvet VIP ropes. We can only gawk at them as if at an exotic, endangered species at a zoo.

Nice Catch
2008-05-22 09:06
by Alex Belth

The first mitt I remember owning was given to me by my father as a birthday gift. It was a letdown. There was no fingers inside, just a mushy place to put your hand, a strange feature that my father thought was clever. I didn't agree. He bought himself a glove at the same time that was a traditional glove (a Joe Morgan autograph version). At the time, I wished I had had his glove and felt somehow as if he was telling me that I wasn't ready for a regular mitt yet.

I don't know how long I had that mitt, but through high school it seemed as if I lost a mitt each season. Which wasn't the worst thing because I so thoroughly enjoyed the process of breaking a glove in--oiling it, bending it back and forth, throwing a ball into the web over and over, and then tying up the mitt with a ball in the center at night and putting it under my pillow.

During my second year of high school, my coach gave me his old Wilson A2000, which had been lovingly broken in and used for years. I lost that one too, leaving it behind on the field at an away game. I don't recall having my own mitt after that, although there were always a couple around the house. Then, about ten years ago, I bought a new one even though my baseball activities had been reduced to the occasional catch. It is a Nokona 12" second baseman's glove, a swell mitt, one that was desinged and suited for baseball and really too small for softball.

I got to thinking about the glove after reading Steve Lombardi's wonderful post featuring some of his mitts--he's owns seven!

Anyone got any good glove stories? And, do you call it a mitt or a glove?

Krup You! (Jealous Ones Envy)
2008-05-22 07:26
by Alex Belth

A few years ago I was heated about something or other concerning the Hall of Fame. I happen to be talking with a noted baseball historian and he just shrugged my complaints off. "This is the institution that elected Tom Yawkey, how can you take them seriously?" Marvin Miller, one of the most important figures in the history of the baseball business, sure doesn't. According to an article by William Rhoden in today's New York Times:

In a letter to the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Miller wrote:

"Paradoxically, I'm writing to thank you and your associates for your part in nominating me for Hall of Fame consideration, and, at the same time, to ask that you not do this again."

Miller added: "The antiunion bias of the powers who control the hall has consistently prevented recognition of the historic significance of the changes to baseball brought about by collective bargaining. As former executive director (retired since 1983) of the players' union that negotiated these changes, I find myself unwilling to contemplate one more rigged veterans committee whose members are handpicked to reach a particular outcome while offering the pretense of a democratic vote. It is an insult to baseball fans, historians, sports writers and especially to those baseball players who sacrificed and brought the game into the 21st century. At the age of 91, I can do without farce."

Miller said he planned to write a separate letter to the Hall of Fame board asking them to withdraw his name from consideration. "I simply want to make sure that they know how I feel," he said. "I don't want to be nominated again. By anybody."

Miller doesn't need the Hall of Fame to be remembered as the Giant that he is. And neither does Buck O'Neil.

2008-05-22 06:45
by Alex Belth

Mike Piazza was arguably the best position player ever to play for the Mets and he certainly was one of my favorites. He retired a few days ago. Over at ESPN, Rob Neyer argues that Piazza was the best-hitting catcher of all-time:

I'm certainly open to suggestion, but I have a hard time figuring how you come with anyone but Piazza when searching for the best-hitting catcher ever. Perhaps there's a case to be made for Josh Gibson, especially someday when we actually are allowed to look at the Negro Leagues data the Hall of Fame has embargoed. But Gibson died when he was 35, and had for years been suffering the ill effects of drug abuse and a brain tumor. Gibson may have been as talented as any catcher who ever lived, but his performance did not match his talent. In my opinion.

Piazza certainly was the best-hitting major leaguer of them all. Here are some nice tributes to Piazza, from:

Jay Jaffe Jon Weisman Joe Posnanski Tim Marchman Pete Abraham and, who else, of course, but
Tommy Lasorda

I don't know if I've ever seen a right-handed batter with the ability to blister line drives to right field like Piazza. Heck, one time I saw him line a shot to left, and the left fielder dove two steps to his left for it like he was an infielder and the ball got by him. But his home runs to right were awesome. Yo, remember that moon shot he hit off Ramiro Mendoza, the one that went over the fuggin tent at Shea?

Here is a piece I wrote for Baseball Prospectus when Piazza returned to Shea as a Padre and hit two home runs (and almost hit three) back in August of 2006. So long, Yazzie, thanks for the memories.

And Now For Something Completely Different
2008-05-21 20:26
by Cliff Corcoran

The Yankees didn't just break a four-game losing streak last night, they stomped the Orioles, cruising to a lopsided win for the first time since they beat the Mariners 8-2 on May 4, more than two weeks ago. Darrell Rasner and Joba Chamberlain combined to recorded just the third Yankee shutout of the season and first since April 27, while five Yankees had multi hit games (led by Alex Rodriguez, who went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a solo homer) as the Bombers scored eight runs for just the fifth time all season and first time since that May 4 game against Seattle.

Rasner, who is now 3-0 in as many starts, was nails, retiring the first eight Orioles in order, striking out a career-best six men, and allowing only that many to reach base while using up only 95 pitches in his seven scoreless innings. Rasner has walked two men in his three big-league starts this season, has a 1.89 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and is averaging 6 1/3 innings per start. What makes that all the more impressive is that he was even better in his five triple-A starts before being called up, going 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and averaging 6 2/3 IP/GS. Darrell Rasner isn't this good, but I've long believed he's a legitimate back-of-the-rotation starter. At this moment, he's the Yankees best starter. Not bad for a pitcher who was claimed off waivers while still in double-A two years ago and then slipped through waivers this past offseason and wasn't even on the 40-man roster until he was called up in early May. Heck, Rasner was skipped the last time through the rotation (I'm still trying to figure that one out).

That's the great thing about Rasner. He's so dull, you barely even notice him. He doesn't have any eye-popping pitches. He dominated the Orioles last night, but never looked dominating. He just mixes his four pitches, throws strikes, and works fast. Before you notice he's pitching, he's back in the dugout. Even his post-game interviews are impossible to pay attention to. All of that makes the nickname Shelley Duncan used for him while introducing the Yankee lineup on FOX a couple of Saturday's ago perfectly inappropriate: "Razzmatazz" it is. Razzle Dazzle 'em, Mister Cellophane.

By the way, that game for which Rasner was called up in early May was that May 4 game against the Mariners. Though he's needed just seven runs total to win his three starts, Rasner has received an average of seven runs of support per game, making him just about the best thing to happen to the Yankees this year. Last night, the offense in support of Rasner drew five walks and bounced left-handed Baltimore starter Gregg Garrett Olson in the third inning after plating six men and making Olson throw 79 pitches. Queens native Dennis Sarfate, part of the Miguel Tejada booty from Houston, shut things down for a couple of frames after that, but the Yanks pounced on subsequent reliever Lance Cormier for two more tallies in the sixth.

Both of those sixth-inning runs should have come on Alex Rodriguez's second home run of the game (his third in his two games since returning from the DL), but, in an echo of the botched Carlos Delgado home run call on Sunday, the umpires erroneously ruled Rodriguez's hit, which bounced off the yellow stairs in front of the right field bleachers, a double. Rodriguez seemed a bit too concerned about the extra two bases with one out in the sixth inning of a 7-0 game, but a passed ball and an RBI groundout from Shelley Duncan got Alex home with the final run of the Yankees 8-0 victory.

So the Yankees got what they'd been desperate for, not just a win, but a clean, crisp victory with errorless play on the bases and in the field and dominating performances on both sides of the ball. What could possibly overshadow a win like that?

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Hey, Howze About an Old Fashioned Win?
2008-05-21 13:56
by Alex Belth

Mr. Rasner is on the hill for the Bombers tonight who are in desperate need of a win, of something, anything to feel good about.  The Yanks are wearing us out early once again, our legendary calm and patience being put to the test.  But that's cool, we ain't going nowhere.  So, nevermind the bollocks...

Let's Go Yankees!

World Wide
2008-05-21 08:44
by Alex Belth

During and immediately after the War there was precious little work to be found in Belgium, so my mother's father, a man's man in the Ted Williams mold (although far more reserved), who had a considerable amount of wanderlust, moved his young family to the Congo, where my ma lived from the time she was three (1947) until she was a teenager.  I learned about my father's family, from Russia and Poland respectively, mostly through the oral tradition, endless stories, and even some writings.  But I learned about my mother's family chiefly through photographs and 8 mm home movies, a) because of the language barrier (they speak broken English, I speak broken French), and b) because they took an extraordinary amount of pictures.  You can imagine how exotic it was to me as a kid to see photographs of my mom in Africa.  "You grew up there and you wound up in the suburbs?" I used to kid her when I was a wise-ass teenager.  

As it turns out, my mom and dad met in Addis Ababa, of all places.  1966.  My father was there working as a production manager on a National Geographic Special on Africa.  My mother was there with a group of friends, making a short documentary for graduate school about their trip from Northern Africa down to Ethipia. 

Dig this.  Which one you think is Ma Dooke?

And here's the old man, in full Elliott Gould mode:


So, where did your folks meet?

Everybody Loves the Sunshine
2008-05-21 05:27
by Alex Belth

Earlier this spring, my wife Emily and I visited her sister in Albuturkey, New Mexico.  Even though the climate was dry and cool I have never experienced such oppresive heat from the sun, which was the hottest in the late afternoon.  The sun was omni-present.  Even when it was slightly overcast you could feel it.  One day, we were at a used bookstore and the guy who ran the place told us that when native New Mexicans leave the state they go into shock because of the lack of sun. 

In New York, you learn to savor the sun because it comes to us as fractured light, in bits and pieces.  Native New Yorkers know where the sun will be, at what time of day, during each time of year.  The sun is more precious here which makes you appreciate it all the more.  But it's not only the sun.  Being in New York, all you need to do is look up and pay attention and you will see the most stunning sights.  For instance, a few weeks ago, I met Richard Lederer and his son Joe outside of their hotel on 42nd street and 3rd avenue.  As I waited, I happen to look up and saw, through a crack in the awning, a gorgeous view of the Chrysler Building.  Of course, I'd never seen it from that perspective before, and it is likely that I'll never see it from there again.

I feel the same way going to games at the Stadium.  Although I have sat in the same seats more than once and I've been to many sections in the park over the years, I certainly haven't been to all of them.  Not nearly.  Each seat offers you a distinct perspective that makes the game fresh and new.  Last night, I was at the game, and enjoyed the view from some very cushy seats, about twenty rows deep behind first base.  When hard ground balls skipped foul up the first base line you could hear them woosh along the grass; when Kevin Millar caught a line drive, we heard a loud WHAP, and when Derek Jeter was hit in the hand, a resounding crack. 

Continue reading...
Dead Team Walking
2008-05-20 18:45
by Cliff Corcoran

Mike Mussina's was the coin that flopped over tonight. After walking just three men in his last five starts, Mussina walked Brian Roberts to start tonight's game. Moose then gave up two-out singles to Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar to plate Roberts and put men on first and second. After that, he got of Luke Scott 1-2 and got Scott to ground to shortstop for what appeared to be an inning-ending groundout. Derek Jeter fielded the ball and looked to flip to Robinson Cano at second for the out, but Cano wasn't on the bag. Instead, Jeter threw to first, but his throw was high and allowed Scott to reach safely, loading the bases for Ramon Hernandez. Mussina walked Hernandez on four pitches to force in a second Oriole run, then failed to retire any of the four men after him, finally being pulled with the score 7-0 Orioles and still just two outs in the first inning.

That thew a wet blanket on Alex Rodriguez's return to the lineup. Rodriguez came through with a two-run homer into the Yankee bullpen in the sixth, but those were the only runs Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera allowed on the night as the Orioles cruised to a 12-2 win.

The only other action of note stemmed from a third-inning Cabrera pitch which tailed in on Derek Jeter and hit him on the outside of his left wrist. Jeter left the game immediately, and LaTroy Hawkins cleared the benches by throwing at Luke Scott with none on and two out in the sixth, but Jeter's x-rays were negative, which means that other than a coming suspension for Hawkins, the lasting effects should be minimal. The lasting effects of the Yankees losing six of their last seven while averaging two runs per game remain the greater concern.

Baltimore Orioles Redux: Return of the Rod Edition
2008-05-20 11:48
by Cliff Corcoran

The Orioles have the fourth-best record in the American League, but have been outscored by their opponents on the season. They have won seven of their last nine, but lost nine of 11 before that. They have the third-best ERA+ in the league, but the fifth worst OPS+. They're having fun, but it won't last, though given the way the Yankees have been playing recently, it may last a little longer.

The good news for the Yankees is that they'll have Alex Rodriguez back in the lineup tonight, which will fill one of the three gaping holes in their lineup. (Man, this sure looks a lot better, don't it?)

Alex and pals will be facing Daniel Cabrera tonight. Cabrera has turned in seven straight quality starts, posting a 2.50 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over that stretch. Most impressively, his walk rate has been a strong 2.68 BB/9 during those seven starts and he has allowed just four home runs, this after walking nine men and allowing four homers in his first ten innings on the season. Opposing Cabrera is Mike Mussina, who has gone 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA with just three walks and two homers over his last five starts.

There are a lot of coins standing on their sides at the Stadium tonight. The question is which of them will tip over.

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You Know Me
2008-05-20 09:57
by Alex Belth

When I was a kid I received a copy of You Know Me Al from my uncle Sam Plummer, who was not really my uncle, but I thought of him as one all the same. The version I got was a collection of the You Know Me Al comic strips--it wasn't until years later that I learned it was a book before it was a comic.  I loved the gift, not so much because I was especially taken with the strip, but because it combined comics and baseball and Sam was thoughtful enough to know that (a die-hard Cubs fan, Sam later introduced me to the records of Fats Waller).  Somewhere along the line I lost the book but a few years ago I saw a copy in a used bookstore. My heart skipped a beat and I nabbed it. For those of you who have never seen it, here's a peak at a strip:



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Stop Making Sense
2008-05-20 05:52
by Alex Belth

Over at BP Unfiltered, David Laurila has a nifty Q&A with Brewers bench coach, Ted Simmons, who was one of the most vital figures in the Players Association back in the 1970s, and a near Hall of Fame catcher to boot.

Dig this:

DL: You played in the 1970s and 1980s. How different is the game now?

TS: The players are far more educated than they were when I first played. When I came up to the Cardinals in 1970, I had spent two years at the University of Michigan. Dal Maxvill had an electrical engineering degree from Washington University. We were really the only two, at least that I can recall, who had spent any time in a four-year institution. Today, almost all of these kids have formal educations — minimally at the junior college level. Almost all come from major educational backgrounds. That is the biggest change that exists in major league baseball with the players themselves. They're far more educated and far more sophisticated; they're a far different band of people.

DL: How does the game differ on the field?

TS: I think it has changed dramatically with the statistical analysis that's come about and applied itself at the major league level and at the minor league level. You have a whole group of people who have identified, and recognized, statistical trends that are directly applicable to the field. Whether it's offensively, pitching, or defensively, there are applications that exist now because of the ability to convey information quickly — things you can take on a daily basis and apply in a game. There's no question that's been the biggest change.

DL: Have you adapted well to the statistical revolution, or do you view yourself as more of an old-school baseball guy?

TS: I think that dinosaurs die hard, and they die fast. If one doesn't take the best of the objective perspective, and the best of the subjective perspective, and incorporate the two into one place — however one has to do it — if you're not prepared to do that, you'll soon be out.

Simmons' bit about dinosaurs brings to mind something that the Yankees have had me thinking about recently, the classic line from Annie Hall where Woody says, "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."

You Talking Loud But You Ain't Sayin' Nuthin
2008-05-20 05:48
by Alex Belth

Hank continues to talk.

How Not to Get Jerked (When You Do Hard Work)
2008-05-20 05:33
by Alex Belth

I won't deny that the heavy majority of sportswriters, myself included, have been and still are guilty of puffing up the people they write about. I remember one time when Stanley Woodward, my beloved leader, was on the point of sending me a wire during spring training, saying, "Will you stop Godding up those ball players?" I didn't realize what I had been doing. I thought I had been writing pleasant little spring training columns about ball players.

If we've made heroes out of them, and we have, then we must also lay a whole set of false values at the doorsteps of historians and biographers. Not only has the athlete been blown up larger than life, but so have the politicians and celebrities in all fields, including rock singers and movie stars.

When you go through Westminster Abbey you'll find that excepting for that little Poets' Corner almost all of the statues and memorials are to killers. To generals and admirals who won battles, whose specialty was human slaughter. I don't think they're such glorious heroes.

I've tried not to exaggerate the glory of athletes. I'd rather, if I could, preserve a sense of proportion, to write about them as excellent ball players, first-rate players. But I'm sure I have contributed to false values—as Stanley Woodward said, "Godding up those ball players."

Red Smith

That said, the back cover of today's New York Post screams: "HERE COMES A-GOD! Alex returns tonight to save inept Yanks."

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You Could Look it Up
2008-05-19 14:06
by Alex Belth

For those of you who live in the tri-state area, consider these upcoming dates at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center:

Bobby Murcer: Thursday, May 29th. 7:00-9:00 pm.

Graig Nettles, Ron Guidry and Don Mattingly: Sunday, June 8th. 3:00-5:00 pm.

Yogi himself: Thursday, June 12th. 6:00-8:00 pm.

Brother, Can You Spare Twenty Grand?
2008-05-19 10:31
by Alex Belth

Here's another reason to be sore today if you are a Yankee fan. Um, the prices next year at the new Stadium...well, check this out from Soxfan over at YFSF. It ain't pretty.

Very Serious (Like a Peek Frean)
2008-05-19 10:07
by Alex Belth

Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Boy with Baseball on the Brain:

Put me in coach...  

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The Good Doctor
2008-05-19 06:26
by Alex Belth

I was upset to read the news about Doc Ellis over the weekend. Ellis is critically ill. He was a lively character as a player and a good, hard-ass pitcher. After battling addiction for years, he's spent most of his post-baseball career as a counselor. I can only hope he receives the treatment he needs before it is too late.

In the meantime, here is a great story of just how tough he was in his prime. The following excerpt is from "In the Country of Baseball," written by Donald Hall.

In spring training 1974, Dock Ellis, felt that his Pirates had begun to loss some aggressiveness.

"You are scared of Cincinnati. That's what I told my teammates. Every time we play Cincinnati, the hitters are on their ass."

In 1970, '71, and '72, he says, the rest of the league was afraid of the Pirates. "They say, 'Here come the big bad Pirates. They're going to kick our ass!' Like they give up. That's what our team was starting to do. Cincinatti will bullshit with us and kick our ass and laugh at us. They're the only team that talk about us like a dog. Whenever we play that team, everybody socializes with them." In the past the roles had been revered. "When they ran over to us, we knew they were afraid of us. When I saw our team doing it, right then I say, 'We gunna get down. We gonna do the do. I'm going to hit these motherfuckers.'"

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Getting Over It
2008-05-19 05:33
by Alex Belth

"Come to bed, honey."

My wife's voice was weak.  She was almost asleep.  I turned the TV off, picked up my cat and went to the bedroom.  I let out a big sigh and Em told me that she was sorry that the Yankees are causing me so much agita.  "Try and let it go, babe, it's going to do you no good to stay upset about something you've got no control over.  You need your energy for the week." 

I've heard that line before and know it to be true.  This time, I didn't fight it for too long and soon enough I was asleep.  It is more than slightly ridiculous to get furious over a ball club, right?

It was sunny and crisp this morning on my way to work.  I read the morning papers on the subway.  Johnny Damon said the game was "embarrassing."  I shoved the papers into my napsack and put on my headphones.  A young Spanish girl, all of six years old was sitting across from me, next to her mother.  The girls' feet were three or four inches off the ground.  She wore pink sneakers, a power blue sweat suit and had a barette in her hair.  An i pod nano was in her little palm, little white plug headphones in her ears.  She had the most serious expression on her face and she mouthed the words to whatever she was listening to, nodding her head in an exaggerated motion.  I couldn't help but laugh.  Not only because she was so intent, so committed to her schtick but because she reminded me of how preposterous I must look at times, snapping my neck to the beat, wearing my super-sized dorky headphones.  

Yeah, the Yankees are awful right now.  Let them be embarrassed by how poorly they are playing.  We don't need to be embarrassed about anything.  Hey, we weren't embarrassed to root for them when they were winning.  Doesn't mean we have to be happy about what's going on, but in the end, their performance doesn't have much to do with us at all, does it?


Cella Dwellas
2008-05-18 19:47
by Alex Belth

Mostly Dead...

The Yankees have not been getting hits with men are in scoring position.  They have not been scoring many runs, one of the telling differences between last year's early-season slump and this year's version.  When their ace pitcher is not on his game--Chien-Ming Wang was knocked around to the tune of seven runs--there is no way for them to win, even with the umpires helping them out with a huge missed call, negating a three-run home run by Carlos Delgado (who singled in a run instead).  The game was actually close enough until the eighth when the Mets busted it open, but given the way the Yankee offense has been going it didn't feel close at all.  On consecutive plays in the top of the eighth, Bobby Abreu made poor throws to the plate and a 5-2 lead quickly became 7-2.  Jose Reyes' three-run shot into the right-centerfield bleachers sealed it.  Oliver Perez, the Mets' inconsistent left-hander, allowed only three hits in 7. 2/3 innings, the only damage coming from a two run-homer by Hideki Matsui.

Final Score: Mets 11, Yanks 2.     

So the Yanks are the winners of an abbreviated scrubway series--right now, they are worse than the Mets.  Their offense is worse, their record is worse, and, of course, they are in last place.  I wish I had something positive to say, but I don't.  Okay, how about this?  At least we don't have to watch this team play on Monday.  They've got the day off.  Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to rejoin the team on Tuesday night.  But even Rodriguez, the reigning AL MVP, won't be enough to help save these pinestriped suckas all by himself.

It's going to be a long season, boy.         

2008-05-18 09:35
by Cliff Corcoran

They say, in baseball, momentum is only as good the next day's starting pitcher. The Yankees sure hope that's true, as they have their ace, Chien-Ming Wang, on the hill tonight against lefty Oliver Perez, who has done his best to mimic Andy Pettitte's season by posting a 2.49 ERA in his first four starts and a 6.98 ERA in his last four.

The Yankees seemed to have the momentum early in yesterday's game. Andy Pettitte got his first six outs on five Ks and a pickoff, stranding a David Wright infield single in the process, then had a 1-2-3 third inning. Johnny Damon led of the bottom of the first against Johan Santana with a walk and came around to score on a towering home run down the left field line by Derek Jeter. With the Yanks up 2-0, Damon led off the bottom of the third with a single which was followed by a Bobby Abreu double into the gap in right field.

Yankee third-base coach Bobby Meacham waved Damon home on Abreu's hit. With no outs and the heart of the order due up, starting with Jeter who had already homered, it was a questionable send at best and one that betrayed the Yankees' desperate need for runs. Still, it took a perfect play to nail Damon at the plate. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened. Ryan Church cut the ball off before it reached the warning track, spun, and fired to Luis Castillo, who relayed home to Brian Schneider. As if he had eyes in the back of his head, Schneider, in one motion, caught Castillo's throw on a hop in front of the plate, turned, stuck out his left leg, and kicked Johnny Damon's foot away just as Damon was sliding into the plate. An overhead replay showed that Schneider's foot guided Damon's around the tip of the plate. Damon never touched home, and Schneider applied the tag to the back of Damon's leg as he slid by.

With that one play, the entire game changed. Abreu was stranded at second, and the Mets took the lead in the top of the fourth by scoring three runs against Pettitte on a series of dinks, dunks, and walks. It was only 3-2 Mets at that point, but the momentum had swung, and it never swung back. Pettitte gutted out six innings, throwing 116 pitches and coming away with a quality start and seven strikeouts, but Kyle Farnsworth came on in seventh to face the top of the Met order and gave up a home run to Jose Reyes, walked Church, and then gave up two-run jack to David Wright to make it 6-2 Mets. Farnsworth's home run rate now stands at an eye-popping 2.7 HR/9.

Jason Giambi answered that outburst by leading off the bottom of the inning with a solo homer off Santana and Abreu added another solo shot off the Mets' ace (whose 1.65 HR/9 this inning is ugly in and of itself) in the eighth, but Joba Chamberlain gave one of those runs back in the ninth following a Carlos Beltran triple, and the game ended with the Mets leading 7-4.

So, yeah, let's hope momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. Let's also hope that the 8:00 start time for tonight's ESPN game will allow the predicted showers to blow through before game time.

Pitcher Perfect
2008-05-17 06:46
by Alex Belth

Scrubway Serious, Take Two:

It rained all day and deep into the night on Friday in New York and the weaterman said it was going to keep a coming today.  However, the sun is out and it is a warm morning in New York.  Overcast, yeah, but it seems as if the Mets and Yankees will be able to get a game in this afternoon without a hitch.  Turns out this'll just be a brief encounter between the two teams as last night's game will be made up as part of a two-stadium double header in late June.  So, today gives an appealing match-up of southpaws: Johan Santana vs. Andy Pettitte.  The Yankees, of course, are well familiar with Santana.  They know how tough he can be, and with Alex Rodriguez's return still a few days away, the team is still at a disadvantage against lefties.  Pettitte has pitched poorly in three of his last four outings.  Time for him to come through with an improved performance.   

Let's Go Yan-Kees.



New York Mets
2008-05-16 12:51
by Cliff Corcoran

I'll get to the Mets in a moment, but first, since I've been out of commission this week due to a business trip, here are some thoughts on what ails the Yankees . . .

First thing's first, it's not the bullpen, which has held opponents to a .233/.308/.343 line and posted a 3.30 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7.67 K/9, and 2.28 K/BB, all despite being called on for the second-highest total of relief innings in the majors.

Second, the problems in the starting rotation are both obvious and in the process of being solved. Chien-Ming Wang has eight quality starts in nine tries, a 2.90 ERA, has spiked his K/9 to 5.80 (up from his career mark of 3.83 entering the season), and is averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings per start. Mike Mussina is 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA and just three walks in his last five starts. Darrell Rasner has two wins and two quality starts since being promoted from Scranton. Andy Pettitte was 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA over his first four starts, but is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA over his last four. Chances are Pettitte and Mussina will meet in the middle somewhere, leaving Ian Kennedy, who aced his reboot start in triple-A and threw strikes in his return last night only to have those strikes hit hard, as the big question mark in the quintet.

As for the offense. Riddle me this, Batman: as of yesterday morning, the Yankees were fourth in the AL in adjusted OPS, and third in the AL in slugging, but a dismal tenth in runs scored per game. What gives?

Here's my answer: too many outs. It's the oldest trick in the sabermetric book; the most precious commodity in the game is each team's allotment of 27 outs. Avoid making outs and you will score runs by default. In each of the last two seasons, the Yankees were first in the majors in on-base percentage (which is really just the inverse of a team's rate of making outs) and first in runs scored per game. This year, the Yankees are ninth in the AL in OBP and tenth in the league in runs scored per game.

Yes, it's that simple.

On-base percentages are dependent upon walks. While it's true that walks rarely drive in runs, they put runners on base and keep innings alive, preventing those runners from being stranded. The Yankees were third in the AL in walks in each of the last two seasons. This year, they're tenth in the league in free passes.

Tenth in walks. Ninth in OBP. Tenth in runs per game.

So don't blame Jason Giambi and his .188 average. Giambi leads the team with 23 walks, which get him up to a solid .351 OBP. Don't blame Hideki Matsui (not that you would seeing as he's by far been the team's best hitter this season). He leads the Yankees with a .399 OBP. Don't blame Johnny Damon, who is second to Giambi with 19 walks and has a .348 OBP which is right around his career average.

Do blame the injuries to Jorge Posada (career .380 OBP) and Alex Rodriguez (career .388 OBP). Jose Molina has just two walks in 25 games and has been an automatic out since coming back from his hamstring injury (45 outs in 47 plate appearances, counting double plays). Morgan Ensberg, has made 45 outs in his last 58 PAs dating back to Rodriguez's first game at DH.

Robinson Cano was another guilty party, but has gone .394/.412/.636 over his last nine games. Unfortunately, his buddy Melky Cabrera, who entered May with a .370 OBP, has taken Cano's place by making 30 outs in 36 PA over those nine games. Together they add up to one valuable hitter and third automatic out in the lineup.

Oh, and there's one other guy you can blame: Derek Jeter. Of the seven Yankees with 100 or more at-bats, Jeter is dead last in walks with just two-thirds of Cano's second-worst total. Jeter's .297 average is the second best mark on the team, but his .331 OBP is fifth among Yankee starters and 57 points below his career mark, which he matched or surpassed in each of the last three seasons. The good news there is that four of those six walks have come in the last 12 games. Still, even over that span Jeter's PA/BB rate has been below his career mark.

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If You Didn't You Wouldn't Be in Here
2008-05-16 10:17
by Alex Belth
As we wait around for what Banterite Sliced Bread calls the Schlubway Serious...

When I turned 30, my dear friend Alan made me a great mix cd, stacked with soul records from 1971, the year I was born.  "I Know You Got Soul," "Mr. Big Stuff," "Spanish Harlem,"  "Do the Funky Penguin,"  "A Natural Man," and one of my all-time favorite cuts, "Family Affair" are all featured.  (For my 40th, maybe he'll make me a mix of the best rock n roll songs from that year. What would those records be?)  Here is the cover art for the cd, including a card Alan made of me with my old moniker Al Dente (the back cover of the cd, looks like the back of an old card, but instead of stats, you get the track listing; it includes the tidbit, "Alex loves records," taken from an old Alex Johnson card).  The picture of me was actually taken by Alan in Gravesend, Brooklyn in 1999.  I'm wearing a t-shirt that my boy Javier brought back from the Dominican for me, "Sammy's 61," celebrating Sosa's monster 1998 season.  The cup in my right hand is from Nathan's on Coney Island.

Can you name all the cards--even the bits and pieces--in this collage?

Observations From Cooperstown--Don't Call Him Four Eyes
2008-05-16 08:32
by Bruce Markusen

Yankee reliever Edwar Ramirez doesn’t look the part of a major leaguer. He’s listed as six feet, three inches tall and 160 pounds, but appears more like 140 pounds with lead weights attached to his ankles. In some ways, he looks like a Latino version of Kent Tekulve, who was often confused with scarecrows during his hey day in the 1970s. And then there are those funky looking glasses that Ramirez wears. Or are they goggles, something like what Chris Sabo used to wear with the Reds? Perhaps we should call them "gloggles."

Ramirez is only the latest in a long line of players to bring eyeglasses and other forms of optical wear to the forefront. The tradition dates all the way back to the professional game’s roots some two centuries ago. The first major leaguer to wear glasses during a major league game was 19th century workhorse Will "Woop-La" White, who completed 394 out of 401 starts in his career. (I wonder what his pitch counts were like.) In 1877, White wore a pair of eyeglasses for the Boston Red Sox Stockings, who were then a National League franchise. After White finished donning the spectacles for Boston, no other major leaguer would sport glasses for another 38 years. In 1915, pitcher Lee "Specs" Meadows cracked the 20th century glasses barrier with the Cardinals. Like White, Meadows was a very good pitcher, a winner of 188 games over a 15-year career.

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The Sorrow and the Pity
2008-05-16 05:24
by Alex Belth

Ian Kennedy was filled with big talk before his recent start in Triple A. Last night, he felt there was improvement in his return outing for the Yankees but the results were not splendid--five runs in five innings. The Yankee offense, dubbed "the Dead Bat Society" by N.Y. Post writer George King, mustered just two runs as the Rays won the game (5-2) and the series and sent the uninspired Bronx Bummers into last place. Scott Kazmir, fresh off a three-year extension, got the win.

Things aren't much rosier in Queens as the Mets lost an agonizing 1-0 game yesterday afternoon (and three of four to the lowly Washington Nats). Mike Pelfry had a no hitter going into the seventh inning; Carlos Beltran got doubled off third base to end it in the ninth. After the game, outspoken closer Billy Wagner let rip in the direction of one Carlos Delgado. According to Adam Rubin in the Daily News:

"Someone tell me why the ---- you're talking to the closer. I didn't even play. They're over there, not being interviewed."

Wagner paused for dramatic effect. Then, in a scene reminiscent of last year's Paul Lo Duca comments, minus the racial overtones, the closer sarcastically added: "I got it. They're gone. ----ing shocker."

The forecast calls for steady rain today and then thunderstorms tomorrow. Maybe both teams could use an old-fashioned rainout. The way they've been been going recalls the title of Jimmy Breslin's famous account of the '62 Mets, Can't Anybody Here Play this Game? Just goes to show, a collective $300+ million don't buy what it used to.

2008-05-15 13:03
by Alex Belth

IPK vs. Kaz.  Come on split.

The Other Reggie
2008-05-15 10:16
by Alex Belth

Again, apropos of nothing, but man, he was pretty damn good, huh?

Yankee Panky #50: Goose Eggs
2008-05-15 07:22
by Will Weiss

It is a tired practice; writers contacting former greats from a particular team and having them comment on current players as if their words have any bearing on matters at hand. As much as I respect Goose Gossage and his shoot-from-the-hip style, I’m at a point where I do not want to see his name attributed to a quote unless it’s in a “where are they now” piece, or he becomes affiliated with the team in some kind of coaching capacity and has something meaningful to say pertaining to the team on a day-to-day basis.

It’s understandable, though. When a respected player with a good personality and rapport with the media reaches Hall of Fame status, he becomes a go-to guy for any story with the objective of comparing the past to the present. Such is the case with The Goose. With two and a half months until his enshrinement in Cooperstown, he is everywhere and is being treated as the de facto authority on all things Yankees.

Bob Klapisch’s Sunday column in the Bergen Record, which was later narced by the Associated Press, is further proof of this. When Joba Chamberlain caused a stir with post-strikeout histrionics last week, naturally, Gossage was the person Klapisch sought for comment/judgment. Gossage has for years waxed on the merits of players of his era, particularly relief pitchers and the development of specific roles in the bullpen. In his witty way, he’s been complimentary and critical, and always quoteworthy. Over the winter, Gossage, long a fan of Mariano Rivera, shifted his attention to the phenom, Chamberlain (at the media’s behest, of course). At the time, he said the right move for the Yankees was to leave Chamberlain as the set-up man and eventually have him assume the closer role once Rivera retires. In the subsequent months, he has continued his praise of Chamberlain, but this is the first time he’s openly questioned his maturity.

That this column came from Klapisch should not come as a surprise. Klapisch pitched at Columbia and still pitches in a semipro league. He likely viewed Chamberlain’s fist-pumping and primal screams as bush-league behavior and went to Gossage, knowing he’d have an agreeable audience. Very little work was involved save for making a phone call and transcribing quotes.

Klap’s lead:

The question was brought to Goose Gossage because who else to judge whether Joba Chamberlain was being a jerk on Thursday, pumping his fist and pirouetting after striking out the Indians' David Dellucci as if he'd toppled the Berlin Wall?

Once upon a time, the Goose was the game's hardest-throwing closer, who liked nothing more than to intimidate hitters. Not just throw the fastball by them — crush them psychologically. And Gossage, of course, was a Yankee, which means he and Chamberlain come from the same bloodlines.

Why does anyone have to judge at all? Klapisch, a veteran writer, is better than this. He fell into a classic reporter’s trap, which is building a story around a situation and an easy quote. The story is essentially written before the first word is typed. What’s worse, these types of articles invite responses from anyone willing to talk into a recorder or microphone. Predictably, the most boisterous response came from Hank Steinbrenner.

Later in the article, Klapisch criticized Joe Girardi for not taking action, adding that Joe Torre would have disciplined Chamberlain behind closed doors. Klapisch may be right, as well as he knows Torre, but he’s forcing a premise on his readers that may not be true. I can recall numerous times Torre saying, “I like the emotion. I don’t want to change (insert player name here).” Look how often he defended Roger Clemens.

Writers will continue to play this dangerous game, making assumptions and comparing players and teams from era to era. It’s part of the job to spur debate amongst fans in whatever way possible.

It’s unlikely that between now and the Hall of Fame ceremony that writers will cease calling Gossage. The question is: At what point will he stop answering?

• You can tell when a player has reached a nadir in the media’s eyes when the New York Times throws a humorous line worthy of print in either the NY Post or the Daily News. Tuesday, in his recap of the 7-1 loss to the Rays, Tyler Kepner observed that Kei Igawa was warming in the bullpen at one point, calling it “as sure a sign as any that the game was a lost cause.”

• A-Rod will miss the Subway Series. Pedro is out, too. What will the writers do to promote the it? For those of you who guessed Johan Santana, give yourself a prize. With the two-time Cy Young Winner pitching in Yankee Stadium Friday night, I’d put the odds of a Hank sighting at roughly the same as Big Brown’s chances at winning the Preakness. You know what that means: quotes a-plenty and follow-ups to his “earn your money” missive that made headlines on Wednesday. Who thinks Hank will fire Girardi by mid-season, bring in Bob Lemon, and then over the next seven years rehire Girardi four more times?

Until next week …

Moose it is!
2008-05-15 05:24
by Alex Belth

Okay, so the Yankee bats didn't exactly light it up against James Shields. They scored two runs. But it was enough to beat the Rays as Mike Mussina delivered and the Bombers won, 2-1. Mussina pitched slow and slower last night and it was a thing of beauty to watch.

"Whether it's Joba throwing 96 or me throwing 86, they have to gear their approach to whatever speed is coming," Mussina said. "Well, if I can make them gear from 68 up to 85 or 86, that's a big spread. No matter how hard the top is, the spread is pretty large.

"And if I can throw changeups for strikes at 70 miles an hour, and dump curveballs in there for strikes at 70, and work in between — throw sinkers at 81-82, throw cutters at 81-82, throw fastballs at 85-86 — then that makes it hard on them, no matter what the speed is.

"I'm not going to strike out 10 guys a game, and I know that. But I can mess with them enough that they're not going to get the swing that they want to get. And that's all I'm trying to do."
(Kepner, N.Y. Times)

The Yanks had some luck too when Gabe Gross lined into a double play to get Ross Olendorf out of trouble in the seventh. Gross hit the ball hard, but it was right at Jeter, who quickly flipped to Robinson Cano (four hits, Robinson Cano!) to double Cliff Floyd off second. Joba Chamberlian struck out the side in the eighth and Mariano Rivera was back to putting heads to bed in the ninth, notching his 11th save. Hey, a win is a win, right?

Especially with Hank itching to show that his bite backs up his bark. Here's more from the Son of Steinbrenner, as reported by Bill Madden in the Daily News:

This is what the new "Hammerin' Hank" had to say to me Wednesday when I reached him in Tampa with the greeting: "How 'bout those Rays!":

"They're a great story down here right now," he said, "although it's terrible that they're only drawing only 16,000 a game. They're playing a lot better than us, that's for sure. I know we're gonna come on at some point in this season, but right now, other than (Chien-Ming) Wang, (Mariano) Rivera, (Derek) Jeter, (Hideki) Matsui, (Johnny) Damon and (Mike) Mussina, after I got on him a little, we're not doing jack (bleep).

"What bothers me is that these guys are all working for me and my brother and they're all making more money than we are. That's what makes me mad. But while I'm confident they'll come around, we'll just have to wait and see what happens this year. And if they don't come around then changes will have to be made. I've just got to clean up the mistakes of the last five years and make us what we should be."

Ah, so Hank gets the credit for Mussina's recent performance. Same as it ever was.

Minnie or Mice?
2008-05-14 12:56
by Alex Belth
 Apropos of nothing, other than something that is true and good...

Will the Yankee offense show up tonight against the Rays' best pitcher?

One never knows...


Wha Happen?
2008-05-14 10:19
by Alex Belth

During the middle of the game last night, I was on-line checking the scores...2-0, 2-1, 3-2, 1-1. Sure sign of a recession when you see lines like that in the Junior Circut. BP takes as look at why scoring in in the American League is down this season. Tom Verducci examines the issue as well, and Jake Luft wonders what ever happen to Travis Hafner.

Youse Guys Stink
2008-05-14 05:24
by Alex Belth

"I feel like their energy is definitely more than ours."
--Hideki Matsui
(Feinsand, N.Y. Daily News)

In the top of the fifth inning last night, YES broadcaster Ken Singleton said, "The Yankees look as if they are hitting under water." It was an apt description and a nice way of puting it. Listless, ancient and awful are other words that come to mind. The Yanks didn't score their first run until the ninth inning, when with one out, Hideki Matsui ripped a high fastball from Troy Percival for a solo home run. Derek Jeter, standing at the top of the dugout, immediately raised his arms and turned to Johnny Damon to slap five. Al Leiter, Singleton's partner on the air, mentioned that Jeter must have called Godzilla's blast. Jeter's face is a deeply tanned and he smiled broadly.

It was to be the last good moment of the evening. Kyle Farnsworth got through the ninth and Mariano Rivera survived a lead-off single to Carl Crawford in the tenth, but Mo couldn't get past a lead-off base hit by Cliff Floyd in the eleventh (this was New York's first trip to extra innings this season). When Jonny Gomes entered the game to pinch run for Floyd, a sinking feeling overcame me. Sure enough, Gomes swiped second and then raced home on a base hit by Gabe Gross. Final: Rays 2, Yanks 1. All three hits against Rivera came from lefties. His location was off, but he can hardly be blamed--this was the first run he's allowed all season. Neither can Chien-Ming Wang, who wasn't brilliant, but damn good, giving up just one run over seven innings.

No, the blame rests squarely on the offense. Even without Posada and Rodriguez, $200 million has to buy more than this. Hank Steinbrenner, talking to Kevin Kernan in the Post, agrees:

"The bottom line is that the team is not playing the way it is capable of playing," Steinbrenner said. "These players are being paid a lot of money and they had better decide for themselves to earn that money."

...He then paid the much-improved Rays a compliment, saying, the Yankees have "got to start playing the way the Rays are playing. (The Yankees) need to start treating it like when they were younger players and going after that big contract, like they're in (Triple-A) and trying to make the majors. That's the kind of attitude and fire the players have to have.

"There's no question we need to turn it around and we have the talent to turn it around. We've got the team in place, and now they just have to go out and do it.

"This is going to get turned around," Steinbrenner said. "If it's not turned around this year, then it will be turned around next year, by force if we have too."

According to Kevin Long, the hitting coach:

"Realistically, we should score about five runs a game if a guy's not on his game," Long said. "A guy like tonight, we could probably push across three runs with the stuff he had. Last night's guy, we probably could have got more.

"You've got to figure they're probably a run, a run and a half," Long continued, referring to the run production lost without Rodriguez and Posada, "but we've talked about it. Each guy thinks we should be able to score five."
(Kepner, N.Y. Times)

Pete Abraham collected some cherce quotes from the Yankee pitchers:

Chien-Ming Wang: "It's tough pitching with no runs. It's surprising because we have good hitters. I got my job done and kept the team close."

Mariano Rivera: "We have to score some runs and we haven't done that."

Joba Chamberlain: "It's tough right now. Every run against us looks huge."

With Shields and Kazmir pitching the next two days for the Rays, it's hard to imagine the Yankees leaving Florida with a split. Go figure that. The Rays, it should be noted, are now in first place, and last night marked a high-point in their history.

"You're looking for growth moments?" said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "There's one right in front of your face tonight."
(The Tampa Tribune)

No kidding.

Better Late than Clever
2008-05-13 16:20
by Alex Belth

Sorry, I'm tardy. Chien-Ming has to man-up tonight for the Yanks and keep the Rays from getting out of hand with this up-and-coming-we're-so-fresh business. Hopefully, the bats will follow suit.

Let's Go Yan-Kees.

Keeps on Winning...
2008-05-13 10:14
by Alex Belth has a fun new scouting report feature. Here's one on Greg Maddux.

Boyz II Men
2008-05-13 05:23
by Alex Belth

The Yankees looked flatter than George Carlin's ass last night in a 7-1 loss in Tampa Bay. The Rays--led by spark plug Jonny Gomes, who was seemingly everwhere, running, sliding, high-fiving, all with a cloud of dust around him--looked like the varsity squad, while the Yanks appeared sluggish and old.

"Always, beating the Evil Empire is awesome," Jonny Gomes said. "They've been doing work on us for the last 10 years (a 115-58 advantage). … Anyone in the AL East, we'll take our wins. But beating those guys is always a little more fun."
(Marc Topkin, St. Pete Times)

The Rays, winners of five straight, were big, young and strong, not your average girls' softball team. Matt Garza has some life on his pitches and he attacked the Yankee batters all night. According to Tyler Kepner in the Times:

"He came right after us," Damon said. "Before we knew it, he was jamming us and making us pop out. That's what happens when you're late on the fastball, and it seemed like we were late all day. It just seemed like we couldn't catch up to it."

Damon referred to Tuesday's opponent and said the Yankees could be in for another tough game: "I'm sure Edwin Jackson's taking notes, saying, 'These guys couldn't get through tonight.' And he has a harder fastball."

The Yankees, on the other hand, were treated to another uninspired installment of "Bad Andy." New York is back under .500, at 19-20. And Alex Rodriguez won't be around for the subway serious this weekend.

At least Chien Ming Wang is pitching tonight.

Tampa Bay Rays III
2008-05-12 12:50
by Cliff Corcoran

Don't look now, but the Tampa Bay Rays have third-best record in American League. Given that, the Yankees look pretty good rolling into town with a 4-2 record against the Rays and a 2-0 record at the Trop this season, but then it's been nearly a month since these two teams last met. The Rays were 6-8 when the Yankees last left town, but are 15-7 since then, 13-5 over their last six series, and are coming off a sweep of the Angels.

Just as they planned it, the Rays have been winning on the strength of their pitching and defense, particularly since getting Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza, neither of whom has faced the Yankees yet this year but both of whom will start in this series with the latter taking the hill tonight, back from the disabled list. Last by a lot in preventing runs last year, the Rays are now are the fifth stingiest team in the league and are second only to the surprising A's in least runs allowed per game at home, yielding just with 3.47 R/G at the Trop.

Garza has a 3.06 ERA in three starts since coming off the DL, but with a reverse K/BB of 0.75. He'll face Andy Pettitte, who is working on an extra day of rest due to yesterday's rainout.

Continue reading...

That's the Joint
2008-05-12 10:13
by Alex Belth

I was having a conversation with a friend over the weekend about the future of the newspaper business. He suggested that the print version of The New York Times will not exist in ten years. I don't know enough about the future to know if that is correct, but the way things are going it wouldn't really surprise me. Everything is in flux.

The Times is doing a good job with their baseball blog, Bats (their Diner's Journal blog in the food section is tremendous). Sherman at the Post, Feinsand at the News and O'Brein at Newsday, Murti at the FAN, all have blogs to maintain along with their regular duties. Heck Pride of the Yankees has been around, and doing it well, forever. Blogging is part of the every day news cycle.

The fact that blogs as a medium have been co-opted by the mainstream press is not news. Nor is the fact that best Yankee information available anywhere now comes from a blog. But who would have thunk that the one-stop-shop for behind-the-scenes Yankee news would come from a Westchester paper and not one of Big Three? Pete Abraham will be scooped-up one day and be handsomely rewarded for his hard work. In the meantime, if his blog was the only access you had to the Yankees, you'd be well-informed. Pete's site isn't the end-all--other blogs, including this one and a host of others around the 'net, have lots to add to the conversation--but he's the starting point. It's a sign of how things have already changed that the New York Times, Daily News and the Post are all getting their asses kicked by a paper from the 'burbs.

This is good for us as fans because Pete has raised the bar, and now the rest of the papers have to keep up. That's competition at its finest.

Couple Tings
2008-05-12 09:57
by Alex Belth

I caught most of the games at Shea this weekend. I actually went out there with Rich Lederer, his son Joe, and Repoz on Friday night. We sat around and watched it rain for an hour-and-a-half and then split when they announced no game would be played. Anyhow, it was nice to see Junior Griffey, who I don't catch all that often, being an American League guy. Nate Silver had a fine piece on Junior for the Times yesterday. Check it out.

Also, thanks to Jon Weisman for pointing out Paul DePodesta's new blog (with a clever name), It Might Be Dangerous...You Go First, which rightly celebrated Greg Maddux's 350th career win. Man, I just hope Maddog can last through the end of next season as it would be tremendous to see him pass Warren Spahn (363) on the all-time wins list. As for the title of DePo's blog, the first movie that comes to mind is "Young Frankenstein." But it sounds like such a stock line, I'm sure it was in one the old Bob Hope movies or Warner Bros. cartoons. Hmmm.

Or Theatrics Is More Like My Tactics
2008-05-12 09:42
by Alex Belth

I wasn't impressed with Joba Chamberlain's emotional outburst after striking out Dave Dellucci last week.  I realize that being demonstrative is just the way it is today, whether it is Chamberlain celebrating after a strike out or Manny Ramirez admiring a home run for fifteen minutes at the plate.   My problem with Chamerlain letting loose after he retired Dellucci was that it seemed to be all about Joba getting revenge for the home run Dellucci hit off him a few nights earlier.  In other words, it was selfish, and had nothing to do with the game situation.  To me, Chamberlain would have been more of a bad ass if he had just stalked off the mound after making Dellucci look helpless.  I think his antics undermined a beautiful sequence of pitches.  It isn't a that big a deal, certainly not worth all the attention it has gotten on WFAN, but that is my take. 

According to Bob Klapisch, former Yankees Goose Gossage and Roy White weren't impressed either:

Goose always has hated showboaters, past and especially present day, so when Dellucci told reporters he thought Chamberlain's response was immature and "bush," Gossage didn't hesitate to say, "I'm on Dellucci's side.

"That's just not the Yankee way, what Joba did. Let everyone else do that stuff, but not a Yankee," Gossage said by telephone on Saturday. "What I don't understand is, the kid's got the greatest mentor in the world in Mariano [Rivera]. He's one of the leaders of the team, so you'd think it wouldn't happen on that team.

"But there's no one to pass the torch anymore, no one to teach the young kids how to act. The Mets did a lot of that [celebrating] last year, and look how it came back to haunt them."

...White, in particular, took issue with Melky Cabrera, who often does a full-spin, twirl high-five after a home run or Yankee victory. "I saw that 360-thing he did with [Robinson] Cano at the end of one of the games and I was shocked. I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' " White said by telephone. "I'm sorry, that's just too much. I'm guess I'm old school, but there's a professional way to play baseball, there's a Yankee tradition, back to [Joe] DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. "You hit a home run, act like you've hit one before, not like it's the first time in your life."

On the other hand, Ed Valentine thinks all the talk about Yankee class is nonsense. 

What Do We Do With All These Pink Bats?
2008-05-11 20:47
by Cliff Corcoran

The Yankees' series finale in Detroit was one of three games rained out on Mother's Day yesterday. The game will be made up either July 24 or September 1. The former date would result in the Yankees playing 27 consecutive games coming out of the All-Star break.

The rainout gives the Yankees the option of bringing Ian Kennedy back to reclaim the fifth starters spot from Kei Igawa when it next comes due. Igawa was set to start on Wednesday, with Darrell Rasner pitching Thursday, but the rainout allows the Yankees to start Rasner on either Thursday or Friday with Igawa or a replacement starting the other day. Kennedy, who is eligible to be recalled on Thursday, was scheduled to start for Scranton Wilkes-Barre yesterday, but his game was also rained out. He'll start today, but if the Yankees pull him from the game early, could start on short rest against the Mets on Friday. It seems more likely to me that the Yankees will either start Igawa or a replacement on Thursday and let Rasner face the Mets on Friday.

The most likely Igawa alternate would be Steven White, who is on the 40-man roster and pitching well for Scranton (2.68 ERA, 1.21 WHIP), but White's extreme fly-ball rate and 4.02 BB/9 suggest he might just be a right-handed Igawa. It would be fun to see converted reliever Dan Giese get the call, but the Yankees would have to create room on the 40-man for him (possibly by calling up Francisco Cervelli and putting him on the 60-day DL, or better yet, by designating Chris Stewart for assignment). Me, I'd DFA Stewart and give the veteran Giese (1.05 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 3.5 K/BB in six starts) a shot on Thursday with Rasner starting Friday.

What would you do?

Well Done
2008-05-11 06:26
by Alex Belth

Ah, a nice tidy win for the Yanks yesterday afternoon in the Motor City. Darrell Rasner may be short on stuff, but he throws the ball over the plate and pitched well enough to earn his second straight win.

"You know who he reminds me of a little bit? Jon Lieber," Derek Jeter said. "He works quick, he throws strikes; he's fun to play behind. He doesn't take too much time between pitches, he has a plan and he goes right after guys."
(Pete Abe, Lo-Hud)

Kyle Farnsworth relieved Rasner in the seventh. With a man on, Miguel Cabrera singled through the left side of the infield. Watching at home, I was practically convinced Cabrera was going to touch Farnsworth. Gary Sheffield was next and he slapped a double down the left field line. The pitch, a fastball, was at his shoulders, but Sheffield still managed to put a level swing on it and drive the ball. The Tigers were set for a rally. Down 5-2, runners at second and third, nobody out, and Farnswacker on the hill. But then, Edgar Renteria gave away an at-bat by tapping a soft liner to Robinson Cano on a slider out of the zone. Pudge Rodriguez waved through a high fastball (ball four) on a full count pitch, and Placido Planco was retired to end the threat. Joba cruised through the eighth and after giving up a lead-off single to Magglio Ordonez in the ninth (Ordonez is 7-13 lifetime against Mo), Mariano Rivera got Cabrera to hit into a double play (nasty cutter in on the hands), and Sheff to ground out to second. Rivera has ten saves in as many opportunities, and is sporting a 0.00 ERA in 15 innings this year. Derek Jeter hit his first homer of the season, Bobby Abreu added two hits, and Jason Giambi had an RBI double. Poor Wilson Betemit crushed a long fly ball to left center field in his first at bat, and then hit another bomb to straight away center (420 ft) his next turn up, good for a double. But he tweaked a hamstring rounding first and is headed back to the DL. The only drag on a nice Saturday.

Final Score: Yanks 5, Tigers 2.

Bombers look to make it two straight this afternoon with Mr. Pettitte shooting to get his record (3-3) over .500.

Let's Go Yan-Kees!

How I Learned to Pee Straight
2008-05-10 09:49
by Alex Belth

As I've previously mentioned, I'm anxious about peeing in public restrooms. Have been ever since I was a kid. About ten years ago, though, I was hanging out with my friend Steve Stein, aka Steinski, at his studio/office in Manhattan. At one point, I told him I had to take a leak and as I stood up, he walked by me and said that he had to relieve himself too. Awww, man, I thought. The men's room down the corridor from his office was made up of two cramped stalls and a small sink. There was no place to hide, not enough room to pretend that my non-peeing was actually just a subtle stream that was tapping on the side of the bowl away from the water. I was stuck. Stein, of course, was oblivious to my dilemma and he continued our conversation in his soothing, New York accent. I was thrilled and delighted to discover that as we chatted, I had no problems peeing. The next time the situation came up, same result. Why Stein I don't know, but I took it as a sign that a deep comfort existed between us. Eventually, I told him as much.

But that was it. Stein was the exception to the rule. It wasn't until a few months ago that it occurred to me to think about Stein standing in the stall next me, carrying on a conversation, when I was in a public restroom without him. Well, wouldn't you know it, my Jedi mind trick works! While I have not tested myself in a jam-packed bathroom during the late innings of a ballgame, I'm now been able to pee in public restrooms. All thanks to Stein. It's a minor thing in life, but for me, it feels major. So much so that I called Stein to thank him. He sent me an e-mail the next day, "I'm wildly flattered that I'm in your thoughts when your schlong is in your hand."

Point is, if I can learn to pee straight, the Yankees can figure out a way to beat the Tigers, who have a formidable line-up of course, but who have underachieved even more than the Yanks have this year. I mean, how frustrating have these four loses to the Tigers been? C'mon already. Cliff hipped me to a bit Kevin Goldstein wrote about today's starter, Darrell Rasner over at Baseball Prospectus:

With Ian Kennedy's minor case of the yips and Philip Hughes' continued struggles, Rasner might suddenly be a surprisingly important part of the Yankees' 2008 season. That said, he also just might be up to the task, because he was totally dealing at Triple-A, allowing just 18 hits and six walks in 31 innings. He's a classic sinker/slider type with plus command, and while at 27 he's already at his ceiling as a back-end starter, he delivered six quality innings in his first big league start of the year, and should be able to provide that more often than not throughout the season.

Let's hope Rasner can make it two-in-a-row this afternoon. The offense needs to score him some runs.

Let's Go Yan-Kees.

Out Of Reach
2008-05-09 22:34
by Cliff Corcoran

Kei Igawa was predictably awful last night, though in an unpredictable way. After I called him a Three True Outcome pitcher in my preview, Igawa didn't walk anyone, give up any home runs, or strike anyone out. He also didn't make it out of the fourth inning. Taking a closer look, the Tigers were too busy getting hits to draw any walks (Igawa faced 20 men, 11 of them got hits), spacious Comerica Field helped reduce some would-be homers to doubles or long outs, and only two of Igawa's 64 pitches were swung at and missed.

With his team down 6-1, two men on, and none out in the fourth, Joe Girardi brought in Jonathan Albaladejo in relief of Igawa. Albaladejo squirmed out of the inning, thanks in part to Ivan Rodriguez oversliding third base after tagging up on a fly out to right, and pitched around a single in the fifth, but after striking out Marcus Thames to start the sixth, he gave up a single and a walk. Albaladejo's next two pitches were balls, and after the second, he was removed from the game due to elbow pain. The Yankees later described the pain as "discomfort in the medial right elbow." Albaladejo told Pete Abe it felt like there was a needle going through his elbow followed by a burning sensation. I'm no doctor, but that doesn't sound good.

So, Albaladejo has hit the DL and will get an MRI in New York tomorrow. To fill his spot, Chris Britton, who had just been sent down to make room for Igawa, has been recalled less than 24 hours after being optioned for the second time this season.

Back to the game, the Yankees' only run off Kenny Rogers came on a Jason Giambi solo shot in the third. With Rogers out of the game, Robinson Cano led off the seventh with a double and was plated by a wild pitch and a Chad Moeller single. LaTroy Hawkins got five outs on 12 pitches in relief of Albaladejo, and Edwar Ramirez pitched a perfect eighth, sending the game to the ninth inning with the Tigers up 6-2.

Facing Detroit closer Todd Jones, Wilson Betemit, who had a rough day in the field at third base and also became Kenny Rogers record-setting 92nd career pick off after a single in the second, led off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a Robinson Cano groundout to make it 6-3. Johnny Damon then pinch-hit for Moeller, reached on an infield single, moved to second on another wild pitch, to third on a Melky Cabrera groundout, and was plated by a Derek Jeter single to make it 6-4. Jeter took second on defensive indifference and was immediately driven home by a Bobby Abreu double that made it 6-5. Jim Leyland then elected to walk Hideki Matsui, thus ending Godzilla's hitting streak, to have the right-handed Jones face the right-handed Shelley Duncan. Duncan took ball one, then got good wood on a ball low and away and lifted it to deep left center. Unfortunately, he got a little too much air under the ball and hit it a bit too much toward center where defensive replacement Curtis Granderson easily reeled it in for the final out, leaving the Yankees 180 feet short of extending the game. Final score: 6-5 Tigers.

Detroit Tigers Redux: Igawhy Edition
2008-05-09 12:01
by Cliff Corcoran

When the Tigers completed their sweep of the Yankees in the Bronx last week, it completed a 12-5 stretch that made Detroit's 2-10 start seem like nothing but an injury-plagued fluke. Since then, the Tigers have gone 1-6 against the Twins and Red Sox, throwing things into doubt once again. Since leaving New York, the Tigers have scored just 3.14 runs per game, with 10 of the 22 runs they've scored over that stretch coming in their lone win on Wednesday. In the other six games, they've averaged just two runs per game.

Much like the Indians, who reacted to an offense not living up to expectations by punting a veteran platoon outfielder in favor of a rookie and dropping their aging DH to sixth in the order, the Tigers have responded to their own offense's underperformance by releasing Jacque Jones, calling up 23-year-old lefty-hitting rookie outfielder Matthew Joyce (.299/.367/.536 with five homers at triple-A Toledo before his promotion), and dropping Gary Sheffield (.202/.366/.315 thus far) to sixth in the order (though, curiously, they've also made Sheffield their left fielder).

It won't do them any good. Even if the Tigers got their offense up to last year's level, it wouldn't be enough to out-slug the performance of their pitching staff, which is allowing 5.53 runs per game, the second highest mark in the majors. Taking the season as a whole, the Tigers have actually had the third-best offense in the AL, but they've still been outscored by 27 runs.

Of course, in three games last week, the Tigers outscored the Yankees 20-10. The Yanks will face the same three Tiger starters this weekend in Detroit that they faced last year in the Bronx. What's different is who the Tigers will face, starting with Kei Igawa tonight and Darrell Rasner tomorrow.

Assuming Ian Kennedy's second triple-A start goes even half as well as his first, Kennedy will likely return to reclaim one of those two rotation spots when his subsequent turn comes due. That means Igawa and Rasner are competing to be the man who occupies Phil Hughes' spot in the rotation until Hughes is able to return from his fractured rib. Rasner already has the lead in that race as he was sharp in his season debut against the Mariners last Sunday.

In parts of four seasons now, Rasner has never posted a major league ERA worse than league average and has a solid 4.01 mark (110 ERA+) in 58 1/3 career innings along with a respectable 1.23 WHIP and 2:1 K/BB ratio.

Igawa's another story entirely. In 67 2/3 innings last year, Igawa posted a 6.25 ERA (72 ERA+), 1.67 WHIP, and a limp 1.43 K/BB while allowing a Farnsworthy two homers per nine innings. Worse yet, there were no encouraging streaks during his season. Igawa posted a 7.63 ERA in six outings (five starts plus his six innings of relief following Jeff Karstens' broken leg) before being demoted in early May. After working with organizational pitching guru Nardi Contreras, Igawa returned to the major league rotation in late June and put up a 5.97 ERA over six more starts. After being banished to the minors a second time he reappeared at the end of September to pitch 5 1/3 scoreless innings, but walked five against just two strikeouts along the way.

Here are Igawa's triple-A rates from amid those ugly major league stints along with his triple-A line thus far this year:

2007: 3.69 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 9.35 K/9, 1.98 BB/9, 4.73 K/BB, 1.32 HR/9
2008: 3.86 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.08 K/9, 2.72 BB/9, 3.33 K/BB, 0.68 HR/9

Igawa's triple-A homers are down, but his walks are up. Otherwise, there's very little meaningful change between those two lines, and thus, it would seem, very little reason to expect Igawa's major league performance to differ from what he did last year. To lower expectations even further, Igawa gave up eight runs and walked six in his last 12 innings for Scranton. Igawa is a Three True Outcome pitcher in that he clutters his pitching line with walks, homers, and strikeouts. The heavily right-handed Tigers, whom the left-handed Igawa did not face last year, tend to do those things a lot as well.

Come back Ian Kennedy, all is forgiven!

Continue reading...

Card Corner--The Forgotten Yankee
2008-05-09 08:56
by Bruce Markusen

As impressionable youngsters growing up in Westchester County in the late sixties and early seventies, we reveled in imitating unusual batting styles and stances. Our favorite style to mimic was that of Willie Stargell, with his intimidating "windmilling" of the bat as he waited the next offering from a quivering pitcher. Then there was Joe Morgan’s patented "chicken-wing"—the repeated flapping of his left elbow to his side, a timing mechanism that became the signature of one of the era’s dynamic offensive stars. From the Yankees’ perspective, no one had a more distinctive stance than Roy White. Hitting out of a pronounced crouch, White tucked the knob of his bat toward his back hip, all while pointing each of his feet inward—toward the other. That latter trait characterized White’s signature pigeon-toed stance, one that I can’t remember any other player using in that era, or ever since, for that matter. I can’t imagine trying to stand pigeon-toed for any length of time, not to mention trying to do so while fending off a Bert Blyleven curveball or a Sam McDowell fastball.

During that interim period of Yankee frustration that bridged 1965 to 1975, only a few Yankees garnered rabid fan followings in the Bronx. Most of us gravitated to stars like Thurman Munson and Bobby Murcer, or to a lesser extent, pitching stalwarts Mel Stottlemyre and Sparky Lyle. Few Yankee fans seemed to have much of an appreciation for Roy White, the team’s third best position player behind Murcer and Munson. White first became a regular in 1968, the year that this Topps card (No. 546, as shown above) was issued. There are a few alarmists who will contend that his skin color played a part in his lack of recognition. I’m sure it was a factor for some fans, but I don’t think it mattered much to us rabid diehards growing up near the Bronxville-Yonkers border. (After all, Mets fans in my neighborhood loved Willie Mays as much as any New York ballplayer in 1972 and ’73, even as his skills deteriorated badly.) White just happened to be very quiet, a player who never showed his temper (like Munson) or expressed himself outspokenly (as Murcer did at times). He wasn’t controversial; in fact, he was the opposite, he was as bland any player who ever wore pinstripes. And there’s nothing wrong with bland—if you’re good.

White was a very good player, but most fans (even the adults) of that time failed to recognize just how good. Given that Sabermetrics was in its infancy in the early 1970s, players like White tended to be underrated. As an all-around player who did a little bit of everything, nothing in White’s game stood out. He didn’t hit with a lot of power, so that certainly didn’t grab headlines. One of White’s greatest skills, his patience at the plate and ability to consistently walk more than he struck out, was not yet fully appreciated by either the fan base or the mainstream media. During his peak from 1968 to 1976, White had only one season in which his on-base percentage dipped below .350. In 1972, he led the American League in walks. And for his career, he drew 934 walks while striking out only 708 times.

As overlooked as White was for most of his career, the view of his worth as a player has undergone a stark revision. Historians and analysts now recognize him as one of the finer multi-talented players of the 1970s. Durable and dependable, he featured speed (stealing an average of over 15 bases a season over a 15-year career), a modicum of power (160 home runs, including a high of 22 in 1970), and an excellent glove in left field, skilled enough to handle the challenging dimensions of Death Valley of Yankee Stadium. White also fared well in the postseason, particularly in League Championship Series play. No less an authority than Bill James (who is ironically now a Boston Red Sox employee) has become one of White’s biggest champions, going so far as to claim that White was a better ballplayer than his Red Sox’ left field counterpart, Jim Rice. That’s especially noteworthy given that Rice undergoes an annual dalliance with the BBWAA, which has come within a whisker of electing him to the Hall of Fame. Rice is expected to win election next January, while White fell off the writers’ ballot after one inglorious campaign in 1985. White received no votes (while far lesser players like Don Kessinger and Jesus Alou garnered two and one, respectively), thereby dropping off the ballot immediately.

Now I don’t mean to carry the appreciation of White too far. Personally, I’ve never completely swallowed the comparisons with Rice. Rice’s lifetime on-base percentage was only eight points less than White’s, while his slugging percentage was light years better. The measure of ballpark effects is overrated here, too. While Rice certainly had an advantage hitting at Fenway Park, let’s remember that Yankee Stadium’s reputation as a pitcher’s park for much of the sixties and early seventies was overstated because of just how poor the Yankees’ offense was during those in-between years. Lineups overrun by players like Bobby Cox, Ron Woods, Jerry Kenney, and Celerino Sanchez tended to suppress the run-scoring totals at the Stadium. And then there was the matter of White’s arm, which might have been worse than that of Bernie Williams. White tended to throw "parachutes"—long, looping throws with a high arc—giving opposition baserunners an opportunity to take extra bases on balls hit to left field.

White’s popgun arm and lack of raw power will certainly keep him out of the Hall of Fame, but that shouldn’t detract from his importance to the Yankee franchise. He was a vital element in the Yankees’ pennant-winning run from 1976 to 1978. In the 1976 League Championship Series, White accumulated five walks, tying a major league record. In the 1978 LCS, White hit .313, once again tormenting the opposition Royals, and blasted a game-winning home run in the clinching sixth game. He then went on to hit a home run and drive in four runs against the Dodgers in the World Series, as the Yankees staked claim to their second straight world championship. Additionally, White supplied the Yankees with a critical off-the-field attribute. On a team filled with combustible, high-octane personalities, White provided some gentlemanly stability and a calming, even-keeled presence. Well liked and respected by his teammates, White never gave anyone on the Yankees reason to criticize him in the media, or challenge him to a fight in the dugout.

For those reasons, along with that delightful pigeon-toed stance, Roy White no longer deserves to be the forgotten Yankee.

Bruce Markusen is the author of seven books on baseball, but none about the Yankees. Please send any Yankee-related book deal offers to


Those were the Days
2008-05-09 07:01
by Alex Belth

On Monday evening, I attended a reading of a new collection of essays, Anatomy of Baseball, edited by Lee Gutkind and Andrew Blauner, and featuring work by John Thorn, Michael Shapiro and the late George Plimpton. Kevin Baker, the acclaimed novelist, contributed a piece on old ballparks, which features some wonderfully evocative writing about the Polo Grounds. Here is an excerpt of his chapter, At the Park:

By Kevin Baker

The ban on black ballplayers—known black players—in the major leagues finally ended in 1947, with Jackie Robinson. Within four years, a final legend would be playing in the Polo Grounds. Willie Mays was in many ways the antithesis of Ruth. Shorter and more slender at five-eleven, one-hundred-eighty pounds, Mays was all elegance and fluidity, a player whose grace caused grown men to mourn his passing from New York for decades. If the Babe had been singular in conquering the two great poles of the game, pitching and hitting, it is doubtful there ever was as complete an all-around player as Willie Mays—a five-skill player, as the terminology has it. He could hit, hit for power, field, throw, run—how he could run. He ran out from under his hat, he was so fast. He was the first man in over thirty years to hit over thirty home runs and steal over thirty bases in the same season. He hit over fifty home runs on two separate occasions, once into the wind off San Francisco bay.

He could do anything—gliding through life, it seemed, even more smoothly than Ruth had. Greeting all the adoring strangers with his own generic salute, "Say hey!" A good-natured if somewhat removed young man, up from Birmingham; up from nowhere, coached mainly by his father, a former Negro-League star. Bursting on the scene a fully formed major-leaguer, it seemed. Bursting out with all that incalculable, bottled up talent; that angry, channeled intensity those first, remarkable generations of no-longer-banned black players brought to the big leagues—Robinson and Mays, and Newcombe and Frank Robinson and Aaron and Gibson and Clemente, to name just a few. Though Mays never seemed that angry. Enjoying himself, like Ruth. Even playing stickball out on the streets of Harlem with the neighborhood kids, waving a broomstick bat at the spaldeen, splattering it over the manhole covers.

September 29, 1954: the first game of the World Series at the Polo Grounds. The strange old park has less than ten years to live, and Mays, twenty-three, in his first, full major-league season, is about to impress his image indelibly on the history of the game—and to ensure that a last glimpse of the old ballpark will be preserved in countless highlight reels. It's the eighth inning of a tie game, two on and nobody out for the visiting Cleveland Indians, and Vic Wertz, a muscular first baseman, is at the plate. Wertz is red-hot this series and particularly on this day. He will record four hits, including a double and a triple, and now he rips another soaring fly, deep into the endless expanses of the Polo Grounds' right-center field.

Mays is after the ball. It keeps going, and he is right after it. Running and running, outrunning the ball, miraculously bisecting the endless expanses of the ball field, running all the way out over the vast, dark fields of the republic. Here is the weird centerfield clubhouse coming into view now, the monument to Eddie Grant, killed in the Great War, the war that took poor Matty's lungs. Here is a strange scene, frozen in still unfinished reaction: a few faces, peering out of the clubhouse windows, unable to see just where Mays is; a few of the fans, most of them men wearing hats, and some in jackets, too, even in the centerfield bleachers, just beginning to stand up, just aware something is going on that doesn't add up. They are all captured forever, in this first twitch of a great realization.

For Mays has already caught the ball. Running straight out, he has caught it over his left shoulder with barely a shrug. He is already turning back to the infield and about to throw, even as the crowd still begins to bestir itself. He windmills a quick throw back toward the plate, and the runners are kept from scoring. The Giants get out of the inning, win the game, sweep the World Series—the only one Mays will win in his whole long incomparable career.

It was the greatest catch ever made in the World Series, perhaps the greatest catch ever. Bob Feller, the great Cleveland pitcher watching from the dugout that day, sniffed later that no one thought it was the greatest catch then. Feller, unaccountably sour for a man blessed with a hundred-mile-an-hour fastball, claimed that everyone knew Mays used to deliberately wear his hats too small so they would fall off and make everything he did look faster, better, more incredible.

But the pictures of that frozen moment show that Mays's hat is just falling off then, obviously jarred off by how suddenly he has stopped and turned to make the throw. In fairness, it is easy to see how Feller or any other onlooker could be deceived. The over-the-shoulder catch is the hardest single play in baseball, but watching the film to this day, a casual observer will not see anything very dramatic, will notice little that stands out from the fantastic fluidity of Mays in motion. The greatness of the catch lies in how effortless Mays has made it look—lies in where he is, how far he has had to travel just to be there. He has bridged the same gap as Ruth did with his moonshots, but he has done it as a single running man catching up to the slugger's ball, closing the circle.

More than a decade later, they were still selling boys' models of Mays running down Wertz's ball—preserving at least some little, plastic representation of the old Polo Grounds. Mays would leave when Horace Stoneham, the Giants' drunk of an owner, was lured out to the West Coast, abandoning the stickball-playing kids on the streets of Harlem without a second glance. The Polo Grounds were torn down in 1964, replaced by an ill-considered housing project. Nearly all of the old ballparks met a similar fate over the next few decades—Ebbets Field and Shibe Park, Forbes Field and Crosley Field, Sportsman's Park and Comiskey Park, and Tiger Stadium—as the club owners squirmed and ran to get away from anyplace there might be black people; to where they could find something much more vital, which is to say, parking. The old parks would be replaced, at first, by new stadiums mostly out in the suburbs—round, interchangeable, all-purpose stadiums, carpeted with artificial turf, that could be used just as easily for football games or rock concerts.

The Mets brought Mays back to play in what may have been the ugliest of them all, Shea Stadium, a park that already looked irredeemably shabby when it was brand new. He was forty-two years old when he appeared in the 1973 World Series, and even though he managed to drive in the winning run in one game off a future Hall-of-Fame pitcher, he staggered sadly about the outfield, misplaying balls. Everyone gasped that Willie Mays had grown old, and in his embarrassment he retired after that fall.

He had lasted, in the end, nearly as long as the terrible new cookie-cutter ballparks would. Trying to capitalize on memories and luxury boxes, the owners found an excuse to tear down most of them down after only a generation or so. In one town after another, baseball has returned to the inner cities, to new parks that were ostentatiously designed with quirky, eccentric features—a rightfield wall that is part of an old warehouse; a small knoll in deep center, even a swimming pool in bleachers. They are improvements over the round bleak stadiums of the 1960s—though somehow they never recaptured the beauty of the old parks, revealing themselves, ultimately, as what they were: an exercise in ready-made nostalgia. The past, once uncoupled, is not so easily regained.

The Anatomy of Baseball is available at

Getting Away Okay
2008-05-08 16:23
by Cliff Corcoran

The Yankees hit four home runs this afternoon to overcome a rocky fifth inning from Mike Mussina and avoid being swept by the Indians in the finale of what proved to be a disappointing 4-5 homestand. Mussina allowed just one baserunner through the first four innings, but handed a 3-0 lead in the fifth thanks to home runs by Johnny Damon (a 330-foot pop fly to right field) and Jason Giambi (a two-run shot that sailed over the right field foul pole) in the bottom of the fourth, Moose gave it all back.

That inning started ominously when Mussina hit Ben Francisco in the back with a 2-2 pitch. Franklin Gutierrez followed with a single that dropped in front of Bobby Abreu and pushed Francisco to third. After a Ryan Garko pop out, Casey Blake hit a shot to deep right that Bobby Abreu was unable to catch up to at the wall (prompting Pete Abraham to ask, "Does Bobby Abreu wear one of those invisible collars that shocks him when he gets too close the wall?"). The ball hit the warning track, then the wall, and popped up in the air as Abreu spun around looking for it and Francisco trotted home. Finding the ball to his right, Abreu fired in to relay man Robinson Cano, who threw home to try to get Gutierrez attempting to score from first, but Cano's throw, which was in plenty of time, was low and skipped past Jose Molina allowing Gutierrez to score and Blake, who now has 22 RBIs on just 21 hits, to move to third. A subsequent single by Kelly Shoppach scored Blake, knotting the game at 3-3.

Cano instantly made up for his bad throw by leading off the bottom of the inning with a double. Wilson Betemit followed with a hard drive into the gap in left. Francisco tracked it down for the first out, but with his momentum heading back and toward center, Cano was able to tag and move to third with ease. With the go-ahead run on third and one out, Jose Molina hit a grounder to short that allowed Jhonny Peralta to freeze Cano in his tracks, but Johnny Damon picked Molina up with an RBI double that gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish.

In the seventh, Cano drove Indians' starter Paul Byrd from the game with a solo homer and Wilson Betemit greeted reliever Masa Kobayashi with a bomb over the 408 sign in dead center. Meanwhile, Ross Ohlendorf pitched two shutout innings allowing only a single. It was just the third time all year, Ohlendorf, who has been primarly used as a long reliever, pitched in a game the Yankees eventually won, and just the first time all year he pitched in a game the Yankees won by less than six runs. That was important, because the Yankees hope to eventually move Ohlendorf into a setup role.

Ohlendorf was followed by Joba Chamberlain, who faced two of the three batters he faced in his blown save on Tuesday night, Grady Sizemore, who walked to start Tuesday's rally, and David Dellucci, who homered to finish it. Rather than throwing lots of curve balls and getting beat on a fastball, as he did on Tuesday, Chamberlain threw lots of fastballs and struck out Dellucci on a slider to end a 1-2-3 frame. Mariano Rivera pitched around a double to pick up his ninth save and nail down the 6-3 Yankee win.

The Yankees now travel to Detroit to start a seven-game road trip against the Tigers and Rays before coming back home to face the Mets. Kei Igawa will make his 2008 Yankee debut tomorrow, but try not to think about that until you have to.

More encouragingly, Alex Rodriguez was taking grounders at third and cuts in the cage before today's game, and hitting some genuine blasts in batting practice. The Yankees say Rodriguez will get another MRI before being cleared for some rehab games, and all that (the MRI and the rehab games) will have to happen before he comes off the DL. Still, barring any setbacks, Rodriguez should be activated next week.

Rain or Shine, a Catch is Mighty Fine
2008-05-08 09:30
by Alex Belth

Rich Lederer and his son are on the east coast taking in some baseball, "a trip of a lifetime." They started in Boston on Sunday, then visited Cooperstown before arriving in Manhattan early yesterday afternoon. I spoke to Rich via cell phone just after he arrived in the Bronx hours later to see Yankee Stadium for the first (and last) time.

"You'll never believe who rode up here in the subway with...Cliff Lee."

Well, the least Rich or his son, Joe could have done was accidentally bump into Lee, stepping on his foot, or jamming his shoulder. Something. They did not which was too bad for the Yankees. Lee continued his staggering early season success as the Tribe shut-out the Yanks, spoiling another fine outing from Chien-Ming Wang.

It is overcast and rainy but not unpleasent in New York today. A warm, moist day. Mike Mussina and the Bombers try to avoid the sweep this afternoon. Cliff will be in the Big House and he'll have an account posted later tonight. As for me, I'm going to meet Rich after work. I've known Rich since 2003 and we've been buddies since. We speak on the phone every couple of weeks, but we've never met in person. So last week he's packing for the trip and he asks, "Should I bring my mitt?"

"Hell, yeah."

So the first thing we're going to do when we get together this evening, rain or shine, is go up to Central Park and have a catch.

Talk about a fine how do you do!

Go Yanks!

The Great One
2008-05-08 07:16
by Alex Belth

A few days ago I was hanging with some seamheads talking shop. The subject got around to the great Mariano Rivera. When I told Steve Goldman just how much I appreciate watching Rivera, Steve said, "It's like watching Fred Astaire in his later years." Isn't that a great comp? Think Astaire in Bandwagon. (Speaking of which, has anyone ever had more fetching legs than Cyd Charisse?)

Jack Curry has a piece on Rivera today in the Times:

"I'm proud of what I do," Rivera said Tuesday. "And I take it seriously. I don't take it for granted. I don't forget where I came from. I don't forget what I had to do to get here. That, to me, is important."

I was in a Barnes and Noble last night and I found a picture book of Latin American baseball stars (I'm sorry but I didn't catch the title). I flipped to a full-page spread of Mariano, wearing shorts and flip flops, throwing a ball to a kid with a make shift bat, somewhere on the dusty streets of Panama. The picture looked dated--late '90s maybe--but it reminded me of how far Rivera, and so many other Latin players, have come to play ball in the big leagues. I think Rivera is sincere when it says that he doesn't take things for granted. And neither should we.

I also liked this bit from Curry's article:

After David Dellucci belted a three-run homer off Joba Chamberlain to push the Indians past the Yankees, 5-3, on Tuesday, Dellucci spoke respectfully about Chamberlain, who does not have even a full season in the majors. But when the topic switched to Rivera, Dellucci switched from respect to reverence.

"Facing him is like playing a video game," Dellucci said. "His ball is an optical illusion. It's fun because it's so nasty. You want to go up there and see that pitch because of how nasty he is."

Baby, You Nasty.

Cliff 'Em All
2008-05-08 05:39
by Cliff Corcoran

In just the fourth matchup in American League history of undefeated pitchers with at least five wins each, 6-0 Chien-Ming Wang scattered three runs over seven innings and yielded to scoreless relief work by Kyle Farnsworth and Jonathan Albaladejo.

It didn't matter. Cliff Lee, who entered the game with a 5-0 record, a 0.96 ERA, an absurd 0.56 WHIP, and an irridiculous 16:1 K/BB ratio, improved all of those marks, save the WHIP, in seven absolutely dominant shutout innings. Throwing mostly fastballs, Lee pounded the corners, throwing 74 percent strikes but hardly any of them off the black. Though his fastball clocked in around 90 to 91 miles per hour, it exploded through the zone, giving it the illusion of being in the mid-90s. Adding to that illusion was the speed with which Lee worked. Riding an obvious high of adrenaline and confidence, Lee seemed to be back in his windup before the hitter even had time to contemplate how Lee and his catcher, Kelly Shoppach, were working him. After the third out of each inning, Lee sprinted back to the dugout, almost as if he wanted the bottom half of each inning to get over with so that he could get back out there and pitch. When the top half of the next inning arrived, Lee would sprint back out to the mound.

The only baserunner Lee allowed through the first four innings came on a bloop single to shallow left by Hideki Matsui. Matsui took a defensive swing on a rare curveball from Lee and was so surprised that he didn't foul it off that he almost didn't run to first base. Down 3-0, the Yankees threatened in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, but came up empty each time. In the fifth, Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano singled with one out, but Lee struck out Morgan Ensberg and got Jose Molina to fly out to strand them. With two outs in the sixth, Bobby Abreu reached on an infield single to first baseman Casey Blake that should have been ruled an error as Blake's flip to Lee covering the bag arched too high and allowed Abreu to reach. Shelley Duncan followed with a double to push Abreu to third, but Lee got ahead of Matsui 1-2 and struck him out with a nasty curve ball that looked like it actually curved behind Matsui before dropping into the zone. The Yankees got another two-out infield single in the seventh when Morgan Ensberg drilled a pitch into the ground in front of home and beat it out, but Lee struck out Molina on four pitches to end his night. Rafael Perez pitched around a two-out Abreu double in the eighth, and Rafael Betancourt worked a 1-2-3 ninth to nail down Lee's sixth win of the year.

Lee is now 6-0 with a 0.81 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, and 19.5 K/BB. He's averaging more than 7 1/3 innings per start and has not allowed a run in any of his four road starts this year. After his first four starts, Baseball Prospectus's Rany Jazayerli wrote that Lee had turned in quite possibly the most dominant series of starts ever. The Yankees got a close up look at Lee's dominance last night, and it's for real. The only question is how long he can keep it up.

Yankee Panky #49: What's Goin' On?
2008-05-07 09:35
by Will Weiss

I want to let you know that I've made mistakes in many columns I've written, for which I'm sorry. I've apologized to those editors, my family (my harshest editors), and when warranted, you, the reader. Like everyone, I have flaws. I make poor word choices at times, have typos and write grammatically incorrect sentences. I maintain, however, that I've never used steroids or Human Growth Hormone to write a Yankee Panky column for this Web site.


Phew. Now that that's out of the way, what did we do before the Internet? While away in Italy, with no game highlights to speak of aside from the UEFA Cup and ATP Tennis on CNN International, the only way to get any info on the Yankees was via cyberspace. Since my last post, top stories have ranged from Joe Girardi banning candy from the clubhouse to the extremes of a near automatic win when Chien-Ming Wang starts and a near automatic loss when the now defunct 4-5 combination of Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy take the mound.

Now, it appears all the mainstreamers, for on-field matters anyway, are focusing on three key things: 

• How is Melky Cabrera leading the team in home runs? Joel Sherman's Hardball blog addresses this question by comparing Cabrera's statistics to those of Bernie Williams at the same stages of their careers. The offensive numbers are strikingly similar. The greatest difference is that at Age 23, Cabrera is a much better all-around ballplayer than Williams was.

• Why is Robinson Cano in the bottom three among qualified batters in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage? Will he emerge from his slump? Tyler Kepner of the New York Times had a thorough take on the slump, and analysis from teammates, including Derek Jeter. The only thing missing was that Cano, after being called up in 2005, went 2-for his first 23 at-bats.

• The timer is on for Jason Giambi's release. The Giambino is in a worse funk than Cano, except he doesn't have youth on his side or an optimistic band of media types rooting for him in print. I noticed an interesting contradiction in reporting, most notably from the same paper. Sherman and George King, in the Post, had different takes. Sherman called Giambi's continued presence in the lineup a "liability," while King showed the Yankees' continued faith in the former MVP.

• Perusing, David Justice says the Yankees do not appear to be built for a championship. Also, Steven Goldman provides insight on the Hughes-Kennedy demotions as only he can.

Off-days are fun to devour as much information as possible from as many different outlets. You can tell which papers, TV and radio types are on the pulse of things and are dedicated to providing the most information possible. The Times had only one Yankees story, on Cano, while the Daily News had not only the continuing saga of Roger Clemens, but a great bit from former beat man Anthony McCarron on how the Yankees could approach transitioning Joba Chamberlain to the starting rotation. After another subpar eighth–inning performance against the Indians, it would not be surprising to see Big Stein the Younger issue a media manifesto calling for a Chamberlain change. The Post had a wide variety, including a feature on Derek Jeter's captaincy and climb up the all-time Yankee ranks.

Newsday had an interesting recap of Joe Girardi's week, which included a contentious Q&A with reporters. Is anyone else waiting for the rash of stories comparing the situation Girardi walked into here in New York to the one he left in Florida?

This week marked Round 1 of Torre vs. Randolph, the all-National League version. What were the odds of features being written about their prior stints with the Yankees, or Torre's reactions to the rampant booing at Shea recently? Stay tuned for more of the same in three weeks, when the Dodgers come to Shea, with a smattering of Torre praise for Girardi.

Friday night was a great night, not only for the Yankees' victory, but to see and hear Bobby Murcer back in the broadcast booth. The man has endured several bouts of poor health in recent years and rebounded well. Five years ago, he had an emergency appendectomy that kept him out for the last couple of months of the season. Now, he's back after recovering from a brain tumor and continued rounds of chemotherapy. You would be hard-pressed to find someone in the Yankee organization who is as respected and universally considered with such class and grace as Mr. Murcer.

And David Cone, after the sting of his failed comeback with the Mets wore off, has been a welcome addition to the YES broadcast team.

Until next week …

Easy Quesy
2008-05-07 07:58
by Alex Belth

Yesterday afternoon, Pete Abraham excerpted a portion of Cynthia Rodriguez's chat with Michael Kay on the new YES program, YESterdays:

"As tough and big as [Alex] seems, he is real wimpy around doctors or any type of medical situation. I don't know why I thought the birth of our child would be different. In the middle of the night, I realized that I needed to go to the hospital. I wake him up. The first thing that comes out of his mouth, 'Can we call your mother?' And I started, 'No. Let's wait and make sure that I am in labor, and make sure that, you know, it's the middle of the night.' And go to the hospital and everything. And finally, a few hours later, I said, 'I think you can call my mom now.'

"Uh, and the color came back to his face when I told him he could call my mom. And then forget it. I was like not even having a baby; he was the one. The one nurse had a cold cloth on his head. The other nurse had the blood pressure on his arm. And my mother was like rubbing his back. And he is passed out on a couch. And I am there, in the middle of labor. And really, I am not being paid much attention to besides the doctor and a couple of nurses. And he is there moaning. In between pushing, I am going, 'Honey, are you OK?' And are you breathing? Are you OK?'"

I can't even watch child birth on TV, so I can only imagine how I'd fare up close. Still, this story reminded me of another, more upsetting reality for baseball wives. From Pat Jordan's classic profile of Steve and Cyndi Garvey, "Trouble in Paradise":

The other day my daughter fell out of a tree and broke her wrist.  My husband and I rushed her to the hospital.  While she was in the operating room I had to fill out a questionaire for a nurse.  When I said my husband's occupation was 'baseball player,' she asked, for what team?  I told her.  Then she asked, what position?  I got so pissed off, I shoved the paper at my husband and told him to deal with her, she was obviously more interested in him than our daughter.  Now there's another woman who's gonna think I'm just a stuck-up wife of a star.
Anyway, just before they set my daughter's wrist, my husband had to leave to go to the stadium.  He couldn't wait.  That's the clearest vision of when the game comes first.  Before anything.  It's so cut-and-dried with him.  I got furious.  It's always been like that.  Another time I had a baby while he was playing in the World Series.  When they wheeled me back from the delivery room--I'm just coming out of the anesthesia--the nurse is putting on the TV.  'I thought you'd like to watch your husband playing in the World Series,' she says.  I screamed at her to shut it off.  Hell, he didn't come to watch me.  I could have died in childbirth and my man wouldn't have been there.  The burden is always on the wife's shoulders.  Her man is never there.

For a candid and revealing portrait of what is like to be the wife of a ball player, consider Home Games: Two Baseball Wives Speak Out, written by Bobbie Bouton and Nancy Marshall. Both women are divorced their husbands, Jim Bouton and Mike Marshall.

Hurts So Good
2008-05-07 05:50
by Alex Belth
"You gotta attack all the time," [Joba Chamberlain] said in a contrite tone. "You can't take a pitch off. You never think you're doing that, but you should attack more with the fastball. I didn't attack the zone as much as I should have." (John Harper, N.Y. Daily News)

Joba Chamberlain's face was puffy and sweaty, his eyes glassy and red-rimmed.  His head had just been in his hands, his fists balled, grabbing at his cropped hair.  A white towel hung over his head and his large chin jutted up.  Sitting on the bench, it looked as if he was going to burst out bawling and for the first time her truly looked like Joba the Hutt.  I thought about Chamberlain's father, Harlan, who has been ill this spring.  I thought about how he had just shook his catcher off several times.  Then I thought, dag, this has never happened to the kid before.  

"Everybody gets tested in this game," said David Cone on the YES broadcast.  "Nobody is invincible.  We knew this would happen sooner or later.  The real test is in how he'll react next time out."   

Pinch-hitter Dave Dellucci turned around a 96 mph fastball from Chamberlain and yanked it into the seats in right field, dealing Chamberlain his first ego-crushing blow in the big leagues.  Not his first lost, but the first big blast.  There were no midges this time.  Everything was set up according to plan.  Pettitte kept the team in the game, Farnsworth got two big outs in the seventh and Chamberlain came on in the eighth with a one-run lead.  As Cone noted, Chamberlain didn't necessarily make a bad pitch, it's just that Dellucci guessed right and beat him to the spot like a basketball player running to a place on the floor, setting his body and picking up an offensive foul. 

It was reminiscent of George Brett turning around the Goose's high heat though not as dramatic.  Dellucci, who was briefly a Yankee, and who still uses the theme from "The Godfather" as his intro music, smiled broadly as he was greeted by his teammates.  If I could sit on my ass all night, then come off then bench and turn around Kid Dynamite's heater like that, hell, I'd be grinning too.

Chamberlian's outing started poorly when he walked Grady Sizemore on a 3-2 slider.  Joba shook off his catcher Jose Molina twice to get to his breaking pitch.  With one out, he issued another walk, this time to Jhonny Peralta.  But, Cone added, it was an "unintentional intentional walk," as the Yankees were not going to go after Peralta, who had homered earlier against Andy Pettitte.  Molina came out to the mound several times, there was also a meeting with the pitching coach, and Chamerlain threw more curve balls than usual. 

It was a humbling moment for the dynamic young Chamberlain but one where Cone, who is starting to find a rhythm as a color man, rose to the occasion.  Cone's voice is raspy but not deep or commanding.  At first, it is flat and indistinguishable from that of John Flaherty or Al Leiter.  Cone seemed ill-at-ease initially, unpolished.  But I've found his insights to be sharp and compelling--he was all over Pettitte in Cleveland for telegraphing a change up that was rocked for a home run.  Not in a critical beatdown way, just as an observation.  I think Michael Kay deserves some credit for guiding Cone and breaking him in.

When Kay reported Ian Kennedy's impressive line from his triple A start, Cone said that IPK got the message.  That turned out to be the best news on a night where the Yanks lost, 5-3.  Again, it was a game that appeared to be drawn up perfectly.  Only this time, Joba stumbled and so did the Yanks.   

Cleveland Indians Redux: Bullpen Elimination Addition
2008-05-06 12:51
by Cliff Corcoran

Since the Yankees and Indians split a four-game series in Cleveland a week ago, the Yankees split a pair of three-game sweeps and the Tribe went 2-3. All five wins, by both teams, came against the hapless Mariners, who are now nursing a five-game losing streak. The rain erased a sixth Cleveland contest, conveniently pushing C.C. Sabathia out of this week's three-game set in the Bronx by pushing his last start up a day.

Still, things won't be easy for the Yankees this week. Lefty Cliff Lee, who starts tomorrow, is off to a literally unbelievable start, going 5-0 with a 0.96 ERA and a 0.56 WHIP. Tonight, the Yanks will have to face Fausto Carmona. Carmona's an interesting case. He's 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA, but an alarming 1.73 WHIP and a backwards 1:2 K/BB ratio. Carmona's allowed less than a hit per inning, has given up just one home run in six starts, and he's still getting his groundballs, so it seems his only real problem is those darn walks. Since he's been able to win while wild, odds are he'll settle down and return to his overall dominance before too long. The Yankees certainly hope that doesn't start tonight. The Yankees found Carmona unhittable in the ALDS last year, but won both of his starts against them in the regular season.

On the other side of the ball, the Indians have responded to their inconsistent and generally underperforming offense by rejiggering their lineup in the last week, dropping Travis Hafner and his Perdue pop-up timer to sixth and moving right fielder Franklin Gutierrez up to second on the heels of a hot start to last week. That puts David Dellucci, still the team's hottest hitter, in the third spot and pushes the slumping Ryan Garko down to seventh. Finally, today they designated Dellucci's platoon partner Jason Michaels for assignment in favor of 26-year-old rookie right-handed outfielder Ben Francisco despite the fact that Francisco is hitting a mere .228/.308/.315 with triple-A Buffalo. I guess folks are desperate all over.

Continue reading...

Deeper into Baseball Books
2008-05-06 09:40
by Alex Belth

My favorite part about asking people for their list of ten essential baseball books was not learning that "Ball Four" or "Glory of Their Times" are so popular. We already knew that. What really turned me on were the titles I had never of like Man on Spikes, or the ones that I knew precious little about like The Celebrant and The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book. I was over at Jay Jaffe's new crib in Brooklyn last Friday and he showed me his copy of the card book which looks like terrific fun.  Dig this:


"Earl Torgeson's two favorite activities were fist-fighting and breaking his shoulder, both of which he did whenever he got the chance. On the back of this card it says, "Torgy likes a good practical joke" - which is the biog writer's subtle way of suggesting that he enjoyed knocking people's teeth out. He is probably also the only left-handed hitting first baseman over 6'2" who ever stole 20 bases in one season."

 Brendan C Boyd and Fred C. Harris.


Continue reading...

April Farm Report
2008-05-05 15:10
by Cliff Corcoran

Who knows if I'll ever do another of these, but for now, here's a stab at a new Banter feature: the monthly Farm Report. All stats are as of the morning of May 5. We'll take it team by team:

Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre

Major league fans have already seen most of Scranton's top April hurlers, including Darrell Rasner (0.87 ERA in five starts), Edwar Ramirez (13 Ks and zero runs in 9 IP), Jose Veras (1.38 ERA, 18 K in 13 IP, 9 SV), Jonathan Albaladejo (1.29 ERA), and Chris Britton (2.45 ERA).

Sean Henn was dominating in his rehab assignment (1.35 ERA, 0.90 WHIP), but was designated for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster for Chad Moeller's return. Since being demoted, Billy Traber, the man who beat Henn out for the Opening Day LOOGY job, has struck out 7 against one walk in 4 1/3 innings with a similarly stellar 0.92 WHIP despite an artificially high ERA. Third lefty Heath Phillips has been solid thus far with a 2.87 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and 15 Ks in 15 2/3 innings.

Scott Patterson, the one Opening Day roster finalist who hasn't seen the majors yet this year, has been underwhelming despite a still-strong strikeout rate, thus far proving the Yankees right for insisting he prove himself in triple-A before getting his first taste of the majors.

In the rotation, the triple-A debuts of Jeffrey Marquez and Alan Horne have not gone well. Marquez has a 7.47 ERA after six starts, and Horne left his second start after two innings due to a strained biceps and has been on the DL ever since. Horne is throwing in Tampa and could make an intrasquad start Saturday.

In better rotation news, the Yankees have converted career-long reliever Dan Giese to starting with excellent results (1.32 ERA, 0.91 WHIP in five starts). Kei Igawa should be in the big leagues over the weekend, so we'll talk about him then.

Speaking of big league returns, Wilson Betemit, rehabbing from pinkeye, has gone 6 for 17 with four doubles and four walks against three strikeouts in five games spent mostly at third base. Expect him back with the big club soon.

At the other corner, Juan Miranda, who many had hoped would arrive as a second-half reinforcement for first base, slugged just .367 before hitting the DL with an unspecified shoulder injury on Friday. However, Eric Duncan has shown some signs of life, hitting .270/.382/.459.

Brett Gardner, who claims to have tweaked his swing in the Arizona Fall League last year, is hitting .302/.377/.462. The power represented by that last figure is the key to his becoming a viable major league starter. Curiously, he's only been successful in five of his nine steal attempts despite an 84 percent career success rate entering the season.

Finally, the Yankees have added catcher J.D. Closser to the Scranton roster to deepen their catching corps while Jorge Posada is on the DL. Closser is a failed Rockies prospect from earlier in the decade, who never did hit in any of his major league shots (71 OPS+ in 160 games), but has a .277/.378/.455 career minor league line, which is significantly better than that of either Chad Moeller or Jose Molina.

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The Price of Success
2008-05-05 10:51
by Alex Belth

Like rooting for the Yankees? Like going to see them play? As we already know, that ain't a cheap proposition. And when they move next door? Yikes, forget about it. Mike Lupica has the gruesome details.

How Old is Old?
2008-05-05 09:12
by Alex Belth

Last week, I read an interview with our pal Pete Abraham over at a Respect Jeter's Gangster, where he mentioned that he listens to Old School Wu Tang Clan. A few months ago, I had a discussion with a kid at work who claimed that Biggie Smalls and Tupac were Old School. Which leads me to this: What exactly determines whether you are from the Old School or not? Does it simply mean anything that is more than ten years old? Whitey Herzog is from the Old School. Ditto Robert Mitchum and Lee Marvin and Bix Beiderbecke for that matter. In Hip Hop terms, Old School means funk and soul records from the '60s and '70s and then the early days of Rap records, maybe through 1983. I guess you could call Run DMC Old School, ang go through '86, but I generally don't. However, a kid in his mid-twenties would think of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest as Old School I suppose. But Biggie, Tupac and the Wu? I guess that means Nas and Mobb Deep are Old School too. Or maybe I'm just getting old. What's your take?

Mudda's Day Reminder
2008-05-05 07:40
by Alex Belth

My pint-sized Ansel Adams applying her craft at the Botanical Gardens.  Hey, if anyone out there is still looking for a Mother's Day gift, please consider one of Em's lovely photocard series

The Last Knight of the Freelance
2008-05-04 17:10
by Alex Belth

Getting to know Pat Jordan has been one of the highlights of my brief time hanging around sports writers. First, Pat was candid and funny in an interview I did with him for Bronx Banter back in 2003, then he occasionally gave me writing tips as I worked on my first book, a biography of Curt Flood. After that book came out, I approached Pat about doing a compilation of his best stories. I was shocked that one didn't already exist. It's the kind of project he'd never offer up on his own but he was more than delighted to be involved. So I wrote a proposal, got the book sold, and then we had a wonderful time going through well over one hundred profiles and finally selecting 26 stories to appear in the collection The Best Sports Writing of Pat Jordan.

The book is now out and Pat, a self-diagnosed troglodyte who still uses a typewriter and refers to himself as "the last knight of the freelance," might be just that--the last guy who still makes a living strictly as a freelance magazine writer. Which isn't to suggest he's completely resistant to change, as he's been busy doing publicity all 'round the 'Net ever since his Jose Canseco piece appeared at Deadspin at the end of March. Derek Goold caught up with Pat for a nice blog entry he did on Rick Ankiel, and here is a profile on Jordan from the Florida Sun-Sentinel. There are also interviews with Rich Lederer, Will Carroll, Bill Littlefield for Only a Game, and Deadspin.

I like the following bit about the craft of writing from a Q&A with Playboy:

JORDAN: I grew up with radio and as a result I'd go to bed at night listening to "The Shadow," "The Lone Ranger," "Batman and Robin," "The Green Hornet" and with radio I had to use my imagination to figure out what they look like. What does The Shadow look like? And so it stimulated my imagination and it made me very conscious of the way things look. To this day I'm very detail oriented, but unlike Tom Wolfe, who lists 48 things that a guy is wearing to supposedly describe him, I say it is not the accumulation of detail, it is right details. If you get the right details, you allow the reader to create the scene himself. It is always about the reader, I want the reader to think he wrote the story and that I didn't.

PLAYBOY: You mention this in the book's forward…

JORDAN: You create the ideal story when at the end of it the reader can't yellow out a paragraph on page three and point to where you told him what the story was about. The reader needs to think that they discovered something in the story that the author didn't because the author didn't spell it out. If the writer doesn't hand it to him the reader to thinks that they are in the process of discovering more of the story than the writer intended to put in. I think of it as a collaborative deal.

PLAYBOY: So you've made a living by making people think that you aren't as smart as you actually are?

JORDAN: Exactly. They don't think that you are leading them and they don't know you set it up bit by bit. As far as sentences go, I feel that you should never have a sentence so complex that the reader has to stop and go over it again to get the meaning. The same applies to images. If you use a metaphor you need the reader to not reread the metaphor over again and sit down and think, "What does he mean a cow is like a moon?" If the reader has to unravel a sentence or a metaphor, that's bad. You want them to read it all through effortlessly so they would be reading the story as if they were looking over your shoulder when you were typing. Some stories come easily. The stories you think came easily you think are genius and it comes out later that they weren't that good. And the one that was like pulling teeth, that you had to bang on your typewriter like hammering nails into wood, that you hated doing because it was so hard to get right, you find out that that was the good one. In the end you want it to appear that the story is flowing out of you and that it is effortless. These are all the things that you do that nobody knows about.

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Atta Baby
2008-05-04 16:32
by Alex Belth

Carlos Silva? Nah, son. Chill. After beating Seattle's two best pitchers on Friday and Saturday, the Yanks poured it on Mr. Silva beating him about the face and neck to the tune of eight runs in three innings. The Bombers scored six in the third--the first time they've scored more than five in an inning this year (they did it thirty times last season). Melky Cabrera hit a moon shot in the frame, and his best pal Robbie Cano, the Heckle to Melky's Jeckle, momentarily broke free of his horrid slump by homering as well (Silva had him down in the count and then did him a favor by leaving a fastball up in Robbie's happy zone). That makes six homers for Melky; he hit eight all of last year. The boys at the top of the lineup did their job and more for the second straight game: two hits for Damon (who also made a nice catch), three for Bobby Abreu and four for Derek Jeter. Even better, Darrell Rasner gave up just a couple of runs over six innings and the Yanks completed the three-game sweep of the M's, 8-2. Smiles all around on what turned out to be a sunny afternoon in the Bronx. New York's record is now 17-16.

Ian Kennedy was sent to the minors and Kei Igawa will rejoin the big league club.

According to Anthony McCarron in the News:

As Joe Girardi said, it's up to Kennedy how fast he returns to the majors.

Apparently, he told Kennedy, it could be a couple of starts or 15 starts, depending on how he does. As Kennedy put it, "If you want to pout or moan, that's what will happen. A couple starts, I'd rather have that happen."

The Yankees are concerned with Kennedy's confidence, though he said he had plenty. At the same time, he admitted that he doesn't have as much confidence as he did last September or during his meteoric rise through the minors. He also seemed to be uncomfortable with the idea that each of his starts here are magnified and "under a microscope."

Believe it or not, the team actually has a day off on Monday. Cleveland is in town for a three game series starting Tuesday night.

Talk of the Town
2008-05-04 06:45
by Alex Belth

Oooh, two in a row. Whadda ya say we make it an even three? 

Bronx Banter: Arthur Avenue

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The Return Of The Crafty Veteran
2008-05-03 16:34
by Cliff Corcoran

Mike Mussina held the Mariners to one run on seven hits over six innings, walking no one and striking out a season-high five men, including the M's three, five, and six hitters, all flailing at changeups to cap his outing in the sixth inning. The performance earned him his third straight win as the Yankees put 15 men on base against Felix Hernandez and plated six of them. Johnny Damon had the big day, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and a two-run homer. Derek Jeter also went 3 for 5 with a double. Jose Molina drew his first walk of the year and snapped his 0-for-23 slump with a single in his next at-bat. The 6-1 score allowed Joe Girardi to stay away from his high-leverage relievers, passing the ball instead to LaTroy Hawkins, Edwar Ramirez, and Jose Veras, each of whom pitched a scoreless inning. Veras, in his first work since being called up, retired the side in order in the ninth on ten pitches, eight of them strikes, picking up a K to end the game.

Mussina's line in his last three starts:

18 IP, 18 H, 5 R, 2 HR, 2 BB, 10 K, 3-0, 2.50 ERA, 1.11 WHIP

If the Yankees can give Carlos Silva his usual beating tomorrow (Silva has a career 7.59 ERA against the Yankees), they could enter Monday's off-day having swept Seattle, which would push them back up over .500 and make their poor showing against Detroit seem a distant, hazy memory.

Down With The King
2008-05-03 07:39
by Cliff Corcoran

Someone stuck a microphone in front of Hank Steinbrenner again yesterday.

A couple of weekends ago, my wife and I attended an outdoor event in what was supposed to be rainy weather only to wind up with sunburns when the sun came out and stayed out. A couple of days later, Becky came home from work and grumbled, "If one more person says to me 'did you know you've got a sunburn' I'm going to scream." Strikes me that Hank's comments amount to the equivalent. Hey, Yankees, did you know your season isn't going that well? I wonder if Joe Girardi knows that. Hey, Joe! . . .

At least Hank was being timely. Amid his grousing was this bit of sabermetric brilliance:

"We just can't win one out of five games, every time Wang pitches. It's not going to work. It's not a good win percentage."

Indeed, the Yankees went out and snapped a three-game losing streak behind Chien-Ming Wang last night. But wait . . . why wasn't it a four-game losing streak?

Because the Yankees have won Mike Mussina's last two starts, as well. They'll try to make that three straight behind Moose this afternoon, and will clinch their fourth series win of the season (out of 11 series) if they do.

Mussina only lasted five innings his last time out, but has allowed just four runs over his last 12 innings and has been sharp both times out, pitching like the kind of wily veteran junkballer we'd all hoped he'd become in his later years. Today will mark his first start against the M's since 2005. Last year his only appearance against Seattle was his lone relief appearance amid his early-September exile from the rotation. He did not face the M's at all in 2006.

Opposing Mussina will be King Felix Hernandez who, at age 22 and in his fourth major league season, is living up to his nickname in the early going with a 2.22 ERA while averaging 7 1/3 innings per start. In his last start, Hernandez struck out ten A's in seven shutout innings, but came back out for the eighth and failed to retire any of the first four men he faced, all of whom would come around to score (three of them against the bullpen). Hernandez has thrown 110 or more pitches in each of his last four starts, and 115 or more in three of those four. Given his collapse at the end of his last start, one wonders if that's too much for a 22-year-old arm this early in the season.

Hernandez faced the Yankees just once last year, coincidentally in the same game at Safeco park that included Mussina's relief appearance. Hernandez held the Yanks to one run on five hits over seven innings in that outing, though the Bombers did draw four walks against him.

Today's Yankee lineup is what is likely to be the default lineup while Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada are both on the shelf, though it's the first time in the five games Rodriguez has missed that Joe Girardi has actually used it, in part because this is just the Yankees' second game against a righty starter in that span.

L - Johnny Damon (LF)
R - Derek Jeter (SS)
L - Bobby Abreu (RF)
L - Hideki Matsui (DH)
L - Jason Giambi (1B)
S - Melky Cabrera (CF)
L - Robinson Cano (2B)
R - Morgan Ensberg (3B)
R - Jose Molina (C)

2008-05-02 21:49
by Cliff Corcoran

We got the pitching duel we expected last night. Chien-Ming Wang held the Mariners to one run on three hits and a pair of walks over six innings while striking out five. Wang left after 90 pitches due to a cramp at the base of the thumb of his pitching hand, but Kyle Farnsworth, Joba Chamberlain, and Mariano Rivera finished the job by allowing just one more Mariner to reach base (via an Ichiro Suzuki single off Chamberlain) over three scoreless innings. For Seattle, Erik Bedard retired the last 14 men he faced.

However, Before Bedard locked things down, his defense committed four errors, three of which contributed directly to two of the three runs the Yankees scored against Bedard. In the first, Derek Jeter reached on a grounder that scooted under shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt's glove for an error. He was plated by singles by Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui. In the second, Morgan Ensberg led off with a hard shot that ate up Adrian Beltre at third base, also ruled an error. Ensberg was subsequently nailed at second base when Jose Monlia struck out on a hit-and-run, but second baseman Jose Lopez had the ball squirt out of his glove as he made the tag for the Mariners' third error. Alberto Gonzalez then singled Ensberg to third and Melky Cabrera drove both runners in with a double.

The fourth Seattle error came in the third when catcher Jamie Burke dropped a Jason Giambi popup in the swirling winds. Giambi subsequently stuck his shoulder in front of one of Bedard's 10-to-4 curveballs, but was stranded when Ensberg and Molina flew out to end the inning.

And that was it until the sixth, when Ichiro reached out and served a sinker low and away into center field, stole second and third, and scored on a groundout for the only Seattle run of the night.

Among the three Yankee relievers, Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera were particularly impressive. Farnsworth, for the first time in recent memory, was simply blowing the opposing hitters away with heat, striking out two and throwing 10 of 14 pitches for strikes.

With Bedard out of the game, the Yanks padded their lead by scoring a pair of runs against relievers Ryan Rowland-Smith and Sean Green in the eighth to set the final at 5-1.

The cherry on top of the evening was Bobby Murcer's return to the YES booth. Unlike last year, when the only obvious sign of his illness was his lack of hair, Murcer does appear a bit diminished by all he's been through, but he was in good spirits and good form in the booth and was greeted warmly by everyone, of course.

Seattle Mariners
2008-05-02 12:51
by Cliff Corcoran

Seattle Mariners

2007 Record: 88-74 (.543)
2007 Pythagorean Record: 79-83 (.488)

Manager: John McLaren
General Manager: Bill Bavasi

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Safeco Park (96/96)

Who's Replacing Whom:

Wladimir Balentien replaces Jose Guillen
Miguel Cairo replaces Ben Broussard
Jeff Clement replaces . . . TBA
Erik Bedard replaces Jeff Weaver
Carlos Silva replaces Horacio Ramirez and Ryan Feierabend (minors)
Mark Lowe replaces Eric O'Flaherty (minors)
Arthur Rhodes replaces George Sherrill

25-man Roster:

1B - Richie Sexson (R)
2B - Jose Lopez (R)
SS - Yuniesky Betancourt (R)
3B - Adrian Beltre (R)
C - Kenji Johjima (R)
RF - Wladimir Balentien (R)
CF - Ichiro Suzuki (L)
LF - Raul Ibañez (L)
DH - Jose Vidro (S)


R - Willie Bloomquist (UT)
R - Miguel Cairo (IF)
L - Jeff Clement (C)
R - Jamie Burke (C)


L - Erik Bedard
R - Felix Hernandez
R - Carlos Silva
L - Jarrod Washburn
R - Miguel Batista


R - J.J. Putz
L - Ryan Rowland-Smith
R - Mark Lowe
R - Sean Green
R - Cha Seung Baek
L - Arthur Rhodes
R - Brandon Morrow

15-day DL: R - Mike Morse (UT), R - Anderson Garcia

Typical Lineup:

L - Ichiro Suzuki (CF)
R - Jose Lopez (2B)
L - Raul Ibañez (LF)
R - Adrian Beltre (3B)
S - Jose Vidro (DH)
R - Richie Sexson (1B)
R - Kenji Johjima (C)
R - Wladimir Balentien (RF)
R - Yuniesky Betancourt (SS)

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Observations From Cooperstown--Splitting Hairs
2008-05-02 09:27
by Bruce Markusen

Every few years, hair becomes a source of controversy in baseball. Yes, that’s right, hair. Earlier this season, Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young grew his Afro so large and curly that manager Manny Acta finally asked him to reach for a pair of scissors. Not wanting to upset his manager—especially after showing up to spring training at a robust 298 pounds—Young complied. (The loss of hair may have removed a pound or two from his weight, too.) In the meantime, Cardinals rookie outfielder Brian Barton continues to earn attention for his reggae style dreadlocks, which have given him a unique look among major leaguers. Barton’s hair, at least in some quarters, has gained him more notoriety than his impressive play—and the Indians’ ill-fated decision to leave him unprotected in last winter’s Rule 5 draft.

Barton and Young are not the first players to create a tempest in a teapot when it comes to the topic of hair. Here are a few other hair-related controversies that have spiced up the game off the field over the past 40 years.

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Bad to Worse (Taste Great)
2008-05-02 06:10
by Alex Belth


"[Hughes] does not know how [the injury] happened," GM Brian Cashman said. Hughes, on Wednes day, said the first time he felt the problem was last week. "It wasn't like one specific pitch where I felt it," he said. "It was just one of those things. I woke up one morning and it was a little discomfort but nothing major, and then after [Wednesday] night there was significantly more discomfort." (Mark Hale, NY Post)

Phil Hughes is gone until July and Ian Kennedy can't get through five innings. Kennedy did show some improvements last night but they weren't nearly enough. The Yankees, once again, were in the game but could not come up with enough offense or pitching to win as they were swept by the Tigers (something that hasn't happened in the Bronx since 1966). YES analyst John Flaherty correctly got all over the Yankee hitters in the seventh inning as they took their Connan-sized hacks instead of working the count and trying to build a rally. At one point during his post-game interview, Joe Girardi let out a heavy sigh. It got the attention of my wife, Emily, who was sitting on the couch reading a book. "Wow, he sounds stressed." 

It rained from the third inning on.  It was really heavy at times.  Props to the fans who stuck around for the entire mess. Final score: Tigers 8, Yanks 4.

This weekend doesn't get any easier for the enemic offense what with Bedard and Felix Hernandez on the hill for the visiting Seattle Mariners tonight and tomorrow. What's the old saying about praying for rain?

Hey, at least I'm eating well.

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Stewing in the Bronx
2008-05-01 15:31
by Alex Belth

I woke up cranky this morning. The morning commute, the 9-5, the evening commute home--slow, stifled and smelly--all sucked. I got over my mood and felt better by the afternoon, but all the externals were just lousy all day. Take the Yankees, for instance. Not only have they played like Chickenfried Ass for the last week but tonight we get word that Phil Hughes is seriously hurt. Four-to-eight-weeks-gone-won't-see-ya-'til-maybe-July hurt. Who knows, maybe he heals quickly and is back in mid-June.

Just perfect. What else can go wrong?

I know we Yankee fans aren't exactly known for our patience, but I think there has been a certain tolerance in the Bronx so far this year. Part of it is because the team has been on the road so much. Another part is that fans like young talent and are willing to give kids a break. But Hughes got the royal treatment after his last start--nice taste to leave in the kid's mouth for a couple of months, huh? Nobody else--other than poor LaTroy Hawkins--has really heard it from the crowd yet this year. Robbie Cano, who is talking himself out of at bats before he steps into the box these days, has not gotten a real beat down yet.

It's really cold in New York for May. What's with that, Snoop? It isn't supposed to be chilly like this in May, man. The fans are cold, sitting on their hands, with nothing to cheer about. Many are getting drunker by the pitch. If the Yanks continue to get waxed the crowds' patience will run out. It's cold out there. Time for the Yankees to warm up.

Essential Baseball Books: The Ballots (Part II)
2008-05-01 10:30
by Alex Belth

 More voting...(S-W)

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Essential Baseball Books: The Ballots
2008-05-01 10:26
by Alex Belth

 Here's the voting, in alphabetical order: A-R (S-Z to follow)

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