Monthly archives: June 2008
Like I Said . . .
The Rangers have the best offense and worst pitching in baseball, so naturally they beat the Yankees 2-1 in their series opener in the Bronx last night. Alex Rodriguez's mammoth fourth-inning home run into Monument Park off accounted for the Yankees' only run. By then, the Rangers already had their two runs, plating a one-out Ian Kinsler double in the third and a lead-off walk to David Murphy in the top of the fourth. Mike Mussina struck out eight, including Milton Bradley four times, and took the hard-luck loss. Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras, and Dan Geiese each pitched a scoreless relief inning to keep the Yanks within a blast. The Rangers bullpen countered that by retiring all ten batters it faced over the final 3 1/3 innings.
The Yankees had just four hits all game, all off Feldman, but three of them were for extra bases. After Alex Rodriguez's homer in the fourth, Jorge Posada doubled with two outs, but Robinson Cano grounded out to strand him. With two outs in the sixth, Jason Giambi hit a legitimate triple to right field, his first three-base hit since 2002 and just his second in his seven seasons with the Yankees. That hit drove Feldman from the game and Frank Francisco came on to strand G-bombs by K-ing Posada. Giambi would prove to be the last baserunner the Yankees would have all game.
2007 Record: 75-87 (.463)
2008 Record: 42-41 (.506)
Manager: Ron Washington
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (100/100)*
Who's Replacing Whom:
Josh Hamilton replaces Mark Teixeira and Brad Wilkerson
1B - Frank Catalanotto (L)
R - Brandon Boggs (OF)
R - Vicente Padilla
L - C.J. Wilson
15-day DL: L - Hank Blalock (3B), R - Gerald Laird (C), R - Jason Jennings, L - Kason Gabbard, R - Doug Mathis, L - A.J. Murray
R - Ian Kinsler (2B)
Do You Happen to Know Where Bagel Street is?
It ain't easy being Lou.
Manny Being Manny
Before there was Manny being Manny, there was Rickey being Rickey. At least according to a New York Times piece from the late 1980s I read about Henderson not too long ago. Manny being Manny is cute so long as he hits like a Hall of Famer. Sammy Sosa was chased out of Chicago the moment his skills declined. While I don't think the same holds true for Ramirez in Boston--hey, two championship rings buy a lot of rope--have you noticed that Manny being Manny has become a catch-phrase to take Ramirez off-the-hook whenever he acts like a putz? Chacon got released. Manny apologies. Chacon is washed-up, Manny still rakes. Manny being Manny. Sort of like Shaq being Shaq.
According to reports, outfielder Brett Gardner has been called-up to the majors. David Robertson made his debut yesterday, allowing a run. He didn't have command of his curve ball but the heater looked lively.According to Buster Olney:
I don't know what's wrong with Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui, but it would not be a surprise if he has a serious ligament issue. If this was a minor cleanup situation, the Yankees could keep Matsui out now and have him back sometime in August, but that is not how the Yankees are handling this. If Matsui is seriously injured and eventually requires season-ending surgery, it figures the Yankees will be poking around and looking for an outfielder -- or a first baseman.
With Godzilla on the shelf for who knows how long, there has been talk of Barry Bonds. The fellas over at No Maas are all for it. What do you think? I don't imagine that it'll happen but it'd sure keep us busy with banter, man.
I Think Yer Mistaken
I watched most of yesterday's game on the Mets' network, listening to Gary Cohen and Mex Hernandez call the game. I like the Met guys, although Cohen gets jacked-up more now that he's on TV. That's fine because in general, he just gets out of the way and let's the action unfold, without the need to put exclaimation points on every call. I know Cohen grew up rooting for the Mets which is why I was puzzled at something he said yesterday.
Ron Darling, the third guy in the Met booth, was calling the game for the TBS Game of the Week, and over at YES, David Cone and Ken Singleton were doing with the game with Michael Kay. Cohen mentioned that the grouping of Hernandez, Darling, Cone and Singleton represented the four best trades in franchise history.
I get the first three, but to suggest that the Mets got the better of the deal that sent Singleton, Mike Jorgeseon and Tim Foli to the Expos in exchange for Rusty Staub seems misguided at best, sentimental at worst.
The trade took place on April 2, 1972, a few months shy of Singleton's 25th birthday. In his second season with the Expos, Singleton played 162 games, hit .302/.425/.479, with 26 doubles, 23 dingers, 100 runs scored, 103 RBI and 123 walks, good for a 148 OPS+. In comparison, Rusty Staub's best season with the Mets from 72-75 was 1975 when he hit .282/.371/.448 in 155 games, with 30 doubles, 19 dingers, 93 runs scored and 105 RBI, good for an OPS+ of 131. Staub was three years older than Singleton and by 1979 he was a platoon player. In a long, 23-year career, Staub's line is .279/.362/.431. In a much shorter career (15 seasons), Singleton's line is .282/.388/.436. After the trade, Singleton put up OPS+ seasons of 153, 165, 152, 155, and 142. They were all full seasons. Staub, put up OPS+ seasons of 131 and 137 in full seasons, and 147 as a pinch-hitter for the Mets in 1981.
Jorgensen and Foli had some productive seasons too.
Maybe it's me. I was too young to follow the team during the early 70s but looking at the numbers, I'd say this was one of the worst trades in Met history.
Joe Girardi has yet to be impressed with Ian Kennedy.
"Right now we're not really thinking of him," he said. "We like the way our other (starters) are throwing the ball. I mean, you have to earn your call-up. … You have to earn your spot back. You have to pitch well to earn your spot back. He has to pitch well. He was optioned out, this is him getting right. This is like the other 175 players in the minor leagues, or however many there are."
You Can Have Anything You Want, But Not Everything
I wanted a split, and I wanted the Yanks to beat Oliver Perez. I got the split. Perez didn't throw a three-hitter as I feared, it was a two-hitter. Seven innings. And he didn't walk a batter. Believe that. Eight K's too. The Mets' southpaw, fighting to remain in the rotation, was brilliant on Sunday as the Mets shut the Yankees down, 3-1. The Yanks had four hits on the afternoon.
The best moment of the game came in the fourth with Derek Jeter on second and the Mets ahead, 2-0. Perez fell behind Alex Rodriguez 3-0, and then Rodriguez destroyed the 3-1 pitch, high and foul to left field. So close... The TV cut to the blimp angle which showed lightning cracking through the New York sky--it started raining but the game wasn't delayed. Perez fired two more fastballs and Rodriguez put good swings on them but could only foul them back. Another fastball, foul tip. I kept waiting for him to go to the slider. But Perez challenged Rodriguez with another fastball, right in Rodriguez's kitchen. Rodriguez swung and missed it. It was a Junior Miss Bob Welch-Reggie scene (Rodriguez just missed all day long; in his next at-bat, he skied a pop-out two miles in the air, and in the ninth, he narrowly missed a homer against Billy Wagner).
Darrell Rasner did okay; Jose Reyes had another lapse in form, as he threw down his glove in anger after making a throwing error in the eighth inning (a ball first baseman Carlos Delgado should have caught), but the Mets got a much-needed win all the same. Delgado had a solo homer, Bill Wagner got the save.
You Must Remember This
If the Yankees could only win one game this weekend I wanted it to be today's game. That's what I was saying all last week. I said two things: I hope the Yankees split the series and if they can only win one, let them beat Oliver Perez on Sunday. Perez is like AJ Burnett to me. Not as good, but still. Loads of talent, great "stuff" yet hopelessly erratic. Million Dollar Arm, Ten Cent Head kind of guy.
Of course, I'm more than half-expecting Perez to go out and throw a three-hitter. Walk five guys but still win. He is 4-1 lifetime vs. the Yanks.
Mr. Freeze was at it again today--making it look easy at the end of a long afternoon that included a rain delay. The Yankees did their part against Johan Santana (7-7) who was good, not great, giving up three runs in six innings. Good enough to lose. The home plate ump didn't help him any, either. Andy Pettitte (9-5) was better, allowing two runs over six, solo shots to David Wright and Ramon Castro respectively.
Jose Reyes got himself picked off of second base with another runner on first and David Wright at the plate in the fifth. It was the play of the game. Yesterday, Emma wrote that the Yankees left runners on base like it was going out of style. Today, the Mets had plenty of Girbaud's sagging around the bases. Carlos Beltran whiffed four times. Veras and Farnsworth held the Mets in check in the seventh and eighth and then came Rivera, who has been as automatic as he's ever been in his long career.
Carlos Delgado was first and Rivera fed him string of cutters. Delgado got good wood on one of them but it was a pitch designed to be hit foul. With two strikes, Rivera showed no mercy; instead of trying to freeze Delgado with a fastball on the outsider corner, he buried another cutter in on the hands. It looked like a wicked, late-breaking slider and Delgado had no chance, swinging over it and catching nothing but a breeze. Fernando Tatis was next, he took the first two pitches, and found himself ahead 2-0. But Rivera evened the count and then got Tatis to hit a soft fly ball to Abreu for the second out. Trot Nixon was last and he went quickly--swinging at two inside cutters and then looking at a fastball on the outside corner.
It wasn't fair but it was swift. Twelve pitches, ten strikes, 0.74 ERA. When he's on his game, Rivera truly is The Unfair One.
It is hot and hazy, muggy and awful in New York today. A late afternoon start pits Andy Pettitte against Johan Santana. Promises to be a good one.
Let's Go Yan-Kees!
Yankee Panky # 56: Random Thoughts
Working from home has many benefits. What does that have to do with this column? It's nice to have the game on in the background — even if it's on mute — while conducting conference calls and closing deals. It's also nice to walk five feet to the den when Game 2 comes on and you can just veg out and absorb New York baseball.
Watching the night game of the Shea half of Subway Series XII — with the sound on, this time — got me thinking about a lot of things about the events of yet another Day-Night Doubleheader in the City.
• Mike Francesa's conniption on the air yesterday was hysterical. Echoing much of the fan sentiment, he railed on the Yankees' relief pitching, primarily Edwar (leave off the last "D" for disappointing), "Mr. Wonderful" Ross Ohlendorf, and LaTroy Hawkins, who has not been the same since stealing Paul O'Neill's number. As part of the rant, he claimed that the Yankees need to buck up and spend the money to get a starting pitcher, as they will not make the playoffs with three dependable starters. I agree with one point he made, however: to not have a lefty in the bullpen when you have a $220 million payroll — and no, Kei Igawa doesn't count — is unacceptable.
• Michael Kay mentioned how yesterday was not considered a doubleheader, it was two separate games, and would be treated as such. Had the Mets won the regularly scheduled night game, it would not have been a sweep. Since the Yankees won, it's not considered a split. The Yankees won one game, and the Mets won another.
Huh? This logic is like the scene in "The Princess Bride" when Westley and Vezzini are matching wits to see who will drink the wine goblet spiked with Iocane powder. I wish I was there to see the looks on the faces of David Cone and Ken Singleton.
To quote a T-shirt that one of my colleagues at the office wears: "If a tree falls in the forest, do the other trees laugh at it?"
A Good Combination
Join Will Carroll, Jay Jaffe, Steve Goldman, Joe Sheehan and Derek Jacques for a good, old-fashioned BP pizza feed on Monday night at Foleys, starting at 8 pm. I'll be there as well. Love to see ya.
The Yanks and Mets took turns kicking each other in the ass yesterday. The Yankees wasted scoring opportunities early against Mike Pelfry in the first game and the Mets returned the favor against Sir Sidney later at Shea. Writing in the New York Times, Jack Curry, who ghosted Derek Jeter's autobiography, was critical of the Yankee captain in Game One:
Before the Yankees' bullpen imploded, Derek Jeter made a questionable choice in the fourth. With Melky Cabrera on first and no outs, Jeter, who entered the day with a .386 average against the Mets, sacrificed Cabrera to second. The Yankees pay Jeter $19 million a season to hit, not to bunt. While it would be illogical to blame a nine-run loss on one misguided bunt, the Mets outscored the Yankees, 12-2, after the Yankees left the bases loaded in the fourth.
Today's game doesn't start until close to four. Pettitte v. Santana promises to be a good one.
Yanks return the favor, blast Pedro, Mets: 9-0.
...Do We HAVE to Play Two?
The Subway Series got off to an ever so slightly rocky start for the Yankees this afternoon with a muggy, slow 15-6 crushing. Dan Giese was both uncharacteristically sloppy and, apparently, contagious, as the Yanks' bullpen spent much of the afternoon in the throes of a prolonged nervous breakdown. The result was a rout that
wait, what was that noise?! Did you guys hear that? Oh, never mind it's just Carlos Delgado's massive sixth inning grand slam finally landing.
Observations From Cooperstown--To Trade Or Not To Trade
Should the Yankees continue to take "Melk" with their outfield cup of coffee? That was the question posed earlier this week in an interesting New York Sun article by the Yes Network’s Steven Goldman. An able and long time chronicler of the Yankees, Goldman feels the Yankees should shop Melky Cabrera, making him a key piece of a package for a pitcher that could cushion the blow caused by Chien-Ming Wang’s foot injury. I’m inclined to agree with Goldman, though I do think the Yankees should wait a few weeks until the timing is just right to move their starting center fielder.
At one time I was a major supporter of Cabrera, fully believing that he would become the next Roy White, but with a much stronger arm that would allow him to play center field on an everyday basis. I saw Cabrera as a player who could hit .280 with lots of walks, hit 15 home runs a year, steal 20 to 25 bases, and give the Yankees above-average defense in center field. I have my doubts now. Though still only 24, Cabrera just isn’t improving. He could still hit 15 long balls a year, but I’m starting to think he might be a .260 hitter who doesn’t draw as many walks (his bases on balls rates are going down, not up), and a defender who repeatedly takes bad breaks on balls hit over his head. I’m thinking more Roberto Kelly now than I am Roy White. That doesn’t make Cabrera a bad player; he just appears that much closer to average, making it imperative that the Yankees surround him with star players in left and/or right field. And given the age of Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu, who knows what the Yankees will be throwing out in left and right field as we move closer to 2010.
Inevitably, the question becomes: who replaces Cabrera? As Goldman points out, the Yankees have a solid candidate in Triple-A center fielder Brett Gardner, who has always been capable of getting on base, but has added more power and better defense to his minor league resume this summer. Some of the Sabermetric naysayers downplay Gardner, projecting him as no more than a No. 4 outfielder because of his lack of power. I’ve read at least one analyst predict that he’ll amount to nothing more than Jason Tyner. But Gardner’s numbers indicate to me that he could just as easily become another Brett—Brett Butler—who was one of the most underrated outfielders of the late 1980s and nineties. Butler never hit more than nine home runs in a single season, but he somehow managed to achieve a nearly .380 lifetime on-base percentage while playing capably in center field. Yes, I’ll take anything close to that from Gardner, who at last look was sporting a .414 on-base percentage with 30 stolen bases and three home runs for Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
According to all of the scouting reports I’ve seen, Gardner has far more speed and slightly more range than Cabrera, which should make up for the difference in arm strength. The fact that Gardner bats left-handed shouldn’t be a deterrent either. Although Cabrera is a switch-hitter, he has never hit particularly well from the right side, so he does nothing for the Yankees’ problems against left-handed pitching. Another part of Cabrera’s problem is his streakiness. When he’s hot, as he was earlier this season, he looks like a player on the verge of a breakthrough. But that is invariably followed by a long cold snap, which makes him a drain on the back end of the Yankee lineup. Cabrera finds himself in such a slump right now, which is why the Yankees should wait before pulling the trigger on a deal. A .254 hitter with middling power won’t draw much on the trade market, but a .280 hitter with that same level of power and a dose of speed might. If the Yankees are smart, they’ll wait for the next Cabrera hot streak, which might be timed to happen just before the July 31st trading deadline.
That brings us to our next problem, which is general manager Brian Cashman. Frankly, I’ve lost all confidence in Cashman’s ability to do anything but wait for the next pitching prospect to get hot at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. Cashman really doesn’t make trades any more, now does he? Quick now, name the last trade of substance that Cashman has made. It took me awhile to remember that it was the Scott Proctor-for-Wilson Betemit exchange, a smart transaction by Cashman but one that has had little impact on the Yankees given Betemit’s frequent injuries and backup status. So quick now, what was the last major trade that Cashman made, one that did have an impact? If we don’t count the Gary Sheffield deal, which thus far has had no positive impact on the major league roster, then the answer would be the Bobby Abreu trade, which dates all the way back to July of 2006. Let’s face it, Cashman isn’t exactly Charlie Finley, Whitey Herzog, or Trader Lane when it comes to making swaps.
So what has happened with Cashman? I get the feeling that, much like former general managers Terry Ryan and Bill Stoneman, he just doesn’t like to make trades. Or perhaps he’s been burned by so many of his trades involving pitchers that he’s become gun-shy. Whatever the reason, he’d prefer to hold onto all of his prospects, especially his pitching prospects, which he hordes as if he were stocking up on canned goods during War of the Worlds. Heck, he won’t even trade pitching prospects for prospects who play other positions—like catcher and shortstop, where the Yankees could use future help—which explains why over 60 per cent of the Yankees’ 40-man roster consists of pitchers. Since trading Cabrera alone is not going to bring back a frontline pitcher, the inclusion of prospects will become a necessity to any trade.
Packaging Cabrera with one or two pitching prospects (guys not named Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy) might bring the Yankees the kind of frontline starter they will likely need to catch the Rays and maybe even the Red Sox in the American League East. Without such an addition (someone like C.C. Sabathia, Erik Bedard, or Joe Blanton), the Yankees might have to settle for third place. And third gets you nothing in baseball these days—except a cliched cry of "Wait ‘Til Next Year."
Bruce Markusen writes "Cooperstown Confidential" for MLB.com.
Lucky Lou, Buck Tater and Heartbreak in Boston
My good pal Hank Waddles has an interview with Richard Bradley, author of The Greatest Game: The Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Playoff of '78, over at Broken Cowboy:
BC: You mentioned that you spoke to a lot of players and people connected with the game. Even though we're talking about a game that was played thirty years ago, I'm guessing that the people you spoke with didn't have any trouble recalling its details. Were you surprised by how vivid some of the memories were?
Here is an excerpt from the book. Enjoy.
Yankee life, says Mike Mussina; minor league life, says Dan Giese. Either way, last night's game will be made up on July 10th.
Keep it Rollin'
Yo, I just wanted a chance to post a picture of Kent Tekulve, a name that I couldn't pronounce for the life of me when I was a kid.
Let's Go Moose!
Pen and Tell Us
Over at BP, Kevin Goldstein has the lowdown on which Yankee farm hands could replace Joba as Mo's set-up guy. In order of "prospecty goodness":
Marc Melancon: Someone didn't give Melancon the note about Tommy John survivors having problems getting their control back. In 54 innings this year, the former University of Arizona star has walked just 10, while limiting opposing batters to a .209 batting average. Both his sinking fastball and his hard curve rate as plus pitches, and with the way he's throwing at Double-A (1.57 ERA in 11 games), he could be in line for a September look.
If You Can't Walk the Walk Don't Talk the Talk
After the first game of the inter-city double header tomorrow, Lo-Hud columnist Sam Borden is going to troop from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to Shea out in Flushing, Queens. It's a ten mile hike. Sam has set-up a donation page at The American Cancer Society. Yesterday, in an e-mail, he wrote "This isn't something The Journal News is involved with or affiliated with, which is why I'm not publicizing it on the paper's web site. It's just something I think is important, and am hoping to get as many people to know about it as possible." So, yo, good cause here, peoples. If I didn't have to work tomorrow and wasn't still gimpy with a bad ankle, it's just the kind of thing I'd love to join. Regardless, I'll post Sam's write-up on Saturday.
The Lumber Company
(... title courtesy of Alex Belth, thus sparing you all from the truly repugnant Joba-related puns I'd been planning. You owe him more thanks than you'll ever know).
And, later in the article, with the Yanks up two games to none and back in New York:
Stop: Joba Time
Yanks need a lift from their young gun. I expect the offense will get the led out too.
Let's Go Yan-Kees!
Diggin in the Crates Vol 1
I don't have as many records as I once did. It's what happens when you live in a small space and have a life long habit of collecting more stuff. In with the baseball books, out with the records, you know how it goes. I've sold some vinyl, and put the majority of them my collection storage, leaving me with just a couple of hundred at the crib. I don't know if there is a story behind every record I own, at least not a good story, but there usually is a fond memory, so I figure I'd start a new series, highlighting a piece of wax each week.
First up is the classic Bam Bam, performed by Sister Nancy. It's been sampled to death, but my favorite treatment is "Just Hangin' Out," *off Main Source's debut album. Back before re-issues flooded the market about a decade ago, you actually had to hunt around for records. This one wasn't that hard to find but it took me a minute. When I found it, the store clerk, a Dub afficiando, sniffed at me. "That isn't even the best track on the record." Maybe not. There are a few other good joints. But none as memorable as "Bam, Bam." Least not for my money.
Flunk Me, Flunk You
The Awful Truth
"The whole game bothered me, we stunk, we stunk," Girardi said. "We keep putting [runners] out there. We have to turn it around because we are missing opportunities. We had a lot of opportunities. The defense didn't help us, the pitching didn't help us and the runners in scoring position ..."
The Bad News Bears Go to PNC
Have Bats, Will Travel
Due to a quirk in our schedule, Cliff isn't available to present his usual series preview tonight (he'll miss the Subway Serious too, but will be back for the Rangers). I'm not going to even front and try to do what he does so well. But I can tell you that I'm really looking forward to watching this series, and not only because the Yankees should be able to handle the Pirates. No, it's more because PNC ballpark is one of the most breath-taking Stadiums in the country. At least it is on TV. Which means it'll be three times dope on HD-TV.
The cityscape beyond the center field wall is a tremendous sight. I've never been but a few years ago they held some kind of throwback night where they turned off the electric scoreboard and the booming soundtrack. They only effects that night came from the organist. I can't recall wanting to be at a non-Yankee game more in recent years. Another time, during Rickey Henderson's final year with the Mets, the legend was thrown out attempting to steal second base. As he trotted off the field, the organist played "The Old Gray Mare." Now, that's old-timey style.
So, instead of our regular preview, let me direct you over to our good pal Pete Abe, who has the starting line-ups, pitching match-ups as well as a couple of roster moves (we have a new face in left tonight).
Ain't nuthin else much to say 'cept the obvious:
Let's Go Yan-Kees.
The Sweet Sound of Summer
Switch my Pitch Up
I'm a sucker for oral histories. I just love 'em. They are the kinds of books you can pick-up and put-down at your leisure. And they don't have to be perfect in order to stimulate convesation, debate, and get the old juices flowing. Change Up: An Oral History of 8 Key Events that Shaped Modern Baseball, by Larry Burke and Pete Foranatele is a fine addition to your baseball library. You can argue about the chapter selection, which is half the fun, but that'd really be missing the point, because it is what is in the chapters that's winning.
Here is Thomas Boswell on the one-of-a-kind shortstop, Cal Ripken, Jr.
I guess we can credit Weaver for helping pave the way for Jeter and Rodriguez.
In a wonderful chapter on the Latino Wave, here's Luis Tiant:
For a more detailed look at baseball in Cuba, check out Michael Lewis' long piece for Vanity Fair.
Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Yeah
I like driving enough. I got my permit at sixteen like everyone else in the suburbs. But I've never owned a car, never cared to, and have never had anything but a passing interest in them. I live in a city where you don't need a car--though that never stopped my old man, one of the true Manhattan crackpots who prefer having a car (he knew the alternate side of the street laws better than he knew the Passover Haggadah). As a kid, I loved saying the word "Volvo," and could recognize the boxy cars easily. Everyone loved a VW bug. But my favorite American car was a Cadillac. And only becacuse I liked the how the tail lights looked.
I have a general memory of being a kid leaving my grandparents apartment at night. As we waited for my father to pull the car around, we waited under the canopy of 15 West 81st street, across the street from the Hayden Planetarium and the Museum of Natural History, I looked at the bright red and yellow lights moving up and down the street. I was usually half-asleep. I remember being captivated by tail lights on the Caddy's. They weren't the usual, blocky lights, they were sleek slits of lights, standing erect.
My other favorite car was the plump, old Citroen's, which I saw often during visits to my mother's family in Belgium. They really did it for me.
Any of you guys care about cars?
If so, which ones float yer boat?
Chew on This
Derek Jeter is the leading vote-getter in the American League for the All-Star Game. He's the guy you want to build a team around, he's the most overrated player in the game. He's a future Hall of Famer, yet Jeter has struggled through much of the first half of the season. Mark Feinsand has a good piece on the Yankee captain in the News today:
Jeter won't even offer a guess at the reason for his declining numbers, but Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has his own theory.
Meanwhile, in the New York Sun, Steven Goldman explains why the Yanks should move Melky Cabrera:
The reason the Yankees can deal their starting center fielder for need without opening up another hole is the performance of prospect Brett Gardner at Triple-A Scranton. The speedy center fielder is currently batting .292/.408/.436 with 10 doubles, nine triples, three home runs, and 52 walks in 73 games. He has also stolen 29 bases in 37 attempts. Gardner, 24, will not be an impact player in the major leagues. However, given his patience, a .275 batting average, and his ability to run balls down with his speed, he should be at least as productive as Cabrera and provide a better on-base threat at the bottom of the order, creating more opportunities for Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, and the top of the lineup.
Finally, could the end be near for Mike and the Angry Puppy? Say it ain't so.
For more than ten years I've talked about records, record labels, record producers, rare 45 b-sides and comedians with my dear friend Alan who knows more about records and record history than anyone I know, and it's not even close. When we see each other, we usually go right into an old Carlin routine, or a Lenny Bruce sketch, or Bugs Bunny riff. Alan was the first guy I thought of this morning. When he got into work and saw the red light on his phone, he knew who the message was from
Wino Time, Bing-Bong, Five Minutes Past the Big Hour of Five O'Clock
Here's my beard.
Card Corner--Mike Paxton
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: A dreaded Red Sock. (Or is it Red Sox?) But there is method to my folly. After all, this card comes from Topps’ 1978 set, the favorite set of Bronx Banter chieftain Alex Belth. And it is an intriguing card because of its rather surreal appearance.
Over the years, Topps has airbrushed logos and uniform colors on countless cards, but during the seventies and eighties it was pretty rare for the company to use anything but actual photographs of players on the cards. In this case, we find an example of a card that seemingly had no photograph, only an apparent drawing, from the cap and the uniform to the player’s face, neck, and hair.
So who is Mike Paxton and why was a picture of him drawn onto his 1978 Topps rookie card (No. 216), rather than photographed? Well, I could answer the first question easily enough, but the second query remained a bit of a mystery. An ordinary player, Mike Paxton is probably best remembered for being included in the trade that sent Dennis Eckersley from the Indians to the Red Sox; in the deal, Eckersley and backup catcher Fred Kendall went to Boston in exchange for Paxton, veteran right-hander Rick Wise, third baseman Ted Cox, and catcher Bo Diaz. Prior to the trade, Paxton had risen through the Red Sox’ farm system in the mid-1970s, emerging as one of their better pitching prospects despite the lack of an overpowering fastball. As a rookie in 1977, Paxton made an immediate impact, winning 10 of 15 decisions as a sometime starter and reliever. Standing only 5’11" and sporting a lower body nearly as bowlegged as Bucky Dent, Paxton compensated for a lack of velocity with tenacity and a willingness to throw inside that earned him the nickname, "Bulldog."
More significantly, the soft-spoken Paxton was—and presumably still is—deeply religious, a devout Baptist and a member of the Fellowship for Christian Athletes. Initially, I thought that explained why his image was drawn and not photographed for the 1978 Topps card. Although I hadn’t been able to verify this through any written documentation, I had heard it speculated that Paxton and another pitcher, Seattle Mariners left-hander Rick Jones (who was featured on a 1977 Topps card), didn’t want to be photographed on their cards for religious reasons. Topps has always negotiated its contracts with players on an individual basis, so it seemed possible that Paxton and Jones specifically made the request for drawings, and not photographs, on their cards. While the religious interpretation seemed like as good a reason as any in explaining why a photograph wouldn’t be used at a time when photos of players were in large supply, it didn’t explain why Paxton’s two subsequent Topps cards (1979 and ’80) featured photographs and not drawings. Thus, the mystery continued.
As it turned out, religious reasons had nothing to do with the "drawings" on the Mike Paxton and Rick Jones cards. There existed a much simpler explanation, which I received from former Yankee public relations man Marty Appel, who has also done public relations work for Topps over the years. Appel says that it was simply a case of Topps not having color photographs for either player. As a result, Topps took a couple of black-and-white photos and "colorized" them, giving them the effect of looking like drawings. So technically this card does feature a photograph, though it has been given the Ted Turner treatment.
Yes, sometimes there are easy answers to seemingly complex mysteries; you simply have to know whom to ask.
Bruce Markusen writes "Cooperstown Confidential" for MLBlogs at MLB.com.
Tell Us a Story
When it comes down to it, the story is the thing. Whether we are talking about one of the great comics like George Carlin, or a great movie, a magazine article or blog entry, we are attracted to stories and to storytellers. Baseball of course is replete with wonderful stories, some true, some not. (As Rob Neyer explores in his new book, sometimes the truth can only get in the way of a good story.)
Has anyone ever read Prophet of the Sandlots, Mark Winegardner's gem of a book about travelling with Tony Lucadello, one of the most successful scouts in big league history? If you haven't, there aren't many baseball books I'd recommend more. Lucadello signed a ton of guys, including Jim Brosnan, Alex Johnson, Toby Harrah, Larry Hisle, Fergie Jenkins and Mike Schmidt. Like many scouts, he was a great storyteller. Here is a scene, featuring Carl Loewenstine, one of Lucadello's protogees:
Though Carl is in his late thirties, with a drawl, a bushy red mustache, a chaw of tobacco, a Dodgers World Series ring, and friends in the country-music business, he has more in common with his mentor than appearances suggest. After Tony secured him the full-time job with the Phillies in 1979, Carl was first assigned to the Deep South. As we sat in an unheated press box in rain-soaked Dayton watching mediocre playes flail about on a muddy field, Carl started telling stories. The best involved a quaest into deepest bayou country on the trail of a huge high-school dropout with a blazing fastball, no shoes, a drinking problem, and a pregnant twelve-year-old girl friend. Carl ended up signing the kid, whose can't-miss fastball couldn't save him when he left his minor league team in Oklahoma to rob a bank, tryingo to get enough money for the girl friend to buy her own house.
Ah, to be able to hang with the likes of grouchy old' Don Zimmer for a spell. Or Joe Torre. David Cone might offer some good ones as the season rolls along, and I bet Giambi's got more than few good stories to tell, dont' ya think?
A Place for his Stuff
I was ten when my parents split up. My mother broke the news to us in the car after dropping my father off at the Metro North Station. My twin sister and younger brother were in the back seat. I was in the passenger seat. When she was finished telling us the what was going to happen, I turned to her and said, "Don't worry, Mom, I'll take care of you now."
We grew up quickly over the next few years. My father started dating a woman who lived on the same block as my grandparents on the Upper West Side, and soon they were living together. She was good to us, gave us sex education tips without shame or titilation--straight, blunt, sound advice. I remember seeing a shiny box, The Devil in Miss Jones, next to the other videos on a shelf in her bedroom, but I never had the nerve to watch it on the sly.
Everything was grown-up. When we visited my dad, we hung around adults.
Perhaps the most important discovery I made in her apartment was when I pulled a record from the shelf with a picture of a hippie sitting on a stool. The record was AM/FM, the lp that won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album and the one that put George Carlin on the map for good. It wasn't a racy record--heck, by this point, we had Eddie Murphy to idolize--and it was dated, filled-with Vietnam Era references that I didn't understand. But it had curse words as well as Carlin's elastic imagination, nibble word-play, and funny-sounding voices. Carlin sounded like a grown-up kid. Friendly, approachable, caustic, but decent.
We were hooked. I can't tell you how much material I swiped from Carlin and claimed as my own when I was a kid. Later, Carlin's follow-up records, Class Clown and Occupation Foole became like the Torah for me (I still remember my old man taking us to King Carole Records on the west side; I proudly selected Toledo Window Box). There is his legendary routine about the seven words you can't say on Television, and who'll ever forget his contribution to the debate between football and baseball?
For years, in high school and throughout college, I would go to sleep with the sounds of a comedy record playing in the background. Bill Cosby and Carlin were always good choices--Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor were too lively for that time of night. I must have listened to "Occupation Foole" five hundred times easily. I know Carlins' inflections, the rhythms of his voice, his faces, all of his characters, as well as I know a member of the family.
So, it is a sad Monday morning as George Carlin passed away yesterday at the age of 71. That is too young. He was from Morningside Heights in Manhattan and he ranks up there with Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor as one of the Giants of stand-up comedy.
I want to take this moment to thank him for everything he gave me. He made me feel grown when I was a kid, and has made me feel young as I've gotten older.
The Brown Bomber Delivers the Biggest Night in Yankee Stadium History
We're going to spend a lot of time waxing nostalgic about Yankee Stadium this year, sharing our own favorite memories and listing the all-time great moments. For all the Yankee highlights the place has seen, not to mention one of the most famous football games ever, the biggest event ever to go down in the House that Ruth Built may well have been the Joe Louis/Max Schmeling rematch which took place seventy years ago today (Here is audio from the fight).
Boxing is the most pitiless of sports, as it can be the most dazzling, theatrical and emblematic. Where race and nationalism are involved, as in the famous Joe Louis-Max Schmeling heavyweight fights of 1936 and 1938, two of the most widely publicized boxing matches in history, the emblematic aspect of the sport can assume epic proportions. When the second fight, of June 1938, pitting the 24-year-old American Negro titleholder, Louis, against the 32-year-old Schmeling, the Nazis' star athlete, was fought at Yankee Stadium, the contest was as much between the United States and Nazi Germany as between two superbly skilled athletes. There were almost 70,000 spectators and an estimated 100 million radio listeners throughout the world: "the largest audience in history for anything."
If you didn't catch HBO's fine Joe Louis documentary earlier this year, it's well-worth watching.
It's difficult to fathom the magnitude of that night. But it begs the question: Has an event held at Yankee Stadium ever had a greater social impact on the entire country, let alone the rest of the world?
I Can See Cleary Now...the Rain Has Gone
After being wowed by the Reds' arms all weekend, the Yankees needed a hundred dollar bill performance on Sunday from their veteran, Andy Pettitte. And that's exactly what they got. Pettitte was able to get himself out of a couple of dicey-looking jams, in the fourth and the sixth. With the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, Pettitte fanned the pesky Joey Votto and then Jay Bruce to end the inning. It was an overcast day, but the sun peaked-out just as Pettitte delivered the 3-2 pitch past Bruce.
Two innings later, the sky was dark and the wind was whirling around the Stadium. The wind was so violent, kicking up the infield dirt, Brandon Phillips had to step-out of the box several times before he could hit. With runners on the corners and just one out, Pettitte got Paul Janish to pop a bunt up in the air, caught easily by Jorge Posada. Pettitte stood on the mound, straight and tall, his pants rippling against the strong wind. It brought to mind James Agee's description of Buster Keaton: "mulish imperturbability under the wildest of circumstances." Pettitte struck Votto out.
Jason Giambi's mustache looked noticably darker than it did a day earlier. When he was at the plate, it looked as if he was wearing one of those fake Groucho disguises. Whatever he did, it worked, as Giambi collected three hits and a couple of RBI. He also stole a base in the second inning. He ran on a full count pitch to Posada, who took it for strike three. When Giambi was on second, he looked toward the Yankee dugout and gave his boys a little shoulder shimmy shimmy ya.
Kyle Farnsworth served up a solo shot to Junior Griffey in the eighth. It was career dinger #601 for Griffey. Mariano Rivera was called to record a four-out save after Farnsworth left the game with an injury to his finger. Mo worked around two dinky singles to start the ninth, didn't allow a run, and earned his 21st save of the season (in as many chances) as the Yankees salvaged the final game of the homestand, 4-1.
Knife in the Water
The weatherman says we're going to get summer storms this afternoon. Hopefully, they get the game in. I expect the Yankees to knock the hell out of the ball today, don't you?
If you can't beat 'em...eat 'em.
I've never tried Cincinnati Chili, a truly weird n wunnerful sounding-dish, but my cousin Jonah and his wife Jenn absolutely love it. Here is an introduction from Jenn, followed by a fool-proof recipe from the good people at Cook's Illustrated (aka America's Test Kitchen):
"My husband and I first learned about this chili recipe while babysitting our nephew Archer one Sat morning. We had just discovered America's Test Kitchen tv show and when they were demonstrating this recipe it literally stopped us in our tracks. We sat enthralled at why someone would ever want to blanch ground chuck. And then when we saw them mixing all those spices, we started salivating. By the time they got to the buttered spaghetti, it was over: our jaws were on the floor, tongues agog a la Wyle E. Coyote. America's Test Kitchen = super geniuses. At that point we both turned to each other and, without a word, we both knew what was for dinner that night.
The great thing about this recipe is that it's super easy to throw together and it's got enough interesting flavors to whet anyone's palette. Since we made it the first time, we've been making it pretty much once a week.
You must do all the required toppings for the big finale: the sharp tang of the cheddar, the sweet bite of the raw diced onion, and the mellow smoothness of the warmed red kidneys all add a nice dimension to the beefy, spiced chili.
While some people prefer to avoid having leftovers, for this dish it's actually fine. It still tastes excellent the second time around (you can do both stove-top sauce pan method or the cover with foil in the oven method, though with the oven method the noodles do get a little crispy, if you're into that)."
A Warm, Unhappy Afternoon for the Yanks in the Bronx
On Friday night, Joe Girardi's decision to intentionally walk Jay Bruce in the fifth inning--a move his pitcher Mike Mussina did not agree with--back-fired. However, the Yankees were also overwhelmed by Edinson Volquez. Johnny Damon said "He's one of the better guys that we've seen in a long time." Jason Giambi agreed. "He's got Pedro-type stuff. You've got to tip your cap. The kid threw a good game." As usual, Derek Jeter got right to it. "Sometimes guys are going to be better than you. He was better than us."
A mere blip. It happens. I don't think anyone expected the Yankees to get shut-down on Saturday afternoon by a kid making his major league debut. But that happened too. Fresh direct from Double A, Daryl Thompson woke up at 4:30 in the morning, was understandably amped up, and then went out and threw five scoreless innings, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the second. Four other Cincy relievers combined to shut-out the Yankees, 6-0.
Missed it by That Much
Edinson Volquez out-dueled Mike Mussina on Friday night as the Reds beat the Yanks 4-2. It was a terrific evening at the Stadium, weather-wise, and the Yankees had their chances--the tying run was at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, and Jason Giambi just missed a change up with two men on in the seventh (he would hit a long fly out to death valley, another one he was just behind). Mussina scattered ten hits over eight innings but really only made one mistake--a flat fastball to Jolbert Cabrera in the fifth. Johnny Damon lost a fly ball in the lights to start the inning:
"I saw it, I felt I had a bead on it," Damon said. "Then, you're seeing shadows. It makes me disgusted. I didn't realize it hit off my glove. That's tough to overcome when you're facing a tough pitcher. Unfortunately, losing the ball in the lights cost us three."
It was a night of near-misses.
Volquez was a lot of fun to watch. He was "effectively wild," but not like Daniel Cabrera. He wasn't wild enough to be hitting guys. But his pitches darted every which way. More to the point, when he fell behind in the count, he was able to come up with the big pitch. He was supremely confident, and why not? He hasn't allowed more than three runs in any start this season.
It's hot n hazy again in New York today. A 1:00 start promises to bring plenty of heat.
Let's Go Yan-Kees!
2007 Record: 33-39 (.458)
2008 Record: 33-41 (.446)
Manager: Dusty Baker
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Great American Ball Park (104/105)
Who's Replacing Whom:
Joey Votto replaces Scott Hatteberg
1B - Joey Votto (L)
L - Corey Patterson (OF)
R - Aaron Harang
R - Francisco Cordero
15-day DL: R - Ryan Freel (UT), R - Jeff Keppinger (IF), R - Jerry Hairston Jr. (UT), R - Josh Fogg, R - Todd Coffey
L - Jay Bruce (CF)
Harpo doin the Gookie.
This was the can't-miss, home run, bust-a-gut move for Harpo Marx. Whenever the Marx brothers were doing a show and started to bomb they'd send Harpo up to do the Gookie. Once he busted it on you--seemingly out of nowhere--you were at his mercy.
Yankee Panky #55: There is a such thing as bad publicity
It’s impossible to discuss
That is, of course, if you believe in the adage that perception is reality.
I got to thinking about this in the 72 hours since Willie Randolph’s unceremonious dismissal, and instantly compared it to Joe Torre’s resignation last winter. Both situations were mishandled by their respective former employers. Both proved to be high-caliber public relations gaffes. Both men, through the professional way that they handled losing their jobs, elicited sympathy from the media that was simultaneously channeled into anger at the Yankees and Mets. With the
That’s the perception. I’m a believer in the adage.
· The Yankees were coming off a 12th straight playoff berth under Torre but a third straight loss in the Division Series. When the expectation is to win a World Series and anything less is viewed as a failure, despite the trials and tribulations of getting to the playoffs, the effort wasn’t good enough.
· Torre, up for a new contract, received a one-year offer from the Yankees that included a paycut, but was laced with incentives provided the team won the division, then each subsequent round of the playoffs, and the World Series. Torre considered the Yankees’ offer an insult, which he didn’t need as an incentive to win. Bob Costas jumped all over this and made it a hit point on his HBO show.
· Torre resigned. Every local news media outlet staked out his house to get a glimpse of him in advance of his closing press conference, which YES broadcast live. Torre, after a brief statement, fielded questions for more than an hour.
· The local beat writers and columnists had choice words for Randy Levine and other members of the Yankees’ front office. And while the reaction to Torre’s leaving was mixed, the consensus was that he was one of the greatest managers in team history, and was the perfect fit for this city and this team, particularly in the savvy way he managed the media circus on a daily basis. In short, he respected the writers and reporters, and the feeling was mutual.
METS – WILLIE RANDOLPH
· Presided over a team that lost a 7 1/2 –game lead in the final two weeks of the regular season to miss the playoffs. With roughly the same team returning, save the addition of Johan Santana, expectations were high.
· A slow start, plus various incidents in which
· The Mets held a press conference two weeks ago to say that
· The Mets, after a 3-3 homestand and a double-header split with
· GM Omar Minaya uncharacteristically flies out to
· Minaya claims it was his decision, but it doesn’t help change the thought that the Wilpons and Minaya had
The media’s job now is to highlight the facts and present them as they come to the fore. There has been and will continue to be analysis of the situation for as long as the Mets continue to struggle. If they turn it around, you might see comparisons to the Billy Martin-Bob Lemon switch in 1978.
The public face on how the Mets treated
Not that the Yankees and Giants are without their flaws. However, but in my observations, bungled organizational matters are forgotten with the on-field product. Regarding Torre, Yankees fans, while they may agree on his resignation coming at the right time – and even that the offer was an insult, it appears they’ve forgiven the Yankees’ brass for the way it was handled. Mets fans will hurt for a long time, and the media will perpetuate that hurt unless the organization does something to fix it.
Everyone's Gone to the Movies (Now We're Alone at Last)
Variety has a wonderful new issue out celebrating 50 years of the Dodgers being in L.A. Our good pal Jon Weisman has his talented finger prints all over this one. I contributed two pieces to the issue--one, my picks for the ten best baseball movies of them all, another, a sidebar on ten memorable baseball scenes in non-baseball movies. Let me know which baseball flicks you think were robbed. Also, give me some more examples of good baseball scenes in non-baseball movies. There are many more of them than decent baseball films. I didn't even mention the Mantle-Maris scene in that old Doris Day movie, or the grenade-thrower from "Under Fire" who loved Dennis "El Presidente" Martinez. Or the softball game in "Gung Ho." Or...
The Yankees extended their winning streak to seven games by completing a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres yesterday afternoon. Joba Chamberlain got the start and turned in his first truly dominant major league start as he struck out nine Padres in 5 2/3 innings, allowing just one run on four hits and three walks.
The run came in the fourth when Brian Giles led off with a single, was pushed to second by a walk to Adrian Gonzalez, and scored when Tony Clark, hitting from the left side, hit a flare to the line in shallow left that hopped into the stands for a ground-rule double. Prior to that, Chamberlain worked himself into a bases-loaded jam in the second, but struck out Scott Hairston, got an out at home from a wild pitch, and struck out Khalil Greene to end the inning. The play on Gonzalez came when Chamberlain skipped a pitch past Jose Molina, then raced home to cover the plate. Molina gathered the ball and fired to Chamberlain, who actually set up to block the plate and got the tag down on Gonzalez before the Padres first baseman was able to get his foot around him to the dish. Chamberlain didn't allow a hit in any of his other innings and ended his outing with a pair of strikeouts. Had he been more efficient, he could have gone deeper, as he had retired seven of his last eight batters when he hit 100 pitches.
Fortunately the Yankee bullpen did its job. The Yanks had tied the score in the bottom of the fifth when Melky Cabrera walked, stole second and third, and scored on a Molina sac fly. Jose Veras got the final out of the sixth in relief of Chamberlain, then in the bottom of that inning, Derek Jeter singled, stole second, moved to third on a Bobby Abreu groundout to the right side, and scored on an Alex Rodriguez single. Veras pitched around a pair of walks in the seventh. Kyle Farnsworth pitched around an Adrian Gonzalez single in the eighth, and, once again, Mariano Rivera struck out the side in the ninth. Rivera has struck out 25 men in his last 16 innings.
It was a clean, crisp game, and a rewarding 2-1 victory for the Yankees, though it would have been nice if Chamberlain had picked up the win for his efforts. With the win, the Yankees became the eighth team in baseball to reach 40 wins. Next up: Dusty Baker's Reds.
The Yankees have scored a minimum of eight runs in their last four games and are on a six-game winning streak. Today they send Joba Chamberlain to the mound and will face a far less heralded rookie in Josh Banks.
The Yankees have actually seen Banks before, as his first two major league appearances came in relief for the Blue Jays last year against the Yankees. In his debut in Toronto, Banks retired Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, and Johnny Damon in order. A week and a half later in the Bronx, he gave up a run on a walk to Hideki Matsui, a Robinson Cano single, and a Jose Molina double (he also saw Cabrera and Damon a second time, striking out Melky and walking Johnny).
Banks posted a 6.80 ERA in triple-A this year, was claimed off waivers by the Padres in late April, and snuck into the major league roster after both Chris Young and Jake Peavy went down with injuries. The 25-year-old righty started out in the bullpen, but after pitching six shutout innings in the Padres 18-inning win over the Reds on May 25, he was granted a rotation spot, which he nailed down with a complete game victory over the Giants in his first start and a 2-1 win over the Mets in his second.
A command and control pitcher with marginal stuff, Banks hasn't walked a man in 20 innings since entering the rotation, and has been extremely efficient with his pitches, needing just 101 for that complete game and not topping 77 in either of two six-inning outings. That makes him an interesting contrast to Chamberlain, who has filthy stuff, but has struggled with walks since moving into the rotation, and can thus use up a lot of pitches rather quickly. Joba's peripherals went backwards against the Astros in his last start, but despite his four walks, he was cruising along at 89 pitches through six when his turn in the batting order came due, thus ending his outing there. This afternoon, the limits will finally be off . . . mostly. I'm sure the Yankees won't want him to throw more than 100 pitches, but that's a respectable limit for any rookie, and Joe Girardi won't have to pinch-hit for him. For all the hype that has come before, this afternoon should mark Chamberlain's true debut as a full-fledged American League starting pitcher.
Only Baseball Matters
Dayn Perry has a new blog. In his latest post, Dayn raves about Michael Lewis' long piece about Cuban baseball in the new issue of Vanity Fair. Perry writes, "I can say, without exaggeration, that it may be the finest example of long-form sports journalism I’ve ever read." That's enough of a recommendation for me. Sold.
Simple Pleasures are the Best
Giorgio Morandi is one of my favorite painters. He was a little old Italian guy who almost excusively painted still life pictures. They are humble and deeply satisfying--he's a painter's painter. Even though the subject matter is traditional, his pictures tackle space, form and composition just like the great modern abstract painters.
The reason I mention him, is because looking at his drawings and paintings is a simple but cherished pleasure for me. And last night was filled with simple pleasures. It started when I arrived home with a dozen white roses for my wife. I got caught in the rain and was soaking wet but didn't mind a bit. When the rain stopped, we saw a rainbow outside of our apartment window in the Bronx. Later, a full yellow moon beamed high in the black night. The weather was crisp and unseasonably cool, almost too good to be true.
At the Stadium, there was Robinson Cano, who is really starting to swing the bat well, and Joe Girardi seeking out Melky Cabrera on the bench after Melky lined-out in the second inning, then offering him words of encouragement. Later, Melky made a head-first slide into second that looked more like a belly flop into a swimming pool. It was a potentially reckless play but one that gave his teammates a good laugh.
There was the joy of watching one of the all-time greats in fine form. Alex Rodriguez stole a base, made a wonderful throw to end the fourth inning and crushed a solo home run off of Jake Peavy. David Cone, who just keeps getting better, looser, funnier, John Flaherty and Michael Kay provided entertaining and informative commentary throughout. At one point, Kay mentioned that the demonstrative Peavy does not curse and he asked Cone if he ever had any teammates that did not swear. "None that I trusted," said Cone.
There was pleasure to be found in the Yankees not folding, even after Edwar Ramirez gave up two solo homers and Kyle Farnsworth gave up one of his own. What makes a fan feel better than insurance runs? Uh, Johnny Damon's doing pretty well these days, ain't he? And there was Mo, of course, getting a brother-to-brother double play to end the game. Finally, there was the pleasure of watching the game on-line with the Banterites, who are not only insightful but funny. Diana had the best line of the night, even though she invoked one of those dreadful 80s pop songs that stick in your head for days:
We can score when we want to
The Yanks looked they were going to waltz to another easy win in the early innings of last night's game. Darrell Rasner cruised through the first two frames, striking out four (three of them looking) and the Bombers plated three runs against Jake Peavy. However, Rasner struggled in the third, walking three, giving up two runs, and getting the final out on a drive to deep center with the bases loaded. That made a game out of it at 3-2 Yanks.
Alex Rodriguez killed a Jake Peavy pitch dead to make it 4-2 in the bottom of the inning, and the Yanks made Peavy work enough that, coming off an elbow injury, he was pulled after four innings and 93 pitches. The Yanks then added another run in the fifth against former Red Sock Bryan Corey when Rodriguez singled, stole second, and came around on a Jorge Posada single. Rasner walked five men in five innings after walking just three in his previous 42, and Edwar Ramirez came on to pitch the sixth and seventh. Ramirez set down the side in order in the sixth, striking out two, but with two outs in the seventh he gave back both insurance runs on back-to-back homers by Adrian Gonzalez and Brian Giles.
Homers were Edwar's big bugaboo in his major league debut last year, but he had only allowed one in his previous 29 innings this year in the majors and minors combined, so, despite the flashbacks, I'm willing to credit Gonzalez and Giles here. After all, they were the two guys I warned you about in my series preview. After the game, Joe Girardi brushed off those homers, both of which came on fastballs down and over the plate to the lefty batters. Of course, he also brushed off the leadoff homer Kyle Farnsworth gave up in the eighth despite the fact that Farnsworth is allowing 2.5 homers per nine innings on the season. To Farnsworth's credit, he had been homer free in his previous seven outings/innings, and on the year, just six of the batters he has faced who haven't homered have scored. The Farnsworth homer was the first in the major leagues by Padres prospect Chase Headley, who was called up before Tuesday night's game and got to play his natural position last night in place of the defensively inferior Kevin Kouzmanoff.
The other good news on that homer is that it was preceded by two more Yankee runs, the latter of which was driven in by Rodriguez, who led the Yankee charge with a 3-for-4 night. After Farnsworth's frame, the Yanks got Headley's run back on a Wilson Betemit double (Betemit was also 3 for 4, but made an error at first base in the first and was caught stealing in the sixth) and a Johnny Damon single (Johnny was 3 for 5 with a successful steal).
Mariano Rivera came on in the ninth and gave up a leadoff double to Edgar Gonzalez (the elder Gonzalez's second two-bagger of the night), but struck out Brian Giles and got the younger Gonzalez to hit a looper to Derek Jeter that doubled his big brother off second to seal the Yankees' 8-5 win.
In other news, Hideki Matsui had his left knee drained and hopes to avoid the disabled list, but almost certainly won't be in the lineup this afternoon as the Yankees go for their second straight sweep and seventh straight win.
In his last turn, Jake Peavy pitched six scoreless innings in his first start after an elbow-related DL stint. In his last turn, Darrell Rasner was beat severely about the head and neck by the typically mild-mannered Oakland A's offense. Peavy needed just 72 pitches to get through those six innings against the Dodgers. He'll likely be pulled before he hits 100 pitches today. Rasner, despite that beating, has still only allowed three homers and walked just six men in 42 major league innings this season, and hasn't allowed a homer in any of his last three starts. Peavy was the best pitcher in baseball last year, but couldn't deliver the Wild Card to San Diego in their one-game playoff against the Rockies. Rasner is 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in his last three starts.
So there's that.
Hideki Matsui's left knee is hurting, so he sits tonight and will see a doctor tomorrow. I'm hoping his knee is just reacting to the wacky changes in atmospheric pressure. Here in New Jersey we've had different weather every two hours today. Cool and crisp like an early spring day. Downpour. Overcast and humid, but dry. Downpour. Sunny and hot like a perfect summer day. Downpour. It's not raining now, but the sky is darkening and I can hear thunder in the distance (make that directly overhead . . . yikes!).
With Matsui out, Wilson Betemit will play first base while Jason Giambi moves to DH. In contrast to his persistent career-long split, Giambi has been a better hitter when not playing the field this year (.297/.458/.622 vs. 252/.383/.563). For those of you filling out All-Star ballots, the Big G leads AL first baseman in VORP this year and Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Giambi, and Matsui are all among the top dozen ALers in the stat.
Wang on Wry
Pete Abraham's game-post last night was chock-full-of-goodies, but my favorite part, a bit of information that my wife also shared with me (she learned it from S. Waldman on the radio), came from Ron Guidry, who called Chien-Ming Wang and told him, "You can pitch but you can't run."
Nice Night for a Beat Down
Last night I got on the subway and stood next to two beefy, corn-fed couples. They were young, blond, in their twenties, all wearing shorts, a sure sign that they are from out-of-town (it's not that New Yorkers don't wear shorts, we do, but in the summertime, suburbanites and tourists seem to almost exclusively wear shorts). One of the guys had a tatoo on his leg. They were talking loudly. I turned to one of them and asked where they were from.
"St. Louis. How did you know we were from out-of-town?"
"Just a hunch."
The foursome was headed up to the Stadium for their first, and only, trip to see the Yankees. Next, they are going to Boston to catch the Cards play the Sox.
I thought of them later in the evening as I was watching the game on TV. What an ideal night to visit the old place. Sure, it wasn't a great game--the Padres inept performance made sure of that, as Cliff already noted--but the weather was gorgeous (not a rain drop in sight), Alex Rodriguez hit a bomb, Giambi hit two, including a real shot to left center, Robinson Cano got in some good hacks, and in a blow-out game, the out-of-towners were treated to a vintage three-K performance by Mariano Rivera. There's a Yankee Stadium memory for you, tension-free and made-to-order.
Rodriguez also made two nifty plays to his backhand side, showing off his strong arm in the process. But it should also be noted that his Manny Ramirez impression in the seventh inning cost him his first triple of the season. Rodriguez hit a line drive to straight away center and judging by the way he left the box, watching, jogging, he thought it was good enough for his second homer of the game. Instead, he cruised into second and not third. It's a lot easier to see a player Cadillac-it when his team is up, 8-0. Still, Chubb Rock could have been standing on third with his first triple since May 31st, 2006.
Pappa Don't Preach
Rumor has it the Padres were actually on the field at Yankee Stadium last night, but there was little evidence of their presence. Andy Pettitte turned in his second straight dominant outing, tying his season high in strikeouts with nine, and the Bombers stomped on Randy Wolf, cruising to an uncontested 8-0 victory.
Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi got things going with solo homers in the second inning. Giambi then added a two-run shot in the fourth, setting the tone for a five-run inning that was aided by a wild pitch by Wolf and some sloppy play by Craig Stansberry at second base. The Yanks tacked one on in the eight against reliever Carlos Guevara. Meanwhile Jose Veras, Billy Traber (getting an inning ending groundout from Adrian Gonzalez with men on first and second in his return to the team), and Mariano Rivera, who hadn't pitched since last Thursday and struck out the side in the ninth, nailed down the win.
With the win, the Yankees extended their season-best winning streak to five games. They have scored 29 runs in their last three games and haven't allowed a run since the seventh inning of Saturday's game in Houston. Tonight Darrell Rasner faces Jake Peavy, who is making just his second start since returning from an elbow injury. With the way this team is playing, I can't wait for the first pitch.
San Diego Padres
San Diego Padres
2007 Record: 89-74 (.549)
2008 Record: 31-40 (.437)
Manager: Bud Black
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Petco Park (91/91)
Who's Replacing Whom:
Tad Iguchi replaces Marcus Giles
1B - Adrian Gonzalez (L)
S - Tony Clark (1B)
R - Jake Peavy
R - Trevor Hoffman
15-day DL: R - Tadahito Iguchi (2B), S - Josh Bard (C), R - Chris Young, L - Shawn Estes, R- Kevin Cameron
L - Jody Gerut (L)
Could Be Worse, Could Be Raining
Wait, thunderstorms are in the forecast here in New York...
There's an old joke. Uh, two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of 'em says: "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know, and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.
Keep your head up, Willie. The worst is over. And we still love ya.
So Much Soul I Had to Step to the Left
Few things remind me of why I love New York City more than the great game of Double Dutch.
Man or Machine?
People say Tiger Woods is ungodly. I'd say his performance is often flat-out godly. During yesterday's dramatic playoff at the U.S. Open, one of the TV commentators said that Tiger isn't used to chasing someone this late in a Major. The pressure is on Tiger, he said. A friend, who is an avid golf fan, turned to me and said, "The pressure is always on the other guy because Tiger is relentless."
Today, Joe Posnanski wonders what drives Woods and notices that there aren't many telling anecdotes about the living legend. Michael Jordan's competitiveness is well-documented, but Woods is almost like an android, he's so contained, so controlled. But I thought this was revealing. Woods told reporters:
I think Woods is simply one of the most focused, disciplined, single-minded champions of all time. He is relentless. That's why the pressure is always on the other guy. I'm sure he doesn't let anything get in the way of his game--family, friends, even business. It doesn't make me want to hang out with him. How could a guy like that be fun to have a conversation with? But it's hard not to marvel at his drive, nerve, and his continued excellence in the world of golf.
In his blog yesterday, Rob Neyer looks at the Yankees' pitching options now that Chien-Ming Wang won't be around for a good, long while:
One thing I'm sure about: the Yankees aren't punting. Not now.
Isn't this guy looking for work?
Hey, our boy Bouton prolly still has some life in his knuckler...
Willie Sleeps with the Fishes
While you were sleeping...
The Mets beat the Angels in California last night. Then, they fired Willie Randolph, pitching coach Rick Peterson and first-base coach Tom Nieto. Jerry Manuel is the new manager of the Mets.
This was coming. We all knew that. Still, it never ceases to amaze me just how these things are handled. I suppose the Met brass wanted to do this with the team out of town, do it so late in the night that it'd miss the morning papers--as if that really matters these days. I can't call it. But it just seems like a cockamamie way to handle the situation. Why make Randolph schlep out to California in the first place?
Frick and Frack
How about this for an Odd Couple?
Consider this another point for the DH rule, because the Yankees' ace sprained his foot running the bases on Sunday and looks to be headed for the DL. Early reports indicated that Wang heard a "pop" on the top of his foot, a symptom that New Yorkers should be familiar with. If you don't remember that Brian Bruney is already out for the season with a Lisfranc sprain, you might remember that missed season by the recently retired Giant speedrusher Michael Strahan. (Here in Indianapolis, it's Dwight Freeney that comes to mind.) If Wang has injured the Lisfranc ligament or, worse, broken a bone, he's done for the season for all intents and purposes, putting the Yankees in a terrible position as far as their rotation. With Wang on crutches, the team is unlikely to wait and see on this one, and will likely push him to the DL. The calls are already coming out to go after C.C. Sabathia, but the Yankees are going to need immediate answers. Ian Kennedy is making progress, but isn't close enough to fill in for Wang's next scheduled start, leaving Jeff Karstens or Kei Igawa as the most likely fill-ins. We should find out more on how serious Wang's foot problem is in the next few days once the swelling is down enough for clear images. On the assumption that this is a Lisfranc sprain, I'm setting his DXL at three months.
And you thought we'd seen the last of Kei Igawa.
Pete Abe has the latest. The news is not good. Looks like Wang could be done for the year.
Wait a Minum
As we wait for an update on the severity of Chien-Ming Wang's injury, Tyler Kepner suggests why trading for C.C. Sabathia makes sense for New York.
Unbelievable...(well, not really)
There are any number of things that look better on HD TV--nature shows, cooking shows, golf. I don't play golf but it looks so inviting, all that green, on HD. Last night, after a long day with my family, I was lying on the couch watching the last moments of U.S. Open.
"Are you watching, golf?" says my wife?
"No, I'm watching Tiger."
I'm like a lot of people. Woods gets me to sit and watch. I'm nervous all over again just thinking about that last shot he sunk. The guy is so great it's almost unfathomable. Imagine being Rocco and having to sleep on that? Tiger is one shot ahead after two holes so far today.
The Thrill Of Victory and the Agony Of The Feet
The Yankees crushalated the Astros yesterday, finishing a three game sweep in Houston with a powerful 13-0 lashing. Unfortunately, they also suffered what could be a major injury.
The Yankees got three runs early when Hideki Matsui cracked a two-out double to the gap in left center and Roy Oswalt, who was struggling once again, responded by walking Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, and Jorge Posada to make it 1-0. Robinson Cano then made it 3-0 with a lucky broken-bat single that dropped in behind third base and plated two more runs.
The real action happened in the sixth. With Oswalt still on the mound, Posada and Robinson Cano led off with singles. After a Melky Cabrera fly out, Chien-Ming Wang laid down a hard bunt back to Oswalt that got Posada thrown out at third, but with Cano on second and Wang on first, Johnny Damon chopped an infield single to load the bases. Derek Jeter then singled Cano and Wang home, but as Wang was headed home from third base he pulled up lame and wound up skipping half of the way home. Once he touched the plate, Wang bent over at the waist as Cano anxiously waved out the trainer.
Wang was helped off the field and later left the clubhouse with the help of crutches and a golf cart with what was described generically as a foot injury. More won't be known until Wang has an MRI today, but he'll almost surely land on the DL, and if anything is broken, he could miss most or all of the remainder of the season (Brian Bruney's lisfranc injury come's frighteningly to mind). Let's not get ahead of ourselves with regard to how long Wang will be out, but if it's more than the minimum, it will be a brutal loss for the Yanks, as Wang appeared to have broken his slump with a strong outing in Oakland his previous time out and five shutout innings yesterday. Over those last two starts Wang compiled this line: 12 1/3 IP, 13 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K. With the team starting to click, Wang could have run off an impressive streak the way he was pitching.
Roy Oswalt left the game at the same instant that Wang did, but due to poor performance rather than injury. The Yankees then teed off on lefty reliever Wesley Wright, a Rule 5 pick from the Dodgers this winter. Wright's first pitch was turned around for a two-run single by Matsui. His second was creamolished to left field by Alex Rodriguez for a three-run homer. Wright then got ahead of Jason Giambi 0-2, only to come back with three straight balls, the last of which hit Giambi. Two pitches later, Jorge Posada cracked another homer, driving Wright from the game and pushing the score to 11-0.
The last two Yankee runs came in the eight against ex-Brave Oscar Villarreal. In place of Wang, Ross Ohlendorf, Edwar Ramirez, LaTroy Hawkins, and Dan Giese each threw a scoreless inning in which each allowed one baserunner and struck out one batter.
The Yanks are coming back home with a four-game winning streak to face a poor San Diego Padres team, but all thoughts will be about Chien-Ming Wang until, and perhaps even after, the Yankees release a diagnosis on Wang's swollen right foot.
Don't look now, but the Yankees are making their move. Having finally smashed through the glass ceiling that being two games over .500 had represented for them since April 23, the Yanks move to three games over with yesterday's win. They're now 5-1-2 over their last eight series (including the current one against Houston), are 16-9 (.640) over that stretch, and have been in third place in the AL East for the last week.
Today, they send Chien-Ming Wang to the mound looking for their first three-game sweep of a team that's not the Seattle Mariners and just their second four-game winning streak of the season. Wang snapped a four-start slump with a dominant outing against the A's his last time out. The Astros will throw their own struggling ace in Roy Oswalt, who similarly dominated in his last start (7 IP, 1 R, 10 K against Milwaukee). Maybe we'll get a good old fashioned pitcher's duel to wrap this one up.
Bobby Abreu is the odd man out of the DH-free lineup this afternoon, with Hideki Matui, Johnny Damon, and Melky Cabrera roaming the pastures from left to right. Matsui is hitting third in Abreu's place.
Crud No, I Wanna Play Ball
It was another hazy and hot summer day at Inwood Park on Saturday, the place where baseball rules. I love hanging around a neighborhood where baseball matters and this park is a haven. Four, five, six games going on at once. Practices. Kids of all different ages. Lots of mothers, girlfriends, and sisters there. Uncles, grandfathers, coaches, fathers. Younger brothers, cousins. Neighbors. Dogs. Everyone.
I talked to a group of kids, four dudes going into their second year of high school. Nice guys, earnest and sincere. Told me that they loved Jeter and Reyes and spent most of their time arguing who is better. They also sweat A Rod and Soriano. And Manny--duh. Two of them told me they used to play of a team coached by Derek Jeter's sister, back when they were 10-11. Said that they got to meet Jeter on several occasions. About twenty times, one of them said.
"Yo, he took us to Mickey D's and everything."
Still Number One
Like many grown men, my father cried like a baby during the father-son reunion at the end of Field of Dreams. I always thought it was a corny, maudelin scene. After my dad died, I was told that I might react differently to that scene. I've actually seen it since, and I still think it's phony, but it has effectively reminded me of my dad and how he found it moving.
The old man was never one to be made a fuss over on Father's Day. Just a quick call, "How are ya, Pop? Happy Father's Day." That's all he ever wanted. To be recognized. Now he's gone but I still like to think that he's got a cosmic subscription to the Banter. So, Happy Father's Day, Pop. And the same goes to my brother, an impressive young father of two, and all the other dads out there, who are holding down one of the most challenging yet rewarding jobs in the world. Big up yourself.
Moose is Money
"When you look back on it, you win 10 any way you can do it, it's a good year," Mussina said. "And, actually, my minimum's 11. I didn't stop at 10 in any of those years. I actually made it to 11, just like Spinal Tap."
Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it. I've been thinking about it for weeks, and it's still such a longshot, but...my number one baseball fantasy wish this season would be to see Mike Mussina finally win 20 games. I don't think it's going to happen--and I'll more than settle for 16-17--I'm just saying I can't think of anything that would make me happier. Just talking about individual performances, that is. Who knows, maybe he keeps pitching after this season after all. Maybe he winds up with 275+ wins.
Welcome to the Terrordome
Watching the Yankees play in Houston seems unreal like something out of a video game. The late afternoon light floods the place in odd, broken-patterns, and the Yankees' dark helmets and black socks have never looked as menacing or sharp. They actually look like Bronx Bombers. It was especially noticable on HD TV. Rodriguez and Giambi scoring on Jose Molina's clutch RBI single, the sun shining off their helmets. The YES replay used the angle behind the batter's box that looks up the third base line. It was really brilliant. Giambi's Porn Stach of Doom has never looked nastier--he's reaching Nick Nolte territory.
And Alex Rodriguez has looked absolutely terrifying. It's scary to think what he'd do if Houston was his home park. In his first at bat tonight, he sliced a fly ball over the fence in right, and he didn't even really get all of it. Hunter Pence narrowed his sights on the ball as it approached the wall in right and he timed his leap expertly. But an Astros fan wearing a red shirt went for the ball too, his glove knocked into Pence's mitt and Rodriguez had himself a dinger. It looked like a weak pop fly but he's so strong he was able to muscle it out. Scary.
The home run put the Yankees on the board after Mike Mussina gave up a three-run bomb to Carlos Lee in the bottom of the first. But Mussina didn't fold and he didn't allow another run, going six, and pitching long enough to leave with a 5-3 lead. Ross Ohlendorf (1 run), Kyle Farnsworth, and Edwar Ramirez finished it off and Mariano was able to take the night off. Johnny Damon had three hits and is batting .324, Melky had a couple of hits too, and Robbie Cano and Wilson Betemit each had pinch-hit RBIs. Let's hope this is the start of something for Cano.
Final Score: 8-4.
The win puts the Yankees at 36-33, the first time they have been three games over .500 all season. It was career victory #260 for Mussina, his 10th of the year. Unless he completely melts down over his next couple of starts, he should be headed to the All-Star Game. How unlikely is that? Good for Mussina. He's earned it. 260 is an awful lot of wins. He's won ten or more games for seventeen straight years.
Yeah, You Get Props Over Here.
Mike Mussina has more than exceeded expectations of late but I fear that he's due for a stinker, especially with that awfully short porch in left down in Houston. Who knows? I'd love to be wrong. Here's hoping the Yanks do the cookin' tonight.
Observations from Cooperstown--Learning More About Murcer
I’ve always prided myself on being an expert on Bobby Murcer, primarily because he and Thurman Munson remain two of my favorite Yankees of all time. After attending last week’s Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, I realize I don’t know as much as I think. Or perhaps I just don’t remember as well as I should. An informative presentation by Willie Steele of Cascade College, titled "America’s Yankee: Bobby Murcer’s Life In and Out of Baseball," provided me with several new nuggets of information relating to the former Yankee center fielder and all-around good guy.
*While I was certainly aware of Murcer’s connection to Mickey Mantle—with both being from Oklahoma, leading to inevitable and grossly unfair expectations for the young Murcer—I didn’t know that the Yankees staged three different "Mickey Mantle Days."
The first one occurred on September 18, 1965, a Saturday afternoon at the Stadium, with both Murcer and Mantle in the lineup that day. In fact, they batted back-to-back, with the 19-year-old Murcer sitting in the two-hole and Mantle hitting third. Both players played positions with which we no longer associate them, Mantle in left field and Murcer at shortstop. (Bobby played shortstop about as well as I figure skate.) Each man went 0-for-3 against Tigers pitching, which included a relief stint by Denny McLain. And neither man finished the game, a 4-3 loss to the Tigers; Murcer was lifted for a pinch-hitter (Tony Kubek), while Mantle gave way to a pinch-runner (the immortal Ross Mosschito).
*Though he’s remembered for his eloquent eulogy at Munson’s funeral, Murcer was not the only Yankee to speak at the service. Lou Piniella, who was friends with both players, also eulogized Munson. That really shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the closeness between "Sweet Lou" and Thurman. I still remember the scene from last summer’s The Bronx is Burning, when Munson and Piniella tried to hide from Billy Martin after secretly meeting with George Steinbrenner in an effort to save the manager’s job. Martin found the two players in the bathroom.
*Murcer was the Yankee teammate who gave Munson the nickname "Tugboat." Most of the Yankees called Munson "Squatty Body," which was both an endearing and derisive reference to Munson’s flabby build. "Tugboat" sounds just a bit more flattering. Once again, Murcer tried to be the nice guy in the Yankee clubhouse.
*In 1983, unusual roster circumstances led the Yankees to ask Murcer to retire. Somehow I must have forgotten the details to this story. An injury to Ken Griffey left him unavailable to play the outfield for a few days, but wasn’t considered serious enough to merit placement on the 15-day disabled list. In need of another outfielder, the Yankees wanted to recall a young prospect from Triple-A Columbus. Needing to clear out a roster spot, the Yankees asked Murcer, who was strictly a DH by then, to step aside. With no interest in attempting to play for any other team, Murcer agreed to retired gracefully. And, in the process, he just so happened to make room for another future Yankee great. The young outfielder waiting in the wings? Why, it was none other than Don Mattingly.
*Both Murcer’s mother and brother died of cancer. That’s partially why he remains so regretful over having recorded the country song, "Skoal Dippin’ Man," in the mid-1980s. Murcer has hosted an American Cancer Society golf tournament for years and remains committed to establishing a tobacco-free environment. He continues to do this while battling his own cancer, which arrived in the form of a brain tumor in December of 2006.
During his talk at the Hall of Fame, Steele also delivered a rousing endorsement for Murcer’s new book, Yankee For Life: My 40-Year Journey in Pinstripes. I haven’t read the book yet, but just about every review I’ve seen has sung its praises. It remains on my must-read list for the summer of ’08.
Once again, it was a nice performance by Joba Chamberlain last night in Houston.
No Mo, No Problem
This is one of those Interleague weekends that look like the misbegotten results of one of those old Choose Your Own Adventure books. The Rangers vs the Mets? Padres vs. the Tribe? Nats vs. the M's? Yanks in Houston. Right...
Shawn Chacon and Joba Chamberlain share at least one thing in common--they both rock a baseball cap with the hard, flat bill. That's probably about it, though. Chacon, a familiar face to Yankee fans, is a veteran junkballer; Chamberlain, a hard-throwing young stud. They both pitched well on Friday night, each allowing a run over six innings. Chacon gave up three hits and walked four. For Chamberlain, it was his best start yet--he's been a little better in each of his three turns since joining the rotation. He walked four and gave up six hits only striking out a couple of hitters. 88 pitches in all. Really, it was more like 80--he walked two batters intentionally. Joba worked in-and-out-of trouble--picked Lance Berkman off second for a big out in the fourth. Robinson Cano made a smooth play behind him too and Melky Cabrera got in plenty of running out in center. And while the Astros ran at will against the combination of Joba and Posada, the Yankee catcher made a big throw to nail Michael Bourn at third in the sixth inning.
2007 Record: 73-89 (.451)
2008 Record: 33-34 (.493)
Manager: Cecil Cooper
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Minute Maid Park (99/99)
Who's Replacing Whom:
1B - Lance Berkman (S)
R - Mark Loretta (IF)
R - Roy Oswalt
R - Jose Valverde
15-day DL: R - Felipe Paulino
R - Hunter Pence (RF)
A Damn Shame
Earlier this week, Jay Jaffe wrote:
Tim Russert died today. He was just 58. I don't know his work well but understand that he was well-regarded. He was certainly accomplished and I liked him enough when I did happen to see him on TV. I know he was a big baseball fan. He died of a heart attack. He was at work. Oh, man.
One Stop Shop
I love used book stores, I'm just a sucker for 'em. These days, used book stores are doing a lot of thier business on-line which takes some, but not all of the fun out of book-hunting. It just so happens that one of our own, a Banterite who goes by the handle "unmoderated" runs a used book store (pictured below). I've been using him recently in my search for old books and he's been great to work with. Check out the store on-line and please consider supporting one of the gang.
Card Corner--Rich McKinney
Generally speaking, I enjoy the cards featured in the 1973 Topps set. There are plenty of action shots (even if some of them seem like they’ve been taken from a distant parking lot), and there’s something groovy about the shadowed figure of a ballplayer transposed against a colored circle. Yet, not all of the cards featured in the set are attractive.
Like this one. As you can see, former Yankees and A’s third baseman Rich McKinney was one of the wilder looking athletes of the 1970s. There’s that large chin, prominent enough to make Jay Leno and Bruce Campbell blush. Coupled with his long, curly hair (a classic 1970s perm that some have called a "white Afro"), McKinney looked anything like a Yankee. Even his 1972 Topps card shows him wearing only an airbrushed Yankee cap alongside an actual White Sox uniform. Nonetheless, the Yankees and their suffering fans had to endure "Curly Mac’s" presence for all too much of the 1972 season.
After the 1971 season, the Yankees acquired McKinney from the White Sox for pitcher Stan Bahnsen in a deal that was panned by Pinstriped fans almost from the start. While McKinney had excelled in a pinch-hitting and backup infield role for the ’71 White Sox, he had never been an everyday player and had never exhibited the defensive skills needed to play third base on more than a part-time basis. For this, the Yankees parted with the 26-year-old Bahnsen, a reliable young starter who filled a vital role as the team’s No. 3 starter behind Mel Stottlemyre and Fritz Peterson. It hurt that much more when Bahnsen won 21 games in his first season with the White Sox.
Strangely, Yankee management expected McKinney, his chin and his Afro to fill the third base void that had been created five years earlier by the trade of Clete Boyer to the Braves (for another failed Yankee, Bill Robinson). Reality soon set in. Within days of his Yankee debut, it became evident that McKinney was overmatched—especially in the field. On Saturday afternoon, April 22, with the Yankees less than a week into the strike-delayed season, the Bombers played the rival Red Sox at Fenway Park. McKinney hit well that day, with three hits in four at-bats, including his first pinstriped home run. Yet, no one remembers any of that. In attempting to field his position, McKinney made four miscues at third base. In the first inning, he booted Danny Cater’s ground ball, permitting an unearned run to score on the play. Later that inning, McKinney made his second error, allowing two more unearned runs. In the second inning, McKinney mishandled another Cater ground ball, with an unearned run scoring on the play. And then in the sixth inning, McKinney committed a fourth error, this time on a Rico Petrocelli grounder, with yet another unearned run scoring on the play.
My friend and colleague Steven Goldman had me on the second installment of his new Pinstriped Bible Podcast (if Pinstriped Bible, and Pinstriped Blog, why not just Pinstriped Podcast?) over at the YES site. The interview was taped Wednesday night and was posted yesterday. Steve and I discuss writing about baseball and the Yankees in equal measure, so check it out (alternate link).
Made to Order
Andy Pettitte allowed one run in eight innings and Mariano Rivera struck out two in the ninth for the save as the Bombers won last night in Oakland. The Yankee scoring all came in the sixth and because I was up watching the Lakers crumble in the second half, I saw what went down. Derek Jeter led off with an infield single and then Bobby Abreu walked on a full count pitch that looked a lot like a strike. Alex Rodriguez followed and he walked too, on a 3-1 pitch that looked also like a strike. Then the birthday boy, Hideki Matsui came up and roped a line drive over the fence in right center field for a Grand
Final: Yanks 4, A's 1.
I'll Have One Good Andy with a Side Order of Mo to Go
Let's go Yan-Kees.
Meet the Mess
Two days ago I saw a guy in a suit talking on his i-phone. It was 8:15 in the morning on the northeast corner of 7th avenue and 50th street.
"Hi, the is Willie Randolph," he said smiling, "I'm looking for a new job."
It's just about come to that for the Mets who lost another game today that can be safely described as pure agony. It's been like Groundhog Day for Met fans only each day brings new and horrible twist. I mean only a nihilist, an absurdist, sadist or a true Met-hater could take pleasure in what's happened, really ever since Yadier Molina hit that dinger a few years ago. Otherwise, there isn't much funny about what's going on with this team.
These Mets aren't as bad as the worst team money can buy, they've got some great stars, but they've also been a constant letdown for a year now. If there has been anything funny about them it's been the steady stream of caustic, often furious commentary that I've heard from my fellow New Yorkers, the Met fans. They are self-knowing in their suffering and they roll with that quality during the worst of times. They aren't funny because they are suffering, they are funny because they are just funny as they are suffering. And I mean that as the highest of compliments.
I'm left thinking, "Whew, at least that's not us."
2004 and 2001 aren't that long ago. Reminds me of Eddie Murphy's old routine about getting hit by a car in Brooklyn. "Damn, that looked like it hurt too."
Our team has it's own problems but there isn't the same degree of angst in the Bronx, is there? It's maybe not happy but it isn't rock bottom. Girardi's job isn't on the line. Whether the Yankees officially recoginze this as a re-building season or not, it is considered just that by a sizable part of their fan-base. And the team will provide pleasure regardless of the final record--watching A Rod hit, Joba start, Jeter strut, Jorgie, squat, Mariano close. Giambi's Porn Stach of Doom. If they aren't going to be great the least they can be is fun.
Couple of Three Things
Over at River Ave Blues, Ben Kabak rounds up the latest on the new Yankee Stadium.
Bronx Liason features a Q&A with Dan Graziano of the Newark Star-Ledger:
BL: You said earlier that this team's clubhouse has shown some fire of late. What sort of uncharacteristic behavior would the casual baseball fan be surprised to hear about the Yankees who are often portrayed as robotic, corporate, drones?
Finally, in the New York Observer, Howard Megdal profiles the new best thing for the Bombers.
Why Sports Matter
Boys, when they are young and troubled, do not talk to each other about what bothers them, no matter how close the friendship. There is no real intimacy among us. We talk about things of the exterior, about sports. Baseball was not merely a subject for us, it provided us a social form as well.
Halberstam was talking about boys, but I think the same often applies to us when we become men. Not that the conversation here at Bronx Banter, and so many other blogs, is just for men, of course. Still, I believe that most men are drawn together because of a mutual interest--sports, cars, video games, record collecting--and that's how we express intimacy.
The Halberstam bit quoted above is part of a satisfying collection of the author's sports writing, Everything They Had (edited by Glenn Stout). It is a handsome volume that features pieces on fishing, baseball, football, and basketball. The Stuff Dreams are Made of, an expert analysis of the Lakers and Celtics in the 1987 NBA Finals finds Halberstam at his best, and is just one of many highlights.
An ideal father's day gift if there ever was one.
It's Gotta Be the Shoes
Oh no, I'm getting Happy Feet!
Yankee Panky # 54; Mo Better Treatment
Monday afternoon’s loss and the subsequent reaction from the press served as a reminder that Mariano Rivera has been so good for so long that analysts and writers alike seem to forget that he’s fallible and is, in fact, capable of giving up home runs. The unusual component was that this was the second home run Rivera allowed in the series against the Royals, only the fourth time, as the New York Times pointed out, Rivera had allowed two homers in a series in his career.
Rivera’s reaction, throwing down the rosin bag in disgust and grimacing at his mistake, made backpage headlines here in New York. Why? It’s a natural reaction for anyone who is accustomed to excellence. It wasn’t bratty. It was born out of frustration at making what he deemed to be a basic mistake.
“I got too much of the plate,” Rivera told reporters. “If I make my pitch, I’ll be OK.”
Readers of this blog and many other Yankee fan blogs recognize that. The general tone was that the team still is not hitting with runners in scoring position – a trend that has been consistent for four seasons now – and that the Yankees split a four game series against a Royals team that wins as many road games as the Washington Generals.
Thank you, Mark LaMonica, for bringing sanity to the discussion.
Student of the Game
Michael Bamberger has a good piece on Chipper Jones, professional craftsman, in the latest issue of SI. The story reminded me of just how difficult it is to play the game, as well as how hard it is to stay healthy once an athlete reaches his mid-thirties. The mental and physical grind is considerable, no matter how well-paid these guys are. But my favorite part concerns just how tricky it is to measure success, even for a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Numbers are so enlightening in baseball, much more so than in the other major sports, but they can't tell us everything:
When Atlanta was in Philadelphia in May, Glavine started the second game of the series, still looking then for his first win of the season. In the fourth, with the Braves leading 5-0, Phillies cleanup hitter Ryan Howard headed to the plate. With the Howard Shift on, Jones moved from third to short, and the shortstop, Yunel Escobar, a young Cuban émigré whom Glavine barely knows, moved to the outfield grass just to the right of second base. Glavine walked out to Jones and said, "I'm hearing whistling, from their dugout or bullpen -- from somewhere. I don't know if they're stealing signs or what. Tell me if you hear or see anything."
There is always more to learn about the game. I feel as if the more I know, the more I realize how much I have yet to learn. There are always more nuances, details and insights to soak up. And that's why we do this every day.
The Waiting (is my favorite part)
"We're consistently inconsistent. That's the best way to put it."
There isn't much mystery left for baseball fans today when batting averages and ERA's are updated by Game Day after each at-bat. You don't have to wait an entire week to see the league leaders. It's all right there at our finger tips. Not only can we see pitch sequences, we learn how fast the pitch was thrown and at what angle.
One of the last remaining elements of suspense for me are west coast games, because I don't generally stay up for them, and I never have. When I was a kid, I'd doze off in the first few innings. Now, I just won't put myself through it. I get too worked up. If I had been watching Tuesday night's nail-biter I don't know how I would have settled down to fall asleep. So I'll watch the first few innings and then turn the TV off. After I saw Alex Rodriguez strike out for the second time--he was absolutely baffled by Justin Duchscherer--I said, that's it for me.
I like the anticipation that comes with waking up in the morning, wondering what actually happened while most of the east coast was sleeping--or at least the early birds like me. The heat wave is gone in New York, and there was a lovely, cool breeze that accompanied me on my walk to the subway. I don't check the scores on TV the moment I get up, or catch them on the radio or turn my computer on. I walk to the subway and buy the papers.
What a drag it was to discover that the Yanks took it on the chin last night in Oakland, 8-4. "Damn," I said as I scanned the back page of the News; the kid who sells the papers looked up at me with a quizzical expression. And such a nice morning too. Oh, well. On with the day. Still, no matter the result, I cherish the moments of anticipation, filled with fantasy and imagination, the ten minutes it takes to reach the subway, that lead up to discovering what actually happened.
It's Rasner vs. Duchscherer tonight in Oakland.
Can the Bombers jump to two whole games over .500?
I can't call it, man.
Let's Go Yanks!
Sweet or Sour?
The 13 strikeouts just boggles the mind.
Doin' it to Death
A friend send me this link to a great audio piece on James Brown.
Peep, don't sleep.
Eliot was one of the great characters in baseball. --Jim Bouton
Eliot Asinof, the accomplished author most famous in baseball circles for Eight Men Out, his classic narrative of the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, passed away yesterday at the age of 88. Asinof enjoyed a long, varied career, that saw him through the dark days of the blacklist, and later found him flourishing as a screen writer, journalist--he was a frequent contributor to the New York Times magazine in the late '60s and also wrote for Sports Illustrated--and author (he wrote about civil rights in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, the television industry as well as many novels).
One of his novels, The Fox is Crazy Too, about a con man/master criminal who pretends to be insane to escape responsibility for his crimes, was found alongside a handful of books and a postcard addressed to Jodie Foster in John Hinckley Jr's hotel room the day Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan. Asinof was once married to Jocelyn Brando, Marlon's sister, and he also dated Rita Moreno.
This morning, I received the following e-mail from Roger Kahn:
Eliot was a fine and gifted friend, with a remarkable work ethic and an enduring anger at what he perceived to be injustice. Aside from his writing, quite an aside, he was a good ball player, a good carpenter, a good chef, and an excellent pianist.
Ralph Blumenfeld, writing in the New York Post, once described Asinof as "balding and muscular, a cross between Ben Hogan and Leo Durocher on looks." After graduating from Swarthmore college in 1940, Asinof played in the Phillies farm system for a few years before being drafted. "My bonus was a box of cigars," Asnioff told Blumenfeld, "and I didn't smoke."
In 1955, Asinof published a baseball novel, "Man on Spikes," roughly based on the career of a friend as well as his own stint in pro ball. In a recent e-mail, John Schulian told me:
You could smell the sweat of honest labor on Asinof's work. If you've read "Eight Men Out," you know what I mean. But there's something about "Man on Spikes" that touches me even more profoundly, for here was a guy who'd kicked around in the bushes describing just how back-breaking and heartbreaking that life can be. I never met Asinof, but I like to think that he carried what baseball taught him to his grave.In the original New York Times review, John Lardner wrote:
Eliot Asinof, in giving his reasons for writing "Man on Spikes," says, "The folklore and flavor of baseball fascinated me then [when he was playing ball in the Philadelphia Phillies' farm system, some years ago], and it still does today." That sounds a little ominous; but Mr. Asinof, I'm gald to say, has not let his sense of the game's folk-meaning involve him in a Bunyaneque or a comic-Faustian or a dream-symbol treatment of baseball. "Man on Spikes" is a plain and honest book, the first realistic baseball novel I can remember having read."
Years later, in a piece on the All-Star team of baseball fiction, Daniel Okrent wrote (also in the Times):
In print for about an hour and a half in the middle 50s, Asinof's book is about a young man of endeniable talent, whose career is thwarted and eventually destroyed by the arrogance of the men who ran baseball back then, and the servitude players were forced to live in. It is a harsh book, unsettling and, finally, depressing. It is also perhaps the truest baseball novel ever written.
Choose Your Own Wang Pun
Right Place, Wang Time? Wang Turn? If Loving You Is Wang I Don't Want To Be Right?
Generally speaking, scoring twice in the first inning and then not at all for the next seven frames is not a recipe for success. But the Yankees made it work last night, thanks mostly to Chien-Ming Wang’s return to form, and pulled out a 3-1 win over the surprisingly non-crappy Oakland Athletics to go one game over .500 yet again. (As Cliff noted last night, the A's aren’t likely to keep up this pace, but it’s still an impressive start for a team whose biggest star is probably... I don't know, Eric Chavez, I guess? One day I’d love to see what Billy Beane could do with a payroll of more than $17.83.)
2007 Record: 76-86 (.469)
2008 Record: 34-29 (.540)
Manager: Bob Geren
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Oakland Coliseum (93/93)
Who's Replacing Whom:
Daric Barton inherits Dan Johnson's playing time
1B - Daric Barton (L)
L - Jack Hannahan (3B/IF)
R - Rich Harden
R - Huston Street
15-day DL: R - Frank Thomas (DH), R - Mike Sweeney (1B), L - Ryan Sweeney (OF), R - Donnie Murphy (IF), R - Santiago Casilla, R - Joey Devine
R - Mark Ellis (2B)
Cure for the Summertime Blues
Yeah, it's Hot, Biz. Yo, your breath still got the Dragon in the Dungeon.
Straight, No Chaser
New York Sun columnist Tim Marchman is interviewed by Maury Brown:
Marchman: The Yankees are entertaining as usual; this is a transition year for them and I'm mainly surprised that they seem to be sticking with the idea of developing the young talent while trying to squeeze a last run out of the older players, rather than visibly panicking. I do have the sense that Hank Steinbrenner could become a really serious problem for them, just because you never want an owner expressing opinions on which players should be in the rotation or the lineup, especially when those opinions are different from those of people with actual professional qualifications, but for right now he's a harmless diversion. The Yankees may not be good, but there's never any sense of abject hopelessness about them, and that puts them up on the Mets.
How Sweet It Is
Congrats to Junior Griffey for hitting home run #600.
Last Friday I went to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I didn't expect much even though I like Jason Segel. The thought of another comedy about a self-loathing/pitying sensitive meathead turned me off, and I thought the trailers were shaky. But Segel is ideally suited for the role, he was shrewd enough not to over-play it (his woe-is-me rendition of "The Muppet Show" had me in stiches) and I enjoyed the movie a good deal. Russell Brand and Kristen Bell were both winning and Mila Kunis was fine as the down-to-earth wild child. But there was something missing in Kunis' performance. Like I said, she was fine, but not inspired.
The part was limiting--it was more of a fantasy than a real-life character--but she didn't add anything to it. If anything, it showed her limitations as an actress--she's all big eyes and pursed lips, like a young girl, not woman. Which is a shame because there was an opportunity for something more. At first her character seems innocent, later it turns out that she's had a volatile past. But the movie doesn't turn--like it did when Ray Liotta showed up in Something Wild and the movie really became threatening, wild. Which is also fine.
But it got me to thinking about actors who go beyond the limitations of the script, who bring more to the table. I'm thinking of Debra Winger in Urban Cowboy or Officer and a Gentleman. Maybe there should be a VORS (Value Above Replacement Script) award. For me, no actor has consistently been better than his material than Gene Hackman. Some great actors can be miscast, but that never seems to be the case with Hackman. But he's been in some lousy movies. Still, he is always credible, authentic, and has the ability to make magic out of bad material. Not every great actor can do that.
Who are some others? Spencer Tracy. Who else?
Dear Palm Tree:
Dog Day Afternoon
The Yankee bats let Mike Mussina down and Mo Rivera got tagged for another homer as the Royals beat the Spanks 3-2 today at the Stadium. Mussina was terrific, allowing just two runs in eight innings (89 pitches total). Alex Rodriguez cracked a two-run dinger to tie the game in the seventh. But Jose Guillen hit a lead-off homer against Rivera in the ninth. Mo yelled as Guillen circled the bases. The frustraing game ended fittingly when Melky Cabrera tapped out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. All of which will make for a long trip to the coast.
One step forward, one step back. Hard to know what you make of these guys, but the record says it all: 2-2 split against an awful Kansas City team and 32-32 overall.
Dag, it's hot.
Oh, Wouldn't it Be Nice?
If Mike Mussina becomes the first pitcher in the American League to reach ten wins? (Considering how well he's been going, perhaps that's pushing our luck. The Royals aren't a good offensive ball club, but considering how hot it is out there, I don't exactly expect a pitcher's duel today, do you?)
So, wouldn't it just be nice if the Yanks win? If Jorge, Giambi and Rodriguez keep mashing?
If we could find old quotes (Joe Posnanski on Johnny Damon) as good as this one?
Or how about, if we could all stay cool?
Let's Go Yan-Kees!
Tag Team Partners
In his first major league start last Tuesday, Joba Chamberlain was both inefficient and undermined by his pitch count. The Blue Jays entered the game with a game plan of taking pitches to get Chamberlain out of the game, and it worked like a charm. Chamberlain is a swing-and-miss pitcher who has thus far in his major league career succeeded by fooling hitters with nose-diving sliders and blowing them away with fastballs that are often above the strike zone. By letting those pitches go by, the Jays were able to draw four walks and drive Chamberlain from the game after just 2 1/3 innings despite picking up just one hit, a weak single through the infield.
Today, with a higher pitch limit and facing a less accomplished team, Chamberlain faced 18 batters before walking one, and pitched into the fifth inning despite throwing just 16 more pitches than in his previous start. In his first start, Chamberlain threw just one more than half of his pitches for strikes, but facing the Royals today, he threw 68 percent of his 78 pitches for strikes. In his first start he threw just two curveballs and otherwise stuck to his fastball and slider. Today, he threw eight curveballs and three changeups.
After my visit to the Farmer's Market yesterday I just had to stop on 207 to get the best chicken I've been able to find uptown. Doesn't matter that they don't speak English in there. It ain't hard to say "Pollo." I didn't care that I had to wait 25 minutes at the lunch counter, with the homely but tough and unsmiling dark-skinned women just inches away, everyone sweating profusely. The chicken is worth the wait. Plus, I like the commotion, the smells, the language, the music, the heat and the sweat.
Speaking of mmm, mmm good, we've got a tasty pitching match-up today at the Stadium, as the talented Mr. Greinke goes against Joba Chamberlain. It's going to be nothing short of oppressive as far as the heat is concerned. Should be interesting to see if these two young pitchers can keep the ball from flying out of the yard.
Over at the Post, Mike Vaccaro writes about Joba and 'splains why, at last count, there are 43,792 compelling reasons why baseball is the greatest game. Which brings to mind a smug, but amusing piece that Tom Boswell wrote years ago, "99 Reasons Why Baseball is Better Than Football."
Here are just a couple:
9. Baseball has a bullpen coach blowing bubble gum with his cap turned around backward while leaning on a fungo bat; football has a defensive coordinator in a satin jacket with a headset and a clipboard.
Let's everyone try and stay cool today while the Yankee bats stay hot.
Hot Time, Summer in the City
I went to the Farmer's Market on 207th street in Inwood this morning and then walked across the street to Inwood park and watched some baseball. That was where I met Luis Santana (above), pictured alongside his grandson (below). Louie grew up in the Dyckman projects with Lew Alcindor; his older brother played in the minors briefly with the Montreal Expos. Louie works as a porter in a hospital out in Brooklyn. He makes sure to come to all of his grandson's games. Says the kid, who plays shortstop and pitches, is good. The two were at the field hours before the boy's game. Just too damn hot to go to the Parade today, Louie says.
At one point, Louie grabs his grandson's bottle of Gatorade and takes a drink. The boy says, "Aw, Grandpa, it's too hot to be sharing drinks."
Louie chuckles and says, "That's okay, cause in a little while it's gunna be too hot to be paying for any drinks."
Saturday in the Park (I think it was the Fourth of July)
Fireworks in the Boogie Down.
The Yankees won a wild one on a scorching hot afternoon in the Bronx. Down 5-1 early, they rallied to tie the game, chasing Brian Bannister in the process. They took the lead in the fifth on a long solo home run, an upper deck job, by Jason Giambi. But Andy Pettitte couldn't hold it. He was Bad Andy early and Bad Andy late today. The Royals tied the game at six in the seventh inning and then Jose Guillen ripped a high fastball off Pettitte for a grand slam.
The Yanks were not done. Alex Rodriguez absolutely crushed a two-run dinger in the bottom of the inning--the ball short-hopped the retaining wall of the left field bleachers, and then Johnny Damon singled home two runs in the eighth to tie the game again, this time at ten. The Yanks still had a chance to go ahead. With two men on, Bobby Abreu hit a long line drive to left center field for the second out before Rodriguez grounded out to end the inning.
So what happens next? David DeJesus smacks the first pitch he sees from Mariano Rivera, a flat cutter that got too much of the plate, for a home run into the right center field bleachers and the air goes out of the Stadium. Silence. It reminded me of when I was at the Garden and Reggie Miller scored seven points in the last twenty seconds against the Knicks. It wasn't that upsetting but it was that quiet. And it was hotter today too.
An unshaven Rivera turned to watch the ball and flexed his right hand open several times. It was the first homer Rivera has allowed since last August, a span of 45 innings. He shook and then bowed his head, came back and retired the next three batters in order.
Joakim Soria got Jason Giambi to line out to start the ninth and then Jorge Posada slammed the first pitch he saw into the right field seats and the game was even one more time. Posada's shot was a liner, only question was if it was going to stay fair.
"Whoever loses this game, that's about as hard a loss to take right there." said David Cone on the YES broadcast.
Soira retired Robbie Cano, walked Wilson Betemit, and then gave up a full-swing, cheap-o, infield single to Melky Cabrera. Damon worked the count in his favor and then lined the 3-1 pitch on a hop to the right field wall, good for the game winner. Oh, it was Damon's sixth hit of the game, giving him a nifty 6-6, 4 RBI line. It was also the first "walk off" hit in Damon's career as a Yank.
That was exhausting, but the final score is sweet:
Andy Log 4080: Africa Hot
The Yanks need a bounce-back win this afternoon against one of Joe Posnanski's favorites, Brian Bannister. It is hotter n July hot in the Bronx today--hot, hazy, dumb hot. Andy Pettitte goes for the Yanks. The ball should be a-jumping, boy.
Keep cool, y'all and...
Let's go Yan-Kees!
"We think our team should get over that .500 mark," said Damon, who went 0 for 5 to end his 14-game hitting streak. "We had a great game yesterday, and today our offense puttered. That shouldn't happen to our offense. We're supposed to be better than this."
Darrell Rasner pitched eight effective innings on Friday night, throwing 118 pitches in all, the most for a Yankee pitcher this season. He left trailing 2-1 and lost the game 2-1. What a drag. In the bottom of the eighth, with two out and runners on first and second, Jason Giambi was called out on a full-count, check-swing. It was a bogus call, but sold experptly by the Kansas City catcher, and it effectively ended the Yankees' night.
"I took a good at-bat, can't do anything more than that," Giambi said after cooling off for almost an hour after the game ended. "I really love and respect (home plate umpire) Ed Montague and I'd never say anything bad against him. There's not much else I can do about it now."
It says something about Montague's reputation that Giambi didn't rip him even thought he was unhappy with the call. But one call did not do them in; the Yankee bats were silenced by Kyle Davies. The men in pinstripes also got a look at Joakim Soria, Kansas City's impressive young closer. He did not disappoint, overpowering the Yanks in the 9th.
In other news, the Yanks are talking to Brian Cashman about extending the GM's contract. According to Peter Botte in the Daily News:
The organization's co-chairman said the sides are "a ways away" from announcing a contract extension, adding "there's a good chance" such an agreement will not be done until after the 2008 season.
I have been assuming that Cashman would finally bolt after this year, but perhaps he'll stay after all. I'm no expert on his track record but I've always admired the way Cashman conducts his business and would be pleased to see him stay with the Yanks.
Kansas City Royals Redux: Reunited And It Feels So Good Edition
On the morning of May 19, the Royals were a game under .500 and just two games out of first place in the American League Central division. That night they were no-hit by Jon Lester at Fenway Park, a humiliating loss that kicked off a 12-game losing streak. That streak was snapped last Saturday when tonight's starter, Kyle Davies, in his first major league start of the year, beat C.C. Sabathia in Kansas City. The Royals took two of three from the Indians in that series, but were then swept by the White Sox. Now 10.5 games back and in last place in the Central, the Royals arrive in the Bronx 14 games under .500 with the second worst record in the American League and the third-worst record in baseball.
On the season, the Royals have scored the fewest runs per game in the major leagues. Their pitching has been solid in their home park, but on the road, where the Royals still have an active 11-game losing streak dating back to Lester's no-hitter, they've allowed 5.22 runs per game.
The Royals best hitter to this point in the season has been catcher Miguel Olivo (.286/.314/.541), who started the season as John Buck's backup and has just five walks in 140 plate appearances. Zack Greinke, who will start on Sunday against Joba Chamberlain, is the only established Royals starter with an ERA at or above league average. The back end of the bullpen--closer Joakim Soria, lefty Ron Mahay, former Yankee farmhand Ramon Ramirez, and injured set-up man Leo Nuñez--has been strong, but they've been of little value with the Royals winning just two of their last 17 games.
Tonight, Kyle Davies makes his second start of the year coming off his five-inning win against Sabathia (who, incidentally, pitched an eight-inning complete game, but lost 4-2). Davies was dreadful last year after coming over from the Braves for Octavio Dotel, and is best remembered by Yankee fans for having surrendered Alex Rodriguez's 500th home run (a clip I'm sure YES will show about that many times tonight). He's only 24 and has a career 2.86 ERA in the minor leagues, but most of that success came below triple-A and prior to 2005. This year, Davies put up a 2.06 ERA in ten triple-A starts, but had a limp 1.85 K/BB ratio and only struck out two men against three walks in his last start.
He'll face Darrell Rasner, who had his first poor outing of the year (in the majors or minors) last time out in Minnesota. Even still, Rasner struck out five men against two walks in 5 1/3 innings and kept his team in the game, falling two outs and one run shy of a fifth-straight quality start.
Rasner will throw to Jose Molina tonight, which is odd, not because the Yankees are hesitant to start Jorge Posada on back-to-back days just yet, but because Rasner's been pitching to Chad Moeller nearly all season (again both in the majors and minors). The rest of the Yankee regulars surround Molina in the order, including yesterday's hero, Jason Giambi, who's back at first base, and Posada is expected to start the next two days.
In bullpen news, LaTroy Hawkins' three-game suspension was upheld. He'll serve it tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday. Also, Chris Britton pulled an oblique warming up yesterday and has been placed on the DL. Dan Giese, who was just sent down to make room for Posada, thus returns shy of the ten-day minimum and will likely shadow Joba's start on Sunday after all. I leave it to you to decide exactly how fishy that makes Britton's injury appear.
Finally, per reader Travis08 in the previous thread about Yankee killers, the Yanks should beware Kansas City first baseman Ross Gload, a career .288/.327/.419 hitter who has hit .446/.475/.696 in 61 career plate appearances against the Yankees. It will be interesting to see if that small-sample success will be enough for Trey Hillman to play Gload against the left-handed Pettitte tomorrow, as Hillman's had Gload and John Buck in a complex platoon of late with Buck catching, Olivo DHing, DH Jose Guillen returning to right field, and right fielder Mark Teahen shifting to first against lefties (Gload is 0 for 3 career against Pettitte).
Last week on ESPN, I overheard an announcer ribbing Yankee fans for labeling anyone who gets more than a few hits against the Bronx Bombers as "Yankee killers." Alex Rios has a twenty-someodd game hitting streak vs. New York, but there has to be a difference between someone who fares well and someone who is a killer, no? George Brett certainly stands out in my mind as someone who gave the Yanks a hard time (.307/.365/.504 in 203 games). Who else are some of the legitimate Yankee Killers of all-time?
"Listen, I loved the way our guys reacted," [Ray's manager, Joe] Maddon said. "I thought it was tremendous. The unity that was displayed, it's part of us growing as a group. Unfortunately, we did not win the game, but I do like the fact that our guys did defend one another. I think that's great and speaks well for us. I'm very pleased with every one of them."
I caught the end of the Sox-Rays game the other night just in time to see Coco Crisp's hard slide into second base and the ensuing reaction from the Rays. Last night, I saw the full highlights from the Shields-Crisp/Rays vs. Crisp fight. It wasn't really all that as far as fights go. Shields plunked Crisp, Crisp charged the mound, Shields threw a haymaker and missed, Crisp landed a soft jab, and then Crisp was tackled. The Rays played dogpile on the rabbit but it didn't look as if anyone got any real shots in (Gomes looked as if he was, but that wasn't really the case), just a lot of poking and scratching like you see in football. After the game, a defiant Crisp talked about how the Rays fight like "girls."
Later, Manny and Youk got into it a little something in the Sox dugout. Oh, and the bottom line: the Red Sox pounded the Rays. Swept them out of first place. I think Crisp comes off looking like a punk. Then again, if I was waiting for a full day for someone to plunk me, perhaps I'd charge the mound as well. The Manny-Youk thing is really a non-story. I'm sure this kind of thing happens all the time, just not in the dugout. Hell, the great Yankee teams of the late 70s were built on that kind of creative tension. I sure don't see it impacting Youk or Manny on the field.
The Rays are a work in progress. The Sox are World Champs. 'Nuff said.
There hasn't been as much fighting in recent years. Remember, the 98 Yanks had a few, including that famous one against the Orioles. The 86 Mets had more than a few. Oh, and one last thing on the punch Shields threw at Crisp. It reminded me of the roundhouse that Dave Winfield once threw, and landed, on Nolan Ryan. Remember that one?
Fresh Out the Box
"We're putting a great arm in the rotation that we believe is going to win games," [Joe Girardi] argued in response to the veteran outfielder's comments in yesterday's Daily News. "I want to know the games that we've sacrificed by doing what we did. Everyone is assuming that we would have won that game in Baltimore if we had Joba in the bullpen that night. You're pretty smart if you know that. Everyone is assuming we would have won the game in Minnesota if we had Joba in the bullpen that night. It doesn't always work that way.
More than a few panicky Yankee fans are not pleased about Joba Chamberlain becoming a starter. I've encountered several over the past few days. I am not one of them. I think it's great that Chamberlain is returning to his original pitching position. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus agrees:
I have to give the Yankees full credit here. I insisted that once they started the year with Chamberlain in the bullpen, they wouldn't move him midseason. Given the dropoff from Chamberlain to the next-best reliever in that pen (Kyle Farnsworth or Edwar Ramirez or LaTroy Hawkins), I expected that the team wouldn't deny Joe Girardi his eighth-inning security blanket in the middle of a pennant race. I remain surprised by the decision. It's driven by the failures of Hughes and Kennedy (as well as Kei Igawa in a cameo role) to provide quality pitching at the back end of the rotation as much as it is by the desire to maximize the long-term value of Chamberlain. Nevertheless, the right decision for the wrong reasons has its appeal.
Chamberlain will make his second start on Sunday against the Royals. It is supposed to be in the mid-90s in New York this weekend.
Do You Feel A Draft?
In addition to this afternoon's thrilling comeback victory, the Yankees have been doing more good work in the draft, particularly with their first pick. There's a ton of coverage and analysis being posted all over the net, so I'll make some attempt to gather things in this post as I find them. Check back for updates. Also, follow this link for three-minute MLB scouting videos on the players below.
First Round (28th pick):
RHP Gerrit Cole, Orange Lutheran High School, California
Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus: This is a great pick on a talent/slot level. Most talented high school pitcher in the draft, and the Yankees can pay him. As bad as the Brackman pick was last year . . . that's how good this one is. I'm not a big fan of low arm slot guys, but at 28, this is a fantastic pick for the Bombers.
Keith Law, ESPN: This is a great pick; he fell to the Yankees for financial reasons. Cole has the best arm among the prep pitchers in the draft. He has a loose, quick arm. He has the best fastball of the high school pitchers; it tops out 97 mph. He needs more consistency on the breaking ball. And he needs to just throw his changeup instead of guiding it. He's a high-ceiling arm that could be a No. 1 starter. If that doesn't work, he could be a dominant reliever.
Hell of a game in the Bronx today. The Yanks jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Dustin McGowan in the first, but Chien-Ming Wang gave those runs back in the fourth on a two-run pop-fly home run off the top of the right field wall by Matt Stairs.
Once again, Wang wasn't sharp. Of his 90 pitches, just 12 were sliders and only one was a changeup. Wang got strike three of his four Ks with those secondary pitches, but every other pitch he threw was a sinker, and too many of them were either up or out of the zone. Wang started the fifth inning by walking Joe Inglett, the fourth free pass he issued on the afternoon. After a groundout, pesky David Eckstein reached on an infield single. Alex Rios then hit a soft fly ball to center field, but Inglett, apparently thinking there were two outs, took off like a rocket from second base. It was a terribly play by Inglett, but it appeared to distract Melky Cabrera as the ball ticked off the pinky of his glove and fell for a run-scoring error. With that, Wang folded. He hit Scott Rolen with a pitch, gave up a booming double in the left-center-field gap to Stairs, and another down the right field line to Lyle Overbay. Joe Girardi pulled his starter at that point, but the damage was done. The Yankees were down 7-2.
After posting a 2.90 ERA through his first nine starts, Chien-Ming Wang has a 7.91 ERA over his last three. What's gone wrong and can he pull out of it? Here are some of Wang's rates from his first nine starts vs. his last three:
Wang's been bad across the board over his last three starts with one surprising exception, his ground ball rate has actually been higher of late. Now compare those two sets of rates to Wang's career rates entering the year:
Save for the walk and caught stealing rates, his peripherals from his last three games wouldn't have seemed out of place coming from the Chien-Ming Wang of the last three years. That was the sinkerballer with the alarmingly low strikeout rates who seemed to be defying the odds. Over his first nine starts of this year, Wang was a different pitcher, mixing his pitches more and thus spiking his strikeout rate at the cost of a few groundballs, some of which would have gone for hits. The result was real dominance, but it seems Wang has gotten away from that and reverted not only back to the one-trick pitcher he was, but beyond it to a pitcher suffering from his inability to miss bats.
There's more to it than that, certainly, but just when Wang looked to be making the leap from the Yankee ace to one of the best pitchers in baseball, he's taken a mighty stumble. Remarkably, the Yankees have won two of his last three starts (by scored of 6-5 and 7-6) and are still 9-3 in Wang's starts on the year.
Today, Wang and the Yanks take on Dustin McGowan, who has the fastest average fastball among all major league starters according to FanGraphs, looking to take the series from Toronto and get the Yanks back to .500.
Wilson Betemit remains at first base as Jason Giambi is still nursing his bruised foot, but Jorge Posada is behind the plate for the first time since April 26.
In addition to Posada's return, the amateur draft kicks off at 2pm today. Two years ago the Yankees' first two picks were Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain with the 21st and 41st overall picks, both of which were received as compensation when Tom Gordon signed with the Phillies. The Yankee farm system is packed with exciting prospects (most of them pitchers) from the last three drafts. Today, the Yankees and scouting director Damon Oppenheimer (the man who has been making the picks since 2005) will add to that crop starting with the 28th overall pick and the 44th overall pick, the latter of which they received as compensation when Luis Vizcaino signed with the Rockies.
Yankee Panky #53: Joba, The Hype!
Were the expectations of Joba Chamberlain's debut as a starter a media creation, as Big Stein the Younger said? Did the spoiled sector of the Yankee fan base add to the unrealistic bar that was set? Did the Yankees bring this on themselves by messing with a good thing in the short term for a potential benefit in the long term? It depends on what you read and what you choose to believe.
True: Chamberlain started most of last year in Triple-A until he was tabbed as the Next Big Thing in the bullpen (not a media creation; an organizational decision).
True: Chamberlain teased us with a phenomenal Shane Spencerish, lightning-in-a-bottle performance in late-summer, solidifying a bullpen that was nowhere outside of Mariano Rivera. In fact, his performance was on par with 1995-96 level Rivera, and 2002 Francisco Rodriguez, the Playoff Edition.
True: Injuries to fellow young guns Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, who started the year in the rotation but have gone winless, likely forced the Yankees' hand.
True: The Yankees had Chamberlain on a tight pitch count. But what was it? 65? 70? Different reports had different numbers? Unless they went to different sources in the organization, there should have been a consistent number. And the editors should have picked up on it. I can hear the voices of two of my formative journalism professors now: "Be careful with numbers. First, make sure you get them right, and don't overuse them. They should only enhance the story, not be the story." Bottom line, get the number right, guys.
True: The Yankees' middle relief … well, you and I have a better chance of getting outs than Edwar (leave off the last D for disappointing outing) Ramirez, Jose Veras and "What is" Kyle Farnsworth, thanks to this move. In short, the bullpen could be bull$&!#@ real fast.
Reports of Mussina's Demise . . .
Mike Mussina cruised into the sixth inning last night, holding the Blue Jays scoreless while striking out a season-high six men. With two out and Alex Rios on first via Mussina's only walk of the game in the sixth, he appeared to strike out
The Yankee scoring started in the third inning when Jose Molina and Johnny Damon singled off Toronto starter Jesse Litsch and Derek Jeter plated Molina with a single that pushed the captain past Mickey Mantle on the all-time hit list. The Yanks got two more in the fourth on a Wilson Betemit homer, a Robinson Cano double, and a Melky Cabrera
It was a nice easy win that saw the four Yankee pitchers combine to strike out nine Jays and allow just one run on six hits and a walk. It was particularly encouraging to see Ohlendorf pitch well in short relief and pick up a hold, as that's the role he was intended to fill back in spring training and a role in which he's now very much needed.
As for the offense, consider the fact that Roy Halladay and Jesse Litsch had allowed a total of two runs in their last two starts combined totaling 33 innings, but the Yankees scored six runs off them in 11 1/3 combined innings over the last two nights and get Jorge Posada back today. The Yankees also pulled a half game ahead of the Orioles and can get back to .500 and win this series with a victory this afternoon.
A Glitsch In The System
In his final year in pinstripes, Jeff Nelson compiled a 6-0 record out of the bullpen by May 9, putting him on pace for 31 relief wins. He won two more games all year, finishing with an 8-4 record. In his seventh start of this season, Chien-Ming Wang ran his record to 6-0, putting him on a 30-win pace. Since then he's gone 0-2 in five starts. Mike Mussina enters tonight's game with eight wins, putting him in a five-way tie for third place in the majors behind Brandon Webb (10-2) and the surprising Joe Saunders (9-2). I'd still be surprised if he wins more than 15 on the year.
Moose has eight wins because he's had 5.28 runs of support per game thus far and has earned the decision in every one of his 12 starts. Despite his eight wins, Mussina has just five quality starts (four if you use the stringent < 3 R rule rather than the looser < 3 ER standard). In his last three outings he's allowed 15 runs in 11 2/3 innings, but eight of those runs were unearned (all scoring after Mussina failed to pick up his defense following a first-inning error) and he's gone 2-1 in those games. Mussina has exceeded expectations beyond his 8-4 record, but that is largely due to how low the expectations were for him entering the season.
Twenty-three-year-old Jesse Litsch is 7-1 on the season and didn't allow a run in either of his last two starts, totaling 16 innings. Over his last six starts he's posted a 1.67 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, averaged over seven innings per start, and walked just two men in 43 innings.
The Yankees need to snap their sudden three-game losing streak, but unless Mussina's luck keeps up (I though it had ended three starts ago when he failed to get out of the first inning, but I was clearly wrong), tonight might not be their night.
Jorge Posada has been activated with Dan Giese getting farmed out to make room (so much for repeating the Joba-Giese tandem on Sunday), but he's not in the lineup. Moose will pitch to Jose Molina with Wilson Betemit at first base subbing for Jason Giambi who's getting a day of rest after fouling a pitch off his foot late in last night's game. Both Giambi and Posada are expected to start tomorrow afternoon's series finale.
Take It To The Limit
As expected, Joba Chamberlain, was effective, but innefficient in his first major league start. So much so that his "start" actually worked out to be something of an early relief appearance setting up the game's actual non-starting starting pitcher, Dan Geise.
Beginning his outing with nothing but fastballs, Chamberlain got ahead of Toronto's leadoff hitter Shannon Stewart 1-2, then pinpointed a 99-mile-per-hour fastball up the upper outside corner. Stewart was nearly beat by the pitch, but managed to tip it into catcher Jose Molina's glove, knocking off his batting helmet in his follow through. The pitch hit the webbing of Molina's glove with such force that it sprung out, extending the at-bat. Chamberlain then switched to his slider for ball two and another foul, then missed high twice with 96-mile-per-hour heaters, walking Stewart on eight pitches in an at-bat that would set the tone for his brief outing.
It took Chamberlain six pitches (four of them fastballs) to strike out Marco Scutaro on a slider. Then, with Alex Rios at the plate, Chamberlain threw to first and was called for a balk that sent Stewart to second.
Joba got ahead of Rios 1-2, starting the at-bat off with a nice 76-mile-per-hour curve that dropped into the zone for a called strike, but the second strike, a 93-mile-per-hour heater tailing down and in that Rios swung through, squirted by Molina and sent Stewart to third. With Stewart on second, Molina didn't give a clear target for the pitch, so it's unclear where he was expecting it. John Flaherty has said in YES broadcasts this year that catchers should anticipate having to block breaking pitches, but you can't expect them to anticipate a fastball in the dirt. The thing is, this pitch wasn't in the dirt. It hit Molina's glove just below knee-high, but Molina didn't move his body an inch to attempt a block, instead he rather sleepily snatched at it only to have it tip off his glove and roll to the backstop.
Chamberlain again pinpointed a 98-mile-per-hour heater on the upper outside corner and got Rios to ground out to second, but what should have been an inning-ending double play ball was instead an RBI groundout due to the balk and the passed ball.
At this point, Chamberlain had thrown 18 pitches, right around his inning average this season. He then got ahead of Scott Rolen 1-2 on a pair of fastballs and a slider that Rolen missed by about three feet. His next pitch was another fastball on the outside corner and it produced another groundball to the right side, but this one was perfectly placed between Robinson Cano and Jason Giambi and scooted through the infield for the only hit Chamberlain would allow on the night.
Now at 22 pitches, Chamberlain was in danger of blowing a huge chunk of his allotted 65 pitches. In retrospect, the pitch count came back to haunt Chamberlain, not just because his inefficiency was exacerbated by bad luck, but because the Blue Jays clearly came into the game with the strategy of taking pitches and forcing Chamberlain out of the game early, a strategy which worked perfectly.
With two out and one on, Matt Stairs took four borderline fastballs to get to 3-1, fouled off a fifth, then took his base when Chamberlain's second curve of the night missed high. Lyle Overbay followed by watching six pitches go by-- the first four fastballs, the last two sliders--to walk and load the bases. At that point Chamberlain was up to 34 pitches and the Blue Jays had only swung at one of his last 12 offerings.
With the bases juiced, Rod Barajas took two more pitches, but both were sliders for strikes. Barajas then fouled off a slider away and swung through a 98-mile-per-hour fastball that Molina managed to hang on to for the third out.
One inning. Three walks. Two strikeouts. Thirty-eight pitches, 58 percent of his allotted total for the night.
Toronto Blue Jays Redux: Joba Joba Hey! Edition
The Yankees week didn't start off the way they wanted it to last night in Minnesota, but regardless of their record on the field this week, things are looking up as Jorge Posada is set to return to the lineup on Thursday and Joba Chamberlain joins the starting rotation tonight (you mighta heard about that).
It was less than two weeks ago that Joe Girardi told Kim Jones "the process has started," and Chamberlain still hasn't thrown more than two innings in a major league game, but with some post-game work in the Camden Yards bullpen after his last appearance, Chamberlain got up to 55 pitches in his last outing and will thus be allowed to get up to 70 tosses tonight.
The big question isn't really how well Chamberlain will pitch, but how deep into tonight's game those 70 pitches will allow him to go. In terms of results, Joba's brief track record (47 2/3 major league innings and 15 minor league starts) speaks for itself. In the majors he has posted a 1.32 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 12.08 K/9, 3.21 BB/9 and held opponents to a .168/.249/.251 line. In the minors (including his three minor league relief outings) he's posted a 2.45 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 13.75 K/9, 2.75 BB/9.
If there's one flaw in his game at this early stage of his career, its his pitch-efficiency. The Yankees didn't get Chamberlain over two innings prior to tonight in part because he used up all 35 of his allotted pitches in the first two innings of his first multi-inning stint and threw 40 of his allotted 45 in the first two innings of his next appearance. On the season, he's averaging 17 pitches per inning, which would only get him through four frames tonight. In his three "extended" relief appearances in preparation for tonight's start, Chamberlain threw 103 pitches in just 5 1/3 innings. At that rate (19.3 P/IP) he'd only get through 3 2/3 IP tonight.
That's why Dan Giese is in the house tonight (he takes Scott "The Stranger" Patterson's place on the roster). For all the excitement about Joba Chamberlain's first major league start, this could be an even bigger night for Giese, as there's a chance he might actually pitch more of tonight's game than Joba will.
All of that said, Joba is where he should be. His performance tonight will be analyzed to death by everyone watching (myself included), but at least for tonight, the results are less important than the journey he's making toward becoming the pitcher he should be. Don't be misled. Tonight's start is just another step on that journey. He won't have reached the destination until the reigns come off and the artificially low pitch and innings limits are discarded. Despite the surprising speed with which Chamberlain's gotten to this point, he still has a long way to go.
... But Liquor Is Quicker
Have the Yankees ever had a mascot?
Fans reacted to this misbegotten Frankenstein the way you’d expect: with a potent mixture of fear and hostility. In the end the Yankees never let Dandy onto the field, into the dugout, or even out of the Stadium; instead he was limited to roaming the upper deck, where he was routinely heckled, harassed, and threatened.
Lonn Trost, the Yankees' general counsel, said there are official Yankee hamburgers, hot dogs and popcorn. But a mascot? No, he didn't think the team ever had one.
One of my neighbors, a fan since the 1960s, told me that in his recollection, Dandy lasted only a few weeks before he was beaten up by a group of angry or, perhaps, simply terrified nosebleed seat natives, after which the traumatized man in the suit resigned and was never replaced. I feel a little bad for finding this story hilarious, but in any case he seems to have exaggerated it a bit over the decades -- by the Times’ account, Dandy hung in there for years, and I haven’t been able to track down any hard evidence that he was ever actually physically assaulted. Even if it isn't strictly true, I like this outsized distillation of events, which seems to capture the popular imagination’s image of the lawless Yankee Stadium of the 80s.
Anybody have any memories of Dandy that you'd like to share?
Cough It Up
The Yankee offense gave Andy Pettite three leads last night and Pettitte blew every one of them, the last on Joe Mauer's first home run of the season on a pitch that a irritated Pettitte later called "as ignorant a pitch as I could throw." Brought into a 5-5 game in the eighth inning, Kyle Farnsworth gave the Twins their first lead of the game by surrendering doubles to two of the first three hitters he faced. Joe Nathan came on in the ninth to protect that last-minute lead and handed the Yankees a 6-5 loss.
If there was any good news to come out of the game it was that Farnsworth's fateful inning was the only one pitched by the bullpen as Pettitte pitched efficiently, needing just 94 pitches to complete seven frames. That sets things up well for Joba Chamberlain's 70-pitch start tonight. Still, the Yankees are coming home a game under .500 and just a half game out of last place in the East having gone 3-4 on their trip through Baltimore and Minnesota.
Movin' On Up
With the Yankees bobbing around in last place in the AL East, I haven't spent much time looking at the standings thus far this year, but checking things out this morning, I see that a four-game losing streak has dropped the Orioles 2 1/2 games behind the Bombers, who are back at .500 and 6 1/2 games out of first place. They're only 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays, however, and Toronto comes to the Bronx tomorrow for a three game series. That means a good week could bounce the Yankees up to third place with only the Rays and Red Sox, the teams with the two best records in the American League, and two of the three best records in baseball, ahead of them.
The Yankees can kick this week off right with a get-away win in Minneapolis tonight. Beating the Twins tonight would give the Yankees a series win (rather than the four-game split that would result from a loss), push them over .500, and give them the same record as the Twins, who are only a game out of first place in the Central entering tonight's game.
Andy Pettitte will look to pitch the Yankees to that victory. Pettitte is coming off three straight quality starts in which he's allowed a total of one home run and walked just three men while striking out 19 in 18 2/3 innings. He'll face Livan Hernandez, who has a 6.08 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees. Of course, three of those starts came between 1997 and 2002, which is ancient history by now, but the most recent was last June and saw the Yankees tag Hernandez for seven runs in four innings including home runs by Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, and Jorge Posada.
Hernandez has an 8.74 ERA in his last two starts, and was most recently slapped around by the lowly Kansas City Royals. Despite giving up all those runs, he's not allowed a home run in his last 23 2/3 innings, but then he's only struck out three men over the same span (while walking only two). Hernandez's single-game high for strikeouts this year is four, and it took him seven innings to do that, and he's only walked three men in a game once all year. So one things for sure, the Yankees will be putting the ball in play tonight.
Sounds Great from a Distance
My cousin Jonah is an avid Met fan. He and his wife live in Brooklyn and they are great movie-lovers too. But they do not have cable TV, so Jonah listens to virtually every game on a small, old-fashioned transistor radio. When he's out and about, he has a small, white earphone plugged into one ear to keep up on the action. When I've asked why he doesn't just get cable like every other "normal" person he says that he doesn't like the idea of being held captive in front of the television. The thought of it is oppresive to him, even in the age of Tivo.
He can do as he pleases and take the radio with him. I admire him for this quality. I can't imagine doing such a thing, not with Lord Sterling as the Yankee play-by-play announcer--that would be too much to bear. Still, baseball on the radio can be a wonderful experience for the listener and many of my favorite childhood baseball memories are made up of evenings secretly listening to the Yankee broadcast while I was supposed to be asleep.
I got to thinking about all of this when I read a short essay, "Recalling the Joy of Watching Baseball on the Radio," which is featured in the collection Diamond: The Baseball Writings of Mark Harris. Most famous for his Henry Wiggens trilogy, Harris doesn't argue that radio is superior to television, just that they each offer distinct pleasures:
Radio left things to the brain, to the imagination, and to fantasy. On radio we saw the whole baseball field because we saw it in our minds through wide-agnled fantasy. We knew no limits upon our vision. We were our own camera. Pictures arose in our imaginations from the merest hints of things. Our minds were tubes that seldom blew.
The last bit reminded me of Nicholas Dawidoff's new memoir, The Crowd Sounds Happy. In it, Dawidoff describes following the Red Sox of his childhood on the radio. Just yesterday, Dawidoff had a compelling piece in the latest edition of Play:
Recently I turned 45, which I think of as a mortal age for a baseball fan; by now, with the rarest exceptions, you are older than every major leaguer. What I notice at midlife is that the passion doesn't abate; it simply changes. Thinking of the Red Sox as heroes was an innocent fantasy and, for that reason, a seductive one, but adulthood meant finally coming to terms with ballplayers as real people. That wasn't so difficult in our time of heightened public scrutiny. We wanted to know them, and now we know them too well. Much of it is the money, the millions they earn while most of us are struggling with the rent. Our pastime is a big, mercenary business, and we've learned that players will deform themselves with steroids, cheating mortality and their opponents in an effort to stay forever young and powerful. Those of us who are offended by steroids may feel that what's most unpleasant is that we can't look at a juiced physique and still think, That could be me.
I recall having a conversation a few years ago with a couple of Baseball Prospectus writers. They wanted to know as little as possible about big leaguers, at least about their personal lives, because they didn't want that to get in the way of what they were watching on the field. I can appreciate that. Having worked in the movie business, and to a lesser degree, in the world of sports, I understand what it is like to be meet a favorite actor or director only to find that they are lacking (or worse). I think it is critical to separate the artist (or the athlete) from their art. At the same time, I have a curiosity bordering on desire to not only want to know more about my favorite jocks and artists but also a childlike need to like them, to know that they are good people. As if their personality has anything to do with their gift.
Darrell Rasner had his worst start of the season (though he still lasted 5 1/3 innings and only allowed four runs), and the Yankee offense failed to pick their starter up as the Yanks dropped their first game to the Twins this season by a 5-1 score.
Three of the four runs Rasner had allowed in his four May starts for the Yankees were scored in the first inning, and yesterday he got into a jam right away as the Twins put men on second and third with one out in the first. Rasner got Justin Morneau to hit a comebacker that froze the runners for the second out, but Michael Cuddyer plating them both with a two-out single. Rasner got into another jam in the fourth when Jason Kubel worked a walk to load the bases with no outs. Rasner got two strikeouts and a fly out to get out of the inning, but the fly out came between the two Ks and plated the third Twins run. In the sixth, Morneau led off against Rasner with a booming shot into the right field gap. Melky Cabrera ran over to gather the ball, but in doing slipped on the warning track and fell on his tuchus. With Morneau speeding around the bases, Cabrera attempted to flip the ball to Bobby Abreu so that Abreu could throw it in, but Melky's overhand flip sailed over Abreu's head and rolled toward first base, allowing Morneau to come all the way around and score on what was ruled a triple and an E8. After getting Cuddyer to ground out for the first out, Rasner walked Kubel again and gave up a single to Delmon Young, but Scott Patterson, making his long-awaited major league debut, came in and stranded both runners, striking out Carlos Gomez to end the inning.
Morneau's trip around the bases and Patterson's debut at age 28 after a long career spent largely in the independent leagues were two of the incidents in this game that overshadowed the game itself, which was otherwise a rather dull loss for the Yankees. The only real threat the Yankees mounted came in the third when Johnny Damon doubled with one out and Derek Jeter and Abreu drew walks to load the bases for Alex Rodriguez, but Twins starter Nick Blackburn struck out Alex Rodriguez and got Hideki Matsui to ground out to escape the jam. The only Yankee run came on a Derek Jeter solo homer in the fifth that made the score 3-1. When Rasner left it was 4-1 Twins, and in the seventh Patterson gave up a run of his own on a walk and a Michael Cuddyer triple to set the final score.
In total, Patterson used 40 pitches, only 21 of which were strikes, to get four outs. Part of that is because of the seven batters he faced, four failed to put a ball in play (two walks, two strikeouts). Chris Britton followed Patterson and retired all four men he faced on 14 pitches, nine of which were strikes, on three groundouts and a flyout.
The big story of the game, however, was the fifth-inning comebacker off Bobby Abreu's bat that hit Blackburn in the face. Abreu was swinging on a 3-1 count and the ball hit Blackburn on the right side of his face as he completed his follow-through, making an awful sound like someone tearing open a head of lettuce. Abreu grabbed his head as he ran to first, shaking his hands and appeared on the verge of tears as Blackburn did a backflop onto the mound, arms and legs akimbo with his feet facing up hill toward the rubber. It seems, however, that Blackburn's dramatic fall was somewhat out of relief as he immediately popped up, spit out some blood and walked off the field with a trainer holding a towel under his bloodied nose. X-rays revealed no broken bones or lost teeth, meaning that bloody nose and a fat lip was the sum total of the damage done to Blackburn, who should make his next start. Abreu met with Blackburn after the game and both men are no doubt very pleased by the fact that Blackburn didn't suffer any major injuries. It turns out that nasty lettuce sound was caused in part by the fact that the ball hit Blackburn's glove before it hit his face.
Razzle Dazzle 'Em
If someone told me in March that a matchup of the Yankees' and Twins' best starters on June 1 would pit Darrell Rasner against Nick Blackburn, I'd have thought they were crazy, but that's exactly the case this afternoon as 26-year-old rookie Blackburn (4-3, 3.39 ERA) faces off against 27-year-old Rasner (3-1, 1.80 ERA).
Blackburn will be making his first career start against the Yankees. Rasner, who was the Yankees best pitcher in May, will be looking to keep things going in June. Rasner has given the Yankees a minimum of six innings in each of his first six starts, and after last night's extra-inning win, the Yankees will want him to go deep again today, though Mark Feinsand reports that Scott Patterson has been called up off his own strong May to add a fresh arm to the Yankee bullpen. Morgan Ensberg, who was hitting .164/.239/.164 since April 15, was designated for assignment to make room for Patterson.
Rasner has allowed just one run in his last 13 innings, though that one was enough to get him the loss in his last start, which the Yankees lost to the Orioles by an eventual final of 3-1. Today his support features Wilson Betemit at first base with Jason Giambi getting the day off and, as has been the standard pairing, Chad Moeller behind the plate.
Em and I are down in Fort Lolipop, Florida visiting with Pat and Susie Jordan for a few days. We arrived yesterday and I think my wife, who doesn't do well in the heat, has already melted. It's middle-of-July hot down here, which is what we get for coming in the off-season. On the other hand, our flight was half-full, and our hotel isn't packed either. In all, it's a fine way to celebrate my 37th birthday which happens to be today. And it is all started with a smile when I checked Sportscenter this morning and saw that the Yanks actually pulled out that extra-inning game last night against the Twins. Hot dog.
Final Score: Yanks 7, Twins 6.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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