Monthly archives: August 2008
Fumblin' with the Blue(Jay)s
As Tom Waits put it so succinctly, "it's hard to win when you always lose."
New York has emptied out for Labor Day weekend – every year at this time I wish I had a car, just so I could park it - and judging from the game thread, outside of the Stadium there were about 17 people watching the Yankees play Sunday afternoon. This is probably for the best. In a performance that wasn’t so much lousy as just listless, the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays 6-2.
Against All Odds
That's what it's going to be for the Yanks to miraculously qualify for the playoffs let alone being able to get passed Roy Halladay and the Jays today. It is another beauty of a day out there. Not that the weather helped matters any yesterday. (I was painting my apartment and had the pleasure of hearing John Sterling deliver the bad news.)
Still, today is a new day and you never know what's going to happen on a baseball diamond.
Let's Go Yan-Kees.
Girardi: "I Felt That We Gave That Game Away"
The Yankees took a 6-2 lead into the seventh inning yesterday afternoon. Robinson Cano and Ivan Rodriguez had delivered consecutive solo home runs in the fourth to break a 2-2 tie, and Hideki Matsui had delivered a two-run double with the bases loaded in the fifth, all four runs coming with two outs in their respective innings. Darrell Rasner was cruising, having thrown just 67 pitches through six innings, 52 of them strikes.
Adam Lind singled on Rasner's first pitch of the seventh. Lyle Overbay then hit what looked like an easy double play ball to second base, but rather than side-arm the ball to Derek Jeter for the pivot, Robinson Cano tried a back-handed flip from a bit too far away. The ball dove and skipped past Jeter and both runners were safe. Jose Bautista, who was 0-for-August entering that inning, capitalized by singling Lind home. Rasner then walked Gregg Zaun to load the bases and got the hook in favor of Brian Bruney, a pitcher more capable of a much-needed strikeout. Bruney delivered exactly that, striking out rookie Travis Snider, but Joe Inglett followed with a single that plated Overbay and Bautista to bring the Jays within one run. After Brandon League struck out the heart of the Yankee order in the seventh, the Jays got back to work against Bruney, Damaso Marte, and Edwar Ramirez in the eighth, tying the game on singles by Vernon Wells (off Bruney) Adam Lind (off Marte), and Bautista (off Ramirez), and taking the lead when Gregg Zaun just barely beat out a double-play relay on a dribbler to the left side on which Alex Rodriguez made a nice play.
Facing Scott Downs in the eighth, the Yankees put a runner in scoring position with two outs on an Ivan Rodriguez infield single and a stolen base by pinch-runner Brett Gardner, but Johnny Damon grounded out to strand Gardner. Facing B.J. Ryan in the ninth, the Yankees mounted a bigger threat when Derek Jeter led off with a single and Bobby Abreu followed with a walk to bring Alex Rodriguez to the plate. Rodriguez, who had driven in the first run of the game in the first, worked the count full, then ripped the payoff pitch hard down the third base line, but that man Bautista made a slick play on the ball, raced to third to force out Jeter, and fired across the diamond to get Rodriguez by inches (the total distance by which Zaun was safe and Rodriguez was out couldn't have added up to more than a foot). With that double play, the rally was reduced to Abreu on second with two outs and Cody Ransom, who had come in as a defensive replacement for Giambi in the eighth with the Yankees still leading by a run, at the plate. Ransom swung at the first pitch he saw and flew out to left to end the game and hand the Yankees a painful 7-6 loss.
Today they face Roy Halladay.
With Roy Halladay pitching tomorrow, one suspects it's today's game, which pits Darrell Rasner against John Parrish, that will decide which team wins this series.
Since he was briefly removed from the rotation, Rasner has posted a 4.19 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in four appearances (three starts). The best of those was his 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Blue Jays in Toronto two starts ago. The worst was his last, when he failed to get out of the fourth inning against the Orioles.
Parrish, who spent most of his major league career as a lefty reliever for the Orioles, was recently recalled from triple-A Syracuse. He's making his fifth major league start of the season and his first in more than a month. He posted a 4.71 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in the first four. His only other start against the Yankees was his major league debut in July 2000.
Joe Girardi's lineup makes no concessions to the opposing lefty.
For those who missed it, the Yankees swapped David Robertson out for Alfredo Aceves before Thursday's game. The 25-year-old Aceves, who pitched well in his final two starts for Scranton (12 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 16 K) and posted a 2.62 ERA in 140 2/3 innings across three minor league levels in this his first professional season, will work out of the bullpen. He's also the first Yankee to wear number 91 during the regular season.
Dress Down Friday
After my last guest shot on New York Baseball Today the producer said that I should feel free to dress down the next time. "You can be casual," he said, explaining they were looking to capture the true fan experience. So I wore a t-shirt yesterday. The producer, who is a good guy, nearly gasped when he saw me and when we were finished he mentioned that the t-shirt was too casual, which just goes to show everyone has their own idea of what is casual.
Ted Berg and I had to do three takes because of various screw-ups on our part and also because we kept going long. It's amazing what a skill it is to not only sound articulate when you are looking into a camera but to be able to get your point across in a pointed and succinct manner. Especially when your natural inclination is to be expansive. I tripped over a bunch of my words during our third and final take but still had a good time with Ted. Hey, it's a learning process, right?
Anyhow, here's the bit:
In other news, here is an update on the story about the police at Yankee Stadium during "God Bless America," and something to make you really depressed: the high cost of watching the Yanks play in their new ballpark.
And, oh, one last note: how beautiful was Mariano Rivera's performance last night? It was vintage stuff, wasn't it?
Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles
Or maybe it's just that even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and again. Either way, the Yankees finally beat A.J. Burnett last night, and did it largely thanks to six strong innings from Carl Pavano, who has now won both of his starts since returning from his long injury-induced exile, thereby doubling his win total from the previous 38 months.
Pavano wasn't great. Typically a slight groundball pitcher, he got 13 of his 18 outs in the air, many of them hard hit balls either right at infielders or to the deepest parts of the outfield. Still, he gave up just three hits in those six innings, walked just one, and held the Blue Jays to one sixth-inning run when Jays' rookie Travis Snider bounced a ground-rule double over the fence in center for his first major league hit, and Marco Scutaro singled him home.
Pavano needed just 72 pitches to get through those first six innings, but Joe Girardi decided to count his blessings at that point as the Yankees held a slim 2-1 lead.
The Yankees got their runs in a wacky fourth inning. Johnny Damon led off by hitting a ball off the top of the right field wall, directly on the white stripe of the foul line. In the first Yankee game eligible for replay, first base umpire Jeff Nelson got the call right without argument and Damon pulled up with a 314-foot single. Two pitches later, Damon stole second. Catcher Rod Barajas's throw beat Damon, as did second baseman Joe Inglett's tag, but Inglett caught the ball high in the webbing of his glove and the force od Damon's slide knocked it loose as he slid by. Burnett struck out Derek Jeter on three more pitches, one of Burnett's eight strikeouts in his eight-inning complete-game loss, but Bobby Abreu served a 3-1 pitch into the gap in left-center for a double that plated Damon with the game's first run. When Alex Rodriguez chopped Burnett's next pitch in between third base and shortstop, Abreu, somewhat misguidedly, took off for third base, perhaps thinking that the ball would get through. Shortstop Scutaro made an awkward attempt to backhand the ball, bobbled it, then threw late to third base as Abreu made an even more awkward slide into the bag, deciding at the last second to slide and almost stopping his momentum before dropping into a bent-knee split and touching the bag with his back foot. It wasn't pretty, but it put runners on the corners with out out. Jason Giambi then flared the next pitch foul down the left field line where left fielder Snider almost overran it and had to leap backwards to make the catch, allowing Abreu to tag and score what proved to be the winning run.
Buoyed by that extra run, Girardi had Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte split the seventh inning, then brought out Jose Veras for the eighth. Veras gave up a leadoff double to Barajas, then walked Scott Rolen on five pitches, so Girardi brought in Edwar Ramirez to face the lefty Snider, whom Ramirez struck out. Going for the throat, Girardi then called on Mariano Rivera, who got a groundball and a strikeout to strand both runners, then worked around a one-out single by Vernon Wells to nail down the win in the ninth.
The 2-1 win was particularly uplifting for the monkeys it brushed of the team's back (specifically Burnett and Pavano), and because it lasted a mere two hours and 36 minutes. The Red Sox, Twins, and Rays all won as well, so it did little to revive the Yankees moribund postseason hopes, but small victories like this are what they have left to offer this season, and the last two games have done a lot to remind the spoiled Yankee fanbase that there's joy to be had in small victories, too.
Toronto Blue Jays V: Killing the Set In Stone with Two Birds Edition
The Yankees are 1-6 in games started by A.J. Burnett and Roy Halladay this season. Burnett (3-0, 1.61 ERA vs. NYY this season) starts again tonight against former rotation-mate Carl Pavano. Halladay (3-1, 2.48 ERA vs. NYY this season) starts Sunday against Andy Pettitte. That is a major reason why the Yankees' failure to sweep the Red Sox this week all but officially eliminated them from the playoff hunt.
The Jays lost Dustin McGowan for the season in early July, Shaun Marcum hit the DL a few weeks later and is currently back in the minors trying to straighten himself out. Second baseman Aaron Hill suffered a season-ending concussion on May 30. Vernon Wells broke his wrist in May and strained his hamstring in July, missing a month with each injury. Scott Rolen broke a finger at the end of spring training, which cost him most of April, and he just got back from a second stint on the DL earlier this week. B.J. Ryan made a quick and successful return from Tommy John surgery, but within weeks of his return, last year's closer, Jeremy Accardo, was lost for the season. Set-up man Casey Janssen has missed the entire season. Several les- significant relievers have also missed less-significant time due to injury. Shortstops David Eckstein and John McDonald landed on the DL on the same day in early May, and Gregg Zaunn, Shannon Stewart, and now Brad Wilkerson have also spent time on the DL. Rolen has been barely league average when healthy, and Stewart and Matt Stairs slumped their way off the team entirely.
Despite all of that, the Blue Jays could pull even with the Yankees by sweeping this weekend's series, which given the fact that both Burnett and Halladay are due to pitch, isn't as unlikely as it might sound. Meanwhile, the Jays' Pythagorean record is already four games better than the Yankees'.
Observations From Cooperstown--The Relics of Shea Stadium
With Yankee Stadium’s long run coming to an end, apparently in September and not October, it might be fitting to look at those Yankees who never played a single home game at Yankee Stadium during their careers. How is that possible, you might ask? The answer is Shea Stadium, which housed the Yankees for two mostly forgettable seasons in the mid-1970s and is simultaneously closing its doors this fall after a stretch of four and a half decades. At the suggestion of Bronx Banter chieftain Alex Belth, we’ve decided to launch a series on those players whose Yankee careers coincided only with the Shea Stadium seasons of 1974 and ’75.
During the spring of 1974, Yankee GM Gabe Paul engineered an unusual three-team deal with the Indians and Tigers. The swap sent backup catcher Jerry Moses to the Tigers and brought back pitchers Ed Farmer (from Detroit) and Rick Sawyer along with outfielder Walt Williams, the latter two coming from Cleveland. Concerned about their lack of right-handed bats, the Yankees planned to use the singles-hitting Williams as a backup outfielder, giving him occasional starts against left-handers and also employing him as a pinch-hitter.
At five-feet, six-inches, Williams didn’t look like a typical major league outfielder. (My goodness, even Luis Polonia is taller than Williams!) Built like a fireplug, Williams was extraordinarily well developed in the chest, with muscles in his upper torso seemingly obscuring the length of his neck. That’s why Williams’ former Houston Colt .45s teammate John Bateman came up with the nickname of "No Neck" for the stocky outfielder. Given his unusual build, including the nearly complete absence of a neck, Williams became an iconic figure, especially in the Markusen household, in the 1960s and seventies. When I first became interested in weightlifting, my father admonished me, offering a cautionary tale. He told me repeatedly, "Don’t overdue it lifting those weights. You’ll end up looking like No-Neck Williams!"
With stories of his neck preceding him, Williams joined the Yankees during spring training in 1974. He also came with a reputation as a free swinger—one who rarely walked, but also rarely struck out. Defensively, Williams possessed a weak arm, but had worked diligently to make himself an adept outfielder capable of playing all three positions in the "outer pasture," as Art Rust, Jr. used to say.
Williams immediately impressed his teammates and coaches with his upbeat personality, everlasting smile, and sincere enthusiasm for the game. He hustled at every turn, running out ground balls and pop-ups with equal degrees of verve. He also took time to talk to fans, making him a popular figure at Shea Stadium. Clearly, no faults could be found with Williams’ personality.
His physical well being proved a bit more problematic. Williams couldn’t stay healthy in 1974, as he appeared in only 43 games and took only 53 at-bats. When he did play, he didn’t hit. A .113 batting average and a matching slugging percentage left everyone around the Queens ballpark disappointed with his first year in pinstripes.
Duly motivated by a season lost to injury and futility, Williams reported to spring training in Ft. Lauderdale determined to make a far better second impression. Toiling as hard as a 24-year-old rookie trying to prove the merits of being included on the 25-man roster, Williams sweated his way to a spot on the team. In an effort to make himself more versatile, he even learned how to play second base, a position he had never played in nine previous seasons.
Hard labor paid off. Filling a valuable role as a utility outfielder, DH, and occasional infielder, Williams batted a respectable .281 with five home runs in 185 at-bats. He appeared in six games at second base, predictably showing little range but handling all chances without an error. With his attitude, versatility, and revived bat all weighing as plusses, Williams made himself into an effective bench player.
During his two seasons in New York, Williams also firmed up his reputation as one of the most voracious eaters in the game. Williams regularly accompanied Yankee first baseman-DH Ron Blomberg and shortstop Gene "Stick" Michael on trips to local Burger King restaurants, where they gladly consumed large quantities of hamburgers at 39 cents a pop. The burgers blended well with No-Neck’s 185-pound frame.
Williams’ legendary appetite stood out as one of the highlights of his brief term in the Bronx. Although he hit fairly well in his 1975 bench role, the Yankees surprisingly released him prior to the 1976 season. That decision robbed him of an opportunity to play in the newly renovated Yankee Stadium. It also denied him his first postseason, as the Yankees went on to win the AL East and the League Championship Series before bowing to the power-packed Reds in the World Series.
Spurned by the Yankees, Williams took his amiable act to Japan, where he played for two seasons. Beginning in 1980, he played in the Mexican League and throughout the winter leagues before finally calling it quits in 1985, 18 years after making his major league debut. He then coached briefly for the White Sox and Rangers in the late 1980s.
Now out of baseball, Williams is doing his best to help out youngsters in the Houston area, where he resides. An employee of the Houston Youth Recreation Center, Williams also performs volunteer service in and around the city. Still the hard worker after all these years, Williams sounds like the same fan-friendly, down-to-earth guy who made those two seasons at Shea Stadium a little more enjoyable.
Bruce Markusen writes "Cooperstown Confidential" for MLB.com.
A Last Time
Yesterday's game was the last the Red Sox will ever play at the first Yankee Stadium. It was also the last I'll ever see from the seating bowl of the old ballpark. I have two games remaining in the bleachers this season, including the Stadium's final game against the Orioles on September 21, but that final game will be overrun with hype, anxiety, and mixed emotions. In providing two other, more specific "last"s, yesterday's game provided me with a sense of personal closure regarding the old park.
Twenty years ago almost exactly, I saw my first game at Yankee Stadium from a seat in the front row of the upper deck in right field. The Yankees won that night on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth by Claudell Washington. Yesterday afternoon, I was a few rows higher behind home plate and the Yankees won on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth by Jason Giambi. I'll save my reminiscences of the games in between for another time, but I wanted to share a few of the photographs I took of yesterday's game.
Only in Dreams, In Beautiful Dreams
So I’ve been getting up early all week, and as I'm generally an insomniac night-owl type, it has not been going particularly well. Last night I made the mistake of lying down for a few minutes while watching the game; I fell asleep around 8 PM, and woke up long, long after it was over. The thing is, I was absolutely, 100% positive that I’d seen the Yankees win it, on a Johnny Damon home run… and it wasn’t til this afternoon that I realized I must have just dreamed it.
Today, however, I was wide awake when the Yankees beat the Sox 3-2, in dramatic fashion, with Jason Giambi singling in the winning run off
Mike Mussina was excellent, again, but when he left the game was tied, and he didn’t get the win. I don’t think he can make it to 20 now -- and because the BWAA changes its thinking at roughly the pace of a frail, elderly snail, that may well hurt his Hall of Fame chances, etc, etc. But it’s been such a pleasure to watch him do his thing this year. Today his fastball was actually quicker than usual (a whopping 89 mph at one point! Heavens!), and he allowed two runs on five hits in seven strong innings. The Sox only scored in the fifth, when they strung together a single, a hit by pitch, another single (an RBI for Varitek), and a fielder’s choice.
Anyway, I'm really looking forward to blogging about the playoff games I'll dream about this fall. Will the dream-Yankees be able to beat the dream-Twins in the ALDS? Or will dream-Abreu morph into a giant aardvark and swallow my high school English teacher whole, as he did in the fall of '06? Tune in and find out. There's only one October!
Naming Rights TK?
I was at the game today (Emma will be along later with the recap), and the Yankees were giving away DVDs of a "Virtual Tour" of the new Yankee Stadium. I haven't watched the thing yet, but opening up the front flap I saw this:
If nothing strikes you as odd about that, look a little closer:
I'm speculating wildly here, but that image in the background looks a lot like a mock-up designed for companies interested in acquiring naming rights to the new Stadium. I've not seen any other conceptual image of the new Stadium with any letters to the right of the center field video screen, so I'm guessing whomever layed out this DVD package is in a boat load of trouble right now.
Update: I watched the DVD and, again, there is no lettering to the right of the video screen in any image shown.
Our Man Moose
It is a gorgeous day in New York City. I picked up some San Marzano tomatoes at a nearby Farmer's Market and then noticed a twenty dollar bill on the pavement. Two gentlemen were standing a few feet away from me and they saw it too. I was closer so I bent over, picked it up and looked around to see if anyone would claim it. One of the men said, "I think it was that girl in the white t-shirt, go after her." So I did. I hustled half a block away and asked the woman in the white shirt if the bill was hers. She looked confused.
Ethics, Belth, ethics.
I could have kept the dough. It didn't look like it belonged to her. But I gave it to her anyhow and said, "Welp, if it ain't yours, at least you are twenty dollars richer now." I held out my hand for her to slap me five, but she balked. Maybe she thought I was asking for half of it in return. Ah, people just don't slap each other five like they used to, do they?
I walked away and when I passed the two guys I told them I didn't think it was hers. "Well, maybe you'll get it in return someday," one of them said, "and much more than twenty bucks."
Who knows? Karma is a funny thing. Speaking of which, the Yankee season has boiled down to me rooting for Mike Mussina to win twenty games more than anything else. Knowing his "luck" he'll end up with eighteen or nineteen. But luck can change at the drop of a dime.
Enjoy the day, and let's go Yankees.
Book Review: Yankee for Life
As has been discussed in numerous Banter posts over the years, Bobby Murcer was one of the few bright spots for the Yankees during the initial post-Mantle years. Murcer wasn’t Mantle, but he had enough similarities and attributes to merit the comparisons.
Murcer’s affiliation with the Yankees lasted over 40 years, from his being drafted by them in 1964, through his call-up to the big club for good in 1969, to his 2nd tour of duty with the Bombers beginning in 1979 and then his ascension into the broadcast booth in 1983.
What made Murcer so likable? Undoubtedly it was his easy-going, self-effacing manner. He rarely spoke poorly of anyone. His love for the Yankees was always easy to see. His voice was certainly Southern, but easy on the ears of those tuned to the games.
So, when news of his brain cancer diagnosis and surgery hit the wires in late 2006, it made what was planned to be his relatively straight-forward autobiography into something much more spiritual and intimate.
Released on his 62nd birthday, "Yankee for Life: My 40-Year Journey in Pinstripes" reveals the soul of the man who wouldn't be (and couldn't be) Mantle. We open with Bobby and his wife Kay recounting his headaches, forgetfulness and the lethargy during the latter part of 2006, and after numerous tests, the shocking diagnosis, delivered to him on Christmas Eve. Though Murcer is understandably rocked by the news, his upbringing helps him see through the darkness and begin the fight.
With that foundation, the book takes us back to his Oklahoma City roots, and the seemingly classic sports fable. A boy from the not-quite-well-to-do part of town, born with a seeming congenital desire to play baseball for the Yankees. A natural athlete .... a multi-sport star in high school and college. He marries the quintessential girl next door / high school sweetheart Kay. He signs with the team of his dreams.
Of course, if you have seen Murcer's CenterStage or Yankeeography, and/or you've followed Murcer's career to some extent, you know most of the rest of the story. Nonetheless, "Yankee for Life" is a candid, humorous and forthright insight into a man whose passions can be boiled down to family, God and baseball.
Part of what keeps this book from being a stale read is the almost conversational style of writing throughout. As assisted by Glen Waggoner, Murcer laces his stories with "let me tell you"s and "you know how ...".
In terms of new material, Murcer devotes entire chapters to
Late in the book, Murcer states his ultimate goal of throwing out the first pitch at the new Stadium in 2009. Sadly, that won't happen. But "Yankee for Life" will keep Murcer in our memories long after they tear down the old ballpark, and is a worthwhile addition to the library of every Bomber fan.
I looked up from the morning paper this morning on my subway ride to work. We must have been near Columbia University. A young woman with a bob of red hair and thin, square glasses that made her look as if she stepped right out of an underground comic book, got on the train and stood above me. She was wearing a black t-shirt with white lettering: "Make Cupcakes Not War."
That's mad corny, I thought to myself and went back to my paper. A little while later, I put the paper away and took out my headphones when I looked down and noticed that the girl had a tatoo of a cupcake on the top of her right foot. She was wearing flip flops and the tatoo was beautifully done. The cupcake had pink frosting and a red cherry on top. The girl's toes were painted yellow, her fingernails, pink.
I couldn't resist so I stood up a minute before I was to get off the train, pulled off my headphones and asked her if she was a baker.
"What's with the cupcakes?"
She smiled and looked down. "My roommate and I just love cupcakes. We make them all the time. It's a little weird, really."
"No, that's cool. I guess you guys are big fans of Magnolia."
"Naw. We make much better cupcakes at home."
With that I excused myself and headed off to work.
Yanks Get the Stink Eye
The Lambs Lie Down on Broadway
Okay, well they weren't technically on Broadway but close enough. Point is, the Yanks got served again by the Red Sox. Thought they'd get saved by the mercy rule, but you've got to be down by ten for that to kick in, and right now there is no mercy for the Yanks or their fans.
It was close for a minute--a two run game after seven--then Jose Veras and David Robertson got bombed in the eighth and that was that. 11-3 was the final. Sidney Ponson gave up four runs and didn't make it out of the fourth while Paul Byrd kept the Yankees off balance allowing just a couple of runs over six (I think the Bombers must have hit three or four homers foul against him.) Alex Rodriguez had a pair of doubles in his first two at bats, bouncing back from a tough game on Tuesday but that turned out to be a minor positive note in what turned out to be another uninspired loss.
The Yanks are making this easy. The way they are playing it's as if the end of the season can't come soon enough. They don't seem to have any fight in them right now. Man, even if they are going to miss the playoffs it'd be nice to see them play spoiler. That seems like a stretch though doesn't it?
Meanwhile, even more upsetting is this piece from Deadspin. Reportedly, a fan was escorted from the Stadium recently for wanting to use the restroom while "God Bless America" played. Did you guys even know the Yankees had a policy about fan movement during the playing of "God Bless America?" I sure didn't. Over at Futility Infielder, Jay Jaffe pulls no punches:
I've taken many a restroom break during "God Bless America" during my days and nights at Yankee Stadium, and I've not only never been harassed by anyone for doing so, I was never aware that they actually had a policy -- almost certainly illegal and blatantly unconstitutional -- to try to quell such activity. Nonetheless, given the ever-eroding quality of my own experiences at the stadium in recent years, I fear that the allegations are true.
I didn't know about this Yankee Stadium policy but I think it an outrage. It doesn't exactly surprise me but it is beyond disappointing.
No Point in Steering Now
Sho nuff, this has been a down year for our boys. Games like last night just underscore what has been a frustrating season this has been. Still, there's thirty games left. Soon enough, fall will be upon us and there will be no more baseball until the spring. It's looking like there won't be October baseball in the Bronx, which only makes me appreciate what an impressive run the Yanks have enjoyed since 1995. So even if they team isn't that wunnerful, at least we get to watch baseball for a little while longer. And that's nothing to sneeze at.
Ponson vs. Byrd tonight. Can't get any worse. And even if it does, we're prepared. Damn the torpedos and let's go Yan-Kees.
Beating a Dead Horse
I'm as guilty as anyone of beating a dead horse as far as Alex Rodriguez is concerned. Course it ain't as bad as it was a few years ago, but since it is the theme of the day, here's one last link to ponder. From It's About the Money, Stupid, the question is asked: Who is more clutch: Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter?
I called a friend of mine who roots for the Mets this morning to comisserate about a pair of tough losses last night. In no time, it became a competition to see who is suffering more, to figure which loss was more devastating. Misery does love company, don't she?
The Mets blew a 7-0 lead and lost in 13 innings to their division rivals, the Phillies. That makes for a rough, sleepless night. However, the Mets are just a half-a-game out of first place.
The Yankees, on the other hand, are almost out of it completely. They aren't "officially" sunk yet, but last night's loss seems extra painful because it was a game that sums up their entire season. Right now, the Yankees are simply not a team that creates many opportunities, and when they do have opportunities they are not cashing in on them. Spiritually, they are the antithesis of the Dynasty teams. Toss in the fact that the loss came to a Boston team that is not at full strength, and that ain't helping matters. Neither is the thought of the Yanks needing a win with Sidney Ponson on the hill tonight. Granted, Ponson hasn't pitched badly for the Yanks. Still, y'all what I'm talking about.
After the game last night I was apoplectic and I sent my friend Rich Lederer an e-mail:
Rich, who was born and raised in California, and is a level-headed sort, replied:
For the record, here are Rodriguez's rate stats with runners in scoring position since 2000 (thanks to Diane Firstman for the numbers):
Season BA OBA Slug%
Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2008 New York Yankees.
Last night in the comments section, Schteeve asked, "If the 2008 Yankees were a character from fiction who would they be?"
Chyll Will offered: "Gollem: Seems he was good maybe five hundred years ago...Garfield: Old, fat, and not nearly as entertaining as he used to be. Or The Family Circus: stuck in a time warp and way out of touch with reality."
Mr OK Jazz TOKYO wrote: "Charles Foster Kane: Started out with ideals and became a bloated, pompous mess with no friends, spending money wildly and ending up alone in an over-priced tomb."
Jeb had a bunch of winners: "Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby: Looks good, but has no integrity and will ultimately disappoint you. How about Dorian Gray? Seemingly young and virile, but with a picture of themselves in the attic that's aging beyond belief...For some reason I initially kept thinking of Bob Ewell from To Kill a Mockingbird but there was no way that could work unless Yankee fans are Arod's daughter and we're put Cashman on trial for Arod's sins....Hey it does kind of work."
Man, our readers are so cool. What else ya got?
Well, That Didn't Take Long
The Yankees needed to sweep their current series against the Red Sox, so their having lost the first game by the convincing score of 7-3 takes a lot of the excitement out of the remaining two games. Heading into last night's game, the Yankees were counting on Andy Pettitte to come through in what may prove to have been the Yankees' biggest game of the year. He didn't:
"It's extremely frustrating. I hate it. I didn't get it done. I didn't get it done tonight. I wish I could say I felt terrible, but I felt pretty decent. I got out of synch in the first inning and walked a couple of guys, but after that I felt that I was able to throw my all pitches pretty much where I wanted to. I couldn't get anybody out, though."
Johnny Damon staked Pettitte to an early 1-0 lead when he led off the bottom of the first by wrapping a solo homer around the foul pole in right field. Pettitte, who worked around those two two-out walks in the first, got two quick outs in the top of the second, but then the last two men in the Boston order reached on slow rollers up the third base line and Jacoby Ellsbury plated one of them with a single to left to tie the game.
The Yankees answered right back with a run in the bottom of the inning on two-out singles by Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano, and Jose Molina, but Pettitte gave that run and one more back in the top of the third on doubles by David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis and a single by Jason Bay. It was still 3-2 Sox in the top of the fifth when Jason Bay singled back up the middle off Pettitte to spark a two-out rally.
"I had two outs and was hoping to have a 1-2-3 inning and then the inning turned into a horrible inning. Just frustrating. I felt like it was a pretty good pitch on the outside corner to [Bay]. I think he got into a count [2-2] where I had to throw a little bit more over the plate than I wanted to out there. I thought I threw a good back-door curveball to the next kid [Jed Lowrie] and he hit it, ground ball [single] in between second and third, and then, again, I thought I threw a good changeup in a good count [1-2] to [Jeff] Bailey, and he just rolled it right down the line on the bag. It's frustrating. I gave up those three runs early. I broke out my changeup in the fourth, and I was throwing it for strikes when I wanted to. It was a game where I thought that as soon as I started throwing that for strikes the way I was, the way I was locating my fastball, it was a game I could carry into the seventh inning or so and hold them to three right there, but obviously it didn't work out like that. I just, I didn't get the job done."
In between Lowrie's single and Bailey's infield hit, Coco Crisp singled Bay home to make it 4-3. Bailey's hit would have been a two-run double, but it ricocheted off the third base bag to Alex Rodriguez, who quickly fired it across the diamond to Jason Giambi, but Bailey beat the throw and Crisp, who had stolen second, never hesitated and scored anyway to make it a two-run infield hit aided by Giambi mistakenly thinking Bailey had been ruled out and thus not throwing home.
That sequence of events made it 6-2 Sox and bounced Pettitte with two out in the fifth. Damon added a second solo homer off Wakefield in the bottom of the inning, but Brian Bruney gave that run back in the top of the sixth on a Jason Bay sac fly after walkking the bases loaded.
From there things got ugly, though the 7-3 score would remain unchanged. The Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the seventh against Manny Delcarmen, bringing Alex Rodriguez to the plate as the tying run against Justin Masterson. Rodriguez took a fastball down the middle at the knees, then took and ill-advised hack at a slider down and in and ground into an inning-ending double play, bringing out the boos for the first time this season.
The Yankees got the first two men on in the eighth against Masterson, but Hideki Okajima came on for an eight-pitch battle with Matsui that ended in curveball that dove across the zone for called strike three. Okajima then got Cano to pop out on a full-count, and Jonathan Papelbon came on to retire Ivan Rodriguez on one pitch. An error by Lowrie in the bottom of the ninth simply allowed Rodriguez to come to the plate to make the last out with a runner on base.
On the night, Rodriguez went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, two double plays, and an error in the field, and left seven runners on base. He fell on his sword after the game:
"It was an awful night. For me personally, it was a long night, pretty much screwed it up anyway you can screw it up. . . . My team expects me to get big hits and make plays, and tonight I didn't do that. Johnny, Jeet, and Bobby worked great at-bats all night [combined 6 for 11 with two walks] and I just killed the rally . . . . No one's more frustrated than me. Everyone's desperate for wins. A night like tonight, I was booing myself. . . . We've always said you want to get a good pitch to hit and put an A swing. On that double play [in the seventh], it wasn't a good pitch to hit, and it wasn't an A swing. . . . Today we sucked. I sucked. I played terrible, and they hit balls all over the place down at the corner at third base, and I left men all over the field. . . . tonight you can put it on me."
I'd actually put it on Pettitte, if I had to point a finger, but Rodriguez was his accomplice. With that in mind, I found this post-game comment from Johnny Damon interesting:
"[Alex is] out there busting his butt. He still works harder than all of us in here. He had that off night and that's unfortunate. This was a night when we needed to get something and unfortunately, we couldn't get anything from him. He expects to be the greatest player ever, and unfortunately on a day-by-day basis that doesn't really translate at times. It's tough to be the best player on the field every single day. He expects to be, and unfortunately tonight he wasn't."
The Yankees weren't a playoff team last night, either.
Boston Red Sox V: One More Time, With Feeling
In recent years, as the Yankees have found themselves fighting an uphill battle toward the postseason in the final weeks and months of the regular season, I've often stressed the importance of the team controlling it's own destiny. Any time a team either holds a potential playoff position, or has more games remaining against the team they're trailing than the number of games by which they trail that team in the standings, they control their own destiny. In those cases, all the team in question needs do to make the playoffs is match their rival's record against third-party opponents and take care of business in their head-to-head matchups.
Right now, the Yankees do not control their own destiny.
Despite having six games left against the Yankees, the Rays have put the AL East out of reach. Meanwhile, it would behoove Yankee fans to root strongly for the second-place Twins to overtake the division-leading White Sox in the Central, as there's some chance of the Yankees gaining control over their Wild Card destiny before the Chisox visit the Bronx in three weeks provided it's Chicago and not Minnesota that they're chasing. As it stands, however, the only opposing team over which the Yankees have any meaningful control is the Boston Red Sox, who come to the Bronx tonight for a three-game series that will be the last meeting between the two rivals at Yankee Stadium.
The Red Sox are limping into town. Josh Beckett was supposed to start tonight, but has been scratched due to numbness in his pitching arm. J.D. Drew hasn't played in more than a week due to back pain and is likely headed to the DL. Already on the disabled list is third baseman Mike Lowell, and replacing Beckett tonight is Tim Wakefield, who will be activated from the DL to make the start. Despite these set-backs, the Sox have played well in August, posting a .667 winning percentage, their best single-month mark of the season. Still, they remain vulnerable. The Yankees took two of three from the Sox at Fenway at the end of July. This week, the Bombers really need to sweep.
Consider that idea of controlling one's own destiny. If the Yankees sweep the Sox, they'll wake up Friday morning two games behind Boston with three games remaining at Fenway and right in the thick of the Wild Card race (the White Sox are off Thursday, so a sweep would also move them within four games of Chicago with those four head-to-head games remaining). However, if the Yankees lose just one game in this series, they'll wake up on Friday four games behind Boston with those three left to play. With a single loss in this three-game series, the Yankees will forfeit their control over their rivals, leaving them completely at the mercy of the teams ahead of them in the standings.
It's been a rough season for the New York Yankees, but if they think the Red Sox have had it any easier, they're wrong. It all started with Curt Schilling's season-ending biceps injury at the outset of spring training. Since then, Beckett, Wakefield, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz, and Bartolo Colon have all spent time on the DL. Lowell is currently on the DL for the second time this season, he's joined there by Julio Logo, who has missed more than a month with a quad tear. Drew has avoided the DL thus far but could land there any day, and David Ortiz missed two months due to a wrist injury. In the bullpen, Mike Timlin and David Aardsma have made repeat visits to the DL. Both Alex Cora and Sean Casey hit the DL for several weeks as April turned in to May, and Casey has sat out the last week with a stiff neck.
That's just the injuries. Buchholz, the Red Sox's answer to Joba Chamberlain, struggled upon his return from injury and has since been demoted due to poor performance. Julian Tavarez pitched his way off the team entirely. Though he enters this series coming off a solid week and a half, Jason Varitek was hitting just .212/.304/.338 for the season on Aug 15. David Ortiz came off the DL to face the Yankees on July 25 and hit well in his first week, but without Manny Ramirez hitting behind him, he's batted .237/.376/.421 in August with just three home runs.
Of course, Ortiz's struggles likely have more to do with his wrist than who's hitting behind him. To begin with, it's not Jason Bay, Ramirez's replacement in left field, but Kevin Youkilis who is now hitting behind Ortiz, and Youkilis has hit .333/.397/.621 since moving to that spot in the order. Bay bats behind Youkilis and has thus far done an excellent job of matching Ramirez's production for the Sox this season:
Manny w/ BOS: .299/.398/.529
The Sox have turned over their four, five, and six-place hitters since last facing the Yankees in late July--replacing Ramirez, Drew, and Lowell with Youkilis, Bay, and Jed Lowrie--but their offense has only improved over that span, with Lowrie chipping in with a .343/.425/.600 line since taking over for Lowell two weeks ago.
Still, the Red Sox are vulnerable. With Lowrie and company moved into the middle third of the order, the bottom third looks like what the Yankees had been running out there much of the season. Also, with Beckett out of this series, the pitching matchups give the Yankees hope.
Wakefield and Pettitte debuted with their current teams in 1995. They first faced each other in May 1997.
Wakefield comes off the DL tonight to face Andy Pettitte. The Yanks touched up Wakefield for six runs in 5 1/3 innings on July 26. In that same game, Pettitte struck out seven Sox in six innings and surrendered just one earned run. Over his last three starts, Pettitte has posted a 3.00 ERA and struck out 14 in 21 innings against six walks and no homers. Tomorrow, Sidney Ponson faces Paul Byrd. Ponson's two worst outings as a Yankee were his last and his last against the Red Sox, but the Yankees scored nine runs in 12 innings against Byrd over two starts earlier in the year, when Byrd was with Cleveland.
Those two games set up a potential pitching duel on Thursday as Jon Lester, who was rocked by the Blue Jays in his last start but has dominated the Yankees in two starts this year (17 IP, 14 H , 2 R, 3 BB, 16 K), takes on Mike Mussina, who has a 3.00 ERA, and 24 Ks against 4 walks and a homer in 33 innings over his last five starts and threw six shutout innings at the Sox in early July, the last time he faced them at the Stadium.
This is easily the most important series the Yankees have played all season, which is exactly as it should be. Whatever happens, the Red Sox's final visit to Yankee Stadium will be one worth watching.
Heads Down, Knuckle Up
Yanks hope they can hang with the knuckler tonight.
Simple Pleasures are the Best
My grandfather and my niece picking corn in Belgium, 1988
When I was growing up my brother, sister and I took turns visiting my mother's parents in Belgium during our summer vacation. Each year one of us would go over and stay for a few weeks where they lived, in a small village between Brussels and Waterloo. My grandmother loved getting dressed up and hauling us around to visit relatives all across the country. My grandfather and I would come along and would be polite though we were bored out of our minds. I prefered to stick around my grandparent's house, where the days moved slowly and were generally organized around food.
My grandfather taught me how to drive on the old stone streets near his home. I was nervous about driving---learning how to do it on a vehicle with a choke didn't help matters any. He insisted I get over my fears and get on with it. So we'd drive a few minutes down the road, bumping along to the corn fields where we'd pick baby corn--this was corn for the cows not sweet corn--and then come back home, saute the little guys in some olive oil and eat them whole for lunch.
The driving wasn't much fun for me, but picking the corn, shucking it and giving the outside leaves to the cows next door, and then eating those little suckers is one of my fondest memories of summers abroad.
Start of The Ending
Tonight is the first of the final three games the Boston Red Sox will play at Yankee Stadium. Here are some links n things...
First off, Steve Lombardi breaks down the pitching match-ups at Was Watching.
"When they tear down a ballpark like that, obviously the history that's going on in New York, you miss it," Mike Timlin said. "It's one of the first major ballparks that I ever played in, when I was coming up with the Blue Jays. You step back, you feel the history, you know what has happened in Yankee Stadium. Yeah, you'll miss it."
It has become an enervating task, to get oneself up for another Yankee-Red Sox game, outside this site the vitriol will once again elevate to a point that I no longer find comfortable or commensurate with these regular season games. This may sound crazy, but it would almost be nicer if our teams were in fourth and fifth place, fighting for nothing, and we all could watch the games for the sport of it, rid ourselves of the overlying tension of the rivalry and the zero-sum nature of the results.
Gearin' Up for Yanks-Sox
Peace to Matt Cerrone for the link:
Today on ‘s New York Baseball Today, SNY’s Brian Custer and Ted Berg, and Alex Belth from Bronx Banter, talk about who could be called upon to replace John Maine in the rotation, and whether the Yankees need to sweep the Red Sox to stay in the race, which you can watch by clicking play below:
It's Like an Irish Wake Up in Here
So there I was bummed out by the news of my barber's retirement when, apropos of nothing, my twin sister sent me this link:
The Long Climb to Greatness
Mussina deserves to be a Hall of Famer, even if he never wins 20 games in a season, or 300 in his career for that matter.
A Death in the Family
For most of us, death will not announce itself with a blare of trumpets or a roar of cannons. It will come silently, on the soft paws of a cat. It will insinuate itself, rubbing against our ankle in the midst of an ordinary moment. An uneventful dinner. A drive hom from work. A sofa pushed across a floor. A slight bend to retrieve a morning newspaper tossed into a bush. And then, a faint cry, an exhale of breath, a muffled slump." *
The summer is almost over: The last days of Yankee Stadium are upon us. Over the weekend, my neighborhood was crowded with kids returning to Manhattan College. A few days ago I went to Brooklyn to get my haircut. I hadn't been in a few months and was starting to look downright shaggy. When I walked into the shop, early in the morning, the owner Ray was sitting in his chair. I noticed the place looked bigger and asked where my barber, Efrain was.
"He's gone," said Ray.
As in retired, not dead. Up and left three weeks ago. Moved to Florida with his wife. Didn't tell any of his few remaining clients. He only gave Ray a few days notice.
"His legs have been hurting him," said Ray.
I felt stunned although not surprised. I had been waiting for the day that I walked into the shop to discover that Efrain was gone--retired or dead--for some time now. I sat in Ray's chair and listened to him as he cut my hair. But I didn't really hear him. I could only think back on Efrain.
Take The Long Way Home
The Yankees jumped out to a 7-2 lead in Baltimore this afternoon, bouncing Daniel Cabrera in the fourth after he'd thrown 95 pitches. The problem was that Darrell Rasner wasn't much better, using up 98 pitches in 3 1/3 innings and leaving men on first and second for David Robertson, who needed just two pitches to allow both to score. In the fifth, Robertson left a man on for Edwar Ramirez, who needed just two pitches to allow a game-tying home run to Brian Roberts.
Robinson Cano broke the tie with a 425-foot homer to dead center off lefty Jamie Walker in the seventh and Jose Veras, Damaso Marte, and Mariano Rivera made it hold up as the Yankees won an 8-7 game that lasted a minute more than four hours.
Peter Abraham before the game Joe Girardi denied that Marte had any health issues. If Marte can build on today's "comeback" performance, he could have a huge impact on the remainder of the Yankees' season.
As for Rasner, he said he was disgusted with his performance and that it felt like he had never pitched before, while all concerned (Rasner, Girardi, and catcher Ivan Rodriguez) said he was simply leaving his pitches up in the zone.
Up in Toronto, the Red Sox won a 11-inning game that took just three hours and 42 minutes, while the White Sox beat the Rays at home in a tenth-inning walk-off set up by an interference call on a rundown and took over the lead in the Central with the Twins losing to the Angels. As a result, your Wild Card standings look like this heading into this week's showdown in the Bronx:
Team W-L GB
Still Not Dead
The Yankees are 5-3 since returning from their miserable cross-country road trip, 5-2 since Mariano Rivera lost a game with a wild pitch, and 3-1 since Johnny Damon dropped two fly balls in Toronto. Most of those wins have come against the last place Royals and Orioles, but at this point in the season, wins are wins, and the Yankees need 'em whenever they can get 'em.
Trailing the Red Sox by five games heading into today's action, the Yankees could enter their upcoming three-game set against the Bosox in decent shape if they can pull out a sweep of the O's this afternoon. While Darrell Rasner and Daniel Cabrera face off in Baltimore, the Sox will have to contend with A.J. Burnett, who twirled 7 2/3 shoutout innings against them when he last faced Boston on May 1.
More good news, Rasner has a 3.38 ERA with 11 Ks and just 14 baserunners in 16 innings in his last three games (including one relief appearance). Most recently, he matched Burnett for 6 2/3 innings in Toronto, allowing just three hits over that span and no runs until a solo homer in the seventh.
Heck, if Carl Pavano can come off the DL and deliver a win, which he did yesterday, anything's possible. That just might be the Yankees' rallying cry the rest of this season.
Cool Hand Mo
Last night, Mariano Rivera's son worked as the bat boy for the Yanks and he wore #42 just like his old man. With one out in the ninth inning, the boy was perched on the top step of the dugout, leaning over the fence. Tony Pena told him to step down and the boy sat next to Pena on the bench. Girardi was next to them. I wondered what it must be like to be the son of a big leaguer. The rest of the men on the team must really accept you into the fold.
The next time the YES cameras cut back to the dugout the boy was back on the top step. Joba Chamberlain was next to him. They watched the kid's father put the Orioles down quickly. When Nick Markakis checked his swing on a full-count pitch, Joba said, "That's it" as the team moved out of the dugout and onto the field. The home plate umpire pointed at Markakis, who had held-up on a check swing just a few pitches earlier. An appeal was made to third but Laz Diaz just smiled as he walked off the field.
The young Rivera, like his old man, was calm and composed. A few minutes later, the YES cameras showed the kid following behind his father, a double-vision of #42. For a moment I wondered, what if Rivera is a mean parent? What if he is cold and distant? What if the kid will never be able to live up to the pressure of being the son of a famous athlete? Then I allowed myself to have a nicer fantasy--what if being Mariano Rivera's son really is all it's cracked up to be? What if he's a great dad?
Reality lies somewhere inbetween I'm sure, but that looked to be about as cool a bring-your-kid-to-work-day as you could ever see, right?
Gettin Better All the Time
Bob Klapisch writes about his very scary injury for the first time today. Excellent, sobering piece by Klap. Check it out.
When the Legend Becomes Fact, Pitch the Legend
Above: Carl Pavano holds the Orioles at bay.
It was a thrilling night in Baltimore, as tens of thousands witnessed what appeared to be a live Carl Pavano on a Major League pitching mound. Long assumed to be only a hoax or legend, the Pavano was caught from multiple angles by the YES Network cameras. Not only do we now appear to have definite proof of its existence but -- perhaps most stunning of all -- the Pavano was videotaped throwing five innings for the win, as the Yankees beat Baltimore 5-3.
Above: Carl Pavano arrives at the ballpark before last night's game.
The Yankees, seemingly unafraid of the mysterious creature crouched in their dugout, scored two runs in the first, on an Alex Rodriguez double and a Jason Giambi “infield hit” (he should send the official scorer a bouquet). The Pavano, however, appeared to be spooked by all the noise, crowds, and sudden movements; it allowed far too many base runners in its first two innings, and was lucky to let no more than three runs score in the second. Thereafter, however, it settled down, and went on to have -- under the remarkable circumstances -- a fairly decent outing.
Above: A young Yankee fan in Camden Yards enjoys Pavano's pitching performance.
The Yankees retook the lead in the third on a Jason Giambi bomb and never gave it back, eventually tacking on a fifth run when Hideki Matsui homered. (According to Variety, the film rights for Godzilla vs. Pavano have already been snapped up by Universal). Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, and Mariano Rivera pitched a combined four innings to lock down the victory for the Pavano, which by then had retreated to the visitor's locker room in search of something dangerously sharp, heavy and precariously balanced, or poisoned.
Above: Pavano relaxes in a hot tub after the game.
[UPDATE: EDITOR'S NOTE: The Pavano spotted by thousands in Camden Yards last night, and hailed as a real phenomenon by viewers around the world, now appears to have been an elaborate hoax. Further investigation has revealed compelling evidence suggesting that this was all a daring prank, and that "the Pavano" was, in actuality, an incredibly lifelike and realistic suit worn by Scranton pitcher Kei Igawa. We sincerely apologize for the error.]
Wonder what kind of comedy we'll see out of Carl Pavano and the Yanks tonight...
Wrecks N Effects
Erik Wolf has started a website in the name of saving Yankee Stadium:
This irreplaceable stadium can be put to good and profitable public use. Minor league baseball, affordable for the masses can be played here (with admission prices for even the best seats a lot cheaper than the 00 the top priced seat will go for in the new Stadium. And more to the point, just as Mayor Bloomberg has recently announced that a branch of the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame will be moving to New York, what about a branch of the Baseball Hall of Fame in the House That Ruth Built?
You didn't think the House that Ruth Built was going to go out without someone saying something about it, did you? Head on over to the site and sign the petition to save the Stadium if you are so moved.
Kick in the Pants
There has been a lot of talk lately that none of this slumping would have ever happened to Robinson Cano had Larry Bowa still been around. I don't know that I disagree but man, that really doesn't say a whole heck of a lot about Cano, does it? He's not a college athlete after all, he shouldn't need a coach to keep him in line. But as Jack Curry points out in a post over at Bats, Bowa really did have an impact on Cano.
Objects In Box Score May Be Closer Than They Appear
The Yankees beat the Orioles 9-4 last night, but the game wasn't nearly that close, and Mike Mussina did not pick up his 17th win of the season. As late as two outs into the top of the ninth inning, the Yankees' lead was just one run, and they had taken that lead just the inning before.
The Yankees got on the board right away in the top of the first when Bobby Abreu singled home Johnny Damon, who had doubled to start the game (in between, Derek Jeter picked up the 2,500th hit of his career, a flare that dropped in behind second baseman Brian Roberts). The Orioles got that run right back in the bottom of the first when Roberts singled, stole second, and scored on a two-out Aubrey Huff single. Huff singled home another run in the third, and Ramon Hernandez homered off Mussina in the fourth to give the O's a 3-1 lead, but the Yanks tied it back up in the top of the fifth when Robinson Cano and Jose Molina (!) led off with back-to-back home runs off O's starter Radhames Liz.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Kevin Millar hit a ground rule double and Luke Scott singled to put runners on the corners. With Mussina at 99 pitches and the score still tied, Joe Girardi came out to the mound for a quick gut check with his starter. Mussina stayed in the game, but Hernandez hit a sac fly to deep left to give the O's a 4-3 lead before Jose Molina threw out Scott stealing to end the inning. After 110 pitches, that was it for Mussina, who would leave the game without pushing his win total past 16. If he stays healthy, Mussina could make seven more starts this season.
With two outs and no one out in the ninth, Abreu picked up his fifth hit when a grounder to second base skipped past Roberts. Alex Rodriguez then hit a ground rule double to left that, like his double the previous inning, held Abreu at third base. That brought up Jason Giambi's spot, but in protecting his slim one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, Joe Girardi had put Cody Ramsom in as a defensive replacement at first base. Facing righty reliever Francisco Cabrera, who had come in to face Rodriguez, Ransom worked the count to 2-1, then blasted a hanging breaking ball into the seats in left for his second home run in as many at-bats as a Yankee, giving the Bombers an 8-4 lead. Xavier Nady then hit Cabrera's next pitch to dead center for a solo shot that made it 9-4 and Mariano Rivera, who had come on in relief of Damaso Marte with two outs in the eighth, worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning on ten pitches to nail down the win.In other news, Phil Hughes had another rough outing last night as the SWB Yanks clinched a playoff spot in a wild 13-12 walkoff win. Hughes' line in his last two starts: 7 IP, 18 H, 13 R, 1 BB, 10 K. Regardless of what Carl Pavano does tomorrow, he was the right choice.
Baltimore Orioles V: Last Throes Edition
The last time the Yankees and Orioles played, the Yankees suffered a let-down coming off a series win in Boston and their 8-1 start to the second half. Going into this weekend's three game series in Baltimore, I can't help but look ahead to the Yankees' three-game set against the Red Sox at the Stadium next week. Here's hoping the Yankees are able to stay focused on the task at hand and build up some momentum heading in to that Boston series which, if it doesn't go well, could seal the Yankees fate this season. The Yankees enter tonight's action trailing both the Red Sox and Twins by six games for the Wild Card lead. They have six games left against the Sox, none left against the Twins, and six left against the Blue Jays, who are just a game behind the Yanks after last night's win.
The Yankees are an alarming 5-7 against the last-place Orioles this season, and a mere 2-4 at Camden Yards on the year, though they've not been to Baltimore since the end of May. Since losing two of three to the O's in the Bronx at the end of July, the Yankees are 8-12. The Orioles, meanwhile, are 10-9 since leaving the Bronx, their only two series losses over that span coming against the Angels and Red Sox.
Not so fast. Five starts ago, Mussina gave up two dingers and six total runs in five innings against . . . the Orioles. In two starts against his former team this season, Moose has allowed 13 runs in 5 2/3 innings. His last start at Camden Yards was also his final start of the 2007 seaon. He gave up six runs in five innings. As for Liz, the 25-year-old Dominican righty posted a 2.67 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP while striking out 27 in as many innings in triple-A this month, and in two relief appearances against the Yankees last year totaling 4 1/3 innings, he allowed just one run while striking out five and allowing as many baserunners. Though most of those innings game in mop-up duty against the Yankees' subs, the Yankees in tonight's starting lineup who have faced him are a combined 1-for-10 with four strikeouts against Liz.
Are there any encouraging signs heading into this series? Hideki Matsui has just two hits in 11 plate appearances since returning, but they've been good for six total bases (.545 slugging) and three RBIs. He's also struck out only once and grounded out only twice, which suggests his swing is in good shape. Derek Jeter has hit .317/.382/.440 since June 1, .392/.434/.486 in August, and is 17-for-32 on his current seven-game hitting streak. Bobby Abreu is hitting .328/.407/.531 since the All-Star break. Uhm . . . that's about it.
Card Corner: Dick Tidrow
Dick Tidrow wouldn’t fit into today’s game. In an era in which pitchers have become so specialized—there are set-up men, lefty specialists, innings eaters, one-inning closers, five-inning starters, crossover relievers, and never shall any of these categories overlap—no one would fully appreciate Tidrow’s value. That’s because a large part of Tidrow’s value was the actual versatility he brought to the pitching table. He could pitch set-up relief, serve as a long man, close out games occasionally, and fill in as a starter on a moment’s notice. He could perform all of those roles effectively, sometimes within a span of about two weeks, making him one of the most subtle but vital contributors to the Yankees’ mini-dynasty of 1976 to 1978.
Yet, Tidrow didn’t become a bastion of versatility overnight. Bursting onto the major league scene in 1972, Tidrow emerged as a durable right-handed starter for the rebuilding Cleveland Indians. Pitching only occasionally in relief, Tidrow made 74 starts for the Indians in 1972 and ’73, logging over 500 innings in the process. As the Indians’ number-two starter (behind Gaylord Perry), the young workhorse pitched well enough in 1972 to earn The Sporting News’ American League Rookie of the Year award. After a poor four-game stretch to start the 1974 season, the Indians foolishly included Tidrow in the deal that sent Chris Chambliss to the Yankees for an array of can-miss prospects and pitchers. It was another in a series of brilliant moves by Yankee general manager Gabe Paul, who knew the Indians’ talent base as well as anyone, having worked for the Tribe prior to his relocation to New York.
Yankee manager Bill Virdon called on Tidrow 33 times that season—25 games as a starter and eight as a reliever. The following year, Tidrow worked solely in relief, pitching primarily as Sparky Lyle’s main set-up man, at first for Virdon and then for Billy Martin. Except for two spot starts, Tidrow remained in that role exclusively through the end of 1976. During that time, he built up the trust of Martin, who loved Tidrow’s durability and willingness to take the ball. So in 1977, Martin tested Tidrow by starting him seven times, giving him the ball 42 times out of the pen, and allowing him to finish 26 of those games. In his seven starts, Tidrow compiled a spotless record of 5-0. On the season, Tidrow won 11 games, saved five others, and logged 151 innings. Who does that in today’s game? No one does, that’s who.
Yankee Panky #62: Right On to Write Off?
Monday's front page of Yahoo! Sports displayed a graphic that I believe summarizes what many of us who follow the Yankees are feeling: a midnight-blue coffin bearing the Yankees' top-hat-and-bat logo underneath a banner reading "RIP YANKEES AND PLAYOFFS." Coolstandings.com, a site that calculates each team's playoff chances by simulating the remainder of the season for all 30 MLB teams 1 million times every day, has the Yankees' playoff chances down to 6.6 percent.
With 35 games left—a third of those coming against Tampa and Boston—the now six-game Wild Card deficit is not insurmountable. The Yankees are still mathematically in it, but as the losses aggregate, it's growing difficult to be optimistic about giving Yankee Stadium a proper sendoff with October baseball.
Newsday's Mark Herrmann agreed with that position in his Sunday column, advising fans not to count on a happy ending this season.
Even certain circles of the blogosphere have soured on the team. This from NoMaas on Aug. 17:
Compared to Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and some of the baffling Olympic commentary (Al Trautwig's descriptions of Nastia Liukin stretching were borderline pedophilic, and Andrea Kremer's interviews from the Water Cube have demonstrated that she's out of her element), I'll admit, the Yankees haven't exactly been holding my interest, either. Carl Pavano starting on Saturday has me interested in the team, but not for the right reasons. I'm ready to place the over/under at five innings before Pavano discovers another injury and removes himself from the game.
On the Desperation Meter, Pavano's start isn't close to having Kevin Brown start Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, but Joe Girardi could pencil in "Last Resort" as an alias for Pavano at Camden Yards and few would know the difference. Consider the following paragraphs from Mr. GAK III of the New York Post:
It's fortunate that Pavano is making this start in Baltimore. That may not be enough of a break, however. Without the Olympic coverage that has pushed baseball to mid-section status on some editors' agendas, Pavano will be front and center and a surefire headliner for the Sunday papers. His anxiety level will be high. The stress might have killed him if he was making this start in the Bronx.
What with all my attention focused on the final year of Yankee Stadium, I haven't paid as much notice to what's happening out in Queens. It is the last season at Shea too, and the Mets have more than a decent chance to play baseball in October.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm not a big fan of the stadium," Seaver said before last night's game against the Braves. "It's strictly an architectural observation.
Seaver is right on here. In some ways, the same can be said about Yankee Stadium. The rennovated Stadium may not be as grand as the original version, but for a generation of Yankee fans, it is home. And it is the relationships we've had with our family and friends at the park, our relationships with the players, from Steve Balboni to Bernie Williams, that makes the place special.
So Fresh, So Fresh
The town is dead and I love it. There's nothing better than New York City when it's practically empty. Everyone will be back from vacation soon, back to work, back to school, and the subways will be crowded again in the morning. But for the next ten days, we've still got the town to ourselves. And I just love a farmer's market in late August--peaches, corn, and all of those amazing tomatoes.
Good and good for ya.
The Return of Rumpofglassskin
Hard as it may seem to believe, it's true: Carl Pavano will start for the Yankees tomorrow against the Orioles. Tyler Kepner has more...There will be no shortage of wise cracks from the peanut gallery over the next couple of days, that's for sure.
Sir Sidney had nothing and was torched by the Blue Jays' hitters tonight and they weren't done. They had 21 hits in all and the score was 14-3 when the fireworks was over.
Yanks face Doc Halladay tonight in Toronto. A formidable task for sure. But who knows? Stranger things have happened. Maybe they get him on an "off" night. Maybe Sir Sidney Ponson has another good outing. Maybe pigs will fly.
Either way, Let's Go Yan-Kees.
Sign of the Times
The Red Sox are clearly the third most popular team in New York these days. Ten years ago you'd rarely see someone wearing a Red Sox hat, and when you did, it was hard not to have some grudging admiration for the brave soul. Now that the Red Sox are a success the bandwagon is full and Sox fans can rock their gear without shame. They are a dime a dozen. This trend will eventually pass but not anytime soon.
And so long as the New York Times owns a piece so the Red Sox we'll continue to see features in the sports page like Jack Curry's piece on Jed Lowrie. Curry has been with the Sox in Baltimore the past couple of days.
Why would the Times assign their lead baseball feature writer to follow Boston? They aren't playing the Yankees until next week. Because at the Times, the Sox matter almost as much as the Yankees or the Mets.
It's a sorry state of affairs but that's the way it is.
Meanwhile, in more regional affairs, Tyler Kepner has a nice post over at Bats, and asks the question: Should the Yankees re-sign Bobby Abreu?
Steven Goldman, writing in the New York Sun, thinks 2009 might be more of the same, or worse, for the Yanks. His suggestion? Bust 'em up, baby:
With next year's pitching staff likely to be at least as unsettled as the current edition, the Yankees are in a difficult spot. If baseball teams don't decide when to rebuild, the gods of baseball tend to decide for them. There's a penalty to holding on too long, to having the issue forced: Your team might turn into the Baltimore Orioles (in the Yankees' case, Jeter standing in for the aging Cal Ripken). Hence, the Yankees should be broken up now, by Brian Cashman, with the veterans sent out of town by August 31 for the best offers available.
That'd be a bold move. Doubt it'll happen though.
Break it Down
Over at Baseball Intellect, Alex Eisenberg takes a look at Joba Chamberlain's mechanics.
Fun, thought-provoking stuff. Excellent job by Eisenberg.
Sounds Around Town
I was downtown last night near Washington Square Park, crossing Fifth avenue, when I saw a black kid on a skateboard gliding up the street. He was listening to music and singing loudly. I smiled and thought, man, I really don't get around downtown much anymore. You just don't see people uptown expressing themselves with such theatricality--here I am, hear me, love me or screw off, I don't care.
I couldn't make out what he was singing until I heard, "I live by the river."
Ah-ha. That made me smile even more. Wouldn't have pegged him for a Clash fan.
Hey Mr. DJ Play that Song
I got caught up working late last night and didn't catch a single pitch of the Yankee game. By the time I got home, shortly before ten, it was over. I turned on Baseball Tonight and waited for the score to appear on the crawl. Wouldn't you know it, the Yankee-Toronto game was the last of the AL scores to appear. While I waited I felt sure that the Yankees had won and for a few moments I thought about sure things. Mariano Rivera is as sure as you get, though he's not perfect of course. The Yankees themselves have been a sure thing for a long time too. That isn't the case this year, sure-things don't last forever, but the fact that you can have them, even for a little while, is something to savor.
Still, the longer it took to get to the score the more I started thinking, maybe they lost again.
But they didn't. Andy Pettitte pitched a nice ball game and Derek Jeter had three hits, including a two-run dinger as the Yanks beat the Jays, 5-1. His batting average is up to .298. The Yankee captain is also two hits shy of 2,500 for his career. Even though he's shown signs of decline this year, unless Jeter gets hurt or starts to deteriorate rapidly, he's virtually a sure thing to reach 3,000. If all goes well he could reach the milestone in three more seasons.
Pretty cool, huh?
You Gotta Believe
...The Yanks will serve the Jays up like Stove Top Stuffin' tonight. And if they don't, if we see Bad Andy, if the Yanks get rocked, well, then I just don't know what.
Let's Go Yan-Kees.
Stop Making Sense
Diane Firstman offers this video look at the Yankees playoff drive:
Get off the Bandwagon
I realize these are truly the dog days for Yankee fans. With each passing day it appears increasingly unlikely that the team will qualify for the playoffs. Not only that, but they are just a tough team to watch in so many ways. This morning I saw two Yankee fans at work and the first thing they did was hide their face as if they were Dracula meeting the morning light. They hung their heads. One of them told me he's not watching anymore. And he's not the first one I've heard that from over the past few weeks.
These are tough times, relatively speaking, and if you've got better things to do with your time than watching a lousy team, that is understandable. But this idea of forgetting your team or giving up on them when they don't live up to our collective expectations really seperates the true fans from the causal rooter.
We'll be here at Bronx Banter win or lose, and that's that. Even if they play like a bunch of bums, we'll be here. We were here when they were winning and we'll be here when they stink. That's a promise.
Glug, Glug, Schlubb
Yanks Drop The Ball
With last night's win, the Blue Jays improved to 5-1 this season in games against the Yankees started by their top two pitchers, A.J. Burnett and Roy Halladay. It was Burnett's turn last night, as he struck out 13 Yankees while allowing just one run on five hits and a walk over eight innings.
The one run came right away in the first inning as Johnny Damon took the first five pitches of the game to draw a walk and Bobby Abreu doubled him home. Abreu has faced Burnett more than any other hitter in Burnett's career and seemed to be the only Yankee not overmatched by him last night, cracking another double in his second at-bat leading off the fourth (Burnett then struckout Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi and got Xavier Nady to ground out) and a sinking liner nabbed by a sliding Adam Lind in the sixth. After Abreu's second double, which was also the Yankees' second hit of the game, the Bombers managed just three singles off Burnett, one of which didn't leave the infield.
Remarkably, Darrell Rasner nearly made that first-inning run stand up. Though he struck out ten fewer men than Burnett, Rasner limited the Blue Jays to just three hits and a walk over 6 2/3 innings. Unfortunately, the last hit was a seventh-inning solo homer by Lind that tied the game. Jose Veras replaced Rasner a batter later, finished the seventh and struck out the first two men in the eighth. Toronto leadoff man Joe Inglett picked up a single with two outs in the eighth, but it seemed an insignificant hit until Marco Scutaro blasted Veras's next pitch to the wall in dead center.
Here's where things went from tense to traumatic. Back in the first inning, following the only walk Rasner issued in the game (to Scutaro), Alex Rios hit a deep fly to the gap in left center. Damon and Nady converged at the ball, but Damon called off Nady and camped under the ball only to have it hit off the outside of his glove and roll away for a two-base error. Fortunately, Scutaro was held at third base and Rasner picked up his center fielder by striking out Vernon Wells and getting Lind to ground out to end the inning. Now, with the game knotted at 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth and Jays closer B.J. Ryan warming up for the ninth, Damon drifted back on Scutaro's blast, turned toward his left to catch the ball a foot shy of the wall, then suddenly turned back to his right stretched and had the ball tip off his glove again, this time for what was ruled a double, but a game-winning RBI double.
Damon was in disbelief. After the game, he remained, to use his word, "baffled." "I just dropped two balls," he said almost to himself, shaking his head and laughing at the absurdity of that fact as if he had to remind himself it actually happened. "Just . . . just . . . awful."
Damon also scored the Yankees' only run of the game, but it was particularly striking to see Damon make two such plays on the day he'd been essentially named the Yankees regular starting center fielder due to the return of Hideki Matsui (who went 0-for-3 with a fly out, a pop out, and a strikeout).
Adding insult to injury, Alex Rodriguez led off the ninth against Ryan by lifting a flare over Lyle Overbay's head at first base. The ball dropped in fair and rolled toward the retaining wall in foul territory with Overbay losing ground in pursuit. Seeing that, Rodriguez sped up and headed for second base, but Overbay made a great play, sliding past the ball to stop it and, in one motion, rising to his feet and firing a one-hop strike to second base to nail Rodriguez by several feet. Jason Giambi then struck out for the fourth time on the night and Xavier Nady hit the first pitch he saw to left field for the final out. 2-1 Blue Jays, as the Yankees continue to find new ways to lose.
Toronto Blue Jays IV: Go, Go, Godzilla! Edition
For the second time in as many series, the Yankees open a three-game set with a significant roster change. On Friday, they promoted Brett Gardner and Cody Ransom at the expense of Melky Cabrera and Richie Sexson. Today, they've activated Hideki Matsui from the disabled list and optioned Justin Christian back to triple-A.
Matsui has been on the shelf since late June due to inflammation in his left knee, but was one of the Yankees best hitters over the first three months of the season, going .323/.404/.458 and failing to reach base in just eight of his 69 games before succumbing to his injury. Matsui has slowly and steadily rehabilitated his knee since then, concluding his work over the weekend by playing in three rehab games with high-A Tampa in which he went 2 for 8 with a solo homer and two walks.
With Matsui back in the fold, two big questions need to be answered. The first is, obviously, "will he hit." The second is, "if he hits, who sits?"
There's no question that Matsui will DH and DH only, that's been stated explicitly by the team, but with Gardner having just been installed in center field and having picked up five hits (including a double, a triple, and a game winner) in the final two games against the Royals, the big question is whose at-bats will Matsui might be taking.
Tonight the answer is Gardner, as Johnny Damon starts in center flanked by Xavier Nady and Bobby Abreu with Jason Giambi at first. To his credit, Joe Girardi has put his best offense on the field (including Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate) against A.J. Burnett, turf be damned. Still, one suspects that if that lineup was intended to be permanent, Gardner, who's being groomed to start, would have been sent down in stead of Christian, who has emerged as a viable bench player. Instead, Gardner's continued presence suggests an intended rotation that will see Girardi continue to rest his stars, be it by giving Damon or Matsui days off, or giving Nady some work at first base in place of Giambi.
No one really knows what to expect from Matsui any more than they know what to expect from Gardner 2.0. If Matsui picks up where he left off and Gardner continues to hit .400 with runners in scoring position, resting Damon and Giambi won't hurt. If Matsui struggles and Gardner's weekend proves to be a fluke, resting Damon and Giambi could undermine what little fight this team seems to have left in it.
Still, replacing Cabrera and Christian with Matsui and Gardner sure feels like a hefty upgrade, even if the offense's biggest problems remain the catchers, Robinson Cano, and Jason Giambi's poor performance with runners in scoring position (which has allowed teams to pitch around Alex Rodriguez in such situations).
The Yanks will need all the pop they can get in Toronto as they have to face not only Burnett tonight, but Roy Halladay on Thursday. The last series between these two teams was also played in Toronto with Burnett and Halladay pitching the bookend games. The Jays won both of those games, while the Yankees pounded Jesse Litsch in the middle match. On the season, the Jays, who are just two games behind the Yankees in the standings, have won four of the nine games between the two teams, with either Halladay or Burnett getting the win in all four victories. The Yankees have won just one game started by either of the Jays' top two starters all year, that coming on Opening Night, when Chien-Ming Wang out-dueled Halladay, 3-2.
The Jays are a better team than they seem. Since Cito Gaston returned to the site of his past glories by replacing John Gibbons as manager at the end of a miserable June for the Jays, Toronto has won at a .580 clip. Had they done that over the rest of the season, they'd be leading the Red Sox in the Wild Card race (only one team in the NL has a winning percentage higher than .580). Over the same stretch, the Yankees have played .520 ball, which is actually worse than their overall winning percentage of .532.
Halladay and Burnett have obviously been key to that run under Gaston (Burnett is 9-2 under Gaston, Halladay has a 2.24 ERA since Cito's return), as has the Jays' dominant bullpen (a MLB-best 3.02 ERA). As for the offense, Vernon Wells spent most of Gaston's first 50 games back at the helm on the DL and has only recently returned. Scott Rolen hit .229/.338/.382 under Gaston before landing on the DL himself. Instead it's been left fielder Adam Lind who has been sparking the lineup, hitting .329/.363/.587 since being recalled two days after Gaston's return. Gaston's other big lineup change was to bench David Eckstein in favor of starting first Marco Scutaro and, with Scutaro now needed in Rolen's place at third base, John McDonald at shortstop. Neither player provides much offense, but Scutaro has out-hit Rolen under Gaston, and McDonald's defense makes Halladay all the more dominant.
Every little bit helps, which brings us back to Matsui. The last time he returned from a long DL stay he went 4 for 4 on his first night back. Of course, that was in mid-September 2006, when the Yankees had a double-digit lead in the AL East. Things are a bit different this year.
Ponson, Pavano and, would you believe, Zambrano. Yup, Joel Sherman mentions Victor Zambrano today in the latest edition of his Hardball blog.
Ol Blue Eyes
"Do you feel like at some point they didn't go out and try to get a pitcher this year because they didn't want to lose some (young) pitchers? That's what it seemed like. They've invested a ton in these guys and, to a certain extent, you can't blame them for doing that.
Tonight, our favorite nemesis, AJ Burnett.
Start Me Up
How do the Red Sox, Yankees and other teams fare against good pitching?
Here's an excellent look...
And just cause, here's my favorite low budget music video of all time:
And Say Children...What Does it All Mean?
Rob Trucks has a good interview with my man Steinski over at the Voice today.
End of Innocence
I don't know about you guys but I find ESPN's wall-to-wall coverage of the Little League World Series to be more than somewhat disturbing. I'm generally not a moralist by nature but I'm just so turned off by watching kids televised as if they were professionals. It doesn't seem right to me, it feels like too much pressure is being placed on them too soon. How can they just kick back and have fun?
This year, the coverage is more pronounced than ever as highlights make their make nightly onto Sportscenter and Baseball Tonight. I simply turn the channel. I just won't watch it.
Anyone else have any thoughts on this?
I Gotta Tell the Suckas Everyday, "Don't Start it"
According to Bryan Hoch at MLB.com, either Carl Pavano or Phil Hughes will be called up to start on Saturday. Carl Pavano. Jeez, imagine?
Caught this link over at Rob Neyer's blog. Has to do with Mariano Rivera and wild pitches. Interesting stuff...
Sunday Home Cookin with Ma
This is one of my favorite times of year in New York City, when half the town is out-of-town. The weekend weather was a gift, low on humidity; the hot late-summer sun was cut nicely by a cool breeze. Cliff and his mom's must have had a b-a-double-l at in the bleachers today as it was Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, Xavier Nady, Jason Giambi and Cody Ransom leading the Yankees to a good old-fashioned Sunday roastin of the KC Royals.
Mike Mussina won his 16th.
“To be to 16 in August, that’s a rarity for me,” Mussina said. “I’ve been doing some things right. I’ve been getting a few breaks. The bullpen has been really good behind me, the guys are scoring me runs, we’ve been playing solid defense. You need all those things to work for you.” (Borzi, New York Times)
Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano each had a couple of hits too.
15-6 was the final. Nothing but Peaches n Cream and a Sunday celebration with Ma.
"Mothers are beautiful, they really are." --Bill Cosby.
My mom took me to a bunch of games when I was a kid--mostly for birthday parties. I don't remember much about them, though one year Mike Gittleson stepped on a pack of mustard outside the Stadium and it splattered on my mom's leg. She didn't skip a beat and rubbed her leg against Mike's removing the mustard from her and putting it on him.
Years later, I was working on my first cutting room job when my mom called in the middle of the day. "I've got two tickets for tonight's game, do you want them?" It was the first round of the 1995 playoffs, the first post-season game the Yankees were in since 1981. Ma lives and works in Westchester and she offered to drive to Manhattan and drop off the tickets. I said, "Ma, why don't we just meet by the bat and go to the game together?"
So we did, and it was a memorable game of course, one the greatest experiences I've ever had watching the Yanks.
Cliff took his mom with him to the game today to celebrate her birthday. He's only only a good son, but she's a great Ma too. Here's hoping they have a grand time and get to see Moose win his sixteenth game of the year. The Yankee offense has been so bad of late you gotta figure they are gunna unleash soon. C'mon you dummies, do it for Moose and do it for Cliff and his Ma.
Let's Go Yan-Kees!
Does Anyone Here Want to Win this Game?
"What can I tell you?" Royals DH José Guillen said. "That was the kind of game you haven't seen from us in a while. We didn't do any of the little things. A lot of wasted opportunities. Both sides, too. They were the same."
It was a gorgeous afternoon in New York, unseasonably reasonable. The sun dipped in and out of the clouds but it was a terrific day to be outside. The Yankees and Royals played a long game, close to five hours, that lasted thirteen innings. It was another Yankee game filled with aborted offensive rallies, strange managerial moves, good starting (Sir Sidney, once again) and relief pitching, and plenty of frustration. The crowd was mostly silent for the last hour or so; I was fighting off sleep watching from the comfort of my couch. In the end, Brett Gardner slapped the game-winning single to left giving the Yanks a 3-2 win.
According to the Times:
"To be quite honest with you, I don't care who ended it," said Derek Jeter, the Yankees' captain. "We needed to win a game. This would have been a rough one to lose, with so many opportunities."
"It doesn't matter how we win as long as we win," Manager Joe Girardi said. "This was a big win for us today because we've been scuffling, and scuffling to score. Maybe this is the game that gets us back on the winning track and we win a bunch in a row."
The Yankees are going to have to start playing a better brand of baseball to generate any kind of winning streak. They were fortunate to win yesterday. Let's hope the bats finally bust loose today.
Bannanna Peele Appeale
The Bronx Bummers are at it again this afternoon. At this pernt, you've got to laugh to keep from cryin. Here's hoping they give something, anything to cheer for today.
Let's Go Yan-Kees!
Et Tu, Kansas City?
It's been a weird season; I've only recently begun to adjust to the fact that the Devil Rays are 10 games ahead of the Yankees in mid-August. But I thought if there was one thing we could count on in this life, it was Kansas City sucking worse than New York... they're not trying to take that from us, too, are they?
Andy Pettitte wasn't at his best but minimized the damage: seven innings, three runs, it could easily have been worse. Meanwhile the Yankees stranded 11 men and, during the game's first three innings, went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Still, the game was tied at three in the ninth inning when... wait for it... Mariano Rivera threw a wild pitch that allowed the Royals to score what would prove to be the winning run. Rivera blowing games with wild pitches -- I had to pause the Tivo and check to make sure the universe hadn't just collapsed on itself. If that's not a sign that this just ain't their year, I don't know what is.
Because we're now at the point of the season where you have to take your entertainment where you can, I'm absolutely thrilled that Cody Ransom has been called up, one of my favorite names of the spring. I actually actively avoided reading about him in Cliff's farm report and elsewhere, because I want him to remain, in my mind, just the fastest gun on the cattle ranch. I'm trying not to get too good a look at him on TV, either, since it'll just spoil the image. Cody Ransom, if it isn't already, needs to be the name of a tough, reluctantly violent man of few words with a mysterious past who brings harsh justice to a wild border town in an old school western. Or I can see "Cody Ransom" as a full-on John Wayne* in Rio Bravo type; Don Zimmer would be the old coot sidekick – the Walter Brenner role – and Sidney Ponson can play the once-great drunkard pal. "A game-legged old man and a drunk," the Kansas City pitcher will say, "That's all you got?" And Cody Ransom will stare him down and reply, "That's WHAT I got."
Kansas City Royals III: Things That Make You Go Hmmm Edition
Let's get right into it. The Yankees just made three roster moves. The first was obvious: Dan Giese, who left Wednesday's game with shoulder tendonitis, has been placed on the DL and replaced with Chris Britton, who will reprise his role as roster filler until the Yankees are forced to call up a fifth starter, likely Phil Hughes, next weekend.
The second was somewhat overdue. Melky Cabrera, who has hit .226/.274/.293 since May 1, was optioned to triple-A and replaced by Brett Gardner. In fairness to the Yankees, they tried to motivate this exchange in early July by calling up Gardner and giving him 16 starts in an 18-game stretch (enabled by Johnny Damon's shoulder injury), but Gardner made Melky look like Mickey Mantle by hitting .153/.227/.169. As I reported in my Farm Report this morning, Gardner got back in the grove after his late-July demotion, hitting .339/.429/.390* in his return engagement in Scranton. He also returns to the Bronx coming off a 3 for 4 day (with a triple) and on a seven-game hitting streak. After his July performance, it's difficult to say Gardner couldn't be worse than Melky, and there's legitimate concern that his total lack of power will allow major league pitchers to challenge him and thus negate his ability to draw walks, which is a huge part of his game, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and this doesn't even qualify as the latter.
Gardner will start in center tonight and bat eighth ahead of Andy Pettitte's new personal catcher, Jose Molina. It remains to be seen if Joe Girardi will platoon the lefty-hitting Gardner with the right-handed Justin Christian, though one suspects he will. The way I see it, if they're going to give Gardner a second chance, they might as well let him play full time, though certainly Gardner's performance will play a large part in determining how much playing time he loses to Christian. As for Melky, he'll be back when rosters expand in two weeks.
The third and final transaction saw the Yankees call up Cody Ransom, whom I also discussed in my Farm Report, and release Richie Sexson. I have to say, I'm confused about this one. Sexson was hitting .250/.371/.393 as a Yankee, which isn't season-changing, but if nothing else, gave the Yankees a solid on-base performance from a bench player. Against lefties, Sexson hit .273/.393/.455 as a Yankee, which meant he was doing what the Yankees picked him up to do. Ransom, as I said in my Farm Report, is essentially a right-handed Wilson Betemit, but five years older and with a fraction of the big league experience. Originally a shortstop, Ransom can play all four infield positions and spot in the outfield. He transitioned to third base in 2006, but in the wake of the Alberto Gonzalez trade was moved back to short in Scranton a couple of weeks ago. He's got some pop in his bat (22 homers in 116 games for Scranton this year, 49 in 257 games over his last two minor league seasons), but his plate discipline is ordinary at best and he strikes out a lot and hits for a low average.
Other than position flexibility, I'm not sure what Ransom offers that would be enough for the Yankees to pass on having Sexson on the bench earning the major league minimum. Derek Jeter's in the lineup tonight at shortstop, so it doesn't seem as though his bruised instep is enough of a problem to motivate a roster move that costs the team a productive player. The only thing I can think of is that having the extra infielder on hand will allow Joe Girardi to apply some pressure to Robinson Cano, whose play over the past two weeks has become downright problematic as he's made numerous mental mistakes on the bases and in the field, enough so that his effort and concentration have been called into question (Cano's also hitting .210/.279/.323 since the end of the Yankees' eight-game winning streak coming out of the All-Star break). Still, I'm not sure it was necessary to release Sexson in order to give either Betemit or Ransom some starts at second base. Besides which, Cano's in the lineup tonight in his usual spot.
Still, it seems to me that these last two moves are designed primarily to make the C + C Music Factory sweat, while giving Girardi some viable alternatives in the meantime. Sexson's departure doesn't represent a huge loss, particularly with Jason Giambi having heated back up (.288/.447/.515 since the day before the All-Star break, .364/.533/.773 on the just-completed road trip), but Cody Ransom, a career .236/.331/.364 hitter in 140 major league bats at age 31, is still a downgrade, no matter what positions he can play.
*the stats in my Farm Report don't include Thursday's games; these do
It Ain't Over Yet, But...
Observations From Cooperstown--Season on the Edge
With the season on the brink of extinction and with one eye focused on next spring, there’s a lot of ground to cover in Yankeeland. What’s wrong with Robinson Cano? What’s right with Xavier Nady? And why do the Yankees have the most fragile young pitchers? Here’s a smattering of opinions coming from Cooperstown:
*Robinson Cano might not be the biggest individual disappointment in major league baseball this year, but he has to rank among the top five failures. On Wednesday afternoon, he hit rock bottom. Cano went hitless at the plate and committed three mental mistakes in the field as the Yankees fell to the Twins, 4-2, to close out a miserable 3-and-7 road trip. Without those mistakes, the outcome of the road trip finale could have been different.
The Yankees envisioned Cano having a breakout season in 2008, hitting .315-plus with power and playing Gold Glove defense at second base. Instead, they’ve watched Cano sink to his lowest major league levels, as he struggles to hit .265, shows no additional patience at the plate, and waltzes around the infield, playing the position without passion or hustle. The regression is so stunning that I have to believe Cano misses the influence of Larry Bowa, the Yankees’ former third base and infield coach. Bowa, with his relentlessly aggressive style, had a way of lighting a fuse under Cano; without Bowa, Cano plays too often as if he is sleepwalking.
I've Been Fly Since America Had Thirteen States
I got off work and headed downtown yesterday evening just as it started to pour. By the time I reached Union Square, the stairwell leading the street was crammed with people. Some were just waiting for the rain to let up, others were soaking wet. At the top of the stairs an African woman chanted, "Umbrella, umbrella, umbrella." I smiled at her and said, "How's business?" She titled her head at me, paused and then went back to her mantra.
I braved the elements until I got to Fourth avenue and 12th street, where I stopped underneath an overhang, where several people were huddled. I sat and watched the traffic pass. It's funny, the rain. Some people are completely unfazed by it. Others will wait it out cause they can't stand getting wet. A kid in his early twenties passed me, no umbrella, drenched, his t-shirt sticking to his long torso. I remembered being in my early twenties seeing this kid and I smiled at his carefree manner as he strutted by.
Then a familiar face passed. As I thought about who it was, I said, "J?" The dude stopped and sure enough it was J-Live, the MC and record producer. Back in the summer of '01, the year before I started Bronx Banter, I conducted a long interview with J in the basement of The Sound Library, an upscale record shop, when it used to be on Avenue A. This was just after J's second full-length album, All of the Above was released. Although it took some time to pin him down once we spoke, J was insightful and a thoroughly decent guy.
I've drifted from the music scene in recent years though I did hear that J put out a new record earlier this summer. I congradulated him on the new joint (which I haven't heard yet), told him what I'm up to, and then let him go. If it hadn't been raining, I would have never run into him.
The Break Up
Fat and Skinny works in comedy partnerships: Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Siskel and Ebert. The Yankees didn't get the memo when they hired Charlie Steiner to work with John Sterling--it was like Hardy and Hardy.
Mike and the Mad Dog have been the most successful fat and skinny radio duo in sports radio history and now, a few weeks shy of their 19th anniversary at WFAN, they are splitting up. Mike will stay at the FAN. Russo is reportedly going to Sirus.
Like them or not--I found them entertaining in measured doses--they were an institution in New York sports coverage and this is certainly the end of an era.
Here is one of the best Russo rants of them all:
The FAN won't be the same without the Angry Puppy.
July Farm Report
Better late than never, right?
There are just a few weeks left in the minor league season, so my next Farm Report will serve as a summary of the season as a whole. That makes this my last mid-season update. Here's my June Farm Report, which in turn links to May, etc.
The big news in Scranton was the fact that three of the team's starting pitchers were shipped to the Pirates in the Xavier Nady deal. With Daniel McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf, and Jeff Karstens out of the system, the Scranton rotation now consists of a rehabbing Phil Hughes, three-time loser Ian Kennedy, the unwanted Kei Igawa, and double-A call-ups Alfredo Aceves, and lefty Chase Wright. When Kennedy was called up to start for the Yankees, Jason Jones was called up from Trenton to fill his spot. Jones has since been sent back to Trenton, but I expect he'll be recalled when Phil Hughes is called back to the bigs.
Hughes is scheduled to make his fifth rehab appearance on Sunday. In two outings for low-A Charleston, he pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing just five baserunners (three hits and two walks). In two starts for Scranton, he's posted a 2.70 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. In his last start, he struck out four in 5 1/3 innings while allowing just three hits and a walk. He's likely to return to the major league rotation next weekend when the Yankees are in Baltimore.
Aceves has not pitched well in Scranton since having a groin injury delay the start of his triple-A career. In his four starts since stretching back out, Aceves has allowed four runs every time out, resulting in a 6.97 ERA over those four starts, which is paired with a 1.60 WHIP.
Wrote Chad Jennings last week, "To be honest, Aceves has more or less lived up to my expectation -- he throws strikes and doesn't miss by much when he misses -- but hitters at this level seem to be having an easier time making solid, consistent contact than the hitters in Double-A and A ball. Triple-A is an adjustment, and Aceves is going through it. He allowed three hits in the second inning and four hits in the fourth, but he also sent the side down in order in both the first and the third. I don't think he's overmatched at this level, he's just challenged at this level to be more than a guy who throws strikes."
Wright, who went 8-2 with a 2.96 ERA in 16 double-A starts, has made just three starts for Scranton, the last of which was unimpressive. Jones, who went 11-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 21 starts for Trenton, pitched well in his two triple-A starts.
Out in the bullpen is where you'll find Phil Coke, the lefty who was initially reported to be a part of the package for Nady. He's pitched well in his new role, but could return to starting next year.
The big name in the Scranton bullpen is Mark Melancon, who has allowed just one run in 9 2/3 triple-A innings while allowing just six baserunners and striking out ten. Comming off surgery, Melancon has thrown 84 2/3 innings this season, which makes a big-league promotion unlikely (other than to let him hang out on the bench), but he seems sure to be in the picture for next year's pen.
Notes on an American Master
"Bill Heinz is a walking contradiction of the stereotype of the phlegmatic Teuton. He is emotional and demonstrative. He can sink into depressions so deep they would give a sandhog the bends. His highs are several stories high. As cityside reporter, war correspondent, sports columnist, freelance journalist, and novelist, he was and is a dedicated craftsman and a penetrating observer who never gives half measure.
W.C. Heinz, one of the finest journalists this country has ever produced, died earlier this year. A few months ago, a tribute was held in Vermont in his honor, and Adam White wrote a fine piece on the event for the Bennington Banner. In it, he quotes Bob Matteson, who was the editor-in-chief of the Middlebury College newspaper when Heinz was sports editor in 1936-37.
"He could spot make-believe - or phoniness - right away in a person," Matteson said. "And he wanted no part of it."
Therein would seem to lie the key to Bill Heinz's writing, his true method for distilling parable from the mundane. There is a sort of universal admission among those who were close to Heinz that he could be averse to, even dismissive of, certain people and personality types - but there is equally compelling evidence that such an attitude stemmed from his heightened sense of intuition regarding truth. Without such intuition, it is unlikely that he could have even recognized - let alone captured - the majesty and romance that pervades so much of his work.
In the New York Sun, Tim Marchman wonders if next year's Yankees won't look an awful lot like this year's edition.
Yankee Panky 61*: Is It Wait 'Til Next Year Time Already?
In a conversation with our Banter host Alex Belth over the weekend, I said, “I haven’t seen it written anywhere, but how good does Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana look right about now?” Alex’s response (and I paraphrase): “Dude, don’t even say that. Oh, man.”
Well, I’ve seen it written somewhere, but I had to do some searching. My fellow Ithaca College alum, Andrew Marchand of 1050 ESPN Radio had a similar nugget in his Tuesday blog post. He did not tap my phone.
Kennedy’s post-game comments after Friday’s debacle in Disneyland led the Yankees to send him to Scranton on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride for the third time this year.
The Yankees are off today. Perhaps they will rest as they prepare for the short weekend series with the Kansas City Royals. Perhaps they will reflect on a dismal 3-7 road trip that has them in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in the post-strike, Wild-Card era.
The Yanks lost again yesterday, finally ending what Pete Abraham aptly called their 3-7 "stumble across America." It was more of the same--no hitting, and poor, sloppy fielding. Hard to tell where the Yankees' heads are at. Sure ain't in the game. The final was 4-2.
Back up the bugle folks. This team looks out of life.
More Runs Please
D. Rasner is back on the hill this afternoon out in Minnie as the Yanks go for the series win. Pete Abe's got the line-ups.
Last night was exhausting. Let's hope for better things this afternoon.
Peg o My Heart
Alex Rodriguez is having another fine season, but his lack of production with runners in scoring position has been a glaring weakness (a couple of days ago, SG had an informative post on Yankee clutch-hitting). For his career, Rodriguez is .302/.403/.553 with runners in scoring position. Still, over at Dugout Central, John Paciorek has some thoughts as to how Rodriguez can be even better:
Let's compare Rodriguez to Barry Bonds and [Albert] Pujols and see if we can figure out what's going on.
There wasn't anybody on last night in the 12th inning when Rodriguez hit the go-ahead homer. No matter, it was a much-needed shot in the arm for both the team and Rodriguez, especially on a night when Mariano Rivera blew his first save of the year and Hank Steinbrenner all but conceeded the season.
Not Dead Yet
Mike Mussina pitched well enough to earn his 16th win of the season last night, leaving the game after seven strong innings and 104 pitches with a 5-3 lead. The Yankees got to Twins starter Nick Blackburn early when Johnny Damon homered on the second pitch of the game, and though the lead changed hands four times in the early innings, the Yanks began to pull away as Mussina settled down to end his night with three scoreless frames.
An insurance run in the top of the eighth made it 6-3 Yanks, but three batters into the bottom of the inning, Damaso Marte had put runners on the corners, forcing Joe Girardi to go straight to his closer in a game the Yankees really needed to win. Delmon Young fouled off Mariano Rivera's first two pitches, but when the third drifted over the plate, Young smacked it off the opposite-field foul pole for a game-tying home run.
Rivera got the next two outs, then spent the top of the ninth steaming in the dugout, cursing to himself, throwing his gum, staring at the ceiling, and constantly shifting in his seat, unable to keep his blood from boiling.
After the Yankees failed to do anything with a one-out Derek Jeter single in the top of the ninth, Rivera returned to the mound and pitched around a bad call on a two-out infield single by Nick Punto to push the game into extra innings.
Joe Nathan set the Yanks down in order in the top tenth, but Jose Veras returned serve in the bottom of the inning, at which point the discrepancy between Mike Mussina's and Nick Blackburn's performances earlier in the game came back into play. Entering the 11th inning, Joe Girardi had used just three relievers--Marte, Rivera, and Veras, the last of whom came back out and pitched another 1-2-3 inning in the 11th--while Ron Gardenhire had just two left, Matt Guerrier and Brian Bass. Guerrier pitched around a two-out infield single by Johnny Damon in the 11th, but wasn't so fortunate in the 12th.
Alex Rodriguez was 0 for 5 entering the twelfth inning. His previous at-bat came with two outs in the top of the ninth. Derek Jeter had singled earlier in the inning, but the Captain fouled a ball of his left instep earlier in the game and his mobility was limited. After Bobby Abreu made the second out, Girardi sent Melky Cabrera in to run for Jeter so that the Yankees would be able to take the lead on a double. Instead, Rodriguez swung at the first pitch he saw and hit into an inning-ending fielder's choice.
Facing Guerrier in the 12th, Rodriguez took the first pitch for a ball, then crushed the next one over the 408 sign in dead center to give the Yankees their fourth and final lead of the game. Ivan Rodriguez followed with a double, and Xavier Nady, who drove in four of the Yankees' nine runs on the night, topped things off with another homer into the vampire seats off Guerrier.
With Rivera having blown his first save of the year, Edwar Ramirez earned his first save of the season with a 1-2-3 bottom of the twelfth to nail down the much-needed 9-5 Yankee win.
Alex Rodriguez got the key hit, but Nady, Mussina, and the combination of Veras and Ramirez, who pitched three perfect innings, deserve at least as much credit. Now the Yankees have a chance to pull out a series win against Kevin Slowey this afternoon to salvage a 4-6 record on the road trip.
The Yankees' last victory was Mike Mussina's 15th of the season. Now, after a four-game losing streak, Mikey Moose is back to try to make it sweet sixteen and save the sad sack Yanks from slipping into the cellar (or shake them from their slumber, so to speak). To break this bummer, he'll have to beat Nick Blackburn who takes the ball for the bad guys.
The Yanks have faced Blackburn twice this year, once they beat him badly, touching him up for six runs on seven hits (including an Alex Rodriguez homer) in just 1 2/3 innings. The other time, they just broke his nose. Blackburn has a 2.25 ERA in three starts since last facing the Yanks, and I can't imagine he's thrilled to see them again, no matter how poorly they've been playing.
Speaking of which, what's the deal with Robinson Cano? Over the past week or so I've noticed a number of ground balls to both his left and right scoot past him when I was convinced he was at least going to knock them down. As recently as a month or so ago, Cano was one of the best defensive second baseman in the game, and it's quite possible that his fine play has created unrealistic expectations on my part (certainly most if not all of the grounders of which I speak would have required above average to great plays to turn them into outs, but it seems Cano had been making those plays until recently), but what appeared to be one or two well-placed hits "past a lunging Cano" (note: he's not diving) a week or so ago now seem to be regular occurrences. Perhaps not coincidentally, Cano has hit just .222/.276/.352 since the Yankees' eight-game winning streak was snapped in Boston. This team has a lot of problems right now, and that has allowed what seems to be a lackluster effort on Cano's part to go largely unnoticed, but it's worth keeping and eye on and, if real, needs to be addressed by Joe Girardi and his coaching staff.
Johnny Damon is back in the lineup and in center field tonight. Jason Giambi is back in the lineup and at DH. Wilson Betemit plays first base. Melky Cabrera rides pine. As always, Jose Molina catches Mussina.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox picked up Paul Byrd from the Indians for a player to be named later. The roughly league-average, contact-pitching Byrd will replace struggling rookie Clay Buchholz (0-5, 7.42 ERA in six starts since being recalled in early July) in the rotation. Over that same stretch, Byrd, who is a free agent after the season, has gone 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts, but the Yankees didn't bother to put a waiver claim on him, allowing him to slip through to the Red Sox. Bri-Bri, you got some splain' to do.
It Hurts, It Hurts
Jonah Keri reminds us of a painful moment in baseball history. (Thanks to Repoz for the link.) How about a pouring vinegar on a paper cut while you are it, bro?
Ah, late summer, '94. I had just been kicked out of my dad's apartment--or was just about to be kicked-out--and my one-year stint as a waiter was about to begin. I had spent the first six months of the year working on Ken Burns' "Baseball" series (my first post-college job) which was the only thing about baseball that kept me going that summer--that, and oh yeah, a pretty swell season by our New York Yankees.
It was a drag for Yankee fans, yet the start of beautiful things to come. The Expos on the other hand...the vinegar still stings...
New York Moose Huntin
Ship o Fools
This might have been a championship-level lineup a few years ago, when Jeter still had his speed, Abreu and Ivan Rodriguez were still .300 hitters with power, and Sexson could be counted on for 30 to 40 home runs a year. Now it represents only the compromises that injuries and a lack of vital youth can force on a team. Worse, it's not even the best lineup the Yankees can play.
Feelin' blue, Yankee fans? We could be in a rage, but that's exhausting, and anyway, we can save our Fists of Fury for game time. For the moment, I'm resigned to what is, and this beautiful song by the Kinks sums up my mood perfectly:
Tyler Kepner has a nice piece on tonight's starter, Mike Mussina, today in the Times:
The question now is what Mussina will do next season. He said he would wait until November to decide if he wanted to keep pitching, if he had the patience to deal with the struggles that might come up. Not knowing the answer, he said, is one reason he is having more fun than ever.
Mussina is 22-6 lifetime against the Twins. With the Yanks desperate for a win, they'll need another strong outing from Moose tonight.
The pressure is on the Yankees and it shows. Our boys are cracking. They are flat, they are pressing. Pick any cliche you like. Most any one will fit.
Against Glen Perkins, a soft-tossing left-hander (okay, he can throw 92-93, still, he's not throwing cheese), they were hacktastic, seemingly without an offensive game-plan. As John Flaherty mentioned time and again on the YES broadcast, the Yankee hitters looked frustrated as they swung early and often, putting themselves in the hole, before Perkins put them away. The Yankee hitters just missed a host of pitches--Nady, Sexson, Cano...Pudge Rodriguez had at least three good hacks at fat pitches that he couldn't put in play. Perkins threw eight shut out innings; while stuff is not overly impressive, he worked quickly and threw strikes. Joe Nathan struck out the side in the ninth.
The Yankees had four cruddy hits as they lost 4-0.
The closest thing they had to a rally came in the second when Cano singled to start the inning and then advanced to third on a wild throw by Perkins. Sexson walked but Pudge Rodriguez popped out and couldn't bring the run home. Melky Cabrera swung at the first pitch he saw and bounced into a 6-4-3 double play.
The futile offensive showing stings even more when you consider that Sidney Ponson actually threw a nice game. He gave up a two-out walk in the second and then a two-run homer to Adam Everett. The Twins manufactored another run in the sixth (double, sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly), and then hustled another one across the plate in the eighth. Otherwise, Ponson worked quickly and efficiently.
Joe Girardi's decision to sit Johnny Damon in favor of Justin Christian (0-4), a move that was openly questioned by the Yankee broadcast team of Flaherty and Michael Kay, will be fodder for blogs, tabloids and talk radio tomorrow. "It's getting hard to explain what's going on," said Kay when it was all over.
Honestly, there is plenty to be vexed about if your team is the Yanks.
At least it was brisk. The game took two hours and fourteen minutes to complete. I can't tell if that's a good thing or just something else to be furious about.
Minnesota Twins III: Back Where We Started Edition
While the Yankees have been struggling to remain relevant to the Wild Card picture, the Twins have had bigger fish to fry. Three days after leaving New York, the Twins hosted the AL Central-leading White Sox and took three of four games to close the gap atop the central to a half a game. Since then, the Twins have twice slipped past the Pale Hose, only to slip back behind them the next day. They enter tonight's action trailing the Chisox by just a half game and the two teams have been within 1.5 games of one another for the past week.
The Twins have been hanging tight in the Central all year, and a week ago they finally brought rehabilitated lefty ace Francisco Liriano up to replace aged innings eater Livan Hernandez in the rotation. The Yankees are fortunate not to have to face Liriano (2-0, 2.31 since being recalled) this week, but given the Twins' spectacular record at home (.650 winning percentage), and the fact that Minnesota actually has something to fight for, they've got their work cut out for them anyway.
The Yanks split a four-game series in the Homer Dome as May turned into June, and will kick this week's three-game set off tonight by sending Sidney Ponson to the mound against Glen Perkins. Ponson has faced the Twins thrice already this year. He pitched 5 2/3 innings in the opening game of the Yankees' July sweep and picked up a win thanks to 12 runs of support. His first start of the season saw him pitch 5 1/3 innings against the Twins in Texas, give up four unearned runs, and take a no-decision. His one start at the Metrodome, however, was one to dream on, a 110-pitch complete game in which Sir Sidney allowed just one run on six hits and a walk while the Rangers cruised to a 10-1 victory. Perkins, meanwhile, has faced the Yankees twice, once in each location, both times coughing up five runs, which is exactly what he did against the Mariners in his last start as well.
The lefty Perkins won't have to deal with Jason Giambi or the hot-hitting Johnny Damon tonight, as Richie Sexson gets the start at first base and Justin Christian starts over Damon in left field with Xavier Nady DHing. Damon DHed in both weekend games after slamming his sore left shoulder into the wall on Friday night in pursuit of a rocket hit off Ian Kennedy, so it seems likely that Joe Girardi is simply using the opposting lefty as an excuse to give Damon a needed day off. Still, starting both Christian and Melky Cabrera over Damon hurts, as Damon has had two singles in each of the last five games, is hitting .370 over his active 11-game hitting streak, has hit .333/.413/.420 with five steals in as many tries since being activated from the DL after nursing that same sore shoulder back to relative health, and, if you hadn't noticed, is actually leading the league in batting average. Similarly, while Sexson has quietly hit .292/.400/.458 as a part-timer since joining the Yankees, the clean-shaven Giambi is hitting .313/.500/.875 with three home runs on the current road trip.
Card Corner--Ed Figueroa
Perhaps we should call him "Forgotten Figueroa." For most Yankee fans, the 1978 season triggers memories of Ron Guidry’s Cy Young performance, Reggie Jackson’s stirring presence in the lineup and locker room, the mid-season transition from Billy Martin to Bob Lemon, and, of course, the looming specter of "The Boss." Yet, no one ever talks about Ed Figueroa’s contribution to the cause. Pitching in the thin but substantial shadow of Guidry, Figueroa (as seen here on his 1978 Topps card) quietly won 20 games, gobbled up 253 innings, and gave the Yankees a perfect right-handed complement to "Louisiana Lightning." Heck, on most teams, Figueroa would have qualified as a full-fledged ace, a natural to start a one-game playoff tiebreaker or the first game of a World Series. But on the ’78 Yankees, Figueroa was the proverbial second banana—the Vida Blue to the A's Catfish Hunter, the Dave McNally to the Orioles' Jim Palmer, the Frank Tanana to the Angels' Nolan Ryan.
Aside from the obvious Guidry factor, why has Figueroa faded so much in our collective memories? Several factors may be conspiring against Figgy. First, he wasn’t overpowering, lacking the strikeout ability that both mainstream and Sabermetric types seem to favor. By the time that Figueroa traded in his Angels halo for Yankee pinstripes (as part of the Bobby Bonds for Mickey Rivers swap), he had become a four-pitch pitcher: fastball, slider, curve, and change-up. He threw mostly a sinking fastball, which he liked to mix and match with his breaking and off-speed pitches. That didn’t add up to a lot of strikeouts, just a lot of quiet effectiveness during his halcyon days from 1976 to ’78.
Then there was Figueroa’s lack of staying power. As good as he was during the Yankees’ mini-dynasty, topped off by his peak in 1978, he faded quickly from the scene. He threw a lot of innings in the mid-1970s. Over a four-year span, he averaged 248 innings per season, a substantial workload that became exacerbated by an awkward motion. In his wind-up, Figueroa tucked his left leg and left arm in toward his mid-section; by the time he put himself in position to deliver the pitch, he was throwing the ball across his body. It was a fun delivery to imitate (as I know well from hours of throwing a ball up against a boulder outside of my house), but it sure did appear to put extra stress on the arm and shoulder. Figueroa’s arm problems began in 1979; by 1981, he was fully cooked.
Finally, Figueroa’s personality may have soured any hopes of long-term appreciation. Figgy had his share of run-ins with Billy Martin (then again, who didn’t?) and the manager's enforcment of his own strict set of policies regarding his pitchers and their approach against each batter. Portrayed as surly by some of the New York media (which may or may not be fair, given the treatment of Latino players by some writers), Figueroa came across as dour to a young fan like me. When I think of Figueroa, I envision the "Lieutenant Castillo" character that Edward James Olmos once portrayed on "Miami Vice." Yes, he was highly effective and very good at his job, but not exactly someone you’d send an invitation to amidst hope that he’d enliven the atmosphere at your local block party.
Given Figueroa's mix of pitching style, longevity (or lack thereof), and personality, we are left with a retired pitcher who often attends Old-Timers’ Day at the Stadium but remains a figure wrapped in obscurity. With that in mind, here are a few things that you may or may not know about Ed Figueroa.
*A veteran of the Vietnam War, Figueroa saw the start of his major league career delayed by military service in 1969. He missed all of that minor league season while in the war, losing a valuable year of development. Figgy didn’t make the major leagues until 1974, when he was already 25 years of age. He probably would have arrived a year or two sooner, if not for Nam.
*By winning 20 games for the ’78 Yankees, Figueroa became the first Puerto Rican pitcher to achieve the milestone, ending a drought that began with Hiram Bithorn’s debut in 1942. Juan Pizarro, a 131-game winner for his career, never won 20. Neither did Ruben Gomez. Today’s winningest Puerto Rican pitcher, former Yankee Javier Vazquez, has never won more than 16 in a single season. Figueroa might have reached the milestone even sooner, had a late-season game in 1976 not been rained out. Figueroa settled for a 19-10 mark that year, emerging as a major factor in securing the Yankees’ first pennant in a dozen years.
*Because of arm troubles, Figueroa’s prime ended by his 28th birthday. After the 1978 season, he never pitched more than 104 innings and never had another winning season. By the time he was 32, Figueroa had thrown his final major league pitch as a member of the Oakland A’s.
Figueroa will never make the Hall of Fame, never receive the loudest cheers at Old-Timers’ Day, and never have his number retired by the Yankees. But he deserves to be remembered as an essential piece—the right-handed anchor—of the ’78 Yankees. Without him, there would have been no tiebreaker against the Red Sox, no playoff appearance against the Royals, and no World Series date with the Dodgers. It’s long overdue, but we just want to say thanks, Figgy.
Bruce Markusen, an avid fan of the '78 Yankees, writes "Cooperstown Confidential" for MLBlogs at MLB.com.
Soul legend Isaac Hayes passed away on Sunday. He was 65.
Hayes is most famous for composing the title theme to "Shaft," but he did far more than that.
Along with David Porter, Hayes was the major creative force behind Stax Records in the Sixties--their most enduring work is the classic, "Soul Man." His vocal stylings paved the way for Barry White, and years later, Hayes, a Scientologist, had a successful cameo on "South Park."
Dag, another meaningful loss.
I love Hayes' moody rendition of "Walk on By":
Alex had it right with his Ray Milland pic on Saturday. The Yankees went on one heck of a bender in La La Land this past weekend, getting swept by the Angels and losing in just about every way possible. On Friday night, Ian Kennedy couldn't get an out in the third inning. Darrell Rasner and the Yankee bats tried valiantly to climb out of the hole Kennedy had dug, but just as they neared the top, they fell back in. On Saturday, Dan Giese was great for six innings, but Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, and David Robertson coughed up ten runs in the final two innings to put the game far out of reach.
Yesterday, Andy Pettitte and Joe Saunders matched each other pitch-for-pitch for seven innings, handing their bullpens a 3-3 tie. Jose Arredondo and Damaso Marte matched zeros in the eighth, sending the tie into the ninth. Home team manager Mike Scioscia went straight to his closer, Francisco Rodriguez, who struck out the side in the ninth. Visiting manager Joe Girardi, having used Rasner for 4 1/3 innings on Friday and having watched each all four of his remaining set-up men stink up the joint over the previous two games (Brian Bruney put Friday's game out of reach for good after relieving Rasner in the eighth), tried to get another inning out of Marte.
After retiring all three men he faced in the eighth, Marte gave up a single to the leadoff man in the ninth; that hitter being second baseman Howie Kendrick, who entered the game hitting .480 in his young career against the Yankees, but had gone hitless in his three at-bats against Pettitte. Marte rallied to strike out Gary Matthews Jr., but fell behind ninth-place hitter Mike Napoli 2-0 before walking him on a full count to push Kendrick in to scoring position. Having watched Marte blow a game by alternating walks and outs during the previous series in Texas, Girardi broke down and called on his closer, Mariano Rivera. Rivera threw one pitch to Chone Figgins. It caught a bit too much of the plate, and Figgins pulled a perfectly place bounder through the first-base hole to score Kendrick and complete the Angels sweep.
Long-time readers will know that I've often argued that a manager should use his closer in a tie game on the road once the game enters sudden death for the home team. Unlike his predecessor, Joe Girardi has done a decent job of employing Rivera that way, but even before Figgins' game-winning single, opposing hitters were hitting .361/.410/.583 against Rivera this year when the game is tied. In all other situations, they are hitting less than .190 against him. Sometimes you just can't win.
My wife is a sweet little thing. She's conscientious (almost to a fault), polite, respectful and very much the Lady. She's also a farmer's daughter which means she's one tough broad too. She grew up feeding chickens, haulin' hay, and milking the goats.* But you'd never guess that by looking at her.
I'm endlessly amused by the reaction people have when they meet her and shake her hand--it's a firm, confident handshake, a man's handshake.
The other thing about Em that is a classic is that she's a crack shot--sure and steady.
Go figure that.
What do you mean we're all out of spelt muffins?
I'm sure there are a bunch of Yankee fans that would have loved to unload a couple of rounds after yesterday's loss. Hopefully, the Yanks pull out a "w" today so we can digest and enjoy our Sunday.
Go git 'em boys.
* Several years ago, Em was up at her parent's place in Vermont with her older sister. One day, they found a large black snake in the garage. They took a shovel, beat the crap out of the poor bastard and then Em used the side of the shovel to cut its head off. I listened in horror on the phone when she told me the story. My ass would have been firmly planted on top of the piano in the living room until the snake was gone. I likely would have wet myself. My tough guy wife, my hero.
Of course, Em also freaks out when she sees a city critter--a roach or water bug. What a wimp.
Sign Him Up
Couldn't hoit, no?
The Yanks have been a terrible hitting team with runners in scoring position--Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi are the primary offenders given their importance and what they earn. The pitching staff is a mess...the problems go on and on. I haven't had a whole lot of faith that they'd reach October this year, and now, things look as bleak as they have all season.
So, the somber Sunday morning question is: Are they done?
Whatever, Party's Over Tell the Rest of the Crew
It was all going so smoothily. Dan Giese was throwing a lovely game, matching John Lackey zero-for-zero. In fact, nobody scored through the first five innings (not entirely surprising in a day game after a night game in the post-greenie age). Then Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi hit back-to-back solo dingers in the sixth and the Yanks had some hope. But that promise was soon obliterated by a horrid performance from the bullpen as the Angels wacked, smacked and slapped the Yankees down once again, scoring eight in the eighth and that was that.
Final score: Angels 11, Yanks 4.
It's getting late early for our boys.
Let the drinking begin.
All Ain't Lost...Yet
Yanks hoping to avoid another Lost Weekend out in La La Land. With John Lackey on the mound today they have more than their work cut out for them. Pardon me if I'm not brimming over with confidence. If they get smacked around today, Ray Milland'll have some company and we'll all be in need of a stiff drink.
Let's Go Yan-Kees.
A King of Comedy
Bernie Mac, a very funny fellow, died early this morning from complications due to pneumonia. He was just 50-years old. Mac had a blue act, but also had a great vulnerability that made him a success on TV. He was never afraid to bust on himself. I thought the first few seasons of The Bernie Mac Show were especially winning. More than anything he was authentic, true to himself. He was the real deal. He made me laugh a lot, and he made me laugh hard.
Man, this is just lousy news. Here is the routine that became the basis for his show:
"Don't touch my old school, my new school, my slow jams, my party jams, my happy rap, and you bet not touch my James Brown...or somebody is really going to get hurt."
Burn Baby, Burn
Too much is made about athletes having a game-face, or acting in a specific manner when they lose. Still, Ian Kennedy's lack of awareness is troubling. Remember when Scott Proctor burned his glove after a bad outing? Maybe he can swing by Anahiem while the Yanks are in town and torch Kennedy's uniform.
Denial Ain't Just A River In Egypt
Last night, Ian Kennedy's third stint in the Yankee rotation this year started off much like the previous two. Unable to record an out in the third inning, Kennedy was pulled after allowing five runs on nine hits and a walk and getting just six outs. Kennedy only walked one man and did a decent job of throwing first-pitch strikes (doing so to 12 of 16 batters, including all five men he faced in his scoreless second inning), but he simply wasn't getting people out. Ten of the 16 men he faced reached base safely. What's more, he wasn't fooling anyone. Three of his 12 first-pitch strikes were put in play as hits. In total, the Angels swung at 22 of Kennedy's 61 pitches. Only three swings failed to make contact, while 14 of them put the ball in play.
The first four batters Kennedy faced in the first inning hit ground balls, two of which got through for singles, and a third would have had it not hit the mound and ricocheted to Robinson Cano for a fielder's choice at second. With men on first and second, Kennedy grooved an 86-mile-per-hour fastball right down Broadway to Torii Hunter, who crushed it to the 387-foot sign in the left-center-field gap. Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera converged on the ball, with Melky appearing to call for it, but Damon lept in front of Cabrera, slamming his already tender left shoulder into the wall and missing the ball, which fell for a two-RBI double (Damon's fine and Melky didn't really appear to have a play).
Kennedy then got Garret Anderson to pop out on a full count to end the inning, but Howie Kendrick led off the second with another booming double to the same spot on a hanging curve. Juan Rivera flied out to the wall in dead center to move Kendrick to third, and Kennedy responded by walking the Angels' ninth-place hitter, Jeff Mathis, but then managed to strand both runners by striking out Chone Figgins swinging on a perfectly placed cutter just under the hands (Kennedy's only K of the game) and getting Erick Aybar to ground out.
That was the only positive sequence in Kennedy's brief outing. In the third, he was again greeted by a double, this one a hard shot down the right field line off the bat of Mark Teixeira. Four singles followed, the first a well-placed grounder through the first-base hole by Vlad Guerrero, the next a slow hopper to shortstop that Derek Jeter booted, and the last two flares that dropped in just fair behind first and third base. Still, Kennedy had given up his share of hard-hit balls before that sequence, wasn't fooling anyone, and was five batters and three runs deep in the inning and still hadn't gotten an out.
Darrell Rasner came on and got two outs on three pitches without another run scoring, then struck out Figgins to end the inning. Rasner allowed just one run over the next three innings, and the Yankees snuck back into the game with two runs in the sixth on an Xavier Nady solo homer and a Robinson Cano triple that was cashed in by a Melky Cabrera groundout to first base.
That brought the Yankees within one run of the Angels, but Rasner couldn't hold it any longer. Torii Hunter, who was 4 for 5 on the night with 4 RBIs and a great first-inning catch on a dead run toward the wall in center, led off the seventh with a home run. After a groundout, a Howie Kendrick single drove Rasner from the game in favor of Brian Bruney, who proceeded to allow Hendrick and two of his teammates to score, inflating the Angels' lead to 10-5, which is how it ended.
After the game, Kennedy seemed disturbingly undisturbed by his poor outing. Flashing his "What Me Worry?" grin, this is what he had to say for himself:
"It's the first bad outing I've had in a long time. I'm not going to look much into it. I felt like I made some good pitches. Yeah, I got the leadoff hitter on quite a bit [twice in three innings], but got out of it in the second inning. I'm not too upset about it. . . . Even on their singles, like, what, ground balls? [shrugs] So, that's not a big deal. Gave up a couple doubles [three], but I felt like I made some good pitches and competed, which is all that really matters. . . What was it? A bunch of singles and three doubles, or so. I'm just not real upset about it. I'm just gonna move on. I've already done that." [big grin]
All that really matters, aye, Ike? I was high on Kennedy coming into this season, but he's had three chances this year and nothing has changed. After watching him grin his way through his post-game comments, I'm not sure he thinks anything needs to, which could be his biggest problem.
Asked what he'd been doing right in triple-A over the last month that differentiated his success there from his poor outing last night, Kennedy replied, "Honestly, it's quite a bit the same. I just got ahead of guys. I felt like I made good pitches when I tried to get them out. I jammed some guys, got some bloop hits at the end. That second inning, which I told you earlier, I got that leadoff double, and he didn't score. I've been working on throwing that cutter inside and it got me out of that jam. . . . I don't know, I felt like I got ahead of guys fine."
It's one thing to be able to put a bad outing out of your head and accentuate the positive. It's another to be in total denial. Joe Girardi's evaluation of Kennedy's performance was that he got in bad counts with runners on base, forcing him to throw gimme strikes, and that he was leaving his pitches up in the zone. Said Girardi, "You have to make quality pitches on a consistent basis if you want to pitch deep into games and win ballgames," implying that Kennedy did not do that last night. In the YES booth, Ken Singleton and David Cone commented on Kennedy's failure to mix up location or make much of any use of his curveball. Apparently, Kennedy's not going to worry about any of that, though.
So, is Phil Hughes ready yet?
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Instant Redux: Just Like Starting Over Edition
The Yankees are 5-7 since opening the second half with an eight-game winning streak and have lost the first two games of each of their last three series, including last weekend's four-game set against the Angels at the Stadium. Then again, they rallied to earn four-game splits in their last two series, and given the Angels' .644 winning percentage on the road, splitting four against them in the Bronx was perfectly acceptable.
Facing a three-game set in Anaheim this weekend, the Yankees don't have the option of a split. For all of the Angels' success on the road, the Halos still have a .600 winning percentage at home and are 11-3 in Anaheim since July 1. The Yankees righted their ship against the Angels last weekend by dropping a six-spot on Jered Weaver, who starts again tonight, but Weaver's home ERA is more than a run lower than his road mark and his home run and walk rates are way down in his home park.
This series will be a real test for the Yankees, but the biggest test will be for tonight's starter, Ian Kennedy. Kennedy's already been tested quite a bit this season, by his manager, who challenged the young righty to throw strikes during his early season struggles, by the organization, which farmed him out to triple-A in early May when he failed to meet Girardi's challenge (7.61 BB/9 in his first six games), and by the team doctors after he left his third start following his recall with what proved to be an oblique strain.
Kennedy returned to action at the end of June with a pair of dominant rehab outings in the low minors and has since made seven appearances (six starts) for triple-A Scranton, posting a 2.60 ERA and walking just 3.08 men per nine innings, an exact match of his minor league walk rate last year. In his last four starts for Scranton he has compiled this line: 27 IP, 14 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 20 K, 3-0, 1.33 ERA, 0.70 WHIP.
Given his struggles in the majors at the start of the year and his 0-3 record on the season, it's easy to forget that Kennedy did turn in two quality starts in his seven opportunities, both games the Yankees went on to win after his departure. Still, the gap between Kennedy's minor league dominance (career: 17-5, 1.90 ERA, 214 K in 203 1/3 IP) and his pitching in the majors earlier this year was wide and more than a little bothersome.
After straining his oblique at the end of May, Kennedy was replaced in the rotation by Joba Chamberlain. With Chamberlain on the DL due to rotator cuff tendonitis, Kennedy is being given his third chance to establish himself in the Yankee rotation. Beating Weaver and the Angels tonight while keeping his walks down would be a huge victory, not only for the team, but for Kennedy, who needs to stand atop major league mounds with the same confidence and command he's shown throughout his brief minor league career.
Quit Goofin' Around
Let the Healing Begin
In other news, Brian Giles will not be a Red Sox.
Feel free to schmooze.
Yanks looking to pimp their ride in L.A. tonight. Never is easy for them against the Angels, but man, wouldn't it be nice if they go out and actually win this series?
Moose is Loose
When it comes to individual achievements, there is nothing that would make me happier than to see Mike Mussina win twenty games this season. I don't think his Hall of Fame candidacy should rest on whether he wins twenty or not, though I'm sure some of the voters would disagree. But regardless of how things pan out--and knowing Mussina's luck, he'll end up with eighteen or nineteen wins--it's been a remarkable comeback season for Moose. So writes Craig Brown over at The Hardball Times.
Yankee Panky # 60: Quick Hits
By Will Weiss
A few quick hits for the week, as the Yankees head to Anaheim for another big series against the "Whatever You Want To Call Them Tonight" Angels, as Paul O'Neill calls them:
* When the media has placed a skilled player on a pedestal, when said player becomes injured and it could affect a team's playoff chances, the press makes a point to hammer that possibility. The Joba Chamberlain tendinitis coverage was surprisingly matter-of-fact and not panic-ridden. Even more surprising, Mike Lupica provided excellent analysis in his Wednesday column, proving that when he wants to concentrate on a piece, he can still write very well. Buster Olney was solid as usual, also.
* With Joba out and not much hope on the Chien-Ming Wang front, YES is showing a number of graphics tracing the progress of Phil Hughes and Carl Pavano in the minors. Relying on Pavano as providing any kind of support for the rotation this year is laughable. Hughes could be a wild card. I'd expect to see him soon, particularly if Darrell Rasner continues to pitch his way out of a job. Mike Mussina is the team's only reliable starter, especially given Andy Pettitte's situation and the perceived lack of confidence in Ian Kennedy.
* It took Brett Fav-ruh to knock the Joba coverage to the deeper pages of the local sports sections. For all you Jets fans reading this, I hope the Favre era Jets are more Joe Montana leading the Chiefs than Joe Namath as a Ram or Emmitt Smith as a Cardinal. I had to choke at the thought of Chad Pennington potentially becoming a Ram. I may relinquish my fandom if that happened.
* I am a fan of Ken Singleton, as a broadcaster and a person. But sometimes, he drops some weird quotes on us unsuspecting YES viewers. Recounting a conversation he had with someone on the Rangers' staff regarding the strength of the Texas Rangers' lineup (I apologize for not recalling the exact person), Singleton said, "They're not guess hitters. They just see the ball and hit it." Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the definition of a guess hitter?
* Speaking of guess hitters, Alex Rodriguez is becoming more and more disappointing to watch. His 0-for-14 performance in Texas was atrocious. He looked out of balance, out of sync, and completely fooled by even mediocre pitchers. Even when he's on a tear, I get the sense that opposing managers aren't afraid to let him beat them, because the pitchers can follow this pattern: fastball up and in; changeup, slider down and away. In three of the last six games I've watched, A-Rod struck out looking on fastballs down the middle three different times. If A-Rod had the plate coverage of a Vladimir Guerrero, who is another guess hitter but because he can hit the ball out of the park even if you throw it at his head, he'd be scary. I wish the broadcasters would have the gumption to call A-Rod out on his approach, or even go so far as to say he's guessing up there.
* Although his Civil War reenactment is over, for the balance of this year, I'm referring to Jason Giambi as "Jason Giambi's Moustache." It's too good to pass up.
Until next week
Mikey Likes It
Apparently the recipe for a pitchers duel is to have Mike Mussina face Scott Feldman. Feldman beat Moose 2-1 in the Bronx at the end of June. Last night, Mussina returned the favor, tossing seven shutout innings as the Yankees pulled out a 3-0 win and a series split in Arlington. It was the first time the Rangers had been shutout at home all year. The last game at the Ballpark in Arlington to end with three or fewer runs scored was a May Day duel between Sidney Ponson and Zack Greinke, which the Rangers won 2-1. The only game since that was close saw Feldman beat Greg Smith and the A's 4-0 on May 9.
Derek Jeter gave Mussina all the runs he'd need with a solo homer in the first of Feldman. Johnny Damon singled home Wilson Betemit in the fifth to double the Yankee lead, and Jeter singled Betemit home in the ninth to set the final score. Both times Betemit scored after replacing Robinson Cano on base via a fielder's choice on a comebacker to the mound.
Betemit's trip around the bases in the ninth was particularly interesting. Cano doubled off Jamey Wright to start the inning. Betemit then grounded back to Wright, who caught Cano off second and got him in a rundown as Betemit reached first safely on the fielder's choice. Jose Molina then hit a sinking liner to second base. Betemit thought the ball was going to be caught, so he retreated to first, but Ian Kinsler took a step back and let the ball drop before fielding and flipping to rookie first baseman Chris Davis. Davis instinctualy stepped on the bag only to be surprised to see Betemit already standing there. Unfortunately for the Rangers, by stepping on the bag, Davis retired Molina and removed the force on Betemit, who was then called safe when Davis attempted to tag him out. Singles by Damon and Jeter then plated Betemit with the final Yankee run.
Said Mussina after the game, "You get some breaks sometimes. I've never seen a ground ball that the guy doesn't run from first and he's safe, stays there and is safe, and then we end up getting two hits and scoring a run. I've never seen that."
Mussina also got a break in the sixth when Marlon Byrd, who had doubled with one out, strayed too far off second on a comebacker to the mound. Mussina whirled and ran right at Byrd forcing him toward Alex Rodriguez, who took the throw from Mussina and caught Byrd retreating for the second out. Brandon Boggs, who had hit the comebacker, likely expected a longer rundown and was on his way to second as Byrd was tagged out. Rodriguez then flipped to Cano, who tagged Boggs for the final out of the inning (making it all the more surprising that Cano was similarly caught off second base on that ninth-inning comebacker).
The win was the 265th of Mussina's career and the 15th of his season, marking the eleventh season in his 18-year career that he's reached that total, and the fifth time in his eight seasons with the Yankees. If he stays healthy, Mussina will make nine more starts this year.
Of the seven four-game series the Yankees have completed this year, six have been splits (the other was a 1-3 loss to the Rays in May). With a win tonight, the Yankees will make it seven of eight. The good news is that there's just one four-game series left on their schedule.
The Yankees have the right man on the mound for the job tonight, as Mike Mussina looks to pick up his 15th win of the season. Moose won 15 or more games in nine of the 12 seasons from 1992 to 2003, but has won 15 just once since then. If he stays healthy, he'll have nine more starts after tonight to see just how high he can get his win total this year.
Opposing Mussina is Scott Feldman, who beat Mussina in the Rangers' 2-1 victory at the Stadium on June 30. The only Yankee run of that game came on an Alex Rodriguez solo homer off Feldman in the fourth inning. Fortunately, runs have been more plentiful in the Texas heat (the average score in this series thus far has been 6.7-5.3 Rangers). Even better, the Yankees are averaging 6.2 runs per game in the second half to go with their .632 winning percentage since the break. All of that syncs up nicely with the fact that Feldman isn't that good (6.67 ERA and 11 Ks against 16 walks in his five starts since facing the Yankees).
With Ivan Rodriguez nursing the knee he bruised in last night's home plate collision with David Murphy, Jose Molina's turn as Mussina's personal catcher is well timed. He's joined in the lineup by Wilson Betemit, who will give Derek Jeter a half-day off by manning shortstop while the Captain DHes. With the DH spot again used in that manner, Johnny Damon will start in center for the second day in a row while Melky Cabrera rides pine for the fourth straight game. Rodriguez hopes to be back in the linup tomorrow.
As for Murphy, he's on the DL with a strained posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his right knee. Brandon Boggs will likely replace him in left field, as he did last night. Jason Ellison, a marginal righty-hitting outfielder who spent time with the Mariners last year, replaces Murphy on the roster. Also, for those who missed it, displaced Rangers closer C.J. Wilson was placed on the DL after Tuesday night's game due to bone spurs in his pitching elbow. He was replaced by Joaquin Benoit, who was activated off the DL and pitched in last night's game. Eddie Guardado, who picked up the save on Tuesday night, appears to be the team's new closer.
Hurts So Good
The latest on Joba...
To Sir, With Slowly Lessening Distrust
Start Posting the News
The Yanks beat the Rangers 5-3 tonight, a game that featured a memorable collison at the plate. Derek Jeter came up big; Mo looked good in the 9th and got the save. We'll have more on the game in the a.m. And more on the good news from Dr. James Andrews. Looks like Joba's injury isn't dire. Chamberlain was placed on the 15-day DL.
In the meantime, Brett Favre has been traded to the J-E-T-S, JetsJetsJets. That's enough to make you go, Whoa.
This is so Cool. My autumn just got a whole lot more entertaining.
Time to Step Up
Tonight's game thread is up early today--and my apologies for the malfunction last night. Man, the season is slowly getting away from our Bombers. They'll need to salvage a split in Texas to stay afloat.
Let's Go Yan-Kees!
Yanks are Slippin
Night of the Killer DPs
If you love inning-ending double plays, this was definitely the game for you. Otherwise it pretty much blew. Though -- trying to accentuate the positive here -- the cold remains of Richie Sexson were, for one night at least, reanimated. Maybe tomorrow he’ll eat Tommy Hunter’s brains.
The Yankees fought back from 4-0 to make it 4-1, then 5-2. In the top of the seventh they loaded the bases with one out, but got only one run home, when Johnny Damon walked to force in Cano. (I could swear that when Joe Girardi pinch hit Melky Cabrera for Justin Christian with the tying runs on base, while sending Pudge Rodriguez in as a pinch runner, I could actually hear the distant anguished howls of Banter commenters several states away). In the bottom of that inning Brian Bruney gave up a three-run double to Chris Davis, giving the Rangers a six-run lead -- but New York turned around in the eighth and closed the gap to 8-6, on Sexson's grand slam.
So about the best thing you can say about last night was that the Yankees didn’t give up… but, still, they really looked like a stumbling team. (Probably it doesn't matter much: Robison Cano walked three times last night, which means the apocalypse is nigh and this will all be moot). I don’t know if they’re shaken up by Joba Chamberlain’s unnerving and still-ambiguous injury, but if so you can’t really blame them – the fans sure are.
Ouch, I Say Ouch
Will Carroll gives his initial take on Joba today over at BP:
The early word is that his muscle tightened up due to a combination of the blistering heat (I sat in that heat the night before, and yeah, it's a huge factor) and fatigue. It's the latter that's most worrisome given Chamberlain's switch of roles. While he built up his arm strength, no one has any idea how the fatigue will be affected by the shape of his season. He's headed back to New York for tests, so we'll know more soon, but early reports and sources tell me that things look relatively positive, based both on the pain's location, and on his reaction. Expect the Yanks to be ultra-conservative, and for Chamberlain to miss a start at least.
Nuthin to do but wait. Must be a fun time for Brian Cashman, huh?
Yanks got a bad case of the blues this morning. Nothing to do but hope for the best while we wait to hear word on Joba Chamberlain's shoulder. And iffin it gets real dark fuh ya, make like Jimmie and bust a yodel.
A lot happened in last night's game between the Yankees and Rangers in Arlington, but the most significant came in the fifth inning. Joba Chamberlain entered the fifth with a 4-2 lead having thrown 67 pitches, struck out four, and walked just one. The two runs he allowed came in the previous inning, when David Murphy homered on a hanging slider following a walk to Marlon Byrd. The home run was one of six in the game, all of which went to right field or right-center on a hot Texas night on which the wind was blowing in over left field and out over right. Murphy's home run was also the first Chamberlain had allowed in four starts, and just the second he'd allowed in ten turns.
Rangers third baseman Ramon Vazquez singled on Chamberlain's first pitch of the fifth inning. Ian Kinsler then worked the count full. Chamberlain's 3-2 pitch was a slider low and away. Kinsler checked his swing and drilled the pitch straight down into the dirt in front of home plate. The ball bounced once, then rolled forward just enough to enter fair territory. Ivan Rodriguez pounced on the ball and fired it to second base, where Robinson Cano turned an apparent double play.
Kinsler didn't run the ball out, but he had a good reason. On it's once bounce, the ball had hit him in the left thigh while he still had part of his left foot in the batters box. Thus, instead of a double play, the ball was ruled foul. Chamberlain's next pitch was a fastball in the dirt that walked Kinsler and, after Gerald Laird lined out into the wind in left, Michael Young hit a three-run homer to right give the Rangers a 5-4 lead and make them the first major league team ever to score more than three runs off Joba Chamberlain in a single game, and the first team ever to hit multiple home runs off Chamberlain in his major league career.
That wasn't the most significant event of the fifth inning, however. Rather, after a subsequent strikeout of Josh Hamilton and a single by Marlon Byrd, Chamberlain was removed from the game with what has thus far only been identified as a stiff right shoulder.
The sight of the Yankees' young ace rubbing his shoulder during a mound conference with his manager and team trainer Steve Donahue likely sent many Yankee fans into a panic. Thus far all we know is what Chamberlain and Girardi said after the game.
Texas Rangers Redux: The Kids Stay Out Of The Picture Edition
Coming out of the All-Star break, it wasn't really clear where the Yankees stood in the American League's big picture. After they reeled off eight-straight wins, passing the A's and Twins and closing in on Boston in the Wild Card standings, it became clear; the Yankees were in the playoff hunt, something confirmed by Brian Cashman's acquisition of reinforcements for the outfield, bullpen, and catcher positions.
That winning streak was snapped in the final game of the Yankees' series in Boston and was followed by a 1-2 series loss at home against the Orioles, a let down that one could see coming a mile away. However, when the Yankees' record on that homestand fell to 1-4 after they dropped their next two games to the Angels, one began to wonder just how much fight this team had in it after all. The answer was a lot.
Given the fact that the Angels have the best record in baseball and are much better on the road than they are at home, the fact that the Yankees were able to pull out a split against them says a lot. Even more encouraging is the fact that they achieved that split with the help of a late-game comeback in the series finale that was keyed by one of Cashman's reinforcements, Xavier Nady, who hit a two-RBI double in the sixth with the Yanks trailing 5-1 and a three run homer in the seventh with the Yanks trailing 5-4. Nady has since been named AL co-player of the week (with Kansas City's Mike Aviles).
Tossing out that let-down series against the O's, the Yankees are 10-2 since the All-Star break against two division leaders (the Angels and Twins) the Wild Card leader (Boston), and a fourth team that was ahead of them in the standings entering their series (Oakland).
Now things get hard. Tonight in Texas, where temperatures are in the triple-digits, the Yankees begin a ten-game road trip against those same two division leaders and the Rangers, who trail the Yankees by four games in the Wild Card standings. The length of this series in Texas? Four games.
At the end of June, the Rangers arrived in the Bronx with the majors' best offense and worst pitching and won the first two games of a three-game set by a total score of 5-3. We're unlikely to see those sorts of low-scoring affairs this week. The Rangers, who still have the best offense and worst pitching in the majors, score more than a run per game more at home than on the road and allow more than a half a run more in the Texas heat than elsewhere. The average score of a game at the Ballpark In Arlington this year has been 6.25-6.23 Rangers.
This should be an interesting test for tonight's starter Joba Chamberlain, who has never allowed more than three runs in any of his 50 major league appearances as a starter or reliever. Joba's worst start since shedding his artificial pitch limits came against the Rangers on July 1 at the Stadium. In that game, Joba lasted just four innings, threw 91 pitches, and walked four (though he also struck out six and only allowed two runs).
That was the game that Ian Kinsler won in the ninth inning by leading off that frame with a double off Mariano Rivera with the score tied 2-2, stealing third, and scoring on a subsequent single. The return of injured catcher Gerald Laird (.314/.367/.467) and the emergence of first baseman Chris Davis (.295/.333/.656 with 11 homers in 33 games) have made the Rangers' offense more dangerous since then, but a recent quad strain has put Milton Bradley on the bench and could force him to the DL for the first time this season, thus undermining those gains.
The Rangers' pitching staff is only dangerous to the Rangers. Sidney Ponson still has the best ERA of any pitcher to make nine or more starts for the Rangers this year, even with his Yankee stats included. Of the 13 pitchers to start for the Rangers this year, six are currently on the DL, and that doesn't include Brandon McCarthy or John Rheinecker, both of whom started for the team last year but haven't thrown a regular season pitch in 2008. Given all of that, it's the faintest of praise to call Vicente Padilla, who opposes Chamberlain tonight, the Rangers' ace, but that's what he's been this year. His one DL stint (for a sore neck) coincided with the All-Star break. He leads the team in starts, innings, strikeouts, wins, starters ERA (non-Ponson division), and is the only Rangers starter to have thrown a shutout this year. Still, he has a below-average 4.52 ERA and an ugly 1.44 WHIP to go with a similarly unattractive 1.71 K/BB and 1.34 HR/9. Padilla pitched a good game against the Yankees the last time he faced them, but that was back in May 2006.
Robinson Cano, who has been nursing a sore left hand, returns to the lineup tonight, though there's been no definitive word on the availability of Mariano Rivera, who experienced some back spasms up around his shoulder blades. Yesterday's hero, Nady, switches spots in the lineup with Cano. Justin Christian, who also had a big impact in yesterday's comeback win, starts in center over Melky Cabrera (.250/.273/.313 since the break and .201/.255/.274 since June 8); Christian is 6 for 20 (.300) with a pair of doubles and a pair of walks in his six previous major league starts. Also, Jason Giambi, having hit .182/.329/.273 since July 3, has shaved off his mustache. Given the temperature in Arlington, I'd say that's good timing.
Hate the Player
At the end of June the Mets acquired Trot Nixon. (Not primarily because, as Michael Kay would have you believe, they needed Nixon’s “tough” and “gritty” presence in the locker room, but because Moises Alou is as old as God and much more easily injured). I noted this transaction with a “huh, makes sense” – the signing cost them nothing, couldn’t hurt – and then I was immediately surprised by my own calm. Because, man… did I ever used to hate Trot Nixon.
Once again, it wasn't pretty, but it worked.
Hard to imagine the Angels booting their way out of a victory, but there you go. Justin Christian played a key role for the Yanks and so did Xavier Nady with his six RBI. Pudge Rodriguez homered and had another big base hit as well. Bobby Abreu made glaring mistake on the bases but made up for it at the plate. Man, hard to figure Edwar Ramirez getting the win when all he did was give up a grand slam.
Hey...We'll take it.
You Don't Have to Be Pretty to Win
John Lackey is a hump. Just a tough guy to deal with. On the field that is. Dude is as competitive as he is ugly too. He goes against the Yankees today as New York strives to split the four-game series against the Angels. A split would be a wonderful way to end the weekend. But Lackey is a hump, man. Darrell Rasner, who pitched well in his last outing, goes for the Yanks.
It's a beautiful, sunny day in the Bronx.
Let's Go Yan-Kees.
Old Time Fun
It poured this morning at 10:30. It stopped but an hour later it came down again, harder this time. But it stopped again and the old timer's got to play for a couple of minutes before the Fox Game of the Week began. It was an impressive Old Timer's Day with seventy-two former players on hand, including first time guys like Rock Raines, Rickey Henderson, Don Baylor and Boomer Wells. Joe Pepitone was in the piece. Moose Skowron and Oscar Gambler were there. Even Willie showed-up. The only one who was missing was Bernie (when are they going to patch things up already?).
I covered the event for SI.com. Here is the story.
The sun was beaming when Jared Weaver struck out the first four men he faced in the real game. The Yankees botched a double play that led to two quick runs, and it looked like another Halo Beat Down. But Xavier Nady reached base with a two-out single in the second and Wilson Betemit homered to tie the game. Yes, that Wilson Betemit. Weaver gave up three more dingers--solo shots to Bobby Abreu, Jose Molina and Alex Rodriguez. It was 8-2 Yankees when all was said and done.
Mike Mussina was brilliant allowing just a couple of hits and a couple of walks over seven innings of work. He retired the last sixteen men he faced. Good enough for his 14th win of what is fast becoming one of his finest seasons.
In all, a near perfect day in the Bronx for the Yanks.
No Place Like Home
Happy Old Timer's Day everyone.
One Beats None
Coming off a brutal start in Boston, Sidney Ponson didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning of last night's tilt against the Angels. In fact, the only baserunner he allowed in the first four frames came on a rare walk to Howie Kendrick, who never got past first base.
Garret Anderson got the Halos' first safety with a leadoff single up the middle to lead off the fifth. After Kendrick flied out to right, Ponson loaded the bases with walks to Juan Rivera and Jeff Mathis, but got out of the inning by getting Chone Figgins to pop out and Maicer Izturis to fly out to Johnny Damon in left. That was the only threat the Angels mounted in Ponson's seven innings of work. Mark Teixeira led off the sixth with the Angels' second single of the game, but Ponson got Vlad Guerrero to hit into a double play and retired the next four men in order.
With Ponson at 96 pitches, Joe Girardi decided to count his blessings and call on his bullpen. Though he had only allowed two hits, Ponson had walked four, thrown just half of his pitches for strikes, struck out just one, and been helped considerably by a variety of nice defensive plays, including a leaping stab of a screaming line drive over his head by first baseman Wilson Betemit, a couple of nice jump catches at the wall by Bobby Abreu (yes, really), and a fantastic running catch heading back toward dead center by Melky Cabrera.
No runs on two hits through seven innings is good no matter how one gets there, but as well as Ponson pitched, Angels starter Ervin Santana was better. Allowing just five singles through eight shutout innings (there were no extra base hits in the entire game), Santana struck out eight Yankees and walked just two.
Damaso Marte matched Santana's eighth inning in relief of Ponson with a dominant frame in which he threw ten of 15 pitches for strikes and struck out two of the three men he faced, all of them hitting right-handed. That passed the game on to Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning.
Much has been made of Rivera's "struggles" in non-save situations this season, but that's only in relation to his total dominance in pursuit of saves. Entering last night's game, Rivera had a 2.70 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP with 24 Ks against 2 walks in 20 innings in non-save situations, which is about as good as you could expect even the Great Rivera to be no matter the situation. That said, Mo couldn't keep things going last night. Rivera started the ninth by walking Mark Teixeira on five pitches. Vlad Guerrero then went with a pitch low and away, flicking it into right field to move pinch-runner Reggie Willits to third base. Rivera then got ahead of Torii Hunter 1-2, but after ball two, Hunter singled past an attempted kick save by Rivera to plate the first run of the game and give the Angels a 1-0 lead. Without having gotten an out, Rivera had blown the game, and he still had runners on first and second.
Mo then struck out Garret Anderson and got Howie Kendrick to ground into a double play to give the Yankees some hope of getting to Francisco Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn't to be. Facing Alex Rodriguez to start the frame, the Angels' closer got strike one with a wicked slider that Alex swung over. He then came down and in with a couple of fastballs for balls, and Alex spat on another slider for ball three. The 3-1 pitch came right down the pike, drawing a hearty swing from Alex, only to dive into the dirt at the last second, a wicked slider reminiscent of Joba Chamberlain's best. Then, on 3-2, Frankie threw Alex a changeup. Thinking it was another slider, Alex took it, but the ball didn't break. Instead it nicked the outside corner for ball three. Alex had no chance. Jason Giambi followed by just getting under Francisco's worst pitch of the night and skying out to center. Rodriguez then got Robinson Cano to fly out on a 2-1 pitch to end the game, 1-0.
Great baseball game. Awful loss.
Slip Slidin' Away
Don't look now, but as a result of last night's action, the Twins have slipped past the Yankees for second place in the Wild Card chase, and they still haven't called up rehabbing lefty ace Francisco Liriano, who's been dominating triple-A for a while now. Having lost four of their last five, the Yankees really need to get back on the ball. Sure, they scored six runs last night, but four of them came after the game was out of reach, and three came in the ninth inning which was pitched by Darrens Oliver and O'Day rather than Francisco Rodriguez.
Tonight, the Yankees will have to do better to compensate for their starting pitcher, Sidney Ponson. The Yankees are 4-1 in Ponson's starts, but only one of those wins came in a game in which the Bombers scored less than nine runs. Sir Sidney's ERA since joining the team is 6.08, and he's walked as many as he's struck out (12 of each in 26 2/3 innings). A bad outing today could force the Yankees contemplate their alternatives.
Phil Hughes was just activated off the DL and optioned down to low-A Charleston. He'll pitch his way back up the system without the rehab clock ticking. Alfredo Aceves allowed four runs in five innings in his last start for triple-A Scranton and is still stretching himself out following a groin injury which coincided with his promotion from double-A. That leaves Ian Kennedy, who continues to pitch well for Scranton. In his last three starts, Kennedy has posted this line: 20 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 14 K. Joe Girardi said that Kennedy would have to pitch his way back up after coming off the DL. I'd say he's done that.
Getting back to tonight's game, having scored just three runs off the Angels' fifth starter last night, the Yankees now have to contend with Ervin Santana. Santana emerged as a young starter with a lot of potential in 2005 at the age of 22. He started to deliver on that potential in 2006, but last year was a lost year for him. Sporting a 6.22 ERA and a 5-11 record in July 17, Santana was farmed out for reeducation. After returning, he was much improved (4.50 ERA, 39 K in 40 IP, 3 HR), but still inconsistent. This year, he seemed to be putting it all together at age 25, boasting a 3.01 ERA and an 8-2 Record on June 8, but in eight starts since then he's been back to his old inconsistent ways: 4.53 ERA and a team record of 4-4 in his games. He's striking out more than a man an inning, but that's the only thing that he does reliably.
Santana last faced the Yankees during the lost portion of his 2007 season, and was accordingly lit up (3 IP, 9 R), so there's no real history to go on here (his two starts against them in 2006 are both ancient history and were middling performances that resulted in wins). One thing's for sure, the Yankees need a win, and they need to light up the scoreboard for that to happen with Ponson on the hill.
Unfortunately, Xavier Nady is out of the lineup with a sore right quad. That puts Johnny Damon in left, Jason Giambi at DH and, with the groundballing Ponson on the mound and a righty going for the Angels, Wilson Betemit at first base.
Having thrown 3 2/3 innings last night Chris Britton is headed back to Scranton (surprise!) and Brian Bruney, as initially expected, is up to fill the final bullpen spot. In seven rehab appearances for Scranton, Bruney posted a 3.29 ERA. He struck out 15 in 13 2/3 innings and allowed no home runs but also walked 11.
Yanks Must Take it There
Observations From Cooperstown--Pudge, Hall of Fame Weekend, and Old-Timers' Day
Who would have thought that the Yankees would ever have a catcher named Pudge? For those who remember the rivalry between Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson, that would have been blasphemy. Yet, it almost happened in 1984, when the Yankees worked out a multi-player deal that sent Don Baylor to the White Sox for Fisk. With all of the pieces in place, Baylor invoked his no-trade clause, canceling the deal.
Twenty-four years later, Pudge has finally arrived in the Bronx, but in the form of Ivan Rodriguez. Now that a few hours have passed since Brian Cashman’s trade for I-Rod came to reality, I haven’t changed my mind about it. It’s an absolute steal, with the Yankees acquiring a quality all-around catcher at a time when such a commodity is difficult to find. When I think of Rodriguez, I have flashbacks to the late Thurman Munson. First and foremost, they both were (or are) supreme defensive catchers who move well, block pitches, and throw out baserunners with alacrity (Munson with the quick sidearm release, Pudge with the power overhand delivery). Munson was the better handler of pitchers; Rodriguez, especially during his days in Texas, has tended to call for too many fastballs as an aid in throwing out baserunners. Offensively, they’re very similar players. Rodriguez is a line-drive hitter with a terrific opposite-field stroke; Munson hit with an exceedingly similar style. Neither made a living drawing walks or hitting with considerable power (except for 1999, when I-Rod hit 35 home runs), which is why they tend to be underrated by Sabermetric types. They’re the kinds of players you appreciate the more you see them, putting the ball in play, running the bases well, and controlling the area around the plate defensively.
None of this is meant to indicate that the 36-year-old Rodriguez is in his prime. He isn’t. His home run totals have fallen off every year since he hit 19 in 2004, he no longer has a rocket launcher for an arm (let’s call it a cannon now), and can no longer catch 130-plus games. None of that matters. He’s still Jose Molina’s equal defensively (with superior mobility making up for Molina’s stronger arm) and is light years better than Molina with a bat in hand. His on-base percentage is 60 points better than Molina’s and his slugging number is more than 100 points better. Given that the cost was only Kyle Farnsworth, who never made anyone feel entirely comfortable in the eighth inning, this ranks as another in a continuing series of heists by Cashman…
But You Can Call Him X-Man
Xavier Nady has an interesting face--square jaw and a long, pointy nose. There's a call on him, but I can't quite put my finger on it. This is best I can come up with so far:
Nady also has an interesting family history. Dig this 2006 piece from Ben Shpigel in the Times.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01