Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2006-04-12 05:53
by Alex Belth

It's a start, right? Johnny Damon debuted at home, and, unfortunately, Bob Sheppard, the veteran Stadium P.A. announcer missed his first home opener since 1951 (he's due back for the next home stand, however). On a beautiful day in New York, the Yankees started out well, then muddled through a good portion of the game, the fans sitting on their hands. It wasn't until the eighth inning, when the offense scored five runs--capped by Derek Jeter's impressive three-run swat--that the Stadium came alive again. The Bombers came away with a 9-7 victory, their ninth consecutive win on Opening Day in New York.

Bernie Williams had a key hit in the frame, which helped make up for his base-running error earlier in the game. Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for the save. It wasn't a pretty game, but the Yanks will take it, and it because of the outcome, it is destined to become a "YES Yankee Classic." Heck, even Mike Lupica is waxing poetic about the Yanks this morning. Go figure that.

Boss George was in the house, but didn't have much to say, especially to his old pal Murray Chass. And Bill Madden notes that while the end result was positive, there was a lot of be concerned about during the middle innings.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox won their Home Opener as well. Josh Beckett, who is sure to become public enemy number 1 in the Bronx this year, was fired-up and pitched well. Beckett is an arrogant so-and-so and when he's on, he's exceedingly tough, as we well remember from the 2003 World Serious. He's an easy guy to hate, but for Sox fans, a terrific guy to have on your team. The kid Papelbon sure looks poised as well.

2006-04-12 06:42:22
1.   rsmith51
I am glad the Yanks won, but I am concerned that playing dumb small ball(bunting against a bad team) does not work very well with this team. When you knock out the other team's starter, it is not necessary to be giving outs to the (arguably) worst team in the league. Now if they are playing small ball against Johann Santana, it makes a lot more sense. They can concentrate on smart small ball(taking the extra base, knock in runner from 3rd with less than two outs.). Out for a run >> Out for a base.

Nice to see Bernie have a couple hits. Will Andy ever get a start?

I am going to the game on Saturday with Wright pitching. I hope the bats are awake that day.

2006-04-12 06:42:52
2.   BobbyBaseBall
Great way to start the season. A comeback win (albeit against the Royals) should put the Yanks in the frame of mind that they are never out of a game.

How great was Paulie O's story about Mariano and "Enter Sandman" before the top of the 9th? Got chills, great to have baseball back.

2006-04-12 06:51:16
3.   unpopster
Paulie has obviously been working on his broadcasting skills because he has turned into quite a pleasure to listen to. As I was watching the game I couldn't help but notice how poised and charismatic he has become as a color guy.

He's a great asset for this YES team, especially when he tools on Kay.

2006-04-12 07:09:26
4.   mikeplugh
I still think a 3 man booth is too much in any sport. Too much talking.

I like analysis and chicory flavored baseball lore as much as anyone, but silence is golden sometimes and I often find myself wishing someone would shut up for a half a second.

There's enough intrigue in the "nat sound" at a ballgame, and the idea that you are thinking along with the managers and players is interesting too. 5 seconds of zipped lips would serve YES well from time to time. Personally, I like it when Jim Kaat and Bobby Murcer are in the booth together.

Great win. Exciting drama. Let's keep the baton moving.

2006-04-12 07:11:19
5.   mikeplugh
I wrote up a little recap of the game at Canyon of Heroes. There's also a piece on Cuba's young prospect, Yulieski Gourriel.

Look for a review of Alex's book in the next 3 or 4 days. Got busy and didn't make a dent in the last couple of chapters, so I'm back at it tonight.

2006-04-12 07:25:14
6.   Sliced Bread
So many stories to tell from Opening Day '06, and Murray The Chaffed Chassticle Chass wastes his NY Times column stewing over Steinbrenner snubbing him.

As if Steinbrenner didn't have anything better to do than indulge the Yankee-hating Chassticle during the Yankees Home Opener.

Right, Murray, he should have made you a priority.

As for Lupica, I don't buy the phony sentimentality his column today. That pandering vulture hates the Yankees as much as anybody, and can't wait to see the grand old Stadium replaced.

re: Opening Day flops, Wang & Sheffield: I'm not worried about either of these guys. They're tough and talented enough to snap out of their funks.

But Sturtze is a concern. His arm should be a weapon, not a liability. Can he be fixed, Mr. Kerrigan?

Here's hoping for a strong showing from Lord Farnswacker today.

2006-04-12 07:34:14
7.   rbj
Stein snubbed Chass? Good for George. Why should he give the time of day to a Yankee hater who works for a part owner of the Red Sox.
2006-04-12 07:34:38
8.   bp1
This was the first time I've ever heard the Bleacher Creatures mentioned on a telecast. They were so loud during the roll call that you could hardly hear Kay's game calls. The sound guys definitely had the crowd noise cranked up.

Let's hope with Opening Day behind us that the media fixation on Damon cools a bit.


2006-04-12 07:35:10
9.   Matt B
I really enjoyed O'Neill too. I really think he brings something to the table. He's still not the most polished broadcaster, but what he has to say has value.

I'm so sick of Sturtze. I cannot believe he's still living off of having 3 good weeks one September.

2006-04-12 07:48:05
10.   Alvaro Espinoza
Lupica strikes me as a weasel who hasn't had anything relevant or mildly interesting to say since 1991 or so. I second mikeplugh's opinion (post 4): A little more quiet time in the booth would be a literal breath of fresh air.
2006-04-12 07:48:18
11.   Shaun P
Somewhat off topic, but I had to say something - holy crap, Mo is balding?!?!

2006-04-12 08:01:04
12.   Schteeve
Sliced, Lupica was on the Today Show this morning, and said that while he's sure the new Yankee Stadium will be a neat-o place, it won't be the same as The House That Ruth Built. So why do you think he can't see Yankee Stadium 2.0 replaced?
2006-04-12 08:09:28
13.   Schteeve
Also, Chass's article is a particularly capricious shot at an old man, whom if he doesn't want his old age chronicled shouldn't have to endure it, and Chass should shut the fuck up about it. It's completely disrespectful.
2006-04-12 08:32:04
14.   standuptriple
Nice piece on Gourriel over at COH. I was impressed when I saw him on tv and the live version in SD didn't dissapoint either. I wonder if, when Fidel happens to go tits up, the stranglehold on Cuba's talent pool will loosen?
2006-04-12 08:35:58
15.   Count Zero
I keep seeing this "no small ball" idea going on -- can't really say I agree with it.

1) A close game is a close game -- whether you're playing against the Angels or the Royals, there are situations where you need to push one run, and you do it by moving runners over.

2) I don't get the Johan Santana argument. Yeah if it's Santana vs. RJ, you are more likely to play for one run early in the game. But by the time you get to mid-late, the score dictates, not the guy on the mound. Down by 1 at home in the 8th -- play to tie. You don't strategize for a three-run homer when you're down by 1. If it happens, great.

3) Small ball is a mindset. Small ball teams don't always sacrifice -- they move runners over without sacrificing, too. Take the 1st yesterday. Damon doubles. Jeter grounds out to SS. Hitting the ball to the right side in that situation isn't giving away an out -- hell, Jete hits mostly to the right side anyway. There is no excuse for anyone -- even Jeter who almost never makes a mistake -- grounding out to SS in that situation...especially the #2 hitter in your lineup. I don't care who you're playing or who's on the mound.

Go back and look at our teams from 96, 98, 99, 00. We had power hitters and guys with 110+ RBIs every year. But when you watched them play, they didn't blow the fundamentals of the game -- they moved the leadoff hitter to 3rd in that situation 95% of the time. In fact, that's one of the things that made Jeter the best #2 hitter in the league at the start of his career.

Go back to the games so far this season -- we have made a habit of stranding runners on 2nd or 3rd with no outs in the first inning. Those guys need to score! -- on ground balls, sac flys, whatever. Scoring a run or two in the first inning puts pressure on the other team no matter how you do it. I'm happy we got away with one yesterday. Jeter came up with the big hit as he has so many times in his career. I'm not happy about the way we're playing, though.

2006-04-12 08:44:27
16.   JL25and3
I'm not so confident about Wang. That's two implosions in two starts.
2006-04-12 08:53:25
17.   Bill
Bernie in RF today. Why not wait until tomorrow when you have a strikeout-type lefthander going instead of a flyball-type righty?
2006-04-12 08:54:42
18.   jonnystrongleg
15. There is a difference between not striking out with a man on third and less than two outs and crippling this offensive juggernaut with a "small ball" philosophy. These Yankees, as constructed, not only SHOULD not play "small ball" they COULD not even if they wanted to. Execution, making good contact with runners in scoring situations is all this team needs to do. Certainly giving up outs by bunting, or potentially giving up outs by intentionally grounding out the ball to the right side (or am I mistaken on what you want our hall of fame shortstop to do in the first inning after a Damon 2bl?), is a terrible idea for this team.
2006-04-12 09:05:17
19.   Start Spreading the News
15 I am not sure people here are objecting to advancing runners and sac flies.

What people are objecting to is having Damon bunt to move the runners over when the pitcher is struggling and the heart of the lineup now has one less out to work with. Why play for one run against KC? That is the "small ball" people are objecting to.

Both small ball and Earl Weaver (2 walks and a homerun) philosophy require productive outs to be successful. You can't always get a hit or a walk. But with your out, can you be productive -- move the runner over, sac fly, etc?

That is what the Yanks are lacking right now, productive outs. A lot of that has to do with a slumping Sheffield coming to bat with men on bases and hitting a DP or striking out.

I wonder if giving up chewing tobacco is giving him trouble. Or the lack of a contract extension. He keeps playing like this, he will have a hard time getting that extension.

2006-04-12 09:14:39
20.   jedi
In regards to Wang,

To be honest, I think he shouldnt be in this rotation once Small comes back. He is too valuable of a young arm to pushing him like this onto the big league stage. I think our starting rotation is too deep to bringing young guys up and getting their confidence jacked by the lowly royals. We should be bringing him up when we need him, like last year.

I think he should have opted for that surgery last year regardless if he didnt need it. Something tells me, there just isn't something right with his mechanics, lately.

2006-04-12 09:29:45
21.   Start Spreading the News
20 Wang is 26. That really isn't all that young for a prospect. At this time he really needs to start producing if he wants to be a starter.

I think it is a reflection of the Yankee lineup when we think of Wang and Phillips (age 29) as "young" prospects.

2006-04-12 09:33:13
22.   rilkefan
Cairo at 2b. At least the pitcher in a leftie.
2006-04-12 09:50:32
23.   standuptriple
So does this mean Phillips is playing 1B then? Or are we only using logic on a selective/favoritism basis?
2006-04-12 09:53:00
24.   Shaun P
Count 15, as SSTN said so well 19,and I think you have to agree - there is no excuse for Damon sacrificing in that situation (tie game, two on, no outs, 4th inning, 3 Hall of Famers to follow Damon). I don't care what the score is, or who the opponent is. A sacrifice in that situation is a textbook dumb move.

Now, if its the 8th or 9th inning, and the game is tied, or the Yanks are down by 1, then and only then is a sacrifice maybe the way to go. For example, in a tie game in the 8th or 9th, with Damon on second and Jeter on first, no one out, you damn well don't have Sheff bunting. If, for some strange reason, Cairo is at the plate, then of course a bunt is proper.

Others have elsewhere made the case, pretty conclusively, that Buster Olney's so-called 'productive outs' have next to no correlation with scoring runs - or winning, for that matter. That said, I too seem to recall the '96 and '98-'00 Yanks excelling in moving the runners over, etc. I prefer data to my memory, though.

Unfortunately, retrosheet doesn't have PBP data for '93-'99, so I can't go back and verify if those Yankee teams really did excel at 'productive outs'. However, they do have the 2000 PBP data, and I'll take a look at that - specifically what Jeter did, or I'll be at this all week - and let you all know what I find.

2006-04-12 09:53:37
25.   brockdc
Wang is a curiosity at this point because he still seems to have his stuff, for the most part. At least according to the YES gun, he was consistently throwing 90-93 last night. His main issue last night was control and location. Lots of meatballs, with no sink, up in the zone. Hopefully, Guidryerrigan can help him with that.

I also think, prompted by a lot of off-season media hyperbole, most of us were hoping for Wang to be something he's not - a lights-out ace.

20: You may be right that too much has been expected of Wang this year but, really, what's the alternative? You mentioned pitching depth. The Yanks don't have pitching depth - they have bodies. Very mediocre bodies.

2006-04-12 09:56:26
26.   Shaun P
standuptriple re 23 - of course logic doesn't apply here. Cano's only 22, after all - he's not ready to hit lefties yet. Maybe when he's 32.

The annoying thing is, there's some research now that suggests that the reason some lefty hitters struggle with lefty pitchers is because, when they were young, they were almost always taken out against lefty pitchers. In other words, they never learned to hit them because they never got the chance to hit them.

Let's hope Torre doesn't similarly decide to screw up Cano's development by playing Cairo everytime the Yanks face a lefty.

2006-04-12 10:02:57
27.   Cliff Corcoran
I don't intend to halt your conversations here, but just wanted to give a heads up that there's a pre-game/game-thread post above this one.
2006-04-12 10:04:38
28.   Count Zero
19 I hear what you're saying...can't really get behind that Damon bunt the way he's hitting. Then again, Torre never understood strategy, which is why the loss of Zimm and then Willie killed us in that respect.

But I still contend that the decision to play for 1 / play for a big inning is situation-driven not opponent-driven. The problem is that this team (and I mean the players) has developed a philosophy that they should always play for the big inning. They fail to make contact with a runner on 3rd and less than two outs. They don't hit the ball to the right side with a leadoff runner at 1st. Instead, they always try to get the big hit. And that philosophy is a product of the way they have been playing for 2+ years.

If that philosophy doesn't change, they will tank in the post season the same way they have every year since 2000. They can't just "turn on" the small ball switch in October -- it must be natural to them to do the right thing in a given situation.

2006-04-12 10:21:19
29.   Stormer Sports
Is there some reason why Damon appears to be a rookie CF'er?

Has he had 1 good game out there yet?

He has absolutely got top catch those. I hazard to say that even Bernie would have snagged that.

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