Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Mighty Tidy
2008-04-07 21:29
by Cliff Corcoran

The Yankees cruised to an easy 6-1 win last night to split their four-game series against the Rays and leave town with a winning 4-3 record. Mike Mussina was sharp, allowing just three baserunners, two hits, and a lone run in six efficient innings of work. He had his best curveball working and was able to throw it at a variety of speeds between 70 and 80 miles per hour while correspondingly varying the severity of the break from a slow 12-to-6 yakker to a quicker pitch that broke in the zone. He also had a good changeup. Moose only recorded three strikeouts on the night, but got 11 of his other 15 outs on the ground, which was largely the product of having his best curve. Fittingly, the one run Mussina gave up came on a hanging curve to Jonny Gomes. Gomes put a lumberjack swing on the pitch, his bat and body tilted at 45 degree angles to the ground, and drove it into the seats in left field.

That was the only run the Rays would get all night as Brian Bruney and Kyle Farnsworth pitched perfect seventh and eighth innings, respectively, combining to throw 19 of 24 pitches for strikes. LaTroy Hawkins came on in the ninth and struggled with his control, his confidence, and a contingent of jackass fans who began chanting "Paul O'Neill" after Hawk's first pitch of the inning was a ball, but despite throwing just half of his 22 pitches for strikes, Hawkins managed to strand his two baserunners by striking out Gomes to end the game.

The Yankee offense, meanwhile, had it's most productive game of the year thus far with season-highs in runs (6) and hits (11). Bobby Abreu got things started in the first with a two-run homer to the right-field corner, the third Yankee home run of the homestand to that spot, none of which likely traveled more than 320 feet. After making Mussina sweat out his six innings, the Yanks then added on in the bottom of the sixth when Abreu, who had singled in his second at-bat, tripled off the wall in right center, Alex Rodriguez singled him home, and Hideki Matsui doubled Rodriguez home to make it 4-1 Yanks. Mid-game replacement Morgan Ensberg picked up his first Yankee hit with one out in the seventh bringing Abreu to the plate with a chance for the cycle. Abreu, true to form, drew a six-pitch walk. After Alex Rodriguez was called out on strikes at the end of a seven-pitch at-bat of his own, Matsui singled home Ensberg and Robinson Cano, who was hitless in the game to that point, singled Abreu home to set the final score.

That five run-lead allowed Joe Girardi to bring in Farnsworth and Hawkins without being second guessed, though I was still troubled that for the second game in a row Girardi did not appear to consider using Billy Traber against the all-lefty top of the Rays' order. That aside, while it was rough watching Hawkins in the ninth, the scoreless frame and game-ending K should serve him well, just as Farnsworth's easy eighth should him. Good on Girardi for getting those guys in there for some confidence-boosting low-leverage work.

The one wrinkle on the night was that Derek Jeter left the game after two innings with what an MRI revealed to be a strained left quadriceps. Jeter hit into a fielder's choice in the first and scored on Abreu's homer, but you could see as he ran to first that his legs weren't right, and he was stretching out the quad while standing on the bag.

Sez Jeter, "I felt something so I didn't want to be stupid. . . . You can't hide not running. If you can't do that, you can't [play]. I tried, but I felt something, so I thought it would be best to come out." When asked how long Jeter was expected to be on the shelf, Joe Girardi said, "it's gonna be a little bit," but said that the team did not expect him to hit the DL. Jeter will not play in this afternoon's opener in Kansas City. As he was last night, Wilson Betemit will be the shortstop while Jeter's out.

Comments (52)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2008-04-08 00:46:18
1.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
Going back to the last thread, I'm a fan of Betemit. Impressive seeing him shift over to short-stop with no problems. He also has more power than the usual utility Cairo-Soho's.
2008-04-08 03:55:13
2.   Bagel Boy
From Caldwell (NYT):

"Girardi said he was considering several options for replacing Jeter. One is to move Alex Rodriguez from third base."

With Ensberg and Duncan already on the team, isn't this the best option? Even if Jeter goes on the DL, isn't this also the best option?

2008-04-08 04:17:54
3.   monkeypants
What is it with this team and NOT putting players on the DL? If he's going to be "on the shelf for a little bit," just put him on the DL and call up another player. Do they enjoy playing a man short?
2008-04-08 04:33:44
4.   Bagel Boy
3 The DL is at least two weeks. If Giambi and Jeter miss four or five games, that's keeping them out 3X at long as needed, especially now that they have a day every day.
2008-04-08 05:15:42
5.   monkeypants
4 I understand the concept, but in the past few years the team has been burned repeatedly by trying to wait out what end up being more serious injuries. In the worst case scenario (a la Sheffield), he is "day to day" for a week, then plays two games, then is "day to day" for another week, THEN put on the DL--which can only be retroactive for one week.

I strongly suspect that this is a more serious injury, and if he's going to be out a week (or more) and he can't come off the bench during that time to PH, then he should be DLed.

2008-04-08 05:26:40
6.   Sliced Bread
Dear "Paul O'Neill" chanting chuckleheads,

You might think chanting the name of this Yankee "warrior hero" (a silly tag that actually made him feel embarrassed) of yore is a clever way to honor him, and deride the Yankee pitcher who would dare wear his unretired number.

But many Yankee fans, who also admired and appreciated O'Neill, think your chants have the opposite effect of honoring him. It actually kinda makes him look bad if you think about it.

O'Neill became a beloved Yankee, not only for his fiery intensity, and will to win, but also for being the kind of teammate who would not say a bad word about a single teammate, or anyone in the game when it came time to write his book. Surely, all you O'Neill worshippers have read his tender baseball memoir, Me and My Dad.

Sure, Paulie threw helmets and tantrums when he failed, but he was not seeking attention, and off the field he came across as a humble gentleman who ran from the spotlight. Surely, he would not approve of having his name chanted at another baseball gentleman who is now struggling to help the Yankees win.

If you want to honor O'Neill, and vent frustration at a Yankee pitcher who dares to wear his unretired number, I suggest you retreat to the privacy of your own dugout, and beat your own water cooler with a baseball bat, and see how that works for you.

Deriding a Yankee pitcher wearing #21 will not make him pitch better. It will not drag O'Neill out of retirement, and make him an effective relief pitcher. It will not help the Yankees win, and it will have no bearing on whether his number is eventually retired, or not. It will only make you look misguided, or worse, stupid and hateful.

Sincerely, your fellow Yankee fan,

Sliced Bread

2008-04-08 05:36:51
7.   Rob Middletown CT
Well that was nice. Mussina pitched well, including dealing with his old bugaboo - the error by Cano after a battle with Pena. Instead of immediately giving up a HR to Upton, Moose got him out. Hurray.

The #21 business is silly.

2008-04-08 05:37:07
8.   Adrian
6 Amen, Sliced. Now put that somewhere where it'll do some good.
2008-04-08 06:00:41
9.   Sliced Bread
8 Too many words there to fit on an $8 dollar beer can. Well, maybe in fine print, below the Surgeon General's warning.
2008-04-08 06:02:23
10.   ms october
7 yes, that was nice.
last night's game showed some positive signs in most areas. i don't want to be a martini glass half empty kinda person, but i do think 1b is a liability - giambi - hurt; shelley and ensberg don't look comfortable there; and betemit seems to field the position well, but though i agree with 1 that he is a "plus" uif - his bat has not yet shown that it warrants a large number of 1b abs.

everyone watching the game on yes will get the martini glass reference - now that i have extra innings (which in week 1 i must say i love) - i have heard enough michael kay to understand what many of you have complained about - and i apologize for thinking to myself that you must be exaggerating.

as for jeter - didn't soriano miss about a month last year with a strained quad?

2008-04-08 06:21:20
11.   Shaun P
6 Brilliant, Sliced.

5 Sometimes I think Jeter had enough pull with Torre to avoid the DL, if he wanted, even if going on the DL was probably the right move. I'm speculating, but the circumstantial evidence is there.

I don't think Girardi will play that game. He needs to win, he knows it, and he doesn't seem to be willing to play a man short for two weeks. So far - small sample size alert! - he's using every spot on the roster.

A week into the season, and everyone in the pen has pitched in 3 games, except Traber (obstensibly a LOOGY), who's pitched in 2. Albaladejo - who, as the 8th man in the pen, up for just 4 days, probably would not have pitched under Torre - was used for 2.7 innings before being sent down. Ensberg and Duncan are the only hitters to appear in less than 4 games.

Some of this has been circumstance - Melky's suspension; Posada being a little dinged up; Kennedy only lasting 2 innings. And maybe this is confirmation bias on my part, but I like that Girardi seems to be trying to use everyone.

2008-04-08 06:22:51
12.   rbj
6 Well said. Maybe slip it to the announcer before the next home game.

I don't like the looks of Hawkins' mechanics.

2008-04-08 06:27:55
13.   Sliced Bread
5 I think in recent years the team has hesitated to DL injured players mostly because they didn't have good replacements. The wishful thinking, misguided as it may have been, was perhaps taht Sheff, or whomever will feel better soon so we don't have to rely on someone like Aaron Guiel, or worse.

If Jeter needs to be DL'd I don't think they'll hesitate as much as they might have in the past. I don't think Girardi has any reason to not trust Betemit at this point.

I don't see them moving the third baseman out of his comfort zone, and back to short, unless Jeets is down for the season. Even if that's the case, they won't make that move without much deliberation.

2008-04-08 06:31:05
14.   williamnyy23
5 I am in the same camp as 4 . I would rather play shorthanded than put a player of Jeter's magnitude on the DL for longer than what is needed. Even if Jeter missed 10 games, I'd prefer not lose him for an extra 5. When the disparity between the injured player and his roster replacement is significant, I'd much rather wait as long as possible before using the DL.
2008-04-08 06:32:09
15.   williamnyy23
6 They are probably going to chant something anyway. At least "Paul O'Neill" is suitable for younger audiences.
2008-04-08 06:38:38
16.   Sliced Bread
15 "boo" is also kid friendly, if they must... and it doesn't drag O'Neill into their negativity.
2008-04-08 06:44:30
17.   JL25and3
5 If they DL'ed Jeter, it would be to call up Alberto Gonzalez. I'm not sure that's all that much better than an empty roster spot.
2008-04-08 06:44:33
18.   williamnyy23
16 O'Neill had a chance to distance himself from the fray and admonish the fans for being hard on Hawkins, but he actually seemed a little dissapointed himself that the number was given out. Maybe Paulie is at home chanting right with them?
2008-04-08 06:49:27
19.   Bama Yankee
6 Well said, Sliced.

15 That might be the only way that "Paul O'Neill" and "yelling" could be used in a sentence that would result in anything that is suitable for younger audiences (or water coolers).

2008-04-08 06:56:49
20.   Sliced Bread
18 unless you're kidding with that last remark, if you really think he's possibly rooting against Hawkins (that's what the chanting boils down to), damage to O'Neill's reputation is already being done.
If the nonsense continues or escalates, (surely it will if #21 continues to struggle) he might have to admonish his misguided fans. When was the last time a retired baseball player turned broadcaster had to do that?
It's not at all O'Neill's style to tell the fans what to do, but I'm confident he'll do the right thing if it comes to that.
If I recall correctly, O'Neill saw the chanting the first time it happened. Perhaps he was caught up in the moment, hearing his name chanted, and didn't know what to make of it at the time.
That seems more likely to me than your preposterous suggestion (unless you were kidding) that Paulie is at home chanting with them.
2008-04-08 06:59:22
21.   RIYank
I'm looking forward to the Tigers-BoSox series. If Detroit gets beat up, it will be an amazing story, a pre-season pundit favorite going down the toilet so early in April -- John Sterling will have to be invited to appear on ESPN to explain in great detail how you can't predict baseball. And of course, if the Tigers regain their roar, that will be even better.

Hey rbj, I chimed in on the probability thread over at Pinto's place...

2008-04-08 07:09:50
22.   tommyl
17 I disagree. Gonzo isn't Jeter, but he is a great fielder who can hit a tiny little bit. He's a future UIF most likely, but I don't think you can expect to replace Jeter with a spare part. If we had a SS as good as Jeter in the minors, he'd sort of be on the team right now, playing SS.

If Gonzo fields as well as he has in the minors, he could save a ton of runs with pitchers like Wang, Moose and Pettitte. If he hits just a bit, its not that much of a net downgrade. Ok it is, but its not the end of the world.

2008-04-08 07:14:32
23.   williamnyy23
20 Of course I was kidding. I don't think O'Neill is rooting against Hawkins (I don't even think he watches the games!), but I do think he is dissapointed that they gave the number out.
2008-04-08 07:15:50
24.   williamnyy23
21 Not sure that even an 0-9 start seals the Tigers fate. It's way too early for that. Having said that, I am on record saying the Tigers were vastly overrated and wouldn't make the playoffs, so I am not too upset by their early season struggles.
2008-04-08 07:20:23
25.   williamnyy23
22 Is Gonzo really a great fielder? Defensive evaluation in the majors isn't an exact science, so I am not sure how definitive we can be about a minor leaguer.

Also, by he can hit a little bit, do you mean a little bit more than Wil Nieves? A.G.'s minor league line of .278/.329/.383 doesn't inspire much confidence. This is a 25 year old we are talking about...not a raw kid.

Alberto Gonzales is a HUGE downgrade over Jeter and doesn't strike me as anything more than a defensive replacement (assuming he can actually play great defense in the majors).

2008-04-08 07:23:12
26.   RIYank
24 I didn't mean it would really seal the Tigers' fate. We all know that five or six games out is hardly a hopeless situation, even in July let alone April. But it would be pretty astounding, and it would make for some amusing commentary.
2008-04-08 07:31:24
27.   mehmattski
Clearly, the best option for the team in a long-term Jeter absence is to move A-Rod to third base and play Betemit or Ensberg at third (their natural positions). Will anything as logical as that happen, though?
2008-04-08 07:31:52
28.   mehmattski
Ugh... move A-Rod from third base.
2008-04-08 07:37:19
29.   yankeemonkey
27 In abstract, I agree with you. However, ARod hasn't played short for 4+ seasons. He's bigger now and his range is probably not anywhere near what it used to be. Can he really go back to short and play well there for more than a few emergency innings?
2008-04-08 07:38:11
30.   RichB
17 Well, I was going to side with putting him on the DL until I read JL25and3's post. It's a good point and I concur.

22 Really, I don't think Gonzo would make a difference anyway. Even if they DL Jeter and call up Gonzo, he'll most likely sit on the bench most of the time. If you were Joe G, wouldn't you play Betemit before Gonzo? Gonzo may be useful as a late-inning defensive replacement, but not more. His offense is sufficiently light to offset any defensive value. Also, there's the idea that you'd want to take any opportunity to give more playing time to your bench regulars, get them more ABs and keep them sharp rather than giving time to a temporary call-up.

2008-04-08 07:42:03
31.   Sliced Bread
28 Even after his first MVP season with the Yanks, A-Rod admitted it was a tough adjustment for him moving to third, and said he was still getting used to the angles, and movement on the ball at the hot corner, in addition to the throws to first, and second.
It makes sense to us that one of the best players in the game could easily move back to his old position, but I think A-Rod would tell us that's not necessarily the case. He needs to feel comfortable with his view and surroundings.
It would have to be a bonafide longterm move, as in, the rest of the season at least, for the Yanks to take A-Rod out of his "new" comfort zone.
2008-04-08 07:43:21
32.   RichB
27 29 And the media circus would be crazy, what with all the reports this offseason about Jeter's poor defense. I cringe just thinking about it.

From another perspective, though, might it not be prudent to give A-Rod some innings at short to make sure he's okay there if needed? Betemit/Ensberg at third and A-Rod at short is a much better defensive alignment.

2008-04-08 07:48:33
33.   tommyl
25 30 Well Gonzo did seem to be improving a bit this early season and in ST in terms of hitting, but the points are well taken. Still, with Giambi, Jeter and to some extent Posada hurt, the bench is getting mighty small. If Jeter/Giambi are really down for more than a couple of games, just another warm body in case of further injury isn't a bad idea. Otherwise, we might see Hawkins playing SS or something, with Mo serving as catcher.
2008-04-08 07:49:00
34.   Shaun P
FWIW, here is noted baseball "sage" Joe Morgan on A-Rod at SS if Jeter is out:

"SportsNation Joe Morgan: (10:46 AM ET ) I don't think A-Rod can play short anymore. He's gotten a lot bigger. When I asked him last year if he was going to be a free agent and play shortstop, he said he wasn't sure he could, because he put so much energy into playing third. Shortstop is demanding, and if you're not physically capable of moving around, it's tough. You will not see A-Rod playing shortstop."

2008-04-08 07:53:40
35.   Sliced Bread
32 oh, I think the NY media, thoughtful and patient as it is (reflecting the citizens it serves), would respectfully allow the Yankees and their star players, the time and space to make such a move. Any dissusion of it on the talk shows, and blogs would be polite, and quiet.
2008-04-08 07:55:04
36.   Bagel Boy
11 Count me as mostly impressed with Girardi too. If he puts Alex at SS tonight 28 , I'll be even moreso (unless Jeter is only out a game or two).
2008-04-08 07:56:04
37.   yankeemonkey
34 Oh my god, Joe Morgan and I are on the same wavelength. Goodbye, cruel world!

shoots self

2008-04-08 07:57:16
38.   RichB
35 heh, that's a good one.
2008-04-08 07:58:43
39.   Shaun P
37 I wondered if Morgan's definitive statement meant we should expect to see A-Rod at SS today, and every other day, until Jeter came back.
2008-04-08 08:05:21
40.   Bagel Boy
34 In other words, Alex will be starting there tonight?
2008-04-08 08:11:24
41.   JL25and3
18 , 20 Actually, when Michael Kay asked O'Neill about the number flap - before the chanting started - O'Neill essentially gave a diplomatic "no comment." I was a bit shocked by that; seems to me he should have dismissed it as irrelevant.
2008-04-08 08:12:49
42.   JL25and3
22 If Jeter might not be out for the full 15 days, I'd rather play shorthanded for 10 than have AG for an extra 5.
2008-04-08 08:23:50
43.   Sliced Bread
41 It might seem irrelevant to you because the fans are seldom easy on newcomers, especially when they're replacing beloved stars (not that Hawk is replacing O'Neill but try explaining that to the chuckleheads).
However, I don't think Hawkins feels the chanting is irrelevant.
I don't think Cashman feels it's irrelevant that his "big" offseason acquisition is being derided as he struggles.
Yes, Hawkins might turn his game around and stop the chanting, rendering this irrelevant.
Or he might be gone soon enough.
Right now, he's a pitcher the Yanks want to rely upon. Misguided as that may be, his struggles, and the reaction of the fans I think is not irrelevant.
2008-04-08 08:32:20
44.   tommyl
43 I think what JL was saying was that O'Neill should have dismissed Hawkins wearing his number as irrelevant, and chastised the fans for deriding Hawkins.

Look, the guy isn't a dick. By all accounts he's a great guy and teammate and he's wearing the number in honor of Roberto Clemente who is a hero of is. I bet half the people chanting don't even know who Clemente is. We've had these discussions before, but its upsetting to me that people like this call themselves "fans" of the Yankees. Most of them are bandwagon hoppers and they don't know the first thing about baseball except that Scott Brosius is the greatest third basemen ever.

2008-04-08 08:32:50
45.   JL25and3
43 I wasn't clear. I didn't mean that the chanting was irrelevant; as I said, the conversation took place before the chanting started. What's irrelevant is the fact that LaTroy Hawkins is wearing #21, and O'Neill should have said so straight out. Instead, he made it sound like he's a little pissed but didn't want to say so.
2008-04-08 08:37:43
46.   Sliced Bread
44-45. gotcha, and I agree.
2008-04-08 08:49:24
47.   Cliff Corcoran
Here's my theory on #21. George Steinbrenner wanted to retire it. Nine of the Yankees 15 retired numbers have been retired on the Boss's watch, including Billy Martin's #1, which was retired as part of a deal to get Martin to return to the team. The Boss loves retiring numbers. He also loves his "warrior" O'Neill. But with George receding, Cashman, Hank and Hal have come to realize that the Yankees are going to look like a spring training squad if they keep it up (retire 21, 51, 54 for Gossage, who's going into the Hall as a Yankee, eventually 2, 6, 42--though that's already out for Jackie Robinson--probably 13 by the end of that contract, maybe 20 . . .). So they've put O'Neill's 21 back in circulation, but that's gotta be tough on O'Neill as leaving it unused for six years sure made it look like it was going to be retired. Poor Hawkins gets caught in the crossfire here, but someone's got to do it. He's the Jackie Robinson of Yankee #21s, quite literally taking one for the team.
2008-04-08 09:02:50
48.   Mattpat11
Singleton was suggesting the other night that Hawk may not be 21 much longer.

It might be for the best. It will give him a break. Until then or the senseless hating stops, I'm a LaTroy Hawkins fan.

2008-04-08 09:29:02
49.   weeping for brunnhilde
6 Well said, sliced.
2008-04-08 09:32:28
50.   weeping for brunnhilde
10 "now that i have extra innings (which in week 1 i must say i love) - i have heard enough michael kay to understand what many of you have complained about - and i apologize for thinking to myself that you must be exaggerating."

Heh heh heh hehe.

Welcome to the club, October.

He's not all bad, though. His dorkiness can actually be endearing sometimes, as can his corny sentimentality.

Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2008-04-08 09:36:23
51.   weeping for brunnhilde
47 "Jackie Robinson of #21s."


2008-04-08 09:50:27
52.   tommyl
50 I think you'll realize that Michael Kay is not half as bad as some announcers. He's infinitely better than Morgan, Hawk Harrelson, etc. My favorite is still Vin, if only because one of my most endearing memories is his call of the Gibson homer in the '88 Serious. Listening to that call is pure poetry.

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