Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Bad to Worse (Taste Great)
2008-05-02 06:10
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to


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

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

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

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

Hey, at least I'm eating well.

About five or six years ago, my aunt Bis introduced me to ramps, a wild leek that tastes like a cross-breed between the garlic and onion families. Ramps are only around for a few precious weeks each spring. They look like green onions but have a subtle and distinct flavor that is all their own. Frankly, I think they are a little overrated--maybe my palet isn't sophisticated enough--but they are fun to use when they around, just to mix it up. Last night, I made a shotgun version of my favorite dish--I had four slices of guanciale stored in a ziplock in the freezer, and I used the ramps and a leek instead of onions.

There are several ways to make this dish.  But here is a very solid recipe from the queen of Italian home cooking, Marcella Hazen.

Adapted from Marcella Hazen's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablesppoon butter

1 medium onion chopped fine

A 1/4 inch thick slice of pancetta (or guanciarli or bacon), cut into strips 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch long

2 cups canned imported tomates, drained and cut up

chopped hot red chili pepper, to tase


3 tablespoons freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons freshly grated romano cheese

1 pound pasta

Recommended pasta (according to Marcella): "It's impossible to say "all'amatriciana" without thinking "bucatini."  The two are as indivisible as Romero and Juliet.  But other couplings of the sauce, such as with penne or rigatoni or conchiglie, can be nearly as successful."

1.  Put the oil, butter, and onion in a saucepan and turn on the heat to medium.  Saute the onion until it becomes colored a pale gold, then add the pancetta.  Cook for about 5 minutes, sitrring every so often.  Add the chili pepper and then the tomatoes, and salt and cook in the uncovered pan at a steady, gentle simmer for 25 minutes.  Taste and correct for salt and hot pepper. 

2.  Boil pasta and cook until al dente.  Toss the pasta with the sauce, then add both cheeses, and toss thoroughly again.   

Tips from AB:  Don't be afraid to liberally salt your pasta water.  It'll give your pasta plenty o flavor.  Also, it's always a good idea to reserve about a cup of the pasta water before you drain the pasta.  This way if your sauce is too thick, you can always thin it out some with the water.  I know Marcella doesn't use olive oil here, but I often do with this dish. The olive oil along with the pork fat gives the dish plenty of flavor.  And if I do use olive oil, I will generally drizzle a bit of olive oil on the pasta and the sauce just before serving--maybe a couple of teaspoons worth. Also, I generally use about 3 cups of tomatoes, or a 28-oz. can (here's another version of the recipe that calls for more tomatoes than Marcella uses). Make sure when you buy canned tomatoes that they are whole peeled and not crushed, and make sure to get a can that says San Marzano, which isn't necessarily a brand but a variety of plum tomatoes.      

 Mmm, mmm, good. 


2008-05-02 06:14:32
1.   rbj
So Hughes seems to be injury prone. Would it make sense to limit his innings by, say, making him Mo's heir with Joba in the rotation?

Nice recipe, I'll have to try it sometime.

2008-05-02 06:15:27
2.   willdthrill
Hey Alex,

Where do you pick up guanicale in your neighborhood? If you're still living where I think you're living, there really isn't any good Italian butchers to get good quality stuff.

2008-05-02 06:21:15
3.   Sliced Bread
sounds like a tasty dish there, Alex.
Know what I had last night for the first time in years? KFC. My wife picked it up on a whim. biscuits, gravy, some form of mashed pertaters, the works. I had to nuke it when I got home but it was a nice treat.
Of course I felt my arteries hardening in my wrists throughout the game, and I think one of my ribs cracked from the stress of watching our favorite team, but s'all good.

you know we could improve our outfield defense by replacing Abreu and Damon with two cauldrons of cold oatmeal.

Hey, welcome back to the Bronx, Bobby M!

2008-05-02 06:35:54
4.   Bob B
I assume discussions about food will be increasingly on our agenda as the season deteriorates. Keep up the good cooking, Alex.
2008-05-02 06:47:09
5.   Simone
The Yankees are sucky at the moment, but this means that things can improve eventually. At least, I don't have to read the constant tedious bitching about it all being Joe Torre's fault on the game thread. I thank Cashman and Girardi for that one. Really, it makes this season all the more enjoyable.

I hope the Yankees' current need for starting pitching has pushed up Joba's timetable somewhat. One he recovers, he should get some starts in the minors and then be moved into the starting rotation. Let Hughes, Joba and Kennedy all learn at the same time.

2008-05-02 07:18:09
6.   Jen
Extra ticket for tonight if anyone wants it.

Bleachers. $14.
email me: jen AT nosenseworrying DOT com

2008-05-02 07:23:10
7.   dianagramr
Em is a lucky lady to have such a multi-talented guy in her life!

(salivating over the food pictures)

2008-05-02 07:31:14
8.   JL25and3
Rather than having Joba pitch in the minors, I'd like to see them start stretching him out in the majors. A game like yesterday's would have been perfect. He could have pitched two or three of the innings Albaladejo took, and the game might not have gotten out of reach.

Britton looks like he downs a couple of bowls of that all'amatriciana for a mid-game nosh.

2008-05-02 07:40:57
9.   Alex Belth
Actually, I got the pork at Fairway! They just started carrying it. Good news for us. But personally, I prefer the pancetta. But I'll tell you what...when I got the guanciale I rendered the fat and put it in a small tupperware container that I've hidden in the back of the fridge, away from my wife's health conscious eyes. LOL. Every so often I sneak a teaspoon in something, just fo a little flavor!!!!!!!!
2008-05-02 07:45:44
10.   Just fair
I am concerned Phil will now weigh in far below his IP limit for this year. Which will of course effect next year. Thoughts?
2008-05-02 07:51:55
11.   Shaun P
3 The defense? Put a couple of those oatmeal cauldrons at the plate, and they'd have a better shot of getting on base right now than half the team.

Umm, San Marzano tomatoes. Since we're speaking of food, is there anywhere near the Stadium to get a nice Italian sandwich? I will be at next Thursday's Wang-CC rematch, and am hoping to sample some fine NYC cuisine besides the hot dogs.

2008-05-02 08:16:18
12.   horace-clarke-era
JL, best I understand this, it is NOT just about adding innings for stamina it is about working back in his 3rd and 4th pitches ... and unless you have tanked a season, the big leagues and New York are not the place to sort that out. He's throwing 2 pitches for the 8th inning, and needs 4 to start.

If he's being converted he should get 3-4 starts in AAA, not 2-3 inning middle stints in the bigs. We don't want him in blow-outs because we can't then use him in games that matter and he takes up a roster spot. And he shouldn't be messing around in close games. The shift to starting involves about 3 weeks off the roster and I don't think we should be finessing that, too.

Looks as if everyone was wrong about Hughes not really being hurt. Read yesterday that Damon is hobbling again, too, but gutting it out. I've SEEN that movie.

Weird stories about Tabata, too, and team keeping mum on possibility he had a suspension for bad attitude. He sure ain't hitting.

Glum Friday ... a sweep will do that to you.

2008-05-02 08:21:37
13.   JL25and3
12 Fair point. I have fantasies of Joba being able to work in his other pitches in long relief, but you may be right. Of course, I've thought that he should have been in long relief from the beginning, following Weaver's Laws. If they'd done that, he might have those other pitches ready by now. But you're right, he doesn't.
2008-05-02 08:41:02
14.   williamnyy23
The offensive malaise has been a major culprit behind the Yankees poor start. Having said that, the slumbering bats have actually obscured the real problem, which has been positively brutal starting pitching. The ERAs of the starters are evidence enough, but the really telling statistics is the Yankees run differential in the 3rd to 5th innings. In those innings, the Yankees are being outscored 72-45. Hughes and Kennedy have been the biggest offenders, but surprisingly Andy Pettitte has also faltered in these innings.

Aside from it never being good to be outscored over any period, the Yankees vulnerability in these middle innings is having the added impact of decimating the bullpen and placing added pressure on the offense. The only way to cure these issues is to get better starting pitching because until and unless Arod and Posada return, the offense isn't going to improve much.

At this point, I don't think you can keep running Kennedy out there. He needs to go back to the minors for a few weeks to regain some confidence and, at the very least, get more substantial innings. In the meantime, the Yankees have to hope Rasner can be at least league average (which would be a Pedro Martinez-like improvement over what they have been getting) and then piece together the 5th starters for the rest of the month. Due to off days, they really only need three starts from the 5th slot in May, so even a carousel from Scranton might do the trick. It's early still, but the Yankees are teetering on a hole that will be much bigger than last year's. Girardi and Cashman need to shake things up.

2008-05-02 08:43:06
15.   williamnyy23
14 And, if they come out of May/June in the same miserable state, the plan to transition Joba should begin immediately. If this team is going to rebuild by allowing starters to learn on the job, Joba is the one who most deserves the opportunity.
2008-05-02 08:51:50
16.   cult of basebaal
hopefully by that time, alan horne will have gotten back from his triceps strain and will be available to come up as well

the injury bug is biting the wrong minor leaguers as well, compounding our problems

2008-05-02 09:11:18
17.   tommyl
Actually the problem right now is all the offense. RLYW just did a comparison of actual to projected RS/RA. The pitchers are right in line with their projections (141 RA compared to 142 predicted), but the offense is 45 runs worse than expected. That's the difference from being 14-16 and 18-12. Yes, the starters need to give more length, but if you're scoring 1-3 runs a game, it doesn't matter. Ask the Blue Jays.
2008-05-02 09:30:31
18.   Rob Middletown CT
In the immortal words of Crash Davis "well fuck this fucking game."
2008-05-02 09:36:03
19.   Rob Middletown CT
17 Yeah, the starters have faltered but the bullpen has actually be pretty good overall, and picked up some major slack.

The offense is obviously all sorts of banged up (the two best hitters on the team - maybe the 1st and 3rd, but close enough - are on the DL), but there are also guys who just aren't getting it done. The team is helpless against LHP right now.

The three pitchers the Tigers sent out there should've been POUNDED under normal circumstances.

2008-05-02 09:40:06
20.   underdog
This is from an impartial observer but it looked like in yesterday's game that IPK had improved his overall control/command a lot and (this isn't a genius observation) didn't get a lot of support from the ol' defense. A few things different out there and he's out of some innings less, uh, scathed. But if his confidence is shot, that's of course, a problem.

Um, we could offer Chan Ho Park or Esteban Loiaza soon. Good control! One horrible inning is a given for each but they'd come cheap. Offer not good in any stores.

2008-05-02 10:02:07
21.   williamnyy23
17 I'd imagine those projections don't take into account the injuries to Arod and Posada as well as the week that Jeter missed.

I also think the deep holes being created by the pitching is weighing on the offense. The root of the problem relies on the mound, and the solution will only be found there, at least until Arod and Posada return to the lineup.

2008-05-02 10:08:15
22.   tommyl
21 Or that the starters have been pressing a bit because they don't think the offense can support them. Chicken and egg thing. The point is, the pitching (through great pen performance) has performed up to expectations overall so far. The offense has not, hence, losing team.

Take last night, Melky gets that hit, drives in two runs, we're up 6-4. The pen usage becomes totally different. You'd be seeing Joba and Mo instead of Albaladejo, hence a very likely win. Take any of almost every game we've lost when we we've had RISP. So many chances to break games open and we score one or two runs. That's why we're losing.

2008-05-02 10:10:22
23.   ms october
20 thanks for the impartial observation - that is sometimes really needed - but as to your pitching offer there is a reason that offer is not good in any stores

i think many people were hoping for a fast start by the offense, were hoping for at least one of hughes and kennedy to come through, and many people were hoping for major manegerial changes to be in place - we basically haven't gotten any, so it has been a somewhat frustrating beginning of the season that has been made so much worse with the injuries.

to me much of this is an intertwined vicious cycle mess - not enough run support - crappy to mediocre to average pitching in the vast bulk of non wang starts - which in turn has lead to hitters not being patient in later innings - which has led to the pitchers trying to be perfect -throw in some really awful defense - and on and on - we have seen this ugly rerun a few too many times

2008-05-02 10:32:39
24.   rbj
19 Yeah, it is weird, the big question mark going into the season was the bullpen. There was only some concern about the starters, and none about the offense. Just goes to show that worrying isn't going to help any.
2008-05-02 10:33:05
25.   williamnyy23
21 Well, recent history has shown the offense jump out to an early lead, only to see it squandered in a few innings.

Also, by lumping pitching together, you are not getting a clear look at the contribution of the starters...made more "blurry" by the standout performance of Wang.

2008-05-02 10:35:13
26.   Knuckles
Duck fat. You gotta keep duck fat handy in the fridge- adds an awesome touch of flavor to most anything. We generally roast a duck every few weeks, and save the drippings for potatoes, stocks, pasta sauces, etc.
2008-05-02 10:38:49
27.   tommyl
25 I actually am, I wrote in fact that the bulk of the decent pitching has been from the pen. However, my overall point remains the same. They have allowed one less run than expected but scored 45 less. Is it true that if the pitching were better we'd have one more games? Of course, but the point is, overall the pitching has been up to expectations. What hasn't been is the offense.
2008-05-02 10:51:58
28.   williamnyy23
27 And I would counter that by pointing out the Yankees record when Hughes and Kennedy start is 2-10. To me, the root of this team's problem has been in the very bad starting pitching at the back end.
2008-05-02 10:53:44
29.   JL25and3
20 That's been true of just about every game this year, and probably every game ever played - if just a few things went differently, then the crappy performances wouldn't have looked so crappy. You could just as easily say: if IPK hadn't thrown such a brutal pitch to Ordonez at a key moment, Abreu's fielding wouldn't have mattered.

It's not worth finding reasons; IPK's been totally lost this year, and it's not like he looked sharp yesterday.

2008-05-02 10:54:03
30.   Alex Belth
Dude, I'm SO down with you on the duck fat. Word to Chubb Rock.
2008-05-02 11:01:23
31.   Zack
It seems to me that Kennedy's problems are aggression and confidence, things best solved in the majors. Hes not missing by enough to suggest mechanical issues. Rather, he is missing to the fringes, which suggests being gun shy. I suspect if he were to be sent down the minors (replaced by Igawa, which makes me throw up a little each time) that he would fix things without really fixing them, come back, and probably run into the same issue.

If through his next 2-3 starts he clearly isn't getting better, then you send him down. But for now, you have to build on it.

I mean, heck, last night he was one out from a 5 inning start! These days, thats pretty good!

2008-05-02 11:14:27
32.   Schteeve
At the moment, the Yankees have ONE reliable starter. ONE. Singular. A Pretzel Stick. A straw. A George Washington. Uno. Bad times in Yankee land, and I see no light at the end of the Holland Tunnel.
2008-05-02 11:33:26
33.   Schteeve
And the most frustrating thing with Hughes and IPK, is that there seems to be no diagnosis of what's wrong with them from Joe, or Eiland, or Cash.

I don't get the sense that anyone knows what's wrong, and if they don't know what's wrong, how can the fix it.

It's easy to say, IPK isn't throwing enough strikes, but why isn't he throwing strikes? Is it mental? Is it physical/mechanical? Is it fixable? I have no confidence that the organization knows WTF is wrong with these two supposedly high ceiling pitchers.

I get that young pitchers often struggle early in their careers, but these guys are giving up a run an inning. That's not tennable, or acceptable.

I'm not saying this is an easy thing, and I'm not insinuating that I think Cash or Eiland or whoever are doing something wrong or bad, but it's really really frustrating, and what starts to creep in is the feeling that we've been duped. That maybe, this is who Ian Kennedy is, and shouldn't somebody have known that?

2008-05-02 11:43:38
34.   Zack
33 But this isnt who he is. If Kennedy were getting pounded to the tune of a 9 ERA while showing what he has in the past, namely great control of all of his pitches, well then you question whether he is ML caliber. But what we are seeing is hardly the pitcher who dominated Division I and the minors. Sure, everyone knew he wasnt going to be THAT good, as his ceiling simply isnt as high because of his "stuff," but he is, without question, a better pitcher than this, one who most scouts, despite what William seems to believe, had pegged as a #5 starter at the LEAST. They just never had him any higher than a solid #3 or so.

I understand the frustration at the lack of seeming solutions, thats whats bugging me to. But it isnt exactly unheard of for these things to take awhile. Look at what happened to Doc Halladay. A season of pretty solid success followed by a complete debacle of a 2000. As in a 10 ERA and some disastrous starts and bullpen appearances way worse than what weve seen.

And it wasnt until the end of the season and the start of the next that they finally figured out what was wrong and sent him down to A ball to rework himself. I know thats an extreme case, but Im just saying, these things can take time and patience.

Wouldnt you gladly take a horrible 2008 from Hughes and Kennedy if it meant putting them on a Halladay type track? Or even somewhere in the range of that?

2008-05-02 14:21:23
35.   randym77
"Enemic"? LOL! You do have a way with words...

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