Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Game 33: Rock Bottom (?)

For the 8th time in 12 series this year the Yankees have dropped the opening game. They are behind the 8 ball to the Jays and are two games under .500 the season. 

The Bombers have been unlucky this year, but not on the field. They have been outscored by 25 runs and their 15-17 record is actually slightly better than the 14-18 their run differential projects. Compare that to the 15-19 Rays, who have outscored their opponents by 13 and based on that, should be 18-16. 
Standings Based On Pythagorean Record
22-13 - Toronto
18-15 - Boston
18-16 - Tampa Bay
14-18 - Yankees
14-19 - Baltimore
Many of the players on the Yankees have been injured or thus far underperformed. There's a fundamental difference between playing well on the field on getting unlucky in regards to how your runs are distributed and not playing up to potential. Much of the Yankees' record was accrued with Alex Rodriguez out of the line-up, but they have few other excuses to justify their slow start, aside from simple under achievement. Jorge Posada has appeared in 23 of 32 games, a proportion that is only getting worse in the short term. Mark Teixeira has is batting .191 and has an OPS+ of 91. A.J. Burnett's ERA is north of 5.   

At this point in each of the last three seasons, the Yankees have been at or below .500, so we are probably a little too familar with trying to grapple with the thought I'm about to put forward. 

Have they hit rock bottom?

Last year the low point came after a 12-2 loss to Baltimore that put the Yanks at 20-25. They won 89 games and obviously didn't reach the postseason. In '07 the Yanks slipped all the way to 21-29 before righting the ship and finishing 73-39 and capturing the Wild Card. In 2005, they started 11-19, but then ripped off 10 straight wins en route to 95.

It's painful to watch your team flounder below .500, especially when they spend as much money this offseason as the Yankees did (not to mention what it cost to build the Stadium). It's easy to feel like we've been jipped so far and the team is due for a turnaround. It's tougher to accept the fact the team the Yankees have put on the field night in and night out is a lot closer to the Orioles then they are to the Blue Jays, Sox or even the Rays. 

Tonight, Andy Pettite starts for the Bombers against Scott Richmond. It's only Scott's 11th major league start, which has been a pretty bad sign for the Yankees so far this year, judging by ther results against Matt Palmer, Brett Anderson and Jeff Niemann. But perhaps the fact that the Yanks have four guys that should probably be in the minor leagues in their line-up (Ramiro Pena, Fancisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera) will work to their advantage.

Here's to hoping this is in fact Rock Bottom. 

But fuck it, if you know the rules to the game, play,
Cause when we die we know were all going the same way,
It's cool to be player, but it sucks to be the fan,
When all you need is bucks to be the man.

Secondary Ticket Prices Down From Last Year

Neil Best has a blog post up today (following up on his column on Monday) discussing the secondary market for Mets and Yankees tickets. Ross from New Stadium Insider was well ahead of the curve on this issue, but Neil adds a very surprising bit of information:
StubHub spokesman Sean Pate said as of last week, the average resale price of a Yankees ticket was $79, down from $84 at this time last year despite the increase in face values. 
So despite the fact that the prices of Yankees tickets had been uniformly increased (the best seats exponentially so), and it's a brand New Stadium with fewer seats, the resale price is down. 

Does this mean the Yankees are actually making less money this year? Do the inflated prices on the tickets which are already sold counteract the fact that there are empty seats? During last season, you could have counted me among those who assumed that every seat to every game this year would have been sold. Aside from Opening Day, it hasn't even been close to that... What's going to happen if/when the New Stadium appeal wears out and Yanks continue to flounder?

Here's The Difference

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but it's never the wrong time to rip Lonn Trost. Very quickly... Yesterday as the Yankees were revealing their absurd - I mean, completely reasonable, free market - Old Stadium memorabilia prices, Lonn Trost was asked about the New Stadium's policy, which does not allow fans from other sections to come down to the Field Level to watch batting practice up close. He had this to say:
Well, if you purchase a suite, do you want somebody in your suite? If you purchase a home, do you want somebody in your home?
Here's the difference, Lonn. Seats at a stadium aren't a home. People can't go there when the Stadium is closed. Purchasing those seats allow for people to sit in them for before, during and after home games. It's a "suite" only because you call it that. Nowhere else is in the world are padded plastic seats without a roof considered a "suite". Actual suites are in hotels and on cruise ships and chalets in the Swiss Alps. The New Stadium is an outdoor sporting event venue, not a vacation destination. 

And as PeteAbe has brought up, those seats are almost always empty in the hours leading up to games. If fans from other sections were watching BP from down there and a ticket holder politely informed them that they were in their spot, I'm sure they would move out of the way. Apparently the obscene ticket prices at the New Stadium have spared the wealthy the indignity of interacting with us commoners for even the briefest of moments. Which would be fine, but again, those tickets still aren't totally sold. The Yankees are still screwing their real fans in the name of their make-believe dream customers

A.J. Burnett Miiiiight Be Kind Of A Dick

I went back through the RSN (the Blue Jays home network) broadcast of the game last night to get some more background as to what the announcer said about the enthusiasm of the crowd. I let it play out a little bit longer and they pulled a clip out from last July that I either missed when it happened or had completely forgotten about. 

On June 7th, 2008 starting against the Orioles at the Rogers Centre, Burnett gave up 8 runs in 4 1/3 IP and on his way back to the dugout, mockingly doffed his cap to the crowd. Classy. The score was 8-1 at the time and the loss Burnett dropped to 5-6 on the season. If it wasn't less than a year ago, it would be easy to chalk it up to immaturity but this was after he had already spent almost two and a half seasons with Halladay, who had supposedly made much him so much more of a professional. The guys on RSN cited it as a major reason he was getting booed last night.

He wasn't particularly well liked when he was there either, with some claiming that some of the many chunks of time he spent on the DL, he wasn't even injured:
Early in his first season as a Toronto Blue Jay, Burnett became a lightning rod for disappointment, opting to stay on the disabled list despite no physical evidence of injury. And he would stay there for long stretches of his first two years in a Jays uniform. 
I alluded to it last night, but here is the full quote that caused him to miss the his last start of the 2005 season with the Marlins, when he needed to pitch only one inning to reach the 210 mark, triggering a $50,000 bonus: 
We played scared. We managed scared. We coached scared. I'm sick of it, man. It's depressing around here. A 3-0 ballgame, I give up one run and leave guys on base, it's like they expect us to mess up. And when we do, they chew us out. There is no positive, nothing around here for anybody.
Burnett represents the most frustrating type of pitcher, the one with electric stuff but inconsistent performances. He'd throw a shut out one start and get tagged for 8ER the next. All this stuff reminds me how much hatred I put aside when Yankees committed $82.5M to him this offseason.

He sports a pricktastic sneer that makes appear constantly pissed off.  A.J. looks like he would have been the biggest asshole in your entire high school. Yes, it's a pretty superficial judgement to be making, but there isn't a whole lot more we have to go on as fans. A player's on-field demeanor makes up a tremendously large part of your perception of them, whether we like it or not. And it's not like he's done a whole lot in the "Performance" category to make up for that. Of course, if he's dominant his next time out, much of this will be forgotten.