Thursday, June 4, 2009

David Ortiz's Eye Chart

Big Papi, after being left out of the lineup for the Sox' victory 6-3 over the Tigers, is going to have his eyesight checked:
"I've been thinking about getting my eyes checked -- for real," he said. "My vision has always been 20-20, and I'm not feeling anything crazy, but I'm going to get it checked out."
Being the helpful chaps we are over here are Fack Youk, we have set up a free and easy eye test that our good buddy David or any other washed up slugger can use. Papi, just print the image below out on an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper, tape it to the wall at eye level, and stand 10 feet away.

Wang Dang Doodle

I'm not entirely sure that Wang Dang Doodle is the appropriate title for this entry, given Wang's final line on the day. However, I was remiss in not choosing Wang Dang Doodle for the game preview, given the passing of the Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor, yesterday. Wang Dang Doodle, though originally a Willie Dixon composition for Howlin' Wolf, was Taylor's signature song. Get Back was probably the better pick for the game itself, but we wish Ms. Taylor all the best as she moves on to the great gig in the sky.

For the second time in three days I'm doing the game recap without actually having watched the game, so today's recap will be based mainly on my observations from watching GameDay on From that vantage point it seemed liked a tale of two games for Wang. It took Wang eight pitches to strike out lead-off hitter Ian Kinsler, and from there he cruised through the rest of his first trip through the order. By the time Kinsler came back around with two outs in the third, Wang had thrown only 29 pitches, 21 of them for strikes (72.4%). He allowed just one hit, K'd 3, recorded four groundball outs, four one-pitch outs, and needed more than five pitches for just one batter. He was ahead 1-0 thanks to a Johnny Damon lead-off HR.

I was surprised at the Rangers' refusal to make Wang work the first time through. Part of that was a function of his being around the plate so consistently, but one would think that a potent offensive line-up like Texas would exploit Wang's previously disclosed 80 pitch limit and wear him out. His teammates might not have followed his lead the first time through, but Kinsler's second PA changed the tenor of the afternoon.

Kinsler worked a six pitch walk, with ball four being a wild pitch that allowed Chris Davis to score. Michael Young followed with a basehit, and Blalock singled Kinsler home, before Nelson Cruz got caught looking to end the inning. All told, it took Wang 16 pitches to get that third out, surrending two runs, two hits, and a walk in the process.

Wang would scuttle again in the fourth, giving up lead-off single, followed by two doubles for two more runs. He then bore down to record his fifth K and his fifth and sixth groundball outs to get out of the inning down 4-0.

CMW looked like he had settled back down to start the fifth. He got two quick groundball outs, before leaving a 2-1 sinker up in the zone to Nelson Cruz, who promptly deposited it over the centerfield fence. It was the last pitch Wang through threw on the afternoon.

Despite being down 5-1, I didn't think Wang pitched that badly. I don't know how it looked, but GameDay showed his velocity and movement on his sinker as being good. He threw 68% of his pitches for strikes. He got his requisite groundouts, and even struck out five for good measure. His problems may have been a result of his need to build up stamina after all he's been through this season, which is why I question the decision to pull him from an inning with no one on and two outs, while he was still eleven pitches short of his limit.

Be that as it may, Girardi predictably turned to Alfredo Aceves to relieve Wang. After walking the first two batters he faced on nine pitches, "Ace" needed just one pitch to get Chris Davis to pop out and end the inning.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees retook the lead, taking Wang off the hook. Cervelli and Pena singled, then Damon and Swisher walked. A three run double off the glove of Michael Young by Teixeira tied the score, then A-Rod gave the Yankees the lead with RBI single. There was still no one out, and the Yankees continued the threat with a Robinson Cano single, the seventh straight Yankee to reach safely. However, a tough luck double play liner by Matsui eased the threat and a Melky Cabrera groundout ended the inning.

An Ian Kinsler home run tied the score at six in the sixth, and thanks to the relief work of Aceves, Phil Coke, and David Robertson, it remained that way into the bottom of the eighth. Cano led off with a walk. With one out, Melky Cabrera stepped to the plate and continued his late inning home heroics by knocking a two-run homer to left.

Mariano Rivera pitched into and out of trouble in the ninth, putting the tying run on base, before ending the threat and giving David Robertson a one pitch win. A third of the way through the season, the Yankees are tied for first place, tied for the best record in the AL, and on pace for 96 wins. More silly extrapolations to come tomorrow.

Game 54: Get Back

I love afternoon matinee games. Baseball is made for sunny afternoons, and while the forecast for today isn't perfect, baseball in the daylight is still a treat. When I was younger, I lived for the days there was a weekday afternoon game on during summer vacation. Those were the best. I'd love to see the MLB Network eventually broadcast a daily afternoon game during the summer months. I only wish I still had months-long summer vacations to enjoy it.

The Yankees continually do their opponents a favor by having these get-away-day matinees, allowing them to skip town early and get to the next city in time for a good night's sleep. It's a luxury the Yankees are rarely afforded on the road, as most teams need the night time start to ensure a good gate. Even with all the moaning about the new Stadium, the Yanks would still draw close to a packed house even if the game started at sunrise.

Despite my affinity for these afternoon contests, I'll be stuck in my luxurious cubicle following on GameCast, while Jay will be in attendance. Rest assured there will be more on that later. I'll bide my time knowing I already have tickets for a few other weekday afternoon contests later in the season.

Today's game is all about getting back. The Yankees look to get back to 10 games over 0.500, hopefully on their way to 15, 20, and 25 over. They also look to get back to another axiom from the Torre years: winning the series, as they try to take the rubber game of this three game set. They look to get the offense and starting pitching back to where it was before poor performances from both yesterday. Mark Teixeira gets back in the line-up after he missed yesterday's game with a sprained ankle suffered while getting back at the Rangers on Tuesday night.

But more than anything else, today's game is about getting Chien-Ming Wang back. Getting him back from the pitching limbo he's been in for the past two weeks. Getting him back to the starting rotation. And most importantly getting him back to the form he displayed from the start of his career up through his season ending foot injury last year.

Expectations are the first step towards disappointment, so I'm trying not to expect too much from the Wanger today. He's looked good in his last two relief outings, turning in 5 scoreless innings and allowing only 3 hits and a walk against 3 Ks. But I don't know that we can draw anything other than an optomistic outlook from that. Getting Wang back to where he once belonged will likely be a long and arduous process given the injury, the beatings he took early this season, and they way he's been mishandled over the past few weeks. Regardless, today is an important first step.

Wang should be good for about 80 pitches today, which is assuredly why Alfredo Aceves was held out of yesterday's game. If he's on, Wang may be able to go six, if he's off the Texas line-up can chew up his pitch limit in the fourth. If he's really off he won't even make it that far.

As an aside, with Aceves held out yesterday, Brett Tomko was the de facto long man, going three impressive innings in relief of Pettitte. Remember when the Yankees said Tomko couldn't be used for multiple innings because he had been conditioned as a short-stint reliever this year? Another pearl of honesty from Girardi and company. I guess they feel that he was sufficiently stretched out after making two appearances covering two innings in the last two weeks. Remind me again why this guy is on the roster?

[UPDATE 12:02 PM: Pete Abe is reporting that Burnett has been suspended six games by MLB for throwing at Nelson Cruz Tuesday. How he can be suspended for six games due to an action that didn't get him tossed from one is a little beyond me. But it makes perfect sense in the pretzel logic that is the MLB discipline policy. Burnett plans to appeal, but we may see Hughes back in the rotation sooner than thought. Even if he serves the full six, I don't care. Burnett did what he needed to do for his team. If that's the price to pay for it then so be it. Meanwhile I'll wait for MLB to suspend Padilla as well. That is if Texas doesn't cut him first.]

Please use this as a game thread. We're not quite ready for a fancy live game chat, but I imagine several of you, like me, are stuck at some soul-sucking office today rather than sitting in front of your big screen with a frosty cold one. So let's commiserate in the comments.

Here's your video for today. As a special matinee bonus we'll do this a little differently. Rather than your typical video of the song or a live peformance we'll give you a two part, behind the scenes look at the making of Get Back. In true Fack Youk fashion, it's in black and white. So in my best Ed Sullivan voice "Ladies and Gentleman, the Beatles" with the late, great Billy Preston on the keys. Enjoy.

Get back, Get back,
Get back to where you once belonged.


As we've alluded to recently, I've been traveling the past several days, hence my absence in these parts.

My excursion began Friday. A full day at work turned into a late night at the office as I rushed to make the final preparations for my trip. I caught a bit of the game on the radio and returned home just in time to see Alfredo Aceves get out of the jam Andy Pettitte's balky back had gotten into. I then promptly fell asleep. It would be the last Yankee baseball I would view live until last night.

Saturday saw me up at 6 AM to run errands, begin packing, make another trip to the office, etc. By late morning I was on the road to the belly of the beast - Boston - for the wedding of a former college roomate. In Boston with the Yankees in first place - it was like college all over again, unfortunately it's only late May.

Prior to the wedding, we pre-gamed at a bar in Newton. The Sox-Jays game was on, and there were a handful of fans watching at the bar, one of whom sported a Youk shirt, goatee, and a hat of Youk's alma-mater: the Cincinnati Bearcats. Unfortunatley I couldn't inconspicuously snap a picture before he left, so fack him too.

The wedding was a lot of fun. While not at all informal, the bride and groom were not overly serious about things, with the main focus being that everyone had a damn good time. There was an open bar to ensure that. Unfortunately for me, I had a flight to catch at 6:15 the next morning, so in a move that was antithetical to every fiber of my existence, I had to reign in my behavior at an open bar. My pride still hurts.

At the reception, I was seated at a table (the Pabst Blue Ribbon table) with all the old college buddies, including Gripp. You all may remember Gripp from the rip-roaring exchange we had here last week, which in the end, was tame compared to the emails we were trading. Thankfully, the topic of Yankee centerfielders was not broached, civility was maintained, and the reception wasn't ruined for anyone.

Perhaps taking a cue from the bride and groom, the atmosphere was rather loose at the PBR table. At one point I noticed that each of us had a potentially humorous butter plate at our place setting, so my artistic side took over:

Phallic butter balls and knives. Always a crowd pleaser. It ilicited a few good laughs at the table. Unfortunately, it happened during the toast. So, yeah, sorry about that.

The highlight of the reception however was the brother of the bride. He's a dead-ringer for a certain Red Sox first baseman, so of course, given our name here, I had to document it:

Sorry about the glare. And the low quality. Despite it being taken rather early on in the night, my photographer was already drunk. The picture doesn't really do it justice. You should have seen him with a Sox cap on during the bachelor party; it was uncanny. Thanks for being a good sport Ted.

From there, the band took the stage. Though perhaps not as entertaining as the wedding band in Old School, The B Street Band was great. Mostly Springsteen covers, with some other crowd pleasers thrown in for good measure. Except for when they played Sweet Caroline, I couldn't really complain.

The reception ran until 2:00 AM. I was in my room at 2:05. I packed and passed out by 2:30. My alarm went off at 3:30, I took a shower, got dressed, and hopped in a cab to Logan by 4:00. It cost me $220 for two hours in the hotel room. For that kind of hourly rate I could have retained a high end escort to accompany me to the wedding.

The rest of the day is a blur. I took off from Logan at 6:15, landing at JFK less than an hour later. After a layover, I hopped a plane to Toronto, landing around 11. Aside from a little a vacation to Puerto Rico, it was the first time I'd left the U.S. in 14 years, when I was 14 years old. On that trip I traveled as an unaccompanied minor on that trip, which meant the airline essentially held my hand each step of the way. Last year, I didn't need to bother with a passport or customs since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. So I had little to no clue what I was doing Sunday morning and I was doing it on no sleep to boot. But I must have faked it well; somehow I avoided an international incident.

From there, it was a walk through the airport where there were signs like "0.3% of all Canadian auto accidents involve a moose". Had I not been so out of it I would have snapped a picture. But I had to catch a cab, because the trade show I was attending actually started at 7:30 that morning.

I hustled to the hotel, got cleaned up, and managed to somehow work my company's booth for the remainder of the day. If business tanks this month, we may know why. Things finally wrapped up around 7:45. I scuttled across the street to the sports bar to grab a quick dinner.

As one of the 20 remaining NHL fans in the US, it was very cool to be in a Canadian sports bar watching the Stanley Cup Finals and have everyone there give a shit about it. Still, I could only manage to stay through the start of the second. I had to get some sleep.

The rest of the trip was pretty non-descript. Canada was like bizarro world: just like America, but not quite right. The tourism magazine in my room had an article on the Blue Jays. In it, they talked about the "centrefielder" Vernon Wells, how Alex Rios is a fan "favourite" amongst the ladies, and said the B.J. Ryan was once again healthy and deploying his "slingshot delivery". I don't which was most disorienting amongst the three.

Flipping through the stations at night, there was a lot of American TV on. I caught Conan's debut, not because I was particularly interested, but because I wanted to catch Pearl Jam's performance. There was also some British version of Law and Order on. Apparently the 15 different American versions of the show aren't enough. The one thing I wanted to watch, the Monday night Yankee-Indian game on ESPN, I couldn't because of a client dinner.

Even more torturous was being right around the corner from the Hockey Hall of Fame, but unable to go. The days are unbearably long at these shows, 7 AM to at least 5 PM, with networking and glad-handing to follow. And the Hall, being housed in a former bank, keeps banker's hours, closing at like 5:30 daily. Stupid Canadian metric time.

I had wanted to stay through Tuesday. My best friend from home has business in Toronto and he was flying in Tuesday afternoon. We made plans to go to the Jays game that night, to watch the fake umps, and more importantly, to watch the insanely hot waitresses in the seats behind the plate. Unfortunately for me, Delta wanted $800, or twice the cost of my round trip ticket, to make the change, so that wasn't happening. So fuck you Delta, no wonder your whole industry is barely staying alive. Oh and to add insult to injury, Doc Halladay spun a gem Tuesday, going the distance and whiffing 14.

In the end it was just as well. Staying only would have kept me in Canada for another day. I'm not trying to disparage our neighbors to the north, but I realize why my ancestors left there many generations ago. I like my country. So how was I welcomed back? The U.S. customs agent was a total dick to me. Then in the security line, I was chosen at random for the "physical search". Thankfully no cavities were involved. So I got to stand there in front of God and everyone while one guy wearing a turban wanded the metal detector over me and two guys speaking broken English patted me down and questioned me. These are U.S. agents mind you. At the risk of sounding like the Ugly American, I found a bit of irony in all of it.

After another detour through JFK I wound up back at Logan where some friends were nice enough to pick me up - and then let me use their wireless to do Tuesday's recap. Worn out from my whirlwind North American tour, I spent the night in Boston and finally returned home yesterday. I'm glad to be back.

In the end, it's not the most exciting trip recap. But at least we have some filler to hold us over until game time. See you shortly.

The Hughes Wang Dilemma

Over the past couple of years entire forests and billions of bytes have been laid to waste in debating two hot button topics in Yankeedom: the bullpen and how best to utilize the Yankees' young pitching prospects. Thanks to one Joba Chamberlain, the two have often intersected. Today I will willingly add to the tired debate. It's not that I want to keep beating this dead horse, but the Yankees make it impossible for this to go away.

Joba-gate has seemingly reached a turning point, as the combination of Joba's dominating performance Monday combined with the sublimely absurd and maniacal Francesa rant last week seemingly had made the whole debate implode upon itself.

But there is still the Phil Hughes/Chien-Ming Wang situation. On Wednesday, just one day after the team announced there were no plans to make any changes to the rotation, the Yankees made a change to the rotation. Sound familiar? It should. This is the same switch-a-roo the team pulled just two weeks ago when they announced on one day that CMW would make one more rehab start, only to activate him in a panic the very next day.

As a brief aside, the New York Yankees, Brian Cashman, and Joe Girardi are under no moral, ethical, or professional obligation to be forthright or truthful with the media, and by extension, the fanbase. However, the continued pattern of intentionally vague or misleading answers, or in many instances outright untruths, is growing tiresome. Rarely, if ever, is there any competitive advantage to disguising the truth in this way. Rather, it gives the impression that the organization is petty at best or clueless at worst. In either case, the Front Office's credibility is undermined.

So once again, as we said in yesterday's game preview, the move is as follows: Chien-Ming Wang will start this afternoon's game. CC Sabathia gets pushed back from today to tomorrow, and Phil Hughes gets bumped from the rotation for an as-of-yet undetermined role in the bullpen. The question is, what are we to make of all of this?

Jay and I discussed this briefly last night. Here's his take:
Hughes should go to Scranton and stay on a starter's regimen. The amount of innings he throws is more important than the the difference between facing AAA and MLB hitters.
In my opinion, Jay has a solid point there. The most important thing for Phil Hughes this year (and Joba Chamberlain for that matter) is to hit his innings cap. Given their respective injury histories, neither is as far along in innings as the organization would like for them to be. In order for both to make the maximum contribution over the next several years, the organization is going to need to rely upon these guys for 200 IP per season. And the only way to attain that is to ensure that they hit their innings caps this year, and the next and so on.

That said, I don't have a problem with this move right now. My biggest gripe is that it pushes CC back a day; why not keep your ace on schedule? Secondary to that, I continue to be perplexed by the way the Yankees continue to jerk Wang around (innuendo only partially intended). Pete Abe has touched on this repeatedly in the past two weeks, most notably here.

I don't think there's any intent on their part per se, but it is curious that they seemingly don't value him like a pitcher that won had won 46 games from the start of the 2006 season through his foot injury last June. First there was the knee-jerk reactionary activation two weeks ago. The came the news that the organization played a role in botching his rehab. Then yesterday, just a day after essentially stating that he would remain in the pen, came the news that Wang would actually be starting the next day's game. I can only hope that the team was more up front with Wang on Tuesday than they were with the media. Still, Wang had to return to the rotation at some point, and all else considered, I suppose today is as good a time as any to give it a go.

The part I have the least problem with is the Hughes portion of the move. I'm not in any way advocating making Hughes a reliever. There's even less reason to make Hughes a reliever long term than there is to make Joba a reliever. Cashman wouldn't surrender Hughes for Johan Santana, so anyone who thinks for one second that Hughes is the eighth inning answer is off their rocker. Hughes, like Joba, will be given every opportunity to become the front line starter that his potential suggests he can be. But for now, he'll get a chance to contribute out of the pen.

Despite his inconsistencies this year, Hughes has shown that he is an MLB ready pitcher. He is by no means a finished product, but he has spent time at AAA in each of the last three years and has little if anything left to prove there. Any further development can come at the Major League level; the only reason to return him to Scranton would be to ensure a regular workload to reach his innings cap.

While that is a point that should not be underestimated, there is plenty of reason to keep Phil Hughes with the big club for the time being. First and foremost, there is no guarantee, despite being impressive in his last two outings, that Wang will be ready for or capable of full time starting duty just yet. I shudder at the thought of what that would mean for Wang for the rest of 2009, but at the very least, Phil Hughes will still be around as a contingency rather than having to wait the requisite 10 days to return if he were to be optioned out.

Furthermore, as Alfredo Aceves has shown over the past month, there is value in having a relief pitcher that is capable of pitching multiple innings without merely being a mop-up man. For their own reasons, both statheads and old schoolers alike have bemoaned the widespread LaRussa-ization of the modern bullpen: one inning stints, defined roles, etc. With Aceves and Hughes now, the Yankees have the opportunity to deploy a uniquely constructed bullpen as envisioned by Joe at RAB earlier this week.

It's an interesting concept, and one I think could work. Before the 2008 season started, and before injuries and ineffectiveness undermined the pitching staff, I had advocated utilizing Joba Chamberlain in a similar role. Don't mistake me for a Joba to the bullpen guy, that's not the point at all. The issue last year, and again this year, is that the Yankees have two valuable pitchers who have rather low limits on the number of innings they can pitch. The team has the opportunity and the reason to employ an effective, if unconventional, pitching staff as it relates to Joba's and Hughes' innings limits over the remainder of the season.

In the end this will likely be a short term move. An injury or a double header will likely necessitate Hughes being in the rotation again at some point. The return of Brian Bruney and/or Damaso Marte, or the emergence of Mark Melancon will likely land Hughes back in the Scranton rotation at some point. But in the meantime, I'll be very interested to see how this all plays out.

April All Over Again

After a rain delay of 12 minutes the gametime temperature sat at a rather chilly 55 degrees. The air was opaque with mist and a huge amount of seats sat empty. The atmosphere was eerily reminiscent of the game that Schiff and I went to on April 21st. Andy Pettitte was the starter that night as well, but the main difference was that the lefty lasted seven innings, gave up two runs and the Yankees came away with the win. Not tonight.

Tonight was another frustrating outing with RISP (1-6) although it wasn't as bad as the series finale in Cleveland (3-16), which they won. Pettitte got the Yankees in the hole right off the bat, allowing three runs in the first inning. Nelson Cruz hit a ball right back toward Pettitte that would have likely become a double play if it hadn't deflected off it Andy's leg. A DP would have ended the inning, but Ian Kinsler scored on the play and the Rangers worked across two more runs on a groundout and a single. The inning would have continued on longer if it weren't for Melky Cabrera's outfield assist, throwing out Marlon Byrd at third base from right field.

Pettitte did not look sharp at any point in the game, but the first was the only inning where the Rangers would do significant damage. Allowing 13 baserunners in 5 innings typically leads to more than four runs, but Pettitte has always found ways to sneak out of tight situations. The six strikeouts and the double play he induced certainly helped his cause. 

It looked as though his back problem was flaring up as replays showed him wincing as he labored towards first base in the fourth inning. He apparently got through whatever it was and came back out for the fifth, finished the frame and ended up throwing 104 pitches.

The Yankees brought home a run on a single by A-Rod, the only one they would plate in the first six innings. Despite throwing only 59 of his 98 pitches for strikes, Feldman mostly stumped the Bombers. He gave up three walks and five hits, the last of which being a homer to Jorge Posada before getting pulled in the 7th. Of the 14 outs Feldman got on balls in play, 11 were grounders. Although he's not a name brand guy, Feldman's ERA of 3.79 and 5-0 record in seven starts (four in Arlington) is nothing to sneeze at. 

The Yanks shot themselves in the foot plenty of times, however. A-Rod rapped into a double play with one out and the bases loaded in the third inning. After Johnny Damon advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw by Feldman, A-Rod struck out in the sixth with a man on third and only one out. He struck out again in the eighth with Nick Swisher on first, bringing the total number of runners he left on base to five. The bottom third of the line up, (Melky, Matsui and Gardner) reached base only twice in ten plate appearances and Jeter went 0-4 in the leadoff spot. When a four person stretch in the order has a night that bad, it makes it tough to score runs without hitting long balls. 

On the bright side, Nick Swisher filled in admirably for Mark Teixeira, going 2-3 with a walk. Brett Tomko also pitched terrifically in relief of Pettitte, throwing three shutout innings and keeping the game well within reach. David Robertson added his own scoreless frame in the ninth. 

One difference between this and the games the Yankees were losing in April was the level of frustration. April started off bad, and never really got better. There was a sense of angst building, but the Yanks' success as of late makes routine losses like this one much easier to tolerate. The opposing pitcher had a good night and they didn't manage to score enough runs. It happens. Fortunately, the matinee on the schedule today means the loss won't linger too long, either.

The Youkstah Is Fackin' Heeeated

On the first play after Josh Beckett was removed from the Sox' 10-5 victory over the Tigers last night, rookie Josh Anderson tripped over Youk's ankle running to first. Youk hit the deck and then slammed his glove to the ground before leaving the game. 

Not to fear, Soxers, initial reports are that it's only a bruise.