Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Game 59: How Many More Times

Count me amongst those that think both the local and national media, as well as the fans of both teams, place a little too much emphasis on Yankee-Red Sox games. Of course, that's a convenient thing to say right now when my team is winless against the Sox during the Obama Administration. Even I'll admit that at this point, it's getting very frustrating to lose to them game after game.

Despite all that, the teams are still tied for first in the AL East, but what hurts is that if the Yankees had managed a split through these first six games, they would currently hold a nice six game lead in the division.

Tonight we have Wang vs. Wakefield. Neither pitcher has good career numbers against tonight's opponent. In 14 games (13 GS) Wang is 6-5 against the Sox with a 4.91 ERA and a WHIP of 1.55. He's allowed more BB than K and the Sox have hit .281/.357/.417 off him. Meanwhile, in 49 G (32 GS) Wakefield is 10-17 with a 5.03 ERA and a WHIP of 1.42. Neither pitcher has faced tonight's opponent yet in 2009.

Tonight's theme is "how many more times?" How many more times will these teams have to play this year before the Yankees notch a "W"? How many more times will the Sox treat the Yankees the way they want to? How many more times will CMW take to the hill before he returns to his pre-foot injury form? How many more times will the Yankees play before we see Phil Hughes log some needed innings? I sure hope the answers are zero, zero, zero, and not that many. But if we see Hughes early tonight, things don't look too good for the first three questions.

As an aside, I would have much preferred to go with go with original Howlin' Wolf song "How Many More Years". However, in the interests of framing both the Yankees problems against the Sox and CMW's problems on the mound as being more temporal, I thought it much better to go with "times" than "years". So in this one instance, I'm happy the boys from Led Zeppelin decided to rip off the blues heroes they supposedly admired.

How many more times, treat me the way you want to do
How many more times, treat me the way you want to do
When I give you all my love, please, please be true

Meet Slade Heathcott

Slade Heathcott. No, he's not a writer dispatched from the New Yorker to write a feature on the Peter Max gallery at the New Yankee Stadium. He's the 18 year old kid the Yanks just drafted out of Texas High School in Texarkana. That would be the state of Texas, in case you were wondering.

His first name is Zachary (as is shown on the first frame of the video here) but has apparently since changed to Slade for marketability purposes, or to set up a future career as a porn producer, should this baseball thing fall through. In related news, please refer to this blog as Fackington T. Youkaford from now forward.

The selection represents the first time since 2005 that the Yankees have selected a position player with their first selection and the first time they have selected an outfielder in the first round since 2001. With the Yankees picking at #29 this year, they had to take someone with "warts" and not the kind that Billy Beane famously talked about in Moneyball. Someone that other teams had passed on depsite obvioius talent and upside. Pinto compares him to Captain Kirk, but let's take a look around to see what else is being said.

The Good:

The Bad:
  • ACL surgery - He had his ACL repaired in November after a football injury but all accounts indicate that he has recovered completely and is running well.

  • Academic ineligibility - He was ruled ineligible for his high school team's playoff last month due to poor performance in school. Good thing he won't have to worry about pesky bullshit like "schoolwork" anymore! I know, it's probably not a great sign, but being a member of the National Honor Society isn't a prerequisite for MLB stardom. Just ask Manny Ramirez!

  • Attitude - One of the guys from Baseball Analysts was the one watching him in the Area Code games and thought he came across as cocky. If any of us were still in high school were staring down a future of professional athletics and millions of dollars, we might come across as arrogant as well.

  • Parent issues - Both of his parents are out of his life due to problems with drug abuse. This doesn't necessarily mean anything, but it's probably not a great sign. Hopefully he's got at least some sort of a support structure because those years coming up through the minors can be pretty bleak at times.
Well, Zachary Slade, welcome to the crew. But if we hear one more thing about you being a Red Sox fan, this might get ugly.

Manny Ramirez: Admitted Murderer, Rapist

From the horse's mouth [emphasis mine]:
"I don't want to be a distraction for this team," Ramirez said. "What happened, happened. I spoke to [owner] Frank McCourt, I apologized, I spoke to Joe, my teammates and I'm ready to move on.

"I didn't kill nobody, I didn't rape nobody, so that's it, I'm just going to come and play the game."
He seemed to understand sentence negation in the first paragraph, but then drops a cryptic and insidious clue as to his past evil deeds in the second one.

I demand an investigation into these crimes he didn't not commit!

Tonight on YES

Almost to a fault, the Yankees celebrate their history more than any other organization in MLB, if not all of sports. But they do so with good reason, no other sports franchise has as much history to celebrate. One of the best ways that the Yankees celebrate their past is through the Yankeeography series on YES. And tonight, they debut a new Yankeeography that I am very much looking forward to.

As I imagine most of you were, I was raised to be a Yankee fan. I have a picture of Mickey Mantle holding me as a baby. I have a picture of me as a toddler just a few years later, standing next Joe DiMaggio; the Yankee Clipper being either too old or dignified to pick me up. I can recall dressing myself as young child in a "Billy's Back" t-shirt, celebrating Billy Martin's return as Yankees manager for the 1983 season.

But my favorite Yankee as a youngster was Dave Winfield. I'm not entirely sure why. Before I really started following the Yankees, and probably shortly before he took me to my first game, I remember asking my father who the players were on the Yankees. He rattled off some names, most likely Don Mattingly and Ron Guidry and Dave Righetti and Willie Randolph, and maybe even Rickey Henderson. But the name I latched onto was Dave Winfield. Or as my little 3 or 4 year old ears heard it "Wind Field". It was easy to remember; they were words that I knew. Of the many souveniers I weaseled out of my father at that first game, one was a large Dave Winfield button that I must still have kicking around somewhere.

By the time I began following baseball in earnest in 1988, Winfield's Yankee career was closing out. I won't spoil the Yankeeography for you, but let's just say things had gone south between Winnie and Big Stein. Winfield still had one of his best seasons that year, turning in the top OBP of his career, second best OPS, OPS+, and AVG of his career and his third best SLG at the age of 36. He would finish 4th in the AL MVP voting, but a back injury suffered late in the season required surgery and cost him the entirety of the 1989 season.

He would return briefly at the start of the disastrous 1990 season, but too much bad blood existed between Steinbrenner and him. The crowded Yankee outfield provided the perfect excuse to send him to the Angels for the immortal Mike Witt. Winfield would remain productive for another 4 seasons and finally win a World Series with the 1992 Blue Jays. Mike Witt would start 27 games over 4 seasons for the Yankees, post a 4.91 ERA, and earn more than $7.5M for it. He was Carl Pavano before Carl Pavano was.

During the 1980s the Yankees had the winningest record in baseball and had but one pennant to show for it, despite having rosters featuring Winfield, Mattingly, Henderson, Guidry, Righetti, and Randolph. They consistently had good teams, but never great teams, and the instability and insanity of the Front Office couldn't have helped matters at all. Still in his eight full seasons in pinstripes, Winfield hit .291/.357/.497 (135 OPS+) with 203 HRs, many of them screaming line drives that just cleared the fences. He made 8 All-Star teams, won 5 Gold Gloves, 5 Silver Sluggers, and had 4 top ten MVP finishes.

Winfield was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in January 2001. He had spent nearly equal time with the Padres and Yankees and rumor had it he was going to enter the Hall as a Yankee. Fueling the fire, during Spring Training Glenallen Hill switched from Winfield's #31, which he had worn the year before, to #25, causing speculation that Winfield's number would be retired as part of the process. Instead, Winfield took a sweetheart deal from the Padres, much like the one the Yankees had given Reggie Jackson eight years earlier, and became the first man enshrined in the Hall of Fame as a San Diego Padre.

Winfield has been welcomed back into the Yankee family more in recent years, appearing at Old Timers' Days, the closing of the old Yankee Stadium, and the opening of the new one. The team probably wishes they had him along in Cleveland a few weeks ago to help take care of the seagull problem as well. I'm looking forward to checking this one out tonight, but with it scheduled to air following a Yankee-Sox game it probably won't be on until about midnight.

Maybe The Seventh Time Is A Charm?

[Pics from here since still doesn't have the archived game up yet]

The last time A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett squared off was the day of the NFL draft. That afternoon both of the former Marlin teammates were lit up with very similar lines, giving up 8 runs each, including 2HRs, in five innings of work.

Impossibly, Burnett's performance was actually worse tonight, the night of the MLB draft. He gave up 5 runs (3 earned) in 2 2/3IP, walked five batters, only struck out one and blew through 84 pitches (40(!) strikes) to get those 8 outs. He allowed his 12th home run this year in as as many starts, a deep blast to straightaway center to some chump with a .308 slugging percentage entering that at bat. In an amusing and unintentionally pathetic display, Sox fans called Papi out after this second inning two run jack for a curtain call. Congrats, Papi... You know you are a sad case when people are applauding things that you used to make look pretty routine not too long ago.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Josh Beckett subdued the Yankees offensively like they had been hit with a tranquilizer dart and stuffed in his trunk. In the process of being rung up on strikes eight times in six innings, only three men were able to reach base. No Yankee achieved that feat more than once in the game. Beckett carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning until he was unceremoniously jinxed by an anonymous commenter on the game post. When your team's lone offensive highlight is of someone breaking up the opposing pitcher's no-hitter, you know it wasn't a very fun contest to watch. After only 94 pitches through six innings, Terry Francona went to the bullpen, who kept the shut out in tact.

One of the pitchers he called on was highly touted prospect Daniel Bard. He worked a perfect ninth inning and came out throwing hard. So hard, in fact, that the YES guns repeatedly clocked his offspeed pitches in the high 90's and once at 100mph. Amazing.

The final pitch of the game was clearly a slider to Robinson Cano. 100MPH?

Although there were 11 walks issued in the game (7 by the Yankees), it wrapped up in a tidy 3:04. It was a damp affair, as mist swirled around Fenway throughout the entire contest. It was a horrible game to watch, but it least it didn't take all night like every Yanks vs. Sox game seems to. The six in a row the Sox have taken from the Yankees is the longest such streak since 1912.

That's enough masochism for tonight, I think. Hey, the Yanks are still tied for first with the Sox despite being 0-6 against them. Yaaay...

/downs more scotch.

Let's try it again tomorrow.