Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Game 64: I Don't Need No Doctor

When the Yankees and Phillies opened last year's World Series at Yankee Stadium, the pitching match up featured both clubs' aces, as CC Sabathia faced Cliff Lee. If you were to believe the rumors leading up to last year's trade deadline however, there was a good chance that Doc Halladay would have been the Game One pitcher for one of those two teams.

On July 7th last year, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal floated a weather balloon about the Blue Jays shopping Roy Halladay, and the rumor mill instantaneously kicked into overdrive. Almost immediately the defending champion Phillies were pegged as the most likely landing spot, with the Yankees considered another strong match. As the July 31st deadline approached the Phillies continually balked at Toronto's asking price and instead moved to Plan B, scoring Cliff Lee from the Indians for a lesser package. Meanwhile, neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox blinked in a divisional game of chicken, and Halladay woke up on August 1st as Toronto property.

Toronto G.M. J.P. Ricciardi probably overplayed his hand in hanging onto Halladay. When he was dismissed following the season, Alex Anthopoulos took over and he immediately began shopping the Blue Jays' most valuable asset. On December 16th, Anthopoulos unloaded Doc, sending him to Philadelphia in a complex and confusing four team trade that netted Toronto virtually the same package Philadelphia had refused to move five months earlier. As part of the deal, Philly shipped Lee to Seattle.

So while Doc Halladay will take Lee's place in opposing Sabathia in tonight's interleague series opener, Lee once again finds himself sitting atop the auction block. He's been outstanding after spending the first month of the season on the DL, and with Seattle sporting the Majors' third worst record and Lee being a free agent at season's end, he's assured to be traded for the third time in a year by the time the July 31st deadline rolls around.

Predictably, the Yankees are once rumored as a prime landing spot for the prize of the trade market. And it just doesn't add up to me. Last year, there was a demonstrable need for a pitcher like Roy Halladay. Joba Chamberlain was struggling and facing an innings cap. Chien-Ming Wang was ineffective and out for the season following shoulder surgery. Sergio Mitre was plain ineffective. And even at that, the Yankees found the price for a year and two months of Roy Halladay to be too steep.

The Yankees are facing no such issues right now. Their starting rotation is arguably the best in baseball. Yes Javier Vazquez struggled early on, and yes Phil Hughes will face some innings restrictions later this year (albeit less restrictive than Chamberlain's last year), but one through five I'll take my chances with the current rotation. So why would the Yankees surrender a similar package now when the need is much less and when the target in question is under contract for only three months more?

Cliff Lee is amongst the game's best pitchers and he'll make a fine prize for someone by the end of July. While numerous Yankee fans have been salivating over his impending free agency since before this season even began, there just isn't the need for him now nor the justification for paying the likely asking price. The Yankees decided they didn't need Doc at last year's deadline, and they passed on him again when he was up for bid in the off-season. I'm hopeful they'll repeat that decision when it comes to Cliff Lee at this year's deadline. The Yankees know what's ailing them, and at present, it's not starting pitching.

I don't need no doctor
'Cause I know what's ailing me
I don't need no doctor, no, no
'Cause I know what's ailing me
[Song Notes: Originally recorded by Ray Charles, performances of this song by Charles are hard to come by, as we found when I tried to use it in a post about David Robertson last year. The version here comes from Humble Pie, the band with which Peter Frampton first rose to prominence. This performance comes from 1971, shortly after Frampton left the band. It's been covered by several other artists through the years, including blog favorite Gov't Mule, who began using it as a coda to another Humble Pie tune, "30 Days in the Hole".

It was also recorded by John Scofield on That's What I Say, his 2005 tribute album to Charles. I would have used a Scofield version here, which is very true to the original, except the Sco version prominently features John Mayer and I just couldn't bring myself to embed that here].


Alex Rodriguez is once again out of the lineup, but is available to pinch hit and figures to return tomorrow. Jorge Posada returns to DHing after catching Sunday. Sergio Mitre has been placed on the DL with an oblique injury; Boone Logan has been recalled.
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada DH
Brett Gardner LF
Francisco Cervelli C
Ramiro Pena 3B

LHP CC Sabathia

Shane Victorino CF
Chase Utley 2B
Placido Polanco 3B
Ryan Howard 1B
Jayson Werth RF
Raul Ibanez LF
Ben Francisco DH
Juan Castro DH
Carlos Ruiz C

Past World Series Rematches

2010 marks the fourteenth season of interleague play, and the seventh time in those fourteen years that the Yankees are the reigning American League champions. When the Yankees and Phillies start their three game interleague series tonight, it'll be the fifth time in those seven years that the Yankees face their opponent from the previous Fall Classic.

In 1997, the inaugural year of interleague play, the Yankees hosted Atlanta from June 30th through July 2nd. Just as they had in the previous year's World Series, the Braves took two of the three games played in the Bronx. All three games were pitchers' duels, with the Braves taking games two and three with scores of 3-1 and 2-0 respectively, while the lone Yankee win was a ten inning 1-0 victory in the opener.

Three years later the two clubs met in Atlanta, in a rematch of the 1999 World Series. This time the Yanks took the series, winning two of the three games. This series was far more offensive than the 1997 rematch, as each of the three games matched or exceeded the seven total runs from '97 series. The Yanks took the opener 5-2, dropped the middle 7-11, and took the rubber match 7-6.

The six Subway Series games between the Yankees and Mets in 2001 were one more than number of games the teams played in the 2000 World Series. The Yankees took the first two at Shea in mid-June before dropping the series finale. Two and half weeks later, they met again at Yankee Stadium. Once again the Yanks took the opener, then dropped the middle game, before winning the series finale.

2002 was the last time the Yankees played an interleague series against the previous year's World Series opponent, as they hosted the Diamondbacks from June 10th through 12th. In the series opener, New York did what they couldn't do the previous fall: beat Randy Johnson. The Big Unit surrendered five runs through seven and two thirds, two of them coming on the home run hit by Marcus Thames in his first Major League at bat. The Yankees won again the following day, behind the pitching of David Wells, who had walked away from a handshake deal with the Snakes to rejoin the Yankees the previous off-season. The Dbacks avoided the sweep in the finale, as Byung-Hun Kim exacted some measure of redemption, pitching two scoreless innings for the save and fanning Bernie Williams, Jason Giambi, and Jorge Posada in working a flawless eighth inning.

Over those four years, the Yankees went 9-6 in interleague World Series rematches, scoring 65 runs and allowing 62. They dropped two of three to Philadelphia in an interleague series last Memorial Day weekend, but are 11-10 overall against Philly in seven interleague series.

Leftover Weekend Notes

Good morning Fackers. We're easing our way out of the weekend and yesterday's off day, with a World Series rematch against the Phillies looming tonight. Before we turn our focus to that, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out a few items from the weekend series where the Yankees swept up after Astro like they were Rosie the Robot:

On Friday, Andy Pettitte became just the third pitcher in Yankee history to record two hundred wins. Yes, wins aren't a very good means of measuring a pitcher's effectiveness, but for Pettitte to join elite company in the franchise's storied history is noteworthy. Pettitte has been flirting with retirement for the past four off-seasons. Even if he finishes 2010 pitching as well as he has thus far, he's still a good season plus away from catching Red Ruffing (231) and Whitey Ford (236). If he had never left for Houston he'd likely already hold the record.

As Jay mentioned yesterday, Jorge Posada hit grand slams on Saturday and Sunday. He now has 251 career home runs, pushing him past Graig Nettles (250) for seventh place on the Yankees' all-time list. Next up is Bernie Williams (287), but A-Rod is lurking just five behind Posada.

Derek Jeter's leadoff home run on Saturday broke Rickey Henderson's club record for career leadoff home runs.

Marcus Thames injured his hamstring Saturday and was placed on the DL. Chad Huffman was recalled to take his roster spot. Huffman made his Major League debut Sunday, legged out an infield single in his first at bat, and later reached on a walk and a dropped third strike.

Former Yankee Oscar Azocar passed away yesterday at age 45 in his native Venezuela. Azocar was one of several young players the Yankees brought up during their last place season in 1990. He wasn't particularly good, but much like Francisco Cervelli, he had an enthusiastic style play that endeared him to fans and to Phil Rizzuto. Azocar frequently sprinted from his post in left field to back up third base on plays where he was otherwise uninvolved. A free swinger, Azocar walked just twice in 218 plate appearances that season, but he made enough contact where he only struck out 15 times. He was traded to San Diego following his rookie season and washed out of organized baseball after two years there.