Friday, July 31, 2009

Game 103: After The Gold Rush

The trade deadline came and went for the Yankees without much action. They traded for Eric Hinkse a while back, Jason Hirsh a couple days ago and picked up Jerry Hairston, Jr. today. But I think most fans were holding out hope that they could snag a solid reliever or back end starter as 4:00 came and went. Alas, they did not and will have to see who passes through waivers before they made a deal.

The White Sox on the other hand, came up with what was easily the most surprising deal of the trade deadline. They once again dealt for Jake Peavy, but this time he approved it. He is currently on the DL, but as long as both teams are okay with that and he passes a physical, it's fair game. Peavy is rehabbing an ankle injury and apparently won't be back until August 15th at the very earliest.

It came at a fairly significant cost, however. Part of the package was tonight's starter for the Sox, Clayton Richard. The 25 year old lefty had a 5.14 ERA in 136 2/3 Big Leauge IP, but his minor league numbers are pretty solid. In addition, his last two starts were phenomenal, both consisting of 8 innings of one run ball. Perhaps the Padres were intrigued by his recent dominance and that's what sparked the negotiations?

Instead of Richard, D.J. Carrasco will go for the Sox. He's made 34 appearances this year, none of them starts, and the longest was 3 2/3 innings on July 19 against the Orioles in mop-up duty. He made 20 starts for the Royals in 2005 and pitched to an ERA slightly below league average (92 OPS+). The Sox are throwing him out there for lack of a better option and the fact he pitched three nights ago means that he's probably on a fairly limited pitch count. It would seem their underbelly is exposed and it would be a good time for the Yanks' bats to strike.

The Bombers send their own liability to the mound tonight. Sergio Mitre has been fairly serviceable so far in his two starts, lasting 5 2/3 and giving up 3R in his first, while following a 4 run first inning in his second outing with 4 scoreless ones. Both of those gamed ended up in the win column, so I guess that means he was good enough, right?

Barring the acquisition of a player who passes through waivers, this is the team that the Yankees are working with for the rest of the year. Mark Teixeira thinks that's good enough to win with. A lot of that hinges on Mitre's ability to put together respectable starts. If he can hold a spot in the rotation, it will greatly temper the need for the Yanks to start pulling their bullpen apart to patch up the rotation.

Here we are, Fackers, coming around the back stretch. The Yanks struck it rich in July, going 18-8 so far. Let's close out the best month of the season in style.

I was lying in a burned out basement,
With the full moon in my eyes.
I was hoping for replacement,
When the sun burst through the sky.

It's Something... Yanks Acquire Jerry Hairston, Jr.

According to Joel Sherman, the Yanks have acquired Jerry Hairston, Jr. from the Reds. No word on who or what is going back. [Update: The return for the Reds is Chase Weems, a Single A catcher.]

Knee jerk time!
  • Hairston can play every position on the field except for catcher (he presumably could play first but never does). With most players that would be hyperbole, but this year he has played one game in RF, 3 in CF and 8 or more at LF, 2B, 3B, and SS. [Update: He appears to be roughly average or better at every position.]
  • He's 33 years old and is making $2M this year. No word on whether Hal Steinbrenner is going to be a dick and make the Reds pay some of his salary. [Update: He also has performance bonuses that could escalate his salary up to $2M more]

  • His 8 HR this year already tie a career high set in 2001. He's made 340 PA's, his second most since 2003.
Given that Weems was the 4th or 5th catcher in the system at best, the trade seems to work on both ends. The Reds likely weren't asking for a lot, considering they are out of the race, Hairston would have been gone at the end of the year and wasn't going to net them any draft picks. They probably didn't mind picking up a halfway decent prospect and saving a little money in the process.

Versatility is key with Brett Gardner out right now. He's like a super Cody Ransom - old, good at defense, can play a lot of positions, etc.

I'll update this post with more as it comes.

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock

Quarter past 3:00, and nothing is doing on the Yankee front. A few things are going down around the league with some relevance to our cause, though. Let's check in with MLBTR:
If calling up Shelly Duncan from AAA is the biggest thing that happens on the trade deadline, I'm going to be pretty disappointed.

"Let's Move On"

Yesterday, I dropped the sentence above at the very end of the Manny and Ortiz post. It was met with some friendly disagreement in the comments so I just wanted to take a moment to clarify the point.

The overriding sentiment from the commenters was that the Sox fans had their fun with all the steroid controversy surrounding the Yankees and now it's time to give it back to them.

Sox fans were merciless with Jason Giambi until the day he left, no doubt. They got various steroids chants going for Andy Pettitte on the heels of the Mitchell Report, but those have largely subsided. They were anxious to point out that they had the "clean" years of Roger Clemens' career. But let's see how aggressive with the "You-Took-Ster-Oids" chants they are next time A-Rod comes to Fenway. Like any other fanbase Red Sox Nation has it's fair share of dickheads, but most people with a reasonable amount of frontal lobe activity are going to realize they are now the pot calling the kettle black. If any of the fackin' Sullies and Murphs do start to get mouthy, Yanks fans can counter with "So-Did-Pa-Pi". What are we going to do beyond that?

I'd be lying if I said there wasn't an element of personal satisfaction and Soxenfreude involved in all of this. There more certainly is. Aside from the Yankees, it's the most central theme of this blog, for fuck's sake. But any of the idiots who were foolish enough to point the finger at the rest of the league, and really thought they were going to skate away with no stars on the Red Sox being implicated in PED use, and thought that 2004 was a gift from God, pure as the driven snow, just took a shot to the solar plexus. And that's good enough for me.

This news doesn't change what happened in 2004 from our eyes, though. The '04 roster of the Yankees included A-Rod, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi and almost certainly some other guys who haven't been outed yet. Their cheaters were a microscopic amount better (or just luckier) than our cheaters.

What we are heading towards is a realization that almost nothing is free from the stain of PEDs, one player and subsequently one fanbase at a time. Very few individual accomplishments and absolutely no Championships in say, the last 15-20 years or so are going to above reproach.

Like always, the Yankees are at the forefront of this, like they are in almost every aspect of baseball. We as Yankee fans are again ahead of the curve. Whether you like dragging people into the mud with you is a matter of personal preference, but it don't get a whole lot out of it.

Remembering The Captain

We'll take a brief respite from the trade dealine madness to remember what is likely the most tragic day in Yankee history. Sunday marks the thirty year anniversary of the death of Thurman Munson.

As we counted down to Spring Training, Jay had a great look back at Munson. That was before my time at Fack Youk, and as we approach this sad anniversary I wanted to offer my own remembrance. Despite his passing more than thirteen months before I was born, Munson has long been one of my favorite Yankees. I suppose it stems from my father; with the possible exception of Mickey Mantle, Munson is his all-time favorite.

As I grew interested in baseball, it was of course my father who taught me about baseball history and about Yankee history, and of course, there was the obligatory Munson lesson. At some point in my youth I inherited the #15 Yankee t-shirt my father had outgrown. Age and wear and tear eventually rendered that shirt unwearable, but a Munson shirt I purchased in Cooperstown some years ago remains my shirt of choice when venturing to the Bronx.

One of the first games I can recall going to was shortly after the tenth anniversary of Munson's death. I can recall visiting his plaque in Monument Park that day, as well as receiving the commemorative issue of Yankees Magazine that I read until it fell apart. A few years later I came upon Munson's autobiography, co-authored by Marty Appel, and read that one over and over. I recently completed Appel's comprehensive Munson biography. I have mixed feelings about the book - and may well review it here at some point - but by default it has to be considered the definitive work on Munson and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about him.

What is it about Munson that makes him so beloved thirty years after he last played? Certainly his untimely demise plays into it, as his does his role as the face of the Yankees during the most colorful period of their history. A Rookie of the Year award, MVP award, three Gold Gloves awards, three pennants, and two World Championships certainly help too, as does serving as the first Yankee Captain since Lou Gehrig.

But more than that, I think there was something inherently likeable about Munson. Despite his midwestern roots and sensibilities, his personality was also sarcastic and confident enough to endear him to New York fans. His squatty, unathletic-looking build made him appear as a scrappy over-achiever, despite his natural talents. He perpetually played hurt, and despite the madness of the Bronx Zoo years, Munson usually managed to stay above the fray. He was the face of the franchise as they emerged from the worst stretch of their post-deadball history back to being a championship club.

But those are just my impressions looking back on a player I wasn't lucky enough to see. So what do you say Fackers? For those of you who saw him play, what are your memories of The Captain?

(I know I'm breaking our black and white image policy,
but I love the orange catcher's gear)

Trade Needs And Options

We're six hours and counting from the non-waiver trade deadline. Before we take a look at what the Yankees' needs are, first, let's take a look at their roster situation. Things aren't nearly as bad as they were in late May when I went on this diatribe, but the organization doesn't have quite the roster flexibility I'd like right now.

The Yankees are currently at the limit on their 40 man roster. They have a bit of flexibility in that both Xavier Nady and Chien-Ming Wang can be moved to the 60 day DL to open two spots on the 40 man. One of those spots will likely be taken by Shelley Duncan today, as all indications are that the Yankees will stop carrying the ludicrous 13 man pitching staff they've had all this week and add a righty bat with the ChiSox throwing southpaws in the three remaining games this series. That will leave the Yankees with one other spot to add a player without removing someone already on the roster.

Still, they're a bit hamstrung. Ian Kennedy, Christian Garcia, and Kevin Cash are all out for the season with injuries. Since none were on the Major League roster at the time of their injuries, they can't be placed on the 60 day DL. I'm not sure that they can be called up and DL'd either. The Yankees wouldn't consider releasing IPK or Garcia, but would Cash - I just don't know if the CBA would allow that.

Damaso Marte, on the DL since April, is in the midst of a rehab assignment, but the latest scouting reports have not been good. He gave up 2 HRs in his last appearance and was clocked topping out at 88 MPH. Given that the Yanks are in the market for bullpen help, I doubt you'd see anything happen with Marte, but there is a slim possibility he could be moved to the 60 day to create additional room.

Juan Miranda, though producing rather well, is blocked by Teix, and has little trade value. He may be a candidate for DFA if another spot is needed.

Got all that? OK, here's what I figure the Yanks are going to be looking for today:
1). Utility infielder. Cody Ransom has been hot of late (3 for his last 7, 3 2B), but at 33 he is what he is, and what he is is replacement level at best. With A-Rod, Jeter, and Cano, the Yankees don't need a back-up IFer often, but they may look for an upgrade if one's available. Ramiro Pena is waiting in Scranton, and while he offers a great glove and good speed, he doesn't have much of a bat and is in Scranton ostensibly to learn the OF as well.

2). Back-up CFer. Speaking of the OF, Brett Gardner's broken thumb has left the Yankees without a viable CF back-up, and Shelley Duncan's likely arrival today will do nothing to change that. At the start of the season, I wouldn't have had a problem with Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher out there in an emergency, but after their collective performance at the corners this year I don't feel that way any longer.

I highly doubt the Yankees will go the trade route on this one, as whoever the back-up is will likely be a goner when Gardner is ready to return. But given Melky's streakiness, I wouldn't entirely rule out going after a new CFer all together. More likely, the Yanks will go after former top prospect Corey Patterson, as has been rumored, especially since Josh Anderson was flipped to KC.

3). Some sort of pitcher. This is both the trickiest one to figure, but also the biggest need. The Yanks want at least one pitcher if not more. They've been rumored for both starters and relievers. Maybe they view that as two separate needs, or maybe they view it as one that can be filled in one of two ways. They did acquire Josh Hirsch from the Rockies on Wednesday, but that appears to be a move for needed depth in Scranton. Given Hirsch's numbers, I pray we don't see him in the Bronx this year.
Sergio Mitre is not the answer in the rotation's five spot. It doesn't appear that anyone on the 40 man is ready to step in. Personally, I think Mitre may be of some use in the pen, which could mean Alf or Hughes goes to the rotation, but the Yankees have given every indication that they want both those guys to stay in the pen this year.

All that, coupled with Joba Chamberlain's impending innings limit situation and CMW being gone until who knows when, makes the need for a starter even greater. Cliff Lee has been dealt, Roy Halladay appears to be staying put (and is too pricey IMO), leaving Jarrod Washburn as the most rumored name out there. But, given the M's move on Wednesday, it would appear that they're buyers rather than sellers.

To me, Washburn in the most appealing in terms of price, but I have concerns about how he'd perform for the Yanks. On the surface the veteran southpaw is having a great year (162 ERA+) after spending five of the last six at or below league average. But 34 year old pitchers don't often show such drastic improvement, and Washburn is no exception. Digging deeper, there's a lot to suggest Washburn isn't pitching as well as his surface numbers indicate.

First, his BABIP is .249, well below the league average of .300 - that will likely be correcting itself over the season's last two months. Second, his FIP is 3.75, still better than league average, but much worse than his 2.64 ERA. Third, Washburn is an extreme flyball pitcher. That works to his advantage pitching half his games in spacious Safeco Park with an excellent outfield defense. I shudder to think how that would play in the new Yankee Stadium, against AL East competition, with the Yankees outfield "defense" behind him. He may suffice as a fourth or fifth starter - which is really what the Yanks are looking for - but let the buyer beware.

The Yankees have also been linked to bullpen arms such as Chad Qualls and Scott Downs. Presumably, such an acquisition would allow the Yanks to work Phil Hughes back into the rotation, which might be the plan anyway with Joba fast approaching his innings limit.

Clear as mud, right? That's just what I'm thinking and reading around the interwebs. Who knows what kind of ace Brian Cashman has up his sleeve this time. We'll have a better idea in a few hours.

Non-Waiver Trade Deadline: Deal (Or No Deal)

[Song starts around 2:15]

Since it cost a lot to win,

And even more to lose,
You and me bound to spend some time,
Wondering what to choose.

Goes to show you don't ever know,
Watch each card you play,
And play it slow,
Wait until that deal come 'round,
Don't you let that deal go down, No no.

Good morning Fackers. At long last I'm back home - though I'm not quite sure what day it is or which time zone I'm in. They tell me it's Friday and the work week is at an end, so we might as well start it off with the some Dead this morning.

Today is one of my favorite sporting days of the year: baseball's non-waiver trade deadline. I can remember when the deadline was at midnight rather than four, before the internet had really taken off. It was a lot harder to stay updated in those days. will have all the updates you need as the day wears on. And we'll be sure to keep you posted on anything Yankee-specific.

Rest assured the vast majority of what you hear today will center around Roy Halladay. I don't know what to believe of the hundreds of rumors out there, but my gut feeling is that J.P. Ricciardi has over-played his hand and Doc won't be going anywhere. I have to admit though, I am a little concerned at the notion of the Red Sox jumping into the fray. They certainly have the prospects to get a deal done, and a Halladay/Lester/Beckett front three would be quite formidable.

That said. I'd hate to see the Yankees jump into the mix just to block the Sox. That's the mentality that landed Jose Canseco in the Bronx in 2000. Don't get me wrong, Halladay would be a tremendous addition to the Yanks (or any team), but at what cost? I figure it would take either Joba or Hughes, plus Jesus Montero and/or Austin Jackson, plus another prospect or two (Zach McAllister, Dellin Betances, Austin Romine, Manny Banuelos, Wilkins De La Rosa, Jeremy Bleich, etc.) Personally, that's not a price I'm willing to pay.

First off, in Hughes or Joba the Yankees would be giving up a critical piece to the team as it's currently constructed. Yes, Halladay is a better pitcher than both, but it would only be an incremental upgrade. Secondly, AJax may be a contributor as soon as this September. He is one of the few viable position prospects in the upper levels of the system, and with only Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, and Nick Swisher under contract for next year's outfield, I'd like to keep him. Meanwhile Montero appears to be the best bat to come through the system in the last decade. He may or may not be able to stick at catcher, but I'm willing to give him time until we can find out. As fans we may be guilty of over valuing our prospects from time to time, but I'd much rather watch this group bomb as Yankees rather than blossom as Blue Jays.

The trade deadline is risky business. I have faith in Brian Cashman. I just hope he heeds the above words of wisdom courtesy of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter.

Back in a bit with a look at the lay of the land for the Yankees as they weigh their options today.

ChiSox Walk Off In Pitchers' Duel

Thanks to a one hour rain delay, the Yankee game was only an inning old when I touched down at LaGuardia last night. Thanks to some speedy work by the baggage handlers, it was only two innings old as turned on the White Sox radio broadcast when I got in my car. Thanks to a lack of traffic and an overwhelming desire to get home after a week on the road, I made it to my living room in time to watch Dewayne Wise line a single off Phil Coke's glove to end it in the bottom of the ninth.

As is my custom, if forced to listen on the radio while the Yanks are on the road, I went with the home broadcast on XM rather than suffer through John and Suzyn. Unfortunately, ChiSox announcers Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson are only slightly less obnoxious than the WCBS crew, and nearly as openly homers as notorious ChiSox TV man Hawk Harrelson.

Both Andy Pettitte and Gavin Floyd had outstanding starts, aided in part by a generous strike zone from home plate umpire Ted Barrett. The Yankees struck out 14 times, half of them looking. Pettitte struck out eight of his own, and only one walk was issued all night - Johnny Damon in the first inning.

The White Sox drew first blood, as a two out double from Gordon Beckham in the third scored Chris Getz from first.

It remained that way until the sixth, as the Yankees used doubles from Jose Molina and Johnny Damon to tie the score. Damon reached second with just one out, but neither Mark Teixeira nor Alex Rodriguez could bring him home. The Yankees also squandered a Melky Cabrera leadoff double in the third, and a first and second two out opportunity for Teix in the eighth. It was just one of those nights.

The White Sox re-took the lead in the seventh, exploiting some sloppy Yankee defense. Jim Thome led off by tapping back to Pettitte, but Pettitte slipped on the slick field, allowing Thome to reach. After a Paul Konerko strikeout, A.J. Pierzynski reached on an IF single that A-Rod may or may not have been able to field cleanly. Carlos Quentin then bounced a potential inning ending double play ball to third, but a high, hard slide from Pierzynski forced Cano to throw away the relay, allowing Thome to score.

The Yanks did catch a bit of luck in the ninth. With no one on, two outs, and an 0-1 count against him, Nick Swisher knocked a game tying home run against his former team. It looked like the Yanks had a little magic going their way again, and it was assuredly gratifying for Swish to momentarily spoil victory for his former team, but it wasn't to last. In the bottom of the ninth Phil Hughes pitched into a two on, one out jam, before giving way to Phil Coke. Coke recorded the second out, bringing Dewayne Wise - hitting under .200 and in the game for defensive purposes - to the plate. Wise smoked a 2-2 liner up the middle, glancing off Coke's glove. Coke was maybe a half second away from sending the game to extras. Instead, his deflection eliminated what little chance Melky Cabrera had to gun down the speedy Scott Podsednik as the winning run.

These games will happen from time to time. Hughes had to give up a run sooner or later. Let's take solace in Pettitte's impressive performance and hope the Yanks can take at least two of the remaining three to salvage a split.

Big day tomorrow. We'll be back at it bright and early.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Game 102: Chicago

Despite holding a record of 51-51, the White Sox are only three games in back of the Tigers in the AL Central. However, if that doesn't work out, they aren't looking to good in the Wild Card race sitting 8 games back. The Yanks haven't played Chicago yet, but are 19-5 against the Central, including 7-0 against the Twins and 5-1 against the first place Tigers. It's a considerable improvement over last year, when they went 21-19 against that division.

Gavin Floyd goes for the ChiSox tonight. Last year was Floyd's only valuable year as a major league pitcher, throwing 206 1/3 innings at a 3.84 ERA and picking up 17 wins. He's not quite at that level this year, thus far sporting an ERA of 4.24 and a record of 8-6. He's been solid of late, averaging 6 2/3 IP over his last 7 starts with a 3.01.

Andy Pettitte goes tonight for the Bombers. He pitched 6 innings of scoreless ball last Saturday but got shellacked for 4 runs in his final 1/3. As I've tried to prove in the past, there's something to be said for hanging around. He kept the team in a close game, giving them a lot of time to get on the board, which is a whole lot better than doing it the other way around like Brad Penny last night. In his only other start since the break, Pettitte went 7 1/3 against Baltimore so perhaps the time off rejuvenated the 37 year old. Jose Molina will be doing the catching tonight, and that's never a bad thing as far as the pitching staff is concerned.

This game will be the last time the Yankees face a team for the first time this year. In other words, after tonight, they will have faced every team they are going to face in the regular season already. Got that? No? Okay, the Yanks haven't played the White Sox yet this year, or even been to Chicago actually, but... Nevermind.

Game starts at 8:11, we're on Central Time.

Won't you please come to Chicago,
Show your face,
From the bottom to the ocean,
To the mountains of the moon,
Won't you please come to Chicago,
No one else can take your place.

Okay Maybe One More Thing...

Welcome To Club 103, Fellas

Back when the news of Manny's positive test in 2003 came to the forefront, I asked "why couldn't it have been Ortiz?", but I must admit that this isn't nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be.
Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, the sluggers who propelled the Boston Red Sox to end an 86-year World Series championship drought and to capture another title three years later, were among the roughly 100 Major League Baseball players to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, according to lawyers with knowledge of the results.
First of all, thanks to the lawyers (Yankee fans, presumably) who chose two leak these two (and only these two) names out of the 98 or so that were still under wraps. If only the guy who conducted the Mitchell Report had any connections within the Red Sox organization, you might not have had to risk being held in contempt of court!

I think we can cast aside the notion that Manny's most recent test was an isolated incident. In light of this new information, given how steady his career numbers have been, it's hard to imagine when he was clean. With Ortiz on the other hand, his transition from Minnesota to Boston (in 2003) draws a pretty clear line. Whatever. Here's the fun part....

Hey David, are you ready to taste your own medicine and take a voluntary one year suspension?
"I would suggest everybody get tested, not random, everybody," he said. "You go team by team. You test everybody three, four times a year and that's about it."

And if a player tests positive for steroids?

"Ban 'em for the whole year," the slugger said.

Objectively speaking, there is something pretty despicable about the fact that these guys were told the tests would remain anonymous, and now, one or two at a time they are leaking out like death by 1,000 papercuts. It's not fair, but like Omar Minaya would say, you can't put the cat back in the bottle.

The moral of today's news isn't that the Red Sox Championship is tainted, it's that we now understand the entire sport to be slightly more dirty than we previously assumed. It's not a good thing for the sport to have the accomplishments of the best players of an era systematically knocked down one by one. It's not going to be fun to look back in 10 or 15 years, when what timeframe actually defined the "steroids era" begins to crystalize, and realize that very few of the remarkable accomplishments we saw were as they seemed at the time.

Let's move on.

Grandpa Yankee Makes An Appearance

It's kind of sad that's what George Steinbrenner has really been reduced to, isn't it? Once one of baseball's great characters, The Boss is now bound to a wheelchair and wears sunglasses at night, presumably to protect the vacant look on his face betrayed by his wandering eyes, a sign of dementia and old age we've all seen in an older relative at some point in our lives.

As PeteAbe points out this morning, last night was the first time that some of the younger players and recent acquisitions had even met Steinbrenner. Nick Swisher said "It was an honor to meet him", and CC Sabathia thought he was "friendly". If this was ten, twenty or thirty years ago instead, The Boss would have probably been instrumental in trying to bring them to the team, his visit would have been punctuated by a "got get 'em" type of speech and I highly doubt "friendly" would have been on the list of adjectives used to describe the man. Certainly not by his employees or the beat writers:
Now we give Steinbrenner his space, even the tabloids. Hal Steinbrenner runs the team and when the voice of ownership needs to be heard, he steps forward. That’s how it should be, I think. Let the old guy have his dignity.
It's unfortunate that part even needs to be said. If Steinbrenner hadn't spent most of his time owning the Yankees in a frenetic quest to win at all costs and have everything his way, people probably wouldn't need to be reminded of that.

Given how absent he's been from the picture in recent years, it's easy to forget that the guy still exists. At age 79, we'll all be lucky if we still do. It's great that he's feeling well enough to start making clubhouse appearances again and hopefully he's around for long enough to see a bunch more outings like the one last night from Joba.

Matt Garza: Not A Genius

Look Out! (Sorry, still working on my Ken Singleton impression)

This is what Matt Garza had to say after hitting Mark Teixeira on the arm in the top of the 5th inning last night:
Tampa Bay Rays RHP Matt Garza acknowledged it was more than coincidence than he hit Mark Teixeira the inning after Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain threw a pitch at the head of Evan Longoria, and noted the Yankees threw inside to Longoria and hit him Monday too.
If you'll recall, Chamberlain went up and in on Longoria in the 4th inning on the first pitch of the at bat. Longoria then popped out to Robinson Cano on the next one to end the inning, and broke his bat by slamming it on the ground in disgust. He was hit by Jonathan Albaldejo on Monday.
I just kind of got tired of people brushing [Evan Longoria] back. It’s about time someone made a statement. They did it on Monday night and we didn’t do anything, they didn’t do it too much (Tuesday) and (Chamberlain) did it again tonight. I hate to be that guy, but someone had to take a stand and say, “You know, we’re tired of it.” You can go after our best guy, well, we’ll make some noise too, and that’s what happened.
I'm sure you really "hate to be that guy", Matt. Especially when you consider that (A) Longoria didn't even get hit, (B) no one made you throw at Teixeira and (C) no one would have known it was intentional until you started running your mouth. It was a good pitch up and in, which barely got a piece of Teix. I personally didn't think there was any malice behind it because it hitting Teix brought A-Rod up to the plate with two men on. Not exactly optimal strategy there. A-Rod ended up striking out, but only after a 9 pitch battle.

At least now everyone will know how tough you are while you're serving that six game suspension, Matt. Enjoy!

Eight Strong To Win Seven For Joba

From the first batter of the game last night, it was apparent that the Yanks had put the struggles of the previous game behind them. Derek Jeter worked a 2-2 count and proceeded to slice a ball down the right field line that travelled all the way into the corner. In his attempt to wrangle the ball, LF Gabe Gross inadvertently did his best Nick Swisher impression, buying Jeter enough time to get to 3rd base standing up. Two batters later, Mark Teixeira knocked Jete home with a single and the Yanks were off to the races.

After being staked to the early lead, Joba Chamberlain looked confident and dominant. He worked relatively quickly, retiring the first 8 batters of the game in a row before giving up a bloop single to Jason Bartlett who was immediately caught stealing on the next pitch.

The Yanks put runners on second and third with no one out in the 4th via a single by A-Rod and a double by Hideki Matsui. Robinson Cano drove in Alex with a ground out, but one run was all they could manage. Cano struck again in the 6th, but this time more decisively. After taking a ball way up and in, he absolutely rocked a pitch deep into the seats in right field. He paused a for a second to watch it sail and Garza literally gave it a little wave on it's way out.

Joba blazed through the Rays with a perfect fourth, worked around two walks in the fifth, a single in the sixth and sat down the side in order in the seventh. In all, Joba had four 1-2-3 innings last night, a season high.

He received another run in support in the top of the inning after Hideki Matsui singled and was pinch run for by Cody Ransom. Ransom came around to score all the way from first on a single by Jorge Posada. Swisher ended the inning with a double play, the Yanks third of the night in addition to two by A-Rod, but it didn't matter.

Joba entered the 8th inning with only 88 pitches, a number he's surpassed in 5 innings multiple times this year. He allowed another single to Barlett in the frame, but that was all. It was only the second time in his career he's gone 8 innings and the only time he's done so without allowing a run. Furthermore, he finished with 101 pitches and had as many baserunners as strikeouts, five. Garza didn't pitch terribly, allowing 3 runs through 7 innings, but was clearly out-classed.

Melky Cabrera and Mark Teixeira added homers off of Dan Wheeler in the 9th to give the Yanks even more breathing room, bringing the score to 6-0. Brian Bruney, continuing with his "turd in the punchbowl" role of late, was called on to pitch the 9th and could not complete the shutout, or even the inning. He allowed a triple to Carl Crawford and a homer to Evan Longoria before recording an out. He got Ben Zobrist to pop out but after Carlos Pena doubled, Joe Girardi was forced to go to the bullpen. Mariano Rivera came out even though it wasn't a save situation and locked down the victory. Mo did allow his 5th walk of the season, reducing his K/BB ratio to a merely superhuman 9.4, from a Godly 11.75.

It was obviously tremendously encouraging to see Joba deliver such a dominant performance, but the double-edged sword is that the deeper he goes into games, the sooner he will be bumping up against his innings limit. But that's a different issue for another day. The Yanks took the first series of the road trip and extended their lead to 3.5 games as the Sox lost 8-6 to the A's.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Game 101: Youthful Expression

Like almost every trade, the one that sent Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris seemed like a fair deal at the time. The clubs exchanged average-hitting middle infielders in the late 20's and each gave up a decent minor league prospect, but the centerpieces to the deal were Garza and Young.

At the beginning of the 2007 season, Garza was the top prospect in the Twins organization. He started the year at AAA in Rochester and was vocal about his frustrations with the way he was being used. The organization called up guys like Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey before Garza, primarily due to a disagreement in pitch selection. The Rochester coaching staff was trying to get Garza to mix more offspeed pitches into his repertoire, but he insisted on throwing almost exclusively on fastballs.

"He's getting a little frustrated so we're going to bring him up here and give him a chance to pitch for us," Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire said. That's not exactly the tone you want the relationship between an organization and a top prospect to sound like.

Delmon Young probably wasn't the most popular character in the Rays franchise either, considering he was the player in the infamous minor league bat throwing incident in 2006, when he was with the AAA Durham Bulls. The idea of the trade was to get a fresh start for both guys and it seemed like a good one.

Since then, Garza has turned into a solid, top of the rotation presence for the Rays while Young has regressed to platooning with Carlos Gomez and batting .264/.291/.346 on the season. Garza pitched 184 2/3 innings for the Rays last year at a 3.70 ERA and is on pace for over 200 innings at the same ERA this year. He was the MVP of the ALCS last year, picking up two wins including game 7.

At the ripe old age of 25, Garza is the elder statesman of the pitching match-up this evening. He's had two pretty strong outings against the Yanks this year (12IP, 3ER) but has been stuck with a no-decision both times. He's coming of a studly outing in Toronto where he pitched a complete game and struck out 9.

Joba goes tonight for the Yanks. He's given up only 5 hits in his last two starts but has walked 6 in 13 2/3 IP. He's gave up a run each time and picked up two wins, bringing his season mark to 6-2. He was tantalizingly close to efficient in these two outings, throwing 107 pitches in the first and 100 in the second.

These two hard-tossin', young guns square off tonight in the rubber game of the series. The first one was lopsided and the second was sloppy. Perhaps tonight's performance will be a little more tightly executed?

Body's healthy, mind is wealthy,
Thoughts, they flow, that will prepare me,
To be a Native, get creative,
Original and designative.

The Dominos Are Beginning To Fall

I'm about to go all MLBTR on your asses:
  • In a move that figures to squash the potential of two of the starting pitchers the Yankees had been rumored to acquire, the Mariners traded for Ian Snell and Jack Wilson. Wilson stands to replace the recently dealt Yuniesky Betancount and Snell figures to start in AAA but round out the back end of the rotation soon. The Pirates are getting back Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock. Rob Neyer and Dave Cameron think the Pirates are the winners here.

    Sitting 7.5 games back in the AL West and 6.5 back in the Wild Card behind 6 other teams, the Mariners were considered to be sellers and looking to unload Jarrod Washburn's contract. Now it would seem they are actually looking to contend this year. Good luck with that... their odds of making the post season are currently 5%, and they have already outperformed their Pythagorean record by 7 games.

  • It appears the Phillies have made their big move, swapping four prospects including Jason Knapp and Carlos Carrasco with the Indians for Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco. This takes the possibility of a Victor Martinez & Cliff Lee deal away from the Red Sox. Joel Sherman explains why the Phils didn't end up with Roy Halladay.

  • The Red Sox made another minor maneuver, swapping the recently DFA'd Mark Kotsay for recently demoted Brian Anderson of the White Sox.

  • Joel Sherman reports that the Yankees believe the Red Sox have have offered Clay Bucholz as a part of a package to acquire Roy Halladay, but the Yanks haven't done anything in response, to deter the trade from happening. In terms of the lower end starters available on the market, Sherman says:

    "As of early this afternoon, the Yankees also had engaged in no extensive talks with the Mariners for Jarrod Washburn. The Mariners had yet to request any players from the Yankees.

    Either due to high financial costs or because their scouting reports are not overly favorable, the Yanks also are not pursuing Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo, or Arizona's Doug Davis and Jon Garland
It's starting to look like it might be a quiet trade deadline for the Yanks. Although a move for a reliever would make a lot of sense, they haven't been linked to talks with any team in particular. Meanwhile, the Sox have made three small moves and seem poised to make a big splash before the deadline.

What makes the trade deadline interesting is that anything could happen. The Sox could have their talks stalled or Brian Cashman could come out of the woodwork with a sneaky deal like the one last year for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte that no one saw coming. Time will tell, but I'm hoping for a least one more good arm to compensate for the one we just lost.


The Yanks have merely a .500 record (11-11) in games which CC Sabathia starts. How is that possible, you might ask, when their record is 14-6 when A.J. Burnett is on the hill and he has thrown 20 fewer innings and his ERA is only a 1/3 of a run lower?

Despite what PeteAbe might want you to think, a 3.83 ERA is simply not "pedestrian". It's well above league average (115 ERA+) and coupled with the fact that he's second in the AL in innings pitched and single-handedly accounts for all of the Yankees complete games, it's pretty impressive.

The reason that the team has a better record in Burnett's appearances is that he is 3rd in the Major Leagues in run support among pitchers with more than 100 IP. Sabathia, on the other hand is 35th, which is pretty bad considering the Yankees are first in runs scored. Joba actually checks in at 2nd on that list while Andy Pettitte is at 21st, and the team's record when they start are 13-6 and 13-7, respectively.

Sabathia hasn't been perfect, but he's also had some tough luck. He lost on Opening Day at the New Stadium after throwing 5 2/3 IP of one run ball to Cleveland, pitched a complete game loss in Detroit, and held the Phillies to 3 runs over 8 innings and took the "L". Last night, he was sabotaged by terrible defense and the offense only put up two runs to boot.

He's only had four plate appearances this year, so I don't think you can really fault him for the team's offensive output when he pitches. The guy has been a horse and if he continues to pitch the way he has so far this year, they're going to win way more than half of the games he starts over the long haul.

Wang Gets The Knife

Good morning Fackers. After a clunker of a game last night, we don't have much in the way of good news for you this morning. In case you hadn't heard, as you read this, or perhaps even prior to your reading this, Chien-Ming Wang is in Birmingham, Alabama undergoing surgery on his right shoulder at the hands of Dr. James Andrews, allegedly to repair a torn labrum.

This is the latest and hopefully the last in a series of professional misfortunes to beset Wang over the past 14 months: his lis franc injury, his improper offseason rehab regimen, his historically bad three starts to start the season, his dubious trip to the DL, his botched rehab assignment and panicked return to the Bigs, his relegation to mop-up man, his lackluster return to the rotation, and then his Fourth of July shoulder injury and subsequent trip to the DL, rehab set back, and now the operation that will cost him the remainder of this year and a good chunk, if not all, of next year. What concerns me is that even if this is the last bad break for CMW, it may also be the straw to break the camel's back.

Much of this is irresponsible speculation at this stage, but look at it this way: Wang will be 30 years old come next Opening Day. He had rotator cuff surgery as a minor leaguer, and then missed time during his rookie season with another rotator cuff injury. He's a sinkerball pitcher who has a very good track record in his career, but possesses neither the peripheral statistics nor the pitching repetoire that is predictive of future success. He missed more than half of last season following a foot injury, pitched very very poorly this year, and now is having his second shoulder surgery before the age of 30. Shoulder injuries are the scarlet letters of Major League pitchers. Few survive one; Wang has now had two, in addition to another shoulder injury that was rehabbed without the knife. Chien-Ming Wang's career, or at least his career as an effective pitcher, may well be over.

Jay pondered something similar nearly two months back, but I thought such speculation was premature at that point. Wang was the rare sinkerballer who had beaten the odds and been wildly successful, and after a very rough start to the season, I thought he was primed to get himself back on track. Now rather than the scenes in Casino that Jay recalled, I can't shake the thought of Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption:

Andy: I wound up here. Bad luck I guess.

Red: Bad luck? Jesus.

Andy: It floats around. Has to land on somebody. Say a storm comes through. Some folks sit in their living rooms and enjoy the rain. The house next door gets torn out of the ground and smashed flat. It was my turn, that's all. I was in the path of the tornado. I just had no idea the storm would go on as long as it has.

CMW has been in a shit storm of bad luck of late. I only hope it gets better for him, but I don't like his chances. The fact that his current situation reminds me of a conversation between one guy who's an avowed life-long Mets fan and another who's allegedly dating his step-granddaughter can't possibly be a good sign.

Of course, Wang is being operated upon by the most famous orthopedic surgeon in the world, someone who has salvaged the career of many an injured athlete . Yet, he's also the man that allegedly ruined the career of former Yankee (as well as middle finger enthusiast and sometime Pearl Jam punching bag) Jack McDowell. The fact that Wang's surgery comes the day after the McDowell story broke just about sums up the horseshit luck the poor guy has had of late.

In the short term, the Yankees need for another pitcher - particularly with Alf now having a sore shoulder - just went way up. Unfortunately, so did the price they'll have to pay for one - particularly with the non-waiver trade deadline just over fifty hours away. As much as I didn't like the now debunked rumored Bronson Arroyo deal on Monday, the one solace I took in it was that it would have been a preemptive move before the bad news on Wang could break. As noted linguist Omar Minaya might say, that train has now sailed.

Andy Dufresne said hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. Hope is one thing, but right now optimism is quite another. Chien-Ming Wang is crawling through a river of shit. I don't like his chances of coming out clean on the other side.

Murphy's Game

Here are a few things some moron wrote on the internet in the past 24 hours:
  • "Teixeria's glove probably helps, but Jeter has never made many throwing errors. He is on pace for 5 this year and has averaged 6.5 per season since 2001. His arm isn't the issue."

  • About Scott Kazmir: "I would be surprised if he went more than 6 innings though, because he's only done it three times this year and the Yanks tend to work the count."

  • About CC Sabathia: "Historically a second half pitcher, now is the time of year that the big fella tends to find his stride. He's thrown 14 innings since the All-Star Break, allowed 3 runs and accumulated two wins. He was just getting warmed up before.
If only Derek Jeter hadn't made a throwing error, Scott Kazmir didn't make it into the 8th inning and CC Sabathia didn't get bounced in the 5th after giving up 5 runs, I would have been right about all of those!

You can't get all the breaks in baseball and I guess if you could control it, you'd have an 11 game stretch were more everything goes right and then load all your bad luck into one game when every single event subject to chance blows up in your face.

The Yanks didn't help their cause either by making two errors that went in the scorebook, and a few more they slipped under the table.

In addition to Jeter's throwing error, A-Rod launched one into the stands in the 3rd inning which allowed Carl Crawford score and left Evan Longoria standing on second with no one out. Incredibly, Joe Maddon had his clean up hitter, Ben Zobrist bunt Longoria over to third only to be stranded there by a Pat Burrell strikeout and a Carlos Pena grounder. Seeing this amazingly weak managerial move by Joe Maddon backfire on him was pretty much the only bright spot of this game for me.

Hideki Matsui had a baserunning gaffe in the fourth after the he drove in a run with a double. He took a wide turn thinking he could advance to second base, but Dioner Navarro read the play perfectly and picked him off.

Nick Swisher attempted a catch barreling into foul territory in the 5th but dropped it, and since his foot was in fair territory when he touched the ball, it was ruled a fair ball. Zobrist advanced to third on the play and it wasn't scored an error. An inning later he let a ball roll past him down the rightfield line allowing Jason Bartlett to score. No "E" on that one, either.

The Rays' defense was the polar opposite. Carl Crawford seemingly covered almost every inch of left field, B.J. Upton nabbed a deep liner and Jason Barlett looked slick at shortstop. The Yanks hit into double plays in both the 8th and 9th innings. It just wasn't their day.

As noted above, it wasn't really my day either. This is one of those games where you take your lumps and move on. You hope you used up all your bad juju at once and get back at it in the morning.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This Will Make You Feel Better

Game 100: You Don't Know Me

There has been some recent talk that CC Sabathia has been disappointing this year, citing an increase in walks and a decline in strikeouts. His 3.67 ERA probably wasn't at the very top of the range of expectations at the beginning of the season, but he's averaged about 6 2/3 innings per start and racked up 10 wins.

When considering all possible outcomes before the season began, I would venture to guess that the Yanks would have signed up for that production without much hesitation. Historically a second half pitcher, now is the time of year that the big fella tends to find his stride. He's thrown 14 innings since the All-Star Break, allowed 3 runs and accumulated two wins. He was just getting warmed up before.

Going to the mound for the Rays will be their quondam lefty ace, Scott Kazmir. To call the 25 year old's performance so far this year "disappointing" would be a gross understatement. Although he's pitched only one truly full season in the Major Leagues, Kazmir has contributed significant value to Tampa Bay's rotation since he was called up to the Big League club in 2004 as a 20 year old. After completion of the 2008 schedule, he had pitched 722 regular season innings to a 3.61 ERA while striking out over one batter per inning. He fit the billing of the Rays' ace by general consensus entering the season; a lefty strikeout machine who, if he could ever make 35 starts or learn to control his pitch count, would be deadly.

He's certainly not going to make 35 starts this year, because he's already spend time on the DL and is only at 14. Given how poorly he's pitched, that's probably a good thing for the Rays. Kazmir's ERA is a gruesome 6.69 and his WHIP a ghastly 1.716. He's averaging fewer than 5 innings per start and has almost as many ER (55) as Ks (58). For a pitcher with a lifetime 9.5 K/9 ratio, that's bad news. His stint on the DL was officially caused by a quadriceps strain, but my skeptical side thinks he might, like Chien Ming Wang did, have had a nasty case of Badpitcheritis.

Kazmir has historically fared well against the Yanks, with a 2.65 ERA over 12 starts, but only a 5-4 record due primarily to his inability to go deep into games. He's also about a half of a run better at Tropicana Field than away from it, so it wouldn't be entirely shocking if he found his groove tonight. I would be surprised if he went more than 6 innings though, because he's only done it three times this year and the Yanks tend to work the count.

Rays fans might not recognize the 2009 version of Scott Kazmir, and who could blame them? Certainly not Brother Ray himself.

And anyone can tell,
You think you know me well -
Well, you don't know me.
(No you don't know me)

On Jeter's Newfound Range

If you ask an average Yankee fan in the stands to rate Derek Jeter's defensive abilities, their answers would probably skew towards good or even great. He looks athletic, doesn't make a lot of errors, does the jump throw... superficially, it's the obvious conclusion. However, if you asked the typically baseball blog reader to give their opinion, they would probably end up on the opposite end of the spectrum, towards poor or even terrible. Of course, there are blog readers in the stands and casual fans who read this site, but the point being that the subject of Jeter's fielding abilities is simultaneously foreign to the masses and nearly passé to the baseball blogosphere.

Interestingly, this season, Jeter has made the crowds look wise and all of the idiots who were talking about the demise of Derek's defense (ahem, myself included), look somewhat foolish. Bryan Hoch of recently took a deeper look into Jeter's play at shortstop this season and attempted to explain how his Ultimate Zone Rating has increased at age 35 to it's highest level since they began tracking UZR in 2002:
Thanks to a number of variables, Jeter has continued to find ways to turn back the hands of time defensively this year. He continued to follow the program outlined by Yankees strength and conditioning coach Dana Cavalea, but he has also been assisted by aggressive defensive positioning on the part of infield coach Mick Kelleher.

Better health has also been a factor, as Cashman said there was "no doubt" at times that Jeter's health inhibited him in past seasons. So has adding a Gold Glove first baseman and receptive target in Mark Teixeira.
While player's defensive performance is certain to vary from year to year, it seems less likely for someone to have a sudden improvement in their fielding in their mid-30's than it would be for them to have a career year at the plate. With defense, the outcomes are mostly binary; the play either gets made or it doesn't. With offense, there are vary degrees of success or failure a batter can attain, ranging from a double play to a home run, creating a wider gap between failure and success. Luck is also a bigger factor for hitters as they can't control where a batted ball goes to anywhere near the extend a fielder can position themselves to catch one.

There is also an inherent assumption that defense is the bastion of the young and agile. It's based on quickness, agility and reaction time, all attributes which inevitably fade with age. Production at the plate can improve with patience, power and experience, most of which players do not possess when they first enter the league.

So how is it that Jeter is enjoying this renaissance now?

Of Hoch's four points above, one stands out as being the most significant: His positioning. UZR is calculated by dividing the field into 64 zones, and tracking whether or not players get to balls in what areas of the field. If Jeter is in fact being positioned better, which David Pinto also believes, it's going to appear that his range is increased when in fact he simply doesn't have to cover as much territory as he once did. (See here for a hilarious anecdote by the legendary Repoz of BBTF.)

Teixeria's glove probably helps, but Jeter has never made many throwing errors. He is on pace for 5 this year and has averaged 6.5 per season since 2001. His arm isn't the issue. I'm sure his improved health and conditioning regiment (which was intended to improve his explosiveness and lateral agility) have helped as well.

However, it's much easier to believe that Jeter is simply in better position to field balls hit his way than it is to think the Yankees hold the secret to a rejuvenating exercise program, or that he was playing badly injured over the last 8 seasons. Which is most certainly a good thing, because defensive positioning is much easier to control than health or lateral agility.

Fack Youk Field Trip: The Big A

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm stuck out in Southern California this week for work. I suppose there are worse places to go, but I'm an East Coast guy through and through. The pace of life out here just isn't my speed (e.g. going to dinner Friday night and having to wait a good five minutes before the bartender even acknowledged my presence - and it wasn't busy). Besides, going away for a week for vacation is one thing, having to get out of the usual routine and leave home for a week for work is another - especially when it costs me a precious weekend.

But it's not all doom and gloom out here. Having just got into town the night before and with the time difference in my favor, I woke up fairly early Saturday morning and managed to get my work done before noon. With that behind me, I hopped in a cab and shot over to the Big A to take in a game between the Halos and the Twinkies - I couldn't let Jay be the only Facker to spend Saturday afternoon at the ballpark. Despite my earlier misgivings about the relative safety of doing so, you'll be happy to know (or maybe unhappy to know), that I made it through the experience unscathed - no beer bottles to the head, no gun shot wounds, etc.

A tribute to Nick Adenhart still exists in front of the Stadium. Having just finished Marty Appel's Thurman Munson biography on the flight out (probably not the best setting to read a book about a guy who died in a plane crash), it was eerie to see the memorial to another man who died while an active Major Leaguer - a situation the Angels have dealt with far too many times in their relatively brief history.

The differences between The Big A and Yankee $tadium were apparent from the get go. Ballpark parking in Anaheim is $8 compared to $19 in the Bronx. I walked up to the box office and scored a field level ticket, twenty two rows back in leftfield, for $33. That kind of money won't even get you out of the terrace in New York. The beer is a lot cheaper as well - $6.50 for 16 oz.

I had hoped to take in BP, maybe even score a ball given my seat's proximity to the field, but it wasn't to be. There was no batting practice Saturday with the day game after the night game - or at least there wasn't at about 11:45 when I got to my seat. Rather than bake in the sun for an hour and a half, I decided to take a walk through the stadium to see what I could see.

As I passed by the Guest Sevices office, I dropped in to see if there were any attractions in the ballpark. I realize that not everyone has a Monument Park or a ballpark museum, but I figured there had to be something. Apparently not - my question was greeted with nothing but quizzical looks.

History apparently is not something readily embraced by the Angels organization. The retired numbers are located behind snack carts in the rightfield upper deck. The Angels Hall of Fame consists of a few paintings on a wall in the mezzanine - including one time Yankees Don Baylor and Jimmie Reese.

Also on the mezzanine level are wall sized photos of former Angel "greats". I laughed out loud at seeing the great Mike Witt up there. Witt, you may recall, was sent to the Yankees for Dave Winfield in 1990, and was perpetually injured, starting just 27 games over four seasons and pitching to a 4.91 ERA, all for the low low cost of $7.5M.

Without a horse in the race, I was just hoping for something interesting to happen during the game. So I was turning into a Twins fan after Nick Blackburn was perfect through three. That all came to a screeching halt in the fourth, as the Angels put up a nine spot on their way to an 11-5 victory.

I did get to see something interesting though, as a fan decided to take to the field in the late innings. He eluded security for a good bit, making it all the way to the outfield grass behind shortstop after jumping on from the right field line. Security usually lives for a situation like that, but the takedown was pretty weak. As the police escorted him out right by my section, the PA announcer made sure to remind the fans that running on the field is now classified as a felony. A felony! With one dead fan and one paralyzed one under their belts already this year, perhaps the local authorities should be more concerned with protecting the fans in their seats rather than prosecuting the ones out of them.

You'll also be happy to know that Bobby Abreu did not come within twenty feet of a fence all afternoon. I hope to be able to get back once more before I skip town.

The Big Top Comes To The Big Apple

Good morning Fackers. I normally look at the Mets with a sort of "live and let live" philosophy. I'm not a New Yorker, so I don't particularly buy into the whole cross town rivalry bit. Sure I want the Yanks to beat them six times a year, but I want them to beat the Twins six times a year too.

So much like Jason at IATMS, I don't take any particular joy in what's going on over in Flushing these days. But at the same time, it's impossible to ignore what's happening there. Reflecting upon the Bronx Zoo years in his autobiography Balls, former Yankee Graig Nettles quipped "When I was a little boy I wanted to be a baseball player and join the circus. With the Yankees I have accomplished both." That nicely sums up the state of the Mets these days as well.

To summarize, General Manager Omar Minaya's top lieutenant is VP for Player Development Tony Bernazard. Bernazard is bat shit crazy. Rumors have persisted for years about his antics, and he's long been considered the key contributor in driving both former pitching coach Rick Peterson and former manager Willie Randolph out of town. But in recent weeks, Crazy Tony has really stepped up his game. First, he tore off his shirt and challenged the entire AA Binghamton Mets to a fight. Then he nearly got into a fight with fellow jackass Francisco Rodriguez as the Mets team bus left the park in Atlanta. Lastly, he unleashed a profanity laced tirade upon a subordinate when a Diamondbacks scout took the seat Crazy Tony wanted at a recent game.

In short, Bernazard had to go. It was long overdue, but the three incidents this month sealed his fate. So the Mets made it official yesterday. But in what has become typical Mets fashion, they can't even get a press conference right. Minaya made a mockery of the English language ("this reflects upon my watch") and rather than putting the issue behind him, he decided to pour gas on the fire. In one of the most bizarre sequences I can recall, Minaya accused Daily News beat writer Adam Rubin of "tearing down" Bernazard because Rubin coveted Bernazard's job. You can watch the uncomfortably bizarre footage here, unless of course Met-owned SNY realizes what an embarassment this is for the organization and pulls the footage.

So let me get this straight. A beat writer secretly wants to work for the team he covers. So, he hatches an elaborate plot to do his job and write stories about all the zany antics of the flat out crazy executive the Mets continue to employ. His plan works to perfection; the executive gets fired, and of course the logical next step is to hire the beat writer who has exactly zero experience working in professional baseball (and he would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for you kids!). That's where you lose me Omar - but either way, good thing you were around to foil the plot.

I'm not rejecting out of hand that Rubin may have some desire to work on the other side of the notebook. For the most part, sportswriters cover the game because at some point the loved the game. No one's jumping into that dying industry for the fame or money. That said, Minaya's premise is as ludicrous as anything Crazy Tony ever pulled off. The fact of the matter remains that Bernazard acted of his own accord. He, and the Mets, have no one to blame for this situation but themselves. This is not Adam Rubin's fault.

Minaya should be skating on thin ice to begin with given the situation surrounding the organization, yet he's signed for three more years. I'm not sure he can weather this storm much longer. Omar Minaya is the highest profile front office employee of the organization and his antics yesterday were entirely inappropriate and unprofessional. If there's any justice, he'll be joining Bernazard in the unemployment line soon.

Off On The Right Foot

Back on April 14th, in his second start in a Yankee uniform, A.J. Burnett carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning at Tropicana Field. It happened the night after Chien Ming Wang was rocked for 8 runs in one inning and Nick Swisher found his signature moment as a Yankee. The pressure was certainly on Burnett to save the bullpen and he went 8 innings to pick up the win.

Even though no such debacle preceded this game, Alfredo Aceves, Brian Bruney, Phil Coke and Phil Hughes (the Yanks top four relievers behind Mariano Rivera) were all unavailable. Burnett again stepped up to the plate, holding the Rays to two runs over seven innings, which gave Jonathan Albaladejo and David Robertson some extra slack to work with when they were finally called upon.

Of course, the offense played an even larger role in creating that cushion for the bullpen to work with. They got to work in the second inning, when Hideki Matsui singled, Jorge Posada doubled and Robinson Cano tripled in succession. After Nick Swisher got Cano in on a groundball it was 3-0.

Sheilds settled down through the next three innings, working out of minor trouble in the 4th and 5th but hit the wall in the 6th. He gave up back to back homers to Cano and Swisher, and was pulled two batters later when Derek Jeter singled to left.

The Rays finally got on the board in the home half of the inning. B.J. Upton struck out but reached on a passed ball, advanced to third on a single by Carl Crawford and scored when Evan Longoria bounced into a double play. It was the only run they would score off Burnett and it was unearned.

Burnett threw 114 pitches but looked like he was still in control for his final 10 as he sat the Rays down in order in the 7th. Uncharacteristically, he induced 11 groundouts as opposed to 6 in the air and 5 on strikes. His GB/FB ratio is 0.74 this year but was nearly 2.0 in this outing.

Alex Rodriguez, the birthday boy, narrowly missed a homer in the 8th inning but drove in two runs with a double anyway. The Rays got to Albaledjo in the 8th for two runs but the Yanks put the game out of reach in the 9th on a solo homer by Nick Swisher and a three run shot by Johnny Damon.

Robby Cano ended up with a feat, which for him, was actually rarer than a cycle. He walked twice, homered and tripled. With 19 BB as opposed to 80 singles 26 doubles coming into tonight, he would have been a better bet to come with with one of each of the latter than two free passes. His home run was his 14th of the year (which is approximately 12 more than the Mets have as a team).

It was a good of a start to the road trip as the Yanks could have asked for. They're now 23-6 (.793) in their last 29 games, which includes the sweep at the hands of the Angels.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Game 99: The Road And The Sky

The Yanks departed last night for Tampa after an incredibly successful homestand, but are now staring down one of the tougher stretches of their season. They embark on a 9 game road trip tonight against the Rays, White Sox and Jays come back for a 7 game homestand (four of which are against the Red Sox) and then are sent on a 10 game swing that takes them through Seattle, Oakland and then back cross-country to Beantown. This means that 19 out of their next 26 will be away from the Bronx and 18 will be against teams with winning records.

They've been solid on the road so far this year, going 25-21, but this stretch comes on the heels of the news that that Brett Gardner is out with a broken thumb and Chien Ming Wang is likely done for the season.

It seems a little early to say this, but the series that kicks off tonight in Tampa is a pretty important one in the context of the season. The Rays are 4 games out of the Wild Card and 6.5 back in the division, and losing 3 straight to the Yanks might turn them from buyers to sellers at the trading deadline. On the other hand, if the Yanks drop three to Tampa, they could relinquish their grip on first place and the Rays would appear much larger in their rearview mirror.

Luckily, the Yanks are summoning their three best starters in terms of ERA for this series (A.J., CC & Joba), while the Rays counter with their three best by reputation, James Sheilds, Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza.

Sheilds' ERA is a touch lower than A.J. Burnett's on the season (3.70 to 3.74), but he's been unlucky with his won-lost record, currently at 6-6. He's made 8 quality starts that haven't resulted in a win, including taking a loss despite holding the Mariners to just 1 run over 7 1/3 IP in April and getting a no-decision after throwing 8 1/3 innings of shutout ball against Oakland back in May. He hasn't faced the Yankees yet this year, but in 3 outings against the Bombers in 2008, he held them to 4 runs over 19 innings and struck out 17 while walking only 3.

A.J. Burnett remained hot in his last start against Baltimore, picking up his 9th win on the strength of 7 innings of two run ball. He's nailed down 7 quality starts in a row and watched his record go from 5-3 to 9-4 in the process.

The lineup returns to full strength with A-Rod back at 3rd and Matsui DH'ing as the Yanks look to start this 9 game, 10 day adventure off on the right foot despite some ominous signs above.

Now can you see those dark clouds gathering up ahead?
They're going to wash this planet clean like the Bible said,
Now you can hold on steady and try to be ready,
But everybody's gonna get wet,
Don't think it wont happen just because it hasn't happened yet.

Saturday At The Stadium

It was a fairly quiet weekend around these parts, because as Matt mentioned yesterday, he's in SoCal and I had the esteemed pleasure of filling up a 14' U-Haul truck with the contents of a 5th floor apartment only accessible by a very narrow staircase. You never realize all the shit you've accumulated until you have to drag it down the 5 flights of stairs one trip at a time.

As foreshadowed in Saturday's preview, Big Willie Style and I were in attendance during that day's game. We went up to the Stadium with the intention of scalping some cheap seats. We got there during the second inning and were looking to get in the Stadium as cheaply as possible. The best we could do were two separate $40 tickets in the 200 level. We kept searching and but ended up gave up our quest for the cheapies before settling for two seats in Sec 103 for $50 each. It was more than we wanted to spend, but the seats were pretty sweet; just underneath the right side of the bleachers and next to the home bullpen. Unlike our old Saturday package seats in Section 7 of the Old Stadium, these were subject to the full wrath of the sun. It was in the low 80's but felt much hotter.

During the 7th inning meltdown, Will and I met up with our pal Jason from IIATM,S for the first time in person. It was his first trip to the Stadium (which he chronicled beautifully over here) and it will likely be our last for a little while, so it was cool that our paths crossed as such. It's funny getting to know people over these here global webernets. You can exchange countless emails with someone, but you don't feel like you actually know them until you see them in person. We didn't talk to Jason's son, who was also at the game with him, but since Will and I were double-fisting Bud Heavys out of our souvenir cups, it was probably better that way. We're not great role models.

Anyhow, there was some saving grace after Aceves left that 0-2 pitch out over the plate to Landon Powell. After meeting up with Jason, we went back to our seats and drowned our sorrows while watching Mark Melancon warm up in the pen. Sec 103 is in pretty prime HR territory, so it was certainly in the back of our minds that one could come our way. Lo and behold, the illustrious Derek Sanderson Jeter ripped a two run shot into the first few rows of our section in the top of the 8th.

That would be us, circled in red. We had no chance of catching it, but there's nothing cooler than watching a ball travel and quickly figuring out that it's coming right towards you. Especially when said ball is coming off the bat of a player from your own team and you are sitting in home run territory.

As a cool side benefit, after Jeter hit that HR, Mo started warming up in the bullpen. Nearly everyone who was still there and within 15 seats or so started working their way over to catch a glimpse of the man in action. After a few minutes, the usher came down and started clearing the aisle and was met with a chorus of "Awww..."s, to which she replied "Hey, I don't make the rules." I go, "Right, you just selectively enforce them".

The Yanks threatened again in the 9th after starting off with back to back walks to bring the winning run to the plate but Jorge Posada hit into a rally-killing double play and that was that. We sat in the stands, a little stunned that it was already over in under three hours despite the long 7th and 8th innings.

The last bright spot was this character to the right, dwelling outside of the Stadium, presumably with the intention of luring unsuspecting children away from their parents. Yes, friends, that would be a grown man in a Spiderman costume playing the saxophone. What else could posess an adult to thrown on a full body costume on a hot summer day and play an instrument outside of a sporting venue?

So, all in all it was it was a good time, despite the final score. We were okay with attending the only loss of homestand. We're team players like that.