Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"A-Jee Sucks! A-Jee Sucks!"

That's what the fans at the Rogers Centre were chanting, anyway. Burnett lasted 7 2/3 innings, but faltered in the 4th, allowing three runs from which the Yankees would never recover. The additional two he gave up before getting pulled in the 8th were just formalities.

Our Philadelphia-based MLB Extra Innings observer Cliff informed me that one of the Blue Jays' announcer said it was the most enthusiastic he had heard that crowd since 1998. His partner compared it to the atmosphere during the USA vs. Canada game in the WBC. On the My9 broadcast, Ken Singleton added that it was the loudest he had ever heard the stadium.

Rightfully so, I suppose. The Jays have the best record in the American League even though they have only one member of their starting rotation from last year at the moment. Everything seems to be falling into place for a team that many predicted would finish in last place in the AL East. Aaron Hill and Adam Lind are both slugging over .550 and Marco Scutaro has an OBP just shy of .400. 

Just as everything seems to be going right for the Jays, Murphy's Law appears to be in full effect for the Yanks. Derek Jeter was scratched before the game with an oblique pull and Hideki Matsui was pulled with hamstringitis adding to the litany of Yankees unable to take the field. 

The offense was predictably anemic against Harry Leroy Halladay. Ramiro Pena, Brett Gardner and Kevin Cash were in the starting line-up and went a combined 1-10. Doc bludgeoned the Yanks with 72 of his 103 pitches going for strikes, en route to his 7th victory of the year and the 41st complete game of his career. The lone Yankee run came courtesy of A-Rod with two outs in the top of the seventh.  

The Yanks ineptitude was perhaps best characterized by a play that occurred with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning and runners on second and third. Rod Barajas hit a flare to right field that was caught by Melky Cabrera, who fired a bullet to home plate. The throw arrived in plenty of time... 

bounced right into the center of Kevin Cash's chest protector... 

but deflected towards third base...

Allowing Adam Lind to slide home safely. 

The run didn't ultimately matter, but it never seemed like the Yankees had a chance anyway. Halladay has won his last six starts against the Yankees, holding them to a 1.91ERA and averaging almost eight innings per start. He hasn't needed more than 110 pitches to dispose of the Yanks during that stretch (which includes three complete games). The night belonged to the Doc and there wasn't much the Yanks could do about it. 

Game 32: Hello Old Friend

Back in 2005, the Blue Jays committed $55M over five years to a pitcher with a great arm, but a spotty injury history and a 49-50 career record. That pitcher was A.J. Burnett. After a taking a his sixth consecutive loss of the 2005 season on September 25th, Burnett had been asked to leave the team after  making critical comments about the coaching staff and teammates. None of  the potential negatives quelled the optimism manager John Gibbons and G.M. J.P. Richardi had when Toronto signed him:
"He's got one of the best arms in baseball," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "On any given night, he can shut out. I just think he'll fit in perfect."


"We think we've done our homework," Riccardi said. "We looked at his age, being so young. I don't think we'd get involved with someone even in his mid-30s." 
Although you won't find many Blue Jay fans that agree with these calculations, according to FanGraphs, they got their money's worth. Despite making only 46 starts in his first two seasons in Toronto, F-G says Burnett was worth $11.4M and $11.8M in 2006 & 2007, respectively. Last year, he took the mound 35 times, and although he had a 4.07ERA on an 86 win team, won 18 games and was worth $25.5M. That works out to a total of $48.7M, whereas he was paid roughly $32M over that time. 

After he leveraged the best season of his career and opted to become a free agent, the Yankees signed Burnett, now three years older to the same five year commitment (except with no player opt-outs), but for $27.5M more. The manager and he G.M. this time
"We got the two gentlemen we really wanted," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm proud to say they're Yankees."


"The one thing that I think today represents is just another example of that we're going to keep swinging for the fences," Cashman said. "We're going to keep trying. We're going to keep finding people and the right circumstances for a group that can make it happen."
So far this season, like he has been in much of his career, Burnett has been inconsistent. He has shown flashes of brilliance, like when he carried a no-hitter into the 7th inning against the Rays, but was also slapped around to the tune of 8ER in 5 innings in Boston. In six starts he has accumulated an ERA of 5.26 and been tagged for 6HR or 1.4/9IP, the highest rate of his career. Three of those dingers have come at home and three on the road in an equal proportion of starts, so he can't use the New Stadium as an excuse. He's yet to give up fewer than two runs in a start, and tonight, as he returns home to face his old team, might be a good night to break that trend. 

Starting tonight for Toronto will be consummate ace and perennial Cy Young candidate, Roy Halladay. Primarily because he hasn't pitched fewer than 7 innings in a game this year, Halladay has received a decision in every game, going 6-1 in 7 tries. At 3.29, his ERA isn't incredible, but combined with the duration of his outings, he is an incredibly valuable commodity.

The two starters tonight got along well when they were teammates and Burnett credits much of his success in Toronto to being in the rotation with two-time Cy Young Award winner: 
The main thing I gathered from [Halladay] is preparation and focus. I never really watched videos or paid that much attention until I got around him. He's locked into every game when he's not pitching. I try to do that when I'm not pitching also.
This talk of the improved work ethic was one of the major reasons that Brian Cashman swooped in and outbid the Braves for Burnett's services. 

It will be interesting to see how Burnett is received tonight. He was given a standing ovation when he left the mound in his last start in Toronto last year, after shutting down the Yankees to the tune of 2 runs over 8 innings. Somehow, I don't think the fact that he will be returning in Yankees' road grays is going to go over too well with the Blue Jay faithful.

This version is from The Old Grey Whistle Test
Hello old friend (hello old friend)
It's really good to see you once again (hello old friend)

Roger Clemens Would Like You To Know That He Is Still Delusional

This morning, Roger Clemens appeared on Mike and Mike in the Morning, to react to the book American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids In America's Pastime which was released today. And by "react to", I mean "hammer the same trite talking points that no one has bought since this information came out". Another amusing aspect of this is it only serves to raise awareness of the book well beyond its authors or publishers ever could have hoped to do themselves.

If he wasn't such a defiantly arrogant prick, you might almost feel bad for the guy. He comes on a nationally syndicated radio program and aside from Rusty Hardin, he might be the only person who actually believes what he is saying. For a more complete synopsis of the main points of questioning and Clemens' reactions to them, check out what Jason at IIATM,S posted.

Right out of the gate, he busts out with two painfully contrived stunts. First, he makes it clear that this is the only interview he is going to be able to do because he is supposedly going away for a week.
Clemens: I'm gettin' ready to go out of town, err, out of the country for a week... 


RC (About a minute later): Deb and I are getting ready to go out of town, err, out of the country for a week.
The fact that he instantly corrects himself both times and makes a point to say that he is leaving the country, would indicate that it was a talking point fed to him by Hardin or one of his other advisers. Why would it be important where he is going (unless he wanted to make it look like he wasn't dodging other interviews)? He came on Mike and Mike because he know they weren't going to be overly aggressive with their questioning. They did a pretty good job, but let him off the hook repeatedly. Has Clemens ever even left the country (aside from playing in Toronto)?He doesn't really strike me as much of an international traveler. Where is he going? Obviously not Mexico...

However, it was the second one I found most egregious.
RC: [Talking lowly away from the phone]

Mike Greenberg: Roger, are you still with us?

RC: [Still talking away from the phone, but audibly now] Okay buddy, I'll get ready to take you to school in a minute.
Are... you... fucking... kidding... me? This is your first interview in over a year, and you couldn't get your wife or one of your fifteen advisers to watch your kids for 10 minutes? I'm calling bullshit. This just happened to occur withing the first minute of the interview? His youngest child is no less than TWELVE YEARS OLD. It's not like he's got some clueless kindergartner wandering around the house.

Clemens also provides another iron clad reason that he couldn't have possibly used steroids: People in his family have suffered from heart conditions. He lists off two people who have suffered heart attacks, one of which was his stepfather. Roger Clemens - Nobel Prize Winning Geneticist.
RC: Our family has a history of heart conditions. My brother had a heart attack in his late 40's, my stepdad died of a heart attack... Uh, I mean, it would be suicidal for me to, even think about taking any of these dangerous drugs. 
No. No it would not. This is the worst defense you could possibly put forth. How could I have done this, it would have been inadvisable for me to do so?1?! Never mind the possibility that he could have resurrected his entire career, profited nine figure sums, won multiple World Series, and achieved international fame and athletic glory. But for him to potentially take a few years off of his life would have prevented him from doing steroids. Nice try, but I don't think so. 

A few other notes:
  • Throughout the interview, Clemens refereed to the book as "piling on". Does he want to us to feel sorry for him? "Piling on" doesn't imply that what is being said is false. 

  • He did later refer to McNamee's accusations as "totally false" and "impossible". Roger, your trainer, Brain McNamee injected your wife (not a professional athlete) with HGH. It is certainly not impossible, much less implausible that he did the same to you, considering that you had the world to gain by letting him so do.

  • Still says that Andy Pettitte "misremembers" and they are still friends

  • Danced around A-Rod and Manny questions, saying he didn't know the details about Manny's test and that he watched only a portion of A-Rod's interview with Peter Gammons and none of his second press conference.

  • Constantly talked about "the kids" and how he has been throwing batting practice to them, how steroids are bad for them, etc. 

  • Claimed he has been getting "great responses" in all of the cities he has been traveling to. 

  • And finally, at the very end of the interview when Golic asked him whether he was finished playing, he compared himself to Brett Favre and said that if Favre comes back, he might have to start "pounding the pavement". 
I hadn't thought of the comparison, but it's certainly interesting one, with the most glaring similarity being that I wish both of them would take the millions of dollars they have made from playing professional sports and fucking dissapear forever.