Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Poor Melky.

I've been watching baseball a long time, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone foul a pitch off his own junk before. That's gotta hurt.

I don't think Melky will be making any home movies tonight (possibly NSFW).

Melky doesn't seem to have any problems speaking English when Mary Carey is interviewing him.

Game 40: Eight Days a Week

Phil Hughes gets the ball in Game 40, and with the return of #40 looming, it may be the last we see of the Phranchise for a bit. While some suggest putting Hughes in the pen when Wang returns, Hughes will almost assuredly return to the Scranton rotation. And I think that's the right move. I'm sure Hughes will see the Major League roster again before September.

After a brilliant 2009 debut against Detroit three weeks ago, Hughes hasn't done so hot in his last three starts, failing to make into the sixth in any of them, posting an 11.81 ERA, allowing nearly three base runners per inning, and striking out only four batters against ten walks. These very Orioles touched him up for 8 runs on 8 hits and 2 BB as Hughes recorded just 5 outs two starts ago.

Jeremy Guthrie goes for the Orioles, making his third start against the Yankees this year. He beat them on Opening Day and they returned the favor on May 8th to snap a five game losing streak and start the 9-2 run they currently have going.

The rest of the Yankees starting rotation has been a Fab Four of late; it would be nice to see Hughes turn in a quality start tonight to join the fun. The current seven game winning streak started exactly a week ago; tonight they try to make it eight.

Torre: Adding Insult to Injury

I have to start off by saying that I love Joe Torre. He brought sanity and stability and most importantly, championships, back to the franchise when all were sorely missed. I had hoped that he would return for a final season as manager and still feel that he deserved better than what he got on his on way out the door.

But that isn't to say the man is without his faults. My principal gripe with Torre over the latter part of his tenure was his bullpen management, or mismanagement to be more precise. To be fair, as we've seen with this year's pen, the skipper can only play the hand he's been dealt. But as the Graeme Lloyds, Jeff Nelsons, Mike Stantons, and Ramiro Mendozas of the world departed and were replaced by inferior arms, Torre refused to alter his managerial style, instead choosing a select few of his "guys" in the pen to beat like rented mules. These guys were virtually always veteran players who had established themselves elsewhere, and no matter if their best days were behind them, Torre always chose the known quantity over the unproven youngsters. There's no telling how many cost-controlable, effective young arms went by the wayside while the Yankees dumped millions of dollars into multi-year contracts for the likes of Steve Karsay, Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill, and Kyle Farnsworthless and actually traded for Armando Benitez. Armando Benitez!

Torre's insistance upon handling his pen that way became so bad that when Joba Chamberlain arrived in the pen in August 2007, Brian Cashman implemented the infamous "Joba Rules", essentially to protect the stud prospect from his own manager.

This really should be water under the bridge at this point, and I would let it be if it weren't for a little blurb on River Avenue Blues Tuesday. There, they link to an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in which Torre essentially states that Proctor's willingness to pitch while hurt led to his recent Tommy John Surgery.

I might even be willing to let that slide, but consider the Yankees' all-time single-season appearance leaderboard, courtesy of
1). Paul Quantrill (2004) 86
2). Scott Proctor (2006) 83
3). Tom Gordon (2004) 80
T-4). Tom Gordon (2005) 79
T-4). Mike Stanton (2002) 79
6). Steve Karsay (2002) 78
T-7). Jeff Nelson (1997) 77
T-7). Luis Vizcaino (2007) 77
9). Mike Stanton (2001) 76
T-10). Dave Righetti (1985) 74
T-10). Dave Righetti (1986) 74
T-10). Mariano Rivera (2004) 74
Granted, relievers as individuals and bullpens as a whole have been used far differently for about the last twenty years. None of these guys (with the possible exception of Proctor in 2006) pitched as many innings as the "firemen" of old. But there are some things worth examining:
  • Of the 12 seasons that comprise the list, 10 appeared under Torre's watch.

  • Of the 10 Torre seasons, 9 of them occured after the Yankees let Jeff Nelson walk over a few thousand dollars following the 2000 season. That decision cost the Yankees far more in the long run as they tried to replace him with the likes of Todd Williams, Mark Wohlers, and Jay Witasick in 2001 alone.

  • Of the 9 post-Nelson seasons, 6 of them occured after the other two rocks of the dynasty set-up core - Stanton and Mendoza - departed (the first time at least) following the 2002 season.

  • Of the 6 post-Nelson/Stanton/Mendoza, 3 of them occured in 2004 as Rivera, Gordon, and Quantrill combined for 270 appearances - 55% of the bullpen's total.

  • The Yankees qualified for the playoffs in all of the Torre years, but made it as far as the World Series in just one of the seasons (2001) that made the list. This could be coincidental, but a shallow bullpen with limited reliable arms certainly isn't a strength, particularly if that bullpen's only good arms are worn out come playoff time.
But more, to debunk Torre's claim of innocence regarding Proctor, let's examine what happened to the pitchers on the list:
  • Quantrill was essentially finished the last half of 2004. After a superb first half, his second half ERA was 7.09 and his OPS against was over .900. Yet Torre still ran him out there every other day because - well I'm not sure why. He pitched for 3 teams in 2005, his final season, and it was ugly to the tune of a 75 ERA+. Quantrill was 35 in 2004 and had led the league in appearances in each of the previous 3 seasons, so he already had a lot of miles on his tires. But at the very least Torre accelerated his demise.

  • Gordon stayed healthy enough after 2004 to make the top 10 again in 2005. He then left for Philly, had a good 2006, and has been hurt on and off ever since. But he was 37 when he left New York and has been injury prone throughout his career.

  • Stanton would survive relatively unscathed, lasting through the 2007 season. He would have 2 decent seasons after his initial departure from the Bronx, but had a disastrous 2005 return to the Yanks.

  • Nelson, whose departure started the madness, would last parts of 6 seasons after leaving and for most of that time he was still a usable reliever. He too would have a brief return encounter with the Yanks, his coming in 2003.

  • Mo, praise all that is holy, only appears on the list once, and that's at the bottom. I shudder to think what would have been the past several years had Mo been abused into ineffectiveness. Perhaps even Torre knew Mo was too valuable to be used that way.

  • Steve Karsay's career was ended by Joe Torre. After struggling through a Nelson-less 2001, Torre fell in love with Karsay upon his arrival in 2002 and rode him into the ground. He would miss all of 2003 and all but September of 2004, and make only 56 more appearances before retiring in June 2006 at age 34.

  • Luis Vizcaino spent time on the DL last year and after his career high 77 appearances in 2007. His 43 appearances last year was his lowest total since his rookie season of 2001. He's now with his 3rd team in the season-plus since he departed the Yankees.
Special consideration should also be given to Tanyon Sturtze. Sturtze became a Torre-crush late in the '04 season (it was the summer of love for Torre and his bullpen), and was then pitched what seemed like everyday until his arm fell off in early 2006. Sturtze, like so many others on this list, was older at the time, but I doubt age was the sole cause of his injuries. Like Proctor, he was reunited with Torre in LA last year. It may be the last team that for which Proctor and Sturtze will ever pitch.

After riding the Columbus shuttle in 2004 and 2005, Proctor stuck with the Yankees for good in 2006. With Gordon gone and Sturtze becoming less effective by the day, Torre soon annointed Proctor as his new go-to guy. In a way, it was an unprecedented move for Torre, as Proctor was 29 and relatively unestablished. By season's end, he had pitched 102.1 innings, all in relief, spread out over his near franchise-record 83 appearances. He led all of MLB in relief innings pitched, and was a very effective part of the Yankee bullpen.

In 2007 he had made 52 appearances by the trade deadline, when he was mercifully shipped to the Dodgers. He would finish the season with 83 appearances for the second consecutive year, again finishing in the MLB top 5, but his performance dipped somewhat from the previous year. In 2008 they were reunited and it didn't feel so go. The wheels came off for Proctor, his ERA, WHIP, and BB/9 all poor. Yet he was still handed the ball 41 different times.

Proctor was/is a gamer, and I'm sure he and others on this list took the ball when they probably shouldn't have. But part of the manager's job is to utilize his team's considerable medical resources to protect the even more considerable investment his organization has made in its players. To use or abuse a possibly injured pitcher is bad enough, to claim that an injured pitcher's surgery is his own fault for taking the ball is adding insult to injury. If Torre knew Proctor was that bad off, as his own quotes imply, then it's borderline unconscionable that Torre would continue to use him so much. I think Quantrill, Karsay, Sturtze, and others would agree.


[Ed. Note: Photos from here again. Believe it or not, the wireless
connection at the Econo Lodge can't really handle]

Behind CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, the winning streak hit seven games last night. While lucky number seven lacked the walk-off drama of the three weekend contests, or the late inning nail-biting of Monday night's game, the contest was far closer than the 9-1 final tally indicates.

The good news started before the first pitch was even thrown. Brian Bruney was activated from the DL, and in the first bullpen move to make sense since Melancon and Robertson were recalled last month, Edwar Ramirez was optioned to Scranton.

Ramirez was effective in 2008, but right now his BB rate has nearly doubled from last year, his HR rate has nearly tripled, his Ks are down, his ERA is over 5 and his WHIP is approaching 2. In short, he stinks. He may well be able to turn it around, and I hope he does. But Scranton is the place to work out his issues, not the Yankee bullpen. In typical Joe Girardi Kremlin fashion, the move wasn't announced until shortly before first pitch.

On to the game. The Orioles plated a run in the top of the first, using a Brian Roberts base hit, an Adam Jones infield single, a Roberts stolen base, and a groundout from Jay's favorite Oriole to get their only run of the night. It marked the second time in as many nights that the Yankees would trail before picking up a bat.

The Yankees countered in their half of the first, the second time in as many nights they would take the lead in the first frame and not look back. Damon registered a bloop single, and scored on a monster shot from A-Rod - one that sailed over the visitor's bullpen and into the left field bleachers. Given the newness of the park, it's a little early to tell just what will qualify as a jaw-dropping HR here (e.g. into the black or the upper deck in RF at the old joint), but I imagine blasts like this one will be rare.

From there, both starters settled down. Sabathia dominated the O's for the second time in 12 days, throwing six more innings, striking out 7, surrending no further runs, allowing only two other runners to reach base, and turning in perfect frames in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th innings.

Meanwhile, rookie Brad Bergesen baffled the Bombers' bats. He cruised through innings 2 through 5, sitting down 13 in a row at one point. He allowed 3 baserunners in the 6th, but one (the continually impressive Frankie Cervelli) was erased on a caught stealing, and Bergesen escaped still trailing by a single run. Bergesen finished the 6th with 94 pitches, and despite not having surpassed 6 IP or 96 pitches in any of his five career starts, Dave Trembley sent him out to start the 7th. Bergesen would retire Matsui leading off the inning, before walking Swisher and Cano. That would end Bergesen's night, but his line wouldn't close until he was betrayed by his bullpen (sound familiar?) and two costly errors. He deserved better.

Things got ugly from there. Teixiera deposited one deep in to the mezzanine in right, making it three out of four games in which both he and A-Rod have gone deep (Rodriguez has homered in all four). By the time the seventh was over, the 2-1 pitcher's duel had become a 9-1 blowout.

Despite having pitched masterfully once again, Sabathia's night was over, done in by the 8 run margin and the long bottom of the seventh. Brian Bruney reminded us all why we missed him so much by turning in a perfect 8th. And as an indication of just how good things are in Yankeeland right now, the ninth inning saw Angel Berroa enter a game for just the second time in two weeks, and Brett Tomko touch 94 on the gun in pitching a flawless inning.