Thursday, May 21, 2009


(Photos come from here)

This marks the fourth consecutive recap I've authored this week, and as the winning streak rolls on they're starting to feel a little formulaic.

For the fourth consecutive night, the Yankees took a first inning lead and never looked back. Wednesday's game saw the Yankees start the the second inning with three consecutive HRs. Thursday, it was three consecutive doubles to start the first. Mark Teixeira continued his hot hitting, with a first inning RBI double for the second night in a row.

For the second consecutive night, Robinson Cano homered to left right in the second inning. Thursday's shot landed no more than 10 feet from where Wednesday's touched down, though Thursday's was of the frozen rope variety as opposed to Wednesday's moonshot.

Nick Swisher was once again decked out in high socks and a pink wrist band, the latter supporting breast cancer research. He once again went 1 for 2 with 2 BB. Continuing the theme of charitable efforts by the Yankees, we learned during the game that Francisco Cervelli visted Columbia-Presbyterian today. He wouldn't get the same-day good fortune of Gardner or Swisher, as he went 0 for 4. But life has been good for Frankie of late, and the rewards aren't always instantaneous.

And, once again Alfredo Aceves turned in an impressive and effective multi-inning performance: 3.1 scoreless innings pitched with just four baserunners allowed.

And that brings us to the real story of the game. Aceves was needed for so long because Joba Chamberlain took a liner off the leg while facing the second batter of the night. Chamberlain recovered to retire the perpetrator, Adam Jones, walked it off, and stuck around to face two more batters. But both Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff knocked base hits, and that would be it for Joba. Fortunately the x-rays revealed no structural damage and he was diagnosed with just a bruise.

Faced with having to finish off the final 8.1 innings, the beleaguered Yankee bullpen rose to the occasion. Jonathan Albaladejo followed Aceves. He surrendered 4 runs in his 2.1 IP. It's not the prettiest line, but I prefer to think he pitched to the scoreboard. Spotted to a big lead and knowing his team needed innings, Albaladejo stayed around the plate (yielding 2 HRs), threw 66% of his pitches for strikes, and surrendered no free passes despite averaging 4.8 BB/9 entering the night. It was an unusual set of circumstances for the big righty and he gave his team what they needed. Jose Veras followed Albaladejo and turned in 1.2 innings of scoreless, walkless work.

Joe Girardi once again chose to pitch Mariano Rivera in the ninth, despite holding a three run lead. I can understand wanting to secure the victory after all the bullpen had done, especially with the 2 through 4 spots due. But if former starter Brett Tomko couldn't go multiple innings because he's been used as a short stint reliever this year, and he couldn't be trusted to close out a 3 run game, why exactly is he on the roster? Still, it's a minor point. Consecutive victory number nine is one to be proud of, as the team rallied together against a bad break. The dice keep tumbling the Yankees' way.

Speaking of the roster, expect a move before tomorrow's game. The bullpen will be short: Albaladejo and Aceves are done for a couple days, Veras is likely unavailable tomorrow, and perhaps Mo as well after going two days in a row. Phil Coke may also still be dinged up after taking a liner off the arm Wednesday. Both Mark Melancon and David Robertson have been down long enough to be eligible for recall. Anthony Claggett is the other possibility. While this will mean a temporary return to the absurd eight man bullpen, it's necessary in the short term. The silver lining is it should spell the end for the Angel Berroa era.

The streak stands at nine. They've swept the last two series. The defending World Champions come to town tomorrow as interleague play begins.

Joba the Hutt Hurt

That's not exactly what I had in mind for the start of the game. It didn't look like it was too bad, but what do I know? Roberto Clemente once broke Bob Gibson's leg with a liner and Gibson finished the inning.

Aceves has been awesome once again.

Here's hoping Joba's OK.

[UPDATE 9:10 P.M. - X-rays negative. Just a bruise. That's a relief. Also, I looked up the Clemente-Gibson game. Gibson didn't finish the inning. Clemente got him leading off the fourth. Gibson faced three more batters, then exited. Three batters on a broken leg. Two of them HoFers - Stargell and Mazeroski. And he got Mazeroski out. Bob Gibson was bad ass. Jeff Karstens had a similar experience two years ago, but he could only manage one batter (our namesake) on a broken leg. What a pussy.]

Game 41: Tumbling Dice

Jay's vacation winds to Baltimore tonight to see Trey Anastasio with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Meanwhile, back in New York, the Yankees will go for a sweep of the O's.

The subplot for tonight's game will be Aubrey Huff vs. Joba Chamberlain. When the two met on May 10th, Huff took Joba deep. Apparently insulted by Joba's "fist pump" antics following one of his 3 career Ks against him (in 8 previous PAs), Huff now had his revenge and the ten year veteran responded with exaggerated, preconceived fist pumps while rounding first and crossing the plate. He made sure he was looking right at Joba both times. You tell me whose actions are more bush league.

That said, I doubt anything will happen tonight. This is essentially a media issue at this point. While I wasn't opposed to some sort of retaliation 11 days ago, why mess with a good thing now? Perhaps a good brawl would have served to kick start a team that had lost 6 of 7, but there's no sense in resorting to such tactics when you've won eight in a row. Joba's best revenge will be to sit him down, not knock him down. And if that fails, the two teams still meet nine more times this year. Sometimes it's better to have a long memory as opposed to a short fuse.

Brett Gardner returns to the line-up for the first time since banging up his shoulder during his daring/ill-advised mad dash for the plate Sunday. Damon takes a seat after wrenching his neck chasing Adam Jones' HR last night. He should only be out one day, which of course is Girardi-speak for "he'll be having his vertebrae fused tomorrow morning". And CMW will make one more AAA start. That means Hughes will start in Texas Monday, where he'll look to do this again (minus the pulled hammy). Thanks to LoHud for all of the above notes.

Yesterday we went with the Beatles, so it's only fitting that today we go with the Stones: the Gehrig and Ruth of the British Invasion - and arguably all of rock and roll. Just like a crap shooter, you need some luck in life. Mick and Keef needed luck to still be alive and touring after all these years. A ball club needs luck to rattle off a winning streak this long. Since I dropped in this week we've seen sixes and sevens (and eights), tonight we go for nines. Let's hope the dice tumble the Yanks' way tonight and they don't crap out.

Always in a hurry, I never stop to worry,
Don't you see the time flashing by?
Honey, got no money,
I'm all sixes and sevens and nines.
Say now baby I'm the rank outsider,
You can be my partner in crime.
But baby, I can't stay,
You've got to roll me
and call me the tumbling dice.

Stay Off of My Lawn!

[Disclaimer: I loathe Notre Dame in much the same way that Big Willie Style hates BC]

The original Yankee Stadium hosted many a football game in its history. The New York football Giants called it home from 1956 through the early part of the 1973 season, and it was the site of what's still remembered as the NFL's Greatest Game. Before the Giants, assorted second-rate pro football teams bearing the name "Yankees" also called the Stadium home.

College football was also played there. NYU hosted 96 games there and were even allowed in the good seats back then. Fordham played 19 games in their neighborhood park. It was the site of Knute Rockne's famous "Win One for the Gipper" speech, as Notre Dame and Army faced off there for 24 consecutive years.

Today comes the news that Notre Dame wishes to take the field in the New Stadium. That's right, the once proud Fighting Irish, led by fat Charlie Weiss and his reconstructed knee, want to play at the new ballpark for "history's sake". Or, maybe it's because the match-up would likely be against lowly Army, a virtually assured win for a program that appears to be increasing the cupcake portion of their schedule on an annual basis.

Another possibile opponent would be Connecticut. Last year the two schools reached an agreement on a six year series to begin in 2011. For the right to play ND, Connecticut had to agree to play its three "home" games out-of-state. The Meadowlands and Gillette Stadium are considered the likely destinations, but The Stadium could offer a compelling alternative.

I say no thanks ND. We got a nice little manicured lawn here and we don't need you messing it up. The only way I'd be interested in this is if it were a BC-ND game (of course). BC has won the last six Holy Wars, and coincidentally, the 2010 match-up is the last one scheduled for years to come. Given that it would have to be a BC home game though, and BC is represented by the evil Fenway Sports Group, I see no way that ever happens.

Instant Karma's Gonna Get You

Entering last night's game, Nick Swisher was mired in a long slump, hitting .102/.262/.184 for May. While he was struggling on the field, the ever-positive right fielder didn't take his troubles outside the white lines. On the heels of his charitable outing Wednesday afternoon, Swish spent some time pre-game with Polly Tompkins and her guests at the Stadium. A lifelong Yankee fan, Tompkins is battling breast cancer, and was the Yankees' honorary bat girl as a guest of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Polly threw out the first pitch, and it was caught by none other than Swisher.

Swisher went on to hit a HR in his first AB of the night, draw 2 BBs and score 2 runs. After the game, he presented Polly with the line-up card as a memento of the evening. This on the heels of Brett Gardner's visit to the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital last Friday, that preceeded his 3 for 3 performance featuring a triple and the first Yankee inside-the-park HR in 10 years. If you do good things, good things will happen for you. So in a break from our usual tomfoolery here, I'd like to ask you all to consider doing something good today.

Virtually no one can go through life without being affected by cancer in some way. I work for a medical device company that deals exclusively with cancer treatment. While we are a for-profit company, I find comfort in knowing that the work we do can help people stricken with this awful disease. My job does not entail seeing the people we aim to help, but cancer has hit close to me in recent weeks:

  • Last week, Mark Herzlich, star linebacker at my alma mater, reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and all around good person, announced he has Ewing's Sarcoma. A month ago he was projected as a top ten pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Now at age 21, he has a disease with a 5 year survival rate of 70 to 80%. His prognosis is good thankfully, and I'm sure Herzy can win this.
  • A co-worker, universally liked and respected in the office, was diagnosed with Stage IV colorectal cancer recently. She's started chemo and is battling like a champ. It's inspiring to see how bravely she's facing this and the constantly positive outlook and good humor she's maintaining.
  • Another well-liked co-worker lost her father over the weekend. He had been fighting cancer for some time.
  • My grandmother, who can discuss the state of the Yankees as well as anyone I know, beat breast cancer four years ago. My family is now anxiously awaiting the results of tests that could indicate a recurrence.
Below is a list of cancer charities. I need some good karma, so I'm going to make a donation or two. I ask you to consider doing the same, not for my benefit, but perhaps your own, and certainly for those affected by the disease.

  • Yankees Universe Fund - benefits pediatric cancer care at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  • American Cancer Society - A charity with which Bobby Murcer worked. Murcer lost his fight with brain cancer last year and would have turned 63 yesterday.
  • Susan G. Komen for the Cure - The charity that brought Polly Tompkins to the Stadium last night. MLB also partners with them annually for Mother's Day
  • Prostate Cancer Foundation - MLB partners with them for Father's Day
  • Making Strides Against Breast Cancer - Another American Cancer Society effort. This link goes to the personal page of Shari, wife of our friend Jason at IIATM, S. Shari is participating in this event to raise money for breast cancer support and can you use our help.
Thanks for listening. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood The Bronx

I'm already kicking myself for referencing such a shitty band in the title, but I couldn't think of anything wittier to introduce a post about a player who is fast becoming a fan favorite.

When Jorge Posada went down with a hamstring injury on May 4th, followed by Jose Molina injuring his quadriceps three days later, I thought the Yankees catching situation was pretty well screwed.

Being the only other catcher 40 man roster, Francisco Cervelli was recalled as soon as Posada went on the DL. I had already braced myself for a mini-repeat of last year, when Molina was forced into everyday duty and responded by hitting .216/.263/.313, good for an OPS+ of 51. It had been 100 years since a Yankee catcher received that many plate appearances and posted an OPS+ that bad.

But when Molina went down, making Cervelli the de-facto starter, I feared things would get worse. While he'll never be Yogi Berra with the bat, in the long run Francisco should be better with the stick than Molina. But at the time of his recall, Cervelli had all of 152 career PA above A-ball and was hitting .190/.266/.310 at AA. Now he was going to be an everyday player in the Big Leagues; he would assuredly be overmatched.

Then something funny happened. Cervelli was inserted into the starting line-up and CC Sabathia pitched a shutout. That started the Yankees on their current 10-2 run. Cervelli has started 8 of the 12 games and is hitting .370.

But it's not the statistics that have been so impressive. It's been watching Cervelli play: his enthusiasm, his confidence, his howitzer of a right arm, his handling of the pitching staff, his headfirst flop across the plate Tuesday night. He carries himself like a veteran, somewhat reminiscient of a young Derek Jeter, though perhaps a little more demonstrative.

His stats will come crashing back to earth eventually. He'll be lucky to be a .270 Big League hitter, let alone .370. He hasn't shown any power in the minors and has yet to record an XBH in the Majors. I doubt he can even continue to throw out base-stealers at his current 44% clip. But I'm more convinced now than I was before that he can succeed at the Major League level.

Cervelli missed nearly all of last season, registering only 112 PA after breaking his wrist in a needless home plate collision in spring training. Outside of a decent walk rate, he doesn't possess any real offensive skills. As with Ramiro Pena, I fear that keeping Cervelli in the Majors without ever playing in AAA may stunt what little offensive potential he has. But both are keeping their heads above water for the moment, and I'm enjoying watching them play.

Jose Molina's 2 year, $4M contract expires at season's end. Cervelli will likely inherit the back-up role next year, potentially seeing increased playing time if the aging Posada's body continues to betray him after so many injury-free years. Cervelli could then continue to serve as a caddy to Jesus Montero and/or Austin Romine as they arrive in The Bronx. I hope he continues to be as entertaining as he's been the past two weeks. If only he would grow a Sal Fasano stache.

Breaking News: Peavy to ChiSox Staying Put

Wow two Breaking News stories in a row. And this time it's real news.

With a hat tip to RAB, both ESPN and SI are reporting that the 2009 Padres Fire Sale has begun. Though it's not official yet, it looks like the long-rumored Jake Peavy to Chicago deal will happen. Except Peavy's going to the South Side rather than joining the Cubs. Tough luck Cubs fans.

This should make Ozzie Guillen slightly less insane for about 48 hours and may keep Jose Contreras down in AAA longer than expected. Or at least until the White Sox decide that Gavin Floyd is worse.

Maybe later in the season the Yankees can exploit John Moores' impending gigantic divorce settlement to pick up a usable piece for their bench.

[UPDATE 1:19 PM - Peavy's agent says not-so-fast. I'm sure this is nothing a lucrative extension can't solve]

[UPDATE 7:10 PM - Peavy exercises his veto. You gotta figure this only postpones the inevitable. I say he'll be gone by the end of the month.]

Breaking News: We Are Three Weeks Into May

Dear MetLife & The Yankees,
If you are designate a Player of the Month, you might want to honor within a week or so of said month. That way, Brian Waldman won't have to stand next to a guy who is hitting .102/.262/.184 over the past three weeks. And please never use "Breaking News" in the subject line of one of your emails to me ever again unless something terrible has happened to everyone on the Red Sox or we signed Yu Darvish.
Fack Youk


(Photos courtesy of here)

The new Yankee Stadium has been a home run haven thus far. Tonight, the Yankees built a comfortable lead on the strength of the long ball and would have hurled a shutout had it not been for three Oriole dingers.

For the third consecutive night, the Yankees took the lead in the bottom of the first as a double from the red-hot Mark Teixeira scored Johnny Damon from first. Teixeira's double hit off the base of the death valley wall (doesn't really seem to be a death valley at the new place), falling just short of giving Teix five HRs in as many games.

The Yanks would get all the extra oomph they needed in the second. The slumping Nick Swisher led off the inning. Monday night, a Swisher fly ball was caught on the left-field warning track immediately after Teix and A-Rod had gone back-to-back in left. This time, Swish wouldn't fall short, depositing his first HR in the new Stadium about two rows deep in right field. Robinson Cano followed with a HR of his own, landing slightly deeper than Swisher's, then Melky Cabrera ensured that the Yankees went back-to-back-to-back this time, his blast landing in the right field mezanine. Melky would not be quite so fortunate during his next AB.

On the other side of the ball, Phil Hughes had his best outing since beating Detroit three weeks ago. Hughes righted his K:BB problem from his last three starts, striking out a career-high nine against only one free pass. Relying almost exclusively on his four seam fastball and curveball, Hughes showed good velocity and movement, sat at 92-93 MPH, and touched 94. He gave up six hits, and allowed all three of his runs on long balls by Ty Wigginton and Adam Jones. If it was in fact his final MLB start for the time being, it was a helluva good one.

The only potential knock on Hughes' performance is that he once again failed to pitch into the sixth. This time that's on Girardi, not Hughes. We've hypothesized before that Girardi reads Fack Youk. Perhaps trying to prove that he is every bit the poor bullpen manager that Joe Torre was, Girardi pulled a dealing Hughes after five innings and 89 pitches. At least he had the good sense to call on Alfredo Aceves.

Aceves pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh, giving up two hits and striking out two. Aceves continues to impress and now stands at 10.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 2 BB and 11 K over 5 appearances this year. He's been a very reliable bullpen arm since his recall and should continue to be used as such until he proves otherwise.

Phil Coke came on for the eighth. Adam Jones lined an infield single off Coke's elbow to start the inning. Had Coke been able to locate the carom more quickly, he likely would have retired Jones. His inability to do so would turn out to be somewhat important.

Coke then got lefties Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff to fly out. Had he recovered in time to get Jones earlier, the inning would have been over. Instead, Melvin Mora came to the plate as the tying run with two men out. With Jose Veras and Mariano Rivera warming in the pen, Dave Eiland came to the mound. Then Coke threw to first a few times. Then he stepped off. Then Girardi came out and called for Mo.

Now I don't have a problem using the closer in the 8th. In fact, there are times when I think it's actually the smart thing to do. This was not one of those times. For the life of me, I have no earthly clue why Girardi made this move. Let's attack this bullet point style, with questions for Girardi:

  • Do you not remember this technique failing last month?

  • Mariano is 39, one of the team's most valuable assets, and coming off shoulder surgery. Do you really want to use him this way unless it's absolutely necessary?

  • Though the sample sizes are small, Phil Coke is getting both lefties and righties out. Why couldn't he face Mora? Remember when this move blew up in your face earlier this year?

  • You trust Coke to get two of the Orioles best hitters in Markakis and Huff, but not Mora, who is hitting .253/.309/.333 and has no platoon advantages in his splits?

  • If you really felt the game was on the line, why didn't Mo come in to face Markakis?

  • If you insist upon bringing a righty in there, and you choose Mo, why was Veras even warming up?

  • You realize there are two outs and no runners in scoring position, right? Not exactly the highest leverage situation here. But we've seen this before too.
Ok, I think that covers it. Mo used three pitches to get Mora to hit into a fielder's choice and end the terrifying threat. In the bottom of the inning, the Yanks would beat on the O's pen and turn a two run game into an 11-3 laugher.

Yet as the ninth inning started, in spite of the half hour long bottom of the 8th, Mariano Rivera was standing on the mound. Are you kidding me?!?! Nevermind the fact that there's no need to risk Mo in this situation. The baseball gods had given Girardi the gift of an eight run lead in the ninth with the bottom of the order coming up. Rather than calling upon one of the assorted turds (Veras) or career mop-up men (Tomko) left in the pen so that maybe they could work on some of their issues, Girardi chose to let the greatest closer of all time pick up a meaningless save with an eight run lead. Mo responded by giving up his 5th HR in 17.1 innings of work before closing it out.

Since being converted to a full time reliever in 1996, Mo's season high for HRs allowed is 5, in 1997 and 2005. On May 20th of 2009, he's already tied that mark. I might be concerned about this were I not so stupified as to how Mo was utilized tonight.

Despite my being confounded, it was still a good night. The bats stayed hot, Hughes turned in a great start, Aceves continued to pitch well, and the streak reached 8 games, tying last season's high. Here's to hoping they make it 9 tomorrow.