Friday, June 12, 2009

Game 61: Comin' Home

It might be an elitist, corporate bandbox, but the Yankees come home to it tonight after a short but wildly unsuccessful trip to Beantown.

Trying to get the Yanks back on track tonight will be Joba Chamberlain. His ERA has been hovering in the upper 3's since the beginning of May and he enters tonight at 3.79 with a 3-1 record. He's made 11 starts this year, meaning that in 7 of them, he's earned a no decision. Much of that can be attributed to the fact that he doesn't go very deep into games, but he's put up three quality starts in which either the Yanks bullpen has let him down or the offense has picked him up. The momentum from his 8 inning effort in Cleveland was slightly dissipated by his six inning, three run outing against the Rays, but he allowed one baserunner or fewer in each of those outings.

On the offensive side of things, Johnny Damon is out of the line up for assorted reasons, one of which being, wait for it... his eyesight. We just might be back tomorrow with another eye chart. This means that Nick Swisher is starting in RF again, and hopefully he won't be making ridiculous and unnecessary dives into the stands, getting doubled off of second or just straight up missing catchable balls.

The Mets are sporting a somewhat diminished line-up tonight with Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes on the DL, but the DH slot allows them to put Gary Sheffield in the batting order while starting Fernando Martinez in LF.

The Metropolitans send Livan Hernandez to the hill tonight, who has been surprisingly, scratch that, "Amazin'ly" good so far this season. After a rocky first four starts left him with a 6.75ERA, that number has been steadily declining to where it sits now, 3.88. He's given up only 5 runs in his last four outings, averaging over 7 innings per. Never one to shy away from contact, Livan strikes out only 5.3/9IP and is giving up over a hit per inning with a WHIP of 1.369. He doesn't give up a whole lot of long balls either, only 7 in 67 1/3 innings. For a guy who had an ERA of 6.05 in 31 starts last year, he's doing pretty well for himself. That said, if I was a Mets fan, I'd be a little nervous about him pitching in the New Yankee Stadium.

As a quick illustration of the differences between the two teams this year, the Mets have hit only 37 homers this year compared to 95 by the Bombers, but they lead the ERA battle 3.94 to 4.85. This could be the accumulation of park effects, the difference between the leagues, but mostly it boils down to roster construction. The Yanks have gotten more out of their sluggers while the Mets have leaned more on their arms.

It should be interesting to see what wins out tonight, the pitching or the bats. Will the Mets' offense awaken at the New Stadium? Can the Yankees bust out of their terrible RISP slump? Will El Duque's brother be able to borrow some of his brother's Bronx magic? Can Joba take it deep without being taken deep? Tune in to find out, as Robinson Cano might say, "Honly on JES".

Hitchhiking on the turnpike all day long.
Nobody seemed to notice, they just pass me over.
To keep from going crazy, I got to sing my song.
Got a whole lot of loving and baby, thats why
Im comin home to your love.

Subway Series Linkaround

I know some of you probably care deeply about the Subway Series. It's probably because you have annoying friends that are Mets fans who can't wait to rub it in your face when the Yankees lose. I just can't bring myself to get worked up over the intra-city rivalry. I'm not against interleague play, and I think Yanks and Mets should play every year, but trumping it up as a big rivalry is lost to me. There isn't really a whole lot of history to it. If the Dodgers or Giants were still in New York, sure, but the Mets aren't either of those teams, regardless of how much they try to be.

Since interleague play began in 1997, the Yankees lead the all-time match-up 37-29 (not including the 2000 World Series). The Yankees swept the series 6-0 in 2003, but since 2004, the Mets have the advantage 17-15. Maybe it's just this time around, since we are coming off a huge letdown against our actual rivals, but this upcoming series doesn't seem as big.

Well for those of you who do care about the Subway Series, here are some links to get you into the swing of things.

"the MT curse?"

John Henry came up with a new one on Twitter last night...
the MT curse?
Oh, I get it, you sniveling douche... It's the curse of Mark Teixeira!

#1 - Why is John Henry on Twitter? Doesn't he have a comely lass with luminescent locks colored like the deepest of night to tend to? The fact that he has a Twitter account (with a fucking caricature for an image, no less) really speaks to the kind of ego this guy has. "Draw ME a picture of ME. No, make the eyes more beady! Exxxcellent! Now I can pair this with an endless amount of personal updates about where I am eating dinner, whine about pitchers hitting MY players, or dispel rumors about what things I plan to buy with MY untold fortunes!"

#2 - How does this necessitate a curse, exactly? Every player who ever turned down more money than the Red Sox were offering (which, oh by the way, almost never happens) means the team they sign with is cursed? How about the Curse of Johnny Damon or the Curse of A-Rod? It's all bullshit, but at least those two make some sort of sense.

It's funny to me that there is still all this whining coming out of Boston about not getting Teixeira despite the fact that Youkilis is having an outstanding season, the Sox are 8-0 against the Yanks and are in first place by two games. Imagine if they were floundering and Youk was hitting like Papi?

The fact remains that the reason Boston didn't offer as much for Teix is because they didn't need him as badly. They have a great first baseman in tha Youkstah. Stop acting like jilted lovers, you guys dated for like a week.

A Sinking Feeling

We're a bit late to the party on this one, as it's already appeared on both RAB and Deadspin amongst other places I'm sure. ESPN's excitable, squeeky-voiced Tim Kurkjian has an article on the senior thesis of former Yankee pitcher Ross Ohlendorf, which examined the return on investment Major League clubs realized on the signing bonuses they issued. With the amateur draft concluding yesterday it's an interesting and timely read. Ohlie is Princeton educated, so this ain't no joke. Given his excitability and love of numbers, I'm surprised Kurjian's head didn't explode putting the article together.

I liked Ohlendorf and thought he would carve out a decent little career with the Yanks. I felt they misused him last year, as he became the de facto long man when they opened the season without one. Once he was demoted to Scranton and put back in the rotation, you knew they were showcasing him as tradebait. Sure enough he was a key cog in the deal that brought Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte.

There's been much talk of late of Alfredo Aceves as the new Ramiro Mendoza, and in a way I can see it. Alf's versatility is very valuable in much the same way it was for Mendoza. Both could spot start, serve as a long man, or get you out of a jam. Last night's hiccup nothwithstanding, Alf has been very good this year and there are no Yankee relievers not named "Mo" who I trust more at present.

But Mendoza had another weapon that made him valuable as a reliever: his bowling ball sinker. Mendoza could be brought into a mid-inning jam, and if he was on, he was one pitch, one groundball, and one double play away from getting out of it. Over his career Mendoza got 1.67 groundouts per air outs, compared to the league average of 1.08 over that time (Aceves checks in slightly below league average in his brief career). El Brujo induced 83 GiDPs in his career, 44 of them out of the pen, and seven of those against the first batter he faced. I thought Ohlendorf could have similar success, but it never materialized.

So, other than to fill space, why do I bring this all up now? Because as I mentioned yesterday, I'm at a total loss about what to do with Chien-Ming Wang. The team has already announced that he will make another start Wednesday. I'm not suggesting that he should be made a reliever now. I don't know what to do with him. But I wonder if his sinker could aid in him being an asset out of the pen. Of course, if he wasn't having problems with keeping his sinker down right now I wouldn't even be pondering this.

Ohlie's thesis essentially says that on average, teams realize a 60% return on their investment in a drafted player. I can't even fathom what kind of performance the Nationals would have to get out of Stephen Strasburg to get that kind of return on the dollar amounts Scott Boras is tossing around.

Sneakin' Out The Beacon

In case you hadn't noticed, both Jay and I are pretty big music enthusiasts. One band we are both really big on is the Allman Brothers Band and I think the first exchange Jay and I had here on Fack Youk was regarding the annual Beacon run of this past March.

So as the city prepares for the year's first Subway Series, today we report news (h/t about something that is as much a part of New York City to me as the Yankees or Mets. Says founding ABB member Butch Trucks:
"...we won't be at the Beacon anymore. They just announced that Cirque du Soleil is moving in there, sad to say. We'll still do a multi-show thing in New York, but we're looking for another venue. With things the way they are, there's a lot of empty theaters on Broadway."
That's some sad stuff right there, and it's gone relatively unnoticed. After years of freakin' and peakin' at The Beacon, now the ABB is sneakin' out The Beacon. I've gone to at least one show every Beacon Run since 2001. It's every bit as much a right of spring to me as "pitchers and catchers report" and Opening Day. Yet I can't say I'm surprised.

The Beacon came under the control of Cablevision in November 2006. As you may know, everything Cablevision touches - the Knicks, the Rangers, my buddy Art's cable installation - turns to shit. From the time they seized control of The Beacon I suspected this day was coming. Planned renovations nearly derailed the 2008 run, until a last minute deal was reached. In the end, a flare up of Gregg Allman's hepatitis cancelled the 2008 run. Now it's done for good. For Cirque du fucking Soleil. /vomits

Expected or not, it's the end of an era. The Allmans first played The Beacon on September 27, 1989, as part of their 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour. They would play there three more times that month and add 184 more Beacon shows through multishow runs in 1992, 1994, 1996-2007, and 2009. As it stands now, the last ABBeacon show ever was March 28, 2009 - a show I attended - but that's no consolation to the end of this tradition.

The Beacon Run was quintessential ABB. Guests came out of the woodwork to play there. Through the years I've seen Chuck Leavell, Gary Rossington, Peter Frampton, Hubert Sumlin, Bela Fleck, Luther Dickinson, Larry McCray, Dick Griffin, Robert Randolph, Susan Tedeschi, Roy Haynes, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and others. You may not recognize any, or all, of the names, but it was an atmosphere that couldn't be recereated elsewhere.

If 2009 was in fact the final Beacon Run, they went out with a bang. It was the band's 40th Anniversary celebration, and a tribute to the memory of founder Duane Allman. All manner of guests joined in to honor his memory and the history of the band, amongst them: Bonnie Bramlett, the aforementioned Weir and Lesh, John Hammond, Taj Mahal, Levon Helm, Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, Trey Anastasio, Boz Scaggs, Jimmy Herring, and for the first time ever, Eric Clapton.

This won't be the first time the run moves from the Beacon. 1995 saw a six show run at Radio City Music Hall in place of the Beacon. Radio City is also Cablevision controlled, so I doubt that's where they'll go now. Butch mentioned a potential "Broadway Theater", but my guess would be the United Palace Theater up in Washington Heights. It's becoming the new "it" theater in the city, and was the rumored back-up destination had The Beacon fallen through in 2008.

But it won't be the same. Aside from the atmosphere, and the beautiful, classic venue, I'll miss the neighborhood. Brother Jimmy's, Blondie's, the since relocated P&G, the Gin Mill, the Westside Brewing Co. Amsterdam Ale House. And I'll miss the memories; some of the best music I've ever witnessed in person was at The Beacon, and making that annual pilgrimage with lifelong friends was something I looked forward to every year.

This also marks the end of an era for the ABB. Founding members Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, and fellow CT resident Jaimoe are getting old. Guitar slingers Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks both have their own bands, which they have to neglect for large portions of the year while touring with the ABB. Outside of the NYC run next year and perhaps a summer festival or two, it doesn't appear that the band will be touring any more. And that's real sad. I strongly, strongly suggest you get out this summer and catch the ABB - preferably while they're on the road with Widespread Panic.

All good things must come to an end. And it appears that 2009 will mark the end of The Beacon Run and the ABB summer tour. Like Yankeee Stadium closing last year, it's sad. Something that means a lot to me won't be around anymore. But I look forward to what 2010 and beyond holds for Gov't Mule, the Derek Trucks Band, Soul Stew Revival, and whatever Oteil Burbridge is cooking up.

This is, afterall, a baseball blog. So lest we get chastised again, I'll end on a baseball note. Guitarist Derek Trucks is a big baseball fan and is the nephew of drummer Butch Trucks. Butch is the nephew of former Major League pitcher Virgil Trucks. Virgil is one of four men (Nolan Ryan, Johnny Vander Meer, and former Yankee Allie Reynolds) to throw two no hitters in the same season. He finished his 17 year Big League career in 1958 with the World Champion New York Yankees.

See, it all comes back to baseball....

Crazy Eights

Jay is sick, literally. I'm tired. And I think all of us (the Yankee fans at least) are sick and tired of the way things have played out between the Yankees and Red Sox in 2009. Tonight marks eight losses in eight games this year. That's crazy. Three of the losses have been by one run. In five of the losses the Yankees held the lead at some point. And the Yankees were in every game with the exception of Tuesday's series opening clunker.

There's an inordinate amount of attention placed on these games, so the losses end up seeming worse than they are, as if they count extra in the standings. We could break it down. We could complain about Melky trying to bunt again. In the second inning. Again. We could debate the merits of leaving CC in for the eighth. Or bemoan the performance of the bullpen. Or wonder what role the weather played. Or contemplate just what the hell Swisher was thinking getting doubled off again. Or make fun of Johnny Damon for dropping a fly a ball. Or wonder if Brett Gardner was doing his Johnny Damon impersonation on his eighth inning throw. Or discuss the merits of A-Rod getting plunked and the subsequent warning. Or wonder how much Brad Penny's trade value increased tonight. Or ponder if David Ortiz will be given a curtain call for every home run he hits this year.

But I'm just not in the mood for it tonight. The Yanks took a beating the past three nights. On the field and in the psyche. Or at least the psyche of the fan base. But last I checked, you couldn't win the World Series or the division in June. These things will happen over the course of a season. The Yanks are still only two games back, and hold a six game edge in non head-to-head records. Maybe that's me just looking for a silver lining, but I'll remain hopeful that things will be different come August when they meet again. Let's not dwell on this. We'll just move on.

2009's first Subway Series starts tomorrow night. I hate interleague play. It's such a contrived gimmick. Games against the Mets mean nothing extra to me, and they really shouldn't mean anything at all. But perhaps this once, the tabloid hoopla surrounding this series will be a welcome distraction for both teams. The Yanks just got swept by the Sox and the Mets lost two of three to the Phightins to fall four games back. Come Sunday, one of these teams will leave the Stadium with a series win and feeling better about themselves than they do right now. Let's hope that team is the Yanks.