Monday, August 3, 2009

Off Night Links: Monday, Monday

Here we are on another off night, the first in 17 days. There will be another 16 games before another break for the Yanks and at least as far as the starting rotation is concerned, this one is a welcome relief.

While Joba Chamberlain was originally supposed to start tomorrow night against Roy Halladay, he will now be pushed back to Thursday for the first game against the Red Sox and oppose John Smoltz. This means Andy Pettitte and Sergio Mitre will pitch against the Blue Jays and Mitre will be the only starter the Sox don't get to see, which is obviously the best case scenario. The extra two days will also help to keep Chamberlain's innings total down, a factor that will make for some tough decisions as the season wears on.

Meanwhile, here are a batch of links to keep you busy on this relatively quiet night in the MLB. See you tomorrow morning. Enjoy.


Oh, you thought the price for Roy Halladay was high? Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times says that the Red Sox offered the Mariners 5 of the following seven players for Felix Hernandez and they turned the offer down: RHPs Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson & Michael Bowden, LHPs Nick Hagadone & Felix Doubront, OF Josh Reddick or SS Yamaico Navarro. As Matt said earlier over GChat, "That means the Yankees would have had to exhume Ruth and Mantle for King Felix". Click through to see the alternate 3 team deal that almost happened including the Padres and Adrian Gonzalez.

This guy? Steroids? GTFO! The man to the left, son of Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, was one of two former security guards fired by the Red Sox for connections with steroids. Remy and Alex Cyr (a part time assistant of Manny Ramirez) had connections with a paid employee of David Ortiz and openly discussed steroid use with him. Once again, how about a round of applause for George Mitchell, ladies and gentlemen? Boston had it's own Kirk Radomski and Brain McNamee right under their noses and mysteriously had no idea. But then again, who would have ever thought the man pictured in a fucking Gold's Gym man-tank, looking like a body builder might have been taking steroids?

Well, bully for Youk. It appears that the our anti-namesake had himself quite the weekend down in Baltimore and has emerged from a two month long slump that saw his OPS drop as low as .952, but is now back over 1.000.

Here is a raffle for a good cause. The prize is 10 seats atop the Green Monstah for the August 20th game between the Yanks and Sawx. It benefits the Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation, started in honor of a former BC Hockey player and NHL Assistant who was killed aboard Flight 175 on 9/11. Tickets are $2 and there is a minimum purchase of 5. If you win, don't forget who told you about it.

This is a pretty sad sight. (h/t NSI, who alternatively called today "Moldy Monday")

Will Leitch makes the case for Billy Beane as the next GM of the Mets over at New York Magazine. My favorite quote:
If every general manager in baseball thought like Minaya, Beane would still be in top form; as it is, he had to forage for newer, more elusive inefficiencies.
John Heyman also weighs in with his thoughts on GM candidates from around the league.


In New York Football Giants news, it appears that Antionio Pierce will not be indicted by the Grand Jury for his involvement in the Plaxico Burress fiasco. Perhaps this fucking mess will finally start to go away?


If you've got anything else, leave it in the comments.

Are The Mets The New Knicks?

[Here is a guest post I did for River Ave. Blues last week, and figured the off day would be a good time to re-post it here.]

The similarities go beyond just the blue and orange. Both teams are owned by father/son duos and have been plagued by recent failures despite having payrolls near or at the top of their respective sports. Each franchise has only two championships in their history and has made the playoffs exactly one out of the past eight seasons. They both have had their front offices' dirty laundry aired in the New York tabloids in recent years.

Not that Jose Reyes ever asked a Mets intern if she was going to "get in the truck" or Omar Minaya sexually harassed a fellow member of the front office, but there is a big distinction between having an unsuccessful franchise and having the details of why your organization is a disaster printed for the world to see. At the center of these two debacles are two executives who have/had close relationships with the owners of their teams but terrible ones with the media.

While serving as President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks, Isiah Thomas spoke with the placid monotone of someone who was heavily medicated, spouting off cliches and dropping wincers such as "To me, it’s win or die. And I literally mean death. I don’t mean walk away. I mean death. That’s how I approach it". Omar, on the other hand has a penchant for mixing metaphors, inaccurate tensing ("He has lobby myself") and verbal tics, you know what I'm saying?

Initially credited with making the Mets an attractive destination and recruiting players like Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner, Omar's track record is tainted by severely overpaying for Luis Castillo, giving Moises Alou $15M for 414 plate appearances and locking up Oliver Perez, (who is currently humming along to the tune of a 7.42 ERA) for three years and $36M. The Johan Santana trade alone puts Minaya ahead of Thomas in terms of transactions that turned out favorably for their team, but the number of playoff appearances and dollars each team has spent speak for themselves.

Back on March 12th, 2007, with Knicks holding a record of 29-34 and sitting at 8th place in the Eastern Conference, James Dolan singed Isiah Thomas to a three year extension. Nine months earlier, Dolan had issued an ultimatum, saying the Knicks would have to make "evident progress" in order to Isiah to return as coach the following year.

The team had gone 23-59 under Larry Brown the year before, so they did improve, but the timing was curious. Dolan could have waited to see how the season turned out, but instead said "the improvement needs to be recognized now and not wait". The team responded with a horrid 4-14 stretch and finished 7 games out of the playoffs. Thirteen months later, Thomas was "reassigned" and banned from having any contact with the team, effectively ending his tenure as Knicks GM and coach.

Immediately following the conclusion of the 2008 season, the second one in a row which concluded by the Mets getting nudged out of October on the last day of the season after holding a significant lead with less than three weeks to go, Jeff Wilpon extended a three year contract extension to Omar Minaya. The timing again was questionable, as the GM had a full year left on his current deal, but Wilpon said "we think he deserves another chance to keep getting us to where we want to be".

The Mets are currently in 4th place in the NL East and behind 7 other teams in contention for the Wild Card, 5.5 games back. Unfortunately for Minaya, the on-the-field performance can be largely explained away by injuries, but the power structure of the Mets organization has come under fire as of late. First with the clumsy axing of Willie Randolph last year but most recently the zany antics of Tony Bernazard and the ensuing unsuccessful attempted public sacrifice of beat writer Adam Rubin's journalistic integrity, the team has become a punching bag for the New York Media. Rubin wondered aloud how he could continue his duties as a reporter covering theMets after the incident, but one has to question whether Omar can continue running them.

Even since they hired Donnie Walsh to head their basketball operations back in April of last year, the Knicks have had an air of credibility around them, even though their play on the floor was still sub-par. A well-respected veteran of the Pacers' front office, Walsh is candid with the media and his Wikipedia page doesn't have to have a separate section for "Controversy". Could the Mets benefit from a similar move?

It's quite unlikely that the Mets leapfrog 7 teams (or three in the NL East) and sneak into the playoffs this year. Since Minaya's new contract doesn't even start until the end of this season and won't end until 2012, keeping him around would be a prudent financial move. Rob Neyer doesn't think that will play a role in the decision, though.

Has Omar passed the point of no return?

I personally don't think so and don't feel certain that his successor would necessarily bring a new direction to the franchise, other than the symbolic overture of axing Minaya. That said, public perception and fan placation is a big part of being a successful sports team in New York, and theWilpon's have to be prepared to deal with a lot of backlash if they stand by their man.

Slam Duncan

[Image via The Sports Hernia]

Chad Jennings, who does a fantastic job of keeping tabs on the goings on down in Scranton has a great feature story on Shelley Duncan for the Scranton Times-Tribune.
Everyone seems to know Shelley. Or they think they do. They think they know him because he arrived in New York two years ago hitting home runs and bashing the forearms of his teammates with something bordering on recklessness.
That's not even the tip of the iceberg, so if you've got some time, click through and give the whole thing a read.

I was hoping to see Shelley get some at bats this weekend against the Sox, but the trade for Jerry Hairston, Jr. sent him back down to the minors. With his brother Chris now in the Red Sox system, Shelley returned to the SWB Yankees just in time to play against him on Sunday, something that hasn't happened since they were both in A-Ball.

Perhaps Duncan is the perfect example of a AAAA player, a guy who mashes in Scranton but whose power doesn't quite translate to the MLB. He's the kind of player that should be frustrating to watch, with a giant cut that far too often produces pop ups and strike outs, but he's not. Chad's article does a great job of unpacking exactly what it is that makes Shelley the likable character he is. Read it.

A Triple For The Ages

In a sport with a boatload of arbitrary stats and quirky accomplishments, the cycle stands out as perhaps the most contrived of them all. It's not like a perfect game/no-hitter, where the end goal is the best possible outcome. If Melky Cabrera had hit two homers, a double and walked once it would have equal or greater value but wouldn't have met the narrow definition of a cycle and therefore would been remembered as a great individual game, but not recorded in the annals of baseball history.

As Mike from RAB pointed out last night, cycles occur about as often as no-hitters, but are in fact much rarer considering only one pitcher per team has a chance to throw a no-hitter in each game, whereas nine batters per team have a chance at a cycle. Coincidentally, there have been roughly the same amount of "natural" cycles, which is achieved by hitting 1B, 2B, 3B, HR in order (14), as there have been perfect games (18). Only three players have ever hit for more than two cycles, Babe Herman, Bob Meusel and John Reilly, with three apiece.

Despite the fact that a cycle doesn't have a perfect correlation to value within the context of the game, Melky's triple in the 9th inning was one of the most exciting moments of the season, in my eyes. So often, we hear the announcers point out that a player is "only a triple short of the cycle" when of course even a great triples hitter would only have maybe a 1 in 50 or 60 chance to hit one in that specific plate appearance. The odds were considerably longer for Melky, who hadn't hit a triple in over a year and before that not since August 25, 2007. That's one three-bagger in over 850 PAs... you do the math.

Just last week it appeared that Robinson Cano had a pretty good chance at a cycle, when he had notched a triple and a home run by the sixth inning. Alas, he did get two more plate appearances but only managed to walk and fly out to center. For him, walking twice in the same game was quite rare, but Tony Fernandez's 14 year old achievement still stood.

Until yesterday. Over the 289 cycles that have been recorded I'm guessing that Melky's .381 WPA would rank pretty high up on that list. The Yankees' offense as a whole only contributed .457. He drove in four runs and scored three, directly contributing to the 6 of the Yankees' 8 runs. He put them up 3-0 with a 3 run homer in the second, scored the tying run in the 4th after Sabathia gave back the lead, put the Yanks ahead 5-4 in the 5th with a single and scored a big insurance run in the 9th, stretching the lead from 2 to 3.

Michael Kay said that the game was "too close to take a chance" in reference to going for a triple on a ball hit into the gap when Melky was up in the 9th, but the Melk Man motored into third and beat the throw by the slimmest of margins.

Baseball has a lot of quiet moments in between pitches, innings and at bats. There are a lot of lopsided games where the outcomes are seemingly already determined in the ninth inning. It's not often that a play in baseball reaches such an extended crescendo, with a 270 foot sprint, capped by a slide successful by only a split second. Remember this one because they might be mentioning it during Yankees games for a long, long time.

Wrapping Up The Weekend

Good morning Fackers. I don't know about you, but the weekend came and went far too fast for my liking. It was a mixed bag for me. Saturday's Gov't Mule concert was a great one - featuring a nice birthday tribute to Jerry Garcia in the second set. The night was not without its casualties though, as I somehow managed to lose my beloved Yankee hat over the course of the night, leading me to retrace my steps repeatedly in a futile effort to find it. The dirty hippy jamband show claims another innocent victim. Oh, and my cousin somehow managed to score stage seating while I watched from the lawn with the rest of the massess. Then I managed to zonk out in the middle of the after party I was hosting. Not my finest hour.

Sunday involved a hungover trip to Old Sturbridge Village for a Revolutionary War reenacment. Dorky, I know. But it was fun to harass the Red Coats, telling those limey bastards they were going down. Finished the night with a victory in my hockey playoff game, so all's well that ends well. Besides, it beats last week's non-existent weekend for me.

For the Yanks, it was a bit of mixed bag as well. After ugly, ugg-lee losses on Friday and Saturday, they managed to avoid a four game sweep by winning Sunday. But that was about the only good news. Sergio Mitre continued to show he's not the answer for the fifth starter spot.

Down on the farm, uber prospect Jesus Montero broke his finger on Saturday, which will cost him the remainder of the minor league season. Not 20 until November, Montero absolutely crushed it this year, hitting .356/.406/.583 in High A and .317/.370/.539 in AA. Those are insane numbers. He's 19 years old. He's in his second full season. The Florida State League is a notorious pitcher's league. Trenton's park is a notorious pitcher's park. This guy raked all summer long, and bashed 17 home runs against competition a few years older than him. Hopefully this injury is just a bump in the road and won't have any long term effects.

In other injury news, single A pitcher Brett Marshall, last year's sixth round pick, needs Tommy John Surgery. He hadn't been doing especially well down in Charleston, throwing 87 1/3 innings of 5.67 ERA ball, but perhaps the injury was the cause of his poor performance. Marshall was drafted out of Sterling High School, just outside of Houston. He's 6' 0", 190 lbs and there were some concerns about his mechanics and in turn his durability. In addition, his high school coaches probably weren't looking out for his future when they left him in to throw 146 pitches in the State Championship game in his last outing as an amateur. The good news is that he's only 19 years old and even if his rehab takes more than a full year, he'll have plenty of time left to develop.

So, in all, not the best weekend you could draw up. But hey, it's the dawn of a new week. Maybe this one will be a bit better. We've got an off day today, but we'll be back with more stuff later on.

Yanks Salvage Series Finale

The Yankees played the Texas Tornado to the White Sox Mr. Perfect on Sunday, touching up Mark Buehrle for 12 hits and 7 runs over 4.1 IP.

CC Sabathia wasn't particularly sharp, giving up four runs through the first three innings, leave the Yanks down a run. But he settled in from there, and finished the day scattering 1o hits over 7+ innings, giving up 5 runs, fanning five and walking none.

The story of the game however is Melky Cabrera, who homered in the first, doubled in the fourth, singled in the fifth, and tripled in the ninth, becoming the first Yankee to hit for the cycle in nearly 14 years.

Hey fans! Did you know that Tony Fernandez was the last Yankee to hit for the cycle, doing so on 9/3/95? Of course you did, YES only brings it up about once a week. Much like Derek Jeter's previous grand slam drought, this little nugget had become my pet peeve meaningless historical reference that the announcers beat into the ground. So as I texted to Jay, and he put up on our Twitter feed, the best part about Melky's cycle is that we never have to hear about Tony Fernandez again. I can only imagine what the next stat-to-beat-into-the-ground will be.

Melky finished at 4 for 5 with 3 runs scored and 4 RBI. He also made a nice diving catch. I've been critical of him as he cooled off considerably after his torrid April, but I have to say, since Gardner has gone down, Melky has really stepped it up, going 14 of his last 35 (.400), with 8 extra base hits and six walks. Now if he would just throw to the right base.

Nick Swisher also had a nice game against his former team, 2 for 3 with 2 BB and 2 runs scored. Jerry Hairston Jr started at third, giving A-Rod a half day off, and went 2 for 3 to raise his Yankee batting average to .500.

Phil Hughes and Mo closed it out. I don't quite understand Joe Girardi's rationale as to why Mo can nail down a four out save, but not a five out save, nor do I understand the rationale behind yanking Hughes mid inning at all. Maybe he'll tell us straight on WB Mason presents the Joe Girardi Show only on YES. It worked though, even if Mo had to sit through a 25 minute top of the ninth before getting back to work.

In all it was a nice to end an otherwise brutal series. The Yanks are still in first by a half game and I'm sure the Monday off day will be far more enjoyable having avoided a sweep - even if they do have to spend it in Canada.

(Photo from AP/ESPN)