Friday, August 7, 2009

Game 109: Shakedown Street

While the Yankees were shaking down the Sox last night, the new Yankee Stadium had a watershed moment for itself. Not only did the ballpark have its highest attendance (49,005) in its brief history, but it came alive for the first time.

The Stadium has been justifiably panned for a number of reasons: the insane ticket prices, the obstructed view bleacher seats, the decreased capacity compared to the old joint, the institutionalized caste system, the cold and sterile nature of the place, Monument Cave, etc. I'm not sure it's quite as bad as it's been made out to be, but it certainly has it flaws.

My biggest problem with it has been the lack of atmosphere. Part of that may be structural, with the upper deck recessed much further back from the field than across the street. Part of that can be attributed to the best seats being empty on a nightly basis. Part of that can be chalked up to the place being a mall with a baseball field in the middle. How can fans create an atmosphere if they're off at the farmer's market, or the art gallery, or the butcher shop?

Last night though was a lot different, and I couldn't be happier. There was a buzz all day long. The Yanks were rolling, the Sox were struggling, and the Yanks were overdue for some head-to-head wins. On the interwebs, on talk radio, in the tabloids, amongst the fans - the energy was building back to the way it should be.

Once I hit the Major Deegan on my way to the game, I knew this one would be different. The gridlock from the Mosholu down past Van Cortland Park, Fordham, and the GW, all the way to the Harlem River lots was a good indication the people were coming out for this one.

River Ave was buzzing, once again the Bronx's version of Shakedown Street at a Dead show. T-shirt vendors on the sidewalk. A fully packed Stan's. Roy White doing an autograph signing at one of the memorablia shops.

The Stadium itself didn't disappoint. It was fairly electric from the first pitch, and stayed that way even through some early bumps for the Yanks and a sloppy strikezone from Derryl Cousins. The atmosphere in the eight-run fourth inning is how Yankee Stadium is supposed to be, Sounds like our pal Joe at RAB got what he wanted.

I'm hoping for much of the same tonight. Big ptiching match-up with Burnett vs. Beckett for the third time this year. It'll be interesting to see if Beckett, never one to shy away from pitching inside, goes after anyone in the wake of Pedroia's plunking last night. A.J.'s first two against the Sox were ugly, but he's been on an absolute tear since then - Saturday's start notwithstanding. As a team the Yankees cashed in on being overdue against the Sox last night - let's hope A.J. get his tonight and that the Stadium is rocking again.

Grateful Dead - Shakedown Street

Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart
When I can hear it beat out loud!

Nothing shaking on Shakedown Street
Used to be the heart of the town
Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart
You just gotta poke around

Wrapping It Up For The Weekend

Sorry Fackers. Like Jay, I'm heading out for a little weekend trip to the heart of enemy territory, so things are going to be a bit sparse around here. We'll have previews, maybe recaps, maybe scattered updates. But don't count on too much.

That also means that even though last night's game marked the two thirds point of the season, we won't be doing our usual extrapolations and ZIPS. Sorry math geeks. If you have a third grade education you should be able to figure out how to do the extrapolations on your own. For the ZIPS projections, check out the awesome

Before I go, here are a few Sox related thoughts:

During the series in Boston in June, I posted a recap of the Sox off-season moves compared to the those of the Yankees. Though lauded in the media, they haven't been too great. Smoltz is pitching like he has a giant fork sticking out of his back, Kotsay was DFA's then traded, Bard was released before the season started, Penny's been so-so, Baldelli's on his second DL stint, and Varitek will now be losing playing time to Victor Martinez.

I was a little perplexed by the Sox deadline moves - particularly the quick flip of LaRoche for Casey Kotchman. They way I figured it, Youkilis, Kotchman, Lowell, Martinez, Varitek, and Lowell would all be fighting for playing time amongst the corners, catcher, and DH. Last night's line up may have given some insite into their thought process. With Jason Bay sidelined with a sore hammy, Youk was in leftfield. Youkilis made 18 OF apperances in 2006, but has played less than 9 innings out there since. And left field in Yankee Stadium is far different than catching caroms off the Monster.

I wonder though, if J.D. Drew continues to struggle, might the Sox give Youk more time in the OF to get the other bats in at first and third? Time will tell, but from my vantage point in the upper deck last night, Youkilis didn't look too comfortable out in left. He was continually short-arming his throws like an infielder as well. But it speaks volumes as to the guy's versatility that he was able to that. Fack him anyway.

I was a bit surprised that Francona left former Yankee Billy Traber out there for so long. It was the equivalent of waving the white flag. Given the way the Yanks swung the bats it may have been the smart move, but seemed to be in stark contrast to the all-in look of the initial line up, i.e. Youkilis in left.

Lastly, I'm extremely interested to see what comes out of the David Ortiz press conference tomorrow. I realize it's convenient for the union to address this now since they're based in NYC, but it can't the wisest move for Ortiz to do this right in the thick of a critical series against the Yankees, in New York. You knwo the tabloids are going to be hanging on every word like a pack of hungry dogs.

That's it until the preview folks. Enjoy your Friday.

Yanks Get Gaudin

While the Yanks were busy putting a beating on the Sox last night, Brian Cashman was working a deal with the Padres, acquiring Chad Gaudin for a player to be named later.

For the year, Gaudin is 4-10 with a 5.13 ERA (73 ERA+), 1.53 WHIP, and a K:BB of just 1.88. Those aren't great numbers, particularly considering that he's pitched about 40% of innings in the pitcher's haven of Petco Park - where his numbers are actually worse than they are on the road.

That said, Gaudin may be a bit better than the surface numbers indicate. His FIP is a far more palatable 3.68, and may have been a bit unlucky, with a BABIP of .338 far above the league average.

Reports are that Gaudin will begin his Yankee career in the bullpen, and I'm opposed to that. Sergio Mitre has been bad for four straight starts. Gaudin has started in 19 of his 20 appearances this year. Why put him in the pen so he can lose arm strength and stamina like Alf and Hughes before him? When they finally decide to jettison Mitre, Gaudin likely won't be in as good a condition as he is now to step into the rotation.

Further, if Mitre keeps the five spot and Gaudin goes to the pen, that means that someone currently in the pen has to go. David Robertson and Mark Melancon both have options, but both deserve a roster spot at present. Could Brian Bruney be DFA'd? I wouldn't be in favor of that either. The only way I'd be comfortable with Gaudin heading to the pen would be if Mitre is the guy to go and Alf moves into the rotation. Time will tell.

Beggars Can't Be Choosers

The Yankees would have taken a win anyway they could have got it last night and the Baseball Gods responded with a protracted, sloppy, lopsided affair that spanned nearly four hours, included 26 hits, 18 walks and 23 runners left on base.

It didn't appear to bode well for the Yanks when Jorge Posada trotted into home standing straight up in the 2nd inning and walked right into a chest high relay throw from Dustin Pedroia to Victor Martinez. At that point it seemed possible that Posada's baserunning gaffe would come back to haunt them later in the game. That notion vanished fairly quickly when Yanks sent 13 runners to the plate in the bottom of the fourth and scored 8 of them.

Joba Chamberlain, although he got the win, was not sharp at all, throwing 108 pitches in five innings, walking 7 and giving up two home runs. He continually failed to put away hitters but still managed to earn his 8th win of the season and 4th in a row.

Despite the fact that the Yanks were leading by eight runs when they made their first call to the bullpen, Joe Girardi still managed to use four more pitchers. (The Red Sox used only 3 to absorb 45 plate appearances). Girardi also pinch hit and pinch ran comfortably ahead and made defensive switches with a 9 run lead in the 9th inning. Anthony Claggett came on for the final three outs, but apparently couldn't have been trusted with a 7 run lead in the 8th inning or a 6 run cushion in the 7th.

I'm not sure if Mark Melancon purposely threw at Dustin Pedoia with a 13-4 advantage in the eighth, but this is just a fantastic photograph, you know, on an artistic level. (via AP/Yahoo)

It must have been a horrible baseball game to watch if you weren't a fan of the Yankees. Sorry about that. We take what we can get.