Friday, September 18, 2009

Want To Talk Some Baseball?

Our pal Jason from Heartland Pinstripes is hosting a live chat which he quite appropriately calls a Heartland Digital Living Room. There should be some good banter going on at his place when the game fires up. Grab a six pack and stop by.

Game 148: It's Good To Be King

It was the modern day version of the story where some scout was driving through the backroads in his pickup truck and found a kid somewhere out in the sticks who could throw rocks through the side of a barn. It used to be that parts of the United States were rural and isolated enough that there might be a diamond in the rough just sitting out there waiting to be discovered. Today, those searches have turned towards third world nations such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela where the passion for baseball has spread throughout the countryside.

The kids play for the love of the game of course, but there is also the potential that if they reach the highest levels of the game, they can rescue their families from real, extreme poverty, a reality that most kids growing up in the States just don't face.

Felix Hernandez was only 14 years old and already throwing in the low to mid 90's when he caught the eye of scout of a scout named Luis Fuenmayor outside of Maracaibo, Venezuela. He couldn't sign with any team until he was 16 years old, but important steps had to be taken in order for teams to put themselves in position to sign him; relationships to be formed, trust to be gained.

The Yankees were in hot pursuit of the young flamethrower and so were the Braves, Astros, Dodgers, Rockies and Hernandez's eventual choice, the Mariners. The Yankees extended the first offer to Hernandez and the Braves the largest. But he chose the $710,000 option from the Mariners and the rest, as they say, is history.

The USS Mariner anointed him "King Felix" in 2003 when he was just 17 years old, pitching in short season A-ball. He continued to eat up the minors, striking out 172 in 149 1/3 innings as an 18 year old between high A and AA and 100 in 88 innings the following year at AAA. He was called up in August that year, and in his second start ever in the Big Leagues, he threw 8 shutout innings using only 94 pitches against the Twins as the Mariners took the game 1-0. He was still only 19.

The reign of King Felix has continued to grow over the years. In his first full season as a starter, he had a a roughly league average ERA but it has declined every year since. Along the way, he offered up a resplendent performance at Fenway Park in early April, with a complete game, one hit shutout of the Red Sox on Wednesday Night Baseball replete with 17 ground ball outs. Last year, he hit an eyes-closed grand slam off fellow Venezuelan Johan Santana. This season, behind only Zack Greinke, he has the second best argument for the AL Cy Young award when you remove the performance of his team behind him.

Some have speculated that he might get a $200 million dollar contract when he reaches free agency after the 2011 season, at which point he'll be 25 years old; extremely young for a starting pitcher to hit the open market.

Hernandez has faced the Yankees once each year since 2005 and his performances have been anything but royal. He's given up 16 runs and 15 walks in 24 1/3 innings in the four outings. He hasn't faced them since May of last year, when he gave up 12 hits and six runs over 5 2/3 IP.

Much has changed since then, namely the Yankees line up but King Felix has also stepped up his game considerably. His ERA has dropped a full run, he's is striking out more batters while walking fewer, and giving up fewer hits per nine innings.

One thing hasn't changed though. It's still good to be King Felix.

[Ed Note: Since we've got a ways to go before the game at 10:10PM EST, we've included an extra long live version of the song which Petty & Co. apparently have chosen as the one tune they work an extended jam into. The first couple of links about third world scouting and King Felix are worth the read if you're looking to kill time as well. The USS Mariner (also linked above) is a great place to go for info on the boys from Seattle. Enjoy.]

It's good to be king, if just for a while,
To be there in velvet, yeah, to give em a smile,
It's good to get high, and never come down,
It's good to be king of your own little town.

Keeping The Slow March Towards The Weekend Moving

Well folks, after an off day and before a West Coast game, as the season starts to wind down and the playoff picture becomes increasingly clear, there simply isn't as much to write about, either for us or the beat writers. The minor league season is over, so now we get to hear about how C.C. Sabathia is happy that, unlike last year, he isn't being ridden like a rented mule. We also discover that Mark Melancon is here to "get outs and throw strikes". Riveting stuff.

We can't really complain because neither Matt nor I have any more original ideas to shape into posts that don't involve making fun of Brett Tomko (more on that below), so we are left to cobble together another afternoon link aggregation. It's a slow day and we're try to do our part to help move it along. Here we go:

Bernie Williams is a better player than Omar Sosa! No, Richard Dreyfuss didn't hijack my keyboard, they both are nominated for a Latin Grammy for "Best Instrumental Album", an award roughly as prestigious as being named the Best Lefthanded Middle Reliever in the Pacific Coast League.

Turns out the Yanks/Blue Jays brawl was a laughing matter.

Did you read about Brett Tomko's last start, a complete game shutout against the Rangers, and think it was too good to be true? Well, it was. He threw 114 pitches that night and couldn't move his arm the next morning. He's been shut down for the season. (h/t RAB)

As expected, there are some juicy tidbits in wife-swapper Fritz Peterson's possibly ironically-titled upcoming book "Mickey Mantle Is Going To Heaven", namely that the Yankee Clipper was "arrogant" and the Chairman of the Board doctored the ball. (h/t CTB)

The Yankees are being sued for age discrimination by waiters from ages 66 to 80 that worked at the Old Stadium but were turned away from jobs in the new one. From my experiences with the cocktail waitresses at Harrahs in Las Vegas, I'm going to have to side with the Yankees on this one.

Another breakdown of Andrew Brackman's season, this time from FanGraphs.

Maybe the Yankees won't be starting next year at Fenway after all.

After blowing the Red Sox vs. Angels game on Wednesday, the umps involved have filed a grievance against the Angels coaches, because, you know, they were the ones who being "unprofessional" not the umps who completely blew the call.

The Mets have to be better next year, right? RIGHT?

Replacing PeteAbe

Over the next two weeks, the Westchester Journal News will have the unenviable task of trying to replace the Blogfather of the Bronx Bombers, Peter Abraham. I published a tribute to his work this morning and other Yanks blogs have weighed in as well, including Bronx Banter, River Ave. Blues, IIATMS, Heartland Pinstripes and The Yankee Universe.

They are going to be some big shoes to fill, but we have put together a couple of candidates for the job. The list is woefully limited to due to our outside perspective in terms of the newspaper world. However, since LoHud is relatively small, circulation-wise, we believe that it would be in their best interest to fill the position while placing the online readership as the main consideration. The way that the newspaper industry is going, they would be wise to try to support an employee solely by their online presence if at all possible. With the traffic PeteAbe drew that is a very attainable goal. As a result have focused our list mainly on internet writers.


The Minor League Guys

Chad Jennings - Jennings does a bang up job of covering the AAA team for the Scranton Times-Tribune. He's been at it for about two and a half years so he has dealt with the Yankees organization pretty extensively. PeteAbe himself has said in the past that some newspaper would be wise to scoop him up. He's as close to a "name brand" that is available in the Yankee blogosphere and probably the best hope LoHud has for keeping people around.

Mike Ashmore - Author of the Thunder Thoughts blog and current employee of the Hunterdon County Democrat, Ashmore has been on the Trenton beat for four years. His blog has been around since January of 2008 and is far and away the best resource for the Yankees AA affiliate.

Robert Pimpsner - Former keeper of, Pimpsner has moved his coverage of the New York baseball to Gotham Baseball. Another great contributor to the excellent coverage of the Yankees' minor league system that we fans have been spoiled by, he would be a dark horse candidate, but a great choice to take on of the spots vacated by Ashmore or Jennings should they be chosen by LoHud.


The Yankee Bloggers

The River Ave. Blues Guys - This one is a little outside of the box, but let's be honest, newspapers could use some outside of the box thinking. If LoHud is serious about their online presence, they would be wise to work out something with the biggest and best independent Yankees blog out there. Ben, Mike and Joe have done great work without any real access and it stands to reason that it would only get better if they were credentialed. They already have a content sharing agreement with the YES Network site and attended the Winter Meetings last December, so it's not as if they are some fly-by-night operation.

It would also represent a major stride for bloggers in general, something we obviously have a vested interest in. The two weeks before Pete vacates his position might be too tight of a window to figure out a working arrangement, but RAB comes with its own large, vibrant online audience, something that none of these other candidates can claim in comparison.

Cliff Corcoran - Cliff's writing at Sports Illustrated and Bronx Banter is always thorough and insightful. I don't know if the position would be something he is interested in considering he has infant daughter at home, but judging by what I have read from him, I'm guessing he would do a great job. BB's founder Alex Belth would probably do good work as well, but he didn't seem interested when he wrote about Pete's departure.


The LoHud Guys

Sam Borden - You probably recognize the name from the times they he has filled in for Pete on his blog. He is currently a columnist on LoHud, and while it's customary for a beat writer to aspire to be a columnist, but the Yankees beat that PeteAbe has carved out is a pretty high profile spot.

Kevin Devaney, Jr. - Devaney also works for LoHud and at the moment, has filled in for PeteAbe before and maintains a blog on high school sports called Varsity Insider. He's been with the paper for over 10 years and is another guy primed for a promotion to the Big Leagues.

Josh Thompson - Another occasional fill-in for Abraham, Thompson has been at LoHud since 2003 covering sports from the high school to pro levels. He currently maintains an ironically-titled blog on girls basketball in the lower Hudson called the The Sixth Man.

Scranton Swept, Miranda Recalled

Crash Davis and the Durham Bulls completed a three game sweep of the Scranton Yankees last night, winning the Governor's Cup as International League champions and thwarting Scranton's attempt at going back-to-back.

Scranton jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but Durham tied it the seventh off starter Ivan Nova (who we'll likely hear and see more from in 2010). It stayed tied until the top of the 12th, when Durham pushed the eventual winning run across. For those out there who like to blame Cody Ransom whenever possible, he went 1 for 5 and according to RAB's Mike Axisa, fanned to end the bottom of the ninth, with the winning run on third. He did however have the only two Scranton RBI on the night.

Also, check out for the highlights from Game 2. The Bulls' keystone combination of Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson (Francisco Cervelli's buddy from spring training 2008) turn a sweet double play.

After the game, the Yankees recalled first baseman Juan Miranda. He'll likely join the team in Seattle today. The Cuban expatriot was signed in December 2006 and hit .290/.369/.498 with 30 doubles and 19 homers in 502 PA this year. In a brief September call up last year, he hit .400/.500/.500 in 14 PA. Miranda was up for a day in April when Hideki Matsui's knees were acting up, but did not get into a game. As I speculated in our look at potential September call-ups at the start of the month, I expect the Yankees to showcase Miranda as much as possible this month and flip him in the off-season as he has very little chance of a future with the organization.

Miranda's recall puts the Yankees' Major League roster at 36. The only members of the 40 man roster not with the big club right now are Andrew Brackman, Wilkins De La Rosa, Christian Garcia, and Ian Kennedy, all of whom are some combination of injured and/or not ready for prime time.

According to SWB beat reporter Chad Jennings, Austin Jackson and Zach Kroenke were told nothing and will head home for the time being. The Yankees would have to make room on an already full 40 man roster to add either player.

PeteAbe Puts In His Two Weeks

Good morning, Fackers. According to reseach recently conducted by the FYISB (Fack Youk Institute Of Sports Bloggery), given that you are reading this blog, there is a 99.887% chance you also read Peter Abraham's LoHud Yankees Blog as well. Furthermore, there is a 25.446% chance that the first you've heard of this little establishment came from Pete as well, via this post back in February. It was the biggest day in the history of our site at the time, thanks mostly to that link.

He was the first beat writer in the New York market to have a blog in any sport, and his readership reflected that. He crossed the million comment mark not to long ago, had 29,000,000 pageviews way back in February and routinely topped 100,000 PVs in a single day.

Since it was an off night, you might not have checked LoHud, but Pete dropped bit of news from out of the blue:
So here it is: I’m leaving The Journal News after nearly 10 years and going to work for The Boston Globe.

I’ll be covering baseball — yes, the Red Sox — and blogging for The Globe approached me in August, right around the time my newspaper was going through some painful restructuring that you all heard about.

I have two weeks left and I’m not going to waver in my commitment to get you as much news as I can on the Yankees.
It's a shame that Pete won't be covering the Yankees anymore. Despite what the and Gannett might like to think, the readers of his blog weren't loyal to the paper as much as they were loyal to his diligent coverage. He might pull some of his readership over to the Globe (I'll probably subscribe to the feed), but similar to the above, his readers weren't as loyal to him as they were to the Yankees. Had he switched to another New York paper and still covered the team, he could have taken essentially he entire online readership with him.

The LHYB was the first Yankee blog I ever read, starting sometime in the 2007 season. My friend and occasional contributor to this site, Joe, used to send me links from time to time, but it didn't initially stick.

At first, the format of a blog was confusing and it took me a while to realize that I could depend on it for a steady stream of Yankee-related content. If you spent a good amount of time on LoHud, you knew that Pete was cool with the Big G and the Moose, and not too fond of A-Rod. Pete had his opinions and certainly didn't always agree with him, but we were only aware of them because he was so candid with them on the site, something beat writers can't really be in their newspaper columns. He was always timely with Yankees news and gave me as much information and blog fodder as Michael Kay and John Sterling combined.

Like most good bloggers, he was active in the comments and responded to every email I can remember sending him. He didn't have to do that, and he didn't have to maintain the blog as well as he did. Will all due respect to Tyler Kepner, Mark Feinsand, Marc Carig or any other Yanks beat guy I'm forgetting (and whose blog I don't read), PeteAbe's online coverage was by far the best.

The guy has two weeks left, so I don't know why I'm talking about him work in the past tense, but chances are, I'm not going to feel like writing an ode to the dude 14 days from now.

I doubt the Pete is going to read this but he deserves to be recognized for defining what a beat writer's blog could be. Maybe there are other guys in other cities who do a better job with their blog than Pete but I tend to doubt that. The way that he maintained the LHYB was above and beyond the call of duty.

As such, I think this would be an appropriate time to re-air his Yankeeography which created for him by the fine folks at IIH, IIF, IIc but never linked to on his blog for various reasons (mainly the editorial policies at the Gannett Corp.).

Best of luck to the Yankee Quipper in his future endeavors.