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August 31, 2006

The Greatest August Collapse Of All-Time?

I know that no other team in baseball history - outside of the 2006 Boston Red Sox - has ever started the month of August in first place and then went on to lose 21 games in that month.

So, does this mean that the Red Sox winning percentage in August 2006 (.300) is the worst ever by a team for the month of August where the team started the month in first place? Seems like it, no?

There have been some great, late, collapses by baseball teams, such as:

The 1934 Giants,
The 1938 Pirates,
The 1942 Dodgers
The 1951 Dodgers,
The 1964 Phillies,
The 1969 Cubs,
The 1987 Blue Jays,
The 1993 Giants,
The 1995 Angels, and, of course,
The 1978 Red Sox.

How did each of these teams do in August those years?

The 1964 Phillies: 19-10
The 1934 Giants: 19-10
The 1978 Red Sox: 19-10
The 1951 Dodgers: 19-13
The 1969 Cubs: 18-11
The 1942 Dodgers: 18-11
The 1987 Blue Jays: 17-12
The 1938 Pirates: 16-16
The 1993 Giants: 15-11
The 1995 Angels: 13-17

As you can see, in just about all of these El Fold-o's, the bad stuff happened for these teams during the month of September - and the team hung in there during August.

The exception here being the 1995 Angels - who started to slide in August.

Still, 13-17 (for the Angels) in August 1995 is a lot better than 9-21 (for the Red Sox) in August 2006.

Therefore, does this give the 2006 Boston Red Sox the title of "Worst Ever August Collapse For A First Place Team"? It's a pretty solid case, no?

Do they give out plaques for a title like that?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:23 PM | Comments (11)

August 31st vs. The Tigers

This game is a reason why I will not miss Joe Torre when his time is done in New York.

Sure, Damon, Jeter, Abreu, A-Rod, Bernie and Melky had nice days at the plate this afternoon, but, the story of today was Randy Johnson.

Through eight, the Big Unit was the real deal - allowing only two Han Solos and an infield hit. But, after eight, he was bumping up against 100 pitches.

At that time, the Yankees had a 4-run lead heading into the 9th. This would have been the perfect time for someone like Dotel or Myers to pitch the last frame - where a grand slam would only tie you, at the worst (or best, depending on your position).

But, noooooooooo........

Joe Torre tries to milk another inning from Johnson and it back-fires. Unit allows a walk and then a homer and now it's a 2-run contest - and then there's a need to bring in a sore-armed Mariano Rivera for the save.

Rivera never should have been used in this game - if Torre had gone to another, fresh, pitcher in the 9th. As bad as some of the "B-men" in the pen may be, I'm sure that one of them could have gotten three outs before allowing four runs. Or, at least try and use someone else, who is rested - and then if they allow two, then bring in Rivera.

"Joe Torre" is to "handling pitchers" as "Clark Griswold" is to "family vacations."

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:43 PM | Comments (26)

Another Reason To Root For A Boston Loss Today

From ESPN.com -

The Red Sox's 7-2 loss in Oakland on Wednesday was their 21st during August (8-21). That tied the all-time record for losses in a month by a team that started the month in first place. Boston held a one-game lead over the Yankees at the end of July. Five other teams share the record: the 1971 Cardinals (8-21 in June), 1951 White Sox (11-21 in July), 1929 Boston Braves (8-21 in May), 1919 Yankees (13-21 in July), and 1908 New York Highlanders (7-21 in June).

So, if Boston loses today, they will have the worst August, of all-time, for any team who started the month of August in first place.

It's so true: He who chokes last, chokes best.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:13 AM | Comments (1)

News That Yankees Fans Don't Want To Hear

From the Times:

[Mo] Rivera has experienced inflammation in his right elbow and will have a precautionary M.R.I. on the elbow soon, perhaps today. He earned the save in the first game yesterday but did not pitch in the second.

After working two innings for a save on Aug. 20, Rivera did not pitch for six days, until another two-inning outing on Sunday. There was only one save opportunity in that stretch, and Rivera said yesterday that he felt good and that he had enjoyed the rest.

Asked if the innings add up this time of year, Rivera smiled and said, “They do, they do.”

Giambi had an M.R.I. on his left wrist between games of the doubleheader, after he went 1 for 3 with a sacrifice fly as the designated hitter in the opener. He missed a start Sunday in Anaheim because of cramping in his hands, and he has had his wrist wrapped lately.

The results of Giambi’s M.R.I. were not immediately available, and he started the second game as the D.H.

Giambi is one of the main keys to the Yankees offense. And, anyone who has visited the planet Earth in the last ten years can tell you how important Mariano Rivera is to his team.

Look at it this way: If Giambi can't go, you're looking at a combination of Aaron Guiel, Craig Wilson and Bernie Williams replacing his bat. And, if Rivera cannot go, Kyle Farnsworth and Scott Proctor are closing games for you in the post-season.

In both cases, the drop-off is huge.

I would rather see the Yankees shut them both down for the next 2-3 weeks, and have them rest/heal that way, than try to milk them through the next month. The season is pretty much done for New York. October baseball is the next important thing for the Yankees.

And, without Giambi and/or Rivera, New York's chances in October get a lot slimmer.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:42 AM | Comments (1)

No Love For Pavano

I think this story in the Times says it all:

Cashman sent Pavano to Tampa, Fla., where he will do no more than play catch on flat ground for two weeks. Taped to his locker at Yankee Stadium were the back pages of several New York newspapers mocking his latest injury, which Pavano did not report to the Yankees for 11 days.

“Stuff like this — hiding injuries — loses credibility and loses respect,” Cashman said. “Clearly, he has a mountain to climb to get back in the fold. That’s on him.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the players have spoken. To them, Pavano is a joke.

I wonder how ol' Carl will do when the Yankees vote on post-season shares this year?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:29 AM | Comments (8)

August 30, 2006

August 30th vs. The Tigers - Game 2

Damn, just one out away from a "W".........

But, really, rather than blame Proctor, or what may be a developing "he said, she said" situation between Torre and Farnsworth, the fact of the matter in this evening's contest was that the Yankees had just 3 hits and 3 walks, on offense, in this game - and it's real hard to win a ballgame when you put so few runners on base.

Speaking of Everyday Scottie Proctor, I noticed something this evening that could be a concern for the Yankees.

Proctor had a lot of pine-tar on the bill of his cap this evening - both on the top and the under-side. And, Scott was going to the bill of his cap just about before every pitch.

Now, this is nothing shocking - lots of pitchers use the stuff to get a better grip on their breaking pitches in very humid or cold conditions. I'm sure that Proctor is using it to help get that big twelve-to-six curveball of his to do its thing.

I'm fearful that some smart manager, say, in a post-season game against the Yankees this October, could point to the pine-tar cap and get Proctor ejected from a game - and maybe suspended. It's happened before - just last year, with Brendan Donnelly.

Hey, if it happens, I warned you.

OK, let's move to the bright side of things: Jaret Wright got an out in 7th inning! And, the Red Sox (and Curt Schilling!) got beat today.

Add the Yankees win this afternoon to these two items and it's not such a bad day today, after all, even with this tough loss.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:33 PM | Comments (29)

August 30th vs. The Tigers - Game 1

Vintage Worm Killer Wang.

By the way, I suggested the "Worm Killer" handle back on July 17th of this season - and, it seems like Yankees fans on the 'net are, pardon the pun, diggin' it. Coooool.....

Seven and two-thirds.
Three hits, two walks.
No runs.
109 pitches - 67 for strikes.
And, 13 groundouts.

Worm Killer's record is now 16-5 for the season. Since 1973, only four Yankees pitchers have had seasons with 16+ wins and 5 losses or less:

David Wells, 1998 (18-4).
Roger Clemens, 2001 (20-3).
Jimmy Key, 1994 (17-4).
Ron Guidry, 1978 (25-3).

I think that tells you how special Wang has been this season.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:03 PM | Comments (10)

In Theo "We" Trust

The Yankees have not played in the last two days, yet, thanks to the Boston Red Sox poor play, New York was able to register two more clicks (during the last two days) off their magic number for the 2006 A.L. East crown.

Before the start of today's games, the Yankees now have 33 games left to play, and their "magic number" to win the A.L. East is down to 25.

It's amazing - less than 23 months ago, the Red Sox could do no wrong, and, now, Boston is a mess.

At this rate, the Yankees might be able to clinch this thing when Boston comes into New York on September 15th.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:15 AM | Comments (13)

August 29, 2006

No Record Of Pavano Crash

From the AP:

Authorities have no record of an August car accident involving New York Yankees pitcher Carl Pavano, who told the team Monday after learning he broke two ribs in an Aug. 15 crash.

Pavano said he was hurt while at home in West Palm Beach when his car went through a puddle, spun out of control and hit a truck at a stop sign.

Lt. Tim Frith of the Florida Highway Patrol acknowledged Tuesday the accident may not have been reported to authorities.

The West Palm Beach Police Department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office had no record of any traffic incident involving Pavano during all of 2006, according to their records departments. FHP, which often responds to vehicle crashes, also had no record of a car crash involving Pavano during the month of August.

A baseball official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the team's ongoing investigation, said Pavano did not tell the club about the accident until Monday, when a scan revealed the injury.

Hearing this, I'm really starting to think this is like the time that Jeff Kent said that he broke a bone while washing his truck. This is a cover story for Pavano.

If I'm parked at a stop sign, and I get rear-ended by a famous millionaire baseball player, I'm telling everyone that I know about it - and then the story would probably make it to the media eventually. The fact that we heard nothing on this for two weeks is fishy, at best.

If this accident happened, I would have expected to see the other driver on ESPN the next morning wearing a neck-brace.

I would love to start seeing some facts to back up Pavano's claim. But, I suspect that we will never see them.

Update, 12:44 pm ET: Benjamin Kabak has alerted that Pete Abraham is reporting the following:

There is an Associated Press story out there that claims there is no record of Pavano being in an accident. That is untrue. I just spoke to somebody with the West Palm Beach PD. There is a record. It's just that their records department is closed because of the tropical storm approaching.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Update, 4:52 pm EST: There is a report.

I now believe it.

Amazing. A millionaire gets into an accident causing $50,000 worth of damage and it doesn't make the news when it happens. Go figure.

Sorry Carl. You're not a liar. Unless, of course, one believes in lies by omission......then, it looks like you were just a liar until you got caught.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:20 PM | Comments (16)

The Three Faces Of A-Rod

Three things that we know to be true about Alex Rodriguez this season:

1. He does not bat well when the Yankees are trailing (in score) and it's a close contest.

2. He does not bat well when facing a pitcher in a game for the first time.

3. He does not bat well when there's a runner on third base and there's less than 2 outs.

These three facts, when examined together, support the theory that A-Rod is pressing this season - and that's his biggest problem.

Basically, in spots where Rodriguez feels that he has to make something happen - he fails. I wonder if Jim Fannin is focusing on these areas with Alex?

This all also makes me think that, if the Yankees can get A-Rod into a spot where he doesn't need to be "the man" - like in 2005 - then perhaps Alex will rebound once that happens.

But, until that happens, I suspect that we will continue to see what we're seeing from Rodriguez this season - strikeouts and double plays in big spots - and a failure to step up when needed.

This whole thing reminds me of the best baseline in the history of modern popular music. I won't say it - because then it will stuck in your head for hours.

And, as the three faces of Alex Rodriguez has shown us this season, having something stuck in your head can be a bad thing.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:11 AM | Comments (10)

The Voice In A-Rod's Head Speaks - To Us!

Jim Fannin speaks, via the S.I. Advance, on Alex Rodriguez:

[A-Rod] "Never had a slump," Jim Fannin said.

"He was player of the month in May," Fannin noted. "He played very solid in July. And he's having a very solid August. He had a June that was not him, but that's long in the past."

When told that others -- ignorant as they may be -- have pointed to his past seven games, during which A-Rod has gone 4-for-28 with 16 strikeouts, as a sign that perhaps August has not been so ducky for the reigning league MVP, Fannin replied: "August is not over yet."

"(Rodriguez) is the most dedicated, most positive client that I've ever had," Fannin said. "I've coached Grant Hill, Frank Thomas. I'm coaching Barry Zito now. I've coached 22 baseball All-Stars and four Cy Young Award winners. A-Rod is at the top in terms of preparing to get on the field."

"Will there be bumps in the road? There will be," he said. "Will there be potholes where you don't reach your standards? You hope not, but there will be. This is a marathon. I'm not phased by any point of the marathon."

"Alex is awesome," Fannin said. "I have confidence he'll do whatever he needs to do. He is just awesome."

I've heard this before........it went like this:

The mind is a strange thing, men.
We must begin by asking it... ...
"What is losing?"
Losing is a disease.....as contagious as polio.
Losing is a disease.....as contagious as syphilis.
Losing is a disease.....as contagious as bubonic plague...... attacking one... ... but infecting all.
But curable.
Now, I want you to imagine.....you are on a ship at sea...
...gently rocking.
Gently rocking.
Gently rocking.
Gently rocking.

Man, what ever happened to see the ball and hit the ball?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:20 AM | Comments (3)

Damon: It's Go Time

From the Daily News today:

"I think we're the best team out there," Johnny Damon said. "We have to show it. We have to go for the jugular. We have to start abusing people."

In terms of a battle cry, it's not "Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!" - but, it will do.

Now that he's said it, I want to see it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:18 AM | Comments (4)

August 28, 2006

Time To Send Pavano Packing

This is a true story.

At 5:14 pm ET today, a friend in my office (who is a fellow Yankees fan) dropped me an e-mail which simply read:

"Confirmed - Carl Pavano was in a car accident a few weeks ago and may have a broken a rib."

Thinking that this was a total joke, I wrote back to him and said:

"Either that, or, on the day of his first start, he'll say that his period is really heavy and the cramps won't allow him to pitch."

I had no idea that what my friend was telling me was a fact. I mean, come on now - everyone jokes about the next Pavano story, but - a car accident story, now, seemed way too far out to be true.

And, just now, I see that my friend was not kidding me - at all. This is incredible.

Worse, Pavano never told the Yankees about the accident until 2 weeks after it happened.

This is not the same as Aaron Boone's basketball knee. There, Boone got hurt doing something that he was no supposed to do. Here, Pavano got hurt doing something within his rights - but, he was supposed to tell the team about it when it happened.

While this might be a tougher fight to get Pavano's contract voided, I hope the Yankees do go after him. I see no reason to pay this dud another $20 million dollars.

Reportedly, but from fair sources, many Yankees players view Pavano as a joke. And, they are correct. The Pavano situation is an embarrassment to the ballclub. Brian Cashman needs to live up to the fact that this was a bad signing - even if the Red Sox, Tigers and Mariners wanted Pavano too - and cut his losses while given this chance.

And, if the Yankees opt not to get rid of Pavano now, then, going forward, every stupid thing that Pavano does should be blamed on Cashman (and company) and not Pavano.

If you're standing around in the park and a bird poops on your head, it's O.K. to curse the bird. If you go to the park another day, and the bird poops on your head again, even though you're standing in a different spot, it's still O.K. to curse the bird. If you go to the park a third time, and it happens again, it's still probably O.K. to curse the bird.

But, if you have a chance to go to the beach, and decide to stick with going to the park, and, when you do, the bird poops on your head again - it's your fault for being a moron when you had a great chance to get out of it (and do something else).

Don't be a moron Yankees. Here's your chance. Do the right thing.

And do it before this bird poops on your head again.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:27 PM | Comments (19)

A-Rod Now A Mistake Hitter?

I was just looking at some of Alex Rodriguez' "splits" to date - and this jumped out at me:

ARodFresh.jpg

When A-Rod faces a pitcher for the first time in a game, he's terrible.

Really. When facing a pitcher for the first time in a game, Rodriguez whiffs nearly one-third of the time - and when he manages to make contact he's batting a whopping .197.

Yes, one-ninety-seven.

But, when Alex faces a pitcher in a game for the second time, or more, he's superhuman. (Here, we're talking about an OPS of greater than one superhuman.)

So, what is it about fresh pitchers that A-Rod doesn't like?

If I had to guess, on average, I would say that a pitcher has his best velocity and control when he's first in a game. And, with these skills, I want to assume that a pitcher can get his fastball in a good spot on Alex - say, up and in. (Based on watching games this season, it does appear that anything with some speed, up and in, is the pitch that Rodriguez struggles with - most of the time.)

This makes me wonder - is Alex Rodriguez now the type of hitter who can be pitched to, if you have your stuff and command, and who will only crush a mistake?

Hey, there's nothing wrong with that. Many hitters have had great careers with this approach: Make your pitch, beat me. Don't make your pitch, I beat you.

But, typically, these types of hitters, on very good teams, tend to bat lower in the line-up - somewhere around the range of 6th or 7th.

You know the type of hitter and the range we're talking about here. If not, think "Jorge Posada."

In fact, this season (to date) A-Rod has 19 RCAA in 561 PA while Posada has 14 RCAA in 445 PA. That's pretty close, no?

Maybe it's time to move Alex Rodriguez down in the line-up (at least until he proves that he can hit good "pitcher's pitches" again)?

Maybe Torre should use Damon, Jeter, Abreu, Giambi and then someone - and bat A-Rod 6th? Of course, the question is "Who's someone?"

This is where the Yankees miss Matsui and/or Sheffield.

It appears that the Yankees have no other option now than to bat Alex Rodriguez in the top five of the line-up - and just hope that pitchers make mistakes against him (and that he takes care of them when they do).

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:37 PM | Comments (9)

Final Post-Season Touch?

This time last year, the Yankees picked up Matt Lawton and Mark Bellhorn via deals. And, I'm wondering if New York will pull a pre-August-31st-post-season-roster-deadline deal again this season?

If I had to guess, pitching would be of interest. But, what are the odds of some decent pitcher passing through waivers?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:09 PM | Comments (9)

One Big A-Bee

As we all know by now, in his last 5 games, Alex Rodriguez has come to the plate 21 times and has struck out 14 times (in those 21 PA).

If there's good news for A-Rod here, it's that this happened some 3,000 miles away from the Bronx.

However, starting tomorrow, the Yankees will now play 6 games in a row at home.

What do you suppose will happen if Alex whiffs his first time up (for the Yanks) tomorrow against the Tigers?

I'm pretty sure that the fan reaction will be ugly, and that might lead to more pressing from Rodriguez and then more whiffs.......and the cycle will continue.

Therefore, A-Rod's next At Bat might just be the most important one that he's had this season. A nice clean hit could just be what the doctor ordered.

At the least, solid contact is a must.

It's an interesting sub-plot to what is a pretty big series for New York.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:48 PM | Comments (7)

3rd Not The Charm

I was just reading, over at Baseball Musings, how the Red Sox are starting to fold up like a cheap suit.

And, this made me wonder - if the Red Sox finish 3rd in the A.L. East this season, does that take David Ortiz out of the MVP race picture?

The Blue Jays are only 2 games behind Boston now.

It's possible.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:20 PM | Comments (4)

Move Over McGriff & Emanski

I just found out that Brian Cashman is endorsing a DVD called "Power Yoga For Baseball" - see below:

CashYoga.jpg

And, now, Don Mattingly is also hawking his own line of baseball bats and training tools.

What's next, Derek Jeter pushing perfume? Oh, wait, never mind........

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:52 AM | Comments (1)

August 27, 2006

For Those Scoring At Home

With the conclusion of today's games, the Yankees now have 33 games left to play, and their "magic number" to win the A.L. East is 27.

Hey, it's never too early to start a countdown.......

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

August 27th @ The Angels

Watching Bernie Williams have a big day in this game reminds me of something that I saw the other day over at Yankees WPA Rundown.

The study there was through August 19th. But, if you look at it, in terms of WPA, when the Yankees win, Giambi, A-Rod, and Bernie bat well. But, when the Yankees lose, Giambi and Bernie do very poorly in terms of helping with the bat.

Does this mean that Bernie Williams is the MVP for the Yankees this season?

No, it does not. What I think this all means is that it's another confirmation of the theory that the Yankees are very capable of beating bad pitching - but, if they face someone who has the stuff to get you out (which is the kind of pitcher that Bernie dies against now) then New York will lose.

The next 9 games will be another test for this theory - since the Yanks will face good pitching for the next six games and then bad pitching for the three after those contests.

While I would love to see the Yankees go 6-3 over their next 9 games, I am also prepared to see them go 3-6 as well.

Boston still has 10 games to play in a row now. Hopefully, the Red Sox will go something like 4-6 and that will help offset what the Yankees really do in their next 9 games.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 07:39 PM | Comments (12)

Pavano Out - Again?

From the Post -

Carl Pavano is running out of body parts to break down.

Following his rehab start for Columbus (Triple-A) Friday night, Pavano talked of a problem with an oblique muscle, and there is the possibility he will be shut down.

Asked to confirm the problem before yesterday's game, Joe Torre said he couldn't until he talked to GM Brian Cashman. After the 12-7 loss to the Angels, Torre said he still hadn't gotten in touch with Cashman.

I guess it could be worse.

Just imagine a player with the head of Alex Rodriguez and the body of Carl Pavano.

It's much better to have these issues spread out over two ballplayers - then, at least, it's not all bad news all the time with one specific player, I suppose.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:55 AM | Comments (7)

August 26, 2006

August 26th @ The Angels

I'm guessing that the Yankees game was rained out today. I turned on the T.V. to watch it on FOX this afternoon, but, instead of seeing the current first place team from the A.L. East play a 5th place team from the A.L. West, I saw a replay of one of the games between the Yankees and Angels from the 2002 ALDS instead. Weird, huh?

O.K., back to being serious, tomorrow is the end of the "21 games in 20 days Gauntlet." Back when this journey started, I wrote:

Personally, I believe, if the Yankees go 13-8 in the next 21 games, that would be amazing. And, it would probably lock up the A.L. East.

Basically, the Yankees need to go, at least, 11-10 over the next three weeks - just to hold their ground.

And, how have the Yankees done, to date?

After this mess today, the Yankees are 10-10.

I guess it's now up to young Mr. Jeff Karstens to try and get New York to that 11-10 "hold your own" mark.

The Yankees are very lucky that Boston stinks this season.

Lastly, here's a little fun fact for you in closing. Coming into this game, A-Rod was batting .283 for the season.

But, he's batting .165 (in 79 ABs) against the Devil Rays and Orioles, combined, this year. If you take out what Alex has done against Tampa and Baltimore this season, then Rodriguez is batting .307 coming into this game - with a slugging average of .565 (according to my rough math) against everyone else.

I wish someone could tell A-Rod that he's only stunk against the D-Rays and the O's this season - and that, otherwise, he has nothing to be stressed about now. Maybe that would help him relax?

Because, right now, Alex's head is more messed up than Vlad Guerrero's hair on game day. If Rodriguez doesn't start to chill soon, he's going to end up acting like Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:23 PM | Comments (7)

August 25th @ The Angels

Jaret Wright did well for the Yankees this past May. But, it's time to face facts. Over the last three months, Wright has pitched like former Yankees Rich Dotson, Joe Cowley, Dave LaPoint, Andy Hawkins, Chuck Cary, and Hideki Irabu. And, as crazy as this sounds, it's also time to replace him with Carl Pavano.

Taking it a step further, I would not include Jaret Wright on the post-season roster at this point. He just cannot be counted on - as you never know how he will pitch in a given appearance.

As to this game, for a Yankees perspective - let's just say this: "Every Yankees fan in the world should cross their fingers that the Yankees do not have to face the Angels in the post-season - because the Angels play with a ton of confidence against the Yankees."

Lastly, according to some "Golden Sombrero" stats that I've been able to locate, Alex Rodriguez is the first Yankees player to ever have two 4-strikeout games in the same season. And, only he and Bernie Williams have ever done it twice ever in a Yankees uniform. One more time and A-Rod will be the king.

GoldenARod.jpg

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:14 AM | Comments (12)

August 25, 2006

Ortiz: Yanks Helped Send Me To Hospital

From the AP via Yahoo -

Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said stress and nearly a week of sleeplessness caused dehydration and eventually the irregular heartbeat that landed him in a Boston hospital last weekend.

The major league leader in home runs said he was "stressed out about everything" -- including the New York Yankees' first three wins of their eventual five-game sweep of the Red Sox last weekend that has turned both team's seasons. A team doctor advised him to go to Massachusetts General Hospital last Saturday evening.

"I stress a lot, sometimes," the usually gregarious, outwardly jolly giant said before starting again as Boston's designated hitter in the series opener against the Seattle Mariners.

"We got to play all those games against New York. You know, there was a lot of stress going on," the 30-year-old Ortiz said. "And then to go out there and receive that (butt) kicking ... I wasn't feeling good.

"I was beat."

When Boston's Manny Ramirez was told of Ortiz' condition, he went to him and said:

There is this little song I wrote
I hope you learn it note for note
Like good Manny sure can
Don't worry, Big Papi

Listen to what I say
In your life expect some trouble
But when you worry
You make it double
Don't worry, Big Papi......

OK, in all seriousness, imagine if Alex Rodriguez went to the hospital for an irregular heartbeat and he said afterwards that it was the stress of playing the Red Sox that brought it on.

A-Rod would be s'mored alive.

Back to point, does anyone think that the Yankees could stress Big Papi some more if they ever started to make him move his feet in the batter's box?

Or, at the least, maybe New York can get "The Amazing Kreskin" to convince Papi that those pitches from Yankee hurlers left out over the plate are really coming right into his belt buckle?

Hey, the guy has confessed to a crack in his armor, you have to jump on that, no?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:52 PM | Comments (3)

Melk's Ilk

A recent entry to WasWatching.com has generated several comments in regard to who is a comparable player, in terms of demonstrated talent, to young Melky Cabrera.

I decided to use the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia to find a match, in terms of relative career production, at the same age, for Melky (since 1973). This is what I found:

Interesting, huh? It's our old friend Willow.

Yes, sure, Randolph was a second baseman and Cabrera is an outfielder. And, yes, Willie batted right-handed and Melky is a switch-hitter. But, in terms of "what did they do with the bat in the majors, up until the same age," this is a pretty good match.

Willie Randolph went on to collect over 2,200 hits in his career - to go along with over 1,200 walks. I think Melky Cabrera would sign on for that right now, if you gave him the option of taking that or taking his chances.

And, if Cabrera did that all wearing a Yankees uniform, he would join some nice company. Here are the current men in the Yankees career "2,000+ hits & 1,000+ walks" club: Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Bernie Williams.

That's it - just four, to date. (But, I would guess that Jeter will make it five in another four years or so.)

Obviously, Gehrig, Ruth and Mantle are in one class of player and Bernie Williams is in another. But, if Cabrera comes close to a Bernie Williams type Yankees career, that's nothing to turn your nose up on, for sure.

In any event, based on what he's done with the bat to date (given his age), and when you factor in his defensive ability, I'm sure that Melky Cabrera will go on to play in the major leagues for at least another dozen years (barring injury) and have several productive seasons to his credit when it's all said and done.

The kid can play.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:10 PM | Comments (1)

What, Trade Matsui?

There have been some recent comments made by readers of this blog that the Yankees should consider trading Hideki Matsui (in order to ensure playing time for Melky Cabrera in 2007).

As much as I love Melky Cabrera, I do not agree with this suggestion.

Matsui is a winner. In 33 career post-season career games with the Yankees, Hideki has an OBA of .377 and a SLG% of .556 (in 135 AB). Further, in 2004, Hideki Matsui led all Yankees batters with 44 RCAA. (And, last year, he was 5th on the team in RCAA).

Matsui's been out for most of this season and all of a sudden some people think he's turned into Craig Wilson. Absence does make the heart forget, I suppose.

There's no reason why the Yankees cannot rotate Cabrera, Damon, Abreu and Matsui in the outfield and D.H. next year and get everyone enough PA to keep them happy.

Saying hello again to Matsui does not mean having to say good-bye to Cabrera. What it should mean is saying good-bye to Bernie Williams.

Also, look back at Bernie Williams career. In 1991, Bernie got 320 ABs. That was cut back to 261 in 1992. Bernie then became a full-time player in 1993 - and, then, two years later Williams was a star.

I can see Melky doing the same - about 400 AB this season, a little less than that in 2007, then he takes over for Abreu in 2008 (and becomes a full-timer). And, around 2010, he's an All-Star.

There's no need to move Matsui to make this happen for Cabrera.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:59 AM | Comments (21)

August 24th @ The Mariners

Look at the bright side, the bullpen got the night off.

The Yankees played this game like a team that was hung-over and suffering from jet-lag.

New York's 3-4-5 hitters went 0-11 with 6 strikeouts in this contest.

Now, the first reaction to this outcome would be to say "They've been playing everyday for a while now. And, they're just coming off the tough Boston series. And, the move to the West Coast always hits on the second or third day. It's only natural for them to be playing like lead weights now."

But, on the other hand, let's not forget that, in the three series before the Red Sox series, the Yankees were playing poorly (against normal expectations). If you look at their last five series, it goes like this for New York:

@ the White Sox - lost 2 of 3
vs. the Angels - split 4 games
vs. the Orioles - lost 2 of 3
@ the Red Sox - swept 5 games
@ the Mariners - lost 2 of 3

As you can see, the only series that the Yankees have won, out of their last five, was the set up at Fenway.

It does make me (and others?) wonder, just a wee bit, now, if the result of the series in Boston was the Yankees being a great team, or, just the Red Sox being a poor team.

Now, it does seem silly to wonder this - even just a wee bit of a wonder - because the Yankees are playing .600-baseball this year, and, only one team has more wins than them in the A.L. right now.

The Yankees are 26 games over .500 at this moment. Is there something inside that number that we should be concerned about?

New York, this season to date, has a 26-10 (.722) record against three teams, combined - the Red Sox, Devil Rays and Rangers. This means that the Yankees are 50-40 (.556) against everyone else.

It should be noted that the Red Sox, Devil Rays and Rangers are 10th-11th-and-12th in the A.L. right now in team ERA. (Only the Orioles and Royals are worse than these three teams.)

Does this mean that the Yankees can only man-handle teams with very weak pitching, and, against other teams, New York is more like a barely-90-win team (in terms of pace) than a team that would win close to 100 games?

I'm starting to think that the answer here is "yes."

This is not to say that the Yankees will not make the post-season - because they will, without question.

But, this does make me strongly consider the notion that, once the Yankees are in the post-season and start facing teams with better than average pitching, each series is going to be a challenge for them - and, I expect them to have to struggle and push the series to the max (in terms of the number of games) in order to win (and advance). Also, they're going to need some breaks in the post-season to succeed.

Yes, I'm talking "Jeffrey Maier HR" and "Tim Welke Block" type breaks here. A "Mark Wohler's Slider" would be helpful as well.

These things can happen - they did in 1996 - but, without them, when the Yankees hit the playoffs this year, it's going to be just like 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 all over again (when they reach the teams with pitchers who can stop them).

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:08 AM | Comments (11)

August 24, 2006

BP's UTK On Sheffield

From Will Carroll -

Over the past two weeks, I've been hearing whispers, over and over from disparate and independent sources, that Sheffield was slowing his rehab deliberately, feeling no pressure to return. "He says he's not needed," one source told me, "and that he's got to worry more about next year than this year." Several people I spoke with that have knowledge of his rehab process claim that Sheffield shouldn't be behind Hideki Matsui. "[Matsui']s busted his [rear] and [Sheffield] is negotiating his contract. He talks more to his agents than he does the trainers."

Here's the thing for me:

Sheffield has a torn ligament and dislocated tendon in his left wrist.

Matsui has a fractured left wrist.

It's not the same injury. More so, Sheffield bats right-handed and Matsui bats left-handed.

For a right-handed batter, the left wrist is everything. It's the power wrist. The other hand, the right wrist, guides the bat. But, it's the left wrist that provides all the strike-force and which requires the most strength and movement - again, for a right-handed batter like Sheffield.

For a left-handed batter, like Matsui, the right wrist is more important - as that's the strike-force, etc. The left wrist to a left-handed batter is the same as the right wrist to the right-handed batter (meaning it's a guide hand and not the fulcrum wrist for the swing).

A left-handed batter can get by with a left wrist that's not 100%. But, for a right-handed batter, you need your left wrist to be 100% to be effective.

Comparing Sheffield's recovery period to Matsui's is like comparing apples to oranges - because they do not bat from the same side of the plate.

It's a big difference.

As far as Sheffield feeling not needed, I think this shows that he has a brain. It's the truth. The Yankees are fine with Abreu and Cabrera in the outfield.

Yes, Sheffield could help at DH - when Giambi plays 1B. But, only if he's able to hit. And, again, to hit, he needs to have his wrist at 100%.

Anyone who has read this blog in the last 16 months knows that I'm not shy about getting on the case of a Yankees player. In fact, I'm ragged about doing it - all the time. Yet, I just don't see the reason to get on Sheffield at this time. Like I wrote yesterday, when it comes to Sheffield, it's 'thanks for the memories and don't let the door hit you on the way out.' He's old news.

Just say good-bye and leave it at that.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:13 PM | Comments (13)

Starting To Noodle This Year's A.L. MVP Debate

Using the data for this season, as of yesterday's games, in the Baseball Musings Day By Day Database, I was able to put together the following chart for the fan/media M.V.P. favorites out of Boston and New York this year:

JeterAndPapi.jpg

First, yes, without question, David Ortiz hits for more power than Derek Jeter. We don't even need numbers to come to that conclusion.

But, what I found interesting here is where these two players are "making out."

Boy, that doesn't sound good. That's a mental picture that neither the fans in Boston or New York would want to see.

OK, let's try another way to paint this picture.

When the score is tied, both of these players "reach base" (is that better?) around the same rate.

But, when the Red Sox are leading by 1-3 runs, this is where Ortiz really excels at reaching base (and not making out). Jeter, on the other hand, is an on-base monster (to the tune of reaching base half of the time) when the Yankees are trailing by 1-3 runs.

So, what's more valuable - not making outs when your team is up by 1-3 runs or not making outs when your team is losing by 1-3 runs?

Of course, it should be noted that Ortiz still gets on base when the Sox are down 1-3 runs - just as Jeter still gets on base when the Yankees are up 1-3 runs. But, they both take it to another level in certain situations - Jeter when his team is down in a close game and Ortiz when his team is up in a close game.

Excelling in both of these game-score states has value. Doing well when you're up, but close, helps put the game away for your team. Doing well when you're down, but close, helps your team get back into the game.

For me, the latter state has more value - helping to try and turn a loss into a tie or win. Adding to a game where you're already winning, albeit a close game, is nice - but, hey, the team was still winning the game when you did it, no?

It will be interesting to look at the Ortiz-Jeter debate, via this type of view, when the season is over and the stats are final.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:41 PM | Comments (6)

August 23rd @ The Mariners

What can possibly be said about Worm Killer Wang that hasn't already been said this year? If you want to say that "Mussina=Schilling" and "Johnson=Beckett," then Wang is the difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox this year. And, it's a big difference.

Watching the Yankees man-handle "King Felix" last night (who, this time last year, was the best pitching prospect in baseball) and how the Yankees battered the Red Sox pitching prospect jewels Craig Hansen and Jon Lester this past series in Boston, is actually a good primer for Yankees fans to (again) level set their expectations on Philip Hughes.

It's one thing to star in the minors and it's another thing to get that to translate into big league success.

And, it also tells you how special it is to see Wang doing what he's doing now - just in his second year.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:26 AM | Comments (17)

August 23, 2006

They Must Think They're In! (v.2006)

I just got the bill for my 2006 Yankees post-season tickets. The price always goes up.

Last year, for my seats, it was:

LDS: $71 per seat
LCS: $106 per seat
WS: $191 per seat

Now, for 2006, for my same seats, the post-season prices are:

LDS: $76 per seat
LCS: $106 per seat
WS: $231 per seat

And, I betcha there's some convenience fee or something to be added when you try and pay for them on-line.

In 2001 and 2002, the prices for these same seats were:

LDS: $45 per seat
LCS: $70 per seat
WS: $175 per seat

The World Series seats this year are through the roof. That's too big a leap in one year.

In the end, what can you do? If you want to go, you have to pay.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:17 PM | Comments (4)

Heyman: Why The Buddy Pass For Sheff?

Since this topic has been mentioned in comments to another entry here, I thought I would offer an opinion on it.

Today, over at SI.com, Jon Heyman wrote the following:

Let's get this straight: Alex Rodriguez gets ripped like Dean Martin at closing time for casually mentioning that he has played hurt this season -- and those close to A-Rod say he weathered a nagging groin injury and food poisoning in Detroit -- and yet his long-sidelined teammate Gary Sheffield gets a pass for publicly pledging he won't play through pain?

Sheffield's attitude stinks, a fact no one ever mentions. His free pass continues. It's like nobody remembers he took steroids, either. (Sheffield told SI's Tom Verducci in October 2004 that he unknowingly took the Clear and the Cream and has denied allegations in the book Game of Shadows that he took injectable testosterone and human growth hormone.) The only difference between Sheffield and his ex-workout partner Barry Bonds is that Bonds is closing in on an all-time record. Yet there's no criticism for Sheffield, no investigation involving Sheffield, no feds chasing Sheffield.

It's a wonder the media cut him so much slack. Maybe they fear Sheffield. Or maybe they fear losing him as a quote; you never know what he might say next.

Here's the deal with Sheffield. In 2004, he was playing on one arm - and gave the Yankees an MVP-like-effort. Gary won over a lot of Yankees fans that year - this one included. And, in 2005, Sheffield had another good season - in fact, he was probably the 6th most effective batter in the A.L. East last year.

This season, Sheffield got hurt in early May - and he tried to come back from that after two weeks on the D.L. But, a week later, the pain was just too great - and Sheffield had to go back on the D.L.

Sheffield has a torn ligament and dislocated tendon in his left wrist. For a right-handed hitter, this is a serious injury - and that's why Gary has been out for most of the last 4 months.

There's probably not many Yankees fans with a beef on Sheffeild in terms of his production and effort. Sure, he has a big mouth sometimes. But, in New York, if you play hard and produce, you can get by with a big mouth. The fans loved David Wells when he was here - didn't they?

Plus, most Yankees fans know that Sheffeild is history, in terms of being a Yankee, in about two months from now.

Face it, Gary Sheffield is old news in Yankeeland. People are not getting on his case for this reason.

Heyman should not try and make Sheffield's situation to read like Carl Pavano's situation. Sheffield played hard for the Yankees before he got hurt. And, he played well.

Heyman also paints Sheff as a "me first" player. I will not disagree with that. But, Sheffield's mistake there is being open about it. Seventy percent of the Yankees are probably "me first" players - but, they just don't say it out-loud. Trust me, Sheffield is not the first "me first" player in the game - and he won't be the last. Again, a baseball player 'only looking out for himself' is the norm in most cases - and the fans and media will not get on someone for being that way if they produce well on the field. And, in New York, Sheffield was a good producer when he played.

I see no reason why anyone should get on Sheffield at this point.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:14 PM | Comments (6)

A-Rod's Milestone On Monday

This one slipped under the radar a bit. During the 4th inning of last Monday's game, Alex Rodriguez grounded into a double-play.

That was the 19th time that A-Rod has grounded into a double-play (GIDP) this season - and that's now his career high for most GIDP in a season.

Alex's previous season high for GIDP was 18 - which he set during his first season in New York (2004). In his recent MVP season, last year, Rodriguez only had 8 GIDP.

Prior to joining the Yankees, during the 8 seasons from 1996 through 2003, A-Rod averaged 14 GIDP per season - with a low of 10 in 2000 and a high of 17 in 2001.

The Yankees record for most GIDP in a season was set by Dave Winfield in 1983 when he had 30 that year. The last Yankee to have 19+ GIDP in a season was Jorge Posada (who had 24) in 2004.

There are no accounts of what has happened to the ball from the play on Monday where A-Rod set his new personal best season record in GIDP.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 02:54 PM | Comments (7)

Hacked Bernie Hacked

Bernie Williams' website was hacked. Deadspin has the story and images. (Hat tip to BaseballThinkFactory.org.)

When asked about the incident, Bernie Williams said "Man, are you kidding? I have a website? Wow, that's cool."

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)

The Power Of Abreu & Giambi

Here are the Yankees team batting stats this season, by month:

MonthByMonth.jpg

The first thing I noticed here was May. Look at that team slugging percentage. Even with the great month of May from Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees were punch-less in May.

June is interesting here as well. The Yankees hitters were mixed in June - half doing well and the other half not helping. A-Rod and Giambi not hitting in June worked against the Yankees.

In July, Giambi was invisible again - as he hit .186 that month - but, Jeter, Damon, Cabrera and A-Rod were swinging good sticks for the Yankees last month.

And, this brings us to August. Notice the numbers - so far, this month, the Yankees offense is back to being the high-powered machine it was back in April.

Bobby Abreu is a big part of this - and having Giambi hit better than he did in June and July helps too.

Thinking about this, I now believe that Abreu and Giambi are the keys to the Yankees offense.

Look at it this way: Suppose that Abreu & Giambi average 9 pitches per PA between the two of them in a game. On average, by the fifth inning of a game, the two of them would force the starting pitcher to throw over 27 pitches just pitching to two batters.

Considering that most starting pitchers are only good for 100 quality pitches per game, Abreu and Giambi eat up over 25% of what a starter has to offer - by the 5th inning of a game! Then, factor in Damon, Jeter and the others and you can see what's happening here. Once again, the Yankees are back to that mode of "Get the starter out early and attack the other team's weak link - their middle men in the pen."

Mark it down now - as go Abreu and Giambi in the post-season this year, so will the Yankees. These two are the keys for the Yankees batting success.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:21 AM | Comments (5)

August 22nd @ The Mariners

You always hate to lose by a run in the bottom of the 9th. But, given the streaks that both the Yankees and M's were on, you knew, coming into this game, that it was going to be a hard game for the Yankees to win. The odds were too strong against them. So, the sting of the walk-off loss here is offset, somewhat, by the knowledge of odds strength in this contest, I suppose.

If you had to lay blame on this one, I would not assign it to Villone. I give it to Torre. Close game, 7th inning, and you leave Jaret Wright in the game as a relief pitcher? Wright allows too many base runners to be trusted in a spot like that one - and, of course, he loaded the bases.

Not a bad first start for Jeff Karstens. I think he showed the Yankees something in this game. Sure, he might look a little like Steve-O, but, the kid did not melt out there. I'm looking forward to his next start.

Hey, look at the bright side - the Red Sox lost too. Yankees are still up by 7 in the loss column and there's now just 38 games left to the season.

New York can just shake this game off and come back in the next one.

If there's any concern from this game - let it be about Giambi's hammy. The Yankees need him to be fine - if he's not, that's a hole in the line-up.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 07:03 AM | Comments (20)

August 22, 2006

Yanks Seeing Red

From Bloomberg.com (with a hat tip to BaseballThinkFactory.org) -

The New York Yankees are losing money even as they're winning games, General Manager Brian Cashman said.

The team's highest-in-baseball payroll, revenue-sharing outlay and other expenses eclipse its revenue, Cashman said in an interview on Bloomberg radio's ``On the Ball,'' to be aired this weekend.

``We're making a lot, but we're spending more than we're making,'' Cashman said. He declined to say how much the team is losing.

The Yankees this year became Major League Baseball's first team worth more than $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine's annual valuation published in April. The team had a baseball- best $277 million in revenue, Forbes said.

Forbes said the Yankees lost $50 million last season before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization because they paid $77 million in revenue sharing to less wealthy clubs.

The New York Daily News reported in December that the team lost between $50 million and $85 million last season, even while becoming only the third team ever to draw more than 4 million fans to home games. Neither publication cited anyone from the Yankees organization.

I have to wonder - does the loss include the money made from the YES Network? I wish they would be clear on this.

Sure, it's a separate "company" from the Yankees. But, to not include YES in the picture would be like saying that Aquafina lost money for Pepsi last year - and then ignoring how much money Pepsi made on their cola line of drinks.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:46 PM | Comments (8)

Left Side Cold Front

Five days ago, I wrote:

While I would suggest that Derek and Alex are not best buds these days, I have seen enough of them over the years to know that they do not strongly dislike each other. At the worst, I would say that they're now like any other two co-workers who know that it makes more sense to get along and be civil (and sometimes joke with each other) rather than to work against each other.

That was just an observation on my part - from a distance. But, today, a contact that I have who is friendly with a member of the Yankees asked me if I saw the Mike Lupica column on Sunday. When I said, "No, why?" they replied with "Trust me, it's dead on." So, I just found it. Here are the highlights from the feature:

I asked four Yankees last week to talk about the relationship between Jeter and A-Rod on the condition that none of their names would be in the newspaper, just because asking either Jeter or A-Rod about this union is about as illuminating as asking the Clintons about theirs. All of the Yankees I talked to have baseball opinions I respect. Not one of them has a beef with either player.

"I would call the relationship professional," the first one said. "And that's all it needs to be, as far as I'm concerned. As long as any two guys on a team don't have the kind of relationship that gets in the way of us winning, that's pretty much all anybody cares about."

"No more than that?" I said.

"Professional," he said.

The second guy I asked described the relationship as "professional" as well, saying that he saw the normal camaraderie between Jeter and A-Rod that he saw between other guys in the clubhouse.

The third Yankee smiled and said, "Let's just say they're acquaintances."

I told him they had to be more than acquaintances, they've nearly played together now for three full seasons.

"Acquaintances," he said again.

I asked him if he thought it was important to A-Rod that Jeter liked him. The guy nearly yelled out an answer, laughing now as he did.

"Alex wants everybody to like him," he said. "I like him. But when you want everybody to like you or love you as much as he does, and you're playing alongside somebody the fans are always going to love more, then you're going to have problems. Not Jeter. Jeter's Jeter, he doesn't change. I'm talking about Alex. He worries about stuff that Jeter never does."

The last guy was simply asked to come up with one word to describe the relationship. He thought about it for a while.

"Truthfully?" he said. "It's chilly."

The other day, a reporter was talking to another star Yankee and the Yankee saw the crowd in front of A-Rod's locker and said, "Better get going, you don't want to miss today's excuse."

For what it's worth, Gehrig and Ruth were not friends - and neither were Munson and Jackson - and they won rings together. So, I don't see this as being a big issue. But, it's still interesting to know how the two feel about each other - since they're both under contract to play with the team for the next four years.

I have to wonder if their relationship will get better, or worse, over that period of time. Jeter will never ask out of New York. It's his town - heck, he's earned it. A-Rod has to learn that he can't be "Jeter" in the hearts of most Yankees fans. If he can't come to terms with that, maybe Alex will ask out of New York?

I have a feeling that the topic of the relationship between Jeter and A-Rod is something that we will hear about again - before it's said and done.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:14 PM | Comments (9)

The New Curse In Town

I thought this fact, about the Yankees sweeping the Bosox, from the ATM-Reports Blog was very interesting:

The Yankees became just the 2nd 1st place team to have a 5 game sweep over a team that started the series in 2nd place, joining the 1923 Giants (sweeping the Reds).

So, what you just saw happen this weekend has never happened before in American League history. (And, it's only happened twice in big league history now.)

While this fact doesn't take the full sting away from being the first team to lose a 7-game post-season series after being up 3-0, knowing that the Sox choked this weekend in a historically unique fashion makes you wonder if Babe Ruth has decided (in retrospect) that (lifting his curse in) 2004 was a bad idea at a practical joke on his part and he's gone back to putting his curse on (in full effect).

Either that, or, the Curse of Johnny Damon now supercedes the recently reversed Curse of the Bambino.

Should it be called "The Curse of Johnny Damon"? Personally, I think "Damon's Curse" has a better ring to it. Hopefully that ring will be # 27 for the Yankees this season.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 02:57 PM | Comments (3)

A-Rod In August (And After)

We know that August is usually good for Alex Rodriguez. So, how's he doing, so far, this August?

These are A-Rod's stats this month to date:

Games: 21
At Bats: 81
Homeruns: 3
RBI: 17
Average: .321
On Base: .417
Slugging: .519

How could Yankees fans not be happy with those numbers?

Those figures are very impressive, no? But, I talked to some Yankees fans today who are still not thrilled with Rodriguez - even given these numbers.

If there's a downside to A-Rod's August, it's his overall batting numbers this month with Runners In Scoring Position (RISP). Here are those stats, for him, this month to date:

At Bats: 39
Ks: 7
BB: 7
Average: .256
On Base: .362
Slugging: .359
GIDP: 4

The most important number here is "On Base" - when Alex Rodriguez has come to bat, this month (so far) with RISP, he reaches base 36% of the time. That's very good.

However, what probably sticks in the minds of many are the "bad" numbers here: Ks, Slugging, and GIDP.

Think of it this way: They see A-Rod (this month) come to the plate 46 times with RISP. And, in those chances, nearly 25% of the time he strikes out or hits into a double play. And, when he's not making an out, he's not hitting for extra bases.

And, face it, that's what people want to see from a bopper like Alex when he comes to the plate with RISP - they want to see moon shots like those off the bat of Manny and/or Ortiz.

When people don't see that from A-Rod (with RISP) then it doesn't matter if he's batting .321 for the month with an OPS near one. The mental image of the whiffs and the DPs with RISP is branded on to their brain (and it's the first impression for them).

In some ways, A-Rod might be better off if he was one of those hitters who only hits with runners on - and is an auto-out when he's up with no one on base. "That guy" probably gets a pass in the eyes of many because he comes through "in the clutch." If memory serves correct, Graig Nettles had this type of rep - good with runners on and pedestrian (at best) with no one on. I'm sure there are other hitters with that rep too.

In the end, maybe it's just best for Yankees fans to look towards Damon, Jeter, Abreu, Giambi, Posada, Cano and Cabrera in terms of carrying the team - and just take A-Rod for what he provides (as gravy) and not dwell on him (as having to be 'the guy')?

It's sort of what happened up in Boston this weekend. Rodriguez was there. He was not the hitting star of the series - but, overall, he didn't stink either. And, Damon, Abreu, Giambi, and the others, got all the attention.

I'm sure it was a pretty peaceful 5 games for Alex. It was probably the most comfortable time he's had in Fenway as a Yankee.

If A-Rod can do "this" - meaning be another person who helps to keep moving the chains towards a first down, and not have to be the person to make the big TD play - I think he's also going to be fine for the rest of this season and the post-season that follows too.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

Opening Day 2009

If you asked me, now, to tell you the Yankees line-up for the first game in the new Stadium, I would suggest that it will look like this:

1. Brett Gardner CF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Johnny Damon 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez DH
5. Melky Cabrera RF
6. Hideki Matusi LF
7. Robinson Cano 2B
8. Hank Blalock 3B
9. Johnny Estrada C

And, if it's not those two players at 3B and C, it will be two players like them.

That's not the worst line-up in the world, is it?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:55 AM | Comments (9)

Who Did What In Boston

Stats via Baseball Musings Day By Day Database. How the Yankees players just did up in the Fenway series:

The Hitters:

BostonBats.jpg

The Pitchers:

BostonArms.jpg

Lidle, Wang and Proctor stand out among the pitchers. And, Giambi, Damon, Posada, Abreu, and Cano stand out among the hitters. But, also, don't forget about the two big hits from Jeter in this series as well.

Still, if I had to pick one player who had the biggest impact for the Yankees in this series, I would say that it was Damon, no, wait, Proctor. Or, maybe Giambi, or Abreu..........man, this is hard.

Maybe we can use WPA to tell us the answer? Via FanGraphs.com, here's the key Yankees pitchers and batters for each of the games in the Fenway series.

Friday's Day Game: Proctor & Damon
Friday Night's Game: Proctor & Jeter
Saturday's Game: No Pitcher, but Cano & Damon as batters
Sunday's Game: Rivera & Giambi
Monday's Game: Lidle & Abreu

So, that's two "votes" for Proctor and Damon each. They were, most likely, the two key players for the Yankees in this series.

And, since I can't pick one over the other, in terms of being the "MVP" for the Yankees in this showdown, I'll call them "co-MVPs" for the series. They both stepped up for the Yankees this weekend and served as leaders for the team.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:04 AM | Comments (3)

August 21, 2006

Un-Torre-ing The Set-Up Men In September

Right now, the Columbus Clippers are in last place - 8 games back of first.

Given this knowledge (that Columbus' season's dreams are done already), here's what I would like to see happen: ASAP on September 1st, the Yankees call up Brian Bruney, T.J. Beam, Jose Veras, Aaron Small and Jesus Colome.

And, then, for the month of September, as a rule, the Yankees follow these guidelines for using Proctor, Farnsworth, and Villone:

1. They can only pitch in games where the score is tied or the Yankees are winning by less than 4 runs or the Yankees are losing by 2 runs or less.

2. They have a pitch limit of 25 pitches per game - and come out at that point, regardless of the score or how many innings they have thrown.

3. They are only allowed to throw 5 innings, in total, in a given week. Once they hit five for the week, they're "not available" until the next week.

This will keep these three pitchers sharp - and also provide some much needed rest at the same time.

And, then the Yanks can use guys like Bruney, Beam, and Veras for the games where they lead by 4 or more or are losing by 3 or more runs. (Along with Dotel and Pavano, if they're around.) And, if it's a huge blowout game, use Aaron Small and Jesus Colome.

Proctor, Farnsworth, and Villone are going to be very important keys for the Yankees in the post-season. It's time to take care of them now. I hope the Yankees understand this as well.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:48 PM | Comments (8)

Hey, Larry, Who's Your Empire?

From the New York Times -

My absence is what prompted me to call Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox’ chief executive, an hour after the final out of the five-game sweep.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve,” he said, surprisingly taking the call. “After being beaten up as we were this weekend, it’s hard to be analytical and objective at this moment, so I don’t think I have anything to say.”

Do you have a reaction, I asked? “Of course, I have a reaction,” he replied.

Would you care to share it?

“No,” Lucchino said. “I said I’m not going to have anything to say. I make a practice of not having postgame or post-series comments. I try to let a little time and perspective intervene, so I’m going to stick to that.”

How much time would he need?

“Wait a few days,” he said.

I was prepared to do that, but less than a minute later Lucchino changed his mind.

“One observation one could make without a need for any additional perspective,” he said, “is the Yankees are a formidable ball team at this time. They have depth and talent and balance and an approach and philosophy that are to be admired.”

Larry, I would just like to remind you of something you said less than 20 months ago:

"We have a slogan around here: 'Any group of schlemiels can win once.' We gotta win more than once...."

Guess what L.L. Fool Day, you're soon going to be 0-2 now after that "once." And, we're still waiting......for proof that you're not a schlemiel.

I can't get the picture out of my head now - Larry Lucchino wearing the sweater with the big "L" on it, and John Henry in a poodle skirt, arm in arm, skipping down the street singing "Schlemiel, schlimazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated!"

Maybe Theo Epstein can be Andrew 'Squiggy' Squiggmann and Curt Schilling can be Leonard 'Lenny' Kosnowski too?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:40 PM | Comments (3)

August 21st @ The Red Sox

Sweep Fancy Moses!

Los calcetines rojos son muertos!

It's over in the A.L. East. What a story!

Forty-two games ago, on July 4th, the standings in the A.L. East were as follows:

000704standings.jpg

And, now, today, with the Yankees taking 5 games in a row from the Red Sox, in dramatic fashion, at Fenway Park, the Yankees presently lead the Boston Red Sox by 6 1/2 games in the standings.

This is a swing of 10.5 games in the standings over a period of seven weeks.

From here, if the Yankees just play .500 baseball over the rest of the season, the Red Sox need to play nearly .700 baseball (.698 actually) to beat New York.

It's over Boston. The New York Yankees will win the A.L. East for the 9th year in a row - thanks to the results of this 5-game series.

If the Yankees go on to win the World Series, I want to see a box-set of DVDs released covering the Yankees run this year - and every one of these 5 games should be included in the set, in their entirety.

What a great plane ride the Yankees are going to have - as they head out to Seattle. And, they earned it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:12 PM | Comments (17)

R.S.N. This A.M.

Yeah, this is not nice. But, they would do it to us if the roles were reversed. So, what the hey! Here's what R.S.N. is thinking today:

From Sawx Blog -

There's a part of me that almost wants the Yankees to sweep today. The Red Sox should get freaking booed off of the field. What they've done as a team this weekend has been a mockery to the uniform.

From Singapore Sox Fan -

Damn it. Damn it all to hell. At least get one for pride.

From Hardball Heaven -

Sorry for the trite reference, but the fat lady is officially singing. It is 1:28 A.M. Eastern time, Monday morning, August 22, 2006, and the Red Sox are officially dead. It is over. O-v-a-h.

The Yankees just beat the Sox for the fourth time in a row, 8-5, as the Sox bullpen again imploded in late innings. The lead is now 5 1/2 games, and the Red Sox are done before Labor Day. Why oh why do we do this to ourselves?

From Fire Brand Of The American League -

Excellent team you’ve built, Theo. Long-term/short-term plan be damned - the bottom line is you’ve shown us you can craft an offense, but you can’t craft pitching. Funny, since you say games are won on pitching - try following your own advice.

From the Joy of Sox -

Another game, a new worst loss of the year -- as Tito descends to a depth of managerial idiocy that might surprise even Grady Little.

From Surviving Grady -

No more talk of payrolls. No more talk of deadline trades not made. No more talk of injuries. When you shine the cold light of reality on things it comes down to this: the people who were getting things done early in the year are no longer coming through.

From Out In Left Field -

So, are you ready for some football?

After this weekend's disaster at Fenway, with the Yankees taking four straight games at Fenway in what has easily been the worst series in memory for me, I'm starting to think Patriots and my fantasy football draft board.

All interesting stuff. But, I think FenwayNation.com says it best:

Reading all this, I think it's important for the Yankees to win Game 5 today - or, if they have to lose, just lose it clean - - don't let it be an Ortiz walk-off HR in the 9th that will perform CPR on RSN today.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:01 PM | Comments (5)

August 20th @ The Red Sox

Overheard....Boston's David Ortiz to his manager, Terry Francona, at the end of this game:

"Tito, I don't think we're in 2004 anymore."

It's late. So, I'll just close with a question. Is it just me, or, does Jonathan Papelbon's stupid game face remind you of Vincent D'Onofrio's Private Pyle towards the end of "Full Metal Jacket"?

Gosh, I hope the YES Network one day over the winter does a marathon of the last four games. Each one is better than the one before it.

I hope Lidle can top this contest later today. It just seems like it has to happen now.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 01:28 AM | Comments (14)

August 20, 2006

C.J. Henry A.Y. (After Yankees)

CJHenryLakewood.jpg

This afternoon, we took the kids to go see the Lakewood BlueClaws play.

This is the 5th minor league team we've seen this summer - having also seen the Sussex Skyhawks, Trenton Thunder, New Jersey Jackals, and Staten Island Yankees.

Lakewood is the nicest ballpark - by far. I recommend it.

In any event, it was fun to watch C.J. Henry play in person. I can see that he has some tools. Still, after seeing what Bobby Abreu has meant to the Yankees, so far, I would do that deal again in a minute.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:10 PM | Comments (5)

Tonight's Hero?

I was just looking at the Yankees hitters stats against Curt Schilling.

Damon, Cano and Posada have owned Schilling in their career. When they face Curt, it's like batting practice for them.

Whereas Jeter and A-Rod can't touch Schilling. Giambi's been all-or-nothing against Schilling: .269 OBP and a .583 SLG%.

Lastly, Abreu has done well against Schilling in his career as well. Bernie Williams has also hit Schilling well in the past - but he was younger in the past too.

The A-Rod numbers off Schilling are .179/.207/.393 (BA/OBP/SLG) in 28 ABs (with 8 K's). Jeter is just as bad: .222/.243/.306 in 36 ABs (with 11 Ks).

Does it make sense for Torre to play Green at 3B tonight - going for defense (which Mussina would love) and then bat Posada 5th and Cano 6th in the line-up? (And, give Alex the night off in the process.)

What are the odds of this happening?

It's a shame - because, based on the numbers, it's the right move. It's like sitting Tino and Boggs in the 1996 World Series. But, that was a different Torre, I guess.

I just hope that Torre does not give Giambi the night off - and then bats A-Rod clean-up. Having Jeter and A-Rod one batter apart against Schilling is like giving the Red Sox 4 innings where they know they can get two quick outs.

I also hope that Damon, Cano, Posada and Abreu do what they always do against Schilling this evening.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 02:52 PM | Comments (7)

August 19, 2006

August 19th @ The Red Sox

When it comes to the Yankees playing the Red Sox, there was a time where there was nothing better than beating Pedro Martinez. And, once Slippery Pete decided to move his Mango Tree to Queens, the ultimate "Beat the Sox pleasure" became taking the tar and feathers to Curt Schilling.

While Schilling will always be Blanco Primera, pounding the stuffing out of Josh "You Can Take The Boy Out Of The Trailer Park, But Not The Trailer Park Out Of The Boy" Beckett is as sweet as rock candy too. So, this game was very enjoyable.

There's just something about Beckett. I've always felt that, if Roseanne Barr - the original one, before all the plastic surgery - had a sex change, she/he would look just like Josh Beckett, and act just like Josh Beckett, today. And, that's one annoying fem-dude. I guess that's it about Beckett - the fem-dude-ness that he gives off with all the strutting, whining and the can't-grow-any-facial-hair thing.

In any event, watching the way the Yankees and the Red Sox have each conducted their business in these first three games has gotten my blood thirst up - and, now, I want the sweep.

It's just a shame that we have to wait over 24 hours (from the last out of this game) until the first pitch of Game Four.

The Yankees will have to change their game plan for this next one because Schilling will not walk people. And, Mussina will have to be on his game. But, seeing the results of the first three games makes me now feel that the next two should be fun too.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 07:29 PM | Comments (14)

Here's (To) Johnny!

From the Boston Globe:

Damon has played hurt and played tough. He's brought the same intangibles to New York he did to Boston by taking pressure off his teammates, including answering endless questions from the media so others don't have to.

``He's got this great ability to bring everybody together for a common goal," said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman between games of the doubleheader. ``His toughness is unbelievable. He brings an infectious life into our clubhouse. Everything we always heard he did with the Red Sox, he's doing here. We're so pleased to have him."

``I'm just so happy he's on our side," said Jason Giambi. ``Everything you've read about him is true. He's changed our clubhouse."

In terms of influencing the team and playing well at the same time, in the last quarter-century, Paul O'Neill was a great pick-up for the Yankees. So was Tino Martinez - Jimmy Key too.

And, there were others, of course.

But, at this moment, Johnny Damon is right up there with the rest of them.

When this season is said and done, and you factor in everything (such as allowing Jeter to bat second where he's a force), Johnny Damon might just be the Yankees M.V.P. this year - despite the fact that other players have better numbers.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:29 PM | Comments (2)

Ponson, Bruney, Out. Karstens, Guiel, In.

Via Peter Abraham -

The Yankees designated Sidney Ponson for assignment and optioned Brian Bruney to Columbus. OF Aaron Guiel and RHP Jeff Karstens were called up from Columbus and made 7:30 a.m. flights to Boston.

Man, I hope to see Bruney back in 10-12 days. In fact, I would rather see him in a game now than Dotel.

On the plus side, it's See-Ya Sidney time! Finally.

I like Guiel. But, would not a back-up CF and pinch-runner be more useful now? Did Bubba Crosby burn his bridge on the way out? And, what's the story with Kevin Thompson?

Maybe the Yankees are thinking about platooning Guiel and Wilson at DH when Damon is in CF and Giambi is at first base? That might not be a bad idea. But, would Torre then bench Bernie? Other than that, I'm not sure how they would use Guiel now.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:53 PM | Comments (7)

Jeter Advice: Keep It Simple & Don't Worry About Your Stats

Words of wisdom on winning from Derek Jeter, via the New York Times:

“I think that’s where people get in trouble, when they start complicating things,” Jeter said. “It’s really not that complicated. The more complicated you make it, the more difficult it is on you. You’re playing a game where you fail more than you succeed. You’ve got to try to keep it as simple as possible.”

“It’s simple if you look at it as: Try to win,” Jeter said. “That’s the bottom line. If you win, everybody benefits. It’s not like, ‘I won, I lost.’ It’s, ‘We win, we lost.’ That’s the only way I’ve thought about it.”

“I don’t know what it would be like, but I wouldn’t change,” he said. “Now don’t get me wrong, I do understand it’s a game of numbers and people are going to pay attention to your numbers, say you did this or did that. I would love to hit .400. That would be a lot better than .200. You take pride in how you play. But that shouldn’t be your main focus. Your main focus should be whether you win or lose.”

“If you constantly sit around worrying about your stats, once you get in a funk, you’ll never get out,” Jeter said. “Because all you’re worried about is yourself. If you’re worried about how we can win today, that’s your only concern.”

I have to ask this one question: Is Derek talking about himself when he says all this - or, is he talking to someone else on the team?

To me, it sounds as if he's doing a little of both.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:06 AM | Comments (4)

August 18th @ The Red Sox - Game 2

After watching this game for 4 hours and 45 minutes, I only have the strength left to say two things:

1. Boy, am I glad that the Yankees won this one. And,
2. After these two games today, the day game tomorrow, er, I mean later today, is going to be very interesting - because of lots of very tired players.

In the interim, if you want to know what happened in this game - feel free to see the "Official WasWatching.com Scorecard for the Night Game of August 18, 2006."

(Yes, I kept score this evening. It's something that I almost never do - really - in the last twenty years, I've maybe kept score of less than a half-dozen games. But, for some reason, tonight, during dinner, I thought "Maybe keeping score will prevent me from stressing on this one - with Ponson pitching?" Talk about picking the wrong game to score! Note that I had to use extra pages on this one.)

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 01:37 AM | Comments (2)

August 18, 2006

Staten Island Frank Is In The House

From Newsday -

Infielder Frank Menechino signed a minor-league contract and will report to Triple-A Columbus.

I'm calling it now. The Yankees will activate him after September 1st as a back-up. He'll get into a game somewhere and win it with a clutch hit or a great play in the field.

And, hey, that one win may be the difference between making the post-season or not. I like this move by Cashman. No downside - whatsoever - but could pay a bonus in a few weeks.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 05:21 PM | Comments (7)

August 18th @ The Red Sox - Game 1

Nothing like a four-hour, 9-inning game - when you win.

The Yankees hitters did what they should do in this game. The faced very weak pitching and put a 12-spot on the board. The Yankees one-through-five batters were outstanding today. And, Wang kept it together just long enough as to not burn the pen.

As great as this game was, to a Yankees fan, I can't help but wonder if tonight will be Boston's turn to score 12 runs when they face Ponson. I hope Torre takes Ponson out of the game the minute he allows his 4th run - no matter what the inning. It would be nice to keep the team in the game and go for the sweep.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:28 PM | Comments (1)

Predicting The Five Spot At Fenway

It always comes down to pitching. So, I will use that view in an attempt to predict what we will see from the Yankees-Bosox series over the next four days.

This afternoon:

Jason Johnson (3-11, 6.26 ERA) versus Chien-Ming Wang (13-5, 3.84 ERA)

This is a must win game for the Yankees because Johnson is starting for the Red Sox. The only thing that concerns me here is that Wang is not the same pitcher on the road - as he is in the Bronx. And, Wang has not been lights-out sharp in recent starts. Also, it always seems like the Fenway infield gives the Yankees players issues - and that's not going to work in Wang's favor. I could see this game being one of those 7-6 affairs - and I hope the Yankees come out on top.

This evening:

Jon Lester (6-2, 4.09) goes against Sidney Ponson (4-5, 5.82)

Ponson has never pitched well against Boston. But, Lester has been punched around lately. This one will be a battle of the bullpens. Whichever team does not burn out it's pen in the first game today should win this game. Since Torre always burns his pen, and the Wang start is a must win game, I expect Boston to be better prepared to take this game tonight.

On the whole, I see the teams splitting the day-night double-dip today. Yanks get the day game and the Sox get the night-cap.

Tomorrow:

Josh Beckett (13-7, 5.02) and Randy Johnson (13-9, 4.92)

You never know which Randy Johnson will show up. And, if I recall correctly, he's not a great Fenway Park pitcher. You also never know which Beckett will show up each start as well. I think this game has the potential to be another 7-6 contest. Since I think the Yankees will probably end up punting the night game today, and (hopefully!) not using their good staff from the pen, I think that Villone, Proctor and Farnsworth are going to be needed in this game. But, I think they will come through and the Yankees will win the game.

Sunday:

Curt Schilling (14-5, 3.83) versus Mike Mussina (13-5, 3.54)

Mussina always pitches well in Fenway - at least it seems. But, Schilling, even when he's going bad, always hits another gear for the Yankees - at least it seems. I expect this one to be a close game - and not as high scoring as the three before it. Since the Yankees will have to use their pen to win the day game on Friday and the game on Saturday, I can see this one going to the Red Sox, late, because Torre went to someone like Proctor or Farnsworth (or even Mo) too many times in the first three games and then he tries to get blood from a stone in this one - and gets burned. Plus, it's an ESPN game. The Yankees always lose the ESPN games - at least it seems. Boston evens the series with a win in this game.

Monday afternoon:

David Wells (2-2, 6.06 ERA) against Cory Lidle (9-9, 4.64 ERA)

This one is going to be fun. Both teams are going to want this one. Since the bullpens on both teams should be toast by this game, it's going to come down to Wells and Lidle. You know Wells wants this game. And, I believe that Lidle will be up for it as well. I can see this game coming down to which team makes the plays in the field. All I can say is: Please don't hit it to A-Rod.

I cannot get a good feel for this game at this point. So, I will play it safe and say that Boston wins this one.

In total, I expect Boston to win 3 of the 5 games in this series. And, since that will result in just a one-game move in the standings - with the Yankees leaving Boston still in first place, that won't be the worst thing that can happen to New York.

All I can say to the Yankees is: Make sure you win the two that you're supposed to win in this series. And, that starts with the first game in a couple of hours.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:00 AM | Comments (19)

August 17, 2006

The Pop-Up

Since everyone in the media seems to want to talk about this play, I'll offer an opinion. Here's the story off the AP Wire tonight:

The play that epitomized the blowout came in the five-run sixth inning, when a pair of All-Stars turned a simple pop fly into an embarrassing error.

The third baseman and shortstop were settling under the popup when they came together. The ball glanced off Rodriguez's glove and fell behind Jeter. Both players looked so disgusted that neither seemed anxious to retrieve the ball.

"I thought he had it," Jeter said. "I didn't touch the ball. When it was hit, I was calling it. I guess he didn't hear me. I thought he had it."

At first the error was charged to Rodriguez, which would have given him a league-leading 22 for the season. After official scorer Howie Karpin looked at replays, he changed the error to Jeter for impeding the catch. Miguel Tejada scored on the play and Tatis followed with a two-run homer, completing the scoring.

"It was a stupid play all around," Rodriguez said. "He called. I called. We didn't hear each other."

Torre was as disgusted as anybody.

"It was out there for everybody to see," he said. "Somebody's got to make the play."

I just finished watching the play in question via the Yankees Encore on YES - so, I can report on what I saw with my own eyes.

First off, the game was already out of hand when the play occurred. So, don't let anyone fool you by saying this was a game impacting error. In the big picture, it (the muff) meant nothing to this contest.

In the YES replays, you clearly see Jeter moving his mouth when the pop is in the air. It appears that he's saying "I got it!" a few times. In the same replays, you never see A-Rod open his mouth, at all.

Rodriguez was clearly planted under the ball. He was in perfect position to catch it. Jeter had to range to his right to get towards the ball. I would offer that Derek had to move around 10 feet, away from his position on the pitch, towards the foul line, to get to where the ball was going to land.

Jeter went behind A-Rod and their gloves bumped as they both reached up for the ball. That appeared to be the only serious contact between the two players. It seemed as if their gloves met just as the ball was going into the pocket of A-Rod's mitt - and that knocked the ball loose.

After this happened, Jeter stood behind A-Rod for about 6 seconds with a stone-cold expression on his face. The only way I can describe the look is to say it's the same type of look that a husband gets from his wife when he says "I think your hair looks fine." It's the are-you-eff'ing-kidding-me and/or are-you-that-clueless look of disapproval.

While I could not see A-Rod's expression when this happened (or, maybe I missed it?), I can say that YES had Jeter and Rodriguez on a split screen after the miscue (and the subsequent replays) and, while Jeter still had the same all-the-nerves-in-my-face-are-dead expression, Alex Rodriguez had a semi-giggle smile on his face. It appeared to be a not-knowing-what-else-to-do nervous type reaction. I think A-Rod's facial reaction could be filed under "Smile, because it rains on you everyday, anyway."

Based on what I saw during the YES replays, the distance between the two players on the pop-up, and the post-error reaction from Jeter, I do not believe that A-Rod ever called for the ball (despite his reported claim that he did). And, this was the miscommunication that led to the error.

Does this play give us a hint that perhaps Derek Jeter has a dislike for Alex Rodriguez? I doubt it. In fact, I will say that I do not think that Jeter dislikes A-Rod.

While I would suggest that Derek and Alex are not best buds these days, I have seen enough of them over the years to know that they do not strongly dislike each other. At the worst, I would say that they're now like any other two co-workers who know that it makes more sense to get along and be civil (and sometimes joke with each other) rather than to work against each other.

What I think the play tells us is that Derek Jeter dislikes sloppy baseball - no matter what the score. And, perhaps, and I stress perhaps (because I'm just guessing), Jeter's reaction was an expression of his cumulative feelings towards the way A-Rod has handled himself defensively this season.

Should teammates allow expressions like this to be seen on the field? I think that most would say "no" - that it's not something that you should see - even in Little League. Remember what happened years ago when David Wells (in Baltimore) showed that he was upset that Derek Jeter didn't make a play? This situation is no different. It was a mistake for Jeter to allow that to be seen today.

But, you know that the beauty of baseball is that sometimes you do everything perfect and it fails in the end - and sometimes you do nothing right and you get lucky with success.

Maybe this can be a time where Jeter makes a mistake and yet something good comes out of it?

Let's be clear on this point. I'm not saying that something good will come from this event. I just hoping that something good can come from this in the end.

In fact, if you asked me if you should bet money on something good happening, I would tell you to invest your funds on lotto tickets - the odds would be more in your favor.

It's probably better to give the matter another 24-hours to see which way the media and fans take it - as it can go any direction at this point.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:28 PM | Comments (8)

August 17th vs. The Orioles

At this point, it's a good idea to look at the last three series that the Yankees have played - and see how they did.

August 8th-10th, @ the White Sox:

The Yankees lost 2 of 3 games and barely won the one game. In the win, the Yankees had a 7-0 lead after 6 1/2 innings and allowed the White Sox to get within a run. And, if the White Sox' Joey Cora uses his head in the 9th inning of that game, it's a tie-game with the White Sox still batting in the 9th.

August 11th-14th, vs. the Angels:

The Yankees split the four game series. But, if not for some terrible relief pitching by the Angels' Brendan Donnelly in one game, the Yankees could have lost three of the four games to the Angels.

August 15th-17th, vs. the Orioles:

The Yankees lose 2 of the 3 games against the Orioles. In the two losses, they get killed in one game and blow many chances to win in the other. And, in the one game that they won, the O's LaTroy Hawkins helped them out.

In total, the Yankees have gone 4-6 in their last ten games - and their record could have easily been 1-9 in these ten games.

Face it, it's the make-it-or-break-it point in the Yankees schedule and New York is playing bad baseball now. And, if you think that's the bad news, get ready for this:

The Yankees now go up to Boston, to play the rested Red Sox - five times in four days.

At this point, I expect to see the Yankees be one game out of first place on the morning of August 22nd - but, tied in the loss column with the Red Sox.

That would turn the season into a 40-game contest. The Yankees better start to play better over those 40 games - or else they may miss the post-season for the first time since 1995.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:09 PM | Comments (14)

Lidle Out, Bruney In

From Newsday -

Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle was placed on the bereavement list Thursday following the death of his grandmother.

The assignment is for a minimum of three days and maximum of five.

To replace Lidle on the roster, the Yankees purchased the contract of pitcher Brian Bruney from their Columbus affiliate. Bruney was signed to a minor league contract by the Yankees after being released by Arizona July 1.

I thought that Bruney pick-up might come in handy.

If I had to guess, I would say that Lidle's grandmother was at least 74-years old. She could be as old as 94, as far as I know. Based on Lidle's age, the range of 74-94 seems to be right.

Given her age, I doubt that Lidle is so shocked over her passing that it will casue him to miss his next start in Fenway.

In a way, this helps the Yankees - an extra arm to mop up, if needed, in the first four games of the Boston set - and then Lidle comes back to make his start.

Larry Lucchino will probably demand to see the death certificate when he hears this news.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 02:01 PM | Comments (7)

Chien-Ming Wang's Claude Rains Act

If you saw Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Mussina, Mo Rivera, Johnny Damon, Gary Sheffield, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, or Randy Johnson walking down the street, in "normal" clothing, without wearing a cap, you would know who they were - when you saw them?

You could probably say the same thing about Robinson Cano and Bobby Abreu - and even Sal Fasano.

But, be honest, if you saw Chien-Ming Wang walking down the street, in plain clothes, without a baseball cap on his head, would you know that it's Chien-Ming Wang - for sure?

I know that I could not be sure. And, it's not a caucasian guy not being able to recognize an Asian guy thing. If I saw Hideki Matsui walking down the street in a T-shirt and jeans, I would know that it's Godzilla when I saw him.

It must be nice for Wang to be able to walk the streets, visit a Mall, see a movie, etc., and not get hassled by the public.

How many other important Yankees get to play that card?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:40 AM | Comments (6)

Best Yankees Fans Ever?

Did you know that the first year where the Yankees ever averaged 25,000+ fans a game, in attendance, was 1946? (They drew 29,422, on average, a game that season.)

Up until 1946, the Yankees only averaged around 12,000 fans per game at Yankee Stadium. As the Yankees started playing home night games in 1946, having lights sure helped getting people to the games.

But, what was going on in Yankeeland during 1952 and 1953?

The Yankees won the World Series for three years in a row (1949-1951) heading into the 1952 season. And, they added # 4 in a row in 1952. But, the Yankees averaged 21,165 fans a game in 1952.

And, in 1953, after winning four rings in a row - and while working on their 5th consecutive ring - the Yankees averaged 20,368 fans per game.

In gets worse in 1963. The Yankees won the World Series in 1961 and 1962. During that 1963 season, the Yankees had a strong team - they went on to win 104 games that season (and the pennant). Yet, during the 1963 season, the Yankees averaged 16,260 fans a game.

Where was everybody?

This season, and the two before it, the Yankees are averaging close to 50,000 fans a game (in attendance).

Does this mean that the Yankees fan base is more zealous these days - than ever before? Or, is it just a matter of New York only having two teams these days as opposed to three?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:07 AM | Comments (9)

August 16, 2006

Carlos Pena To The Red Sox

From the Boston Herald -

According to a source, the Red Sox have signed first baseman Carlos Pena, the former Northeastern star who most recently had been playing for the New York Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate. The club had no comment on the matter prior tonight’s game at Fenway Park against the Detroit Tigers.

Pena played in 105 games this season for the Columbus Clippers but exercised an option in his contract and was released, allowing him to sign with another big league team. He was hitting .260 with 19 home runs and 66 RBI. He had a .370 on-base percentage.

Though Pena would likely report first to Triple-A Pawtucket, he could conceivably fill two needs at the major league level: a left-handed bat off the bench and defense at first base.

I wonder if the Yankees feel "used" on this deal? I never thought that the Yankees could be someone's "slumpbuster." But, this whole development sort of smells to me.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:53 PM | Comments (6)

August 16th vs. The Orioles

It's because of games like these that I should keep a Gatorade bucket and a Louisville Slugger close to the T.V.

OK, trying to stay positive for those who want to see some of that.....tonight, Cory Lidle reminded me of someone. Little - as in under 6 feet - right-handed pitcher. A bit of an extra chin on an otherwise normal sized frame. And, his full-wind-up.......well, I'm seeing a little of Greg Maddux on the hill. Of course, Maddux is one of the best pitchers ever and Lidle is a journeyman. But, to the eye, Lidle, in the way he carries himself, now reminds me of Maddux.

And, that's the most positive thing that I have to say about this game.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

It's Godot Time

I just read that the Yankees have activated Octavio Godot.

Great, just in time for him to blow some games up in Fenway Park.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 05:36 PM | Comments (13)

Jeff Karstens Coming?

From The Columbus Dispatch -

In the opener, Jeff Karstens was carrying a five-game winning streak for the Clippers and 11 straight decisions without a loss at the double-A and triple-A levels but left the game after throwing 12 pitches (11 strikes) in a scoreless first inning.

"He's healthy, but I can't comment any further," manager Dave Miley said.

The speculation is that Karstens will be promoted to the New York Yankees because they have a doubleheader Friday in Boston.

"They told me I was done after the first," Karstens said. "I wanted to go for 12 in a row, but you never know."

I would bet that this Karstens move is just insurance, in case Ponson trips over a doughnut in the next few days and sprains something.

Still, yeah, he'd be a rookie making a major league debut, for the Yankees, at Fenway Park, in the middle of a pennant race with the Red Sox, but, I would bet that Karstens could go six innings and only allow 5 runs - if he got the start.

Sure, that doesn't sound pretty. But, it's probably better than what Ponson will do, if given the start.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:52 AM | Comments (15)

The E-Rod Watch

For those interested, Alex Rodriguez is now on pace to make 29 errors in the field this season.

The last time the Yankees had a "3B" with that many errors in a season was 1945 when Oscar Grimes had 31 errors. The time before that was 1914 when Fritz Maisel had 35 errors.

In the last 20 years, only 11 men playing third in the majors have had 29+ errors in a season. Here's the list:

Adrian Beltre 1999
Aramis Ramirez 2003
Bobby Bonilla 1989
Bobby Bonilla 1988
Dave Hollins 1997
Dean Palmer 1993
Ed Sprague 1999
Gary Sheffield 1993
Mike Lamb 2000
Russ Davis 1998
Todd Zeile 1993
Troy Glaus 2000

If Alex's fielding woes continue over the next month, the Yankees should consider removing him late in games, especially during the post-season, for defensive purposes, when they have a lead of less than three runs.

The last thing that A-Rod needs now is a Bill Buckner moment on his resume.

Funny, just a year or two ago, so many wanted A-Rod to play SS in the Bronx (and move Jeter to another position). You don't hear that now, very often, these days.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:33 AM | Comments (14)

August 15th vs. The Orioles

Regarding the game prior to this one, I wrote:

It's amazing what great starting pitching and 7 hits and 2 walks (combined) in the 7th and 8th inning can do for a fan's worry.

And, now, about this game, I can write:

It's amazing what great starting pitching and 7 hits and 1 walk (combined) in the 7th and 8th inning can do for a fan's worry.

And, it probably helps A-Rod get a pass on both another key error in the field and a terrible AB in the 7th with the score tied, one out, and runners on 1st and 3rd.

I have to give credit to Cano. Ever since I called him out, he's getting big hits with runners on base.

Anyone else think Larry Bowa was amped up for this game? Between the head slap on Abreu in the 7th and Larry's running down the line towards the plate in the 8th, do we need any more evidence of Bowa's intensity?

Speaking of the 8th inning, someone has to work on Melky and his sliding style. He always seems to be rumbling into the plate and rolling around. He's going to get hurt on a bad slide, soon, if this is not corrected.

Lastly, thank you, Mr. Bonderman. It's sweet to hit the pillow knowing that the Yankees are now 4 up in the loss column.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:01 AM | Comments (2)

August 15, 2006

Behind The Scenes On W-K-W 40

Some interesting news about Worm Killer Wang, via the Times yesterday:

Wang, who is scheduled to start at Yankee Stadium today against the Los Angeles Angels, has become more than the best ground-ball pitcher in the American League. At 26, he is a national hero in his home country, where he endorses computers and potato chips.

"When I used to go back to Taiwan, there weren't that many events to go to," Wang said through an interpreter before a game in Chicago last week. "Starting last year, there have been more events, and going out is not as convenient."

The kinds of events he attends are telling. "Going to orphanages," Wang said, "and events for premature babies."

Wang started playing baseball in fourth grade, as a pitcher, first baseman and outfielder. He attended high school in Taipei, on the north side of the island of Taiwan. His home, Tainan, is in the south. It was through baseball that he learned an important part of his personal story.

"We were going out to a competition and needed our personal documents," Wang said, explaining that meant the names, relationships and birthdates of family members. "When I got my documents, I learned who my biological parents were. My parents didn't tell me."

Wang found out then that his biological father was the man he knew as his uncle, Ping-Yin Wang. Wang's parents had no children of their own and offered to raise him. They later had a daughter, Hsiu-Wen Wang, who is two years younger.

It must have been a startling revelation, but Wang betrayed no emotion when talking about it.

OK, that's all touching personal stuff. But, here's some very interesting baseball stuff from the same feature:

Wang credits his sinker to Neil Allen, his pitching coach at Columbus in 2004, and Sal Fasano, who caught him then.

"He's got that unique ability that whatever you teach him, he can throw with almost immediate success," said Fasano, now the Yankees' backup catcher. "But that's why you have to be careful."

In Columbus, Wang threw six pitches, which Fasano said he considered too many. Wang took to the sinker so quickly, Fasano said, that it made sense to master that pitch and throw it roughly 90 percent of the time.

Huh? Just ten days ago, there was a story out that Billy Connors taught Wang the sinker.

I have to go with Allen now - since the source is Wang himself.

And, of course, thank you Sal Fasano too!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:13 PM | Comments (3)

Anyone Remember Mike Myers?

missmyers.jpg

Since July 18th, the Yankees have played 25 baseball games. In those twenty-five games, Mike Myers has pitched three times.

In those three games, Myers faced 5 batters.

Yes, in the last 29 calendar days, Mike Myers has been allowed to pitch to 5 major league hitters. In facing those batters, he's thrown 16 pitches - yes, 16 pitches in 29 days!

Why is he on the team, if Torre is not going to use him?

And, when Torre decides to bring him in to face David Ortiz (when the Yankees visit Fenway next weekend), how sharp do you expect Myers to be?

What's that you say? Torre would never use an ice-cold pitcher in a huge spot?

Huh? Did you see Jeff Weaver in the 2003 World Series?

In the past, Myers has been quoted saying that he wants to pitch every day. So, I give him credit for not moaning about the lack of use in New York.

Nonetheless, Torre has totally forgotten about him. And, if he's not wanted, then why is he on the team?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:55 PM | Comments (12)

VCR/DVDR Alert!

Don't forget that tomorrow, at 10 am EST, the YES Network will carry the New Yankee Stadium Groundbreaking Ceremony.

More on this from Yankees.com -

It won't be until 2009 when the Yankees will first play in the new Yankee Stadium. But they'll take their first step on Wednesday morning, culminating years of planning.

The Yankees will break ground just across the street from the current Yankee Stadium, in Macombs Dam Park, at 10 a.m. ET, followed by a groundbreaking ceremony.

The date, Aug. 16, is already significant in Yankees history because it's the same day Babe Ruth died 58 years ago. But it will undoubtedly be remembered for more as of Wednesday.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 02:06 PM | Comments (5)

Expect Friday Night Fireworks At Fenway

From the Times -

Unless he needs to use him before then, Joe Torre is set to start Sidney Ponson in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

“He’s obviously an experienced guy we can go to,” Torre said. “If we call somebody up from the minor leagues, they wouldn’t have that experience. He’s our next best option.”

Ponson’s track record is not encouraging for the Yankees. In 18 career starts against the Red Sox, Ponson is 3-10 with a 6.37 earned run average.

Just as I feared.

This is the baseball verison of a "punt." On the bright side, maybe Manny and/or Ortiz will get sore arms from all the big swinging that they should get in against Batting-Tee Ponson.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:45 AM | Comments (6)

Joe: A-Rod Hurt? I'm Clueless

From Peter Abraham -

Alex Rodriguez claimed on Sunday that he had injuries earlier this season that should have put him on the disabled list.

That came as news to New York Yankees manager Joe Torre.

"Obviously it was nothing debilitating because he was out there every day," Torre said. "Guys have to deal with things on a regular basis. ... But there is nothing that he's had a great deal of treatment on."

Rodriguez missed two games in early June because of a stomach virus. He has started all 113 other games but told the New York Post that the injuries hampered his swing and led to his throwing errors.

Rodriguez did not say what the mystery injuries were and stuck to that position yesterday.

"I'm not going to get into that," he said. "I don't want to put any excuses on anything I do. When I stink, I stink, and when I'm good, I'm good. I don't want to put it on something that's not relevant.

"For the last three or four weeks, I've felt 100 percent. It feels good to play that way."

Just what the Alex Rodriguez Saga ™ needs - a little "he said, she said." (Or, should that be "she said, he said"?) Jeepers, how long until the fans in Boston suggest that A-Rod's "injury" is related to Pavano's past sore buttock's injury?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:30 AM | Comments (10)

August 14, 2006

August 14th vs. The Angels

When Giambi got thrown out at home tonight in the 2nd inning, and then A-Rod got thrown out at 3rd in the 4th inning, I thought "Those two plays might come back to haunt the Yankees in this game."

And, when the score of the game was 2-2 after six, I was starting to think "Those two plays are coming back to haunt the Yankees....."

But, two innings after that, all was good. It's amazing what great starting pitching and 7 hits and 2 walks (combined) in the 7th and 8th inning can do for a fan's worry.

Funny, I wonder how many people are still concerned about Jeter's "slump" and Posada's "slide" now?

Lastly, watching the post-game on YES tonight, something came to my mind. When Bobby Abreu joined the Yankees, did he get stuck with Shawn Chacon's locker in the clubhouse? How does that work when a "star" joins you mid-season and there's no "star" leaving? Guys like Abreu are used to great lockers - in terms of size and location. Watch, next year, Abreu will have a better locker than Pavano - and, he should.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:34 PM | Comments (1)

A-Rod & Mickey

On May 2nd of this year, I wrote:

..., in terms of being a hitter, A-Rod is not in the class of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and/or a juiced Barry Bonds.

And, today, when that statement was brought up again on this site, a reader asked:

"I'd like to hear more of this theory that A-Rod isn't a "slugging monster" like Mantle, since A-Rod is going to outslug him when all is said and done."

Ask, and you shall receive! Some stats, via the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia - the "Top 25" in career OPS vs. the League Average (min. 7000 PA) - from 1900 through this past Sunday's games:

Top25OPSvsLge.jpg

As you can see, in terms of being a punishing slugger, Alex Rodriguez is more like Jim Thome than like Mickey Mantle - not that there's anything wrong with that.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:20 PM | Comments (12)

A-Rod Offers Split Opinion

First, this morning, I saw this quote from Alex Rodriguez in the Courant:

Rodriguez (.286, 23 HRs, 86 RBI) can't shake the perception that he's not a clutch player. Only a big October will put that to rest.

"That's why I'm not worried about it," he said. "Last year, I had an MVP year and I had a rough postseason, I stunk, and so you're a bum. You can be a bum all year and then do something at the end and you're a hero. It's no big deal."

And, then, later, I saw this about Alex in the New York Post:

Rodriguez was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a double play in his first three trips off Weaver. He rocked Scot Shields for a solo homer over the fence in left. Jason Giambi followed with a bomb to left-center, but Francisco Rodriguez entered and retired Jorge Posada for the final out. Asked about the perception of a meaningless homer, Rodriguez jokingly answered, "Who? Jason's?"

"I could care less," Rodriguez added. "I'm so happy when I hit a home run."

He also inferred that injuries have played a part - both offensively and defensively - in his pinstriped season to forget.

The Post also had another story on A-Rod which included the following:

His scorecard for the season is not pretty. Even with the generous scoring yesterday, his 20 errors are four more than any other third baseman. His 105 strikeouts project to a career-high 149. His 17 groundball double plays already ties his worst mark. And, now, eight of his 25 homers have come in the fifth inning or later with the Yanks ahead or behind by four runs.

If there were a plus-minus system in baseball similar to hockey, Rodriguez would not be the plus the Yanks had expected and just might be an overall minus. Yet, after a 5-3 loss that diminished the Yanks' AL East lead to one game over Boston and diminished Rodriguez even further in the eyes of the fan base, A-Rod vowed the best of his 2006 season is coming.

For the first time, he revealed that during the first four months he was coping with injuries that, perhaps, should have sent him to the DL, but that he could not go due to the DL devastation already ensnaring the Yanks. He would not disclose what the injuries were. However, he said, that the problems caused both terrible throwing mechanics and a change in his swing that led him to constantly get beat with even tepid fastballs.

Which is it Alex (in regard to your sub-par performance this season)? Is it "no big deal" and you don't care or is it because you have an excuse due to injury?

This injury suggestion reminds me of something that the Mets Neil Allen pulled back in the 1980's. After stinking for a while, Allen came to the press and said "I have a drinking problem!" (as an excuse for his woes). Shortly thereafter, it was found that Allen did not have a drinking problem and was using that belief as a crutch for his suckiness.

There's no way that A-Rod struggled like he did in June of this season, and took as much crap for it as he did, and never said "boo" about having an injury. Think about it. Think about everything that you've ever heard from Rodriguez. He would never miss a chance to paint himself the injured warrior. Do politicians ever miss a chance to kiss a baby?

Unless, of course, the "injury" is a mental-and-nervous disorder. That, and a full nondisclosure, I would believe from Alex.

Personally, I hope when Rodriguez' career is over, he writes a tell-all book. Maybe then, someday, we'll get the real answers behind this season.

Then again, maybe someone like Gary Sheffield, once he's done in New York, will do a tell-all and we'll get the answer?

I think it's going to be a heck of a story.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:49 AM | Comments (39)

August 13, 2006

August 13th vs. The Angels

Too little, too late.

Bill Clinton would hate this game.
Close, but, no cigar.

Boston is now just one game behind the Yankees in the A.L. East.

Looked like it was perfect baseball weather in the Bronx today. Lots of sun, not too hot. It was a very bright day. Full of light.

To borrow from the lyrics of an ol' Romeo Void song ("Your Life Is A Lie") after today's performance, it would not be a reach to say to the Yankees:

You're a great silhouette
You cast a shadow
But you don't stand up to the light

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:20 PM | Comments (13)

Stein: [I'm] Always Worried About Boston

From Newsday:

Flanked by four men, George Steinbrenner entered Yankee Stadium at 12:05 p.m. yesterday to watch his first-place club.

When asked if he was pleased with the Yankees' play in recent weeks, Steinbrenner said, "I'm not happy about [Friday's 7-4 loss], I'll tell you that."

Four hours later, he acknowledged that the win put him in a good mood and that he's "always worried about Boston."

Just looking at the Yankees pitching rotation, and their upcoming schedule, the Boss should be worried.

Joe Torre and his staff have a big question on how to handle that day-night double-dip up at Fenway on August 18th.

Wang will pitch one of those games - as his regular turn. But, who pitches the other game?

The Yankees could use Randy Johnson on short rest for the second game. But, then, Mussina, Lidle and Wright all have to pitch the next three games on short rest as well. And, do you really want Wright pitching in Fenway, at all?

Or, the Yankees could use a spot starter in that non-Wang game on the 18th, and then have Johnson, Mussina and Lidle pitch the last three games of the series on full/normal rest. I like that idea except for one issue. Who would that spot starter be? Knowing Torre, it's going to be Sidney Ponson.

Just thinking of that makes my stomach turn.

Again, and, sorry to beat a dead horse, but, this is why is was stupid of the Yankees to skip Lidle the other day. That extra day of rest for the Yankees rotation would have been nice to have in the bank - and helped with the decision to ask Johnson, Mussina, and the others to pitch on short rest in Boston.

It's a shame that Torre & Crew are not capable of forward thinking. Then again, seeing how Torre burns out relief pitchers, it's probably safe to say that forward thinking is not something that Torre ever considers. (Unless, of course, it's something like leaving Mussina on the West Coast during the post-season last year.)

For what it's worth, Boston has some noodling to do on the Yankees upcoming visit to Fenway as well. The Red Sox have an off-day on August 17th. Do they use that off-day to skip Jason Johnson? If they do, then Beckett and Schilling will have to face the Yankees on short rest.

If I had to guess, I would predict that the Red Sox do not skip Johnson. And, if they don't, then the Yankees might try and match up Wang against him - to try and lock in at least one great shot at a win in Fenway.

It's going to a very interesting series in Fenway. And, Big Stein has a legit reason to be worried.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:20 AM | Comments (22)

August 12, 2006

A Rectum's Welcome In The Bronx

According to the information from the source, this video clip was taken during Game 2 of the 2004 ALCS. The caption from the source is "Here's what you get when you wear a Red Sox hat at a Yankees game."

Warning: If you're viewing this at work, do not have the sound on. Related, if you, or anyone around you, is offended by foul language, then you do not want to play this clip at all.

Sure, it's crude behavior. And, it's something that I wouldn't want my small children to see - in person or on video. But, then again, if you walk into someone's camp wearing the colors of someone who is trying to defeat that camp, well, what do you expect? Handshakes from the fellas, hugs from the ladies, and repeated offerings of "may the best man win"?

Hey, let's face it. You're not going to get a warm welcome if you show up at a P.E.T.A. Rally wearing a fur coat or if you show up at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally with a petition to outlaw motorcycles. And, if you wear a Yankees cap to Fenway Park during a post-season game when New York is visiting, or a Red Sox cap to Yankee Stadium during a post-season game when Boston is visiting, you're not going to get a warm welcome there as well.

If you run around in the woods, dressed like a deer, during the peak of deer hunting season, and you end up getting shot in the ass, who's to blame for that?

This is sort of the same thing.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:57 PM | Comments (10)

August 12th vs. The Angels

Back in the late 1980's, the Baltimore Orioles had a batting prospect by the name of Luis Mercedes. He was a batting title contender for three years in a row - at Single-A, Double-A, and Triple A. Basically, in the minors, with his high batting averages, Mercedes was an on-base machine - and Luis was just 23-years old when he was already starring at Triple-A.

How come you never heard of him? Well, if I recall correctly, he had a bit of a temper - which worked against him. But, worse for him, even though he had speed, he was a base-running nightmare. It was said that his philosophy of running the bases was "When you reach base, keep running until you score or they tag you out."

I'm guessing that the Angels' Vlad Guerrero went to the "Luis Mercedes School of Base Running" back when he was a kid growing in the Dominican Republic. And, as a Yankees fan, today, I thank him for doing that.

Credit Cano and Damon for hitting the snot out of two mistake pitches today. That was the Yankees scoring machine this afternoon. And, credit today is also due to Five-And-Fly Wright and "ProcFarnMo" ™ (towards the Yankees win).

But, Guerrero's stupid base running in the first might have taken Wright off the early hook. And, Vlad's getting picked off second to end the sixth was being "bone-headed at a bad time" as bad as being "bone-headed at a bad time" gets.

In any event, considering that Boston won today, I'll take the Yankees win regardless of who deserves the credit. In Yankeeland, today was a good day to win.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:41 PM | Comments (3)

Unit, A-Rod & Cano (Yes, Cano!) Need To Start Stepping Up For The Yankees This Season

WasWatching.com reader "Garcia" made an interesting comment on this site earlier this morning, in reaction to last night's game:

"We are in the playoff push right now, so having to overcome some more adversity is a good thing. We need to see who is going to step up."

This got me thinking. Some players on the Yankees have been stepping up this season. If we know who they are, then we'll know who needs to start stepping up.

If you look at the following data from FanGraphs.com, it clearly tells you who on the Yankees starting staff needs to "step up":

stepSP.jpg

It's one man: Randy Johnson.

When you look at the same data from the same source for the Yankees current bullpen crew, you'll see that Rivera, Farnsworth, Proctor, Villone, and Myers have been effective, overall, this season. You can't ask for much more from that group.

How about the Yankees hitters? For this group, I decided to look at "RBI Percentage" (this season), via the stats at BaseballMusings.

In this study, I've included some non-Yankees (Ortiz, Ramirez and Womack) for benchmarks in this stat. Also, the players in blue include their stats with teams other than the Yankees this season. Here's the data:

RBIPct.jpg

Abreu, Jeter and Giambi have been better than "Big Papi" and "ManRam" this season in terms of driving in runners. There's no room to "step up" there. And, Johnny Damon has been just as good as Manny Ramirez this year in terms of getting men home.

Note the placement in this chart for A-Rod, Posada, and Cano.

Robinson Cano hits like Tony Womack when it comes to driving in runners. That's not good. This seems odd - since I'm sure, in the minds of most Yankees fans, when they think "Cano" they think "line drives all over the field." Guess what? With runners on base, it ain't happening. When you consider how many times Cano has batted 6th or 7th for the Yankees this season, and probably will in those slots going forward, Robbie has to do better than "Womack-like" in terms of driving home base runners.

I'm willing to give Posada a pass on this list - since he's got the challenge of catching everyday to deal with, in addition to trying to hit.

How about Alex Rodriguez? When it comes to driving in runners, this season, A-Rod is more like Bernie Williams or Aaron Guiel than Jeter, Giambi, Damon and Abreu. Clearly, he needs to start "stepping up."

Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, and, to an extent, Robinson Cano need to start playing better for the Yankees (in order to help lift the team). I could have guessed Unit and A-Rod without looking at the stats. Seeing Robinson Cano end up here as well (after the analysis) is a surprise.

Now, I just hope that one of these three surprises me by stepping up for the Yankees over the next seven weeks.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:16 AM | Comments (3)

At Least His Ears Are Rehabbing Well

From the Daily News:

Carl Pavano was involved in a verbal dispute with a fan at his rehab outing in Tampa on Thursday night, during which he made an off-color remark alluding to the fan's sexual orientation, according to sources.

The fan was heckling Pavano all night - he even acknowledged as such in a complaint filed with the team, sources said - and the righthander finally snapped at him. Sources said that Pavano questioned why the fan was at the Florida State League game, then made his derogatory comment.

The fan immediately complained to the team and was said to be demanding some sort of "compensation," according to sources. The Yankees had no official comment on the situation, though it was believed that witnesses told team officials the fan appeared to be looking to create a situation with Pavano from the very start of the game.

Pavano was unavailable for comment but expressed remorse and regret to a team official yesterday over letting the fan get to him.

If Pavano can't ignore one leather-lunged yahoo grifter in Tampa, what's he going to do when, make that if, he ever pitches in the Bronx again and gets bombed?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:56 AM | Comments (11)

August 11, 2006

August 11th vs. The Angels

I know that he wasn't feeling well prior to this game, but, I have to wonder if giving Cory Lidle 8 days rest (before this start) impacted his effectiveness. At the least, for sure, we know the extra rest didn't help him.

Watching the Angels' Joe Saunders work tonight, for the first time, I thought I saw something that reminded me of someone else. It's the look in his eye, the expression on his face, and somewhat the way he pitches from the full wind-up. It took a few minutes, but, then it came into focus for me. He reminds me of a young, thin, left-handed Curt Schilling. I stress "thin" because I don't think Schilling was ever thin - even as a young pitcher. It looks like the Angels have a keeper in Saunders.

By the way, tonight, it became official for me. After seeing that Orlando Cabrera "double" in the 5th - which was just really Alex Rodriguez playing third base like that "Baginsky" guy from the lotto commerical - I'm now finding myself saying "Please don't hit the ball to A-Rod!" very often as pitches are being delivered in big spots.

Lastly, how about Jason Giambi's new budding mustache?

Maybe the rest of the team should follow his lead? The way the team has played in their last seven games (meaning going 3-4 and being lucky in two of those three wins), perhaps the Yankees should look into something that might, as a team, change their luck?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:39 PM | Comments (10)

Attaboy Curt!

By the way, congrats to Boston's Curt Schilling for doing something (last night) that Randy Johnson (and every other Yankees pitcher in the last 100 years) has never done. From the ATM Reports Blog:

Schilling tied the AL record by allowing 10 extra base hits in a game, tying the mark set by Dale Gear (1901) and Luis Tiant (1969).

That's quite an achievement. Couldn't happen to a better guy.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:05 PM | Comments (2)

August 10th @ The White Sox

Peter Abraham said it best, late last night:

The Red Sox lost five straight games against the Devil Rays and Royals and the Yankees picked up only two games in the standings. When you have a chance to throw your rivals under the train, you have to do it. The Red Sox are in a free-fall but they're one series away from being back in first.

Like the game on Tuesday against the Chisox, this was a tough game to lose.

Forget about the defensive play (or lack there of) of A-Rod, Melky, Posada and Cano in the 2nd inning of this game - at least for a moment. Let's just look at the Yankees batting last night in this one-run loss.

1st inning: Yankees have runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. A-Rod strikes out swinging.

2nd inning: Cano doubles to lead it off. Wilson and Cabrera cannot move him along.

4th inning: Yankees have the bases loaded - albeit with two outs. Giambi strikes out looking.

6th inning: Yankees have runners on 1st and 3rd with one out. A-Rod flies out and Giambi strikes out.

9th inning: Yankees have runners on 1st and 2nd - but with two outs. Damon grounds out to end the game.

Giambi and A-Rod's name seems to come up a lot in the above comments, no?

Still, Giambi did have a 2-run homer in this game. And, A-Rod did have the big, inexcusable, throwing error in the 2nd.

But, if I were to say now "The Yankees lost this game, for the most part, because Alex Rodriguez played it like it was the 2005 ALDS" what would be the reaction (by many Yankees fans) to that statement?

"Oh, there goes the A-Rod basher again!"
"What are you obsessed with A-Rod?"

And, those would probably be the polite responses.

So, I'm going to say that Mickey Klutts lost this game for the Yankees against the White Sox. Yes, I know that Klutts last played for the Yankees in 1978. But, I'd rather have people come after me today for that statement than listen to complaints about getting on A-Rod - even if Alex had a huge hand in losing this game.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:40 AM | Comments (15)

August 10, 2006

Jeff Albert On A-Rod's Swing

Jeff Albert has a guest piece at BaseballAnalysts.com where he explains that A-Rod is pulling off the ball.

I wonder if Lou Piniella or Don Mattingly ever thought of that?

To be honest, all you have to do is look at the fact that A-Rod's performance results numbers are down this year and the fact that his strikeouts are up, and you would have a huge clue that he's doing something wrong at the plate. And, as it is with most major league quality hitters, when they're doing something wrong in the box, it's usually along the lines of pulling their head and/or hips off the ball too soon and losing their timing and explosiveness through the ball.

But, is this (pulling off) the "root cause" of A-Rod's problems with the bat this year? Well, it's the mechanical cause of his drop-off, for sure. But, the "root cause" of the mechanical flaw is something else. When you're a proven, great, batter like Alex Rodriguez, and you've been doing it for a long, long, time, something has to be the cause for you to move off from what you've been doing so well (for so long).

Such a drift is usually the result of some injury - that prevents the batter from using his feet, hands, hips, arms, or head the way it's needed to be used in a swing (for success). But, with A-Rod, we know that he's not hurt.

So, why start pulling off the ball, trying to jerk everything 600 feet into left-field? It's called "pressing."

But, "pressing" (by itself) is not a "root cause" either. There has to be a reason for someone to "press." Think about it. "Pressing" is usually a reaction to being in a stressful situation where you feel like you have to make something happen, no?

Now, let's not forget that A-Rod was Mr. May this season. And, his season started going downhill in June.

Something happened in June of this season where A-Rod started to feel the stress, and he started to press, and then he started pulling off the ball. Here it is: Right about the time where A-Rod went south this season was when Gary Sheffield went down for the count.

Once Sheffield was gone, A-Rod became the Yankees "go to" right-handed power source. Note that A-Rod has been the Yankees # 4 hitter almost this entire season. Now, two months ago, I shared that A-Rod is not at his best when batting clean-up. In fact, in his MVP season of 2005, A-Rod batted at his best when he batted second or fifth.

Let's face it, in New York, on a team like the Yankees, with the media, fans, etc., Alex Rodriguez feels the pressure of having to be "the man" in the clean-up slot. And, that's his problem this season. Fix that and I would bet that A-Rod would then fix his swing. No video or hit charts required.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:52 PM | Comments (8)

August 9th @ The White Sox

This morning, I "heart" two grown men - Mike Sweeney and Joey Cora. Sweeney got me for taking it to the Red Sox last night. And, Cora got me for not sending Brian Anderson home, and holding him at third, in the bottom of the 9th of the Yankees-Chisox game.

Considering it was Bernie throwing the ball to Cano, which means Cano had to go out and get the lob, and factoring in Anderson's speed, I'm thinking it's a tie game if Cora doesn't throw up the stop sign to Anderson.

How about New York heroes in this one? There were many Yankees who did well in this game, but, in retrospect, if I'm giving out the game ball, it goes to Ron Villone. His work in the 7th is the key to this victory - especially given what Farnsworth and Rivera did in the 8th and 9th.

It was nice to see Randy Johnson be nasty again on the mound. By the way, when did he switch from the black glove to the brown one? Maybe this new mitt is a good luck charm in the making? Still, to be honest, I feel that every start with Unit is "you never know what you're going to see" material. This start is not going to move me from that position.

Speaking of "see" - is it just me, or, does anyone else see a little Lance Kerwin of "James at 15" fame when they look at Craig Wilson?

OK, now, time for a rant. Has someone dropped acid in Joe Torre's green tea? He puts Bobby Abreu in CF when Damon has to leave the game? Did you see Ozzie Guillen's reaction when the umps told him about the switch? (You could read his lips. "Abreu's in centerfield? Oh, boy!') Come on now Joe. Why not move Cabrera to CF and then put Wilson in LF? If Melky can play LF in Yankees Stadium, he can play CF in Chicago. And, then, you never have to put Bernie in CF at all.

But, you know what? I think Torre gets off on playing Bernie in CF. It gives him the jollies or something. That has to be the reason. Because, otherwise, any sane man would try and avoid doing that at all costs. And, by putting Abreu in CF, it's an excuse to later move Bernie from DH to CF in the late innings.

At this point, it's time to take Sidney Ponson off the 40-man roster and get Bubba Crosby back on the team and admit that cutting Bubba for Veras was a mistake. With this run of games the Yankees are on, and given the nature of Damon's injury, you need a quality defensive-minded back-up CF on this team - and pronto.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:04 AM | Comments (11)

Stadium Jackass Banned

From the AP -

A baseball fan who jumped from the upper deck at Yankee Stadium onto the netting behind home plate has been banned for life from the ballpark and could be sent to jail, a judge said Wednesday.

Scott Harper, 19, of Armonk, N.Y., pleaded guilty Wednesday to reckless endangerment following last season’s plunge at the New York Yankees’ Bronx stadium. District Attorney Robert Johnson recommended probation and restitution to the Yankees, but Harper rejected the deal.

Harper’s criminal sentence, to be handed down Sept. 19, will depend on the outcome of another case in Westchester County for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, state Supreme Court Judge Troy Webber said.

I cannot believe it's a year later and they're still trying to figure out what to do with this clown.

Just lock him up already.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:57 AM | Comments (1)

August 09, 2006

E-Neel On A-Rod

Via KABC TV in LA, Eric Neel offers "E-Ticket: Why do we hate this guy?" - a very long but interesting look at the fans reaction to A-Rod.

Here's a clip from the end:

Will we ever come around to him? A world championship ring or some dramatic October heroics would go a long way, no doubt. We've seen big-time transformations in the past. Before winning his first Wimbledon, Andre Agassi was an image-conscious punk. Until the Bulls beat the Lakers in '91, Michael Jordan was a me-first highlight reel who didn't make the players around him better. Not until his Masters victory in 2004 did Phil Mickelson begin to shed his reputation as an empty talent who couldn't handle the big moment. Before his back-to-back Super Bowl titles, John Elway was a gunslinger who couldn't truly lead.

But although a ring would put A-Rod in a familiar category, the more interesting, and more likely scenario (the Yankees are an aging, pitching-weak team) is that things continue on the track they're on now. He's only 31, and we've had Bonds and Clemens to concentrate on these past 10 years, but if A-Rod stays healthy and productive in the years to come, it will become increasingly clear that he is hands-down the best player in the game, and is very likely the best all-around player any of us will ever have the privilege to see in person. Even without a title. Even with what we think is a sensitive heart. Even with what we perceive to be a scripted tongue.

As he makes his way toward some of the all-time records, will we soften our A-Rod stance and expand the register of what we can connect with, express empathy for? Or will we hold to the old tough-guy standards and keep doing him the way we do?

It's on us, not him, from here on out.

John Elway. I never thought of that - but, it fits A-Rod. Great all-time talent. The Baltimore-Denver and Texas-New York moves thing. Elway was not liked by many of his peers. The whole image-focus complaint. Elway had bad Super Bowls in 1987, 1988 and 1990. A-Rod has the 2004 ALCS and 2005 ALDS.

But, in the end, Elway walked out the door as a winner and loved by just about everyone.

It's an interesting comparison.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 01:07 PM | Comments (5)

Everyday Scottie Speaks

WTNH.com sat down with Scott Proctor recently. Here are some of the things that Scott had to day:

"I've talked to several other guys about that [being a set-up man], we just try to stay under the radar. Notoriety comes with its positives and its negatives. You got to be able to handle both and allot of guys can't handle the negative side. We got a job to do, like I said, whether we get the notoriety or not, the guys in the club house know we're there and know what we do and really that's all that matters."

"My dad always told me the two things people are always going to remember you by is your handshake and the way you look at them."

Sounds like Proctor has his head correctly screwed on. I just hope that the screws connecting his arm to his body don't fall out soon.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

Ground Breaking News (Really)

From the AP:

The New York Yankees will break ground Aug. 16 for their new ballpark adjacent to Yankee Stadium. The team, which has played at Yankee Stadium since 1923, set the date Tuesday. It hopes to move to the new 53,000-seat ballpark for the 2009 season, and the new stadium is projected to cost at least $800 million.

Man, if they waited one more day, the ground breaking would have happened on Posada's 35th birthday. That's a shame - it would have been a fun trivia question.

August 17th should be interesting up in the Bronx - it's a day game, Cap Day, and the first full day of construction. Happy driving all!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2006

August 8th @ The White Sox

As soon as A-Rod did not catch that foul pop in the 11th, albeit requiring a long run, I knew the Yankees would lose the game in that frame. And, it happened on the next pitch.

It's a shame that A-Rod had an "event" (for lack of a better word) in the deciding inning of this loss as he had an awesome game at the plate today.

With the Yankees losing, 3-2, in the 3rd, Rodriguez hit a clutch two-out 2-run homer to give the Yankees the lead. Then, in the 8th inning, Rodriguez got a clutch single on an 0-2 pitch to load the bases - which led to the Yankees scoring and taking a 5-4 lead in the game. And, later, in the 10th inning, Rodriguez got a 2-out walk with the bases empty, and then had a clutch steal of second to put himself in scoring position (before Bernie Williams whiffed to end the inning).

Personally, if not for A-Rod's bat tonight, the Yankees probably lose this game by a score of 4-2 in 9 innings and then there never would be an 11th inning missed pop-up. Still, I bet that Alex gets questioned about not making that play.

This loss is a stinger - and not the best way to start this run of 21 games in 20 days. Plus, the Yankees had to burn their whole pen (Villone, Farnsworth, Proctor and Rivera) today. You hate to unload the whole clip when you're shooting at a shadow.

Oh, well, at least Boston lost to the Royals.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:59 PM | Comments (27)

Daniel McCutchen

From a mlb.com press release:

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that New York Yankees Minor League player Daniel McCutchen has been suspended for 50 games, effective immediately, for testing positive for a performance enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

McCutchen, a pitcher, was the 404th overall pick in the draft this summer.

A first impression is a lasting impression. Looks like the kid has gotten himself a label that he's going to have to live with for a while. Pretty stupid.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:55 PM | Comments (3)

Bad Trades

Jonah Keri has a great piece on the history of bad Yankees trades over at the YES Newtork site.

I wonder where Rich Balabon is these days?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 02:13 PM | Comments (0)

New Yankee Grit?

Last night, I was enjoying the YES Network's rebroadcast of Game 3 of the 1999 World Series. That was some game for Chad Curtis.

Thinking of Chad Curtis last night made me think of guys like him, Jim Leyritz, Shane Spencer, Clay Bellinger, and Joe Girardi. Statistically, overall, these guy's bats would not impress you. But, they sure were good guys to have on a winning team. They could help you in certain ways.

And, then I thought "Do the Yankees have anyone like that now?" But, quickly, I forgot about it.

However, this morning, I noticed this recommendation over at Inside The Stadium:

Get to know new Yankee Craig Wilson in Anthony McCarron’s Daily News article. McCarron paints a picture of Wilson as the next Jim Leyritz — he can play everywhere in the field, including catcher, and brings a little pop to the line up.

Yeah, I can see that connection. I also see Wilson being a little like Chad Curtis too.

And, you know what? Maybe Sal Fasano has a little Girardi in him? (Boy, that was meant to sound nice - but, now, seeing it in print, it sounds like the punch-line to a dirty joke.)

And, maybe Andy Phillips is the new Clay Bellinger?

Come to think of it, this new collection of spare parts that the Yankees have put together just may be another reason to like this team's chances this season.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:37 PM | Comments (3)

Michael Kay's Rant On The Radio

From Bob Raissman today -

Kay's meltdown (that's being kind) was triggered by the contention that baseball voices can jinx teams they work for. During the discussion, Kay was accused of putting the whammy on Chien-Ming Wang because he once informed viewers Wang was pitching a perfect game.

The notion any announcer could put the kibosh on a no-hitter or perfect game, by alerting viewers to the fact one is in progress, is absurd. Still, it is one of those age-old superstitions some fans still believe in.

Kay was right in taking issue with it. Unfortunately, he went about it the wrong way. And wrong is not nearly a strong enough word to describe the way he went about it.

In essence, a caller - Jimmy - pushed the right button to set Kay off. He sent Kay to Wig City by simply saying it is against "baseball etiquette" for an announcer or analyst to even mention that a pitcher is working on a no-hitter or perfect game.

Kay became extremely defensive and defiant. He flipped, going into a full scream/rant mode.

Kay: "... Why shouldn't I say it (that a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter or perfect game)? Tell me Jimmy. Why?"

Jimmy: "Because it's not baseball etiquette."

Kay: "... Don't tell me it's baseball etiquette. It used to be etiquette to have black people as slaves. ..."

You could hear Jimmy groan and the air going out of other listeners, too. Kay's inappropriate comparison was over-the-top.

A few seconds later, he topped it.

Kay: "Jimmy. Tell me why? Tell me why I can't say it."

As if he was waving a red cape in a bull's face, Jimmy, again, parroted his "baseball etiquette" line.

Kay: "That's a stupid, stupid thing to say. ... Baseball etiquette? There's a lot of rules that don't make sense. That's why there was Nazi Germany. Why did they march people into ovens? Well, that's what they told them to do ..."

While this incident was not a "Jimmy The Greek" moment for Kay, it's not a good thing for him that it happened.

What should the YES Network do about it?

I don't think that Kay should be fired. People in public positions have said worse things and not been fired.

But, Kay should be suspended for at least two weeks. He needs a reminder that you pay a price when you lose your cool in a public forum. Someone at his level, with his experience, should know better than to make references like those. And, since he doesn't know this - evidently - he needs that reminder.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:03 PM | Comments (19)

The Latest Jan Grams Blog

If you're a Yankees fan, and you can read Chinese, you may like one of the new Yankees blogs on the scene. Click here to see it.

I tried to translate the site via google, and the characters for "Yankees" came out as "Jan Grams."

So, Let's-Go, clap-clap, Jan-Grams, clap-clap!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:13 AM | Comments (2)

Skipping Lidle

I have to go on record and say that I hate the idea of skipping Cory Lidle's turn in the rotation (today) because of the off-day yesterday.

First off, Lidle's been a hot pitcher lately. Why play with that and give him 8 days between starts now?

Secondly, couldn't the other members of the Yankees rotation use an extra day's rest now?

Worm Killer Wang has pitched more innings this season than he ever has in this life. And, don't forget, thirteen months ago, he was on the D.L. because of a sore arm.

Randy Johnson has been toast since his taxing starts of July 19th and 24th. The pitch count on the former and the heat of the latter have killed him. He could use some extra rest.

Mike Mussina is no spring chicken and has had arm injuries in the two seasons prior to this one. Jaret Wright doesn't have the strength to go past 5 innings in a start, on a regular basis. Think these guys can't use an extra day?

Don't get me wrong here. If this was Sidney Ponson that we were talking about instead of a hot Cory Lidle, I would understand the skip. But, this move makes no sense to me.

And, with all the games that the Yankees have in the next three weeks, this decision could come back to haunt them.

Torre should ask Gene Mauch about what happened in 1964 when he overused his star pitchers.

Man, this is just a stupid, stupid, move - if you ask me.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:39 AM | Comments (10)

Ricky Ledee

I just saw that the Mets picked up Ricky Ledee.

I always liked Ricky. And, to be honest, I always had this secret wish that the Yankees could pick him up again, someday, and use him as a 4th outfielder.

Ledee was money for the Yankees in the 1998 World Series. I hope Yankees fans will always remember that and wish him well with the rest of his career - even if it is with the Mets.

I know that I wish him all the best.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:12 AM | Comments (2)

August 07, 2006

Recent Snap-Sox

From Murray Chass today -

THE Boston Red Sox are a poor excuse for a good baseball team. For the second year in a row, they have squandered an advantage they had over the Yankees, this year even more grievously than last. Like last year, they will very likely pay for their profligacy.

For the first four days in July, the Red Sox led the Yankees by four games in the American League East. Today, the Yankees lead the Red Sox by two games.

A 12-game winning streak gave the Red Sox their four-game lead. Since that streak ended, the Red Sox have won half of their games — 17 of 34 — while the Yankees have won 22 of 32.

For a second, let's go back to that 12-game winning streak for Boston. Who did they beat?

The Braves, the Nationals, the Phillies and the Mets. And, for what it's worth, four of those wins were close for the Red Sox.

Maybe Boston is just not that good this year? Could it be true?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:14 PM | Comments (5)

The Gauntlet '06

21 games in 20 days.

This includes: Three on the road against the defending champs. Three up in Seattle. Seven games against the Angels (who give the Yankees fits). And, of course, 5 games in 4 days up at Fenway Park.

Time for the Yankees (and their fans) to pull up their socks, tighten their shoe laces, crack their knuckles, and shake loose their shoulders.

Ding! Ding! It's time to make it happen.

Thirteen months ago, the Yankees had a run like this one now.

Personally, I believe, if the Yankees go 13-8 in the next 21 games, that would be amazing. And, it would probably lock up the A.L. East.

Basically, the Yankees need to go, at least, 11-10 over the next three weeks - just to hold their ground.

In any event, New York has to win 3 of the 5 in Fenway and beat up on the O's and M's this month. This will allow them to play .500 against the White Sox and Angels and not have an issue.

It's going to be an interesting test for this team. But, I am confident that they now have the horses to make it happen.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:11 PM | Comments (13)

August 06, 2006

August 6th @ The Orioles

Is it just me, or, does A-Rod's "0 for 5" with 5 LOB and 2 Ks standout in the middle of this boxscore today like a sore thumb?

Other than that, it was a near-picture-perfect win today. The guys in the line-up that you expect to do well (Damon, Jeter, Abreu, Giambi, and Melky) all came through nicely. Wright got 6 IP out of 95 pitches. Proctor and Mo shut the door.

And, the cherry on top today was the way that the Boston Red Sox lost their game.

Oh, by the way, for the record - if letting Bubba Crosby go means that Bernie Williams is the back-up CF, then, I hate the idea.

Melky Cabrera is supposed to be the 4th OF super-sub in 2007 - which means he'll play LF, CF, and RF (giving everyone a break now and then, and, filling in when someone goes on the D.L.).

If that's the plan, then why not use Melky as the back-up CF this year as well (now)?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 05:43 PM | Comments (15)

The Yankee Flipper

The Post is reporting that the Yankees are thinking about picking up Gary Sheffield's 2007 option - and then trading him. Here's a clip from the story:

But one AL executive cautioned, "My guess is that is a dangerous game to play, especially since they have Abreu's salary on books. If Sheffield goes off in the last two weeks of September or the postseason, then I might do it. But if they get stuck with that salary or paying a big chunk to trade him, that would be a bad move, and you are talking about a player who is in his late 30s, who is coming off a major injury and has had his power production decline in recent years." However, another AL executive said, "I believe someone would take him for a year, but the deal would have to be worked out ahead of time" and cited the Angels, White Sox and Giants as possible landing places.

The only way the Giants take him is if Bonds is off the team. The market for Sheffield would be an A.L. team - the Angels, Tigers, or White Sox. Possibly, an N.L. team like the Cardinals or Cubs would want him in 2007.

It's a pretty slim market for Sheff - in terms of trading him.

To me, when you look at the risk-reward ratio on such a move, this seems silly. I would not pick up his option with the hope to trade him.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:51 AM | Comments (8)

Delma Pavano

From Joel Sherman today:

More amazing-but-true tales of the slow-healing prowess of Carl Pavano: He had surgery on May 25 to remove bone chips and is throwing side sessions with no clear date set for a rehab assignment. Detroit lefty Mike Maroth had the same surgery eight days later and will begin a rehab assignment this week. And, oh yeah, Pavano has not thrown a pitch in a major-league game since June 27, 2005.

The more that I think of Pavano, the more I am reminded of the character Delma Huddle from the movie North Dallas Forty.

You know Delma, he doesn't like needles.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:43 AM | Comments (2)

August 05, 2006

August 5th @ The Orioles

Hey, look at the bright side: The Yankees were not "no-hit" today and Derek Jeter did not suffer a disabling injury. And, yes, those are the highlights from this game.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:00 PM | Comments (15)

Best Rock-Thrower In The County (Of Shea) Speaks!

ErnieT.jpg

Mets pitcher Billy Wagner (shown above) has decided to get on (new Yankee) Cory Lidle's case. From the News:

Mets reliever Billy Wagner threw a fastball high and inside last night. The heat was not aimed at the Phillies, however - it was delivered at his former Phillie teammate and newest Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle. Wagner said that Lidle's parting shots at the club were "chicken."

"I may not be liked (in Philadelphia or the Phillies clubhouse), but I said my piece while I was there," said Wagner, who was very open about his frustration with his former club. "They all knew where I was at, the way it should be. There should be some accountability.

"I think that was kind of chicken. Cory kind of said it going out the door."

When Wagner was done speaking to reporters on the subject, he ran off and yelled: "You ain't seen the last...of Ernest T. Wagner!"

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:09 AM | Comments (2)

August 04, 2006

R.I.P Elden Auker

When he was a rookie, Auker whiffed Babe Ruth on four pitches. So, there's a Yankees tie-in for this post.

I was sorry to hear of Auker's passing today. He was a very sharp man and had an extremely full life.

If you've never read "Sleeper Cars and Flannel Uniforms: A Lifetime of Memories from Striking Out the Babe to Teeing It Up With the President," I highly recommend it. You'll become an Auker fan after reading it. I know that I did when I read it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:28 PM | Comments (2)

Crosby Not Bubba-ling Over The News

In case you missed it, the Yankees designated outfielder Bubba Crosby for assignment Friday and recalled RHP Jose Veras from Triple-A Columbus.

According to Peter Abraham -

Torre said Crosby did not take the news well. Crosby left the manager's office, dressed and left the clubhouse without saying goodbye to many people. He refused to speak to reporters. "You guys write what you want," he said.

Bubba is a nice guy. But, hey, even if you're the nicest guy in the world, you're going to get pissed when they tell you that you're no longer on the team. So, I'm not going to get on Crosby for his reaction to the news.

In the long run, I'm sure that Bubba will come to realize that being on the Yankees for almost three years was the best part of his baseball career.

And, he can still catch and run. Someone will give him a chance to keep playing - somewhere - in no time at all.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:07 PM | Comments (5)

August 4th @ The Orioles

First off, Ken Singleton should win the Emmy for "Outstanding Performance By A Baseball Announcer In A One Man Booth" for his performance this evening on YES. Yankees fans all over should be thankful that it wasn't Michael Kay or Bobby Murcer who was left alone in the booth tonight.

Randy Johnson was not good tonight - locating, that is - but he was good enough to win. Ron Villone deserves another gold star for his hand in this game tonight as well.

Torre, in the post-game, on YES cracked me up tonight. In complimenting the guys from the pen, he gave credit to the starting staff as well - saying that (thanks to the starters) 'We haven't had to overuse the bullpen.'

Meanwhile, Scott Proctor's right arm was recently mistaken for Sally Kirkland because it's so used and abused.

Good game for Craig Wilson too - who seems to have a pretty big reach at first base, by the way, for a guy listed at six-two. Maybe it's just the baggy uniform?

And, Damon, Posada, and Melky played well.......shoot, it was just a good team win. Feels like 1996 all over again.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:44 PM | Comments (8)

Downtime Coming

I anticipate a small amount of downtime for this site as I will be migrated to a new server (by our host). The process will begin tomorrow morning, Saturday, August 5, between 8:00 and 10:00 AM EDT.

I apologize in advance for any inconvenience, but my host firmly believes the upgrade will be well worth the minimal downtime.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:31 PM | Comments (0)

Connors To Thank For Worm Killer?

From Newsday -

That Chien-Ming Wang has become a rock atop the Yankees' rotation is not surprising to team officials. That's what they paid about $2 million for in May 2000.

But the way he's doing it - with a nasty sinker - could not have been predicted by any team official then.

When the Yankees beat out the Braves and Rockies to sign him as an international free agent by offering Wang the most money, the sinker wasn't a part of his repertoire.

They liked that his fastball was in the 90s and that he threw strikes and had great mound presence. But it wasn't until he was here for a full season that organizational pitching guru Billy Connors decided to teach him the sinker grip, saying yesterday during a telephone interview, "It was a natural because of the way he held the ball inside the stitches."

The pitch didn't pay immediate dividends. Wang kept getting blisters on his fingers in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, prompting him to abandon the pitch periodically. He experienced mediocre results then, but he and the Yankees are enjoying the payoff now.

Wang, who now has calluses on his fingers that allow him to throw his heavy sinker almost nonstop, has not allowed a run in his last 18 innings. He's relied on a pitch that typically reaches the mid-90s for an amazing rate of groundouts - 36 of the 54 outs during his scoreless streak have come via the ground ball.

I wonder if the the "Royal Order of Lumbricina Lovers" refers to Connors as Wangtown Billy?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:53 AM | Comments (5)

The Return Of Hideki Matsui

From the Journal News -

Left fielder Hideki Matsui had his surgically repaired left wrist examined and X-rayed yesterday by Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser in Manhattan. While the wrist has healed, lingering tenderness prevented Matsui from being cleared to take batting practice as he initially hoped.

The Yankees said after yesterday's 8-1 win over Toronto that Matsui will be re-examined next week.

Since Matsui broke the wrist diving for a ball on May 11 against the Red Sox, he's furiously prepared for a quick return. He's been running and throwing for the past month.

Although no date has been set for his return, the Yankees don't expect him back for about another month.

On the day that Matsui got hurt, I said to look at Derrek Lee for a recovery time.

And, where is Lee now? He got hurt about three weeks before Matsui did this year. Lee was out for about 10 weeks and then came back. But, it was too soon and he was back on the D.L. about 4 weeks later.

Matsui has been out for about 12 weeks now. Based on what we've seen with Lee, I'm guessing that Hideki will not be ready to play again until September 15th - which is around when the Yankees are saying he will be back.

There will be just 2 weeks left to the season on September 15th.

At this point, if Melky continues to do well, I think the Yankees have to leave Cabrera in LF - even when Matsui comes back. I'd rather have him out there in the post-season than a rusty Matsui. (And, I love Matsui.)

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 08:23 AM | Comments (10)

August 03, 2006

Get Your Shovels Ready

On August 19th, construction starts for the new Yankee Stadium to be built at Macombs Dam Park.

This gives the Yankees 2 years, 7 months, and about 2 weeks to get the job done in time for Opening Day 2009.

Can they do it in that amount of time?

Well, it took about 2 years and 3 months to build the new park in St. Louis. And, it took about 2 years and 5 months to set up the Phillies new park in Philadelphia. Also, it only took them about 2 years to build PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Safeco Field in Seattle took about 2 years and 4 months.

Assuming that it will take around 2 1/2 years seems to be the safe bet.

I hope that some smartie with a great camera does a series of photos on the site as things progress. It would make a swell book.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

Personal Request

If you know of anyone in the recruitment/employment field, whether it's someone at a search firm or in an actual H.R. department, and you'd be willing to pass along their contact information to me, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance for considering this request. Please send it to:

staff (at) waswatching (dot) com

Again, thanks!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 07:51 PM | Comments (0)

August 3rd vs. The Blue Jays

I'm going to try and do some semi-live blogging for this game today. Stay tuned for updates.

1:03 pm ET: Hey, hey, hey. Looks like Torre has figured out that Abreu should bat third and Giambi should bat fifth.

1:15 pm ET: If you would have told me this past April, that I'd be checking out a Yankees game in August, and I would see Cory Lidle (pitching for the Yankees) getting a batter to ground out to Yankees second baseman Nick Green who would throw over to Yankees first baseman Craig Wilson for the out, I would have said "Get off that pipe, my friend!" Go figure.

1:27 pm ET: A Giambi-jack! There's three for you Cory.

1:43 pm ET: Based on his 22-pitch inning in the 2nd, I'm thinking that Lidle is not going 8 innings today.

1:50 pm ET: Sal Fasano's picture on mlb.com Gameday makes him look like Jeffrey Tambor:

Jtambor.jpg

1:59 pm ET: An 11-pitch 3rd for Lidle. That's much better.

2:07 pm ET: In his first two PAs today, Abreu has seen 12 pitches. Maybe his nickname should be "The Human Arm Fatiguer"?

2:19 pm ET: Darn, based load, albeit with two outs, and no runs. That was a chance to put this game on ice - early.

2:25 pm ET: Wow. A 10-pitch 4th for Lidle. That's quick!

2:31 pm ET: A 9-pitch PA by Melky Cabrera leads to a walk. A love this kid.

2:33 pm ET: I think Fasano is striking out on purpose today just so that he doesn't have to run the bases in 100-degree heat.

2:40 pm ET: My gut is starting to tell me that the Yankees are going to need more than 3 runs today, by the time this game is over. It would be nice to see a run or two from them soon.

2:58 pm ET: OK, bottom five, 1st and 2nd, no outs. Four-Five-Six due up. Let's go Yan-kees!

3:03 pm ET: Bases-juiced. No outs. Craig Wilson - good morning, good afternoon, good night. That's bad.

3:10 pm ET: Attaboy Melky! That RBI, making the score 5-1, is big. Aside, maybe Fasano and Green should not play on the same day? That's like a free inning for the pitcher when they come up to the plate back-to-back.

3:17 pm ET: Sweet, clutch, DP to end the top of the 6th. Hey, Artie Rhodes, Lidle's gone more than five-and-a-third today!

3:32 pm ET: I believe that this one is now in the bag. It's Ponson Time fellas.

3:34 pm ET: Why is Proctor in this game?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 01:01 PM | Comments (32)

How You Know It's Too Hot

I saw some Carl Pavano news today -

When Carl Pavano was signed by the New York Yankees it was like a dream come true for the Connecticut native. But it hasn't turned out quite the way he wanted. With injuries and more injuries he's kind of become the forgotten man in the Bronx. But that might change soon. He's throwing batting practice today.

"Realistically, when will we see Carl Pavano on the mound making a start, in your mind?"

"It's tough to say 'cause it's day by day. But in my mind I definitely have a date set for the end of August. That's my goal."

.......

"I think you have to let it dictate itself in the beginning, because with surgery you never know how its going to react," he said. "I've been through the surgery before and I was starting to get the same things I was getting before and I knew when to push and when to let off and they trusted me with that. Fortunately I was able to put something together that was more aggressive that worked for both of us."

.......

"When I come through this I'm gonna be where I wanna be at and I'm just going to compliment everything. I'm not looking to come in and be the savior, I'm looking to do my job every 5th day and that's to win ball games, and for me to simplify it that way is the easiest, to keep it focused on the task at hand, which is to keep healthy and keep moving forward."

The end of August, huh? Imagine this: Pavano comes back in September and throws well. Something happens to Randy Johnson and he has to get shut down for the year. Pavano takes his place in the rotation and wins one game in the ALDS, two in the ALCS and another two in the World Series.

Wild thoughts?

When it's 100-degrees out for three days in a row, this is what happens to your brain. I think I need a nice cool drink.

But, if Pavano does play a role in the Yankees winning a ring this year, how funny would that be?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:52 AM | Comments (8)

Some Media Still On A-Rod

From Jeremy Sandler in the National Post yesterday:

He won his second American League MVP award last year with the Yankees, and he became the youngest player to hit 450 career home runs earlier this year, but Rodriguez has not been able to escape the critics that continually point to his contract. He is not hitting as many homers as he has in the past -- he is on pace for 35 home runs, the second time in three years he will have failed to reach 40 -- and, worse, he has been accused of not hitting in the clutch. Yankees fans have booed, almost mercilessly, this season.

"It's been a challenging year no question," the 31-year-old third baseman says, "but I'm proud to have gone out there through some struggling times."

Blogs at such Yankee-friendly Web sites like pinstripealley.com are filled with vitriol towards Rodriguez.

While his overall production has been solid, he is striking out more than ever. His average in so-called late-inning pressure situations with runners on base is a mere .214 and though he won two Gold Gloves as a shortstop, he leads the American League with 18 errors at third base this year.

He has never entirely been accepted by the Yankee faithful. From his arrival as a one-time foil to Yankees legend Derek Jeter to his infamous slap at the ball in the 2004 playoffs to his .133 batting average in last year's division series, Yankee fans simply do not feel he is living up to his billing or his contract.

"[Boston's] David Ortiz has fans pulling for him every time, and if he doesn't get he job done they're saying, 'Get it next time,'" says Damon, who left the Red Sox for the Yankees last winter.

"Every at-bat is in question with [Rodriguez]. It makes it tough as a player.

"He understands that he needs to win a championship for the fans to really accept him."

For manager Joe Torre, the circus surrounding Rodriguez has taken on an almost satirical bent.

"The fans, every game, they cheer the hell out of him and you predict it, you hit into a double-play, you strike out, they boo you," Torre says. "But it's sort of a mock thing so much attention has been called to it."

This all got me thinking - If the Yankees win the World Series this year, what type of role does Alex have to play in the Series to get the media/fan monkey off his back?

If he goes 1 for 23 to start the World Series and then hits a game-winning HR in the bottom of the 9th in Game 6, turning a loss into a ring-clincher victory, is that enough?

Or, does he have to "star" in an entire World Series to get everyone off his case?

Is it just with the bat, or, with the glove too? If he hits .529 in the World Series but makes an error in the field that costs the Yankees a game, will the masses still be after him?

Further, do the Yankees need to win the World Series to end all this? What if the Yankees lose the World Series - but, in the Series, A-Rod bats like Barry Bonds did in the 2002 World Series? After all, that performance got the choker-label off Bonds. Could it work for A-Rod too?

I just hope that the Yankees make the World Series this year and that it gives A-Rod a chance to end this all - in some fashion.

Yes, even I'm getting tired of talking about it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:32 AM | Comments (3)

Torre Is Armed This Year?

From the Star Ledger -

Entering last night's game, the Yankees ranked fifth in the American League with a team ERA of 4.36. Boston ranked eighth, at 4.59. The last time the Yankees finished a season with a team ERA that low was 2002, and only three of Joe Torre's Yankees teams have ever had such a low ERA.

Reading this, I decided to check the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia:

Torre's Yankees Teams ERA Compared to the League Avg*

ERATorre.jpg

*2006 is through last night's game.

This paints a different picture. Yes, the Yankees pitching this year is better than 2004 and 2005. But, this staff is not in the class of the 1997-99 and 2001-03 Yankees.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:43 AM | Comments (5)

August 02, 2006

August 2nd vs. The Blue Jays

Since the Abreu deal, the Yankees have found a new religion. Clearly, they've become believers of "In The Big Inning." It was the 6th inning tonight - and the 4th inning last night.

I believe that we're going to see innings like those very often over the rest of the season - where the Yankees bat for a half-hour, see somewhere around 35 pitches, and plate a bunch of runs. Thinking about it, I'm starting to wish that boxscores would now show "Pitches Seen" for each batter - along with the AB/R/H/BI/LOB totals that are there (in every boxscore). I want to see that for each Yankees game now. It's fun to watch this team conga-line pitchers to death.

And, of course, W-K-W 40 ("Worm Killer" Wang) was his usual Robo-Stopper self this evening - which always helps. And, it's very much appreciated.

Lastly, nice deke-slide on that double in the 4th by A-Gust A-Rod, huh? The YES boys are right - Alex is lookin' real loose these days. For him, probably more than it is true for any player, this is very important - in terms of enabling success.

Speaking of loose, I see that Yankees dugout this evening, and I see signs that Dr. Scholl would love to see in there. The Yankees are gellin' like a felon in there. I see lots of energy and smiles.

It's all good - so good that no one should care about what happened in Boston today. Hey, the Red Sox beat the Indians today - barely. Big whoop-de-doodle. If they want to act like they just won the World Series over that, then, have a party Boston.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:46 PM | Comments (11)

Our Big Papis

Who has the most "Game-Ending RBI" for the Yankees since 1957?

Thanks to Excruciating Baseball Lists, we know the answer. Here are the leaders:

GERBI.jpg

For the record, A-Rod has two to his Yankees credit:

8/4/2004, 2-run home run vs Justin Duchscherer, OAK, 8-6 (11)
8/27/2005, single vs Shawn Camp, KC, 8-7

Both in August, huh? That really is Alex's month.

Bernie has a chance to catch Puff on this list. And, how 'bout that Hector Lopez!

Hat tip to BaseballThinkFacory.org for the link to this study.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 04:54 PM | Comments (6)

Brandon Ketron

From CSTV -

It's been a wild ride for Brandon Ketron since leaving Union College (Ky.), but the former Bulldog catcher has gone from being undrafted to signing a free-agent contract with the New York Yankees.

Ketron, who is in his first season of professional baseball, has been assigned to the Gulf Coast Yankees, a Tampa-based Rookie League affiliate and member of the Gulf Coast League.

In three seasons at Union, Ketron posted a .370 career batting average with 22 home runs and 132 RBIs as he was a two-time First Team All-Conference selection. In all, he ranks in the Top 10 in 10 career offensive categories. His .426 batting average in 2004 is the third highest by a Bulldog in program history, and he ranks third in career fielding percentage at .984.

The Maryville, Tenn. native began the 2006 season as a backup catcher for the Washington (Penn.) Wild Things of the independent Frontier League. However, he quickly earned the starting job en route to being named to the East Division All-Star Team.

A 2005 graduate of Union, Ketron's professional career has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride since his days as a Bulldog. Despite some promising prospects, he went undrafted and unsigned in 2005 and did not play a game since leaving Union in May.

Currently, Ketron ranks third in the Frontier League in batting average (.333) and fifth in slugging (.502) while hitting 5 home runs with 32 RBI in 51 games for Washington.

I guess that Ketron takes over for Jesus Sanchez in the Yankees plans.

The odds of Brandon Ketron making the Yankees, someday, now, are about the same as Hugh Hefner, now, saying that he only wore pajamas all the time because he thought that blue-jeans made him look "hippy."

Still, the kid sounds like a fighter. If he does make it, it would be a great underdog story.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 03:30 PM | Comments (1)

Jason And Gary And The Hall

If Yankees fans were asked this question, I wonder what they would say?

Assuming that Gary Sheffield retires after 2007 and Jason Giambi plays another two solid seasons in the Bronx after this year, which of the two is more likely to be voted into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown? And, would Cooperstown put the Yankees cap on their plaque?

Both would be around 500 career homers with an OBA around .400. Both have the BALCO cloud.

Giambi, after 2008, would have 7 years with the Yankees and 7 with the A's.

Sheffield has played less than 300 games for the Brewers, Braves, and Padres (each). He did play 558 games for the Marlins and 526 for the Dodgers - compared to just 338 with the Yankees (to date). But, when you think "Gary Sheffield" to you really think "Marlins" or "Dodgers"?

I'm not sure that there's a really clear answer to this question - even given the assumptions.

If I had to guess an answer now, on a hunch, I would say "Giambi - and, yes, as a Yankee."

And, that's not because Sheffield doesn't deserve it - it's just because that's how I think Cooperstown will handle it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 12:08 PM | Comments (13)

Mmmm....Duncan Hope Gots

Is There Any Hope For Eric Duncan?

John Sickels says "yes."

(Hat tip to BaseballMusings.com.)

I think Sickels nails it when he says:

If Duncan had gone to college, 2006 would have been his draft season. A player jumping from college ball to Double-A and hitting .266/.363/.532 in his first try would be considered an excellent prospect.

Still, since 1973, Don Mattingly is the only Yankees 1B prospect who has ever stuck with the team.

Nick Johnson, Kevin Maas, Steve Balboni, Fred McGriff, J.T. Snow, Hal Morris and Dave Bergman have all been sent packing from New York while imports like Tino Martinez, Chris Chambliss, Jason Giambi, Bob Watson, and Jim Spencer have manned 1B for the Yankees.

I have a feeling that Eric Duncan will be traded to another team before he has a full-blown chance to play in the Bronx. Actually, I see Johnny Damon playing 1B in the Bronx in 2009 before I see Duncan playing there.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:40 AM | Comments (10)

Justin Christian

Baseball America is featuring Justin Christian in their current Yankees organization report:

A big part of the Thunder being two games out of first place in the EL's Northern Division in late July were the legs and defense of Justin Christian.

Signed out of the independent Frontier League, Christian was hitting.267/.331/.357 through 311 at-bats with 49 steals in 58 attempts. He ranked second in the minors in steals.

"In all the years I have been doing this, he is in the top three baserunners I have seen," manager Bill Masse said of the 26-year-old Southeast Missouri State product. "He has good instincts and great explosiveness. He has a good feel for when to go. He gets good jumps and goes on the right pitches."

Masse believes based on Christian's legs and ability to track balls in the outfield that he could play in the big leagues some day. A converted second baseman, Christian is still getting comfortable in the outfield.

"This guy has a chance," Masse says of the 6-foot-1, 188-pounder, who is in his second year in the Yankees organization. "He could be a pinch-runner and a guy to catch the ball."

Christian's age could work against him, especially in the Yankee organization. And while he batted .303 combined in 2005 for low Class A Charleston and Tampa, he still needs to improve at the plate.

"It's his first year at Double-A and he is OK with the fastball but has struggled with the breaking ball," Masse said. "Even though he is a little older, he will learn to use his tools, learn to hit the ball on the ground and learn how to bunt."

Just a name to remember in case the Yankees are looking for the next Bubba Crosby someday.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:33 AM | Comments (1)

General Von Steingrabber's Home Page

I saw this site today for the first time.

Pretty impressive - even if I can't read it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:22 AM | Comments (2)

In Remembrance

There are certain dates in Yankees history that will always stick with me - like October 2, 1978 and July 4, 1983. You hear the date and right away it brings back a specific memory.

But, of all the dates that have stuck with me (going back to 1973), the one that I will probably always remember most is August 2, 1979.

To anyone under the age of 27, this might not seem like a date that should never be forgotten. But, if you ask any Yankees fan between the ages of 37 and 77 (now), they would tell you a different story.

Knowing that something as bad as that can happen - and did - makes you appreciate the good times now even more.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:09 AM | Comments (12)

August 01, 2006

Tool Time

Baseball America just released the results of their "Best Tools" survey (of league managers) for 2006. Here's how certain Yankees did:

Best Strike-zone Judgment
#2 in the AL - Jason Giambi (behind Travis Hafner)
#1 in the NL - Bobby Abreu (ahead of Albert Pujols)

Best Hit-and-Run Artist
#1 in the AL - Derek Jeter (ahead of Michael Young)

Best Baserunner
#1 in the AL - Derek Jeter (ahead of Ichiro Suzuki)
#3 in the NL - Bobby Abreu (behind Jose Reyes and Juan Pierre)

Most Exciting Player
#2 in the AL - Derek Jeter (behind Ichiro Suzuki)

Best Curveball
#3 in the AL - Mike Mussina (behind Barry Zito and Josh Beckett)

Best Change-up
#3 in the AL - Mike Mussina (behind Johan Santana and Roy Halladay)

Best Control
#3 in the AL - Mike Mussina (behind Curt Schilling and Roy Halladay)

Best Reliever
#1 in the AL - Mariano Rivera (ahead of B.J. Ryan)

Best Defensive Shortstop
# 2 in the AL - Derek Jeter (behind Alex Gonzalez)

Best Manager
#2 in the AL - Joe Torre (behind Jim Leyland)

No other Yankees players made the top three in any of the 25 different categories. No A-Rod in "Best Power" or "Best Infield Arm." No Melky Cabrera in "Best Outfield Arm." No Kyle Farnsworth in "Best Fastball."

In the feature, players were asked questions on tools - including "If you could take a skill from an all-time legend to improve your game, what would it be?"

A-Rod's answer: "Jackie Robinson's speed, and to be a switch hitter like Mickey Mantle."

Hey, Alex, that's two all-time legends. Don't be greedy!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:15 PM | Comments (4)

August 1st vs. The Blue Jays

Welcome to first place - albeit by percentage points.

Abreu's nine-pitch walk in the 4th really took a toll on A.J. Burnett - and helped set up Bernie's record double. That was the whole ballgame to me (this evening).

Villone and Proctor combining for three good innings, and bridging the game to the ninth, was also a key.

Outside of Giambi having to leave the game with cramps, this was a very good day for the Yankees. A-Rod looks to be in August form already. And, Boston seems to be getting nothing but bad news these days.

Yankees fans will sleep well this evening - assuming their AC is working if they live in the NY/NJ/CT area.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 11:04 PM | Comments (6)

Sheffield On First?

From the AP:

Manager Joe Torre revealed that he and hitting coach Don Mattingly -- a former All-Star first baseman -- have discussed for several months the possibility of shifting Sheffield from right field to first base. Torre said he would have broached the subject with Sheffield in June if he hadn't gone on the disabled list.

"I talked to Sheff Sunday, before he left, and just told him that there's no guarantee that this makes him odd man out just because we got a right fielder," Torre said. "We may just have to find some other thing to do. I didn't specifically say first base the other day, but we did today. He, Donnie and myself talked today. He's already working drills with Donnie."

Torre said Sheffield told him he had already ordered a first baseman's mitt.

"I think he can play that as a regular," Torre said. "I'd be very surprised if he wouldn't be able to handle the defensive part of that game. He's quick. His hands are good."

.....

"Who is playing first base for us?" Sheffield said playfully. "If he can do it, I can do it."

It's been a dozen years since Sheffield had grounders coming at him on a regular basis. Could he make the conversion from RF to 1B at age 37?

While I don't see Sheff being a Gold Glover at 1B, I think he could do an OK job at first. In fact, if Gary has a monster return in September, and then carries the Yankees in the post-season to a ring by going something like 28 for 65 in October-play with 6 homers, and he's the World Series MVP against the Mets, I could even see Big Stein bringing him back for 2007 - and then Giambi and Sheffield would be the DH/1B combo next year in the Bronx.

Stranger option picks-up have happened in Yankeeland.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:44 PM | Comments (8)

Walk This Way

A great stat via The Star-Ledger - with a hat tip to BaseballThinkFactory.org -

The Yankees this year are 25-29 when they draw fewer than four walks in a game. When they draw at least four, they're 36-12. When they get five or more, they're 29-8. And when the opponent walks them at least six times, they're 20-4.

This tells me that the Yankees kill bad pitching and play .500 against good pitching. When you think about facing good pitching in the play-offs, this is concerning. It tends to make me think that the Yankees pitching will be the key to their post-season success.

It would be nice if the Yankees could lock up the A.L. East by September 15th - and not have to burn their good pitchers down to the next-to-last game of the season this year.

Otherwise, 2006 might end up like 2005.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 02:27 PM | Comments (2)

Opening Day II

A comment by "Carla" to a recent WasWatching.com entry triggered this question in my brain today:

How many Yankees fans are looking forward to tonight's game with the same level of excitement that is usually reserved for Opening Day?

Personally, it feels like an "Opener" to me.

Basically, because of where the Yankees are today (standings-wise) in the loss column, the off-day yesterday, and the new talent added to the team in the last two days, it's as if 2006 is now a 60-game season (and today is the "Opener").

It's the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays - whoever wins the most over the next two months takes the A.L. East. (And, Toronto is starting out in a hole).

There will be no tricolored bunting hanging from the upper-deck at the Stadium tonight. But, I'll still be seeing it in my mind.

Who should throw out the ceremonial first pitch? Given the way that many Yankees fans feel today, maybe it should be Brian Cashman?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 01:53 PM | Comments (9)

Nah, They Would Never Do It......

I was just playing around with Baseball Musings' Lineup Analysis tool and the new Yankees line-up. I sorta-like the "3rd best" line-up suggestion that the tool spit out:

1. Bobby Abreu RF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Johnny Damon CF
4. Jason Giambi DH
5. Alex Rodriguez 3B
6. Robinson Cano 2B
7. Jorge Posada C
8. Craig Wilson 1B
9. Melky Cabrera LF

There's something about having Damon bat third that I find exciting.

In the end, it really doesn't matter much how you line them up - these 9 guys, according to the tool, are good for roughly 6 runs a game (based on the inputs) in just about every order possible.

Of course, this is "on paper." Now they just have to go out and do it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 10:46 AM | Comments (8)

Boomer Lidle

According to the Post, it seems like Cory Lidle has diarrhea of the mouth:

In a conference call with New York media yesterday, Lidle said, "Unfortunately over the last few years I haven't had a clubhouse that expected to win with me.

"We would go to the field on the days I was pitching and it was almost a coin flip as to knowing if the guys behind me were going to be there."

Shocking? Not really. Remember what Lidle said about Barry Bonds this past May? Face it, Lidle is a yapper.

Yankees fan favorite Arthur "Diamond Earring" Rhodes had this to say about Lidle's recent comments:

"When he started, he would go 5 1/3 innings and (the bullpen) would have to win the game for him. The only thing Cory Lidle wants to do is fly around in his airplane and gamble.

"He doesn't have a work ethic. After every start, he didn't run or lift weights. He would sit in the clubhouse and eat ice cream."

Wow. Who does Lidle remind you of now? Big mouth. Not into conditioning. Likes the wild life. Sound like David Wells to you? It does to me.

And, just like with Boomer Wells (when he was in New York), if Lidle wins, no one will care about the sound-off baggage that comes with it.

As far at the "5 1/3 innings" and gone comment. Check Lidle's game log this season, to date, for yourself:

Lidle.jpg

Lidle has gone at least 6 IP in 16 of this 21 starts this year. That's OK with me. That will work just fine in New York.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:50 AM | Comments (4)

Clutch Papi

OK, letting my Yankees fan guard down for a minute, I have to confess this: That sunovabee David Ortiz is everything that I wish a Yankees player could be in terms of coming through in the clutch. He really is amazing.

There, it's said. Now I can go back to disliking him for being a member of the Boston Red Sox.

Update, 8/2/06 - I just saw this in the Boston Globe -

According to Sox historian Allan Wood, webmaster of the Joy of Sox, Ortiz has come to the plate 19 times in potential walkoff situations since the end of the 2004 regular season (postseasons included) and reached base 16 times. He is 11-for-14 (.786), with 7 HR and 20 RBI.

In 2005 and 2006, he is 8-for-9, with 5 HR and 15 RBI!

Damn!

Posted by Steve Lombardi at 09:35 AM | Comments (6)