Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kearns & Berkman: Yay Or Nay?

So the Yankees made a couple of unexpected moves yesterday while they were busy wasting a good outing by Phil Hughes.  By the end of the day today, they should officially have OF Austin Kearns and DH/1B Lance Berkman in the fold.

Neither of these guys solve the bullpen problem, but both will add some much needed depth to the bench, something that was the other major priority at the deadline.  And all indications are the Yankees were able to make both deals without giving up any significant pieces.

First let's take a look at Kearns.  Once a former highly-touted prospect with Cincinnatti, Kearns has settled into a 3rd or 4th outfielder role for the majority of his career.  The right-handed batter is currently hitting .272/.354/.419  with 8 homers and 42 RBIs and will slide right into the 4th outfielder spot for the Yankees, an area that has been a revolving door for most of the season.  His presence will allow the Yankees the option of sliding Brett Gardner to center and sitting Curtis Granderson against lefties, despite Granderson's recent hot hitting.  While he's certainly not expected to produce in the middle of the order like he was in Cleveland, Kearns does provide an upgrade over the Colin Curtises and Kevin Russos of the world with his Major League experience, and as long as the "player to be named later" that the Yankees had to give up to get him isn't Austin Romine, Slade Heathcott, or Dellin Betances, this is definitely a good deal for the Yanks.

Now for Berkman.  Once one of the most feared switch hitters in the game, Berkman, now 34, has regressed greatly as a hitter, as indicated by his .245/.372/.436 tripleslash this season, well below his career averages of .296/.410/.549.  But there is still some power left in his bat and Berkman can still get on base with the best of them, and he should fill the gap left by Nick Johnson as the full-time Yankee DH.  His .874 OPS and 12 HRs and 45 RBIs as a left-handed hitter should translate well to hitting at Yankee Stadium and he also provides the Yankees with another viable option as a first baseman should Teix need a day off.

The Yankees had to give up Mark Melancon and someone named Jimmy Paredes to get Berkman.  Melancon has seemingly been on the verge of breaking through as a major contributor in the Yankee 'pen for years now, but took a step back in Triple-A this season.  With a bunch of younger arms in the system that could project as solid relief pitchers down the road, Melancon did become a bit expendable, especially in this case where the Yankees were filling a need to build bench depth.

Berkman's presence may cause a bit of a logjam at DH, especially with Jorge Posada's ever-changing health, and it will be interesting to see how Joe manages that rotation to keep Jorge and his other older players healthy without sacrificing putting his best lineup on the field.  But that's a problem I would much rather deal with than the problem of having Frankie Cervelli and Ramiro Pena get regular at-bats at the bottom of the lineup.  My guess is Juan Miranda and Colin Curtis will get the boot back to Triple-A, which I can live with.

So far, so good for the Yanks at the deadline.  I give both of these trades 2 thumbs up and if they can make a move to add another bullpen arm, it could turn out to be another successful deadline season for the Bombers.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Return Of D-Rob

Well it took long enough, but David Robertson certainly appears to have righted the ship after an awful start to the season and has solidified himself as the leading candidate to take over the 8th-inning role now that Joe has relieved Joba of those duties.  Since his blowup against Toronto early this month, Robertson has been lights out in his last 9 outings.  Observe:

9.1 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 0 R, 13 K, 12.54 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, .857 WHIP

And if you're like me and still appreciate the simpler, outdated stats, Robertson has lowered his ERA from 6.15 to 4.54 over that stretch.  The most important stat out of the line above would have to be the 2.89 BB/9.  Robertson's strikeout numbers have been on par with his career numbers this year, but it's been the home runs and walks that have really hurt him.  To have a lower BB/9 number than we're used to seeing from him suggests that he has finally rediscovered the command on his devastating fastball/curveball combo, and that has allowed him to attack hitters and get ahead in the count to set up the hook as his K pitch like last year.  His confidence seems to grow each time out, which is a good thing heading towards the homestretch of the regular season in a bullpen that has been shaky at best all year.

So now the question becomes, with Robertson firing on all cylinders, J-Alba and Mitre providing a change of pace in the bullpen rotation, Mo being Mo, and Ace possibly coming back before the end of the year, what do the Yankees do at the trading deadline regarding the bullpen?  Do they tell Toronto to get fucked with their 'Jesus Montero for Scott Downs' proposal?  Do they say the same thing to KC about Joakim Soria?

The Adam Dunn talks have stalled and there are no decent starters left out on the market, so the bench and bullpen still look like the areas most likely to see a change.  But one thing's for sure; the re-emergence of Robertson as a viable bullpen option certainly lessens the urgency with which the Yanks should be looking to fill the other holes out there.

Do You Really Care If A-Rod Hits His 600th Home Run?

Because I really don't.  And I'm not just saying that because SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight have jumped all over how long it's taken him to do it and how he now has the most at-bats between 599 and 600 in history.  I'm saying it because in the grand scheme of things it really doesn't matter how many he hits.  Especially not if he keeps producing like he has been and the Yankees keep winning.

Let's face it, because of his steroids admission last year, whatever records A-Rod ends up attaining are always going to be tied to his juicing.  Nobody talks about what McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds did years back anymore as if they were any kind of serious accomplishments and now A-Rod will be placed in that same category when he retires and his stats reach their final tally.  Add to that the fact that the media is still overly anti-A-Rod and you can pretty much take it to the bank that nobody outside of Yankee Stadium will pay tribute to his accomplishments and final stats, so there is little meaning or significance to be had.  Is that his fault for taking the steroids and cheating?  Of course it is.  Nobody can deny that.  But even if he had never been outed or had never even juiced in the first place, there are plenty of other arguments that people would have made had A-Rod ended up breaking the all-time home run record that would have rendered it meaningless, so when you really think about it, does it even matter how many he hits?

What really matters is winning, something that A-Rod finally figured out a year or two ago and something that he is much more focused on now than he was earlier in his career when he was putting up bigger home run numbers and jabbing needles in his ass.  And winning happens to be what the Yankees are doing right now, and they're doing it better than anybody in baseball.  They are, without a doubt, the favorite to win the World Series and go back-to-back for the first time since 2000.

And not only that, A-Rod is one of the key cogs in that winning right now.  He isn't hitting home runs, but he's still producing and driving in runs at a healthy rate.  After last night, dude now has 85 ribbies on the season, which puts him 2nd behind Miguel Cabrera not only in the AL, but in all of Major League Baseball.  He has 12 in his last 10 games, 31 in the month of July, and barring serious injury he's a sure bet to drive in at least 100 and maybe closer to 120-130.  Maybe I'm a little crazy here in my assumption, but that seems like a pretty goddamn good number to me.

Yes, he's older.  Yes, he might still be a little banged up.  And yes, he's obviously not the dominant power hitter he used to be, as his .275 BA and .834 OPS (over 100 points below his career OPS) shows.  But Alex Rodriguez is still one of the most dangerous and best hitters in the game today and he's been making the hits he has gotten count all season long.  His .275/.346/.488 season tripleslash rises to .292/.365/.530 with runners on base, and rises even more to .301/.370/.549 with RISP.  And if you really want to be impressed, in 16 bases-loaded at-bats this year, A-Rod is hitting at a .500/.500/1.125 clip with 3 HRs and 29 RBIs.

So fuck his 600th home run and fuck his home run totals.  I'll take all the RBI singles and bases-clearing doubles I can get as long as he keeps doing what he's doing in big situations as the cleanup hitter, continues to play a fantastic third base, and the Yankees keep winning.  And if he comes up big in the postseason again this year like he did in 2009, then I don't care if he ever hits another home run again and you shouldn't either.  Let Tim Kurkjian and Jayson Stark rattle off all the inane stats related to A-Rod's 600th home run that their little hearts desire.  I'll just sit back and watch him drive in runs as he and Yanks steam towards another title.

Well There's The New 5th Starter

Welcome to the rotation, Dustin.  Good to have you aboard.

(Photo courtesy of The AP)

Between Moseley's performance last night and Mitre looking 10 times better coming out of the 'pen for 2 innings on Wednesday night, the Yanks might have just filled 2 holes before the trade deadline without giving up or bringing in anybody.  Yeah, I know it was just the Indians, but still.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A.J. Being A.J. (Whatever That Means)

(Photo courtesy of The AP)

2 straight scoreless outings for A.J. Burnett?  Is that even possible?  Somebody check the calendar, did it secretly become 2012 while I was asleep last night and we're now only seconds away from the end of the world?  That's the only explanation I can come up with.

Well that and the fact that A.J. has remembered how to throw his curveball for a strike.  That always helps.  And he also said "It’s the most I’ve felt like A.J. in a long, long time" after the game last night, so the case of mistaken identity he had been suffering from must have had something to do with his struggles.

Question, who the fuck did he feel like prior to these last couple starts when he was getting shellacked?  Kenny Rogers?  Kei Igawa?  Joba?  These are the follow-up questions that the beat writers need to be asking.  I'm talking to you, Chad Jennings!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tonight's A New Night

I'm just going to pretend that last night's game never happened.  It's all about tonight's game and focusing on winning this one.

And Cleveland has a pitcher who has actually pitched in the Majors on the mound tonight in Fausto Carmona, so the Yankees at least have a snowball's chance.

Yes sir, things are looking up!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's All Pitching All The Time

At least that's what all the news is today in Yankeeland.  In case you've missed any of it, here's the latest rundown:

- Javy Vazquez had another solid outing last night and got just enough run support to get the win he deserved.  A little more run support here and there and the dude could have 12-13 wins right now.  Scary when you consider just how terrible he was in April.

- Joba has officially lost the 8th-inning setup role as Joe chose to let him sit on his ass in the 'pen last night when the 8th inning rolled around.

- That being said, Joe hasn't exactly committed to an official replacement.  D-Rob and Boone Logan combined to form the bridge to Mo last night and it sounds like Joe is going to play the matchup game until either somebody steps up or Joba regains his form in some lower-leverage innings.

- Apparently the Yankees "dangled" The Jesus for Joakim Soria.  I don't know if that means they offered up Montero as trade bait or if he flashed his dick at the entire Kansas City organization, but either way I don't like the sound of it.  Why are they so eager to give up their best hitting prospect in ages for 2-3-month rentals?

- Joe has announced that Dustin Moseley will start in Sergio Mitre's spot on Thursday.  I would have given Mitre another shot but you can't argue with the logic here.  Moseley's 4.2 scoreless innings certainly looked a lot better than Mitre's 4.1 of 7-run ball and actually gave the Yanks a chance to come back and win on Saturday.

- For some reason the Yanks are still showing interest in Ted Lilly as a possible band-aid to the Andy Pettitte situation.  Not exactly a vote of confidence for Moseley, but with Haren gone and Oswalt not looking likely, I guess they have to keep their options open.

- The Yanks and Sawx are in major competition for the services of Toronto lefty Scott Downs.  He's the best reliever available on the trade market ( lefties are just 10-54 against him this year) and with Marte on the DL he would be the ideal replacement as lefty specialist over Boone Logan.

- Ace is back with the team, throwing a bullpen session yesterday and getting some flat ground work in.  He said he thinks he is going to pitch again this year, which would be phenomenal news, but the Yanks have to be careful with his rehab since he re-injured the back earlier this year trying to come back.

- And last but not least, my boy Lenny has figured out what to do with Joba.  Major kudos to him for figuring out what we all couldn't.  Who knows?  Maybe Joe was already thinking that way too and that explains Joba not pitching last night.

Nice Catch, Douche

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Were people really that riled up over the weekend about the Yankees trading for Dan Haren?  Dan Fucking Haren?  The guy is having the worst year of his career, has a spotty history against the AL East, and, as last night showed, clearly can't field his position to save his life.  And the Yankees were considering trading Joba, Ivan Nova, Z-Mac, AND Dellin Betances for this dude??  Give me a fucking break.

I know Mitre sucked over the weekend, but there's no reason to jump off a bridge and panic about the rotation.  The Yankees didn't need Dan Haren, and they don't need Roy Oswalt.  They can patch it together for a few weeks and hold the lead until Andy comes back.  At least he knows how to field a comebacker, it's just the throwing to first that gives him problems.

Get up, you candyass, and stop crying.  You got hit in the arm.  Pussy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

As The Joba Turns

(Photo courtesy of The AP)

A lot of disconcerting info on Joba in Joel Sherman's 3UP post today: 

"The only pitcher who appeared in 40 games this year and has a worse ERA than Joba Chamberlain’s 5.95 is Fernando Nieve, who was recently released by the Mets with his 6.00 ERA. No one who has appeared in 40 games has a worse WHIP than Joba’s 1.61."

I almost threw up my breakfast when I read those numbers and I slept in too late to even eat breakfast this morning.  Joel continues:

"In other words with 60 percent of the season gone now, Chamberlain has arguably been the worst regularly used reliever in the majors. He certainly is in the conversation. Which is ridiculous considering his stuff, which might not be what it was in his electric 2007 debut, but is still certainly better than his performance."

It appears that Joe Girardi is on the brink of removing Joba from the eighth inning and going with David Robertson, instead. But here is something else to keep in mind: Is it possible that the Yanks would send Chamberlain to the minors as a way to a) work through some of the issues with his inconsistency and b) to shake up a guy who just might need to have his world jolted. Chamberlain has always struck me as the kind of player who gets way too comfortable in the majors. Maybe he needs to be reminded that he needs to consistency earn his way up here and that nothing is a given."

And now, once again, it's time for the yearly "what to do with Joba?" discussion that everybody loves so much.  The grumbles about his performance have turned to dull roars over the last month and there are suggestions aplenty.  Unfortunately most of those suggestions are wrong.  Here are the CORRECT answers to the 3 most asked questions surrounding Joba.

1) Should the Yankees trade Joba?

Fuck and no.  Trade him for what?  Cliff Lee?  Already gone.  Dan Haren?  Already gone.  Roy Oswalt?  Almost definitely not interested in being traded to the Yankees so no.  And is it really worth using Joba in a package to bring in Adam Dunn to be the full-time DH?  As I discussed last Friday, the Yankee offense is waking up and they're doing it without the benefit of a "big name" DH.  They're still winning games with a struggling pitching staff right now so why waste Joba and other prospects to add a piece they don't need?

The only way trading Joba makes sense is if the Yankees bring back an improved bullpen option in the deal, such as Joakim Soria.  But the word on the street is Kansas City's asking price was pretty high for Soria, so  the Yankees would be faced with swapping one 8th-inning option for another while having to throw in additional prospects.  That just doesn't make any sense right now given that the Yankees are winning and given the fact that even with Soria in place of Joba, the bullpen would still be riddled with holes.

With what is out on the trade market right now and what the Yankees true needs are, there is no way to trade Joba and get back equal value without giving up more in the process.  Let's not forget that he's still just 24 years old.  Just because he's pitching like Kyle Farnsworth right now doesn't mean he actually is a washed up bag of shit like Farnsworth.

2) Should Joba be sent to the Minors to work things out?

Once again the answer is "No."  Yes, he's just 24, and yes he seems to have all kinds of problems with repeating his delivery, being aggressive, and maintaining a calm, confident demeanor on the mound.  But the time for Joba to be in the Minors has come and gone.  He's a Major Leaguer now and has been for 2 full seasons.  He needs to work out his issues against MAJOR LEAGUE competition because those are the guys that matter if he gets them out or not.

Sure, Joba can get sent down, work on his mechanics, and blow away a bunch of Triple-A hitters for a few weeks.  And I'm sure that will make him feel just dandy about himself.  But then when he comes back to the show, how do you guarantee he can replicate that success and maintain that newfound confidence the first time Vlad Guerrero gets ahold of one in the 8th and parks it off the facade in left field?

The only way for Joba to truly fix his issues is to do it against Major League hitters in Major League games and hold leads for Mo.  That's what he is in the bullpen to do, and if he isn't getting it done, then no amount of time spent beating up on Triple-A players is going to fix that.  I don't give a fuck if he strikes out every batter he faces in the Minors if he's just going to come back up to the Yankees and fall back into his old habits of not following through in his delivery and walking everybody and their mother to load the bases.

If he needs to fix mechanical problems, then get in the fucking 'pen with Eiland and work on them.  If he needs a kick in the ass because he's a lazy slob, then Joe should pull him into his office and chew him out or some of the veterans should get on him about his work ethic.  The time for coddling Joba is over.  The Yankees have fucked him up with the way they've handled him over the last couple seasons and now they need to un-fuck him at the Major League level.  Which brings me to my last point...

3) Should Joba lose his 8th-inning setup role?

Absolutely 100% "Yes" on this one.  We've seen it happen to pretty much every other reliever in the 'pen this year so why should Joba be excluded?  D-Rob was garbage early in the season and you saw him disappear from his 7th-inning role to pitching lower-leverage innings in the 6th and sometimes 5th.  Chan Ho Park went from key 7th-inning, sometimes 8th-inning guy to blowout mop-up duty now.

The sad truth is that Joba is pitching like shit right now and doesn't deserve the role he has.  When he's on the mound right now he doesn't hold the lead and doesn't give his team the best chance to win, and that's what being the setup man is all about.  He's giving up too many walks, too many hits (even if some are lucky), and doesn't provide that warm, fuzzy feeling that he used to coming in ahead of Mo.

Dave Robertson has been pitching much better of late and deserves a shot at being the new setup guy.  Joba and he should switch roles and Robertson should get a crack at being the bridge to Mo.  This move would actually help the Yankees on a multitude of levels.  It would reward Robertson for the good job he's done lately and possibly provide him with more confidence, it would give the team the best chance of holding close leads and winning close games, and it would allow Joba to work on fixing his shit in lower-leverage situations without going to the Minors to do it.

Being demoted in the first place would serve as the ass kicking that many people seem to think Joba needs to get motivated again, so there's one plus.  And even if it isn't in a 1-run, 8th-inning spot, being able to come in and shut down Major League hitters is far more valuable than doing it against Minor League guys.  If Joba can get his mechanics figured out, get back to locating his pitches better, and build a little more confidence as a 6th or 7th-inning guy at the Major League level, that's a much better result for the Yankees than waiting for him to get done in Triple-A and then hope he can replicate that success when he comes back.

So there you go, kids.  All your questions answered quickly and painlessly.  It's sad and pathetic that we still have to have these conversations about Joba after all this time, especially the ones related to motivation.  If you can't get motivated to perform as a professional athlete, then you have something wrong with you, in my opinion.  The Yankees can't fix what they've already done to screw up Joba, but the time for handling him with kid gloves has come and gone.  He needs to be removed from his setup role and kicked down the totem pole a bit, and forced to fix his issues in the Majors.  If he does, great, it gives the Yankees more bullpen depth moving forward.  If he doesn't, oh well, he will either get no meaningful innings in the postseason or lose his innings altogether to other guys who are pitching better and deserve them.

Still No 600

Well maybe I got a little ahead of myself on Friday when I all but guaranteed The Horse would crank number 600 this past weekend.  And obviously he didn't, but there's still reason to celebrate.

 (Photo courtesy of The AP)

All those lucky fans who were at the stadium yesterday got to see A-Rod rack up his 152nd career HBP in the bottom of the 8th.  It's not quite as awesome as joining the 600-HR Club, but there's still something to be said for a centaur that has been able to take that many shots over his career and keep on trucking.

So congrats, A-Rod.  You continue to break down barriers for professional athlete centaurs everywhere.

P.S.- Anybody who is concerned about A-Rod going into a homer drought because of the "pressure" on him to hit 600 can cram it right now.  Dude smashed the ball all weekend.  It's only a matter of time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

That's Strike One

At least as far as Sergio Mitre's chances of holding down the 5th spot in the rotation for Andy goes.

7 runs allowed, 5 earned, in just 4.1 innings?  That ain't gonna cut it, kid.  Especially not against the lowly Royals.

Now I'm not going to start sounding the Ivan Nova alarm just yet.  I'd be willing to give Mitre another strike before re-considering his role.  We'll see over the next week if the Yankees feel the same way.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Afternoon Mini-Linkapalooza

Just enough to kill some time on a Friday afternoon before everybody rushes home to hopefully watch The Horse make some history.

- Ben Kabak at RAB discusses the Yankee DH situation and how it's actually not as bad as everybody thinks.  Sure, the fact that the Yanks' collective DH numbers are above league average says more about how shitty the AL DHs have been this year than about how good the Yanks' DHs have been, but as Ben points out, they've still been winning.  Because of that fact, there really shouldn't be a rush to trade for a full-time DH or prematurely promote The Jesus right now.

- Matt at TYU comments on something Derek Jeter said to Chad Jennings about his approach and examines some of Jeter's numbers this year and how they indicate a need to change his approach.  I personally was a little surprised to see Jeter say something that dumb.  It's really pretty simple; if what you're doing ain't working, then you try something else.  Jeter is a pro, he'll figure it out and his numbers will be solid by year's end, but maybe his failure to change his approach explains his un-Jeter-like numbers thus far.

- Gary Wallace at NoMass has his midseason Top 10 Yankee prospects report up.  If I wasn't at work when I read this I totally would have masturbated to it.  I know not all of these guys are going to pan out, but it's still awesome to see all this high-ceiling talent back in the farm system.  It's a far cry from a few years ago.

- The previously mentioned Chad from LoHud has some interesting tidbits on A-Rod's homer history against the Royals that should whet everyone's appetite for this weekend.

- Justin at Seat Geek takes the 600th homer buildup a step further by trying to pinpoint where A-Rod's 600th HR will land.  God bless Justin for taking the time to calculate all that shit out, because I know I couldn't do it, nor would I want to.

And just in case anybody cares, given my tremendous track record of predictions, you can put me down for bottom of the 3rd on Saturday for when A-Diaz makes it happen.  2 outs, nobody on, solo shot into the leftfield bullpen.  Mark it down, bet on it if you can, and thank me on Monday.

Wait, Did You Feel Something?

What's that rumbling?  Is the Yankee offense starting to wake up?  Could we finally get to see everybody clicking at the same time?  A first look at the box scores might not support that point, but a quick look at the top 6 guys in the lineup over the last 10 games, even just a basic, non-sabermetric look, shows that the signs are there that everybody might be starting to get it together at the same time.  Observe:

- Derek Jeter: only 10 for his last 44 for a .227 BA with 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 10 R.  Nothing to write home about, especially for a hitter with a track record like Jeter.  But dig deeper into his last 4 games: 7-19, .368 BA, 1 HR, 7 R.  Jeter has come on these last few games, hitting the ball with more authority and being the table setter you want your leadoff hitter to be.  He's still not taking enough pitches and striking out a little too much (7 in last 10 games), but the contact he is making is much more Jeter-esque than what we've seen for the better part of the year.

- Nick Swisher: 15-44, .341 BA, 5 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 9 R.  Swish has kept on doing what he's done since the beginning of the season before the break and since the break, and has proved just as valuable as the number 2 hitter as he was in the 6-hole.  he continues to hit both for average and for power, racking up RBIs from the 2-spot and keeping the table set for the big boppers behind him.  After last night's game Swish has now scored a run in 8 straight games.

- Mark Teixeira: 17-40, .425 BA, 5 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 11 R.  Teix has been on an absolute tear for the  month of July (1.256 OPS) and if it wasn't for the still below-average season tripleslash (.261/.369/.475), his numbers would almost look in line with what we would expect from him.  The fact that he has more runs scored than ribbies is most likely a byproduct of Jeter's rough patch before the AS break and the fact that A-Rod has been mashing with RISP behind him.  Teix has inched his way into the top 10 in some major categories (3rd in R, 9th in HR, 6th in RBI, 2nd in BB) and is completely locked in right now.

- Alex Rodriguez: 12-41, .293 BA, 4 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 4 R.  People can say whatever they want about his injuries and his reduced power, but the fact is A-Rod is still putting together a very productive season.  The batting average is still down, but he is getting the hits when they count and doing his job as the #4 hitter by cleaning up.  Like Teix, his season tripleslash is down (.275/.347/.500), but all 3 continue to creep up and by season's end we should see him somewhere around .285-.290/.370-.380/.540-.550, which is much closer to his career averages.

- Robinson Cano: 11-38, .289 BA, 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 7 R.  He isn't mashing like he was in April, but nobody expected Cano to keep that pace up all season.  Bottom line is he is still doing what he's done all season long and what he was expected to do as the #5 hitter and that's produce.  Of his 11 hits over the last 10 games, 6 have gone for extra bases, which has helped drive in runners and create RISP opportunities for the hitters behind him.  Cano is also earning more respect from opposing pitchers, as shown by his higher count of pitches seen and more intentional walks.  Oh, and he's still top 10 in pretty much every major offensive statistical category in the AL.

- Jorge Posada: 9-34, .265 BA, 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 R.  These numbers don't look too sexy, but if you look at the numbers closer, they show that Jorge has done most of his damage since the AS break.  He's scored all 3 of his runs since the break and his both homers since the break.  Jorge has an RBI in 6 straight games, most likely due to Cano and his extra-base hits and intentional walks being right in front of him, and if he could get some help from the bottom of the order, maybe he would score a few more runs.  a 2.2/1 k/BB ratio isn't great, but what else do you expect when Jorge swings at pretty much every curveball in the dirt?

So there you go.  Good signs aplenty for all of the top 6 in the lineup.  With Granderson still up and down and Gardner in a mini-slump right now, these guys have carried the load over the last few weeks, which is what everybody expects them to do anyway and what the team has needed since the break with the way the rotation has struggled.

Perhaps the best stat of all has been the BB/K ratio of the 3 power hitters in the middle.  Cano has 7 BB to just 5 Ks, The Horse has 4 to 3, and Teix has 7 to 4.  Not only are these guys making pitchers work harder and driving up their pitch counts, but they're also making them pay for it at the end of the at-bat one way or another.  That's a lethal combination and is what was missing from these guys (mainly A-Rod and Teix) at the beginning of the season.

I'm not saying they've put all the pieces together just yet, but there's no denying that there has been more production from these 6 lately and that Yankees have won over the last week because of their offense.  So far this year they haven't had a time where there's been more than 2 or 3 guys hitting well at the same time, and earlier in the season one of those guys was usually Gardner.  If they can get 3 or 4 or 5 of these 6 mashing together, it could be a long rest of the summer for the competition.

And if they can get all 6 going, then you can pretty much wrap up the AL East and put a bow on it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

One More For The Horse

That's one more gallop towards history tonight for A-Diaz.  The Kansas City Royals don't know how lucky they are.  To get to experience such a monumental event at some point this weekend.

I mean, to be able to one day tell your grandkids that you got to see the first centaur in history to hit 600 career home runs on the day he hit his 600th is something all right. 

Lucky bastards.

The Yankee Family Loses Another

(Ralph Houk: 1919-2010)

Yesterday the Yankees lost another one of their own, as  Ralph Houk passed away at age 90.  He has the interesting distinction of being a member of the Yankees as a player, manager, and GM, and was a part of multiple World Series-winning teams.  I won't even pretend to know as much about Houk as others, so I'll just direct you to this post by Jay at Fack Youk, who does a much better job of telling Houk's story  than I ever could.

Godspeed, Major.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We Don't Need No Stinking Bench Help

 (Photo courtesy of The AP)

Colin Fucking Curtis!  How's a little mid-at-bat, down 0-2, pinch-hit, 3-run homer for your first career HR in Scot Shields' eye taste?  Congrats, kid.  Lord knows the Yanks certainly needed that insurance today with the way everybody pitched.

Let's see Jhonny Peralta or Adam Dunn pull that shit.

Things Could Always Be Worse...

... I mean I could be a fucking Mets fan.  Check this out from David Lennon's Twitter feed:

Yikes!  It's bad enough that the Mets are playing like complete dog shit right now, but they're also getting things stuck up their ass in the process?  No wonder nobody on that team can hit.  It's hard to generate any power on your swing when you're out there playing with a shredded rectum.

So maybe things aren't so bad.  I got the rant out of my system this morning, and now I'm OK.  The Yanks are still the best team in baseball, they're still leading the division by the same amount of games they were before last night, and they're doing it all without any kind of anal trauma and team infighting due to that trauma.  In other words, it's all good.  Woosah, woosah.

Free-Flowing Rant After An Ugly Loss

(Photo courtesy of The AP)

What the hell was that last night?  It was like there were ghosts in those Yankee uniforms.  2 runs in the first and then nothing after that.

What is the deal with the Yankees always being schooled by these no-name, first-time starting pitchers?  Those are the type of guys that the Yankees should feast on, and yet they always go out there and make these slobs look like Cy Fucking Young.  Seriously, Sean O'Sullivan?  Who the fuck is Sean O'Sullivan?  Dude gave up 2 runs in the first inning and then it's like everybody forgets how to hit.  The guy barely threw 50% of his pitches for strikes for Christ's sake!!!

And somebody needs to explain to me what the fuck Derek Jeter is doing up there at the plate, because it sure as shit ain't hitting.  You can practically plan your evening around his at-bats he's so predictable right now.  Every game you can pencil him in for a couple groundouts to short and a flailing strikeout at a pitch way out of the zone.  Fucking terrible.

Hughes was awful last night.  Couldn't locate the fastball, couldn't locate the change, and didn't throw enough curveballs (probably because he didn't feel confident he could locate it).  All of that adds up to not being able to put hitters away and that's exactly what got him in trouble last night.  You can't fall in love with the fastball if you aren't throwing it where it needs to be.

Paging Curtis Granderson.  Curtis Granderson, please report to the baseball diamond.

Are Chad Gaudin and Chan Ho Park trying to see who can get DFA'd first?  Lowest of low-leverage situations and they STILL can't get out of an inning unscathed.  I say drop 'em both like the bad habits they are and call up Romulo Sanchez this weekend too along with Mitre.

So far, so bad for the Yanks after the break.  This has been the exact opposite of last season.  They came into the break on fire and came out looking really inconsistent despite the 2-2 record.  They haven't had a good start yet from the rotation and the bullpen is still a fucking disaster.

P.S.- Joe, if you're going to get run, at least get your money's worth.  That was the softest argument I've ever seen out there last night.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Afternoon Linkapalooza- Replacing Pettitte Edition

- Mike Axisa at RAB breaks down all 3 options the Yankees have to look to in order to replace Pettitte while he's on the shelf.  While he doesn't come right out and say it, it seems like he was leaning towards the Mitre-Nova option.

- Mike's colleague, the incomparable Joe Paw, discusses the possibility of adding a Marlin or 2 to the mix.  I can't say I'd be opposed to having Ricky Nolasco as a replacement for a few months or Leo Nunez in the bullpen, I certainly wouldn't consider giving up top prospects for them.

- Lucas Weick at BBD makes a strong case for Nova getting the spot.  It's true that Mitre has been better out of the 'pen than as a starter; it's true that Nova has been solid in Triple-A this year; and it's true that giving him work this year better prepares him to compete for a spot in next year's rotation.  Not a lot to argue with here.

- Stephen R. at TYU examines the option of trading for Ted Lilly as a quick fix.  This one doesn't look so appealing to me.  Lilly's numbers are nothing to write home about, and with his lack of velocity this year, going back to the AL could spell disaster.

- Mark Feinsand tells us that no matter what the Yankees do short and long-term to replace Pettitte, at least it won't be Joba who gets the spot.  Thank fucking God!

- This quote from Cash to ESPN NY tells the whole story right now: 

"Right now, I'm not inclined to make a move.  I always prefer to fix things from within.''

Amen, Cash!  The bottom line is, it's too early to start getting worked up about what the Yankees have to do, need to do, are going to do about replacing Pettitte in the rotation.  They have 2 viable options in-house in Mitre and Nova and so they should get the first crack at it before everybody starts hitting the panic button and trading for rental players who may or may not be better options.  Mitre has held his own in spot starts and Nova factors pretty big into the future, so let's see what they can do, let's see how Andy's recovery goes, and let's all calm down, take a deep breath and remember that the Yankees are still 25 games over .500 with a 3-game lead on Tampa and a 6.5-game lead on the Wild Card.

Everybody say it with me now.  "Woosah.  Wooooosah."

Did I Jinx The Pitching Staff?

(Photo courtesy of The AP)

Seriously, check out what I wrote in Thursday's second half preview post:

"In the second half of the season, when all the bumps and bruises and soreness really set in for everybody, they might not be so lucky, particularly with their older players (cough, cough, Jorge).  The key will be keeping the starting rotation intact.  So far, that has been the only part of the team not to be bitten by the injury bug."

And so what happens this weekend?  A.J. goes all "wax on, wax off" on the clubhouse doors and cuts his hands up on Saturday, Damaso Marte gets put on the DL with a shoulder strain, and Andy is taken out of yesterday's game with a groin strain, which was later diagnosed as a Grade 1 strain that will have him on the shelf for at least a month.

I just don't understand how I could have possibly jinxed them.  I even wrote "knock on wood" after writing that little blurb and a literally did knock on my desk as I wrote it.  Doesn't that automatically cancel out any bad karma, evil vibes, and the Dark Side of the Force?  Sure, A.J. will probably make his next start, but with the way he pitched on Saturday that might not be a good thing.  Thank God that Sergio Mitre is off the DL and can step in for Andy while he's out (I can't believe I'm saying that).

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go consult my Tarot cards and see if I can switch the target of my new-found dark powers and put a hex on Kevin Youkilis.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Oh Really, Tim?

(Video used courtesy of NYY Stadium Insider)

Yes, that is Tim McCarver comparing the Yankee front office to Nazis during yesterday's game.  And yes, it is proof that he is still so bitter about being fired by the Yankees that he can't NOT go without trying to bash them in one way or another.

First, he took time on Tuesday during the All-Star Game to tell us all the story of the time George Steinbrenner was yelling at people in the clubhouse to turn off the volume of McCarver while he was commentating on the Subway Series.  What a way to honor George's passing, huh?  By bringing up a petty, stupid little story that McCarver has obviously held onto since it first happened.

And then there's yesterday, where McCarver spent pretty much the entire top of the 4th inning ranting and raving about how the Yankees have treated Joe Torre since he was let go.  According to McCarver, the Yankees should have already retired his number, put his plaque up in Monument Park, and renamed the Stadium "Joe Torre Stadium."  Newsflash, Tim.  Torre is still actively managing!!  He is a competitor right now.  I imagine it would be a little difficult for Joe to make travel arrangements for all these ceremonies when he's busy managing his own team.  Let's give it a few years and let Joe retire before we start bashing the organization for what they haven't yet done for him.

Anybody who thinks the Yankees aren't going to honor Joe Torre is a moron.  The guy did more for the organization over the 90s and 2000s than anybody and everybody within the higher-up levels of the Yankee brass knows that.  Surely McCarver knows this also, he just can't get over his firing before the creation of the YES Network.  He's so salty about that and the fact that he's sitting next to Joe Buck every Saturday afternoon instead of Michael Kay that he takes every opportunity he can to bash the organization.  It would almost be funny if it wasn't so pathetic.

Just relax, Tim.  Shut the fuck up and calm the fuck down and let it go.

Or keep running your mouth and risk having Hank and Hal kidnap you one night in your sleep and throw you in the gas chamber.

Man Vs. Door

(Photo courtesy of The AP)

It was already a shitty day for A.J. yesterday through 2 innings.  He was missing his spots, hitting batters, uncorking wild pitches, and giving up home runs to the number 9 hitter in the Rays lineup.  But then an even bigger nemesis reared its ugly head after the 2nd inning.

That's right.  The dreaded clubhouse door.  The evil cousin of the clubhouse wall that Kevin Brown broke his hand on way back when.  Yesterday it was up to its dastardly tricks, applying cuts to A.J.'s hand as he tried to push his way through them.  Yes sir, those doors knew exactly what they were doing, luring A.J. in to the dark side and then making him pay for daring to lay his hands on them.  I'm pretty sure they shot lightning bolts out of themselves to cause the cuts on his hands, a la The Emperor at the end of "Return of the Jedi."  The only sad part is that they didn't cut A.J. sooner, like before he even took the mound yesterday to lay another egg.

So just to recap, A.J. now has trouble locating his fastball, locating his curveball, pitching with runners on base, getting guys out, not hitting batters, being a professional, being a man, and successfully walking through doors without hurting himself.  And to top it all off, he lied to the team about it to try and cover it up.

Oh well, at least they didn't hit him on the way out...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Swish- ...

(Photo courtesy of The AP)


Somewhere up there, The Boss was pumping his fist triumphantly.  Perfect night for a walk-off win.

Interesting Weekend Upcoming

Last year the Yankees stumbled into the All-Star break by getting swept in the preceding series and found themselves 3.5 games back in the standings.  They then came out of the gate in the 2nd half on fire and never looked back.

This year was the exact opposite.  The Yanks came into the break winners of 8 out of 9 (thanks, Joba) and 2 games up in the standings and tonight they open what could be a very big series against the team looking up at them, the Rays.  A 2-1 series either way and there's not much change, but a sweep by the Yankees and they are suddenly 5 games up as we head towards August, and a Tampa sweep has the Yanks a game back in 2nd again.  The team was clicking on all cylinders heading into the break, and there are plenty of questions to ask before they get back into the swing of things tonight.

How are the Yanks going to play after the break?  Can they keep up their momentum?  Will Teix still be as hot as he was at the plate before the layoff?  Is A-Rod's thumb OK?  Will Swish be fucked up from the Home Run Derby?  How much better is Mo's health thanks to the rest?  Can Curtis Granderson get a hit off a left-handed pitcher?  Will Joba be able to get through an inning 1-2-3 for a change?

The answers to many of these questions could have a huge bearing on how the series goes for the Yankees, and could be a predictor for how they'll play coming out of the gate in the 2nd half.  With the Red Sox still stumbling and bumbling and a grand opportunity presenting itself against the Rays to kick off the 2nd half, a fast start by the Yankees could put their competition way down and give them some breathing room for later on in the season.

One thing is for sure.  They have the right guy on the mound tonight to start things off.

How Does This Guy Still Have A Job?

(Photo courtesy of the Boston Herald)

Seriously.  6 runs in the first innings??  Come on, dude.  That is nawt what the Sawx fans want to see out they-ah!

A couple more outings like last night, though, and I think Wake may have secured himself a spot as the automatic pitcher for all future Home Run Derby competitions at the All-Star break.  BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Another Reason To Hate The Red Sox

Get fucked, Bill Lee.  Get fucked right in that burned out "Spaceman" head of yours with a rusty garden spade and then choke to death on your own blood.

Just another case of a whiny Red Sox pussy who couldn't just take his beating from the Yankees and The Boss like a man so he has to get his jollies laughing at George's death.  You'll be lucky to get a scroll line on the ESPN ticker when you die, Bill, so take your saltiness and your ugly hat and go suck a dick.

P.S.- R.I.P., Boss.  Feel free to strike this asshat down with your otherworldly powers from beyond.

The Yankees At The Break: Part II

The 5 Biggest Stories To Consider For The Second Half

1) Can The Team Stay Healthy?- The Yanks are 24 games over .500 at the break despite having Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, Nick Johnson, Alfredo Aceves, Chan Ho Park, Mariano Rivera, Marcus Thames, and Sergio Mitre miss some portion of time due to injury.  There have been more at-bats than you'd like to see for the Frankie Cervellis, Ramiro Penas, and Kevin Russos of the world and somehow they still made it work.  In the second half of the season, when all the bumps and bruises and soreness really set in for everybody, they might not be so lucky, particularly with their older players (cough, cough, Jorge).  The key will be keeping the starting rotation intact.  So far, that has been the only part of the team not to be bitten by the injury bug.

/knocks on wood. 

2) What Moves Will They Make Before The Trade Deadline?- Always one of the top questions to be asked when you're dealing with the Yankees, and one made even more important this year with the current state of the bench and the bullpen.  The Nick Johnson Experiment was a complete disaster, so a left-handed bat for the bench is a must.  And while there are plenty of options in Triple-A to help solidify the 'pen, you know the Yankees will never turn down experienced Major League guys with proven track records.  I wouldn't expect anything drastic at the deadline; probably a repeat of last year's Hinske and Hairston deals: 2 mid-level guys added for minimal Minor League talent to help boost depth.  One for the 'pen and one for the bench and I think we'd all be happy. 

3) How Do They Fix The 'Pen?- Given how thin the group already is in there with Mitre and Ace still on the shelf, the answer to this question may be the most difficult one to figure out.  As much as sending them down could help them get their shit together, Joba and Robertson aren't going anywhere.  Marte is the only lefty, so he stays too.  I think it's safe to say that we aren't going to see much of CHoP or Gaudin in any high-leverage situation, and probably even safer to say that were Mitre and Ace healthy, we wouldn't even be talking about CHoP and Gaudin as current Yankee pitchers.  The trade deadline could bring in some new arms, as could promotion from within (see: Jon Albaladejo, Mark Melancon, Romulo Sanchez, Royce Ring, Ivan Nova).

First and foremost, however, the guys that are still here need to start throwing strikes.  Too many walks has been a constant issue for these guys this season, especially Robertson and Marte.  Too many walks leads to too many runs, and with the number of bombs these clowns are giving up, they can't afford to put people on base.  There obviously isn't going to be a complete overhaul, so guys like Marte, Robertson, and Joba need to get back to the basics of being aggressive, attacking hitters, locating pitches down in the zone, and pitching from ahead in the count to set up their off-speed stuff instead of behind in the count where they have no choice but to throw a fastball down the middle. 

4) Who's Going To Pick It Up At The Plate?- We touched on the offensive down trend for many of the guys in the lineup yesterday, so now the question becomes "who is going to step up?"  Teix has looked much better in the last couple weeks and with a big second half could still drive in 120 runs.  A-Rod's power had started to come back before the All-Star break, but he still needs to get the average up.  And Jeter has been hitting the ball harder the last few weeks, although his trademark patience at the plate is still nowhere near where it should be.

You'd like to think that all 3 of those guys will have better second halves of the season, and if they do then the team should be in good shape, but perhaps the biggest question mark is Curtis Granderson.  He got off to a slow start, got hurt, and has never really gotten in the groove since rejoining the lineup.  Can he break out in the second half and start jacking triples and homers left and right?  Or will he continue to put up 0-3's and 1-4's all the time and get murdered by left-handed pitching.  Swish and Gardy carried the outfield load in the first half; they could use a little help in the second. 

5) What Will The Postseason Rotation Look Like?- Let's be honest, there's no way the Yankees aren't making the postseason this year.  They've had a hit-or-miss year at the plate as a team, they have one of the worst bullpens in baseball, and they're still 56-32 and chewing up their magic number faster than you can read this sentence.  So them making the show in October isn't the question.  What is the question is which 4 guys are going to make up the postseason rotation?

CC and Andy are obviously in, but the other 2 spots aren't as cut and dry.  When he's on, A.J. is one of the best in the game and he had a couple of great starts in the 2009 playoffs.  But he also shit the bed big time in Game 5 of the World Series and he's already been up and down this year, so you just never know what you're going to get.  Javy was the worst pitcher in baseball through April, but since then he's arguably been one of the best (3.23 ERA through June, already 2 great starts in July), which should grant him consideration.  But then you have to remember the horrors of 2004 and how all that could affect him because you know the media will bring it up.  And then there's Phil Hughes, who has been the 3rd-best starter on the team this year, but has never pitched a full season as a starter in the Majors and is working on an innings limit.  Obviously the team doesn't want to risk his future, especially if he shows signs of fatigue towards the end of the year, but if somebody else gets hurt or is pitching like shit, he could get the call.

So there you have it, folks.  In less than a day I've told you all the important stuff that's already happened this year and the important stuff you need to know moving forward.  And I did it all without having to refer to FanGraphs or Baseball-Reference once.  The things I do for you people.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Yankees At The Break: Part I

The 5 Biggest Stories From The First Half

1) Andy Pettitte's Resurgence- Seriously, who the hell saw this coming?  I know he was good last year, but with the additions of Hughes and Vazquez to the rotation, it certainly wasn't outside the realm of possibilities to consider Pettitte being the "real" 5th starter on the team.  Instead he has gone out and been the Yankees' best and most consistent pitcher from Opening Night to the All-Star break.  11 wins (good for 3rd in the AL), a 2.70 ERA (good for 4th), a 1.15 WHIP (good for 10th), and a .234 BAA.  Sure, if you dig deeper into the sabermetrics as some blogs have done, they will show that some luck has been involved in Pettitte's big start, but overall it has been his combination of still dangerous stuff and veteran savvy that has made him one of the best pitchers in the AL at age 38. 

2) Phil Hughes' Emergence- I think we all had high hopes for Phil after he won the 5th spot in the rotation, but I don't think anybody expected this kind of performance.  Hughes hit the ground running in April and May, going 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA.  And despite some rough outings in June and recently in July, his overall numbers are still solid across the board (everything comparable to Pettitte's except ERA).  His ability to work with his best pitches and manage a game have been the most surprising signs, especially after he worked almost exclusively with 2 last year out of the 'pen.  Hughes still needs to master his changeup and incorporate it into his arsenal, but for what has amounted to his first "real" season as a full-time starter, you can't be anything but happy with what you've seen from him.

P.S.- He's still just 24. 

3) Robbie Cano's Ascension Into Stardom- After Matsui and Damon left for greener pastures, the pressure was put directly on Cano's shoulders to pick up the slack as the new number 5 hitter.  And he hasn't disappointed.  Robbie was hands down the best player in baseball through April and May, putting up scary good, Triple Crown-caliber numbers.  He cooled down a bit in June and so far even more in July, but is still sitting at .336/.389/.556 with 16 HRs, 58 RBIs, 61 Runs scored, 115 hits, and 23 2Bs.  Throw in the Gold Glove-caliber defense and newfound maturity and consistency to his game and you are talking about the new best second baseman in baseball. 

4) The Bullpen Being A Revolving Door Of Ineffectiveness- Between the strong finishes from guys last year (Aceves, Robertson, Marte), the addition of Chan Ho Park, and the 8th-9th inning combo of Joba and Mo, the bullpen was supposed to be a strength for the Yankees for the first time in years.  Well things haven't exactly worked out that way, have they?  Ace and Sergio Mitre have been hurt, D-Rob and Joba have been shaky at best, and CHoP has been so fucking bad that it's inconceivable that he's still on the 25-man roster.  Mo has been Mo, but he is showing some wear and tear so there will be extra pressure on the rest of these clowns to perform.  It's only a matter of time before we start seeing some new faces coming out of those outfield doors in the later innings, because the fantastic starting pitching can't continue to be wasted by the horseshit bullpen. 

5) Offensive Woes- Cano has done his job to pick up the slack left by Matsui and Damon's departure, but if you look around the Yankee lineup he really hasn't had much help.  Free agent signees Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson have combined to do next to nothing in pinstripes, and Johnson is not surprisingly out for the year.  But more important than that has been the down years across the board to date for Jeter, A-Rod, and Teix.  You can attribute it to age and being banged up for Jeet and The Horse, but Teix has no excuse.  He has been MIA all season up until about 2-3 weeks ago.  Pleasant surprises from Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner have helped ease the sting of these others' underperformance so far.  But it does make you think how many more games the Yanks could have won with the offense firing on all cylinders. 

**Coming Up Tomorrow- The 5 Biggest Potential Stories For The Second Half**

Honoring The Boss

Here is the patch the team will wear to honor George Steinbrenner for the rest of the season.

Official statement from the Yankees, via LoHud:

"The Steinbrenner commemorative patch will be worn above the interlocking NY on the left breast of the Yankees’ home jerseys and above the letters “YORK” on the left breast of the Yankees’ road uniforms. Both locations are over the heart."

There will also be a commemorative patch to honor Bob Sheppard.  As soon as I see a picture of that one, it'll be on here.  Check out more reactions to The Boss' passing from past and present members of the Yankee family and those outside of it here at LoHud.

**UPDATE: 12:13PM** - Here is the Sheppard patch:

How The Yankees Fared At The All-Star Game

It was an up and down night for the 8 Bombers who were on the roster.  Here's how everybody's night went:

- Derek Jeter: started at SS, batted 2nd, and went 1-2 with a walk and a clean game in the field in 6 innings of play.  He walked off of Ubaldo Jimenez in the 1st inning, struck out looking against Josh Johnson in the 3rd, and singled off Roy Halladay in the 6th.  One of the few AL players who didn't look completely overmatched at the plate.

- Robinson Cano: started at 2B, batted 8th, and went 0-1 with a sac fly that could have been a double or a homer if he got a little better wood on it, and an RBI in 5 innings of play.  Cano also bobbled 2 balls hit to his left in the field, turning one into an out and failing to make a play on a diving attempt that was ruled a hit.

- Andy Pettitte: Pitched a scoreless 3rd inning after David Price worked the first 2, and worked quickly and efficiently, striking out Andre Ethier and Corey Hart swinging and getting Hanley Ramirez to ground into a fielder's choice after allowing a base hit to Yadier Molina.  Andy threw just 9 pitches, 8 for strikes, and his inning of work was shorter than most of FOX's commercial breaks last night.

- Phil Hughes: Hughes started the bottom of the 7th for the AL, and after getting Joey Votto to ground out to 2nd, allowed 2 consecutive singles to Scott Rolen and Matt Holliday to put runners on the corners with 1 out.  When Matt Thornton allowed Brian McCann's bases-clearing 2B later in the inning, Hughes was tagged with the first 2 runs and took the loss.  He wasn't awful with his stuff, but did catch a little too much of the plate with his pitches to Rolen and Holliday.

- Nick Swisher: Pinch hit for Ty Wigginton in the bottom of the 7th and struck out swinging against Adam Wainwright.  Swish never got to play in the outfield as his spot in the order was replaced by Adrian Beltre in the top of the 8th.

- CC Sabathia: Not available after pitching in the Yanks' last game before the break, CC probably spent most of the night chatting and cheering with guys in the dugout and eating his fair share of assorted seeds and gum.  Don't forget about the few cups of Gatorade too.  Dude's gotta stay hydrated.

- Mariano Rivera: Also not available because of lingering bumps and bruises, Mo most likely spent his night the same way CC did, with the added bonus of teaching the other AL guys in the bullpen how to walk on water, cure cancer, and balance the federal budget.

- Alex Rodriguez: In what had to be one of the strangest managerial decisions of the night, The Horse was the lone AL position player to not make it into the game.  Joe did plenty of mixing and matching with pinch hitters and replacement fielders to try to get everybody in and yet, bottom 9th, here's A-Rod still riding the pine.  There was an opportunity for him to pinch run for Big Sloppi or pinch hit for John Buck or Ian Kinsler, but Joe had already painted himself into a corner with his roster and couldn't afford to lose either of those 2 if the game ended up being tied after 9.

Joe's curious decision does open the door for speculation about A-Rod's health, but I wouldn't read too much into it.  I think it was just a case of Joe getting too cute with the lineup card, trying to get everybody their participation trophy, and leaving himself up that old creek without a paddle.  Unfortunately The Horse was the one that had to suffer because of it.

FOX did a nice job of honoring George Steinbrenner as well, so all in all it wasn't a bad night for the Yankees, losing home field advantage for the World Series they will inevitably make aside.  It will be curious to see the reaction today around the blogosphere about A-Rod's benching.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

George M. Steinbrenner III: More Than Just An Owner

(George M. Steinbrenner III: 1930-2010)

Ask any baseball fan from anywhere in the country what he or she thinks of George Steinbrenner and you are bound to get a multitude of responses ranging from people acknowledging his greatness and desire to win to people just flat out calling him an asshole.  And regardless of what each person said, there would be bits of truth in each of their responses.  George M. Steinbrenner III was many things to many different people.  But two things that he always was and should always be remembered as are a winner and a Yankee.

When Steinbrenner took over as owner of the Yankees in 1973, they had fallen from being the gold standard of baseball to a borderline laughingstock.  After vowing to stay out of the way of baseball operations and "stick to building ships," Steinbrenner dove headfirst into rebuilding the organization as he saw fit in order for it to re-assume its rightful place atop the baseball world.  Perhaps partially due to his intense desire to appeal to his father (something that any man can relate to), or perhaps partially due to his own natural intensity and desire to be the best, or perhaps due to a combination of both, Steinbrenner was relentless in his pursuit of excellence and desire to restore the Yankee tradition.  And it was that drive and that determination that helped bring the Yankees to where they are today.

Of course there were some bumps in the road along the way; the early tyrannical approach which with Mr. Steinbrenner ran the team, the almost constant hiring and firing of managers, the public spats with Billy Martin and Dave Winnfield, the 2 suspensions.  But along the way, Steinbrenner never lost focus on his ultimate goal for the team and never stopped working towards that goal.  Certainly one can argue that the means used by Steinbrenner to achieve the end were questionable at times, but it cannot be argued that Steinbrenner did what he did out of love for his team and his never-ending desire to see it succeed.

As an owner, he was more committed to the success of his organization than anybody in sports history, and when you look around the professional sports landscape today there are many owners that you simply cannot say that about.  Some are in it for the money, some are in it for the recognition, and some are just in it for the hell of it because they're already so filthy rich that they have nothing better to spend their money on.  Steinbrenner was in it for the winning.  He understood that with winning came money.  With winning came recognition.  Even in his later years, before giving up control of the Yankees to Hank and Hal, Steinbrenner was still one of the last few owners who truly "got it."

But George Steinbrenner was more than just a great owner.  He was a revolutionary.  His dogged pursuit of the biggest and best free agents and his willingness to pay them exorbitant amounts of money to come play in New York not only changed baseball, but changed the way contracts and free agency were handled across the spectrum of major professional American sports.  Teams took notice of what Steinbrenner was doing and had no choice but to adapt and offer players more money if they hoped to keep them and hoped to compete with the Yankees.  And while not all of his moves worked out to the Yankees' benefit (see: the mid-2000s), they still resounded throughout the sport by constantly setting the bar that other teams had to achieve to remain competitive and relevant.  You could argue that George Steinbrenner is single-handedly responsible for every major, big-money contract that a professional athlete has received since the 1970s or 1980s.  Without Steinbrenner upping the ante in the world of free agency, there likely would have been no ESPN special for LeBron James' "Decision" last week.

Steinbrenner became such a major figure in the baseball and sports world that he was able to expand his own star outside of that realm.  He became a national celebrity for being nothing more than who and what he was.  He appeared in commercials with Billy Martin and Derek Jeter.  He has hosted "Saturday Night Live."  He was spoofed on "Seinfeld."  And eventually his reputation, fair or not, became so widely known that he was called simply "The Boss" and people knew who was being referred to.

At his core, though, George Steinbrenner was just a hard-working business man with an unquenchable desire to win and succeed.  It's fitting that a man so driven to achieve his goals was born on the 4th of July.  Amongst Yankee legends like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Munson, and Jeter, George Steinbrenner stands on par with all of them, perhaps the truest representation of the Yankee tradition and what it means to be a Yankee.  He took a modest $8.7 million investment in a scrambling franchise and turned it into a multi-billion dollar empire that has achieved not only national, but international prominence and recognition and he did it his way.

Those who truly know Steinbrenner, either personally or professionally, would probably tell you that many of the horror stories you hear about him were not a true representation of who he was as a person.  And there are many stories of his loyalty and generosity to those around him and to charitable organizations.  Steinbrenner was no cartoon villain, he was a human being, with flesh and blood and a heart as big as anyone's.  And he put every ounce of energy into building the Yankee organization back up into what it is today.  The Yankees organization and every Yankee fan and player since 1973 owes a great deal of gratitude to George Steinbrenner for what he did and what he brought to them.  He was and is one of the greatest Yankees of all time and he will be greatly missed.

More On The Boss' Passing

Here's the best of some of what's already out about the passing of the greatest owner in the history of professional sports:

- Jason at It's About The Money... has a collection of The Boss' greatest quotes.  Some are humorous, some are heartfelt.  All of them capture what George was all about.

- Chad at LoHud has some details on Mayor Bloomberg's comments on George's passing.

- William Nack wrote a wonderful piece on George's life for, covering everything from his upbringing to his colorful history as the Yankee owner.  Truly the best retrospective I've read so far today.

I'll be back later today to pay my literary respects...

Statement From The Steinbrenner Family

“It is with profound sadness that the family of George M. Steinbrenner III announces his passing.  He passed away this morning in Tampa, Fla., at age 80. He was an incredible and charitable man. First and foremost he was devoted to his entire family – his beloved wife, Joan; his sisters, Susan Norpell and Judy Kamm, his children, Hank, Jennifer Jessica and Hal; and all of his grandchildren. He was a visionary and a giant in the world of sports. He took a great but struggling franchise and turned it into a champion again.”

So there you have it, Yankee fans.  He's really gone.  Even though it was common knowledge that The Boss wasn't doing well over the last couple years, it still doesn't seem real to think about him actually being gone...

Steinbrenner Passes Away At 80

According to a Daily News report, George Steinbrenner died at 6:30AM this morning in Tampa.  Apparently he was rushed to the hospital last night after suffering a massive heart attack and doctors could not revive him.

More to come on this sad story...

** UPDATE- 9:05AM**- According to the NYT's Ben Shpigel, the Steinbrenner family has confirmed the death.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Give 'Em Hell, Swish

(Photo courtesy of The AP)

Good luck to Swish in the HR Derby tonight. Will he have first-time jitters and be out after the first round?  Or can he get in a groove and make it interesting?

Personally, I don't think Swish has a chance tonight.  If he can keep the kind of quieter, compact swing he's had so far this year like in the picture above from his bomb on Saturday, he could be OK.  But I see him being a little too excited tonight, trying to swing a little harder than usual and tiring himself out.  But hey, maybe this reverse jinx will work and he can pull one out.  In any case, you know he's going to be entertaining.  ESPN would be crazy to not have him mic'd up all night.

Good luck, Swish.  Do Yankeeland proud tonight!

A Jam-Packed Joba-riffic Linkapalooza

(Photo courtesy of The AP)

Joba sucked again this weekend, what else is new?  At this point he's become nothing more than a glorified Kyle Farnsworth: a guy with all the stuff and talent in the world on paper who just can't go out and consistently get the job done.  Fastballs up in the zone, sliders dropping over the heart of the plate, and never a sign of any ability to adjust, adapt, or re-focus and buckle down.  Is this what Joba has become?  Is this what he's going to be for the rest of the season/ his career?  Was he just a flash in the pan?  All valid questions at this point, and all questions that nobody seems to have the definitive answer to.  But damn if we aren't going to try.  Here's what some of the buzz around the blogosphere was after his latest meltdown.

- Mark Feinsand had a little write-up in his blog with some comments from Joe on Joba's situation.  Just typical coachspeak from Joe on that one.  But really, what else do you expect him to say?

- Kevin Rozell from Zell's had plenty of questions related to Joba, ranging from how the Yankees should go about replacing him as the 8th-inning guy to the very simple (and very smart) question of "has the league just figured Joba out?"

- JMK at RAB looked at Joba's inconsistency and even re-visited every game in which Joba has allowed a run this season.  While it's true that he has had some bad luck, like JMK said, it's what Joba has done AFTER the bad luck that has hurt him and the team this year.  2 other points from this post that stand out:

1) Joba's tripleslash against splits with a runner on 1st (.132/.195/.263) vs. a runner on 2nd (.357/.438/.429).  The .333/.383/.429 overall with RISP is nothing to write home about either.

2) The bit about Joba almost always throwing fastballs 1-0, 2-0, or 3-0, and then almost always throwing sliders 2-2 or 3-2.  Along with not locating, being predictable on the mound will get you killed every time and it sounds like that's what he's doing.

- Steve S. at TYU had an interesting post yesterday stemming from a recent Girardi interview with Francesa regarding Joba's performance relative to the amount of rest he has had.  Girardi talked about Joba not being as sharp when he's had 4-5 days off and the numbers shown in Steve's post support that theory.  There are also some good breakdowns in here of Joba with varying levels of run support and leverage.  All of it points to how crappy he has been this year.

- Steve followed up that piece with another this morning discussing whether or not Joba should be sent down.  Included are words about his mechanics, flaws in his delivery, conditioning, and focus.

While some of his peripherals have been good this year (9.64 K/9, 2.79 FIP), there is no denying that Joba hasn't been very good.  The fact that there are so many different theories about what the real problem is is not a good sign because it shows that nobody in the organization, least of all Joba, knows what the problem is nor how to fix it.

In a perfect world, Joba would be sent down right now to work out his problems and maybe build a little confidence back up for those higher leverage situations.  He has all his options left, and he's still just 24.  The problem is that the Yankees don't have any better options in the 'pen right now to allow them to replace him.  D-Rob hasn't been much better than Joba, Marte is better as a lefty-lefty guy, And Chan Ho Park and Chad Gaudin just suck.  Right now Joba is the best of a shitty situation and that's why Joe keeps sending him out there.

What should happen is Joba should be moved down a bit in the bullpen rotation to work on correcting his issues in some lower-leverage situations.  But before that can happen, the Yanks need to bring in some new options to try to solidify the setup role for Mo.  Dustin Moseley is here now and that's all well and good, but CHoP and Chad need to go and J-Alba and Mark Melancon need to come in immediately and get their shot.  Stabilizing that role will give the team the option of reducing Joba's role without risking losing more games.  It would be a win-win for everybody involved.

So far the Yanks have gotten by just fine with a crappy Joba and crappier bullpen, but both need to be addressed before the playoffs because the Yankees proved time and time again against their opponents last year that not having a competent bullpen will come back to kill you.  Just ask Minnesota and Philly about that.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

To Hit Homers Or Not To Hit Homers

(Photo used courtesy of The NY Daily News)

Another story that I passed over from earlier this week was the Robinson Cano Home Run Derby fiasco.  Cano was announced as a participant early in the week and almost immediately there were stories and quotes floating around from within the organization voicing concern about his participation.  And sure enough, by Thursday it was announced that he would not be participating due to injury.  I don't know about you guys, but I could smell the bullshit coming from that announcement a mile away when Kevin Long started spouting offon Thursday about Cano's swing being affected or not affected or him becoming fatigued or not fatigued as a result.  Example:

“I would prefer that he’s not involved in it, but that’s not my decision.… It’s just an exhausting process. It takes a lot out of you. It’s taxing. You see guys come back after the home run contest and it affects their swing.”

“It’s not so much altering a swing. You know he’s going to try to pull the ball quite a bit. I don’t think it’s going to affect his swing more than it’s just going to take a toll on his body."

Well which one is it, Kev?  The swing or the toll on the body?  You can't say you've seen guys have their swing messed up and then say you don't think that would happen to Cano.  At least Joe was consistent in his statements to the media, citing concern over fatigue as his reasoning for not wanting Cano to participate, which is all well and good.  It's his team and he can make the calls.  Only problem was, nobody told Robbie he wasn't going to participate any more.  Here was Cano on Thursday:
“As far as I know, I’m doing it.  I saw it on the computer that I’m not doing the derby, but nobody has talked to me… They should have let me know something and tell me about what was going on.”

When he was told by the media of the reasoning behind the Yankees not wanting him to hit, his reaction couldn't have been any more correct.

“Why not?  First time in your career. Go out there and have fun. Why not? That’s the kind of thing that might happen once in your life. We take BP every day, and it’s not going to be a big deal.”

Now here's my 2 cents.  I agree completely with Robbie on this one.  He's enjoying the finest season of his career this year and has finally started getting the recognition from everybody in the media and the baseball fanbase as one of the best all-around players in the game.  It's his first chance on a big stage to be seen by a wider audience than just the Yankee fans who watch YES religiously, so why shouldn't he go out there and have fun and have a chance to put on a show for the fans who are finally starting to take notice of him?

As far as using the fatigue and wear and tear on the body argument, that's just nonsense.  Like he said, every player takes batting practice every day and that's essentially what the Home Run Derby is.  It's not like he has to go out and run the bases on every ball he hits and slide into second and third if he hits a liner into the gap.  He has to stand there and take easy swings at meatball pitches in the 70s amd 80s and let as many balls go by as he wants.

And therein lies the other argument against Long's statements.  Robbie Cano's swing is one of the smoothest and prettiest swings in baseball.  There is very little effort and very little wasted motion in his swing so the chances of him getting tired from taking many swings in a Home Run Derby are slim to none.  And even when he does hit home runs, there isn't much more force put into that swing than there is when he doubles the other way into the gap or grounds out to first.  So not only should there be no worry about fatigue, there also shouldn't be any worry about Cano's swing being messed up because it's so damn consistent.

Now we know that Nick Swisher is going to participate tomorrow night and there hasn't been any negative feedback on that.  So why for Cano?  If it were me, I would be more concerned about Swish fucking his swing up or tweaking something because he has a much more forceful, violent swing than Cano, but nobody has said boo about Swish participating.  Was it because the team put so much into getting him into the game that now they feel like they owe it to him to let him hit?  If that's the case, then why couldn't Cano participate?  Up until a few days ago he was the team leader in home runs and it would have been interesting to see what he could do in the Derby.

Bottom line is, the Yankees had no legitimate reason to not want Cano to participate.  They were worrying for nothing and went about it all the wrong way to get him out of being in the Derby, right down to holding him out of a game on the day they announced he wasn't going to participate with a bogus injury without even telling him.  I'm glad Swish is in the game and I'm glad he's going to participate in the Derby to give it a Yankee presence, but the fact is Cano deserved to be in the Derby, he should be in the Derby, and he should have had the right to choose whether or not he wanted to participate.

R.I.P. Bob Sheppard

The Yankee family lost one of it own today, one of its longest-standing members.

Bob Sheppard and his "voice of God" were just as synonomous with the New York Yankees as the pinstripes, the interlocking "NY" logo, The Stadium, Monument Park, and anything else you could possibly think of.  I still remember hearing his voice announcing the Yankee batters the first time I ever went to a Yankee game.  No public address announcer anywhere in any sport will ever have a voice and a delivery quite like Bob Sheppard.

Rest in peace, Bob.  You will be missed.

(Bob Sheppard: 1910-2010)