Saturday, August 31, 2013

Game 135 Wrap-Up: NYY 2 BAL 0

(Courtesy of the AP)

The Yankees got this hugely important weekend series against the Orioles started off right last night with an 8-5 win.  CC Sabathia wasn't very good again, but the offense picked him behind big hitting nights from Cano, Soriano, and Ichiro.  Every game is critically important at this stage and another win this afternoon would have been big.  The Bombers sent Ivan Nova to the mound as he continued to audition for a more important rotation role in 2014.  He was countered by Scott Feldman, one of the Orioles deadline pickups who's made a pretty smooth transition back to the AL and the meat grinder that is the AL East.

Game Notes:

- It was a very efficient start for Nova, who walked 6 in his last outing.  He gave up just 1 hit, immediately erased on a double play ball, and needed only 31 pitches to cruise through the first 3 innings.

- It didn't look like it was going to be as smooth for Feldman after he gave up a run in the bottom of the 1st on a pair of doubles by Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano.  He rebounded from that and worked the next innings hitless and scoreless.

- Nova continued to cruise through the middle innings.  He didn't give up his second hit until the 6th inning - a 2-out single by Manny Machado - and he immediately erased it with a second straight inning-ending strikeout.  68 pitches in 6 innings.

- The Yankees had chances to widen the lead with 2 runners on in the 5th and 6th innings.  A Derek Jeter GIDP and an Ichiro Suzuki flyout killed those chances and kept Nova's margin for error slim.

- Jeter repeated his double play to end the 7th, and it wasn't until Cano hit a solo HR to lead off the bottom of the 8th that Nova finally got an insurance run.

- Not that he really needed it.  Nova rolled through 8 scoreless on 89 pitches and finished off the CG SO by sitting down Machado, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones in order.  It truly was a masterful performance by Ivan.

Thank You, Joe

(Courtesy of the AP)

It took a while, but if last night was any indication Joe has finally figured out what he's got to do with CC Sabathia.  Sabathia was bad again last night, giving up 5 runs in 5.1 innings of work.  He gave up 3 2-out, run-scoring hits and an inexcusable 2-run home run to Danny Valencia in the 5th inning.  The offense got him the lead in the bottom of 5th and he promptly started to give it back in the 6th, at which point Joe came out to get him after just 86 pitches.  The bullpen gave the team a better chance to hold the lead and get the win they needed, and Joe made the right call to go to the 'pen instead of letting CC stay out there and "battle."  Good call, Joe.  Good call.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 8/30/13

College football is back, baby!  Love it.  Means the NFL is 1 week closer to starting and I'm 1 week closer to going home for Yanks-Sawx.  It's the 110th Harley-Davidson anniversary this weekend, which is a HYYYYYYUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE deal in the Milwaukee area.  With 100,000 bikers cruising around the area and concerts by the likes of Kid Rock, Toby Keith, and Skynyrd going on, I've already made the decision to barricade myself in my apartment all day tomorrow with a case of beer and the full CFB lineup on my TV.  The girlfriend is obviously psyched about that.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, el duque of It Is High... figured out exactly how many games the Yankees could afford to lose for the rest of the way and still have a realistic shot at the playoffs.  Suck on it, Marchand.

- On Tuesday, Mike Axisa of RAB made the case for why Monday night's start should have been Phil Hughes' final one of the season.  We'll see if Joe decides to rearrange the rotation this weekend.

- SJK of NoMaas put one last sad coat of perspective on Phil Hughes' season and his time as a Yankee starting pitcher.  Definitely not going to miss those.

- William Juliano of The Captain's Blog analyzed the rotation's month-by-month performance in 2013 and commented on how the poorer recent performance is hurting their playoff chances.

- Ben Lindbergh of Grantland looked back at Derek Jeter's defensive career with a breakdown of some of his best and worst plays.  Long read, but worth checking out.

- On Wednesday, Michael Eder of IIATMS/TYA identified the mechanical changes Andy Pettitte's made to fuel his recent turnaround.

- Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes wondered if the Yankees as presently constructed have enough to overtake their competition in the Wild Card race.

- Hunter Farman of Yanks Go Yard reopened the case on Mike Mussina's HOF candidacy with Moose set to be on the ballot next year.

- Rich Kaufman of Bronx Pinstripes reviewed Alfonso Soriano's career now that he's crossed the 400-HR threshold to see if he's worthy of HOF consideration.

- On Thursday, Chad Jennings of LoHud broke down the remaining schedule to give an idea of how the Yankees have done against their remaining opponents and what they have to do to make the playoffs.

- On Friday, Chris Mitchell of Pinstripe Pundits examined Ivan Nova's transition from groundball pitcher to strikeout pitcher.

- Jason Cohen of Pinstriped Bible broke down the numbers on Chris Stewart's passed balls to show one area where he hasn't been worth his weight in gold defensively.

This week's jam is "Albatross" by Corrosion of Conformity.  Sneaky catchy guitar riff and a tune that I think the Harley crew would enjoy too.  Closest I'm going to come to actually bonding with them this weekend.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

Nunez's MRI Clean, He's OK To Find A New Way To Get Hurt

The possibility of Derek Jeter being the only healthy shortstop on the 40-man roster no longer needs to be considered.  Eduardo Nunez had his injured knee MRI'd yesterday and the results came back negative for any tears or structural damage.  He's listed as day-to-day and for the time being the Yankees are covered as long as Jeter doesn't sprain or strain something else in the next few games.

More importantly than that, Nunez should be able to get healthy and back on the field in enough time to injure himself in ridiculous fashion one more time this season.  He's hurt himself taking a practice swing, he's hurt himself just running on a field, who knows what shenanigans will crop up next?  My money is on him accidentally kicking his batting helmet when it flies off his head running the bases, bruising his foot in the process, and then tripping over it and spraining his wrist when he falls.

Don't let me down, Eduardo.

(Courtesy of Pinstriped Bible)

Searching For The Cause Of Kuroda's Regression

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Hiroki Kuroda's last 3 starts have been decidedly un-Hirok: 15 ER, 29 H, 5 HR in 16.2 IP.  The timing of this extreme regression obviously couldn't have been worse, and the Yankees need their new ace to right the ship sooner rather than later if they're going to have even the slightest chance of making a run in September.  Before he can do that, however, the source of the problem needs to be identified.  A comparison of his last 3 starts to the monster 5-game run he had in July sheds some light on what might be causing the downtrend.

Ichiro Hitting The Wall Too

Let this be a lesson to all you pro-Ichiro Suzuki fans out there who were calling me a hater and giving me crap for ragging on the decision to sign him to a 2-year deal.  When it comes to late-30s, slap-hitting outfielders with no patience and diminished bat speed, I know what I'm talking about.  Ichiro's current batting line (.268/.301/.353, .286 wOBA) is almost identical to the .276 and .281 wOBA values he generated in his final year and a half in Seattle, and a lot of it has to do with the incredibly weak August he's had.

In 88 August PA, Ichiro is hitting .221/.239/.244.  That's a woeful .216 wOBA and 27 wRC+, just 2 BB and 2 doubles in a full month's worth of work at the plate.  I don't care who you are, what you've done, or how good you used to be, that flat out ain't cutting the mustard for 2 years and $13 million.  Reaching the 4,000 hit plateau is an incredible accomplishment and a testament to Ichiro's career greatness, but that greatness is in the past and the Yankees are still on the hook for one more year of this.  They made a decision against logic and the season-long sample size results have been exactly what the numbers predicted.

If Ichiro would just take a few more walks, he could maximize the value that his speed still brings on the basepaths.  He's shown no signs of doing that though, and the Yankees are going to be left to figure out how to get the most out of him.  If this minuscule production continues in September, there's no way Ichiro can be an everyday outfielder next year.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Looking At The Roster Expansion Call-Up Candidates

In less than 3 days the regular season will move into its final month, and with the calendar page flip will come the yearly expansion of the active rosters.  The Yankees, unsurprisingly still battling a ton of injuries and still looking to make any marginal upgrade they can to improve their playoff chances, figure to be one of the teams most likely to call up a lot of players.  At least on paper they do.  There are plenty of players who could help the Yankees in some capacity down the stretch, it's just that so many of them happen to be among the injured.  I know, ain't that a B?  There really isn't as much available on the current 40-man as you might think, so here's a quick preview of who will, may, and may not get called up to the show this Sunday.

A-Rod First To Home? Do It

(Courtesy of

Rob, what's the deal?  Did your forget who was rounding third base last night?  Do you see how far away he is from the plate when the ball is practically in the catcher's glove already?  Come on, guy.  Alex Rodriguez wasn't going 1st to home last night on a Vespa and you waved him home like he was Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez in his prime.

Not sending Ichiro when he more than likely would have scored; sending A-Rod when there wasn't a snowball's chance he was going to score.  Can we clean it up a little in that third base coach's box, Rob?  This team has a hard enough time scoring runs as it is without you mangling your send/hold decisions.

P.S.- Did I just nitpick a minor in-game, heat-of-the-moment coaching decision in what ended up being a 5-run loss?  You bet your ass I did.  Nobody escapes the watchful AB4AR eye.

Game 133 Wrap-Up: TOR 7 NYY 2

(Good send, Rob... Courtesy of the AP)

Well that was ugly.  With Robinson Cano out of the lineup for the first time since 2012 and a struggling Hiroki Kuroda on the mound, the Yankees needed to win last night to save this series and avoid heading home to face the O's with the lights dimming on their postseason hopes again.  They didn't do that.  They didn't even come close.  Whether it's regression or fatigue or injury, Kuroda has nothing right now and he had nothing last night.  The game was out of reach before it really got going and the Yanks head into today's off-day needing to regroup.

Game Notes:

- The early signs from Kuroda were not positive.  He was missing up in the zone with his sinker and out of the zone with his splitter and he needed 30 pitches to get out of the 1st inning with 4 runs on the board.  A cross-up between he and Chris Stewart and a subsequent Stewart throwing error on a strikeout led to 2 of the runs and one of the more Bennie Hill music-worthy moments of the season.

- Edwin Encarnacion took Kuroda deep for a 2-run shot in the 2nd, a pair of singles and a sac fly notched a run in the 3rd, and it was 7-0 Jays.  There was really no reason for Kuroda to be in the game anymore at that point.

- Yanks had their best chance to make a game out of it in the top of the 4th when a pair of walks and an Alex Rodriguez single put runners on the corners with no outs and a run in.  Mark Reynolds plated a second run with a double but a dumb call by Rob Thomson to send A-Rod home from first backfired and stalled the inning.

- There wasn't much else to talk about after that.  The Yankee lineup was overmatched by Toronto starter Todd Redmond and his bullpen buddies.  They didn't advance a runner to second base after the 4th.

- Joe elected to let Kuroda work his full pitch and he got 2 more scoreless innings out of him.  Joba, Shawn Kelley, and Boone Logan finished things up.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2013: Year Of The HBP

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

I'm sure the immediate reaction in Yankeeland to watching Robinson Cano take a fastball off the hand and leave the game in the 1st inning last night was not a fun one.  It was a near identical flashback to the J.A. Happ pitch that broke Curtis Granderson's forearm in ST, and I for one was almost a little relieved that I wasn't there to watch it happen live as it would have more than likely led to me making some kind of mean comment about Happ getting hit with another line drive.  Chalk it up as another one of the rare times when I'm glad I live in Wisconsin.

Wednesday Afternoon Food For Thought

Already in the 2013 Yankee season, we've seen:

- Francisco Cervelli play second base and Robinson Cano play shortstop in the same game

- Vernon Wells play every infield position except short and get 1 start at first base

- Lyle Overbay play 4 games in the outfield for the first time in his Major League career

And after last night's injury scare to Cano, we can add "Mark Reynolds play second base" to that list.  He played the final inning at second last night as an injury replacement for the injury replacement, and naturally he turned the game-ending double play.  If you had any of those things picked as a prop bet before the season started,  you're a smarter person than I.

The Curtis Granderson Dilemma

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

There have been a lot of hitting headlines lately since the Yankees finally got their lineup upgraded to a competitive level.  Alfonso Soriano has hit 11 HR since being traded back to New York, Alex Rodriguez is a topic of discussion nearly every night and mainly because of his bat (.371 wOBA since coming off the DL), and Robbie Cano continues to shift the debate on what his contract should or should not be nightly with exploits at the dish.  Flying somewhat under the radar in that media storm is Curtis Granderson, whose been quietly productive and incredibly versatile since coming off the DL for the second time this season.

After last night's game, C-Grand is hitting .291/.412/.456 (.381 wOBA) in 97 August PA.  In 24 games back, Curtis has 23 hits, 17 walks, 3 home runs, 12 R scored, and 6 stolen bases.  He's started games in all 3 outfield positions and as the DH, has entered as a pinch hitter, and has hit 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th in the batting order.  He said all the right things before the season about doing whatever it took to help the team win when his center field spot no longer became his, and he's more than backed that up on the field since getting back.  In theory he should be doing everything to strengthen his value as one of the top free agent position players available after this season.  In actuality, it might not be that simple.

Andy Making A Late Season Charge

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

For the better part of this summer, Andy Pettitte has been more problem than solution.  The majority of his starts in June and July after coming off the DL were of the "5-6 IP, 4ish ER allowed" variety, and paired with the struggles of Hughes and CC helped hasten the team's fall in the playoff race.  His 7-run disaster against the White Sox earlier this month may have been the low point of the season, but after last night's excellent start it's looking like it also could have been the turnaround point for him.

Game 132 Wrap-Up: NYY 7 TOR 1

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Last night's game was probably the first must-win game of the season for the Yankees.  3 losses in the last 4 games, offense sputtering again, and nothing of significance gained in the Wild Card race in the last week.  They couldn't afford to lock up a series loss to the lowly Blue Jays after sweeping them in the prior series if they wanted to be taken seriously as a Wild Card contender and they had a guy on the mound in Andy Pettitte who's pitched in more big games for this team over the years than anybody in decades.  He's no longer the big game Andy of old, at least his recent performance didn't suggest he was, but last night he put a lot of his old tricks on display in holding Toronto down to fuel a comfortably quasi-blowout.

Game Notes:

- Before we get to Andy, how about those 1st inning fireworks??  The Yankees started off with a Brett Gardner double and Derek Jeter RBI single to take a lightning quick 1-0 lead, then J.A. Happ hit Robinson Cano in the next at-bat.  Cano had to leave the game, and things were tense for a few innings waiting on the diagnosis, but there were no breaks and he's day-to-day with a contusion.

- With 2 on and nobody out after the Cano delay, Alfonso Soriano stepped in and demolished a 3-run home run to left field to make it 4-0.  In the first 4 batters of the game Andy had a 4-run cushion.

- That cushion was more than enough for Pettitte last night.  He retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced and he had good life on both his 4-seamer and cutter.

- He put 2 runners on in the 4th and 5th innings, but worked around trouble with a couple of big strikeouts.  A pair of inning-ending GB double plays in the 6th and 7th and it was vintage Andy all over the place.

- The offense didn't need more runs, but that didn't stop them for tacking them on with too many home runs.  Soriano hit another to lead off the 3rd, Mark Reynolds yoked one to left to start the 6th, and Alex Rodriguez smoked on to center in the 7th.

- Pettitte left after 7 scoreless and Adam Warren handled the final 2 innings.  6 baserunners and 1 run, still rough going for the kid.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Yankees Running For Their Lives Lately

(Ballsy play.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

I guess things were going to balance back out eventually, huh?  After breathing life into their dying season with a 2-week stretch that saw them go 11-3, the Yankees have lost 3 of their last 4 games and looked pretty bad doing it.  The rejuvenated offense that slugged its way to 8 or more runs in 5 of 7 games has now scored 3 or less in 4 straight, 5 or less in 7 straight, and times are starting to get desperate.  The Yankees are damn near must-win territory for the rest of their 31 remaining games and it's starting to show in how Joe manages the offense during this offensively lean stretch of games.  Suddenly the Yankees have become one of the biggest base stealing teams in baseball.

Seriously, When Is Austin Romine Going To Get The Starting Catcher Job?

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It's been a little over a month since I pointed out the turnaround in Austin Romine's offensive game.  He started putting things together at the plate in July and finished with a stellar .333/.385/.500 batting line (.385 wOBA) in 26 plate appearances.  That performance has earned him a little more playing time in August - 37 PA in 10 games - and he hasn't missed a beat production-wise, hitting .310/.417/.448 (.381 wOBA) this month.  What's strange is that the dramatic increase in production at the plate has not earned Romine the same dramatic increase in PT.  The bulk of the work is still going to Chris Stewart, even as the trends for he and Romine are moving in completely different directions.

Jeter's Latest Return Goes Mostly Unnoticed

Was it just me or was Derek Jeter's return to the lineup last night not even a blip on the radar?  Other than typing his last name into the batting order, I didn't even think about him in terms of having an impact on the game.  Jeter made it easy to not be considered, going 0-3 at the plate with a walk, strikeout, and GIDP and not doing anything noteworthy defensively for better or worse.  The best thing you could say about last night is at least Jeter came through the game healthy.  That's how low the bar has been set for him.

After 3 attempted comebacks, the novelty of Jeter returning has worn off.  This entire season has been a wasted one for him - he's played more MiL rehab games than Major League games - and the bigger concern now is how this lost season and the nonstop leg issues will affect him in 2014.  Expecting Jeter to provide a boost to the team is almost empty hope at this point and that was more apparent last night than in any of his other previous comeback attempts.  If he can manage to finish the season on the field and not the DL, that's about the best we can hope for.

Game 131 Wrap-Up: TOR 5 NYY 2

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

The last time the Yankees faced R.A. Dickey, he was knocking Jayson Nix out for the year with a broken hand and getting taken yard late by Alfonso Soriano to mar an otherwise stellar pitching performance.  Phil Hughes was surprisingly effective his last time out too, so in theory something had to give last night.  Derek Jeter was back in the starting lineup and back in the #2 spot in the order behind Brett Gardner, giving the Yankees arguably the best 1-9 batting order they've had all season.  Crazy to be saying that in the 131st game, but this year hasn't exactly been business as usual.  What has been business as usual is Hughes pitching poorly and he got back to that last night to get this series started off on the wrong foot.

Game Notes:

- The Yankees smallballed their way to a run in the top of the 1st on a Brett Gardner leadoff single, a passed ball, and 2 groundouts.  They scored in a much more conventional way in the 5th on an Alex Rodriguez solo HR, his third since coming off the DL.

- In between those innings, Hughes gave up 2 runs of his own.  His command was back to its usual level, and too many runners on base (4 hits and 2 BB in 4 innings) allowed Toronto to capitalize in the 2nd and 3rd innings.

- Hughes created more trouble for himself in the bottom of the 5th, putting runners on the corners with 1 out, but it was Ichiro who really mucked things up.  For whatever reason, he mistimed his jump on a fly ball at the warning track and dropped it, allowing a run to score and runners to stay at the corners.

- Hughes never recovered from there, giving up an RBI double to the next batter and allowing another run to score on a sac fly before being removed with 2 outs in the inning for David Huff.  No leash for you!

- The Yankees tried to get something going in the late innings, putting a runner on in the 6th, 7th, and 8th and stealing more bases to get guys into scoring position.  They just couldn't come up with a hit when they needed to and went down without much of a fight.

- Give Huff credit where it's due.  He allowed just a single baserunner in 3.1 scoreless innings and struck out 5, preserving the rest of the bullpen for the rest of the week.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Jesus, Phil...

My thoughts exactly, Dr. Ian Malcolm.  My thoughts exactly.

When Is Joe Going To Shorten CC's Leash?

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

In a scene that has become way too common for comfort this season, CC Sabathia failed to protect the lead the offense gave him on Saturday.  In a span of 4 batters and 16 pitches to start the bottom of the 6th, Sabathia gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and a walk, turning a 2-0 Yankee lead into a 3-2 deficit from which they would not come back.  Sabathia had allowed just 2 baserunners in the 5 previous innings, and his pitch count wasn't very high, but the decision to allow him to continue in that inning was questionable at best.  He left a sinker up on the leadoff hit and the walk to the next batter was on 4 pitches, all either 4-seam fastballs or sinkers that missed.  It was clear CC had lost his command, and with the go-ahead run stepping to the plate and the Yankees needing every win they can get it was probably the time to pull him.

Kuroda's Last Start A Cause For Concern?

(Courtesy of the AP)

If there's one pitcher in the rotation who you wouldn't expect to give up 4 HR in a game, it's Hiroki Kuroda.  Yet that's just what happened on Friday night in what was easily Hirok's worst start of the season.  It was the first time this season he's allowed more than 5 ER in a start, the second time in a row that he'd given up 9 or more hits, and the first time in over 57 IP that he'd given up even 1 homer let alone 4.  His command of all his pitches was inconsistent and the Tampa hitters looked locked into him from the 1st inning on.  It was not the kind of start the Yankees needed from their new ace as they try to cling to playoff hope.

Gardner Showing Signs Of Breaking Down

(Happier (and healthier?) times.  Courtesy of the AP)

While the rest of the lineup has been either ineffective or injured, Brett Gardner has joined Robbie Cano as one of the most consistent offensive presences this season and has been the second-most important member of the lineup behind Cano.  He's been a fixture at the top of the batting order, getting on base at a good clip and hitting for more power than usual.  He's also been struggling a bit recently after putting together 2 really hot months in May and June.  Gardner has just a .632 OPS, fueled mainly by a sub-.300 OBP, this month after posting a .634 in July.  That, and an increase in the number of off-days Joe has given him suggests Gardner might be hitting the physical wall with 30+ games remaining.

Jeter To Return Today, Claiborne Inexplicably Will Be Sent Down Again

The good news: Derek Jeter is scheduled to make his return to the lineup tonight in Toronto.  He went 1-3 with a single and an error in 7 innings at shortstop on Saturday, completing a 3-game rehab turn that saw him come through with no physical issues.  He still hasn't played a full game at short, and hasn't played more than a few consecutive games, but the Yankees can't afford to wait as long as they probably wanted to with Jayson Nix now on the DL and the team playing without a backup infielder.  Jeter's return allows the Yanks to move Eduardo Nunez back to the bench and back to that utility role for the time being.

The bad news: Preston Claiborne is once again the 25-man roster casualty needed to clear a spot for Jeter.  Despite 3 scoreless appearances in 4.2 IP since coming back up, and despite Joba Chamberlain continuing to be the most unreliable reliever in the 'pen, the decision has been made to send Claiborne back down.  It's a bizarro world call for sure.  There's no value in keeping Joba on the roster anymore, not at the expense of better pitchers.  But whatever, at least The Captain will be back on the field.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Game 130 Wrap-Up: NYY 3 TB 2

(Yankee pitching star of the day.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The brakes have been put on the Yankees' turnaround in a big way this weekend.  They've been outhit, outpitched, and outmanaged by the Rays, and they came into this afternoon's series finale needing to get a win and salvage something from this series before moving on to take on Toronto again.  They had Ivan Nova on the mound, looking to get back to the ace-caliber performance he was turning in before he started to lose his command in his last 2 starts.  The command definitely didn't come back, at all, but Nova managed to keep the Yankees in the game and they managed to scratch out a much-needed extra inning win.

Game Notes:

- Nova put 4 men on base in the bottom of the 1st inning, 2 of them on walks, and an Evan Longoria RBI single gave Tampa the early lead.

- Robinson Cano got a good look at Tampa starter Alex Cobb's changeup when he singled in his first at-bat.  Cobb threw him another one to start off his second AB in the top of the 4th and Cano smacked it for a game-tying solo HR.

- Cano and Longoria drove their respective offenses as the teams traded runs in the 6th.  Cano doubled to score Ichiro and got thrown out trying to stretch at third base, and Longoria cracked a solo shot of his own to make it 2-2.

- Nova continued to walk batters as he pitched into the 7th, displaying little command of his fastball or curveball.  Like the last 2 times out though, he kept the Rays at 2 runs thanks to some timely strikeouts and double play balls before giving way to Shawn Kelley to end the 7th.

- The Yanks continued to put runners on base but never really turned anything into a real scoring chance.  The game moved to extra innings still tied at 2.

- Joe got 2 solid innings out of David Robertson to get to extras, then pieced the 10th together with Joba and Logan.  Alfonso Soriano doubled and stole third in the top of the 11th, then trotted home on a C-Grand sac fly to give New York the lead.

- It was "exit light, enter night" time in the bottom half and if you blinked you might have missed Mo's save.  6 pitches, 3 outs, game over, Yankees win.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Determining Nova's Role For 2014

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Ivan Nova picked up his 3rd straight win yesterday Tuesday afternoon and 5th since rejoining the rotation in late June.  For the second straight start it was more of a struggle for him than it had been in most of his previous outings.  He was just a touch off with his command in and around the strike zone, and with his transformation into a fastball/curveball pitcher that lack of command made him more hittable.  Last year a game like yesterday's would have ended in disaster for Nova.  As it is he put 11 men on base and gave up 4 ER, hardly eye-popping numbers.  He also gave all those runs up in the 2nd inning and recovered to pitch scoreless from then on into the 7th inning.  Considering the 2012 alternative, you'd have to call yesterday  Tuesday a good start for Nova.

Looking At The Remaining Schedule

A sweep of any division rival is sweet, but the Yankees got slapped back into reality last night in the first game of their weekend series against the Rays.  Beating up on the AL East doormat Blue Jays was a huge help in bringing the Yankees back into the playoff picture.  If they really want to stay in that picture, however, they have to beat the good teams in their division too.  Heading into the final 5 weeks of the regular season, they'll have plenty of opportunities to do so.

The Yanks have 34 games remaining this season, 25 of them against AL East opponents.  Only 10 of them will be at home, with 15 on the road, and 19 of them are against the Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox.  They're in the middle of a 16-game stretch against nothing but AL East teams and even after last night's loss they're still 6-2 in those 8 games, so they're off to a good start.  They've got 3 more against the Jays on the road and then 3 against the O's at home after this series, and if they want to keep moving forward in the playoff race they can't have more results like last night's.

6 back in the division, 4 back from the second Wild Card, and plenty of games against 3 of the teams ahead of them in those races.  The Yankees have done a great job dragging themselves out of their grave these last 2 weeks, and they now control a small part of their destiny.  If this is really a playoff-caliber team, they need to prove it against their main playoff chase competition.

Game 128 Wrap-Up: TB 7 NYY 2

("We should probably take you out, but you wanna stay in and give up another home run?"  Courtesy of the AP)

The Yankees were riding high on their way into Tampa.  Winners of 5 in a row, 6 of their last 7 against AL East rivals, and 11 of their last 14 overall.  But they were stepping into a zone of danger against Tampa starter Chris Archer last night.  After an uneven start to his season, he seemed to find his stride in July and August and he's been a big reason why the Rays have stayed at the forefront of the playoff race while dealing with a never-ending string of injuries to their starting rotation.  He's also already beaten the Yankees twice this season.  Joe stacked lefties at the top of his batting order last night to try to jump on Archer early, but the result was the same as it was the other 2 times.

Game Notes:

- Quick start for the Yankee offense.  Brett Gardner walked, stole second, and scored on a 2-out Alfonso Soriano single in the top of the 1st and the Yanks had a lead.

- Tough start for Hiroki Kuroda.  He was struggling with his slider command in the bottom of the 2nd and it got him into trouble.  With 2 on and 2 out, he hung a first-pitch slider to Jose Lobaton and watched it turn into a 3-run homer to erase the lead.

- The command never came for Hirok in the following innings.  He gave up 2 more runs on solo homers in the 3rd, a run in the 4th, and another in the 5th on his 4th (!!) HR allowed on the night.  He pitched 6 innings, but that had more to do with the 'pen needing rest than anything else.

- Much like the last time they faced him in July, the Yankee lineup didn't have anything for Archer.  He only gave up 2 more hits through the next 5 innings, one of them a triple by Gardner to lead off the 6th that led to the second Yankee run.

- A run differential of 5 or more runs in either direction means it's Joba Time and Joe used him wisely to bring this stinker home.  Naturally, Joba worked 2 perfect innings with nothing on the line.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 8/23/13

I'm just 2 weeks away from my Yanks-Sawx weekend series.  Officially time to start getting excited.  I can almost feel the sun on my face as I get my picture taken in Monument Park.  I can almost smell the poor and homeless people on the subway.  I can almost taste the $9 beer.  It's going to be an awesome time and barring a complete bed shitting by the team to offset this current hot streak, it might actually be meaningful Yanks-Sawx baseball with the added intrigue of payback for the A-Rod plunking thrown in.  Not a bad setting for a first YS3 experience.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, Mike Axisa of RAB took an early look at the potential call-up candidates when rosters expand in September.

- Hunter Farman of Yanks Go Yard made a case for why the Yankees should release Joba Chamberlain.  Even with Claiborne back on the roster, I'd support the move.

- Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes praised Joe for what he said following the A-Rod-Dempster incident last Sunday.  Lotta that goin' around this week.

- Scott Lemieux of Deadspin wrote a very interesting commentary on the A-Rod case and how it's blown up to comical levels of hysteria in the MSM.

- On Wednesday, Chad Jennings of LoHud unveiled the admittedly pretty slick Alex Rodriguez career timeline.

- Michael Eder of IIATMS/TYA broke down how Justin Morneau could fit into the current Yankee lineup.

- Matthew B. of Yankees Fans Unite commented on the positive contributions A-Rod has made on the field to help the Yankees get things going in the right direction again.

- On Thursday, Martin Riggs of NoMaas reminded everybody of just how filthy D-Rob's curveball has been this year.  Seriously, check out those numbers.

- El duque of It Is High... mused on the anti-A-Rod sentiment among the MLB players and wondered if Tampa would be the next team to hit him with a pitch this weekend.

- William Juliano of The Captain's Blog investigated the Yankees' history in day games after night games, a timely investigation after their series against Toronto.

- On Friday, Derek Albin of Pinstripe Pundits asked if Joe will want to come back in 2014.  It seems all but certain that the team will want him back, but I wouldn't blame him if he didn't want to deal with the effects of the payroll budget.

- Jesse Schindler of Pinstriped Bible examined the turnaround in the starting rotation's performance and how it's helped fuel the team's turnaround.

- SG of RLYW put Eduardo Nunez's horrific WAR totals to the test against the competition to see if he's been the least valuable player in baseball in 2013.

Coming in HOT for today's Friday Jam.  "The Safety Dance," Men Without Hats, right in your eyeball.  I don't think I need to say anymore than that.  Just drink it in.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

Hal Late To The Party Again With His Minor League Meeting Of The Minds

(Courtesy of Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Earlier in the week, Hal Steinbrenner made the news when it was reported that he called some of his baseball people together in Tampa to discuss the team's lack of upper-level Minor League talent.  The Yankees have been patching holes in their roster since before the regular season started, and they've used a fair amount of rookies as part of the patchwork plan, with little offensive success to speak of.

The Yankees not developing much homegrown talent is hardly a new talking point.  The last batch of real prospects was the Hughes-Kennedy-Joba trio that in a matter of months might all be on different teams, and the last batch of real prospects to stick and make a positive impact at the Major League level was the Core Four.  The Yankees being stuck between the marginally competitive rock and the 2014 payroll budget hard place has just as much to do with their failure to scout, draft, and develop Major League talent as it has to do with any of the other organizational missteps they've made in years past.

Mil Rehab Roundup: Derek Jeter Comeback Part IV Edition

The Captain was back on the field for a live game last night, going 2-3 with an infield single and a double and making an error in the field in his 5 innings of work at shortstop.  There were no reports on how he looked or felt after the game, but since there's nothing breaking on any further tweaks to his legs I'm assuming he's fine.

Neither Joe nor the team has committed to anything beyond another game with SWB today, and details on where he'll play and for how long in that game are not known at this time.  Joe has been pretty emphatic in his statements that Jeter will not be activated this weekend to replace Jayson Nix on the active roster, so I expect Jeter will remain with the Triple-A squad at least through the weekend to see how his body responds.  It's like a broken record writing about this rehab outings at this point.  We should find out more details on what the plan is for Jeter later today.

Game 127 Wrap-Up: NYY 5 TOR 3

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

With all due respect to the Dodgers, the Yankees have become the most exciting team in baseball in the last 2 weeks.  They've got the eye of the current steroid storm playing for them every night while holding the league trying to ban him for life at bay and trading barbs with his team in the media.  They've got the hottest power hitter in baseball in Alfonso Soriano.  They've got one of the best players in baseball in Robinson Cano playing like it again in the final 30-something games of his contract year.  They've got good pitchers pitching terribly, bad pitchers pitching well, Mo blowing 3 saves in a row then saving 2 games in a day, Ichiro reaching historic milestones.  They've got power, they've got speed, they can play some D every now and then, and they've got plenty of guys who can make you swing and miss.  And after this 4-game sweep of the Blue Jays, they're suddenly back in contention.

Game Notes:

- Very strong start to Andy Pettitte's night.  He allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk through 4 scoreless innings, and the only batter he failed to retire was Rajai Davis.  Davis bested him on 2 stolen base attempts, once because nobody was at second for a tag, but Andy was in control.

- He was matched by J.A. Happ, who retired the first turn through the lineup in order and worked around a double and a walk in the 4th.  It was Andy who blinked first, leaving a changeup up just enough that J.P. Arencibia could go down and hit for a home run to lead off the 5th inning.

- The Toronto lead didn't last long.  The Yankees struck back for 2 in the bottom half of the 5th thanks to a Curtis Granderson leadoff HR to match Arencibia and some shoddy umpiring.

- With the bases loaded and 1 out, Vernon Wells lined a ball to center that Rajai Davis appeared to catch.  Yankee runners got hung up when the ump ruled it not a catch, but Eduardo Nunez ran home in all the confusion and the run stood.  John Gibbons was understandably upset and was ejected.  Nice break for the Yanks.

- The Yanks plated 3 more the next inning on 3 straight walks, an Eduardo Nunez 2-run single, and a Chris Stewart RBI groundout.  Good to see the Yankee patience coming back.

- Shawn Kelley relieved Andy after 6 good innings and was a disaster.  He loaded the bases and gave up 2 runs to give the Jays late life in the 7th.  But the trio of Logan, Claiborne, and D-Rob was good after that, as D-Rob covered for Mo's day off again and closed out the sweep.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Alfonso Soriano Appreciation Post

(Gone.  Courtesy of the AP)

There was an understandable amount of negative responses to the Yankees' lone trade deadline move of acquiring Alfonso Soriano.  He was another player in his late 30s whose game had devolved to platoon bat status, he represented more committed money and roster space to the 2014 plans, and the Yankees gave up a useful prospect arm to get him.  They were desperate for right-handed power at the time though, and Soriano does have that in spades.  As a move to address an immediate and glaring weakness, it was the right move to make, 2014 concerns aside.  With what he's done in his first 3 weeks back in pinstripes, Soriano has given the Yankees everything they needed and then some.

Jayson Nix Out With Broken Hand, Shortstop Depth A Problem Again

(Tried to pull his hand out of the way and moved it right into the ball's path.  Damn knucklers.  Courtesy of RAB)

The one bad thing to come out of last night's win was the injury suffered by Jayson Nix.  In the bottom of the 2nd, he took a knuckleball from R.A. Dickey off the left hand and was in obvious pain instantly.  He tried to stay in the game, but signaled to the trainer after taking his base and was removed from the game.  It didn't take long for the team to announce that the hand was broken and Nix's 2013 is all but officially over.

Game 126 Wrap-Up: NYY 4 TOR 2

(Courtesy of the AP)

It was a potentially historic night last night at The Stadium.  Funny how those always seem to be happening there, huh?  Ichiro Suzuki entered last night's game 1 hit shy of 4,000 for his career, an accomplishment that has to be looked at with amazement and appreciation regardless of how they're split up between leagues.  Ichiro is simply one of the finest professional hitters in the history of this planet, and in his prime he was a joy to watch play.  He's well past that now, but even at 39 he can still show flashes every now and then with a 3-4 day or a perfect swing on a really good pitch that he drops in for a base hit somewhere.  A major individual milestone for him and another win against the Jays would have made it a damn good night.

Game Notes:

- Ichiro took a lot of the drama over his 4,000th out early with a single through the left side in his first at-bat.  1-1 pitch, just got his bat on it and lined it through a hole.  So Ichiro.  The whole team coming out of the dugout to applaud and celebrate the moment was pretty cool, and Ichiro looked genuinely touched at first.

- But back to the game.  Spot starter Adam Warren was "ehhhhhhh" in his 3+ innings of work.  He put a runner on base in every inning, gave up a solo home run to somebody named Josh Thole, and was removed in the 4th after hitting a batter with his 61st pitch.

- The Yanks got 2 runs off R.A. Dickey in the first 3 innings to take an ever so brief lead.  Austin Romine hit a sac fly in the 2nd that could have been a 2-run homer, and Curtis Granderson had an RBI single in the 3rd.

- After Warren left, David Huff came on as expected.  What was unexpected was how brilliantly he pitched.  4 walks doesn't look great, but 5 scoreless innings does and that's exactly what Huff gave Joe last night.

- Dickey was even better after the 3rd.  He gave up only a single walk from the 4th into the 8th and only allowed 1 ball out of the infield.  He was devastating.

- The Yankee kept the 8th alive on a Robinson Cano single, and Dickey made his last mistake of the night on an 0-1 knuckler to Alfonso Soriano.  Soriano crushed it for a 2-run homer and the Yanks had the lead.

- Joe saved the rest of his bullpen with Huff, but he didn't play games with the lead and went to Mo in the 9th.  Mariano sandwiched 2 strikeouts around a double and a pick off to notch the save and make it 9 out of 11 for the Bombers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Audition Of Sorts For Warren Tonight

Yesterday's doubleheader threw a little hiccup into the Yankees' current rotation order.  To combat that and give the older Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda enough rest between starts, Adam Warren will start tonight's game.  The rookie has worked exclusively out of the bullpen this season and has been on the wrong side of the performance curve since June, yet that did not dissuade the Yankees from keeping him on the active roster and available to make this spot start.

There won't be too much weight put into 1 spot start, especially when it's coming almost a month after Warren's last appearance in which he threw more than 60 pitches.  But Warren can start to lay down the groundwork for his 2014 rotation competition with a good outing tonight.  His only other career Major League start is last year's 2.1-inning disaster in Chicago, a memory I'm sure Warren would like to erase and get himself a fresh start as a starting pitching prospect.  There's plenty of opportunity for him to earn a spot at the back of the rotation next spring, and this is his best chance to get a head start on the competition.

Timing Is Perfect For Another Robbie Cano Tear

(Courtesy of the AP)

It was a great day at the ballpark for Robinson Cano yesterday.  He had 6 hits and 5 RBI in the 2 games, the biggest overall offensive contributor to the team's doubleheader sweep.  The strong 2-game showing continued a very strong 10-game stretch for Cano that has contributed to August being his best offensive month to date (.397/.481/.559 in 79 PA).  Robbie has 21 hits in his last 10 games (5 for extra bases), 7 R scored, 8 RBI, and more walks than strikeouts (4 to 3).  He's raised his season batting line back up to .308/.390/.510 and has dragged the Yankees back into the tail end of the playoff race in the process.  All signs point to another big Robbie hot streak on the horizon, and the stage is set perfectly for him to finish his season and head into free agency on a high note.

Still No Timetable For Jeter's Return

It's been another slow path back from the DL for Derek Jeter, who finally got into his first simulated game action yesterday.  He had been taking BP and fielding grounders, but hadn't yet run the bases after resuming baseball activities over a week ago.  That's always the big hurdle when coming back from leg injuries, and with as many as Jeter has had this year it's more important that he be able to do that than anything else.

Even reaching that step yesterday and coming through with no reported injuries, there's still no official schedule in place for Jeter's return from the DL.  He was eligible to come off on Sunday, when he still hadn't run the bases, and Joe wouldn't even commit to a plan for today for Jeter.  Now that Eduardo Nunez has returned to the lineup from his tight hammy, the depth situation at short is less dire than it was.  That gives the Yankees the luxury of taking it extra slow with Jeter, and even if it's a "too little too late" situation for this season, maybe it's the start of them just scrapping things and working towards getting Jeter ready for next season.  That would be the smart move.

It would be nice to see The Captain back on the field this season, and at some point he probably will be.  It would also suck to watch him break down after only a few games again.  Working him back super slow now that he's running again is the best path to take.

Game 125 Wrap-Up: NYY 3 TOR 2

(Courtesy of the AP)

A comeback win in the day and a comeback win at night, with the added bonus of it being a walk-off.  Great day all around in Yankeeland yesterday as the playoff odds improve ever so slightly again.  And what's this??  A decent start from Phil Hughes?  At home???  Now it was a really good day.

Game Notes:

- Rajai Davis created a scoring chance for Toronto in the top of the 1st with a leadoff single, stolen base, and moved to third on a groundout.  A Hughes wild pitch and he was running home to give the Jays the early lead.

- The Bombers tied it up against Mark Buehrle in the bottom of the 3rd on a Robinson Cano RBI single.  He was white hot in the day game and it carried over into the night.  Props to Austin Romine for singling to start the rally.

- Hughes was in and out of trouble for most of the night.  His offspeed command was shaky at best and he once again struggled to finish 2-strike and 2-out at-bats.  A 1-out triple and a sac fly in the top of the 5th gave the lead back to the Jays.

- In fairness, Hughes was much better than he's been for the majority of the season.  He pitched into the 7th inning, allowed only the 2 runs, and struck out 6 batters before handing it over to Preston Claiborne and the rest of the 'pen.

- Hughes pitched well enough to win, but wasn't eligible to pick it up when the Yanks tied the game on a Jayson Nix solo HR and put the go-ahead run at second with an Austin Romine double.  Couldn't drive the run in though, and the game stayed tied into the bottom of the 9th.

- Mark Reynolds did what he does when he's not striking out or hitting home runs and led off the 9th with a walk.  Joe sent in Ichiro to run, and he moved to third base on a sac bunt and a steal.  Nix came up again and drove Ichiro home for the walk-off win.  Talk about a picture perfect half-inning.  Just the way Joe drew it up.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Game 124 Wrap-Up: NYY 8 TOR 4

(Not too familiar with home plate celebrations eh, Chris?  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The Yankees are approaching the AL East-heavy homestretch of the 2013 regular season, and they've built some positive momentum with a 7-3 run over their last 10 games.  The lineup is once again MLB-caliber, the starting pitching has been better, and the team returned home this afternoon fresh off a series victory on the road against their biggest rival.  This 4-game series against Toronto is critically important if the Yankees intend to stay even remotely close in the Wild Card and they got off the right start in the day half of today's doubleheader with a solid win.

Game Notes:

- Ivan Nova struggled with his 2-seamer command out of the gate and got into a ton of trouble in the top of the 2nd.  After giving up 2 runs and getting 2 outs, Nova gave up a big 2-run double to Rajai Davis on an 0-2 fastball to make it 4-0 Jays.

- The Yanks got a big chunk of that back in the bottom of the 3rd when Brett Gardner and Ichiro each got on with 1 out, setting the table for a 3-run Robinson Cano home run.

- They took the lead in the bottom of the 6th in a most unexpected way.  With 2 outs and Alex Rodriguez on first, Jayson Nix worked a 5-pitch walk against Neil Wagner to bring up Chris Stewart.  After getting a look at 3 fastballs, Stewart hit the next one out for his own 3-run homer and a 6-4 Yankee lead.

- Give Nova credit.  He wasn't at his best today, and much like his last start he gave up a lot hits and had to work out of trouble with a few big double plays.  But he didn't allow any more runs and pitched into the 7th.

- Cano tacked another run on in the 7th with a ribbie double, his 4th hit of the day, and Brett Gardner drove in another with a sac fly in the 8th.  Joe tried to get cute with the 4-run lead and go to Joba, but he eventually smartened up and called on Mo to get the final 2 outs after Joba walked Davis.

Dempster Gets Five Games, Joe Fined

Major League Baseball announced its ruling on the Ryan Dempster-Alex Rodriguez incident today.  Dempster was suspended for 5 games and fined for plunking A-Rod and Joe Girardi was fined an undisclosed amount for arguing with umpire Brian O'Nora.

The Dempster suspension doesn't come as a surprise.  MLB had to do something to punish him for what he did, lest it become target practice on A-Rod for other pitchers.  What's disappointing is that, as is usually the case with pitchers, the suspension really doesn't mean anything.  The Sawx have a few off-days in the next week, pushing their entire rotation back to the point that Dempster won't even miss his next start when the 5 games are up.  If you're going to suspend a player, he should actually have to miss a game that he would have otherwise played in.

As is also usually the case, O'Nora got off without any punishment for his role in the plunking.  Dempster absolutely should have been ejected from the game and wasn't.  Once again the umpires don't have to be accountable for their actions and conduct on the field while the players and coaches do.  Unreal.

A Doubleheader Of Divergent Career Paths

If you're looking for a quick visual representation of the Yankees' organizational struggles when it comes to developing starting pitching, look no further than the 2 guys starting today's doubleheader.

Ivan Nova was an undervalued international signing.  He's been a low-ceiling starter prospect, better than advertised Major Leaguer, Game 1 postseason starter, back end rotation fodder, human batting cage pitching machine, Minor League reclamation project, extra pitching staff depth, and injury question mark all in the span of 2 years.  Currently he's the second best starter in the 2013 rotation and has gotten his career back on track with the transition to an exclusive fastball/curveball approach.

Phil Hughes was a can't miss, #1, mega-hyped American prospect, expected to be the future ace of the staff once the Core Four era was over.  He's pitched brilliantly at times, he's pitched inconceivably bad at times, and his career has been defined by his inability to consistently do the most basic things on a pitching mound that a pitcher needs to do to be successful.  He's been the worst starter in the rotation by far this season and as he heads towards the possible final weeks of his Yankee career he's watching his free agent value deteriorate with every bad pitch.

These are the best the Yankee system has generated in the last 5-7 years, and that's not saying much.  Things look brighter for Nova now than Hughes, but based on his track record there's no way to know how long this stretch of effectiveness will last and if it will carry over into next year.  We'll get another look at both of them today and another look at what could have been and what may still be.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Last Time On "As The Quad Strains"

Joseph accused Randy of sabotaging Alex's career:

"They rolled him out there like an invalid and made him look like he was finished as a ballplayer."

Randy called Alex out for hiding behind his lawyer, and challenged him to expose the truth:

"Alex should put up or shut up."

Alex tried to catch up on his reading:

"I've got to read the article first."

And Brian just didn't feel comfortable talking to Alex anymore:

"I don't feel comfortable talking to him. ... Hello, goodbye, and that’s it. Because anything else, I don’t want to be distorted, to be quite honest.”

What will happen next time?  Will Alex reveal his medical records?  Will Joseph expose Randy for his hurtful lies?  Will Alex get some time to check out that article??  And will Brian and Alex ever be able to repair their broken relationship???  Tune in next time to "As The Quad Strains."

Careful Not To Over-Rest Mo

(Courtesy of the AP)

Mariano Rivera made his return to the mound last night after a week off from action.  He hadn't pitched since blowing his third consecutive save last Sunday against the Tigers, and no, nothing was physically wrong with him.  After experiencing his first rough patch of the season, Joe elected to give Mo some extra time off after a somewhat heavy workload the week prior.  Overworking a 43-year-old baseball icon and risking injury to him would not be a fun way to finish Mo's final season, but to go a full week between appearances seemed like a bit of overkill.  After all, the only way a pitcher gets over command problems is by continuing to pitch and working through them.  Mo's recent struggles being command-based, it would have been helpful to get him some work prior to last night.

Yanks Still Owe Boston One With Two Series To Go

(Courtesy of the AP)

The buzz immediately after the Ryan Dempster-Alex Rodriguez incident last night was about retaliation.  Whether you liked that A-Rod got plunked or not, there was no denying that Dempster was way out of line in how he went about dishing his version of justice.  Joe Girardi justifiably lost his mind on Brian O'Nora when the warnings were issued without an ejection of Dempster and everybody knew somebody on Boston was getting plunked.  The ESPN cameras actually caught Joe saying it to whoever the third base ump was as he left the field.  It was just a matter of who, when, and what the end result of that was going to be.