"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: June 2005

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All-Star Jams

With the All-Star voting closing tonight at 11:59pm and the Yanks enjoying an off-day following a rain out, I though I’d share my picks.

AL

1B – Mark Teixeira
2B – Brian Roberts
SS – Miguel Tejada
3B – Alex Rodriguez
C – Jason Varitek
OF – Vladimir Guerrero
CF – Hideki Matsui
OF – Gary Sheffield

NL

1B – Derek Lee
2B – Jeff Kent
SS – Bill Hall
3B – Aramis Ramirez
C – Paul Lo Duca
OF – Bobby Abreu
CF – Jason Bay
OF – Miguel Cabrera

There are two sides to picking an All-Star team. One is picking the players who have performed the best over the first three months of the current season. The other is choosing the biggest stars at each position. This is similar to the peak vs. career conversation that often arises when weighing a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Myself, I lean toward choosing the players who have performed best in the current season, the logic being that they have these things every year for a reason. Even Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have to earn an All-Star appearance in my book. Some would argue that a three-month period is not a large enough sample, that perhaps it would be better to reward the previous years’ performance, thus allowing things to even out over a full season. Me, I’d much rather see Norm Cash in 1961 than in 1962 and Brady Anderson in 1996 than 1997, thus I’ll continue to vote for the players having the best season and risk the odd fluke selection.

Those who disagree will likely take one look at the above list of names and get all bent out of shape over my choosing Milwaukee’s Bill Hall as the starting National League shortstop. To them I ask, would you prefer Felipe Lopez?

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Barkin

Gary Sheffield spoke with reporters yesterday and made it crystal clear that he would make life exceedingly hard for any team the Yankees traded him to. According to Jack Curry in the New York Times:

“I would never sit out,” Sheffield said. “I would go play for them. It doesn’t mean I’m going to be happy playing there. And if I’m unhappy, you don’t want me on your team. It’s just that simple. I’ll make that known to anyone.”

…”If I’m not happy, you don’t want me on your team, period,” Sheffield said. “That’s just the way it goes. That’s life. I have to deal with what they dish out, they got to deal with what I dish out, period. That’s just the way it’s going to be.”

Joe Torre later told Sheffield that the Yanks have no desire to persue a deal with the Mets. “The Yankees would never just give up Gary Sheffield,” is how one American League executive phrased it to Curry. To hear a full audio clip of Sheff’s rant, head on over to Matt Cerrone’s outstanding Metsblog.com and peep the mp3. Personally, I think his spiel was amusing. I’ve enjoyed Sheffiled a lot since he’s been in the Bronx. He’s been a terrific player, and don’t blame him for not wanting to leave. Mike Vaccaro put it well in the Post today:

Sheffield is arrogant, he’s moody, he’s tempermental–but he’s smart as hell. You bet he wanted to kill this deal as quickly as he could.

You could also add that he’s a great player and a future Hall of Famer to boot. And in case you missed it, be sure and check out Jay Jaffe’s excellent three-part history of Sheff (one, two and three) over at The Futility Infielder.

Kicked to the Curb

The Post reports that the Yankees have released relievers Paul Quantrill and Mike Stanton. Both seemed like good guys, but neither was especially effective this year.

If Yankees general manager Brian Cashman can’t find takers for the two pitchers by tomorrow, he’ll have to designate them for assignment. Stanton has a no-trade clause, so he can dictate his destination. To have any chance of dealing either pitcher, the Yankees will likely have to pay what’s left of their salaries. Stanton, who makes $4 million this season, has a 1-2 record and 7.07 ERA, and Quantrill, who makes $3 million, is 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA.
(Newsday)

This move does not come as a surpise.

Washed Out

Well, the Yankees and Orioles have been rained out in Baltimore tonight, but there is some Yankee news to report. With Hideki Matsui able to play the field again, the Yanks have demoted Kevin Reese and brought up Jason Anderson.

For those who don’t remember him from 2003, when he made the Yankees out of spring training as a 23-year-old rookie, Anderson is a now-26-year-old righty reliever who has a strong minor league track record (3.35 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 7.93 K/9, 2.54 K/9, 3.13 K/BB through 2004), but was unable to capitalize upon his best major league opportunity in 2003. That year he made 28 of his 29 career major league apperances. After 22 games with the Yankees in 2003, Anderson was dealt accross town in the Armando Benitez trade and eventually wound up in the Indians system before returning to the Yankees via a waver claim just over a year ago, having appeared in just seven more games total for the Mets and Indians.

In Columbus this season, Anderson has been the Clipper’s best reliever, improving upon that minor league career line thusly: 2.85 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, .189 BAA, 7.99 K/9, 2.09 BB/9, 3.81 K/BB (47.1 IP, 30 H, 42 K, 11 BB, 4 HR)

Having Anderson on the team is a step in the right direction as he’s been excellent in Columbus thus far and could make one of the Yankees Bad Three (Stanton, Quantrill, Groom) expendable if he finally puts it together at the major league level.

Incidentally, as luck would have it, the Yankees got rained out on the night Joe Torre finally figured out the Yankees’ ideal line-up. According to MLB Gameday:

R – Jeter (SS)
L – Cano (2B)
R – Sheffield (RF)
R – Rodriguez (3B)
L – Matsui (LF)
S – Posada (C)
L – Giambi (DH)
S – Williams (CF)
L – Martinez (1B)

Searching For Quality

Last night, with a significant assist from their manager, the Yankees blew their chance to bum rush second place and the Wild Card race with a sweep of the current series against the Orioles. Instead, all the team has to show for their efforts on Tuesday are the on-going renaissance of Hideki Matsui (3 for 4 with a double and a homer and 2 RBIs, pushing his season line to .305/.372/.495, his best marks since late April) and the continued emergence of Robinson Cano (2 for 4 with a homer and two runs scored from the two-hole) and Chien-Ming Wang.

If Wang’s impressive outing against the hard-hitting Orioles wasn’t enough to silence his doubters, here’s a quick look at the quality starts (min. 6 IP, max 3 ER) the Yankees have received from their seven starters thus far this season:

Pitcher Quality Starts Total Starts Pct.
Wang 7 10 .700
Johnson 10 16 .625
Mussina 8 16 .500
Pavano 8 17 .471
Brown 4 11 .364
Wright 0 4 .000
Henn 0 3 .000
Total 37 77 .481

Pavano should rightly be even with Mike Mussina at .500, as it’s hard to blame him for the April 10 start which he was forced to leave in the third inning after being beaned by a comebacker. Meanwhile, Mussina will try to push his mark above .500 as he takes the mound tonight against the Orioles.

Rookie Hayden Penn will foot the rubber for the Orioles, making his seventh major league start. Penn’s only quality start thus far came against the Rockies, who are essentially a triple-A team anyway, at home in his second most recent start. His one outing since then was by far his worst in the majors as he gave up seven runs on eight hits and two walks to the Braves in just two innings. Still, Penn is regarded as a legitimate talent. Check out what Baseball Analysts’ Bryan Smith wrote about him in a recent post addressing some of the rookie talent to debut in 2005.

First of all, kudos to the Orioles for handling Penn correctly. While promoting the red-hot Penn might have been premature with John Maine in the International League, it hasn’t really come back to haunt the Orioles. They also have kept close watch on Penn’s pitch counts, only twice letting him go into triple-digits, and never over 103 [which could have cost him as many as three or four additional quality starts–CJC]. But, Penn has been getting hit up of late, with five home runs allowed in his last three starts. Sooner or later, if the ship is not righted, swapping Maine and Penn might be in the best interest of everyone involved. No matter what, Hayden is one fantastic talent.

Incidentally, Bryan has some very kind words for Robinson Cano in that post. Be sure to check it out.

Plenty of Nuthin’

Nothing dramatic went down in Tampa Bay yesterday, but change could be right around the corner. When, is anyone’s guess. Never one to miss an opportunity, the New York Post glossed over last night’s discouraging 5-4 loss on the back page today in favor of some juicy gossip. According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees and Mets may consider swapping Gary Sheffield for Mike Cameron. Sherman’s two sources, an AL and NL club executive, say the deal is in its infancy:

[The Yankees] have talked to a couple of GMs and said they would move [Sheffield] for a similar type of player to shake things up a little, get younger or to fill a couple of their needs, specifically center field or starting pitching,” the NL executive said.

Sheffield, Flash Gordon, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada do not have no-trade clauses in their contracts. However, Sheffield told the New York Times:

“I’m not going anywhere,” said Sheffield, who is signed through 2006. “If I have to go somewhere, I won’t go. If they said, ‘Wouldn’t you want to get paid?’ I’d say, ‘I’ve got plenty of money.’ I’m not playing nowhere else. I can promise you that.”

If Sheff’s name hangs around the rumor mill, things could get ugly.

Verdict: Wang Innocent, Torre Guilty

Chien-Ming Wang acquited himself quite nicely against Baltimore’s sluggin’ O’s last night, posting his seventh quality start in ten starts on the season with this line: 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 HR, 0 BB, 3 K.

Unfortunately, Joe Torre’s notorious push-button bullpen mismanagement and continually fragile faith in Wang conspired to rob the rookie right-hander and his team of a win.

Here’s the situation: Bottom of the eighth inning. The Yankees have a 4-3 lead. Wang has thrown just 83 pitches, 68 percent of them strikes. In the seventh he got Sammy Sosa to groundout on a full count, gave up a full-count single to Luis Matos, induced a double play grounder from Chris Gomez on a 1-2 count that was turned into a fielder’s choice when Matos forced Robinson Cano to make a wide throw to first, then got pinch-hitter Eli Marrero to fly out on a 1-0 count.

The top of the Oriole order is due up in this inning: Switch-hitter Brian Roberts (ground out, fly out, double), lefty Larry Bigbie (homer, two ground outs), and righty Miguel Tejada (ground out, single, foul out to Posada). Everyone is available in the pen.

What do you do?

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A Wang Wook At Chein-Ming

After ten major league appearances, Chien-Ming Wang heads into tonight’s game with a 4.31 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP having held opposing batters to a .248/.305/.343 (.223 GPA) line with a staggering 2.57 ground ball to fly ball ratio (which would rank sixth in the major leagues among qualified pitchers if Wang himself actually qualified). All of which is more than most could have asked for from a rookie pitcher thrust into an essentially permanent rotation spot due to an injury on the major league club.

But then there are these numbers: 3.30 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 1.28 K/BB. Those figures, particularly the K/9, which would be seventh worst in the majors if Wang qualified, have prompted some to call for Wang to be dealt before he is revealed as the phony they believe his low K-rate indicates he is. Taking that a step further, there are those who have accused Wang of feasting on poor-hitting teams, while struggling against more powerful offenses.

Well, thus far Chien-Ming has faced eight teams, and made starts against seven of them, here they are along with their current major league rank in runs scored and OPS:

Team Runs Rank OPS Rank AVG vs. Wang Wang ERA
Red Sox 1 1 .300 3.86
Cardinals 4 6 .350 9.00
Devil Rays 10 15 .327 7.50
Blue Jays 13 25 .222 2.57
Cubs 15 7 .185 1.13
Twins 17 22 .200 3.86
Tigers 21 23 .227 2.84
Mariners 27 29 .192 3.95

Against those eight teams, Wang has turned in six quality starts in nine opportunities. The three exceptions being his two starts against the Devil Rays and his one against the Cardinals. His one appearance against the Red Sox came in relief.

Those stats would seem to support the image of Wang as a pitcher whose success has been largely based on facing week offenses, but I’m not convinced. To begin with, his minor league strikeout and walk rates indicate that his current low K-rate is likely to improve. In four minor league seasons between A ball and Columbus, Wang’s worst K/9 was 6.20 and his career minor league mark is 7.16 K/9. Similarly, his worst BB/9 was 2.36. Both of those marks came in his first season at double-A in 2003 and both improved when he returned to Trenton in 2004, and then improved again when he was promoted to Columbus later that year. Similarly, Wang’s second most recent start, against the Cubs who rank well above Tampa and just behind St. Louis in OPS, was his best of his young major league career and saw him strike out five men in eight innings against just one walk.

Still, until Wang acquits himself against strong-hitting teams, the doubters will have the floor. Tonight, Chien-Ming makes his first career start against the Orioles, who rank fifth in the majors in runs scored and second in the bigs in OPS. Again, I’m optimistic.

Fight, Fight

There was no brawl in Baltimore last night, but the signs for one were there. Carl Pavano initiated the bad feelings when he plunked Brian Roberts in the back following Larry Bigbie’s solo home run. Several innings later, Daniel Cabrera retaliated by throwing behind Alex Rodriguez. Both teams were issued a warning by home plate umpire Marty Foster and that was that. But Orioles’ reliever Steve Kline–who looks like Mike Stanton’s disheveled kid brother–provided some theatrics in the seventh inning when he was called for a balk. With the game tied at four and Jorge Posada on first base, Jason Giambi was at the plate with the count 3-0 in his favor. On the YES broadcast you could hear someone shout “Balk!” The announcers later speculated that the Orioles believed that the Yankee bench had convinced the ump to make the call. Either way, Kline absolutely lost it, and was quickly run from the game.

He later told reporters:

“I just think they favor the Yankees all the time,” he said. “I’m getting [upset] at that. They suck up to them. They’re the cream of the crop.”

…”I didn’t do anything to deceive the runner. It was a bull … call,” Kline said. “I’ve played nine years and only had like one balk call my whole life. Now I have three [this season]. Once you get hit once, they look at you real hard.”

…”I just asked [Foster] what I did and he tossed me right away,” Kline said. “I used a couple of bad words, but you have to understand we’re in the middle of a game. I said, ‘Hell, if I’m going to be gone, I might as well get my money’s worth.’ I was debating if I wanted to put him in the cobra clutch.”
(Baltimore Sun)

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I’m Just Sayin’

If there was ever a time when two teams were primed for a brawl, tonight could be the night in Baltimore. Not that the Yanks and O’s have any heated rivalry going yet, but both teams have struggled of late, and the Bombers are playing like a team that could use a bench-clearing incident to get the led out of their systems (it would be funny if Torre joined the O’s in the fight, just to kick some of his own players in the ass). Plus, the volatile Daniel Cabrera is pitching for the Birds. That could help. Word to the wise: Don’t plunk Sheff, dude, unless you are prepared to throw bolos.

The Orioles Revisited

I’ve been fairly convinced that the Yankees are and will remain a .500 team this year ever since they were swept by the then AL-worst Royals four weeks ago. Still, streaks such as their 6-0 opening to the just-completed home stand and apparent breakthroughs by men such as Randy Johnson, Jason Giambi, and especially Hideki Matsui combined with the continued impressive performances of Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang have kept me from saying so at print. But after the Yanks dropped 3 of 4 to the Devil Rays for the second time this year (falling to 3-7 against them on the season) and needed a last-gasp ninth-inning rally to avoid a sweep at the hands of the scuffling Mets, I’m finally ready to put it in black and white. That said, I’m optimistic about the team’s prospects heading in the three-game series with the Orioles that will kick off in Baltimore tonight.

After the Yanks took those first six home games from the Pirates and Cubs, the hope was that they could keep their momentum through the inferior D-Rays and Mets and get within three games of the division leading O’s in time to have a chance to take the division lead with a sweep of this series. Oh how things have changed. Not only did the Yanks finish their home stand with a 2-5 record against the Rays and Mets, but the Orioles have also fallen on hard times, droping six of their last seven to the Blue Jays and Braves (admittedly stronger competition), and relinquishing their division lead to the surging Red Sox (who, having won 12 of their last 13, appear to be on their way to running away with the east).

So not only did the Yankees fail to get within three games of the O’s (they’re four games behind them going into tonight), the Orioles are no longer the team to beat in the east as they trail the Sox by 2.5 and enter this series on a five-game losing streak. With that in mind, the Yankees are still in a position to tighten things between themselves and the second-place O’s, who also happen to be the Wild Card leaders of the moment, with the Twins also having hit hard times (5-11 in their last 16 games–in fact, the O’s, Twins and Yankees have nearly identical records in June: 11-13 for the O’s and Yanks, 11-12 for the Twins).

Taking a quick look at the pitching match-ups, the Yankees are in good shape: Pavano pitching on the road (2.49 ERA) against the volatile Daniel Cabrera (5.54 ERA, 5.91 in June), The Anchor Chien-Ming Wang taking on that giant ball of suck Sir Sidney Ponson (5.42 ERA), and Mike Mussina, a near-Hall of Fame veteran who has pitched several hundred games in Camden Yards, facing reeling rookie Hayden Penn (6.07 ERA, one quality start in six tries). I’m not making any predictions, but I have a good feeling about this.

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Tick, tick, tick…

I believe that George Steinbrenner is not the same man he was back in the seventies and eighties, but at some point you figure he’s going to do something. Someone has to get canned, right? So long as the Yanks continue to play as poorly as they have, it just seems inevitable. So who will be the first one to get it? Brian Cashman or Mel Stottlemyre? My guess is that it will be Mel.

Saving Face

You are supposed to feel good when your team wins, right? Well, after the display of terrible fielding the Yanks put on during the seventh inning last night, I felt more relieved than anything else when they finally pulled it out in the ninth. I also felt a lot of other things, and none of them were too kind or uplifting. But hey, a win is a win, no matter how ugly. Jason Giambi’s bases loaded single in the bottom of the ninth gave the Bombers a 5-4 victory, as they avoided being swept at home by the Mets. Randy Johnson pitched a good game, Alex Rodriguez had four hits (two in “the clutch” for those who care to notice these things), and Mariano Rivera pitched a one-two-three ninth to earn the win. Rivera is now 4-2 on the season, with sixteen saves, and two blown saves. His earned run average is down to 0.94.

The Yanks head down to Baltimore today for a three game series against the slumping Orioles. It will be interesting to see which team continues to slide here. Carl Pavano is in a big spot for New York once again. Let’s see how he responds…

Burn, Bernie Burned

It’s probably a good thing that I missed yesterday’s game, another in a series of flat performances by the Yanks. I did catch the last couple of innings on the radio, and man, it wasn’t even close, as the Mets cruised 10-3. Later, I saw the highlights, which featured Cliff Floyd’s two monstrous dingers, and a montage of unfortunate fielding plays by Bernie Williams (who made an awful error on Friday night as well).

The clip that was most arresting showed Williams knocking over the water cooler in the dugout, as if the ghost of Paul O’Neill had gotten a hold of him. I don’t ever recall Bernie lashing on in anger like that, do you? According to the New York Times:

“I think we’re asking him to do more than we expected from him all year,” [manager Joe] Torre said…”In spring training, I thought about having Bernie out there and giving him a couple of days off. We just haven’t been able to do that. We don’t have the depth in center field to do that. We’re going to look and see how we can get him a day off.”

…Torre said: “It’s hard, because I know how proud he is and how badly he wants to be there for everybody. He came here long before I was here. The one thing about Bernie, numbers never change your opinion of him, because you start with the man.”

Steve Lombardi has an interesting post on Williams that hints that Bernie isn’t so well-loved by one of his longtime teammates (my guess is that person is Derek Jeter).

Both teams are now 37-37. I don’t think the Yanks will lose tonight, not with Johnson on the mound, but hey, I wouldn’t exactly be shocked if they did either.

Petey Knows (Throws) Best

I went out and saw the new Batman movie last night. I thought it was well worth ten bucks and easily the most impressive Batman movie to date. Meanwhile, Pedro and the Mets beat the Yanks 6-4 on a steamy night in the Bronx.

I’m gunna miss today’s game as well. Instead, I’m heading down to Philly with some Red Sox friends of mine to see Boston play the Phils. I’ve never been to the new stadium down there–heck, I never went to the old one either–so it should be a good time.

Go Yanks.

Swing Low

Yo, there aren’t many good things to say about last night’s 9-4 Yankee loss to the Devil Rays, so I’m a keep this brief. At some point, resignation just has to set in for Yankee fans. What else can you do? Hang on to 1978 forever. Sure, they are still only five games out, but losing three of four to the D Rays twice? C’maaaan, man, ya killin me.

Bernie had a good night with the stick (though he fell asleep and let Julio Lugo turn a single into a double for no good reason too), with a homer, a double, and a hard, line drive out to short. Um, Jason Giambi hit the ball well too. He singled to left, and later bunted for a base hit in the ninth (he also lined out hard to left, and Carl Crawford did his best Sandy Amoros impression to rob the big man of a double). Yup, just what everyone has been begging for: Giambi bunted for a hit. Didn’t do the team much good in the long run, but at least he had his head in the right place.

The Mets visit the Bronx this weekend in a battle of which local team is more mediocre. Any thoughts about that one? Come on, inspire me with some conversation will ya, because I’m fresh out of ideas.

The Anchor

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are fifth in the American League (ninth in the majors) in runs scored. They’re also fifth in the majors in EQA. Thus far this season they are 6-3 against the Yankees, who are second in the majors in both categories. The Devil Rays have now won seven games on the road this year, three of them in the Bronx. Tampa has scored 7.2 runs per game against the Yankees, scoring five or more in eight of their nine meetings. The Yankees have scored 7.4 runs against Tampa, scoring four or fewer runs in five of their nine meetings, but scoring a total of 39 runs in just two games.

Those are a lot of ugly numbers. Chien-Ming Wang, whom I’m officially dubbing the anchor of this Yankee rotation (Moose and Unit are the aces, Meat and Mr. Nasty are the question marks, Tiger is the anchor), looks to keep the top half of the scoreboard neat and tidy tonight as the Yanks try to save some face by salvaging a split of this four game series with the worst team in their league.

Wang’s mound opponent is 6’9″ lefty Mark Hendrickson (whose official name, by the way, is “6’9″ Lefty Mark Hendrickson”). Hendrickson has some ugly numbers of his own (5.83 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 4.18 K/9, 1.50 K/BB, 1.27 HR/9, opponents hitting .322/.371/.516, 7.55 road ERA, 9.43 June ERA). The only thing Hendrickson does well is stifle lefties (.219/.269/.329). That should mean more bench time for Tony Mowack. Whether or not we’ll see Russ Johnson (2 for 9 vs. lefties this year after an 0 for 2 against Scott Kazmir yesterday) get his second consecutive start at first, well, I doubt it, but we’ll find out soon enough.

What’s Wrong With Carl?

[note: I started to write the below in the comments to Alex's last post, responding to Simone's inquiries about Carl Pavano's ground-ball ratios and home run rates, but after I finished, I thought it deserved it's own post]

Shall we try the old blind taste test gimmick?

Pitcher A: 6.89 ERA, 1.91 HR/9, 6.32 K/9, 2.11 BB/9, 3.00 K/BB
Opposition vs. Pitcher A: .360/.404/.567 (.324 GPA)

Pitcher B: 2.49 ERA, 1.15 HR/9, 4.40 K/9, 1.15 BB/9, 3.83 K/BB
Opposition vs. Pitcher B: .260/.293/.443 (.243 GPA)

These pitchers are currently sharing a spot in the Yankee rotation. It sure would be nice if the team would let Pitcher B take over Pitcher A’s starts? The problem is that they can’t. You see, both of these pitchers are Carl Pavano. Pitcher B is Carl Pavano on the road. Pitcher A is Carl Pavano at home.

This is why Meat has been rotten. It’s not his ground ball rates (Pavano has a career ground ball-to-fly ball ratio of 1.42, this year he’s inducing 1.58 grounders for every fly). It’s not even his home run rates. Observe:

Playing his home games in le Stad Olympique as an Expo from 1998 to 2002, Pavano gave up 1.09 HR/9, while his home park had an average park factor of 101.4. Playing his home games at Pro Player Stadium as a Marlin from 2002 to 2004, Pavano gave up 0.74 HR/9, while his home part had an average park factor of 95.3. Taking into account that Pavano spent his natural peak in a Florida uniform (ages 26-28) and that it was as a Marlin that he finally beat the injury bug and came into his own as a pitcher, those numbers make perfect sense. Pavano’s 1.15 HR/9 on the road as a Yankee also fits logically with Meat’s move from the National to American League and the 1.09 HR/9 he posted in the only slightly hitter-friendly Montreal as a National Leaguer.

What doesn’t fit is that insane 1.91 HR/9 in Yankee Stadium, a park that has had a factor of 97 in each of the last two seasons (and a 98 in 2002). Which brings us right back to where we started.

Pavano’s struggles in the Bronx are hard to explain in baseball terms, but the fact that he’s a Connecticut kid who grew up in Yankee country could have something to do with it. If Pavano is simply dealing with some psychological issues (nerves, pressing, anxiety, what ever you want to call it) when it comes to pitching in Yankee Stadium (and, most likely, in front of more friends and family than he was accustomed to in Montreal and Miami), then one could hope that, as the initial excitement wears off and these starts become more routine, his home performance will fall closer in line with his road performance. If so, that would be a huge boost for the Yankees.

The question is, how long will that take. Pavano’s first three Yankee Stadium starts this year (not counting the start against the Orioles in which he was beaned by a Melvin Mora comebacker) were his only quality starts at home on the season, the last of those coming against the A’s on May 6. Things took a turn for the worse in that May 11 home game against the Mariners and Jamie Moyer in which Pavano was victimized by Alex Rodriguez’s dreadful play at third base and a quartet of Seattle homers. So things would actually seem to be heading in the wrong direction were it not for his encouraging non-homer peripherals from yesterday’s two-homer loss to the Devil Rays: 6 2/3 IP, 4 1B, 0 2B, 0 3B, 1 BB, 7 K.

Incidentally, if you take that one start against Seattle away, Pavano’s home HR/9 drops to 1.26. Another crack in the wall between Pavano’s home and road starts is that, despite that ridiculous home road split for HR/9, Pavano has allowed 20 extra base hits in 203 opposition at-bats at home and 18 extra base hits in 181 opposition at-bats on the road for an isolated power of .207 at home and .182 on the road, which, though continuing to demonstrate his inferior performance at home, isn’t as extreme a split as his other numbers would suggest. Could it be that an effective pinstriped Carl Pavano is indeed on the horizon? If so, the Yankees may have more fight in ‘em than we think. If not, well, you can probably write them off now.

Same Ol Song

John Harper thinks that yesterday’s 5-3 loss to the Devil Rays is one of the Yankees’ worst of the season:

In a season of stunning losses, you can make a case that this was the most alarming one of all. In the manager’s office afterward, you could see it in Joe Torre’s face. You could hear it in his tone of voice more than his words.

…”This was a tough loss,” Torre said afterward in a rather grave tone. “After what we did (Tuesday) night…and today we had a couple of leads, and we couldn’t hold onto it. It’s a setback, no question.”

From what he’s seen of the Yankees in the past week, Harper opines:

It’s more of a sign than ever that they’re destined to be an inconsistent club all season, talented enough to put together occasional hot streaks, but not complete enough to sustain the type of high-level performance that has marked the Torre era.

The Smell of Burning Hair

It all started innocently enough. Randy Johnson struck out Carl Crawford on three pitches, the first two looking, the third swinging. He then sat Julio Lugo down on five more and stranded Jorge Cantu at first base by getting Aubrey Huff to ground out to second. Clean, simple, and an apparent indication that Johnson was picking up where he left off last Thursday with his complete game against the Pirates.

Then Johnson started the second inning with a ball to Eduardo Perez. His next two pitches were sliders that Perez offered, but, at least according to home plate umpire Eric Cooper and first base ump Fieldin Culbreth, did not actually swing at. Down 3-0 in the count when he just as easily could have been up 1-2, Johnson wound up walking Perez on four pitches. Johnson then got Jonny Gomes to pop out to short on an 0-2 count and got called strike one on Damon Hollins and all appeared to be well.

Then Hollins and back-up catcher Kevin Cash homered on Johnson’s next two pitches to put the Devil Rays up 3-0. Alex Gonzalez then singled on an 2-0 pitch and stole second on a first-pitch ball to Carl Crawford. Crawford then missed two pitches before yanking a third to deep right for an RBI triple. Johnson then got ahead of Julio Lugo 0-2 only to have Lugo single home Crawford. Just like that, the Devil Rays had scored five runs on Randy Johnson in the second inning.

The Yankees got one back in the bottom of the second on a Matsui walk, a Giambi ground rule double, and a Bernie Williams sac fly, but the D-Rays doubled that in the top of the third. Before Johnson could get the first out, Eduardo Perez doubled and Jonny Gomes homered to make it 7-1 Devil Rays.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver