"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Return of the Devil Rays

Going into last week’s series against Pittsburgh, the Yankees’ record was 1/2 game worse than the Pirates’. Now, three days after sweeping the Pirates’, the Yankees are 4 1/2 games ahead of Pittsburgh.

Going into this weekend’s series against the Cubs, the Yankees record was 1 1/2 games worse than the Chicago’s. Now, after sweeping them in three games, the Yankees are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cubs.

Tonight, going into a four game series against Tampa Bay, the Yankees have won six in a row, are 8-2 in their last ten games, are just five games out of first place and a whopping 13 1/2 games ahead of the Devil Rays, with whom they were once tied for last in the AL East. But that’s nothing compared to the discrepancy between the Yankees’ home record and the Devil Rays’ road record:

Yanks Home: 22-13 (.629)
Rays Road: 5-28 (.152)

Wow! That’s a 16-game difference over a sample of 35 games (33 for the Rays). One has to assume the Rays will find a way to win one of the next four games, but given those home and away records, it would be a major upset for them to do any better than that. Of course, that’s how we all felt when the Yankees headed to Kansas City three weeks ago. Let’s not forget that the Devil Rays have a 4-2 record against the Yankees on the season. This is how that happened:

The Yankees and Devil Rays split a two-game series in the Bronx back in late April. In the first game, the Yankees won 19-8, behind a shaky Jaret Wright, abusing Rob Bell, who less than a month later was put on the DL for “personal and psychological issues.” The next night, Hideo Nomo stifled the Yankee bats, while Randy Johnson gave up a pair of homers to Eduardo Perez as the Rays won 6-2.

Two weeks later in Tampa, the Yankees hit what appeared to be their nadir, dropping 3 of 4 to the lowly Rays. In the first game, Andy Phillips struck out five times in a 6-2 win over Scott Kazmir. That would be the highlight of the series for the Yankees. Following that game, Brian Cashman dropped the bombshell that Tony Womack would move to left field, pushing Hideki Matsui into center field, giving the second base job to rookie Robinson Cano, and benching Bernie Williams for the forseable future.

With their new line-up in place, the Yankees proceeded to drop the next three games to the Rays by a combined score of 28-14. In the third game of the series, the Yankees skipped Randy Johnson in the rotation due to concerns over the sore groin that resulted from his complete game loss to Roy Halladay in his previous turn. In his place, they started a rookie straight out of double-A Trenton named Sean Henn. Henn was rocked for six runs (five earned) on seven hits and a pair of walks in just 2 1/3 innings. Throwing just 58 percent of his 72 pitches for strikes, Henn–despite showing some potential with a live fastball and movement on his pitches–failed to strike out a batter. After the game, Henn confessed that his knees were shaking on the mound. He was then sent down to triple-A Columbus.

Since then, Henn has picked up right where he left off with the Trenton Thunder, going 4-2 with a 3.19 ERA in eight starts (frustratingly, minor league stats vanish once a guy is promoted and I failed to snag Henn’s expanded triple-A numbers this weekend), and with Kevin Brown landing on the DL due to back spasms suffered during his last start, the Yankees have again turned to Henn, who will again face the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the team responsible for his 19.29 career major league ERA. Methinks it’s time for some payback.

Here’s the team Henn will face tonight:

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

2005 Record: 23-46(.333)
2005 Pythagorean Record: 25-44 (.357)

Manager: Lou Piniella
General Manager: Chuck LaMar

Ballpark (2004 park factors): Tropicana Field (96/96)

Who has replaced whom?

Jonny Gomes has replaced Josh Phelps (minors) at DH
Nick Green has replaced Alex Gonzalez in the line-up, pushing Jorge Cantu to third base
A platoon of Damon Hollins and Reggie Taylor has replaced Alex Sanchez (DFA) in center field and Chris Singleton (released) on the bench
Kevin Cash has replaced Charles Johnson (released) as back-up catcher
Casey Fossum has replaced Dewon Brazelton (minors) in the rotation
Chad Orvella, Lee Gardner, Franklin Nunez and Tim Corcoran have replaced Rob Bell (DL – personal reasons), Trever Miller (DL), Seth McClung (minors) and Fossum in the bullpen

Current Roster:

1B – Travis Lee
2B – Nick Green
SS – Julio Lugo
3B – Jorge Cantu
C – Toby Hall
RF – Aubrey Huff
CF – Damon Hollins
LF – Carl Crawford
DH – Jonny Gomes


L – Reggie Taylor (OF)
R – Eduardo Perez (1B)
R – Alex S. Gonzalez (IF)
R – Kevin Cash (C)


L – Scott Kazmir
L – Mark Hendrickson
R – Doug Waechter
L – Casey Fossom
R – Hideo Nomo


R – Danys Baez
R – Lance Carter
R – Travis Harper
R – Chad Orvella
R – Lee Gardner
R – Franklin Nunez
R – Tim Corcoran

R – Franklin Nunez


R – Rocco Baldelli (OF) (60-day)
L – Trever Miller
R – Jesus Colome
R – Rob Bell

Typical Line-up

L – Carl Crawford (LF)
R – Julio Lugo (SS)
L – Aubrey Huff (RF)
R – Jorge Cantu (2B)
R – Jonny Gomes (DH)
L – Travis Lee (1B)
R – Toby Hall (C)
R – Nick Green (2B)

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1 rbj   ~  Jun 20, 2005 4:00 pm

1.  Man, getting DFAed by the Devil Rays has really got to be embarrassing.

2 Simone   ~  Jun 20, 2005 4:23 pm

2.  Tony Womack, the Strike Out King, the Rally Killer, is hitting 2nd AGAIN! What the hell is wrong with Torre? Brian Cashman has got too strongly suggest to Joe that he stop this bullshit. I can't take it any more. The blood vessel is my eye is throbbing.

3 Marcus   ~  Jun 20, 2005 4:33 pm

3.  Fossum striking out the side in the first is not something I enjoy watching. A-Rod didn't look that great up there.

4 rilkefan   ~  Jun 20, 2005 4:37 pm

4.  Wonder if Henn will manage to give up three walks in this inning...

5 rilkefan   ~  Jun 20, 2005 4:38 pm

5.  Make that a "yep" or a "yeech". Torre is no doubt stewing.

6 Marcus   ~  Jun 20, 2005 4:58 pm

6.  When was the last time a Yankee (or any pitcher for that matter) gave up double digit walks in a game? I think we may see that if Henn stays in much longer.

7 Dan M   ~  Jun 20, 2005 5:25 pm

7.  Ugh, the Yankees are up to their "let's suck against a spot-starter" act again.

8 rbj   ~  Jun 20, 2005 5:44 pm

8.  Yay! we got a hit!
finally. grumble.

9 Simone   ~  Jun 20, 2005 5:58 pm

9.  I'm not surprised the Yankees can't hit the awful Fossum. This is just who the Yankees are this season. A rookie pitcher is on the mound so the anxiety level in the hitters rises and they start to press. If they lose this game, their fragile confidence will probably be shaken and they start to struggle again. Eh, c'est la vie.

10 uburoisc   ~  Jun 20, 2005 5:59 pm

10.  Simone, I agree wholeheartedly. Torre bears the responsibility for Woehack and no one else. He is awful, does not belong in the starting lineup, and certainly does not belong in the 2nd batting slot. Many other things are not Joe's fault, but this is.

11 jalexei   ~  Jun 20, 2005 6:06 pm

11.  I wonder if Dusty Baker is watching tonight. Yes Mr. Baker, this is the same team you said was the best you'd played against this year. Yes, I'm serious. Really, please stop laughing...

12 Marcus   ~  Jun 20, 2005 6:39 pm

12.  Cano gets on, then Jeter singles...I smell a comeback! Oh wait, Womack's up, I smell a double play...

13 Simone   ~  Jun 20, 2005 6:42 pm

13.  The Yankees desperate need a hit or walk and who comes up, but the Rally Killer who promptely pops up. Joe Torre is a doofus.

14 uburoisc   ~  Jun 20, 2005 6:44 pm

14.  If, God forbid, Joe gets fired, the name that will ultimately justify the decision will be Tony Womack. Joe, stop playing this scrub and sullying your reputation as a fine manager.

15 uburoisc   ~  Jun 20, 2005 6:49 pm

15.  OhhhhNooooo, there goes Tokyo, go go Godzilla!

16 uburoisc   ~  Jun 20, 2005 6:50 pm

16.  Hey Tony, if you could do so much as walk every blue moon, we'd be tied right now.

17 Marcus   ~  Jun 20, 2005 6:52 pm

17.  Are you kidding? Godzilla is back! And now Danys Baez is going to allow Giambi to be the hero again.

18 Marcus   ~  Jun 20, 2005 6:54 pm

18.  Or the goat...

19 pmarcig   ~  Jun 20, 2005 6:55 pm

19.  What a brutal microcosm of this team...clutch situations and WOEmack fouls out, A-Rod pops up, Matsui homers and Giambi whiffs. Holy Predictable, Batman...

20 Knuckles   ~  Jun 20, 2005 6:56 pm

20.  A speedster who does nothing but hit the ball in the air weakly to the left side...WTF.

Womack should be traded to SD, or cut. And Torre is seriously heading towards a cause for firing.

21 Marcus   ~  Jun 20, 2005 7:02 pm

21.  Um meanwhile, Rivera seems to have come down with a case of Sean Henn-itis.

22 Simone   ~  Jun 20, 2005 7:19 pm

22.  The sucky Yankees are back. I swear, it is all so predictable. I just hope that they don't lose 7 or 8 in a row. At least, Mariano Rivera hasn't been infected by the suckiness which I find comforting.

23 brockdc   ~  Jun 20, 2005 7:37 pm

23.  For a collection of bona fide big leaguers, what confounds me most about this team is its fragile psyche. All it takes is one bad inning to send this team into a 6-10 game death spiral. Why are they so delicate? I know this drum has been beaten, but I truly wonder if it's a product of, or at least residue from, "The Choke."

Woe-is-me-for-having-to-watch-this-travesty-of-a-left-fielder-Mack should have been pinch-hit for in the 8th. It was an abolute no-brainer and might have put another runner on for Matsui. Torre's favorite bird must be albatross.

24 brockdc   ~  Jun 20, 2005 7:40 pm

24.  This team is giving me personal and psychological issues.

25 Simone   ~  Jun 20, 2005 7:54 pm

25.  Here are Tony Womack's numbers this season: .284/.274/.248. His OPS is .558. Unfreakingbelieveable. How can a guy be in the major leagues and have these kind of numbers? And what is he doing on the Yankees? For goodness sake, he can't even bunt! The madness has got to STOP!

26 Paul in Boston   ~  Jun 20, 2005 8:04 pm

26.  .284/.274/.248

Wow, that's really really terrible. How often do you see someone who has neither an OBP or a slugging % over .300?

To change the subject, the Red Sox won tonight, but boy was Foulke crappy. Just fyi.

27 JohnnyC   ~  Jun 20, 2005 8:08 pm

27.  Can anyone come up with a rational excuse for the way the Yankees played today? I can't. It's clear that there is something wrong with this team...as Paul O'Neill hinted at, there is a serious lack of attention span going on here. And, like it or not Torre-fanatics, it's the manager's fault. The buck stops at the manager's desk. A pitifully flat performance...AT HOME!...against a pitcher for which the term execrable is a compliment(this is the midget that Garagiola traded Curt Schilling for to anchor...literally...his staff in 2004 with an ERA that threatened to approach double digits before the DBacks finally realized there IS crying in baseball), another rookie pitcher who can't perform under the tutelage of Mr. "Aim the Effing Ball Until You End Up Like Andy Pettitte circa 1999" Stottlemyre, another brain-cramp with Womack(oh yeah, Torre apologists, he really didn't want him on the team. Right. Good alibi.), another momentum-crusher...the specialty of this team that has obviously floundered under Torre's "guidance" and now has stopped listening to his plea to "play smarter." He makes me sick.

28 JohnnyC   ~  Jun 20, 2005 8:16 pm

28.  Obviously the Yankees collectively give very little thought to preparing for their opponent these days. Munch on these facts: Fossum has never pitched a CG, never pitched more than 7 1/3 innings, threw two pitches all night, an 85-87 MPH fastball and a 70-75 MPH curveball, telegraphed his curveball by slowing his delivery (all night!)...and, yet, Donnie Baseball didn't have any of these nuggets of information at his disposal...how else do you explain the team's approach to a pitcher whose lifetime ERA is over 5? That's almost 4 seasons worth of terrible pitching. Were he to throw tonight's gem against the punchless A's or Mets, even then you would be incredulous. But for the Yankees to lay an egg this size is unforgiveable. Even Kaat and O'Neill couldn't believe it. The guy was not throwing well at all. He should have been spanked unremittingly. But...you explain what transpired.

29 Simone   ~  Jun 20, 2005 8:32 pm

29.  JohnnyC, whenever the Yankees lose you decide its Torre fault somehow overlooking the players. Joe is deserving of many criticisms e.g. for playing Womack, but your comments after every loss putting the blame on Joe's shoulders alone are usually 20/20 hindsight. According to your rationale, Joe was a good manager for the last 6 games the Yankees won (or were they winning inspite of Joe) and then becomes horrendous whenever there is a loss.

What you fail or refuse to see is that the Yankees' current struggles are the culmination of years of poor decisions from the rival Tampa and NY front offices lead by George. The decision to sign the cancer Sheffield over Vlad, to sign oft-injured Wright, trade for oft-injured ill tempered Brown, to sign one of the worse players in baseball, Tony Womack over re-signing Miguel Cairo, not signing Carlos Beltran, and of course, the piece de resistance signing Giambi to that huge contract, thereby leading to the trade of Nick Johnson. This Yankee team is simply poorly constructed and nothing can be done about that this season.

30 Nick from Washington Heights   ~  Jun 20, 2005 9:44 pm

30.  Simone, I agree with a lot of what you say except for your complaint about Sheffield being signed instead of Vlad. As far as I can tell they've played at the same level, and Sheff's contract is not as long-term and thus is not as risky as Vlad's who looks as if he's teetering on a career ending back injury every time he plays.

31 jedi   ~  Jun 21, 2005 5:27 am

31.  Guy...guys...guys...

I think we are all over reacting. Last night was a fluke. The only reason the yanks were stiffled was because they were at awe at how much Casey Fossum, with his hair grown out, looks like Kevin McDonald from "Kids in the Hall"



32 KJC   ~  Jun 21, 2005 5:37 am

32.  // Torre bears the responsibility for Woehack and no one else. //

I know Torre isn't Art Howe, but is there any chance that batting Womack 2nd isn't Joe's idea? Could that decision be coming from above him (where the decision to sign Womack in the first place was made)?

33 rbj   ~  Jun 21, 2005 6:23 am

33.  KJC,
Bingo. I've got no idea what impact Torre has on personnel matters (who to get, who to trade- excepting Sierra v. 1.0). It could very well be that Torre is signaling to Cashman, Steinbrenner, et al., "Look, you got me this crappy player to be a starter. I'm starting him. He sucks. Get rid of him."
FWIW, Marcus Thames is back down in AAA, any chance of the Tigers swapping him for Womack?

34 uburoisc   ~  Jun 21, 2005 7:47 am

34.  Simone lists the bad decisions at the front office that hinder Joe's effectiveness very aptly. I agree with all of them--especially Shef instead of Vlad. I watch Vlad a lot out here in SoCal and he is a remarkable player all around. If he gets hurt it's because he play hardand with heart. Shef has been great but he's not Vlad. I still hold Joe accountable for Woemack, even if he is making some kind of point; he has to sit him if he wants to win. Well, at least Soriano still can't play a lick of defense, take a walk, and never saw a bad pitch he wouldn't swing at. He's playing just the same old with Texas. HR's against bad pitchers, SO against good ones.

35 Nick from Washington Heights   ~  Jun 21, 2005 8:15 am

35.  Watching Sheff this last year and a half, I think he's also a remarkable player on the level of Vlad. His numbers from last year were probably better (given he played half his games in the Bronx, and Vlad played in the hitter friendly Angels park). This year he's been pretty solid. The point is that signing Sheff wasn't an egregious error on the level of the non-signing of Beltran, the signing of Womack and Wright, the failure to pick up Lieber's option, etc. Otherwise, I think Simone is right to point to the front office's mistakes as the major reason for the team's poor performance rather than Torre's mismanagement.

36 Nick from Washington Heights   ~  Jun 21, 2005 8:16 am

36.  And how exactly is Sheffield's performance hindering Torre?

37 abr   ~  Jun 21, 2005 8:21 am

37.  Cliff, in re Sean Henn's minor-league stats, if you do a player search at minorleaguebaseball.com you can get complete season stats for anyone, even if he's been promoted. (For Henn: 48 IP, 44 hits, 19 runs, 17 ER, 2 HRs, 12 BBs, 34 Ks.)

38 JohnnyC   ~  Jun 21, 2005 8:44 am

38.  Whatever the mistakes made by the front office and, of course, many have been made, though their BA is probably better than Billy Beane's (no rings AND a supposedly deep farm system filled with major-league ready arms and people like Ryan Glynn, Seth Etherton, and Britt Reames are pitching for them)or Theo Epstein's (it helps if some moronic GM accepts Casey Fossum in return for Schilling after making a token request for both Soriano and Nick Johnson from the Yanks), the job of a manager is to try to win...every day...not win every day but TRY to win, given the talent on his roster. If Joe Torre really felt as you think he feels about the front office's moves (and you have not a shred of evidence to show that)then he would not play Tony Womack just as he does not use Mike Stanton, Buddy Groom, or any of the other bullpen artists that he does not "trust." How is Tony Womack different? Until Cashman gets him a legitimate outfielder, Torre can use Sierra or Crosby. Considering the Yankees' defensive deficiencies, playing Sierra in the field would be the least of Torre's concerns. And why would you make sure a man whose OPS is historically bad gets more ABs per game than all of your best hitters except Jeter? Is it more important to establish alibis for losing or to do your damndest to get the most out of an imperfect roster? All things considered, the Yankees are no worse than a .500 team and possibly much, much better, but Torre is managing like he's Tony Pena with the Royals' roster. Maybe we ought to get him Jose Lima. I'm sure he'd "trust" him.

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