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Monthly Archives: July 2005

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With a Little Bit O Luck

It looked good early on for the Yankees today; Randy Johnson was throwing the ball well again. And after five straight fastballs, Derek Jeter slapped a breaking ball from Chris Bootcheck into right field in the bottom of the first. I just had a feeling that the Yankees would have a good day. They wiykd hit the ball hard off of Bootcheck, but couldn’t get a big, clutch hit off of him. Chone Figgins made a wonderful diving catch in the bottom of the second to rob Bernie Williams of an RBI extra-base hit, Hideki Matsui was also robbed of an RBI single in the fourth by Orlando Cabrera, and Garet Andreson made a nice running catch to snag a double from Alex Rodriguez (who scorched the ball) in the sixth.

Meanwhile, Johnson wasn’t really as sharp as he had been against the Twins. He labored in the fourth inning, distracted by Cabrera who had singled and stolen his second base of the afternoon. Johnson fanned both Vlad Guerrero and Anderson but then walked Juan Rivera and fell behind Benji Molina 2-0. Molina fouled two pitches off, getting good hacks at both of them, before Johnson left a fastball over the plate. Molina deposited it over the left field wall for a three-run homer. Jose Molina led-off the fifth with a solo dinger of his own (flat slider) and the Yanks were behind the Angels yet again.

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Hotter Than July

Jeez, anybody know anything about Chris Bootcheck, the Angels’ starting pitcher today? The youngster is making his second career start and will face Randy Johnson on what promises to be a hot and hazy afternoon in the Bronx.

Hopefully, the Big Unit is still mad. We like him when he’s angry.

Go get ‘em boys.

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How Sweet it is

If you were to ask me what could be finer than the Yankees beating Curt Schilling in the ninth inning I would say, “Not much.” However, a close second would be the Yanks beating Francisco Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth, which is exactly what happened this afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Hot Dog.

Shawn Chacon pitched admirably in his Yankee debut allowing just one run over six but the middle relief imploded in the seventh. In a comedy of errors, Felix Rodriguez, Alan Embree and Flash Gordon only allowed two hits but four runs scored as a humble 3-1 Yankee lead quickly turned into a 5-3 deficit. When former Bomber Juan Rivera cranked a two-run dinger off of Gordon in the top of the eighth it looked like yet another discouraging affair against the Angels.

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Lucky Number 13?

Shawn Chacon gets the nod this afternoon on the FOX Game of the Week, becoming the thirteenth different starting pitcher the Yankees have used this season. Yesterday, Chris Karhl gave his take on the Chacon deal over at Baseball Prospectus (which is free-of-charge through August 3rd):

I know that I’ve been given to making historical comparisons in this space of late, but I see Chacon as being a less durable Mike Torrez: a wee bit uncomfortably wild, but good enough to keep you in ballgames. So I definitely like the decision to pick him up, having a perhaps unhealthy regard for a guy who’s been a relatively decent starter in Coors Field. His elbow problems haven’t been an issue of late, and eternal optimist that I can be, maybe working with Billy Connors this winter will clean up his mechanics. Will his strikeout rates go up now that he’s come down from the High Plains? I think they will, and add in that Chacon has been able to keep people’s hit rates under one per inning pitching in Denver, and I’m downright enthusiastic…

Now that he’s in New York, with an offense that can drop the hammer on opposing moundsmen as well as the Yankees do, that can keep the Yankees thinking in terms of winning the division instead of wondering about the wild card. Add in that the cost was only a pair of live arms that, given this organization’s predilections for the aged and infirm, weren’t likely to get brought up, let alone used, and this was exactly what the doctor ordered.

While the Manny-to-the-Mets blockbuster appears to be dead, Yankee GM Brian Cashman is still working the phones in the hopes of pulling off another minor deal before the deadline tomorrow afternoon.

Coming up Short

A couple of pitches in the second inning gave the Angels all the offense they would need tonight as they stifled the Bombers 4-1 at the stadium. Garet Anderson opened his stance and stroked a high, inside fastball to right for a two-run homer and then Benji Molina turned on another inside pitch for a solo dinger to left. Neither pitch was that bad at all. As Jim Kaat and Paul O’Neill commented on the YES broadcast it was as if both hitters had read Mussina’s mind and were sitting inside–the pitch to Anderson was particularly tough. His quick, fluid swing belied just how difficult it was to hit a home run on that pitch.

Those three runs would do the trick. Mussina ended up pitching well over eight innings, but Ervin Santana, a lanky right-hander with a good breaking pitch and a zippy fastball, was better. The Yanks put two runners on with nobody out in the first and third innings only to come away with bubkus. They had two men on in the sixth but couldn’t get a run in either. Tino Martinez did line a solo homer into the right-centerfield stands in the seventh, then Derek Jeter doubled to right with one out. However, Brenden Donnelly got Robinson Cano to line out sharply to first and Sheffield to pop out to first to end the inning. And dems the breaks, bro. (Sheffield hit another seed tonight, but this time it went right to Steve Finley for an easy out leading-off the sixth inning.)

The Angels added a run against Tanyon Sturtze in the eighth while the Yanks went quietly against Scot Shields and a far more subdued Francisco Rodriguez. I don’t want to go so far as to say that the Yanks were listless tonight but they didn’t have much punch either. You would never have known that the Angels were the team who played 18 innings last night. Right now, the Angels simply have the Yankees’ number. New York fell another game behind Boston who beat the Twins at Fenway Park. The Yanks now trail the Red Sox by two-and-a-half games.

Um…darn.

Strange Brewings

As the Yankee fight another uphill battle against the Angels in the Bronx, the Boston Globe is reporting that the Mets-Red Sox and Devil Rays are in seriously considering a blockbuster trade. Dig this:

Under the principal scenario discussed by the teams — according to one of the clubs involved in the negotiations — the Red Sox would receive infielder/outfielder Aubrey Huff from the Devil Rays and outfielder Mike Cameron from the Mets. The Mets would receive Ramirez from the Sox and closer Danys Baez from the Devil Rays. Tampa Bay would receive a number of prospects, possibly from both clubs. If the Sox have to deal a prospect, it could be Double-A pitcher Anibal Sanchez.

”I’m not sure this thing is really going to happen, but it’s definitely being discussed,” the source said.

Lean back. It would be something if this one goes down. But hold the phone. According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, talks hit a roadblock this afternoon:

“I don’t know if it’s completely dead,” said an official of one of the three teams. “But it’s hit a roadblock … unless someone has some other thoughts.”

A source said the Red Sox felt they could not go ahead with trading Ramirez and two prime prospects — reportedly catcher Kelly Shoppach and right-hander Anibal Sanchez — if all they were receiving was New York’s Cameron and Tampa Bay’s Huff. So they went back to the Mets “for more pieces,” the source reported. At that point, the Mets “squashed the whole thing” and talks broke off.

A baseball man with knowledge of the discussions said the Red Sox asked the Mets for a “key player,” whom the Mets felt they couldn’t trade.

An official of another club that spoke with the Mets on Friday night said the Mets also had reservations about going ahead with the deal because they would have had to assume all $64 million of Ramirez’s contract, and that would have put them both over budget and over the luxury-tax threshhold.

So, is this much ado about nuthin’ or will the Sox trade Manny by Sunday?

Angels with Dirty Faces

The Angels were up all night playing extra innings with the Blue Jays. They are in the Bronx tonight to face Mike Mussina and the Bomb Squad. I wish I had a good feeling about Moose but I don’t. Hopefully it’s just something I ate and he’ll Yanks be fine. Sure is wunnerful anytime they beat the stinkin’ Angels.

It was slightly overcast today but really it’s as nice as it is going to get in New York at this time of year. The humidity is low and there is a calm breeze in the Bronx.

Just thinking about who could be the star(s) tonight is fun: Sheff, Alex, Jeter, Godzilla, Robbie Cano, Posado, Giambo, Tino, heck, Tony Womack: which one of dese?

Let’s Go Yan-Kees.

A Small, Good Thing

Although he’s only played in New York for a season-and-a-half, Gary Sheffield has already left an lasting impression on Yankee fans. He’s not only an incredibly clutch hitter but a viscerally exciting one–even his foul balls are electric. (In fact, for much of 2004, Sheffield’s signature hits for the Yanks were line drives scorched into the left field stands.) Yesterday, in the first inning Sheffield glicked a low and inside pitch from Joe Mays into the left field stands that was hit so hard that it didn’t have a chance to twist foul. Although I’ve seen great right-handed hitters like Jim Rice and Mike Piazza rope line drive home runs like that, Dave Winfield is the only Yankee I can recall who specialized in those kind of laser shots. Jim Kaat said later on that it was like watching Tiger Woods drive one off a tee, and he was right. I know Sheffield has hit more important home runs and even more majestic home runs too, but for my money, that shot yesterday was my favorite one he has hit in pinstripes. It was Mmm, Mmm Good. Put a patent on it because that there was the ultimate Sheffield dinger to me.

Aaron Small pitched impressively yesterday as the Bombers beat the Twins, 6-3. Small allowed three runs over seven innings. He struck out only one but didn’t walk a batter. He was aggresive, throwing strikes and working quickly. After his first game last week, Cliff e-mailed me and commented that Small was a dead-ringer for Kaat. Yesterday, the YES broadcast put up a still photo of Kaat in the first inning and made the comparison in the first inning: it’s all in the jaw. (Incidentally, Paul O’Neill continues to bust Michael Kay’s chops. Early in the game he was ragging on Kay for being such a big star now. He asked Kay if he had his own clothing line yet. O’Neill went further and said it would probably be a line for oversized men. Kay was clearly offended and after O’Neill apologized an uncomfortable silence hung in the booth for the next two pitches.)

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Goldbricker’s Delight

Ah, relief. The heat wave that has been killin’ New Yorkers for the past week broke overnight. Today reminds me a lot of the kind of summer weather you find in Belgium–where my mother’s family lives. It’s mostly cloudy, though you can see some blue sky up there, and it is is cool and slightly breezy. It might rain or become sunny later, or both. Perfect day for tea time. The afternoon game in the Bronx today features Joe Mays v. Aaron Small. The Yankee offense is going to have to do its thing in order for the Bombers to win the series.

Being able to laugh helps

Peter White, one of the authors at the USS Mariner was in town this week and got together with Alex Ciepley and me last night for eats. Ciepley had us over his place on the Upper West Side and made a delicious Thai meal. We caught bits and pieces of the Yankee game thoughout the evening. White is a good-natured guy, originally from Tulsa, and a classic Yankee-hater. But he wasn’t hostile and it was fun watching the game with him, seeing the Yanks from his perspective. Interestingly, the two Yankees he not only tolerates but admires happen to be my two favorites: Bernie Williams and Mariano Rivera. Of course, Alex Rodriguez is his least-favorite Yankee, a bonafide Judas if there ever was one. Peter likened him to Anakin Skywalker.

Given the company–Ciepley hates the Yankees too–it is fitting that the Bombers suffered an almost comic loss last night. Al Leiter was in fine, dramatic form–as if every inning, every batter, each pitch, was the last act of “Camille.” (Or “Macbeth,” or “The Iceman Cometh”…insert your favorite melodrama here.) At this point, Leiter looks more like an actor than he does a great athlete which makes him even more compelling. Like other great Yankee dramatists in recent years (Cone and El Duque come to mind), Leiter doesn’t have much left in the tank in terms of pure stuff, but he’s got career’s worth of guile and expertise by his side. If he has to go to 3-2 on every hitter (which he often does), and load the bases before he gets an out (ditto), he’ll do it. This kind of living-on-the-edge style of pitching can be infuriating to watch, but as uncomfortable as it is at times, I’ve always found it entertaining and admirable. It’s hard for me not to appreciate the humanity in it. Leiter is probably smarter than he ever was, but there is a disconnect between his intelligence and his physical ability. Mistake pitches are not fouled off, they are crushed for home runs. Everything is so hard-earned. You become aware of just how hard it is to get major league hitter’s out.

Anyhow, Leiter loaded the bases many times, and threw about 7,000 pitches by the fourth inning. He wasn’t terrible and allowed one run over five innings (115 pitches). But the Twins scored six runs off the Yankee bullpen (Sturtze, Proctor, Graman) while Johan Santana pitched seven scoreless. The Yanks came close at moments, but not close enough. In the third, Alex Rodriguez narrowly missed hitting a three-run home run to left, flying out to the warning track instead; in the eighth, he would just get under another one and fly out to deep center.

The Yanks did manage to score three times in the eighth, then Bernie Williams hit what looked to be a game-tying three-run dinger to right field off Joe Nathan. I got out of my chair and yelled. But the ball hooked foul and for the third time in the game, I looked foolish. (I don’t know what it was, but my home-run-call judgement was way off last night.) Williams, who, like Leiter is playing the final games of his career, struck out on the next pitch, a nasty splitter in the dirt.

Rodriguez capped a frustrating night by striking-out looking to end the game. Nathan threw two fastballs by him, wasted another up and away and then painted the outside corner with a heater, a perfect, unhittable pitch. Twins 6, Yanks 3. Happy Birthday indeed. Lots of humble pie to go around for the Bombers, who fell another game behind Boston who beat the Devil Rays yesterday.

Speaking of which, the final bit of comedy–or tragedy, depending on your viewpoint–is that the Yankees have signed Hideo Nomo. It says something about the state of affairs when the Yankees pick up a guy like Nomo who was cut by the last-place Devil Rays. Ciepley and White got a kick out of that. I could only laugh to keep from crying.

In the Soup

Brother is it ever hot in New York. It’s like a swamp outside, absolutely horrible. Tonight gives old man Leiter vs. young gun Santana. Hope everyone enjoys it…from somewhere cool. I’m going to be out for a good portion of the game, so if anyone is around and can leave me their impressions I sure would appreciate it. Thanks.

Heppy Boitday

ESPN celebrates Alex Rodriguez’s 30th birthday today with two articles: one by Alan Schwarz and the other by Bob Klapisch. Good stuff.

No Chance

Before Randy Johnson came out to pitch the six inning, the YES cameras spotted his glove with a big wad of chewed bubble gum on it resting on the ledge of the dugout. I don’t know if he always does this, but it was notable because Johnson had a no-hitter through five. That gum looked nasty, but you don’t want to mess with a man’s routine, right? The Twins’ ninth-place hitter Juan Castro broke up the no-no with a two-out single in the sixth–I called it–but Johson was absolutely dominating tonight. His slider was sharp (even the ones that were out of the zone had a bite that his breaking pitches simply did not have earlier in the year) and the Twinkies looked as if they didn’t have a chance. Johnson pitched eight innings, throwing 97 pitches (71 went for strikes), and striking out 11. He allowed just two hits and didn’t walk a batter.

While the Big Unit worked quickly, the normally efficient Brad Radke was in-and-out of trouble against the Yankees. Radke entered the game with just ten bases on balls on the season, and he walked Jason Giambi twice (to be fair, the second pass came with a runner on second and just one out…Radke was pitching around Giambi as much as Giambi earned the walk). Still, he left the game after six trailing just 2-0. But in the seventh, the Yanks loaded the bases against Jess Crain, before Hideki Matsui singled home two runs off J.C. Romero as the Bombers cruised, 4-0 (Flash Gordon pitched a one-two-three ninth). Alex Rodriguez, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and Matsui each had two hits apiece for New York.

It was a big win for the Yanks what with Al Leiter and Johan Santana pitching tomorrow. Kevin Brown was scratched from his Thursday afternoon start (Aaron Small will likely take his place) and he may not be available for a while. Carl Pavano won’t pitch Saturday either, so the Yanks really needed this game. (I think we can count on Cashman making a deal for another starter by the end of the weekend; according to the Post, the Yanks will sign Hideo Nomo after he clears waivers later today.) The Twins are not an impressive offensive team, but Johnson would have likely been rough for any squad to handle this evening as he turned in one of his best performances in pinstripes. Let’s hope he stays grouchy.

Heat

It was brutally hot in New York today. It isn’t exactly chilly this evening either. It behooves Randy Johnson and Brad Radke to work quickly. Through three-and-a-half, they’ve done just that. Johnson has six strike outs. Alex Rodriguez golfed his 28th dinger of the season to straight-away center to lead-off the second inning.

Heard any good rumors lately?

It doesn’t appear as if the Yankees are going to make any splashy moves before the end of the trading deadline, but they are reportedly interested in pitching–both starting and relief–as well as a center fielder. The only name that really jumps out and moves me is Grady Sizemore, but that just doesn’t seem realistic–at least not without losing Cano (which I think would be worthwhile). Here is the latest from the Times,the Daily News, Newsday, and the Newark Star-Leger.

The Yanks go into a three-game series against the Twins trailing the Red Sox by just one game in the AL East. Tonight offers a good pitching match-up in the Bronx: Radke v. Johnson. Be sure and check out how the other half lives by dropping in on Batgirl, John Bonnes, Seth Stohs, and of course, Aaron Gleeman.

A Regular Guy

I was browsing through Robert Whiting’s enjoyable book about the current generation of Japanese baseball players, “The Samurai Way of Baseball” recently and thoroughly enjoyed the chapter on Hideki Matsui. Whiting details Matsui’s career in Japan and explains why his conservative and humble manner is so appealing to Japanese fans. Matsui is described as a traditional but unpretentious guy.

Trailed constantly by a scrum of Japanese reporters eager to record any Matsui moment for the devoted and insatiable Japanese media machine, Matsui invariably wore a smile–unlike the prickly Ichiro. “I asked for this life,” he would say. “Nobody forced it on me and I have a duty to the people who put me here.” He refused to charge admission at the Hideki Matsui House of Baseball back home–a practice which stood in marked contrast to the Ichiro Museum in Nagoya, which a ticket costs $8. It just wouldn’t be fair, he explained.

Some cyincs called Matsui simpleminded, a workhorse wihtout the brainpower to comprehend what all the attention really meant or the sophistication to mimic Ichiro’s studied cool. But Matsui, who in fact had been an attentive student with high marks in math (one who actually sat in the first row of the classes he attended), would shrug and say, in his coarse baritone, “I’m just an ordinary guy.” He liked to have an occasional beer. He loked to shoot the breeze with the security guards and maintenance personnel, and he liked to trade tapes form his extensive library of adult videos with reporters. (His reply, when asked about his eccentric hobby, was a droll “Doesn’t everybody do this?”)

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Duly Noted…(Shhh, Don’t Tell Anyone)

In his latest column, Ken Rosenthal writes:

Is anyone noticing that the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera is enjoying his best season as a closer? Rivera allowed two earned runs in his first two appearances, then only two in his next 36. His 0.89 ERA would represent a career best, and his 10.18 strikeouts per nine innings would be his highest rate since 1996, when he was John Wetteland’s setup man…

You bet we’ve noticed it. I’m just too superstitious to want to write about it myself. My favorite Yankee next to Bernie Williams, Rivera is one of the few players whose numbers I get very precious about. I want him to do well so badly it almost hurts. Given the nature of his job, Rivera’s ERA could ballon with just a few bad outings, but it is now down to 0.85. Since the first two outings agains the Red Sox, it is 0.44. He’s done made us proud…again.

Sell…Now?

David Pinto wonders if the Yanks should try to trade Jason Giambi now that the slugger’s value is as high as it has been in a long time.

Oh, Whatta Relief it is

With their ace relievers Scot Shields and Fransico Rodriguez unavailable for yesterday’s game, the Yanks just had to find a way to take the final game of their long road trip. Having lost the first three to the Angels, Mike Mussina responded with an excellent performance. He was matched by Jarrod Washburn, who changed speeds well and allowed just one hit through six innings. Chone Figgins murdered the Yanks all weekend and got the Angels on the board quickly in the first inning (walk, stolen base, ground out, ground out=run scored). Figgins would follow with three more hits. Dag.

The score didn’t change until the seventh. With one out, Alex Rodriguez hit a hard ground ball down the third base line. Figgins not only snagged it–preventing a sure double–but he made an impressive throw to first that almost nipped the hustling Rodriguez. It was a closer play than I expected it to be. Hideki Matsui who was 0-2 on the afternoon (on three pitches), followed and plastered a home run to right center field. Washburn stayed in the game and the Yanks scored another run later in the inning when he failed to cover first base properly.

The Angels chased Mussina in the bottom of the seventh and had runners on first and second (Kennedy and Figgens) with just one man out. Tanyon Sturtze was in the game for New York and the Angels put on the hit-and-run with Daren Erstad at the plate. Erstad slapped a ground ball directly down the third base line. Alex Rodriguez, moving to the bag as the runners were moving, fielded the ball, stepped on the bag and side-armed the ball to first for the double play. It was a bit of good fortune the Yankees sorely needed.

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Heaven Help Us

Slammed

Six runs was not enough tonight. Derek Jeter went 4-4 with a home run, while Robinson Cano and Jason Giambi had dingers too, but Kevin Brown was awful as the Yanks dropped their third straight to the Angels. The final score was 8-6. What began as a promising road trip has now officially hit the skids. The Yanks are 5-5 since the break and they fell another game behind Boston who shutout the White Sox tonight in Chicago.

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