"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: April 2007

Older posts            Newer posts

At Least They Have Their Health . . . Sorta

With Jeff Karstens making his first start of the season (and just the seventh of his major league career) after a stay on the disabled list due to elbow soreness, Hideki Matsui on the DL, Jorge Posada out with a bruised thumb, and Johnny Damon out with back and hamstring soreness, the Yankees were effectively playing yesterday’s game with one hand tied behind their back, thus their eventual 7-5 loss was hardly a shock. Rather, the Yankees did well to score five runs against Josh Beckett, who came into the game having allowed just one run in each of his first three starts of the year. The bullpen contributed 3 2/3 scoreless innings–the highlight being Sean Henn’s three-pitch strikeout of David Ortiz. And Damon, pinch-hitting for a still-hitless Wil Neives, Melky Cabrera, Derek Jeter, and Bobby Abreu each had good at-bats against a gas-throwing Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth. Cabrera worked a one-out, four-pitch walk to give Jeter and Abreu a chance to tie game. Unfortunately, Jeter took the most hitable pitch of his six-pitch at-bat for a called strike, and Abreu flied out to the warning track in center to end the game, leaving Mr. Clutch, Alex Rodriguez (2 for 4 with a double and an RBI single) stranded in the on-deck circle.

This gives me a good occasion to update the Yankees’ laundry list of injuries and resultant roster and lineup changes:

  • Chris Britton was optioned to Scranton to make room for Karstens, meaning Colter Bean remains on the roster, though he did not appear again yesterday. Kevin Thompson, who doubled and made a nice catch against the Monster in left yesterday, will likely go down when Hideki Matsui is activated tomorrow. Bean will then likely be optioned when Chien-Ming Wang is activated for the start on Tuesday, which Wang was cleared to make after throwing 55 pitches in the bullpen in Tampa yesterday.
  • As per the above, Damon did not start yesterday due to general back pain, which he says he first felt while playing on the turf in Minnesota, but had subsided during the recent homestand only to be aggravated on a catch he made in Friday night’s game. According to Damon, he’s been having problems with his legs all season, and the back pain and leg pain are often related for him. Damon did pinch-hit in the ninth yesterday, working Papelbon for seven pitches before ultimately grounding out, and is expected to start tonight. However, one wonders if, with Hideki Matsui coming off the DL tomorrow, the Yankees might keep Melky in the lineup in Damon’s place for the two games they play on turf in Tampa.
  • Also per the above, Jorge Posada came out of Friday night’s game after his left thumb was bruised by an Andy Pettitte pitch and did not play yesterday, though it turns out he was available if needed. He won’t start tonight either, but will again be available as a pinch-hitter. His thumb is swollen, but x-rays were negative and it bothers him less to hit than to catch. Josh Phelps warmed up Scott Proctor and Luis Vizcaino in the bullpen on Friday night in order to serve as an emergency catcher if needed. Wil Nieves, meanwhile, failed to execute a sac bunt in yesterday’s game, but reached on a Mike Lowell throwing error then came around to score. It was the first and still only time in Nieves’s Yankee career that one of his plate appearances didn’t result in an out.
  • Mike Mussina threw 30 pitches in the bullpen in Tampa yesterday and will throw again on Tuesday, hoping to reach 50 pitches. The Yankees hope he’ll be ready to make a rehab start on Friday and, if all goes well, he could rejoin the rotation when the Yankees travel to Texas, likely starting the final game of that series on May 3. Bobby Murcer is expected to join the team in Texas as well.
  • An MRI on Carl Pavano’s elbow revealed a mild strain on Thursday. He threw off flat ground yesterday and reported continued tightness in the elbow, but is expected to throw again on Monday. He’s still traveling with the team.
  • Humberto Sanchez had Tommy John surgery on Wednesday. He is the third Yankee minor leaguer to undergo elbow ligament surgery since the end of last season, the others being Mark Melancon, who had Tommy John over the winter, and J. Brent Cox, who had a less severe ligament repair at the end of Spring Training. This could ultimately be good news for Sanchez, who’s had elbow problems most of his professional career. The hope now is that those problems will be a thing of the past once he’s fully recovered from this surgery. There’s no guarantee of that, of course, and he’ll likely spend all of 2008 building back his arm strength, but the Yankees have enough minor league pitching to be patient with his recovery.

Mo Problems

Everything went according to plan for the Yankees through the first seven innings of last night’s series opener in Fenway. Andy Pettitte turned in a quality start, holding the Red Sox to two runs on a Jason Varitek homer over 6 1/3 innings, then passed the baton to Scott Proctor, who retired his two batters on six pitches (five of which were strikes). Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez hit not one, but two more home runs, both off Curt Schilling, a solo shot into the Monster Seats in the fourth and a three-run shot that sent Coco Crisp tumbling into the Boston bullpen in the fifth. Those two shots were bookended by two other runs, the latter a Rodriguez double in the top of the eighth that was plated by a Jason Giambi single. That gave the Yankees a 6-2 lead entering the bottom of the eighth inning.

With David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez leading off the eighth, the Yankees’ four-run lead looked safe. Even if both mashers managed to come around to score, the Yanks still had two runs to work with. Joe Torre brought in Mike Myers to face Ortiz, who promptly doubled. He then turned to Luis Vizcaino to face Ramirez, who worked a full-count walk. J. D. Drew, who was 3-for-3 with a trio of singles against Pettitte, grounded to second for the first out, moving Ortiz and Ramirez to second and third. Mike Lowell followed Drew with a single into left field that plated Ortiz, put runners on the corners, and brought the tying run to the plate in the person of Jason Varitek. With that, Torre turned to Mariano Rivera.

In spring training, Joe Torre said that he was going to use Rivera exclusively as a one-inning pitcher this year, but with all of the Yankee wins coming either in their last at-bat (Jason Giambi’s extra-inning homer in Oakland and Alex Rodriguez’s two walk-offs at home), or in blowouts (Opening Day’s 9-5 score being by far the closest of the other five Yankee wins which they’ve won by an average of 6.6 runs), Rivera hasn’t had much opportunity to pitch. Indeed, he hadn’t thrown a pitch in five days, dating back to his blown save in Oakland last Sunday. Thus, Torre had no qualms against using Rivera for five outs in order to guarantee a win in the only game that favored the Yankees entering their weekend showdown with the rival Red Sox.

In Oakland, Rivera struggled with his command. Pitches that were supposed to be down in the zone floated up and over the plate. Last night his first five pitches to Varitek were right at Wil Nieves’s glove, the first four at the bottom of the strike zone. Varitek fouled off the last three, however, and the sixth floated up and over the plate. Varitek deposited it into right center for an RBI single to pull the Sox within two. That brought up Coco Crisp. Rivera again threw a pitch right to Nieves’s glove on the lower inside corner and Crisp hit it all of three feet. In the air that is. Crisp beat the ball into the ground, but past Doug Mientkiewicz’s dive at first and down into the right field corner for a bases-clearing triple that tied the game. Two pitches later, Rivera missed high again to Alex Cora who hit a flare over the drawn-in infield to plate Crisp with the go-ahead run.

Rivera has now blown his only two save opportunities this season, taking the loss in each of his last two outings. Conversely, each of the last two Yankee loses were games in which they handed Mariano Rivera a multi-run lead. Is this cause for concern over the baseball mortality of the Yankees’ 37-year-old closer?

Probably not. In 2005, Rivera blew his first two saves of the year in consecutive games at home against the Red Sox. Last year, Rivera blew his second save opportunity of the season and three outings later came into a tie game at home in the tenth inning and gave up two runs to take the loss. Following the latter on April 26, Rivera was 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA. He’d lose just three more games all year and finish with a 1.80 ERA. In 2005 he finished with a staggering 1.38 ERA. Rivera’s throwing hard, as evidenced by his virtuoso performance on Opening Day, and, despite the pitch that got away from him and sailed over Julio Lugo’s head before he struck Lugo out to end the eighth, his location was improved last night save for three or four of his 14 pitches (11 of those 14 pitches were strikes, though his recent location problems have had more to do with throwing strikes that are a little to good than with missing the zone). Rivera was lights out in spring training and allowed just one hit and one walk in his first four innings of the reuglar season while striking out four. He’ll be fine.

So will Jorge Posada, who left the game with a bruised thumb on his glove hand. His x-rays were negative, but he’ll likely miss the rest of the series with Wil Nieves catching the rookies Karstens and Wright, and Josh Phelps serving as the emergency backup catcher. After subbing in for Posada last night, Nieves has now come to the plate 19 times as a Yankee and made 19 outs. He has no official sacrifices and, though he did get to run the bases last night after hitting into a fielder’s choice, has not scored a run.

As much as last night’s loss hurt, a win in either of the next two games would be just as painful to the Red Sox. They really have no excuse not to sweep this series now.


The Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox may have faltered last year, but I think their offseason upgrades at shortstop, right field and in the rotation have put them back in a dead heat with the Yankees. I’ll save my breakdown for next week’s series in the Bronx, however, because, with Hideki Matsui and three starting pitchers due to be activated from the disabled list between now and then, this simply isn’t the same Yankee team. As a result, all of the pressure is on the Red Sox this weekend. They can’t afford not to take at least two of three from the dilapidated Yanks in their home park, especially when they’ve got their top three starters lined up against the likes of Jeff Karstens, who will come off the DL tomorrow to make just his seventh career major league start, and Chase Wright, who will take his second big league turn on Sunday.

The Yankees, meanwhile, will be content to win just one, though there’s still some pressure in that the most favorable pitching match up for them is tonight’s marquee battle between Curt Schilling and Andy Pettitte and a sweep would be disastrous regardless of the shape of the Yankee roster. These teams are too evenly matched for either to shrug off surrendering three games in the standings, no matter how early it is.

The good news for the Yankees is that the Red Sox, with the exceptions of J. D. Drew and David Ortiz (of course), aren’t really hitting. Jason Varitek looks as done as he did last year if not more so. Coco Crisp, who was expected to bounce back following a season hampered by a hand injury, has yet to rebound. Rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia is third on the team in walks, but has contributed almost nothing else. Manny Ramirez is off to a brutally slow start, finally hitting his first homer of the year yesterday. Kevin Youkilis has been only a hair better than Manny. Mike Lowell isn’t getting on base, and Julio Lugo isn’t showing any power.

Rather the Sox have been getting it all done on pitching. Schilling, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Tim Wakefield have all been excellent the first three times through the rotation, and Julian Tavarez (a placeholder for the progressing Jon Lester) had a good outing against the Blue Jays yesterday. The bullpen has been more problematic, but Jonathan Papelbon, Brendan Donnelly, and unheralded Japanese lefty Hideki Okajima have allowed just one run between them (a homer off Okajima) in 16 innings, striking out 22 against just four hits.

For his part, Schilling recovered from a shaky Opening Day outing in Kansas City to post the following combined line in his last two starts against the Rangers and Angels:

15 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 10 K, 2-0, 0.60 ERA

Fortunately, Andy Pettitte’s been almost as good over his last two outings against the Twins and A’s:

13 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 7 K, 1-1, 0.69 ERA

Andy’s also a lefty facing a lineup in which the only two hot hitters are the only two lefties. In fact, the Red Sox have been sitting the fragile Drew against lefties in favor of Wily Mo Peña, as if Trot Nixon never left.

As for the Yankees, a week and a half ago I wrote: “The Yankee starters finished their first trip through the rotation with a 9.97 ERA. That was no more likely to hold up than the bullpen’s current 1.07 ERA or the offense’s 6.83 runs per game.”

Indeed, the Yankee starters ERA has dropped by more than half to 4.52, the pen ERA has more than doubled to 2.69, and the offense has scored . . . well 6.5 runs per game, actually. That’s a 1053-run pace with Matsui on the shelf for most of it, Melky not hitting in his place and Doug Mientkiewicz starting the majority of the games at first base. In other words, Alex Rodriguez will cool off (he won’t hit 116 home runs this year, you heard it here first), but the Yankees have the opportunity to compensate with a healthy Matsui and an upgrade at first, which could be as simple as giving the job to Josh Phelps. Wow.

What this weekend’s series comes down to is a match-up between the major league’s most potent offense and the major league’s stingiest pitching staff (2.57 R/G). In an identical number of games, the Yankee offense has scored 55 more runs than the Red Sox’s pitchers have allowed, that’s 253 percent as many runs (or, inversely, just 40 percent as many allowed by the Sox). The Yankees faced a similar situation heading into Oakland last week and played three games decided in the victor’s final at-bat. Here’s hoping this series is similarly exciting.



Sympathy for the Devil

Since I wrote about Carl Pavano last week, he . . . well, you know. (Whatever. Anybody can win with more than one legitimate major league starter on their roster! Where’s the fun in that?). I wasn’t home that day and didn’t get to join in the discussion in the comments, but there was some good, thoughtful debate going on, and I wanted to follow up. First of all, several people pointed out, and I agree, that in sports too much is made of machismo and “playing through pain”. Not to say that moments like Kirk Gibson’s legendary World Series homer aren’t admirable,* or even inspirationalbut there’s no shame in prioritizing your long-term health over a baseball game, either.

But several people raised another interesting point: if you really believed that, for example, Carl Pavano is a gutless liar (and to be clear, I’m not saying he isjust using it as a hypothetical), can you turn around and root for him this year? [Insert obligatory joke about how he probably won’t pitch again til 2008 anyway. Pause for laughter]. It’s hardly a new issue, just part of a broader question: how do we decide who to root for? Is it anybody on our team, no matter who they are or what they’ve doneup to, as someone jokingly put it, Charles Mansonor is there a line? If there is, where does it fall for you?



Greetings from the Bahamas, my peoples.

So Em and I got hitched yesterday and it all went swimmingly. We are staying at a resort by the water and were all set-up to have our ceremony, just the two of us, on a pier over-looking the ocean. 1:30 p.m. was our launch time. Em went off to get her hair and make-up done just after 11:00 while I stayed in our room and finished ironing my shirt and getting myself prepped. And yo, wouldn’t you know it, but by 11:30 the skies opened-up and it started to rain like mad. And it didn’t stop.

I turned on the Weather Channel, and kept going out onto our terrace to look at the sky. Gray and raining, the palm trees rustling in the wind. Man, I was bugging thinking about Emily bugging (and she, in turn, was bugging about me bugging about her bugging). We came all the way down here to Paradise and it’s freakin’ raining, you’ve got to be kidding me. But then I thought of my cousin Eric who would have embraced the rain, the sense that Mother Nature was doing her thing, and it was all good, and that calmed me some. Then I thought, “Hey, I’m totally happy, I look great, and I’m marrying the love of my life, screw the weather.”

The rain tapered off some by a quarter to one when Em called. She sounded calm. I asked if we were going to change the location to inside and she said “No, not yet.” I went off to meet the minister, A. Dewitt Hutcherson, a tall-strapping man who looked vaguely like Michael Irvin. We were going to be the 9,796th wedding he’d performed in his career.

The rain had stopped and the humidity hit with the quickness. As we walked to the pier, believe it or not, the sun came out. Ten minutes later, my bride joined us, and it was completely sunny. The ceremony was short and sweet and lovely. We took pictures for a long while against the brilliant blue-green backdrop of the ocean and we were very happy.

Then, after eating the cake and drinking some champagne, we finally got back to our room. Em went to the bathroom to fix herself up and I quickly checked the ESPN ticker for the score of the game (incorrigible, I know, but come on, I had to distract myself for a minute). Yanks were down 6-2. Oh, well, I thought. No big deal.

We then consumated our love for each other while the Bombers roared back in the ninth. When we checked the scores later and saw that the Yanks had won, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. They didn’t have any details, but when caught the highlights on Sportscenter, and…holy my god! Talk about Kismet. That was the icing on the gravy to what was already an amazing day. All those two-out, bottom of the ninth hits? Man, I was nervous just watching the clips. And our boy Alex Rodriguez hitting another huge home run? Dag, man, what a wonderful thing.

I realize that the Boston series is a thing onto itself (hopefully, the Yanks can take one out of three), but no matter what transpires this weekend, Em and I will always have the memory of A Rod coming through on the most meaningful day of our lives. It’s a small thing, but a beautiful thing.

Hope everyone is doing well. I’ll get atcha when I return next week.

Holy Expletive!

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why you do not leave a baseball game early. You’ll have to bear with me through this recap, though, because I find myself unable to remember much about the first half of the game, and it’s tough to type with your jaw on the floor.

First of all, congratulations again to Alex and Emily, who got married during the early innings of today’s 8-6 Yankee win. I’m sure they didn’t need this win to make the day memorable, but you still have to appreciate Alex Rodriguez’s thoughtful wedding gift.

The Yankees looked a bit listless throughout much of the game, unable to get much going against the awesomely named Fausto Carmona, who pitched much better than anyone coming in with an ERA over 12 has any right to. They eked out a run in the 3rd, when Abreu singled Damon home, and another in the 6th, on a Giambi homer, but that was it for the offense.

Meanwhile, Darrell Rasner was impressive through three innings, but ran into trouble soon after, when Dave Dellucci homered, and a quick single, a four-pitch walk, and a hit batsman loaded the bases with one out. Joe Torre, normally so impassive in the dugout, looked like gerbils were gnawing at his intestines. Rasner came up with a pop up (Blake) and a strikeout (Peralta) to wriggle free, but was apparently on a short leash thereafter; Torre lifted him when he allowed a single in the fifth, though it was still 1-1.

After leaving the bases loaded yet again in the sixth, thanks to stellar work from Brian Bruney, the Indians finally got their big blow in the seventh, off of the usually reliable Luis Vizcaino. A walk, a double, an RBI groundout, an intentional walk to Pronk, and a big three-run homer by catcher Victor Martinez made the score 5-2. Vizcaino recovered, but the Yanks went quietly in their next two innings, and a tough error on A-Rod allowed a runner to score on Sean Henn in ninth, leaving the Yanks staring at a four-run deficit.

Cleveland closer Joe Borowski came in to begin the ninth, and Robinson Cano promptly popped out, followed by a weak Melky Cabrera grounder. Now, I don’t think I’m unduly pessimistic when it comes to baseball, but I absolutely thought this game was over. Josh Phelps homered, and I still thought it was over. With two strikes, Jorge Posada singlednearly decapitating Borowski in the processand I figured, hey, good to see them going down fighting. But then Posada took second on defensive indifference, Johnny Damonagain with two strikesworked a ballsy walk, and Derek Jeter came up as the tying run. At this point, though I am not proud to admit it, I sat down on the floor and began talking to my dog.

This is the kind of situational hitting Jeter has always excelled at, and he knocked a 1-0 pitch into left field, plating Posada. The score was 6-4, and the game’s momentum had completely shifted. Bobby Abreu, again with two strikes, did much the same thing, and Damon came home to make it 6-5. That brought up, of course and to no one’s surprise, Alex Rodriguez. “They have to walk him,” I said to my dog, and, in fact, Borowski’s first pitch made a desperate attempt to escape; it got by Martinez, allowing the runners to move up. That turned out not to matter, though, because the next pitch was up over the plate. What happened next was exactly what every single fan watching the game had been simultaneously, vividly imagining.

Rodriguez knew it was gone the second he hit itstraight to centerand he couldn’t seem to believe it himself, grinning and very nearly skipping all the way around the bases. Paul O’Neill, in the booth, just started laughing. The Yankee dugout gleefully rushed out to meet him. That’s A-Rod’s 10th home run of the year, in 14 games, but I personally ran out of superlatives for his hitting last night, so you’re on your own there.

With this sweep of the Indianswho are playing below their potential for the third straight yearthe Yanks head into Boston one game out of first here in the early going. Ninth inning, Fenway Park, Papelbon versus A-Rod? Should be fun.

Gitcher Broom for the Bride and Groom

The last time the Yankees started three rookies in a row prior to September call-ups was August 2-4, 1991 when the Yankees sent Scott Kamieniecki, Jeff Johnson, and Wade Taylor to the hill against the Tigers in Detroit. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, Yankee hitting coach Don Mattingly was the first baseman. A’s manager Bob Geren caught Taylor’s game. Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens started two of those games. A rookie named Bernie Williams started all three in center field. Melky Cabrera was eagerly anticipating his seventh birthday. Bud Selig was simply the owner of the AL East’s Milwaukee Brewers. Kurt Cobain wasn’t famous yet, and the president was a guy named George Bush who, with the help of Dick Cheney, led us into a war in Iraq.

The Yankees lost all three of those games, allowing a minimum of seven runs in each. My how things have changed.

Today the Yankees throw Darrell Rasner, their third rookie starting pitcher in as many games, again Fausto Carmona. Carmona got lit up pretty good in his only previous start, that coming at home against the White Sox almost a week ago. Rasner, on the other hand, didn’t allow an earned run or walk a batter on his way to a no-decision in the Yankees extra-inning win in Oakland this past Saturday.

Meanwhile, up in Toronto, the Red Sox are throwing Julian Tavarez against Roy Halliday. If the Yanks can pull out a sweep behind Darrell Rasner this afternoon, they stand a good chance of entering this weekend’s series in Boston in a dead heat with the Sox.

More importantly, somewhere on a beach in Bermuda right around the time of the first pitch, our man Alex and his lovely bride Emily are going to become husband and wife. Please join me in wishing them a long, full lifetime of happiness, health, and prosperity together. Mazel tov!

Easy Peasy, Pt. II

One night after beating the Indians 10-3 on a cold, rainy, sparsely attended night at the Stadium, the Yankees beat the Indians 9-2 on a cold, rainy, sparsely attended night at the Stadium.

The Yankees jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first when a leadoff walk to Johnny Damon came around to score on a Derek Jeter double and a Bobby Abreu sac fly. Kei Igawa, meanwhile, looked sharp early, getting ahead of hitters and allowing only a Travis Hafner single in the first two frames.

Most of the scoring occurred in the third inning. Igawa started off the third by ringing up Josh Barfield for his third strikeout of the game, but Kelly Shoppach followed with a double to right and Igawa’s 0-2 pitch to Grady Sizemore slipped out of his hand and plunked Sizemore in the tuchus. Igawa got ahead of Jason Michaels as well, but Michaels singled to plate Shoppach on the 0-2 pitch. Again, Igawa got ahead of Travis Hafner 0-2, but his next pitch was in the dirt and rolled away from Jorge Posada, sending Michaels to second. Hafner then tapped a slow three-hopper to the shortstop hole for an infield single that plated Sizemore. Igawa then started Ryan Gargo off with a ball, just the second time in his first 13 batters that his first pitch was out of the strike zone. On his next pitch, Garko hit a check swing flare over the mound. In reaching for it, Igawa sent his glove flipping into the air. Robinson Cano charged and scooped the ball after two quick hops, flipping it to Jeter in one motion to start a 4-6-3, inning-ending double play.

Trailing 2-1, the Yankees let loose on Jeremy Sowers in the bottom of the third. Jeter kicked things off with his second double in as many at-bats. Abreu singled Jeter home to tie the game. Alex Rodriguez ground into a fielder’s choice to replace Abreu at first. Jason Giambi doubled Rodriguez home to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. Posada singled Giambi to third. Cano singled Giambi home. Josh Phelps singled Posada home. Melky Cabrera flied out for the second out, and Johnny Damon finished the job by singling Cano home and knocking Sowers out of the game.

Igawa gave up just a walk and Travis Hafner’s third single over his remaining three innings, again starting eight of the ten hitters he faced with strikes and erasing Hafner’s single with a double play. All totaled, he threw 67 percent of just 92 pitches for strikes and struck out five in six innings while allowing just seven base runners on five hits (four singles, three by Hafner, one that weakly tapped infield single), a walk, and a hit-by-pitch.

Scott Proctor, Sean Henn, and Chris Britton added three more hitless innings to finish the job, each recording one strike out, with Proctor and Britton each issuing a walk.

Oh, and those last three Yankee runs? Yeah, another two-run Alex Rodriguez jack and a solo shot by Jason Giambi, back to back off different pitchers in the sixth no less. In case you’re wondering, Rodriguez is on pace for 112 home runs, 287 RBIs, 199 runs scored, 62 doubles, and 237 hits. He’s slugging .981 (no, that’s not his OPS).

To sum up, in these first two games against the Indians, the Yankees have outscored Cleveland 19-5, two Yankee rookies have picked up their first major league wins, and the bullpen has contributed seven hitless, scoreless innings while issuing just two walks.

Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.

Little Lefty Lupe Lou

Kei Igawa makes his third Yankee start tonight hoping to get the Yankees a series win over the Indians. Igawa’s last start in Oakland looked a heckuva lot like Chase Wright’s outing last night:

Igawa 4/13: 5 1/3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 3 K, 95 pitches

Wright 4/18: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 3 BB, 3 K, 104 pitches

Is that a compliment to Wright, a fresh-faced rookie out of double-A? An insult to Igawa, a seasoned Japanese veteran whose line above actually represents a significant improvement over his MLB debut a week earlier? A little of each? Curiously Igawa and Wright are both lefties whose best pitch is a changeup. Does that mean the Indians will benefit from seeing similar pitchers two nights in a row or that Igawa should have similar success against the Cleveland lineup because of his similar stuff, with hope for improvement because his Opening Day jitters are now two starts behind him?

So many questions.

Then there’s Cleveland starter Jeremy Sowers, a 23-year-old lefty in his first full season in the majors. Taken out of Vanderbilt with the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft, Sowers shot all the way to triple-A in his first professional season in 2005 and joined the major league rotation in late June of last year, finishing the season with a 7-4 record and a 3.57 ERA in 14 starts, two of which were shutouts. In Sowers’ second major league outing, he faced the Yankees at Jacobs Field and held them to two runs over seven innings, those two runs coming on a first-inning Jason Giambi homer. Sowers is a finesse pitcher who fits the description of "crafty lefty" to a T and conjures up comparisons to Jamie Moyer and Tom Glavine, but his rate stats are troubling. In sixteen major league starts between last year and this, Sowers has struck out just 3.46 men per nine innings (Moyer and Glavine’s career K/9 rates are both about 5.35). Seeing as he lacks the extreme groundball tendencies with which Chien-Ming Wang has survived a similarly miniscule strikeout rate, it would seem Sowers is going to have to figure out a way to miss more bats in order to keep winning. Indeed, his .257 opponents’ batting average on balls in play last year is bound to snap back to league average (around .300), taking his ERA with it. Still, he’s excelled in his two starts thus far this year, holding the White Sox to just one hit (but two runs on five walks) over six innings in his first start and the Angels to one run over seven innings in his last. Just because a correction seems inevitable doesn’t mean it will happen tonight.

Doomsday Scenario

by Allen Barra

Alex Belth has asked me to fill in again this week with the explanation that he’s getting married. He’s used this excuse on four previous occasions, so all I can say is that this time I’d better see a ring on his finger when I bump into him.

I warned Alex that I didn’t have anything good to say about the 2007 Yankees, and I’m warning you now in case you want to go read something else. My bad feelings about this year’s team go beyond the recent rash of injuries, but I may as well deal with those before moving on.

Matsui’s hamstring, I think, is a fluke, and he’ll be back strong. I’m fed up with Mussina and especially Pavano. Mussina has increasingly become a frequent breakdown pitcher, one whose usefulness to the Yankees is very nearly at an end. Even when he’s not hurting, he’s wasting so much time trying to make that perfect pitch that he’s usually teetering by about the fifth inning and threatening to be a burden on the bullpen. Pavano is simply a disaster, one of the highest priced in Yankee history. I think he’s poised, when he comes off the DL, to replace Jaret Wright as the team’s number one bullpen drainer. What, oh what, are the Yankees going to do when Andy Pettitte hurts himself? (And he will, you know it, before the season is over, probably before the first half of the season is over.)

Looking around the rest of the lineup, I don’t see much to cheer about. Towards the end of last season, Jason Giambi, who really ought to know better, made an ass of himself by contributing all kinds of needless verbiage to articles written about Alex Rodriguez. My favorite comment, and I’m quoting from memory was, We really don’t know who A-Rod is. We’ll find out in the next couple of weeks. Well, when do we find out who the real Jason Giambi is? Actually, I guess we already have. He is now a practically useless ballplayer. He performs like 42-year-old man. He can no longer field and can’t hit to the opposite field, which takes 40 or more points off his batting average. As for his base running ability, any time the Yankees get three hits without scoring a run, Giambi is usually involved.

Giambi is such a bad fielder the Yankees have had to compensate by giving a roster spot to Doug Mientkiewicz. There is no bigger mystery to me than how a team with the biggest payroll in baseball continually gets stuck with players like Mientkiewicz. I don’t know that he’s all that good a fielder, but even if he was the second coming of Don Mattingly or Keith Hernandez he would still be a huge liability. He is one of the worst hitters I’ve ever seen, the first man I can honestly say would lose a home run derby to Sal Fasano. How is it that the Yankees cannot find at least a player of average ability to put into the lineup at this key hitting position?

I can’t say a great deal that is complimentary about the stars, either. A-Rod’s hot start is probably for real, but I’m not yet convinced that his third base woes are over. Jeter’s fielding problems are, I fear, for real and may be linked to his rumored back trouble. (Note his relative lack of power so far.) Yankee fans are reduced to saying "Wait till Chien-Ming Wang comes back," but if I was Wang and looking at the prospect of having opposing batters hit ground balls to this infield, I think I’d stay on the DL.

It’s possible that if the Yankees go on a tear then the ugly disaster of the last road game in Oakland—the worst pitching I have ever seen from Mariano Rivera—will be erased. But with this rotation—and if you put a gun to my head right now, I couldn’t tell you the starters the Yankees plan on using for the next five games—I don’t see how any consistency is possible.

I guess this all sounds a bit doomsdayish, but the truth is I can’t lose. If I’m right, I’ll just remind all of you that you heard it here first. If I’m wrong, I’ll be as happy as the rest of you.

Allen Barra is currently writing a biography of Yogi Berra.

Easy Peasy

Got four starters on the DL? No problem, call up a kid with just two starts above A-ball, knock the opposing starter out in the second inning, and coast to an easy win. The Yankees made it look just that easy last night.

Rookie Chase Wright made his major league debut with a Sean Henn-model glove on his right hand, a steady rain falling on his head, and no where near the reported 38,438 fans in the stands on a cold Tuesday night in the Bronx. Wright went full on his first batter, Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore, and just missed outside for ball four. He then walked Jason Michaels on five pitches to put two men on for Travis Hafner. That drew an early mound visit from his new pitching coach, Ron Guidry. After an enthusiastic pep talk from Guidry, Wright got Hafner and Victor Martinez to ground out (plating a run in the process) and Ryan Garko to line out directly to Derek Jeter.

The Yankee offense then took some of the pressure off the rookie by plating a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame on a Damon walk, Jeter single, Alex Rodriguez RBI single, Giambi walk to load the bases, and a Jorge Posada sac fly to dead center that just missed being a game-breaking grand slam.

Wright again put the first two men of the inning on base in the second via a single and a walk, but again retired the next three in order, this time without yielding a run. Then the Yankees broke the game open for real.

After Melky Cabrera grounded out, Doug Mientkiewicz cracked a solo homer (no, really!) to the short porch in left. Johnny Damon doubled, moved to third on a Jeter groundout, and scored on a Bobby Abreu single. That brought Alex Rodriguez to the plate. Can you say two-run homer to the retired numbers? I knew that you could. That made it 6-1, but the Yankees weren’t done. Jason Giambi followed with a single and Jorge Posada, having just missed that salami in the previous frame, cracked a two-run jack of his own, his 200th career home run. That made it 8-1 Yanks and bounced Jake Westbrook from the game with two out in the second.


The Chase Is On

Due to the rash of injuries that have placed Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano on the disabled list alongside Chien-Ming Wang and Jeffrey Karstens, the Yankees were forced to dip into their minor league system for a starter for tonight’s (and likely Sunday’s) game. The three pitchers whose turns fell on the right day were Tyler Clippard and Steven Jackson in triple-A and Chase Wright in double-A. Of the three, Wright was both the only one already on the 40-man roster and the pitcher who’d had the most success in his two starts thus far this season. Clippard’s had two middling outings for Scranton. Jackson has faired a tad better, but neither has lasted more than five innings in either outing. Wright, meanwhile, has dominated in a pair of seven-inning outings and will make his major league debut tonight in the Bronx against the Indians.

Here’s what I wrote about Wright back in February:

L – Chase Wright (24)

A third-round draft pick in 2000, Wright has spent six years in the Yankees system without cracking double-A. He’s made large strides over the last three seasons however. Check these trends:

Year League Level ERA H/9 K/9 BB/9
2004 Midwest A 5.44 10.47 5.34 5.97
2005 Sally A 3.75 8.00 6.88 4.31
2006 Florida State A+ 1.88 7.14 7.52 3.23

Wright claims the difference has simply been an uptick in confidence. I suppose it could be that after bottoming out in 2004 he figured he couldn’t do any worse if he just challenged hitters. If so, it worked. Wright’s best pitch is a changeup that works off his low-90s fastball, and he’s working on developing his curve. He’s still a work in progress, but it’s certainly encouraging to see such rapid progress by a lefty starter. Indeed, he’s come far enough that the Yankees had to add him to the 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 draft last fall.

To that I’ll add his spring training and double-A lines from this year:

Level ERA H/9 K/9 BB/9 IP
Spring Training 2.84 6.39 7.10 4.26 12 2/3
AA 0.00 2.57 12.21 0.64 14

Those 14 innings at double-A are divided evenly between two equally excellent starts in which Wright has posted a fantastic 2.29 groundball-to-flyball rate. Accordingly, Wright hasn’t allowed a home run in any of his 26 2/3 innings thus far this year and allowed just one round-tripper in 119 2/3 innings last year.

After I wrote the above, I received a note from Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus’s minor league guru. Kevin said that one thing he felt I got wrong was my estimation of Wright’s velocity (which I got from assimilating various on-line scouting reports). According to Goldstein, Wright’s fastball tops out in the high 80s, adding something to the effect that if Wright did throw in the low 90s, he’d be a world-beater. Judging by his recent results this season and last, I tend to wonder if Wright’s recent improvement has had as much to do with an uptick in velocity as with an increase in confidence. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on the YES radar gun tonight. If it turns out that he is indeed working in the low-90s . . . look out world.


The Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians are a hard team to figure out. Two years ago they looked like an up-and-coming powerhouse in the Central. Built around stone cold masher Travis Hafner, the up-the-middle excellence of Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, and Grady Sizemore, and emerging ace C.C. Sabathia, they won 93 games in 2005, just missing both the Wild Card and AL Central titles due to a collapse in the season’s final week. Last year, they collapsed altogether, winning just 78 games and finishing a distant fourth behind the Twins, Tigers, and White Sox in an increasingly competitive Central division. One seemingly obvious cause of this fall was the loss of Jhonny Peralta’s production (he hit just .257/.323/.385 last year, down from .292/.366/.520 in 2005), but closer inspection shows that the Indians collapse was largely illusory.

In large part due to an abysmal showing by their bullpen, the Indians underperformed their Pythagorean record by a staggering 11 games in 2006. In fact, looking at their runs scored and allowed totals, the team the 2006 Cleveland Indians most resembled was the 2006 New York Yankees. The Indians were second to only the Yankees in all of baseball in runs scored per game last year (this despite Peralta’s poor showing), and also finished right behind the Yankees in runs allowed per game (seventh in the AL to the Yanks’ sixth). In fact, the Yankees and Indians had identical team ERAs in 2006 with the Indians holding a slight advantage in ERA+ due to playing in a less severe pitchers park.

One thing that tripped Cleveland up last year, in addition to their shaky bullpen, was poor defensive play. The Tribe was 25th in the majors in both defensive efficiency and fielding percentage. This year that trend has continued. Though the Yankees are dead last in the majors in fielding percentage thanks to their major league worst 14 errors (nearly half of which are Derek Jeter’s), their defensive efficiency–the rate at which they turn all balls in play into outs–is actually the fourth best in baseball, just as it was a year ago. Cleveland, however, is 27th in fielding percentage (having made nine errors in nine games) and 21st in defensive efficiency. That means their pitching staff has to work that much harder to keep runs off the board.

Amazingly, it’s been able to do that thus far. The Indians staff ERA is the third best in the American League, while the ERA of their rebuilt bullpen is second best in the AL to that of the Yankees’ pen. The offense, however, is in a bit of a slump, though their scheduling problems may have played a part in that.

The big story of the Indians season thus far is that the entirety of their home opening series against the Mariners was snowed out and that their subsequent series against the Angels was moved indoors to Milwaukee’s Miller Park because of the ongoing winter weather. The Indians scored 7 2/3 runs per game while taking two of three from the White Sox in Chicago to start the season. They then sat idle for four days as their games against the Mariners were snowed out, rescheduled as double headers, then snowed out again. They finally resumed play with three games in Milwaukee, then returned home for a series against the White Sox and have scored just 3 2/3 runs per game over those last six games.

Of course, it may not be fair to judge the Indians on their performance thus far this season. While the team has gone 6-3, winning all three series, six of their nine games have come against the White Sox. Their eventual home opener at Jacobs Field was played in front of just 16,789 people (as opposed to the usual 42,400 or so), and their catcher and cleanup hitter Victor Martinez has played only three games, suffering a quadriceps injury in the last game of their opening series in Chicago. That is to say, the Cleveland Indians are a hard team to figure out largely because there’s not a lot to go on.

Still, the bullpen looks suspect as the new faces are Joe Borowski, Roberto Hernandez, and Aaron Fultz. C.C. Sabathia (who’s still just 26 years old) is a true ace and Jake Westbrook is a strong mid-rotation starter and every bit as extreme a groundball pitcher as Chien-Ming Wang, but Jeremy Sowers’ strike out rate is alarmingly low for a flyball pitcher and neither Paul Byrd nor extreme flyballer Cliff Lee or his replacement Fausto Carmona inspire much enthusiasm. On offense, Peralta, who had corrective vision surgery in the offseason and supposedly has put behind him some personal problems that contributed to his poor 2006 season, looks to be rebounding, Martinez should return to action this week, possibly even tonight, and the decision to platoon the outfield corners smells of small market brilliance. On the flip side, that platoon means Casey Blake still has a job, and everyone’s still waiting for Andy Marte to hit. As they were two years ago, the Tribe was a trendy pick to win the Central this year. I’m not entirely sold. They’re a good team, but not a great one. If they win, I suspect it will have as much to do with the decline of their competition as with their own success.


Yankee Panky #5: Yankees vs. Red Sox — The Media

The non-coverage of Derek Jeter’s six errors through the first two weeks of the season is a subject I’d love to get into. However, I want to wait on the Jeter issue to see if it
actually does become a story beyond the statistics table. Will any writers or broadcasters call him out and question his defensive ability? (I’ll be surprised if Steven Goldman doesn’t mention the Jeter situation in the Pinstriped Bible tomorrow).

So, with the first round of Yankees-Red Sox games taking place this weekend, I figured this would be a good time to bring the banter fully to you the readers and get an informal poll of which team has the better mainstream and blog coverage.

Yankees: YES
Red Sox: NESN

YES play-by-play: Michael Kay
NESN play-by-play: Don Orsillo

YES analysts: Ken Singleton, Joe Girardi, Al Leiter, John Flaherty, Paul O’Neill, Dave Justice
NESN analysts: Jerry Remy, Jim Rice, Dennis Eckersley, Dave McCarty

YES field reporter: Kim Jones
NESN field reporter: Tina Cervasio (who used to voice the show “Running” on YES, and auditioned for the field reporter job that eventually went to Jones)

YES studio host: Bob Lorenz, Nancy Newman (backup), Chris Shearn (Batting Practice)
NESN studio host: Tom Caron, Hazel Mae (rewind), Kathryn Tappen (weekends)

Yankees: yesnetwork.com

Red Sox: boston.com/sports/nesn

Yankees: yankees.com
Red Sox: redsox.com

Yankees: WCBS 880-AM
Red Sox: WEEI 850-AM

Yankees radio team: John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman
Red Sox radio team: Joe Castiglione, Dave O’Brien, Glenn Geffner
–> Geffner is the the team’s former media relations/PR head

Yankees: NY Daily News, NY Post, New York Times, Newsday, Journal News, Newark Star-Ledger, Bergen Record, Hartford Courant, New Haven Register
–> Alternates – Times Herald-Record, Staten Island Advance, New York Sun, Village Voice, AM New York

Red Sox: Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Providence Journal, Hartford Courant, New Haven Register, Connecticut Post, Portland Press Herald, Concord Monitor, Nashua Telegraph, Manchester Union-Leader, Springfield Union-News, Worcester Telegram, Quincy Patriot-Ledger, Woonsocket Call

See sidebar

During each regular season Yankees-Red Sox series, the beat writers and columnists for the two teams play a game against each other at the ballpark. The writers get very stoked for this. They talk about it for weeks and discuss their exploits prior to that particular night’s real game between the Yanks and Sox. The New York crew has a secret weapon: Bob Klapisch, who pitched at Columbia University.

* * *

Which group of media serves its audience best? Which group of writers and/or broadcasters provides the most comprehensive, intelligent, and provocative coverage? I’ll join in the discussion when I can throughout the week. We can discuss it in more detail next week, when the aftermath of the three-game set at Fenway has dissipated somewhat.

Bad Day

Sunday didn’t start or end well for the Yankees, though they did have a seven-inning oasis in the middle of it all.

The day started with the announcement that both Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano had been placed on the disabled list, leaving the starting rotation in shambles behind Andy Pettitte. Pettitte then took the mound and four of the first five A’s he faced reach base, the first on Derek Jeter’s sixth error of the year. With just one out in the bottom of the first, the A’s had a 2-0 lead and two men on. The Yankee bullpen, which had marched each of it’s seven members out to the mound the night before, began to collectively weep.

Pettitte then rallied to strike out Bobby Crosby and get Todd Walker to ground out to short. From there things started to look up. Pettitte settled down, pitching around a pair of singles in the second, stranding a two-out triple by Eric Chavez in the third, and setting down 13 of the next 14 men he faced after Chavez. Oakland starter Rich Harden was even better, but the injury-prone righty left the game due to shoulder stiffness in the seventh, opening the door for a three-run Yankee rally. The Yanks added another run in the eighth, handing a 4-2 lead to Mariano Rivera in the ninth, Mo’s first save opportunity of the season.

Mo got Chavez to ground out on an 0-1 pitch, then, after failing to get a called strike three call on Bobby Crosby, got the Oakland shortstop to fly out to right for the second out of the inning. Mo’s next pitch bore down and in on Todd Walker, but Walker was able to flare it out to left for a two-out single. Walker then moved to second on defensive indifference as Jason Kendall swung through a high fastball to run his count to 1-1.



Jason Giambi’s bat has been ice cold, and he was 0-5 last night when he hit a solo home run in the top of the 13th inning last night to help boost the Yankees to a 4-3 win over the A’s. Alex Rodriguez hit his seventh homer of the year, Jorge Posada had a huge pinch-hit double, and Robinson Cano banged out three hits.There was more sloppy fielding for the Yanks–four errors in all, two more by Derek Jeter–but the bullpen was outstanding. Starter Darrell Rasner allowed three runs in the first and then settled down. He was relieved in sixth and the Yankee bullpen, seven pitchers in all, allowed zero runs on just two hits. At this rate, it’s a good thing that the Bombers have some off-days, because the pen sure is getting its work in.

I watched most of the last two games in Oakland, stayed up as long as I could before my eyes just couldn’t stay open any longer. Dude, I’m a lightweight. Not that I’ve got anything on my mind. I’m only getting hitched.

Em and I are leaving tomorrow for the Bahamas, where we’ll be spending the next week enjoying our Marrymoon. We’re actually getting married on the beach, just the two of us, no family, no friends (“No Roger, No Re-Run, No Rent”), just a minister, a photographer and us, this coming Thursday afternoon at 1:30. The Yankees and Indians should be in the second inning, weather-provided, so raise a cup to us at some pernt during the game. I won’t be rushing to check the score–which is why we’re getting married in the spring and not the fall–but will check in on the Banter periodically.

Cliff and company will be holding it down around these parts, as the Yanks host the Tribe and then take on the Red Sox for the first time this year. You’re in good hands, as the old commerical used to go.

Hey, how about a nice send off from the Yankees today as Andy Pettitte goes against Oakland’s ace, Rich Harden.

Who’s Managing This Club, Mr. Whipple?

The A’s and Yankees played a thrilling eleven-inning game last night, but let’s skip straight to the action in the eighth inning, as it was in the top of the eighth that the worm turned for the Bronx Bombers.

With the game tied 4-4, Oakland manager Bob Geren called on his ace set-up man Justin Duchscherer to face the heart of the Yankee order. Alex Rodriguez singled on Duchscherer’s first pitch. Jason Giambi followed by yanking a double into the corner in right field, pushing Rodriguez to third. Joe Torre sent in Kevin Thompson to pinch-run for designated hitter Giambi at second base with Jorge Posada coming to the plate. Posada worked a 2-1 count then hit a blistering liner directly at first baseman Todd Walker for the first out. Geren then elected to have Duchscherer intentionally walk Robinson Cano to load the bases, thus allowing Duchscherer to Doug Mientkiewicz with a force at every base.

At this point Mientkiewicz was 0 for his last 18 with just one walk over that span. In his three previous at-bats in this game he had struck out and hit into two double plays, the first a line-drive to left that doubled up Posada at first, the second a conventional 4-6-3 that plated a run, but otherwise killed a bases-loaded, no-out rally in the sixth.

Now, if you’re Joe Torre, or even Yankee bench coach Don Mattingly, what do you do in this situation.


The Oakland Athletics

The A’s, at least in the early going in 2007, are a pretty easy team to figure out. They don’t give up very many runs, but they don’t score very many either. Only two American League teams (the Red Sox and Angels) have allowed fewer runs per game thus far this season than the A’s’ 3.4, but only two major league teams (the Nationals and Giants) have plated fewer runs per game thus far than the A’s’ 2.8. The A’s are also dead last in the majors in home runs, having hit just two through ten games. Obviously a line-up with Eric Chavez, Mike Piazza, Nick Swisher, and Milton Bradley is going to pick up the homer production at some point, but that’s a crippling lack of production. The A’s are 4-6 thus far this season. Two of those four wins had final scores of 2-1, and one of them required a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth against the White Sox’s closer, Bobby Jenks (a favor the A’s bullpen aces returned the next night).

In a near perfect inversion of the Yankees’ season thus far, the only thing that’s really been working for the A’s in the young season has been their starting rotation, which has been the stingiest in the American League and is bested only by the Mets and Braves in the NL. Despite losing Barry Zito to free agency and Esteban Loaiza to the DL, the A’s rotation has posted a 1.98 ERA after two full turns. The best of their bunch, as expected, has been the Healthy Rich Harden, whom the Yankees will face on Sunday. Harden has struck out 13 and allowed just 12 base runners in 13 innings, but is curiously not the staff leader in ERA despite his 1.38 mark. No, that man is tonight’s starter, Dan Haren, who’s 0.69 ERA is in stark contrast to his 0-2 record. Such are the A’s.

As for the Yankees, they’ll get to see what Kei Igawa can do in a moderate climate (temperatures in Oakland are in the mid-60s as I write this, though they’ll likely drop in to the 50s by tonight). Igawa was flat out awful in his first major league start (the most encouraging sign was that he walked “only” three men in five innings), but nerves and the weather likely played a part in that, and the steady improvement he showed during spring training gives reason for optimism, as do the dormant Oakland bats.

What it all comes down to tonight, then, is the stingy Oakland starting pitching against the explosive Yankee offense, and the explosive Yankee starting pitching against the stingy Oakland offense. Which will give most?


Card Corner–George


George Medich—Topps Company—1978 (No. 583)

The word "heroes" has taken on additional and perhaps even more bewildering meaning because of the popularity of a first-season television show featuring that very name. For a much longer time, the word "heroes" has been attached to figures from the sports world, often with results no less confusing or ambiguous.

For the most part, baseball players are not heroes. (They shouldn’t be role models either, but they nonetheless are, given the widespread influence they have on the younger set.) The truly heroic figures in American society are the underpaid teachers, the studious doctors, the honest police officers, and the selfless members of the military. Yet, in some cases, baseball players can truly double as heroes. In 1978, a handsome veteran pitcher named George Medich earned that distinction.

Coming up as a rookie with the New York Yankees in 1972, Medich went on to post a solid career as a starting pitcher. Medich’s career began encouragingly with the Yankees, but his years in Pinstripes coincided with the team’s final few failures before the eventual pennant glory of 1976. (Still, Medich did contribute to that level of success indirectly, as the principal trade bait sent to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a second baseman named Willie Randolph.) A solid No. 3 starter, Medich went on to win 124 games for the Yankees, Pirates, Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, and Milwaukee Brewers. As if the travels and demands of a typically lengthy major league season didn’t sap enough of his time, Medich taxed himself further by attending medical school, eventually earning his degree from the University of Pittsburgh. While all of his Topps cards list him as George Medich, his procession through the rigors of medical school prompted most baseball people to refer to him as Doc Medich.

Although the travails of the long baseball season forced Medich to subvert some of his healing passions, he did put his medical training to good use under the most dire of circumstances. During a 1976 game between the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies, Medich made his way into the stands at Veterans Stadium to perform CPR on a 74-year-old man who had suffered a heart attack. While awaiting the arrival of an ambulance, Medich performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Medich’s efforts notwithstanding, the elderly man died later in the day.

Two years later, Medich’s heroic ventures paid off far more tangibly. On July 17, 1978, another man suffered a heart attack during a game at Memorial Stadium between Medich’s Rangers and the hometown Baltimore Orioles. Medich once again rushed into the stands and performed CPR on the 61-year-old victim. An emergency medical services team soon arrived and rushed the man to a local hospital, where he received further treatment. This man recovered from the heart attack, surviving to live several more years. He likely would not have enjoyed those "extra" years if not for the quick and effective reactions of a right-hander/doctor named George "Doc" Medich.

After his pitching days, Medich became a successful orthopedic surgeon. He eventually opened up an orthopedic clinic in Beaver, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, his story did not end up happily ever after, at least not in the way that we expect it will with Hayden Panettiere. In a shocking post-baseball development, the onetime medical hero eventually ran intro trouble with the law. In 2001, the 53-year-old Medich was found guilty of illegally possessing painkillers and sentenced to nine years probation. Pleading guilty to 12 counts of possession of a controlled substance, Medich had written a dozen false prescriptions in the names of his patients so that he could obtain painkillers for himself. Explaining that Medich had struggled with drug addiction for years, his lawyer called his crime a "cry for help."

Sadly, even our truly legitimate sports heroes have their blemishes.


Bruce Markusen is the author of the award-winning A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s and the writer of MLB.com’s Cooperstown Confidential, found at www.bruce.mlblogs.com. Bruce, his wife Sue, and their daughter Madeline reside in Cooperstown, NY, a stone’s throw from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Yankee Panky #4: Unlucky 7

By Will Weiss
Bronx Banter Correspondent

We’re at the point in time where the media’s day-to-day coverage includes unnecessary game stories, the occasional feature, the building up of a player who’s succeeding, thereby setting up the inevitable fall, and of course, injury updates. On YES, every game will be treated as if it’s Game 7. On radio, John Sterling will tell stories and occasionally mention what’s going on in front of him as it pertains to the broadcast. Standard-issue stuff that tells us the season has started. And judging from posts on this site and others, ESPN’s Red Sox love/anti-Yankee tilt is in midseason form.

I wanted nothing to do with that this week. The Mets dominated the back pages while the Yankees’ performance – save for A-Rod’s game-winning grand slam on Saturday – relegated them to “other team” status.

I was struck by a different story. Three friends, my wife and my mother sent me an article about a New Jersey math professor named Bruce Bukiet, who developed a formula projecting winners and losers in the major leagues, based on teams’ starting lineups. Not surprisingly, the computer spit out a 110-win season and a 10th consecutive AL East title for the Yankees. The formula is essentially a means to help gamblers, and the article says as much. It even points to Bukiet’s “detailed projections” on a corresponding gambling site.

I enjoyed this paragraph near the top of the piece:

“So far, Bukiet is on track. The Yankees won their season opener against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Monday.”

(My editorial reflex would have eliminated that graph, considering that the next section details the formula. Plus, basing a 110-win season on a comeback win over the Devil Rays is as convincing as projecting Daisuke Matsuzaka will win the AL Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award and Triple Crown because he stifled the Royals in his Major League debut. Oh, wait…)

Sentences like that occur in many places, and as a reader and a fan, it’s a bit off-putting. When I read lines like that, I begin questioning the writer’s credibility. How do you, as fans and readers, react to that? Does it bother you? Do you let it go? How about if you hear announcers trip over themselves or say something off-base on the air? What do you do then?


Older posts            Newer posts
feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver