"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: June 2007

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The Oakland A’s

When the Yankees visited Oakland in April, the A’s weren’t scoring very much, but neither were their opponents. Although the Athletics’ roster has been devastated by injuries, not much has really changed. The A’s have the stingiest pitching staff in the AL despite injuries to the top three men in their bullpen and would-be ace Rich Harden, who has been regulated to relief since being activated last week.

Meanwhile, the offense got Mark Kotsay and Dan Johnson back only to lose Milton Bradley and Mike Piazza, the former’s injury problems reaching the point that the A’s decided to designate him for assignment rather than deal with them. Jason Kendall is having a historically awful season (39 OPS+), but is still holding on to the starting catching job. Kotsay and former Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby have been awful (both hitting roughly .240/.290/.350), but Kotsay is still starting over rookie sensation Travis Buck. Eric Chavez is having his worst season since he was a 21-year-old rookie and his third disappointing season in a row, prompting our Toaster colleagues to doubt his commitment to his game. Mix in Shannon Stewart slugging .391 from a corner outfield position and Dan Johnson and Nick Swisher each slugging roughly .450 from first base and right field respectively and you’ve got a pretty tepid offense that’s relying way too much on 28-year-old rookie cleanup hitter Jack Cust. Indeed, the A’s have scored the second fewest runs per game in the AL thus far (though Ryan Armbrust points out that they’ve been better of late–not necessarily good, but better).

What’s changed is that when the A’s and Yankees last met, the two teams were utter opposites: the Yankees scored a ton of runs and gave up a ton of runs, while the A’s did neither. The A’s haven’t changed, but the Yankees have solved their pitching woes only to see their offense stumble. On the just completed road trip, including the eight innings of last night’s suspended game, the Yankees scored 3.22 runs per game and allowed 4.67. The latter number isn’t a far cry from their overall season average (4.57), but the former belies their fourth-place major league rank in runs scored per game. In essence, then, the Yankees will have to try to outpitch the A’s this weekend, which means they’ll likely be helping yet another stumbling team (the A’s are 3-9 in their last dozen games entering tonight) get back on stride.

Tonight Kei Igawa tries to outpitch Joe Kennedy. The good news is that Kennedy has walked more than he’s struck out this year and has a 7.71 ERA over his last three starts. Igawa, meanwhile, will look to build on his four Steve Austin innings from San Francisco.


Don’t Stop (Cut to Black)


Well, um, would you believe that rain spoiled and then perhaps saved the Yankees tonight? We don’t know the outcome of Thursday night’s game between the Yankees and the Orioles because it was suspended with two out in the top of the eighth and won’t be continued until the Yankees are in town again, which is at the end of July. The game was delayed just after the O’s took a two run lead in the seventh. Then, it was called for a second time immediately after Derek Jeter singled home two runs off Chris Ray in the eighth, giving the Yankees an 8-6 lead. Melvin Mora berated the umpires for not stopping the game sooner. According to the AP:

Before Jeter stepped to the plate, Mora pleaded with third base umpire Tim Tschida to stop the game.

“I just asked him, ‘You don’t think it’s too wet?’ He started yelling at me and cursed,” Mora said. “I said, ‘This is worse than when you stopped the game when we was winning. Why you don’t stop it now? I can’t even see the ball.’

“He just tried to make Jeter hit so they can score one run so they can get out of here. That’s what I think,” said Mora, who was ejected from the game.

So the Yankees end one of the worst road trips in recent memory with an incomplete (just for the night, not for the trip). They didn’t actually win a game, but they at least they were leading when it ended.

Chien Ming Wang didn’t have dominant stuff but he pitched efficiently for the first six innings. Alex Rodriguez made a fine, one-handed play on a bunt attempt by Melvin Mora early in the game. Several innings later, Brian Roberts robbed Derek Jeter of a hit by backhanding a ball hit up the middle and then turning and making a great throw as his body was falling away to left field.

The Yankees couldn’t come up with a big hit, but they were driving in runs with outs and working deep counts on Daniel Cabrera, who was characteristically wild. Rodriguez had a chance to break the game open in the sixth. He came up with the bases loaded and one out and was sitting on a 3-1 count but grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

Wang then quickly gave up a 4-2 lead as Baltimore scored four runs in bottom of the seventh. I couldn’t believe the Yankes were going to blow another game. You have got to be kidding me. And it all came apart on Wang so suddenly. But I give the team credit for how they came back in the eighth. Jeter’s two-out hit is something he’s done so often over the course of his career, it’s almost easy to take for granted. But even though it didn’t secure a win tonight, I’m sure Jeter and the rest of the Yankees are appreciating it plenty.

This has turned out to be a strange season hasn’t it?


The Yankees have scored in just one of 18 innings in Baltimore. Chein-Ming Wang faces off against Daniel Cabrera as the Yanks try to save face (too late), but Wang won’t matter tonight (like Clemens didn’t matter yesterday) if the Yanks can’t make hay against Cabrera, who has turned in a quality start in just five of his last 14 appearances, has a 5.93 ERA over his last seven, and has allowed six home runs in his last three.

Misery Loves Company

Joe Torre’s decision not to bring Mariano Rivera into Tuesday night’s game was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Jay Jaffe, who says the 2007 Yanks are toast:

…I’m officially now Beyond Caring. No more objects thrown at the TV, no more Tivoing their games so I can cling to a shred of hope. This season is done for the Yankees. Throw them on the pile of expensive toys that broke all too quickly. Go spend some time with your loved ones rather than tuning in for the daily rust and rot. You’ve got better things to do than to cheer on this trainwreck.

I like Joe Torre and have stuck up for him over the years despite his flaws, but I think Steven Goldman is on-point when he writes:

The Torre we’re seeing this year increasingly looks like a refugee from a parallel universe, one in which the mediocre manager of the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals never gave way to the Hall of Famer of 1996–2001…From George Washington to Ronald Reagan, all great leaders decline as they age. This is no insult to Torre, but simply a fact of life. He has carved his place in history, and now he should be history. He knew what to do in 1996, but in an ironical twist, is now clueless in 2007. It’s time for a change.

Cliff said it all. This is a Dead Team Walking. (Now, watch them go out and actually play well against the A’s, Twins and Angels, just to tease us.)

Hey, speaking of Jay, check out the latest installment of our series about the 1977 World Series box set. At the very least it’ll take your mind off the present-day Yanks.

Whole Lotta Nuthin’

Just one Yankee reached second base last night. That happened with one out in the ninth. Just three Yankees reached base against Erik Bedard, who struck out eight over seven innings thanks in large part to a tremendous 10-to-4 curveball. Of the three base runners he allowed, one came on a walk, and one came on an infield single. In total, six Yankees reached base and ten struck out. None scored. What Roger Clemens did, or how and when Joe Torre used his bullpen last night was completely irrelevant to the game’s outcome.

That said, Clemens, who struck out no one for the first time since a two-inning outing in April of 1999, was big enough to take the blame after the loss. Thanks to a first-inning double play, Rocket faced the minimum the first time through the Baltimore order. He ran into some trouble in the third when Brian Roberts lead off with a single, then tortured Clemens by dancing off first, drawing four throws and two pitchouts across two at-bats, before finally stealing second with ease. Roberts moved to third on a ground out, but was stranded. Still, Clemens threw 24 pitches in the fourth and 21 in the fifth, an inning that ended with runners on second and third. Clemens’s pitches were starting to stay up at the end of the fifth and the sixth began with Chris Gomez singling and Clemens walking Nick Markakis on four pitches. On the first pitch to Gomez, Clemens hit his right elbow on his left knee in his follow through, which brought the trainer to the mound. It proved to be of no consequence. Still, it was an occasion to get the bullpen warmed up that Joe Torre failed to make use of. After Markakis walked, Ron Guidry paid a visit to the mound, but the bullpen remained still. The third batter in that inning, Ramon Hernandez, singled to break the scoreless tie and put runners on first and second. Finally, Torre got his bullpen going, but it was too late. Three pitches later, Aubrey Huff hit a three-run home run just over the wall in left. Game over.

Adding insult to injury, Torre brought in Mariano Rivera to pitch the eighth inning down 4-0 after refusing to use Rivera with the score tied in the ninth inning of the previous night’s loss. Mo pitched a 1-2-3 inning, of course.

Two other items of interest:

1) I’m sure the Angels’ decision to designate Shea Hillenbrand for assignment will be a big topic of discussion today. Since being traded to San Francisco in July 21 of last year, Hillenbrand, who has a reputation for being difficult, has hit .251/.275/.374 in 431 at-bats. Andy Phillips hit .240/.281/.394 last year in a smaller sample, plays better defense, and is beloved by his teammates.

2) You have until midnight to vote for Jorge (25-times each)!


The Yankees are such a giving ballclub. The Giants had lost seven in a row entering last weekend’s series with the Yankees. “Don’t be glum, chums,” said the benevolent Yanks, “have two of three from us, please.” The Giants gladly accepted.

The Orioles had won three of five prior to last night, but had been in a freefall before that, going 2-14 with their big, mean owner firing their poor, defenseless manager. “Do not dispair, friends,” said the compassionate Yankees, “if you’re not ahead come your final at bat, we’ll find a way to get you a walkoff win that will lift your spirits.” The Orioles soon found that the Yankees were men of their word.

Tonight the Yankees look to continue their philanthropic tour of the gloomy gusses of baseball. Roger Clemens will make his fourth start of the season coming off an inefficient dud of an outing in Colorado (4 1/3 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 HR, 90 pitches) and a dispiriting relief outing in San Francisco (allowing an seventh-inning insurance run in what had been a 3-1 game).

There’s reason for hope, however. Clemens has thus far posted a career-best strikeout rate (11.21 K/9) and near-best K/BB ratio (4.40), but has been undone by a staggering .370 opponents’ batting average on balls in play. His distribution of singles and extra base hits has actually been very good (15 of his 20 hits allowed have been singles, that’s 75 percent compared to roughly 72 percent for both Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang, the team’s two best starters, who also happen to be groundballers). That means Clemens is not getting hit hard, he’s just been unlucky. His luck should even out as his performance is buoyed further by the fact that he’s still rounding into midseason form. The only real concern is that Roger has been remarkably inefficient, throwing a career-high 4.19 pitches per plate appearance, which means he’s pitching like a man facing an endless string of Jason Giambis and Bobby Abreus, just without all those pesky walks. Something has to give here somewhere.

Complicating matters is Clemens’ opponent tonight, 28-year-old lefty Erik Bedard. Bedard, the Oriole ace, hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a game since April, has failed to go six full innings just once since April 23, and hasn’t been knocked out before the fifth yet this year. In May and June combined, Bedard has a 2.32 ERA and has struck out 79 in 66 innings and has struck out seven or more men in eight of his last ten games. That strikeout rate, which he’s extended over the full season, marks a significant improvement in Bedard’s game. He’s always been a solid strikeout pitcher, K-ing about 7.9 men per nine innings in each of the last three seasons, but his rate is a staggering 10.89 K/9 this year, while his walk rate continues to decrease. More bad news: Bedard beat the Yanks in April, holding them to three runs on five hits and no walks over seven innings. Last year he posted a 2.25 ERA against the Bombers, striking out 14 of them in 12 innings while allowing just nine hits. None of this is encouraging for a team that has scored three or fewer runs in five of it’s last seven games.

Yankee Panky #15: The Song Remains The Same

If I was still working the editorial front on a full-time basis, an off-day like Monday would have been a great time to reflect on the recent 1-for-6 showing the Yankees posted in Denver and San Francisco and engage some of the broadcasters and freelance contributors to weigh the state of the team as the season draws closer to the non-waiver trade deadline. It also would have been a good time to put together a secondary package of how Derek Jeter has performed in games played on his birthday (he turned 33 yesterday).

I mention this because as I watched the Yankees return to Square One, I got to thinking about whether the overall coverage of the team was more complete, concise and analytical when it is middling or struggling as opposed to two weeks ago, when it steamrolled opponents and seemingly could do no wrong.

In other words, do the local and national media do a better job of being the eyes and ears of the fan in trying times?

The tabloid headlines are certainly funnier when the team is losing (I personally enjoyed the Post’s “ROCKIE III” marquee following Thursday afternoon’s sweep-inducing loss at Coors Field). I’ve found the tabloid headline humor to be a reflection of fan frustration. Despite how well the Rockies had been playing, did anyone believe the Yankees would get swept?

I usually found it easier to write about the team when it wasn’t playing well. Perhaps it’s just a function of my personality, but when the team is going well, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of writing in a fawning, admirable tone. That’s not good either.

The most noticeable bit about what’s being written and discussed now is that you could take stories from six weeks ago and find similar historical references (the Yankees haven’t been x many games below .500 this late in the season in Joe Torre’s 12 years as manager, for example), and similar quotes, especially from Torre in reference to Bob Abreu. “Lack of patience, pretty much on his heels,” is how he described Abreu’s current 4-for-28 slump following last night’s loss to the O’s. Figuring out what to write when the only stories are the same ones you’ve been writing all year are a beat writer’s greatest challenge. (Makes you wonder how the guys in Kansas City do it. They’re probably already looking ahead to Chiefs camp.)

In addition, paper space and air-time dedicated to off-field matters almost equals that of on-field events during hard times. Perhaps it was unfortunate timing that Jason Giambi acquiesced to Commissioner Selig’s demands to comply with the Mitchell investigation at the same time the Yankees were facing Baseball’s primary suspected steroid target, Barry Bonds, but the story could not be ignored.

Most of what I read or watched focused on Mitchell and MLB using Giambi to get to Bonds, but Harvey Araton of the New York Times openly questioned what Mitchell was trying to accomplish. In the form of an open letter without the greeting or closing (Araton uses this column form quite well), Araton opined that Mitchell should follow the same path he did when discussing the drug culture at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, and would be best served asking not only the players, but Commissioner Selig, similar questions.

Now’s the time to start eyeing the rumor mill. This portion of the season is where guys like Joel Sherman (Post), Bob Klapisch (Bergen Record), and Ken Davidoff (Newsday), make their money. Davidoff might be the best of the three in terms of newsgathering, but Sherman and Klapisch are excellent when it comes to player analysis.

Here’s to the Yankees hopefully putting some kind of a streak together to bring the deficit to single digits before our country’s 231st birthday.

Joe Girardi was scheduled for analyst duties for this week’s series in Baltimore, but following his rejection of the Orioles’ managerial vacancy, the Network removed him from the booth to “avoid a hectic atmosphere,” as the New York Times reported. I don’t know about you, but while I respect the Network’s decision — it’s definitely the safe move from a public relations standpoint — I would have loved to hear him discuss the job and his reasons for not jumping at the first job that opened up.

Something tells me, though, that Girardi would have been smart enough to answer the question without really answering the question if and when the subject arose.

Balls to the Wall

Must we really relive that experience? Come on. Go outside, feel the sun on your face, it’s summer. You don’t want to read about last night’s game, trust me. Call a loved one instead. Remember the times that were good. Find a puppy and cuddle it.

… Still here? Fine, have it your way, masochists. Orioles 3, Yankees 2, but it was so much worse than that makes it sound.

I seem to always be recapping Andy Pettitte’s starts, and as a result I’ve developed a certain empathy for the guy. He returns to New York, he pitches better than anyone could have ever expected, he throws in relief when needed, he goes deep into games, he never complains. And what does he get? Well… okay, he gets $16 million, but still. Is just a tiny bit of run support too much to ask? Rich people have feelings too, you know. Or so I’ve read.

It was an odd start for Pettitte: he struggled badly with his control, walking five (with just two Ks), and in that sense he was fortunate to escape with only two runs allowed in seven innings. On the other hand, at least half the eight hits he allowed were lucky little bloops. The Orioles scratched out a run in the third on a broken-bat single, stolen base, walk, bunt, and groundout. And Pettitte was victimized by a bad misplay in the outfield in the fourth, when Bobby Abreu and Melky Cabrera looked at each other and let a ball hit by (of course) Kevin Millar fall between them; a run scored later in the inning. Pettitte vented a bit after the game – from the Times:

“I’m bitter because we’re not playing good baseball,” Pettitte said. “I feel like we’re a better team than we are, and we’re not getting it done. Not only me, but I hope there’s a whole lot of guys in this room that are frustrated and care a whole lot right now.”

Asked if he was satisfied that other people care as much as he does, Pettitte said: “I hope that everybody else cares as much. I mean, I’m not going around polling everybody. I wear my feelings on my sleeve a little bit on the day I pitch. I only get to play once every five days, and it’s extremely important to me. I think it’s extremely important to everybody else in here. At least, I hope so.”


The Yankees’ only two runs came in the sixth when Miguel “You Can’t Even Mention My Name Online Without Unleashing a Flood of Expletives and Vitriol” Cairo singled and Johnny Damon homered, tying the game. Damon had seen a chiropractor on the off day, and claimed that the guy "discovered immediately that four ribs on the right side were out of place". I’m not a doctor or anything… but does that sound right? How do your ribs get "out of place"? Oh well, if it works it works, psychosomatic or not.

Let me recap the bottom of the 9th for you, I’ll just review it on my Tivo first, and… huh, that’s weird, my eyes are bleeding. We’ll just go from memory then. Scott Proctor came on, Kyle Farnsworth having pitched a surprisingly scoreless 8th, and walked Corey Patterson. (Patterson, by the way, now hitting .224, was 3-3 on the night, and every one of those hits was a little flare that just dunked in; it was that kind of game). Brian Roberts singled. Chris Gomez then tried to bunt, but popped the ball up enough for Proctor to make a quick, full-extension diving grab for the out.


It was a great play – except that he could have thrown to second for another out, and would’ve had Patterson, who was running, by a mile and a half. Proctor seemed to just be too shaken up by his belly flop off the mound, and I suppose you can’t really blame him for that. But after walking it off (pun unintended, but unavoidable), he stayed in the game, threw four straight balls to Nick Markakis, and then pulled a Kenny Rogers ’99 NLCS Special, taking seven pitches to walk Ramon Hernandez and force in the game-winning run.

The big question, of course: why wasn’t Mariano Rivera in the game? He never even warmed up. Now, many managers, not just Joe Torre, refuse to go to their closer in the ninth inning of a tie road game, right or wrong (by the numbers, usually wrong). But even if you won’t do it at the top of the inning, why not a few batters in, when Proctor was so clearly struggling? As our fearless co-leader Cliff pointed out last night via email, this is “Jeff Weaver Syndrome all over again,” and we’ve all seen it before.

So today you can expect much sturm und drang about the loss, which may have been the worst of the season – I’ll have to rank them at some point, I suppose – and about Torre in particular. For me personally, there’s only one thing to do after a game like that. (Link SFW, unless you want the full respect of your colleagues).

Oh… and happy f@#%ing birthday to Derek Jeter, who had two hits and made a nice play on a ground ball as the barrell of a shattered bat rolled right up on his glove. He turned 33 yesterday, and don’t we all feel old now? I hope Torre and Proctor and the rest of the offense remembered to get him something nice. As fate would have it, June 26th was also Abner Doubleday’s birthday – the man who, in myth and legend though unfortunately not in reality, invented baseball in Cooperstown in 1839. See what happens when you forget to send an e-card?

The Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles entered June in second place in the AL East with a .500 record. They then proceeded to go 2-14 to drop into last place, with the added indignity of being swept at home by the Nationals along the way. A week ago, eight games into the nine-game losing streak that concluded that 16-game slide, the O’s fired manager Sam Perlozzo. Perlozzo’s three seasons as Orioles manager perfectly illustrate how poorly run the team has been in its recent history.

The Orioles limped to a .438 winning percentage in the fourth and final year of Mike Hargrove’s skippership in 2003. Lee Mazzilli took over the team in 2004 and led it to a .481 winning percentage, it’s best mark since Hargrove’s first season in 2000 and good enough for a third-place finish, the first time the O’s had finished outside of fourth since they’d last won the division in 1997. Of course, that third place finish had more to do with the collapse of the Blue Jays than anything else, but still, the improvement was obvious.

In 2005, Mazzilli took largely the same O’s team to the top of the standings in the early going. Mazzilli’s O’s were in first place as late as June 23, when, suddenly, the bottom fell out. The Orioles went 9-28 from the final week of June through the beginning of August, falling all the way down to their customary fourth, and dropping from 14 games over .500 to five games under. On August 3, following an eight-game losing streak that capped a 1-14 skid, the O’s fired Mazzilli and replaced him with Sam Perlozzo.

When the O’s canned Mazzilli, the team had a .477 record. Having finished at .481 the year before, it seemed clear that the O’s were merely a .500 team that had played over its head in the first half of 2005 and had just experienced a rather cruel course correction. With Perlozzo at the helm, the O’s immediately halted their skid with a pair of wins, and proceeded to go 9-4 to climb back to .500, but that was as much as the new manager could get out of his charges. Baltimore went 14-28 the rest of the way and the players appeared to visibly quit on their new skipper, who posted a .418 winning percentage in his portion of the season. Mix in the Rafael Palmeiro drug scandal and the team was an ebarassment on field and off.

It’s an overused quote, but they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I’d counter that that’s actually the definition of incompetence, which describes the O’s to a tee. Baltimore retained Perlozzo in 2006, perhaps because they knew the manager would be able to lure his old buddy Leo Mazzone away from Atlanta to become the new Oriole pitching coach. Perlozzo got Mazzone, but it didn’t matter. The 2006 O’s settled in fourth place for good on April 29, the players once again sulked through the season, and the team finished with a .432 winning percentage.

So the O’s brought back Perlozzo again for 2007 only to finally fire him in late June with his sulking ballclub sporting a .420 winning percentage. In Perlozzo’s defense, the O’s didn’t do much to improve the team on the field during his time as manager. The team’s best players (Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, Eric Bedard, Chris Ray) were already in place in 2005. The best addition the team has made since then has been catcher Ramon Hernandez, who has missed time with a pair of leg injuries this year. Rookies Nick Markakis and Adam Loewen arrived in 2006, but Loewen is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his pitching elbow. Meanwhile, the team’s imports have included include Kevin Millar, Aubrey Huff, Jay Payton, Corey Patterson, the $50 million-dollar bullpen of Danys Baez (currently on the DL), Chad Bradford, Jamie Walker, and Scott Williamson, and Steve Trachsel, who is only on the team because the trade of John Maine for Kris Benson blew up in the Orioles’ faces. Those players do not a winning baseball team make. Meanwhile, Mazzone has been unable to fix failed prospect Daniel Cabrera, and, with Perlozzo gone, Mazzone may decide to split himself. It’s no wonder Joe Girardi declined the Orioles job offer.

Speaking of trading for injured pitchers, the Orioles have the Jaret Wright trade to thank for one of the few bright spots in their 2007 season, tonight’s starter Jeremy Guthrie. After drafting him out of Stanford with the 21st-overall pick in 2002, the Indians tried to fast-track Guthrie to the majors, but instead stunted his progress. After being thrust into triple-A after just nine pro starts in 2003, Guthrie finally experienced success in his fourth attempt at the level last year, but that didn’t translate to the majors, where he posted a 6.98 ERA mostly in relief. The O’s plucked the former top prospect of waivers this January and stuck him in the pen as a long reliever after he aced spring training. That didn’t go so well (7.84 ERA), but the injuries to Loewen and Wright–the latter of whom has pitched in as many games for the O’s as Chris Britton has for the Yanks this season: three–forced Guthrie into the rotation in the beginning of May where he’s pitched like an ace, posting a 1.63 ERA, a 0.74 WHIP, going nine-for-nine in quality starts, and averaging 7 1/3 innings per game. Of course, on the Orioles that’s been good for three wins and six no-decisions as the team has managed to lose five of his starts including one he left in the ninth inning having surrendered just one unearned run (the final score of that game: 6-5 Red Sox). Another testiment to the wisdom of Joe Girardi.

Opposing Guthrie tonight is Andy Pettitte, who knows a thing or two about pitching in bad luck. Pettitte made news after his last start when he admitted that he “quit pitching” after Matt Holliday drove his changeup 442 feet into the left field stands (really over the left field stands) to turn a 1-0 Yankee lead into a 2-1 Rocky advantage in the sixth inning. What Andy really meant was that he abandoned his game plan after that pitch, and the results showed it. Holliday’s homer came with two outs and the Yankees only got out of the sixth because Todd Helton was thrown out trying to score on a single. Six of the eight batters Pettitte faced after Holliday hit safely including a Helton double and a Kaz Matsui triple that finally ended his night with the Yankees trialing 5-1. One imagines that both that performance, his post-game admission, and the Yankees 1-5 record on their current road trip will have him pitching with an increased intensity tonight. For that reason, I’m expecting a pitchers duel between Guthrie, facing a Yankee offense which seems to go whichever direction Bobby Abreu goes, which right now is down, and Pettitte facing the Orioles’ offense which is the fourth worst in the AL and features just one batter, Brian Roberts, who is meaninfully more productive than league average.

Incidentally, Pettitte did not start against the Orioles when they came to the Stadium in early April, but did throw a scoreless relief inning against them in the series finale. Guthrie, meanwhile, has faced the Yankees just once, doing so the second major league game of his career, which just happened to be the Indians 22-0 win at the Stadium on August 31, 2004. Guthrie threw the final two innings of that historic blowout.


Dead Team Walking

The Yankees lost the finale of their weekend series in San Francisco before they even took the field. Following a brutal extra-inning loss on Saturday, Joe Torre posted a lineup without Jorge Posada or Bobby Abreu, with Miguel Cairo playing first and batting second, and Kevin Thompson, Wil Nieves, and Mike Mussina comprising the final third of the order. Meanwhile the Yankee bench featured Andy Phillips and Chris Basak, two men who had combined for seven major league plate appearances this season, all of them Phillips’, and Johnny Damon, who has added a broken dental crown to all of the other aches and pains keeping him out of the lineup. This with the team’s fourth-best starter on the mound in the person of Mike Mussina, most of the bullpen used up in that extra-inning loss, and starting shortstop Derek Jeter nursing a strained hip flexor that forced him to leave Saturday’s game early.

To his credit, Mussina kept things close, but the Yankee offense just couldn’t be found. Giants’ starter Noah Lowry held the Yankees to one hit through five innings (though he did walk four) as the Giants took a 3-0 lead on Moose. Mussina and his personal catcher Nieves, meanwhile, were giving up stolen bases left and right (a total of five including steals by 40-somethings Barry Bonds and Omar Vizquel and first baseman Ryan Klesko), and Moose was done after having thrown 104 pitches in just five frames.

Chris Basak made his first major league plate appearance leading off the sixth for Mussina and lined out hard to Barry Bonds in left. Basak ran hard out of the box with his head down and somehow arrived at second base under the impression that he’d stroked a double into the corner. Basak stood proudly on the bag removing his batting gloves until Larry Bowa was able to signal to him to head back to the dugout.

Following Basak in the sixth, Melky walked, Cairo singled him to third, and Derek Jeter (whose hip appears to be fine) worked back from 0-2 to draw a full-count walk and load the bases for Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez fouled off Lowry’s first offering, took strike two and ball one, then fouled off seven straight pitches in what would prove to be an 11-pitch at-bat only to hit a double-play grounder to short that he fortunately beat out to allow the first Yankee run to score. That exhausting at-bat drove Lowry from the game, but did little to benefit the Yankees as reliever Jonathan Sanchez got Hideki Matsui to ground out to end the threat.

Brian Bruney needed help from Luis Vizcaino to get through a scoreless sixth, so Joe Torre turned to Roger Clemens in the seventh. Torre is to be commended for his willingness to use his starters out of the pen on their throw days this year, having used Andy Pettitte for a pair of scoreless relief innings earlier in the season. Clemens didn’t fair quite as well in what was just the second relief appearance of his 24-year-career, the last coming midway through his rookie season in 1984 (giving Clemens the longest gap between relief outings in major league history, shattering Steve Carlton’s 16-year record). Clemens rallied from a 3-1 count to strike out leadoff man Ray Durham, but, in a dud of a legendary showdown, walked Barry Bonds on five pitches (though ball three looked like a strike to everyone including Bonds). Clemens then gave up a single to Ryan Klesko and a sac fly before getting Pedro Feliz to fly out to end the inning.

With Clemens having surrendered the Yankees’ lone run back to the Giants, and the defanged top of the Yankee order having gone down in order in the top of the eighth, things got embarrassing in the bottom of the eighth inning. Kyle Farnsworth came on and got backup catcher Guillermo Rodriguez to fly out on his first pitch, but after Luis Figueroa singled, Derek Jeter booted a double play ball off the bat of Randy Winn and retired no one. Omar Vizquel then singled up the middle and Melky booted the ball allowing Figueroa to score and Winn to go to third. Ray Durham then hit a high fly to Cabrera in deep center that Melky lost in the sun for a two-run double. In Melky’s defense, Winn did the same thing on an Alex Rodriguez fly in the ninth that lead to a meaningless second Yankee run. Still, that three-run San Francisco eighth just felt right in a game in which the Yankees played like the walking dead.

And so the Yanks return to the east coast having gone 1-5 in the interleague portion of their road trip to slip back below .500. One wonders how long we have to wait for Brian Cashman to pull a Kenny Williams. Not that Cash has to go make a splashy trade, but the fact that the Yankees played without the DH for six games with Damon and Basak on their bench was an act of extreme negligence and stupidity on the part of the Yankee decision makers. Getting a healthy body in for Damon (who, in his defense, delivered a pinch-hit single in the seventh, stole second and went to third on the catcher’s throwing error–of course, he then failed to score from third on a groundout to first and didn’t go out to play the field), swapping out Basak for a player who could add some punch to the 1B/DH situation (donde esta Josh Phelps? Or even Shelley Duncan), and replacing Wil Nieves with anyone or anything (come back Sal Fasano, all is forgiven—that Josh Phelps and Ryan Doumit are now teammates is not) are all moves that need to happen now. Damon has made just one start in the past week and only started four of the six games prior to that. His hit yesterday was also his first since the previous Sunday. Basak has appeared in three games since being called up twenty days ago, in two of them he was a defensive sub who never came to bat and in the third he was a pinch-hitter who never played the field. Nieves, meanwhile, has been on the roster all season, that’s nearly three months, and is hitting .111 with a .149 on-base percentage and no extra base hits.

Even if satisfactory replacements are found for those three, the Yankees will need to add an extra bat sometime this summer. With Giambi out indefinitely, Damon consistently hurt and struggling to produce or even play, and the first base situation not only lacking entering the season, but with both halves of the unsatisfactory opening day platoon now either gone (Phelps) or out with a long term injury (Mientkiewicz), the Yankees have no one to play at first base or DH. No one. Melky Cabrera is thriving in center field (hitting .313/.358/.470 since May 30), but the Miguel Cairo joyride is over (he’s 3 for his last 15), and the team doesn’t have the time to wait around to see if Andy Phillips can finally deliver on his triple-A promise at the age of 30. That said, the Yankees would be better off missing the playoffs than sending the wrong pitching prospect to Texas for Mark Teixeira or, worse, sending the same hurler elsewhere for a lesser player. As things stand now, however, the Yankees aren’t going to do better until they get better.

Rodriguez, Great; Yanks, Not so Much

The Yankees nine game road trip against the Rockies, Giants and Orioles is not going well at all, as the Bombers have lost four of the first five games. Yesterday was most painful as Chien-Ming Wang and the Yankee pen could not hold a 4-1 lead. Alex Rodriguez, who has eight hits the first two games in San Francisco (and has reached base 10 times in 12 times up), absolutely blasted a shot to center field in the ninth inning to tie the game. But the Yankees could not nail down a victory. In the eleventh, relief pitcher Steve Kline worked around a double to Rodriguez, and got out of a bases loaded, one out jam, by striking out Hideki Matsui and then getting Robinson Cano to ground out. A bloop single against Scott Proctor in the thirteenth did the Bombers in, as the Giants won, 6-5.

Derek Jeter left the game early with a strained left hip flexor and is day-to-day.

Triple Double

Kei Igawa looked like Steve Austin for four innings last night (“we can fix him, we have the technology”), but turned into Steve Blass in the fifth. Igawa held the Giants scoreless on two hits through four while walking just one and striking out five, including Barry Bonds on three pitches in the fourth. Kevin Frandsen then lead off the fifth by hitting a good pitch for a double, and Omar Vizquel hit a chopper to drive him in. Igawa got the next two batters to fly out, but Randy Winn doubled to push Vizquel to third and Igawa lost the strike zone pitching out of the stretch. Given the opportunity to strand Barry Bonds in the on-deck circle, Igawa walked Ray Durham to load the bases, then threw six pitches a good three feet from Jorge Posada’s target (two of which Bonds fouled off) to walk Bonds and force in the second San Francisco run. Bengie Molina followed by cracking a screamer to the wall in left, but Hideki Matsui got on his horse and made a game-saving leaping catch, crashing into the wall with the final out.

The good news is the Yankees had a five-run lead heading into that inning and got one of those two runs back in the sixth. With two outs, Melky Cabrera, batting lefty against reliever Randy Messenger, fouled a pitch off his right shin. For a moment it looked like Cabrera might have broken something as he hopped around the plate then sat down as Gene Monahan checked him out. Melky stayed in the game, however, and cracked the next pitch past Dave Roberts in center for a stand-up triple. Once on third, he bent back over to rub his aching shin only to get a ribbing from Larry Bowa. The YES camera’s caught Melky angrily pushing the wise-cracking Bowa away as Bowa erupted in laughter. A nice moment that was followed by a nicer one as Jeter singled Cabrera home to make it 6-2.

Bonds cracked his 749th career homer off Scot Proctor in the eighth and Alex Rodriguez singled home a Derek Jeter triple in the ninth to put the final score at 7-3 Yanks.

This afternoon Mikey Moose looks to give the Yanks a quick series win against Noah Lowry on FOX.

The San Francisco Giants

From 1997 to 2004, the San Francisco Giants finished first or second in the NL West eight years in a row, thrice winning the division and once making the World Series as the Wild Card team. In 2005, Barry Bonds’ knee gave out on him, limiting him to 14 September games. Since then, the Giants have been a sub-.500 also ran. Always an old team, the Giants of the last three years have been downright ancient. When Barry Bonds joined the Giants in 1993 at the age of 28, the average Giants hitter was also 28 years old. Since then, the Giants hitters have steadily aged with Bonds. Last year, the average San Francisco hitter was 33.5 years old. This year they’ve shaved a few moths off that average age by doing things such as replacing the 41-year-old Steve Finley and the 39-year-old Moises Alou with 35-year-olds Dave Roberts and Rich Aurilia.

The creaky Giants ran off eight-straight wins in late April to slip into a first-place tie in the West, but the geezers ran out of gas there. They’ve been 18-33 since, are 5-14 in June, and have lost seven in a row coming into this weekend’s series against the Yankees. During that slide they’ve scored an average of 3.14 runs per game and allowed an average of 6.43. Overall, the Gians have one of the four worst offenses in baseball, ahead of only the Pirates, Nationals, and White Sox. Omar Vizquel looks to finally be finished at 40, those 35-year-olds have been nearly as bad (though Roberts can still run, stealing 11 of 12, and Aurilia’s on the DL, yielding first base to a resurgent 36-year-old Ryan Klesko). Worst of all, Barry Bonds, who’s up to his old tricks, is being protected in the lineup by Bengie Molina. Seriously. No surprise then that Bonds already has 70 walks, 26 of them intentional.

I should say, Bonds was up to his old tricks. This particular geezer’s been a bit winded himself, hitting just three homers in his last 36 games, batting .240 and slugging just .385 over that span. For those not keeping track, he’s seven homers shy of Hank Aaron’s career record. At that pace, he’ll barely make it this season.

Things are a bit brighter on the pitching side of the ledger as long as you don’t look too closely. Twenty-two-year-old Matt Cain, who starts tonight, leads the team in ERA and is fifth in the NL in least hits allowed per nine innings. He’s also second in the league in most walks allowed and is getting a little help from a low BABIP (.257). Matt Morris has rediscovered his 20-game winning form in his second season in San Francisco, or seems to have until you notice that his strike out rate is continuing it’s now six-year decline and his K/BB ratio is a dismal 1.55. Barry Zito is proving all his doubters right by echoing Morris’s strikeout rate issues. Similar afflictions have struck Noah Lowry, who lost 2 2/3 K/9 last year and has gained more than a walk per nine innings this year. Top prospect Tim Lincecum is another issue altogether, as the existence of major league game film on the rookie and some wildness issues appear to have torpedoed what had been a sensational start to his career. The Yankees won’t see him this weekend, which is unfortunate both because he’s been ineffective and because his delivery is an exciting thing to watch.

In the bullpen, the Giants cut bait on Armando Benitez, sending him to Florida for Randy Messenger and installing another strikeout-challenged starter, Brad Hennessey, as the closer. Set-up men Vinnie Chulk, who came over in the Shea Hillenbrand trade last year, and Kevin Correia, another converted starter, have been solid, but the pen’s trio of lefties have been less reliable. Veteran Steve Kline, for example, has struck out just five men in 19 innings thus far.

What is it about Corporation Ballpark that suppresses strikeouts anyway? The Giants hitters don’t really strikeout that much either. Only two NL teams have fewer batter strikeouts and only four have fewer pitcher strikeouts. That’s bad news for Kei Igawa, who will be making his return to the rotation tonight. Ks are a big part of Kei’s game, as he struck out 21 in his last 20 innings after sorting out his mechanics in Scranton. The good news for the lefty Igawa is that the Giants have only two righties in their everyday lineup and of their three switch hitters, Ray Durham and Randy Winn are much weaker from the right side and Vizquel isn’t hitting under any circumstances. Once again, here’s Igawa’s line over his last three starts in Scranton:

20 IP, 15 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 21 K, 1.05 WHIP, 1.80 ERA

Let’s hope that translates back to the majors. If Igawa can keep the fifth spot in the rotation warm for Phil Hughes, the Yankees will not only have a better shot of climbing into the Wild Card race, but they’ll be able to be more cautious with Hughes coming off his severe ankle sprain, which is crucial to protecting his arm from a cascade injury caused by his adjusting his mechanics to protect his ankle.


Observations From Cooperstown–The First Base Rumor Mill

It almost makes you pine for the days of Danny Cater. That’s how badly the Yankees’ first base position has degraded during the first half of the 2007 season. Planned poorly from the beginning, ever since Brian Cashman signed Doug Mientkiewicz during a dark winter day, first base remains a quagmire that is now dragging down the efficiency of what was supposed to be a powerhouse offense.

When the Yankees decided to take a fielding-first approach to first base, the strategy was somewhat defensible given the rest of the lineup. After all, how many times have we heard that the Yankees have the best lineup, one through eight, in all of major league baseball? Well, that’s partly the problem. The Yankees no longer have such a lineup. With Jason Giambi on the disabled list and Johnny Damon saddled with a slew of performance-altering injuries, the Yankee lineup is no longer as vaunted as it once was. The Yankees are now carrying three offensive weak spots—the underachieving Melky Cabrera in center field, the depreciated Damon at DH, and whoever happens to be playing first base on a given day.

There isn’t much the Yankees can do about Cabrera or Damon, unless they’re willing to place the latter on the disabled list in the hopes that his body can recover some its vim and vigor. First base is a different story, however. The Yankees should have used the injury to Mientkiewicz as a positive, replacing him with a competent bat in Josh Phelps or Shelly Duncan. Instead, they designated Phelps for assignment, left Duncan buried at Triple-A, and have now decided to collect utility infielders and masquerade them as first basemen. Miguel Cairo and Andy Phillips hit like middle infielders, not corner infielders who are supposed to provide power and punch. The Yankees have also badly fooled themselves as to the defensive value of both players. They act as if Cairo and Phillips are borderline Gold Glovers, and that’s a case of overrating them severely. Prior to the recent stretch in which he replaced Mientkiewicz, Cairo has always looked tentative at first base, a position where he lacks experience. Phillips, for all of his supposed defensive charm, made eight errors as a part-time player last year. That’s a testament to his shaky hands. He’s no Don Mattingly, or J.T. Snow, which he would have to be to make up for his chronic inability to handle a major league breaking ball. (Frankly, the fondness for Phillips is confounding. At 30 years of age, he’s actually three years older than Shelly Duncan, who has been the best hitter at Scranton/Wilkes Barre with an OPS of .946 but is somehow a non-prospect compared to Phillips.)

Plain and simple, the Yankees need to find a real first baseman, someone who can hit with a modicum of power while playing the position appreciably better than Giambi. Brian Cashman needs to act quickly before the recent offensive slump results in the Yankees losing all of the ground they picked up during their recent nine-game winning streak.

There are several candidates on the trade front, ranging from a star in his late twenties to a journeyman in his early thirties. I’ve chosen not to include Todd Helton, who has given mixed signals as to his interest in playing for the Yankees, a major factor given his no-trade clause. My guess is that Helton doesn’t like New York; if that’s the case, forget about him.

Mark Teixeira

: The stud. He’s the headline name on the trade rumor front, an All-Star caliber player who is only 27 years of age. He will also cost the most in a trade, which is probably the main reason the Yankees should look elsewhere. Now forget any talk of the Yankees trading Phil Hughes for Teixeira; they wouldn’t give up Hughes straight-up for Tex, much less as part of a larger package for the Rangers’ first baseman. Still, the Yankees would have to surrender a parcel of at least three players, with any package probably including Melky Cabrera. A package of Cabrera and two pitching prospects—let’s say Ross Ohlendorf and Chase Wright—might be enough to entice the Rangers. But can the Yankees even give up Cabrera at this point? With Damon ailing and no one at Triple-A capable of playing center field every day, the Yankees may have to hold on to the player known as "Leche."

Adam Dunn

: The second choice. While not the refined all-around player that Teixeira is, Dunn brings plenty of home runs and walks to the table, making him a younger and cheaper version of Jason Giambi. Cincinnati’s general dissatisfaction with Dunn, specifically his failure to reduce his strikeout rates, makes him available at a potentially reasonable price of two pitchers. The Reds badly need bullpen help, which likely translates into Chris Britton becoming part of any package for Dunn. (Britton continues to waste away at Scranton/Wilkes Barre, despite having enough talent to close for teams like the Reds, Phillies, and Pirates.) A package of Britton and either Ohlendorf or Tyler Clippard might interest the Reds, at least enough to keep the teams talking. A note of caution on Dunn: the "Big Donkey" will look awfully bad at times because of his strikeouts and dismal defensive play, which could make him a target of boo-birds at the Stadium, especially if he struggles early. He’s also not known as a particularly hard worker, which could make somewhat undesirable in a clubhouse that prides itself on work ethic and businesslike attitude.

Shea Hillenbrand

: The bargain basement. The 31-year-old Hillenbrand can be had more cheaply than any of the available trade alternatives. In fact, if the Yankees just wait, they can probably sign Hillenbrand as a free agent, after he’s been given his unconditional release. The Angels can’t wait to part ways with Hillenbrand; they’d give him away for a low-level minor leaguer or cash, if that much. While Hillenbrand has struggled in Southern California, he’ll likely hit better in the second half, and is a far better major league hitter than either Cairo or Phillips. He would also give the team some depth, capable of filling in for Alex Rodriguez at third, the outfield corners, or in a pinch, as an emergency catcher. There’s plenty of down side, too. He’s not a good defensive first baseman, has selfish tendencies, and possesses an over-inflated opinion of his worth as a ballplayer. If Hillenbrand could ever accept being a backup, he’d be one of the best bench players in the league. Unfortunately, he regards himself as an All-Star. He somehow did make it to two All-Star games, but didn’t deserve either selection.

Carlos Pena

: The best choice. An above-average defender, Pena has the kind of left-handed power that would partly compensate for the loss of Giambi. At 29 years of age, he’s a Jim Spencer/Oscar Gamble type player who could platoon with either Phillips or Cairo, thereby reducing their at-bats and making them available to spell at other positions. While no one expects Pena to keep up his current home run pace—he’s at 17 through 58 games—he has always shown good power against right-handed pitching. Just as importantly, the Devil Rays appear to be reasonable in trade demands for Pena. According to a source, the Rays would take left-hander Sean Henn for Pena straight-up. (Man, do the Devil Rays need pitching.) If that’s true, the Yankees should make the deal in a Manhattan minute.

Of course, the Yankees could have had Pena for free last year, when he was actually part of the organization, playing for Triple-A Columbus. For some reason, the Yankees didn’t envision Pena as an upgrade over either Phillips or Cairo and never promoted him, which is an indictment of the organization’s ability to evaluate talent from time to time. Sometimes, you wonder just what Cashman and Joe Torre are thinking when it comes to deciding who should play Triple-A and who should play in New York.


Bruce Markusen is the author of eight books, including A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s and The Team That Changed Baseball: The 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates. He also contributes frequently to MLB.com.

Back to the Drawing Board

For a third straight day, the Yankees did not hit in Colorado as they lost 4-3 to the Rockies. They didn’t run much better either and Roger Clemens left a few too many pitches up in the strike zone. The Yankees are back to .500 and trail the Red Sox by 10.5 games.

“The good feeling has gone away, there’s no question,” Manager Joe Torre said. “The reality of what kind of team we are and what it takes to win, you certainly have to recapture that.”
(N.Y. Times)

The rollercoaster continues. Speaking of which, Jason Giambi is now officially set to speak to the Mitchell investigation.

Patience Is A Virtue

Through the first 16 games of June, the Yankees went 13-3, scored 6.94 runs per game and drew 4.31 walks per game. In the last two games against the Rockies, the Yankees have gone 0-2, scored exactly one run in each game, and drawn exactly two walks per game. Against the two Colorado starters, Josh Fogg and Jeff Francis, the Yankees drew a total of two walks in 14 innings. Of the four walks the Yankees have drawn in the last two games, three of them were by Alex Rodriguez, and one of those was an intentional unintentional pass (that came with two outs and a man on second in the sixth inning of a still-scoreless game and was the only free pass Jeff Francis issued in seven innings). It seems that the Yankees approach at the plate appears to be largely to blame for their power outage in this series.

This afternoon, the Yankees face Rodrigo Lopez. Lopez has had decent control in his career (2.82 BB/9IP), but that number jumps to 3.42 BB/9 in his career against the Yankees. Lopez also has a career 6.02 ERA against the Yanks and has given up 30 homers in just 121 innings against the Bombers, more than double his total against any other team, Boston included. Familiarity should help the Yanks this afternoon. Hopefully it will also give them the confidence to take a few more pitches. That said, Lopez is having a solid season in Colorado, perhaps buoyed by having finally escaped Baltimore. He spent nearly all of May on the DL, but has turned in three quality starts in four tries since.

On the flip side, Roger Clemens is two-for-two in quality starts in his second tour of duty in pinstripes. Based on the last two games, however, he may need to contribute even more than that to prevent a sweep. Clemens last faced the Rockies one week shy of two years ago and held the Rocks to a Preston Wilson solo home run, two walks and a trio of harmless singles over seven innings while striking out seven. His bullpen then gave up five runs in the eighth to blow the game.

Also, I Want Kaz Matsui Drug Tested Immediately

Normally, two losses in a row to a solid team like the Rockies (!) wouldn’t be anything to get too worked up over, but I think Yankee fans are still suffering from a certain amount of post-traumatic stress dating back to the first two months of this season – like a onetime gunshot victim, ducking every time a nearby truck backfires. Well, or possibly the team just stinks again and is doomed… but humor me here.

Andy Pettitte was great until suddenly he wasn’t, and the Yanks went down 6-1, leaving them six games back in the wild card and 10 in the AL East. This was one of those games where it’s hard to tell if the opposing starter, in this case Jeff Francis, was really that good, or if the Yankee offense was just that bad, but I’m leaning towards the former. Apparently so is Joe Torre: “You don’t want to take anything away from Jeff Francis,” he said after the game – though actually I do; can we start with his slider? – “…but we’re not swinging the bats like we’re capable of.”

Let me recap the Yankee scoring for you: they got a run in the 6th on consecutive doubles from Melky and Jeter, and… that’s it. Hey, that was easy! Hello silver lining.

Pettitte started out very impressively, economical and effective, but he led off the sixth inning by walking the pitcher, which is almost always the baseball equivalent of a climactic horror movie scene. Ball one… No! Andy! Don’t go into that house! Ball two… He’s got a chainsaw! Don’t open the door don’topenthedoordon’t– Ball three… oh my god he’s right behind you look behind you EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK! The psycho killer was played by Matt Holliday, who hit an absolutely humongous two-run shot to the last rows of the left-field bleachers. Pettitte escaped the inning without further damage, but the wheels came off in the seventh, and the Rockies scored four more runs, which was plenty.

Francis, meanwhile, went seven innings, giving up five hits and striking out nine; the game was finished by LaTroy Hawkins and Jeremy Affeldt, better known to me as That Dude Kyle Farnsworth Once Tackled, Carried Ten Feet, And Hurled To The Ground (no, not that guy, the other one). I really wish Farns would have tried that again last night, just for the hell of it — sure he’d be suspended, but it would be wildly entertaining.


Of course, another wildly entertaining thing the Yankees might consider is scoring more than one run per game…

Take Two

The Yanks look to bounce back in Colorado tonight. They’ll need to be on point against the Rockies best pitcher, especially seeing as how the Red Sox are beating up on the Braves in Atlanta. As we wait for the first pitch, check out our man Cliff talking about the state of the team in a podcast interview by Joe Aiello, which also features Padres news from Geoff Young, one of the best, and probably the longest-running baseball blogger on the net.

Then kicked back, relax and get ready to root like hell for our boys.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees.

Yankee Panky #14: Your way or the Subway

This blog is for the peeps.

I’m leaving it up to you to present your take on the highs and lows of the weekend’s coverage of the Subway Series, and give me your preferred broadcast tandems. I enjoy hearing people’s reasons for liking or disliking a certain commentator, host, TV reporter or writer. I know I said I wouldn’t do this in the beginning of the season, but I will add my preferences, as diplomatically as possible.

YES vs. Channel 11/SNY vs. ESPN
• Michael Kay, Al Leiter, Ken Singleton (YES)
• Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez (Ch.11/SNY)
• Jon Miller, Joe Morgan, Peter Gammons (ESPN)

My preference: ESPN, despite the multitude of Morganisms. I’ve listened to hundreds of broadcasts from Kay, Cohen and Miller — all of whom transitionned from radio to television. But to me, Miller is the only one who when he does TV, lets the pictures tell the story of what’s happening on the field. Perhaps this is because he has more experience doing the radio/TV shuffle. Kay (6th season as TV only) and Cohen (2nd) are improving, though.

Hosts: Bob Lorenz (YES), Matt Yallof (SNY)

My preference: Matt Yallof is a capable host and he does well with Lee Mazzilli the times I’ve seen them on together. But overall, I haven’t seen enough of SNY’s postgames to make an informed judgment. YES’s show is more fine-tuned, from what I’ve seen of the two stations’ programs.

YESNetwork.com vs. SNY.tv vs. MSGNetwork.com (yes, the URL is still active)

My preference: Although hosted and operated by the same parent company (MLBAM), the editorial objectives of YES and SNY are much different. MSGNetwork — I haven’t been to their site in about a year, so I don’t really know if they’re a factor in this discussion, at least on a Mets-Yankees front. (Come on, you didn’t really think I was going to get into that one in detail, did you?)

WCBS (Yankees) vs. WFAN (Mets)
• John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman (CBS)
• Tom McCarthy, Howie Rose, Ed Coleman (WFAN)

My preference: With all due respect to John and Suzyn, this isn’t even close. Shuttling back and forth between the two stations, the differences in preparation, chemistry and knowledge of the game are clear. I’m not saying I wouldn’t listen to John and Suzyn, but given a choice in a Mets-Yankees game, I’d rather listen to Tom and Howie. … The only parallel I can draw regarding this one goes to hockey. I’m an Islander fan, but when the rivalry with the Rangers was in its heyday, as much as I loved the Isles’ combination of Jiggs McDonald and Eddie Westfall on SportsChannel, I preferred to watch the MSG cast with Sam Rosen and John Davidson.


Newsday, The NY Times, The NY Post, The NY Daily News, The Bergen Record, The Newark Star-Ledger, The Journal News, The Hartford Courant

My preference: Honestly, I have none. I subscribe to the Times (I’ll admit, it’s mainly for the crossword and PLAY Magazine), but I read the others online.

Sites: See the right-hand side of your screen.

My preference: There are so many blogs it’s tough to keep up with. My regular stops — in no particular order of favoritism — are here, Steven Goldman, The Weblog That Derek Built, Was Watching, Replacement Level and Futility Infielder, and 38Pitches (Hey, why not? At least he writes it himself.).

Who among everyone listed topped your lists for the weekend? What was the best game bit or feature you read for the Series? What was the best note or story told on a broadcast? I believe there’s a reason we watch, listen and read beyond the game itself. Am I alone in that sentiment?

Until next week …

If At First You Don’t Succeed . . .

Figures I’d predict a slugfest and the Yanks would lose a pitchers duel. Figures as well that the guy I said sucked would hold the Yanks to one run on four hits over seven innings and strike out Alex Rodriguez with junk low and away twice, skipping off the mound after one of them. Figures as well that Mike Mussina, who I said was cooked a few weeks ago, would hold up his end of things by limiting the Rockies to three runs over six innings. Yeah, he got fed up with Lance Barksdale’s umpiring in his final inning and served up a homer to eighth-place hitter Yorvit Torrealba on an 85-mile-per-hour “fastball,” but he was also keeping the Rocks off balance with a change-up in the high 60s.

So the Yanks dropped the Colorado opener 3-1 in a game that felt a lot like their 2-0 loss to the Mets in the last series opener. What’s far more compelling about yesterday’s action was the Yankees’ developing first base situation.

Before the game, the Yankees called up Andy Phillips, a move that was overdue seeing as they’ve been carrying both Chris Basak and Miguel Cairo on the roster and starting Cairo at first while avoiding Basak like the plague. Phillips, who has been playing second base at Scranton and crushing International League pitching as is his way (.301/.382/.494, 11 HR), gives them a superior defensive first base option who actually represents something of a threat at the plate. After all, Cairo has hit .342/.350/.421 as the Yankee first baseman, which is great, but it’s all singles and won’t last. Last year, in similar playing time, Cairo hit .239/.280/.320 and Phillips hit .240/.281/.394. Cairo might be a smidge better than that. Phillips, who was already a smidge better than Cairo, is definitely a lot better than that.

There’s one catch. Rather than demoting Basak, the Yankees designated Josh Phelps for assignment. Sure, Phelps and Phillips are a tad redundant, but facing six games without the designated hitter, having Phelps, who’s a career .294 pinch-hitter, rather than Basak, who’s still never come to the plate in the major leagues, seems like a no-brainer. Seems. Instead the Yankees will have to offer Rule 5 pick Phelps back to Baltimore, where current YES broadcaster and prospective Oriole manager Joe Girardi could very well be the man deciding Phelps’ fate.

Meanwhile, both Jorge Posada and Johnny Damon saw action at first base last night, Posada starting there to allow Wil Nieves to catch Mussina. Jorge made one nice play leaping for a high throw from Derek Jeter and coming down on the bag in time to make the out. Otherwise, neither was challenged, and neither had to play a ball off the bat. Most likely Phillips will start against the lefty Jeff Francis tonight, with Damon starting against righty Rodrigo Lopez on Thursday. Chris Basak will continue to do little more than cheer on his teammates.

For anyone looking for a comparison between Phillips and Phelps, I think I covered that plenty in spring training.


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